Introverts and Jerks Are More Likely to Point Out Your Grammar Mistakes

Certainly personality types are much more likely to be irked by mistakes. Maybe they would have made good English teachers. Everett Collection/Shutterstock

Your going to get a kick out of this story ... unless you can't make it past the first sentence.

How much does that mistake bother you? Does it bring out your inner grammar policeman or do you shrug and keep on reading?

How you react when confronted with written errors can be related to your personality type, according to one study. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that people who get irritated by errors tend to be introverted or have "less agreeable" personalities than those who more easily overlook those kind of mistakes. Basically, nice people don't care all that much and the jerkier sorts are the ones who get all bent out of shape.

"This is the first study to show that the personality traits of listeners/readers have an effect on the interpretation of language," said lead researcher, University of Michigan professor of linguistics and psychology Julie Boland, in a news release. "In this experiment, we examined the social judgments that readers made about the writers."

In the study, 83 participants were shown emails written by potential housemates. Some had no errors, while others either had typos ("aslo" instead of "also") or grammar mistakes ("your" instead of "you're"). The participants were asked to rate the writers in terms of their perceived intelligence, friendliness, trustworthiness and other attributes such as how they'd feel the person would be as a housemate.

Then the participants were asked if they noticed any spelling or grammar mistakes and, if so, how much they were bothered by them. Finally, they were asked to complete the Big Five Personality index (BFI), a 44-question survey that rated them on a scale of extraversion, agreeability, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness.

Another reason to thank your first English teacher

All the people in the study generally rated the writers with mistakes less favorably than those with perfect letters. (Their English teachers would be so proud!) Beyond that, they discovered a few key personality traits that seemed to influence how much a few carelessly swapped letters or more serious grammar offenses throw a person's whole world out of whack.

It turns out that extroverts were more likely to overlook typos and grammatical mistakes than introverts, who tended to be judgmental. Also people with "less agreeable" personalities were more sensitive to mistakes than those people who were very agreeable. The researchers say this is "perhaps because less agreeable people are less tolerant of deviations from convention." In other words, cranky people have a harder time than easy-going people dealing with people who break the rules.

Both highly conscientious and less open participants were sensitive to typos, but they didn't care all that much about grammar. And, perhaps surprisingly, how neurotic someone was didn't affect how they reacted to grammar and spelling mistakes.

So if you have a friend who's constantly pointing out errors on social media, take solace in the fact that he's likely a jerk. And if it's you who upholds every grammar law, then chalk it up to being an introvert. (And be grateful that your eagle eye has nothing to do with being neurotic.)