Call me picky, but typos and grammar mistakes bother me. I might judge you — just a little bit — if there are a lot of them in your email or online dating profile.
The study, conducted by linguists at the University of Michigan, found that introverts were more likely to be annoyed by typos and grammatical mistakes than extroverts. And, interestingly, we don’t want to live with the people who commit these errors, either. (More about that later.)
First, let’s take a closer look at the study, then we’ll explore why introverts might be the ultimate grammar sticklers.
The Grammar/Typo Study
Linguists Julie Boland and Robin Queen showed people some emails. These emails were supposed to be responses to an advertisement looking for a roommate. Some of the emails were perfectly well written while others had some typos and grammos. A “grammo” is a mistake involving knowledge of the rules of language, like substituting “their” for “there.” A typo is a little more innocent — it’s hitting the wrong key on the keyboard, and, for instance, producing “teh” instead of “the.”
The participants were then asked whether they agreed with statements like “the writer seems considerate,” “the writer seems trustworthy,” and “the writer seems friendly.” Their ratings were combined to create an overall “good housemate” score.
The participants, all 80 of them, were Americans who came from a range of backgrounds and were of various ages.
The results? Introverts were more likely than extroverts to rate people as poor roommates if their grammar or spelling was bad — and therefore didn’t want to live with them.
Some Other Findings
There were a few other findings, but for the most part, it’s what you’d expect: Agreeable people didn’t mind grammos. Conscientious people saw typos as a real problem. Oddly, levels of neuroticism didn’t predict any kind of bias toward proper grammar.
The study also found that the second group of people — those who scored lower in agreeableness — were bothered by mistakes as well. People who are agreeable are generally kind, sympathetic, cooperative, and considerate. People who score low in agreeableness are the opposite; they lack empathy and put their own interests above those of others.
So it makes sense that people who are disagreeable — whether they’re introverted or extroverted — would judge others for their mistakes.
Why Do Mistakes Bother Introverts?
But introverts aren’t necessarily disagreeable. So why do grammar mistakes and typos bother them?
Queen is a linguist, not a personality expert, so she’s not certain why introverts are more bothered by mistakes. But she hypothesizes that it has to do with introverts being more sensitive to variability. Variations from the norm — like spelling and grammar mistakes — require extra processing, which increases arousal.
Introverts are already walking around in a hyper-aroused state. They’re prone to overstimulation and overwhelm, as well as social burnout, a.k.a. the introvert hangover. So processing a mistake can heighten their arousal just a little and put introverts in an uncomfortable place.
“Maybe there’s something about extroverts that makes them less bothered by it,” Queen explained. “Extroverts enjoy variability and engaging with people. They find that energizing. This could be an indirect manifestation of that.”
Do Introverts Agree?
The results of the study made sense to me, but I was curious if it would resonate with other introverts. So I asked Introvert, Dear’s Facebook groupof over 80,000 introverts if typos and grammar mistakes bothered them. Yes, many of them resoundingly answered.
“Are you kidding?” one member, Margaret, wrote. “I’m the original ‘grammar nazi.'”
Adam wrote, “I can spot a typo/grammo/spello (yeah, I just made up a word, what of it?) from a thousand yards. It drives most people nuts, but I apologize for nothing.”
Finally, Mark wrote, “I find that when I read something with bad punctuation or the wrong form of a word, it totally disrupts my reading and it feels like I just tripped over a crack in the sidewalk.”
But the final proof came when one dissenting voice said she “could care less.” Another group member quickly corrected her grammar to “couldn’t care less” and added, “Sorry, I just had to!”
Are introverts picky about grammar? Apparently so.