Are You a Stickler for Grammar? You Might Be an Introvert

Call me picky, but when a guy’s online dating profile had several grammatical mistakes, I’d click away. I can excuse the occasional typo (as a professional writer, I know how easy it is to become blind to mistakes in your own writing). But too many “it’s” when it should have been “its,” or mistakes with “their/there/they’re,” and I started to judge. He couldn’t take 30 seconds to proofread this thing?

It turns out I’m not alone in steering clear of people who are error-prone. I always figured my grammatical nit-picking stemmed from being a writer, but it turns out it may also be related to my introversion.

Interestingly, a new study found that introverts were more likely to be annoyed by typos and grammatical mistakes than extroverts. And apparently we don’t want to live with the people who commit these errors, either.

For the study, linguists Julie Boland and Robin Queen tested people’s reactions to emails responding to an ad for a roommate. Some of the emails were perfectly written while others had 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 producing “teh” instead of “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.

Then they filled out questionnaires about their own personalities, based on the “big five” traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

The results? Introverts were more likely than extroverts to rate people as poor roommates if their grammar or spelling was bad.

There were other findings, and 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.

But the finding about introversion surprised researchers. Robin Queen told the Guardian, “We hadn’t quite anticipated that introversion would have the effect it did.”

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Queen is a linguist, not a personality expert, so she’s not certain why introverts are more bothered by  mistakes. But her guess is that it has to do with introverts being more sensitive to variability. Variations from the norm–like spelling and grammar mistakes–require extra processing. This increases arousal and becomes irritating.

Queen said, “Maybe there’s something about extroverts that makes them less bothered by it. Because extroverts enjoy variability and engaging with people. They find that energizing. This could be an indirect manifestation of that.”

I was curious if the results of the study resonated with other introverts, so I asked members of the Introvert, Dear Facebook group and community forum. Here are some of their reactions:







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? I guess so.

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Read this: 21 Undeniable Signs That You’re an Introvert


  • Lisa says:

    I’m a copy editor; it’s my job to be bothered by spelling and grammar mistakes!

  • Bonnadee says:

    I am very relieved to know that it’s an introvert thing and not that I am just an overly judgmental person about other people with a lack of grammatical accuracy. I cannot stand hearing people speak with lousy grammar either. The number one thing for me is the correct usage of ‘I’ and ‘me’. There are sure a lot of adult professionals who get that one wrong — unbelievable.

  • I used to work as a proofreader. I’m very aware of typos and mistakes in grammar. Yes, they bother me!

  • Patti Warcup says:

    Don’t be too judgemental. I am dyslexic and have a severly dyslexic son whose spelling and punctuation is idiosyncratic to say the very least.

    • Bonnadee says:

      Patti, that’s a very different scenario. There is no way I am judgmental about a person with a disability of ANY kind. It’s those who simply choose to remain socially and academically ignorant because they are too lazy to do anything else.

  • Michelle says:

    Oh, yes! What drives me absolutely mad is the incorrect use of “number”, “amount”, “less” and “few” or “fewer.” No one seems to make this distinction anymore. It makes me want to stop reading and scream or throw a pillow at the TV when I hear something like “Less calories, more filling!” Arghhhhhh!!! Typos don’t bother me as much, unless a post is riddled with them. Another pet peeve is the inablility to conjugate the verbs to be, to do and to see. For example, “I seen him yesterday” or “I done it myself.” I have to force myself not to mentally check someone off when I hear this.

    • Michelle says:

      “…Inability…” Sorry, that was “no reading glasses on” typo?!

    • Bonnadee says:

      Michelle, your post sums up the result of ‘dumbed-down education’. I notice the same kind of academic inefficiencies all around. I work at a university and am appalled at the number of US student freshman who are in need of remedial (high-school) English classes. It is probably hopeless for the older adults lacking in this way.

  • Lonimee says:

    Am relieved too that it’s an introvert thing. I mean, it’s not surprising. We are sensitive about everything, we type a text and read it 10 times before we send it. We are perfectionists! How couldn’t we be bothered?

  • PAM says:

    One mistake that is like, “fingernails on a chalkboard”, is the use of words with the prefix, bi, as in biannual, bimonthly, biweekly. The prefix bi means two, people, as in bikini, bicycle, etc. Therefore, biannual means twice a year, bimonthly means twice a month, and biweekly means two times a WEEK!
    Thank you.

  • An Introvert (AI) says:

    Oh yeah. I am in a lot of WhatsApp Groups with a few with more than 150 members. Those grammar mistakes drive me crazy. And when those mistakes result in an other words or words no one knows and you have to discuss what those words really mean until the writer explains those after ten messages of discussion. This pisses me of so much.

  • Val says:

    Language is a fluid, evolving concept… it’s the meaning not the detail that’s important… yeah whatever. The day “should of” is considered anything other than the most offensive crime against the English language is the day you can book me on the next space ship out of here. “To be” and “to have” are lesson one in any language class.

  • Nessie says:

    Seeing such errors hurts my eyes and brain too :p I guess it’s not just an introvert thing but chances are that it’s *mostly* and introvert thing.

  • Christy Kalbach says:

    I think part of it is because it demonstrates laziness or apathy towards language, which introverts tend to appreciate more (reading and writing).