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:

Margaret

 

Adam

 

Mark

 

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


Jenn Granneman is the founder of IntrovertDear.com and the author of The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World. She also cohosts The Introvert, Dear Podcast and blogs for Psychology Today. For most of her life, Jenn felt weird, different, and out of place because of her quiet ways. She writes about introversion because she doesn’t want other introverts to feel the way she did.