To those who identify as members of the “grammar police,” a mix-up of ‘your’ with ‘you’re’ or ‘to’ with ‘too’ is about as irritating to read in a text message as nails sound screaming down a chalkboard.
But, according to a recent study, being overly picky with grammar could reveal something telling and unexpected about your personality.
Linguists Julie Boland and Robin Queen of University of Michigan gathered 83 native English-speakers and asked them to read adverts seeking a housemate. Some of the ads were riddled with typos and grammar mistakes, while the others were impeccably written. An initial questionnaire was administered to obtain the demographic or behavioral information of the participants: age, gender, education, number of texts per day, time spent in reading, importance of grammar, among others.
The participants were then asked to carry out a 44-question, “Big Five” personality trait questionnaire to assess all the aspects of their personality. The Big Five Personality Trait index includes scales for conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, agreeability, and openness.
The third part involved a short questionnaire called Housemate scale, whereby the participants had to rate the potential housemate in the categories of friendliness, similarity with oneself, intelligence, trustworthiness, likeability, and conscientiousness from 1 (strongly agree) to 7 (strongly disagree).
As it turned out, those who tended to think less about their potential housemate because of their typos were often of the introverted set. For the purpose of the study, “introverted” was defined as somebody who is more at ease by themselves and who regularly takes pleasure in solitude.
“I found myself asking: this is weird – why would it be the case that introverts care more? My guess is that introverts have more sensitivity to variability,” said Robin Queen.
“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.”
It could also have something to do with the fact that – not to generalize – but introverts likely spend more time reading, rendering them more sensitive to errors. Not to mention, most introverts I know tend to be perfectionists.
Either way, you may want to give that email to your introverted friend or client a second read-through before hitting ‘send.’