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Pedantic about grammar? It's not the most flattering reflection of your personality, says science


Are you a stickler for good grammar? Does a poorly constructed email annoy you beyond belief? According to science, that may not be good news when it comes to your personality type.

A new study has found that those who obsess over bad grammar may not be quite as friendly as their less-bothered peers.

The research, which asked a group of people to evaluate written housemate applications, also found that introverted people are more likely to be pedantic about typos and written errors than their extroverted counterparts.

woman reading emails on computer

Conducted by scientists Julie Boland and Robin Queen, from the University of Michigan, the study saw 83 participants read email responses to an advert for a new roommate. They were then asked to evaluate the applicant using social and academic criteria, including perceived intelligence and friendliness.

Before reading the applications however, each participant in the study was asked to complete a personality assessment. Using markers from the academically recognised Big Five Personality Test, Boland and Queen categorised the participants in terms of their Openness, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Extroversion and Neuroticism.

The researchers found that those who scored highly in terms of Agreeableness, were less likely to judge grammatical errors in the roommate application harshly. They also found that extroverts were far less likely to flag up the typos which led introverted participants to make judgements about the applicant.

Summarising their findings, which have been published in the PLOS One journal, Boland and Queen write: “More extroverted people were likely to overlook written errors that would cause introverted people to judge the person who makes such errors more negatively.

“Less agreeable people were more sensitive to grammos, while more conscientious and less open people were sensitive to typos.”

Angry woman reading

So what is it that makes grammar nerds ‘less agreeable’? While a conclusive answer would likely need an entirely new study, Boland and Queen have speculated on one possibility.

Writing in their paper, the pair say: “Less agreeable participants showed more sensitivity to grammos than participants high in agreeability, perhaps because less agreeable people are less tolerant of deviations from convention.”

But while the study casts a not so great light on the sticklers for good grammar, it’s not all bad news. Last month, a similar study carried out by researchers at Japan's Kyoto University, found that those pedantic about sentence structure and grammatical convention, actually had a higher rate of arousal.

That’s right, better sex. Not a bad pay-off, eh?




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