angry personalities

Grammar police on social media are ‘less agreeable people’ in real life too, study finds

Those who take too much offence of improper grammar and typos in an informal situations were found have “less agreeable” personalities.

angry personalities

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Researchers at University of Michigan recruited 83 native English speakers via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) and asked to read ‘email responses’ to an ad for a potential housemate. These e-mails contained either no errors or were altered to contain typos (e.g., teh) or homophonous grammar errors (grammos, e.g., to/too, it’s/its, there/their). Here’s an example:

Hey! My name is Pat and I’m interested in sharing a house with other students who are serious abuot (about) there (their) schoolwork but who also know how to relax and have fun. I like to play tennis and love old school rap. If your (you’re) someone who likes that kind of thing too, maybe we would mkae (make) good housemates.

The participants were then asked to judge the potential housemate using a 10-item evaluation scale for each message or paragraph. They had to rate from 1 to 7 — where 1 labeled strongly disagree and 7 labeled strongly agree — the following statements.


A demographic/behavior questionnaire asked about age, gender, first language, highest education level, number of texts per day (0 to 100), features used on Facebook (chat, private message, wall posts, other) and frequency of usage, time spent pleasure reading, and the importance of good grammar.

Finally, a questionnaire was completed by each participant that gauged the Big Five Personality index (BFI). This index assigns a score for extraversion, agreeability, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness.

House ads who had ‘grammos’/typos in them were rated more poorly overall, but some were overly harsh than others depending on their personalities. Extroverts were much more lenient and forgiving than introverts. Less open participants were more sensitive to typos, while those rated as having a less agreeable personality were upset by bad grammar.

“The primary contribution of the current study is the finding that personality traits influence our reactions to written errors.”

“It remains an open question whether the kind of variation in personality that our participants exhibited affects the most basic aspects of language comprehension (e.g., word recognition, syntactic parsing) or only relatively superficial aspects of interpretation,” the researchers write in PLOS ONE.

The sample size was very small, so take the conclusions lightly. Experience tells us that some people can be real jerks, though. Previous research found that applications containing typos or grammar mistakes negatively impacted fulfillment of real-world loan requests, for instance.

Apart from seemingly confirming an unwritten truth on the internet, the research supports a growing body of evidence “on the relationship between personality and language, which until now, has examined only certain aspects of language production, without considering any aspects of language interpretation,” the researchers note.

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