You’ve all seen the comment war that takes an even worse turn the second someone sends a message with a spelling mistake—even if that mistake is very clearly a typo and not actually indicative of the person’s spelling abilities. Well, a new study reaffirms what you already suspected about the person who’d rather go on a tangent about that typo than ignore it and stick to the matter at hand: They’re probably awful.
Admittedly, it’s one study with a very small sample size of only 83 participants, so it’s far from incontrovertible scientific proof that people who are bothered by spelling and grammar mistakes are a-holes. However, I spend all day watching people bicker on the Internet over dumb crap like this. Please, just let me have this one. That’s not to say I don’t think spelling and grammar are important; I really, really do, but I’ve learned over the years not to be a jerk about it, and I wish everyone else would, too.
They won’t, though, and to find that out, the University of Michigan study sat its 83 participants down in front of some email responses to an ad for a housemate, and those responses had been doctored in some cases to include typos in which words had their letters mixed around as well as ones of a more grammatical nature (wrong “its” or “to,” for example). They gathered personality data on the participants and then had them rate the “perceived intelligence, friendliness, and other attributes” of the emails’ authors.
They found, among other things, that extroverts were more likely to overlook errors of any kind, people who were conscientious and less open (not bad traits, really) weren’t too fond of typos, and “less agreeable” people tended to take issue with the ones related to word usage. Basically, your reaction to the mistakes of others may reveal just as much about you as you think their errors do about them.
You know what probably says the most about you, though? How much of a jerk you are about it if you really do feel that someone could use a correction. Try to remember that we all make mistakes, and outside of very formal writing, there’s a lot of room for poetic license with grammar.
If you’re a grammar/spelling superfan who could use a helpful way to put the mistakes of others in perspective, this is probably my favorite.
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