I admit it: I'm the queen of typos. It's not that I don't know the difference between "you're" and "your," it's just that sometimes my fingers type faster than my brain. When I proofread my own stuff, I don't always spot the errors because I know what I meant to say, so my brain simply substitutes intentions for reality. I use Grammarly to double check everything, but Grammarly is far from perfect itself. (Plus, sometimes, it's flat out wrong.)

But, just because I make lots of typos on my own stuff doesn't mean that I can't see glaring errors in other people's writing. Sure, I can spot your "there/their/they're" error, but I can't spot my own. However, I don't point it out. (Unless it's pre-publication and you've asked me for help.) Turns out that's because I'm nice. Scientific proof.

A new study, cringingly titled, "If You're House Is Still Available, Send Me an Email: Personality Influences Reactions to Written Errors in Email Messages" discovered what many of us already knew: People who correct your grammar tend to be jerks.

The researchers found a distinct difference between true typos (like "teh" for "the") and grammatical errors ("too" for "to"). People were more forgiving of the former since everyone knows how to spell "the," while disagreeable types were more likely to assume a too/to error was due to lack of intelligence.

The study found that the more agreeable of a person you are, the less likely you are to be bothered by a grammatical error. Introverts were more bothered by grammar errors than extroverts. Extroverts were more likely to overlook the errors while introverts believed the writer would be less compatible as a housemate due to bad grammar.

This study involved only 83 people, but the correlation between personality type and impact of errors were clear. Nice people don't mind grammar errors nearly as much as jerks.

So, are you a jerk if you point out errors? As a typo-prone person, I appreciate it when a reader sends me a quick email (EvilHRLady@gmail.com) to let me know there's an error. I can then correct it. I don't appreciate it when someone writes a huge rant in the comments about how they are now going to unsubscribe from everything I've ever written due to the clear substandard nature of my English skills. The difference to me is that the former person is trying to be helpful while the latter person wants to demonstrate their superiority.

If you're a grammar jerk, ask yourself the following questions before pouncing on someone;

Can this be corrected? Things online can usually be corrected. The children's bibs pictured that say, "4 Dizzy Dragon Flys" are already produced and can't be corrected. If you focus on things that can't be corrected, you're only annoying yourself. Don't buy the darn bib.

Is it important? You should absolutely let your coworker know of an error on the company website so it can be corrected. You should not make a comment on your mother's Facebook post saying, "*your" unless you enjoy being left out of the will. As a general rule of thumb, personal social media account grammatical errors are never important enough to point out-unless that error was made by a self-proclaimed grammar snob. What goes around comes around.

Is it damaging someone's reputation? I took German classes from a fabulous school. All the teachers had great German grammar. However, in their efforts to entice English speaking students, they posted a sign outside their building advertising their courses. All fine and good, except there was a grammar error in the English sign. This was understandable for people who are native German speakers. I did tell them about the error because they really were fabulous German teachers, but the English error might turn away some students.

Are you helping or hurting by pointing it out? When someone sends me an email to let me know of an error, they are helping. When someone else broadcasts it to the world they are hurting. When a coworker sends you something to proofread, do you need to let her know all the errors she made, or can you simply correct them? Doing the latter is nicer. (As long as you truly know what you are talking about.)

Remember, language evolves. Back in the "good old days" the only writing you saw on a regular basis was written by a professional and edited by a professional. (Unless you were a school teacher, that is.) No wonder there weren't very many typos.

Now? Most of my interaction with friends is via written word. We text. We post on Facebook. We read each other's blog posts. No one has a professional copy editor following them around to fix things. Chalk up errors to evolving communication styles. If you understand the meaning, that's the most important thing.

Be nice. Sometimes, it's more important to be nice than to be right. Remember that before you correct someone's tweet.

 

Published on: Apr 4, 2016