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Grammar Nazis: Are They Really Smarter or Just Annoying?

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As an English lecturer, I am acutely aware of what I post on social media. I strive to avoid any errors in my spelling and grammar, although I am not perfect. Proper usage is what I teach in the classroom, and I frequently correct mistakes in grammar, spelling, punctuation, usage, and syntax, among other things. However, as English is not my first language, grammar slip-ups can easily happen.

There are different kinds of typos, such as the kind made when typing quickly or due to not learning the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ in grade school. For some, this is not an issue, but for others, it can be a significant problem. These individuals are known as grammar Nazis, those who are overly obsessed with spelling and grammatical rules and are quick to point out mistakes.

These individuals can be utterly annoying, not just because they are pointing out errors, but because of the added conceit of thinking they are doing you a favour by giving you a free grammar lesson. A seminal study conducted in 2016 found that people who are more sensitive to written typos and grammatical errors are indeed the kinds of jerks we already suspect them to be.

In the study, researchers from the University of Michigan invited 83 participants to read emails that either contained typos, grammar errors, or no spelling mistakes at all. They were also asked to provide information about themselves and score the writers on “perceived intelligence, friendliness, and other attributes.” The results revealed that extroverts were more likely to overlook spelling errors, while introverts were more likely to notice grammar errors. Less agreeable people were more sensitive to grammar errors, which the researchers attribute to the possibility that these types “are less tolerant of deviations from convention.” People who were more conscientious and less open were more sensitive to typos.

Robin Queen, one of the researchers, explained: “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.” He added, “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.”

On a personal level, I believe that most grammar Nazis are foolish individuals who are desperately trying to make themselves look more intelligent. While spelling things correctly is crucial, it is not the only thing that matters. Saying that you can spell every word in the dictionary does not mean you understand what those words mean. If that is the case, it makes you a very unintelligent person.

If someone can use words correctly but cannot spell a single one, that person might be smart, but they need to learn grammar and spelling better. However, they might be more educated than a person who can spell everything.

Discrediting an entire argument or person based on spelling alone is incredibly shallow and shows a lack of intelligence when it comes to understanding complex concepts. In these cases, the person being insulted is likely more intelligent than the one doing the insult.

That being said, we should not ignore language rules altogether. Pointing out typos in articles or presentations is fair game. However, doing so in Facebook posts or text messages can be seen as something else entirely.

Everyone is prone to making mistakes, and when someone corrects you, it is best to look at it from a positive perspective. Their correction can help develop your writing skills.


Rona deal Rosa is an editor of Psychreg and an associate professor at the Polytechnic College of the City of Meycauyan.

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