If your skin crawls when you spot a dangling modifier, you probably won't like this recent study.
Does your skin crawl whenever you spot a dangling modifier, or "its" in place of "it's"? If so, you're probably not going to like this new research from the University of Michigan.
The small study—titled "If You're House Is Still Available, Send Me an Email" (see what they did there?)— explores which personality types are most sensitive to grammar mistakes. The researchers had 83 people read emails with typos (such as “teh” vs. “the”), grammar errors (like “there” vs. “they’re”), or no mistakes. After reading all the emails, participants were asked if they’d spotted any errors and, if so, how much it irritated them.
Next, the researchers considered the subjects' dispositions. Participants were asked to complete the Big Five personality assessment (which determines a person's level of extraversion, agreeability, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness). They were also asked to judge the writers of the emails, by rating them on traits like intelligence and friendliness.
The (perhaps unsurprising) results? Subjects with personalities deemed "less agreeable" were more irritated by errors than other participants. The researchers believe it's because people with this personality type are “less tolerant of deviations from convention”—which appears to be a nicer way of saying members of the grammar police are kind of jerks.
They also found that extroverts were more likely to breeze past spelling and grammar errors, while introverts tended to notice mistakes and negatively judge the writer who made them. Meanwhile, people who scored high on conscientiousness and low on openness were more sensitive to typos. Yet, how neurotic someone was appeared to have no affect on the way they detected and interpreted mistakes.
Some people (including Health's entire editorial staff) find this study a bit insulting. But since the sample size was slim, we're taking the findings with a grain of salt until further research backs up the claims.