How Important Is Their Grammar?

Name: Dana
Age: 29
Question: Moxie,

How much does bad grammar count against you online dating, whether on a profile or message? Does it show a complete lack of interest in the process, so avoid? I’m not talking about confusing you, you’re or there, they’re but just a purposeful lack of subject-verb agreement, etc.


I don’t think I’m the best person to ask this. I know that my subject-verb agreement isn’t the greatest. Therefore I’m pretty lax about things like this as long as it isn’t throughout the profile. If I have to go back and read something multiple times that’s a problem as well. Everybody should give their profiles a quick once and twice over. But even when you do that, sometimes we don’t catch simple mistakes. We’re too close to the subject matter, so we don’t see it.

Here and there, I assume it’s an accident. Sometimes you just forget what the subject was and you’re in mid-thought and you forget to re-read what precedes a certain statement. If it’s something that occurs throughout the profile, and the mistakes are glaring, I first wonder if the person’s native language isn’t English. I look for signs that they are not from the US. If there are none, I then conclude they are either uneducated in someway or just don’t care. In which case, I do not respond to them. Color me an elitist.

I also look past lack of capitalization and proper punctuation. Let’s face it, most people access these sites and other social media platforms via their phone. I’ve literally torn a hole in my space bar on my mobile because it’s hard to hit that lil’ button just right and the keypad buttons are so small.

What I don’t ignore are the abbreviations like u and r. To me, that’s just simple laziness and it doesn’t bode well for future interactions. It also makes me think that the person abbreviating those short words is lacking in intelligence in some way.

I have to say that when I see a profile that stands out from all the rest in terms of content and has perfect punctuation and grammar, I assume someone wrote the profile for them. I honestly believe that most people write these profiles up in a matter of a minutes and care very little about proper grammar. They just want to fill in those boxes and offer the max cap so they can move on to the next step of viewing profiles.

This, I think, is indicative to how people are feeling about online dating in general. Many folks are just unwilling to devote too much time or effort into polishing up their ad. They know it’s all about the photos. That and many people are just interested  to see what kind of a response rate their profile will garner. They don’t care. It’s all a crap shoot, really.

Do I think someone with a pristine profile is probably more invested? Yes. But I do not automatically assume that someone with some slip ups here or there isn’t.This feels like another test that ultimately tells us nothing about the person or prevents us from taking a chance.

Your thoughts?


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30 Responses to “How Important Is Their Grammar?”

  1. John Says:

    “I have to say that when I see a profile that is perfectly punctuated, with consistent proper grammar, I assume someone wrote the profile for them”

    Simple test for this- exchange a few emails. If the emails from them have the same style/eloquence, then you can be sure they really did indeed write that profile. If someone did their profile for them, then the difference in writing styles between the profile and the email will jump right at you.

    I am also leary about people who say they “read” a lot in the profiles but cannot make the proper distinctions between their/they’re and your/you’re. Anyone who claims to read books in their profiles are exposed to the proper ways of writing those words often enough that they should know better. I would conclude they are lying about “reading” being an interest of theirs.

    I also think you are letting them off the hook when you say you can forgive not using CAPS because they are using their cell phones. Writing a profile should be done on a computer. Its a one time thing (barring a few tweaks on occasion) and if they care so little as to use a cell phone to create a profile, they are not trying hard enough.

    • Andthatswhyyouresingle Says:

      Not true. Soe services not only write profiles but also write the email communcations.

      • John Says:

        Somehow I think the amount of people using services to write people’s profiles as a percentage of total online daters is very small. And even if you ran into the 1% of people using a professional profile writing service, I doubt they would be using that same service for second, third and fourth email exchanges.

        I know you help people craft their profiles but once again, I am sure that is just a small subset of the actual online dating population. Just because that is a major componenet of your world doesn’t mean it is common to the everday person. To make an analogy, a drug trafficking cop sees drugs being sold every day. But the average wouldn’t be exposed to this. So the amount of people selling drugs compared to the overall population is very small. But not in his world. He thinks it happens a lot more often simply because he is in that business. I think in this case, your point of view of people who pay for profile writing services is skewed simply because you are in that business of assisting people with their online dating experiences.

        • VJ Says:

          Skewed or not, it’s a very long & honorable tradition, actually. Alex Haley (of ‘Roots’ fame) got by in the US Coast Guard by writing ‘better’ & improved’ love letters for his fellow sailors to send off to their distant GF’s. Before him literature is littered with accounts of the same kind of thing going on whereby one more ‘literate’ pal is writing on behalf of a more ‘tongue tied’ or ‘shy’ one, for whatever reason. (See for example Cyrano: Me, I imagine the service is actually getting slightly more common as more people might afford it’s clear benefits, and fewer folks will actually ever have a ‘letter in hand’ to actually check the handwriting! Cheers, ‘VJ’

    • Paul Murray Says:

      “Leary”? Surely you mean ‘leery’. Note my correct use of double quotes and “philosoper’s quotes”. And scare quotes, too, come to that. I’m amazed that attaching a predicate to a subject correctly makes the OP think that the profile must have been ghostwritten.

      • LostSailor Says:

        Technically, according to Chicago, the question mark and periods should go inside the quotation marks…

        • Crotch Rocket Says:

          In most schools of US English, yes. In British English (though he probably would have used single quotation marks in that case) and certain technical usages of US English, though, putting punctuation outside the quotation marks is correct. As with many “rules” of English, either placement may be valid as long as it’s both deliberate and consistent.

          The American practice of always putting punctuation inside the quotation marks comes from the days of manual typesetting, when the tiny pieces of type for a comma or period would often get lost or damaged if not protected by the larger piece of type for the closing quotation mark. That is no longer a consideration, obviously, so we should go back to the original rule of putting the marks where they make the most sense grammatically.

          • LostSailor Says:

            Chicago allows for punctuation to be placed outside quotation marks where placing them inside would potentially cause confusion or misreading, but normally, they should be inside, at least, as you note, in American usage.

            One flouts Chicago at one’s peril…

            • Crotch Rocket Says:

              One flouts Chicago at one’s peril…
              I frequently flout Chicago (and AP, etc.). The key is that I know the rules and consciously (and consistently) violate them when warranted; it is only an error when done out of ignorance. The point of communication is to be understood, so I follow the rules only to the extent they help, rather than hinder, that cause. Most people don’t write well enough to get away with that, though.

              • LostSailor Says:

                The Department of Homeland Security’s Grammar Unit has been alerted. We’ll be watching you, sir….

      • peppermint Says:

        Hmm, what’s a “philosoper”?

  2. Crotch Rocket Says:

    How much does bad grammar count against you online dating, whether on a profile or message? Does it show a complete lack of interest in the process, so avoid?
    That, I think, will depend almost entirely on the writing level of the person reading the profile. If they don’t write any better than you do, they probably won’t even notice the mistakes.

    Personally, if you don’t care enough about what you’re saying to express it well, why should I care about it either? That goes for everything you write or say, not just online dating profiles. Color me an elitist, too, if you wish. That doesn’t mean it needs to be flawless, but it should at least look like you made an effort to present yourself well–and that you wouldn’t embarrass me in front of friends and family.

    I’m not talking about confusing you, you’re or there, they’re but just a purposeful lack of subject-verb agreement, etc.
    I don’t mind the occasional error; we all make mistakes, even professionals. However, when the error density exceeds one per sentence, I give up; it’s just too painful for me to read. I’ve seen some profiles that approached one error per word; that borders on unintelligible gibberish. And, yeah, I’m going to judge the author for that.

  3. Kay Says:

    For me, it is very important. Bad grammar is simply annoying; it shows you either pay no attention to detail, read or write at a very basic level, or simply don’t care. When you first meet someone, you instinctively notice their physical features, then how they’re dressed. Online, your words are your clothes, it says a lot about you.

  4. Charlie Says:

    Depends on the degree. An error here or there? Sure, we all make one every so often when we are typing. But a ton of errors or texting abbreviations drives me up the wall. I think it comes off to me more as extreme laziness than a lack of intelligence.

  5. Brad Says:

    I think we use grammar as indicative of intelligence and education level, which is in turn a proxy for social class, which is itself a signal of social standing and wealth.

    Being in NYC, this breaks down into two camps – people who grew up with English as their 1st language, and people who didn’t. Clearly we are more forgiving of the latter, especially someone who grew up Russian with their insane grammar rules; I want to tell them ‘Relax! You don’t need this jumble of modifiers anymore. Quickly adjust your verb to your subject and move on with your sentence’.

    If someone grew up with only one language and can’t get it right, a warning flag goes up in my subconscious. I grew up in the South and still remember my epiphany in late elementary school – the people on TV don’t sound like my friends and me. I made a conscious effort to learn ‘TV style’, only to later realize in school they had been teaching me ‘TV Style’ all along (no one said I was the brightest kid).

    On match I once got an email from an attractive girl that was basically in Spanglish. She was clearly interested, but between her language and her pictures, I couldn’t imagine ourselves ‘blending’ into each other’s lives.

    On the other side, I remember the opposite – I once met a Wall Street girl, expecting English to be her 2nd language (based on emails and text). She was tall and blond, I anticipated a Scandinavian or German accent. In reality, she grew up in the Midwest and went to a top school. I found this to be an equal turnoff, guessing her written words were indicative of a deeper problem.

  6. myself Says:

    I correct people’s grammar & spelling. It’s just something I do. It drives me insane. Now locally, there are certain indicators of someone’s cultural/language background (I’m in Montreal & English is my mother.tongue, so I can tell when something is written in English by someone whose mother tongue is French, there are typical grammatical errors made), these are entirely excusable (we also have a.large number of immigrants from other countries again whose initial language isn’t English). What drives me nuts is people from certain areas of this city who were.educated in English but still speak (& therefore write) in the “slang” of the area they grew up in. It makes the most intelligent person seem like a dunce.”me, I…..” “not for anything but”…..nope…pass…..

  7. j Says:

    I generally don’t meet people with bad grammar. I usually won’t say anything in the event of an error.

    Once I dated someone who used the word “terminal” when she should have used “station.” No big deal.

    About half an hour later, she said “station” when she should have used “terminal.”

    Two errors, the exact opposite of each other. I’d never heard anything like that before, so I did mention it.

  8. Erine Says:

    Ive gone out with,many Manhattan, highly edycated men and am engaged to one now. None of them has ever made a glaring error in their writing and speech (for the most part). I hate to be picky ( I GUESS icould afford it)0ut errors like that are a huge turn off and ARE an indication of “lower” level of intelligence and my prospective unterest in them. Ive never met a &n intelligent successful man who could not write in a nearly impecable manner. Ye ah, that makes me sound like a snob but this has veen ductated by my nyc life and experience, natural evolvement of preferences. I started out here dating laborers whose work oufit was a t shirt and jeans and some of which did not know much grammar but gradually i moved on to highly educated men. It is whats called life experience and natural process of becoming yourself

    • Crotch Rocket Says:

      None of them has ever made a glaring error in their writing and speech (for the most part)
      If you think so, that almost certainly just means they write and speak better than you do, and therefore you didn’t recognize their errors. Everyone makes mistakes. Frequently.

      errors like that … ARE an indication of “lower” level of intelligence
      No, they’re not. I know plenty of highly intelligent people that can barely string together a coherent sentence. Writing and speaking well comes from a combination of education, reading and effort–and has little, if anything, to do with raw intelligence.

      Ive never met a &n intelligent successful man who could not write in a nearly impecable manner.
      That’s not surprising since writing and speaking well are prerequisites to success in nearly all professional careers.

  9. Erine Says:

    And ive made a dozen errors typing on my phone as uf to prove my point :)

  10. Erine Says:

    Also some very ibtelligent men purposely use erroneous things such as R and U, etc. however ,, as Moxie pointed out, they do it to prelimenary put a woman in her place and set that drama tonality or express the lack of serious intentions.

  11. Filster4 Says:

    Depends on the picture and what is being conveyed, but too many mistakes would make me wonder.

  12. LostSailor Says:

    Damn it. I’m doomed.

    I took the time to put together a light, witty, well-written profile, with just the right touches of my signature dry humor. I may have to experiment with a conventional generic profile and see if I get more results…

    Facility with language, as Brad noted above, is often a signal of education and social class. I’ve taught English as a foreign language and started out in my career as a copy-editor (basically a professional spelling, grammar, and punctuation nazi), which has left me with a lot of pet peeves. Such as proper use of defining and non-defining relative pronouns. And certain misuses of common phrases can drive me up the wall, such as “I could care less” (no, you couldn’t).

    But, sadly, a lot of people simply haven’t been taught precise grammar, so I generally cut a lot of slack. Moxie’s right that a lot of people put these things up quickly and without a lot of forethought. But a really poorly written profile, littered with grammar and spelling errors, is usually an insight into the person who wrote it, and not for the better.

  13. Angeline Says:

    I used to be a terrible grammar and spelling snob for written things – papers, reports, essays. In my very first office job in my 20s, I thought I was in trouble when the top salesman came to the clerical staff supervisor and asked who had proofed his contract (me). He said, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but most of the errors flagged on here are in the standard part of the contract.” I said, “They’re still wrong.” He busted out laughing, and handed the supervisor the contract to fix.

    So when I waded into online dating, I dismissed profiles that were shoddily written. As most everyone has said, a few errors are no big deal, but when the profile consists of (I shit you not) “I just wan t to. meet a nice women. poepl are so hard nowday. why r we. so distance?” it triggers the cringe reaction, and click! Delete. My sister and I still send each other emails with that as the subject.

    Then I met the current fella (in person). Born in the UK and came here as a child; very bright with a vast vocabulary and very clever and inventive word plays and puns; who can not type or text or hand write a coherent sentence to save his life. He can write lovely cards (pencil only, pens skitter away from him), but the effort is huge, and he gets flustered if he has to write anything with someone watching. In his teens, he nearly died of a Parkinson’s type disease called chorea. It isn’t terminal like Parkinson’s, but it causes violent and unpredictable shaking and spasms. He could barely stand with lurching into things and knocking them over, and barely escaped ‘exploratory’ brain surgery to see if they could find *something*. It took him two years to regain his coordination, but typing and writing have always remained a terrible chore for him.

    If I’d met him online, I probably would have passed him by. Sloppy grammar can and usually does mean lack of effort and/or poor education, but not always.

  14. VJ Says:

    Yes, we can often miss the rare ‘diamond in the rough’, as Angeline notes. But, all too often the way to bet is with Brad:

    “I think we use grammar as indicative of intelligence and education level, which is in turn a proxy for social class, which is itself a signal of social standing and wealth”.

    And this is getting only more important with the rise of the digital age, where most of our communication is actually written in some form or fashion. If you can’t or won’t do this well? People will naturally judge you, on the job and in life. It’s a bit like being the fat kid in a room of lithe athletes, past a certain point, you will stand out, and not well!

    The higher you climb up the ‘social ladder’ you’ll likely find fewer and fewer people with a poor facility with language or the written word. And when you do find that exception that proves the rule? They’re likely going to be very unusual standouts and typically older too. No doubt many are still worth knowing and will still make valuable contributions to society and many friendships along the way. But if you were betting on ‘the most likely to succeed’ in the race for resources, you’d bet on the more literate, not the ones with less fluid command of their own language. It’s as simple as that. Which is why it’s been a huge and highly effective ‘social proof’ of social standing and worth for 100’s of years.

    But again this likely will weigh more heavily on the guys rather than the gals, and has for 100’s of years. Cheers, ‘VJ’

  15. Brian Says:

    If correct grammar and punctuation mean that much to you perhaps limiting your search to English professors would be in your best interest. Even if it is a sign of negligence ,do you really want to judge someone by the quality of their on-line profile? I think it best to focus on the content and take it from there. Superficial criteria will only lead you to superficial relationships.

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