Hundreds, maybe thousands, of books have been written on how to approach the dating world properly. But there’s one crucial skill that’s almost always overlooked – a skill that’s more important than gifts, pictures, and even looks. And that is proper spelling and grammar.
Just like when applying for a job, misspellings, bad grammar, and poor vocabulary can ruin your chances of seeming like the right romantic candidate. But before you assume your English is perfect and your vocabulary superb, know that we spoke to over 1,000 people who had actively dated in the past year, and not only did they frequently find grammar and spelling errors but also other messaging mistakes that you may not have thought of. If you’re looking to join the dating world – or successfully navigate out of it – you’ll want to keep scrolling.
Intelligence was synonymous with grammar, or so 71% of respondents thought. And 69% of people judged their romantic interests based on how they used spelling and grammar in their text messages. Women were even more likely to take issue with improper spelling or grammar and judged these mistakes 16 percentage points more often than men. Women were also twice as likely as men to consider a spelling or grammar error a complete deal breaker.
Let’s face it: Physical appearance is important in the world of online dating. There’s even a plethora of advice on how to choose just the right photos. Whether this is effective in finding love is another story, though. That said, some respondents insisted looks were not as important as spelling and grammar. Instead, 45% of women and 24% of men said they would swipe the other way if someone on a dating app were physically attractive but used improper spelling or grammar.
Even if a person managed to make a great first impression to start messaging a romantic interest, 34% of respondents said they ultimately stopped messaging the person because they made consistent spelling or grammar mistakes. Forty-six percent of women experienced this frustration, compared to just 26% of men.
The No. 1 turnoff for women who dated online was poor spelling or grammar. It bothered more women than if the person were mean in a bio or overly eager or needy. In fact, improper spelling or grammar were more often offensive than a negative outlook on life, according to both the men and women surveyed. Spelling or grammar problems certainly bothered men, but not as often as overly edited photos: 51% encountered and were frustrated by this problem.
If you’re concerned about financing your dating life, the following findings may make you feel better: 47% found proper spelling or grammar to be more attractive than receiving gifts, and 43% said it was more attractive than someone insisting on paying. And even though compliments are free, they weren’t as appealing as proper spelling or grammar, according to 29% of respondents.
Of course, not being able to understand a message at all bothered most respondents, but there were also some very specific spelling or grammar mistakes that really got under people’s skin. Because more than half of respondents had encountered and felt bothered by the following errors, however, we’ll make sure to clear up any confusion for the sake of daters everywhere.
First, the incorrect usage of “they’re,” “their,” and “there” was noticed and found to be unattractive to 60% of respondents. Dictionary.com helps distinguish each word with an image, showing “they’re” with two expectant family members, as in “they’re expecting”; “their” accompanying a family owning “their” dog; and “there” with a picture of a house over “there.”
Second, the misuse of “two,” “too,” and “to” bothered 59% of respondents when dating. ThoughtCo. distinguishes these three words with the following (paraphrased) story: “Two boys were walking to Tucson. One said, ‘I’m too tired to walk home.’ The other said, ‘Me too.’”
Finally, remember that “you’re” means “you are.” More than half of people hated this mistake, as well.
Things that weren’t technically mistakes, however, could still bother a lot of respondents. For instance, purposely shortening words – like “u” for “you” – turned off 45% of respondents, and acronyms like “brb” and “gtg” were bothersome to 43%. It’s also worth noting that every one of these “mistakes” bothered women more often than men.
Attraction blossomed when a romantic interest used a high level of vocabulary. Although we let respondents decide what “high level” meant, there are plenty of free vocabulary tests if you’d like a numeric score. Merriam-Webster also provides a vocabulary challenge to help you improve, no matter your current level.
Vocabulary quizzes might be more valuable than people think: Those using a high level of vocabulary on their dating profiles were almost twice as likely to go on five or more dates in the past six months. That said, those who continued to use a high vocabulary throughout their messaging were more frequently ghosted. Perhaps those who verged on verbose territory lost their previous high ground.
The data could not have been more clear: Spelling and grammar are incredibly influential components of dating. Most respondents had noticed an issue before, whether on dating profiles or even in messages with someone they initially were attracted to.
If you’ve been particularly unfortunate with dating recently, you may want to go back and double-check your profile. If it’s perfect, you can help yourself make an even better first impression by improving your vocabulary. So, utilize some online resources and get back out there!
We used Prolific and Amazon Mechanical Turk to survey 1,006 people about the role that spelling, grammar, and vocabulary play in determining attractiveness. For respondents to be included in our data, they were required to have actively dated sometime in the past year, complete the entire survey, and pass an attention-check question in the middle of each survey. Participants who failed to do any of these were excluded from the study.
Of all respondents, 56% were men; 43% were women; and 1% identified with a nonbinary gender. The average age of respondents was 35, with a standard deviation of 11 years. Sixty-six percent of respondents were single; 12% were in a relationship; 10% were married; 9% were divorced; 1% were engaged; and 1% were widowed.
In the visualization of turn-offs when looking at someone’s dating profile, respondents were instructed to select their top five out of the options (out of a total of 26 options).
The data we are presenting rely on self-reporting. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include, but are not limited to, selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration. In finding averages of quantitative values, we removed outliers so that the data were not exaggerated.
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