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A while back, I read a Wall Street Journal article suggesting that the use of proper grammar on dating websites is a huge benefit. When you write things about yourself or to others, the words you choose influence how a potential date thinks about you.

The article cited a survey of what traits single people seek in potential dates. The dating site found that 88% of women and 75% of men cared about grammar, putting it ahead of the other person's confidence and teeth. (That made me laugh, mainly because it's the first time I've seen grammar in the same survey as teeth.)

One man in the article suggests that he's practically allergic to a date who writes, "I'll meet you they're" instead of "I'll meet you there."

Taking things further, a dating app called the Grade judges your profile and message quality. If your words sing, you get an A. I'm no Luddite, but I'm wary of an algorithm that judges writing and syntax.

So many questions came to mind as I read the Journal article.

Is this more of a problem when you're meeting people online? If you meet a man at a bar, and he says, "I'll get a table there," do you really know how he has spelled it?

Does this tendency to judge grammar make a person less shallow or more?

Were cavemen and cavewomen living before written language happier overall in their relationships because grammar was not an issue?

One dating website, eFlirt, hires people to clean up the less-than-perfect grammar in the profiles of clients. This notion sounds a little faulty to me. Will these website people also write clients' vows and each future birthday card, if the two spend their lives together?

This made me think of Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. Cyrano was a well-spoken soldier who lacked confidence with women because his nose was large. Cyrano, supplying the words, helps another man woo the woman Cyrano loves. I won't tell you the rest of the story, but believe me when I say such trickery created a lot of heartbreak.

I found that the grammar-in-dating topic had been swirling for a couple of years, on dating sites and other places.

One highly unscientific poll from Esquire asked whether it was rude for a particular woman to correct the grammar on a certain man's wayward profile. Most of the people said correcting grammar would be snobbish and cruel, and they said the woman should leave the guy alone.

Others said people have much worse traits, and relationship seekers should ignore an occasional misused tense. And the rest of the people said the woman should indeed correct the grammar if she truly loves grammar.

On other sites, people's opinions on whether grammar is a key factor naturally varied. Some people said the use of poor grammar represents problems with other life skills. That sounds harsh to me.

Some said the various dating criteria a person chooses are no one else's business. A few said that if poor grammar bothers you in a profile, imagine how it will bug you when you spend every day with the person. Others said that passing over a potentially great person because of poor grammar is insane.

A few of the sites offered ways to improve your grammar and listed errors to avoid.

One source in the article, John McWhorter, a Columbia University linguistics professor, had a memorable comment. "Grammar snobbery is one of the last permissible prejudices," he said. "The energy that used to go into open classism and racism now goes into disparaging people's grammar."

That's a scary thought.

I'll admit to searching for a good man on a dating website. My favorite grammar error was the man who promised he was not a "cereal dater." I don't think the guy meant he had a thing for Raisin Bran. I think he meant he didn't date woman after woman. He wasn't a serial dater. But I never asked him.


Disinterested and uninterested do not mean the same thing, even though their spellings are similar. For clarification of the two, I turned to language master Theodore Bernstein.

Disinterested means you don't have an opinion on something. You're neutral. You don't care about the outcome.

Uninterested means something bores you. Sometimes a person has this lack of interest written on his face.

Wrong: The survey revealed 57% of job candidates did not dress appropriately for the interview and 55% appeared disinterested.

Right: The survey revealed 57% of job candidates did not dress appropriately for the interview and 55% appeared uninterested.

Wrong: Fundraising shortfalls or disinterested volunteers may doom the nonprofit organization.

Right: Fundraising shortfalls or uninterested volunteers may doom the nonprofit organization.

Sources: "What's really hot on dating sites? Proper grammar." The Wall Street Journal, iDigitalTimes, The Washington Post, Media General News Service, Roanoke Times, The Careful Writer by Theodore Bernstein, Esquire, Quora, How You Can Find Love, Plenty of Fish, Grammar Vandal.


Style on 06/17/2019

CORRECTION: Due to an editor’s error, a quotation from linguistics professor John McWhorter was incorrect in an earlier version of this Watch Your Language! column. McWhorter said, “Grammar snobbery is one of the last permissible prejudices. The energy that used to go into open classism and racism now goes into disparaging people’s grammar.”

Print Headline: Grammar a grabber, daters say


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