Do we care more about a potential partner's grammar than we do about their teeth?
What do women and men look for in a partner? There’s no uniform answer, and sometimes we don’t know until we find it, but research by dating site match.com suggests that one thing most of us prioritise is basic literacy.
While personal hygiene is the number one concern for both genders, number two is grammar. Three quarters of all men and almost 90% of all women care more about correct use of language than they do about a person’s self-assurance or even their teeth. research has thrown up multiple examples of men and women dismissing potential “dates” on grounds of bad grammar.
It’s been suggested that this linguistic sloppiness indicates not just a general lack of attention to detail but also a poor work ethic, so it’s not surprising that anyone looking for a serious relationship would have doubts about transgressors. Does bad grammar make a bad breadwinner?
Language service providers know the value of precision, and they know the smallest errors can cost reputations and livelihoods. Research by online entrepreneur Charles Duncombe has demonstrated that a single website spelling mistake can cut online sales by as much as 50%. And spelling is only part of the story. Changes to the structure of a language in translation can be obligatory or non-obligatory. Obligatory changes result from differences in grammatical structure between one language and another. Non-obligatory changes can be less obvious, and they're triggered by differences in culture and style. Failure to recognise these non-obligatory changes can cause offence and torpedo a relationship before it even begins. Don’t be surprised to see your overseas clients – your potential economic “dates” – throw your roses in the bin and head for the exit.
Happily, there are many examples of relationships starting off on the right foot. Just as the right words can open a potential partner’s eyes to our better qualities, an accurately translated website or brochure can attract client attention for all the right reasons.
Ben Zimmer, who writes on linguistics for the Wall Street Journal, has argued persuasively that informality and “dumbing down” of language among some social groups takes nothing away from the importance of accuracy for others. Simple eloquence is persuading customers in China, Brazil and Saudi Arabia to spend their money with foreign partners, just as it’s persuading the online dating community to take a chance on hopeful strangers. Even if their teeth and their confidence may leave something to be desired.
Shy, toothless and looking for love? With a few well-chosen words you might just find it.
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