This paper reports an investigation into the language used by writers of grammars of English and learners' awareness of it. Two key features of this genre are whether and how writers present themselves in the text ('personality') and whether and to what extent they qualify their statements via the use of modality. Two comparable texts, one from a pedagogic grammar and one from a scholarly grammar were given to university learners of English in order to gauge their reactions as to the degree of friendliness and certainty of the text, as well as their level of difficulty and appropriateness. The students reacted more positively to the pedagogic text on all counts, most significantly in terms of its certainty and least significantly in terms of its friendliness. The students were also asked to identify the items in the texts that had led to their reaction; some pinpointed features of personality and modality, though most did not and pointed to other aspects, in particular the use of examples. The paper concludes that the choices made by writers about personality and modality are important for learners, though not necessarily in ways that would be expected.