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Why Spelling Errors Affect Your Business (and How to Avoid Making Them)

Have you ever gone to a website to browse their products, only to find blatant misspellings or an overuse of commas, apostrophes, or exclamation points? I don’t know about the rest of the public, but that is an instant turn-off for me when it comes to a brand or company. If you don’t even want to take the time to make sure your product and brand are advertised correctly, then what faith should I have that your product is a sound product or even worth buying?

In this day and age, especially with our generation being extremely technology-based, earlier generations are now conditioned to navigate the World Wide Web. They’re “forced” to promote their companies in new and inventive ways, like with social media promotions and blogs. This, in turn, has caused them to hire more individuals to keep up with the many different avenues of advertising but it has also forced them to cut back on traditional positions such as copy editors or general editing teams.

Don't cut your sales in half!

A single spelling error could cost you half your sales.

At the time, these cutbacks may seem like an easy fix to a moderate problem, but most businesses don’t realize that they will pay largely for it in the long run. Studies show that a single spelling error can cut a company’s online sales in half. That means you could have potentially had 1,000 sales (as opposed to the 500 you received) had you fixed that spelling error of “staplar” to “stapler.” Companies’ websites, advertisements, and other media outlets provide approximately a 6-second window to grab a consumer’s attention. That means whatever a consumer decides to look at in that 6 seconds needs to be 100% correct. 99% of online sales are done through the written word, so consumers research via the descriptions, the materials, and the available colors to get a general idea of the product. The moment a consumer sees misspellings or other general errors, they begin to question the credibility of not only the product but also the website and company as well.

It’s inevitable that every company is going to have to come into the technology age regarding marketing and promotions. But for those just starting out, like the Mom-and-Pop shops or home-based businesses, it’s important to seize all opportunities to hook clients and maximize profits. Remember, it is better to spend money now to make money later than it is to lose money later because you never properly invested in the beginning. Even established corporations could learn a thing or two from these simple tips!

Tip #1

Spell check isn't always your friend...

Tip #1: DO NOT rely entirely on writing program tools! (This includes spell check)

This tip applies to anyone who ever has to type in a word-processing program, whether for work, school, or personal pleasure. It’s a known fact that spell checkers have a limited dictionary; depending on which program or version you use (Mac, PC, 2004, 2010, etc), the dictionary and spell checker will vary. If you are using a program that is outdated by 5-10 years, then it is very likely that you will have documents that appear to be spelled correctly but are actually incorrect. That’s the English language for you — constantly changing! Also, be aware that not all versions of writing programs have a grammar checker in the first place. That means your document may include correct spelling but your grammar could be a 10-car pileup.

Tip #2

Take 30 minutes to sleep (or to look at LOLcats) before resuming.

Tip #2: Take a break and revisit!

When you’re done writing something, let it sit for 30 minutes or an hour (however much time you can allow). Then come back to it and re-read it. You will refresh yourself with the content and perhaps notice errors you glanced over in your first sitting while you were writing. It is very common for people to glance over errors if they attempt to proof and edit while they are writing because they are so familiar with the content. Give your writing and yourself time to breathe so you can re-approach it and look at it with a fresh pair of eyes!

Tip #3

An extra pair of eyes never hurts!

Tip #3: Four eyes are always better than two.

If possible, always have someone else read over your work before it’s published. Hell, the more people the better, actually. A friend or colleague may have a different way of processing things or just may know things you do not. The more eyes that check your work, the more potential errors will be caught and fixed before it works negatively against you. Also, a third-party reader will not be familiar with the material so they may offer tips to make the information easier to digest or suggest an innovative way to present the material to make it more appealing to a wider audience. The more people you reach, the better! That is potentially more money you stand to make. Truthfully, who couldn’t stand to make more money?

Tip #4: One at a time!

Tip #4

Focus on one thing at a time. Your copy will thank you!

When going back over your work to edit and proofread, try checking for one type of error at a time. This allows you to focus more intently on the problem you are searching for. If you try to stretch your focus and attention over 5 different issues at once, then you are likely going to glance over a lot of mistakes because you simply forgot about it. So, when possible, first proof your document for spelling errors (since this tends to be one of the most common mistakes for everyone) and then check for grammar mistakes (this is a little bit more difficult because there are a million different ways to say something both incorrectly and correctly). Try to find an experienced proofreader (typically, English majors are good at this — most offices have at least one); they will be better versed in possible grammar errors and know how to aid you in fixing them. And, last but never least, is punctuation. Perhaps you forgot to add a period here or a comma there, or maybe you simply forgot that adding a semicolon can often transform a run-on sentence. Whatever the case may be, try to focus on these problems one at a time. Trust me, the benefits will be endless.

Hopefully these tips will aid you in your quest for perfection and do wonders for you like they have done for me. Nobody wants to be the person who cost the company money over the extra “e” mistake. At the end of the day, if we all just take a little more time and effort to look over all that we do, we could ideally save ourselves (and our companies) millions. And that’s ALWAYS a good thing!

Are you a stickler for grammar, spelling, and punctuation? Do you know of any mistakes that cost a company sales?

 Image credit to Brian Warren.


cjones

Candice is on the web team at QLP. She's extremely family-oriented and enjoys spending all of her free time with her daughter and family. She LOVES to shop and just experience life again through her daughter's eyes. There's nothing better than that in the world for her! You can also connect with Candice on Google+

Comments

  1. Mandy Kilinskis

    Candice, I am totally with you! I am frequently annoyed by companies that consistently produce content with misspellings and errors. I can forgive it every so often (we’re only human!), but when common words or titles or names are misspelled, it really grinds my gears. I can’t even read the Chicago Tribune online anymore – their copy is horrendous! I once read a short article that had two misspellings and then Tribune was spelled “Tribne.” I mean, really? I’m sure that they had to downsize their copy editing department, but really? They can’t even spell Tribune anymore?

    Thanks for the refresher! I find that once I finish writing a blog, I’ll switch tasks for an hour or so and come back to it. It definitely helps me catch the mistakes!

  2. Rachel

    Great blog, Candice! I edit for a literary magazine (on nights and weekends, of course :)), and I am in complete, utter agreement about the importance of clean copy, no matter the business or industry. I think a lot of people underestimate the necessity of copyediting because they assume that good content is enough — but readers are going to notice errors, and that’s going to reflect poorly on the company, no matter how good the actual words are.

    I really love your tips, too! All of them are excellent suggestions. The one about spell-checking programs on word processors is especially important, I think, since many people rely on the computer to catch mistakes. But if you misspell “read” as “red,” Word is not going to find that. There’s no replacement for a sharp human eye, in my mind. :)

  3. amy

    From experience I know that having multiple sets of eyes re-read a document can save you from a lot of trouble later on. At an internship I did last fall my coworker and I had to write a player handbook for a volleyball team and between our four eyes we also had our supervisor read it, one of the accountants, and the project manager read it. 10 sets of eyes read through it and by the end it was perfect :) It took a little while, but the work was well worth all the effort.

    Great tips, Candice!!

  4. Amanda

    There are some great tips here! Spelling is very important, especially for businesses. If they can’t spell, or don’t proofread, it just makes them look silly! I can’t recall seeing a website that had misspellings , but if I did, I would question the site I was on. Human error will always be a factor, but if enough people check it out, they should be able to get it straight. I forgive comma errors pretty easily, as I am not always sure of when to use them. ;-)

  5. Jill Tooley

    Great post, Candice! I don’t know if I’d necessarily stop shopping at an online store because of a spelling or grammar error, but if I might raise an eyebrow if I noticed it. Although, I suppose it really depends on the error! ;)

    The stats you mentioned are interesting indeed. Losing 50% of sales is never a good thing!

  6. Jill Tooley

    Hi, Aletha! Thanks for reading our blog and taking the time to comment. Congratulations on wanting to take the initiative for your own website. I’d highly recommend WordPress because it’s easy to use, and basic accounts are free of charge. However, they do have a ton of themes you can use to make it even better (some paid, some free). If you already own a domain name, then you can sometimes use it with WordPress so you don’t have to include mydomain.wordpress.com in your URL. I’d suggest checking out WordPress FAQs for more information, and I’d also suggest checking out Copyblogger for more valuable blogging resources. It’s one of my favorite sites!

    Good luck, and come back anytime! :)

  7. Mardelle Poffenberger

    Thanks for the info.! I have a long running argument with the owner of the business I manage. She will consistently publish promotional information leaving in spelling and grammar errors, saying most people will not notice. I contend that these errors show a lack of professionalism and attention to detail, which would be detrimental in our line of business! With her, it’s a losing battle, but one I will continue to fight.

    • Candice J.

      Thanks for commenting Mardelle! I believe this battle is never a losing battle while the company still exists. It may be a hard battle to fight but one that is more than worth the effort. I feel that today’s society has such an urgency to put things out as quickly as possible they stop becoming concerned with the quality of what they produce and expose. Perhaps create a suggestion box or question for your customers/clients asking them how they feel and what is their take on the issue. That way she can see it’s not coming just from you and she gets a real life response from how other people view it and how it could come back to haunt her! Hope everything works out and she finally comes over to your side!

  8. Jennifer

    It’s relieving to find others if the same mindset as myself regarding this! I contacted a local business owner who uses intentional misspellings in messages to customers on her Facebook account. I now have a group people telling me that I’m “too negative” and I “need to lay off this lovely person.”
    Now call me silly, but is the golden rule not to keep personal and business lives separate? I tried to just give this person a recommendation to stop these intentional uses of slang and poor and grammar (your=yur, you=yu, no capitalization, no spacing, etc.), but clearly it is falling on deaf ears. I guess she does not care if she appears to be an illiterate moron as long as people think she is nice? Good luck with that lady.

  9. Judy Hill

    Hi Candice…I just finished writing an e-mail to the “head” of an online company I write ads for where I might While reading the latest blog…I came across two blatant errors. The word was a simple one to spell, but somehow the writer put in an extra letter that changed the whole meaning of the word he meant! It’s especially bad when a copywriter who claims to be professional does this. I was appalled! Another copywriter created a headline with a misspelled word. Guess what that was…Copywritting with 2 t’s!

    I, too, see these errors many times on the internet. When I do receive a message where everything is spelled right, grammatically correct, makes good sense…I’m elated! I have instant respect and adoration for this person. (Maybe adoration is a bit far fetched…but you know what I mean:-) We all make copy errors; but the key is to find and correct them before you post your message.

    I wanted to see if anyone else out there felt the same way I do. I Googled the subject and I found you. Thanks! Now I don’t feel so alone.

  10. Spelling and Grammar | Communic8 in Ink

    […] There are a number of resources available to explain the importance of spelling and grammar in business; my personal favourite is this one. […]

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