Office Life

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

Have you ever seen a billboard, or read an ad online, and noticed a spelling or grammar error? As consumers, we tend to hold businesses to the expectation that their advertisements will be informational, entertaining, and error-free. If you see spelling and grammar mistakes in their advertising or on social media, it might make you think twice about making a purchase.

Nobody wants to give their hard-earned dollars to someone who seemingly doesn’t care enough to spell check their copy. It is important for businesses to be aware of common mistakes, learn from the mistakes of others, and take their time to avoid errors.

What Are the Most Commonly Misspelled Words?

There are several words that are misspelled more often that others. Google Trends reported on the most commonly searched terms that followed the query “how to spell…” for each state in the United States. The list included words we use every day like “definitely” and the classic “you’re vs. your.”

The results might have you laughing, or maybe even scratching your head. Take a look!

The 8 most commonly misspelled words in the English language are:

  • Accommodate
  • Separate
  • Definitely
  • Maintenance
  • Recommend
  • Your vs. You’re
  • Affect vs. Effect
  • There vs. Their

You might have noticed some trends in commonly misspelled words. Learn more about why people find certain words confusing and get tips to get it right next time!

Accommodate

According to the Oxford English Corpus, “accommodate” is one of the most commonly misspelled words in the English language.

Tip: The word “accommodate” has 4 repeated letters, ‘a,’ ‘c,’ ‘o,’ and ‘m.’ Remember the spelling with the following sentence, “The arc can accommodate 2 alligators, 2 cats, 2 owls, and 2 monkeys.

Separate

You’d be surprised by how many people spell “separate” with an “e” in the middle instead of an “a”.

Tip: Remember there is “a rat” in separate.

Definitely

Personally, I still spell this word wrong. It’s just so hard to resist putting an “a” instead of the second “e”!

Tip: Simply add “ly” to the word definite.

Maintenance

Google Trends reports that “maintenance” is the most commonly misspelled work in both Texas and Missouri.

Tip: The main tenants of the word maintenance are “main” and “tenance”.

Recommend

“Recommend” is similar to “accommodate,” because the number of c’s and m’s tends to trip people up.

Tip: Think of the sentence, “I want to recommend a book on grammar.” Both “recommend,” and “grammar” have two m’s.  

Your vs. You’re

Does this common mistake make you feel enraged when you see it? Because that’s how I feel. “Your” is a possessive adjective and is used to describe belonging. “You’re” is a contraction of “you are.”

You Are Ross Geller GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Tip: If you are unsure of which to use, try saying the sentence out loud by adding “you are” in place of “you’re.” If the sentence doesn’t make sense that way, then “your” is most likely appropriate.

Affect vs. Effect

I’ll have to admit; this one is tough. Affect is typically a verb meaning to impact or change something. Effect is a noun, and it is the result of a change.

Tip: “Cause” begins with an ‘e’ for “effect”, while “action” begins with ‘a’ for “affect” because it is a verb.

There vs. Their vs. They’re

“There” is usually used to refer to something as being in, at, or to a place or position. “Their” is possessive meaning it expresses belonging or association. “They’re” is a contraction for “they are.”

Tip: “There” is a directional word that actually has the word “here” in it to help you remember. “They’re” is a contraction, and if you can use “they are” in its place, you’re using it correctly. “Their” is a possessive word. Think of it containing the word “heir” meaning entitlement or belonging.

Remember these tips the next time a commonly misspelled word gets you mixed up; it happens to the best of us. You don’t want to end up making a mistake that can confuse your customers, or even discredit your business!

Examples of Spelling Mistakes in Advertising

You’ve probably seen at least one piece of advertising with embarrassing spelling mistakes everyone noticed. These mistakes can range from hilarious to cringeworthy. Regardless, the following brands most likely ramped up their editing efforts after these advertising blunders!

K-Mart

This shopping sign looks like a silly error that could have been corrected with spell check! This is a prime example of the difference checking over your copy can make. Sometimes small spelling errors can be overlooked, which is most likely the case here.

Miller Genuine Draft

If you squint, it almost looks like “contradiction” is spelled right. Unfortunately, this advertisement was seen by thousands before the spelling error was able to be taken care of. If you ever aren’t sure about the spelling of a word, double check even if it looks right.

ABC Children’s Academy

If you’re advertising an after-school program for kids, you should probably spell-check your advertisement before it gets printed. While the spelling error is only a missed letter, it totally discredits the program as an educational place to send your children!

Cincinnati State University

Trying to attract future medical professionals with a spelling error might not have the desired effect. Credibility can easily be squandered, especially when it comes to educational institutions. Who would want a medical degree from a university with spelling errors in their advertisement? Not I!

Reebok

Perhaps Reebok wrote this ad in a New York minute and didn’t spell check! At first glance, it may not seem like there are any errors, but after a second look, the error is obvious. A popular brand such as Reebok can be seriously discredited by a spelling error in an advertisement and could lose business as a result.

While most of these spelling errors from well-known businesses and institutions may have given you second-hand embarrassment, each mistake could have been avoided. It is safe to assume these blunders turned potential consumers away, and easily hurt credibility overall.

Can Spelling Errors Hurt Credibility?

If your business has errors on your website, social media, email blasts, or advertisements, your consumers may be less likely to find you favorable. A London-based digital agency surveyed 1,003 social media users and found that 42.5% reported they would be influenced not to purchase goods or services by spelling mistakes.

“The English language is full of words that are just waiting to be misspelled, and the world is full of sticklers, ready to pounce.”

Mary Norris, “Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen”

On average, it takes 6 seconds to capture a user’s attention when they visit your website or social media platforms. It is important that a user’s first impression isn’t of a spelling error. Take the time to find methods that work for editing and proofreading to avoid turning away potential customers.

Tips to Avoid Spelling Errors

You know about the implications that come with making a spelling or grammatical error in your company’s social media posts, blogs, or website. We’ve got some pointers to help make sure you don’t make any errors in your future advertisements.

Spell check AND Proofread

While this tip may seem like a no-brainer, you’d be surprised how many errors sneak past writers because they fail to check their work. Sometimes running an online spell check won’t pick up every mistake, so take the time to manually spell check and proofread your work. It can certainly pay off in the long run.

Walk Away from It

Whether you’re running out of steam on a current project or if you’ve just finished one up, sometimes the best course of action is to walk away. Return to your work with fresh eyes in a couple hours or the next day, and you might have a new perspective on your work you didn’t have before.

Use Peer Review

Ask a colleague to take a look at your work before you publish it. A new set of eyes can catch errors you may not have caught while writing. Take in any feedback and make changes to improve upon what you have already written.

Read Your Work Aloud

Reading something aloud typically sounds different than when you read to yourself. This method is an especially great way to catch grammatical errors. You can also have a colleague read your work aloud to you.

Read from the Bottom Up

Start editing your work by reading from the last sentence up to the first. This helps you read each sentence out of context and makes it easier for you to detect any errors.

Use Online Tools

There are several online resources designed to help you edit and proofread any documents. Grammarly is a tool that offers an AI-powered writing assistant that spots any mistakes and helps with word choice. Hemingway Editor is another online resource that will “grade” your writing and point out areas where you can improve.

In the end, we’re only human, and humans make mistakes. That doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to avoid them. Be aware of common errors, learn from other’s mistakes, and take necessary steps to check your work. As author Randolph Hock warns, “If there are spelling and grammatical errors, assume that the same level of attention to detail probably went into the gathering and reporting of the ‘facts’ given on the site.”

Resources

Abadi, Mark. (2017, May 30). Here’s the hardest word to spell in each state, according to Google. Retrieved July 3, 2019, from https://www.businessinsider.com/most-misspelled-words-in-each-state-google-2017-5

Abadi, Mark. (2018, August 25). 27 Incredibly Common Spelling Mistakes that Make You Look Less Intelligent. Retrieved July 3, 2019, from https://www.businessinsider.com/most-common-spelling-mistakes-english-2018-8

Sukhraj, Ramona. (2015, September 15). 15 Grammar Disasters Everyone but the Brand Noticed. Retrieved July 3, 2019, from https://www.impactbnd.com/blog/15-big-brand-grammar-mistakes-marketing-advertisements

Chi, Clifford. (2017, June 29). 20 of the Worst Typos, Grammatical Errors, and Spelling Mistakes We’ve Ever Seen. Retrieved July 3, 2019, from https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/14-worst-typos-ever

Birkett, Alex. (2016, January 11). Are Grammar Mistakes Costing You Money? Retrieved July 8, 2019, from https://conversionxl.com/blog/grammar-mistakes-costing-money/

Coughlan, Sean. (2011, July 14). Spelling Mistakes ‘Cost Millions’ in Lost Online Sales. Retrieved July 8, 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/education-14130854