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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 or read their business blog, only to find blatant misspellings or an overuse of commas, apostrophes, or exclamation points? Yikes! This kind of mistake immediately leads to questions – if businesses don’t take the time to make sure their product and brand are advertised correctly, then what faith should someone have that their product is a quality one or that their brand is worth buying?

In the age of digital advertising, brands and businesses are no stranger to the statistics. Consumers are inundated with hundreds of marketing messages every day, and every business from a basement startup to a Fortune 500 is trying to pump out content that will stand out in the crowd. Trying to constantly create content for social media channels and business blogs sometimes means that in the haste to post content, spelling and grammar get only the most cursory attention. And spelling and grammar, as it turns out, matter.

Studies show that a single spelling mistake on a website 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.” Some research shows that over half of consumers spend 15 seconds or less on companies’ websites, advertisements, and other media outlets. The window to make a good first impression is tiny — that means whatever a consumer looks at needs to have 100% correct, clean copy. Many online sales start with the written word; consumers research via the descriptions to get a general idea of the product or browse company blogs to gather more information. 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.

No matter what your business, it’s important to seize all opportunities to hook clients and maximize profits. It’s better to spend the time and money now to build a strong brand rather than lose money later because of an easily avoided error. Even established corporations might learn a thing or two from these simple tips!

Tip #1: Don’t 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 their NaNoWriMo novel.  Basically, spell check programs are not to be trusted. They have a limited dictionary; depending on which program or version you use, the dictionary and spell checker will vary. If you are using a program that is outdated by several years, then their suggestions might not recognize new words that have entered the lexicon. That’s the English language for you — constantly changing! Plus, 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 disaster.

So spell check is a great start for editing your work, but it should never be the only step before hitting send or publish. For perfect prose every time, the rest of our suggestions can simplify every edit and grow your confidence in every piece of content.

Tip #2: Take a break and revisit

When you’re done writing something, let it sit for thirty minutes or an hour or reread it the next morning – however much time you can allow. Reading your material after a mental break helps you come back to it with fresh eyes.  You notice errors you glanced over in your first sitting while you were writing. It’s very common for people to glance over errors if they attempt to proof and edit while writing because they’re so familiar with the content.

This tip is actually the tried and true advice from writing centers everywhere and applies to anything you’re writing. Coming back to your content after a break – whether it’s an insanely important email, groundbreaking whitepaper, or the marketing copy for your next eblast – helps you gain perspective. So take a break! Answer some emails, go to a meeting, take a walk, enjoy your lunch, and come back to your editing task.

Tip #3: Four eyes are always better than two

If possible, always have someone else read over your work before it’s published – the more people, the better, actually. A friend or colleague may have a different way of processing things or just may know things you don’t. The more eyes that check your work, the more potential errors will be caught and fixed before it works negatively against you or your brand.

A third-party reader – like a roommate, spouse, or new intern – will probably not be familiar with the material or even the industry, so they may offer tips to make the information easier to digest or suggest an innovative way to present the material. Sometimes questions from a reader can help you craft clearer copy and appeal to a bigger audience. The bigger your final audience, the bigger your brand exposure and the greater potential for sales and engagement.

Tip #4: One at a time

Here’s the truth: sometimes the most savvy marketing managers and social media specialists aren’t master editors. Even old pros at proofing have an off day from time to time. But we’ve got a no-fail, expert-approved method for editing. The trick is to take it one thing at a time.

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 on the problem you are searching for. If you try to stretch your focus and attention over five different issues at once, you’re more likely to glance over more mistakes because you simply forgot about it. It can be tricky to proofread a sentence keeping every possible error in mind at once. So focus on one thing at a time. Your copy (and customers) will thank you!

  • When possible, first proof your document for spelling errors, since this tends to be one of the most common mistakes for everyone.
  • Go back to check for grammar mistakes. This can be a little bit more difficult because there are a million different ways to say something. To minimize grammar errors in advertising, you might try to find an experienced proofreader (or just your resident office English major — most offices have at least one).
  • Do a sweeping proofread for 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.
  • Finally, fact check. If there are dates, names, or historical references mentioned in your article, make sure to check them against another source. You don’t want to be called out for not taking the time to double-check your facts and figures.
  • On one of these passes, read your work aloud (or just move your lips if you don’t want to disturb the person in the cubicle next to you). It’s much harder to catch errors of any kind when silently reading something from a screen, and reading aloud is a great tool in checking flow, voice, grammar, and subject-verb agreement.

We know that deadlines loom large for everyone, but proofreading documents with this process usually doesn’t add any time to your overall editing – checking one issue at a time can actually help to streamline your proofreading because your brain isn’t trying to digest every possible problem at once.

When it comes to creating content that will shine in a sea of competition, these tips will aid in the quest for content perfection.  Nobody wants to be the person who cost the company money over spelling mistakes on a website or typos on the marketing materials. The importance of using correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation is huge – but clean, correct content is possible with some easy editing.  You know you’ve got a great product, so go out there and create some excellent, error-free content to match!

Are you a stickler for grammar, spelling, and punctuation? Do you know of any mistakes that cost a company sales? Let us know in the comments below!

Image credit to Brian Warren.


Marianne Chrisos

Originally from Massachusetts, Marianne has spent most of her professional life trying to survive the freezing Midwest. She is super addicted to the Food Network, but also enjoys good coffee, meeting celebrities at Comic Con, and naps with her greyhound. Her biggest claim to fame is having read over 100 books last year in 2014 and having once hugged John Barrowman. You can connect with her on .

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.

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