Would you let your sales team show up to work with egg stains on their shirts? Would you wear pyjamas to a client meeting? Would you engage with shareholders whilst wearing faded jeans and a vintage Guns’n’Roses t-shirt?
Of course you wouldn’t. Because to do so would create a very bad impression. You’d lose trust, you’d lose respect, and you’d lose business.
Most everyone in business understands the importance of maintaining professional standards of appearance when meeting with clients and customers. Significantly fewer, though, seem to realise that it’s equally important to apply the same professional standards to their websites and their marketing materials.
I’m talking, of course, about the use of language. Both online and offline, the written language you use acts as a direct representation of your professional standards. As such, any noticeable mistakes in spelling, punctuation and grammar will reflect very badly indeed on your business.
How Does Bad Grammar Affect Business?
In 2013, communication experts Global Lingo polled 1,029 UK adults on their attitudes towards online browsing and purchasing. They found that 74% notice the quality of the spelling and grammar on the websites they visit. Furthermore, 59% said that bad grammar and obvious spelling errors would make them reconsider making a purchase from a website.
It’s all to do with trust. If a business can’t even be bothered to proofread their websites, then how can they be trusted to provide a high quality service? In addition, poor spelling and grammar indicates a lack of care, which tends to make your business look unprofessional.
Unless you’re hungry, and you’ve a hankering for a hot dog, you probably wouldn’t consider buying anything from a man in a mustard-stained vest.
Sloppy spelling and grammar is the mustard stain of the internet. If you don’t take the time to correct it, don’t be surprised if your customers turn away in distrust and disgust.
Says Global Lingo marketing and technology director Richard Michie: “You only have a short amount of time to make an impression on a potential customer, and if your website or ad is riddled with grammatical errors, it’s not going to place you in a favourable light.
“Competition is tough, and if you don’t take the care to present yourself in as professional a light as possible, you may well be losing yourself important business.”
The Most Common Grammatical Errors, and How to Avoid Them
Your marketing materials should never be written to satisfy the exacting standards of the hardcore grammarians. Instead, they should be written to attract and retain clients and customers. Your priority is to make your websites and ads clear, concise, and engaging. So long as you can get this right, there’s really no need to concern yourself with such things as split infinitives, dangling modifiers, and Oxford Commas.
But there are certain mistakes that are very easy to make, and they never go unnoticed. Even if the mistake is only ever spotted by one person, that person still had the potential to become a customer. And now they’re gone.
Some things to look out for:
Apostrophes – Apostrophes are only ever used to contract words – as in “don’t” – or to denote ownership – as in “Pete’s bicycle”. Apostrophes are never, ever used to pluralise words. This is the dreaded “grocer’s apostrophe”, and it doesn’t look good at all.
You’re, Your – “You’re” is a contracted “you are”, as in, “you’re having a laugh”. “Your” denotes possession, as in, “I’ve chewed your provender”.
They’re, There, Their – “They’re” is a contracted “they are”, as in, “they’re coming to take me away”. “There” refers to a place – “over there”. “Their” refers to something owned by a group, as in, “coal in their stockings”.
Its, It’s – “Its” is possessive, as in “the cat is licking its paws”. “It’s”, on the other hand, is a contraction of “it is”, as in, “it’s raining men”.
These are just the basics. There are many other common grammar errors that can make the meaning of your sentences a little ambiguous. Whilst this is obviously best avoided, any of the above errors will stand out like mustard stains on shirts. They’ll make your writing look sloppy and unpolished, which will make your business look unprofessional and untrustworthy.
I’m sure that the vast majority of people are perfectly familiar with all of the above rules, which is what makes me think that most of these mistakes aren’t made out of ignorance. They’re made because people don’t have the time to properly proofread their marketing materials.
This is fair enough, as it can be very time consuming to proof adverts and web content. But given that basic errors could repel around 59% of potential customers, time spent proofing is surely time well spent.
The best way to avoid these mistakes is to ensure that your marketing team has the time, energy and resources to undertake thorough and professional edits.
Just to put this out there, we at Hallam always make time for proofing and editing.