How spelling and grammar mistypes could cost you millions

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Language is, and always has been, in a constant state of evolution. You only need to look back a generation or two to see the remarkable differences between how people spoke then compared to how we speak today. The further back you go, the more notable the differences become.

Some of the most recent changes in how we communicate have been generated by the dramatic rise in the popularity of social media and the wide range of platforms now available to us. People have taken to abbreviating their words, developing a whole new form of online slang and even replacing certain words or phrases with images that convey a particular attitude or emotion, known as emoji.

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One thing remains constant however, and that is the fundamental need to clearly and precisely deliver a message. Key to this is good spelling and grammar. While this may sound like stating the obvious, it is still astonishing how often these fundamental factors are not taken as seriously as they should be.

Why is this important?

The logic here is simple. Potential customers and clients get an immediate impression of a business from its communications. Think about it this way: interviewers are unlikely to think favorably of a candidate whose CV contains spelling mistakes and poor grammar, and the same principle applies with potential clients and customers.

Hints and tips for getting it right.

Since poor website design and basic spelling and grammar mistakes have been proven to turn consumers away, here are some ideas for how to get it right and avoid this trap:

  • Expert Assistance. There are people and organizations who specialize in this very area. The way communication is presented is as important as content, or perhaps even more so, because how you say something is every bit as important as what you say. The sort of services provided , including correcting all spelling and punctuation errors, addressing grammar issues and improving format and structure, make all the difference between poor communication and excellent communication. Such attention to detail does so much more than simply correct errors. It conveys professionalism, enhances impact and gives your message the ability to stand out from the crowd.
  • Training and Engagement. For correct spelling and grammar to become the status quo at your organization, there needs to be a cultural shift. This can be achieved by giving everyone sufficient training and making sure they understand the importance of this approach as well as their responsibilities to it. It is not just for communications professionals with responsibility for external communications either. Everyone must adhere to good practice, internally as well as externally, to really drive a culture where the need for clear communications is properly respected and good technique applied.
  • Know Your Audience. While there are some hard and fast rules around spelling and grammar, good writing is an art as much as a science. One of the first rules of communication is to start with the audience and tailor your approach accordingly. The ability to write compelling and engaging blogs depends on achieving the right combination of grammatically accurate writing and a human tone of voice.

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The cost of getting it wrong

Businesses who do not put the time and effort into getting this right might think they are taking a useful shortcut, but will invariably find that they miss out in the longer term. Consider the following.

  • Professionalism. Analysis of some major brands, including Coke vs. Pepsi, Facebook vs. Google and Ford vs. GM, has shown an interesting correlation between profitability and good spelling and grammar in communication. A direct connection may be difficult to scientifically prove, but it is highly suggestive of an almost subconscious link between the quality of business communications and its products or services. It is all part of an overall impression of professionalism that comes from a variety of factors.

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  • Brand Reputation. From H&M misspelling the word “genius” on a t-shirt, to the Mitt Romney iPhone app that generated the unfortunate “#Amercia” hashtag, stories like these stick in the public memory and come to be forever associated with a particular brand or individual. The internet and social media in particular means that these errors race around the world at a remarkable speed and are almost impossible to delete. There have even been Twitter accounts set up, such as Politwoops, devoted to sharing such errors. While they are amusing to everyone else, they are embarrassing for the people or organization involved and can have a seriously damaging impact on reputation by association.
  • Credibility. As the online world continues to expand with no signs of slowing down, it becomes harder for a business to get the attention of its desired audience. It has also become harder to win credibility. This is because the number of unethical sites designed for spam or phishing purposes also continues to grow, and as a result, people have naturally learned to be a lot more cautious. Poor grammar and spelling is closely associated with such sites, and people will understandably disregard poorly written communications for security purposes.

Key to success

Along with the suggestion that social media encourages bad writing habits, there is the argument that automatic spellcheckers have made us lazy. These useful tools now do the work for us, in turn, this has led to people paying less attention to their spelling and grammar. In reality however, such applications are limited and no substitute for good proof-reading. Whatever the excuse, and whether we like it or not, appearances matter, and this is true in business as much as any aspect of life.

Fortunately, it is relatively easy to get this right. All it takes is the right level of attention, sufficient allocation of resources and assistance from the experts to incorporate good spelling and grammar usage in the daily operations of a business. The result is a strong impression on every audience with every communication.


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Author: mavrikos panos

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