Spelling mistakes, typos or dodgy punctuation can be slightly funny at best.
Think “Let’s eat Grandma” vs “Let’s eat, Grandma”. Although it’s doubtful that grandmas will find that even remotely funny.
In business, though, there are plenty of reasons as to why spelling errors are not a laughing matter.
Poor spelling on websites spooks customers
Creating confusion for web readers is a real worry. Although it’s possibly the least of your worries – particularly if you’re running an ecommerce site.
Analysis of UK site data indicates that as many as 50% of customers will not commit to a purchase if they detect even one spelling error on a page.
The poor spelling = spam perception
Are customers pedants? No. But we all associate poor spelling with fishy/spammy/malware, and we’re sensible enough not to provide our credit card details to a company that doesn’t look legit.
As a result, poor spelling becomes a key setting on a customer’s radar.
Spelling errors can affect the functionality of a site
A spelling error in a link address can make the link dysfunctional. It can also impede functionality in a search. One spelling error is even thought to be responsible for taking down the ambitious but fragile Obamacare website. So the ability of spelling to wreak havoc really knows no bounds.
Poor spelling diminishes trust
More commonly, spelling errors and poor punctuation suggests a lack of professionalism. Whether you are an accountant, a chain of medical practices or a tradesperson, if your website or communications suggest you’re sloppy and don’t check your work, it’s not a great indicator of your services.
And if a reader finds fault with your spelling, then it diminishes the credibility of the facts and information detailed on your webpage, report or brochure.
Simple spelling solutions
Let’s face it though, we all make mistakes. The solution lies not in self-flagellation, or committing oneself to authorial chastity out of fear of a single error.
It’s just to acknowledge that checking and proofreading a draft – whether it’s for a blog post, email or business card – is worth every minute you spend on it.
Check words as you write them
Does a word look funny? If you can keep a dictionary on your desk, then it can be a great idea to do a quick check as you’re writing the word – and then you can put that worry to bed. If you feel the pause will disturb your ‘roll’, highlight it to check later.
Doing a search online is another option, but consult an official dictionary site if possible. And remember the point about being on a roll? You’re less likely to get distracted by a dictionary than when surfing the web.
Run your content through a spellchecker
Of course this is always a good idea, as it should weed out any accidental typos. What it may not pick up is when you have left in an extra ‘and’ or ‘if’, or substituted a homonym; eg their for there, accept for except, to for too, and so on. There are many examples of these in the English language and it’s common for our brains to substitute the incorrect one when the ideas are flowing like lava.
Get someone else involved
This is where a fresh pear, sorry pair, of eyes come in. We can become accustomed to certain parts of text looking a certain way, and an error can be sitting right under our nose.
A proof reader will give your content the most thorough going over. Having your content prepared by a copywriter is another way to take the pressure off.
But a colleague or friend will pick up things with their fresh pair of eyes that you may have missed, so if you can, do get someone else to cast their eyes over your words.
Give it a break
If you are proofreading your own work, take a break before doing the final read. This will give your eyes a chance to ‘freshen up’, too.
Style vs substance
What about when there’s no one correct way to spell something? Choose the configuration that’s most relevant to you, and stick with it. Consistency of use becomes the benchmark in this case.
So when we use a word that has more than one variation of spelling, or can be written as one word, two words, or with a hyphen (such as data centre, datacentre, data-centre, datacentre…you get the picture), it’s a great idea to jot it down in your company writing or style guidelines for anyone in your company to refer to.
Do you have any other tips on keeping copy error free?