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Atention To Detaiil – How Spelling And Grammar Mistakes Affect Your Brand

4-minute read

A misspelt word here, a missing apostrophe there – small details but they all add up to leave a large dent in brand confidence. Here we look at how spelling and grammar mistakes affect your business and why it pays to get it right…

Spelling and grammar

‘Genious is one per cent inspiration & ninety nine per cent perspiration’ – so said the famous quote splashed across a now infamous H&M T-shirt. Perhaps they should have gone for ‘Genius is the person who remembers to run a spell check’. Not as catchy, admittedly, but let’s face it, it was an unfortunate word to get wrong.

Or how about the ad selling kids’ learning software whose bold claim turned heads for all the wrong reasons – ‘So Fun, They Won’t Even Know Their Learning’. Agh.

And don’t even get us started on the McDonald’s restaurant that managed to turn hungry diners’ stomachs with the promise of their new anus pounder. Turns out Angus is a tricky word to spell.

Okay, we know – mistakes happen to us all. But the point of all this isn’t to name and shame famous brands, more to highlight why it matters.

The big brands can take the hit (it’ll take more than a bum note to kill off the Golden Arches) but for smaller companies it can do more harm than you might think.

How Spelling And Grammar Mistakes Affect Your Business

It can damage your reputation. Consistently bad grammar and spelling can make you look unprofessional and sloppy. It plants a seed of doubt, ‘If they can’t get the basics right, what does it say about their product or service?’

It can affect your web rankings. A study by Website Planet showed the bounce rate on landing pages with punctuation and grammar mistakes was 85 per cent higher than those that were error-free. If Google spots a high bounce rate, it signals the site isn’t trustworthy and lowers your ranking.  

It can raise questions over credibility. People have concerns about online fraud and safety. Seeing mistakes on your site or emails can chip away at consumer confidence and leave them doubting whether it’s a legitimate set-up.

It can make a bad situation worse. When you’re responding to a customer complaint, there’s even less tolerance for mistakes. Errors suggest you haven’t bothered taking care over the reply, which only adds fuel to the fire.

It can cost you money. As well as the lost business caused by the points above, you may have to spend out on getting work redone, particularly if the mistakes appear in printed material, or pay for staff training to plug the skills gap.

Why It Pays To Get It Right

With more and more companies conducting their business in a digital world, there’s never been more pressure on the written word to be spot on.

Online entrepreneur, Charles Duncombe, claims poor spelling is costing UK internet businesses millions of pounds in lost revenue. He even went as far as to say his research showed a single spelling mistake could cut online revenue in half.

Mistakes On Social Media

Research shows there’s more tolerance on social media with regards to things like text speak and slang, however unintentional mistakes in spelling, grammar and punctuation will still harm a brand.

According to a study of 1,000 UK consumers, the number one thing people hate in social media is poor spelling and grammar.

5 Steps To Success

So it’s easy to see how spelling and grammar mistakes affect your business. The small stuff can become the big stuff if it’s not kept in check. But how do you keep on top of your written material?

We get that not everyone has the budget for editors and copywriters, and it can cost to outsource the task. Here are some pointers to help…  

1. Use online tools Grammarly is a popular grammar checker tool that helps flag any errors in your writing. And don’t underestimate the power of the humble spell check in saving brands from close scrapes.  

2. Proofread from a printout It’s one of the simplest things you can do yet one of the most overlooked. Wherever possible, print out your ad, email, web copy – or whatever else you’re writing – and you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to spot mistakes. Less handy for social, obviously.

3. Pass it round for a second opinion Like we said, not every company can afford web editors, but even getting your colleagues to cast an eye over your written material will stop errors slipping through the net.

4. Have an up-to-date style guide It’s easy for style guides to get tucked away in a folder somewhere but, when properly updated, they’re a really useful tool. Include a section containing commonly misspelled words or tricky grammar points and add to it whenever they crop up.

5. Know when it’s okay to bend the rules Some rules are meant to be broken, especially if they fit with your brand tone of voice. Starting sentences with prepositions like ‘and’ and ‘but’, for example, would horrify your old teachers but is perfectly acceptable in plenty of brand voices. And with social media you can push things a lot further – just make sure it’s intentional not accidental.

And finally…

One last word of advice when it comes to stopping spelling and grammar mistakes affecting your business. Where appropriate, put written skills to the test when you’re recruiting.

A major British brand (we won’t name them to spare their blushes) once hired a brand new customer service team. A big part of the role involved writing responses to customer complaints. Not the templated stuff, though – oh no, we’re talking individual replies for every customer. Only trouble was the new recruits weren’t vetted for their grammar, punctuation or spelling skills during the selection process. Ouch.

When howlers like ‘hope you had a grate time’, ‘if you wanna speak to someone’ and ‘for piece of mind’ began to surface, the company realised it had a big training job on its hands – and it doesn’t take a genius to work out where they went wrong. Or a genious, either…

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