I admit I am a bit of a grammar geek and a spelling vigilant – the sight of a misplaced apostrophe is enough to send me into a tailspin. Only last week, in the Sunday Times, I spotted a rash of misplaced and gratuitous apostrophes in an advertisement for a well-known coffee and tea brand in Ireland . I know it shouldn’t make a difference, but the fact is it does, and my respect for this brand (who shall remain nameless but really someone should tell their advertising copywriters!) is diminished as a result.
Grammar can be difficult to get right, I know, but there is less excuse for spelling errors, with access to online dictionaries and spell-check (not infallible either) to help you proof your copy before you hit the publish button.
In a recent BBC News report, Charles Duncombe, an online entrepreneur, says that “spelling is costing the UK millions of pounds in lost revenue for internet businesses..and an analysis of website figures shows a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half.”
Sales figures suggest misspellings put off consumers who could have concerns about a website’s credibility, he says. ”This is because when you sell or communicate on the internet, 99% of the time it is done by the written word.”
Spelling is important to the credibility of a website, he says. When there are underlying concerns about fraud and safety, then getting the basics right is essential.
William Dutton, director of the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University, says that in some informal parts of the internet, such as Facebook, there is greater tolerance towards spelling and grammar.
“However, there are other aspects, such as a home page or commercial offering that are not among friends and which raise concerns over trust and credibility,” said Professor Dutton.
The lesson to be learned from all of this? Make sure whoever writes your on and offline copy is proficient in good grammar and spelling, otherwise you run the real risk of falling sales and credibility.