Do you make this costly mistake on your website?

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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.


Marie Ennis-O’Connor BA, MIAPR, holds an Honours degree in History from University College Dublin. She is a graduate of the Irish Academy of Public Relations and has worked in a variety of PR roles over the past 12 years. Marie is editor of several award-winning blogs ranging from life sciences to health to business. She is a panel member of the newly established Bloggers International and is a regular contributor to Health Works Collective, an online community for thought leaders in international healthcare. She is a featured blogger on Webicina, an online service that provides curated medical social media resources in over 80 medical topics and over 17 languages, and has been awarded a top blogger accolade by Empowered and most inspiring writer by WegoHealth. Marie is also in demand as a trainer in social media marketing and travels the country teaching small business owners how to get online and maximise their online presence.

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  • Jane Collins

    I don’t rely on online dictionaries or spell check but I have my trusty Oxford dictionary and a Style Guide on my desk when I write. Attention to detail and correctness is a hallmark of a professional writer – shame not everyone sees it this way.

  • Lorna – Garrendenny Lane

    I saw this article too and apparently online businesses are losing out on thousands of sales from products being spelt incorrectly.

  • Sian Phillips

    Great post Marie. I’m very similar to you being a stickler for correct spelling and grammar. My dictionary and thesaurus live next to my chair. When I see something incorrect on a website it stands out for me as though it has huge arrows pointing to it. Unfortunately with us all shortening a sentence to fit the 140 character space on Twitter it sometimes becomes the norm to write in text speak too. My cousin is a headmaster in a primary school back in Wales and he says that their spelling is far worse now than it was 20 years ago when he first began teaching. Mainly because they believe the shortened text speak is the way words are actually spelt. Very sad for the wonderful English language in future generations. I’ve actually written a blog post helping people avoid the most common spelling mistakes but I haven’t the courage to publish it yet as it may come across as being a bit cheeky and I’m no expert. :)

  • Kelly J.

    Now I’m intrigued as to which well-known Irish brand you are talking about..hope it’s not Lyons or Barry’s???

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