Counting the cost of bad spelling and grammar

Your about to by somthing from an online store. The product looks great, the price is good, but somthing is definately wrong…

Before you post a comment to correct my spelling, the mistakes above are intentional. But the BBC reports that Charles Duncombe, a successful British e-commerce entrepreneur, reckons errors like these this could be cutting business’s sales revenue in half.

Admittedly, this was not a large scale study with academically rigorous data but the results are emphatic. Duncombe measured revenue on his site and found that after a prominent spelling mistake was corrected, it doubled.

When selling on the internet, businesses rely almost wholly on communicating visually and through written language. For a customer to buy, they need to be reassured that they are looking at a high quality product, even though they can’t inspect it personally. They also need to trust that the business is professionally run, not a cowboy enterprise. After all, you have to trust them with your name, address and most likely credit card details. Even in perfectly legitimate companies, a lack of professionalism can result in criminals getting hold of these details. Few things seem as unprofessional as a spelling mistakes, incorrect grammar and typos. This surely explains the difference in revenue on Charles Duncombe’s site once the error was removed.

If you want to localise your site into foreign languages, getting it right is just as important, if not more so! Not only will mistakes harm customer trust, they can also create an impression that your business lacks commitment to the target market.

This has stoked the ongoing polemic about standards in education and the usual range of possible solutions has been thrown around. Communication skills are certainly an issue in today’s labour market, but changing the education system could take up to 20 years to produce a significant change. Businesses must take practical steps to deal with the situation. Here are some suggestions:

  • Proof reading!
  • Training staff in the proper use of spell checkers
  • Raising awareness of resources such as dictionaries, thesauruses and style guides on the internet
  • Making sure there is one person who can take responsibility for the quality of online content
It has never been more important to have a high quality website; make sure you avoid the obvious pitfalls!