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10/19/2012

Why Grammar is Important to Your Business

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In my daily travels through the Internet, I’ve noticed a significant number of businesses with an array of grammatical errors and typos on their pages, some more prevalent than others. I usually let them know by sending a friendly email. I’m not really a grammar snob, and I hope I don’t come across as one in these communications. But for whatever reason, I almost never hear back from these companies, and I almost never see any corrections on their sites. This is true for tiny businesses all the way up to big-name corporations. It’s fine if they don’t want to take the time to write back to me, but to just leave those errors on there? What gives?

I’ve discovered in my years of teaching and writing that many, many people don’t care one bit about grammar. I do agree that we need to allow language to change, and that sometimes, a grammatically incorrect structure is actually preferable to the “right” one. (An example is Apple’s slogan “Think Different,” which is much snappier than the technically correct “Think Differently.”) At the same time, I can’t think of any circumstances where it’s a good business choice to put “Serveing customer’s for 20 yrs” on your homepage.

Businesses that leave glaring errors on their websites must believe that customers share the view that grammar is unimportant. Lots of customers probably do share that view. What about the ones who don’t, though? For these customers (and there are many of them, I assure you), numerous errors in basic grammar will turn them off and make them question your credibility. Bad grammar leads to lower sales, plain and simple.

Charles Duncombe, an online entrepreneur who runs several websites out of the UK, contends that mistakes in grammar and spelling add up to millions in lost revenue across online businesses. In a convincing example, he identifies one online company that doubled its revenue per visitor after correcting an error on the site (1). Yes, doubled!

If your customers include women, it’s even more important to ensure your text is error-free. Award-winning marketing expert Mary Lou Quinlan (called “the Oprah of Madison Avenue” by The Wall Street Journal), says that women “take notice of errors. Bad grammar or a mistake on an order form creates lasting impressions for female buyers…the smallest error can cause them to look for a new place to shop or a new person to buy their goods from" (2). Quinlan suggests running all of your business communications past a professional proofreader, from sales letters to marketing materials to web content.

The bottom line is, spelling and grammar do matter to many of your customers. If you’re not a grammar expert, no worries; you’re an expert at all those other things that make your business successful. Ask someone to read through your text to correct any mistakes, and watch your revenue grow!
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1. Coughlan, Sean. “Spelling Mistakes ‘Cost Millions’ in Online Sales.” BBC News.
2. Cohen, Andy. "What Women Want." Successful Promotions (May/June 2009): 46-48.

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