Sloppy spelling affects business

New research suggests that businesses looking to make money online should pay more attention to their spelling

A recent analysis of UK business website content and user behaviour has found that poor spelling and grammatical errors are costing UK businesses millions of pounds.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics published in June 2011 showed UK businesses making £527million per week online, in ‘there-and-then’ transactions alone – that is to say, without taking into account those visitors who research and make their purchase decision online before making the purchase face-to-face or by telephone.

Yet according to the online entrepreneur, Charles Duncombe, director of the Just Say Please group, “sales figures can be cut in half due to a single spelling mistake”. Misspellings put off potential consumers, causing them concerns about the website’s credibility; while results in all-important search engines also plummet through typos.

Duncome’s research began close to home, having identified that the revenue on his website was twice as high after correcting the spelling errors.

“The written word takes up 99 per cent of a consumer’s attention online,” he says. With an average of six seconds make their mind up; it is crucial you get the essential basics correct.

One theory advanced is that the lower threshold of accuracy required by interactions on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter encourages users to deprioritise spelling and even when dealing with those outside of their social network: Duncombe says that even when considering possible applicants, he has been “shocked at the poor quality of written English”.

So what can businesses do? First, keep things short, clear and concise. That makes mistakes less likely, and spotting them easier. Secondly, read your work out loud. This will help improve the fluency of your writing, and call attention to errors.

Lastly, always proofread. That one investment of a few short minutes could just make the difference between a happy customer and a visitor who’ll never return.

Additional reporting: Chandni Chatlani