Duz gramma matta?

Tuesday, 03 May 2016 by

Ready to buy

Image: bbc.co.uk

When browsing the web, reading a brochure, or consuming any other written communication, how bothered are you by the grammar? Or, more accurately, by the correctness of the grammar?

By “grammar”, I’m talking about more than the dictionary definition that mentions syntax – the structure or arrangement of words and phrases. Yes, I’m including typos, spelling mistakes and incorrect (or absent) punctuation too. And, given that definition, consider this: does a spelling mistake, misplaced letter or absent comma get your goat? Or, worse still (for the message-provider), make you think less of them; distrust them, even?

The answer to either question appears to be a matter of opinion, as well as context. We’ll all forgive such things in an email or text message from a friend (and if we can’t, we probably don’t have that many friends anyway). But what if the mistake-ridden message is on a business website? Or in a sales letter from a charity or other organisation?

Are you more inclined to disbelieve the facts that have been presented within the content? Do the errors make the company appear less credible and/or capable? Are you less likely to act upon the message (in the way the writer/ organisation would like you to)?

Having Googled for statistics about the importance of grammar and its impact (upon reputation, sales and other criteria), it’s clear that there’s not much research into this area – or little that’s published, anyway. It could be that firms are doing A/B tests with correct versus incorrect grammar to see if it makes a difference to whether someone clicks or buys… but if they are, it’s not in the public domain as far as I can see.

So, that leaves us with our gut-instinct and/or personal experience. Of a certain age (i.e. I was taught grammar and spelling at school) and a professional copywriter, I have to admit to being swayed by poor grammar – in a negative way.

While acknowledging that we all make mistakes, and that language is constantly evolving, I also happen to believe that businesses should ensure they check and correct their writing before publication. Firstly, it shows they care and that they’re diligent. Secondly, it supports clear communication – a text riddled with errors isn’t as easy to read as the same message that’s been proofed and amended so that it’s grammatically correct.

Checking your work

So, as well as spell-and-grammar checking your texts, you should also print them off and read them out loud – so that you can hear the mistakes (and/or get someone else to do it). Then, you should proof-read them, looking at each word in turn, from the end of the doc backwards. Yes, from the end of the piece back towards the start. Doing it that way stops your brain from assuming what’s likely to come next, and therefore allows you to spot missing words.

It’s pain-staking work but, I’d argue, worth it. Getting it right won’t offend anybody, while getting it wrong may do.

However, if you’d like an alternative to all that hard work… hire a copywriter 😉

If your organisation commissions RichWords to assess some writing samples – with a view to editing, rewriting or replacing the text – we’ll use our PAGES analysis system to give you a structured response. We consider the Power of the vocabulary/overall message, its Architecture (structure; logical flow) and Grammar – as defined above – plus Eloquence and Style.

 

 

Avoiding errors (part 2)

Thursday, 26 March 2009 by

I’ve had some great feedback on my last few posts, particularly the one covering spelling and grammar errors. Best of the lot came from Chris, my South African friend, who wisely reminded me that “spell checkers can help, but only when not utilised blindly.”
He also mentioned the fact that spell-checking in the ubiquitous Microsoft Word defaults to American-English rather than (real/proper?!) English. Without sounding too parochial about this, I’d also prefer to see the latter version (being an Englishman) and of course, you can reset the default to UK English if you want to.
Chris also points out that “spell checkers miss words that exist in their database, but which (for whatever reason) are simply wrong in their written context.” If you’re not sure what he’s getting at, consider how easy it is to type “from” rather than “form”. Both are perfectly good words, but only one of the two will work in a given context.
Lastly, Chris (who’s not a copywriter, by the way!) ends with a great tip that I should probably have included myself: “It often helps to put the [writing] aside and review it again later. This allows one to clear the mind… [and] view it more as a recipient would.”
All great stuff, so thanks again to Chris for taking the time to let me know.
(“Help” image courtesy of Flickr’s LiminalMike)
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