There’s been an interesting debate recently within the Language Consultancy Association (LCA) community about the extent to which correct spelling and grammar on commercial websites matter – as in really matter, in terms of costing you business. One piece of (not particularly exhaustive) research by Charles Duncombe suggests that they do – in his experiment, correcting a spelling mistake doubled the revenue per visitor to one of his websites. And when Which? carried out an online poll some time back on the same subject, the vast majority of respondents said yes, these things are important (although, as with many online polls, the audience for the subject matter almost defines the result).
It’s no surprise that at Accuracy Matters we’re very much on the side of getting it right, and we chipped in to the LCA discussion. Credibility is all in e-commerce, especially if you’re running a business that people won’t generally have heard of, so the impression you make on your website is crucial – a combination of not being known and making silly mistakes surely suggests to the reader (if only subliminally) that there’s a good chance of your product or service being unreliable, or even that the whole thing is a scam. And if you do already enjoy public recognition, unforced errors are a sure-fire way of damaging the trust that people place in you and, consequently, your brand.
On the subject of deception, it’s always surprised me that the instigators of scams don’t make more of an effort to produce credible communications – most phishing emails fall at the first hurdle with most people because the writing is so appalling that it couldn’t possibly have been produced by the reputable organisation that it purports to come from. There’s a business opportunity out there for any unscrupulous editors and proofreaders looking for work.
One word that crops up quite a bit on the other side of the debate is ‘pedantry’, and it’s a common misconception that proofreaders are by definition pedants (and not in a good way). Well, maybe some are, but we find that in the real world there’s not that much call for their services, and that there’s a big difference between accuracy and pedantry. Certainly ‘Pedantry Matters’ didn’t get much of a look-in when we were thinking up the name for our company.