Poor spelling makes you poor – official

by
July 14, 2011

In an earlier blog “Spelling.  Who cares wins” I suggested that poor spelling could seriously harm your brand.  So I was delighted to read a report out today that suggests the effect can be instantaneous, easily quantifiable, and hugely expensive. In terms of lost buyers we’re not talking a hit of 10%, or even 20% – online sales can be 50% down if you screw up the spelling.

Bad spelling spooks people

The BBC article reports the comments of an online entrepreneur who says that poor spelling is costing the UK millions of pounds in lost revenue for internet businesses.  Charles Duncombe, who runs travel, mobile phones and clothing websites, reveals that an analysis of website figures shows a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half.

How come?  It destroys the site’s credibility in the eyes of the visitor.  As Mr Duncombe points out, when there are underlying concerns about fraud and safety, then getting the basics right is essential.

Educashun isn’t working

He goes on to say that when recruiting staff he has been “shocked at the poor quality of written English”.  He then adds “I know that industry bemoaning the education system is nothing new but it is becoming more and more of a problem with more companies going online. This is because when you sell or communicate on the internet, 99% of the time it is done by the written word.”

He then says that it is possible to identify the specific impact of a spelling mistake on sales.  When Mr Duncombe measured the revenue per visitor to the tightsplease.co.uk website he found that the revenue was twice as high after an error was corrected.

“If you project this across the whole of internet retail, then millions of pounds worth of business is probably being lost each week due to simple spelling mistakes.”

The report goes on to quote Professor William Dutton, director of the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University.  He accepts that in some informal parts of the internet, such as Facebook, there is greater tolerance towards spelling and grammar.  “However, there are other aspects, such as a home page or commercial offering that are not among friends and which raise concerns over trust and credibility.  In these instances, when a consumer might be wary of spam or phishing efforts, a misspelt word could be a killer issue.”

Do the math

If a spelling mistake on a site selling tights can be so catastrophic, what about a site selling professional services or expensive B2B products?

When you are only spending a couple of quid on a disposable product there’s not much at stake, and the tights could still be great quality even if someone at the company is illiterate.  But let’s say you are looking for a bespoke software solution which will boost your company’s efficiency, choosing an HR consultancy to draft contracts and handle employee relations or selecting a web design company to manage your brand online, spelling is rather more important – it suggests that mistakes will cut sales by considerably more than 50%.

So hiring a copywriter, even one whose only talent is a basic ability to spell, will cost you considerably less than the damage caused by just one verbal error.  Lose 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, maybe even 100% of my sales…or pay for a few hours of this guy’s time – hmmm, let me think about that.  Personally I believe it’s a no-brainer.

To read the full BBC article click here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-14130854

Picture credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/iirraa/80417044/  Many thanks.

3 Comments
  1. Roger Viles July 15, 2011 Reply

    Rather than hiring a copywriter for your website you could just have your website designed by someone old enough to be able to spell!

    • Jim July 16, 2011 Reply

      Can't argue with that Roger. It would be cheaper than hiring a copywriter to do that particular job. And any copywriter worth the money should be able to do a lot more than spell.

  2. Linda August 22, 2011 Reply

    Bottom line: Remember your website represents you. A 50% loss in online sales because you cannot spell is huge! I would think it would be worth the price of a proofreader.

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