Beyond the Grammar Grouch: Errors Affect Your Credibility
We’re all probably familiar with that person on Facebook who can’t help but point out every typo, misspelling, misused word, and poorly punctuated post they come across. Interacting with a Grammar Grouch on social media is annoying, mainly because most of us are talking informally, and the limitations of typing on a smartphone lead to all sorts of errors that aren’t that big of a deal.
While you’re in social mode on Facebook, errors and typos aren’t the end of the world. On the other hand, when it comes to your blogs, website content, and other digital properties, errors can do serious damage to your credibility. Even your professional social media posts will draw the wrong kind of attention if they’re full of mistakes.
Credibility is Everything
When trying to bring in new business using the internet, your reputation means more than just about anything else. Think about it: how many scams, frauds, pranks, and hustles have we all heard about? Sometimes you can even see them in action as people share social media posts promising incredible rewards for participating when it’s clear that nobody’s getting an all-expense paid, two week trip for 10 to Disney.
Small businesses don’t always have the brand recognition of big corporations so it can be difficult to establish trust and make sure your website visitors and social media community know you’re a legit business. Plus, spotting a scam isn’t always easy. One source lists bad formatting, links and attachments, unlikely rewards, and grammatical errors as common signs of an email phishing scam. Microsoft and Intel both came right out and listed “bad grammar and misspelled words” as one of the leading signs of a scam.
Errors are Distracting
If your credibility manages to remain intact, errors can be extremely distracting for your audience. Even the most patient person is going to be irritated after encountering too many typos or misspellings. Rather than focusing on your message, all the attention will be focused on how correct (or incorrect) your writing is.
Error-free copy is important on your professional social media feeds, too, even if it’s not a big deal while you’re socializing online with your friends and family. Take a look at this comment (personal information has been obscured) on a news article from a local TV station.
Not only has this person gone through all the trouble to take a screenshot, mark it up, and post it to the comments, but everyone else who came to the comments for a conversation will be distracted by this eye-catching comment. You don’t want this kind of attention in your comments section.
Google Likes Quality Content
If you’re not convinced that your reputation needs to be protected and you’re not worried about distracting Grammar Grouches in your comments section, there’s still one more thing to consider: your SEO.
Google has been fairly consistent about creating quality content if you want Google to lift your web pages to the top of the search engines. Their reasoning is the same: quality content is more likely to be trustworthy, helpful, and not a distraction from the task the searcher is trying to complete. Some of the stated reasons for rating a page as “low quality” include an inadequate level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, along with low-quality main content on the page.
In other words, the primary copy on your website pages has to be packed with information, presented in a way that demonstrates your expertise while still being readable to your audience, and error-free. Is Google going to toss your URL in its trash can just because you have a few typos on your website? No way. Will they trash it if it’s riddled with problems? Without a doubt.
Don’t Rely on Spellcheck!
The built-in spellcheck features that come with most computer programs and smartphone interfaces are incredibly helpful. They alert us to transposed letters, fat-finger mistakes, and whether we’ve chosen the correct there, their, or they’re. But there are limitations to these helpers, even with upgraded programs like Grammarly.
Homophones. These are words that sound the same while speaking, but the written versions are entirely different words. For example, bare and bear, break and brake, be and bee. Some programs might catch some of these, but none are foolproof.
Redundancies. Sometimes, our creative wells are running a bit dry and we keep using the same words repeatedly throughout a document. Or, in an effort to be extra-descriptive, we’ll group redundant words that are not helpful. For example, saying you will “entirely eliminate” something is unnecessary because eliminate assumes entirely. (Nerd Alert: the grammatical term for the second type of redundancy is “tautology.”)
Awkward Typos. Have you ever made a typo that didn’t render the sentence incorrect, at least in a technical sense, but is still incredibly wrong? For example, typing “pubic” instead of “public.” No software will recognize that you’re really not getting that personal with your content.
Plus, tools like spelling and grammar checkers are not always correct. They will often flag words and punctuation that are completely fine. I run everything I write through Grammarly, and we have long arguments about where commas should go, for example. I’m a big fan of the Oxford comma and Grammarly hates it most of the time.
Perfection is rarely possible, but reducing the number of errors to near zero should always be your goal. Spellcheck is probably fine for emails, social media posts, or other types of communication that’s a notch below formal, but still needs to be professional. For your high-profile content such as website pages, blog posts, and anything that will be distributed in print, always make sure to run your copy through a human expert to boost your credibility, protect your SEO, and help you avoid making embarrassing mistakes in pubic.