Spelling and Grammar Still Do Matter

We language purists have every reason to despise misspellings and bad grammar, going so far as to beat ourselves up when we make mistakes that we should have caught. But sometimes it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one who cares that much.

When you see the quality of so much written material these days, you have to wonder if most people even make a token effort at getting things right anymore. But they should, and not just because we purists say so. Now there’s real evidence.

We just ran across some research about website content that shows that companies with poor grammar and spelling mistakes on their websites will actually lose almost double the number of potential customers compared to those with clean and well-written content.

This survey involved setting up two websites with nearly identical landing pages, except that one had a number of errors in the copy. Then the behavior of visitors to those two sites was analyzed over a two-week period. In the course of 5,000 site visits, the bounce rate percentage – how many visitors abandon a website after looking only at a single page – was calculated.

For the sloppy landing page, the bounce rate was 85 percent higher than the clean and well-written page. In addition, the time spent on the page before moving on was significantly shorter for the sloppy page.

The most heartening part of all of this is that it shows that people really do still care about the quality of the content they view. It has always been our feeling that if you can’t trust someone on the basics, spelling correctly and using the language properly, how can you really trust the other things they do? That may be a bit unfair, but as the study shows, a lot of people apparently react the same way.

And for the people who still take the approach of “they’ll know what we mean” and post sloppy content, here is another reason you shouldn’t. One of the metrics Google uses to rank a site is the bounce rate, and high bounce rates are a signal to Google that a site isn’t trustworthy. That results in Google lowering the site’s position in organic search engine results pages.

You don’t have to retain us to write all your website content – although it’s a great idea! – but please, before you finalize that copy, make sure the most literate person in your company takes a close look at it and fixes any typos or potentially embarrassing and costly grammatical mistakes. You’ll be glad you did.