If you’ve read the punctuation-promoting best-seller Eats, Shoots & Leaves, you know that joke about the misplaced comma that morphs a panda from a hungry vegetarian into a hungry gun-slinger.
But misplaced commas can also make a joke of your brand. In a 2013 survey, 59 percent of people said they wouldn’t use a company that has obvious typos on its website. Respondents said they couldn’t trust the company to provide quality service.
Inversely, correct grammar does you good: One study, which analyzed companies’ content based on grammar and style, found that organizations with higher-scored content had seen an average of 22 percent growth in Alexa rankings in the past six months. Another analysis of LinkedIn profiles showed that individuals with fewer grammar errors were more likely to receive promotions.
There’s no doubt that good grammar pays off. Sidestep these five common typos to avoid spoiling your business’s credibility.
Under Your (or Is It You’re?) Spell
Fortunately, your spelling bee days are over. But even with the miracle of spell check, simple misspellings often sneak in. These blunders are the stuff phishing emails are made of. Never assume you know more than that squiggly red line in your word processor when it comes to tricky words. You can brush up on common misspellings here (and don’t be disappointed if you don’t remember if “disappoint” has more than one p).
The Apostrophe Catastrophe and Other Grammar Gripes
Like misspelling a word, grammar errors can blemish the face of your company. One of the most common grammar mistakes happens when a well-intentioned writer thinks any word that has an “s” added on the end also needs an apostrophe. Remember that apostrophes are only needed to show possession; words that end in “s” or “es” are simply plural: The lawyer’s case vs. The lawyers were exhausted. Read more about this and four other grammar mistakes that make editors continually cringe.
The Name Game
Nothing ticks someone off like seeing his or her name misspelled. Make it a point that every moniker on your website, every visitor badge, and every name plaque is letter perfect. You’ll lose points — and possibly business — if you can’t even get someone’s name right. Check out this clip of Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth editing her parking spot sign and just try to not let it haunt you the next time you’re typing someone’s name.
Be Persistently Consistent
People notice subtle inconsistencies. Do you capitalize titles on your website in some places and then lowercase them in other places? Is it “a.m.” in one paragraph but “AM” in the next? How about the fonts you use? Were they thrown together like a fast-food order? A large part of having a professional appearance is your attention to detail; create a company-wide style guide to combat inconsistencies and to step up your image.
Forget High School English
Can’t remember the difference between an adverb and an adjective? Even though your freshman English teacher might shake his head in shame, don’t feel bad. This detailed blog post is a great refresher on punctuation and other writing terms. (No need to diagram sentences though. Like the Pythagorean Theorem, there are some things you really don’t use outside of the classroom.)
If you’re serious about brushing up on the basics of grammar and mechanics, there are plenty of other helpful resources online. Try the Grammarly Handbook or the Grammar Girl blog and podcast. You’re sure to do your brand justice with error-free content.
Emily Edmonds was the editor of a business magazine for eight years and currently teaches a college news writing course.