- send emails
- write offers
- create invoices
- produce marketing materials
- distribute press releases
- document processes
- send feedback surveys
The list of things you put in black and white goes on and on. Since writing plays such a big part in your everyday communications, you want it to work for you, not against you. After all, you need to look professional and credible if you want to make it.
In reality, it only takes a few seconds for bad writing to affect your company in a negative way. Not making sure your business’ grammar and spelling are on point can sink your ship before it even gets a chance to sail.
First impressions matter
Consider all the people who visit your website. Whether it’s potential clients or new hires, what do you want them to see? You already know that most people research companies before working with them or applying for a job. And let’s not forget about everyone else who comes across your website by accident. No matter who’s reading what you wrote, one thing’s for sure: bad grammar will make you lose credibility.
When it comes to any type of content you make available to the public, attention to detail is essential. Good content results in more confidence in a person or company, and bad content results in doubt. Granted, checking every word takes a lot of time and effort, but in the end it’s worth it. Not taking the time to do so can make your customers think that you will treat them with the same lack of attention.
How bad grammar can turn into a costly mistake for your business
In business messages, errors in grammar and usage will distort information. It’s your job to think about the meaning you want to convey and figure out how to do it in a clear way. Otherwise, it can make it seem like you’re hiding something, which will result in lost clients. When it comes to sales, you can’t afford to leave anything open to interpretation. Although some people will reach out for clarification, most won’t. Both cases are bad for your business.
You can test this theory by looking at it from a customer’s perspective. Imagine that you want to order a pizza. You finally find the closest pizza place and start browsing through their offer. At first glance, everything looks great. The images are high-quality, the delivery time is fast, and the options are endless. You call the number, only to hear that dreaded phrase: “The number you dialed is incorrect”.
So, what do you do? Besides being hungry, you are now also frustrated. Maybe they made a typo in their phone number or they’ve gone out of business. Either way, the only option left for you is to order from someone else. They have fewer choices, but at this point you don’t even care because you just want to eat. What’s worse, you feel disappointed – and they made you feel that way. Chances are, you won’t go to the trouble of letting them know their number is incomplete.
As you can see, it doesn’t matter if a mistake is intentional or not. At the end of the day, misleading content causes frustration or a complete loss of interest. Customers want transparency and easy access to information. If you don’t pay attention to business writing and grammar skills, it will cause confusion.
At best, you clarify what you meant, but the impression stays and it’s hard to fix.
At worst, you lose the customer because they question your expertise.
Communication breakdown is not a good business model
Making people try to guess what you’re saying is the best way to achieve miscommunication. Lack of punctuation and incorrect spelling will cause confusion. What’s worse, a message that is hard to read makes it difficult to get your point across.
At the end of the day, effective communication is simple, concise, and straightforward. Using big words and too much jargon might make you come off as arrogant or difficult. As a rule of thumb, try to stay away from complex language when it isn’t necessary.
For example, you need to draft a graphic design offer for a client. Considering they need the service, it’s clear that they aren’t a graphic designer. Besides that, they also contacted some of your competitors to see who’s the best option. This is no time to complicate things and use industry-specific words. More often than not, trying to impress people with fancy terms will come back to bite you. When it comes to clients, they want to know what they’ll get, rather than how wide your vocabulary is.
Productivity starts with understanding
Employees often depend on written guidelines and processes. That’s because they can’t do their jobs if they don’t understand the brief. What’s more, they often receive assignments and responsibilities in written form. Vague instructions result in less productivity and unclear communication wastes everyone’s time.
Picture this: there’s an urgent project and you need to get your best people on it. Since it came up last minute, you type an email on your phone to make sure everyone knows what their task is. You send it out ready to wind down because your team will take it from here.
A few minutes later, your phone starts to blow up. You have eight new emails and everyone’s confused on what to do next. Going back to your instructions, you notice you forgot to use punctuation and have a few typos. Now you find yourself rewriting the email, this time paying more attention to how it will come across. Instead of emailing back and forth, your team could have started working on the project.
As you can see, communication plays a huge role in making your business better. You are more likely to get customers if they understand you. At the same time, your employees will be more productive because they will have more time to focus on their jobs.
Hold yourself to your own communication standards
Imagine that you are hiring and you are considering two qualified candidates. Let’s call them Jack and Joe. They could both do the job and, for argument’s sake, they are equal in every respect. The only difference between them is that you noticed four grammar mistakes in Joe’s CV. Can you in all honesty say that wouldn’t impact your decision and tip the scales in Jack’s favor?
The thing is, you like Jack more because he doesn’t make you doubt his competence. He didn’t overlook details in his CV, so you feel more confident that he won’t miss them on the job either. Faced with a choice, you would hire the person who understands the importance of grammar in business communications. So will your potential clients.
What does science have to say about all this?
According to research, language errors have a negative effect on your image, no ifs ands or buts about it. The fact is, intentional or unintentional mistakes make your personality seem less attractive. But it gets even worse – they also proved that people who notice the mistakes may see you as less intelligent. This is because the use of language gives cues about us while forming impressions.
33.5 % of study participants noticed the mistakes. Before you sigh with relief, think about it. That’s one third of all the people visiting your website and following you on social media. One third of potential clients lost because of something that you can fix with little to no effort. If you are in the majority and don’t usually notice language blunders, this might seem a bit over the top. You might think that not doing business with a company because of a typo is ridiculous. But for a person who pays attention to grammar, minor errors can cause a lot of stress. The question is, are you willing to risk it?
Let’s put it in perspective. That one person who pays attention to grammar in business might be the best deal ever. They are not only ready to cooperate long-term, but also have connections. What’s more, they advertise their associates on their website and in the media. Unfortunately, you didn’t dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. As a result, they now don’t want to work with you.
Preventing the effects of bad business grammar on your brand image
The reality is, a lot of factors have an impact on your brand image. And while some are out of your control, what you can do is influence the amount of effort you put into your content. Written communication is one of many ways you can stand out, and it requires you to be detail-oriented.
At this point, you’re probably wondering how many language problems are hiding on your website. Since most businesses don’t have an in-house proofreader to make sure their writing is impeccable, you might be itching to make sure you’re all good. Before you go check, here are some easy fixes you can apply yourself:
- Get a fresh pair of eyes. Ask somebody else to read your text and listen to the feedback. It can be your colleague, spouse, or even you. If you’re working on something confidential, take a break from it for a few hours. When you come back to it later, you will likely notice mistakes and possible tweaks.
- Read it out loud. Hearing your own message will help you notice mistakes you didn’t know you made. Listening makes catching problems with sentence structure easier.
- Use spell check. With so many free and paid tools available, it is difficult to understand why some people decide not to use them. Typos are bound to happen and spell checking is going to prevent them from ending up on public display.
- Take it with a grain of salt. There is a lot of software out there that can help with your business grammar, style, and usage. And while it can make your life easier, sometimes it catches the wrong thing. The most common mistakes tools make are in articles and alternative spelling. On occasion, they won’t catch the mistake at all. Your best bet is to use both your brain and your computer.
- Sort it out asap. Mistakes happen and we all make them, there’s no doubt about it. But, making a mistake in an email to your colleague is not the same as making one in an email to your client. Besides being embarrassing, bad grammar and typos hurt your business. Make sure to fix them as soon as you see them.
Communication can make or break your business efforts. Language is the driving force behind your image and your success. Think of grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure as WiFi: you only notice it when it’s bad.
While using tools to reduce the margin of error is great, the work doesn’t stop there. Whether you like it or not, you will still need to proofread and edit your text to make sure there are no problems. If you don’t know where to start or simply don’t have the time, let’s talk.