Were You Watching Closely?
Last year's Super Bowl will be one that Soda Stream remembers - and not because of the close game. Their expensive TV spot starred celebrity actress Scarlett Johansson telling customers that Soda Stream produced a soda with "less sugar, less bottles." Unfortunately for the advertising team, critics were quick to point out that in standard English grammar that should be fewer bottles (as less is used only for items that cannot be counted individually). Oops.
Do Spelling and Grammar Really Matter?
Soda Stream is certainly not the only company to come under scrutiny for its proofreading choices. A recent article in AdWeek pointed out that brands from U.K.'s Tesco to U.S.'s Old Navy have made embarrassing grammatical errors in their marketing campaigns. While this can seem like a minor issue, companies take issues of grammar seriously.
The article notes that a 2014 study by U.K. firm Global Lingo found "74 percent of consumers pay attention to the correctness of the prose on company Web sites, and 59 percent of respondents said they would avoid doing business with a company that’s made obvious errors."
Those errors turn out to be costly not only for a business's image, but also for its bottom line. The BBC reported that spelling mistakes were costing millions in lost profits as "Spelling is important to the credibility of a website . . .when there are underlying concerns about fraud and safety, then getting the basics right is essential." In a world where online advertising is an essential commodity, spelling and grammar can make or break a company's reputation.
Why Is Grammar So Difficult?
With grammar still being an essential part of our grade school curriculum, why are businesses having such a problem publishing proofread and grammatically correct campaigns?
One common theory looks to the increasing role of electronic communication as a culprit. With the rise of social media, publications have felt the pressure to become as concise and witty as possible (think text messages and Twitter posts). The ability to communicate an idea quickly often trumps the ability to communicate that idea clearly. The increase of spelling and grammar checkers on popular software means that companies are increasingly unwilling to hire professional proofreaders and internal employees are relying more on technological tools than grammar lessons. Unfortunately, our grammar checker is not as intelligent as we'd like. For example, computers cannot identify a properly spelled but incorrectly used word. The sentence "Its times for a new change!" would pass electronically, even though it's missing an apostrophe and uses "times" instead of "time."
Does My Boss Really Notice My Grammar?
If the previous example caused you to pause, you aren't alone. Many employees struggle with grammar and proofreading. From those devilish commas to word usage errors (is it effect or affect? lay or lie?), the English language seems to be designed around complicated rules. While this may have cost you a point or two on an essay, in the workplace the stakes for poor grammar are much higher.
An Australian survey by Galaxy Research reported that more than half of companies stated "poorly written emails with grammatical errors and typos" would affect awarding a contract. Companies are taking the problem seriously with the Wall Street Journal reporting "about 45% of 430 employers said they were increasing employee-training programs to improve employees' grammar and other skills, according to the Society for Human Resource Management and AARP."
Can Business Writing Courses Help With Grammar?
Fixing poor grammar isn't simply a matter of getting better software. Employees need to be aware of the most common errors in business communication as well as understanding their own weaknesses and areas of concern. Concerned employees should seek business writing courses that focus on a consistent process for proofreading documents and identifying individual errors.
We offer business writing courses with coaching, which will enable you to identify your particular business writing grammar errors and correct them. We also offer customized grammar and proofreading webinars for groups.
Please schedule a complimentary business writing assessment to determine the best approach for you.