As a proofreader, the growing carelessness of copywriting sometimes feels like a personal attack, and misplaced commas or apostrophes on signage make me cringe. And while I’m willing to cave and leave out an Oxford comma, and I even jump on board with slang and use industry-specific jargon to connect with my audience from time to time, I do my best not to let it interfere with the foundational rules of grammar. No one’s perfect, but putting forth the effort to present error-free work speaks volumes of a person and company. I’ve compiled 5 important reasons why grammar still matters in marketing and why your business can’t afford to get sloppy.
- Poor grammar is unprofessional and harms your brand.
And I don’t just mean your company’s brand; I’m also referring to your personal brand. From a business standpoint, employers expect their employees to use proper grammar in all correspondence with clients, partners and vendors—and the internal team, for that matter. Poor grammar can leave clients with concerns about your attention to detail, and a sloppy email may come across as careless, leading the recipient to believe that they aren’t worthy of an attentive email. At the end of the day, people make judgments about competence and intelligence based on grammar—and right or wrong, bad grammar hurts your bottom line.
- Lack of attention to detail decreases credibility.
We can all be forgiving of a mistake here or there, but several errors can affect your credibility—especially if it’s their first impression of you or your company. Let’s take a company’s website, for example. If your company’s copywriter can’t take the time to look up a word or a grammar rule—or have someone proof the website before publishing it—what’s to make your client think their projects would be given the attention to detail needed for outstanding results? Clients rely on you to provide them with final products ready for distribution, but if you were willing to launch a website that really isn’t ready for the public eye, why should they trust you to deliver anything different? If your website is the first impression a new client has of your company, misspellings, improper capitalization, stray commas, and misplaced apostrophes could mean your potential client will keep surfing for a vendor with more attention to detail.
- Content contributes to the overall user experience.
Misplaced commas and apostrophes can leave readers confused, making your content difficult and time-consuming to dissect and understand. At no fault of the reader, they will lose interest in content that is taking way too much brain power, consequently driving readers away from your posts. Bottom line: people don’t have time to try to figure out what you mean, so if you’re not clear, they’ll move on to the guy/girl who is.
- Poor communication is frustrating for everyone involved and hinders productivity.
Grammar is the foundation of clear communication. You’ve probably seen the simple comparison of “let’s eat Grandma” vs. “let’s eat, Grandma.” And while in this example, it’s pretty clear that no one is actually suggesting they eat Grandma (unless they’re the big, bad wolf), other situations might not be so clear-cut. If you aren’t communicating properly, all parties involved will grow frustrated that a seemingly simple task is becoming so time-consuming, given the poor communication. It only adds a few more seconds to re-read what you’ve written to ensure you’ve included all the details in a clear and concise—and grammatically correct—manner. Take those few extra seconds to save yourself minutes or hours of frustration later.
- Typos could change the entire meaning of a message.
Big or small, typos do affect messaging, and even one misplaced letter, number, or punctuation mark can directly and/or indirectly impact your business. For example, if you accidentally tell your vendor to print 1000 shirts instead of 100, that’s a direct hit to your budget. Then when you add in the indirect costs of the time it will take to sort out the matter and explain your mistakes, your lack of attention to detail could cost your business hundreds or thousands of dollars. So unless you want to be featured in articles with other businesses that failed to catch typos before publishing, the extra set of eyes (ideally by a proofreader) is your best bet to avoid this type of a public, embarrassing fail.
No proofreader handy? We encourage you to take matters into your own hands! Here are some quick tips and considerations to help avoid spelling and grammar errors in your marketing pieces or other business-related communications.
- Utilize spell check—but remember that it isn’t 100% accurate.
If nothing else, spell check is a good place to start. It will help you catch the bulk of your misspellings, but keep in mind that technology can only do so much. For example, you might mean to say “prove,” but instead type “probe”—and since both are technically spelled correctly, spell check won’t notify you. Additionally, spell check is not capable of differentiating between nouns, adjectives, adverbs, or other parts of speech in your sentence structure—meaning it won’t help you determine whether to use “log in” or “login,” or “check in” or “check-in.” A human proofreader, however, would (hopefully) catch these typos.
- Beware of homonyms.
A homonym is a word that is said or spelled the same way as another word but has a different meaning. And while I do enjoy a good homonym joke, there’s nothing funny about not knowing the difference between know and no; to, too, and two; there, their, and they’re; or even write and right. If you’re uncertain, check a dictionary or run it by someone else.
- Have someone else read your work.
The other person doesn’t have to be a professional (though it would be ideal if we all had a grammar-obsessed friend on speed-dial); two sets of eyes are better than one. And if you’ve been working on something for a while, chances are your eyes have glossed over, cruising right over those subtle typos. A new set of eyes will have a better chance of catching those mistakes.
- Complete your comparisons.
Have you ever read a claim that a product or company was “bigger,” “stronger,” “faster,” or something similar? After reading it, do you think, “bigger… stronger… faster… than what?” Without a complete comparison, it’s difficult for your audience to figure out what exactly you mean. So, do us all a favor and don’t leave us begging for answers; just tell us. “Our print area is bigger than our competitors’, giving your logo more real estate.” “Our socks are made out of a stronger material than so-and-so’s.” “Our response time is 5 minutes, which is faster than it’s ever been.” You get the idea.
- Read your work aloud.
It may seem silly, but we promise it will help catch some errors that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. This is also a really quick and easy way to realize if you are being repetitive; once you hear it, it will become much more apparent.
- Use Grammarly to check your work.
An office favorite, Grammarly makes it easy to compose bold, clear, mistake-free writing with its AI-powered writing assistant, helping you eliminate errors and find the perfect words to express yourself. Another added benefit is that it works where you do, meaning Grammarly has your back while you write on Gmail, Twitter, LinkedIn, and all your other favorite sites.
- Reference Grammar Girl for quick and dirty tips about grammar and its rules.
This is currently my favorite tool for looking up grammar rules. I refer to this website, as well as others, any time I am searching for a grammar rule to support my proofreading changes or to try to convince someone that my comma or hyphen is, in fact, necessary!
Or, if proofreading really isn’t your cup of tea—or anyone else’s on your team—allow us to fill this missing component of your copywriting process. Our in-house grammar fanatic is passionate about making the world a better place—one grammar correction at a time.