Are you one of those people with a loosey-goosey relationship with grammar? Do you think we’ve reached an era where punctuation and spelling are not as important as they once were? You’re not alone. One Maine company is finding out the cost of a missing comma.
If you haven’t read the New York Times article about the $10 million judgment for a missing Oxford comma, I encourage you to do so. It’s a good example of where a lack of attention to grammar and punctuation had a major financial impact to a business. Usually the brand damage isn’t so easily quantifiable.
It’s not only commas causing problems. Time’s six-figure apostrophe error in the Wall Street Journal did nothing to instill confidence in their editorial expertise. And consider this bag of potatoes with an errant apostrophe. How much do you think those bags cost to produce?
Brand damage through careless errors
Consider the tweet sent by the US Department of Education which misspelled the name of writer, historian and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois.
The follow-up apology tweet contained a grammatical error. Neither instilled confidence and Twitter lit up at the irony of the Education Department getting it wrong.
I wish these were isolated cases but they’re not. Spelling errors have become commonplace in business. Poor grammar is rife. It’s common to see marketing communication confusing the words complimentary and complementary, premiere and premier, and license and licence.
Spellchecker only does part of the job
Unfortunately, the age of content provides more opportunity for brands to get it wrong because we’re doing more writing than ever before. Consider the grammatical error in Donald Trump’s inauguration poster. Spellchecker can’t save you in this kind of situation where the word ‘to’ was used when ‘too’ was needed.
There are daily examples of social media updates with careless mistakes. That might be fine for your friends and family, but what impression does it leave for a brand, especially one whose business is words? Even if the accompanying article is perfect, the damage is done.
When this happens your company comes off looking careless. At worst, you look incompetent. Given the choice between a business with clean copy and one with mistakes in their writing, most people will go with quality.
Respecting your audience
But here’s another question for you. Have you ever considered good copy might actually be a competitive advantage? When fewer people have writing skills, and even fewer respect the need for good writing, you can easily set your brand apart by providing exemplary copy for your marketing and communications. If anything, it shows you respect your readers and take extra effort on their behalf.
Believe it or not, there’s a simple fix. Send everything you write to someone who finds your spelling, punctuation, grammar and word usage problems. A copyeditor, sometimes called a subeditor, is your best bet for quality assurance in your publishing. A good copyeditor is worth their weight in gold not only for what they add, but also for the brand damage they prevent.
If you’d like more information on using a copyediting service for your business, get in touch. It’s one part of effective writing this word nerd wouldn’t want to do without. Another good tactic for avoiding brand damage in your content marketing is to brush up your writing skills.