Despite the preponderance of abbreviated words and lack of punctuation in a world of texting and tweeting, for businesses it’s still important to maintain correct grammar and spelling in all communications. Social media has changed the way we communicate, but a grammar goof on your website or in a tweet makes you look bad.
Misspellings can cut your online sales in half, and poor grammar has been found to put off customers, too. To prevent financial loss due to mindless errors, Nikolas Baron, SEO manager at Grammarly, shares some common mistakes to avoid.
- Misplacing hyphens. Where you place a hyphen matters. Baron says, “If a compound adjective (two words that together describe something else) comes before the word it modifies, it should be hyphenated, as in ‘high-level report.’ However, if it comes after, it should not be hyphenated, as in ‘the report was at a high level.'”
- Using capitalization incorrectly. We’ve all learned the difference between proper and common nouns. But the lesson may have escaped us as we’ve gotten too busy to use correct grammar. Here is a much needed refresher. Proper nouns or names of specific person, places or things, should be capitalized. But capitalizing common nouns, which Baron says people tend to capitalize for emphasis, “is a mistake and should be avoided.”
- Choosing to be passive. While use of passive voice is not technically an error, Baron says, it is “considered to be incorrect.” Use an active voice instead. For example, replace “The email was sent” with “I sent the email.”
- Consistency. Stay consistent within all of your communications, and stick with either the simple past (I worked, I typed) or the simple present (I write, I create), Baron advises. Don’t switch between tenses in a single post or message.
- Confusing casual with incorrect. Baron says by far one of consumers’ biggest pet peeves is finding poor spelling and grammar errors when looking at companies on social media. “Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are great places for brands to showcase a conversational tone, but it is imperative that businesses are thoughtful when writing posts, so they don’t risk losing credibility.”
- Inconsistent formatting. Your content is flawless and clean. But what about your formatting? Baron says, “Formatting errors can corrupt your otherwise error-free website, email, report, or presentation, so catching errors in consistency is an important part of proofreading.” He advises businesses to be consistent with dates (for example, month/day/year), and to delete extra spaces after periods, returns between paragraphs, and spaces at the beginning of a line. “Ideally, all of your writing should be consistently formatted, easy to scan, and laid out logically to avoid grammar or punctuation errors.”
Websites and social media accounts have become an opportunity for small businesses to make a standout first impression — or the opposite.
“The internet has made it much easier to record, share — and immortalize — these mistakes, so small-business owners and entrepreneurs are often under even greater scrutiny from eagle-eyed proofreaders, who post countless examples of bad grammar on sites like the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed,” Baron says. “Writing is one of the most important ways a company can show customers, partners, and employees it is credible, cares about accuracy, and pays attention to detail. In many cases, brand leaders must possess more than just market share, revenue, or employee count — they must demonstrate accurate writing.”