What’s the first thing that tells you you’ve just received email from a spammer? Well, maybe you haven’t entered the British lottery, or you bank with a different institution. But there are also all kinds of clues in the writing. Often there are errors and poor language use.
Web credibility research out of Stanford University in the US shows that errors on websites ‘have roughly the same negative impact on a website’s credibility as a company’s legal or financial trouble’. Research by the UK’s Royal Mail in 2005 showed that more than 70% of customers would not trust a business with poor communication skills.
There might be greater tolerance towards bad spelling and grammar on sites like Facebook. But when it comes to your homepage, consumers who are wary about spam or phishing scams see errors as red flags. They worry that your business isn’t legitimate.
And, if your employees regularly produce writing bad enough to irritate your clients or customers, money might simply be walking out of the door to your competition.
You don’t have to look far to see examples of bad business writing. Have you ever used a website that just didn’t answer your questions? Or promised to elaborate on something if you followed a link, and then didn’t? Or what about that beautiful, glossy brochure that bored or confused you – did you buy the product? Probably not.
And then there’s the tone of the writing – behind all the buttons and lights and trendy website features, a lot of companies sound like a headmaster or lawyer. And we haven’t even begun on the grammar and spelling errors.
Business writing fails if readers are so distracted by bad writing, spelling or grammar that they miss the point being conveyed. Perhaps it’s overly formal or packed to capacity with opaque business-speak, and they yawn and click away before they reach the second or third paragraph. Even worse, they might decide not to consume the goods or services on offer based on what they read.
So, if you want to drive people away from your communication, here’s how to do it: Start by using complicated language, business jargon and marketing hype instead of simple, everyday language. Then, just to make sure you’ve done the job properly, commit some basic spelling and grammar errors.
Over to you.