How People React to Grammar Glitches
“Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad, you have made an impression.
And like all impressions, you are in total control.” Jeffrey Gitomer
An Informal Survey
Some months back I sent the following request to my FaceBook friends. Some who responded were business owners, some were devoted to raising their children, some had advanced degrees, some had not finished high school, some were young, some were old… you get the idea. This is what I asked:
“Please tell me what your reaction is
when you notice that a business website
that you are visiting has any of the following:
spelling errors, typos, or grammatical errors.”
I retrieved the responses fairly quickly. They are listed here, with the shortest at the beginning. You may choose not to follow it to the end – the responses get longer further along. However, I think you will get the overall opinion even at a quick glance.
“I go somewhere else.”
“I wonder if it’s legit.”
“Wonder if it is one of those fake websites.”
“We all make mistakes and I would hope I would keep my mind open.”
“I really have a bad impression from the start if there are misspellings and poor grammar.”
“I question whether their business work is thoroughly watched/inspected, as their proofreading is not.”
“I usually dismiss them, unless I know or really like them, then I tell them about it.”
“I notice. I suppose if it’s from a mom and pop store or other very small business I give it a pass.”
“I notice immediately. It’s a pet peeve and I think it must not be a professional site and I lose interest quickly.”
“If the company can’t handle spelling, grammar, typing, I would NOT trust them with my business. Spelling, grammar, typos – kindergarten fare.”
“It makes me wary of ever doing business with someone so obviously careless about details. I will leave the site, and never go back.”
“If there are a lot, of course, I would be turned off. If there are one or two mistakes I can overlook to see the bigger picture.”
If the intensity of these responses worries you, remember…
I am here to help.
“UGGH I don’t think the same of them and I know mine has some now. I try to be understanding, as this has happened to me before.”
“If it is a single typo I might ignore it. If there are more, I would probably take my business elsewhere. How a person/business does one thing, they do everything.”
“I know rationally that it shouldn’t reflect on the business but I can’t help but think what mistakes they might make in their work if they don’t get the basics right.”
“I question their attention to detail and worry how that affects other things. When it is a business I tend to judge it as sloppy and irresponsible, and makes me less trusting of their other skills and qualifications.”
“When a friend of mine posted something with several errors in a short post about an event he was hosting, I just had to tell him. It was a literary event after all. But if I hadn’t known him? I would have summarily dismissed the whole thing!!!”
“It all depends on the situation. On a platform where auto-correct is likely to have played a role in the error, and especially in a situation where editing is not possible (Instagram), I’m a bit more sympathetic than if it was, say, the home page of their website.”
“I tend not to want to do business with them, and often find a (tactful) way to point out that fact, and let them know I’m available to fix such things. Some don’t care, some don’t want to pay what I would charge – and some have hired me!”
“I tend to be a bit more particular. But at the same time, it depends a bit on what type of business it is. If I really need a plumber, I might look past some grammar oopsies. If looking for a copywriter, then not so much.”
“It depends on the severity. I speed read most sites, and I miss a lot of errors! If it is a huge issue, indicating that they did not even proofread it, I will hold that against them. Depending upon the market, I will go elsewhere. If there are several issues, I will go elsewhere.
“The real problem is that after a bad, or a couple of semi-bad errors on the page, my focus is less on their message, and more on the travesty that is their writing. So I leave with the impression that it is a clown-based business, rather than knowing they are the best ‘whatever’ in the city.”
“Even a single error like that makes me recoil. It definitely reduces my respect for the business. I feel they ought to be ultra careful in what they present to the public, and I feel like such a presentation as you described is not doing so. I’m not saying I would never buy anything from them, but there might be a subliminal reaction that would add to my sales resistance.”
“If more than one such error is present, I’m likely to move on to a different site (a competitor, perhaps). If I am seeking information from a news site, numerous typos or grammatical errors make me cringe, and again move on. If they can’t edit their postings, they lose credibility as a source (culprits are mostly local TV stations). These errors have contributed to my decision to stop watching several local stations and to rarely read their on-line content.”
“If it’s more than a couple of minor errors, or just one if it’s one of those that sets my teeth on edge, I generally will just move on. If I know it’s a fledgling business, I may comment for them to please check the spelling and/or grammar. If I’ve sent feedback and check back in a few weeks, if it’s corrected, then I’ll look more closely. If they have not made the corrections, then I’ll definitely move on.”
“It makes me wonder what their business practices are like, and if I should do business with them. It depends on my relationship with the business and it can affect that relationship. If I already have a strong connection (previous business, or there is strong impetus to start) it may not matter much. If I’m at a shopping stage it could influence my decisions.”
Did you get to the end? Depressing, isn’t it? Scary!
I do not claim that this was a formal survey. In my graduate work I studied the creation of well designed and unbiased surveys, and this did not completely follow that model. On the other hand, I think that my question was reasonably neutral, and I did not “select” those who chose to respond, nor point them in the direction that most of them chose. I think that the responses speaks for themselves.
But never mind, because I am here and I can help!
Why Do Mistakes Happen?
Why is it so easy for so many of us, even highly educated people, to make mistakes in their writing? The English language does have its pitfalls. You can find some of the most frequently occurring reasons by checking out Why Mistakes Happen