The price of typos

BBC: Spelling mistakes ‘cost millions’ in lost online sales

“An online entrepreneur says that poor spelling is costing the UK millions of pounds in lost revenue for internet businesses. Charles Duncombe (who runs travel, mobile phones and clothing websites) says an analysis of website figures shows a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half. Mr Duncombe says when recruiting staff he has been ‘shocked at the poor quality of written English.’ Sales figures suggest misspellings put off consumers who could have concerns about a website’s credibility, he says. (Source: BBC News, 7/13/11).

“When recruiting school and university (graduates), Mr Duncombe says too many applications have contained spelling mistakes or poor grammar. ‘Some people even used text speak in their cover letter,’ he says.”

New York Times digital and pop culture writer Virginia Heffernan had this to say about the importance of spelling correctly online:

“While the idea that sloppy spelling can sink whole businesses seems far-fetched, even casual bloggers recognize the imperative to spell well online. This is because search engines look for strings of characters in sequence, and if your site has misspellings, Google is less likely to list it at the top of search results. With misspellings, according to the tech site Geekosystem, ‘You aren’t going to get nearly as many hits as you deserve.’  The imperative to spell correctly on the Web, and attract Google attention, means that even the lowliest content farmer will know that it’s i-before-e in ‘Bieber.'”

(Source: The Price of Typos, 7/17/11)

For more feel-good stuff, check out Chris Epting’s blog on AOL News, “Notorious Spelling Mistakes.” I especially loved this excerpt:

“In 2004, an artist constructing a mural at a library — of all places — botched the spellings of some famous names, including Einstein, Shakespeare, Van Gogh and Michelangelo. Artist Maria Alquilar fixed the names but was unapologetic about the spelling mistakes on the $40,000 ceramic mural, which was installed at a new city library in Livermore, Calif. 

“‘They are denigrating my work and the purpose of this work,’ she said back then. ‘The people that are into humanities, and are into Blake’s concept of enlightenment, they are not looking at the words. In their mind, the words register correctly.'” 

Not sure which “people that are into humanities” she was speaking for. I do have to admire her for her chutzpah, though.


About janarzooman

Freelance writer and editor. View all posts by janarzooman

4 responses to “The price of typos

  • Stan

    I’d love to see a proper study into this. Though I’ve no doubt businesses lose a lot of sales through poor spelling and grammar, the BBC’s article was just one guy’s estimate based on one website, extrapolated to the entire Internet.

    • janarzooman

      Yes, me too. I mean, it’s sort of preaching to our choir that ANY “permanent” writing should be correct (I am VERY forgiving with texting, non-business emailing and commenting, where a person can’t edit what he or she has just written). These kind of stories help us feel a little superior about what we do, but is it true? I only have anecdotal evidence — a friend was able to get a really good deal on a product that no one else had bid on because it was spelled incorrectly.

      • Stan

        Some years ago, the Royal Mail in the UK conducted a survey that suggested businesses with sloppy spelling and grammar were losing enormous amounts of money. I would be more inclined to take them seriously than some random dude plugging his online business, but still: a systematic study would be welcome.

  • janarzooman

    I’m editing this morning, but I think I’ll do a search on this later. I just did a quick Google search and found this interesting tool that helps one profit from others’ spelling mistakes:

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