… And how to make sure that yours are great.
I’m not going to beat about the bush here. If you’ve ever wondered whether good use of language really matters for your small business marketing, the answer is that it does. If you’re weighing up the 1001 things that you have to do and putting your marketing copy at the bottom of the pile, you may need to rethink. Your communication is the most important tool that you have and you need to use it correctly. Many of us struggle with writing – it’s perfectly normal. Even those of us who write for a living rarely get it right the first time. As a small business, you might not be in a position to spend money on proofreading services or content writers but you should be aware that the way you write creates the first impression of you, your business and everything you offer.
You’ve probably heard that in a job interview you have something like 20 seconds to create an impression – it’s the same with your marketing content. It doesn’t matter whether you communicate through your website, your social media or your printed collateral. The way you use your words will determine whether the reader wishes to find out more about you and your business. In this article, I’ll present five key reasons why spelling and grammar matters. I will also provide some all-important tips to help you to accurately proofread your content.
Why is good spelling and grammar so important in marketing?
It reflects the quality of your work
This, of course, is not strictly true. The reflection is perceived. Some time ago, I saw a social post from a well-respected local chef. He was advertising for a chef to work under him but included a spelling mistake in the ad. Of course, all the bright sparks on Facebook jumped on him – the responses to this ad were unnecessary and unkind. Naturally, his command of the English language has absolutely no bearing on his ability to make the perfect souffle; however, some felt that his one mistake reflected badly both on him and the establishment he worked for
A 2014 survey found that 17% of hiring managers would rule out a candidate based on a single spelling mistake. Again, this underlines the belief that accurate writing sets the standards for your quality of work and attention to detail.
Bad spelling undermines your authority
Often, what sets you apart from your competitors is your knowledge of your subject. This is true across the board, from personal trainers to manufacturers of beauty products. You might know best how to make a non-greasy skin cream that works for people with excessively dry skin. You might know best how to help that guy who wants to lose 10 kilos before Christmas and make sure he doesn’t put it all back on again. But you have to convince everyone else. You do this by presenting yourself and your business as the authority on your product or service. Unfortunately, it’s hard to appear authoritative if your marketing content is full of spelling mistakes or grammatical errors.
SEO, or search engine optimisation, determines the visibility of your website in search engines. There are many factors that contribute to your ranking but search engines mostly find your website by looking at your content. So when you choose your keywords, it’s important that you get them right. Google likes well-written content that shows authority on its topic and it will punish you for bad content. But you also don’t want to make Google or other search engines work too hard to find the important content. It sounds obvious but if you want to rank for the term “personal trainer”, it’s important that you spell it right. I have a client who is a leading chocolate manufacturer. After all this time, I still mistype the word “chocolate”. If I didn’t correct it, this would be a disaster for their SEO.
If you’d like some advice on keyword research for your website, I wrote a handy article on it.
It affects whether or not people understand your proposition
Thank goodness everyone isn’t as literal as me. I went into a café once and ordered hot chocolate and a cup of tea. The lady behind the counter asked, “would you like extra hot water with your tea?” My brain melted slightly and I replied, “just normal temperature is fine, thanks.”
This might be a slightly ridiculous example of how your proposition can come across wrong because, in this instance, I was clearly being a bit thick. However, sometimes your words can be ambiguous and it’s important that people understand what you are offering straight away. Sadly, there are rarely any second chances in marketing and if people don’t understand instantly, they’ll just close the tab and be gone forever.
Bad spelling is distracting and people will remember you for the wrong reasons
This is self-explanatory. Remember “Covfefe”? Covfefe is a misspelling that U.S. President Donald Trump used in a viral tweet that instantly became an Internet meme. Six minutes after midnight on May 31, 2017, Trump tweeted, “Despite the constant negative press covfefe”. He deleted the tweet six hours later and implied that its wording was intentional. Three years later, you can still buy covfefe mugs and t-shirts, memes still pop up from time to time and the topic refuses to die. Again, a slightly extreme example but you get my point. The mistake gained more media coverage than some of the President’s far more serious actions.
How to make sure your marketing content is tip-top
Okay, so you know why it’s so important to have great-looking, properly proofread marketing copy. But unless you’re a writer, writing may just not come naturally to you. Plus we’re all in a hurry, right? It’s so easy to make mistakes. So here are some tips for marketing content that reads well.
Pick your tone of voice and be consistent
This isn’t directly related to spelling or grammar but it is super-important. My style is informal because that’s how I naturally talk to my clients about marketing. If you’re a solicitor, people may expect you to speak with a formal, authoritative voice. If you sell children’s toys, you will use a completely different tone. Once you’re comfortable with your tone of voice, make sure you apply it everywhere – your website, your social media and your printed material.
Don’t rely on spellcheck
Spellcheck does not care about there, their or they’re. It doesn’t care about you’re or your. It certainly doesn’t care if your sentences are 200 words long, clumsy or even totally nonsensical. Use with caution.
I apologise for this piece of advice. The reason for my apology is that once you have been to the Grammarly website, their advertising will follow you around the internet until your dying day. However, Grammarly is really great. It is both a spelling and grammar checker but it also picks up on the quality of your writing. For example, it will suggest less long-winded ways of structuring a sentence and it will assess your tone of voice. The free version of Grammarly is a plug-in and will only work on your browser – it won’t work in Word. If you want to write something directly onto your website, that’s great. Otherwise, I sometimes open up a Gmail email, copy and paste from a Word document into the email and let Grammarly do its checks in there. Do bear in mind that it uses American English so you still have to have your wits about you.
Read your copy aloud
There’s no getting around this. I always do it. No matter how long the copy is. This will weed out overly long sentences, repeats, sentences that don’t make sense and most things that just don’t read well. It’s a bit tedious but you have to do it. Sorry. This is the most important thing you can do to find mistakes. Keep reading aloud and take breaks.
When you start losing concentration or you feel your eyes going all glassy, take a break. You’ll start to miss parts of your copy if you don’t.
Ask someone else to read it
What might be clear and plain language to you might not be to someone else. If you know someone who might be willing to read through your marketing material in exchange for wine or chocolate, ask them to help you out. A second pair of eyes often sees things from a different perspective.
So let me just reiterate one last time. Your marketing copy is your number 1 weapon and it needs to be sharp. I know from experience how laborious the content creation process can be – but don’t rush it. Write it out, read it, re-read it, get Grammarly, read it out loud, get your next-door neighbour to read it – bingo. Your done.
Just testing. You’re done.
If you’d like to chat to us about this – or anything – get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.