If you see grammatical errors on a website, would you still buy from that brand? A recent study shows that 59 percent of consumers wouldn’t, and would leave a site if they spot basic writing flubs.
While this statistic is alarming, grammatical errors happen to the best of us. For example, Old Navy had to return a box of t-shirts that said “Lets Go.” Fortunately, the company caught the missing apostrophe before the shirts hit store shelves. However, some brands aren’t so lucky.
A UK orange juice brand, Tesco, described the oranges in its juice as “the most tastiest” on its carton. A teenager made headlines for pointing out the double superlative. The brand apologized and plans to change the wording.
Small errors make costumers wonder, “If you can’t get the small things right, can you get the big things right?” said Neal McNamara, Communications Manager and PR Content Editor at TINYpulse.
“Details matter,” McNamara continued. “You wouldn’t show up at an important business meeting wearing a wrinkled shirt. Your copy shouldn’t be wrinkled, either.”
To keep your copy wrinkle-free, McNamara helped us create this list of seven common writing mistakes:
1. It’s vs. Its
How do you know which “it” to use? Its is possessive. It’s is the same as “it is.” Here’s an easy trick. If your sentence makes sense with “it is” use it’s. For example:
• It’s (it is) about 24 miles to the next town.
• In its place sits a new sculpture. (“It is” wouldn’t work here. In this case, “its” is possessive.)
2. They’re vs. there vs. their
There is a place. Their shows ownership. They’re is a contraction for “they are.” For example:
• They’re (they are) hanging out over there (a place) with their (shows ownership) t-shirts cut open.
3. Its vs. their
One of McNamara’s pet peeves is the mix-up between its and their. If you refer to an inanimate object, like a company, you should use “its” not “their.” For example:
• The company doesn’t have its own marketing company.” (In this sentence, “its” is correct because the company is an in animate object.)
4. Compliment vs. complement
McNamara says most people don’t even know that complement, with an e, exists. Compliment, with an i, means to offer praise. Complement, with an e, means to enhance something. For example:
• The red wine complements the pasta. (The wine enhances the pasta, so complement is correct.)
• Betty complimented Ray on his unique tie. (Compliment is correct because Betty is offering praise.)
5. Effect vs. affect
Effect usually refers to a result. Affect means to influence something. For example:
• Bob was shocked at the effect shopping had on his teenage son. (Effect is correct because it’s a result of shopping.)
• Larry’s stomach was affected by the bumpy car ride. (Affect is correct because the ride influenced his stomach.)
6. Do’s and Don’ts
A lot of marketers like to write content that revolves around lists and best practices, which means the words “do’s and don’ts” are usually used. Yes, you should use apostrophes. For example:
• Here is a title: The 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media Marketing (There should be an apostrophe in both words. It looks weird, but it’s right.)
7. i.e. vs. e.g.
Plan to include some examples in your content? Which do you use, i.e. or e.g.? Here’s a trick from Grammar Girl. Remember that i.e. means “in other words” and e.g. means “example.” For example:
• I’m going to a show at The Aud, i.e. the new concert hall in downtown. (Here “i.e.” is the same as “in other words.”)
• Jason loves watching sports e.g. basketball, baseball and football. (Here “e.g.” is used before specific examples are listed.)
When in doubt, just write out the words “for example” or “in other words.”
Grammatical errors might seem like a minor detail, but McNamara says even tiny glitches can leave a lasting impact on your audience.
“If your goal is to earn the trust of your audience and grow your customer base, you can’t do it with splash-dash content,” he says.