How Grammar and Spelling Affect Website Credibility (and Sales)

Lets bee honest, their are some things that just don’t promote confidence in your company. Little things, like to many spelling and grammar mistakes, can kill you’re credibility.

Would you want to pay money too a site wear they can’t get the little things write? Maybe if the product is that good, but if your on the fence, little mistakes can make the difference between closing the sail, and coming up empty handed.

If the preceding paragraphs didn’t create a dull ache at your temples, this post might not be for you. If they did, grab some ibuprofen and let’s continue.

We’ll start by ignoring one man’s grammatical rants and delving into what little “hard” data exist.

Unfortunately, not many people set out to A/B test poor spelling, but let’s see what we can find:

1. Despite some, well, “lackluster” societal standards for grammar on social media, Disruptive Communications surveyed 1,003 UK consumers about the factors that would be most likely to damage a consumer’s view of a brand. The number one response (by far), from 42.5% of respondents, was “poor spelling or grammar.”

2. Global Lingo surveyed 1,029 people and found that 59% “would not use a company that had obvious grammatical or spelling mistakes on its website or marketing material”. 74% answered yes when asked “whether or not they tended to notice the quality of spelling or grammar on a company’s website.” Unless that 15% is your target demographic, you might want to start editing.

3. Websites with well-written product reviews have higher sales than websites with reviews containing poor grammar and spelling. Panos Ipeirotis, a professor at NYU, found that the demand for a hotel on Tripadvisor increased if the hotel had reviews free of spelling and grammar mistakes.

He observed a similar effect with sales at Amazon. Further, future Amazon acquiree Zappos found out as early as April 2009 that hiring MTurk workers to fix spelling errors in their customer reviews led to a “substantial” increase in revenue.

4. A UK tights retailer claims that fixing a single, prominent spelling mistake on their main product page increased conversions by 80% (though I’m certainly not going to sit here and tell you that editing your website will increase your conversion rate by 80%).

5. Clemson University studied the relationship between perceived author credibility and spelling and grammar mistakes. Though not specific to websites, they found that “the results of this study suggest that a text of better quality will elicit greater degrees of perceived author credibility from the readers of the text.”

6. Finally, with regards to SEO, Matt Cutts noted in 2011 that good spelling and grammar correlated with higher ranking websites. This is not to say it’s a direct ranking factor, but it’s not hard to believe that better written content is more likely to be shared and linked. Though blog posts can have laxer standards, content marketing without editing still seems like a huge leak.

I know–surveying 1,000 people isn’t irrefutable proof. But here’s the thing–it doesn’t need to be 50% of your visitors who are affected by poor grammar and spelling. It doesn’t even need to be 20%. If 10%, 5%, even 2% of your potential customers are negatively affected–that’s a huge hole that needs fixed.

Here’s why I think spelling and grammar are important:

  • Spelling and grammar mistakes negatively influence your credibility. This might not matter if your product is so mind-blowingly amazing that I just have to have it. But if I’m on the edge, those niggling mistakes are going to make me wonder: “if they can’t even proofread their product pages, why should I trust them with my data?
  • It’s easy to fix. Editing, or hiring an editor, is one of the easiest things you can do. On a budget? Then just try harder. Read it out loud. Read it backwards. Ask your friend to read it. Ask your mom to read it. Don’t make your customers read it.

In the end, it comes down to three little questions:

Do spelling mistakes and poor grammar increase conversions? NO

Will eliminating spelling mistakes and poor grammar increase conversions? Somewhere between “MAYBE” and “PROBABLY”

Is it expensive or time-consuming to use proper spelling and grammar? NO

Unless you have the rare customer who desires, nay NEEDS, mistake-ridden content, this seems like a no-brainer to me…but who knows, maybe mistakes make people want to by your products.

P.S. 5 public floggings for Colin for each spelling or grammar mistake you point out*.

*excluding the first two paragraphs, and one other spot 😉

To stop yourself from making these mistakes, check out my list of punctuation corrector tools.

11 thoughts on “How Grammar and Spelling Affect Website Credibility (and Sales)”

  1. What a great article! A dull ache indeed…I had heart palpitations reading the first couple of paragraphs:) They aren’t far off the mark when it comes to so much web content out there, sadly.

  2. Is the floggings offer still valid? Check out this error under #6, second paragraph:
    “… If 10%, 5%, even 2% of your potential customers are negatively affected–that’s a huge hole that needs fixed.”

    Last few words there should be “…needs TO BE fixed” or “…needs FIXING.” Writer’s choice 😉

    Great article; thanks for including links to the studies you referenced.

  3. Totally agree with your article.
    Bad grammar is a sure-fire way to kill potential sales.

    We have created a business dealing with exactly this issue.

  4. Good read. However, I belive your last sentence under number 6 that reads ‘a hole that needs fixed’ should be ‘a hole that needs to be fixed’, lol.

  5. Judging by the date displayed alongside the first comment, I don’t know if it existed back then, but a free plugin for Google called ‘Grammarly’ appears to do a great job detecting misspellings and poor grammar.


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