Spelling mistakes ‘cost millions’ in lost online sales, but I’d rather have clear writing than perfect spellingJuly 18, 2011 – 11:44 am
In a recent BBC news article, an online entrepreneur says that poor spelling is costing the UK millions of pounds in lost revenue for internet businesses.
I have no doubt that poor spelling costs companies, but when I am trying to make a decision, I’d rather read clear, concise, focused writing, than writing that is technically perfect. After all…
Cna yuo raed tihs? Msot plepoe can. I cuold not beleive taht I cluod uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. So if yuo cna raed tihs, yuo mghit wnoder if splling cuonts.
I am not saying spelling does not count; I am saying that clear, concise, focused writing is as important, even more important, than technically accurate writing. Which sentences would you rather read:
- I utilized a multi-tined implement to process a starch resource.
- I used my fork to eat a potatoe.
- We are less than pleased due to the fact that it is, at this point in time, the season of winter.
- Now is the winter of our discontent.
Now you may have noticed that “potato” was misspelled; however, you probably noticed that you didn’t understand a word of the first line. Or you understood most of the words individually, but did not understand the meaning of the sentence.
And you probably preferred Shakespeare’s “winter of our discontent” to the bureaucratic mumbo jumbo that preceded it. That does not mean you have to write like Shakespeare to write effectively. Just write in a clear, straight-forward manner to avoid masking you meaning and you will be effective. In short, if you want some to understand you, don’t make them jump through hoops to interpret your meaning. You don’t impress anyone if you in a highfalutin manner; you are much less likely to get what you want, or need, if you write that way.
So does spelling count? Of course it does. Spelling matters. But I will gladly forgive a minor typo before I will forgive a technically accurate but incoherent blob of gobbledygook and jargon. So before you proofreed your work to ensure all words are spelled correctly, may I suggest you first copy edit it to ensure you have written clear, concise, focused, jargon-free, plain English copy your intended reader will understand.
And yes, that should be “proofread,” not “proofreed.” Point taken?
Ideally, we should have both–clear, concise, focused writing that is technically accurate. In too many cases, however, people spend way too much time debating the technical aspects of copy and far too little time discussing its clarity. I suggest the former is easier to do than the latter, so the latter gets overlooked. Again, don’t get me wrong. Both are important. It’s time we spent more time copy editing for clarity That is what I am advocating.
Paul Lima is a freelance writer and business writing instructor. He is also the author of several books on business writing, creative writing, and the business of freelance writing, including Harness the Business Writing Process, How To Write A Non-Fiction Book in 60 Days, and Everything You Wanted To Know About Freelance Writing.