Despite what we may tell ourselves when we are in a rush to send an email or memo, use abbreviations and ignore a typo or two – grammar matters. As an editor and a member of the Hillard Heintze Communications Team, I noted the celebration of National Grammar Day earlier this week and it made me think about the importance of grammar at companies like ours.
A recent survey found that 74 percent of people take note of the grammar on companies’ websites and 59 percent said they are less likely to do business with a company that makes grammatical mistakes. Another survey echoed these findings when the researchers discovered that poor grammar and spelling on a company’s social media page would cause almost 43 percent of people to develop a negative opinion of the company that made the error.
Just think back to earlier this year when people noticed something was off with their tickets for the State of the Union Address – or should I say, the State of the Uniom – and shared photos of the gaffe on social media. Late-night show hosts and politicians quickly pounced on the mistake with quips and critiques.
What would such a typo mean for your company and its reputation?
A Focus on Quality
As a member of the Communications Team, I help our subject matter experts deliver their expertise and analysis to our clients through high-quality, high-impact deliverables that “provide insight, deliver assurance and instill confidence.” We have a brass plaque at our desks that says “Comma Pushers” for a reason and are known to get into fierce debates about hyphens. The discussion points may seem minor to some, but they are all part of our dedication to ensuring the quality, accuracy and timeliness of the information we provide to our clients.
3 Quick Ways to Lower Your Risk of Typos
To help your company ensure the quality of your deliverables, here are a few pointers from the Comma Pushers.
1. Hidden Options in Microsoft Word
The first thing I do when I come across an unmarked spelling error when I’m reviewing a document is check the “Word Options” in Microsoft Word. Under the “Proofing” category are two checkboxes that seem designed to force you to make a mistake:
- Hide spelling errors in this document only
- Hide grammar errors in this document only
If one or both of these options are selected, those helpful red and blue squiggles will disappear – leaving you to identify spelling and grammar errors on your own and increasing the likelihood that an error goes unnoticed.
2. The Buddy System
Your elementary school teacher was onto something. The buddy system is key to catching mistakes in a long document. When you write an important report, letter or email, you often spend a great deal of time revising and tweaking your work to capture the perfect turn of phrase. But sometimes after extensive editing of a sentence, you overlook the fact that a word still missing. (Did you see what I did there?)
Having a colleague – or a Communications Team member – edit your work is important because they bring a fresh pair of eyes to a document. They can help you identify errors you’ve missed because you are “too close to the document” to notice them.
3. An Errata List
The longer a document, the higher the risk for inconsistencies in language, word choice, idioms and other mechanics. To ensure that you don’t, for example, refer to a department as “human resources” at the start of the document and “human relations” by the end, make a list of key people – especially the way they spell their names – as well as departments, acronyms or any other item that is important in your draft. This list can serve as a document-specific style guide and can help you and your colleagues stay consistent in spelling, word choice, capitalization and punctuation.
The Details Matter
Sure. Maybe, you may make an error in a report or on your website and no one will care or notice, but you never know when one misplaced punctuation mark could turn off your next million-dollar account. As my colleague Jennifer discussed in a recent post, the Maine-based company in the news last year surely did not anticipate that the lack of a single Oxford comma would cause a court to decide they were on the hook for paying their drivers overtime. Following a few simple tips and taking a little extra time could save you and your company a huge headache or embarrassment in the future.