Poor grammar on websites scares away 59% of customers. This is what you can do about it

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

Grammar can impact a business. To some customers, it makes all the difference on whether they will go on that customer journey with your brand or not. study in 2013 in the UK found that 59% of Britons would not use a company that had obvious grammar or spelling mistakes on its website or in its marketing materials, and that 82% would not use a company that had not correctly translated its material into English. Luckily, for the grammatically challenged, there are tools that can check and correct grammar. 

Check your grammar with Grammarly

One of these tools is Grammarly, which checks for grammatical errors and offers alternatives to the written text. This was founded in 2009 by Alex Shevchenko and Max Lytvyn, and it has now become the staple for many companies for grammar checking. Alex has an MBA from the University of Toronto, and prior to that, from the Vienna school in Austria, while Max has an MBA from Vanderbilt, but is originally from the Ukraine and has a degree from the University of Kiev. These two gentlemen have set up a business which can be embedded onto your browser and computer. This works for any text written in English, and what it does is it removes the most basic of errors in the text. It can also go further and deeper depending on the package. The most basic one can be added onto a browser, and it can check the tone of a message. It even has little icons to say whether what’s written has a positive, negative, or neutral tone. It can also integrate with other apps on a phone or tablet, which means that the old problem of typing and having bad grammar can be eradicated. With Gmail or Twitter, there’s no need anymore to cut and paste it into the application. Grammarly does it automatically.

There’s a free version, but there are also more features available for business customers. A common issue when working with companies is that they will often have their own style guides or their own way of capitalizing their company name or writing a product, if it’s in uppercase or lowercase. This has led to many a rewrite of press releases, especially as software will try and automatically correct words. Now, Grammarly for Business enables a company to standardize text, sentences, and certain expressions, and it can offer customized and real-time writing suggestions. Interestingly enough, with the Business and the Premium edition, it even checks for elements like plagiarism, formality, and inclusive language.

For companies working across borders, there are usually different people in different countries writing. This is usually the case for mainland Chinese who are accommodating their non-Mandarin speaking partners, clients, and teammates. They’re writing in their own vernacular, and sometimes things get lost in translation. Thankfully, Grammarly helps with the internal communications as well as the external communications. Especially in business-to-business communications, technology often has its own terminology, and how a company addresses a certain phrase or business problem can sometimes be proprietary to that company, because maybe it owns patents as a particular way of expressing the way they approach a problem. With Grammarly Business, it’s possible to create what in effect becomes a lexicon for the company that’s shared via the web with all the members of the company around the world. This ensures that company names, product names, and trademark names are spelled and capitalized properly. This feature works on Gmail, LinkedIn, Salesforce, and even on Zendesk, Slack, and Zoho Desk. In other words, it’s not just in the word processor. So, this seems to be a pretty amazing opportunity to, first of all, correct grammar problems, but secondly, to standardize them across a business and its units as well.

Photo from Grammarly

How much does Grammarly cost? The Business package for Grammarly starts at $12.50 a month per team member (billed annually) with a minimum of three and a maximum of 149 members. Again, if 59% of customers will be scared away by poor grammar, then that could be a good investment. Grammarly also has a Free package. They offer a Premium package as well, which is $11.66 a month (billed annually). 

Alternatives to Grammarly

Ginger is another grammar checking tool, and this costs $7.49 a month. It’s a great alternative to Grammarly, but it doesn’t have features like the plagiarism tool which helps online publishers fight against duplication. Ginger is available on the App Store. It has a 4.4 star rating, but there are only seven ratings. While it may seem like a reduced package, for many people, it might just do the job. 

Photo from Ginger

Another one called the ProWritingAid. The basic subscription costs $20 per month, the year subscription is $79, while the lifetime subscription is $299. Remember, it may not come with features like checking for the plagiarism, the formality, and inclusive language. It’s more on whether the spelling and syntax are correct. There are about a dozen other companies that offer AI-assisted technologies to help provide more efficient and more effective communications. All of these could be very helpful in writing content, especially for those who lack confidence in their writing skills.

Photo from ProWritingAid (Chrome Web Store)

This leads us to the issue of why 59% of people don’t trust a company or a person that writes incorrectly. It’s slightly judgmental, because somebody could be perfectly well educated and well qualified to do a job, but might just not be good at spelling. They could be dyslexic, as so many great entrepreneurs have been. But considering how specific the English language is, it’s actually easy to misinterpret if someone’s miswritten something, as there could be multiple meanings to what someone is saying. Ultimately, it comes down to trust. It may be a judgement, whether anyone would work with that professional that writes things incorrectly, because they may be seen as not paying attention to detail or being educated. That’s one part of it, but the other part of is that if this person is not taking full account of how to write about something, what are they going to do when it comes to things like the contracts, product specs, or features? Do they pay attention? It’s a question as to whether they can not only write properly but pay attention as well to what they’re writing. In other words, it may just be that they’re being sloppy, and this may be the fundamental underlying issue why people don’t trust companies that are not writing accurately. 

With all the technology that’s available, it’s quite possible to use a product like Grammarly for free and on phones, tablets, or desktops. It may prove to be worth paying for if you’re writing across a team and especially if you’re writing across geographies. Just looking at social media and the volume of content that’s now being written, it’s extremely easy to get it wrong, and sometimes, a device’s autocorrect interferes with what’s written too. Though Grammarly is not perfect, it at least creates another checker. Technology comes to our aid once again and ensures that what we write is well-written, attractive, search engine-friendly, and grammatically correct. If the grammar and/or spelling is incorrect, then search engines will not find that piece of content as easily, so take time to write and enjoy it. Think about the value of checking it before clicking Send or Publish. Take the time to make sure that the content represents the company and the team with the best possible grammar. 

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo from Grammarly

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