Falon Darville

Former Digital Producer

Posted in agency

Using Proper English on the Web

In the digital world, first impressions are key. Whether it’s convertible or informational, the content we put online needs to make some kind of impact. Using proper grammar and spelling is an easy way to prevent jeopardizing a user’s trust and perception of your professionalism. Proper usage also makes digesting the web content easier on the user.

Trust.

Use grammar and spelling correctly to encourage and re-enforce trust in the user, particularly for sites that request confidential and sensitive information. If I am a user giving you my bank card number or my private cell phone number, I want to know that I can trust the site. Spelling and grammar errors can conjure pause, and thoughts like: “is this a scam site?” and “am I really about to give my private information to a site that can’t be bothered to check the proper spelling of the word transaction?”

Professionalism.

Improper grammar and spelling can make your site look unprofessional, and can even dissuade a user from using it. Users don’t want to interact with a half-baked website. Even if the graphics are superb, if your grammar and spelling are wrong, you look like you couldn’t put in the effort to proofread. Don’t think that graphics will be your redeeming factor. The user sees the site as a whole and not disjointed segments. A user may not always be able to overlook mistakes and simply say “well they can’t be bothered to spell-check, but these images look great!”

Easiness.

When you are using improper spelling and grammar, you are making the user do a lot more work than is necessary. During the process of creating a site, we think about things like “how easy will it be for the user to navigate the site and locate specific information?” What we also need to think about is making the text information coherent. If a chunk of text is poorly written, the user has to do more work to read it. They may have to re-read sentences, and may become distracted by the wrong usage of a “their, they’re, there” variation. The coherency of your text is essential whether you have a few sentences on your site or entire paragraphs. If there is very little text content, coherency is required because there is no room to elaboration and re-iteration. If there is a lot of content and it is informational, the text serves as an authority in transmitting an idea to the user, hence spelling and grammar errors degrade the message.

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What can you do to ensure your text content is coherent, spelled right, and grammatically correct?

Rely on Human Editing.
Write in a word processor that detects spelling and grammar errors, and make sure that these settings are enabled. Be wary and don’t rely entirely on these softwares for error detection, especially those grammar errors detection softwares. Detection softwares make mistakes. At the end of the day, always depend on human editing.

Have a Grammar Guide Handy.
Reference academic grammar guides like the one published by OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab. OWL Purdue is a staple go-to resource for university-level students.

Read Your Content Out Loud.
To check  coherency,  read the entirety of your text content out loud. Try reading into a recording device and listening to it play back. Does it make sense? Are you using run-on sentences? Are you getting to the point and conveying the information you intended to?

Use Simple Words.
When in doubt, steer clear of flowery text. Don’t overload the user with unnecessarily complex words. Think about your audience and use appropriate jargon.

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To recap, proper spelling and grammar encourages user trust, displays professionalism, and lightens the user’s reading burden.

Supplementary Reading

Slack Regarding Little Things in Communication

Grammarly Regarding the Oxford Comma (In case you were wondering, I am a vehement proponent of the Oxford Comma)

Grammarly for Chrome, an extension (for Google Chrome) that works within your browser to suggest corrections to spelling and grammar errors. It’s free.