Why Writing Well Matters

The words you use and the way you string them together with punctuation often provide someone’s first impression of you. And since “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” as the old saying goes, spelling, grammar, and capitalization can make or break your brand’s overall status.

Of course, if your company services teens and 20-somethings, who frequently communicate via text using acronyms and phonetic short-cuts, correct spelling may not even be recognized. Older adults, however, may notice, and may question your company’s attention to detail. The decision regarding how much emphasis to place on writing rules is up to you – and many CEOs these days don’t seem too concerned – but understand that mistakes do damage your brand equity.

Remember Victoria’s Secret’s embarrassing recent advertisement that claimed: “You’ve never seen body’s like this!” Granted, they had a new product line called “Body,” but the usage in the ad sounded silly, and incorrect.

Or did you see the SodaStream ad that claimed, “Less sugar, less bottles.” You mean “fewer bottles?”

A few years ago, Old Navy recalled t-shirts that exclaimed, “Lets go!” That missing apostrophe sure cost a pretty penny, I’ll bet.

How do these expensive gaffes occur, you have to wonder? Do the companies not know or not care?

There are some entrepreneurs and business execs who place considerable importance on proper word choice. Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit and founder of Dozuki, for example.

To ensure his employees are providing a positive impression of his companies, Wiens requires that every applicant take and pass a grammar test. In fact, in an HBR Blog post, Wiens goes so far as to say, “I have a ‘zero tolerance approach’ to grammar mistakes that make people look stupid.”

He thinks poor grammar and word choice makes his employees, and by extension his company, look stupid.

He’s right.

Believe it or not, bad writing can cost your company serious money. No, I’m not talking about the potential lawsuits due to miscommunication, but the impact of poor writing on the company’s business and reputation. PowerSuasion created a nifty calculator that tells you how much your company is losing due to poor writing each year. You may be surprised at how large the number is (I was).

The larger the organization, the more costly poor word choice or grammatical gaffes are costing you – in damage to your brand and in higher expenses due to miscommunication.

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