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How Annoying Do Your Customers Find Typos and Grammatical Errors on Web Copy, Really – and Are They Affecting Sales?

I am a grammar girl. I graduated with a degree in English. I read books such as Eats, Shoots & Leaves in my free time. At work, I am never without open in a tab on my browser and The Associated Press Stylebook within reach. I derive a real sense of satisfaction from saving the Internet from error-ridden advertising copy one misplaced modifier at a time.

When I come across a typo or grammatical error somewhere that I can’t fix it, I take offense, as if its a personal affront. Thankfully, we live in a big, diverse world full of people with there own interests and obsessions that do not necessarily align with mine. That is a great thing. It means that we don’t all agree, which in turn gives us plenty to talk about and keeps conversations interesting.  

So, lets discuss grammar and how we all feel about it. As a copywriter for a digital marketing agency, I am very intrigued by behavioral data – specifically, what people do when they get to a page with copy on it, and why they do it. Lately, I’ve started to wonder about how typos and grammatical errors effect users’ experiences on websites and whether errors deter customers from making online purchases.

I posed the question to my colleges here at Standing Dog Interactive via a poll on Standing Dog’s internal social network Yammer and my personal Facebook friends via a wall post. The majority of people polled said that errors bothered them at least somewhat (24 percent). Most people polled also said that they consider the type of error (typo, grammatical, one-off or a consistent issue, etc.) and than make a decision on whether to continue reading or making a purchase based on the level of egregiousness. A very small minority (3 percent) said that they did not mind errors at all.

I think it’s also worth mentioning that in the comments, several people introduced an interesting angle that I hadn’t thought of. Everyone in this group took the size of the business into consideration when deciding whether they minded the typos enough to keep them from purchasing a product, but from their they divided into two camps.

One gave more leeway to small business websites than to those of major companies, and the other did the opposite. These responses were intriguing because they revealed conflicting prejudices for major brand sites vs. minor brand sites as well as opposing customer reactions to typos based on separate lines of logic. Some people seemed to believe that because small companies may not have the bandwidth for large teams of copywriters and copy editors, they’re due a little slack when it comes to the typo question. Conversely, those on the opposite side of the fence were more likely to continue to buy from a major business rather than a smaller one because the large company had already earned their trust after years of positive purchasing experiences.

The small company, meanwhile, was an unfamiliar entity with a greater need to prove it’s website’s legitimacy. But that’s more of a side note – just something fun to think about. Now let’s get back the real question, shall we? Do typos and grammatical errors really matter to customers? Do errors affect sales?

A majority of the people polled confirmed that they cared about errors in web copy, which tells me that it’s likely in a company’s best interest to make their copy clean. Negative Web user experiences hurt sales, and the findings in this sampling indicates that typos and grammatical errors will likely cause a major segment of a company’s potential customers to have a negative experience on its website. I want to emphasize “likely” here because a sampling of only a few dozen people are hardly large enough to be definitive. That’s where you come in. Help me prove or disprove this burgeoning theory by answering the poll yourselves. When you notice a typo or grammatical error on a website, how do you react? Let us know in the comments section!

While we’re at it, let’s make things even more interesting by adding another layer of data to the table: The problem with this poll is that it only tells me what people say they would do, which is not always reflective of what they would actually do. This is why I have intentionally put errors in this blog post. How many did you notice, and how did they make you react? Were they a complete assault to your delicate sensibilities, more of a mild annoyance (like the pesky buzz of a persistent housefly) or not even worth noticing?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

(This blog post has been edited. It was originally posted on March 12, 2014 and later referred to by an AdWeek story dated May 9, 2014.)


Related: #SDsmarts