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Spelling mistakes are costing digital economy “millions”

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Research by serial entrepreneur Charles Duncombe shows that a single spelling mistake on a website can cut online sales in half.

Duncombe tells the BBC: “When you sell or communicate on the internet, 99 per cent of the time it’s done by the written word. It’s becoming more and more of a problem with more companies going online.”

As a result of poorly-educated staff, the digital economy is not as efficient as it might be – Duncombe estimates the cost to be “millions”.

For example, Duncombe measured the revenue per visitor of his tightsplease.co.uk website, and found that the revenue was twice as high after an error was corrected.

“If you project this across the whole of internet retail, then millions of pounds worth of business is probably being lost each week due to simple spelling mistakes,” Duncombe explains.

While Duncombe’s calculations are very rough, he may have a fair point. Buying online is often a trust-based transaction – spelling mistakes are certain to affect the credibility of your website, and put potential customers off buying from it.

At the same time, don’t expect that having an error-free website will guarantee that sales will go up.

“Yes, dodgy spelling can make you look unprofessional, but accurate writing alone doesn’t make people warm to you, or be persuaded by you or interested in you,” says Neil Taylor from business language consultancy The Writer.

“Being a good proofreader doesn’t make you a best-selling novelist. It has much more to do with the way you write. Lots of businesses write to customers ‘professionally’, but don’t give the sense that they really care, or understand what matters to customers.”

The lesson? Have a scan through your website to check for any spelling or grammar mistakes, but also make sure your websites connects with your customers.

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