You might think the occasional error is nothing to call the grammar police over, but digital marketing is an unforgiving place when it comes to typos.
Failure to use correct spelling and grammar on your company’s website, won’t just look negligent, it can result in the loss of business. A study by Global Lingo found that 59 % of people wouldn’t use a business that had obvious spelling or grammatical mistakes on its website. The logic behind this is that if a company doesn’t care enough to check errors on their website, they can’t be trusted to deliver a high-quality service.
When it comes to your website and online content, you only have a short amount of time to make a good impression on a potential client. If they spot obvious errors with your content, then there’s a strong chance you will lose their business.
Here are the top seven embarrassing spelling & grammar mistakes in digital marketing and how you can avoid them . . .
1. The Greengrocer’s Apostrophe
This is the one everyone dreads, and it’s easy to see why. Given how many different ways apostrophes can be employed, it is hardly surprising how often they are misused.
Apostrophes are used incorrectly all the time in digital marketing, on websites, in blog posts etc. But incorrect use of apostrophes won’t just create a bad impression of your business, they can completely alter the meaning of an entire sentence.
As digital marketing is all about communicating your message, getting this wrong can have serious implications for your brand.
The most common error is using an apostrophe to make a word plural. This is known as the “greengrocer’s apostrophe”, we see this embarrassing mistake on shop signs all the time. If you want to make a word plural, you simply add an “s” on the end and leave it at that. No apostrophe is needed.
- We offer workable solutions = CORRECT
- We offer workable solution’s = WRONG
- We need to create more high quality leads = CORRECT
- We need to create more high quality lead’s = WRONG
There is ONLY one reason to add an apostrophe and an “s” to the end of a noun and that is to show possession. There is no other reason.
- Tom’s house = CORRECT
- Toms house = WRONG
- The engineer’s contract = CORRECT
- The engineers contract = WRONG
Many people get confused when the apostrophe has to go after the “s”, but it’s really quite simple. When you need to signify possession for more than one person or thing, then the apostrophe has to go after the “s”.
- The dogs’ toys = the toys belong to MORE than one dog.
- The dog’s toys = the toys belong to ONLY one dog.
This is a clear example of how an apostrophe in the wrong place can change the meaning of what you’re trying to say. Imagine the implications this could have in business if you got the number of people wrong for a project when a significant amount of investment is involved.
It is important to be careful with this. There’s no getting around the fact that apostrophes matter.
2. Stationary & Stationery
This is a spelling error that is commonly made in business, but the confusion is understandable given the words have identical pronunciation. Plus, the words are only one letter apart from each other.
Stationary (with an “a”) is an adjective (the other is a noun), which means it is describing something or someone. It means “not moving”. This can be used in both a literal and figurative way.
- The car crashed into a stationary vehicle (literally)
- The city has a stationary population (figuratively)
In both sentences the word “stationary” is describing a noun, but “stationery” (with an “e”) is itself a noun, so it can’t be used in this way. While stationary is an adjective that describes objects or things that are not moving, stationery is a noun that refers to pens, pencils, envelopes and general office supplies.
- I need to order some more stationery to write up these reports.
- I need to get some more envelopes from the stationery store.
One simple trick is to remember the “e” in stationery = envelopes.
Image Source: Thought Catalog on Unsplash
3. Mixing Up Your & You’re
One of the most common mistakes many businesses, including large well-known companies, make is mixing up “you’re” and “your”. And although the difference between these two words is actually straightforward, that doesn’t stop many of us getting them wrong.
“Your” is the possessive form of “you”. There are only two things you need to remember about this word: it is an adjective and it is possessive. As it is an adjective it can only be used before a noun or a pronoun. And as it is possessive it shows who the noun belongs to: the person you are addressing.
- Our expert will answer all your questions (noun) about pensions and savings.
- Speak to our advisors before buying your next house (noun).
“You’re” is a contraction for (or short way of writing) you are, and can ONLY be used for this purpose. The apostrophe in the middle means it stands for a missing letter.
- You’re late for the meeting.
- Contact me when you’re in London.
If you’re not sure if “your” is the correct word to use in the sentence, check to see if there is a noun after it. If not, then you probably need to use “you’re”.
4. Definitely & Defiantly
These words are not only very similar, but as they are both adverbs it can be easy to mix them up. It’s very common to see website content where “defiantly” is used to mean “definitely” rather than the other way around. In fact, this has been identified as one of the most common spelling errors online. If you search for “defiantly” on Twitter, you’ll see 99% of people using it to mean “definitely”, and the remaining 1% complaining about the misspelling.
Defiantly means to describe doing something challenging in a way that shows open resistance.
She defiantly touched the hot stove, even though she was warned not to.
Definitely means to do something in a clear and unequivocal way or without a doubt.
I will definitely finish my project by the end of the week.
In most cases, where these words get mixed up, people will be able to work out from context which one is correct. However, there will be times where using the wrong one will completely change the meaning of the sentence.
I will defiantly buy a new toothbrush = I will rebel against the system to buy a new toothbrush.
5. Mixing Up It’s & Its
Let’s look at another combination of apostrophes that often confuses people: “it’s” and “its”.
“It’s” is simply a contraction (shortened version) of “it is” or “it has”, and should only be used when these words can be used instead.
- It’s a great article = it is.
- It’s been a successful year for the business = it has.
This is not too hard to grasp, but the use of “its”, without the apostrophe, is where most of us seem to struggle. Don’t worry. It’s a lot simpler than you might think.
“Its” is the possessive form of “it”. This means it is ONLY used to show that something belongs to the thing you’re talking about (it).
- The computer looked as though its power supply had failed
= the power supply belongs to the computer.
- Rome is a beautiful city, and its buildings are magnificent
= the buildings belong to Rome.
6. Affect & Effect
Is it affect or effect? They sound almost identical but confusing “affect” and “effect” is another very common digital marketing mistake.
Affect can only be used as a verb and means to influence or make a difference.
The global recession affected the company’s profits.
Effect is usually a noun, meaning result or consequence.
The effect of the global recession was significant losses for the company.
So, if A affects B, then B feels the effect of A.
One way to remember this is the old school method with the word RAVEN:
Remember Affect is a Verb, Effect is a Noun.
7. Mixing up They’re, Their & There
Mixing these words up has given rise to a number of silly mistakes in signs, articles and all kinds of marketing content. So let’s take a look at the key rules when it comes to using “they’re”, “their”, and “there” so you can avoid falling into the traps suffered by the poor writers of these embarrassing grammar mistakes!
They’re is a shortened version of “they are”, and should ONLY be used in place of these two words.
- They’re very interested in the project.
- They’re looking forward to the meeting.
“There” can be a bit more complicated. If you’re talking about a place or location, then you need to use “there”. One way to remember this is that it means the opposite of here – meaning “in that place”, not here.
- We’ll be there soon.
- He’s sitting over there.
- We went there because it has a nice beach.
There can also be used as a pronoun to show that something exists or going to happen.
- There are a lot of opportunities for our business.
- There is a big meeting today.
Their is the possessive form of they, which means it is used to show ownership or belonging. If something belongs to them, it is their item.
- That is their marketing team.
- Their company is based in Munich.
While we are all guilty of making mistakes when it comes to spelling and grammar, the hard truth is that errors on your website and social media accounts can be detrimental to your business.
If you’re responsible for writing digital content then you should at least familiarise yourself with the basic rules of grammar. As we have seen, simply placing apostrophes in the wrong place can have a negative impact on your brand.
And certain auto-correction sites have made us all complacent. That’s not to say these applications don’t have their uses, as they will highlight most of our mistakes. But you can’t rely on them 100%. If the meaning of your content is unclear, then it won’t get picked up or is unlikely to get auto-corrected properly.
No matter how confident you are when it comes to your English skills, it is always a good idea to get someone else to proofread your work. Proofreading your own work is difficult and, as you are so close to it, it can be easy to miss silly mistakes.
Making sure you don’t make these digital marketing content mistakes isn’t about being a “grammar Nazi”, it’s making sure your business creates the right impression, and your marketing messages are communicated effectively. To learn more about how to craft content that makes an impact on your audience read our guide on How to Drive More Business with Quality Content.
About the Author
Austin Rowlands is a content writer at leading exhibition company Quadrant2Design, with extensive experience in the exhibition and events industry. He writes exhibiting guides for Quadrant2Design – to help businesses with all their exhibition needs. In addition to this, he writes press releases to promote exhibition events, as well as exhibiting feature articles for various industries.