You would think that with the invention of spell check and the rise of digital text, the problem of spelling errors would have disappeared entirely. Maybe not from pen and paper correspondence, but at least from word processed text. Or you might have been thinking that around the time spell check was invented, because by now you probably know all too well how misspelled words can just slip right by you like they’re actively trying to. Yes, spelling errors are still occurring even in spite of those magical red squiggle lines, and according to a recent interview conducted by the BBC, they could be costing internet businesses millions of dollars.
At face value, the proposition that spelling counts for millions of dollars seems a little far-fetched, but when you think about the way we interact with digital media, it makes a lot of sense. First of all, there’s the issue of search engines. If your product is misspelled, you aren’t going to get nearly as many hits as you deserve, a situation that is made even worse by search engines that will correct a misspelled search term, robbing misspelled results from even getting any “a stopped clock is right twice a day” hits. On top of that, digital sales interactions are just plain sketchier than brick and mortar ones because you don’t get to see people right in front of you. Sure, there are plenty of reputable sites out there, but the minute you end up off the beaten path and see one too many spelling errors (or just one), you find yourself wondering if there’s a person at the other end or just a computer with a really bad dictionary.
This, of course, leads us to the question of how these spelling errors are getting there in the first place. Granted, spelling errors are a natural occurrence, especially since word processors made deletion so trivial and consequently increased the average typing speed. That, combined with the exceedingly informal atmosphere of things like text messaging and Facebook messages, seem to have dulled the senses of the modern day copywriter. Either that or made him or her lazy, apathetic and ignorant. Charles Dunscombe, a website owner interviewed in the BBC piece, mentions the fact that he has received cover letters and résumés that not only contained misspellings and grammatic errors, but also instances of text speak.
It’s easy to get up in arms about the continual degradation of the English language (at least for me), but the thought that misspellings and other trivial (to make and fix) errors are costing people actual money throws a bit of a different spin on it. On the one hand, it’s depressing that people are losing out on potentially beneficial business interactions by calling them “potently benefiber buisness interractions” or whatever. On the other hand, it’s heartening because while there’s no way everyone is going to clean up their spelling and grammatical acts just for the heck of it, millions of dollars provide a much juicier incentive.
(via BBC News)
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