Errors: What Impression is your Business Giving?

I am not per­fect, I make mis­takes. There I read­i­ly admit it. As an edi­tor, I make mis­takes when I write and I also make mis­takes when I edit. But I go over my work mul­ti­ple times to min­imise pub­li­ca­tion of those errors.


Basic Errors

red lightWith a friend, we were look­ing at the web­site of a major cor­po­ra­tion, and nei­ther of us could believe our eyes. Front and cen­tre on one page, a glar­ing error. Not the type of error that could be excused by being in dif­fer­ent coun­tries e.g. “colour” ver­sus “col­or”. No this was an error any ten-year-old would be able to spot. A basic word was incor­rect­ly spelt, not once, but three times in quick suc­ces­sion. This is a word that is among the 500 most used in the lan­guage. It led us to ask, who edits this page? Why had they not done a bet­ter job?

It is easy to ask and not always easy to do when you are the man­ag­er try­ing to get a staff mem­ber to write the page, while at the same time fac­ing seri­ous time con­straints e.g. your boss need­ed it com­plete yes­ter­day. The checks and bal­ances can some­times get for­got­ten. Worse they get ignored alto­geth­er. This is where the errors creep in.

We know that in gen­er­al few­er peo­ple than ever before care about using cor­rect lan­guage. For a major cor­po­ra­tion to become slop­py and uncar­ing about the lan­guage they use is a bad omen. Web pages for a glob­al cor­po­ra­tion are viewed by mil­lions around the world. It can there­fore have an influ­ence on how peo­ple use lan­guage. If a major cor­po­ra­tion is slop­py then every­one else can be, seems to be the mes­sage. There is cer­tain­ly noth­ing wrong with tak­ing an extra step to make sure it is all cor­rect, before pub­lish­ing a page. Com­pa­nies, pro­duce hun­dreds of pages each year and few ever ret­ro­spec­tive­ly cor­rect errors.


Tools Available

Think about it for a moment, there are many tools avail­able to improve the lan­guage we use, including:

  • Spell check­ers
  • Proof­read­ing tools
  • Gram­mar checkers
  • Read­abil­i­ty checkers

Some tools, like spell check­ers, are easy to under­stand. Oth­ers are more com­plex and take time to under­stand ful­ly. Using them writ­ers have ample oppor­tu­ni­ty to make sure what they write is cor­rect and many of these tools are avail­able for free, or at a small cost. Large cor­po­ra­tions would have no prob­lem pay­ing to use these soft­ware tools, but few do. But, ulti­mate­ly, there is no sub­sti­tute for engag­ing a good editor.

Per­son­al­ly, I am extreme­ly self-con­scious when I talk about errors on forms/websites etc. The rea­son — I am cer­tain some­one will point out an error that I have made on this page, or some­thing else I helped create.


Nobody Cares…

That said there is a dif­fer­ence between a blog, even one writ­ten by a seri­ous writer, and the image por­trayed by a busi­ness web­site. Some brand names seem as if they are mis­spelt words but their ori­gin is often a for­eign lan­guage word or acronym. They are not mis­spelt at all, but are a delib­er­ate part of cre­at­ing a brand image. Writ­ers have to make them­selves aware of brand name usage.

On a relat­ed sub­ject, I was talk­ing to a 46-year-old house­wife, who was telling me that nobody cares any­more about how peo­ple use the Eng­lish lan­guage and how we have all become too slop­py. She showed no aspi­ra­tions of writ­ing the next block­buster nov­el, she sim­ply object­ed to the bad Eng­lish used on super­mar­ket signs. Her point, it paint­ed the com­pa­nies in such bad light. She was of course right. I thought about it for a moment and realised that the per­son who wrote the sign would be on min­i­mum wage and prob­a­bly cares very lit­tle about their job. The oth­er aspect is that they may not have passed many of their school courses.

Open sunday sThe types of errors I am talk­ing about are the ones Lynne Truss point­ed out in her book “Eats, Shoots and Leaves.” The sign that says “Egg’s $1.66 per dozen” or “Open Sunday’s”. The plu­rals don’t have an apos­tro­phe, but there are so many signs with show­ing them. The types of error that Truss point­ed out more than a decade ago. These are things every­one should know, but they seem to blight lan­guage usage, even for peo­ple hav­ing the high­est lev­el of edu­ca­tion. I know this because I remem­ber work­ing with some­one hav­ing a PhD, he was bril­liant at his spe­cial­ist sub­ject but would write “course” instead of “cause” every time.



The Bal­ance” points out that some of these errors can be sig­nif­i­cant, such as: “mix­ing up the lessor (the build­ing own­er) and the lessee (the com­pa­ny leas­ing the space)” in a rental agree­ment. Often the only way to cor­rect such crit­i­cal errors is strik­ing trough the errant words with a pen and mak­ing cor­rec­tions on the print­ed page.

The chal­lenge is often that busi­ness­es have cut cost on so many of the things that they do, they sim­ply spend too lit­tle time of qual­i­ty con­trol. Even if some­one spots the error they do not have any­one who avail­able to resolve the prob­lem. After all, it is only a spelling error, it doesn’t impact how the pro­gram func­tions. The truth, spend­ing $100 to $500 to engage an inde­pen­dent edi­tor check their work and it could bring in thou­sands of dol­lars of extra busi­ness. Psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly trust starts to dis­si­pate with errors. It may not impact how the pro­gram sup­port­ing the web­site func­tions, but it does impact how it is perceived.

The things your busi­ness pro­duces are always in the pub­lic eye. You nev­er know who is look­ing at any of the following:

  •  Forms
  •  Job applications
  •  Web pages
  •  Blogs Posts
  •  Face­book pages
  •  Prod­uct packaging
  •  User manuals
  •  Contracts

The occa­sion­al error can hap­pen when pro­duc­ing these doc­u­ments. Occa­sion­al­ly even a pro­fes­sion­al edi­tor will miss an error, but they catch the major­i­ty as well as mak­ing the mate­r­i­al more read­able. But, remem­ber each error seen by the pub­lic can impact the brand image.


The Steps an Editor Takes:

There are sev­er­al steps an edi­tor takes to make sure the pre­sen­ta­tion looks pro­fes­sion­al:

  1. Throw out the trash.
  2. Elim­i­nate the tech­ni­cal speak.
  3. Elim­i­nate negatives.
  4. Is the voice active?
  5. Open and close with strengths.
  6. Is it ful­ly described?
  7. Right-size your sentences.
  8. Ensure para­graphs are relevant

Upgrade and Improve…

Upgrade by Geralt CC0 Public domain image from PixabayThrough these steps a good edi­tor will seek to improve the writ­ing. Every writer is prone to using over-expres­sive, flow­ery, lan­guage. In addi­tion web con­tent and blog writ­ers will use tech­ni­cal terms asso­ci­at­ed with their pro­fes­sion, for­get­ting that some read­ers do not share their back­ground. Many writ­ers have a ten­den­cy to overuse neg­a­tive state­ment. Think about it we hap­pi­ly state what we don’t like, when mak­ing pos­i­tive state­ments is more appropriate.

Many years ago I found pas­sive voice in my writ­ing and did not know how to resolve it. There is a time and place for pas­sive voice, but most of the words we write should use active voice.

What are the strong points? Include them in intro­duc­tions and/or con­clu­sions. Make sure peo­ple are aware of them.

Has the sub­ject been cov­ered in full? For a page to ful­ly dis­cuss some­thing the scope should become clear and the writer should have cov­ered all the sub-top­ics, or per­haps pro­vid­ed a rea­son why one will not be dis­cussed (per­haps it is lengthy and deserves sep­a­rate dis­cus­sion). Some sen­tences need short­en­ing, oth­ers need length­en­ing. Part of the role of edit­ing is to ensure each sen­tence is the right length. This flows into ensur­ing that para­graphs con­tain all rel­e­vant sen­tences, no more and no less.

The steps a pro­fes­sion­al edi­tor takes to improve the pre­sen­ta­tion should reap results and improve how the pub­lic per­ceives your business.


Other Related Material

Sev­er­al oth­er pages have been pro­duced by Peter Giblett about this sub­ject, including:



Buy Peter B. Giblett a cof­fee to thank him for con­sid­er­ing errors found on busi­ness sites and the impres­sion it gives.. The images includ­ed here are from roy­al­ty free pub­lic domain sites, like Unsplash, Pix­abay and others.

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