There’s a story up on the BBC website at the moment that quotes Charles Duncombe, “an online entrepreneur”, as saying that a single spelling mistake on a website can cut online sales in half. (For Spanish readers of the blog, there’s a Spanish version of the article available on “BBC Mundo”.)
Duncombe is apparently “shocked” at the poor quality of written English of staff recruited by his companies.
Spelling is important to the credibility of a website, he says. When there are underlying concerns about fraud and safety, then getting the basics right is essential.
I totally agree with this, and really wish that companies would realise that the editing stage is just as important for online writing as for traditional print publishing. Instead, the attitude seems to be that, as an online text can be corrected after publication, it should be posted without a second look.
Of course, there’s seldom time to go back and check later, and corrections aren’t usually made unless something horrendous has crept in by mistake and the site is inundated with comments from irate and offended readers.
Where online publications used to have writers, fact checkers, subeditors and editors, now, the writers often have no one checking any of their work. In the haste to reduce costs, companies have reduced staff and still expect the same productivity. Naturally, standards must be lower.
Apparently the manuscript of her unfinished novel The Watsons has sold for £993,250. So I guess even unpolished writing can, on occasions be worth a lot of money. Even if not to the original writer.
Incidentally, though I do try and proof-read before posting, I am sure there are mistakes on this blog. If I see them later, or if someone points them out, I will correct them.
Still, returning to the original news article, I note that “William Dutton, director of the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University says that in some informal parts of the internet, such as Facebook, there is greater tolerance towards spelling and grammar.” And I don’t think a personal blog should necessarily have to meet quite such high standards as press and company websites.