ONE LITTLE WORD
I recall… How one of my schoolfriends had very good written English but with a weak spot. He couldn’t spell.
Being well aware of this, he would do the traditional thing: looking up words in the dictionary or asking someone who knew the correct spelling.
This is a practice that seems to have fallen out of fashion.
I recently received a mailing from one of our old-established high street banks. It included a flyer offering some new deal or other printed in red and yellow on green; the text included the word ‘recieve’.
Now I’ll confess I have an eye for typos. I can’t help it. And in this era, where they appear in near epidemic proportions, it’s too easy to spot one and then hunt around for all the others lurking in print. But there’s a difference between a typo and a word that one suspects has been spelled (and left) wrong because the writer knows no better.
Does this matter? Here are two reasons. For a start, that wrong word is annoying and distracting. It caught my attention and swept away any consideration of whatever it was the bank was offering.
But more importantly, it sends a negative message to me as a potential customer: ‘We can’t be bothered to get a petty detail like making sure a little word is correctly spelled.’
And to encourage me to wonder… How could no one have picked it up? Such a mailing involves sending out many thousands – possibly in the hundreds of thousands – of leaflets. That’s a sizeable investment. Why didn’t one or two people in the company (or even one or two hired outside hands) proofread the copy before it was printed?
How can there be any excuse not to recognise such a glaring error in 2014? Any spellchecker would have picked up ‘recieve’. It’s not an American variant!
Whatever the corporate deficiencies, it all looks pretty poor – and suggests to me that the bank, as well as falling down on the simple job of checking their promotional material… may also fall down on whatever job they are offering to do for me.
And when that job involves entrusting them with my money, the leaflet will be screwed up and binned faster than you can utter ‘customer care’.
So how about your own business and the words you use to promote it? It’s so easy to miss a tiddly mistake on material you’ve written yourself. If you appear ignorant or careless or lacking attention to detail, then you’re hinting that your business also exhibits the same characteristics. First impressions do count and you need to work like blazes to retrieve a poor one.
We writers take a lot of trouble to get the words right – so they say just what we intend them to say. And checking for perfection before something is published is just part of the job.
The lawn may be immaculately cut, but if the gardener leaves stray grass on the driveway, then he hasn’t finished the job.
ps: excuse me while I go over this piece once again before posting…