- Wanna know a secret? No one speaks English perfectly—not even native speakers
- Why is writing judged more harshly than speaking?
- Okay, so writing is judged more harshly. Does it really matter?
- Crucially, badly written copy is perceived as being unprofessional
- Error-laden copy immediately starts to erode your perceived competence
- Trust in your brand and your credibility are diminished with each error
- So what does all this mean? Is professionally written copy worth it?
In my last post, I indicated that potential clients shouldn’t worry about their English level when contacting me. My English copywriting business exists to improve your English copy. I’m not here to judge your English conversational ability. I stated that language is about communication and that we could use whatever means necessary to communicate. And that is often how spoken communication happens.
Spoken language is ugly. It’s messy. Conversations are not polished or refined. Why do you think people write, practice, and memorize speeches before giving presentations? We need time to organize thoughts, plan what to say, and choose the perfect word or phrase to express ourselves eloquently. That rarely happens in daily conversations.
Wanna know a secret? No one speaks English perfectly—not even native speakers
It doesn’t matter if you’re a native speaker or not. You make mistakes while speaking every day. Sometimes it’s a grammatical error, a poorly expressed idea, or a forgotten detail. You usually correct yourself, but we all make these mistakes:
- So, I meet Sally on Saturday, I mean, I met her on Saturday.
- Your apple pie was delicious, but my mom’s will always be the best. Oh, I didn’t mean that yours was bad…yours was still very good!
- On Saturday I had just eaten dinner…or was I going to eat dinner? Oh, it doesn’t matter. Anyways…
We all do this during daily conversations, no matter if we’re speaking our native language or not. And it’s okay. There is research that suggests non-native speakers are judged more harshly for these speaking errors. But I read an article years ago (which I can no longer find online) about a fellow known as Benny, the Irish polyglot. In that article, he asked, “How often have you been corrected outside of the language classroom?”
Think about it. While traveling, how many imperfect exchanges have you had, but no one corrected your English?
Taxi driver: Where to?
You: To the airport, please.
Taxi driver: Domestic or international terminal?
Taxi driver: Where are you going?
You: To Korea.
Taxi driver: Okay, international terminal it is.
The taxi driver didn’t chastise you for not understanding his question. He got the answer he needed. You got to the right terminal and caught your flight. Everyone was happy. That’s how spoken language works. We work together to get the job done.
During my time in Korea, I’ve had some great ‘discussions’ where the people involved didn’t speak a common language. But with my limited Korean, their limited English, and lots of body language, we had enjoyable conversations that lasted for hours.
Why is writing judged more harshly than speaking?
We are not so carefree when it comes to writing. Native speakers are judged for poor writing, grammar mistakes, and typos—even after leaving school. If native speakers are judged for their writing, why wouldn’t non-native speakers also be judged? The question becomes, why do we place such an emphasis on writing?
When you think about it, the answer is quite simple. With writing, we have the time to correct our mistakes. We have the chance to rewrite or rephrase things. We have the time to check our spelling (if our automatic spellchecker didn’t fix things on its own). There are many reasons we make mistakes while speaking, but those excuses don’t apply to writing.
Okay, so writing is judged more harshly. Does it really matter?
Yes. Yes, it does. Your webpage, text message, or the sign in front of your business—they’re all part of the first impression you make on potential customers. And when they see mistakes, they’re judging you. Don’t you do the same? When you see a typo in a business email, do you not think, “That person should know better than that.” A typo on a restaurant menu isn’t likely to result in you getting up and leaving. But it influences your opinion about that establishment, regardless of how slightly.
We all know the saying “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” It’s on my main page. And it’s true. Of course, you can also win someone over later, but you’ve got to work much harder to reverse a bad first impression. In the competitive business world, do you want to make things harder on yourself?
Crucially, badly written copy is perceived as being unprofessional
Whether it’s a careless typo, an often confused word, or a misspelling, each mistake erodes how professional you appear. Mistakes indicate that you don’t pay attention to details. One mistake may go unnoticed, but if there are several, the effect of those errors starts to snowball. Potential clients question whether you pay attention to the small details when it comes to your product or service.
Having error-free copy, especially as a non-native speaker, indicates that you care about your brand’s image. You’re not satisfied with “good enough.” You’re willing to go the extra mile to do things right. This shows clients that you’ll do the same with your service, or that you did the same when creating your product.
A page riddled with errors and awkward English says you don’t care about how your brand is perceived. Can you afford to give potential clients any reason to doubt your brand?
Error-laden copy immediately starts to erode your perceived competence
If you can’t get your signage correct or you can’t produce a professional webpage, what else can’t you do? If you’re taking shortcuts with your copy, what shortcuts did you take designing your product? If you can’t get your message out there competently, are other aspects of your business poorly designed? Do you want your customers thinking about this as they’re trying to decide whether to buy your product or not?
Though a somewhat controversial point, poor grammar is often seen as a sign of poor intelligence. I’ve met a lot of very intelligent people with poor grammar. I also know many people with great grammar that aren’t the brightest people I’ve ever known. Regardless of whether you agree with this premise or not, if your clients agree with it, you need to address it.
It can also signal that you lack any interest in improving as a brand. If you’re not keen to fix typos or grammar mistakes, you’re broadcasting that you don’t care about improving. We all know that we should always be looking for ways to improve. If we can’t do that with our brand message, that indicates we’re not interested in improving at all. This may be even more damaging than being perceived as less intelligent based on grammatical errors. Laziness and apathy in business are never a winning combination.
Trust in your brand and your credibility are diminished with each error
Though an extreme example, poor grammar is a hallmark of online scams. Anti-virus companies warn against clicking links in emails with poor grammar or awkward English. Do you want potential clients to have any doubt about the safety of clicking the link in your email? That little bit of doubt could be enough for them to delete your email instead of visiting your site.
If your emails contain awkward translations and confusing sentences, clients may not want to do business with you. They may look elsewhere for someone they expect will be easier to communicate with.
Finally, they may be worried about how well they actually understand your message. If you use confusing sentences and poor word choices, clients may question if they understand your brand. It’s yet another seed of doubt that’s going to make it harder to win over this client.
So what does all this mean? Is professionally written copy worth it?
Whether you agree about the importance of making a good first impression or not, can you take that chance? Imagine going to a job interview, knowing you are more than qualified for the position. You also know that there are 50 other equally qualified candidates. Would you show up hungover, in dirty clothes, and carrying a crumpled resume in your pocket? You may believe that wearing a suit and tie has no effect on your ability to perform a task. And you’re likely right. But the hiring committee is looking for any reason to disqualify some of the 50 candidates. Do you want to give them a single reason, never mind three?
With such fierce competition in business, why give potential customers any reason to doubt you? Why give them any reason to skip over you and look elsewhere for a business that meets their needs? None of the problems listed above are likely to be enough to turn a client off completely on their own. But if they notice a pattern, each little doubt that lingers in the back of their mind has the potential to be the straw that breaks the camels’ back.
Ensuring you have professional, error-free copy can only benefit you. There are no downsides. No one is going to think you appear too professional or too competent. The small investment in paying for this service will likely be recovered with a few sales. A few sales you may have lost if you hadn’t bothered to have your copy professionally written.
If you want to project a professional, competent, trustworthy image for your brand, I’m here for you. Contact me below to see how I can help you. Subscribe to this blog or follow me on your favorite social media platform for future updates.
(Main image: Business photo created by pressfoto – www.freepik.com)