Ever get an email from a brand you loved, and they spelled your name wrong? Or called you by someone else’s name? It kind of hurts, doesn’t it? You know they didn’t put the email through a proofreading process before they sent it. If it’s a brand you don’t even remember signing up to get emails from, you probably laugh and hit Unsubscribe. But if it’s a brand you like and want to hear from, it can be hard for them to undo the damage.
That may be an extreme example having to do with complex automation tools where some sort of wire got crossed somewhere in the process, but this kind of error (and many others) happens every day in the email marketing world. At times, they’re a result of bad data, but at least as often they’re the result of carelessness and hubris — confusing it’s/its or their/there, using an apostrophe to make a word plural, accidentally deleting a word from a sentence.
We get it. We’re all short on time. The path of least resistance is to run spell check (You do run spell check, don’t you?), look for those squiggly lines underneath words, and move on to the important work of setting up segments, running your A/B tests, double-checking your data, etc.
If it’s a brand you don’t even remember signing up to get emails from, you probably laugh and hit Unsubscribe. But if it’s a brand you like and want to hear from, it can be hard for them to undo the damage.
But what if we told you that simple copy errors due to lack of proofreading can do similar damage to your customer relationship? A study by The Conversation’s Julie Boland and Robin Queen suggested that recipients rate email senders more negatively based upon the number and seriousness of the spelling and grammar errors they make. They stress that they tested recipients with senders they didn’t know, and might be more forgiving if they’ve built up previous trust with the sender.
And that seems to jibe with what we already know — Relationship building helps in a variety of ways, including gaining you more of a pass when you make a mistake. And it’s important you have the right tools to deliver exceptional customer experiences so you can build that loyalty. But, if you’re a growing brand, you always have new recipients you’re trying to make a first impression with. If a reader signs up and the first email they get messes up “where/wear,” the odds they’re going to stay subscribed to your emails inevitably decline. A campaign you executed and targeted well otherwise could miss the mark because of a simple spelling mistake.
What’s more is these errors can be easy to make, even for the most seasoned and conscientious of writers. They’re insidious, leaking into your writing and sneaking past you because your mind skips over the word, assuming it’s right. So, what can you do to avoid spelling and grammar errors in your email copy? Here are a few steps:
Always run spell check (though it’s a double-edged sword)
If you’re writing in Microsoft Word, it’s built in, and it will automatically flag misspelled words as you type them. Same with WordPress, which will give you a red dotted line beneath words it thinks you misspelled. The challenge, of course, is that it won’t always catch misused words. It might even mistakenly change them to the wrong word through its grammar check. The concern about spell check is that it becomes a crutch, and you assume it’ll save you. Remember that spell check is no replacement for proofreading the copy yourself, and being able to double check spell check’s work — and your own.
Recruit more than one set of proofreading eyes
There’s one in nearly every office. That grammar geek who loves to pick apart phrasing and compulsively copy edits menus at restaurants. Identify this person, and put them to use. Maybe it’s the marketing director, or a copy writer. Or maybe it’s someone in sales or customer service. Whoever it is, ask them for a quick moment to read your copy. And if that person is you, don’t get cocky. You still need more people to check it than just you.
In the end, if you’re the content writer, you’re likely responsible for proofreading what eventually goes out. All the help in the world isn’t going to save you from someone calling you to task if spelling and grammar errors are leaking through to customers. So do what you can to educate yourself. Use Google liberally. Pick up a grammar reference book to keep at your desk. Learn when your neighborly grammar geek corrects you, and try not to make that mistake again.
Don’t put off proofreading until the last minute
Any good proofreader will tell you, they’re not perfect. The best proofreader in the world has a non-zero rate of missing mistakes. The best way to avoid having mistakes get past your quality-control efforts is to not make that mistake in the first place. And the best way to avoid mistakes is to not wait so long that you’re rushing to finish the work. That’s when sloppiness comes into play. That increases the error rate, along with the chances that errors will make it into the final product.
The best way to avoid having mistakes get past your quality-control efforts is to not make that mistake in the first place.
Some of these mistakes can seem like nothing, but they add up. You never know when that new email subscriber you worked so hard to get is the grammar geek in someone else’s office. Show them you’re careless with your email copy, and you might not get another chance to earn their business.