How important is grammar in marketing?


Why I’m not the grammar police

Princess Bride mem: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means“I will revert back to you Monday.”

Those words shouldn’t have caused me any anxiety. But at least one of them did.

I think it goes back to my school days.

You see, I’m a terrible speller. Always have been. In elementary school, some English teachers praised my writing skills – encouraged my wild imagination and creative storytelling. But in 3rd grade, Ms. Gail kept harping on my spelling. . . It made me feel stupid.

And so began my love/hate relationship with the English language. Love wordplay. Hate rules.

Fast forward to adulthood and not only do I rely heavily on spellcheck but when I encounter an English language error, like “revert back” to mean “reply,” I fret. Do I point the transgression out and risk embarrassing or insulting the guilty party? Or do I recognize it’s no big deal and leave it alone?

Language needs rules

beads as a metaphore for how important grammar is in marketingWriting is my passion, my vocation. I get to spend my days stringing words together on a page like beads on a necklace. And I couldn’t be happier.

But have you ever noticed how the string is the most important part of a beaded necklace? When it’s in place all you see is iridescent jewelry. Break it, and you’re left with nothing but a pretty pile of colored rubble.

Words are like those beads. You need rules (grammar, usage, spelling, punctuation) to hold them all together. Funny how when you get it right no one says, “Wow, what great grammar you have.” But, make one mistake . . .

People can be so judgemental

Unfortunately, poor spelling and grammar tend to be associated with a lack of education or intelligence. At the very least, it is considered sloppy and unprofessional.

A 2014 survey found that 17% of hiring managers would rule a candidate out based on a single spelling mistake. In a forum discussion (documented by Perry Newman) recruiters expressed opinions like:

At best, spelling and grammar errors are signs of carelessness. At worst, they indicate inattention during education and/or a ‘who cares?’ attitude. Any of those can and perhaps should disqualify.”

Big trouble for marketers

How important is grammar in marketing?

59% of respondents would not use a company that had obvious grammatical or spelling mistakes on its website.

It’s not just job seekers who suffer, either. A 2013 survey in the UK found 59% of respondents would not use a company that had obvious grammatical or spelling mistakes on its website. Meanwhile, K Creative (now part of storm from the east) found consumers hold the following attitudes:

  • “I have to admit I will stop reading a website if I notice grammatical errors, and I actually become much more critical about the opinions of the site. That is how much it bothers me.”
  • “Grammar and spelling errors are lazy, unprofessional and inexcusable.”

No quarter shown

Honestly, without consulting a dictionary I couldn’t articulate why “revert back to you” was wrong. I just knew it was.

The gentleman who had written this was hardly unintelligent or uneducated. Quite the opposite. He was a doctor, successful executive, and Assistant Professor of Medicine at an American university. But English was not his first language. And I’ve since learned non-native English speakers commonly misuse “revert” this way. It’s one of those little errors that can distinguish a fluent speaker from a native English speaker.

Screenshot 2016-08-28 at 2.08.56 PM

Basically “revert” means to “return to a former state.” It is considered incorrect to follow it with “back.”


How important is grammar in international marketing?

82% of respondents would not use a company that had not correctly translated its material into English.

You would think the grammar police would go easy on people communicating in a foreign language. But alas, the same UK study I mentioned earlier found that 82% of respondents would not use a company that had not correctly translated its material into English. And K Creative reports the prevailing view is, “If you are going to create a website in a foreign language, you are doing so in the hope of generating business from the market in which that language is used; therefore, you should show an equal amount of respect to the language and the people who use it.”

Moreover, foreign companies marketing to English-speaking audiences must contend with another reality about spelling and grammar:

  • “Often, grammar is how we discern the phishing sites from real ones. Typos are one thing, blatant misuse or ignorance is another entirely.”
  • Virus-ridden/phishing/spam emails almost always have misspelled words and bad punctuation. Would you respond to those?”

The importance of good grammar

Personally, I find the grammar police uppity and condescending. So, I never offered my unsolicited advice about the word “revert.”

But, I also recognize that language rules are important (inconsistent and often misinterpreted, but important). If you neglect or don’t know English language rules it could cost you a job, a customer, or even millions of dollars.

Do you need native English copywriting? Get quote.

If you, like me, occasionally have trouble with spelling, grammar, or punctuation, consider the following resources:



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