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Does bad speling stop you from spending online?

Misspelt stop sign at a traffic crosswalk

An online entrepreneur has come out to claim that poor spelling on a website can cut sales by as much as half. Do you get turned off by misspellings and grammar mistakes – or are their bigger fishies to fry?

Charles Duncombe, who runs a number of websites, has told the BBC he thinks misspellings on shopping websites put off consumers so much that they avoid spending money on them.

In fact, he thinks spelling is so important that it’s costing the UK economy millions of pounds every wekk. He argues that misspellings can reduce a website’s credability:

‘I know that industry bemoaning the education system is nothing new but it is becoming more and more of a problem with more companies going online. This is because when you sell or communicate on the internet 99% of the time it is done by the written word.’

So how did Mr Duncombe come to his conclusions? Apparently he measured revenue to the website tightsplease.co.uk (which does what it says on the tin) and found the amount of cash coming in dubled when an error was corrected.

As far as the credibility of a website goes, Which?’s advice is to keep an eye out for misspellings as they can give a scam or phishing site away. You’re quite frankly much less likely to find mistakes on official, trustworthy ticket sites, for example.

Put off by misspellings

But how much does grammar and spelling actually matter to you? We take pride in being accurate, but the odd typo can slip through, which we’re happy for you to point out. Some have panned our use of “bored of”, and though it’s quite right that “bored with” is the “correct” phrase, the former has now entered popular usage. Language evolves, and this more colloquial usage seems to fit Which? Convo’s informal tone.

However, all of this can go too far. The introduction of txt spk is 1 of my biggest gripes. I can also be a grammar Nazi about “their”, “they’re” and “there” – if someone gets that wrong in they’re written prose, then their going to hear about it from me!

What about you? Do you think literacy skills have plummeted since the world has gone online? And more importantly, does a website lose your trust if you spot misspellings? (Oh, and a gold star to the person who can spot all of my very deliberate mistakes.)

Do misspellings on websites put you off?

Yes - spelling and grammar must be correct (91%, 514 Votes)

No - it doesn't bother me at all (5%, 29 Votes)

Never really thought about it (4%, 23 Votes)

Total Voters: 566

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Not too annoying despite the deliberate mistakes:
wekk week
credability credibility
dubled doubled
spk speak
1 one
they’re their
their they’re

I also mistrust shopping websites that do not have a business address and landline phone numbers listed under contact details.

Oh and …
fishies fish

Oh and…
speling spelling

Oh and…
txt text

OK now I am annoyed.

Chris says:
7 August 2013

He missed sotp, in the picture

Are you trying to restart this Conversation, Partick? 🙂

Also Mr Duncombe needs to go back to that website and correct the small mistake that remains on the main page!

Plambey says:
15 July 2011

I wouldnt say i’m a grammar n**i, but its the little things that get me. facebook groups, pages, jokes and articles that try to be well written, yet mess up the your/you’re etc can really grind my gears, and i’d often ignore them on that principle alone. (principle/principal, so shoot me!)

however, there arent many internet sites that I would purchase from, primarily focusessed on amazon/ebay/o2 and some photography sites, and in general, these webpages have it fairly nailed.

as you say, i’ve often noticed spam websites due to their poor spelling, and it may have saved me during my more naive internet browsing days.

while it may not affect my purchases, poor grammar and spelling certainly can effect my enjoyment of internet browsing!

Plambey says:
15 July 2011

dubled – doubled

Plambey says:
15 July 2011

crap. ignore that one!

That’s a dyslexic fish. If they can’t get the spelling right then who’s to say what else might be wrong? I wouldn’t purchase from them.

Paranoimia says:
15 July 2011

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a grammar n**i. Not only did I do well in English at school, but part of my last job was to proof-read letters before they went for printing and mailing to thousands of customers, so I’ve found myself very sensitive to mis-spelled words.

Obvious occasional typos don’t really bother me, but use of the wrong words or phrases really, really irritates me.

The mix-up of their/there/they’re has been around for a long time, but in more recent years there has also been a staggering amount of people who don’t seem know the difference between ‘then’ and ‘than’ – for example, I read things like “X is better then Y” far more often than I read the correct “X is better than Y”.

Then there’s the totally incorrect “I could care less” when someone really isn’t interested in something. No, you fools, if you’re not interested, you COULDN’T care less. If you COULD care less, you do care about it. Admittedly, though, in my experience this does tend to be a predominantly American failing.

Seeing any of these things will have an impact on whether I buy from a site or not. If it’s a site I already know I can trust, then it’s not so much of an issue. But if it’s a site I haven’t used before, I will consider going elsewhere if it’s riddled with language errors. Why? It’s true that you don’t have to be good at English to provide a good service, but for me it’s an indication of how you want to be perceived, and a site littered with grammar and spelling errors would seem to indicate that you’re not overly concerned with being presenting a professional image; and if you’re not concerned about your image, how do I know you’re concerned about pleasing your customers?

Rosalyn says:
15 July 2011


I work in a primary school and we constantly struggle with the strange spellings within the English language. However, as it is our language, we should embrace it and get it right. As for the placing of those apostrophes – the adage “when in doubt, leave it out” helps. I have rubbed out chalk apostrophes in pub menus a few times.

I have rubbed out chalk apostrophes in pub menus a few times.

Me too. Are we not rather sad individuals? Enjoy your meal – I can recommend the sirlion steak.

Reading your comment reminded me of the book ‘Eats, shoots and leaves’ – if you haven’t read it you really should! Some of her examples of mistakes in shop signs etc are shocking.

I enjoyed this book but finding mistakes is a lot more fun than reading about them.

I am still searching for a shop sign indicating that ‘The stationary department has moved’.

I cannot take anyone seriously if they make little effort to correct mistakes or cannot take the trouble to use capitals where appropriate. I assume that the organisation (or individual in the case of eBay) might offer poor service.

Phil says:
16 July 2011

A website which has spelling and grammar errors certainly rings alarm bells with me. It gives a bad impression and if their, sorry there oh no they’re so sloppy with their website what is their service going to be like?

Another increasingly common mistake is “could of” for “could’ve”.

I hesitate to wade into this quagmire for fear of committing a faux pas myself but Patrick’s misuse of ‘their’ [for ‘there’] in line three seems to have slipped under most people’s radar. I wouldn’t refuse to buy on account of a misspelling but if there are too many then I would think twice about the quality of service and intelligence of the company. Mistakes leap out at me from the printed page but are more difficult to pick up when reading a screen – this is probably how they occur even in good websites. Bad text checking for accuracy, content, and common sense cause annoyance [I recently read a crusie company website where they were describing the port excursions available. They thoughtfully provide special trips for “wheel-chair confined passengers” but, in an outbreak of cut-&-paste, repeated the text from the standard description so it still contained the invitation to “stretch your legs” on a guided tour of Rome.] Too much reliance on spell-check means that text is littered with words that are spelt corrrectly but are the wrong words in the context [e.g. ‘curb’ for ‘kerb’]. I get even more irritated by phoney Americanisms like ‘train station’ for ‘railway station’ – an American would say ‘depot [dee-po]’ or ‘terminal’. I’ll just get my coat . . .

I hesitate to wade into this quagmire for fear of committing a faux pas myself …

You would not be able to correct a mistake after you hit Submit because there is no editing facility. Perhaps Which? Computing could recommend a better content management system.

Thanks for the explanation Patrick. One solution would be a to allow users to preview their posts before submission.

Emily says:
18 July 2011

To keep the Conversation’s what up to speed?

Sophie Gilbert says:
17 July 2011

Like Rosalyn and Wavechange I have corrected mistakes in menus where I’ve been able to. Spelling mistakes make you wonder if they are just as slapdash in the kitchen. This is an instance where the proof is literally in eating the puding, delicious whether there is a dd, or not?

I just wanted to chip in here and mention Virgin Active’s latest ad campaign. They tell us that their gyms have ‘more weights’ for … ‘less pounds.’ http://instagr.am/p/eG0YZ/

They definitely mean ‘fewer.’ But it’s so high-profile that I can’t help but think it must be deliberate. After all – someone must have proof-read it before they printed lots of posters, mustn’t they?