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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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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.


Very sly Wavechange… 😉 We don’t currently have an editing system as they can be open to abuse, leading to post edits when a point has been criticised. However, we’re looking in to the functionality for future development 🙂


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


You get that chance before you click the submit button 😉 We want the commenting system to be as quick as possible in order to keep the Conversation’s up-to-speed. However, we are looking into a time-limited editing system.

On topic though – I wouldn’t worry about typos in comments. Comments on a social website are quick and often straight off the top of your head, meaning there’s not time to check for mistakes. Instead, websites which offer a service have a duty to check and double check for mistakes, making the errors harder to forgive.

Emily says:
18 July 2011

To keep the Conversation’s what up to speed?


Well spotted. I won’t edit out the error 😉 it should say ‘Conversations’. But as I said, I wouldn’t worry about typos in comments.

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?


Well, the poll’s pretty conclusive so far – 92% think spelling and grammar must be accurate.


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?