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GOOD GRAMMAR

Alright, smarty pants, I know what's wrong - but how many other people do? And how many care?
 
Just one more question: how many errors are there in total in those two short headlines? (Answer at the bottom, for anyone who isn't sure but still cares.)
 
I was recently sent a web article from Australia, which posits the theory that sales can be halved as a result of howlers in marketing communications. How justifiable such a number might be is academic: if it's even a fraction of that, it is still a lot of lost sales.
We've all seen written signs with "Fresh Tomatoe's" written on them, and the like. My dear departed wife once took it upon herself (an English teacher) to go in and kindly raise their consciousness. I'm not sure they necessarily took it in the spirit in which it was offered.
 
Well anyway, I can hear a chorus at the back, who cares? We know what they're trying to say, don't we? So communication done. And in an era of txt spk, does it really matter? It's only a bunch of pedants like me who actually give a monkey's. (Monkey's what? Let's not go there).
 
And I freely admit to coming from probably the last generation that was actually taught this stuff. At primary school, we had 10 spellings a day to learn and a daily test: woe betide those poor souls who scored less than the maximum and thereby "spoiled the class". And the first half-term in English at Grammar School (the clue's in the name, I guess), was devoted to a detailed breakdown of sentence construction and parts of speech.
 
This also came in handy in French, Spanish, German - and Latin.

WHATS IT MATTER

From around the mid-seventies onwards, the teaching profession itself decided it was more important to get children to express themselves - howsoever - than to write accurately and correctly, and as a result, most of the teachers themselves from the early 80s onwards have been unable to write well. (We received a succession of awful missives from local Heads when my own kids were in education).

So now anyone who can is either branded as an old git (like me) or as the lucky recipient of a private education.

But here's the rub: a large majority of those who are in positions of power and influence - those who can and do make things happen for the rest (like employment opportunities) - generally use this basic skill-set as a differentiator and separator of wheat from chaff.

So even if we are only 20% of the population (the 80/20 rule almost certainly applies yet again), it is a minority with a massively disproportionate influence.

And the attitude of that significant minority can be summed up as follows: "If they [business/service/product] can't even get their basic communications right, the assumption we are bound to make is that their attention to detail is poor and that therefore their product/service/business is probably concomitantly sub-standard. If they're too lazy or careless to get that right, we simply don't trust them."

For many years, there was a high-end second-hand car showroom (Ferraris, Astons, etc) on the Acton stretch of the A40 going into London, called Prestigeous Motors. I used to snigger every time I went by it. As indeed I still do when passing a hairdresser in the next village, called Platiniums.

And for every sniggerer, there's a potential lost sale.

Given the general level of ignorance on the subject, though, what's a business owner to do about it? Quite simply, stop being a cheap-skate and pay a professional either to write your material in the first place, or to edit and proof-read it before you publish. The cost will be more than covered by the sales you won't lose as a result.

And this is arguably even more true on-line, where you don't get any face-to-face interaction. Not to mention the damage to Google rankings that can be wrought by some simple spelling mistakes. As with so many things in life, the devil is in the detail.

I know: I've set myself up as a hostage to fortune, publishing this. There had better not be any obvious howlers in it.

For the record, there are four in the headlines: 1. "Grammar" is mis-spelled (I trust you all got that); 2. since the second part of the sentence relates directly back to the first part, that semi-colon should be a colon (though I accept that in headline terms, it probably wouldn't be employed at all); 3. "What's" should have an apostrophe in it; 4. there is a question mark missing at the end. Easy, innit?

David Croydon: 01844 238692 or e-mail dave@hilltopconsultancy.co.uk




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David Croydon

Hilltop Consultancy
Business Advice Oxford, Oxfordshire