Why Bad English is Bad for Business

English may have gatecrashed the official Luxembourgish language club, but it’s the life and soul of the party.

English is everywhere: local news sites, government portals, social media campaigns. That’s because it’s good business:

  • 47.9% of the population of Luxembourg are foreign
  • More than 170 nationalities live in the Grand Duchy
  • English is the most common language of the EU — 38% speak it as a foreign language
  • Worldwide, English is the language most taught as a foreign language

But because of this melting pot, the standard of English can be bad. It’s forgivable in a social setting — if we avoided making mistakes in a foreign language here, we’d never get anything done — but in business it’s risky.

The Cost of Mistakes

If your company’s content is peppered with errors and awkward English phrasing, your customers will lose trust in your products and services.

But don’t just take my word for it:

  • A BBC report estimates that customer spending on websites can be halved by a spelling mistake, costing millions of pounds in revenue.
  • In a survey by Global Lingo which polled 1,029 UK residents:
  • 59% would not use a website that had obvious spelling and grammar mistakes
  • 82% would not use a company that had incorrectly translated its content into English

In a saturated market, your content has mere seconds to make an impression on your audience. You don’t just need sparkling copy to get people in the door. To get conversions, your website and marketing campaigns need to be flawless. So it’s in your best interest to whip your English into shape.

Beware of the Spell Checker

And if you think running a spell checker on your content is enough, I have bad news. You’ll still have these howlers falling through the cracks:

  • Homophonic errors (there, their, they’re)
  • Typos that are real words
  • Translated phrases that are grammatically correct but don’t convey your intended meaning

Still not convinced? This Lifehack article has ten excellent examples of why a spell checker is as leaky as a colander.

False Friends

So how do you know if your English needs a helping hand? Let’s take a look at some common errors that come across my desk on a regular basis:

  • “I took a coffee with her”, instead of “I had a coffee with her”.
  • “How to make a good CV”, instead of “how to write a good CV”.
  • “I controlled their work”, instead of “I checked their work”.
  • In former times I was a writer”, instead of “I used to be a writer.”
  • “My colleagues are very sympathetic”, instead of “my colleagues are very nice
  • “I present you Marc”, instead of “I’d like to introduce you to Marc”.

You wouldn’t submit a CV riddled with typos and grammar errors in your own language, but I see these mistakes every day in marketing materials and social media campaigns. You only get one chance to make a first impression — so call in an expert to do the heavy lifting.

Do I Need a Writer or an Editor?

It depends on your level of English. If the common errors listed earlier look familiar, it’s more cost-effective to hire a native English writer. You’ll have both engaging and accurate content that appeals to your audience, using your company’s unique voice.

For example, SEO-optimised, flawless content will attract people to your website and increase your conversions.

A native English editor is a better fit if your content has minimal spelling and grammar mistakes, but the wording needs some tweaking. If you are translating phrases from your native language that read awkwardly in English, your intended meaning may be lost. In this case, an English editor will not only proofread your content, but also rework sections for style, intended meaning and SEO optimisation.


Originally published at yvonnereilly.com on November 12, 2018.