In answering this question, I’m referring specifically to corporate profile pages and communications via sites like Facebook. Though I’ll confess poor spelling and grammar always bugs me (something to which my long-suffering boyfriend will attest), I’m not in any way suggesting that my friends and family should take an English language course before being allowed to update their statuses or comment on my photos. To a certain extent, my attitude is relaxed when considering Twitter in this argument too, since the very fact that you can only write 140 characters per tweet often necessitates the use of “txt spk” in order to fit your point into the required character count.
My editorial eye seems naturally drawn to spelling mistakes, typographical errors, use of the wrong words, word repetition and poor grammar. I can’t help but notice. Sometimes, while reading The Times (a frequent culprit), in a throwback to my days as a school teacher, I’ll circle the mistakes in red pen; I’ve yet to go so far as to send the edited article back from whence it came, but perhaps I ought. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks it’s a crime for published media to contain errors, especially those institutions like the aforementioned Times who portray a professional image and, after all, whose business it is to make sense.
But what of social media? Anyone who’s anyone has a Facebook profile, and more and more businesses are cottoning on to the fact that they can meet their clients on a social, more informal level and create opportunities for interaction, rather than just stuffing leaflets through our doors or sending emails to our inboxes and hoping we’ll read them. Facebook is cool, and creating a social media buzz about a product, a company or a campaign is hot right now.
A friend living in Ireland, who clearly feels the same way as I do on this issue, posted a screenshot of this to his Facebook page today:
“Be the Difference” is a campaign being run by the Irish branch of O2, one of the UK’s biggest mobile phone and communications networks, to promote their involvement in sponsoring Irish rugby. As my friend pointed out, it helps if you read it in an Irish accent (“we taught we’d help you out!”), but going by the numerous other errors in this short advertorial piece, I’m not convinced it’s meant to be that humorous!
Is it OK to let mistakes like this slip just because it’s on Facebook? I have no doubt that O2 and other large companies have proof readers and editors cast a final glance over their TV, billboard and magazine ads, so why not their social media ads too? Or, to cut out an extra step in the process (because clearly the up-to-the-minute nature of social media marketing means that a large volume of material is generated on a daily basis), why not hire marketeers that can spell and use grammar correctly in the first place? Perhaps there is an argument that most people won’t notice; that Average Joe can’t spell so why should it matter? I strongly contest this. To my mind, correct spelling, grammar and use of the English language – especially in corporate communications – demonstrates professionalism, shows that a company is intelligent and that it knows what it’s talking about. Of course, having a great product or service that people actually want is crucial, but so is the way that that product or service – and the company as a whole – is portrayed to the consumer. Excepting deliberate use of poor grammar and spelling for humorous intent, sloppy standards and dumbing down don’t work for me, I’m afraid.