Does Spelling and Grammar Matter?

8 06 2013

Does spelling and grammar matter? I think so!

It truly baffles me that so many employers on freelance bidding sites such as Freelancer, Elance and People Per Hour are willing to accept substandard writing for their website projects. The number of people paying a paltry few pounds or dollars for article rewriting, article spinning, or even original articles for, at most, $4 per 500 words, is – to me – unbelievable.

Of course, I know what’s going on here: pay-per-click advertising on the cheap. Done well, niche websites and article bases provide a very useful service to people who are genuinely looking for quality information on a certain topic – in fact, I’m writing some health articles for an article base-style website right now. Often however, niche sites are dumped full of cheap, badly written, keyword-rich content that serves little or no use to the poor visitor who has been duped into accessing the site because of a high pagerank. If even a very few of these visitors click an ad from time to time, it can make the site profitable, which is all the owners care about.


What is even more incomprehensible to me is the number of people wanting copy-editors or proofreaders, who choose providers who clearly, from their bids, have a substandard level of English. But again, cost wins over quality: experienced and qualified proofreaders are relatively expensive – the UK’s Society for Editors and Proofreaders recommends a minimum hourly rate of £21.40, whereas non-native English speakers, and even unqualified, inexperienced native English speakers, offer their ‘services’ for well, well below the going rate.

I just don’t get it. If you want someone to write a high quality, error-free article, or to check and correct work for spelling, grammar and punctuation, then WHY ON EARTH would you hire someone who was clearly incapable just because they were cheap!? It’s like asking a chef to build you a house, or going to see a hairdresser for a health check – sure, they could have a go, but would they do a good job? Not likely. If you open a project asking for a copywriter, for example, and you get a very cheap bid from someone who says, “I am experiencing about WRITING task. In your Pm, I give some document which I worked in the past…. If, you think I am the right person for this please assign me now. You won’t be looser” (an example of a GENUINE bid, by the way!), for god’s sake don’t hire them! No offence is intended to anyone from any nationality, it’s simply a case of choosing the right person for the job and getting what you pay for.

Just because someone has a British, American or Canadian (etc.) flag next to their Freelancer profile, it doesn’t automatically mean that they have the skills to do a good job – and the tell-tale sign of inexperience or poor quality is often, though not always, the low price that they are willing to be paid. Equally, if someone is from a non-native English speaking country, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t a good editor, but for goodness sake employers, you need to do a background check! (As an aside, just because someone has a flag of any nationality on their Freelancer profile doesn’t necessarily mean that they are actually from that country, but that’s a blog post for another time…)

So, before I started tearing my hair out and wondering why on earth I bother even being a member of these freelance bidding sites (the jury’s still out…), I was pleased to find encouragement and reassurance from two sources this week. Firstly, I remembered that  I’d posted a poll on survey website Panelbase in which I posed the question, “Does spelling and grammar matter in this day and age?”. Logging into my account for the first time in ages, I was pleased to note that almost 500 people have now responded to this poll, with a staggering 80% agreeing that yes, spelling and grammar always matters. In addition, a further 17% felt that spelling and grammar matters, but it depends on the situation. Phew, it’s not just me then!

The second thing that encouraged me was this YouTube video from Google, which I found whilst browsing the Editorial Training blog. Although Google do not currently include spelling and grammar as a parameter for calculating pagerank, there is a clear trend for lower quality writing on lower ranked pages. In other words, poorly written websites, regardless of keywords or content, don’t do as well in Google rankings as good quality, well written websites, so if you want your website to succeed, you would do well to invest in a good quality writer and/or editor to improve your prospects.

If you are interested in hiring an experienced, high quality writer and/or an exceptional copy-editor and proofreader, click this way…



2 responses

8 06 2013

Yes! It is a shame. Unfortunately, competition from less competent writers drives the market price down. Spelling and grammar should count, but another feature used by some non-native English speakers is the automated online translator, which is easily recognizable. Because I speak more than one language, I have been approached to write articles in those other languages. However, I always decline. Call me crazy, but I am not so bold to think I am able to write as well as a native speaker of the language.

Sadly, the importance of proper spelling and grammar extends beyond the freelance writing realm. I see a trend in dismissing grammar and spelling in my primary job, where I work as a TESOL instructor. It is not unusual for a student to ask why they did not get a high score on an assignment. When I point out that they have made several spelling errors, the reply is, “Does that really matter? You really deduct points for spelling? Mind you, this is a course that certifies students have the skills to teach the English language abroad. It never ceases to amaze me.

Another point you address is well worth another blog. I happen to reside in Latin America and I do not feel I should mislead potential clients, so I list the country of my residence on my profiles. Often, I will write a very well written and comprehensive proposal, only to be dismissed because it is assumed I am not a native English speaker. Yet, in the first few sentences of my introduction I make it clear that I am a native speaker of the U.S. English language. In addition, I include my qualifications and degrees.

I only provide proposals when I know I have met all the requirements, but I often receive rejections claiming I did not read or apply as instructed or I did not address the requirements. What it comes down to, is the potential client has made a decision based only on country, because if they would have taken the time to read my proposal they would see that I did meet or exceed the requirements. It is so frustrating to be accused of something you did not do. Some, will post that they are looking for a writer in the U.S. and in those cases, I do not apply. By beef is with those who do not post that preference. Not only is it disheartening to know your proposal was never read, I also wasted considerable time in preparing and proofreading it. In the end, after the shock wears off, I decide that it probably was for the best. Would I truly want to work for someone, who does not take the time to read what is written?

10 06 2013

It’s frustrating, isn’t it?! I’m spending less and less time these days using as it is intended to be used. Most of my time spent on the site is spent reporting violations or digging up fodder for blog posts! It just isn’t a good use of my time to sit and trawl through the hundreds of so-called ‘projects’ that arrive in my inbox each week, or, as you rightly point out, to spend a considerable amount of time crafting well written proposals for those projects that do seem worthy in an effort to convince employers of my abilities and expertise, when they are only interested in who is cheapest.

I will do a blog about nationality flags on Freelancer, watch this space when I have a few moments!

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