These mistakes in English could cost you business

I received an email recently, asking me to complete a feedback survey. This is what it said:

Complete our 1 Minute Customer Service Survey and Win an iPad2!

Years of experience writing Prize Draw enticements for Reader’s Digest have sharpened my reflexes about such headlines. As you can see, the headline promises an iPad2 just for completing the survey, and clearly that is not believable.

The headline should have said, “Complete the survey for a chance to win …” or “Complete the survey and you could win …”

Of course, there is a sub-head that does state that, but the headline itself is misleading and Reader’s Digest would have got into serious trouble if they had ever used such sloppy language. And there’s more.

There were grammatical error within the survey itself, concluding with: We have now entered your details to the Prize Draw to win an iPad. As every schoolboy knows, you don’t enter anything TO a Draw, you enter the details IN the Draw.

Why do such errors matter? For two reasons. First, it diminishes the sender in the eyes of the recipient, and second, it creates a pause in the dialogue between the two – a pause that could (and did, in my case) result in the sender not getting what he wanted.

The frenetic pace at which business is done these days may cause some to think it does not matter, that it’s just a numbers game, that enough people will neither notice nor care that the grammar was poor. If so, that would be a misguided view.

Good impressions are hard to create, and poor impressions are very hard to eradicate.

Here are a few common shibboleths (taken from published material) :
• Between you and I …
• Thanks for inviting Jane and I …
• The ebook is comprised of …
• I would hence encourage you …

Good grammar may not be fundamental to the success of your business, but it fits within the PR purpose. And there are enough good writers about who could remove these obstacles to a business relationship built on good impressions.

Get it wrong and it could cost you business.


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