How much does spelling and grammar matter?

Earlier this week, a post on a local Spotted page on Facebook called out the spelling of a sign that stated: “This road will be closed on Wensday.” (But the complainant did not notice or take issue with the fact that the sign added that the closure would last until “15.00pm”.)

Perhaps the poster did not choose the best platform because although a few readers commented that spelling and grammar seemed to have generally gone downhill in recent years, and being able to spell the days of the week is a basic skill, most readers criticised the poster for criticising the road worker.

They argued that it was obvious that the worker meant Wednesday and being able to spell is not a requirement for someone employed to dig holes.

I think both camps raised some valid points, although the manner in which they did so was sometimes unnecessarily rude – as is sadly typical for debates on social media.

I’ve been known to call out silly mistakes myself as examples of why things going into the public domain always benefit from being proofread by a second pair of eyes.

A little typo can make a big difference to meaning. One of my favourite examples is the case of the missing R in a press release I once received from Fiends of the Earth.

It’s no surprise that today’s youngsters often have poor spelling and grammar when they are surrounded by errors made by adults. This birthday card for nine-year-olds is a good example:

How are children supposed to learn what’s right and wrong when people who are supposed to be able to use spelling and grammar properly – such as teachers and journalists – can’t?

I know a lot of teachers and journalists and it makes me despair when their posts on social media reveal they aren’t able to use an apostrophe correctly or don’t understand when to use there/their/they’re.

I feel a bit sorry for the road worker who was publicly humiliated on social media because he couldn’t spell Wednesday. I’m sure he’s good at his job and perhaps English isn’t even his first language. But one of the members of his team should have ensured the sign was written correctly before it went on display.

Having messages written with good spelling and grammar means they stand the best possible chance of being understood or interpreted correctly. It’s important for messages conveying information to the public and it’s important for businesses.

As often as not, I see typos on menus when we go out to eat and drink, and while it doesn’t affect my understanding of what is meant, it does affect how I think about that restaurant/café/pub – and the same goes for other businesses.

How people present themselves or their businesses in writing is an indicator of how much attention they give to detail and how much care they put into things. Bad spelling can make you look less credible and intelligent. Research has shown that when people spot a spelling mistake on a website they will often leave it because they fear it’s fraudulent or not trustworthy. According to a BBC News study, spelling mistakes can cost millions in lost sales.

Bad spelling can even spoil your dating chances. A survey found that 39 percent of singles judged the suitability of potential partners by their grammar – ranking it as more important than their smile or dress sense.

So spelling and grammar definitely matters – it just matters more in some situations than others.