“Don’t let Splelling Ruin your Siet”

by Carmine Porco — It’s hard not to notice the spelling mistakes in the title of this article. What was your immediate impression of the author and, of Prescient Digital Media?
Now, imagine someone finding similar bad spelling on your corporate website. It is more common than you might think and yes, it makes people wonder if you’re a fly-by-night operation or worse. Or is it worst?
According to homepage.ntlworld.com the top 3 words that are misspelled on web pages are:
  • miniscule (actual: minuscule)
  • supercede (actual: supersede)
  • accomodation (actual: accommodation).
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? But deos that mkae your stie plaersurable to raed?

Most people who surf the internet say it bothers them when they notice spelling errors. The truth is, correct spelling is an essential part of a well-polished website. A website is often the first part of your business that customers see, and a good first impression is essential to letting them know that you’re serious about what you do. Bad spelling sends a message to readers that you don’t care about details, which can be very dangerous for business.

SpellWonder is a new web tool designed to check your website and help you fix mistakes. It will point out the number of times you misspelled a word, offer suggestions for correct spelling, and then input and track the changes for you. It will even check new content as it is added, and let you choose whether you want to check your site in Canadian, British or American English or Brazilian Portuguese.
There are certainly a lot of online websites that could use some of SpellWonder’s help.
  • The U.S. Libary of Congress has a site of interview techniques;
  • the Government of Saskatchewan is working on wetland managment;
  • the U.S. Department of Justice has ordered its translators to test out new Microsooft software;
  • and the Center for Disease Control has prepared a report on influenza and protecting the pubic’s health.
Yes, sometimes they are just typos but when it comes to first impressions, a typo and a spelling mistake are pretty much the same thing…pubic enemy #1.

(Don’t think the web is the only place spelling mistakes pop up. My personal favourite: an article in the Globe and Mail on former CRTC regulator Keith Spicer: “Now nearing 70, Mr. Spicer looks as vigorous as ever, though his hair may be thinning and his waste thickening.”)

The man behind SpellWonder is Daniel Rostenne, who has seen a number of embarrassing spelling mistakes in his time. Rostenne was managing a content management company when he realized that since clients didn’t spell check their own content before adding it to their site, he could start a business out of doing it for them. From there, the concept blossomed.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people, and everyone’s first reaction when they see spelling mistakes on the web is ‘Ugh, I can’t believe they did that,” says Rostenne. He has been receiving rave reviews for Spell Wonder from people who have tried it on their own web sites.
I tried the beta version on our website and am embarrassed to say it found 335 misspelled words on our site.  Now some of them were words that wouldn’t be in the dictionary such as Electrolux, InfoWorld and Webby. But, what about ‘prestigous’, ‘mangement’ and ‘enganging’? How could this happen, our site has a CMS with a spell checker!

SpellWonder’s only vocabulary obstacle is words in foreign languages or technical words that don’t appear in a standard English dictionary. However, the site’s technology lets you customize and manage your own online dictionary for specialized words like webinar and wireframe (found on the Prescient website).

Of course, spelling is just scratching the surface of online content problems. Grammar, formatting, localized spelling (Canadian vs U.S. spelling), using euphemisms and jargon, etc. are all important. Check out our article, Writing for the Web, for more insight.

For more information consider enrolling in Prescient’s Writing and Editing for the Web - full day workshop.

A Senior Internet Business Consultant and a regular writer and speaker, Carmine Porco is the Vice-President of Prescient Digital Media. For more information on Prescient’s CMS Blueprint service, or for a free copy of the white paper “Finding ROI”, please contact us.