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Grammar, Punctuation, and the Importance of Online Professionalism

A young man walks into a job interview wearing a tie. It is not tied in a traditional, single Windsor knot, but in a simple double-overhand knot. Should the employer overlook the man’s makeshift appearance due to the fact that he had the tie and not dismiss him because of the incorrect way he tied it?

Who among us cannot relate with the impulse to be influenced by a bad first impression? Is that not our prerogative? Human interaction both allows and begs for second chances. When meeting someone for the first time, many are forgiving enough to look past off-putting behavior. Business interactions, however, can end as quickly as they begin if first impressions are lacking.


What Does This Mean For Your Online Business?

Your homepage is your storefront. Your product pages are your display racks. Your graphics are your atmosphere. And yet all of it can be knocked down several notches, if not completely dismissed, if your salespeople do not have a decent presentation. Your content sections are your salespeople.

There are two groups reading your content:

  1. Those who know precisely what they’re (you’re) missing.
  2. Those who could never tell the difference.


Now, to the first group of well-read Grammar Police, your presentation is about a lingering impression. Rarely will someone lose patronage over a misplaced semi-colon. However, respect will be gained through expertly-placed hyphens. Beyond that, even an atrocious there/their/they’re debacle won’t necessarily send the eye roller running. They may stay simply because they have a need for your product. But your opinion will be invalid beyond that point. Your recommendation will be taken with a grain of salt.

Regardless of how snooty it sounds, the customer has a right to respect their salesperson. If that respect goes out the window, it is up to your product alone to make the sell. Therefore, the salesperson has an obligation to present themselves professionally. Whether on a website, a blog post, or just a comment, nothing is more distracting to someone who knows better than when they see the following:

Their are some mistakes that are unforgivable. Its as if a dealership found it apropreate to play death metal on the showroom floor for there customers. Like nails on a chalk board YOu are slowly adding drops of sludge into the water of a crystal clear reputation by presenting yourself this way.

As for the second group reading your content, they will not catch all eight of the mistakes in the above example. Most readers will catch only six of the mistakes. The goal is to write flawlessly. More often the result is subpar. And, frankly, no one is immune:

nbc                  shcool                              two

With the internet the way it is these days, not only are grammar and punctuation fails hard to forgive, they’re almost impossible to forget. Simple mistakes will snowball quickly!

Bad punctuation, bad spelling, and un-proofed material will lead to a loss of clarity. Moreover, it’s a distraction. If nothing else, use your site as a public service to those who only ever do their reading online. Don’t be yet another contribution to the growing illiteracy of our nation.

Speaking face to face with a salesperson who is using profanity, phrases like “ain’t got none”, or even someone who doesn’t speak loudly and clearly is the equivalent of unedited content. A well-spoken salesperson who speaks even just slightly better than average is like a breath of fresh air to someone who cares. The same applies to a content writer who knows the finer points of punctuation. The fact of the matter is that the minimum, common-knowledge presentation is acceptable. But if it becomes our goal to impress the impressionable in a positive way, positive results will follow.


Grammar Police                                   Homophone/Apostrophe Identifiers                                      Aww, I Have to Read?!


                                      Your Content Here


Here is the breakdown:

Grammar Police have a sadistic fixation with finding faults in the written word. They spend a lot of time on Facebook talking about it. Content at this level will win you respect from the elitists, a good impression, and possibly a repeat customer.

Homophone/Apostrophe Identifiers will not be concerned with much beyond getting to/too/two correct. Getting that wrong is like a Mohawk on someone who is dressed in a suit; it’s not horrible, but it is off-putting. They won’t be too judgmental, but they expect to be respected through a professional presentation.

The Aww, I Have to Read?! group will rely on your site’s pictures more than what your content says.  They will only read if they are serious buyers. Therefore, customers in this category will be customers regardless of what you say or how you present it verbally. By giving them intelligently-produced content, you’re the one doing them a favor.


Do what you can to have your website and its content sit no lower than halfway between the Grammar Police and their impossible, predominantly-unnoticeable standards and the Homophone/Apostrophe Identifiers who are, in fact, just smarter than a fifth grader in this respect. And rather than be like the young man and his tie, if you don’t know what is correct, ask! As professionals trying to cultivate an online presence, we should know better than anyone how to use the internet to our advantage. Do what you can to make sure your business is among the best, even within the most subtle aspects of its presentation.

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