If Social Media-ites Can’t Spell or Write, So What?

I read an article earlier today about the cost of website spelling mistakes to businesses in the UK. I find spelling, grammar, and other such mistakes — on company websites, blog posts, LinkedIn and Facebook pages, email, ads, etc. — to be a minor irritation, at best. You might recall a “Barney Miller” episode in which a linguist defaces a billboard because it has the term “crunchalicious” — that’s kind of how I feel about badly written webpages and most social media posting. OK, so I might be a little overboard, to some. I don’t set out to be a “spelling Nazi” but when I see sloppiness occur with increasing frequency on the web — and especially in social media — I take it as a general lack of concern about quality.

“Why don’t you call it ‘ko-ko-kosherrific’?”
(Barney Miller, episode 135)

I know that many of you will say something like, “If you have to take time to edit every blog post or tweet, you lose the immediacy, the spontaneity…the whole reason for many social media tools!” My answer to that is that the traditional media, in a rush to capture as many eyes as quickly as possible, regardless of the truth or the consequences of blasting misinformation (like ruining reputations), have cheapened their product. Purposeful or not, they’ve lowered the bar for everyone else.

Careful editing of content — proofreading — was once a necessity. It separated quality news reporting from tabloid journalism; great reputations were built on the smallest details. And then, the bean counters took over.

Revenues dropped at newspapers and TV stations even with quality measures in place, so “bottom line” types decided cost centers like editing and proofreading had to go. But guess what? Revenues are still dropping. Newspaper content is as bad as or worse than what’s on the Internet and social media, but people can get equally poor quality faster and for less money.

What should be a key differentiator — quality — is rarely practiced any more. Quality adds value to any and all products. We see discerning consumers demand quality from producers; they’re willing to pay more to get value.

So, what comes first? Do we, as consumers, learn to be pickier? Do we shed our complacency, or do we continue to expect less and less?

Or, do we, the producers, stop following everyone else on the downward spiral and begin to provide more and more value?

Does it even matter? What do you think?


1. Coughlan, Sean, “Spelling Mistakes ‘Cost Millions’ in Lost Online Sales”, BBC News-Education & Family, 13 July 2011 – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-14130854.

2. “Barney Miller”, episode 135 (“The Psychic”), originally aired 5 February 1981 on ABC.

3. Stirling, Johanna, “Improving Spelling – Whose Responsibility Is It?”, The Spelling Blog, 2 July 2011 – http://thespellingblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/improving-spelling-whose-responsibility.html.

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