By Lisa Hester, Senior Account Manager

In our last blog post, we talked about building trust with clients. Today, we talk a bit about building credibility. One sure way to raise doubt with clients about your credibility is to be sloppy in your written reports and correspondence with them. A couple of typographical errors and/or a misused word here and there will make them think twice about whether they are comfortable with you representing them.

How important is good grammar and spelling? Well, the famed book The Elements of Style, published in 1923, comprised eight elementary rules of usage, 10 elementary principals of composition, a list of 49 words commonly misused and 57 words commonly misspelled. Some 91 years later, Time magazine named it as one of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923.

As a recent article in Entrepreneur points out, “…In the world of business, it’s important to check for grammar and spelling errors for three reasons:

  1. It limits the chances that your message will be misunderstood or misinterpreted.
  2. It reflects your credibility, intelligence and reliability.
  3. It indicates that you care about how you do business.”

Think about it this way, the article continues…”What is your first impression when you view a company’s website and discover it is filled with typographical, spelling or grammatical errors? You are likely to dismiss that site and move on to the next, which can be disastrous for the company’s long-term survival.”

These days, I read often about the challenges of knowing when to use their, there and they’re. It’s been talked about a lot, so hopefully you’ve got the uses down pat. But here are other errors I see frequently in writings.

I, for one, cringe at Ford’s latest slogan, “Go Further.” I suspect they’re trying to play up on a double meaning. But, in fact, further and farther are not interchangeable. They have different meanings. According to the AP Stylebook, further refers to an extension of time or degree, while farther refers to physical distance. So what message is Ford actually trying to convey by that slogan? I’m not clear. (Don’t even get me started on vehicle ads. It brings to mind Cadillac’s improperly structured “Dare greatly,” which is not grammatically correct either.)

One phrase I see so frequently written and spoken incorrectly in business is home in vs. hone in.

As the Merriam-Webster Dictionary explains, “Most usage commentators consider hone in to be a mistake for home in.” However, hone in has become so common, it is now widely accepted. Even so, your use of it, especially in writing, is likely to be called a mistake. Home in or in figurative use zero in is an easy alternative.

Here are a few more miscellaneous words and phrases I see misspelled frequently. Test your knowledge on these.

Toward vs towards = no “s” at the end of toward

dos and don’ts = not do’s…no apostrophe with dos

Yeses and nos…no apostrophe with either

A lot vs alot = a lot

No-one vs noone vs no one = no one

Low and behold …correct = lo and behold

Wreak havoc vs wreck havoc = wreak havoc

You may be familiar with these tricky plural forms…attorneys general and mothers-in-law… but what then about the plural for tablespoonful? Tablespoonfuls. The plural of runner-up? Runners-up.

What about those apple-shaped streets within your neighborhood? culs-de-sac

And just in time for our Halloween writings, more than one jack-o-lantern is jack-o-lanterns.

All that to say, don’t underestimate the power of being accurate. Write, check your work and re-check it before communicating with a client. Poor grammar and misspelled words do leave an impression…a bad impression. Not what you need when you’re working to win a client’s confidence and show your credibility. If you’ve never read it, I suggest you get a copy of what’s commonly known as “Strunk & White,” published as The Elements of Style. It’s a great start. Just ask Time magazine.