Poor spelling is costing the UK millions of pounds in lost revenue for internet businesses. An analysis of website figures shows that a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half. Some business leaders when recruiting staff have been shocked at the poor quality of written English.
Sales figures suggest that misspellings put off consumers who could have concerns about a website’s credibility. These concerns were echoed by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), whose head of education and skills warned that too many employers had to invest in remedial literacy lessons for their staff.
Owners of travel, mobile telephone, clothing and other websites, say that poor spelling is a serious problem for the online economy which could cost millions. Companies are struggling to recruit enough staff who can spell, meaning that this sector of the economy is not as efficient as it could be.
Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that internet sales in the UK are running at around £600m per week. While bemoaning the education system is nothing new, the problem is growing with more companies now trading online. When a company sells or communicates on the internet, 99% of the time it is done by the written word.
Research has shown that it is possible to identify the specific impact of a spelling mistake on sales. If the revenue per visitor to a specific website is measures before and after an error was corrected, the revenue could be twice as high. If this is projected across the whole of internet retail, then millions of pounds worth of business is probably being lost each week due to simple spelling mistakes.
Spelling is vital for the credibility of a website. When there are underlying concerns about fraud and safety, then getting the basics right is essential. For example, if a consumer is wary of spam or phishing efforts, a misspelt word could be a killer issue.
Application forms from many school and university leavers contain spelling mistakes or poor grammar with some people even using ‘text language’ in their covering letters. Even when it appears that an individual can spell, a written test will often reveal that, without access to a computer spellchecker, further problems became apparent with spelling. These issues are a natural result of the use of language on other, more informal, parts of the internet, such as Facebook, where there is a greater tolerance towards spelling and grammar.
A representative of the CBI believes that 42% of employers are not satisfied with the basic reading and writing skills of school and college leavers and almost half must invest in remedial training to get their staff’s skills up to scratch.
This situation is a real concern and the government must make the improvement of basic literacy and numeracy skills of all school and college leavers a top priority.