Fifty-nine percent of consumers in the United Kingdom (UK) would chose to not do business with a company if the grammar on their website or public marketing collateral was poor, according to a 2013 report carried out by Global Lingo. While this may seem a bit ‘superficial’, it makes sense. If a company can’t commit to ensuring that its most public medium is at a minimum grammatically correct, what kind of confidence does this instill in any potential new customer?
As any DIY-enthusiast will tell you, there is nothing more infuriating than when you’ve diligently unpacked whatever it is that you are about to assemble, carefully placed your cup of tea in a shielded but reachable location and are then faced with a set of instructions that make absolutely no sense. As an example, I once spent eight hours assembling a bed which, on paper, said would take three. Now, you could say that this was perhaps due to ineptitude on my behalf but having assembled various pieces of household furniture on time and on several occasions, I’d like to think that this was not the case. It all came down to the set of instructions which were loosely translated and poorly illustrated.
As annoying as the above example was it proved to be the perfect basis for this article on the importance of editing and translating key technical and marketing documentation. After years of unofficially assuming the role of content-editor at numerous companies, the moral dilemma I constantly find myself dealing with (‘do I continue to share these poorly written documents I’ve been handed, or do I do something about it ‘) has resulted me in finally picking up the pencil (well – laptop) and detailing my experience in this article. Arguably the silver-lining is that it really has let me hone in on a couple of basic (and I mean it – basic) tips on how to avoid such a simple pitfall and to ensure your business doesn’t lose new custom in such an easily-avoidable manner.
So, why did I do assume this additional role which was never officially part of my remit, you ask? As a fresh graduate looking to make a name for himself, I was horrified to see how some businesses operated. Whether it was a case of knowingly sharing poorly written items of marketing collateral with prospects or loosely translating key technical documentation, I was sincerely contemplating retiring at 26. Something needed to change.
Now, unlike some of the other articles I’ve written in the past which prescribe the need to make more comprehensive changes (think ‘Digital Transformation’), the changes one needs to make to avoid the above mistakes are reasonably straight forward. Not only this, but when introduced correctly can lead to considerable increases in productivity, as previously ambiguous instructions are avoided.
First and perhaps most obvious – and this is targeted to companies who operate in multiple geographies, would be to dedicate a resource either internally (i.e. a dedicated employee) or externally (i.e. an agency) to ensure that all collateral is properly localized. While this may seem obvious to some, I’ve realized that many companies seem to adopt a very impromptu approach when it comes to the translation of collateral. What this means is that they appear to have a disregard for local terminology and rhetoric, rely predominantly on the (limited) talents of Google Translate.
With a wealth of reasonably-priced agencies readily available to assist businesses with this often-arduous process, it is no wonder that off the same UK customers surveyed in the above report, around 89% of them indicated that they would decide to forgo a specific business if the published content was poorly translated into English. This statistic becomes even more significant when the more technical business start taking liberties with the translations of their documentation. Let’s not forget, just like in my example above, end-users are not reading these documents for their own enjoyment. They expect to be able to quickly find what they need, follow the clear instructions, and then return to living their day-to-day lives.
Second – emails. Disregard the total number of emails you receive daily, this is not an excuse. Regardless of what this figure may be, it is still crucial to maintain a certain level of professionalism when communicating with people both inside and outside of the business. Regardless of whether you’re sending an email to the CEO or a prospective customer, each email should be edited using the same fine-tooth comb for both. Yes, the odd typo or grammatical error is acceptable, but poorly composed emails with little attention to proper grammar or spelling (for some truly horrific examples see here) should not be accepted.
Poorly written emails can oftentimes leave the recipient more confused as to what the intention of the email was in the first place. As a result, this leads to wasted time spent emailing each other back-and-forth to try and understand what was required in the first place.
Of the two examples listed above, arguably the second one is the easiest to resolve. As a business owner, c-level executive, or manager of a specific department, it is essential that you instill a culture of proof-reading with your employees. That’s because, many people that I’ve spoken to who also share these same sentiments state that if there is a spelling or grammatical mistake in the first couple of sentences, they lose the desire to read the rest of the email. This is partly explained by the fact that the recipient knows that it will require a lot more cognitive dedication to decipher the poorly written email and, therefore, doesn’t feel like exerting the necessary effort. Also, it’s a lack on courtesy on the senders’ behalf!
With regards to the first example, there are several agencies that can help with content localization. Regardless of whether you want to break into a new market or retain the existing users you have in a market you already operate in, it is paramount that you produce content and collateral that’s relevant and easy to understand in those unique markets.