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The Real Cost of Poor English

A problem with being an English language teacher is that I am surrounded by language for most of my waking hours and it’s hard to hear (or read) mistakes without wanting to help the speaker (or writer) to correct them. I have had to become tolerant of English mistakes that are beyond my control. However, where high quality language is expected but not delivered, I remain intolerant and am very pleased to read that creditable research shows how negative the effect of poor English really is.

75% of 1000 businesses surveyed by Royal Mail said that they do not trust businesses which use poor spelling and grammar. 30% said that they won’t do business with companies which make such mistakes.

Trust is a basic part of any relationship. The lack of it or loss of it is mostly a fatal blow to a relationship. In business there is invariably another company waiting for their competitor’s relationship with the big customer to fail, at which point they quickly step in to fill the gap.

Business thrives on seeing a hot opportunity and being the first to grab it. But if an opportunity is so hot that gloves must be worn to show it off to the market and the customers definitely expect to see gloves being worn, they may become wary and mistrustful when they notice a hole in the glove. Consequently the real cost to any company is when potential customers decide, because of their mistrust, either not to buy at all or that they need lots of reassurance that the holey glove in a genuine mistake. More importantly they will need convincing that in no way does the hole reflect the company’s  sloppy and unprofessional attitude to business.

Imagine a presentation to a potential customer with an opening slide which reads: ‘Partner’s in Profitability – Synthesising our Resauces.’ The presenter has, in effect, chosen to wear their old and very holey gardening gloves to entice their listeners into trusting them and in so doing has made sure that their potential customer is one of the mistrustful 75%. Asking a colleague to check the English on this slide would cost nothing, if this potential customer decides to look elsewhere for a partner, the real cost of this poor English quickly becomes very significant

Posted November 16th, 2011 In Blog

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