Do Your Visitors Care About Punctuation?

Recently I’ve seen a lot of websites with one particular punctuation error. Of course, I’ve seen lots of different punctuation errors, but there is one in particular that has been so prevalent recently that yesterday I burst out, “How can you trust people who misuse apostrophes so wantonly?!”

The person showing me the website looked at me with consternation. You might have done the same. After all, if everyone were bothered by the punctuation errors, then there probably wouldn’t be so many.

But you might consider checking the punctuation at your website. Here’s why:

  • Large companies with high-ranking websites don’t have punctuation errors. Whether there is causation involved as well as correlation is open to debate, but this is a fact. You just won’t see those errors at the websites of highly-respected companies.
  • People who notice punctuation errors believe that they are a sign of slipshod work. They figure that people who don’t bother to proofread carefully also won’t bother to tighten the lug nuts or measure accurately or follow the protocols or whatever is relevant to the goods and services they contemplate buying from you. Do you want to eliminate that whole segment of the population from your target market?
  • It’s not that hard to fix. If you have no one on your staff who can proofread well, then you can easily hire someone to do it for you. Making the changes takes only a minute or two for your webmaster. This is probably one of the easiest fixes you’ll ever make.

The particular punctuation error that got my attention? The use of the apostrophe in “its” and “it’s.” Here’s an example:

its

The basic rule is very simple: while the apostrophe is commonly used to show possession, as in “This is Rebecca’s blog,” for the word “it” we have all agreed that the apostrophe will only be used for the contraction “it is.” Therefore, the first sentence is really saying, “Our business model is the first of it is kind in the hunting industry.”

The second sentence says that “it is cost effective to outfitters.” Good news there. But a couple of sentences later, we’re told that “ServiceMagic provides it is member contractors…”

Now, of course I understand that the owners of this website really meant that their business model is the first of its kind, and that ServiceMagic provides something to its member contractors. But I’m not at all sure that people who aren’t detail-oriented enough to master the correct use of apostrophes ought to be trusted with guns.

It’s very easy to end up with punctuation errors in your web copy, either through actual misunderstanding or ignorance of punctuation rules, or just because of slips of the fingers on the keys. It’s also easy to fix them. And worth doing.

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