Some people get really exercised about things like whether there should be one space or two after a period. Researchers have found that, for those who prefer two spaces (the norm back in typewriter days), having those two spaces helps them read a millisecond faster. People who normally use a single space don’t read any faster with two spaces after the period. And this has only been tested in typewriter-style Courier New font.
Most people will not be really excited about this. Or the Oxford comma. Or the fact that we’re using “or” at the beginnings of sentences.
Grammar and punctuation matter on the web
- People who don’t (or can’t) proofread are less trustworthy in the minds of people who do. Accuracy makes your website look legit. This is, at least in part, because major websites are careful about grammar and punctuation. Spammers aren’t. Even readers who aren’t emotional about punctuation are still affected by this largely subconscious feeling that errors are a sign of untrustworthiness.
- People who care a lot about punctuation consciously believe that a surgeon whose website has comma faults might not be a good surgeon. If you’re willing to accept errors at your website, they figure, you might be willing to accept errors in the operating theater.
- Google cares. The patent for Google’s top secret algorithm specifically mentions spelling errors as a sign of bad websites. Since errors tend to be higher at spammy websites and low at high authority websites, those errors are a good way for a machine to identify spammy websites.
Good writing matters in general
Human webmasters link to good content: content that is useful, entertaining, and informative. Links are an essential element of SEO.
Also, robots don’t buy from you, make appointments with you, or tell their friends about you. Human beings prefer clear, well-written articles that make a clear point. Stylishly written stuff keeps your visitors coming back for more. Your blogger should produce content that makes you proud of your website.
Not only should your web content be well-written, it should also be informative and accurate. Studies have shown, for example, that more than half of the medical information people access on the web is inaccurate. Making a change in that statistic is one of the things that gets us up in the morning.
Keep your focus clear
So good writing matters, all the way down to the spaces between sentences. But your blogger or copywriter’s job is not primarily to produce literary gems.
The point is to make sales, generate leads, educate patients, provide thought leadership — whatever your website’s job is.
Any writing that doesn’t move that goal forward isn’t doing its job. Your decisions about your website content should focus on increasing traffic, reducing friction, and providing value for your visitors.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and state that the number of spaces after a period will not affect any of your major KPIs.
Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between good writing and effective writing. Good writing does better when it comes to SEO and conversion. But that’s good online writing, good SEO writing. Hire a good writer and then use data to make strategic decisions about your online content.