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The Typos and Language Errors that Turn Visitors Away

Stephen Logan

by Stephen Logan on 15th January 2010

Very few of us can boast immaculate spelling and grammar. We are all susceptible to the odd slip; however, that shouldn’t be an excuse to allow errors to creep on to the pages of your website.Consulting a dictionary or, easier still, running your work through a spell checker takes no time at all. Neither, for that matter, does a thorough proof read. Whilst some mistakes might slip through the cracks, some are unforgivable.

For example, what if you misspell one of your site’s keywords? Suddenly not only do you lose credibility for what is supposed to be a subject on which you are an authority, but you also jeopardise your SEO chances too.  Being top of the rankings for a typo is pretty poor form in anybody’s books.

Sometimes there are errors that slip through that we don’t see. In most instances they are technically correct, however, when placed in the context of what you have written, are in fact incorrect. Confused? Well, here are a few common examples:

Too/to – You can’t have to much of a good thing, for one good reason, it should be ‘too much’. Too often an erroneous ‘to’ slips in where it’s not welcome, the reverse is also true of course. Whilst ‘to’ is a preposition ‘too’ is an adverb meant to denote a noun that is excessive or used in place of ‘as well as’.

They’re/their/there – This is a sticky one. The first thing to say is that ‘they’re‘ is just an abbreviated (conjunction) form of ‘they are‘, so shouldn’t be used in any there or their situation. ‘Their’ refers to anything that relates to a person or group of people – ‘this is their word, so let’s leave it at that’. ‘There’ or on the other hand refers to places and acts as an adverb, although there are plenty of other examples to choose from .

Referring to people – their
Referring to places – there
Trying to say they are – they’re

Bear/bare – a bear may be an animal, but it is also a word that you really need to bear in mind when writing website copy. Bare on the other hand indicates something wholly different, suggesting something that is naked or otherwise exposed. Getting these two mixed up can lead to some very strange misunderstandings. Things come to bear, they can be bearable but should rarely come to bare.

Advice/advise – strangely this is quite a common one. In simple terms you can offer advice, or you can choose to advise somebody. The trick to unravelling this is by pronouncing both, advice has an ending that is phonetically the same as ‘nice’ or ‘rice’, whilst ‘advise’ sounds more like ‘wise’. So you can give advice, just never provide advise.

Apostrophes – Other issues relate to the use of apostrophes. These are most commonly used within conjunctions, which are two words combined in to one – for example you’re (you are), they’re (they are), aren’t (are not) it’s (it is).

Another common use is to imply a sense of belonging. For example, this is Koozai’s Blog, not Koozais Blog. In the case of anything that is just a standard plural term an apostrophe should never be used – books, CDs etc. Where a word ends with an ‘s’ naturally (or is a plural) that belongs to an item then you can either put an apostrophe at the end alone, or an apostrophe followed by another ‘s’ – The Times’ article was hopelessly biased, or The Times’s article wasn’t without its merits. Both are acceptable, but the lone apostrophe is becoming more common, in the UK particularly.

As you are probably already well aware, there are plenty of potential banana skins within the English language. Verb confusions, mislaid apostrophes and improperly used conjunctions are just a few. The issues raised are in fact just a smattering of the errors you are likely to encounter day-to-day when browsing the Internet.

In terms of your website, it is hugely important that you eradicate as many of these issues as possible. Consistency and accuracy are two of the things that help us determine whether a business is trustworthy or not. In the fast moving world of the Internet you can’t afford to be making a poor first impression, so making sure your copy is up to scratch is essential; here’s hoping this post is up to scratch too!

So what are the errors that turn you away from a site? What language mistakes have you stumbled upon that left you wondering whether to laugh or cry? What really gets your goat? As always, we’d love to know.

Stephen Logan

Stephen Logan

Stephen Logan is our Senior Content Marketer at Koozai. With four years experience writing exclusively for the search engine marketing industry, he has amassed a wealth of industry related knowledge. He will be breaking news stories and contributing compelling SEO related stories.


  • George - Planet Anarky 18th January 2010

    An interesting point. I (personally) think businesses should write their content in the native version of their language – since search engines can recognise both, and will suggest alternative spellings if required…and mostly because American spelling on an English site feels like a waste of effort in terms of duplicating content all for the sake of the word ‘optimize’ vs ‘optimise’.

    Plus I doubt there are any words that, given an American spelling vs an English one, would rank a site any better…

    Reply to this comment

  • Colin Differ

    Colin 19th January 2010

    One that I see the most is people getting mixed up between “whose” and “who’s”. I have to admit that I always have to be careful when writing “whether” and “weather” and quite often will have to correct myself.

    Reply to this comment

  • Stephen Logan

    Stephen 19th January 2010

    I’m inclined to agree. If I visit a .co.uk website, which is clearly for the British market, American spellings would appear to me as a language error. Apart from product or company names, there’s no reason for UK sites to use phrases like utilize and color, whilst equally US sites shouldn’t write utilise or colour on their pages.

    Another issue that I’ve noticed are misplaced double letters. For example, ‘interrupt’ is the correct spelling, but you quite often see ‘interupt’ – just one of many issues with double letters, particularly with a ‘p’ or ‘r’. On the other hand, fulfil is the proper UK spelling, but fullfil, fulfill and even fullfill are just some of the ways I’ve seen it written. Again, these are more typos (although fulfill is actually used in the US), but they are easy mistakes to make and will detract from the rest of a site’s content.

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  • George - Planet Anarky 19th January 2010

    I see what you mean. I suppose, being from a content-management background, my perspective is how much effort would be required to ensure:

    1) No penalties from search engines for what they might interpret as duplicate content between a .co.uk and a .com (thought this could be managed relatively easily with the ‘canonical’ tag)
    2) The effort involved in creating (and, more importantly, maintaining) the two versions of content
    3) …and whether the business return was worth it after the above in terms of US market penetration, based on the content spelling

    On the typo angle, I can’t abide by typos – regardless of whether it was considered to be for search optimisation. I suspect that’s the spelling & grammar policeman in me, though. ;)

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  • George - Planet Anarky 19th January 2010

    How did the SE’s view the site that had hard-coded spelling alterations? It’s pretty intriguing, I admit – but only because I’m in the throes of some duplicate content issues. :)

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  • malcolm coles 20th January 2010

    There are several of these changes it seems. Some Americanisms (search for colour and you get color results), some dealing with common misspellings (stationary / stationery – where searching for the former just returns the latter – more on that here: http://www.malcolmcoles.co.uk/blog/googles-spelling-problems-are-worse-than-we-thought/ etc. Google is also fixing spellings in its autocomplete (there’s a post on my blog on that too but I won’t add another link). I suspect it’s all part of the synonym thing it announced today.

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  • Lucy 20th January 2010

    Don’t forget that if you have written something using Word, that this software often guesses what you mean if you have spelt it wrong and will auto-correct. This means that you could be left with a word which is completely different to what was intended.

    Making it all the more important that you re-read what you have written, before it goes live.

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