My 7 year old daughter (who, according to short stories she’s been writing lately, is closely related to Princess Elsa) is learning her basics in 2nd grade. This past month, she’s studied carrying numbers in addition, what “plural” means in grammar, and is heading to a local fossil museum with a co-op this weekend. She’s also learned about punctuation and how it’s used. Recently, in the car, she was reading her book to us and came to the end of a sentence. Since she couldn’t remember that what she saw was called an exclamation point, she simply called it a “happy mark”.

Which got me thinking, just how important is punctuation in digital marketing? Do website visitors, social media followers and potential customers care if things on your website are misspelled or use incorrect punctuation? Does the quality of your grammar reflect on the quality of your products and services in the eyes of your Twitter followers?

Here are three things to consider when crafting the language for your marketing efforts:

1) KNOW YOUR MARKET

You need to know who you are speaking to. There are some demographics where punctuation and grammar are, quite honestly, meaningless. The limitations of a Twitter message have caused users to push the limits on abbreviations, contractions and punctuation. But that doesn’t mean that punctuation doesn’t make a difference.

According to a study by Compendium, question marks, exclamation points (happy marks!) and hashtags can result in very different engagement rates when used for different markets. For example, if you are marketing to other businesses on Twitter, your tweets will receive 39 percent fewer clicks if they include a question mark. If you are marketing to consumers, expect 52 percent fewer clicks. Those rates are 25 percent and 45 percent on LinkedIn, respectively. Exclamation points result in a 15 percent reduction for business followers and 8 percent for consumers on Twitter and 25 percent for both demographics on LinkedIn.

How about the #hashtag? According to the same study, a hashtag aimed at business owners will result in 193 percent more clicks, but when aimed at consumers, will result in 82 percent less clicks. Linked in was similar with +56% and -20%, respectively.

2) STAY ON MESSAGE

Your marketing efforts need to effectively and efficiently promote your overall message. Distractions from improper grammar and punctuation can impede that goal.

Let’s look an example of how punctuation can completely change a message:

Dear John:

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy–will you let me be yours?

Gloria

What happens to the letter if there were some punctuation mistakes and it was punctuated in an entirely different fashion?

Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

Yours,

Gloria

Which letter do you think John would prefer to receive?

3) BE CONSISTENT

Your customer doesn’t need an English degree to sense when your content has been written in multiple grammar styles and by multiple authors. There are appropriate outlets for individual styles (i.e. a blog or a LinkedIn profile) but your website and corporate social accounts should follow a consistent methodology. Decide ahead of time what grammar styles you will use. Oxford comma or no Oxford comma? MLA or APA? Best practices on abbreviation? Consider developing a corporate style guide (or adapt someone else’s guide) to map these elements out so that your content remains consistent. As examples, here is the style guide from National Geographic and from Wikipedia.

Your current and potential customers have certain expectations from grammatical and stylistic nuances in your corporate message. Understanding what they expect and staying consistent is key to maximizing the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. If you would like a free review of your current marketing message, contact High Road Digital. Our team of designers and content strategists will look over your social media accounts, your website, and your marketing materials and offer an analysis of your style and suggest areas for improvement.

High Road Digital is a full-service marketing agency specializing in digital marketing and social media presence.