One of our readers who works as a Web Content Editor raises an interesting question concerning the handling of customer comments on a product web site:
Should comments posted by customers be edited for glaring errors of spelling and grammar?
Consider, for example, the following customer recommendation for an imaginary product:
I recomend the Ajax router for it’s ease in accessing the web and because outside interference hardly ever effects it. Your gonna love it.
Should the editor in charge of the site publish the comment as it stands, or should the editor silently correct the spelling, punctuation and grammar errors before publishing it?
The reader who posed this question describes two points of view that prevail at one place of business.
Basic errors of usage and spelling “make the review and comments appear more genuine and believable to the common man.”
A prospective customer reading a comment that contains errors will be disinclined to think favorably of a product recommended by “someone who can’t differentiate between your and you’re.”
The person who holds View Two would not alter an idiomatic expression that is clearly a matter of personal expression, but would, for example, change Your gonna love it to You’re gonna love it!
Except for those who imagine that standard English is a form of class oppression, most people, I think, would like to be correct in their writing.
On many sites a person submitting a comment has no opportunity to correct errors after the comment has been submitted. Frequently a person may realize at once that your should have been you’re, but, rather than submit an “oops” message, shrugs and hopes that readers will overlook the error.
View One reveals some condescending attitudes:
1. “the common man” is ignorant of correct English usage.
2. Potential customers, being “common men,” either
a. won’t notice the errors, or
b. will notice the errors, but find them acceptable.
I prefer View Two, because such a policy would avoid alienating customers who cringe consciously or unconsciously at semi-literate written expression.
People in the business of selling ought to know that potential buyers can be turned off by unconscious reactions that have absolutely nothing to do with the product.
A product page sprinkled with error-ridden customer comments can produce an unconscious aversion to the product being described.
My advice to the Content Editor is this:
Assume that the person intended to write correctly. Make the corrections as an act of kindness.
1. A truly ignorant person won’t notice.
2. The person who knows better, but was in a hurry, will appreciate the corrections.
3. Potential customers who are annoyed by basic errors won’t be repulsed.