I received an email recently, and it immediately set off my ‘spam alarm’. What’s a spam alarm? It lives in the part of my brain that goes on alert whenever I receive an email that’s not a gossip-filled letter from dear old Auntie Doris. I’m sure you have one too. A spam alarm, that is – not an Auntie Doris.

Anyway, here’s the email:
Example of PayPal phishing email












At first glance, it looked legitimate. It had the proper logo. It was short and well-laid out. So why didn’t I trust it? Apart from the fact that it was sent to an email address that I’ve never used for PayPal, the key issue was the horrible writing. There were random capital letters, weird font problems, bad spelling (what’s a boutton?) and dodgy punctuation. They didn’t even refer to me by name. There’s no way a big, reputable company like PayPal would let a communication go out to its customers in this sorry state.

There are many theories about why spam emails are so badly written. The most popular one seems to be that if someone is silly enough to be taken in by the awful writing, they’re exactly the sort of person the spammer is looking for.

Whatever the reason behind the poor spelling and grammar, the fact that it features heavily in spam mail has an unintentional flow-on effect to legitimate businesses. If a company sends out a direct marketing email and there are errors in it, it’s likely to set off customers’ spam alarms. The mistrustful part of their subconscious that fires up when they receive unsolicited email registers that all may not be well.

It happens with websites, too. A UK poll* found that 59% of those surveyed would not buy from a site that had poor spelling and grammar. It damages trust. It creates a perception that the company is sloppy or unprofessional. In the worst cases, it suggests the site is not legitimate at all. Have you seen the sites selling fake Ray-Bans? They look very authentic until you read the text.

So, the moral of this tale is: if you’re talking to current or potential customers, make sure your content is well-written and free of errors, and avoid setting off their spam alarms.

*Poor grammar on websites scares 59% away: http://realbusiness.co.uk/article/24623-poor-grammar-on-websites-scares-59-away.