I’m so glad to see I’m not the only one left. I too, like Stephen Fleming, read a lot of business plans, and damn! Bad spelling and bad grammar throw me off, I can’t help it. It’s distracting, like a bad note played in a concert.
I suppose I should add that Stephen Fleming calls his site “Academic VC” and he teaches entrepreneurship too, so maybe you’re not going to believe him either, if you are one of those who believes spelling and grammar are an obsolete remnant of a dying age. Here’s a quote:
“When I teach my classes on entrepreneurship, I always have at least one student protest my statement that ‘Spelling counts.’ Especially when they’re not native English speakers. ‘It doesn’t affect the meaning! And it certainly doesn’t affect my ability as an entrepreneur!'”
“Sorry, folks, but spelling does count. Not because correct spelling is a virtue in and of itself — William Shakespeare couldn’t spell his own name, when he wasn’t busy taking credit for the Earl of Oxford‘s plays — but because of what it says about the person sending me the document. Usually the CEO.”
“If you send me a document that says ‘Our plan estimates there costs to be…’ or ‘the product and it’s derivatives,’ you are telling me that (1) you don’t have good attention to detail, or (2) you’re in a hurry, and (3) you don’t know when to ask for help. None of those make me want to invest in you.”
The thing is — and this is me now, not Stephen (although I’m pretty sure he’d agree) — decent simple and correct business writing is not that hard. Nobody says it has to be rhymed or suitable for framing, but at least know the difference between their and there and it’s and its and, my personal favorite, then and than. There’s also this trend to make all plurals possessive, with apostrophes.
We all make mistakes. I’m a good writer and a good speller but I make tons of mistakes from simple typos or writing too fast, and it’s hard to read and catch your own mistakes. In my case my mind moves ahead of my eyes and knows what I intended, sometimes missing glaring errors. But having somebody else look at it is a very good idea. It shows respect for the reader.
In the age of email, and IM, and txt, I suspect the “oh lighten up, you know what I meant” trend will continue. So at least today I’m glad to see Stephen’s post.
Here’s the link to the full post; Academic VC: Spelling Counts