Grammar Mistakes – Which Word Should You Use?

Good grammar tips to help your website stand out.As promised in last week’s post about grammar mistakes to avoid on your website, here are some more common word mix-ups you should keep an eye out for when writing on your business website.

* INTO VS. IN TO

Into is a preposition which indicates movement from the outside to the inside of something or a transition from one thing or state into another. This includes both literal and figurative movements and transitions. Examples:

  • Come into our main store for even more savings.
  • This puts money back into your pocket.
  • We help turn business problems into business opportunities.

When using in to, in is an adverb (modifying the verb) and to is a preposition. In many cases in to means in order to. Examples:

  • Come in to save even more (note, in this case it means come in order to save; in the very similar first bullet example above it meant come inside so you can save).
  • You must write in to enter the contest.
  • Turn your completed forms in to the customer service rep.

* THAT VS. WHICH

That is used in restrictive clauses. What that means is you should use that when what follows could not be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence. Examples:

  • Companies that invest in their workers profit in the long term.
  • Small problems that are not addressed quickly can become major problems.
  • Grammar tips that are confusing are worse than no tips at all (we’re hoping that’s not the case here).

In all the cases above, if you took out the restrictive that clause (that are not addressed quickly, that invest in their workers, that are confusing) the sentence meaning would change. For example, the last sentence would change to mean that all grammar tips are worse than no tips at all—and we know that can’t be true.

Which is used for nonrestrictive clauses, those that could be removed from the sentence without changing the meaning. These non-restrictive clauses often contain extra information that you could see inside parentheses and usually have commas before or before and after the clause. Examples:

  • Companies investing in their workers, which is becoming a trend, leads to long term profits
  • Small problems, which all companies have, should not take big resources to address.
  • Confusing grammar tips are worse than no tips at all, which we hope isn’t the case here.

All those which clauses above could be cut out without changing the meaning of the rest of the sentence. You could also put the clauses in parentheses without affecting the sentence. In the first example, the clause “which is becoming a trend” is additional, expendable information; the core of the sentence is that companies that invest in their workers will profit.

* WHO VS. THAT or WHICH

As in the examples above, that and which are relative pronouns used for inanimate objects. When referring to people, you’ll always be correct to use the pronoun who. Examples:

  • You are the one who we are working for.
  • Only people who enter the contest before Friday can win.
  • Website visitors who view three or more pages are 37% more likely to purchase.

While all the above uses are correct, some would be OK using that in the last example  (visitors that view) since it’s the least personal reference. You’re talking about people, but as statistics.

Some are also OK with using who when referring to animals (especially close pets) and organizations, such as companies.

Strictly speaking, a company is a thing, but if you want to emphasize the humanity of your company (it is an organization made up of people, after all) you can chose to use who strategically in your copy: “We are a company who cares deeply about our customers.”

* FARTHER VS. FURTHER

Use farther when referring to physical distance (think of the most common use of the word far). Examples:

  • You shouldn’t have to drive farther than five miles to get to one of our stores.
  • Tiger Woods hits the golf ball a lot farther than I do.

Use further when referring to figurative distance, progress, or amount. Examples:

  • Nothing could be further from the truth.
  • After further investigation, we decided to discontinue the product.
  • Our sales team is further along in the transition than the marketing team.

Further is also used as a verb, meaning to help promote or advance something.

  • All employees must buy in to further the new direction of the company.

* E.G. VS. I.E.

E.g. is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase exempli gratia, which means “for example.” When you see that first e in e.g., think example.

  • Winners will receive a variety of prizes, e.g., iPods, digital cameras, T-shirts.
  • The contest will be judged by an expert (e.g., me).
  • Choose from a number of industry-specific templates – e.g., accounting, construction, consulting, real estate, retail, transportation – to build your website.

I.e. is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase id est, which means “that is.” You use i.e. as you would use “in other words” or “namely.” It is used to specify or clarify whatever preceded it in the sentence. For that reason it is often used after a technical term or jargon that may not be widely understood.

  • We’re focused entirely on the end users, i.e., parents and their kids.
  • Unfortunately, a radical redesign (i.e., starting from scratch) was required.

As you may have noticed, both e.g. and i.e. have periods following each letter and are lowercase unless starting a sentence. They are followed by a comma, and will have some punctuation before them to set them apart from the sentence: often parentheses, dashes, or commas.

Grammar Mistakes to Avoid on Your Website

Good grammar tips to help your website stand out.Happy National Grammar Day!

What, March 4 wasn’t circled on your calendar? Grammar isn’t typically on the tip of your tongue (or tip of your fingers while tapping that keyboard)?

Not to worry.

We’ll help you celebrate by passing along some tips to help you avoid making the most common grammar mistakes on your business website.

Good grammar, of course, won’t necessarily transform a website from ineffective to effective, but bad grammar can cause some potential customers to have doubts about your business.

Grammar is one part of the overall impression your website makes that leads to people trusting you enough to do business with you – or not. Sloppy grammar may brand you as unprofessional or unreliable.

Keep in mind, your number one goal when writing your web pages is not to slavishly uphold some style guide or grammar book. It’s to promote your business, engage your audience, and, ultimately, sell stuff.

So, you have permission to Think Different (no –ly required) if you feel it’s best to promote your business that way.

And here are 3 grammar rules we’d even encourage you to break.

Now, on to some grammar tips you should pay attention to. We’ll start with a list of the words people most commonly mix up.

WHICH WORD SHOULD YOU USE?

Spell check sometimes works, but it can’t save you from using wrong word (if you spell the wrong word correctly). The most common problems include:

* Their vs. There vs. They’re

They’re is a contraction for they are. So, if you try saying they are in your sentence and it makes sense, use they’re. Examples: “They’re the best offers we’ve had this year.” “They’re offered for a limited time only.”

Their is a possessive pronoun, meaning belonging to them. Examples: “Their reliability is their number one advantage.”

There is a little harder to define, but if you are referring to any locations or places, there it is. Also, if you are going to use are, there should be your choice. Examples: “There are no strings attached.” “There are two ways to enter the contest.”

* Your vs. You’re

Like they’re, you’re is a contraction. It’s a shortening of you are. So, if you can substitute you are, use you’re. Otherwise use your. Examples: “This is our biggest discount, so you’re in luck.” “You’re our number-one priority.”

Like their, your is a possessive pronoun, meaning belonging to you. Examples: “We appreciate your business.” “Our main goal is to build your trust.”

* Its vs. It’s

Like they’re and you’re, it’s is a contraction. It’s a shortening of it is. So, if you can substitute it is, use it’s. Otherwise use its. Examples: “It’s our biggest sale of the year.” “It’s no problem.”

Like their and your, its is a possessive pronoun, meaning belonging to something. Examples: “Good grammar has its challenges.” “Its power is its main selling point.”

* Then vs. Than

Then is used in a lot more ways than than, so it’s best to check if than makes sense first. As in the previous sentence, than is used to compare things: bigger than, less than, more reliable than, faster than, cheaper than.

Then often relates to time or sequence. Examples: “First do this, then that.” “If you’re still having trouble, then you need to restart your computer.”

* Less vs. Fewer

This one is actually pretty simple but you hear it incorrectly so often you may have problems hearing it yourself.

Because more and less are paired so frequently (as in the expressions “less is more” and “more or less”) people often use less when fewer is the right choice.

Right: “We need more signal, less noise.”
Right: “We have more choices, but fewer good ones.”

Fewer is used when you can count what you are talking about (above, you can’t count noise, but you can count choices). If you could add a number to the sentence, use fewer.

Examples: “Fewer people attended the second webinar.” “Fewer people clicked on the About link.” “We have fewer spots available this year.”

Less is used when you couldn’t use a number, as in the famous Miller Light slogan “Great taste. Less filling.” Filling is not something you can count and you wouldn’t say the beer was “five less filling.”

One confusing situation is money. Yes, you can count money, but it’s correct to say “less money” not “fewer money,” because when money is used as a general term, you can’t use a number with it. While you could say you had “100 dollars,” you wouldn’t say you had “100 money.”

For the same reason, less will be also used for all abstract concepts and feelings, such as less time, less stress, or less risk.

* To vs. Two vs. Too

Most people know the difference between these, but are so used to writing to, they use it when they should be using two (the number) or too (meaning also or excessive). So you just need to double-check when you are proofreading (you do proofread, right?) your website.

Here’s one sentence using all three: “I only need two things; don’t send too much to me.”

* Effect vs. Affect

These two are trickier for people to keep track of. Most often, affect is a verb and effect is a noun.

To affect something is to change it or have some influence on it: “My desire to have a great website affected my decision to hire a professional web designer.”

An effect is something that is caused, as in the phrase cause and effect. Examples: “My new website has had many positive effects on my business.” “I stopped advertising last month, and the effect was worse than I thought.”

Complicating matters, effect is sometimes used as a verb, meaning to bring about or cause something. It’s often used in this way in the expression to effect change: “The CEO’s desire to effect change in the organization led him to merge sales and marketing.”

* Lead vs. Led

The confusion for many is that lead is pronounced two ways: LEED (long e sound, when referring to leadership) and LED (short e sound, when referring to the metal traditionally used in pipes).

The past tense of the verb to lead, is led. Examples: “The CEO led the company for six years.” “I led the project to a successful conclusion.”  “A great leader leads by example, and Tom led his team that way each and every day.”

* Choose vs. Chose, Lose vs. Loose

Choose is the present tense verb meaning to make a choice, to select or decide. Chose is simply the past tense: “It was hard to choose, but I chose the more expensive option.”

While that’s simple enough, people often get confused because loose looks like choose but lose is the verb that actually rhymes with the verb choose. Example: “If you don’t choose, you lose.”

Lose is the present tense verb meaning to be deprived or cease to have something. The past tense is lost.

Loose is unrelated to lose; it means the opposite of tight, not firm or fixed.

So, make sure you do not write: “Act now or you’ll loose this opportunity to save.” If you do, your loose command of grammar may make you lose customers.

We’ll follow up next week with more grammar tips to keep your website in tip top shape.

Once again, have a happy Grammar Day. (But don’t go too crazy.)

 

Product Page Checklist: 14 Elements You Need on Website Sales Pages

Price & offer are 2 elements of a good website product page.So, you managed to build your own website, or you had a professional web designer build your site. You’ve even got an ecommerce shopping cart for online sales. So…why aren’t you selling?

There are many possible factors, like traffic. If you aren’t driving enough traffic, sales are bound to suffer. But lets look at another important factor in online sales: your product pages. These are the pages that describe and sell your product. The pages from which you hope to generate your sales.

Unfortunately, due to the enormous range of product types (and services), each with its own unique characteristics and customer requirements, there is no-one-size-fits-all, silver-bullet of a product page. But there are standard elements of all product pages that you should only eliminate with good reason.

Use the following as your product page checklist and vary according to your own unique product needs.

  1. Headline: If you have a very large store selling many products that do the same thing, you may simply use the product name as the headline (as Amazon.com does). So people instantly know where they are and what’s for sale. If you are selling only one or a few products that fill different niche’s, take advantage of your headline real estate by crafting a more compelling headline. It may be one that promotes an offer or discount, that highlights a benefit, that draws readers in with a question, etc. Copyblogger.com has a great series of posts on headlines called Magnetic Headlines.
  2. Name of your product: If you are selling lots of product, and multiple products in the same area, that you include all elements of a product name (such as model numbers). Sometimes a small model number difference makes a big difference in the product. And make sure, especially if you are using product names as headlines, that you include descriptors that let people know just what it is. For example: Gizmo XYZ-750 may be the product name, but if, it’s a home theater system, Gizmo XYZ-750 Home Theater System is advised. Amazon.com does this well. You’re never left wondering by the headlines: OK, that’s the name…but what IS it? It’s also best practice to make sure you have the product name next to the offer and CTA (call to action), such your Buy Now button. So people are 100% sure what they are about to buy.
  3. Product offer: What’s the price? What’s the discounted price? Are their other incentives to order, order now, order multiple items, etc? Doing the math on offers is often effective. Don’t just say the price is now X. Say it’s now 35% off, or now you can save $200. In some cases, businesses also find showing the previous price with a strikeout and then showing the new lower price is effective. Amazon.com is very good at this. If there is a discount, they always show the List Price with a strikeout, their lower price under that (larger font size, in a different color), and they let you know in both a dollar amount and a percentage how much “You Save.”
  4. Call to action (CTA): This may be part of how you constructed your offer, but it’s worth double-checking. Make sure you have a strong CTA that tells customers what you want them to do. Use forceful verbs to drive action. It may be implicit that you want people to order your product, but be explicit: Order Now for Special Online Savings of 40%! Call Our Upgrade Hotline to Qualify for Our VIP Customer Discount! Click Here to Save $50!
  5. Pictures of your product: People are visual. It’s reassuring for them to see a product before they buy and not seeing it can introduce some anxiety (more so for clothes, furniture, electronics and other items where the style matters); and anxiety is the enemy of sales. Ideally, show multiple product shorts with different angles showing different features, different uses etc. Services are naturally hard to picture, but try to find photos to support your services. If you paint houses, showing houses you painted is perfect. If you are a plumber, maybe it’s just a picture of your truck outside a house or shots of the different kinds of work you do (sinks, shower drains, toilets, etc.). In some cases, a before-and-after photo series can be very compelling.
  6. Product feature list: This is often the easiest for businesses. It’s simply a list, or long-form copy about, the features of the product. What are the components that make the product or service compelling. For example, with EarthLink’s cable Internet service, you get high-speed connections up to 15Mbps (which is 250x the speed of dial-up), you get a complete online security suite, 24/7 support, free dial-up service, a cable Internet modem, etc. If we were selling a TV, the features would be the type of TV, screen size, resolution, built-in Wi-Fi, sound, etc.
  7. Product specs/technical parameters: Specifications can overlap with features, but they usually represent an extra level of detail down from the main features. The fact that your television is 48 pounds probably isn’t a main sales feature (though if it were just 5 pounds maybe it would be) but some people may want to know how much it weighs. Think about all the details people may want to know and make sure they can find this info. It can be linked to on a separate page or dynamic layer that pops up (like the Learn More and Compare Speeds links from our DSL Internet access page).
  8. Product benefits: This is one of the most important elements of your product sales page that is often overlooked. Benefits answer the consumer’s “what’s in it for me?” or “why should I care” questions. Sometimes because business owners are so close to their products they assume when they list product features that people simultaneously know the product benefits. That’s not so. You need to spell out not only that your TV has a XYZ-50 screen but that having an XYZ-50 screen means there will be no blurring while watching sports, that you can gather more people around the TV to watch at different angles without distortion, etc. Another way to think of benefits is to describe the pain they solve. For example, if you make service calls to people’s homes, saying you schedule in 15 minute windows is a great feature, but remind consumers of the benefit (the pain you remove): that you won’t waste your whole morning sitting at home wondering when you’ll get your service.
  9. What’s in the box: Make sure you specify everything a person can expect when they order your product. Some 3-D TVs come with 3-D glasses when you order them, others don’t. Some come with 1 pair, others 4. Is there a remote? Are there batteries? Is there a DVD setup guide? Etc. I was recently looking to buy and outdoor ping pong table and noticed some included ping pong paddles, some nets, and very few included outdoor covers to keep the table in good shape.
  10. Objections: Just because you are positive about your product or service, don’t forget people will have all kinds of possible objections or apprehensions about buying the product in general and about ordering from you specifically. There’s a sales and marketing acronym for this: FUD, which stands for fear, uncertainty, and doubt. You need to address and lessen potential buyers’ FUD to make them more likely to order from you.  Maybe you need more proof about product claims. Maybe you need to more explicitly show how this product is better than a competing product. Maybe you need to reassure people of your reputation. Maybe you need a strong and clear refund and return policy. Think about all the people who did NOT buy from you and why they didn’t. Put on your skeptics hat and make a list. You may put some of this on your main product page but put more details on a product FAQ linked from the main page.
  11. Guarantee / return policy: This overlaps with the Objections category above but it’s worth breaking out because it’s so important. Especially if you are a smaller business, not a top brand, or are relatively new online, you need to gain people’s trust. So having a strong and clear guarantee and/or return policy will go a long way to establishing trust and making sales.
  12. Testimonials, ratings & awards: This is another way to combat objections. Show testimonials from satisfied customers. Ideally, show them near where others will make their purchase decisions to help ease their fear, uncertainty and doubt. If you have a product rating mechanism, that’s great too, as long as you have enough ratings. Showing a product with 1 or 2 ratings may actually introduce more doubt. Depending on the nature of your product, you may have full case studies, which function as fact-based testimonials typically for large business purchases. Our EarthLink Business division has a page full of case studies about businesses that have benefited by using EarthLink Business services. Awards can also help support your product sales if you’re lucky enough to have won one. EarthLink Cloud recently won a Cloud Computing Excellence Award from Cloud Computing magazine, which we now have displayed on a rotating banner on the EarthLink Cloud homepage.
  13. Shipping/order information: The big fears around shipping are will shipping costs raise the price significantly and will I get what I order quick enough. The big sites are more consistent about shipping but since there’s a wider range of experiences with small companies, you have to work harder to allay people’s doubts. Make your shipping policies clear and make it easy for people to know when shipments will arrive (if necessary, include a phone number if you need to give an estimate that way).
  14. After the sale: Shipping info may be the last box you need to check, but depending on what you are selling, you may need to be clear about what comes next. For example: “Your shipment will arrive in 5 – 7 days. In 7 – 10 days we will call to schedule installation, which is typically complete in 48 hours. You will be able to choose from 3 installation windows per day. The installation typically takes 45 – 60 minutes. The professional installer will do X, Y & Z and make sure you are good to go before he leaves.”