Businesses frequently invest a lot of energy and many resources into ensuring that their brand identity accurately reflects what they’re about. The right colors, the right uniforms, the right stationery, the right everything…except attention to the written word.

Misspellings, bad grammar, invented words, misplaced apostrophes can all detract from that carefully crafted identity.

I recently passed by a boutique chocolate shop that advertised custom, specialty chocolate desserts, handmade with attention to detail. But glaring at me from the store window was a big sign advertising that they sold chocolate carmels.

You read that right: chocolate “carmels.” Carmel is a city in California; the word they wanted was “caramels.” An “a” was missing in action.

Too picky? All I could wonder is how much attention did they pay to recipes and their ingredients if one little letter wasn’t worthy of their attention.

Two blocks down the road, I saw a sign for an upscale designer home décor shop. The company name, proudly emblazoned on big and little signs, made me cringe. They tried to make the name sound Italian—thinking more upscale? —but butchered the words.

The first word was a made up word with a random accent mark borrowed from French that was supposed to be the number two, and the second word was a singular noun. The upshot was that loosely translated, it read “two friend,” not “two friends.”

Ouch. I was embarrassed for them. It didn’t convey classy to me; it conveyed sloppy and pretentious. And if you’re sloppy in your name, what else are you sloppy about?

I attended a corporate office party one time where the new management sought to quell any employee uneasiness by unveiling a huge banner that read, “This office celebrates it’s employees.” Yes, four-foot high letters putting an apostrophe where it had no business to be.

This company had an entire editorial department; did no one in management think to ask a writer to proof this simple sentence? Were they so arrogant in their own superiority that they thought they didn’t need anyone reviewing their work? I found it telling, especially months later when employees reported to me that management never sought or acted on advice from their underlings. I wasn’t surprised; I knew it from that errant apostrophe.

I refuse to patronize a local bakery that changed the spelling of “bakery” by adding a couple of other letters to mimic some other unidentified language and, of course, added the requisite apostrophe that some people think make anything sound fancier. Nope. If they’ll take liberties with an established word like “bakery,” no telling what they’ll do to a standard loaf of French bread.

A chain of hair salons has decided to name itself after the mythical bird that resurrects itself from ashes. Great symbolism for the concept of creating a new you from the old you. Except that they have also chosen to delete one of the letters in its spelling. Every time I see their humongous sign with its missing critical letter, I get irritated and wonder why they purposely chose to ruin the perfect symbolism.

I’ve perused four-color, full-page ads in glossy magazines that have cost a small fortune, and there in the print are blatant grammatical errors and homonym mistakes.

If you think these errors are only noticed by English teachers, and not customers, think again. When you hear someone say, “He don’t know nuttin’” or “I be telling you,” you make judgments about that person’s education and ability to perform a service.

When it’s a company putting those equivalent errors in print, you also make judgments about that company’s ability to serve you professionally.

If your goal is to convey your company as whimsical or avant-garde that breaks all the rules, then making up your own words may fit your brand. But beware of getting cutesy with grammar and spelling if you’re trying to convey professionalism, attention to detail, and accuracy.

Take a look at your company’s printed materials. What do your written words say about your brand?