(or how wordsmiths can help restaurants look good too)
It was your usual nightmare – filthy restaurant, badly managed kitchen, despairing family… all edited for our entertainment of course. But as Gordon sat down to sample the menu my ears picked up and a grin spread across my face – he was pointing out to the hapless owner that his menu was full of typos… and that it doesn’t exactly instil confidence in your customers. Good one Gordon!
He’s right of course. The menu is the face of the restaurant and if your customers sit down to a badly worded menu they are more likely to be laughing at your choice of words than marvelling at your choice of ingredients. Who wants to eat “pee soup” or “crap cakes”?
It’s a little known fact that editors and proofreaders can have what I call the Gordon Ramsay effect. While a trained chef can sweep into a restaurant and see immediately what needs attending to in the kitchen, an editor/proofreader can see what needs changing when it comes to the written word. Those running a business can be oblivious to badly written material, but we are like word ninja…we can sweep in and spot a misplaced apostrophe before you hear the click of our red pen on the menu.
Ramsay doesn’t just clear up though, he puts things into order, enhances what’s there and improves it – and that’s what we do. It doesn’t mean stripping the heart and soul out of the place.
Take a trawl of the internet and the majority of menu typos involve a menu that has been translated by a non-native speaker. For example in Chinese take-away menus you often see crap instead of crab. Now come on guys, that’s easily done and I suppose it appeals to those with a schoolboy sense of humour (ok, that’s most of us then), but a quick proofread would have caught that one. It’s hard enough to start and run a business, but to contend with a language you’re not fluent in is no laughing matter… how many English speakers can write in Cantonese?
But it’s not always the non-native speakers that have a hard time with their menus. And it’s not just the cheaper end of the market; more upmarket menus contain typos too. It can get so bad that I’ve even been known to sit on my hands in a café to stop myself getting my ever-present red pen out of my handbag to correct the mistake. People, sometimes it’s tough being an editor and proofreader.
I often wonder why, when a company puts so much effort into other parts of their business, they totally overlook the publications. A menu is often the first port of call for customers if you run a take-away business…why risk people being put off by your scary “hand and cheese” sandwiches? If your menu is less than perfect what will people think your food is like? Yes, your mind is elsewhere, you type up a menu and send it off to get printed while you are worrying about whether your tables are the right size or if the mega-expensive kitchen equipment is right for you…but once it’s printed it’s expensive to get put right. Typos are easy to miss, not everyone is comfortable around words and just because you can whip up a fantastic croquembouche it doesn’t mean you know how to spell it. A proofread is not expensive, will make sure that you set the right tone and ensure your customers are visiting you for all the right reasons.
wasting time researching, I even came across a geek mom blog article on Wired that came to the conclusion that no menu is without a typo! Go and have a read if you have another few minutes of your coffee break.
Next time you are at a café or restaurant have a game of spot the typo… hopefully you won’t find one, but it’s fun searching while you wait for the coffee.
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© Sara-Jayne Donaldson, 2013-2020.