The Worst Restaurant Special Ever (or, Why Word Choice Matters)
Harping on other people’s word choice and phrasing is one of the grandest old traditions of MA101, going back to the days when this blog was mostly about writing and I actually stuck to that theme.
Most of you weren’t around for that. Don’t worry, you didn’t miss much.
But I’ve kept the word choice remnant because hey, it’s funny. Case in point the new menu at Pasqual’s on Monroe St. in Madison, WI, a restaurant I’m overall pretty fond of but that needs to fire their graphic designer and/or copywriter:
This is not how I would have chosen to sell this particular idea.
I’m not sure it’s all that enticing of an idea in general, but if you’re going to have the option of dinner with or without a side, you should probably make the side sound like a delicious extra option that people want, rather than an added hassle that the restaurant will take away for you at request.
Maybe they charge less if you have it without sides? We don’t know — the menu doesn’t say. It just offers to take the side away if you don’t want it.
Some basic human nature here: when you say “Hey, here’s a bunch of stuff that I am going to give you in exchange for your money; do you want me to give you less than that maybe?” most people do not say “Sure, screw me over.”
And when you pitch it like that it sounds like you’re offering a right screwing-over, whether that’s the intention or not.
So word choice. When you’re offering options, make every option sound like a good one. Extra Sides, Only $1! Or even “FREE SIDE OF RICE AND BEAN (on request)” would work.
But not, please, “dinners available without rice and beans.” Because who’s going to take that?
And as long as I’m giving Pasqual’s a hard time (love you guys, but seriously, this menu), the large order of nachos is a real steal right now:
So yeah. Choose your words carefully, and I guess check your work, too.
Tomorrow: The editorial voice, as demonstrated by a traveling lizard show!