Saturday, February 14, 2009

Nine words at Dunkin’ Donuts (2)

In an earlier post, I discussed a clarity error in a nine-word sign displayed in the drive-through window of a Dunkin’ Donuts shop.

The sign reads: “Please ask if you need condiments for your order” [sic: no period].

There is another clarity error: the people who wrote and approved the copy were trying not to say something clearly. They were trying not to say that Dunkin’ Donuts order-takers will neither ask you which condiments you would like nor automatically pack any condiments – even the most popular ones – in your order. For example, if you order hash browns (potatoes) and do not mention ketchup, you will get no ketchup.

In short, the sign is not saying this: “We do not pack any condiments in your order unless you ask us to. Please ask us for any condiments you would like.”

The Takeaway: If you run a retail or service business, try to state your policies directly and clearly. If you ever notice that you’re having difficulty doing that, and you’re feeling stressful, stop writing for a moment. Ask yourself: “Why does this policy embarrass me?” I do not presume to tell you what your policies should be. But as a writing coach, I caution you that intelligent customers will see through any evasive language you may use to articulate your policies – and they will probably conclude that you are devious.

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