Appendix C: types of writing.
Various types of writing are assigned in school settings, from fairly informal journals and response papers to high-pressure essay tests, formal essays, and research papers. In order to be successful (that is, learn the most and get the best grades), it is important to understand what each type of writing is asking you to do.
Journals are assigned in many courses. In a biology course, the journal may be a record of your observations, say of an egg in an incubator or the growth of a bean sprout. In a developmental psychology course, journal entries might ask you to record and analyze childhood memories. Literature courses may assign journal entries in which you respond to readings. Journal instructions will vary on whether paragraphing, grammar, and mechanics will count, and on whether there's a minimum and/or maximum length to each entry. In general, however, instructors who assign journal entries are looking for thoughtful responses rather than a perfect presentation. Read the directions carefully.
In a composition or literature class, journal entries may be part of the initial phase of writing an essay. In the relative freedom of the journal, which is often written in a kind of stream-ofconsciousness mode, you are able to explore an idea in a number of different ways before you have to think about introductions and comma splices.
Writing for me is an escape; it is something that allows me to truly express myself in the purest way. There is no immediate judgment there is no room for others to interject, it is all about me. It is also nice to be heard, if not verbally than at least in writing, writing gives me a medium to express my ideas fully without having to be interrupted with questions or comments. This has led me to develop my thinking to deeper levels, go beyond the superficial banter of everyday life and dive into its complexities.
Reading likewise provides escape for me. Reading gives me a chance to hear what others think about things. Issues that I might not think twice about have entire books written about them, and being able to explore the thinking of another always seems to reveal something about me; do I agree or disagree with them, are there parallels in my life to the life of this person? All of these questions are raised when reading something.
Just as I feel that I give a part of myself to my writing, so I also think that when we read something moving we take a part of the person and we grow as a result.
--Lindsay Fitzgerald, student writer
For an example of a journal entry about a specific literary text, see Alicia Lacey's thoughts on the poem "cutting greens" by Lucille Clifton in Chapter 17, p. 305.
Response or Reaction Papers
Response or reaction papers may be assigned in courses in all disciplines. In a history class you might be asked to read and respond to a news article about a recent violation of the First Amendment, while in marketing class the assignment might be to assess the effectiveness of the latest set of Super Bowl advertisements. Response papers are more formal in shape and requirements than a journal entry, but they share the goal of encouraging students to write thoughtfully about a particular reading or topic, and they may be less rigid than an essay in terms of their structure and the use of standard grammar and mechanics. However, your instructor will have his or her own expectations, and it is essential that you understand what these are.
Read the directions carefully, and be sure to ask questions if you don't understand them. The instructions may include information on length (by the page or the word, usually) and format (for example, typed, handwritten, cover page or no cover page). Often the instructions on format include a particular font and size (for example, Times New Roman, 12 point). Most likely you will be quoting from the text or texts you are responding to, so be sure you know how your instructor would like you to cite the sources (MLA or APA format, for example). As with all academic writing, be prepared to do several drafts.
Preparing to write a response paper first requires a careful reading of the text or texts (see Chapter 2 for a fuller discussion of reading; see Chapter 17 for information about close reading). Your first task is to understand clearly what the author is saying. You may have existing knowledge and opinions on the topic, but it's important to separate those from the author's points. Take notes on main ideas and on questions you might raise in class or research on your own.
Essay tests are common across all academic disciplines and call for a very different approach than journals and response papers do. Essay tests are generally focused on answering a question or solving a problem, and are designed to test your knowledge on a particular topic and/or your ability to apply principles to a new problem. An essay test is like a mystery basket. You've been working on individual ingredients and methods, and now the time has come to cook something with them under pressure.
Preparing for an essay test starts with keeping up with the homework and classwork throughout the course. Take time each week to review key concepts and readings. Keep track of the small details as well, perhaps with a set of flashcards. The more thoroughly you've prepared overall, the more ideas and examples you'll be able to draw on for the essay test. Although many students don't like the pressure of an exam, an essay test can sometimes feel like a valuable opportunity to show what's been important to you about the course.
One of the biggest challenges in an essay test is to understand exactly what the question is asking. To use a culinary example, if the instructions ask you to poach the salmon, it would be a bad idea to grill it! Read the directions carefully. Although it's tempting to jump right in and start writing, taking a minute to check that you understand the instructions can help you follow them accurately. Sometimes a question will have several parts to it; be sure to answer all of them. Look for special instructions, such as "include examples" or "refer to the First Amendment." Be sure that you know the meaning of each word in the question, including such common instructions such as discuss, compare, and analyze (see Figure C.1).
In an essay test, clear, complete, and correct content is usually more important than style. This is not the time to struggle with writing a clever introduction. Get to the point, and make it clear. Often you'll use the language of the question in your introduction. The following sample student introduction responds to this prompt: Read Amit Majmudar's "Twin Gluttons" and analyze its tone or attitude about the struggle between life and death.
They say the one thing guaranteed in life is death. Amit Majmudar seems to have a firm grip on that frightening reality. It is, however, the different ways that he expresses that grip that truly help those that read his poems understand as well. As in "Rites to Allay the Dead," in "Twin Gluttons" Majmudar shows death as a crafty weasel always gathering what it wants, but he then shows Life as a gluttonous slob that consumes all it can in order to maintain its life before Death consumes it.
He seems to hold a very ominous tone about the struggles between life and death, while still being able to maintain a "disappointed father" point of view.
--Brianna Bowering, student writer
Note how the writer used the essay prompt's language: "tone" and "struggle between life and death."
Another important aspect of essay tests is managing your time, whether the test takes place entirely in class or whether it's a take-home. There may be a time or length limit--consider that in your planning. An in-class essay test will probably have a time limit. You should try to plan your time in such a way as to cover all parts of the question. If time is left, you can go back and edit or expand the answer.
Instructors will vary in how much conventional grammar and spelling counts as part of the grade. Read your instructions carefully. The more these things count, the more time you should leave to edit and proofread. In a composition or literature class, it is more likely that grammar and spelling will be a significant part of the grade. Pay close attention to the specifics, and allot your time in proportion to the grade value. That is, if grammar is worth 10% or 15%, while spelling is worth 5%, spend twice as much time checking your grammar.
The word essay comes from a French word meaning "to try." An essay "tries" to explain an idea, often in a personal voice and using personal anecdotes. When you're preparing an academic essay, as with the essay tests discussed earlier, it is important to read the instructions carefully and understand precisely what you are being asked to do with any particular assignment. Be sure you understand the meaning of the verbs in the directions (see Figure C.1), and be sure to answer all parts of the question. Essays are usually assigned over a period of time (two to four weeks, perhaps) so that you have time to explore the idea fully and to get assistance with all stages of composition. Because of this time frame, essays are often expected to be carefully edited and proofread. In a composition or literature course, the use of grammar and mechanics may comprise a significant part of the grade. For other instructors, though, the development of ideas may be important. As always, be sure to understand the particular requirements of an assignment.
Research Papers and Reports
While essays rely heavily on the author's own voice and personality, research papers and reports are more strictly informational. Because they are intended to communicate information that has been gathered and digested beforehand, there usually isn't that sense of personal exploration that is present in many essays. The style of a research paper or report is generally more formal, although instructors' expectations will vary. Some, for example, expressly forbid the use of the first person (I, we), while others allow it. Check with your instructor.
Research papers rely heavily on outside sources. Finding and evaluating this material is the first task (see Chapter 18), requiring the skilled use of search engines, evaluation of the accuracy of the resulting sources, thoughtful reading of the sources, and careful note-taking on both content and citation information. In writing up the results of the research, you must incorporate and cite this material correctly (see Chapter 19).
Although you probably won't receive a "grade" on your professional writing, you will be judged by it--by its content, grammar, and overall appearance. A positive judgment might result in a job offer or a continued business relationship with your reader. A negative judgment might mean the loss of business. (See Chapter 29.) Types of professional writing include business letters and emails, resumes, and reports.
The language of a business letter or resume, like that of an essay, should be clear and accurate. It is also important to remember that all types of written communication, whether paper or digital, can be subpoenaed by a court of law and used in evidence. Be sure that the information in all your letters, emails, and reports is accurate and appropriate.
While some business communication can be done by phone or by email, much is done by letter. Letters are often the first contact you have with a new business opportunity, for example, a cover letter applying for a new position or the initial letter in a negotiation for a catering job. Therefore it's important that you communicate clearly and make a good impression.
Part of that good impression is following the expected format. A business letter is usually typed on 8[1/2]-by-11-inch paper in a professional font like Times New Roman or sometimes Arial. The letter has five parts: the heading, address, salutation, body, and closing. The heading contains the name and address of your business and the date of the letter. Do not abbreviate the name of the month. If you use letterhead stationery on which the heading is already printed, simply add the date. Next, the address gives the name and often the title of the person and/or business that you are writing to. Be sure to demonstrate your professionalism and attention to detail by spelling the names and titles accurately!
The salutation or greeting should be flush with the left margin and two lines below the address. If you know the name of a particular person, use it, such as "Dear Mr. Mitchell" or "Dear Chef Waters." If you don't know the name of a specific person, you may address the company generally ("Dear First National Bank") or a job title within the company ("Dear Manager," "Dear Sales Associate").
The body of a letter starts two lines below the salutation. In general, each paragraph is single spaced, with double spacing between paragraphs. As with essays, the first paragraph or introduction of a letter should indicate the subject or purpose of the letter and catch the reader's attention. Particularly when the recipient doesn't know you personally, as in a job application, the first paragraph has to do something to ensure he or she reads the whole letter. Unlike essays, however, business letters typically address the readers directly (you) and strive to make their points very briefly. If an idea or proposal requires fuller development, it would more likely be included in an attached report.
Most business letters are no longer than one page. If you must use a second page, however, be sure to choose plain paper of the same quality as the first page. Type a heading on the second page that includes the name of the recipient, the date, and the page number. There should be at least two lines of text on the second page.
The closing begins two lines below the body of the letter. Close a formal letter with "Sincerely yours" or "Yours truly." If you know the recipient of the letter personally, you may use "Best wishes" or "Regards." Four lines below, type your name and your title, if appropriate. You will sign the letter above your name. Sign your full name, unless you are on a first-name basis with the recipient of the letter. Business letters may also have additional notes following the closing and the signature that indicate that material has been enclosed with the letter or that copies of the letter have been sent to other people.
Best regards, Julia Fernandez Julia Fernandez Director of Sales and Marketing Enclosure cc: Anna Vitelli, Vice President Sales and Marketing
Most business letters follow one of two formats on the page. With letterhead stationery, writers tend to use the block format, in which every line begins at the left-hand margin (Figure C.2). On plain paper, you may use a modified block format, in which the heading and closing begin at (or slightly to the right of) the center line, while all other lines are flush with the left-hand margin. Some writers also indent the first line of each paragraph when using a modified block format (Figure C.3). In any case, the letter should be centered on the page and should make an attractive picture, like a beautifully plated dish. The envelope should also be typed, and the name, title, and address should match those inside the letter.
In addition to following the expected format, you can make a good professional impression through clear language, vocabulary appropriate to the line of business, standard grammar, correct spelling, and general neatness. Be friendly and courteous, but maintain a professional distance. Don't assume you're going to be best friends with the recipient of your letter. As in all your formal writing, avoid cliches, slang, and sexist language.
Email is a quick and convenient way to keep in touch with friends and family, and in this context you can feel pretty free to write as you would like. However, when you're using email in a business setting, you should take care to present yourself and your company professionally. Just as in a business letter, your tone in a work-related email should be professional, and your writing should be clear and concise.
In order to maintain a professional tone, be sure to include both a salutation and a closing, even within your own organization. In a formal email to outside recipients, both the salutation and closing should be similar to those in a business letter: "Dear Mr. Mitchell" or "Best regards." Within your own company, however, the salutation may be less formal, for example, "Good morning, Ms. Grey" or "Hi Marjorie." Similarly, the closing need not be as formal as "Yours truly"; it might be as simply as "Best, Jane Doe" or "Thanks, John." Unless the recipient is a close personal friend, however, always include both a salutation and a closing.
Some companies ask their employees to use a Signature block, that is, to sign emails with their full name and title, department, company, street address, telephone and fax numbers, and website, if applicable. Sometimes the business logo is included. Signature blocks may be programmed to conclude every email but are especially appropriate when the recipients are outside the company. Look at the following example:
Gerald Abernathy, Executive Chef Bistro l/rbano 67 Main Street Urbanville, NY 19901 6999)555-7721 www.bistrourbano.com
The subject line of an email should--obviously--indicate what the communication is about. The body of the email message should contain a brief introduction that includes the subject and purpose of the communication, a concise explanation of the specifics, and a conclusion that indicates what action is desired. If a fuller account of the details is necessary, attach it in a separate file. Workers may receive hundreds of email messages per day. Respect their time; keep your emails brief and to the point. In general, make only one point per email. If your communication is more complex, use separate emails or a written report, or schedule a face-to-face meeting.
Another aspect of professionalism is following the rules of standard written English for grammar and spelling. Use complete, correct sentences. Check the spelling of every email document. Avoid informal abbreviations such as IMHO (in my humble opinion) or PMFJI (pardon me for jumping in). In addition to the informality, the expressions themselves are too stale and worn for any professional correspondence. It is also wise to avoid emoticons, the "faces" created with punctuation marks such as :) for a smile or :( for a frown, unless you are writing to someone you know well.
Additional and compelling reasons to be professional in your email correspondence concern their lack of privacy. Email messages are often stored indefinitely by organizations, may be read by supervisors, and can be subpoenaed by a court of law. Therefore, resist the temptation to bash the boss electronically or to shoot an angry email to a colleague. Be smart, and take a moment to think. If you wouldn't put it in a business letter, don't put it in a business email.
A final word about business email: your readers will notice unclear, unprofessional, or misspelled messages. They don't have to be English teachers to identify a sloppy email, just as they don't need to be gourmet chefs to recognize a cracked plate! Proofread every email carefully before you send it.
Social media--such as tweets, blogs, and social networking sites--may not have specific writing requirements, but they can potentially have a significant impact on your academic and professional lives. On the one hand, these media help friends and colleagues communicate quickly and easily, as well as find new friends and business associates. Many businesses also use social media as a way of engaging and communicating with their customers. Your experience and skills with social media may very well be attractive to potential employers. On the other hand, both students and professionals sometimes overestimate the degree of privacy in these media. Colleges and potential employers have been known to make admissions and hiring decisions based on what they find on Facebook. Consider applying any available privacy settings on the sites you use, and remember that material sometimes remains accessible on the Web long after the party is over!
A resume is a summary of your qualifications for a job, both in terms of training and of experience. Depending on what a potential employer prefers, you will mail a paper copy or email an electronic copy of your resume. Sometimes large organizations ask you to submit your resume and cover letter online. If the employer's preference is not clear, ask. You may occasionally submit a paper copy of your resume in person at the place of business or at a career fair.
In whatever format they're submitted, resumes generally contain certain types of information in a typical order. The heading should clearly state your name and address, as well as ways to contact you, such as your telephone number and email address. The rest of the resume should be tailored specifically to the job for which you are applying. The next sections typically describe your education and work experience, followed by any other relevant skills or activities. At the end of the resume you often list the names and addresses of references or note that you have such references available.
However, a resume is not simply a list of schools you've attended and jobs you've had. Once you identify a job you'd like to apply for, review your training and experience and decide which aspects are most closely aligned with the job requirements. Sometimes your education will be the most important factor (Figure C.4); at other times it will be your work history (Figure C.5). Unpaid work can also be important. For example, if you were applying for a job as a restaurant manager, your ten years of "volunteering" in your family's establishment would be significant. On the other hand, don't include information that is not relevant to the particular job you're applying for. The fact that you used to be a rocket scientist will probably not get you hired as a pastry chef.
Like a menu, a resume will probably be studied for only two or three minutes, especially when there are many applicants for a position. Therefore, ensure that the important information is visible and concise. In addition to your contact information, employers need to know the types of establishments you've worked in and the specific tasks and responsibilities you've performed. Begin these descriptions with active verbs like supervised or created. Avoid full sentences that begin with I or My responsibilities were.
Your resume should be printed on high-quality paper and should be free of typographical errors. This document represents you in a competition. If it appears sloppy or is difficult to follow, your potential employers may not even take the time to read it. On the other hand, try to make your resume stand out in a positive way with a decorative line, an appealing color, or an unusual (but legible and professional) font. Show intelligence and creativity in designing this "menu" for potential employers.
An important point about your resume is accuracy. Do not misrepresent or inflate your achievements. If you haven't received the degree yet, don't mislead your prospective employer into thinking you have. If you were a line cook at your previous job, don't say you were the sous chef. Even if you were to be hired, this false information could get you fired immediately.
Finally, resumes are typically accompanied by a cover letter (Figure C.3) in which you introduce yourself to the prospective employer and specify the job for which you are applying. Never send a resume without a cover letter! The cover letter should be clear and specific. Are you applying for a particular job? Are you interested in future opportunities? Like a news article, the cover letter should begin with the important W's: tell who you are, why you are writing, what position you're applying for.
Figure C.2 Business Letter in Block Format Bistro Urbano 67 Main Street Urbanville, NY 19901 February 27, 2012 Andrea Palmer The Coffee Company 123 East Market Street Urbanville, NY 19901 Dear Ms. Palmer: It was a pleasure to speak with you on the phone last week. We are very interested in trying out the two new coffee varieties you spoke of, the Mocha Madness and Vanilla Vice. Please send three pounds of each, and bill our account. We look forward to expanding our business with you. Sincerely yours, Gerald Abernathy, Executive Chef Figure C.3 Sample Cover Letter in Modified Block Format 123 Orchard Lane Urbanville, NY 19901 March 11, 2012 Paola Allende, Executive Chef Cafe Conquistador 85 Wisteria Lane Suburbia, WA 99999 Dear Chef Allende: I am relocating to the Seattle area and would like to apply for the position of sous chef at Cafe Conquistador advertised in The Seattle Times. My wife's brother lives in Seattle and has told me of your innovative establishment. I am particularly intrigued by the many South American dishes on your menu since my mother is from Peru and our family restaurant includes several items from her native country. Further, this cuisine is a specialty of the restaurant where I am currently working as a sous chef. I will be in Seattle next week and hope to visit your restaurant at that time. I will telephone you on Monday morning to inquire about scheduling an interview. A copy of my resume is enclosed with this letter. You can reach me on my cell phone at 555-555-1221 or via email at email@example.com. I look forward to meeting you soon. Sincerely yours, David Jones Enclosure Figure C.4 Sample Resume Featuring Education Anjelica Garcia-Jones 123 Orchard Lane, Urbanville, NY 19901 cell phone: (999)555-1222 email: firstname.lastname@example.org CAREER OBJECTIVE: To obtain a supervisory position at a restaurant where I can utilize my professional degrees, front of house management experience, and wines expertise. EDUCATION Smithfield Culinary College, Marketville, NY Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality Management June 2005 * Future Leader in the Industry Award, 2005 * Dean's List, junior and senior years * Member, Sommelier Society Urban Business School, Urbanville, NY Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration June 2001 * Graduated with honors * Member, Student Council, senior year * Junior year abroad, Lima Business School, Peru * Most Promising Freshman Scholarship, 1997-1998 WORK EXPERIENCE Dining Room Manager & Sommelier Bistro Urbano, Urbanville, NY 6/05-present * Supervised front of house operations * Developed new systems of scheduling and evaluating wait staff * Expanded wine list to include South American vintages Bookkeeper Bistro Urbano, Urbanville, NY 7/01-8/03 RELEVANT SKILLS AND INTERESTS Fluent in Spanish Member, Women Chefs & Restaurateurs Figure C.5 Sample Resume Featuring Experience David Jones 123 Orchard Lane, Urbanville, NY 19901 cell phone: (999)555-1221 email: email@example.com WORK EXPERIENCE Sous Chef Bistro Urbano, Urbanville, NY 5/01-present * Supervised staff of 8 at small urban cafe * Managed purchasing and inventory * Developed daily lunch special in South American cuisine Sous Chef Downtown Diner, Urbanville, NY 6/98-5/01 * Worked saute and grill stations at busy city diner * 150 lunch covers daily * Promoted to sous chef in 2001 Tournant The Four Seasons, Chicago, IL 4/97-8/97 * Rotated through each station as an intern * Trained my replacement at this four-star/five-diamond restaurant Cook Jones Bar & Grill, Urbanville, NY 6/92-8/96 * Line cook in family-owned restaurant serving American and South American dishes EDUCATION Smithfield Culinary College, Marketville, NY Associate of Occupational Studies in Culinary Arts May 1998 PROFESSIONAL SKILLS AND MEMBERSHIPS Fluent in Spanish Member of the American Culinary Federation and National Restaurant Association
The role of the cover letter is to make the reader look at your resume and consider you for an interview. Do some research on the employer, and use that information in your cover letter. For example, you might say something like "I became particularly interested in your establishment when I learned of the opening of your Asian-themed snack bar." Use the cover letter to highlight the most important and interesting information about you that is relevant to this specific job, particularly the information that reflects the requirements of the position. If an advertised job requires fluency in Spanish, for example, and you are fluent in Spanish, be sure to put that fact in the cover letter.
In organizing a cover letter, look closely at the job description or the advertisement. The order in which the qualifications and/or duties are listed may be a clue as to their relative importance; that is, the most important may be listed first. You may then wish to put your letter in that same order, highlighting which of the qualifications you possess and which duties you have had experience with.
The resume and cover letter are important pieces of persuasive writing (see Chapter 16). Think about who your readers are and what they need to know about you.
Restaurant reviews are a popular feature in any newspaper or magazine, whether in print or online. They tend to be more informal in style than academic papers or business letters and reports. However, you should keep in mind the same priorities of identifying the purpose, audience, and scope of the assignment. Tell the story of your particular experience at the restaurant, adding details on its background and history, if relevant. Give a balanced account of the service, decor, and dishes. Use specific, vivid sensory details to "paint a picture" for the reader. (See Chapters 9 and 12.) Depending on where you intend to submit or post the review, you may need to use a particular format or font.
The connections between restaurant reviews and social media are evolving in interesting ways. In "Everyone's a Critic," the first few paragraphs of which are printed here, Ike DeLorenzo researches the impact of the "new bookends" of dining out.
Restaurant dining has new bookends. The experience often begins and ends with the Web. Before you go out, you find a good place to eat; after you dine, you post a review. Millions of diners are now civilian critics, letting Chowhound, Yelp, City-search, and others in on their recent meals. The domain of criticism was once the preserve of magazines and newspapers. This year has seen a flurry of activity for restaurant review sites, and for some new approaches to public critiques. Two big players--the biggest actually-want in on the action. Last week, Facebook began mailing door stickers to restaurants asking diners to "like" (there's no "dislike") and comment about restaurants with Facebook pages. Google recently launched Google Place Pages, also with door stickers, which allow diners with smartphones to point the camera at a bar code and instantly display a comments page. All of this is enough to make restaurateurs worry about every single diner. In the same way that travelers use various websites to find evaluations of hotels, diners are now turning to online food sites for advice on where to eat. As staggeringly fast as participation in food and restaurant websites has grown, so has the attention being paid to amateur critics. Comments and ratings from any one diner may, of course, be biased or even false. Many Internet pundits believe in something called "the wisdom of the crowd." The theory is that with many people commenting, you eventually get to the truth about a restaurant. As the public posts about the food, the service, the ambience, the bearnaise, the baguettes, a fuller and more accurate picture is supposed to evolve. The amateurs are not going away, which restaurateurs once might have hoped, and they are making chefs nervous.
The article raises important questions about the accuracy and ethics of such review sites as Yelp. Know your audience--and your Internet host! Read the full text of the article in Chapter 7's A Taste for Reading.
Food blogs are also extremely popular, though perhaps few of them lead to a best-selling book and film the way Julie & Julia did! As with all types of writing, fresh ideas and vivid, specific language make for good reading. The following is part of an entry from a blog called Snackish.
"How To Eat a Stroopwafel"
Stroopwafels are my all-time favorite cookie, but they can be devilishly difficult to find. I suppose scarcity has a way of making the heart grow fonder, but when I do amass a stockpile of them my fondness doesn't fade the way it does halfway into a box of Girl Scout cookies. What makes this the perfect cookie is the combination of textures. Stroopwafels consist of two buttery waffle wafers sandwiching a thin, faintly gooey layer of syrup. They're sweet, but not too sweet, crisp, yet deliciously crumbly.
--Sara Bogush, Snackish--Food and Photography in New York City
Menus, and the research that goes into developing them, are an important part of a restaurant's success. The design and quality of the menu should reinforce the "brand identity" of the restaurant, the unique nature of the dining experience at this particular establishment, and this in turn can influence the customers' likelihood of returning. Routine analysis of each menu item's performance allows management to identify items that are not turning a profit and should be deleted. Such analysis also identifies promising menu items that should be moved to a more prominent location on the page. With its multi-purpose ends to inform, entertain, and persuade, the menu is a complex document requiring a number of different skills.
Menu pricing, for example, demands an understanding of recipe costing, seasonality, and psychology, as well as an analysis of competitors. Costing out every written recipe is the best way to ensure that you don't lose money needlessly--and with the average lifespan of a restaurant now well under one year, every dollar you can save will be important. Then look around at your competitors. What are they charging for an appetizer of quesadillas? Be sure to factor in the relative portion size and quality of the dish as well. Pay attention to the seasonal changes in the quality and cost of your ingredients.
The psychology of menu pricing is especially intriguing, as again you attempt to understand your audience and use the most persuasive prices. For example, be sure to take into account that customers have certain expectations regarding pricing. They would be quite surprised if a humble dish of roast turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy cost more than a ten-ounce filet mignon! In addition, retailers everywhere know that $8.95 looks less expensive than $9.00. Finally, although in many menus the prices are set off in their own column or in a special typeface, consider whether prices that simply follow the menu description might keep your customers focused on the food rather than on their finances. Although you may not want the customers to focus on the cost, you yourself should regularly analyze the profit history of each menu item and consider deleting those that perform poorly.
The menu's presentation is also important, as it in many ways embodies the particular dining experience you're offering. Like the experience itself, the menu should be entertaining. It should be attractive and reflect the same theme as the restaurant's decor and cuisine. It would be silly, for example, to use an inexpensive, informal menu design at a trendy, upscale bistro. Yet that inexpensive, informal menu might be just right for a small diner. Photographs of food items can be very persuasive. You do want to be certain, however, that your staff can routinely produce items as perfect in appearance as the glossy images on the menu; if not, customers may send the dish back to the kitchen. Another popular visual tool is a little icon beside particular menu items, like a heart that indicates "heart-friendly" dishes low in fat and sodium.
Some menu designers recommend using three colors: one for general categories such as Pasta or Dessert, a second for the majority of the menu descriptions, and a third to highlight one or two items in each category. Type font styles and sizes can be used in the same way. In addition, pay attention to where individual items are placed. Those at the top of any category and those on the right-hand page tend to attract the most attention. Menu inserts and table tents are also effective in directing customers' notice to particular items. Be sure to use all of the available space, without crowding, of course. The "sundries" you list on the back page might add a nice chunk to the check. Organize the menu into logical categories. Customers typically spend only three minutes reading it; be sure they can find what they are looking for, as well as the items you particularly want them to find.
In terms of the menu's text, use everything you know about writing to create vivid, tempting descriptions of each item. Be clear about the nature of your restaurant and the kinds of customers you hope to attract; then write content that will appeal to your particular audience. Avoid using culinary jargon or foreign words, unless you translate them. Most customers would rather not order an item at all than feel foolish asking you what it is. You should make each dish sound appealing, although you may want to spend more time on the especially profitable ones. Be concise, and especially try to avoid such wordy cliches as "accompanied by," "served with," and "atop a bed of." Focus on specific nouns, sensory adjectives, and active verbs.
Finally, proofread your menu very, very carefully for spelling and grammar. The care with which you create the menu should reflect the same care with which you create the meal.
For information on writing instructions, such as recipes, see Chapter 14.
Figure C.1 Instructions for Essay Tests Instruction What it's asking you to do analyze break down the topic into parts: what are they? how do they work together? compare look for both similarities and differences compare and contrast contrast look for differences define explain the meaning, often by using examples describe provide details about the appearance, sound, flavor, etc. discuss provide information/details about an idea, event, or object evaluate judge the quality or effectiveness explain tell why or how explore look at various aspects of the topic, without necessarily evaluating them identify list and describe illustrate give examples/details/stories related to topic trace describe the sequence of events or outline the development
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Author:||Cadbury, Vivian C.|
|Publication:||A Taste for Writing, Composition for Culinarians|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2015|
|Previous Article:||Appendix B: commonly misused words.|
|Next Article:||Appendix D: annotated research paper.|