Thursday, October 18, 2012

Coffee at 9. Fries at 5. Write that down.

Usually I eschew fast-food, so I’ll admit I’m a bit out of my element at a drive-thru window. Last week, however, the stars aligned and I visited two different McDonald’s restaurants. On Monday at 5:30pm, I ordered a children’s meal. On Wednesday at 9am, I ordered a coffee. In both cases, I was asked to pull into the lot and wait for my order.

“We’re just waiting for the fries,” was Monday’s explanation.

“The coffee will be up in a minute,” I was told on Wednesday.

Sometimes I try to quiet the customer service/operations manager voices in my head. Sometimes I chalk up experiences like these to bizarre coincidence. But other times, I have to say, they blew it.

Like, both of these times. In what world is it hard to imagine McDonald’s customers wanting coffee in the morning and fries at dinnertime?

Business Writing Must Serve Readers

There's writing lesson here, folks, and I can sum it up in one word: Anticipation.

Sometimes it’s good. (Cue Carly Simon.)  It’s good when the WRITER ANTICIPATES WHAT THE READER needs to know.

Other times it's bad. It’s bad when your readers are thinking, “why doesn’t it say…?” Because if your audience doesn't find what they want to know, on rare occasion they will call you. But much more often, the audience will move on and get what they need from someone else. 

Whether you’re writing a return policy, employee handbook, or a stop sign, the most fundamental part of your preparation is to anticipate what your reader needs to know - and provide it.

And just in case you’re wondering: no, thanks. I don’t want fries with that. 

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