National: Typos On The Menu

Last week Miss Manners touched on the subject of correcting typos in retail store signage. Judith Martin took the nit-picking, though highly sympathetic, letter writer gently to task for the greatest etiquette infraction of all — correcting others — but then pointed out that it’s not rude to inform the store’s management of their public spelling mistakes. The letter-writer had alerted a salesperson who, Miss Manners pointed out, likely couldn’t have cared less.

Same goes for restaurants, we would think. As a professional menu-dealer-with, we find typos everywhere, both at work and after. But does it do to correct these? It’s a given your server won’t care. In fact, unless you actually need to send something back or get more ketchup, your server probably won’t even listen to you when you report on how the food is.

Back in June, Jane Black wrote a column in the Washington Post advocating an extremely passive-aggressive method of communicating menu typos: She describes a daydream wherein,

I enter a restaurant, order and sweetly ask the waiter if I can “hold on to the menu” during dinner. Then, using a distinctive purple pen, I discreetly copy-edit the descriptions of the dishes…

’Who was that anonymous proofreader?’ chefs would whisper to one another. Correct-a-girl strikes again! Eliminating menu mistakes, one restaurant at a time.

Right. That menu would be tossed in the trash so quickly it would beat Correct-a-girl to the curb. The blog Stuff White People Like promptly skewered the piece (“The presence of an improper apostrophe on a menu can ruin an otherwise delicious meal for a white person”).

But seriously, menu typos can be galling, and some obsessive types just can’t see their way toward letting it rest. What’s the best way to get the corrections to the menu-meister? Find out who that person is, and tell them. Most restaurants won’t take it personally, just like they won’t take constructive criticism of the food personally.

After the meal, if the typo seriously still bothers you, get up, ask the host who writes the menu, then either ask to speak to that person or convey a message via the host, indicating the typo. That’s your best shot at getting your voice heard, but really, is it worth the trouble? (Sigh) Actually, yes. The restaurant, concerned for its reputation, probably does want to hear where it can improve, and the rest of us will dine easier, knowing Correct-a-girl (or boy) is out there, watching.

How to Proofread, Politely [Miss Manners/Washington Post]
The Art of Criticism [Table Manners/Chow]
Typos a la Carte, Ever A Specialty of the House [Washington Post]
White Problems — Typos on Menus [Stuff White People Like]

Photo: Via Aaron Gustafson/flickr]

National: Typos On The Menu