Don’t Let “Pour” Writing Sour a Great Service

I recently became a member of; their catchphrase is “Extraordinary wines to your door,” and they have lived up to that challenging promise so far (you can read my review of the service on my personal blog). When they delivered my first package, I was impressed: two beautiful bottles, with a professional-looking insert. The insert was printed on three pages of card stock: one for each bottle (with details like price, region, and vintage, and room for guided tasting notes), plus a third containing a welcome message on the front, and a recipe for Asian Chicken salad on the back (to match the flavour of the included white wine). What a fantastic idea!

Then I read the text, and immediately saw several opportunities for improvement; I took out my Level 4 Pencil of Editing, and started with this sentence in their welcome message:

We appreciate the trust you have put in us and we want to make sure your experience with the WineCollective warrants you keeping it.

from the Welcome message

If I put my trust in you, I can’t also keep it. Or does this imply “keeping it… with us?” Of course, we can figure out what they mean by this statement, but the “ownership of trust” theme is tricky to resolve. Sometimes you need to relinquish a theme for the sake of clarity. Here’s my suggested rewrite:

We appreciate the trust you have put in us, and we will ensure your experience with the WineCollective exceeds your expectations.

This next sentence is part of a paragraph extolling the glory of wine:

It can be learned about and studied or perhaps a topic of conversation or a tool used for celebration.

from the Welcome message

This is one of those phrases where the author crams several related ideas together without finding their natural fit. You’ve probably written such a phrase yourself, around 3 a.m. the morning your essay was due. The end result usually has either too many words to make sense, or too few. Not to mention the use of the passive voice. Stand back, and let the ideas actively organize themselves:

It can be a topic of study or conversation, or simply a tool for celebration.

Here are examples of wordy and/or vague descriptions:

…we knew that it was a perfect fit for the essence of what the WineCollective is.

…you get a nice lemon-lime component, reminiscent of a Sprite or 7-Up aspect. This wine is showing some nice grassiness to it, and is a bit green, a bit herbal, and medicinal with some nuttiness. Tasting Notes on Man Vintners Chardonnay

In the first case, the writer packs in a bunch of prepositions and other connecting words to try to express an insightful parallel between the wine and his company. If you see this in your own writing, it’s a clue to get out the knife:

…we knew it was a perfect fit with the essence of the WineCollective.

In the second case, while the word “aspect” might be wine jargon (and therefore hold specific meaning), the word “nice” definitely is not. Adjectives are only useful if they clarify meaning; not being  a wine connoisseur, I can’t be sure if my edit replaces “nice” with a more correct description:

…you get a tangy lemon-lime component, reminiscent of Sprite or 7-Up. This wine shows mild grassiness— a bit green, a bit herbal and medicinal— with a note of nuttiness.

Obviously I may be confusing the connection between being grassy and being herbal, and the lemon-lime may actually be crisp. However, this confusion only proves my point: I am paying for access to the expertise of the, and I was disappointed that they did not allow that expertise to shine through in their writing.

To be fair, I’m sure there were a myriad of logistical and other issues surrounding the launch of their service, and it’s very easy to overlook the seemingly easy details, like copywriting.

But hey, who cares? What counts is that the service is excellent and the wines are delicious. The guys running the show are sharp, knowledgeable, and customer-oriented. So does the writing even matter? Probably not; while I hope I was the only word snob to notice, even I wouldn’t cancel my service based on their writing. However, an ability to clearly articulate their wine expertise will not only show they care about the professional details, it will also enrich the customer’s experience of the wine. In the end, it’s this enrichment that is their value-add.

Good luck,!


  1. #1 by Danielle - June 6th, 2011 at 16:56

    Hey Josh, great article. I’ve been in your same situation many times; a great company or product allows poor grammar to take away their competitive edge. Hopefully they take some of your advice! Thanks for posting. I think I’ll give a small visit later this evening.


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