The setup

It’s amazing how everyday, simple activities can highlight the importance of an editor. Take yesterday, for example. We were going to my sister’s house for dinner and were asked to bring to an apple pie. Not having gone apple picking this year and having a love/hate relationship with pastry (love to eat it, hate to make it), I opted to purchase one. In my guilt over not bringing something homemade, however, I chose get the pie from a local apple farm’s bakery.

In the busy bakery, I bee-lined straight to a wooden rack loaded with large, cake-sized boxes. The sign said “Special: All pumpkin and fruit pies $11”. While my eyebrows raised so high they nearly met my hair line upon seeing the price, I reasoned it out with a pat on the back for supporting local farmers and reducing my carbon footprint (a stretch, I know). In the pie’s defense, it was one of those large, mounded pies with a great deal of filling and perfect pastry, complete with traditional slits for the steam to escape—a beautiful pie well worth dinner with my sister. My eyes first fell to blueberry pies, raspberry pies, and then pumpkin pies. Finally, I saw the treasure of the journey: the apple pie. I waited in line with my $11 ready, exercising my patience as a mother, her daughter, and a grandmother tried to determine whether other family members would want a cookie or other baked goods, and who subsequently skirmished over who would pay for a bottle of water.

The sting

Finally, I was called up to another till. The cashier rang in the price of $14. Of course, I pointed out that the sign said all pumpkin and fruit pies were on sale for $11. Hesitantly, the cashier stated, “Oh, that’s for other fruit pies, but not apple,” to which I replied, “Really? Because an apple is a fruit.” I waited to see if she would give me the pie for the advertised price of $11, but instead she just awkwardly shifted from one foot to the other. As I turned to leave with my very expensive pie, the embarrassed cashier turned to a co-worker and asked if she should maybe change the sign because people think that apples are fruit. Had I not had my hands full, I would have whipped out a business card and suggested they hire an editor to make the sign more clear with precise wording. Had my red pen been handy, I would have changed the sign myself.

The fix

Of course an apple is a fruit, and I’m sure (or at least I hope) that those working at the apple farm know this. The problem was with the wording on the sign. All the words and even punctuation in the sign were correct, but it was the word choice that was less than appropriate. A good editor would have used the word “berry” instead of “fruit” or to save on card stock would simply have added “(apple pies excluded)”. “Special: All pumpkin and berry pies $11” would have made it clear that apple pies would be the full price of $14, leaving no platform for irritated or even irate customers. Had I pressed, I might have been able to get the pie for $3 cheaper, but was it worth it?

The pie was delicious, and for $14 I got more than just a pie—apples as non-fruit became one of the ongoing jokes of the evening. If I had made my own pie, I never would have had the funny story to tell at dinner, nor had such an interesting blog post this morning on the importance of clarity to something as simple as a sign. I will never know how many others approached the counter at the bakery only to be confused, disappointed, and out of pocket an extra $3 but I imagine there were many.

The lesson

No matter how small your piece, it is important to ensure the correct and most precise words are used. Using an editor can save embarrassment, confusion, and can even affect the bottom line. Consider hiring an editor today… then go eat some apple pie.

Learn more about what an editor can do for you.