Menu writing lesson 9 – spelling and grammar

A menu is a sales and marketing tool and is a reflection of the chef and your operation. It is therefore extremely important that you present it in the best way possible way and avoid simple mistakes such as bad spelling and/or grammar. Here, John Wood gives some top tips.

Basic checks

There are a number of basic checks that are extremely useful that we’ve listed below along with some common mistakes to avoid. Many mistakes occur because proof reading is not thorough, often skipping through the text without focusing on each word.

KC Top Tip

always read your menu backwards this will make you focus on each word individually and not just as part of the sentence.

Accents when using foreign language

A high proportion of culinary terminology comes from the French language below are some common words and how they should be spelt. à la carte, Aïoli Beurre Monté Canapé Chèvre Crème Fraîche Crêpe en croûte Entrée Frisée Génoise Gruyère Meunière Niçoise Pâté [commonly charcuterie] Pâte [commonly dough such as Pâte à Choux) Provençal Ragoût Rémoulade Soufflé Spätzle [can also be Spaetzle] Velouté

Some common mistakes

It is worth checking over items on your menu to ensure some of these common products and dishes are spelt correctly:
WRONG RIGHT
Vueve Cliqot Veuve Clicquot
Proscuitto Prosciutto
Ceasar Caesar
Expresso Espresso
Capuccino Cappuccino
Tagliatelli Tagliatelle

Careful when using capitals

It is correct to use capitals when using a name such as:
  • Cheddar
  • Parmesan
  • San Danielle
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Eton mess
  • Poor knights of Windsor
However, it is important to really understand the context of where to use capital letters within your menu. This is an example of the sort of thing that may appear on a menu, incorrectly:

Pan-fried Sea Bass with cheddar Mashed potatoes, Leek, Mussels and a Saffron cream Sauce.

Some establishments like to be trendy and NOT use capitals at all.

pan-fried sea bass with cheddar mashed potatoes, leek, mussels and a saffron cream sauce

If there is any rule, at least try to be consistent and then the reader will see that you are doing it on purpose. It’s worth noting that many restaurant and food journalists do not always appreciate this and prefer menus to be grammatically correct.

Apostrophes and speech marks

Which of the following is correct?
  1. Goat’s cheese
  2. Goats’ cheese
  3. Goats cheese
There are three arguments here about which should be correct:
  1. Goat’s cheese – goat is singular because we are referring to it as a species; one species.
  2. Goats’ cheese – the milk comes from a number of goats, so we treat goat as plural
  3. Goats cheese – the goat is being used as an adjective to describe the variety of cheese
In each case they are all probably right in some way or another. Again, the advice is to be consistent across all your menus.

Speech marks & bold copy

Using “speech marks” on menus can be unnecessary but they can be used effectively to highlight a part of the dish. Words can be highlighted by bold writing in any part of the dish you would like to highlight or just by using boxing in the whole description. Again avoid excessive use of “speech marks” or bold highlighting, as it can be annoying to read and instead of drawing the reader’s eye, they no longer register its use.

Summary

  • Always read your menu backwards
  • Focus on each word
  • Get other people to proof read your menu
  • Be consistent
  • Use spell check and culinary compendiums

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