What good sandwiches can teach you about great writing


I was in New York City recently speaking at a conference, and, since I needed to grab a quick lunch, I was delighted to find a Pret A Manger right around the corner from my hotel.

Not familiar with Pret? It’s a chain of sandwich-and-salad shops that originated in London in the 1980s that expanded to the U.S.. As a foodie, I’m a fan because everything Pret sells—even a simple tuna sandwich—is delicious.

And as a communicator, I’m also an admirer of Pret’s writing. For example, here’s an excerpt from my sandwich (Chicken and Bacon Club. Yum!) box:

“What on earth is Pret? We’re different, that’s for sure . . . We make slow food and then sell it fast. We steadfastly avoid the obscure additives and preservatives which plague today’s food. Our salads and sandwiches are ‘Just Made’, organic when we can and always preservative-free.”

Isn’t that great? It’s got everything right: Distinct point of view. Friendly tone of voice. Simple, direct use of language.

Visit the Pret web site and you’ll find more. For example, “Basically, we are a cross between a good restaurant, an Italian coffee bar and a bullet train. (Hey, multiple personalities are better than none at all.)”

Or: “It’s important our sandwiches and salads taste better than everybody else’s. To achieve this, we build a beautiful sandwich kitchen in every Pret. Every night we receive good, natural ingredients and our chefs get cracking early in the morning.”

No matter what you’re writing about, you can learn from Pret’s approach. Choose simple words over complex language. Have a clear point of view. Use specific descriptions (I love the “bullet train” reference) instead of abstractions.

And, above all, eat well. It makes for darn good writing.

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