To the copy writer who composed the description on the back panel of Trader Joe's "Costa Rican Tarrazu" coffee:
I realize you probably have a lot on your plate with the task of writing unique descriptions of every variety of Trader Joe’s delicious, yet affordable, coffee. After mindlessly enjoying a steaming cup every day for the last few months, I was startled when I finally read the back panel of my latest favorite, “Costa Rican Tarrazu.” My two years working as a writing advisor to university students has given me a certain knack for spotting awkward sentence structure, grammatical errors, and lack of brevity, all of which appear in your description.
Let’s start with the first sentence: “The microclimates of Costa Rica are well known for their high-grown, hard bean and superior flavor profiles.” The subject of this sentence is “the microclimates of Costa Rica;” as such, “superior flavor profiles” necessarily refers to this subject. However, microclimates themselves do not have flavor profiles, coffee beans do. So, really, the first sentence should read: “The microclimates of Costa Rica are well known for producing superior flavor profiles in their high-grown, hard beans.”
Moving on: “It’s fertile volcanic soil, shady conditions and elevation all contribute to a bright and well-balanced cup.” A classic misuse of “it’s” instead of “its” was the initial sore thumb that stuck out to me and convinced me to inspect this description with more attentiveness than one would usually devote to a coffee can. Also, I know it’s (it is) all the rage right now to cut out the Oxford comma in lists, but many have been too quick to nix it altogether at the expense of the meaning of the sentence. The lack of a comma between “conditions and elevation” would, if interpreted correctly, mean that both the conditions and the elevation must be “shady.” However, as elevation cannot be “shady,” it would be more accurate to write: “Its fertile volcanic soil, shady conditions, and high elevation all contribute to a bright and well-balanced cup.” If one wanted to be really picky, one would point out that the sentence should begin with “Their” and not “its” since the subject of the previous sentence, highlighted in the last paragraph, is plural: “The microclimates of Costa Rica.”
The last three sentences are not obviously incriminating, but they could use a little condensing. Any Trader Joe’s customer wanting to know more about their coffee purchase is going to want that information to be conveyed to them in as few words as possible. They’re on their way home from work, the check-out lines are getting longer, so they don’t have time to stand around reading elaborate product descriptions. The conclusion currently reads like this: “This wonderful brew is from a co-op established in 1960, making it one of the first co-ops in Central America. The co-op is located at an altitude of 6,000 feet in a subregion of Tarrazu, the most well known and highest elevation coffee region in Costa Rica.” These last three sentences are packed with specific detail and sound repetitive with their overuse of the word “co-op.” Some of this information could have been spaced out throughout the paragraph by incorporating it into other sentences. Here’s how I think the whole, finished description should have been written:
“The microclimates of Costa Rica are well known for producing superior flavor profiles in their high-grown, hardy beans. Their fertile volcanic soil, shady conditions, and 6,000-foot elevation all contribute to a bright and well-balanced cup. This wonderful brew comes from one of the first co-ops in Central America. Established in 1960, this co-op is located in a subregion of Tarrazu, the most well known and highest elevation coffee region in Costa Rica.”
Not only is this description clearer and grammatically correct, it is also 8 words shorter.
Once again, I love Trader Joe’s and their coffee, but blatant and recurring grammatical and stylistic errors make any company look sloppy and unprofessional. I will close my remarks by noting that I am currently available for employment at a rate of $25.00USD per hour as a copy writer or editor.
Thank you for your time and consideration,