Wednesday 27 July 2011

Beer Labels: Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s blog about the type of beer branding which I really dislike. Seeing this post by Boak & Bailey reminded me of the label shown above from Watermill Inn and Brewing Co. Take a closer look and read it through.

I spot a couple of mistakes straight away – a missing apostrophe in ‘lovers’, an extra apostrophe in an ‘it’s’ and premises spelt wrong. I’m hyphen-happy so I’d add some hyphens into this, too – between award and winning, beer and lovers [sic] and hand and crafted. I would also question the use of ‘real pub’ (one assumes that this is opposed to a fake pub). And in the address I’d like a space between the comma and ‘near’. I will overlook the comma after ‘real pub’. The good news is that 'accommodation' is spelt correctly.

What makes these mistakes especially frustrating is that the front of the label has obviously been well-designed and lots of effort has gone into it (see here for more of them - you probably can't tell from the picture but it's very smart with graphics jumping off the label as if it was a 3D model). Even the paper it’s printed on is of a high quality. For this level of design and detail it must have passed by a few people and for none of them to spot those errors is just not good. As the front - even if it’s not a design I personally like (a dog dressed as Darth Vader?!) - looks bold and well designed, I feel some confidence that the beer will also have had the same effort put into it. The shoddy spelling on the back makes me think again.

The beer is actually really, really good. It pours an almost-opaque black-red with a thick, smooth head. The aroma is what grabs me: treacle sponge, raisins, chocolate, figs and a little milk. It’s rich and roasty, smooth and fruity with dried fruit and a cakey depth. I liked it a lot. Not sure if I’d like a few pints of it but by the bottle I enjoyed every gulp.

I know some people aren’t good with spelling and grammar, I understand that, but there’s always someone around to take a look at it and check it. If you aren’t sure then I’ll even take a look at it for you – just email it over to me.

Breweries: please try not to make spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes on your beer labels. As Boak & Bailey say in their post: “Even a small typo can send the message that you are sloppy and careless. Avoid exclamation marks, too: they will make you look hysterical.” Amen to that!

I’ve read my post through a few times to try and make sure everything is spelt and written correctly. I’m sure someone will tell me if not! 


  1. Oooh, three exclamation marks in that post, you must be hysterical ;)

    I think Terry Pratchett says it best: 'Multiple exclamation marks,' he went on, shaking his head, 'are a sure sign of a diseased mind.' -- in Eric

    Spelling errors wind me up too, though I'm not quite so picky on punctuation. That premises typo would have been picked up if they'd used a spell-checker.

  2. "I’ve read my post through a few times to try and make sure everything is spelt and written correctly. I’m sure someone will tell me if not! "

    Yep: Roasty is not a word.

  3. It's a great place the Watermill, with great beers, and the label doesn't look tacky so it wouldn't put me off.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Your spelling's great, but I'd question your mixed use of straight quotes and curly quotes in this sentence: "And in the address I’d like a space between the comma and ‘near’. I will overlook the comma after ‘real pub’. The good news is that 'accommodation' is spelt correctly." and also your fluctuation between hyphens and en-dashes to separate parenthetical elements when really you should be using em-dashes in any case.
    Oh you asked for that one.
    That aside, I could provide you with lots of local examples from here in Canada. It really does make a sloppy impression. But I've yet to see an example as bad as the Watermill you show in your post. Yikes.
    (I have not checked my spelling or punctuation and I expect it to be routinely terrible).

  6. Dan – em-dashes, generally without spaces either side, are American. British style is to use the en-dash. We’re funny like that.

  7. Ah, but I'm an English person living in Canada so I get to be always right. So en-dashes work on the English internet, gotcha, thanks for pointing that out. Sometimes the US guys use double hyphens which is very ugly. I still score on the hyphens point though, right? And winning punctuation debates is what beer blogging is all about in the end.

  8. Anon - If that's all you've got then it's good enough for me. I just checked Michael Jackson's Great Beer Guide and the first dark beer I found used the word roasty to describe it (Sam Smith's Taddy Porter). That's good enough for me.

    Ed - Who said anything about tasky?!

    Dan - I'll tell you why that it... As I was posting I moved that accommodation sentence up to where it is now and just typed it into Blogger (as opposed to Word), so I blame Blogger for that one! As for the other stuff - what Martyn said. And you can have half a point on the hyphens because in the third paragraph they are short when they should be long (another Word thing which I lazily didn't correct - whatever).

  9. Good points Mark, but picking on punctuation is always going to be problematic. You could do with one or two more commas in your post.

    The main flaw though, is that the Watermill has a dog based theme for all its beers. This goes unmentioned, but is something you professed to dislike yesterday. Themes that is. A Bite'er Rough? Perleeze.

    Oh and in the pub the beers are actually very ordinary indeed.

  10. Tandleman - The labels aren't the sort of thing I like but at least they are well designed and not put together by someone using Paint. I'm not big on the dog theme - I don't know where it fits within the brand?! But this isn't about that; it's just about the backside.

  11. The use of 'near' in correct postal addresses hasn't been recommended for about forty years. There's something peculiarly British about making your postal address sound as peculiar as possible, but actually, based on looking up the postcode in the Royal Mail PAF database, this one should read simply: The Watermill Inn, Ings, Kendal LA8 9PY. I can forgive them 'The Lake District', which isn't a postal term but is understandable to want to boast about. Perhaps they don't want people to write them letters complaining about their spelling!

  12. "Kendal, Westmorland" please! Traditional ales, traditional counties ;-)

  13. I thought you might appreciate this.

    Although it's American and there is a slight difference of approach on the plural exceptions I think it summarises things quite nicely.

  14. Well spotted, and as much as I like the Watermill, and have stayed there, it's strange that they play on 'a real pub' as half the ground floor is set out like a restaurant and even the 'pub' half has very much 'sit and eat' style tables and chairs, with only a very small space by the bar for standing. Good place though, and love their beer.

  15. I'm building some simple rules:

    Owls on bottle label: Real Ale
    Minimalist branding: Craft Beer
    Spelling mistakes: Real Ale
    Questionable grammer: Real Ale

    But what if someone makes a spelling mistake on a craft keg font - does that make it a Watney Red knock off?

    Seriously like Comic Sans pedants, the only thing worse than bad spelling and grammar are spelling and grammar pedants...

  16. David - Very funny!

    bornagainst - It sounds pretty good! I enjoyed this bottle a lot.

    Anon - I hate Comic Sans!

  17. I don't like the use of "award-winning" when the particular award isn't declared.

    It could be "shittest beer of the festival."

  18. Surely a (more-or-less) cylindrical object can't have a backside? Ends (top and bottom, the planes perpendicular to the axis), yes. Plus the curved surface parallel to the axis. I suppose this "back" label, or verso, or reverse, could be called the "backside" – if you weren't going to be picky.

    Dogs? They welcome dogs at the Watermill. Was a bit of a USP. It's "Collie Wobbles" that puts me off, implying an upset stomach.

  19. My wife is a bit of a grammar Nazi and keeps my on my toes. She would roll her eyes at that label.

  20. Of course commenting on a thread about spelling/grammar mistakes and then making one... oh the shame...

  21. You have a trigger-happy hyphen-finger Mark!

  22. Don't worry about the errors in the comments, people. It's just Muphry's Law in action.