Aug 8, 2012

Writing exercise: The right word in the right place

So much of writing is about choosing the best word to convey exactly what you're trying to say. 

As an example, let’s use the following actual true telephone conversation I just had with a customer service rep from a Large Electronics Company.

Large EC: Hello. I’m calling in response to your e-mail. You need help* with your new printer?

ME: Yes. It’s fresh out of the box, but it won’t print. It says the magenta ink cartridge is empty. The cartridge must be defective.

LARGE: Did you call Technical Support?

ME: No, I e-mailed, remember?

LARGE: But did you call? It’s best if you call.

ME: How did you get my phone number?

LARGE: From your e-mail. Have you tried removing and reinserting the magenta cartridge?

ME: Five times. No luck. I finally went out and bought a new cartridge.

LARGE: Are you still having trouble printing?

ME: No, it works fine now.

LARGE: I’m glad to hear that. Is there anything else I can help* you with?

ME: Yes. Can you reimburse me for the cartridge I bought?

LARGE: I’m sorry, I can’t reimburse you. I could have sent you a replacement if you’d called.

ME: How about you send me a replacement cartridge now?

LARGE: I can’t do that, since I’ve already recorded that the problem is resolved. Is there anything else I can help* you with?

ME: Why can’t you just reimburse me the $19.99?

LARGE: I’m not authorized to do that. The best I can do is give you a $25 coupon toward your next purchase of ink.

ME: That’s FINE, thanks.

LARGE: Would you like me to give you a coupon? (Honest to goodness, she asked me this.)

(General rummaging sounds; she finds and recites a coupon code for me.)

LARGE: Is there anything else I can help* you with?

ME: God no. Thank you for your help*.

LARGE. My pleasure. If you need further help*, please—

ME: I know. Please call Technical Support.

LARGE: Yes. Would you like that number?

*Writing exercise: In place of the word “help” please insert a more precise, accurate verb, such as confound, frustrate, aggravate, hose.