An Open Letter to Taco Bell (following up on my Tweet of May 17, 2008) — Dear Taco Bell,

Question marks and exclamation points are not interchangeable. In other words, it’s time to fire the person who wrote the copy for these signs:

taco bell advertising error typo punctuation

taco bell advertising sign typo error punctuation

If this leaves you in need of an outstanding copywriter, please contact me.


(photos Copyright © 2008 by Kristen King. All Rights Reserved.)

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8 comments… add one
  • Arik Jones May 29, 2008

    It’s a rhetorical question and is actually grammatically correct. Nothing wrong with those signs at all. The American standard of english is actually quite flexible.

    Most anyone would know that is a statement and or rhetorical question.

  • Kristen King May 30, 2008

    Arik, I understand what you’re staying, but rhetorical questions are still questions and should be punctuated as such. It is not a statement, unless they’re suggesting that you SHOULD pay more, as in, “Why, pay more!”

    I admit that I’m a prescriptivist, and yeah, most people will get it, but why not be correct? What good is the exclamation point doing for them? Seriously, if you can make the argument for it, I will listen.

  • Marjorie May 30, 2008

    I don’t see it as often as I used to, but seeing the word “Nite” (e.g., “Open at Nite!”) on billboards everywhere in the 80s and 90s was highly, highly annoying.


    Marjorie’s last blog post..V-Day in New Orleans, Pinay-style

  • Kristen King May 30, 2008

    Marjorie, YES, that is really grating. Glad I’m not the only one who thinks so. :)

  • Lori Jun 2, 2008

    Kristen, you’ll LOVE the TEAL Team blog (Typo Eradication Advancement League).

    I wholeheartedly agree – rhetorical or not, it’s incorrectly punctuated.

  • Lenoxus Jun 8, 2008

    I agree about the exlamation point thing. When I see those three signs in a row, I’m pretty sure their argument must in fact be “Why, pay more!” because the numbers go up. 79 cents? Why, pay more! 89 cents? Why, pay more! Don’t you dare stop paying!

    Embarrassingly, though, I don’t really about about the spelling “nite” thing, because “nite” doesn’t mean anything except a cutesy spelling of “night”, and hence there is no confusion. It would be the same to me if they went for a pun, such as “Open at Knight”. I guess I would say my grammar attitude is descriptivist (hah, my spell checker didn’t know that word) except where the prescriptive rules have a useful purpose that should not be lost (for example, the utility of the real meaning of “irony”) or a whole
    piece is completely unreadable (or pointlessly inconsistent).

  • Falcon4 Sep 17, 2008

    Ugh. I just went to Taco Bell and ordered straight down their grammatically incorrect menu. Then I googled for “taco bell why pay more grammar” and stumbled upon this page. Go ahead, search for “why pay more”, and witness in awe the totally ridiculous suggestion it gives you.

    It’s not a sign of America’s grammatical “flexibility”, it’s a sign of its incompetence. With the flooding of Se Habla Espanol, English standards are going through the floor. “Your/you’re” is the biggest offender. But I, as well as everyone else I know, have been bugged to no end by the “Why pay more!” thing. We always saw it as an exclamation with no meaning – just like it’s written.

    I don’t get why Taco Bell went for the exclamation point. My money is on some crackpot marketing guy that sleekly injected that little exclamation point amongst the rest of the marketing fluff. But hey, the food’s alright… ;)

  • Kristen King Sep 17, 2008

    Falcon, SO glad I’m not the only one who notices these things. Incompetency indeed!


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