In general, I’m a fan of the Netherland’s flagship airline, KLM. I’ve flown them multiple times and had pleasant flights. And online, they have an aggressive, inventive Facebook presence, and generally have good marketing campaigns. But a recent email they sent caught my eye.
You’ll notice a few minor — but still obvious — errors in word choice and syntax.
- The first is in the subject line “Time is ticking.” Time obviously doesn’t tick – a clock does. The meaning of this line is obvious and it “scans” well enough at first glance, but it seems off when you read it for a second time.
- The second slight weirdness is in that first sentence, “Your next travel destination has never been this close by.” Even thought the word “by” isn’t technically wrong here, it “feels off.” The term “close by” is almost always used in real-time. IE, “the pharmacy is close by…” KLM should have simply written “Your next travel destination has never been this close.” It sounds better, and it’s more correct.
- The last error is probably the most glaring. “Take a look at our temporary flight offers…” means well, but it misses the mark. The key word they were obviously looking for is “limited-time.” Even “flight offers” is a little off. A more American English phrasing would be “flight deals.” Or they could have omitted “flight” entirely and just written “Take a look at our limited-time deals,” since, as an airline, there isn’t much else they sell.
I write all this with a fair amount of respect for KLM. Writing emails for multiple audiences and in multiple languages is hard, and KLM generally does a good job. What an email like this does demonstrate, though, is the difference between fluency and native- or mother tongue-level fluency. Whoever wrote these emails was most likely a fluent English speaker, but probably doesn’t live in the US.
All that said, do these tiny details matter? Probably not. In fact, a case might be made that a proudly-Dutch airline could be well-served by maintaining a sort of “written accent” — there is an element of charm there.
And, at any rate, I was kind of convinced by the email, and I plan to stop in Amsterdam on my next flight.