Close this search box.

Served or Serviced–Which Do You Prefer?

My friend Margaret sent me an amusing sentence from an email she had received from a car rental company. Here is the sentence, from which I have eliminated the company’s name to maintain its good reputation:

Our car rental company values you as a customer, and we look forward to servicing you again in the future.

Margaret, who is always striving to improve the world’s business communication, included these remarks in her response to the car rental company:

One small suggestion I’d make is in the wording of your email. I would prefer to have you say “We look forward to serving you again in the future.”

Your company serves customers, and it services its cars. To service is to provide some maintenance. It is also defined as “Copulation with a female. –Used of male animals” in Webster’s II New Riverside University Dictionary. I know that you did not intend that meaning. And I will not let that little slip prevent me from choosing your company the next time we need to rent a car.

My dictionary generally agrees with Margaret’s, although it adds these two definitions for the verb service:

To provide services to.
Slang. To have sex with.

We know the car rental company meant “to provide services to,” but the slang use of service makes serve a much clearer choice.

Served or serviced? If you are in the car rental business, why not heed Margaret’s advice and play it safe: service cars and serve customers.


Posted by Avatar photo
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

2 comments on “Served or Serviced–Which Do You Prefer?”

  • I think your friend handled herself very well in her reply to the rental company. If we could all have such grace when correcting a mistake, the world would be a better place.

    I have fond memories of reading an article where the word interred was used where interned was meant with respect to someone held in a prison camp during WWII. I thought it might have been a typo the first time it was used, but the term, interred, was used repeatedly. The gentleman who was being interviewed was still with us and certainly wasn’t interred anywhere at that point. I emailed the editor, nicely, but never got a reply. I’m curious what response your friend received.

  • Robin, thanks for that fine example. It brought me a smile, despite the prematurely interred subject.

    My friend Margaret got this reply:

    “As you can tell, I was no English major in college, so I appreciate the heads up. If you need any assistance setting up your next rental, please give me a call.”

    Margaret was pleased that she was able to share her correction without provoking defensiveness.


Comments are closed.