Restaurant menus are all over the map, and often fail at two of their primary functions: informing and selling. In “Why Menus Suck—and 5 Ideas to Improve Them,”’s Geoffrey Gray considers how menus have changed over the years, and how they can be more useful.

Among Gray’s complaints:

• Descriptions that are no more than a list of ingredients, with no reference to cooking technique and no attempt to whet the appetite.

• Lots of useless information. The author puts the list of local purveyors into that category.

• Menus demand too much of the diner’s attention, to the detriment of normal conversation.

And some of his suggestions for improvements?

• Limit choices to avoid overwhelming the guest and to make sure only the best dishes are represented.

• Provide more explicit instruction. If you are serving small plates, the menu should make note and suggest how many to order.

• Ditch the cute category names, such as “snacks” and “for the table,” and provide a simple list in order of size and heft.