Skip to content

Correct This Sign

This sign includes several subtle errors. Can you find and correct them? Please share your brief corrections–no need to rewrite the content.

I will post my corrections on November 16. Enjoy the weekend!

Eye Protection


Would you like to be more confident correcting punctuation? Take my Punctuation for Professionals course. 


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.

12 comments on “Correct This Sign”

  • 1) One-point Lesson
    2) Eye Protection in the Plant
    3) Remove double space before first parenthesis
    4) Comma after ‘all times’
    5) the restrooms, the administrative offices, the conference rooms, and approved break areas off the break floor
    6) Oxford comma can stay although I’m not a fan.

  • 1. Excessive use of uppercase letters.
    2. Extra space before first parenthesis.
    3. Number 7 looks odd.
    4. “In the production and yard areas of the plant”
    5. Remove “the” before “cafeteria”
    5. Should it be (compliant ANSI Z-87)?

  • Well, I guess the cafeteria, restrooms, administrative offices, conference rooms and approved break areas off the plant floor are no exceptions to the production and yard areas.

  • I would say that it’s too wordy. It should start with the heading “Eye Protection”. Leave the line before that off. Include only the first sentence in the text area (remove the extra space before the first parentheses).

  • Don’t place a colon after a verb. See Fowler. Alex covers the point. If you need to do this in real life, visualise the language you would use in conversation. Use a heirarchy of headline sizes in those first two lines. Don’t rely on colour to do the job. I’d prefer to cast this in the tone, “you must wear.” This isn’t a case for proofreading. It needs a rewrite from scratch.

  • Protect your Eyes. Wear Safety Glasses with Side Shields.

    You must wear them at all times in the Plant in production and yard areas.

    You need not wear them in the cafetaria, restrooms, administrative offices, conference rooms, and the break areas off the plant floor.

    Make sure that your Safety Glasses are ANSI Z-87 compliant.

  • Thanks for your input, everyone. Here are my corrections:

    1. One-Point Lesson (Yay, Alex!)
    Reason: “One-Point” is a compound adjective before the noun “lesson.” It’s not a point lesson; it’s a one-point lesson. Capitalize “Point” because it’s an important word (not an article, a short preposition, or a short conjunction).

    2. Eye Protection in the Plant (Yay, Tiffani!)
    Reason: We do not capitalize small prepositions in titles and headings. Some style manuals go so far as to not capitalize any prepositions, even long ones like “throughout.”

    3. The exceptions are (without a colon–Yay, Alex and Paul!)
    Reason: We do not use a colon after a verb unless it precedes content that is set off visually, for example, in a list of bullet points.

    You all made some helpful additional points, which I touch on below.

    The serial (Oxford) comma is correct according to nine out of ten style manuals. It may not be your style, but you should check the company’s style guide before changing it.

    Yes, there should be just a single space before the opening parenthesis, Tiffani, Maria, and Joan. I saw that as a result of my camera angle, but you were correct to question it.

    There’s no reason for a comma after “all times.”

    Regarding “the” before the list of locations, the article needs to appear just once. Leaving it out before “cafeteria” makes the sentence sound abbreviated; putting it before every word is unnecessary.

    The capitalization in the headings is standard, with the exception of “in,” which should be lower case.

    In expressions about compliance, the word “compliant” does normally come after the number of the regulation.

    Miguel, you made an excellent point about the non-exceptions. I was not looking for that kind of error. A better way to state those “exceptions” would be this:
    Safety glasses are not required in the . . . .

    My guess about the two headings is that one-point lessons appear around the plant and offices. (This one appeared in a bathroom stall, of all places, but it got my attention.) I’m guessing that the phrase “One-Point Lesson” appears on every sign in yellow, with the title of the actual lesson in white.

    Paul, I would hesitate to revise to “You must wear.” After all, I was the reader, and I have no safety glasses and never go in the plant. To me, the passive voice verb works for communicating this rule. However, I would agree with the change to active voice for a sign at the entry to the plant.

    Nilima, that’s an interesting revision. I like the heading. (Capitalize “your.”) In your first sentence, it’s important to replace “them” with “safety glasses with side shields” so readers don’t need to return to the heading to learn what “them” stands for. The word “you” at the beginning of two paragraphs focuses on you, the reader. I would prefer to keep the focus on the glasses.

    As long as we all follow respected, current style guides, we can agree to disagree on these points. A problem arises only if we apply our personal, sometimes idiosyncratic preferences to the work of others.

    Again, thanks for commenting!


  • Am I the only one that was confused about whether “ANSI Z-87 compliant” applied to the side shields alone, or to the side shield-affixed safety glasses as a whole? Logically, I assume they mean the latter, but in that case, wouldn’t it make more sense to write “ANSI Z-87 compliant safety glasses with side shields”? Or would that need another hyphen, thereby making it look a little bit unnatural (“ANSI Z-87-compliant”)?

  • Hi Alicia,

    My assumption is that the glasses with side shields must be compliant. If the employees at the plant would readily agree, the message is clear.

    However, if plant employees may be confused, we need to change the statement as you suggested. The phrase “ANSI Z87-compliant” would work. In my online research I found that “Z87” is not hyphenated–yet another error in the original sign!

    Thanks for your helpful comment.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *