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How Would You Revise This Sign?

This signed appeared today on the door of my local post office. Oh no! The lobby of the post office is closing? How will the people with post office boxes get their mail? But wait . . . maybe . . . .

How would you revise the sign so its message is instantly clear?

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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.

13 comments on “How Would You Revise This Sign?”

  • THE LOBBY will be CLOSED nights and week ends beginning February16, 2016
    Monday through Friday
    6:30 p.m to 6:30 a.m
    Saturday after 3:30 p.m. and
    All Day on Sundays.

  • Thanks for your replies, everyone.

    To my mind, Shelley got it right. She focused on when the lobby is open, which is what customers want to know.

    Because it’s a sign on a door, with plenty of room, I would spell out the days of the week, as the post office did. I’d also add the traditional periods in a.m. and p.m.

    Below is my version. Please imagine the lines as spaces–I can’t get the spacing as I would like it in this comment box, so the lines represent spaces. My goal is to indent Monday and Saturday and to have both renderings of 6:30 a.m. line up vertically.

    Effective Feb. 16, 2016

    __Monday – Friday__6:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
    __Saturday________6:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

    CLOSED Sunday

    Shall I take a new sign to my post office?


  • There could be more than one sign, I suppose. The one on the door could say “New lobby hours start Feb. 16. Details inside.”

    It is equally appalling and amusing how often a little sign, one intended to relieve uncertainty or irritation, actually makes the situation worse. A member of our technical staff once pleaded with me to intervene in “the imminent refrigerator apocalypse.”

    She was referring to signs that the Admin staff posted on our refrigerators every Wednesday afternoon. The signs read “All items will be thrown away in refrigerators at 6 p.m. on Thursday.”

    I convinced the Admin group to adopt less baleful wording.

  • I like these little “homework assignments” that you give us, Lynn! I would agree with everyone above that the emphasis should be on when the lobby is open rather than when it is closed.
    Personally, I would also edit “We apologize for the inconvenience.” to read “We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you.”, simply because not everyone is necessarily going to be inconvenienced by this change in lobby hours. Do you or your readers have any thoughts about this rephrasing?

  • Alicia, good point! I would prefer not to make the message longer, so I would stop with “any inconvenience.”

    I have been thinking about whether the sign should include the reason for the shorter hours. I have heard the reason was to reduce vandalism and to avoid having homeless people spend the night in the post office. However, I have decided that information does not belong on a sign. Having it there might inflame people’s views on homelessness, which is currently a huge, charged topic in Seattle.

    Those who wonder about the reason could find out from the employees at the counter.

    Thanks for stopping by.


  • This was an excellent post. I’ve enjoyed reading the comments! Lynn, your idea to spell out the days of the week (when space permits) DOES make a difference in the way it’s read. I will now file that away in the “future reference” area of my brain.

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