Skip to content

Signs That Need Your Proofreader’s Eye

Even when I am on vacation, I can’t turn off my proofreading eyes. The three signs below, which I spotted in Charleston, South Carolina, and Charlotte, North Carolina, got my attention. Can you recognize why? Each sign has at least one error.

Sign 1 in Charleston 

Womens photo


Sign 2 in Charleston 

Congratulations photo


Sign 3 in Charlotte

Deep fried photo


Please share your corrections in the comments.

Do you need to improve your proofreading or punctuation skills? Take a free trial of my online Proofread Like a Pro and Punctuation for Professionals courses. They are great programs for summer (or winter if you’re down under) self-study.


Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
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. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

8 comments on “Signs That Need Your Proofreader’s Eye”

  • Here are some possible edits:
    Upscale, Women’s Boutique (assuming “Shop” is the name of the store)
    Congratulations, Graduates!
    Deep-fried Milky Way, Deep-fried Snickers

  • I maintain that signs should not share the same punctuation requirements as print. Signs are designed to quickly impart a message with an efficiency of words, images and symbols. While working as a professional, award-winning signage designer with high profile projects world-wide, I strove to include punctuation only when its omission resulted in misunderstanding.

  • Hi JBS,

    Thanks for responding to the proofreading challenge. I agree with your comma between the words CONGRATULATIONS and GRADUATES. It’s necessary because the message is directly addressing the graduates.

    And I agree with your apostrophe for WOMEN’S. It’s perfect for a plural noun that does not end in “s.”

    I would not use a comma between UPSCALE and WOMEN’S. In my mind, the adjectives are not equal. I think it’s a women’s boutique that happens to be upscale.

    To test for the need for a comma, ask yourself whether you could insert “and” between the adjectives and have the phrase sound right.

    “Upscale and women’s boutique”? No, probably not. Therefore, no comma.

    I agree with your hyphens for the deep-fried food. I’m still trying to imagine what it tastes like!

    Again, thanks for weighing in.


  • Hi Rebecca,

    Thanks for commenting. I appreciate your point of view as a signage designer.

    I would suggest that hyphens such as the one in DEEP-FRIED, and apostrophes like the one in WOMEN’S are integral parts of the word. I would never leave them out. A hyphen doesn’t even take any additional space.

    For the comma between CONGRATULATIONS and GRADUATES, I can see your point. Still, a comma takes up so little room that I would lobby for inserting it and being correct.

    I do hear you, and I am glad you shared your opinion. I’ll be watching for signs that present your point of view.


  • Lynn, I agree with you regarding deep-fried and women’s. In sign design, often punctuation is left off the end of a line with the line break taking the place of a comma.

    Thank you for your posts. I enjoy reading them.

  • Our local grocery store, Rosauers, had their name legally changed from Rosauer’s to eliminate the need for the apostrophe between “r” and “s.”

Leave a Reply

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