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Three Quick Tips for Error-Free Signs

Do you ever have to post informal signs at work? Maybe it’s to announce that an elevator is out of order or a meeting has been cancelled. Maybe it’s to direct guests to a conference room. Although informal, hundreds of people can see such signs. What impression do they make?

A sign that reads: "Fish & Game Is out of Order, sorry for the incovenienceThe other day I visited a large store to check its lost and found area. I had lost my winter gloves. Waiting in line to speak to a customer service person, I read this sign, which hung in several places.

No doubt many people found errors in this sign. Did you? Feel free to share them in a comment.

Applying three quick tips could have eliminated the errors:

  • Capitalize for a reason, not randomly.
  • Run a grammar and spelling check, no matter how short the message. It takes about 10 seconds and should catch misspelled words.
  • Ask a coworker to check your punctuation and make sure things make sense.

In case you are wondering, the store issued fishing and hunting licenses. That’s the “Fish & Game” reference.

Few people would judge the large store I visited based on its sign. But that’s not always the case. An error-filled sign could cause a visitor to lose confidence in a business’s ability to communicate and its attention to detail.

If you like finding errors and thinking about ways to revise signs, these blog posts are for you:

How Would You Revise This Sign?

Another Sign for You to Proofread

This Sign Needs Help

Signs That Need Your Proofreader’s Eye


Here are two good courses for better signs–and better writing: Proofread Like a Pro and Punctuation for Professionals.


P.S. A little bonus sign for your proof-reading pleasure and amusement!

A picture of a misspelled sign that reads: "Attention Toilet ONLY for disabled elderly pregnant children"

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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.

4 comments on “Three Quick Tips for Error-Free Signs”

  • I have made signs like this before. In their defense, they probably hit at the end of each line and MS Word automatically capitalizes the first letter when it thinks it ‘s a new sentence. No doubt that a more attentive proofreading would have caught all the mistakes in this sign.

    Thank you for the post!

  • Hi Patty,

    I too was wondering about their hitting Enter at the end of each line. But the capitalization seems random.

    What do you do to be sure your signs are free of errors?

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


  • Hi Bart,

    I agree–a manager should check signage. Then let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best.

    I always appreciate your input.


  • I see signs like this all of the time. A manager should check signage. Of course, if this example got by several people, I doubt the veracity of everyone up to and including the CEO. I’d be sure to send a copy to the CEO, and Chairman of the Board and have a little fun with their heads.

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