SPaG Testing Your Sign
Slow Children Crossing and other stories
The written word is a powerful thing, and never more so than when prospective customers see it written incorrectly. Then it’s a very negatively powerful thing; and something that we pride ourselves in helping you to avoid. Signage crops up in so many aspects of business. Whether you’re putting together a banner, shopfront, window or vehicle graphic, internal signage, or exhibition stands, attention to detail is key. Still, that’s no reason for us not to have a good old giggle at those who’ve got it totally wrong and then found themselves plastered all over the internet!
A comma is a matter of life and death. Really. Let’s eat Granny is a terrifying prospect. Let’s eat, Granny is less so. A public sign stating that No running children must be supervised is a little confusing when no separation is indicated.
Of course, a comma isn’t the only way to indicate distinction within your signage. Spacing will achieve the same end. But consider seeing signage that reads Horses keep Dogs on Leads… Or Cows Please Close Gate…Even Lions Please Stay in Car. Frankly, we’d love to see any of these very skilful animal tricks, but perhaps there should have been a distinct space to indicate the intention of the sign.
A Funny old Language
Bemoaned at the start of the twentieth century by then French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau as a language that is simply “badly pronounced French”, there are so many anomalies to our grammatical rules that it’s no wonder that errors are rife throughout the high street. Especially if you’re trying to make your way in business as a non-native English speaker, it’s easy to trip up.
You cannot simply place your trust in an automated spellcheck, however. Think about this signage error – No Smoking Allowed. Try to smoke quietly everyone! This wouldn’t have been picked up by a computer because, strictly speaking, it’s spelt correctly. It’s an error that absolutely shouldn’t slip through, though!
Plurals are a hive of potential trouble. Mainly because sometimes people feel an urge to get a bit trigger happy with apostrophes. Monday’s are the best day to eat biscuits with friends. They’re not though because none of these apostrophes is required! Our favourite wayward signage apostrophe is a female bathroom labelled the Ladie’s which shows multiple misunderstandings of how plurals work.
A Capital Issue
Unless your sign is a danger warning, it’s best not to use all capitals in your signage. It feels rather too much like SHOUTING which isn’t an ideal tone to set for your prospective customers.
“So to Speak”
Quotation marks work to indicate a cultural reference or perceived phrase. If only they were used for that purpose on the signs that we’ve seen out and about… Take the example of an internal sign asking employees to “wash hands”. We’d rather that hands were washed in more than just a figurative sense in all honesty…!
We found a sign in a park saying Pick up your dog waste. Insulting! Or how about an ad for a children’s app saying that it is So Fun, They Won’t Even Know Their Learning. An eyebrow-raising irony if ever there was one. Misusing your and you’re, or their / they’re / there are classic errors for which we are always alert.
Proofreading is so very important… If you proofread a sign which says something like Tables are for eating customers only – then you should know that there’s something amiss.
We’ve seen it all. It can be hilarious viewing when photographed for an Instagram feed but do let’s keep it to the world of social media. For our own customers’ banners, stands and graphics we’d really rather see perfectly spelt, laid out and grammatically constructed signage of which we can all be proud.