Thoughts on Signs & Graphics

As a trained writer, editor, and proofreader, one of the reasons I gladly opened up a sign shop years ago was the realization that signs have a very comfortable relationship with words, called “text” or "copy" in the industry. I found myself reading the various signs’ verbiage with an eye toward proper spelling much like I did when I used to read long manuscripts.

Over the years, all of us in the shop have caught typos, improper punctuation, capital letters where there should have been lowercase, and the list goes on. Even when people took our advice and kept text to a minimum on their sign designs, mistakes crept in.

If you end up designing your own sign layout that gets forwarded to a sign shop, or are designing your layout and ordering your sign online, take a few moments to review the text for errors. Here are a few things that can help you produce a sign whose text is error free:

Cemetery spelled correctly1. Type out your text and use spell check. It seems obvious, but we often receive layouts that would have come to us without typos if they had used spell check. This will still allow words that are pronounced the same, but spelled differently (called homonyms), to sneak through.

2. Have someone who has never seen the text read it. Especially if you have looked at the text more than a few times, typos can often by overlooked. Someone with a fresh perspective can spot the mistakes right away.

3. Type your text, use spell check, and then put it away for 24 hours. Your fresh perspective will catch even the homonyms.

You wouldn’t want your permanent sign to contain errors like the customer who brought in his old sign to show us how to make a new sign for him. It was just two words: Ashville Cemetary.

The problem was that the word Cemetary was misspelled. It should read Cemetery. We made the sign with the word spelled properly. Now everyone who sees the sign will see the word Cemetery spelled correctly, too.

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