This month, a sign promoting Visit KC went viral for all the wrong reasons.  A large sign in their window appeared to have a typo that changed the meaning of their message to one of vulgarity.  While it appears to have been a hoax, it does help reinforce the importance of proofreading.  After all, you want your business to be known for doing things right, right?


Any retailer knows that you’re only as good as your marketing campaigns. Whether it’s word of mouth, television and radio ads, direct mail, or catchy signage, you must come up with a way to attract customers into your store. Retail signage can be an especially effective way to market. Catchy signs in the window draw customers in and let them know a little bit about your product and the overall feel of your business. However, as effective as retail signage can be, if you are not careful, it can actually cause more harm than good. Poor grammar, careless spelling, and confusing messages on your signage can turn your store or organization into a joke.


There are some classic mistakes that many store owners have made on their retail signage. Failing to have a professional proofread the signage before it goes to print can result in a terrible – and perhaps a little hilarious – grammatical error. Misplaced quotation marks are among the most common. Many people think that it is grammatically appropriate to use quotation marks for emphasis around a word or phrase. Unfortunately, the resulting effect is usually the word or phrase looking deceitful or sarcastic. A sign saying ‘“Fresh” Vegetables for Sale’ makes it look as though the vegetables aren’t actually fresh. “50% Off” Sale” gives the impression that the sale isn’t really 50% off. This type of error can produce some pretty funny results, only they won’t be so funny if they negatively impact your business. The first rule of retail signage is to check for misplaced quotation marks!


Another common problem on retail signage is misspelled words. Spelling a word incorrectly on your signage severely reduces your credibility and makes it difficult for people to take you seriously. As was the case with Visit KC, the word annually was misspelled to reveal…well, you get the gist. One simple error not only changed the meaning of the sign, but made a large organization the butt (pun intended) of many jokes. If someone can’t even spell a word completely, would you trust them to do business with you? Probably not! Your retail signage must be checked thoroughly for spelling errors, unless you want your business’s claim to fame to be having a picture of your sign (and business) circulated around the internet as a joke.


When done correctly, retail signage can be a great booster for your business. It can draw people toward and into your store, add to the atmosphere, and tell people a bit about your business. Just make sure that if you decide to use retail signage, you proofread it and have it printed by a company that will carefully check for any errors as well. Take the time to double-check your sign’s verbiage.  It might seem like a bit of a hassle at first, but it will all be worth it in the long run, when it gains you customers rather than laughs!


If you are looking for a trusted partner to design, proofread, print and install your signage, contact the experts at Forerunner Signs & Graphics.  Our high-quality work will help your organization stand out for all the right reasons!

Michael Ryan