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7 Common Grammar Mistakes to Avoid in Your Business Signage

Posted on July 18, 2014 | Posted by Brooke Randell

"Sign Fails" are some of the most universally funny and shared pictures on the Internet (other than ones of cats, of course), but that doesn't mean you want your business signs to become one of them! They might say all press is good press, but this is a representation you can do without.

Obviously, your business sign represents your company to your potential customers, so you want your signs to appear professional and well-maintained. Spelling and grammar errors can turn your sign from an investment that advertises your business to a joke that detracts from your business' appeal. Here are seven examples of the most common grammar mistakes people make on their signage.

1. Your vs. You're

Sign spelling and grammar errors: Your vs. You'reThere are so many things wrong with this sign. Yeesh. 

This is one that gets mixed up a lot. Although the error might not be a huge deal on your personal Facebook page, it's a big deal on your signage. 

  • "Your" = Talking about someone else's possession

"Is that your phone ringing?"

  • "You're" = Contraction of "you" and "are"

"You're the worst at answering your phone!"

2. There, Their, They're

Funny sign spelling and grammar errors: There, Their, They'reYikes. 

Have you seen the meme that says, "When comforting a grammar nazi, I softly say 'there, their, they're.'"? Few things turn grammar experts into steaming rage-monsters like using the wrong "there," "their," or "they're." 

  • "There" can have several nuanced meanings (it can be used as an adverb, pronoun, noun, adjective, or interjection!). But it generally means, "in or at a place, point in action, or circumstance."

"Are those Ewoks fighting Stormtroopers over there?"

"Where? Oh wait, there."

  • "Their" describes something owned by a group. 

"The Ewoks don't stand a chance to win this fight with their slingshots and spears! The Stormtroopers have blasters!"

"Well, the thing about Stormtroopers is that their armor is pretty much useless."

  • "They're" is a contraction of "they" and "are."

"Yeah, The Empire didn't outfit them very well. For people who built a space station the size of a planet, they're not very bright .

3. Its vs. It's

Funny sign spelling and grammar errors: Its vs. It'sDon't despair, we can get you new wall graphics.

  • "Its" = the possessive form of "it"

"The community theater hasn't sold a single ticket to its new avant garde poetry reading series."

  • "It's" = a contraction of "it" and "is"

"It's kind of bumming me out, man." 

4. To, Too, Two

Funny sign spelling and grammar fails: to, too, twoYeah. It's too bad.

  • "To" expresses motion or direction toward a person, place, thing, or point. It can also be part of an infinitive—which is the most basic form of a verb. 

"Let's go to the mall, everybody!"

"To boldly go where no man has gone before."

  • "Too" either means "in addition" or "to an excessive extent."

"I, too, am being blackmailed for something I didn't do."

"It's a little too quite around here for me."

  • "Two" means the number 2.

"One plus two plus two plus one."

5. Where, Were, We're

Funny sign spelling and grammar fails: Where, Were, We'reClose, but no cigar! At least they remembered that there should be an apostrophe in there somewhere.

  • "Where" is used when you are asking about a particular place, position, or circumstance. It can also be used to state something about a particular place, position, or circumstance.

"Where did my keys go?"

"Probably where you last left them."

  • "Were" is the past subjunctive of "be." Basically, it describes the ways a group of people other than just yourself or several objects (a.k.a plural nouns) existed at a past point.

"I found them! They were in my pocket."

  • "We're" is the contraction of "we" and "are."

"Great, we're ready to go!"

6. Unnecessary quotation marks

Funny sign spelling and grammar fails: suspicious quotation marksI would definitely be suspicious about what was really in that "fish."

Quotation marks are meant to indicate speech or that you are directly quoting from another piece of text. They should NEVER be used for emphasis. If you want to emphasize something on your sign, put it in all caps like I did with the word "never" in the previous sentence. Or change the color, make it italicized, emboss it, etc. The results of using quotation marks unnecessarily can range from looking dumb to looking dishonest. What is the grocery store in the picture above actually trying to pass off as fish? Is it a gross amalgamation of imitation fish? People are sure to be suspicious of signs that include unnecessary quotation marks! At the very least, you'll end up looking like Joey from Friends when he tries to figure out how to use air quotes.

7. Unnecessary and necessary apostrophes

Funny sign spelling and grammar fails: apostrophesAck! And on a vehicle wrap, no less!

Apostrophes are used to indicate possession of something or to indicate missing letters in contractions or truncated words. "Sarah's office" or "Smith's Plumbing Supply Outlet" are examples of how to use apostrophes to indicate possession, and "Li'l Abner" and "Can't" are examples of how to use apostrophes to indicate that there are letters taken out of a word. Apostrophes do not need to be used at the end of plural words that are not also possessive!

Bonus Round: Tongs!

When talking about the pinching tool you use to pick up food at a restaurant or to toss a salad, you are talking about tongs. Tongs are spelled T-O-N-G-S. 

Funny sign spelling fails: tongs10 points for using the correct "your" and another 10 for saying "please." Minus 50 points for "tongue" and "Thong." Minus 30 points for putting an apostrophe in "thong's." Minus 50 points for saying "u" instead of "you." Minus 5 points for the random capitalization in the first sign. Final score: F-

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