When I saw this sign in the entry of a local shopping mall, my first thought was “Lawyers told them to post that.” I doubt that anyone—except, perhaps, a lawyer—expects shoppers to stop and read the “Behavioral Code of Conduct” on a side wall as they pass through the set of double doors. The list of 24 prohibited types of conduct hardly says “Welcome.”
If you want people to read and heed your messages, follow these guidelines:
- Deliver messages where people will read them. Shoppers who have completed their time at the mall and are waiting for someone to pick them up might resort to reading that sign, but if the rules were broken up and posted around the property they would catch attention at the right moments. By the time people enter the mall, the warning about improper parking and careless driving in No. 17 is too late. In the office, you might reach people better with a message posted by the coffeepot than an email in their overflowing inboxes.
- Start with what’s most important. As a shopper, I’d be more concerned about people carrying weapons (No. 20 on the list) than using obscene language (No. 1).
- Home in on what’s necessary. Tell people what they need to know and delete the rest. This one-story mall doesn’t have an escalator or elevator, which are mentioned in No. 6. I don’t know where the management thinks that people might attempt to fish, swim or boat (No. 24), because the only fountains in this mall are drinking fountains.
- Choose reader-friendly type and formatting. About the only thing that could make this sign harder to read would be a script font. A large block of small, sans serif type doesn’t draw readers in. Use type that is easy to read and draw readers to important points with bold formatting.
- Write with heart. Instead of greeting people with a long list of prohibitions, the mall could have posted a sign at the entrance that said simply “Please help us provide a pleasant experience for all shoppers.” Humor also can be highly effective. A Keep America Beautiful campaign equates littering with other bad behavior. One billboard featured a tattoo that said “Mohter” and this text: “Tattooed typos. LitteringIsWrontToo.org.” That’s a lot more memorable than No. 15 on the mall’s list of prohibited behaviors, “Creating litter by discarding paper, glass, or other matter of any kind, anywhere except in a trash receptacle.”
Make your messages easy and worthwhile for people to read.
For more on how to write signs well, check out this Bud to Boss post by Catherine. Share your observations about great or horrible signs in the Comments section below.
[Image Source: Amy Beth Miller]