You can’t write this sign any better. Or can you?

This sign has become a familiar sight on the back of many of Britain’s vans and lorries:

Mirrors sign

I like the sign’s brevity and its irrefutable logic. I don’t know how it can be improved. But that hasn’t stopped some people from having a go. In recent months I have seen several versions*:

IF YOU CAN’T
SEE MY MIRRORS
THEN I CAN’T SEE YOU

The addition of the word ‘then’ seeks to cement the link between the two clauses of the conditional sentence – the protasis, which expresses the condition, and the apodosis, which conveys the consequence. But in my opinion it adds nothing but five additional characters.

IF YOU CAN’T
SEE MY MIRRORS
I CAN’T SEE YOU

See the connection? We’re talking about you and my mirrors, here. Think mirrors and you, mirrors and you. It’s not about looking for my door handles or sun visor. Ignore those; they don’t matter. It’s mirrors you should be looking for. Sorry, MIRRORS.

IF YOU CAN’T
SEE MY MIRRORS,
“I CAN’T SEE YOU”

This is a weird one. We’ve got an added comma, which is probably correct for formal writing though unnecessary in a sign, but then we’re suddenly hauled inside speech marks. So who’s saying the “I can’t see you” bit, the van driver? Who’s saying the rest then, an anthropomorphised van?

Or has this been done by someone who thinks that putting something inside quote marks instantly invests it with more authority? To compound the felony, in the version that I saw the last line appeared in Comic Sans, and I know how much you hate Comic Sans.

IF YOU CAN’T SEE MY MIRRORS I CAN’T SEE YOU.
THIS MEANS THAT I’M MORE LIKELY TO KNOCK YOU OFF YOUR BIKE,
CAUSING YOU PAIN AND SUFFERING OR EVEN WORSE

This is a version we haven’t seen yet. It’s on the back of an imaginary lorryload of copywriters, one of whom has clambered out to improve the sign by adding a benefit. The benefit in this case being not getting crushed under the wheels of an artic.

How would different professions word the sign? I’m thinking of compliance officers, civil servants, manufacturers of smoothies…

A free HGV licence to the winning entry.

* No photos for these signs, I’m afraid. I saw them when I was driving.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “You can’t write this sign any better. Or can you?

  1. You laughed when I couldn’t see you in my mirror, but when I ran you over…

  2. “I can’t see you if you can’t see both of my mirrors”

    “I’m not looking in my mirrors anyway”

    “Did I just run over something?”

    “Cyclists: stop fucking undertaking on the inside”

  3. 1) ‘Stay where I can see you’
    2) ‘If you stick to my rear, you won’t stick around long’

  4. shireendew

    1) Stay where I can see you
    2) If you stick to my rear, you won’t stick around long

  5. We need to take a step back and consider who is really the target audience we’re trying to reach out to. Statistics show* that lots of RTA fatalities are among 16-24 yr C2DEs in urban areas. I’m wondering if something along the lines of:

    Yo can’t peep mah mirror?
    I can’t peep yo slick ass, biatch!

    would save more lives going forward.

    *one would imagine

  6. We took your concept to the Client and they liked it. A lot. But they are missing a reference to the new features of the mirrors. Can we get ‘objects now appear closer’ in there? And well using CAPS is too aggressive and inconsistent with the brand personality. Ohhh and they need the URL. They would never suggest a rewrite themselves but they feel something like ‘Check out our new mirrors that make you appear even closer. If you cannot see the improvement in these mirrors we guarentee that today’s driver will not see you.’ I’ve sent this to Legal as they just wanted to get some top line feedback.

  7. Mark E

    “Mirrors much ?” for the sassy ironic demographic, who probably wear black and pose an additional traffic accident risk.

  8. We know how much you hate being pranged against the pillar of a motorway bridge at 80mph while trying to overtake. That’s why we equipped our entire fleet with funky adjustable wing mirrors. But remember: keep them in sight or our dedicated drivers won’t be able to see you sneaking up on them!

  9. NCTM

    I know I’ve come to this a bit late but, writing with the mindset of the ASA, I’ve been thinking about the accuracy of the message and think I’ve found a flaw; it’s in the plural, ‘mirrors’. For a cyclist to see both (all?) mirrors of an arctic he / she would have to be in the middle of the lane and at least 70yds back. Pretty unlikely. So it should be ‘If you can’t see at least one of my mirrors…’ But, don’t pray on fear, be more positive; ‘I can see you if you can see at least…’ etc.

    Then I put my emergency services hat on and started thinking about the whole concept of mirrors and how they horizontally switch the actual object. So, adding a creative dimension, perhaps it should say ‘ouy ees tnac I srorrim ym ees tnac uoy fi’. But then this would only work if the cyclist was peddling backwards – but in the same direction as the truck. Hang on … What if the truck was reversing……

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