Because "Wear this, dammit!" is probably a no-go
October 12, 2021 2:09 PM   Subscribe

We're having an event and would like to have maximum compliance with mask wearing. In addition to letting people know on the invitation, and having people at the doors reminding people to wear them, and actually providing masks, we're planning to put a sign up next to the free masks - is there any specific wording we can put on the sign that's been shown to work better than others?

We want to sound friendly, and we're happy with a little humor or even a picture. But the main goal is to make the sort of people who already have Reasons not to wear them (you know the type), to consider just this once putting one on.
posted by Mchelly to Writing & Language (22 answers total)
The sort of people who have "reasons" for not wearing masks will not care what you put on a sign or invitation. I mean, everyday I see people in the subway sitting under the "mask required" sign without a mask. That said, if I were making such a sign it would read something like: "Masks are required.Wear a mask or leave" (not exactly friendly, of course)
posted by Pineapplicious at 2:20 PM on October 12 [27 favorites]

"Mask Up, Buttercup!"
posted by RedEmma at 2:25 PM on October 12 [2 favorites]

I just got done hosting an event where masks were recommended, not required. People mostly wore masks anyway. Also, we had one keynote speaker who requested masks during his speech.

- reminded everyone during the closing of the previous panel
- made masks available at the door
- put up three sets of signs in the corridor leading to the room, as well as in the doorway. The signs said “Masks required during keynote. Thank you!”
- asked people who approached without masks to put them on

This worked pretty well. One or two people obviously bristled. One person declined to attend. But in the end we managed 100% compliance
posted by gemmy at 2:25 PM on October 12 [4 favorites]

At this stage in the game, people are already wearing a mask when asked, or they've already made up their mind not to despite the ask. The choice of words isn't going to influence those who dont want to comply to change their thought process. I'd instead have wording on the invitation that says something like "Mask are required. If you cannot or will not wear a mask, we send our regrets but respectfully ask you to decline the invitation". There's probably better wording, but the goal is to ask people who have already decided they are not going to wear a mask to just stay home.
posted by cgg at 2:29 PM on October 12 [19 favorites]

If you can't stop "reasons people" from coming then I'd do a bribe. These so-called "reasons" can be supplanted by other, more compelling reasons pretty easily.
posted by bleep at 2:32 PM on October 12

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far - I totally know and agree that nothing is likely to work. Plus this is at a religious service, so we're not allowed to say that masks are required (thanks, Trump Supreme Court!) So it's going to be an uphill battle regardless.

That being said, I'm specifically looking for sign wording.
posted by Mchelly at 2:38 PM on October 12

Before you posted your update, I was going to say that the most effective language has been that which seems to put the venue and the attendee on the same side, e.g., “due to a state order we must require masks inside the building.” You can’t say they are required, but could say say that the diocese or director or congregation would like everyone to wear them?
posted by michaelh at 2:43 PM on October 12

How does your denomination of religious service feel about cartoon penis? Because this sign is pretty eye-catching and gets the point across. Alt version.
posted by phunniemee at 2:45 PM on October 12 [5 favorites]

Plus this is at a religious service, so we're not allowed to say that masks are required (thanks, Trump Supreme Court!)

Hm? There's nothing preventing an individual church/synagogue/mosque/etc. from requiring masks to enter. Just (ugh) states imposing such requirements.
posted by praemunire at 2:47 PM on October 12 [33 favorites]

You could try the watching eye thing and add an image with eyes on whatever sign you make.

The watching-eye effect says that people behave more altruistically and exhibit less antisocial behavior in the presence of images that depict eyes because these images insinuate that they are being watched. Eyes are strong signals of perception for humans. They signify that our actions are being seen and paid attention to even through mere depictions of eyes.

Maybe a nattily dressed owl or lemur wearing a mask would do the trick!
posted by dawkins_7 at 2:52 PM on October 12 [6 favorites]

I’m a public schoolteacher so I have the advantage of that power dynamic plus my area is liberal but… saying stuff like “Thank you for wearing your mask!” helps. And empathy, like “I know. Wearing a mask is no fun, I’m tired of it too!” And holding masks in your hands as people enter, smiling and saying hello and offering “Hey, would you like a mask?” so it’s a welcome gesture. And if someone says no, just reply “No problem!” or “I understand!” (Since they’re not required) because that goodwill might just help! Other things I do don’t really apply but here they are, non-verbal hand signals — a lot one-use masks get worn out so they slip down off the nose, I’ve realized — and kids don’t want to get a new one even though they’re free. And when we come inside or start a group activity, “OK everyone, please check your mask as you come in, thank you!” Or “We’re going to be working very closely so please make sure it’s snug!” I think tone helps most. I wish you luck bc this is no fun!
posted by smorgasbord at 2:54 PM on October 12 [7 favorites]

I would say Covid Isn't Welcome. People Wearing Masks Are. Thanks for Protecting Everyone. I made a mockup - images and fonts are personal use only, make a new sign.
posted by theora55 at 2:57 PM on October 12 [4 favorites]

Please wear a mask to protect the most vulnerable members of our community!

(But also actually handing people the masks is probably more likely to work than a sign. Bonus points if the person handing them out can be a respected member of your community - role-modeling can be very important for this kind of thing.)
posted by mskyle at 3:01 PM on October 12 [8 favorites]

There's nothing preventing an individual church/synagogue/mosque/etc. from requiring masks to enter.

And New York has no ban on mask mandates anywhere.

The simple sign is, "mask usage required for entry", and then escort those who are non-compliant off the property.
posted by saeculorum at 3:01 PM on October 12 [8 favorites]

If this is a hosted event, I’d just try “Mr and Mrs. Smith request that you wear a mask.” I mean, I’ve covered my head abd worn a strapless bra for friends’ religious things (not the same one.)
posted by warriorqueen at 3:37 PM on October 12 [5 favorites]

I would lean to something like “We are so grateful to you for wearing a mask”. The emphasis is on your/host’s feelings, and one can’t argue with feelings even if one would try to argue that masks aren’t helpful. It lets the reluctant wearer feel magnanimous instead of the losing side of a power struggle.
posted by Salamandrous at 3:41 PM on October 12 [4 favorites]

"No one enjoys wearing pants. We do it to make everyone feel safe and comfortable: please wear a mask to do the same."

This is a light reframe that takes the focus off of "FUH-REEDOM" and squarely sits it in politeness. It's not going to work on assholes, but it might for people who's polite-ness drive outweighs their asshole drive by Pants amount.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:41 PM on October 12 [2 favorites]

If you are really unwilling to simply say that masks are required for entry (or willing to say it but unsure of how to enforce it) you could say instead that the event will not begin unless all entrants wear masks, and if masks are removed mid-event, the officiant/participants will be forced to halt the proceedings and leave for their own safety. that is a threat/boundary that can actually be enforced without need of security guards or physical interaction with offenders.

how hard it would be to follow through would depend on the nature of the event - like I'm sure this would be horrible to commit to for a funeral, but if it's a funeral you could instead say that masks must be worn to show essential respect to both the living and the dead.

however you phrase it, I would advise firmness and simplicity over cheeriness or the premature & condescending Thank you for doing what you're told, as we know you will! style of invite, as that irritates even people who were going to do the decent thing regardless. see: the universal hatred of Thank you for not smoking signs, etc.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:11 PM on October 12 [7 favorites]

If anything, a religious group has more standing to require a mask thanks to Trump's court. It just happens that the religious groups to use it so far have been anti-mask. If they can claim that not wearing masks is a part of their religion, you can claim wearing them is part of yours.
posted by Candleman at 4:25 PM on October 12 [2 favorites]

Can you lean into the religion and do something along the lines of (whoever your god is) is watching you? Or a picture of a religious figure with a mask? If you google "Jesus with mask on" there are a bunch of examples, like What would Jesus do, with a picture of him with a mask - there may be others for other religions.
posted by sillysally at 5:07 PM on October 12 [2 favorites]

Simple mask signs like they have at Walgreens etc. click in the brain like a road sign for most reasonable people. For less generic text, how about:

This is a masks-on event.
posted by kapers at 10:14 PM on October 12 [2 favorites]

Depending on the dynamics (will most folks be from the same faith?), a shared significant image or quotation of scripture might be appropriate. Or, something calling out the purpose of the event:
"Today is a celebration of love. We ask you to wear your mask as an expression of your love."
"Thank you for joining us in celebration of . . . Thank you for wearing your mask to help keep everyone safe."

Also, if your greeters/mask enforcers are friendly, calm and no nonsense, that will go a long way. "Whoops, let's get you a mask. You've got plenty of time to put it on before you head in." "I'm so glad you're here, do you need to step outside to put on your mask?" "Oh hello! Masks aren't optional, why don't you take a moment outside and we'll see you when you've got one on."
posted by annaramma at 4:40 PM on October 13

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