Nametag Etiquette

Readers weigh in.

The greatest joy derived from producing monthly newsletters is the response from readers. A recent post, “Conference Attendance Courtesies” sparked several emails about the virtues of magnetic name badge holders. One reader reported she had purchased a magnetic badge holder to have and use at all events, just as I have.  Note:  This is certainly appropriate, unless you have a surgically placed medical devices in your body.  Indeed because we received so many comments on various aspects of nametag etiquette we’re dedicating this month to the topic:

Guidelines for writing your own nametag or badge:

1. When preparing nametags, think through the purpose of the nametags. Always show the names in spoken order…  that is your given name, followed by your surname or last name, and affiliation. Think twice about the need to provide any information beyond these basics

2. Use only big, bold block letters in all caps or with upper and lower case letters. Avoid script or cursive handwriting and do not add personalized touches that could be confusing.  No matter how well lit a room may be, it is always more difficult to decipher cursive handwriting, particularly by those from other countries or ethnic origins whose first language is not your own.

3. Except for specialized events honorifics and titles are not typically used on nametags. These include Mr., Mrs., Ms. Dr., PhD., or M.D.; General Manager, President. Because nametags are intended to quickly show a person’s simple identity, they should only indicate first and last (surname), and affiliation.

“Hello, my name is” nametags:

1. I confess to personally not liking this particular style of nametag. Admittedly, they do serve a purpose for very informal occasions. But, they do seem very elementary and out of place in a professional setting. It’s best to use clean, professional-looking sheets, either with or without colored borders

Squint Factor:

To me, nothing is more disappointing than to attend a conference or professional meeting, only to arrive at check-in and discover the nametags are terribly under-presented — names are printed too small, company affiliation so small you can’t make it out, and every other detail shy of your birth date is loaded onto the badge.

When handwriting your own tag, write your information in a size at least one-quarter inch high.  Allow as much white space as possible; it helps others to read the badge more easily.

When generating pre-printed tags on a computer,  take care when choosing an appropriate font and font size.  For tags I produce personally, I find 40-point Ariel type is a good starting point for first and last names and affiliation.  Sometimes it take a little extra time to employ a little trial and error to find the correct font size and balance.  I assure you it will be well worth the effort for the optimum results.

Use of an affiliation and logo:

Even though it’s important to give due attention to the sponsoring organization, always remember that the most important information on the nametag is the person’s name.  By this I mean, the bulk of the space should be devoted to presenting the person’s full name; thus, the scale of the logo or sponsoring affiliation should be much smaller in comparison to the attendee’s name.  It should never be the reverse.

Printing the first name larger than the last name:

While there are no hard and fast rules governing whether to enlarge the person’s first name, I submit that it’s best to print both the first and last name in the same size font.  With so many men and women sharing the same first name, it can be confusing seeing lots of Susans or Stevens walking around. This underscores the value of regarding one’s own name as one’s personal branding vehicle.

Creating your own reusable name badge for use at various events:

While arriving with your very own custom-designed nametag assures your name and affiliation will be presented to your absolute liking, it may not be in your best interest to do so. Consider this: event planners usually create nametags specific to a particular occasion as a way of identifying—at a glance—those who legitimately belong at the event and those who don’t. By wearing your own personal nametag, you may inadvertently convey the impression of being a party crasher.

Where to place a nametag or badge:

Networking — whether at professional functions or at social events, always wear it on your upper right shoulder. Here’s why:

1. By wearing the tag or badge as high up on your right shoulder as possible it gives other people the best and easiest view of both the tag and your face.

2. As you extend your right hand for a handshake, your eye and arm are already being drawn to the right side of the person you are greeting.

3. Because the upper most part of your chest is the flattest area below your shoulder, this helps your tag to lie flat and be more secure.

This third point is especially relevant to women.  Most of us feel feel awkward drawing attention to an area of our bodies we would prefer not be stared at.  Placing the tag high in an easy to read and visible place, keeps the focus on the tag where it should be.

Company ID badges:  Many companies require the staff to wear name badges for instant identification purposes. In this case, it’s customary to wear such badges on the left shoulder.

Placing nametags straight and in plain view:

Never allow your nametag to be worn crooked, sideways or upside down. It sends a negative message to others, usually implying a lack of respect for the occasion or lack of care or interest in your personal appearance.

Especially never wear a badge upside down. Though it may sound silly, believe it or not I know a man who deliberately wears his name badge upside down.  He claims it’s, “The best way to meet women.” Why? Because, he says women will go out of their way to approach him just to help him correct what they perceive as his oversight.  My friend claims men are far less likely to mention it or bother helping.  Needless to say, I don’t recommend this practice to anyone. In my book this tactic sends the signal, here’s a person who cares little about the image he conveys. Who would want to convey the impression that something as simple as properly wearing a name badge was purposefully missed? …what else might be missing?  In other words, while it is possible that one person may take this for humor; another person may take it as incompetence.  Why risk creating this kind of confusion?

Question: What other items do you have to add to this list?  Do let us hear from you in the area below.  You may also reach us at  If you enjoyed this article and want more, subscribe to our “Etiquette Tip of the Month” newsletter—at no charge—filled with great monthly tips on all sorts of topics from international business and social etiquette and protocol to everyday life subjects.  It will be great to have you as a member of our happy family of subscribers at

Happy Practicing!!!

P.S.  To view a video on name tag etiquette, click the link or log onto As you know, videos are some times more fun and easier to understand.  Also for a 10% discount on purchasing name tags and badges, mention Advanced Etiquette when ordering at

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2 Responses to "Nametag Etiquette"

    • Syndi Seid says: