Recognize Achievement With the Right Certificate Wording

Nail the Titles and Wording to Make Certificates and Awards Meaningful

Worker receiving award in workshop
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There are no firm rules for wording an award certificate, but most follow set guidelines. If you use these guidelines, your certificate will look polished and professional. 

There are seven wording sections on most certificates. Only the Title and Recipient sections are absolutely necessary, but most certificates contain all seven sections:

  1. Title 
  2. Presentation line 
  3. Recipient's name
  4. From
  5. Description
  6. Date
  7. Signature 

The Certification Heading

These generic certification headings shown below can apply to a huge number of situations with the specific reason for the recognition explained in the descriptive text. Alternatively, the phrase Certificate of or Award can be the prefix or suffix for a more specific title such as Certificate of Perfect Attendance or Employee of the Month Award. The name of the organization giving the award could be included as part of the title such as Dunham Elementary School Classroom of the Month Award.

  • Certificate of Achievement
  • Certificate of Recognition
  • Certificate of Appreciation
  • Certificate of Completion
  • Certificate of Excellence
  • Certificate of Participation
  • Award
  • Award Certificate
  • Award of Excellence
  • Achievement Award
  • Recognition Award

As far as formatting the title goes, setting text on a curved path can be done in graphics software, but a straight line title is fine too. It's common to set the title in a larger size and sometimes even in a different color from the rest of the text. For long titles, stack the words and align them to the left or right, varying the size of the words to create a pleasing arrangement.

The Presentation Line

Following the title it is customary to include one of these phrases or a variation:

  • is awarded to
  • is hereby awarded to
  • is presented to
  • is given to
  • is hereby bestowed upon

Even though the title of the award may say Certificate of Appreciation, the following line may start out with This certificate is presented to or similar wording.


The Recipient Section

It is common to emphasize the name of the recipient in some way. In some cases the recipient may not be one individual; it could be a group, organization or team.

Here are a few examples of title wording with the name of the recipient. In these examples, the bold elements are usually set in a larger font or set apart in some other way such as by font choice or color. The name of the recipient may also appear in a larger or decorative font. Usually, these lines are all centered on the certificate.

Certificate of Achievement

is hereby awarded to

John Smith

in recognition of [description]

Employee of the Month

John Smith

is hereby awarded this

Certificate of Recognition

for [description]

Certificate of Excellence

This award is presented to

John Smith

for [description]

The name of the recipient may also be placed before the title of the award or certificate that's given. In cases such as that, the wording might look like this:

Jane Jones

is hereby awarded this

Certificate of Appreciation

for [description]

Jane Jones

is recognized as 

January Employee of the Month

Who is Giving the Award

Some certificates include a line saying who is giving the award. In some cases, it may be part of a company name or it may be included in the description. The from line is more common when the certificate is coming from a specific individual such as a son giving a "Best Dad" certificate to his father.

Certificate of Appreciation

is presented to

Mr. K.C. Jones

by Rodbury Co. 2nd Shift

in recognition of [description]


Favorite Teacher Award

is given to 

Mrs. O'Reilly

by Jennifer Smith

The Award Description

A descriptive paragraph that gives specifics about why a person or group is receiving the certificate is optional. In the case of a Perfect Attendance Award, the title is self-explanatory. For other types of certificates, especially when several are being presented for different accomplishments, it is customary to describe the reason that an individual is getting the recognition. This descriptive text may start out with such phrases as:

  • in recognition of
  • in appreciation for
  • for achievements in
  • for outstanding achievements in

The text that follows can be as simple as a word or two or it can be a full paragraph describing the accomplishments of the recipient that earned them this certificate. For example:

  • in recognition of his service as cafeteria monitor for the 2013-2014 school year
  • for outstanding achievements in all sales categories for 2015, including an 89% overall closing rate, 96% excellent customer service rating and 6 consecutive months as top producer.

While most text on a certificate is set with a centered alignment, when the descriptive text is more than two or three lines of text, it usually looks better flush left or fully justified.


The Award Date

Formats for dates on a certificate can take many forms. The date can come before or after the description of the reason for the award. The date is typically the date on which the award is made, while the specific dates for which the award applies may be set out in the title or descriptive text. Some examples:

  • is presented on October 27, 2018
  • is awarded on the 27th of October, 2018
  • on this 27th day of October

The Official Signature

Signatures make a certificate seem legitimate. If you know ahead of time who will be signing the certificate, you can add a printed name beneath the signature line.

For a single signature line, centered or aligned to the right side of the certificate looks nice. Some certificates may have two signature lines such as a signature from an employee's immediate supervisor and that of an officer of the company. Placing them to the left and right with a space in between works well. Graphics or a seal, if used, may be placed in one of the lower corners. Adjust the signature line to maintain good visual balance.