Recognize Achievement With the Right Certificate Wording

Nail the titles and wording to make certificates and awards meaningful

Coming up with the right wording on award certificates is important to properly recognize the recipients' achievements. There are no firm rules for how to design an award certificate, but there are some best practices you can follow to make sure the wording looks polished and professional.

Award Certificate Format Example

The text elements on award certificates typically include the following items:

  • Title or heading
  • Presentation line 
  • Recipient's name
  • From line
  • Description
  • Date
  • Signature 

The information doesn't necessarily have to appear in this order, and some sections can be combined into a single line. Other necessary parts of an award certificate include graphical elements like borders, logos, seals, and lines for signatures, dates, and other text elements.

How to Write a Certificate Title

Below are generic certification headings that can apply to a number of situations. The specific reason for the recognition can be explained in the descriptive text.

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

Alternatively, the phrase "Certificate" 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 (for example, "Dunham Elementary School Classroom of the Month Award").

It's common practice to set the title in a larger size and sometimes 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.

Set the text on a curved path using graphics software to make it look more distinguished.

Worker receiving award in workshop
Jetta Productions / Getty Images

The Presentation Line

Following the title, 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

Emphasize the name of the recipient with a different font choice or color. You might want to make the name larger than the other text. The recipient doesn't have to be one individual; it could be a group, organization, or team.

Who Is Giving the Award?

Some certificates include a line saying who is giving the award, and others include this information in the description section. This could be the name of a company or organization, or it can be an individual. The "from" section is more common when the certificate is coming from a specific person, such as a son giving a "Best Dad" certificate to his father.

How to Word 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 awards are 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 couple of words, or it can be a full phrase. For example:

  • in recognition of their 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 six consecutive months as a top producer.

While most of the 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 typically comes before or after the award description. 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. For example:

  • 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 appear 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; for example, one for an employee's immediate supervisor, and one for an officer of the company. Placing them to the left and right with a space in between works well. Adjust the signature line to maintain good visual balance.

Example Award Certificate

Here are two examples of certificate wording that incorporate the information outlined above.

Certificate of Appreciation
is presented to
Mr. K.C. Jones
by Rodbury Co. 2nd Shift
in recognition of outstanding achievements in all sales categories for 2018
 on October 27, 2018.
Favorite Teacher Award
is given to
Mrs. O'Reilly
by Jennifer Smith
on this 27th day of October, 2018.
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