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Certificate Wording


Choose the Words For Your DIY Certificates
Close-up of Certificate of Honour
John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images
There are no absolute rules for how to word or format an award certificate. However, different organizations (including businesses, schools, and clubs) may have specific guidelines and requirements for official certificates.

There are 7 common wording sections in a certificate but only Title and Recipient are absolutely required.

  1. Title (Certificate of Achievement)
  2. Presentation line (is awarded to)
  3. Recipient (Name)
  4. From
  5. Description (Reason for award)
  6. Date
  7. Signature


Some common wording for the heading or title:

  • 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

These generic certification headings 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 also be included as part of the title such as Dunham Elementary School Classroom of the Month Award.

Title Formatting: Text on a curved path can be done in graphics software and some desktop publishing software (such as with the Type Tool in Adobe InDesign) or using the Word Art features of Microsoft Word or Publisher. But a straight line title is fine too. It's common to set the title in a larger size, perhaps even in a different color from the rest of the text. For longer titles consider stacking the words and aligning them to the left or right, varying the size of the words to create a pleasing arrangement (see the Employee of the Month Award certificate in the illustration as an example).

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

Additionally, 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.


While it doesn't have to be set apart on its own line, it is common to have the name of the recipient emphasized 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 name of recipient. In these examples the bold elements are usually set in a larger font or set apart in some other way such as font choice or color. The name of the recipient (shown in italics) may also appear in a larger or decorative font.

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 could be placed first with wording such as:

Jane Jones is hereby awarded this Certificate of Appreciation for [description]

Jane Jones is recognized as January Employee of the Month


Some certificates may include a line saying who is giving the award. In some cases the from may be a part of the title (such as a company name) or it may be included in the description. The from line may be 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...

Favorite Teacher Award is given to Mrs. O'Reilly by Jennifer Smith...


A descriptive paragraph that gives more specifics of 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 could be a full paragraph describing the accomplishments of the recipient that earned them this certificate.

in recognition of his service as cafeteria monitor for the 2013-14 school year.
for outstanding achievements in all sales categories for 2015, including a 89% overall closing rate, 96% excellent customer service rating, 8 months as team leader, and 6 consecutive months as top producer.
"The recognition must supply the employer and employee with specific information about what behaviors or actions are being rewarded and recognized." Susan M. Heathfield, 5 Tips for Effective Employee Recognition

Descriptive Text Formatting: While it is common to set much of the text in a certificate with a centered alignment, if the descriptive text is more than 2 or 3 lines of text it will usually look better flush left or fully-justified.


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 31, 2014

is awarded on the 31st of October, 2014

on this 31st day of October


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

Signature Formatting: 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 little bit of space in between works. Graphics or a seal, if used, may be placed in one of the lower corners. Adjust the signature line to maintain good visual balance.

What's Next

  1. Identify All the Parts of a Certificate
  2. Choose Your Wording (this page)
  3. Pick the Perfect Fonts
  4. Select a Template for a Traditional Certificate
  5. Choose Paper for Your Certificate

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