We all appreciate good (legible and accurate) visual signage, especially when they fail to work and we get lost in some dreadful shopping mall!

Perhaps given most of us as not visually impaired, we tend not to pay as much attention to the “legibility” of aural directions.

Most of Singapore's elevators announce their destinations. What is interesting is the variation in their use of language. Two common ones are “thirteenth storey” and “storey thirteen.”

My question is: shouldn’t these announcements be as simple and as straightforward as possible? The later variant intrigues me. why complicate matter by choosing the ordinal numbers (ie zeroth, fifth, tenth, or thirteenth)?

Non ordinal umber nouns in English are already more complicated compared to Chinese numbers (Chinese being the mother tongue of the majority of the population still.) Each number noun in Chinese is a single distinct syllable. These single syllables are combined in a straightforward manner to derive all numbers beyond ten. There are no specialised names for numbers like thirteen. It is simply “ten three.” Similarly 203 is simply “two hundred zero three.” (And yes I am aware that most Singaporeans probably know their numbers in English…)

Personally I would use the word "level". It has 2 syllables which is easier to catch. The much simpler word "floor" may be hard to hear clearly given the single syllable and softer pronunciation. The "s" sound in "storey" is definitely swallowed by the cost-managed sound systems, as is the “th” sound of the ordinal numbers (use context anyone?)

Is there someone who works in the industry who can share how you make design decisions like these?