I have a dialog heavy scene in which one of the characters walks up to a door marked with a sign. I wrote

A warning etched under the sign read “Electromagnetics strictly prohibited.”

Is it correct to quote the text of the sign, even though there is no speaker? If not, should the text otherwise be offset from normal text? I'm already using italics to indicate internal dialog.

2 Answers 2


I think what you have in your example is fine. Quotes don't have to be strictly spoken dialog. You've indicated in narration twice that it's written on the sign. The reader will understand.


There are different ways to format written text. Examples include:


A warning etched under the sign read “Electromagnetics strictly prohibited.”


A warning etched under the sign read, Electromagnetics strictly prohibited.

Special formatting:

A warning etched under the sign read:


In fiction, all of these are fine; each gives a somewhat different visual impression, so choose whichever you feel is most appropriate. If you have no preference, choose the simple italics or quotes; those are entirely clear and will not be misunderstood.

Do be sure to stay consistent; don't use one format in one place and a different format in another.

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