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What Is An Epigraph: How To Write One


Are there any books that have profoundly affected your writing or even influence the book you are currently creating? If so, why not include a powerful quote from this particular work as an epigraph at the beginning of your own book? 

An epigraph can help readers gain insight into what they can expect in terms of topic and setting throughout your story. It is also a great way to provide context for what lies ahead!

What Is an Epigraph?

An epigraph is a quote or phrase that provides further context and meaning to the text. It can be from another literary work, a famous figure, or even an unknown source. Epigraphs are often used to introduce themes that will be explored throughout the story and set the tone for what’s to come. They also provide a great opportunity to draw readers into the story and set the stage for a powerful journey.

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The Power of an Epigraph

An epigraph is an effective tool to bring more depth and understanding into your writing. It allows readers to get a feel for the text, introduces crucial themes, and sometimes reveals character motivations or clues about the plot line. Utilizing this device can be a great way of hooking in audiences as they start reading through your work.

Epigraph vs Epigram

An epigraph is a brief quotation or phrase that appears at the beginning of a book or chapter and is intended to set the tone or provide context for the text that follows. It is typically written by someone other than the author of the book or chapter.

On the other hand, an epigram is a witty, concise, and often paradoxical statement or poem that is intended to be thought-provoking. It is usually written by the author and can appear anywhere in the text, not necessarily at the beginning.

So, the main difference between an epigraph and an epigram is that an epigraph is a quotation or phrase at the beginning of a text, while an epigram is a short, witty statement that can appear anywhere within the text.

What are Some Epigraph Examples?

Here are some examples of epigraphs:

  1. “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” – George Orwell, Animal Farm
  2. “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract
  3. “If music be the food of love, play on.” – William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
  4. “In the middle of the journey of our life, I found myself within a dark woods, for the straight way was lost.” – Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy
  5. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs, quoted in Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs.

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These epigraphs serve to capture the reader’s attention, convey the overarching concepts of the work and provide a gateway into its narrative. They can help set the tone for what is to come while also expanding upon existing motifs, themes, and ideas that will be explored throughout. In essence, they are an invitation in disguise – beckoning you into this captivating world before your eyes.

What Can I Use as an Epigraph?

As you ponder which epigraph to utilize, there are many factors to take into account.

  1. Relevance: The epigraph should be a perfect complement to the work’s subject matter, conveying its main ideas and setting the tone for what is to follow. It can offer vital insight that enriches readers’ understanding of your text.
  2. Credibility: Quotes from renowned and well-regarded experts will give more weight to your epigraph than using one from an unfamiliar source. It is essential that the author of your quote be held in high regard within their industry for maximum impact.
  3. Interpretation: The epigraph should be a source of contemplation and evoke multiple levels of understanding. This captivating phrase should ignite readers’ curiosity, inspiring them to reflect on the content in an analytical manner.
  4. Uniqueness: For a soothing yet distinguishing touch, think about incorporating lesser-known or obscure quotes as epigraphs in your work; this will make it stand out from the typical popular quotes that are usually used.

If you’re on the hunt for an appropriate epigraph, there are many options to choose from. Here are just a few examples:

  • Famous quotes from respected individuals in relevant fields
  • Poetic verses embody the heart of this work, stirring emotion and reflection in each line.
  • Delving into excerpts from classic pieces of literature can shed invaluable light on the underlying ideas explored in other texts. By acquiring a better understanding of these themes, readers may find themselves more thoroughly engaged in the work being studied.
  • Timeless proverbs, sayings, and aphorisms capture the heart and soul of a job.

What Is the Purpose of an Epigraph?

Epigraphs can be used to introduce a number of different themes and concepts, regardless of whether it is fiction or nonfiction. Authors utilize quotes in order to hint at the bigger ideas that will arise throughout their literary works. With this clever technique, readers gain an understanding of certain elements before they fully dive into the book’s content; thus providing essential information for them as they continue reading.

Worried your epigraph will be overlooked on an eReader? Take these steps to make sure it’s included:

  1. Format the epigraph correctly: To ensure the epigraph is not passed over, include it as part of the main text itself. This means formatting it into the body of your document instead of placing it on a separate page or section.
  2. Use a recognizable source: To guarantee that your epigraph appears correctly on the eReader, select a quote from an acclaimed writer or source. This will enhance the chances of displaying it properly for all readers to appreciate.
  3. Make the epigraph relevant: Make sure your epigraph is directly tied to the upcoming text, as it offers context and understanding that’ll be of great benefit to readers. This encourages them to focus on the epigraph rather than skip through it.

In terms of why you might want to include an epigraph in the first place, there are several reasons:

  • Setting the theme or tone: An epigraph can intensify the atmosphere and prepare readers for the ideas that will be examined. It provides a sneak peek of what lies ahead, hinting at the main themes that will run through your narrative.
  • Worldbuilding: An epigraph can construct a narrative’s framework and add depth to the setting or culture of a story. It provides readers with necessary background information that helps them better understand the world in which it takes place.
  • Foreshadowing the plot: An epigraph can be a subtle foreshadowing of the story’s direction, offering readers an insight into what lies ahead. This helps build anticipation for the reader and increases their engagement with your story.

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How to Format an Epigraph

Here are some general guidelines on how to format an epigraph:

  1. Give your epigraph the limelight it deserves by beginning it on a fresh line, indented one inch from the left margin.
  2. To ensure that your epigraph is easily readable, make sure to indent the first line of each additional paragraph one inch from the left margin if it consists of more than one paragraph. This small step will help you create a clear and comprehensible document.
  3. Ensure that quotation marks are used when writing an epigraph with four lines or fewer of text. On the other hand, if you have more than four lines of text in your epigraph, double-space them and avoid using quotation marks altogether.

Always incorporate the origin of an epigraph (author, title, and page number) after the full stop in parentheses.

Getting Permission to Use a Quote

If you intend to incorporate a quote as an epigraph, it’s essential to seek authorization from the copyright holder prior to use their work. This is especially pertinent if you plan on employing large portions of the quote or for commercial applications.

To obtain permission, you can contact the copyright holder or their representatives, such as a publisher or literary agent. In your request, be sure to include the following information:

  • The full text of the quote you wish to use
  • The title and author of the work from which the quote is taken
  • The intended use of the quote (including the title of your own work)
  • The expected publication date and format of your work
  • The length of time you will need to use the quote
  • Any compensation you are willing to offer

It’s essential to remember that certain copyright holders may require payment for permission or may reject authorization completely. You must make sure you provide enough time to acquire consent before your work goes live or is shared.


An epigraph is a short quote or phrase used before starting a story, book, poem, or essay to provide context and set the tone. It has the power to draw readers into the narrative and can be a powerful tool for setting a theme, establishing worldbuilding, and foreshadowing the plot.

When formatting an epigraph, it’s important to ensure that the text is easily readable and that the author, title, and page number of the quote are given after the full stop. Finally, it’s essential to seek permission from copyright holders when using a quote as an epigraph.

This guide should provide you with all the information you need in order to incorporate an epigraph into your writing. By utilizing an epigraph, you can give readers a taste of what lies ahead and set the tone for the story that follows.

If you are looking for assistance to perfect your manuscript, then look no further than our professional editing services! Our team is available today and ready to help refine your work.