Wisconsin Historical Society

Guide or Instruction

Tips for Writing Historical Marker Inscriptions

Tips for Writing Historical Marker Inscriptions | Wisconsin Historical Society

A marker inscription is the text that will appear on your historical marker. The length of your inscription will be determined by the size of the marker you choose for the site.

Document Your Research About the Marker Topic

While writing the text, we encourage you to document your facts and dates with footnotes. You will be required to develop an annotated bibliography and attach photocopies of your primary and secondary research resources with your application.

Use a Clear, Concise Writing Style

Write your inscription in a clear, concise narrative style. The third-person narrator is an objective observer who describes characters and their actions, thoughts, feelings and motivations without direct knowledge. Focus on a single coherent story and describe the sequence of events in chronological order.

Is Your Marker for a Person in History?

We encourage you to include the person's birth and death dates, a chronology of the important events from the person's life and the person's influence or significant contribution to the national, state or local community.

Is Your Marker for an Event in History?

We encourage you to include the time, date and place of the event, any people or groups associated with event, information on how the event developed and the event's influence or significant contribution to the national, state or local community.

Consider Adding an Image to Your Marker

For only a few hundred dollars more, you can include a photograph, map or graphic on your Wisconsin State Historical Marker. Adding an image to your marker can greatly increase its visual interest. Including an image will reduce the total amount of text you can have on your final marker, but that trade-off might be worthwhile since, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Contact Rick Bernstein for sample images.

Things to Avoid
  • Avoid words like "first," "oldest," "unique," or "only" unless there is irrefutable documentation.
  • You must not list the name of any living person in the narrative.

Note: Text that is not clearly written or well documented will not be approved by the Society. The Society has the authority to make any editorial changes it considers appropriate or necessary. The Society reserves the right to reject a marker application that it deems offensive, either to general good taste or to a specific group of people.

Learn More

Have Questions?

Contact Richard Bernstein, Local History-Field Services, Office of Programs and Outreach, Wisconsin Historical Society

Richard Bernstein
Wisconsin Historical Society
816 State Street, Room 455
Madison, WI 53706-1482
Phone: 608-264-6583