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Footnotes Or Endnotes?


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For me it depends entirely upon the publication. Is this for a book, a club magazine, an article in a commercial publication, a historical society or organization. Is it on line or in print. Also what has been done before. Is it a technical article or historical ?  Makes no sense to me to switch formats etc if one has already been in use and the readers are used to reading it that way. To me footnotes are best if kept fairly brief, perhaps to clarify or give a little clearer definition of what is being conveyed. Endnotes may be longer to perhaps note exactly where the information was found if it is not in the text of the article.

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  • 9 months later...

The change from footnotes to end notes is largely a function of publishing. It is MUCH harder to typeset footnotes because the text has to be adjusted so that the footnote fits on the correct page. End notes make the typesetters job much easier and, thus, the publishers job easier. The practice of including citations in the text (which I hate), a feature of current academic publications, is another trick to make the job easier for the publisher. Personally, I like real footnotes best, and as a long time professional typesetter I don't have a big problem with them. It's much different when you are hiring a person from the typing pool to "typeset" a book or article. Like many things, it's a job that looks easier than it really is.  End notes are suitable to things like magazine articles where space is often constrained by advertising and only a few pages are involved. They are a PIA when you are doing a 500 page book and the notes are at the end of the chapter (which may have 60 pages)...or worse, at the end of the book. This is classic example of "new" not being better, just cheaper.

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)
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An afterthought...

The very best form of notes are marginal footnotes. The text is set on a shorter line so there is a wide margin on the right or left and the note is adjacent to the material it is expounding on. Virtually all self-published books and some professional ones use a line length that is too long. There is a technical term for this (which I now forget) but a line 7 or 7-1/2 inch long line (standard for an 8-1/2 x 11 format) is too too long to read comfortably. This is why better designed books set type in two columns. All of this was well understood by the early 16th century (look at the Guttenberg Bible...which is 15th century) but is largely ignored today in the pursuit of cheap & fast. One of my colleagues once commented that bad book design is also a result of authors, who often haven't read many books, doing their own design. Marginal footnotes went out of style in the mid-18th century, again because they were difficult to compose although they give the composer a lot more room to work with.

 

The goal of good typesetting (at least from my perspective) is to create a situation where the reader is unaware of the design.

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Sidebars are more commonly used in magazine articles but they are very useful for exactly the same reason marginal footnotes are...they allow the author to explain a salient point (which the reader may not be familiar with) while not interrupting the narrative of the text.

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