June 8, 2018

Do You Read Footnotes?

The hilarious picture below made me want to discuss the topic of “whether it’s okay to use footnotes when you write.” My take is that it depends on the context. In my opinion:

1. They’re okay for court opinions, SEC releases and research papers when authority needs to be cited.

2. But it’s not okay to bury substantive commentary in footnotes, even in the types of documents in #1 above. If it’s important enough to include in a document, put it in the body – don’t bury it in a footnote.

3. It’s never okay for informational articles. You might notice that nearly all of our content doesn’t include footnotes. For example, authority is cited within the body of our Handbooks. And commentary that might be considered as an “aside” is mentioned as an aside within the main body of our stuff. We don’t force our readers to dig around.

The Footnote of All Time

Saw this wonderful picture on @footnoted’s Twitter feed (courtesy of @AcademiaObscura). The footnote in the picture makes fun of footnotes (click the image to enlarge it & read footnote 1 at the bottom):

Poll: The Appropriateness of Footnotes

Take a moment for this anonymous poll to indicate your feelings towards footnotes:

web survey

Broc Romanek