Essay Footnoting

The symbol most commonly used for this purpose is the asterisk (*): I do not recommend this, for two reasons.First, if you happen to be writing in a specialist field in which the asterisk is used for other purposes (as it is in mathematics and linguistics), then your reader may not immediately recognize what the asterisk is doing.It is easier for the writer to put all the footnotes at the end of the document, but of course this makes life harder for the reader, who is obliged to do a lot of fumbling about in order to find the footnotes.

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Reading it should not be an epic struggle on the part of your hapless reader.

If you decide that a footnote is unavoidable, then the standard procedure is to flag it in the text with a superscript numeral at the point at which it is relevant: I am indebted to Sylvette Vaucluse for kindly providing me with unpublished data from her own research, and to Sylvette Vaucluse and Jacqueline Labéguerie for illuminating discussions of these case studies.

Academic writers in particular are often guilty of this kind of objectionable behaviour.

Far too often I have wearily chased up a footnote only to find something like this at the end of the trail: (The last example provides nothing but the birth and death dates of someone mentioned in the text.) Such trivial asides could easily be incorporated into the main text inside parentheses, and that's where they should be, if they're going to be present at all.

What is your reader supposed to do if she doesn't recognize it — put your book down, go off to the library and find Halliday (1968), and read that book from cover to cover?

You should make every effort to make your work a pleasure to read.If you can't do this, a horizontal line is permissible.If a footnote is too long to fit at the bottom of its page, it may be continued at the bottom of the next page.Second, if you want to put more than one footnote on a page, you have a problem.Printed books sometimes trot out a startling array of further doodahs to mark additional footnotes, such as the dagger, or obelisk, or obelus (†) and the double dagger, or diesis (‡).Visit the Writing Center for help with brainstorming, organization, revising, citations, and other writing assistance! Regular Writing Center Hours: Monday-Thursday: 1-9 PM Sunday: 5-9 PM Book an appointment with a Writing Center consultant. "Overabundant, overflowing footnotes are the mark of an insecure scholar — often one who gets lost in the byways of analysis and who wants to show off" ( "[T]he great scholarly or anecdotal footnotes of Lecky, Gibbon, or Boswell, written by the author of the book himself to supplement, or even correct over several later editions, what he says in the primary text, are reassurances that the pursuit of truth doesn't have clear outer boundaries: it doesn't end with the book; restatement and self-disagreement and the enveloping sea of referenced authorities all continue.Below is a detailed guide in writing endnotes and footnotes.In the MHRA system, references to sources used in your work are set out in full in notes, either at the bottom of each page (footnotes) or at the end of the piece of work (endnotes).Using these squiggles will at least force you to put your footnotes at the bottom of the page, but it is far better to use numerals.A footnote should be as brief as possible, and here alone it is preferable to make liberal use of readily identifiable abbreviations, including those Latin abbreviations to which I objected so strongly earlier.


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