Endnotes

I hate endnotes.

You’re reading some interesting passage, and there’s a little reference number and then you spend the next few minutes flicking through to the back to try to find the damn reference.  If you’re lucky, there’ll be a header telling you ‘notes to pages x to y’ – but not necessarily.  Then you find you’ve lost your place in the main text and spend the next few minutes recovering that and your train of thought.

What’s wrong with footnotes?  If the note text is too long, then perhaps it should appear as main text.

The Cambridge style is for footnotes.  Are endnotes an American thing, and is this another sign of the conquest of English culture by the Americans?

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4 Comments

Filed under Streams of Consciousness

4 responses to “Endnotes

  1. I’ve now developed a footnote/endnote obsession, or rather, a desire to find out what the cultural origin is. Endnotes do seem to be part of OUP style, but I’m not sure whether it’s an Americanism or not. I quite like endnotes at the end of a chapter, but at the end of a book it’s rather annoying. One of the justifications for endnotes, I find, is if many small references are being made (say to journal/diary entries or letters): otherwise, one ends up with an endless list of footnote citations at the bottom of each page, which irritates me!

  2. Oxford, MLA and Chicago styles all allow for either, so Cambridge is missing a trick – students preparing for a career of academic writing need to be able to do both. Footnotes and endnotes (can) have different functions. Usage varies in different fields and journals as well. Personally, I agree with you in preferring footnotes. On a different but related note, the potential for all sorts of added online content has led to a trend toward putting footnotes or other ‘extras’ on the author’s website and not in the book at all – recently encountered in works by Bill Bryson and Edmund de Waal. On the one hand I dislike the idea that the book is no longer a complete entity in itself, but on the other it’s true that I would probably pursue printed footnotes online anyway, and it’s more effective to put links and images on the web.

  3. The problem with online ‘endnotes’ is that I, for one, don’t want to share my bed with my laptop! When does one need an endnote rather than a footnote? If there’s lots of text, as opposed to references, it should be in the actual text, so that can’t be the reason!

  4. anna

    I never did follow up any of the online notes for Bryson or de Waal, so I don’t know why they bothered! Maybe it’s a back-form for print, from the facility in e.g. a blog to link to ‘more about this’ when you are only mentioning the thing in passing.

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