Footnotes vs. Endnotes

Let’s say you have a bit of extra information that’s too long for parentheses. What do you do? That’s where footnotes and endnotes come in. What are they exactly? Footnotes appear at the bottom of each page they refer to, while endnotes appear at the very end of a text. They usually show up in academic writing. Read on if you want to know more about when and how to use them.

Similarities and Differences

Footnotes and endnotes both include material that’s supplemental to the text itself. They usually explain or expand upon material in the text. They may also contain bibliographic information, background material, or references.

Here’s what they look like in the wild. At the end of a sentence in-text, you’ll see a small number in superscript showing that there’s a footnote or endnote addressing it. When there are only a few footnotes or endnotes, you might see asterisks (*) and other non-alphanumeric symbols. Each footnote or endnote begins with the corresponding number or symbol used in the text. This makes it easy to match the relevant text with the supplemental information.

The main difference between footnotes and endnotes is where they appear within a written work. Footnotes appear at the bottom of the same page as the in-text reference they explain. Think of that as the “foot” of the page. They’re traditionally printed in a very small font, much smaller than that used for the main text.

Endnotes, on the other hand, appear at the end of a written work, sometimes on a separate page. In a book, they may appear in a specific section at the end of the book or at the end of a chapter. Endnotes that appear at the end of a book typically use a standard font size. The ones that appear at the end of a chapter are sometimes in a font that’s smaller than what’s used for the rest of the text.

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Advantages of Using Footnotes

The main advantage of using footnotes is that they’re easier to find. When you want to read a footnote, you just glance down to the bottom of a page. Many writers prefer putting supplemental material in footnotes because there’s a greater chance that the reader will see it. However, if a writer relies too much on footnotes, the page can become cluttered and difficult to read.

Advantages of Using Endnotes

Endnotes are easier to compile and print, since you don’t have to reformat individual pages to fit them in. The use of endnotes also creates a cleaner look on each page, since there aren’t any distractions from the smooth flow of reading. One drawback, though, is that if you want to read an endnote, you’ll need to page forward to the end of the work to find it, and then you’ll need to page back to your original place in the text.

Generally speaking, both footnotes and endnotes serve the same purpose. Footnotes are the best option if you’re only providing a small amount of supplemental material and you want to make sure that the reader sees it. If you have a significant amount of supplemental material, endnotes might be the better option.

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