Nonsense Arguments in Favor of End Notes

It irks me when people say that they’ve put end notes in a book to make it “more accessible” or “less intimidating.”  This end note apologetic is lame and nonsensical.  What exactly is intimidating about footnotes?  They’re words!  You’re reading words in the main text, right?  Why should more words in a footnote intimidate you or make the book less accessible?  And what does that mean anyway?  As if the presence of footnotes make a book harder to open or something like that.  Nonsense I say, nonsense!



18 thoughts on “Nonsense Arguments in Favor of End Notes

  1. Agreed. If someone doesn’t want to read the footnotes then they don’t have to. It’s not like it would interrupt the flow of the book. However, end notes does interrupt the flow if you do want to read them.

  2. what I also object to is stuff in the footnotes that should be in the main text, amongst other footnotes which probably shouldn’t be anywhere at all. If only the footnotes that should be footnotes remained in the footnotes, there’d be more blinking text on each page and less small print at the bottom to sift through!

    I can’t imagine an author ever justifying endnotes. That’s a publisher’s delusion.

  3. Steph: That’s a pet peeve of mine also!

    Siow: The problem with me is that I absolutely have to! It’s a compulsion which makes them all the worse!

    Jason: Here here! Let’s get signs printed up and start picketing!

  4. (1) Do any of you folks have a suggestion for software for writing on a MAC that makes endnotes. “Endnote” itself is expensive and I hear has problems. Any Mac fan scholars out there?

    (2) I love endnotes if they keep the book shorter. If I find a point interesting, I can explore it further (kind of like a link) or I can just move on.

    But I have a pet peeve: Make them easy to find !

    How to do this:

    a) Put them all at the end of the book — Don’t put them at the end of a chapter

    b) Make the endnotes continuous, don’t divide into chapters because (i) you have to remember the chapter name (ii) you have to flip through the endnotes to find the chapter. These are time consuming, just keep them by numbers.

    Boy that felt good. Thanks

  5. Sabio: I’m a PC user so I don’t have any suggestions. But doesn’t the standard Mac word processor have an end note feature?

    Jason: Would that I could but there’s just too many good books that use them. It’s a catch 22.

  6. I really hate end notes at the end of a chapter and not at the end of a book. At least those at the end of a book are all in one place, so I hate them a little less. Fortunately, there aren’t too many books that do that, but there are a few.

  7. I hate end-notes with a passion as well. The only thing I hate more are works without any notation! I agree with the remarks made by Sabio. If someone’s forcing you to use end-notes (like with a gun to your head) put everything at the end of the book, not at the end of chapters. Also, use continuous numbering OR have headings at the top of each end-note page saying “notes for pages x-y”. Also, a professor here at GCTS said that his PhD advisor would emphatically insist that if something was not important enough to include in the main body of your argument, then it was not worth putting in footnotes either (unless of course it was citation information, etc.). My MA thesis is a very POOR example of too many long footnotes. I’ve got some pages that are half-filled with detailed argumentation in the end-notes, and a bunch of times I included them not because it actually contributed to the argument, but because I may have spent 2 or 3 days chasing a wild goose down a long rabbit trail, and I just could not stand the thought of all that work not making it into my thesis!

  8. Peter: A few is too many!

    Jim: The only stuff I’ve read that references works and doesn’t give any kind of notation has all been produced by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (= Jehovah’s Witnesses). And I generally hate their stuff too! Thanks for the link to your thesis. I’ll have to add it to my ever expanding catalog of such material. I suspect that your reason for including such notes isn’t unique to you. I’ willing to bet that a lot of notes we read in books are there for just that reason.

  9. Half of the books I have read are due to Bibliographies in books I enjoy. When reading a book, I dislike the journal-like, eye-sore of sentences like, “this controversy has been thorough explored (Smith, 1989) …”

    I’d rather have a footnote number and then find the bibliography referrence there with any other information about that book the author cares to share.

    Thus, I see footnotes as a necessary evil if I am going to enjoy a meaningful bibliography in a research backed document.

  10. Nick, I’m curious which book you were reading when you decided to post on this topic. I recently received The Catholic Epistles and Apostolic Tradition and was very grieved to find that it uses end notes instead of footnotes — 121pp. of endnotes. I enjoy looking at footnotes, but I’m sure I’ll lose out on some good notes simply because it’s such a pain to flip to the back of the book to find them. Does anyone have a solution for that? I guess a bookmark back there would help.

  11. Bzephyr: I was actually reading a book review if I recall correctly. Two bookmarks is really the only way to navigate between the main text and end notes, but it’s such a hassle.

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