Saturday, April 26, 2008


Are the footnotes distracting? Should I keep freely adding footnotes, or would you prefer to have them in parentheses, or should I just omit the footnote-like thoughts altogether?

If I do keep the footnotes, do you like them as they are now, or would they be better with Wikipedia-style links (i.e., you click the reference in the main text, which brings you down to the footnote itself, and then there's another link that bounces you back up to the main text)? Would 1, 2, 3, etc. be better than *, **, ***, etc.?

Let me know what you think in the comments.

UPDATE: I've put boomerang links on all the footnotes. Now that's more like it!*

MUCH LATER UPDATE: As you may have noticed, I mostly stopped using footnotes pretty soon after this post. I still use them occasionally, but it's more like every once in a while a post will have one footnote, unlike before, when posts would regularly have up to 5 footnotes.

* See what I mean?? [back]


Ann Althouse said...

I dislike footnotes on blog posts. I like a neat, slick look to the posts, and footnotes create clutter. I've avoided them (in over 10,000 posts on my blog), though I was used to dropping footnotes constantly in scholarly writing. I actually love footnotes in scholarly writing, because they let you digress all over the place. In blog writing, I go with stream-of-consciousness anyway, so I just put the parenthetical right there where they come up in my head.

If you do have them, clickable references would be nice, and I think the asterisks are good for blogging. Numbers suggest there are going to be a lot of footnotes, which isn't good. And they are also inappropriate if you only have one footnote (or maybe even two). The asterisks start to look bad when you get to 4 (though possibly humorous). But that's a good target: don't have more than 3 footnotes (or, rarely, 4), and use asterisks.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Well, I might have reasons for not following your model. You were starting out as an academic and had to bring it down to a lower-brow level. I'm essentially starting from scratch and need to build up credibility.

I'll try clickable asterisks, if I can swing that.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

I don't think the footnotes either add to or detract from credibility. I do think they're somewhat distracting in this format, and I'm someone who likes footnotes in books. Clickable asterisks might be a nearly perfect solution. I also think that in some cases it might be better to trim back on excessive investigation of secondary thoughts, sticking to the main path through the maze rather than looking into every turn.

Ann Althouse said...

It would be cool if the text of the footnote came up in a pop up window and wasn't on the page at all.

You could have a second blog for the text of footnotes and then link to those posts from your primary blog. Like I have "Althouse2," which is just a back up blog for when I have a technical problem. But it might be cool to link over there for subsidiary text that I don't want on my main blog. Maybe just write "note" inside parens with a link to a post over there. That would work as a footnote.

I could put a subtitle on the blog and explaining these are my footnotes and parathenticals. I could have posts on my main blog always be short and continue over there.

I might do this!

Simon said...

I'm emphatically pro-footnote - and it's a point of considerable pride that Ann made an exception to her no-footnote rule for me. :)