Ask the Editor: You Complete Me…Footnotes vs. Endnotes

Filed in Ask the Editor by on March 21, 2013 0 Comments

Here at Xulon Press, we as editors often see footnote and endnote citations in many of our authors’ books. Footnotes and endnotes are great elements to give your material more clout, whether it is fiction, non-fiction or even academic material. Both are effective in adding credibility to you as a writer and solidifying the body your book.   Here’s some criteria for choosing one or the other.

Xulon Press Ask the Editor, Footnotes and EndnotesFootnotes

These work better for academic material (such as textbooks), or functional material such as daily devotionals and Bible study guides. Display them on the bottom of each page with an asterisk, or more commonly, a superscripted number. These are perfect for a book with a minimal number of references.

Because footnotes are right at the bottom of the page, they give readers immediate access to references while the information is fresh in their minds. Footnotes are valuable because readers can see your sources without having to flip to the back of your book or wait until the end of the chapter. They are also beneficial for authors who want to include brief supplemental notes, definitions, or humorous elements before readers continue to the next page. Think of footnotes as “the feet” of the body of your page. They are vital for the reader to get where you want them to go as they are in the process of reading.

However, also keep in mind this is a page element that breaks up the flow of the overall text. Too many footnotes at the bottom of the page (or one very long footnote) will be distracting. Readers can get sidetracked and lose focus on your main subject matter.


Endnotes should be used in non-fiction writing where the focus is not so much educational or informative, but rather inspirational or testimonial. If your book is more story-driven, footnotes at the end of the page can disrupt the flow and really take away from the reading experience. To avoid this, place your notes either at the end of each chapter or at the very end of your book.

End notes are perfect for a book with a lot of citations. They give a cleaner, more organized look and keep readers’ focus on the author’s message. Think of endnotes as dessert: they are not part of the meal, but a nice addition afterward. They give additional information that is good to have, but not necessary during the process of reading the book.

A disadvantage of endnotes, however, is readers have to stop reading to turn to the end of the chapter or the end of the book if they want to know the information at that moment. This could potentially break their concentration and, in turn, interrupt the reading experience.

So which is better?

That depends on the content and purpose of the book, as well as the type of information contained in the notes. If the notes are only source information, they should be put in end notes. If the notes are needed for the reader’s understanding of the material, they should be footnotes. Both serve a purpose, but both have disadvantages. As with anything else involved in writing a book, choose what’s best for your content and your audience.


About the Author ()

Krystina Murray is a Staff Editor at Xulon Press with over six years of editing experience. When she isn't helping writers improve their manuscripts, she devotes her time to crafting poetry and short stories, maintains an exciting food blog and completes copy writing advertisements for small businesses.

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