Ultimatum to Publishers

My sincere apologies to my readers for the less than sporadic posting over the past few months. With the move, and the lack of high-speed internet, it is extremely difficult and frustrating to blog frequently. I am working on getting high-speed internet, but until then, blogging will be a bit sporadic, though I hope to do better than the last few months. Anyway, my thoughts on footnoting versus endnoting received a very pleasant and amusing boost by a post to which my brother directed my attention. Michael Fox is an extremely well-respected Jewish Old Testament scholar, incidentally, in case you were wondering. I suggest you read the whole thing, and then consider whether it might not be best for the publishing world if all writers point-blank refused to publish unless footnotes were the only allowable practice. Endnotes are unbelievably inconvenient, not to mention barbaric.

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  1. January 10, 2012 at 9:12 am

    I am (finally) reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (a great pleasure read) and am finding that the footnotes contain some of the most stimulating material in the book. I’m SO glad that this run-away #1 best-seller has footnotes and not end-notes or I would probably have missed some really good stuff. When I’m studying something carefully, I almost feel obligated to check the notes and, when it’s endnotes, it adds lots of time to my study and distracts me from the flow of thought in the book.

    Where to begin a protest? Hmm . . .

  2. Richard L. Lindberg said,

    January 10, 2012 at 10:19 am

    I agree. I’ve read a couple books lately with endnotes instead of footnotes. Having to keep turning to another part of the book to find the notes is inconvenient enough that I don’t check them out.

  3. January 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    I suggest you read the whole thing, and then consider whether it might not be best for the publishing world if all writers point-blank refused to publish…

    Best to stop there.

  4. Brandon said,

    January 10, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    There is always that wonderful sensation while reading a heavily endnoted book when I flip to the back and see a long stream of “Ibid.” Then I note whether there are any significant comments in the endnotes coming. If not, I know it’s smooth reading, at least until the next batch of pregnant endnotes arrives.

  5. January 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Since it’s the easiest thing in the world for an individual to write a paper with footnotes (including re-numbering them when one needs to insert a new one in the middle of a document), why do professional publishers so often refuse to use them? Surely professional (now digital) typesetting equipment can do this even more easily than the software on a laptop.

  6. Cris Dickason said,

    January 10, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    Could you imagine if the Westminster Standards were printed with the Scripture references as endnotes rather than footnotes? Yes, I know, the Divines had to be forced to include the Scripture references, but having followed the “suggestion,” I’m glad they are footnotes, not endnotes.

    But this has all been a paper-oriented discussion. What about e-publishing? How about starting a new post, tell us what e-reader(s) you use, what e-books you have, etc. What do you think of the navigation and reference features? I’m a new iPad user and I $prang for the ESV Study Bible as an e-book. The navigation feature is wretched. The free ESV iPhone/iPad Bible is more useful, though lacking in all that specialized Study Bible content. The free Accordance Bible app is pretty impressive too. [Sorry for the mini review]

  7. January 11, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    I think it’s actually best if authors include all their genuine content in the main text, and then it’s less of an issue. Those who really want to check for references will be annoyed (and I’m one of them). But most readers will not be missing out as much. Still, footnotes are superior to endnotes, and endnotes at the end of each chapter are superior to endnotes at the end of the book. I’m currently in the process of transferring all my content into the main text, even this one. Academic writing develops bad habits with footnotes. We want to say something that we think is important but would interrupt the flow of the text. The problem is that anyone reading it will interrupt their reading of the text to read the footnote, so it would be better to organize the information in the order we want it read and only include what we want people reading and just leave the footnotes for references.

  8. rfwhite said,

    January 11, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Green Baggins:

    Given the way notes are used today (to provide additional content and not just cite bibliographic documentation), I’m with you that footnotes are definitely preferable to endnotes. But that’s just to rephrase the point that Jeremy Pierce makes: the purpose and content of the notes in the text is key, not the placement of the notes only or as such. Though I haven’t read it recently, I think I’m right in recalling that The Chicago Manual of Style describes at some length the difference between the two kinds of notes, and it challenges writers to know the difference and to avoid using footnotes for content that ought better to be included in the main body of a text (or even in another text).

  9. Stephen said,

    January 12, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    I too dislike endnotes and have long found them annoying for the reasons Fox lays out. My semi solution several years ago: buy sticky tabs and keep one on the end-note page corresponding to my progress through a book. Cuts down on a lot of the time consuming searching.

    As for the broader discussion here of footnotes and the like, some readers may be amused to know that Anthony Grafton (prof. at Princeton University) wrote a book on this very topic: The Footnote: A Curious History (Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1997).

  10. January 13, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    I expect most use endnotes not because they cannot do footnotes, which page layout programs have easily allowed for decades, but because of some scholastic tradition that needs to be snuffed out. On some historical points, the Westminster Standards were first printed with marginal notes which was the style of the time (not sure, per Grafton the exact date foot of the page notes came into use). Robert Baillie used end notes at the end of each chapter of the first part of his Dissuasive against the errors of the times, which is the only 17th century work I’ve come across that does this though I expect it is not a singular example.

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