Site Map Links Consulting Contact

Macro-Typography of Footnotes: 3

Possible placements

Until browser manufacturers have begun to implement either an integrated pop-up or some more advanced floating method, we will require various workarounds to manage footnotes. Consider first of all the various placements that a note can have:

  1. gathered with other notes after the main text: an endnote;
  2. gathered with other notes on a large separate page;
  3. appearing alone in a small separate window: a pop-up;
  4. arranged to one side of the text, either as a shoulder note or a cut-in note;
  5. interleaved in a more compact typeface between the sentences of the main text.

Examples of each arrangement can be checked using the hyperlinks that follow.

The first of these options makes very little sense in a visual browser. It forces the reader to scroll up and down, there and back, while reading. If the note numbers, and the connections back to them, are presented as hyperlinks, the reader loses a spatial sense of how the page is arranged, and has to search it anew with the eye after every jump. In the default style generated by MS Word, the only markers in the terrain are the endnote numbers in their square brackets, which are difficult to read if the underline tangles with the brackets and the digits of a low-slung font such as Georgia. In the example, a tinted background rather than an underline has been used to highlight links from the text.

Endnotes in a printed text, it should be noted, are scarcely a convenience for the reader, but rather for the printer, who only needs to maintain two bodies of consecutive text rather than fit together two streams that are difficult to synchronize.

Endnotes became popular as an economic rather than a design choice: for most manuscripts, true footnotes were too costly to compose, as they require considerable time and effort by the printer. So the reader has learned to hold a book with a finger in the notes section and flip aside a sheaf of pages to find an endnote. This manipulation is bearable with printed books, but the matching action on the computer is downright inconvenient, and a rethink is necessary for the online era.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Examples: • EndnotesSeparate NotesSide NotesPop-UpsInterleavingCut-In NotesHighlightingKeywords