In my text, I have a footnote (6 or 7 lines) that is meant to be an extra insight. It does seem, however, to be a bit large for a footnote.

On the other hand, if I try to place it inside the text, it would probably stop the flow of the information I am trying to convey.

Is there a better way to include this information without disrupting the flow of the main text?

As some people mentioned in the comment section, I forgot to mention the type of text I was writing.

This is actually a work for a university engineering subject, so I would consider it technical writing.

  • 2
    What type of writing and also what style guide? (The question of whether to use footnotes at all in science fiction specifically was answered here.) – Laurel Mar 24 '19 at 14:49
  • 1
    When writing essays, I would sometimes use endnotes for commentary on points I was making. They were notes that weren't required for the essays—and also too long to not be distracting if I put them into footnotes. – Jason Bassford Mar 24 '19 at 15:40

The acceptability of the use of footnotes varies a lot. 6-7 lines would be huge in many works but is nothing when compared to others.

If it doesn't belong inside the text, and endnotes aren't a possibility, then a long footnote seems appropriate. I would cut it down as much as you can.

Footnotes should be more informational than storytelling. While you might not think of your paper as using storytelling, it does (or should). Think of the difference in a scientific paper between the body of the paper and the abstract. A paper written entirely like an abstract would be boring and hard to read. But an abstract written like a paper would be too long and hard to skim. Footnotes should be more like an abstract.

In some cases, footnotes can be longer than the rest of the work! It all depends on context. I keep thinking of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography. This enormous volume has the text of Laura Ingalls Wilder's 9 primary books. Every comment, fact check, historical mention, and additional photographs, etc is done in footnotes (they are in the outside margins, not the bottom). You could not have added these to the text directly and endnotes would have been crazy making. The only option is footnotes or some other side-by-side rendition.

Since you're not annotating, if you find that your footnotes as a whole take up a large percentage of space in your paper, I would recommend that you find a way to incorporate them into the text. Footnotes should be for citations and short additional bits. One longer addition is fine. Several is probably too much, depending on context.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    +1. I write and peer review academic articles; I've seen long footnotes before that were appropriate. As Cyn says, it should be necessary information, not "entertaining." It should not be a PROOF, that belongs in the text. However, when citing some works to support a claim, a footnote can provide details of the citation so the reader doesn't have to go look them up or find the paper being cited; for example to note that a method in the cited work does have various strict limitations, but those have been addressed and it is being used correctly by the author in this case. – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Mar 25 '19 at 11:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.