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Notes: Create footnotes and sidenotes

I wish to add notes to my pages that are displayed and printed outside the regular flow of text.

Instructions to printers

In addition to using endnotes to provide an evidentiary trail of citations, authors often wish to use sidenotes and footnotes:

  • sidenotes are generally used to emphasise or illustrate key points, to draw the reader’s eye to a particular topic
  • footnotes are generally used to provide supplementary detail, not essential to the main thread of the discussion

line length affects readabilityMost style guides advise that for optimum readability, a line of text ought to contain on average 66 characters. While the physical line length depends on the typeface’s alphabet length,1 at 11pt this typically corresponds to lines about 11–12cm long. Wikipublisher uses part of the remaining space to place sidenotes in the page’s outside margin. That is, sidenotes are on the right of recto pages and on the left of verso pages.

The markup for sidenotes is {=text of note|colour=}, although the colour is optional.2 Available web colours are yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, and grey (the default). In print, all sidenotes are set as small blue text. In the web page, we float sidenotes to the right, in effect treating the screen as a recto page.

some footnotes are automaticWhere a reference to an external URL has link text, such as the wonderful manual for the memoir package, the URL address is automatically placed in a footnote. An author may also create footnotes using the [^text of footnote^] markup. Generally accepted practice is to place footnotes after punctuation, rather than before — Wikipublisher does this for us. In print, footnotes are automatically placed at the foot of the current page. On the web, authors need to instruct the wiki to output the footnotes with the [^#^] markup.

use footnotes sparinglyA number of style guides advise against the use of footnotes, as they can distract the reader. For this reason, the wikipublisher footnote recipe currently does not have a way to refer to, or return from, the same footnote more than once. This would tend to encourage use of footnotes, where perhaps citations are more suitable.

The page shows 3 of the available sidenote colours.


1 Type the lower case letters of the alphabet several times in various different fonts; the line length will vary. (↑)

2 For avoidance of doubt, the character between the text and the colour is a bar. (↑)

Category: typography

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Page last modified on 21 February 2008 at 07:35 PM