Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

Footnotes in non-fiction

Post Reply
Holly Tucker
Posts: 22
Joined: October 2008

Footnotes in non-fiction

Post by Holly Tucker » Thu October 9th, 2008, 12:36 pm

I'm wondering what your preferences are for footnotes in narrative non-fiction. How much? How often? What format?

How about some examples of non-fiction authors who had too many, too few, just enough? (Sounds a little like Goldilocks, doesn't it?)

HollyWonders and Marvels

User avatar
Posts: 9581
Joined: August 2008
Location: Seattle, WA

Post by Misfit » Thu October 9th, 2008, 1:45 pm

I don't read NF very much, but I do come across footnotes when I'm reading a Penguin Classics and they tend to over do it, and it becomes so distracting from the story I ignore them all together. When they are necessary I prefer them at the bottom of the page instead of at the back of the book -- less distracting.

User avatar
Posts: 2440
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA

Post by Margaret » Thu October 9th, 2008, 5:34 pm

In narrative nonfiction, I generally prefer not to have footnotes at all, since the whole idea of narrative nonfiction is to immerse the reader in the story, similar to reading a novel. Every time I hit a footnote, assuming the numbers are large enough to register, I have to decide whether to look at the footnote or ignore it, which breaks my connection with the story. And if the numbers aren't large enough to register, it's even worse, because I'll see the footnote when I get to the bottom of the page and, if it's at all interesting, want to comb through the page to find what it's referring to. I think it's better to have an author's note at the end (either of the book or of each chapter) discussing the references used. Of course, nonfiction can't always be neatly divided into purely narrative and purely scholarly - there's a pretty large number of books that fit somewhere in the middle. It kind of depends on how most of your readers are going to read the book - whether most of them are going to be reading purely for the story, or whether they will be using it as a resource that stimulates additional research.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

Post Reply

Return to “Historical Nonfiction/Biography”