Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Footnotes

Am now mostly recovered from the ick. As much as I would like to post something substantive about medieval religion, right now is the season of logistics and administration for me: grading, student-related paperwork, and this editing gig.

One of the things that has been fascinating about reading and editing a group of closely related papers has been observing different styles of writing and citation. I have known for years that I tend to write briefly: I usually aim for writing that is succinct and to the point, and my footnotes are accordingly brief. Some of my fellow writers in this project tend to write much, much longer footnotes. Where I write, "On X, see Author Y, Reference," they might write instead: "X is a complicated issue. For the conventional view, see author Y, whereas authors Z and W offer contrasting views that undermine the principles of Y's position." Or they might simply offer six different sources, instead of one or two. One person left me very little editing to do by meticulously casting her footnotes into the preferred format, while others required a lot more regularization.

I am not by any means saying that one of these styles is preferable to the others. It has just been interesting to get a glimpse of the various ways people work.

What's your footnoting style? Short and sweet? Long and meaty? Somewhere in between?

3 comments:

tenthmedieval said...

Starts long, gets cut down to your style by word requirements, usually... Some leftover notes stranded at different points of the process. Result tends to be a bit untidy. Maybe some day I'll get better at it.

Rachel said...

Mine is naturally expansive, giving comparisons, asides etc. Which worked fine for the dissertation, but the editor of the CUP series I want the book version to appear in hates this type of thing and wants the whole thing reworked to incorporate most of them in the text, which I think will disrupt the flow.

It also varies a lot by nationality: German authors are notorious for their long footnotes, and I think I've read so much of their stuff I'm used to the style.

squadratomagico said...

I seldom offer substantive footnotes -- the kind that adds new information to the main text. Once in a while, but I usually try to get that stuff onto the main page. However, for bibliographical notes, I take great pride in giving long notes that cover most of the literature on a given topic or question. For me, this has three benefits: First, it can help a reader with his or her own research -- I myself have benefited from notes like this a great deal. Second, it serves a rhetorical purpose of demonstrating that I've done my homework and know of what I speak. Third, it helps situate my argument within the existing historiography.