Bring back the humble, hardworking footnote

I started law school in 1997. One of the first things our professors had to train us to do was read the footnotes. Most of us were efficient speed readers. We didn’t see the little numbers. We focused on the text. Maybe we’d come back to the footnotes later. We had to learn how important they were in case law and train ourselves to at least check them as we went along. That is, we had to learn the distraction — and how to control it — that is now common.

When hyperlinks became a thing a few years later, I was excited. They were inline footnotes. Except they became overused. I certainly overused them, citing sources for every proposition. The citation was a good thing, but the little superscript number was visually unobtrusive. Depending on the website format, hyperlinks might be bold, underlined, highlighted, and a different color than the rest of the text. Plus, I can add commentary on footnotes.

I’ve off and on experimented with using comments as footnotes here on Medium. Based on your analysis, I think I’m going to use that method more often.

Teacher of life admin and curator of commentary. Occasional writer.

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