Tuesday, December 03, 2019

About footnotes

At the beginning of Richard Seymour’s The Twittering Machine, about the ills of social media:
In writing this book, I set out to avoid burdening it with references and scholarship. I want it to be read as an essay, rather than as a polemic or an academic work. But for anyone who wants to know more, or simply finds themselves asking, ‘How does he know that?’ there are bibliographical notes at the end. If you find yourself itching to research a quote, statistic, or fact, simply skip to the end and search under the page number for the relevant phrase.
You see, I’ve never understood this hostility to footnotes, but every time I’ve written a book, I’ve been encouraged by editors to rein in my enthusiasm, because they put people off, apparently. When did references and scholarship become a burden? (There are notes in the Seymour book, but they're tucked away at the back, so as not to scare the more fragile reader.)


Anonymous said...

I’m a researcher and I detest footnotes. They interfere with the flow of reading. I’m perfectly happy to go to the end and read the notes if I want more.

Tim F said...

That's interesting. I find the flicking back and forth more disruptive. Having them at the bottom of the page, distinct from the main body text, gives me the option of reading or not.