Footnotes not endnotes please!

One thing that’s annoyed me while reading the classics has been the use of endnotes in preference to footnotes. Books like Anna Karenina, War and Peace, and Crime and Punishment have a lot of endnotes, so I found myself running with two bookmarks. The second was to keep track of the current endnote page. Even so, it breaks the flow of reading to have to flip to the back of the book, and find the note.

I found some comments online to the effect that endnotes were preferred to footnotes by publishers, for typesetting reasons. I find it hard to believe that these days all typesetting isn’t done by computer, so that shouldn’t be a valid reason any more.

I can imagine that people might think that too many footnotes breaks up the look of the page. I just finished Anna Karenina, as published by Penguin Classics. The following shows the distribution of endnote lengths:

The average endnote length is 3.2 lines.

A combination of footnotes and endnotes would be best, I think. Short notes should be on the page, and if more text is needed, the footnote can refer to an endnote. Anything needed for the flow of reading should be on the page, any background information etc can be at the back.

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