Footnote, redux

I discussed here the importance of footnoting everything you write. It’s worth rereading because too many people fail to do so and get themselves into various kinds of trouble.  And I will amend that post this way: Footnote your notes.

On the top of an Interview file I will put the source’s contact information, like this:

Dan Baum, 303-986-7994,

(Those aren’t real, by the way, so don’t try to contact me that way. Please use the Contact button on the first page of this website.)

Putting them all in one line makes it easy to block-define and copy into a footnote in the article or book you’re writing. If I’m digesting a book and taking notes on it, I’ll put the full bibliography information on the top of my page of notes, like this:

Baum, Dan; Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure; Little, Brown; New York; 1996.

Again, easy to block-define, copy, and transfer into a footnote or, ultimately, your bibliography if you’re writing a book. Of course, if you’re digesting a book into notes, you’ll want page numbers associated with every factoid or quote you derive from the book. So if you found this quote in Smoke and Mirrors and transferred it to your notes — “I don’t care if we stack ’em up in prison like cordwood,” Terwilliger said — you’d footnote is right there in your notes, using full bibliographical cite plus page number. That way, when you move that quote into your manuscript, the footnote will go with it.

You can add footnotes later, but it is infinitely more difficult and time consuming. You’re looking at Smoke and Mirrors right now, going through it for things you need. This is the time to footnote what you get so you’re not asking yourself a month from now, “Oh, Christ, where did I get that good quote about the cordwood?”


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