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The Dreaded Footnote

posted Jul 6, 2013, 6:07 AM by Ben Kreucher   [ updated Jul 6, 2013, 6:20 AM ]
It's a wonder more people don't use footnotes.  ...Said no one ever.

I mean, I really like them; but they aren't used in MLA style, which nearly every literary paper (at my college) required.  That's fine.  But, footnotes are a refined art.  Or, perhaps, they just help pad page count.  I just used long quotes for that (sorry, Professors...though, you probably already knew that and, I'm pretty sure the statute of limitations on papers is less than seven years).

Footnotes are nice, but I don't really know if they have a place in fiction.  Which is sad, because I would totally use them, especially in my translation of Latin.  I mean, if you're writing spells, you pretty much have to use Latin these days (who doesn't speak it?).  

Some people, however, find footnotes distracting.  I find them convenient.  The translation is right there, on the bottom of the page; I don't have to flip to the back of the book to discern its meaning.

Sure, a good writer might make the spell's effects obvious so the translation isn't needed, it's just a nice bit of trivia, but, I'm considering a ...different approach.  I mean, what if you're not a good writer or are lazy?  There are times when I like to weigh all my options.

But, in the end, it's probably best to give readers what they expect and not break out from the pattern.  I mean, how many shepherds can we see save the world?  At least one more, I hope.  Thus, footnotes are relegated to the junk drawer of fiction, right next to the parenthetical1.

1 A parenthetical is the type of citation used in MLA style.  It is also a phrase surrounded by parentheses.