Footnotes vs Endnotes: Which is Which, and How to Use Them

There is a lot of confusion between endnotes and footnotes, and what the difference is between them.

The short answer: they are the same except that footnotes appear at the bottom of the page and endnotes appear at the end of your chapter or book.

However, there is a little more nuance to it than that. And I'll dig into that in this article.

In this article, you will learn:
  1. What footnotes and endnotes are
  2. The difference between footnotes and in note's
  3. How to create footnotes and endnotes
  4. What to include in a footnote or endnote

Why You Should Trust Me

So I've been writing and formatting books for a long time. 10+ years as of this writing.

But I actually found formatting to be a huge pain, which is why I actually created my own formatting software that solved all my problems. I called it Atticus.

But this isn't meant to be a sales pitch. I just want to make sure it's clear that I know what I'm talking about. The amount of research that went into not only formatting my own books, but also creating a formatting software is huge.

I researched everything, from tiny margin requirements, to the specific type of quotes to use (curly or straight, it makes a difference).

And yes, of course, that includes footnotes and endnotes.

So if all that makes sense, hopefully you'll come along with me as show you everything I've learned.

What Is a Footnote?

A footnote is a citation made inside the text, usually with a superscript number, that leads to an expanded note at the bottom of your page.

Basically, if you see a superscript number in your book, and at the bottom of the page is more information related to that topic, that is a footnote.

What Is an Endnote?

An endnote is very similar to a footnote. It involves an in-text citation in the middle of your manuscript, again, usually with a superscript number, that points to more information later on.

However, an endnote is not found at the bottom of your page. Your endnote will usually be found either at the end of each chapter, or at the end of the book.

You should decide whether to have your endnotes at the end of each chapter or at the end of the book depending on the number of endnotes that you intend to have. If you intend to have many endnotes, then you should place them at the end of each chapter. If you have only a few endnotes, you can collect them all in one place at the end of your book.

Bonus: Formatting can be a difficult thing, especially when you have a vanilla tool like Microsoft Word. To make this process easier, I developed a tool to give you the template you need to format your book in Word. Get all the templates here!
Check Out the FREE Formatting Templates

Footnotes Versus Endnotes

Footnotes and endnotes have a lot of similarities and a few key differences. 

Similarities between Footnotes and Endnotes

  • They both provide a clear method to find out additional information
  • They allow the reader to continue reading uninterrupted, but still have the option to learn more
  • They provide an excellent way to cite your sources

Differences between Footnotes and Endnotes

  • Footnotes are found at the bottom of each page, whereas endnotes are found at the end of each chapter or book
  • Footnotes are typically shorter, as they have to fit on the page, whereas endnotes can go into more depth without messing up the formatting

It is also worth noting that, even if you have footnotes or endnotes, most books still make use of a bibliography at the end of the book. Footnotes and endnotes are great for citing your sources, but a bibliography is different, because it is a list of all your cited works.

What to Include in Footnotes or Endnotes

A footnote or endnote should almost always include some of the following:

  • The in-text citation is usually a superscript number
  • The footnote or endnote begins with the same superscript number, sometimes followed by a period and a space, depending on the style
  • The first footnote or endnote to cite a specific source should give the full information of that source. Subsequent footnotes or endnotes that cite that same source can use an abbreviated version
  • Most footnotes and endnotes cite the specific page from the source they are citing

But what information do you actually use a footnote or endnote to cite? Well here are a couple of ideas:

  • Primary sources
  • Other citations
  • Parenthetical information
  • Copyright permissions
  • Background information
  • Author's notes
  • And more

You can even use footnotes or endnotes creatively in a work of fiction, such as adding more information about your world, including comments from characters, etc. There are many ways to get creative with footnotes and endnotes.

Using Footnotes/Endnotes In Fiction Books

While footnotes and endnotes are primarily used in nonfiction books, there are some fun ways to use these notes in fiction as well. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Reveal additional details about your world: it can be tough to pack all of the world building that you need into your story. How about giving a few extra details in the notes?
  • Make your world seem more real: by adding footnotes/endnotes, you can make your world seem more academic, like it is an actual place. Tolkien did this in the Lord of the Rings.
  • Add comments from other characters: what if you had a character reading the book you are writing? You could use notes as a way of letting the character comment on the text. You could also use this for the narrator of a first-person point of view to comment on their own words.

Adding footnotes and endnotes in fiction can be a fun way to stand out from the crowd, and make the process fun to read.

How to Create Footnotes or Endnotes

If you are using a program like Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign to create your footnotes or endnotes, be prepared for a sharp learning curve.

While it is possible to create footnotes and endnotes in these programs, it can take a while, and it is a formatting nightmare. A lot of the work has to be done manually.

Furthermore, other popular formatting tools like Vellum only offer endnotes in their program, and not footnotes.

But now there is one program that will automatically create footnotes and endnotes, making it extremely easy to include these in your novel.

That tool is called Atticus.

Atticus is an all-in-one software for writing and formatting your book. Not only will it create footnotes and endnotes for your book, but it can do a lot of other things too, including:

  • Format ebooks and print books in a variety of trim sizes
  • Create large print books
  • Allow you to create beautiful chapter themes
  • Has extreme customization of font, sizes, and more
  • Is over $100 cheaper than the leading alternative
  • Is available on virtually every platform, including Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chromebook

While Atticus certainly isn't the only program that creates footnotes and endnotes, it is 100% the easiest program to include them in your book.

How to Create Footnotes and Endnotes in Atticus

Atticus is one of the only formatting programs that does easy-to-insert footnotes (Adobe InDesign does footnotes, but the software is incredibly difficult to learn), as well as endnotes.

Atticus makes the process easy. Start by going to the Formatting tab and selecting whether you want footnotes or endnotes.

For footnotes, use this selection:

how to select footnotes in atticus

For endnotes, use this selection:

how to select endnotes in atticus

Then, simply find where you want to insert your footnote/endnote, and select the following button in the top tool bar:

footnotes in the atticus tool bar

This will create a pop-up where you can insert your desired footnote or endnote (it looks the same for both):

inserting footnotes in atticus

You will then see the footnote/endnote displayed in the main editor:

footnotes in the atticus editor

And that’s it! Once this is done, the footnotes or endnotes will appear in your formatted documents. Here is what that looks like in the Print version:

For Footnotes, you will find the references within the page, and the full note at the bottom of your page:

the final look of footnotes formatted by atticus

For Endnotes, you will see the references in the page, just like the Footnotes:

examples of endnotes in the final look

But the content of the notes will show up at the end of the chapter:

examples of endnotes at the end of a chapter

Note also that for ebooks, your footnotes will be converted to endnotes, since footnotes only work in print.

It’s such an easy process that very few formatting tools have, and ONLY Atticus makes it this simple.

Video: Footnotes in Atticus!

For a nice summary of this article, and a demonstration of how footnotes work in Atticus, be sure to check out this video.

Want more videos like this? Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for weekly videos!

Check Out Atticus Today!

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