The Art of the Footnote

Footnotes are an under-utilized and heavily debated 1 1. Many solutions exist, but how does the average writer use them? × element of publishing content on the web.

Many bloggers overlook this important writing tool found in nearly every book they review or read to expand their vocabulary.

Why don’t we see more footnotes in today’s landscape of modern writing?

Has the simplistic writing style of today’s writers lost the need for footnotes? Is everybody on the Internet truly an expert that the need to cite others has been lost?

…or do we just suffer from a different symptom of modern writing—laziness?

I won’t discount these factors as nonexistent but will focus my argument on a more productive premise:

How easy is it to add footnotes to an article on the web?

If you’ve ever tried implementing a footnotes system into your own writings you probably found out how nuanced such a system can be 2 2. More accurately, we've been creating endnotes the whole time. × .

The process usually involves scattering HTML number codes throughout your text while making a list at the end of the post, only to force readers to jump up and down the page to digest those notes.

While this can be a slightly disorienting experience for readers, and getting the markup just right can be a tedious process for you, this system has been effective enough in decades of web publishing.

But in the context of WordPress (a CMS that powers most of the web), how have footnotes been improved?

A glance through the WordPress Plugins Directory shows many promising answers to the question but all fall short in 2 key areas:

The 2 Problems With WordPress Footnotes

  1. Most footnotes are thrown into “tooltips” that cover surrounding text on view
  2. There’s no easy way to manage footnotes apart from hunting them down in the post editor

WordPress Plugins Directory

Many plugins use advanced effects to create “tooltips” that show footnotes inline the text.

This gets the job done and makes viewing less disruptive (no page jump) but hides the surrounding text around it—a bad web design practice 3 3. If you care about these details as much as I do you'll love what I'm about to show you. × .

Next, to manage footnotes you usually have to input each note into a shortcode and place those shortcodes throughout your post.

These shortcodes provide half the answer, but not any kind of elegant management system apart from hunting each footnote down in the post editor.

Whether you code a system yourself or use a plugin, you can get the job done. But consider that modern writers have more responsibilities than ever.

Apart from the finding perfect images, optimizing text for social/search, crafting excerpts, and other tasks, how can footnotes be simplified in a way that saves time in the editorial process while improving the reading experience?

It’s time to blast footnotes into the modern age of unlimited screen sizes, so allow me to show you my answer called MD Footnotes:

Smart Feature #1

Footnotes + Sidenotes all-in-one
(with Smart Layout Detection)

Sidenotes are a close relative to traditional footnotes 4 4. Yes, just like this one and others you've seen on this page (desktop only). × that stream alongside the text. Sidenotes are just a glance away and don’t require any clicking or scrolling to view.

Due to the thousands of differences in how WordPress themes are constructed, no WordPress plugin can produce sidenotes the right way.

After becoming infatuated with Harvard Law Review’s use of sidenotes, I instantly knew how Marketers Delight could—and you won’t ever have to think twice about it.

When the space of your articles layout permits it, any footnote you insert into your text will show as a sidenote in the gutter of your page.

On the flip-side, when your layout has an element like a sidebar that limits the amount of screen real estate you have, footnotes convert into clickable numbers that open inline your post.

To limit disruption, each footnote opens up the surrounding paragraph and displays between your words, not over them.

Besides, it’s far more effective to interrupt readers with a well-timed popup.

Smart Feature #2

Easy Footnotes Manager Beneath Your Post Editor

Forget scrolling up-and-down your post editor, you can finally separate your notes from your main text with the dedicated Footnotes Manager.

MD Footnotes WordPress admin panel

The Footnotes Manager gives you everything you need in a simple meta box in your post editor. MD Footnotes doesn’t clutter your admin interface with options pages, it’s ready for use out-of-the-box.

Footnotes Editor

Adding a footnote in the post editor.

Simply plug each footnote into its own text box and create as many as you need by clicking the “Add Footnote” button.

Each new footnote is assigned a unique shortcode that can be dropped right where you need it in your post.

The usefulness of this shortcode truly shines during the editing process. Rather than stuffing a ton of text into a shortcode buried somewhere in your text, just open up the Footnotes Manager to make edits quickly and clearly.

Smart Feature #3

Add Footnotes List to the End of Your Post

WordPress Footnotes Manager Groups

While reading footnotes alongside your text is wildly helpful, it’s important to list them together in one section to make them easy to view at once.

As you create new footnotes, the Manager compiles them into a single list that can be added to the bottom of your post by enabling a simple option.

Your footnotes are ordered in the way you created them in the Manager and even generates a return link so readers can jump back up to the original reference point in your post.

Finally, the system you’ve always created by hand brought to life for the modern web.

MD Footnotes is Now Available in Marketers Delight

Marketers Delight 4.5.1

Because it takes a single typographical system to master the finer details of footnotes, I’ve smoothly integrated this feature into Marketers Delight.

By inheriting MD’s scripts and styles 5 5. No heavy jQuery libraries, no tooltips, a tiny piece of JavaScript gets the job done. × , it takes very little resources to add this simple system to your site.

Look, I’m not here to claim MD Footnotes is (yet) perfect as it still suffers a drawback inherited from the classical systems of the web.

For example, if you need to move an existing footnote around in the text you still need to update the numbers of the ones that follow to keep everything in order.

A nuance like this can be made easier by adding a sorting option into the Manager, and that is on schedule to be added as Marketers Delight gets new updates.

But footnotes are just the beginning. MD adds tons of power features made specifically for writers in a single, tailored theme.

MD Footnotes plugin for WordPress
Finally, the detail perfected for pro writers…

The best way to manage footnotes

MD Footnotes allows you to manage footnotes right from the post editor. Display footnotes beautifully alongside your text and list at the end of your article for easy reference.

See MD Pricing →

5 comments add yours

  1. Hey Alex,

    Your are ALWAYS THINKING IN ADVANCE!!! “SMALL DETAIL’S” DO MATTER!!!
    Keep up the GREAT WORK!!! I trust you are doing well and enjoying LIFE!!!

    Your Friend,
    Joe

  2. One of my favorite features dude… since I highlight a lot of research. Thanks for this.

  3. Hello, I bought the plugin, downloaded and installed.

    Activating it has caused ‘fatal error’ and I can not activate it again 🙁

    I bought the plugin only, is it necessary to have your child theme activated? thank you!

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