I don't think footnotes are suitable for webpages.
Unlike paper, the user has to travel (potentially) a long way for
I have been trying to reintegrate them into the text where I see them in
articles -- I suggest we try and write without them
I have to disagree. Footnotes add an additional layer of difficulty
in both paper and web formats, but sometimes they're necessary.
As for how far the user has to go, let me clarify my language a bit.
"Footnotes" refer to the notes that appear at the bottom of the same
page on which a footnote reference appears. "End notes" refer to
notes that appear at the bottom of an entire article. Both notating
schemes are used in academic and other paper-based publishing
contexts, but the only one that could really be used on web pages
would be the "end note" scheme, and that's actually what I had in
mind. Instead of "footnotes," I should have written "end notes." Once
that point is clarified, I think it's clear that users wouldn't have
to travel any further to find the end notes in a Wikipedia article
than the readers who look up end notes in a book or scientific
The reason for using footnotes and end notes is precisely so that
readers who *don't* want to read the minutiae of documentation can
skip past it, while enabling others to find that information if they
so choose. This isn't necessary for all articles, but it can be a big
help when writing about complex or controversial topics. For complex
topics, it enables the writer to "hide" some of the complexity
without ignoring it. For controversial topics, it enables the writer
to provide meticulous documentation in support of assertions that
readers might question, without bogging down the text.
I'm not saying that anyone here *has* to use end notes, just that
they should be *able* to do so if they think it's appropriate.
| Sheldon Rampton
| Editor, PR Watch (www.prwatch.org
| Author of books including:
| Friends In Deed: The Story of US-Nicaragua Sister Cities
| Toxic Sludge Is Good For You
| Mad Cow USA
| Trust Us, We're Experts