Monday, 14 December 2009

Footnotes vs. Endnotes - the poll result

For a while now, the little poll on the right-hand side of this page has been closed after collecting information about your preferences on footnotes and endnotes.
As I had half-hoped, half-suspected, most of the 50 voters prefer or even strongly prefer footnotes over all the other options. Hooray, I'm not alone!

For clarity and to sum it all up (since I will remove the poll window in the near future), here are the poll results from all 50 voters:

27 persons (54%) strongly prefer footnotes
12 persons (24%) prefer footnotes
0 persons ( 0%) prefer endnotes
2 persons ( 4%) strongly prefer endnotes
9 persons (18%) prefer in-text citations, Harvard style (or similar).

Now 50 people who read this blog are admittedly a very small sample - but on the other hand, those who read me here in the Internet might just be those who go out and buy my book (I sure hope so!). And that, despite the small sample, might give it some little importance.

And the opinion of the "masses" is clear - you want footnotes! 78% are in favour of footnotes, and only 4% would prefer endnotes. I had expected a few folks to prefer Harvard style, and I can see the appeal for readers, but it is even more uncommon in Germany to do it that way than it is in the English-speaking countries, and I can't imagine getting a regular, non-subsidised publishing house to do that without really, really good leverage.

Speaking of publishing houses, they do prefer endnotes for several reasons, as I have learned. One of the very important reasons is that layout appears to be clearer and cleaner if the page bottom is not littered with footnotes - an aesthetic thing. I can sort of understand not wanting footnotes that take up more page real estate than the actual text, and I personally would try not to have so much footnoting - but on the other hand, I own (and use regularly, and very much appreciate) at least one book with such extensive footnoting which works very well, even if it looks weird at the beginning.
Apart from the "uncluttered" look, there is another reason for the houses to fear the footnote and endorse the endnoote. During a discussion with my editor, I learned that the publishing houses fear that the conspicuously academic-looking footnote style will deter people from buying a book, even if it's written for nonacademics as well.

Luckily for me, who hates endnotes, and luckily for you, who prefer footnotes (and my apologies to the suppressed minority of endnote-lovers), my book is subsidised by a grant from VG Wort, who pay most of the actual printing costs. Only because of that, my strong preference for footnotes will be honoured - and the book will have footnotes instead of endnotes.

And then, of course, I hope that my prediction will be right: People will buy the book regardless of its more academic appearance. If not - well, then I will stand a fool (with footnotes)...

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