Perfecting Your Paper: The Placement of Footnotes After Periods

By Strategically AI. Reviewed by Rebecca Hey.
Updated December 1, 2023
4 minute read
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When you're knee-deep in writing a research paper or an article, footnotes can be as crucial as the main text itself. They're the silent heroes, offering additional information, citations, or clarifications without cluttering your main text. But here's a question that often puzzles writers: Do footnotes go after the period? This seemingly small detail can make a significant difference in the professionalism and readability of your document. Let's dive into the world of footnotes and their proper placement to ensure your writing is as polished as possible.

The Role of Footnotes in Writing

Footnotes are essential in academic and professional writing. They provide supplementary information and source citations without interrupting the flow of the main text. But knowing where to place them is key to maintaining the readability and integrity of your work.

The Standard Rule: Footnotes After the Period

The general rule in most style guides (like APA, MLA, and Chicago) is that footnotes should be placed after the period of the sentence they relate to.

Example for Clarity

  • Correct: This is a sample sentence.^1
  • Incorrect: This is a sample sentence^1.

Why Placement Matters

The placement of footnotes is not just a matter of following style guides; it's about ensuring clarity for your readers. Footnotes placed correctly make your document look organized and professional, while misplaced footnotes can be distracting or confusing.

Ensuring Reader Clarity

Placing footnotes after the period helps maintain the flow of reading. The reader finishes the sentence, acknowledges the superscript number, and can then choose to refer to the footnote for additional information.

Exceptions and Variations

While the rule of placing footnotes after the period is widely accepted, there are exceptions. For instance, if a particular part of a sentence needs a footnote, placing the footnote number directly after the relevant phrase or word might be more appropriate.

Understanding the Context

  • Contextual Placement: In cases where the footnote is not about the entire sentence but a specific part, place the footnote number immediately after the word or phrase in question.

Example of Contextual Placement

  • Correct: In this study, the term "neuroplasticity"^2 is used in its broadest sense.

Tips for Footnote Success

  • Consistency is Key: Whichever method you choose, be consistent throughout your document.
  • Refer to Style Guides: Always check the specific guidelines of the style guide you are using for your document.
  • Proofread for Placement: A common mistake is to overlook the placement of footnotes during proofreading. Always double-check their placement.

Conclusion

Footnotes are a vital part of academic and professional writing, providing essential information without disrupting the flow of your main text. Remembering to place them correctly after the period can significantly enhance the readability and professionalism of your work. So next time you're in a footnote dilemma, remember: the period comes first.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do these rules apply to both footnotes and endnotes?

Yes, the placement rules generally apply to both footnotes and endnotes in most style guides.

Can a sentence have more than one footnote?

Yes, a sentence can have multiple footnotes if necessary. Place each footnote number appropriately as per the information it relates to.

Should footnotes be numbered consecutively?

Yes, footnotes should typically be numbered consecutively throughout your document.

How do I format footnotes in a word processor?

Most word processors like Microsoft Word and Google Docs have built-in footnote functions that automatically format and number footnotes for you.

Can I use footnotes to provide additional commentary?

Absolutely! Footnotes are perfect for offering extra insights, comments, or clarifications that are supplementary to your main text.

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Rebecca Hey
Founder of Strategically.co, we’ve created over 10 million words of impactful content, driving organic traffic growth for more than 300 businesses.

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