This was posted the other day over on xkcd:


While I try to stay away from labyrinths, I do really enjoy using footnotes.(1) Initially I thought I’d use this as a starting-off point to talk about why I use them, sometimes at great length, in blog posts and elsewhere.(2)

But in thinking about it, the honest truth is simply that I have just two reasons: Because it’s how my brain works and because I think they’re funny.(3)

I wish I had something better for you, that they were some kind of post-modern commentary on blogging/life or they had some wildly intelligent through largely lagniappe meaning and import to them. But no. There’s often just a bit of extra context or information or commentary that a little voice in my brain adds on as I’m typing up a post. That’s the stuff that ends up in footnotes, more often than not, which I usually like more than the post itself.(4)

So while I was hoping to put together something of a Footnote Manifesto…truth is, mostly I just find them funny.(5) They’re sort-of my version of dick- and fart-jokes.(6)

  1. Obviously.
  2. I use them in emails at work sometimes. Which I’m sure everyone loves.
  3. Although I sometimes use them for very different reasons.
  4. It’s like I have two bloggers in my head, and the one doing the footnotes is much, much better at it.
  5. The fact of them, more than the content. Usually.
  6. There is a third reason I suppose, something I’ve only become aware of recently: A fairly high percentage of my readers actually do read the footnotes. This surprises me, because footnotes are optional and my posts are long enough as is, usually. Plus there’s just no easy way to move back and forth between the main text and the notes. Those two factors led me to think that most people skip them. But that seems not to be the case.

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