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Footnote and Endnotes in Chicago Style Citation: A Handy Guide

When you’re writing your research paper, you’ll find footnotes often come in handy. They allow you to to provide citations, clarify information, and offer additional insights without disrupting the main text’s flow. Additionally, footnotes can include supplementary details or commentary that enhance the main discussion. Overall, footnotes contribute to the paper’s credibility, depth, and clarity.

One of the most widely respected style guides, the Chicago Manual of Style, contains detailed guidelines on how you can use footnotes and endnotes. Let’s take a look at them.

The Basics of Footnotes and Endnotes in Chicago Style

As per the Chicago Manual of Style, writers can use footnotes or endnotes, but not a mix of these. They are used primarily to reference pieces of work in the text (like in-text citations). In the main text, you indicate a footnote or endnote with a superscript number, which you place after any punctuation mark (except the em dash —). These numbers must be in proper sequence.

Where do I Place Footnotes or Endnotes in Chicago Style?

If you’re using footnotes, place them on the same page as the corresponding main text (most word processors will do this for you automatically). If you’re using endnotes, place them on a separate page at the end of your main text, with the heading “Note” centered at the top of the page. Your list of endnotes should appear before the bibliography or reference list.

Should I Use Footnotes or Endnotes?

Footnotes are sometimes preferred to endnotes when you’re creating a relatively lengthy work, because they’re easy for readers to access and refer to. But, they can also occupy quite a lot of page space. Endnotes avoid this shortcoming, but it’s often more difficult for readers to find the corresponding endnote as compared to a footnote.

Generally, whether you use footnotes or endnotes depends on the guidelines of your institution, instructor, or target journal.

Using Footnotes for Citations in Chicago Style

The Chicago Manual of Style allows you to use both the author-date system of citations or the footnote-bibliography system. Of course, you can’t use a mix of both! But each time you refer to a source in your main text, you can insert a footnote or endnote number.

Full vs. Short Notes in Chicago Style

When you’re following Chicago style for footnotes, you’ve two options: full and short notes. Full notes provide the complete publication details of the source you’ve referred to, at least at the very first time this source is cited. See the example given below:

  1. Mary Dingdongbell, “I am the Happiest Christmas Tree,” in Let Us Sing and Dance Together Forever, ed. David Walkalong (Boston: Jimjam Press, 2000), 94.

Short notes provide a summarized version of the source details, usually only the author’s last name, shortened title of the work, and page number if applicable. They’re used for the second and subsequent citations of a source that you’re citing multiple times in your paper. See this example:

  • Dingdongbell, “Christmas Tree,” 94.

When a work has multiple authors, you use “and” between author names. In a full note, you list the first name, middle name or initials if any, and then last name. In a  short note, in contrast, you list just the last name(s). In both full and short notes, if you’ve 4 or more authors, you use “et al.” after the first author.

Here’s a tip that can save you a lot of time and space: when you’re referring to the source that is immediately preceding, you can just use “ibid.” instead in your footnote. “Ibid.” is an abbreviation of the Latin “ibidem,” which means “in the same place.” So when you use “ibid.” in a footnote, you’re basically directing your reader to the citation that immediately precedes it.