If your book has footnotes, you’re probably using InDesign’s automatic footnotes in your layout. And that’s great! But what if you compiled your footnotes in a separate Word document or didn’t use the automatic footnote feature in Word or InDesign?
Before Word and InDesign added their automatic footnote features, and well before Fiona and I met each other, we both invented a way—interestingly, the same way—to lay out footnotes manually in print books. In this blog post, I’ll explain the layout method that we both used—it still works perfectly.
What kind of notes should you use?
Before you start typesetting your footnotes, you need to decide how to handle them. There are three basic ways:
Are your footnotes boring? Would general readers have a better experience if they didn’t have to see them on nearly every page? If so, consider putting the notes at the end of each chapter or at the end of the book. The endnote solution is by far the easiest one if you are not using the automatic footnote feature. We cover this topic thoroughly in chapter 29 of Book Design Made Simple.
For a book with only a few footnotes, set an asterisk after each note and place the notes at the bottom of the relevant pages. In the case of more than one note on a page, use these symbols in the following order (see page 348 in Book Design Made Simple), beginning again with a single asterisk on each new page:
But if you have one note—or more—on almost every page, that is probably too many, and you should go to a numbering system. In either case, you can follow “The method” below.
Use numbered footnotes
This one is pretty obvious. Your main text has reference numbers, each one with a corresponding footnote at the bottom of the page. The layout method for this is the main topic of this blog post. Read on.
For those of you who know InDesign pretty well, here’s a quick summary:
- Save all your footnotes in a separate Word document from the rest of your manuscript.
- In InDesign, make all your reference numbers magenta so they are easy to spot.
- Use two different sets of threaded text frames on each page: one for the main text, and a second one for the footnotes. Then match the footnotes to the reference numbers.
- Remember to return the reference numbers to black.
For those of you who are not as practiced with InDesign, follow the steps below.
Prepare your Word document
Depending on how you set up your footnotes in Word, you might have to copy and paste all the footnotes from your manuscript into a separate Word document specifically for footnotes. If you haven’t already typeset your manuscript in InDesign, it’s worth the effort to copy and paste the footnotes into Word’s or InDesign’s automatic footnote feature at this stage! But if that’s not an option, just prepare a separate Word doc containing all your footnotes, then continue following these steps.
Set up your InDesign document
Your InDesign pages are going to need two text frames per page: a larger one for the main text, and a smaller one for the footnotes. So go to your book’s A-Master page and add a new text frame for footnotes at the bottom of both pages (see below). The height of the text frames really doesn’t matter because you’ll be resizing each one as you go through your pages later on, but be sure to align the bottom of the text frames with the bottom baseline for your main text. Notice that there are no text frames for the main text; they will appear automatically on the pages once you’ve placed your main text.
You’ll want your footnotes to align at the bottom of the text frame rather than the top, so that they sit nicely on the bottom baseline despite having a smaller type size and leading. Select both text frames by clicking and dragging across them, then choose Object > Text Frame Options (Ctrl/Cmd+B) and, under the General tab, go to Vertical Justification and select Bottom from the Align drop-down box, than click OK.
One more small but helpful step is to thread the two footnote text frames together on the A-Master page. With your Selection Tool, click on the out port of the left frame and then click anywhere inside the right frame to link the two frames. To confirm that the frames are linked, go to View > Extras > Show Text Threads and then select one of the text frames with the Selection Tool to see the link. The bottom of your A-Master page will now look like this:
Place your manuscript and optimize the text
Place and autoflow your main text as described in chapter 8 of Book Design Made Simple. You’ll notice right away that the type fills each page and covers up your footnote text frames, but you’ll fix this in a moment.
Now go ahead and optimize the text as described in chapter 9 and apply character styles (chapter 13).
Place your footnotes
The next task is to get the main text frames out of the way of the footnote text frames. You’ll save yourself a bit of time by following these simple steps:
- Zoom out so that you can see at least two spreads simultaneously (see right).
- Using the Selection Tool, drag to select both main text frames on a spread at once.
- Grab the handle at the bottom center of the selection and drag it up so that the frames no longer cover the footnote text frames.
- Select both footnote frames by dragging over them while holding down Ctrl/Cmd+Shift. As a result, a solid outline should replace the dotted outline on each frame, and the frames will therefore be unlocked and usable. This saves you the trouble of going back through the book and doing this step later.
- Move on to the next spread and repeat steps 3 and 4, continuing through the entire book.
With your footnote text frames now visible and unlocked, return to page 1 and do the following:
- Go to InDesign > Preferences > Type (Mac) or Edit > Preferences > Type (PC) and uncheck Smart Text Reflow. (This way, InDesign won’t make any automatic changes to the flow of your text. All changes will be made manually by you.)
- Using the Type Tool, insert the cursor in the very first footnote text frame.
- Place your footnote text. It will flow into the frame and you’ll see the red overset text symbol ([+]) in the out port.
- Using the Selection Tool, click on the overset text symbol, scroll down to the next spread, and click inside the left footnote text frame there. Because you threaded the frames together when you set up your master page, the text should flow into both frames on the spread.
- Repeat step 4 throughout the book, threading from each recto page to the next verso. Even if you run out of footnote text and it’s no longer flowing in, just keep on to the end.
- Optimize your footnote text, just as you did for the main text of your book.
- Apply character styles as needed throughout the footnotes. We’ll deal with paragraphs styles later.
At this point you should have two independent sets of threaded text frames, as shown below. You can probably see exactly where this is going now, right? Read on for more hints about how to make the process go smoothly.
Style your reference numbers
Set up a character style for your reference numbers in the main text (see page 85 in Book Design Made Simple). This will make them superscript and highly visible. The settings I suggest are shown below. (If you already have a References style, just change the character color to magenta.)
If you haven’t already, you must find all your reference numbers in the main text and apply the ref character style. You’ll do this with one of the following searches:
- If they are already superscript, simply follow the directions on page 93 of Book Design Made Simple, but I will repeat them here: Zoom in or out to make your text a readable size on the screen, then put your cursor in the text near the start of page 1. Go to Edit > Find/Change (Ctrl/Cmd+F). Select the Text tab, then click in the Find Format box. When the Find Format Settings box comes up, go to Basic Character Formats. Set Position to Superscript, and leave all the other fields blank. Click OK and the Find Format box will fill in automatically. Now click inside the Change Format box. In the Character Style drop-down list, select ref, then click OK. (When you’re done it should look like the example to the right.) Next, hit the Find button. After you see the first superscript number, click Change. It should turn to magenta, and the character style should change to ref. If you’re satisfied that it’s working properly, click Change All.
- If your reference numbers are full size, enlarge your view till your text is readable on the screen, then put your cursor in the text near the start of page 1. Go to Edit > Find/Change (Ctrl/Cmd+F). Select the GREP tab, then type \d in the Find what box. Now click inside the Change Format box. In the Character Style drop-down list, select ref, then click OK. (When you’re done it should look like the example to the right.) Next, hit the Find button. This search is going to find every single digit in your book, so carefully go through and select only reference numbers 1–9 in this way, changing them to the ref character style by clicking on Change. Each reference number should become magenta, with the character style changing to ref. Once the first 9 numbers are done, do a new search, this time for 2-digit numbers by entering \d\d in the Find what field. (For 3-digit numbers, enter \d\d\d.) Continue through the text until you’ve applied the ref style to every reference number.
Phew! As usual, it takes longer to read the instructions than it does to do the job. You’ve finished the tedious parts now, so let’s move on.
The simpler method: Style your footnotes without horizontal lines
Set up your footnote (ftn) paragraph style. Follow the example on page 348 of Book Design Made Simple, or make up your own style. Use the ftn style throughout for all your footnotes. You may skip the next section and go to “Match reference numbers to notes” below.
The more complicated method: Style your footnotes using horizontal lines
Warning: Adding rules (lines) above your footnotes involves adding two more paragraph styles plus some custom formatting. If you want to go ahead with it, here’s what to do:
Set up your footnote (ftn) paragraph style. Follow the example on page 348 of Book Design Made Simple, or make up your own style. You’ll use this style for all footnotes except the first footnote on each page—that style (ftn1) will include a short horizontal line to visually separate the footnotes from the main text for your readers. Base your ftn1 style on your ftn style with just one difference:
Apply the ftn1 style to all of your footnotes at once by inserting your cursor in any footnote text frame and selecting all (Ctrl/Cmd+A). Open the Paragraph Styles panel and select the ftn1 style.
Match reference numbers to notes
Since you’re laying out footnotes manually, you’ll need to make sure the footnotes appear at the bottom of the pages where they are referred to in the main text. The tricks explained below will help to speed things up for you, and honestly, you may find the page balancing act to be fun. (I know I do.)
Be sure to add any images and make all other additions to your pages before you match your reference numbers to the footnotes. Any additions or subtractions to your pages can change the flow of your main text, and will therefore change the placement of the reference numbers.
Starting on page 1, check to see if there is a footnote reference number on the page. If there isn’t, simply delete the footnote frame and extend the main text frame down to the bottom margin. If there is a footnote reference number, adjust your two text frames so that the appropriate footnote appears (or at least begins) on the same page. Having magenta reference numbers really helps, doesn’t it?
Leave at least one blank linespace between the top footnote and the main text. If you can’t fit an entire footnote on the same page as the reference number, run it over to the next page, leaving at least two footnote text lines on both pages to avoid an orphan and a widow. (You must avoid widows and orphans—yes, even in footnotes.) This is a common practice, so don’t worry about it—within reason. If the footnotes spill over repeatedly, consider rewording something in the main text, resizing an illustration, or placing a reference number somewhere farther along so the notes can catch up with the text.
You’ll see that all your footnotes currently have the small horizontal line above them. When you come to a page that has more than one reference number, change the paragraph style of the footnotes below the first one to ftn to remove the horizontal line.
You may very well need a third style, too, for the notes that split between pages. Let’s call it ftn2. Set it up like the ftn1 style but without a first line indent so that it doesn’t appear to be a new paragraph. At the end of the first page of the note, type Enter/Return. Keeping your cursor in that paragraph, open the Paragraph panel and click on the Justify all lines icon to force the last line of the paragraph to end flush right so it doesn’t look like the end of a paragraph (even though it is). Next, apply the ftn2 style to the continued part of the note.
Once your footnotes are in their final places, delete any remaining unused footnote frames. Remember to return the reference numbers to black (go to the Character Styles panel, find the ref style, and change Character Color to black).
So what do you think?
The InDesign footnote feature definitely makes life easier, and I recommend using it whenever possible. If you plan to use Word’s and then InDesign’s footnote functions, everything will go more quickly. But it’s good to have this method in your toolbox, as it will always work in a pinch.
Did you try this system? What do you think? If you need to typeset footnotes manually for whatever reason, I hope this blog post helps.