Footnotes and Endnotes in Microsoft Word allow you to reference additional information or credit external sources in a document. You will have seen them in reference books, press releases and research papers (and many other documents besides that). The purpose of these text notes is to to cite a reference or give greater context to, or expand upon, a point in the main body of the document, where it would be difficult to include this is the main body.

The difference between a footnote and an endnote

The primary difference between footnotes and endnotes is simply the placement with a document; footnotes are found at the bottom of a page (i.e. in the footer) and endnotes are located at the end of a document, or sometimes at the end of a chapter or section.

Footnotes and endnotes fundamentally look the same, and contain the same or similar information, one difference they have is the numbering system used which allows the reader to determine where they should look for the additional information (either in the footer of the page, or at the end of the document).

When deciding whether to use a footnote or endnote, this can depend upon the nature of the text. For example, if you have a very long piece of text to enter, it might be more appropriate to add this as an endnote as long footnotes will by default flow onto the bottom of the following page which may confuse a reader. Similarly with references, where the reader is more likely to need this information after they have read your paper, these should be added as endnotes. However, for short explanations where the text note is relevant to add context to the main body of the content, these descriptions should be added as a footnote.

Of course, these are just guidelines; sometimes where to use a footnote or endnote depends upon corporate style guides, publisher preferences or simply how you want things to look. Microsoft Word has a standard style for numbering and styling footnotes and endnotes, however, at times where guidelines force you to style the text differently, it is possible to do if you know how and we will look at this in our next article.

How to enter a text note:

  • Start by placing the cursor at the point you would like to enter you footnote
  • Click ‘References’ tab > ‘Footnotes’ group > ‘Insert footnote’ or ‘insert endnote

  • You’ll then see a small superscripted number appear at the insertion point in the main body text, and the footnote or endnote appear with the same number in the relevant area of the document, with a small horizontal line above it.
  • The cursor will jump down to the note section, so that you can enter the text for your note.

All footnotes and endnotes are automatically numbered for you by Microsoft Word. If you decide to add in a note at a later time, the numbering will automatically update to keep everything in sequence

A clever point to remember when work with footnotes and endnotes is that you don’t need to scroll down to the bottom of the page or end of the document to view the note, you can simply hover your mouse over the insertion number and the note will show up as a screen tip.

Another clever action is that if you then decide to save your file as a HTML page to upload to your website, the footnotes are automatically saved as hyperlinks so that the user can clink the link and jump straight to the relevant footnote.

Note: You can enter footnotes and endnotes using keyboard shortcuts too:

ALT+CTRL+F = footnote

ALT+CTRL+D = endnote