Footnotes in Medium

Philip Siddons
Dec 11, 2019 · 8 min read

How to place footnotes and references in your Medium post

You can add citations in medium by using superscript numbers and notes that can appear below the numerical reference. But as much as they look like traditional footnotes, you are not making true footnotes. Since Medium doesn’t generate actual footnotes, you can achieve this by visually making what looks like a footnote. Your goal, however, is to give your readers annotations about your sources. So while Medium currently doesn’t generate true footnotes like Microsoft Word, you achieve this by making a super-scripted number (that you keep track of) and then produce the same super-scripted number below it, in a separate section, with the footnote annotation next to that number. (See the final note at the end of this posting to get a few resources about what to put in a footnote reference.

Thanks to Brian Dixon, on Medium, for posting an initial how-to piece on Footnotes. Here is the link. Because I’m a visual leaner, I made this piece for myself so that I could place Medium footnotes with greater ease.

To make your first visual representation of a footnote in Medium, decide where you want to place your first reference number. Let’s say that you want footnote #1 to be right at the end of a sentence. There, type the carrot symbol (^ character) [As a note, on a PC keyboard, the carrot symbol is the shift of the number 6 key on the top row of your keyboard.] Immediately follow the carrot symbol with the number you want (in this example, type “1” and then tap your space key. This will create a super-scripted #1 there. At the end of this sentence is the first footnote-looking number, like this.¹

Screen capture of Medium’s paragraph control character / PSiddons
Screen capture of Medium’s paragraph control character / PSiddons
Paragraph choice circle / screenshot by author

Once you have finished your paragraph (at the end of which you want to place your first footnote), hit your “Enter” key. “This will display the “+” button (shown above) at the left side of that paragraph.

Screenshot by author

Click on this new section button (see red arrow in this screen shot) to create a new section divider and it will create a “…” separator (an ellipsis) below where you are standing. Under your ellipsis, which is actually a new section, you’ll type in your citation(s). This will serve as the visual equivalent of a footnote.

Now since you are not making an actual footnote in this new section, you will create what looks like a matching super-scripted number here to match the super-scripted number you made above in the body of your text. To do that, click on the left margin of the new section (under the ellipsis) and make a corresponding super-scripted number. Since you want to make a number just like the one you did above in the body of the text, type the carrot symbol (^ character) and immediately follow it by typing the same number you typed above. (Here, in this case, since I just created the first footnote number as number 1, I’m creating a matching number 1 for what looks like the first footnote. I type carrot and 1 and then I tap my space key. Just after that, I type the words of the “footnote.” These words are “This sentence with the super-scripted number one was typed after the ellipsis.” This is how the new section looks (that holds the first footnote).

¹ This sentence with the super-scripted number one was typed after the ellipsis.

So that’s how you create one “footnote” annotation in your Medium article.

Decision Time

This method creates what looks like footnote references in Medium by placing a super-scripted number (in the body of your text) and a separate section, following it, to hold your annotations and references. Since you are putting the annotation(s) in a separate section, you want to make a decision about where the additional reference section is located in your Medium story.

For instance, you can create an annotation below each sentence or paragraph that contains a “footnote.” Alternatively, you can create several footnote numbers in the text of your writing, each having a super-scripted number that corresponds to the annotations that are typed in another (separate) section. You’ll want to decide if you want to place all of your footnote references in the same section (rather than creating a new section for each footnote. If you do have numerous footnotes, you could put all your footnotes notes in a new section at the very end of your article like “end notes.” Alternatively, you could place multiple footnotes in a section ending shortly after the paragraphs holding your reference numbers. Either way, you need to choose the location of your annotations after each footnote or all together at the end of a paragraph or a chapter. Ensure that your super-scripted numbers in the text correspond to the super-scripted numbers appearing in the reference section under the ellipsis.

Here are two examples that I’m taking from a book I already published because footnoting is a rigorous academic process.

Example 1
Here is an example showing a paragraph with one citation at the end of it, followed by a new section with one citation in that new section.

In the narrative where Jesus dined with Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36)¹, Luke shows Simon as regarding the woman only as a worthless individual. But Jesus rebuked the Pharisee for not seeing that she was a person capable of being reconciled with God.

¹ See similar anointing narratives in Matthew 26:6–13; Mark 14:3–9; John 12:1–8.

Example 2

This second example shows two paragraphs that contain two citations. Following this sample text is a new reference section containing the two citations.

Because verse 37 links up better with verse 32 and the content (of verses 33–36) seems to be an interruption of Paul’s discussion on prophecy in the chapter, many scholars believe this passage is an addition of later scribes.²

It is clear, however, that women were praying and prophesying in the services (1 Corinthians 11:5).³ The specific problem being discussed is that certain women, in that church, were interrupting the services by asking questions and carrying on discussions. . . .

² Conzelmann, op. cit., p.246.

³ Mercadante, op. cit., p. 51. Mercadante points out that it was not until the early 1900s that scholars had agreed that women had, in fact, prayed and spoken in the early church.

Separator Bars

You probably don’t want to go crazy with these separator bars but it might make it easier on the reader to have separators occasionally different than the ellipsis. I’ve used a few of them in this article but take a look at Joshua Byrd’s excellent Medium article showing many of the more artistic separator lines. All you have to do is pick one, copy it and then paste it into your Medium article where you would like a little more flare in the separator style. I find that using TechSmith’s SnagIT makes gathering internet graphics a breeze.

An example of a horizontal separator used in Medium

To conclude, creating annotations in Medium is a little more work than working in word-processing programs like Word. It is still possible. Our goal, however, is to make the reading experience as helpful as is possible. This procedure will enable references to be placed in the body of your Medium writings. I hope this helps in your work.

Alternatively, you can leave a note in a draft or published piece. This note appears in the margin beside your text.

Best Practice on Separator Bars in Medium

I have found that using shorter bar images in a Medium post sometimes causes imbalanced text and graphics on the page. Sometimes the 2 or 3 inch graphic of a line causes the nearby text to creep up beside the graphic. Here is the fix that works great:

In Photoshop, create a horizontal graphic that is 1400 pixels wide that is TRANSPARENT. Then, in Photoshop, lay the short line graphic on the top layer of that 1400 px graphic. If you want the line to appear to the left margin of your page, move the line graphic to the left. (Same thing if you want it to appear centered horizontally. Wherever you want it to appear, place it there on your over all graphic (that spans 1400 pix). Then, in Photoshop, save it merged as one graphic as a .jpg graphic. Obviously, keep the graphic at 1400 px width (so it spans the width of a Medium page) but make the height of the graphic as small as you want.

Here is what it would look like if I wanted to make a separator line for a footnote.¹

¹ This is the footnote about this process. The above (and below) green graphics, stay stable across the page because it is exactly 1400 pixels wide.

A Final Note About Style and Content

Medium isn’t a format that readily uses footnotes or end notes. Despite its story telling prose style of communications, you still want to give proper credit to the source of your ideas and quotes. There are standardized styles of crediting your sources. Whether you are citing your sources for a paper for school, a thesis or a publication, here are a couple of tools to help.

A more complete print piece I’d recommend is Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. You can find it here on Amazon.

An online tool to help in wording your footnotes can be found here. It is the Purdue University Online Writing Lab tool, produced by their College of Liberal Arts.

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