To Annotate or Not to Annotate [Discussion] #LetsTalkBookish #LetsDiscuss2022

April 20, 2022

Do You Annotate?

Pros and Cons

To Annotate or not to Annotate (white text over the background of a stack of hardback books)

Image Source: Canva

Some readers annotate and some do not.

What is annotating?
What is the purpose of a
How do you annotate?
Why annotate?

I love discussion posts, and many of my favorite bloggers participate in Let’s Talk Bookish and the Discussion Challenge. Do you love discussion posts?

As I reflect, think about your experience. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

This post is inspired by the Let’s Talk Bookish topic hosted by Aria @ Book Nook Bits. This post is also an entry for the 2022 Discussion Challenge hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight.

Let's Talk Bookish graphic

2022 Discussion Challenge (meme)

What is Annotation?

Annotation is simply interacting with the text to find meaning as you read.

What is the difference between Annotation, Highlighting, and Note-Taking?

All three are forms of interacting with the text for the purpose of increasing comprehension and constructing meaning. All three facilitate communication between the author and the reader.

Annotation occurs right on the page and involves a system of symbols. Love something? Put an exclamation point in the margin. Confused? Add a question mark in the margin. Don’t know a word? Circle it.  Love a thought. Add a heart to the margin. Want to remember a quote? Underline and put a star in the margin. Disagree? Place a sad face in the margin. Do you see steps or a list of reasons? Number them. Do you notice a potential theme developing? Mark it with a “T.” Etc. In the days when I was reading physical books, I always read with a pencil in hand (except for library books of course!). You can make up your own set of symbols for annotating.

a poster of annotation symbols

Highlighting: Use a highlighter or different color highlighters to highlight certain sections, words, phrases, and concepts. The danger of this is that you might not remember why you highlighted a certain part. Or you might be a 5th grader who loves to use a highlighter and indescriminately highlight an entire page or pages! (Come on! I know you remember doing that!) If you are reading on a kindle, you can use the highlighting tool (and actually export these highlights!). As an alternative to a highlighter you could use book darts to mark a line or a post-it to mark a page or write a note. If you are an audio book listener, you can bookmark a certain location (or write the location in a note on your phone) and put it in physical note form later.

Note-Taking: When I take notes, I like to divide my paper into sections for characters, setting, themes, quotes, etc. Downsides to taking notes: it’s more laborious than other methods and they can be misplaced! So I recommend a spiral you can use as a book journal for note taking. In theory, it’s more difficult to lose an entire journal than a scap of paper.

Do I Annotate?

Well, this needs a clarification. When I used to buy physical books, I annotated them all. Now I read digital books and need to rely on highlighting or note-taking. However, of all the methods I love annotating the most. I love picking up a book I’ve read and seeing all the annotations! Have you ever bought a used book filled with annotations?

Why Do I Annotate?

The main reason I annotate is to promote comprehension and construct meaning. In other words: to retain, question, react, or respond. When I taught 5th grade, I required my students to annotate. I loved that we had “consumable” social studies textbooks so that I could teach them to use an annotation system of special marks. There are charts of marks you can access or simply make up your own! Annotation is a form of communication with the author and the best comprehension tool. Related: When I was a student, I always took extensive notes and often I came home and rewrote my notes. The act of physically moving the pencil on paper builds comprehension and meaning. Have you found that to be true in your life? This same principle applies here!

Reviewing Tip

For writing reviews, it is imperative that I use one of these three methods for interacting with the story. My notes, annotations, and/or highlights jog my memory of the reading experience, jump start my review, and give me examples to site or quotes to highlight.

The Cons of Annotating

Well, the obvious con is that you don’t want to write on the pristine pages of your book! I promise it’s ok to mark up your book! Permission granted! Annotating will make your reading experience more meaningful and increase the sentimental value of your book. Another con might be the investment of time. However, if time spent results in a more satisfying reading experience, isn’t it worth it? Honestly, I can’t think of another con. Can you? If you don’t annotate, can you share why?


Interacting with the text in whatever way possible adds meaning to your reading experience.
Highly recommended!

QOTD: Do You Annotate, Highlight, or Take Notes?

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text

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  1. If I’m reading the book because it forms part of a programme of study then yes I make extensive use of annotations – the physical interaction with the printed page helps me retain the information. But if I’m reading for pleasure I just use a post it note to mark a passage. Problem with that method is that the post it notes fall out and also when I look back at them sometimes I can’t recall why I thought that particular passage noteworthy. I just can’t bring myself to write in the actual book however.

    • Or……I had my 5 year old grandson “helpfully” take out all my posts out of a book and collect them for me! 😂 have you used book darts to actually mark the exact line you want to remember? I find I need to actually write on the post it to jog my memory. Thanks for commenting!

    • Oh I think it’s interesting to read an already annotated book! If the lender didn’t mind, I’d add my own annotations! 😂

  2. Good question. I annotate books that I am reading for study. When I was working and read books for professional reasons, I wrote all over, used sticky notes, highlight etc. I also do that with the books I buy for my church bookclub/bible study. I never write in other books. That is one thing I like about ebooks, I can highlight, search, or add notes to use when I write my reviews.

  3. I wish I had the time to annotate; maybe when I retire. I find myself not able to remember a lot of what a book was about not too long after I read it, and that has been especially worse this year. However, it could be because I’ve been reading just so-so books, nothing spectacular. I read exclusively on a device, and since I haven’t devised a system of note taking yet, I don’t do anything. I enjoyed reading about the differences between annotating, highlighting and note taking. I had never given it much thought before. Thanks for sharing this Carol.

    • You’re welcome Gayla! I’m happy you found it helpful. Have you experimented with highlighting and bookmarking on your device?

  4. I think annotating is interesting. The only book I annotate is my Bible. I have a specific Bible for this purpose and I freely mark it up. The majority of my other reading comes from the library, so I don’t mark those up at all. But I find that I don’t feel the need to when reading fiction. If I come across something I like or want to look up later, I use Post-it flags to mark the spot. Then, as soon as I am done reading, I go back and look at the flagged portions. I either copy the quotes into my commonplace book or look up what I wanted to.

  5. Great post!! Its was great to read about how and why you annotate your books. I’ve only ever annotated one physical book, and I found that it took a little too much time away from reading. However, I’ve been annotating my ebooks for years, and I really love doing that!!

  6. For me there’s a difference between fiction and non-fiction. When reading non-fiction I love anonotating. As you said, it really helps to understand and comprehend the text. I tried annotating fiction, but I don’t like it. When reading a good story, I am in a kind of flow. The need to annotate disrupts this flow, especially because I want my annotation to be neat. So they feel more like a distraction than a help when I’m reading a novel. Sometimes I do keep notes. But I save the note-taking for pauses between reading sessions.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts! NF and F are different reading experiences. Some of those page turning novels are not conducive to annotating! I also find myself jotting down thoughts during reading breaks or pauses rather than interrupting the flow!

  7. I love the idea of annotating, and always wished I could have beautiful books full of my thoughts that I could return to. Or thoughts others could respond to. But…I never annotate! I tried for awhile and it felt unnatural, like I was annotating for the sake of annotating. I still wish I could be an annotator, but it does not seem destined to be!

  8. I annotate all the time, and it’s so easy on a Kindle. I will highlight a sentence or passage, and if necessary, add a note. Once I finish a book, I request a file to be sent to me so that it’s easy to review.

    Like you, I highlight stuff that could be contained in a review. I also highlight stuff that I want to look up later. I’m pretty disciplined about not immediately going to the Internet as I read because I can get lost in a deep rabbit hole.

    The annotation notes you provided are pretty impressive, but I’m not that disciplined. If I don’t know a word, a can look it up on the Kindle immediately.

  9. Writing in books is a travesty, i get those super cheap easy stick multicolored tabbies that don’t leave residue and write on them 😂

    Also why I like ebooks, highlight and write notes without leaving marks

  10. The only time I annotate a book is when it strikes me as an especially impactful book and I want to study it more. Honestly, this isn’t that common for me (though I think about doing it sometimes but don’t). But I’m sure I would be a much better reviewer if I did it more.

  11. I write in nonfiction book unless their the library’s. Then I put little sticky notes in those that way when I review the book I can go back and include information from the book. For fiction if the book is long and has deep themes, I will take notes in a notebook while I’m reading.

    Nicole from Feed Your Fiction Addiction has banned me from her link up and took down every single one of my posts. She will not give me any reason as to why.

    • Sounds like you’ve worked out a good plan Marianna! I couldn’t write a review without taking some sort of notes! Thanks for commenting!

  12. I absolutely love annotating my books. I used to be so respectful of my books but I realize how helpful it is when writing a review. Great post!

  13. Well, I sometimes highlight passages in books on my Kindle, but I almost never write in my print books anymore. I did when I was in school, but not since then.

  14. I don’t annotate my books. I usually read ebooks and it’s quite tedious to annotate with the Kindle. And honestly, annotation reminds me too much of school and homework!

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