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Thread: Footnotes v Glossary ???

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Shaley's Avatar
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    Footnotes v Glossary ???

    HI Everyone,

    I have recently finished writing a Humourous Satirical Novel that spans two different cultures ie British and Italian and am now at the stage where I need to make decisions about the more technical aspects reagarding the layout and Format of the book. I have already received quite a lot of useful advice via this forum on other threads so I am looking forward to other people's opinion regarding the following questions.

    "When a Variation/Hybrid of English is used/written in dialogue as a means of creating humour, regarding the exaggerated pronunciation of English when spoken by ESL characters ( in this case Italians) for example Sheets = Shits

    Should the novel provide foot notes at the end of the page to explain what may not be obvious to some readers ?

    or

    Would it be better to provide a Glossary of terms at the beginning of the book that the reader could refer to or digest before/during the reading of the story ?

    or

    Provide Both ?

    Looking forward to receiving feedback !!

  2. #2
    Trust: that most precious coin. little_e's Avatar
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    I tried footnotes in my novel, and eventually threw them out because they were more distracting than useful. I suspect you will find the same.

  3. #3
    figuring it all out Elenma's Avatar
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    I can only offer my view as a reader here. I will usually read footnotes, but probably won't flip to the front or back of the book to look something up unless it seems really important. Flipping to the front/back of the book for a glossary disrupts the flow of reading more than a footnote does. However, long footnotes on every other page are also distracting. (Though if there is a lot of information, it should probably be incorporated in the text or cut.)

    So, personally, I'd say that if it's a quick, helpful piece of information/translation, I'd prefer a footnote that I can glance at. But for things that are not crucial to my understanding of the text/longer passages I'd prefer end notes or a glossary. If there would be five footnotes on every page, I'd also prefer a glossary.

  4. #4
    greatest writer of his generation u.v.ray's Avatar
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    I think one of the two would be necessary when dialogue is as obtuse as something such as Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange (A book highly touted as a modern classic that I found completely unreadable.)

    In the case of what you're talking about I am inclined to think neither - I think accents should probably be apparent in how you write the dialogue itself.


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  5. #5
    figuring it all out Elenma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by u.v.ray View Post
    In the case of what you're talking about I am inclined to think neither - I think accents should probably be apparent in how you write the dialogue itself.
    What I posted before was said under the assumption that the glossary/footnotes are indeed necessary. But u.v.ray is right: if you can at all, you should avoid needing footnotes, especially in a novel. If a joke/the point of the dialog is unclear, then maybe you need to make it clear within the text and not add an explanatory note?

  6. #6
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Shaley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by u.v.ray View Post
    I think one of the two would be necessary when dialogue is as obtuse as something such as Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange (A book highly touted as a modern classic that I found completely unreadable.)

    .

    You make a good point ....... when the dialogue is completely unrecognisable there is a definite need to provide translation/footnotes of some sort.

    However in my case it is not only the language used in the dialogue that would be different it would also be the word order and inappropriate word choice used by the ESL characters that would be different.Thus creating a sense of the comedic that also relies heavily on popular innuendo ...... but not to the point of being overdone or ad nauseum which would result in losing the impact !!

  7. #7
    Super Procrastinator Kallithrix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaley View Post
    However in my case it is not only the language used in the dialogue that would be different it would also be the word order and inappropriate word choice used by the ESL characters that would be different.Thus creating a sense of the comedic that also relies heavily on popular innuendo ...... but not to the point of being overdone or ad nauseum which would result in losing the impact !!
    Here's the thing: If you have to explain a joke, it's not funny. Satirical humour is only funny when both parties (i.e. the author and the reader) share an understanding of what is being lampooned and on what basis. If your writing relies on footnotes to provide a key to the humour, then you're not doing it right. Find another way, preferably by making the humour actually explicit in the text.*

    * If your humour is of the post modern variety, and the meta fiction superstructure of writing is what you're lampooning, or if you're Jasper Fforde, then carry on.
    "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."








  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW cornflake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shaley View Post
    You make a good point ....... when the dialogue is completely unrecognisable there is a definite need to provide translation/footnotes of some sort.

    However in my case it is not only the language used in the dialogue that would be different it would also be the word order and inappropriate word choice used by the ESL characters that would be different.Thus creating a sense of the comedic that also relies heavily on popular innuendo ...... but not to the point of being overdone or ad nauseum which would result in losing the impact !!
    I don't understand how these can coexist.

    If it's completely unrecognizable in both the words and the order they're in, how does that create comedy or innuendo?

    I can type gibberish, but it's neither comedic or providing innuendo. Alternately, I can type something suggestive and funny, but then it would be comprehensible.

    Incomprehensible and comedic innuendo are kind of mutally exclusive.

    As to the original question - regardless, neither. As above, if you have to explain a joke, it's not funny.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW LJD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kallithrix View Post
    Here's the thing: If you have to explain a joke, it's not funny. Satirical humour is only funny when both parties (i.e. the author and the reader) share an understanding of what is being lampooned and on what basis. If your writing relies on footnotes to provide a key to the humour, then you're not doing it right. Find another way, preferably by making the humour actually explicit in the text.
    Yeah, this.
    I have seen footnotes used for humorous effect (eg. Sophie Kinsella's I've Got Your Number) but I don't see this working if you're using the footnotes to explain the joke.

    Also, it seems you are thinking only of print. In an e-book, you would have a hyperlink for the word in question that would direct the reader to the explanation. So, if you are self-publishing, this is something to consider.

    But I agree with the other commenters: I don't see any kind of notes working well in this case, not in the way you've described it.

  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW WriterBN's Avatar
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    I added a glossary at the end of my book to explain non-English words. Native speakers would know them, and just skip the glossary, but several of my beta readers suggested it would help for other readers.

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