Annotation: Why Mark Up Your Texts?

Marking up your book properly is a survival skill in college literature classes. Most instructors expect you to develop your own system for noting “significant stuff” when reading. Marking up your book will allow you to locate information while testing.

Even if you are renting a text or reading it on a Kindle or other device, there are annotation tools.  In fact, some of the electronic tools can allow you collection your annotations.

How to Mark Up Your Book
There is no set way to mark up a text, but active readers tend to do several of the following things:

    • Underline important passages. As an alternative, you could put vertical lines in the margin next to important areas.
    • Put ?, ! or questions of your own in the margins next to confusing or surprising passages. This way, you won’t have to stop your reading for too long in order to look up words, phrases, etc.
    • Draw lines and arrows between connected ideas. Try and find your own level of connections so that these become more meaningful.
    • List concepts, themes, or the names of other authors in the margins. These indicate connections.
    • List the page number or beginning of a quote similar to the one you’re annotating. Connect one quote with another. Quotes can be linked based on similarity, difference, emphasis, subtlety, etc. It’s up to you.
    • Doubt the author. Be skeptical this in the margins! Insults work, too. . .
    • Use literary terms like irony, ambiguity, symbolism, tone to indicate where the author is making these moves.
    • Create your own shorthand for marking the book. This could be as simple as using the triangle (delta), the mathematical symbol for change. I have a bunch of these. Seriously, this works.