Crash Course on Annotating Books

Time to learn a new literary term. Let’s talk about annotation. Worry not if you are not familiar with the term. Because we are here to clear all your confusions about annotations. Therefore, dive with us into the world of annotations and uncover the ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ of it. Today, we at Daastan are giving you a crash course on annotating books.

What does annotation mean?

Annotation means highlighting, adding commentary, and making observations about an article, essay or a book on its physical copy. Annotations can be made on fictional, non-fictional and even scholarly texts. Let’s put aside scholarly annotations for a moment and focus on the annotations that a readers makes simply for understanding their favourite book. They vary from adding a one word reaction beside a passage to writing chapter end commentaries on your book. Furthermore, annotation is a beneficial exercise if you are a literature student or a writer. Note taking in the form of annotations help a person deepen their understanding of a book and keep record of their favourite quotes, descriptions and scenes.

annotated books
via Pinterest

Myths about Annotation

From the looks of it, you might be of the opinion that annotations are hard work. However, that’s not the case. Reading is meant to be a relaxing experience and annotations are supposed to add fun to that practice. Non-readers often ask “does one need fancy stationery to annotate books?” The answer is no. You absolutely do not need to buy colourful pens, markers, pointers and sticky notes. One can annotate simply using a pencil. Another frequently asked question about annotations is “does one need to be a scholar in order to annotate?” This is another fallacy about annotations. Annotating a book for fun does not equal adding well thought subscripts to a book. It simply means marking whatever a certain instance in a book makes you feel.

How to annotate books?

We hope now your most frequently queries about annotations are cleared. Therefore, let’s take a look on how to annotate books. There are a variety of options when it comes to annotating books. Depending on your choice, you can either stick with one kind of annotations or use several different methods to achieved the desired outcome.

1. Adding Highlights

The easiest and simplest way to annotate a book is by adding highlights. You can highlight a phrase, a sentence or a passage using coloured pens or highlighters. Another way of adding a highlighting without permanently altering a book is through using translucent tabs. For adding highlights you can follow a colour scheme or use symbols to represent different emotions. For instance, use blue to highlight sad parts whereas use red highlight happiness or vice versa.

Annotating books
Adding highlights on a book (via pinterest)

2. Using coloured sticky tabs

Sticky tabs can be used to mark ending and beginning of a chapter, climax or resolution of a book, display of emotions or simply a scene you adore. People often find themselves confused as to which colours should they use for tabbing. You can use whatever colours you want to use to represent a certain emotion or scene. However if you are someone still on the fence with it, we have made a list of colours that represent different emotions.

  • Red – Scenes that make me angry
  • Pink – Romance moments
  • Orange – Important Stuff
  • Yellow – Queer characters
  • Green – Funny
  • Blue – Sad scenes
  • Dark Purple – World building
  • Light Purple – Relatable stuff

Annotating books
via Pinterest

3. Adding notes on margins

Adding notes along the margins or at the end of the chapter using sticky notes is by far the most organised and detailed form of annotations. This form if annotations helps remember almost all the importance instances in a books. As it requires a lot of dedication and hard work. Adding your own notes to the margins is a personal practice. For if you open an annotated book after years, you can still recall how certain books made you feel at that time. You can also lend an annotated book to a friend who has just begun reading. This way they will able to understand the parts they would have found difficult otherwise.

Annotating books

We hope you enjoyed this crash course on annotating books. Let’s know are you team pro-annotations or do you prefer to keep your books untouched? For more literary goodness, stay tuned!


Noor Hashmi
Noor Hashmi is a student of literature at Numl University. She is an aspiring poetess. She runs a blog by the name of “Diaries of Huda” sharing her journey through poetry. In her free time, she loves to paint and bake.

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