Should Footnote Markers Go After the Punctuation?
  • 2-minute read
  • 14th April 2022

Should Footnote Markers Go After the Punctuation?

Writers—especially students and researchers—use footnotes to provide extra information without interrupting the flow of ideas in their work. Some referencing styles (e.g., Chicago’s footnote and bibliography system) require footnotes for citations, but you can use them for any additional comments that might otherwise distract the reader.

It can be tricky to know exactly where to place footnote markers, so in this post, we’ll explain the basic rules.

Where Should You Place Footnote Markers?

A footnote marker is a superscript number placed within the main body of text that corresponds with a note at the bottom (or “foot”) of the page. Ideally, you should insert footnote markers after the most relevant phrase or sentence:

Footnote markers often go at the end of a sentence.1

But if it seems more logical,2 you can place them after a clause.

As you can see, we have put the footnote marker after the punctuation in both of these examples. A marker at the end of a sentence should always go after the punctuation, whether it’s a period, question mark, or exclamation point:

I could talk about punctuation all day!3

And if the footnote marker is placed mid-sentence, it should likewise be placed after the punctuation:

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Footnote markers go after most punctuation marks:4 commas, colons, quotation marks, etc.

There is one exception to the “after punctuation” rule: when you need to place a footnote marker next to a dash, you should put it in front, like this:

Footnote markers go before dashes5—that’s the only exception.

Summary: Where to Place Footnote Markers

If you’re using footnotes for your citations or any other supplementary information, you should place superscript footnote markers at the most logical point within the text. This would usually be at the end of a phrase or sentence, which means it will be next to a piece of punctuation.

In almost every instance, you should place the footnote marker after the punctuation. However, if the punctuation mark is a dash (i.e., em dash, en dash, or hyphen), you should put the footnote marker before it.

Hopefully, you’re now clear on where to place footnote markers in your writing. If you’d like an expert to proofread your work, including footnotes and bibliographies, our team of over 400 professional editors is here to help. Why not send us a free trial document today?

Comments (2)
Sarah Smith
20th March 2023 at 13:14
But where do I put punctuation in the listing of footnotes at the end of a chapter? Does a period go after a listing?
    25th March 2023 at 11:03
    Hi, Sarah! It depends on your style guide (and sometimes also whether the footnote ends with a link), but, mostly, footnotes end with a period.

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