initial margin

Ok so I’ve finally gotten around to doing this highly requested post based off this post and I’m sorry to all those who had been waiting for ages for it to come out but here it is!!!

How to Annotate a Novel Efficiently

Look I’m actually doing the play Medea at the moment so this can be used for other texts apart from novels too!

Like I’ve said before, I know lots of people don’t want to taint their texts with writing and highlighting, but to me, it is so so satisfying when I finish with a fully annotated book with tabs flying out of every page and all that, plus it acts as a sweet resource once it’s done.

((Hopefully by the time you’ve gotten around to this level of annotating, you’ve read through your text already and maybe even put down some initial thoughts in the margins.))

To put it simply, I have three levels of coordination when it comes to annotating a novel: words, tabs and sticky notes.

1. Sticky notes

  • Use for big chunks of text you can’t fit in the margins of your book, such as summaries of characters, themes, etc
  • They can also get those big chunks of info to stand out from the rest of the novel
  •  If you’re reading a larger text with chapters, it’s quite handy to use big sticky notes to summarise each section. 

2. Tabs (and highlighting)

  • Yep so these are the tabs I have sticking out of my book and they’re used for quick references, where I can easily search up a type of quote quickly in the novel without having to flip through every page.
  • The colours of the tabs I use are the same colours as my highlighters, so it is easy to see where the quote is and which tab it corresponds to.
  • ACTUALLY HIGHLIGHT the specific quote rather than leaving a tab there by itself, for future reference when you need a specific quote, but if you’ve got a massive chunk that is just too important to pick out a small quote, use a square bracket on the inside margin. Smaller quotes are better.
  • Have a tab for broad topics such as characters, themes, literary devices, plot developments, context, etc. If you have more colours, you can always make your categories more specific (for me, the character of Medea is separate to the rest of the characters)
  • I write the main idea on the tab itself, a.k.a. the reason why I highlighted or tabbed that quote there.
  • Which quotes to highlight depends on

a)     What we go through in class

b)     What is written as an important quote in the text guide we are given/the internet suggests

c)     What I think is important. If you’re not sure, ask yourself WHY is that quote important and if you can answer that, highlight it!!!


3. Words

  • The further explanation of quotes is written on the actual pages, and often right under a tab to elaborate.
  • I recommend using a thin pen as in 0.38 to really fit in as much as possible.
  • This step as well as tabbing is so so important, because you can highlight as much as you want, but it really won’t mean anything until you’ve written down its significance, and even if you have an amazing memory, this is vital ok. Even a few words along the margin explaining the quote can mean the difference between good writing and great writing in your upcoming essay.
  • What do I actually write? If it’s a literary device, I’ll name it (e.g. Metaphor) and explain its symbolism, or the author’s intention for putting that in. If it’s a theme related quote, I’ll explain the message that the author is trying to convey through that quote. If it’s a character related quote, I’ll explain how that quote adds to their character, maybe finding contrasts, etc.
  • Supplies that I used were:

- Mildliners (pink, orange, yellow, blue, aqua; gotta get that colour coding)

- Pilot Frixion Point

- Uni-ball Signo TSI (erasable like the frixion pen so that if I’m not too sure about what I’ve written as an annotation, I can check with the teacher and erase if need be)

- A set of 1000 tabs in total, divided among pink, orange, yellow, green and blue

- Pastel square sticky notes

As an optional step, I highly recommend making use of the back cover or spare pages in the book. I use them for writing definitions of recurring words, good vocabulary to use in the future when writing the essay and also character maps, explaining the relationship between each character.

I hope you all find this helpful!

((disclaimer: this is just how I do it so don’t shank me pls))

Kate xx


A Paradise scene illustration from the most famous and perhaps the best surviving example of Gothic French illuminated manuscript "Les trés riches heures du Duc de Berry“, a prayer book created between 1412 and 1416 for Prince John, the Duke of Berry, brother of King Charles V of France, who ruled from 1364 til his death in 1380.

Consisting of a total of 206 leaves of very fine quality parchment 30 cm in height by 21.5 cm in width, the manuscript contains 66 large minatures and 65 small. The design of the book, which is long and complex, has undergone many changes and reversals. Many artists contributed to its miniatures, calligraphy, initials, and marginal decorations, but determining their precise number and identity remains a matter of debate. Painted largely by artists from the Low Countries, often using rare and costly pigments and gold, and with an unusually large number of illustrations, the book is one of the most lavish late medieval illuminated manuscripts.

It’s 7 years old. It’s the initials living in margins of loose leif papers etched in hearts. It’s jump ropes, monkey bars, and games intended to predict your future. It’s bright red cheeks and toothless smiles.

It’s thirteen. It’s shaking hands and first kisses. It’s the name of the boy whose unrequited love resonates in your brain. It’s sweaty palms and butterflies.

It’s seventeen. It’s young, it’s exhilarating like speeding down midnight streets. It’s empty parking lots. It’s the words you whispered for just her to know. It’s earth shattering, mascara painted down your face.

It’s twenty two. It’s polite introductions. The sound of your father saying, “She’s the one.” It’s dinners and $8.95 movie tickets. It’s talking about the things that made you who you are.

It’s twenty seven. It’s sweaty palms and dropping the ring. It’s a white veil and rice in the air. It’s a king sized bed and kissing on sidewalks. It’s eating burnt food because you’re too afraid to her to know it’s unappetizing.

It’s thirty two and sleepless nights. It’s crayon drawings on the refrigerator and parent/teacher meetings. It’s the phrase, “It’s your turn” at the sound of a newborn’s baby cry. It’s arguing and challenging each other.

It’s fifty three and attending college graduations. It’s holding your first grandchild in your arms. It’s the sale sign hanging house you bought together.

It’s seventy nine and rocking chairs. It’s spending time together, even as it gets small. It’s creating a life together that you’re proud of. It’s a journey a person who makes you fall in love as much as you did when you were six. Thirteen. Seventeen. Twenty two.

—  “What is love to you?”