Epic Book Society Homepage Banner

Why & How To Annotate A Book

Last Updated on August 18, 2023 by Louisa

I remember getting scolded in school for writing in my books, but I’ve since learned that it’s actually good practice.

Of course, you need to know how to annotate a book the right way, you can’t just doodle in the margins (which admittedly, is what I did).

As a teacher, I always encourage my students to write notes in the margins or to highlight texts in their books. The reason for this is that it helps to build a connection to the book, increases understanding, and also helps students remember what they have read.

But it’s not just students who should annotate their books. It’s good practice for any reader to annotate their books for fun to personalize their reading experience.

But if you don’t know why you should start annotating your books or how to do it, here are some tips on how to do it effectively…

Why Annotate Your Books?

Before I tell you my top tips for how to annotate your books for fun, let’s quickly think about why you should annotate your books.

This may be my teacher’s brain talking, but I feel this practice can be applied to any reader, no matter your age or reason for reading.

woman annotating a book

1. It enhances your comprehension

The main reason why you would annotate a book is to gain a better understanding of the story.

By adding your thoughts and insights to the margin of the text, you’re engaging with the material on a deeper level.

You’ll be able to make connections, identify themes, and understand complex ideas better. You can also write down questions that arise, which may be answered later on.

2. It personalizes your reading experience

Annotating your books is like having a conversation with the author. You’re sharing your reactions, asking questions, and offering feedback on the material.

It personalizes the reading experience and makes it more meaningful.

3. It helps you to retain more information

Annotating your books can help you retain information better. When you write down key points, ideas, and themes, it reinforces the information in your brain, making it easier to recall later.

Tips for Effective Book Annotation

Now you know why you should annotate your books, here are my tips for how to annotate your books for fun.

1. Use a pencil

Now I really do sound like a teacher talking!

It’s always a good idea to use a pencil instead of a pen so that you can erase your annotations later or adjust them while you’re reading.

As I mentioned earlier, you can write down questions that come up when you’re reading, and then they might be answered later. You can go back and erase the questions once they have been answered, or write “answer on page 10” for example.

2. Understand when to start annotating

The first thing to remember when annotating your book is that you should not be scribbling all over the page and you should only annotate when you need to.

One of the purposes of annotating is to help build memory and to help with study.

If you need to refer back to anything in your book and you’ve written a little poem around the answer, well you’re going to find it hard to make sense of your annotations.

You should only write when you feel it’s absolutely necessary. I always think when I’m annotating a book, to only write something that will be useful to you later on.

3. Highlight or underline what’s important

Sometimes you don’t need to write sentences or paragraphs in the margin, you can simply underline key quotes or messages that you think are important.

You might want to annotate next to what you have underlined to explain why you have highlighted it.

4. Know what to write about

In your annotations, you should write about key themes, and ideas, and underline quotes that you find interesting or essential to the material.

You should write your reflections on the text, what you think it means and what you think is being said between the lines.

5. Use symbols and abbreviations

Develop a set of symbols and abbreviations to help you mark the text quickly and easily.

For example, you could use an asterisk (*) to indicate where a paragraph corresponds to a section you have underlined.

You could also draw a star symbol next to significant points or underline phrases that resonate with you.

6. Keep it organized

Use different colored highlighters, sticky notes, or tabs to organize your annotations.

For example, you could use pink highlights for quotes, yellow for important themes, blue for questions, and green for your personal reactions.

You can also dog-ear pages (folding the corner) where you think there is something important. I personally don’t like doing this as I like to keep my books tidy, but you can use bookmarks or sticky tabs instead.

If you don’t want to write directly on the page, you can also use a post-it note.

Examples of Annotations

If you’re ready to start annotating but not sure where to start, here are some really cool examples of people who have annotated their books in different ways.

This person has used different colored sticky tabs to identify different themes in the book. This is a nice way to get a visual of the main themes in a book, especially if you need to do a book review or write a book report.

This person has highlighted a quote they love and drawn hearts around it to signal that they like this quote. The use of doodling helps to add color to the book and make it pleasing to look at, but I personally think it needs to be done sparingly as it can be distracting from the text, which is not the goal.

This person has written their thoughts after highlighting a sentence that resonates with them. They also have a system of when to highlight something and when to underline it. It appears they have highlighted dialogue and underlined important quotes that resonate with them.

This is a classic example of how to annotate a book for study. The reader has circled emotive words and underlined quotes that resonate with them. This is a good way to understand the emotion of the characters.

FAQs About How To Annotate Books

Can you annotate on Kindle?

The Kindle Scribe feature, which is only on models after 2022, allows readers to annotate books. The Kindle Scribe also comes with a special digital pen in which you can do this. Other models allow you to highlight texts but not add your own annotations.

Can you annotate on Apple Books?

Yes, you can highlight and add notes on books using Apple Books.

Annotating your books is an engaging and effective way to enhance your reading experience.

By adding your thoughts to the margin of the text, you’ll develop a more profound and meaningful understanding of the material.

So, grab a pencil and start annotating.

Headshot of Louisa

About Louisa Smith

Editor/Founder - Epic Book Society

Louisa is the Founder, Editor, and Head Honcho of Epic Book Society. She was born and raised in the United Kingdom and graduated from the University for the Creative Arts with a degree in Journalism. Louisa began her writing career at the age of 7 when her poetry was published in an anthology of poems to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee. Upon graduating university, she spent several years working as a journalist writing about books before transitioning to become a Primary School Teacher. Louisa loves all genres of books, but her favorites are Sci-Fi, Romance, Fantasy, and Young Adult Fiction. Read more Louisa's story here.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.