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The Art Of Annotation

The Art of Annotation | Ways To Enhance Your Reading Experience

by Divyanshi Dash

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! -- When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”
- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

I was reading People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry recently and the book had such a hold on me that I really wanted to jump inside and speak to the characters that were making me squirm on my bed. Unfortunately, there is no such superpower in this world. Every time I read something, I have this immense urge to understand it clearly, to let it make a home inside my head and sit there until I am ready to give that seat to something else. Annotation helps me do that.

What is annotation?

Annotation is a note or a comment added to a text or a diagram to explain it or comment on it. It’s when you’re reading something and you either have more to add to it or simply write what it reminded you of or you know, what it made you feel. It could be anything. Annotating is loved and followed in many places. A student writing extra information in their textbook is annotating. Annotating includes circling, underling, and highlighting as well. Making tiny doodles or diagrams that help enhance the material of the text also falls under annotating. When we share stories on our Instagram and write a little something to provide more context or just share our thoughts, we’re basically annotating!

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When did I start annotating?

As it has already been established, as students, we’re always annotating in our textbooks. I was one of those kids who thought that my novels shouldn’t be touched. They should always remain clean and clear. However, I have become a fan of annotating now. I like sharing my thoughts with the book. I like to make the page look brighter. This way, when I reread a text, I am able to feel exactly what I felt (& more) when I first read it. I started taking annotations seriously when I started reading novels for academic purposes. And the habit of critically looking at a text is making me annotate the books I read for leisure as well.

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Why you should start annotating!

Annotation is helpful to us when we’re reading texts that have a vocabulary that we do not understand. Sometimes, we’re able to read a book easily because we understand the words and sentences in one go. Other times, the words just go beyond our understanding. Looking up their meanings and writing them near the words make the understanding of our text easier. This also helps us broaden our vocabulary. We learn new words and start using them in our sentences. Isn’t that wonderful?

Another reason why you should start annotating is that years later when you reread your old novels, you’ll be glad to see what your past self thought about the book. You’ll also not feel alone while reading!
Additionally, gifting a literature enthusiast an annotated book is a great idea. Just saying.

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Tools for annotating

Honestly, all you need is a pencil and the text that you wish to annotate. Nothing else matters. Of course, if you want to step up your game then here’s a list of annotating supplies:

1. Sticky notes

Annotate using sticky notes

Sometimes, the margins on our books do not have enough space for us to write on them. Trust me, once you start writing, you run out of space in no time. If you have sticky notes, you can use them to write more of your thoughts on your book. There are various types of sticky notes available in the market. You can use the default square sized ones, or the ones that are shaped differently. All of them make annotating cleaner and easier. Another thing you can do is use different colored sticky notes to go along with different themes. For instance, if you’re annotating Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, you’ll come across various themes that are dealt with in the book. Consider the horror elements, romance, feminism, and more. You can have different colours for different themes. This way, when you’re looking for a particular theme, you’ll be able to find it easily if you look at the colours.

Explore more books by Charlotte Bronte.

2. Highlighters

Annotating using highlighter

I love pastel colored highlighters. When we come across something so relevant, so important in a book that it pierces our heart, we must highlight it because it has already highlighted some part of our brain. The novels that we read are so full of quotes that we’d like to remember them for a long time. Highlighting makes keeping a note of them easier.

You could choose your favourite colour and stick with it to highlight everything that intrigues you or captures your heart in a novel. Or, you could use different coloured highlighters to highlight the text according to the theme it represents just like what we did with sticky notes.

3. Colour pens

Annotating using Colors

Pens are appropriate if you want to make tiny doodles in your novel. If the protagonist is drinking coffee at sunrise, I’ll draw a little mug of coffee with the sun in the background. This facilitates my imagination and also helps me feel involved with the events that are happening in the book. Apart from that, it makes that particular page of the book look prettier and enchanting.

As someone who is a devout follower of the changing aesthetics, I love to make things around me uphold the standards I have for aestheticism. In addition to that, colour pens are a great tool to just underline a few passages or circle the names of characters or places. You can use different colours for different themes just like highlighters and sticky notes or you could just use them randomly. It is up to your preferences.

You might also enjoy reading: 10 Best Quotes From Classic Literature.

4. Post-it flags

Annotate using post-its flags

These are tiny adhesive flags that are used as bookmarks. They are majorly used to mark a certain page. They come in different colours and shapes. You can use these flags to remember particular pages. The best way would be to assign a different a coloured post-it to a different theme and then use the flags accordingly. This will help you when you want to find something in a book according to the theme.

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5. Ruler

Annotate using a ruler

All the supplies mentioned in this article are optional but I think this is the least required. The only reason I’m putting it here is because it has changed my life. Underlining in novels using a ruler is what I live for these days. It is absolutely not necessary for you to use a ruler when you’re underlining but straight lines in a book are so much more neat and aesthetically pleasing. As we’re dealing with colour pens and highlighters, erasing is not an option. Using rulers might make the annotation process mess-free.
Honestly, at the end of the day, what matters is reading. Annotating or not, reading is important and enjoyable. Annotation might not be everyone’s cup of tea but if you think you’d like to do it, go ahead and start scribbling on your novels now!

- Divyanshi Dash

To read more articles written by Divyanshi Dash - CLICK HERE

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