In “The Footnote: A Curious History,” Anthony Grafton quotes Noel Coward as saying that “having to read a footnote resembles having to go downstairs to answer the door while in the midst of making love.”

Yes, footnotes can be distracting. But avoiding them entirely is not the answer. Used incorrectly and excessively, footnotes tax the reader and reflect poor writing. Used properly and sparingly, they add to a brief’s overall effectiveness. Here are seven lessons for footnotes done right.

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