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How To Annotate A Book (Like A Pro)

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There are many different ways to annotate a book. Some people prefer to write in the margins, while others use sticky notes or highlighters. In this blog post, I’m going to be giving you tips on everything related to annotating a book from ways to write a good annotation to ways you can annotate a book without even writing in it.

*This blog post contains affiliate links, this does not affect your purchase in anyway – it helps me make money on this small bookish blog*

Why You Should Be Annotating Books

  1. Annotating books helps you remember things later on, especially if you’re as forgetful as me!
  2. It’s a great tool for later prequels or sequels of your favorite books
  3. Annotating books can be a helpful tool for when you want to discuss it later with friends or perhaps your book club
  4. As a blogger, I love annotating books so I can write more detailed reviews and posts
  5. You’ll notice the little details in your favorite books even more
  6. Most importantly, you’ll grow as a writer!

How To Annotate A Book

  1. Annotate by underlining, highlighting, or circling important passages
  2. Write down your thoughts and reactions in the margins
  3. Use symbols, arrows or short phrases to help you remember key points
  4. Create diagrams or charts to track ideas

What Does It Mean To Annotate A Book?

Annotating a book means adding notes and comments to it. This can be done in a variety of ways, but the goal is always the same: to help you better understand and remember the text. When you annotate a book, you are making it your own. You are marking up the text to show where you had trouble understanding a passage, or where you found a section particularly interesting. You might also highlight important passages or make notes in the margins.

Annotation tools allow you to do all of this and more.

Tools You Need To Annotate A Book

You won’t need to shell out everything to annotate your books, unless you’re like me and love that aesthetic look. But, here are some helpful tools to keep by your side that you probably can grab at your local dollar store.

  1. Your book of choice (obviously)
  2. Post-Its
  3. A notebook or sheet of paper
  4. Pens
  5. Highlighters

How To Annotate A Book

Let’s jump (write) in on how you can annotate a book. Did you catch my little joke?

1. The Highlight Of My Life

Grab those pretty highlighters or colorful pens and start highlighting/underlining some of your favorite quotes or passages. Anything that you feel you want to remember or make note of for later.

Who doesn’t love some pastel highlighters

Perhaps you prefer the normal highlighter colors instead

These are my favorite pens for journaling or annotating, they might just be my prized possession.

2. Add Notes To Margins

If you’re not one to really highlight or underline when annotating a book, you always have the option to add notes to the. margins. One of my favorite ways to do this is to add an arrow and color code my margin notes.

My Annotation Color Key:

  1. Red = love or friendship, anything that makes me swoon
  2. Blue = sad moments like a characters death etc
  3. Green = world building/location/settings
  4. Purple = key pieces of information I might need later (like a codeword)
  5. Orange = things that angered me or characters I find suspicious (especially when reading mystery novels)
  6. Black = general notes

3. Doodle Your Heart Away

Sometimes the best types of annotating is really just doodling what a scene makes you feel. I do this ALL the time. You can choose to doodle in the margins of your books or making a journal entry for the book you’re reading and doodle there.

Photo by Blaz Photo on Unsplash

Annotating Books Without Writing In It

There are a number of ways to annotate a book without writing in it. Don’t worry, if you’re like me – I also get nit picky about changing my mind on certain annotates later on.

1. Use Post It’s

This is the tried and true way if you’re wondering how to annotate a novel without writing in it. You can use ANY post-its you want. May I interest you in some of these adorable post-its from Amazon?

  1. If you love bright colors
  2. If you’re a fan of plain colors
  3. If you’re a fan of dark post-its

Post-its are super easy to stick and throw out if you want to restart.

2. Use Transparent Sheets

Hear me out, this new style of annotating books is exploding on social media. It’s all over bookstagram and booktok for a good read – so if you’re wondering methods to annotate novel, this is a must try.

These transparent papers on Amazon are a great purchase.

The way you use them is simple – all you have to do is cut it and put it on the page you’re reading and annotate as you normally would. You can use colorful pens, markers, highlighters etc. And then remove the transparent paper whenever you finish and are ready to move on to the next page.

*Tip – Add the book title and page number to the transparent sheet top left corner, so you remember where it’s from*

3. Use A Notebook

A notebook is a great way to annotate in a book if you’re not a fan of writing directly in it. Similar to the transparent paper method, I’d recommend writing the book title and page number on the top – and then just annotate and take notes as you normally would!

4. Use Your IPad Or Laptop

This method is the exact way as using a notebook – the only difference is that you can save your notes into one folder with the book title.

I’d recommend Goodnotes as a great note taking app which leads me to my final point.

Young woman reading interesting book at home

5. Use A Note-Taking App

You can use apps like Goodnotes, Evernote or the simple Notes app that comes with most phones. This is a fool-proof way to annotate without writing in your actual book.

6. Use Flashcards/Notecards

Flashcards or notecards are a great way to annotate books. You can annotate based on chapters or pages or even characters.

All you have to do is in the large portion of the notecard (the top) indicate what this specific card will include. Will it be tracking the relationship of your MC or your favorite quotes? You decide! Then stick the flashcards in the book and you’re good to go.

7. Find The Digital Version Of The Text

This way can get complicated, but if you have the time and really like the appearance of an annotated novel – without …actually writing in it, you should get the digital version of the book!

You can download a lot of ebooks for free from local libraries or Overdrive. A not so free option is to buy the kindle version.

Best Books To Annotate

There are some books that are better for annotating than others. Some genres that annotating can be especially useful are:

  1. Mysteries or Thrillers
  2. Fantasy
  3. Science Fiction
  4. Non-Fiction

How Do You Write A Good Annotation?

When I annotate books, I like to note certain parts of the book I enjoy the most or dislike – so I can choose books in the future that match up with my taste. Here are somethings to consider if you’re curious what to annotate in a novel

  1. Annotate characters you like or don’t like
  2. Annotate relationship growth (friendship to romance, strangers to friends, parental etc)
  3. Annotate parts that get you in the feels (yes, those gooey feelings)
  4. Annotate characters or the part of the book you want throw across the bed (those villains and horrible decisions the MC makes)
  5. Annotate important aspects you may need to remember for the next book in the series
  6. Annotate quotes that stand out to you

How To Annotate A Book Effectively

The main goal of annotation is to highlight the most important information from a passage and make notes on it so that you can later recall what was said with ease. We have all been there before: reading through an entire chapter only to find out at the end that we have no recollection of what actually happened. This is where annotation comes in: it can help you to better process and remember information from a text.

When annotating, there are four things that you want to keep in mind:

  1. What was the main point of this passage?
  2. What questions does this passage raise for me?
  3. What did I like or not like about this passage?
  4. What stood out to me?

Annotating a text is not meant to be a comprehensive summary of everything that is said. Rather, it should focus on the most important points and raise questions for you so that you can investigate them further.

Should I Take Notes While Reading A Book?

Yes! This will help you remember things you know you’ll forget later on.

Do You Have To Annotate Every Page Of A Book?

Nope! Only annotate what you want and when. If that means every page – sure, but I would proceed with caution as it can get overwhelming as heck

Should You Write In Your Books?

Only if you want to!

How Do You Annotate A Digital Book?

If you want to know how do you annotate a digital book? It is important that you make sure the tool offers support for your e-reader. Many sites and apps offer support for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iPad or iPhone devices – so even if you don’t own one of those devices yourself it might be worth looking into their services just in case!

Some tools are better than others at providing these options though so make sure the site has what works best before making any decisions about which annotation app/site would work well with your device type (and keep an eye out whether they have anything new coming up too).

One of my favorite features on some websites is being able to highlight text on a web page and then have the annotation tool automatically create a note with that highlighted passage included.

I enjoy annotating on my kindle because it’s so simple! All I have to do is press on the text and then you’re highlighting.

…And then somehow you get highlight-crazy and begin highlighting everything. It’s a concern, but let’s not talk about that.

Can You Annotate A PDF?

Yes, you can annotate a PDF. In fact, there are many ways to annotate a PDF. You can write on the document with a pen or pencil, use highlighters and underline text, or add comments and notes.

If you’re a book lover, the prospect of annotating your favorite novel with notes and thoughts can be daunting. Which is why this blog post will come in handy if you’re every interested in annotating without messing up those beautiful book pages.

Which annotating method will you be using next time?

Check Out More From The Novel Thief

Did you like this blog post? I hope you did! If this is your first time reading a post of mine I’d like to introduce myself –

Hello! My name is Ash, I run the book blog The Novel Thief and all it’s social counterparts.

In addition to amazing advice like this post, I also have a section called The Bookish Bar where I create drinks inspired by books I love and a recommendation corner where I recommend you books based on popular ones people love.

Have you considered starting a virtual book club, but have no idea how, where or when to start? Well – I have you covered in this ultimate guide to starting your very own virtual book club!

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