Footnotes may not be a necessary part of writing, but they can be extremely useful for reducing clutter without having to cut important asides or explanations—a practice that can be useful in academic writing as well as elsewhere.

Footnotes can also help your work look more professional, which increases your credibility as a writer and/or researcher. Unfortunately, many writers do not know how to create footnotes in documents, which is a shame because it is actually quite simple.

When Should You Use Footnotes?

To begin, let’s clear up some common misconceptions about what footnotes are.

  • Footnotes are notes that appear at the bottom of the current page and provide additional commentary or insight on a specific word or phrase in the main text body.
  • Endnotes are notes at the end of a chapter, document, or book that serve the same function as footnotes but do not affect page layouts.
  • Citations can be footnotes or endnotes, but they refer to references and resources rather than providing additional commentary or insight.

Not sure if learning how to make and use footnotes is worth your time and effort? Here are some examples of when you might need to know how to do a Chicago-style citation in Word:

  • Parenthetical explanations: When writing a research paper or essay, you may want to elaborate on a non-critical point without distracting readers who are already aware. Footnotes are more aesthetically pleasing than parentheticals.
  • Word count restrictions: When submitting to an academic or legal journal, for example, you may be required to adhere to a maximum word count—and because these limits typically do not include footnotes, this is one way to get more of your ideas in.
  • Quotes and attributions: If you use a direct quote in your paper, make sure to cite it. There are several methods for accomplishing this, but the simplest is to simply mark the quote with a footnote that attributes the quote to whatever source it came from.
  • Literary device: Footnotes have been used creatively by fiction writers to flesh out the details of fantasy worlds, to break the fourth wall, and even to insert comical remarks and asides.
  • Assignment specifications: Footnotes may be required for your assignment. College essays, for example, ask writers to reflect and think critically, but they may also require students to learn how to add Chicago style footnotes in Word if they don’t already.

Footnotes in the Chicago Style

When you’ve decided to learn and use footnotes, you’ll need to decide which style works best for you when citing or attributing: APA, MLA, Chicago, and others.

This post will concentrate on the 17th edition of the Chicago style. Before we get into how to insert Chicago style footnotes in Word, let’s go over some fundamentals:

  • Footnote numbers begin with 1 and increase sequentially with each additional footnote.
  • Footnote numbers should be placed at the end of clauses or sentences, after all punctuation.
  • The footnote numbers are superscripted.
  • Begin the footnote with the footnote number followed by a period, or with the footnote number in superscript, followed by the rest of the footnote in full size.
  • The first line of a footnote is indented by 0.5″. The remainder of the footnote should be flush to the left of the first-line indent.
  • Footnotes should be separated by blank lines.
  • If a footnote contains both citation and annotation, the citation comes first, followed by a single period.

How to Add Footnotes in Word: Chicago Style Paper Requirements

How to Use Chicago Style Footnotes in Microsoft Word

In addition to learning how to create footnotes in Word, the Chicago style has specific requirements for the entire paper. Here’s a summary of what they are:

  1. Text should be left-justified.
  2. Choose a 12-point font from Times or Times New Roman.
  3. Set the top, bottom, and sides of the page to 1″ margins.
  4. Indent paragraphs with a 0.5″ indent, insert block quotes with a 0.5″ indent, and format your bibliography with a 0.5″ indent.
  5. Page numbers should be placed in the top right corner of the paper, beginning with the first page of text and continuing through to the bibliography page.

Isn’t it straightforward? The actual citation guidelines are a bit more complicated and vary depending on the type of resource being cited, so consult the Chicago Manual of Style. To make the process of creating footnotes easier, you can use automatic citation apps.

How to Create Footnotes in Word in the Chicago Style

And now for the showpiece: how to actually insert these footnotes into your Word documents. The good news is that this is the most straightforward part!

As it turns out, Word automates the majority of the footnote process, so you won’t have to worry about any of the formattings—the majority of your effort will be focused on adhering to the style you’ve chosen.

How to Use Chicago Style Footnotes in Microsoft Word

Follow these steps to learn how to insert Chicago style footnotes in Word:

  1. Put your cursor where you want the footnote superscript to appear in the body text.
  2. In the ribbon toolbar, click the References button.
  3. In the Citations and Bibliography section, choose Chicago from the Style dropdown menu.
  4. Insert Footnote is selected. This will take you to the bottom of the page, where you can find the appropriate footnote number.
  5. Format your footnote as desired.
  6. Rep the procedure for each additional footnote. Word will automatically increase the number.

Insert Endnote instead of Insert Footnote to use endnotes instead of footnotes. It’s really that easy.

If you consider yourself an Office newbie, we strongly advise you to review some resources for the version of Word you use. The new skills you gain may help future projects run more smoothly.