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How To: Book Annotation

Updated: Jul 14


A hot topic across the book world now is Annotation. People are often asking questions like; should I annotate my books, why do people annotate books, what are the tabs people use in their books for, how do I tab my books, etc... The List of questions goes on but the main questions I see are; What is book annotation, why do people do it, and would it be something right for me?


Book annotation is basically just adding your thoughts and opinions into the book you are reading. There are many different ways one can do this depending on their comfort level. For some, they write directly in their books with pen or pencil. For others, they use sticky note tabs to mark pages or paragraphs that they had a thought or feeling about. I've even seen people using tracing paper in their pages so they could write over and highlight things without actually writing in the book. The fun thing about Annotation is that its fully customizable to you and what you want to do. Below are my tips for how to get started with Book Annotation.


Tip #1 - Determine your Annotation Style.


This may mean trying a few different options before finding what works best for you. It could be that you already know what you want to do. Either way, you have to figure out what your style is.

If you don't know what to choose from here are five common options:

  1. Writing in a book with pen or pencil.

  2. Highlighting sentences/words in the book.

  3. Using colored tabs to mark pages next to a paragraph or sentence you liked.

  4. Putting sticky notes into pages with thoughts you've written down.

  5. Using clear sticky notes or tracing paper to write/highlight above the text in the book.


Tip #2 - Break it Down


Once you've selected an Annotation style you can decide how to proceed with it. This can mean breaking it down into For examples of what this means see my breakdown below.


1. Writing in a book with pen or pencil.

This can mean writing notes, underlining sentences, etc... You can also use just one pen or pencil or you can use different colors related to different thoughts/ feelings.


Ex. Blue for sad moments or thoughts, Yellow for character descriptions/character building moments, Orange for things you think may be important, Pink or red for moments you loved.


2. Highlighting sentences/words.

This can actually be a lot like writing in the books. You can even do both together. es, underlining sentences, etc... You can also use just one pen or pencil or you can use different colors related to different thoughts/ feelings.


Ex. Blue for sad moments or thoughts, Yellow for character descriptions/character building moments, Orange for things you think may be important, Pink or red for moments you loved.


3. Using Colored Tabs

This is a very popular option for annotating books. You can get really fun colored tabs online and use them to note pages/sentences that you had thoughts about. The different colors can mean different things. You can customize it to what works best for you. Some people don't color code it and just tab with whatever they have on hand, others try to use different colors to mean different things.


When I use this style of Annotation I make a index for the colors as follows:

Blue - sad moment or a character said something to the Main Character (MC) that made me sad.

Red - Annoying or frustrating moment. Or just something bad happening to the MC.

Purple - A moment I liked, a characters said something I found funny, just all round good vibes.

Orange - something that might be important to the story later.

Yellow - character information (could be a description of how they look or information about their personality).


4. Putting Sticky notes

Can be great for people that are not comfortable writing in their books yet. Gives you a chance to leave notes about your thoughts and feelings. You can color code the sticky notes like you would tabs or just use one color and write on it. Whatever is best for you!


My only warning here is to be aware some sticky notes are strong enough to pull ink from the pages so always try to stick it to a blank section of the page so you don't damage the text.


5. Using clear sticky notes or tracing paper.

This can be connected to options 1 and 2 where you can write on and highlight on these over the text so it shows your thoughts and feelings but doesn't change the actual book.



Tip #3 - Get Started


Pick up a book and start trying Annotation. You may find you love it, you may find you don't, or maybe you'll have to adjust as you go but it's all about giving it a shot.


I never expected to like book annotation but the more I did it the more I realized how great it is, especially for books that I know I'll be going back to. Its fun to re-read and see if my opinion has changed since the first time, I can also laugh at things I wrote knowing how the book ended. It's especially fun if you make predictions as you go and then you get to see if you were right about them.


Tip #4 - Don't be afraid to make changes


The more you do it the more you'll learn about what you enjoy, what works, and what doesn't. Over time you may change things up and adjust your style. Sometimes your comfort level will even change.


For Example. When I first started Annotating I was adamant that I would NEVER write in my books... I now write in my books. Though for me, I only write in books that I a) know I'm going to keep in my personal collection, b) have already read once before writing in them, and c) have rated highly in my personal favorites list.

My annotation style changes depending on what I'm reading and that's been working well for me.


Tip #5 - Have fun with it


If it isn't fun, then it isn't worth doing. However you decide to annotate, make sure its something you are enjoying. If it feels like a chore to do then maybe try a different style or just go back to reading without annotation.



Stationary Options


If you want to try it out and need stationary for it here are links to some of my favorite products:


Colored Pens - Zebra Retractable

Pencils - Pentel

Highlighters - Mildliner

Sticky Notes - Post-It

Tabs - Amazon CA 1 or Amazon CA 2

Tracing Paper - Amazon CA


When I first started I didn't love it. I felt like it was a chore to tab, especially since I felt I had to have a color system. Once I changed up how I was doing it so that it fit my style better I started to love it and now I can't think of anything I'd rather do while reading! Reading is one of my favorite things to do and Annotation only made me love it more. It helps me slow down a little and really think about the content. So for anyone deciding to give annotation a try, I hope you love it and have a blast!