How To Annotate A Book

Annotating anything is adding notes that give commentary or clarification on the topic at hand. Annotating books (including fiction and nonfiction), poetry, essays, and even photographs is possible.

How To Annotate A Book

Such notes are generally seen in the margins of a document.

Any book, in principle, may be annotated. You must establish the practice of annotating your thoughts with whichever approach you like rather than reading with your ideas in mind.

Annotations can be used to take notes, highlight a reader’s favorite content, offer comments or analysis, or raise topics for further investigation.

When readers annotate a book, they study it on a deeper level because they slow down and take the time to observe where they might have questions, form opinions, or identify symbols.

How To Annotate A Book

Annotating books can be done in a variety of ways. You can pick one ahead of time or afterwards, depending on what you wish to mark in the book.

Don’t make an immediate commitment to a system. Experiment with various approaches. Be willing to try new things and adapt. Annotation is meant to enrich your reading experience, not to limit your thoughts.


If you own the book or if your library or rental service allows it, highlighting can be a fantastic and professional way to annotate it.

Your comments can be color-coded, and you can choose whether to make further notes in the margins or create a new notebook with your notes and the page numbers they correspond to for each highlighted section.

You can just highlight the sections that you find interesting or want to return to without writing any more remarks.

Use Colorful Sticky Tabs

Color coded sticky tabs are a great way to annotate in books without needing to mark the pages with pens and highlighters. 

Having them stick out of the pages a little bit will let you skip to the passages, quotes, or other notes that you are looking for without having to look through every page. 

You should use this method particularly if you have a book from the library or borrowing it from a friend. 

It is best to use colorful tabs as this allows you to color code them to a key that you have also made which can then be referred to when flicking through the pages.

You can make this key on your notes app on your phone or on a separate piece of paper or notebook. 

Keep It Quick

You do not have to worry too much about keeping your annotation pretty and neat as this will usually result in more time circling, writing, and highlighting which could be spent reading and actually enjoying the story being told!

For most people, annotating is a very personal thing and therefore the thought of other people looking at your annotations are slim – therefore presentation is not the most important part about annotating. 

Create a Key

If you do not want to clutter your margins with comments, you may make your own key and use symbols to represent certain observations, such as symbols, allusions, pictures, or significant turning points.

This way, you may keep a distinct set of notes that remark on the symbols you’ve used while reducing the text marks.

Be Honest

Do not be scared to express your own feelings regarding the book. Write your ideas, comments, and responses in the margins as if you were replying to the narrative or author.

You may use other types of notes (circling words, highlighting sentences) if you choose – this approach is all about connecting with the text on a personal level. Looking back over your annotations, you’ll be able to recall exactly how a book affected you at the time.

Annotating a book makes it more personal and personalized for each reader. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself and have fun with it.

What To Annotate

How To Annotate A Book

If you are struggling to figure out where to start with your annotating, here are some great places to start. 

Unfamiliar Words – When you come across a new word that you do not recognize, it can be a great practice to make note of them with the definition via underlining, circling, highlighting, etc. 

This will not only give you a much better understanding of what the author is conveying but will also build up your vocabulary. 

Quotes – If you love a quote or find it particularly interesting, you can annotate them so that they are much easier to come back to. 

You will also see how it impacted you at the time, so when you look back on the book after reading it will hopefully strike the same chord.

Your Thoughts – At the end of each chapter, put your thoughts into a summarized paragraph to demonstrate how much you have retained when it comes to plot and character development.  

You can also use this opportunity to add small notes of what you liked and disliked about each chapter. It also makes it a lot easier to pick up where you left off. 

Theorize – It can be great fun to try and figure out where the story is going to go, also make note of any foreshadowing that you pick up on. 

Ask Questions – Pretend that you are writing these questions to the author. Perhaps throughout the story you can find the answers!

Alternatives To Annotating

Many individuals are turned off by the idea of annotating their books since it generally requires writing with a pen on the pages, highlighting, and using sticky tabs. This, understandably, results in permanent marks on the volumes.

As a result, if you want to annotate but do not want to mark your books, you may use this method instead.

You can keep a notebook as a reading log to record your ideas. This also works for audiobooks, as bookmarking in audiobooks may be difficult.

Making accurate notes works well for nonfiction books that provide a lot of information or books from which you’re learning a lot. Reading the information thoroughly enough to remember the most crucial aspects greatly improves understanding.

Because you’ll be carrying your phone with you most of the time, you can also take notes using an app on your phone. As a result, you may become distracted as you fall into the phone’s black hole of notifications and texts.

Because they divert your focus away from the text, both of these ways might be tiresome when compared to other types of annotation. These are fantastic if you can keep the notes to yourself and avoid using social media.


Annotating a book can help you become a more engaged reader and have a more satisfying reading experience.

Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, you’ll be forced to slow down and pay attention to details you may otherwise overlook.

There are lots of ways to annotate a book, and if you do not want to write on the page, you can use a separate notebook or use the notes app on your phone. 

When it comes down to it, annotating your books should give you freedom and the last thing you should worry about are rules!

Sophie Andrea