I am currently writing my thesis for a MSc in computer science. In some places I came up with short but crucial explanations or remarks that I wanted to show in a stand-out display to emphasize their importance.

So I show a little grey text box, with a title. As for now I chose Nota Bene as the title — see an example here:

Nota Bene: If the dashed lines in the interface-graph (cf. Figure 7.2, on the right) are not explicitly included, a VPN network will essentially be represented by several disconnected graphs.

Now I am wondering if nota bene is something that I can use in this context. I know that is has the right meaning but I am unsure about the style. Does this feel pompous to you? Or old-fashioned?

  • Thx for the quick answers. I changed all Nota-Bene's to the abbreviated form. I guess I was kind of unsure about the entire thing because `nota bene' is actually a phrase that is used in spoken dialect (Swiss German) from time to time...
    – fgysin
    Feb 7 '13 at 9:59
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    A far more comfortable option would be to just say "Note:". Most readers would appreciate it.
    – Kris
    Feb 7 '13 at 10:31
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    "Nota bene" is a phrase used in English from time to time too, but not that often. As with what was said below, some people would understand it, but some would not.
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 20 '13 at 15:00

It's better known, and more often used, as the abbreviation NB. Expanded, it could indeed be taken as pompously using Latin for the sake of showing off that you know a Latin phrase.

In other contexts I'd worry that some who know NB might not know Nota Bene. That's probably not a great concern in a masters' thesis, but it's another reason to favour the abbreviation, generally.

  • I have usually seen it written N.B.: and not just NB. That said, even with the abbreviation I have sometimes found the people I was writing to had no idea what I meant.
    – Casey
    Jun 4 '14 at 18:31

It's not pompous. I use it all the time with my clients, e.g.,

I have corrected the issue with the new flash update. N.B. if you manually install the update when prompted your software will break again.

It's simple translation is a note to your benefit. Also, I consider it a caveat: in my writing, if anyone who knows me sees N.B., it means pay attention to this part!


"nota bene" is Latin, great for academic papers. However, it is usually used within a paragraph, not as a headline for a comment. Thumb rule: use 'nota bene' where 'by the way' is inappropriate.

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