I'm looking for a single word (if not, a natural phrase) for a note that you write before starting the main article/part/question etc.

It can give preliminary information (in general). However, it can be a mild warning (but I would like to avoid calling it a "warning" which is too strong) or a reminder (thus, we can call it a "reminder" but I want a more general word).

An example context would be, when you are posting a question on stackexchange sites, you put a note in advance that people read it before the question and you make them think twice before posting an answer, you remind them that the question is (not) about this or that etc.

For example:

_____: This question is not only about finding a single word. I would like to get a detailed answer that addresses all the related questions.

<< Main question... >>

I considered the word note itself but I want to distinguish it from the notes that you write after or during the main part.

Then, advance note1 came to my mind as a phrase but it also has another meaning and can be confused with advance notice.

Prenote2 could be a nice word but it does not sound that natural and dictionaries list it as a verb only.

There are of course words like preface and prologue but they are usually too formal and comes before longer written works like novels.

Caveat3 is similar to warning but it might give special instructions. Can it be the word I'm looking for? I might have seen it used in this way on EL&U but it is used in law also.

I might be over-thinking and the answer might be very simple but I wanted to give as much information as I can. You might also talk about differences between words that fit to similar settings.

1 a draft on owners or agents of a ship drawn by the master for the benefit of a sailor usually for one month's advance wages [MW]

2 trans. To note or mention previously. [OED]

3 an explanation or warning that should be remembered when you are doing or thinking about something [MW]

  • I'm not sure why preface is objectionable- while it can be used before longer works it doesn't have to be and is often used more informally in conversation as in: "I'd like to preface this by saying..." – Jim Feb 1 '15 at 23:25

A suitable word for your brief introduction is preamble. It's not as formal as preface, and can be as short as a sentence (which would be unusual for a preface). Preamble can be countable or a mass noun, as Oxford Dictionaries shows:

  1. A preliminary or preparatory statement; an introduction:
    he could tell that what she said was by way of a preamble
    I gave him the bad news without preamble


It's pronounced as three syllables, and does have the same root as amble — medieval Latin praeambulum, from late Latin praeambulus 'going before'.

  • It looks like this was the only word I didn't mention. Do you think it fits to the example context I gave? – ermanen Feb 2 '15 at 0:42
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    @ermanen Yes; that's why I suggested it :-) I've amended the answer to make that clear. – Andrew Leach Feb 2 '15 at 6:55
  • Is it actually common to write the word "preamble" as a subheading? I have a feeling it's more common in speech than in writing. E.g. "Before I start my presentation, I need to make a short preamble" I ask because I find it slightly jarring in this post. – Mari-Lou A Feb 23 '15 at 10:41

NB: Maybe something might be interesting to note well.

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    Nota bene is an Italian and Latin phrase meaning "note well". -Had to Google that one. – Mazura Feb 2 '15 at 3:54
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    N.B., NB, and Note well and excellent choices. They can be used at any point in the text where the author feels it will call special attention to the particular words. Traditionally, the Latin initials were common, but as the above comment shows, avoiding Latin and simply writing "Note well:..." in English will likely be more useful for your audience. There are some narrow genres, however, in which N.B. is mandated in specific situations. – hunterhogan Feb 2 '15 at 7:32
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    Funny is how many people think that N.B. means note below. As if English was ever the world's first language :p – yo' Feb 2 '15 at 10:57
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    I like this better than my own suggestion of "preface" - it fits the question better, I feel, at least for a brief preliminary aside. – Dewi Morgan Feb 3 '15 at 4:38

I'd usually use Preface in this sense, and I'd argue it's most common.

There's also Precis, though I think that it's more commonly used to describe a sort of brief preliminary synopsis.


If we forget about Stack Exchange (for a moment) and everything after the first two paragraphs, abstract fits nicely.

Abstract (summary) -Wikipedia

An abstract is a brief summary of a research article, thesis, review, conference proceeding or any in-depth analysis of a particular subject or discipline, and is often used to help the reader quickly ascertain the paper's purpose. When used, an abstract always appears at the beginning of a manuscript or typescript, acting as the point-of-entry for any given academic paper or patent application.


pre·empt, prēˈempt/ verb

  1. take action in order to prevent (an anticipated event) from happening; forestall

  2. acquire or appropriate (something) in advance -Google

A preamble is simply something said before hand. A preemption offers an introductory caveat. Also, prompt might fit where appropriate.

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    But preempt doesn't fit as a noun. – ermanen Feb 2 '15 at 0:40
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    @ermanen Preemptive note does. I could also say, "since you preempted the question with..." or a preemptive preamble. Or just revert to caveat, which is perfect: a warning or proviso of specific stipulations, conditions, or limitations. – Mazura Feb 2 '15 at 0:50
  • On SE, it seems more likely to find caveats at the end of a post, usually in tacked-on edits. IMO, preambles only appear in the dissemination of knowledge, not in questions, those have caveats. – Mazura Feb 2 '15 at 1:00

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