# Footnote marks at end of a sentence

I find it common in my writing to end up a sentence with a footnote reference mark. Should the footnote mark come before the stop or after it?

... this is some text1.

... this is some text.1

• Are you concerned only with the case where the footnote mark is a superscript, or also the case when it may occur inline? ("As shown by Smith [3], this…") – ShreevatsaR Jan 23 '11 at 7:53

Both are valid ways to place a footnote reference, but they mean slightly different things.

If you want the footnote reference to belong to the entire sentence, then the second method is correct. However, if you want the footnote to apply only to the word text, then the first is correct.

Noldorin and SabreWolfy have logical answers, but in the world of typesetting, logic is not respected. At least in the field of scientific publishing, where footnotes and references are common, publishers tend to have very strict guidelines about where they want the marks. In that case, you're not really free to choose yourself. For example, most of the physics and chemistry journals want references after punctuation:

as first demonstrated by Smith.1

As a consequence, in these fields, people mostly tend to follow this usage, even in works for which there is no restriction imposed.

So, what I'm saying is: if you're free to do what you want, go ahead, but check the relevant style guide first.

• Interesting! In most mathematical and I think also CS literature, the distinction described by Noldorin and SabreWolfy is used, typically justified by exactly the logic they give. (See eg the TeXbook, or the Short Introduction to LaTeX.) It’s a useful distinction to be able to make; it seems surprising to me that other scientific fields don’t. I guess mathematicians and computer scientists are more logically pedantic than physicists and chemists? :-P – PLL Jan 22 '11 at 22:42
• Well, a properly logic system would specify completely ((what part of the sentence a reference refers to))1, maybe like that! – F'x Jan 23 '11 at 8:48
• I think FX_ is referring in the answer above to the use of superscripts to indicate academic references in journals, rather than a more general footnote. In other disciplines it is important to indicate clearly that the footnote applies to a particular word only (as in critical editions). Rereading the original question, I can add that if the footnote is used as a reference, then it should be placed after the stop. – SabreWolfy Jan 23 '11 at 20:19

My understanding is that if the footnote refers only to the word text then it should be placed immediately after the word, as in the first case above. If the footnote refers to the entire sentence (or at least to the last phrase, for example), then it should be placed after the stop.

• Heh, seems we've written more or less exactly the same thing. – Noldorin Jan 22 '11 at 20:41
• Haha, yes, both marked "11 mins ago" as of now. – SabreWolfy Jan 22 '11 at 20:52
• @SAberWolfy: If you hover over the "N mins ago" you'll get a pop-up with to-the-second data on submission times. If you care. It looks like you win. – dmckee Jan 22 '11 at 21:34
• @dmckee: Thanks. I didn't know about the "to-the-second" pop-up. I "win" by 44 seconds. – SabreWolfy Jan 23 '11 at 8:25