Simple and Understandable Tips How To Mark a Book

Some people believe it is disrespectful to their books if they mark or annotate those books. And some people even take a marked book to reflect the owners’ untidiness. But on the flip side, if the book is yours, or if you haven’t borrowed it from a friend or the library, there is absolutely no harm noting important pieces of information in your book. In fact, unless you are reading for pleasure, in which case you might drop the book and every memory of it once you are done reading, it is advisable that you make annotations as you read – as this practice reflects how deeply interested in the book you are and shows you are actively communicating with the author (or the book) rather than just listening to them. You will be making notes on keywords, phrases, ideas, questions, difficult words and even disagreements. This article has been prepared for the purposes of guiding you on the process of active reading of a book, the importance of annotating books and the best ways of marking your books.

Importance of Marking a Book

If your get past the self-judgment that prevents some people from ‘defacing’ a book, you will understand that there are several reasons for which you would want to annotate your book. It is after all your book. Let’s look at a few reasons for which one should mark important points and make quick, short notes on the pages and margins of their books.

  • It guides you on a second read

If you were to explore a forest a second time, wouldn’t you to make it easier for yourself? Okay, let get this clearer. On your first adventure, you would want to mark particular places; where there is a little rock, where a tree has a sweet smell, where there’s a ditch, a hammock (made by God knows who) or where you saw a burrow.

Marking a book is a similar process. It helps you on an easier trip if you have to read the book again. You have made the points during your first read. You circled difficult words, underlined a new phrase, highlighted a concept and defined it by the margin. So when it is time to read the same book all over again, you are saved of the stress of looking up a difficult word in the dictionary.

  • The Conversation Becomes Bidirectional

Annotating a book helps you avoid the boring, monotonous task of reading that looks like long hours of a lecture. You interact with the author. You are actively involved in the conversation. You react to the points. When a point comes across as strong or even strange, you note it, you might want to explore in such points and clarify your doubts and disagreement. By the time you read the book again, you find it easier.

  • You Learn Better

Reading is a receptive language skill. You take in details though reading. Writing (in this case; annotation) is a productive language skill, which means you are contributing from the knowledge and understanding of the book you have read. By making notes on the book, you learn better. Rather than just take everything in, you also give back and possible expound on points. In essence, your reading is as productive and fruitful as it is receptive. What a way to learn!

  • You Learn to be a Better Writer

Marking your book can actually improve your writing. When you read a book, there is the likelihood that you will come across some words, phrases, idioms and sentences for the first time. Apart from noting these new structures, you learn their usually within the context of the text you are reading, and that makes a better writer out of you.

  • Your Book Becomes a Genuine Gift

Although some people might not want to give out a piece of their minds, if you are ever going to give out an annotated book as a gift to your friend or relative, the it becomes a genuine gift. Think about it, you have made jottings, notes, definitions, even asked questions in the book. It is a piece of your mind and it has become a treasure island, your island. If you are kind enough to lend it out, it will be appreciated by the recipient, although some people might think your annotations are distracting, but then, they are a product of your hard work.

Choosing Tools for Marking a Book

You should be intentional about how you read annotate your book. And that intentionality includes choosing the appropriate annotation tools. Consider the following tips in choosing them.

  • When using a highlighter, ensure you choose a shade that allows for easy reading of the highlighted parts of the book; consider light colors such as yellow. Also, be consistent with the shade you have chosen, as you wouldn’t want to make a rainbow of your pages.
  • When using a pen, a dark color is advisable to make a second read easy.
  • You can turn to sticky notes if you don’t want to mark up your book pages. Sticky notes and tabs are good alternatives to marking up the pages of your book – although using them may be a little stressful – but there is no harm, right?
  • If you are reading an e-book format (PDF, ePub, etc), the software often comes with a ‘bookmark’ and ‘annotate’ menu that allows you to make notes on your books. These options are usually easily accessible on the software user interface. Besides, notes made can easily be tracked by a few clicks.

Tips for Marking a Book

There is every chance that you already have a marking style. But there is always room for improvement on the practice. Consider the following tips for annotating your book.

  • Avoid Distractions

Once you decide to annotate your book, you have decided to take up a task that will require your attention, because now, you are not doing the regular reading. You are intentional about the process. You will need all the quiet you can get. Consider using the library or your study (in which case you might want to inform your neighbors that you wouldn’t want to be distracted.)

  • Take Your Time

Unlike the regular reading speed, if you must annotate your book, you will read at a slow, intentional speed. You have to take your time, pay attention to every minute detail in the passages. At some point, you will have to pause and think a paragraph over – there is something you want to draw out, and there is no need for rushing. So, take your time and do the job well.

  • Underline or Highlight Important Words and Phrases

You can start out by underlining words and phrases that strike you as important. Using a pen or a highlighter, you should mark items that communicate the intended thoughts of the author. If you are seeing a sentence structure or style for the first time and it appears important to you, highlight it. But bear in mind that only key phrases and words should be underlined. If you underline or highlight too many sentences on the same page, everything might become clumsy and difficult to use later.

  • Use Different Shapes to Mark Key Phrases

If you notice a particular word is recurrent in a passage, you might just have discovered the author’s focal points. You could use shapes such as circles or rectangles to mark out such words. If an author mentions that you should keep a word in mind, why don’t you also keep it in a box?

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You are also number the shapes or simply replicate the shape in the margins and make your notes beside them. This means you can trace your note to the bigger shape on the page.

  • Use Marks

There are a number of punctuation marks you can choose from. A question mark boldly written beside a sentence should naturally mean you haven’t comprehended the meaning. An exclamation should also mean that you are surprised at a discovery. An asterisk can also mean that you do not agree with a point or you find it faulty. You can also invent your own marks and assign meanings to them. And yes, you can use smiley faces to express your feeling about a point in the passage.

  • Use Brackets and Braces around Key Sections

Brackets and braces can be drawn around key sections of the passage. The brackets should be used around a short section that strikes as important. If an example is made for the point under discussion, you can draw a pair of large square brackets or braces around the example.

  • Note Difficult Words

You can make a list of words that you do not recognize. You can do this in the side margins or a sticky note so that you can look up the words in the dictionary, understand their meanings in the context of use or even use your pen to write their more familiar synonyms above them in the passage. Of course, you would need to have a dictionary close by.

  • Write Numbers in the Margins

If you note that the author makes several points for an argument in the passage, you can represent each point with a number written in the margins. Before writing he numbers in the margins, you should have written then at the start of each sentence containing the points. This is so that you can link the ones written in the margins to a particular section of the passage. Another way to use numbers is to make reference to other pages containing complementary points.

Some important points which are related may be scatter across many pages. You can connect all of them by this method. If you note a point in a passage, you can subscript the other pages where related points can be made. For example, ‘p9’ in “Intolerancep9” would mean there is also a point about ‘intolerance’ on page 9.

  • Assign Symbols to Literary and Rhetorical Devices

This is a good way to prepare yourself for any assignment that involves probing into the author’s of writing and the use of literary devices. Besides, by marking such instances, you tend to improve your own writing skills.

  • Ask Relevant Questions and Make Comments in the Margins

Since your reading is active, questions will come upon your mind that you need answers for. It is also possible that you want to pass a comment about what you are reading. The margins are always free for use. You can use the margins to ask short questions and pass brief comments. These questions might even be a way of asking another person about what they think of the passage. If you ever decide to mail the author, you can include the questions in your mail.

  • Summarize Sections of the Book after Reading

You can use the bottom of the page to summarize what you understand from a passage. The summary should start with a keyword that captures the points made. You can also empty pages at the beginning or end of the book. Ensure that your summary is short enough. It is, after all, a summary.

  • Create an Index

If you start out reading the book with a foreknowledge of the key concepts and themes, you can create a personal index of pages and passages that highlight these concepts and themes. You will find out that your index is supplementary to, and is equally as important as the author’s.

Marking a book is a deliberate process that takes times and attention, but the results always outweigh the efforts. You will always have a deeper understanding of the book than what should obtain if you only did a passive reading. The book now your property, in fact, a personal territory, more because you have invested your time and attention in it, than it is because you paid for it. If you ever decide to lend or give it out, it is a piece of you, and that is a generous gift.