Tips on Marking a Book

To mark or not to mark? Some people consider marking books disrespectful, while others think that it is an important part of the reading process.  There are those, who consider people marking their books untidy ones and they do everything they can to keep their own books clean.

However, if you didn’t borrow a book from your fellows or in a library, there is absolutely nothing wrong in making notes on the pages of a book that you own. If you read the book for pleasure, there is no need to make notes, and in most of the cases, you will forget the plot right after the book is finished. However, if you want to get new information and knowledge, it is necessary not only to listen to the authors but to communicate with them. Making notes shows that you are interested in the book and that you are involved in the process.

Marking a book may include making notes about words and phrases, rhetorical questions, complex terms, ideas or even elements you disagree with. Our article was created to guide you through the active reading process, to explain the importance of a marked book and the ways to do it efficiently.

Tips on Marking a Book

Necessity of Marking Books

If you have already forgiven yourself for making notes on the book’s pages, you may notice that many reasons will help you benefit from the process.  Below we have gathered only some of the most important reasons why everyone should make notes on the pages and free spaces of a book.

It Makes Second Reading Simpler

If you are going to a certain city for the second time, it would be much easier to know where to go and what places to see, right? On your first trip, you can make notes on the places you liked or disliked: a café with delicious local cuisine, a cozy park near the railway station or a bar with live music. Bookmarking is quite similar because it simplifies the process of second reading if you need it. You have already made a few points during the first reading: highlighted difficult words or phrases marked a new concept and wrote down its definition on a margin.That is why when the time comes to read the book once again, you will save your time and nerves looking for a complex word or term in a dictionary.

Interacting with the Author

Many people don’t like reading, because they find it boring as if they are listening to a college lecture. That is why marking a book helps to communicate with the writer, and you get involved in the discussion, reacting to the points you agree or disagree with. If you find a weird or controversial issue, you may be willing to conduct your own research and to find out more about the issue. Of course, this may be time-consuming and difficult at first, but if you practice regularly, it will become simpler with time.

You Learn More Effectively

Reading is one of the most efficient ways of learning new information. While it is a receptive skill, writing is a productive one, and a combination of both is a great way to turn passive reading into active learning. When you make notes, it is simpler to learn. Instead of just consuming the information you share it, diving deeper into the subject. It results in higher productivity, better results of remembering information and discovering new issues.

You Learn How to Write

It may not be obvious at first but marking a book helps to improve writing skills. When you are reading a book, you will surely find unfamiliar words, idioms, and concepts.  This helps to broaden your vocabulary and to notice how various writing instruments and tools are used throughout the text. With time you will find it much simpler to render your ideas, and the number of unknown words will be much lower!

An Annotated Book Will Become a Great Gift

Making notes is quite a personal thing, and most of the people don’t want to share it with others. However, if you are planning to hand your marked book to a relative or friend, you can be sure that it will become a unique and valuable present. You have spent lots of your time to make notes, mark terms and definitions and to put your thoughts on paper. If you are willing to give out your ideas to others, it will surely be appreciated. It is a result of your hard work and devotion, and it will make the recipient feel important and valuable.

Tools for Marking a Book

When you annotate a book, you need to understand what instruments will be efficient to achieve your initial goal. Here are the tips that will help you to choose the most suitable tools:

  • If you decide to use a highlighter, make sure that the color allows reading the highlighted sentences without any difficulties. Light colors are the best ones. For example, yellow or orange. In addition, try to stick only to a few colors, because having a rainbow on a page will only distract you from the initial goal;
  • If you prefer using a pen, make sure that it is of a dark color to make reading notes simpler;
  • In case you don’t want to write on pages and prefer keeping the book clean, you can choose sticky notes. They are a great alternative to pens and highlighters, although it is more difficult and time-consuming to use them;
  • If you are reading an electronic version (in an ePub, PDF or other formats), there is usually a bookmark option in the main menu, which allows making notes. It is a great alternative to regular notes and saves lots of time because you can easily navigate between pages and find a necessary bookmark simply by making a few clicks.

It is very likely that you already have your own marking habits and style. However, there is always a place for improving them. You should pay attention to the following tips that may greatly improve your marking and annotating experience.

Say No to Distractions

If you decided to mark your book, you need to understand that it is not a regular reading and you will need to devote all of your attention to the process.  Make sure you read in a calm and quiet atmosphere without any distractions. If you don’t have your own room, choose a library or inform your roommates that you will be studying and will need some time alone.

Don’t Be in a Hurry

You may be used to reading a book on high speed but annotating is difficult and will take lots of your time. That is why you need to be involved in the process, making pauses and rereading paragraphs if necessary. There is no need to be in a hurry because your goal is to get as much knowledge as possible and not just to finish the book as soon as possible. If you want to master annotating, you need to do your job well.

Always Highlight and Underline Words and Phrases That Are Important

To begin with, you can highlight words or phrases that you find important. Use a highlighter or a pen to mark elements, which render the main ideas of the author. Even if you are not familiar with the words or structures, you need to highlight them and then conduct research to make everything clearer. However, you need to highlight only a few key words and sentences, because otherwise your pages will look too complex and clumsy, and you will find it difficult to use those notes later.

Experiment With Shapes for Keywords

If a certain word appears several times on a page, most likely it is one of the key points that the author is willing to render. Just be creative and use the shapes and colors you like. For example, blue rectangles or yellow circles. If the author is willing to attract your attention by a certain term, why don’t you highlight it? In case such brief marks are not enough, you can number them and then make notes on the margins to develop your thought on the issue.

Use Punctuation Marks

Luckily, there is a huge variety of marks to choose from. If you write a question mark after a sentence, it means that you didn’t get the point and want to clarify it. If you place an exclamation mark, it means that you are surprised to find out an important and previously unknown fact. Asterisk means that you can’t agree with the statement. It is possible to invent marks on your own, assigning them with a certain meaning. Moreover, it is allowed to use smiley faces and any symbols you want! It is your book, your marks, and your rules.

Put Key Sections into Braces and Brackets

It is also advisable to use braces or brackets to highlight important parts.  Brackets can be used if you want to mark a short passage, which is crucial for the text. In addition, these symbols are made to highlight examples that are made on the discussed point.

Mark Complex Words

You can also write down the words you can’t understand, making a sort of a list. You can either use sticky notes or write the words down on the margins after looking them up in the dictionary. If you find this not enough, you can even make notes on the synonyms or the most popular examples. This means that you should always have a dictionary nearby and a separate notebook for such words. Trust us, this is a great way not only to understand the book but also to improve your writing skills.

Use Numbers to Highlight Points

If the author supports a particular claim with several points, you can assign each of them with a number and then write those numbers on the margins. Just put numbers at the beginning of the corresponding passage. This will help you to link a particular sentence to the idea you have written down. An alternative way of using numbers is to reference pages that contain additional points on the issue. Many points that are relevant to the topic may be placed all over the book, and it can be quite difficult to find and organize them. If you notice related points on other pages, you can assign them with numbers, like ‘p7’. This means that similar information can be found on page 7.

Mark Rhetorical and Literary Devices

If you not only want to understand the subject but also to improve your writing, it is a great idea to assign various symbols to literary tools. In such a way you create a great basis for future research and significantly improve your writing skills.

Make Comments and Ask Questions

You should always keep in mind that you are an active reader, so all of the questions that pop in your head should be written down and answered. You may also have comments on different issues, and they shouldn’t be neglected. There is always plenty of space on margins, which you can use for your thoughts. Write down comments or ask questions. It can be a great way to develop the topic or to refer to other readers if you are planning to hand the book. Moreover, if you want to contact the author in the future, you will have a ready list of questions.

Summarize Book’s Sections After You Have Finished the Book

The bottom section of the book has plenty of space to summarize information that you have understood from the page. Start your summary with a keyword that will embody the main idea of the passage.  In addition, you can use free pages at the beginning or at the end of the book. However, don’t forget that it is a summary and summaries are always brief.

Work on the Index

If you start reading a book, already knowing its key themes and concepts, it will be possible to create your own index of passages and pages that correspond with these themes and concepts. Eventually, your index will be as important as the author’s one.


Annotating a book is quite a difficult process, which requires attention and time. However, it is worth it, because as a result, you get a deep understanding of the topic and improved writing and analytical skills. If the book is your property, you can use it the way you want, making notes and highlighting important sections. Even if you decide to hand it to someone else, it will be a valuable gift.

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