Annotating: The What, Why And How Of It

If you guys follow me on any of my social media accounts, you’ve probably seen copies of my books that are at the very least filled with tabs. Often, they’ll also be filled with either a ton of notes I’ve written into the margins or highlighted passages of scenes I’ve enjoyed – most likely all of the things I just mentioned. Especially if it’s a book I’ve reread multiple times.

I love marking up my books in different ways and today we’ll talk about it in a bit more detail. I know this isn’t for everyone and that a good chunk of people prefer to keep their books in pristine condition and that’s awesome but I also know that there are lots of people out there like me who love annotating or maybe people who want to try out annotating for the first time.

They say we should write about what we love, so that’s exactly what I’m doing today! πŸ˜€


Why don’t we start this off by talking about what annotating actually is, before jumping into why you should do it and how you can do it.

UnbenanntIt’s really nothing complicated. It just you writing down any and all kinds of notes, thoughts, ideas, etc regarding whatever it is you’re reading at the moment. You might’ve even developed a slight hatred for it because you’ve had to do it in school too many times (that was the case for me for the longest time). But! You can work against that and actually enjoy doing it once you start annotating for fun and on texts you want to read – that usually makes the biggest difference for me. The fact that I choose what I annotate!

There is also nobody telling you what you should concentrate on while annotating your books. You can do it as critical as you want and if you want to.

What I often end up doing is having a conversation with the books I’m reading – especially for rereads. I’ll write down any reactions I have, I’ll try and figure out what’s going to happen further down the line or I’ll swoon with my favorite characters and ships.

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For anyone who regularly reviews books or talks about them in length on their different platforms, annotating will come in really handy as you can mark any scenes, plot holes, character moments, etc. to find them easily once it’s time for that discussion. You won’t have to frantically flip through your book over and over again – it’s gonna save you quite a bit of time.

The main reason that I annotate my books is so I can look back at my own thoughts from previous reads and see how and if my thoughts have changed on entire books or maybe just certain character types. Plus, if you’re someone who loves to reread favorites, you can concentrate on different things each time and actually differentiate it in your annotating too!

For example, I’m currently reading Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo for the fourth time and here’s how each reading has changed my copy of the book:

  1. a simple read through, I wasn’t into annotating yet
  2. highlighted everything I enjoyed throughout the book without any notes
  3. added tabs to scenes I enjoyed, including previously highlighted passages if they still stood out to me
  4. adding even more tabs (smaller ones, to differentiate when they’ve been added) and almost more importantly: notes. So many of them.

This way, whenever I look through my copy of Six Of Crows, I know exactly what has been added when and I can’t wait to see how this copy is going to evolve as I reread it over and over again.

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Annotating can be as easy or as complex as you want it to be.

You can decide to color code your tabs or you can just tab with random colors (I’ve done both) and you need a pen to write down any notes (either onto your tabs or the actual pages – whatever works for you). If you’re going to write on the actual pages I suggest using a blue pen as it’s easier to spot the notes that way!

And speaking of making things easier: make sure you use plastic/ see through tabs in your books, especially if you plan on rereading them at some point. I’m currently in the process of slowly replacing any paper tabs I have in my books with plastic ones as I reread various books.

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If you’re someone who does really in-depth book reviews/talks, this might be the method best suited to you. You can assign different colors to the things you look for in books and work your way through them for your reviews.

People will often try different color-coding systems while they figure out what works best for their needs – so don’t be afraid to do that!

I figured it might be helpful to give an idea of things you can look for in the books you’re reading to tab, so I picked up some of my more heavily tabbed books for reference purposes.

  • Blue = funny moments/character moments
  • Green = questions I had/thing I wanted to look up
  • Orange = important plot moments
  • Pink = cute/swoon-worthy moments (main couple)
  • Purple = cute/swoon-worthy moments (any other ship)

You could also separate the funny moments from the general character moments – which is super fun for rereading purposes or when you need a pick me up, as you can just flip through the scenes that are tabbed with that specific color (aka what I’ve been doing with Crooked Kingdom for the past few days….).

Something else I’ve seen people do is color-code the pens they use to make notes. You could do the system I just showed you but use pens instead of tabs – if you feel comfortable. I actually did both in my copy of Lord Of Shadows though it takes longer as you have to switch between pens more often – these days I just use a blue pen for all my notes.

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Color Blocking

If you’ve used color-coded tabs for your tabs before you’ve probably run out of certain colors quicker than others which meant you’d have to get more packs and you’d once again run out of certain colors quicker than others – it’s an annoying cycle.

So, to work against that I’ve decided to color block with my tabs. I’ll use a color until I run out of it and then move onto the next. Sure, I don’t know what I tabbed by just looking at my books from the outside (which sucks, sometimes) but at least I don’t have to constantly buy new packs of tabs just because I need more pink tabs.

The thing I do absolutely love about this method is the effect it creates on the edges! It looks so pretty and I get the urge to tab every single book that way – even the ones that already have color-coded tabs – which are fun too, don’t get me wrong! πŸ˜€

Grab Your Coffee And Let's Talk!

And now I obviously want to know how you guys feel about annotating your books! Is it something you do regularly and enjoy? Is it something you have to do for school and so don’t like doing it for fun? Let me know in the comments down below and we can talk about your experience with it!

For those of you guys who do annotate, do you use a strict color-coded system? Or do you do it randomly? Let me know! πŸ˜€
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24 thoughts on “Annotating: The What, Why And How Of It

  1. This is such a great and informative post! I love to annotate my books. However, I don’t have a color coding system. I just use whatever sticky notes or tabs I have available. The only time that I use a specific color is when a book has something problematic or jarring. I love your system!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have an English degree, so annotating is my jammeroo! I do it a lot with my kindle, but I’m starting to get back into it with my hard copies. I don’t really have a system at all, but it definitely helps with writting reviews. Awesome post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like to keep my physical books in super nice condition, so annotating is the sort of thing I can’t do, because it would drive me wild. However, if I’m reading on a Kindle I annotate, and I really enjoy it! I don’t really think it’s something I could do every time I read a book anyways, so it works for me to just annotate on ebooks.

    And then I find I rely on my goodreads status updates a little in my reviews, so if I don’t have internet access, I will get strips of paper and make notes on them (and stick them in the book), because I find I do need SOMETHING to go on. And then I go really overboard and take notes every three pages because I have no self control apparently.

    So yeah, I really enjoy some form of annotating (Usually on my Kindle) every once and while, but I don’t think I could do it for every book I read.

    Also I love how your books look with all the tabs sticking out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I won’t really do it with every book either usually, though sometimes I just automatically reach for my tabs. xD It’s become habit now!

      Honestly, I wish I used my Goodreads status updates more often. xD I will usually just update to the last page and maybe write a sentence. My past self was so much better about that!

      Me too, to be honest! That might be one of the reasons I’ve really gotten into tabbing. That look is just something else!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such an interesting post, I love it! ❀ I am one of these people liking to keep their books in pristine condition as much as I can, so I never really tried to annotate my books. I would be interested in keeping tabs on the pages I'm interested in with colored post-its though maybe, because that sounds like a lot of fun ahah – and it does not make me write down directly into the book, which I'm not a fan of, at all. I do love this little explanation though, it's such a great, resourceful post. Thank you!! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Cool post! I personally do not annotate my books that often or that colourfully… I just mark the pages where I found a really good and inspiring quote, or something that I want to showcase later on when I’m writing a blog post. Adding coloured tabs sounds like a great idea, except that most of the books I read are library books so it’s kinda useless to do so then :”)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your annotations are sooo beautiful!! When I used to annotate ahahaha it was a mess. But I really like when readers annotate. And weird, but I really want to read a book annotated by a reader and read what they were thinking while reading the book. Great post ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. i have this weird thing where I absolutely LOVE seeing how other people annotate their books, all the highlighting, writing and doodles, I think it’s pretty but…I can’t bring myself to do it on my own books, maybe it’s my anxiety? maybe it’s not owning physical books for the first two decades of my life? But whatever it is, it’s preventing me from putting even a single pen stroke on my books. One thing I do though it tab my favourite parts and quotes. This is super awesome and eye pleasing though!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I actually started annotating my books more earlier this year & really love it!πŸ’• Its definitely added something new to my reading experience & has encouraged me to reread more! Awesome post (& I was led to this post from Marie @ DrizzleAndHurricaneBooks) πŸ˜πŸ’•βœ¨πŸ“š

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is such a fantastic post Swetlana!! 😍 Iβ€˜ve only dabbled a bit with annotating (during our traveling book & writing into a very anticipated release), but I did enjoy my experiences 😁 I’m always a bit hesitant to write into my books because my handwriting is so bad πŸ˜‚ I do very much love color coding (especially with my tabs) & this that it’s so interesting to read your notes on earlier reads! ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I used to put post-it and color tabs in the books I read for high school, but I never thought doing it for fun. Iβ€˜m going to try next time instead of live-reading! They will look SO MUCH well-loved on my bookshelf like this. πŸ’› Though, I do not think I’m adventurous enough to start and highlight directly in my books. πŸ™ˆ

    Can I ask? If you read digital books, do you annotate them too? I’m curious!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. See, I NEVER did that with the books I read for school. I wasn’t organized AT ALL. Thinking about it, I probably could’ve gotten so much more done and gotten better grades if I actually did it back then! DAMN IT.

      It depends on the book I’m reading, to be honest. Most of the time, I won’t annotate digital books but if it’s an eARC or a book I WANT notes on, I will annotate. I actually went as far as transferring my notes from my eARC of Leah On The Offbeat into the physical copy once it arrived so I had them documented in the physical book too. xD

      Liked by 1 person

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