Links vs. Footnotes?

Are footnotes too “academic” for documenting web articles? Most web links are usually intended as “for further information” markers, not “read this before proceeding” alerts, but authors rarely explain which is intended, and I’m as guilty as most. We know by context that some links, such as in article references or indexes, are meant to be followed if we want that content at all. If the sentence flow continues uninterrupted after a link, that link is probably “for further information”.

But I did note, in the writing of my “Evolution” article, how links can quickly clutter the article!

A 5-minute read in Wikipedia can quickly turn into an hour if we follow all the links — even though they often do prove to be interesting and informative.

I experimented with footnotes in a couple of my HTML Writing articles. They are harder to support in WordPress, but I think I can automate it with a little one-time custom “css” work. Footnotes may be less obtrusive than links. On the downside, they have an image of being overly academic and pedantic. This may put off some readers. We may simply not follow the footnote, or, like I do when reading books sometimes – we may read them later to mine for only the info we’re interested in!

An advantage to web footnotes is that the reader can decide whether this is worth further investigation, without leaving the page.

What do you think? Links, or footnotes, or both?

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