Word of the week — marginalia

Okay. I know. Abalook doesn’t have a “Word of the Week”. Well it didn’t up until now, and it probably won’t have any more after this, but then it might—if I come across any more great words for a ‘word of the week’.

So here I am, right now (2.01 p.m. Saturday, 22nd September) listening to episode 279 of Windows Weekly, which is one of my favourite TWiT podcasts, and Leo Laporte mentions ‘marginalia’. He is holding up Paul Thorrott’s latest book “Windows 8 Secrets” and telling us it has great marginalia.

Now for those that are not regular readers I will just point out that I have done a reasonable amount of ad-hoc training in documentation and writing over the years including three different page layout and design courses, Writing for the Reader (a seven week course for people involved in technical documentation), and I was a Microsoft CP (Certified Professional) in Word for a number of years back in the days of Office 95.

MarginaliaEven so, I had never come across the term ‘marginalia’.

So. What is ‘marginalia’?

Now that I know what it means I can tell you that I have often done this. I think all technical writers probably have, without knowing it had a name—although probably some of them did.

Marginalia is when you put comments, hint, tips, or other notations in the margin of a document or book.

This is very easy to do in Word. There are a number of ways of doing it but the method I prefer is to insert a text box, anchor the text box to the paragraph that the marginalia is linked to (see, I know the right word to use now), and then put the marginalia in the text box; which—despite the name—can contain more than just text (including tables and images).

So, now—for those that did not already know—you now know the meaning of ‘marginalia’.