How I Take Notes While Reading / My annotation Guide

Back in 2018, I wrote a post talking about how I annotate my books. I looked back on that post and realized that it definitely needs to be updated because I no longer follow pretty much any of the things I said in that post.

Over the year, my annotations went from being super colorful, with different colored pens/highlighters, sticky tabs, and more. Now, the only things I use are a black pen and yellow sticky notes.

Before I get into the specifics of how I annotate currently, I want to mention that there is nothing wrong with the colorful, intricate system of annotating. It just personally doesn’t work for me. If you like that, then maybe my older system will work better for you!

Anyway, let’s get into the post!


* First up is the asterisk—also known as my favorite symbol! I use this symbol probably the most when annotating. Basically, I use it to mark the quotes that I really relate to. When a character says something that I really connect with, I want to make sure I remember it, so when I flip through the book, I can find these marks easily.

! Exclamation points are used to highlight important parts in the story. This relates mainly to big plot points, foreshadowing, cliffhangers, etc. Anything big that happens, I keep track of it with this!

[ ] / __ If there are any specific quotes I like in a story, I usually mark them by underlining them. If I really like the quote, I underline it and put an asterisk next to it! When there is character description, world building, etc., I mark it by putting it in brackets!

? Whenever I’m confused by any part in a story, I put a question mark next to it. Sometimes this could be a word that I don’t know the definition to (so I’ll go back & look it up), or I just can’t understand an entire section (this is more common when I’m reading older classics). Other times, I am just confused by why a character did something, so I’ll put a ton of question marks next to the passage.

:) / :( The last symbol I use is smiley faces. If a character does something cute, or there is a happy moment in the story, I put a smiley face. On the other hand, if there is a sad moment, I put a sad face! This mark is pretty self-explanatory.

Writing I write down any quick thoughts I have about a book in the margins, directly onto the page. Usually, this consists of one or two words like “aw” or “I love him.” I’ve even written things like “LOL” or “OMG.” Sometimes I have a bit more to say, but usually I use this as a quick way to capture some of my thoughts.

Post It Notes:

I use yellow post it notes to write down any longer thoughts that I have, if I can’t fit them in the margin of the page. Usually, these are the specific things I want to mention about a book in a review post.

When I go back to writing my review, I refer back mainly to these post-its!

What if I’m not reading physically?

The majority of my reading this year has consisted of e-books and audiobooks, so obviously writing in the book is not possible. When this is the case, I literally open up a blank note on my phone, write down the title & author of the book, and then make a bulleted list of things I want to write down.

Sometimes I separate this into a pro/con list, but usually it is just my rambling thoughts as I read.

Here are some examples of that:

That is pretty much it for my note-taking while reading! I would love to hear how you annotate (if you do), so please share any of your methods or systems down in the comments.

I hope you all enjoyed the post & I’ll see you again on Thursday :)

17 thoughts on “How I Take Notes While Reading / My annotation Guide

  1. I always adore how people make colourful notes but I just can’t so I make my notes using only blue and black pen and rarely I use post it and this works so wonderfully for me! Loved your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do much of the same!! I underline, draw little hearts over lines/sections that make me swoon, use exclamation marks for parts that I find particularly poignant, and sometimes use my stickies to write a longer thought that won’t fit in the margins. I wasn’t a huge annotater until late last year, and I’m still semi-inconsistent with it, but it’s genuinely such a lovely way to interact and connect with the text. I love what you shared here!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t really like writing into my books since I’m big at rereading books. While the idea of reading my notes much later on the pages of my books is appealing, I also know from experience that it’s bad for my reading flow. 😅
    But I like the idea of writing down notes for my ebooks (and as a help for a later review). Do you annotate immediately when reading or do you finish a chapter or page before you make notes? Doesn’t it interrupt your reading flow?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually find that it doesn’t interrupt my flow at all, it actually makes me have a deeper connection with the book because I’m actively analyzing it! It’s sort of like having a conversation with the text :) The only time I write things down after reading is when I take notes on my phone, but for the most part, I take notes while reading. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I think there are so many ways to go about doing it :)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such a great post! I love annotating my books and I love reading other peoples systems of annotation, it always gives me ideas on how to perk and optimise my own. Personally I sued pot-it flags and sticky notes in my system and write in-depth thoughts down in my on phone notes.

    Liked by 1 person

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