Anyone who’s written a research paper is familiar with footnotes and endnotes as a method of attribution: numbers inserted into an essay that correspond with notes at the foot of the page (or end of the paper) that show the source of a particular quote or idea. But footnotes can also have creative flair—a method of breaking away from the narrative, adding background or supplementary information, a related anecdote, or commentary from the writer.
The author David Foster Wallace was famous for footnotes, used in both his novels and magazine articles. His piece for Esquire, The String Theory
(hailed by many as the best essay on tennis ever written!), is an excellent example. Here’s the opening paragraph, and the corresponding footnotes:
When Michael T. Joyce of Los Angeles serves, when he tosses the ball and his face rises to track it, it looks like he's smiling, but he's not really smiling–his face's circumoral muscles are straining with the rest of his body to reach the ball at the top of the toss's rise. He wants to hit it fully extended and slightly out in front of him–he wants to be able to hit emphatically down on the ball, to generate enough pace to avoid an ambitious return from his opponent. Right now, it's 1:00, Saturday, July 22, 1995, on the Stadium Court of the Stade Jarry tennis complex in Montreal. It's the first of the qualifying rounds for the Canadian Open, one of the major stops on the ATP's "hard-court circuit," which starts right after Wimbledon and climaxes at N.Y.C.'s U.S. Open. The tossed ball rises and seems for a second to hang, waiting, cooperating, as balls always seem to do for great players. The opponent, a Canadian college star named Dan Brakus, is a very good tennis player. Michael Joyce, on the other hand, is a world-class tennis player. In 1991, he was the top-ranked junior in the United States and a finalist at Junior Wimbledon  is now in his fourth year on the ATP Tour, and is as of this day the seventy-ninth-best tennis player on planet earth.
Comprising Washington, D.C., Montreal, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, New Haven, and Long Island, this is possibly the most grueling part of the yearly ATP Tour (as the erstwhile Association of Tennis Professionals Tour is now officially known), with three-digit temperatures and the cement courts shimmering like Moroccan horizons and everyone wearing a hat and even the spectators carrying sweat towels.
Joyce lost that final to Thomas Enqvist, now ranked in the ATP's top twenty and a potential superstar and in high profile attendance here in Montreal.
Now you try, dear writers. Write the beginning of an essay or memoir, using footnotes to add a little extra detail and flair. Check out these examples from Community Ambassadors Writing4Life