Is It OK to Highlight Textbooks? + What to Highlight in Textbooks?


Is it ok to highlight textbooks while studying? Well, everyone has different ways of studying and retaining information. While in college, I loved to take notes and so did a couple of my friends. Others rely on reading and highlighting the material they are studying.

Is It OK to Highlight Textbooks

The goal is to study and retain information and the means do not matter as long as it is effective. Highlighting textbooks is a common practice but there is some debate about whether it is okay to highlight textbooks or not. In this blog post, we will discuss the benefits of highlighting textbooks and address some common questions.

Is It OK to Highlight Textbooks?

Yes, it is perfectly okay to highlight textbooks. In fact, it is an effective study technique that has been used by students for decades and is recommended by experts in the education sector. It can help you to stay focused and engaged while reading, which can improve your overall comprehension of the material.

Highlighting textbooks is a common practice that has been around for decades. It is a method of marking important passages in a textbook, making it easier to review and study later. In the next section, I have discussed the benefits of highlighting textbooks.

What are the benefits of highlighting my textbook?

There are a plethora of benefits you can get when you highlight your textbook as you study. The following are some of the benefits you enjoy from highlighting your textbook while you study:

Better comprehension of the material

The idea behind highlighting is to identify the key concepts and information in your textbook. What this does is it makes it easier to understand and remember the material. Sadly, many students do not enjoy this benefit as they try to use highlighters to do the work of their brains.

The truth is highlighting your textbook is only intended to help you identify the key points in the material so that when you come back to it, you wouldn’t bore yourself trying to read everything in the material but focus on the important details.

That way, you are able to focus on the things that matter thereby improving your comprehension of the material.

Enhanced Organization and Navigation

By highlighting your textbooks, you can create a visual map of the content. This makes it easier for you to navigate and review the key points of the material later.

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If you do a lot of studying in college (which is technically what everyone in college does), you’d understand that there’s a need to maximize time.

Instead of going over and over the entire textbook, when you highlight the important concepts and details in the textbook, you’d be able to review it later without stress and fuss.

Active, Productive Reading

When you highlight the right way, you would read or study productively. Highlighting requires you to actively engage with the material.

As I have always stated, a highlighter pen does not work in place of your brain. You’d need to study the material to identify the important details before highlighting them. When you’re studying your books that way, your reading would be active and productive. This will improve your overall reading comprehension and retention.

Never for once think that once you have highlighted something it has stuck to your brain.

Saves Time

College students engage in a lot of activities from sports to fraternities and sororities, and much more. It is often important for them to be able to manage their time properly. One of the benefits of highlighting your textbooks when studying is that it helps you save time when next you review the material.

Instead of reading through the entire textbook on your next review, you would be able to quickly locate the most important parts of the text if you highlighted them before.

What Should I Highlight in My Textbook?

What should I highlight in my textbook

There is no specific rule for what you should highlight in your textbook. However, I can recommend some things you should highlight in your textbook. They include:

1. Key Concepts

Look for the main ideas or key concepts that the author emphasizes. When you highlight the key concepts in your textbook, it helps you to understand the overall structure and organization of the book. You’d be able to fall back to them any time you want to review and save time when you study.

2. Definitions

Definitions are important for understanding the content of the piece you’re studying. You should highlight definitions and technical terms in the body of your textbook as this will help you quickly reference them when you study or review your textbook.

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3. Examples

Textbooks have supporting examples that provide further explanations of concepts and theories. These examples can help you apply what you are studying to real-world situations and I have found out that if I can connect a concept to a real-world situation, I have grasped the understanding of the concept.

4. Summaries

Highlight any summary sections that the author provides, as these often provide a condensed version of the key points in a chapter or section.

5. Your own insights

If you find that certain sections of the book particularly resonate with you or you have personal connections to the material, consider highlighting those sections to help you remember your own insights and reactions to the material.

Remember that highlighting should be used as a tool to help you learn and retain information, so try not to go overboard with it. Choose the most important information to highlight, and use other methods like note-taking and active reading to engage with the material in a more meaningful way.

What Color Code is Appropriate for Highlighting Textbooks?

When it comes to highlighting textbooks, there is no set rule for which highlighter color pens must be used. However, there are certain color codes that can be used. The table below provides a breakdown of the colors and functions that can be used:

Color Purpose
Yellow This is the most popular color for highlighting, as it is easy to read and does not obscure the text.
Blue Blue is a good color for highlighting definitions and important terms.
Green Green can be used to highlight examples or to show contrasting ideas.
Pink Pink can be used to highlight key arguments or to indicate important quotes.
Orange You can use orange to highlight important points that resonate with you

Can I highlight every textbook?

While highlighting can be a useful study technique, it may not be appropriate for every textbook. For example, if you are reading a library book, you may not be allowed to mark it in any way.

Similarly, if you are studying a book that you plan to sell or return, you may not want to highlight it. In these cases, you may want to consider taking notes or using sticky tabs to mark important information.


I have answered a couple of frequently asked questions to provide more insight into the subject matter.

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Should I highlight my college textbook?

Yes, highlighting your college textbook can be a useful study technique. However, it is important to be selective about what you highlight, as over-highlighting can be counterproductive.

You should also note that highlighting is not equivalent to memory retention. Studying is what makes you retain information and highlighting only helps you to focus on the right information to retain.

Is it good to highlight reading books?

It is generally not recommended to highlight reading books, as they are meant to be enjoyed and experienced, rather than studied. If you do decide to highlight a reading book, it is best to be selective and only highlight the most important passages.

Is it ok to highlight library books?

No, it is not appropriate to highlight library books. Library books are communal property and should be treated with respect. Other people may not like your highlighting style which will make it difficult for them to use the book after you.

When in the library, studying with library books, take notes instead of highlighting.

How do you write in a textbook without ruining it?

If you want to write in a textbook without ruining it, you can use a pencil or erasable pen. You can also use sticky notes or tabs to mark important information. I personally prefer using sticky notes.


Highlighting textbooks can be a useful study technique that can enhance comprehension, improve organization, and save time. However, it is important to be selective about what you highlight and to avoid marking library books or books that would be shared.

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