How to Combine Highlights On-the-Fly with Readwise

Have you ever found yourself highlighting an entire fluff-filled paragraph even though all you really wanted were the key sentences at the beginning and end?

In this guide, we're going to learn how to cut fluff from your highlights on-the-fly using the concatenate action tag in Readwise. The concatenate action tag is a special note taken while you read that combines multiple, non-adjacent highlights into a single annotation in Readwise. Your concatenated highlights will be both shorter and clearer, streamlining your future reviews.

(If you're not familiar with the concept of an action tag in Readwise, be sure to check out our primer: How to Tag Your Highlights While You Read.)

The Right Amount of Context

As you develop the habit of revisiting your highlights, you'll increasingly start to think in terms of your future self. As you highlight, for example, you might starting asking: Will my future self be able to understand what this passage is saying and why I highlighted it? To ensure your future self has enough context, you might then also take much longer highlights.

While this context is helpful, the problem is that longer highlights can easily get too long. Verbose highlights are painful to review, take too long to reread, and contain extraneous content obscuring the big idea you originally wanted to capture. As we like to say, when everything is highlighted, nothing is highlighted.

How to Use the Concatenate Action Tag

So how do you use the concatenate action tag to extract complete thoughts without the fluff?

Simply highlight the first string of text you want to combine and add the note .c1 ("c" for "concatenate"). Then, highlight the second string of text and add the note .c2. Upon importing into Readwise, these two highlights will be combined into a single annotation.

For example, you'll sometimes highlight an entire paragraph to preserve sufficient context for your future self when all that were needed were the first and last sentences. Rather than capture that extraneous content, use the concatenate action tag to highlight and note the first sentence .c1 and the last sentence .c2.


Some additional notes on the concatenate action tag:

  • The concatenate action tag works across all e-reading platforms supported by Readwise including Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, and Instapaper.

  • Every time you use the note .c1, you start a new series of concatenation.

  • You can continue concatenating indefinitely (i.e., .c3, .c4, ...), but you'll seldom need more than two.

  • We're still refining the presentation, but for now you can tell a passage was concatenated by the ellipsis (...) joining the non-adjacent strings of text.

  • If you want to leave a note in addition to the concatenate action tag, simply hit enter and type your note as you normally would.

Reading at a Higher Level

Not only do shorter, punchier highlights streamline your reviews, consistent use of the concatenate action tag will elevate your reading practice to the next level. Analyzing a text to decide what is and isn't worth saving is a form of actively engaging with what you're reading. And actively (rather than passively) reading is essential to getting more of what you want out of books — our mission here at Readwise.

If you haven't already, sign up for Readwise today and start transforming reading into meaningful action and lasting insight.

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