1

If you look at the footnotes in this example, you'll see one larger (normal for my document) vertical space between two footnotes. Then a slightly smaller vertical space between the second and third footnotes, followed by a complete lack of vertical space between the last two footnotes.

I suspect it's due to the last two footnotes being inside my custom myverse environment, but I don't understand the inner workings of (XeLa)Tex enough to understand what variable I'm tickling...

Getting rid of the block that's labeled as "removes footnote indentation" does remove the weird spacing issues, but then my footnotes aren't formatted properly: the annoying indent (particularly bad looking with the initial chapter footnote) and too little space between multiple footnotes. Perhaps there's a better way to remove the footnote indentation than this magic I picked up from somewhere...

Notes: Out of 15 chapters, this is the first time I've run across this problem, but most of the time I only have, at most, 2 footnotes per page. The real book uses a different font and a fancier chapter title, but I tried to cut the MWE down as much as possible and still re-create the spacing problem. Apologies if it's still rather long.

Bad footnote spacing

MWE

% !TEX TS-program = xelatex 
% !TEX encoding = UTF-8
% this allows us to use real characters like æ instead of macros like \ae

\documentclass[letterpaper,titlepage,twoside,openright,10pt]{book}
\usepackage[paperwidth=9in,paperheight=6in]{geometry}

%Extra customizations for XeLateX
\usepackage{xltxtra}
    %loads fontspec, realscripts, metalogo

\usepackage[shortcuts]{extdash}
%   \-/ allows hyphenation of words and after the explicit hyphen
%   \=/ allows hyphenation of the words, but not after the explicit hyphen

%XeLateX can't use babel, so use polyglossia instead
%(primarily to get proper hyphenation in the other languages)
\usepackage{polyglossia}
\setdefaultlanguage[variant=american]{english}
\setotherlanguages{icelandic,danish,norsk,swedish}

%Use correct quotation style based on language (must use \enquote{})
\usepackage[autostyle]{csquotes}
\DeclareQuoteStyle{english}{“}{”}{‘}{’}%modern
\DeclareQuoteStyle{islenzk}{„}{“}{‚}{‘}%modern and traditional
\DeclareQuoteAlias{islenzk}{icelandic}

%Parallel columns for facing translations
\usepackage{paracol} 
\footnotelayout{p} %full page footnotes
\setlength{\columnsep}{30 pt} %more space between the columns

%Narrow columns often results in words sticking out of the column 
%Settings to prevent overfull hbox causing this
\pretolerance=100       %default=100
\tolerance=400      %default=200
\hbadness=399       %best set at tolerance-1
\setlength{\emergencystretch}{0.5em}    %default=0

%Chapter footnotes are un-numbered
\makeatletter
\def\chfootnote{\gdef\@thefnmark{}\@footnotetext}
\makeatother

\newcommand{\Arnason}{
    Translated from \textit{Íslenzkar Þjóðsögur og Æfintýri}, Jón Árnason;
    Leipzig, 1864. 
}

%Remove the indent for footnotes
\makeatletter
\renewcommand{\@makefntext}[1]{%
  \setlength{\parindent}{0pt}%
  \begin{list}{}{\setlength{\labelwidth}{0.5em}%
    \setlength{\leftmargin}{\labelwidth}%
    \setlength{\labelsep}{3pt}%
    \setlength{\itemsep}{0pt}%
    \setlength{\parsep}{0pt}%
    \setlength{\topsep}{0pt}%
    \footnotesize}%
    \item[\@makefnmark\hfil]#1%
  \end{list}%
}
\makeatother

%Custom environment for typsetting short verses
\usepackage{environ}
\usepackage[vskip=0em,indentfirst=false]{quoting}
\NewEnviron{myverse}{%
    \begin{quoting}
        \emph{\BODY}
    \end{quoting}
}


\begin{document}

\chapter[The Story of Koltrinu]{The Story of Koltrinu\\Koltrýnu Saga}

\begin{paracol}{2}

\chfootnote{\Arnason
    Told by Sveinbjörn Guðmundsson from Móar, Iceland.
}

\switchcolumn[0]*
    Ignore this page - look at the next page\pagebreak

\switchcolumn
\begin{icelandic}
    Ignore this page - look at the next page\pagebreak
\unskip
\end{icelandic}

\switchcolumn*
    After this, Helga dresses herself in the rags of a beggar\-/woman and
    smears ash all over herself until she no longer appears human. Prepared in
    this way, she takes a staff and sets off from the cave. When she had
    traveled a good distance she came across the guests: trolls and all kinds
    of monsters.\footnote{Literally, \emph{villains.}} It was a
    witch\-/ride,\footnote{Literally, a \emph{magic wand ride} usually
    described as flying on a broomstick or riding on wolves.} with some of
    them on horse legs and others flying on horse skulls. Among them was the
    bridegroom; he asks the woman:

\switchcolumn
\begin{icelandic}
    Eftir þetta fer Helga í förukerlingar flíkur, makar sig alla í framan með
    öskukolum svo að á henni verður engin mannsmynd. Að því búnu tekur hún staf
    í hönd og leggur af stað burt úr hellinum. Þegar hún er komin nokkuð
    töluvert í burt þá fer hún að mæta boðsfólkinu, þussum og allra handa
    óaldarlýð; reið það á gandreið, sumir hrossleggjum og sumir hrosshausum.
    Þar á meðal var sjálfur brúðguminn. Hann spyr kerlingu:
\unskip
\end{icelandic}

\switchcolumn*
    \begin{myverse}
        Have you come from my cave of stone,\\
        Koltrinu, you filthy old crone?\footnote{Literally, 
        \emph{Are you coming from my cave; you coal\-/snout?}}
    \end{myverse}

\switchcolumn
\begin{icelandic}
    \begin{myverse}
        Kemur þú frá helli mín,\\
        koltrýnan þín?
    \end{myverse}
\unskip
\end{icelandic}

\switchcolumn*
    She answers:

\switchcolumn
\begin{icelandic}
    Hún svarar:
\unskip
\end{icelandic}

\switchcolumn*
    \begin{myverse}
        Yes, I saw your home.\\
        The mugs were full of mead,\\
        The bride was on the bench.\footnote{Note: this verse follows
        the older convention of alliteration rather than end\-/rhyme.}
    \end{myverse}

\switchcolumn
\begin{icelandic}
    \begin{myverse}
        Já, kom ég til þín.\\
        Skenkt var á skálar,\\
        brúður sat á bekk.
    \end{myverse}
\unskip
\end{icelandic}

\switchcolumn*
    He cries out: \enquote{Come on! Let's ride as fast as we can.}

\switchcolumn
\begin{icelandic}
    Þá segir hann: \enquote{Kukk, kukk, og ríðum við sem harðast.} 
\unskip
\end{icelandic}

\end{paracol}

\end{document}
3

The problem as you already realised is that you are defining the format of the footnote text with a list. As verse is a list too you get it this case a second level list which has different settings (and inherit settings from the outside list). Try this definition instead

\makeatletter
\footnotesep=10pt %or some other value
\renewcommand{\@makefntext}[1]{%
   \leftskip=0.5em \makebox[0pt][r]{\makebox[0.5em][l]{\@makefnmark}}#1}
\makeatother

enter image description here

0

I found a better answer to my question that doesn't require modifying the footnote definition (I actually prefer the custom footnote I was using). As Ulrike pointed out, the problem is having both the footnote and the verse environment defined in terms of lists. The solution is to use the verse environment (with some fiddling to remove the excessive whitespace above and below the verse).

Specifically, using this to define a verse:

\usepackage{verse}
\newcommand\vfix{-10pt}
\usepackage{environ}
\NewEnviron{myverse}{%
    \vspace{\vfix}
    \begin{verse}
        \itshape
        \BODY%
    \end{verse}
    \vspace{\vfix}
}

Does the trick. Good footnote spacing

Here's the complete MWE with the fix:

% !TEX TS-program = xelatex 
% !TEX encoding = UTF-8
% this allows us to use real characters like æ instead of macros like \ae

\documentclass[letterpaper,titlepage,twoside,openright,10pt]{book}
\usepackage[paperwidth=9in,paperheight=6in]{geometry}

%Extra customizations for XeLateX
\usepackage{xltxtra}
    %loads fontspec, realscripts, metalogo

\usepackage[shortcuts]{extdash}
%   \-/ allows hyphenation of words and after the explicit hyphen
%   \=/ allows hyphenation of the words, but not after the explicit hyphen

%XeLateX can't use babel, so use polyglossia instead
%(primarily to get proper hyphenation in the other languages)
\usepackage{polyglossia}
\setdefaultlanguage[variant=american]{english}
\setotherlanguages{icelandic,danish,norsk,swedish}

%Use correct quotation style based on language (must use \enquote{})
\usepackage[autostyle]{csquotes}
\DeclareQuoteStyle{english}{“}{”}{‘}{’}%modern
\DeclareQuoteStyle{islenzk}{„}{“}{‚}{‘}%modern and traditional
\DeclareQuoteAlias{islenzk}{icelandic}

%Parallel columns for facing translations
\usepackage{paracol} 
\footnotelayout{p} %full page footnotes
\setlength{\columnsep}{30 pt} %more space between the columns

%Narrow columns often results in words sticking out of the column 
%Settings to prevent overfull hbox causing this
\pretolerance=100       %default=100
\tolerance=400      %default=200
\hbadness=399       %best set at tolerance-1
\setlength{\emergencystretch}{0.5em}    %default=0

%Chapter footnotes are un-numbered
\makeatletter
\def\chfootnote{\gdef\@thefnmark{}\@footnotetext}
\makeatother

\newcommand{\Arnason}{
    Translated from \textit{Íslenzkar Þjóðsögur og Æfintýri}, Jón Árnason;
    Leipzig, 1864. 
}

%Remove the indent for footnotes
\makeatletter
\renewcommand{\@makefntext}[1]{%
  \setlength{\parindent}{0pt}%
  \begin{list}{}{\setlength{\labelwidth}{0.5em}%
   \setlength{\leftmargin}{\labelwidth}%
   \setlength{\labelsep}{3pt}%
   \setlength{\itemsep}{0pt}%
   \setlength{\parsep}{0pt}%
   \setlength{\topsep}{0pt}%
   \footnotesize}%
   \item[\@makefnmark\hfil]#1%
  \end{list}%
}
\makeatother
%\makeatletter
%\footnotesep=0pt %or some other value
%\renewcommand{\@makefntext}[1]{%
   %\makebox[0pt][r]{\makebox[0.5em][l]{\footnotesize\@makefnmark}}\footnotesize #1}
%   \framebox[0.5em][r]{\framebox[0.5em][l]{\@makefnmark}}#1}
%\makeatother

%Custom environment for typsetting short verses
\usepackage{verse}
\newcommand\vfix{-10pt}
\usepackage{environ}
\NewEnviron{myverse}{%
    \vspace{\vfix}
    \begin{verse}
        \itshape
        \BODY%
    \end{verse}
    \vspace{\vfix}
}


\begin{document}

\chapter[The Story of Koltrinu]{The Story of Koltrinu\\Koltrýnu Saga}

\begin{paracol}{2}

\chfootnote{\Arnason
    Told by Sveinbjörn Guðmundsson from Móar, Iceland.
}

\switchcolumn[0]*
    Ignore this page - look at the next page\pagebreak

\switchcolumn
\begin{icelandic}
    Ignore this page - look at the next page\pagebreak
\unskip
\end{icelandic}

\switchcolumn*
    After this, Helga dresses herself in the rags of a beggar\-/woman and
    smears ash all over herself until she no longer appears human. Prepared in
    this way, she takes a staff and sets off from the cave. When she had
    traveled a good distance she came across the guests: trolls and all kinds
    of monsters.\footnote{Literally, \emph{villains.}} It was a
    witch\-/ride,\footnote{Literally, a \emph{magic wand ride} usually
    described as flying on a broomstick or riding on wolves.} with some of
    them on horse legs and others flying on horse skulls. Among them was the
    bridegroom; he asks the woman:

\switchcolumn
\begin{icelandic}
    Eftir þetta fer Helga í förukerlingar flíkur, makar sig alla í framan með
    öskukolum svo að á henni verður engin mannsmynd. Að því búnu tekur hún staf
    í hönd og leggur af stað burt úr hellinum. Þegar hún er komin nokkuð
    töluvert í burt þá fer hún að mæta boðsfólkinu, þussum og allra handa
    óaldarlýð; reið það á gandreið, sumir hrossleggjum og sumir hrosshausum.
    Þar á meðal var sjálfur brúðguminn. Hann spyr kerlingu:
\unskip
\end{icelandic}

\switchcolumn*
    \begin{myverse}
        Have you come from my cave of stone,\\
        Koltrinu, you filthy old crone?\footnote{Literally, 
    \emph{Are you coming from my cave; you coal\-/snout?}}
    \end{myverse}

\switchcolumn
\begin{icelandic}
    \begin{myverse}
        Kemur þú frá helli mín,\\
        koltrýnan þín?
    \end{myverse}
\unskip
\end{icelandic}

\switchcolumn*
    She answers:

\switchcolumn
\begin{icelandic}
    Hún svarar:
\unskip
\end{icelandic}

\switchcolumn*
    \begin{myverse}
        Yes, I saw your home.\\
        The mugs were full of mead,\\
        The bride was on the bench.\footnote{Note: this verse follows
        the older convention of alliteration rather than end\-/rhyme.}
    \end{myverse}

\switchcolumn
\begin{icelandic}
    \begin{myverse}
        Já, kom ég til þín.\\
        Skenkt var á skálar,\\
        brúður sat á bekk.
    \end{myverse}
\unskip
\end{icelandic}

\switchcolumn*
    He cries out: \enquote{Come on! Let's ride as fast as we can.}

\switchcolumn
\begin{icelandic}
    Þá segir hann: \enquote{Kukk, kukk, og ríðum við sem harðast.} 
\unskip
\end{icelandic}

\end{paracol}

\end{document}

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