Chris Schwarz's Blog

Poll: Should we Flag Glossary Terms in Each Issue?

Reader David Raeside writes: As always, I have found the Winter 2008 issue of Woodworking Magazine to be a fine piece of work.

One of the features of the magazine that I particularly enjoy is the Glossary. I have a suggestion for improving the connection of the Glossary with the texts of the articles Ã?­ “flagging.” For example, the words “expressed joints” in the “Make Clean Through-mortises” article could be in italics to alert the reader that more on expressed joints is contained in the Glossary.

We discussed this at some length during a staff meeting. It was surprisingly heated. I have a definite opinion on the matter, but I can see both sides of the argument.

Those for the flagging said that it could help the beginning reader with some of the lexicon and encourage intermediate readers to visit the “Glossary” page for deeper information.

Those against the flagging said that it would clutter up what is a clean magazine design with unnecessary “pseudo-information.”

We decided in this instance to let the readers decide. Vote in our poll below before midnight on March 6 to let us know how you feel about this issue.

Thanks in advance,

, Christopher Schwarz

35 thoughts on “Poll: Should we Flag Glossary Terms in Each Issue?

  1. Steve

    Since you’re already using duotone in the body of the magazine, highlighting a word using the same sepia-colored ink you’re using wouldn’t add to the printing cost. Don’t use italics, though. Print the word in a demibold sans serif font with roughly the same x-height ratio as the body font (something like the font used in the topic headers in the Letters section), and it will be noticeable without being obtrusive.

  2. Mattias in Durham, NC

    I am cautiously for, but I agree it would be great to see an example. One practical problem with "highlighting" words is how do you pick what to highlight? The glossary could grow huge, and you might have to start reprinting the same terms over and over in the glossary, or trust that all your readership will have read the prior issues. We all know your readership has issues, but the question is how many?

    How about having a "glossary" box at the end of the article for words related to that article where you suspect folks will want info? Then you don’t need to highlight it inline – people will get used to looking for a word they don’t recognize in that box.

    The point of the glossary is to talk about things that are important without slowing the flow? But you can’t highlight too much without making it distracting. What about having an "online companion glossary code" that is printed at the end of the article (which would be entered at the top of this homepage), that leads to a glossary with _all_ the terms applicable to that article? That could be including repeats from prior issues. How about adding the glossary content to wikipedia or wiktionary?

    Another thing, maybe related: Hyperlinks in print. I think it looks kind of odd to make something printed look like a web page. I can’t click on it in the magazine, so why make it look like a link?

    Another thing, probably not related: I was wondering why the author’s name is printed at the end, not the beginning? To me, that’s actually become a fun sport. I read the article without looking ahead and try to guess who is the author.

  3. dougdarter

    Absolutely not. Your magazine is my favorite and I would hate to see a serious educational tool junked up with gimmicks.

  4. Rob Kepka

    In any other magazine I would be in favor of some form of flagging, or better, a call-out or sidebar. But Woodworking Magazine, with its classic literary styling is great just the way it is.

    I am in favor of moving the glossary to the front, although placement following the articles is traditional. No matter where the glossary is placed, I would like to see a reference back to the article. This would allow the reader a context for the term as it relates to a woodworking project. There are many times when I read a relatively abstract definition and wish a real-world example were available to illustrate it’s appropriate use or enhance my understanding or visualization.

  5. Bob Owen

    I’m with Bob Easton and LizP – except for disagreeing on location of the glossary. There’s enough clutter in the front of a magazine what with Tables of Contents, author bios, the owner/publisher stuff, etc.

    Keep the glossary and put it near the back – inside back cover? Anyway in the last page or so, however that can be done without interrupting the article flow. I believe that is in fact the traditional location, anyway.

    My 2¢ worth. Keep up the good work!

  6. Mike

    I’m not clear ….

    Are you suggesting :

    1) Flag all words (terms) in the glossary with a font change or footnote?
    2) Instead of flagging – define the word in the text with no glossary at the back?
    3) Just have a glossary for the terms specific to the issue, no flagging?

    Is using a footnote "oldschool"?

    I like the idea of keeping it to a small number of terms and not let it get out of hand. As many of the articles are very educational for me (non-professional) I would suggest the glossary be more of an outline of the magazine and some people have suggested it be in the front.
    If I may make a bold suggestion (to my favorite mag) … Introduce each article "briefly" with terms used in the article and definitions and possibly history of the word e.g. "Lap Joints" were first used in 2000B.C. blah blah blah and we are featuring in this issue the techniques used vs. a tennon.
    I think a modified glossary will help focus the article around a tool or technique and you can leave stuff out like "nails – a small metal spike used to etc. "

    I make this suggestion as I won’t rip out the glossary and use it as a reference pile. So after I have read the issue it’s no longer useful outside of the issue.

    For what’s left of my mental capacity … If I know WHY I’m reading about a technique/tool, and how it was applied I better able to remember the article/issue vs. a definition of a word used in an article at the back of the issue.

    But that’s just my 1cent. (The government took my other penny)

  7. Brian T.

    I vote in favor or alerting readers to the availability of glossary definitions. I’ll let the editors decide if italics, underline or some other method is best.

    The concern voiced by some that this resembles the irritating misuse of links on the Internet is misplaced. As described, this would be a proper use of the concept w/o ads etc. so, no problem there.

    We are now used to getting a lot of information presented to us and are very capable of filtering quickly so, I don’t see how this small, innocuous type face change in the middle of the paragraph would be that difficult to my understanding of the information presented. I don’t agree with the hitting a knot with a hand plane metaphor.

    Finally, let’s be realistic. With all due respect to authors and editors (it’s a great publication), these are magazine articles presenting factual and how-to information. Not Shakespearean poetry. Form needs to follow function. The proposed concept is to present the reader with added information which is the very purpose of publication.

  8. John Gray

    You know I would like to see the glossary page gone and replace with more "project" like stuff. If someone wants to know what a term means they can just Google it. My 2 cents.

  9. eric collins

    If it’s unobtrusive (like the italics) then ok, I guess. I don’t want to see it footnoted, etc. I am compelled to follow the footnote, asterisk, cross or whatever and it interrupts my reading.

    What about just moving the glossary to the front? Then the natural order of perusal would be to see the glossary first, then see it reinforced when I read the article. Heck, I might even actually learn the vocabulary term.

    Letters could move to the end or stop wasting valuable magazine space and move letters to the web. If you can’t use the web, then you are probably not going to say anything I care about anyway. I’m willing to take that chance.

  10. Bill

    No.

    Woodworking for dummies? Seems very much like spoon-feeding. What other publication has felt the necessity or succumbed to the suggestion to somehow highlight every term that some reader somewhere might not know or understand right away?

    I have always been of the practice that if I see a term in anything I’m reading, I will either make the effort to find out what it means or decide I don’t care enough to make that effort. Today, with so many dictionaries, handbooks and, uh, this here little thing called the Internet – and of course, the Glossary at the back of every issue, it’s not like it’s much of a chore to find out what a "haunched mortise" is.

  11. Josh Hopps

    I’m surprised that so many would find a hyperlink to be a distraction. It seems to me that the point of offering a computer file is not to replicate the magazine, so why not make the information as accessible as possible? The comments are also confusing as there are folks arguing that it is important to educate new woodworkers, so in spite of the new format, you should do it the old fashioned way with a dictionary in your lap. Unlike the print version, you have very little control of how the magazine appears in digital format: on a laptop screen, a large monitor, or an iPhone, that you may as well relinquish control. The folks who will actually read the magazine in this format are not likely to be perturbed by a hyperlink. When the class of 2030 has all of their textbooks on a Kindle-type device, do you think they’ll have a hard copy of a dictionary? No, they’ll have all ten volumes of the OED in a very small computer file, probably searchable by voice. "define Luddite" 🙂 Embrace the ability of new formats to provide both broad and deep information.

  12. Jeremy Kriewaldt

    Another possibility is to use footnotes or endnotes with the definition in the note. But I think Hank’s suggestion of a listing of the words used in the article that are defined in the glossary is good. Why not make it a text box somewhere in the layout for an article that won’t distract from reading the article but which will allow a reader quickly to see whether it is worth flipping to the glossary to look for a work s/he has not understood

  13. Eric Myers

    Keep the text easy to read. I’ll only look up a word in the glossary once, but may read an article several times after that.

    Maybe you could just put the glossary at the front of the magazine, so people will read it first and then know what you are saying when they get to the article …. 😉

  14. Ron Hock

    How about a PWW online woodworking glossary? Someone who finds a reference they don’t understand could check the website for a definition. It would be a great standalone resource, too, that would expand your online presence. It could become the end-all reference for all things woodworking with links to in-depth instructional articles, how-to videos, etc. It could even be editable by… us!

    Sing it with me now: "Hoo-ray for Wiki-wood…"

  15. Chris F

    I voted no. As others have indicated, it would interrupt the flow of the text for everyone, while only helping those that have never before seen the term. Part of the appeal of WWM is the cleanliness of the graphic design. Please keep it that way.

    Most people should discover the glossary fairly quickly, and if they so desire can then read it first in the next issue.

    I like the idea of including "back references" (or whatever the proper term is) in the glossary definitions indicating where in the magazine the terms are used.

  16. Gordon Conrad

    Agree with Hank’s comment above. As a retired engineer, terminology has always beeen important to me. As a novice woodworker terminology is still important especially if one wants to discuss woodworking intelligently. Also think Hank’s suggestion would be not too intrusive for those reading WWM. Might want to try it and then conduct a survey among different woodworking skill levels.
    R/ Gordon

  17. Richard Dawson

    Mike Holden nailed it. If reading is a learning experience, then using the dictionary or glossary is a part of learning.

    There should be no need for debate on this.

  18. Hank Knight

    I’m with Bob Easton and LizP; I think random italics in an article are terribly distracting. I do, however, like the glossary, and I think it is helpful. What about a footnote at the end of each article that says something like: "Definitions of the following terms used in this article can be found in the Glossary beginning on page __ of this issue: [list terms]."

  19. David

    There is a glossary? I guess that since I managed to miss the glossary in the first place, flagging the text would not have helped me. Although, now that I am informed, it might be a useful feature. I would probably limit it to the first time a phrase is used to help limit the clutter.

  20. Terryr

    Aren’t glossaries traditionally near the end of a publication? My vote is to leave things as they are. When my interest in woodworking was in its infancy, I read everything voraciously, cover to cover. I don’t think it would take more than one issue for someone to find the glossary.
    To add another facet, what about footnotes?

  21. LizPf

    Add me to the No vote.

    First, as Bob Easton said, reading a highlighted word/phrase is like hitting a hard knot with a smoothing plane* … everyone who reads it has a mental hiccup.

    Second, I’m a big fan of Edward Tufte’s work on graphic design. Within reason, the less ink on a page, the cleaner the design, the more readable it is. Cluttering up an article with italics or underlines or asterisks makes for a messy looking page. The magazine looks great already, don’t mess it up.

    Third, I do agree that the Glossary should be in a place where it is hard to miss. It should be moved to the front matter. I also wouldn’t be opposed to article/page references in the glossary. For example, "carcase dovetail" may be a glossary term, and the definition tells you that the carcase dovetail is used in the writing table on page 28.

    * the final plane used on wood before finishing — and in this case, you’ll notice the effect of even fairly subtle highlighting.

  22. Mike Holden

    I am against it for the simple reason that glossaries, like dictionaries, have been around for centuries. When one learns to read, one is introduced to the use of these tools as an aid to understanding the written word. One should expect to make use of these tools as a matter of course.
    But then, I am an anomaly. Upon winning the lottery, my first purchase would be the 20+ volume of the Oxford English Dictionary, and I (somewhat) judge books based on how many times I have to use the dictionary whilst reading. (Chris, you tend to score high on this meter (grin))

  23. Bob Easton

    My vote was ‘no.’ There are two reasons.

    First, it breaks the flow of reading, like hitting a hard knot with a dull #4 smoother. And it does that for everyone, whether someone already familiar with the term or not. Here, I’m with CatX.

    Second, what was once a useful practice on the web, distinctive linking for useful glossaries, has now been heavily abused by various advertising techniques. It has become more of an annoyance than an aid and causes the "#%&*!" neuron to fire too often.

    Putting the technique into print will not only cause the break noted in the first objection, but might also fire off that "annoying advertisement" neuron and take the reader down another distracting path.

    BTW, I’m with others who sincerely appreciate the glossary and actually read it as if it were an article. Never know what I might learn about something I think I know.

  24. Rob Cameron

    If only there was some way to create a relationship between the word and its definition…a "link" if you will. And then if these "links" were somehow displayed differently (underlined, perhaps). These "linked" words and pages would create a virtual "network" of information! 😉

    Just distribute the next issue on a Kindle! The cover price would have to go up a bit to cover the difference… 🙂

  25. Bikerdad

    I was just thinking the same thing as CatX, simply remind folks in the footnotes that there’s a glossary.

    At first I thought that the hyperlinking of words on the web was cool, now it’s just annoying because it’s frequently than "pseudo-information", its blasted advertising!

  26. CatX

    I don’t understand what’s so difficult about "Hm, a term I don’t recognize — I’ll check the glossary". If anything, perhaps a note that there -is- a glossary?

  27. Christopher Schwarz

    David above suggested italics in his letter. If we did this I would probably would recommend something else, perhaps a light gray underline or something on the first reference of the word.

    The voting results are *very* interesting!

    Thanks all!

    Chris

  28. Paul Kierstead

    I actually like to browse the glossary, and then go back and figure out which article it applied to. I not only say no flagging, I say encourage people to browse the glossary, not flip back and forth and reduce the readability of the main text. If we wanted hyperlinking….

    Speaking of which, no reason not to make the word in the PDF clickable, even if it isn’t highlighted in anyway.

  29. Luke Townsley

    I assume this would just highlight the first mention in each article. Any more would seem to clutter things up.

    Aside from that, I am not sure how much it would help. If someone is familiar with the magazine, they would likely already know a lot of the terms.

    If they were not familiar with the magazine, they might not know why the word was in italics. I do suspect there is a fairly large group somewhere in the middle though.

    Also, I am not a grammar expert, but it seems to be a non-standard use of italics. On the other hand, bold print it a bit distracting unless perhaps it is printed in a lighter font or color.

  30. Narayan

    You could easily do this in your electronic editions without interrupting what you’re already doing in the printed version. And yeah, I think it’s wise to keep the flow of an article intact in print.

  31. Loogie

    I’m in favor of the flagging, but not hard over about it. I’m by no means a beginner but there have been times when I have read an article and wondered what the definition was for a particular term only to "discover" it later when I read the glossary. I tend to read each issue front to back. If you opt not to flag, then I think it would be beneficial to move to glossary closer to the front so that it becomes more of a primer. I’m sure that suggestion will draw just as much heat in the debate.

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