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. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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]."

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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))

  8. 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.

  9. 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… 🙂

  10. 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!

  11. 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?

  12. 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!


  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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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