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


    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.

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