Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Acronym glossary?

I recently received this request:

Dear Mr. Insider:  I have a modest suggestion.  Although I'm pretty familiar with genealogy terminology, I was stumped for a while about the meaning of FOR in your "Rollout" legend.  Can I suggest that you provide an explanation of acronyms or other terminology utilized in the newsletter that might not be readily understandable to new subscribers?

Thanks for providing a valuable and interesting service to us all.

Jay Deverich
Irvine, CA

Dear Jay,

Thanks for the feedback. I recognize that if I’m not careful, my articles can be problematic for readers for several reasons:

My goal is to make all my articles accessible to all my readers. The editorial approach I have chosen to accomplish this goal is to

  • Never use an acronym in an article without spelling it out the first time it is used in the article. You may tire at the constant repetition, but most of you understand that new readers and new genealogists are joining us all the time. The exception will be in headlines and graphics, where the acronym may be used first and subsequently defined in the text.
  • Provide hyperlinks for concepts that may not be common knowledge, for the reasons listed above. For technical subjects, more likely than not the links will go to Wikipedia. Some of you have expressed concerns about my use of Wikipedia. For technical topics, you have the assurance that I have read the article and consider it a valid explanation. Where I haven’t liked the Wikipedia article, I have found and linked to a better explanation. The only change that I maybe should make is to link to the version of the Wikipedia article that I reviewed. Then if subsequent edits turn the article into something unacceptable to me, my links would still take you to the version I reviewed.
  • Provide supplemental explanations. If you read me long enough, you’ll experience a time where all or part of an article was introductory-level material you already knew. Again, new readers are joining all the time, necessitating a certain amount of review all the time. Explanations may involve basic information about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Such information is intended to make member-focused articles accessible to you, my many friends who are not members of my Church.

All that is good and proper in the abstract. The reality is that most of the time articles take far too long to compose. (I sometimes take an hour a paragraph! Can you believe that?) Consequently, I often write in a hurry and neglect to follow my own rules.

Jay, I regularly receive feedback like yours that I’ve missed an acronym, or I’m talking about something without giving the proper background.

I appreciate that feedback very much. Whenever I have time, I go back and fix the archived articles. Please keep those corrections coming.

Signed,

-- The Ancestry Insider

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