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glossary

J. Bridges in a letter to Thomas Hearne, May 25, 1723 (Oxford Historical Society: Publications, Vol. 50)

Definition:

An alphabetized list of specialized terms with their definitions.

In a report, proposal, or book, the glossary is generally located after the conclusion.

See also:

Etymology:

From the Latin, "foreign words"

Observations:

  • "Because you will have numerous readers with multiple levels of expertise, you must be concerned about your use of high-tech language (abbreviations, acronyms, and terms). Although some of your readers will understand your terminology, others won't. However, if you define your terms each time you use them, two problems will occur: you will insult high-tech readers, and you will delay your audience as they read your text. To avoid these pitfalls, use a glossary."
    (Sharon Gerson and Steven Gerson, Technical Writing: Process and Product, Pearson, 2006)


  • Suggestions for Preparing a Glossary
    "Use a glossary if your report contains more than five or six technical terms that may not be understood by all audience members. If fewer than five terms need defining, place them in the report introduction as working definitions, or use footnote definitions. If you use a separate glossary, announce its location: "(See the glossary at the end of this report)."

    "Follow these suggestions for preparing a glossary:
    • Define all terms unfamiliar to an intelligent layperson. When in doubt, overdefining is safer than underdefining.

    • Define all terms that have a special meaning in your report ("In this report, a small business is defined as . . .").

    • Define all terms by giving their class and distinguishing features, unless some terms need expanded definitions.

    • List all terms in alphabetical order. Highlight each term and use a colon to separate it from its definition.

    • On first use, place an asterisk in the text by each item defined in the glossary.

    • List your glossary and its first page number in the table of contents."
    (John M. Lannon, Technical Communication, Pearson, 2006)


  • Collaborative Glossaries in the Classroom
    "Instead of creating a glossary on your own, why not have the students create it as they encounter unfamiliar terms? A collaborative glossary can serve as a focal point for collaboration in a course. Each member of the class could be assigned to contribute a term, a definition, or comments on submitted definitions. Multiple definitions can be rated by you and by the students, with the highest-rated definitions accepted for the final class glossary.

    "When students are responsible for creating the definitions, they are much more likely to remember the word and the correct definition."
    (Jason Cole and Helen Foster, Using Moodle: Teaching With the Popular Open Source Course Management System, 2nd ed. O'Reilly Media, 2008)
Pronunciation: GLOS-se-ree
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