Skip to content

Smart Glossaries

Friday I went to the Groucho where I met Joe and we discussed the glossary opportunities, as I started with Mark and Chris earlier in the week. Here are my notes as developed over Easter Weekend:

Problems Addressed

One of the issues with writing something within your field is that, as an author, you are likely to have written something about what you are about to write and it can easily feel like you are duplication efforts and this can be a real source of frustration, something I first noticed when working with Doug. It would be worthwhile to define something once, in a glossary, and then have this available for reuse later. 

Another issue that as a reader, a document in a different field than your own where terms may be used that you are not used to or used in ways you are not used to. 

Both of these problems can be addressed within the framework of a modern glossary system. 


The notion of re-use writing and of writing in smaller chunks and then linking it together is not new and in some ways it seems this is what many feel hypertext is about. This glossary implementation can support such an approach. 


A glossary is a collection of glosses, which are “word inserted as an explanation, translation, or definition,” (Harper)

A glossary is not a definition in any objective way. In a narrow sense it can be seen as an elucidation of specific text written by a specific author in a specific document. It would not be stretching the definition of a glossary to allow an author to build a glossary over time and to 

The notion is to build a glossary (a ‘gloss’ of person meaning, not a dictionary) for an author, as you go along authoring documents, and the glossary is then appended to a document on  publish, with levels of information visible as the reader requires. 


Assigning Glossary Entries to Keywords

The author selects the text which needs a glossary entry and cmd-y(or ‘l’, not determined yet) to produce the Glossary Dialog (as outlined below). In this dialog the author has rich options for assigning glossary meaning but only the ‘Short/Twitter Description’ () summary is required. 

A way to enter a person is a bit different from entering a place or concept, since the full name of the person should not be in the Short description since the first name would then be doubled if shown inline, as you can see in the example.


Over time the author’s glossary will grow and be re-useable. The user can at any time access previously added glossary items to edit or delete them. The user can also choose to add to glossary entries over time. 


On publishing the document all the words in the document which have glossary entries are highlighted in order for the author to review the text in case some are contextually wrong. A simple click on a word disconnects it from the glossary (if a mistake is made, a click on the word will automatically re-connect it).

The published document will get a document with a ‘Glossary’ section appended at the end, so that the reader can choose to read the glossary before reading the rest of the document. The reader can interact with the glossary text at will as well, including having an option to have every glossary term highlighted on first occurrence.  


• Without the glossary expanded, the text looks like this, same as the introduction to this blog post: 

Friday I went to the Groucho where I met Joe and we discussed the glossary opportunities, as I started with Mark and Chris earlier in the week.

• Showing only text in the ‘Short/Twitter Description’ summary inline in the text, after each occurrence. This is a reader option and can be applied to any arbitrary section of the document, it does not have to be the whole document BTW, The last example has the number 15 in brackets and that refers to the week number, a number used in Norway more than in England.

Friday (the 15th of April 2017) I (Hegland, PhD Student Southampton) went to the Groucho (a media club in Soho, London, of which I am a member and I love it there) where I met Joe (Corneli, University of Edinburgh) and we discussed the glossary opportunities (re-inventing glossaries as discussed in my blogs), as I started with Mark (Anderson, PhD Student Southampton) and Chris (Gutteridge, EC Southampton) earlier in the week (15).

• And this is what it would look like if non-expanded but interacting with the word ‘Joe’, perhaps simply by mouse-over/pointing to the text or clicking on it:

Friday I went to the Groucho where I met Joe (Corneli, University of Edinburgh) and we discussed the glossary opportunities, as I started with Mark and Chris earlier in the week.

• Here I have bolded the text ‘glossary opportunities’ has been marked to highlight, to show the reader that it has a glossary definition attached:

Friday I went to the Groucho where I met Joe and we discussed the glossary opportunities, as I started with Mark and Chris earlier in the week.

Create New Glossary Entry : Dialog

Selected  Keyword Appears As Heading

Category: [        ]  this field acts very much like assigning tags in macOS: user can click on a list or add new

Short/Twitter Description (if person’s name, only last name, then description): ( ) this is what would appear in-sentence if reader-requested

Fuller Glossary (If person’s name, start with full name): [        ] 

Appended Comments: [        ] This only appears when opening a previously created glossary item

Highlight? • whether or not this should be highlighted in the text on first appearance, if the author wants to emphasise this to the reader

Uses: [        ] how this text should be used

Related words: [        ]  related words to click to also see

First used in the sentence: Automatic inclusion

URL to this Entry: Automatically generated

Mathematical logic: [        ]

Programming logic/code: [        ]

Show what this word is (dictionary lookup) such as verb etc. (user editable): 

Very Experimental

Logic: [        ] this is where the system uses logic to infer what the text should really read:

Here • Use the current location when authoring

At a specific Date in the future. Change grammar when passed this date.

Automatically Assigned

URL to this entry is fixed to the bottom of the dialog (with  a ‘glossary’ tag): http:…. &glossary

Who has referred to this entry/cited it: [  Pop-Up Menu or List \/]



There needs to be ways to store the entries and retrieve them over a network. Where the entries are stored should be flexible however, and the user should be able to set this.

Multi User

The system should allow for multi-user systems, such as in a research team.


Allowing the author to add to a glossary easily lets the author build up a series of statements which can then be re-employed for a reader or for the author automatically, again and again. In some ways this is an angle of writing ‘hyper textually’ but it does not imply the complicated linkages which mid-90s hypertext notions wrestled with.

Published inHyperGlossaryMeeting NotesPhDThoughts

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.