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Keeping a Personal Dictionary with Org-mode

A few days ago I wrote a letter to my parlour, where I explained how I updated my website to make better use of some of Org-mode’s more basic features, like INClUDE statements, or the index features.

Today I stumbled upon a new use - to me - for Org-mode’s INCLUDE statements. A brief explanation, first:

A file, foo.org, contains the text: /Galavant/ was a great television show. Another file has the text:

Here's what I think about /Galavant/:

#+INCLUDE: "./foo.org"

If I export that file, the text will show up as:

Here's what I think about /Galavant/:

/Galavant/ was a great television show.

A silly example. More pragmatically, unless I’ve changed my method since writing it, this document’s introduction contains at least one INCLUDE’d statement - the editorial and license information, and perhaps the disclaimer about literate programming, and the license in the supplements was INCLUDE’d as well. It helps me not repeat myself.

So, that’s INCLUDE statements.

Now, some background on me: because of the type of content I write, I end up being very precise in my use of some terms that might have a more casual meaning elsewhere. In software documentation, “archive” might mean something very very particular. In role-playing games, “sleeping” might not include naps, and so on.

I’ve developed the style of italicizing these key terms when I use them before defined, and using bold italics when I define them: key terms are those words that have a technical meaning within the scope of a document. I also italicize key terms if they get mentioned a decent enough distance from their definition, like in another section. If you’re curious, I’m developing my own Style Manual that explains a lot of my personal rules for this sort of stuff.

A useful thing, especially in longer documents, is being able to include a dictionary of definitions for these terms. If I use the same term with the same definition in a dozen documents, that’s the perfect use of an INClUDE statement.

So, I’ve made a new file, dict.org, and put some terms in it. They look like this:

BEGIN: key-term
- key term :: A /key term/ is a word or phrase whose definition is
	      fixed and precise within the scope of a document or
	      project.
END

Then, in any document where I’d have a dictionary that needs that definition, I can add in the line #+INCLUDE: "./dict.org::key-term" and the term will render in the dictionary! For the record, the document I was working on when I stumbled upon this need is my Online Communication Manual.

I’ll need to write up the rules for how to name terms - and what to do if there is more than one definition for a term (though I can’t think of any.) But, it’s certainly a better solution than copy-pasting.

Oh, I didn’t even mention: one perk of INCLUDE statements is that if I change the INCLUDEd file, I change what shows up every time the files that use it are exported - so to change the editorial and license information at the head of every document on my site, I just have to change one file, rather than re-copy/paste everything.

It’s always awkward ending essays like this that are just kind of an explanation of how I did a thing. I’m done explaining now. Have a nice day.

Editorial and License Information

My name is emsenn and I wrote this essay for the benefit of the commons. To the extent possible under law, I have waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to it. If you're viewing it on a remote server, you're encouraged to download your own copy. Essays like this are made possible with financial support from readers like you. Thank you. To read more of my work and to learn more about me, visit https://emsenn.net