Something that I've noticed on this site is people dropping big, fancy, aviation words.

Sometimes using big words can help keep a question/answer concise, but other times it's just a nuisance. From the looks of it, most of the users of this site are not professionals, but interested enthusiasts.

Can we set some guidelines on when it's appropriate to use big words, and when to use layman terms?

Here's some examples

  • Laminar air VS smooth air
  • Triskaidekaphobia VS fear of the number 13
  • Hercules H4 VS Spruce Goose
  • $\begingroup$ I wasn't aware that fear of the number 13 was unique to aviation! $\endgroup$ – egid Oct 15 '14 at 20:34
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    $\begingroup$ I was aware someone was going to say that $\endgroup$ – Keegan Oct 15 '14 at 20:34
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    $\begingroup$ I'm a fan of always using technical terms. $\endgroup$ – casey Oct 15 '14 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ Its not just technical terms, but technical concepts. For example, in some questions (EG biplane handling), the answer best answer includes quite a bit of aerodynamics, but in others (EG stalls), the answer has been dumbed down for stalls in normal attitudes and airspeeds. $\endgroup$ – rbp Dec 5 '14 at 14:30

My initial response is "no, we shouldn't set guidelines". Aviation is a technical field, and even if the laymen asking questions won't necessarily have the level of familiarity necessary to get everything, they also may not understand the concept correctly if non-aviation terms are used. I use may here because there is no way to know for sure, every time.

That said: I think that we should encourage the use of parentheticals, links to explanations, or even full-blown explanations in addition to the technical terms. Not every expert on here is a flight instructor, and not everybody knows how to explain things to everyone's satisfaction - we all learn differently. We should also be comfortable asking for more information, or editing posts as needed to provide information that wasn't given.

tl,dr: If you see a post that uses technical terms with no explanation or synonyms given, ask in the comments or add the explanations yourself for clarity!

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    $\begingroup$ You could clarify the bolded text that the editor for clarity should add explanation/layman terms but not replace or delete the technical terms. $\endgroup$ – casey Oct 15 '14 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ Fair enough. For me, as an astro-engineer, I thoroughly dislike people that try to use technical terms when there is no gain in doing so. And I definitely have a fair share of friends who just love to use fancy engineering words all the time. But sometimes something as simple as "that thing that spins and then compresses the air" is sufficient. $\endgroup$ – Keegan Oct 15 '14 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ @KeeganMcCarthy I get that, and I sympathize, but there's definite good and bad that comes with jargon. Jargon decreases understanding for the layman, but it increases it (and increases comprehension speed) for those familiar. It's a tough battle, but this Stack is technically oriented, even if many questions seem to be from laymen. $\endgroup$ – egid Oct 15 '14 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with casey, explanation should be added on request but not replace the jargon. I'd rather explain a technical term occasionally than lose expert interest in this site because they feel in kindergarten here. $\endgroup$ – DeltaLima Oct 16 '14 at 7:21
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    $\begingroup$ One thing I have insisted on, in more than one answer, was acronym expansion, at least the first time. $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell Oct 18 '14 at 2:32
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    $\begingroup$ Particularly in the case of websites there's some benefit to using the proper technical terms: "laminar flow" will turn up a lot of (relevant) items if you ask The Googles, but "smooth air" is less useful, even if you start tacking on modifiers like "Aviation" or "Flying" or "Wing". Conversely if someone is asking about the H4 Hercules including the colloquial name "Spruce Goose" would be important for the same reason. It's a case-by-case judgment call. $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Oct 20 '14 at 21:52

Probably I am guilty of using technical terms in my answers, but I try as good as I can to link them to a web site which explains them well. Just click on the blue words, or ask your favorite search engine. After all, laminar flow is not smooth flow. If anyone thinks the term "laminar flow" is too technical, please post a question and I will be happy to explain it. But trying to avoid it will make the answer either incorrect or impossibly long and convoluted.


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