THE HEADLINE caught my attention, as it was supposed to: “Advanced OOP For WordPress.” As should be obvious to most people familiar with newspaper, magazines, and now online articles, the headline is usually the first thing that most readers see in any article. Consequently, it is usually the first thing they read. To attract readers, headlines should use words that grab attention and arouse interest.
How-to articles stress things like the flagging technique—incorporating the word you into a headline to speak directly to the reader—and using emotional adjectives. But these articles often fail to address things that should not be done in headlines:
• Headlines should not use words that confuse readers.
• Headlines should not use words with vague meanings.
• Headlines should not use words with multiple meanings.
So, the full headline that caught my attention that I mentioned in the first paragraph above was “Advanced OOP For WordPress Part 5: Using The WordPress Test Suite For Integration Testing” on the Torque website. It caught my attention because I recognized the prominent initialism OOP, but didn’t understand how it could be advanced or what it had to do with WordPress. 1
Cartoon by Tom Fishburne, the Marketoonist.
About the publishing field
Like anyone remotely associated with books, I know that those three letters stand for Out Of Print. I’ve known that for almost as long as I’ve known about books, which is more than fifty years. The term is also used to refer to many items no longer available, such as records, CDs, and DVDs.
As I glanced at the headline, I wondered, “What could advanced out-of-print possibly mean, and what could it have to do with books?
A little bit of reading of the article told me that OOP has a different meaning in the world of WordPress developers, where OOP means object-oriented programming! 2
I found this great Dog’n’Cat cartoon but had to look up “SJW” and found it on Urban Dictionary: “A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow or not well-thought-out way, for the purpose of raising their own personal reputation.”
Virtually every field of specialized endeavor develops or evolves its own specialized language, generally called nomenclature. For example, attorneys famously speak and write in a tongue that is almost indecipherable by non-lawyers, jokingly called legalese.
Another term these specialized languages is jargon, which is the technical terminology or characteristic idiom of a special activity or group.
I assume that its is safe to assume that every regular visitor to the Torque website knew what OOP meant in that headline. But is it also safe to assume that many of them did not know that OOP has an older, more common meaning—especially to non-techie, casual readers?
For as long as I can remember, OOP has meant out-of-print; now it also means object-oriented programming.
Because there are multiple meanings for OOP, it’s probably not a good choice for a headline, if you are interested in attracting those casual readers. 3
And that’s the problem with coining initialisms that are already in use in another field: it confuses casual readers.
It could easily annoy casual readers, driving away potential subscribers and customers.
Hell, it might even cause one them to address the issue in a rant on his own blog …
FEATURED IMAGE: I found this marvelous painting accompanying an article about jargon titled, “The Everyday Linux User Jargon Buster.” Turns out they found it on a computer wallpaper site! The Linux article opens with this sentence about jargon: “I received a comment at the bottom of one of my articles which expressed bemusement about all of the acronyms and terms used within my reviews.” A guide to explain as much of the jargon as possible followed.
1 An initialism is “an abbreviation formed from the first, or initial, letters” of three or more words in the name of a group organization. It should not be confused with acronym, which is “a word (such as NATO, radar, or laser) formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term.” An acronym is a very special kind of initialism.
So all acronyms are initialisms, but all initialisms aren’t acronyms. Or at least that’s the way it’s supposed to be, but so many folks who never look things up use the two interchangeably that they are becoming synonymous, another instance of ignorance trumping education and awareness.
As dictionaries are descriptive (telling us how people use a word) instead of prescriptive (telling us how people should use a word), modern lexicographers at modern dictionaries give us both the old (read “correct”) and new (read “incorrect”) definition, exacerbating a bad situation.
The only good to come out of this has been to provide a large niche market for engaging books about grammar and English usage, including. The Deluxe Transitive Vampire, Woe Is I, and Eats, Shoots & Leaves.
2 According to Wikipedia, object-oriented programming is a “programming paradigm based on the concept of objects, which may contain data, in the form of fields, often known as attributes; and code, in the form of procedures, often known as methods.”
Aside from being poorly constructed, that sentence is confusing: the words objects, fields, and methods all have meanings in the normal world quite different from what the techies have assigned to them. Which is one of the reasons why it’s often difficult for normies to communicate with experts on support lines, as we don’t know the meaning of the words in their work-world, and they don’t know the meaning of the words outside of their work.
3 OOP used as out-of-print is also applies to records, CDs, movies, and related intellectual properties.