Ham radio, like many other fields, has boatloads of jargon, and it often crops up in all sorts of conversation. It's already shown up in plenty of questions asked so far, both in titles and question bodies, e.g.:

Usage of jargon can save time and words for relatively well-known concepts among those in a community, but it also makes it harder for those new to the community (or those who only participate casually) to follow the discussion.

There are a few of things to consider about jargon relative to Ham.SE...

  1. Should we encourage/discourage jargon in the first place?
    • More or less so in questions vs. answers? Equally?
  2. Should we encourage, discourage, or be neutral about editing questions and answers to add or remove jargon?
  3. Should we encourage, discourage, or be neutral about tags based on jargon?
  4. If we're okay with jargon, should we encourage, discourage, or be neutral about linking jargon to definitions?
    • And edits of questions/answers to do such?

4 Answers 4


My person opinions on the above questions:

  1. I think that we should mildly discourage jargon in questions and answers, especially in contexts where it's not easy to infer the meaning from the surrounding text.

    • We shouldn't close/remove/downvote questions simply due to jargon...
    • ...but we should try to edit them to replace jargon with more accessible terminology where it is reasonable to do so.
  2. We should encourage editing of questions and answers to remove jargon, replacing (or clarifying via parentheticals) it with more accessibility terminology.

  3. We should discourage master tags based on jargon. It's fine to have a jargon term that is added as a synonym for the more accessible version of the tag, but we should try to keep the reference version jargon-free.

  4. We should encourage those who use jargon terms to link them to a definition, and applaud those who edit questions to add such links after the fact.


I think that the above will strike a good balance between experienced hams and newcomers - experts are allowed to use jargon if they desire, though we express a slight preference to improve the question's approachability by reducing the level of jargon, while at the same time we try to eventually work towards making all questions accessible through gradual editing and improvement.

The tag system remains as jargon-free as possible, making it easy for all to search and browse.

I see every reason to encourage people to make questions more accessible if they're willing to put in the effort, and no downside to allowing people to clarify and/or remove jargon.

  • $\begingroup$ I didn't down-vote this post, but I think picking someone's post and creating a Q&A linking specifically to that post and explaining the jargon in it with an answer that can be found anywhere is not a great idea. $\endgroup$
    – dcaswell
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 1:11
  • $\begingroup$ @dcaswell Can you explain why you think it's not a great idea? $\endgroup$
    – Amber
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 1:47
  • $\begingroup$ The person answering the question does not deserve to be singled out. People looking for an answer won't find it because your question is not linked to the other question. And the answer doesn't add anything to what's googleable. There's no explanation of concepts in it at all. $\endgroup$
    – dcaswell
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 1:50
  • $\begingroup$ @dcaswell Mmm. I don't think it's really singling it out so much as offering an example of the context in which the term might be used. That said, you're always welcome to suggest edits to generalize a question if you think it'd be better that way. Similarly, you can suggest edits to expand the answer. I saw that you added a comment with more questions, but you don't have to stop there. $\endgroup$
    – Amber
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ Let's say I picked your answers and created a Q&A explaining a term from each of them: Good thing? Bad thing? If you're that opposed to people using simple terms let's at least wait until we find someone who is ACTUALLY confused. $\endgroup$
    – dcaswell
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 1:59
  • $\begingroup$ @dcaswell If I'm using jargon terms, I wouldn't mind at all. And yes, I did actually have to go look up what QRM and QSB were, because I am a fairly casual ham and thus don't use them in day to day conversation. $\endgroup$
    – Amber
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 2:03
  • $\begingroup$ @dcaswell if I were to make a question to clarify jargon, the context is important. For example, if I asked "what does 'QSL' mean?", then it's hard to answer the question unless you cover all the uses. If I'm referencing an answer accepted with plenty of up votes, then all I'm assuming is they used it correctly and I'm ignorant of the definition. These questions don't pass judgement on the jargon user, they help the beginner. $\endgroup$
    – W5VO
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 3:11

This has been discussed before.

In general I don't see a problem with anyone complaining they can't understand posts.

In particular the second question above is fantastic in both question and answer.

If someone is available to create a good Q&A that summarizes a piece of jargon is a way that's better then something that can be easily googled that's a good thing -- but it's not easy.

  • $\begingroup$ The first of the two questions linked above someone did specifically comment on the terms, with the implication that they had to look them up because they didn't know what they were. $\endgroup$
    – Amber
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 2:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @amber There's nothing wrong with someone looking up a term. From my linked post: Google and Wikipedia already have a far better format to explain basic terminology than SE. If you're an expert write a BETTER summary than can be found elsewhere. $\endgroup$
    – dcaswell
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 2:09
  • $\begingroup$ I actually disagree that WP has a better format - often times concise answers on an SE site are a lot better than one in the middle of a giant block of text on WP. $\endgroup$
    – Amber
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 2:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @amber What you're doing is similar to seeding a brand new math.se with: What is a Square Root?, when you already know the answer. We're trying to attract enthusiasts. Out of the dozens of Q-signals we now have an answer for two that were randomly chosen to be together (QRM and QRN fit together as a good question), that's marked as accepted so that no one will be likely to produce a better answer. $\endgroup$
    – dcaswell
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 2:21
  • $\begingroup$ It's one question out of many. I think we'll be fine. At the same time, I don't think we should be trying to attract only enthusiasts. I think that it's important to attract enthusiasts, yes - but I think it's also important to not turn the site into something only usable by enthusiasts. $\endgroup$
    – Amber
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 2:32

Specifically about emission designators, I got a little tired of having to look them up so ended up summarizing them in a Q&A. That could be a good duplicate target for any "what does emission designator XYZ stand for?" questions, which particularly for some of the weirder ones I do think we'll get from time to time.


I was going to ask something about this but was trying to formulate a solution. I wonder if this is possible:

Create a glossary. Whenever a term in the glossary appears in a post (tag wiki, question, answer, comment), it is underlined and on mouseover, a short one-line definition appears. This can be disabled in user preferences.

The kinds of terms here should be any jargon that can not be understood based on the term alone. I don't want to see it overused, e.g. I don't think we should tag "2m" or "70cm" or even "MHz" or "ohm", but I think the examples you gave ("SO-50", "QSO" and other q-codes, "A3F" and other emission designators), and maybe some acronyms could use this feature.

Do any other stackexchanges have a feature like this? Is it something we could request?

  • $\begingroup$ I like the idea of mouse-over definitions. The one issue that wouldn't address, however, is search-ability. I completely agree that basic terminology (2m, MHz, ohm) shouldn't need to be spelt out - but those are also things that go far beyond the field of ham radio, and thus I wouldn't really consider them jargon. $\endgroup$
    – Amber
    Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ Does What do the three-letter modulation codes (emission designators) stand for? count as part of such a glossary? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 15:47

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