A Plea for Ordinary English

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Taylor Larimore
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A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by Taylor Larimore »

Bogleheads:

I have noticed an increasing use of posts with many words that I cannot understand. This makes me worry about new investors who come to this forum for the first time to be confronted with words and abbreviations like these:
Algorithms; Arbitrage; Alpha; B+M; Beta; Bell Curve; CAPM; Coefficient of Correlation; CCF's; Central Limit Theorem; Concave & Convex; Gaussian Distribution; HML; Kurtosis; Mean Variance; "Multiple Latent Variables; Gaussian, Binomial, Poison Functions"; SMB; Serial Correlation; Sharpe Ratio; Skew; Systematic Risk; Uncovered Interest Parity; X+N.
I recognize that academics have a specialized vocabulary for use among themselves. However, we should all try to use ordinary English on the forum so everyone can benefit.

Thank you and best wishes.
Taylor
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by livesoft »

This is not only a place for new investors, but also a place for advanced investors. There is room for everyone.

I just used the term "average" and "standard deviation" in a recent post. I almost thought those ordinary words would appear in your list. :)
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000
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by 000 »

"Algorithm", "Arbitrage", "Alpha", "Beta", "Bell Curve", and "Systematic Risk" seem accessible enough to me.

The rest are just a web search away.
02nz
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by 02nz »

The language should be no more or less advanced than necessary to convey the intended meaning.

No one knows all the terms and we all had to start somewhere. I think most posters are good about giving advice that's suitable to the poster's (especially if a newbie) level of knowledge.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by retire2022 »

Taylor

How about for a plea for younger folks to restrain from using Abbreviations, so that I don't have to use Urban Dictionary.com to look it up? How much long will it take to spell out words?

Texting killed the written language.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by stan1 »

retire2022 wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 8:27 pm Taylor

How about for a plea for younger folks to restrain from using Abbreviations, so that I don't have to use Urban Dictionary.com to look it up? How much long will it take to spell out words?

Texting killed the written language.
u ppl r no fun
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by brad.clarkston »

retire2022 wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 8:27 pm Texting killed the written language.
I was watching a podcast recently where a noted English professor stated that texting is an improvement on written speech.
Anything that shortens a conversation and is completely understandable is an improvement.

Personally I'm not a fan of texting/twitter slang but I at least understand it 99% of the time.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by student »

stan1 wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 8:30 pm
retire2022 wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 8:27 pm Taylor

How about for a plea for younger folks to restrain from using Abbreviations, so that I don't have to use Urban Dictionary.com to look it up? How much long will it take to spell out words?

Texting killed the written language.
u ppl r no fun
lol.
adamthesmythe
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by adamthesmythe »

Abbreviations are the more significant problem, as they may be unfamiliar and may have multiple meanings.

While we are griping- how about the extremely common misuse of sell/sale and spend/spending?
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by whodidntante »

I do not think there are any pedants here, or at least they aren't too annoying about it. I think dogmatism is a more significant problem to the forum.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by boglenomics »

This could be a good opportunity for the website functionality. A dictionary of terms and acronyms in the wiki and if a post has any text that matches one of those terms a link / popup is made available with the definition and more info. Plenty of times I have had to do a quick Google search with the verbiage in the form.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by MathIsMyWayr »

I plead not guilty, mostly.

BTW, there is a spelling error. "Poison function" should be "Poisson function" named after a French mathematician.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by dodecahedron »

000 wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 8:13 pm "Algorithm", "Arbitrage", "Alpha", "Beta", "Bell Curve", and "Systematic Risk" seem accessible enough to me.
Almost all of words on Taylor´s list all seem accessible enough to me, but I have extensive training and professional experience in statistics, econometrics, and finance, so I would not presume they are accessible to many intelligent folks who are well-educated in other fields where I am lacking (e.g., virology, immunology to take a few recently salient fields where I am flummoxed by much of the terminology.)

It is a courtesy to explain unfamiliar technical terminology when such terms must be used on a forum designed for a broad audience like this one. I like the idea of folks who want to use such terms regularly adding them to the wiki if they are not already there.
The rest are just a web search away.
The only two terms on Taylor´s list that were unfamiliar to me were B+M and K+N. A Google search turned up nothing plausibly relevant for either of these.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by 000 »

dodecahedron wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 8:55 pm
000 wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 8:13 pm "Algorithm", "Arbitrage", "Alpha", "Beta", "Bell Curve", and "Systematic Risk" seem accessible enough to me.
Almost all of words on Taylor´s list all seem accessible enough to me, but I have extensive training and professional experience in statistics, econometrics, and finance, so I would not presume they are accessible to many intelligent folks who are well-educated in other fields where I am lacking (e.g., virology, immunology to take a few recently salient fields where I am flummoxed by much of the terminology.)

It is a courtesy to explain unfamiliar technical terminology when such terms must be used on a forum designed for a broad audience like this one.
The rest are just a web search away.
The only two terms on Taylor´s list that were unfamiliar to me were B+M and K+N. A Google search turned up nothing plausibly relevant for either of these.
Sure, I agree. It's also reasonable for someone who doesn't know what a term means to... ask. I don't know what B+M and K+N are either, nor have I ever seen them used here.

IMO, the more egregious use of jargon here is when someone uses a term that has a common meaning in English but insists on using another meaning invented by some Econ PhD...
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by am »

All those fancy words don’t beat the 3 funder portfolio. :D
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by arcticpineapplecorp. »

candlesticks
head and shoulder pattern
death cross
Moving Average Convergence Divergence
Stochastic indicator
Chaikin Oscillator
Bollinger Bands
Fibonacci Ratios and Retracements
McClellan Oscillator...
It's "Stay" the course, not Stray the Course. Buy and Hold works. You should really try it sometime. Get a plan: www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Investment_policy_statement
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by sfnerd »

I think this is a dangerous post.

In learning new things, we must sometimes learn new words.

Most of the language that is used as an example is fairly common math/statistics language. I think discouraging advanced thought on these topics will only make Boglehead ideas less respected. I think the beauty of this investment methodology is that it is so simple, yet holds up to complex analysis.

There is a method for educating newcomers, and a different one for educating those interested in understanding more deeply.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by Kenkat »

What is funny about texting is that originally all the abbreviations were due to the limit of 160 characters that a text could contain. That limit is largely gone as texting apps and providers will chain together texts to allow them to flow and appear as a single message. Although I mostly don’t even use text anymore as most people I know use Snapchat instead.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by brad.clarkston »

whodidntante wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 8:37 pm I do not think there are any pedants here, or at least they aren't too annoying about it. I think dogmatism is a more significant problem to the forum.
Lol, ... no really i did lol :) This from the guy I can only follow half the time :)
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by UpsetRaptor »

brad.clarkston wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 8:31 pm
retire2022 wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 8:27 pm Texting killed the written language.
I was watching a podcast recently where a noted English professor stated that texting is an improvement on written speech.
Anything that shortens a conversation and is completely understandable is an improvement.

Personally I'm not a fan of texting/twitter slang but I at least understand it 99% of the time.
Disagree somewhat, full writing often better, like books > movies, amirite?
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by sailaway »

Someone just recently requested a word cloud so that they could see all of those unknown words our of context.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by nisiprius »

It's good practice to spell out abbreviations on their first appearance in text, no matter how common or well-understood they are.

For example, consider Fama and French's 2014 paper, "A Five-Factor Asset Pricing Model," downloadable with free account here. It was published more that twenty years after their three-factor paper. Do you seriously think that most readers of the paper are unfamiliar with the abbreviation B/M? Yet on its first appearance in the paper, they say
There is much evidence that average stock returns are related to the book-to-market equity ratio, B/M.
If Fama and French, academics writing for academics, most of whom have all but memorized their earlier paper, can take the time to define "B/M" on its first appearance, so can we.

This includes ticker symbols, and in fact nowadays with changes in share classes at both Vanguard and Fidelity, it's even more important than before.

As for the "technical fix" approach, rather than suggest something that readers can use to interpret abbreviations, how about a tool writers can use to automatically supply the full term? A sort of specialized autocorrect? For example, something that senses that you've typed CAPM and "autocorrects" it to Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM)? This has the great advantage that it will work for all readers regardless of that software platform they are using, and doesn't require them to install software. I'm sure such tools exist, I just never have bothered to look for them.
Last edited by nisiprius on Sun Aug 23, 2020 9:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by CurlyDave »

When I think about the fact that the only way to access this forum is through the use of a machine that can instantly provide not only a definition, but also a course of any desired length on most of those terms, it doesn't seem like that much of a problem to me.

If something seems too esoteric for me to understand I just ignore it. If it comes up a lot in contexts where I have a lot of interest, I study it.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by MathIsMyWayr »

nisiprius wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 9:30 pm It's good practice to spell out abbreviations on their first appearance in text, no matter how common or well-understood they are.
+1.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by Sandtrap »

Thanks "Taylor".
Agreed. It can be a struggle.
But, I try to adapt. There are far sharper brains here than I.

As the years go by, I understand less and less.

I'm not sure if it's senior cognitive decline, societal and technological progress, or the product of a simple mind from a time when the only telephone in the house was black pseudo plastic on the kitchen wall with a rotary dial on it and tangled cords -- and the tv had to warm up before it worked to bring all of 2 fuzzy stations that sharpened up if one of the kids went on the roof to turn the antenna.

Though, overall, I'm content to understand with greater depth the things that matter and never change, and not get anxious about the rest of everything.

. . . . I think I digress. . .

ROFL
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by tomd37 »

It has been forty years since I retired from the US Navy, but I seem to remember that in military correspondence the first time you referred to something you spelled it out and followed it by the accepted abbreviated form. From that point on you could just use the abbreviated form. For example, United States Navy (USN) and then USN in future usage.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by Sandtrap »

CurlyDave wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 9:31 pm When I think about the fact that the only way to access this forum is through the use of a machine that can instantly provide not only a definition, but also a course of any desired length on most of those terms, it doesn't seem like that much of a problem to me.

If something seems too esoteric for me to understand I just ignore it. If it comes up a lot in contexts where I have a lot of interest, I study it.
+1
Great points.
Very "cogent". (I got to use the word "cogent").

thanks!
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by 000 »

Really, we need a plea to stop walls of text with multiple subquotes.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by brad.clarkston »

000 wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 9:58 pm Really, we need a plea to stop walls of text with multiple subquotes.
+10 this :)
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by HenryPorter »

I'd really like an explanantion for Poisson distribution actually. Explain like I am 5.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by XacTactX »

arcticpineapplecorp. wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 9:05 pm candlesticks
head and shoulder pattern
death cross
Moving Average Convergence Divergence
Stochastic indicator
Chaikin Oscillator
Bollinger Bands
Fibonacci Ratios and Retracements
McClellan Oscillator...
I've been investing for five years and I don't know what any of these words mean. Please tell me: is it important for me to learn any of these? To my knowledge all of these are about technical analysis.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by cheesepep »

Quite frankly, there is no need to learn 99% of financial terms. I read seekingalpha a lot, but I ignore all posts that try to analyze a graph using technical terms like the above.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by phxjcc »

Taylor Larimore wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 8:05 pm Bogleheads:

I have noticed an increasing use of posts with many words that I cannot understand. This makes me worry about new investors who come to this forum for the first time to be confronted with words and abbreviations like these:
Algorithms; Arbitrage; Alpha; B+M; Beta; Bell Curve; CAPM; Coefficient of Correlation; CCF's; Central Limit Theorem; Concave & Convex; Gaussian Distribution; HML; Kurtosis; Mean Variance; "Multiple Latent Variables; Gaussian, Binomial, Poison Functions"; SMB; Serial Correlation; Sharpe Ratio; Skew; Systematic Risk; Uncovered Interest Parity; X+N.
I recognize that academics have a specialized vocabulary for use among themselves. However, we should all try to use ordinary English on the forum so everyone can benefit.

Thank you and best wishes.
Taylor
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by Geno »

I'm with Taylor.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by birnhamwood »

Everything I ever needed to know about writing, I learned in the Army -- KEEP IT SIMPLE, STOOOPID.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by cheesepep »

The absolute case of this is the term "basis points." I understand why it is used, but it is not needed. It is just a means to inflate the actual number 100 times.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by 000 »

cheesepep wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 11:57 pm The absolute case of this is the term "basis points." I understand why it is used, but it is not needed. It is just a means to inflate the actual number 100 times.
True. Just like "percent".
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by Noobvestor »

arcticpineapplecorp. wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 9:05 pm candlesticks
head and shoulder pattern
death cross
Moving Average Convergence Divergence
Stochastic indicator
Chaikin Oscillator
Bollinger Bands
Fibonacci Ratios and Retracements
McClellan Oscillator...
Let's not forget the Hindenberg Omen 8-) Darn, now I can't find Nisiprius' Photoshopped image of it on the site tho
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by Stef »

Taylor, what makes you think that ordinary people visit this forum?
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by brad.clarkston »

cheesepep wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 10:51 pm Quite frankly, there is no need to learn 99% of financial terms. I read seekingalpha a lot, but I ignore all posts that try to analyze a graph using technical terms like the above.
Woot! I thought that was just me ;)
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by VaR »

cheesepep wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 11:57 pm The absolute case of this is the term "basis points." I understand why it is used, but it is not needed. It is just a means to inflate the actual number 100 times.
I agree that it's best to always try to use the simplest possible language for everything.

That said, I quote differences in interest rates or interest rate spreads in basis points sometimes because the transformation of units makes the difference more clear. That said, I also try to only use basis points when dealing with:
1. interest rates
2. rate differences that are smaller than one percent - that is, where the rate differs by less than one percent. Note that you have to be careful to ensure that your statement of rate difference is not going to be mistaken for a percent difference (e.g. 1.2% could be said to be 20% higher than 1%)

I'd be careful with rules like this to make sure that we're not saying that arbitrage should not be discussed or that we should not discuss the implications of negative convexity of mortgage bonds - though I think there is a good argument to be made that we should not have to discuss negative convexity when discussing the interest rate risks of mortgage bonds in order to explain how their duration changes as rates change. Or are we not supposed to talk about duration either? See, we have to be careful about discussing what we should and shouldn't discuss.

Frankly, I think some of this terminology is useful in determining whether to read a thread or a post. If someone starts using technical analysis lingo, I'm out because I believe the thread is going to take an astrological turn. Just my opinion. :)
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by cinghiale »

Mostly in agreement with Taylor’s plea.

But Bell curve? Really?

I would contend that any plea for either greater simplicity, or a little extra effort to define highly technical terms within a post should be balanced by holding our discussions to a certain level of quality and precision.

I’m reminded of Leonard Mlodinow’s (splendid) book The Drunkard’s Walk, a primer on having enough mathematical and statistical know-how to be able to identify and avoid making the most prevalent and harmful cognitive errors. The study of probability requires a few technical terms. Knowing and applying them are awfully useful when consuming economic and financial information.

As previous posts have mentioned, this forum has an educational function. The curious want to understand the “why,” not just the “how.” Let’s not purge essential terminology in a quest to avoid over-technical language.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by Miriam2 »

Noobvestor wrote: Let's not forget the Hindenberg Omen 8-) Darn, now I can't find Nisiprius' Photoshopped image of it on the site tho
That's because, sad to say, many of Nisiprius' compelling pictures - in his great effort to save us all from sure destruction due to the Hindenburg Omen and its Rendevous with Destiny - has been lost to a very angry Tinypic man :annoyed :shock:

www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=59236
Last edited by Miriam2 on Mon Aug 24, 2020 4:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by JBTX »

There are hundreds of threads here on different topics. Some topics are elementary, some are more advanced. There is something for everyone. It really gets to the purpose of the forum- is it solely to teach newcomers about index funds and three fund portfolios, or in addition to that is it a place for a diverse community of people interested in investing to share ideas and learn from each other?
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by Forester »

JBTX wrote: Mon Aug 24, 2020 2:36 am There are hundreds of threads here on different topics. Some topics are elementary, some are more advanced. There is something for everyone. It really gets to the purpose of the forum- is it solely to teach newcomers about index funds and three fund portfolios, or in addition to that is it a place for a diverse community of people interested in investing to share ideas and learn from each other?
The BH forum is the top Google hit for new ETFs & funds, technical discussion of those products, despite most here indexing. Sometimes the only reference to a fund, will be a two-page discussion here. Think about it, over time sizeable sums of fund flow rest on the collective opinion of passive Bogleheads; thumbs up, thumbs down, or we're unsure.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by MNSooner »

Eschew obfuscation.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by Chuck107 »

I agree with Taylor...
While it does not bother me, I just skip over all the uber technical stuff, and unknown abbreviations.

Thinking of New visitors to the site looking for guidance in the Boglehead way of Common sense investing I can imagine how many click to another site after seeing some of the postings.

That said, this wouldn't be much of a forum if all the posts were... just invest in Total stock market and Total bond market.

Perhaps the answer would be to split the
Personal Investments
Have a question about your personal investments? No matter how simple or complex, you can ask it here.


Into two sections, one for beginners and one for advanced, instead of combining the simple math class with advanced calculus.
Alas, I find moderation of this forum too restrictive for my tastes, farewell.
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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by Ron »

nisiprius wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 9:30 pm It's good practice to spell out abbreviations on their first appearance in text, no matter how common or well-understood they are.
This was/is the practice in published articles in Computerworld, which I subscribed to when I worked in the field, many years ago.

Even though the paper was published for those within IT since 1967, there were so many areas and new technology being discussed, even the most learned individual in the field could use some assistance when reading articles along the way.

Hey, I started out in the field (1965) when the terms commonly used were items such as tabulator jack plug, timing chart, and five drop collators. Once common terms, they would require a Google search today for most folks and were not eliminated until many years later. For me, references to terms, such as TCP/IP were uncommon but well explained and defined within the articles presented.

FWIW 🙈🙉🙊🐵 ...

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Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by arcticpineapplecorp. »

XacTactX wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 10:02 pm
arcticpineapplecorp. wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 9:05 pm candlesticks
head and shoulder pattern
death cross
Moving Average Convergence Divergence
Stochastic indicator
Chaikin Oscillator
Bollinger Bands
Fibonacci Ratios and Retracements
McClellan Oscillator...
I've been investing for five years and I don't know what any of these words mean. Please tell me: is it important for me to learn any of these? To my knowledge all of these are about technical analysis.
this was meant as a joke. there are so many terms out there, it's a bit ridiculous. Once can say, but "price ratio" is important whereas "candlestick" is not; one may favor some of the factor jargon for instance, but ultimately if everyone is trying to optimize their portfolio, then isn't everyone basically just winding up with the market portfolio or thereabouts in the end? Aren't we all just "the market" in aggregate?
It's "Stay" the course, not Stray the Course. Buy and Hold works. You should really try it sometime. Get a plan: www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Investment_policy_statement
Seasonal
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Joined: Sun May 21, 2017 1:49 pm

Re: A Plea for Ordinary English

Post by Seasonal »

CurlyDave wrote: Sun Aug 23, 2020 9:31 pm When I think about the fact that the only way to access this forum is through the use of a machine that can instantly provide not only a definition, but also a course of any desired length on most of those terms, it doesn't seem like that much of a problem to me.

If something seems too esoteric for me to understand I just ignore it. If it comes up a lot in contexts where I have a lot of interest, I study it.
I find it odd when I see a post asking about a word or abbreviation when the question could be answered with a few moments of internet searching. How can it be better to post and wait for an answer when there's so much information instantly available at your fingertips.
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