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How to Write a Note That You Will Actually Understand


imageHow to Write a Note That You Will Actually Understand

A Zettelkasten is a personal tool for thinking and writing that creates an interconnected web of thought. Its emphasis is on connection and not mere collection of ideas.

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  • edited October 2021

    Wonderful post! I can feel my Zettelkasten power increasing with the gained knowledge!

    However, one thing confuses me. When you say "explicit form," what do you mean by explicit? Is the form shown in the Zettel, or only clear when you read the content?

    For illustration:

    Explicit content-wise

    # 202110080750 Buffer note and idea index - Analogy
    #idea_index #buffer_note

    There are similarities and differences between a buffer note and an idea index.

    A buffer note [[202110080728]] and an idea index [[202108270927]] are alike.

    They are both an unstructured storage of items useful for a future endeavor. A buffer note stores Zettels relevant to a future writing project. An idea index keeps ideas or topics so you can write about them.

    Additionally, they have a similar convention. They both include a unique identifier and an idea.

    By the way, in the idea index, the unique identifier is the page number.

    There are two distinctions.

    Firstly, the idea index lacks context in its convention.

    And lastly, they serve different purposes. A buffer note is there to make it easier to add Zettels to newer versions of a text. An idea index aims to help identify and learn about the big ideas in a text.

    Explicit as in shown

    # 202110080750 Buffer note and idea index - Analogy
    #idea_index #buffer_note

    There are similarities and differences between a buffer note and an idea index.

    1. Objects being compared

    A buffer note [[202110080728]] and an idea index [[202108270927]] are alike.

    1. How they are similar

    They are both an unstructured storage of items useful for a future endeavor. A buffer note stores Zettels relevant to a future writing project. An idea index keeps ideas or topics so you can write about them.

    Additionally, they have a similar convention. They both include a unique identifier and an idea.

    By the way, in the idea index, the unique identifier is the page number.

    1. Where they are different

    There are two distinctions.

    Firstly, the idea index lacks context in its convention.

    And lastly, they serve different purposes. A buffer note is there to make it easier to add Zettels to newer versions of a text. An idea index aims to help identify and learn about the big ideas in a text.

  • edited October 2021

    Thank you - there is good advice in this post. I believe @Will said that we should start each zettel by answering the question: "What is the most important point about this idea?". This is similar to putting an abstract at the beginning of the zettel, as suggested in this post.

    When zettels are short (say ~ 100-200 words, exclusive of metadata), that is about all you can accomplish anyway. Combined with a good title, you have a pithy statement of an idea. This alone is a good enough reason to strive for short zettels.

    Here is an example of one of my pithier zettels:

    When zettels are longer (say >300 words), such as when we need to address contrary or competing ideas, more structure is necessary. Sascha's advice then becomes very useful.

  • However, one thing confuses me. When you say "explicit form," what do you mean by explicit? Is the form shown in the Zettel, or only clear when you read the content?

    The later. It is an old post. So, I was not as able to pinpoint why something worked and another not. I could re-formulate this section by referring to having a route-model in mind if you write about someting.

    If you write an argument down have the model of arguments in mind. If you write about hormones have a model of hormones in your mind (in my case: a stock-flow-model which I learned from Meadows). Etc.

    I am a Zettler

  • edited October 2021

    @sfast Ah, makes sense. Thank you for the clarification. :smile:

    It may not be useful, but I'd like to share my thoughts on the term explicit:

    • Explicit form. The form is shown without reading the content.
    • Implicit form. (Antonym of the term.) The form is shown only by reading the content itself.

    Implicit may be a more suitable choice of adjective.

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