17 Rules to Make a Definition that Avoids the 37 Ways of Words Being Wrong
Eliezer’s writing style of A->B, then A, then B, though generally clear, results in a large amount of redundancy.
In this post, I have attempted to reduce the number of rules needed to remember by half. The numbers are the rules from the original post.
So, without further ado, a good definition for a word:
can be shown to be wrong37 and is not the final13 authority18 19
has strong justifications33 for the word’s existence32 and its particular definition,20 which leave no room for an argument17 22
agrees with conventional usage4
explains what context the word depends on36
limits its scope to avoid overlap with other meanings25
does not assume that definitions are the best way of giving words semantics12
directs a complex mental paintbrush35 to paint detailed pictures of the thing you’re trying to think about23
is a brain inference aid13 that refers to and instructs one on how to find a specific/unique24 similarity cluster21 that is apparent from empirical experience28 29 30, the cluster’s size being inversely proportional to the word’s length31
is not a binary category9 11 and cannot be used for deductive inference27
requires observing only14 a few3 real-world1 properties that can be easily5 verified2 and are less abstract6 than the word being defined (in particular, the definition cannot be circular16)
is not just a list of random properties10 21
contains no negated properties10 33
specifies exhaustively all of the correct connotations of the word25 26
makes the properties of a random object satisfying the definition be nearly independent34
has examples6 which satisfy the definition, including the original example(s) that motivated the definition being given15 and typical/conventional examples7
tells you which examples are more typical or less typical9
captures enough characteristics of the examples to identify non-members8
And there you go. 17 rules, follow them all and you can’t use words wrongly.