May 10, 2011 David Lang

Got Some 'Splainin' To Do

In yesterday's post, I showed how to do a search all for images with the caption "Table of nations" or "Family of nations." I constructed the search like this: (table, family) of nations. In response to that post, one user asked for an explanation of the list of words in parentheses. So it would seem I have some "'splainin' to do."

I actually mentioned this search syntax in a recent post, explaining that a list of words separated by commas and enclosed in parentheses is equivalent to an OR search for each of those words. In other words, (table, family) will return the same results as table <OR> family. The advantage of using the parenthesized list is that it acts as a single expression which can be combined with other expressions. As I did in yesterday's search, a parenthesized list can be used as part of a phrase. So (table, family) of nations is the same as table of nations <OR> family of nations, but using the parenthesized list saved me having to type "of nations" twice.

An OR command, on the other hand, cannot be used like this to find alternate words in a single phrase. If I were to enter table <OR> family of nations, Accordance would find any occurrence of the word table or the phrase family of nations. It would not understand from this syntax that I want to find the phrase table of nations.

Using parenthesized lists of words is a concise and flexible way to look for alternate words in a more complex expression.

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Archived Comments


May 11, 2011 8:21 AM

This kind of search can be accomplished using <or>, it's just more cumbersome.  Consider

son of <followed by><within 1 word> (God <or> man)

It would be nice to have a mechanism for incorporating a boolean expression within a phrase that is more succinct than the "<followed by><within 1 word>" idiom.