Tuesday, December 7, 2010

When to use the + operator, the most misunderstood of them all

If you're a user of the search engines, you know about the minus operator to exclude terms from your results.

Example:  To find salsa recipes that do NOT have tomatoes in them,

[ salsa recipe -tomatoes ] 

That does just what you think, returning results that do NOT have the word "tomatoes" on the page.

So.... what does + do?

Most people think it means the opposite of minus, but, alas, is doesn't.  (Although I agree that would make sense!)

This what + means:  DO NOT change the search term in any way.  No synonyms, no stems, no nothing.  Search for exactly this word.  (In other words, it's very much like double-quote for a single word.)

Example:  My Mom told me yesterday that she was going to hear some "authentic joiker music" at the local Scandanavian outlet.  She was excited about it, and I naturally asked "so... what's joiker?"

A quick Google search for joiker is pretty useless--all of the results are about JOKER as the word gets spell-corrected to something I didn't really want.

This is when you want to use +

[ +joiker ]

And that tells you pretty quickly that it's a traditional Sami (aka Lapplander) style of singing.  It's pretty interesting, actually... Wikipedia tells us (with a spell-correction to yoik) that a joik is a song that tries to "transfer the essence" of a person or place to the listener, rather than being "about" a person or place.

In other words, + is the same as the Bing command noalter:  (example, on Bing:  [ noalter:joiker ]  )

Double quotes (on both Google and Bing) serve to turn off synonymization for strings of words.  Example:

[ "joik music" ] 

Handy sometimes.

Search on!


  1. Hi, this was a really great post. I´m a serch-reporter for IDG Brazil and would like to translte this post for my post tomorrow. Accurate translation guarantee and full credit too. What do you think?
    please let me know