User talk:Giraffedata

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If you came here to discuss an edit related to the phrase "comprised of," please see my user subpage about these edits first. Bryan Henderson (talk)


I have deleted the talk for 2008. There is not much there of reference value, so I just summarize it here. Of course, you can see the original discussion in the history of this page: just look at the last revision of 2008.

All of the comments but one were about edits I made to the phrase "comprised of." In September, I created my user subpage covering that topic and the comments dropped off sharply.

Two comments simply asked for an explanation of the edit.

15 commenters objected in some way to the "comprised of" work. The objections ranged from pointing out that I had introduced a typo in the process, which the commenter had corrected, to open personal insults.

4 comments expressed support for the work, 3 strongly. One of them was from a former user of "comprised of."

I caution anyone who might be using these numbers to draw a conclusion about the consensus of English speakers on the validity of "comprised of" that this is in no way a representative sampling. The total number of commenters is a tiny, tiny fraction of the number of edits and the commenters self-select.

Objecting comments were almost entirely inspired by a particular edit someone noticed.

In 4 cases, the commenter says he reverted my edit. In 2 of those, there is no claim that the reversion improves the article, and I believe the point of the reversion, and telling me about it, was to make a point. In 2 additional cases, the commenter says he further edited my edit.

Several objections were based on the fact that dictionaries list the offending usage as one of the definitions of "comprise." I and one other commenter responded that a usage being listed in a dictionary doesn't mean you shouldn't avoid it. That's not what dictionaries are for.

One of the comments claimed the original "comprised of" phrasing was superior to my phrasing, but the commenter declined to explain. His response to my request for an explanation was a sarcastic insult, and my followup request was unanswered.

One objection seems to have been based on a misreading of the edit, but it isn't clear because the commenter concentrated on attacking me rather than discussing the article. The exchange ends with, "You are a silly, silly man who is simply incapable of ... Case closed."

One commenter took issue with my edit summary, "fix 'comprised of'," saying it implied "comprised of" is grammatically incorrect, while he believed it is not. I explained that I don't think "fix" implies grammatical incorrectness.

Another commenter thought my fix was an irresponsible hack job that corrupted the text, but after some discussion apologized and agreed that he had just misread what I wrote. And re-edited it to make it read better.

Three commenters discussed the futility of the work. They didn't say what they were assuming is the goal of the work, but it appears to be something like "eliminate 'comprised of' from the English language." I said that isn't my goal, but didn't say what my goal is.

The only comment not about "comprised of" was a question asking, since I was interested in grammar disputes, what I thought of "color" vs "colour." I said I think that is in a whole different category (and that I'm perfectly OK with them being used in their respective dialects, but that I would have opposed "color" when it was new).

Bryan Henderson (talk) 03:45, 28 February 2009 (UTC)


I have deleted the talk for 2009. There is not much there of reference value, so I just summarize it here. Of course, you can see the original discussion in the history of this page: just look at the last revision of 2009.

Like in the previous year, all the comments but two were about edits I made to the phrase "comprised of." There were fewer negative comments in 2009, though, and more positive ones. I believe this is because late in 2008, I created my user subpage covering the topic and would-be commenters read that first. It could also be that I stopped using an edit summary that may have evoked an emotional response in some: "fix 'comprised of'." There appears to have been some public call for participation that resulted in about half of the discussion.

10 comments objected in some way to the work. 7 comments (not counting mine) were favorable. As always, I caution anyone who might be using these numbers to draw a conclusion about the consensus of English speakers on the validity of "comprised of" that this is in no way a representative sampling. The total number of commenters is a tiny, tiny fraction of the number of edits and the commenters self-select.

One comment took issue specifically with the edit summary "fix 'comprised of'," taking it to mean that the original text was grammatically incorrect and saying that on that basis the commenter almost reverted the edit. I responded that I don't think "fix" implies a grammatical correction. I also said a false accusation of incorrect grammar isn't a reason to revert anyway. But I said that I would nonetheless stop using that phrasing in order to avoid such reversions. (I switched to simply "comprised of" in quotes for the edit summary).

One commenter asked my opinion on another questionable use of "to comprise": to make up or constitute as in "red balls comprise half the entire selection." I said I hate that too.

One commenter wanted to take issue with my description of my motivation in my user subpage about "comprised of," which said "I don't edit for personal preference." The commenter basically points out that I obviously prefer to edit than not to, so the edits are based on personal preference. I tried to explain the distinction I was trying to make, and ultimately said I would try a different wording.

Along the same lines, another commenter said because some people have no problem with "comprised of," then changing sentences to the wording I prefer is imposing my point of view on readers, in a way which is against Wikipedia policy. I said I don't believe the Wikipedia Neutral Point Of View (NPOV) policy applies to language issues and furthermore that I don't think the reader is imposed upon in any way by not having the opportunity to read "comprised of."

There was a discussion about which is better: "the band is composed of John Jones and Mary Mason" or "the band consists of John Jones and Mary Mason."

There were two comments not related to "comprised of":

An editor asked for my opinion on a dispute he was having with another editor about verbiage in an article dealing with who was Muhammad's true successor. This was interesting, because it is a very sensitive topic, and not one I have any particular interest or expertise in. The reason he asked is that I was one of the recent editors of the article. Why? Because it contained the phrase "comprised of"! Nonetheless, I researched the issue and rendered my opinion.

A commenter praised my extensive changes to the Restrictive Covenant article. This has no relation to the "comprised of" work -- it was just a topic I looked up because I was interested and happen to know a lot about.

Bryan Henderson (talk) 06:29, 1 February 2010 (UTC)


I have deleted the talk for 2010. There is not much there of reference value, so I just summarize it here. Of course, you can see the original discussion in the history of this page: just look at the last revision of 2010.

Like in previous years, all the comments but one were about edits I made to the phrase "comprised of." Continuing the trend, the distribution of positive and negative comments was more positive than the previous year. There were 9 positives and 7 negatives, and 5 of those negatives were only barely negative, many of them being combined with overall approval of the project.

3 comments pointed out that I had accidentally changed a quotation.

There was a short exchange with AnmaFinotera, who is strenuously against the project, to the point that she said her policy is to revert my edits even though she doesn't believe the reversion improves the article. She didn't go so far as to say what the point of those reversions is. This exchange includes various personal attacks on me (as distinct from discussion of my edits), and also a claim that consensus is against the project.

One comment says that "composed of" is better than "made up of" for geological composition, as in "the area is made up of granite and basalt." I said I'm OK with either, but still prefer "made up of" for that.

An editor reported three places that the "comprised of" project has been discussed. I added those references to my user subpage on the project.

An editor asked how I do the edits, technically. I explained and also added a section to the user subpage.

There was a brief discussion of the phrase "try and," which derived from a discussion of how people judge "comprised of" correct because they're used to hearing it, even if it doesn't make logical sense. "Try and" is a great example of the same thing because it's commonly used, but there is no logical sense in it at all.

The one comment not related to "comprised of" was a request from an editor for assistance in a Wikipedia technical matter -- getting a category to work. This editor came to me because I had done a "comprised of" edit on the article with which he was having the problem and assumed I was experienced in editing Wikipedia.

Bryan Henderson (talk) 07:38, 24 January 2011 (UTC)


I have deleted the talk for 2011. There is not much there of reference value, so I just summarize it here. Of course, you can see the original discussion in the history of this page: just look at the last revision of 2011.

Like in previous years, the great majority of the comments were about edits I made to the phrase "comprised of." But unlike previous years, there was very little criticism. There were two complaints, both essentially withdrawn later, after extensive discussion. There were four requests for more explanation or for advice. There were four compliments/thanks, including the Executive Director's Barnstar, awarded by the Executive Directory of Wikimedia The latter doesn't apply specifically to "comprised of" edits, but I know I was nominated, with the phrase, "The MOST AWESOME WikiGnome ever," based primarily on those edits. Five comments pointed out that I had inadvertently edited a quotation. I thanked the commenter.

One comment was about an edit I made to add "sic" to the phrase "chomping at the bit" in a quotation. The commenter wanted to know why I did it, and I explained that "chomping" is an error (the horse champs; it doesn't chomp). We also discussed the use of "sic" in general and the meaning of prescriptive grammar versus descriptive grammar.

One comment said simply, "do you have a life?" As silly as the comment is, I did answer (essentially, "yes").

One comment was a question about information I added to the Vortex86 article. I answered.

Bryan Henderson (talk) 03:23, 6 February 2012 (UTC)


I have deleted the talk for 2012. There is not much there of reference value, so I just summarize it here. Of course, you can see the original discussion in the history of this page: just look at the last revision of 2012.

This was the most positive year yet for comments on my project to remove the phrase "comprised of" from Wikipedia articles. There were 18 positive comments, compared to 2 negative. One of the negative comments just pointed out that I had inadvertently edited a quotation. The other negative comment stated (incorrectly) that "comprised of" is a matter of regional dialect and that it is fully accepted in the UK. I responded by saying I would try to get some numerical evidence one way or the other, and then that I had done so and the evidence showed the phrase is not more accepted in the UK. Many of the positive comments indicated that I had corrected the poster's work and the poster had learned something as a result and would refrain from making the mistake in the future. One of the positive comments, apparently referring to the fact that I live in California, was entitled, "A Californian lecturing people on English?" I asked what his point was (is there a stereotype of Californians being poor writers of English?), but didn't get a response.

One comment suggested that I add an "in a nutshell" summary to my "comprised of" article. I responded that I had done so.

One comment pointed out copious grammatical and other writing errors in my "comprised of" article. I responded that I had corrected them all and learned a few things.

There was one discussion that wandered into the topic of some other errors, including less/fewer and "irregardless."

An editor asked for help, from a grammatical point of view, translating the Afghan National Anthem into English. I offered a few corrections.

Bryan Henderson (talk) 18:36, 9 March 2013 (UTC)


I have deleted the talk for 2013. I summarize it here, and you can see the original discussion in the history of this page: just look at the last revision of 2013.

All of the discussion this year was at least tangentially related to my work on abuse of the verb "to comprise" in Wikipedia.

Most of the comments were praise. Other than people pointing out accidental edits of quotes, there were only two negative comments about the work this year.

One was from a person who watches the New Jersey articles and objected to receiving notifications of 30 changes I made in a day to them, adding a "sic" tag to footnotes. The New Jersey articles are a collection of a few hundred articles about municipalities and school districts in New Jersey that share some source that uses the phrase "comprised of," so that footnotes in all of these articles contain that phrase. These 30 articles were either recent additions to that collection or had recent updates to the footnote. The complaining editor apparently did not understand the function of the "sic" tag -- it doesn't affect the displayed text at all, but it prevents automated and semi-automated grammar editing processes from accidentally editing the quotation. I explained that.

The other negative comment was a fairly common request that I leave "comprised of" in a particular article alone because the requester functions as the owner of the article and doesn't believe there is anything wrong with "comprised of". The requester had apparently written "comprised of" in this article three times and each time I changed it about six months later and he changed it back immediately afterward. He argued that I don't have the right to decide unilaterally the grammar to be used in Wikipedia. I asked why that same argument doesn't apply to his insistence on having "comprised of" in the article, but did not get a response. I also pointed out that because the article read the way he wanted it all but a few days a year, he was already winning the battle to control the article. We both indicated we would continue our respective editing.

One comment suggested renaming my "comprised of" essay, for an interesting reason: The essay is widely cited and shows up in search results and reference lists and such, which increases the exposure of the phrase and will tend to cause people who see it to reuse the phrase themselves. I responded that while that effect probably does exist, I thought any alternative title for the essay would make it harder to understand what the essay is about and the cost of that would be higher than the cost of giving "comprised of" more exposure.

"Comprised of" in a quotation. And indeed anywhere.[edit]

Putting aside the question (or non-question) about the appropriateness of "comprised of", it's fully comprehensible to a literate reader of English. This meant that I didn't hesitate when reverting your change of "comprised of" to "composed of" within a quotation. (Clicking "revert" was a minor mistake; I'd intended to click "roll back".) We don't tamper with what's between quotation marks, unless we have an excellent reason to so so. If "comprised" had been hard to understand, then it could have been replaced with some other word within brackets; but it wasn't and isn't hard to understand. If you want to snuff out examples of "comprised of" (or anything else that you consider a solecism), better consider where these examples occur.

Right, now that's out of the way, let's get back to the (non-) question. There's nothing wrong with "comprised of". -- Hoary (talk) 07:59, 27 January 2014 (UTC)

That was an accident. I have put the conventional sic tag on it now to prevent me or others from making the same mistake in the future. Bryan Henderson (giraffedata) (talk) 08:12, 27 January 2014 (UTC)
I read the referenced page and didn't find anything that isn't already covered in my own essay on the topic, but I'll add a reference to this other essay in the references to other commentators. It doesn't say there is nothing wrong with "comprised of" but just that it's widely used and has been used for a long time. So there are two things that aren't wrong with it, but there are a lot of other reasons to avoid it.
As you point out, another thing that is not wrong with the phrase is that it's fully comprehensible. Many people demand quite a bit more out of English writing in general and Wikipedia in specific than that it be fully comprehensible. I'd guess even you do, as a general rule. Bryan Henderson (giraffedata) (talk) 08:19, 27 January 2014 (UTC)
Not happy with "comprised of". I believe there are three standard choices: "comprise(s)", "is/are composed of", and "consist(s) of". Take yer pick. Tony (talk) 08:20, 27 January 2014 (UTC)

First, thank you for the subsequent edit. You just made a mistake. No biggie. (Me, I make mistakes all the time.)

That aside, I find your stance peculiar, and in two ways. First, you concede above that "comprised of" is (in some examples? generally?) "fully comprehensible", yet in your page about this non-issue you claim that its use (in some examples? generally?) produces "gibberish". Is there a subtle distinction between uses of "comprised of", or can "gibberish" include the fully comprehensible? Secondly, your page cites web pages that I suppose are presented as authorities to inveigh against "comprised of", but:

By contrast, I provide you with (i) evidence of use of "comprised of" in US periodicals that have careful (though of course not always flawless) writing and copyediting, and (ii) informed, thoughtful discussion by a US dictionary of note.

We all have likes and dislikes and you are of course fully entitled to dislike "comprised of". However, changing it to "composed of" saves no syllables and doesn't help comprehension. There must be better uses of your time than sweeps of Wikipedia to change the former to the latter. If you're on the lookout for bad prose, try searching for something that's indefensible (eg "tender age", often embedded within hilariously bad material). Happy editing! -- Hoary (talk) 02:30, 28 January 2014 (UTC)

You're right: but "comprised of" offends my overriding principle of tucking and trimming where possible for the same meaning. Like the loathsome "in order to" (to). So why the add-on to "comprise"? Just because people take the long route doesn't mean it should receive the OK tick. Tony (talk) 02:59, 28 January 2014 (UTC)

It may need clarification in the text, but my "gibberish" statement is assuming the definition mentioned in that paragraph. In contrast, when one reads the phrase, one knows to use the "compose" definition so as to make it comprehensible.
I don't believe I present anything as authority for "comprised of" being poor writing, because I really don't believe in such authority. If Wikipedia had an extensive manual of style, that could be authority for something like this, but as we know, Wikipedia does not believe in that level of authority. The references you cite are in a section entitled, "Other commentators." I consider them comments, not authorities. And it's not supposed to argue against "comprised of"; if there are more comments that disapprove of the phrase, it's only because I've come across more of those.
The fact that "comprised of" is popular, especially among some respected writers (by the way, I've found that U.S. judges are particularly fond of the phrase) is certainly a factor in the decision whether its the best wording for a Wikipedia article; it's just not the only one.
Bryan Henderson (giraffedata) (talk) 03:44, 28 January 2014 (UTC)
Who would ascribe linguistic authority to judges of any nationality? Most of them used to be attorneys, who earn billions of dollars an hour for writing crappily. en.WP's MOS is surprisingly extensive. If you write "in order to", in almost all instances it can (I believe should) be altered to "to". Same principle: why use one word when 12 will do? Tony (talk) 14:21, 29 January 2014 (UTC)
I find lawyers, both attorneys and judges, to be far better than average with English. And they ought to be; they're more educated than most and facility with language is a prerequisite to getting through school, passing a bar exam, and being successful enough at the trade to get hired and promoted. When I see some odd use of English in a judicial opinion, I always assume a priori that it's something the writer knows that I don't. In contrast, when I see some odd use of English in say, a Wikipedia article, I assume a priori it's because the writer doesn't know English as well as I do. I've learned lots of words (useful ones) from writings by judges.
Unfortunately, they do also have a desire to sound intelligent and that leads them to make mistakes like preferring phrases with more syllables.
My favorite aggrandizement is "due to the fact that" ("because").
I haven't looked at the Wikipedia MOS in a while, but I remember that it limits itself to highly technical things like punctuation and doesn't get into more intellectual issues like definition of words and preferred phrasing. That's what the consensus was the two times that I know someone asked that a ruling on "comprised of" be placed in the MOS. Bryan Henderson (giraffedata) (talk) 03:07, 1 February 2014 (UTC)

Well, if zapping every example of "comprised of" seems so very important to you, then I suppose you are free to continue. Though I really think you can spend your time more usefully and enjoyably in other ways. As a ferinstance, when a few minutes ago I searched for "tender age" -- of which Wikipedia still has dozens of examples, each pretty much guaranteeing other gruesome phrasing and unintended laughs aplenty -- I arrived at the article on some dancer, whereupon I zapped three "tender age"s, and, in a wee olive branch to you, one "comprised mainly of". And tenderness aside, I offer you the opening paragraph of Xiaolongnü (the bizarre part unfortunately complicated by being a [mis?]translation from Chinese). -- Hoary (talk) 09:50, 2 February 2014 (UTC)

Thank you[edit]

Thank you for your help at Bomis, much appreciated, — Cirt (talk) 21:16, 11 February 2014 (UTC)

A barnstar for you![edit]

Copyeditor Barnstar Hires.png The Copyeditor's Barnstar
Nice to see someone know their stuff where grammar is concerned! Thank you for all the edits (fixing "comprised of"). Meteor sandwich yum (talk) 06:41, 23 March 2014 (UTC)

A barnstar for you![edit]

Original Barnstar Hires.png The Original Barnstar
You're a legend, Bryan. Thanks for correcting my semi-regular use of 'comprised of'. Never again will I use it! Andrew McMillen (talk) 01:35, 26 March 2014 (UTC)

Thank you. I love it when people are able to change their grammar based on a logical argument. I'm like that (in fact, I actually enjoy learning and adopting new grammar), but I frequently run into people so emotionally attached to their grammar that they will defend what "sounds right" to the death. Bryan Henderson (giraffedata) (talk) 02:21, 26 March 2014 (UTC)

A barnstar for you![edit]

Original Barnstar Hires.png The Original Barnstar
Just wanted to take a moment and appreciate the work that you are doing on Wikipedia. You edited an article where I wrote "comprised of" and I must say, you did rightly so. I read a part of your "comprised of" page and I will definitely read the whole of it. It's informative and interesting. AMAZING! Muhammad Ali Khalid (talk) 16:50, 14 April 2014 (UTC)

Thank you![edit]

Thank you for your edits to the article Futsal. I'm in the middle of a clean-up as the article (and related articles) are a well, totally un-referenced, and need some fixing! - Master Of Ninja (talk) 05:34, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

ANI notification formality[edit]

Your "comprised of" project was mentioned in passing at WP:ANI as an example of what a good single-purpose account's behavior would look like. Feel free to ignore this and the ANI discussion at your leisure and keep up all the good work. Ian.thomson (talk) 05:51, 4 June 2014 (UTC)


I am curious, may I know why you can know very quickly which articles contain the phrase "comprised of"? Are you using any tool? (talk) 12:15, 21 July 2014 (UTC)

You can use the search box at the top of your page. Shabratha (talk) 14:19, 21 July 2014 (UTC)
Yes, that's essentially what I use. But one must be sure to use quotation marks: "comprised of", otherwise one gets all the articles that have "comprised" and "of" anywhere in the article instead of just the few hundred that have "comprised of" (mostly in quoted material). I do the search about once a week. I wrote a program to filter the results so I can separate the new occurrences from ones I've already looked at. See
Bryan Henderson (giraffedata) (talk) 17:16, 21 July 2014 (UTC)

Islamic state and the Islamic State[edit]

We have an article Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant‎ which needs to be renamed as this unrecognised state is now the "Islamic State" - any suggestions for an article title given the existence of [{Islamic State]] would be welcome at Talk:Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant#Need to change name of article to just Islamic State. Thanks. Dougweller (talk) 12:19, 31 July 2014 (UTC)