Wikipedia:Writing better articles

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This page sets out advice on how to write an effective article, including information on layout, style, and how to make an article clear, precise and relevant to the reader.

Layout

Main page: Wikipedia:Layout

Layout matters. Good articles start with introductions, continue with a clear structure, and end with standard appendices such as references and related articles.

Structure of the article

Introductory material

Good articles start with a brief lead section introducing the topic. We discuss lead sections in greater detail below. The lead section should come above the first header; it is almost never useful to add something like ==Introduction==. Sometimes, the first section after the lead is a broad summary of the topic, and is called "Overview", although more specific section titles and structures are generally preferred.

Paragraphs

Paragraphs should be short enough to be readable, but long enough to develop an idea. Overly long paragraphs should be split up, as long as the cousin paragraphs keep the idea in focus.

One-sentence paragraphs are unusually emphatic, and should be used sparingly. Articles should rarely, if ever, consist solely of such paragraphs.

Some paragraphs are really tables or lists in disguise. They should be rewritten as prose or converted to their unmasked form. Wikipedia:When to use tables and Wikipedia:Embedded list offer guidance on the proper use of these elements.

Headings

Headings help clarify articles and create a structure shown in the table of contents. To learn about how the MediaWiki software uses sections, see Help:Section.

Headings are hierarchical. The article's title uses a level 1 heading, so you should start with a level 2 heading (==Heading==) and follow it with lower levels: ===Subheading===, ====Subsubheading====, and so forth. Whether extensive subtopics should be kept on one page or moved to individual pages is a matter of personal judgment. See also below under #Summary style.

Headings should not be Wikilinked. This is because headings in themselves introduce information and let the reader know what subtopics will be presented; Wikilinks should be incorporated in the text of the section.

Images

If the article can be illustrated with pictures, find an appropriate place to position these images, where they relate closely to text they illustrate. If there might be doubt, draw attention to the image in the text (illustration right). For more information on using pictures, see Wikipedia:Layout#Images and Wikipedia:Picture tutorial.

Standard appendices

As explained in more detail at Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Layout § Standard appendices and footers, optional appendix sections containing the following information may appear after the body of the article in the following order:

  1. A list of books or other works created by the subject of the article (works)
  2. A list of internal "wikilinks" to related Wikipedia articles (see also)
  3. Notes and references (notes, footnotes, or references)
  4. A list of recommended relevant books, articles, or other publications that have not been used as sources (further reading)
  5. A list of recommended relevant websites that have not been used as sources (external links).

With some exceptions, any links to sister projects appear in further reading or external links sections. Succession boxes and navigational footers go at the end of the article, following the last appendix section, but preceding the category and interwiki templates.

Size

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Excessively long articles should usually be avoided. Articles should ideally contain less than 50KB worth of prose. When articles grow past this amount of readable text, they can be broken up into smaller articles to improve readability and ease of editing, or may require trimming to remain concise. The headed sub-section should be retained, with a concise version of what has been removed under an italicized header, such as Main article: History of Ruritania (a list of templates used to create these headers is available at Category:Wikipedia page-section templates). Otherwise, context is lost and the general treatment suffers. Each article on a subtopic should be written as a stand-alone article—that is, it should have a lead section, headings, et cetera.

When an article is long and has many sub articles, try to balance the main page. Do not put undue weight into one part of an article at the cost of other parts. In shorter articles, if one subtopic has much more text than another subtopic, that may be an indication the subtopic should have its own page, with only a summary presented on the main page.

Articles covering subtopics

Wikipedia articles tend to grow in a way that leads to the natural creation of new articles. The text of any article consists of a sequence of related but distinct subtopics. When there is enough text in a given subtopic to merit its own article, that text can be summarized in the present article and a link provided to the more detailed article. Cricket is an example of an article covering subtopics: it is divided into subsections that give an overview of the sport, with each subsection leading to one or more subtopic articles.

Information style and tone

Two styles, closely related, tend to be used for Wikipedia articles. The tone, however, should always remain formal, impersonal, and dispassionate.

News style

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Some Wikipedians prefer using a news style. News style is the prose style of short, direct front-page newspaper stories and the news bulletins that air on radio and television. The main feature of news style is a placement of important information first, with a decreasing importance as the article advances. Originally developed so that the editors could cut from the bottom to fit an item in the available layout space, it prioritizes information, because many people expect to find important material early, and less important information later where interest decreases. Encyclopedia articles are not required to be in news style, but a familiarity with this convention may help in planning the style and layout of an article.

Summary style

Summary style is an organizational style that is similar to news style except that it applies to topics instead of articles and mostly lead sections instead of lead sentences.

The idea is to distribute information in such a way that Wikipedia can serve readers who want varying amounts of detail. It is up to the reader to choose how much detail they are exposed to. Using progressively longer and longer summaries avoids overwhelming the reader with too much text at once. This is the style followed by such featured articles as Cricket and Music of the Lesser Antilles.

There are two main reasons for using Summary style in Wikipedia articles. One is that different readers desire different levels of detail: some readers need just a quick summary and are satisfied by the lead section; more people need a moderate amount of info, and will find the article suitable to their needs; yet others need a lot of detail, and will be interested in reading the sub articles. The other reason is simply that an article that is too long becomes tedious to read, and might repeat itself or represent writing that could be more concise.

Tone

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Wikipedia articles, and other encyclopedic content, should be written in a formal tone. Standards for formal tone vary depending upon the subject matter, but should follow the style used by reliable sources, while remaining clear and understandable. Formal tone means that the article should not be written using unintelligible argot, slang, colloquialisms, doublespeak, legalese, or jargon; it means that the English language should be used in a businesslike manner.

Articles should generally not be written from a first or second person perspective. In prose writing, the first person ("I" and "we") point of view and second person ("you" and "your") point of view typically evoke a strong narrator. While this is acceptable in works of fiction, it is generally unsuitable in an encyclopedia, where the writer should be invisible to the reader. Moreover, pertaining specifically to Wikipedia's policies, the first person often inappropriately implies a point of view inconsistent with WP:NPOV, and second person is inappropriately associated with step-by-step instructions of a how-to guide (see WP:NOTHOWTO). First and second person pronouns should ordinarily be used only in attributed direct quotations relevant to the subject of the article. As with many such guidelines, however, there are exceptions: for instance, in professional mathematics writing, use of the first person plural ("we") as "inclusive we" is widespread. Use common sense to determine if the chosen perspective is in the spirit of this guideline.

Gender-neutral pronouns should be used where the gender is not specific; see Gender-neutral language for further information.

Punctuation marks that appear in the article should be used only per generally accepted practice. Exclamation marks (!) should be used only if they occur in direct quotations.

Provide context for the reader

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For context and linking, see Wikipedia:Manual of Style (links).

Wikipedia is an international encyclopedia. People who read Wikipedia have different backgrounds, education and opinions. Make your article accessible and understandable for as many readers as possible. Assume readers are reading the article to learn. It is possible that the reader knows nothing about the subject: the article needs to explain the subject fully.

Avoid using jargon whenever possible. Consider the reader. An article entitled "Use of chromatic scales in early Baroque music" is likely to be read by musicians, and technical details and terms are appropriate, linking to articles explaining the technical terms.

An article entitled "Baroque music" is likely to be read by laypersons who want a brief and plainly written overview, with links to available detailed information. When jargon is used in an article, a brief explanation should be given within the article. Aim for a balance between comprehensibility and detail so that readers can gain information from the article.

Evaluating context

Here are some thought experiments to help you test whether you are setting enough context:

  • Does the article make sense if the reader gets to it as a random page? (Special:Random)
  • Imagine yourself as a layperson in another English-speaking country. Can you figure out what the article is about?
  • Can people tell what the article is about if the first page is printed out and passed around?
  • Would a reader want to follow some of the links?

Build the web

Remember that every Wikipedia article is tightly connected to a network of other topics. Establishing such connections via wikilink is a good way to establish context. Because Wikipedia is not a long, ordered sequence of carefully categorized articles like a paper encyclopedia, but a collection of randomly accessible, highly interlinked ones, each article should contain links to more general subjects that serve to categorize the article. When creating links, do not go overboard, and be careful to make your links relevant. It is not necessary to link the same term twelve times (although if it appears in the lead, then near the end, it might be a good idea to link it twice).

Avoid making your articles orphans. When you write a new article, make sure that one or more other pages link to it, to lessen the chances that your article will be orphaned through someone else's refactoring. Otherwise, when it falls off the bottom of the Recent Changes page, it will disappear into the Mists of Avalon. There should always be an unbroken chain of links leading from the Main Page to every article in Wikipedia; following the path you would expect to use to find your article may give you some hints as to which articles should link to your article.

State the obvious

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State facts that may be obvious to you, but are not necessarily obvious to the reader. Usually, such a statement will be in the first sentence or two of the article. For example, consider this sentence:

The Ford Thunderbird was conceived as a response to the Chevrolet Corvette and entered production for the 1955 model year.

Here no mention is made of the Ford Thunderbird's fundamental nature: it is an automobile. It assumes that the reader already knows this—an assumption that may not be correct, especially if the reader is not familiar with Ford or Chevrolet. Perhaps instead:

The Ford Thunderbird is a car manufactured in the United States by the Ford Motor Company.

However, there is no need to go overboard. There is no need to explain a common word like "car". Repetition is usually unnecessary, for example:

Shoichi Yokoi was conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army in 1941.

conveys enough information (although it is not a good first sentence). However, the following is not only verbose but redundant:

Shoichi Yokoi was a Japanese soldier in Japan who was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army in 1941.

Lead section

As explained in more detail at Wikipedia:Lead section#Introductory text, all but the shortest articles should start with introductory text (the "lead"). The lead should establish significance, include mention of consequential or significant criticism or controversies, and be written in a way that makes readers want to know more. The appropriate length of the lead depends on that of the article, but should normally be no more than four paragraphs. The lead itself has no heading and, on pages with more than three headings, automatically appears above the table of contents, if present.

Opening paragraph

Normally, the opening paragraph summarizes the most important points of the article. It should clearly explain the subject so that the reader is prepared for the greater level of detail that follows. If further introductory material is appropriate before the first section, it can be covered in subsequent paragraphs in the lead. Introductions to biographical articles commonly double as summaries, listing the best-known achievements of the subject. Because some readers will read only the opening of an article, the most vital information should be included.

First sentence content

The article should begin with a short declarative sentence, answering two questions for the nonspecialist reader: "What (or who) is the subject?" and "Why is this subject notable?"[1]

  • If possible, the page title should be the subject of the first sentence:[2] However, if the article title is merely descriptive—such as Electrical characteristics of a dynamic loudspeaker—the title does not need to appear verbatim in the main text. Similarly, where an article title is of the type "List of ...", a clearer and more informative introduction to the list is better than verbatim repetition of the title.
  • When the page title is used as the subject of the first sentence, it may appear in a slightly different form, and it may include variations.[3] Similarly, if the title has a parenthetical disambiguator, the disambiguator should be omitted in the text.[4]
  • If its subject is amenable to definition, then the first sentence should give a concise definition: where possible, one that puts the article in context for the nonspecialist. Similarly, if the subject is a term of art, provide the context as early as possible.[5]
  • If the article is about a fictional character or place, make sure to say so.[6]

First sentence format

  • As a general rule, the first (and only the first) appearance of the page title should be in boldface as early as possible in the first sentence:

An electron is a subatomic particle that carries a negative electric charge.

The chief electrical characteristic of a dynamic loudspeaker's driver is its electrical impedance as a function of frequency.

  • If the subject of the page is normally italicized (for example, a work of art, literature, album, or ship) then its first mention should be both bold and italic text; if it is usually surrounded by quotation marks, the title should be bold but the quotation marks should not:

Las Meninas (Spanish for The Maids of Honour) is a 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez, ...

"Yesterday" is a pop song originally recorded by The Beatles for their 1965 album Help!.

  • If the subject of the page has a common abbreviation or more than one name, the abbreviation (in parentheses) and each additional name should be in boldface on its first appearance:

Sodium hydroxide (NaOH), also known as lye, caustic soda and (incorrectly, according to IUPAC nomenclature) sodium hydrate, is ...

  • Use as few links as possible before and in the bolded title. Thereafter, words used in a title may be linked to provide more detail:

Arugam Bay is a bay situated on the Indian Ocean in the dry zone of Sri Lanka's southeast coast.

The rest of the opening paragraph

Then proceed with a description. Remember, the basic significance of a topic may not be obvious to nonspecialist readers, even if they understand the basic characterization or definition. Tell them. For instance:

Peer review, known as refereeing in some academic fields, is a scholarly process used in the publication of manuscripts and in the awarding of money for research. Publishers and agencies use peer review to select and to screen submissions. At the same time, the process assists authors in meeting the standards of their discipline. Publications and awards that have not undergone peer review are liable to be regarded with suspicion by scholars and professionals in many fields.

The rest of the lead section

If the article is long enough for the lead section to contain several paragraphs, then the first paragraph should be short and to the point, with a clear explanation of what the subject of the page is. The following paragraphs should give a summary of the article. They should provide an overview of the main points the article will make, summarizing the primary reasons the subject matter is interesting or notable, including its more important controversies, if there are any.

The appropriate length of the lead section depends on the total length of the article. As a general guideline, the lead should be no longer than two or three paragraphs. The following specific rules have been proposed:

Article Length Lead Length
Fewer than 15,000 characters One or two paragraphs
15,000–30,000 characters Two or three paragraphs
More than 30,000 characters Three or four paragraphs

"Lead follows body"

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The sequence in which you edit should usually be: first change the body, then update the lead to summarize the body. Several editors might add or improve some information in the body of the article, and then another editor might update the lead once the new information has stabilized. Don't try to update the lead first, hoping to provide direction for future changes to the body. There are three reasons why editing the body first and then making the lead reflect it tends to lead to better articles.

First, it keeps the lead in sync with the body. The lead, being a summary of the article, promises that the body will deliver fuller treatment of each point. Generally, wiki pages are imperfect at all times, but they should be complete, useful articles at all times. They should not contain "under construction" sections or refer to features and information that editors hope they will contain in the future. It's much worse for the lead to promise information that the body does not deliver than for the body to deliver information that the lead does not promise.

Second, good ways to summarize material usually only become clear after that material has been written. If you add a new point to the lead before it's covered in the body, you only think you know what the body will eventually contain. When the material is actually covered in the body, and checked and improved, usually by multiple editors, then you know. (If having a rough, tentative summary helps you write the body, keep your own private summary, either on your computer or in your User space.)

Third, on contentious pages, people often get into edit wars over the lead because the lead is the most prominent part of the article. It's much harder to argue constructively over high-level statements when you don't share common understanding of the lower-level information that they summarize. Space is scarce in the lead, so people are tempted to cram too much into one sentence, or pile on lots of references, in order to fully state and prove their case—resulting in an unreadable lead. In the body, you have all the space you need to cover subtleties and to cover opposing ideas fairly and in depth, separately, one at a time. Once the opposing ideas have been shaken out and covered well in the body, editing the lead without warring often becomes much easier. Instead of arguing about what is true or what all the competing sources say, now you are just arguing over whether the lead fairly summarizes what's currently in the body.

Use other languages sparingly

It is fine to include foreign terms as extra information, but avoid writing articles that can only be understood if the reader understands the foreign terms. Such words are equivalent to jargon, which should be explained somehow. In the English-language Wikipedia, the English form does not always have to come first: sometimes the non-English word is better as the main text, with the English in parentheses or set off by commas after it, and sometimes not. For example, see perestroika.

Non-English words in the English-language Wikipedia should be written in italics. Non-English words should be used as titles for entries only as a last resort. Again, see perestroika.

English title terms taken from a language that does not use the Roman alphabet can include the native spelling in parentheses. See, for example, I Ching (simplified Chinese: 易经; traditional Chinese: 易經; pinyin: yì jīng) or Sophocles (Greek: Σοφοκλῆς). The native spelling is useful for precisely identifying foreign words, since transliterations may be inaccurate or ambiguous. Foreign terms within the article body do not need native spellings if they can be specified as title terms in separate articles.

Use color sparingly

If possible, avoid presenting information with color only within the article's text and in tables.

Color should only be used sparingly, as a secondary visual aid. Computers and browsers vary, and you cannot know how much color, if any, is visible on the recipient's machine. Wikipedia is international: colors have different meaning in different cultures. Too many colors on one page look cluttered and unencyclopedic. Specifically, use the color red only for alerts and warnings.

Awareness of color should be allowed for low-vision viewers: poor lighting, color blindness, dark or overbright screens, and the wrong contrast/color settings on the display screen.

Use clear, precise and accurate terms

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Be concise

Main page: WP:BECONCISE
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Articles should use only necessary words. This does not mean using fewer words is always better; rather, when considering equivalent expressions, choose the more concise. Consider the view of William Strunk, Jr. from the 1918 work, The Elements of Style:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

Reduce sentences to the essentials. Wordiness does not add credibility to Wikipedia articles. Avoid temporary expressions like "due to the fact that" in place of "because", or "at the present time" for "currently". The ideal method of specifying on-going events is "as of 2014". Wikipedia "grammar bots" will replace these types of expressions with correct wording.

Conciseness does not justify removing information from an article. The use of subjective qualifiers should be avoided.

Principle of least astonishment

For the Wikimedia Foundation's position on this issue, see wikimedia:Resolution:Controversial content.
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When the principle of least astonishment is successfully employed, information is understood by the reader without struggle. The average reader should not be shocked, surprised, or overwhelmingly confused by your article. For example, do not write, "Most people in Fargo, N.D. are dead. That is, dead tired by the end of a long work day". You should not use provocative language in descriptions or arguments. Instead, offer information gently. Use consistent vocabulary in parts that are technical and difficult. To work out which parts of the sentence are going to be difficult for the reader, try to put yourself in the position of a reader hitherto uninformed on the subject.

You should plan your page structure and links so that everything appears reasonable and makes sense. If a link takes readers to somewhere other than where they thought it would, it should at least take them somewhere that makes sense.

Similarly, make sure that concepts being used as the basis for further discussion have already been defined or linked to a proper article. Explain causes before consequences and make sure your logical sequence is clear and sound, especially to the layman.

Ensure that redirects and hatnotes that are likely to be useful are in place. If a user wants to know about the branch of a well-known international hotel chain in the French capital, they may type "Paris Hilton" into the search box. This will, of course, take them to the page associated with a well-known socialite. Luckily, though, a hatnote at the top of that article exists in order to point our user to an article which they will find more useful.

Use of "refers to"

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Phrases such as refers to, is the name of, describes the, or is a term for are sometimes used inappropriately in the introduction to a Wikipedia article. For example, the article Computer architecture once began with the sentence, "Computer architecture refers to the theory behind the design of a computer."

That is not true: Computer architecture is the theory. The words "computer architecture" refer to the theory, but the article is not about the words, it is about the theory.

Thus it is better to say, "Computer architecture is the theory behind the design of a computer."

This is known as the use–mention distinction. For the vast majority of articles, the introduction is using a term ("Computer architecture is a theory"), rather than mentioning it ("All your base are belong to us is a broken English phrase").

Disambiguation pages mention the term, so in such cases it is correct to write "The term Great Schism refers to either one of two schisms in the history of Christianity: ...". However, a content article should read "There have been two Great Schisms in the history of Christianity".

When referring directly to a term rather than using it, write the word in italics, as shown above; see WP:WORDSASWORDS.

Check your facts

Write material that is true: check your facts. Do not write material that is false. This might require that you verify your alleged facts.

This is a crucial part of citing good sources: even if you think you know something, you have to provide references anyway to prove to the reader that the fact is true. Material that seems to naturally stem from sourced claims might not have been actually claimed. In searching for good references to cite, you might even learn something new.

Be careful about deleting material that may be factual. If you are inclined to delete something from an entry, first consider checking whether it is true. If material is apparently factual, in other words substantiated and cited, be extra careful about deleting. An encyclopedia is a collection of facts. If another editor provided a fact, there was probably a reason for it that should not be overlooked. Therefore, consider each fact provided as potentially precious. Is the context or overall presentation the issue? If the fact does not belong in one particular article, maybe it belongs in another.

Examine entries you have worked on subsequent to revision by others. Have facts been omitted or deleted? It may be the case that you failed to provide sufficient substantiation for the facts, or that the facts you incorporated may need a clearer relationship to the entry. Protect your facts, but also be sure that they are presented meaningfully.

Check your fiction

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The advice about factual articles also applies to articles on fiction subjects. Further considerations apply when writing about fictional topics because they are inherently not real. It is important to keep these articles verifiable and encyclopedic.

If you add fictional information, clearly distinguish fact and fiction. As with normal articles, establish context so that a reader unfamiliar with the subject can get an idea about the article's meaning without having to check several links. Instead of writing

"Trillian is Arthur Dent's girlfriend. She was taken away from Earth by Zaphod when he met her at a party. She meets Dent while travelling with Zaphod."

write

"Trillian is a fictional character from Douglas Adams' radio, book and now film series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In the first book, Trillian is introduced to the main character Arthur Dent on a spaceship. In her backstory, she was taken away from Earth when the space alien Zaphod Beeblebrox met her at a party."

And so forth.

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Works of fiction are generally considered to "come alive" for their audience. They therefore exist in a kind of perpetual present, regardless of when the fictional action is supposed to take place relative to the reader's "now". Thus, generally you should write about fiction using the historical present tense, not the past tense. Examples:

Homer presents, Achilles rages, Andromache laments, Priam pleads.
"Holden Caulfield has a certain disdain for what he sees as 'phony'."
"Friends is an American sitcom that was aired on NBC."

Conversely, discussion of history is usually written in the past tense and thus "fictional history" may be presented in that way as well.

"Chroniclers claimed that Thalestris, queen of the Amazons, seduced Alexander the Great."

Articles about fictional topics should not read like book reports; instead, they should explain the topic's significance to the work. After reading the article, the reader should be able to understand why a character, place, or event was included in the fictional work.

Editors are generally discouraged from adding fictional information from sources that cannot be verified or are limited to a very small number of readers, such as fan fiction and online role-playing games. In the latter case, if you absolutely have to write about the subject, please be especially careful to cite your sources.

If the subject, say a character in a television show, is too limited to be given a full article, then integrate information about that character into a larger article. It is better to write a larger article about the television show or a fictional universe itself than to create all sorts of stubs about its characters that nobody can find.

Stay on topic

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The most readable articles contain no irrelevant (nor only loosely relevant) information. While writing an article, you might find yourself digressing into a side subject. If you find yourself wandering off-topic, consider placing the additional information into a different article, where it will fit more closely with the topic. If you provide a link to the other article, readers who are interested in the side topic have the option of digging into it, but readers who are not interested will not be distracted by it. Due to the way in which Wikipedia has grown, many articles contain redundant passages of this kind. Please be bold in deleting these passages.

Pay attention to spelling

Pay attention to spelling, particularly of new page names. Articles with good spelling and proper grammar can help encourage further contributions of well-formed content. Proper spelling of an article name will also make it easier for other authors to link their articles to your article. Sloppiness begets sloppiness, so always do your best.

Avoid peacock and weasel terms

Avoid peacock terms that show off the subject of the article without containing any real information. Similarly, avoid weasel words that offer an opinion without really backing it up, and which are really used to express a non-neutral point of view.

Examples of peacock terms
an important... one of the most prestigious... one of the best...
the most influential... a significant... the great...
Examples of weasel words
Some people say... ...is widely regarded as... ..is widely considered...
...has been called... It is believed that... It has been suggested/noticed/decided...
Some people believe... It has been said that... Some would say...
Legend has it that... Critics say that... Many/some have claimed...

Believe in your subject. Let the facts speak for themselves. If your ice hockey player, canton, or species of beetle is worth the reader's time, it will come out through the facts. However, in some cases (for example, history of graphic design) using superlative adjectives (in the "... one of the most important figures in the history of ..." format) in the description may help readers with no previous knowledge about the subject to learn about the importance or generally perceived status of the subject discussed. Note that to use this type of superlative adjective format, the most reputable experts in the relevant field must support the claim.

Avoid blanket terms unless you have verified them. For example, this article states that of the 18 Montgomery Counties in the United States, most are named after Richard Montgomery. This is a blanket statement. It may very well be true, but is it reliable? In this instance, the editor had done the research to verify this. Without the research, the statement should not be made. It is always a good idea to describe the research done and sign it on the article's talk page.

If you wish to, or must refer to an opinion, first make sure someone who holds some standing in that subject gives it. A view on former American President Gerald Ford from Henry Kissinger is more interesting for the reader than one from your teacher from school. Then say who holds the opinion being given, preferably with a source or a quote for it. Compare the following:

Some critics of George W. Bush have said he has low intelligence.
Author Michael Moore in his book Stupid White Men ...and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation! wrote an open letter to George Bush. In it, he asked, "George, are you able to read and write on an adult level?"

Examples

Sometimes the way around using these terms is to replace the statements with the facts that back them up. Instead of:

"The Yankees are one of the greatest baseball teams in history."

Write:

"The New York Yankees have won 26 World Series championships—almost three times as many as any other team."

By sticking to concrete and factual information, we can avoid the need to give any opinion at all. Doing so also makes for writing that is much more interesting, for example:

William Peckenridge, eighth Duke of Omnium (1642? – May 8, 1691) is widely considered to be one of the most important men to carry that title.
William Peckenridge, eighth Duke of Omnium (1642? – May 8, 1691) was personal counselor to King James I, general in the Wars of the Roses, a chemist, bandleader, and the director of the secret society known as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He expanded the title of Omnium to include protectorship of Guiana and right of revocation for civil-service appointments in India.

Show, don't tell. The first example simply tells the reader that William Peckenridge was important. The second example shows the reader why he was important.

Exceptions

When repeating established views, it may be easier to simply state: "Before Nicolaus Copernicus, most people thought the sun revolved round the earth", rather than sacrifice clarity with details and sources, particularly if the statement forms only a small part of your article. However, in general, everything should be sourced, whether within the text, with a footnote, or with a general reference.

Make omissions explicit for other editors

Make omissions explicit when creating or editing an article. When writing an article, always aim for completeness. If for some reason you cannot cover a point that should be explained, make that omission explicit. You can do this either by leaving a note on the discussion page or by leaving HTML comments within the text and adding a notice to the bottom about the omissions. This has two purposes: it entices others to contribute, and it alerts non-experts that the article they are reading does not yet give the full story.

That's why Wikipedia is a collaborative encyclopedia—we work together to achieve what we could not achieve individually. Every aspect that you cover means less work for someone else, plus you may cover something that someone else may not think of but which is nevertheless important to the subject. Add {{todo}} to the top of the talk page of articles for which you can establish some goals, priorities or things to do.

Other issues

Honorifics 
Do not use honorifics or titles, such as Mr, Ms, Rev, Doctor, etc. See Wikipedia:Naming conventions (names and titles) and Wikipedia:Manual of Style (biographies)
Inappropriate subjects 
If you are trying to dress up something that doesn't belong in Wikipedia—your band, your Web site, your company's product—think twice about it. Wikipedia is not an advertising medium or home page service. Wikipedians are pretty clever, and if an article is really just personal gratification or blatant advertising, it's not going to last long—no matter how "important" you say the subject is.
Integrate changes
When you make a change to some text, rather than appending the new text you would like to see included at the bottom of the page, if you feel so motivated, please place and edit your comments so that they flow seamlessly with the present text. Wikipedia articles should not end up being a series of disjointed comments about a subject, but unified, seamless, and ever-expanding expositions of the subject.
Avoiding common mistakes 
It is easy to commit a Wikipedia faux pas. That is OK—everybody does it! Nevertheless, here are a few you might try to avoid.
Make a personal copy 
Suppose you get into an edit war. Or worse, a revert war. Therefore, you try to stay cool. This is good. Congratulations! However, what would be great is if you could carry on working on the article, even though there is an edit war going on, and even though the version on the top is the evil one favoured by the other side in the dispute.
So make a personal copy as a subpage of your user page. Just start a new page at User:MY NAME/ARTICLE NAME, and copy and paste the wiki-source in there. Then you can carry on improving the article at your own pace! If you like, drop a note on the appropriate talk page to let people know what you are doing.
Some time later, at your leisure, once the fuss has died down, merge your improvements back in to the article proper. Maybe the other person has left Wikipedia, finding it not to their taste. Maybe they have gone on to other projects. Maybe they have changed their mind. Maybe someone else has made similar edits anyway (although they may not be as good as yours, as you have had more time to consider the matter).

See also

Notes

  1. ^ For example:

    Amalie Emmy Noether [ˈnøːtɐ] (23 March 1882 – 14 April 1935) was a German mathematician known for her groundbreaking contributions to abstract algebra and her contributions to theoretical physics.

    This example not only tells the reader that the subject was a mathematician, it also indicates her field of expertise and work she did outside of it. The years of her birth and death provide time context. The reader who goes no further in this article already knows when she lived, what work she did, and why she is notable. (Wikipedia:Manual of Style (biographies) has more on the specific format for biography articles.)

  2. ^ For example:

    This Manual of Style is a style guide containing ...

    not

    This style guide, known as the Manual of Style, contains ...

  3. ^ For example, in the article "United Kingdom":

    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom, the UK, or Britain, is a sovereign island country located off the northwestern coast of continental Europe.

  4. ^ Thus, the article Egg (food) should start like this:

    An egg is an ovum produced by ...

    Not like this:

    An egg (food) is an ovum produced by ...

  5. ^ For example, instead of:

    A trusted third party is an entity that facilitates interactions between two parties who both trust the third party.

    write:

    In cryptography, a trusted third party is an entity that facilitates interactions between two parties who both trust the third party.

  6. ^ For example:

    Homer Simpson is a fictional character in The Simpsons.

Related information