Wikipedia talk:Make technical articles understandable

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U.S. Government guide on plain language[edit]

This document is sometimes delightful. It's not exactly what we are trying to do here. Nor will everyone agree with everything in there. I don't want contractions creeping in, for one. But it's good stuff. I smiled when they made the comment about not being scared of having lots of periods. Some of the comments on paragraphs really resonated as well. See: [1].

Jargon/technical language in section titles[edit]

Should there be a guideline on using jargon or technical language in section titles? This came to my attention when I noticed most "Bird" articles have sections titled "Taxonomy". It's a word that stops you (well me) dead - so whats this section about? It seems to be contrary to every part of this guideline. When jargon/technical language is in a section title you can not explain it when its first used (without creating a very long title), or even wikilink it. None of the articles bother to do either, the word is not brought up again. The "section" definitely does not "start out understandable". I brought this up at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Birds#Taxonomy? but I noticed (and several other editors pointed out) this goes on project wide with words like "Pathophysiology", "phylogeny", etc. being recommended by their relative project pages as title MOS. It seems to me if there is a precise word that covers many aspects, it's a clue to break it up and have sections with common titles for each of those aspects. Ohioartdude2 (talk) 13:33, 11 July 2011 (UTC)

This is only a problem if you are unwilling to learn the meanings of such words. Taxonomy, pathophysiology and phylogeny are pretty common and standard technical terms in their respective fields, whose inclusion in your passive vocabulary is not going to hurt you. In the same way that one learns how Wikipedia works (even for readers), i.e., things such as the difference between articles, disambiguation pages, lists, categories, project space, etc., different kinds of links in different parts of the page, etc., in just the same way one learns about these terms just by the kind of stuff that can be found in the sections headed by them.
That' s not to say that these terms should not be replaced by 'easier' terms where available. But they are certainly preferable to misleading or roundabout circumlocutions, merging sections to avoid 'bad' words, or other, similarly invasive avoidance strategies. I am not sure that we need written guidance about this, as it's basically just common sense. Hans Adler 15:06, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
Learning about words is fine although Wikipedia is nether a dictionary nor an instruction manual to teach words. I wouldn't say avoid 'bad' words, just explain them per this guideline. You can't do that in a section title. Reliance on technical words in a section heading (or anywhere else in an article) point to problems in encyclopedic editing, the article has not been boiled down to the level of the "average reader" yet. Recommending such words as titles in an MOS kind of perpetuates this problem. Ohioartdude2 (talk) 16:28, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
"Taxonomy" is not a technical term. It is a term that has passed into regular English usage. Most educated people know the meaning of this word, without any specialized instruction in biology. Sławomir Biały (talk) 12:47, 13 July 2011 (UTC)
Many differ with that statement[2][3][4][5][6]. Ohioartdude2 (talk) 20:41, 20 July 2011 (UTC)
The first link includes in its banned list words like "advocate", "agencies", "capacity". Several of the other links just show that there are many illiterate people online. I'm not even sure what relevance a "web design glossary" has to this discussion. If this is the best you can do, I'm really not impressed. (In fact, according to your first link "can do" is a banned phrase... I guess I am not allowed to use that either). I am a mathematician with no specialized training in biology, medicine, philosophy, or religion. English is my second language. I know what all of the words under discussion mean: etiology, hermeneutic, phylogeny, taxonomy. These are not jargon: they are regular words in the English language. Just because they may not be included in some less educated people's vocabulary doesn't make them jargon. "Gregarious", "obstreperous", "lugubrious" are words that many uneducated people don't know, yet they are not jargon. If you see a word you don't know, look it up in the dictionary. This isn't dummipedia; we have simple English Wikipedia for people who prefer an encyclopedia written for audiences lacking an educated vocabulary. Sławomir Biały (talk) 13:00, 28 September 2011 (UTC)
This is getting a bit ridiculous if we're arguing that etiology, phylogeny, and hermeneutic are everyday words that should be used instead of more straightforward alternatives. (No one knows what hermeneutic means. Seriously.)
--Qwerty0 (talk) 18:48, 28 September 2011 (UTC)
Actually, nevermind this. We're both obviously arguing from principle and claiming more than is reasonable for this particular discussion. You're worried about "dumbing down" Wikipedia. I'm worried about keeping it useful for non-experts. But really, there's bigger fish to fry than this section heading thing.
Let's wait till there's a more important dispute and discuss its merits instead of using this one as a proxy for our cause.
--Qwerty0 (talk) 19:32, 28 September 2011 (UTC)
First, I recommend that anybody discussing this look a bit at the bird project discussion, to see what some editors in biology, the subject this is concerned with, think. I guess a big part of the argument that I and others made is that there's nothing better to use than taxonomy, as Hans Adler put it, the alternatives are "misleading or roundabout circumlocutions".
Where is 'phylogeny' recommended? Not at any vertebrate projects, as far as I know. (I would think this would always go under 'taxonomy', or a (sub)section named something like 'evolutionary history'.) For the links, I don't see what Google shows, the last three sites largely discuss different meanings in more specific subjects, not the general meaning of the word or its use for biology, and these are in rather different contexts—alternatives are much more appropriate in the context of the local governments documents the BBC discusses. None of this demonstrates that the term is not widely understood (not that I can find anything to the contrary). —innotata 17:45, 22 July 2011 (UTC)
Hmmmm.... there are allot of words that are useful and specific. The problem is, are are not very useful in an encyclopedia - hence this WP:MTAA guideline. A word that is explained some 119,000 times [7] is probably jargon/technical and therefor not very useful in an encyclopedia. I wouldn't say there needs to be "roundabout circumlocutions" to get around a word. If one word is covering allot of things it is probably a sign that the article needs further breaking down to cover those many things. Ohioartdude2 (talk) 03:30, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
With all respect, but "taxonomy" is such a common word in any science field and has entered regular usage indeed (read some newspapers!), that seeing such a trivial word explained to me in a general article I would perceive as an affront. There will always be people who do not understand "difficult" words: you may replace your example with any other, e.g., a Google search for "What is filibustering" "filibustering is" claims 24,800 hits as well (and I did not look for any other words). That does not mean that we would have to explain "filibustering" in any article on a political topic, even though we have articles on both taxonomy and filibustering. Nageh (talk) 10:46, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
Since "classification" would communicate the same idea to the educated reader as "taxonomy", I'd choose that more familiar word—just like I normally choose "mechanism" instead of "pathophysiology", and "cause" rather than "etiology", even though I think that any college-educated native English speaker(!) should understand all of those words. When we can easily make the text accessible to less-educated readers (i.e., without introducing errors), then IMO we should do so. Using the fifty-dollar word instead of the fifty-cent word often strikes me as showing off how smart (we think) we are. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:09, 25 July 2011 (UTC)
^THIS^
Hope this discussion's not too old, apologies if so. Just wanted to weigh in that the general idea of "using the fifty-cent word instead of the fifty-dollar word" is really crucial.
Honestly, whatever about the "taxonomy" ting. There are way more pressing issues. I kind of expect to not understand many section titles. But it's a good example of a time when there's a perfectly good alternative that isn't an unnecessary obstacle thrown at non-experts.
I'm a biologist, so of course "taxonomy" is an everyday, uneventful word for me. So it took some effort to shift my perspective, remembering how it is for me trying to navigate a math, medical, or art article with section titles like The Field Ki[x]/(ƒ(x)) or Hermeneutics of religion. Even a word like Etiology I have to stop to look up. And it's in a field related to biology! So I realized: Ok, yeah, maybe it's not a trivial thing to make it so my mother doesn't have to search through the whole article when she's just looking up a bird to see what it's related to. This sort of thing happens. It recently took me hours perusing DNS to find the distinction between registrars vs. registries.
Anyway, opaque section titles are often unavoidable. No big deal. But when there's an available alternative like "Classification" that's more straightforward for non-experts than "Taxonomy," why not use it?
--Qwerty0 (talk) 09:52, 28 September 2011 (UTC)

WP:JARGON and wp:jargon[edit]

These two shortcuts lead to two different places. WP:JARGON leads to Wikipedia:Manual of Style#Technical language (which covers technical articles an specialized words), and wp:jargon leads to this article (which for the most part covers technical articles and gives no up front guideline on specialized words). Is there a reason why a capital and lower case version of the same shortcut lead to two different places in Wikipedia? (It gets a little annoying trying to remember which leads where). Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 13:05, 4 April 2012 (UTC)

Importance of "Introduction to " articles[edit]

What level of importance should be given to "Introduction to" artciles? Should the level of importance be automatically related to the importance level of the parent artcile? If so, the same level, or a lower level? Martinvl (talk) 09:16, 13 October 2012 (UTC)

Is this about the WP:1.0 team's assessments? WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:37, 16 January 2013 (UTC)

Prerequisites Project[edit]

Please express your opinion on the Prerequisites Project suggestion. Editingeddie (talk) 15:25, 20 May 2013 (UTC)

God awful definitions of terms[edit]

As wikipedia becomes more and more popular and respected, the introduction and writing style of articles becomes more and more convulted and difficult to understand. Examples include Domain name (my edit and Phoneme.(my edit) Zeddocument (talk) 11:23, 11 June 2014 (UTC)