Wikipedia talk:Writing better articles

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Contents

Tense of inanimate objects[edit]

I started thinking about this after I changed the introductory tense of parallel motion from "the parallel motion was" to the "the parallel motion is" on the grounds that an invention or mechanism doesn't cease to exist just because it's old. I'm now wondering about other articles and I'm seeing a marked lack of consistency here. I looked at various articles about discontinued cars: "The DeLorean DMC-12 is a sports car" while "The Ford Probe was a coupe." Is there a consensus about this? Are there guidelines about this issue anywhere on Wikipedia? Thanks, Ce1984 (talk) 00:36, 26 August 2008 (UTC)

I thought the guideline was to use present tense. In any case present tense is the simplest for anyone trying to read English as a second language and I try to use it most of the time. -- Horkana (talk) 18:05, 31 January 2009 (UTC)
When You deal with an abstract principle, use present tense, when You deal with a historical situation, use past tense! Then, it should not even be counted an error if You use different tenses in one and the same sentence. --Hans Dunkelberg (talk) 22:49, 28 June 2011 (UTC)

tense of speech[edit]

Should we refer to speeches in the present tense, or the past tense? The section on WP:TENSE currently refers only to fiction, and at least some speeches are not fictional :-).

I feel that non-fictional speeches and books also "exist in a kind of perpetual present tense".

This was drawn to my attention when I saw the 2008 State of the Union Address edited to convert it from the future tense to the past tense. Currently it claims?

The 2008 State of the Union Address was a speech given by...

which rubs me the wrong way.

It was a speech Pray tell, what is it now?

I would prefer

The 2008 State of the Union Address is a speech that was given by... (the speech itself is in the perpetual present tense)

but I would also be satisfied with

The 2008 State of the Union Address was given by... (a particular delivery of the speech, in the past, in the past tense)

The first sentence in the Wikipedia articles of a few arbitrarily chosen examples from the List of speeches:

Most of these seem to support the idea that even non-fictional speeches "exist in a kind of perpetual present tense". Should the remaining ones in the past-tense be "corrected" to the present tense? Or is there some reason Wikipedia should use the past tense to refer to some (or all) speeches? How should we update WP:TENSE to also include speeches?

--68.0.124.33 (talk) 01:05, 30 January 2008 (UTC)

Is this "perpetual present tense" the same as the historical present? --68.0.124.33 (talk) 13:43, 15 July 2008 (UTC)

The issue discussed in this section depends on the question if the content of the speech is still of a vital meaning for the ongoings of the present or not. If the speech has laid the foundations for a state that still exists, tend to use present tense, if the state does not exist any more, try to use past tense, but decide that for the several sentences, separately, regarding their content! --Hans Dunkelberg (talk) 22:56, 28 June 2011 (UTC)

Debate over tone[edit]

There is debate here Talk:Film_noir#Tone_issues over tone in an article. Perhaps those interested in such a topic can give their input.--Crossmr (talk) 15:11, 21 February 2008 (UTC)

TRADUCCIÓN DEL ARTÍCULO[edit]

Hola, podrian traducir este artículo al idioma español?, me sería muy útil su ayuda.

Gracias —Preceding unsigned comment added by 132.248.251.79 (talk) 18:51, 7 April 2008 (UTC)

Véase es.wikipedia.org por favor. - Dan (talk) 19:12, 16 April 2008 (UTC)

"Be concise" (etc)[edit]

Unusually for a quotation from Strunk, the one in the article ("Vigorous writing is concise....") isn't fatuous. I even agree with it. But then:

The ideal method of specifying on-going events is "as of 2008". Wikipedia "grammar bots" will replace these types of expressions with correct wording.

Ugh.

For a start, how about The best way to report the current state is "as of 2008"?

Presumably "these types of expressions" -- Does this perhaps mean "this type of expression" or "these expressions"? -- are "'at the present time' or 'currently'", rather than "as of 2008". If so, then there's nothing unconcise about "currently", so I don't know why it's mentioned in this section; but that little point aside, if some grammar bottie is anyway going to convert such expressions into "as of 2008", then why is the reader being told to write "as of 2008"? -- Hoary (talk) 13:08, 25 May 2008 (UTC)

Part of the puzzle is here: Wikipedia:Miscellany for deletion/Wikipedia:As of. Result was "no consensus"; I wasn't successful in getting people to take a stand one way or the other. - Dan Dank55 (talk)(mistakes) 14:05, 25 May 2008 (UTC)

Huh?[edit]

"Punctuation marks that appear in the article should only be used per generally accepted practice."

Was this one of the winning entries at the Annual Circular Logic Contest? I'm sure someone will come along and explain what it means, but as it's written in the article, it's entirely baffling. --Cryptic C62 · Talk 15:17, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

FOG Index[edit]

I also posted this on the science portal discussion page, so I appollogize for the spam.

I had an idea but I don't know how to implement it. I've noticed that a great deal of the articles have very high FOG Index, for example the LTP article has a FOG index of 21, while normal people with no understanding of the material generally best understand the scientific article when it has a FOG index of 12. Is there anyway to encourage the writers to use smaller sentences with exactly one idea (not two or three). You can try out the FOG index calculator if you like [1], but here are some results I found for these articles (I just looked at their intro paragraphs)

I think it will greatly simplify articles if we limit our sentences to one idea only, and thereby, reduce our FOG index. Paskari (talk) 17:50, 2 August 2008 (UTC)

Use of "recent" and "to date" in articles[edit]

I have come across a few articles that use the term "recent" to refer to the placement of an event in time. I have been unable to find a recommendation about this in any FAQ about article writing. When an article states something like, "New standards have recently been put in to effect, requiring..." or "Recent discoveries have revealed that..." the reader is left with a vague idea of when something happened and cannot compare the stated fact with other events in a timeline. Shouldn't the use of "recent" be discouraged? I'll also question the use of "to date" as found in this article: "Out of the 1,400 plus films mixed in SDDS, only 97 of them to date have been mixed to support the full 8 channels"MRJayMach (talk) 13:30, 31 August 2008 (UTC)

"Recent" will inevitably become false and will need to be changed. This means unnecessary work, which isn't good. A real print encyclopedia would not use terms like "recently" or "currently" as the book on the shelf would look very silly after time, they should be used very sparingly if at all. The version of this article as of January 2009 goes some way to addressing this matter. -- Horkana (talk) 19:51, 25 January 2009 (UTC)

Interview style[edit]

I've come across articles written in a non-encyclopedic style separate from the already-covered essay, promotional, resume, and autobiographical forms. This is the interview form. See the current version of Zebra & Giraffe for an example. I think it would be useful to have a cleanup template for articles of this nature, to guide the author, and to address it explicitly in the guidelines.

As the Zebra & Giraffe article (acknowledged from the outset to be an interview, originally with the author's byline), an interview form is the second-hand equivalent of the essay or personal reflection. The article purports to be about the band but, being an interview with the band's founder, it has four significant faults:

  • It's really mostly about the founder, with a great deal of detail about his background.
  • It's filled with quotations from the founder, making the article essentially his personal reflection.
  • None of the quotations are referenceable; the article itself is the primary source for these quotations.
  • Much of the information presented directly rather than as quoted is still likely drawn from the interview and is therefore unreferenceable, and it may even incorporate substantial synthesis on the part of the writer.

Thus, the interview format, like the autobiography or the essay, presents a distinct composition of issues relating to style, tone, objectivity, original research, referenceability, and so on, and I think it would be useful to address it explicitly in the guidelines and create an appropriate template to guide users.

Thoughts? —Largo Plazo (talk) 22:34, 16 September 2008 (UTC)

If there is original research in the article, one should anyway - regardless if the text is an interview or not - either challenge the information with the related templates or instantly remove it, depending on how notable the content seems to be. Indeed, it appears hardly imaginable that there could be a reason to include an interview, except from quotations from interviews that have themselves - as historic interviews - been the subject of so big a public controversy that one might quote short sections from them. --Hans Dunkelberg (talk) 23:05, 28 June 2011 (UTC)

Is this a tone issue or something else?[edit]

See Revolutionary etude. Yes, Chopin himself. I read carefully and I stumbled on much feared but essential. Ehm...does THIS belong into a WP article? Or should it, at all? -andy 85.176.226.145 (talk) 07:30, 17 September 2008 (UTC)

Move discussion regarding bold in opening sentence to wp:Lead section?[edit]

Please see the discussion at Wikipedia talk:Lead section#Who's on first?. Butwhatdoiknow (talk) 16:13, 17 September 2008 (UTC)

Bluelinking in headings[edit]

Can somebody clarify what bluelinking is in the "Headings" subsection? It seems like wikipedia jargon. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 72.140.22.44 (talk) 21:27, 29 September 2008 (UTC)

Bluelinking is what I just did to the heading of this section. It's a link to a real page, in contrast to a redlink like this one to New Article, a nonexistent page. —Largo Plazo (talk) 21:39, 29 September 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for clarifying, and to User:Butwhatdoiknow for editing the article to make it clear -- 72.140.22.44 (talk) 00:15, 30 September 2008 (UTC)
This is a bluelink: Wikipedia:Help, as is the word "headings" in tthe header of this section. This is a redlink: non-existant-article. -- Boracay Bill (talk) 02:03, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

Expand WP:TOPIC ?[edit]

Over at WT:NOR, there's been a long debate over whether to change the requirement that sources must be directly related to the article topic, directly refer to the article topic. Those who are pushing for the change argue that the current wording allows off-topic sources, and hence off-topic statements and WP:SYN. I and some others have argued that the problem is not with the sources, but rather with the off-topic statements themselves. I'm wondering if it would be appropriate to expand on WP:TOPIC so that the requirement to stay on topic becomes more robust. lk (talk) 17:55, 4 October 2008 (UTC)

The question if a source has to be related to or if it has to refer to the topic depends on the scientific and the publicistic level on which the source is written and, at the same time, on the importance of the information for the article. If the source has just to prove a little detail, it has to be reliable, but does not have to be a major newspaper, television station, scientific journal or so. The article would then need further sources that prove its notability. The information from the minor source shall not constitute a vital pillar of the article to avoid what is prohibited because it would be a form of synthesis of published material that advances a position and, as such, be counted a form of original research. Of course, sources for different things are of a different publicistic impact, because some topics are interesting for millions and others just for some hundreds of readers, without therefore not being notable. For List of nearest stars, for example, You will hardly find at all a source in a mainstream medium.
The question largely is based on common sense. Some topics are clearly notable but, at the same time, hardly summarized in reliable works, so that one willy-nilly will have to combine some sources and to pay attention that one does not advance any own theory. An example for this is Speculation about Mona Lisa.
I`d say WP:TOPIC shouldn`t be extended, any more, but what I have said above could be included into WP:SYN. --Hans Dunkelberg (talk) 23:41, 28 June 2011 (UTC)

Weird sentence[edit]

This sentence is bizarre, and I'm removing it because I've never heard of it and it's almost impossible to follow: "Try to bridge each sentence with the sentence before it by using an idea or word that appears in both sentences." —Werson (talk) 18:10, 5 October 2008 (UTC)

Hmm that makes sense to me. It's talking about transitions between sentences (and, in turn, paragraphs), to ensure prose flows well. I see why you felt it was unclear though. Changing it to "... that appeared in the preceding sentence." improves it slightly. Whitehorse1 18:06, 21 November 2008 (UTC)

Reference library category[edit]

In order to help facilitate easier location of potential sources of offline information to help verify the notability of article subjects and contents, I have created Category:WikiProject reference libraries and placed into it all of the reference library pages of which I am aware. Please add more project reference libraries to this category if you know of more. Additionally, feel free to create new reference library pages for any particular project as well. They can be very useful. ···日本穣? · Talk to Nihonjoe 20:08, 21 November 2008 (UTC)

Order of sections?[edit]

Is there any guidance on how to decide what order sections should be in? In particular, is there any standard on where the "history" section should be? The Cricket article cited as a good example has it at the end, which I support, on the basis that that isn't the first things most readers will want to see, but other think that chronological order makes sense and the history should come first.

Thanks Ccrrccrr (talk) 22:17, 23 November 2008 (UTC)

Avoid peacock and weasel terms[edit]

This example is given at the bottom of this section:

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

Couldn't we use something with a less controversial POV?
PS. I don't know how to link to a section yet, so you'll have to be creative in going back to it, sorry. J-puppy (talk) 20:33, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

My recipe: To link to a section, try to reach the paragraph by clicking in the article's index (between intro and paragraphs) and then copy paste from your browser's address bar. Nicolas1981 (talk)

The Example sub-section of this section begins with an obvious grammatical error with a basic case of noun-verb disagreement that should be fixed. Where it says, "Sometimes the way around using these terms is to replace the statements with the facts that backs it up:", clearly it should end "...facts that back it up", there should be no "s" at the end of "back". I don't mean to be excessively picky but this article is about style, so it should be grammatically correct. Jefferson1957 (talk) 22:32, 4 October 2012 (UTC)

Done. Mitch Ames (talk) 04:14, 6 October 2012 (UTC)

What is the "Canadian hip hop" article about ?[edit]

The Canadian hip hop article's first sentence just says that it "was first established in the 1980s", but it fails to actually explain what the article is about. Is it about a new kind of hip hop that people refer to as "Canadian hip hop" ? If so, I think the article should start with something like this:

Canadian hip hop is a kind of hip hop originated in Canada.

Or maybe the article is just about "Hip hop in Canada" ? That's unfortunately not clear, because the article breaks the First sentence content guideline. It is a general problem with many Wikipedia articles. What do you think about this ? Cheers Nicolas1981 (talk) 07:05, 14 January 2009 (UTC)

Four paragraph lead section[edit]

The article suggests a lead section be no more than four paragraphs. Is the lead in not more like a summary, a taste of what is to come? It would make more sense to me if the article suggested Lead section should be no more than one paragraph, with four sentences or thereabouts. A long lead in makes it more likely that large chunks of information will need to be repeated in the main article. Where did the idea of the Lead In being so long come from? Anyone else agree the recommendation should be changed to advise a shorter Lead In? This article for example doesn't have an especially long lead in, you could consider the list equivalent to a second paragraph. -- Horkana (talk) 20:31, 25 January 2009 (UTC)

Examplefarms[edit]

{{Examplefarm}} links to this page, but the reason for doing so is not apparent to most users.

I propose that we add a section under "Information style and tone" that addresses the need to describe subjects. Specifically, I think this page needs something that addresses the need to make general statements about the subject instead of providing a long list of examples and then hoping that the reader can synthesize the examples into a description. Perhaps something like this would be helpful:

Describe the subject
Use direct, declarative sentences to describe the subject. Use a general topic sentence to introduce a broad concept, and then expand it by adding detailed sentences that describe each relevant point. A well-written description is preferable to, and can replace, a list of examples. While providing one example may be occasionally appropriate, for concision, avoid giving examples that should be evident to the reader from the description.

Does this seem like an appropriate addition? I welcome improvements to the text. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:39, 9 February 2009 (UTC)

News style[edit]

About the section on putting important information first, #News style. While it is about being able to cut a newspaper article from the bottom for space reasons, it's also to bring interest high in the article itself because many people don't bother to read to the end, even so they shouldn't have to wade through it to get significant information, expecting to find out what they need early on. Could something brief along these lines be added to that paragraph? Just saying because don't know protocol here. Happy to do it if that's the way, Julia Rossi (talk) 10:53, 20 February 2009 (UTC)

I think you should be bold in this instance. WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:57, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
Thanks! Julia Rossi (talk) 07:45, 23 February 2009 (UTC)

Tense for reality TV?[edit]

I came to this article through WP:TENSE, hoping to get information about what tense to use in articles about reality TV. I understand using present tense in articles about fake people in fake settings and fake stories, but what about reality TV where they are real people in real settings with real stories? I just edited this section, but I immediately reconsidered whether I should have used past tense in the section. I can see both tenses being appropriate and I can't figure out whether I should go through and make them present tense or keep them in past tense. Help? --132 15:29, 3 March 2009 (UTC)

  • Real things happening to real people = past tense. --Irrevenant [ talk ] 06:58, 11 March 2009 (UTC)

Exception to Avoiding Peacock and Weasel Terms[edit]

To me, it feels that the exception could still easily be done without weasel words: "Before the time of Nicolaus Copernicus, common conception throughout the world held that the sun revolved around the Earth." However, since I'm by no means an experienced wikipedia editor, so this is just a random observation to be taken or ignored. --67.80.64.172 (talk) 11:29, 10 March 2009 (UTC)

  • I'm sorry, but that (a) is a truly awful sentence and (b) doesn't solve the problem - "common conception throughout the world held" means the same as "most people believed" - it's just longer and more tortuous. To make this a non-example you would have to cite a source such as a pre-Copernican newspaper article saying "as surely as the sun rotates the earth" or something. --Irrevenant [ talk ] 06:54, 11 March 2009 (UTC)

Poll: autoformatting and date linking[edit]

This is to let people know that there is only a day or so left on a poll. The poll is an attempt to end years of argument about autoformatting which has also led to a dispute about date linking. Your votes are welcome at: Wikipedia:Date formatting and linking poll. Regards Lightmouse (talk) 09:21, 11 April 2009 (UTC)

WP:TENSE regarding wiped or unrecorded TV series[edit]

Occasionally, people change the tense of DuMont Television Network series, from "was" to "is". Since these programs (mostly) do not exist anymore, I feel these changes are inappropriate, especially on non-fictional subjects. WP:TENSE seems to cover writing about fictional subjects, not writing about real television series. While there may be fictional aspects in a television series (such as characters, plot, etc.), some of these "was->is" alterations are occuring on articles with no fictional elements whatsoever, and on series which did exist, but no longer do. Before I mass revert these well-meaning changes, though, I'd like a greater consensus, or at least feedback from other editors. Firsfron of Ronchester 05:05, 27 June 2009 (UTC)

Metalanguage[edit]

I like this guideline. In one sentence it enjoins us to "avoid jargon" and overly technical terminology out of consideration for the reader; in the very next sentence, it goes on about "metalanguage". MastCell Talk 18:28, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

WP:SOFIXIT. :-) —DragonHawk (talk|hist) 19:15, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

Narrative present and other verb tense issues[edit]

What are Wikipedia consensus or guidelines concerning verb tenses in normal article text. I'm specifically concerned with the use of the narrative present but would be happy with other general guidance since there doesn't appear to be much at WP:MOS or WP:MOSBETTER.

My own view is that, unlike with fiction, the narrative present should be used very sparingly if ever in encyclopedia text. ("The tone...should always remain formal, impersonal, and dispassionate.") It's fine in the "In the news" section on the main page but should be eschewed elsewhere. Even list sections such as that in Music in 2003: Events should use the simple past. Even news sources only use the narrative present for the titles, not for the whole text.

Another example, the Writing of Principia Mathematica article uses both the narrative present and the simple past when describing what certain people wrote in their letters. I think this article should be cleaned up to correlate these tenses. What think the rest of you? — AjaxSmack 01:05, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

I agree that the narrative present may seem slightly odd for an encyclopedia, but would not want to be too prescriptive and say that it should never be used. There may well be situations that I cannot think of right now where it is appropriate. Nonetheless, the tense used should be consistent throughout an article. To me, this is more important. — Cheers, JackLee talk 08:13, 14 July 2009 (UTC)
Hm. I agree that consistency is the most important principle, but I agree with AjaxSmack that an encyclopedia should strike a more formal tone, with the exception explained in WP:TENSE. I have been wondering about another construction that I see often, for which I do not know the name. In this construction, editors use the conditional tense to explain events that occur after a fixed point in the past. "John Brown would go on too become Prime Minister....". This construction strikes me as being either an example of journalese, or at least as being more complex tan really necessary, and should probably be avoided for the sake of readers who are reading English as a second language. Ground Zero | t 10:08, 14 July 2009 (UTC)
I think the phrase in your posting is a good example of why it is perhaps not a good idea to be too prescriptive. Here is a passage from one of the articles I worked on, "Robert Hues":
Hues graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree on 12 July 1578, having shown marked skill in Greek. He would later give advice to the dramatist and poet George Chapman for his 1616 English translation of Homer, and Chapman referred to him as his "learned and valuable friend".
The reason why Hues' graduation in 1578 and Chapman's 1616 book are mentioned together, thus requiring the use of the conditional tense, is that Hues' skill in Greek is not mentioned anywhere else in the article. (I suppose one way of rephrasing would be to simply say, "He later gave ...".) Similarly, there may well be cases where use of the narrative present is appropriate. Nonetheless, I would not object to a guideline advising editors to avoid the use of the narrative present and continuous tense, as long as it does not prohibit their selective use. — Cheers, JackLee talk 18:30, 14 July 2009 (UTC)
My preference would be to write "He later gave...." because I tihnk it is simpler and clearer. But I agree with you that this should be a guideline about avoiding use of this construction, and not a prohibition. I think that is consistent with the spirit of the Manual of Style, which does not pretned to cover all potential circumstances. If someone can make a reasonable case for deviating from the general rules, they should be allowed to do so. Ground Zero | t 19:29, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

I appreciate the input here. I would like to clarify that I wouldn't favor a rule against certain verb tenses, just a style recommendation for what to usually use. Verb usage doesn't appear to be codified in any Wikipedia guideline yet. If I am worng, please point me to the right one.

I am very much of one mind with User:Ground Zero when he stated that a sentence "strikes me as being either an example of journalese, or at least as being more complex than really necessary, and should probably be avoided for the sake of readers who are reading English as a second language." While the language used should not be reduced to Simple English, Wikipedia should avoid unnecessary stylistic flourishes that could serve to obfuscate the material being presented.

Is there any support for adding a line or two to a relevant guideline concerning this issue? If so, what and where? — AjaxSmack 23:59, 17 July 2009 (UTC)

This guideline ("Wikipedia:Writing better articles") seems as good a place as any. — Cheers, JackLee talk 04:24, 18 July 2009 (UTC)

Question regarding article tense[edit]

A question about which tense to place articles about religious writings has recently been raised at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Bible#Tense?. I'm not at all sure how policy and guidelines relate to this matter, and would welcome any sort of response or clarification. I have a feeling that this might apply to several articles and subjects. John Carter (talk) 17:55, 18 October 2009 (UTC)

Television Tense is Simply Wrong[edit]

"TJ Hooker is a television show" vs. "TJ Hooker was a television show". The latter is correct. TJ Hooker IS a character in the television series TJ Hooker, or Captain Kirk IS a character on the television series Star Trek, but Star Trek WAS a television show.

This mistake is a widely, robotically enforced mistake on Wikipedia. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 63.230.177.44 (talk) 19:11, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

Nonsense. The shows persist as recorded works, they have not vanished. Would we even think of writing "Great Expectations was a novel"? Only live-to-air shows (mostly from the 1950s) that were not recorded would sensibly use past tense.LeadSongDog come howl 14:40, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
I agree that shows not recorded or not preserved should use past tense. I also think this should be codified in the guideline somewhere. Firsfron of Ronchester 15:07, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
I would go further and say that any TV show should be referred to in present tense. This is just my opinion, but it seems natural to me to refer to any cultural production this way even if it is no longer extant. For example, "The sousaphone concerto in F# minor is a lost work by J.S. Bach...". The sense of it is that something that exists in a conceptual space continues to exist, unlike a physical object, even though some cultural products are recorded in physical form. "the Mona Lisa is a painting destroyed by vandals in 2014..." - a famous painting would continue to live in our cultural consciousness even if the physical artifact was destroyed. Anyway, I would like to see some guidance on this issue.Bitbut (talk) 06:07, 4 February 2012 (UTC)

Audience[edit]

Wikipedia:Audience redirects here, but it is a matter not explicitly discussed. Who am I trying to write for? Globbet (talk) 01:29, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

It correctly redirects to the section "Provide context for the reader", where audience is discussed. See the para that begins "Avoid using jargon". It is clear that each article has a unique audience. LeadSongDog come howl 14:28, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I know where it redirects. I just don't find anything at the destination that is not obvious to me. I agree that each article will tend to attract its own range of readers, but what I think is lacking is a broad-brush guideline on how to pitch the 'average' article. In general, and with a mildly esoteric topic, should I aim to be understood by any bright 12 year-old, an average adult with a vague interest, an amateur enthusiast, or a PhD in the subject? To retort that there is no such thing as an 'average' article would be unhelpful. In journalism, I am told, you should not assume that readers are stupid, and you should not assume that they know anything. Globbet (talk) 20:40, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
Well, WP:NOTGUIDE point 7 may be helpful. "Academic language. Texts should be written for everyday readers, not for academics. Article titles should reflect common usage, not academic terminology, whenever possible." WP:JARGON may also help. LeadSongDog come howl 22:54, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

Checking your facts?[edit]

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

I don't think so. Any unsourced material should be removed, whether it is true or not. For instance, original research is not accepted even though it's true. The fact that you ate cheese sandwiches with tomatoes for breakfast and learnt what wheels are when you were 2 might be true, but obviously you can't put them. I think the sentence is very misleading because verifiability is not just about making things true. Kayau Odyssey HUCK FINN to the lighthouse BACK FROM EXAMS 14:49, 23 January 2010 (UTC) P.S. even false material is accepted with a reliable source.

Another tense point[edit]

Reading the discussion on tense above, as well as at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Television/Style guidelines, I see that a basic concept has been missed. It seems that the good editors have been mistaking the series with the fiction. Seinfeld is not a work of fiction, anymore than Look was a work of fiction. You're confusing the courier with the message. You see, while a "work of fiction" comes alive, the vehicle through which it is transmitted does not. While a story published in a magazine comes alive, its vehicle, the magazine, does not. I am sure that there will be readable copies of magazines available from the 1880s, centuries after there are no longer viewable VHS cassettes from the 1980s. Yet you will note that on Wikipedia, magazines that are no longer published are referred to in the past tense. "Scribners was . . . " , not "is". "Look was, not "is". And to the majority of people, that's just common sense.

When The Simpsons stops airing in 2189, its individual episodes will continue as living works of fiction, but the series will be dead. While the distinction may be hard for some to grasp, it is significant. If you're going to refer to cancelled TV series in the present tense, just because there are copies of them lying around somewhere, then why shouldn't this dinosaur be present-tensed as well; some of their programs are still lying around. (Okay, the DuMont analogy is imperfect, but it makes as much sense as referring to this in the present tense.) I mean, I know a lot of people who watched Howdy Doody, and none of them say it "is" a good show, they say it was a good show. They might say that an episode of Seinfeld "is" one of their favorites, but they say Seinfeld "was" a good show. See the difference?

This change to this guideline, to include TV series, was made less than three months ago, and given the fact that it did not include this for over five years, I don't feel I'm being to brash to excise it now. 65.80.247.100 (talk) 22:23, 11 February 2010 (UTC)

Same topic posted at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Television/Style guidelines and responded there. Suggest all responses go there for easier following. -- AnmaFinotera (talk · contribs) 23:01, 11 February 2010 (UTC)
Yeah, my mistake; shouldn't have double posted it. Thanks to Collectonian for keeping it together. Look forward to anyone's comments. 65.80.247.100 (talk) 01:40, 12 February 2010 (UTC)


"History" section. Should be the first?[edit]

We have a disagreement about the issue at Primal therapy.

I wondered if Wikipedia:MOS says something about the matter. Any hint? Randroide (talk) 16:49, 18 February 2010 (UTC)

Went out with a beep[edit]

It's amusing to see how much discussion was here, and how it all just stopped once someone put this "guideline" out of its misery: [2] Tijfo098 (talk) 12:19, 9 April 2011 (UTC)

What is...[edit]

... a transitional pronoun? Not much in the way of google books hits for this notion. Tijfo098 (talk) 00:43, 30 April 2011 (UTC)

I'm no grammarian, but try Sir John Stoddart; William Hazlitt (1849), Philosophy of language: comprehending Universal grammar, or The pure science of language; and Glossology, or The historical relations of languages, J.J. Griffin, and, p. 114 ; or perhaps at Transitions of Thought in http://www.virtualsalt.com/transits.htm. There are probably better sources out there -- I didn't spend much time searching. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 11:48, 30 April 2011 (UTC)

outdated entry[edit]

WP:ASTONISH uses Chornobyl as an example, but it is no longer correct. 99.146.122.70 (talk) 04:58, 24 July 2011 (UTC)

Principle of least astonishment[edit]

Is the Principle of least astonishment section trying to be ironic? Even the section title violates the very writing style it's counseling against. Can we simplify this section a bit. What it's trying to say is "dont be cute and get to the point".--RadioFan (talk) 21:10, 12 January 2012 (UTC)

Edit request on 26 March 2012[edit]

The article references spellonline.com as an online spell checker. However, this site does not exist anymore. Please remove the reference to it. The alternative spellonline.net is intact. -- MenschMitHut (talk) 13:46, 26 March 2012 (UTC)


Done Thanks!   — Jess· Δ 15:12, 26 March 2012 (UTC)

Application of 'State the obvious' section[edit]

Some time ago, I reverted an edit which seemed to me to fly in the face of WP:COMMONSENSE, but the other editor invoked WP:OBVIOUS to support his position that the first time anyone's name is mentioned, regardless of how famous they are and regardless of context, their full name must be supplied. Here's the sentence in question:

Kudryavitsky's father, Jerzy, was a Polish naval officer who served in the Russian fleet based in the Far East, while his mother Nelly Kitterick, a music teacher, was the daughter of an Irishman from County Mayo who ended up in one of Stalin’s concentration camps.

It was the other editor's contention that instead of Stalin we must have Joseph Stalin. Here is his edit. Discussion ensued: Talk:Anatoly Kudryavitsky#Names and I left his edit intact.

Is it the consensus of editors here that the OBVIOUS guidelines should be taken to what I can only think of as this extreme? To reiterate my position: the article in question is about a Russian poet, and the sentence refers to the fate of an unnamed relative of his. The other editor's position that it might be less than obvious which Mr. Stalin ran these concentration camps strikes as pushing the bounds of credulity. I'd be glad of any input to help me understand the application of this guideline. Or is there perhaps a better forum for raising this matter? Many thanks. --gråb whåt you cån (talk) 16:03, 5 July 2012 (UTC)

I'd really appreciate a response here. Is there somewhere else I could better raise this question? --gråb whåt you cån (talk) 20:52, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

Edit request on 30 September 2012[edit]

The following text (from the "Principle of least astonishment" section):

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, she may type "Paris Hilton" into the search box. This will, of course, take her 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 she will find more useful.

... should be rewritten to improve gender-neutrality, as follows:

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.

KevinWLawrence (talk) 17:45, 30 September 2012 (UTC)

Done Jo-Jo Eumerus (talk) 20:40, 30 September 2012 (UTC)

General Punctuation[edit]

Under "Check Your Fiction", several examples are listed, all in quotes as I assume is the proper style. One example, however, seems to have been neglected. Shouldn't:

Friends is an American sitcom that was aired on NBC.

also be in quotes? If so, could someone with permission fix it so that a page about style doesn't have such an egregious error...in style? ;) Jefferson1957 (talk) 20:57, 9 October 2012 (UTC)

I'm not convinced that any of them should be enclosed in quotes, but I've put the last one in quotes for consistency. Mitch Ames (talk) 09:53, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Edit request on 9 October 2012[edit]

I have noticed on the "source" page of the Talk page for WP:BETTER, and on other WP and TALK pages, it has sometimes been recommended that people check out or leave a comment on the "Discussion" page. This to me would seem to confuse some users as there is no link for "Discussion" pages, only "Talk" pages, which I assume is what is meant by "Discussion" pages. All the pages I've seen this on have been "locked" to me so I haven't made any changes, plus I am not completely positive that somewhere in the vastness of WP there are not distinct "Discussion" pages. What I'm saying is that I think we should settle on one term, preferably the one that appears as a link at the top of all pages, "Talk", and use it universally. I wish there were a way to make a change like this programmatically but a universal replace for the term "Discussion page" could have some unfortunate unintended consequences. For now, could someone with permission simply change it on the page mentioned, or say why it shouldn't be changed? Thanks! Jefferson1957 (talk) 21:16, 9 October 2012 (UTC)

Not done: Please take this matter up at the village pump. —KuyaBriBriTalk 21:32, 9 October 2012 (UTC)

WP:TONE[edit]

What do you guys think about banning "grand storylines" in sociology from wikipedia articles, except in the obvious case where the article is about a grand storyline (ie Marxism article or something like that)? Please see metanarrative. Modern sociologists subscribe to postmodernism, which heavily criticizes the grand storyline metanarratives seen in critical theories they deem archaic, overly simplistic, and just all around poor sociology. Proponents of this view include Goffman, Michel Foucault and Latour. I think grand storylines violate WP:TONE. Any input is welcome! Charles35 (talk) 19:52, 6 December 2012 (UTC)

Breaking the fourth wall[edit]

Does WP:TONE cover an idea about breaking the fourth wall in noting a lack of consensus about describing a controversial topic? ClaudeReigns (talk) 20:35, 19 December 2012 (UTC)

What do you mean? Was that supposed to be a sub-section for my section? Charles35 (talk) 03:43, 20 December 2012 (UTC)
Yes, because your section header was WP:TONE and that's also what I was referring to. Different kind of tone idea though. Breaking the fourth wall, you know, "We, the editors of Wikipedia, have struggled for nine years to present the facts and views of controversy X with the utmost regard for neutrality." Then present a solution. ClaudeReigns (talk) 04:13, 20 December 2012 (UTC)

WP:TERSE[edit]

WP:TERSE is broken by design. It fails to take into account WP:RELTIME, an encyclopedia should be specific and avoid vague time references like "currently" entirely.
There are, however, other far more useless words, however, that Wikipedia editors, however, should learn to use less often, however, especially, however, when no actual contradiction exists. -- 93.107.194.204 (talk) 01:38, 21 December 2012 (UTC)

Dubious statement[edit]

[IP user 86... begins by quoting:]--Jerzyt 10:09, 10 September 2013 (UTC)

Phrases such as refers to, is the name of, or is a term for are sometimes found 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 literally true; computer architecture is the theory. The words themselves refer to the theory, but the article is not about those words; it is about the theory itself.
Thus it is more correct to say, "Computer architecture is the theory behind the design of a computer."

I disagree that "computer architecture" is a "theory".
86.176.212.69 (talk) 20:52, 22 January 2013 (UTC)

   Your disagreement may reflect your being suckered in by people who say "theory" when they mean "hypothesis".--Jerzyt 11:46, 10 September 2013 (UTC)

Italicizing words in foreign languages[edit]

According to the section in the article, all non-English words written with the Latin alphabet should be italicized...yet one of the examples provided is perestroika, written without italics or quotation marks (perestroika). It seems this word should be italicized, or am I missing something...? —Fishicus (talk) 05:52, 4 February 2013 (UTC)

What is a "non-English word" is pretty subjective. However, the references to perestroika in that section are confusing. It is unclear what point it is meant to be illustrating. 86.161.61.221 (talk) 14:04, 13 February 2013 (UTC)

Facetiousness[edit]

   For the first time in 10 years of WP-editing, i just ran up against a tone issue that seems ignored; perhaps it's a problem that's so rare that it can be handled according to what i inferred as implicitly part of "serious" tone. Until i started tampering with it in the last 24, Sinbad (USCG) told a fairy tale about some real people, and a presumably real dog, in which the dog enlisted in the Coast Guard and was a member of the crew of a combat ship, held specific ranks, was subjected to disciplinary measures prescribed by the service's regulations, received service ribbons, and years later was honorably discharged from service. The voice of the WP article was essentially the same as that of a Web page under the "mil" TLD (and apparently under the control of the Coast Guard's historian). I reworded a fair amount, removing from the article the facetious tone that made both the external page and the article tell said fairy tale, replacing supposed transitions in legal status with the same people maintaining a shared joke about the dog having a legal relationship with the CG indistinguishable from the sailors' own status as members of the Armed Forces of the US. The article had used (perhaps in every significant particular) a source or sources that used the facetious tone, pretending that our contributor(s) hold the same implausible beliefs that the external page's author pretended to hold; rather than throw out the source as unreliable (treating the CG historian as a liar, not a dupe), i inferred the historian's facetious intent and restated the same story, but with participants making jokes rather than lying (or entertaining delusions).
   Alternatively (since tales told around campfires are not acceptable sources) when professional historians tell campfire stories, are they no longer speaking ex cathedra, and if there are no better sources, are there just no reliable sources available on the mascot-dog of the Cambell?
  A very odd-feeling bit of editing, frankly, and i'd like to hear what (barring recantation or explicit clarification by the CG historian) others think best serves our policies in this kind of situation. ... Maybe i should also go read how we treat Caligula's turning of his favorite relatives, and his horse, into gods.....
--Jerzyt 11:40, 10 September 2013 (UTC)

WP:REFERS and songs[edit]

I have been actively changing intros to song articles from "...is the title of a song" to "...is a song", based on the following reasoning:

  • Fewer words without loss of clarity
  • It meets WP:REFERS (article is about the song, not the title)
  • All GA and FA song articles that I could find are written like this.

There are other editors, however, who continue to make the reverse edit (apparently without any good reasons for doing so other than "I've seen other articles written like this"), so the net result from my perspective is zero or negative progress. I would welcome any comments on how to proceed with this. If the consensus is against what I'm doing or it is too trivial to matter, that's fine too, as there are many other editing activities I can do instead. Thanks. --Jameboy (talk) 23:03, 19 December 2013 (UTC)

WikiProject Songs notified. --Jameboy (talk) 23:09, 19 December 2013 (UTC)
You're doing fine with your edits and you get the full support of this editor. Happy editing. Cheers. --Richhoncho (talk) 04:18, 20 December 2013 (UTC)

Guide to writing technical articles[edit]

In technical articles on maths and computer science sometimes the content is hard to understand and use stilted language such as,

  • "To be precise, one must somehow find the location of all of the occurrences of the bound variable ..."
  • "If one now abstracts on the peculiarities of this or that formalism, the immediate generalization is the following claim: a proof is a program, the formula it proves is a type for the program."

Unfortunately the way some articles on maths are written makes them inaccessible to me. I have written the following guide in a user page.

User:Thepigdog/Guide to writing technical articles

I would like to create this page as a wikipedia page if people think it may be useful. Ummm if people think it is a bad idea I am happy to withdraw it.

Kind regards Thepigdog (talk) 10:53, 27 January 2014 (UTC)

Keep in mind, though, that what is considered 'stilted' varies wildly from person to person depending on social class and education. Some people consider using 'one has to...' instead of 'you have to...' stilted. Others draw the line at 'I'm very hungry and have a great appetite for parsnips!' and would prefer the more down-to-earth 'Me heap big hungry, parsnips now!'. While I think that wells of knowledge and education should be accessible for many, dumbing down the world to the lowest common denominator is hardly a viable long-term strategy for improving society. 88.69.44.11 (talk) 12:44, 2 February 2014 (UTC)

Tense yet again (from TV series to computer software)[edit]

The convention used by the editors of most of the articles on operating systems follows that for TV series: Even if the OS is no longer in current development, production, or support, it is still considered to be a body of work that exists, and therefore is referred to in the present tense... though its development, etc., are referred to in past tense:

Windows XP is a personal computer operating system produced by Microsoft as part of Windows NT family of operating systems. The operating system was released to manufacturing on August 24, 2001, and generally released for retail sale on October 25, 2001.

This makes perfect sense to me. Should another section of this project page be created, explicitly extending the principle to software programs? WP:TENSE is currently part of a section on writing about fiction, and its applicability to articles about software could be seen to be tenuous. If there's a project page on "MOS: Writing about software" I can't find it. And/or, perhaps this sort of guideline belongs in MOS:LEAD, particularly WP:LEADSENTENCE. Jeh (talk) 06:46, 20 June 2014 (UTC)

Hi.
MOS:COMPUTING has a section dedicated to commons mistakes. I was thinking we can put it there because, from the grammatical standpoint, some people try to use "to be" verb at the same time to mean "exists" and as a stative verb. They end up writing:

TrueCrypt was a disk encryption program...

... which implies it no longer is a disk encryption program. I often use humor to make the mistake tangible and ask "What is it now? A tomato?" and give them an example of stative verbs:

Tyrannosaurus is a genus of coelurosaurian theropod dinosaur...

... which, in spite of being extinct, is a dinosaur.
The correct form is:

TrueCrypt is a discontinued disk encryption program...

I have been able to find corpus-based evidence for the hybrid use of "to be" only and only in one case: Wives. While talking about a deceased wife in front of an unmarried woman, they say "she was my wife" in deliberate attempt in euphemism.
Best regards,
Codename Lisa (talk) 23:28, 20 June 2014 (UTC)
"[the deceased woman] was my wife" isn't just a euphemism; it's the legal truth in most cases. "In most societies, the death of one of the partners terminates the marriage", so strictly speaking if she's dead she is no longer his wife. Mitch Ames (talk) 09:23, 21 June 2014 (UTC)
Well, if I started discussing that, we'd be separated from our subject which is computing. Let's not. So, should I add it to MOS:COMPUTING? Please note that because of the evidence that Jeh provided, silence would be taken as consent. Best regards, Codename Lisa (talk) 23:12, 21 June 2014 (UTC)
Yes, I think it appropriate to add - presumably as a new section under MOS:COMPUTING#Avoid common mistakes. Mitch Ames (talk) 04:12, 22 June 2014 (UTC)