User:Andrewa/Yoghurt principle

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A work in progress

Wikipedia exists for its readers. Any discussion that has insignificant impact on the experience of the reader population is irrelevant to the project.

In extreme cases, prolonging such a discussion could even be a breach of behavioural guidelines. In all cases, insignificant discussions should be avoided.

Significant editing and discussion[edit]


From time to time, false or inaccurate statements do inevitably appear in Wikipedia, and removing them is a top priority. Identifying them can however be trickier than it might appear. Article titles for example are often described as inaccurate when in fact they are simply contrary to the editor's POV.


All information in Wikipedia must be verifiable from reliable secondary sources. When this works (and it does work, most of the time), it ensures accuracy.

In some ways it is however an ideal. Evaluating the reliability of sources is often difficult.

And even assuming the reliability of the sources, verifiability is still not always clear. Just because you do not personally have access to a particular source does not disqualify it, and so much less is it disqualified if you do have access to it but it's too much trouble (involving a trip to a library, for example, or even an inter-library loan). The standard is that it can be verified, not that any particular editor has done so. Rather, we assume good faith, and that means assuming that the person who cited the source did so accurately unless there is evidence to the contrary.

Evidence to the contrary could include a pattern of inaccurate citations by the editor concerned, or an unlikely or even impossible claim (for example, citing Julius Caesar as describing the discovery of Plutonium), and particularly any claim that is contradicted by other reliable sources.

Article titles[edit]

Many, perhaps most, articles have more than one title that is accurate.

Correcting inaccurate article titles is rarely controversial. Controversy more commonly concerns which of several acceptable titles is preferred. However, many such discussions contain claims that one of the possible titles is inaccurate.

A rule of thumb for whether an article title is accurate is: After a hypothetical move to another title, would it be legitimate to leave the resulting redirect from the current title? If the answer to this is yes, then the title is probably accurate. The move may be justified for other reasons, but accuracy is not among them.

In particular, article titles that are spellings that are attested in any variety of English, or are the result of omitting a diacritic or accent, are all in a sense accurate. Such a title may or may not be the best title, but it is an acceptable title in terms of accuracy.

The rule of thumb breaks down in only two scenarios, both easily identified in individual cases:

  • Some redirects are kept because they are common misspellings. If there is a strong consensus that the title is a misspelling rather than a variety of English, then the article should be moved, however the resulting redirect is often best kept.
  • Some redirects are kept purely to preserve incoming links. This is generally only the case where an article has been at a title, or a redirect has existed, for a significant period of time.

These cases where the rule of thumb breaks down are all uncontroversial. Or in other words, if a spelling is controversial, then both spellings are likely to be acceptable article titles in terms of accuracy.

In practice, whenever an editor cites accuracy as the sole or main reason for a controversial move, it is fairly safe to assume that the argument is invalid in terms of Wikipedia policy. The proposed move may (or may not) be justified for other reasons, but this particular argument is one to avoid.

Non-English symbols[edit]

Accents and other diacritics and non-Roman characters are sometimes used in English, and sometimes not. Use of the ISO basic Latin alphabet, the standard 26-letter alphabet, with upper and lower case making 52 characters in all and no accents, is also common, and so is always acceptable in terms of accuracy. Spellings using other characters are on many occasions preferred in Wikipedia, for many valid reasons, but accuracy is not one of them.

Arguments that are based on the claim that omitting an accent, diacritic or non-standard character from a foreign expression, name or loanword is somehow inaccurate are invalid. At best, they represent a serious misunderstanding of Wikipedia policy; At worst, they may be attempts to use Wikipedia to promote greater adoption of these spellings in English.

Biographies of living persons[edit]


Why call this the yoghurt principle[edit]

The yoghurt/yogurt naming controversy is one that particularly demonstrates discussions to avoid. Over a period of years, an enormous amount of discussion resulted, but no significant benefit was achieved, as there was never any significant problem to be solved.