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Hi! I'm a PRETTY BIG DEAL over on Wiktionary.

My Wikipedia contributions are basically minor grammar fixes.

I am not a fan of Wikipedia as an institution, with its stifling bureaucracy and myriad conflicting guidelines, but I do think it is a really useful and interesting resource, and I spend a lot of time reading articles about anything.

The main writing errors I notice here[edit]

(Even worse: the WP Manual of Style actually mandates some erroneous practices that would not be acceptable in books, e.g. regarding commas and quotation marks!)

Since it is edited and read by people all over the planet, Wikipedia is likely to accelerate language change, particularly with regard to English as a lingua franca. That said, there are certain constructions that are often used even by Inner Circle speakers that seem to defy logic. Here are some errors that I commonly correct:

  • Run-on sentences with "however": e.g. "He lost his fortune, however he was never truly poor" should be "He lost his fortune; however, he was never truly poor."
  • Term-referent confusion: e.g. "A horse is a term for a quadruped" should be "A horse is a quadruped", or "Horse is a term for a quadruped".
  • Failing to close a subclause with a matching comma, e.g. "John, also known as Bob is a man" should be "John, also known as Bob, is a man".
  • Overuse of commas in adjective lists, e.g. "little, green men" should be "little green men". (There's no pause in speech.) This is particularly the case where we have a compound noun with attributive usage: "used tractor parts", not "used, tractor parts"; or "a 2D platform game", not "a 2D, platform game".
  • Misuse of commas when naming a specific thing, e.g. "the film, Jurassic Park" should be "the film Jurassic Park". (This makes sense if you read Relative_clause#Restrictive_and_non-restrictive.)
  • Misuse of commas regarding restrictive clauses: "the fattest person who lives in England" is not the same as "the fattest person, who [by the way] lives in England".
  • Spurious commas before quoted material that isn't reported speech, e.g. he calls himself, "Batman".
  • Inclusion of full stops (periods) in quoted material in mid-sentence, e.g. I said "Go away." and...
  • Lists of things that don't all work in the grammatical context, e.g. "I have been a firefighter, a gardener, and worked in finance" (which expands to "I have been worked in finance").
  • Failure to use the past participle when needed, e.g. "In 1990 he announced he released a new song" should be "In 1990 he announced he had released a new song"; and, conversely, using it when not needed, e.g. "On 11 November 2004 the site had closed down." I rather suspect that this comes from the tense being modified by successive editors as time passes.
  • Weird extraneous hyphens, e.g. a potentially-disruptive event (do these people write a very-nice day?).
  • ...and omitted hyphens, e.g. "two year-old children" and "two-year-old children" are quite different things, though you'll get arrested for fucking either.

Worst articles I've seen on Wikipedia[edit]

  • Bracha L. Ettinger: the "Psychoanalytic theory" section is pure, unreadable gobbledygook.
  • Philip Emeagwali: self-promoting charlatan written up as a legitimate scientist. (Look at the talk page for the gory details.)