User:Furrykef/Wiki stuff that bugs me
Though I seldom voice these opinions, except when I've had to deal with an issue one time too many, I decided I might as well express them here instead of just bottling them up -- or spreading them all over the wiki.
First and foremost
Most people make typos from time to time. I'm one of them, and yes, sometimes they slip through into the text I submit to Wikipedia. Occasionally I'll even make the sort of typo that I hate so very much, but I bet the number of those I've made on Wikipedia can be counted on one hand. Still, I think the number of typos, punctuation mistakes, and grammatical mistakes I have contributed to Wikipedia is very small.
This is as it should be. You see, everybody makes a small number of typos sometimes, but when thousands of such people edit Wikipedia and don't proofread their work, the result is that thousands or even millions of typos make it into Wikipedia. I would be surprised if Wikipedia has less than one million errors of some kind (grammar, punctuation, etc.). In fact, I'd be surprised if it has less than one million of the specific errors I point out below, at least if we count pages outside article space (granted, such pages aren't nearly so important to proofread).
A lot of the typos in an article obviously come from one person, though. I can tell this because often they're the same type and clustered together. Almost always such people are anonymous IPs, too (so you can't hit 'em with a dictionary)... there's no doubt in my mind that anonymous IPs always make the least valuable and most error-ridden contributions. My opinion is the quality of Wikipedia would improve if everybody were forced to log in, but I know that's not in the spirit of what the big guys have in mind... if you're one of those guys who seems too lazy to look up a word you're not sure how to spell, I beg you, please, please proofread your work at least a little. (See Attitudes below.)
Typos that annoy me
I might start writing/using a bot to handle them... I'm aware that I do make typos from time to time and I don't proofread what I write very often. However, the incidence of typos in my own work is very, very low.
- its/it's (very common) — "its" is possessive, "it's" is "it is"
Common punctuation errors are discussed here.
I definitely prefer straight quotes to curly quotes. They're easier to type, more text editing tools accept them, etc. Introducing curly quotes into an article is bound to make the article's use of quotation marks inconsistent, with some people using curly quotes and some using straight quotes. Curly quotes are becoming increasingly common and there's a fight in the Manual of Style to remove the rule that straight quotes are preferred. Don't get me wrong, I agree that curly quotes look more professional, but practicality needs to be kept in mind, too. (If you use curly quotes, I won't hold it against you personally, though. I just don't like their use on Wikipedia period.)
- I hate it when people don't capitalize names of countries or languages, like "america", "japanese", etc. It sort of feels like a slight against those nationalities/languages because it's sort of saying, "You're not important/respectable enough to be capitalized."
- Don't start a link with a capital letter just because it's a link. Exception: when the link is being used as a title and not as a phrase, it's OK to capitalize the first letter. For example, it's OK to type "See [[Tank top]]", but not "One style of shirt is the [[Tank top]]". It's either a "tank top" or a "Tank Top", not a "Tank top". I hereby dub the convention of capitalizing only the first letter (other than referring to article titles) as "Stupid caps" (itself being an ironic example of Stupid caps, of course).
It is not correct, or at least it's very distracting, to put a space before a comma, colon, or semicolon. It is not correct to put a space after an opening bracket or before a closing bracket ( this is wrong ). It's common to see spacing errors around wikilinks, [[for example]]like this -- the page renderer does not insert a space after the link! Always space around wikilinks correctly. The one exception is you may omit a space before a simple URL link, like this: "Bananas are good[http://somesource.com/]", because it will render as "Bananas are good", which is visually acceptable. If the link had text, though, it would need a space.
Please do not use underscores in wikilinks. In most formats the links are normally underlined so it can be hard to distinguish between this link and this_link. Can you tell which one uses an underscore? (Hint: the underscore uses more space unless you're using a fixed-width font.) I almost always notice even though the underscore itself is invisible in the font and link style I use in my browser.
- Doubling/not doubling the wrong letters. Sometimes this is forgivable for very rarely-used words like "hemorrhage" (I'm sure only medical personnel use that one regularly), which one might find misspelled as "hemmorhage".
- Spelling errors in paragraphs or sentences that talk about spelling errors. You'd think somebody would be conscious of spelling when it's being talked about. One of the most common misspellings in this area is, indeed, "mispell" for "misspell". (Somebody did call me on typing "typoes" for "typos" once, though. So I'm guilty of it -- once. And it wasn't on Wikipedia.)
- Simply not being bothered to look up the correct spelling. This is the worst sin of all, and it applies to all speakers, native and foreign. Whenever I am even slightly unsure about the spelling of a word, no matter how common or uncommon it is or how silly I feel about being unsure, I go to a site such as Merriam-Webster Online and look it up. Now, if you were really, really sure that the wrong spelling was correct, I can forgive not looking it up. It happens to all of us. But if you're not sure, might I remind you that we're writing an encyclopedia? Sure, somebody will come along and fix your typos, but it can be a long time before it happens sometimes. If it's on an obscure page, it can even go unnoticed for a couple of years. (Or worse, it'll be noticed but people won't bother to fix it.)
- The past tense of the verb "to lead" is "led", not "lead". The only time "lead" is pronounced like "led" is in reference to the metal.
Style issues that bug me
i.e. and e.g.
These expressions are used improperly so often that I think they should be abolished from Wikipedia altogether. Here are the errors that are usually made:
- Not using periods/capitalization correctly. It's "i.e.", not "ie.", "ie", "IE", or anything else. [Note: I have been informed this may only be true in the United States. Other places use punctuation less often.]
- Forgetting the comma after "i.e.". You'd always write a comma after "That is", as in "That is, we're doomed", right? Why not after "i.e."?
- Using "i.e." when you mean "e.g." or vice versa. "i.e." means "that is". "e.g." means "for example". This is the real problem with the abbreviations: people mix them up too often. It just looks ignorant and silly.
Can you think of a reason for keeping these abbreviations? I can only think of one: it saves time typing. But it also wastes time when somebody like me comes along and changes it to something more sensible. Then more keystrokes were spent than there would have been if you had typed it out the first time. Shouldn't you think about other people, too? :)
One time I found a page (Hugh Grant) where the phrase in flagrante delicto was used. (It no longer appears in the article.) I did not know what this means (context allowed me to guess but I wanted to know the precise meaning) and, while it's something I could look up, it's not the sort of thing I want to bother doing when reading an encyclopedia. These days, Latin and French expressions are usually used in a pretentious fashion. It's kind of like saying, "Hey, I know what this phrase means! Do you?" There was a time when it was common practice, but I feel that time is no longer. Let's get rid of expressions that are obscure/foreign enough that we have to italicize them and yet we expect people to know what they mean. You shouldn't need a reference work just to be able to read another reference work. I mean, it's OK to use phrases like "et cetera" or "vice versa", because they have become natural English, but we can do without stuff like raison d'être.
Sometimes some expressions are appropriate. For example, there is no succinct way of expressing anything close to the meaning of post hoc ergo propter hoc in English -- at least, not one that wouldn't be even clumsier. But for an expression to be appropriate, two conditions must be met. First, the expression has to lack a suitable English equivalent. Second, it must be made easy to look up. For "post hoc ergo propter hoc", I used a wikilink, and the article explains the meaning as well as adding encyclopedic information. If the first criterion isn't met, it just doesn't belong in the article. If you can meet the first criterion, you should have no problem finding a way to meet the second.
I'll get around to writing this later, but I'd like to remind everybody that this is, first and foremost, an encyclopedia. Write an article the way you'd expect an encyclopedia to write it if they had all the flexibility that we do. If you want a site that's just like this but it's not encyclopedic in tone, there are lots of other places to go.