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(a newbie, whom I do not resent)

Flag of Yukon.svgThis user comes from Yukon


1+This user has made more than 1 contribution to Wikipedia.

Oh, boy!

I can write, and I can spell, but I can't type! (Luckily, I usually catch my own typos, but—ahem—not always.)

Other details when I get the time, maybe.

Bit by bit, I'm coming back from a Wiki-break. The edit wars, turf battles, and sometimes just-plain nastiness soured me on Wikipedia for a while, but I'm recovering. First, I largely restricted myself to correcting the likes of misplaced apostrophes or flaming misspellings, but now I'm editing for content again....

*****GOT HACKED******

I was spoofed, and then this account was hacked, about 10:10 pm on October 13 (02:10 on 10/14 UT) (2009). Let this be a warning to all of us!


OK, I have learned that I've leaped many ranks up in the all-time list of biggest editors. I didn't realize just what I was doing, and I wonder what they would say at the office...sorry, guys. Anyhow, I'm going to (try to) concentrate more on significantly improving a smaller number of articles. --Piledhigheranddeeper (talk) 14:36, 29 April 2010 (UTC)

and thus...

Pet peeves[edit]

Misuse of the apostrophe[edit]

It’s is not, it isn’t ain’t, and it’s it’s, not its, if you mean it is. If you don’t, it’s its. Then too, it’s hers. It isn’t her’s. It isn’t our’s either. It’s ours, and likewise yours and theirs. —Oxford University Press, Edpress News

It's also not used for plurals, or whenever the hell you feel like it. —Bob the Angry Flower

(One exception: an apostrophe may be used in a plural of an abbreviation if omitting the apostrophe would lead to confusion. For example, Oakland, California, has a professional baseball team known as the A's (short for Athletics); calling them the As would make it look like they are an adverb or conjunction.)

Clear? —ph&d

Writing for a narrow audience[edit]

Folks, this is a worldwide encyclopedia, and as such should be written so that anybody in the world (with a decent command of English) can understand it. Using abbreviations without explaining them, or assuming that people know something (and therefore not telling what you mean), is antithetical to the Wikipedia mission. Therefore, editors, don't assume that people know about New York City neighborhoods (and mention them without saying you're talking about NYC), or what a U.K. grid reference means, or the significance of some jargon—explain! If a building is "listed", that could mean it's listed for demolition, or for sale, or as a historic site—tell us which! Similarly, "WA" can mean Washington state, or Western Australia, or Western Airlines, or any of a large quantity of other things. If in doubt, spell it out! Justifying an abbreviation or unexplained jargon by saying it's in conformity with the practices of some collection of people, or the such-and-such association, or the whatever handbook, is simply justifying making an article appeal to those in the know, and not people who aren't. Many reference works are for people "on the inside"; Wikipedia is for everybody, even those who are "out". Note that this doesn't mean never use abbreviations or jargon, just spell them out or explain them the first time you use them.


Way back in my educational past, a professor said I didn't need to get "cititis", the mania for (over-)citing every statement. And I agree. If a whole paragraph comes from one source, a single cite at the end will work just fine (each paragraph gets its own cite, even if it's exactly the same as the one before—or after). The problem comes when a one-source paragraph (let's say it has six sentences) gets another sentence, from another source, inserted into it (let's say after the second sentence). The first two sentences of the new paragraph are from the original source, the third sentence is from the second source, and the fourth through seventh sentences are from the original again. However, if the editor who adds the new sentence isn't careful about it, the new paragraph will look like the first three sentences are from the second source, and the last four sentences are from the first. Whether this results from laziness or uncertainty that the first two sentences came from the first source, the result is the same. If another editor inserts a sentence from a third source after the sixth sentence, it could look like the first three sentences are from the second source, the next four are from the third source, and only the last one is from the first source, when actually six sentences are.

Inferior references[edit]

As a general rule, it seems to me that using an inferior reference is better than using none at all. To be sure, we'd prefer to have the best reference available for any assertion, but sometimes, that's just not available right now. It seems that a cite to a less authoritative source should be used. After all, there's even an individual flag for such cites: {{refimprove-inline|date=March 2013}} gives [better reference needed]. Put that after the secondary-reference cite, and go look for a better one! Don't simply delete the sentence!

Secondly, what is an acceptable reference would depend on the fact sought to be supported. A statement as to the exact polar diameter of the Earth should come from a solid scientific source (preferably more than one). A statement that there is controversy on a particular topic, especially if the topic isn't at the forefront of intellectual discussion, might be perfectly adequately supported by a couple of references to message boards.

Common knowledge[edit]

A number of times, people have responded to my flagging uncited statements or passages by saying, in substance, that the subject matter is common knowledge and thus doesn't need a citation. While the basic premise (common knowledge doesn't need a reference) is true, it's remarkable to me what some people seem to think is "common knowledge" (e.g., "common knowledge from basic university level mechanical engineering textbooks", as one correspondent put it). You'd think that "common knowledge" means "well, my close friends know it." But to return to an earlier point, Wikipedia is supposed to be for everybody, not just black belts in movie trivia or engineering. As a quick rule of thumb, if your grandmother doesn't know it, it's not common knowledge.

Finding references[edit]

Curiously, there appears to be a set of editors who believe that it's A-OK to lob uncited passages into an article and then, when somebody else points out that citations are needed, take the position that if that editor thinks a passage needs a source, it is up to that editor to find and insert one. To borrow a passage from another, "Other editors have no obligation to figure out if and how your unsourced additions can be sourced."[1]


I know that wordiness has a connection with education and importantness, but it's foolish to load down an encyclopedia with extra verbiage. It's almost always better to use a simpler phrasing (as long as it means the same thing). A few examples:

"due to the fact that" should be "because"

"utilize" . . . "use"

"of all time" . . . "since 1900" (or 1950, etc., or even "in history". Did you notice how pompous that "of all time" accolade is? Like we who are alive today can judge the musicians of the Baroque era, the actors of the Victorian era, etc., despite never having seen or heard them. It's telling to note the date of earliest item appearing on one of those "of all time" lists.)

"one of the only" . . . "one of the few" —this one seems to be new, and it's a self-contradiction: "only" means that there is one (note that they start with the same letters). "One of the" means that there are several of whatever they are. The two don't go together.


Some editors appear to follow the "local teeveenews" approach to article illustrations: if a picture has even the smallest, threadiest connection with an article, put it in. No matter that the plane in the picture isn't the one mentioned in the article about the crash; or the one the article's subject flew briefly in a war long before he did what he's famous for, or is even painted the same way, it's a picture! And don't forget to load yet another photo amid the pix of St. Paul's from every imaginable angle, either! You'd think Wikipedia was a coffee-table book, not an encyclopedia!

Glaring omissions[edit]

I have been struck by some of the amazing omissions from a number of Wikipedia articles. For example, a number of biographical articles have nothing about the subject's early life: where and when he was born, his parents' names, what school(s) he attended, who (if anyone) he married, etc. These are important facts, and leaving them out creates a huge hole in the article. Indeed, it can look like the author simply didn't bother to include or even research those facts (particularly if the article depends heavily on a single source). To be sure, there are people whose origins are a mystery, but if that is the case, the article should just say so.

One-sentence paragraphs[edit]

I am also struck by the number of one-sentence paragraphs appearing in Wikipedia. Often, there is a whole section of these misbegotten wonders, and they have little or nothing to do with one another—certainly no coherent organization. Sometimes, the entire article has no paragraph longer than one (often run-on) sentence. It's almost as if everybody contributed one sentence, lobbed it into the article at random, and walked away. Maybe it's time for a small English composition lesson.

A paragraph is a collection of sentences organized around an idea. This idea is expressed in the paragraph's topic sentence, which almost always appears at the beginning or the end of the paragraph (the topic sentence of this paragraph is the first one). If the topic sentence is the first in the paragraph, the other sentences build on it and/or support it with examples, anticipation of counter-argument, etc. If the topic sentence comes at the end of the paragraph, the other sentences build up to it, like the climax of a (very short) story. For this reason, one-sentence paragraphs are the antithesis of good explanatory writing. I know, I know, you see them in newspapers (when you see newspapers), dialogue, etc. But this is an encyclopedia, and we need to write better than that.

.  TheThis user puts two spaces after a period.

...or other punctuation ending a sentence.


Far and away the most-visited article I have written: Witch window. I have no idea why it is sometimes beset by wild popularity.


(believe it or not)

  1. ^ CorbieV, "Talk:Cultural appropriation"; accessed 2016.01.21.