User talk:Tony1/Beginners' guide to the Manual of Style

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Self-help writing tutorials:


Useful links


This page is for constructive feedback and discussion, which are welcome. The guide will be updated regularly to reflect changes in the MoS. A report summarising any changes will be posted at FAC and FLC talk pages at the start of each month.

Please raise:

  • points you think should be covered but are not (I will try not to unless important enough);
  • points that are covered but should not be (I'd be pleased to reduce the length); and
  • mistakes and misjudgments.

Obvious errors and copy-editing: please do it directly. Tony (talk) 14:30, 14 September 2009 (UTC)

(Candidates, or Criteria? the links above currently go to Candidates, but I assume you meant Criteria... :) -- Quiddity (talk) 20:58, 19 September 2009 (UTC)
Candidates, surely. Tony (talk) 11:08, 21 September 2009 (UTC)

Minor issues[edit]

This looks like a promising effort, Tony. I'm curious to see how this compares to A. di M.'s summary effort that's going on concurrently. With regard to this page, would you like us to ask you first (e.g. on this page) before amending the phrasing of an item, or are you intending this as a fully-collaborative effort? For example, in the section on headings, you write: "don't use title case (i.e., capitalize only the first letter of the first word and any proper nouns[)]...", but I get the impression that it would be better to say first what is expected, and then parenthetically state that title case is not proper. TheFeds 03:46, 16 September 2009 (UTC)

Fabulous! Ohconfucius (talk) 04:09, 16 September 2009 (UTC)

You are too kind, Ohconfucius! Feds, I'll make that change now; you probably could have had a go at it. Tony (talk) 04:11, 16 September 2009 (UTC)
First, where's "A. di M.'s summary effort that's going on concurrently"?
Thanks for taking on this daunting task, Tony - you're better man than I am :-)
Some comments on the current version of Tony's:
  • Both as an editor and as a reviewer, I generally look at an article's structure before I go into details. So I'd prefer to deal with WP:LAYOUT very eraly in MOSA, probably linking with "first please read WP:LAYOUT". My reasoning is that, if the structure is fine, the details can be handled piecemeal with minimum of unintended consequences. OTOH if the structure is poor, half the details will need to be reworked when the article is restructured - the earlier efforts will largely be wasted. Of course this may only reflect my own approach to editing - I tend to do rewrites and the occasional new article, not tweaks. Major discussion needed here. --Philcha (talk) 07:26, 16 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Another aspect - the draft plunges into a lot of real nitty gritty stuff, e.g. acronymns and dashes. I think it would be helpful to start with less "technical" topics such as language variants.
  • The language gives the impression of "cheating" a bit - the recommendations are so concise that they can only be understood properly by fairly experienced editors, but newbies are the most in need of advice. Have you considered restructuring the whole MOS package, e.g.:
    • A "lite" header page that gives principles and the simplest points, plus links to more complex items. Objective: to tell users whether there's a problem; to provide advice that will help in most cases; to flag that there are more complex cases.
    • Possibly "lite" versions of some of the individual topics - with same objectives.
    • Dese are da roolz. --Philcha (talk) 07:26, 16 September 2009 (UTC)
I agree with Philcha. Overall, it seems relatively usable, but some of the shortened text is harder to understand than its longer counterparts. Other places presuppose knowledge of Wikipedia-specific terms. This is not ideal for a beginners' manual. Darkfrog24 (talk) 16:31, 16 September 2009 (UTC)
It may be titled "Beginners' guide", but it's for everyone. I feel like a beginner every time I go back to consult the MoS. As for the fears that the shortened text is somehow exclusive to experienced editors, can you provide some examples?
Phil, thanks for your thoughts. I'd not considered a major re-arrangement of the order of sections, although if you have any ideas, please put them here. I've added a second asterisk to the first section, linking to WP:LAYOUT. One could say "first read WP:LAYOUT", but whether they read this first and then go there or vice versa doesn't matter to me: if there's not enough detail here, they'll click on the links anyway. Also, MoS full version doesn't say this. The short version aims not to go against the full version in substantive ways. Further prominence could be given to WP:LAYOUT by linking it explicitly within the section—is that desirable? Then one would need to do the same for many other links, and the page would blow out.
Your idea of the three-tier structure is worth thinking about, but I'm not yet convinced. Perhaps we need to see a bit in action as an example.
The draft plunges into a lot of real nitty gritty stuff"—well, it's all technical, I guess.
Hi. Tony. I'm afraid I'm busy with real-life issues at present, and not doing as much as I'd like on various things at WP. Making MOS people for humans is a big task, and I know that the meagre time I could spare it might not be too helpful. I also have confess I actively dislike some parts of MOS, so I'd pull out anyway as soon as I found myself asked to contribute to anything relating to these. --Philcha (talk) 18:24, 16 September 2009 (UTC)

  • The images section is my pride and joy. No comments? I think the full-MoS version is very user-unfriendly. Tony (talk) 17:39, 16 September 2009 (UTC)
  • The images section is phenomenal. It addresses the only common questions people will have—and of course, if they want more information, helpful links are present. --Andy Walsh (talk) 20:58, 16 September 2009 (UTC)
Ah, thanks Andy; I hope it helps editors. Phil, the issues you raised need to be dealt with over at MoS talk; this has to be a reflection of MoS, and can't innovate by itself (aside from excisions, re-organisations, and consiseness of language). Tony (talk) 03:16, 17 September 2009 (UTC)
Tony, I know the various MOS Talk pages are the place to discuss changes - but probably won't bother. I also have little interest in prettying up the parts I think should be scrapped. -Philcha (talk) 04:01, 17 September 2009 (UTC)

Okay, here are some examples in the punctuation section:
"Other signs. Use exclamation marks with restraint." --This is fine. It's clear and concise and has one obvious meaning.
"Comma splices. They make the reader 'trip':" --Okay, so they make the reader trip, but is that a good thing or a bad thing? This one's a bit iffy.
"Colons. Not more than one in a sentence," --This isn't instruction. It's a fragment. It's not clear whether the BMoS is saying that there is only one per sentence (=> If you see more than one, then it isn't a colon.) or whether it is instructing the reader to use only one per sentence. A verb and a complete sentence would improve this significantly.
"but the difference is not visible in display mode." --New users will not necessarily know what display mode is. It would be better to say something like, "not visible outside of the editing screen" or "not visible to readers."
Most of these things could be fixed relatively easily, but there are a lot of them. Darkfrog24 (talk) 04:55, 17 September 2009 (UTC)

Darkfrog, you say: "Okay, so they make the reader trip, but is that a good thing or a bad thing?" Um ... what do you think? Is it good or bad to make your readers trip? Note also that there are quotation marks ("trip") in the point, and that immediately after that sentence, it says "Correct these two independent statements ...". here it is in full:

*Comma splices. They cause the reader to "trip": Oranges are an acid fruit, bananas are classified as alkaline. Correct these two independent statements to Oranges are an acid fruit; bananas are classified as alkaline, or use a comma plus a conjunction such as and or but.

I've changed "make" to "cause ... to", just to be extra-sure it's clear.

Your third point: " "but the difference is not visible in display mode." --New users will not necessarily know what display mode is. It would be better to say something like, "not visible outside of the editing screen" or "not visible to readers." " It is visible to readers: in the edit window. Why is "editing screen" any better? Users who have made just one edit will realise what "display mode" is; but I've changed it.

You raise this: "Colons. Not more than one in a sentence," --This isn't instruction. It's a fragment. It's not clear whether the BMoS is saying that there is only one per sentence (=> If you see more than one, then it isn't a colon.) or whether it is instructing the reader to use only one per sentence. A verb and a complete sentence would improve this significantly." I think it's plain as daylight.

Any more? Tony (talk) 06:25, 17 September 2009 (UTC)

Yes. They're all over the place.
Of course you think it's plain; you're the one who wrote it and you've seen the longer version and still have it in the back of your head. The question is whether it will be plain to people who 1. haven't read the longer version 2. haven't seen this stuff before and 3. are not necessarily that good at this in the first place. A person can get A's in high school English without ever having heard the expression "comma splice."
It isn't whether you or I would understand what you mean by "trip" or "display mode"; it's whether a beginner would. The word "trip" has both happy ("tripping off to school"/"acid trip") and negative ("trip and fall"/"acid trip") connotations. The user should not have to read the sentence repeatedly to tell what it means. "Use exclamation marks with restraint" only takes the one. They should all be like that.
Some parts of this manual are clear as day, but it needs some scrubbing before it will do for beginners. What you might want to do is ask for fresh help. Ask some people who don't spend a lot of time on the MoS—or better yet, some actual beginners—to go through this and change tricky turns of phrase to clear ones. Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:26, 17 September 2009 (UTC)
First, referring to your edit summary: no thanks, I won't be "getting people in here to help scrub it". I will change "trip" to "stumble" if it makes you happier. Second, it's for you too, not just for beginners, despite the title. Third, the generalised damning criticisms mean nothing, going by the examples above; you'll need to provide further examples to support your claims. Fourth, you might go back and examine just how bad WP:MOS is for writers of any standard. Tony (talk) 14:13, 17 September 2009 (UTC)
My purpose earlier was to give you enough examples to show you what I feel is and isn't effective about this page. I believe that I've accomplished that. I don't believe that spending hours or days going through every line of this page and picking out the hundred-odd other problem areas would be the best use of either your time or mine. The best person to tell you what is and isn't clear to a non-expert would be a non-expert.
Your purpose here is to create a version of the MoS that is friendlier to users who find the regular MoS confusing an intimidating. The best way to achieve that purpose is to consult with and take advice from Wikipedians who are confused and intimidated by the MoS. Neither of us fit that description. Darkfrog24 (talk) 23:00, 17 September 2009 (UTC)
  • That is partly my purpose. In many ways, this is simply a better expression of the MoS main page. Tony (talk) 11:10, 21 September 2009 (UTC)

Unique headings and subheadings[edit]

"Article titles and section headings", point 2, subpoint 1, says, in part: "Make them unique within the article; they should preferably not refer to the subject of the article or of higher-level headings." In the subheadings of your "beginner's guide" (preferably called a "simplified guide"), there is a dynamic tension which is difficult to overcome. The beginner's guide has three subsections titled "General", and I noticed the presence of the three, only after editing one part of the page and being directed to another part of the page. WP:MOS#Section headings, point 3, subpoint 2, says: "after editing, the display can arrive at the wrong section". I am unsure of how one can give those three sections unique names, without referring to higher-level headings.
-- Wavelength (talk) 02:33, 20 September 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for pointing this out, Wavelength. Do you think in this register, which is very different from that of WP's articles, it creates dynamic tension? This is more like a list, in which it is natural and reasonable for the structure of some of the sections to be repeated. This version of MoS main page breaks at least two other rules: it uses contractives and it uses the second-person "you". It also uses the kind of instructional language that we try to avoid in articles. The relationship between writer and reader is quite different in all of our MoS pages, and this is no exception; it's different from the other MoS pages in its striving for a certain informal, direct relationship with the readers, and in its need to be brief. These were quite conscious breaches of the "rules", for a purpose. Tony (talk) 14:22, 21 September 2009 (UTC)
At the present time, those subheadings are not unique within the article. On the other hand, if they are renamed to "General points about punctuation", "General points about units of measurement", and "General points about images", respectively, then each of them refers to the subject of a higher-level heading. That is the dynamic tension (between guidelines) to which I was referring, having in mind the effects of identical subheading names on post-editing displays and on links to subsection headings. However, the dynamic tension is not absolute, because the simplified guideline says: "they should preferably not refer to the subject of the article or of higher-level headings" (emphasis added). Therefore, there is a provision allowing for renaming them to non-unique names such as the ones which I mentioned.
-- Wavelength (talk) 17:41, 21 September 2009 (UTC)
if i'm following Wavelength properly, it's not a register thing, it's a technical thing: there's a navigational problem caused by the fact that you've given multiple sections the same name. you may want to change that. Sssoul (talk) 18:04, 21 September 2009 (UTC)

Feedback by A. di M.[edit]

Good work, but:

  • I've read that there are accessibility problems with links in headers, such as your asterisks.
  • Is that not when the actual text of the heading is linked? The asterisks come after.
    • I don't know the details; try asking WT:ACCESS. --___A. di M. 09:11, 22 September 2009 (UTC)
  • The wording is often so terse that it's hard to understand at a first glance: for example, "Generally make them nouns or short noun phrases": I took a while before realizing what "them" referred to. Writing "titles and headings" is just two more words, but it reads far more easily. Or Use "doubles": it could be "Use double quotation marks ("like this"), not single ones ('like this')." There are many more examples of this.
  • Perhaps that is because we're so used to the long—often verbose—text in the MoS. I have little doubt that readers will understand the briefness of the wording in this slightly different register very soon after visiting the page—it's rather more as these matters might be explained in oral mode where time is of the essence. There is nothing else that "them" could refer to, and yes, I think it's a great advantage to retain the bold subtitles at the start of each line: it makes navigation so much easier, especially for those who are unused to the text. Use "doubles" here and 'singles' there appears to be a very clear self-reference.
  • "Normally, correct trivial spelling or typographical errors silently (harasssment to harassment)." Isn't that what [sic] is for?
    This is directly from the MoS. Do you think it should be changed at the MoS? Maybe, but I can't make it different here (I can only omit it).
    I've started a thread at WT:MOS about this. Dabomb87 (talk) 03:14, 22 September 2009 (UTC)
    I misremembered that, then. (Was it changed recently at MoS?) --___A. di M. 09:12, 22 September 2009 (UTC)
  • In "Minus signs": "Exception. In code, a hyphen may be used." Replace "may" with "is"; in programming languages with do that, using the true minus sign is incorrect. (And consider replacing "hyphen" with "hyphen-minus".) BTW, the same applies to * for multiplication and ^ for exponentiation, but why is this one singled out? Ditto for "Spacing". I think this section is redundant with "Common mathematical symbols".
  • Again, I'd be happier including the mult. and expon. signs here if they were in MoS itself. Thanks, I'll change "may be" to "is".
    Been there, done that. --___A. di M. 09:48, 23 September 2009 (UTC)
  • "Slashed. Rare: 30/31 May, May 30/31." Useless unless you also tell them what it means. ("30/31 May" is the night starting from the dusk of 30 May and ending on the dawn of 31 May, and it's less than 24 hours, whereas "30–31 May" is 48 hours. It parallels 2009–10 which is 48 months and 2009/10 which is 12 months or less. These two points can be merged, IMO.)
  • Yes, I'll change it.
  • Somewhere in "Numbers" you could say that whereas "2 million" is generally assumed to be an approximation, "2,000,000" is generally assumed to be exact.
  • OK.
  • "Scientific articles" in "Units of measurement": that apply to all specialist topics in which some units are traditionally used, including yards for American football. Consider: "Specialist topics. Where certain units are traditionally always used (SI units in scientific articles, yards in American football) conversions may be dispensed with if there is consensus to do so;" as for the second half, "spell out the first occurrence" is not specific to this case, and giving the conversion factor is an useful option, so: "in these cases, link the first occurrence of each unit or give a conversion factor in a footnote or a parenthesis."
  • OK; I presume this is in MoS itself.
  • "Its. The singular neutral possessive (the dog chased its tail) has no apostrophe." I'd suggest "Its, hers, whose, etc. Possessive adjectives and pronouns have no apostrophe." I've seen "who's" in place of "whose" several times.
  • I'll include "whose"; but I've never seen "her's".
  • I pondered about this one: you're right.
  • In some places there are "(" without ")" and vice versa.
  • I'll do another search. (Surprisingly hard to pick up: at least one I noticed in your summary, too.)
  • I don't mind it: saves words, and that is a key goal.

--___A. di M. 16:46, 21 September 2009 (UTC)

BTW, do you need to put the run-in heads at the beginning of bullets? Sometimes, re-arranging would allow a more natural sentence structure. For example, instead of "Adjacent brackets. Avoid if possible", try "Avoid adjacent brackets if possible", etc. --___A. di M. 19:54, 21 September 2009 (UTC)
  • I think they look messy otherwise, and their navigational value is reduced.
  • I agree; IMO it looks better visually if the bold is lined up rather than scattered. Dabomb87 (talk) 03:16, 22 September 2009 (UTC)
  • and i suppose i now understand where that so-called "second pink div" got the style i objected to on another page not long ago. but using bold "in-line headers" doesn't require abandoning normal sentence structure; you could (and sometimes do) use the bold header *and* put the object in its normal position in the sentence. and as at least a couple of other people have noted, the object-first semi-sentences really are often difficult to understand. Sssoul (talk) 05:16, 22 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Three editors have now expressed misgivings about such sentence structure; I'll re-assess it within a week. But there's nothing magical about a "sentence"; it is grammatically trivial compared with the clause. Let's see what others say. I certainly want to retain the bold opening themes, even though it costs valuable space. Tony (talk) 13:26, 22 September 2009 (UTC)
thanks for reconsidering these truncated structures - obviously saving space doesn't help much if it's at the cost of comprehensibility. excess verbiage is of course also a barrier to comprehension, but things like "Slashed. Rarely: May 30/31" are really going too far in the other direction.
and while i grasp that guidelines are a different register than encyclopedia articles, and naturally do some things differently than an article would, i do have misgivings about the MoS engaging in "don't try this at home" type stuff like communicating in sentence fragments. (and re: "[a sentence] is grammatically trivial compared with the clause": technically, don't clauses include verbs? not a big deal – i'm just curious how you're defining the gramatically less trivial item.) Sssoul (talk) 14:18, 22 September 2009 (UTC)

ADM: thanks for all of that. My responses are interpolated—it seemed the clearest way to do it. Tony (talk) 02:32, 22 September 2009 (UTC)

Two questions and a suggestion[edit]

I just ran across your "Beginners' guide to the the Manual of Style" (MOS). The official MOS, which I've slogged through a couple of times, is much more difficult to read. I do have two questions and a suggestion.

  • There appears to be a difference between the MOS and your guide in reference to decades. Where it says in your guide "use the two-digit form (the 80s, the '80s) only where the century is clear", in WP:DECADE of the MOS it says "the two-digit form ... is used only in reference to a social era or cultural phenomenon". Is that a recent change to the MOS or a difference of interpretation?
  • In the Images section, there was a sentence I didn't understand. I'm not sure what you meant by "Start with a right-aligned lead image or infobox". Does that mean that it's in an outlined graphic box?
  • One thing I like about the MOS, but miss in your guide is the use of brown text to make it clear which examples are the bad ones.

Thanks for the time and effort you've put into writing your guide. It has been very helpful for me. If there's anything I can do to help you, please let me know. SchreiberBike (talk) 18:04, 9 February 2013 (UTC)

All excellent points. It needs updating; but I smell in the wind a better option than this page. Perhaps not soon, though. Tony (talk) 07:10, 10 February 2013 (UTC)

Akhunzada Farooq Ahamad[edit]

Farooq Ahmad(Urdu: فاروق احمد) born Akhunzada Farooq Ahmad(Urdu: أخونذاده فاروق احمد) on 18 October 1975, He is a Pakistani. qualification B.A. He study some computer course like design, he work at Saudi Arabia as Salesman. He belong PTI as a politician — Preceding unsigned comment added by Farooqrooh (talkcontribs) 08:29, 12 August 2013 (UTC)