User talk:Tony1/How to improve your writing

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I just stumbled on this page via Bobblewick's talk page. Tony this is a great start. Thanks for putting time into this educational project. I look forward to learning more about crisp prose. David D. (Talk) 05:56, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

I really like this, Tony. It's nice and informative and something that a lot of editors would be wise to read. I made it down to the where the random notes section starts, and everything seems fine. Once you get a first draft completed, it would probably be a good idea to have another pair of eyes with the appropriate strategic distance give it a copy edit, but at this stage such minor concerns are not necessary (I only noticed a few things, mostly regarding text in the example exercises not being properly redded or greened). The exercises were good, if a bit tedious by the end. Then again, someone who is genuinely interested in improving his or her prose should be motivated enough to try them. I particularly found it helpful where you have included parenthetical explanations for the solutions, so perhaps you could try to do that a bit more. For example, many English speakers probably do not know that "off of" is considered grammatically incorrect.

I think the structure largely works, although I think you might consider breaking this into two pages: the main guide and the exercises. Include links to the appropriate sections of the exercises page so that users can perform the tasks in order if they choose. In the current layout, I think the final product is going to be too long and imposing and may have too much of a school text look to it. Splitting the exercises off to their own page will make the main guide look cleaner and friendlier. That's about all for now. Keep it up; I think this is shaping up to be a very useful page! — BrianSmithson 13:14, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

All good suggestions; I've moved the redundancy exercises into a daughter article. Thanks, Brian. Tony 13:56, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for asking me to comment Tony. The concept of this page is a very good idea indeed. Is it intended to nominate this to be a FA itself? - That would be an excellent idea.
The problems I see though pertain not to grammar which is pretty much universal, but also to style. I'm sure no-one would wish to excise individuality in favour of a common conformity. What interests me is how the following are to be addressed, there are many differences in style which arise from the spoken English of the editors own country. As Tony knows the Australian style tends to be less formal ("wordy") and "to the point" than the English and American. Whereas the Americans have not only their own spelling but also phraseology. And what about the famous list of forbidden words drummed into most English public schoolboys (No, not swearwords) the "Get, got, nice, ever so,delighted, charming, actually, etc. etc." which often creep into articles causing the British to wince - I'm not sure these problems can ever be truly sorted - or even should be.
I would hate to see anything that deters or intimidates people from trying to write an FA, many like me speak "nota so gooda Englisch" so my own personal advice to prospective FA writers, is (even if you are a native speaker) firstly, know your subject inside and out, and then have two great mates (who have also written FAs) but know nothing about the subject, but know their grammar and English, and when you have written your stuff, ask them to re-write it so they can understand it. Hence, three pairs of experienced eyes have studied it before it reaches the FA or even PR page. This seems to work for me. As a guide rather than a bible this could be a very useful page. Giano | talk 09:37, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for your feedback, Giano. I'm not sure that AusEng is any more laconic than fine prose in other varieties. The pressure for concision is increasing in our time-poor environment, where you have to compete to have your text read—at least in the English-speaking world, and I'm sure in others. Tony 04:34, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

Collaboration and strategic distance[edit]

I think collaboration is another thing to try when one starts loosing strategic distance. --Duk 02:42, 10 June 2006 (UTC)

True, Duk: your collaborators can use their distance, which can be achieved through time (waiting and returning), display (e.g., printing out, to change the visual appearance), and person (mining someone else's unfamiliarity).

Outstanding work[edit]

This is an excellent piece of work from one of Wikipedia's key copyeditors, so it should not be ignored by any Wikipedian. I plan on using it to enhance the prose of any project I work on. — Deckiller 06:18, 23 June 2006 (UTC)

Yes, this is quite excellent (hopefully you will deem it mostly finished in my wikipedian career) (N/M about the suggestion, they prob. belong someplace else). RN 04:14, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

I agree entirely. The thing this article needs more than anything else is publicity. --Khaim 17:06, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

I've been slowly studying this thing over the last few weeks trying to improve my writing ability. Agree with others here. Great stuff. Genjix (talk) 11:36, 11 September 2010 (UTC)

Put this in Wikipedia space, make it a guideline[edit]

How about it? Or is there more to do first? Zzzzz 11:10, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

  • <blush>Thanks for all your comments, here and above. I'd prefer to keep it in my name-space, because:
    • it's just as accessible;
    • although most of the material is/will be uncontroversial, some of it arises/will arise from personal preferences (e.g., the use of commas, which I'll flag as personal, but people love to object ...);
    • it would lose my authorship and editorial control (after all, it is much more my work than almost all articles in WP space are the work of a single contributor;
    • some of it is original, which might breach the policy for WP-space articles; and
    • it's incomplete.

I'm now working on listing technique, which I had no idea was such a robust topic until I tried to set it out.

Tony 08:30, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

fantastic work[edit]

wow! i found this when reading a comment of a FAC page. this is a great guide to authorship in general. in a time when focusing on quality of work is becoming more important, this guide is a breathe of fresh air. brilliant prose is unfortunately atavistic in even the best articles over time; it's the nature of the multi-author beast.

i might suggest as this guide gets longer you might break it into 1-2-3 pages. if you don't intend it for policy there is no harm in doing this; it makes it a bit less intimidating. content wise you've done quite good work. you've won my plaudit. :) JoeSmack Talk 19:09, 9 September 2006 (UTC)

Tony you rule[edit]

Wow, you're a pretty good teacher. The excersises really help and the page actually explains how to write better in an understandable way. Thanks for this page.

PS Where did you learn all this info? T REXspeak 01:41, 29 September 2006 (UTC)

Two teeny, tiny comments[edit]

Marvelous work. I will be showing this to my students, many of whom are English language learners, as well as to a friend who's a director of a University Writing Center and had asked me for suggestions of reading material for those working with non-native writers. Two teeny, tiny comments (the first is a miniscule suggestion, the other simply a response):

  • The use of "iteratively" might be accomplished more directly with "repeatedly" or a similar common-use synonym. While I don't want to "dumb down" writing, the kind of everyday writer who is the target audience for this piece probably doesn't see "iterative" often enough to get it on first reading. (There's some irony there.) It's used more in science and technology contexts than elsewhere, I expect. The suggestion itself is terrific; I used these techniques a lot in slogging through my dissertation, and it's interesting to read some analysis of why they work.
  • I think the tendency toward "additives" is probably exacerbated on Wikipedia, because we are adding to other editors' work and want to integrate our own contributions into what went before. This concept would explain why I so often find myself editing a series of sentences in biography articles and pop-culture-reference lists that say, "He appeared in X. He also appeared in Y. He also appeared in Z in 2002" (sometimes even with a line break between entries). Lawikitejana 18:40, 3 November 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for such thoughtful feedback, Lawik. I agree with both of your comments (the first one—actionable—I'm putting into effect now). It's work in progress, of course, and I may have time in December to extend this little project. Tony 00:14, 4 November 2006 (UTC)

English resources[edit]

Hi, what an excellent project this is! Very clear and helpful. May I suggest a few resources to be added to the External links? Common Errors in English Usage, Wordsmith Anagram Generator, and Omniglot. Pinkville 13:52, 6 December 2006 (UTC)


Tony's nemesis Mr Tiresome wonders aloud about captions, specifically:

Eight centuries ago, writing was such a rare and elaborate skill that it was displayed with great artistry. This Apocalyse manuscript shows St John's writing to the seven churches of Asia.

I'm no expert and lack the time to check, but my impression was that vellum or parchment or whatever the medium was at the time was hugely more difficult to procure in quantity than paper was in, say, the 18th century (let alone than it is now). It was also long-lasting, and there was an assumption that Biblical and similar writings would be just as valuable in the future as the present. Imagine that inkjet printers and even cornerstore photo marts didn't exist, and all we had was archival-quality photo paper, priced to match. Well, you'd be nuts not to focus your enlarger and time it just right.

The power of writing has changed the world. Here, Mahatma Gandhi writes at Birla House, Mumbai in August 1942, five years before India gained independence from Britain.

It would be good to come up with something that he wrote and that demonstrably had an effect. I'm sure that there is plenty.

Grammar at its worst.

No! In "Recruitment at It's Best" [ugh!], the grammar is fine. It's the orthography that's screwed up.

The model writing postcards, (1906) by Swedish painter Carl Larsson (1853–1919), famous for his idyllic watercolours

Splendid, a gratuitous display of nipples! Or one nipple, at least. Joe Bob Briggs would be proud of this. But forget about Joe Bob;I like it. -- Hoary 10:31, 7 December 2006 (UTC)

The conversation continued on my user talk page, qv. -- Hoary 11:17, 9 December 2006 (UTC)


Tony, suddenly I am intercoursingly busy. But I'd like to keep doing something to this page: doing so helps preserve my sanity. Therefore:

Eight centuries ago, writing was such a rare and elaborate skill that it was displayed with great artistry. This Apocalyse manuscript shows St John's writing to the seven churches of Asia.

What else do we know about the MS? Because I'm in a mood to rewrite the caption in a more pointed way. Very very first draft:

This Apocalyse manuscript (c. 1200) shows St John's writing to the seven churches of Asia. The medium is vellum. (Supporters of PETA should avoid that link.) With a precious medium and assured longevity, it's little wonder that writing was a rare skill that benefitted from years of training. Imagine the screen is as valuable as vellum.

Yes, corny, I know, and stylistically awful. It could be improved. But before bothering with stylistic work, the facts should be investigated. -- Hoary 11:17, 9 December 2006 (UTC)

dot comma[edit]

Sorry about my earlier routine conversions of "e.g.," to "e.g.". [That sentence being punctuated in brazen disregard for US practice.] I always thought the comma fussy and unnecessary, but I see that the recentish edition I have of Chicago prescribes it so it's certainly good enough for WP. -- Hoary 01:04, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

I don't like the hedgehog that it becomes with those dots and the comma, but I've been howled down by colleagues for not including them. Plain English admits "eg", although I don't think I like it stripped bare, egghead that I am. So Chicago insists on it? OK, in this case, they agree with me. :-) Tony 07:54, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Sorry, I explained myself badly. The question of dotless "eg" aside, I was considering On my desk there's too much crap, e.g.(,) test negatives from the Mine Six I bought last week. Note the comma between the parentheses. I'd been deleting your commas; your (indignant?!) reinsertion of them made me pause and look up this issuelet in Chicago. According to Chicago, you're right and I'm wrong. (Damn!) -- Hoary 09:55, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

as, since, while[edit]

One disagreement I have with the article as it stands is the way it treats as and since as undesirable alternatives to because. Because this leaves only because, there's a risk of monotony. And because is longer than the others; if its use were mandated, I'd really be tempted to shorten it to 'cause or plain cause, which you might not like. Rather than simply warning against as and since, I think the article should merely advise care in their use. If there's little or no risk of ambiguity, either is fine.

I agree that the advice might be softened, but I'd like it to favour "because" unless there are good reasons to vary it, such as avoiding monotony. "As" is often a problem; hate it in those cases. "Since" is much less often a problem.
Then I may soften the advice a little. Feel free (as always) to revert. -- Hoary 10:02, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

It's similar with while. There's an inoffensive example of one of its uses, the objection that it might be taken as the other use, and the remark that no of course it couldn't be the second. This strikes me as simply omitting admitting that the objection is bogus. Again, I'd say that while should be used with care, and that it's fine if there's little or no ambiguity. -- Hoary 01:04, 11 December 2006 (UTC) ...disastrous typo fixed 10:02, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

You mean as an alternative to "and"? Isn't "and" plainer and simpler? Tony 07:51, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
It is indeed. But to me and is flat while and while has a smidgen of flavor, perhaps in part because its usage is limited. It's plain and simple enough for me, though I'd add that I'm no fan of whilst. -- Hoary 10:02, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
If "and" is plainer and has no alternative (chronological) meaning, isn't it preferable? Tony 13:11, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Viewed all by itself, probably yes. But "and ... and ... and" and I get a bit bored. I'm no fan of fancy alternatives for simple words (the bizarre revival of albeit is something I find ghastly), but this article seems to outlaw any alternative to and. And I find that rather sad. -- Hoary 14:11, 11 December 2006 (UTC)
Don't want to outlaw, so clearly the tone needs to be softened! Tony 15:03, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Whilst is prefectly acceptable, and I don't see why "while" should be seen as a replacement. Maybe it's an English thing, but I use whilst almost exclusively, "whilst" I rarely, if ever, write/say "while". It seems to me that these words are considered grating to particular individuals, and that they should then be removed from use on Wikipedia. There is nothing wrong with whilst, or "albeit" for that matter.--Adasta Flag of England.svg Flag of the United Kingdom.svg 11:53, 8 May 2008 (UTC)

I get an eyetwitch everytime I hear someone say "in order to" now[edit]

Yeah, it's become my biggest pet peeve :) — Deckiller 12:56, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

And now, its on PR script (along with common redundancies, of course; are there any other common grammar problems w/ FACs that would be worth including?). There's probably 300+ links to this guide on Wikipedia:Peer review/Automated/December 2006 alone... Great job with the guide!
By the way, the purple background behind the sentences doesn't seem to be working all that well on my browser. Whenever I highlight any words with the purple background, it causes white blotches to appear; plus, it doesn't fully cover most of the sentences it is used for, but instead first line of all of the paragraphs with purple highlighting still appear in white background (I use IE; if necessary, I can upload a screenshot). The first example under "Sentences" looks like this instead-
The need for a stronger central government with a unified currency and the ability to conduct the affairs
of state, such as foreign policy (and that could bind all of the states under negotiated treaties and agreements rather than be undermined by a single state’s refusal to agree to an international treaty) led to the stronger federal government that was negotiated at the Convention.
APR t 00:35, 20 December 2006 (UTC)
I did some testing, and for both problems, the problem is actually the indentation (with the colon).
The source code here is :<div style="padding:1px; background-color:#E6E6FA">…</div>
The source code is <div style="padding:1px; background-color:#E6E6FA">…</div>
I have no clue why that is (and I can't think of an easy way to work around the problem), but apparently that's the problem. AZ t 21:44, 21 December 2006 (UTC)

em dashes[edit]

Tony, does any browser introduce line breaks before or after em dashes? Those that I use do not. The awkwardness that results is one reason why I add spaces. Another reason is that some fonts widely used for browsers (e.g. "Trebuchet MS") make the em dash very short; so short, indeed, that it looks more like a hyphen and thus (despite good intentions) plain wrong. -- Hoary 00:43, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

This is bad news. I wonder whether we should raise this point in a more public forum, since there are em dashes without spaces all over the project. I wonder what proportion of users are inconvenienced in this way (if it's 5%, I don't care much; if it's 15%, I do). Most UK and US style guides prefer em dashes without the spaces; newspapers tend to substitute en dashes with spaces because of their short column widths. Tony 01:25, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Another objection: Any "browsing environment" (ghastly phrase, but I suppose it will have to do) that for any reason enforces a monospaced font will of course be unable to display em dashes as anything longer than en dashes (particularly easily mistaken for hyphens as most monospaced fonts have monster hyphens).

Disordered remarks:

  • Surely any recommendation by a style guide would assume the ability to break lines before or after the dash.
Should, but perhaps they don't all.
  • Which browsers do you use, and do they break lines before and after em dashes?
Safari. It's fine.
  • (Without actually summoning the energy to take a look and make sure:) I thought that style guides (or those such as Chicago and Hart with typesetters rather than typists in mind) tended to recommend thin spaces versus either normal spacing or no spacing whatever.
Thin spaces better than normal ones. Can be macroed in Word, but for WP I don't think there's a shortcut.
  • Style guides generally assume output on paper.
True. They should update.
  • Putting aside my preferences for print, when I look at the screen I actually prefer the appearance of regular spaces around dashes to no spaces. This may well be a minority opinion but it's unlikely to be that of a small minority.
I'm an old-fashioned guy. Tony 05:27, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

I have little desire or energy for raising any point in a public forum. (Or call me lazy, attempting to browbeat you rather than the world in general!) -- Hoary 03:48, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Safari is based on Konqueror. I've just tried in Konqueror: No line-breaking around unspaced em dashes. Ditto in Gecko-based browsers (e.g. Firefox) as far as I remember.
I once tried using thin spaces (or perhaps hair spaces, I forget) for my own, WP-irrelevant purposes. I found that a number of even the large fonts used for web browsing didn't know what these were, instead displaying the boxes typically seen in place of Mongolian and other scripts (assuming you don't have a Mongolian font installed). Not a good idea. This page is informative.
A bit of websurfing for intelligent ideas on how to use dashes on the web took me to pages by people claiming to be experts that perpetrated such idiocies as small grey lettering. (Sorry, Mr soi-disant Expert, but if your argument is in three-quarter-size grey sans-serif lettering, you've just blown any attempt at credibility.) I turned away before developing a throbbing headache. I have at least once read intelligent comments on the web use of dashes; I forget where. -- Hoary 05:57, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

Well, this is an issue that should be kept alive. Now I'm immersed in uncertainty. Tony 06:40, 14 December 2006 (UTC)

A tiny error[edit]

Just looking at some of your excellent writing guides. Shouldn't it be diplomatic corps in exercise 3c of textual flow? --Steve (Slf67) talk 01:36, 8 January 2007 (UTC)

A tiny blooper, more like it. Duhhh. I corrected it, thanks. Tony 04:28, 8 January 2007 (UTC)

Suggested Changes[edit]

Hi Tony. I am reading through your guide. May I suggest the following changes?

  • The criteria have a powerful impact

"impact", I think, is far overused; "effect" is better.

  • this is the most challenging aspect

"aspect" sounds vague. I prefer "part".

  • Wikipedia flourishes through the input of your expertise

"from" fits the sentence better. Wouldn't, also, "the following" connect this sentence better to what follows?

  • You can pursue three strategies to satisfy 1a.

"follow" sounds better.

  • although the groups face different challenges in writing and editing English;

How about "they each" instead?

  • most issues we cover are also applicable to many languages.

"are relevant" perhaps covers this idea more broadly.

  • Although most criteria for good writing in English are widely accepted, its advocates may differ on particular technical and stylistic matters.

"its" seems already implied.

Rintrah 13:29, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

I agree; do you want to make these changes? If not, I'll need to wait until I have a little space. Tony 15:10, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

Other ones:

Ironically, suppressing the very mechanisms that we use

  • "Ironically" misleads the reader here; "Paradoxically" points to the idea.

will reap palpable rewards

  • "reap" seems out of context, even as a metaphor; I suggest changing it to "yeild"—a more distant metaphor.

Rintrah 17:14, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

“Planning” expenditure is allocated to development schemes outlined by the federal government, “central” expenditure to the state governments.

  • Shouldn't that be 'and "central"'? Without the "and", it looks more Latin than English.

Rintrah 08:03, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

Absolutely! I'm afraid that, having completed two-thirds of this project, I won't get time to (i) sift through the existing text, and (ii) add to it, until June. Uggg. I'm grateful for your input. Tony 08:53, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

Link to LoC[edit]

Hi. I think it would make sense to provide a link to Wikipedia:WikiProject League of Copyeditors. While the page is designed to teach people how to do it themselves, it would still be a reasonable resource to list. Pascal.Tesson 16:59, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

Good idea; tell me whether you like what I've done. Tony 09:11, 15 January 2007 (UTC)
Yup. Good idea to suggest that the LoC should be brought in only for the final round of copyediting. Pascal.Tesson 14:50, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

How is this an "article"?[edit]

I thought an "article" only existed in the mainspace of Wikipedia. This seems to more properly be an "essay." Rfrisbietalk 16:44, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

This seems like a very trivial comment. Change whatever self-reference there is to essay, or page, if you want. Tony 01:35, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

If you think it's trivial, then I won't bother with this page. Rfrisbietalk 02:43, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Don't "bother", then. But your input is welcome, all the same. Tony 06:55, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Home for this thing[edit]

It is unclear to me if this is an article or an essay or whatever. Perhaps a more important piece of information would be: what is this thing's relationship to WP:BETTER or WP:MOS? If it is simply going to be referred to hundreds of times in article Talk pages and peer review feedback, would it not be more efficient to plan and schedule its transition to the Wikipedia: space, even if it remains some kind of less formalized part of the process towards satifying 1a? It remained stable throughout October, so it does not seem like control by Tony1 and friends is the problem. -- 04:03, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

I think the thing is that it's still in development; Tony is slowly adding new sections every couple months. I say that perhaps we can make a decision once he declares it finished. — Deckiller 04:22, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

It differs from WP:BETTER in that (1) it's reasonably well written, (2) it's not full of vacuous statements and questionable categories (of course, people are free to disagree with the content here), (3) it's work in progress and doesn't present itself as a finished piece, (4) it's a personal view, and doesn't purport to be a view arrived at by consensus (although there has been some of that here WRT the valuable input of other WPians), (5) it deals explicitly with Criterion 1a, and doesn't much concern formatting and many other aspects of constructing WP articles that WP:BETTER does; and (6) it contains original research/ideas, specifically on "strategic distance".

It differs from MOS in that it's not a binding set of rules, of course, and has a much narrower scope. I wrote it because I was frustrated at the poor standards of writing in FACs.

While I'm at it, I'm appalled that the BETTER thing (your word) has a statement at the top that it must be followed. No ifs or buts.

You talk of a "problem", but I can't quite see why there is one. Tony 07:23, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Note to myself[edit]

RobertG has suggested that a matter of tone be included ("Avoid 'note that'" etc.). Good idea, and when I return to this project in April/May, I'll do this. Thanks. Tony 00:25, 16 February 2007 (UTC)

Additive terms[edit]

In your section on "Additive terms," I suggest you define what these terms mean. I am constantly disgusted by copyeditors who remove my "moreovers" in particular. That word suggests a hierarchy of priority that I intend and that many copyeditrs do not seem to understand. Awadewit 18:49, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

I would also emphasize that sometimes redundacy is used for emphasis - it is not always bad! Awadewit 18:51, 27 March 2007 (UTC)
Like "would" in your last statement? I don't, on the face of it, agree with either of your comments. Can you provide examples of where redundancy can be usefully applied for emphasis, and where "moreover" should not be removed? Tony 08:36, 30 March 2007 (UTC)
Super essay, but I "would" stick up for Awadewit's use of "would". Per [1],
3. (used in place of will, to make a statement or form a question less direct or blunt): That would scarcely be fair. Would you be so kind?
5. (used to express an intention or inclination): Nutritionists would have us all eat whole grains.

Either supports this use of "would", although in the encyclopedia articles themselves, one would rarely use softening or inclination -- we just report the facts :) (Not watching here, so post at my talk if this bit of trivia deserves a response.) Cheers, Unimaginative Username 02:07, 16 October 2007 (UTC)

Vocabulary guidance[edit]

Great page. You have a real gift for presentation (for example, I liked the colourization of the "snake").

I noticed your section "Saying good-bye to misplaced formality". I was wondering if you've seen this: I realise that you're making a guide that's particular to wikipedia, but you might be able to steal some ideas. MisterSheik 18:10, 17 April 2007 (UTC)

Oh, you're too kind, Sheik. Thanks for the link. It does say good things, but I hate Fowler's style—like a legal document in some ways. Will think about it. Tony 02:06, 18 April 2007 (UTC)
Yeah, you're right about Fowler. My guess is that he was researching his book, and he was determined to include every example of his copyediting brilliance without regard for the reader's interest. I think he does two things well, though.

First, he has good ideas, which he supports with reasoning and examples as opposed to just saying "80% of our panel of self-appointed experts feel that this is okay." I feel like drawing the conclusion that American culture is democratic while British culture is aristocratic.

Second, I felt that the book (of which I've read maybe a third) is written in a way that allows the reader to discover the model of what good writing really is. That's very different from the American Heritage guide, which is obsessed with details and can never be more than a reference. Fowler's guide aims higher than being instructive. It gives the reader the right ideas to evaluate constructs that aren't covered in the book. In a hundred years, Fowler's book will still be relevant, I think, because he is instructive rather than pedantic. (Did I choose the right words?)

I'm no master of English. But, the reason that I'm saying this (and mentioned Fowler's book in the first place) is that it's what I liked about your guide too: It gives people ideas about why one thing is preferable to another rather than just being a list of pet peeves. It would be nice to see more of this instruction. What's unfortunate is that some people will take away only rules instead of the ideas.

Still, you could include that it's always a bad idea to say "It must be noted that..." I think that this construction stems from the editor's egocentricity: Essentially, he's saying "Due to your ignorance, I must not forget to inform you that..."

Also, I don't know what you think of this, but I've never liked articles that make claims about the ignorance of people, as if these were interesting things. For example, "Many people believe X, but in fact Y". But what many people believe is not intrinsically interesting to me. This is the same kind of egocentricity as the previous point. It says, "Chances are that you are one of the idiots that believe X. You are wrong. The reality is Y."

Good luck with the page. Hope you find time to complete it as well as you'd like to. MisterSheik 14:19, 18 April 2007 (UTC)

Shouldn't we add "prior to" to the list? — Deckiller 02:16, 18 April 2007 (UTC)
Please! Tony 03:31, 18 April 2007 (UTC)
  • "Note that ..." should be proscribed by the MOS, IMV. Tony 04:44, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

Suggestion:Common unencyclopedic words[edit]

You know: "panned", "dissed", "jipped", etc. — Deckiller 01:49, 12 May 2007 (UTC)

A whole subsection by this title, or tacked onto the misplaced formality as the converse? It's not nearly such a problem as the formality. Tony 13:32, 12 May 2007 (UTC)

Probably just added to the misplaced formality section. — Deckiller 13:34, 12 May 2007 (UTC)


Perhaps sections on parallelism, buried verbs, cliches, and the slang/misplaced informality mentioned above? — Deckiller 17:36, 30 May 2007 (UTC)


hope you don't mind that I added the {{essay}} template so the article, which I think is a masterpiece, will get more notice. You can remove it if you want. Cheers, Smokizzy (talk) 02:39, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

Thanks. Nice idea, but I think, on balance, it can do without. Tony 04:41, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

Two suggestions re: External links[edit]

Your recommendation of the "Online English phrase checker" intrigued me. From your description, and from that on the site itself, I expected it to be a specialized tool that would automatically show results for alternate phrasings, such as “up-regulated” with and without hyphenation. If it has that--or some other--special feature, it would help for you to explain it. Currently, the reason for your vigorous recommendation is not self-evident (at least, not to me). Following your example, what is the advantage of using the Online English phrase checker, rather than some other tool, to search for “up-regulated”?

It's like Google, but somehow more oriented towards surveying a chosen item. Try comparing with Google results for the same item. It's "Alltheweb", anyway. Online English just has a version that's easy to access. Tony 07:38, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

c Your description of the "Guide to grammar and writing" includes a '...quiz on the use of “the”, “a” and nothing before nouns, ....' I suggest including "an" in that description, to complete the list of articles covered in that quiz. Alternately, "...quiz on the appropriate use of definite and indefinite articles before nouns..." would do, albeit with a different tone.

Yes indeed; I hope that's invisibile, because I haven't done it yet. Tony 07:38, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

Thank you for that amazing page. I just discovered it and have already been inspired by one section. Now, I have a lot more reading to do!

-) Tony 07:38, 5 July 2007 (UTC)

--rich<Rich Janis 06:56, 5 July 2007 (UTC)>


In the example:

Born the youngest child of a Mexican immigrant couple, her talent was apparent from infancy.” Here, “Born” is assumed in the word “child”; therefore the sentence works better without the first word.

Don't you think that an even worse problem is the misattachment of the subject?qp10qp 06:01, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

I think it's grammatical, but I'll seek Hoary's advice on this. Tony 06:22, 18 July 2007 (UTC)
It means that "her talent"="the youngest child", and that's not what you're going for here. Did you really want this posted at the talk page for the Japanese MOS? Dekimasuよ! 11:50, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

Encyclopedic prose[edit]

I thought I would read your essay again because I am thinking of writing my own page on "encyclopedic prose". Your page is immeasurably useful (many thanks); but it's surprising how little other advice Wikipedia has to offer on how to write encyclopedic prose (unless I just can't find it).

I've just been through an ordeal with the article Soviet invasion of Poland (1939), which I've been copyediting for Piotrus on and off since March. First I copyedited it for GA (I can take days to copyedit an article, so this was no light commitment for me); to my chagrin, it failed, partly because it was said to need a copyedit. So I copyedited it again, and then it passed. Phew. The material was dense (it's a diabolical subject), and I was still not happy, so I re-edited the article several more times. By the time Piotrus put it up for FAC, I had 158 edits to the page. It passed FA today; and I now have over 300! Once again, reviewers had criticised the prose, saying it needed a copyedit; dutifully, I gave it one more. And still reviewers arrived to say that the article needed a copyedit. So I gave it one blasted more, which I finished yesterday. By this time I was starting to see the ball big, as they say in cricket. In fact, I was beginning to hallucinate. This was all very humbling for a language nerd like me, whose desk is stacked with usage manuals and who props his keyboard against a calf-bound thesaurus.

I've been on Wikipedia for a year and taught myself to research, reference and format; I've an FA or two in the back pocket. To take my editing to a new level, I realise I need to find a way of achieving virtually Orwellian levels of compelling (sod brilliant) and lucid prose—and if that means rewriting till I'm blue in the face, then so be it. If I write a page on techniques to that end, it won't be as directly useful as yours, of course (I am a pure amateur and would make that clear), but more a set of musings on the challenges of writing encyclopedic prose. Editors are always bandying the word "encyclopedic" about, but do we know what this means? We are not taught to write for encyclopedias at school or college: it is surely a highly specialised skill, like mole catching or hop tasting. We need to identify ways of communicating directly to non-English speakers (the only criticisms I've had of my writing style are from non-native speakers, and I don't dismiss that) and school and college students, but without dumbing down. Not easy. I have some ideas on an approach, but having been butt-kicked by the reviewers of Soviet invasion of Poland, I need to beware of kidding myself. I don't want to be laughed at, hoarsely, the way I laugh at an ex-girlfriend of mine who is now a relationship counsellor.qp10qp 06:01, 18 July 2007 (UTC)


After reading your How to satisfy Criterion 1a guide, I criticised an article at Wikipedia:Featured article candidates/Oregon State Capitol for its use of the word "while". Could you please let me know if my objections were valid, so that I know whether to make objections like this in the future? Thanks. Epbr123 21:52, 24 July 2007 (UTC)

Online English phrase checker[edit]

The Online English phrase checker- this appears to be pay only. The "enter a phrase" box is a search engine. --Gadget850 ( Ed) 11:59, 13 August 2007 (UTC)

Works fine for me; just enter into the box and hit "return". Let me know if it doesn't work, please. Tony 12:28, 13 August 2007 (UTC)
"Enter a phrase" just does a search through AlltheWeb. Is this linking directly to the correct page, or is it another link? --Gadget850 ( Ed) 12:58, 13 August 2007 (UTC)
I don't know enough about IT to say. It delivers results that are more apposite than Google's for searching lexical items, in my experience. Good enough for me. But if you think I've been duped, let me know and I'll remove it from the list. Tony 14:07, 13 August 2007 (UTC)

Parallel commas required for parenthetical thought[edit]

From your article: "...writing effective, even powerful prose is within the grasp of most educated people,..." Since "even powerful" is a parenthetical addition whose omission does not change the basic meaning of the sentence ("writing effective prose..."), don't we need a comma after this phrase to match the one before it? "...writing effective, even powerful, prose...". Regards, Unimaginative Username 02:21, 16 October 2007 (UTC)

Yes; don't know how that happened. Thanks. Tony (talk) 02:56, 16 October 2007 (UTC)
You're welcome! Thanks for fixing. Wish everyone read the article before submitting for FA or even for c/e. Regards, Unimaginative Username 23:55, 18 October 2007 (UTC)

Tony, get the word out![edit]

Hi Tony. This page has got to be one of the most underrated, underutilized and under-publicized guidelines of Wikipedia. I seem to remember you were not so keen on moving it to the project space. I can understand that. But why is this not being linked to from the MoS? I get the feeling that this page is like a hidden treasure that experienced users just stumble upon if they get lucky. Or are you too modest to link to it? :-) I could fix that for you... Cheers, Pascal.Tesson 03:17, 16 October 2007 (UTC)

Thanks, Pascal, you're far too kind. There's a bit of what might be framed as original research in the article, which would rule it out of inclusion in project space. As well, some people would say some of my ideas on style are POV.
I need to find time to go through it again thoroughly: there are glitches and it needs to be completed. The listing stuff may need to be put into a separate section. There's a crying need for more exercises—not just those that deal with redundancy—and I'd like to write a section on the use of "a" and "the" for non-native speakers who come from languages where these are very foreign concepts. All in good time. Tony (talk) 08:01, 16 October 2007 (UTC)


May I make suggestions?

The featured article criteria are demanding requirements to...

The featured article criteria are there to...

The criteria have a powerful effect on Wikipedia, because...

The criteria are extremely important because...

Criterion 1a states that FAs are "well written"—that the prose is "engaging, even brilliant, and of a professional standard".

Criterion 1a states that FAs must be "well written"—and the prose "engaging, even brilliant, and of a professional standard".

Unlike such tasks as neutralising POV, adding inline references and justifying the copyright status of images, identifying and fixing suboptimal prose requires skill and experience typically acquired only after years of writing and editing.

Unlike task such as removing POV... identifying and fixing substandard prose...

Wikipedia flourishes from the input of your expertise, yet the FAC process shows that the prose of many articles does no justice to that expertise.

Wikipedia flourishes from [or because of] your expertise, yet the FAC process is often not good enough to do that expertise justice.

RedRabbit (talk) 00:11, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

Fantastic work - definitely required reading[edit]

I was referred to this page during a peer review and I must congratulate you on compiling such a comprehensive and useful article. After many years of technical writing in Real Life and some time working in other languages, I have fallen into many of the traps that you highlight here. Many of the items you point out I have simply forgotten over time and am now trying to relearn. This pages should be required reading - and not only for Wikipedia editors. - 52 Pickup (talk) 09:28, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

Thanks, you're too kind! You might like the redundancy exercises and the advanced editing exercises—the latter are work in progress, and each exercise probably a little long; if you happen by at your leisure, feedback would be welcome. Tony (talk) 12:21, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

Longest essay?[edit]

Is this the longest-ever essay? :-) It looks good, but I'm having to bookmark it to read another time! I'm sure it was shorter last time I read it... About spreading the word, have you considered putting it in some categories? Category:User essays would be a start, though there are also subject-based categories that it could go in as well. Carcharoth (talk) 17:00, 14 January 2008 (UTC)

Feedback section[edit]

I'm going to leave feedback here as I work through the exercises (over several days). Hopefully it will be helpful. Carcharoth (talk) 17:56, 14 January 2008 (UTC)

I'm sure it will be; thanks. Tony (talk) 11:48, 15 January 2008 (UTC)
Oops. I've just realised I'm on the wrong talk page. I might move this whole thread to User talk:Tony1/How to satisfy Criterion 1a: redundancy exercises - I think I must have clicked on the talk page button in the wrong tab or something. Carcharoth (talk) 12:27, 15 January 2008 (UTC)

Exercise 1[edit]

  • "There are three established methods available for the delignification of lignocellulosic biomass." This can also be rewritten as "Three established methods are available for the delignification of lignocellulosic biomass." This retains the emphasis on availability, if this is required (similar to example 2). Carcharoth (talk) 17:56, 14 January 2008 (UTC)
    • I'd agree if it weren't for the presence of "established"; I mean, if a method is established, it's available, yes? (I do agree that your alternative solution is better than the original question, though: "There are ..." is often better changed in this way.)
      • I guess it is the context again. I would imagine the context to be something like: "Following this earlier work, three new methods were developed in the 1960s for the delignification of lignocellulosic biomass. Two of these methods became established within a few years and are still in use by the industry in the early 21st century, along with the earlier method from the 1920s. The third method from the 1960s failed to be developed on an industrial scale, and was last referred to in the literature in 1975. A fourth method was developed in the 1990s, but similarly failed to establish itself." (which can be summarised as "As of 2008, three methods are used in the industry for the delignification of lignocellulosic biomass. One of these methods was developed in the 1920s, and the other two were developed in the 1960s.") - in other words, the word "established" speaks to a history, to the development of the process, and the correct assessment of whether the sentence needs this word depends on the surrounding context. I suppose the assumption here is that "established" refers to "currently established" as opposed to "previously established". But then I'm sure you could write a context that justifies the removal of 'established'. Carcharoth (talk) 12:37, 15 January 2008 (UTC)
  • In general, from my experience of writing and copyediting, there is a scale of redundancy. Some words are indisputably redundant, and the text is improved by their removal. In other cases, the removal of the "redundant" word seems to slightly alter the sense of the sentence. In some of those cases, seeming redundancy can be better addressed by a rephrasing or rewriting of the sentence. And sometimes it is just an artefact of style. Some people write in a more verbose style than others, some write in a more clipped style. I don't think either is bad, but am biased more towards the former, unless the writing is specifically constrained by length or style requirements. Carcharoth (talk) 17:56, 14 January 2008 (UTC)
    • Verbose is pejorative, whereas clipped is not (stilted might be a better antonym here). I don't agree that there's much lattitude for using personal style as an excuse for redundancy in writing; and what is clipped (or stilted) about a clause from which redundant wording has been removed? I do agree that there may be degrees of redundancy, although I'm inclined to regard the issue as being typically binary: redundant or non-redundant. What might be ambiguous in these exercises is their restriction to a single sentence, where redundancy or useful meaning may depend on the surrounding context. I've had to modify or replace a number of exercises for this reason when people have pointed out problems. BTW, could "requirements" be dropped from your sentence? Tony (talk) 11:48, 15 January 2008 (UTC)
      • I'm sure my sentences are littered with redundancies! :-) I am finding the exercises useful - it is just that I sometimes find the end result a little, well, dry? Carcharoth (talk) 12:10, 15 January 2008 (UTC)
  • And of course, in some cases, the sentence just needs to be ripped up and started again. Some of the examples struck me this way, such as: "This involves the provision of a reference section, complemented by inline citations for quotations and any material that is challenged or likely to be challenged." and "They invaded the coast and brought along European diseases." - that latter one seems to me like a sentence fragment masquerading as a complete sentence. What coast? What diseases? I can't imagine any surrounding text that would justify not completely rewriting that sentence, but do you have the original context? Carcharoth (talk) 17:56, 14 January 2008 (UTC)
    • Unsure why either example needs to be "ripped apart and started again". Tony (talk) 11:48, 15 January 2008 (UTC)
      • Maybe not those ones, then, but sometimes starting again is a better option than adjusting a sentence or removing redundancies. Some sentences can be written in several different ways, and sometimes it is just a matter of trial and error and seeing which sentence works best. Carcharoth (talk) 12:10, 15 January 2008 (UTC)
        • Ah, but the user is specifically asked to remove just one word for each sentence in Exercise 1. The parameters are restricted to isolate a particular skill. Tony (talk) 13:04, 15 January 2008 (UTC)
          • Yeah. I'm thinking I should have gone down to exercise 5 before giving feedback... Carcharoth (talk) 13:11, 15 January 2008 (UTC)

Exercise 3[edit]

  • "Recent analyses of available historical records show why the European settlement of Greenland failed." - what is wrong with "Recent historical analysis shows why the European settlement of Greenland failed." - could that be confused with analysis done in the past? Carcharoth (talk) 18:36, 14 January 2008 (UTC)
    • Is past/present the issue? Nothing wrong with your suggested sentence, except that it has changed the meaning from more than one analysis to one. Tony (talk) 11:17, 15 January 2008 (UTC)

just ruminating[edit]

I was thinking about the many (theoretical) terms that hover around the concept that you call "strategic distance"... It's a key attitude to adopt in any endeavour, I reckon, but just look at some of the labels for concepts related to "making the familiar strange, and the strange familiar" (attr. Novalis): defamiliarization, cognitive estrangement, distanc/tiation, the alienation effect, Verfremdungseffekt, and many more... Pinkville (talk) 16:48, 23 January 2008 (UTC)

Thanks; useful to follow up those concepts, although I don't think they lead anywhere in this case. Tony (talk) 14:29, 10 February 2008 (UTC)
Agreed. Just an interesting diversion... Pinkville (talk) 15:15, 10 February 2008 (UTC)

Request for a check of "flow"[edit]

Hi guys, would someone mind checking a small section of an article here to see if it flows please (here's the diff) Ryan4314 (talk) 09:20, 19 March 2008 (UTC)

Small error[edit]

Excellent coverage of an under-appreciated topic. However, in "Additive links" you state "Academics and technical writers seem to love the last five words in this list; they should know better." Indeed they do and should, but I think you mean the preceeding four words. Perhaps I should apply to the League of Factual Accuracy Editors :) Dhatfield (talk) 16:28, 16 May 2008 (UTC)


Tony, "amongst" and "whilst" are regular British variants of the phonologically simpler alternatives. (Ditto for "amidst".) Even though I happen to find them a bit absurd, most Brits, even discerning Brits, seem not to.

I have considerable anecdotal evidence suggesting that, compared with plain "to", "in order to" (where appropriate) makes sentences a lot easier to parse for L2 English readers, even those of intermediate level and above.

I'd add a suggestion to change "albeit" to "if".

WP:Guide to writing better articles is rather awful on these matters, as I've just now pointed out in its discussion page. But, amazingly, it quotes that old fart Strunk actually making sense, albeit if boringly. -- Hoary (talk) 13:27, 25 May 2008 (UTC)

My dear Hoary, thanks for your comments, which as always are much appreciated!

  • The "-st" variants. If only discerning Brits did find them absurd, as you do. The Plain English movement, correct me if I'm wrong, started in the 1970s in the UK. It had a profound influence on my thinking about prose in all registers, informal and formal. And it made me suspect that English may be the only language in which it is possible to be elegant and plain at the same time—indeed, that elegance to a large extent is associated with plainness. I think it's to do with the way in which the Germanic core of the language is somehow set off to advantage by the elaborate Norman/Mediterranean layer grafted on top of it; perhaps it's also to do with the attractive rhythms of a stress-timed language, considering that the more elaborate layer comes from languages that are much more syllable-timed—especially French, and finds itself uttered in an undulating, rhythmic way this far from home. But to return to the matter at hand, strip it away, I say, including idle "es-tees", and coax others to do so.
  • In order to. What you say is revealing, and shows me to be a little insensitive to the challenges faced by non-natives. Natives are my prime target, and it is they who perpetrate what is nine times out of ten a redundant wording that makes me feel like jerking my right arm heavenwards to a Hitler salute—a nervous twitch, you know. It is they who set a very bad example for non-natives. My defence in ploughing on regardless in my deprecation of the Ordnung thing is that non-natives have to recognise that "to" alone can signal purpose ("My aim is to write well" --> "to write well, you need to strip away redundancies"). They may as well get it right in all senses, and move on from the comforting twitch of explicitly and unnecessarily compartmentalising "to-as-purpose". Natives can already recognise it as such, and there's utterly no excuse for them, unless expressing the negative ("in order not to", which might be more elegant as "so as not to") or disambiguating ("We jettisoned our plan (in order?) to save money"). TONY (talk) 08:18, 26 May 2008 (UTC)

-st: yes, yes, strip it away; but if something innocuous like this is lumped together with "prior to" and similar corporatese, criticism of the latter is thereby devalued. ¶ To write well was Tony's aim: "to write well" is the subject. To write well, that was his aim: "to write well" is topicalized. *To write well, he intended: preposed, and in my idiolect anyway, impossible -- but an L2 reader may not know this and be thinking of The sandwiches, he ate. So to plus bare form of the verb can bring various forks of parsing possibilities. While L1 English writers can avoid "in order" in most circumstances, I suggest considering L2 English readers and hesitating before deleting it. -- Hoary (talk) 11:31, 26 May 2008 (UTC)

on a [weekly, etc.] basis -- Hoary (talk) 11:34, 26 May 2008 (UTC)

  • but but but ... they'll pick it up, won't they? It's easy compared with some of the devious complexities of English grammar, notably "the", "a/an" or "(blank)" before a noun for the majority of the world's people, who speak non-articled languages: that is pure hell to master, yet basic to the language.
  • PS Now I'm on a work-break, I've vowed to get into shape my set of tutorials on just that aspect of the grammar. I think I know how to do it. Take a look at this, which is impossibly complicated and not well-written. The "filtering" tasks, I think, need to be broken into stages, and learners tutored in the decision-making required by each, in turn. TONY (talk) 12:23, 26 May 2008 (UTC)

Picture captions[edit]

Whatever the merits of the text, the non-photo image captions seem to provide a tutorial in "how not to do it":

  • "Many Wikipedians have skills that would have placed them in the literary elite in medieval times" illustrated by a book illustration from 1877 - if using an image of wildly different date from the intended subject of the image, or the point being illustrated, this should be mentioned to avoid misleading the reader.
  • "Eight centuries ago, writing was such a rare and elaborate skill that it was displayed with great artistry. This Apocalyse manuscript shows St John's writing to the seven churches of Asia." - What's going on here? What does "displayed" mean here? Can there be an "elaborate" skill? The text shown is from the Book of Revelation/Apocalypse, addressed to the seven churches of Asia, but in normal English it is not a "writing" to them. The picture shows "St John writing", which further confuses the reader as to whether the text or the picture is being talked about & makes it seem rather as if a greengrocer's apostrophe has crept in. Again the dates are confusing - was St John only eight centuries ago?
  • "Max Liebermann's The granddaughter, writing (1923): effective literacy training in schools can release the imaginative power of childhood." - should really be "Max Liebermann's The Granddaughter, writing (1923)" following normal English capitalization of painting titles, & MoS italicisation rules.
  • "The art of writing has been glorified through the ages. This scene was painted by a Middle-Eastern artist in 1287." Is this scene "glorifying" writing? It's hard to say as the main figures don't appear in this detail, just the scribe squashed to the side. Is he taking dictation? Is this glorifying writing? Don't overwork the image.
  • "The model writing postcards, (1906) by Swedish painter Carl Larsson (1853–1919), famous for his idyllic watercolours]] - again should be Model and probably Postcards, following usual English capitalization for painting titles.
  • "A medieval depiction of a monk at work in a scriptorium, showing his materials and equipment. Until the 20th century, many people devoted their lives to copying text." Needless to say, the image shows nothing of the sort. A better caption: "An author portrait of Jean Miélot writing his compilation of the Miracles of Our Lady, one of many popular works written or translated by the secretary to Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy, who was also a famous calligrapher. The setting is probably the ducal library." Moral: never believe Commons descriptions of paintings without checking. Johnbod (talk) 02:43, 10 June 2008 (UTC)

  • How not to do what? Write captions? Rather than trying for a smart-arse clincher at the top of your critique, you might have gone for clarity.
    • Medieval desk: who cares when it appeared in the book? The illustration nicely complements the matter at hand in the caption, and looks good on the page to boot. There's plenty to choose from in the Commons, but I see no reason to change it. There's no claim that would "mislead" readers, as you assert.
    • Seven churches of Asia: I suggest that you take this up at the Commons, since—yes, you're right—I've relied on the information pages there in my use and descriptions of the images. What is your problem with the words "displayed" and "elaborate"? I don't agree with your criticisms on that count. If you can suggest a better translation of the title ("to") than was provided by the uploader to the Commons, please do and I'll change it.
    • Lieberman: I think MOS allows sentence case in all titles. I see no reason to double up the formatting with alphabet soup.
    • Glorification of writing: the fact that it may be merely a scribe underlines the point, which is the glorification of the act of writing per se in such a beautiful image.
    • Larsson: No, I'm not going to use alphabet soup for my italicised titles.
    • Last one: as for the first, it's the theme that matters to me. I'll relocate "medieval" from the caption when I can be bothered. TONY (talk) 04:49, 10 June 2008 (UTC)
Ok, so it is how not to do it. You show no respect for the integrity of the images, or interest in accurately describing or interpreting them. Johnbod (talk) 11:42, 10 June 2008 (UTC)
I'm perfectly satisfied with the role and use of the images as now; I've provided responses setting out why, and in a few cases agreeing that a small change might be in order. Don't use this page as a vehicle for payback WRT my reviews at Wikipedia:Featured_article_candidates#Roman_Catholic_Church, which you clearly object to. I'm not going to be intimidated by the tactics that the three of you are using against the opposing reviewers. I will revert further posts here unless they're in the spirit of constructive criticism. Your attitude above is not in this spirit, I believe. TONY (talk) 14:10, 10 June 2008 (UTC)
I suggest you look at WP:CIVIL, WP:AGF, WP:CAPTION and the Wikipedia:WikiProject Visual arts/Art Manual of Style. The only change you have intimated you might make when you are in a better mood is to change "medieval", one of the few correct words in that particular caption. I have asked you to remove your personal attack, but you have refused. I'm out of here; if you are happy to leave the captions as they are, that's your business. Johnbod (talk) 03:20, 11 June 2008 (UTC)
I can't remove what I can't locate. You're wasting my time. I will not be following your patronising recommendations. Bye bye. TONY (talk) 03:40, 11 June 2008 (UTC)

Apologies if it was impolite of me to correct the "seven churches" caption. I only intended to fix the spelling of 'apocalypse', but got carried away and fixed what did indeed seem to be an incorrect possessive: the 800 year-old illustration shows St John writing; it adorns a copy of what he wrote around 1100 years earlier. I'm unsure whether you meant to draw attention to the illustration ("shows St John writing") or the calligraphic text ("features St John's message"); now that I have made the edit, I hope it was OK to leave it at the former. RolandYoung (talk) 13:59, 6 August 2008 (UTC)


Any thoughts on the construction: most well-known vs. better-known or best-known? A good percentage of biographical articles seem to feature the former phrase in their first sentence or two (So-and-so is one of the most well-known x-ers...). It looks awkward (or merely wrong) to me. Pinkville (talk) 18:02, 3 July 2008 (UTC)

League of Copy Editors is no more[edit]

It's been superseded by Wikipedia:WikiProject Guild of Copy Editors. This event should be reflected in this talk page, I expect. Eubulides (talk) 21:34, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

Thanks, Eubulides. I'll change it now. Is there a redirect from the LOCE? Tony (talk) 01:55, 5 September 2008 (UTC)

Outdated example[edit]

Thank you for this excellent guide. As a non-native English speaker, I'm learning a lot! Under "Eliminating redundancy", I read: "However, only occasionally (e.g., the second sentence in Dominik Hašek) are these additive words required for textual cohesion; ..." This example is no longer true, it seems. Maybe it would be a good idea to link to a specific version of the article, as any example will be outdated sooner or later... /skagedal...

You're welcome; I'll remove the sentence. Tony (talk) 14:59, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

TOC needed[edit]

Please add a TOC, the list at the beginning is not directly going to my eyes as table of content and the links at right irritates me. thanks -- (talk) 13:55, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

That's not a ToC; the ToC is quite far down after the rather long lead. Tony (talk) 15:00, 20 December 2008 (UTC)
Wikipedia:TROUT. Sorry of disturbing you. -- (talk) 15:13, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

Nice essay, one suggestion[edit]

Your essay was helpful to me. Another tool for clarity is to search text for "this" as a subject and convert it to an adjective. This is such a problem because it impedes clarity. This problem impedes clarity.--Smokefoot (talk) 13:01, 19 January 2009 (UTC)

Thanks; you are kind to say that. On the word-classes, I believe that "This problem" is the subject in the second example. Downranked, "This" is a deictic (which tells us the here-and-now orientation of the head of the nominal group, "problem"). Hoary may correct me, but I think "This" in the crossed-out example is still a deictic, qualifying "problem" that is omitted through ellipsis. I must go scuttling to my Halliday about this. Tony (talk) 15:08, 19 January 2009 (UTC)
I've been criticised recently for using "this" as a back-referent too often. It's made me think carefully about the clarity of each "this". Tony (talk) 16:29, 1 May 2009 (UTC)


I'm curious at your enthusiasm for semicolons. This guide is full of them, and advocates their use as a replacement for words like "with" and "and", and even full stops. Were you taught this somewhere? I guess I'm curious because in my own writing (I'm a sometime "professional" tech writer) I virtually never use them. I've always treated them as somewhat antiquated, unfamiliar to most readers - and to me :)

And now that I think about it, I do find this easier to read: "Most emu species have a grey-brown plumage of shaggy appearance. On close inspection, the shafts and tips of the feathers are black." I find the full stop and following capital letter make it more readily obvious that there are two sentences coming up, whereas with the semicolon it looks like one long sentence that I'm not going to enjoy reading :)

Anyway, just curious to hear any other thoughts you have about semicolons? Stevage 05:02, 30 April 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for you post, Stevage. You've made me think about the example, which would be better if drawn from a larger passage in which the two separate sentence stuck out as stubby. I do tend to use semicolons more than most writers, and yes, some writers don't use it at all. I think they miss opportunities to use the full gradation of signals to the reader about the relationship between sentences. On a practical level, semicolons are often the best tool when splitting a sentence that is too long, and joining stubs. And, of course, they function as stronger boundaries between the items in a list-sentence than mere comma, and are usually necessary when one item or more have an internal comma.Tony (talk) 16:37, 1 May 2009 (UTC)


Thanks for you post, Stevage. You've made me think about the example, which would be better if drawn from a larger passage in which the two separate sentence stuck out as stubby. I do tend to use semicolons more than most writers, and yes, some writers don't use it at all. I think they miss opportunities to use the full gradation of signals to the reader about the relationship between sentences. On a practical level, semicolons are often the best tool when splitting a sentence that is too long, and joining stubs. And, of course, they function as stronger boundaries between the items in a list-sentence than mere comma, and are usually necessary when one item or more have an internal comma.Tony (talk) 16:39, 1 May 2009 (UTC)

Ah yes, I can see the benefit for connecting "stubby" sentences, like "Most toads are brown. Others are green." or something.
A couple of other comments, since you're listening:
  • "Whilst" - you describe this "misplaced formality". This must be a regional variation. I've puzzled in the past why various editors have converted my "whilst"s into "while"s - I guess this explains it. In Australian English, "whilst" is perfectly normal, it's really no more formal than "while". In fact, I don't know if there is a distinction in meaning, it just sounds better in some contexts.
  • "May" - my own bugbear for you to consider. It seems to be common for people to use "may" to mean "sometimes", like in this example:
There are two types of pedal piano: the pedal board may be an integral part of the instrument, using the same strings and mechanism as the manual keyboard, or, less frequently, it may consist of two independent pianos
I'm probably bothered by this because "may" normally indicates that something could possibly not happen ("He may come" implies that he may not). Whereas here, they're saying that every pedal piano is one of the two types, so "may not" is not really a possibility. I'd probably rewrite it something like "There are two types of pedal piano. Most have an integrated pedal board which uses the same strings and mechanism as the manual keyboard. A few rare examples consist of two independent pianos."
Not sure why I decided to spring that rant on you, sorry about that! :) Stevage 06:29, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

Sad-sounding instrument, the pedal piano. Nowadays, electronic keyboards/pedalboards have rendered it obsolete as a practice instrument for organists. Perhaps not so for pedal harpshichords—see Peter Watchorn's ?about-to-be-released Volume 2 of JS Bach's The well-tempered clavichord, which apparently uses the pedals as a deep, funky foundation line in a number of the works.

On "may", it does have more uses than to express possibility (a lower likelihood than "might", I've heard it said, but I'm unsure about that). How about no "may" at all?

There are two types of pedal piano: in one type, the pedalboard is an integral part of the instrument, using the same strings and mechanism as the manual keyboard; the other, less common type, consists of two independent pianos, for the hands and feet, respectively.

Tony (talk) 08:22, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

Meanwhile, in the real world[edit]

Meanwhile, in the real world of Wikipedia, you can not only get FA status for your article but even have it featured while it's still flabby. Example, John Frusciante. I made a rare visit to the top page and that's how I saw the start of this article on this hirsute person (of whom I'd never previously heard): even the teaser opening paragraph was pretty ghastly. I hope I have improved the article a little, but if I were to spot it in its current (post-me) state during FAC, I'd slam it as prolix and flabby. Here's one nugget: After Ataxia released their second and final studio album, AW II, on May 29, 2007, Frusciante began a period of dormancy in respects to his solo career. Yes, in an article that's now on the front page. -- Hoary (talk) 11:04, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

Hoary, you have made a dent in what needs to be a major improvement drive. I've suggested on its talk page that FAR would be in order. Tony (talk) 12:33, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
If you mention FAR without an epistolary rolling of the eyes, Geogre will never speak to you again. ¶ Well, the thirty minutes or so I spent on the article has all been reverted, so I have decided to appreciate the prose for the (I suppose unintended) amusement. Or the "significant amusement", as the owner might phrase it. Alternatively, my ideas of prose style are hopelessly outdated or just plain fucked up, and I'm outclassed by the authors, who are the true heirs to Bernard Shaw. -- Hoary (talk) 13:02, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
Or maybe not. BusterD (talk) 15:35, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
Is it really necessary, Hoary, to adopt an incredibly sardonic attitude? You do not have the faintest of ideas about why I reverted your copyedit, but this doesn't stop you from unabated defamation of character. Your quick presumption is false; I reverted your edits mainly because I believed you were indiscriminately adding vague templates simply due to a lack of comprehension of the article. Everyone involved in this ordeal believes that they've got me "all figured out" and that it is quite alright to partake in a rousing game of personal attack and incivility. NSR77 T 19:59, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
No, Hoary had the best of intentions, as far as I can see. He made numerous improvements to the rather sloppy prose of what is meant to be a professionally written article. You provided no edit summary for your blind reversion. The first thing you might do is to reinstate Hoary's skilled work, without whatever templates you object to. Tony (talk) 11:57, 3 May 2009 (UTC)
I hadn't been aware that I'd attacked anyone, let alone had embarked on defamation either bated or unabated. Whether or not my work was skilled (and I think that on balance it was for the better, though others are better qualified to judge), it was reverted and then re-reverted (not by me). Since that time, I've gone through the article again, I hope again for the better: see for yourself. -- Hoary (talk) 12:26, 3 May 2009 (UTC)

Ten-year rule[edit]

Under the heading Longer-term self-training a "10 year rule" is mentioned, I have no idea where it comes from though. Could this be elaborated on? —Preceding unsigned comment added by AlexTG (talkcontribs) 07:27, 16 May 2009 (UTC)

The citation is there, end of sentence. Tony (talk) 09:37, 16 May 2009 (UTC)


What a well-written and helpful article! --Annielogue (talk) 19:13, 1 May 2010 (UTC)

FAC abbreviation[edit]

The FA abbreviation is introduced at its first use, but FAC is not. Is there a particular reason?

I presume it means featured article criteria.

--Mortense (talk) 13:11, 2 May 2010 (UTC)

Thx. I'll fix it now. Tony (talk) 13:44, 2 May 2010 (UTC)


The arrow in the line with "in order to and in order for" is different than the arrows in the 13 other items in the list. Is it intentional? --Mortense (talk) 22:12, 2 May 2010 (UTC)

Fixed; I don't think it was intentional, and the inconsistency had been bothering me. Dabomb87 (talk) 02:09, 3 May 2010 (UTC)

"That old fart Strunk" vs. NPOV?[edit]

Are phrases like "that old fart Strunk," which appears in item 39 ("Words") above, really consistent with WP policies and guidelines on NPOV and on avoiding personal attacks and argumentum ad hominem? I really find such remarks offensive, and they inevitably detract significantly from the writer's credibility. (Similar derogatory comments about Strunk and others also appear on various other pages concerning style, usage, etc.)

In both writing and speech, one of the primary functions (maybe even the primary one) of rules and guidelines on grammar, usage, style, et al. is to facilitate accurate communication—i.e., to get one's point across as accurately and concisely as possible, in a manner that's as easy to understand as possible. Many rules and guidelines to that end can be justified beyond (most) reasonable doubt by simple logic or utility (e.g., the classic errant comma in "a panda enters a bar, where he eats, shoots and leaves"). But many other "rules" are largely, sometimes purely, matters of personal taste (e.g., splitting infinitives and ending sentences in a preposition). There's no sense arguing about personal tastes, of course. They're by definition cases of likes and dislikes, not of "right" or "wrong." Derogatory characterizations like "that old fart Strunk" fall clearly into the latter category. Such remarks debase an important discussion instead of advancing it.

I look forward to being amused by any deluge of personal abuse that this post may cause. --Jackftwist (talk) 16:01, 6 May 2010 (UTC)

Suggested external link[edit]

I suggest the addition of to the external links section. Sole Soul (talk) 13:55, 27 May 2010 (UTC)

Done. Thank you! Tony (talk) 16:15, 27 May 2010 (UTC)

"circulation numbers" is redundant[edit]

This essay suggests this trimming: "While the journal had relatively low circulation numbers for its day, it still influenced popular opinion and was feared by the conservative administration." Surely the word "numbers" should also (and, yes, I did stop to think about whether I should say "also") be culled? Phil Bridger (talk) 17:59, 17 July 2010 (UTC)

Well spotted. I'll fix it soon. Tony (talk) 18:42, 18 July 2010 (UTC)

A couple of questions[edit]

I thought I'd return here after all this time to remind myself what good writing is about. I've made a couple of minor fixes to the page, and I'd also like to draw your attention to the collapsible boxes in the lists section. There is inconsistency in the spacing (empty lines), and for some reason only the last two types use blue font for the commentary, which is also bold in the Type 6 box.

Apart from these technical matters, I have two questions.

  • In Type 2, does the phrase "The 'Oxford' punctuation is always used" apply to both commas and semicolons? That seems to be the case, but it is not entirely clear.
  • In Type 6, I am unsure about the following phrase: "Here, the items are large enough to make each a stand-alone sentence." I may be wrong, but the subject seems unclear.

Waltham, The Duke of 15:54, 7 September 2011 (UTC)


  • To me, these partial quotations do not require a comma, which separates verb from subject:

removed, and to check that... ...educated people, and can bestow... ...meaning, and in most cases will ... ...add nothing to the sense, or are ... ...readers, and avoiding the... ...paragraph, and will [appears twice]... ...parentheses, and slightly... ...authority, and use... ...

  • These commas are unnecessary:

more than one section, or more than one article... ...underlying talent, that expertise ... ...the article, carefully... ...useful meaning, or their meaning... ...Mumbai, or whether... ...two short, successive sentences [adjectives are cumulative; i.e., cannot be scrambled as coordinate adjectives, which use commas]

  • Suggest changing 1) to 2):

1) Here, the redundancies are struck through:
2) The redundancies are struck:
1) South Africa, and
2) South Africa,[strike comma] and
1) Dr Gupta
2) Dr.[period] Gupta
1) the items are long and complex, and/or contain
2) the items are: a) long and complex and/or b) contain

--CM2G0005 (talk) 02:19, 5 May 2012 (UTC)

Face-smile.svg Thank you for your helpful page, Tony1. You may revert my 21:14, 4 May 2012‎ change, if you wish; just realized it was on your userpage. If you wish, I am willing to include the suggestions above; just let me know. --CM2G0005 (talk) 02:39, 5 May 2012 (UTC)
Thanks, CM. A few of these are optional commas. Only in North America do they persist with the dot after Dr, so I'd rather not. Where there's more than one and hanging around in a sentence, a comma is more likely. The through in struck through can go, yes. I don't think the inline list is long and complex enough to require the disruption of (a) and (b). I'll look more later. Tony (talk) 03:21, 5 May 2012 (UTC)

Slipped parenthesis?[edit]

I'm not anywhere near a professional editor with only an amateur's interest in copy-editing so you have the right to disapprovingly stare me back into the earth, but I think I noticed a small blunder in 3.2 Sentences:

How do we fix this sentence? The first step is to isolate the ideas. There are usually a number of places where we may erect boundaries between these ideas; here's one attempt.

The need for a stronger central government with a unified currency and the ability to conduct the affairs of state, such as foreign policy (and that could bind all of the states under negotiated treaties and agreements (rather than be undermined by a single state's refusal to agree to an international treaty) led to the stronger federal government that was negotiated at the Convention.

I mimicked the colourisation of syntax highlighting of markup in text editors for unclosed tags, as you never seem to close the first-level parenthesis, which I believe should be closed? ~ Nelg (talk) 17:13, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

Thanks, Nelg. I'll fix. Soon I'll have time to revamp this page. Tony (talk) 12:48, 13 March 2013 (UTC)ß

Suggestions for the section: Wikipedia as a training resource[edit]

The section Wikipedia as a training resource mentions about going through the FA logs which is a bit tedious for us, newbies; wouldn't it benefit by also mentioning about going through the history logs of articles under the Category:Articles copy edited by the guild and also about stalking the contributions of copy editors? -Ugog Nizdast (talk) 13:08, 29 July 2013 (UTC)

Should your message be on the talk page for the guild of copy-editors? Tony (talk) 03:44, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
Should it? I just thought it would be a good addition to your section, and that project too has links to this page. Thanks for your time. -Ugog Nizdast (talk) 07:16, 30 July 2013 (UTC)

"Misplaced formality"[edit]

First - wow, what a great resource. Seriously useful. I think some of the "misplaced formality" may be different varieties of English. In particular, "whilst" and "amongst" don't sound formal to me at all as a native Australian English user - they're just alternatives to "while" and "among" that sometimes roll off the tongue better.

Other mild criticisms:

- "hitherto" is sometimes useful as an adverb ("the hitherto unnamed witness"), which is more succinct than alternatives ("the witness who until this point had not been named") - "within" often can't be replaced by "in" (within reason, within the bounds of acceptable behaviour, within six miles, within scope...)

Stevage 11:16, 26 September 2016 (UTC)