Wikipedia:Too long; didn't read

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Too long; didn't read (abbreviated TL;DR and tl;dr) is a shorthand notation added by an editor indicating that a passage appears too long to invest the time to digest it.[3] Wikipedia:Wall of text is kindred.

The tl;dr label is often used to point out excessive verbosity or to signify the presence of and location of a short summary in case the reader doesn't want to take the time to read the entire detail, i.e. the article is too long and won't otherwise be read.[4] It can be misused as a tactic to thwart collaborative editing or a stoop to ridicule. If a discussion is reasonably concise, it is always best practice to read it before commenting.

This essay examines tl;dr as used in Wikipedia discussions, offering insight into the cause of excessive length, suggestions on how to reduce it, and a reminder to always exercise civility with other editors.

Reasons for length[edit]

Many people edit Wikipedia because they enjoy writing; however, that passion can result in overlong composition. This reflects a lack of time or commitment to refine an effort through successively more concise drafts. With some application, natural redundancies and digressions can often be eliminated. Recall the venerable paraphrase of Pascal: "I made this so long because I did not have time to make it shorter."[1][2]

Also writers can incorrectly believe that long sentences and big words make that writer appear learned.[5] Some inexperienced contributors over-avoid leaving any ambiguity by using more words (see WP:NOTSTATUTE/GUIDE). Even capable authors recognize risk of distortion through brevity.[6]

Some policies and procedures can encourage overlong prose due to imposing arbitrary limits. The Did you know? process requires established articles to have a fivefold expansion of prose within a seven-day window to be considered for listing on the main page. This can encourage over-verbose writing to game the system.

A trusted aphorism states that "brevity is the soul of wit."[7] Similarly, "omit needless words."[8] Editors are encouraged to write concisely and use plain vocabulary when possible. Remember English may not be a reader's main tongue. If length is essential, a short summary is advised.

While bloated composition may reflect the emotions of an editor, it should be noted that some people are constitutionally loquacious. It is impossible for you, as an editor, to affect either of these before the fact. When editing, always respect Wikipedia policies and editors' feelings. Take the time to distill your thoughts for better communication and rapport.

A further option for both readers and writers is to structure the writing so it can be skimmed effectively. This means writing the first sentence of each paragraph as a summary of the paragraph, so the reader can quickly know which paragraphs or sections are of interest to read for more detail, in addition to the usual practice of putting a summary at the beginning of articles or sections.[9] This works even when the content is concise, or for some uses should be complete, but a reader wishes to skim for speed in a disciplined and more accurate way.

Internal policy discussions on talk pages can often become long-winded, too, usually for two reasons: because of the detailed nature of Wikipedia policies and guidelines (and their often complicated interaction with each other), and because curt and questionable assertions of policy rationales (especially when many are made in series in a single post) may require a fairly detailed response. The cure for this problem is to make a clear, policy-related statement to begin with, and avoid citing more policy and guideline pages than are necessary to get the point across (many say the same thing in slightly different wording). If you cite five such pages in vague terms for the same point, you open the door to wikilawyering about wording and interpretation – you may get five paragraphs of rebuttal in response instead of one sentence of agreement.

Reducing wordiness[edit]

Per the Manual of Style, text in Wikipedia should be written succinctly; or, existing texts should be trimmed if it contains redundancy. The article should be split into another article when appropriate. (See summary style and article spinoffs.) Be clear before excising copy that it can't be refined and kept. Tagging bloated plot summaries at movie, book, and play pages with the {{plot}} template is not as good as winnowing them yourself.

Some linguists (such as Geoffrey K. Pullum in posts at Language Log) criticize Strunk & White's advice "omit needless words" in the fear that unskilled editors may mistake even necessary length for dross and delete it. Strunk and White, however, were unambiguous that concision does not require "the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell." Deleting is not always equivalent to improving, and intelligently differentiating the cases deserves care.

Maintain civility[edit]

Being too quick to pointedly mention this essay may come across as dismissive and rude. Preferably, create a section on their talk page and politely offer advice there.

Avoid ad hominems. Substituting a flippant "tl;dr" for reasoned response and cordiality stoops to ridicule and amounts to thought-terminating cliché. Just as one cannot prove through verbosity, neither can one prove by wielding a four letter initialism. When illumination, patience, and wisdom are called for, answer with them.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Blaise Pascal (December 2014) [original date 1656-1657]. The Provincial Letters. Translated by M'Crie, Thomas. University of Adelaide. Retrieved 7 November 2017. (Letter 16) ... The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter.
  2. ^ a b Blaise Pascal (January 2001) [original date 1656-1657]. Les provinciales : ou les Lettres écrites par Louis de Montalte à un provincial de ses amis et aux RR. PP. Jésuites (PDF) (in French). eBooksFrance. p. 116. Retrieved 7 November 2017. (Letter 16) ... Je n'ai fait celle−ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte. The document is an adaptation of an electronic text from the National Library of France (Bibliothèque Nationale de France)
  3. ^ Tom Chatfield (2016). Netymology: From Apps to Zombies: A Linguistic Celebration of the Digital World. Quercus. p. 124. ISBN 978-1-62365-165-7.
  4. ^ Soonmme (2008-07-14). "Urban Dictionary, definition #7". Retrieved 2014-08-18.
  5. ^ "Study: Simple Writing Makes You Look Smart". 2005-10-31. Retrieved 2012-04-13.
  6. ^ "... writers may err towards wordiness out of concern that short prose which is not carefully edited (at high time cost) would oversimplify, to the point of distorting or omitting, or carry a higher risk of being misunderstood"
  7. ^ Shakespeare, William (1992). Hamlet. New York: Washington Square Press. p. 89. Act 2, Scene 2, line 90: "Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit ..."
  8. ^ Strunk, William (1918). "Elementary Principles of Composition". The Elements of Style. Retrieved 2008-05-13.
  9. ^ "Paragraphs and Topic Sentences". Retrieved 2017-08-11.

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