Wikipedia:Vagueness

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This essay describes ways in which writing is often considered to be vague, and then discusses strategies to avoid such problems.

Pronouns[edit]

Pronouns allow writers to refer back to a noun without repeating it. However, this can confuse the reader if it is not clear what the pronoun is standing in for.

In Joseph Biden's article:

Wrong: Palin was picked as his running mate. (Whose?)

Better: John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate.

In the Salton Sea article:

Wrong: For decades they have contaminated the lake. (What?)

Better: It became apparent that the possibility of pesticides contaminating was long standing, perhaps even through decades past.

Numbers without things[edit]

When describing quantities of things or repetitions of events or trying to convey statistical information in prose, specify the unit. Imagine that someone who has no idea what the subject is and sees the sentence out of context: they should be able to work out what you are talking about without the context.

Vague words and incorrect statements[edit]

Evil Wikipedians often use vague words and phrases in their incorrect and biased articles. Be on the lookout!

When used by the merely clueless, vague words make an article confusing and possibly cause readers to misinterpret or even miss important information altogether. In the hands of those with more sinister intents, they can be used to make articles that are readable enough to impart wrong or biased information, but confusing enough to prevent readers from questioning the reliability or factuality of the article. Vandals can also vandalize an article by replacing specific information with vague statements. Always use citations, especially when – for whatever reason – you must use somewhat vague words. Doing this helps Wikipedia become more reliable and accurate.

How to improve vague articles[edit]

When you come across an article that is very vague, begin by replacing vague statements with clearer facts. If you lack the time or the expertise to do so, use one of the tags below:

Tag Template that will be shown (and correct usage)
{{cleanup-confusing}}
links talk edit
  • Use this in an article that contains vague time words.
{{vague}}
links talk edit
[vague]
  • Use this for specific words or statements that are vague.
{{Specify}}
links talk edit
[specify]
  • Use on a specific vague word.
{{when}}
links talk edit
[when?]
  • Use on phrases needing a specific date.

See also[edit]