Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Words to watch

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Manual of Style
WikiProject icon This page falls within the scope of WikiProject Manual of Style, a drive to identify and address contradictions and redundancies, improve language, and coordinate the pages that form the MoS guidelines.
See also related discussions and archives:

"Committed suicide"[edit]

Following on from a similar discussion at Talk:Heinrich Himmler, I thought it worth raising it here. Our article on suicide has:

The word "commit" was used in reference to it being illegal, however many organisations have stopped it because of the negative connotation.[1][2]

Could we suggest replacing "committed suicide" with "killed him/herself"? A modern encyclopedia should use modern language where possible, and the BBC and the Guardian are pretty good sources for style. Exceptions might be where someone in former times was prosecuted posthumously for the act. Thoughts? --John (talk) 20:33, 23 June 2016 (UTC)


  1. ^ Holt, Gerry."When suicide was illegal". BBC News. 3 August 2011. Accessed 11 August 2011.
  2. ^ "Guardian & Observer style guide". Guardian website. The Guardian. Retrieved 29 November 2011. 
    • This was discussed exhaustively on the article's talk page and decided against.GideonF (talk) 13:51, 10 August 2016 (UTC)

Wording issues at Template:According to whom[edit]

Opinions are needed the following matter Template talk:According to whom#In-text attribution for cited material. As noted, I responded in the section below that one since I wanted my reply to clearly address what is stated in both sections. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 23:22, 13 July 2016 (UTC)

Unspecific quantities like "hundreds", "thousands", "millions"[edit]

Should these words be added to this page as being too unspecific? The words have widely varying meanings. E.g. "millions" can refer to 3 million, 20 million, even 400 million. At best it sets an approximate lower limit (circa 2 million) but there is no widely agreed upon upper limit. Gap9551 (talk) 20:49, 18 July 2016 (UTC)

Unsupported weasel words is tantamount to original research[edit]

Wikipedia articles should not use weasel words not supported by the source. Adding a modifier to a sentence not supported by the source alters the original meaning of the source. When a source only indicates a vague or ambiguous claim then the content added to an article should also indicate a vague or ambiguous claim. The text should not change the intended meaning of the source. The bigger problem with saying "some" or "most" when the source only indicates a vague or ambiguous claim is that it is original research to claim it was "some" or "most". The wording in the article should reflect the meaning of the author. If the author doesn't explicitly quantify it then the wording in the article should not quantity it.

Not having a modifier such as "some" or "many" does not imply a wider unanimity of consensus than the source does. Editors should not be able to freely add a modifier to change the meaning of the source when it is not supported by the source.

For example, "Public health experts are concerned that nicotine is highly addictive." If the source did not indicate it was "some" public health experts then the unsupported weasel word is original research.

I think the section on WP:WEASEL needs to be clear more on this. Thoughts? QuackGuru (talk) 19:58, 28 August 2016 (UTC)

QuackGuru, interesting points. I've seen the type of mess you mentioned. The "Public health experts are concerned that nicotine is highly addictive." sentence does not need "many" or "some." It is the consensus of the medical field that nicotine is highly addictive, and "many" and "some" downplays that consensus. Even if it weren't the consensus, stating "Public health experts" does not have to mean "all", in the same way that "Critics felt" doesn't have to mean "all." Since "some" can sometimes be needed to avoid the type of WP:In-text attribution that can mislead, I'm not sure about agreeing to the type of strict editing you are arguing for, though. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 20:18, 29 August 2016 (UTC)
In the lead of the Nicotine article, we simply state that it is addictive, without any qualification; not even "highly" is used. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 20:24, 29 August 2016 (UTC)
Note: "Highly" was recently added to "addictive" by QuackGuru at the Nicotine article. I'm noting this so that it's clear that I didn't simply miss the word when I looked at the article. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 21:18, 29 August 2016 (UTC)

Unsupported attributions (Draft)[edit]

... some people say, many scholars state, it is believed/regarded, many are of the opinion, most feel, experts declare, it is often reported, it is widely thought, research has shown, science says, it is often said ...

Weasel words.svg

Weasel words are words and phrases aimed at creating an impression that something specific and meaningful has been said, when in fact only a vague or ambiguous claim has been communicated. A common form of weasel wording is through vague attribution, where a statement is dressed with authority, yet has no substantial basis. Phrases such as those above present the appearance of support for statements but can deny the reader the opportunity to assess the source of the viewpoint. They may disguise a biased view. Claims about what people say, think, feel, or believe, and what has been shown, demonstrated, or proved should be clearly attributed.[1]

The examples given above are not automatically weasel words. They may also be used in the lead section of an article or in a topic sentence of a paragraph, and the article body or the rest of the paragraph can supply attribution. Likewise, views which are properly attributed to a reliable source may use similar expressions, if they accurately represent the opinions of the source. Reliable sources may analyze and interpret, but we, as editors, cannot do so ourselves. That would be original research or would violate the Neutral point of view. Equally, editorial irony and damning with faint praise have no place in Wikipedia articles.

Articles including weasel words should ideally be rewritten such that they are supported by reliable sources; alternatively, they may be tagged with the {{weasel}}, {{by whom}}, or similar templates to identify the problem to future readers (who may elect to fix the issue).

Comments on Unsupported attributions (Draft)[edit]

  1. ^ The templates {{Who}}, {{Which}}, {{By whom}}, or {{Attribution needed}} are available for editors to request an individual statement be more clearly attributed.

I copied per verbatim the exact current wording of the guideline. The original discussion is at #Words_to_watch#Unsupported_weasel_words_is_tantamount_to_original_research. I think we can make this guideline a lot more clear than it is. QuackGuru (talk) 21:22, 29 August 2016 (UTC)

Does anyone have any opinions on QuackGuru's concerns? Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 20:53, 2 September 2016 (UTC)
My view is that most adjectives wind up getting sourced or tossed. But to summarize content, such as in a lead, sometimes a phrase like "many scholars state" is not inappropriate. Montanabw(talk) 22:31, 2 September 2016 (UTC)
  • Comment How about adding to the end of the first paragraph, after the "have no place in Wikipedia articles", Note that if a reliable source says, for example, that "Many scholars state", it is inappropriate to change this to "One scholar ([name of source's author]) states".? My reasoning is that WP:WEASEL is frequently (constantly) cited by editors who disagree with scholarly consensus, who would rather not state the scholarly consensus in articles on, say, the authorship of the epistles of Saint Peter. This kind of change is inappropriate because it assumes that the authors themselves hold to the consensus view they are simply stating as the consensus view, and it gives the (usually false) impression that the the view is not widely held. Hijiri 88 (やや) 23:36, 14 September 2016 (UTC)
I think that it has to be a case by case basis, worked out with various articles. Usually, the best approach is to "teach the controversy" and say something like "foo sources say X, but foobar sources say Y." It's not false equivalence to do so, rather it is a restating of what exists. Seldom will you find a RS for a statement like "this is the scientific consensus" or "many scholars agree" that itself is not an editorial statement. I'm not seeing a problem here that can be solved with a general rule. Montanabw(talk) 21:55, 16 September 2016 (UTC)
Well in the cases I am talking about, it's only fundamentalist sources that say X, and numerous reliable sources written by university professors not only say Y, they directly state that the majority of scholars say Y, and occasionally they state that the only scholars who say X are fundamentalists. But in some cases, they don't even directly say Y; they just say that most scholars say Y. Additionally, the problem is usually with drive-by IP editors who only edit the lead of such-and-such article, and the lead is certainly not the place to "teach the controversy" if the article body doesn't do so. Hijiri 88 (やや) 22:51, 16 September 2016 (UTC)
In case you can't tell, I'm deliberately equating this with the classic case of "teach the controversy" (creationism vs. evolution), where Wikipedia definitely doesn't do so except in dedicated articles about the controversy, and even there we specify that only fundamentalists hold to one view. Hijiri 88 (やや) 23:01, 16 September 2016 (UTC)
There's also the problem that, technically, a peer-reviewed, scholarly source that says "Most scholars say X, but I disagree" is likely to be a reliable source for Wikipedia's claim that "Most scholars say X"; if someone changed it to say that "One scholar says X" (the implication being that the one scholar is the author of the source) it would completely misrepresent the source's opinion. Hijiri 88 (やや) 03:19, 19 September 2016 (UTC)


This seems like a word that should probably be avoided; most of the time I've seen it used on Wikipedia, it is used to prop one position or another as being "true", and this is also essentially the case for how I've seen it used outside Wikipedia. Hijiri 88 (やや) 03:18, 14 September 2016 (UTC)

"Indeed" is covered by WP:Editorializing. It's not explicitly mentioned, but it doesn't need to be. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 02:23, 16 September 2016 (UTC)
Makes sense. If anyone reverts me next time I remove it I'll point them here. Cheers! Hijiri 88 (やや) 10:31, 16 September 2016 (UTC)

"Where the use of a neologism is necessary ... its meaning must be supported by reliable sources"[edit]

MOS:NEO Isn't this redundant?

Material not directly attributable to reliable sources shouldn't be included in Wikipedia in the first place, and if the reliable source doesn't use the neologism in question, then clearly our use of it would be unnecessary. Shouldn't we say "it should be used in the same way the cited reliable source uses it".

Hijiri 88 (やや) 10:48, 16 September 2016 (UTC)