Wikipedia talk:Wikipedia Signpost/2010-10-18/Dispatches

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What to include[edit]

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of stating things in terms of common problems seen in PR (and FAC?). So if we are discussing the Lead, a common problem is a very short lead (solution is to make sure the lead is a summary, include all headers in some way, and the lead can be up to four paragraphs). Another common problem is that facts will only be in the lead (solution is that as a summary, the lead should not contain anything that is not repeated in the body of the article. DOes this approac make sense? Ruhrfisch ><>°° 06:08, 5 December 2009 (UTC)

Things to include in this Dispatch
  • Lead
    • Not too short (summary)
    • Not too long (no more than four paragraphs)
    • No unique items (summarize the article)
  • Headers
  • Images
    • Captions
    • Fair use
    • Provide source, license
  • References
    • Formatting
    • Reliable sources
  • Writing at a professional level

Is it really scheduled to go in the 11 October issue? It needs copy-editing and cleaning up. Tony (talk) 14:35, 10 October 2010 (UTC)

I arbitrarily dropped that date in. This will probably run next week, I think. Depends on whether or not an argument develops over the tools p. 3 dispatch. ResMar 18:33, 10 October 2010 (UTC)

Comments from the Signpost[edit]

This needs to be fixed:

Wikipedia articles use what are called "inline citations", each of which is added to the main text. Editors can format citations in a variety of ways, by hand or by using templates such as those of the "cite" family. No matter the format, the citation details go between a pair of <ref></ref> tags. These should be placed inline directly after the end punctuation of the text that is being supported.

Parenthetical citations are acceptable, and they don't use ref tags. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 23:27, 18 October 2010 (UTC)

Well, I think they should be standard to tell you the truth. Can you point me to an article using "true" parenthetical citations...? ResMar 00:39, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
I have changed the article - thanks Sandy (and please feel free to tweak my changes). Ruhrfisch ><>°° 00:51, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
Battle of Red Cliffs. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 01:02, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
Yeah, they may be uncommon, but they're definitely still around. Remember that it's the policies that matter, not what your personal feelings on the issue are. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 01:57, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
Policies are are based on editor consensus; any less and they are no more then dead weight. No, they do matter. ResMar 21:29, 20 October 2010 (UTC)
It's not a policy-- it's a guideline. Another sample: Taiwanese aborigines. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 14:20, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
And I repeat: consensus changes. ResMar 21:04, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
The MOS is descriptive, not proscriptive (it generally tells us what we can do, not what we cannot or must). There are many academic disciplines where parenthetical footnotes are the standard and I think it makes perfect sense to allow them here. They do not need to be popular to be allowed. Ruhrfisch ><>°° 21:12, 21 October 2010 (UTC)
I didn't say that they shouldn't be allowed, only that template citations should be preferred. It's bothering me that people are taking the MoS as an unbreakable code of law: something is changed nearly every other day. ResMar 00:36, 22 October 2010 (UTC)

In journalism we have a saying: "Follow the stylebook out the window." Yours, GeorgeLouis (talk) 05:51, 25 October 2010 (UTC)

All styleguides—all—no matter how they might spin it, are both descriptive and prescriptive. Tony (talk) 07:10, 25 October 2010 (UTC)

Lead[edit]

Note: Section headers which represent arbitrary time frames do not each need to (in fact, should not) be represented in the lede (using the traditional spelling). This is especially true of biographical articles which often have such section headings to avoid excessively long sections. Im my opinion, of course. Collect (talk) 00:56, 19 October 2010 (UTC)

My thought is that the content of each section should be in the lead, even if the arbitrary dates in the header are not. I have changed it to "A good rule of thumb is to mention every section in the lead in some way, even if only through a word or phrase." (dropped the word header). Thanks, Ruhrfisch ><>°° 01:24, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
Admirable inconcept - unworkable in practice. Vide an article like [1] (not the only article with this many sections, to be sure). I consider that having the lede cover only the most major points in a BLP is quite sufficient, and in line with newspaper practice. Recall that immediately following the lede is a list of section titles - having each referred to in the lede is effectively redundant. Collect (talk) 10:30, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
Well I think of it as just another way to say what WP:LEAD's Provide an accessible overview section says (in part "The lead section should briefly summarize the most important points covered in an article in such a way that it can stand on its own as a concise version of the article.") I also note that the example you give is from 2008 and does not follow WP:HEAD. I also note that the Joseph Widney article has a much more reasonable structure and Table of Contents now, which would be much simpler to summarize in the article lede or lead. Thanks for you comments, Ruhrfisch ><>°° 14:27, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
You might note who did the pruning :). Alas - a lot of BLPs still contain kitchen sinks. Collect (talk) 14:50, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
Thanks very much - I had not noticed. Agreed that the work is great and the workers are few. Still, we perservere. Ruhrfisch ><>°° 15:04, 19 October 2010 (UTC)
Speaking of which, the Signpost is short on manpower. You may notice we had to drop ITN this week... ResMar 21:29, 20 October 2010 (UTC)

Not sure what this means . . .[edit]

"Fair use media must be mentioned in the article in which they appear." Sincerely, GeorgeLouis (talk) 05:47, 25 October 2010 (UTC)

  • Good point. Sorry to be so slow to respond, but I've been traveling and often off-wiki of late. "Fair use media must be mentioned in the article in which they appear, and must add significantly to the reader's understanding of the topic." - The fair-use media must be mentioned in the text of the article and not added as a disconnected aside or decoration. Would it be more clear to say "Fair use media must be mentioned in the main text of the article in which they appear and must add significantly to the reader's understanding of the topic"? Finetooth (talk) 21:49, 26 October 2010 (UTC)

Media is plural for medium, which I assume means media of communication -- like radio, television, motion pictures, newspapers, magazines, etc. Well, anyway, no; I don't understand. Sincerely, your friend, GeorgeLouis (talk) 00:00, 28 October 2010 (UTC)

Ahh, light bulb clicks on. Image files are one possible form of media, but so are videos or animations or sound files. Basically it is saying you can't just grab a copyrighted picture (or whatever) and put it in an article for decoration. The article has to discuss the picture (or sound file or ...) and it has to add to add to the reader's understanding. Ruhrfisch ><>°° 00:34, 28 October 2010 (UTC)

Avoidance of list elements should not be carried to the extreme of being a fetish[edit]

Numbered and bulleted lists, including nested ones, have usefulness in organizing information for easy parsing. The trouble with most writing advice is that pedants latch onto it and turn it into a fetish. I'm just putting in a plug for common sense. The aphorism goes that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." As Arthur Plotnik riffed on that, "A little Strunk and White is a dangerous thing." Don't give writing advice without acknowledging some exceptions. For every 5 readers who don't need to be told that there are limits to the generalization, there are 5 who do. The advice that, in paraphrase, "you shouldn't use lists unless you're making a "List of [...]" article" is misguided/misguiding. Quercus solaris (talk) 23:36, 25 October 2010 (UTC)

I don't see that advice in the dispatch above. Can you point out the exact sentence and suggest an alternate wording? Finetooth (talk) 22:00, 26 October 2010 (UTC)
I'm sorry—you're right. The advice given in the piece is sound: "Do not use lists if a passage reads easily using plain paragraphs. If an article's essence is a list, it should have a title such as 'List of rivers in Asia'." The problem is not the advice as worded; it's the distorted caricature of it that pedants may come away with. I fight this all the time at work regarding the principle of "A little Strunk & White is a dangerous thing." Pedants would remember the takeaway lesson as being "never use lists for anything that could conceivably be forced to be prose" and "Using lists is the wrong way to write that only people who don't know any better engage in." This pedantic distortion happens over and over with just about any point that writing-advice authors ever take up. There is no action to take in this case; I was too tired when I wrote that comment last night, and I wasn't being careful enough in my reading. However, I will say, as someone who deals with the problem professionally, that you're better off writing a rule or guideline that's phrased to seem obviously, painstakingly self-aware of its limitations (i.e., "use your brain, and don't follow this rule off a cliff") than to write any rule that's straightforward but can easily be twisted by a pedant—because it inevitably will be. Half my job is un-mis-educating 2 generations of Americans who were taught in their formative years that writing and editing are about enforcing pedantry (as opposed to being about communication and damn the trivialities, which is what it's really about for the people of the world who get things done, e.g., physicians, surgeons, firefighters, EMTs, military personnel). Anyway, this is a mere musing, and not a direct reflection on the piece, which is very good and which I shouldn't have commented on. Regards, Quercus solaris (talk) 00:50, 27 October 2010 (UTC)
It is a good point - thanks for making it. At peer review we tend to see articles where the opposite problem applies - things which should be prose are instead forced to be lists. Ruhrfisch ><>°° 01:51, 27 October 2010 (UTC)