Wikipedia talk:Writing better articles/News style

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Target audience[edit]

Who is the target audience for Wikipedia articles?

The answers to this question may resolve a dispute on the software engineering page. One author wants to remove some introduction content, because it is obvious (and it is obvious to professionals). Another wants to include the introductory content because non-software engineers (like high-school students and general public) may not know it very well. Articles could be targeted to experts, general public, or to high-school or college students writing papers on these topics. How should we balance the conflicting needs of different groups?

The SE page starts off with 3 very general and simple paragraphs that (hopefully) anyone can read. The rest of the article delves into complex detail.

See this very old post on the mailing list for the views of Larry and Jimbo. I think we need to assume people aren't stupid, so listing examples of software is unnecessary if you've stated that software engineers develop software, you can expect people to know what software is without giving examples of it. Angela 16:49, 22 Nov 2003 (UTC)~
I always try to write the lead paragraph for a literate adult whose education somehow completely passed over the subject of the article, and rely on links in case the terms being used to define are themselves unfamiliar. So for software engineering, assume the reader has heard of both software and engineering in general, explain what "software engineering" is, and contrast with computer programming, which is what it's most frequently confused with. Stan 19:57, 22 Nov 2003 (UTC)
I've taken my example from what seemed to be the best articles in the general field. I hope my articles would be intelligible to year six primary school (which by no coincidence I teach, age about 11 years) and useful to anyone without a major subject (ie including final year) in the field at pass level (or better) at an Australian university. That's an extra eight years education between the lower and upper marks but it's the standard I thought others were setting and I find it surprisingly achievable. It's also a good test of NPOV... year six are really good at cutting through weaselwords, and people who've studied the topic for two years at uni are pretty critical readers. So, if you can imagine your perspective being respected by both these extreme audiences, it's pretty safe, and otherwise an alarm bell should ring.
Having written that first and then checked Larry and Jimbo's views they seem to line up pretty well. Andrewa 20:18, 22 Nov 2003 (UTC)

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Our target audience is encyclopedia readers. Beyond that, I think Andrewa has the right approach. Martin 00:01, 23 Nov 2003 (UTC)

I was wondering recently how many people (who don't edit and write for Wikipedia) use Wikipedia as a resource. It would be interesting to conduct some polls of those who don't edit here. Kingturtle 00:03, 23 Nov 2003 (UTC)
I try to write in news style. If we all did this, then Wikipedia would be a concise, general and a whole bunch of specialized encyclopedias all in one. --mav 04:21, 23 Nov 2003 (UTC)~
I think Stan Shebs has it right. The opening paragraphs of an article should give an overview, suitable for someone who has no knowledge of the subject, but can follow links. Experts are free to skip to the next section! ;) -- Tarquin 15:39, 23 Nov 2003 (UTC)
Who is the target audience of the article parameter? Is anyone else floundering trying to read this article? Or should we all be able to read it from the word go? Would it not be a good idea to explain the terms such as "argument", "function", or even "parameter" itself. Or are we expected to jump into the deep end and come up swimmingly? As it is, we would need to schlep on a great technical dictionary/encyclopedia to see what it's about. Dieter Simon 02:14, 24 Nov 2003 (UTC)
The math articles are notoriously bad in this; I even have a minor in math, and there are many articles for which I have no idea what they're about. I've poked math writers a couple times in the past, but it doesn't seem to have much effect. Maybe someday I'll see what I can dredge up from my memory ("My God, it's full of holes!") and work over some of those, even though it's not as much fun as scanning in scrungy old postage stamps... :-) Stan 04:32, 24 Nov 2003 (UTC)
Ouch, I've had a quick look around some Maths articles and you're right, there is some work needed. There are unclear explanations, there is bad grammar, and there are outright inaccuracies. But worst of all IMO, there are articles which assume prior knowledge but which don't provide clear and convenient links to the articles which cover this prior knowledge.
On the other hand, there's a WikiProject Mathematics, and a lot of great Maths articles. I believe many of them could be made more layperson-friendly and we'd have an awesome resource, we do already have an awesome resource in fact but could leverage it more. This issue doesn't seem to have been discussed by the project on a very quick first reading of their page, but perhaps I missed it. Or perhaps I should join the project... in my (;-> spare time... Andrewa 20:11, 24 Nov 2003 (UTC)
Yes I did miss it, because it's on the talk page. Very much a hot topic in the project, which I have joined. Have a look at my first attempts at parameter and argument. Any others that you think are particularly bad, Stan? Andrewa 00:46, 25 Nov 2003 (UTC)
Many thanks, Andrewa, a great piece of work. Now we have the tools and with the right tools you can do anything. Hope other mathematicians will take this article as an example. Dieter Simon 01:14, 25 Nov 2003 (UTC)
I bet that demographics will change. as Wikipedia matures. I bet that it will get as many junior-high and high-school students as readers as it gets adults.

Proposal to consolidate advice on writing better articles[edit]

At present there are many articles in the Wikipedia namespace that seek to give guidance on how to write better articles. I propose consolidating these into a much smaller number. On User:Jongarrettuk/Better writing guide I propose how these could be consolidated. The proposal is not to change advice, just to consolidate it. If I have inadvertently moved what you consider to be good advice that is currently in the Wikipedia namespace, please re-add it. I'm hope that the proposal to merge all these articles, in principle, will be welcomed. Of course, it may be preferred to have 2, 3 or 4 inter-connected articles than just one and would welcome advice on how this could be done. (In particular, perhaps all the guidance on layout should be spun off into one consolidated article on layout.) I'm also aware that putting lots of different bits of advice together may throw up anomalies or bits that people now disagree with (including bits that I myself disagree with:) ). I ask for support for the consolidation. Once the consolidation has happened, the advice can be changed in the normal way. Please feel free to improve on the current draft consolidation, but don't remove or add advice that is not currently on the Wikipedia namespace. If all goes well, I'll add a new Wikipedia:Guide to writing better articles page on the 19th, though maybe some bits of the new article will need to be phased in over a longer period. I'll also take care to preserve all the archived discussion in one place. jguk 19:52, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC)