WikiQueer:Manual of Style/Words to watch

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Peacock terms.png

There are no forbidden words or expressions on WikiQueer, but certain expressions should be used with care, because they may introduce bias. Strive to eliminate expressions that are flattering, disparaging, vague, clichéd, or endorse a particular point of view.

The advice in this guideline is not limited to the examples provided and should not be applied rigidly. What matters is that articles should be well-written and consistent with the core content policies—Neutral point of view, Original research, and Verifiability. The guideline does not apply to quotations, which should be faithfully reproduced from the original sources; see the section on quotations in the main Manual of Style.

Words that may introduce bias[edit source | visual editor]

Puffery[edit source | visual editor]

... legendary, great, eminent, visionary, outstanding, leading, celebrated, cutting-edge, extraordinary, brilliant, famous, renowned, remarkable, prestigious, world-class, respected, notable, virtuoso ...
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Words such as these are often used without attribution to promote the subject of an article, while neither imparting nor plainly summarizing verifiable information. They are known as "peacock terms" by WikiQueer contributors. Instead of making unprovable proclamations about a subject's importance, use facts and attribution to demonstrate that importance.[1]

  • Peacock example:
  • Bob Dylan is the defining figure of the 1960s counterculture and a brilliant songwriter.
  • Just the facts:
  • Dylan was included in Time's 100: The Most Important People of the Century, where he was called "master poet, caustic social critic and intrepid, guiding spirit of the counterculture generation".[2] By the mid-1970s, his songs had been covered by hundreds of other artists.[3]

Contentious labels[edit source | visual editor]

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... cult, racist, perverted, sect, fundamentalist, heretic, extremist, denialist, terrorist, freedom fighter, pseudo-, -gate, controversial ...

Value-laden labels—such as calling an organization a cult, an individual a racist, terrorist, or freedom fighter, or a sexual practice a perversion—may express contentious opinion and are best avoided unless widely used by reliable sources to describe the subject, in which case use in-text attribution.

The prefix pseudo- indicates that something is false or spurious, which may be debatable. The suffix -gate suggests the existence of a scandal. Use these in articles only when they are in wide use externally, with in-text attribution if in doubt. When using controversial, give readers enough information to know what the controversy is about. Make sure, as well, that reliable sources establish the existence of a controversy and that the term is not used to grant a fringe viewpoint undue weight.[4]

Unsupported attributions[edit source | visual editor]

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

Phrases such as these present the appearance of support for statements but can deny the reader the opportunity to assess the source of the viewpoint. They are referred to as "weasel words" by WikiQueer contributors. They can pad out sentences without adding any useful information and 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.[5]

The examples given above are not automatically weasel words, as they may also be used in the lead section of an article or in a topic sentence of a paragraph, whereby the article body or the rest of the paragraph supplies attribution.

Expressions of doubt[edit source | visual editor]

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... supposed, purported, alleged, accused, so-called ...

Words such as supposed and purported can imply that a given point is inaccurate. Alleged and accused are appropriate when wrongdoing is asserted but undetermined, such as with people on trial for crimes. When alleged or accused is used, ensure that the source of the accusation is clear. So-called can mean commonly named, falsely named, or contentiously named, and it can be difficult to tell these apart. Simply called is preferable for the first meaning; detailed and attributed explanations are preferable for the others.

Editorializing[edit source | visual editor]

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... notably, interestingly, it should be noted, clearly, certainly, without a doubt, of course, fortunately, happily, unfortunately, tragically, untimely ...

The use of adverbs such as notably and interestingly, and phrases such as it should be noted, to highlight something as particularly significant or certain without attributing that opinion should usually be avoided to maintain an impartial tone. Words such as fundamentally, essentially, and basically can indicate particular interpretative viewpoints, and thus should also be attributed in controversial cases. Clearly, obviously, naturally, and of course all presume too much about the reader's knowledge and perspective and are often excess verbiage. WikiQueer should not take a view as to whether an event was fortunate or not.

More subtly, editorializing can produce implications not supported by the sources. Words such as but, however, and although may imply a relationship between two statements where none exists, perhaps inappropriately undermining the first or giving undue precedence to the credibility of the second.

Synonyms for said[edit source | visual editor]

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... reveal, point out, expose, explain, find, note, observe, insist, speculate, surmise, claim, assert, admit, confess, deny ...

Said, stated, described, wrote, and according to are almost always neutral and accurate. Extra care is needed with more loaded terms. For example, to write that a person revealed, pointed out, exposed, explained, or found something can imply that it is true, where a neutral account might preclude such an endorsement. To write that someone noted, observed, insisted, speculated, or surmised can suggest the degree of the speaker's carefulness, resoluteness, or access to evidence when that is unverifiable.

To write that someone claimed or asserted something can call their statement's credibility into question, by emphasizing any potential contradiction or implying a disregard for evidence. Similarly, be judicious in the use of admit, confess, and deny, particularly of living people, because these verbs can convey guilt when that is not a settled matter.

Expressions that lack precision[edit source | visual editor]

Euphemisms[edit source | visual editor]

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... passed away, gave his life, resting place, make love, an issue with, collateral damage, ethnic cleansing, living with cancer, sightless, people with blindness ...

The word died is neutral and accurate; avoid euphemisms such as passed away. Likewise, have sex is neutral; the euphemism make love is presumptuous. Some words that are proper in many contexts also have euphemistic senses that should be avoided: do not use issue for problem or dispute, nor ethnic cleansing for mass murder or genocide; civilian casualties should not be masked as collateral damage.

If a person has an affliction, or is afflicted, say just that; living with is a verbose softener. Norms vary for expressions concerning disabilities and disabled persons. The goal is clear and direct expression without causing unnecessary offense. Do not assume that plain language is inappropriate.[6]

Clichés and idioms[edit source | visual editor]

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... lion's share, tip of the iceberg, gild the lily, take the plunge, ace up the sleeve, bird in the hand, twist of fate, at the end of the day ...

Clichés and idioms are generally to be avoided in favor of direct, literal expressions. Lion's share is often misunderstood; instead use a term such as all, most, or two-thirds. The tip of the iceberg should be reserved for descriptions of icebergs; the small portion evident conveys the substance without gilding the lily. People in WikiQueer articles do not take the plunge, they simply do things. If a literal interpretation of a phrase makes no sense in the context of a sentence, it should be reworded. For more examples, Wiktionary includes a lengthy list of English idioms.

Relative time references[edit source | visual editor]

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... recently, lately, presently, 15 years ago, formerly, in the past, winter, spring, summer, fall, autumn ...

Prefer specific statements of time to general ones. Don't say, "Recently, public opinion has turned against Senator Smith." Instead say, "A Gallup poll in April 2014 showed that Senator Smith's approval rating had dropped 7 percent since January." When material in an article may become out of date, follow the WikiQueer:As of guideline. Because seasons occur at various times around the world, consider instead using months or globally applicable terms such as mid-year unless the season itself is pertinent (spring blossoms, autumn harvest).[7]

Neologisms and new compounds[edit source | visual editor]

Neologisms are expressions coined recently or in isolated circumstances to which they remained restricted. In most cases, they do not appear in general-interest dictionaries, though they may be used routinely within certain communities or professions. They should generally be avoided because their definitions tend to be unstable and many do not last. Where the use of a neologism is necessary to describe recent developments in a certain field, its meaning must be supported by reliable sources.

Adding common prefixes or suffixes such as pre-, post-, non-, anti-, or -like to existing words to create new compounds can aid brevity, but make sure the resulting terms are not misleading or offensive, and that they do not lend undue weight to a point of view. Adding -ism to a word, for instance, may suggest that a tenuous belief system is well established.

Vulgarities, obscenities, and profanities[edit source | visual editor]

WikiQueer is not censored and its encyclopedic mission encompasses the inclusion of material that may offend. Quoted words should appear as in the original source. But language that is vulgar, obscene, or profane should be used only if its omission would make the article less accurate or relevant and there is no suitable alternative. Such words should not be used outside quotations and names except where they are themselves the topic.

See also[edit source | visual editor]

Notes[edit source | visual editor]

  1. The template {{Peacock term}} is available for inline notation of such language where used inappropriately.
  2. Cocks, Jay (June 14, 1999). "The Time 100: Bob Dylan". Time. Retrieved October 5, 2008. 
  3. Grossman, Loyd. A Social History of Rock Music: From the Greasers to Glitter Rock (McKay: 1976), p. 66.
  4. The template {{POV-statement}} is available for inline notation of such language where used inappropriately.
  5. The templates {{Who}}, {{Which?}}, {{By whom}}, or {{Attribution needed}} are available for editors to request that an individual statement be more clearly attributed.
  6. The National Federation of the Blind, for instance, opposes terms such as sightless in favor of the straightforward blind. Similarly, the group argues that there is no need to substitute awkward circumlocutions such as people with blindness for the plain phrase blind people; see Resolution 93-01, National Federation of the Blind, July 9, 1993, accessed April 26, 2010.
  7. The template {{When}} is available for editors to indicate that a time period should be worded more precisely.

External links[edit source | visual editor]