Open main menu

Theories ruled the earth was flat. Observation proved it round.

Wikipedia:Template messages/Maintenance

I am by avocation a copy editor.

Writing Magnifying.PNGThis user is a member of
the Guild of Copy Editors.

My love of languages (of many kinds) leads me to study forms that are more easily understood by a broad section of the people. My edits for native English are oriented to the language of settled agreement that was spoken in the 20th Century, rather than the vernacular of our own times, which can be expected to change within years and certainly within the decade. The language I prefer has greater stability, longevity, and universality than the momentary and regional fashions on TeeVee and the chat boards of our current day. A few common examples may help.

  1. Consequences are of several kinds, and not all are appropriate to the same pronouns and language. But they are often confused in language, and that confusion is further muddled by common words in English. I try to remove that ambiguity, particularly by eliminating the conjunctions "due to" and "as" (when used as a synonym of "because"), which are rarely found in that older language.
    1. Causal consequence (The day is warm because the sun is high in the sky.),
    2. Intentional consequence (I asked you because I need your approval.), and
    3. Logical or deductive consequence, sometimes called "ground and consequent" (Opposite exterior angles are equal because angles A and B are both equal to C.) An example of this confusion arose recently in the Nickel page: "Many earrings are now made nickel-free or low nickel release due to this problem." The intended statement is Intentional consequence, but this poor modernism expresses (at best) only Causal consequence. Much better to use a clear statement of intent: "Many earrings are now made nickel-free or low nickel release to address this problem."
  2. "As" has become a new factotum word that serves many purposes badly and none well: as=because, as=similar, as=(when no word is needed). It is most useful to draw parallels of similarity or coincidence between predications.
  3. Inanimate objects should not be personalized with Anthropomorphic grammar and syntax:
    1. Inanimate objects should rarely be stated to have possessions (used in possessive case), "behave", or enjoy other anthropomorphisms (to use an anthropomorphism)
    2. Inanimate objects are not "responsible" for anything, they do not have purpose, nor do they cause anything except in the most mechanical sense
  4. Numbers and quantities should not be confused with location or altitude using such words as "up" and "down", or "over" and "under", or "up to".  Numbers and quantities are "greater" and "lesser", or "more than" and "less than", or "as many as" and "as few as". When we number the lines on a page, the number 5 is "under" the number "2". When multiple concepts are expressed by the same pair of words, confusion ensues.
  5. The antecedent of a pronoun should be easily found, usually by proximity; when the antecedent is distant or nonexistent, the sentence or clause becomes ambiguous. The only exceptions are when the antecedent is the subject of the current clause or sentence, the subject of the previous sentence, or the easily identifiable subject of the current paragraph. Antecedent usually should not carry across paragraphs.
  6. Many Americans use the awkward construction, "It is estimated ...", "There are ...", "There is..." with no an identifiable antecedent. No only is the human language parser left with an undefined symbol, the actual statement is often relegated to a subordinate clause or other construction, fogging the intent. Removing that construction results in more brilliant, less ambiguous, and more direct text. "There are relatively few chemical applications that use caesium." -->> "Relatively few chemical applications use caesium."
  7. Passive voice is deadly and unnecessary in most contexts, though a few cases are useful. Here is an example where it is not: ""It is estimated that dogs are smarter than rats." -->> "Researchers estimate that dogs are smarter than rats." or even better, "Dogs are smarter than rats, according to research estimates." Put the main concept in active voice in the main clause, and put subordinate concepts in subordinate constructions.
  8. Clarity may be improved by combining sentences that require similar qualifiers or predicates, or the same subject. Sometimes repeated qualifiers can obscure the intent. I retain all the sense when shortening.
  9. Some idiomatic phrases: "at least", "referred to as", and a number of others can be difficult to parse. I work to remove or clarify these where possible.
  10. Double prepositions should be avoided, e.g., "referred to as"
  11. "However" is not a conjunction and cannot be used to join principle clauses; it is an adverb.
  12. Modifiers should be as close as possible to the modified word or phrase without intervening text. English users commonly misplace modifiers in statements such as "I only like one teacher." In some contexts, the meaning can be ambiguous. The speaker means, of course, "I liked only one teacher." The speaker does not mean that s/he either loved or hated all the teachers with one exception, and "only liked" one teacher. Such is the problem with misplaced modifiers.
  13. Multiple conditionals are unnecessary. "The weatherman suggested we probably might have sunny weather."
  14. In an Encyclopedia, a series of statements can be understood by the reader as a series of assertions, and the repeated occurrence of "also" clouds more than it clarifies. This falls into the general category of excessive connectives, such as "however", nevertheless", "in addition to", "as well as", "hence", "thus", "therefore", and other verbal Styrofoam. These are the words of argument and advocacy, rather than an encyclopedia.
  15. Some modern phrases can be solved with simple grammar. The idiom "come into contact with" can usually be swept away and replaced with the verb: "contact".
  16. The borrowed word "via" (as a synonym for "by") is much over-used, more difficult to say, pretentious, and not an improvement. "By" should be used in phrases of agency (Sam was helped by Bill) and tools (Sam leveled the stove by unscrewing the leg). "Via" has use only when naming an intermediate state. Pig iron is produced by (not "via") smelting. She traveled to London by (not "via") ship. He entered New York via LaGuardia Airport.
  17. "Ones" is an excessively lame pronoun that rarely adds anything to a sentence. It is also an oxymoron, given that "one" has no meaning BUT singularity, while the suffix "-s" attempts to make it plural. The phrase, "these ones", limps from a sentence like an wounded refugee from a grammar battle -- usually the sentence died much earlier in the syntax wars. Usage seems to arise from an embarrassed ignorance of literary ellipsis: "I like red balloons more than blue ... uh, ones," wherein the speaker knows he should not repeating the same word, but feels compelled to end off with something. The courage to use ellipsis can add great snap to the text.
  18. "Very" and "extremely" can usually be discarded. If a text that means what it says, it does not require intensifiers. If it does not mean what it says, we have other problems (including credibility) that a mere intensifier cannot solve.
  19. I follow the Strunk & White convention for commas in lists. "Blue, green, black, and violet are my favorite clothing colors." Using three commas, I leave no ambiguity. However, the sentence with only two commas ("Blue, green, black and violet are my favorite clothing colors.") may communicate only three preferences with the third preference being black and violet. Also called the "Oxford comma."[1]
  20. I follow the which/that distinction: when used as a relative pronoun, which introduces a descriptive clause (telling more about the subect), while that introduces and restrictive clause (further discriminating among multiple possible subjects. Some scholars and writers criticize this distinction and it is not universal. There is no such differentiation in the who/whom relative pronoun, with both words serving either function. But I follow this convention as a writer because it costs nothing and it may help the reader to understand the text. Besides, that is easier to parse and to speak, and does not require an additional comma (or comma-pause in spoken English).
  21. "These kinds" is usually a mathematical error. A "kind" is a set. Naming one or two example items of a type enables the reader to infer the set, but it does not enable the inference of multiple sets ("kinds"). The usual intent with this phrase is to indicate a single set ("kind"), and the grammar should so state: "this kind of thing," not "these kinds of things."
  22. The phase, "in terms of" should be avoided at all costs, unless we are discussing "terms," which is rare. It has become another Americanism that serves many purposes badly and none well.
  23. In most cases, the phrase "in order to" is unnecessarily wordy. "I brought the dress in order to return it." -> "I brought the dress to return it." See?
  24. In most cases, the phrase "for the purpose of" is unnecessarily wordy. "I came to the Riviera for the purpose of my health." -> "I came to the Riviera for my health." "I came to the Riviera for the purpose of improving my health." -> "I came to the Riviera to improve my health." This error comes about from two fundamental failures of basic English. First, the preposition "for" implicitly expresses purpose. We see this error in such ubiquitous Americanisms as "For safety purposes, please do not run in the aisles" and "For security purposes, ..." both of which illustrate that educated people leave the wording of signs to those less educated. The sign that states, "For security, this door must remain locked" is every bit as clear as one that states, "For security purposes, ..." The second failure of the language is a modern tendency to turn every verb into a substantive. Hence, modern speech slides into the gerund ("of improving") in place of the infinitive ("to improve") which fewer people know how to use. The infinitive ("to improve") nicely implicates purpose.
  25. I try to avoid splitting infinitives for two reasons. In sequence of brevity (and no other), I don't like the sound of it. And the other reason is that dividing a verb from the "to" particle with a parade of clauses and modifiers can make a sentence difficult to understand. So -- I try to avoid it.
  26. The verbs "presume" and "assume" are not identical. "Assume" means to take ownership. "Presume" means to accept as fact in the absence of proof. Many people use "assume" with the definition given here for "presume." Bowing to popular usage, the dictionaries are following suit, but should we? Why not preserve the two words with different meanings, rather than using one word with multiple meanings depending on context? Vocabulary is not a physical toolbox with a limited carrying capacity. Leaving the definition of words to the context in which they appear presumes the context is without ambiguity. Thus, in the sequence of a b c, b is defined by the context of a and c. But if a and c also depend on context, interpretation of the text can get messy -- and sometimes the whole text becomes ambiguous. If c is known without ambiguity, the context dependency of a and b may be further resolved, and perhaps the passage will be immediately clear. Since clarity is the goal of writing, context-definition is counter-productive.

I will add more preferences and guidelines as I encounter them. So far, these guidelines have met with broad approval.

The big print giveth, and the fine print taketh away.

Code Appearance Meaning
Copyright problems Example
{{weasel}} with date Example
{{by whom}} with date [by whom?] Example
{{references needed}} Example
{{Refimprove}} Example
{{Original research }} Example
{{citation needed}} [citation needed] Example
{{cn}} [citation needed] Example
{{failed verification}} [failed verification] example
{{reflist talk}} Gathers footnotes to-here in talk page.
{{copypaste }} Example
{{Authority control}}

Thanks for the star! I really appreciate it. Inicholson (talk) 00:16, 8 July 2016 (UTC)

  1. ^ "What Is the Oxford Comma and Why Do People Care So Much About It?". Grammarly Blog. 2015-01-05. Retrieved 2016-06-17.