Words to watch: legendary, best, great, acclaimed, iconic, visionary, outstanding, leading, celebrated, popular, award-winning, landmark, cutting-edge, innovative, revolutionary, extraordinary, brilliant, hit, famous, renowned, remarkable, prestigious, world-class, respected, notable, virtuoso, honorable, awesome, unique, pioneering, phenomenal ...
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 Wikipedia contributors.[a]
Instead of making unprovable proclamations about a subject's importance, use facts and attribution to demonstrate that importance.
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
, in which he was called "master poet, caustic social critic and intrepid, guiding spirit of the counterculture generation".
By the mid-1970s, his songs had been covered by hundreds of other artists.
Articles suffering from such language should be rewritten to correct the problem or may be tagged with an appropriate template[a]
if an editor is unsure how best to correct them.
Puffery is an example of positively loaded language
; negatively loaded language should be avoided just as much. People responsible for "public spending" (the neutral term) can be loaded both ways, as "tax-and-spend politicians borrowing off the backs of our grandchildren" or "public servants ensuring crucial investment in our essential infrastructure for the public good".
Words to watch: cult, racist, perverted, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, sect, fundamentalist, heretic, extremist, denialist, terrorist, freedom fighter, bigot, myth, neo-Nazi, -gate, pseudo-, controversial ...
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, e.g. Gamergate controversy
, with in-text attribution if in doubt. Rather than describing an individual using the subjective and vague term controversial
, instead give readers information about relevant controversies. 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
With regard to the term "pseudoscience": per the policy Wikipedia:Neutral point of view
, pseudoscientific views "should be clearly described as such". Per the content guideline Wikipedia:Fringe theories
, the term "pseudoscience", when supported by reliable sources, may be used to distinguish fringe theories from mainstream science.
Words to watch: some people say, many scholars state, it is believed/regarded/considered, many are of the opinion, most feel, experts declare, it is often reported, it is widely thought, research has shown, science says, scientists claim, it is often said, X has been described as Y ...
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.[c]
The examples of weasel words above may
be used in the lead section
of an article or in a topic sentence
of a paragraph only when the article body or the rest of the paragraph can supply attribution and accurately support that statement.
When views that are properly attributed through a reference
to a reliable source
use weasel words or similar expressions, (i.e. those expressions accurately represent the opinions of the source) it is better to also attribute the source in the article text. Attributing the source in the article text so that readers can immediately see who is saying/writing/thinking something will help them evaluate the statement.
Weasel words (even those properly attributed) may
be an indication that the statement is not an accurate representation of reality or scientific consensus. For a reader it will be relevant to know if the statement is supported by a majority or only by a few, see Wikipedia:Neutral point of view
A writer of a reliable source may analyze and interpret a subject, but for a Wikipedia editor to do so would violate the Wikipedia:No original research
policy. 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 and attribute the statement in the article text: alternatively, they may be tagged with the
, or similar templates to identify the problem to future readers (who may elect to fix the problem).
Expressions of doubt
Words to watch: supposed, apparent, purported, alleged, accused, so-called ... Also, scare-quoting: a Yale "report"; undue emphasis: "... a Baptist church"
Words such as supposed, apparent, alleged, and purported can imply that a given point is inaccurate, although alleged and accused are appropriate when wrongdoing is asserted but undetermined, such as with people awaiting or undergoing a criminal trial; when these are 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.
Misused punctuation can also have similar effects. Quotation marks, when not marking an actual quotation, may be interpreted as "scare quotes
", indicating that the writer is distancing themselves from the otherwise common interpretation of the quoted expression. The use of emphasis
may turn an innocuous word into a loaded expression, so such occurrences should also be considered carefully.
"MOS:OP-ED" redirects here. For policy on op-eds and original research, see WP:NOROPED
. For guideline on citing op-eds as sources, see WP:NEWSOPED
. For submission of editorials to the Wikipedia Signpost
internal newsletter, see WP:OP-ED
Words to watch: notably, it should be noted, arguably, interestingly, essentially, utterly, actually, clearly, absolutely, of course, without a doubt, indeed, happily, sadly, tragically, aptly, fortunately, unfortunately, untimely ...
The use of adverbs such as notably
, and phrases such as it should be noted
, to highlight something as particularly significant or certain without attributing that opinion should usually be avoided so as to maintain an impartial tone
. Words such as fundamentally
, and basically
can indicate particular interpretative viewpoints, and thus should also be attributed in controversial cases. Care should be used with actually
, which implies that a fact is contrary to expectations; make sure this is verifiable
and not just assumed. Clearly
, and of course
all presume too much about the reader's knowledge and perspective and often amount to verbiage. Wikipedia should not take a view as to whether an event was fortunate
Words to watch: but, despite, however, though, although, furthermore, while ...
More subtly, editorializing can produce implications that are not supported by the sources
. When used to link two statements, words such as but
, and although
may imply a relationship where none exists, possibly unduly calling the validity of the first statement into question while giving undue weight
to the credibility of the second.
Words to watch: reveal, point out, clarify, expose, explain, find, note, observe, insist, speculate, surmise, claim, assert, admit, confess, deny ...
In some types of writing, repeated usage of said is considered tedious, and writers are encouraged to employ synonyms. However, on Wikipedia, it is more important to avoid language that makes undue implications.
, and according to
are almost always neutral and accurate. Extra care is needed with more loaded terms
. For example, to write that a person clarified
, pointed out
, or revealed
something can imply it is true, instead of simply conveying the fact that it was said
. To write that someone insisted
, or surmised
can suggest the degree of the person's carefulness, resoluteness, or access to evidence, even when such things are unverifiable.
To write that someone 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
, and deny
, particularly for living people
, because these verbs can inappropriately imply culpability