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Wikipedia talk:Writing better articles/Use of 'refers to'

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Personally, I might like to see an exception to the NPOV rule for this one. -- John Owens 00:02 Apr 24, 2003 (UTC)

I think it should be moved to the Wikipedia namespace, where NPOV rules don't apply.

I also want to add an actual example of "refers to" being used correctly, but won't because I wrote it and don't know that no one would complain about the use. Is there any problem with the "refers to"s in: (from alternative hip hop, italics in original) Tuf-Kat

Alternative hip hop generally refers to a specific style of hip hop that is opposed to the mainstream sounds of gangsta rap. However, certain other hip hop genres are also alternative and are sometimes referred to with the same term

I support this article. It is written in line with NPOV and wikipedia should cover all of facts without any exception. It is quite true that people by mistake use "refers to" in the place use of "is" is correct. We can put more examples and why "refers to" is largely considered misusage. -- Taku 02:50 Apr 24, 2003 (UTC)

Just a quibble--it's better to have a definition that is completely and unequivocally correct. What I mean is, your definition of "dog" includes "cat," as well as "horse" and "lizard." Koyaanis Qatsi

While I completely agree with the sentiment expressed in this article, I think it would be better placed in the wikipedia:Manual of style. The intended audience is more likely to find it there, and for mere readers of the encyclopedia this discussion is of limited value. AxelBoldt 18:32 Apr 24, 2003 (UTC)

If people have to use "refers to", isn't

The word dog refers to a domesticated canine animal with four legs and a tail.

a bit wordy? Why not drop "the word" and say

Dog refers to a domesticated canine animal with four legs and a tail.

It's still horrible compared to just using "is", but maybe it's an improvement? Or maybe it's just more confusing for people who aren't familiar with the "refers to" mumbo-jumbo.

Also, why are we putting "used" words in italics instead of in quotes, an equally plausible alternative? Is this just a Wikipedia convention?

--Ryguasu 15:42 Apr 26, 2003 (UTC)

I think quotes are clearer than italics; in general italics are used for a variety of reasons, e.g. emphasis, foreign words, etc., while quotes are specially for this. In the rare cases that

refers to

is needed I agree that

the word "x" refers to

can be abbreviated to

"x" refers to

but not

x refers to

(not clear enough). - Patrick 21:13 Apr 26, 2003 (UTC)

I agree with y'all about the quotes, but that doesn't really belong here -- italics over quotes is specified in the Manual of Style, so you'd have to take it up there (that is, if you don't want zealous MoSers to change things back). If you do take it up at the MoS and want back-up, then ask for me, because I don't follow those discussions. -- Toby 04:17 May 5, 2003 (UTC)

This is bogus. Anyone who knows a tugs worth of linguistics understands that words (terms) are placeholders that can either be definitive and convergent, or subjective and divergent. For dealing with divergent terms, "refers to", giving attention to the term itself, rather than the thing at which one use of the term points, is the only good solution. I disagree also that "refers to" is just not good style. Refers to is the best way to go for terms like terrorism, which carries with it a relativst meaning, but strongly disagree that its not useful at all. The sole cohesive basis for this "policy" is subjectivity, not NPOV. The example of "a dog" is misleading; there are very few meaningful cases of a dog meaning something other than a canine. The Fall of Constantinople examle was far less subjective than terrorism, but we can perhaps imagine that in its long history Constantinople "fell" more than once, and so the specific term "Fall of Constantinople" could just as well be represented with a "refers to" cold be used. While I dont want to see "refers to" on every article, the blanket claim that "this is bad form" refers to a very obtuse and counterintelligent policy, IMHO. Respectfully, Stevertigo 20:09, 19 Jul 2004 (UTC)

The above attacks a strawman. The article specifically says that in some cases refers to is appropriate, especially in dealing with divergent terms. That does not contradict the article's assertion that usually (as when one is writing the article titled dog) "A dog is an animal that barks" is better (even if only because simpler) than "A dog refers to an animal that barks). No one made a blanket claim that refers to is bad style, only that the simpler form should be used when it suffices (i.e., usually). Michael Hardy 21:01, 19 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Proposal to consolidate advice on writing better articles


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 19:56, 11 Nov 2004 (UTC)



The phrase refers to is often found near the beginning of Wikipedia articles. For example, the article Computer architecture once began by saying "Computer architecture refers to the theory behind the design of a computer." But that is not literally true; it would be better to say, "Computer architecture is the theory behind the design of a computer", as the article now does. Note that it is the words computer architecture that refer to a certain theory; computer architecture itself does not refer to any theory, it is a theory.

Sometimes it may be appropriate to say, for example, "The term Great Schism refers to either one of two schisms in the history of Christianity", but most often the simpler locution is better. If you mention the phrase Great Schism, rather than using that phrase to refer to one of the Great Schisms, then write the word in italics to indicate that.

See also: Use-mention distinction

Computer architecture is composed of two words—sets of symbols—which when combined refer to what is recognized as a theory of computer architecture. Unless, of course, an article does not specifically concern linguistic usage of a term or does not concern perspective-dependent topics, then such an emphasis should not be done, if only to prevent a massive rewriting of the entire Wikipedia. Adraeus 03:40, 19 Dec 2004 (UTC)