Why do all Wikipedia articles 'sound' the same?

I always thought Wikipedia articles were written by anyone who wanted to contribute. I went through the signup process though I’ve yet to actually contribute.

But why are all the articles so similar in style that they almost sound like they were written by the same person? Maybe they’re not all exactly the same, but there’s certainly a lot of commonality, with little diversity.

I know the articles are edited and/or censored to some extent - but does someone rewrite them? A great wiki-redacteur perhaps?

There is a lengthy Style Guide. Lots of people contribute, and lots of people edit contributions to conform to the standard style. (Or delete crap.)

We are the Borg. Conform to the style guide. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

I think it’s more accurate to say that lots of people contribute, and then a relatively small number of people edit those contributions into Wikipedia style. The small number of editors allows consistency to be promoted more readily.

What little editing I do is style fixing. They call us Wikignomes. We do little, almost imperceptible changes to make the article sound better, and then get out. Nobody notices us, but they notice the sum total of our work.

3.2 million articles, written in one drab “style”. Oh, the humanity.

Many articles on historical and fairly static topics in Wikipedia are copied from out-of-copyright editions of Encyclopaedia Britannica, primarily the 1911 edition I believe. So there will be a commonality amongst those.

That aside, the requirement that articles be written from a neutral perspective will produce a certain common tone as well.

To BigT and the other WikiGnomes, I thank you. I love Wikipedia.

Not to be confused with the WikiFairies or WikiElves of course.

I suppose. Still, maybe it’s just my imagination, but when I read an article about some small town or community that nobody else would care about, I can often sense that the author lives there by the manner in which some things are mentioned. For example, this description of Frogtown in Los Angeles (aka “Elysian Valley”) seems to be clearly written by an older resident who probably lived there before the freeway split and laments the subsequent isolation:

Really. Who else would write about the comparative selections of “local” and chain supermarkets? It sounds more like a tourist guide than an encyclopedia.

While I certainly agree with the consensus so far (a style guide and a dedicated group of people tweaking articles to fit said style guide), I think there’s another factor. People who regularly use Wikipedia get used to the overall feel of it, and when they contribute something, they tend to try to fit it in. I know the articles I’ve written for Wikipedia fit their style more than they fit my personal style.

There are also people who aren’t part of that core group of contributors who will go off on a consistency tear sometimes. I did it when I was watching all of the episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD in order. I had gone to Wikipedia to catch up on a few things I’d forgotten from an earlier season, and found a few glaring inconsistencies. I was between writing projects at the time–and frankly somewhat bored–and I ended up doing hundreds of edits to the Buffy articles over the next week or so, mostly cleaning up links and making sure information appeared in the same place in each article. I did fix some content while I was at it, but it was mostly just cleanup.

This is one of the features that gives Wikipedia more validity as a useful reference source, if not a citable one. Most encyclopedias I’ve seen are similar in this respect in that they have a consistent writing style and avoid critical and other non-factual based content. Moreover, a given encyclopedia usually uses the same organization and outline in articles of similar size and content, for example, articles on major world cities. Articles about less important cities may have the same top level outline, but eliminate the lower level headings, and for still less important towns, all headings may be eliminated. But the article will still include the same kind of information albeit in minimal format.

I wonder if BigT is able to be hired out for my SDMB posts. He knows the direct area of the boards I am talking about. :wink:

I found this perhaps related to OP: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35985097/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/ "Who writes Wikipedia articles?
Contributors who can perform a range of roles are key to quality articles "

I found a lot more information in this mornings papers.

Who Writes Wikipedia?http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/whowriteswikipedia has several links.

An essay or blog: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/the_dirty_little_secret_about_the_wisdom_of_the_crowds.php

A blog with graphs about editing Wikipedia: http://asc-parc.blogspot.com/2007/05/long-tail-and-power-law-graphs-of-user.html

A New York Times article about rumored and reported changes in editing: http://www.nytimes.com/external/readwriteweb/2010/03/26/26readwriteweb-are-you-ready-for-the-new-easier-wikipedia-36786.html

To be fair, that article starts out with this template:

That usually means that it needs to be rewritten, but the one who tagged it was too lazy to do it temselves.

Have you never noticed how the tone of this messageboard is fairly constant? And it’s not even edited to be that way.

But now I find out I’m some sort of weird gnome-princess mix? I want to be a wizard-king-dragon :frowning: