Words that should not be used in wikipedia articles

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There are no words that should not be used in wikipedia articles. That said, there are things to watch out for.

There are some words which many consider to be inherently biased and carry more emotions than contents. Other people think that they're just words and can be used appropriately, and that Wikipedia shouldn't have any fixed policy against any particular word.

Of course that doesn't apply to reporting opinions.


Arguments for use:

  • It's a legitimate word with well-defined meaning. Dictionaries, encyclopaedias, textbooks on political science, etc. will readily provide definitions.
  • The fact that most groups called "terrorist" deny such accusations is not relevant to the fact that they are indeed terrorist (if they are). A comparison with the word "pseudo-science", which has been used in Wikipedia, might be illuminative.
  • Unlike traditional media, Wikipedia can fully explore the semantic nuances of words. In fact, terrorism is a good example; it's cross-linked to doublespeak, etc. Instead of censoring ourselves, which would lead to a neurotic project (since it would have a rules which are in direct conflict with its mission), we can provide more information, better information, etc. Instead of simply calling someone a terrorist, we can say *why* we're doing that--say exactly who is calling who a terrorist, etc.

Arguments against use:

  • There is no strict definition
  • Most groups called "terrorist" deny such accusations
  • Many groups call all their enemies "terrorist"
  • There is no hope that we will ever all agree who is "terrorist" and who is not.
  • There are many groups that some people call "terrorist", but embracing such labels would be very controversial, for example:
    • State of Israel
    • States of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan under the rule of Taliban
    • United States and CIA
    • Contemporary Palestine Liberation Organization
    • Almost all guerilla groups (like Tamil Tigers or Chechen rebels) are accused of being "terrorist"
    • Almost all guerilla groups accuse countries they fight against of being "terrorist"
    • Participants in the Boston Tea Party would be considered "terrorists" by British standards at the time--so labels of "terrorist" or not often depend on whether the so-called terrorists are successful in their "liberation efforts."
    • Resistance movement during World War II. Some historicians even claim that resistance in Poland used biological weapons.

Why the title of this page might be misguided:

  • Even very loaded words can be used carefully to achieve npov discussions of controversial topics. See profanity for a perfect example (that I've worked on) of how even touchy words can be used wisely.
  • It is better to discuss how to use words appropriately, rather than to advocate the word not be used at all.


(about Boston Tea Party): What on earth are you talking about?? Did they kill any civilians by any chance? By this logic you'll be calling a pickpocket a terrorist soon. I urge you to show any real evidence to the claim that labels of "terrorist" often depend on whether the terrorists were successful in their efforts. --AV

Attacks on property, without killing or injuring anyone, could still be considered terrorism. Suppose instead of flying planes into the WTC, they had placed a massive bomb in the basement, set up in such a way that it would go off in two days, and no one could possibly remove or disable it without setting it off. They then tell the authorities. The authorities evacuate the WTC and surrounding buildings. The bombs go off two days later, destroying completely the WTC, but no one gets killed or injured, but billions of dollars of economic damage are caused. The terrorists release a communique saying "this is payback for [insert your favourite U.S. misdeed here]". Wouldn't that be terrorism? -- SJK

Wanted ? Here it is: do you know a single person who calls Resistance Movement during WWII "terrorists" ? Taw

Sorry I don't have a hard cite on this, but I seem to recall that the Nazis actually did call the resistance fighters terrorists. The Nazis lost. Therefore we say that the resistance fighters were "freedom fighters" not "terrorists".
Sorry, all wrong. First, we don't call them freedom fighters, we call them resistance fighters. Second, we don't call them terrorists not because they won, but because they weren't. If Nazis called them terrorists (and that is yet to be shown), they were simply wrong. --AV
Sorry again, terrorists are the ones who use terror. Very simple, so why not use that word when it fits?


Since recently, people have disagreed whether a billion is 109 or 1012, and in Spanish, French, Norwegian and German the word still stands for the latter. So it's best to avoid it altogether or at the very least explain it at its first occurance in an article.


Don't write dates in the form 10/1/2001 or 1.10.2001 because it's not clear what the month and the day is. Europe has used DD.MM.YYYY and the US has used MM.DD.YYYY. Some people think it best to spell out the month. (Or one could write in YYYY-MM-DD format -- there can be no chance of confusion, since no one in the world write dates as YYYY-DD-MM -- although writing dates like this isn't currently normal Wikipedia practice.)

Some people think that the preferred date format ought to be YYYY-MM-DD since it is easy to interpret and standardized in ISO_8601 (see http://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-datetime).

Natural number

The main argument against use is that it has two meanings:

  • positive integer
  • non-negative integer

One of them should be explicitely used instead of natural numbers.

What about uses where it does not matter which is chosen? For example, "Aleph-null is the cardinality of the natural numbers" is true regardless of which definition is used. I see no problem with using natural number in those circumstances -- SJK

In Wikipedia, "natural number" unequivocally means "non-negative integer", as the natural number article explains. So if you link to the natural number article, it's clear what you mean. --AxelBoldt