Wikipedia:Make technical articles understandable

From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The content in Simple English Wikipedia articles should be written as understandable as possible for the regular public.

When adding content and making new articles, an encyclopedic style in a formal tone is important. The content in articles should be in a straight-forward, only-facts way instead of having essay-like writing, arguing, or bias. Every reasonable attempt should be made to make sure that content is shown in the most easy to read and understand way. Editors should edit the article if the content has a more clearer explanation.

Wikipedia has many readers who can be graded in three ways:

  • How familiar they are with the topic
    • The regular reader has no high-level schooling in the topic. They do not understand the topic well. They may also be unsure what the topic is.
    • The knowing reader had schooling in the topic but wants to learn more about it.
    • The reader who is a master of the topic may want to learn more or remember a fact or is interested about Wikipedia's understanding and writing of the topic.
  • On reading ability. Many free online tools can show how understandable a text is. They may also mark complex sentence structures, like (automated pointer to how easy a text can be to read) or (Flesch reading ease).
  • By motivation to learn about the topic.

An educated, smart, motivated reader may be able to read a 5,000-word very good article. Another reader may not be able to do that easily and might look at the pictures. A good article grabs the interest of all readers and lets them learn about the subject as much they can and want to. An article may fail because it is written in a very technical way that a normal reader cannot understand. Or it guesses that the reader knows the topic or field. Or covers the topic without completing the article.

While a user of any group might find an article and choose to read it (For example, clicking Show any page), some subjects easily interest a smaller public. A topic that needs many years of special education or training before being studied or talked about is likely to have a smaller public that is interested. For example, a topic in difficult mathematics, specialist law, or industrial engineering may have content that only smart readers can like or understand. But, many subjects studied at a harder level remain interesting to a bigger public. For example, the Sun can be interesting to more than just astronomers and Alzheimer's disease might interest more than just physicians (doctors).

Most Simple English Wikipedia articles can be written to be fully understandable by the average reader with average reading ability and motivation. Some articles are technical in nature or have technical sections or aspects. These sections can still be written to be understandable to the general public. Some topics are naturally very complex or require much prior knowledge from specialized education or training. It is not reasonable to expect that a finished article on such subjects are understandable to all readers. Effort should still be made to make the article as understandable to many as possible. There should be particular focus on the lead section. The article should be written simply enough that people who aren't experts can still understand the article properly.

Help with technical content[change source]

Simple English and other Wikipedia's strive to be a reference resource. Highly technical subject matter do belong in some Wikipedia articles. Increasing the understandability of technical content is supposed to be an improvement to the article for the benefit of those who are less knowledgeable. This should be done without reducing the value of the content to readers with a more technical background.

Making articles more understandable does not mean that detailed content should be removed. For example, an article about a chemical compound is expected to have properties of the compound, even if they are confusing to a regular reader. But summarizing highly technical articles often can make the text easier to red for regular readers and experts alike. For example, a long mathematical proof of some result is not likely to be read by regular readers or experts. But, a short summary of the proof and its important points may give a regular reader an idea of the text, without reducing the usefulness to an expert reader. When trying to decide how much technical detail is allowed to include, it may be helpful to compare with a standard reference work in the field in which the subject of the article belongs.

Lead section[change source]

It is particularly important for the first section (the "lead" section) to be understandable to as many readers as possible. Readers need to be able to tell what the article is about and if they are reading the correct article. Even if they don't know the topic at all. Those who are only looking for a summary or definition may stop reading at the end of the lead section. An understandable lead makes readers want to continue reading into the body of the article.