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RationalMedia Foundation (RMF)

Here at RationalWiki, we are not perfect. Well, I is perfect, but most of we am not. Very often new articles are created which feature the same mistakes. Be on the lookout for your own and other's mistakes — sometimes we have serious refuting to be doing, and simple mistakes often make otherwise sound arguments seem childish.

Riting gud Inglish[edit]

Complete Sentences[edit]

  • Always write in complete sentences. Remember, a complete sentence must have a verb, and a prepositional phrase cannot be a sentence.
  • A common mistake is making the first sentence of articles a fragment. If your article is "Goat," don't start your article with the phrase: An awesome animal. Rather, start with the phrase: The goat is an awesome animal. Even though it might not be true. Which has the additional advantage of being absolutely true.<-- fragment !
  • Lists and bullet points are an exception to the complete sentence rule, though it doesn't hurt.

Periods (Full stops to Brits)[edit]

  • End every sentence with a period (common sense, neh?).
(Unless a "?" or a "!" is appropriate of course. This is called punctuation.)
(In texting, periods can make short messages seem insincere,[1] or abrupt and negative.[2] We're not texting here.)
  • A frequent mistake is forgetting periods at the the end of paragraphs or sentences that end with references.
  • As a general rule, periods go before references. (Remember this by thinking how bizarre it would look to have about 5 reference numbers before the punctuation[3][3][3][3][3].)
  • Whether the final quote mark (") goes before or after periods or commas is dependent on American English or British English. Generally the best approach is to go with whatever version makes sense in terms of the quote's content: See Wikipedia's article on quotes (and WP's own style guide) here.

The Dreaded Apostrophe[edit]

Easy to use if you apply a few simple rules:


  • The apostrophe always replaces the letter or letters which have been removed.[4] However, in formal writing contractions (e.g. can't; won't) should be avoided like the plague (as should clichés).
  • It's means "it is" or "it has" (a contraction), not "belonging to it" (a possessive).

Possession (non-demonic)[edit]

  • For singular nouns "'s" is added to the noun (e.g. the dog's balls). For plural possession, the noun must always be made plural first, then the apostrophe follows immediately after (e.g. the dogs' balls). Where nouns end in an "s" or a "z" sound, it is preferred, although not required, to have the second "s" added in possessive form. (e.g. the Jones's car - but the Jones' car is also acceptable).
  • When more than one person is being discussed, only use the 's after the second name, if the people possess the same item. (e.g. John and Sarah's house). But note that both Peter's and Mary's cars are broken.
  • Never use an apostrophe with the possessive pronouns (his, hers, theirs, etc) - it's never "his's book".
  • It's means "it is" (a contraction). The possessive form of it is its without an apostrophe. (His, hers, and its all follow this pattern.) So it's not "the dog chased it's tail"' but "the dog chased its tail".

Plurals (>_<)[edit]

  • Apostrophes must never be used to pluralise anything. These "greengrocer's apostrophes" can make some people very very angry. An apostrophe does not mean "Beware of oncoming 's'!"
  • For example, apostrophes are not to be used for the plural of a proper noun (e.g. the Smiths are coming round, not the Smith's).
  • Numbers, years and abbreviations must still be pluralised without an apostrophe. Formations like 60's, 2000's, under 21's, DVD's, etc. are becoming alarmingly common, but this doesn't stop them being thoroughly incorrect. As with most other nouns, all they require to be plural is an "s" (60s, 2000s, under 21s, DVDs, etc.).


  • English is not German. You should not capitalize all N nouns and their M modifiers, even when Y you think Y you should. You should just capitalize P proper N nouns, such as j John s Smith.
  • Capital letters should be used at the start of sentences, and for proper nouns such as the names of people, books, countries and companies.
  • The name of months, days of the week and festivals, such as May, Sunday, Kwanzaa, Hogmanay.
  • When writing about God, or one of His manifestations, it's traditional (at least among believers) to capitalize relevant pronouns such as He or Him. Nevertheless, this is by no means mandatory, and might well irritate some of our skeptical readers.[5]


  • Book and movie titles are usually italicized in most style guides. Two single apostrophes before and after the word or phrase will accomplish this in MediaWiki. Hence, ''Crime and Punishment'' will appear as Crime and Punishment (NB not one double quote mark at each side). If writing about music, album titles are italicised, song titles are not (e.g.: "Thriller" is the final track on Thriller).
  • Italics may also be used for emphasis or for foreign words, technical jargon, etc. Bold (three apostrophes) is usually only used to highlight the subject of the article in the opening lines.


  • RationalWiki does not have a built in spell checker. Try using a browser that does.
  • Most modern web browsers come equipped with spellcheckers, although that can still lead to "spellchecker typos" - picking the wrong word out of the suggested list.
  • If you write your article or edit in a word processor or similar editor program, you can, and should, use the spellchecker before copy/pasting.
  • Please try to proofread your own work — or at least, ping someone you trust to do it for you.
  • If you're not sure how to spell a certain word, look it up. Don't just insert it, hope you're right, and wait for another user to fix your mistake.
  • We are a multicultural bunch here, so there is no preference for Commonwealth or American English spellings. Generally speaking, articles should reflect the spelling of the nationality of the subject. Where this is not relevant then please adhere to the precedents on the page.

Past participle, neglected[edit]

  • Whenever you write "well know" instead of "well known" the FSM drowns a kitten in marinara sauce.[6]
  • Same goes for a puppy when you use "proved" like an adjective.

Those deadly homonymous[7] contractions[edit]

Their, there, and they're

  • Their is a possessive pronoun. For instance, "this is their goat."
  • There is a location. For instance, "put the goat there".
  • They're is a contraction of they are. For instance, "they're obsessed with goats".

Its and it's

  • Its is a possessive pronoun. For instance, "this is its goat". It works the same way as his; you wouldn't write "this is hi's goat" - at least, we hope you wouldn't. (This confusion may arise because 's is used to indicate the possessive of proper nouns and of "one" as shown below.)
  • It's is a contraction of it is or it has. For instance, "it's annoying reading all these goat references" or "it's been years since I last saw you."

Two, too and to

  • Two is the second number. E.g. there are two goats.
  • Too means "also" or "in addition" (I like goats too!). It also denotes excess. (You take your love of goats too far!)
  • To is somewhere you go. (I'm going to milk the goats.)

Ones and one's

  • Ones is the plural of one. For instance; "Put the black goats over there, and the white ones over here."
  • One's is the possessive form of one, when one is used as a vague generalization. For instance, "one's user page is one's castle".
  • One's can also be part of one's self, a fancy way of saying oneself.
  • One's can also be a contraction of "one is". For instance, "most of the goats died, but one's still alive".

Your and you're

  • Your is a possessive pronoun. For instance, "this is your goat".
  • You're is a contraction of you are. For instance, "you're a goataholic".

Whose and who's

  • Whose is a possessive pronoun. For instance, "whose goat is this?"
  • Who's is a contraction of "who is" or "who has". For instance, "who's adding all these goat references?" One exception is where Who is used as a proper name rather than a pronoun, so we might listen to The Who's music or watch Doctor Who's adventures on television.

Sum uther kommun homonymz[edit]

  • arc - portion of a circle / ark - sea vessel
  • auger - drill / augur - to foretell
  • bated - moderated, restrained, suspended / baited - set with bait; it is mostly the phrase "with bated breath" which is spelled wrongly.
  • capital - money, most important, pertaining to the head, or involving the death penalty / capitol - seat of government
  • desert - sandy place / dessert - sweet course at the end of a meal (To keep it straight, just remember you want more dessert, so it needs two 's'. Note that desert can be an old-fashioned word for something which is deserved, so the phrase is just deserts as in what he deserved.)
  • cite - to refer to / sight - vision / site - location
  • discrete - separate / discreet - good at keeping secrets, prudent, cautious
  • ordinance - a law at the municipal level / ordnance - military hardware of the shooty or explody kind
  • populace - collective noun: a mass of people / populous adjective: having lots of people
  • principal - head of an institution or the main whatever / principle - rule or standard
A rein is a strap connecting the corner of a horse's mouth to the rider's hand(s)
  • rain - wet stuff from the sky / reign - authority over others / rein - means of restraint (These three are all both nouns and verbs, but note that someone is given free rein to do their own thing (as in letting a horse gallop) and not free reign to rule everyone, despite some theocrats' misconceptions.)
  • trawl - literally, to drag a net; figuratively, to search exhaustively / troll - dear God do not confuse these two!!

Zpeelinge misteaks[edit]

  • When something is mislaid we lose it; when something is not secure it is loose.
  • The past-participle of to lead is indeed spelt led. This is due to confusion with to read and read. (The infinitive rhymes with "reed", the past participle rhymes with "red".)
  • Remember: "i before e except after c", unless your spellchecker disagrees. Anyway, i isn't even real, e is transcendental,[8] and c is the speed of light. Why should they obey silly grammarians when they occur in words?[9][10]
  • "Know" means "to be aware of something"; "Now" means "at this very moment".
  • Materials that give off a different wavelength of light when stimulated by other EM radiation are not "flourescent" or "fluroescent" but fluorescent.
  • There is no such thing as an alot, though you might have a lot of 'alots' if there were such a thing.[11]


If you affect something, you have an effect on it.

Affect is almost always a verb meaning to modify something:

Hitting a goat will affect it negatively (and shortly thereafter, yourself).

In medical terms, it is a noun meaning the external presentation of a patient's mood or emotional state.

Depressed individuals often display a flat affect.

Effect is usually a noun meaning the result of some action:

The effect of hitting a goat can be painful for the hitter as well as for the goat.

Occasionally effect is a verb meaning to make something happen:

The electorate were able to effect a change of policy.

Relative time[edit]

If you use a relative time reference, such as "recently", "yesterday" or "an hour from now" etc. then please insert the actual time and/or date. Remember your edit might still be there in a year & no-one will be able to reference the time. If you're going to sign (~~~~ on talk or debate pages), there is no need for other dating as the signature will automatically include the full date.

Breaking Rules[edit]

The above are NOT hard and fast rules. There are occasions when you might want to break them for a particular effect. If you do you can put an invisible comment (using: <!-- comment -->) after the "error" to ensure that people get that it's a joke if they don't get it the first time.

External links[edit]


  1. "Text messages that end in a period seen as less sincere, study finds" (Binghamton University),, Dec. 8, 2015
  2. "Ending a text with a period not only seems less sincere — it makes you seem more negative, too", PsyPost, Nov. 16, 2017
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Like this.
  4. The weird-looking won't looks like it won't play along with that rule, but in fact it comes from 1580s wonnot, from earlier wynnot. (Won't at Online Etymology Dictionary by Douglas Harper, retrieved 2016-Dec-20)
  5. Atheists "have a rule, the 'he' is always lowercase, the 'he' is always lowercase." (Steve Martin, "Atheists Don't Have No Songs" (YouTube))
  6. (presumably found near the "Can Vegetables" sections of many supermarkets)
  7. Homonyms are words that sound the same but have different spellings.
  8. i to e: "Be rational!" e to i: "Get real!"
  9. ...except where it is just weird of course. However, being atheistic (as we do not make obeisance to any omniscient deity) scientists we might deign to abseil from the height of our ivory towers and in our leisure-time find sufficient, perhaps even a surfeit, of examples, to put our weight behind unveiling a specie of exceptions such as "freight". We might even be inveigled by a prescient financier (for the forfeit of just a few ancient gold sovereigns) to seize the chance of forgoing our caffeine and protein (mainly cheesy casein) diet, so long as we are given free reign rein to formulate efficient policies which either highlight heinous counterfeit examples (such as "reading Mein Kampf with a stein of lager and a chicken chow-mein while considering the leitmotif of Rottweilers running through the edelweiss on the Eiger") or present a prima facie case to reject the spontaneity of the Society of Sheiks feigning a plebeian interest in the eight beige heifers of their feisty foreign neighbours' from Madeira. So if you are neither canoeing round a weir, peeing on the concierge of a hacienda nor sleighing down a glacier, and are still bewildered by the lunacies of English spelling outlined herein try visiting Eire and check out the intricacies of Irish spelling. If we were more proficient we might, in good conscience, be able to continue in a similar vein but we're far more interested in the eighteen sheilas and eighty geisha heiresses in their eiderdown jackets next door. Yeah, basically there are more exceptions to this rule than adherent cases...
  10. " of those weird and ancient rules / to which beige obeisance gets paid / when you're at school"; from "Heinous Deficiencies: A Statement from the Decaffeinated Protein Surveillance Society (Atheist Branch)" by Brian Bilston (May 15, 2023).
  11. It's worth your time to visit the alot. Allie Brosh turned an annoyance into an amusement: "The Alot is Better Than You at Everything" (Hyperbole and a Half)