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Rothorpe was created on 19 July 2006, when I typed in my email name only to see it shockingly capitalised—but I quite like it now. I'm a nocturnal retired EFL teacher born in the world's biggest city (well, that was on the 100th of the 50th of the 20th [1]), now living in a very small cidade in Portugal. In 2003, laryngeal cancer killed my voice, causing Harpomarxism.

Having corrected the English of students of many nationalities and handwritings, copyediting is a doddle/aesthetic imperative/primal urge. Many of my edits are difficult to spot in "diffs" as they involve inconspicuous punctuation changes, closing spaces before refs, etc., though I often feel the need to improve a lead (or "lede", from the Greek ληδης). I've also rescued a few good paragraphs discarded in the process of reverting vandalism; it's quite easy to paste from "diffs". And I expunge verbiage.

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Articles I started: Language: Back-chaining, List of artworks known in English by a foreign title; Music: Ace Cannon, Adam Holzman (keyboardist), Bernard van Dieren, Betty Humby Beecham, Carl Perkins (pianist), Cecil Gray (composer), Charlie Parker's Bird Symbols and Bird Is Free, Denis Colin, Dolceola, Dominique Gaumont, Earl-Jean, Ebony Concerto (Stravinsky), Edward Greenfield, Géraldine Laurent, Jay Berliner, Josh MacRae, Lou Johnson, Lou Reed's Live at Montreux 2000, Martin Lovett, Médéric Collignon, Miles Davis's That's What Happened: Live in Germany 1987, New Morning (club), Piltdown Men, Robert Wyatt's Mid-Eighties, Steve Hunter, String-A-Longs, Terry Stafford; Record labels: Dimension, Herald, Palette, Spotlite, Warwick; List of HMV POP artists; Television: BBC-3 (TV series), Gerald Cross, Mezzo TV, Not So Much a Programme More a Way of Life, Ted Lune, Timothy Birdsall; Miscellaneous: Alan Odle, Figueira (Faro), Ivy Compton-Burnett's The Last and the First.

The past perfect, pluperfect and a puzzle[edit]

Today (2017's April Fools' Day, here in Portugal called with excellent literalness Dia das Mentiras, Day of Lies) I corrected an instance where an anonymous editor had changed "had had" to "had" with the edit summary Grammar, Double "had" (sic). This tense, consisting of "had" followed by a past participle (in this case another "had"), and known by EFL teachers as the past perfect, is indeed being less used than previously. In informal speech "I'd looked at it" sounds much like "I looked at it", and of course these days tenses are not being taught formally so much in schools. I first became aware of the past perfect at school when learning Latin, where it is (more elegantly) called the pluperfect, but it's the same thing: I had done something before I did (in the simple and thus more recent past) another thing. This reminded me of a nice puzzle, probably set in the sort of school (called a "grammar") where I did (I won't say learnt, and certainly not learned) Latin and Greek in the sixties:

Punctuation can make sense of this: Smith where Jones had had had had had had had had had had had the examiners approval.

Notes on formatting[edit]

Wikipedia is mostly a static, text medium, so its model should be print, not television or even other websites. Thus, I

  • close unsightly spaces, as, for example, on each side of a stroke/slash/solidus. It's thin and slanted so as to make spaces unnecessary—a space saver, not a space creator, as, for example, between the "Songs"/"On a Record". This ugly, amateurish-looking spacing ( / ) mirrors advertising, TV, website headings, etc., where commas may be felt to be insufficiently eye-catching. The spaced slash in prose is traditionally used only to indicate line breaks when quoting the non-prose of poems and songs. Here, people sometimes use spaces in prose cases that involve items of more than one word on either side of the slash, but these can be separated with a comma, conjunction, or ampersand (&). Nor should there be spaces around an em dash (a spaced em dash is used, for example in tests, to indicate that there is a — missing), or unquoted ellipsis, or en dash in the case of years (1234–1432); spaces are used for clarity between days (1 January 1234 – 31 December 2345). Nor should there be spaces when the hyphen - thus - is being used as a dash – and anyway an en dash—or em—cuts more of a dash.
  • remove bracket clashes in running prose (like switching off accidentally) (and on again, ugh!), which would never be acceptable in a print publication (people are used to seeing them in Wikipedia lists, where they can suggest columns), and replace them, usually with a semicolon (like this; that's better: see Wikipedia:Manual of Style#Brackets and parentheses). (And see PAIS Alliance for a good example of how to format a complex lead.)
  • deplore the foolish practice of changing date formats between so-called American and British. Both styles (day first, month first) are correct in both varieties of English (the Fourth of July, for example) and I never encountered this false distinction in pre-Wikipedian times (though omitting the article in speech—'July fifth'—is distinctly American). Similarly, there is no point in fastidiously standardising the date format throughout an article: it is not a matter of spelling. (But when the year is mentioned I do prefer to put the day first: it's more logical and avoids commas, two of which are needed when there is no other punctuation mark after the year, though you wouldn't think so from a casual glance at Wikipedia—and logical dates go with logical quotes.) A real, and very common, mistake, though, is attempting to balance 'from' with a dash: 'from 1950–2010' means from that period to another, unstated time, but usually the intended meaning is 'from 1950 to 2010'. (A correct usage is: 'Membership jumped from 2,000–2,500 to almost 5,000'.)
  • remove Incorrect or Unnecessary Capital Letters like These. Proper capitalisation is important to distinguish the general from the particular: the Earth goes round the Sun, and if there's too much sun the earth dries out and develops cracks. Fans of different types of music often mistakenly capitalise them, from jazz to jungle, probably because of the names of music charts ("#51 Country", etc.). There are those who capitalise the names of currencies, probably because many of them sound like proper nouns: franc, for example, or mark (though those two have now vacated the scene—almost—in favour of the equally capitalised-sounding euro). Some people seem to capitalise words just because they've never seen or heard them before. Sometimes there are contentious examples: I'm happy to have been on the winning side in the case of trojan moons and asteroids. (Single and singly hyphenated letters are capitalised, however: an X, T-shirt, B-side.) Useful: Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Capital letters#Composition titles.


And then there is the word the in running prose (see WP:THEMUSIC). People wanted to write "The Beatles" with a capital "T" because "The is part of the name". There was a vote, and uncapitalised "the" beat capitalised, but only by 2–1. (Incidentally, thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that the Beatles officially ceased to be Beatles on the day I ceased to be a teenager.) A capital T is necessary when referring to an article, as in "See The Beatles", but what I think was happening is that people were confusing names with titles, e.g. The Great Gatsby. And some people like to use capitals to bombastically entitle their creations ("Welcome to The Rothorpe Page!" Ugh). Titles have the capital, names don't; compare the Brontës, the Stuarts, the Roundheads and the Cavaliers, the Ancient Romans, the Druids, not to mention the Punic Wars or the Troubles. It is not a matter of British and American; here's the Chicago Manual of Style: "When the name of a band requires the definite article, lowercase it in running text." [2] The look of wikilinks is no doubt relevant here: if the second word in the important-looking blue bit has a capital, maybe so should the first. It does look better with "the" outside the link in black, but as can be seen in editing mode, "the Beatles" takes time and effort so would never become common practice. If only there had been a policy to leave out "the" from the page names in the first place; then we could have had "the Beatles" every time (some chance; that one works because it's a redirect).

Locations of locations; hyphens; italics[edit]

Wikilinks also cause people to be careless about punctuation following them, leaving out commas after parentheses, for example, especially after locations of locations, as for example in "A hotel in Mecca, Saudi Arabia collapses". This omission (and its unwikilinked version too, see MOS:COMMA) is particularly common in articles about America(ns); this is presumably because the abbreviated forms of states, as in "London, EN" and "Esposende, PT" (to take two USY examples) are not usually followed by a comma; but for obvious reasons WP doesn't encourage these abbreviations anyway.

Two more things I do to improve legibility: insert compound-attributive-adjective-clarifying hyphens ("four minute mile" is missing one, and "a two year old" is missing two), and normalise meaningless hard-on-the-eye magazine-style chunks of italics.

Wikipedia's most abused words[edit]

  • however—when and where it is too strong (being an adverb, not a conjunction) and needs changing to but, though or whereas (humbler words with fewer syllables). The misuse is usually advertised by the lack of a comma after it: "She likes cats, however she doesn't like dogs" instead of "but she doesn't like dogs". When this "however" is the right word beginning a sentence, a comma will help distinguish it from "However many/often/hard...". Compare "however, it was done" with "however it was done...", the latter meaning "in whatever way it was done".
  • would, especially in music articles, as narrative-style padding instead of the simple past tense: "In June they would release their 94th album". Change to "they released".
  • circa, becoming a bit of a vogue word, as people increasingly find out what c. stands for. It is intended as a space saver in lieu of expressions like "around" and "approximately", especially in tables, captions etc., being neater than any word—including "ca." (pronounced "ka"?), which, Wikipedia's MOS says, is not an acceptable alternative (ça ne va pas). So I change circa to "c." and will continue to do so unless or until it becomes normal usage. (Those who must type out the word can consider choosing a gizmo from the list at Template:Circa.)
  • as, as in "the state declared Rome as its capital" whence I removed it.
  • as of, a placeholder expression that should be changed or removed when information is updated (as of March 2014 => in March 2014; as of today => today).
  • multiple, the latest substitute for "many", and particularly clunky.
  • most well known. Makes me feel most unwell. Best known—and best-known attributives have hyphens.
  • better known as—then put it first!
  • between, as in 'between 1963 and 1964': nothing there. So "in...", or just a parenthesis: "(1963–64)".
  • notoriety is notability, yes, but always for bad deeds: a notorious criminal, yes; a notorious dwarf planet, no. A synonym of notoriety, if somewhat further along the evil scale, is infamy. No one seems to think "infamous" means "not famous", at least not when it's not written down, perhaps because it's pronounced so differently (*fâyməs; *ínfəməs, echoing *ínfəmy—see below for pronunciation key).

AB or CDE?[edit]

Do not use BCE for BC. BCE means Before the Common Era, though I forgive myself for always thinking it means Before the Christian Era, just a new-fangled and long-winded way of saying Before Christ—BC, which is agreeably shorter. And the opposite of BC is AD, not CE. AD is often said to stand for Anno Domini, which is Latin for "in the Year of our Lord", but actually it means After Doomsday, referring to the year 0, which the people who lived in the BC era dreaded—the end of the world—whereas instead, of course, along came Jesus, and they all lived happily ever after.

Webstr's unfinisht legacy[edit]

I try not to worry too much about American spelling in a British context and vice versa. The trouble with Noah (the man with the US dictionry, sorry, U.S. dictionerry) is he didn't go far enough, and American spelling remains just as daft as British. (And punctuation just daft.)

The Pedia and the Pendium[edit]

Citizendium is a wiki that is not free to edit—you have to apply. Thus vandal-less, it aspires to be a reliable alternative to Wikipedia. It may achieve this goal before the end of the century but it is still quite small. It does however have my complete set of articles on English spelling and pronunciation, using the actual spelling instead of the International Phonetic Alphabet, and including a word list in retroalphabetical order. I invented this system: sát, mâde, pàrk, cāst, åll, ãir; sét, mê, vèin, fërn; sít, mîne, skì, bïrd; sóng, môde, moôn, lòve, foòt, wörd, ŏr (alas there is no o symbol with a ring to correspond to å); sún, mûse, fùll, pürr; neŵ, ẁant; gým, mŷ, keỳ, mÿrrh.

British pronunciations under threat: ámateur (-tə, AmE -chr), hárass (AmE haráss), prívacy (AmE prîvacy, cf. prîvate), resëarch (AmE rêsearch); word under threat: queûe, pronounced like cûe, meaning (to be part of) a line of waiting people (often with úp: Wê hâte queûing úp).

I have my own idiolectical pronunciations of some astronomical objects, the result of reading astronomy books during my only-childhood in the 1950s, and I thought it might be interesting to list some of them here (compare notes?). Some I have dropped: I blame my usually very literate father (1917–2002) for *Rìgel (like Rêgal, perhaps influenced by the cinema chain)—I eventually learnt to say Rîgel, rhyming with Nîgel. *Spìca (= BrE spêaker), though, was my fault, and now I conform and say Spîca (= BrE spîker). (But I still read sèguè *sâygwây as "sêeg".)

This is of course an optional system for learning and I am not suggesting universally putting accents on traditional spellings. The lack of them is one of the few things that learners like about English orthography, but this advantage is perpetually being undermined, witness the now almost universal tendency to retain the acute accent on the final e of various French imports. (It is perhaps the only arguably useful one as it distinguishes from the usual silent final e. But if you have one on emigré, which itself traduces the French émigré, shouldn’t there be a different one on epitome and Penelope?) And there are always writers who, without having the courtesy to consult us, insist on importing diacritics that in English are mere decoration, if that is not too polite a word, such as the pointless macron sometimes found on Māori (while absent from the identically pronounced syllable that is the non-Maori Mao).


  • I'm in favour of trivia sections
  • People will add their pet facts
  • Reverting them feels cruel, integrating them feels foolish
  • Apartheid for trivia is the best policy

"The batsman's holding the bowler's willy"[edit]

When Brian Johnston said it on BBC radio's Test Match Special, I was watching television with the sound turned down, as one did, and, while the commentators giggled uncontrollably, I thought that much more often Holding would be bowling to Willey, fast bowler to all-rounder. It didn't occur to me that history would rewrite it, with Johnston himself reversing them in his autobiography, apparently, and others even claiming the story was apocryphal.

So, when the sources are unreliable, Wikipedia doesn't stand a chance.

Nocturnal links[edit]

Cornflower blue Yogo sapphire.jpg

Thank you for your great copyediting, spontaneous, thorough, engaged, evaluating alternatives, to the point, - you are an awesome Wikipedian!

--Gerda Arendt (talk) 09:02, 24 March 2012 (UTC)

Three years ago, you were the 70th recipient of my PumpkinSky Prize, --Gerda Arendt (talk) 08:29, 24 March 2015 (UTC)

Tireless Contributor Barnstar Hires.gif The Tireless Contributor Barnstar
To my dear teacher Rothorpe. Whilst flicking through your user page, I was horrified to see that I have never given you a star, especially when I think of the many times you have helped me and my FAC's, such as here. Thank you for all you do and for correcting my many mistakes. Cassiantotalk 11:28, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
Random Acts of Kindness Barnstar.png The Random Acts of Kindness Barnstar
Being in a good mood and feeling the urge to do something nice, I give you this barnstar that you earned every day w/o ever losing your temper like I and most editors have done on a regular basis. You always behave like an angel and I don't know how you do it in this crazy environment.TMCk (talk) 02:33, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
Copyeditor Barnstar Hires.png The Copyeditor's Barnstar
Many, many thanks for your constant work on Terry-Thomas. Both Cassianto and I are extremely grateful for your diligent attention! All the best - SchroCat (talk) 15:25, 8 July 2013 (UTC)
Copyeditor Barnstar Hires.png The Copyeditor's Barnstar
For making Death of Jacintha Saldanha more readable. Thank you. Rayabhari (talk) 04:06, 16 December 2012 (UTC)
Civility Barnstar Hires.png the Civility Barnstar
For sticking it through during a long and tedious mediation while never losing your cool and remaining civil to all. Well done! ~ GabeMc (talk|contribs) 00:53, 3 November 2012 (UTC)
Original Barnstar Hires.png the Original Barnstar
Thanks for your help at Pink Floyd. It was promoted to FA today! ~ GabeMc (talk|contribs) 21:41, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Original Barnstar Hires.png The Original Barnstar
For the hilarious comment in your edit summary at Odeon Records‎. Thanks for the fix. 78.26 (talk) 01:28, 30 August 2012 (UTC)
mm/dd/yyThis user hates the mm/dd/yy date format and finds it illogical.

'Hates' is a little strong, but the fiddly comma separating the two numbers is neatly avoided by putting the month there instead.

US vs. UK
This user uses "logical quotation marks". Forcing internal punctuation leads to factual errors. It's not a nationalistic style issue!
Team Barnstar Hires.png The Teamwork Barnstar
Thanks Rothorpe! You assisted in various ways on the Paul McCartney FAC. Thank you! Without your help and support McCartney would not be a FA today! ~ GabeMc (talk|contribs) 21:28, 9 July 2012 (UTC)
Copyeditor Barnstar Hires.png The Copyeditor's Barnstar
Thank you so much for your continuous copyedits to Murder of Selena. It is really appreciated! Warm wishes, Jonayo! Selena 4 ever 22:26, 11 May 2012 (UTC)
Openstreetmap logo.svgThis user contributes to OpenStreetMap.
Ahalya crop.jpg Ahalya says Thanks
Thanks for helping the article improve to FA standards by your copyedit ! --Redtigerxyz Talk 17:42, 17 April 2012 (UTC)
Cornflower blue Yogo sapphire.jpg copyediting
Thank you for your great copyediting, spontaneous, thorough, engaged, evaluating alternatives, to the point, --Gerda Arendt (talk) 09:02, 24 March 2012 (UTC)
Ukraine Barnstar.png Ukraine Barnstar
I give you this Ukraine Barnstar for copy editing Family of Yulia Tymoshenko! Editors who perform these tasks should be more appreciated in Wikipedia I do believe!
Yulia Romero • Talk to me! 19:55, 24 February 2012 (UTC)
I hereby award this barnstar for your relentless silent work behind the lines to improve Wikipedia. The Magnificent Clean-keeper (talk) 22:16, 29 May 2010 (UTC)
CopyeditorStar7.PNG The Copyeditor's Barnstar
I am delighted to award you this Barnstar for consistent attention to detail. TerriersFan (talk) 21:31, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
nv-0Díí choyoołʼįįhí Diné Bizaad doo bił bééhózin da.
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Working Wikimedian's Barnstar.png The Working Man's Barnstar
For your immediate willingness to help improving the English language of articles and your valuable copyediting work. JCAla (talk) 08:32, 5 January 2012 (UTC)
This user is a member of the Association of Inclusionist Wikipedians.

The motto of the AIW is conservata veritate, which translates to "with the preserved truth".
This motto reflects the inclusionist desire to change Wikipedia only when no knowledge would be lost as a result.

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