Wikipedia:Principle of Some Astonishment

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Principle of Some Astonishment[edit]

Can we get you on Mastermind, Sybil? "Next contestant, Sybil Fawlty from Torquay; specialist subject: the bleedin' obvious! "

A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.

William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style (1918)

In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigour it will give your style.

Sydney Smith [2]

Most first drafts can be cut by 50% without losing any information .... Look for clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly. Be grateful for everything you can throw away .... Writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it that shouldn't be there.

William Zinsser, On Writing Well

Most first drafts can be halved without losing information .... Mercilessly prune clutter from your writing; be grateful for all you can throw away .... Writing improves as more unnecessary things are kept out.

— If Zinsser followed his own advice

Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars (tr. Lewis Galantière)

I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.

Blaise Pascal, Lettres provinciales no. 16 (1657)

Some writers tend to overuse quotations.

Somebody or other

I don't mind yet another epigraph.

— Vladimir Shinkarev, Papuas from Honduras

duh. DUH. DUH!

EEng hard-ass copyediting

Portions of this page are best viewed in desktop.

Sometimes editors clutter their prose with pedestrian details that the reader likely already knows or would naturally assume. Rather than informing readers, this wastes their time and dulls their attention. The following are examples of articles belaboring the routine and obvious, at times painfully:

You mean the game pieces can be stored for later use? I'm astonished!
In the article Pick-up sticks:
Each piece in the game also has a point value, with more challenging pieces being worth more. At the end of play, points are tallied up and the pieces can be thrown again or stored in a container for another use.
Comment: Of course we can either play again or put the game away "in a container". (If the rules called for players to burn the game pieces or use them to commit ritual suicide, THAT would be worth mentioning.)

In the article Notre-Dame de Paris fire:
Some lead joints in stained glass windows melted in the heat of the fire.
Comment: DUH.

In the (ahem) Featured Article Halifax explosion:
An area of over 160 hectares (400 acres) was completely destroyed by the explosion ... Stoves and lamps overturned by the force of the blast sparked fires throughout Halifax, particularly in the North End, where entire city blocks were caught up in the inferno, trapping residents inside their houses.
Comment: Double DUH. (The prosecutor is requesting sentence enhancement for use of the word inferno.)

In the article Live-line working:
Electricity is hazardous
Comment: Shocking.

In the article Joe Biden:
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. is an American politician and the president-elect of the United States.
Comment:                                                                                                         A stylized head with eyes rolling up

In the article San Francisco Zoo tiger attacks:
They created a distraction which caused the tiger to turn towards the officers, who shot and killed it. After the shooting, officials removed Tatiana's head, paws, tail and gastric contents for examination.
Comment: Removing the tiger's head before shooting it, assuming you could somehow manage that, would presumably have rendered the shooting superfluous.

In the article US Airways Flight 1549:
The weather recorded at 2:51 p.m. was 10 miles visibility with broken clouds at 3,700 feet, wind 8 knots from 290°, temperature -6° C.
Comment: Of course it was recorded, otherwise how would we know it?
Sullenberger asked if they could attempt an emergency landing in New Jersey, mentioning Teterboro Airport ... air traffic controllers quickly contacted Teterboro and gained permission for a landing on Runway 1.
Comment: The word quickly is superfluous, because our readers' innate cunning will inform them that controllers generally act with dispatch in such situations. (Had they instead been lackadaisical, THAT would be worth mentioning.)
However, Sullenberger told controllers that "We can't do it," and "We're gonna be in the Hudson," signaling his intention to bring the plane down on the Hudson River because he was too low to glide to any airport.
Comment: The part from "signalling his intention ..." on is probably unnecessary, because our readers aren't mentally defective. They will conclude without being told that when Sullenberger said "We can't do it ... We're gonna be in the Hudson", he's hinting that (a) he's going to land on the Hudson and (b) he's taking this unconventional step because more orthodox landing sites are out of reach. (Had he instead done it because he wanted a bath, THAT would be worth mentioning.)
Immediately after the A320 had been ditched, Sullenberger opened the cockpit door and gave the "evacuate" order.
Comment: The immediately bit seems unnecessary. (Had the captain made a cup of tea before ordering "Evacuate!", THAT would be worth mentioning.)
The first fire chief on scene transmitted a "10-60" to confirm a major emergency.
Comment: If the fire chief, seeing people crowded onto the wings of a sinking airliner, had radioed, "False alarm – no big deal", THAT would be worth mentioning.

In List of American Airlines accidents and incidents:
October 28, 2016: American Airlines Flight 383, a Boeing 767-300ER flying from Chicago to Miami, was accelerating for takeoff when the right engine failed and erupted in flames caught fire.
Comment: You don't have to be a pilot to know that an engine in flames has failed.
The crew aborted the takeoff and initiated an emergency evacuation.
Comment: They didn't evacuate in mid-air? You amaze me!

In the article Continental Airlines Flight 11:
Although airline policy is that once the doors are closed they are not to be reopened, the doors were reopened and Doty was allowed to board.
Comment: But if necessary he could have clawed his way through the fuselage.
Of the 45 individuals on board, 44 were dead when rescuers reached the crash site. One passenger, a 27-year-old man from Evanston, Illinois, was alive when rescuers found him in the wreckage, but he died of internal injuries at Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital in Centerville, Iowa, an hour and a half after being rescued.
Comment: So he didn't die twice, then.

In the article Charles Whitman:
Whitman was reportedly the youngest person in the world ever to become an Eagle Scout at that time.
Comment: Are people becoming Eagle Scouts elsewhere than "in the world"? Perhaps on Mars? (See also [3] and [4].)

In the article University of California, Berkeley:
UC Berkeley researchers along with Berkeley Lab have discovered or co-discovered 16 chemical elements of the periodic table – more than any other university in the world.
Comment: See prior item.

In the article Club of Rome:
The Club of Rome raised considerable public attention with its report Limits to Growth, which has sold 30 million copies in more than 30 translations, making it the best-selling environmental book in world history.
Comment: I think you see where I'm going with this.

In some proposed text for the article Apollo 11:
On July 23, the last night before splashdown on Earth, the three astronauts made a television broadcast
Comment: Ditto.

In the article Saving Private Ryan:
In Washington, D.C, General George Marshall is informed that three of the four Ryan brothers have been killed within the last week, and that their mother is about to be notified of their deaths.
Comment: Lest readers imagine they were notifying her that she'd won the Pillsbury Bake-Off.

Caution: May contain shepherds.
Caution: May contain babies.
Caution: May contain oranges.
In the article Citrus juice:
The most commonly consumed type of citrus juice is orange juice, which as the name implies, is extracted from oranges.
Comment: But then baby powder isn't extracted from babies, I suppose.

In the article Stone's representation theorem for Boolean algebras:
The theorem was first proved by Marshall H. Stone (1936), and thus named in his honor.
Comment: And here I thought it was proved by Marshall H. Stone but named for some other Stone.

New York City
City of New York
Clockwise, from top: Midtown Manhattan, Times Square, the Unisphere, the Brooklyn Bridge, Lower Manhattan with One World Trade Center, Central Park, the headquarters of the United Nations, and the Statue of Liberty
Multiple choice: In what article does the infobox at right appear?
(A) New York State
(B) New York County
(C) New York CITY <== hint
(D) New York University

In the article Glenn Miller:
On December 15, 1944, Miller was to fly from the United Kingdom to Paris, France, to make arrangements to move his band there.
Comment: So not Paris, Texas.

In the article Irish Boundary Commission:
The Irish Boundary Commission was a commission which met in 1924–25 to decide on the precise delineation of the border between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland.
Comment: So ... the commission was a commission?

In the article Oliver Cromwell's head:
Oliver Cromwell's head is the head of Oliver Cromwell.
Comment: Just kill me now. I mean it. What kind of world is this?

In the article National Archives of Belize:
The National Archives of Belize are the national archives of Belize. They are located in Belmopan.
Comment: No really, here's a gun. Just do it.

In the article Pete Maravich:
On June 27, 2014, Governor Bobby Jindal proposed that LSU erect a statue of Maravich outside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, which already bore the basketball star's name.
Comment: Seriously, take the safety off and pull the trigger. Give me an extra shot for linking [[Governor of Louisiana|Governor]] while you're at it.

In the article Dickie Moore (actor):
In 1935, he played the historical role of Joseph Meister in The Story of Louis Pasteur about the life of scientist Louis Pasteur.
Comment: You refuse? Fine, I'll do it myself.
In the article Islam in Sweden:
Islam in Sweden is the practice of Islam in Sweden, as well as historical ties between Sweden and the Islamic world. Viking contact with Islam dates back to the 7th–10th centuries, when the Vikings traded with Muslims during the Islamic Golden Age.
Comment: Stand back, here it goes...
In the article The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in North Dakota:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in North Dakota refers to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and its members in North Dakota. The church's held its first congregation in North Dakota was organized in 1919.
Comment: Goodbye, Wikipedia!

In the article Donald Trump:
He signed tax cut legislation which cut tax rates for individuals and businesses.
Comment: A sax player who plays saxes, a fax machine that sends faxes, a tax cut that cuts taxes. (Just whose taxes is another question.)

In the article Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry:
The Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry is a society devoted to the history of alchemy and chemistry. The Society was founded as the Society for the Study of Alchemy and Early Chemistry in 1935.
Comment: Surprise!

In the article Hardcore Henry:
After she replaces a missing arm and leg with hi-tech cybernetic prostheses, mercenaries led by the psychokinetic Akan raid the ship.
Comment: Are there low-tech cybernetic prostheses?

In the article Bunk bed:
The bunk or bunks above the lowest one may have rails to keep the user from rolling out and falling to the floor while sleeping.
Comment: For those innocent of the workings of gravity.

In the article 1257 Samalas eruption:
Very large volcanic eruptions can cause destruction close to the volcano ...
Comment: For those innocent of the workings of volcanoes. (This is the least of what's wrong with this passage. Follow the link – if you dare!)

In the article Truth or Consequences, New Mexico:
Hot Springs officially changed its name on March 31, 1950, and the program was broadcast from there the following evening, April 1
Comment: For those innocent of the workings of the calendar.

In the article Svalbard:
The islands were first used as a whaling base by whalers who sailed far north in pursuit of whales in the 17th and 18th centuries, after which they were abandoned.
Comment: For those innocent of the workings of whaling.

In the article Ted Fujita:
Ted Fujita died in his Chicago home on November 19, 1998.[1] After his death, tThe American Meteorological Society (AMS) held the "Symposium on The Mystery of Severe Storms: A Tribute to the Work of T. Theodore Fujita" during its 80th Annual Meeting in January 2000
Comment: For those innocent of the workings of millenia (see Truth and Consequences item).

In the article Battle of Tali-Ihantala:
On June 28, air activity was high on both sides as Finnish bombers and German Stukas pounded the Soviet formations. The Soviet Air Force also attacked from the air and hit the staff of the Finnish Armored Division hard with bombers from the Soviet 276th Bomber Division. and the Soviet 276th Bomber Division hit the Finnish troops hard.
Comment: These bombers attacked from the air, you say?

On the dabpage Horváth
The surname "Horvat", without the "h" still exists and is the most common surname in Croatia or the Croatian diaspora.
Comment: Hear them down in Soho Square ...

In the article Chloe:
Chloe (also Chloë, Chloé) is a feminine name for girls.
Comment: There really should be more feminine names for boys and masculine names for girls.

In the article Henry Riggs Rathbone:
Rathbone successfully graduated from Phillips Academy in 1888, from Yale University in 1892, and from the Law Department at the University of Wisconsin in 1894.
Comment: Graduations are usually successful (except of course a graduation from Yale, which by definition is the first in a lifelong string of degradations).

In the article Stokes Croft:
Stokes Croft is the name of a road in Bristol, England.
Comment: An earlier version read Stokes Croft is what the name of a road in Bristol, England is called.

In the article Beaumaris:
Here is an image of the front houses of Beaumaris.
Comment: Ceci n'est pas une maison. Or, if you prefer, Nid tŷ mo hwn. Nos da.

In the article The St Andrews Railway:
Dismantled viaduct over the River Eden. This photograph was from a similar position to the first photograph
Comment: If the viaduct had been sold to an unsuspecting American, that would have been worth mentioning.

In the article Distomo:
The aluminum producing company Aluminium of Greece has its production facilities in the coastal village Agios Nikolaos.
Comment: Ha! Obviously these people don't know the difference between aluminum and aluminium.

In the article Caribou, Maine:
The Caribou Public Library is a Carnegie library. Designed in the Romanesque Revival style by local architect Schuyler C. Page, it was built in 1911-1912 with a $10,000 grant from industrialist Andrew Carnegie.
Comment: Is there a Carnegie library that Andrew Carnegie did not finance? Or was there some other heretofore unknown Carnegie financing American libraries with whom he might be confused?

In the article Alice Herz-Sommer:
She lived for 40 years in Israel, before migrating to London in 1986, where she resided until her death, and at the age of 110 was the world's oldest known Holocaust survivor until Yisrael Kristal was recognized as such. Kristal was also a Holocaust survivor, and was born two months before Herz-Sommer.
Comment: For readers with short-term memory deficits.

Working out 10+3
In the article Turpin case:
From 1988 to 2015, they had 13 children total; ten daughters and three sons.
Comment: To save our readers mental strain.

In the article Soyuz-FG:
... resulted in the destruction of the rocket. The crew, NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin, escaped safely and successfully.
Comment: Whatever that means.

In the article Trinity Cathedral, Saint Petersburg:
About four hours after the blaze broke out, one of the three remaining cupolas had been damaged but the fire was contained. A department spokesman later confirmed that the fire had been extinguished.
Comment: Lest the reader imagine that it burns to this day.

In the article Adele Spitzeder:
Officially founded shortly afterwards in 1869, the "Spitzedersche Privatbank" (English: Spitzeder Private Bank) quickly grew from an insider tip to a large company.
Comment: Thank you. I was completely at sea.

In the article The Owl and the Pussycat:
Portions of an unfinished sequel, "The Children of the Owl and the Pussycat" were published first posthumously, during 1938. How the pair procreated is unspecified.
Comment: It's a children's book, after all.

In the article Turner syndrome:
Turner syndrome is not usually inherited from a person's parents.
Comment: And certainly not from their rich uncle.

In the article Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease:
About 7.5% of cases are inherited from a person's parents in an autosomal dominant manner.
Comment: Ditto

In the article Phenylketonuria:
Phenylketonuria is a genetic disorder inherited from a person's parents.
Comment: Unlike insanity, which parents get from their children.

In the article Earthquake weather:
Aristotle proposed in the 4th century BC that earthquakes were caused by winds trapped in subterranean caves.
Comment: Extraterrestrial caves would have made for a more surprising theory.

In the article Jascha Heifetz:
The incident made headlines in the press and Heifetz defiantly announced that he would not stop playing the Strauss.
Comment: Yeah, that's usually where headlines appear.

In the article Celia Cooney:
After their marriage, Celia became pregnant with a child.
Comment: So not puppies.

In our article on serial killer Juan Corona:
In early January 1974, Corona's wife, Gloria, filed for divorce in Fairfield, citing irreconcilable differences.
Comment: So I guess she wasn't cool with the hacking 25 guys to death. (If she was, that would be worth mentioning.)

In the article Lauren Laverne:
She is a supporter of Sunderland AFC in football.
Comment: Such a shame nobody supports the Sunderland Amateur Flower Collectors any more.

In the article Harald Quandt:
Harald Quandt's five daughters inherited about 1.5 billion Deutsche Mark ($760 million, €585 million) and later increased their wealth through the Harald Quandt Holding GmbH, a German-based family investment company and trust named after their father.
Comment: In case the reader is a goldfish.

In the article 2021 United States Capitol attack:
On January 6, 2021, the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., was violently attacked by a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump.
Comment: Well it certainly wasn't a verbal attack.

In the article Mike Ward (comedian):
Gabriel had received a bone-anchored hearing aid at age 6, which allowed him to hear.
Comment: Because it's an aid to hearing.

In the article John F. Kennedy:
Since 1961, over 200,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps, representing 139 different countries.
Comment: Not 139 identical countries?

In the article Martha Mitchell:
She had wanted to be a pediatrician when she grew up.
Comment: When they say a pediatrician is a child doctor, that's not what they mean.

In the article Snipex Alligator:
The rifle has a height-adjustable cheek rest, which can be positioned for right- or left-handed shooting, i.e., it is suitable for both right- and left-handed shooters.
Comment: But what about shooters who are ambidexterous?

In the article The Onion:
Section title: The Onion's influence on the real world
Comment: Jee, I thought we were talking about all the fake worlds!

In the article Flag of Acadiana:
The various symbols on the flag were each chosen deliberately to represent a special aspect of Cajun culture and history.
Comment: As if they were chosen by total accident.

In the article Aleksandr Zuyev (pilot):
The sentry he had shot several times was wounded.
Comment: A common side effect.

In the article Tom Lantos:
The first Lantos Human Rights Prize, named in the congressman's memory,...
Comment: If it was named after some other Lantos and presented by an organization named after this Lantos, that would be something to mention.

In the article Al-Tanf (U.S. military base):
The Iranian[2] and Russian governments[3] have publicly supported the Syrian government's position and have regularly criticized the American presence in southeastern Syria whereas the United States government states that its presence at al-Tanf is legal.
Comment: Most nations would accuse themselves of illegally occupying territory.

In the article Viral hemorrhagic fever:
Viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHFs) are a diverse group of animal and human illnesses in which fever and hemorrhage are caused by a viral infection.
Comment: If said diseases were actually misnomers, that would be worth mentioning.

In the article No Longer Human:
Released from the hospital where he was taken after his failed suicide attempt, Ōba becomes a morphine addict.
Comment: If he had succeeded, and was resurrected, that would be worth mentioning.

In the article Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney:
The name "Apollo Justice" was decided in collaboration between the Japanese and American divisions of Capcom [...] The name refers to how Apollo fights for justice.
Comment: So not for pancakes, then.

In the article Inscryption:
Carder is interrupted by the GameFuna representative, who returns to Carder's house and shoots him in the head, presumably killing him. The final shot of the game is of Carder bleeding out on the floor [...]
Comment: Someone shot in the head and bleeding out on the floor is dead. Bonus points for adding uncertainty with "presumably".

In the article Barbenheimer:
The Barbenheimer phenomenon is an instance of counterprogramming, a marketing strategy in which a tonally different film is released on the same day as a major film (in this case, Warner Bros.' Barbie in contrast to Universal's Oppenheimer)
Comment: For readers who skip the lead section.

In the article about Trump's typo Covfefe:
Other Trump critics in the media expressed similar opinions.
Comment: So, not food critics.

In the article Theranos:
The company claimed that it had devised blood tests that required very small amounts of blood and that could be performed rapidly and accurately, all using compact automated devices which the company had developed. These claims were later proven to be false.
Comment: Just to clarify, there was no time travel involved.

In the article Dance:
On the other hand, some cultures lay down strict rules as to the particular dances in which, for example, men, women, and children people may or must participate.
Comment: Have you heard the one about the man who tried to make his dog dance?

In the article Vienna Game, Frankenstein–Dracula Variation:
Frankenstein–Dracula Variation
a8 black rook
b8 black knight
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
f8 black bishop
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
e5 black pawn
c4 white bishop
e4 black knight
c3 white knight
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
d2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
c1 white bishop
d1 white queen
e1 white king
g1 white knight
h1 white rook
Moves1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bc4 Nxe4
Named afterFrankenstein's monster
Count Dracula
ParentVienna Game

Comment: I just love the pedantry of "Frankenstein's monster" here.
In the article Squid Game: The Challenge:
Unlike the show it is based on, contestants do not die when eliminated.
Comment: Oh, thank god. I was worried for a second there.

In the article Plastic flamingo:
Pink plastic flamingos are a common lawn ornament in the United States made of plastic.
Comment: If you'll excuse me, I'm working on the very first plastic flamingo made out of concrete.

In the article 2024 OFC Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament:
It will also serve as qualifying for the 2024 Olympic tournament, with the champion qualifying.
Comment: As opposed to qualifying for ... what, exactly?

In the article Russia
Russia ... is a transcontinental country spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia.
Comment: "Transcontinental" has been used here and in the lead of other country articles to mean that the country occupies space in multiple continents—which is already clear from the very next six words after "country". But surely we should take any opportunity to impress the reader with our vocabulary.
Comment: "Transcontinental" isn't even correct, as it means "crossing a continent", not "lying in more than one continent". So we are not impressed.

In the article Chryssie Lytton Cobbold, Baroness Cobbold:
In 1986, she published her best selling memoir Board Meetings in the Bath: How We Opened Knebworth House to the Public on her experience opening Knebworth to the public.
Comment: If it was about, uh, literally anything else, that would have been worth mentioning.

Crime and its detection[edit]

In the lead of Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft:
Once inside, the pair revealed their true intentions, tied up the guards, and spent over an hour stealing art from the museum's collection, which they loaded into their vehicle.
Comment: The guards probably sensed their visitors' "true intentions" around the time they got tied up, and our readers will make the same inference vicariously. Furthermore, in this modern age most readers will envision art thieves as having a vehicle at the ready. (Had they absconded via public transport, or summoned an Uber, THAT would be worth mentioning.)

In the article University of Texas Tower Shooting:
He then drove to a hardware store, where he purchased a Universal M1 carbine, two additional ammunition magazines and eight boxes of ammunition, telling the cashier he planned to hunt wild hogs. At a gun shop he purchased four further carbine magazines, six additional boxes of ammunition, and a can of gun cleaning solvent. He then drove to Sears, where he purchased a Sears Model 60 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun before returning home with his purchases.
Comment: If he'd bought all that stuff and then left it at the store, THAT would be worth mentioning.

In the article Murder of Jo Cox:
Murder of Jo Cox
LocationMarket Street, Birstall, West Yorkshire, England
Date16 June 2016
Attack type
Shooting, stabbing
WeaponsFirearm, knife
PerpetratorThomas Mair
He witnessed the assailant stab Cox, who fell to the ground, before shooting her and stabbing her again shoot her, then stab her again. The attacker left the scene, but was pursued by an eyewitness who followed him and telephoned police to describe his location identified him to police. Armed police officers attended the incident, and arrested a suspect.
Comment: There's a lot to say about this one.
  • who fell to the ground: Persons stabbed and shot, then stabbed again, usually go down. (Extra points for the ambiguous suggestion that the witness may have shot and stabbed the victim.)
  • left the scene: If the shooter/stabber had stuck around, THAT would be worth mentioning.
  • was pursued by an eyewitness who followed him: That's what pursuers do.
  • telephoned police to describe his location: Usually people calling for help give the location.
  • Armed police officers attended the incident: Even in law-abiding, Queensberry-Rules, you-got-me-copper-fair-and-square England, readers will imagine that amongst officers dispatched to the shooting/stabbing of a Member of Parliament, at least some will be armed with more than their charming accents and unfailing courtesy.
  • and arrested a suspect: That's what happens when an eyewitness points out the gunman. Had police let him off with just a stern talking-to, THAT would be worth mentioning.
As for the infobox, unless told otherwise readers will assume that a shooting/stabbing will have involved a gun and a knife.

In the article Apartheid:
On 6 September 1966, Verwoerd was fatally stabbed at Parliament House by parliamentary messenger Dimitri Tsafendas, who was arrested and quickly imprisoned.
Comment: See last bullet[4] above.

In the article Brahmaputra Mail train bombing:
Brahmaputra Mail train bombing
LocationWestern Assam, India
Date30 December 1996
Attack type
Train bombing

Comment: Bomb? What are you giving him a bomb for?
In the article Allard K. Lowenstein:
On March 14, 1980 Lowenstein was shot in his Manhattan office by Sweeney, who was mentally ill and believed that Lowenstein was plotting against him. Sweeney then calmly waited for the police to arrive and arrest him.
Comment: [Left as an exercise for the reader]

In the article Death of Elisa Lam:
On the morning of February 19, an employee went to the roof, where four 1,000-gallon water tanks provided water pumped from the city's supply, to the guest rooms, a kitchen, and a coffee shop downstairs. In one of them, he found Lam's body, floating face up a foot below the water surface. Police responded.
Comment: [Left as an exercise for the reader]

In the article University of Alabama in Huntsville shooting:
During the course of a routine meeting of the biology department attended by approximately 12 people, Amy Bishop, a biology professor at the university, stood up and began shooting those closest to her with a Ruger P95 handgun. Bishop was suspended without pay retroactively on the day of the attack.
Comment: Academic freedom has its limits, I guess.

Nonetheless we better keep after him.
From List of fugitives from justice who are no longer sought:
He was found dead in 1959 and is no longer sought by the police.
Comment: Damn lazy cops will use ANY EXCUSE.

In the article Rodney Alcala:
Her murder would remain unsolved until it was connected to Alcala in 2011.
Comment: Murders usually remain unsolved until they're solved. See also WP:INTOTHEWOULDS.

In the article Ted Bundy:
He broke through the ceiling into the apartment of the chief jailer—who was out for the evening with his wife—changed into street clothes from the jailer's closet, and walked out the front door to freedom.
Comment: While it's nice to know a busy chief jailer still has time for his spouse, absent mention of a confrontation the reader's common sense will tell him that no one was home. (Had Mrs. Turnkey helped Bundy pick out a tie, or had Bundy gone back to the jail to turn himself in, THAT would be worth mentioning.)

In the article Seth Black (serial killer):
At the request of Scottish detectives, the Metropolitan Police conducted a search of searched Black's Stamford Hill lodgings to determine whether any incriminating evidence existed at Black's address.
Comment: Yes, well, that's usually what they're trying to determine. (And click the link for a surprise.)

Will there be anything else, sir?
In the article Eric Muenter:
Morgan lunged at his attacker and tackled Muenter to the ground as he fired two rounds into Morgan's groin and thigh. Morgan's butler finished subduing Muenter, beating him senseless with a lump of coal. Morgan quickly summoned a doctor and recovered, returning to work on August 14.
Comment: If financier J.P. Morgan got shot in the groin and didn't summon a doctor, or summoned him other than "quickly", THAT would be worth mentioning. (Kudos to the resourceful butler.)

In the article Lindbergh kidnapping:
Taking a gun, Lindbergh went around the house and grounds with butler Olly Whateley; they found impressions in the ground under the window of the baby's room and pieces of a cleverly designed wooden ladder. They also found a baby's blanket. Whateley telephoned the Hopewell police department to inform them of the missing child.
Comment: Not just to say hello?

In the article Assassination of John F. Kennedy:
President Kennedy's blood-stained jacket, shirt and tie worn during the assassination are stored in the National Archives facility in College Park, Maryland.
Comment: So not from that time he cut himself shaving.
The gun with which Ruby shot and killed Oswald, which came into the possession of Ruby's brother Earl, was sold in 1991 for $220,000.
Comment: The reader will assume, unless told otherwise, that the gun was not used to bludgeon Oswald to death.

In the article Jodie Foster:
While at Yale, Foster also had other stalkers, including a man who planned to kill her but changed his mind after watching her perform in a college play. The experience was difficult for Foster.
Comment: Snowflake.

In the article Everybody Draw Mohammed Day:
Norris claimed that if people draw pictures of Muhammad, radical Islamist terrorists would not be able to murder them all...
Comment: WP:YOUDONTSAY: most terrorists are radical.[5]

Capacious captions for unerring identification[edit]

In the article
Assassination of Abraham Lincoln:
In the article
Horst Wessel:
In the article
The Wizard of Oz (1939 film):
From left to right: assassin John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, Clara Harris, and Henry Rathbone
Wessel as an infant with his mother and father, 1907
The film's main characters (left to right): the Cowardly Lion, Dorothy, Scarecrow, and the Tin Man
Bert Lahr, in costume as The Cowardly Lion
It's a common misconception that the
man with the gun is Mrs. Lincoln.
You don't say!
The word "unnecessary"
hardly does justice.
Not a bad case
of hirsutism?

Various views from Donald Trump: In the article The Pentagon:
A view of the Turnberry Hotel, in Ayrshire, Scotland
View of the crowd attending a Trump rally in the U.S. Bank Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio on October 13, 2016
Southwesterly view of the Pentagon in 1998, with the Potomac River and Washington Monument in background
The reader will know without being told that
this is a "view".
We're safe in assuming that the reader
will intuit that this "view" shows a "crowd".
Thus not some other five-sided
megastructure for some reason being
shown us in the article
The Pentagon.

Honoring James Agee: In the article Theta waves: Meanwhile, back in Cambridge:
James Agee Park in the Fort Sanders neighborhood of Knoxville, Tennessee is named after the author.
Example of an EEG theta wave
Woodcut representing a view of Gore Hall at Harvard University
Who would have guessed? Could have been worse – it could have said
"Picture representing an example of an EEG
theta wave"?

The lead (and only) image in Twist tie: In the article The Desire of Ages: In the article
UC Berkeley School of Law:
Twist ties of different colors.
A picture of the book
Boalt Hall's law library was expanded in 1996 with the North Addition, pictured above.
Great example of an image
that doesn't need a caption.
Recently inducted into the Principle
of Some Astonishment Hall of Fame –
caption and image both.
I weep.

In the article
Boston Consolidated TRACON
(whatever that is):
The lead image for
CNN International:
The lead image for Earth:
The Boston Consolidated TRACON from the outside
CNN International
CNN International logo
CountryUnited States
OwnerTurner Broadcasting System
LaunchedSeptember 1, 1985 (1985-09-01)
The Blue Marble photograph of Earth, taken during the Apollo 17 lunar mission in 1972
No shit, Sherlock. (Turns out this is the logo
all CNN brands, not just CNN International –
an example of the impulse to add the obvious
leading, instead, to addition of the inaccurate.)
And here I thought they had a giant indoor
lawn, miniature building-within-a-building,
and artificial sky
Earth. Yes, Earth. Planet Earth.
The lead image in the article Earth.

In the article
Elizabeth II:
In the article
Senghenydd colliery disaster:
In the article
Harry Elkins Widener:
The Queen with Edward Heath (left) and First Lady Pat Nixon, 1970
Because we weren't sure which one is
Edward Heath. (Apparently we're on
our own for Pat Nixon vs. the Queen.)
The funeral of one of the dead miners, miner E. Gilbert, a colour sergeant in The Salvation Army
Lest readers imagine that survivors were buried.
Harry Elkins Widener
Harry Elkins Widener
Born(1885-01-03)January 3, 1885
DiedApril 15, 1912(1912-04-15) (aged 27)
Known forNamesake of Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library
Did we mention that it's Harry Elkins Widener?
Crowds wait for news at the Universal Colliery after the disaster
Yes, since they're not clairvoyant.

In the article
Chuck Connors:
In the article
Scottish National Antarctic Expedition:
Chuck Connors (right) filming a 1961 episode of The Rifleman.
Man on right in Scots highland costume, playing bagpipes, while on the left a lone penguin stands. The ground is covered in ice, with a high ice ridge in the background.
Expedition member Gilbert Kerr (left) playing the bagpipes beside a penguin, March 1904
The one with the breasts and the hairdo
is Edward Heath.
Bearing in mind that left and right are reversed south of the equator.

In the article Nun pigeon
A Nun in profile.
Comment: The first rule of comedy: nuns are always funny.

An image in Leverett House
Leverett F-Tower, with the library visible in the foreground
Comment: If the library were invisible, THAT would be worth mentioning.

An image in Leonid Brezhnev:
Brezhnev (seated second from left) attending celebrations for the holiday of International Women's Day, 1973
Comment: It's not like he's got a beehive.

An image in Genesis (band):
Rutherford, Gabriel, and Collins in 1974 during The Lamb... tour. Gabriel is wearing the "Slipperman" costume.
Comment: No, this isn't Phil Collins coming out front to sing "More Fool Me", so .... more fool you :-P

An image in Dropsy in fish:
A goldfish with fish dropsy
Comment: You mean a goldfish is a fish?

An image in Massachusetts State House:
Aerial view from above
Comment: No comment

From the article Erie Reader:
Previous logo variant
Comment: So, it's deviant, then.

From the article Tiger attack:
Stereographic photograph (1903) of the captured Man-eater of Jharkhand, who had killed an estimated 200 people, in the Jharkhand zoo. The tiger had earlier claimed 200 human victims.
Comment: If said tiger had just wandered into a zoo enclosure after claiming 200 human victims killing 200 people, or killed 200 people while in the zoo, that would be worth clarifying.

From the article Mandelbrot set:
The Mandelbrot set (black) within a continuously colored environment
Comment: Not even useful to those with colorblindness.

From the article Hydra effect:
An artist's depiction of the mythical creature the Hydra
Comment: Not to be confused with a real-life depiction of the real-life creature the Hydra.

From the article Berlin wall:
Map of the location of the Berlin Wall, showing checkpoints
Comment: Yes, that's what maps show.
A "BERLINER MAUER 1961–1989" plaque near Checkpoint Charlie signifying where the Wall stood
Comment: And not some encrypted message?

From the article Lion:
Male lion in Okonjima, Namibia
Comment: [This area intentionally left blank]

From the article JPEG:
A photo of a European wildcat with the compression rate decreasing and hence quality increasing, from left to right
Comment: For readers who, er, I'm not even sure anymore.

From the article Mastodon (social network):
The mascot of the Mastodon social network — a mastodon
Comment: Not to be confused with a bird... or a plane.

Special section on modes of exit and ancillary details of death[edit]

In the article Coniston Water:
Campbell was killed instantly on impact when decapitated by the K7's windscreen.
Comment: For those innocent of the workings of decapitations.

In the article Marshall Newell:
In December 1896, Newell became an assistant division superintendent of the Boston and Albany Railroad. He was killed on Christmas Eve 1897 when an engine backed over him on the tracks at Springfield, Massachusetts..
Comment: Where else would an engine back over someone?

In the article Murder of Deborah Linsley:
She sustained eleven stab wounds to the face, neck and abdomen, of which at least five were to the area around the heart ... The coroner highlighted that, although passengers reported hearing "a commotion", nobody investigated. A verdict of unlawful killing was returned.
Comment: If the verdict had been suicide, THAT would be worth mentioning.

In the article John Wayne Gacy:
Gacy conned Butkovich into allowing his wrists to be cuffed behind his back, at which point Gacy strangled him to death and buried his body under the concrete floor of his garage ... Mowery was strangled to death and buried in the northwest corner of the crawl space ... Both Winch and Boling were strangled to death and buried in the crawl space.
Comment: The reader will conclude, unless told otherwise, that someone strangled and buried probably died in between.

In the article Lyndon B. Johnson:
At approximately 3:39 p.m. Central Time on January 22, 1973, Johnson suffered a massive heart attack in his bedroom. He managed to telephone the Secret Service agents on the ranch, who found him still holding the telephone receiver in his hand.
Comment: I'm trying to imagine the alternatives.

In the article Grace Kelly:
Rainier, who did not remarry, was buried alongside her following his death in 2005.
Comment: Had Prince Rainier of Monaco been buried alive, THAT would be worth mentioning.

In the article Brooklyn Navy Yard:
Many of the prisoners died and were subsequently buried
Comment: Small mercies.

In the article Simon Meyer Kuper:
On the evening of 8 March 1963, Kuper, who was at home with his wife and daughter, was shot through a window by an unknown assailant. He died of his injuries twelve days later.
Comment: If he was shot by an unknown assailant but died twelve days later on being surprised by a train, THAT would be worth mentioning.

In the article Johnny Cash:
Cash's older brother Jack, with whom he was close, was seriously injured in an accident at his job in a high school when he was pulled into an unguarded table saw while cutting oak into fence posts, and was almost cut in two. He died from his injuries a week later.
Comment: Generally speaking, injuries that kill you are serious. And had he been pulled into a table saw intentionally, or had died a week later from something other than his injuries, THAT would be worth mentioning.

In the article James Sisnett:
Sisnett died in his sleep of natural causes on 23 May 2013, at the age of 113 years, 90 days.
Comment: Had the 113-year-old man died in his sleep not of natural causes, THAT would be worth mentioning.

In the article Murder of Kristine Fitzhugh:
Music teacher Kristine Fitzhugh (born 1947–2000) was murdered on May 5, 2000 in her home in Palo Alto, California.
Comment: Obviously.

In the article Karen Carpenter:
Paramedics found her heart beating once every 10 seconds. She was taken to nearby Downey Community Hospital for treatment.
Comment: Thanks for clarifying.

In the article Faylaka Island attack:
he was ultimately mortally wounded and subsequently died.
Comment: Quelle surprise.

In the article Killing of Ma'Khia Bryant:
On August 16, 2021, the county coroner reported that the death was a homicide, which means that a person's life was taken by another.
Comment: Facepalm Facepalm.

In the article One Shining Moment:
Versions recorded by Teddy Pendergrass (1994–1999), Luther Vandross (2003–2009, 2011–2019, 2021–present), and Ne-Yo (2016) have also been used; Vandross' version is believed to be the last song he recorded before his stroke and subsequent death.
Comment: Had doctors determined his stroke occurred after his death, it would have revolutionized medicine as we know it.

In the article Gary M. Heidnik:
Heidnik was executed by lethal injection on July 6, 1999, at State Correctional Institution – Rockview in Centre County, Pennsylvania. His body was later cremated.
Comment: Gosh, I hope so.

In the article Roy L. Dennis:
His body was donated to UCLA Medical Center after he died.
Comment: Ditto.

In the article Miguel Serrano:
He remained in contact with neo-Nazis elsewhere in the world and gave interviews to various foreign far-right publications prior to his death.
Comment: Ditto.

In the article Ran (film):
The project was the second of two which allowed Kurosawa and Takemitsu to collaborate during their lifetimes.
Comment: Ditto.

In the article Joe Biden:
Before his death, Beau had been widely seen as the frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic nomination for governor of Delaware.
Comment: [5] notwithstanding.

In the article Jean de Florette:
The film starred three of France's most prominent actors – Gérard Depardieu, Daniel Auteuil, who won a BAFTA award for his performance, and Yves Montand in one of his last roles before his death.
Comment: Let's see. Um... Ditto?

In the article Wiley Post:
Post with Will Rogers before their deaths, August 1935

Comment: Ditto. Or maybe they'd already died and Dr. Frankenstein reanimated them.

From List of inventors killed by their own inventions:
Franz Reichelt (d. 1912) attempted to use this contraption as a parachute. Reichelt died after he jumped off the Eiffel Tower wearing his invention, which failed to operate as he had expected.

Comment: If death had been a consequence of his invention operating as expected, THAT would be worth mentioning.

From the article description page for a photo of wrestler Frank Gotch:
Photo was taken before his death in 1917

Comment: Or maybe he's stuffed. (The description also says Date: 1918 but we won't go there.)

Principle of Complete Puzzlement[edit]

The opposite of the Principle of Some Astonishment is the Principle of Complete Puzzlement: some details don't belong because, though neither obvious nor even predictable, they're completely irrelevant and will puzzle the reader as to the reason for their inclusion.

In the article Chuck Schumer:
In March 2009, Schumer announced his support for same-sex marriage, noting that it "was time". Schumer previously supported civil unions. At a private risotto dinner with gay leaders ...
Comment: Gay risotto must be especially persuasive.

In the article Joe Biden:
On December 18, 1972, Biden's wife Neilia and their one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in an automobile accident in Hockessin, Delaware. Neilia Biden's station wagon was hit by a tractor-trailer truck carrying corn cobs as she pulled out from an intersection.
Comment: Specifying a killer truck's contents almost always makes death seem undignified no matter the cargo: corn cobs, pork bellies, nail clippers, La-Z-Boys ...

In the article Trayvon Martin:
On the evening of February 26, Martin was walking back alone to the fiancée's house after purchasing a bag of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea at from a nearby convenience store.
Comment: Somewhat awkward product placements. As The Washington Post put it, "Skittles can't seem to escape political controversies."[6]

In the article Jim Bell:
The ATF stated that it had planted a covert GPS system in Bell's car and that it had tracked the movements of his Nissan Maxima its movements in real time.
Comment: Ditto (with extra points for explaining that the tracking device planted in the suspect’s car was "covert").

In the article Derek Chauvin:
He took food preparation courses at a technical college and worked as a cook at McDonald's and at a local Italian-American restaurant.
Comment: So heartburn made him do it? (Linking [[Italian-American cuisine|Italian-American]] is especially pointless.)

In the article Chester Carlson:
On September 19, 1968, Carlson died of a heart attack in the Festival Theatre, on West 57th Street in New York City, while watching the film He Who Rides a Tiger.
Comment: That must have been one seriously bad movie.

In the article 2015 Thalys train attack:
The remaining passengers were taken to a gym in Arras, where they were searched and identified before being allowed to proceed to Paris.
Comment: Good to know they could get in some cardio while waiting.

In the article on courageous flight attendant Barbara Jane Harrison:
On the day of the accident, as was often her practice when on duty, Harrison was wearing a black wig.
Comment: Even in death a girl should always look her best, I guess. (Personal note: give the article a read; she was truly a hero.)

In the article Lightning strike:
Sixty-eight dairy cows, all full of milk, died on a farm at Fernbrook on the Waterfall Way near Dorrigo, New South Wales, after being involved in a lightning incident.
Comment: Perhaps they used all that boiled milk to make cocoa.

In the article James F. Blake
James Fred Blake (April 14, 1912 – March 21, 2002) was the bus driver whom Rosa Parks defied in 1955, prompting the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Born on Apri1 14, 1912, the same day that the British passenger liner RMS Titanic hit an iceberg ...
Comment: So a bad day all around then.

In the article Myra (painting)
After witnessing the first attack, Jacques Rolé left the exhibition to buy six eggs from Fortnum & Mason, on the other side of Piccadilly close to the Royal Academy, and threw three or four at the painting before being stopped.
Comment: Only the best eggs are thrown at the Royal Academy.

In the article John McAfee
On 30 April 2012, McAfee's property in Orange Walk Town, Belize, was raided by the Gang Suppression Unit of the Belize Police Department while he was in bed with a girlfriend.
Comment: How very ungentlemanly. They should have waited until he was on the crapper.

In the article Schenck House (Buffalo):
It was built by early pioneer and farmer Michael Schenck and his son Samuel Schenck out of locally quarried limestone, where many fossils can be seen on the eastern side of the facade.
Comment: Well, what about the western side of the facade? Surely there's some interesting things there too?

In the article Trisha Paytas:
Paytas addressed false online rumors claiming that she had already given birth and that the baby was the reincarnation of Elizabeth II.
Comment: Bonus points for noting that the rumours were false.

Michael Kinsley's "Department of Amplification: William Shawn and the temple of facts" (The New Republic, 1984 – and well worth a read in full) is a pitch-perfect sendup of The New Yorker as "a weekly monument to the proposition that journalism consists of the endless accretion of tiny details":

The June 18 New Yorker has an article about corn. It's the first in what appears to be a series, no less, discussing the major grains. What about corn? Who knows? Only The New Yorker would have the lofty disdain for its readers to expect them to plow through 22,000 words about corn (warning: only an estimate; the TNR fact checkers are still counting) without giving them the slightest hint why. Here is how it starts (after a short introductory poem):

When the New England farmer and botanist Edward Sturtevant retired, in 1887, as head of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station, in Geneva, he left behind a bulky manuscript that was published in 1919, twenty-one years after his death, as "Sturtevant's Notes on Edible Plants." Dr. Sturtevant, who was also a graduate of the Harvard Medical School, but never practiced medicine, had scoured the world's botanical literature for mentions of all the plants that human beings were known to have eaten (he did not count tree bark, which in times of famine was often one of them), and had come up with among more than three hundred thousand known plant species, two thousand eight hundred and ninety-seven edibles. (Latter-day scientists believe he may have missed as many more.) But, of all these, only a hundred and fifty or so have ever been widely enough consumed to figure in commerce, and of those a mere handful have been of any real consequence.

Now, there are some facts for you. No doubt every single one of them has been checked. You stand in awe as they tumble toward you, magnificently irrelevant, surrounded by mighty commas, mere numbers swollen into giant phrases ("two thousand eight hundred and ninety-seven"), all finally crashing over you with the bravura announcement that nothing you have just read is "of any real consequence." How true this is! From the end of the paragraph, you gaze back on the receding vistas of inconsequence, as far as the eye can see. Even supposing we would like a bit more information about corn, and even supposing we might be relieved to know how many other plants, edible and otherwise, are not going to be discussed in this article, why are we being told about a man whose count apparently was off by half? Even supposing we need to know about Dr. Sturtevant’s book, when it was published, and when the good doctor died, why do we need to know when he retired? Even—stretching it—supposing that we need to know that this gentleman "was also a graduate of the Harvard Medical School," why, oh why, do we have to learn that he "never practiced medicine"? As for the business about tree bark, that has just got to be conscious self-parody.

Remind you of any Wikipedia articles?

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "TETSUYA 'TED' FUJITA DIES". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved September 25, 2021.
  2. ^ "Ghasemi: US military presence in Syria illegal, contradicts with international laws". Syrian Arab News Agency. 15 October 2018. Archived from the original on 9 November 2020. Retrieved 25 August 2022. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghasemi stressed that the US presence in Syria without the approval of its government is illegal and completely contradicts with the international laws and resolutions, indicating that Iran fully rejects it.
  3. ^ shaza (16 November 2017). "Russian Foreign Ministry: US troops presence in Syria illegal". Syrian Arab News Agency. Retrieved 2020-03-31.
  4. ^ So to speak.
  5. ^ Hover over that redlink.
  6. ^ McGregor, Jena (September 22, 2016). "Skittles can't seem to escape political controversies". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  7. ^ In the humble opinion of EEng.

See also[edit]