User:Lord Matt/Editorial Concepts/Overused words

Overused wordsEdit

The purpose of the essay is to address words that are used so extensively that clarity of communication may, at times, be lost. Each section presents one or more solutions in the form of proposals. This will, by default at this stage, not be universally accepted concepts and are open for debate.

  • The word problem is used loosely.
  • I will add to this when I have given other words sufficient consideration
  • Feel free to suggest words in talk



In terms of basic entomology evolve comes from the Latin ēvolvō meaning to unroll or unfold. It is used more commonly to refer to a system that develops slowly over time.

Common understandingEdit

However it is understood by the general populace from context and most often this is in terms of the idea of biological evolution.

Problem: Development of ideas, concepts etcEdit

The word evolve is often used in a highly accurate and descriptive way but with a number of unfortunate consequences. Confusion can arise when applying this word to forms of development other than the purely biological. Especially where human choice is concerned, due to common misconceptions that evolve is a word related to the branch of biology which describes the result (as a product of chance and natural forces). This confusion serves to reduce reading ease and accessibility of the article to no real benefit towards accuracy.


The word develop and it's derivative (developed) conveys almost exactly the same idea and is only slightly wider in meaning. To say the group developed into it's current form loses no information but increases reading ease and clarity.

As well as lacking unnecessary emotional attachment that ideas of evolution carry and being clear as to what is being conveyed, the word develop also more accurately conveys the concept of intention from the individual - or within the group choice - which would be more accurate when applied to the progression of, say, a company or a concept.

When something is said to be fully developed as an idea, it is considered to be a mature idea. We talk of the developed world and the developing world. Therefore, sometimes it would be preferable to talk about the development of the group or idea rather than it's evolution.

Sometimes, as per state the obvious, it may be better to say that the thing changed over time. This is especially true if the word evolution has been recently used as the concept has already been opened and we now wish to simple observe that, yes, things changed over time and now we are going to talk about it. Such a simple change would also address any confusion regarding the word's use.

There are going to be times when it is still preferable to use the word evolve (or evolved, or evolution or some other derivative) but editors should be aware of the word's synonyms and use them as appropriate.

Problem: Biological function (general)Edit

It should be recognised that terms like evolve and evolved are expected in passages directly dealing with evolution. While articles should be as accurate as humanly possible right down to and including the use of precise scientific terms it should be remembered however that the Wikipedia is not a science textbook but a general reference work. Therefore there may be times when editors need to be even more clear than any source works.

When "evolve" is used generally with biology articles there is a danger of misrepresenting both evolutionary theory and the topic being presented. For example "the cat evolved these highly sensitive eyes in order to see at night" puts the cart before the horse as evolutionary theory would suggest that the need to see at night was the pressure that selected for better night vision while the sentence suggests that this was an intelligent choice. Clearly, this was not the intention.


Editors seek to convey the central information of text with as little added baggage as possible. This then can be our guide. In the example sentence, the text is trying to do too much. First is the message that "cats have very good night vision" (the "just the facts ma'am" edition) and is attempting to discuss the evolutionary pressures that shaped the cat. As the truth should be self-evident then the basic information could be left intact while the evolution information could more usefully be grouped into a separate section (if warranted by the topic or simply linked to if not warranted) thus decrufting the text.

The state the obvious concept from the guide to writing better articles bears this out. It would be better to say that the cat can see in the dark before going on to say why.

This would increase reading ease and simplify the text for readers while at the same time allowing more detail with less baggage (size) for each section.