Wikivoyage talk:Tone

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Men, beware those seed-pods![edit]

Swept in from the Project:Travellers' pub:

Every now and then I stumble across a little nugget of localised travel wisdom on Wikivoyage that makes me laugh out loud, and have a little more faith in the project's reason for being. I refer in particular to the observation made by user User:62.255.32.11 on the Fez page, under the heading "Berber Pharmacy". How many other guidebooks can offer advice that detailed! (WT-en) Allyak 05:44, 26 Jul 2005 (EDT)

General ramble and a few questions[edit]

Swept in from the Pub:

One of the things I love about travel guides is the sense of adventure they instil. Well-written guides don’t only inform and educate, but they inspire you to venture to far-flung destinations, amuse you with wry observations on local culture and provide you with insights into history and observant tips on how to make the best of your travels.

Which is why, when I look across WikiTravel—a website which I presume is written largely by passionate travel nuts like myself—I’m amazed at how dry the tone is across most articles. Entries for most cities, even some of the most awe-inspiring, read like encyclopaedic entries from a university textbook. Beijing, for instance, isn’t described as a complex child of Communism and Feudalism slowly awakening to the drumbeat of the West, but “as the capital of the most populous country in the world ... well known for its flatness and regular construction”.

An example[edit]

As a little experiment, visit the WikiTravel entry for a city you haven’t travelled to yet and read the introduction and Understand sections. Does it make you want to travel there? Now compare that to the little intros published on sites like Lonely Planet, Rough Guide or Fodors. As an example, here are four guide book introductions for Beijing:

Lonely Planet

If your visions of Beijing are centred around pods of Maoist revolutionaries in buttoned-down tunics performing exercise in Tiananmen Square, put them to rest ... today's youth are more interested in MTV than Mao, rhetorical slogans from the Cultural Revolution have given way to butchered English splashed across designer-copy T-shirts, and expats, tourists, foreign investors and a mobile phone-toting hip-oisie are mixing it up with the bureaucrats.

Rough Guides

The brash modernity of BEIJING (the name means "northern capital") comes as a surprise to many visitors. Traversed by freeways (it's the proud owner of more than a hundred flyovers) and spiked with highrises, this vivid metropolis is China at its most dynamic. For the last thousand years, the drama of China's imperial history was played out here, with the emperor sitting enthroned at the centre of the Chinese universe, and though today the city is a very different one, it remains spiritually and politically the heart of the country.

Fodor’s

Beijing's historic, cultural, and political preeminence dates back nearly six centuries. Yet, in spite of devastating urban renewal, modern Beijing continues to convey an imperial grandeur … Its 12 million residents are a compelling mix of old and new. Early morning taiqi (tai chi) enthusiasts, bearded old men with caged songbirds, and amateur Peking Opera crooners still frequent the city's many charming parks. … The result is an ironic mix of new prosperity and throwback politics: socialist mantras emblazoned on electronic billboards hung at shopping arcades that sell Gucci and Big Macs.

WikiTravel

Beijing (北京) is the capital of the most populous country in the world, the People's Republic of China. It was also the seat of the Qing dynasty emperor until the formation of a republic in 1911, so it has rich historical sites, and important government institutions. The city is well known for its flatness and regular construction. There is only one hill to be found in the city limits (in Jingshan Park to the north of the famous Forbidden City), and like the configuration of the Forbidden City, it has concentric "ring roads", which are actually rectangular, that go around the metropolis.

This is one example, but it is by no means rare. Although there’s some great writing and prose on WikiTravel, I think the extract above is fairly representative of the vast majority of entries.

So, what’s your point?[edit]

I appreciate that WikiTravel contributors aren’t necessarily travel writers or English majors and my comparison is a little unfair in that regard. I also understand that WikiTravel is very focused on practical travel advice, rather than descriptive prose. But is it possible to have factual advice that just happens to be entertaining to read as well?

It was one particular edit that got me thinking down this line. A user changed part of my entry on Iran to tone down the, well, tone a little. The two grains of humour I’d sprinkled the copy with while drafting the entry were sanitised into a factually identically but more ‘correct’ and straight-laced account. Now tone is inherently subjective and I appreciate that just because I find a quip funny, many others may not (and given my sense of humour most probably won't). Puccini didn’t like my tone and changed the edit. Fair enough.

But a thought occurred to me: if we’re blindly chasing a tone to satisfy everybody’s tastes (or get the fewest people offside), then won’t we ultimately end up with the bland language that seems to be dominating WikiTravel at the moment? All of the non WikiTravel examples above—in fact most entertaining guidebooks in general—usually offer some kind of opinion or make some kind of remark that somebody may take offence to and edit out in a wiki environment. And how would you defend such language? A fact can be debated and proven, but tone and observations are inherently subjective and therefore harder to support.

Is this even problem, or is seeking language that makes you want to book a plane ticket right now asking for too much from a wiki publication? Does WikiTravel aspire to be something more than a compendium of train timetables, museum opening hours and hotel addresses? Should it? Can any wiki group publishing effort produce a consistent tone other than one of factual detachment? Can consensus produce something that’s not only useful, but enjoyable to read?

Lotsa questions ... not enough sleep.

(WT-en) Allyak 08:36, 20 Jan 2006 (EST)

I think that it's absolutely possible to have strong, well-written prose in a wiki and in Wikivoyage. I realize an awful lot of Wikivoyage right now is flat and boring; there are also lots of other things that need work. People will sometimes mistakenly edit an article to make it less lively; they will also put in advertisements, misspellings, and photographs of their own bottom. I don't think you should draw any particular conclusions on editorial policy or the nature of wiki by one or another edit or contributor.
Let me also say that lively writing is a goal, and I don't think a travel guide is finished -- a star -- until its "prose is not only near-perfect grammatically but also tight, effective, and enjoyable." To quote neutral point of view,
A "neutral point of view" also doesn't mean using bland, empty, vapid, or timorous prose. Wikivoyagers should feel free -- nay, obligated -- to use concrete, lively descriptions that paint a clear, concise picture of the subject in question. "Greek restaurant just off the plaza" doesn't tell anyone anything. "Dingy but passable Greek restaurant with surly waitstaff, rich and generous portions of moussaka, tinny stereo system" gives a lot more info. You don't have to tone down your writing in Wikivoyage just to remain neutral.
I know that I in particular am a source of much boring, flat writing, since I make a point of moving and restructuring articles to fit our manual of style without actually knowing anything about the places I'm writing about. So I'll take someone's long, rambling essay about their day in Marseilles and try to cull the factual details. Oftentimes this means taking a paragraph like this:
For those who love the finer things in life -- specifically food and fine wines! -- Marseilles has a universe of options to serve every taste and fancy. Who couldn't love the spectacular array of fine dishes and full-bodied wines provided by a panoply of publicans in this city? The fine diner will find themselves best served by heading to Rue Main, where a gustatory ecstasia awaits in the form of Chez Larry's. Found at the 112 point on the street so named, Chez Larry's should often be telephoned in advance to secure a reservation in order to be insured of excellent service. Those prudent souls who wish to employ this method should use the reservations telephone number at 52-331-2218, which will put them directly through to a reservations agent who will be more than happy to assist them. You can call from your hotel or even call from home before you arrive. In a pinch, you can use a public pay telephone or borrow someone's cellular phone in order to make this important phone call. But don't call on a Friday, because that's the one day out of the week that Chez Larry's is closed to visitors (for reasons unknown). Otherwise seatings are available for gourmets and gourmands alike starting at the hours of six o'clock in the evening. So, go, enjoy the Italian food and drink that await you at Chez Larry's! Once you are finished with your meal, which will be before midnight since that is when the restaurant closes, you can seek other forms of entertainment throughout the city, whatever your desire! It is up to you.
...and changing it to:
  • Chez Larry's, 112 Rue Main, 52-331-2218. M-Thu, Sa-Su 6PM-12AM. Italian food.
I think that's just tightening up some purple silliness into the essential information; it's no less visual or concrete, but sadly much shorter than the original. Usually I won't have been to the restaurant in question, so I'll have nothing to add.
I know I also make stub articles out of navigational branchpoints with ledes like "Independence is a city in Missouri" -- definitely not Pulitzer material. This may be a seed for more boring writing -- we should probably make a point of livening up outline-status articles to set a good example.
(WT-en) Maj wants to start a Project:Writers' Expedition to stimulate contribution by writers and editors, especially those not necessarily writing about their own experience. You may be interested in helping out. --(WT-en) Evan 11:23, 20 Jan 2006 (EST)
I very much agree with Allyak, and I consider this issue one of my pet peeves; see eg. Talk:East Asia and the near-edit war over changes like this.
However, unlike most travel guides Wikivoyage is edited by locals, not travelers, who have a vested interest in making the place sound "nice" and thus get offended by flippant, if funny, comments about sushi and ninjas when, dadgummit, visitors to Japan should be impressed by technology and multinational corporations instead. And then there's also the heavy crossover of Wikipedians who bring the mantra of "boring is NPOV and thus good" with them. The latter can possibly be educated with time, but the former, I'm afraid, is an unwinnable battle that can't really be solved without somehow separating factual and editorial content. (WT-en) Jpatokal 03:49, 21 Jan 2006 (EST)
Wikivoyage is edited by locals, not travelers is untrue. Wikivoyage is edited by locals and travelers. --(WT-en) Evan 14:58, 23 Jan 2006 (EST)
I meant that most of the blancmange-porridge edits come from locals defending "their" turf, not travelers... (WT-en) Jpatokal 04:06, 20 October 2006 (EDT)
Thanks for getting back to me on that. --(WT-en) Evan 09:35, 18 Jun 2014 (EDT)

Strengthening the policy[edit]

This is one of the most difficult policies to "enforce," since the nature of what is desirable, lively travel writing and what is over-the-top is so subjective. Currently, our only real recourse when we have controversy is to discuss on the talk page, but as Wikivoyage grows, we will have more and more differences of opinions on proper tone in articles, and more and more time will be diverted from productive travel writing to caviling over very specific language.

To make this policy easier to "enforce," and to prevent too much time-wasting, I'd propose the following addition:

If you find writing that seems informal or sarcastic to an unacceptable degree, do not simply "dull down" the prose. Instead, replace it with travel writing that is both more acceptable and just as lively.

I think this would reduce the work necessary to keep our guides full of lively writing (and that is difficult in a collaborative wiki project). Since human nature is generally more disposed to complaining and debating trifles than doing real work, this should discourage caviling, which can soak up the time of productive contributors. Moreover, it would add extra incentive to new contributors to really try their hand at travel writing, hopefully leading to more productive contributions over time. --(WT-en) Peter Talk 04:59, 30 May 2009 (EDT)

Well, I take the lack of response to mean this is pretty uncontroversial, so I've gone ahead and added this. --(WT-en) Peter Talk 21:42, 19 July 2009 (EDT)

On collaboration and style[edit]

swept in from pub:

Andrew Lih makes some comments about the relative unpopularity of Wikinews, but I think those comments may also provide some insight into why our tone guidelines are so hard to follow. http://www.niemanlab.org/2010/02/why-wikipedia-beats-wikinews-as-a-collaborative-journalism-project/ (WT-en) LtPowers 21:23, 10 February 2010 (EST)

Could someone atttempt to summarize, which of WikiNews specifics, or which conclusions from the article could be extrapolated to Wikivoyage? --(WT-en) DenisYurkin 22:49, 10 February 2010 (EST)
Basically just that they believe that wikis are not well suited to deadlines and group narrative writing (creativity in prose).
I tend to agree, but hope that our lack of deadlines and our tone policy (which is ever more strict when applied to our higher quality articles) may give us an advantage over Wikinews in attracting writing that is engaging and fun to read. If we wait long enough, hopefully someone interested in travel writing (surely there are a lot of such people in the world!) will come along and write an entertaining lead for Khobar or Kearney, Nebraska. Enforcing the "replace lively writing only with more lively writing" rule should help us keep it entertaining. --(WT-en) Peter Talk 23:01, 10 February 2010 (EST)
Enforcing the "replace lively writing only with more lively writing" rule should help us keep it entertaining
I don't remember we have such a policy anywhere here--have I missed something?
And does it imply that if edit changes lively writing to something dull, while adding more useful info, it likely should be reverted? Or probably I misunderstood the point. --(WT-en) DenisYurkin 14:58, 12 February 2010 (EST)
See the last sentence in Project:Tone. If an edit dulls down lively writing, but adds good content, I think the dulling down should be reverted, but the new useful content integrated into the existing writing. --(WT-en) Peter Talk 15:06, 12 February 2010 (EST)

"too promotional"?[edit]

Swept in from the Project:Travellers' Pub

So we've got one guy trying to change the lead on Chicago because he thought it sounded like it was written by a local tourism board. And we've got one guy trying to change Disney Cruise Line because it's "too promotional". "Sounds like a brochure". "Hyperbole". Neither one wants to take 'no' for an answer, and I'm getting a little tired of having to constant reverts on both articles. Am I nuts? Is there some universal truth I'm missing here, that a travel guide shouldn't try to promote its content? That a bit of excitement about one's destination should come through in the writing? Or do these articles really go too far? (WT-en) LtPowers 20:21, 14 April 2011 (EDT)

With respect to Disney Cruise Line, the text seems OK and if the anonymous user isn't willing to try to gain consensus for a change on the talk page then a revert is warranted. With respect to Chicago it would be good to get some of the major contributors to that article involved (as you've suggested on the talk page), although they seem to have temporarily gone missing. That article's lede isn't my favorite, but I'm not convinced that the anon's changes are much of an improvement. -- (WT-en) Ryan • (talk) • 22:36, 14 April 2011 (EDT)


While the anon on the Chicago article made some decent points, his/her mix of lies and jokes in his/her edits make it very difficult to accept any changes s/he makes (at least back when I was keeping up on it). That user appeared to be more willing to discuss things and I think I recall some decent suggestions/edits if they could just cut out the jokes and sarcasm.
The only thing that might sound promotional on the Disney article is "but Disney has placed their focus on quality over quantity. They've taken the design principles and customer service standards that make a Disney theme park such a memorable experience and adapted them to fit the cruising industry. I haven't looked at the Disney article." It feels a little promotional, since it states these things as though they are definite and universally known/accepted. It could be softened by saying that they've "attempted", "tried", "seem to have achieved..", some other wording that leaves the level of success of their efforts up to some debate by the traveler. The other parts of the user's deletions seem to be deleting adjectives and other descriptive words/phrases that keep the article lively. If the user refuses to discuss on the talk page, they could be temporarily banned or the page could be temporarily protected.
I think a good travel guide has to promote the destination, though. Even articles about places with a lot of drawbacks like Somalia should be written in a way that showcases all the great things that it has to offer. Otherwise, why bother having articles if there is nothing good worth saying? A general positivity about each destination is in line with both the tone and "be fair" policies. (WT-en) ChubbyWimbus 23:43, 14 April 2011 (EDT)
Can I say I don't really care for either version of the lead on the Chicago article? Both strike me as being too literary and difficult to understand. I like when Wikivoyage articles are fun to read, but in both versions I make it as far as "hog butchering" and realize I have no idea what I've just been told. "Heart of comedy"? "Jazz found its swing"? The second and third paras are much easier to understand, right until I get to "pride of tired feet and eyes raised once more to the sky", which I'm still trying to decipher the meaning of. --(WT-en) BigPeteB 01:19, 15 April 2011 (EDT)

Need suggestions on information added/tone depleted[edit]

I found this edit today and I'm not sure what to do with it. It has added some useful details -- though I don't know how necessary the details are, and they may become out of date quickly -- but at the expense of the conversational tone I'd been trying to follow. It has changed a couple of casual paragraphs into a large block of bulleted data and link-heavy parentheticals, and I'm just not sure that it's an improvement.

Does anyone have suggestions on how to deal with edits such as this?

-- (WT-en) LtPowers 11:15, 7 December 2011 (EST)

The editors choice is to add the additional facts to the previous version, or change the tone of the latest. Personally, I can only pick up 3 facts that were introduced, and I'd be inclined to add them quickly to the previous version. --(WT-en) Inas 15:23, 7 December 2011 (EST)
This is what remains of the changes after I fixed them up. Good? (WT-en) LtPowers 13:55, 9 December 2011 (EST)
A bit of a compromise, but seems okay to me. I think at much an issue is how many facts (routes numbers, timetable info) we want to include in a guide to an English speaking destination where transportation guides are well developed. To me, in these destinations you want to know what is available and how it compares for cost and convenience. --(WT-en) Inas 17:25, 11 December 2011 (EST)

Quote[edit]

I just noticed that Ray Bradbury's quote had been moved to the bottom, with comment, "I love quotes, but that one will just discourage many non-native speakers to read on. Therefore, moved from the top." I restored it to the top, because I honestly think it the most important thing written on the page, and really think it is the first thing people should see when referred here. But I have given it an infobox-ish makeover to let non-native speakers feel comfortable in moving on to the plainer English below. --(WT-en) Peter Talk 21:49, 27 March 2012 (EDT)

It's fine if non-natives (like me) come across words they don't yet know. I'm not at all suggesting to switch to simple English. Yet, I also don't think it's a good idea to start pages that explain our guidelines with quotes that even advanced speakers can't decipher. We should stay accessible. If we use a quote like this, it should be less prominent, I think. JuliasTravels (talk) 15:15, 5 September 2015 (UTC)
It seems to me that making it less prominent would be rather ironic, considering the content of the quotation. Powers (talk) 00:00, 6 September 2015 (UTC)

Lively writing vs. purple prose[edit]

I hope for this thread, which is somewhat of a followup to "General ramble and a few questions" above but prompted by recent discussions on Talk:Colombia, to deal with the tone we want for descriptions of destinations and attractions, not of businesses, as dealt with in threads on Wikivoyage talk:Don't tout (but some of the wording on the Don't tout policy page is relevant, as I'll lay out below).

Some key points to consider:

From Wikivoyage:Tone: "Lively writing is welcome. The requirement of being fair should not be taken to mean that all writing must be bland and encyclopedic. Wikivoyage should celebrate travel, and you should feel free to share the adventure and excitement of the journey and the destination through your writing."

From Wikivoyage:Don't tout: "Wikivoyage specifically strives to avoid being an `advertising brochure' for any business, city, or service."

So, as I see it, ideally, we want the writing throughout this site to celebrate travel and the adventure and excitement of a destination without reading like an advertising brochure.

I'd like to discuss specific examples of writing, so we can try to reach some kind of working sense of where that line should be drawn.

This is the intro to Washington, D.C.:

Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States and the seat of its three branches of government, has a collection of free, public museums unparalleled in size and scope throughout the history of mankind, and the lion's share of the nation's most treasured monuments and memorials. The vistas on the National Mall between the Capitol, Washington Monument, White House, and Lincoln Memorial are famous throughout the world as icons of the world's wealthiest and most powerful nation.

Beyond the Mall, D.C. has in the past two decades shed its old reputation as a city both boring and dangerous, with shopping, dining, and nightlife befitting a world-class metropolis. Travelers will find the city new, exciting, and decidedly cosmopolitan and international.

I think this is excellent. It is clearly factual and uses language excellently, at what I'd describe as a college level. It makes Washington sound attractive, but without resorting to anything that reads to me like a cliche of tourism brochure marketing.

This was the intro to Colombia in a previous version of the article:

Colombia — forget the reputation. Twice the size of France, and with a diversity of landscapes and cultures that would be hard to find even in countries five times its size, Colombia belongs in the upper echelons of the world's most incredible travel destinations.

Pick a climate, and it's yours—if you find the light jacket weather of Bogotá cold, drive an hour down through the mountains and sunbathe next to the pool of your rented hacienda. If you don't want to sit still, head off into the Amazon or any of the country's other many inland jungles, snow-capped volcanoes, rocky deserts, endless plains, lush valleys, coffee plantations, alpine lakes, deserted beaches.

Culture? Intellectual Bogotá might lead the rest of Latin America in experimental theater, indie-rock, and just sheer volume of bookstores, but you could also get a completely alien education in an Amazonian malocca, or you could delve into the huge Latin music scene of salsa and cumbia, with the most exciting dance display being the enormous Carnival of Barranquilla.

History? Wander the narrow streets of South America's original capital in Bogotá, check out old Spanish colonial provincial retreats like Villa de Leyva, trek through the thick jungle-covered mountains of the northeast to the Lost City of the Tayrona Indians. Walk the walls of Cartagena's achingly beautiful old city, looking over the fortified ramparts upon which the colonial history of South America pivoted.

Nightlife? It really doesn't get better than in the undisputed salsa capital of the world, with hot Cali claiming that competitive distinction even over Colombia's other vibrant big city party scenes.

Dining? Colombians know a thing about how to eat right, and you'll everything from the ubiquitous cheap, delicious Colombian home-style meals to world-class upscale and modern culinary arts in the big cities, with cuisines from all corners of the world represented.

Relax? There's nowhere more laid back an peaceful than the idyllic and unspoilt Caribbean island of Providencia.

The political violence has subsided substantially throughout the majority of the country and savvy travelers have already flocked here from around the world—come before everyone else catches on!

This strikes me as a bit purple, for several reasons, including:

(1) "Colombia belongs in the upper echelons of the world's most incredible travel destinations."

Too breathless, in my opinion.

(2) The words in question marks ("Culture?"), which have since been changed to colons ("Culture:"), making the intro more intellectual and less urging to me (but whether we want a more intellectual or more urging tone is open for discussion).

(3) I'm not sure about "Pick a climate, and it's yours," either. Is that lively writing? Yes. But do we want writing that's breezy or more intellectual?

I guess the nub of my question is, how can we share our love of a destination while respecting our readers? And who, in any case, are our readers? I've been honest about my biases here: I like somewhat sober though colorful writing that's addressed to an educated audience. But I am only one reader. I look forward to hearing everyone else's thoughts and seeing other examples of writing you find ideally colorful or too purple, so we can discuss those, too. Ikan Kekek (talk) 21:25, 18 July 2013 (UTC)

I'm pretty much with you there. The Colombia intro is bombastic, as if it is trying to convince you that there is literally no place better in the world than Colombia for any purpose whatsoever. I find the rhetorical question format patronizing, and changing the question marks to colons only turns it unnecessarily into an essay outline format. Texugo (talk) 21:44, 18 July 2013 (UTC)
Given that writing a good lede is one of those arts where you "can't say what's good, but know a good one when you see it", I like the idea of collecting a few examples of good ledes and using those to describe what we're looking for. Personally, to me the lede is the thesis of the article and should meet a few goals:
  1. Provide an overview of what you're about to read
  2. Do so in a way that is interesting and makes the reader want to learn more
  3. Accurately depict the destination in question
As others noted, a lede shouldn't need to be promotional to be interesting. While he's sadly not very active anymore, I always thought Jani's writing did a great job of being interesting and accurately describing a destination - the first two examples I found of his are the lede/Understand sections of Singapore/Bugis and Yonezawa, but many of his other contributions are likewise excellent. -- Ryan • (talk) • 22:40, 18 July 2013 (UTC)
I agree. Both those ledes are excellent. One thing that's nice about them is that they encapsulate the history of the places in a colorful, entertaining way and also explain what the places are like now. Ikan Kekek (talk) 22:58, 18 July 2013 (UTC)
The main problem with both of those ledes, though, is that they are not ledes—those are understand sections, where things are meant to be fleshed out. The lede "Yonezawa (米沢) is a city in Yamagata, Japan." is a bad lede. It would be better to have no lede. Those dry facts are right at the top of the page, and if they are to be included in the article, they should be worked into something with a narrative.
In my view, the lede's purpose is to be a hook. If it immediately turns off the audience, then it's failing, as apparently is the case with what I wrote for Colombia. At Talk:Colombia#Lede this is discussed a bit more, and I point out that the LP lede is strikingly similar (though I hadn't read it before I wrote mine). Do people find their question marks as irritating a way to present the information? The suggested colons look weird to me, and I think the questions were stylistically superior. And I do stand by everything I wrote there: it's incredibly diverse, I love that you can pick your climactic zone by driving for an hour, etc., etc. When I was there I availed myself of the indie rock and avant-garde theater in Bogota, got into salsa dancing, read Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his hometown, got a truly alien education in an Amazonian malocca, trekked to lost indian cities, lounged on paradisaical beaches, etc., etc. Travel magazines have been putting Colombia in their top 5-10 places to go in the past few years, in part because there are few places with so much to offer and so few tourists to crowd the experience. Where in presenting this information did I go astray? I feel like my touting of D.C. is not less bombastic, with phrases like unparalleled in size and scope throughout the history of mankind, and the lion's share of the nation's most treasured... But those statements are just as accurate as what I've written about Colombia.
So while I agree with Ryan's points, I think the main purpose of the lede is the hook. It should engage a reader's interest, and is the proper place for writers to be creative and occasionally bombastic. More detailed information follows in the article. I would list our usual example of good writing, Chicago, but people have whined about that one on the talk page for years. Taste in things like this is extremely subjective, and I think we should err on the side of allowing writers to try and be creative (that's probably the main purposes of Wikivoyage:Tone). A good part of our contributor base comes from more of a intellectual and tech-minded crowd than what is representative of people who like to read travel guides, and I worry that is reflected in a tone that tends to be dry and academic (over-precision). We as admins also are probably acclimated to be extremely suspicious of flowery prose, because it more often comes from annoying business owners than enthusiastic travel writers. But I dunno, maybe I'm a better writer when writing about places I'm not excited about, like D.C.?
The last problem is that in writing ledes for country articles, there is an ulterior motive in lengthening them, in order to provide enough space for that damned quickbar. --Peter Talk 04:25, 19 July 2013 (UTC)
The two articles I cited from Jani were meant as examples of writing that I found interesting without being promotional - either of those "Understand" sections could be moved to the lede if the articles were longer.
To the point that ledes are subjective and we don't necessarily encourage lively ledes, maybe once all the fun with the current Wikivoyage:Banner Expedition calms down we could move on to a Wikivoyage:Lede Expedition. There seems to be agreement that the lede should be interesting and provide a "hook" to entice the reader to learn more, although I'd also argue that we should add a caveat that it should not stray into promotion - that's a fine line that will likely be very subjective. If there is interest in such an expedition then defining some basic criteria (as this discussion is trying to do) and finding 10-20 good examples (Chicago, Colombia, Washington, D.C., Borobudur, Walt Disney World, Copenhagen, ???) would be helpful to kick things off. -- Ryan • (talk) • 04:44, 19 July 2013 (UTC)
The Columbia lede quoted above strikes me as a bit too breathless. Trying just a bit too hard. Not bad, per se, but just a smidge over the top. It's perhaps instructive that I was surprised to find that Peter had written it, because it doesn't seem to strike the same balance he normally achieves. It comes close, but just misses the target, IMO. LtPowers (talk) 16:58, 19 July 2013 (UTC)
Out of curiosity, if people could also comment on the current version with suggestions at Talk:Colombia#Lede, it would be much appreciated. --Peter Talk 20:03, 19 July 2013 (UTC)

Leads & Ledes[edit]

Swept in from the pub

Hello!

It was recently suggested over on Meta (by Frank I believe) that a good way to improve our search rankings might be to revitalise the lead paragraph at the start of each article. This seems a good idea for this reason alone - we need all the help we can get with regards to popularity - but I feel that this is an excellent opportunity to improve this aspect of our pages.

The lead paragraph is the 'hook' by which we grab our readers and 'reel them in': unless we provide an exciting and lively opening, why should they continue to plough through our guides? From my experience with the Twitter feed, the humour and idiosyncrasies of our guides are among the things that our readers value most about Wikivoyage, yet the first part of our articles are often the driest. Consider York: in many ways this is a good article and worthy of its guide status, however, its introduction cites a 12-year-old census and gives (somewhat) incorrect information about the origins of New York's name. By contrast, look at the lead in Lonely Planet's article: it's longer, yes, but still manages to leave the reader hungry for more information through its style and content. That's what we need to do here.

I've had a go at doing this with our Manchester article, where I've tried to re-inject some enthusiasm and excitement into the guide's opening (though I'm certainly not suggesting that it's perfect!). Yes, it's quite long, but I think that's sometimes necessary to give more than just bare geographical information and to give the reader something to 'get their teeth into' and encourage them to continue with our pages. Travelling is extremely exciting and we need to prove that; from the first line of each article onwards.

This is not the first time that this has been raised, however, I think it is now more important than ever that we make Wikivoyage's content stand out from the crowd. I would hope that, by making a concerted effort to reinvigorate WV's leading paragraphs (where necessary), particularly focussing on countries and major tourist destinations as an initial priority, we could make a large difference to both our search popularity and change the perception in some uninformed eyes that we have simply 'ripped - off' another travel site. Perhaps a good place to begin would be to lose the current default opener of 'X is a city in Y' that can be found at the start of so many of our articles?

--Nick talk 00:25, 14 September 2013 (UTC)

I always punch up ledes when I can, but its very hard to do when it's not a destination with which one is familiar. LtPowers (talk) 00:49, 14 September 2013 (UTC)
I agree. Many lead sections in Wikivoyage articles are dreary, simple, and sometimes outright weird. That should be addressed, but Lt. Powers has a point. Lead sections (and prose in general) require more knowledge and work than adding a listing or two. If you're not familiar with the subject, there's not much you can do. I suppose you can advise people to place extra emphasis on lead paragraphs in the future, but it's not a menial task that can be done in large numbers.
As for the "X is a city in Y" opener, hmmm. Geographical information is pretty useful in lead paragraphs, but it can definitely be worded better. Maybe a quick solution could be to combine it with some sort of interesting fact (i.e. X's location in the middle of Y made it an important factor in Z)? On the other hand, something like that could only be useful on specific articles. It's just a thought. Nick1372 (talk) 02:44, 14 September 2013 (UTC)
We talked about having an expedition on this, but somehow, it never happened. Seems like a good idea. Ikan Kekek (talk) 02:47, 14 September 2013 (UTC)
An expedition might be a good way to start! I do however understand Powers' point about necessary prior knowledge of a destination, although if we focussed on countries, capitals and US states as a starting point, that might be less of a problem. As for "X is a city in Y" could we not change it simply to "X is a <adjective>, <adjective> city in Y". That way we not only give a greater sense of the city's character from the offing (whilst retaining the geographical information), but we also allow for a little bit of personal style to shine through. --Nick talk 11:44, 14 September 2013 (UTC)
Thanks, Nick, for pointing that out, I'll be sure to put more effort in the leads in articles I edit in the future. As for the "X in Y" subject, I agree that it's good to have some basic geographic info there; I think it might be more attractive when phrased like: "X, a city in Y, is..." which immediately throws you into a more lively description of the place. Tamuz (talk) 19:08, 14 September 2013 (UTC)

It's worth talking about the relationship between the lead and the "Understand" section. I'm never entirely sure what the exact relationship should be. Ikan Kekek (talk) 19:38, 14 September 2013 (UTC)

I think a discussion on that topic would be very useful. I've not been able to find any guidelines on the difference between the two and a stronger definition of what we want could well be useful. --Nick talk 21:27, 14 September 2013 (UTC)
Agreed. The way I see it, the leading paragraph should be a very summarized version of the Understand section, highlighting the prominent types of attractions and activities available. It should be no more than 2 paragraphs in length, since any additional background information should be put under Understand, while any practical travel information should be placed in the other sections. The lead should be useful for everyone, while the Understand section should be aimed towards travellers who want to get to know their destination better, beyond just the technical information of listings. Tamuz (talk) 00:01, 15 September 2013 (UTC)
Please see Wikivoyage:Article templates/Sections. The lede section is to make sure the reader knows they're in the right spot, and to entice them to read more. Good examples are at Chicago, Manhattan, Buffalo, Walt Disney World, and Copenhagen. The Understand section is more encyclopedic, but with a focus on tourism. LtPowers (talk) 00:38, 15 September 2013 (UTC)

Using our guides to attract visitors[edit]

Swept in from the pub

A comment that a new user made on Talk:Fairport (New York) has gotten me thinking. He said "No one visits Fairport based on a flowery or lighthearted description in WikiVoyage. At best, WikiVoyage points out a place to eat to someone already visiting."

Do you think this is true? For reference, Fairport is a village (the article also covers the surrounding town) several miles outside of Rochester, NY. It's a second-ring suburb and a very nice canalside community with a bunch of nice shops and some decent restaurants.

What do you all think? Should articles on destinations like this one take a just-the-facts-ma'am approach to letting travelers know where to find some grub once they're in town, or should we treat every article as a way to highlight what makes a destination worth going to, using vibrant language as an enticement?

-- Powers (talk) 23:06, 28 April 2014 (UTC)

Wikivoyage:Tone covers this topic, and I agree with that guideline - we shouldn't be "selling" a destination, but we should write about it in a lively and interesting way. -- Ryan • (talk) • 23:29, 28 April 2014 (UTC)
I think we have reached consensus to be vibrant and lively. I don't think that is what is at issue here. I think we need to take particular care when we're dealing with a suburb or town that is nice enough, but wouldn't normally be considered a destination that you'd go out of your way for, that we make that apparent in our descriptions. --Inas (talk) 23:35, 28 April 2014 (UTC)
I think if the users find that the actual place doesn't meet the hype, they will be upset with Wikivoyage for misleading them. Honesty is the best policy, I think, even if that means pointing out that a place has no particular tourism value. Unknown (talk) 01:38, 29 April 2014 (UTC)
Certainly. People still go to places that aren't on the tourist map, to visit family, on business, or even to get well off the tourist trail and experience the everyday life of the locals. I think Wikivoyage can be more useful in these circumstances, because there may not be a tourist guide, or web pages about such places. But our lede should make it obvious the nature of the location, and not make it out to be a major tourist attraction or must-see, it it isn't. --Inas (talk) 01:01, 29 April 2014 (UTC)
I think all of our articles should be written with the traveler in mind; specifically the type of traveler that a particular destination will be of the most interest. A town famous for pottery, for example, will not be everyone's "must-see" however, there are many people who such a town could be of a high priority. Most places in the world would not warrant a trip by themselves, but travelers don't have to be stationary, so these small towns DO have opportunities to attract people visiting bigger attractions in the area. In Fairport's case, it seems reasonable that someone visiting Rochester could be convinced to make the trip if there is something of interest to them. If daytrippers are the type of travelers that it attracts, it can be written with them in mind. I can say for sure that sites along/related to the Erie Canal actually have quite a draw, particularly among elderly Americans.
With that said, what the heck is up with the "See" section? That heading isn't supposed to be interpreted literally. That should be blanked or replaced with some actual sites. ChubbyWimbus (talk) 13:14, 29 April 2014 (UTC)

Well, I don't think it's fair to say I was 'misrepresenting' the destination. Primarily, I wanted to convey that Fairport is a aspirational model for many of the other canalside communities in the region (and possibly even throughout the state). I can see how my previous wording ("Located on the historic Erie Canal, Fairport today is what every old canalside village aspires to be. With its historic character, modern amenities, and friendly atmosphere, it's no wonder Money magazine named it one of the 100 best places to live in the country.") may be construed as too flowery, but I feel the basic message has been lost with recent revisions. I would welcome advice on how to fix my wording so that it does not run afoul of our tone policy. Powers (talk) 17:32, 29 April 2014 (UTC)

Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with a certain degree of "selling" the destination you're writing about. Certainly we should avoid opening the floodgates to an unchecked tidal wave of CVB-style destination touting, but frankly I think that short of eschewing a lively tone for a dry and boring one (that IMO is totally unsuitable for a travel guide), to a certain degree there's really no way to avoid it. To me, the question of whether lively language crosses the line into touting is totally a matter of degree, and a sharp distinction should be drawn between text that is both flowery and substantive (as Powers' original text at Fairport was) on the one hand, and meaningless fluff on the other hand. In my opinion, determinations should be made on a case-by-case basis rather than relying on a comprehensive list of dos and don'ts, and we should acknowledge that each individual participant in a discussion is going to have a different subjective opinion as to where to draw that line. In fact, I would go so far as to say that aside from avoiding blatant touting, this may be a case where it's not necessary for Wikivoyage to have a single solitary standard. Every writer has a different style, and I for one enjoy the diversity of styles between articles. -- AndreCarrotflower (talk) 19:32, 29 April 2014 (UTC)
To be clear regarding Fairport (New York), my personal opinion is that Powers' original text was fine as is. -- AndreCarrotflower (talk) 19:32, 29 April 2014 (UTC)
We should share our excitement about the destinations we cover :) while being fair. In general travel is something fun, something people do because they enjoy it (at least people who are reading travel brochures and travel guides before going). Therefore we should keep a positive and lively tone and highlight the (few?) things that make each destination interesting and special — without outrightly lying or exaggerating things, of course.
If e.g. a commuter just wants to look for a new restaurant to go to after his monthly meeting in the city, he shouldn't be disturbed by the presence of some "touting" text. ϒpsilon (talk) 20:22, 29 April 2014 (UTC)

It's an interesting point of discussion, and please no one take offence. After reading the earlier version of Fairport (New York), guide, it is attractive, well written, and I would add it to my itinerary, next time I'm over that way. I really would spend a night there, I like canals, boat trips, and the atmosphere sounds good. I'm imagining having my morning cappucino on the tow path overlooking the canal, and having a good mexican feed for dinner. I know it isn't a major centre, and I wouldn't spend a week there. So, have I been misled? Am I going to some unknown random town, with no visitor facilities, that noone in their right mind would go out of their way to see? If so, then we have a problem, we need a better description. If not, then I don't see a problem. It's targetted about right. --Inas (talk) 02:24, 30 April 2014 (UTC)

I think you've pegged it pretty well, actually. (And that's gratifying to me.) Powers (talk) 15:00, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
I think it's fine to write about a destination positively so long as it is also done fairly. In the case of the Fairport description above, if the town really is an attraction mainly for tourists interested in canal history or small northeastern towns, it would be helpful if the description made it clear who the target audience is supposed to be. If I understand correctly, we're not suggesting that the average traveler make a special effort to visit this town, but in its current form the description strays a bit into promotion by giving a one-sided account of what to expect, without providing any indication that the town may not be a side-trip that everyone would want to make. -- Ryan • (talk) • 03:21, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
Honestly, doesn't the mere fact of searching for/clicking on a destination imply that the reader takes a certain degree of interest in it? I would venture to guess that the vast majority of Wikivoyage readers don't just poke around the site blindly; they already have an idea where they want to go and probably already know a thing or two about the destinations they search for. -- AndreCarrotflower (talk) 03:30, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
There is a broader discussion to be had about using Wikivoyage as a travel planning tool, but I disagree that we can assume anyone reading an article is taking an interest in the place - instead, I think anyone planning a trip will click on the articles for towns and regions along their route looking for things that sound interesting, and we should quickly provide them enough information to decide whether a place is worth researching further. For that type of person (and with a trip coming up, I'm using Wikivoyage in exactly this way), the description should honestly answer the question "what should a traveler expect to find at a destination"? For a great example, see San Francisco/Civic Center-Tenderloin - the description for that article is interesting, but honestly describes the district in a way that gives visitors a realistic sense of what to expect. A visitor planning a trip to San Francisco has an overview that tells them about the cultural attractions without glossing over the rough aspects of the neighborhood, and thus has enough information to know whether he wants to continue reading without in any way being misled by a description that attempts to "sell" the district by only emphasizing the positive aspects of the area. -- Ryan • (talk) • 04:30, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
I agree that we should broach the broader discussion in some forum, and I'd describe the broader question as whether and to what extent we want to emphasize the undesirable vs. the desirable aspects of a given place. I'm wondering, for example, given what the new pagebanner on the Buffalo page looks like, what an honest pagebanner for Newark (New Jersey) would look like. Should it portray the fetid waters and industrial wastelands that many people see on a shuttle bus from Newark Airport, or should it show one or more of the pretty buildings downtown, or the cherry blossoms in Branch Brook Park? This is not a theoretical question: There is as yet no pagebanner for Newark (New Jersey). Ikan Kekek (talk) 04:59, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
Pagebanners are ideally both beautiful and honest; how much beauty is sacrificed for the sake of honesty and vice versa is a subjective decision that can be made by the author but can also be questioned by consensus. Also, in the case of Buffalo that Ikan cites, sometimes not everyone agrees whether certain aspects of a destination are desirable or undesirable. As I pointed out in Talk:Buffalo: unlike (presumably) Newark's brownfields, the fact that Buffalo boasts the largest collection of grain elevators in the world which are now being redeveloped is a point of pride to locals, and an argument can certainly be made that they're of interest to visitors (especially to the particular genre of visitor that is already seeking out Buffalo as a destination). -- AndreCarrotflower (talk) 05:46, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
Our guides should always be positive. There is nothing more obnoxious than a guide that tells you destinations and places are not worthwhile. If a place is of limited interest, we should be able to say WHO that limited crowd might be and let people decide for themselves if a place is 'stupid' or not worth their time.
In the case of page banners, we should ALWAYS make them attractive. The page banners really are a part of the overall article tone. We should not use them as a means to poke fun at destinations. Choosing "fetid waters" as a banner would be offensive. If the only thing to see or do in a destination is reel at fetid water, then the article shouldn't even exist. ChubbyWimbus (talk) 06:00, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
ChubbyWimbus, you seem to be looking at this in a more black-and-white way than I am. No one is seriously suggesting using an image of fetid waters as a pagebanner, and as for myself, when I wrote about "sacrificing beauty for honesty" I did not intend to say that it would ever be appropriate to choose a completely ugly banner for the sake of honesty. The truth of the matter is that tourist attractions are rarely ugly; when they are, in the case (arguably) of Buffalo's new pagebanner, on the "beauty-vs.-honesty" spectrum I'm saying it's okay to nudge the scale slightly to one side or the other. You can certainly choose a pagebanner that's less beautiful than an alternative - but still beautiful - if it's a more accurate representation of the destination's identity, especially as it's written in the text of the article (cf. "the page banners really are a part of the overall article tone").
This, of course, leaves aside the whole question of who judges what's beautiful. I personally think the new pagebanner is incredibly beautiful, and at Talk:Buffalo opinions are running 50/50 60/40 in favor of the new banner. -- AndreCarrotflower (talk) 06:20, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
I think it does in the end come down to your last point about WHO is judging the 'beauty' and/or 'honesty' of the image. I tend to agree that the new Buffalo image is both more beautiful and honest while some people see industrial buildings and automatically think "ugly". I don't see it as even being a "nudge" towards compromising beauty for honesty, unless the purpose of choosing the industrial area actually WAS to portray the city's "bad side", which I know is not the case. ChubbyWimbus (talk) 06:22, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
I think I agree with your point of view on this, ChubbyWimbus: "There is nothing more obnoxious than a guide that tells you destinations and places are not worthwhile. If a place is of limited interest, we should be able to say WHO that limited crowd might be and let people decide for themselves if a place is 'stupid' or not worth their time." That said, there is an argument to be made that if a place is nondescript-looking, an honest portrayal of that place would be to have a nondescript-looking pagebanner. I'm not advocating such a line of thinking, but it's worthwhile, even if only as a Devil's advocate argument to push back at. I do have another point, though, which is that some places may need to be covered only because they are places one needs to travel through to get from one interesting place to another. I'm thinking, for example, of Poggibonsi. I can't think of anyone who's considered that town a worthwhile place to visit during a trip to Tuscany (I remember it being really nondescript, in a region with such beauty), but you have to change buses there to get from Siena or Florence to San Gimignano, so it's worth covering for that reason and should have an article, if anyone wants to list good places to have some food and drink while waiting for the next bus. Ikan Kekek (talk) 08:19, 30 April 2014 (UTC)

All good points. I'd remark that we often have a very boring lede to many of our articles. Often it's xxx is a city in yyy province. Perhaps we appeal to our writers to indicate the potential appeal of places of less renown in the lede, especially since the breadcrumb is there anyway.

  • xxx is nothing more than a bus station. Arrive, try the tacos, and leave on the next convenient form of transport.
  • xxx may not be on the tourist trail, but it contains some of the most well preserved roman ruins on the European continent that you won't find on any map.
  • xxx is a dormitory suburb, but well worth the trip for pomologist travellers, with the oldest kumquat in the northwest.

--Inas (talk) 08:52, 30 April 2014 (UTC)

A final word from me about banners: by comparison with pagebanners, IMO we should be a lot more reluctant to sacrifice beauty for "honesty" in the case of DotM/OtBP/FTT banners. The Main Page should be all about eye candy, or more specifically, using a really nice image to entice readers to click on a destination that they may or may not have been interested in to begin with. With pagebanners, by searching for/clicking on the article the reader has already established a degree of interest in getting to know the destination, which is where a greater emphasis on accuracy comes into play. -- AndreCarrotflower (talk) 09:37, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
Agreed on that, but that would tend to point to the idea that perhaps boringness and ugliness should be criteria in judging whether a place should be featured on the front page. Right now, neither criterion is considered valid. Ikan Kekek (talk) 09:45, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
Even if the place is nondescript, there are still ways to be honest without sounding offensive or patronizing to those who might actually want to visit. In Inas' descriptions, I personally don't like the first one labelling an entire destination as a "bus station" and advises the traveler to leave ASAP. I'd prefer a "Most travelers" approach in that case, so that those the tone isn't so patronizing to the few travelers who may actually be planning to stay a little longer. I often visit towns and places within towns that make people say, "WHY??", but if I want to go to a 'boring' place, I will. It would be fine to see a travel guide to point out that it's not a major tourist city, to mention that most short-term travelers will probably find nearby X city to be of greater interest, etc. but travel guides are very unpleasant reads when the tone (or actual words) suggest no one should visit. When the public says "nay" and it's just you and your travel guide, it's quite lonely when the travel guide also turns on you. ChubbyWimbus (talk) 12:42, 30 April 2014 (UTC)
Saying the place is a bus station is only valid if it is, in fact, a bus station. I don't want to be patronising or misleading in the other direction either. See the guide I wrote to Marla, reasonable? --Inas (talk) 03:27, 1 May 2014 (UTC)
Seems reasonable to me. And ChubbyWimbus, I agree with your points, too, which as usual, you expressed eloquently. Ikan Kekek (talk) 04:31, 1 May 2014 (UTC)

A query about tone and mythology[edit]

Swept in from the pub

A recent edit to Mid-Atlantic has reminded me of a small concern I've had. This edit took a piece of mythology that we, with tongue in cheek, treated as truth. There's another article (which I can't remember right now; User:Ikan Kekek might) where I recall a clearly and obviously satirical lede has been neutralized to include all sorts of caveats and disclaimers, totally ruining the tone in the name of pedantic accuracy.

I believe both instances were originally written by User:Peterfitzgerald, who isn't around to defend them anymore.

My question is this: is it necessary to be scrupulously accurate at all times, or does our Wikivoyage:Tone policy allow some leeway for hyperbole and satire?

-- Powers (talk) 18:49, 15 February 2015 (UTC)

I don't remember the other article, but it could easily have been about Thailand, given that there's an occasional IP user who likes to edit out any humor or conversational tone in articles about that country and make them sound as stiff-upper-lip-British as possible. I do agree with you on hyperbole and satire. That historically has been one of the strengths of Lonely Planet guidebooks (I haven't bought or read one in a long time, but I remember them back to the 70s). I don't think the edit you point to ruins anything, though. Ikan Kekek (talk) 18:54, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
In general, I agree with you, Powers. Local lore, true or not, is part of what makes a destination unique, and absolutely should be shared with travellers. (I agree that Hobbitschuster's edit should remain standing, though.)
As for the other half of your question: I'm unsure what article you're referring to in your original post, but I think there's absolutely a place on Wikivoyage for obvious satire (and I certainly hope we're reverting those IP edits to the Thailand articles as violations of Wikivoyage:Tone). However, anything that's reasonably likely to be mistaken for the straightforward truth should probably be modified, and any disputes over whether a particular bit of satire is obvious should, as usual, be brought up for discussion on the respective talk page.
-- AndreCarrotflower (talk) 19:19, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
As I am the one that made the edit in question let me just say this: I agree that the tone should be lively and sometimes even tongue in cheek (the English language lonely planet still does that, the translated guides are less funny, at least in German, which is one of the reasons I prefer the English version) However, I do think that credible false information or information that might be considered true by some shouldn't be spread around lightly. Yes it is a funny story that e.g. the streets of DC were built to confuse invading armies, but I think we should at least mention that this is most likely untrue. Best wishes Hobbitschuster (talk) 19:33, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
I agree that "According to a popular urban legend" is needed here, if not I would just either take it at face value, or know it is myth and in that case my image of WV's credibility would decrease a little bit. I personally don't enjoy LP's style, it is written for people of a particular culture/country who understand in-jokes and references to US TV shows of the 70s that most of the English-reading world has never seen. We should strive to be more accessible, as our goal is more universal. Humour is great, let's just make sure articles stay understandable for non-natives. Nicolas1981 (talk) 02:50, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

It's bugging me that I can't remember the article. I want to say it was an American city, and the lede extolls the city's place in American society in an exaggerated way, but caveats were added out of a fear that we would look "silly" for treating the information as factual. Powers (talk) 02:42, 18 February 2015 (UTC)

Use of 'Epicenter'[edit]

Swept in from the pub

I was asked in a revert why 'epicenter' was wrong. The dictionary definition of epicenter is literally "the point on the earth's surface vertically above the focus of an earthquake" or sometimes "the central point of something, typically a difficult or unpleasant situation".

A quick search of Wikivoyage suggests that many people are using the word 'epicenter' as an attempt to make a more interesting word than 'center'.

Not a big deal in the greater scheme of things, but I believe that our prose style should only use the correct definitions. --Andrewssi2 (talk) 00:09, 15 November 2016 (UTC)

Sorry, I am certainly one of those who used it that way. I may or may not have read it in other travel literature. Hobbitschuster (talk) 00:13, 15 November 2016 (UTC)
We seek to promote a lively tone in our writing. Sometimes that means speaking in metaphors. The fact that this particular metaphor is a popularly used one only serves to bolster the argument in its favor. -- AndreCarrotflower (talk) 04:09, 15 November 2016 (UTC)
No, I'm sorry, I can't accept "epicenter" for "center". That's not a metaphor to me. It's an error, and a lack of clarity. Ikan Kekek (talk) 04:15, 15 November 2016 (UTC)
Perhaps a bit of context is in order. Ikan, this is the diff to which Andrewssi2 was referring. Consider also wikt:epicentre, which allows for a definition of "the focal point of any activity, especially if dangerous or destructive." To describe Percé as "the bustling tourist epicenter of the Gaspé Peninsula" doesn't seem too far off from that. No, there's nothing "dangerous or destructive" (or "difficult or unpleasant", in the Merriam-Webster definition) about tourism, but both of those sources allow a bit of leeway for the term to be used in a positive light as well. -- AndreCarrotflower (talk) 04:25, 15 November 2016 (UTC)
[Edit conflict] I was seeing it in Europe, where Barcelona was described, until I edited it, as the "epicenter of Catalonia" and Amsterdam was described as the "epicentre of social liberal attitudes". I substituted "capital of Catalonia" and "epitome of social liberal attitudes", which I think works in context ("canals, Rembrandt, hashish and red lanterns, the epitome of social liberal attitudes"), but it could be tweaked further. Ikan Kekek (talk) 04:27, 15 November 2016 (UTC)
I feel like the incorrect usage of "epicenter" is comparable to the incorrect use of "penultimate" to mean "ultimate". People feel like adding any old prefix to something merely strengthens the meaning of the stem, which is usually false. I would be careful about using the word for other than its technical meaning, lest we cheapen and blur the fundamental meaning and power of this word. Ikan Kekek (talk) 04:28, 15 November 2016 (UTC)
So if I look at some examples:
* Example 1 : Gould " Gould is best known as the epicenter for moose watching in the state " - not good use, either literal or metaphorical
* Example 2 : Beichuan " Beichuan was located very close to the epicenter of the Sichuan Earthquake on May 12, 2008 " - appropriate literal use
* Example 3 : Los Angeles/South Central " infamous for gang violence and for being the epicenter of major race riots in the 1960s and 1990s " - appropriate metaphorical use
Would you agree that we can change the word 'epicenter' for cases such as example 1? Andrewssi2 (talk) 05:27, 15 November 2016 (UTC)
It's more art than science, but yes, I'd agree that Example 1 would be better served by some other word. -- AndreCarrotflower (talk) 14:23, 15 November 2016 (UTC)
Thanks. I appreciate that we do allow artistic license. I was just concerned that the term was being employed habitually rather than sparingly and appropriately. Andrewssi2 (talk) 21:09, 15 November 2016 (UTC)
I concur that metaphorical use should be limited to events or occurrences with impacts of similar metaphorical magnitudes as earthquakes. Powers (talk) 03:09, 29 November 2016 (UTC)
I'm emphatically with Andrew & Ikan here; use of 'epicenter' where 'center' would do is an error. It is a rather common error, but still wrong. I'd correct/revert Andre's use of it in the Gaspe article without hesitation.
In the technical use, effects spread out from the epicenter. I think legitimate metaphorical use requires that something similar be going on. For example, describing Haight-Ashbury as the epicenter of the 60s hippie movement would be fine. Pashley (talk) 12:10, 29 November 2016 (UTC)
This is verging on language policing based on arbitrary personal preference. Copious evidence has been provided that metaphorical use of "epicenter" in this sense is correct, and that should IMO be the end of the conversation. -- AndreCarrotflower (talk) 14:18, 29 November 2016 (UTC)
I agree with AndreCarrotflower. I'm not sure if the use of epicentre as the "place that has the highest level of an activity" is perhaps fairly recent (and perhaps therefore still seems incorrect to some), but it is surely accepted and described by major dictionaries (Cambridge, Merriam, Oxford) and in practice (NY Times, Observer, Washington Post) now. I too would suggest restraint in changing this word unless really necessary. JuliasTravels (talk) 15:12, 29 November 2016 (UTC)
I'd expect "epicentre" to be not merely a "place that has the highest level of an activity" but a single point from which that radiates outward (much as seismic activity radiates outward from a single subterranean point). K7L (talk) 18:10, 29 November 2016 (UTC)
Well, for the record, I didn't just come up with that definition, it's the one that Cambridge dictionary gives. That's pretty much the point: personal expectations or connotations should not define whether we allow a word to be used or not. Judging from publications in which the word is used, plenty of others don't share that particular expectation. JuliasTravels (talk) 20:51, 29 November 2016 (UTC)
How about this, then: If there's a word or phrase that more clearly or effectively expresses something, that's all the justification anyone needs for changing to that word or expression, isn't it? Ikan Kekek (talk) 22:06, 29 November 2016 (UTC)
I think we should all strive to avoid cliché. And using the word epicenter in this manner can become quite stale quite quickly. Hobbitschuster (talk) 22:17, 29 November 2016 (UTC)
Just so you all know, this is the logical endpoint of the road we're starting down. I can say with certainty that I will not take kindly to my writing being held hostage to other editors' random personal pet peeves, especially when the dictionary is on my side, and a look at the user talk page relevant to the above link shows that I'm not alone. We certainly don't need that kind of polarization at Wikivoyage. -- AndreCarrotflower (talk) 22:41, 29 November 2016 (UTC)

(indent reset) I think we should all try to not make this a life or death issue. It is not. And it is not even on the first page of the list of things we can improve upon. If someone wants to weed out bad style and misuses of the English language, they can be my guest, but there are much lower hanging fruits than just a few words that may have changed meaning in the last few decades. There is questionable English in articles like Jinotega; things as high profile as the blurb on the top of Europe have not been edited since the migration. In that regard, yes, epicenter has arguably been overused and misused, and I will hopefully be able to adjust my style, but it is by far not the biggest marine vertebrate harkening for our pan. Hobbitschuster (talk) 22:45, 29 November 2016 (UTC)

I certainly agree with that. I haven't had any plans to page through every use of "epicentre/-ter" on this site. I did start with "notorious" and "notoriety" the other night, though, and found loads of uses (really, way too many to deal with) which really just meant "famous". I'll always look for a better expression whenever I encounter a page on which I think there is one, but of course people are always free to revert me with an explanation. Ikan Kekek (talk) 23:23, 29 November 2016 (UTC)
I thought this was adequately concluded some time back. I believed it satisfactory for all concerned that it would be OK to fix the term when it is used in a rather silly way (i.e. " Gould is best known as the epicenter for moose watching in the state " ), so not sure why this discussion is being labored further. Andrewssi2 (talk) 00:16, 30 November 2016 (UTC)
I'm certainly prepared to accept that reasonable conclusion. The all-or-nothing talk that immediately followed is what troubled me. -- AndreCarrotflower (talk) 00:29, 30 November 2016 (UTC)