Wikipedia:Make technical articles understandable

The content in articles in Wikipedia should be written as far as possible for the widest possible general audience.

When adding content and creating new articles, an encyclopedic style with a formal tone is important. Instead of essay-like, argumentative, or opinionated writing, Wikipedia articles should have a straightforward, just-the-facts style. Every reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that material is presented in the most widely understandable manner possible. If an article is written in a highly technical manner, but the material permits a more understandable explanation, then editors are strongly encouraged to rewrite it.

Audience

Wikipedia has a varied audience who can be graded in three ways:

  • On familiarity with the subject.
    • The general reader has no advanced education in the topic's field, is largely unfamiliar with the topic itself, and may even be unsure what the topic is.
    • The knowledgeable reader has an education in the topic's field but wants to learn about the topic itself.
    • The expert reader knows the topic but wants to learn more or be reminded about some fact, or is curious about Wikipedia's coverage.
  • On reading ability. Various free online tools can automatically grade the readability of text or highlight complex sentence structures, like http://www.hemingwayapp.com (http://www.readabilityofwikipedia.com (Flesch reading ease).
  • By motivation to learn about the topic.

A highly educated, knowledgeable, motivated reader may comfortably read a 5,000-word featured article to the end. Another reader may struggle through the lead and look at the pictures. A good article will grab the interest of all readers and allow them to learn as much about the subject as they are able and motivated to do. An article may disappoint because it is written well above the reading ability of the reader, because it wrongly assumes the reader is familiar with the subject or field, or because it covers the topic to too basic a level or is not comprehensive.

While a member of any of the audience groups may stumble upon an article and decide to read it (for example, by clicking on Special:Random), some subjects naturally attract a more limited audience. A topic that requires many years of specialist education or training prior to being studied or discussed is in general likely to have a more limited audience. For example, a topic in advanced mathematics, specialist law, or industrial engineering may contain material that only knowledgeable readers can appreciate or even understand. On the other hand, many subjects studied at an academically advanced level remain of interest to a wider audience. For example, the Sun is of interest to more than just astronomers, and Alzheimer's disease will interest more than just physicians.

Most Wikipedia articles can be written to be fully understandable by the general reader with average reading ability and motivation. Some articles are themselves technical in nature and some articles have technical sections or aspects. Many of these can still be written to be understandable to a wide audience. Some topics are intrinsically complex or require much prior knowledge gained through specialized education or training. It is unreasonable to expect a comprehensive article on such subjects to be understandable to all readers. The effort should still be made to make the article as understandable to as many as possible, with particular emphasis on the lead section. The article should be written in simple English language as non-experts can understand properly.