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Administrivia / How to Write an Example
aka: Examples Are Not General

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If tropes are the "meat" of TV Tropes, examples are the potatoes, sides, sauces and condiments that give that meat both substance and flavor. A list of tropes with descriptions and clever names is all well and good, but examples bring articles to life, flesh out readers' understanding of tropes, and showcase the many ways a single trope can be used.

Given all that, it's important that our examples be as readable, informative, and interesting to as many readers as possible. To that end, we've come up with a list of guidelines and best practices to keep in mind when adding examples to pages.

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While the size of this list may seem intimidating, please remember that very few of these "rules" are completely unique to TV Tropes. Most of them are about the characteristics of good writing in general: clear, concise, organized, informative. Likewise, if you've spent time reading the wiki, you probably have a decent enough idea of what an example is expected to look like. These guidelines are about refining and improving your example writing, not boxing you into a boring, uniform writing style.

Other relevant information can be found at the following pages:

For an actual example of everything on this list (and about 3,000 screwups that aren't), see How Not to Write an Example.

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The First Rule:

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All-Purpose Advice:

    General Guidelines 

  • Aim For "Final Draft" Quality: Simply adhering to this concept will serve you well throughout your troping career, regardless of what you're doing or where.

  • Include the Full Name of the Work or Trope: Every example on a trope page should either include the name of the work or be placed under the work's entry as a secondary bullet point. Likewise, every trope on a work page should organized under its name in alphabetical order. You do want the reader to know which work or trope you're talking about, right?

  • Write for a General Audience: Readers should be able to understand your example regardless of their age, place of origin, or if they're reading this several years from now.
    • Keep the fan terms and jargon to a bare minimum. Not everyone is familiar with every fandom's terminology.
    • Don't use the hottest new slang. Most slang terms fall out of use before long, and future readers shouldn't need an interpreter to understand you.
    • Don't use Internet acronyms. Not everyone knows what they mean, and it makes your writing look lazy.
    • Don't use acronyms for work names; write them out. If you've already used the full name of the work in your entry, you can abbreviate it on subsequent uses, e.g. Order of the Phoenix for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
    • Don't refer to memes unless it's actually part of the example. No meme is popular or funny forever, and using such inside jokes is tacky at best.

  • Keep it Brief: Brevity Is Wit. No one wants to read Walls of Text. Examples should have enough substance that readers can get a clear picture of how a work uses a trope, and no more. As a general rule, if your example is longer than a medium-sized paragraph, it's too long.

  • ... But Not Too Brief: Remember, an example is exactly that: an example. With the specific exceptions of a select few Title Tropes, there is no such thing as an example that doesn't need to be explained or given context. On TV Tropes, context is key.

  • Stay on Topic: Don't switch topics in the middle of an example. If you're talking about a TV show, don't suddenly start discussing another show mid-paragraph. Each work and/or trope should receive its own bullet point.

  • Don't Write in the First Person: TV Tropes is not a forum or a blog, so using such self-referential language (even something like "This Troper") is not appropriate. You aren't the topic of conversation; this isn't the time or place to make the discussion about you.

  • Write in Historical Present Tense: Descriptions of events in an example should usually be written in present tense. Past and future tense are used to describe actions that occurred before or after the main action in the sentence.
    • Right: Alice eats the burger Bob prepared a while back.
    • Wrong: Alice ate the burger Bob prepared a while back.

    Fundamentals of Formatting 

  • Check Your Formatting: Check your entry after writing to make sure it's formatted the way you intended. Double check trope links to make sure they aren't broken links. Try to avoid spending three editing sessions fixing your mistakes; use the Preview function to double-check your work before committing to it.

  • Italicize "Long" Work Names: Most works, such as books, TV series, and music albums, are considered "long works", and their names should be italicized. Shorter works (or parts of works) like individual songs, TV show episodes, short stories, short poems, essays or chapters should be set in quotation marks. When in doubt, it is best to use italics.

  • Don't Overuse Emphasis Markup: Boldface, italics, and ALLCAPS for emphasis are best used sparingly when writing examples:
    • If you put too much of an example in emphasis markup, ultimately nothing will stand out.
    • If you do emphasise something, just use one form of markup.
    • The names of tropes on work pages and their subpages never go in emphasis markup for any reason.

  • Do Not Alter or Pothole the Trope Name: When adding a trope to a work page, always use the trope's correct, unaltered title — don't use "Red Right Paw" as a pothole to Red Right Hand when writing about a Funny Animal. Potholing the trope name isn't as clever as you may think, and it creates problems with alphabetization and wick migration. However, it's OK to use gendered redirects to tropes when appropriate.

  • Do Not Use Comment Tags to Pre-hide Examples: While existing examples that violate a rule — particularly Zero-Context Examples — may be hidden with comment tags to encourage users to fix them, never add a new example that is already commented out. It's considered lazy, sneaky, and underhanded, and repeated offenses lead to quick suspensions.

  • Use Potholes to Clarify, Inform, or Hide Spoilers:
    • A good use of potholes — that is, "hidden" links within trope descriptions — is to clarify or provide extra information to people who haven't seen the work in question. For example, potholes can provide character information: "Alice kills Bob."
    • Additionally, using a pothole in place of a name can be used to hide spoiler content: "Femme Fatale Alice kills The Fool of the work."

  • Avoid Irrelevant Potholes: Potholes should lead somewhere relevant to the discussion at hand. Otherwise, you're just creating a distraction and annoyance for the reader. No one but you thinks your little non sequitur of a link is clever. We have come to refer to this kind of potholes as Sinkholes.

    Sorting It All Out 

  • Follow the Sorting Pattern Used On The Page:
    • Most pages on the wiki are sorted by Media Categories. Add examples to the proper medium, and if the list is in alphabetical order, follow suit. If it's not alphabetized, add your example to the end of the list.
    • If the page is sorted some other way, follow the established sorting pattern.
    • If the page is not sorted and has gotten long enough to need sorting, then sort them according to the method used by other pages of the same page type.

  • Group Examples on Trope Articles: If there are already examples for a particular work in a trope article, you should add your example in the same section, using the appropriate indentation. If the work is belongs under a different medium from the other examples, however, list it under the appropriate medium first.

  • Do Not Group Subtropes Under a Supertrope Entry: Always list each individual trope example separately in its proper order. There's a section in Example Indentation in Trope Lists addressing this matter.

  • Do Not Place Multiple Tropes on the Same Bullet:
    • Every trope on a page should have its own bullet. Putting multiple tropes on one bullet creates all kinds of messes with duplicate entries, organization errors, and confusion over which trope applies to which example.
    • The most common (and most insidious) version of this is called "tropeslashing," which looks like this:

    Cutting the Crap 

  • Cut Out the Cruft: Word Cruft is the term for text that serves no real purpose but to make the example longer and harder for the reader to parse. Reread your examples before posting, and cut out text that doesn't enhance reader understanding, add humor or charm, or make a point.

  • Purge Purple Prose: "Purple prose" describes writing that is ridiculously dramatic, overly detailed, and places an emphasis over being "pretty" than being easily understood.
    • Don't use ten words where two words will suffice. You aren't being paid by the word... or at all, really.
    • Spare us the melodramatic or flowery tone. We're talking about storytelling devices, not the eternal destiny of star-crossed lovers or whatever.
    • If they aren't necessary — and they almost never are — leave the obscure ten-dollar words at home. Especially if you don't know what they actually mean or how to properly use them. Just because a thesaurus says two words are synonyms doesn't mean they're interchangeable.

  • Avoid Detail Bloat: One of the most common mistakes tropers make is believing that they have to include every semi-relevant detail in their examples, thus bloating fairly simple entries into a massive Wall of Text. Examples should only include details necessary to understanding the example; comprehensive detail is neither necessary nor desirable in trope examples. This is admittedly one of the more difficult habits to break, and developing a sense of what's truly necessary can take time, but help is available if you need it.

  • Don't Comment on the State of the Article: Are you surprised that a specific example hasn't been added to the page yet? Then feel free to add it... but don't talk about how you're shocked that it's not already on the page. Commenting on the current state of a page is silly, doesn't help anyone, and such of-the-moment remarks tend to become obsolete very quickly.

  • Don't Comment on a Work's Popularity (or Lack Thereof): On TV Tropes, There Is No Such Thing as Notability. We don't care if a work is popular or not. Outside of YMMV tropes specifically about how a work was received, statements that a work is "famous" or "little-known" or "surprisingly obscure" are completely irrelevant.

  • Avoid Complaining About Shows You Don't Like: The main wiki is not the place for you to complain about works that bother you. So don't. TV Tropes is not a collection of caustic critics; people are here to learn about tropes and have fun, not read about why some goofball on the Internet hated a TV show or book.

  • Avoid Gushing About Shows You Like: We reiterate: the main wiki is not the place for you to air out your personal opinions, even if they are positive. Additionally, overly gushy writing tends to include claims that are very complimentary but not actually true.

    Editing Existing Examples 

  • Don't Be Afraid to Edit: Sometimes a prior example is worded strangely or glosses over distinct examples in its own right. You are encouraged to clean up what came before: parse down a Wall of Text into bullet points, fix grammar and formatting, and eliminate natter. The cleaner the page looks, the better your example can be read and understood.

  • Repair, Don't Respond: If you think an example is inaccurate, just correct it yourself. This isn't a blog or forum; do not respond to any entry. The person who originally typed the example does not hold a copyright to it; you can change it.

  • Edit Reasons and Why You Should Use Them: When you make an edit to a page, it is helpful to fill in the "Edit Reason" box with a brief but courteous explanation of what you have added, changed, or removed along with your rationale. This helps other tropers quickly see what has changed and understand why. This is especially true when deleting examples from a page.

What Makes a Good Example?

    Good Examples Are... 

  • Good Examples Are Business Casual: In this case, the term "business casual" means that you can have some fun and don't have to write in a cold, sterile, overly academic style. In the end, though, TV Tropes is not a lawless free-for-all. You do have to take care of business — being clear and informative — while having your fun.

  • Good Examples Are Easily Explained: All examples must provide context, or briefly explain what the trope is and how the work uses it. However, providing context is not the same thing as trying to justify why you think the example fits the trope. The truth is, if you have to spend significant time qualifying and justifying how your example fits, it's probably not a very good example... or an example at all.

  • Good Examples Are Timeless: As a few other guidelines point out, examples should be understandable regardless of when they're read. Before posting, be sure to ask yourself the following questions, and adjust your writing accordingly.
    • Will this make sense five years from now?
    • Will this come across as quaint or silly?
    • Might I be embarrassed by this in five years?

  • Good Examples Are Self-Contained: The goal of an example is to provide all of the immediately pertinent information in a fairly short, easily consumed paragraph. While it's certainly okay to refer to other pages for additional information, readers should never be required to visit other pages to have the faintest idea what you're talking about.

    Good Examples Are Not... 

  • Good Examples Are Not Arguable: Tropes are objective, so a trope either exists within a work or it doesn't. There is no such thing as an "arguable" example of a trope, so don't list any. If you think your example really is an example, add it without using Word Cruft like "arguably", "possibly", or "could be considered". If it's not an example, then don't. YMMV entries are subjective, so there's no need to use phrases like "arguably" or "to some," because that part is already understood.

  • Good Examples Are Not General: While you don't necessarily have to cite the exact chapter or episode, examples do have to point to at least one specific instance of a trope occurring within a work to be considered valid. Broad statements and generalizations, like "Early anime dubs often had pointless cursing added to the script" may or may not be true, but without at least one specific example, they're considered unsubstantiated claims.

  • Good Examples Are Not "Recent": Avoid using words like "recent" or "new" when writing on TV Tropes. The work in question may be new when you write the example, but people might still be reading it years from now, when the work may no longer be considered "recent". Also, works tend to come out on different dates in different countries, so what is "new" to America may not be so recent in Japan or Europe. If the time of release is important to your point, use an actual date.

  • Good Examples Are Not Type Labels: You may encounter a trope that refers to different variations of the trope as "Type 1" or "Type A". Such type labels are an artifact of TV Tropes' early days, and are no longer used as letters and numbers do nothing to describe the trope or its subtype. Moreover, listing a type label in an "example" in lieu of actually providing context is considered a Zero-Context Example, which will be deleted and could result in a suspension if done habitually.

  • Good Examples Are Not Weblinks: Links to other websites, such as a YouTube video or an offsite image, are never considered sufficient context for examples. Since the Internet is constantly changing, whatever links you put in an example may no longer exist in a few weeks, or may get put behind paywalls or other restrictions, preventing readers from being able to understand your examples at all. Weblinks may be used to supplement your written example, but they are never a substitute for it.

Example Dos and Don'ts:

    Example Dos 

  • Check For Duplicates: Before you hit the edit button, it's always wise to search existing examples to make sure yours hasn't already been added. If you don't want to read them all, Ctrl+F (Command+F if you're a Mac user) the page instead.

  • Make Sure it's Allowed: Not every trope allows examples, and some only allow certain kinds. Some tropes are strictly in-universe, and others forbid non-fictional examples. Likewise, certain types of works (such as pornography) are not allowed on the wiki at all. Be sure to fully read the description to make sure your example actually applies, and that it's allowed on the page.

  • Make Sure It's Relevant: Be careful to avoid shoehorning examples in where they don't fit.
    • Always read the trope description before you add an example to its page.
    • Write the example to address the trope. For example, the trope Badass Longcoat is about the garment, not the person wearing it.
    • Be specific. If a trope applies only to one specific character, it's best to list the trope under that individual character's entry on the work's Characters page if possible.

  • Make Sure It's Accurate: At times there can be many different tropes that describe very similar events. Check into those other tropes before adding examples to the wrong trope. We have the Canonical List of Subtle Trope Distinctions just for that purpose.

  • Make Sure It's Specific: There are some tropes that are nearly universal with a medium, such as Executive Meddling with TV shows and movies. But saying "An interview with person X reveals that there was a lot of Executive Meddling going on" and not explaining it is ultimately an empty example. We want to know what was screwed around with and even the why, even if it doesn't make sense.

  • Minimize Spoilers:
    • Remember our Spoiler Policy. It is generally better to have a somewhat vague example that anyone can read than a precise and specific example covered with pieces of spoiler text.
    • Try to avoid including plot-sensitive information like someone dying or switching sides, unless that's specifically what the trope is about.
    • If an example needs to be entirely spoiler-tagged (including the work/trope name) to avoid spoiling the work, reconsider adding it; it won't do any good as an example for anyone who doesn't want to be spoiled for that work.

  • Give Sources for Anything Word of God Related: While we don't require strict Wikipedia-style citations, one should say where a Word of God statement originated from. Something as simple as providing a link, or giving a specific place to find the claim is sufficient. We require this because a lot of people like to claim a "fact" is Word of God to make their claims seem more valid.

  • Source Any Examples from Upcoming Works:
    • Tropers can write about upcoming works on TV Tropes, but that has its own set of special rules and regulations that must be followed.
    • Trailers and other promotional materials can be troped, but the example must clearly state that it comes from promotional material and not the finished work.
    • Don't ever trope information obtained from a leak. This is not allowed under any circumstances.
    • Likewise, don't ever assume or make an "educated guess" facts about upcoming works. That's nothing more than making stuff up.

  • Remember that Tropes Are Tools: Tropes are storytelling devices. You may not care for a specific trope, but tropes are neither inherently good nor bad. A show's quality is not determined by the specific tropes it uses, but in how and how well it uses them.

    Example Don'ts 

  • Don't Refer to Other Items on the Page: TV Tropes is a wiki, and wikis change constantly. So don't have an example specifically refer to information elsewhere on the page. Also, be very careful about starting an example with "Similarly," or "Like in the example above," if it isn't part of the same entry, as info may get deleted or moved. Avoid mentioning that an example provides the page image or quote, since that should be obvious to anyone who sees the top of the page, and relying on these things for context might cause issues if they're changed.

  • Don't Write Reviews on the Trope Page: TV Tropes defines "tropes" as tools for storytelling. As such, they cannot improve or destroy the quality of a work; they merely exist in a work. Using the trope page to highlight your opinion of how the trope is used is off-topic. If you must write reviews, we have a Reviews Section, as well as the relevant sections of the Sugar Wiki and Darth Wiki.

  • Don't Start Crusading or Righting Great Wrongs:
    • Always Remember the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement. The TV Tropes wiki is not the place to be pushy about your personal or political beliefs.
    • If you decide to delete something that somebody else wrote, politely provide an edit reason explaining why. And it better be a valid, rules-based reason.
    • Violating this rule tends to result in severe penalties, as nobody here is interested in cleaning up after whatever fights or Edit Wars your actions may start.

  • Don't Speculate or Predict: If a trope hasn't actually appeared in a work, it's not an example — no matter how much you think it will appear. TV Tropes doesn't deal in predictions or uncertainties.

  • Don't Use Weasel Tropes: It's true that Tropes Are Flexible, and some tropes have broad definitions. Still, it's not acceptable to wedge in examples that don't fit, especially if doing so to subvert the rules. For example, Fridge Logic is defined as "You didn't notice this until long afterwards," but some use it solely to complain about minor details that annoyed them.

  • Don't Use Uncertain Language: Phrases like "Possibly subverted in..." or "<Show X> might qualify" make the example look wishy-washy and add no informational content. If you want to add an example and you're not 100% sure about the details, then ask other tropers. Surely at least one will know what you're talking about.

The Final Rule:

  • Have Fun!: These rules are here to help produce a useful, easy-to-read, fun environment for reader and editor alike. They are not a massive Sword of Damocles waiting to fall on you at the slightest misstep. Follow them to the best of your ability, but don't let them stress you out. TV Tropes is generally a pretty relaxed place, and as long as you aren't deliberately causing trouble, vandalizing the wiki, or outright refusing to listen or communicate, our moderator team and community are more than willing to work with you.


Alternative Title(s): Examples Are Not General, Good Style, Examples Are Not Partial

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