So you're new to TV Tropes, and don't know how to write and format examples. How do you learn? You could read How to Write an Example, but that page has a lot of information for a beginner to take in. This is why just looking at our already-existing pages is a much easier and appealing way to figure out how this wiki works.
But there is just one issue: TV Tropes has a lot of rules and guidelines that are easy to forget, so most pages are bound to have multiple examples that don't perfectly follow them all. This page lists many of the most common issues that you are bound to come across, so you will know not to copy them.
Common mistakes on both work and trope pages
Sub-bullets are for making lists. Think carefully before adding them.
This is probably the most common type of mistake on this site, but it's very annoying to experienced editors. As you'd know from reading any trope or work page, putting an asterisk (*) at the start of a new line creates a bullet point, and putting two or three of them (***) changes the look and position of the bullet point. The point of these is to make lists and sub-lists. Unfortunately, many tropers just don't understand how to use these bullet points.
- A list:
- Usually doesn't put a full example's worth of material in its top entry. In the event that it does, it should naturally lead into the list, be incomplete without the list, and be required for the list's contents to make sense.
- Has more than one entry. If your example only has one second-level bullet point, it should probably be merged with the top bullet point.
Due to our more "relaxed" tone compared to other wikis, it can be easy to fall into the trap of viewing TV Tropes as a forum, with each example being a post. A consequence of that mindset is that new editors might feel bad about editing something that's already on a page. After all, changing what someone else said is rude at best, and evil at worst. This leads to a couple of related issues:
Using sub-bullets to expand on examples:
If you need to add something to an example, don't use a separate bullet point to do so.
Many new tropers feel bad about changing something already on the wiki. What if they ruin the example, or upset the person who originally wrote the example? A common (but wrong) way around this issue is to use a second-level bullet point beneath the example, to add new information without altering the original example. Following the "viewing TV Tropes as a forum" issue mentioned above, editors who do this might view their edit as a "reply" to another person's post. A good way to know that you're headed this way is if your example is a second or third-level bullet point that starts with "To elaborate" or "Also".
Instead of doing that, just add the information to the example. You can even remove or rewrite parts of it to help your text fit better. We promise nobody will complain. And in the unlikely case that they do complain, you can feel safe knowing that they are almost certainly in the wrong.
If something is wrong, delete it. Nobody will miss it.
Related to the above is the issue of people adding a sub-bullet starting with "Actually..." or "Not exactly" below examples with incorrect information. Perhaps they were worried that their correction was actually wrong, and wanted to keep the original example just in case. Perhaps they thought that deleting or altering the wrong example would hurt its writer's feelings. Or maybe they wanted to make their correction more distinct in order to draw attention to their superior knowledge of the work and brag a bit. Either way, if you see wrong information, just delete it outright. If you're not sure if it's right or wrong, just leave it as-is, and either research the work to confirm the example's accuracy, or ask other tropers for their opinion.
Inserting opinions into objective pages:
Opinions should only go on YMMV pages. This includes potholes.
TV Tropes distinguishes between objective tropes and subjective Audience Reactions (also known as YMMV). On work pages, adding audience reactions to the trope list changes the bullet point into a special icon to warn that it is incorrect, but trope pages have no such measures. Not only that, but until the 1.8 site redesign, work pages also didn't warn about potholes to audience reactions, so some tropers took this as a sign that they were allowed.
A character's Heroic Sacrifice might have made you cry. A fight scene might have made you cheer. A joke might have made you laugh out loud. But these are subjective, and potholing to them on objective pages defeats the point of the objective/subjective split, on top of making it look like you're enforcing your opinion as the objective truth.
Don't use first person, or refer to yourself in third person.
Thankfully, this issue is mostly dying out, but some older and less-maintained Moments subpages might still have a few cases. Referring to yourself, either via "I", "This Troper", "This editor", or "At least one fan of..." is bad form. 99% of the time it's used to insert your personal opinions where it doesn't matter (see above), and the rest of the time it's used to describe something that only happened to you specifically and is irrelevant to everyone else. It also makes TV Tropes seem like a forum, which further encourages improper edits.
Avoid terms like "recent", "upcoming", or "the latest".
Using terms such as "a recent commercial", "the latest episode", "the upcoming sequel", or "trailers for Work X show that..." is a bad idea. Once the work has been out for a while, these words will be confusing and meaningless, and you can't rely on Wiki Magic to update them later. You should write you examples so that even if they're left untouched for 100 years, they'll still be correct. For upcoming works, you don't need to add every trope as soon as they're revealed if you can't think of a proper way to word it, not enough context has been given in the pre-release material, or it's unclear whether the trope will actually be present in the released work.
If your example was removed or changed, discuss it before restoring it
An Edit War is a terrible thing any wiki will face eventually. The term refers to when an edit is added by Person A, changed or removed by Person B, and then re-added or reverted by Person A. Repeat until the mods intervene. Even if you absolutely know that you are right, that just means you'll have the upper hand in the discussion on whether to restore/revert the example or not.
Using text-replacement plugins
Don't edit if you are using novelty or censorship browser extensions
Some web browsers let you install novelty add-ons that automatically replace certain words, such as "Cloud" with "Butt", or "God" with "Lord Helix". If you think this is funny, feel free to read the wiki with them, but for the love of Lord Helix, don't edit pages unless you disable them first. The text in the editor will be replaced and saved, resulting in every reader being forced to read your "improved" version.
This goes double for any censorship plugin (AKA "nannybots"). We usually frown upon excessive and gratuitous profanity, but exceptions are made for quotes and other examples where the language is relevant. Your autocensor doesn't know that and will censor these anyway. If use of an autocensor is enforced by your parents, school, or anyone else, then it's unfortunate, but you are not be allowed to edit this wiki.
Common mistakes on trope pages:
Not re-arranging a work to accommodate multiple examples:
If a work has multiple examples, the first bullet point should not contain a specific example.
On trope pages, examples should be formatted differently depending on whether a work has one or multiple instances of a trope. If a work has only one example, it should be formatted as
- In Show X, this occurs in episode 2 when..
But if a work has multiple examples, it should be written as
- Show X:
- Happens in episode 2 when...
- In episode 6...
Therefore, if a work had one example and you wish to add another, you should change the first bullet point to contain only the work's title (and optionally, a general note along the lines of "This is common in Show X", or an explanation as to why the trope is common in the work), move the original example to a second-level bullet point (and reword it to no longer include the title), and only then add your new example as a second-level bullet point underneath.
Substituting a name or quote for the work's title:
The work's full title should appear in the example's text, preferably near the start.
Potholes are a trick that allows you to link to a page without having its title in your example's text. Unfortunately, this, combined with a tendency for fans to overestimate characters' popularity, leads to things like...
- Goku does this trope in episode X.
When it should be:
- In Dragon Ball Z, Goku does this trope in episode X.
This is annoying for readers, since they have to put their mouse cursor over the name to see what show it's from (or worse, they're using a device on which this is impossible). For people more familiar with the work, it makes the example hard to search for, since they can't just press CTRL+F and type in the title to find the example. And if someone wants to add more examples from the same work, it makes it harder to re-format the example (see above).
In general, you should write your examples under the assumption you're writing for people who know nothing about the work.
A smaller, but still relevant issue is sticking the name of the work near the end. For example, this:
- This trope results in some shocking spoilers happening in Dragon Ball Z.
runs the risk of somebody seeing some spoilers they didn't want to because they didn't know what work the example was about until it was too late.
Common mistakes on work pages
Each first level bullet point should have only one trope.
Rare is a thing that can only be described by one trope. As such, many tropers fall into the trap of using multiple tropes together to describe one thing. For example it might be tempting to add this to a character's entry:
The proper way to do it would be
Perhaps the people who make this mistake worry that mentioning a specific thing (in this case, the character's hair color) twice on the same page is redundant, or they just feel too lazy to write context for both tropes. However, this creates a problem with alphabetization, since a reader who is specifically looking for Significant Green-Eyed Redhead would look into the 'S' section of the tropes list, and not find the expected trope there.
Grouping related tropes together:
Each trope should be on a first-level bullet point, in alphabetical order.
Putting tropes on second-level bullet points is a common way for editors to show that one or more tropes are related to the above trope, or to show that one trope naturally leads into another. It's also incorrect.
Imagine a show where the main character, Bob, wields a really cool sword. A possible mistake in that case would be to add tropes about the sword like this:
- Cool Sword: Bob's sword is really cool:
There are a few issues this causes:
- It messes up the ordering. Similar to the Trope-slashing issue, somebody who's specifically looking for Flaming Sword will naturally look up the F section and be disappointed to not find the trope there. It's not a big deal on a page with only a few tropes, but imagine if there were a ton of tropes, to the point where you can't fit both the F tropes and C tropes onscreen at the same time, or if the tropes were split alphabetically across multiple pages.
- It's arbitrary. Why should Cool Sword be the top trope? Any of these tropes could be the first-level one. Using alphabetical order means it's always clear where each trope should go.
Another related issue is people adding an index to the tropes list, and then adding all tropes from that index that apply. An index is Not a Trope, and should not be linked to under normal circumstances.
Not reformatting tropes to accommodate multiple examples:
If a trope has multiple examples, the first bullet point should not detail any specific example.
If a work has only one example of a trope, listing the trope name and description on the same bullet point is okay (and in fact, not doing so is discouraged). But if there are multiple examples, the trope name should only have a general description like "This trope happens a lot", and actual examples should be left to the second-level bullet points.
Cleverly renaming tropes:
Don't change the name of tropes.
Not all tropes have perfectly descriptive names. Some Unisex Tropes have gendered titles. Some other pages, such as Americans Hate Tingle and Germans Love David Hasselhoff are named after one extremely specific example. You Gotta Have Blue Hair's title is specific enough that replacing the color in the title explains how the trope applies to the character. As such, it might be tempting to use the pothole markup to make the trope's name appear differently, such as writing "A Mother To Her Men instead of "A Father to His Men", replacing the nationality and object of affection in Germans Love David Hasselhoff, or replacing the color to make things like You Gotta Have Green Hair. But this creates some issues:
First of all, renaming tropes like this messes with the alphabetization. Does "A Mother To Her Men" go in the "M" tropes, or the "F" tropes? If multiple editors do this, it can quickly become a mess.
Second, it's misleading for readers, since they might think the "new and improved" title you just made up is a real trope, and get confused when they try adding it to another page later only to be met with a Red Link.
So that's why tropes should always be listed under their real titles on work pages. If your example really doesn't fit with the title, but still fits the definition, you can explain that afterwards. For gendered language issues, most tropes have alternate titles that you can use without the need of potholes. If there isn't, you can create one yourself.
Hiding the name of spoiler tropes:
Don't hide the name of spoiler tropes. If the trope's mere presence is a spoiler, leave it unhidden and put a spoiler warning at the top of the page.
TV Tropes has a handy function called spoiler text that can be used to hide parts of your examples if knowing their content would significantly affect the enjoyability of a work. Some tropes, such as All Just a Dream, Downer Ending, or The Hero Dies are inherently spoilers, and merely seeing them in the trope list is bound to spoil a big plot twist even if you don't read the hidden bits. As such, many editors feel tempted to hide these tropes' names when they appear. On top of being ugly, the spoiler is often easy to guess for experienced tropers due to its alphabetical position. If Downer Ending is hidden within the "D" tropes, there aren't many highly spoileriffic tropes that start with that letter. If the spoiler is that bad, just leave it unhidden anyway, and put a spoiler warning at the top of the page. If many tropes are Spoilered Rotten, it might be best to just declare the whole page to be Spoilers Off. This goes double for character pages, since listing a death or betrayal trope makes it impossible to hide which character it applies to. If you see "Killed Off for Real" on a character's entry, there won't be much doubt about their final fate, no matter how much text you hide in the explanation. Sure, there could be an aversion or subversion behind the spoiler markup, but that possibility alone isn't enough to make the spoiler markup sufficient. And if a character's folder contains paragraphs and paragraphs of spoiler markup, it's almost certain they're secretly the villain.
Adding objective tropes to the YMMV page:
Don't add objective tropes to the YMMV page.
We have a YMMV (your mileage may vary) section for things that are too subjective for the main trope list. Unfortunately, some people think it's clever to shoehorn objective tropes there for various reasons. Most frequently, they aren't sure if their example actually qualifies for the trope. Other times, they are trying to use tropes to describe the work's fanbase, which has the potential to get nasty quickly if negative tropes are used. Similarly, they may be using the tropes to describe fan reactions. Maybe they feel that creating a whole new trivia subpage just for one example is overkill. Or maybe they're just confused about where the trope should go. Either way, you can just delete or move these with "Not YMMV" as the edit reason.
- Everything in the Trivia section. Presumably, this mistake happens because the editor thinks creating a whole new subpage just for one bullet point is overkill. It isn't so don't worry making a page with just one thing on it. Some trivia is especially susceptible to this, and are listed below for more details.
- Asshole Victim: Typically means that a character who gets killed was hated by the fanbase. If the character was hated In-Universe, you can move it to the main page. If the hatedom for the character is significant enough, you might be able to fit it under Take That, Scrappy!. Otherwise, it's just character-bashing and won't be missed.
- Boring Yet Practical: While it's true that the efficiency of certain game tactics is bound to vary from player to player, there has to be some objectivity to the fact that one tactic is generally better than others. Try moving the example to Game-Breaker if it's too subjective for the main page. Otherwise, just move it to the main page.
- Dude, Not Funny!: This used to be YMMV, but was replaced with an objective trope when it attracted complaining. If the example is In-Universe, move it to the main page. If it's just the troper accusing a joke of being tasteless, delete it.
- Fan Disservice: Possibly confused with the YMMV Fetish Retardant. If the "sexy" content was clearly meant to be repulsive, move it to the main page.
- Fan Nickname: This goes on the trivia page, but is often mistakenly put on the YMMV page. The logic is sound enough: not everybody has heard of or uses the nickname, so it's subjective. Still, it should be added to trivia.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: It's not always clear if something is inappropriate or if it was actually intentional, but if you are doubting it, it's best to just not add it at all.
- Hell Is That Noise: This one used to be YMMV, but some people didn't get the message that it was made objective. If it's too subjective for the main page, try adding it to Nightmare Fuel.
- I Knew It!: Belongs on Trivia, even though not all fans correctly guessed the plot point.
- Shout-Out: Typically means that the editor isn't sure if the reference was intentional or not. A Shout-Out needs to be intentional on the author's part, so delete unless you personally are sure it was intentional.
- So Unfunny, It's Funny: Used to stealthily insult a work's sense of humor. Replace by So Bad, It's Good if possible.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Used to complain about the hero's actions. Delete on sight.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Due to being the only subtrope of The Woobie that is not YMMV. It probably doesn't help that the trope used to be YMMV. Move to the main page.