Anal Retentive

Definition #1
[via ObliqueQuestion] Ask "Is there a hyphen in 'anal retentive'?" If they try to answer, you know they are.

Anal Retentive (anal stage of development)
Steven Flynn

"The anal stage of motivational development is characterized by the child's central area of bodily concern in the rectum. Bowel movements become a source of pleasure to the child. The child may defecate to receive pleasure. However, gaining pleasure from defecating brings the child into conflict with the parents regarding toilet training. Freud claimed that delays during this stage (or this stage occurring prematurely) can cause fixation. Fixation during the anal stage can result in anal retention in which a person exhibits compulsive cleanliness, orderliness, or fussiness." --

Am I the only person who finds it unbelievably AnalRetentive to worry about RulesForUsingHyphensAndDashes? (moved to RulesForUsingHyphensAndDashes)

No, but you say that like it's a bad thing <g>.

Space before the question mark.

The question mark: -- DavidCary

According to distributed proofreaders at

"typesetters in the 1700's & 1800's often inserted a 3/4ths space before punctuation such as a semicolon or comma. Our OCR scanners generally read this as a space character. But when proofreading, we remove that space; since it distracts modern readers and removing it doesn't affect the meaning of the author's words."


A punctuation mark preceded by a space can be shown in the editing box on a separate line, which is okay for a hyphen, but not for other punctuation. The presence of a preceding space suggests that some text may have been deleted by mistake.

Single-space-after-period vs two-spaces-after-period

Essays, papers, formal texts: two-space-after-period. Media: newspaper, flyer, anything that may benefit from more available space: one-space-after-period.

In any properly typset output the whitespace after a period will not be an integer number of spaces. So while your wordprocessor may or may not do this, formal texts should not.

Should URIs should start with "http://" or "www." or both "http://www."?

Some sites are supposed to be "http://" others "http://www." It depends on the site.

If it's supposed to be "http://www." and you write "http://", in many, but not all cases, it will work.

If it's supposed to be "http://" and you write "http://www.", in many, but not all cases, it either won't work or you'll access an unintended site.

Technically, URLs should start with "http://"

Note: "http" is for websites only, as it refers to the HyperTextTransferProtocol. Similary, "ftp://" and ftp://ftp." refer to FTP sites.

At least one group of people insist that URIs should *not* start with "www.":

I've found (from dealing with clients for years) that if I direct them to go to a URL that does *not* start with "http://" they will instinctively add a www., and even occasionally voice concerns that leaving the www. off is impossible. -- RobertBromley

This is how I remember it as someone who began his working life before WWW: When WWW was first being used, the computer that ran the httpd was whatever the admin had configured it on. E.g if the computer was called "galahad", you'd access it via or whatever. I even remember a website that had a list of the most common computer names on the web (I think greek mythological characters were at the top of the list). Then at some point, sites would install a machine just to serve webpages and the admin would give it a "sensible" name (that reflected its function) rather than a "fun" name (such as "pegasus"). You can blame TimBernersLee for this, for in 1999 he did write:

What's an extra comma between friends?

Strive to be accurate, interesting, relevant, balanced and just a little provocative.

Question - should there be a comma after "balanced" in the previous sentence?

Yes, it needs another comma. Otherwise I get bad-tasting sentences like "I like sandwiches such as ham, turkey, peanut butter and jelly and meatballs." -- DavidCary

The comma is necessary in your food example, but in the original sentence it is optional. When in doubt, a comma can be added before the "and" in a list - it is never wrong to do so. Some people may find the writing uglier if you include the optional comma, but the choice is due to aesthetics, not grammar.

See "serial comma", also called "the Oxford comma"

OK if I move all this "serial comma" stuff to WikiPedia? Or is this somehow relevant to PeopleProjectsAndPatterns? ... perhaps this conflict between "leave that punctuation out, unless it's necessary", vs "always include that punctuation, even though sometimes it's strictly not necessary", is related to AlwaysUseBracesOnIfThen BracesAroundBlocks WhereDoTheBracesGo WikiEditingCustoms PreferredOrderOfSrcDstArguments CompareConstantsFromTheLeft LanguageLawyerRequired

It depends. In English, it is at least customary and in Finnish, absolutely incorrect. Think of it as an order of precedence issue. Compare to capitalization of, e.g., weekdays, languages, or months. (And note that English doesn't make sense and is barely a real language at all.)

IMO the bad-tasting sentence could have been better written as "I like sandwiches such as ham, turkey, and peanut butter and jelly, and meatballs." Mind you, I'm infamous for nagging people about things they're doing better their way.

You're suggesting A, B, and C & D, and E? Seems a bit inconsistent. But I'd be OK with A, and B, and C & D, and D. In this particular case, I think I'd shuffle C & D, A, B, and D.

On June 1, 2004, someone changed TypesOfSignature to delete a single newline. From

  ... signature flow with the paragraph ... ambiguity.
  -- WardCunningham


  ... signature flow with the paragraph ... ambiguity. -- WardCunningham

I suspect someone mistakenly thought that signature did not "flow with the paragraph".

Yes, it's anal-retentive of me to whine about this, because both look exactly the same to normal readers.

When I write a paragraph from scratch, I put a newline at the end of every sentence. When I change the wording in someone else's paragraph, sometimes I add newlines to all the sentences in that paragraph at the same time.

When someone deletes those "redundant" newlines, the paragraph looks exactly the same to normal readers. So why do I put them in? So when someone fixes some minor typo in my text, I (and other people who check the diff) don't have to read the entire paragraph to figure out what changed. I only have to read that one sentence.

If the "diff" utility here were more like the "diff" utility used by MediaWiki or MoinMoin wiki, it wouldn't matter - those highlight exactly the little bit that changed, so I don't have to read the entire paragraph.

But I try not to gratuitously add or delete newlines and make no other changes. That smacks of WastingPeople.

-- DavidCary

I would say the solution is a better diff implementation, rather than worrying about invisible newlines.

I have a number of friends who are careless of detail, careless of grammar, and often careless of factual content. The almost pathological response to any attempt to address any of these issues is "you know what I meant, don't be so damned anal."

I find that, except around people whose world stands on a foundation of precision (like engineers), I am stigmatized for any sort inclination to ensure that facts are correct, that language is correct and meaningful, or that things are put away where they belong.

Even among engineers I find those who believe that source code is only there to communicate with the hardware; the idea that other people might have to read it escapes them. Hey, don't sweat the WhiteSpace?, the compiler doesn't care. Well, okay, I'm not a compiler.

Carlessness seems to have become a virtue. "Whatever, dude" seems to have become the battle cry of the topically apathetic. I don't care and neither should you. Now go away, yer startin' to bug me.

-- GarryHamilton

Isn't whether "carlessness" has become a virtue a bit OffTopic in a discussion of attention to detail?

No, clearly it should be EatsShootsAndLeaves.

Attention to detail is a good thing. However, some people tend to focus too "deep" when there are not enough resources to explore everything as thoroughly as they want. Often they are of the mindset, "do it 100% right or don't do it at all". In other words, they don't mind sabotaging a project by taking too long because they feel a moral obligation to "keep it pure" and would rather release no product over a "C" grade product. This generates a lot of friction and sometimes gets them booted out. You may have to decide between the conflicting goals of purifying the world versus staying employed, and staying employed requires some degree of WhenInRome. If your boss values delivery-time and cost over quality, it is best for your career to abide by those goals. --top

Contrast: WabiSabi

View edit of September 30, 2009 or FindPage with title or text search