I wrote an answer which is, I am told, "not in compliance with local attribution guidelines."

What, if anything, do I need to do to this answer to bring it up to code? Do I really have to add "Wiktionary licenses its text under CC-BY-SA 3.0 terms"?

  • For attribution guidelines, look no further than Andrew Leech, Sumelic, Sven Yargs or tchrist's answers. I think they're the gold standard.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 20:55
  • 1
    Here's mine. I reckon your Wiktionary link is fine; the others don't need the rather messy links themselves in the answer and could all be "tidied" so the blog names are used for the link text. But the answer as it stands is OK, reference-wise. Oh, and @Mari-LouA I spell my name as...
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 21:56
  • 2
    Andrew, as a mod, you can fix the misspelling of your last name in the comment. I can assure you, it was not deliberate.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 22:19
  • @AndrewLeach I think it'd be nice if you could double check the answers me and Sumelic wrote, then cross-reference those to the answer as it is written and to make sure it complies with the guidelines you and Kit Z. Fox delimited in that topic you provided.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 0:00
  • @AndrewLeach - Would you do me a favor and put that in an answer? Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 14:35
  • I can't see this question and not think of the discussion of flair in Office Space. And as in Office Space there is a certain arbitrary unreality to the whole issue. Remember: "People can get answers to their grammar and usage questions anywhere, m'kay? They come to EL&U for the atmosphere and the attitude." (To which I would only add that the pay is undoubtedly better at Chotchkie's than at EL&U.)
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 23:05

3 Answers 3


I am sorry for the mishap earlier. Formatting was only a secondary concern, but when we edit posts we are encouraged to improve them as much as possible. I guess I misinterpreted your intention.

The current guidelines are expressed at What Is Plagiarism? How Do I Avoid It? How Do I Address It When I See It, The New Attribution Rules, How to Reference Material Written by Others and the related links provided therein. It is worth noting that we have an excalating proceedure for dealing with this which can lead up to answer deletion and suspension for noncompliance.

My complaint with your post is that you have quotations and bare links, but no textual attribution. To demonstrate the problem, the way your post is using quotations is like this:

Polly Toynbee recently gnashed her teeth over Girlification's triumph over Feminism. https://www.notesfromtheslushpile.com/2008/04/polly-toynbee-on-girlification.html

Each quotation should also have attributions like this:

Poly Toynbee on Girlification by Candy Gourdlay:

Polly Toynbee recently gnashed her teeth over Girlification's triumph over Feminism. https://www.notesfromtheslushpile.com/2008/04/polly-toynbee-on-girlification.html

Complicating matters is that we do not seem to have guidelines for newspapers and blog type posts, where attributing a publisher like the Reno Gazette Journal is just as important in identifying the source as the author. Maybe the moderators can help clarify that matter for us.

Sometimes, under present guidelines, you can can get away with just citing the name, or an abbreviation, if you are citing a reference work, so as a matter of Stack Exchange policy the Wiktionary attribution is fine, although perhaps not by Creative Commons standards, but that is another subject. Hence either The Oxford English Dictionary or O.E.D. can suffice if you are citing a dictionary. Whether or not you may use an abbreviation depends on whether or not it is a commonly known abbreviation.

The wiktionary citation for Princessify is fine by English Language & Usage's attribution standards (albeit perhaps not by Creative Common's licensing terms).

Worth further note is that Wordnik is a meta-dictionary. The present English Language & Usage guidelines insist that you cite primary resources. Wordnik themselves is citing Wiktionary for the definition you took from there, and you should be too. See: Is TFD a RTFM online source? for details regarding that.

Regarding the CC-BY-SA 3.0 terms, that is more of a legality concern than a citation concern. If you check the terms of the license it states:

Attribution — You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

You're only making use of the CC-BY-SA 3.0 license if you adhere to its terms verbatim. The actual legal terms allow for fair use as normal, but determining what is and is not fair use relies on a number of complicated factors. The fact that the CC-BY-SA 3.0 license is so easy to comply with for us may be a mitigating factor against fair use. The license only requests so little, without need of direct consultation after-all. It also needs to be kept in mind that at least one of U.S.C. § 107's four factors of fair use work against us, since we are both aiming to be volunteer maintained reference-works and hence share an extremely similar nature.

While Stack Exchange does also license its content under CC-BY-SA 3.0 terms, the disclosure they provide only applies to user contributions. Users can't legally relicense content they don't own on a whim, so we may need to denote other sources to be in strict compliance, because it does not make it clear that Wikimedia's text is also licensed under those terms. It is also something I always do when working with CC-BY-SA 3.0 content to protect myself from culpability, even when I act as an editor of another person's post, since I am then taking responsibility for its contents.

Realistically it will probably never happen, but theoretically Wiktionary could try to sue, or at least try to get content taken down through a D.M.C.A. takedown notice. The point of the viral licensing is to try and ensure that even if they try, they fail, since we have express permission to use the work as provided.

I would rather not go into all of the sticky legalities right now though. Sorting through the law is a very complicated matter. However, it is worth noting that Wikipedia does have a page regarding the degrees of licensing compliance, and this graph represents is what they expect from people using their content, just like how we expect people to honor what we want when they are using ours:

a chart showing different degrees of compliance with CC-BY-SA 3.0 terms

(A selected screenshot from Wikipedia:CC BY-SA Compliance; licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0 terms.)

Perfect compliance is probably unreasonable for the format, but a little tagline consisting of little more than a few abbreviations does not seem like too much for them to be asking, especially sinced Stack Exchange asks for similar in Attribution Please by Jeff Atwood:

So let me clarify what we mean by attribution. If you republish this content, we require that you:

  1. Visually indicate that the content is from Stack Overflow or the Stack Exchange network in some way. It doesn’t have to be obnoxious; a discreet text blurb is fine.
  2. Hyperlink directly to the original question on the source site (e.g., http://stackoverflow.com/questions/12345)
  3. Show the author names for every question and answer
  4. Hyperlink each author name directly back to their user profile page on the source site (e.g., http://stackoverflow.com/users/12345/username)
  • 1
    The best editing is seamless, the author of the post should be able to appreciate those edits as enhancements. Editing a post means improving and fixing minor errors or lacunes without imposing one's own very personal interpretation and style of writing.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 4:38
  • The OP asked Do I really have to add "Wiktionary licenses its text under CC-BY-SA 3.0 terms"? what is the answer to that? Your answer doesn't make it clear if they should, or if it's optionable.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 4:41

Y'know, in all of this I forgot to mention something that could be entirely its own answer. Whatever attributions we require are only triggered when we have direct quotation, according to Andrew Leach's post in The New Attribution Rules:

No; the "new attribution rules" apply specifically to quoted material. A simple link to further reading does not require attribution, but where there is material reproduced from elsewhere it is not sufficient merely to provide a link.

Only direct quotations need a citation. A poster's own words do not.

If just the visible content of the post can be reproduced without losing the source of a direct quotation, then the citation is acceptable.

Meta: if it's obvious where material has been quoted from, perhaps because there is a link to it, then by all means edit the post to include the source in plain text. But there's no need to do that if there is no actual quotation; and if it's not obvious then all it is possible to do is comment.

Therefore, the absolute objective minimum that could be added to comply with our actual citation guidelines (rather than possible legal requirements), if that is the desired outcome, is actually none. Aparente could remove the quotations, and that would work just as well. The least intrusive manner by which it could do so is probably something more like this:

Parenthetical note: Here are some examples of varied uses of girlify and girlification (there are plenty more -- the variety is pretty endless):

This demonstrates a variety, without quoting anything written by anybody else.

Typically we do encourage that you quote all relevant material to important links, as mentioned in How Do I write a Good Anwser

Links to external resources are encouraged, but please add context around the link so your fellow users will have some idea what it is and why it’s there. Always quote the most relevant part of an important link, in case the target site is unreachable or goes permanently offline.

However, the importance of the quotations that exemplify usage of girlify is debatable, since you specified in a comment that you do not want to legitimize it. The way the answer is written, with this portion marked as a parenthetical note, it simply seems to list of links for further reading rather than evidence supporting the main assertion, and those quotations are not a core element of your answer, which endorses Princessify.

When I edited first the post, I did not actually know what Aparente meant to achieve.

Hey, thanks for trying to clean up my answer. I'm going to roll back, though, because your new version changes my original intention (e.g. I rejected girlify but your version proposes it as a viable option). If it means a lot to you to fix some little formatting things, etc., I don't mind if you want to do some minor editing of my question. But I'd like to keep the original style and tone. For example, I'm not a footnote sort of person, in the SE context. Your approach to writing an answer is great but it's not my style. So -- you do you, I'll do me, okay?

My relatively newfound understanding of the situation is that Aparente does not mean to legitimize girlify is a valid option, so information regarding that is largely extracurricular, and what really matters is that the links show a variety of usage. If they go down, all of the core information is intact, and none of the quoted material written by others goes unattributed, because there wouldn't be quoted material in the first place.

Granted, whether or not this is the ideal solution to the problem has yet to be determined, but it is the least that can be done to fix the problem of attribution without drastically changing the contents, because just like the attributions, the quotations would not outlive the links.

One thing in this solution's favor is that seeing a word in use tends to legitimize it, which is to my understanding contrary to the intent, so it might help achieve the intended result better, if I am not mistaken.

Also, it seems like the main importance of this section is merely to demonstrate that there is a variety of usage, more-so than to demonstrate that the word is in use.

This is of course, ignoring whether or not a CC-BY-SA 3.0 notice is actually required, but licensing and citation are two separate concerns and the Stack Overflow Public Terms of Service place any legal responsibilities for a contribution's content on each individual contributor.

  • Tonepoet - Very nice. +1. Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 18:20
  • Two answers. One wasn't long enough.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 20:27

As far as I can tell, the bare minimum for attribution in terms of Stack Exchange policy is just a link and the name of the original author. Your post left out author names. Also, it's preferred to use inline links with names that correspond to the names of the sources (inline links with unspecific names like "here", "this", "ref 1" or "source" are not sufficient as attribution) rather than bare URLs, but I'm not sure whether that is considered a "requirement" for attribution links.

I'm not an expert on CC licensing, but I don't think you need to include information about the license in your post. Setting aside the matter of fair use exceptions (which apply to CC-licensed works just as much as to conventionally copyrighted works), all user contributions to this site are distributed under the same license (as you can see at the bottom of the page). So in the post itself, I think you only need to give attribution (which is required not only by Wiktionary's license, but also by Stack Exchange's policy for citing references).

As you can see on the linked page, the Stack Exchange requirements are pretty simple: include a link if the source is a web page, mark quotes as quotes (and only use quotes of a reasonable length), and "provide the name of the original author".

The last requirement is maybe the least clear part of the policy, since for some works it makes more sense to include the name of the publication as well (e.g. newspapers), or instead (as for anonymous works, where you can't include the name of the author). I don't think dates would ever be required, but sometimes I try to include them when they seem relevant, or when it seems like they would help to find the quotation (e.g. for newspaper quotes).

A separate recommendation that I have for formatting is to put each example in its own block quote, or to use quotation marks instead of block quote formatting, rather than using one quote block for all of them. I like to use bullet points for this kind of list, so I would format that part of your post something like this:

Parenthetical note: Here are some examples of varied uses of girlify and girlification (there are plenty more -- the variety is pretty endless):

  • Polly Toynbee recently gnashed her teeth over Girlification's triumph over Feminism.

    ("Polly Toynbee on Girlification", by Candy Gourlay, Notes from the Slushpile)

  • Girlify (def.) - take something ordinary and turn it into something feminine and pretty.

    ("Girlified Man-shirt", by Melissa Heath, Little Bungalow by the Beach)

  • The writer never does get around to explaining how girls should girlify if they want to snag "good (meaning marriageable) men."

    ("You can't debate people who are too far away from reality", by Cory Farley, Reno Gazette Journal)

  • verb To make girly. (Wordnik, from Wiktionary)

  • Stack Exchange definitely requires the title Notice the example formatting: "Ernest Hemingway - Biographical on Nobelprize.org". Also, it might be better if we save CC-BY-SA 3.0 compliance for another subject, since that's not really about citation and viral licensing is a complicated issue. I agree with the rest of your post.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 23:35
  • @Tonepoet: Where does that page say anything about titles? The closest thing I can see there is "always give proper credit to the author and site where you found the text, including a direct link to it." But a site is not the same thing as a title. An example can imply something about how to format citations, but I think it's dubious evidence for a "bare minimum" requirement. If the policy is supposed to require a title, I think it should be edited to clearly say that--I'd say the current page is anything but clear on that matter...
    – herisson
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 23:39
  • 2
    ...and Andrew Leach seems to have interpreted the policy similarly, since he wrote " the others don't need the rather messy links themselves in the answer and could all be "tidied" so the blog names are used for the link text. But the answer as it stands is OK, reference-wise." -- To be clear, I'm not saying that it's good to leave out titles, just that I don't know of a clear basis for saying that titles are part of the "bare minimum" when a link is included.
    – herisson
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 23:40
  • @Tonepoet: Actually, that example citation has a problem that I think makes it even more dubious to take it as a model for what is required: in contradiction to the explicit guidelines, it doesn't even include the author. The original page says "From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969 This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above."
    – herisson
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 23:44
  • So basically we have an example which doesn't match up with the text. I suppose I'll concede the point on that basis for now, at least until I can dig up something more certain on the subject. Also, like I said, viral licensing is a complicated subject. To make use of the license we need to disclose a whole bunch of information, but if we are relying on fair use it's just the same as any other source but we have to be sure it's really fair use. Sticky thatchet there.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 23:57

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