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A Wikipedia Editor Has Spent Years Removing 47,000 Incorrect Uses of 'Comprised of'

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
Yahoo Tech

The missing puzzle piece is correct grammar. (Via Wikipedia).

Though nearly 8 million English Wikipedia articles are visited every hour, it’s rare that someone crosses over into the strange territory of self-proclaimed Wikipedia Editor.

It’s even rarer that they do so to universally correct one common grammatical error.

But that is the story of a man known as “Giraffedata,” who, according to an excellent piece on Medium, is revered in the Wikipedia community for his dedication to perfection –– specifically related to the oft-misused phrase “comprised of.”

The 51-year-old software engineer, whose real name is Bryan Henderson, has been working since 2007 to fix incorrect uses of “comprised of” all across Wikipedia. The San Jose resident is one of the site’s top 1,000 most active Wikipedia editors out there, fixing some 47,000 articles by hand for the same grammatical error. And all because it brings him an acute sense of satisfaction. 

“I’m proud of it,” he tells reporter Andrew McMillen. “It’s just fun for me. I’m not doing it to have any impact on the world.”

Henderson laid out his argument against “comprised of” on –– where else? –– Wikipedia. His actual argument is thousands of words long; here’s the executive summary:

Henderson’s method is airtight. Before going to bed each Sunday evening, he runs a homemade software program that asks Wikipedia’s servers for pages that feature the phrase “comprised of.” His program automatically runs through all the HTML to pull the title pages of any potential offenders, then compares those pages to stuff he’s edited in the past six months to avoid being served repeat articles. The final result is a simple Web page with links to all the pieces he should edit — usually 70 to 80 entries.

After that, each edit takes an average of 10 seconds, though some, he admits, take minutes. Minutes.

Read the full piece on Medium. It’s the least you can do for this American hero, a man truly comprised of the right stuff. 

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