Is it “LessWrong” or “Less Wrong”?

You see both spellings in reference to the site and its community. This is true both in the community’s gathering places and on the wider Internet. Which spelling is more prevalent? Which came first? This page tried to answer these questions.

While “LessWrong” is unambiguously a name (unless a typo), the phrase “Less Wrong” may be used literally. In some search systems “LessWrong” matches URLs containing “lesswrong.com”. These are things you need to consider when counting their uses.

Contents

The front page

As of mid-2021, the <title> tag on the front page says “LessWrong”. The very first archived copy of the front page, however, has “Less Wrong” in the title. To see how this changed happened, I downloaded one Wayback Machine snapshot of the front page for every year between 2009 and 2021 on the date closest to June 20th, converted it to text, and grepped it for mentions of “LessWrong” and “Less Wrong”. I then manually counted the results to make sure they were in user-visible text or image alt text. I did it with the shell script in the next subsection. The extracted text was incomplete for the JavaScript-heavy LW 2.0. I also looked at the HTML documents’ source code.

Code

#! /bin/sh

set -e

for year in $(seq 2009 2021); do
    if ! [ -f "$year.html" ]; then
        echo "Downloading front page for $year"
        curl --fail --location \
            "https://web.archive.org/web/${year}0620120000/http://lesswrong.com/" \
            > "$year.html"
    fi
done

for year in $(seq 2009 2021); do
    echo "=== $year"
    for regexp in 'lesswrong[^.]' 'less wrong'; do
        echo "== $regexp"

        w3m \
            -dump \
            -o display_charset=UTF-8 \
            "$year.html" \
            > "$year.txt"
        grep \
            --ignore-case \
            --perl-regexp \
            "$regexp" \
            "$year.txt" \
            || true
    done
done

Matches

Year “LessWrong” “Less Wrong”
2009 4 8
2010 5 9
2011 0 6
2012 0 6
2013 0 8
2014 0 9
2015 0 9
2016 0 10
2017 2 6
2018 0 0
2019 1 0
2020 1 0
2021 6 0

Search engine results

Searching LW and SSC for both phrases with Google finds the following:

Query Result count
site:lesswrong.com "LessWrong" 67700
site:lesswrong.com "Less Wrong" 116000
site:slatestarcodex.com "LessWrong" 632
site:slatestarcodex.com "Less Wrong" 1290

Other places

Wikipedia prefers “LessWrong”, and has preferred this spelling since the creation of the wiki page in 2010.

Conclusion

In the early years (2009–2010) the front page of LW used “Less Wrong” in its user interface—with exception of the alt text on the logo, which said “Lesswrong Logo”. The user submissions on the front page were inconsistent. In 2010 or 2011 the front page changed the logo alt text to “Less Wrong”. With the release of LW 2.0 in 2018 “LessWrong” became standard instead. “Less Wrong” is the original spelling and may be historically more common. The site’s current title is “LessWrong”.


Tags: history, language, rationality.