The Purpose Of This List
From having read many first drafts in the past, the problems detailed here are common to writers just starting out on the site. This list is intended to give specific examples of certain problems you might accidentally be making, state what should be done to improve them, and why the changes should be made.
Note: This list is not official. It is a mixture of grammatical corrections and stylistic recommendations which I believe, as rules of thumb, will improve your work.
Table of Contents
Poorly Descriptive Starts To Descriptions
Description: SCP-3714 will attack on sight.
Description: SCP-4253 was first discovered in Bristol, England.
DO NOT: Start by listing off secondary properties of an object before you tell us what it is.
DO: Start with an actual, physical description of the SCP.
WHY: A reader should understand what the SCP looks like as soon as possible in the article. For example, to say that the SCP will attack on sight cannot elicit a particular mental image if you have not previously told us what it physically is. The mental image of a wolf attacking you on sight is very different than the mental image of a teddy bear doing the same thing, or a clown, or a sapient box of knives: the reader doesn't know what to envision, so envisions nothing. Start by putting a particular object or concept in the reader's head; only then should you elaborate on its properties.
Telling Us What Things Seem, Appear Or Are Believed To Be
SCP-3452 is what appears to be a large, 20 centimetre long earthworm.
SCP-4720 bears the appearance of a leather wallet.
SCP-3293 is believed to be made of stained glass.
SCP-4249 appears to possess the ability to float around.
DO NOT: Tell us an object "appears to be/do" something when it for all intents and purposes is/does that something.
DO: Tell us what the object is and does.
WHY: Scientific documentation should not be hesitant about assertions. When a measurement is made determining a piece of string to be a certain length, while it does appear to be that length, and we believe it to be that length, the root cause of this appearance and our belief is because it is factually the case. Unless we have particular reason to believe this observation to be faulty (such as if the object's effect alters our ability to perceive it), then you should assert such things as facts.
Containment Advice In The Description
Description: No contact with SCP-4293 is permitted except when testing.
Description: SCP-3946's containment cell is 3x3x3 metres in size.
DO NOT: Tell us about containment advice in the Description section.
DO: Tell us about containment advice in the Special Containment Procedures section.
WHY: A Foundation employee (and the reader) should be able to determine everything concerning the containment of an SCP by reading the Special Containment Procedures section. To bury information about its containment or restrictions of interacting with it in the Description section does not make sense in-universe.
Expunging Or Redacting For No Real Reason
SCP-4296 was found by [REDACTED] in ████ ████, ███████████.
Physical contact with SCP-3252 results in the subject experiencing ███████████.
D-█████ walked into the containment chamber.
Dr. █████ performed some experiments along with Dr. █████████████, Dr. ████, ████ ████████████████████, and Dennis ████████████.
DO NOT: Expunge or blackbox information when doing so does not make sense or contribute to the intended reaction from the reader.
DO: Expunge information only when it both makes sense in-universe and helps evoke the desired reaction in the reader.
WHY: While expunging information can be an effective tool to elicit curiosity or concern in a reader, it is also often used poorly. An example of effective use is when the exact location of the object on earth is obscured, meaning that it could be anywhere - even nearby the reader. Similarly, redacting detailed information about the full capabilities of an SCP can cause the reader to wonder exactly what it does; for example, this is done very effectively with SCP-447, where the article is effective entirely because we do not know what happens when it touches dead bodies.
Redacting or hiding the names of personnel or civilians, however, does not normally enhance the reading experience. (In particular, obscuring the number in something like D-3742 doesn't make sense, since the entire purpose of the D- designation is obscuring the person's real name: further redaction serves no purpose in or out of universe.) Similarly, if the object possibly being nearby the reader is not likely to elicit an emotional reaction, there is little reason to obscure its location. A reader may be fearful if a giant invisible monster could be anywhere, even right behind them - but for a pencil which animates whatever you draw, obscuring its precise location does not alter the reader's reaction to it. Redacting the location in such cases serves no real purpose. If something isn't enhanced by being redacted or obscured, it isn't worth doing so.
Doing Things "At All Times" Or "Unless Necessary"
SCP-4392 is to be kept in a locked containment chamber at all times.
No entry to the containment chamber is permitted unless absolutely necessary.
DO NOT: State that containment should be maintained at all times or that actions should not be performed unless necessary.
DO: Let it be implied that containment should be maintained at all times by it being in the containment procedures to begin with, and that all actions are only taken when necessary.
WHY: If you simply state that an object is to be contained in a particular way, it is implied that this containment procedure is to be maintained perpetually - it's not exactly standard practice to let them out if they ask politely.
Using Typing Or Formatting Quirks
Description: SCP-3740 Is A Large Black Dog With Long Fangs And Fur.
Contact with SCP-4026 can Include effects Such As Inflated Eyes, Saggy Lips, and Other Associated things. In Extreme Cases it can also cause Death.
DO NOT: Type Your Entire Document Like This, or capitalise Or Bold Some Words to Draw the Attention of the Reader.
DO: Capitalise the first words of sentences normally, without capitalising or bolding words mid-sentence for emphasis.
WHY: Typing or formatting your work in this manner detracts from the content of your article. It also tends to Look Kind Of Silly and Arbitrary and just Makes your Sentences More Difficult to read for No Particular Reason, as illustrated In this Very Sentence.
Things Unknown To Modern Science
SCP-4392 leaks a murky fluid not known to modern science.
SCP-3927 is composed of a material not found on this earth.
DO NOT: Refer to materials as unknown to modern science when this is a clear part of what makes the object anomalous.
DO: Refer to such materials as unidentified or unidentifiable.
WHY: "Modern science" is a very nebulous term; further, the Foundation is commonly considered to have technologies beyond what is currently considered "modern science". There are certain techniques which should, under most circumstances, be able to determine the atomic or molecular contents of a material. If these techniques fail to work, the material is not "unknown to modern science", since they have a sample of it right in front of them - they just haven't identified it successfully. As such, the material should be referred to as unidentified or unidentifiable.
Using Incorrect Formatting Of SCP Identifier, Or Using Alternative Identifiers
SCP - 4203 - 27
SCP-4203, or The Watch, is a small pocket watch. The Watch should not be handled without care.
Description: The object is a large beach ball. When inflated, the object can be used for all sorts of beach fun. Several tests have been performed on the object. The object's currently contained. Object object object.
DO NOT: Put spaces beside the dashes when referring to an SCP, get the order of letters in SCP incorrect, or excessively refer to SCP items as "the object" rather than their designation, or in any way other than their SCP designation.
DO: Render them in a form as in "SCP-4203", and always refer to them as such.
WHY: Foundation documentation is standardised in-universe; as such, the formatting of the form SCP-XXXX should always be used. You should never refer to objects as "the Watch" or by some other nickname in an article; the entire purpose of the designation is that you can unambiguously be referring to the object. The Foundation likely carries a hundred different Watches, but at any time they will only have one that's designated SCP-4203. Also, while it is fine (though I strongly discourage it) to refer to an SCP as "the object" in official documentation, you should not exclusively refer to it as such. You might say that such behaviour is objectionable.
The Wrong Its/It's
The only way to placate SCP-4720 is to flood it's containment chamber with poison gas.
SCP-3927 must be stored in a box with particular runes on it's surface.
SCP-4293 behaves badly when warm, hence why its kept in a cold containment chamber.
DO NOT: Use "it's" where the expanded form, "it is", would not make sense, or use "its" where "it is" is the desired expanded form.
DO: Refer to http://www.its-not-its.info/ to ensure that your usage is correct.
WHY: This is a syntactic rule of the English language, and one that many people get confused about. You just have to learn it's rules; its an understandable mistake. But one that I would never, ever make.
Telling Us Things We Already Know Or Which Are Pretty Obvious
Class D personnel should follow the instructions of staff at all times.
SCP-4639 should be kept inside its containment cell and should not be released.
Anyone trying to enter SCP-3274's containment cell should be detained.
If a breach occurs, SCP-4293 must be contained immediately.
DO NOT: Assert facts or things which an in-universe employee or out-of-universe reader would already know about the operation of the Foundation.
DO: Assume that the reader is already familiar with how the Foundation works.
WHY: If every SCP article detailed the full information concerning standard behaviours, there would be an extreme level of redundancy among them, and the details of these would mostly be irrelevant for communicating the object to the reader. It is not unreasonable to assume that anyone breaching any part of a containment protocol should be detained; if the object escapes containment, it is clear that the correct course of action is putting it back in containment. Sentences explaining these obvious protocols are describing standard behaviours, and add little to an article.
Not Using Three Dimensional Quantities To Describe Three Dimensional Objects Or Other Unit Mishaps
SCP-3923 is to be contained in a 4x4m room.
SCP-4273 is kept in a containment cell measuring 3x3x3x3 meters in size.
SCP-3293 is to be kept in an room measuring 30x30x30 feet in size.
SCP-4639 has a volume of 1.3 meters.
DO NOT: Describe the dimensions of an object which occupies three dimensional physical space using more or less than three dimensions, use non-metric units, or use the incorrect units for a certain measurement.
DO: Describe the dimensions of three dimensional objects with only three numerical values, using metric measurements, and use the correct units for what is being measured (metres for length, litres for volume, and so on).
WHY: SCP documents are written as scientific documents; as such, they need to be scientifically accurate, and need to use standard scientific metrics (pun intended) for measurement. The metric system should almost always be used; for reference, consult this Wikipedia page to determine what unit is suitable for what you are describing.
Incorrect Use Of Terms Or Scientific Properties
SCP-4028 is radioactive enough to suffocate a small animal.
(Radioactivity does not cause suffocation.)
The civilian was administered a Class-C anesthetic.
(Amnestic is the intended term.)
DO NOT: Include terms or refer to scientific properties when you are unfamiliar with them.
DO: Only use terms when you have a strong understanding of the properties they describe.
WHY: Again, SCP documents are written as scientific documents. In-universe, they are written by scientifically literate people. While you as an author don't need to be as smart as a Foundation scientist, you do need to be able to pretend to be so that you can write like one. If you aren't sure about the meaning of a technical term, or don't have a detailed understanding of the results of certain properties or behaviours, ask someone in chat or the forums before using it.
Specifically Mentioning That You Don't Have An Image
Image: [IMAGE REDACTED]
Currently Awaiting Image
DO NOT: Make particular note that an image is absent or redacted.
DO: Include an image if you have one, and make no note about it if you do not. Also, ensure that you use the standard imaging block on the Formatting tab of How To Write An SCP rather than including it inline.
WHY: In-universe, if there is no image for an article, it would simply not be included. Unless there is particular reason for not including an image - for example, if viewing it would cause an undesirable effect - bringing attention to the fact that there is no image serves no purpose.
Upon poking SCP-4027 with a big, long stick, it was observed to enter into a rage state.
DO NOT: Under any circumstances use the term "rage state".
DO: Not under any circumstances use the term "rage state".
WHY: When people get angry, they are not said to "enter rage states". They are said to get angry. When an animal growls and attacks you, it is not "entering a rage state". It is acting aggressively because it is defending its territory, or because it's hungry and wants to eat you. When an SCP tries to kill you to death, it is not in a "rage state". It is just trying to kill you for some particular reason, be that its intellectual inclination, inherent instincts, or intrinsic properties. The phrase "rage state" does not mean anything useful, it is not a term used in normal English speech, and there are always more descriptive terms that you can use to describe the behaviour in a way that communicates more to the reader.
Hopefully these examples will help identify if you have made the errors here in writing your SCP, and contribute to making your work better in the future. Even if you've made these mistakes, don't be disheartened: everyone on the site started where you are. Just keep reading and writing and you'll keep improving. Best of luck!