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Transparency: Ratings System


If we tracked nothing but urban legends on snopes.com, the task of assigning truth values to all the entries would be much easier. As Jan Harold Brunvand wrote in The Vanishing Hitchhiker:

[U]rban legends must be considered false, at least in the sense that the same rather bizarre events could not actually have happened in so many localities to so many aunts, cousins, neighbors, in-laws, and classmates of the hundreds and thousands of individual tellers of the tales.

However, since this site also chronicles many items that do not fit the traditional definition of “urban legend” (e.g., trivia, rumors, hoaxes, common misconceptions, odd facts), our single rating system must be able to accommodate disparate types of entries. As a result, the colored bullets we use to classify items have slightly different meanings depending upon the nature of the entries being rated. Below are expansive definitions of the colors’ meanings:

  • TRUE


    This rating indicates that the primary elements of a claim are demonstrably true.

  • MOSTLY TRUE


    This rating indicates that the primary elements of a claim are demonstrably true, but some of the ancillary details surrounding the claim may be inaccurate.

  • MIXTURE


    This rating indicates that a claim has significant elements of both truth and falsity to it such that it could not fairly be described by any other rating.

  • MOSTLY FALSE


    This rating indicates that the primary elements of a claim are demonstrably false.

  • FALSE


    This rating indicates that the primary elements of a claim are demonstrably false.

  • UNPROVEN


    This rating indicates that insufficient evidence exists to establish the given claim as true, but the claim cannot be definitively proved false. This rating typically involves claims for which there is little or no affirmative evidence, but for which declaring them to be false would require the difficult (if not impossible) task of our being able to prove a negative or accurately discern someone else’s thoughts and motivations.

  • OUTDATED


    This rating applies to items for which subsequent events have rendered their original truth rating irrelevant (e.g., a condition that was the subject of protest has been rectified, or the passage of a controversial law has since been repealed).

  • CORRECT ATTRIBUTION


    This rating indicates that a quotation has been correctly cited.

  • MISATTRIBUTED


    This rating indicates that a quotation has been incorrectly cited or falsely attributed.

  • LEGEND


    This rating is most commonly associated with items that are “pure” urban legends: events so general that they could have happened to someone, somewhere, at some time, and are therefore essentially unprovable.