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Encyclopedia > WP:STYLE
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Part of the Style and how-to series
Wikipedia: Guidance on style
Main Manual of Style
Supplementary Manuals of Style
Biographies
China-related articles
Dashes
Dates and numbers
Headings
Japan-related articles
Links
Sister projects
Titles
Trademarks
Other guidance
How to edit a page
Guide to layout
Captions
Categories
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Cite sources
Explain jargon
Guide to writing better articles
List
Naming conventions
Picture tutorial
Proper names
Section
Technical terms and definitions


This Manual of Style has the simple purpose of making things easy to read by following a consistent format — it is a style guide. The following rules don't claim to be the last word. One way is often as good as another, but if everyone does it the same way, Wikipedia will be easier to read and use, not to mention easier to write and edit. In this regard the following quote from The Chicago Manual of Style deserves notice:

Rules and regulations such as these, in the nature of the case, cannot be endowed with the fixity of rock-ribbed law. They are meant for the average case, and must be applied with a certain degree of elasticity.

Clear, informative and unbiased writing is always more important than presentation and formatting. Writers are not required to follow all or any of these rules: the joy of wiki editing is that perfection is not required. Copy-editing wikipedians will refer to this manual, and pages will either gradually be made to conform with this guide or this guide will itself be changed to the same effect.


Contributors, note that because this document is considered policy, significant or substantive changes should be discussed on the talk page first, or they will be removed.

Contents

Article titles

Main article: Wikipedia:Naming conventions


If possible, make the title the subject of the first sentence of the article. In any case the title should appear in the first sentence. The first time the title is mentioned in the article, put it in bold using three apostrophes. Here's an example: '''three apostrophes'''. Do not put links in the title.


Follow the normal rules for italics in choosing whether to put part or all of the title in italics.


Headings

Main article: Wikipedia:Manual of Style (headings)


Use the == (heading) markup for headings, not the ''' (bold) markup. Example:

==This is a heading==

which produces

This is a heading

If you mark headings this way, a table of contents is automatically generated from the headings in an article. Sections can be automatically numbered for users with that preference set and words within properly marked headings are given greater weight in searches. Headings also help readers by breaking up the text and outlining the article.

  • Start the first word and any proper nouns in headings with a capital letter, but leave the rest of the heading lower case.
  • Avoid links within headings.
  • Avoid overuse of sub-headings.

Capital letters

Titles

Titles such as president, king, or emperor start with a capital letter when used as a title (followed by a name): "President Nixon", not "president Nixon". When used generically, they should be in lower case: "De Gaulle was the French president." The correct formal name of an office is treated as a proper noun. Hence: "Hirohito was Emperor of Japan". Similarly "Louis XVI was the French king" but "Louis XVI was King of France", King of France being a title in that context. Likewise, royal titles should be capitalised: "Her Majesty" or "His Highness". (Reference: Chicago Manual of Style 14th ed., par. 7.16; The Guardian Manual of Style (http://www.guardian.co.uk/styleguide/page/0,5817,184841,00.html), "Titles" keyword.) Exceptions may apply for specific offices.


In the case of "prime minister", either both words begin with a capital letter or neither, except, obviously, when it starts a sentence. Again, when being used generically, no capital letter is used: "There are many prime ministers around the world." When reference is made to a specific office, upper case is generally used: "The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said today..." (However to complicate matters, some style manuals, while saying "The British Prime Minister", recommend "British prime minister". A good rule of thumb is whether a definite article (the) or an indefinite article (a) is used. If the is used, use "Prime Minister". If a is used, go with "prime minister".)


American English and British English differ in their inclination to use capitals. British English uses capitals more widely than American English does. This may apply to titles for people. If possible, as with spelling, use rules appropriate to the cultural and linguistic context. In other words, do not enforce American rules on pages about British topics or British rules on pages about American topics.


Religions, deities, philosophies, doctrines and their adherents

Names of religions, whether used as a noun or an adjective, and their followers start with a capital letter. Mormonism requires special care — see Wikipedia:Naming conventions (Mormonism).


Deities begin with a capital letter: God, Allah, Freya, the Lord, the Supreme Being, the Messiah. The same is true when referring to Muhammad as the Prophet. Transcendent ideas in the Platonic sense also begin with a capital letter: Good and Truth. Pronouns referring to deities, or nouns (other than names) referring to any material or abstract representation of any deity, human or otherwise, do not begin with a capital letter.


Philosophies, doctrines, and systems of economic thought do not begin with a capital letter, unless the name is derived from a proper noun: Lowercase republican refers to a system of political thought; uppercase Republican refers to a specific Republican Party (each party name being a proper noun).


Calendar items

The names of months, days, and holidays always begin with a capital letter: June, Monday, Fourth of July.


Seasons start with a capital letter when they are used with another noun or are personified. Here they function as proper nouns: "Winter Solstice"; "Autumn Open House"; "I think Spring is showing her colours"; "Old Man Winter".


However, they do not start with a capital letter when they are used generally: "This summer was very hot."


Animals, plants, and other organisms

Main articles: Wikipedia:WikiProject_Tree_of_Life#Article_titles_and_common_names, Wikipedia:Naming conventions (fauna)


Whether the common names of species should start with a capital letter has been hotly debated in the past and has remained unresolved. As a matter of truce both styles are acceptable (except for proper names), but a redirect should be created from the alternative form.


Celestial bodies

Names of other planets and stars are proper nouns and begin with a capital letter: "The planet Mars can be seen tonight in the constellation Gemini, near the star Pollux".


The words sun, earth, and moon are proper nouns when used in an astronomical context, but not elsewhere: so "The Sun is a main sequence star, with a spectral class of G2"; but "It was a lovely day and the sun was warm". Note that these terms are only proper nouns when referring a specific spectral body (our Sun, Earth and Moon): so "The Moon orbits the Earth"; but "Pluto's moon Charon".


Directions and regions

Regions that are proper nouns, including widely known expressions such as Southern California, start with a capital letter. Follow the same convention for related forms: a person from the American South is a Southerner.


Directions (north, southwest, etc.) are not proper nouns and do not start with a capital letter. The same is true for their related forms: a road that leads north might be called a northern road, compared to the Great North Road.


If you are not sure whether a region has attained proper-noun status, assume it has not.


Italics

Use the '' (italic) markup. Example:

''This is italic.''

which produces

This is italic.

Titles

Main article: Wikipedia:Manual of Style (titles)


Italics should be used for titles of the following:

  • books
  • films
  • long poems
  • musical albums
  • newspapers
  • periodicals (journals and magazines)
  • plays
  • TV series
  • works of visual art

Italics are generally used for titles of longer works. Titles of shorter works, such as the following, should be enclosed in quotation marks (""):

  • articles, essays or papers
  • chapters of a longer work
  • episodes of a television series
  • short poems
  • short stories
  • songs

There are a few cases in which the title should be in neither italics nor quotation marks:

  • the Bible
  • legal documents (examples: the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence)

Words as words

Use italics when writing about words as words. Similarly for letters. For example:

  • The term panning is derived from panorama, a word originally coined in 1787.
  • The letter E is the most common letter in English.

Punctuation

In most cases, simply follow the usual rules of English punctuation. A few points where Wikipedia may differ from usual usage follow.


Quotation marks

With quotation marks, though not a rigid rule, we use the "double quotes" for most quotations – they are easier to read on the screen – and use 'single quotes' for "quotations 'within' quotations".


Note: if a word or phrase appears in an article with single quotes, such as 'abcd', the Wikipedia:Searching facility considers the single quotes to be part of the word and will find that word or phrase only if the the search string is also within single quotes. (When trying this out with the example mentioned, remember that this article is in the Wikipedia namespace.) Avoiding this complication is an additional reason to use double quotes, for which the difficulty does not arise. It may even be a reason to use double quotes for quotations within quotations.


When punctuating quoted passages, include the mark of punctuation inside the quotation marks only if the sense of the mark of punctuation is part of the quotation. This is the style used in Australia, New Zealand, and Britain, for example. (A fuller treatment of the recommendations given here can be found in Fowler's Modern English Usage and other style guides for these countries, some of which vary in fine details.) For example, "Stop!" has the punctuation inside the quotation marks because the word "stop" is said with emphasis. However, when using "scare quotes", the comma goes outside.


Other examples:

Arthur said the situation was "deplorable". (The full stop (period) is not part of the quotation.)
Arthur said, "The situation is deplorable." (The full sentence is quoted; the period is part of the quotation.)
Arthur said that the situation "was the most deplorable he had seen in years." (Although the full sentence is not quoted, the sense of finality conveyed by the period is part of the quotation.)

Longer quotations may be better rendered in an indented style by starting the first line with a colon. In a quotation of multiple paragraphs not using indented style, double quotation marks belong at the beginning of each paragraph, but only at the end of the last paragraph.


Since quotations are already marked by quotation marks or indentations, they need not be put into italics.


Use straight quotation marks and apostrophes

For uniformity and to avoid complications use straight quotation marks and apostrophes ( ' " ) not curved (smart) ones, grave accents or backticks ( ‘ ’ “ ” ` ).


If you are pasting text from Microsoft Word, remember to turn off the smart quotes feature by unmarking this feature in AutoEdit and "AutoEdit during typing"! Many other modern word processors have a smart quotes setting—please read the appropriate documentation for your editor.


Characters identical in appearance to left single quotation mark or right single quotation mark are used as letters in some Latin-letter transliteration systems and in some languages, for example to display the ‘okina character in Hawaiian. The characters may also be used in discussions about the quotation marks themselves. If using a left or right quotation mark for such a purpose, to assure proper display on all browsers, do not type or paste such a quotation mark directly into the Wikipedia editor. Instead, use the HTML entities ‘ or ’ or the correponding numeric forms: ‘ and &#8217 or ‘ and ’. If necessary to represent such characters as letters in article titles, the normal straight apostrophe ( ' ) should usually be used in place of the right quotation mark and the grave accent ( ` ) in place of the left quotation mark.


Commas

As stated by Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, the Chicago Manual of Style, Strunk and White, and other authoritative sources, when a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more elements, a comma is used before the conjunction: "The wires were brown, blue, and green." The reason for the final serial comma is to prevent the last two elements from being confused as a unit. Consider its utility in this sentence: "The author would like to thank her parents, Sinéad O'Connor and Pope John-Paul II." See serial comma for further discussion.


Spaces after the end of a sentence

There are no guidelines on whether to use one or two spaces after the end of a sentence but it is not important as the difference only shows up in the edit box. See Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style archive (spaces after the end of a sentence) for a discussion on this.


Contractions

In general, we prefer formal writing. Therefore, avoid contractions — such as don't, can't and won't, except when you are quoting directly.


Scientific style

Main article: Wikipedia:Technical terms and definitions

Sections

Main article: Wikipedia:Section


Introduction

The title or subject can almost always be made part of the first sentence, but some articles simply have names.

  • The Pythagorean theorem is named for and attributed to the 6th century BC Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras
The '''Pythagorean theorem''' is named for and attributed to the [[6th century BC]] Greek philosopher and mathematician [[Pythagoras]]
  • Tom and Jerry — Pairing of names from Pierce Egan's Life in London
'''Tom and Jerry''' — Pairing of names from [[Pierce Egan]]'s ''Life in London''

If the subject of the article has more than one name, each new form of the name should be in bold on its first appearance.

  • Sodium hydroxide (NaOH), also known as caustic soda or lye...

In wikitext this would be:

'''Sodium hydroxide''' ([[sodium|Na]][[oxygen|O]][[hydrogen|H]]), also known as '''caustic soda''' or '''lye'''

Make the context clear in the first few words. For example,

In [[quantum physics]], the '''Heisenberg uncertainty principle'''

Lead section

See also: Wikipedia:Guide to writing better articles#Lead section


The lead section is the section before the first headline. It is shown above the table of contents (for pages with more than three headlines). The appropriate lead length depends on the length of the article, but should be no longer than three paragraphs in any case.


"See also" and "Related topics" sections

Mostly, topics related to an article should be included within the text of the article as free links.


If the article is divided into sections and See also refers to a particular section only, references to related articles that have not been linked from free links in the text may be placed at the bottom of the section:

''See also:'' [[Internet troll]], [[flaming]]

which produces:

See also: Internet troll, flaming.

The above form may also be used in short articles without sections.


When the See also refers to the entire article, not just a section, it should be a heading of level 2 so that it appears in the table of contents. Place it at the bottom of the article, before External links. For example:

==See also==
*[[Internet troll]]
*[[flaming]]

The heading Related topics may be used instead of See also.


If you remove a redundant link from the See also section of an article, it may be an explicit cross reference (see below), so consider making the link in the main text bold instead.


Sometimes it is useful to have an explicit cross-reference in the text, for example, when a long section of text has been moved somewhere else, or there is a major article on a subtopic. In these cases, make the link bold. For example:

The legal status of circumcision varies from country to country.

Other sections

Other common sections (in their preferable order) are:

  • References
  • Compare against
  • External links

Simple tabulation

Any line that starts with a blank space becomes a fixed font width and can be used for simple tabulation.

 foo bar baz alpha beta gamma 

A line that starts with a blank space with nothing else on it forms a blank line.


Usage and spelling

Cultural clashes over grammar, spelling, and capitalisation/capitalization are a common experience on Wikipedia. Remember that millions of people may have been taught to use a different form of English from yours, including different spellings, grammatical constructions and punctuation. For the English Wikipedia, there is no preference among the major national varieties of English. However, there is a certain etiquette generally accepted on Wikipedia:

  • Proper names should retain their original spellings. For example, United States Department of Defense and Australian Defence Force.
  • Each article should have uniform spelling and not a haphazard mix of different spellings, which can be jarring to the reader. For example, do not use center in one place and centre in another on the same page.
  • Articles that focus on a topic specific to a particular English-speaking country should generally conform to the spelling of that country. For example:
    • article on the American Civil War: U.S. usage and spelling
    • article on Tolkien's Lord of the Rings: U.K. usage and spelling
    • article on Ayers Rock: Australian usage and spelling
    • article on the European Union: U.K. usage and spelling
    • article on the city of Montréal: Canadian usage and spelling
  • When referring to the United States, please use "U.S."; that is the more common style in that country, is easier to search for automatically, and we want one uniform style on this. When referring to the United States in a long abbreviation (USA, USN, USAF), periods should not be used.
  • If the spelling appears in an article name, you should make a redirect page to accommodate the other variant, as with Aeroplane and Airplane, or if possible and reasonable, a neutral word might be chosen as with Glasses.
  • Words with multiple spellings: In choosing words or expressions, there may be value in selecting one that does not have multiple spellings, if there are synonyms that are otherwise equally suitable.
  • If an article is predominantly written in one type of English, aim to conform to that type rather than provoking conflict by changing to another. (Sometimes, this can happen quite innocently, so please don't be too quick to make accusations!)
  • Consult Wikipedia articles such as English plural and American and British English differences.
  • Possessives of singular nouns ending in s may be formed with or without an additional s. Either form is generally acceptable within Wikipedia. However, if either form is much more common for a particular word or phrase, follow that form, such as with Achilles' heel.
  • Scholarly abbreviations of Latin terms like i.e., e.g., or n.b. should be avoided and English terms such as such as, for example, or note used instead.
  • If all else fails, consider following the spelling style preferred by the first major contributor (that is, not a stub) to the article.
  • If a word or phrase is generally regarded as correct, then prefer it to any other word or phrase that might be regarded as incorrect. For example, "other meaning" should be used instead of "alternate meaning" or "alternative meaning", because not all English speakers regard "alternate" and "alternative" as meaning the same. The American Heritage Dictionary "Usage Note" at alternative says: "Alternative should not be confused with alternate." Alternative commonly suggests "non-traditional" or "out-of-the-mainstream" to an American-English speaker. Some traditional usage experts consider alternative to be appropriate only when there are exactly two alternatives.

Pictures

Main article: Wikipedia:Picture tutorial


Articles with a single picture are encouraged to have that picture at the top of the article, right-aligned, but this is not a hard and fast rule. Portraits with the head looking to the right should be left-aligned (looking into the article).


The current image markup language is more or less this:

[[Image:picture.jpg|120px|left|thumb|Blah blah caption]]

Captions

Main article: Wikipedia:Captions


Photos and other graphics should have captions unless they are "self-captioning" as in reproductions of album or book covers, or when the graphic is an unambiguous depiction of the subject of the article. For example, in a biography article, a caption is not needed for a portrait of the subject, pictured alone.


Identity

This is perhaps one area where wikipedians' flexibility and plurality are an asset, and where one would not wish all pages to look exactly alike. Nevertheless, here are some guidelines:

  • Where known, use terminology which subjects use for themselves (self identification). This can mean calling an individual the term they use, or calling a group the term most widely used by that group.
  • Use specific terminology: People from Ethiopia (a country in Africa) should be described as Ethiopian, not African.
  • Though often a more general name will prove to be more neutral or more accurate. For example, a List of African-American composers is acceptable, though a List of composers of African descent may be more useful.
  • If possible, terms used to describe people should be given in such a way that they qualify other nouns. Thus, black people, not blacks; gay people, not gays; and so forth.
  • Do not assume that any one term is the most inclusive or accurate.
  • The adjectives Arab and Arabic refer to Arab things in general and specifically the language Arabic, respectively.

Miscellaneous notes

When all else fails

If this page does not specify which usage is preferred, use other resources, such as The Chicago Manual of Style (from the University of Chicago Press) or Fowler's Modern English Usage (3rd edition) (from the Oxford University Press). Also, please feel free to carry on a discussion on Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style, especially for substantive changes.


Even simpler is to look at an article that you like and open it for editing to see how the writers and editors have put it together. You can then close the window without saving changes if you like, but look around while you are there. Almost every article can be improved.


Don't get fancy

It is easier for you and whoever follows you if you do not try to get too fancy with your markup. Do not assume that any markup you put in is guaranteed to have a certain appearance when it is displayed. Don't make the markup any more complex than is necessary to display the information in a useful and comprehensible way. Use HTML markup sparingly and only with good reason. A useful encyclopedia is the first goal, but ease of editing and maintaining that encyclopedia is right behind.


Formatting issues

Formatting issues such as font size, blank space and color are issues for the Wikipedia site-wide style sheet and should not be dealt with in articles except in special cases.


Make comments invisible

Avoid highlighting that the article is incomplete and in need of further work.


Similarly, there is little benefit to the reader in seeing headings and tables without content.


If you want to communicate with other potential editors, make comments invisible to the ordinary article reader. To do so, enclose the text which you intend to be read only by editors within <!-- and -->.


For example, the following:

hello <!-- This is a comment. --> world

is displayed as:

hello world

so the comment can be seen when viewing the HTML or wiki source.


See also

  • Style guide, the Wikipedia entry on "style guides". Contains links to the online style guides of some magazines and newspapers.
  • Wikipedia:Introduction is a gentle introduction to the world of Wikipedia.
  • Wikipedia:Be bold in updating pages should define your attitude toward page updates.
  • Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines is the main stop for policies and, well, guidelines.
  • Wikipedia:Avoiding common mistakes gives a list of common mistakes and how to avoid them.
  • Wikipedia:Editing policy has even more editing guidelines.
  • Wikipedia:How to edit a page is a short primer on editing pages.
  • Wiki markup explains the mechanics of what codes are available to you when editing a page, to do things like titles, links, external links, and so on.
  • Wikipedia:Perfect stub article shows what you should aim for at a minimum when starting a new article.
  • Wikipedia:WikiProject sets out boilerplates for certain areas of knowledge.
  • Wikipedia:Definitions

 
 

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