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Wikipedia:Manual of Style

This Manual of Style has the simple purpose of making things look alike - 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, the Wikipedia will be easier to read and easier to use, not to mention easier to write and easier to edit.

New contributors are reminded that clear, informative and unbiased writing is always more important than presentation and formatting. Writers are NOT expected or required to follow all or any of these rules: the joy of wiki editing is that perfection is not required. Copy-editing wikipedians will be referring to these pages when weeding, and pages will be gradually made to conform with this guide.

Please see Wikipedia:How does one edit a page for information on how to use all the different forms of markup, much more than just bold or italic. This article concentrates on when to use them, although the examples usually also show the markup.

Please see Wikipedia:Guide to Layout for some simple suggestions on laying out an article. For event articles, it may be a good idea to understand News Style as a convention for organising materials in a straightforward way; basically, from top to bottom in order of relevance.

Some of the standard forms outlined below are available on Wikipedia:boilerplate text for quick copy-paste into articles.

Note to contributors to this article: We should keep this "manual" simple and straightforward, with anything TOO hairy (table styles, for instance) relegated to a linked page.

See also Wikipedia:WikiProject -- some of these set out boilerplates for certain areas of knowledge.

Table of contents

Article introduction All articles should have the title or subject in bold in the first line and sometimes also in italic; see Wikipedia:Manual of Style (titles). 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
    • '''Sodium hydroxide''' ([[sodium|Na]][[oxygen|O]][[hydrogen|H]]), also known as '''caustic soda''' or '''lye'''

It is preferable to make the context clear in the first few words. For example,

  • In quantum physics, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
    • In [[quantum physics]], the '''Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle'''


For biographies, see Wikipedia:Manual of Style (biographies). Brief summary of common cases:

Dates, numbers, measurements See Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)

Headline style Use the == style markup for headlines, not '''. Start with "==" (that's two equal signs). If the resulting font looks too big (as many people feel), that's an issue for the Wikipedia-wide stylesheet, not individual articles. Note that with the == brackets used, no space under the headline is needed. The space should be removed. Major benefits of marking headers this way are that sections can be automatically numbered for users with that preference set, and words within properly marked headers are given greater weight in searches. Headlines also help readers by breaking up the text and outlining the article.

Capitalize the first word and any proper nouns in headlines, but leave the rest lower case.

Avoid links within headers. Depending on settings, some users may not see them clearly. Much better to put the appropriate link in the first sentence under the header.

more: Wikipedia:Manual of Style (headings)

List style See Wikipedia:Manual of Style (lists)

Title style See Wikipedia:Manual of Style (titles)

Caption style Photos and other graphics should have captions unless they are "self-captioning" as in reproductions of album or book covers.

Captions should be in italics, using conventional text wherever italics would normally appear.

  • Many elderly Russians are nostalgic for the Stalin era.
    • ''Many elderly Russians are nostalgic for the Stalin era.''
  • Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer
    • ''Al Jolson in'' The Jazz Singer

Style for words as words Italicize words when they are being referenced in a sentence, rather than used normally. Similarly for letters.

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

Spelling style For the English Wikipedia, either American or English spelling is acceptable. However, proper names should retain their original spellings. For example US Department of Defense and Australian Defence Force.

It is in no way a requirement, but it probably reads better to use American spellings in articles on American subjects and English spelling in articles on English subjects. A reference to "the American labour movement" (with a U) or to "Anglicization" (with a Z) may be jarring. It also may be jarring to find both forms in a single article. If the spelling appears in an article name, you should make a redirect page to accommodate "the other language", as with Aeroplane and Airplane.

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

With quotation marks, we suggest splitting the difference between American and English usage.

Although it is not a rigid rule, it is probably best to use the "double quotes" for most quotations, as they are easier to read on the screen, and use 'single quotes' for "quotations 'within' quotations". This is the American style.

Note however the following problem with single quotes: if a word appears in an article with single quotes, such as 'abcd', the Wikipedia:Searching facility will only find it if you search for the word with quotes (when trying this out with the example mentioned, remember that this article is in the Wikipedia namespace). Since this is rarely desirable, this problem is an additional reason to use double quotes, for which this problem does not arise. It may even be a reason to use double quotes for quotations within quotations as well.

When punctuating quoted passages, put punctuation where it belongs, inside or outside the quotation marks, depending on the meaning, not rigidly within the quotation marks. This is the British style (Fowler has good guidelines for this). For example, "Stop!" has the punctuation inside the quotation marks. However, when using "scare quotes", the comma goes outside.

Another example:

Arthur said the situation was "deplorable". (we're quoting only part of a sentence)
Arthur said, "The situation is deplorable." (full sentence is quoted)

Keep in mind that if you're quoting several paragraphs, there should be quotes at the beginning of each paragraph, but only at the end of the last paragraph.

For uniformity and to avoid complications use straight quotation marks and apostrophes:

' "
not curved (smart) ones or the "backtick":
‘ ’ “ ” `
If you are pasting text from Microsoft Word, remember to turn off the smart quotes feature, unmark this feature in AutoEdit and "AutoEdit during typing"! [1] (http://www.ucar.edu/communications/thisweek/announcements/post/ascii)

Scientific style

Citation style See Wikipedia:Cite your sources

Free link style The use of so-called "free links" to other topics, for example, [[George W. Bush]], is encouraged. Use the links for all words and terms that appear in your article for which it could be worthwhile to read the linked article. However, don't overdo it. Do not link every occurrence of a word; simply linking the first time the word appears will usually be enough.

Links that follow the Wikipedia naming conventions are much more likely to lead to existing articles, and, if there is not yet an article about that subject, will make the creation of a correctly-named article much easier for later writers.

It is possible to link words that are not exactly the same as the linked article title, [[English language|English]] for example. Make sure however that it is still clear what the link refers without having to follow the link. When making plurals, do [[language]]s. This is clearer to read in wiki form than [[language|languages]] -- and easier to type.

Try to link accurately. If an article you want to link doesn't yet exist, do a quick search to find out if that is really the case; the article may be named slightly different from what you expected.

"See also" and "Related topics" styles Informal references to related articles that have not been linked from free links in the text are best handled by "See also:", e.g.

See also: Internet troll, flaming

Sometimes it may be useful to have an explicit cross-reference in the text, for example, when a long section of text has been moved somewhere else. In these cases, please make the link bold so that its significance is easier to recognize. Example:

The legal situation with regard to circumcision varies from country to country (see Legal status of circumcision).

Sometimes, references may also be more formally called out:

Related topics

URL and World Wide Web style Wikipedia is not a link collection and an article with only links is actively discouraged, but it is appropriate to reference more detailed material from the World Wide Web. This is particularly the case when you have used a web site as an important source of information.

The syntax of referencing a URL is simple, just enclose it in single brackets, [full URL optional text after space]. The URL must begin with http:// or other form, such as ftp://. Most URLs are ugly and uninformative, so it is better to hide them. The "printable version" of a page displays all URLs in full, even if concealed, so no information is lost.

Without the optional text, such an external reference takes the form of a footnote:

If followed by a space and text, the text replaces the URL:

This form can be used to include a run-in URL reference within text when necessary, as:

  • One good example of a cooperative online community is the Wikipedia, an open-source encyclopedia ().
    • One good example of a cooperative online community is the [ Wikipedia, an open-source encyclopedia].

In most cases, however, it is clearer to keep the URL separate at the bottom of the article under a heading like this:

  • ==External links==

As with other headers, two equals signs should be used to markup the external links header (see Headline style above).

Note: At present, without brackets, URLs are presented as is:

But this feature may disappear in a future release and in cases where you wish to display the URL because it is intrinsically valuable information, it is better to use the short form of the URL as the optional text:

Simple tabulation Any line that starts with a blank space becomes a fixed font width and can be used for simple tabulation. See English plural for many examples.

 foo     bar     baz
 alpha   beta    gamma

A line that starts with a blank space with nothing else on it forms a blank line, which can be a confusing error, or may be just what you want.

Or maybe not.

(If you are one of those typists who puts two spaces after a period, you can cause a blank line unknowingly if those blanks are "wrapped" to the beginning of the next line.)

When all else fails If you are faced with a fine point, please use other resources, such as The Chicago Manual of Style (from the University of Chicago Press[?]) or Fowler's Modern English Usage (from the Oxford University Press). Where this page differs from the other sources, the usage on this page should be preferred, but please feel free to add to this page or to carry on a discussion on Wikipedia_talk:Manual of Style.

Even simpler is simply 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're there. Almost every article can be improved. Maybe you could add some markup to make it fit this style better.

Don't get fancy It's easier for you and whoever follows you if you don't try to get too fancy with your markup. Even with markup as suggested here, you shouldn't assume that any markup you put in is guaranteed to have a certain appearance when it is displayed.

It is easier to display the Wikipedia, easier to edit or add to its articles, if we don't make the markup any more complex than is necessary to display the information in a useful and comprehensible way. A useful encyclopedia is the first goal, but ease of editing and maintenance that encyclopedia is right behind it.

Among other things, this means use HTML markup sparingly and only with good reason.

For further information Before you start writing or editing, it is a good idea to read through and understand these documents:

Note to contributors to this page: We need to go over all these and make sure they're up to date too.

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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