Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Register

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This page is a work in progress, a working draft of a supplement to the Wikipedia:Manual of Style. Its purpose is to record decisions made in discussions at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style. For more details, please see the January 2010 discussion archived at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 113#Recording consensus.

This document is meant as a reference of consensus decisions on the Wikipedia Manual of Style and, when available, the reasoning behind each consensus. It is not itself a collection of guidelines, rules, or laws. Just the fact that a consensus has been recorded on this page does not mean that that consensus is a permanent and unchangeable part of Wikipedia. This register is meant only to give editors better understanding of the current state of things, which is useful both to those considering proposing changes and to those seeking to better implement the MoS as it exists.


Article titles, headings, and sections[edit]

Article titles[edit]

Section organization[edit]

Section headings[edit]

National varieties of English[edit]

Consistency within articles[edit]

Strong national ties to a topic[edit]

Retaining the existing variety[edit]

Opportunities for commonality[edit]

Capital letters[edit]

Capitalization of "The"[edit]

Titles of people[edit]

Religions, deities, philosophies, doctrines[edit]

Calendar items[edit]

Animals, plants, and other organisms[edit]

Celestial bodies[edit]

Directions and regions[edit]





Non-breaking spaces[edit]

Technical information[edit]



Minimal change[edit]

Allowable typographical changes[edit]

Quotations within quotations[edit]



Block quotations[edit]

Foreign-language quotations[edit]



Quotation marks[edit]

Curly or straight[edit]

Currently there is no consensus regarding which quotation glyphs to use. Originally the rule was introduced on 10 April 2003 in [1] without any discussion on the Talk page (see [1]). The rule stated “For uniformity and to avoid complications use straight quotation marks and apostrophes”. The debate regarding the appropriateness of this rule started in [18], [19] with the conclusion that the MoS have to be changed, yet all such changes have been reverted. Since then the issue has been revisited many times, see [94], [100], [103], [104], [108], and [108].

The reasons currently provided for using straight quotation marks are dubious at best:

They are easier to type in reliably, and to edit. Mostly true, except the recommendation that you have to turn off the “smart quotes” when pasting the text from MS Word. But even then, sometimes people have to choose between what’s right and what’s easy… Mixed use interferes with some searches, such as those using the browser’s search facility (a search for Alzheimer's disease could fail to find Alzheimer’s disease and vice versa). Somehow apostrophes always end up being brought into this debate. Strictly speaking this argument isn’t even relevant for the discussion of quotations glyphs, however it’s not hard to refute it either. Modern browsers (such as Google Chrome) are capable of understanding that ' and probably mean the same thing, so they will find both the “Alzheimer's” and “Alzheimer’s” regardless of how you type it. For other browsers, most people already know that the safe way of searching for “Alzheimer’s disease” is to type “Alzheimer disease”. Also note that nobody complains about other special characters such as “Rao–Cramér inequality”, which are even harder to search for in an unsophisticated browser. Furthermore, wiki markup tags (such as <ref name="xxx"/>) will not work if curly quotation marks are used. Tags are a part of computer language. They are meant for the computer, not for the people. It is an error to use curly quotation marks to delimit strings in wiki markup, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, or most other computer languages.

The arguments in favor of recommending the curly quotation glyphs are that:

They are typographically correct. Meaning that it is the standard of English language to use glyphs “” to denote quotations. This rule can be found in most serious manuals of styles, both for paper and electronic documents. Most Wikipedia Manuals of Styles in other languages explicitly forbid the use of straight quotation marks. See for example German, French, Russian, Italian versions.

Single or double[edit]

The Wikipedia MoS prefers double quotation marks to single ones because they are more discernible visually, and there is no risk of mistaking a quotation mark for an apostrophe.

Punctuation inside or outside[edit]

While this is a point of frequent and heated contention on the MoS, the MoS currently recommends what is called both British punctuation and logical punctuation. This system places punctuation inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quoted material and outside if they are not. While this system is not correct in American English, it is common in the U.K. and does have supporters in the U.S., including the American Chemical Society and many computer programmers' associations. Similarly, the American system has its supporters in British contexts. See Quotation marks in English for more information about these systems.

Supporters of this system argue that it prevents the reader from misjudging whether the closing punctuation was part of the quoted material. Supporters of allowing other punctuation styles counter that such misjudgment is unlikely in encyclopedic prose and that the standard American system has been in use for over a century without such problems becoming a significant issue.

The most recent discussion of this issue can be found here.

Brackets and parentheses[edit]

Sentences and brackets[edit]

Brackets and linking[edit]



Serial commas[edit]



Semicolon before "however"[edit]



Punctuating a sentence (em or en dashes)[edit]

En dashes: other uses[edit]

Other dashes[edit]



Number signs[edit]

Terminal punctuation[edit]

Punctuation and inline citations[edit]

Citations are always placed after punctuation when they occur together. This occurs regardless of whether the citation pertains to the entire preceding paragraph, or only the preceding sentence or clause. In placing inline citations and footnote marks after periods and commas, Wikipedia follows the overwhelming majority of reputable publications. Only one publication, Nature magazine, was found to place citations before punctuation. In addition, most of the Wikipedians involved in the discussion, even the ones supporting an allow-both policy, voiced preferences for the consistency and look of post-punctuation citations.

This issue most recently came under discussion in February 2010, when one editor found a discrepancy between WP:MoS and WP:FN. WP:MoS allowed only post-punctuation citations while WP:FN allowed both post- and pre-punctuation citations. After much discussion, WP:FN was altered to allow only post-punctuation citations.

Spaces between said punctuation and the inline citations were deemed neither sightly nor necessary, by consensus on WP:MoS.


Spaces following terminal punctuation[edit]

Consecutive punctuation marks[edit]

Punctuation and footnotes[edit]

Punctuation after formulae[edit]

Dates and time[edit]

Time of day[edit]


Choice of format[edit]

Months and seasons[edit]

Years and longer periods[edit]




Units of measurement[edit]

Common mathematical symbols[edit]



First-person pronouns[edit]

Second-person pronouns[edit]




Gender-neutral language[edit]

As of January 2010, there is no consensus either for or against the use of the singular "they" in Wikipedia. Arguments for its acceptability include its long history in English, the fact that it is common in informal speech and writing and grammatical rules that permit a plural pronoun with words such as "everyone" that do not refer to a specific subject. Arguments against its use include its informality and the grammatical impropriety of using a plural pronoun for a singular subject. Please see the articles on WP: Gender-neutral language and the singular they for more information.

The most recent discussion of the singular "they" can be found here.

Contested vocabulary[edit]

Instructional and presumptuous language[edit]

Subset terms[edit]


Foreign terms[edit]

Technical language[edit]

Geographical items[edit]


Avoid entering textual information as images[edit]


Formatting of captions[edit]

Bulleted and numbered lists[edit]



External links[edit]


Keep markup simple[edit]

Formatting issues[edit]

Color coding[edit]

Scrolling lists and collapsible content[edit]

Invisible comments[edit]


See also[edit]