Help:Section

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A page can and should be divided into sections, using the section heading syntax. For each page with more than three section headings, a table of contents (TOC) is automatically generated. This page explains the syntax of these elements. For information about how to name sections or how to use sections to structure articles, please read the Wikipedia:Guide to layout.

Creation and numbering of sections

For details on how to name sections, or about using them properly to structure articles, see Wikipedia:Guide to layout.

Sections are created by creating their headings, as below.

== Section ==
=== Subsection ===
==== Sub-subsection ====

Please do not use only one equals sign on a side (=Heading=). This would cause a section heading to be as large as the page's name (title). The maximum number of equals signs is six.

Heading names of sections (including subsections) should be unique on a page. Using the same heading more than once on a page causes problems:

  • An internal link (wikilink) to a section, in the form [[Article name#Section heading]], will only link to the first section on the page with that name, which may not be the intended target of the link. See also Linking to sections of articles.
  • When a section with a duplicate name is edited, the edit history and summary will be ambiguous as to which section was edited.
  • When saving the page after a section edit, the editor's browser may navigate to the wrong section.

Numbering

For registered users who use Preferences → Appearance → Auto-number headings, sections are numbered in the table of contents and at beginning of each section heading.

Sorting order

For the ordering of (appendix & footer) sections see: Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Layout#Order of sections.

Table of contents (TOC)

Shortcuts:
For Wikipedia's contents, see Portal:Contents.

For each page with at least four headings , a table of contents (TOC) is automatically generated from the section headings, unless:

  • the magic word __NOTOC__ (with two underscores on either side of the word) is added to the article

Positioning the TOC

When either __FORCETOC__ or __TOC__ (with two underscores on either side of the word) is placed in the wikitext, a TOC is added even if the page has fewer than four headings.

With __FORCETOC__, the TOC is placed before the first section heading. With __TOC__, it is placed at the same position where this code is placed. There may be some introductory text before the TOC, known as the "lead". Although usually a heading after the TOC is preferable, __TOC__ can be used to avoid being forced to insert a meaningless heading just to position the TOC correctly, i.e., not too low.

Floating the TOC

The TOC can, in some instances, be floated either right or left using {{TOC right}} or {{TOC left}} when it is beneficial to the layout of the article, or when the default TOC gets in the way of other elements. Before changing the default TOC to a floated TOC, consider the following guidelines:

  1. If an article will be adversely affected by the change, don't float the TOC.
  2. If floating the TOC, it should be placed at the end of the lead section of the text, before the first section heading. Users of screen readers do not expect any text between the TOC and the first heading, and having no text above the TOC is confusing. See the last line in the information about elements of the lead section.
  3. When floating a TOC, check whether the page layout will be harmed if the TOC is hidden by the user.
  4. Long lists may create very long TOCs. The TOC should not be longer than necessary, whether it is floated or not. {{TOC limit}} can be used to reduce the length of the TOC by hiding nested subsections, rather than a floating TOC.
  5. The default TOC is placed before the first headline, but after any introductory text (unless changed by the page's editors). If the introductory summary is long enough that a typical user has to scroll down to see the top of the TOC, you may float the TOC so it appears closer to the top of the article. However, the floating TOC should in most cases follow at least the first paragraph of article text.
  6. Floating a wide TOC will produce a narrow column of readable text for users with low resolutions. If the TOC's width exceeds 30% of the user's visible screen (about twice the size of the Wikipedia navigation bar to the left), then it is not suitable for floating. (Percentages assume a typical user setup.) If text is trapped between a floating TOC and an image, floating can be cancelled at a certain text point, see Forcing a break.
  7. If the TOC is placed in the general vicinity of other floated images or boxes, it can be floated as long as the flowing text column does not become narrower than 30% of the average user's visible screen width.
  8. A left-floated TOC may affect bulleted or numbered lists.

Template:TOC right was proposed for deletion in early July 2005, but there was no consensus on the matter. The archive of the discussion and voting regarding this may be seen at Wikipedia:Templates for deletion/TOCright. The Manual of Style discussion can be found here.

Limiting the depth of the TOC

By default, the TOC includes all the headings in the page, whatever their level. When an article or project page has a very large number of subsections, it may be appropriate to hide lower-level subsections from the TOC. You can specify a limit for the lowest-level section that should be displayed using {{TOC limit|n}}, where n is the number of = signs that are used on each side of the lowest-level section header that should be displayed (e.g. 3 to show ===sub-sections=== but hide ====sub-sub-sections====). The limit=n parameter can also be given to {{TOC left}} or {{TOC right}} the same way.

Linking to the TOC

The TOC is automatically generated with HTML id="toc". You can make a link to it with [[#toc]]:

Replacing the default TOC

The auto-generated TOC is not maximally appropriate or useful in all article types, such as long list articles and glossaries, so there are numerous replacement templates. To use one, put __NOTOC__ at the top of the article, and place the alternative TOC template, such as {{Compact ToC}} (which can be customized for many list styles) where needed.

Section linking

In the HTML code for each section there is an "id" attribute holding the section title. This enables linking directly to sections. These section anchors are automatically used by MediaWiki when it generates a table of contents for the page, and therefore when a section heading in the ToC is clicked, it will jump to the section. Also, the section anchors can be manually linked directly to one section within a page.

The HTML code generated at the beginning of this section, for example, is:

<span class="mw-headline" id="Section_linking">Section linking</span>

A link to this section (Section linking) looks like this:

[[Help:Section#Section linking|Section linking]]

To link to a section in the same page you can use [[#section name|displayed text]], and to link to a section in another page [[page name#section name|displayed text]].

The anchors disregard the depth of the section; a link to a subsection or sub-subsection etc. will be [[#subsection name]] and [[#sub-subsection name]] etc.

An underscore and number are appended to duplicate section names. E.g. for three sections named "Example", the names (for section linking) will be "Example", "Example_2" and "Example_3". However, after editing section "Example_2" or "Example_3" (see below), one, confusingly, arrives at section "Example" from the edit summary.

If a section has a blank space as heading, it results in a link in the TOC that does not work. For a similar effect see NS:0.

To create an anchor target without a section heading, you can use the {{anchor}} template or a span: <span id="anchor_name"></span>.

Notes:

For linking to an arbitrary position in a page see Section linking (anchors).

Section linking and redirects

A link that specifies a section of a redirect page corresponds to a link to that section of the target of the redirect.

A redirect to a section of a page will also work, try e.g. the redirect page Section linking and redirects.

A complication is that, unlike renaming a page, renaming a section does not create any redirect from the old section name. Therefore incoming links to the old section name will have to be fixed. This problem can be fixed by adding a manual anchor link to the old name, using the Anchor template.

However, if you do not want to retain links to the old names, you will need to track them down and fix them. There is no separate What links here feature for sections: the list does not distinguish between links to one section or another and links to the entire page. The following possible workarounds will help "future proof" incoming links you make to a section, but they will not help with tracking down simple links to sections during a rename:

  • Instead of linking directly to a section, link to a page that redirects to the section; when the name of the section is changed, just change the redirect target. With this method, pages linking to the section can be identified by using What links here on the redirect page. The tools:~dispenser/cgi-bin/rdcheck.py tool can be used to find existing section redirects.
  • Use a manual anchor when you wish to link to a section, so that you do not have to rely on the section name being stable.
  • Put a comment in the wikitext at the start of a section listing pages that link to the section.
  • Make the section a separate page/template and either transclude it into, or just link to it from, its parent page; instead of linking to the section one can then link to the separate page.

Redirect pages can be categorized by adding a category tag after the redirect command. In the case that the target of the redirect is a section, this has to some extent the effect of categorizing the section: through the redirect the category page links to the section; however, unless an explicit link is put, the section does not link to the category. On the category page, redirects are displayed with class redirect-in-category, so they can be shown in e.g. italics; this can be defined in MediaWiki:Common.css. See also WP:Categorizing redirects.

Section editing

Sections can be separately edited by clicking special edit links labeled "[edit]" by the heading or by right clicking on the section heading, depending on the preferences set. This is called "section editing feature" (Preferences -> Editing -> "Enable section editing via [edit] links"). The section editing feature will take you to an edit page by a URL such as

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Help:Section&action=edit&section=2

Note that here section numbers are used, not section titles; subsections have a single number, e.g., section 2.1 may be numbered 3, section 3 is then numbered 4, etc. You can also directly type in such URLs in the address bar of your browser.

This is convenient if the edit does not involve other sections and one needs not have the text of other sections at hand during the edit (but if one needs it, open the section "edit" link in a new window, or during section editing, and open the main page in a different window). Section editing alleviates some problems of large pages by making it slightly faster and much easier to find the text that you want to change.[1]

"__NOEDITSECTION__" anywhere on the page will remove the edit links. It will not disable section editing itself; the url and right-clicking on the section heading still work.

Inserting a section can be done by editing either the section before or after it. An editor can merge one section with the previous section by deleting the heading. Note that in these cases the preloaded section name in the edit summary is not correct, and has to be changed or deleted.

Missing "edit" links

If the edit links are missing, purge the page as follows: click the "Edit" tab at the top of the page and then click "Save" without making any changes.

Adding a section at the end

Shortcut:

Navigation on pages from "talk" namespaces provides a special link labeled "New section", "+", or "Add topic" used to create a new section to the end of the page.[2] Pages having the code __NEWSECTIONLINK__ in wikitext also display this link, regardless of the namespace.

The URL for such an action looks like:

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Sandbox&action=edit&section=new.

In this case, a text box having as title "Subject/headline", will appear and the content you type in it will become the name of the new section heading. There is no inputbox for the edit summary; it is automatically created. Do not edit the last existing section to create a new one, because it will result in a misleading edit summary which will conceal creation of the section and may also attract one's attention to the previous section in vain.

See also linking in an edit summary to a section, "Post a comment" feature.

Editing before the first section

By default, there is no link to edit the lead section of a page, so the entire page must be edited. Lead section editing can be enabled through Preferences → Gadgets → Appearance → Add an [edit] link for the lead section of a page.

Preview

The preview in section editing does not always show the same as the corresponding part of the full page, e.g. if on the full page an image in the previous section intrudes into the section concerned. Also, <ref>s usually become hidden; see #Editing a footnote for a solution.

The edit page shows the list of templates used on the whole page, i.e. also the templates used in other sections.

Subsections

Subsections are included in the part of the section that is edited. Section numbering is relative to the part that is edited, so on the relative top level there is always just number 1, relative subsections all have numbers starting with 1: 1.1., 1.2, etc.; e.g., when editing subsection 3.2, sub-subsection 3.2.4 is numbered 1.4. However, the heading format is according to the absolute level.

Editing a footnote

To edit a footnote rendered in a section containing the code <references />, edit the section with the footnote mark referring to it (see Help:Footnotes). However, the resulting text of the footnote is not shown in a preview of the section via "Show preview", so any mistake made by the editor will not be discovered until after the section edit is saved via "Save page". A workaround is to temporarily add a <references /> or {{reflist}} tag at the end of the section prior to previewing it. But after you are satisfied with the text of the reference shown in the preview, this temporary tag must be removed before the edit is saved.

Editing a page with large sections

If a page has very large sections, or is very large and has no division into sections, and one's browser or connection does not allow editing of such a large section, then one can still:

  • append a section by specifying a large section number (too large does not matter); however, one has to start with a blank line before the new section heading
  • append content to the last section by not starting with a section heading; however, with the limitations of one's browser or connection, one cannot revert this, or edit one's new text.

If one can view the wikitext of a large section, one can divide the page into smaller sections by step by step appending one, and finally deleting the original content (this can be done one large section at a time). Thus temporarily there is partial duplication of the content, so it is useful to put an explanation in the edit summary.

Sections within parser functions

When conditionally (using a parser function) transcluding a template with sections, the "edit" links of this and subsequent sections will edit the wrong section or give the error message that the section does not exist (although the page (including TOC) is correctly displayed and the TOC links correctly). This is because for the targets of the "edit" links the content of conditionally included templates is considered part of the page itself, and the sections are counted after expansion.

Thus the "edit" links of the sections of the included template link to the page itself instead of the template, and the "edit" links after the included template link to the correct page but the wrong section number.

More generally conditional sections give such a complication.

The problem does not occur when transcluding a template with a conditional name (which has more advantages). Use m:Template:void (backlinks edit) for the template to transclude to produce nothing.

Editing sections of included templates

This section appears in Help:Section.

The editing facilities can also be applied to a section of an included template. This section, Help:Editing sections of included templates, is an example.

For the purpose of section editing the extent of a section is governed by the headers in the calling page itself. It may consist of a part before the template tag, the template tag, and a part after the template tag, even if the template has sections.

It tends to be confusing if the extent of sections according to the system is different from what the rendered page suggests. To avoid this:

  • if a template has headers, do not put any text before the first header
  • in the calling page, start a new section after a template that itself has sections

It may be convenient, where suitable, to start a template with a section header, even if normally the contents of the template would not need a division into sections, and thus the template is only one section. The edit facilities for editing sections can then be used for editing the template from a page that includes it, without specially putting an edit link. This template is an example, it does not need a division into sections, but has a header at the top.

One downside with this solution is that you can't change the section level in the page that includes the template. This means that the section level you use in the template will be the same that is displayed on all your pages where you include the template, despite the fact that this might conflict with your intended hierarchy on the different pages.

Note that a parameter value appearing in a template, for example "{{{1}}}", is, if we want to preserve the parameter, not edited by editing the template but by editing the template call, even though the rendered page and its edit links do not automatically show that. Some explanatory text and/or an extra edit link can be useful. In this case, to edit "{{{1}}}" we have to edit the template tag on the page calling the template. If we use section editing the relevant section edit link is that at the header appearing before the header in the template itself.

The __NOEDITSECTION__ tag in any template affects both that template, the pages it's included on, and any other templates included on the same page.

{{fake heading}} can be used in templates and help pages where the appearance of a heading is desired without showing in the table of contents and without an edit link.

Sections vs. separate pages vs. transclusion

Advantages of separate pages:

  1. what links here feature
  2. separate edit histories
  3. some template limits apply per page
  4. automatic redirect on renaming
  5. loading one small page is faster than loading one large page – but are readers more likely to want to use just one section or to browse many of the sections of the topic? – see advantages of combined pages
  6. can separately be put in categories (however, see also below)
  7. with Semantic MediaWiki: have separate annotations

Advantages of one combined page with sections:

  1. loading one combined page is faster and more convenient than loading several divided ones
  2. searching within one large page or its wikitext with a local search function is faster and has advantages over searching several pages using the site search engine or a web search engine
  3. the TOC provides for convenient navigation.
  4. more likelihood of editorial cohesion of a concept compared to having several definitions likely to be independently edited
  5. duplication of items relevant to each section, such as navigation templates and infoboxes is avoided

An alternative is composing a page of other pages using the template feature (creating a compound document by Transclusion). This allows easy searching within the combined rendered page, but not in the combined wikitext. As a disadvantage, a title for each page has to be provided. For the pre-expand include size limit this is disadvantageous even compared with one large page: the pre-expand include size is the sum of the pre-expand include sizes of the components plus the sum of sizes of the wikitexts of the components.

Section transclusion

Shortcut:

Labeled section transclusion

Template-style section transclusion

Shortcut:

Template-style section transclusion (TST) is an older method of transcluding sections.

Section marking

Mark off sections in the text using this markup:

<onlyinclude>{{#ifeq:{{{transcludesection|}}}|chapter1| 
content
}}</onlyinclude>

Section transclusion

Use a template call to transclude the section. For example, to transclude a section called chapter1 from a page called pageX:

{{:pageX|transcludesection=chapter1}}

The target page defines the location of the section.

Headings

Section headings are styled with the HTML tags <h1> through <h6> as defined in the MediaWiki CSS. The styles are:

Wikimarkup HTML Style
= Heading = <h1> color: #000000; background: none; overflow: hidden; page-break-after: avoid; font-size: 1.8em; font-family: Georgia,Times,serif; margin-top: 1em; margin-bottom: 0.25em; line-height: 1.3; padding: 0; border-bottom: 1px solid #AAAAAA;
== Heading == <h2> color: #000000; background: none; overflow: hidden; page-break-after: avoid; font-size: 1.5em; font-family: Georgia,Times,serif; margin-top: 1em; margin-bottom: 0.25em; line-height: 1.3; padding: 0; border-bottom: 1px solid #AAAAAA;
=== Heading === <h3> color: #000000; background: none; overflow: hidden; page-break-after: avoid; font-size: 1.17em; font-weight: bold; margin-top: 0.3em; margin-bottom: 0; line-height: 1.6; padding-top: 0.5em; padding-bottom: 0;
==== Heading ==== <h4> color: #000000; background: none; overflow: hidden; page-break-after: avoid; font-size: 100%; font-weight: bold; margin-top: 0.3em; margin-bottom: 0; line-height: 1.6; padding-top: 0.5em; padding-bottom: 0;
===== Heading ===== <h5> color: #000000; background: none; overflow: hidden; page-break-after: avoid; font-size: 100%; font-weight: bold; margin-top: 0.3em; margin-bottom: 0; line-height: 1.6; padding-top: 0.5em; padding-bottom: 0;
====== Heading ====== <h6> color: #000000; background: none; overflow: hidden; page-break-after: avoid; font-size: 100%; font-weight: bold; margin-top: 0.3em; margin-bottom: 0; line-height: 1.6; padding-top: 0.5em; padding-bottom: 0;


Some readers may have issues differentiating between <h1>, <h2> and <h3>. To make <h1> and <h2> bold, add this to Special:MyPage/skin.css or Special:MyPage/common.css:

/* Bold h1 and h2 */
h1, h2 { font-weight: bold; }
.editsection { font-weight: normal; }

Sections for demo above

Demo http://example.com

This section is linked to from #Section linking.

See also

Manual of style

Footnotes

  1. ^ Section editing has not reduced edit conflicts since 2006, which is when the MediaWiki software's handling of edit conflicts was significantly improved.
  2. ^ The Vector skin can hide the link under the drop-down menu, although it is not the case for the default Vector appearance in English Wikipedia.