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|Manual of Style (MoS)|
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, Wikipedia will be easier to read and use, not to mention easier to write and edit. 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 changes should be discussed on the talk page first, or they will be removed.
- 1 Article names
- 2 Links
- 3 Where to place external links
- 4 Headings
- 5 Capital letters
- 6 Punctuation
- 7 Scientific style
- 8 Sections
- 9 Simple tabulation
- 10 Usage and spelling
- 11 Words as words
- 12 Pictures
- 13 Captions
- 14 Identity
- 15 Miscellaneous notes
- 16 See also
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
'''. Do not self-link or put links in title when it first appears. Follow the normal rules for italics: that is, put them in bold only if you would use italics if the title would normally be shown in italics.
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.
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...
Main article: Wikipedia:Make only links relevant to the context
The use of so-called "free links" to other topics, for example,
[[History of Ceuta]], is encouraged. Use the links for all words and terms that are relevant to your article. Links should follow the Wikipedia naming conventions.
Do not make too many links. A suggestion is that if 10% of the words are already linked, then some less vital link can be removed when more important links are added. Do not link every occurrence of a word: linking the first time the word appears will usually be enough. For dates like
[[25 March]] [] wikify every time so that the date preference of the reader will be used. Both day-month and year must be linked for the preference to work correctly.
It is possible to link words that are not exactly the same as the linked article title,
[[English language|English]] for example. But make sure it is clear what the link refers to without having to follow the link. When forming plurals, do so thus:
[[language]]s. This is clearer to read in wiki form than
[[language|languages]] — and easier to type. This also works for other words such as
[[Asia]]n, as well as hyphenated phrases and the like.
Link accurately. If an article you want to link does not yet exist, do a quick search to find out if that is really the case: the article may have a different name than you expect. And never use "click here" as the text for a link.
Main article: Wikipedia:External links
Wikipedia is not a link collection, and an article with only links is actively discouraged.
The syntax for referencing a URL is simple. Just enclose it in single brackets:
The URL must begin with
http:// or another common protocol, such as
You can add a title to an external link by supplying descriptive text after the URL separated by a space and enclosing it all in square brackets. For example: [http://en.wikipedia.org an open-content encyclopedia] (this is rendered as "an open-content encyclopedia").
If the link is not to an HTML file, but to a file which must be opened in an external program, such as a PDF or Microsoft Word document, or to a large file that may take a long time to download, a remark about that is useful to help the user decide whether opening or first downloading is preferred. Also, since this is the English Wikipedia, webpages in English are highly preferred. Linking to non-English pages may still be useful, but indicate what language the site is in. For example:
When linking to pages with maps, diagrams, photos, tables; explain the key terms with the link, so that people who do not know the language can still interpret them.
If you are not providing a description of the link, use the short form of the URL (host name) as the optional text:
[http://en.wikipedia.org/ en.wikipedia.org] produces en.wikipedia.org. Note that the "printable version" of a page displays all URLs in full, including those given a title, so no information is lost.
In most cases, group external links together at the bottom of the article in bullet point format under the heading "External links".
It is also possible to include an inline URL reference within the body of an article. For example:
One good example of a cooperative online community is the [http://en.wikipedia.org Wikipedia, an open-content encyclopaedia].
is displayed like this:
- One good example of a cooperative online community is the Wikipedia, an open-content encyclopaedia.
This is discouraged in most situations. However, if the external reference relates to only one paragraph or line in the article, then the use of an inline external link as a footnote serves as a proper citation. This is done by placing square brackets around the URL, but without leaving any description at all. Footnote links can be used throughout the article. They are replaced by numbers in increasing order starting from 1.
Main article: Wikipedia:Manual of Style (headings)
== style markup for headings. Example:
==This is a heading==
- 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.
Job 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. 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).
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
Whether the common names of species should start with a capital letter or not 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.
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.
If you are not sure whether a region has attained proper-noun status, assume it has not.
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 split the difference between American and British usage.
Although not a rigid rule, we use the "double quotes" for most quotations and use 'single quotes' for "quotations 'within' quotations". This is the American style.
Note: if a word appears in an article with single quotes, such as 'abcd', the Wikipedia:Searching facility will find it only 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).
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 British style. 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.
- Arthur said the situation was "deplorable".
- Arthur said, "The situation is deplorable."
- Arthur said that the situation "was the most deplorable he had seen in years."
Longer quotations may be an indented style by starting the first line with a colon. When quoting multiple paragraphs, double quotation marks belong at the beginning of each paragraph, but at the end of only 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.
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."
Do not use contractions — such as don't, can't, won't, and so on, except when quoting directly.
Main article: Wikipedia:Technical terms and definitions
- For units of measure use SI units; see also Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dates and numbers). Wikipedia Style for large numbers is 10,000.
- In articles about chemicals and chemistry, use the style of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) for chemical names wherever possible, except in article titles, where the common name should be used if different, followed by mention of the IUPAC name.
- In periodic table groups, use the new IUPAC names: (these use Arabic numerals, not Roman numerals or letters).
- For mathematics and mathematical formulae, see Wikipedia:WikiProject Mathematics
Main article: Wikipedia:Section
Main article: Wikipedia: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
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]]
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:
The heading Related topics may be used instead of See also.
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 common sections (in their preferable order) are:
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.
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:
- Each article should have uniform spelling and not a haphazard mix of different spellings (it can be jarring to the reader). In particular, for individual words and word-endings. For example, do not use center (American) in one place and centre (British) in another.
- Proper names should retain their original spellings. For example, United States Department of Defense and Australian Defence Force.
- Articles which focus on a topic specific to a particular English-speaking country should generally aim to conform to the spelling of that country (for instance the British "Labour Party"). A reference to "the American labour movement" (with a U) or to "Anglicization" (with a Z) may be jarring. However, a reference to "the American labour movement" would be okay on New Labour.
- 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.
- If the spelling appears within the article text, also consider a consistent synonym such as focus or middle rather than center/centre.
- 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.
- Scholarly abbreviations of Latin terms like i.e., or e.g. should be avoided and English terms such as such as and for example 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 who used a word with variant spellings in the article or the title.
- If a word or phrase is generally regarded as correct, then prefer it to an alternative that is often regarded as incorrect. Thus "other meanings" should be used rather than "alternate meaning" or "alternative meaning". Some dictionaries discourage or do not even recognize this latter use of alternate. The American Heritage Dictionary "Usage Note" at alternative says: "Alternative should not be confused with alternate." But, alternative is also not entirely acceptable because of the very common connotations in American English of "non-traditional" or "out-of-the-mainstream". Some traditional usage experts consider alternative to be appropriate only when there are exactly two alternatives.
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.
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|thumb|Blah blah caption]]
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.
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 they themselves use for themselves(self identification).
- Use specific terminology: If Ethiopians should be described 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.
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).
Alternatively simply look at an article that you like, open it for editing and see how the writers and editors have put it together and close the window without saving changes.
Do not 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. Do not 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 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
You can communicate with other potential editors whilst making comments invisible to the ordinary article reader. Enclosing text within
--> makes that text only visible when viewing the HTML or wiki source.
For example, this will only appear when you view the source:
<!-- This is a comment. -->
- Wikipedia:Welcome, newcomers is a gentle introduction to the world of Wikipedia.
- Wikipedia:WikiProject sets out boilerplates for certain areas of knowledge.
- Be bold in updating pages should define your attitude toward page updates.
- Policies and guidelines is the main stop for policies and, well, guidelines.
- Avoiding common mistakes gives a list of common mistakes and how to avoid them.
- Editing policy has even more editing guidelines.
- How does one edit a page will explain the mechanics of what codes are available to you when editing a page, to do things like titles, links, external links, and so on.
- Perfect stub article shows what you should aim for at a minimum when starting a new article.