Wikipedia:Manual of Style/proposal

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Writers are not required to follow any of the following guidelines. The joy of wiki editing is that perfection is not required.

If you wish to make a substantive change to the Manual of Style, please discuss it on the talk page first.

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.

Article titles[edit]

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: '''article title''' produces article title. 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.


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[edit]


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, "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".)

Religions, deities, philosophies, doctrines and their adherents[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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 to a specific spectral body (our Sun, Earth and Moon): so "The Moon orbits the Earth"; but "Pluto's moon Charon".

Directions and regions[edit]

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 with the Great North Road.

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


Use the '' (italic) markup. Example:

''This is italic.''

which produces

This is italic.


Main article: Wikipedia:Manual of Style (titles)

Italics should be used for titles of the following:

  • Books
  • Films
  • Long poems/epic poems
  • Musical albums
  • Periodicals (newspapers, journals, and magazines)
  • Plays
  • Television series
  • Works of visual art
  • Court cases
  • Ships
  • Computer games
  • Orchestral works
  • Named passenger trains.

Italics are generally used for titles of longer works. Titles of shorter works, such as the following, should be enclosed in double 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:

  • Scripture
  • Legal or constitutional documents

Words as words[edit]

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.


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

Quotation marks[edit]

Use the "double quotes" for quotations – as they are easier to read on the screen – and use 'single quotes' for "quotations 'within' quotations".

Longer quotations may be better rendered in an indented style by starting the first line with a colon. Indented quotations do not need to be marked by quotation marks. 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.

Use quotation marks or indentations to distinguish quotations from other text. There is normally no need to put quotations in italics unless the material would otherwise call for italics (emphasis, use of non-English words, etc.).

Use straight quotation marks and apostrophes[edit]

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 ensure 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 corresponding 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.

Spaces after the end of a sentence[edit]

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.


See Wikipedia:Manual of Style (pronunciation).

Scientific style[edit]

Main article: Wikipedia:Technical terms and definitions


Main article: Wikipedia:Section


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[edit]

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[edit]

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]]

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[edit]

Other common sections (in their preferable order) are:

Simple tabulation[edit]

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 (including punctuation, grammar and spelling)[edit]

  • Use one form of standard English consistently throughout each article.
  • Where an article is on a topic closely-related to one part of the English-speaking world, use a form of standard used in that part of the English-speaking world for that article.
  • If a word/phrase that is used in one form of standard English is not generally understood by speakers of another form, either avoid it or explain it.
  • Do not change the form of standard English adopted by an article without good reason.


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]]


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:

  • The first priority is to use terminology that will be understood or readily accepted by the reader.
  • Where known, you may choose to 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.
  • Specific terminology is usually preferable: It may be preferable to call people from Ethiopia (a country in Africa) Ethiopian, rather than African.
  • However, 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.
  • Do not assume that any one term is the most inclusive or accurate.

Miscellaneous notes[edit]

When all else fails[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]