Wikipedia:WikiProject Novels/Harry Potter task force/Style guidelines

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This is a collection of style guidelines for the Harry Potter WikiProject, the aim of which is to create a uniform look and feel for Harry Potter-related articles on Wikipedia, to make them easier to write and read and, by ensuring that they adhere to Wikipedia's various guidelines and policies, to make them encyclopaedic.

Writing about the Potterian universe[edit]

Articles on fiction can approach their subject from two main angles. The first treats the fiction as if it were real and describes it from the perspective of the people and characters of the fictional universe. This is often referred to as an "in-universe perspective". Hallmarks of in-universe perspective include:

  • Birth and death dates of fictional characters;
  • Plot synopses framed as biography;
  • Exposition framed as the history of fictional locations or organizations

This style of writing is unencyclopaedic and articles written in this style are vulnerable to successful AfD nominations. Articles should instead describe the subject matter from the perspective of the real world. Hallmarks include:

  • Fictional characters and places described in the context of published works (in this case, the Harry Potter books).
  • Information on the development of a character, place or idea both before its first appearance and over the course of the narrative;
  • Its popularity among the general public;
  • Background information regarding real world figures, locations or situations which have influenced or appear in the work
  • Critical analysis of the subject (although with great care to avoid original research)
  • Its influence on later creators and their projects.

Harry Potter-related articles should strive to combine description of the fictional characters and world with which they are concerned with verifiable facts from the real world. In other words, a Harry Potter-related article should be more than simple plot description or biographical details of the characters, but should include specific information about

  • Why and how the subject of the article is important in the world of Harry Potter
  • Real-world details of creation, development, and critical reaction

Articles should include as much referenceable critical analysis as possible. In the case of Harry Potter-related articles, since several of the corresponding films are as yet unmade, this will be an ongoing task. In this case, the only primary source facts which can be reported are those from the books, and from writings and comments by J.K. Rowling.

Summaries should always be written from a real-world perspective; an in-universe approach may be difficult to understand and follow, and is also (more importantly) a violation of WP:WAF. Consider the following in-universe plot synopsis that draws from several different books in the series:

Harry Potter is a young boy. He finds out he is a wizard, and goes to wizarding school. He saves his best friend's sister and kills a Basilisk. He discovers there is a prophecy about him and the Dark Lord, and makes up his mind to kill Voldemort.

This type of description is fine, if the article were about a real person. Harry is a fictional character, however, and this style of writing does not emphasise that fact - it is not encyclopaedic. Alternatively, the description may be written from a real-world perspective:

Harry Potter first appears in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the plot of which involves Harry's discovery that he has magical abilities and the start of his magical education at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry rescues Ginny, his best friend's sister, and slays a Basilisk, saving the school. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry discovers that there is a prophecy concerning him and the dark wizard Lord Voldemort, and vows to do whatever it takes to kill the Dark Lord.

While still covering the same points of plot, this style clearly sets the fictional world in the context of the Harry Potter books. References should be made for specific important pieces of information and facts, and should indicate the specific source, ideally using the templates where the source is one of the Harry Potter books. Care should be taken, however, not to overwhelm the article by citing every point.


As far as possible, Harry Potter articles should follow a similar format. This format should be compliant with the relevant guidelines from Wikipedia policies, the manual of style and other WikiProjects.

Articles about fictional characters, places and events should comply with the relevant sections of WP:WAF and WP:FICT. WP:FICT is of particular importance as it sets out the criteria for notability of fictional articles. Articles with secondary sources are generally safe from AfDs under WP:FICT. Articles which cite only the Harry Potter books and films are vulnerable. Hence articles about fictional subject matter should include as much external referencing as is feasible.

Articles about characters[edit]

Articles about characters should note the WP:WAF and WP:FICT concerns stated above. They should include the character template. Depending on the character other templates may apply. Note that succession boxes may not be used in fictional articles.

For examples of Good Articles, see Hermione Granger, Lord Voldemort.

Opening paragraph/lead section[edit]

Wikipedia is not censored. There is no reason to purposefully exclude spoilers from lead sections. However, there is also no reason to gratuitously include spoilers. Lead sections of character articles should include:

  1. Name(s) and title(s), if any
  2. (Briefly) what they do/did
  3. Character's appearance
  4. Why they are significant.
  5. Interesting general information about the character.
  6. Name of actor(s) who play(s) the character in the movies

Background and role in the series[edit]

The Background section should provide known information about the character's place and date of birth (and death, if applicable), nationality, immediate family and upbringing or early life.

The Role in the series section describes briefly the known facts about the character's role in the development of the story. Note that, per WP:WAF, this summary should be written from a real-world perspective. Compare this old version of the Severus Snape article, where the plot summary is written as a biography; to this more recent version, where the plot summary has been moved out-universe.

In shorter articles, these sections may be combined as "Background and role in the series," and provide all the relevant information about the character's role in the development of the story. In larger articles about more prominent characters, the "role in the series" section may be split up by book.

Articles about locations[edit]

Articles about locations should note the WP:WAF and WP:FICT concerns stated above. They should include the school or place template.

Articles about actors[edit]

Articles about the actors who appear in the Harry Potter films should follow the requisite guidelines from WP:BIO and MOS:BIO, which define the notability criteria for living people, and the style guidelines for such articles, respectively. With living actors, great care should also be taken to follow WP:BLP, which is policy. For the adult actors, as opposed to those whose entire acting career has been based around Harry Potter, care should be taken that the actor's involvement in the films does not swamp their other achievements. Of course, as is the case for, say Emma Watson, there is little other work to swamp.

For examples of Good Articles on actors, see Emma Watson.


A special Harry Potter stub template can be found here, and should be placed at the bottom of articles that are currently stubs.


Every article should include a References section, a list sources detailing where specific information given has been found. In the case of Harry Potter articles, the Harry Potter books and films will often be the main sources; these should still be cited.

Specific writings or comments during interviews by J.K. Rowling may also be useful. It is important to always provide a source for such information, and links wherever possible, since claims like "Rowling says X" are otherwise difficult to verify.

Sources other than these must be used with caution. Fan sites and websites by those who "ship" certain characters are not considered reliable sources of information. Editors may peruse them for ideas, and include them where they are likely to be of interest for "further reading.", but any ideas taken from them should be referenced to reliable sources. Where no alternative exists, references to such websites should attempt to give a balanced sample of views.

Websites such as The Leaky Cauldron and the Harry Potter Lexicon, which contain detailed information about the series and its characters and which have been endorsed by J.K. Rowling, at least to the extent that she has granted them interviews or linked to them from her own website, are considered more reliable, but strict followers of WP:FICT will still question their reliability; articles referenced only from these sites may still be vulnerable to AfD.

Under NO circumstances may text or images be copied verbatim from any Harry Potter website, unless that website displays a GFDL compatible license.

Speculation and Literary analysis[edit]

Literary analysis, or literary criticism, is the study, discussion, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Literary analysis is often a useful tool for understanding a given work, and may provide interesting insights or interpretations of the work.

Literary analysis can also be useful in writing Wikipedia articles, but must come from verifiable secondary sources. Unverified literary analysis by Wikipedia editors is viewed as original research or fancruft.

Wikipedia articles must not contain speculation. Sibyll Trelawney may have a crystal ball; Wikipedia editors don't.

With the release of the seventh book, Speculation has become much less of an issue on Harry Potter articles. However, editors of the sixth and seventh film articles, in particular, should take care to ensure that the article is not speculating.



For articles about characters, the article title should be the name by which the character is most commonly known, but the characters's full name should be given in the first sentence, if known. Thus, the article on Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore is located at Albus Dumbledore, and his full name is given in the first sentence. Academic and professional titles (such as "Professor," "Minister") should not be used in article titles.

Article titles should only follow the form "Someone (Harry Potter)" if "Someone" is an already existent article.

Books, Films, Games, Soundtracks[edit]

When named in the text, the titles of the seven Harry Potter books should be placed in italics and with appropriate capitalisation:

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

However, book titles should not be italicised when they form a section heading or subsection:

===Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows===


===''Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows''===

When it is desirable, the titles may be shortened by removing "Harry Potter and the", to form:

  • Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Goblet of Fire

Titles should be wikilinked only on their first appearance. There are certain exceptions, particularly articles which are conglomerations of connected topics which are not intended to be read from top to bottom (such as Spells in Harry Potter).

References to the films, games and soundtracks should follow similar formatting, with care taken to ensure that links are piped to the correct page. Full links, such as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (game) should not generally be appropriate in articles; instead, use ''[[Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (game)|]]'' which will result in ''[[Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (game)|Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban]]'' when saved and will appear as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Make sure, however, that if a link such as this is piped, it is clear which medium is being referred to. References to films should be followed by ([[20xx in film|20xx]]), 20xx being the year in which the film was made. Use this on the first reference only.

The phrase "Harry Potter" should be italicised when it refers to the franchise, but not when it refers to the character. That is to say:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third Harry Potter film. Daniel Radcliffe reprised his role as Harry Potter.

In neither case should the phrase be abbreviated to "Potter". Per the section on character names above, the character name should be abbreviated to "Harry". The reference to the franchise should not be abbreviated.

Characters' names[edit]

While it is standard practice to refer to real people by their last names in articles ("Jackson," not "Michael"; "Winfrey," not "Oprah"), it is usual to refer to fictional people by the name most frequently used in the text.

Thus, Harry Potter should be referred to as "Harry," not "Potter"; Ron Weasley should be referred to as "Ron", not "Weasley"; Hermione Granger should be referred to as "Hermione," not "Granger," and so on.

However, if a character is mostly referred to by his or her last name in the books, then descriptions in articles may follow this convention. Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape, for example, are most often called by their last names in the books, and their first names may be less familiar to readers. They may be referred to as "Dumbledore" and "Snape" in articles.

Characters whose names change or for whom alternate names are revealed during the course of the series are referred to by the name by which is most commonly associated with them. For instance, Ginny Weasley is referred to her birth name even though by the end of The Deathly Hallows her surname has changed to Potter. Lord Voldemort is referred to by that name, not as Tom Riddle.

Similarly, characters who marry during the course of the series should still be referred to by the name by which they were first introduced. For instance, Hermione Granger is referred to by that name, not "Hermione Weasley" or "Hermione Weasley née Granger". Fleur Delacour and Nymphadora Tonks should still be referred to by those names, (the latter as just "Tonks", per above). To do otherwise would be both poor style and original research.

Academic and professional titles (such as "Professor," "Minister") should not be used before the name in the initial sentence, or generally through the article.


Harry Potter is a British series by an English author that features mostly English characters and settings. Articles within the scope of the Harry Potter WikiProject should use British English unless there is a very good reason not to. As the films are co-produced by the UK, are made in the UK, and are made up of a largely British cast and crew, it is unlikely that there will be a justifiable reason not to use British English.

Philosopher's vs Sorcerer's[edit]

Rowling's first book was published in one foreign country under the name Sorcerer's Stone, giving Sorcerer's Stone the same status as the French or German translations ("Harry Potter a l'ecole des sorciers"[1] and "Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen"[2] respectively). Rowling has stated[3] that she regrets allowing the name to be changed. All articles within the scope of the Harry Potter WikiProject should therefore use the title Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in every instance after the first, noting the alternate title at the first instance of mention, i.e., high-traffic pages warrant the following statement: "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (published as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the US)..." at the first instance on a page. After that, only refer to the original title.


It is standard practice, when writing about literature and films, to describe the action that takes place in the story in the present tense. Present tense should be used even when describing action that takes place in an earlier book in the series, or about facts that have been changed by a later book in the series.

Thus, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Hagrid safely delivers Harry to the home of the Dursleys. Later, he meets Harry at the lighthouse, and takes him to King's Cross Station to meet the Hogwarts Express.

On the other hand, action that takes place before the story's present (i.e.: in the past) is normally described in the past tense. This includes characters who died before the start of the first book. Thus, Horace Slughorn was a teacher at Hogwarts, but retired before Harry's first year. In Book 6, he returns to the faculty as professor of Potions.

When writing about characters who were alive during the series' present but who subsequently die, be mindful of giving away information that some readers may not wish to know. In general, it is good style to write even about these characters in the present tense.

Terms and abbreviations[edit]

The Harry Potter series includes many invented terms, or terms used in unique ways, such as "muggle" and "squib". These terms can be used in articles, but should be explained and linked upon their first appearance: "Muggle (a non-magical person)."

Terms that are commonly abbreviated, such as "the D.A.," should be written out in full on their first appearance and the abbreviation provided: "Dumbledore's Army (the D.A.)." The abbreviation may then be used in subsequent appearances. Only terms that are abbreviated in the books should be abbreviated in articles. For example, do not refer to the fourth book as "GOF".

J. K. Rowling's name is sometimes abbreviated by fans as JKR/J.K.R. This abbreviation should not be used in Wikipedia articles.

See also[edit]