Wikipedia talk:Indentation

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Needed changes[edit]

I just changed the formatting quite a bit; I haven't had time yet, but would like to clean up a few things.

  1. The <div> tags should be replaced by a template (either one we have or one we can make as a subpage for this page).
  2. There needs to be timestamps on each example comment (as in the original [[User:BigNate37/Indentation guide]) so folks can be certain they understand which comments were made when, when they analyze the examples.
  3. The formatting of the numbering of the list should use the automated ordered list markup (the hash marks, "#"). Just need to find a way to do it and I think the template vs. <div> matter may make it easier.

I'm happy to make these changes as time permits. Specifically for item 3, something along the lines of the indentation hack for WP:CSD#G12 may be appropriate. BigNate37(T) 17:59, 29 August 2007 (UTC)

I did #1 and #2, but #3 seems to break the boxes, whether using <div> tags or templates. Dansiman (talk|Contribs) 03:21, 18 June 2008 (UTC)

A bit premature[edit]

I've reverted the change to the project page that declared this to be a guideline. There has been way too little discussion to date. Moreover, (a) this page is not particularly long, which argues that expanding Wikipedia:Talk page might be a viable alternative; (b) there has been no mention to date of Wikipedia:Talk page guidelines; and (c) this is missing a "See also" section that makes it easy for other users to evaluate whether this proposed guideline actually fills a critical need or not. -- John Broughton (♫♫) 00:52, 30 August 2007 (UTC)

Add whatever you think should be there--Pheonix15 17:14, 30 August 2007 (UTC)
As for merging it, I don't think that should be done. It would make the formatting section of the page way to prominent. Links are Okay though--Pheonix15 17:17, 30 August 2007 (UTC)
I've changed the tag to show this as a proposed guideline to foster the needed discussion. I think this is fine as a stand-alone guideline because it applies to many different forums, including talk pages and deletion discussions, and consistency across these forums is desirable. The only change I would suggest is to use gender-neutral pronouns in the examples per Quest for gender-neutral pronouns. Dhaluza 12:22, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
good idea. I'm busy now with MEDCAB. could you change them?--Phoenix 15 20:33, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
OK, I replaced them with the names of the players in the Who's on first? sketch. Dhaluza 20:35, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

Should this essay gain guideline status?[edit]

This is senssible enough and I feel it should be a guideline as Wikipedia:talk page does not give enough detail--Phoenix 15 11:29, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

Much too complicated. How do you instruct the casual poster the correct way to indent? Instruction creep. I see no reason to adopt this.--Eriastrum 22:47, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

I always thought the guideline was this, only not so clearly stated. Also, every talk page on which I've ever noticed editors not following this style, has eventually had an instance of confusion about who was replying to whom, or who was addressing whom. How do you instruct the casual poster? Send them to this page, it seems to cover every base already, and isn't too complex in the examples. I think any threaded discussion can be boiled down to a combination of the few guidelines presented here. Most editors follow this style anyway, as it's exactly how any forum software will layout its posts (assuming the posters use the "reply" links properly). In short, I am strongly in favor of this essay becoming a guideline. Remember, too, that guidelines are not policies, and editors are not required to follow guidelines (though it is encouraged), so making it a guideline may not be as harmful as Eriastrum seems to think. Dansiman (talk|Contribs) 03:08, 18 June 2008 (UTC)


I think that this page should talk about outdents as well. warrior4321 21:00, 9 September 2009 (UTC)


Anyone have any thoughts / opinions on {{outdent2}} - created as a less visual alternative to the line format? Thanks  7  04:41, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

I went ahead and added it to the example at the bottom of this essay, but if anyone feels it is inappropriate please feel free to remove.  7  07:36, 4 December 2009 (UTC)
I believe a similar template was previously removed on the ground that templates shouldn't be forked. I'd tend to agree with that - I think we should rather modify the current template and add parameters to it to make it support different formats (simple arrow, long lines, etc.). Laurent (talk) 16:03, 4 December 2009 (UTC)
Fair point - would everyone be comfortable if I modified the existing outdent template to show this similar " (←) " format if no parameters (e.g. zero colons) were passed to it?  7  04:41, 10 December 2009 (UTC)
Just noticed that there is already a default length used when zero colons are provided. How about if {{od|0}} shows the small arrow... although we're starting to get a bit unix-y.  7  04:51, 10 December 2009 (UTC)
That sounds like the best solution. We certainly shouldn't be re-forking this after the effort it took to consolidate the various outdent templates in the first place. Chris Cunningham (not at work) - talk 16:03, 11 December 2009 (UTC)

How do I indent?[edit]

I feel stupid asking this, but how do I indent? Vampyrecat (talk) 07:01, 5 January 2010 (UTC)

Just put a colon (:) in front. Angrysockhop (and a happy new year) 07:04, 5 January 2010 (UTC)
One colon at the beginning of the paragraph indents a small amount; two colons indent a bit more; three colons even more etc. This is illustrated at WP:Talk page formatting. Dolphin51 (talk) 10:10, 5 January 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps, this small bit should be added to this article? I can see it would make more easier for editors who have to come here to learn how to indent. warrior4321 12:06, 5 January 2010 (UTC)
Indeed! I've added it now, as the first line under 'See also'. Shreevatsa (talk) 17:38, 31 May 2010 (UTC)
Wow I just read the discussion page... wish I had earlier. An example is shown on the instruction page for outdenting, could one be added to the indenting instructions? Just for someone like me who couldn't realize the white box showing the shortcut was telling me instructions (I thought it was a white box I was to find and click on, when on the edit page.) Silly me. Edit suggestion: Indent examples: One colon :before the first word for one indent. Two ::for two. Three :::for three - etc. note: Your indenting will not appear till you post.-- (talk) 02:46, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
Revision to 'note' note: Your indenting effects will not appear till you 'review' or 'post'.--Gregory Goble (talk) 04:55, 28 December 2011 (UTC)

distinguishing responses[edit]

In my experience many editors in dialogue with anothe editor maintain the degree of indentation of their comments. Each new editor indents further. If two editors indent to the same degree, as this essay suggests, it can become hard to follow who is addressing whom - and this is not standard practic. Slrubenstein | Talk 18:05, 11 December 2010 (UTC)

That's what I thought the guideline was, when I started editing Wikipedia, back in 2004 or 2005. Now I read this page, which appears to have been created after then, and it seems to say something different. If this has in fact changed at some point, it should be noted, even if not recommended. Also, I just found WP:Talk page formatting which presents this as a new idea.
Perhaps the hierarchy of replies method is good for complex discussions with many participants, and the indent-per-author method is good for long single-threaded discussions or those that only have a handful of participants.
Vadmium (talk) 09:06, 24 February 2011 (UTC).

Extended Dialogue[edit]

I added the following to the page, and was reverted. Discussion follows.

In extended dialogue between a limited number of participants, it is acceptable to continue to indent, OR to stay at the same level of indentation as you used for a prior comment (except the first comment in the thread), as long as it doesn't cause confusion. Thus either of the following are acceptable:

I think good indentation is very helpful. --Example (talk) 12:34, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
Me too. Place holder T/C 12:44, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
I thought you didn't like indentation, Place holder. --Example (talk) 14:23, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
I used to hate it but I changed my mind. Place holder T/C 14:42, 1 February 2011
Why the change of heart? --Example (talk) 14:53, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
I moved to a more outline area. Place holder T/C 17:42, 1 February 2011


I think good indentation is very helpful. --Example (talk) 12:34, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
Me too. Place holder T/C 12:44, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
I thought you didn't like indentation, Place holder. --Example (talk) 14:23, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
I used to hate it but I changed my mind. Place holder T/C 14:42, 1 February 2011
Why the change of heart? --Example (talk) 14:53, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
I moved to a more outline area. Place holder T/C 17:42, 1 February 2011

I've seen exactly this style used on a lot of talk pages, so while this may be a "departure from canon" in that it wasn't on the page before I added it, it's (to me) common sense and common usage. Homunq (talk) 06:24, 24 April 2012 (UTC)

Hi, Hom. Thanks for posting here; I should have done, myself. Sorry to feel obliged to revert; I really wanted to give you a barnstar, instead, for causing me to literally laugh out loud with your pun re outline/outlying, one of the most pleasantly homely ones I've seen in years. It ranks in the same class with one of my favourite jokes, viz. "Why don't cannibals like to eat clowns?" Answer:"It's because they taste funny." Yes, I know: My sense of humour doesn't reach to the maturity of "sophmoric", but I do enjoy myself. It does occur to me, however, that editors whose native language is not English might be confused by the example and joke.
I must respectfully disagree with you that the change you propose is "common sense and common usage". To take the second "common", first, I've never seen anyone but very inexperienced editors indent the way you're suggesting, and I'm old enough to remember when push-button telephones were seen as a new, high-tech replacement for the rotary dial. I was on usenet almost from the first, beginning around the same time that tectonic shift occurred in telephone technology. Re the first, the assertion that it's "common sense", it may be that my disagreement is the greater because I've been rather ADD since I was a kid. My eyes are strongly "pulled" to anything out of the ordinary, much more readily than those of most people, and I have a more difficult time ignoring any such difference. So traditionally indented threads are much, much (!!) easier for me to read than any other variety.
Also, I know from human interface work and from reading in neuropsychology that a when a person is asked to shift the paradigm by which he's following and interpreting any kind of ongoing event (like reading a screen or a thread) that a particular kind of neural "event", a particularly identifiable electrical waveform, occurs across the cortex. But if a person is at all tired, those waveforms are significantly less likely to occur when they're needed, and the person becomes confused: He can't seamlessly and unconsciously make the shift from one pattern of indentation to another, and god forbid, back to the original, at the right times.
An analogy would be that people are less likely to recognise intentional irony, or playful, friendly teasing, embedded in a stream of otherwise straightforward speech when they're even slightly less than fully alert. They continue to try to construe it in the original interpretive framework of "direct, candid speech", and misunderstandings occur. ( This is known as the "Don't make playful remarks to your wife about her mother when she's sleepy" principle. ;-) Finally, I suspect that people whose native language reads right-to-left, such as Hebrew or Arabic, would be especially prone to annoying temporary confusion if they encounter a change-up of the rules for construal in mid-thread.  – OhioStandard (talk) 07:11, 24 April 2012 (UTC)
On the joke: thanks. On the substance: I honestly disagree (not about the cognitive science, but just about what's expected, especially for "extended dialogue" as the section is called.) Thanks for explaining yourself. Does anyone else have an opinion here?
(Note I'm following "your" rules on indentation, even though my instinct is to do it "my" way)
Homunq (talk) 11:07, 24 April 2012 (UTC)
Very gracious of you, that; thanks. I recognise this is a genuine, good-faith difference of opinion, of course... Perhaps we should correct that oversight, and call each other unpleasant names, make dark references to the other's "agenda", and throw about accusations of canvassing? Just so we're more consistent with other talk pages, I mean?
Seriously, though, I see this page is on fewer than 30 watchlists, which seems odd, given how central indentation policy is to everyone's participation in the project. So I agree that we need additional opinions. Would you mind if I were to advertise this a bit, eg post a neutrally-worded request for participation at Village Pump proposals, etc., and perhaps break out a section on this talk page as an RfC, via the proper procedure for that? I'd say something perfectly neutral, in phrasing that, like: "Should the addition to this essay documented in the preceding section be completed?" Thoughts?  – OhioStandard (talk) 06:40, 25 April 2012 (UTC)
Sounds good to me. (But maybe sounding good is part of your Dark Agenda...) Homunq (talk) 06:55, 25 April 2012 (UTC)
Just because I joke about having one doesn't mean I don't. Think about that. ;-)  – OhioStandard (talk) 14:09, 25 April 2012 (UTC)

RfC: On a proposed addition[edit]

Should the addition to this essay documented in the preceding section be completed?  – OhioStandard (talk) 14:09, 25 April 2012 (UTC)

Brief comments[edit]

  • Support as proposer. Homunq (talk) 14:19, 25 April 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose for the reasons I gave in the preceding section.  – OhioStandard (talk) 14:17, 25 April 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose: We can't have two systems, the propose new system won't work for complex discussions, no one has any incentive to switch, and if the system we've used for years and years needs to be replaced, it should be with an actual forum management solution (i.e., integration of any of the large number of open source webboard packages into MediaWiki as a talk page replacement system). — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒ ɖ∘¿¤þ   Contrib. 01:37, 19 May 2012 (UTC)

This isn't a vote. Starting an RfC with a straw poll is counterproductive. Chris Cunningham (user:thumperward) (talk) 15:21, 25 April 2012 (UTC)

  • You're so right, Chris. I'd never have done it. In fact, I tried and tried to make Hom see that, but he's that stubborn. It makes me sigh, too. I suspect he might have a Dark Agenda. Anyway, I've changed the section heading from "Brief !votes" to its current "Brief comments", so that's all right.  – OhioStandard (talk) 07:22, 26 April 2012 (UTC)
Just to clarify for any editors who didn't follow those links and whose sarcasm-detector is miscalibrated: the RFC and straw poll were started by Ohiostandard. Speaking of Dark Agendas... Homunq (talk) 13:53, 26 April 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Utter confusion will reign. The argument that this can be found on talk pages is null. Almost anything can found on talk pages somewhere. Sticking to the same indent is usually the sign of a newbie who does not understand the system, not an alternative system. Also oppose the idea that I shouldn't oppose because !vote. A specific proposal has been made so naturally it comes down to support and oppose. SpinningSpark 17:49, 20 May 2012 (UTC)

Threaded discussion[edit]

This isn't a productive change. In any discussion involving more than two parties, the proposed style will lead to a total train wreck. "Between a limited number of parties" is unworkable as one should expect—nay, invite—additional parties to join a conversation wherever possible. Choice for the sake of choice is not helpful and it is not clear what problem this solves at all. For what it's worth, in my experience it is very uncommon for established editors to use the staggered style suggested and they frequently end up getting reprimanded for it precisely because it results in problems as soon as a new party joins the discussion. Chris Cunningham (user:thumperward) (talk) 15:24, 25 April 2012 (UTC)

I agree with Chris above, the traditional indentation style makes it very clear what comments are being responded to, regardless of how many contributors to the discussion. The proposed style might be able to cope with three or, at a pinch, four contributors if the discussion is one that is well structured, all contributors understand the topic and each other, remain civil and discuss things in a logical order. As soon as just one of these is missing (and how many discussions on Wikipedia have you seen where all the above are true?) then it will become a complete mess. If it is a discussion that requires closing (e.g a deletion debate) then it will be very nearly impossible for the closer to make head nor tail of it. Thryduulf (talk) 16:17, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
Actually, I don't think that those conditions are as rare as you imply; I've certainly seen them apply more than a few times, though of course not always. I'd be fine if it were explicitly said that this style works best when those conditions were in place. Homunq (talk) 17:55, 30 April 2012 (UTC)
I presume you don't much frequent venues like WP:AN/I and WP:AFD then? Take a look and see how well you think it would under those conditions. Thryduulf (talk) 01:05, 2 May 2012 (UTC)
No one does this "I own this indentation level and will stay at it" stuff, so they're not magically going to start doing it. This is about as pointless as trying to introduce new pronouns like "zie" and "hir". — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒ ɖ∘¿¤þ   Contrib. 01:37, 19 May 2012 (UTC)


I see RfC bot has removed the RfC heading that has been above for the last month. It's not my place to state a conclusion, since I was a party to initiating the RfC in the first place, but I'll ask at the admin noticeboard for someone to do so. --OhioStandard (talk) 16:51, 30 May 2012 (UTC)


Shouldn’t this page feature colons more prominently? I mean, that’s how indentation is done here, so shouldn’t this page show how to do it? I’m thinking something like:

2. If you want to reply to a comment, but another editor has already done so, just position your own text beneath that other editor's reply, at the same indentation level:

Markup Renders as
I think good indentation is very helpful. --[[User:Example|Example]] ([[User talk:Example|talk]]) 12:34, 1 January 2011 (UTC)
:Me too. [[User:Place holder|Place holder]] <sup>[[User talk:Place holder|T]]/[[Special:Contributions/Place holder|C]]</sup> 12:44, 1 January 2011 (UTC)
:Me three! →[[User:Sandbox|sand]] [[user talk:Sandbox|box]] 13:57, 1 January 2011 (UTC)

I think good indentation is very helpful. --Example (talk) 12:34, 1 January 2011 (UTC)

Me too. Place holder T/C 12:44, 1 January 2011 (UTC)
Me three!sand box 13:57, 1 January 2011 (UTC)

Frungi (talk) 00:08, 5 August 2013 (UTC)

Yes please! I had to do ctrl+F search for colons to find this bit Frances Soong (talk) 18:47, 9 March 2015 (UTC)

This essay is WP:Instruction creep[edit]

Not only is it Instruction creep, but it misses the mark. It opens up a whole new way to make newbies feel uncertain and unwelcome. We should urge everybody to simply WRITE. Also it is hard to tell when you are responding to a person just above you on a talk page and when you are answereing somebody three or four comments above. I have tried to follow this system in the past and have simply got lost. It is better just to make a new indent simply for ease of readability. There is no point in proposing guidelines that are hard to fathom when what we really want is attention to be focused on creating a better encyclopedia. Yours, BeenAroundAWhile (talk) 05:25, 23 March 2015 (UTC)

WP:Instruction creep is a WP:Essay. And the very fact that Wikipedia talk:Indentation is a WP:Essay makes it not a WP:Instruction creep matter. As for informing editors to use WP:Indentation, it is your opinion that it "make newbies feel uncertain and unwelcome." And even if it does make newbies feel that way, so do the vast majority, if not all, of Wikipedia's policies and guidelines. As seen on your talk page, and here and here, you clearly have a problem with indenting. I don't see a problem with it.
On a side note: Instead of starting this discussion here and this one elsewhere, it is better to centralize the discussion so that you and others are not discussing the topic in multiple places; see WP:TALKCENT. Furthermore, this talk page is generally inactive. Flyer22 (talk) 05:56, 23 March 2015 (UTC)
Someday, we’ll have actual threaded discussions and won’t have to do it ourselves with kludgey and confusing indentation hacks. Someday… (talk) 19:40, 6 May 2015 (UTC)

New indentation model in Flow[edit]

People watching this page might be interested in testing the result of phab:T92400. As far as I can see, the new Flow indentation model shows comments in the wrong order and level of indentation. If others have different opinions on this, please share your thoughts on mw:Talk:Flow. Helder 13:02, 26 March 2015 (UTC)