Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Medicine-related articles/Draft

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This manual contains style and content suggestions that may be helpful when writing medicine-related articles such as those on diseases or drugs. Further useful information can be found at WikiProject Medicine and WikiProject Drugs.


The scientific or medical name should be used for the article title and when mentioning a medical term. Alternative names and eponyms may be offered in the lead section. Create redirects to your article to help those searching with the other names. Where there are differences between English speakers, an international standard should be sought to mediate. Some examples:

Info boxes and navigation templates[edit]

Info boxes should be used where appropriate. These include {{Drugbox}}, {{Infobox Disease}}, and {{protein}}. Full instructions are available on their respective pages. Try to find a suitable picture for the info box. For drugs, the 2D structure in SVG format is preferred, but PNG is also acceptable. The easiest way to populate the drugbox and protein templates is to use Diberri's's template filling web site. Search DrugBank for the drug and enter the ID in this page, or search HUGO for the protein and enter the ID in this page.

There are navigation templates for drug articles at WikiProject Drugs.


See also: Wikipedia:Make technical articles accessible.

Wikipedia is written for the general reader. It is an encyclopaedia, not a comprehensive medical or pharmaceutical resource or first-aid manual. Whilst doctors and patients may find much of interest, they are not the target audience. There are other wiki projects written by doctors for doctors, such as Ganfyd, and charitable organisations do a fine job of assisting patients locate the information and help they need.

How to spot you are writing for (other) doctors:

  • You use the word "patients" when describing those who have a medical condition.
  • You use jargon when perfectly good plain English words exist. For example, using the term "renal" rather than "kidney" may not always be helpful. There is no need to dumb down to childish words such as "tummy".
  • You are tempted to lift text from your medical textbooks.
  • You remove any mention of non-mainstream treatments or practices. (Sometimes you must write for the enemy).
  • You don't explain technical terms.

How to spot you are writing for (other) patients:

  • You use the word "you" when describing those who have a medical condition.
  • You give advice, particularly for when medical help should be sought or is required.
  • You are tempted to lift text from a patient information leaflet.
  • You mention treatments or practices that you've read about in a newspaper or from personal experience.
  • You add "helpful" external links, such as forums, self-help groups and local charities.

When mentioning technical terms for the first time, wikilink to other articles (or Wiktionary entries). For terms related to anatomical position, you can link to Anatomical terms of location, e.g. [[Anatomical terms of location|lateral]]. Often the reader is greatly helped by a simple plain English explanation in parentheses. This may allow the article to be read without the distraction of following a link. Alternatively, if the technical word is not used again in the article, it may be appropriate to use plain English and place the technical term in parentheses. The etymology of a word can be interesting and can help the reader understand and remember it.

Sometimes, information is specific to one country. For example, drug licensing or health service provision. Make an effort to maintain an international perspective and seek out sources from other English-speaking countries.

Suggested sections[edit]

The following lists of suggested sections are intended to help structure a new article or when an existing article requires a substantial rewrite. Changing an established article simply to fit these sections is unlikely to be welcomed its established editors. The order of sections is also suggested but may be varied, particularly if that helps your article progressively develop concepts and avoid repetition. One rationale is to postpone highly technical sections so as not to put off potential readers.

Medical conditions[edit]

The spectrum of medical conditions include infectious and genetic diseases, chronic and acute illness, the life-threatening and the inconvenient. Some sections will be absent or may be merged. Try to avoid reproducing the format of a medical textbook or online medical resource.

  • Classification
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Causes or Genetics
  • Pathophsiology or Mechanism
  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment or Management
  • Prognosis
  • Prevention or Screening
  • Epidemiology
  • History
  • Social and cultural aspects
  • See also (avoid if possible)
  • Notes
  • References
  • Further reading or Bibliography (dead trees, not web sites).
  • External links (avoid if possible)


Commonly used drugs will have a wealth of sources to draw on and help build a comprehensive article. New, old and rarely-used drugs may only support a short article. In that case, the article may be condensed and should have fewer sections. Try to avoid cloning drug formularies such as the BNF and online resources like RxList and Extract the pertinent information rather than just dumping low-level facts in a big list. For example, a long list of side effects is largely useless without some idea of which are common or serious. It can be illuminating to compare the drug with others in its class, or with older and newer drugs. Think twice before including detailed dosage and titration information. Often such details border on trivia, can be country-specific and become quickly out-of-date or easily subject to uninformed edits.

The lead should highlight the name of the drug as per normal guidelines. The BAN or USAN variant may also be mentioned, with the word in bold. The initial brand name and manufacturer follows, in parentheses. Indicate the drug class and family and the main indications. The External links section is a magnet for online pharmacy spam and should be avoided if at all possible.

  • History
  • Indications
  • Side effects
  • Interactions
  • Contraindications
  • Withdrawal
  • Overdose
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Physical properties
  • Veterinary uses
  • See also (avoid if possible)
  • Notes
  • References
  • External links (avoid if possible)

Legal issues[edit]

Don't use disclaimers. The Medical disclaimer is part of the General disclaimer, and there is a policy against disclaimer templates. The article must not be written in a prescriptive way that implies medical advice is being offered (for example, using the word "should"). Discussion of illegal activity such as recreational drug use should, of course, be restricted to that which is verifiable from reliable sources. If the talk page is used to request medical help or discuss illegal activities, for example, this should be politely discouraged.


See also Wikipedia:Reliable sources, Wikipedia:Citing sources, Wikipedia:Footnotes and Wikipedia:Guide to layout.

Medical articles should be relatively dense with inline citations. It is not acceptable to write substantial amounts of prose and then add your medical textbook to the References section. It is too easy for a later editor to change the body text and then nobody is sure which statements are backed up by which sources. Unlike many established scientific disciplines, medicine attracts controversy and opponents on even the most basic and commonly held facts.

The Cite.php footnote system is preferred as a method of indicating your sources but is not mandatory - see Wikipedia:Footnotes for details. Some editors format their citations by hand, which gives them control over the presentation. Others prefer to use citation templates such as {{Cite journal}}, {{Cite book}}, {{Cite web}}, {{Cite press release}} and {{Cite news}}.

The easiest way to populate the journal and book citation templates is to use Diberri's's template filling web site. Search PubMed for your journal article and enter the ID into this page. Take care to check all the fields are correctly populated, since the tool does not always work 100%. Some editors prefer to expand the abbreviated journal name. AMA citation guidelines suggest that if there are more than six authors, include only the first three, followed by et al. If the full text is freely available online, add this to the "url" parameter in the template (or hyperlink your article title, if doing it by hand). For books, enter the ISBN into this page. A terse link to a PubMed article may be generated by typing "PMID xxxxxxxxx" in a similar manner to ISBNs, however full citations are preferred.

Other resource templates include

Full instructions are available on their respective pages.

Be careful with your language[edit]

There are certain terms that should be used with care or alternatives sought.

  • Avoid saying that people "suffer" from an illness or symptom. This word implies a helplessness that many patient groups find unhelpful.
  • Not all medical conditions are viewed as being entirely disadvantageous by those who have them.
  • Be careful not to define a person or group of people by their medical condition. For example, seizures are epileptic, people are not.
  • Some terms can be are open to misinterpretation. One example, concerning drug usage, is the different terms "approved", "indicated" and "off-label". Approval is a legal issue, indications are a medical one. A drug can be approved for one use but be indicated for several others. Off-label use is not an illegal activity.
  • Definitions of what constitutes "drug abuse" vary. When quoting statistics, ensure you have defined your usage precisely.
  • The phrase "psychologically addictive" has so many conflicting definitions that it's essentially meaningless. Replace the term with something specific. If you want to convey that a drug does not cause tolerance, or that its withdrawal syndrome is not life-threatening, then state that.


If possible, avoid trivia sections. Try to work tidbits of information into the main body text. Sections on history or on popular culture may help to structure such factoids. Articles on medical conditions often include lists of notable individuals who have (or had) the disease. This may be manageable if the disease is rare. For common conditions, it can become a distraction from the main article and contain much unreferenced material. If you do include such a list, ensure your entry criteria are well defined so that future editors may know if their additions are welcome. Unsourced additions, particularly for living persons, must be removed (see WP:BLP). If the list is (or could be) long enough to support a separate article, then consider splitting it off. The format can be prose, such as Sociological and cultural aspects of Tourette syndrome, or a list, such as List of people with epilepsy. Regardless, such articles must well verified or else they may quickly end up deleted.

External links[edit]

See also Wikipedia:External links.

Large disease-related organisations and government health departments often produce web pages containing substantial information that would be of interest to readers wishing to further study the topic. If the disease is rare, then a manageable set of charitable organisations may be of encyclopaedic interest. Otherwise, it may be better to link to a web page that lists such charities, rather than trying to provide such a list ourselves.


At the end of the article, place [[Category:THECATEGORY]] for the categories it belongs in, but use the lowest appropriate sub-level. Useful top-levels to start looking under include:

More can be found on this subpage of the medicine portal. Stub articles may be categorised according to the list on this page.