User:OrenBochman/Basics of Style

Improving StyleEdit

Wikipedia's Manual of Style (MoS) is one of the most important resources for shaping articles into a cohesive resource for our readers, and is an important driver of article improvement and the popularity of the site.

The MoS has grown large and complex. In the next few units we will cover almost all of it. This will be combined with hands on training to ensure you will soon become a master copy editor. The course is not authoritative.; please refer to the full MoS for the definitive guidelines. For your convenience, links are provided using asterisks* for access to greater detail. Where there are multiple asterisks, the first usually leads to the relevant part of the MoS.

General principles*Edit

  1. Consistency. Keep style and formatting consistent within an article (unless explicitly excepted).
  2. Stability. Don't change an article from one guideline-defined style to another without a very good reason.
  3. Quotations. Generally don't apply these guidelines to directly quoted text.

Article titles and section headings**Edit

Basic formattingEdit

History of gene therapy, not The History of Gene Therapy.



To italicize a title, add the template {{italic title}} near the top of the article; the use of italics should conform to WP:ITALICS.

The MoS applies to all parts of an article, including the title. See especially punctuation, below. (The policy page Wikipedia:Article titles does not determine punctuation.)

  • Section headings only.
    • Hierarchy. Use the hierarchy of section headings in other articles as a model (multiple equal signs are used). Make them unique within the article; they should preferably not refer to the subject of the article or of higher-level headings.*
    • Anchors and stability notes. Described here.
    • Daughter articles. If a section is covered in greater detail in a "daughter" article, flag this by inserting {{main| Article name }} just under the section heading.*
    • Referring to a section without linking. Italicize the section name (italicize the actual section name only if it otherwise requires italics, such as the title of a book).
    • Appendix sections. Optional, but most articles have at least some. The order is (a) the subject's books and other works; (b) internal links to related Wikipedia articles; (c) notes and references; (d) recommended relevant publications not used as sources; (e) recommended websites not used as sources.*

Capital letters**Edit

  • Generic versus title. Obama is a 21st-century American president (generic), Three prime ministers shook President Obama's hand (generic prime ministers but "President" is a title);* an exodus of refugees (generic), the Exodus (a title); South African universities, but Capetown University. Normally, prefer the over The mid-sentence, but whether the item is part of a title matters, as does common usage (the UK, but The Hague): speakers from both the UK and The Hague compared The Lord of the Rings with the Odyssey. For the use of titles and honorifics in biographical articles, see Honorific prefixes.
  • Flora and fauna. Write common (vernacular) names in lower case (oak, lion).
  • Religions. Christianity, Hinduism, the Koran, the Bible (but biblical), the Lord and his followers.*
  • Other examples. The 18th century (not Century); north; summer; capitalism versus Marxism (since the latter derives from a person's name); the Moon orbits the Earth which orbits the Sun (proper nouns in an astronomical context), but the sun rose, a planet with four moons (generic usage). If uncertain whether to capitalize, don't.
  • Redirects. Where there's an alternative capitalization for an article title, create a redirect.

Acronyms and abbreviations*Edit

  • First occurrence. Unless very well-known (BBC), write out in full version followed by the abbreviation in parentheses; thereafter, use the abbreviated form. Don't use initial capitals in the full name just because capitals are used in the abbreviation (We used digital scanning (DS) technology, not We used Digital Scanning (DS) technology, unless it's a commercial name).
  • Plurals. Add -s or -es (DVDs; never DVD's).
  • Dots. Don't dot acronyms (with a notable exception, the optional U.S., which should not be dotted when in the vicinity of other country initialisms such as UK). Avoid USA. Abbreviations are usually not dotted, although such usages as Hon. for Honorable and Dr. for Doctor are acceptable (less so outside North American English).
  • Spacing. Don't space acronyms (N A S A, U. S.).
  • Not too many. Don't use abbreviations unnecessarily, or invent acronyms or abbreviations.


  • Emphasis. Use italics sparingly for emphasis (avoid ALL-CAPS, underlining and boldface).*
  • Titles. Use italics for the titles of works of literature and art, such as books, paintings, feature-length films, television series, and musical albums.*
  • Mentioning a word. Use italics when mentioning one word or several: The term panning is derived from panorama. For a whole sentence or more, use quotes instead.
  • Links. The opera ''[[:en:Turandot|Turandot]]'', not The opera [[''Turandot'']]; but piped text can be italicized (The [[USS Adder (SS-3)|USS ''Adder'' (SS-3)]].

Non-breaking spaces*Edit

  • A non-breaking space (hard space) is recommended to prevent the end-of-line displacement of elements that could be awkward at the start of a new line: 17 kg can be written as 17 kg, AD 565 as AD 565, 2:50 pm as 2:50 pm, C. elegans as C. elegans, and £11 billion as £11 billion.

Brackets and parentheses*Edit

These rules apply to both (round brackets), often called parentheses, and [square brackets].

  • Final "external" punctuation. Like quotation marks above, the sentence punctuation comes outside the brackets (as shown here). (However, where one or more sentences are wholly inside brackets, their punctuation comes inside the brackets.)
  • Spacing. Don't put a space next to ( the inner sides ) of brackets.
  • Brackets within brackets. Use different types (for two levels, [it's usual for] square brackets [to] appear within round brackets).
  • Adjacent brackets. Avoid if possible: Nikifor Grigoriev (1885–1919) (also known as Matviy Hryhoriyiv); use commas instead, or recast the sentence.
  • Run-on lower case. A sentence that occurs within brackets in the course of another sentence doesn't generally have its first word capitalized just because it starts a sentence: Caesar demanded she ride (this was the only available transport), although consider rewording without the brackets.



  • Nouns
  • For most singular nouns, add 's (my daughter's achievement, Cortez's, the boss's, Illinois's, Descartes's, Verreaux's). Exceptions: (for goodness' sake, for his conscience' sake).
  • For singular nouns ending with just one s (sounded as /s/ or /z/), there are three practices:
    1. Add 's (James's house).
    2. Add just ' (James' house).
    3. Add either ' or 's according to the pronunciation:
      • Add just ' if the possessive isn't pronounced as another syllable (Sam Hodges' son);
      • Add 's if it is (Morris's works);
      • If there is disagreement over the pronunciation, negotiate the choice.
      • Possessives of certain classical and biblical names may have traditional pronunciations which may be deemed as taking precedence: Jesus' answer and Xerxes' expeditions, but Zeus's anger;
  • Consistency. Whichever option is chosen, apply it consistently in an article.
  • Common plural nouns. Where the final s is pronounced, add just ' (both my dogs' collars); where there is not a final, pronounced s, add 's (women's priorities), but where rewording is an option, this may be better.
  • For inanimate objects, rewording may be an option (the location of Vilnius).
  • Official names. Don't alter, even for consistency (St Thomas' Hospital, never St Thomas's Hospital).
  • Its. The singular neutral possessive (the dog chased its tail) has no apostrophe.

Collective plurals***Edit

Some words can refer to either a single entity or the members that compose it (army, company, crowd, fleet, government, majority, number). In British English, such words are commonly treated as singular or plural according to context. Names of towns and countries take plural verbs when they refer to sports teams but singular verbs when they refer to the actual place (or to the club as a business enterprise): in England played Germany, the word England refers to a football team. In North American English, these words are almost always treated as singular. The United States is normally treated as singular.

Other issuesEdit

  • I and we. Never use them (quotations excepted), except that we in historical articles can be used to mean the modern world as a whole (The text of De re publica has come down to us with substantial sections missing).
  • You. Outside quotations, generally avoid it: Visitors to the valley reported that the effects of the war were clear, not When you moved through the valley, the effects of the war were clear.
  • Contractions. Do not use contractions: do not instead of don't, cannot instead of can't, is not instead of isn't (quotations excepted).
  • Instructional and presumptuous language. Don't instruct the readers (remember that and note that). Don't presume readers' knowledge (of course, naturally, obviously, clearly, actually).*
  • Subset terms. These identify a set of members of a larger class (including, such as, e.g.,, for example). Don't use two at once (Among the most well-known members of the fraternity include ...; The elements in stars include hydrogen, helium and iron, etc.). Don't use including to introduce a complete list, where comprising, consisting of or composed of would be correct.
  • Ambiguous or. Wild dogs, or dingoes, inhabit this stretch of land. Are wild dogs and dingoes the same or different? For one case, wild dogs (dingoes) inhabit (meaning dingoes are wild dogs); for the other case, either wild dogs or dingoes.*
  • Contested vocabulary. Avoid items that are either not widely accepted or of strained formality; e.g., thusly, overly, whilst, amongst, and as per.***
  • Ampersands. Avoid the ampersand (&) in favor of and. Exceptions: retain & in titles of works or organizations, and use with consistency and discretion in tables, infoboxes, and other contexts where space is limited.*

Gender-neutral language**Edit

Use gender-neutral language where this can be done with clarity and precision. This does not apply to direct quotations or the titles of works (The ascent of man), or where all referents are of one gender, such as in an all-female school (when any student breaks that rule, she loses privileges).

Foreign terms****Edit

Use foreign words and phrases sparingly.

  • Where not commonly used in English. Use italics.
  • Where commonly used in English. Italics are not required for loanwords and borrowed phrases such as Gestapo, samurai, vice versa and esprit de corps. Rule of thumb: follow the major English-language dictionaries.
  • Proper names. Not usually italicized, including place names.
  • Romanization. Names not originally in a Latin alphabet—such as those adapted from Greek, Chinese, and Cyrillic scripts—must be romanized into characters generally intelligible to English-speakers. Don't use a systematically transliterated name if there's a common English form (Tchaikovsky, Chiang Kai-shek).
  • Spelling. Normally spell a foreign name consistently in the title and throughout the article. Adopt the spelling most commonly used in English-language references for the article, unless those spellings are idiosyncratic or obsolete.**
  • Diacritics.* Usage is neither encouraged nor discouraged, and depends on whether they appear in verifiable reliable sources in English and on specialized Wikipedia guidelines. Place redirects at alternative titles, such as those without diacritics.


  • Subject's preference. Normally use the term the person uses for themself, and for a group, the terms it most commonly uses for itself. (For example, the article Jew demonstrates that most Jews prefer that term to "Jewish person".)
  • Address disputes by reference to Verifiability, NPOV, and Naming conventions.
  • Gender. Refer to any person whose gender might be at issue by using the gendered nouns, pronouns, and possessive adjectives that reflect that person's most recent expressed gender self-identification. This applies in a context referring to any phase of that person's life. Nevertheless, avoid confusing or seemingly logically impossible text (She fathered her first child).
  • Avoid unnecessary vagueness. Ethiopian, for example, not African, especially where there may be a risk of stereotyping.
  • Certain adjectives as nouns. Black people, not blacks, gay people, not gays, people with disability, not the disabled, and other such usage that may be sensitive.
  • Arab. This refers to people and things of ethnic Arab origin, who don't necessary speak Arabic. Never to be confused with Muslim or Islamic.
  • Exception. Direct quotations.

See alsoEdit


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