Festipedia:Guide to Style

From Festipedia, hosted by the FR Heritage Group

The Guide to Style is a style guide for users that aims to make this wiki easier to read. It is broadly based on the Wikipedia Manual of Style but with significant modifications. In particular, use of British English and associated standards is mandated. Some sections which are not relevant to a railway wiki have been removed whilst others have been added, including a short section on Welsh place names.

One way of presenting information is often just as good as another but consistency promotes professionalism, simplicity and greater cohesion. An overriding principle is that style and formatting should be applied consistently throughout an article unless there is a good reason to do otherwise (and except in direct quotations, where the original text is generally preserved).

This guide is a standard that all editors should follow. However, it is not set in stone and should be treated with common sense and the occasional exception. When editing this page, ensure that your revision reflects consensus. When in doubt, discuss proposed changes first on the talk page.

If this guide does not specify a preferred usage, discuss your issues on the talk page of this guide. When either of two styles is acceptable, it is inappropriate for an editor to change an article from one style to another unless there is a substantial reason to do so. Edit warring over optional styles is unacceptable. If an article has been stable in a given style, it should not be converted without a reason that goes beyond mere choice of style. When it is unclear whether an article has been stable, defer to the style used by the first major contributor.

Article titles, headings and sections[edit]

Article titles[edit]

  • Article titles generally comprise nouns or noun phrases (Effects of the wild, not About the effects of the wild).
  • The title should be short: using more than ten words may defeat the purpose.
  • Only the first letter of the first word, letters in acronyms, and the first letter of proper nouns are capitalised; all other letters are in lower case (Funding of UNESCO projects, not Funding of UNESCO Projects).
  • Unless part of a proper noun, a, an and the are normally avoided as the first word (Economy of the second empire, not The economy of the second empire).
  • Pronouns (you, they) are normally avoided.
  • Links are never used. In the rare cases where a link in the title is appropriate, link the first occurrence of the item in the text.
  • Special characters such as the slash (/), plus sign (+), curly brackets ({ }) and square brackets ([ ]) are avoided; the ampersand (&) is replaced by and, unless it is part of a formal name.

First sentences[edit]

  • If possible, an article title is the subject of the first sentence of the article; for example, "The Guide to Style is a style guide" instead of "This style guide is known as …". If the article title is an important term, it appears as early as possible. The first (and only the first) appearance of the title is in boldface, including its abbreviation in parentheses, if given. Equivalent names may follow and may or may not be in boldface. Highlighted items are not linked, and boldface is not used subsequently in the first paragraph. For example: "Little Wonder was the first Double Fairlie locomotive built for the Festiniog Railway."
  • If the topic of an article has no name and the title is merely descriptive—such as Electrical characteristics of a dynamic loudspeaker—the title does not need to appear verbatim in the main text; if it does, it is not in boldface.
  • The normal rules for italics are followed in choosing whether to put part or all of the title in italics ("Tattoo You is an album by The Rolling Stones, released in 1981").

Section headings[edit]

  • The guidance on the wording of article titles also applies to the wording of section headings.
  • Avoid restating or directly referring to the topic or to wording on a higher level in the hierarchy (Early life, not His early life).
  • Unspaced multiple equal signs are the style markup for headings. The triple apostrophes ( ''' ) that make words appear in boldface are not used in headings. Nest headings correctly. The hierarchy is as follows:
    • the automatically generated top-level heading of a page is H1, which gives the article title;
    • primary headings are then ==H2==, followed by ===H3===, ====H4====, and so on.
  • Spaces between the == and the heading text are optional (==H2== versus == H2 ==). These extra spaces will not affect the appearance of the heading, except in the edit box.
  • Spaces above and below headings are optional. Only two or more line-spaces above and below will change the appearance by adding more white space.
  • The use of bold and italic faces for emphasis within headings is discouraged; italics may be used for a title within a heading.
  • Avoid repeating section titles. However, if this is necessary, the automatically generated Table of Contents will only be able to differentiate between the repeated titles if they have the same capitalisation. Manual links to sections with repeated titles (regardless of capitalisation) will always go to the first occurrence.

Section management[edit]

  • Headings provide an overview in the table of contents and allow readers to navigate through the text more easily.
  • Change a heading only after careful consideration, because this will break section links to it from the same and other articles. If changing a heading, try to locate and fix broken links; for example, searching for wiki "section management" will probably yield links to the current section.
  • When linking to a section, leave an editor's note to remind others that the title is linked. List the names of the linking articles, so that if the title is altered, others can fix the links more easily. For example: ==Evolutionary implications==<!-- This section is linked from [[Richard Dawkins]] and [[Daniel Dennett]] --> . Italicise the section name only if it otherwise requires italics (such as the title of a book).
  • When referring to a section without linking, italicise the section name; for example, the current section is called Section management.
  • The standard order for optional appendix sections at the end of an article is See also, Notes (or Footnotes), References, Further reading (or Bibliography), and External links; the order of Notes and References can be reversed. See also is an exception to the point above that wording comprises nouns and noun phrases.

Capital letters[edit]

There are differences between the major varieties of English in the use of capitals (uppercase letters). Where this is an issue, the rules of British English apply.

Capitals are not used for emphasis. Where wording cannot provide the emphasis, italics are used.

Incorrect:    Contrary to common belief, aardvarks are Not the same as anteaters.
Incorrect: Contrary to common belief, aardvarks are NOT the same as anteaters.
Correct: Contrary to common belief, aardvarks are not the same as anteaters.


  • When used as titles (that is, followed by a name), items such as president, king and emperor start with a capital letter: President Clinton, not president Clinton. The formal name of an office is treated as a proper noun: Hirohito was Emperor of Japan and Louis XVI was King of France (where King of France is a title). Royal styles are capitalised: Her Majesty and His Highness; exceptions may apply for particular offices.
  • When used generically, such items are in lower case: De Gaulle was a French president and Louis XVI was a French king. Similarly, Three prime ministers attended the conference, but, The British Prime Minister is Gordon Brown.

Calendar items[edit]

  • Months, days and holidays start with a capital letter: June, Monday, the Fourth of July (when referring to the US Independence Day, otherwise July 4 or 4 July).
  • Seasons, in almost all instances, are lowercase: This summer was very hot; The winter solstice occurs about December 22; I've got spring fever. When personified, season names may function as proper nouns and they should then be capitalised: I think Spring is showing her colours; Old Man Winter.

Animals, plants, and other organisms[edit]

Scientific names for genera and species are italicised, with a capital initial letter for the genus but no capital for the species. For example, the tulip tree is Liriodendron tulipifera and humans are Homo sapiens. Taxonomic groups higher than genus are given with an initial capital and are not in italics; for example, gulls are in the family Laridae and we are in the family Hominidae.

Common (vernacular) names of flora and fauna should be written in lower case—for example, oak or lion. There are a limited number of exceptions to this:

  1. Where the name is the first word of the sentence, it should be capitalised as any other word would be. For example, Black bears eat white suckers and blueberries.
  2. Where the common name contains a proper noun, such as the name of a person or place, that proper noun should be capitalised; for example, The Bengal tiger has a range of over 500 kilometers, or "The Roosevelt elk is a subspecies of Cervus canadensis."
  3. In a very few cases, a set of officially established common names are recognised only within a country or a geographic region. Those common names may be capitalised according to local custom but it should be understood that not all editors will have access to the references needed to support these names; in such cases, using the general recommendation is also acceptable.

In any case, a redirect from an alternative capitalisation should be created where it is used in an article title.

Celestial bodies[edit]

  • Sun, earth and moon are not capitalised generally (The sun was peeking over the mountain top).
  • Other planets and stars are proper nouns and start with a capital letter: The planet Mars can be seen tonight in the constellation Gemini, near the star Pollux. Where a name has multiple words, it is treated like other proper nouns where each leading letter is capitalised: Alpha Centauri and not Alpha centauri.

Directions and regions[edit]

  • Directions such as north are not proper nouns and are therefore lowercase. The same is true for their related forms: someone might call a road that leads north a northern road, compared with the Great North Road. Composite directions may or may not be hyphenated (northeast and north-east, Southeast Asia and South-East Asia) depending on the general style adopted in the article.
  • 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 Southern United States is a Southerner. Regions of uncertain proper-noun status are assumed not to have attained it.


  • Proper names of institutions (for example, the University of Sydney, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, George Brown College) are proper nouns and require capitalisation. Where a title starts with the, it typically starts with lowercase t when the title occurs in the middle of a sentence: a degree from the University of Sydney.
  • Generic words for institutions (university, college, hospital, high school) require no capitalisation:
Incorrect  (generic):    The University offers programs in arts and sciences.
Correct (generic): The university offers …
Correct (title): The University of Ottawa offers …

Acronyms and abbreviations[edit]

First give the full version
Readers are not necessarily familiar with any particular acronym such as NASA (pronounced as a word) or initialism such as PBS (pronounced by saying the letters themselves). The standard practice is to name the item in full on its first occurrence, followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. For example, The New Democratic Party (NDP) won the 1990 Ontario election with a significant majority [and later:] The NDP quickly became unpopular with the voters.
Initial capitals are not used in the full name of an item just because capitals are used in the abbreviation.
Incorrect  (not a name):    We used Digital Scanning (DS) technology
Correct:   We used digital scanning (DS) technology
Correct (name): produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
If the full term is already in parentheses, use a comma and or to indicate the acronym; for example, They first debated the issue in 1992 (at a convention of the New Democratic Party, or NDP).
Plural and possessive forms
Acronyms and initialisms are pluralised by adding -s or -es as with any other nouns (They produced three CD-ROMs in the first year; The laptops were produced with three different BIOSes in 2006). As with other nouns, no apostrophe is used unless the form is a possessive.
Periods and spaces
Acronyms and initialisms are generally not separated by periods or blank spaces (GNP, NORAD, OBE, GmbH); many periods and spaces that were traditionally required have now dropped out of usage (PhD is preferred over Ph.D. and Ph. D.).
Truncated (Hon for Honorable), compressed (cmte for committee) and contracted (Dr for Doctor) abbreviations should not be closed with a period (Dr Smith of 42 St Joseph St was there., though one or other "St" might take a period in such a case). Regardless of punctuation, such abbreviations are spaced if multi-word (op. cit. or op cit, not op.cit. or opcit).
In all of these matters, maintain consistency within an article. The sole exception is that for units of measurement, periods are not used even if other acronyms are dotted.
Do not use unwarranted abbreviations
The use of abbreviations should be avoided when they would be confusing to the reader, interrupt the flow, or appear informal or lazy. For example, approx for approximate[ly] should not be used in most articles, although it may be useful in reducing the width of a table of data, an infobox, or in a technical passage in which the term occurs many times.
Do not invent abbreviations
Generally avoid the making up of new abbreviations, especially acronyms. For example, while it is reasonable to provide World Union of Billiards as a translation of Union Mondiale de Billard, the former is not the organisation's name, and it does not use the acronym WUB; when referring to it in short form, use the official abbreviation UMB. In a wide table of international economic data, it might be desirable to abbreviate a United States gross national product heading; this might be done with the widely recognised acronyms US and GNP spaced together, with a link to appropriate articles, if it is not already explained: US GNP, rather than the made-up acronym USGNP.
HTML elements
The software that this wiki runs on does not support HTML abbreviation elements (<acronym> or <abbr>); therefore, these tags are not inserted into the source.


Italics are used sparingly to emphasise words in sentences (bolding is normally not used at all for this purpose). Generally, the more highlighting in an article, the less the effect of each instance.
Italics are used for the titles of works of literature and art such as books, paintings and musical albums. The titles of articles, chapters, songs and other short works are not italicised but are enclosed in double quotation marks.
Locomotive and carriage names
Italics are used for the names of locomotives and carriages but not for locomotive and carriage numbers.
Words as words
Italics are used when mentioning a word or letter or a string of words up to a full sentence: "The term panning is derived from panorama, a word coined in 1787"; "The most commonly used letter in English is e". For a whole sentence, quotation marks may be used instead, as they are in this style guide where this helps to make things clear: "The preposition in She sat on the chair is on", or "The preposition in 'She sat on the chair' is on". Mentioning (to discuss such features as grammar, wording and punctuation) is different from quoting (in which something is usually expressed on behalf of a quoted source).
Quotations in italics
For quotations, use only quotation marks (for short quotations) or block quoting (for long ones), not italics. (See Quotations below.) This means that (1) a quotation is not italicised inside quotation marks or a block quote simply on the basis of being a quotation, and (2) italicisation is not used as a substitute for proper quotation formatting.
Italics within quotations
Italics are used within quotations if they are already in the source material, or added to give emphasis to some words. If the latter, an editorial note "[emphasis added]" appears at the end of the quotation ("Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince: And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest" [emphasis added]).
If the source uses italics for emphasis, and it is desirable to stress that the italics have not been added, the editorial note "[emphasis in original]" appears after the quote.
Effect on nearby punctuation
Italicisation is restricted to what should properly be affected by italics and not the punctuation that is part of the surrounding sentence.
Incorrect:    What are we to make of that?
Correct: What are we to make of that?
      (The question mark applies to the whole sentence, not just to that.)
Correct: Four of Patrick White's most famous novels are A Fringe of Leaves, The Aunt's Story, Voss and The Tree of Man.
(The commas, period, and and are not italicised.)
Italicised links
The italics markup must be outside the link markup, or the link will not work; however, internal italicisation can be used in piped links.
Incorrect:    The opera [[''Turandot'']] is his best.
Correct: The opera ''[[Turandot]]'' is his best.
Correct: The [[USS Adder (SS-3)|USS ''Adder'' (SS-3)]] was a submarine.


See also Italics above, and Punctuation: Quotation marks below.
Minimal change
Wherever reasonable, preserve the original style and spelling of the text. Where there is a good reason not to do so, insert an editorial explanation of the changes, usually within square brackets (e.g., [for example]).
The author of a quote of a full sentence or more is named; this is done in the main text and not in a footnote. An exception is that attribution is unnecessary for well-known quotations (e.g., from Shakespeare) and those from the subject of the article or section.
Quotations within quotations
When a quotation includes another quotation (and so on), start with double-quotes outermost and working inward, alternate single-quotes with double-quotes. For example, the following three-level quotation: "She disputed his statement that 'Voltaire never said "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." ' " Adjacent quote marks, as at the end of this example, are separated by a non-breaking space (&nbsp;).
Unless there is a good reason to do so, avoid linking from within quotes, which may clutter the quotation, violate the principle of leaving quotations unchanged and mislead or confuse the reader.
Block quotations
A long quote (more than four lines, or consisting of more than one paragraph, regardless of number of lines) is formatted as a block quotation, which will be indented from both margins. Block quotes are not enclosed in quotation marks. Use a pair of <blockquote>...</blockquote> HTML tags. Note: The current version of the wiki software will not render multiple paragraphs inside a <blockquote> simply by spacing the paragraphs apart with blank lines. A workaround is to enclose each of the block-quoted paragraphs in its own <p>...</p> element.

<p>And bring us a lot of horilka, but not of that fancy kind with raisins, or with any other such things—bring us horilka of the purest kind, give us that demon drink that makes us merry, playful and wild!</p>

<p>—''Taras Bulba'', by Nikolai Gogol</p>

The result appears indented on both sides (and, depending on browser software, may also be in a smaller font):

And bring us a lot of horilka, but not of that fancy kind with raisins, or with any other such things—bring us horilka of the purest kind, give us that demon drink that makes us merry, playful and wild!

Taras Bulba, by Nikolai Gogol


Quotation marks[edit]

See also Quotations above.
Double or single
Quotations are enclosed within "double quotes". Quotations within quotations are enclosed within 'single quotes'.
Inside or outside
Punctuation marks are placed inside the quote marks only if the sense of the punctuation is part of the quotation (this system is referred to as logical quotation).
Correct: Arthur said that the situation is "deplorable".
(When a sentence fragment is quoted, the period is outside.)
Correct: Arthur said, "The situation is deplorable."
(The period is part of the quoted text.)
Correct:    Martha asked, "Are you coming?"
(When quoting a question, the question mark belongs inside because the quoted text itself was a question.)
Correct: Did Martha say, "Come with me"?
(The very quote is being questioned, so here, the question mark is correctly outside; the period in the original quote is omitted.)
Article openings
When the title of an article appearing in the lead paragraph requires quotation marks (for example, the title of a song or poem), the quotation marks should not be in boldface, as they are not part of the title:
Correct:      "Jabberwocky" is a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll.
Block quotes
As already noted above, we use quotation marks or block quotes (not both) to distinguish quotations from other text. Multiparagraph quotations are always block-quoted.
Straight or curly?
  • There are two options when considering the look of the quotation marks (that is, the glyph):
    • Typewriter or straight style: "text", 'text', text's
    • Typographic or curly style: text, text, texts
(Emphasis added to better distinguish between the glyphs.)
  • The exclusive use of straight quotes is recommended. The curly variants are harder to edit since the characters are not on the keyboard. They also interfere with searching (a search for McDonald's will fail to find McDonald’s and vice versa). And they are not well supported by older browsers, in which they may display as some other character entirely. Some editors regard curly quotes as an archaism or something better suited to paper media.
  • Represent special foreign characters such as Arabic ayin (ʿ) and alif (ʾ) by using their correct Unicode symbols (despite the difficulties some browsers may have displaying such symbols); if this is not feasible, use a straight apostrophe instead, not a curly one.
  • Grave and acute accents or backticks (`text´) are neither quotation marks nor apostrophes and should not be used in their place.
Other matters
  • An entire quotation is not italicised solely because it is a quotation.
  • The sentence-initial letter of a quotation may be lower-cased if the quotation starts in the middle of a sentence and the quoted material is a natural part of that sentence. Where this occurs, it is unnecessary to indicate this change with square brackets. (For example, "It turned out to be true that 'a penny saved is a penny earned.' ")

Brackets and parentheses[edit]

A bracketed phrase is enclosed by the punctuation of a sentence (as shown here). However, where one or more sentences are wholly inside brackets, their punctuation comes inside the brackets (see further details below). These rules apply to both round "( )" brackets, often called parentheses, and square "[ ]" brackets. There should not be a space next to a bracket on its inner side. An opening bracket should be preceded with a space, except in unusual cases; for example, when it is preceded by:

  • An opening quotation mark
He rose to address the meeting: "(Ahem) ... Ladies and gentlemen, welcome!"
  • Another opening bracket
Only the royal characters in the play ([Prince] Hamlet and his family) habitually speak in blank verse.
  • A portion of a word
We journeyed on the Inter[continental].

There should be a space after a closing bracket, except where another punctuation mark (other than an apostrophe or a hyphen) follows, and in unusual cases similar to those listed for opening brackets.

If sets of brackets must be nested, use the contrasting type (normally, square brackets appear within round brackets [like this]). Often, it is better to revise the sentence to reduce clutter, using commas, semicolons, colons or dashes instead.

Avoid adjacent sets of brackets—either put the parenthetic phrases in one set separated by commas or rewrite the sentence. For example:

Incorrect:    Nikifor Grigoriev (c. 1885–1919) (also known as Matviy Hryhoriyiv) was a Ukrainian insurgent leader.
Correct: Nikifor Grigoriev (c. 1885–1919), also known as Matviy Hryhoriyiv, was a Ukrainian insurgent leader.
Correct: Nikifor Grigoriev (c. 1885–1919) was a Ukrainian insurgent leader. He was also known as Matviy Hryhoriyiv.

Square brackets are used to indicate editorial replacements and insertions of text. They serve three main purposes:

  • To clarify ("She attended [secondary] school"—where this was the intended meaning, but the type of school was unstated in the original sentence).
  • To reduce the size of a quotation (if a source says, "X contains Y, and under certain circumstances, X may contain Z as well", it is acceptable to reduce this to "X contains Y [and sometimes] Z", without ellipsis; when an ellipsis (...) is used to indicate material removed from a direct quotation, it should not be bracketed).
  • To make the grammar work ("She said that '[she] would not allow this' "—where her original statement was "I would not allow this"). (Generally, though it is better to begin the quotation after the problematic word: "She said that she 'would not allow this.' ")

The use of square-bracketed wording should never alter the intended meaning of a quotation.

Sentences and brackets[edit]

  • If any sentence includes material that is enclosed in square or round brackets, it still must end—with a period, or a question or exclamation mark—after those brackets. This principle applies no matter what punctuation is used within the brackets.
  • Normally, if the words of a sentence begin within brackets, the sentence must also end within those brackets. There is an exception for matter that is added or modified editorially at the beginning of a sentence for clarity, usually in square brackets (" '[Principal Skinner] already told me that,' he objected").
  • A sentence that occurs within brackets in the course of another sentence does not have its first word capitalised just because it starts a sentence. The enclosed sentence may have a question mark or exclamation mark added, but not a period ("Alexander then conquered (who would have believed it?) most of the known world"; "Clare demanded that he drive (she knew he hated driving) to the supermarket"). These constructions are usually best avoided, for readability.


An ellipsis (...) is a series of three dots (periods) indicating omitted text. Ellipses are useful for reducing the size of quotations so that only the relevant parts appear.

  • The precomposed ellipsis character (&hellip;) may be used as an alternative to three separate periods; it displays the three dots as a single character entity (). Usage of one style or the other should be consistent within an article.
  • Ensure that the omission does not subvert the intended meaning of the quotation.
  • A space is inserted either side of the ellipsis, except where the first portion of text itself ends with a period; in this case, four dots rather than three typically follow the last word, without an intervening space. To prevent a precomposed ellipsis character from wrapping to the beginning of a line, use a non-breaking space (&nbsp;…) instead of a normal space.

Examples: "in the middle of a sentence where punctuation does not occur …", "after a comma, …", "a semicolon; …", "a colon: …", "or at the end of a sentence ….", "rarely, in a question …?", "and even more rarely, before an exclamation mark…!"

Where ellipses are used to indicate material elided from a direct quotation, they should not be square-bracketed.

Serial commas[edit]

The serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma or Harvard comma) is a comma used immediately before a conjunction in a list of three or more items. The phrase ham, chips, and eggs is written with a serial comma, but ham, chips and eggs is not. Sometimes omitting the comma can lead to an ambiguous sentence, as in this example: The author would like to thank her parents, Sinéad O'Connor and President Bush. Sometimes including the comma can also lead to an ambiguous sentence, as in: The author would like to thank her mother, Sinéad O'Connor, and President Bush which may be a list of either two or three people. In such cases, there are three options for avoiding ambiguity:

  • A choice can be made whether to use or omit the comma after the penultimate item in such a way as to avoid ambiguity.
  • The sentence can be recast to avoid listing the items in an ambiguous manner.
  • The items in the list can be presented using a formatted list.

If the presence or absence of the final serial comma has no bearing on whether the sentence is ambiguous (as in most cases), the serial comma should not be used.

The names of corporate entities do not usually use the serial comma (for example, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad).


Colons (:) should not have spaces before them:

Correct: He attempted it in two years: 1941 and 1943
Incorrect:    He attempted it in two years : 1941 and 1943

Colons should have complete sentences before them:

Correct: He attempted it in two years: 1941 and 1943
Incorrect:    The years he attempted it included: 1941 and 1943


Hyphens (-) indicate conjunction. There are three main uses.

  1. To distinguish between homographs (re-dress = dress again, but redress = remedy or set right).
  2. To link certain prefixes with their main word (non-linear, sub-section, super-achiever):
    • However, a clear tendency is emerging to join both elements in all varieties of English (subsection is now standard).
    • The hyphen is more likely to be used when the letters brought into contact are vowels, especially the same vowel (co-opt, pre-existing), or where a word is unusual or less expected in the context (co-proposed, re-target).
    • It is somewhat common not to hyphenate well-known and recognisable cases (coopt, preexisting, but not coowned, and probably not reanchor).
    • The hyphen is very often used to avoid doubling a or i: intra-atomic, juxta-articular, semi-intensive.
    • The hyphen is sometimes retained after sub- to avoid bringing two consonants into contact, and especially to avoid doubling b (subabdominal, but sub-basement). It is often retained for clarity when the main word begins with a vowel or is short—especially when both of these apply (sub-era, not subera).
    • The hyphen is still often used after non-, and especially when n would be doubled (non-linear or nonlinear; non-negotiable).
  3. To link related terms in compound adjectives and adverbs:
    • Sometimes the hyphen helps with ease of reading (face-to-face discussion, hard-boiled egg); hyphens are particularly useful in long nominal groups where non-experts are part of the readership, such as in scientific articles: gas-phase reaction dynamics.
    • Sometimes the hyphen helps with disambiguation (little-used car, not a reference to the size of a used car).
    • Many compound adjectives that are hyphenated when used attributively (before the noun they qualify—a light-blue handbag), are not hyphenated when used predicatively (after the noun—the handbag was light blue). Where there would be a loss of clarity, the hyphen may also be used in the predicative case (hand-fed turkeys, the turkeys were hand-fed).
    • Hyphens are often not used after -ly adverbs (wholly owned subsidiary), unless part of larger compounds (a slowly-but-surely strategy).
    • A hyphen is normally used when the adverb well precedes a participle used attributively (a well-meaning gesture; but normally a very well managed firm, since well itself is modified); and even predicatively, if well is necessary to, or alters, the sense of the adjective rather than simply intensifying it (the gesture was well-meaning, the child was well-behaved, but the floor was well polished).
    • A hanging hyphen is used when two compound adjectives are separated (two- and three-digit numbers, a ten-car or -truck convoy).
    • Values and units used as compound adjectives are hyphenated only where the unit is given as a whole word. Where hyphens are not used, values and units are always separated by a non-breaking space (&nbsp;).
Incorrect: 9-mm gap
Correct: 9 mm gap (rendered as 9&nbsp;mm gap)
Incorrect:    9 millimetre gap
Correct: 9-millimetre gap
Correct: 12-hour shift
Correct: 12 h shift

Hyphens are never followed or preceded by a space, except when hanging or when used to display parts of words independently, such as the prefix sub- and the suffix -less.

Hyphens are used only to mark conjunctions; not to mark disjunction (for which en dashes are correct: see below).

Hyphenation involves many subtleties that cannot be covered here; but the rules and examples presented above illustrate the sorts of broad principles that inform current usage.


Several kinds of dash are used in this wiki.

En dashes[edit]

En dashes (–) have four distinct roles.

  1. To indicate disjunction. In this role there are two main applications.
    • To convey the sense of to or through, particularly in ranges (pp. 211–19, 64–75%, the 1939–45 war, May–November) and where movement is involved (Dublin–Belfast route). Year and page ranges are often an issue. The word to, rather than an en dash, is used when a number range involves a negative value or might be misconstrued as a subtraction (−3 to 1, not −3–1), or when the nearby wording demands it (he served from 1939 to 1941, not he served from 1939–1941).
    • As a substitute for some uses of and, to or versus for marking a relationship involving independent elements in certain compound expressions (Canada–US border, blood–brain barrier, time–altitude graph, 4–3 win in the opening game, male–female ratio, 3–2 majority verdict, Michelson–Morley experiment, diode–transistor logic; but a hyphen is used instead in Mon-Khmer languages which lacks a relationship, Sino-Japanese trade, in which Sino- lacks independence, and Indo-European linguistics which lacks both relationship and lexical independence).
      • Spacing: All disjunctive en dashes are unspaced, except when there is a space within either or both of the items (the New York – Sydney flight, the New Zealand – South Africa grand final, 3 July, 1888 – 18 August, 1940).
  2. For negative signs and subtraction operators, as an alternative to the usually slightly shorter minus sign, (input with &minus;). Negative signs (–8°C) are unspaced; subtraction signs (42 – 4 = 38) are spaced. The en dash was the traditional typographic symbol for this operator, but now that unicode defines a character for this specific use, the minus is preferred. In contexts such as code, where the text is intended to be copied and executed or evaluated, the ordinary hyphen works better and is preferred.
  3. In lists, to separate distinct information within points—particularly track titles and durations, and musicians and their instruments, in articles on music albums. In this role, en dashes are always spaced.
  4. As a stylistic alternative to em dashes (see below).

Hyphens have often been wrongly used in disjunctive expressions; this is especially common in sports scores.

En dashes in page names

En dashes in page names are not currently supported. A hyphen should be used instead of a dash.

Em dashes[edit]

Em dashes (—) indicate interruption. They are used in the following two roles.

  1. Parenthesis (The FR Heritage Group wiki—a wiki dedicated to the Festiniog Railway—has the information you need). Here, a pair of em dashes is a more arresting way of nesting a phrase or clause than a pair of commas and may be less intrusive than brackets. A pair of em dashes is particularly useful where there are already many commas; em dashes can make a sentence with more than one nesting easier to read and sometimes they can remove ambiguity.
  2. A sharp break in the flow of a sentence—sharper than is provided by a colon or a semicolon.

Em dashes are normally unspaced on this wiki.

Because em dashes are visually striking, take care not to overuse them. A rule of thumb is to avoid more than two in a single paragraph, unless the paragraph is unusually long or the use of more than two em dashes would be logically cohesive. Only very rarely are there more than two em dashes in a single sentence.

Spaced en dashes as an alternative to em dashes

Spaced en dashes – such as here – can be used instead of em dashes in all of the ways discussed above. Spaced en dashes are used by several major publishers, to the complete exclusion of em dashes; style manuals more often prefer unspaced em dashes. One style should be used consistently in an article.

Other dashes[edit]

These are avoided on this wiki, notably the double-hyphen (--).

Spaces after the end of a sentence[edit]

There are no guidelines on whether to use one space after the end of a sentence, or two (French spacing), but the issue is not important because the difference is only visible in the monospace edit boxes; it is ignored by browsers when displaying the article.


Avoid joining two words by a slash (/, also known as a forward slash), as it suggests that the two are related, but does not specify how. It is often also unclear how the construct would be read aloud. Consider replacing a slash with an explanation, or adding one in a footnote. Where possible, reword more fully to avoid uncertainties.

An example: The parent/instructor must be present at all times. Must both be present? (Then write the parent and the instructor.) Must at least one be present? (Then write the parent or the instructor.) Are they the same person? (Use a hyphen: the parent–instructor.)

In circumstances involving a distinction or disjunction, the en dash is usually preferable to the slash, e.g. the novel–novella distinction.

An unspaced slash may be used:

  • To show pronunciations ("ribald is pronounced /ˈrıb·əld/")
  • To separate the numerator and denominator in a fraction (7/8)
  • To indicate regular defined yearly periods that do not coincide with calendar years
  • Where slashes are used in a phrase outside of this wiki and using a different construction would be inaccurate, unfamiliar or ambiguous

A spaced slash may be used:

  • To separate run-in lines of poetry or song (To be or not to be: that is the question: / Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune)
  • To separate any construction that can be separated with an unspaced slash when readability would be enhanced by doing so, most often when the items being separated are complex, such as involving a number of abbreviations, numbers, etc. Compare the NY 31 east / NY 370 exit with the NY 31 east/NY 370 exit.

Spaced slashes should be coded with a leading non-breaking space and a trailing normal space, e.g., x&nbsp;/ y (which renders as x / y), to prevent line breaks introducing readability problems.

The backslash character, \, is never used in place of a slash.

It is preferred in general prose to use ÷ rather than / to represent mathematical division.


The construct and/or is usually awkward. In general, where it is important to mark an inclusive or, use x or y, or both, rather than x and/or y. For an exclusive or, use either x or y and optionally add but not both, if it is necessary to stress the exclusivity.

Where more than two possibilities are presented from which a combination is to be selected, it is even less desirable to use and/or. With two possibilities, at least the intention is clear; but with more than two it may not be (see The Cambridge Guide to English Usage, 2004, p38). Instead of x, y, and/or z, use an appropriate alternative, such as one or more of x, y, and z; some or all of x, y, and z.

Question marks and exclamation marks[edit]

  • Question and exclamation marks are never preceded by a space in normal prose.
  • The exclamation mark is used with restraint: it is an expression of surprise or emotion that is generally unsuited to a scholarly or encyclopedic register.
  • Clusters of question marks, exclamation marks, or a combination of them (such as the interrobang) are highly informal and inappropriate in articles for this wiki.
  • For the use of these marks in association with quotation marks, see Quotations above.

Non-breaking spaces[edit]

  • In compound items in which numerical and non-numerical elements are separated by a space, non-breaking spaces are recommended to avoid the displacement of those elements at the end of a line.
  • A non-breaking space is produced with the HTML code &nbsp; instead of a normal space; thus, 19&nbsp;kg yields a non-breaking 19 kg.

Chronological items[edit]

Precise language[edit]

Avoid statements that will date quickly, except on pages that are regularly refactored, such as those that cover current events. Avoid such items as recently and soon (unless their meaning is clear in a storyline), currently (except on rare occasions when it is not redundant), in modern times, is now considered and is soon to be superceded. Instead, use either:

  • more precise items (since the start of 2005; during the 1990s; is expected to be superceded by 2008); or
  • an as of phrase (as of August 2007), which is a signal to readers of the time-dependence of the statement, and to later editors of the need to update the statement.


Context determines whether the 12- or 24-hour clock is used; in both, colons separate hours, minutes and seconds (1:38:09 pm and 13:38:09).

  • 12-hour clock times end with undotted lower-case am or pm, which are spaced (2:30 pm, not 2:30 p.m. or 2:30pm). Noon and midnight are used rather than 12 pm and 12 am; whether midnight refers to the start or the end of a date will need to be specified unless this is clear from the context.
  • 24-hour clock times have no am, pm, noon or midnight suffix. Discretion may be used as to whether the hour has a leading zero (08:15 or 8:15). 00:00 refers to midnight at the start of a date, 12:00 to noon, and 24:00 to midnight at the end of a date.


  • This wiki does not use ordinal suffixes or articles. No comma should be used between month and year.
Incorrect:    June 25th, 25th June, the 25th of June
Correct: 14 February, February 14
Incorrect: October, 1976
Correct: October 1976
  • Date ranges are preferably given with minimal repetition (5–7 January 1979; September 21–29, 2002), using an unspaced en dash.
  • Rarely, a night may be expressed in terms of the two contiguous dates using a slash (the bombing raids of the night of 30/31 May 1942).
  • Yearless dates (5 March, March 5) are inappropriate unless the year is obvious from the context. If there would be any doubt, include the year.
  • ISO 8601 dates (1976-05-13) are uncommon in English prose and are generally not used in this wiki. However, they may be useful in long lists and tables for conciseness and ease of comparison.

Longer periods[edit]

  • Months are expressed as whole words (February, not 2), except in the ISO 8601 format. Abbreviations such as Feb are used only where space is extremely limited, such as in tables and infoboxes. Do not insert of between a month and a year (April 2000, not April of 2000).
  • Seasons. Because the seasons are reversed in each hemisphere (and areas near the equator tend to have just wet and dry seasons), neutral wording is used to describe times of the year (in early 1990, n the second quarter of 2003, around September). Use a date or month rather than a season, unless there is a need to do so (the autumn harvest). It is ambiguous to say that Apollo 11 landed on the Moon in the summer of 1969. Whose summer? Seasons are normally spelled with a lower-case initial.
  • Years
    • Years are normally expressed in digits; a comma is not used in four-digit years (1988, not 1,988).
    • Avoid inserting the words the year before the digits (1995, not the year 1995), unless the meaning would otherwise be unclear.
      • AD and BC can be used to specify the era; these abbreviations should be spaced, undotted (without periods) and upper-case. These abbreviations appear after a year (1066 AD, 3700 BC). The absence of such an abbreviation indicates the default, AD.
      • Year ranges, like all ranges, are separated by an en dash (do not use a hyphen or slash: 2005–08, not 2005-08 or 2005/08). A closing AD year is normally written with two digits (1881–86) unless it is in a different century from that of the opening year (1881–1986). The full closing year is acceptable, but abbreviating it to a single digit (1881–6) or three digits (1881–886) is not. A closing BC year is given in full (2590–2550 BC). While one era signifier at the end of a date range still requires an unspaced en dash (12–5 BC), a spaced en dash is required when a signifier is used after the opening and closing years (5 BC – 29 AD).
      • A slash may be used to indicate regular defined yearly periods that do not coincide with calendar years (the financial year 1993/4).
      • Abbreviations indicating long periods of time ago—such as BP (before present), Ma and mya (million years ago), and Ga (billion years ago)—are given as full words on first occurrence.
      • To indicate about, c. and ca. are preferred to circa or a question mark; these abbreviations are followed by a space (c. 1291).
    • Decades contain no apostrophe (the 1980s, not the 1980's); the two-digit form is used only where the century is clear (the '80s or the 80s).
  • Centuries and millennia
    • There was no year 0. Thus, the first century of the current era was 1–100 AD, the 17th century AD was 1601–1700 AD, and the second millennium AD was 1001–2000; the first century BC was 100–1 BC; the 17th century BC was 1700–1601 BC, and the second millennium BC was 2000–1001 BC.


Numbers as figures or words[edit]

General rule[edit]

  • In the body of an article, single-digit whole numbers (from zero to nine) are given as words; numbers of more than one digit are generally rendered as figures, or as words if they are expressed in one or two words (sixteen, eighty-four, two hundred, but 3.75, 544, 21 million).


  • The numerical elements of dates and times are never given as words (that is, never the seventh of January or twelve forty-five pm; but specific references such as Daniel Webster's Seventh of March speech, should follow standard usage for the topic).
  • Numbers that open a sentence are given as words; alternatively, the sentence can be recast so that the number is not in first position.
  • In tables and infoboxes, all numbers are expressed as numerals.
  • Within a context or a list, style should be consistent (either There were 5 cats and 32 dogs or There were five cats and thirty-two dogs, not There were five cats and 32 dogs).
  • On rare occasions when figures may cause confusion, use words instead (thirty-six 6.4-inch rifled guns, not 36 6.4-inch rifled guns).
  • Fractions are given as words unless they occur in a percentage or with an abbreviated unit (⅛ mm, but never an eighth of a mm), or are mixed with whole numerals.
  • Ordinal numbers are given as words using the same rules as for cardinal numbers. The exception is ordinals for centuries, which are always expressed in figures (the 5th century CE). The ordinal suffix (e.g. th) is not superscripted (23rd and 496th, not 23rd and 496th).
  • Proper names and formal numerical designations comply with common usage (Chanel No. 5, 4 Main Street, 1-Naphthylamine, Channel 6). This is the case even where it causes a numeral to open a sentence, although this is usually avoided by rewording.


  • Two-word numbers from 21 to 99 are hyphenated when presented as words (fifty-six), as are fractions (seven-eighths). Do not hyphenate other multi-word numbers (five hundred, not five-hundred).

Large numbers[edit]

  • Commas are used to break the sequence every three places (2,900,000).
  • Large rounded numbers are generally assumed to be approximations; only where the approximation could be misleading is it necessary to qualify with about or a similar term.
  • Avoid over-precise values where they are unlikely to be stable or accurate, or where the precision is unnecessary in the context. (The speed of light in a vacuum is 299,792,458 metres per second is probably appropriate, but The distance from the Earth to the Sun is 149,014,769 kilometres and The population of Cape Town is 2,968,790 would usually not be, because both values are unstable at that level of precision and readers are unlikely to care in the context.)
  • Scientific notation (5.8 × 107) is preferred in scientific contexts.
  • Where values in the millions occur a number of times through an article, upper-case M may be used for million, unspaced, after using the full word at the first occurrence. (She bequeathed her fortune of £100 million unequally: her eldest daughter received £70M, her husband £18M, and her three sons each just £4M each.)
  • Billion is understood as 109. After the first occurrence in an article, billion may be abbreviated to unspaced bn ($35bn).

Decimal points[edit]

  • A decimal point is used between the integral and the fractional parts of a decimal; a comma is never used in this role (6.57, not 6,57).
  • The number of decimal places should be consistent within a list or context (The response rates were 41.0 and 47.4 percent, respectively, not The response rates were 41 and 47.4 percent, respectively), except in the unusual instances where the items were measured with unequal precision.
  • Numbers between minus one and plus one require a leading zero (0.02, not .02); exceptions are performance averages in sports where a leading zero is not commonly used, and commonly used terms such as .22 calibre.


  • Percent or per cent are commonly used to indicate percentages in the body of an article. The symbol % may be more common in scientific or technical articles, or in complex listings.
  • The symbol is unspaced (71%, not 71 %).
  • In tables and infoboxes, the symbol is used, not the words percent or per cent.
  • Ranges are preferably formatted with one rather than two percentage signifiers (22–28%, not 22%–28%).

Units of measurement[edit]

Which system to use[edit]

  • The main units are either metric or imperial (consistently within an article).
  • Metric units are spelt with a final -re (kilometre).
  • In scientific articles, SI units are the main units of measure, unless there are compelling historical or pragmatic reasons not to use them (for example, Hubble's constant should be quoted in its most common unit of (km/s)/Mpc rather than its SI unit of s−1)
  • If editors cannot agree on the sequence of units, put the source value first and the converted value second. If the choice of units is arbitrary, use SI units as the main unit, with converted units in parentheses.


  • Conversions to and from metric and imperial units should generally be provided. There are two exceptions:
    • scientific articles where there is consensus among the contributors not to convert the metric units.
    • where inserting a conversion would make a common expression awkward (The four-minute mile).
  • In the main text, give the main units as words and use unit symbols or abbreviations for conversions in parentheses; for example, a pipe 100 millimetres (4 in) in diameter and 16 kilometres (10 mi) long or a pipe 4 inches (100 mm) in diameter and 10 miles (16 km) long. The exception is that where there is consensus to do so, the main units may also be abbreviated in the main text after the first occurrence.
  • Converted values should use a level of precision similar to that of the source value; for example, the Moon is 380,000 kilometres (240,000 mi) from Earth, not (236,121 mi). The exception is small numbers, which may need to be converted to a greater level of precision where rounding would be a significant distortion; for example, one mile (1.6 km), not one mile (2 km).
  • In a direct quotation:
    • conversions required for units cited within direct quotations should appear within square brackets in the quote;
    • if the text contains an obscure use of units (e.g., five million board feet of lumber), annotate it with a footnote that provides standard modern units, rather than changing the text of the quotation.
  • Where footnoting or citing sources for values and units, identify both the source and the original units.

Unit symbols and abbreviations[edit]

  • Standard abbreviations and symbols for units are undotted (do not carry periods). For example, m for meter and kg for kilogram (not m. or kg.), in for inch (not in." or ″), ft for foot (not ft., ' or ′) and lb for pound (not lb. or #).
  • The degree symbol is °. Using any other symbol (e.g. masculine ordinal º or "ring above" ˚) for this purpose is incorrect.
  • Do not append an s for the plurals of unit symbols (kg, km, in, lb, not kgs, kms, ins, lbs).
  • Temperatures are always accompanied by °C for Celsius, °F for Fahrenheit, or K for Kelvin (35 °C, 62 °F, and 5,000 K, not 5,000 °K); the words for these three terms always have an upper-case initial.
  • Values and unit symbols are spaced (25 kg, not 25kg). The exceptions are degrees, minutes and seconds for angles and coordinates (the coordinate is 5° 24′ 21.12″ N, the pathways are at a 180° angle, but the average temperature is 18 °C).
  • Squared and cubic metric-symbols are always expressed with a superscript exponent (5 km2, 2 cm3); squared imperial-unit abbreviations are rendered with sq, and cubic with cu (15 sq mi, 3 cu ft). A superscript exponent indicates that the unit is squared, not the unit and the quantity (3 meters squared is 9 square meters, or 9 m2; 8 miles squared is 64 square miles).
  • In tables and infoboxes, use symbols and abbreviations for units, not words.
  • Some different units share the same name. These examples show the need to be specific.
    • Use nautical or statute mile rather than mile in nautical and aeronautical contexts.
    • Use long ton or short ton rather than just ton (the metric unit—the tonne—is also known as the metric ton).
    • In this wiki, gallon refers to the imperial gallon, never the US gallon
  • Ranges are preferably formatted with one rather than two unit signifiers (5.9–6.3 kg, not 5.9 kg – 6.3 kg).

Unnecessary vagueness[edit]

Use accurate measurements whenever possible.

Vague: The wallaby is small.
Precise:    The average male wallaby is 1.6 metres (63 in) from head to tail.
Vague: Prochlorococcus marinus is a tiny cyanobacterium.
Precise: The cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus marinus is 0.5 to 0.8 micrometres across.
Vague: The large herd of dugong stretched a long way down the coast.
Precise: The dugong swam down the coast in a herd five kilometres (3 mi) long and 300 metres (1000 ft) wide.


Which one to use[edit]

  • In country-specific articles, use the currency of the country.
  • In non-country-specific articles, use pounds sterling (£123).


  • Fully identify a currency on its first appearance (AU$52); subsequent occurrences are normally given without the country identification (just $88), unless this would be unclear. The exception to this is in articles related to the US and the UK, in which the first occurrence may also be shortened ($34 and £22, respectively), unless this would be unclear.
  • Do not place a currency symbol after the value (123$, 123£), unless the symbol is normally written thus. Do not write $US123 or $123 (US).
  • Currency abbreviations that come before the number are unspaced if they end in a symbol (£123, €123), and spaced if they end in an alphabetical character (R 75). Do not place EU or a similar prefix before the € sign.
  • If there is no common English abbreviation or symbol, use the ISO 4217 standard.
  • Ranges are preferably formatted with one rather than two currency signifiers ($250–300, not $250–$300).
  • Conversions of less familiar currencies may be provided in terms of more familiar currencies, such as the euro or the pound sterling. Conversions should be in parentheses after the original currency, with the year given as a rough point of reference; for example, 1,000 Swiss francs (£416 in 2007), rounding to the nearest whole unit.

Common mathematical symbols[edit]

  • For a negative sign or subtraction operator, use a minus sign (), input by clicking on it in the insert box beneath the edit window or by keying in &minus;), or an en dash (see En dashes); do not use a hyphen, unless writing code.
  • For a multiplication sign, use ×, which is input by clicking on it in the edit toolbox under the edit window or by keying in &times; (however, the unspaced letter x is accepted as a substitute for by in such terms as "4x4").
  • The following signs are spaced on both sides:
    • plus, minus, plus or minus (as operators): + − ±
    • multiplication and division: × ÷
    • equals, does not equal, equals approximately: = ≠ ≈
    • is less than, is less than or equal to, is greater than, is greater than or equal to: < ≤ > ≥

Simple tabulation[edit]

Lines that start with blank spaces in the editing window are displayed boxed and in a fixed-width font, for simple tabulation. Lines that contain only a blank space insert a blank line into the table. For a complete guide to constructing tables, see Help:Tables.



  • Possessives of singular nouns ending in s should generally maintain the additional s after the apostrophe. However, if a form without an s after the apostrophe is much more common for a particular word or phrase, follow that form, such as with Achilles' heel and Jesus' tears. Usage varies: maintain consistency in an article.
  • The following possessive pronouns and possessive adjectives end with an s sound, but have no apostrophe: his, hers, ours, yours, theirs, whose, its. Note its especially. It's is not the possessive, but a short form of it is or it has.

Latin abbreviations[edit]

  • Abbreviations of Latin terms like i.e., e.g., or n.b., or use of the Latin terms in full, such as nota bene, or vide infra, should be left as the original author wrote them. However, articles intended for a general audience will be more widely understood if English terms such as that is, for example, or note are used instead.

Avoid first-person pronouns[edit]

In general, articles must not be based on one person's opinions or experiences; I should not be used, except when it appears in a quotation. For similar reasons, avoid we; a sentence such as We should note that some critics have argued in favor of the proposal sounds too personal.

Nevertheless, it is sometimes appropriate to use we when referring to an experience that any reader would be expected to have, such as general perceptual experiences. For example, although it might be best to write When most people open their eyes, they see something, it is still legitimate to write When we open our eyes, we see something.

It is also acceptable to use we in mathematical derivations (To normalise the wavefunction, we need to find the value of the arbitrary constant A). In historical fields, we can mean the modern world as a whole (The text of De re publica has come down to us with substantial sections missing).

Avoid second-person pronouns[edit]

Use of the second person (you), which is often ambiguous, is discouraged. Instead, refer to the subject of the sentence or use the passive voice, for example:

Use: When a player moves past "Go", that player collects £200.
Use: Players passing "Go" collect £200.
Use: £200 is collected when passing "Go".
Do not use:    When you move past "Go", you collect £200.

This guideline does not apply to quoted text, which should be quoted exactly.

The guideline also does not apply to the Wiki namespace, where you refers to the writers to whom articles in the namespace are addressed.

Avoid contested vocabulary[edit]

Words and phrases like thusly, overly, whilst, as per, refute in the sense of dispute, along with several others, should be avoided because they not widely accepted—at least in some of their applications. Some are regional. Some give an impression of "straining for formality" and therefore of an insecure grasp of English. See also Identity and Gender-neutral language, below.

Avoid colloquial ontractions[edit]

In general, formal writing is preferred; therefore, the use of contractions such as don't, can't and won't is avoided unless they occur in a quotation.

National varieties of English[edit]

This wiki uses British English throughout. The only exceptions are:

  • quotations (the original variety is retained); and
  • titles (the original spelling is used, for example United States Department of Defense and Australian Defence Force).

Foreign terms[edit]

Foreign words are used sparingly.

No common usage in English
Italics are preferred for phrases in other languages and for isolated foreign words that do not yet have common usage in English. However, in an article on a subject for which there is no English-language term, the foreign term does not require italicisation.
Common usage in English
Loan words and phrases that have common usage in English—praetor, Gestapo, samurai, esprit de corps—do not require italicisation. A rule of thumb is: do not italicise words that appear in an English language dictionary.
Spelling and transliteration
For terms in common usage, use anglicised spellings; native spellings are an optional alternative if they use the Latin alphabet. Diacritics are optional except where they are required for disambiguation (résumé). Where native spellings in non-Latin scripts (such as Greek and Cyrillic) are given, they appear in parentheses (except where the sense requires otherwise) and are not italicised, even where this is technically feasible. The choice between anglicised and native spellings should follow English usage (e.g., Besançon, Edvard Beneš and Göttingen, but Nuremburg, role, and Florence). Article titles follow our naming conventions.

Welsh place names[edit]

Welsh place names should not be italicised. The correct current Welsh spelling should usually be used,The only exceptions are:

  • quotations (the original spelling is retained);
  • historical articles (the spelling in common use at the time may be used in preference to the current Welsh spelling); and
  • titles (the original spelling is used, e.g. Festiniog Railway Company).

The current Welsh place name should always be used in preference to anglicised alternatives. Where an English or anglicised version of the place name is more familiar, this should be placed in brackets following the Welsh name, e.g. Abermaw (Barmouth).


  • Use terminology that subjects use for themselves whenever this is possible. Use terms that a person uses for himself or herself, or terms that a group most commonly uses for itself.
  • A transgender person's latest preference of name and pronoun should be adopted when referring to any phase of that person's life, unless this usage is overridden by that person's own expressed preference as to how this should be managed. Nevertheless, write to avoid confusing or logically impossible text that could result from pronoun usage (e.g., she fathered her first child).
  • Use specific terminology. For example, often it is more appropriate for people from Ethiopia (a country in Africa) to be described as Ethiopian, not carelessly (with the risk of stereotyping) as African.
  • To counter an interpretation that is inappropriately essentialist, terms used to describe people should qualify other nouns (black people, not blacks; gay people, not gays). Some groups, however, prefer the direct noun (many Jews, for example, prefer to use that noun rather than Jewish people).
  • The term Arab (never to be confused with Muslim or Islamic) refers to people and things of ethnic Arab origin. The term Arabic refers to the Arabic language or writing system and related concepts (Not all Arab people write or converse in Arabic.)
  • As always in a direct quotation, use the original text, even if the quoted text is judged unsatisfactory by the preceding guidelines.

Gender-neutral language[edit]

Please consider using gender-neutral language where this can be achieved in tidy wording and without loss of precision. This recommendation does not apply to direct quotations, the titles of works (The Ascent of Man), or where all referents are of one gender, such as in an all-female school (if any student broke that rule, she was severely punished).


Some general guidelines which should be followed in the absence of a compelling reason not to:

  • Start the article with a right-aligned image.
  • When using multiple images in the same article, they can be staggered right-and-left.
  • Avoid sandwiching text between two images facing each other.
  • Generally, right-alignment is preferred to left- or center-alignment.
    • Exception: Portraits with the head looking to the reader's right should be left-aligned (looking into the text of the article) when this does not interfere with navigation or other elements. In such cases it may be appropriate to move the Table of Contents to the right. Since faces are not perfectly symmetrical it is generally inadvisable to use photo editing software to reverse a right-facing portrait image.
  • If there are too many images in a given article, consider using a gallery.
  • Do not place left-aligned images directly below second-level (===) headings, as this disconnects the heading from the text it precedes. For example, do not use:
=== Section 1b ===
[[Image:Image relating to section 1b.jpg|frame|left|]]
First paragraph of section 1b.
Instead, either right-align the image, remove it, or move it to another relevant location.
  • Use captions to explain the relevance of the image to the article.
  • Specifying the size of a thumb image is not recommended: without specifying a size the width will be what readers have specified in their user preferences, with a default of 180px (which applies for most readers). However, the image subject or image properties may call for a specific image width to enhance the readability or layout of an article. Cases where specific image width are considered appropriate include:
    • On images with extreme aspect ratios
    • When using detailed maps, diagrams or charts
    • When a small region of an image is considered relevant, but the image would lose its coherence when cropped to that region
    • On a lead image that captures the essence of the article.

Bear in mind that some users need to configure their systems to display large text. Forced large thumbnails can leave little width for text, making reading difficult.

The current image markup is, for landscape-format and square images:

[[Image:picture.jpg|thumb|right|Insert caption here]]

and for portrait-format images:

[[Image:picture.jpg|thumb|upright|right|Insert caption here]]


Appropriate use

Photos and other graphics always have captions, unless they are "self-captioning" (such as in reproductions of album or book covers) or when they are unambiguous depictions of the subject of the article (for example, in a biography article, a caption is not mandatory for a portrait of the subject pictured alone, but might contain the name of the subject and additional information relevant to the image).


Captions always start with a capital letter. Most captions are not complete sentences, but merely an extended phrase which should not finish with a period. Complete sentences in captions always end in a period. Captions are not italicised, except for words that are normally italicised. Captions are succinct; more information on the file can be included in the image or media description page.

Bulleted and numbered lists[edit]

  • Do not use lists if a passage reads easily using plain paragraphs.
  • Use numbers rather than bullets only if:
    • there is a need to refer to the elements by number;
    • the sequence of the items is critical; or
    • the numbering has value of its own, for example in a track listing.
  • All elements in a list should use the same grammatical form and should be consistently either complete sentences or sentence fragments.
    • When the elements are complete sentences, they are formatted using sentence case and a final period.
    • When the elements are sentence fragments, they are typically introduced by a lead fragement ending with a colon, are formatted using consistently either sentence or lower case, and finish with a final semicolon or no punctuation, except that the last element typically finishes with a final period.


Make only links relevant to the context. It is not useful and can be very distracting to mark all possible words as hyperlinks. Links should add to the user's experience; they should not detract from it by making the article harder to read. A high density of links can draw attention away from the high-value links that you would like your readers to follow up. Redundant links clutter up the page and make future maintenance harder. A link is the equivalent of a footnote in a print medium. Imagine if every second word in an encyclopedia article were followed by "(see: ...)". Hence, the links should not be so numerous as to make the article harder to read.

Check links after they are wikified to make sure they direct to the correct article; many wordsand phrases lead to disambiguation pages and not to complete articles. If an anchor into a targeted page (the label after a pound/hash sign (#) in a URL) is available, is likely to remain stable and gets the reader to the relevant area significantly faster, then use it.

When wikilinks are rendered as URLs by the FestWiki software, the initial character becomes capitalised and spaces are replaced by underscores. When including wikilinks in an article, there is no need to use capitalisation or underscores, since the software produces them automatically. This feature makes it possible to avoid a piped link in many cases. The correct form in English orthography can be used as a straight link. Wikilinks that begin sentences or are proper nouns should be capitalised as normal.

Likewise, the use of piped links can be avoided in many cases when adding a grammatical suffix to a wikilink that is not part of an article title, by placing the suffix outside of the brackets. The suffix will still appear as part of the link, but will not be included in the link's target when actually clicked. For example, the markup [[FR Magazine]]s appears in the article text as FR Magazines but links to the article named FR Magazine.


Pronunciation can be indicated using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For ease of understanding, fairly broad IPA transcriptions should be provided. As an alternative to IPA, pronunciation can be indicated phonetically. Care should be taken with such transcriptions to avoid differing interpretations depending on the reader's regional accent.

Miscellaneous notes[edit]

Keep markup simple[edit]

Use the simplest markup to display information in a useful and comprehensible way. Markup may appear differently in different browsers. Use HTML and CSS markup sparingly and only with good reason. Minimizing markup in entries allows easier editing.

In particular, do not use the CSS float or line-height properties because they break rendering on some browsers when large fonts are used.

Formatting issues[edit]

Formatting issues such as font size, blank space and colour are issues for the site-wide style sheet and should not be dealt with in articles except in special cases. If you absolutely must specify a font size, use a relative size, that is, font-size: 80%; not an absolute size, for example, font-size: 8pt. It is also almost never a good idea to use other style changes, such as font family or colour.

Typically, the usage of custom font styles will

  • reduce consistency—the text will no longer look uniform with typical text;
  • reduce usability—it will likely be impossible for people with custom stylesheets (for accessibility reasons, for example) to override it, and it might clash with a different skin as well as bother people with colour blindness; and
  • increase arguments—there is the possibility of other contributors disagreeing with choice of font style and starting a debate about it for aesthetic purposes.

For such reasons, it is typically not good practice to apply inline CSS for font attributes in articles.

Colour coding[edit]

Articles should not use colour alone to convey information (colour coding). This is not accessible to people with colour blindness (especially monochromacy), on black-and-white printouts, on older computer displays with fewer colours, on monochrome displays (PDAs, cell phones), and so on.

If it is necessary to use colours, try to choose colours that are unambiguous (such as orange and violet) when viewed by a person with red-green colour blindness (the most common type). In general, this means that shades of red and green should not both be used as colour codes in the same image. Viewing the page with Vischeck can help with deciding if the colours should be altered.

It is certainly desirable to use colour as an aid for those who can see it, but the information should still be accessible without it.

Invisible comments[edit]

Invisible comments are used to communicate with other editors in the article body. These comments are only visible when editing the page. They are invisible to ordinary readers.

Normally if an editor wants to discuss issues with other potential editors, they will do it on the talk page. However, it sometimes makes more sense to put comments in the article body, because an editor would like to leave instructions to guide other editors when they edit this section or leave reminders about specific issues (for example, do not change the section title since others have linked here).

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 wiki source (although not, incidentally, the HTML source).

Note: Comments may introduce unwanted whitespace when put in certain places, such as at the top of an article. Avoid placing comment fields in places where they might change the rendered result of the article.


External links[edit]

Articles can include an external links section at the end to list links to websites outside of Wikipedia for purposes of providing further information as opposed to citing sources. The standard format is a header named == External links == followed by a bulleted list of links. External links should identify the link and briefly summarise the website's contents and why the website is relevant to the article. For example:

*[http://history.nih.gov/exhibits/history/index.html History of NIH]
*[http://www.nih.gov/ National Institutes of Health hompepage]

When wikified, the link will appear as:

Refrain from using too many links in articles: a sea of speckled blue often looks messy.

Other resources[edit]

Contributors are encouraged to familiarise themselves with other guides to style and usage, which may cover details that are not included in this Guide to Style. These include: