Wikipedia:Manual of Style

This Manual of Style is to help make the encyclopedia easier to read by having rules for its format. It is a style guide. The rules on this page are not the final word on Wikipedia style. One way is often as good as another, but if everyone does things the same way, Wikipedia will be easier to read and use, and easier to write and edit. These are not laws: they are rules that many editors have found to work well in most cases. Editors should try to have their articles follow these guidelines, but remember, often there is an exception to every rule, so also use common sense above all.

One of the great things about changing a wiki is that changes do not have to be perfect—they can always be changed, improved or corrected later on. Wikipedia does not require writers to follow all or any of these rules, but their efforts will be more appreciated when they use this guide.

Article titles

In picking the best article title, remember these guidelines:

  • Use the singular. For example, if you added a new article about cars, you would name it "Car", not "Cars". (This rule is different for making categories, though.)
  • Use English. If you make a new article about the capital of Russia, you would name it "Moscow", not "Moskva".
  • Do not use abbreviations. An article on the World Health Organization should not be titled "WHO".

Do not worry if the wrong name is chosen for an article – it can always be moved, and this automatically creates a redirect from the older entry. Redirects should also be made from all other entries someone might type when looking for your article.


  • Countries should usually be listed under their simple name, not their full name, for example Ethiopia, not Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
  • For places inside countries or states, the name of the country or state can appear after a comma and space, especially if there is more than one place of that name. Example: Scottsdale, Arizona.


  • If the name of a movie is the same as something else, add (movie), and not (film), to the title to disambiguate it from other articles. Otherwise, this is not needed. Example: Jaws (movie).

First sentence

If possible, make the article's topic (usually the same as its title) the subject of the first sentence of the article (instead of putting it in the predicate, or in another sentence). For example, write "This Manual of Style is a style guide", not "This style guide is known as..." .

If the article's title is an important word, use it as early as possible in the article. Bold the article title the first (and only the first) time it is used. Also, bold any important synonyms – other names for the same thing, or older names. Use three apostrophes to make the bold: '''article title''' will appear as article title.

This example shows how bold words are used in an article on the Byzantine Empire:

The Byzantine Empire (or Eastern Roman Empire) is the name given to the Roman Empire that existed during the Middle Ages.

Do not bold any other words in the first paragraph, so that the reader will not be confused.

It is usually better not to link any of the bold title words and synonyms. For example, do not write "The Byzantine Empire is..."

Things like foreign words, and names of books or movies, are usually put in italics, and can be combined with the bold text, for example:

Citizen Kane is a movie from 1941, starring Orson Welles in his first full-length movie.

If the article is about a foreign person or place, the name in the original language(s) should be given in parentheses immediately after the title is first mentioned. Link the name of the language, followed by a colon (:), just before the native name. A transliteration into the Latin alphabet should also be included if a different writing system is used. A pronunciation guide or a sound file can also be included here. Example:

Beijing (Chinese: 北京 /Běijīng/) is the capital of China.

Sections and headings


Use the == (two equal signs) markup for headings (also called section titles), not the ''' (triple apostrophes) used to make words appear bold in character formatting. Start with ==, add the heading title, then end with ==.

This section’s heading was created by writing:

== Sections and headings ==

This subsection’s heading was created by writing:

=== Markup ===


  • In a heading, capitalize only the first letter of the first word and the first letter of any proper nouns, and leave all of the other letters in lowercase. Example: "Rules and regulations", not "Rules and Regulations".
  • Do not use special characters in headings, such as a slash (/), a plus sign (+), curly braces ({}), or square braces ([]). In place of an ampersand (&) use the word and, unless the ampersand is part of a formal name.
  • Do not put links in headings. Instead, link the word or phrase the first time it appears in the section.
  • Keep the heading short. Try not to use more than ten words in the heading.
  • Try not to use extra words in headings if they aren't needed, such as a, an, the, and pronouns. Do not use the title of the whole article as a heading.
  • Do not give the same title to different sections. This will confuse the reader. It also makes it difficult for any editor to create a section link to any such section except the first one.

Creating and using sections

Sub-headings help readers quickly see what is covered in an article and find subtopics of interest. Create sub-headings if a section becomes too long, and choose a wording that describes what is discussed in the section.

  • Do not italicize the section name, unless it needs italics (for example, if it is the title of a book).
  • If you link directly to a section, leave an editor’s note to remind others that the section title is linked. List the names of the linking articles, so when the title needs changing, others can fix the links more easily. For example: <!-- This section is linked from [[Richard Dawkins]] and [[Daniel Dennett]] --> .
  • Try not to change section headings and sub-headings too often. Other articles may have linked to that section, and the section link will be broken.

Capital letters

Do not capitalize the first letter in a word or the entire word to add importance to it. For example, "aardvarks, which are Not The Same as anteaters" and "aardvarks, which are NOT THE SAME as anteaters" are both wrong. If a word needs to show added importance or emphasis, use italics ("aardvarks, which are not the same as anteaters").


Titles such as president, king, or emperor start with a capital letter when used as a title (followed by a name): "President Nixon", not "president Nixon". When used in a general way, they should be in lower case: "De Gaulle was the French president." The correct formal name of an office is a proper noun and should be capitalized. So: "Hirohito was Emperor of Japan." Similarly, "Louis XVI was the French king" but "Louis XVI was King of France", because King of France is a specific title. Royal titles should also be capitalized: "Her Majesty" or "His Highness".

In the case of "prime minister", either both words begin with a capital letter or neither, except when the term begins a sentence. When using the term in a general way, do not capitalize it: "There are many prime ministers around the world." When referring to a specific office, generally use uppercase: "The British Prime Minister is Tony Blair." (A good rule for this is: when it is the "Prime Minister", it should be capitalized; when it is a "prime minister", do not capitalize it.)

Religions, deities/gods, philosophies, doctrines, and their followers

Names of religions, whether as a noun or an adjective, and their followers start with a capital letter. For example, Roman Catholics are followers of Roman Catholicism.

Names of deities/gods begin with a capital letter: God, Allah, Freya, the Lord, the Supreme Being, the Messiah. (Note that "the" is not capitalized.) The titles of important religious figures should be capitalized, such as Muhammad, who is known as the Prophet. Transcendent ideas also begin with a capital letter, as in Good and Truth. Pronouns referring to deities, or nouns (other than names) referring to any deity, do not begin with a capital letter. One would say "He prayed to the god Wotan", not "He prayed to the God Wotan". The following sentence would be correct usage: "It was thought that he prayed to God, but he actually prayed to one of the Norse gods."

Do not capitalize the names of types of mythical or fictional creatures, such as elves, fairies, nymphs and genies. However, in some fantasy stories, such as those by J. R. R. Tolkien, capital letters are used to show that the different categories of mythical creatures are being treated as ethnic groups or races. It is okay to use capitals in this specific case.

Philosophies, theories, doctrines, and systems of thought do not begin with a capital letter, unless the name comes from a proper noun: lowercase republican refers to a system of political thought; uppercase Republican refers to a specific Republican Party (each party name being a proper noun).

Calendar items

The names of months, days, and holidays always begin with a capital letter: June, Monday, Fourth of July (when referring to the U.S. Independence Day, otherwise July 4 or 4 July).

Seasons, in almost all cases, are not capitalized: "this summer was very hot"; "the winter solstice occurs on December 22"; "I’ve got spring fever". When personified, season names may be used as proper nouns: "I think Spring is showing her colors"; "Old Man Winter".

Dates normally should be followed by commas: "In 2001, Bob married Lisa"; "On April 10, I will have a party". An exception is when they are used to describe other words: "The 1993 edition was very long".

Animals, plants, and other organisms

Capitalize the name of a genus, but not the name of a species (and italicize both names): for example, the tulip tree is Liriodendron tulipifera.

Higher categories (e.g. order; (family etc.) are not italicized. If the Latin form is used it should be capitalized; if used as a common word, then not. So Dinosauria, but dinosaurs.

Celestial bodies

Names of other planets and stars are proper nouns and begin with a capital letter: "The planet Mars can be seen tonight in the constellation Gemini, near the star Pollux." In cases where the name has multiple words, it is treated like other proper nouns where each leading letter is capitalized: "Alpha Centauri" and not "Alpha centauri".

The words sun, earth, and moon are proper nouns when the sentence uses them in an astronomical sense, but not elsewhere: so "The Sun is a main sequence star, with a spectral class of G2"; but "It was a lovely day and the sun was warm". Note that these terms are proper nouns only when they refer to specific celestial bodies (our Sun, Earth and Moon): so "The Moon orbits the Earth", but "Pluto's moon Charon".

Directions and regions

Regions that are proper nouns, including well known phrases such as Southern California, start with a capital letter. This is also true for related words, so a person from the Southern United States is a Southerner.

Directions (north, southwest, etc.) are not proper nouns and do not start with a capital letter. The same is true for their related forms: someone might call a road that leads north a northern road, compared to the Great North Road.


Proper names of specific institutions (for example, Harvard University, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Hampshire College, etc.) are proper nouns and need capitalization.

However, the words for types of institutions (university, college, hospital, high school, etc.) should not be capitalized if they do not appear in a proper name:

The University offers programs in arts and sciences.
The university offers… or The University of Ottawa offers…


For italics, use the '' (italic) markup on both sides of the text to be italicized. For example:

''This is italic.''

will give:

This is italic.

In all of the uses mentioned here, italicize only what should properly be affected by italics, and not the surrounding punctuation of the sentence. Examples:

  • What are we to make of that?
[Incorrect: only the word that should be italicized; the following question mark should not be italicized.]
  • The word was tack; it certainly was not tick, tap, or tab.
[Correct: the punctuation marks here are not italicized; they are normal parts of the sentence.]

If an italicized word or phrase is linked, the italics markup should be placed outside of the link markup, otherwise you will get a "redlink". Example:

  • ''[[Jurassic Park]]'' is [[Michael Crichton]]'s best book.
[Correct: it will show the text with a correct link: "Jurassic Park is Michael Crichton's best book."]


Italics are mainly used to emphasize (show importance of) certain words. Italics for emphasis should not be used too often.

They are also used in these other cases:


Italics are used for the titles of works of literature and art, such as books, movies, albums and paintings. The titles of articles, chapters, songs, and other short works are not italicized; instead they are put in double quotation marks ("Chapter Title").

Music: songs are in quotes ("Love Song", "Rainy Days and Mondays"), but albums are italicized (Dark Side of the Moon, A Night at the Opera, Abbey Road)

Words as words

Use italics when writing about words as words, or letters as letters. For example:

  • Deuce means "two".
  • The word liqueur comes from the Latin word liquifacere.
  • The most common letter in the English language is e.
  • In English class I received an A.

Foreign terms

Wikipedia prefers italics for phrases in other languages and for foreign words that do not yet have common use in the English language. Use the native spellings if they use the Latin alphabet. If a word or phrase is used from a language that uses another writing system, do not italicize it, but put it in parentheses, and give a Romanized transliteration in italics right after the word.

Foreign words or phrases that have common use in English — such as Gestapo and samurai — do not need to be italicized.

Quotations in italics

Do not put an entire quotation in italics just because it is a quotation.

Italics within quotations

Use italics inside quotations if the source material does, or if you want to add emphasis. If you are adding emphasis, write "[emphasis added]" at the end of the quotation. For example: "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 you want to show that the emphasis is the source's and not yours, you can add "[emphasis in original]" after the quote.

Acronyms and abbreviations

Do not assume that your reader knows the acronym or abbreviation you are using. The acronym or abbreviation should be spelled out the first time it is used (wikilinked if appropriate) and then show the acronym or abbreviation after it, in parentheses. For example:

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is a political party that wants Britain to leave the European Union. There are currently about 25,000 people who are members of the UKIP.

If the term is already in parentheses, use or to indicate the acronym. For example:

It was first discussed in 2006 (at a meeting for the members of the United Kingdom Independence Party or UKIP).

Acronyms and abbreviations are made plural by adding -s or -es. For example:

  • More than one CD-ROM are CD-ROMs
  • More than one NGO are NGOs

Style books today do not use as many periods and spaces with acronyms and abbreviations for personal titles, as were traditionally used in the past. For example, PhD is more common than Ph.D. or Ph. D., and is preferred here. If an abbreviation is not clear without periods, the periods should not be removed.


In most cases, follow the usual rules of English punctuation. A few points where Wikipedia may be different from usual rules are listed below.

Quotations and quote marks

Whenever possible, faithfully use the same style that was used in the original quotation; do not change it to follow Wikipedia's rules on punctuation. If there is a spelling or other mistake in the original quote, it can be noted with [sic].

The guideline is to use the double-quotes (" ") – they are easier to read on the screen – and use single-quotes (‘ ’) for quotations that are within quotations. Quotation marks that are next to each other should be separated by a space. This best way to do this is to type &nbsp;.

For example, you might quote an article that says, "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" ’ ". (Note that quote marks that are next to each other, as at the end of this example, should always have a space between them. This should be done by typing &nbsp; instead of a normal space.)

When punctuating quoted passages, put the punctuation mark inside the quotation marks only if the sense of the punctuation mark is part of the quotation (logical quotation style).


  • Arthur said the situation is "deplorable". (When part of a sentence is quoted, the period/full stop is outside.)
  • Arthur said, "The situation is deplorable." (When a complete sentence is quoted, the period is inside.)
  • Martha asked, "Are you coming?" (When quoting a question, the question mark is inside.)
  • Did Martha say, "Come with me"? (When questioning a quote, the question mark is outside. Do not use a period.)

If you change the capitalization of the first letter of a quote, you do not need to "[s]how the case change with square brackets".

Here are two examples that show how to handle commas and capital letters at the beginning of a quote within a sentence:

He said that "to have is to hold".

She said, "Go now."

Words inside quotes can be linked, for example: (quoted from John Adams) "If Aristotle, Livy, and Harrington knew what a republic was, the British constitution is much more like a republic than an empire."

Except with well-known quotations (from Shakespeare etc.), and those from the subject of the article or section, always name the person you are quoting for a full sentence or more. Name the person in the text, not in a footnote, unless the person is the subject of the article or is otherwise obvious. In the case of a famous line from a play in an article on the play, it is not necessary to say the quote is from the play.

When the title of an article needs quotation marks (for example, the title of a song or poem), the quotation marks should not be bolded, because they are not part of the title:

"Jabberwocky" is a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll.

Longer quotes

A quote longer than four lines should be written as a block quotation. Do not put the block quote in quotation marks. To do a block quotation, do not use the wiki indentation mark : – instead, use the HTML <blockquote> tag:

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a 
new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men 
are created equal.


Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Look of quotation marks and apostrophes

There are two options when considering the look of the quotation marks themselves:

  • text, text, foos
  • "text", 'text', foo's

Either way is okay. Never use grave and acute accents or backticks (`text´) as quotation marks or apostrophes.


If only part of a sentence is in brackets, the punctuation goes outside the brackets (as shown here). (If the entire sentence is inside brackets, the punctuation should also be inside the brackets.) These rules are true for square "[ ]" as well as round "( )" brackets (parentheses). There should be a space before an opening bracket in most cases. In certain rare cases, there will not be a space before the first bracket. This is the case when the bracket has one of these in front of it:

  • an opening quotation mark
He said to the group, "(Ahem…) Ladies and gentlemen, welcome!"
  • another opening bracket
Several companies ([ten omitted for brevity –ed.] GMH, Ford, and Mazda) resisted.
  • an ellipsis () not followed by a space, or an unspaced em dash (—)
Well…(how could I continue?).
  • a part of a word, or a hyphen, etc., where the brackets surround only a part of a word
We went 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 except in cases similar to those listed for opening brackets.

If a set of brackets must be put inside another, use the contrasting type (normally square brackets are put inside round brackets [parentheses]).

Try not to put two sets of brackets next to each other. For example, this sentence:

  • Nikifor Grigoriev (c. 1885–1919) (also known as Matviy Hryhoriyiv) was a Ukrainian insurgent leader.

would be better written as either of these:

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

Serial commas

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 not using a serial comma makes an unclear sentence, as in this example: "The author would like to thank her parents, Sinéad O’Connor and President Bush." Sometimes using the comma can also make a sentence unclear, 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 to make the sentence more clear:

  • A choice can be made whether or not to use the comma.
  • The sentence can be rewritten to avoid listing the items in an unclear way.
  • The items in the list can be presented using a formatted list.

If the presence of the final serial comma does not affect the clarity of the sentence (which is the case most of the time), there is no Wikipedia consensus on whether it should be used.

The names of railroads and railways do not generally use the serial comma (for example, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad). This is also the standard for law firms (for example, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom).


Colons ( : ) should not have spaces before them:

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

Colons should have complete sentences before them:

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


The hyphen (-) is used to form some compound words, e.g. free-electron, well-known, etc. The hyphen is used for compound adjectives, but there is a space before the noun, e.g. run-of-the-mill Wikipedian. It is also used to show when separate words run together, e.g. man-of-war. As well as these uses, the hyphen is also used to split words that will not fit on one line.

The en dash (–) used to show sequences and ranges, e.g. A–Z, 1999–2003. The en dash is also used in compounds when the connection might otherwise be expressed with to, versus, and, or between. (Here the relationship is thought of as parallel, symmetric, equal, oppositional, or at least involving separate or independent elements.) For example, boyfriend–girlfriend problems; the Paris–Montpellier route; a New York – Los Angeles flight or iron–cobalt interactions. In these cases, there are no spaces around the dash if it is separating single words. Spaces are added on both sides of the dash if the thing you are dashing has more than one word, e.g. north pole – south pole.

The em dash (—) is used to link clauses and to show breaks in sentences, e.g. Put frankly, he was an accomplice—in fact, a conspirator—to the murder of these people. e.g. I saw it—the large blue flag. Note that there are no spaces around the dash. However, an en dash with spaces can do the same job: I saw it – the large blue flag.

The minus sign (−) is a different symbol to the hyphen or any other dash.

Other dashes, such as the double-hyphen (--), should not be used unless in plain text documents.

Spaces after the end of a sentence

There are no guidelines on whether to use one space after the end of a sentence, or two. The issue is not important because the difference can only be seen in the edit box.


Do not use contractions – such as don’t, can’t, won’t, would’ve, they’d, and so on – unless they are in a quotation. Contractions can be difficult for people who do not know English well. Because this is Simple English Wikipedia, each word should be written out in its full form. The contraction o’clock is an exception, as it is mandatory.


Try not to join two words with a slash (/), because it suggests that the two are related, but does not say exactly how. There is almost always a better choice than a slash. When it is possible, be specific to avoid wording that is not clear.

An example: "The parent/instructor must be present at all times." Must both be present? (Then write and say "the parent and the instructor".) Must at least one be present? (Then write and say "the parent or the instructor".) Is it intended that the same person is both parent and instructor? (Then use an en dash or a hyphen: "the parent–instructor".)

In situations involving a distinction or disjunction, the en dash is usually better than the slash, for example, "the novel–novella distinction".

The slash does have some good uses. It can be used to separate lines of poetry ("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") or to show how something is spoken or pronounced ("ribald is pronounced /ri-bəld/" or to separate the numbers in a fraction ("​78").


The phrase and/or is especially awkward. For example, "x and/or y" can be written as "x or y, or both", or "either x or y" and optionally add "but not both", if necessary.

When there are more than two choices, it is even more important to not use and/or. With two choices, at least the intention is clear; but with more than two it may difficult to know what is trying to be expressed. Instead of "x, y, and/or z", use an appropriate alternative: "one or more of x, y, and z"; "some or all of x, y, and z"; etc.


An ellipsis is a series of three dots (periods) that shows that words have been left out.

Examples: in the middle of your sentence … or after your comma, … or before one…, or at the end of your sentence…. In your question…? Or even your exclamation…!

Note that square brackets indicate editorial replacements as well as editorial insertions. For example, suppose that a source says, "X contains Y. Under certain circumstances, X may contain Z as well." Then it is correct to quote this work as saying "X contains Y [and sometimes] Z" (without ellipsis).

Question marks and exclamation marks

The question mark is used in the normal English way: any direct question should have a question mark. There should never be a space just before the question mark in a sentence. They will normally be used in quotations, since it is rare for an encyclopedia article to pose direct questions.

The question mark and the exclamation point go within quotation marks when they apply to the quoted matter only. They go outside when they apply to the whole sentence.

The exclamation mark should not be used as punctuation, unless it is in a quotation. This is because exclamation marks are an expression of surprise or emotion that is not appropriate for a 'neutral' encyclopedia.

More than one question mark (?? or ???), or exclamation mark (!! or !!!), or some combination of these (such as !?) are never appropriate for use in Wikipedia articles, unless reproducing actual quotes that use them in this way.

Date and time

Writing precisely

Avoid words and statements that indicate vague time or will quickly go out of date (unless their meaning is made clear by the rest of the sentence or paragraph). These include:

  • at the moment
  • currently
  • in modern times
  • is now considered
  • lately
  • nowadays
  • presently
  • recently
  • soon
  • to date
  • today
  • years ago

Instead of these, use either:

  • more precise terms ("in January 2005"; "since the start of 2005"; "during the 1990s"); or
  • an as of phrase ("as of August 2008"), which tells readers that the statement was correct as of a certain date, and reminds editors that the statement may need to be updated.

It may not be necessary to follow the above rules on pages that are regularly updated, such as those that cover current events.


Whether the 12- or 24-hour clock should be used to show a time depends on the article. In both cases, hours, minutes and seconds should be separated by colons ("1:38:09 pm" and "13:38:09").

  • 12-hour clock times end with dotted or undotted lower-case a.m. or p.m., or am or pm. Put a non-breaking space between the time and the a.m. or p.m. ("2:30 p.m." or "2:30 pm", not "2:30p.m." or "2:30pm"). To create a non-breaking space, type "&nbsp;", like this: "2:30&nbsp;p.m." Instead of using 12 pm and 12 am, use noon or 12 noon and midnight or 12 midnight.
  • 24-hour clock times do not have a.m., p.m., noon or midnight after the time. If the hour only has one digit, you can choose either to add a zero or not ("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.


  • In dates, Wikipedia does not use ordinal suffixes (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th), the word the, or put a comma between the month and year.
Incorrect:    February 14th, 14th February, the 14th of February
Correct: 14 February, February 14
Incorrect: October, 1976
Correct: October 1976
  • Formats: In general, you can use either of the following formats:
    • International format: "14 February" and "14 February 1990" (common in most countries);
    • US format: "February 14" and "February 14, 1990" (mostly used in the US; note the comma between the day and the year).
  • To decide which format is best for an article, use the following guidelines:
    1. Consistent format
      • Dates in the body text and in the references or footnotes of an article should all have the same format.
      • However, if dates are in a different format in titles of books and articles, or in quotations, do not change the format of those dates.
    2. Strong national ties to a topic: An article on a topic with strong ties to a particular English-speaking country should generally use the more common date format for that nation. For example, it may be more suitable to use the "14 February 1990" format in an article about a person from the United Kingdom, and "February 14, 1990" in one about an event that happened in the United States.
    3. Keeping the format already used:
      • If one format is already used in most parts of an article, the whole article should use that format unless there are reasons for changing it because of strong national ties to the topic.
      • If an article is fairly new, the date format chosen by the first editor who makes big changes to the article should be used, unless there is reason to change it because of strong national ties to the topic. Where an article that is not a stub shows no clear sign of which format is used, the first person to insert a date is considered to be the first editor who makes a big change to the article.
  • Wikilinks: It is not necessary to add wikilinks to all dates, like this: "[[25 March]] [[2004]]" or "[[February 10]]"). Only add a wikilink if you think the reader will find useful information at the date-related article you have linked to.
  • Date ranges. When a range of dates involves only numbers, type an en dash between the numbers with no spaces around it ("5–7 January 1979"; "January 5–7, 2002"). When the opening and/or closing dates have internal spaces, type an en dash with a space before and after it ("5 January – 18 February 1979"; "January 5 – February 18, 1979").
  • In rare cases, a night may be indicated using a slash, like this: "the bombing raids of the night of 30/31 May 1942".
  • Yearless dates: Do not use dates without years ("5 March", "March 5") unless the reader can tell what the year is from the rest of the sentence or paragraph. It is all right to use yearless dates when talking about events that happen every year, like this: "January 1 is New Year's Day".
  • ISO 8601 dates: Dates in ISO 8601 format (like "1976-05-13") are not common in English writing and are generally not used in Wikipedia.

Longer time periods

  • Months are expressed as whole words ("February", not "2"). Abbreviations (short versions) such as Feb are used only where there is very little space, such as in tables and infoboxes. Do not insert of between a month and a year ("April 2000", not "April of 2000").
  • Seasons as dates: Because the seasons are reversed in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres – and parts of the world near the Equator tend to have just wet and dry seasons – it is better to use wording like "in early 1990" and "in the second quarter of 2003" and "around September" rather than refer to seasons ("Summer 1918", "in the spring of 1995"). However, words referring to seasons can be used when there is a logical connection ("the autumn harvest"), and when they refer to a time of the year in certain parts of the world ("the birds usually start moving to higher latitudes in the middle of spring"). In these cases, the season names should be spelled with a lower-case initial ("spring", not "Spring").
  • Years
    • Years are normally expressed in digits ("1988", not "Nineteen eighty-eight"); a comma is not used in four-digit years (not "1,988").
    • Avoid inserting the words the year before the digits ("in 1995", not "in the year 1995"), unless the meaning would otherwise be unclear.
      • Either CE and BCE or AD and BC can be used — spaced, undotted (without periods) and upper case. Choose either the BC–AD or the BCE–CE system, but not both in the same article. AD appears before or after a year ("AD 1066", "1066 AD"); the other abbreviations appear after ("1066 CE", "3700 BCE", "3700 BC"). If an article already uses one style, do not change to the other style unless there is a good reason for the change.
      • Year ranges, like other date ranges, are separated by an en dash, do not use a hyphen or slash ("2005–08" or "2005–2008", not "2005-2008" or "2005/08"). A closing CE–AD year may be written with two digits ("1881–86") or four digits ("1881–1886"); if it is in a different century from that of the opening year then four digits must be used ("1881–1986"). Do not shorten the closing year to a single digit ("1881–6") or type three digits ("1881–886"). A closing BCE–BC year must be given in full ("2590–2550 BCE"). If CE, BCE, AD and/or BC are used after both the opening and closing dates, one space must be typed before and after the en dash ("5 BC – 29 AD").
      • A slash may be used to indicate regular defined yearly periods that are not the same as calendar years ("academic year 2008/2009", "the financial year 1993/4").
      • To indicate around, approximately, or about, type c. (which stands for the Latin word circa) before the year with a non-breaking space in between ("c. 1291"). If the date is not approximate but uncertain, use a question mark instead ("1291?"). (The question mark may mistakenly be thought to be a sign that editors have simply not checked the date.)
  • 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 are written using ordinal numbers, without superscripts and without Roman numerals: "the second millennium", "the 19th century", "a 19th-century book".

Grouping of digits

  • A period/full stop (never a comma) is used as the decimal point (6.57, not 6,57).
  • Left of the decimal point: Five or more digits should be grouped (and exactly four digits may optionally be grouped) into triples separated by commas (never period/full stop): 12,200;   255,200;   8,274,527;   1,250 (optionally 1250).
  • Exception: never group four-digit page numbers or four-digit calendar years' (not sailed in 1,492, though 10,400 BC).
  • In scientific/engineering articles, long strings left of the point may be grouped into triples: 8274527
  • Right of the decimal point: Five or more digits may be grouped into triples separated by spaces: 99.123456.
  • In mathematics-oriented articles, digits right of the point may be grouped into fives: 3.14159265358979323846....

Style should be consistent throughout a given article.


When a word is pronounced (said) differently from the way it is spelled, a guide to the pronunciation of the word may be set out. The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) may be used, with or without a respelled pronunciation.

Scientific style

  • For science articles, use SI units as the main units of measure, unless there is a good reason not to (for example, Hubble's constant should be written in its most common unit of (km/s)/Mpc instead of its SI unit of s−1). For other articles, Imperial, U.S. customary, or metric units may be used as the main units of measurement. The Wikipedia rule for commas and periods in numbers is, for example, 12,345,678.901 — not the Continental way.
  • In articles about chemicals and chemistry, use the style of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) for chemical names. In article titles, the common name should be used if it is different from the IUPAC name. The common name should then be followed in the article by the IUPAC name.
  • In periodic table groups, use the IUPAC names (these use Arabic numerals, not Roman numerals or letters).
  • For mathematics and mathematical formulas, see en:Wikipedia:Manual of Style (mathematics).

Simple tables

Lines that start with blank spaces in the editing window are shown in a box, like this:

A line with a blank space in front of it.

Many lines with a space in front will create a table, like this:

line 1
line 2
line 3

A line that contains only a blank space inserts a blank line into the table.

line 1

line 2

For a complete guide to more complex tables see Meta:Help:Table.

Usage and spelling

See also: Wikipedia:Spelling


Singular nouns that already end in s can sometimes be made possessive either by adding simply an apostrophe, or an apostrophe with another s, depending on the writer's choice. When a particular word or phrase is much more common without the s after the apostrophe, do not use it, such as with "Achilles' heel" and "Jesus' tears".

  • Abbreviations of Latin words like i.e., e.g., or n.b., or use of the Latin words in full, such as "nota bene" or "vide infra", should only be in an article if it is used in a quotation. Instead, the words should be written in Simple English such as: "in other words", "for example", "such as" or "note".
  • Try to use words that have only one meaning, instead of words that can have many meanings. Remember that the person who is reading the article may not know all the possible meanings of a word.
  • See also Wikipedia:Examples of simpler English for many more usage tips.

Avoid second-person pronouns

Do not write in the second person (you), addressing or referring to the reader. It does not give the tone that an encyclopedia should have. There are many ways to write a sentence without using the word you, for example:

When you move past "Go", you collect $200.
When a player moves past "Go", that player collects $200.
Players passing "Go" collect $200.

This guideline does not apply to quoted text. It should be quoted exactly, even if it uses you.

This guideline also does not apply to pages in the "Wikipedia:" namespace, or Templates, etc. As with all of these guidelines, it is for the main encyclopedia articles themselves.

Avoid first-person pronouns and one

Wikipedia articles must not be based on one person’s opinions or experiences. Do not use the word I unless it appears in a quotation. For similar reasons, avoid using we and one. A sentence such as "We should note that some critics have argued in favor of it" sounds more personal than a modern encyclopedia should sound.

However, it is sometimes okay to use we or one when referring to an experience that anyone, any reader, would be expected to have. For example, although it is probably best to write, "When most people open their eyes, they see something", it is not wrong to write, "When we open our eyes, we see something". Using we in this case is much better than using the passive voice: "When the eyes are opened, something is seen."

It is also okay to use we in mathematical derivations; for example: "To solve this equation, we need to find the value of A."

National varieties of English

Remember that millions of people have learned a form of English different from yours, including different spellings, grammar, and punctuation. For the Simple English Wikipedia, there is no preference for one variety of English over another; none is more "correct" than any other. However, there are rules that are generally accepted on Wikipedia as to how to choose which variety to use. These guidelines are given in order of importance; those earlier in the list are generally more important than those later in the list:

  • The same spelling system and grammar rules should be used throughout an article.
    • Each article should have the same spelling within it and not a mix of different spellings. Different spellings can be confusing to the reader. For example, do not use center and centre in the same article (except in quotations or to make a comparison).
    • If an article is mostly written in one type of English, try to use that type instead of changing to another. (Sometimes, this can happen quite innocently, so please do not assume too quickly that the editor is trying to cause problems!)
  • If there is a strong relationship to a specific region or dialect, use that dialect.
  • Try to find words that are common to all.
    • In choosing words or expressions (especially article titles) it is a good idea to select ones that do not have many different spellings if there are synonyms that can be chosen.
    • If the spelling appears in an article name, you should make redirect pages for the other spellings, as with Color and Colour.
  • Stay with established spelling
    • If an article has been in a dialect for a long time, and there is no clear reason to change it, leave it alone. Editors should not change the spelling used in an article from one dialect to another unless there is a very good reason to do so (this is rarely the case). Other editors can revert such changes. Fixing any inconsistencies in the spelling is always appreciated.
  • Follow the dialect of the first contributor.
    • If all else fails, consider following the spelling style preferred by the first major contributor (that is, not a stub) to the article.

For pages on the different varieties of English, see Category:Dialects of English.

Finally, if there are disagreements about this, please remember that there are much better and more enjoyable ways to take part in Simple English Wikipedia than fighting about which version of English to use on a page.

Big, little, long, short

Try to use accurate measurements and specific information wherever possible, instead of simple (but vague) size descriptors like "big", "little" etc.

Okay Better
The wallaby is small. The average male wallaby is 1.6 metres from head to tail.
Prochlorococcus marinus is a tiny cyanobacterium. The cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus marinus is 0.5 to 0.8 micrometres across.
The large herd of dugong stretched a long way down the coast. The dugong swam down the coast in a herd five kilometres long and 300 metres wide.


For general help on how to use images see Help:Images
For rules on using images on Simple English Wikipedia see Wikipedia:Image use policy

These are some general guidelines which are usually followed for the best appearance, although some editors have different ideas:

  • Articles usually start with an image on the right-hand side of the page (this is called right-alignment).
  • When using many images in the same article, they can be placed on either the right or left side of the page.
  • Avoid sandwiching text between two images directly across from each other.
  • Generally, right-alignment is preferred to left- or center-alignment. It is okay for all the pictures in an article to be on the right side of the page.
    • Exception: Pictures of people with the head looking to the right can be left-aligned (looking into the text of the article). In such cases it may be appropriate to move the Table of Contents to the right by using {{TOCright}}.
  • If there are very many images in a given article, consider using a gallery. (Example: Valentine's Day)
  • If there are many more images about the article subject on Commons, you can use a template ({{Commons category}} or {{Commons}}) to link to them. See WP:MOSSIS for information on where to put these templates.
  • The easiest "image markup language", or format for images is:
[[Image:picture.jpg|thumb|[width in number of pixels]px|right|Insert caption here]]
  • Use captions to explain how the image relates to the article. The caption will not show up unless you use "thumb" format in the image markup language. Any caption should start with a capital letter. If the caption is a complete sentence, it should always end in a period (or other appropriate punctuation). If the caption is not a complete sentence, it should not have a period at the end.
  • Putting the size of a thumb image in the formatting is not necessary: if the size is not put in the formatting, the width will be the size that the reader has set in their settings, with a default of 180px.
  • The default placement of a thumb image is "right" if none is given, so it is not necessary to include "right", but it must be replaced by "left" (or "center") to appear elsewhere.
  • Remember that people looking for more information on the photo can click on it to see the full details.

Bulleted lists and numbered lists

If a line begins with the asterisk (*), it will appear as a bullet, which can make lists of things much easier to read. Make sure there is no space before the bullet, or the whole sentence will appear in a box instead.

Do not use bullets (*) if the article reads easily using plain paragraphs.

Do not mix grammatical styles in a list – either use all complete sentences, or use all sentence fragments. Begin each item with a capital letter, even if it is a sentence fragment.

When using complete sentences, put a period at the end of each sentence:

  • This is a complete sentence.
  • This is also a complete sentence.

When using sentence fragments, do not put a period at the end:

  • Part of a sentence
  • Also a sentence fragment

The rules for bulleted lists are the same as for numbered lists. You can start every section with the pound (#) sign and wikipedia will number the section on its own.

Use numbered lists instead of bulleted lists only if you will be talking about the items by number, or if the order of the items is important (for example, you are explaining step 1, step 2, etc. of a process).


There are some rules to follow when talking about identity. Wikipedia’s neutral point of view and no original research policies always should be followed first, but these guidelines may help:

  • If possible, use English words that subjects would use for themselves, to avoid using terms that may be pejorative (insulting). For example: The French people call themselves "les Français", but this term is not used in English, so they are called "the French".
  • Use more specific wording, where possible: People from Ghana (a country in Africa) should be described as "Ghanaian", not just "African".
  • Do not assume that any one term is the best or most accurate.
  • Adjectives used to describe people should not be used as nouns, but as describing nouns. For example: black people, not blacks.
  • Also note: The term Arab refers to people and things of ethnic Arab origin. The term Arabic refers to the Arabic language or writing system (and related concepts). For example, "Not all Arab people write or speak in Arabic, but nearly all are familiar with Arabic numerals."
  • In a direct quotation, use the original text, even if it does not follow the above guidelines.

Gender identity

Main biographical article on a person whose gender might be questioned
Give precedence to self-designation as reported in the most up-to-date reliable sources, even when it doesn't match what is most common in reliable sources. When a person's gender self-designation may come as a surprise to readers, explain it without overemphasis on first occurrence in an article.
Any person whose gender might be questioned should be referred to by the pronouns, possessive adjectives, and gendered nouns (for example "man/woman", "waiter/waitress", "chairman/chairwoman") that reflect that person's latest expressed gender self-identification. This applies in references to any phase of that person's life, unless the subject has indicated a preference otherwise. Avoid confusing constructions (Jane Doe fathered a child) by rewriting (e.g., Jane Doe became a parent). Direct quotations may need to be handled as exceptions (in some cases adjusting the portion used may reduce apparent contradictions, and "[sic]" may be used where necessary). Where there are two names, mention the earlier name of a transgender person if they were notable under that name. In other respects, the MoS does not specify when and how to mention former names, or whether to give the former or current name first.
Referring to the person in other articles
Use context to decide which name or names to provide on a case-by-case basis. Generally, do not go into detail over changes in name or gender unless they are relevant to the text in which the person is mentioned.


Links should not make an article more difficult to read; they are there for making it easier to find related information.

Only link the things and ideas that are important to understanding the article. It is not helpful to mark all possible words as hyperlinks. A large number of links can draw attention away from the most important links on a page. Generally, verbs and adjectives should not be linked, since most encyclopedia articles are about nouns - things or ideas, or the names of people or places.

Only link a word the first time it is used in the article, but do not link the same word more than once in an article. If there is an infobox, the word can be linked in the box and also the first time it's in the text.

Check links after they are wikified, to make sure they lead to the correct page. If a link leads to a disambiguation page, it is better to change it to the correct article, if one exists. If there is no article, perhaps you can create one.

When including a wikilink in an article to a page name that starts with a capital letter, there is no need to capitalize the first word of the link. Also, you don't need to use underscores ( _ ). Write the exact name of the page, but as it fits in your sentence. For example, it is not necessary to write it double with a "pipe" like this: [[Unidentified_flying_object|unidentified flying object]]. Wikilinks that begin sentences or are proper nouns should be capitalized as normal.

It is not necessary to make a piped link when adding a suffix - like the letters "s" or "es" for a plural, to a wikilink to a page name in single form when you want plural. Simply place the suffix after the closing pair of brackets, with no space. 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 [[apple]]s will be in the article text as apples, but it links to the article Apple.

Miscellaneous notes

Keep markup simple

Use the simplest markup to display information in a useful and easy-to-understand way. Markup may appear differently in different browsers. Only use HTML and CSS markup if there is a good reason.

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

Formatting issues such as font size, blank space and color are issues for the Wikipedia site-wide style sheet and should not be used in articles except in special cases. If you must use a different font size, use a relative size, such as font-size: 80%; not an absolute size, for example, font-size: 8pt. Do not use other style changes, such as font style or color.

Color coding

Using color alone to convey information (color coding) should not be done. This is not helpful to people with color blindness (especially monochromacy), on black-and-white printouts, on older monitors with fewer colors, on monochrome displays (PDAs, cell phones), etc.

If it is necessary to use colors, try to choose colors that will not be confusing to a person with red-green color blindness (the most common type). In general, this means that shades of red and green should not both be used as color codes in the same image. Colors that are okay to use include orange and violet. Viewing the page with Toptal Color Blind Filter can help with deciding if the colors should be changed.

It is nice to use color as an aid for those who can see it, but the information should still be available without it.

Invisible comments

Invisible comments are used to talk with other editors in the article body. These comments can only be seen when editing the page. They are invisible when looking at the normal article.

Usually, if an editor wants to discuss something with other editors, he or she will do it on the proper talk page. However, it is sometimes useful to put comments directly in the article, because an editor would like to leave instructions to help other editors when they edit a section, or leave reminders about something (for example, "please do not change the section title, since others have linked here").

To leave a hidden comment, place the words between these "spearpoints": <!-- and -->.

For example, the following:

Hello <!-- This is a comment. --> world.

is shown as:

Hello world.


Consider the legibility of what you are writing. Make your entry easy to read on a screen. For more information on this, see "How Users Read on the Web" by Jakob Nielsen.

Linking to other websites

Links to websites outside of Wikipedia can be listed at the end of an article or in the text of an article as an "embedded link".

List of links at the end of an article

A list of links should have a header named == Other websites ==, followed by a bulleted list of links. It is good if a link on the list summarizes the website's contents, and tells why the website is important to the article. For example:

*[ AIDS treatment news]

(Note that the "pipes" used with wiki-links to separate the text that appears, are not used with links to other websites.) On the article page, the link will look like this:

By adding the code <span class="plainlinks"></span> around the link, it will look cleaner:

Links to other websites can also be "embedded" directly within an article. These links generally have no description, but they will automatically be given a number by the software. For example, typing:

Sample text [].

will show the link as:

Sample text [1].

An embedded link to other websites should have a full citation in the article's References section.

References or Notes

The References or Notes section can have a code that will copy your embedded link (with its link to another website, description and/or quote) into the References or Notes section, and make it a functioning link there. Do not use this code with an embedded link alone. Use it only if you're adding a citation or description of the link.

Here is an example:

The embedded link format would look like this:

<ref name="test1">[ The name of the other website goes here.] More information can go here.</ref>

It will produce this: [1]

Then in the "References" or "Notes" section, the code would look like this:

<references />

Using this code will automatically copy the same embedded link you have made above:

  1. The name of the other website goes here. More information can go here.

You can also use the template {{reflist}} to give the same as above, but with a smaller font size. For a two-column layout, use {{reflist|2}}.

Other page sections

A list of related pages should have a header named == Related pages ==, followed by a bulleted list of pages. These are pages that are on a similar topic. This section should be at the bottom of the article. For example this page could have a related page link to this one:

Related topics should be grouped by subject area to make them easier to find. Please also give a brief sentence to explain if it is not clear how it is related. For example:

Or for a less formal look, you can simply use something like this in any section:

See also: Main page, Recent changes