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This Manual of Style has the simple purpose of making things easy to read by following a consistent format — it is a style guide. The following rules do not claim to be the last word on Psychology Wiki style. One way is often as good as another, but if everyone does it the same way, the Psychology Wiki will be easier to read and use, not to mention easier to write and edit. In this regard, the following quotation from The Chicago Manual of Style deserves notice:
Rules and regulations such as these, in the nature of the case, cannot be endowed with the fixity of rock-ribbed law. They are meant for the average case, and must be applied with a certain degree of elasticity.
Clear, informative, and unbiased writing is always more important than presentation and formatting. The Psychology Wiki does not require writers to follow all or any of these rules: the joy of wiki editing is that The Psychology Wiki does not require perfection.
If possible, make the title the subject of the first sentence of the article (as opposed to putting it in the predicate. For example, write "This Manual of Style is a style guide" instead of "This style guide is known as the Manual of Style." In any case, the title should appear as early as possible in the article — preferably in the first sentence.
The first time the article mentions the title, put it in bold using three apostrophes — '''article title''' produces article title. For example: "This Manual of Style is a style guide."
As a general rule, do not put links in
the bold reiteration of the title in the article's lead sentence or
any section title.
Also, try not to put other phrases in bold in the first sentence. An exception to this arises when an article has alternative titles, each of which an editor puts in bold.
Follow the normal rules for italics in choosing whether to put part or all of the title in italics.
Use the == (two equal signs) style markup for headings, not the ''' (triple apostrophes) used to make words appear bold in character formatting. Start with "==", add the heading title, then end with "==".
Capitalize the first letter only of the first word and of any proper nouns in a heading, and leave all of the other letters in lowercase.
Avoid links within headings. Instead repeat the word or phrase in the first sentence and wikify there.
Avoid overuse of sub-headings.
Avoid "The" in headings; use "Anti-depressant" instead of "The Anti-depressant".
Avoid repeating the article title in headings; use "SSRI's" instead of "Anti-depressants- SSRI's" in an article titled "Anti-depressants".
If at all possible, avoid changing spelling of section titles, as other articles may link to a specific section.
American English and Commonwealth English sometimes differ in their inclination to use capitals. If possible, as with spelling, use rules appropriate to the cultural and linguistic context. In other words, do not enforce American rules on pages about Commonwealth topics or Commonwealth rules on pages about American topics. In regard to pages about other cultures, choose either style, but be consistent within the page itself.
Initial capitals and all capitals should not be used for emphasis. For example, "Freud, who was Not German" and "Freud, who WAS NOT GERMAN" are both incorrect. Use italics instead ("Freud, who was not German").
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 generically, they should be in lower case: "De Gaulle was the French president." The correct formal name of an office is treated as a proper noun. Hence: "Hirohito was Emperor of Japan". Similarly "Louis XVI was the French king" but "Louis XVI was King of France", King of France being a title in that context. Likewise, capitalize royal titles: "Her Majesty" or "His Highness". (Reference: The Chicago Manual of Style 14th ed., par. 7.16; The Guardian Manual of Style, "Titles" keyword.) Exceptions may apply for specific offices.
In the case of "prime minister", either both words begin with a capital letter or neither, except, obviously, when it starts a sentence. Again, when using it generically, do not use a capital letter: "There are many prime ministers around the world." When making reference to a specific office, generally use upper case: "The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said today…" (A good rule of thumb is whether the sentence uses a definite article (the) or an indefinite article (a). If the sentense uses the, use "Prime Minister". If the sentence uses a, go with "prime minister". However to complicate matters, some style manuals, while saying "The British Prime Minister", recommend "British prime minister".)
Religions, deities, philosophies, doctrines and their adherents
Names of religions, whether as a noun or an adjective, and their followers start with a capital letter.
Deities begin with a capital letter: God, Allah, Freya, the Lord, the Supreme Being, the Messiah. The same is true when referring to important religious figures, such as Muhammad, by terms such as the Prophet. Transcendent ideas in the Platonic sense also begin with a capital letter: Good and Truth. Pronouns referring to deities, or nouns (other than names) referring to any material or abstract representation of any deity, human or otherwise, do not begin with a capital letter.
Do not capitalize mythical creatures, such as elves, fairies, nymphs or genies. The exception is some works of fantasy, such as those of J.R.R. Tolkien, where the viewer considers the mythical creatures an ethnicity and thus written with an initial capital.
Philosophies, doctrines, and systems of economic thought do not begin with a capital letter, unless the name derives 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).
The names of months, days, and holidays always begin with a capital letter: June, Monday, Fourth of July.
Seasons start with a capital letter when they go with another noun or when they personify. Here they function as proper nouns: "Winter Solstice"; "Autumn Open House"; "I think Spring is showing her colors"; "Old Man Winter".
However, in the general sense, they do not start with a capital letter: "This summer was very hot."
Editors have hotly debated whether the common names of species should start with a capital letter, and this remains unresolved. As a matter of truce both styles are acceptable (except for proper names), but create a redirect from the alternative form.
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".
The words sun, earth, and moon are proper nouns when the sentence uses them in an astronomical context, 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 only proper nouns when referring to a specific spectral body (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 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.
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.
If you are not sure whether a region has attained proper-noun status, assume it has not.
There is normally no need to put quotations in italics unless the material would otherwise call for italics (emphasis, use of non-English words, etc.). Indicate whether using the italics in the original text or whether they were added later. For example:
Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince: And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!
In most cases, simply follow the usual rules of English punctuation. A few points where Wikipedia may differ from usual usage follow.
With wikipedia:quotation marks, we split the difference between American and British usage. Though not a rigid rule, we use the "double quotes" for most quotations—they are easier to read on the screen—and use 'single quotes' for nesting quotations, that is, "quotations 'within' quotations".
Note: if a word or phrase appears in an article with single quotes, such as 'abcd', the Wikipedia:Searching facility considers the single quotes to be part of the word and will find that word or phrase only if the search string is also within single quotes. (When trying this out with the example mentioned, remember that this article is in the Wikipedia namespace.) Avoiding this complication is an additional reason to use double quotes, for which the difficulty does not arise. It may even be a reason to use double quotes for quotations within quotations.
When punctuating quoted passages include the mark of punctuation inside the quotation marks only if the sense of the mark of punctuation is part of the quotation. This is the style used in Australia, New Zealand, and Britain, for example. (A fuller treatment of the recommendations given here can be found in wikipedia:Fowler's Modern English Usage and other style guides for these countries, some of which vary in fine details.) "Stop!", for example, has the punctuation inside the quotation marks because the word "stop" has emphasis. When using "wikipedia:scare quotes", however, the comma goes outside.
Arthur said the situation was "deplorable". (The wikipedia:full stop (period) is not part of the quotation.)
Arthur said, "The situation is deplorable." (The full sentence is quoted; the period is part of the quotation.)
Arthur said that the situation "was the most deplorable he had seen in years." (Although the full sentence is not quoted, the sense of finality conveyed by the period is part of the quotation.)
Longer quotations may be better rendered in an indented style by starting the first line with a colon or by using <blockquote> </blockquote> notation, which indents both left and right margins. Indented quotations do not need to be marked by quotation marks. Double quotation marks belong at the beginning of each paragraph in a quotation of multiple paragraphs not using indented style, though at the end of only the last paragraph.
Use quotation marks or indentations to distinguish quotations from other text. There is normally no need to put quotations in italics unless the material would otherwise call for italics (emphasis, use of non-English words, etc.).
Look of quotation marks and apostrophes
There are two options when considering the look of the quotation marks themselves:
As there is currently no consensus on which should be preferred, either is acceptable. However, it appears that historically the majority of Wikipedia articles, and those on the internet as a whole, follow the latter style. If curved quotation marks or apostrophes appear in article titles, ensure that there is a redirect with straight glyphs.
Never use grave and acute accents or backticks (` ´) as quotation marks.
Use of punctuation in presence of brackets/parentheses
Punctuation goes where it belongs logically; that is, it goes with the text to which it belongs. A sentence wholly inside brackets will have its punctuation inside the brackets. (As shown here, this applies to all punctuation in the sentence.) If a sentence ends with a clause in brackets, the final punctuation stays outside the brackets (as shown here). This applies to square "[ ]" as well as round "( )" brackets (parentheses).
The wikipedia: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." In such cases, there are three options for avoiding ambiguity:
A serial comma can be used 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 of the final serial comma does not affect ambiguity of the sentence (as in most cases), there is no Wikipedia consensus on whether it should be used.
Proponents of the serial comma, such as The Elements of Style, cite its disambiguating function and consistency as reasons for its use. Opponents consider it extraneous in situations where it is not explicitly resolving ambiguity. Most non-journalistic style guides recommend its use while most newspaper style guides discourage its use; Wikipedia currently has no consensus.
Do not assume that your reader is familiar with the acronym or abbreviation that you are using. The standard writing style is to spell out the acronym or abbreviation on the first reference (wikilinked if appropriate) and then show the acronym or abbreviation after it. This signals to readers to look out for it later in the text, and makes it easy for them to refer back to it, for example:
It can also be helpful in a longer article to spell out the acronym or abbreviation for the reader
again or to rewikify it if it has not been used for a while.
When abbreviating United States, please use "U.S."; that is the more common style in that country. When referring to the United States in a long abbreviation (USA, USN, USAF), periods should not be used. When including the United States in a list of countries, do not abbreviate the United States (for example, "France and the United States", not "France and the U.S.").
Any line that starts with a blank space becomes a fixed font width and can be used for simple tabulation.
foo bar baz
alpha beta gamma
A line that starts with a blank space with nothing else on it forms a blank line.
Usage and spelling
Possessives of singular nouns ending in s may be formed with or without an additional s. Either form is generally acceptable within Wikipedia. However, if either form is much more common for a particular word or phrase, follow that form, such as with "Achilles' heel".
Abbreviations of Latin terms like "i.e.", "e.g.", or "n.b." should be avoided and English terms such as "that is", "for example", or "note" used instead.
If a word or phrase is generally regarded as correct, then prefer it to any other word or phrase that might be regarded as incorrect. For example, "other meaning" should be used instead of "alternate meaning", since alternate only means "alternating" in British English (and also according to the American Heritage Dictionary).
Use an unambiguous word or phrase in preference to an ambiguous one. For example, "other meaning" should be used instead of "alternative meaning", since alternative commonly suggests "non-traditional" or "out-of-the-mainstream" to an American-English speaker.
Avoid self-referential pronouns
Wikipedia articles cannot be based on one person's opinions or experiences. Thus, "I" can never be used, except, of course, when it appears in a quotation. For similar reasons, avoid the use of "we" and "one", as in: "We/One should note that some critics have argued in favor of the proposal", as it sounds more personal than encyclopedic.
Nevertheless, it might sometimes be appropriate to use "we" or "one" when referring to an experience that anyone, 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", and it is certainly better than using the passive voice: "When the eyes are opened, something is seen".
It is also acceptable to use "we" in mathematical derivations; for example: "To normalise the wavefunction we need to find the value of the arbitrary constant A…"
Avoid the second person
Use of the second person ("you") is generally discouraged. This is to keep an encyclopedic tone, and also to help clarify the sentence. Instead, refer to the subject of the sentence, for example:
"When a player moves past "go," that player collects $200."
Or, even better: "Players passing 'go' collect $200."
Not: "When you move past "go," you collect $200."
This does not apply to quoted text, which should be quoted exactly.
Cultural clashes over grammar, spelling, and capitalisation/capitalization are a common experience on Wikipedia. Remember that millions of people may have been taught to use a different form of English from yours, including different spellings, grammatical constructions, and punctuation. For the English Wikipedia, while a nationally predominant form should be used, there is no preference among the major national varieties of English. However, there is certain etiquette generally accepted on Wikipedia:
Proper names should retain their original spellings, for example, United States Department of Defense and Australian Defence Force.
Each article should have uniform spelling and not a haphazard mix of different spellings, which can be jarring to the reader. For example, do not use center in one place and centre in another in the same article (except in quotations or for comparison purposes).
Articles that focus on a topic specific to a particular English-speaking country should generally conform to the spelling of that country. For example:
If the spelling appears in an article name, you should make a redirect page to accommodate the other variant, as with Artefact and Artifact, or if possible and reasonable, a neutral word might be chosen as with Glasses.
Words with multiple spellings: In choosing words or expressions, there may be value in selecting one that does not have multiple spellings, if there are synonyms that are otherwise equally suitable. In extreme cases of conflicting names, a contrived substitute (such as fixed-wing aircraft) is acceptable.
If an article is predominantly written in one type of English, aim to conform to that type rather than provoking conflict by changing to another. (Sometimes, this can happen quite innocently, so please do not be too quick to make accusations!)
If all else fails, consider following the spelling style preferred by the first major contributor (that is, not a stub) to the article.
Finally, in the event of conflicts on this issue, please remember that if the use of your preferred version of English seems like a matter of great national pride to you, the differences are actually relatively minor, when you consider the many users who are not native English speakers at all and yet make a significant contribution to the English language Wikipedia or how small the differences between national varieties is compared with other languages. There are many more productive and enjoyable ways to participate than worrying and fighting about which version of English to use on any particular page.
Articles with a single picture are encouraged to have that picture at the top of the article, right-aligned, but this is not a hard and fast rule. Portraits with the head looking to the right should be left-aligned (looking into the article).
The current image markup language is more or less this:
Photos and other graphics should have captions unless they are "self-captioning" as in reproductions of album or book covers, or when the graphic is an unambiguous depiction of the subject of the article. For example, in a biography article, a caption is not needed for a portrait of the subject, pictured alone, however most entries use the name of the subject and the birth and death years and an approximation of the date when the image was taken: "John Smith (1812–1895) circa 1880" or "John Smith (1812–1895) on January 12, 1880 in Paris". If the caption is a single sentence or a sentence fragment, it does not get a period at the end. If the caption contains more than one sentence, then each sentence should get a period at the end. Caption should not be italicized unless they are book titles or related material. The caption always starts with a capital letter. Remember the full information concerning the image is contained in the image entry, so people looking for more information can click on the photo to see the full details.
The following are rules for using lists of bulleted items:
When using complete sentences always use punctuation and a period at the end.
Incomplete sentences don't need terminal punctuation.
Do not mix sentence styles; use all complete sentences, or use all sentence fragments.
Each entry begins with a capital letter, even if it is a sentence fragment.
This is perhaps one area where Wikipedians' flexibility and plurality are an asset, and where one would not wish all pages to look exactly alike. Wikipedia's neutral point of view and no original research policies always take precedence. However, here are some non-binding guidelines that may help:
Where known, use terminology that subjects use for themselves (self identification). This can mean calling an individual the term they use, or calling a group the term most widely used by that group. This includes referring to transgender individuals according to the name and pronoun they use to identify themselves.
Use specific terminology: People from Ethiopia (a country in Africa) should be described as Ethiopian, not African.
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 converse in Arabic, but nearly all are familiar with Arabic numerals.
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.
Not every year listed in an article needs to be wikilinked. Ask yourself: will clicking on the year bring any useful information to the reader?
Do, however, wikilink years, using the [[As of XXXX]] form, when they refer to information that was current at the time of writing; this allows other editors to ensure that articles are kept up to date as time passes. Dates including a month and day should also be linked, in order for user preferences on date formatting to work properly.
Even simpler is to look at an article that you like and open it for editing to see how the writers and editors have put it together. You can then close the window without saving changes if you like, but look around while you are there. Almost every article can be improved.
Keep markup simple
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 such as font size, blank space and color are issues for the Wikipedia 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 i.e. font-size: 80%; not an absolute size, for example, font-size: 4pt.
Using color alone to convey information should not be done, but if necessary, try to choose colors that are unambiguous when viewed by a person with color blindness. In general, this means that red and green should not both be used. Viewing the page with Vischeck (http://www.vischeck.com/vischeck/vischeckURL.php) can help with deciding if the colors should be altered. It is acceptable to use color as an aid, but the information should still be equally accessible without it.
Make comments invisible
Avoid highlighting that the article is incomplete and in need of further work.
Similarly, there is little benefit to the reader in seeing headings and tables without content.
If you want to communicate with other potential editors, make comments invisible to the ordinary article reader. 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:
So the comment can be seen when viewing the HTML or wiki source.
Links to articles outside of Wikipedia appear as internal footnotes and can appear in a list at the bottom of the article. They should not appear as their native URLs, but should be formatted to describe the website and the topic. Not written as: See link for an examination of evidence supporting both sides of the argument [http://www.nellgavin.com/boleyn_links/boleynhandwriting.htm]. But should be written as: [http://www.nellgavin.com/boleyn_links/boleynhandwriting.htm Anne Boleyn handwriting] . When wikified it will appear as: Anne Boleyn handwriting.
Style guide, the Wikipedia entry on "style guides". Contains links to the online style guides of some magazines and newspapers.