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Wikipedia:Manual of Style

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The Manual of Style (MoS or MOS) is the style manual for all Wikipedia articles. This primary page is supported by further detail pages, which are cross-referenced here and listed at Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Contents. If any contradiction arises, this page always has precedence.[1]

The MoS presents Wikipedia's house style, to help editors write articles with consistent and precise language, layout, and formatting, making Wikipedia easier and more intuitive for users. Plain English works best. Avoid ambiguity, jargon, and vague or unnecessarily complex wording.

Style and formatting should be consistent within an article. Where more than one style is acceptable under MoS, editors should not change an article from one of those styles to another without a good reason. Edit warring over optional styles is unacceptable.[2] If a style or similar debate becomes intractable, see if a rewrite can make the issue moot.

Any new content added to the body of this page should directly address a style issue that has recurred in a significant number of instances. Discuss style issues on the MoS talk page.


Article titles, headings, and sections

Article titles

A title should be a recognizable name or description of the topic that is natural, sufficiently precise, concise, and consistent with those of related articles. If these criteria are in conflict, they should be balanced against one another.

For formatting guidance see the WP:Article titles § Article title format section, noting the following:

  • Capitalize the initial letter (except in rare cases, such as eBay), but otherwise follow sentence case[a] (Funding of UNESCO projects) not title case (Funding of UNESCO Projects), except where title case would be expected were the title to occur in ordinary prose. See Wikipedia:Naming conventions (capitalization).
  • To italicize, add {{italic title}} near the top of the article. For mixed situations, use e.g. {{DISPLAYTITLE:​Interpretations of ''2001: A Space Odyssey''}} instead. Use of italics should conform to WP:Manual of Style/Text formatting § Italic type.
  • Do not use A, An, or The as the first word (Economy of the Second Empire, not The economy of the Second Empire), unless it is an inseparable part of a name (The Hague) or title of a work (A Clockwork Orange, The Simpsons).
  • Normally use nouns or noun phrases: Early life, not In early life.[b]
  • The final character should not be punctuation unless it is part of a name (Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), an abbreviation (Inverness City F.C.), or when a closing round bracket or quotation mark is required (John Palmer (1814 schooner)).
  • Whenever quotation marks or apostrophes appear, add a redirect for the same title but using “curly” quotemarks/apostrophes instead of the usual "straight" ones.[c]

Subject both to the above and to WP:Article titles, the rest of the MoS, particularly § Punctuation, applies also to the title.

See also Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Titles, for cases where a Wikipedia article about a published work has a title that coincides with the work's title.

Section organization

An article should begin with an introductory lead section – a concise summary of the article – which is never divided into sections (see Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Lead section). The remainder of the article is typically divided into sections.

Infoboxes, images, and related content in the lead section must be right-aligned.

If an article has at least four section headings, a navigable table of contents appears automatically, just after the lead.

If the topic of a section is covered in more detail in a dedicated article (see Wikipedia:Summary style), insert {{main|Article name}} immediately under the section heading.

As explained in detail in WP:Manual of Style/Layout § Standard appendices and footers, optional appendix and footer sections may appear after the body of the article, in the following order:

  • books or other works created by the subject of the article (under a section heading "Works", "Publications", "Discography", etc. as appropriate);
  • internal links to related English Wikipedia articles (section heading "See also");
  • notes and references (section heading "Notes" or "References", or a separate section for each; see Citing sources);
  • relevant books, articles, or other publications that have not been used as sources (section heading "Further reading");
  • relevant websites that have not been used as sources and do not appear in the earlier appendices (added as part of "Further reading" or in a separate section headed "External links");
  • internal links organized into navigational boxes (sometimes placed at the top in the form of sidebars);
  • categories.

Other article elements include disambiguation hatnotes (normally placed at the very top of the article) and infoboxes (usually placed before the lead section).

Section headings

Section headings should follow all of the guidance for article titles (above), and should be presented in sentence case (Funding of UNESCO projects), not title case (Funding of UNESCO Projects).[a]

Use equals signs around a section heading: ==Title== for a primary section, ===Title=== for a subsection, and so on to =====Title=====, with each nesting level having only one more "=" on each side than the prior level so no levels are skipped. (=Title= is never used.[d]) Spaces around the title (e.g. == Title ==) are optional and ignored.

Section headings should:

  • Be unique within a page (otherwise section links may lead to the wrong place, and edit summaries may be ambiguous).
  • Not contain links, especially where only part of a heading is linked.
  • Not contain images or icons.
  • Not contain <math> markup.
  • Not contain citations or footnotes.
  • Not misuse ";" (description list) markup to create pseudo-headings.

These restrictions are necessary to avoid technical complications, and are not subject to override by local consensus or WP:IAR.

In addition, as a matter of consistent style section headings should:

  • Not redundantly refer back to the subject of the article (Early life, not Smith's early life or His early life), or to a higher-level heading, unless doing so is shorter or clearer.
  • Not be numbered or lettered as an outline.
  • Not be phrased as a question.
  • Avoid use of color or unusual fonts that might cause accessibility problems.
  • Do not wrap headings in markup, which may break their display and also cause additional accessibility issues.

These are broadly accepted community preferences.

An invisible comment on the same line must be inside the == == markup:[e]

==Implications<!--This comment works fine-->==

==<!--This comment works fine-->Implications==
==Implications==<!--This comment causes problems-->

<!--This comment breaks the heading completely-->==Implications==

It is more usual practice to put such comments below the heading.

Before changing a heading, consider whether you might be breaking existing links to it. If there are many links to the old title, create an anchor with that title to ensure that these still work. Similarly, when linking to a section, leave an invisible comment at the heading of the target section, naming the linking articles, so that if the heading is later altered these can be fixed. Combined example:

== {{subst:Anchor|Consequences|reason=Old section name.}}Implications ==
<!--Section linked from [[Richard Dawkins]], [[Daniel Dennett]].)-->

which will be saved in the article as:

== <span id="Consequences"></span>Implications ==
<!--Section linked from [[Richard Dawkins]], [[Daniel Dennett]].)-->

Heading-like material

The above guidance about sentence case, redundancy, images, and questions also applies to headers of tables (and of table columns and rows). However, table headings can incorporate citations and may begin with, or be, numbers. Unlike page headings, table headers do not automatically generate link anchors. Aside from sentence case in glossaries, the heading advice also applies to the term entries in description lists. If using template-structured glossaries, terms will automatically have link anchors, but will not otherwise. Citations for description-list content go in the term or definition element, as needed.

Retaining existing styles

Sometimes the MoS provides more than one acceptable style, or gives no specific guidance. The Arbitration Committee has expressed the principle that "When either of two styles are [sic] acceptable it is inappropriate for a Wikipedia editor to change from one style to another unless there is some substantial reason for the change."[3]

Edit-warring over style is never acceptable.[2] If the existing style is problematic, discuss it at the article's talk page or if necessary at the MoS talk page. Optional styles should not be "enforced" in a bot-like fashion without prior consensus – doing so will likely be seen as disruptive.[4]

National varieties of English

The English Wikipedia prefers no national variety of the language over any other. These varieties (for example American English or British English) differ in vocabulary (elevator vs. lift), spelling (center vs. centre), date formatting ("April 13, 2018" vs. "13 April 2018"), and occasionally grammar (see § Plurals, below). (Punctuation is covered in § Punctuation, below). Articles such as English plurals and Comparison of American and British English provide information about such differences.

Opportunities for commonality

For an international encyclopaedia, using vocabulary common to all varieties of English is preferable.

  • Use universally accepted terms rather than those less widely distributed, especially in titles. For example, glasses is preferred to the national varieties spectacles (British English) and eyeglasses (American English); ten million is preferable to one crore (Indian English).
  • If one variant spelling appears in a title, make a redirect page to accommodate the others, as with artefact and artifact, so that all variants can be used in searches and linking.
  • Terms that differ between varieties of English, or that have divergent meanings, may be glossed to prevent confusion, for example, the trunk (American English) or boot (British English) of a car ....
  • Use a commonly understood word or phrase in preference to one that has a different meaning because of national differences (rather than alternate, use alternative or alternating, as appropriate).
  • When more than one variant spelling exists within a national variety of English, the most commonly used current variant should usually be preferred, except where the less common spelling has a specific usage in a specialized context e.g. connexion in Methodist connexionalism.

Consistency within articles

Within a given article the conventions of one particular variety should be followed consistently. Exceptions include:

  • quotations, titles of works (books, films, etc.) should be as given in the source (but see § Typographic conformity, below);
  • proper names use the subject's own spelling, e.g. joint project of the United States Department of Defense and the Australian Defence Force; International Labour Organization;
  • For articles about chemistry-related topics, the international standard spellings aluminium, sulfur, caesium (and derivative terms) should be used, regardless of the national English variant employed in the article generally. See WP:Naming conventions (chemistry)#Element names.

Strong national ties to a topic

An article on a topic that has strong ties to a particular English-speaking nation should use the (formal, not colloquial) English of that nation. For example:

For topics with strong ties to Commonwealth of Nations countries and other former British territory, use Commonwealth English orthography, largely indistinguishable from British English in encyclopedic writing (excepting Canada, which uses a different orthography).

Retaining the existing variety

When an English variety's consistent usage has been established in an article, maintain it in the absence of consensus to the contrary. With few exceptions (e.g., when a topic has strong national ties or a term/spelling carries less ambiguity), there is no valid reason for such a change.

When no English variety has been established and discussion does not resolve the issue, use the variety found in the first post-stub revision that introduced an identifiable variety. The established variety in a given article can be documented by placing the appropriate Varieties of English template on its talk page.

An article should not be edited or renamed simply to switch from one variety of English to another. The {{subst:uw-lang}} template may be placed on an editor's talk page to explain this.

Capital letters

Wikipedia article titles and section headings use sentence case, not title case; see WP:Article titles and § Section headings. For capitalization of list items, see § Bulleted and numbered lists. Other points concerning capitalization are summarized below; full information can be found at WP:Manual of Style/Capital letters.

Capitalization of "The"

Generally, do not capitalize the word the in mid-sentence: throughout the United Kingdom, not throughout The United Kingdom. Conventional exceptions include certain proper names (he visited The Hague) and most titles of creative works (Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings—but be aware that the may not be part of the title itself e.g. Homer composed the Odyssey).

For the in band names, see WP:Manual of Style/Music § Names (definite article).

Titles of works

The English-language titles of compositions (books and other print works, songs and other audio works, films and other visual media works, paintings and other artworks, etc.) are given in title case, in which every word is given an initial capital except for certain less important words (as detailed at WP:Manual of Style/Capital letters § Composition titles). The first and last words in an English-language title are always capitalized.

  • Correct: An Eye for an Eye
  • Correct: Worth the Fighting For

Capitalization in foreign-language titles varies, even over time within the same language; generally, retain the style of the original for modern works, and follow the usage in English-language reliable sources for historical works. Many of these items should also be in italics, or enclosed in quotation marks.

  • Correct: "Hymnus an den heiligen Geist"

Titles of people

  • In generic use, apply lower case to words such as president, king, and emperor (De Gaulle was a French president; Louis XVI was a French king; Three prime ministers attended the conference).
  • Directly juxtaposed with the person's name, such words begin with a capital letter (President Obama, not president Obama). Standard or commonly used names of an office are treated as proper names (David Cameron was British Prime Minister; Hirohito was Emperor of Japan; Louis XVI was King of France). Royal styles are capitalized (Her Majesty; His Highness); exceptions may apply for particular offices.
  • For the use of titles and honorifics in biographical articles, see WP:Manual of Style/Biographies § Honorific prefixes.

Religions, deities, philosophies, doctrines

  • Religions, sects, and churches and their followers (in noun or adjective form) start with a capital letter. Generally, "the" is not capitalized before such names (the Shī‘a, not The Shī‘a).
  • Religious texts (scriptures) are capitalized, but often not italicized (the Bhagavad Gita, the Quran, the Talmud, the Granth Sahib, the Bible). Do not capitalize "the" when using it in this way. Some derived adjectives are capitalized by convention, and some are not (biblical, but Quranic); if unsure, check a dictionary.
  • Honorifics for deities, including proper names and titles, start with a capital letter (God, Allah, the Lord, the Supreme Being, the Great Spirit, the Horned One, Bhagavan). Do not capitalize "the" in such cases or when referring to major religious figures or characters from mythology (the Prophet, the Messiah, the Virgin). Common nouns for deities and religious figures are not capitalized (many gods; the god Woden; saints and prophets).
  • Pronouns for figures of veneration or worship are not capitalized, even if capitalized in a religion's scriptures.
  • Broad categories of mythical or legendary beings start with lower-case letters (elf, fairy, nymph, unicorn, angel), although in works of fantasy, such as the novels of J. R. R. Tolkien and some video games, initial capitals are sometimes used to indicate that the beings form a culture or race in a fictional universe. Capitalize the names or titles of individual creatures (the Minotaur, Pegasus) and of groups whose name and membership are fixed (the Magi, or the Three Wise Men, the Nephilim). Generalized references are not capitalized (these priests; several wise men; cherub-like).
  • Spiritual or religious events are capitalized only when referring to specific incidents or periods (the Great Flood and the Exodus; but annual flooding and an exodus of refugees).
  • Philosophies, theories, movements, and doctrines use lower case unless the name derives from a proper name (capitalism versus Marxism) or has become a proper name (republican, a system of political thought; Republican, a political party). Use lower case for doctrinal topics or canonical religious ideas (as opposed to specific events), even if they are capitalized by some religious adherents (virgin birth, original sin, transubstantiation).
  • Platonic or transcendent ideals are capitalized in the context of philosophical doctrine (Truth, the Good); used more broadly, they are in lower case (Superman represents American ideals of truth and justice). Use capitals for personifications represented in art (the guidebook mentioned statues of Justice and Liberty).

Calendar items

  • Months, days of the week, and holidays start with a capital letter (June, Monday; the Fourth of July refers only to the US Independence Day—otherwise July 4 or 4 July).
  • Seasons are in lower case (her last summer; the winter solstice; spring fever), except in personifications or in proper names for periods or events (Old Man Winter; competed on the Spring Circuit).

Animals, plants, and other organisms

When using taxonomic ("scientific") names, capitalize and italicize the genus: Berberis, Erithacus. (Supergenus and subgenus, when applicable, are treated the same way.) Italicize but do not capitalize taxonomic ranks at the level of species and below: Berberis darwinii, Erithacus rubecula superbus, Acacia coriacea subsp. sericophylla; no exception is made for proper names forming part of scientific names. Higher taxa (order, family, etc.) are capitalized in Latin (Carnivora, Felidae) but not in their English equivalents (carnivorans, felids); they are not italicized in either form, except for viruses, where all names accepted by the ICTV are italicized (Retroviridae).

Cultivar and cultivar group names of plants are not italicized, and are capitalized (including the word "Group" in the name); cultivar names appear within single quotes (Malus domestica 'Red Delicious'), while cultivar groups do not (Cynara cardunculus Scolymus Group).

English vernacular ("common") names are given in lower case in article prose (plains zebra, mountain maple, and southwestern red-tailed hawk) and in sentence case at the start of sentences and in other places where the first letter of the first word is capitalized.[a] They are additionally capitalized where they contain proper names: Przewalski's horse, California condor, and fair-maid-of-France. This applies to species and subspecies, as in the previous examples, as well as to general names for groups or types of organism: bird of prey, oak, great apes, Bryde's whales, mountain dog, poodle, Van cat, wolfdog. When the common name coincides with a scientific taxon, do not capitalize or italicize, except where addressing the organism taxonomically: A lynx is any of the four species within the Lynx genus of medium-sized wild cats. Non-English vernacular names, when relevant to include, are handled like any other foreign-language terms: italicized as such, and capitalized only if the rules of the native language require it. Non-English names that have become English-assimilated are treated as English (ayahuasca, okapi).

Standardized breeds should generally retain their capitalization wherever possible.[a] This means German Shepherd dog is the correct way to mention the breed, and not German shepherd dog. This applies whether or not the included noun is a proper noun, in contrast to how vernacular names are titled; making Golden Retriever is the correct way to name the breed, with both the words Golden and Retriever capitalized.[f]

Create redirects from alternative capitalization and spelling forms of article titles, and from alternative names, e.g., Adélie Penguin, Adelie penguin, Adelie Penguin and Pygoscelis adeliae should all redirect to Adélie penguin.

Celestial bodies

  • The words sun, earth, and moon do not take capitals in general use (The sun was over the mountain top; The tribal people thought of the whole earth as their home). They are capitalized when the entity is personified (Sol Invictus ("Unconquered Sun") was the Roman sun god) or when used as the name of a specific body in a scientific or astronomical context (The Moon orbits the Earth; but Io is a moon of Jupiter).
  • Names of planets, moons, asteroids, comets, stars, constellations, and galaxies are proper names, and therefore capitalized (The planet Mars is in the constellation Gemini, near the star Pollux) The first letter of every word in such a name is capitalized (Alpha Centauri and not Alpha centauri; Milky Way, not Milky way). Words such as comet and galaxy should be capitalized where they form part of a proper name, but not when they are used as a generic description (Halley's Comet is the most famous of the comets; The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy).

Compass points

Do not capitalize directions such as north, nor their related forms (We took the northern road), except where they are parts of proper names (Great North Road, Great Western Drive, South Pole).

Capitalize names of regions if they have attained proper-name status, including informal conventional names (Southern California; the Western Desert), and derived terms for people (e.g., a Southerner as someone from the Southern United States). Do not capitalize descriptive names for regions that have not attained the status of proper names, such as southern Poland.

Composite directions may or may not be hyphenated, depending on the variety of English adopted in the article. Southeast Asia and northwest are more common in American English; but South-East Asia and north-west in British English. In cases such as north–south dialogue and east–west orientation, use an en dash; see § En dashes: other uses.

Proper names versus generic terms

Capitalize names of particular institutions (the founding of the University of Delhi;  the history of Stanford University) but not generic words for institutions (the high school is near the university). Do not capitalize the at the start of an institution's name, regardless of the institution's preferred style.

Treat political or geographic units similarly: The city has a population of 55,000;  The two towns merged to become the City of Smithville. Do not mimic the style of local newspapers which refer to their municipality as "the City" or "The City"; an exception is the City of London, referred to as the City.


Ligatures should be used in languages in which they are standard (hence Moreau's last words were clin d'œil is preferable to Moreau's last words were clin d'oeil) but not in English (encyclopedia or encyclopaedia, not encyclopædia), except in proper names (Æthelstan not Aethelstan).


Abbreviations are shortened forms of words or phrases. In strict analysis, they are distinct from contractions, which use an apostrophe (e.g., won't, see § Contractions), and initialisms. An initialism is formed from some or all of the initial letters of words in a phrase. Below, references to abbreviations should be taken to include acronyms, and the term acronym to apply also to initialisms.

Write out both the full version and the abbreviation at first occurrence

When an abbreviation is first used, give the expression in full followed by the abbreviation inside round brackets. Thereafter the abbreviation can be used alone:

The New Democratic Party (NDP) won the 1990 election  ... The NDP quickly became unpopular.

If the full version is already in parentheses, use a comma and or to indicate the abbreviation:

They debated the issue in 1992 (at a convention of the New Democratic Party, or NDP)

An exception is made for very common abbreviations; in most articles they require no expansion: (PhD, DNA, USSR).

Do not apply title case in the full version solely because capitals are used in the abbreviation:

Correct (not a proper name): We used digital scanning (DS) technology
Incorrect: We used Digital Scanning (DS) technology
Correct (a proper name): The film was produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

Plural and possessive forms

Like other nouns, acronyms are pluralized by adding -s or -es: three CD-ROMs;  three BIOSes were released. As always, do not use an apostrophe to form a plural: One DVD's menu was wrong, and five CD-ROMs' titles were misspelled, not He bought two DVD's.

Full stops and spaces

Abbreviations may or may not be closed with a full stop or point (period – .). A consistent style should be maintained within an article. North American usage is typically to end all abbreviations with a period (Dr. Smith of 42 Drummond St.), but in common British and Australian usage, no stop is used if the abbreviation (contraction) ends in the last letter of the unabbreviated form, except where confusion could result (Dr Smith of 42 Drummond St). This is also common practice in scientific writing. Regardless of punctuation, words that are abbreviated to more than one letter are spaced (op. cit. not op.cit. or opcit). There are some exceptions: PhD (see above) for "Philosophiae Doctor"; BVetMed for "Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine".

US and U.S.

While in principle, either US or U.S. may be used (with internal consistency) to abbreviate "United States" in any given article, the use or non-use of periods (full stops) should also be consistent with other country abbreviations in the same article (thus the US, UK, and USSR, not the U.S., UK, and USSR). In longer abbreviations (three letters or more) that incorporate the country's initials (USN, USAID), do not use periods. When the United States is mentioned with one or more other countries in the same sentence, U.S. or US may be too informal, especially at the first mention or as a noun instead of an adjective (France and the United States, not France and the U.S.). Do not use the spaced U. S. or the archaic U.S. of A., except when quoting; and do not use U.S.A. or USA except in a quotation, as part of a proper name (Team USA), or in certain technical or formal uses (e.g., the ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 codes and FIFA country codes).


To indicate approximately, the abbreviation c. (followed by a space and not italicized) is preferred over circa, ca., or approx. The template {{circa}} may be used.

Do not use unwarranted abbreviations

Avoid abbreviations when they might confuse the reader, interrupt the flow, or appear informal. For example, do not use approx. for approximate or approximately, except in a technical passage where the term occurs many times or in an infobox or a data table to reduce width.

Do not invent abbreviations or acronyms

Generally avoid devising new abbreviations, especially acronyms (World Union of Billiards is good as a translation of Union Mondiale de Billard, but neither it nor the reduction WUB is used by the organization or by independent sources; use the original name and its official abbreviation, UMB).

If it is necessary to abbreviate in a tight space, such as a column header in a table, use widely recognized abbreviations. For example, for New Zealand gross national product, use NZ and GNP, with a link if the term has not already been written out in the article: NZ GNP. Do not make up initialisms such as NZGNP.

HTML tags and templates for abbreviations

Either the <abbr> element or the {{abbr}} template can be used for abbreviations and acronyms: <abbr title="World Health Organization">WHO</abbr> or {{abbr|WHO|World Health Organization}} will generate WHO; hovering over the rendered text causes a tooltip of the long form to pop up.


In normal text and headings, use and instead of the ampersand (&): January 1 and 2, not January 1 & 2. But retain an ampersand when it is a legitimate part of a proper noun, such as in Up & Down or AT&T. Elsewhere, ampersands may be used with consistency and discretion where space is extremely limited (e.g. tables and infoboxes). Quotations (see also MOS:QUOTE) may be cautiously modified, especially for consistency where different editions are quoted, as modern editions of old texts routinely replace ampersands with and (just as they replace other disused glyphs, ligatures, and abbreviations).



Italics are used for emphasis, rather than boldface or capitals. But overuse diminishes its effect; consider rewriting instead.

Use <em>...</em> or {{em|...}} for emphasis. This allows user style sheets to handle emphasis in a customized way, and helps reusers and translators.[5]

  • Correct: The vaccine is <em>not</em> a cure.
  • Correct: The vaccine is {{em|not}} a cure.


Use italics for the titles of works (such as books, films, television series, named exhibitions, computer games, music albums, and paintings). The titles of articles, chapters, songs, episodes, research papers and other short works instead take double quotation marks. Italics are not used for major religious works (the Bible, the Quran, the Talmud). Many of these titles should also be in title case.

Words as words

Use italics when mentioning a word or character (see Use–mention distinction) or a string of words up to one sentence (the term panning is derived from panorama; the most common letter in English is e). When a whole sentence is mentioned, double quotation marks may be used instead, with consistency (The preposition in She sat on the chair is on; or The preposition in "She sat on the chair" is "on"). Quotation marks may also be used for shorter material to avoid confusion, such as when italics are already being heavily used in the page for some other purpose (e.g. many non-English words and phrases). Mentioning (to discuss grammar, wording, punctuation, etc.) is different from quoting (in which something is usually expressed on behalf of a quoted source). Quotation is done with quotation marks, never italics, nor both at once (see § Quotations for details).

A closely related use of italics is when introducing or distinguishing terms: The natural numbers are the integers greater than 0.

Foreign words

Use italics for phrases in other languages and for isolated foreign words that are not common in everyday English. However, proper names (such as place names) in other languages are not usually italicized, nor are terms in non-Latin scripts.

Scientific names

Use italics for the scientific names of plants, animals, and all other organisms except viruses at the genus level and below (italicize Panthera leo and Retroviridae, but not Felidae). The hybrid sign is not italicized (Rosa × damascena), nor is the "connecting term" required in three-part botanical names (Rosa gallica subsp. officinalis).

Quotations in italics

Don't use italics for quotations. Instead, use quotation marks for short quotations and block quoting for long ones.

Italics within quotations

Use italics within quotations to reproduce emphasis that exists in the source material. If it is not clear that the source already included italics (or some other styling) for emphasis, add the editorial note [emphasis in original] after the quotation.

If adding emphasis that was not in the original, add the editorial note [emphasis added] after the quotation.

  • "Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince: And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." [emphasis added]

Effect on nearby punctuation

Italicize only the elements of the sentence affected by the emphasis. Do not italicize surrounding punctuation.

  • Incorrect: What are we to make of that? (The question mark applies to the whole sentence, not just to the emphasized that, so should not be italicized.)
  • Correct: What are we to make of 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, the period, and the word and are not italicized.)

Italicized links

For a link to function, any italics markup must be either completely outside the link markup, or in the link's "piped" portion.

  • Incorrect: He died with [[''Turandot'']] still unfinished.
  • Correct: He died with ''[[Turandot]]'' still unfinished.
  • Incorrect: The [[USS ''Adder'' (SS-3)]] was a submarine.
  • Correct: The [[USS Adder (SS-3)|USS ''Adder'' (SS-3)]] was a submarine.

Controlling line breaks

It is sometimes desirable to force a text segment to appear entirely on a single line‍—‌that is, to prevent a line break (line wrap) from occurring anywhere within it.

  • A non-breaking space (or hard space) will never be used as a line-break point. Markup: for 19 kg, code 19&nbsp;kg or 19{{nbsp}}kg.
  • Or use {{nowrap}}, {{nobreak}}, or {{nobr}} (all equivalent). Markup: for 5° 24′ N code {{nobr|5° 24′ N}}

It is desirable to prevent line breaks where breaking across lines might be confusing or awkward. For example:

  • 17{{nbsp}}kg
  • AD{{nbsp}}565
  • 2:50{{nbsp}}pm
  • £11{{nbsp}}billion
  • May{{nbsp}}2014
  • {{nobr|5° 24′ 21″ N}}
  • Boeing{{nbsp}}747
  • 123{{nbsp}}Elm Street
  • World War{{nbsp}}II
  • Pope Paul{{nbsp}}VI

Whether a non-breaking space is appropriate depends on context: whereas it is appropriate to use 12{{nbsp}}MB in prose, it may be counterproductive in a table (where horizontal space is precious) and unnecessary in a short parameter value in an infobox (where a break would never occur anyway).

A line break may occur at a thin space (&thinsp;, or {{thinsp}}), which is sometimes used to correct too-close placement of adjacent characters. To prevent this, consider using {{nobr}}.

Insert non-breaking and thin spaces symbolically ({{nbsp}}, {{thinsp}}, &nbsp; or &thinsp;), never by entering them directly into the edit window from the keyboard – they are visually indistinguishable from regular spaces, and later editors will be unable to see what they are. Inside wikilinks, a construction such as [[World War&nbsp;II]] works as expected, but [[World War{{nbsp}}II]] will not work.

Adjacent quotation marks: The templates {{' "}} and {{" '}} will add a sliver of visual space between adjacent quotation marks/apostrophes for better readability.[g] Markup: He announced, "The answer was 'Yes!{{' "}} or {{" '}}Yes!' was the answer."


Brief quotations of copyrighted text may be used to illustrate a point, establish context, or attribute a point of view or idea. While quotations are an indispensable part of Wikipedia, try not to overuse them. Using too many quotes is incompatible with an encyclopedic writing style and may be a copyright infringement. It is generally recommended that content be written in Wikipedia editors' own words. Consider paraphrasing quotations into plain and concise text when appropriate (while being aware that close paraphrasing can still violate copyright).

Original wording

Quotations must be verifiably attributed, and the wording of the quoted text should be faithfully reproduced. This is referred to as the principle of minimal change. Where there is good reason to change the wording, enclose changes within square brackets (for example replacing pronouns with nouns that aren't identified in the quote: "Ocyrhoe told [her father] his fate" instead of "Ocyrhoe told him his fate"). If there is a significant error in the original statement, use [''[[sic]]''] or the template {{sic}} (produces a note like [sic] ) to show that the error was not made by Wikipedia. However, trivial spelling and typographic errors should simply be corrected without comment (for example, correct basicly to basically and harasssment to harassment), unless the slip is contextually important.

Use ellipses to indicate omissions from quoted text. Legitimate omissions include extraneous, irrelevant, or parenthetical words, and unintelligible speech (umm, and hmm). Do not omit text where doing so would remove important context or alter the meaning of the text. When a vulgarity or obscenity is quoted, it should appear exactly as it does in the cited source; Wikipedians should never bowdlerize words by replacing letters with dashes, asterisks, or other symbols, except when faithfully reproducing quoted text that did so. In carrying over such an alteration from a quoted source, [[sic]] or the {{sic}} template may be used to indicate that the transcription is exact.

In direct quotations, retain dialectal and archaic spellings, including capitalization (but not archaic glyphs and ligatures, as detailed below).

Point of view

Quotation should be used, with attribution, to present emotive opinions that cannot be expressed in Wikipedia's own voice, but never to present cultural norms as simply opinional:

  • Acceptable: Siskel and Ebert called the film "unforgettable".
  • Unacceptable: The site is considered "sacred" by the religion's scriptures.

Concise opinions that are not overly emotive can often be reported with attribution instead of direct quotation. Use of quotation marks around simple descriptive terms can often seem to imply something doubtful regarding the material being quoted; sarcasm or weasel words, like "supposedly" or "so-called", might be inferred.

  • Permissible: Siskel and Ebert called the film interesting.
  • Unnecessary and may imply doubt: Siskel and Ebert called the film "interesting".
  • Should be quoted: Siskel and Ebert called the film "interesting but heart-wrenching".

Typographic conformity

A quotation is not a facsimile and, in most cases, it is not a requirement that the original formatting be preserved. Formatting and other purely typographical elements of quoted text should be adapted to English Wikipedia's conventions without comment provided that doing so will not change or obscure meaning or intent of the text; this practice is universal among publishers. These are alterations which make no difference when the text is read aloud, for example:

  • Normalize dashes and hyphens: see § Dashes. Use the style chosen for the article: unspaced em dash or spaced en dash.
  • Convert apostrophes and quotation marks to Wikipedia's style:
  • Replace non-English typographical elements with their English equivalents. For example, replace guillemets ("angle quotation marks" i.e. « ») with straight quotation marks.
  • Remove spaces before punctuation such as periods and colons.
  • Generally preserve bold and italics (see § Italics), but most other styling should be altered. Underlining, spac ing within words, colors, ALL CAPS, small caps, etc. should generally be normalized to plain text. If it clearly indicates emphasis, use italic emphasis ({{em}}) or, in an already-italic passage, boldface (with {{strong}}). For titles of books, articles, poems, and so forth, add italics or quotation marks following the guidance for titles. Italics can also be added to mark up non-English terms (with the {{lang}} template), for an organism's scientific name, and to indicate a words-as-words usage.
  • Expand an abbreviation (not already used in the content before the quotation) as a square-bracketed change, or explain it with the {{abbr}} template.
  • Normalize archaic glyphs and ligatures in English that are unnecessary to the meaning. Examples include æae, œoe, ſs, and þethe. See also § Ampersand.

(See Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Titles § Typographic conformity for special considerations in normalizing the typography of titles of works.)

However, national varieties should not be changed, as these may involve changes in vocabulary. For example, a quotation from a British source should retain British spelling, even in an article that otherwise uses American spelling. (See § Consistency within articles.)

Direct quotation should not be used to preserve the formatting preferred by an external publisher (especially when the material would otherwise be unchanged), as this tends to have the effect of "scare-quoting":

  • Acceptable: The animal is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • Unacceptable: The animal is listed as "Endangered" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Italics can be used to mark a particular usage as a term of art (a case of "words as words"), especially when it is unfamiliar or should not be reworded by a non-expert:

  • Permissible: The animal is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

When quoting a complete sentence, it is usually recommended to keep the first word capitalized. However, if the quoted passage has been integrated into the surrounding sentence (for example, with an introduction such as "X said that"), the original capital letter may be lower-cased.

  • LaVesque's report stated: "The equipment was selected for its low price. This is the primary reason for criticism of the program."
  • LaVesque's report said that "the equipment was selected for its low price."
  • The program was criticized primarily because "the equipment was selected for its low price", according to LaVesque.

It is not normally necessary to explicitly note changes in capitalization. However, for more precision, the altered letter may be put inside square brackets: "The" → "[t]he".

  • The program was criticized primarily because "[t]he equipment was selected for its low price", according to LaVesque.


The reader must be able to determine the source of any quotation, at the very least via a footnote. The source must be named in article text if the quotation is an opinion (see Wikipedia:Neutral point of view § Attributing and specifying biased statements). When attributing a quotation, avoid characterizing it in a biased manner.

Quotations within quotations

For quotations within quotations, use double quote marks outermost and, working inward, alternate single with double quote marks: He said, "That book claims, 'Voltaire said "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."'" For two or more quote marks in immediate succession, use {{" '}}, {{' "}}, or (as in the example just given) {{" ' "}}, which add a small amount of nonbreaking space between the quote marks.


Be conservative when linking within quotations; link only to targets that correspond to the meaning clearly intended by the quote's author. Where possible, link from text outside of the quotation instead – either before it or soon after. (If quoting hypertext, add an editorial note, [link in original] or [link added], as appropriate, to avoid ambiguity as to whether the link was made by the original author.)

Block quotations

Format a long quote (more than about 40 words or a few hundred characters, or consisting of more than one paragraph, regardless of length) as a block quotation, indented on both sides. Block quotations can be enclosed in {{quote}} or <blockquote>...</blockquote>. The template also provides parameters for attribution. Do not enclose block quotations in quotation marks (and especially avoid decorative quotation marks in normal use, such as those provided by the {{cquote}} template). Block quotations using a colored background are also discouraged.

Poetry, lyrics, and other formatted text may be quoted inline if they are short, or presented in a block quotation. If inline, line breaks should be indicated by /, and paragraph or stanza breaks by //. Wikipedia's MediaWiki software does not normally render line breaks or indentation inside a {{quote}} or <blockquote>, but the <poem> extension can be used to preserve them:

{{"'}}Tis some visiter," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door—
              Only this and nothing more."

This gives:

"'Tis some visiter," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door—
              Only this and nothing more."

Alternatively, use {{poemquote}} (analogous to {{quote}}).

Use block-quotation markup only for quotations; § Indentation explains markup for indentation used for other purposes.

Foreign-language quotations

Quotations from foreign-language sources should appear with a translation into English, preferably a modern one. Quotations that are translations should be explicitly distinguished from those that are not. Indicate the original source of a translation (if it is available, and not first published within Wikipedia), and the original language (if that is not clear from the context).

If the original, untranslated text is available, provide a reference for it or include it, as appropriate.

When editors themselves translate foreign text into English, care must always be taken to include the original text, in italics (except for non-Latin-based writing systems), and to use actual and (if at all possible) common English words in the translation. Unless you are certain of your competency to translate something, see Wikipedia:Translation for assistance.



  • Use straight apostrophes ('), not curly apostrophes ().[c]
  • Do not use accent marks or backticks (`) as apostrophes.
  • Where an apostrophe might otherwise be misinterpreted as wiki markup, use the templates {{'}}, {{`}}, and {{'s}}, or use <nowiki> tags, or use &apos;.
  • Characters resembling apostrophes, such as transliterated Arabic ayin ( ʿ ) and alif ( ʾ ), are represented by their correct Unicode characters (U+02BF MODIFIER LETTER LEFT HALF RING and U+02BE MODIFIER LETTER RIGHT HALF RING respectively), despite possible display problems. If this is not feasible, use a straight apostrophe instead.
  • For usage of the possessive apostrophe, see § Possessives.
  • For a thorough treatment of all apostrophe use (possessive, elision, formation of certain plurals, specific foreign-language issues) see the article Apostrophe.

Quotation marks

In the material below, the term quotation includes conventional uses of quotation marks such as for titles of songs, chapters, episodes, and so on. Quotation marks are also used in other contexts, such as in cultivar names.

Quotation characters

  • Use "straight" quotation marks, not curly ones. (For single apostrophe quotes: 'straight', not curly).[c]
  • Do not use accent marks, backticks (`text´), low-high („ “) or guillemet (« ») marks as quotation marks. The symbols and seen in edit window dropdowns are prime and double-prime; these are used to indicate subdivisions of the degree, but not as apostrophes or quote marks.
  • Quotation marks and apostrophes in imported material should be changed if necessary.
Double or single
Enclose most quotations with double quotation marks (Bob said: "Jim ate the apple."). Multiple enclosed quotations should alternate double and single quotation marks: (Bob said: "Did Jim say 'I ate the apple' after he left?").[h] Exceptions:
  • Plant cultivars take single quotation marks (Malus domestica 'Golden Delicious'; see Wikipedia:Naming conventions (flora)).
  • Simple glosses that translate or define unfamiliar terms usually take single quotes (Cossack comes from the Turkic qazaq, 'freebooter').
Article openings
In the bolded text typically appearing at the opening of an article:
  • Any quotation marks that are part of the title should be in bold just like the rest of the title (from "A" Is for Alibi: "A" Is for Alibi is a mystery novel ...).
  • Quotation marks not part of the article title should not be bolded (from Jabberwocky: "Jabberwocky" is a nonsense poem ...; from Buffalo Bill: William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody was an American scout, bison hunter, and showman ...).
Punctuation before quotations
The use of a comma before a quotation embedded within a sentence is optional, if a non-quoted but otherwise identical construction would work grammatically without the comma:
  • The report stated "There was a 45% reduction in transmission rate." (cf. the non-quotation The report stated there was a 45% reduction in transmission rate.)
  • The report stated, "There was a 45% reduction in transmission rate."
The comma-free approach is often used with partial quotations:
  • The report observed "a 45% reduction in transmission rate".
Commas are usually used with interrupted quotations:
  • "Life", Anaïs Nin wrote, "shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
A comma is required when it would be present in the same construction if none of the material were a quotation:
  • In Margaret Mead's view, "we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities" to enrich our culture.
Do not insert a comma if it would confuse or alter the meaning:
  • Caitlyn Jenner expressed concerns about children "who are coming to terms with being true to who they are". (Accurate quote of a statement about some children – specifically those children "who are coming to terms ...")
  • Caitlyn Jenner expressed concerns about children, "who are coming to terms with being true to who they are". (Changes the meaning to imply Jenner was expressing concern about all children, while separately observing that children, in general, "are coming to terms ...")
It is clearer to use a colon to introduce a quotation if it forms a complete sentence, and this should always be done for multi-sentence quotations:
  • The report stated: "There was a 45% reduction in transmission rate."
  • Albert Einstein wrote: "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."
No additional punctuation is necessary for an explicit words-as-words scenario:
  • The message was unintelligible except for the fragments "help soon" and "how much longer before".

Names and titles

Quotation marks should be used for the following names and titles:

  • Articles and chapters (books and periodicals italicized)
  • Sections of musical pieces (pieces italicized)
  • Individual strips from comics and webcomics (comics italicized)
  • Poems (long or epic poems italicized)
  • Songs (albums, song cycles, operas, operettas, and oratorios italicized)
  • Individual episodes of television and radio series and serials (series title italicized)[i]

For example: The song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by the band the Beatles.

Do not use quotation marks or italics for:

  • Ancient writings
  • Concert tours
  • Locations
  • Myths and epics
  • Prayers

Many, but not all, of the above items should also be in title case.

Punctuation inside or outside

On the English Wikipedia, use the "logical quotation" style in all articles, regardless of the variety of English in which they are written. Include terminal punctuation within the quotation marks only if it was present in the original material, and otherwise place it after the closing quotation mark. For the most part, this means treating periods and commas in the same way as question marks: keep them inside the quotation marks if they apply only to the quoted material and outside if they apply to the whole sentence. Examples are given below.

  • Did Darla say, "There I am"? (mark applies to whole sentence)
  • No, she said, "Where am I?" (mark applies to quoted material only)

If the quotation is a single word or a sentence fragment, place the terminal punctuation outside the closing quotation mark. When quoting a full sentence, the end of which coincides with the end of the sentence containing it, place terminal punctuation inside the closing quotation mark.

  • Marlin needed, he said, "to find Nemo".
  • Marlin said: "I need to find Nemo."

If the quoted sentence has been broken up with an editorial insertion, still include the terminal punctuation inside the closing quotation mark.

  • "I need", said Marlin, "to find Nemo."

If the quoted sentence is followed by a clause that should be preceded by a comma, omit the full stop—but other terminal punctuation, such as a question mark or exclamation mark, may be retained. A question should always end with a question mark.

  • Dory said, "Yes, I can read", which gave Marlin an idea.
  • Dory said, "Yes, I can read!", which gave Marlin an idea.

If the quoted sentence is followed by a clause identifying the speaker, use a comma outside the quotation mark instead of a full stop inside it, but retain any other terminal punctuation, such as question marks.

  • "Why are you sleeping?", asked Darla.
  • "Fish are friends, not food", said Bruce.

Do not follow quoted words or fragments with commas inside the quotation marks, except where a longer quotation has been broken up and the comma is part of the full quotation.

  • "Fish are friends," said Bruce, "not food."
  • "Why", asked Darla, "are you sleeping?"

Brackets and parentheses

The rules in this section apply to both round brackets ( ), often called parentheses, and square brackets [ ].

If a sentence contains a bracketed phrase, place the sentence punctuation outside the brackets (as shown here). However, where one or more sentences are wholly inside brackets, place their punctuation inside the brackets. (For examples, see § Sentences and brackets.) There should be no space next to the inner side of a bracket. An opening bracket should usually be preceded by a space. This may not be the case if it is preceded by an opening quotation mark, another opening bracket, or a portion of a word:

  • He rose to address the meeting: "(Ahem) ... Ladies and gentlemen, welcome!"
  • Only the royal characters in the play ([Prince] Hamlet and his family) habitually speak in blank verse.
  • We journeyed on the Inter[continental].
  • Most people are right-handed. (Some people are left-handed, but that does not make right-handed people "better" than left-handed people.)

There should be a space after a closing bracket, except where a punctuation mark follows (though a spaced dash would still be spaced after a closing bracket) and in unusual cases similar to those listed for opening brackets.

If sets of brackets are nested, use different types for adjacent levels of nesting; for two levels, it is customary to have square brackets appear within round brackets. This is often a sign of excessively convoluted expressions; it is often better to recast, linking the thoughts with commas, semicolons, colons, or dashes.

Avoid adjacent sets of brackets. Either put the parenthetic phrases in one set separated by commas, or rewrite the sentence:

Avoid: Nikifor Grigoriev (c. 1885–1919) (also known as Matviy Hryhoriyiv) was a Ukrainian insurgent leader.
Better: Nikifor Grigoriev (c. 1885–1919, also known as Matviy Hryhoriyiv) was a Ukrainian insurgent leader.
Better: 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 within quotations, though this should never alter the intended meaning. 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: X contains Y, and under certain circumstances, X may contain Z as well may be reduced to X contains Y [and sometimes Z]. When an ellipsis (...) is used to indicate that material is removed from a direct quotation, it should not normally be bracketed (see § Ellipses).
  • To make the grammar work: Referring to someone's statement "I hate to do laundry", one could properly write She "hate[s] to do laundry".

Sentences and brackets

  • If any sentence includes material that is enclosed in square or round brackets, it still must end—with a period, a question mark, or an exclamation mark—after those brackets. This principle applies no matter what punctuation is used within the brackets:
    She refused all requests (except for basics such as food, medicine, etc.).
  • However, if the entire sentence is within brackets, the closing punctuation falls within the brackets. (This sentence is an example.) This does not apply to matter that is added (or modified editorially) at the beginning of a sentence[a] for clarity, which is usually in square brackets:
    "[Principal Skinner] already told me that", he objected.
    That is preferable to this, which is potentially unclear:
    "He already told me that", he objected.
    But even here consider an addition rather than a replacement of text:
    "He [Principal Skinner] already told me that", he objected.
  • A sentence that occurs within brackets in the course of another sentence does not generally have its first word capitalized nor end with a period (full stop) just because it starts a sentence:[j]
    She was born in Moravia (it was an imperial state of the Holy Roman Empire then) in 1802.
    It is often clearer to rewrite as a single sentence or to separate the thoughts into separate sentences:
    She was born in Moravia (then an imperial state of the Holy Roman Empire) in 1802.
    She was born in 1802 in Moravia. It was an imperial state of the Holy Roman Empire at that time.

Brackets and linking

Brackets inside of links must be escaped:

He said, "[[John Doe|John &#91;Doe&#93;]] answered."

He said, "John [Doe] answered."

He said, "[[John Doe|John {{bracket|Doe}}]] answered."

He said, "John [Doe] answered."

[ On the first day &#91;etc.&#93;]

On the first day [etc.]

[ On the first day {{bracket|etc.}}]

On the first day [etc.]

The <nowiki> markup can also be used: <nowiki>[Doe]</nowiki> or <nowiki>[etc.]</nowiki>.

If a URL itself contains square brackets, the wiki-text should use the URL-encoded form, rather than ...query=[xxx]yyy. This will avoid truncation of the link after xxx.


Use an ellipsis (plural ellipses) if material is omitted in the course of a quotation, unless square brackets are used to gloss the quotation (see § Brackets and parentheses, and the points below).

  • Wikipedia's style for an ellipsis is three unspaced dots (...); do not use the precomposed ellipsis character () or three dots separated by spaces (. . .)
  • Generally, use a non-breaking space before an ellipsis, and a regular space after it: "Alpha, Bravo,{{nbsp}}... Zulu"
    • But where an ellipsis is immediately followed by any of . ? ! : ; , ) ] } or by a closing quotation mark (single or double), use a non-breaking space before the ellipsis, and no space after it:
      Jones wrote, "These stories amaze me. The facts suffer so frightfully{{nbsp}}..."
      "But what of the other cities? London, Paris{{nbsp}}...?" (Place terminal punctuation after an ellipsis only if it is textually important, as is often the case with exclamation marks and question marks but rarely with periods.)
    • Or, if the ellipsis immediately follows a quotation mark, use no space before the ellipsis, and a non-breaking space after it:
      He continued to pursue Smith ("...{{nbsp}}to the ends of the earth", he had sworn) until his own death.
Pause or suspension of speech
Three dots are occasionally used to represent a pause in or suspense of speech, in which case the punctuation is retained in its original form: Virginia's startled reply was "Could he ...? No, I cannot believe it!". When it indicates an incomplete word, no space is used between the word fragment(s) and the ellipsis: The garbled transmission ended with "We are stranded near San L...o", interpreted as a reference to either San Leandro or San Lorenzo.
With square brackets
An ellipsis does not normally need square brackets around it, because its function is usually obvious. However, square brackets may optionally be used for precision, to make it clear that the ellipsis is not itself quoted; this is usually only necessary if the quoted passage also uses three periods in it to indicate a pause or suspension. The ellipsis should follow exactly the principles given above but with square brackets inserted immediately before and after it (Her long rant continued: "How do I feel? How do you think I ... look, this has gone far enough! [...] I want to go home!").


Commas are the most frequently used punctuation marks and can be the most difficult to use well. Some important points regarding their use follow below and at § Semicolons.

  • Pairs of commas are used to delimit parenthetic material, forming an appositive. Using commas in this way interrupts a sentence less than using round brackets or dashes. When inserting a parenthetical, use two commas, or none at all.[k] For example:
    Correct: John Smith, Janet Cooper's son, is a well-known playwright.
    Correct: Janet Cooper's son John Smith is a well-known playwright. (when Janet has multiple sons)
    Correct: Janet Cooper's son, John Smith, is a well-known playwright. (when Janet has only one son)
    Incorrect: John Smith, Janet Cooper's son is a well-known playwright.
  • Do not be fooled by other punctuation, which can distract from the need for a comma, especially when it collides with a bracket or parenthesis, as in this example:
    Correct: Burke and Wills, fed by locals (on beans, fish, and ngardu), survived for a few months.
    Incorrect: Burke and Wills, fed by locals (on beans, fish, and ngardu) survived for a few months.
  • Modern writing uses fewer commas; there are usually ways to simplify a sentence so that fewer are needed.
    Clear: Schubert's heroes included Mozart, Beethoven, and Joseph and Michael Haydn.
    Awkward: Mozart was, along with the Haydns, both Joseph and Michael, and also Beethoven, one of Schubert's heroes.
  • In geographical references that include multiple levels of subordinate divisions (e.g., city, state/province, country), a comma separates each element and follows the last element unless followed by other punctuation. Dates in month–day–year format require a comma after the day, as well as after the year, unless followed by other punctuation. In both cases, the last element is treated as parenthetical.

    Correct: He set October 1, 2011, as the deadline for Chattanooga, Oklahoma, to meet his demands.
    Incorrect: He set October 1, 2011 as the deadline for Chattanooga, Oklahoma to meet his demands.
  • On Wikipedia, place quotation marks by following § Punctuation inside or outside. This is called "logical quotation" (see also § Punctuation inside or outside quotation marks).
    Correct: She said, "Punctuation styles on Wikipedia change too often", and made other complaints.
    Incorrect: She said, "Punctuation styles on Wikipedia change too often," and made other complaints.
  • A comma may be included before a quotation embedded within a sentence (see § Quotation marks).

Serial commas

A serial comma is a comma used immediately before a conjunction (and, or, nor) in a list of three or more items: the phrase ham, chips, and eggs includes a serial comma, while ham, chips and eggs omits it. Editors may use either convention so long as each article is internally consistent; however, there are cases in which either omitting or including the serial comma results in ambiguity:

The author thanked her friends, Sinéad O'Connor and Bob Marley – which may list either four or more people (the friends and the two people named) or two people (O'Connor and Marley, who are the friends).
The author thanked a friend, Sinéad O'Connor, and Bob Marley – which may list either two people (O'Connor, who is the friend, and Marley) or three people (the first being the friend, the second O'Connor, and the third Marley).

In such cases of ambiguity, clarify one of three ways:

  • Add or remove the serial comma.
  • Use separate sentences, bullet lists, or some other structural change to clarify.
  • Recast the sentence (first example above):
    • To list several people: The author thanked Sinéad O'Connor, Bob Marley, and her friends.
    • To list two people: The author thanked Bob Marley and Sinéad O'Connor, her friends.
      • Clearer: The author thanked two friends – Bob Marley and Sinéad O'Connor.
      • Or for something more specific (the commas here set off non-restrictive appositives): The author thanked her mentor, Bob Marley, and her childhood friend, Sinéad O'Connor.
  • Recast the sentence (second example above):
    • To list two people: The author thanked Bob Marley and her friend, Sinéad O'Connor.
    • To list three people: The author thanked Bob Marley, Sinéad O'Connor, and a friend.
      • Clarity with gender-specific terms like mother can be tricky; The author thanked her mother, Kim Thayil, and Sinéad O'Connor is unclear because readers may not know Kim Thayil is male and couldn't be the same person as the mother.
      • Clearer: The author thanked Kim Thayil, Sinéad O'Connor, and her own mother.


A colon (:) introduces something which demonstrates, explains, or modifies what has come before, or is a list of items that has just been introduced. The items in such a list may be separated by commas; or, if they are more complex and perhaps themselves contain commas, the items should be separated by semicolons:

We visited several tourist attractions: the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which I thought could fall at any moment; the Bridge of Sighs; the supposed birthplace of Petrarch, or at least the first known house in which he lived; and so many more.

A colon may also be used to introduce direct speech enclosed within quotation marks (see § Quotation marks).

In most cases a colon works best with a complete grammatical sentence before it. There are exceptional cases, such as those where the colon introduces items set off in new lines like the very next colon here. Examples:

Correct: He attempted it in two years: 1941 and 1943.
Incorrect: The years he attempted it included: 1941 and 1943. (Just remove the colon.)
Permissible but awkward: Spanish, Portuguese, French: these, with a few others, are the West Romance languages.

Except in technical usage (a 3:1 ratio), no sentence should contain multiple colons, no space precedes a colon, and a space (but never a hyphen or dash) follows a colon.


A semicolon (;) is sometimes an alternative to a full stop (period), enabling related material to be kept in the same sentence; it marks a more decisive division in a sentence than a comma. If the semicolon separates clauses, normally each clause must be independent (meaning that it could stand on its own as a sentence); in many cases, only a comma or only a semicolon will be correct in a given sentence.

Correct: Though he had been here before, I did not recognize him.
Incorrect:    Though he had been here before; I did not recognize him.

Above, "Though he had been here before" cannot stand on its own as a sentence, and therefore is not an independent clause.

Correct: Oranges are an acid fruit; bananas are classified as alkaline.
Incorrect: Oranges are an acid fruit, bananas are classified as alkaline.

This incorrect use of a comma between two independent clauses is known as a comma splice; however, in certain kinds of cases, a comma may be used where a semicolon would seem to be called for:

Accepted: "Life is short, art is long." (two brief clauses in an aphorism; see Ars longa, vita brevis)
Accepted: "I have studied it, you have not." (reporting brisk conversation, like this reply of Newton's)

A sentence may contain several semicolons, especially when the clauses are parallel in construction and meaning; multiple unrelated semicolons are often signs that the sentence should be divided into shorter sentences, or otherwise refashioned.

Unwieldy: Oranges are an acid fruit; bananas are classified as alkaline; pears are close to neutral; these distinctions are rarely discussed.
One better way: Oranges are an acid fruit, bananas are alkaline, and pears are close to neutral; these distinctions are rarely discussed.

Semicolons are used in addition to commas to separate items in a listing, when commas alone would result in confusion.

Confusing: Sales offices are located in Boston, Massachusetts, San Francisco, California, Singapore, and Millbank, London, England.
Clear: Sales offices are located in Boston, Massachusetts; San Francisco, California; Singapore; and Millbank, London, England.

Semicolon before "however"

The meaning of a sentence containing a trailing clause that starts with the word "however" depends on the punctuation preceding that word. A common error is to use the wrong punctuation, thereby changing the meaning to one not intended.

When the word "however" is an adverb meaning "nevertheless", it should be preceded by a semicolon and followed by a comma. Example:

It was obvious they could not convert these people; however, they tried.
Meaning: It was obvious they could not convert these people; nevertheless, they tried.

When the word "however" is a conjunction meaning "in whatever manner", or "regardless of how", it may be preceded by a comma but not by a semicolon, and should not be followed by punctuation. Example:

It was obvious they could not convert these people, however they tried.
Meaning: It was obvious they could not convert these people, regardless of how they tried.

In the first case, the clause that starts with "however" cannot be swapped with the first clause; in the second case this can be done without change of meaning:

However they tried, it was obvious they could not convert these people.
Meaning: Regardless of how they tried, it was obvious they could not convert these people.

If the two clauses cannot be swapped, a semicolon is required.

A sentence or clause can also contain the word "however" in the middle, if it is an adverb meaning "although", which could have been placed at the beginning but does not start a new clause in mid-sentence. In this use, the word may be enclosed between commas. Example:

He did not know, however, that the venue had been changed at the last minute.
Meaning: However, he did not know that the venue had been changed at the last minute.


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

  1. In hyphenated personal names: John Lennard-Jones.
  2. To link prefixes with their main terms in certain constructions (quasi-scientific, pseudo-Apollodorus, ultra-nationalistic).
    • A hyphen may be used to distinguish between homographs (re-dress means dress again, but redress means remedy or set right).
    • There is a clear trend to join both elements in all varieties of English (subsection, nonlinear). Hyphenation clarifies when the letters brought into contact are the same (non-negotiable, sub-basement) or are vowels (pre-industrial), or where a word is uncommon (co-proposed, re-target) or may be misread (sub-era, not subera). Some words of these sorts are nevertheless common without the hyphen (e.g. cooperation is more frequently attested than co-operation in contemporary English).
  3. To link related terms in compound modifiers:[l]
    • Hyphens can help with ease of reading (face-to-face discussion, hard-boiled egg) and are particularly useful in long noun phrases: gas-phase reaction dynamics. But never insert a hyphen into a proper name (Middle Eastern cuisine, not Middle-Eastern cuisine).
    • A hyphen can help to disambiguate (little-celebrated paintings is not a reference to little paintings; a government-monitoring program is a program that monitors the government, whereas a government monitoring program is a government program that monitors something else).
    • Many compounds that are hyphenated when used attributively (adjectives before the nouns they qualify: a light-blue handbag, a 34-year-old woman) or substantively (as a noun: she is a 34-year-old) are usually not hyphenated when used predicatively (descriptive phrase separated from the noun: the handbag was light blue, the woman is 34 years old). Where there would otherwise be a loss of clarity, a hyphen may optionally be used in the predicative form as well (hand-fed turkeys, the turkeys were hand-fed). Awkward attributive hyphenation can sometimes be avoided with a simple rewording: Hawaiian-native culturenative Hawaiian culture.
    • Avoid using a hyphen after a standard -ly adverb (a newly available home, a wholly owned subsidiary) unless part of a larger compound (a slowly-but-surely strategy). In rare cases, a hyphen can improve clarity if a rewritten alternative is awkward, but rewording is usually preferable: The idea was clearly stated enough can be disambiguated as The idea clearly was stated often enough or The idea was stated with enough clarity.
    • A few words ending in -ly function as both adjectives and adverbs (a kindly-looking teacher; a kindly provided facility). Some such dual-purpose words (like early, only, northerly) are not standard -ly adverbs, because they are not formed by addition of -ly to an independent current-English adjective. These need careful treatment: Early flowering plants appeared around 130 million years ago, but Early-flowering plants risk damage from winter frosts; only child actors (no adult actors) but only-child actors (actors without siblings).
    • 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, because 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).
    • In some cases, like diode–transistor logic, the independent status of the linked elements requires an en dash instead of a hyphen. See En dashes § Notes.
    • Use a hanging hyphen when two compound modifiers are separated (two- and three-digit numbers; a ten-car or -truck convoy; sloping right- or leftward).
    • Values and units used as compound modifiers are hyphenated only where the unit is given as a whole word; when using the unit symbol, separate it from the number with a non-breaking space (&nbsp;).
Incorrect: 9-mm gap
Correct: 9 mm gap (markup: 9&nbsp;mm gap)
Incorrect:    9 millimetre gap
Correct: 9-millimetre gap
Correct: 12-hour shift
Correct: 12 h shift

Multi-hyphenated items: It is often possible to avoid multi-word hyphenated modifiers by rewording (a four-CD soundtrack album may be easier to read as a soundtrack album of four CDs). This is particularly important where converted units are involved (the 6-hectare-limit (14.8-acre-limit) rule might be possible as the rule imposing a limit of 6 hectares (14.8 acres), and the ungainly 4.9-mile (7.9 km) -long tributary as simply 4.9-mile (7.9 km) tributary).

For optional hyphenation of compound points of the compass such as southwest/south-west, see § Compass points.

Do not use a capital letter after a hyphen except for a proper name: Graeco-Roman and Mediterranean-style, but not Gandhi-Like. In titles of published works, follow the capitalization rule for each part independently (resulting in, e.g., The Out-of-Towners), unless reliable sources consistently do otherwise in a particular case (The History of Middle-earth).

Hyphenation rules in other languages may be different. Thus, in French a place name such as Trois-Rivières ("Three Rivers") is hyphenated, when it would not be in English. Follow reliable sources in such cases.

Spacing: A hyphen is never followed or preceded by a space, except when hanging (see above) or when used to display parts of words independently, such as the prefix sub- and the suffix ‑less.

Image filenames and redirects: Image filenames are not part of the encyclopedic content; they are tools. They are most useful if they can be readily typed, so they always use hyphens instead of dashes. Similarly, article titles with dashes should also have a corresponding redirect from a copy of the title with hyphens: for example, Michelson-Morley experiment redirects to Michelson–Morley experiment.

Non-breaking: A non-breaking hyphen (&#8209; or {{nbhyph}}) will not be used as a point of line-wrap.

Soft hyphens: Use soft hyphens to mark locations where a word will be broken and hyphenated if necessary at the end of a line of text, usually in very long words or narrow spaces (such as captions, narrow table columns, or text adjacent to a very wide image), for example: {{shy| Penn|syl|va|nia and Mass|a|chu|setts style themselves com|mon|wealths.}}. Use sparingly to avoid making wikitext difficult to read and edit.

Encoding: The hyphen is represented by the ASCII/UNICODE HYPHEN-MINUS character, which is entered by the hyphen or minus key on all standard computer keyboards. Do not use the UNICODE HYPHEN character.

Hyphenation involves many subtleties that cannot be covered here; the rules and examples presented above illustrate the broad principles.


Two forms of dash are used on Wikipedia: en dash () and em dash (). To enter them, click on them in the CharInsert toolbar to the right of the "Insert" dropdown beneath the edit window (in the Monobook Skin), or enter them manually as &ndash; or &mdash;, respectively. Do not use a double hyphen (--) to stand in for a dash. (See also: Wikipedia:How to make dashes.)

Sources use dashes in varying ways. For consistency and clarity, Wikipedia adopts the following principles.

In article titles

In article titles, do not use a hyphen (-) as a substitute for an en dash, for example in eye–hand span (since eye does not modify hand). Nonetheless, to aid searching and linking, provide a redirect with hyphens replacing the en dash(es), as in eye-hand span. Similarly, provide category redirects for categories containing dashes.

Punctuating a sentence (em or en dashes)

Dashes are often used to mark divisions within a sentence: in pairs (parenthetical dashes, instead of parentheses or pairs of commas); or singly (perhaps instead of a colon). They may also indicate an abrupt stop or interruption, in reporting quoted speech. In all these cases, use either unspaced em dashes or spaced en dashes, with consistency in any one article:

  • An em dash is always unspaced (that is, without a space on either side):
    Another "planet" was detected—but it was later found to be a moon of Saturn.
  • An en dash is spaced (that is, with a space on each side) when used as sentence punctuation:
    Another "planet" was detected – but it was later found to be a moon of Saturn.
    Ideally, use a non-breaking space before the en dash, which prevents the en dash from occurring at the beginning of a line (markup: the {{spaced ndash}} or {{snd}} templates, or the HTML character entity &nbsp;):
    Another "planet" was detected{{spaced ndash}} but it was later found to be a moon of Saturn.
    But do not insert a non-breaking or other space where the en dash should be unspaced (see § Other uses (en dash only)).

Dashes can clarify the sentence structure when there are already commas or parentheses, or both.

  • We read them in chronological order: Descartes, Locke, Hume—but not his Treatise (it is too complex)—and Kant.

Use dashes sparingly. More than two in a single sentence makes the structure unclear; it takes time for the reader to see which dashes, if any, form a pair.

  • The birds—at least the ones Darwin collected—had red and blue feathers.
  • "Where is the—", she began, but the line went dead.
  • Avoid: First—and most spectacularly—came the bishops—then the other clergy. Better: First—and most spectacularly—came the bishops, who were followed by the other clergy.

Other uses (en dash only)

The en dash (–) has other roles, beyond its use as a sentence-punctuating dash (see immediately above). It is often analogous to the hyphen (see § Hyphens), which joins components more strongly than the en dash; or to the slash (see § Slashes), which separates alternatives more definitely. Consider the exact meaning when choosing which to use.

In ranges that might otherwise be expressed with to or through
  • pp. 7–19;   64–75%;   Henry VIII reigned 1509–1547 [6]

Do not change hyphens to dashes in filenames, URLs, or templates like {{Bibleverse}} (which formats verse ranges into URLs).

Do not mix en dashes with between or from.

  • 450–500 people
  • between 450 and 500 people, not between 450–500 people
  • from 450 to 500 people, not from 450–500 people
  • from 1961 to 1962, not from 1961–62
  • between the 1961–62 and 1967–68 seasons, ticket sales dropped substantially

If negative values are involved, an en dash might be confusing. Use words instead.

  • −10 to 10, not −10–10

The en dash in a range is always unspaced, except when either or both elements of the range include at least one space.

  • July 23, 1790 – December 1, 1791 (not July 23, 1790–December 1, 1791)
  • 14 May – 2 August 2011 (not 14 May–2 August 2011)
  • 1–17 September;   February–October 2009;   1492 – 7 April 1556
  • Christmas Day – New Year's Eve;   Christmas 2001 – Easter 2002;   10:30 pm Tuesday – 1:25 am Wednesday;   6:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. (but 6:00–9:30 p.m.)
  • wavelengths in the range 28 mm – 17 m.
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. The components may be nouns, adjectives, verbs, or any other independent part of speech. Often if the components are reversed there would be little change of meaning.

  • boyfriend–girlfriend problems;   the Paris–Montpellier route;   a New York–Los Angeles flight
  • iron–cobalt interactions; the components are parallel and reversible; iron and cobalt retain their identity
  • Wrong: an iron–roof shed; iron modifies roof, so use a hyphen: an iron-roof shed
  • Wrong: a singer–songwriter; not separate persons, so use a hyphen: a singer-songwriter
  • red–green colorblind; red and green are separate independent colors, not mixed
  • Wrong: blue–green algae; a blended, intermediate color, so use a hyphen: blue-green algae
  • a 51–30 win;   a 22–17 majority vote;   but prefer spelling out when using words instead of numerals: a six-to-two majority decision, not the awkward a six–two majority decision;  avoid confusingly reversed order: a 17–22 majority vote[m]
  • a 50–50 joint venture;   a 60–40 split;   avoid using a slash here, which indicates division
  • the Uganda–Tanzania War;   the Roman–Syrian War;   the east–west runway;   the Lincoln–Douglas debates;   a carbon–carbon bond
  • diode–transistor logic;   the analog–digital distinction;   push–pull output;   on–off switch
  • a pro-establishment–anti-intellectual alliance;   Singapore–Sumatra–Java shipping lanes
  • the ballerina's rapid walk–dance transitions;   a male–female height ratio of 1.14

Generally, use a hyphen in compounded proper names of single entities.

  • Guinea-Bissau; Bissau is the capital, and this distinguishes the country from neighboring Guinea
  • Wilkes-Barre, a single city named after two people, but Minneapolis–Saint Paul, an area encompassing two cities
  • John Lennard-Jones, an individual named after two families

An en dash between separate nations; for people and things identifying with multiple nationalities, use a hyphen when applied as an adjective or a space as a noun.

  • Japanese–American trade;   but a family of Japanese-American traders or a family of Japanese Americans
  • an Italian–Swiss border crossing;   but an Italian-Swiss newspaper for Italian-speaking Swiss
  • France–Britain rivalry;   French–British rivalry
  • Wrong: Franco–British rivalry; Franco- is a combining form, not an independent word, so use a hyphen: Franco-British rivalry
  • Wrong: Austria–Hungary; the hyphenated Austria-Hungary was a single jurisdiction during its 1867–1918 existence

A slash or some other alternative may occasionally be better to express a ratio, especially in technical contexts (see § Slashes).

  • the protein–fat ratio;   the protein/fat ratio;   the protein-to-fat ratio
  • Colons are often used for strictly numeric ratios, to avoid confusion with subtraction and division: a 3:1 ratio;  a three-to-one ratio (see WP:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers § Ratios).

Use an en dash for the names of two or more entities in an attributive compound.

  • the Seifert–van Kampen theorem;   the Alpher–Bethe–Gamow theory
  • the Seeliger–Donker-Voet scheme (developed by Seeliger and Donker-Voet)
  • Comet Hale–Bopp or just Hale–Bopp (discovered by Hale and Bopp)

Do not use an en dash for hyphenated personal names, even when they are used as adjectives:

  • Lennard-Jones potential with a hyphen: named after John Lennard-Jones

Do not use spaces around en dash in any of the compounds above.

Instead of a hyphen, when applying a prefix or suffix to a compound that includes a space

  • ex–Prime Minister Thatcher;   pre–World War II aircraft

Use this punctuation when there are compelling grounds for retaining the construction. For example, from a speech that is simply transcribed and cannot be re-worded; or in a heading where it has been judged most natural as a common name; or for conciseness in a caption or table entry. Otherwise recasting is better.

The en dash in all of the compounds above is unspaced.

To separate parts of an item in a list

Spaced en dashes are sometimes used between parts of list items. Below are two examples.

  • Pairing performers with instruments:
    • James Galway – flute; Anne-Sophie Mutter – violin; Maurizio Pollini – piano.
  • Showing track durations on an album:
    • "The Future" – 7:21
    • "Ain't No Cure for Love" – 6:17
    • "Bird on the Wire" – 6:14.

Other dashes

Do not use substitutes for em or en dashes, such as the combination of two hyphens (--). These were typewriter approximations.

For a negative sign or subtraction operator, use a minus sign: U+2212 MINUS SIGN (HTML &#8722; · &minus;). This character can be generated by clicking on the following the ± in the Insert toolbar beneath the edit window or by typing &minus;.


Generally, avoid joining two words with a slash, also called a forward slash or solidus ( / ), because it suggests that the words are related without specifying how. Replace with clearer wording.

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 (see above) is usually preferable to the slash: the digital–analog distinction.

An unspaced slash may be used:

  • to indicate phonemic pronunciations (rivet is pronounced /ˈrɪvət/)
  • in a fraction (7/8), though other techniques are also used, depending on context; see Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers § Fractions and ratios
  • to indicate regular defined yearly periods that do not coincide with calendar years (e.g., the 2009/2010 fiscal year), if that is the convention used in reliable sources; see WP:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers § Longer periods for further explanation
  • to express a ratio, in a form in which a slash is conventionally used (e.g., the price-to-earnings ratio, or P/E ratio for short)
  • where a slash occurs in a phrase widely used outside Wikipedia, and a different construction would be inaccurate, unfamiliar, or ambiguous (e.g.,

A spaced slash may be used:

  • to separate run-in lines in quoted 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), or rarely in quoted prose, where careful marking of a paragraph break is textually important
  • to separate items that include at least one internal space (the NY 31 east / NY 370 exit), where for some reason use of a slash is unavoidable

To avoid awkward linebreaks, code spaced slashes (and fraction slashes) with a non-breaking space on the left and a normal space on the right, as in: My mama told me&nbsp;/ You better shop around. For short constructions, both spaces should be non-breaking: x&nbsp;/&nbsp;y.

Do not use the backslash character ( \ ) in place of a slash.

Prefer the division operator ( ÷ ) to slash or fraction slash when representing elementary arithmetic in general text: 10 ÷ 2 = 5. In more advanced mathematical formulas, a vinculum or slash is preferred: or xn/n!. (See WP:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers § Common mathematical symbols and Help:Displaying a formula.)


Avoid writing and/or unless other constructions would be lengthy and also, or alternatively, would be awkward. Instead of Most had trauma and/or smoke inhalation, write simply trauma or smoke inhalation (which would normally be interpreted to imply or both); or, for emphasis or precision or both, write trauma or smoke inhalation or both. Where more than two possibilities are present, instead of x, y, and/or z write one or more of x, y, and z or some or all of x, y, and z.

Number sign

Avoid using the # symbol (known as the number sign, hash sign, or pound sign) when referring to numbers or rankings. Instead write "number", "No." or "Nos."; do not use the symbol . For example:

Incorrect: Her album reached #1 in the UK album charts.
Correct: Her album reached number one in the UK album charts.
Correct: Her album reached No. 1 in the UK album charts.
Correct: Her albums Foo and Bar reached Nos. 1 and 3 respectively.

An exception is issue numbers of comic books, which unlike for other periodicals are given in general text in the form #1, unless a volume is also given, in which case write volume two, number seven or Vol. 2, No. 7. When using the abbreviations, write {{abbr|Vol.|Volume}}, {{abbr|No.|Number}}, or {{abbr|Nos.|Numbers}}.

Terminal punctuation


In normal text, never put a space before a comma, a semicolon, a colon, or a terminal punctuation mark (even in quoted material; see allowable typographical changes in § Typographic conformity).

Spaces following terminal punctuation

Software condenses two or more spaces to just one when rendering a page, so editors may use any spacing style they prefer (e.g., a single space or two spaces after a period/full stop – see Sentence spacing). Adding or removing an "extra" space is sometimes used as a dummy edit.

Consecutive punctuation marks

Where a word or phrase that includes terminal punctuation ends a sentence, do not add a second terminal punctuation mark. If a quoted phrase or title ends in a question mark or exclamation mark, it may confuse readers as to the nature of the article sentence containing it, and so is usually better reworded to be mid-sentence. Where such a word or phrase occurs mid-sentence, new terminal punctuation (usually a period) must be added at the end.

Incorrect: Slovak returned to the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1985 after growing tired of What Is This?.
Acceptable: Slovak returned to the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1985 after growing tired of What Is This?
Better: Slovak, having grown tired of What Is This?, returned to the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1985.

Punctuation and footnotes

Ref tags (<ref>...</ref>) are used to create footnotes (sometimes called endnotes or notes). The ref tags should immediately follow the text to which the footnote applies, with no intervening space (except possibly a hair space, generated by {{hsp}}). Any punctuation (see exceptions below) must precede the ref tags. Adjacent ref tags should have no space between them. This applies to all ref tags, including both explanatory notes and citation footnotes.

When ref tags are used, a footnote list must be added, and is usually placed in the Notes and References section near the end of the article in the standard appendices and footers.

  • Example: Flightless birds have a reduced keel,[10] and also have smaller wing bones than flying birds of similar size.[11][12]

Exceptions: Ref tags are placed before dashes, not after. Where a footnote applies only to material within parentheses, the ref tags belong just before the closing parenthesis.

  • Example: Paris is not the capital city of England—the capital of which is London [10]—but that of France,[11] and is widely known as a beautiful city.[12]
  • Example: Kim Jong-un (Korean: 김정은;[10] Hanja: 金正恩[11]) is the third and youngest son of Kim Jong-il with his late consort Ko Young-hee.

Punctuation after formulae

A sentence that ends with a formula should have terminal punctuation (period, exclamation mark, or question mark) after the formula. Within a sentence, place other punctuation (such as commas or colons) after the formula just as if the text were not a formula. See WP:Manual of Style/Mathematics § Punctuation after formulae.

Dates and time

For ranges of dates and times, see § En dashes: other uses.

Dates should only be linked when they are germane and topical to the subject, as discussed at WP:Manual of Style/Linking § Chronological items.

Time of day

Time of day is normally expressed in figures rather than being spelled out. Use context to determine whether to use the 12- or 24-hour.

  • Twelve-hour clock times are written in one of two forms: 11:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., or 11:15 am and 2:30 pm. Include a non-breaking space. Use noon and midnight rather than 12 pm and 12 am; it may need to be specified whether midnight refers to the start or end of a date.
  • Twenty-four-hour clock times are written in the form 08:15 and 22:55, with no suffix. Midnight written as 00:00 begins the day; 24:00 ends it.


  • Full dates should be formatted 10 June 1921 or June 10, 1921. Similarly, where the year is omitted, use 10 June or June 10. See § Choice of format
  • Do not use numerical date formats such as "03/04/2005", as this could refer to 3 April or to March 4. If a numerical format is required (e.g., for conciseness in long lists and tables), use the YYYY-MM-DD format: 2005-04-03.

Choice of format

  • All the dates in a given article should have the same format (day–month or month–day). However, for citations, see WP:Citing sources § Citation style. These requirements do not apply to dates in quotations or titles.
  • Articles on topics with strong ties to a particular English-speaking country should generally use the more common date format for that country (month–day for the US, except in military usage; day–month for most others; articles related to Canada may use either consistently).
  • Otherwise, do not change an article from one form to another without good reason. More details can be found at WP:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers § Dates.


  • For month and year, write June 1921, with no comma.
  • Abbreviations for months, such as Feb, are used only where space is extremely limited. Such abbreviations should use three letters only, and should not be followed by a period (full point) except at the end of a sentence.


  • Avoid ambiguous references to seasons, which are different in the southern and northern hemispheres.
  • Names of seasons may be used when there is a logical connection to the event they are describing (the autumn harvest) or when referring to a phase of a natural yearly cycle (migration typically starts in mid-spring). Otherwise, neutral wording is usually preferable (He was elected in November 1992, not He was elected in the fall of 1992).
  • Journals and other publications that are issued seasonally (e.g. "Summer 2005") should be dated as such in citations (for more information, see WP:Citing sources § Seasonal publication dates and differing calendar systems).

Years and longer periods

  • Do not use the year before the digits (1995, not the year 1995), unless the meaning would otherwise be unclear.
  • Decades are written in the format the 1980s, with no apostrophe. Use the two-digit form ('80s) only with an established social or cultural meaning. Avoid forms such as the 1700s that could refer to 10 or 100 years.
  • Years are denoted by AD and BC or, equivalently, CE and BCE. Use only one system within an article, and do not change from one system to the other without good reason. The abbreviations are written without periods, and with a non-breaking space, as in 5 BC. Omit AD or CE unless this would cause ambiguity.

More information on all of the above topics can be found at WP:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers § Dates, including the handling of dates expressed in different calendars, and times corresponding to different time zones.


The term "current" should be avoided. What is current today may not be tomorrow; situations change over time. Instead, use date- and time-specific text. To help keep information updated use the {{as of}} template.

Incorrect: He is the current ambassador to ...
Correct: As of March 2011, he is the ambassador to ...


WP:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers § Numbers (MOS:NUMS) clarifies a number of situations, including the following:

  • In general, write whole cardinal numbers from zero to nine as words, write other numbers that, when spoken, take two or fewer words as either figures or words (with consistency within each article), and write all other numbers as figures: 1/5 or one-fifth, 84 or eighty-four, 200 or two hundred, but 3.75, 544, 21 million. See MOS:NUM § Numbers as figures or words et seq. for exceptions and fine points.
  • In general, use a comma to delimit numbers with five or more digits to the left of the decimal point. Numbers with four digits are at the editor's discretion: 12,345, but either 1,000 or 1000. See MOS:NUM § Grouping of digits et seq. for exceptions.
  • In general, use decimals rather than fractions for measurements, but the latter are permitted with measuring systems such as imperial units and U.S. customary units. Keep articles internally consistent.
  • Scientific notation (e.g., 5.8×107 kg) is preferred in scientific contexts; editors can use the {{val}} template, which generates such expressions with the syntax {{val|5.8|e=7|u=kg}}.
  • Write out "million" and "billion" on the first use. After that, unspaced "M" can be used for millions and "bn" for billions: 70M and 25bn. See MOS:NUM § Numbers as figures or words for similar words.
  • Write 3%, three percent, or three per cent, but not 3 % (with a space) or three %. "Percent" is American usage, and "per cent" is British usage (see § National varieties of English). In ranges of percentages written with an en dash, write only a single percent sign: 3–14%.
  • Indicate uncertainties as "(value ± uncertainty) × 10<sup>n</sup>&nbsp;units", e.g., (1.534±0.35)×1023 m. See MOS:NUM § Uncertainty and rounding for other acceptable formats.


  • Use the full abbreviation on first use (US$ for the US dollar and A$ for the Australian dollar), unless the currency is already clear from context. For example, the government of the United States always spends money in American dollars, and never in Canadian or Australian dollars.
  • Use only one symbol with ranges, as in $250–300.
  • In articles that are not specific to a country, express amounts of money in United States dollars, euros, or pounds sterling. Do not link the names or symbols of currencies that are commonly known to English-speakers ($, £, ), unless there is a particular reason to do so; do not use potentially ambiguous currency symbols, unless the meaning is clear in the context.
  • In country-specific articles, use the currency of the country. On first occurrence, consider including conversion to US dollars, euros, or pounds sterling, at a rate appropriate to the context. For example, Since 2001 the grant has been 10,000,000 Swedish kronor (€1.0M as of August 2009). Wording such as "approx." is not appropriate for simple rounding-off of the converted amount.
  • Generally, use the full name of a currency, and link it on its first appearance if English-speakers are likely to be unfamiliar with it (52 Nepalese rupees); subsequent occurrences can use the currency sign (just 88 Rs).
  • Most currency symbols are placed before the number; they are unspaced ($123).

Units of measurement

  • The main unit in which a quantity is expressed should generally be an SI unit or non-SI unit officially accepted for use with the SI. However,
    • Scientific articles may also use specialist units appropriate for the branch of science in question.
    • In non-scientific articles relating to the United States, the main unit is generally a U.S. customary unit (22 pounds (10 kg)).
    • In non-scientific articles relating to the United Kingdom, although the main unit is generally a metric unit (10 kilograms (22 lb)), imperial units are still used as the main units in some contexts (7 miles (11 km) by road).
  • Where English-speaking countries use different units for the same measurement, provide a conversion in parentheses. Examples: the Mississippi River is 2,320 miles (3,734 km) long; the Murray River is 2,375 kilometres (1,476 mi) long. The {{convert}} template is useful for producing such expressions.
  • In a direct quotation, always retain the source's units. Any conversion should follow in square brackets (or, an obscure use of units can be explained in a footnote).
  • Where space is limited (such as tables, infoboxes, parenthetical notes, and mathematical formulas) unit symbols are preferred. In prose, unit names should be given in full if used only a few times but symbols may be used when a unit (especially one with a long name) is used repeatedly after spelling out the first use (e.g. Up to 15 kilograms of filler is used for a batch of 250 kg), except for unit names that are hardly ever spelled out (°C rather than degrees Celsius).
  • Most unit names are not capitalized. (For spelling differences, follow § National varieties of English.)
  • Use "per" when writing out a unit, rather than a slash: metre per second, not metre/second.
  • Units unfamiliar to general readers should be presented as a name–symbol pair on first use, linking the unit name (Energies were originally 2.3 megaelectronvolts (MeV), but were eventually 6 MeV).
  • For ranges, see § En dashes: other uses, and MOS:NUM, at §§ Date ranges, Percentages, Unit names and symbols, and Formatting of monetary values.
  • Unit symbols are preceded by figures, not by spelled-out numbers. Values and unit symbols are separated by a non-breaking space. For example, 5 min. The percent sign and units of degrees, minutes, and seconds for angles and coordinates are unspaced.

Common mathematical symbols

  • For a negative sign or subtraction operator, use a minus sign (, Unicode character U+2212 MINUS SIGN). Input by clicking on it in the insert box beneath the edit window or by typing &minus;.
  • For multiplication, use a multiplication sign (U+00D7 × MULTIPLICATION SIGN) or a dot (U+22C5 DOT OPERATOR), which are input by clicking on them in the edit toolbox under the edit window or by entering &times; or &sdot;. Care should be taken not to confuse the dot operator (in the "Math and logic" section of the edit toolbox) with an interpunct (in the "Insert" section of the edit toolbox) or a bullet. The letter x should not be used to indicate multiplication, but it is used (unspaced) as the substitute for "by" in terms such as 4x4.
  • Exponentiation is indicated by a superscript, an (typed as ''a''<sup>''n''</sup>.
  • Do not use programming language notation outside computer program text. In most programming languages, subtraction, multiplication, and exponentiation are respectively represented by the hyphen-minus -, the asterisk *, and either the caret ^ or the double asterisk **, and scientific notation is replaced by E notation.
  • Symbols for binary operators and relations are usually spaced on both sides:
    • plus, minus, and plus-or-minus (as binary operators): +, , ± (as in 5 − 3);
    • 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: <, , >, .
  • Symbols for unary operators are closed-up to their operand:
    • positive, negative, and positive-or-negative signs: +, , ± (as in −3);
    • other unary operators, such as the exclamation mark as a factorial sign (as in 5!).
  • Variables are italicized, but digits and punctuation are not; only x and y are italicized in 2(5x + y)2.
  • The {{math}} template can be used to style formulas in a serif font to help distinguish them from surrounding text. For single variables, {{mvar}} is also available.

Grammar and usage


Singular nouns

  • For the possessive of singular nouns, including proper names and words ending with an s, add 's (my daughter's achievement, my niece's wedding, Cortez's men, the boss's office, Glass's books, Illinois's largest employer, Descartes's philosophy, Verreaux's eagle). Exception: abstract nouns ending with an /s/ sound, when followed by sake (for goodness' sake, for his conscience' sake). If a name already ends in s or z and would be difficult to pronounce if 's were added to the end, consider rearranging the phrase to avoid the difficulty: Jesus's teachings or the teachings of Jesus.

Plural nouns

  • For a normal plural noun, ending with a pronounced s, form the possessive by adding just an apostrophe (my sons' wives, my nieces' weddings).
  • For a plural noun not ending with a pronounced s, add 's (women's careers, people's habits, mice's whiskers; The two Dumas's careers were controversial, but where rewording is an option, this may be better: The career of each Dumas was controversial).

Official names

  • Official names (of companies, organizations, or places) should not be altered. (St Thomas' Hospital should therefore not be rendered as St Thomas's Hospital or St. Thomas Hospital, even for consistency.)

First-person pronouns

To maintain an objective and impersonal encyclopedic voice, an article should never refer to its editors or readers using I, my, we, us, or similar forms: We should note that some critics have argued against our proposal. But some such forms are acceptable in certain figurative uses. For example:

  • In historical articles to mean the modern world as a whole: The text of De re publica has come down to us with substantial sections missing.
  • The author's we found in scientific writing: We are thus led also to a definition of "time" in physics (Albert Einstein); Throughout this proof we assume that the function f is uniformly continuous. Often rephrasing using the passive voice is preferable:[n] Throughout this proof it is assumed that the function f is uniformly continuous.

Second-person pronouns

Avoid addressing the reader using you or your, which sets an inappropriate tone (see also § Instructional and presumptuous language).

  • Use a noun or a third-person pronoun: instead of When you move past "Go", you collect $200, use When players pass "Go", they collect $200, or A player passing "Go" collects $200.
  • If a person cannot be specified, or when implying "anyone" as a subject, the pronoun one may be used: a sense that one is being watched. Other constructions may be preferable if one seems stilted: a person's sense of being watched.
  • The passive voice may sometimes be used instead:[n] Impurities are removed before bottling.
  • Do not bait links, e.g. "Click here for more information"; let the browser's normal highlighting invite a click. (And "Click here" makes no sense to someone reading on paper.)
  • Likewise, "See: (reference)" or "Consider ..." are milder second-person baits, common in academic writing (pedagogy). This interactive personality is inconsistent with an encyclopedia's passive presentation of objective matter.
    • "See" and the like can be used to internally cross-reference other Wikipedia material. Do not italicize words like "see". Such a cross reference should be parenthetical, so the article text stands alone if the parenthetical is removed. The {{Cross reference}} template can be used for this: {{Cross reference|(see [[Chicken]])}}, {{Cross reference|(See [[Dacian language]] for details.)}} It is usually better to rewrite the material to integrate these links contextually rather than use explicit Wikipedia self-references.
  • Do not address the reader with the Socratic method by asking and answering questions. Did Bacon write Shakespeare? Then who wrote Bacon?


Use the appropriate plural; allow for cases (such as excursus or hanif) in which a word is now listed in major English dictionaries, and normally takes an s or es plural, not its original plural: two excursuses, not two excursus as in Latin; two hanifs, not two hanufa as in Arabic.

Some collective nouns—such as team (and proper names of them), army, company, crowd, fleet, government, majority, mess, number, pack, and party—may refer either to a single entity or to the members that compose it. In British English, such words are sometimes treated as singular, but more often treated as plural, according to context. Exceptionally, names of towns and countries usually take singular verbs (unless they are being used to refer to a team or company by that name, or when discussing actions of that entity's government). For example, in England are playing Germany tonight, England refers to a football team; but in England is the most populous country of the United Kingdom, it refers to the country. In North American English, these words (and the United States, for historical reasons) are almost invariably treated as singular; the major exception is when sports teams are referred to by nicknames, plural verbs are commonly used to match e.g. the Heat are playing the Lakers. See also § National varieties of English.

Verb tense

By default, write articles in the present tense, including those covering products or works that have been discontinued. Articles discussing works of fiction are also written in the present tense (see Wikipedia:Writing better articles § Tense in fiction). Generally, do not use past tense except for dead subjects, past events, and subjects that no longer meaningfully exist as such.

  • The PDP-10 is a mainframe computer family manufactured by Digital Equipment Corporation from 1966 into the 1980s.
  • Earth: Final Conflict is a Canadian science fiction television series that ran for five seasons between October 6, 1997 and May 20, 2002.
  • The Gordon Riots of 1780 were ...
  • The Beatles were an English rock band that formed in Liverpool in 1960.
  • George W. Bush is a former president of the United States (not George W. Bush was a president of the United States).

Tense can be used to distinguish between current and former status of a subject: Dún Aonghasa is the ruin of a prehistoric Irish cliff fort. Its original shape was presumably oval or D-shaped, but parts of the cliff and fort have since collapsed into the sea. (Emphasis added for clarity.)



Avoid the use of contractions in encyclopedic writing; e.g., instead of the informal wasn't or it's, write was not and it is. However, contractions should not be expanded mechanically; sometimes, rewriting the sentence is preferable.

Gender-neutral language

Use gender-neutral language where this can be done with clarity and precision. For example, avoid the generic he. This does not apply to direct quotations or the titles of works (The Ascent of Man), which should not be altered, or to wording about one-gender contexts, such as an all-female school (When any student breaks that rule, she loses privileges).

Ships may be referred to using either feminine forms ("she", "her", "hers") or neuter forms ("it", "its"). Either usage is acceptable, but each article should be internally consistent and employ one or the other exclusively. As with all optional styles, articles should not be changed from one style to another unless there is a substantial reason to do so. See WP:Manual of Style/Military history § Pronouns.

Contested vocabulary

Avoid words and phrases that give the impression of straining for formality, that are unnecessarily regional, or that are not widely accepted. See List of English words with disputed usage and Wikipedia:List of commonly misused English words; see also § Identity.

Instructional and presumptuous language

Avoid such phrases as remember that and note that, which address readers directly in an unencyclopedic tone and lean toward instructional. They are a subtle form of Wikipedia self-reference, a form of "breaking the fourth wall". Similarly, phrases such as of course, naturally, obviously, clearly, and actually make presumptions about readers' knowledge, may express a viewpoint, and may call into question the reason for including the information in the first place. Do not tell readers that something is ironic, surprising, unexpected, amusing, coincidental, etc. Simply state the sourced facts and allow readers to draw their own conclusions. Such constructions can usually just be deleted, leaving behind proper sentences with a more academic and less pushy tone: Note that this was naturally subject to controversy in more conservative newspapers. becomes This was subject to controversy in more conservative newspapers. A neutral cross-reference is permissible – e.g., (see also Bulverism) – but is usually better recast as a sentence with a link – Bulverism, also known as the psychogenetic fallacy, is a related logic law.

Subset terms

A subset term identifies a set of members of a larger class. Common subset terms are including, among, and et cetera (etc.). Do not use redundant subset terms (so avoid constructions like: Among the most well-known members of the fraternity are included two members of the Onassis family. or The elements in stars include hydrogen, helium, etc.). Do not use including to introduce a complete list; instead use comprising, consisting of, or composed of.


When there is a discrepancy between the term most commonly used by reliable sources for a person or group and the term that person or group uses for themselves, use the term that is most commonly used by reliable sources. If it isn't clear which is most used, use the term that the person or group uses.

Disputes over how to refer to a person or group are addressed by Wikipedia content policies, such as those on verifiability, and neutral point of view (and article titles when the term appears in the title of an article).

Use specific terminology. For example, it is often more appropriate for people or things from Ethiopia (a country in Africa) to be described as Ethiopian, not carelessly (with the risk of stereotyping) as African.

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). The MoS does not specify when and how to present former names, or whether to use the former or present name first.

See also WP:Manual of Style/Words to watch § Neologisms and new compounds.

Referring to the person in other articles
Use context to determine which name or names to provide on a case-by-case basis. Generally, do not go into detail over changes in name or gender presentation unless they are relevant to the passage in which the person is mentioned.

Foreign terms

Foreign words should be used sparingly.

Where possible, non-English should be marked up using the appropriate ISO language code, e.g. {{lang|es|casa}}. There are alternatives to the {{lang}} template which also provide additional information about a foreign word or phrase, such as a link to the language name; see Category:Multilingual support templates.

No common usage in English

Use italics for phrases in other languages and for isolated foreign words that are not current in English. See WP:Manual of Style/Text formatting § Foreign terms for details. The {{lang}} template and related templates automatically italicize text, so do not add separate italics markup around or within them.

Common usage in English

Loanwords and borrowed phrases that have common usage in English—Gestapo, samurai, vice versa—do not require italics. A rule of thumb is not to italicize words that appear unitalicized in general-purpose English-language dictionaries.

Spelling and romanization

Names not originally written in one of the Latin-script alphabets (written for example in Greek, Cyrillic, or Chinese scripts) must be given a romanized form for use in English. Use a systematically transliterated or otherwise romanized name (Aleksandr Tymoczko, Wang Yanhong); but if there is a common English form of the name (Tchaikovsky, Chiang Kai-shek), use that form instead.

The use of diacritics (such as accent marks) for foreign words is neither encouraged nor discouraged; their usage depends on whether they appear in verifiable reliable sources in English and on the constraints imposed by specialized Wikipedia guidelines (see also WP:Manual of Style/Proper names § Diacritics). Provide redirects from alternative forms that use or exclude diacritics.

Spell a name consistently in the title and the text of an article. See relevant policy at WP:Article titles; see also WP:Naming conventions (use English). For foreign names, phrases, and words generally, adopt the spellings most commonly used in English-language references for the article, unless those spellings are idiosyncratic or obsolete. If a foreign term does not appear in the article's references, adopt the spelling most commonly used in other verifiable reliable sources (for example other English-language dictionaries and encyclopedias). For punctuation of compounded forms, see relevant guidelines in § Punctuation.

Sometimes the usage will be influenced by other guidelines, such as § National varieties of English, which may lead to different choices in different articles.

Other concerns

Technical language

Some topics are intrinsically technical, but editors should try to make them understandable to as many readers as possible. Minimize jargon, or at least explain it or tag it using {{Technical}} or {{Technical-statement}} for other editors to fix. For unavoidably technical articles, a separate introductory article (like Introduction to general relativity) may be the best solution. Avoid excessive wikilinking (linking within Wikipedia) as a substitute for parenthetic explanations such as the one in this sentence. Do not introduce new and specialized words simply to teach them to the reader when more common alternatives will do. When the notions named by jargon are too complex to explain concisely in a few parenthetical words, write one level down. For example, consider adding a brief background section with {{main}} tags pointing to the full treatment article(s) of the prerequisite notions; this approach is practical only when the prerequisite concepts are central to the exposition of the article's main topic and when such prerequisites are not too numerous. Short articles like stubs generally do not have such sections.

Geographical items

Places should generally be referred to consistently by the same name as in the title of their article (see Wikipedia:Naming conventions (geographic names)). Exceptions are made if there is a widely accepted historical English name appropriate to the given context. In cases where such a historical name is used, it should be followed by the modern name in round brackets (parentheses) on the first occurrence of the name in applicable sections of the article. This resembles linking; it should not be done to the detriment of style. On the other hand, it is probably better to provide such a variant too often than too rarely. If more than one historical name is applicable for a given context, the other names should be added after the modern English name, that is: "historical name (modern name, other historical names)".

Media files


  • Each image should be inside the level 2 section to which it relates, within the section defined by the most recent ==Heading== delimited by two equal signs, or at the top of the lead section. Do not place images immediately above section headings.
  • Avoid sandwiching text horizontally between two images that face each other, and between an image and an infobox or similar.
  • It is often preferable to place images of people so that they "look" toward the text. Do not achieve this by reversing the image.
  • Any galleries should comply with WP:Image use policy § Image galleries. Consider linking to additional images on Commons instead.
  • Avoid referring to images as being to the left, the right, above or below, because image placement varies with platform, and is meaningless to people using screen readers; instead, use captions to identify images.
  • An image's |alt= text takes the image's place for those who are unable to see the image. See WP:ALT.

Other media files

Other media files include video and audio files. Style recommendations for such files largely follow recommendations for image files (as far as applicable).

Avoid using images to convey text

Textual information should almost always be entered as text rather than as an image. True text can be colored and adjusted with CSS tags and templates, but text in images cannot be. Images are not searchable, are slower to download, and are unlikely to be read as text by devices for the visually impaired. Any important textual information in an image should also appear in the image's alt text, caption, or other nearby text.

For entering textual information as audio, see Wikipedia:WikiProject Spoken Wikipedia.


Photographs and other graphics should have captions, unless they are unambiguous depictions of the subject of the article or when they are "self-captioning" images (such as reproductions of album or book covers). In a biography article no caption is necessary for a portrait of the subject pictured alone, but one might be used to give the year, the subject's age, or other circumstances of the portrait along with the name of the subject.

Formatting of captions

  • Captions normally start with a capital letter.[a]
  • Most captions are not complete sentences but merely sentence fragments that should not end with a period. However, if any complete sentence occurs in a caption, then every sentence and every sentence fragment in that caption should end with a period.
  • The text of captions should not be specially formatted, except in ways that would apply if it occurred in the main text (e.g., italics for the Latin name of a species).
  • Captions should be succinct; more information can be included on its description page, or in the main text.
  • Captions for technical charts and diagrams may need to be substantially longer than usual; they should fully describe all elements of the image and indicate its significance.

Bulleted and numbered lists

  • Do not use lists if a passage is read easily as plain paragraphs.
  • Use proper wikimarkup- or template-based list code (see WP:Manual of Style/Lists and Help:List).
  • Do not leave blank lines between items in a bulleted or numbered list unless there is a reason to do so, since this causes the Wiki software to interpret each item as beginning a new list.
    • Indents (such as this) are permitted if the elements are "child" items
  • Use numbers rather than bullets only if:
    • A need to refer to the elements by number may arise;
    • The sequence of the items is critical; or
    • The numbering has some independent meaning, for example in a listing of musical tracks.
  • Use the same grammatical form for all elements in a list, and do not mix sentences and sentence fragments as elements, for example when the elements are:
    • Complete sentences – each one is formatted with sentence case (its first letter is capitalized) and a final period (full stop);
    • Sentence fragments – the list is typically introduced by an introductory fragment ending with a colon;
    • Titles of works – they retain the original capitalization of the titles;
    • Other elements – they are formatted consistently in either sentence case or lower case.



Make links only where they are relevant and helpful in the context: Excessive use of hyperlinks can be distracting and may slow the reader down. Redundant links (like the one in the tallest people on Earth) clutter the page and make future maintenance harder. High-value links that are worth pursuing should stand out clearly.

Linking to sections: A hash sign (#) followed by the appropriate heading will lead to a relevant part of a page. For example, [[Apostrophe#Use in non-English names]] links to a particular section of the article Apostrophe.

Initial capitalization: Wikipedia's MediaWiki software does not require that wikilinks begin with an upper-case character. Only capitalize the first letter where this is naturally called for, or when specifically referring to the linked article by its name: Snakes are often venomous, but lizards only rarely (see Poison).

Check links: Ensure that the destination is the intended one; many dictionary words lead to disambiguation pages and not to complete or well-chosen articles.

External links

External links should not normally be used in the body of an article. Instead, articles can include an External links section at the end, pointing to further information outside Wikipedia as distinct from citing sources. The standard format is a primary heading, ==External links==, followed by a bulleted list of links. Identify the link and briefly indicate its relevance to the article. For example:

  • * [ History of NIH]
  • * [ National Institutes of Health homepage]

These will appear as:

Where appropriate, use external link templates such as {{Official website}} and {{URL}}.

Add external links with discretion; Wikipedia is not a link repository.


Keep markup simple

Other things being equal, keep markup simple. This makes wikitext easier to understand and edit, and the results seen by the reader more predictable. Use HTML and CSS markup sparingly.

An HTML character entity is sometimes better than the equivalent Unicode character, which may be difficult to identify in edit mode; for example, &Alpha; is explicit whereas Α (the upper-case form of Greek α) may be misidentified as the Latin A.

Formatting issues

Modifications in font size, blank space, and color (see § Color coding) are an issue for the Wikipedia site-wide style sheet, and should be reserved for special cases only.

Typically, the use of custom font styles will:

  • reduce consistency, since the text will no longer look uniform;
  • reduce usability, since it might be impossible for people with custom style sheets (for accessibility reasons, for example) to override it, and it might clash with a different skin or inconvenience people with color blindness (see below); and
  • cause disputes, since other editors may disagree aesthetically with the choice of style.

Outside article text, different font sizes are routinely used in navigation templates and infoboxes, tables (especially in larger ones), and some other contexts where alternatives are not available (such as table captions). Specify font sizes relatively (for example in CSS with font-size: 85%) rather than absolutely (like font-size: 8pt).

Color coding

Do not use color alone to mark differences in text: they may be invisible to people with color blindness and useless in black-and-white printouts or displays.

Choose colors that are distinguishable by readers with the commonest form of colorblindness, such as maroon and teal; and additionally mark the differences with change of font or some other means (maroon and alternative font face, teal). Avoid low contrast between text and background colors. Viewing the page with Toptal can help with the choice of colors. See also color coding.

Even for readers with unimpaired color vision, excessive background shading of table entries impedes readability and recognition of Wikilinks. Background color should be used only as a supplementary visual cue, and should be subtle (consider using lighter, less-dominant pastel hues) rather than glaring.


Do not abuse block quotation markup to indent non-quotations. Various templates are available for indentation, including {{block indent}}, and (for inline use) {{in5}}.

Avoid : (description list markup) for simple visual indentation in articles (common as it may be on talk pages). It causes accessibility problems and outputs invalid HTML. See WP:Manual of Style/Accessibility § Indentation for alternatives.

Scrolling lists and collapsible content

Scrolling lists, and collapsible templates that toggle text display between hide and show, can interfere with readers' ability to access our content. Such mechanisms are not to be used to conceal "spoiler" information. Templates are not normally used to store article text at all, as it interferes with editors' ability to find and edit it.

When such features are used, take care that the content will still be accessible on devices that do not support JavaScript or CSS, and to the 45% (and climbing) of Wikipedia readers who use the mobile version of the site,[o] which has a limited set of features. Mobile ability to access the content in question is easy to test with the "Mobile view" link at the bottom of each page.[p]

Collapsible templates should not conceal article content by default upon page loading. This includes reference lists, tables and lists of article content, image galleries, and image captions. In particular, while some templates support a collapsible parameter or manually-added CSS class, and this is permissible, the collapsed, mw-collapsed, and autocollapse states should not be used in articles to pre-emptively force the closure of these elements, except as noted below. Any information hidden in this way when the page loads will be irreversibly invisible to the aforementioned classes of users, as well as a growing number of low-bandwidth users in Asia who reach a Wikipedia article via Google.[q] Several other CSS classes, used manually or by templates, will render content inaccessible to mobile users.[r]

Collapsed or auto-collapsing cells or sections may be used with tables if it simply repeats information covered in the main text (or is purely supplementary, e.g. several past years of statistics in collapsed tables for comparison with a table of uncollapsed current stats). Auto-collapsing is often a feature of navboxes. A few infoboxes also use pre-collapsed sections for infrequently accessed details. If information in a list, infobox, or other non-navigational content seems extraneous or trivial enough to inspire pre-collapsing it, consider raising a discussion on the article (or template) talk page about whether it should be included at all. If the information is important and the concern is article density or length, consider dividing the article into more sections, integrating unnecessarily list-formatted information into the article prose, or splitting the article.

Invisible comments

Editors use "invisible" comments – not shown in the rendered page seen by readers of the article, but visible in the wiki source when an editor opens the article for editing – to communicate with one another.

Invisible comments are useful for alerting other editors to issues such as common mistakes that regularly occur in the article, a section title being the target of an incoming link, or pointing to a discussion that established a consensus relating to the article. They should not be used to instruct other editors not to perform certain edits, although where existing consensus is against making such an edit, they may usefully draw the editor's attention to that. Avoid adding too many invisible comments because they can clutter the wiki source for other editors. Check that your invisible comment does not change the formatting, for example by introducing unwanted white space in the rendered page.

To leave an invisible comment, enclose the text you intend to be read only by editors between <!-- and -->. For example:

  • <!-- If you change this section title, also change the links to it on the pages .... -->
  • <!-- When adding table entries, remember to update the total given in the text. -->

This notation can be inserted with a single click in wiki markup, just under the edit pane in edit mode.


Pronunciation in Wikipedia is indicated in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). In most situations, for ease of understanding by the majority of readers and across variants of the language, quite broad IPA transcriptions are best for English pronunciations. See Help:IPA/English and Help:IPA (general) for keys, and {{IPA}} for templates that link to these keys. For English pronunciations, pronunciation respellings may be used in addition to the IPA.

See also



Other community standards

Guidelines within the Manual of Style

(Links to policy and guidelines on specific questions)



  1. ^ a b c d e f Wikipedia uses sentence case for sentences, article titles, section titles, table headers, image captions, list entries (in most cases), and entries in infoboxes and similar templates, among other things. Any MoS guidance about the start of a sentence apply to items using sentence case.
  2. ^ Using phrases such as In early life is acceptable for section headings.
  3. ^ a b c Typographical, or curly, quotation marks and apostrophes might be read more efficiently, and many think they look better. However, for practical reasons the straight versions are used on the English Wikipedia:
    • Consistency keeps searches predictable. Though most browsers do not distinguish between curly and straight marks, Internet Explorer still does (as of 2016), so that a search for Alzheimer's disease will fail to find Alzheimer’s disease and vice versa.
    • Straight quotation marks are easier to type reliably on most platforms.
    • MediaWiki's use of series of single quotes to create italics and boldface makes using these features complicated and error-prone for content that begins or ends with apostrophes.
  4. ^ The top-level heading is used only in the auto-generated page title.
  5. ^ A comment outside the == == but on the same line may cause the section-editing link to fail to appear at all; in other browsers, it may appear, but using it will cause the section heading to not automatically be added to the edit summary.
  6. ^ Added policy per a December 2018 RfC.
  7. ^ The space produced by the {{' "}} and {{" '}} templates is done with CSS, is not a space character, and does not permit a line break between those marks.
  8. ^ Double quotation marks are preferred to single because:
    • They are immediately distinguishable from apostrophes:
      • She wrote that 'Cleanthes' differs from the others', but neither opinion may represent Hume's' (slows the reader down).
      • She wrote that "Cleanthes' differs from the others', but neither opinion may represent Hume's" (clearer).
    • Most browsers distinguish single and double quotation marks. Searches for "must see" attractions may fail to find 'must see' attractions.
  9. ^ "Series title italicized" is using series in the North American sense, i.e. the entire show as a whole. A season (series in the British sense) with its own title uses quotation marks for that title, as a sub-work.)
  10. ^ In some styles of writing, which Wikipedia might be quoting, a parenthetically enclosed sentence within another 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.
    This style is not used in Wikipedia's own voice, as it is not encyclopedic but opinion-piece style.
  11. ^ A comma-introduced parenthetical can also be closed by another punctuation mark that takes the place of the second comma in the pair, such as a colon, semicolon, parenthetical dash, round bracket, or sentence-terminal punctuation. Example: The franchise locations in London, Ontario – both of which went bankrupt – were closed in 1998.
  12. ^ Specifically, compound attributives, which are modifiers of a noun that occur within the noun phrase. (See English compound § Hyphenated compound modifiers.)
  13. ^ It is not logically possible to have a "12–35 victory", except in a game where a lower score is better. Otherwise, use a construction like Clovis beat Portales, 35–12, or Jameson lost the election, 2345 votes to 6789, to Garcia, with parties, result, and number order in logical agreement.
  14. ^ a b Passive voice is used much more frequently in encyclopedic writing than in most other forms, in which it may be frequently advised against. In an encyclopedic context, its careful use not only avoids inappropriate first- and second-person constructions, but also prevents making statements in the encyclopedia's own voice which represent assumption rather than certainty. For example, there's a significant difference between "He was convicted of embezzling government funds" and "He embezzled government funds", especially in a legal system with low standards of proof and due process. Passive voice should still be avoided when it is not needed; write Germany invaded Poland in 1939, not Poland was invaded by Germany in 1939.
  15. ^ See the "Wikimedia Report Card", updated at the end of each month with total and mobile-only pageviews. This is just a "hit" counter; in reality, a majority of our readers access Wikipedia via mobile devices at least some of the time.
  16. ^ A post-2016 tool is "Mobile sidebar preview" near the bottom of Special:Preferences#mw-prefsection-gadgets; it permits live preview. The "Mobile view" page-bottom feature shows the article only as it currently exists; if using that, and considering a change that could have mobile accessibility implications, please save the change first in a user sandbox and test the mobile version of that. A page's mobile version can also be accessed by changing the in the address bar to and loading that version of the URL. Note also that viewing the normal "desktop" version of the website on a mobile device is not viewing the mobile version of the site, though (depending on mobile browser and what transcoding it is doing) this may be a worthwhile test for some broader accessibility matters, especially on tablets, which do not always use the mobile version of Wikipedia.
  17. ^ As noted, CSS and JavaScript support are required to operate the show/hide toggle. Moreover, hidden content is not available in the mobile version of Wikipedia even on devices that have that support, because the mobile version's servers strip that content out before sending the page. Starting in 2016, Google has launched a Google User Content service that, like the earlier Google Lite and Google Web Transcoder, will strip hidden material from pages when they are accessed through Google searches, before content is delivered to users with slow connections. The service has already been deployed in India (where English is a major language) and Indonesia, with additional national markets planned for 2016 and forward. These services also completely strip out navboxes. [1] [2]
  18. ^ Applying, or using a template that applies, any of the following CSS classes will cause the affected content to be inaccessible to mobile users, and this list may not be exhaustive: ambox, navbox, vertical-navbox, topicon, metadata, nomobile, collapsed, mw-collapsed, and (when triggered) autocollapse.


  1. ^ This is a matter of policy at WP:Consensus § Level of consensus: "Consensus among a limited group of editors, at one place and time, cannot override community consensus on a wider scale. For instance, unless they can convince the broader community that such action is right, participants in a wikiproject cannot decide that a Wikipedia policy or guideline does not apply to articles within its scope." And: "Wikipedia has a higher standard of participation and consensus for changes to policies and guidelines than to other types of pages." Subordinate pages include MoS detail pages, style essays, and the Simplified Manual of Style.
  2. ^ a b These matters have been addressed in rulings of ArbCom in 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2015.
  3. ^ See ArbCom decisions in June 2005, November 2005, and 2006
  4. ^ See 2017 ArbCom decision, and WP:AutoWikiBrowser § Rules of use; bot-like editing that continues despite objections or which introduces errors may lead to a block and to revocation of semi-automated tools privileges.
  5. ^ Ishida, Richard (2015). "Using b and i elements". W3C Internationalization. World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 1 September 2016. […] the content of a b element may not always be bold, and that of an i element may not always be italic.
  6. ^ A change from a general preference for two digits, to a general preference for four digits, on the right side of year–year ranges was implemented in July 2016 per this RFC. For more information see WP:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers § Ranges.

Further reading

External style guides

Wikipedians are encouraged to familiarize themselves with modern editions of other guides to style and usage, which may cover details not included here. Those that have most influenced the Wikipedia Manual of Style are:

For additional reference works, see notable entries at style guide and Dictionary § Major English dictionaries.