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Life Without Paper Essay Wikipedia Encyclopedia

Writing an article
Learn how you can create an article.


This page is not a sandbox. It should not be used for test editing.
To experiment, you can use the shared sandbox – or if you're logged in, your personal sandbox.

This page in a nutshell: Wikipedia articles follow certain guidelines: the topic should be notable and be covered in detail in good references from independent sources. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia – it is not a personal home page or a business list. Do not use content from other websites even if you, your school, or your boss owns them. If you choose to create the article with only a limited knowledge of the standards here, you should be aware that other editors may delete it if it's not considered appropriate. To create full articles (as opposed to draft pages), your account must be at least 4 days (96 hours) old, and you must have made more than ten edits. For information on how to request a new article that can be created by someone else, see Wikipedia:Requested articles. To create an article, you can try the Article Wizard.

Welcome to Wikipedia! You have probably already edited blogs or social media sites. Maybe you have already made minor edits to our articles – but now you want to start a new article from scratch.

Introduction

First, please be aware that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, and our mission is to share accepted knowledge to benefit people who want to learn. We are not social media or a place to promote a company or product or person, or a place to advocate for or against anyone or anything. Please keep this in mind, always. (This is described in our "mission statement", "What Wikipedia is not".)

We find "accepted knowledge" in high quality, published sources. By "high quality" we mean books by reputable publishers, high-quality newspapers like The New York Times, or literature reviews in the scientific literature. We summarize such sources here. That is all we do! Please make sure that anything you write in Wikipedia is based on such sources - not what is in your head.

Here are some tips that can help you with your first article:

  • Consider registering an account first—you only need to choose a username and password. (This will help you find things you create, and help other people find you)
  • Search Wikipedia first in case an article already exists on the subject, perhaps under a different title. If the article already exists, feel free to make any constructive edits to improve it.
  • Nothing? OK, now you need to try to determine if the subject you want to write about is what we call "notable" in Wikipedia. The question we ask is - does this topic belong in an encyclopedia?
  • We generally judge this by asking if there are at least three high-quality sources that a) have substantial discussion of the subject (not just a mention) and b) are written and published independently of the subject (so, a company's website or press releases are not OK). Everything here is based on high-quality independent sources, and without them, we generally just cannot write an article. If you are not sure if the subject you want to write about is "notable", you can ask questions at the Wikipedia Teahouse.
  • Please be mindful of conflict of interest. If you have one, you will probably have a hard time writing a good enough Wikipedia article (this is not about you, it is just human nature). However, if you insist on trying, you need to disclose your conflict of interest, and you need to try very hard not to allow your "external interest" to drive you to abuse Wikipedia. And you need to try hard to hear the feedback from independent people who review the draft before it is published and made available in the main encyclopedia. Your conflict of interest might lead you to believe something is "notable" when it isn't and to argue too hard for it to be published there.
  • Practice first. Before starting, try editing existing articles to get a feel for writing and for using Wikipedia's mark-up language—we recommend that you first take a tour through the Wikipedia tutorial or review contributing to Wikipedia to learn editing basics.
  • The Article Wizard will help you create your article in Draft space, and will put some useful templates into your draft, including the button to click when you are ready to submit the draft for review.

Article Wizard
An easy way to create articles.

These points are explained in further detail below.

If you are logged in, and your account is autoconfirmed, you can also use this box below to create an article, by entering the article name in the box below and then clicking "Create page".

Search for an existing article

Wikipedia already has 5,587,614 articles. Before creating an article, try to make sure there is not already an article on the same topic, perhaps under a slightly different name. Search for the article, and review Wikipedia's article titling policy before creating your first article. If an article on your topic already exists, but you think people might look for it under some different name or spelling, learn how to create redirects to alternative titles; adding needed redirects is a good way to help Wikipedia. Also, remember to check the article's deletion log in order to avoid creating an article that has already been deleted. (In some cases, the topic may be suitable even if deleted in the past; the past deletion may have been because it was a copyright violation, did not explain the importance of the topic, or on other grounds addressed to the writing rather that the topic's suitability.)

If a search does not find the topic, consider broadening your search to find existing articles that might include the subject of your article. For example, if you want to write an article about a band member, you might search for the band and then add information about your subject as a section within that broader article.

Gathering references

Gather sources for the information you will be writing about. To be worthy of inclusion in an encyclopedia, a subject must be sufficiently notable, and that notability must be verifiable through citations to reliable sources.

As noted, the sources you use must be reliable; that is, they must be sources that exercise some form of editorial control and have some reputation for fact-checking and accuracy. Print sources (and web-based versions of those sources) tend to be the most reliable, though some web-only sources may also be reliable. Examples might include (but are not limited to) books published by major publishing houses, newspapers, magazines, peer-reviewed scholarly journals, websites of any of the above, and other websites that meet the same requirements as a reputable print-based source.

In general, sources with no editorial control are not reliable. These include (but are not limited to) books published by vanity presses, self-published 'zines', blogs, web forums, usenet discussions, personal social media, fan sites, vanity websites that permit the creation of self-promotional articles, and other similar venues. If anyone at all can post information without anyone else checking that information, it is probably not reliable.

To put it simply, if there are reliable sources (such as newspapers, journals, or books) with extensive information published over an extended period about a subject, then that subject is notable and you must cite such sources as part of the process of creating (or expanding) the Wikipedia article. If you cannot find such reliable sources that provide extensive and comprehensive information about your proposed subject, then the subject is not notable or verifiable and almost certainly will be deleted. So your first job is to go find references to cite.

There are many places to find reliable sources, including your local library, but if internet-based sources are to be used, start with books and news archive searches rather than a web search.

Once you have references for your article, you can learn to place the references into the article by reading Help:Referencing for beginners and Wikipedia:Citing sources. Do not worry too much about formatting citations properly. It would be great if you did that, but the main thing is to get references into the article, even if they are not perfectly formatted.

Things to avoid

Main pages: Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not and Wikipedia:Avoiding common mistakes

Articles about yourself, your family or friends, your website, a band you're in, your teacher, a word you made up, or a story you wrote 
If you are worthy of inclusion in the encyclopedia, let someone else add an article for you. Putting your friends in an encyclopedia may seem like a nice surprise or an amusing joke, but articles like this are likely to be removed. In this process, feelings may be hurt and you may be blocked from editing if you repeatedly make attempts to re-create the article. These things can be avoided by a little forethought on your part. The article may remain if you have enough humility to make it neutral and you really are notable, but even then it's best to submit a draft for approval and consensus of the community instead of just posting it up, since unconscious biases may still exist of which you may not be aware.
Advertising 
Please do not try to promote your product or business. Please do not insert external links to your commercial website unless a neutral party would judge that the link truly belongs in the article; we do have articles about products like Kleenex or Sharpies, or notable businesses such as McDonald's, but if you are writing about a product or business be sure you write from a neutral point of view, that you have no conflict of interest, and that you are able to find references in reliable sources that are independent from the subject you are writing about.
Attacks on a person or organization 
Material that violates our biographies of living persons policy or is intended to threaten, defame, or harass its subject or another entity is not permitted. Unsourced negative information, especially in articles about living people, is quickly removed, and attack pages may be deleted immediately.
Personal essays or original research 
Wikipedia surveys existing human knowledge; it is not a place to publish new work. Do not write articles that present your own original theories, opinions, or insights,even if you can support them by reference to accepted work. A common mistake is to present a novel synthesis of ideas in an article. Remember, just because both Fact A and Fact B are true does not mean that A caused B, or vice versa (fallacies) or (Post hoc ergo propter hoc). If the synthesis or causation is true, locate and cite reliable sources that report the connection.
Non-notable topics 
People frequently add pages to Wikipedia without considering whether the topic is really notable enough to go into an encyclopedia. Because Wikipedia does not have the space limitations of paper-based encyclopedias, our notability policies and guidelines allow a wide range of articles – however, they do not allow every topic to be included. A particularly common special case of this is pages about people, companies, or groups of people, that do not substantiate the notability or importance of their subject with reliable sources, so we have decided that such pages may be speedily deleted under our WP:SPEEDY policy. This can offend – so please consider whether your chosen topic is notable enough for Wikipedia, and then substantiate the notability or importance of your subject by citing those reliable sources in the process of creating your article. Wikipedia is not a directory of everything in existence.
A single sentence or only a website link
Articles need to have real content of their own.
See also:

And be careful about...

Copyright

As a general rule, do not copy-paste text from other websites. (There are a few limited exceptions, and a few words as part of a properly cited and clearly attributed quotation is OK.)

Wikipedia:Copy-paste
Copying things. Do not violate copyrights
Never copy and paste text into a Wikipedia article unless it is a relatively short quotation, placed in quotation marks, and cited using an inline citation. Even material that you are sure is in the public domain must be attributed to the source, or the result, while not a copyright violation, is plagiarism. Also, note that most web pages are not in the public domain and most song lyricsare not either. In fact, most things published after 1923, and almost all works written since January 1, 1978, are automatically protected by copyright under the Copyright Act of 1976even if they have no copyright notice or © symbol. If you think what you are contributing is in the public domain, say where you got it, either in the article or on the discussion page, and on the discussion page give the reason why you think it is in the public domain (e.g. "It was published in 1895..."). For more information, see Wikipedia:Copyrights (which includes instructions for verifying permission to copy previously published text) and our non-free content guidelines for text. Finally, please note that superficial modification of material, such as minor rewording, is insufficient to avoid plagiarism and copyright violations. See Wikipedia:Close paraphrasing.

Good sources

1. have a reputation for reliability: they are reliable sources

2. are independent of the subject

3. are verifiable by other editors
Good research and citing your sources
Articles written out of thin air may be better than nothing, but they are hard to verify, which is an important part of building a trusted reference work. Please research with the best sources available and cite them properly. Doing this, along with not copying text, will help avoid any possibility of plagiarism. We welcome good short articles, called "stubs", that can serve as launching pads from which others can take off – stubs can be relatively short, a few sentences, but should provide some useful information. If you do not have enough material to write a good stub, you probably should not create an article. At the end of a stub, you should include a "stub template" like this: {{stub}}. (Other Wikipedians will appreciate it if you use a more specific stub template, like {{art-stub}}. See the list of stub types for a list of all specific stub templates.) Stubs help track articles that need expansion.
Articles about living persons
Articles written about living persons must be referenced so that they can be verified. Biographies about living subjects that lack sources may be deleted.
Advocacy and controversial material
Please do not write articles that advocate one particular viewpoint on politics, religion, or anything else. Understand what we mean by a neutral point of view before tackling this sort of topic.
Articles that contain different definitions of the topic
Articles are primarily about what something is, not any term(s). If the article is just about a word or phrase and especially if there are very different ways that a term is used, it usually belongs in Wiktionary. Instead, try to write a good short first paragraph that defines one subject as well as some more material to go with it.
Organization
Make sure there are incoming links to the new article from other Wikipedia articles (click "What links here" in the toolbox) and that the new article is included in at least one appropriate category (see help:category). Otherwise, it will be difficult for readers to find the article.
Local-interest articles
These are articles about places like schools, or streets that are of interest to a relatively small number of people such as alumni or people who live nearby. There is no consensus about such articles, but some will challenge them if they include nothing that shows how the place is special and different from tens of thousands of similar places. Photographs add interest. Try to give local-interest articles local colour. Third-party sources are the only way to prove that the subject you are writing about is notable.
Breaking news events
While Wikipedia accepts articles about notable recent events, articles about breaking news events with no enduring notability are not appropriate for our project. Consider writing such articles on our sister project Wikinews. See Wikipedia:Notability (events) for further information.
Editing on the wrong page
If you're trying to create a new page, you'll start with a completely empty edit box. If you see text in the editing box that is filled with words you didn't write (for example, the contents of this page), you're accidentally editing a pre-existing page. Don't "Publish changes" your additions. See Wikipedia:How to create a page, and start over.

Are you closely connected to the article topic?

Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that anyone can edit, but there are special guidelines for editors who are paid or sponsored. These guidelines are intended to prevent biased articles and maintain the public's trust that content in Wikipedia is impartial and has been added in good faith. (See Wikipedia's conflict of interest (COI) guideline.)

The official guidelines are that editors must be volunteers. That means Wikipedia discourages editing articles about individuals, companies, organizations, products/services, or political causes that pay you directly or indirectly. This includes in-house PR departments and marketing departments, other company employees, public relations firms and publicists, social media consultants, and online reputation management consultants. However, Wikipedia recognizes the large volume of good faith contributions by people who have some affiliation to the articles they work on.

Here are some ground rules. If you break these rules, your edits are likely to be reverted, and the article(s) and your other edits may get extra scrutiny from other Wikipedia editors. Your account may also be blocked.

Things to avoidThings to be careful aboutGreat ways to contribute
  • Don't add promotional language
  • Don't remove negative/critical text from an article
  • Don't make a "group" account for multiple people to share
  • Don't neglect to disclose your affiliation on the article's talk page
  • Maintain a neutral, objective tone in any content you add or edit
  • Cite independent, reliable sources (e.g., a major media article) for any new statements you add – even if you are confident a statement is true (e.g., it is about your work), only say it if it has been restated already in a reliable source.
  • Make minor edits/corrections to articles (e.g., typos, fixing links, adding references to reliable sources)
  • If you are biased, suggest new article text or edits on the article talk page (not on the main article page).
  • Disclose your relationship to the client/topic.
  • Edit using personal accounts.
  • Recruit help: Seek out a sponsor (volunteer editor) who has worked on similar articles, or submit ideas for article topics via Requested articles.

Note that this has to do only with conflict of interest. Editors are encouraged to write on topics related to their expertise: e.g., a NASA staffperson might write about planets, or an academic researcher might write about their field. Also, Wikipedians-in-residence or other interns who are paid, hosted or otherwise sponsored by a scientific or cultural institution can upload content and write articles in partnership with curators, indirectly providing positive branding for their hosts.

Create your draft

Click here: Article wizard, read the brief introduction, and then click the big blue button to get started creating your draft.

And then what?

Now that you have created the page, there are still several things you can do.

Keep making improvements

Wikipedia is not finished. Generally, an article is nowhere near being completed the moment it is created. There is a long way to go. In fact, it may take you several edits just to get it started.

If you have so much interest in the article you just created, you may learn more about it in the future, and accordingly, have more to add. This may be later today, tomorrow, or several months from now. Any time – go ahead.

Improve formatting

To format your article correctly (and expand it, and possibly even make it featured!), see

Others can freely contribute to the article when it has been saved. The creator does not have special rights to control the later content. See Wikipedia:Ownership of articles.

Also, before you get frustrated or offended about the way others modify or remove your contributions, see Wikipedia:Don't be ashamed.

Avoid orphans

An orphaned article is an article that has few or no other articles linking to it. The main problem with an orphan is that it'll be unknown to others, and may get fewer readers if it is not de-orphaned.

Most new articles are orphans from the moment they are created, but you can work to change that. This will involve editing one or more other articles. Try searching Wikipedia for other pages referring to the subject of your article, then turn those references into links by adding double brackets to either side: "[[" and "]]". If another article has a word or phrase that has the same meaning as your new article, but not expressed in the same words as the title, you can link that word or phrase as follows: "[[title of your new article|word or phrase found in other article]]." Or in certain cases, you could create that word or phrase as a redirect to your new article.

One of the first things you want to do after creating a new article is to provide links to it so it will not be an orphan. You can do that right away, or if you find that exhausting, you can wait a while, provided that you keep the task in mind.

See Wikipedia:Drawing attention to new pages to learn how to get others to see your new articles.

Add to a disambiguation page

If the term is ambiguous (meaning there are multiple pages using that or a similar title), see if there is a disambiguation page for articles bearing that title. If so, add it to that page.

Still need help?

Read a traditional encyclopedia

Try to read traditional paper encyclopedia articles to get the layout, style, tone, and other elements of encyclopedic content. It is suggested that if you plan to write articles for an encyclopedia, you have some background knowledge in formal writing as well as about the topic at hand. A composition class in your high school or college is recommended before you start writing encyclopedia articles.

The World Book is a good place to start. The goal of Wikipedia is to create an up-to-the-moment encyclopedia on every notable subject imaginable. Pretend that your article will be published in a paper encyclopedia.

Is it new?
Type, then click "Go (try title)"

"Wikipedia:Topic" redirects here. For information about topic bans, see WP:TBAN.

This page sets out advice on how to write an effective article, including information on layout, style, and how to make an article clear, precise and relevant to the reader.

  • You can post questions about English grammar and usage at Wikipedia's language desk.
  • If you want to peruse some of Wikipedia's finest articles, have a look at Wikipedia:Featured articles.
  • For information on how to cite sources, see Wikipedia:Citing sources.
  • For our guidelines on style, see the Wikipedia:Manual of Style and its subsidiary pages, listed in the template to the right.
  • To learn about markup in Wikipedia articles, see Wikipedia:How to edit a page.
  • To learn about lists, disambiguation pages, and images, see Wikipedia:Lists, Wikipedia:Disambiguation, and Wikipedia:Picture tutorial.

Layout

Main page: Wikipedia:Layout

Layout matters. Good articles start with introductions, continue with a clear structure, and end with standard appendices such as references and related articles.

Structure of the article

Introductory material

Good articles start with a brief lead section (WP:CREATELEAD) introducing the topic. We discuss lead sections in greater detail below. The lead section should come above the first header; it is almost never useful to add something like . Sometimes, the first section after the lead is a broad summary of the topic, and is called "Overview", although more specific section titles and structures are generally preferred.

Paragraphs

Paragraphs should be short enough to be readable, but long enough to develop an idea. Overly long paragraphs should be split up, as long as the cousin paragraphs keep the idea in focus.

One-sentence paragraphs are unusually emphatic, and should be used sparingly. Articles should rarely, if ever, consist solely of such paragraphs.

Some paragraphs are really tables or lists in disguise. They should be rewritten as prose or converted to their unmasked form. Wikipedia:When to use tables and Wikipedia:Embedded list offer guidance on the proper use of these elements.

Headings

Headings help clarify articles and create a structure shown in the table of contents. To learn about how the MediaWiki software uses sections, see Help:Section.

Headings are hierarchical. The article's title uses a level 1 heading, so you should start with a level 2 heading () and follow it with lower levels: , , and so forth. Whether extensive subtopics should be kept on one page or moved to individual pages is a matter of personal judgment. See also below under #Summary style.

Headings should not be Wikilinked. This is because headings in themselves introduce information and let the reader know what subtopics will be presented; Wikilinks should be incorporated in the text of the section.

Images

If the article can be illustrated with pictures, find an appropriate place to position these images, where they relate closely to text they illustrate. If there might be doubt, draw attention to the image in the text (illustration right). For more information on using pictures, see Wikipedia:Layout § Images and Wikipedia:Picture tutorial.

Standard appendices

As explained in more detail at Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Layout § Standard appendices and footers, optional appendix sections containing the following information may appear after the body of the article in the following order:

  1. A list of books or other works created by the subject of the article (works)
  2. A list of internal "wikilinks" to related Wikipedia articles (see also)
  3. Notes and references (notes, footnotes, or references)
  4. A list of recommended relevant books, articles, or other publications that have not been used as sources (further reading)
  5. A list of recommended relevant websites that have not been used as sources (external links).

With some exceptions, any links to sister projects appear in further reading or external links sections. Succession boxes and navigational footers go at the end of the article, following the last appendix section, but preceding the category and interwiki templates.

Size

See also: Wikipedia:Article size

Excessively long articles should usually be avoided. Articles should ideally contain less than 50KB worth of prose. When articles grow past this amount of readable text, they can be broken up into smaller articles to improve readability and ease of editing, or may require trimming to remain concise. The headed sub-section should be retained, with a concise version of what has been removed under an italicized header, such as Main article: History of Ruritania (a list of templates used to create these headers is available at Category:Wikipedia page-section templates). Otherwise, context is lost and the general treatment suffers. Each article on a subtopic should be written as a stand-alone article—that is, it should have a lead section, headings, et cetera.

When an article is long and has many sub articles, try to balance the main page. Do not put undue weight into one part of an article at the cost of other parts. In shorter articles, if one subtopic has much more text than another subtopic, that may be an indication the subtopic should have its own page, with only a summary presented on the main page.

Articles covering subtopics

Wikipedia articles tend to grow in a way that leads to the natural creation of new articles. The text of any article consists of a sequence of related but distinct subtopics. When there is enough text in a given subtopic to merit its own article, that text can be summarized in the present article and a link provided to the more detailed article. Cricket is an example of an article covering subtopics: it is divided into subsections that give an overview of the sport, with each subsection leading to one or more subtopic articles.

Information style and tone

Two styles, closely related and not mutually exclusive, tend to be used for Wikipedia articles. The tone, however, should always remain formal, impersonal, and dispassionate.

These styles are summary style, which is the arrangement of a broad topic into a main article and side articles, each with subtopical sections; and the inverted pyramid style (or news style, though this term is ambiguous), which prioritizes key information to the top, followed by supporting material and details, with background information at the bottom.

A feature of both styles, and of all Wikipedia articles, is the presence of the lead section, a summarizing overview of the most important facts about the topic. The infobox template found at the top of many articles is a further distillation of key points.

Summary style

Main page: Wikipedia:Summary style

Summary style may apply both across a category of articles and within an article. Material is grouped and divided into sections that logically form discrete subtopics, and which over time may spin off to separate articles, to prevent excessive article length as the main article grows. As each subtopic is spun off, a concise summary of it is left behind with a pointer (usually using the template) to the new side article.

There are three main advantages to using summary style:

  • Different readers want varying amounts of detail, and this style permits them to choose how much they are exposed to. Some readers need just a quick summary and are satisfied by the lead section; others seek a moderate amount of info, and will find the main article suitable to their needs; yet others want a lot of detail, and will be interested in reading the side articles.
  • An article that is too long becomes tedious to read. Progressively summarizing and spinning off material avoids overwhelming the reader with too much text at once.
  • An excessively detailed article is often one that repeats itself or exhibits writing that could be more concise. The development of summary-style articles tends to naturally clear out redundancy and bloat, though in a multi-article topic this comes at the cost of some necessary cross-article redundancy (i.e., a summary of one article in another).

The exact organizing principle of a particular summary-style article is highly context-dependent, with various options, such as chronological, geographical, and alphabetical (primarily in lists), among others.

Some examples of summary style are the featured articles Association football and Music of the Lesser Antilles.

Inverted pyramid (news style)

See also: Wikipedia:Too long; didn't read

Some Wikipedians prefer using the inverted pyramid structure of news style. This information presentation technique is that found in short, direct, front-page newspaper stories and the news bulletins that air on radio and television. This is a style only used within an article, not across a category of them.

The main feature of the inverted pyramid is placement of important information first, with a decreasing importance as the article advances. Originally developed so that the editors could cut from the bottom to fit an item into the available layout space, this style encourages brevity and prioritizes information, because many people expect to find important material early, and less important information later, where interest decreases.

Encyclopedia articles are not required to be in inverted pyramid order, and often aren't, especially when complex. However, a familiarity with this convention may help in planning the style and layout of an article for which this approach is a good fit. Inverted-pyramid style is most often used with articles in which a chronological, geographical, or other order will not be helpful. Common examples are short-term events, concise biographies of persons notable for only one thing, and other articles where there are not likely to be many logical subtopics, but a number of facts to prioritize for the reader.

The lead section common to all Wikipedia articles is, in essence, a limited application of the inverted pyramid approach. Virtually all stub articles should be created in inverted-pyramid style, since they basically consist of just a lead section. Consequently, many articles begin as inverted-pyramid pieces and change to summary style later as the topic develops, often combining the approaches by retaining a general inverted pyramid structure, but dividing the background material subtopically, with summary pointers to other articles.

Tone

"WP:SLANG" redirects here. For the policy that covers writing Wikipedia articles about slang terms, see Wikipedia:Wikipedia is not a dictionary.

See also: Wikipedia:Neutral point of view § Impartial tone

Wikipedia is not a manual, guidebook, textbook, or scientific journal. Articles, and other encyclopedic content, should be written in a formal tone. Standards for formal tone vary a bit depending upon the subject matter, but should usually match the style used in Featured- and Good-class articles in the same category. Encyclopedic writing has a fairly academic approach, while remaining clear and understandable. Formal tone means that the article should not be written using argot, slang, colloquialisms, doublespeak, legalese, or jargon that is unintelligible to an average reader; it means that the English language should be used in a businesslike manner.

Articles should not be written from a first- or second-person perspective. In prose writing, the first-person (I/me/my and we/us/our) point of view and second-person (you and your) point of view typically evoke a strong narrator. While this is acceptable in works of fiction and in monographs, it is unsuitable in an encyclopedia, where the writer should be invisible to the reader. Moreover, pertaining specifically to Wikipedia's policies, the first person often inappropriately implies a point of view inconsistent with the neutrality policy, while second person is associated with the step-by-step instructions of a how-to guide, which Wikipedia is not. First- and second-person pronouns should ordinarily be used only in attributed direct quotations relevant to the subject of the article. As with many such guidelines, however, there can be occasional exceptions. For instance, the "inclusive we" is widely used in professional mathematics writing, and though discouraged on Wikipedia even for that subject, it has sometimes been used when presenting and explaining examples. Use common sense to determine whether the chosen perspective is in the spirit of the guidelines.

Gender-neutral pronouns should be used (or pronouns avoided) where the gender is not specific; see Gender-neutral language for further information.

Punctuation marks that appear in the article should be used only per generally accepted practice. Exclamation marks (!) should be used only if they occur in direct quotations. This is generally true of question marks (?) as well; do not pose rhetorical questions for the reader.[1]

As a matter of policy, Wikipedia is not written in news style in other senses than the inverted pyramid (above), including tone. The encyclopedic and journalistic intent and audience are different. Especially avoid bombastic wording, attempts at humor or cleverness, reliance on primary sources, editorializing, recentism, pull quotes, journalese, and headlinese.

Similarly, avoid news style's close sibling, persuasive style, which has many of those faults and more of its own, most often various kinds of appeal to emotion and related fallacies. This style is used in press releases, advertising, op-ed writing, activism, propaganda, proposals, formal debate, reviews, and much tabloid and sometimes investigative journalism. It is not Wikipedia's role to try to convince the reader of anything, only to provide the salient facts as best they can be determined, and the reliable sources for them.

Not all tone flaws are immediately obvious as bias, original research, or other policy problems, but may be relevance, register, or other content-presentation issues. A common one is the idea, often taught to debate students, that each section or even paragraph should introduce a key statement (a thesis), then supporting evidence in additional sentences, and finish with a recapitulation of the original thesis in different wording. This style is redundant and brow-beating, and should not be used in encyclopedic writing.[2] Another is attempting to make bits of material "pop" (an undue weight problem), such as with excessive emphasis, the inclusion of hyperbolic adjectives and adverbs, or the use of unusual synonyms or loaded words. Just present the sourced information without embellishment, agenda, or fanfare. Another presentation problem is "info-dumping" by presenting information the form of a long, bulletized list when it would be better given as normal prose paragraphs. This is especially true when the items in the list are not of equal importance or are not really comparable in some other way, and need context. Using explanatory prose also helps identify and remove trivia.

Provide context for the reader

"WP:PCR" redirects here. For the pending changes reviewer user rights, see Wikipedia:Reviewing pending changes.

"WP:AUDIENCE" redirects here. For guideline on notability of companies with regards to reach of sources, see Wikipedia:Notability (organizations and companies) § Audience.

For context and linking, see Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Linking.

Wikipedia is an international encyclopedia. People who read Wikipedia have different backgrounds, education and opinions. Make your article accessible and understandable for as many readers as possible. Assume readers are reading the article to learn. It is possible that the reader knows nothing about the subject, so the article needs to explain the subject fully.

Avoid using jargon whenever possible. Consider the reader. An article entitled "Use of chromatic scales in early Baroque music" is likely to be read by musicians, and technical details and terms are appropriate, linking to articles explaining the technical terms. On the other hand, an article entitled "Baroque music" is likely to be read by laypersons who want a brief and plainly written overview, with links to available detailed information. When jargon is used in an article, a brief explanation should be given within the article. Aim for a balance between comprehensibility and detail so that readers can gain information from the article.

Evaluating context

Here are some thought experiments to help you test whether you are setting enough context:

  • Does the article make sense if the reader gets to it as a random page? (Special:Random)
  • Imagine yourself as a layperson in another English-speaking country. Can you figure out what the article is about?
  • Can people tell what the article is about if the first page is printed out and passed around?
  • Would a reader want to follow some of the links? Do sentences still make sense if they can't?

Build the web

Main page: Wikipedia:Manual of Style (linking)

Remember that every Wikipedia article is tightly connected to a network of other topics. Establishing such connections via wikilink is a good way to establish context. Because Wikipedia is not a long, ordered sequence of carefully categorized articles like a paper encyclopedia, but a collection of randomly accessible, highly interlinked ones, each article should contain links to more general subjects that serve to categorize the article. When creating links, do not go overboard, and be careful to make your links relevant. It is not necessary to link the same term twelve times (although if it appears in the lead, then near the end, it might be a good idea to link it twice).

Avoid making your articles orphans. When you write a new article, make sure that one or more other pages link to it, to lessen the chances that your article will be orphaned through someone else's refactoring. Otherwise, when it falls off the bottom of the Recent Changes page, it will disappear into the Mists of Avalon. There should always be an unbroken chain of links leading from the Main Page to every article in Wikipedia; following the path you would expect to use to find your article may give you some hints as to which articles should link to your article.

State the obvious

"WP:OBVIOUS" redirects here. For the essay about over-citing obvious things, see Wikipedia:You don't need to cite that the sky is blue.

State facts that may be obvious to you, but are not necessarily obvious to the reader. Usually, such a statement will be in the first sentence or two of the article. For example, consider this sentence:

The Ford Thunderbird was conceived as a response to the Chevrolet Corvette and entered production for the 1955 model year.

Here no mention is made of the Ford Thunderbird's fundamental nature: it is an automobile. It assumes that the reader already knows this—an assumption that may not be correct, especially if the reader is not familiar with Ford or Chevrolet. Perhaps instead:

The Ford Thunderbird is a car manufactured in the United States by the Ford Motor Company.

However, there is no need to go overboard. There is no need to explain a common word like "car". Repetition is usually unnecessary, for example:

Shoichi Yokoi was conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army in 1941.

conveys enough information (although it is not a good first sentence). However, the following is not only verbose but redundant:

Shoichi Yokoi was a Japanese soldier in Japan who was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army in 1941.

Lead section

As explained in more detail at Wikipedia:Lead section § Introductory text, all but the shortest articles should start with introductory text (the "lead"). The lead should establish significance, include mention of consequential or significant criticism or controversies, and be written in a way that makes readers want to know more. The appropriate length of the lead depends on that of the article, but should normally be no more than four paragraphs. The lead itself has no heading and, on pages with more than three headings, automatically appears above the table of contents, if present.

Opening paragraph

Normally, the opening paragraph summarizes the most important points of the article. It should clearly explain the subject so that the reader is prepared for the greater level of detail that follows. If further introductory material is appropriate before the first section, it can be covered in subsequent paragraphs in the lead. Introductions to biographical articles commonly double as summaries, listing the best-known achievements of the subject. Because some readers will read only the opening of an article, the most vital information should be included.

First sentence content

The article should begin with a short declarative sentence, answering two questions for the nonspecialist reader: "What (or who) is the subject?" and "Why is this subject notable?"[3]

  • If possible, the page title should be the subject of the first sentence:[4] However, if the article title is merely descriptive—such as Electrical characteristics of a dynamic loudspeaker—the title does not need to appear verbatim in the main text. Similarly, where an article title is of the type "List of ...", a clearer and more informative introduction to the list is better than verbatim repetition of the title.
  • When the page title is used as the subject of the first sentence, it may appear in a slightly different form, and it may include variations.[5] Similarly, if the title has a parenthetical disambiguator, the disambiguator should be omitted in the text.[6]
  • If its subject is amenable to definition, then the first sentence should give a concise definition: where possible, one that puts the article in context for the nonspecialist. Similarly, if the subject is a term of art, provide the context as early as possible.[7]
  • If the article is about a fictional character or place, make sure to say so.[8]

First sentence format

  • As a general rule, the first (and only the first) appearance of the page title should be in boldface as early as possible in the first sentence:

An electron is a subatomic particle that carries a negative electric charge.

The chief electrical characteristic of a dynamic loudspeaker's driver is its electrical impedance as a function of frequency.

  • If the subject of the page is normally italicized (for example, a work of art, literature, album, or ship) then its first mention should be both bold and italic text; if it is usually surrounded by quotation marks, the title should be bold but the quotation marks should not:

Las Meninas (Spanish for The Maids of Honour) is a 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez, ...

"Yesterday" is a pop song originally recorded by The Beatles for their 1965 album Help!.

  • If the subject of the page has a common abbreviation or more than one name, the abbreviation (in parentheses) and each additional name should be in boldface on its first appearance:

Sodium hydroxide (NaOH), also known as lye, caustic soda and (incorrectly, according to IUPAC nomenclature) sodium hydrate, is ...

  • Use as few links as possible before and in the bolded title. Thereafter, words used in a title may be linked to provide more detail:

Arugam Bay is a bay situated on the Indian Ocean in the dry zone of Sri Lanka's southeast coast.

The rest of the opening paragraph

Then proceed with a description. Remember, the basic significance of a topic may not be obvious to nonspecialist readers, even if they understand the basic characterization or definition. Tell them. For instance:

Peer review, known as refereeing in some academic fields, is a scholarly process used in the publication of manuscripts and in the awarding of money for research. Publishers and agencies use peer review to select and to screen submissions. At the same time, the process assists authors in meeting the standards of their discipline. Publications and awards that have not undergone peer review are liable to be regarded with suspicion by scholars and professionals in many fields.

The rest of the lead section

If the article is long enough for the lead section to contain several paragraphs, then the first paragraph should be short and to the point, with a clear explanation of what the subject of the page is. The following paragraphs should give a summary of the article. They should provide an overview of the main points the article will make, summarizing the primary reasons the subject matter is interesting or notable, including its more important controversies, if there are any.

The appropriate length of the lead section depends on the total length of the article. As a general guideline:

Article LengthLead Length
Fewer than 15,000 charactersOne or two paragraphs
15,000–30,000 charactersTwo or three paragraphs
More than 30,000 charactersThree or four paragraphs

"Lead follows body"

The sequence in which you edit should usually be: first change the body, then update the lead to summarize the body. Several editors might add or improve some information in the body of the article, and then another editor might update the lead once the new information has stabilized. Don't try to update the lead first, hoping to provide direction for future changes to the body. There are three reasons why editing the body first and then making the lead reflect it tends to lead to better articles.

First, it keeps the lead in sync with the body. The lead, being a summary of the article, promises that the body will deliver fuller treatment of each point. Generally, wiki pages are imperfect at all times, but they should be complete, useful articles at all times. They should not contain "under construction" sections or refer to features and information that editors hope they will contain in the future. It's much worse for the lead to promise information that the body does not deliver than for the body to deliver information that the lead does not promise.

Second, good ways to summarize material usually only become clear after that material has been written. If you add a new point to the lead before it's covered in the body, you only think you know what the body will eventually contain. When the material is actually covered in the body, and checked and improved, usually by multiple editors, then you know. (If having a rough, tentative summary helps you write the body, keep your own private summary, either on your computer or in your User space.)

Third, on contentious pages, people often get into edit wars over the lead because the lead is the most prominent part of the article. It's much harder to argue constructively over high-level statements when you don't share common understanding of the lower-level information that they summarize. Space is scarce in the lead, so people are tempted to cram too much into one sentence, or pile on lots of references, in order to fully state and prove their case—resulting in an unreadable lead. In the body, you have all the space you need to cover subtleties and to cover opposing ideas fairly and in depth, separately, one at a time. Once the opposing ideas have been shaken out and covered well in the body, editing the lead without warring often becomes much easier. Instead of arguing about what is true or what all the competing sources say, now you are just arguing over whether the lead fairly summarizes what's currently in the body.

Use other languages sparingly

Main page: Wikipedia:Manual of Style § Foreign terms

It is fine to include foreign terms as extra information, but avoid writing articles that can only be understood if the reader understands the foreign terms. Such words are equivalent to jargon, which should be explained somehow. In the English-language Wikipedia, the English form does not always have to come first: sometimes the non-English word is better as the main text, with the English in parentheses or set off by commas after it, and sometimes not. For example, see Perestroika.

Non-English words in the English-language Wikipedia should be written in italics. Non-English words should be used as titles for entries only as a last resort. Again, see Perestroika.

English title terms taken from a language that does not use the Roman alphabet can include the native spelling in parentheses. See, for example, I Ching (simplified Chinese: 易经; traditional Chinese: 易經; pinyin: yì jīng) or Sophocles (Greek: Σοφοκλῆς). The native spelling is useful for precisely identifying foreign words, since transliterations may be inaccurate or ambiguous. Foreign terms within the article body do not need native spellings if they can be specified as title terms in separate articles; just link to the appropriate article on first occurrence.

Use color sparingly

See also: Help:Using colors

If possible, avoid presenting information with color only within the article's text and in tables.

Color should only be used sparingly, as a secondary visual aid. Computers and browsers vary, and you cannot know how much color, if any, is visible on the recipient's machine. Wikipedia is international: colors have different meaning in different cultures. Too many colors on one page look cluttered and unencyclopedic. Specifically, use the color red only for alerts and warnings.

Awareness of color should be allowed for low-vision viewers: poor lighting, color blindness, dark or overbright screens, and the wrong contrast/color settings on the display screen.

Use clear, precise and accurate terms

Be concise

Main page: WP:BECONCISE

Articles should use only necessary words. This does not mean using fewer words is always better; rather, when considering equivalent expressions, choose the more concise.

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

— William Strunk, Jr. from the 1918 work, The Elements of Style

Reduce sentences to the essentials. Wordiness does not add credibility to Wikipedia articles. Avoid temporary expressions like "due to the fact that" in place of "because", or "at the present time" for "currently". The ideal method of specifying on-going events is "as of 2018". Wikipedia "grammar bots" will replace these types of expressions with correct wording.

Conciseness does not justify removing information from an article. The use of subjective qualifiers should be avoided.

Principle of least astonishment

Further information: Wikipedia:Offensive material

When the principle of least astonishment is successfully employed, information is understood by the reader without struggle. The average reader should not be shocked, surprised, or overwhelmingly confused by your article. For example, do not write, "Most people in Fargo, North Dakota, are dead. That is, dead tired by the end of a long work day". You should not use provocative language in descriptions or arguments. Instead, offer information gently. Use consistent vocabulary in parts that are technical and difficult. To work out which parts of the sentence are going to be difficult for the reader, try to put yourself in the position of a reader hitherto uninformed on the subject.

You should plan your page structure and links so that everything appears reasonable and makes sense. If a link takes readers to somewhere other than where they thought it would, it should at least take them somewhere that makes sense.

Similarly, make sure that concepts being used as the basis for further discussion have already been defined or linked to a proper article. Explain causes before consequences and make sure your logical sequence is clear and sound, especially to the layperson.

Ensure that redirects and hatnotes that are likely to be useful are in place. If a user wants to know about the branch of a well-known international hotel chain in the French capital, they may type "Paris Hilton" into the search box. This will, of course, take them to the page associated with a well-known socialite. Luckily, though, a hatnote at the top of that article exists in order to point our user to an article which they will find more useful.

Use of "refers to"

See also: Wikipedia:Wikipedia is not a dictionary § Fixing the introductory sentence: removing "refers to"

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