NSWiki:Style guide

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This Manual of Style has the simple purpose of making things look alike — it is a style guide. The following rules don't claim to be the last word. One way is often as good as another, but if everyone does it the same way, NSwiki will be easier to read and use, not to mention easier to write and edit. In this regard the following quote from The Chicago Manual of Style deserves notice:

Rules and regulations such as these, in the nature of the case, cannot be endowed with the fixity of rock-ribbed law. They are meant for the average case, and must be applied with a certain degree of elasticity.

Clear, informative and unbiased writing is always more important than presentation and formatting. Writers are not required to follow all or any of these rules: the joy of wiki editing is that perfection is not required. Copy-editing wikipedians will refer to this manual when weeding, and pages will either gradually be made to conform with this guide or this guide will itself be changed to the same effect.

Please see NSwiki:Page editing for information on how to use all the different forms of markup — there is much more available than just bold or italic. This article concentrates on when to use them, although the examples usually also show the markup.

Article names

It is customary for the title to be the subject of the first sentence of the article. Make article titles bold in the first sentence using '''three apostrophes''' — do not self-link to embolden the title. Avoid putting links inside the emboldened title. Use '''''bold italics''''' in the first sentence only for terms that would be italicised even if they were not set in bold, for example, book titles.


Free links

The use of so-called "free links" to other topics, for example, [[NationStates]], is encouraged. Use the links for all words and terms that are relevant to your article.

Don't make too many links. For each link that you add, ensure that there is a reasonable amount of unlinked text to make the article easy to read. It is difficult to know how many links are appropriate for any particular article. A suggestion is that if 10% of the words are already linked, then perhaps some less vital link can be removed when more important links are added. Do not link every occurrence of a word; simply linking the first time the word appears will usually be enough. For words that appear first in an article and then in a list farther down, it can be linked again in the list.

Don't link words in article titles; find alternative ways to include and then link those words.

It is possible to link words that are not exactly the same as the linked article title, [[English language|English]] for example. Make sure, however, that it is still clear what the link refers to without having to follow the link. When forming plurals, do so thus: [[language]]s. This is clearer to read in wiki form than [[language|languages]] — and easier to type. This syntax is also applicable to adjective constructs, e.g. [[Asia]]n, as well as hyphenated phrases and the like.

Try to link accurately. If an article you want to link doesn't yet exist, do a quick search to find out if that is really the case; the article may have a slightly different name than you expect.

Never use "click here" as the text for a link (since Wikipedia articles could be printed) — this conveys no information at all. The text of the link should be the subject to which the link leads.

External links

NSwiki is not a link collection and an article with only links is actively discouraged, but it is appropriate to reference more detailed material from the World Wide Web. This is particularly the case when you have used a web site as an important source of information.


The syntax for referencing a URL is simple. Just enclose it in single brackets:

[URL optional-text-after-space]

The URL must begin with http:// or another common protocol, such as ftp:// or news://.

In addition, putting URLs in plain text with no markup automatically produces a link, e.g. http://www.nationstates.net. However, this feature may disappear in a future release. Therefore, in cases where you wish to display the URL because it is intrinsically valuable information, it is better to use the short form of the URL (host name) as the optional text: [http://www.nationstates.net/ www.nationstates.net] produces www.nationstates.net.

Link titles

You can add a title to an external link by supplying descriptive text after the URL separated by a space and enclosing it all in square brackets. For example, to add a title to a bare URL such as http://www.nationstates.net (this is rendered as "http://www.nationstates.net"), use the following syntax: [http://www.nationstates.net a political simulation game] (this is rendered as "a political simulation game").

Some URLs are ugly and uninformative; in such cases, it is better for a meaningful title to be displayed rather than the URL itself. For example, "European Space Agency website" is much more reader-friendly than "http://www.esa.int/export/esaCP/index.html".

If the URL is displayed, make it as simple as possible whilst still leading to the desired page; for example, remove the superfluous index.html.

The "printable version" of a page displays all URLs in full, including those given a title, so no information is lost.

URLs as footnotes

Without the optional text, an external reference appears as a footnote: For example,


is displayed like this:


Position in article

In most cases, it is preferable to group external links together at the bottom of the article in bullet point format under the heading:

==External links==

As with other top-level headers, two equal signs should be used to markup the external links header (see Headings elsewhere in the article).

It is also possible to include an inline URL reference within the body of an article. For example:

One good example of a cooperative online community is [http://www.nationstates.net NationStates].

is displayed like this:

One good example of a cooperative online community is NationStates.

This is discouraged in most situations.

If an article has used information from an external webpage or it is to be indicated that more information regarding the article will be available, e.g., statistics, picture gallery, essays, etc., on a website, then such links should be part of the "External links" section at the bottom of the article. If the external reference to be cited pertains to only a paragraph or a line in the article for example, then the use of inline external links as footnotes serves as a proper citation. Footnotes can be used throughout the article, they get replaced by numbers in increasing order starting from 1.

File type

If the link is not to an HTML file, but to a file which must be opened in an external program, such as a PDF or Microsoft Word document, a remark about that is useful to help the user decide whether opening or first downloading is preferred.

File size

If the link is to a large file (in the case of html, including the images) a note about that is useful. Someone with a slow connection may decide not to use it.


Use the == style markup for headings, not ''' (bold). Example:

==This is a heading==

which produces

This is a heading

Note that when ==This is a heading== is used, no blank line under the headline is needed. Extra blank lines are optional, and their presence (or absence) will not affect the appearance of your article.

If you mark headings this way, then a table of contents is automatically generated from the headings in an article, sections can be automatically numbered for users with that preference set and words within properly marked headings are given greater weight in searches. Headings also help readers by breaking up the text and outlining the article.

  • Capitalize the first word and any proper nouns in headings, but leave the rest (including ordinary nouns) lower case.
  • Avoid links within headings. Depending on settings, some users may not see them clearly. It is much better to put the appropriate link in the first sentence under the header.
  • Overuse of sub-headings should be avoided, as it can make the article look cluttered. Short paragraphs and single sentences generally do not warrant their own sub-heading.
  • In circumstances where there is not enough text to justify a sub-heading, it may be preferable to use bolded text or bullet points within a section instead of using sub-headings.

For more information, see Wikipedia:Manual of Style (headings).



As discussed in the Headings section above, only the first word and proper nouns in headings should be capitalized; other words (including ordinary nouns) should be in lower case.

Job titles

Job titles such as president, king, or emperor are capitalized when used as a title (followed by a name), thus it is "President Bush", not "president Bush". When used generically, they should be in lower case: "Bush is the American president." However if one is using the correct formal name of an office, it is treated as a proper noun. Hence: "Bush was President of the United States", in contrast to "Bush was the U.S. president". Similarly "Louis XVI was the French king" but "Louis XVI was King of France", King of France being a title in that context. The same goes for historical offices: "Maximilian was Mexican emperor from X to Y". "Maximilian was Emperor of Mexico from X to Y". Exceptions may apply for specific offices; feel free to add them here.

Religions, deities, philosophies, doctrines and their adherents

Names of religions should be capitalised, thus Islam, Tibetan Buddhism, Judaism. Mormonism requires special care — see Mormonism. Followers of a religious faith should also be capitalised thus Christian, Muslim, Jew. Whenever a faith is used as an adjective it should also be capitalised: Jewish calendar, Islamic architecture, etc.

As per The Chicago Manual of Style, deities in both monotheistic and polytheistic religions should be capitalized — such as, God, Allah, Freya. This also applies to transcendent ideas in the Platonic sense — Good and Truth. Similarly, alternative and descriptive names for deities should be capitalized — the Lord, the Supreme Being, the Messiah. Pronouns referring to deities, or in the extreme case "who" or "whom", or nouns (other than names) referring to any material or abstract representation of any deity, human or otherwise, should not be capitalized, however.

However, philosophies, doctrines, and systems of economic thought should not be capitalised, unless the name is derived from a proper noun. Adherents of such systems, and any derived adjectives also follow this rule. Thus we have existentialism, communism, and modernist, but Luddite, Marxism, and Jeffersonian. Lowercase republican refers to a system of political thought, uppercase Republican refers to a specific Republican Party (each party name being a proper noun); similarly, lowercase fascist refers generically to the ideology, whereas uppercase Fascist refers specifically to the Mussolini's Italian Fascist Party. Capitalisation of Nazi and Nazism is preferred (reflecting the etymology), but the trend is perhaps towards lower-casing.

Celestial bodies

Names of other planets and stars are proper nouns, and should be capitalized. For example, "The planet Mars can be seen tonight in the constellation Gemini, near the star Pollux".

The words sun, earth, and moon are to be capitalized when being used in an astronomical context as proper nouns. Hence: "The Sun is a main sequence star, with a spectral class of G2." However, in a non-scientific context, do not capitalize: "It was a lovely day and the sun was warm." Also, take care that these words are only capitalized when refering to the name of a specific body. "The Moon orbits the Earth" refers to the names of two bodies. However, "Pluto's moon Charon" uses moon as a conventional noun.

In some RPs, especially Future Tech, the following names are often used:

  • Terra = The Planet Earth
  • Sol = The Sun
  • Luna = The Moon
  • The Sol System = The Solar System

See also: Terra, Sol, and Luna


In general, we prefer formal writing. Therefore, contractions — such as don't, can't, won't, and so on — are discouraged, except when you are quoting directly.


In most cases, simply follow the usual rules of English punctuation. A few points where the Wikipedia may differ from usual usage follow.

Quotation marks

With quotation marks, we suggest splitting the difference between American and British usage.

Although it is not a rigid rule, it is probably best to use the "double quotes" for most quotations, as they are easier to read on the screen, and use 'single quotes' for "quotations 'within' quotations". This is the American style.

Note however the following problem with single quotes: if a word appears in an article with single quotes, such as 'abcd', the Wikipedia:Searching facility will find it only if you search for the word with quotes.

Another example:

Arthur said the situation was "deplorable". (we're quoting only part of a sentence)
Arthur said, "The situation is deplorable." (full sentence is quoted)

Keep in mind that if you're quoting several paragraphs, there should be quotes at the beginning of each paragraph, but only at the end of the last paragraph. For longer quotations, an indented style may be better, as

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones; So let it be with Caesar.

This is done by prepending a colon to the first line.

Since quotations are already marked by quotation marks or indentations, they need not be italicized.

Use straight quotation marks and apostrophes

For uniformity and to avoid complications use straight quotation marks and apostrophes:

' "

not curved (smart) ones or grave accents:

‘ ’ “ ” `

If you are pasting text from Microsoft Word, remember to turn off the smart quotes feature by unmarking this feature in AutoEdit and "AutoEdit during typing"! [2]. Many other modern word processors have a smart quotes setting – please read the appropriate documentation for your editor.

The grave accent (`) is also used as a diacritical mark to indicate a glottal stop; however, the straight quote should be used for this purpose instead (e.g., Hawai'i, not Hawai`i).

Spaces after periods

There are no current guidelines on whether to use one or two spaces after a period but it is not important as the difference only shows up in the edit box. The page itself will only display one space (unless you use   to force it otherwise).


As stated by assorted authoritative sources, when a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more elements, a comma is used before the conjunction: "The wires were brown, blue, and green." The reason for the final serial comma is to prevent the last two elements from being confused as a unit. Consider its utility in this sentence: "The author would like to thank her parents, Sinead O'Connor and Pope John-Paul II."


The use of dashes on Wikipedia is often under dispute. Please read Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dashes) and its talk page for details.



All articles should have the title or subject in bold in the first line and sometimes also in italic if that word or phrase is normally in italic too; see Wikipedia:Manual of Style (titles). The title or subject can almost always be made part of the first sentence, but some articles simply have names.

  • The Pythagorean theorem is named for and attributed to the 6th century BC Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras
    • The '''Pythagorean theorem''' is named for and attributed to the [[Wikipedia:6th century BC|6th century BC]] Greek philosopher and mathematician [[Wikipedia:Pythagoras|Pythagoras]]
  • Tom and Jerry — Pairing of names from Wikipedia:Pierce Egan's Life in London
    • '''Tom and Jerry''' — Pairing of names from [[Wikipedia:Pierce Egan]]'s ''Life in London''

If the subject of the article has more than one name, each new form of the name should be in bold on its first appearance.

  • Sodium hydroxide (NaOH), also known as caustic soda or lye
    • '''Sodium hydroxide''' ([[Wikipedia:sodium|Na]][[Wikipedia:oxygen|O]][[Wikipedia:hydrogen|H]]), also known as '''caustic soda''' or '''lye'''

It is preferable to make the context clear in the first few words. For example,

  • In Wikipedia:quantum physics, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
    • In [[Wikipedia:quantum physics]], the '''Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle'''

Lead section

The lead section is the section before the first headline. It is shown above the table of contents (for pages with more than three headlines). The appropriate lead length depends on the length of the article, but should be no longer than three paragraphs in any case. See Lead section for more details.

"See also" and "Related topics" sections

Ideally, topics related to an article are included within the text of the article as free links. Doing so makes the relation explicit. However, the editing process is organic, and it's often easier to list related articles at the end than to incorporate them into the article text.

If the article is divided into sections and See also refers to a particular section only, references to related articles that have not been linked from free links in the text may be handled by this form, placed at the bottom of the section:

''See also:'' [[Wikipedia:Internet troll|troll]], [[flaming]]

which produces:

See also: troll, flaming.

The above form may also be used in short articles without sections.

When the See also refers to the entire article, not just a section, it should be a heading of level 2 so that it appears in the table of contents. It should be placed at the bottom of the article, but before External links. Again, do not add any links to the "See also" section that are already present in the text of the article. If you remove a redundant link from the See also section of an article, it may be an explicit cross reference (see below), so consider making the link in the main text bold instead.


==See also==
*[[Wikipedia:Internet troll|troll]]

Which appears as:

See also

Another equally valid form is:

Related topics

Sometimes it is useful to have an explicit cross-reference in the text, for example, when a long section of text has been moved somewhere else, or there is a major article on a subtopic. In these cases, make the link bold so that its significance is easier to recognize. Example:

The legal situation with regard to n00bs varies from country to country (see n00bs).


The legal situation with regard to n00bs varies from country to country.

(See Section).

Other Sections

Other common sections (in their preferable order) are:


Compare against

External links

Simple tabulation

Any line that starts with a blank space becomes a fixed font width and can be used for simple tabulation.

foo     bar     baz
alpha   beta    gamma

A line that starts with a blank space with nothing else on it forms a blank line which may be just what you want or not if you are one of those typists who put two spaces after a period. You can cause a blank line unknowingly if those blanks are "wrapped" to the beginning of the next line.

Usage and spelling

to be added

Words as words

Italicize words when they are being written about, rather than being used to write about what they refer to. Similarly for letters.

  • The term panning is derived from panorama, a word originally coined in 1787
    • The term ''panning'' is derived from ''panorama'', a word originally coined in [[1787]]
  • The letter E is the most common letter in English.


Main article: Wikipedia:Picture tutorial

Articles with a single picture are encouraged to have that picture at the top of the article, right-aligned, but this is not a hard and fast rule. Portraits with the head looking to the right should be left-aligned (looking into the article). Please put the image at the top of the article, before the text begins.

The current image markup language is more or less this:

[[Image:picture.jpg|thumb|Blah blah caption]]


Sometimes you would prefer to have pictures on the right. The old way is to create a table for the purpose. No need for that anymore.

Table formatting (Don't do this)

<table align="right" border="0" cellpadding="0"><tr><td>[[Image:NSwiki.png]]</td></tr></table>

Without tables (Do this instead)



Photos and other graphics should have captions unless they are "self-captioning" as in reproductions of album or book covers, or when the graphic is an unambiguous depiction of the subject of the article. For example, in a biography article, it's presumed that the portrait is that of the person in the article, thus a caption is not necessary (unless more than one person is in the picture).

See Wikipedia:Captions for tips on writing captions.


This is perhaps one area where wikipedians' flexibility and plurality are an asset, and where one would not wish all pages to look exactly alike. Nevertheless, here are some guidelines:

  • When writing an article about specific people or specific groups, always use the terminology which they themselves use (self identification).
  • Use the most specific terminology available. If someone is of Ethiopian descent, one would describe him or her as Ethiopian, not African.
  • In case this is objectionable, often a more general name will prove to be more neutral or more accurate. For example, although to have a List of African composers would be acceptable, a List of composers of African descent, in this case, is more useful.
  • If possible, instead of using nouns directly, terms should be given in such a way that they qualify other nouns. Thus, black people, not blacks; gay people, not gays; adults with disabilities, not the disabled; and so forth.
  • Do not assume that any one term is the most inclusive or accurate.

Style recommendations regarding the use of Categories

See also Wikipedia:Categorization and Wikipedia:Categorization of people. Note that categorization was only fully deployed in Wikipedia in 2004: style rules regarding categorization include as well the general style recommendations included in the Manual(s) of Style, as additional recommendations emerging in the process of treating categorization issues: future will show whether a separate style manual regarding categories is the best option.

Detailed Wikipedia style manuals

See Wikipedia:Style Manuals.

Miscellaneous notes

When all else fails

If you are faced with a fine point, please use other resources, such as Wikipedia:The Chicago Manual of Style (from the Wikipedia:University of Chicago Press) or Fowler's Modern English Usage (from the Oxford Press). Where this page differs from the other sources, the usage on this page should be preferred, but please feel free to add to this page or to carry on a discussion on NSwiki_talk:Style_guide.

Even simpler is simply to look at an article that you like and open it for editing to see how the writers and editors have put it together. You can then close the window without saving changes if you like, but look around while you're there. Almost every article can be improved. Maybe you could add some markup to make it fit this style better.

Don't get fancy

It's easier for you and whoever follows you if you don't try to get too fancy with your markup. Even with markup as suggested here, you shouldn't assume that any markup you put in is guaranteed to have a certain appearance when it is displayed.

It is easier to display the NSwiki, easier to edit or add to its articles, if we don't make the markup any more complex than is necessary to display the information in a useful and comprehensible way. A useful encyclopedia is the first goal, but ease of editing and maintaining that encyclopedia is right behind it.

Among other things, this means use HTML markup sparingly and only with good reason.