Wikipedia:Manual of Style

Wikipedia:Manual of Style

The Manual of Style (often abbreviated MoS or MOS) is a style guide for all Wikipedia articles. This is the MoS main page, which covers certain style topics (such as punctuation) in full, and presents the key points of others. The MoS also comprises many subpages, which provide detailed guidance on particular topics or subject areas. These are linked in this page's menu, and are listed at the MoS Contents page.

The MoS presents Wikipedia's house style, to help editors produce articles with consistent, clear, and precise language, layout, and formatting. The goal is to make the encyclopedia easier and more intuitive to use. Consistency in language, style, and formatting promotes clarity and cohesion; this is especially important within an article.

Writing should be clear and concise. Plain English works best: avoid ambiguity, jargon, and vague or unnecessarily complex wording.

Where more than one style is acceptable, editors should not change an article from one of those styles to another without a substantial reason. Revert-warring over optional styles is unacceptable.[1] If discussion cannot determine which style to use in an article, defer to the style used by the first major contributor.

Any issues relating to style guidance can be discussed on the MoS talk page. Some of the past discussions that led to decisions on aspects of style guidance are recorded at the MoS register.


Article titles, headings, and sections

Article titles

The title of an article should be based on the Article titles policy. The principal criteria are that a title be recognizable (as a name or description of the topic), natural, sufficiently precise, concise, and consistent with the titles of related articles. If these criteria are in conflict, they need to be balanced against one other.

For formatting guidance, see Article title format. The following points are critical:

  • Use "sentence case", not "title case"; that is, the initial letter of a title is capitalized (except in rare cases, such as eBay). Otherwise, capital letters are used only where they would be used in a normal sentence (Funding of UNESCO projects, not Funding of UNESCO Projects).
  • To italicize a title, add the template {{italic title}} near the top of the article. The use of italics should conform to WP:ITALICS.
  • Do not use A, An, or The as the first word (Economy of the Second Empire, not The economy of the Second Empire), unless by convention it is an inseparable part of a name (The Hague) or it is part of the title of a work (A Clockwork Orange, The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien).
  • Titles should normally be nouns or noun phrases: Early life, not In early life.
  • The final visible character should not be a punctuation mark unless it is part of a name (Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!) or an abbreviation (Inverness City F.C.), or a closing round bracket or quotation mark is required (John Palmer (schooner)).

The Manual of Style applies to all parts of an article, including the title. See especially punctuation, below. (The policy page Wikipedia:Article titles does not determine punctuation.)

Section organization

An article should begin with an introductory lead (or lede) section, which does not contain section headings (see Wikipedia:Manual of Style (lead section)). The remainder is divided into sections, each with a section heading (see below) that can be nested in a hierarchy. If there are at least four section headings in the article, a navigable table of contents is generated automatically and displayed between the lead and the first heading.

If the topic of a section is also covered in more detail in a dedicated article, show this by inserting {{main|Article name}} directly under the section heading (see also Wikipedia:Summary style).

As explained in more detail in Standard appendices and footers, optional appendix and footer sections containing the following lists 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 (section heading "External links").
  • internal links organized into navigational boxes (sometimes placed at the top in the form of sidebars)
  • categories
  • interlanguage links

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


Headings are produced by typing multiple equal signs. A primary section heading is written ==Title==, a subsection below it is written ===Title===, and so on (a maximum of five levels is possible). Spaces between the equal signs and the heading text are optional, and will not affect the way the heading is displayed. The heading must be typed on a separate line. Include one blank line above the heading, and optionally one blank line below it, for readability in the edit window. (Only two or more consecutive blank lines will add more white space in the public appearance of the page.)

The provisions in Article titles (above) generally apply to section headings as well (for example, headings are in sentence case, not title case). The following points apply specifically to section headings:

  • Headings should not refer redundantly to the subject of the article, or to higher-level headings, unless doing so is shorter or clearer. (Early life is preferable to His early life when his refers to the subject of the article; headings can be assumed to be about the subject unless otherwise indicated.).
  • Headings should not normally contain links, especially where only part of a heading is linked.
  • Section and subsection headings should preferably be unique within a page; otherwise section links may lead to the wrong place, and automatic edit summaries can be ambiguous.
  • Citations should not be placed within or on the same line as section and subsection headings.
  • Headings should not contain images, including flag icons.

Before changing a section heading, consider whether you might be breaking existing links to that section. If there are many links to the old section title, create an anchor with that title to ensure that the links still work. Similarly, when linking to a section of an article, leave a invisible comment at that section, specifying the names of the linking articles so that if the title is altered, others can fix the links. For example:

==Evolutionary implications<!--This section is linked from [[Richard Dawkins]] and [[Daniel Dennett]]-->==

National varieties of English


The English Wikipedia prefers no major national variety of the language over any other. These varieties (e.g. U.S. English, British English) differ in vocabulary (soccer vs. football), spelling (center vs. centre), and occasionally grammar (see Plurals, below). The following subsections describe how to determine the appropriate variety for an article. (The accepted style of punctuation is covered in the punctuation section, below.)

Consistency within articles

Although Wikipedia favors no national variety of English, within a given article the conventions of one particular variety should be followed consistently. The exceptions are:

Strong national ties to a topic


An article on a topic that has strong ties to a particular English-speaking nation should use the English of that nation. For example:

For articles about modern writers or their works, it is sometimes decided to use the variety of English in which the subject wrote (especially if the writings are quoted). For example, the articles on J. R. R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings use British English with Oxford spelling.

This guideline should not be used to claim national ownership of any article; see WP:OWN.

Retaining the existing variety


In general, disputes over which English variety to use in an article are strongly discouraged. Such debates rarely accomplish anything apart from wasting time and engendering controversy.

When an English variety's consistent usage has been established in an article, it is maintained 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 cannot resolve the issue, the variety used in the first non-stub revision is considered the default. If no English variety was used consistently, the tie is broken by the first post-stub contributor to introduce text written in a particular English variety. The variety established for use 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 valid use of English to another. Editors who alter an existing variety can be advised of this guideline via the placement of {{subst:uw-lang}} on their talk pages.

Opportunities for commonality


Wikipedia tries to find words that are common to all varieties of English.

  • Universally used terms are often preferable to less widely distributed terms, especially in article titles. For example, fixed-wing aircraft is preferred to the national varieties aeroplane (British English) and airplane (American English).
  • If one variant spelling appears in an article title, make a redirect page to accommodate the other variants, as with Artefact and Artifact, so that all variants can be used in searches and in linking.
  • Terms that are uncommon in some varieties of English, or that have divergent meanings, may be glossed to prevent confusion. Insisting on a single term or a single usage as the only correct option does not serve the purposes of an international encyclopedia.
  • 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 depending on which sense is meant).

Articles such as English plural and American and British English differences provide information on the differences between these major varieties of the language.

Capital letters

There are differences between the major varieties of English in the use of capitals (uppercase letters). Where this is an issue, follow the guidance under National varieties of English above.

Do not use capital letters for emphasis; where wording alone cannot provide the emphasis, use italics.

Incorrect: Contrary to popular belief, aardvarks are NOT the same as anteaters.
Correct: Contrary to popular belief, aardvarks are not the same as anteaters.

Capitalization of "The"

Generally do not capitalize the definite article in the middle of a sentence. However, some idiomatic exceptions, including most titles of artistic works, should be quoted exactly according to common usage.

Incorrect (generic): an article about The United Kingdom
Correct (generic): an article about the United Kingdom
Incorrect (title): J. R. R. Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings.
Correct (title): J. R. R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings.
Incorrect (title): Homer wrote The Odyssey.
Correct (title): Homer wrote the Odyssey.
Incorrect (exception): public transport in the Hague
Correct (exception): public transport in The Hague

Titles of people

  • In generic use, apply lower case for 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).
  • In parts of a person's title, begin such words with a capital letter (President Obama, not president Obama). Standard or commonly used names of an office are treated as proper nouns (The British Prime Minister is David Cameron; 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 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 Qur’an, the Talmud, the Granth Sahib, the Bible). When "the" is used, it is not capitalized. Some derived adjectives are capitalized by convention, some are not (biblical, but Koranic); if unsure, check a dictionary.
  • Honorifics for deities, including proper nouns 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" unless it is formally a part of the name of the deity or when referring to major religious figures and figures from mythology (the Prophet, the Messiah, the Virgin). Common nouns for deities and religious figures are not capitalized (many gods; the god Woden).
  • Pronouns for figures of veneration 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 derived works of fantasy, such as the novels of J. R. R. Tolkien and real-time strategy 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 Cherubim). 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 noun (capitalism versus Marxism) or has become a proper noun (lower-case republican, referring to a system of political thought; upper-case 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; the team had great success on the Spring Circuit).

Animals, plants, and other organisms

When using scientific names, capitalize the genus but not the species (and italicize both); proper names incorporated into Latin species names are not capitalised. Common names should not normally be capitalized (maple tree, zebra); as an exception to this general rule, the official common names of birds are capitalized (Bald Eagle). For new pages, ensure a redirect from the alternative capitalization to prevent article duplication.

Celestial bodies

  • When used generally, the words sun, earth, and moon do not take capitals (The sun was peeking over the mountain top; The tribal people of the Americas thought of the whole earth as their home), except when the entity is personified (Sol Invictus ("Unconquered Sun") was the Roman sun god) or when the term names a specific astronomical body (The Moon orbits the Earth; but Io is a moon of Jupiter).
  • Names of planets, moons, asteroids, comets, stars, constellations, and galaxies are proper nouns, and therefore capitalized (The planet Mars can be seen tonight in the constellation Gemini, near the star Pollux; Halley's Comet is the most famous of the periodic comets; The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy). The first letter of every word in such a name is capitalized (Alpha Centauri and not Alpha centauri; Milky Way, not Milky way).

Directions and regions

  • Do not capitalize directions such as north, except where they are parts of names, nor their related forms (We took the northern road; but It was referred to by locals as the Great North Road).
    • Composite directions may or may not be hyphenated, depending on the general style 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 an en dash is used (see en dashes, below), and normally lower case.
  • Do capitalize names of regions, including informal conventional names (Southern California; the Western Desert; Old Cow Hill), and terms for persons referred to by place of origin or residence (a Southerner among many Northerners; a Torres Strait Islander among Mainlanders).


  • Names of institutions (George Brown College) are proper nouns and require capitals. The word the at the start of a title is usually uncapitalized, but follow the institution's own usage (a degree from the University of Sydney; but researchers at The Ohio State University).
  • Generic words for institutions (university, college, hospital, high school) do not take capitals:
Incorrect (generic): The University offers programs in arts and sciences.
Correct (generic): The university offers programs in arts and sciences.
Correct (title): The University of Delhi offers programs in arts and sciences.
  • Political or geographical units such as cities, towns, and countries follow the same rules: as proper nouns they require capitals; but as generic words (sometimes best omitted for simplicity) they do not.
Incorrect (generic): The City has a population of 55,000.
Correct (generic): The city has a population of 55,000.
Correct (title): The City of Smithville has a population of 55,000.
Correct ("city" omitted): Smithville has a population of 55,000.


Write out both the full version and the abbreviation at first occurrence
  • When an abbreviation is to be used in an article, give the expression in full at first, followed immediately by the abbreviation in parentheses (round brackets). In the rest of the article the abbreviation can then be used by itself:
the New Democratic Party (NDP) won the 1990 Ontario election with a significant majority, at the first mention of the New Democratic Party; and
the NDP quickly became unpopular with the voters, at a subsequent mention.
Make an exception for very common abbreviations; in most articles they require no expansion (PhD, DNA, USSR).
  • Do not apply initial capitals in a full version simply because capitals are used in the abbreviation.
Incorrect (not a proper noun): We used Digital Scanning (DS) technology
Correct: We used digital scanning (DS) technology
Correct (a proper noun): The film was produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
  • If the full version is already in round brackets, use a comma and or to indicate the abbreviation.
They first debated the issue in 1992 (at a convention of the New Democratic Party, or NDP)
Plural and possessive forms
Acronyms and initialisms, like other nouns, become plurals by adding -s or -es (they produced three CD-ROMs in the first year; the laptops were produced with three different BIOSes in 2006). As with other nouns, no apostrophe is used unless the form is a possessive.
Periods (full stops) and spaces
  • The letters in an acronym or an initialism are generally not separated by periods (full stops) or blank spaces (GNP, NORAD, OBE, GmbH). Periods and spaces that were traditionally required have now dropped out of usage (PhD is now preferred over Ph.D. and Ph. D.). Periods are not used in units of measurement; see Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dates and numbers). There are some traditional exceptions (i.e., e.g.; not ie, eg, i. e., e. g.); and see below for US and U.S.
  • Abbreviations formed by truncation (Hon. for Honorable), compression (cmte. for committee), or contraction (Dr. for Doctor) may or may not be closed with a period; a consistent style should be maintained within an article. A period is more usual in North American usage (Dr. Smith of 42 Drummond St.); no period is commonly preferred in British and other usage (Dr Smith of 42 Drummond St). British and some other authorities prefer to drop the period from truncated and compressed abbreviations generally (XYZ Corp; ABC Ltd), a practice favored in science writing. Regardless of punctuation, words that are abbreviated to more than one letter are spaced (op. cit. or 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.
In American English, U.S. (with periods) is more common as the standard abbreviation for United States, although The Chicago Manual of Style now deprecates the use of the periods (16th ed.). US (without periods) is generally accepted in most other national forms of English. In longer abbreviations incorporating the country's initials (USN, USAF), periods are not used. 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 (France and the United States, not France and the U.S.). For consistency in an article, if the abbreviated form for the United States appears alongside other abbreviated country names, avoid periods throughout; never add full stops to the other abbreviations (the US, the UK, and the PRC, not the U.S., the U.K., and the P.R.C.). Do not use the spaced U. S., nor the archaic U.S. of A., except when quoting. Do not use U.S.A. or USA, except in a quotation or as part of a proper name (Team USA).
To indicate approximately, the unitalicised abbreviation c. (followed by a space) is preferred over circa, ca., or approx.
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 to reduce the width of an infobox or a table of data, or in a technical passage in which the term occurs many times.
See also Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dates and numbers) for when to abbreviate units of measurement.
Do not invent abbreviations or acronyms
Generally avoid making up 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; so use the original name and its official abbreviation, UMB). If it is necessary to abbreviate a heading in a wide table of data, use widely recognized initialisms (for United States gross national product use US and GNP, with a link if the term has not already been written out: US GNP; do not use the made-up initialism USGNP).
HTML elements
The <abbr> element can be used for abbreviations and acronyms: <abbr title="HyperText Markup Language">HTML</abbr> generates HTML. The software that Wikipedia runs on does not support <acronym>, as it is obsolete in the latest version of HTML.



The ampersand (&) substitutes for the word and (it was a form of Latin et). In normal text, and should be used instead: January 1 and 2, not January 1 & 2. Retain ampersands in titles of works or organizations, such as The Tom & Jerry Show or AT&T. Ampersands may be used with consistency and discretion in tables, infoboxes, and similar contexts where space is limited. Modern editions of old texts routinely replace ampersands with and (just as they replace other disused glyphs, ligatures, and abbreviations); so an article's quotations may be cautiously modified, especially for consistency where different editions are quoted. (For similar allowable modifications see Quotations, below.)


Italics may be used sparingly to emphasize words in sentences (whereas boldface is normally not used for this purpose). Generally, the more highlighting in an article, the less its effectiveness.
Use italics when introducing terms, or distinguishing among them (The enamel organ is composed of the outer enamel epithelium, inner enamel epithelium, stellate reticulum, and stratum intermedium).
Use italics for the titles of works of literature and art, such as books, pamphlets, films (including short films), television series, music albums, and paintings. The titles of articles, chapters, songs, television episodes, and other short works are not italicized; they are enclosed in double quotation marks.
Italics are not used for major revered religious works (the Bible, the Qur'an, the Talmud).
Words as words
Use italics when mentioning a word or letter (see Use–mention distinction) or a string of words up to one full sentence (the term panning is derived from panorama, a word coined in 1787; the most commonly used letter in English is e). When a whole sentence is mentioned, 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"). Mentioning (to discuss such features as grammar, wording, and punctuation) is different from quoting (in which something is usually expressed on behalf of a quoted source).
Foreign words
Use italics for phrases in other languages and for isolated foreign words that are not common in everyday English. Proper names (such as place names) in other languages, however, are not usually italicized.
Quotations in italics
For quotations, use only quotation marks (for short quotations) or block quoting (for long ones), not italics. (See Quotations below.) This means that (1) a quotation is not italicized inside quotation marks or a block quote just because it is a quotation, and (2) italics are no substitute for proper quotation formatting. One way to distinguish long block quotes from ordinary text is to use {{quotation}}, which will box the text. Citation links may not work within such templates; if so, it may be necessary to use <blockquote> and </blockquote>.
Italics within quotations
Use italics within quotations if they are already in the source material. When adding italics on Wikipedia, add an 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].

If the source has used italics (or some other styling) for emphasis and this is not otherwise evident, the editorial note [emphasis in original] should appear after the quotation.
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?
Correct: What are we to make of that?
      (Note the difference between ? and ?. The question mark applies to the whole sentence, not just to the emphasized 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
The italics markup must be outside the link markup, or the link will not work; however, internal italicization can be used in piped links.
Incorrect:    The opera [[''Turandot'']] is his best.
Correct: The opera ''[[Turandot]]'' is his best.
Correct: The [[USS Adder (SS-3)|USS ''Adder'' (SS-3)]] was a submarine.

Non-breaking spaces


A non-breaking space (also known as a hard space) is recommended to prevent the end-of-line displacement of elements that could be awkward at the beginning of a new line.

Technical information

  • A hard space can be produced with the HTML code &nbsp; instead of the space bar: 19&nbsp;kg yields a non-breaking 19 kg.
  • A literal hard space, such as one of the Unicode non-breaking space characters, should not be used, since some web browsers will not load them properly during editing.
  • Hard spaces can also be produced by use of the {{nowrap}} template: {{nowrap|8 sq ft}} produces a non-breaking 8 sq ft. This is especially useful for short constructions requiring two or more hard spaces, as in the preceding example. This template has the disadvantage that if the enclosed text starts or ends with a space, these spaces are forced outside in the resulting HTML, and unpredicted breaks may occur. If &nbsp; occurs right before {{nowrap}}, or at the start of text within {{nowrap}}, some browsers allow a break at that point.
  • In some older browsers, quotation marks separated by a hard space are broken at the end of a line: "She said 'Yes!'&nbsp;" ("She said 'Yes!' "). Use "She said 'Yes!{{'"}} ("She said 'Yes!'") instead.
  • It is possible to use non-breaking spaces within wikilinks like World War II (encoded as [[World War&nbsp;II]]).[2]
  • Unlike normal spaces, multiple hard spaces are not compressed by browsers into a single space.


It is advisable to use a non-breaking space to prevent the end-of-line displacement of elements that would be awkward at the beginning of a new line:

  • in expressions in which figures and abbreviations (or symbols) are separated by a space (e.g. 17 kg, AD 565, 2:50 pm);
  • in other places where breaking across lines might be disruptive to the reader, especially in infoboxes, such as £11 billion, November 2011, 5° 24′ 21.12″ N, Boeing 747, after the number in a numbered address (e.g. 123 Fake Street) and before Roman numerals at the end of phrases (e.g. World War II and Pope Benedict XVI); and
  • before a spaced en dash.



Minimal change

Preserve the original text, spelling, and punctuation. Where there is a good reason to make a change, insert an explanation within square brackets (for example, [her father] replacing him, where the context explaining him is omitted in the quotation). If there is a significant error in the original statement, use [sic], or the template {{sic}} (which produces [sic]), to show that the error was not made in transcription. Trivial spelling or typographical errors should be silently corrected (for example, correct ommission to omission, harasssment to harassment)—unless the slip is textually important.

Use ellipses to indicate omissions from quoted text. Legitimate omissions include extraneous, irrelevant, or parenthetical words, and unintelligible or guttural 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; words should never be bowdlerized by replacing letters with dashes, asterisks, or other symbols. In carrying over such an alteration from a quoted source, [sic] may be used to indicate that the transcription is exact.

Allowable typographical changes

Although the requirement of minimal change is strict, a few purely typographical elements of quoted text should be adapted to English Wikipedia's conventions without comment. This practice of conforming typographical styling to a publication's own "house style" is universal. Allowable typographical alterations include these:

  • Styling of dashes and hyphens: see Dashes, below. Use the style chosen for the article: unspaced em dash or spaced en dash.
  • Styling of apostrophes and quotation marks: they should all be straight, not curly. See Quotation marks, below. In quoting text from non-English sources, replace non-English typographical elements such as guillemets (« ») with their English-language equivalents; replace guillemets with straight quotation marks, and so on.
  • Spaces before punctuation such as periods and colons: these should be removed as alien to modern English-language publishing.
  • Some text styling should be altered. Of course the typeface will be automatically standardized; but generally preserve bold and italics (see Italics, above). Where the source is an old typewritten document such as an academic dissertation, underlining is almost certainly used to represent italics, and should be changed to italics as it would be by any book publisher.
  • When quoting from early modern sources, normalize disused glyphs and ligatures to modern usage when doing so will not change or obscure the meaning of the text. Examples of such changes include the following: æ→ae, œ→oe, ſ→s, and ye→the. See also Ampersand, above.
  • If an entire sentence is quoted in such a way that it becomes a grammatical part of the larger sentence, the first letter loses its capitalization (It turned out to be true that "a penny saved is a penny earned").

Quotations within quotations

When a quotation includes another quotation (and so on), start with double quote marks outermost, and, working inward, alternate single with double quote marks ("She accepted his statement that 'Voltaire never said "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."'", with three levels of quotation). Adjacent quote marks, as at the end of that last example, can be difficult to read ("'") unless kerned apart slightly with CSS; the {{" '}}, {{' "}}, and {{" ' "}} templates will accomplish this; the example above is achieved by typing this: ... your right to say it.{{" ' "}}.


The author of a quote of a full sentence or more should be named; this is done in the main text and not in a footnote. However, attribution is unnecessary with quotations that are clearly from the person discussed in the article or section. When preceding a quotation with its attribution, avoid characterizing it in a biased manner.


As much as possible, avoid linking from within quotes, which may clutter the quotation, violate the principle of leaving quotations unchanged, and mislead or confuse the reader.

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, which Wikimedia's software will indent from both margins. 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, which are reserved for pull quotes). Block quotations using a colored background are also discouraged. Block quotations can be enclosed between a pair of <blockquote>...</blockquote> HTML tags; or use {{quote}}.

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 inside a <blockquote>, but the <poem> extension can be used to preserve them:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visiter," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door—
            Only this and nothing more."

This will result in the following, indented on both sides (it may also be in a smaller font, depending on browser software):

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visiter," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door—
            Only this and nothing more."

The {{quote}} template retains line breaks but not leading spaces (use hard spaces, &nbsp;, instead), and adds a parameter for the attribution.

Foreign-language quotations

Quotations from foreign-language sources should appear in translation. 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.




  • Consistent use of the straight (or typewriter) apostrophe ( ' ) is recommended, as opposed to the curly (or typographic) apostrophe (  ). For details and reasons, see Quotation marks, below.
  • To prevent apostrophes from being misinterpreted as Wiki markup, use the templates {{'}}, {{`}}, and {{'s}}, or use <nowiki> tags.
  • Foreign characters that resemble apostrophes, such as transliterated Arabic ayin ( ʿ ) and alif ( ʾ ), are represented by their correct Unicode characters (that is, 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 the summary of usage issues at Possessives, below.
  • For a thorough treatment of all uses of the apostrophe (possessive, elision, formation of certain plurals, specific foreign-language issues) see the article Apostrophe.

Quotation marks

The term quotation in the material below also includes other uses of quotation marks such as those for titles of songs, chapters, episodes, unattributable aphorisms, literal strings, "scare-quoted" passages, and constructed examples.

Double or single
Enclose quotations with double quotation marks (Bob said, "Jim ate the apple."). Enclose quotations inside quotations with single quotation marks (Bob said, "Did Jim say 'I ate the apple' after he left?"). This is by far the dominant convention in current practice; see other reasons, below.
Article openings
When the title of an article appearing in the lead paragraph requires quotation marks (for example, the title of a song or poem), the quotation marks should not be in boldface, as they are not part of the title:
Correct: "Jabberwocky" is a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll.
Block quotes
As already noted above, we use quotation marks or block quotes (not both) to distinguish long quotations from other text. Multiparagraph quotations are always block-quoted. The quotations must be precise and exactly as in the source (except for certain allowable typographical changes, also noted above). The source should be cited clearly and precisely to enable readers to locate the text in question, and to quote it accurately themselves from Wikipedia.
Quotation characters
Do not use grave and acute accents or backticks (`text´) as quotation marks (or as apostrophes).
There are two possible methods for rendering quotation marks at Wikipedia (that is, the glyphs, displayed with emphasis here, for clarity):
  • Typewriter or straight style: "text", 'text'. Recommended at Wikipedia.
  • Typographic or curly style: text, text. Not recommended at Wikipedia.
Whenever quotation marks or apostrophes appear in article titles, make a redirect from the same title but using the alternative glyphs.
Reasons to prefer straight quotation marks and apostrophes (and double quotation marks)

Typographical, or curly, quotation marks and apostrophes might be read more efficiently; and many think they look more professional. But for practical reasons the straight versions are recommended, and double rather than single quotation marks.

  • Consistency keeps searches predictable. Search facilities have differences that many readers (and editors) are unaware of:
    • Google uses quotation marks (single or double) to mark whole phrases, and ignores any punctuation marks in the search text.
    • Wikipedia's search facility, and the prompts that appear as users insert text, ignore double quotation marks, but treat single quotation marks as significant. They also distinguish straight and curly forms (neither ‘occupy’ protests nor “occupy” protests will find the title "Occupy" protests directly, especially in prompts).
    • Browser searches (of displayed text, perhaps a Wikipedia page) distinguish between single and double quotation marks, and also between curly and straight forms. (Searches for Alzheimer's disease could fail to find Alzheimer’s disease and vice versa; similarly for "must see" attractions, 'must see' attractions, “must see” attractions, and ‘must see’ attractions.)
  • Double quotation marks are not confused with apostrophes, as single quotes can be:
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)
  • Straight quotation marks are easier to type in reliably, and to edit. They are available on every keyboard.

Punctuation inside or outside


On Wikipedia, place all punctuation marks inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quoted material and outside if they are not. This practice is sometimes referred to as logical quotation. It is used here because it is deemed by Wikipedia consensus to be more in keeping with the principle of minimal change. This punctuation system does not require placing final periods and commas outside the quotation marks all the time, but rather maintaining their original positions in (or absence from) the quoted material.

Correct: Arthur said, "The situation is deplorable and unacceptable."
(The period is known to be in the source.)
Correct: Arthur said that the situation was "deplorable".
(The period is known not to be in the source, its presence in the source is uncertain, or its coverage within the quotation is considered unnecessary.)
Correct: Martha asked, "Are you coming?"
(The question mark belongs inside because the quoted text itself was a question.)
Correct: Did Martha say, "Come with me"?
(The very quote is being questioned, so the question mark belongs outside; any punctuation at the end of the original quote is omitted.)
When a quoted sentence fragment ends in a period, some judgment is required: if the fragment communicates a complete sentence, the period can be placed inside. The period should be omitted if the quotation is in the middle of a sentence.
Correct: Martha said, "Come with me", and they did.
If the sequence of juxtaposed punctuation marks seems distracting or untidy, try an acceptable alternative.
Correct: Martha said, "Come with me" (and they did).

Brackets and parentheses

These rules 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, below.) There should be no space next to the inner side of a bracket. An opening bracket should be preceded by a space, except in unusual cases; for example, when 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].

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 expression; 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:

Incorrect:    Nikifor Grigoriev (c. 1885–1919) (also known as Matviy Hryhoriyiv) was a Ukrainian insurgent leader.
Correct: Nikifor Grigoriev (c. 1885–1919), also known as Matviy Hryhoriyiv, was a Ukrainian insurgent leader.
Correct: 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, below).
  • 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, or a question or 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 for clarity, which is usually in square brackets:
"[Principal Skinner] already told me that", he objected.
That is preferable to this, which is potentially ambiguous:
"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 just because it starts a sentence. The enclosed sentence may have a question mark or exclamation mark added, but not a period. See the indented example above, and also:
Alexander then conquered (who would have believed it?) most of the known world.
Clare demanded that he drive (she knew he hated driving) to the supermarket.
It is often clearer to separate the thoughts into separate sentences or clauses:
Alexander then conquered most of the known world. Who would have believed it?
Clare demanded that he drive to the supermarket; she knew he hated driving.

Brackets and linking

If the text of a link needs to contain one or more square brackets, "escape" these using <nowiki>...</nowiki> tags or the appropriate numerical character reference.

He said "I spoke to [[John Doe|John &#91;Doe&#93;]] that morning."

He said "I spoke to John [Doe] that morning."

*Branwen, Gwern (2009). [ <nowiki>[WikiEN-l]</nowiki> Chinese start caring about copyright].

If a URL itself contains square brackets, the wiki-text should use the url-encoded form: something.php?query=%5Bxxx%5Dxxx&whatever=else rather than query=[xxx]bar to avoid truncation of the link text after "xxx". Of course, this issue only arises for external links as MediaWiki software forbids square brackets in page titles.



An ellipsis (plural ellipses) is an omission of material from quoted text; or some other omission, perhaps of the end of a sentence, often used in a printed record of conversation. The ellipsis is represented by ellipsis points: a set of three dots.

Ellipsis points, or ellipses, have traditionally been implemented in three ways:
  • Three unspaced periods (...). This is the easiest way, and gives a predictable appearance in HTML. Recommended.
  • Pre-composed ellipsis character (); generated with the &hellip; character entity, or as a literal "…". This is harder to input and edit, and too small in some fonts. Not recommended.
  • Three spaced periods (. . .). This is an older style that is unnecessarily wide and requires non-breaking spaces to keep it from breaking at the end of a line. Not recommended.
Function and implementation
Use an ellipsis if material is omitted in the course of a quotation, unless square brackets are used to gloss the quotation (see above, and points below).
  • Put a space on each side of an ellipsis ("France, Germany, ... and Belgium"), except that there should be no space between an ellipsis and:
    • a quotation mark directly following the ellipsis ("France, Germany, and Belgium ...").
    • any (round, square, curly, etc.) bracket, where the ellipsis is on the inside ("France, Germany (but not Berlin, Munich, ...), and Belgium").
    • sentence-final punctuation, or a colon, semicolon, or comma (all rare), directly following the ellipsis ("Are we going to France ...?").
  • Only place terminal punctuation after an ellipsis if it is textually important (as is often the case with exclamation marks and question marks, and rarely with periods).
  • Use non-breaking spaces (&nbsp;) only as needed to prevent improper line breaks, for example:
    • To keep a quotation mark (and any adjacent punctuation) from being separated from the start or end of the quotation ("...&nbsp;we are still worried"; "Are we going to France&nbsp;...?").
    • To keep the ellipsis from wrapping to the next line ("France, Germany,&nbsp;... and Belgium"; "France, Germany,&nbsp;...&nbsp;and Belgium").
Pause or suspension of speech
Three periods (loosely also called ellipsis points) 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!"). Avoid this usage on Wikipedia, except in direct quotations.
With square brackets
An ellipsis does not normally need square brackets around it, because its function is usually obvious—especially if the guidelines above are followed. Square brackets, however, 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 marks in punctuation. They can also be the most difficult to use well. Some important points are made in the Semicolons section below. Other points:

  • Pairs of commas are often used to delimit parenthetic material, forming a parenthetical remark. This interrupts the sentence less than a parenthetical remark in (round) brackets or dashes. Do not be fooled by other punctuation, which can mask the need for a comma, especially when it collides with a bracket or parenthesis, as in this example:
Incorrect: Burke and Wills, fed by local Aborigines (on beans, fish, and "ngardu") survived for a few months.
Correct:    Burke and Wills, fed by local Aborigines (on beans, fish, and "ngardu"), survived for a few months.
  • On Wikipedia, place quotation marks in accordance with the UK-based logical punctuation system:
Incorrect: She said, "punctuation styles on Wikipedia change too often," as well as making other complaints.
Correct:    She said, "punctuation styles on Wikipedia change too often", as well as making other complaints.
  • Modern practice is against excessive use of commas; there are usually ways to simplify a sentence so that fewer are needed.
Awkward: Mozart was, along with the Haydns, both Joseph and Michael, and also Beethoven, one of Schubert's heroes.
Much better:    Schubert's heroes included Mozart, Beethoven, and Joseph and Michael Haydn.

Serial commas


A serial comma (also known as an Oxford comma or a Harvard comma) is a comma used immediately before a conjunction (and or or, sometimes nor) in a list of three or more items: the phrase ham, chips, and eggs includes a serial comma, while the variant ham, chips and eggs omits it. Editors may use either convention on Wikipedia so long as each article is consistent within itself. However, there are some times when the serial comma can create or remove confusion:

Sometimes omitting the comma can lead to an ambiguous sentence, as in this example: The author thanked her parents, Sinéad O'Connor and President Obama, which may list either four people (the two parents and the two people named) or two people (O'Connor and Obama, who are the parents).

Including the comma can also cause ambiguity, as in this example: The author thanked her mother, Sinéad O'Connor, and President Obama, which may list either two people (O'Connor, who is the mother, and Obama) or three people (the first being the mother, the second O'Connor, and the third Obama).

In such cases of ambiguity, there are three ways to clarify:

  • Use or omit the serial comma to avoid ambiguity.
  • Recast the sentence.
  • List the elements by using a format, such as one with paragraph breaks and numbered paragraphs.

Recasting example one:

  • To list four people: The author thanked President Obama, Sinéad O'Connor, and her parents.
  • To list two people (the commas here set off non-restrictive appositives): The author thanked her father, President Obama, and her mother, Sinéad O'Connor.
    • Clearer (but more wordy): The author thanked her father and her mother, who are President Obama and Sinéad O'Connor respectively.

Recasting example two:

  • To list two people: The author thanked President Obama and her mother, Sinéad O'Connor.
  • To list three people: The author thanked her mother, President Obama, and Sinéad O'Connor.
    The clarity of the last example depends on the reader's knowing that Obama is male and cannot be a mother. If we change the example slightly, we are back to an ambiguous statement: The author thanked her mother, Irish President Mary McAleese, and Sinéad O'Connor.
    • Clearer: The author thanked President Obama, Sinéad O'Connor, and her mother; or The author thanked President Mary McAleese, Sinéad O'Connor, and her mother.


A colon (:) informs the reader that what comes after it 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 above).

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.
Correct (special case):    Spanish, Portuguese, French: these, with a few others, are the West Romance languages.

Sometimes, more in American than British usage, the word following a colon is capitalized, if that word effectively begins a new grammatical sentence, and especially if the colon serves to introduce more than one sentence:

The argument is easily stated: We have been given only three tickets. There are four of us here: you, the twins, and me. The twins are inseparable. Therefore, you or I will have to stay home.

No sentence should contain more than one colon. There should never be a hyphen or a dash immediately following a colon. Only a single space 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); often, 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 very rare cases, a comma may be used where a semicolon would seem to be called for:

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

A semicolon does not force a capital letter in the word that follows it.

A sentence may contain several semicolons, especially when the clauses are parallel; 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.

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.

If used with the same meaning as "nevertheless", the word "however" 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.

If the word "however" in the sentence means "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 hard 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 was moved there from the front. In that case it can be changed to "though", and it is not the start of a clause; 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. To distinguish between homographs (re-dress means dress again, but redress means remedy or set right).
  2. To link certain prefixes with their main word (non-linear, sub-section, super-achiever).
    • There is a clear trend to join both elements in all varieties of English (subsection, nonlinear), particularly in American English. British English tends to hyphenate 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). American English reflects the same factors, but tends to close up without a hyphen when possible. Consult a good dictionary, and see National varieties of English above.
  3. To link related terms in compound modifiers:[3]
    • Hyphens can help with ease of reading (face-to-face discussion, hard-boiled egg); where non-experts are part of the readership, a hyphen is particularly useful in long noun phrases, such as those in Wikipedia's scientific articles: gas-phase reaction dynamics.
    • 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 (before the noun they qualify: a light-blue handbag), are not hyphenated when used predicatively (separated from the noun: the handbag was light blue). Hyphenation also occurs in bird names, such as Great Black-backed Gull, and in proper names, such as Trois-Rivières. Where otherwise there would be a loss of clarity, the hyphen may be used in the predicative case as well (hand-fed turkeys, the turkeys were hand-fed).
    • A hyphen is not used after a standard -ly adverb (a newly available home, a wholly owned subsidiary) unless part of a larger compound (a slowly-but-surely strategy). 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, since 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; northerly-situated islands.
    • 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, since 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 below.
    • A hanging hyphen is used when two compound modifiers are separated (two- and three-digit numbers, a ten-car or -truck convoy, sloping right- or leftward, but better is sloping rightward or leftward).
    • Values and units used as compound modifiers are hyphenated only where the unit is given as a whole word; when the unit symbol is used, it is separated from the number by a non-breaking space (&nbsp;).
Incorrect: 9-mm gap
Correct: 9 mm gap (entered as 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).

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 encyclopedic content; they're tools. They are most useful tools if they can be readily typed, so they always use hyphens instead of dashes. Similarly, article titles with dashes should have a corresponding redirect from the title with hyphens: for example, Michelson-Morley experiment redirects to Michelson–Morley experiment, as the latter title, while correct, is harder to search for.

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



Two forms of dash are used on Wikipedia: en dash () and em dash (). Type them in as &ndash; (–) and &mdash; (—) or click on them to the right of the "Insert" tab under the edit window; or see How to make dashes.

  • When naming an article, do not use a hyphen as a substitute for an en dash that properly belongs in the title, for example in Eye–hand span. To aid searching and linking, provide a redirect from the corresponding article title with hyphens in place of en dashes, as in Eye-hand span.

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

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 direct speech.

There are two options. Use one or the other consistently in an article.

1. Unspaced em dash
  • Another "planet" was detected—but it was later found to be a moon of Saturn.


2. Spaced en dash
  • Another "planet" was detected – but it was later found to be a moon of Saturn.

Do not use spaced em dashes.

  • Another "planet" was detected — but it was later found to be a moon of Saturn.

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 said, but then realized she held it in her hand.
  • Avoid: First in the procession—and most spectacularly—came the bishops—then the other clergy.

En dashes: other uses


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 the section above), which joins components more strongly than the en dash; or the slash (see the section below), which separates alternatives more definitely. Consider the exact meaning when choosing which to use.

1. In ranges that might otherwise be expressed with to or through
  • pp. 211–19;   64–75%;   the 1939–45 war

Do not mix en dashes with prepositions like between and from.

  • 450–500 people
  • between 450 and 500 people, not between 450–500 people
  • from 450 to 500 people, not from 450–500 people

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

  • −10 to 10, not −10–10
  • the drop in temperature was from 5° to −13°, not the drop in temperature was 5°–−13°

The en dash in a range is always unspaced, except when the endpoints of the range already include at least one space.

  • 23 July 1790 – 1 December 1791, not 23 July 1790–1 December 1791
  • 14 May – 2 August 2011, not 14 May–2 August 2011
  • 10:30 pm Tuesday – 1:25 am Wednesday;   Christmas Day – New Year's Eve;   Christmas 2001 – Easter 2002
  • 1–17 September;   February–October 2009;   1492? – 7 April 1556
  • Best absorbed were wavelengths in the range 28 mm – 17 m.
2. 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: the poet's mentor–muse; not separate persons, so use a hyphen: the poet's mentor-muse
  • 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
  • Wrong: Franco–British rivalry; "Franco" is a combining form, not independent; use a hyphen: Franco-British rivalry
  • France–Britain rivalry;   French–British rivalry
  • a 51–30 win;   a six–two majority decision
  • an Italian–Swiss border crossing; but an Italian-Swiss newspaper, for Italian-speaking Swiss
  • Japanese–American trade; but a family of Japanese-Americans (or a family of Japanese Americans)
  • 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

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

  • the protein–fat ratio,  or  the protein/fat ratio,  or  the protein-to-fat ratio

An en dash is not used for a hyphenated personal name.

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

An en dash is used for the names of two or more people in a compound.

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

By default, follow the dominant convention that a hyphen is used in compounded proper names of single entities, not an en dash.

  • Guinea-Bissau; Bissau is the capital, and this distinguishes the country from neighboring Guinea
  • McGraw-Hill, a publishing house

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

3. Instead of a hyphen, when applying a prefix (but not a suffix) to a compound that includes a space
  • ex–prime minister Thatcher;   pre–World War II aircraft;   but not credit card–sized

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. Otherwise recasting is better.

  • Keep: Post–September 11 anti-war movement; Trans–New Guinea languages (existing Wikipedia articles)
  • Best to recast the examples shown above: former prime minister Thatcher; aircraft before World War II

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

4. To separate items in certain lists

Spaced en dashes are used within parts of certain lists. Here are two examples:

  • Pairing performers with instruments.
    • James Galway – flute; Anne-Sophie Mutter – violin; Maurizio Pollini – piano.
  • Showing track durations on a CD.
    • "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.



Generally avoid joining two words by a slash, also known as a forward slash or solidus ( / ). It suggests that the two are related, but does not specify how. It is often also unclear how the construct would be read aloud. 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 (ribald is pronounced /ˈrɪbəld/)
  • to separate the numerator and denominator in a fraction (7/8 or 78)
  • to indicate regular defined yearly periods that do not coincide with calendar years (the 2009/10 academic year, the 2010/11 hockey season; see Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)#Longer periods)
  • where a slash occurs in a phrase widely used outside Wikipedia, and a different construction would be inaccurate, unfamiliar, or ambiguous

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

Spaced slashes should be coded with a leading non-breaking space and a trailing normal space, as in x&nbsp;/ y (which renders as x / y), to prevent improper line breaks.

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

Prefer the division operator ( ÷ ) to ( / ) when representing elementary arithmetic in general prose: 10 ÷ 2 = 5. In more advanced mathematical formulas, a vinculum or slash is preferred: \textstyle\frac{x^n}{n!} or xn/n!. (See Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)#Common mathematical symbols and Help:Displaying a formula.)



Avoid the construct and/or on Wikipedia. In general, where it is important to mark an inclusive or, use x or y, or both, rather than x and/or y. For an exclusive or, use either x or y, and optionally add but not both, if it is necessary to stress the exclusivity.

Where more than two possibilities are presented, from which a combination is to be selected, it is even less desirable to use and/or. With two possibilities, at least the intention is clear; but with more than two it may not be. Instead of x, y, and/or z, use an appropriate alternative, such as one or more of x, y, and z; some or all of x, y, and z.

Sometimes or is ambiguous in another way: Wild dogs, or dingoes, inhabit this stretch of land. Are wild dogs and dingoes the same or different? For one case write: wild dogs (dingoes) inhabit ... (meaning dingoes are wild dogs); for the other case write: either wild dogs or dingoes inhabit ....

Number signs

  • Avoid using the # symbol (known as the number sign, hash sign, or pound sign) when referring to numbers or rankings. Instead use the word "number", or the abbreviation "No." The abbreviation is identical in singular and plural. For example:
Incorrect:    Her album reached #1 in the UK album charts.
Correct: Her album reached No. 1 in the UK album charts.
  • Do not use the symbol .

Terminal punctuation

  • Periods (also called "full stops"), question marks, and exclamation marks are terminal punctuation, the only punctuation marks used to end sentences in English.
  • In some contexts, no terminal punctuation is necessary. In such cases, the sentence often does not start with a capital letter. See Quotations, Quotation marks, and Sentences and brackets, above. Sentence fragments in captions or lists should in most cases not end with a period. See Formatting of captions and Bulleted and numbered lists below.
  • For the use of three periods in succession, see Ellipses, above.
  • Clusters of question marks, exclamation marks, or a combination of them (such as the interrobang), are highly informal and inappropriate in Wikipedia articles.
  • Use the exclamation mark with restraint. It is an expression of surprise or emotion that is generally unsuited to a scholarly or encyclopedic register.
  • Question marks and exclamation marks may sometimes be used in the middle of a sentence:
    • Why me? she wondered.
    • The Homeric question is not Did Homer write the Iliad? but How did the Iliad come into being?, as we have now come to realize.
    • The door flew open with a BANG! that made them jump. [Not encyclopedic, but acceptable in transcription from audio, or in direct quotation.]



In normal prose, never place a space before commas, semicolons, colons, or terminal punctuation, but place a space after them.

Spaces following terminal punctuation

The number of spaces following the terminal punctuation of a sentence in the wiki markup makes no difference on Wikipedia because the MediaWiki software condenses any number of spaces to just one when rendering the page (see Sentence spacing). For this reason, editors may use any spacing style they prefer on Wikipedia. Multiple spacing styles may coexist in the same article, and adding or removing a double space is sometimes used as a dummy edit.

Consecutive punctuation marks


Where a proper noun that includes terminal punctuation ends a sentence, do not add a second terminal punctuation mark. Where such a noun occurs mid-sentence, punctuation may be added.

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

Punctuation and footnotes


Footnotes (created by use of <ref>...</ref> tags) can be used in articles to add explanatory notes, and are most commonly used to add references (see Citing sources). "Ref" tags should immediately follow the text to which they refer, with no space before the tag. When they coincide with punctuation, the tag is placed immediately after the punctuation.[4] Multiple tags should have no space between them.

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

Exceptions: "ref" tags are placed before, not after, dashes; and where a reference or other footnote applies only to material within a parenthetical phrase, placing the tag within the closing parenthesis may be appropriate.

  • 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.

(In the above examples, in a real article, the footnote markers [10], [11], etc. would link to footnotes in the footnotes/reference list at the end of the article, usually created by use of the {{reflist}} template.)

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, other punctuation (such as comma or colon) is used after a formula just as it would be if the text were not a formula. See Punctuation after formulae at the mathematics MoS page.

Dates and time

For ranges of dates and times, see En dashes above.

Dates should only be linked when they are germane and topical to the subject, as discussed at Wikipedia:Linking#Chronological items.

Time of day

Time of day is normally expressed in figures rather than being spelled out. Context determines whether the 12- or 24-hour clock is used.

  • 12-hour clock times are written in the form 11:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., or the form 11:15 am and 2:30 pm, with a space (preferably a non-breaking space) before the abbreviation. Use noon and midnight rather than 12 pm and 12 am; it may need to be specified whether midnight refers to the start or the end of a date.
  • 24-hour clock times are written in the form 08:15, 22:55, with no suffix. Note that 00:00 refers to midnight at the start of a date, and 24:00 to midnight at the end of a date.


  • For full dates, use the format 10 June 1921 or the format June 10, 1921. Similarly, where the year is omitted, use 10 June or June 10. For choice of format, see below.
  • 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 "Citation style" section of "Citing sources". 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:MOSNUM#Dates.

Months and seasons

  • For month and year, write June 1921, with no comma.
  • Abbreviations for months, such as Feb. in the United States or Feb in most other countries, are used only where space is extremely limited.
  • Avoid references to seasons which are ambiguous due to differences in seasons between hemispheres.

Years and longer periods

  • Avoid inserting the words 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, which may be ambiguous.
  • 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:MOSNUM#Dates, including the handling of dates expressed in different calendars, and times corresponding to different time zones.


Use of 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 2011, he is the ambassador to ...


MOSNUM clarifies a number of situations, including the following:

  • In general, write whole numbers one through nine as words, write other numbers that take two words or fewer to say as either numerals or words, and write all other numbers as numerals: 1/5 or one fifth, 84 or eighty-four, 200 or two hundred, but 3.75, 544, 21 million). See MOSNUM 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 MOSNUM for exceptions.
  • In general, use decimals rather than vulgar fractions with measurements, but the latter are permitted with measuring systems such as Imperial units, Avoirdupois, 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 MOSNUM for similar words.
  • Write 3% or three percent but not three % or 3 % with a space. "Percent" is the American spelling and "per cent" is the British spelling (see WP:ENGVAR). In ranges of percentages written with an en dash, write only one percent sign: 3–14%.
  • Indicate uncertainties as value/±/uncertainty/×/10n/unit symbol: 1.534±0.35×1023 m See MOSNUM for other acceptable formats.


  • Use the full abbreviation on first use (US$ for the U.S. dollar and A$ for the Australian dollar), unless the currency is already clear from context.
  • 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 currency symbols which may be ambiguous, unless they are clear from the context of the article.
  • In country-specific articles, use the currency of the country. On first occurrence, consider including an approximate conversion to a major reserve currency such as US dollars, euros, pounds: for example, Since 2001 the grant has been 10,000,000 Swedish kronor (approx. US$1.4M as at August 2009); alternatively: Since 2001 the grant has been 10,000,000 Swedish kronor (approx. €1.0M as at August 2009).
  • 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 signs are placed before the number; they are unspaced ($123), except for alphabetic signs (R 75).

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 US, the main unit is generally a US customary unit (22 pounds (10 kg)).
    • In non-scientific articles relating to the UK, although the main unit is generally a metric unit (10 kg (22 pounds)), 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 keep the source units. If a conversion is required, it should appear within square brackets in the quote, or else an obscure use of units can be explained in a footnote.
  • In places where space is limited, such as tables, infoboxes, and parenthetical notes, and in mathematical formulae, use unit symbols. In prose it is usually better to spell out unit names, but symbols may also be used when a unit (especially one with a long name) is used repeatedly. However, spell out the first instance of each unit in an article (for example, the typical batch is 250 kilograms ... and then 15 kg of emulsifier is added), except for unit names which are hardly ever spelled out (e.g. the degree Celsius). Most unit names are not capitalized. Use "per" when writing out a unit, rather than a slash: meter per second, not meter/second). (For spelling differences, follow WP:ENGVAR.)
  • If a unit symbol which can be unfamiliar to a general audience is used in an article, it should be shown parenthetically after the first use of the full unit name: for example, His initial betatron reached energies of 2.3 megaelectronvolts (MeV), while subsequent betatrons achieved 300 MeV.
  • For ranges, see WP:ENDASH and MOSNUM.
  • When dimensions are given, each number should be followed by a unit name or symbol (e.g., write 1 m × 3 m × 6 m, not 1 × 3 × 6 m).
  • When they form a compound adjective, values and unit names should be separated by a hyphen: for example, a five-day holiday.
  • 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.
  • Standard unit symbols are undotted; non-standard abbreviations should be dotted. No s is appended, e.g., km, in, lb, not kms, ins, lbs.
  • Write powers of unit symbols with HTML, e.g. 5 km<sup>2</sup> not Unicode superscripts and subscripts.
  • For quantities of bytes and bits, specify whether the binary or decimal meanings of K, M, G, etc. are intended. The IEC prefixes kibi-, mebi-, gibi-, etc. (symbols Ki, Mi, Gi, etc.) are not familiar to most readers, and should not generally be used (for exceptions, see MOSNUM).

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 a multiplication sign between numbers, use ×, which is input by clicking on it in the edit toolbox under the edit window or by typing &times;. However, the unspaced letter x is accepted as a substitute for by in such terms as 4x4.
  • Exponentiation is indicated by a superscript, an (typed as a<sup>n</sup>). Exponential notation can be spaced or unspaced, depending on circumstances.
  • Do not use programming language notation outside computer program listings. In most programming languages, subtraction, multiplication, and exponentiation are respectively represented by the hyphen-minus -, the asterisk *, and the caret or double asterisk ^ or **, and scientific notation is replaced by E notation.
  • Symbols for binary operators and relations are 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!).




For the apostrophe character, see #Apostrophes above. For thorough treatment of the English possessive see Apostrophe.

Singular nouns
  • For the possessive of most singular nouns, add 's (my daughter's achievement, my niece's wedding, Cortez's men, the boss's wife, 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).
  • For the possessive of singular nouns ending with just one s (sounded as /s/ or /z/), there are three practices:
    1. Add 's: James's house, Sam Hodges's son, Jan Hus's life, Vilnius's location, Brahms's music, Dickens's novels, Morris's works, the bus's old route.
    2. Add just an apostrophe: James' house, Sam Hodges' son, Jan Hus' life, Vilnius' location, Brahms' music, Dickens' novels, Morris' works, the bus' old route.
    3. Add either 's or just an apostrophe, according to how the possessive is pronounced:
      • Add only an apostrophe if the possessive is pronounced the same way as the non-possessive name: Sam Hodges' son, Moses' leadership;
      • Add 's if the possessive has an additional /ɪz/ at the end: Jan Hus's life, Morris's works.
      • Some possessives have two possible pronunciations: James's house or James' house, Brahms's music or Brahms' music, Vilnius's location or Vilnius' location, Dickens's novels or Dickens' novels.
  • Apply just one of these three practices consistently within an article. If the third practice is used and there is disagreement over the pronunciation of a possessive, the choice should be discussed and then that possessive adopted consistently in an article. (Possessives of certain classical and biblical names may have traditional pronunciations which may be deemed as taking precedence: Jesus' answer and Xerxes' expeditions, but Zeus's anger; and in some cases—particularly possessives of inanimate objects—rewording may be an option: the location of Vilnius, the old bus route, the moons of Mars.)
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, the 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, even for consistency).
  • The possessive its (the dog chased its tail) has no apostrophe. (It's is the short form of it is or it has: it's a nice day, it's been a nice day.) Hers, ours, yours, theirs, and whose likewise lack apostrophes. Possessives of non-personal pronouns such as everyone are formed as if they were nouns (everyone's mother, nobody's hat, anyone else's opinion, the others' husbands).

First-person pronouns


Wikipedia articles must not be based on one person's opinions or experiences, so never use I, my, or similar forms (except in quotations).

Also avoid we, us, and our: We should note that some critics have argued in favor of our proposal (personal rather than encyclopedic). But these 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 the proof of this theorem we assume that the function ƒ is uniformly continuous. Often rephrasing is preferable: Throughout the proof of this theorem it is assumed that the function ƒ is uniformly continuous.

Second-person pronouns


Do not use the second person (you, your); it is often ambiguous and contrary to the tone of an encyclopedia (see also Instructional and presumptuous language, below).

  • Use the third person (a noun, or he, one, etc.): 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.
  • The passive voice may sometimes be used instead: When "Go" is passed, $200 is collected.



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 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 commonly treated as singular or plural according to context. Names of towns and countries take plural verbs when they refer to sports teams but singular verbs when they refer to the actual place (or to the club as a business enterprise): 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. See also National varieties of English above.




Uncontracted forms such as do not or it is are the default in encyclopedic style; don't and it's are too informal. But contractions should not be expanded mechanically. Sometimes rewriting the sentence as a whole is preferable; and occasionally contractions provide the best solution anyway.

Gender-neutral language

Use gender-neutral language where this can be done with clarity and precision. 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 by either female pronouns ("she", "her") or genderless pronouns ("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 Wikipedia: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 List of commonly misused English words; see also Identity (below) and Gender-neutral language (above).

Instructional and presumptuous language


Avoid such phrases as remember that and note that, which address readers directly in an unencyclopedic tone. Similarly, phrases such as of course, naturally, obviously, clearly, and actually make presumptions about readers' knowledge, and 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. This supplies a point of view. Simply state the sourced facts and allow readers to draw their own conclusions.

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 these: 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, where comprising, consisting of, or composed of would be more accurate.


  • Disputes over how to refer to a person or group are addressed by policies such as Verifiability, Neutral point of view, and Article titles where the term appears in the title of an article. When there is no dispute, the term most commonly used for a person will be the one that person uses for himself or herself, and the most common terms for a group will be those that the group most commonly uses for itself. Wikipedia should use them too. (See for example the article Jew, which demonstrates that most Jews prefer that term to "Jewish person".)
  • Any person whose gender might be questioned should be referred to by the gendered nouns, pronouns, and possessive adjectives that reflect that person's latest expressed gender self-identification. This applies in references to any phase of that person's life. Nevertheless, avoid confusing or seemingly logically impossible text that could result from pronoun usage (for example: instead of He gave birth to his first child, write He became a parent for the first time).
  • Use specific terminology. For example, often it is more appropriate for people from Ethiopia (a country in Africa) to be described as Ethiopian, not carelessly (with the risk of stereotyping) as African.
  • The adjective Arab (never to be confused with Muslim or Islamic) refers to people and things of ethnic Arab origin. The term Arabic refers to the Arabic language or writing system, and related concepts (Not all Arab people write or converse in Arabic).

Foreign terms


Foreign words should be used sparingly.

No common usage in English
Use italics for phrases in other languages and for isolated foreign words that are not current in English.
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 major English-language dictionaries.
Spelling and romanization

Names not originally written in a Latin alphabet (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. 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 Article titles; see also 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, above.

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

Technical language

WP:Explain jargon

Some topics are intrinsically technical, but editors should try to make them accessible to as many readers as possible. Minimize jargon, or at least explain it; or tag it using {{Cleanup-jargon}} or {{Jargon-statement}} for other editors to fix. For unavoidably technical articles a separate introductory article (like Introduction to special 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.

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)".


  • Infoboxes, images, and related content in the lead must be right-aligned.
  • Use captions to clarify the relevance of the image to the article (see Captions, below).
  • Each image should be inside the major section to which it relates (within the section defined by the most recent level 2 heading), not immediately above the section heading.
  • It is often preferable to place images of faces so that the face or eyes look toward the text. However, it is not necessary to reverse an image simply to have the subject facing the text.
  • Multiple images in the same article can be staggered right-and-left (for example, Timpani).
  • For most images outside the introduction, prefer the default image size, which is 220 pixels for most users, but should not be specified. The lead image is usually given a width of about 300 pixels. See Manual of Style/Images for information on when and how to use other sizes.
  • Link to more images on Wikimedia Commons when appropriate; see Wikipedia:Wikimedia sister projects for advice and methods. The use of galleries should be in keeping with Wikipedia's image use policy.
  • Avoid referring to images as being on the left or right. Image placement is different for viewers of the mobile version of Wikipedia, and is meaningless to people having pages read to them by assistive software. Instead, use captions to identify images.
  • Alt text takes the place of an image for text-only readers, including those using screen readers. Images should have an alt attribute added to the |alt= parameter. See WP:ALT for more information.

Avoid entering textual information as images

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.



Photographs and other graphics should always have captions, unless they are "self-captioning" images (such as reproductions of album or book covers) or when they are unambiguous depictions of the subject of the article. 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.
  • Most captions are not complete sentences, but merely sentence fragments that should not end with a period. If any complete sentence occurs in a caption, all sentences and any sentence fragments in that caption should end with a period.
  • The text of captions should not be specially formatted (with italics, for example), except in ways that would apply if it occurred in the main text.
  • Captions should be succinct; more information about the image can be included on its description page, or in the main text.

Bulleted and numbered lists

  • Do not use lists if a passage is read easily as plain paragraphs.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • When the elements are complete sentences, each one is formatted with sentence case and a final period.
    • When the elements are sentence fragments, the list is typically introduced by a lead fragment ending with a colon. When these elements are titles of works, they retain the original capitalization of the titles. Other elements are formatted consistently in either sentence case or lower case. Each element should end with a semicolon, with a period instead for the last element. Alternatively (especially when the elements are short), no final punctuation is used at all.



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

Do not use external links in the body of an article. 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:

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


Keep markup simple

The simplest markup is often the easiest to edit, the most comprehensible, and the most predictable. Markup may appear differently in different browsers. Use HTML and CSS markup sparingly; in particular, do not use the CSS float or line-height properties because they break rendering on some browsers when large fonts are used.

An HTML entity is sometimes better than the equivalent Unicode character, which may be difficult to identify in edit mode; for example, &Alpha; is understood where "Α" (the upper-case form of Greek "α") may not be.

Formatting issues

Modifications in font size, blank space, and color (see Color coding, below) 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 stylesheets (for accessibility reasons, for example) to override it, and it might clash with a different skin as well as 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: 80%) rather than absolutely (like font-size: 8pt).

Color coding


Information should be accessible to all. Do not use color alone to mark differences in text: they may be invisible to people with color blindness. Also, black-and-white printouts, older computer displays with fewer colors, and monochrome displays (older PDAs and cell phones) cannot show such distinctions.

Choose colors that can be distinguished by the readers with the commonest form of colorblindness (red–green), such as maroon and teal; and also mark the differences with change of font or some other means (maroon and alternative font face, teal). Viewing the page with Vischeck can help with the choice of colors. See also color coding.

Scrolling lists and collapsible content


Scrolling lists and boxes that toggle text display between hide and show should not conceal article content, including reference lists, image galleries, and image captions. They especially should not be used to conceal "spoiler" information (see Wikipedia:Spoiler). Collapsible sections or cells may be used in tables that consolidate information covered in the main text, navboxes, infoboxes, or chess puzzles. When scrolling lists or collapsible content are used, take care that the content will still be accessible on devices that do not support JavaScript or CSS.

Invisible comments


Editors use invisible comments to communicate with each other in the body of the text of an article. These comments are visible only in the wiki source (that is, in edit mode), not in read mode.

Invisible comments are useful for flagging an issue or leaving instructions about part of the text, where this is more convenient than raising the matter on the talk page. They should be used judiciously, because they can clutter the wiki source for other editors. Check that your invisible comment does not change the formatting, for example by introducing white space in read mode.

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, please also change the links to it on the pages ...-->.


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 Wikipedia:IPA for English and Wikipedia: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

  • Help:Wiki markup explains the codes and resources available for editing a page.
  • Style guide contains links to the style guides of some magazines and newspapers.
  • Wikipedia:Annotated article is a well-constructed sample article, with annotations.
  • Wikipedia:Avoiding common mistakes gives a list of common mistakes and how to avoid them.
  • Wikipedia:Basic copyediting gives helpful advice on copy-editing.
  • Wikipedia:Be bold suggests a bold attitude toward page updates.
  • Wikipedia:Citing sources explains process and standards for citing references.
  • Wikipedia:Disinfoboxes shows how infoboxes are not always useful.
  • Wikipedia:Editing policy explains Wikipedia's general philosophy of editing.
  • Wikipedia:Elements of Style improvement project.
  • Wikipedia:How to edit a page is a short primer on editing pages.
  • Wikipedia:Introduction is a gentle introduction to the world of Wikipedia.
  • Wikipedia:Manual of Style (list of specialized Manual of Style articles).
  • Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines is the main stop for policies and guidelines.
  • Wikipedia:Reader stresses that the reader must be considered when editing.
  • Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Jguk was an Arbitration Committee case on style edit-warring.
  • Wikipedia:Stub shows what to aim for when starting a new article.
  • Version 1.0 Editorial Team/Style guide lists some variations between the proposed printed versions of Wikipedia and the Manual of Style.
  • Wikipedia:WikiProject introduces Wikipedia's system for collaborative development of related articles.


  1. ^ These matters have been addressed in rulings of the Arbitration Committee: see Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Jguk#Optional styles and Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Sortan#Preferred styles.
  2. ^ Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 115#nbsp in a link
  3. ^ Specifically, compound attributives, which are modifiers of a noun that occur within the noun phrase. (See Hyphenated compound adjectives.)
  4. ^ This guidance follows the recommendations of various style guides, e.g. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. 2010, Clause 14.21, p. 666: "Relative to other punctuation, the [note] number follows any punctuation mark except for the dash, which it precedes. [...] Though a note number normally follows a closing parenthesis, it may on rare occasion be more appropriate to place the number inside the closing parenthesis—if, for example, the note applies to a specific term within the parenthesis." However note that some publications, such as the journal Nature, place references before punctuation.

Style guides on other Wikimedia projects

Further reading

Wikipedians are encouraged to familiarize themselves with other guides to style and usage, which may cover details that are not included in this Manual of Style. Among these are:

Search engines

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