Infogalactic:Manual of Style

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The Manual of Style (abbreviated as MoS or MOS) is the style manual for all Infogalactic articles. This primary page of the guideline covers certain topics (e.g. punctuation) in detail and summarizes the key points of other topics. The detail pages, which are cross-referenced here and linked by this page's menu or listed at Infogalactic:Manual of Style/Contents, provide specific guidance on those topics. If any contradiction arises, this page has precedence over all detail pages of the guideline, style essays, and the Simplified Manual of Style.[lower-alpha 1]

The Manual of Style presents Infogalactic's house style. The goal is to make using Infogalactic easier and more intuitive by promoting clarity and cohesion, while helping editors write articles with consistent and precise language, layout, and formatting. Plain English works best. Avoid ambiguity, jargon, and vague or unnecessarily complex wording. Any new content added to the body of this page should directly address a style issue that has occurred in a significant number of instances.

Style and formatting should be consistent within an article, though not necessarily throughout Infogalactic. Where more than one style is acceptable, editors should not change an article from one of those styles to another without a good reason. Edit warring over optional styles is unacceptable.[lower-alpha 2] If discussion cannot determine which style to use in an article, defer to the style used by the first major contributor. If a style or similar debate becomes intractable, see if a rewrite can render the issue irrelevant.

Discuss style issues on the MoS talk page.


Article titles, headings, and sections

Article titles

When choosing an article's title, refer to the article titles policy. A title should be a recognizable name or description of the topic that is natural, sufficiently precise, concise, and consistent with the titles of related articles. If these criteria are in conflict, they should be balanced against one another.

For guidance on formatting titles, see IG:Article titles § Article title format section of the policy. Note the following:

  • Capitalize the title's initial letter (except in rare cases, such as eBay), but otherwise follow sentence case, not title case; e.g., Funding of UNESCO projects, not Funding of UNESCO Projects. This does not apply where title case would be expected were the title to occur in ordinary prose. See Infogalactic:Naming conventions (capitalization) for more details.
  • To italicize a title, add the template {{italic title}} near the top of the article. The use of italics should conform to IG: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 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.[lower-alpha 3]
  • The final 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 (1814 schooner)).

The guidance contained elsewhere in the MoS, particularly § Punctuation (below) applies to all parts of an article, including the title. (IG:Article titles does not contain detailed rules about punctuation.)

Section organization

An article should begin with an introductory lead section, which should not contain section headings (see Infogalactic:Manual of Style/Lead section). The remainder of the article may be divided into sections, each with a section heading (see below) that can be nested in a hierarchy.

The lead should be a concise summary. Newly added information does not always qualify as important enough for the lead; it should be placed in the most appropriate section or sections.

If there are at least four section headings in the article, a navigable table of contents is generated automatically and displayed between the lead section 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 Infogalactic:Summary style).

As explained in more detail in IG:Manual of Style/Layout § 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 Infogalactic articles (section heading "See also");
  • notes and references (section heading "Notes" or "References", or a separate section for each; see Citing sources);
  • relevant books, articles, or other publications that have not been used as sources (section heading "Further reading");
  • relevant websites that have not been used as sources and do not appear in the earlier appendices (added as part of "Further reading" or in a separate section headed "External links");
  • internal links organized into navigational boxes (sometimes placed at the top in the form of sidebars);
  • categories.

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

Section headings


Use equal signs to mark the enclosed text as a section heading: ==Title== for a primary section; ===Title=== for the next level (a subsection); and so on to the lowest-level subsection, with =====Title=====. (The highest heading level technically possible is =Title=, but do not use it in articles, because it is reserved for the automatically generated top-level heading at the top of the page containing the title of the whole article.) 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 (but not two or more consecutive blank lines, which will add unnecessary visible white space in the rendered page). There is no need to include a blank line between a heading and sub-heading.

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 normally not 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; this includes flag icons and <math>...</math> rendering.
  • Headings should not contain questions.
  • Avoid starting headings with numbers (other than years), because this can be confusing for readers with the "Auto-number headings" preference selected.

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 an 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]] ([[MOS:HEAD]])-->

When placing an invisible comment on the same line as the heading, do not do this outside the == == markup:[lower-alpha 4]

==Evolutionary implications==<!--This comment disrupts editing-->

<!--This comment disrupts display as well as editing-->==Evolutionary implications==

Several of the above provisions are also applicable to table headers, including: sentence case, redundancy, images, and questions. Table headers are often useful places for citations (e.g. the source of all the data in a column), and many do begin with or are numbers. Table headers do not automatically generate link anchors. (For more information see IG:Manual of Style/Tables § Captions and headers.)

National varieties of English


Infogalactic prefers no major national variety of English over any other. These varieties (e.g., American English, British English, etc.) differ in many ways, including vocabulary (elevator vs. lift), spelling (center vs. centre), date formatting ("April 13" vs. "13 April"), 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 § Punctuation, below.)

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

Opportunities for commonality


Infogalactic tries to find words that are common to all varieties of English. Insisting on a single term or a single usage as the only correct option does not serve the purposes of an international encyclopedia.

  • Universally used terms are often preferable to less widely distributed terms, especially in article titles. For example, glasses is preferred to the national varieties spectacles (British English) and eyeglasses (American English); ten million is preferable to one crore (Indian English).
  • If one variant spelling appears in 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 differ between varieties of English, or that have divergent meanings, may be glossed to prevent confusion, for example, the trunk (American English) or boot (British English) of a car ....
  • Use a commonly understood word or phrase in preference to one that has a different meaning because of national differences (rather than alternate, use alternative or alternating depending on which sense is intended).

Consistency within articles


While Infogalactic does not favor any national variety of English, within a given article the conventions of one particular variety should be followed consistently. The exceptions are:

  • quotations, titles of works (books, films, etc.): Quote these as given in the source (but see § Typographic conformity, below);
  • proper names: Use the subject's own spelling e.g., joint project of the United States Department of Defense and the Australian Defence Force;
  • passages explicitly discussing varieties of English;
  • URLs: Changing the spelling of part of an external link's URL will almost always break the link.

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:

In an article about a modern writer, it is often a good choice to use the variety of English in which the subject wrote, especially if the writings are quoted. For example, the article J. R. R. Tolkien follows his use of British English with Oxford spelling.

This guideline should not be used to claim national ownership of any article; see Infogalactic:Ownership of articles.

Retaining the existing variety


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

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

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

Capital letters

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

Do not use capitals for emphasis

Use italics, not capitals, to denote emphasis.

Incorrect: It is not only a LITTLE learning that is dangerous.
Correct: It is not only a little learning that is dangerous.

Capitalization of "The"

Generally, do not capitalize the in the middle of a sentence: an article about the United Kingdom (not about The United Kingdom). However there are some conventional exceptions, including most titles of artistic works: Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings (but Homer wrote the Odyssey), and public transport in The Hague. For the British golf tournament, capitalize The Open but not the in the British Open; both The Open Championship and the Open Championship are acceptable.

For treatment in band and album names, see IG:Manual of Style/Music § Names (definite article).

Titles of works

Template:/titles hatnote include

The English-language titles of compositions (books and other print works, songs and other audio works, films and other visual media works, paintings and other artworks, etc.) are given in title case, in which every word is given an initial capital except for certain less important words (as detailed at IG:Manual of Style/Capital letters § Composition titles). The first and last words in an English-language title are always capitalized. Capitalization in foreign-language titles varies, even over time within the same language; generally, retain the style of the original for modern works, and follow the usage in English-language reliable sources for historical works. Many of these items should also be in italics, or enclosed in quotation marks.

Correct: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Correct: "Hymnus an den heiligen Geist"

Titles of people

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

Religions, deities, philosophies, doctrines

  • Religions, sects, and churches and their followers (in noun or adjective form) start with a capital letter. Generally, "the" is not capitalized before such names (the Shī‘a, not The Shī‘a).
  • Religious texts (scriptures) are capitalized, but often not italicized (the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, the Talmud, the Granth Sahib, the Bible). Do not capitalize "the" when using it in this way. Some derived adjectives are capitalized by convention, some are not (biblical, but Koranic); if unsure, check a dictionary.
  • Honorifics for deities, including proper names and titles, start with a capital letter (God, Allah, the Lord, the Supreme Being, the Great Spirit, the Horned One, Bhagavan). Do not capitalize "the" in such cases or when referring to major religious figures or characters from mythology (the Prophet, the Messiah, the Virgin). Common nouns for deities and religious figures are not capitalized (many gods; the god Woden; saints and prophets).
  • Pronouns for figures of veneration or worship are not capitalized, even if capitalized in a religion's scriptures.
  • Broad categories of mythical or legendary beings start with lower-case letters (elf, fairy, nymph, unicorn, angel), although in 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 name (capitalism versus Marxism) or has become a proper name (republican, a system of political thought; Republican, a political party). Use lower case for doctrinal topics or canonical religious ideas (as opposed to specific events), even if they are capitalized by some religious adherents (virgin birth, original sin, transubstantiation).
  • Platonic or transcendent ideals are capitalized in the context of philosophical doctrine (Truth, the Good); used more broadly, they are in lower case (Superman represents American ideals of truth and justice). Use capitals for personifications represented in art (the guidebook mentioned statues of Justice and Liberty).

Calendar items

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

Animals, plants, and other organisms


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

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

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

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

Celestial bodies

  • The words sun, earth, and moon do not take capitals in general use (The sun was peeking over the mountain top; The tribal people of the Americas thought of the whole earth as their home). They are capitalized when the entity is personified (Sol Invictus ("Unconquered Sun") was the Roman sun god) or when used as the name of a specific body in a scientific or astronomical context (The Moon orbits the Earth; but Io is a moon of Jupiter).
  • Names of planets, moons, asteroids, comets, stars, constellations, and galaxies are proper names, and therefore capitalized (The planet Mars 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).
  • Words such as comet and galaxy should be capitalized where they form part of an object's proper name (Halley's Comet).

Compass points

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

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

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


Names of particular institutions are proper names and require capitals, but generic words for institutions (university, college, hospital, high school) do not. For example: The university offers programs in arts and sciences, but The University of Delhi offers ....

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).

Similar considerations apply to political or geographical units, such as cities and islands: The city has a population of 55,000, but The City of Smithville ... (an official name). (Note also the use of the City to refer to the City of London.)



Ligatures should be used in languages in which they are standard, hence The meaning of Moreau's last words, clin d'œil, is disputed is preferable to The meaning of Moreau's last words, clin d'oeil, is disputed. Ligatures should not be used in English outside of names, hence Æthelstan was a pre-mediaeval king, not Æthelstan was a pre-mediæval king.


Abbreviations are shortened forms of words or phrases. In strict analysis, they are distinct from contractions, which use an apostrophe (e.g., won't, see § Contractions) and initialisms (including acronyms). An initialism is usually formed from some or all of the initial letters of words in a phrase. In some variations of English, an acronym is considered to be an initialism which is pronounced as a word (e.g., NATO), as distinct from the case where the initialism is said as a string of individual letters (e.g., US, for United States). Herein, general statements regarding abbreviations are inclusive of acronyms, and the term acronym applies collectively to initialisms, without distinction that an acronym is said as a word.

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

Like other nouns, acronyms are pluralized via addition of -s or -es: they produced three CD-ROMs;  three different BIOSes were released. As always, use an apostrophe only when forming the possessive: one DVD's menu was wrong, and five CD-ROMs' titles were misspelled, not He bought two DVD's.

Full stops and spaces

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

US and U.S.


In American and Canadian English, U.S. (with periods [full stops] and without a space) is the dominant abbreviation for United States, though at least one major American style guide, The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.), now deprecates U.S. and prefers US (without periods). US is more common in most other national forms of English. Use of periods for abbreviations and acronyms should be consistent within any given article and congruent with the variety of English used by that article. In longer abbreviations (three letters or more) that incorporate the country's initials (USN, USAF), do not use periods. When the United States is mentioned with one or more other countries in the same sentence, U.S. or US may be too informal, especially at the first mention or as a noun instead of an adjective (France and the United States, not France and the U.S.). Do not use the spaced U. S. or the archaic U.S. of A., except when quoting. Do not use U.S.A. or USA, except in a quotation, or as part of a proper name (Team USA) or formal code (e.g., the ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 codes and FIFA country codes).


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

Do not use unwarranted abbreviations

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

Do not invent abbreviations or acronyms

Generally avoid 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 in a tight space, such as a header in a wide table of data, use widely recognized abbreviations (for New Zealand gross national product, use NZ and GNP, with a link if the term has not already been written out: NZ GNP; do not use the made-up initialism NZGNP).

HTML elements

Either the <abbr> element or the {{abbr}} template can be used for abbreviations and acronyms: <abbr title="World Health Organization">WHO</abbr> or {{abbr|WHO|World Health Organization}} will generate WHO; hovering over the rendered text causes a tooltip of the long form to pop up. MediaWiki, the software on which Infogalactic runs, does not support <acronym>.



In normal text and headings, the word and should be used instead of the ampersand (&); for example January 1 and 2, not January 1 & 2. Retain ampersands in titles of works or organizations, such as Up & Down or AT&T. Ampersands may be used with consistency and discretion in places where space is extremely limited (i.e., tables and infoboxes). Quotations (see also MOS:QUOTE) may be cautiously modified, especially for consistency where different editions are quoted, as modern editions of old texts routinely replace ampersands with and (just as they replace other disused glyphs, ligatures, and abbreviations).




Whereas italics may be used sparingly for emphasis, boldface is normally not used for this purpose. Use italics when introducing or distinguishing terms. Overuse of emphasis reduces its effectiveness.

When emphasis is intended, versus other uses of italics as described below, the semantic HTML markup <em>...</em>, or its template wrapper {{em}}, may be used: The vaccine is {{em|not}} a cure, but a prophylactic. This helps editors understand the intent of the markup as emphasis, allows user style sheets to distinguish emphasis and handle it in a customized way, and is an aid to re-users and translators, especially since other languages have different conventions for delineating emphasis.[1]

  1. Ishida, Richard (2015). "Using b and i tags". W3C Internationalization. World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 1 September 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


Template:/titles hatnote include

Use italics for the titles of works of literature and art, such as books, pamphlets, films (including short films), television series, named exhibitions, computer and video games (but not other software), music albums, and paintings. The titles of articles, chapters, songs, television episodes, research papers 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 Quran, the Talmud). Many of these items should also be in title case.

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, nor are terms in non-Latin scripts.

Scientific names

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

Quotations in italics

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. To distinguish block quotations from ordinary text, you can use <blockquote> or {{quote}}. (See § Block quotations, below.)

Italics within quotations

Use italics within quotations if they are already in the source material. When adding emphasis on Infogalactic, 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? (The question mark applies to the whole sentence, not just to the emphasized that, so should not be italicized.)
Correct: What are we to make of that?
Correct: Four of Patrick White's most famous novels are A Fringe of Leaves, The Aunt's Story, Voss, and The Tree of Man. (The commas, the period, and the word and are not italicized.)

Italicized links

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

Controlling line breaks


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

  • A non-breaking space (or hard space) will never be used as a line-break point. Unlike normal spaces, multiple adjacent non-breaking spaces do not compress into a single space. Markup: for 19 kg, code 19&nbsp;kg or 19{{nbsp}}kg
  • Or use {{nowrap}}, {{nobreak}}, or {{nobr}} (all equivalent). Markup: for 5° 24′ N code {{nobr|5° 24′ N}} (Unexpected results may occur if the text appearing within {{nowrap}} begins or ends with a space or nonbreaking space; or if a nonbreaking space appears immediately before or after {{nowrap}}.)

It is desirable to prevent line breaks ...

  • where breaking across lines might be confusing or awkward, such as:
  • 17{{nbsp}}kg
  • AD{{nbsp}}565
  • 2:50{{nbsp}}pm
  • £11{{nbsp}}billion
  • May{{nbsp}}2014
  • {{nobr|5° 24′ 21″ N}}
  • Boeing{{nbsp}}747
  • 123{{nbsp}}Fake Street
  • World War{{nbsp}}II
  • Pope Benedict{{nbsp}}XVI
  • before a spaced en dash. Markup: June 23{{nbsp}}– June 29 or June 23{{snd}}June 29 or June 23{{spaced ndash}}June 29 (all equivalent).

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

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

Always insert hard/thin spaces symbolically ({{nbsp}}, {{thinsp}}, &nbsp;, &thinsp;), never by entering them as literal Unicode characters entered directly from the keyboard. (Note that inside wikilinks, a construction such as [[World War&nbsp;II]] works as expected, but [[World War{{nbsp}}II]] will not work.)

Adjacent quotation marks: The templates {{' "}} and {{" '}} will add a thin space (and prevent linebreak) between adjacent quotation marks/apostrophes. Markup: He announced, "The answer was 'Yes!{{' "}} or {{" '}}Yes!' was the answer."



While quotations are an indispensable part of Infogalactic, try not to overuse them. Brief quotations of copyrighted text may be used to illustrate a point, establish context, or attribute a point of view or idea. It is generally recommended that content be written in Infogalactic editors' own words. Using too many quotes is incompatible with an encyclopedic writing style, and may indicate a copyright infringement. Consider minimizing the use of quotations by paraphrasing, as quotations should not replace free text (including one that the editor writes),

Original wording


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

Use ellipses to indicate omissions from quoted text. Legitimate omissions include extraneous, irrelevant, or parenthetical words, and unintelligible speech (umm, and hmm). Do not omit text where doing so would remove important context or alter the meaning of the text. When a vulgarity or obscenity is quoted, it should appear exactly as it does in the cited source; unless faithfully reproducing quoted text, Infogalacians should never bowdlerize words 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.

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

Point of view

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

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

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

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

Typographic conformity

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

  • 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
  • Replacing non-English typographical elements with their English equivalents. For example, replace guillemets (« ») with straight quotation marks.
  • Removing spaces before punctuation such as periods and colons.
  • Generally preserve bold and italics (see § Italics, above), but most other styling should be altered. Underlining and spacing  w i t h i n  w o r d s  (as found in typewritten documents) should be changed to italics, and other unusual forms of emphasis (colored highlighting, all caps or small caps, etc.) should likewise generally be normalized to italics or boldface. It is also permissible to add appropriate non-emphatic italics or quotation marks, for example to mark the title of a book or poem within a quotation.
  • Expanding abbreviations.
  • Normalizing archaic glyphs and ligatures, when doing so will not change or obscure the meaning or intent of the text. Examples include æ→ae, œ→oe, ſ→s, and ye→the. See also § Ampersand, above.

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

Direct quotation should not be used in an attempt to preserve the formatting preferred by an external publisher, especially when the material would otherwise be unchanged:

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

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

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

When quoting a complete sentence, it is recommended to keep the first word capitalized unless the quoted passage has been integrated into the surrounding sentence.

  • Right: Gandhi said: "Be the change you want to see in the world."
  • Permissible: Gandhi said one should "[b]e the change you want to see in the world."

Quotations within quotations


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


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. Block quotations can be enclosed in the {{quote}} template, or between a pair of <blockquote>...</blockquote> HTML tags. The template also provides parameters for attribution. Do not enclose block quotations in quotation marks (and especially avoid decorative quotation marks in normal use, such as those provided by the {{pull quote}} a.k.a. {{cquote}} template, which are reserved for pull quotes). Block quotations using a colored background are also discouraged.

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

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."

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

Foreign-language quotations

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

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

When editors themselves translate foreign text into English, care must always be taken to include the non-English source material, in italics (except for non-Latin-based writing systems), and to use actual and (if at all possible) common English words to translate. Beware linguistic "false friends": Portuguese Federativo should never be rendered as Federative but always as Federal, for example, while Spanish raro should usually be translated as strange or weird and only in limited contexts as rare.




  • Consistent use of the straight (or typewriter, or ASCII) apostrophe ( ' ) is recommended, as opposed to the curly (or typographic) apostrophe ( ‘ ’ ). For details and reasons, see § Quotation marks, below.
  • Where an apostrophe might otherwise be misinterpreted as Wiki markup, use the templates {{'}}, {{`}}, and {{'s}}, or use <nowiki> tags, or use &apos; entity.
  • 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 primary use of quotation marks is to identify and enclose speech or text which is reported verbatim. 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" phrases, and constructed examples. Quotation marks existing in other sources should be changed to match the format described below when being brought into Infogalactic.

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. However, there are some conventional codified exceptions, such as:
  • Single quotation marks are used for plant cultivars (Malus domestica 'Golden Delicious'; see IG:Naming conventions (flora)).
  • Simple glosses that translate or define unfamiliar terms are usually enclosed in single quotes (Cossack comes from the Turkic qazaq, 'freebooter').
Article openings
An article title may include quotation marks, and these should be in bold just like the rest of the title when it appears at the start of the lead section (from "A" Is for Alibi: "A" Is for Alibi is the first novel ...).
When a title is shown altered in the lead section, any added quotation marks should not be in bold (from Jabberwocky: "Jabberwocky" is a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll ...; from Bill Clinton: William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton ... is an American politician.).
Block quotations
As noted in § Quotations (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 Infogalactic.
Punctuation before quotations
The use of a comma before a quotation embedded within a sentence is optional, if a non-quoted but otherwise identical construction would work grammatically without the comma:
  • The report stated "There was a 45% reduction in transmission rate." (Compare the non-quotation The report stated there was a 45% reduction in transmission rate.)
  • The report stated, "There was a 45% reduction in transmission rate."
The comma-free approach is often used with partial or interrupted quotations:
  • Free will was central to Anaïs Nin's experience of life, which she wrote "shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
  • "Life", Anaïs Nin wrote, "shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
A comma is required when it would be present in the same constructions if none of the material were a quotation:
  • In Margaret Mead's view, "we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities" to enrich our culture.
Do not insert a comma if it would confuse or alter the meaning:
  • Caitlyn Jenner expressed concerns about children "who are coming to terms with being true to who they are". (Accurate quote of a statement about some children.)
  • Caitlyn Jenner expressed concerns about children, "who are coming to terms with being true to who they are". (Misrepresentation, as a statement about all children.)
It is clearer to use a colon to introduce a quotation if it forms a complete sentence, and this should always be done for multi-sentence quotations:
  • The report stated: "There was a 45% reduction in transmission rate."
  • Albert Einstein wrote: "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."
No punctuation is necessary for an explicit words-as-words scenario:
  • The message was unintelligible except for the fragments "help soon" and "how much longer before".
Quotation characters

There are two possible methods for rendering quotation marks at Infogalactic (that is, the glyphs, displayed with emphasis here, for clarity):

  • Typewriter or straight style: "text", 'text' (recommended for Infogalactic)
  • Typographic or curly style: text, text (not recommended for Infogalactic)
Whenever quotation marks or apostrophes appear in article titles, make a redirect from the same title but using the alternative glyphs.
Do not use grave and acute accents or backticks (`text´) as quotation marks (or as apostrophes). Likewise, avoid using the low-high („ “) or guillemet (« ») quotation marks that are common in several foreign languages. Editors may see and under the edit window as characters available for insertion; however, these are prime and double-prime symbols, used to indicate subdivisions of the degree, and should not be used to mark quotations.

Reasons to prefer straight quotation marks and apostrophes

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

  • Consistency keeps searches predictable. Search facilities have differences of which many readers (and editors) are unaware. For example, most modern browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera) don't distinguish between curly and straight marks, but Internet Explorer still does, thus a search for Alzheimer's disease will fail to find Alzheimer’s disease and vice versa in that browser.
  • Straight quotation marks are easier to type and edit reliably regardless of computer configuration.

Reasons to prefer double quotation marks to single quotation marks

Normally, double rather than single quotation marks should be used for primary or top-level quotations.

  • Double quotation marks are distinguishable from apostrophes:
    She wrote that 'Cleanthes' differs from the others', but neither opinion may represent Hume's'; ... (slows the reader down)
    She wrote that "Cleanthes' differs from the others', but neither opinion may represent Hume's"; ... (clearer)
  • Most browsers distinguish single and double quotation marks. (Searches for "must see" attractions may fail to find 'must see' attractions.)

Names and titles

Template:/titles hatnote include

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

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

For example: The song "Example" from the album Example by the band Example.

Do not use quotation marks or italics for:

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

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

Punctuation inside or outside


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If an exclamation or question mark is used at the end of a sentence that ends in a quotation, omit any punctuation that would otherwise be used before the closing quotation mark. This does not happen often on Infogalactic.

Did Darla really ask: "Why are you sleeping"?

Brackets and parentheses


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

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

He rose to address the meeting: "(Ahem) ... Ladies and gentlemen, welcome!"

Only the royal characters in the play ([Prince] Hamlet and his family) habitually speak in blank verse.

We journeyed on the Inter[continental].

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, or use the {{bracket}} template.

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

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

He said "I spoke to [[John Doe|John {{bracket|Doe}}]] 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%5Dyyy&whatever=else rather than ... query=[xxx]yyy& ... 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.



Use an ellipsis (plural ellipses) to indicate an omission of material from quoted text or some other omission, perhaps of the end of a sentence, often 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 periods separated by spaces (. . .). 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 § Brackets and parentheses, above, and the 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").
    • any terminal punctuation, colon, semicolon, or comma, directly following the ellipsis ("Are we going to France ...?").
  • Place terminal punctuation after an ellipsis only 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;) 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", not "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 except in direct quotations. When it indicates an incomplete word, no space is used between the word fragment(s) and the ellipsis: The garbled transmission ended with "We are stranded near San L...o", interpreted as a reference to either San Leandro or San Lorenzo.
With square brackets
An ellipsis does not normally need square brackets around it, because its function is usually obvious—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 punctuation marks and can be the most difficult to use well. Some important points regarding their use follow below and at § Semicolons.

  • Pairs of commas are used to delimit parenthetic material, forming an appositive. Using commas in this way interrupts a sentence less than using round brackets or dashes to express parenthetical material. When inserting parenthetical material in a sentence, use two commas, or none at all. For example:
Incorrect: John Smith, Janet Cooper's son is a well-known playwright.
Correct:    John Smith, Janet Cooper's son, is a well-known playwright.
Correct:    Janet Cooper's son John Smith is a well-known playwright. (when Janet has multiple sons)
Correct:    Janet Cooper's son, John Smith, is a well-known playwright. (when Janet has only one son)
  • 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 locals (on beans, fish, and ngardu) survived for a few months.
Correct:    Burke and Wills, fed by locals (on beans, fish, and ngardu), survived for a few months.
  • Modern writing uses fewer commas; there are usually ways to simplify a sentence so that fewer are needed.
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.
  • In geographical references that include multiple levels of subordinate divisions (e.g., city, state/province, country), a comma separates each element and follows the last element unless followed by other punctuation. Dates in month–day–year format require a comma after the day, as well as after the year, unless followed by other punctuation. In both cases, the last element is treated as parenthetical.
Incorrect: He set October 1, 2011 as the deadline for Chattanooga, Oklahoma to meet his demands.
Correct:    He set October 1, 2011, as the deadline for Chattanooga, Oklahoma, to meet his demands.
Incorrect: She said, "Punctuation styles on Infogalactic change too often," and made other complaints.
Correct:    She said, "Punctuation styles on Infogalactic change too often", and made other complaints.
  • A comma may be included before a quotation embedded within a sentence (see § Quotation marks above).

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 so long as each article is internally consistent; however, there are 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 the first example:

  • 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 wordier): The author thanked her father and her mother, who are President Obama and Sinéad O'Connor respectively.

Recasting the second example:

  • 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 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 § Quotation marks 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); in many cases, only a comma or only a semicolon will be correct in a given sentence.

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

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

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

This incorrect use of a comma between two independent clauses is known as a comma splice; however, in 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 sentence may contain several semicolons, especially when the clauses are parallel in construction and meaning; multiple unrelated semicolons are often signs that the sentence should be divided into shorter sentences, or otherwise refashioned.

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

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

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

As seen in the examples above, a semicolon does not automatically require the word that follows it to be capitalized.

Semicolon before "however"


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

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

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

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

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

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

However they tried, it was obvious they could not convert these people.
Meaning: Regardless of how 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 is an adverb meaning "though", which could have been placed at the beginning but does not start a new clause in mid-sentence. In this use the word may be enclosed between commas. Example:

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



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

  1. In hyphenated personal names: John Lennard-Jones.
  2. To link prefixes with their main terms in certain constructions (quasi-scientific, pseudo-Apollodorus, ultra-nationalistic).
    • A hyphen may be used to distinguish between homographs (re-dress means dress again, but redress means remedy or set right).
    • There is a clear trend to join both elements in all varieties of English (subsection, nonlinear), 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 is more likely to close up without a hyphen. Consult a good dictionary, and see National varieties of English above.
  3. To link related terms in compound modifiers:[lower-alpha 5]
    • 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 Infogalactic's scientific articles: gas-phase reaction dynamics. However, hyphens are never inserted into proper names in compounds (Middle Eastern cuisine, not Middle-Eastern cuisine).
    • A hyphen can help to disambiguate (little-celebrated paintings is not a reference to little paintings; a government-monitoring program is a program that monitors the government, whereas a government monitoring program is a government program that monitors something else).
    • Many compounds that are hyphenated when used attributively (adjectives before the nouns they qualify: a light-blue handbag, a 34-year-old woman) or substantively (as a noun: she is a 34-year-old), are usually not hyphenated when used predicatively (descriptive phrase separated from the noun: the handbag was light blue, the woman is 34 years old). Where there would otherwise be a loss of clarity, a hyphen may optionally be used in the predicative form as well (hand-fed turkeys, the turkeys were hand-fed). Awkward attributive hyphenation can sometimes be avoided with a simple rewording: Hawaiian-native culturenative Hawaiian culture.
    • Avoid using a hyphen after a standard -ly adverb (a newly available home, a wholly owned subsidiary) unless part of a larger compound (a slowly-but-surely strategy). In rare cases, a hyphen can be added to improve clarity if a rewritten alternative is awkward. Rewording is preferable: The idea was clearly stated enough can be disambiguated as The idea clearly was stated often enough or The idea was stated with enough clarity.
    • A few words ending in -ly function as both adjectives and adverbs (a kindly-looking teacher; a kindly provided facility). Some such dual-purpose words (like early, only, northerly) are not standard -ly adverbs, because they are not formed by addition of -ly to an independent current-English adjective. These need careful treatment: Early flowering plants appeared around 130 million years ago, but Early-flowering plants risk damage from winter frosts; only child actors (no adult actors) but only-child actors (actors without siblings).
    • A hyphen is normally used when the adverb well precedes a participle used attributively (a well-meaning gesture; but normally a very well managed firm, because well itself is modified) and even predicatively, if well is necessary to, or alters, the sense of the adjective rather than simply intensifying it (the gesture was well-meaning, the child was well-behaved, but the floor was well polished).
    • In some cases, like diode–transistor logic, the independent status of the linked elements requires an en dash instead of a hyphen. See En dashes below.
    • Use a hanging hyphen when two compound modifiers are separated (two- and three-digit numbers; a ten-car or -truck convoy; sloping right- or leftward, 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 using the unit symbol, separate it from the number with 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).

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

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

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

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

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

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


Soft hyphens: Use a soft hyphen to indicate optional locations where a word may be broken and hyphenated at the end of a line of text. Use of soft hyphens should be limited to special cases, usually involving very long words or narrow spaces (such as captions in tight page layouts, or column labels in narrow tables). Widespread use of soft hyphens is strongly discouraged, because it makes the wikitext very difficult to read and to edit (for example, This Wi&shy;ki&shy;source ex&shy;am&shy;ple is dif&shy;fi&shy;cult to un&shy;der&shy;stand). An alternative syntax improves readability:

{{shy|This al|ter|na|tive syn|tax im|proves read|a|bil|ity}}

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 Infogalactic: 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 (since eye does not modify hand). 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. Make a similar Category redirect for categories that contain a dash, so that IG:HotCat recognizes them.

Sources use dashes in varying ways, but for consistency and clarity Infogalactic 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 either unspaced em dashes or spaced en dashes consistently in an article.

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

Do not use spaces with em dashes.

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

To ensure correct linewrap handling, the {{spaced ndash}} template (or its {{snd}} shorthand) can be used:

Another "planet" was detected{{spaced ndash}} but it was later found to be a moon of Saturn.

However, do not use the template where the en dash is unspaced (see § En dashes: other uses, below).

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

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

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

  • The birds—at least the ones Darwin collected—had red and blue feathers.
  • "Where is the—", she began, but 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 § Hyphens, 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.

In ranges that might otherwise be expressed with to or through
  • pp. 211–19;   64–75%;   Henry VIII reigned 1509–1547

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

Do not mix en dashes with 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 en dash in a range is always unspaced, except when either or both elements of the range 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.
In compounds when the connection might otherwise be expressed with to, versus, and, or between

Here the relationship is thought of as parallel, symmetric, equal, oppositional, or at least involving separate or independent elements. The components may be nouns, adjectives, verbs, or any other independent part of speech. Often if the components are reversed there would be little change of meaning.

  • boyfriend–girlfriend problems;   the Paris–Montpellier route;   a New York–Los Angeles flight
  • iron–cobalt interactions; the components are parallel and reversible; iron and cobalt retain their identity
  • Wrong: an iron–roof shed; iron modifies roof, so use a hyphen: an iron-roof shed
  • Wrong: a singer–songwriter; not separate persons, so use a hyphen: a singer-songwriter
  • red–green colorblind; red and green are separate independent colors, not mixed
  • Wrong: blue–green algae; a blended, intermediate color, so use a hyphen: blue-green algae
  • a 51–30 win;   a 22–17 majority vote;   but prefer spelling out when using words instead of numerals: a six-to-two majority decision, not the awkward a six–two majority decision;  avoid confusingly reversed order: a 17–22 majority vote[lower-alpha 6]
  • a 50–50 joint venture;   a 60–40 split;   avoid using a slash here, which indicates division
  • the Uganda–Tanzania War;   the Roman–Syrian War;   the east–west runway;   the Lincoln–Douglas debates;   a carbon–carbon bond
  • diode–transistor logic;   the analog–digital distinction;   push–pull output;   on–off switch
  • a pro-establishment–anti-intellectual alliance;   Singapore–Sumatra–Java shipping lanes
  • the ballerina's rapid walk–dance transitions;   a male–female height ratio of 1.14

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

  • Japanese–American trade;   but a family of Japanese-American traders or a family of Japanese Americans
  • an Italian–Swiss border crossing;   but an Italian-Swiss newspaper for Italian-speaking Swiss
  • France–Britain rivalry;   French–British rivalry
  • Wrong: Franco–British rivalry; "Franco" is a combining form, not independent, so use a hyphen: Franco-British rivalry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instead of a hyphen, when applying a prefix to a compound that includes a space
  • ex–prime minister Thatcher;   pre–World War II aircraft

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

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

To separate items in lists

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

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

Other dashes

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

For a negative sign or subtraction operator, use a minus sign (, Unicode character U+2212 MINUS SIGN). Input by clicking on it in the insert box beneath the edit window or by typing &minus;.



Generally avoid joining two words with 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; prefer the mathematical fraction slash character (⁄, Unicode U+2044, generated by the HTML code &frasl;): 7⁄8; the {{frac}} template uses fraction slash, and styles the fraction with super- and subscript: 78
  • to indicate regular defined yearly periods that do not coincide with calendar years (e.g., the 2009/10 fiscal year), if that is the convention used in reliable sources; see IG:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers § Longer periods for further explanation
  • to express a ratio, in a form in which a slash is conventionally used (e.g., the price-to-earnings ratio, or P/E ratio for short)
  • where a slash occurs in a phrase widely used outside Infogalactic, and a different construction would be inaccurate, unfamiliar, or ambiguous (e.g.,

A spaced slash may be used:

  • to separate run-in lines in quoted poetry or song (To be or not to be: that is the question: / Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune), or rarely in quoted prose, where careful marking of a paragraph break is textually important
  • to separate items that include at least one internal space (the NY 31 east / NY 370 exit), where for some reason use of a slash is unavoidable

Spaced slashes (and fraction 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 slash or fraction slash when representing elementary arithmetic in general text: 10 ÷ 2 = 5. In more advanced mathematical formulas, a vinculum or slash is preferred: \textstyle\frac{x^n}{n!} or xn/n!. (See IG:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers § Common mathematical symbols and Help:Displaying a formula.)



Avoid the construct and/or. 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 ... or wild dogs, also known as 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." (or "Nos." for plural). For example:

Incorrect:    Her album reached #1 in the UK album charts.
Correct: Her album reached number one in the UK album charts.
Correct: Her album reached No. 1 in the UK album charts.

An exception is issue numbers of comic books, which unlike for other periodicals are given in general text in the form #1, unless a volume is also given, like volume two, number seven or Vol. 2, No. 7.

When using the abbreviations, type {{Abbr|Vol.|Volume}} or {{Abbr|No.|Number}}. Do not use the symbol .

Terminal punctuation

  • Periods ("full stops"), question marks, and exclamation marks are terminal punctuation​​the only punctuation marks used to end English sentences.
  • 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 Infogalactic articles.
  • Use the exclamation mark with restraint. It is an expression of surprise or emotion that is 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 text, never put a space before a comma, a semicolon, a colon, or a terminal punctuation mark (even in quoted material; see allowable typographical changes in § Typographic conformity, above). Put a space after these, unless they end a paragraph or are followed by a closing parenthesis, quotation mark, or similar.

Spaces following terminal punctuation

The number of spaces following the terminal punctuation of a sentence in the wiki markup makes no difference on Infogalatic; 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 Infogalactic. 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 word or phrase that includes terminal punctuation ends a sentence, do not add a second terminal punctuation mark. If a quoted phrase or title ends in a question mark or exclamation mark, it may confuse readers as to the nature of the article sentence containing it, and so is usually better reworded to be mid-sentence. Where such a word or phrase occurs mid-sentence, new terminal punctuation (usually a period) must be added at the end.

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

Punctuation and footnotes


Ref tags (<ref>...</ref>) are used to create footnotes (sometimes called endnotes or notes). The ref tags should immediately follow the text to which the footnote applies, with no intervening space. Any punctuation (see exceptions below) must precede the ref tags. Adjacent ref tags should have no space between them. Ref tags are used for explanatory notes, but are more often used for citation footnotes.

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

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

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

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

Punctuation after formulae

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

Dates and time

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

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

Time of day

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

  • 12-hour clock times are written in the form 11:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. or in 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 end of a date.
  • 24-hour clock times are written in the form 08:15 and 22:55, with no suffix. Midnight written as 00:00 begins the day; 24:00 ends it.


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


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


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

Years and longer periods

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

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


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

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


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

  • In general, write whole cardinal numbers from one to nine as words, write other numbers that, when spoken, take two or fewer words as either figures or words (with consistency within each article), and write all other numbers as figures: 1/5 or one-fifth, 84 or eighty-four, 200 or two hundred, but 3.75, 544, 21 million. See MOS:NUM § Numbers as figures or words et seq. for exceptions and fine points.
  • In general, use a comma to delimit numbers with five or more digits to the left of the decimal point. Numbers with four digits are at the editor's discretion: 12,345, but either 1,000 or 1000. See MOS:NUM § Grouping of digits et seq. for exceptions.
  • In general, use decimals rather than 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 MOS:NUM § Numbers as figures or words for similar words.
  • Write 3%, three percent, or three per cent, but not 3 % (with a space) or three %. "Percent" is American usage, and "per cent" is British usage (see § National varieties of English, above). In ranges of percentages written with an en dash, write only one percent sign: 3–14%.
  • Indicate uncertainties as "value ± uncertainty × 10<sup>n</sup>&nbsp;units",e.g., (1.534±0.35)×1023 m. See MOS:NUM § Uncertainty and rounding for other acceptable formats.
  • Fewer vs. less: In most cases, use fewer with countable nouns and less with non-countable ones. However, less than (not fewer than) is recommended before nouns that denote distance or time. For example, I picked fewer than one hundred apples, but we go on our trip in less than four weeks, and he can run the 100 m in less than ten seconds, because the word time can be understood to be implied after less. In short, if you'd count it, say fewer. If you'd measure it, say less.


  • Use the full abbreviation on first use (US$ for the US dollar and A$ for the Australian dollar), unless the currency is already clear from context. For example, the Government of the United States always spends money in American dollars, and never in Canadian or Australian dollars.
  • Use only one symbol with ranges, as in $250–300.
  • In articles that are not specific to a country, express amounts of money in United States dollars, euros, or pounds sterling. Do not link the names or symbols of currencies that are commonly known to English-speakers ($, £, ), unless there is a particular reason to do so; do not use potentially ambiguous currency symbols, unless the meaning is clear in the context.
  • In country-specific articles, use the currency of the country. On first occurrence, consider including conversion to US dollars, euros, or pounds sterling, at a rate appropriate to the context. For example, Since 2001 the grant has been 10,000,000 Swedish kronor (€1.0M as of August 2009). Wording such as "approx." is not appropriate for simple rounding-off of the converted amount.
  • Generally, use the full name of a currency, and link it on its first appearance if English-speakers are likely to be unfamiliar with it (52 Nepalese rupees); subsequent occurrences can use the currency sign (just 88 Rs).
  • Most currency 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 United States, the main unit is generally an American customary unit (22 pounds (10 kg)).
    • In non-scientific articles relating to the United Kingdom, although the main unit is generally a metric unit (10 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.
  • Where space is limited (such as tables, infoboxes, parenthetical notes, and mathematical formulas) use unit symbols. In main text 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 that 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 § National varieties of English, above.)
  • Potentially unfamiliar unit symbols should be introduced parenthetically at their first occurrence in the article, with the full name given first: for example, Her initial betatron reached energies of 2.3 megaelectronvolts (MeV), while subsequent betatrons achieved 300 MeV.
  • For ranges, see § En dashes: other uses, above, and MOS:NUM, at §§ Date ranges, Percentages, Unit names and symbols, and Formatting of monetary values.
  • 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 spelled-out unit names should be separated by a hyphen: for example, a five-day holiday. An exception is when the hyphenated construction has another meaning in the context.
  • 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 do not require a full stop (period). However, non-standard abbreviations should always be given a full stop.
  • 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 MOS:NUM § Quantities of bytes and bits).

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 × (Unicode character U+00D7 MULTIPLICATION SIGN), which is input by clicking on it in the edit toolbox under the edit window or by typing &times;. The letter x should not be used to indicate multiplication, but it is used (unspaced) as the substitute for "by" in terms such as 4x4.
  • Exponentiation is indicated by a superscript, an (typed as ''a''<sup>''n''</sup> or {{var|a}}<sup>{{var|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 either the caret ^ or the double asterisk **, 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!).
  • Variables are italicized, but digits and punctuation are not; only x and y are italicized in 2(5x + y)2. The semantic HTML element <var>...</var>, or its template wrapper {{var}} can be used to distinguish variables from other uses of italics, as illustrated in the code example above.

Grammar and usage



Singular nouns

  • For the possessive of most singular nouns, including proper names and words ending with a double-s, add 's (my daughter's achievement, my niece's wedding, Cortez's men, the boss's office, Glass's books, Illinois's largest employer, Descartes's philosophy, Verreaux's eagle). Exception: abstract nouns ending with an /s/ sound, when followed by sake (for goodness' sake, for his conscience' sake).
  • For the possessive of singular nouns ending with just one s (sounded as /s/ or /z/), there are two practices advised by different grammar and style guides:
    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 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 /z/ 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 two practices consistently within an article. If the second 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 have traditional pronunciations that may be deemed to take 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.)

First-person pronouns


Infogalactic 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 against 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 using the passive voice is preferable: Throughout the proof of this theorem it is assumed that the function ƒ is uniformly continuous.

Second-person pronouns


Avoid addressing the reader directly by using the second-person generic you or your; it is often ambiguous, and contrary to the tone of an encyclopedia (see also § Instructional and presumptuous language, below).

  • Use a noun or a third-person pronoun: instead of When you move past "Go", you collect $200, use When players pass "Go", they collect $200, or A player passing "Go" collects $200.
  • If a person cannot be specified, or when implying "anyone" as a subject, the pronoun one may be used, as an alternative to the vernacular you: a sense that one is being watched. Other constructions are usually preferable, because usage of one can seem stilted.
  • 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 team (and proper names of them), army, company, crowd, fleet, government, majority, mess, number, pack, and party—may refer either to a single entity or to the members that compose it. In British English, such words are sometimes treated as singular, but more often treated as plural, according to context. Exceptionally, names of towns and countries usually take singular verbs (unless they are being used to refer to a team or company by that name, or when discussing actions of that entity's government). For example, in England are playing Germany tonight, England refers to a football team; but in England is the most populous country of the United Kingdom, it refers to the country. In North American English, these words (and the United States, for historical reasons) are almost invariably treated as singular; the major exception is when sports teams are referred to by nicknames that are plural nouns, when plural verbs are commonly used to match. See also § National varieties of English, above.

Verb tense


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

  • The PDP-10 is a discontinued mainframe computer family.
  • Earth: Final Conflict is a Canadian science fiction television series that ran for five seasons between October 6, 1997 and May 20, 2002.
  • The 2006 Dublin riots were a series of riots which occurred in Dublin on 25 February 2006.
  • The Beatles were an English rock band that formed in Liverpool in 1960.

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




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

Gender-neutral language


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

Ships may be referred to using either feminine forms ("she", "her", "hers") or neutral forms ("it", "its"). Either usage is acceptable, but each article should be internally consistent and employ one or the other exclusively. As with all optional styles, articles should not be changed from one style to another unless there is a substantial reason to do so. See IG: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 [Infogalactic:List of commonly misused English words]]; see also § Identity below.

Instructional and presumptuous language


Avoid such phrases as remember that and note that, which address readers directly in an unencyclopedic tone. They are a subtle form of Infogalactic self-reference. 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. Simply state the sourced facts and allow readers to draw their own conclusions. Such constructions can usually just be deleted (and letter case adjusted if necessary), leaving behind proper sentences, with a more academic and less pushy tone: Note that this was naturally subject to controversy in more conservative newspapers. becomes This was subject to controversy in more conservative newspapers.

Subset terms


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



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

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

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

Use of "Arab" and "Arabic"

The adjective Arab 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).

Gender identity

Main biographical article on a person whose gender might be questioned
Give precedence to self-designation as reported in the most up-to-date reliable sources, even when it doesn't match what's most common in reliable sources. When a person's gender self-designation may come as a surprise to readers, explain it without overemphasis on first occurrence in an article.
Any person whose gender might be questioned should be referred to by the pronouns, possessive adjectives, and gendered nouns (for example "man/woman", "waiter/waitress", "chairman/chairwoman") that reflect that person's latest expressed gender self-identification. This applies in references to any phase of that person's life, unless the subject has indicated a preference otherwise. Avoid confusing constructions (Jane Doe fathered a child) by rewriting (e.g., Jane Doe became a parent). Direct quotations may need to be handled as exceptions (in some cases adjusting the portion used may reduce apparent contradictions, and "[sic]" may be used where necessary).
Referring to the person in other articles
Generally, do not go into detail over changes in name or gender presentation unless they are relevant to the passage in which the person is mentioned. Use context to determine which name or names to provide on a case-by-case basis. The MoS does not have specific rules stipulating when to give both names, which name to use first, or how that name should be written.

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. See IG:Manual of Style/Text formatting § Foreign terms for details.

Common usage in English

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

Spelling and romanization


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

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

Spell a name consistently in the title and the text of an article. See relevant policy at IG:Article titles; see also IG: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.

Other concerns

Technical language


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

Geographical items

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

Media files


  • Infoboxes, images, and related content in the lead section 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 or at the top of the lead section), not immediately above the section heading.
  • Avoid sandwiching text between two images that face each other, and between an image and an infobox or similar.
  • 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).
  • The thumbnail option may be used (thumb), or another size may be fixed. The default thumbnail width is 220 pixels; users can adjust this in their preferences. Lead-section images should be no wider than "upright=1.35" (by default this is 300 pixels, but may appear larger or smaller based on the thumbnail width setting in preferences). 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 IG:Wikimedia sister projects for advice and methods. The use of galleries should be in keeping with IG:Image use policy § Image galleries.
  • Avoid referring to images as being on the left or right. Image placement is different for viewers of the mobile version of Infogalactic, 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 IG:ALT for more information.

Other media files

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

Avoid 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.

For entering textual information as audio: see Infogalactic:WikiProject Spoken Infogalactic



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. However, 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, except in ways that would apply if it occurred in the main text (e.g., italics for the Latin name of a species).
  • Captions should be succinct; more information about the image can be included on its description page, or in the main text.
  • Captions for technical charts and diagrams may need to be substantially longer than those for other images. Captions for technical images should fully describe all the elements of the image and indicate the image's significance.

Bulleted and numbered lists

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



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

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

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

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

External links

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

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

These will appear as:

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

Add external links with discretion Infogalactic 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 character 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 Infogalactic site-wide style sheet, and should be reserved for special cases only.

Typically, the use of custom font styles will:

  • reduce consistency, since the text will no longer look uniform;
  • reduce usability, since it might be impossible for people with custom style sheets (for accessibility reasons, for example) to override it, and it might clash with a different skin 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: 85%) 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 additionally mark the differences with change of font or some other means (maroon and alternative font face, teal). Avoid low contrast between text and background colors. Viewing the page with Wickline can help with the choice of colors. See also color coding.

In addition to vision accessibility problems, usage of only color to encode attributes in tables (for example, Gold, Silver, or Bronze achievement levels) instead of a separate sortable column, disables the use of the powerful Wikitable sortability feature on that attribute for all readers. Even for readers with unimpaired color vision, excessive background shading of table entries impedes readability and recognition of Wikilinks. Background color should be used only as a supplementary visual cue, and should be subtle (consider using lighter, less-dominant pastel hues) rather than a glaring spotlight.

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, tables or lists of article content, image galleries, and image captions. They especially should not be used to conceal "spoiler" information. Collapsible sections or cells may be used in tables that consolidate information covered in the main text, and in navboxes.[lower-alpha 7] Otherwise, templates are not normally used to store article text at all.

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. Using templates or otherwise including any of the following CSS classes will cause the collapsed content to be irreversibly invisible to the 30+% of Infogalactic readers who use the mobile web site: ambox, navbox, vertical-navbox, topicon, metadata or nomobile.

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 and in VisualEditor; they are not visible 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, also change the links to it on the pages .... -->
  • <!-- When adding table entries, remember to update the total given in the text. -->

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


Pronunciation in Infogalactic 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 Infogalactic:IPA for English and Infogalactic: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


  • Annotated article – is a well-constructed sample article, with annotations.
  • Article development – lists the ways in which you can help an article grow.
  • Avoiding common mistakes – gives a list of common mistakes and how to avoid them.
  • Be bold – suggests a bold attitude toward page updates.
  • Citing sources – explains process and standards for citing references.
  • Editing – is a short primer on editing pages.
  • Style guide – contains links to the style guides of some magazines and newspapers.
  • Wiki markup – explains the codes and resources available for editing a page.


Consider stripping this section as not relevant.


Other community standards

Guidelines within Manual of Style

(Links to policy and guidelines on specific questions.)



Language varieties

Foreign terms used in English

Quotations in articles

Numbers, times, and dates


Punctuation guidance


  1. This is a matter of policy at IG:Consensus § Level of consensus: "Consensus among a limited group of editors, at one place and time, cannot override community consensus on a wider scale. For instance, unless they can convince the broader community that such action is right, participants in a wikiproject cannot decide that an Infogalactic policy or guideline does not apply to articles within its scope." And: "Infogalactic has a higher standard of participation and consensus for changes to policies and guidelines than to other types of pages."
  2. These matters have been addressed in rulings of the Arbitration Committee; see IG:Requests for arbitration/Jguk § Optional styles and IG:Requests for arbitration/Sortan § Preferred styles.
  3. Using phrases like In early life is acceptable for section headings.
  4. Placing comments in this way disrupts the software's handling of section edits and their edit summaries, and even heading display. For example, if one clicks the edit section button, the section heading is not automatically added to the edit summary; or in some cases, the edit section button fails to appear at all.
  5. Specifically, compound attributives, which are modifiers of a noun that occur within the noun phrase. (See hyphenated compound modifiers.)
  6. It is not logically possible to have a "12–35 victory", except in a game where a lower score is better. Otherwise, use a construction like Clovis beat Portales, 35–12, or Jameson lost the election, 2345 votes to 6789, to Garcia, with parties, result, and number order in logical agreement.
  7. In particular note that while some templates support a collapsible parameter or manually-added CSS class, and this is permissible, the collapsed one should not be used in articles to pre-emptively force the closure of these elements, except as noted above for consolidation of tabular information already presented in the main prose.

Further reading

Style guides on other Wikimedia projects

External style guides

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

Search engines

Template:Infogalactic policies and guidelines