Help:Manual of style
This is the RationalWiki manual of style. It is a "soft" guideline.
General writing style
- Use of the first person is frowned upon, however, sometimes it is appropriate. If you do use the words "I" or "me" in an article, please link it to your user name.
- Likewise, use of the second person singular ("you") can usually be improved upon.
- Use appropriate capitalization of deities. If writing about a member of the Christian Trinity, correct style is to capitalize pronouns ("...when on the cross, He was thirsty..."). Likewise, use conventions appropriate to other traditions when referring to them ("His Noodly Appendage"). If referring to general deities, lower case is more appropriate. An article that is more humorous than serious in tone might bend these rules quite comfortably. In the same manner, do not capitalize k.d. lang's name, out of respect for her broken shift key.
- Whether an editor follows these guides or prefers their own style, one thing to maintain is consistency throughout an article. Spell words that have multiple English spellings the same way from beginning to end. If one decides to capitalize a word or phrase, do it every time it is used. This makes it so that even if an article is a bit "wrong", at least it doesn't look "stupid".
- Write in complete sentences. Articles should not open with "Is my favorite Pokemon character." If adding a fact to an article, try to phrase it as a complete sentence, avoiding stubby sentences - such as "He drinks beer".
Spelling, grammar and abbreviations
- Do your best to use good grammar and spelling, especially if you write a lot. Slowing down a bit and getting it right makes everyone's life easier - there's no chore worse than correcting typos all through something that otherwise seems well-written. Most modern browsers come with a spellchecker that is a goatsend for this – Safari, Opera 10 and Firefox 3 have them by default; others are an easy add-on. These can be set to Commonwealth or Colonial spelling depending on your attitude towards silent letters and "-ize" or "-ise".
- The spelling wars are best resolved by using a style appropriate to the subject. A topic that is geographically vague should be written in the version that was first used.
- Avoid abbreviations and shorthand. Use complete words and phrases: "and", not "&". Write out the full name of an acronym the first time it is used in an article: "the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)".
Dates and numbers
- Dates are clearer if the name of the month is written. "7/12/59" means two different things. 7 December or July 12 are precise.
- Write out short numbers. If a number can be written in two words or less, write it as text. (Exception: mathematical equations.) "Four score" is much more elegant than "80"!
Structure of a RationalWiki article
- Feature the article title early in the introduction, and bold its first occurrence.
- Use headers to break up sections of articles. They make articles much easier to navigate and improve upon. Most articles end up with the same three (or four, if general references are listed) final headers. Please use this consistent order:
- See also
- External links (if needed)
- References (if needed)
- Additionally, the "See also", "External links", and "References" sections should be bulleted lists.
- Please try to remember to add categories to articles you create.
Article titles, headers and categories
- No unnecessary capital letters in article titles, headers, categories, text, etc. Some early counter-examples have not been repaired.
- Use singular where possible in article titles. Categories are often plural because it makes sense (e.g., "dictators").
Links should be used to encourage readers to traverse the wiki. Links also allow writers to provide background information on subjects without the need to replicate it in every article.
- Do your best to find good blue links. Using preview and testing slightly different versions will often turn up gold. The "search" function can also be helpful.
- Link the first time a term is used (unless it's in a header), not every time.
- Red links are OK if they seem like they would be good RationalWiki articles - this will add them to "wanted pages". Remember that RationalWiki is not an encyclopedia.
- Be sensible with redirects. Wikipedia lists some good guidance for dealing with redirects. In short;
- Redirects can become new articles - and thus a link to that page may be useful.
- The "piped" links look more confusing in the source code.
- There can be some exceptions; navigational templates are often best made to bypass redirects.
- Titles of published works are in italics. Portions of them, like chapters, newspaper headlines, or individual songs, are in quotes.
- Any fact should be referenced. This doesn't mean "delete all unreferenced statements", it means to at least be prepared to do some homework and back up our assertions. Any fact that disparages a person or organization should be referenced as soon as possible.
- Try not to use Wikipedia as a reference. If you found a juicy fact there, they should have a reference they got it from. Track it down, check that is is indeed correct, and use that instead. An obvious exception is if you're specifically discussing the Wikipedia article on something.
- References should follow punctuation. Usually a "ref" tag or hyperlink citation looks better if it follows a comma or period that follows a word. If there is no punctuation, a space works well, too.
Edit comments and drastic changes
- Try to write useful edit comments. The person who wrote this is the worst offender, with over 60,000 edits, approximately seven of which are accurately commented.
- Mass deletion is frowned upon. If you feel the need to remove more than a sentence or two, please copy it to the talk page to discuss your reasons and let other people chime in. Give them a day or two, at least. Silence is not assent.
- Image thumbnails. Generally, thumbnail images should not specify their width - users can pick their own preferred width in their preferences, or allow the default width to display. This creates some consistency when several people add images to an article in that they will all be the same width (unless they are already narrower than the default).