WikiPOBia:Style Manual

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This is a simplified version of the style guide maintained for Wikipedia. The reason for this guide is to assist users in creating easy to read and edit articles for WikiPOBia.


Article titles

If possible, make the title the subject of the first sentence of the article (as opposed to putting it in the predicate). In any case, the title should appear as early as possible in the article — preferably in the first sentence. The first time the title is mentioned in the article, put it in bold using three apostrophes. Here's an example: ' ' ' article title ' ' ' produces article title. You should not put links in the title. Follow the normal rules for italics in choosing whether to put part or all of the title in italics.


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

== This is a heading == which produces This is a heading

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

  • Capitalize only the first letter of a heading's first word and of any proper nouns, but leave the other words lower case.
  • Avoid links within headings.
  • Avoid overuse of sub-headings.

Capital letters


Titles such as president, king, or emperor start with a capital letter when used as a title (followed by a name): "President Washington", not "president Washington". When used generically, they should be in lower case: "Jefferson was the American president." The correct formal name of an office is treated as a proper noun. Hence: "Napoleon was Emperor of France". Similarly "George III was the English king" but "George III was King of England", King of England being a title in that context. Likewise, royal titles should be capitalized: "Her Majesty" or "His Highness". (Reference: Chicago Manual of Style 14th ed., par. 7.16; The Guardian Manual of Style, "Titles" keyword.)

Exceptions may apply for specific offices. In the case of "prime minister", either both words begin with a capital letter or neither, except, obviously, when it starts a sentence. Again, when being used generically, no capital letter is used: "There are many prime ministers around the world." When reference is made to a specific office, upper case is generally used: "The British Prime Minister, Frederick North, said today..." (However to complicate matters, some style manuals, while saying "The British Prime Minister", recommend "British prime minister". A good rule of thumb is whether a definite article (the) or an indefinite article (a) is used. If the is used, use "Prime Minister". If a is used, go with "prime minister".)

American English and British English differ in their inclination to use capitals. British English uses capitals more widely than American English does. This may apply to titles for people. If possible, as with spelling, use rules appropriate to the cultural and linguistic context. In other words, do not enforce American rules on pages about British topics or British rules on pages about American topics. In regards to pages about other cultures, choose either style, but be consistent.

Celestial bodies

Names of other planets and stars are proper nouns and begin with a capital letter: "The planet Mars can be seen tonight in the constellation Gemini, near the star Pollux".

The words sun, earth, and moon are proper nouns when used in an astronomical context, but not elsewhere: so "The Sun is a main sequence star, with a spectral class of G2"; but "It was a lovely day and the sun was warm". Note that these terms are only proper nouns when referring to a specific spectral body (our Sun, Earth and Moon): so "The Moon orbits the Earth"; but "Jupiter's moon Ganymede".

Directions and regions

Regions that are proper nouns, including widely known expressions such as Southern California, start with a capital letter. Follow the same convention for related forms: a person from the Southern United States is a Southerner.

Directions (north, southwest, etc.) are not proper nouns and do not start with a capital letter. The same is true for their related forms: a road that leads north might be called a northern road, compared to the Great North Road. If you are not sure whether a region has attained proper-noun status, assume it has not.


Use the ' ' (italic) markup. Example: ' ' This is italic. ' ' which produces This is italic. Italics are mainly used to emphasize certain words. They are also used in other cases that are mentioned here.


Italics should be used for titles of the following:

  • Books
  • Court cases
  • Long poems/epic poems
  • Orchestral works
  • Periodicals (newspapers, journals, and magazines)
  • Plays
  • Ships
  • Works of visual art

Italics are generally used for titles of longer works. Titles of shorter works, such as the following, should be enclosed in double quotation marks:

  • Articles, essays or papers
  • Chapters of a longer work
  • Short poems
  • Short stories
  • Songs

There are a few cases in which the title should be in neither italics nor quotation marks:

  • Scripture
  • Legal or constitutional documents

Words as words

Use italics when writing about words as words or letters as letters:

  • The most common letter in English is e.


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

Use straight quotation marks and apostrophes

For uniformity and to avoid complications use straight quotation marks and apostrophes ( ' " ) not curved (smart) ones, grave accents or backticks ( ‘ ’ “ ” ` ).

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

Use of punctuation in presence of brackets

Punctuation goes where it belongs. (A sentence wholly inside brackets will have its full stop within those brackets.) This means that bracketed clauses at the end of sentences do not include a full stop (like shown here).

Spaces after the end of a sentence

There are no guidelines on whether to use one or two spaces after the end of a sentence but it is not important as the difference only shows up in the edit box.


In general, formal writing is preferred. Therefore, avoid contractions — such as don't, can't and won't, except when you are quoting directly.


Lead section

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

"See also" and "Related topics" sections

Mostly, topics related to an article should be included within the text of the article as free links. If the article is divided into sections and See also refers to a particular section only, references to related articles that have not been linked from free links in the text may be placed at the top of the section: == See also ==: [ [Intelligence officer] ], [ [Spy] ] which produces:

See also: Intelligence officer, Spy

The above form may also be used in short articles without sections. When the See also refers to the entire article, not just a section, it should be a heading of level 2 so that it appears in the table of contents. Place it at the bottom of the article, before External links. For example:

See also

The heading Related topics may be used instead of See also. If you remove a redundant link from the See also section of an article, it may be an explicit cross reference (see below), so consider making the link in the main text bold instead.

Sometimes it is useful to have an explicit cross-reference in the text, for example, when a long section of text has been moved somewhere else, or there is a major article on a subtopic. In these cases, make the link bold. For example: The War of 1812 affected each country differently.

Other sections

Other common sections (in their preferable order) are:

  • In the Canon
  • References
  • Compare against
  • External links

Usage and spelling

  • Possessives of singular nouns ending in s may be formed with or without an additional s. Either form is generally acceptable within WikiPOBia. However, if either form is much more common for a particular word or phrase, follow that form, such as with Achilles' heel.
  • If a word or phrase is generally regarded as correct, then prefer it to any other word or phrase that might be regarded as incorrect. For example, "other meaning" should be used instead of "alternate meaning" or "alternative meaning", because not all English speakers regard "alternate" and "alternative" as meaning the same. The American Heritage Dictionary "Usage Note" at alternative says: "Alternative should not be confused with alternate." Alternative commonly suggests "non-traditional" or "out-of-the-mainstream" to an American-English speaker. Some traditional usage experts consider alternative to be appropriate only when there are exactly two alternatives.

National varieties of English

Cultural clashes over grammar, spelling, and capitalisation/capitalization are a common experience on WikiPOBia. Remember that millions of people may have been taught to use a different form of English from yours, including different spellings, grammatical constructions, and punctuation. For WikiPOBia, there is no preference among the major national varieties of English. However, there is certain etiquette generally accepted on WikiPOBia:

  • Proper names should retain their original spellings, for example, United States Department of Defense and Australian Defence Force.
  • Each article should have uniform spelling and not a haphazard mix of different spellings, which can be jarring to the reader. For example, do not use center in one place and centre in another on the same page.
  • Articles that focus on a topic specific to a particular English-speaking country should generally conform to the spelling of that country. For example:
    • article on Boston, MA during the War of 1812: U.S. usage and spelling
    • article on British law: UK usage and spelling
    • article on Sydney in 1814: Australian usage and spelling
  • If an article is predominantly written in one type of English, aim to conform to that type rather than provoking conflict by changing to another. (Sometimes, this can happen quite innocently, so please don't be too quick to make accusations!)
  • If all else fails, consider following the spelling style preferred by the first major contributor (that is, not a stub) to the article.

Common abbreviations

  • When abbreviating United States, please use "U.S."; that is the more common style in that country, is easier to search for automatically, and we want one uniform style on this. When referring to the United States in a long abbreviation (e.g., USA), periods should not be used.
  • When noting ship names, the ship should be enclosed in the italics mark up: ''HMS Shipname'' so you see HMS Shipname
  • Royal Navy ships should use the designation "HMS" (no spaces or periods)
  • US Navy ships should be identified as "US <type_of_ship> Shipname" — where <type_of_ship> would be frigate, brig, etc. (lower case), e.g., "the US frigate Chesapeake" — this being the form common to the period. USN was used occasionally by POB but was not, apparently, common, and the USS designation was not officially used until the early 1900s.
  • Ships of other countries' navies should be identified by whatever desginations were commonly in use during the period, which may differ from those in use today, or simply as, for example "the French frigate Unité".

Geographical nomenclature

To establish some consistency, the following guidelines should followed when entering geographical names and places.

Britain? Great Britain? the United Kingdom? or England?

Due to the convoluted history of the nations of the British Isles, many people are unsure what name to use. WikiPOBia has determined the following shall be the conventional usage here.

  • For the state, use United Kingdom or British; George III is king of the United Kingdom. The British government negotiated the third Coalition against Napoleon.
  • For geographical places, use the nations of the UK or Great Britain if the whole island is intended; London is in England, Dublin is in Ireland. The North Sea lies to the east of Great Britain.
  • For describing people's ethnic nationalities, use British if undetermined or use English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh where it is stated; Jack Aubrey is English, James Dillon is Irish.
  • For inanimate objects, use British; HMS Surprise is a British ship.

Ancient or modern? English or local?

May places have changed their names since Jack Aubrey's time. In WikiPOBia, the convention is to use the names used in the Aubrey-Maturin series or the other O'Brian books. Where the modern or the native name is different, this should be noted in the article. So use Constantinople not Istanbul, Bombay not Mumbai, Lisbon not Lisboa, Leghorn not Livorno.


Articles with a single picture are encouraged to have that picture at the top of the article, right-aligned, but this is not a hard and fast rule. Portraits with the head looking to the right should be left-aligned (looking into the article). The current image markup language is more or less this:

[ [Image:picture.jpg|120px|left|thumb|Blah blah caption] ]


Photos and other graphics should have captions unless they are "self-captioning" as in reproductions of book covers, or when the graphic is an unambiguous depiction of the subject of the article. For example, in a biography article, a caption is not needed for a portrait of the subject, pictured alone.

Miscellaneous notes

When all else fails

If this page does not specify which usage is preferred, use other resources, such as The Chicago Manual of Style (from the University of Chicago Press). Also, please feel free to carry on a discussion on WikiPOBia talk:Style Manual, especially for substantive changes.

Even simpler is to look at an article that you like and open it for editing to see how the writers and editors have put it together. You can then close the window without saving changes if you like, but look around while you are there. Almost every article can be improved.

Don't get fancy

It is easier for you and whoever follows you if you do not try to get too fancy with your markup. Do not assume that any markup you put in is guaranteed to have a certain appearance when it is displayed. Don't make the markup any more complex than is necessary to display the information in a useful and comprehensible way.

Use HTML and CSS markup sparingly and only with good reason.

A useful annotation is the first goal, but ease of editing and maintenance is right behind.

In particular, do not use the CSS float or line-height properties because they break rendering on some browsers when large fonts are used.

Make comments invisible

Avoid highlighting that the article is incomplete and in need of further work. Similarly, there is little benefit to the reader in seeing headings and tables without content.

If you want to communicate with other potential editors, make comments invisible to the ordinary article reader. To do so, enclose the text which you intend to be read only by editors within <!-- and -->. For example, the following: hello <!-- This is a comment. --> world is displayed as: hello world So the comment can be seen when viewing the HTML or wiki source.

Avoid self-referential pronouns

WikiPOBia articles cannot be based on one person's opinions or experiences. Thus, 'I' or 'we' can never be utilized, except, of course, when they appear in a quotation. For similar reasons, avoid the use of "one," as in: "One should note that some critics have argued in favor of the proposal," as it sounds more personal than encyclopedic.


Wikipedia Manual of Style (

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