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Guide to writing better articles

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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This is a body of advice on how to write an effective article. It includes material from a number of currently or formerly separate pages into an easy to consult overview.

This page contains information related to layout, writing style, and how to make an article clear, precise and relevant to the reader. There is also some general guidance on a few miscellaneous issues at the end.

Contents

[edit] Layout

The layout of an article is important. Good articles start with some introductory material and then present their information using a clear structure. They are then followed by standard appendices such as references and related articles.

[edit] Structure of the article

[edit] Introductory material

Good articles start with a brief lead section introducing the topic. We discuss lead sections in greater detail below. As the lead section always comes above the first header, it is almost never useful to put an ==Introduction== or something similar. Sometimes, the first section after the lead is a general description of the topic, and is called "Overview", although more specific section titles and structures are generally preferred.

[edit] Paragraphs

Paragraphs should be relatively short to reduce eyestrain, but not so short that they seem incomplete. A long paragraph can normally be split up into two or more separate paragraphs with similar themes, as long as the second paragraph gets an introductory sentence to keep the reader on-track, even one as brief as "Other examples abound."

Conversely, a one-sentence paragraph is like a cannon-shot during the performance: it attracts so much attention that it had better be good. An entire article that consists of one-sentence paragraphs can normally be consolidated by theme into a few paragraphs.

Paragraphs might be replaced with tables or lists, but this should only be done when this is the best option for displaying the information. Unnecessary lists are especially disruptive to the flow of the article. See also Wikipedia:When to use tables and Wikipedia:Embedded list for more guidance on using these two elements in articles.

[edit] Headings

Headings help clarify articles and create a structure shown in the table of contents. To learn about how the MediaWiki software uses sections, see Help:Section.

Headers are hierarchical, so you should start with level 2 headers (==Header==) and follow it with lower levels: ===Subheader===, ====Subsubheader====, and so forth. Whether extensive subtopics should be kept on one page or moved to individual pages is a matter of personal judgement. See also below under #Summary style

[edit] Images

If the article can be illustrated with pictures, find an appropriate place to position these images, where they relate closely to text they illustrate. If there might be doubt, draw attention to the image in the text (illustration right). For more information on using pictures, see Wikipedia:Guide to layout#Images and Wikipedia:Picture tutorial.

[edit] Standard appendices

Certain optional sections go at the bottom of the article. Common appendix sections (in the preferred order) are:

  • See also - A bulleted list of internal links and a short explanation of each if it is not already obvious.
  • Notes - If footnotes are used in the article, this section should be added.
  • References - If any sources are cited in the article, they should be listed here (sources may also be listed in the "Notes" section).
  • Further reading (or Bibliography) - This section is specifically for content that were not used as sources, but provide related material, and could eventually be used as such.
  • External links - This section is for listing a small number of high quality sites which most readers will find useful, and that were not used as sources. For example, an image gallery of the article topic. See Wikipedia:External links for details.

All succession boxes and navigational footers should go at the very end of the article, following "External links," but preceding the categories and interwiki links.

[edit] Size

See also: Wikipedia:Article size

Articles themselves should be kept relatively short. Say what needs saying, but do not overdo it. Articles should aim to be less than 32KB in size. When articles grow past this amount of readable text, they can be broken up into smaller articles to improve readability and ease of editing. The headed sub-section should be retained, with a concise version of what has been removed under an italicized header, such as Main article: History of Ruritania (a list of templates used to create these headers is available at Category:Section templates). Otherwise context is lost and the general treatment suffers. Each article on a subtopic should be written as a stand alone article - that is, it should have a lead section, headings, etc.

When an article is long and has many subarticles, try to balance the main page. Do not put overdue weight into one part of an article at the cost of other parts. In shorter articles, if one subtopic has much more text than another subtopic, that may be an indication that that subtopic should have its own page, with only a summary presented on the main page.

[edit] Articles covering subtopics

Wikipedia entries tend to grow in a way which lends itself to the natural creation of new entries. The text of any entry consists of a sequence of related but distinct subtopics. When there is enough text in a given subtopic to merit its own entry, that text can be excised from the present entry and replaced by a link. Some characteristics:

  • Longer articles are split into sections (each about several good-sized paragraphs long. Subsectioning can increase this amount)
  • Ideally many of those sections will eventually provide summaries of separate articles on the sub-topic covered in that section (a Main article or similar link would be below the section title - see Template:Main)

Examples of entries that do this are:

  • Cricket, where the page is divided into different subsections that give an overview of the sport, with each subsection leading off to one or more articles covering subtopics and with a large 'See also' section at the end
  • History of the English penny, which is part of the 'History of the English penny series', as illustrated by a table on the right hand side of the article.

A smaller number of articles are split into a series of pages. An example of this style is Isaac Newton's early life and achievements. In this instance there is one contents page for the whole series of pages.

[edit] Information style and tone

Two styles, closely related, tend to be used for Wikipedia articles. the tone, however, should always remain formal, impersonal, and dispassionate.

[edit] News style

Some Wikipedians advocate using a news style. News style is the prose style of short, front-page newspaper stories and the news bulletins that air on radio and television. The main feature of news style is a placement of important information first, with a decreasing importance as the article advances. This was originally developed so editors could cut from the bottom to fit an item in the available layout space. Encyclopedia articles do not have to follow news style, but a familiarity with this convention may help in planning the style and layout of an article.

[edit] Summary style

Summary style is an organizational style that is similar to news style except that it applies to topics instead of articles and mostly lead sections instead of lead sentences.

The idea is to distribute information in such a way that Wikipedia can serve readers who want varying amounts of detail. It is up to the reader to choose how much detail they are exposed to. Using progressively longer and longer summaries avoids overwhelming the reader with too much text at once. This is the style followed by such featured articles Cricket and Music of the Lesser Antilles.

There are two main reasons for using Summary style in Wikipedia articles. One is that different readers desire different levels of details: some readers need just a quick summary and are satisfied by the leadsection; more people need a moderate amount of info, and will find the article suitable to their needs; yet others need a lot of detail, and will be interested in reading the subarticles. The other reason is simply that an article that is too long becomes tedious to read, and might repeat itself or represent writing that could be more concise.

[edit] Tone

Shortcut:
WP:TONE

Wikipedia articles, and other encyclopedic content, should be written in a formal tone. Standards for formal tone vary depending upon the subject matter, but should follow the style used by reliable sources, while remaining understandable to the educated layman. Formal tone does not mean the article should be written using unintelligible argot, doublespeak, legalese, or jargon; it means that the English language should be used in a businesslike manner.

Articles should not be written from a first or second person perspective. Articles written in this fashion are often deleted. First person pronouns such as "I" and "we" imply a point-of-view inconsistent with WP:NPOV. Second person, "you" or "your", perspective often appears in how-to instructions and is inappropriate. First and second person usage should only be used in articles as direct quotations attributed to a subject of the article. Gender-neutral pronouns should be used where the gender is not specific; see Quest for gender-neutral pronouns and the related discussion for further info.

Punctuation marks that appear in the article should only be used per generally accepted practice. Exclamation points (!) should only be used in direct quotations.

[edit] Provide context for the reader

Wikipedia is an international encyclopedia. People who read Wikipedia have different backgrounds, education and worldviews. Make your article accessible and understandable for as many readers as possible. Assume readers are reading the article to learn. It is possible the reader knows nothing about the subject: the article needs to fully explain the subject.

Avoid using jargon whenever possible. Consider the reader. An article entitled "Use of chromatic scales in early Baroque music" is likely to be read by musicians, and technical details and metalanguage, linked to articles explaining the metalanguage, is appropriate.

An article entitled "Baroque music" is likely to be read by laypeople that want a brief and plainly written overview, with links to available detailed information. When jargon is used in an article, a brief explanation should be given within the article. Aim for a balance between comprehensibility and detail so that readers can gain information from the article.

[edit] Build the web

Remember that every Wikipedia article is tightly connected to a network of other topics. Establishing such connections via wikilink is a good way to establish context. Because Wikipedia is not a long, ordered sequence of carefully categorised articles like a paper encyclopedia, but a collection of randomly accessible, highly interlinked ones, each article should contain links to more general subjects that serve to categorise the article.

When creating links, do not go overboard, and be careful to make your links relevant. It is not necessary to link the same term 12 times (although if it appears in the lead, then near the end, it might be a good idea to link it twice). Remember the pleasure of reading about relatively unimportant subjects: the vice presidents, the discredited scientists, the character actors, the backwater cities, the extinct species, the trivial detail. Not everything is the best, the most important, or the most influential. If you can add interesting links to related fringe subjects, do.

Avoid making your articles orphans. When you write a new article page, make sure that one or more other pages link to it, to lessen the chances that your article will be orphaned through someone else's refactoring. Otherwise, when it falls off the bottom of the Recent Changes page, it will disappear into the Mists of Avalon. There should always be an unbroken chain of links leading from the Main Page to every article in Wikipedia; following the path you would expect to use to find your article may give you some hints as to which articles should link to your article.

[edit] State the obvious

Shortcut:
WP:OBVIOUS

State facts which may be obvious to you, but are not necessarily obvious to the reader. Usually, such a statement will be in the first sentence or two of the article. For example, consider this sentence:

Here no mention is made of the Ford Thunderbird's fundamental nature: it is an automobile. It assumes that the reader already knows this—an assumption that may not be correct, especially if the reader is not familiar with Ford or Chevrolet. Perhaps instead:

But there is no need to go overboard. There is no need to explain a common word like "car". Repetition is usually unnecessary, for example:

conveys enough information (although it is not a good first sentence, for different reasons). However, the following is verbose:

[edit] 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 section headings). It should establish significances, large implications and why we should care.

[edit] Opening paragraph

The title should be highlighted in bold the first time it appears in an article, but not thereafter. The title should not be bolded via a [[link]]. Normally, the opening paragraph summarizes the most important points of the article. It should clearly explain the subject so that the reader is prepared for the greater level of detail, and the qualifications and nuances that follow.

[edit] First sentence

The first sentence should give the shortest possible relevant characterization of the subject. If the subject is amenable to definition, the first sentence should give a concise one that puts the article in context. Rather than being typically technical, it should be a concise, conceptually sound, characterization driven, encyclopedic definition. It should be as clear to the nonspecialist as the subject matter allows.

For example, an article on Charles Darwin should not begin with:

Darwin created controversy with the publication of Origin of Species...

But instead should begin with something like:

Charles Darwin (18091882) was a naturalist who proposed the scientific theory that natural selection is the mechanism by which evolution occurs....

Wikipedia:Manual of Style (biographies) has more on the specific format for biography articles.

The relationship between a subarticle (or similarly linked articles) and its main topic should be clearly outlined in the opening sentence.

If the article is about a fictional character or place, say so. Readers might not know, for instance, that Homer Simpson is not a real person. Start with, for example:

Homer Simpson is a fictional character in the television series...

[edit] The rest of the opening paragraph

Then proceed with a description. Remember, the basic significance of a topic may not be obvious to nonspecialist readers, even if they understand the basic characterization or definition. Tell them! For instance:

Peer review, known as refereeing in some academic fields, is a scholarly process used in the publication of manuscripts and in the awarding of money for research. Publishers and agencies use peer review to select and to screen submissions. At the same time, the process assists authors in meeting the standards of their discipline. Publications and awards that have not undergone peer review are liable to be regarded with suspicion by scholars and professionals in many fields.

[edit] The rest of the lead section

If the article is long enough for the lead section to contain several paragraphs, then the first paragraph should be short and to the point, with a clear explanation of what the subject of the page is. The following paragraphs should give a summary of the article. They should provide an overview of the main points the article will make, summarizing the primary reasons the subject matter is interesting or notable, including its more important controversies, if there are any.

The appropriate length of the lead section depends on the total length of the article. As a general guideline, the lead should be no longer than two or three paragraphs. The following specific rules have been proposed:

Article Length Lead Length
Less than 15,000 characters One or two paragraphs
15,000–30,000 characters Two or three paragraphs
More than 30,000 characters Three paragraphs (consider splitting up the article)

[edit] Evaluating context

Here are some thought experiments to help you test whether you are setting enough context:

  • Does the article make sense if the reader gets to it as a random page? (Special:Random)
  • Imagine yourself as a layman in another English-speaking country. Can you figure out what the article is about?
  • Can people tell what the article is about if the first page is printed out and passed around?
  • Would a reader want to follow some of the links?

[edit] Use other languages sparingly

See also: Wikipedia:Naming conventions (use English)

It is fine to include foreign terms as extra information, but avoid writing articles that can only be understood if the reader understands the foreign terms. Such words are equivalent to jargon, which should be explained somehow. In the English-language Wikipedia, the English form does not always have to come first: sometimes the non-English word is better as the main text, with the English in parentheses or set off by commas after it, and sometimes not. For example, see perestroika.

Non-English words in the English-language Wikipedia should be written in italics. Non-English words should be used as titles for entries only as a last resort. Again, see perestroika.

English title terms with foreign origin can encode the native spelling and put it in parentheses. See, for example, I Ching (Traditional Chinese: ; Simplified Chinese: ; Hanyu Pinyin: ) or Sophocles (Greek: . The native text is useful for researchers to precisely identify ambiguous spellings, especially in tonal languages that do not transliterate well into the Roman alphabet. Foreign terms within the article body do not need native text if they can be specified as title terms in separate articles.

[edit] Use colour sparingly

Colour should only be used sparingly. Computers and browsers vary, and you cannot know how much colour, if any, is visible on the recipient's machine. Wikipedia is international: colours have different meaning in different cultures. Too many colours on one page make them look cluttered and unencyclopedic. Specifically, use the colour red only for alerts and warnings.

[edit] Use clear, precise and accurate terms

[edit] Use short sentences and lists

Shortcut:
WP:TRITE
WP:ATE

Use short sentences means use only necessary words, it does not mean use fewer words. Consider the view of William Strunk, Jr. in the 1918 work, The Elements of Style:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

Reduce sentences to the essentials. Wordiness does not add credibility to Wikipedia articles. Expressions like "due to the fact that" in place of "because" or "at the present time" in place of "currently" should be avoided. The ideal method of specifying on-going events is "as of 2007". Wikipedia "grammar bots" will replace these types of expression with correct wording.

Conciseness does not justify removing information from an article. Articles should contain as much information as possible without the use of redundant statements. The use of subjective qualifiers should be avoided.

[edit] Principle of least astonishment

When the principle of least astonishment is successfully employed, the information is apprehended by the reader without struggle. The average reader should not be shocked, surpised, or overwhelmingly confused by your article. As the writer, you should not use exaggeratory language in descriptions or arguments. Instead, gently offer information by anticipating the reader's resistence to new ideas. Try to bridge each sentence with the sentence before it by using an idea or word that appears in both sentences. Use consistent vocabulary in parts that are technical and difficult. To decide which parts of the sentence are going to be difficult for the reader, try to anticipate the reader's resistance to the ideas.

You should plan your page structure and links so that everything appears reasonable and makes sense. If a link takes readers to somewhere other than where they thought it would, it should at least take them someplace that makes sense.

Similarly make sure that concepts that are being used to base further discussion on have already been defined, or linked to a proper article. Explain causes before consequences and make sure your logical sequence is clear and sound, especially to the layman.

For example, if a user wants to know about the nuclear power plant that exploded in Chornobyl, he is likely to type that in the search box. The page on "Chornobyl" redirects to "Chernobyl," an alternative spelling for that town. However, the user sees that a link to the desired page, Chernobyl disaster, is placed prominently near the top of the Chornobyl page, and happily clicks on that.

[edit] Use of 'refers to'

The phrase refers to is often found near the beginning of Wikipedia articles. For example, the article Computer architecture once began by saying "Computer architecture refers to the theory behind the design of a computer." But that is not literally true; it would be better to say, "computer architecture is the conceptual design and fundamental operational structure of a computer system," as the article now does. Note that it is the words computer architecture that refer to a certain theory; computer architecture itself does not refer to any theory, it is a theory.

Sometimes it may be appropriate to say, for example, "The term Great Schism refers to either one of two schisms in the history of Christianity," but most often the simpler locution is better. If you mention the phrase Great Schism, rather than using that phrase to refer to one of the Great Schisms, then write the word in italics to indicate that.

See also: Use-mention distinction

[edit] Check your facts

See also: Wikipedia:Verifiability

Write stuff that is true: check your facts. Do not write stuff that is false. This might require that you verify your alleged facts.

This is a crucial part of citing good sources: even if you think you know something, you have to provide references anyway to prove to the reader that the fact is true. Material that seems to naturally stem from sourced claims might not have been actually claimed. In searching for good references to cite, you might even learn something new.

Be careful about deleting material that may be factual. If you are inclined to delete something from an entry, first consider checking whether it is true. If material apparently is factual, in other words substantiated and cited, be extra careful about deleting. An encyclopedia is a collection of facts. If another editor provided a fact, there was probably a reason for it that should not be overlooked. So consider each fact provided as potentially precious. Is the context or overall presentation the issue? If the fact does not belong in one particular article, maybe it belongs in another.

Examine entries you have worked on subsequent to revision by others. Have facts been omitted or deleted? It may be the case that you failed to provide sufficient substantiation for the facts, or that the facts you incorporated may need a clearer relationship to the entry. Protect your facts, but also be sure that they are presented meaningfully.

[edit] Check your fiction

The advice about factual articles also applies to articles on fiction subjects. Further considerations apply when writing about fictional topics because they are inherently not real. It is important to keep these articles verifiable and encyclopedic.

If you add fictional information, clearly distinguish fact and fiction. As with normal articles, establish context so that a reader unfamiliar with the subject can get an idea about the article's meaning without having to check several links. Instead of writing

"Trillian is Arthur Dent's girlfriend. She was taken away from Earth by Zaphod when he met her at a party. She meets Dent while travelling with Zaphod."

write

"Trillian is a fictional character from Douglas Adams's radio, book and now film series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In the first book, Trillian is introduced to the main character Arthur Dent on a spaceship. The backstory given to her is that she was taken away from Earth when the space alien Zaphod Beeblebrox met her at a party."

And so on.

Works of fiction are generally considered to "come alive" when read. They exist in a kind of perpetual present tense, regardless of when the fictional action is supposed to take place relative to "now". Thus, generally you should write about fiction using the present tense, not the past tense.

"Homer presents, Achilles rages, Andromache laments, Priam pleads." [1]
"Darth Vader is a fictional character from Star Wars."
"Holden Caulfield has a certain disdain for what he sees as 'phony'."
"Heathcliff, who is taken in by the wealthy Earnshaw family as a child, falls in love with their daughter, Catherine."

Conversely, discussion of history is usually written in the past tense and thus 'fictional history' may be presented in that way as well.

"Chroniclers claimed that Thalestris, queen of the Amazons, seduced Alexander the Great."

Articles about fictional topics should not read like book reports; instead, they should explain the topic's significance to the work. After reading the article, the reader should be able to understand why a character, place, or event was included in the fictional work.

It is generally discouraged to add fictional information from sources that cannot be verified or are limited to a very small number of readers, such as fan fiction and online role-playing games. In the latter case, if you absolutely have to write about the subject, please be especially careful to cite your sources.

If the subject, say a character in a TV show, is too limited to be given a full article, then integrate information about that character into a larger article. It is better to write a larger article about the TV show or a fictional universe itself than to create all sorts of stubs about its characters that nobody can find. And if you find a lot of related fiction stubs, merge them! Make yourself a characters of X page, and go cut-and-paste crazy, leaving a solid characters article, and a trail of redirects in your wake. A good such example is Main characters of Megatokyo

[edit] Stay on topic

Shortcut:
WP:TOPIC

The most readable articles contain no irrelevant (or only loosely relevant!) information. While writing an article, you might find yourself digressing into a side subject. If you find yourself wandering off-topic, consider placing the additional information into a different article, where it will fit more closely with the topic. If you provide a link to the other article, readers who are interested in the side topic have the option of digging into it, but readers who are not interested will not be distracted by it.

[edit] Pay attention to spelling

Pay attention to spelling, particularly of new page names. Articles with good spelling and proper grammar will encourage further contributions of good content. Proper spelling of an article name will also make it easier for other authors to link their articles to your article. Sloppiness in one aspect of writing can lead to sloppiness in others. Always do your best. It's not that big a deal, but why not get it right?

[edit] Avoid peacock and weasel terms

Avoid peacock terms that show off the subject of the article without containing any real information. Similarly, avoid weasel words that offer an opinion without really backing it up, and which are really used to express a non-neutral point of view.

Examples of peacock terms
an important... one of the most prestigious... one of the best...
the most influential... a significant... the greatest...
Examples of weasel words
Some people say... ...is widely regarded as... ..is widely considered...
...has been called... It is believed that... It has been suggested/noticed/decided...
Some people believe... It has been said that... Some would say...
Legend has it that... Critics say that... Many/some have claimed...

Believe in your subject. Let the facts speak for themselves. If your ice hockey player, canton, or species of beetle is worth the reader's time, it will come out through the facts. However, in some cases (for example, history of graphic design) using superlative adjectives (in the "... one of the most important figures in the history of ..." format) in description may help readers with no previous knowledge about the subject to acknowledge the importance or generally perceived status of the subject discussed.

Avoid blanket terms unless you have verified them. For example, this article states that of the 18 Montgomery Counties in the United States, most are named after Richard Montgomery. This is a blanket statement. It may very well be true, but is it reliable? In this instance the editor had done the research to verify this. Without the research, the statement should not be made. It is always a good idea to describe the research done and sign it on the article's talk page.

If you wish to, or must refer to an opinion, first make sure it is given by someone who holds some standing in that subject. A view on former American President Gerald Ford from Henry Kissinger is more interesting for the reader than one from your teacher at school. Then say who holds the opinion being given, preferably with a source or a quote for it. Compare the following:

Some critics of George W. Bush have said he has low intelligence.
Author Michael Moore in his book Stupid White Men wrote an open letter to George Bush. In it, he asked, "George, are you able to read and write on an adult level?".

[edit] Examples

Sometimes the way around using these terms is to replace the statements with the facts that backs it up:

"The Yankees are one of the greatest baseball teams in history."
"The New York Yankees have won 26 World Series championships—almost three times as many as any other team."

By sticking to concrete and factual information, we can avoid the need to give any opinion at all. Doing so also makes for writing that is much more interesting, for example:

William Peckenridge, eighth Duke of Omnium (1642? - May 8, 1691) is widely considered to be one of the most important men to carry that title.
William Peckenridge, eighth Duke of Omnium (1642? - May 8, 1691) was personal counsellor to King James I, general in the Wars of the Roses, a chemist, bandleader, and the director of the secret society known as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He expanded the title of Omnium to include protectorship of Guiana and right of revocation for civil-service appointments in India.

Show, don't tell. The first example simply tells the reader that William Peckenridge was important. The second example shows the reader that he was important.

[edit] Exceptions

When repeating established views, it may be easier to simply state: "Before Nicolaus Copernicus, most people thought the sun revolved round the earth", rather than sacrifice clarity with details and sources, particularly if the statement forms only a small part of your article. However, in general, everything should be sourced, whether within the text, with a footnote, or with a general reference.

[edit] Make omissions explicit for other editors

Make omissions explicit when creating or editing an article. When writing an article, always aim for completeness. If for some reason you can't cover a point that should be explained, make that omission explicit. You can do this either by leaving a note on the discussion page or by leaving HTML comments within the text and adding a notice to the bottom about the omissions. This has two purposes: it entices others to contribute, and it alerts non-experts that the article they're reading doesn't yet give the full story.

That's why Wikipedia is a collaborative encyclopedia—we work together to achieve what we could not achieve individually. Every aspect that you cover means less work for someone else, plus you may cover something that someone else may not think of but which is nevertheless important to the subject. Add {{todo}} to the top of the talk page of articles for which you can establish some goals, priorities or things to do.

[edit] Other issues

Honorifics 
Do not use honorifics or titles such as Mr, Ms, Rev, Doctor, etc. See Wikipedia:Naming conventions (names and titles) and Wikipedia:Manual of Style (biographies)
Inappropriate subjects 
If you are trying to dress up something that doesn't belong in Wikipedia—your band, your Web site, your company's product—think twice about it. Wikipedia is not an advertising medium or home page service. Wikipedians are pretty clever, and if an article is really just personal gratification or blatant advertising, it's not going to last long—no matter how "important" you say the subject is.
Integrate changes 
When you make a change to some text, rather than appending the new text you'd like to see included at the bottom of the page, if you feel so motivated, please place and edit your comments so that they flow seamlessly with the present text. Wikipedia articles should not end up being a series of disjointed comments about a subject, but unified, seamless, and ever-expanding expositions of the subject.
Avoiding common mistakes 
It is easy to commit a Wikipedia faux pas. That's OK—everybody does it! But, here are a few you might try to avoid.
Make a personal copy 
Suppose you get into an edit war. Or worse, a revert war. So you try to stay cool. This is good. Congratulations! However, what would be great is if you could carry on working on the article, even though there is an edit war going on, and even though the version on the top is the evil one favoured by the other side in the dispute.
So make a personal copy as a subpage of your user page. Just Start a new page at user:MY NAME/ARTICLE NAME, and copy and paste the wiki-source in there. Then you can carry on improving the article at your own pace! If you like, drop a note on the appropriate talk page to let people know what you're doing.
Some time later, at your leisure, once the fuss has died down, merge your improvements back in to the article proper. Maybe the other person has left Wikipedia, finding it not to their taste. Maybe they have gone on to other projects. Maybe they have changed their mind. Maybe someone else has made similar edits anyway (although they may not be as good as yours, as you have had more time to consider the matter).

[edit] See also

[edit] External links


Writing guides
Guide to writing better articles Guide to layout Article development The perfect article Manual of Style
A collection of advice How to structure articles Suggested stages of an article A checklist of components Comprehensive style guide