Please read through the policy below to familiarize yourself with our common practices and rules.
If you have any questions, suggestions, or complaints, please post them on the talk page.
Memory Alpha's Manual of Style is a collection of guidelines and rules of thumb that are designed to set a rough standard for the appearances of all articles. Although style is generally not considered the most important factor in the writing of an article, it is an important factor in the writing of good articles (or even the perfect article). The manual of style is designed to make articles easier to read and comprehend, to make articles better organized and easier to edit.
Above all, realize that these rules are not set in stone! They are considered guidelines for making an article appear more attractive to the reader, to make them easier to work with. If you think you have a better way of writing your article, by all means go ahead and be bold! Copy-editing archivists will come along later and start the weeding process, and rework pages to better conform to the guide if necessary. Better yet, add your own idea on this page as an additional option for adding style to an article. (However, please don't remove existing guidelines, just add your own new ones.)
If you're looking for information on how to write an article in wiki markup, please see how to edit a page for instructions. As that article is more about how to use markup, this article is concerned about the when, where, and why of using specific markup. Please also read the Guide to Layout for suggestions on how to organize your article.
In all cases, examples of styles will be indented from the main margin for emphasis.
Introducing an article
At the beginning of every article, the title or subject of that article should be bold in the first line. Even though the article title is already listed, it is useful to emphasize the article's subject for the reader. (Don't forget to also use italicized text when necessary. See Manual of Style (titles) for further information.)
- The Picard Maneuver is a space combat strategy named for and attributed to the Starfleet Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
If the subject of the article has more than one name, each new form of the name should be in bold on its first appearance.
- Pah-wraith, also known as Pagh-wraith or Kosst Amojan...
In most cases, it is useful to establish context in the first line or two of the article.
- In Stellar Cartography, a sector is a division of space...
Characters and actors
There are two different methods available to indicate the actor or actors who play a character. First, the actor's name may be added at the beginning of an article, immediately after the character's name.
- Shran (played by Jeffrey Combs) was...
Alternatively, the actor's credit may be placed at the end of the article. In this case, the credit should be placed on a separate line, italicized, and indented a single level.
For Starfleet vessels, you should place the ship's registry number in bold and in parentheses immediately after the first use of the ship's name.
- The USS Honshu (NCC-60205) was a Nebula-class Federation starship...
Abbreviations should be avoided whenever possible, but if they need to be used, the following are the abbreviations that Memory Alpha has chosen to use. Please note that it is best to spell out words as best as possible
- Chief Petty Officer or Senior Chief Petty Officer
- These may both be shortened to "Chief".
- This may be shortened to "Cmdr."
- This may be shortened to "Lt."
- This also applies to "Lieutenant Commander" being shortened to "Lt. Commander" or "Lt. Cmdr.".
- Lieutenant Junior Grade
- This may be shortened to "Lieutenant j.g." or "Lt. j.g."
Headlines and sections
To create a new section in an article, surround the text with two or more == (equal signs). When you have the header, there is no blank line needed beneath the header.
The wiki engine will automatically create a table of contents based on the headers in an article.
In all cases, you should capitalize the first word and all proper nouns of the header, and leave all other words lowercase.
Avoid using links in headers. Depending on the browser's default settings, some users may not be able to see the links properly. It is much more useful to place the appropriate link in the first sentence after the header.
Paragraphs and formatting
Inexperienced writers have a tendency towards "run on" paragraphs. Some of these may number dozens of lines and many column inches without a break. This makes the articles difficult to read as everything seems to flow together. It also makes it tough to quickly skim articles for data points.
A good paragraph (grammatically speaking) is two to five sentences in length on average. It covers one thought or idea or piece of information. Any time there is a change in the thought, idea, or piece of information, there should also be a paragraph change.
When formatting paragraphs, adding an empty line between paragraphs looks better in the articles than the traditional "paragraph indent" on the first line. It makes for a more definite "break point" visually, and allows the reader to more easily see that they are reading a new paragraph at that point.
As an example of what NOT to do, here's every thing just typed done as one big block (the way many articles tend to be done):
- Inexperienced writers have a tendency towards "run on" paragraphs. Some of these may number dozens of lines and many column inches without a break. This makes the articles difficult to read as everything seems to flow together. It also makes it tough to quickly skim articles for data points. A good paragraph (grammatically speaking) is 2-5 sentences in length on average. It covers one thought or idea/piece of information. Any time there is a change in the thought/idea/piece of information, there should also be a paragraph change. When formatting paragraphs, adding an empty line between paragraphs looks better in the articles than the traditional "paragraph indent" on the first line. It makes for a more definite "break point" visually, and allows the reader to more easily see that they are reading a new paragraph at that point.
When quoting a person in an article, and the quote is at least a full sentence, the quotation should be "italicized and quoted".
- Kahless said, "Destroying an empire to win a war is no victory, and ending a battle to save an empire is no defeat."
However, if the quote is just a single word or a sentence fragment, it should not be italicized.
- Picard said the situation was "deplorable."
For uniformity and to avoid problems with the wiki software and the search utility, use straight quotation marks and apostrophes, and avoid curved marks such as the backtick or so-called "smart quotes". Punctuation marks should be placed inside of the quotation marks, unless the quotation marks surround a title (ie, episode, comic, etc), as shown in the second example above.
Background information and comments
On occasion, it is necessary or appropriate to include commentary about an unusual or contested point of information in an article. If there is a sufficient amount of information, it should be contained in a separate section, named:
- ==Background Information==
Alternatively, comments and information may be described in a short paragraph (no longer than three sentences) that is indented and italicized.
See cite your sources for reference formatting.
See also and Related topics
Informational references to related articles that have not been linked to from free links in the article itself are best handled by the "see also" header.
(Note that you shouldn't indent the "see also" line in actual use.)
Alternatively, you can use a "Related topics" or "See also" section header to list the links in a more explicit fashion as a section of the article:
If an article consists of several sections and a "see also" refers to the entire article, making it a separate section helps emphasize that the links refer to the entire article, rather than simply the last section alone.
There are undoubtedly styles that this tutorial does not cover. Although we try to keep this article simple, consider adding a new section to help new (and old!) readers out in creating styles for articles.
When all else fails, we recommend referring to the "official" resources for styles, such as The Chicago Manual of Style or Fowler's Modern English Usage.
Keep it simple
Above all else, you are encouraged to keep your articles simple! Don't try to get too fancy with your markup (like embedding tables within tables). The easier the markup is, the easier it will be for anyone to edit the article later on. Our first goal is to reliably and accurately display the information. The goal of wiki markup is to keep the articles simple and to emphasize the information as much as possible. We prefer content over form!
For this and other reasons, HTML markup should be avoided in most circumstances.
Because Star Trek is an American production, Memory Alpha has chosen to use American spellings of words rather than British spellings. Some examples of the common misspellings have been collected to help you out. Note that this applies to grammar and usage as well.
Before you start editing or creating new pages, we encourage you to read through and understand the following documents (if you haven't already):
- Memory Alpha:Introduction is a basic primer to what Memory Alpha is about and where you should look to find the information you need.
- Be bold in updating pages is a guideline for a basic attitude you should have towards updating articles.
- Policies and guidelines contains the complete set of rules that Memory Alpha operates under.
- How to edit a page is a basic introduction to wiki markup.
- Naming conventions is an article on how to properly name articles.