Wiki Writing and Language Policy

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The SFTropesWiki employs a Writing and Language Policy to assist editors in creating a consistent set of textual conventions. By guiding editors as they make decisions about language choice, punctuation, and other issues of style, the Writing and Language Policy helps to:

  • Make the Wiki clearly and readily understandable to a general audience.
  • Ensure editors portray themselves in an appropriate fashion that supports the discussion style of writing that SFTropesWiki has adopted.
  • Please note that in this policy page, "discussion/discussion-type pages" refers to the content page (analysis section, pioneer pages, any other pages that call for opinions) not the discussion tab. The discussion tab will be referred to as the "talk page" to avoid confusion on certain policies.
  • Informative pages refers to any page or section that calls for unopinionated information, such as the SFTropesWiki main page and the summary section of readings.  


Guidelines Adapted from the original Wikipedia

Use of Contractions

In general, the use of contractions—such as don't, can't, won't, they'd, should've, it's—is considered informal. However, because of the nature of SFTropesWiki, the use of contractions will be allowed for pages that promote a discussion, including talk pages. Contractions will NOT be allowed on the main page of the SFTropes Wiki NOR will they be allowed on informative pages created or maintain on this Wiki. The SFTropesWiki main page and informative pages should be professionally written. The use of contractions conveys a casual tone, which does NOT contribute to the establishment of the authors as professional writers. As a result of this professional tone, writers will appear to be more informed on specific topics and subjects, as well as more confident about their writing in general. This allows the readers to know with certainty the information presented to them is accurate. Since primary sources contain quotes that have contractions. Quoting dialogues that include contractions is acceptable. Examples of pages that allow the use of contractions include all talk pages, the discussion section on the pages of prior readings, any page that openly asks for opinions/discussions, etc. Examples of pages that do not allow the use of contractions include the SFTropesWiki main page, pages that serve the purpose to summarize a particular reading, pages resembling the Editting the Wiki page, any page that provides information that lacks opinion, etc. Different sections of a particular page may allow or not allow contractions depending on the purpose of the section. For example, the summary section of a reading is considered an informative section and will not allow the use of contractions. The discussion section of the same reading, however, will allow the use of contractions.

Contested Language

Avoid words and phrases that give the impression of straining for formality, that are unnecessarily regional, or that are not widely accepted. This rule refers to several mistakes writers tend to make that can be easily avoided in two different methods. One way a writer can avoid making simple mistakes in word usage is to find other words. For example, if a writer attempts to be too formal in his or her writing, the piece of writing may strike the reader as either ambiguous or verbose. Another method that can be used to avoid making such errors is to use careful techniques when using contested language; for example, a writer may do simple research before using words such as “affect” and “effect” if he or she does not have a clear understanding of the difference between the two. Misuse of these words can convey confuse the audience and hurt the credibility of the author. Inappropriate language should be regulated as well. When writing, keep all bitter words such as "swear words", derogatory names, and insults out of the articles and discussions. Even quotes that could be considered offensive may need to be limited if used. These discussion are not for the purpose of harming fellow debaters or audience members.

Misused English Words

In the heat of discussion, it is possible for a person to misuse an english word. In such situations, kindly point out or edit the term in question without any degrading comments or implications. For informative articles, misused words can alter the meaning of the presented information and should be avoided best as possible. The misuse of words is very common in writing, but that does not change the fact that it is something to look out for. Many writers are guilty of homonyms, which are pairs of similarly spelled words, and many writers are just unsure of the correct definition of the word they are using. If a writer is not sure about the correct usage of a word it would be best for him or her to take a quick look at the List of commonly misused words. A list of commonly misused English words can be found here. [1]

Gender Neutral

Many pages on SFTropesWiki resemble discussion-type pages. However, it is still possible, in these enviornments, to avoid catering to a particular gender. In discussions that are more general and applicable to any person, be sure to use gender-neutral language with clarity and precision. In addition, it is highly recommended to do the same with race or any other characteristic of people that may cause someone to feel unappreciated. This is so the audience will not have a feeling of isolation while reading the articles and discussions of the Wiki.

First Person

The policy on first person usage closely follows the policy on contractions. First person is regarded as an informal writing style. As a result, discussion-type pages and talk pages will allow the use of first person to state an opinion. The main SFTropes page, other informative pages, and the summary section of pages will not allow the use of first person. This is to ensure the use of professional writing in situations where information is being presented without an opinion. For more detail on what is considered an acceptable page and what is not considered and acceptable page, refer to the Contraction policy section. 

Article Titles

Article titles should adhere to the following guidelines in order to maintain consistency throughout the Wiki:

  • The article title should be accurate and recognizable for the content of the article;thereby, giving the reader a clear, concise idea of what is in the article and what they can expect to read in it.
  • The article title should make sense when the reader is searching for the article, thus making the article easy to find.
  • Titles short be kept short. The shorter you can make the title (to a reasonable extent) the better.
  • If someone or something has a name they are better known by, but is not their official name, the article should be titled with the name that is most often used and understood.
  • Article titles should not begin with a, an, or the
  • Article titles should use the singular form
  • Article titles should avoid special characters (pluses, slashes, braces)

Section Headings

  • Section headings should follow the same rules as article titles
  • Section and subsection headings should be unique within a page
  • Headings should not explicitly refer to the subject of the article, or to higher-level headings, unless doing so is shorter or clearer (“Early **life” not “His early life”)
  • The triple apostrophes (this text is bold) that make words appear in boldface are not used in headings
  • Include one blank line above the heading, for readability in the edit window


Links should follow the following guidelines to be helpful and consistent throughout:

  • Links should be inline with text (i.e., use Wiki syntax to make a word or phrase into a link).
  • Don't link unnecessarily; links should be relevant and add something to the subject.
  • Links, like sources, should be reliable pages that the reader should not be scared to click on due to the names.
  • The development of red links (i.e., creating new pages) is encouraged, as this will lead to further article contribution and development.
  • Cite your links-tell the reader where the link is from, which individual, group, organization created the link.
  • Try to avoid citing links from paid subscription services because these sites are usually inaccessible to most readers.
  • Wikipedia articles can be linked within the text.


Similar to links, images can be very informative and need to be consistent throughout:

  • A large image should be included in either a link or perhaps have it's own heading.
  • Images are usually copyrighted: make sure the image is owned by you or you receive permission to use the image.
  • Captions should be used, especailly to draw attention to something in the image that is not obvious.
  • It is preferred to use an image that is owned by the public.
  • Do not use images that you think may offend someone; chances are if you think it may offend someone then it will.
  • Cite your images.
  • Group images in an interesting way, make sure you do not "stack" the images.


  • Start captions with a capital letter.
  • Captions are not required to be a complete sentence, but should contain information such as the relevance of the image to the text.
  • Captions should be informative.
  • Try to avoid italicized captions, unless the words used inside the captions are generally italicized.


  • In order to paraphrase, one should take the content and put it into their own words. Plagiarism is never appropriate.
  • Do not forget to appropriately site sources and give credit based on the copyright policy of the source.

Quotation Marks

Quotations are a powerful tool in any article. They give a first person account of someone else’s opinions or thoughts on the subject at hand. Quotes can sometimes be taken out of context or misused in a way that removes the original thoughts of the author and turns into a biased statement. However if a quote is used correctly, the article gains an extra bit of validation that shows the reader that research has been done and the article was written by an intelligent author. This is why quotations must be used verbatim how they are used in the original article. Even one change in punctuation can change the entire inflection or meaning of the sentence. The point of a quote is to include someone’s views in an article other than your own. If a quote is edited than the appropriate parentheses or ellipses must be included. All quotes should be cited correctly so that the reader can find the actual quote in the context the original author intended it to be in.

  • IMPORTANT: Quotation marks MUST be used to mark where exact words from a source have been reused!
  • Preserve the original text, spelling, and punctuation as much as possible, but if a change is necessary, insert an explanation within square brackets. If there is an error in the original statement, use [sic] to show that the error was not made in transcription.
  • Trivial spelling or typographical errors should be silently corrected.
  • Use ellipses to indicate irrelevant or unintelligible speech.Avoid linking from within quotes. They become cluttered, violate the principle of leaving quotations unchanged, and will probably confuse the reader.
  • Should be used to indicate direct quotations, certain types of works such as magazine articles, and around words that have a specific meaning within a specific context.
  • Should follow accepted punctuation rules.
    • Periods and commas should always be placed inside quotation marks.
    • End marks such as question or exclamation marks should be placed inside or outside depending on whether the actual quotation is a question/exclamation (inside) or the entire sentence is the question or exclamation (outside).
    • Quotes within quotes should alternate use from double quotation marks to single quotation marks.


An elipsis is used to omit material from a quote and is represented by three, or four if at the end of a sentence, consecutive periods (...). Ellipses are used by the author to convey the meaning of the quote more effectively, and allow for the omission of needless text. Correct usage will help the reader understand how the quote relates to the piece by highlighting the most pertinent information within the quote.

  • If used mid-sentence, use three unspaced periods (...).
    • Put a space on each side of the ellipsis, unless the ellipsis is followed by an ending quotation mark or sentence-final punctuation.
  • If used at the end of a sentence, use four unspaced periods (....).
  • Do not use at the beginning of a sentence.
  • Try not to use at the end of a line of text, for clarity purposes.
  • Only use an ellipsis as suspense if it is directly quoted ("Could he ...? No, I cannot believe it!").


  • Single-digit numbers from zero to nine should be written as words.
  • Numbers greater than nine may be written as either words or figures. However, whichever method is chosen must be consistent throughout the article. Keep in mind that long written numbers (for example, two thousand twenty-eight) may hinder a reader's ability to swiftly read and interpret a piece of writing.
  • Instances such as time may be excused from this rule. For example, the time may be written as 4pm.
  • This rule applies to the discussion-type pages as well as the informative pages. 


  • In order to establish a full term, it is important to write out the entire word as well as the abbreviation of the word the first time it appears. [2]
  • Italics in writing are important for titles, foreign words, words as words, quotations in italics, italics in quotations, effect on nearby punctuation, emphasis, and some links. [3]
  • The only times acronyms should be accepted is if it is recognizable term for everyone, such as "PhD", which would be unnecessary to write out the full meaning. However, it is still important to write out the full title first and then state that it is also known as the shorter version. [4]
  • This rule applies to the discussion-type pages as well as the informative pages because the audience will read the discussion-type pages, too, and should be informed if a certain acronym/abbreviation is more commonly used.

Neutral Point of View

Discussion-type pages call for opinions and bias responses. Thus, this rule does not apply to those articles. However, on the main page and other informative articles created on the SFTropesWiki, there should be no point of view. Information is always best presented neutrally, allowing the audience to decide what they choose to believe. For the point of view accepted for discussion-type pages, please visit Discursive Point of View.

Complex Terminology and Jargon

When writing an article, we should take care when using jargon and/or overly complex terminology. If the reader cannot understand the meaning of a certain word or phrase fairly easily, then one should take care to either reword that particular wording or delete it all together. This applies to words used in the readings. If a word that is not commonly known or understood is used in a reading, and thus, in the discussion sections of the reading, it should be clearly defined for outside audience members who have yet to come across the term in question.


The ampersand (&) is a replacement often used for the word and. Even so, it is almost never appropriate to use the ampersand over and.[5] Even though the discussion-type pages do not have to be as formal as informative pages, please note that they will still be read by the audience. As a result, it is not appropriate to use ampersands even in the discussion-type pages outside of the exceptions written below.

  • In the middle of a sentence & should never be used as a conjunction over and.
    • Ex. We ran & talked. vs. We ran and talked.
  • When writing dates, it is still inappropriate to use the ampersand over and.
    • Ex. We will be gone on the 5th & 6th of August. vs. We will be gone on the 5th and 6th of August.
  • The ampersand can, however, be used if present in a proper noun or a title.
    • Ex. I watch The Tom & Jerry Show.
  • The ampersand can be used with consistency in tables, infoboxes, and similar contexts where space is limited
  • Many times, when quoting text that uses the ampersand, it is better to replace it with and to keep consistency throughout the article.

Serial Commas

"A serial comma (also known as an Oxford comma or a Harvard comma) is a comma used immediately before a conjunction 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 on Wikipedia so long as each article is consistent within itself." The serial comma, however, can sometimes cause ambiguity. In such cases, the sentence may omit the serial comma. If one chooses to add or omit the serial comma in a situation to avoid the ambiguity, it must remain consistent throughout the article.

Semicolons vs. Colons

  • A semicolon is used to join two complete sentences by replacing a 'FANBOYS', conjunctive adverbs, or any sentence that are long and contain commas.
    • Ex. That test was so hard; I'm going to study harder for the next one.
  • On the otherhand, colons are used after an independent clause, emphasize a word, or to introduce a quotation (if the words before the colon are an independent clause).
    • Ex. These are a few people in my class: Larry, Stacey, Lauren, and Shae.

Guidelines Adapted from Strunk & White

  • Omit needless words. The reader does not want to textually rummage through superfluous words. By omitting needles words, the point of a sentence or paragraph is made more clear to the audience, helping the author better present their meaning.
  • Keep related topics together. By keeping related topics together in an article, the reader will have an easier time understanding the information presented. This cuts down on confusion and/or misinterpretation of information for the reader. This can usually be avoided during proofreading.
  • "Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity." Whenever a person tries to take a shortcut in writing, they are doing so at the cost of clarity. Authors need to make sure they make factual arguments built from all necessary information without shortcuts. When a writer takes a shortcut, oftentimes important information is left out. When information is left out, the article lacks clarity.

Guidelines Adapted from the Economist

  • Avoid stuffy or fancy language by writing in everyday conversation. This includes using euphemisms (choose deaf over hearing-impaired) and didactic phrases (like “consider,” “imagine,” and “look at”).
    • If the everyday word may be threatening, however, it is acceptable to use the less used term. Ex. gay vs. homosexual.

Citation Guidelines

  • Citations of the information gathered for articles should be formatted in a similar style through out the whole Wiki. 
  • As it stands, there is not a particular style choosen, refer to the talk page to suggest a citation style.

Other Guidelines

  • Avoid vague pronouns. For example, "Sam and Dave went to the store. He wanted to buy coffee." It is unclear to the reader who "he" refers to. Furthermore, avoid using "this" to refer to vague concepts discussed earlier in your writing. For example, "The ancient Sumerians had a long history, vibrant culture, and wrote some of the earliest known literature. Due to this, they are still remembered today." would be better written as, "The ancient Sumerians had a long history, vibrant culture, and wrote some of the earliest known literature. Due to their cultural significance, the ancient Sumerians are still remembered today." Use the pronouns "this" and "that" with caution.
    • Also use "it" with caution. Avoid using "it" to refer to vague or poorly defined ideas. Only use "it" to refer to a specific object.
  • Avoid run-on sentences.
  • When forming the possessive of a plural noun, place the apostrophe after the final "s." For example, the shoes belonging to multiple doctors are, "the doctors' shoes."
  • Beware of overusing a single word or phrase in a sentence or a paragraph, which may sound repetitive to the reader.
  • When using a parallel construction, each element in the construction must be able to stand on its own. for example:
    • "He was known for his charm, good looks, and that he had a lot of friends" Incorrect
    • "He was known for his charm, good looks, and popularity." Correct


  1. List of commonly misused words (15 September 2010) In Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved September 20, 2010 from
  5. Wikipedia's Manual of Style. (22 September 2010). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved September, 2010 from
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