WikiAnswers Style Guide
In order to make the site the best it can possibly be, we have found that some things need to be done in standard ways. Thus, we have created this Style Guide. Below you will find listed grammar, spelling, and style conventions that are recommended for use on WikiAnswers. Keep in mind that these are guidelines, rather than hard and fast rules. Following them enables the formatting of questions to be standardized, thereby reducing repeated effort among contributors when the same question is asked a different way and receives another answer (only to eventually be merged with the original question).
- Answers begin at the left margin and read like a book, from margin to margin. While it is sometimes tempting to center an answer, centering of answers needs to be avoided in favor of the margin to margin format.
- Answers should be written in "normal" typeface. Use font attributes sparingly and for emphasis.
- Capitalization should be reserved for common usage such as acronyms, abbreviations, the first letter of a sentence, and proper nouns.
- Italics should be reserved for quotes, citations, and foreign words within a sentence, or for emphasizing a word or phrase. Please do not italicize long sentences or paragraphs.
- Bold should be reserved for headlines and sub-headlines, or the occasional strong emphasis.
Contractions should be avoided in questions where possible. Try not to begin your question with Can't, Won't, Wasn't, Weren't, Haven't, Hasn't, etc. If your sentence sounds awkward without the contraction, then try referring to the question "How do you ask a question without using a contraction?" (included in the related links).
- Okay instead of OK or O.K. (only use periods in questions when necessary for terms like Web 2.0 or Windows 3.1)
- Pleonasms (redundancies, superfluous words) should be avoided: VIN or VIN code instead of VIN number, PIN or PIN code instead of PIN number, ATM instead of ATM machine
- 1964 or 1960s, instead of '64, 60's, sixties, etc.
- When needed, use B.C. and A.D. for dates.
- Use one apostrophe for feet and two for inches (quotation marks can't be used in questions).
- Use "x" instead of "by." For example, e.g. 8' x 14'' ... 7 mm x 12 cm
- When you are trying to make a point using one exclamation mark is enough.
- Special characters including commas cannot be used in questions because of limitations in our system. There should be no ampersands, dollar signs, percentage symbols, parentheses, etc. Only letters, digits, hyphens, and single quotation marks (apostrophes) can be used.
- In questions, periods should only be used in terms such as "5.0 engine" and "Windows 3.1." We discourage questions that require more than one sentence to ask.
- In questions, 1am, 10pm, etc. instead of 1:00 a.m., ten PM, etc. (we can't use colons in questions).
- In questions, quotation marks need to be substituted with single quotes (apostrophes) for technical reasons. Quote 'like this' instead of "like this."
Phrasing of Questions:
- We use American English, unless the question is written in another language. We don't do this to offend, but only so that we have a consistent spelling throughout the site and know what to do when we find similar questions with contrasting spelling.
- Use the second person pronoun, you and your, instead of I, me, and my. For example, "How do you know you are pregnant?" instead of "How do I know if I'm pregnant?" Do not use the formal one; as in "How does one know she is pregnant?" This helps other people realize that our questions are for everyone, not only for the individual who asked them.
- Whenever possible, questions should start with a traditional question word. These include who, what, where, when, why, or how (but not how come: why should be used instead), as well as whom, are, can, could, did, do, does, had, has, have, is, may, might, must, need, should, was, were, which, whose, will, and would. Other words might also be acceptable, but in general, the simplest way to ask is usually the best.
Specific Category-Dependent Guidelines
- As a general rule, spell out numbers ten and under. Use numerals for numbers greater than ten. Please note: exceptions are made for measurements.
- Be consistent when your question or answer contains more than one number. You would write "Do I need 5 or 15 copies?" not "Do I need five or 15 copies?" (An exception is made for formal designations, as in Rulers or Wars, such as Pope John Paul II, Henry VIII or World War 2.)
- Spell out fractions and hyphenate them. (Ex: two-thirds)
- When discussing decades, do not use an apostrophe between the year and the s. (Correct: 1980s or 80s)
- In answers, always write out a number if it begins a sentence.
Cars and Vehicles
- 1999 Chevy Corvette instead of '99 'Vette, etc.
- 4-cylinder instead of 4 cyl, etc.
- 4x4, FWD, and AWD instead of front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, etc.
- 4.9L instead of 4.9 liter engine, 4.9 liters, 4.9 l, etc.
- AC instead of air conditioner.
- automatic instead of auto.
- hp instead of HP or horsepower.
- mph instead of MPH or M.P.H.
- rpm instead of RPM or RPMs.
- repair instead of fix (unless the question may be asking whether it should be replaced or repaired).
- replace instead of change.
- V8 instead of V-8, v8, etc.
- VW instead of Volkswagen.
Sample questions: "Where is the fuel filter located on a 1996 Geo Metro?" "How do you replace a headlight bulb on a 2005 Saturn SL2?" "How do you remove the fuel tank from a 1983 VW Rabbit?" "How do you replace the oil pump on a 1999 Chevy Astro 4.3 AWD?"
Business and Finance
- "When was (name of company) founded?" instead of discovered, invented, created, etc.
- "Who is the founder of (name of company)?" instead of discovered, created, invented etc.
Entertainment and Arts
- "What is (celebrity's) sexual orientation?" instead of "Is (celebrity) gay?" or "Is (celebrity) straight?" or "What is (celebrity's) sexual preference?" etc.
- "What is (celebrity's) official fan page on (social site)? Instead of "Does (celebrity) have a (social site)?"
- Use the question phrasing "What are some ____ that begin with the letter ____" and capitalize the letter.
- Questions asking for cheat codes should be phrased so they don't sound illegal. Instead of asking "how do you hack _______" (game), ask "what are some cheat codes for ______" (game). This will help us tell the difference between an illegal hack and a legal, built-in cheat.
- "in" Pokemon (version), instead of "on" Pokemon (version)
- Include the word "Pokemon" in Pokemon questions.
- Pre-ejaculate is preferred over pre-seminal fluid or pre-cum.
- Semen is preferred over cum or sperm in clinical questions about fertility.
- Sperm should be used when a question is referring specifically to spermatozoa, not as a replacement for semen.
- Buttocks should be used instead of Ass, Arse, Bum, Butt.
- Use medically correct terms for all body parts NOT SLANG; if in doubt, ask.
History and Society
- UK instead of United Kingdom.
- US instead of United States, USA, America, etc.
- Russia to refer to the country from 1991 through the present. USSR and Soviet Union should only be used intentionally, i.e. during the time period that Russia was known as the Soviet Union or USSR, which was between 1922 and 1991.
- World War 1 and World War 2 instead of WWII, WW1, Second World War, Great War, etc.
- US Navy, US Army, US Marine Corps, US Air Force, etc., to differentiate from services in other countries.
- US Constitution to differentiate from the constitution of other states and countries.
- Vietnam, not Viet Nam
Hobbies and Collectibles
- Stamps - Whenever possible list the Scott # or its equivalent in the first line of the answer.
- "What is the value of XYZ?" instead of "What is XYZ worth (i.e. "What is the value of a 1901 Silver Dollar?")
Home and Garden
- Inground and above ground pools instead of in-ground, aboveground, etc.
- V instead of v, volt, or volts
- A instead of a, amp, or amps
- W instead of w, watt, or watts
- Hz instead of hertz
- 240V instead of 220V, 230V, or 250V and 120V instead of 110V, 115V, 117V, or 125V, except when taken as a measurement. This is important to facilitate searching. Note 208V and 277V are different from 240V.
- Use the form gauge-conductors for wire sizing. I.e. 14-2 for 14 gauge 2 conductor wire
Jobs and Education
- Academic degrees (bachelor's degree, associate's degree, master's degree) should not be capitalized unless they are used after a person's name. Examples: Sarah has a bachelor's degree in psychology. Sarah Thompson, Bachelor of Arts, will be speaking at the conference.
- It is also correct to use the acronym of a degree, which is capitalized. Example: Sarah has an MBA from the University of Kansas.
- "How do you answer 'What is XYZ?' in a job interview?"
- "How much money does an XYZ earn?"
- "What does an XYZ do?" instead of "What duties…"
- "How do you answer '(question)' in a job interview?" Single quotation marks should be placed at the beginning and at the end of the interview question being asked. For example, "How do you answer 'What are your strengths and weaknesses' in a job interview?" not "What are your strengths and weaknesses?"
- "What jobs can you get with an associate's degree in natural sciences?" instead of "What kind of jobs ..." or "What type of work ..." etc.
- "How do you become an XYZ?" instead of "What is required ..." or "What do you need to be ...?" (unless it's education, legal requirements, or personal qualities).
- "How long does it take to become an XYZ?" instead of "How many years of college ..." "How much school ...?" "How much training ..." (This can include years other than school.)
- "What education or training do you need to become an XYZ?" instead of "What education is required ..." or "What degree ..." or "What type of training ..."
- "Where can you go to school to become an XYZ?" instead of "What colleges ..." or "Where can you get an education ..."
- "What should you study in high school or college if you want to become an XYZ?" instead of "What classes ..." or "What courses ..." or "What should you major in ..."
- "How much does it cost to become an XYZ?" instead of "What does college cost for ..."
- "What personal qualities or skills do you need to be a XYZ?"
Law and Legal Issues
- "Can you move out at 17 in Indiana?"
- "How old do you have to be to move out in Indiana?"
Literature and Language
Books and Literature
- Messages warning about spoilers should not be added to answers (see the related link for a definition of Spoilers).
- In the Grammar Punctuation and Spelling section, when a person is asking how to spell a word (i.e. "How do you spell the word capitle?"), do not correct the spelling of the word in the question.
- When asking for the translation of a word or a phrase, identify what language the original phrase or word is from, in your question. In many cases, it is difficult to find a translation without knowing what the original language is.
- Always use the numerical form of an age rather than spelling it out (17 rather than seventeen).
- When referring to someone's age in a question, hyphenate the age when it is used as an adjective.
- Example: Can a 16-year-old girl date an 18-year-old boy?
- When the age stands on its own, do not hyphenate it.
- Example: Can you be emancipated if you are 17 years old?
Religion and Spirituality
Because of the sensitive nature of this category, guidelines have been drawn up to ensure that respect for the views of others and a helpful atmosphere are maintained. See the related link below.
- Volume - Measurements (tsp, oz, lb, ml, g, cm, etc.) should be written out, rather than using abbreviations.
- Inventions - Ask "Who invented (name of invention)?" or "When was (name of invention) invented?" instead of discovered, built, created, etc. For example: "Who invented the telephone?" and "When was the telephone invented?"
- American Football - Super Bowl instead of Superbowl
- Soccer - Team names should use capitals, with no shorthand, e.g. Manchester United instead of Man U.
- Tournament names can be abbreviated, e.g. UEFA, FA, COMMENBOL etc.
- Hockey and Football - Use terms that refer to the specific sport. For football, this can be either to include 'American' or 'association' before football, or to use 'soccer' or 'gridiron.' For hockey, this means the inclusion of type (ice, field, or indoor) to prevent incorrect categorization and answering.
- Martial Arts- Write out Tae Kwon Do instead of taekwondo and Kung Fu instead of kungfu.
Computers and Internet
- Internet is always capitalized.
- Email instead of e-mail.
- Online instead of on-line.
- Website instead of web site.
Travel and Places
- Use "halfway" rather than "half way," or "half-way."
Please also refer to the related question for why a style guide is important for a Wiki.