Wikipedia:Writing better articles

This page sets out advice on how to write an effective article, including information on layout, style, and how to make an article clear, precise and relevant to the reader.

Layout

Layout matters. Good articles start with introductions, continue with a clear structure, and end with standard appendices such as references and related articles.

Structure of the article

Introductory material

Good articles start with a brief lead section (WP:CREATELEAD) introducing the topic. We discuss lead sections in greater detail below. The lead section should come above the first header; it is almost never useful to add something like ==Introduction==. Sometimes, the first section after the lead is a broad summary of the topic, and is called "Overview", although more specific section titles and structures are generally preferred.

Paragraphs

Paragraphs should be short enough to be readable, but long enough to develop an idea. Overly long paragraphs should be split up, as long as the cousin paragraphs keep the idea in focus.

One-sentence paragraphs are unusually emphatic, and should be used sparingly. Articles should rarely, if ever, consist solely of such paragraphs.

Some paragraphs are really tables or lists in disguise. They should be rewritten as prose or converted to their unmasked form. Wikipedia:When to use tables and Wikipedia:Embedded list offer guidance on the proper use of these elements.

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.

Headings are hierarchical. The article's title uses a level 1 heading, so you should start with a level 2 heading (==Heading==) and follow it with lower levels: ===Subheading===, ====Subsubheading====, and so forth. Whether extensive subtopics should be kept on one page or moved to individual pages is a matter of personal judgment. See also below under #Summary style.

Headings should not be Wikilinked. This is because headings in themselves introduce information and let the reader know what subtopics will be presented; Wikilinks should be incorporated in the text of the section.

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:Layout § Images and Wikipedia:Picture tutorial.

Standard appendices

As explained in more detail at Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Layout § Standard appendices and footers, optional appendix sections containing the following information may appear after the body of the article in the following order:

  1. A list of books or other works created by the subject of the article (works)
  2. A list of internal "wikilinks" to related Wikipedia articles (see also)
  3. Notes and references (notes, footnotes, or references)
  4. A list of recommended relevant books, articles, or other publications that have not been used as sources (further reading)
  5. A list of recommended relevant websites that have not been used as sources (external links).

With some exceptions, any links to sister projects appear in further reading or external links sections. Succession boxes and navigational footers go at the end of the article, following the last appendix section, but preceding the category and interwiki templates.

Size

Excessively long articles should usually be avoided. Articles should ideally contain less than 50KB worth of prose. When articles grow past this amount of readable text, they can be broken up into smaller articles to improve readability and ease of editing, or may require trimming to remain concise. 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:Wikipedia page-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, et cetera.

When an article is long and has many sub articles, try to balance the main page. Do not put undue 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 the subtopic should have its own page, with only a summary presented on the main page.

Articles covering subtopics

Wikipedia articles tend to grow in a way that leads to the natural creation of new articles. The text of any article consists of a sequence of related but distinct subtopics. When there is enough text in a given subtopic to merit its own article, that text can be summarized in the present article and a link provided to the more detailed article. Cricket is an example of an article covering subtopics: it is divided into subsections that give an overview of the sport, with each subsection leading to one or more subtopic articles.

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