Wiktionary:Style guide

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Policies and guidelines Style guide
This style guide seeks to outline Wiktionary's stylistic conventions. It is not a formal policy, nor is it trying to become one. Please see WT:ELE for the official policy governing entry layout.

Note that like all pages on a wiki, this style guide is very much a work in progress. Please feel free to expand and revise it.



The Style Guide's principal function is to make the dictionary consistent, no matter how many editors are on the team or how long the dictionary takes to compile.

 —Sue Atkins & Michael Rundell, Oxford Guide to Practical Lexicography, pp. 390-391

Flexibility[edit]

The style guide presents widely supported standards, but it is not a set of rigid rules. You may experiment with deviations, but other editors may find those deviations unacceptable, and revert those changes. They have just as much right to do that as you have to make them. Be ready to discuss those changes; if you want your way accepted, you have to make the case for that. Unless there is a good reason for deviating, the existing practice should be presumed correct.

Related policies and style guidelines[edit]

General considerations[edit]

In general, Wiktionary favors a minimalistic approach. Entries should not be more complex than necessary. Content should not be added unless it adds value for some identifiable group of users. Avoiding unnecessary clutter and complication aids in the portability of our data, and helps to ensure that our entries will be usable to as wide a community of users as possible.

For the same reasons, it is expected that entries will maintain as high a level of consistency as is possible to do while still respecting the complexity of the lexicon.

Varieties of English[edit]

Preferred English spelling and usage varies widely from one country to another. As an international dictionary, Wiktionary does not privilege one variety over another. However, it is expected that an entry should be internally consistent – generally favoring either Australian, British, Canadian, US, or some other standard usage – and that entries should not be edited for the sole purpose of changing from one language variant to another.

Punctuation[edit]

Quotation marks[edit]

  • Wiktionary favors the use of double quotation marks (" " or “ ”) rather than single ones (' ' or ‘ ’). Single quotes are normally used only when one quotation is enclosed within another.
  • It is expected that entries will progress over time from using plumb quotes (" "), to using typographical quotes (“ ”), a.k.a. smart quotes.
  • Wiktionary usage places any terminal punctuation outside of the quotation marks, unless it is actually part of the quote.

Parentheses[edit]

Parentheses should be used in definitions only for the purpose of identifying the selectional restrictions of the headword in the current sense:

  1. To lead (a group)
    Jones here will head the team.

Any other direct uses of parentheses should be avoided. The only parentheses used outside of definitions should be those generated by special-purpose templates such as {{term}}, {{context}}, and {{qualifier}}.

Commas[edit]

Authorities and preferences differ over the appropriateness of the Serial comma. Use {{,}} before the last element in a list so as to allow user-customization to show/hide this punctuation.

Eg. ... red, white{{,}} and blue.

Definitions[edit]

Definitions should be concise. Only in rare cases should a definition consist of more than one sentence or sentence fragment.

Types of definitions[edit]

Most definitions on Wiktionary are either full definitions or glosses. Full definitions, which are preferred for English terms, explain the meaning a particular sense in detail. Glosses, which are preferred for non-English terms, simply point the user to one or more English translations of the term.

A full definition should start with a capital letter. Because a definition is not normally a complete sentence, opinions vary on whether it is necessary to end a full definition with a period.

A simple gloss should not be capitalized and should not end with a period.

Example of a gloss:

Katze: cat

Example of a definition:

cat: A domesticated species (Felis silvestris) of feline animal, commonly kept as a house pet.

For defining non-English words, glosses are strongly preferred. In general, a full definition should be provided only where a foreign-language term has no satisfactory English equivalent.

For English words, full definitions are strongly preferred. Even in the rare case of true synonymy, a gloss for an English term should be formatted as a definition:

# [[cat|Cat]]

A definition should provide sufficient information for the user to both understand and use the word correctly. However, where the considerations surrounding use are more complex than can be summarized in a single sentence, they should be moved to a usage note.

In addition to the above types of definitions, some terms, such as function words, cannot be adequately defined in either of the above ways. The definitions used in this case are termed "non-gloss definitions". To provide stylistic differentiation of these definitions, enclose them inside {{non-gloss definition}} or its shorter form {{n-g}}. Example:

because : {{non-gloss definition|Used to terminate inquiry concerning origin or purpose, typically initiated by why}}

Words in definitions[edit]

The use of technical and obscure words in definitions should be kept to an absolute minimum. For senses that are not labeled as technical, it is preferred to use words from the lexical core, such as is defined in the General Service List and Academic Word List. When it is necessary or useful to use less common words, these should always be wikified.

Patterns[edit]

General patterns

Definitions may be written according to either a prototype pattern or a genus-species pattern. In either case, the key information should be placed as close to the beginning of the definition as grammar and elegance permit. Formatting the entry in this way will assist casual users in quickly locating the information they need.

Verbs

Definitions of verbs should begin with "to".

To walk like an Egyptian
Nouns

Definitions of nouns should begin with a definite or indefinite article. Usually an uncountable sense will take a definite article, while a countable sense will usually take an indefinite article.

Gerundial nouns

Avoiding circularity can be difficult in defining gerundial nouns. It is tempting to define departing as:

  1. An occasion on which departing occurs

But this is likely to frustrate the user who does not realize the link leads to a separate entry, or who is using a non-wikified mirror such as Google Definitions. It is better to define it explicitly in terms of the verb, using a different form:

  1. An occasion on which someone or something departs
    After all of the day's arrivings and departings, we were quite exhausted.
Adjectives

Some older dictionaries that have been imported into Wiktionary use a style of adjective definition that begins with "That":

That has a yellow color.

However, a more concise construction is better:

Having a yellow color.
Pertainyms

There is a large class of adjectives that have been traditionally defined by the phrase "of or pertaining to X". Because the word pertain is not in wide use in contemporary English, it is better to use "related".

lexicographical: Of or relating to lexicography, the writing of dictionaries.
Adjectives in -like

In most cases, these can be defined in terms of the possible.

  1. Resembling a cat
    There was a large, catlike animal moving across the plain.

If the term has a particularly strong association, a two-stroke definition should be used:

  1. Resembling a cat, especially in regard to motion
    She moved with catlike grace.
    There was a large, catlike animal moving across the plain.
Adverbs
Adverbs in -ly

When defining adverbs of this type, it is important to keep in mind that -ly can have a number of different significations. It often means "in an X manner", but it can also mean "so as to become or appear X" or, especially in technical contexts, "due to X factors". Be sure to review actual use before writing a definition. Because these are distinct senses of -ly, they also merit distinct senses for those adverbs for which they can be attested.

  1. In a yellowish way
    Her eyes were yellowishly green.
  2. So as to become or appear yellowish
    He tinted the glass yellowishly.
Affixes

Entries for affixes (prefixes, suffixes, etc.) should provide a brief gloss or definition. Where more detailed treatment is required, one or more Usage notes should be provided, with appropriate examples. Example: -icus

Definition sequence[edit]

Most users will glance only at the first few definitions in a long entry, rather than searching through all definitions to find the best match. For this reason, it is important that the most common senses of a term be placed first, even when this may be contrary to the logical or historical sequence.

For complex entries, the use of subsenses is encouraged. In this case the hierarchy is defined logically – core sense at the root – but again, the most salient subsenses should be placed first in line.

Right hand side[edit]

Most content elements should be in the main (center) section of the page. This includes even small items such as small conjugation tables. Accepted items that may appear on the right-hand side:

When possible the width of right-hand side elements should be uniform so as to provide a "virtual" right-hand side column.

Templates[edit]

If a language has many table templates of a certain type, such as to show conjugations, then the templates should be structured such that one or a few templates are responsible for formatting and showing the content in a neat way, while the others generate the actual contents. For example, while there are many French conjugation table templates, they all use the same style template. This practice helps in keeping the display of templates consistent, and also makes it easier to create new versions of a template (for a different inflectional pattern, for example) without copying all the formatting as well. In programming jargon, this is called "separating the interface from the implementation".

Templates that contain tables whose width is specified as a percent should have those tables wrapped in <div> tags to avoid interfering with right-hand side elements. This is how the table templates such as {{top2}} and {{bottom}} are constructed.

Dates[edit]

The two most common year-numbering systems are Anno Domini ("BC", "AD") and Common Era ("BCE", "CE"). To provide both wikitext standardization and viewer customization, use {{B.C.E.}} and {{C.E.}} to mark the correct eras. They should be placed after their respective dates. Viewers that wish to view pages using the Anno Domini system can do so by selecting the appropriate preference (this will also convert "AD" to being before dates).

Abbreviations[edit]

Wiktionary is not paper and therefore not encumbered by traditional size restraints. In general we use full English terms rather than abbreviations or unnaturalized foreign terms. Following this, cf should be expanded to "confer" (or "compare") and q.v. should be expanded to "see". The names of parts of speech are also written in full, so we always write noun and adjective and never n or adj. Exceptions are made for those that are universal such as gender abbreviations (f. for feminine) and common quotation abbreviations (c. for "circa").