Policy:Manual of Style

Green check.svg.png Official BattleTechWiki Policy
This page documents an official BattleTechWiki policy, a widely accepted standard that should normally be followed by all Editors. Any edit to it should reflect consensus. Consider discussing potential changes on the talk page first.


Nutshell.png This page in a nutshell: Attempt as much as possible to the following English language guidelines when creating and editing BattleTechWiki articles.


This article details stylistic elements that all editors should incorporate to help present a uniform style for all BattleTechWiki articles.

The English language[edit]

There are many different countries that speak and write in English, leading to different spellings of some words. Since BattleTech is created by an American company, it is most appropriate to write articles using American spelling and grammar. Editors who are familiar with other methods of spelling are not mandated to write articles in 'American' English since they are unfamiliar with it, but the article should be converted to American style by those that do.

Article titles[edit]

Article titles should be in the form of a singular noun, such as BattleMech.

Capitalization[edit]

Standard grammatical rules should be followed with regards to capitalization. Should emphasis be needed, it should be given in the form of italics or boldface, not all caps.

Correct - BattleMechs are not robots.
Incorrect - BattleMechs are NOT robots.

The families ruling the five Successor States should be referred to with capitals, i.e. House Davion, House Kurita, House Liao, House Marik, and House Steiner.

Abbreviations[edit]

When writing an article, write out the full name and only use abbreviations in subsequent mentions. When editing an article, be careful to ensure that at least the first mention is written out. For example, any reference to House Davion's preeminent university should first be "New Avalon Institute of Science," while only subsequent mentions should be abbreviated as "NAIS." This means that no page should ever have an abbreviated and linked word/phrase, unless that is the sole name for it (e.g. ROM).

Boldface[edit]

Most commonly, the article's subject is stated as early as possible in the first sentence, and placed in boldface:

Nueva Castile is a small proto-state residing within the Deep Periphery.

Only the first occurrence of this word or term is placed in boldface. Additionally, if the subject of the article is often (or previously) known with an additional name (and has a redirect pointing to the article), it is common for that alternate name to appear in boldface in its first occurrence:


The Binary Laser Cannon, was a laser weapon previously considered ineffectual, but began to be reconsidered following the re-introduction of double heat sinks. The Binary Laser Cannon is also known informally as the Blazer.

Italics[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Policy:Italics.

Italics have several uses.

  1. Sparingly for emphasis.
  2. To indicate a specific BattleMech, OmniMech, aerospace fighter, DropShip, WarShip, and JumpShip designs, such as Dire Wolf, Avalon, and Shilone. Italics should also be used for specific names of vehicles of all types, such as Kerensky's Blues and Prometheus.
  3. Non-English words.
  4. Titles of books.

Ensure that, when italicizing a linked word or phrase, the wiki markup for the italics go outside the brackets for a link. For example, Emperor is ''[[Emperor]]''.

Tables[edit]

Tables are perfect for organizing any information that is best presented in a row-and-column format.

Often a list is best left as a list. Before you format a list in table form, consider whether the information will be more clearly conveyed by virtue of having rows and columns. If so, then a table is probably a good choice. If there is no obvious benefit to having rows and columns, then a table is probably not the best choice.

Tables should not be used simply for layout, either. If the information you are editing is not tabular in nature, it probably does not belong in a table: Try not to use tables for putting a caption under a photograph, arranging a group of links, or other strictly visual features. It makes the article harder to edit. Also, when compared with tables, wikimarkup is more flexible, easier to use, and less esoteric when used for desktop publishing, page elements, and page orientation and positioning.

Punctuation[edit]

Quotation marks[edit]

The term quotation(s) in the material below also includes other uses of quotation marks such as those for titles of songs, chapters, and episodes; unattributable aphorisms; literal strings; "scare-quoted" passages and constructed examples.

Double or single
Quotations are enclosed within "double quotes". Quotations within quotations are enclosed within 'single quotes'.
Inside or outside
Punctuation marks are placed inside the quotation marks only if the sense of the punctuation is part of the quotation; this system is referred to as logical quotation.
Correct: Arthur said that the situation is "deplorable".
(When a sentence fragment is quoted, the period is outside.)
Correct: Arthur said, "The situation is deplorable."
(The period is part of the quoted text.)
Correct: Martha asked, "Are you coming?"
(When quoting a question, the question mark belongs inside because the quoted text itself was a question.)
Correct: Did Martha say, "Come with me"?
(The very quote is being questioned, so here, the question mark is correctly outside; the period in the original quote is omitted.)
Note: Some other style manuals endorse always placing ending periods and commas before, rather than after, a closing quotation mark; this system is referred to as typesetters' quotation because many typographers favor it for aesthetic reasons. Wikipedia uses logical quotation because, as an encyclopedia, it requires high standards of accuracy in the use of source material, and because logical quotation is less prone to misquotation, ambiguity, and the introduction of coding and other errors.
Article openings
When the title of an article appearing in the lead paragraph requires quotation marks (for example, the title of a song or poem), the quotation marks should not be in boldface, as they are not part of the title:
Correct: "Jabberwocky" is a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll.
Block quotes
Use quotation marks or block quotes (not both) to distinguish long quotations from other text. Multiparagraph quotations are always block-quoted.
Whenever quotation marks or apostrophes appear in article titles, make a redirect from the same title but using the alternative glyphs.
Other matters
  • A quotation is not italicized simply because it is a quotation.
  • If an entire sentence is quoted in such a way that it becomes a grammatical part of the larger sentence, the first letter loses its capitalization ("It turned out to be true that 'a penny saved is a penny earned'.").
  • If a word or phrase appears in an article in single quotes, such as 'abcd', the search facility will find that word or phrase only if the search string is also within single quotes. This difficulty does not arise for double quotes, and this is one of the reasons the latter are recommended.

Brackets and parentheses[edit]

A bracketed phrase is enclosed by the punctuation of a sentence (as shown here). However, where one or more sentences are wholly inside brackets, their punctuation comes inside the brackets (see further details below). These rules apply to both round "( )" brackets, often called parentheses, and square "[ ]" brackets. There should not be a space next to a bracket on its inner side. An opening bracket should be preceded by a space, except in unusual cases; for example, when it is preceded by:

  • An opening quotation mark
He rose to address the meeting: "(Ahem) ... Ladies and gentlemen, welcome!"
  • Another opening bracket
Only the royal characters in the play ([Prince] Hamlet and his family) habitually speak in blank verse.
  • A portion of a word
We journeyed on the Inter[continental].

There should be a space after a closing bracket, except where another punctuation mark (other than an apostrophe or a hyphen) follows, and in unusual cases similar to those listed for opening brackets.

If sets of brackets must be nested, use the contrasting type (normally, square brackets appear within round brackets [like this]). Often, it is better to revise the sentence to reduce clutter, using commas, semicolons, colons or dashes instead.

Avoid adjacent sets of brackets—either put the parenthetic phrases in one set separated by commas, or rewrite the sentence. For example:

Incorrect:    Nikifor Grigoriev (c. 1885–1919) (also known as Matviy Hryhoriyiv) was a Ukrainian insurgent leader.
Correct: Nikifor Grigoriev (c. 1885–1919), also known as Matviy Hryhoriyiv, was a Ukrainian insurgent leader.
Correct: Nikifor Grigoriev (c. 1885–1919) was a Ukrainian insurgent leader. He was also known as Matviy Hryhoriyiv.

Square brackets are used to indicate editorial replacements and insertions of text. They serve three main purposes:

  • To clarify. ("She attended [secondary] school"—where this was the intended meaning, but the type of school was unstated in the original sentence.)
  • To reduce the size of a quotation. If a source says "X contains Y, and under certain circumstances, X may contain Z as well", it is acceptable to reduce this to "X contains Y [and sometimes] Z", without ellipsis. When an ellipsis (...; see below) is used to indicate material removed from a direct quotation, it should not normally be bracketed.
  • To make the grammar work: "She said that '[she] would not allow this' "—where her original statement was "I would not allow this." (Generally, though, it is better to begin the quotation after the problematic word: "She said that she 'would not allow this.' ")

The use of square-bracketed wording should never alter the intended meaning of a quotation.

Sentences and brackets[edit]

  • If any sentence includes material that is enclosed in square or round brackets, it still must end—with a period, or a question or exclamation mark—after those brackets (a rule that applies in all English, whether British or U.S.). The preceding sentence is itself an example. This principle applies no matter what punctuation is used within the brackets.
  • Normally, if the words of a sentence begin within brackets, the sentence must also end within those brackets. (This sentence is an example.) There is an exception for matter that is added or modified editorially at the beginning of a sentence for clarity, usually in square brackets: " '[Principal Skinner] already told me that,' he objected."
  • A sentence that occurs within brackets in the course of another sentence does not have its first word capitalized just because it starts a sentence. The enclosed sentence may have a question mark or exclamation mark added, but not a period: "Alexander then conquered (who would have believed it?) most of the known world"; "Clare demanded that he drive (she knew he hated driving) to the supermarket." These constructions are usually best avoided, for readability.

Serial commas[edit]

There is no consensus on whether to use the serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma or Harvard comma), except where including or omitting such comma clarifies the meaning. A serial comma is a comma used immediately before a conjunction in a list of three or more items: the phrase ham, chips, and eggs contains a serial comma, while the variant ham, chips and eggs omits it.

Sometimes omitting the comma can lead to an ambiguous sentence, as in this example: The author would like to thank her parents, Sinéad O'Connor and President Bush, which may be a list of either four or two people.

Including the comma can also cause ambiguity, as in: The author would like to thank her mother, Sinéad O'Connor, and President Bush, which may be a list of either two or three people.

In such cases of ambiguity, there are three ways to clarify:

  • Use or omit the serial comma to avoid ambiguity.
  • Recast the sentence.
  • Format the list, e.g. with paragraph breaks and numbered paragraphs.

Colons[edit]

A colon informs the reader that what comes after it proves, explains, or modifies what has come before, or is a list alluded to before. More specifically, the colon is an introduction that warns the reader to be prepared for a closely related construction that is about to follow: this following segment may be the elements of a set illustrating the statement, or the logical consequence or effect of a fact stated before, or another closely related modifying sentence, or a direct speech in combination with quotation marks.

Colons (:) should not have spaces before them:

Correct: He attempted it in two years: 1941 and 1943
Incorrect:    He attempted it in two years : 1941 and 1943

Colons should have complete sentences before them:

Correct: He attempted it in two years: 1941 and 1943
Incorrect:    The years he attempted it included: 1941 and 1943

Hyphens[edit]

Hyphens (-) indicate conjunction. There are three main uses.

  1. To distinguish between homographs (re-dress = dress again, but redress = remedy or set right).
  2. To link certain prefixes with their main word (non-linear, sub-section, super-achiever):
    There is a clear trend, not yet complete, to join both elements in all varieties of English (subsection), particularly in North America (nonlinear). British English tends to hyphenate when the letters brought into contact are the same (nonlinear, subabdominal, but non-negotiable, sub-basement) or are vowels (intra-atomic, pre-existing, pre-industrial, semi-intensive, co-opt), or where a word is uncommon (co-proposed, re-target) or may be misread (sub-era, not subera). North American English reflects the same factors, but tends strongly to close up without a hyphen when possible. Consult a good dictionary, and see WP:ENGVAR.
  3. To link related terms in compound adjectives and adverbs:
    • A hyphen can help with ease of reading (face-to-face discussion, hard-boiled egg); a hyphen is particularly useful in long nominal groups where non-experts are part of the readership, such as in Wikipedia's scientific articles: gas-phase reaction dynamics.
    • A hyphen can help to disambiguate (little-used car, not a reference to the size of a used car).
    • Many compound adjectives that are hyphenated when used attributively (before the noun they qualify—a light-blue handbag), are not hyphenated when used predicatively (after the noun—the handbag was light blue). Where there would be a loss of clarity, the hyphen may be used in the predicative case (hand-fed turkeys, the turkeys were hand-fed).
    • A hyphen is not used after an -ly adverb (wholly owned subsidiary) unless part of a larger compound (a slowly-but-surely strategy).
    • A hyphen is normally used when the adverb well precedes a participle used attributively (a well-meaning gesture; but normally a very well managed firm, since well itself is modified); and even predicatively, if well is necessary to, or alters, the sense of the adjective rather than simply intensifying it (the gesture was well-meaning, the child was well-behaved, but the floor was well polished).
    • A hanging hyphen is used when two compound adjectives are separated (two- and three-digit numbers, a ten-car or -truck convoy).
    • Values and units used as compound adjectives are hyphenated only where the unit is given as a whole word. Where hyphens are not used, values and units are always separated by a non-breaking space ( ).
Incorrect: 9-mm gap
Correct: 9 mm gap (entered as 9 mm gap)
Incorrect:    9 millimetre gap
Correct: 9-millimetre gap
Correct: 12-hour shift
Correct: 12 h shift

A hyphen is never followed or preceded by a space, except when hanging or when used to display parts of words independently, such as the prefix sub- and the suffix -less.

A hyphen is used only to mark conjunction—not to mark disjunction (for which en dashes are correct: see below).

Hyphenation involves many subtleties that cannot be covered here; the rules and examples presented above illustrate the broad principles that inform current usage.

Dashes[edit]

Two kinds of dash are used.

En dashes[edit]

En dashes (–) have four distinct roles.

  1. To indicate disjunction. In this role there are two main applications.
    • To convey the sense of to or through, particularly in ranges (pp. 211–19, 64–75%, the 1939–45 war, May–November) and where movement is involved (Dublin–Belfast route). The word to, rather than an en dash, is used when a number range involves a negative value or might be misconstrued as a subtraction (−3 to 1, not −3–1), or when the nearby wording demands it (he served from 1939 to 1941, not he served from 1939–1941).
    • As a substitute for some uses of and, to or versus for marking a relationship involving independent elements in certain compound expressions (Canada–US border, blood–brain barrier, time–altitude graph, 4–3 win in the opening game, male–female ratio, 3–2 majority verdict, Michelson–Morley experiment, diode–transistor logic; but a hyphen is used in Mon-Khmer languages, which marks no specific relationship, and in Sino-Japanese trade, in which Sino-, being a prefix, lacks lexical independence.
      • Spacing: All disjunctive en dashes are unspaced, except when there is a space within either or both of the items (the New York – Sydney flight; the New Zealand – South Africa grand final; July 3, 1888 – August 18, 1940, but July–August 1940).
  2. For negative signs and subtraction operators, as an alternative to the usually slightly shorter minus sign, (input with −). Negative signs (–8 °C) are unspaced; subtraction signs (42 – 4 = 38) are spaced. The en dash was the traditional typographic symbol for this operator, but now that Unicode defines a character for this specific use, the minus is preferred. In contexts such as computer code, where the text is intended to be copied and executed or evaluated, the ordinary hyphen works better and is preferred.
  3. In lists, to separate distinct information within points—particularly track titles and durations, and musicians and their instruments, in articles on music albums. In this role, en dashes are always spaced.
  4. As a stylistic alternative to em dashes (see below).

Hyphens are often wrongly used for disjunction; this is especially common in sports scores.

Em dashes[edit]

Em dashes (—) indicate interruption. They are used in two roles.

  1. Parenthesis (Wikipedia—one of the most popular web sites—has the information you need). Here, a pair of em dashes is a more arresting way of interpolating a phrase or clause than a pair of commas, and is less of an interruption than brackets. A pair of em dashes is particularly useful where there are already many commas; em dashes can make such a sentence easier to read, and sometimes they can remove ambiguity.
  2. A sharp break in the flow of a sentence—sharper than is provided by a colon or a semicolon.

Em dashes should not be spaced.

Because em dashes are visually striking, take care not to overuse them. A rule of thumb is to avoid more than two in a single paragraph, unless the paragraph is unusually long or the use of more than two em dashes would be logically cohesive. Rarely are there more than two em dashes in a single sentence, since their roles are then usually unclear.

Spaced en dashes as an alternative to em dashes

Spaced en dashes – such as here – can be used instead of unspaced em dashes in all of the ways discussed above. Spaced en dashes are used by several major publishers, to the complete exclusion of em dashes; style manuals more often prefer unspaced em dashes. One style should be used consistently in an article.

Other dashes[edit]

These are avoided on Wikipedia, notably the double-hyphen (--).

Spaces after the end of a sentence[edit]

There are no guidelines on whether to use one space or two (French spacing) after the end of a sentence, but the issue is not important, because the difference is only visible in the monospace edit boxes; it is ignored by browsers when displaying the article.

Slashes[edit]

Avoid joining two words by a slash (/, also known as a forward slash), as it suggests that the two are related, but does not specify how. It is often also unclear how the construct would be read aloud. Consider replacing a slash with an explanation, or adding one in a footnote. Where possible, reword more fully to avoid uncertainties.

An example: The parent/instructor must be present at all times. Must both be present? (Then write the parent and the instructor.) Must at least one be present? (Then write the parent or the instructor.) Are they the same person? (Use a hyphen: the parent-instructor.)

In circumstances involving a distinction or disjunction, the en dash is usually preferable to the slash, e.g., the novel–novella distinction.

An unspaced slash may be used:

  • to show pronunciations ("ribald is pronounced /ˈrıb·əld/")
  • to separate the numerator and denominator in a fraction (7/8)
  • to indicate regular defined yearly periods that do not coincide with calendar years
  • where slashes are used in a phrase outside of Wikipedia, and using a different construction would be inaccurate, unfamiliar or ambiguous

A spaced slash may be used:

  • to separate run-in lines of poetry or song (To be or not to be: that is the question: / Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune)
  • to separate any construction that can be separated with an unspaced slash when readability would be enhanced by doing so, most often when the items being separated are complex, such as involving a number of abbreviations, numbers; compare the NY 31 east / NY 370 exit with the NY 31 east/NY 370 exit.

Spaced slashes should be coded with a leading non-breaking space and a trailing normal space, e.g., x / y (which renders as x / y), to prevent line breaks introducing readability problems.

The backslash character, \, is never used in place of a slash.

In general prose, prefer ÷ to / when representing mathematical division.

And/or[edit]

The term and/or is usually awkward. In general, where it is important to mark an inclusive or, use x or y, or both, rather than x and/or y. For an exclusive or, use either x or y, and optionally add but not both, if it is necessary to stress the exclusivity.

Where more than two possibilities are presented, from which a combination is to be selected, it is even less desirable to use and/or. With two possibilities, at least the intention is clear; but with more than two it may not be. Instead of x, y, and/or z, use an appropriate alternative, such as one or more of x, y, and z; some or all of x, y, and z.

Sometimes or is ambiguous in another way: "Wild dogs, or dingoes, inhabit this stretch of land". Are wild dogs and dingoes the same or different? For one case write: "wild dogs (dingoes) inhabit ..." (dingoes are wild dogs); for the other case write: "either wild dogs or dingoes inhabit ..." (I don't know which).

Question marks and exclamation marks[edit]

  • Question and exclamation marks are never preceded by a space in normal prose.
  • The exclamation mark is used with restraint: it is an expression of surprise or emotion that is generally unsuited to a scholarly or encyclopedic register.
  • Clusters of question marks, exclamation marks, or a combination of them are highly informal and inappropriate in Wikipedia articles.

Numbers[edit]

Write out any number under 1,000. Use commas to aid in understanding every three spaces, e.g. 2,983,802,928.

Use decimal points to indicate numbers smaller than one, not commas, e.g. 19,394.09.


The text in this article is based on this revision of the Wikipedia article "Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style" used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. See the BattleTechWiki's copyright notice.