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Wikipedia: The Missing Manual by John Broughton

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Wiki Markup: From Edit Box to Screen

Earlier in this chapter, you learned how to create section headers, and to format text as bold or italic (see Figure 1-4). Such formatting is called wiki markup. As you continue through this book, you’ll learn about every type of markup you’re likely to encounter. As a new editor, though, you need to learn three things right away: to recognize the types of markup, how templates are used, and how to create links between articles.

Types of Markup

Besides headings, bold, and italic text, you’ll encounter the following types of markup as you edit articles:

  • {{pagename}} or {{pagename | info1 | info2 }} or {{pagename | this= info 1 | that= info2}}.The double curly brackets indicate a template. An example of a template appeared in Figure 1-3 and was discussed immediately thereafter (see page 7). Templates are discussed in more detail later in this chapter (Understanding and Using Templates).

  • [[Article name]] or [[Article name| other name]]. Double square brackets create internal links (wikilinks), which are hyperlinks between pages in Wikipedia. They’re described in the next section.

  • [http:url] or [http:url some text]. Single square brackets around a URL create external links. This formatting is discussed in Chapter 2, “Documenting Your Sources” (Chapter 2 to page 43).

  • <ref> text possibly with a URL </ref> and <references />. These are footnote tags—the text between the tags is the footnote itself—plus the instruction to Wikipedia as to where to display the footnotes. Footnotes are also described in detail in Chapter 2 (Two Styles of Footnotes).

  • <blockquote> text </blockquote> and <math> numbers and symbols</math>. In articles, you’ll find a few other types of paired tags besides the <ref> tags for footnotes; blockquote and math tags are among the more common. Tags normally come in pairs, and the ending tag must have a slash character (“/”) as its second character if it is to work properly.

    Tip

    One exception to the rule of pairs is the <br> tag that inserts a new line (for example, in a template). It’s just the single <br> tag with no closing tag. If you type <br/> or </br>, that does the same thing as <br>. (The “br” stands for “break,” as in “line break.”)

  • <!-- Your comment text goes here -->. This markup turns the text inside into an invisible comment; an example appears in Figure 1-3. “Invisible” means that the text doesn’t display in normal viewing mode; you can see it only in edit mode.

  • {| bunch of stuff with lots of vertical lines |}. This formatting creates a table. Chapter 14 goes into the details.

  • One or more rows starting with an “*” or a “#”. These characters create lists within an article (the “#” numbers the list, while the “*” just puts a bullet at the beginning of a line). Chapter 14 goes into the details.

  • [[Category:Name]]. This markup looks like a wikilink, and it is, in a way, but it puts a category link at the bottom of a page. Chapter 19 goes into the details.

How to Create Internal Links

Linking one article to another is very easy—with good reason. Links to other articles can add a lot of value to an article because readers can follow the links whenever they come across a word they don’t know a lot about. Good places to add internal links include the lead sections of articles and at the beginning of new sections within articles. A reader should always be able to get to important, related articles via a link.

In the edit box, just place paired square brackets around the name of the article you want to link to, for example: [[Winston Churchill]]. Figure 1-10 shows the sandbox again, in preview mode with some internal links sprinkled in.

Compare what’s been typed into the edit box (bottom) to what’s in the preview portion of the page (top).

Figure 1-10. Compare what’s been typed into the edit box (bottom) to what’s in the preview portion of the page (top).

Another kind of internal link—a piped link—is extremely useful for situations where naming varies by country. For example, you’ve typed the following sentence in your article: “San Francisco has an extensive public transportation system,” and you want to link the words “public transportation” to the relevant article. Trouble is, there’s no article in Wikipedia named “public transportation.” There is, however, an article named “public transport,” which was probably written by someone who speaks British English. You don’t care what it’s called, you just want your readers to be able to go to that article. Here’s how to create the link while having the article read “public transportation”: San Francisco has an extensive [[public transport|public transportation]] system.

Understanding and Using Templates

As mentioned on 3, if you go into edit mode and see some text surrounded by two curly brackets, like this: {{pagename}}, you’re looking at a template. A template tells the software to get text and formatting instructions from another place and insert that formatted text into the article when the article is displayed.

Here’s a common example: If you see the {{fact}} template in the edit box when you’re editing an article, it’s telling the software to go to the page [[Template:Fact]], get the text there (including formatting), and insert that text into the article when the article is displayed for readers. The {{fact}} template, displays the following text: [citation needed].

Templates are widespread for a number of reasons:

  • Consistency. Every cleanup template looks the same, each type of infobox (???) looks the same, and so on. Editors don’t have to constantly figure out how to present a particular type of information in an article.

  • Time savings. You don’t have to type out standard information, and you don’t have to know how to format information in standard ways (such as superscript or message boxes). You just have to find out the name of the template and put it in double curly brackets. The software does the rest.

  • Automatic updating. If the Wikipedia community decides to change a template, changing just one page—the template page itself—automatically changes what’s displayed on every other page that uses the template. (High-use templates are protected from being changed by normal editors, to prevent easily-done extensive vandalism.)

  • Categorization. Templates can include text that puts a page into a category (see Chapter 18). Then you and other editors can go to the category page to find, for example, all articles that have been categorized as needing copyediting.

Templates are everywhere in Wikipedia. In this book, you’ll find discussions about templates in a number of chapters, for example:

That’s a lot of uses of templates, and that’s just in the first 11 chapters. At the moment, you just need to know these two main principles of templates:

  • Templates add text and formatting, which are stored on another page. To add a template to an article, you type its name between double curly brackets, at the place in the wikitext where you want the template to appear.

  • If the template contains parameters, you can edit the text that has been added to those parameters just like you can edit other text in the article, without understanding any of the complexities of templates. For example, take a look at Figure 1-11, which shows a template with a lot of parameters:

    A common use for templates is infoboxes. Here’s the infobox template for the article Winnowill, viewed in edit mode, on the top, and what it actually looks like in the article, on the bottom. The template has 15 parameters; the first two are for putting an image into the infobox, and are not being used here.

    Figure 1-11. A common use for templates is infoboxes. Here’s the infobox template for the article Winnowill, viewed in edit mode, on the top, and what it actually looks like in the article, on the bottom. The template has 15 parameters; the first two are for putting an image into the infobox, and are not being used here.

In Figure 1-11, each parameter has a name that ends with an equal sign. The infobox will display only the text that follows the equal signs. You can edit text that appears after the equal signs, including adding text, but don’t mess around with a parameter name. Also, be careful not to delete or add a parameter separator (the vertical bar symbol “|”), which marks the beginning of each parameter.

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