All The Tropes:Style Guide

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This page documents the house style for All The Tropes. If you have a question about how to write and present information, you should find answers here.[1]

These rules aren't perfect, nor do they cover all situations. As such, these aren't official policy, but more like guidelines. However, like all style guides, it's a good idea to know the rules before you break them.

Also, we inherited a lot of badly-formatted pages from TV Tropes. It has been, and will continue to be, the work of years to find and fix them all, and we're nowhere near done yet. Following the guidelines below will help the wiki by not adding to the workload.


tl;dr:

There is no "tl;dr" -- if you've been pointed at this page, read all of it. If you've been directed here by a staff member and continue to make these mistakes, expect a mod to temporarily remove the distraction of editing for you so you have the time to read it.


The Basics

All The Tropes aims to present a casual but reliable image. Please write in third person, without using Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness or being formal. (This is a wiki, not a classroom.)

Short paragraphs are good for showing a casual style. If people have to read through a Wall of Text, most of them will give up partway through. "Casual" includes knowing when to give people a chance to catch their breath.

The first time you mention the name of the work, trope, or creator on the page, please markup the name in boldface. Select the text and click or tap the "B" character at the top of the editing window.

Any time you mention the name of a work - any work - please highlight the work name. If it's a book, movie, TV show, or record album, please markup the name in italics - select the text and click or tap the "I" character at the top of the editing window. If it's some other type of work, please surround it in double-quotes (the " character) if you're using American English or single-quotes (the ' character) if you're using British English. This can (and should, please) be combined with the boldface markup that should be used the first time a work page's title is mentioned on the page. See "Italics, Boldface, and Other Emphasis" below for more on this.

Please also use italics, not all-caps, for emphasis. Since the days of UseNet, all-caps has meant "shouting" on the 'net, and most people avoid shouting in casual conversation.

Page Titles

Capitalization

Capitalization of trope names follows our style of titlecase:

  • Capitalize all major words, and both words in hyphenated compounds.
  • Always capitalize the first word of a title, and any word after a colon or dash.
  • Conjunctions (and/or/nor), articles (a, an, the), and short prepositions (on, in, to, by, for, at, of, as, etc.) should be lowercased.
  • Longer prepositions (4 or more letters) should be capitalized (with, from, whereas, etc.).

Capitalization of page titles for works should match the original marketing as nearly as possible -- and preferably the English-language marketing. (If you're uncertain, copying the page name Wikipedia uses is usually safe, plus it will make the Wikipedia tab found in the "work" and "creator" page templates work perfectly.)

Language

If the original language does not use the Latin alphabet (A-Z), the English-language marketing name should be used instead. Only if there is no English-language marketing name should the title be transliterated to the English equivalent. (This is an English-language wiki; pages about works with English-language marketing names should use the English-language names for the convenience of casual readers.) For example, we use the English title Journey to the West, not the original Chinese title 西遊記. However, feel free to create a redirect for the name of the work in its native language to the name of the work in English.

Japanese text, which is littered around this site, has a few more helpful rules for transliterations of titles.

  • Lowercase mid-sentence particles (ga, wa, no) and write them as separate words.
  • For sentence ending particles (yo, zo, ze, wa), either agglutinate them to the previous word (no space), or capitalize.
  • Honorifics should be lowercase, and be joined to their noun with a hyphen (e.g. Sakura-chan).
  • Given a choice, please use Hepburn romanization. All The Tropes is not a scholarly-linguistics site, so we prefer to use the romanization system that "sounds like" the Japanese words (e.g. "bimbogami", not "bimbokami".)

Page boilerplate

We have a large selection of boilerplates that you can use to make a new page look like other pages on All The Tropes.

Typically, you'll find something appropriate in the dropdown menu, or it will preload when you select something from the Add Page menu. But if that doesn't work, you'll find something on All The Tropes:Creating a Page by Hand that you can use to do things the hard way.

External Links

Potholes are good, while sinkholes are bad.

Potholes are essential on external links. Over half of the people who read All The Tropes use devices that do not allow hovering over links. Thus, if we give them a link like [1], they have no way of knowing whether that's a poorly-coded link to a page on All The Tropes, a Wikipedia page, a YouTube video, a documentation page for the entire internet, a link to malware, or something else altogether. Providing a quick description is preferred, like this: An "example.com" link is itself an example of a link.

Whatever you do, don't just drop the URL into the text of a page without any markup at all. This is called a "bare URL", and while the wiki software will recognize it and turn it into a clickable link, it's sloppy and lazy and makes you -- and by extension the wiki -- look bad.

To summarize:

Finally, don't link to TV Tropes for any reason. Some of the staff there still go into frothing apoplexy at the very thought of All The Tropes' mere existence, and we don't want to stress the poor simple dears any more than they already are. If we absolutely need to link to TV Tropes (such as on the work page for that site), a mod has already done so.

Internal Links (Wicks)

When it comes to links to other pages on the wiki, the guidelines are a little different -- and for the most part, looser, mainly because you can't make an internal link quite as confusing or unintelligible as an external link can be without really working at it.

The only real style requirements exist for work names. Wherever possible, a work name should also be a link. This requires that you use the name of a work as it appears on the work page, matching punctuation and capitalization exactly. That's usually not to hard to determine -- if you don't already know it off the top of your head, you can use the wiki's search function to find it. (However, always click through a search result. You may have found a disambiguation or franchise page or a redirect and not the actual work page; clicking through will make sure you get to the right name, eventually.)

Once you have the right name, insert it into your edit with the appropriate markup. Right off the bat, of course, it should be in link markup ([[ and ]]).

Of course, we don't have a page for every existing work on the wiki. But even if there isn't a page for it here, we still want the work name to be a link -- it might inspire another troper to write that page. So if you can't find a page, mark up the work name as a link anyway.

Most work names should then be put italics markup (two single quotes/apostrophes before and after the link markup). There are exceptions to this -- short stories, individual songs, and other short-format works get double quotes instead of italics -- but in general italics are a safe choice.

Sometimes you might think it's necessary (or more attractive) to use a pothole with a work name. For instance, the Harry Potter novels are all described on subpages under Harry Potter, like Harry Potter/Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone; potholing that link to Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone just looks better. Go ahead and do that. Just be careful not to misspell or otherwise mangle the work name in the pothole.

Again, Potholes are good, while sinkholes are bad. Potholes and Sinkholes where different parts of the same word link to different pages are horrid - there's no way for a casual reader to know (or even suspect) that there's more than one link in the word. Unless you happen to take advantage of the wiki's color-coded internal links, but then it looks ridiculous.

In short, your work links should generally look like

''[[The Amazing Adventures of Wiki-Man!]]''

when you're typing them into the editor.

Section Headers

MediaWiki is capable of displaying five levels of headers, analogous to HTML's "H2" through "H6". (The equivalent to H1 is reserved for page titles.) To mark text as a section header of a given level, put that many equals signs in a row before and after the text. Also, there should be nothing else on a line that has header text.

The headers are designed to be "nested"; that is, an H2 should come before the H3s that are subsets of the same topic, an H3 should come before the H4s that are subsets of the same subtopic, and so on. While you won't break the wiki by ignoring this, not nesting the headers as expected does nasty things to some screen-reader software and thus limits how much of the wiki blind people can access. Besides, it looks ugly. (Due to a bug in our import software back in 2013, a lot of pages were brought in with their header levels inverted. Almost all of them have been fixed over the ensuing years, but occasionally one pops up that we missed; if you come across one of these, please fix it!)

Since all headers on a page appear in that page's table of contents, section headers should not be used as a replacement for boldface. (Yes, we know we have hundreds if not thousands of pages, especially Characters subpages, where they are used this way; these pages were inherited from TV Tropes. If you see a page like this, please fix it!)

A special note on the "References" and "Notes" headers: We are not Wikipedia. If we wanted to look like Wikipedia, we would have added the References header to the "reflist" template years ago. Don't add "== References ==" or "== Notes ==" to any of our Trope, Work, or Creator pages or their subpages.

Alphabetization

We follow standard alphabetization rules when sorting lists into alphabetical order. For our purposes, these boil down to:

  • The space character counts, and comes before everything else when it matters. That means "any time" sorts before "anybody".
  • Ignore punctuation at the start of the list item. "Alone with Prisoner" Ploy will sort between Alien Abduction and Alpha Bitch.
    • Punctuation and other symbols (#, @, etc.) that appear after the first character come after the space but before numbers.
  • Numerals (0-9) come after symbols and before letters.
  • It should go without saying, but the order is not case-sensitive. "AA" comes before "ab"; "aa" comes before "AB".
  • Finally, ignore articles ("a", "an" and "the"). This means The Cape (trope) will sort between Can't Argue with Elves and Car Bomb.

If you want more detail, see our page on How to Alphabetize Things.

Hatnotes

Readers familiar with Wikipedia have probably seen at least one "hatnote" there - a line of text (usually in italics) at the top of a page that points out other pages with similar names as a quick disambiguation method. Unlike Wikipedia, we treat all cases of disambiguation equally; we do not select specific works or tropes as the "primary topic" (AKA the "main" page) for a given name and use hatnotes to redirect to alternatives.

Although All The Tropes does not use Wikipedia-style hatnotes, we do sometimes incorporate similar linking to alternate page choices in the main text of an article, usually just before the trope or example list, in a form like "If you're looking for the video game of the same name, go here" or the infamous "Not to be confused with". Be careful with the latter usage, though, because it is often employed for humorous purposes.

For more information about hatnotes, please see our page on Creating Disambiguation Pages.

Italics, Boldface, and Other Emphasis

When writing text for a wiki page, do not use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS for emphasis. This may be a necessity in plain text files or email, but the wiki has full font support like any other web page. Repeating what we said above in "The Basics": Since the days of UseNet, all-caps has meant "shouting" on the 'net. Please don't shout at our readers.

Any kind of emphasis you want to make should default to mixed or lower case in italics. Italics markup, as noted elsewhere on this page, is accomplished with two single quotes/apostrophes before and after the text to be emphasized.

Also, please don't use boldface (generated with three single quotes) for emphasis. Bold text should be reserved for emphasis within block-quotes that are already in italics and for minor subheads in the main text. Also, the first time a work page mentions the work's name in its text, the name should be marked up in bold and italics (unless it's a short story or a single song, in which case it should be in boldface and quotes). There are almost no other cases when boldface is an appropriate style choice.

Finally, do not put the trope links in a work's trope list in italics or bold. If a trope needs special attention brought to it, do it with the description.

For more information on how to mark up text on a page (as opposed to when or why), see Help:Formatting.

Abbreviations, Ampersands, etc.

In general, do not abbreviate, and do not use ampersand (&) in place of "and". Exceptions:

  • The work name uses an abbreviation or an ampersand.
  • "Live-Action TV" for "Live-Action Television" in headers.

Not everyone is going to know what you think is an "obvious" abbreviation or acronym. There have been examples which we inherited from TV Tropes that were so filled with obscure and idiosyncratic abbreviations that they were all but unintelligible, and which took hours of research to decode into something readable. This kind of writing does not serve our core value of communicating clearly. If it's not a common term such as "etc." or "i.e.", spell it out clearly. Never assume the reader will know what an abbreviation means.

And don't Pothole an abbreviation to what it means. If you can be bothered to code a potholed link, use the name of the page you're linking to, not an abbreviation.

In all cases if the title of a work employs a usage that conflicts with these style rules (for instance, Dungeons & Dragons), we do not correct the title.

Numbers and Numerals

We follow the Chicago Manual of Style when it comes to numerals and numbers. The default Chicago style for numbers one through one hundred is to spell them out. Use numerals for 101 and larger numbers. Also use numerals for years, times and percentages.

When writing ordinal numerals, do not abbreviate: "first", not "1st"; "second", not "2nd".

Approximate age ranges and decades are written without apostrophes: "He was in his 30s in the 1980s", not "He was in his 30's in the 1980's".

In all cases if the title of a work employs a usage that conflicts with these style rules (for instance, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell or the film 42nd Street), we do not correct the title.

Footnotes

Another way in which we differ from Wikipedia's usage is that we don't use footnotes to cite primary sources. Do not write examples as nothing more than a short phrase with a footnote to an off-site page -- if you do, it's likely to get deleted as a Zero Context Example. All The Tropes is about analyzing the use of tropes in works; where's the analysis in that? Take the time to summarize whatever you wanted the linked page to communicate. The result will be a much better example, and you can still include the link in the text, perhaps potholed to a phrase like, "As can be seen here".

  1. If you don't find a relevant answer here, please ask User:Robkelk, who is by default in charge of All The Tropes's documentation.