All The Tropes:Style Guide/Spoilers

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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"The secret of being a bore is to tell everything."

For our detailed policy page on the use of spoilers, see Handling Spoilers.

Spoilers are our stock-in-trade here at All The Tropes -- you can't talk about stories and plots without revealing the details of said stories and plots, which might ruin the experience for people who haven't yet had the chance to view that work.

To combat this, we have the spoiler tag markup:

{{spoiler|some text}}
makes some text.

To reveal the spoiler, simply select the text. On the gadgets page, you can either reveal all spoilers, or enable "hoverspoilers", which are revealed when you mouse over them.

Proper Use of Spoilers

Spoilers are necessary to avoid plot twists getting spoiled. A lot of people use this wiki to find new works to consume, so giving away the game ruins their enjoyment of the show.

Don't Overspoiler

The problem is that spoilers can be overused. Not every plot twist is so important that the plot will be ruined if a person reads about it. Even then, a Twist Ending may hit the statute of limitations to spoilers: It Was His Sled.

If you do think spoilers are appropriate, examples like this are plusungood:

  • Eddard Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire. Despite being one of the few truly good characters of the series, his rigid code of honour and loyalty to his dead friend lead to his downfall.

All of the meaning there is lost to the Fog of War Spoilers. Unless you read the spoiler, it's a Zero Context Example, and Examples Need Context.

Spoilers in the description text are especially bad. The description is where we tell people about the work, and everything in it should be readable. If something really is a spoiler, then don't put it in the description text.

Short Words

Putting too little in spoilers is also a problem. With short words, humans can easily guess what can fit in a blank. For example:

You can probably guess the gender above. Either mark a slightly longer section with spoiler tags, use a padding word, or rework the text. For instance, you can use the gender-neutral term "they" instead of English gendered-pronouns.

The same applies for any short words or names. Unless you have a work with Loads and Loads of Characters, it will probably be easy to guess. Most of us will do it unintentionally. So try to spoiler more than just a name, and avoid a single word like "dies".

  • Bad: It turns out Alice was the killer.
  • Better: It turns out Bob's friend, Alice, was the killer.

Avoiding Spoilers Entirely

Sometimes, especially in Story Arc-heavy shows, it just gets too unwieldy to explain exactly why something happens. If the fact that it did happen is enough to qualify for the trope, just put that it does, perhaps adding It Makes Sense in Context. That phrase is sort of a Take My Word for It, which kinda makes us the anti-Wikipedia, but we're more interested in effective analysis than sourcing everything.

That said, if you have enough for the example in normal text, and want to build Wall of Text explaining/justfying it in the spoiler, go for it.

Labeling Spoilers

Sometimes, it's good to describe the contents of a spoiler. External links to say, a webcomic, should warn if linking to plot-sensitive material.

You can also mark spoilers as belonging to a particular season, series, or Continuity Reboot of a work (like a Long Runner), so that people further back in the series can still enjoy troping.

Finally, places where unmarked spoilers abound should be tagged with {{Unmarked Spoilers}}, which outputs:

WARNING! There are unmarked Spoilers ahead. Beware.

Places not to use spoilers

  1. Most subpages with a lot of speculative content (WMG, Crowners, Headscratchers) assume familiarity with the work, and should not need spoiler tags.
  2. Other work subpages may have less spoilers than the main page.
  3. Certain tropes pages where the tropes are spoileriffic by nature. These tropes should be tagged with {{Unmarked Spoilers}}:
  4. Spoiler tagging the name of the work is worse than useless. If you do that, there's a special hell waiting for you.
  5. In referencing the ending to The Mousetrap.

Spoiler Markup

A normal spoiler looks like this, and has gadgets that control how it looks:

Normal Spoiler
Highlight to reveal!
{{spoiler| Highlight to reveal! }}

Sometimes, you might want to have completely hidden spoilered text. You can generally accomplish such things with HTML tags and CSS styles.

Stealth Text
<span style="color: white; background:white">CAN'T SEE ME</span>
Completely Invisible
<span style="color: transparent">HIDDEN TEXT</span>
Censor bar (appears inside of other spoilers)
<span style="color: black; background:black">CENSORED</span>

Select the above to see it. These should generally be used extremely sparingly.

And remember, no matter which technique you use to hide text, it'll show up in plain view in search engine results and will be read by text-to-speech software.

Unmarked Spoilers That Ought To Be Marked

Sadly, not all our users, nor TV Tropes' users before us, were as diligent as they should be, and as a result there are pages here that have spoilers right out in the open for everyone to see. We'd like to think that if you come across any, you'd take the time to properly mark them up as we've outlined above. But we realize that maybe you don't have the time, or you're not sure they are spoilers, or you're uncertain that you know how to do it properly (despite the guidelines above), or maybe you're just a lazy bastard. In cases like this, just put

{{fix spoilers}}
at the top of the page. This will foist the job off on someone else flag the page as probably needing spoiler markup and put it in a special category where it can be found by those looking to fix things.