CZ:Article mechanics

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See also content policy.

Citizendium aims to build a body of articles that introduce their topics in an accessible, yet authoritative, way. An article is not a mere summary or list of information, but a connected piece of prose, meant to be read all the way through. Articles must be selective in what they present, but need not be brief; they should say what they need to as clearly as possible, in a concise and interesting way.

Opening section

The opening section should always be introductory, so the heading "Introduction" is unnecessary. The first paragraph usually begins with a definition, and we bold the title of the article in the first sentence, e.g.: "Philosophy is an abstract, intellectual discourse..." The first paragraph should contain a concise and neutral answer to "Why is this topic important (or interesting)?" If the topic is a person, say what the person is best known for; if an event, summarize its impact; if a place, describe what makes it notable. The rest of the opening section should give the background needed for understanding the rest of the article. The opening section can be a ‘’summary’’ of the article, but a brief outline of the article structure may be better if the article is very long.

The article body

Generally, articles need a plan that lends coherence and flow and invites readers to keep reading. A task of editors is to help plan articles, and this may be discussed on the Talk page. Generally, major achievements of individuals should be presented before minor ones; the basic tenets of a theory before derivative ones; and earlier events before later ones.

Section titles

Section headings help both readers and authors, but too many can be ugly and distracting. A well-organized narrative is this "Biology" article.

Standardized information

If there is to be an article about every species of snake, it is convenient to have a standard structure. When beginning an article, authors should check articles on closely related themes to see if a standard structure has already been established by others. Citizendium workgroups will ultimately settle on any such standard practices.


See Help:Citation style. We expect citations in about the same quantity as in academic encyclopedias. Citations are not usually needed for information that is common knowledge among experts. But the following categories of claims generally do need citation:

  • direct quotations
  • claims with unique sources (such as survey results, or the finding of a particular paper)
  • implausible-sounding but well-established claims
  • claims central to the article

Wherever possible, give an online link for any reference, at least to the abstract (via, for example, a PubMed reference.)

Rather than use several references in one sentence, it may be better to include several sources in one citation.

It is important to give full citation credit to imported illustrations, where for example these are imported from open-access journals.


See CZ:Definitions. Every page should have a subpage/Definition that only contains a short sentence explaining the topic of the page:

  • Maximum one sentence (no more than 30 words/150 characters, ignoring formatting characters).
  • Don't include the term defined in the definition itself.
  • Start the text with a capital letter and end with a period. (Use a semicolon, if necessary, in between, but no period.)

This definition is mainly used on the /Related Pages subpage where

{{r|number}} and {{r|no number}}


If there is a main page, but no /Metadata page (e.g., if the page is a redirect), the template shows the link in boldface. A special case of this is a lemma article, which is an article that has a main page containing only the {{subpages}} template. In this case, the /Definition is transcluded to the page:

  • Foo lemma [r]: This example of a lemma has only a definition page and an article page with the subpages template. The article transcludes the text from the definition page. The link to the article, when using the R template is shown in black to indicate it has no more content that the definition which can already be seen. [e]

A definition intended for a lemma article may be longer than a "normal" definition. Lemma articles may have Related Articles, Bibliography and External Links subpages, which must not have the {{subpages}} template. At any time, a lemma article may be converted to a regular article; at that point, part of a long definition usually will move to the main page.


See CZ:Article structure#Metadata

Organizational and technical information related to a page is stored on a special template page Template:ArticleName/Metadata: Title, title for alphabetization, workgroups, status, approval data, etc. It also contains the workgroup categories. (Please note that categories are only used for administrative purposes.)


Factual material, where there is no real narrative flow, may be best presented in subpages. The standard subpages will always include:

Related articles subpage

This connects each article with related articles and offers greater insight into the underlying conceptual structure of the encyclopedia. Related Articles subpages generally are organized into a few Parent Topics, which are more general topics within which the current article is located; Subtopics, which are aspects of the main topic worth separate discussion; and Related Topics are "close tangents" which take the discussion off in new directions. The article on World War I includes Parent Topics on War and Nationalism, Subtopics include famous battles such as Gallipoli and the Somme, and Related Articles include Trench warfare and Mustard gas.

Bibliography subpage

This is an annotated bibliography: books, articles and other material that are important and useful, clarifying why an item is listed ("one of the most commonly used texts in this field"; "the paper which originally defined the concept"). For example, historical topics may list and annotate the leading sources for information on a topic, and articles about authors may list their major works. If an item is available online, the annotation should provide the link. (Here are the citation templates.) How to write annotations is discussed by the Library of Congress publication Creating an Annotation.

Articles may also have a "Suggested reading" section at the end of the main article that presents 5-10 publications suitable for beginners, especially if they are on the web.

External links subpage

See CZ:External Links

External links should be neutrally annotated. Links to external websites should not be placed within articles but in footnotes. Link words and phrases to Citizendium articles rather than external sources of information --even if we still lack an article on the subject. We have rules against self-promotion (policy on topic informants), and contributors should not link to websites that they manage, unless it is very evident that the website is a leading and reliable source of information.

Optional subpages

See list of optional subpages

Many other subpages may be included; the current list of subpages includes Works, Discography, Filmography, Catalogs, Timelines, Gallery (Images), Audio and Video pages, Computer Code, Tutorials, Student-level discussions, Signed Article, Function, Addendum, Debate Guide, Advanced and Recipes.
There are also some article-specific subpages (for certain topics) which are not yet fully acknowledged.
Please note Categories are used for administrative purposes (workgroups, etc.) only. Lists of topics are compiled on appropriate /Catalogs subpages.

Miscellaneous style guidelines

See also Sage advice on writing CZ articles.

Craft articles for maximum readability. Many topics may be impossible for a non-specialist fully to understand, but if an advanced piece of text can be written to make it more accessible to nonspecialists, then it should be. Professionals are often accused of writing jargon that is decipherable only by people in their fields; our task is to "translate" the jargon into elegant prose.

Grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage

Strunk and White's Elements of Style is useful; the first edition is available here. For American English, please consult The Chicago Manual of Style for matters of formatting, punctuation, etc. and Garner's Dictionary of American English Usage for issues of usage. For British English, consult Fowler's Modern English Usage.

For usage of SI ("metric") units see the Physics Today guide for metric practice.

For physics oriented articles consult chapters III and IV of The American Physical Society Style Guide. (Pdf).


Main articles should not be a list of topics (even if annotated). The appropriate place for such material is either the Related Articles subpage or a Catalogs subpage. Such lists are not collected using categories (Categories are only used for administrative purposes).

Write lively prose, not "encyclopedese"

Writing an encyclopedia brings out a tendency in some writers to make prose dull--perhaps the influence of boring encyclopedia articles we read as children. But we can, and should, give our prose personality. Many writers today have taken William Strunk's pithy injunction, "Omit needless words," to heart. Tightening up flabby verbiage is one of the most needful improvements we can make, but we must not denature our prose entirely: we want our writing to be readable, not encyclopedese.

Another common stylistic rule would have us use simple Anglo-Saxon words rather than hifalutin, impressive-sounding words, but this does not mean that we should prefer a merely adequate word to a really apt word just because the apt word is a bit more obscure. Choose the familiar word rather than the obscure word, but the precise word rather than the loose word.

Link copiously, but relevantly

One strength of a wiki-based encyclopedia is the ease with which articles can link to other articles. Links permit serendipitous discoveries, and Citizendium encourages copious interlinking. But it is possible to take this advice to an absurd extreme--linking so many words that many inappropriate links are created, that distract rather than help. Remember that two consecutive links (of the same color) will run together as if they were one; it may be better to reword so the links are separated by a non-link word.

A general rule is:

If our target audience would find that the linked article illuminates the present article, then we should link to it.

It is important to add links to articles that do not yet exist -these help us see what articles are most needed: see Wanted Pages (linked on the left under toolbox > Special pages).

Link only the first use of a word or phrase, not every use--unless the word is particularly relevant to the point. Thus, the article about Abraham Lincoln might mention (and link to) the Emancipation Proclamation in its opening section, and also in the section about the Proclamation itself.


In general, avoid quotations longer than one sentence, and do not use many quotations in any one article. Quotations should not be used to “make an argument”; an argument is made by logic and reason, not by authority, and if a quote is used to support an argument by showing that important people agree with the point, then this is a misuse. However if notable people are identified with a particular argument, then it would be reasonable to quote them. For example, Richard Dawkins is a vocal proponent of Darwinism—it should not be presented as an argument for Darwinism that its proponents include Richard Dawkins, but as he has contributed extensively to the debate, to quote him would be a reasonable way of illustrating a section that describes his arguments.

Valid uses of quotes include (in biographical sections) to illustrate a person’s views; (in literature articles) to exemplify an author’s style; and (in many articles) to add colour and interest to an article. Be aware that, in some articles, using quotes can introduce a bias. Choose them with care, and consider redressing any bias by annotations, or by balancing quotes from other viewpoints.


There is one central conversion template, {{Convert}}. This can be used to convert between two units of measurement. To use it, write it out as you would speak the conversion. For example "Convert 10 inches to centimetres" would be written "{{Convert|10|in|cm}}" and would display as 10 in (25.4 cm).

More powerful features for individual conversions are found on individual templates. Each has additional parameters that determine such things as abbreviation, spelling, ranges, two dimensional, three dimensional, and whether or not to wiki-link the units of measurement. An example would be {{In to Cm}}. These should only be used if {{Convert}} does not support the feature you need.

A full list is at Category:Conversion templates

This is a policy summary. The complete document is here.

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