Writing on a wiki proceeds from ThreadMode to DocumentMode by way of RefactoringPages. These modes are not HardAndFastRules but ways of approaching a TextInProgress.

Weblogs and Wikis Style Guide

Because a wiki is a collaborative space, a style guide is a guide to the customs of the culture as much as it is a guide to writing.

General Procedures

Start pages either in ThreadMode or DocumentMode, or a bit of both. It doesn't matter where we start. Find a place for a WikiWord and go.

Jumping In: Contributing

Newcomers to a wiki are often apprehensive about contributing. [more] The material above the DoubleLine is DocumentMode and is owned by the wiki: it represents the collective effort of all contributors and is expected to change. The material below the DoubleLine is considered discussion and dissent. Our aim is not to quiet dissent but to incorporate it into DocumentMode. Wikis don't work by consent but by dissent, discussion, synthesis.

It takes nerve to refactor what's come before. Here are some techniques.

Let's add a WelcomeRitual. And practice good Dialogue PracticesReview and draft our own DialoguePractices. See WikiWallflowers

Rhetorical Manner

There are people for whom, in the strictest of self-interest, WikiWiki is a learning place. For some it is a knowledge base. For others it is a forum for debate. All find something of value. Ward Cunningham and Bo Leuf, TheWikiWay, p ?

We encourage a variety of rhetorical manners on this wiki, from lectures to casual discussion. Think of moving from room to room at a party. In each room, there's an exchange going on. In one room, one person holds the floor with a thoughtful, balanced lecture. In another, a small group is having a heated debate. In another, a group of strangers are exchanging the first tentative remarks about an issue of the day.

When you encounter a page, take a moment to consider the rhetorical manner that seems at work. What's going on here? Is this a formal debate? A sermon? A casual exchange of views? A dialogue? Adjust your rhetorical approach and manner accordingly. Or refactor the page towards a new rhetorical manner.

Nix to NeutralPOV

We're not about NPOV. Balance, consideration, decorum, openness, and BalconyView. But Wikipedia does NPOV, so we don't need to. We use we, not I, and not the invisible I of the passive, nor the invisible mass of "some people." We get in close enough to name names.

We've found that rhetorical moves that work well in oratory may actually get in the way in a collaborative space, preventing development and stifling discourse. Since at root, the wiki is not a space for hortatory, AgonisticWriting so much as a space for DeliberativeWriting, its development would favor rhetorical strategies of invention and deliberation over sermons, standup routines, and lectures. But over time, even the most agonistic missive will be moderated by responses and refactored into DocumentMode. If you get on a soapbox, expect a response. Expect to be refactored into moderation.

Some general guidelines

Applying some rhetorical guidelines will keep the discussion moving forward.

strategies for development: moving the thread along

Even when you have little to say, you can contribute to the thread.

SunirShah writes, Here's a little game I play:

Write, then delete and simplify as much as possible. Use smaller words. Remove words that add no value. Delete rhetorical window dressing; good rhetoric is not separated from the message.

When you get good at this, you will find your sense of rhythm will improve and, with it, your rhetorical style. Most sentences sound the best when they are crisp but meaningful. So do Wiki page names.

You'd be surprised how long it can take me to write a three line post. Sometimes you can watch me edit the same text many times in a row. It takes effort, but it's worth it because the resulting text is clean and crisp. -- SunirShah Meatball Wiki StyleGuide

Getting Started

You're reading and you see a place in an existing page where a concept or idea needs development, counterpoint, clarification, explanation, or variation. You add a WikiWord to the text. Sometimes the words you want are already in the text, JustWaitingForDevelopment. Just jam 'em together. Follow the link to the new node and get started. Or leave the node for someone else to develop.

You can also leave open-ended WikiWords in your own text to invite comment or elaboration from others. A later reader will see the ? and be prompted to provide this content.

When a topic worth pursuing arises in a face to face conversation, we make a mental note to move the conversation back to the topic later. We do the same on this wiki by leaving and placing WikiWords in ThreadMode entries, taking care to maintain the writer's meaning.

Structuring and Restructuring Pages

Structure on wiki pages develops as the ideas develop, and is developed to bring out the ideas rather than for the sake of form. RefactoringPages involves seeing structure in the page.


Refactor pages when the threads become involved and synthesis is possible. Complete rewrites that condense the essentials of many different contributions are one of the charcteristics of wiki life. See RefactoringPages.

Prose Style

We figure readers can and will read intellegently and will spend some energy reading - if the pay-off is worth it. Wikis are places of thought and consideration, not hit and run. Short and sweet have a place, but really gain their meaning in context of considered and nuanced.

Use complex sentences to articulate complex ideas. We don't want to limit the range of expression by banning complex-compound sentences or limiting punctuation. So we aren't adverse to complex but clear sentences, employing semi-colons, colons, dashes, even ellipses where appropriate to make meaning.


Paragraphs are meaningful units of discourse. They can be long and developed, short and pithy, and in between. Paragraph.


StyleGuideNotes: LindsayLarson. Notes on a face to face discussion on wiki writing, 3 Nov, 2004.

A mighty fine StyleGuide at Meatball

sources: Draft borrowed from the style guide at weblogKitchen.com. But in good WikiFashion, the original draft is now more obscured than visible. I've taken Wiki Good Style as a model for this refactoring. MorganMC

See also

Have a look at the UC Davis style guide: http://daviswiki.org/Wiki_Style_Guide Not to emulate but as a comparison.

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