From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The basic mechanics of Wikipedia can take a few days to become comfortable, but once mastered, open up the entire encyclopedia to you. This page will try to simply explain what you need to know to start editing quickly and avoid major stumbling blocks.

For a similar short introduction to the principles and practices of Wikipedia, see WP:SIMPLE, The simplified ruleset.


  • Edit. Nearly every page on Wikipedia has [edit] on it, either in the page itself or at the top left of the screen. Click [edit] and you'll see a place where you can type and make changes. It will look a little different since Wikipedia uses a language called 'markup'. Don't worry if it looks intimidating. Just try a few small changes and copy what others do that gets the result you want.
  • Basic markup. Markup language is a very simple way to add formatting with symbols. These can be inserted using the editing tool bar or manually. Otherwise, just type as normal.
-For italics, type two apostrophes ( ' ) around the word like this ''italics''.
-For bold use three apostrophes: '''bold''' .
-For bold and italics use five: '''''italics and bold''''' .
Sections and Lists
-Section headers are made with the equals sign (=) on each side. ==This is a level 2 header==. More equals signs make smaller sub-sections. ===This is a level 3 header===, and so on. You won't use a level 1 headers, since that is the title of the page itself.
-Bulleted lists are made by putting * at the beginning of each line.
-Numbered lists are made by putting # at the beginning of each line.
-Links from one Wikipedia page to another are made with two brackets on each side of the word like [[wikilink]].
-Links to external websites are made with one bracket on each side like [external link]. But these are only used in the External links section of an article.
-Images are added with [[File: IMAGENAME|thumb|IMAGECAPTION]]. 'Thumb' is just a size and should be left in.
Paragraphs and references
-Line breaks and paragraphs require hitting [return] or [enter] twice (showing an empty line inbetween), or using <br> or <p>
-References go between ref tags: <ref>references here</ref>. Place these after the punctuation in the sentence they are used.
  • Preview and Save. If you want to see a draft of your changes, click [show preview]; otherwise click [save] and your edit will go live.
  • Page structure. Articles follow a common format. Start with the introduction, a few paragraphs summarizing the page. Make the first mention of the page's subject bold. Place the article's content in level 2 headers like ==Section title here==, only capitalizing the first word unless it's a proper noun. The last sections can add information such as See also, References, and External links, in that order. Place those sections in level 2 headers as well.


  • Good conduct: Be bold. Be nice.
  • Talk pages. In addition to the pages you read for information, for almost every Wikipedia page there is a corresponding talk page where discussion happens among editors. To use the talk page, click [edit] and add your comments. To create a new topic, slick [new section] at the top of the page, give the section a title, and leave your comment. New topics go at the bottom of the page.
  • Indenting. To make conversations easier to follow, place your comments below the one you are responding to and indent it using a colon (:). Each colon moves the comment farther to the right, so if the person above you used 3 colons (:::) you should use 4 (::::). To start a new talk page topic, click [new section] at the top of the page and type a title with your comment; or, start a new level 2 heading for the same effect.
  • Signatures. On talk pages but not article pages, all comments should be signed with ~~~~. Once saved, this will turn into your username or ip address with a timestamp.
  • Edit summaries. Leave a brief note about what you did and why any time you make an edit. Place it in the edit summary box before you click save.

Adding references[edit]

  • Verifiability: Can a reader check that something you wrote was backed up by a good source? Did you summarize it neutrally?
  • Good sources: Newspapers, highly respected blogs, magazines, books, journals, industry publications, and expert websites; independent of the subject, with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy; somewhere or someone you would trust if you read it, knowing that they did their homework and don't want to get the information wrong.
  • Manual references: Use reference tags after the period: ...end of sentence.<ref>Reference info here: author, publication, date, title, place, web address, etc.</ref> Place at the end of the sentence after the punctuation.
  • Better references with templates: These are thorough and easy to use. Click [edit], and place the cursor at the end of the sentence you want to reference. Using the editing toolbar, click [cite] or {{ }} and choose the source type (web, book, tv...). Fill out the fields you know, click [enter], and [save] when ready.
  • Reference section: References should show up at the bottom of the page. Make a level 2 header: ==References==. Then place {{reflist}} below the header. You don't have to type out the references there; instead, place them inside the article after the sentence they support. They'll appear automatically.

Adding images[edit]

To use a picture on Wikipedia, you need permission from the owner/photographer:

  • If it is your own picture, then you can just upload it yourself, at WP:UPLOAD, saying "It is entirely my own work".
  • If it is not yours, then you need permission from the owner one of two ways:
    1. They could put it on a website like Flickr, or their own website with a compatible license that permits commercial reuse and modification--meaning others can replicate it, change it, and even sell it, as long as others down the line agree to the same and to give attribution to the original owner. A Flickr compatible license is Creative Commons Share Alike (CC-BY-SA 2.0);
    2. Have the owner email permission with the attached picture to: saying they release it to Wikipedia under an open license which allows commercial reuse and modification with attribution. The email should say that they are the creator and/or sole owner of the exclusive copyright of the photograph(s) of the attached photo (or the photo's online address), give the exact name of the uploaded file on Wikipedia, and be signed and dated.
  • After uploading, put the file in a Wikipedia page by adding [[File:FILENAME|thumb]FILEDESCRIPTION]] to any Wikipedia page.

Types of pages[edit]

  • Article: Where content happens. These contain encyclopedic material which must be backed up by sources. Don't sign your name on these.
  • Discussion: Where talk happens. Every article page has one. Use it for collaboration and dispute resolution by clicking [discussion] at the
  • History: A special page where prior versions of an article are stored (talk pages have them too). Click [history] at the top and you'll see all prior edits to the page.
  • User: Your personal page (or someone else's). Linked at the top right of every page, with a blue link and your name. Put stuff here to explain what you're about and why you're here.
  • Usertalk: Your personal talk page. Use this to facilitate discussions and collaboration. Also used for notices and warnings.
  • Wikipedia: Information about policies, guidelines and advice for editing. These are quite detailed. They come in handy eventually.
  • Help: Basic how-to material. These pages cover everything from markup to templates. A good place to start.
  • File: Where images are. These store all of the details about photographs and other media. The name of the file page is also the name of the file.
  • Special pages: Specific functions such as History, Recent changes, and Page logs. You can spot them because they don't have talk pages.

Finding pages[edit]

  • Search: The easiest way to get around. Type your query in the box at the top right and pick from the results.
  • Directory: The full department directory and quick directory are good tools. Or just ask someone and they'll give you a link.
  • Help: The Help Desk, live help chat, and the discussion pages for specific help topics are all good places to ask questions.
  • Google: Wikipedia is very well indexed by Google and searching for a term, even about an editing question, followed by "wiki" or "wikipedia" usually pulls up what you need.

See also[edit]