Lucky you! You’re about to join the more than 15 million users who already call Wikipedia “home”. Or as they lovingly refer to themselves: “Wikipedians.”
But what some early-Wikipedians may not realize is that adding a page to the Wikipedia community takes a little more elbow-grease than just a quick write-up and copy-paste. Just like any game, there are a few rules you have to follow before you can let your creative juices flow.
Here are a few tips to help you get started on your voyage into writing a fabulous, and post-worthy, Wikipedia article.
Tip #1: Really Think About It
Usually when a new Wikipedia article is created, it is because the subject has accrued some apparent popularity or has a bit of history.
The best rule of thumb is this: If you were a random person searching for articles on Wikipedia, would you think your topic would be worth a read? If you said “Yes,” then marvelous, please do continue reading. If you aren’t sure or said “No,” then continue on with your daily life.
Tip #2: Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Before you spend the time and effort on writing your Wikipedia article, make sure you spend a decent amount of time searching the site to assure that it hasn’t been written about before. Use alternate search terms just in case your article is labeled under a different heading. If you find an article, then go about the necessary means to create yourself a user profile and start editing/adding to it. If you didn’t find an article, then carry on to the next tip!
Tip #3: Gather Those Resources
I’m sure we’ve all written a research paper at one time or another, so this tip isn’t all that new- but it’s one of the most important aspects to writing a successful, post-worthy article. Just as you wouldn’t turn in a term paper without proper research and a reference page, the same goes with a Wikipedia article. Your article could be written with some of the most awe-inspiring, interesting information in the world- but is likely to be thrown out if it has nothing to back up the claims it makes. Don’t bother writing the article if you don’t have references.
So you have a Wikipedia article idea that’s never been done and resources to back it up, it’s time to start writing! While Wikipedia doesn’t necessarily have set rules as to how to write an article, there are some tried-and-true techniques to follow if you want it to be the most effective. One of the most widely used techniques is creating a coherent article through writing in chronological order. If you search Coca-Cola’s Wikipedia article, you’ll notice that after the brief intro paragraph in the beginning, there follows headings of history, description of the formula, production, etc. Normally, you’ll want to begin your article with this introductory paragraph and then start chronologically with your topic’s history. From there, you can move forward with sectioning appropriate to your article. Take a peek at Coca-Cola’s article and other articles to get a feel for the way they move chronologically.
Tip #5: Watch that Tone
When writing your article, imagine that you’re writing that term paper we talked about above in Tip #3. Never never never use anything other than a formal tone. Remain businesslike in your demeanor during the article and, even though you’re probably partial to your topic to begin with, keep the bias out! No advertising- remember that Wikipedia is merely for information. This also includes leaving out jargon and slang.
Also important: State the obvious. What is obvious to you may not be obvious to your reader- so remember to remain clear and concise!
Tip #6: Paragraphs & Headings, Oh My!
As with any type of writing made for viewing on the Internet, keep the paragraphs short. However, make sure they are long enough to develop ideas. One-sentence paragraphs are also frowned upon by Wikipedia. Cut up longer paragraphs to make them easier for the reader to follow.
Headings in Wikipedia articles normally follow a hierarchical scheme, with headings followed by subheadings when appropriate. While wording of headlines is typically up to the writer of the article, many articles use similar headings. For some ideas of headings that are widely used in articles, check out Wikipedia’s Manual of Style.
Tip #7: Illustrating the Piece- Images & Tags
If you feel that a picture would help illustrate the content in your article, by all means use it! Put don’t post pictures in your article willy-nilly just to give it some “flavor.” Articles with unrelated pictures also tend to be less post-worthy.
Don’t forget, while writing, to pay attention to places in which you can insert tags to other Wikipedia pages. For instance, if you refer to something in your article that already has an established page on Wikipedia remember to link to that page when your article is published.
Tip #8: Pay Attention to Length
Don’t overdo it. Keep in mind how much, you as a viewer, would actually want to read. In today’s fast-paced society many people lose interest in Internet articles which tend to go on longer than needed. This all comes back to being concise again. Say what needs saying, and move on.
Tip #9: Footnotes are Key
This is, by far, the most challenging part of writing a Wikipedia article. Normally the most common method for citing material in an article is by using footnotes. Wikipedia provides a nifty guide on how to go about writing up the footnotes and how to include them in your article. While writing your article, set up your references into footnotes so they are all set to go when you incorporate them during posting your article to the actual website later. Stay tuned for a blog exploring how to actually post your article on Wikipedia- for now, it is easier to write your draft up in Word.
Tip #10: Spellcheck it, Baby!
This should be a no-brainer. Obviously, making sure that spelling errors are corrected is vital. Even the tiniest spelling mistake can destroy an article’s reputation on Wikipedia.
Phew! Quite the list of tips, eh? Are you ready to go out there and take on the task of writing that Wikipedia article? I hope so!