LifeWiki:Style guide

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LifeWiki's style guide is designed to maintain consistency throughout the site. Since editors from all over the world can make modifications and additions to LifeWiki's articles, it is important for the project to have a uniform format and style. This article summarizes our recommended style guidelines that apply to all articles written on the site. Articles that follow these guidelines are more likely to be well-received by the rest of the community, and will require other editors to spend less time cleaning them up.

The style of talk pages is less formal than that used for articles. While most of these guidelines are still relevant to talk pages, there are several differences that are noted as appropriate below.


The purpose of LifeWiki is to provide encyclopedia-style content describing Conway's Game of Life and similar cellular automata. All articles should be informative and targeted at the site's audience. Information that is only of interest to the writer or to other editors should not be included in articles. Articles should not assume knowledge that someone with a basic understanding of the Game of Life would not possess; relevant terminology should be explained or linked to. The article's talk page is the place to discuss questions about the article's content or style.

Attribution and dates

Do not add any attributions (e.g., "written by Nathaniel") or dates (e.g., "written on Jan. 16, 2009") when editing an article; the wiki software already maintains an accurate record of all contributions via the history page. Duplicating that information within an article will only clutter it, adding extraneous editorial information that is not of interest to readers and degrading the article's quality. If you are adding information to a page that comes from another source (e.g., moved from another LifeWiki page or based on comments by another person), you can provide the source with proper credit by using the "Edit Summary" field on the edit page.

This rule does not apply to talk pages. On talk pages you should use attribution to clarify the flow of discussion; simply typing ~~~~ after your message will automatically insert your name and a timestamp.


New information added to the wiki should not repeat or be redundant with other information already on the site. Adding content to the wiki is only useful if the content is organized and presented in a way that makes it easy for all readers to find the information. This means that generally a topic will have a single page (or a section of a page) where the topic is discussed in full detail. Other pages that discuss that topic should not try to repeat the details, but should instead provide a link to the page with the details. Only information that is directly relevant to a given page should be included on the page.

There are several reasons why redundancy should be avoided. First, if a topic is discussed in detail on multiple different pages, then a reader has to read all of those pages to be sure that he has read all the information. Especially on a wiki, where different editors add information at different times, multiple versions of the same information can not be efficiently maintained. Second, adding extraneous details makes a page long and difficult to read. Only information of interest to almost all readers should be included: 90% of the readers should not have to wade through uninteresting information just so that 10% of readers can find the information.

Unknown information

It is acceptable to write an article even if you do not know all of the information necessary to complete the article. However, gaps in the article should not be filled in with with approximations or best guesses. It is better to have no information than to have inaccurate information because inaccuracies mislead readers and are hard to find and correct. Uncertain information, or points that need more followup, should be moved to the discussion page where other editors can add their knowledge.


LifeWiki is written using International (British) English, in particular following grammar and spelling standards appropriate for printed text. Colloquialisms, slang and other informal or casual styles of writing are not acceptable.

Some basic guidelines include:

  • Numbers within blocks of text should generally be written out as words if they are three syllables or less (e.g. forty-five instead of 45). The primary exception to this is statistics related to specific patterns, which should be written in numeral form rather than as words (e.g. 8 instead of eight). This is because it is easier to compare numbers at a glance when they are written in numeral form.
  • Quotation Marks should use the logical quotation style for punctuation. Therefore, punctuation (e.g., periods, commas, colons) should be placed outside of the quotation marks, unless specified otherwise in the source material. In other words, This is an "example".is the preferred style, not This is an "example." The purpose of this guideline is primarily to resolve potential disputes between editors. New contributions are not required to use logical quotations, and converting articles to logical quotations is a very low priority. The primary implication of this guideline is that logical-style quotations in articles should not be changed into traditional-style quotations.


Although contributions written in American English are welcome, ideally those contributions will later be revised to match the site standards using International English; International English spellings should not be replaced by American English spellings.

The main exception to this rule is the naming of patterns, software, or other objects that were named using American English. For example, the pattern harbor was named by an American and thus should retain its original American spelling in the LifeWiki. Of course, a page named harbour that redirects to the main harbor page is recommended.


Capitalization should in general follow regular English rules. A few notable points are:

  • In sentences, the first word and any proper nouns should be capitalized.
  • In titles and subtitles, only the first word and proper nouns should be capitalized; do not capitalize every word of titles or subtitles.
  • Pattern names should not be capitalized when they are referred to within a wiki page unless they would otherwise be capitalized. Consider the following examples:

This pattern looks like a boat.
My favourite pattern is the B-52 bomber.
This pattern looks like a Boat.
My favourite pattern is the b-52 bomber.

No first or second person

One of the most common mistakes made by well-intentioned editors is to provide information using a first-person point of view. Content submitted to an article in first-person will often be deleted and moved to the article's talk page until someone can verify the information and rewrite it. Instead of first person descriptions, wiki contributions should exclusively use third person.


Wiki formatting is used to improve the legibility of an article. Bulleted lists, numeric lists, bolding, italics, and coloring are all tools to help text "pop out" at the reader. When properly used, these tools help the reader to quickly scan a page for the key points, then focus on individual paragraphs of interest. For general guidelines on how to make articles legible, see "How Users Read on the Web" by Jakob Nielsen.

General information on how to implement wiki formatting is provided at formatting (or an overview at the quick editing guide).


  • Bolding should be used for headings, subheadings, and article names. This is done automatically when using the wiki heading format (e.g., ==heading==).
  • Bold the article name the first time it appears in the page's introductory sentence. Any alternative names in the introductory sentence should also be bolded. (e.g. "Boat-tie (or bi-boat) is a small still life...")
  • Bold the word or phrase being defined in bulleted or numeric lists.
  • Keywords for which readers are likely to be scanning may be in bold for emphasis, but this should be used sparingly.
  • Avoid using bold formatting for general emphasis.


  • Italics should be used for the titles of books and lengthy works.
  • Italics can be used for proper names (e.g., of places or items) to clarify that the phrase is a proper name.
  • Italics can be used for general emphasis, but should be used sparingly.


  • Avoid using ALL CAPS for emphasis.
  • Avoid using either single- or double-quotation marks for emphasis. (See Quotation Marks, Emphasis (incorrect usage).)
  • Avoid bolding words for general emphasis, unless giving crucial notice.
  • Avoid using double emphasis, such as combining bold and italics (e.g. an example of double emphasis).
  • Do not overemphasize, as each emphasis added will lessen the effect of other emphases and detract from the appearance of the article.

Avoid cluttering links

Cross links between wiki pages are important navigational tools, allowing the reader to easily follow up on interesting points and find more detailed information. However, it is possible to fill a page with too many links. More details on how to create links and guidelines on their usage are provided on the links help page.

Links to other articles should only be created when they are relevant to the content, and will be helpful and informative to the reader. Creating too many links can distract the reader and make the article hard to read; some readers are likely to pause on each link to determine whether the link is of interest. Be sure that any link you add will help readers and be used by readers. You should avoid creating duplicate links in an article. A link can be repeated if it last appeared in a previous section (since many readers will not read all sections of a page), but there is hardly ever a reason to link to the same article more than once in the same section.

Additionally, although it is encouraged to create "See also" sections for pages, links should only be added to that section if they do not appear elsewhere within the article.

External links