User:All Fish Welcome/Writing Guide

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Note to Readers

This is very much a work in progress. It is something of a scratchpad, or a rough draft, but everything written here has been carefully considered. In time, it will be forked into two separate pages: a concise, prescriptive "Writing Handbook" and a descriptive "Writing Guide" that offers the rationale for each choice made in the Handbook. Until that time, the two concepts will exist intermingled and unformed here.

Citation Styles

Structure Within the Document

Many different citation styles have been developed for the specific needs of readers. Proper citation allows a reader to locate the source of any non-original idea, whether it's a quote or a paraphrase. It can even help the reader determine the reliability of a source, although that's incidental; if an author has reason to doubt the utility of one of his sources, he should mention that in the text, a note, or a bibliographic annotation. For simplicity and accessibility, I've decided to use Kate L. Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (6th ed.). It is a small, but thorough, guide for scholarly writing based on the Chicago Manual of Style.

Turabian describes two major ways to cite ideas in text: one using inline parenthetical references, and one using notes placed elsewhere in the document. We'll look at them in that order. Parenthetical reference (PR) systems insert references directly into the text; a reference list (RL) is provided at the end of the article. Turabian-style PR/RL article might look something like this:

The most striking image is probably that of Balok's puppet under Solow's Executive in Charge of Production credit. The close-up was chosen by Justman, who reported that Solow "thanked [him] profusely" (Solow and Justman 1996, 194-195).


  • Solow, Herbert and Robert Justman. 1996. Inside Star Trek: The Real Story. New York: Pocket Books.

While some people may prefer to scan the author-date information while reading the text, others find it distracting. The alternative is to use notes. Turabian calls this the Note/Bibliography (N/B) system. There are two types of notes: the footnote and the endnote. Both are indicated by a superscript numeral in the text. Footnotes appear at the bottom of a page and, in the Turabian style, reproduce all the information needed to find a reference. This is useful when it may be difficult to find a work's reference list, for instance, when reading microfiche or a photocopied excerpt. Unlike footnotes, endnotes are placed at the end of an article, chapter, or paper. Notes may contain bibliographic information or additional content to amplify the main text. Bibliographic endnotes should not be used if a bibliography is also provided. Here is what a Turabian-style N/B article, modified slightly for screen presentation, might look like:

The Nirnaeth Arnoediad was perhaps Morgoth's greatest victory since his acquisition of the silmarilli, "for Men took the lives of Men, and betrayed the Eldar, and fear and hatred were aroused among those who should have been united against him."1

     1. J. R. R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion, 2nd ed. (London: HarperCollins, 1999; Houghton Mifflin, 2001), 195.


  • Tolkien, J. R. R. The Silmarillion, 2nd ed. London: HarperCollins, 1999; Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

This is a bit complex for Conservapedia, isn't it? Not to mention redundant! I propose a hybrid of the two systems: Use endnotes and a bibliography, but place only the contents of a Turabian parenthetical reference in the end note followed by a period. The end notes should be placed in a section called "Notes," and the bibliography can be placed in a section called "References." (There is no semantic reason for choosing the word "references;" it's just to help editors remember to use the <references/> element.) I've tried this system on a couple of live pages, and it looks pretty good. I think it achieves a balance between readability, a reference list based on their order in the text, and an alphabetized reference list. Here is what it looks like:[1]

The aging plutocrat was a shut-in for five years. At least one estranged relative speculated that he had spent all his money.1

1. Rosa 2005, 243, 248.


  • Rosa, Don. The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. Timonium: Gemstone, 2005.

We can do even more to this snippet of text. It's not allowed by Turabian, but we could also put two endnotes here: one containing the reference, and another to amplify the statement about Scrooge's estranged relative. This would be inconsistent and confusing in text, and would muddle the semantic structure of the document here, but it's at least readable. It may be preferable to have no less than four sections to an article: the main text, the notes to the text, the reference notes, and the reference list. Unfortunately, wiki markup does not yet seem to be able to handle two separate sets of notes in one article. Ideally, we would be able to have two sets of end notes interleaved, perhaps one with numbers and one with letters. Until that day, we have to continue mixing content and bibliographic notes.[2]

I think that is a universally appropriate structure for including references in a Conservapedia article, and I think it should be encouraged. It is flexible enough that extraneous sections can be dropped, and they can be added by later editors. I do not think it should be required; subject matter experts who are used to other styles, such as APA or CBE, may wish to use those.

Next up: How to cite. What information do you include when you are referring to a book? A web page? An episode of a TV show?


  1. Technically, this volume reprints a number of periodicals along with new text by the author. But I got lazy and treated it as an original, primary source.
  2. Or, I could be wrong. There's a lot about MediaWiki markup I don't know.


  • Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 6th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.