Help and editing

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This tutorial was derived from that of Wikipedia.
For usefule reference, see our cheatsheet.

We encourage users to add or update relevant information. Any content page can be edited. However, only registered users with confirmed email addresses can edit.

As you read this tutorial, you can practice in the sandbox. Go to the sandbox and click the "edit this page" link. This will open an edit window with the wikicode (text) for that page. Add something then save it and see what you have done! (Note: not on this page)

This tutorial is only an introduction. For more detail, see the Editing Wikipedia page.



Most pages have a link that says "edit this page", which lets you edit the page you are looking at. It allows you to make corrections and add facts to articles. If you add information to a page, please provide references.

Go to the sandbox and click the "edit this page" link. This will open an edit window with the wikicode (text) for that page. Add something fun and interesting or "Hello world!" then save it and see what you have done! (Note: not on this page)

Show preview

One important feature to start using now is the Show preview button. Try making an edit in the sandbox, then clicking the Show preview button button instead of Save Changes. This allows you to see what the page will look like after your edit, before you actually save. We all make mistakes; this feature lets you catch them. Using Show Preview before saving also lets you try format changes and other edits without cluttering up the page history and has a number of other advantages. Do not forget to save your edits after previewing, though!

Edit summary

Before you hit Save, it is considered good etiquette to enter a polite explanation of your changes in the Edit summary box between the edit window and the Save and Preview buttons. It can be quite terse; for example if you just enter "typo", people will know you made a minor spelling or punctuation correction, or some other small change. Also, if the change you have made to the page is minor, such as a spelling or grammar correction, be sure to check the box "This is a minor edit."


Formatting articles is a bit different from writing on a standard word processor. Instead of a strict "what you see is what you get" approach, this wiki uses text codes to create particular elements of the page (e.g. headings). This "language" is known as Wikitext and is designed for ease of editing.

Bold and italics

The most commonly used wiki tags are bold and italics. Bolding and italicizing are done by surrounding a word or phrase with multiple apostrophes ('):

You type You get
''italic'' italic



'''''bold italic'''''

bold italic

Headings and subheadings

Headings and subheadings are an easy way to improve the organization of an article. If you can see two or more distinct topics being discussed, you can break up the article by inserting a heading for each section.

Headings can be created like this:

You type You get

== Heading ==


=== Subheading ===


If an article has at least four headings, a table of contents will automatically be generated. Try creating a heading in this page's sandbox. It will be added automatically to the table of contents for the page, assuming three others already exist.


HTML code can be used in pages to produce more advanced formatting such as colors, tables, and edit page layout. However, you do not need to know HTML to use this wiki and follow formatting conventions.

Formatting conventions

It is to italicize book, journal, or treaty titles. It is usually preferred that the names of papers (e.g. a scientific article), chapters (e.g. in a book), or newspaper articles are given "in quotes" rather than being italicized.

Internal links

Linking wiki articles together is very important. These easily created links allow users to access information related to the article they are reading and greatly add to the wiki's utility.

Internal wiki links

When you want to make a link to another wiki page (called a wiki link) you have to put it in double square brackets, like this:

[[Sandbox]] = Sandbox

If you want the display text of the link to have a different title, you can do so by adding the pipe "|" divider (SHIFT + BACKSLASH on English-layout and other keyboards) followed by the alternative name. For example:

[[Target page|display text]] = display text

You can make a link to a specific section of a page like so:

[[Target page#Target section|display text]] = display text

If you want the display text of the link to appear in italics or bold, nest the double square brackets for the link within the multiple apostrophes that delimit the italicized or bold text, like this:

''[[War and Peace]]'' = War and Peace

External Links

Enclosing an external link in single square brackets without providing a description, like this:


will display the link as a number in brackets, like this: [1].

If you simply type in the full URL for the page to which you wish to link:

The wiki will automatically treat this text as a link (as has been done with the URL above) and will display the raw web address, including the "http://" part. It is recommended that you do not use this format much, as raw URLs are ugly and often give no clue to what the site actually is.

By including a space after a URL and inside a single set of brackets you can decide what text will be visible, for example:

[ Google search engine]

will make only the text following the space visible, yet will still keep the link seen here:

Google search engine


If you add information to an article, be sure to include your references. It is best to use inline citations so that other editors and readers can verify the information you add. Also, make sure that the sources you use are trustworthy and authoritative.

The easiest way to create an inline citation is using footnotes. You can create footnotes with Wiki markup (under the edit box on your Wiki editing interface) by adding ref tags:

<ref>YOUR SOURCE</ref>

around your source.

If your source is a website, you should create an external link to the website address.

To create an external link to your source, put the website address (URL) in square brackets after the text you add, such as

  • <ref>[ Google search engine]</ref>

It is a good idea to provide a short description just after the external site address. This description will be displayed in the reference list as the title of the external site, rather than the actual URL of the site.

Preferred style

While there is a great degree of flexibility in how information can be presented in a wiki format, using the following guidelines will help BioPolicyWiki maintain a consistent style and thus be easier to use.

Citing laws and policies

The relevant policies should be provided as a bulleted list in the Key laws and policies section. Ideally, this is given as:

  • Name of the law or policy in English (Name of the law or policy in the original language), Statue and section numbers (Date)

For example,

  • Law on assisted reproduction, 973-98, Sec. 4-10 (January 15, 1998)

If available, create an external link from the name of the law to its online text.

When describing the provisions of a policy, avoid long excerpts, particularly if the original language would be difficult for a lay reader to understand. If the original language is relatively clear, and/or if precision is needed, then the original language can be used. This is particularly the case with the Foundational values section. Short excerpts of original language should be given in quotation marks (" "), and longer ones in italics.

It is not necessary to cite specific section numbers in the text.

Bulleted lists are preferred to numbered ones.


References using the <REF> should only be used when substantiating a specific fact through a citation to a secondary source, such as a journal or newspaper article.

Please use this style for citations:

<ref>Stéphane Viville and Deborah Pergament, "[ Results of a survey of the legal status and attitudes towards preimplantation genetic diagnosis conducted in 13 different countries]," ''Prenatal Diagnosis'' (Vol. 18, Issue 13, pp. 1374-1380), accessed on May 1, 2008.</ref>


Stéphane Viville and Deborah Pergament, "Results of a survey of the legal status and attitudes towards preimplantation genetic diagnosis conducted in 13 different countries," Prenatal Diagnosis (Vol. 18, Issue 13, pp. 1374-1380), accessed on May 1, 2008.

If you are unable to write a footnote because an addition is due to your personal knowledge or experience with the policies, please elaborate in the talk page.

External links

In the External links section, please provide links to the laws, policies, and regulatory and advisory bodies that are described throughout the page.

Talk Pages

Talk pages offer the ability to discuss articles and other issues with other contributors.

If you wanted to ask a question about an article, or you have a concern or comment, you can put a note in the article's talk page. You do that by clicking the "discussion" tab at the top of the page. Do not worry if the link shows up in red; it is alright to create the talk page if it does not already exist.

When you post a new comment, put it at the bottom of the talk page. The exception is that if you are responding to someone else's remarks, put your comment below theirs. You can indent your comment by typing a colon (:) at the beginning of a line.

You should sign your comments by typing ~~~ for just your username, or ~~~~ for your username and a time signature (see the example discussion below). This way, when you save the page, your signature will be inserted automatically. Otherwise your comments, etc., will still appear but without your name. Most of us use time signatures because it makes following discussions much easier. For your convenience, there is a button at the top of the edit box with a signature icon which automatically inserts "-~~~~".

The talk page is a good place to describe your own expertise regarding the page.

User talk pages

Every contributor has a user talk page, on which other contributors can leave messages. If someone has left you a message, you will see a note saying "You have new messages", with a link to your user talk page.

You can reply in either of two ways. One is to put a message on the user talk page of the person you are replying to. The other is to put your reply on your own talk page beneath the original message. Both are common on Wikipedia; however, be aware that replying on your own talk page runs the risk that your reply won't be seen, if the user does not look at your talk page again. If you choose this approach, it is a good idea to post a notice at the top of your talk page so people know they have to keep an eye on it.


Indenting can improve the layout of a discussion considerably, making it much easier to read. A standard practice is to indent your reply one level deeper than the person you are replying to.

There are several ways of indenting:

Plain indentations

The simplest way of indenting is to place a colon (:) at the beginning of a line. The more colons you put, the further indented the text will be. A newline (pressing Enter or Return) marks the end of the indented paragraph.

For example:

This is aligned all the way to the left.
: This is indented slightly.
:: This is indented more.

is shown as:

This is aligned all the way to the left.
This is indented slightly.
This is indented more.

Bullet points

You can also indent using bullets, usually used for lists. To insert a bullet, use an asterisk (*). Similar to indentation, more asterisks in front of a paragraph means more indentation.

A brief example:

* First list item
* Second list item
** Sub-list item under second
* Third list item

Which is shown as:

  • First list item
  • Second list item
    • Sub-list item under second
  • Third list item

Numbered items

You can also create numbered lists. For this, use the number sign or octothorpe (#). This is usually used for polls and voting. Again, you can affect the indent of the number by the number of #'s you use.


# First item
# Second item
## Sub-item under second item
# Third item

Shows up as:

  1. First item
  2. Second item
    1. Sub-item under second item
  3. Third item


Experiment! This time, instead of editing a sandbox, leave a message on the talk page by clicking "Discuss this page" or "Discussion". Remember to sign your user name. You might want to try responding to someone else's post. Remember, you should use "Show preview" to see if your formatting works before you save.