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Writing and Editing Encyclopedia Articles Printable Version

This page is a chapter in 'Book Encyclopedia Writers Guide'

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How to go about it

It is very easy to create a new article or edit an existing one:
  1. To create an article, navigate to the area in the encyclopedia where the article should appear and then click on New Thread. First, you will be asked to supply a name for the new article. Then you click on the Start Editing button, which opens the editing window in which you write the article.
  2. To edit an article, navigate to the article and select the edit tab, which opens the editing window displaying the text of the article in its present form. Then you can make the changes you want.

What you see in the edit window depends on the browser you are using, and Mozilla Firefox is probably the best browser to use. Some browsers give you two different editing views:

This partially parsed view shows roughly what the article will look like.

Colors and lists, for example, are shown as they will appear in the article.

But other things will be seen with special codes.

You can edit the article using this view, but you will not have full control and some things may be difficult to write and edit.

You can use the [​IMG] view switch icon (in the top right corner) to switch between this editing window and the one below.

The raw text view shows the actual text that was written to create the article.

Colors and lists, for example, are shown as codes like
[list=1] and [color=red].

This view gives you full control over editing, but you need to have a good understanding of these codes.

While you are creating or editing the article, you can use the Preview Article button to see what it will look like. When you are happy with your work use the Post New Article or Save Changes button to put the article in the encyclopedia.

Content and style

It is very important to remember that the Encyclopedia is an international resource, hosted and developed by the NAWCC and its members. And the quality of its articles will influence the way people view the NAWCC.

This has two very important consequences:
  1. The content of encyclopedia articles must be significant, reflecting current knowledge in horology. Although stub articles (articles which have only a small amount of text and provide little information) may sometimes appear, they should be avoided, because they give the impression that the NAWCC and its members lack knowledge and its encyclopedia is of little value.
    If you want to create an article on a topic, do not put it into the encyclopedia until you have written enough for it to be meaningful. (Stubs within an article are to be expected. They indicate where more information is needed to complete the article.)
  2. The style of encyclopedia articles must be professional. Anything that appears here should of the same quality as articles appearing in published books, journals and other encyclopedias. In particular, opinions unsupported by evidence or references, and personal remarks are unacceptable.

    Good style also means avoiding picturesque writing; using lots of emphasis (bold, italic and underline) many colours, and different sizes of fonts, for example. It is the content of the article that is important.


Although articles are usually written by one person, they are frequently edited (sometimes even completely replaced) by other people. This joint authorship is important because it means that the final article represents the best that can be written on the subject, the accumulation of available knowledge.

Joint authorship also means that you cannot own an article and you should accept being only one of possibly many contributors.

For this reason, authors names do not appear in articles. However, it is possible to find out who has contributed by using the article’s history tab.

If, for any reason, you feel you must exert ownership over what you have written, then do not put it in the encyclopedia, publish it elsewhere.
Your own work and most things you quote are copyright. In order for the encyclopedia to function and to avoid copyright problems:
  • Your own work will be licensed so that anyone can use it.
  • Anything quoted from another work must not infringe a copyright held by someone else. It should be licensed for public use, be in the public domain, or be “fair use.”
The NAWCC has developed rules and guidelines covering copyright in encyclopedia articles, which every author needs to read. This information is in the article [main]Copyright of text in NAWCC Encyclopedia Articles[/main].

Images are also subject to copyright, and the NAWCC rules and guidelines covering copyright of images in encyclopedia articles are in the article [main]Copyright of images in the NAWCC Encyclopedia[/main].

Special codes

Articles are written using special codes; BB (bulletin board) and Wiki codes. These codes are distinguished from ordinary text by being enclosed in brackets; for example [i] is the code for using italics. Many of these codes can be used in ordinary message board posts, but some only work in encyclopedia articles.

When codes are used, some text is sandwiched between start and end codes, the end codes beginning with a slash (/). For example:
[i]this is italic text[/i] and this is not
will produce:
this is italic text and this is not
Often codes are nested inside other codes; the actual codes used for the above example are:
[indent][color=blue][i]this is italic text[/i] and this is not
[/COLOR][/INDENT]In this article, examples will be given in blue to distinguish them from the text. In some cases it will be necessary for you to look at separate articles for examples of more complex codes.

Codes come in pairs of start and end codes. A common mistake is to leave out the end code. For example, this [i]italic text does not have an end code. Fortunately this mistake does not cause the rest of the article to appear in italics!

The above example, and all those to come, uses the special code [plain]text not to be parsed[/plain]. This code tells the system to stop interpreting codes so that they are displayed as text instead of being acted upon.

There are two important rules when using codes:

Do not put spaces inside code brackets.

Codes contain two principal pieces besides the code itself. The text sandwiched between the codes is called the parameter and is generally what the code acts on to change in some way. There can also be text inside the square brackets of the first code i.e. [code="option"]. This text is called the option. Options may not contain spaces nor can there be spaces around the equal (=) sign. Most of the times the software catches this error and ignores the code, but when it is not caught, subtle errors can occur.

Do not use smart quotes in codes.

Some codes use double quotes ". These must be simple quotes, as in "simple quotes" and not smart quotes as in “smart quotes”. This can be a problem because most word processors are set up to automatically insert smart quotes.

Naming articles

Articles should have names that clearly indicate the content. Also you should remember that the NAWCC Encyclopedia covers all aspects of horology.

For example, the name Railroad Watches is rather vague because it does not distinguish between pocket and wrist watches or between countries. This name could be used for a general article about railroad watches, but it is more likely that you will be writing about some particular part of the subject area. So a name like American Railroad Watches would usually be better.

Correcting article names

When you are creating an article and you realise you have made a mistake in the name you should not post the new article. Instead, get out of the editing process completely by going back to the area in the encyclopedia where you were working. Because you have not saved the article it will not be created and you can start creating the article again with the correct name.

If you have created an article with the wrong name, contact a moderator to get the problem fixed.

Practicing - the Sandbox

It is very embarrassing to create or edit an article and make a mess of it. So it is a good idea to get some experience with creating articles and editing them.

The play area Sandbox has been set up for this purpose. This area of the Encyclopedia can be used to play with articles. Whatever you put here will be temporary and will be deleted after a few days, so it doesn’t matter what you do in it.

In addition to creating articles to experiment, you can copy other encyclopedia articles into the sandbox and practice editing them:
  • Create an article in the sandbox with no text.
  • Go to the article you want to copy and select the edit tab. Then select all the text of the article and copy it.
  • Go back to your sandbox article, select the edit tab and paste the original article’s text.

Saving your work

Anything you do in the Sandbox will eventually disappear, but it might be deleted while you are still working on it and you could lose everthing you have done.

Also, you may be editing a real article and have to stop before you have finished. If your changes are not ready to be saved, you will have to leave the article untouched and your changes will be lost.

To avoid your work being wasted, it is strongly recommended that you do as much work on your own computer as possible:
  1. If you are creating an article, write it using a word processor or text editor and save it on your computer. Then edit it to put in the special codes that Encyclopedia articles require. Take you time and use the sandbox to see how parts or all of what you have written will look like.

    When you have finished it, go to the encyclopedia, create the article and copy and past your text into it.
    Before you save the new article, preview it. If you are not happy with it, do not save it, but go back to your own copy and fix it.
  2. If you are editing an article and making significant changes, copy the article, paste it into a file on your computer and save it. Then make the changes and copy the revised article back into the Encyclopedia.

    If you have to stop work before you have finished then you can continue later with the saved file.

    Before you post the changed article, preview it. If you are not happy with it, do not save it, but go back to your own copy and fix it.

Discussion or edit?

If you intend to change an article someone else has written:
  • Check the article’s discussion tab first, to see if other people have commented on the article.
  • If you are not absolutely sure your changes will be accepted (don’t forget other people can come after you and change your changes!), consider describing what you would like to do in the discussion tab and see if you get any feedback. Often you will find others have useful suggestions to make which will improve your changes.


The articles in the encyclopedia are organized into a number of namespaces. All articles belong to a namespace or a forum within it.

Each namespace serves a particular purpose and articles created in some of them have special structures.

The namespaces that are used in the encyclopedia are:
  • Encyclopedia (main): This namespace is the encyclopedia and its forums. It is where all encyclopedia articles live.
  • Tutorials (main): This namespace is a forum within the main encyclopedia. It holds all articles which cover how to use the encyclopedia.
  • Sandbox (sand): The sandbox namespace is used for practicing writing articles and testing them. It is a temporary space and articles in it will be deleted regularly.
  • Books (book): This namespace holds all books. Books are special articles composed of chapters where each chapter is separate article.
  • Help (help): This namespace is used for short articles that provide definitions of words or explanations.
  • Images (image): This namespace holds all the images used in the encyclopedia.
  • Categories (category): This namespace is used for special category articles. Articles can be organized into subject areas and these areas can be subdivided. For example, an article in the category Watches may belong to the sub-category Pocket watches and then to the category American pocket watches within that category. Thus categories provide a method of organizing content into hierarchies of subject areas such as Watches:pocket watches:American pocket watches. Articles can be assigned to multiple categories, and the above example might also belong to the category Watches:Repair.
    Category articles show sub-categories and list the encyclopedia articles that are in the category.
  • Special (special): This namespace contains reports which are automatically created and maintained by the system; they can be read but cannot be changed.
  • Templates (template): The articles in this namespace have a special structure and use special codes. Templates define new codes which produce some desired layout and text in an article.
    When an article contains the same basic layout repeated several times, it can take a lot of work to write the same set of codes over and over again. Instead of doing this a template can be used which will generate the codes for you; you write the codes which are needed in the template and use the template name repeatedly in the article. Templates have parameters so that the text they generate can be changed each time they are used.

The words in brackets are the short names for the namespaces. These are used when creating links to articles, as explained later (see Embedding links).

This list of namespaces may change from time to time.

Formatting text

There are seven text formatting codes:
  1. Bold [b] and [/b]. [b]This text is bold.[/b] will produce This text is bold.
  2. Italic [i] and [/i]. [i]This text is italic.[/i] will produce This text is italic.
  3. Underline [u] and [/u]. [u]This text is underlined.[/u] will produce This text is underlined.
  4. Color [color=TheColor] and [/color]. [color=red]This text is red.[/color] will produce This text is red.
    Some colors, like yellow, do not show up well against a white background and should be avoided.
  5. Highlight (bold, red) [highlight] and [/highlight]. [highlight]This text is highlighted.[/highlight] will produce [highlight]This text is highlighted.[/highlight]
  6. Size [size=SizeValue] and [/size]. There are three ways to specify text size:
    • [size=+n]text[/size], where n can be 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4. Note that you must include the plus sign.
    • [size=n]text[/size], where n can be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7. Note that you do not include the plus sign.
    • [size=-n]text[/size], where n can be 0, 1, or 2. Note that you must include the minus sign.
    The article [main]Writing articles Text size example[/main] shows all the sizes that are possible.
  7. Font [font=FontName] and [/font]. [font=courier]This text is in courier font.[/font] will produce This text is in courier font.

These formatting codes can be combined. For example:
[i][b]This text is bold/italic.[/b][/i] will produce This text is bold/italic.

[color=red][u]This text is red/underlined.[/u][/COLOR] will produce This text is red/underlined.

Headings and Table of Contents

The heading codes [h=HeadingLevel] and [/h] are used to divide articles into sections and sub-sections. The values of HeadingLevel are the numbers 2 (highest), 3, 4, 5, and 6. (Level 1 is reserved for special purposes.) The article [main]Writing articles Heading example 3[/main] illustrates these headings.

When an article has at least 4 headings, a Table of Contents is automatically created and placed at the start of the article, below the first paragraph.

The way the system generates the table of contents means that you should not skip levels. Thus, if your article uses three levels of sections and sub-sections then use levels 2, 3 and 4. [main]Writing articles Heading example 1[/main] illustrates the correct use of headings, and [main]Writing articles Heading example 2[/main] shows an incorrect table of contents caused by skipping levels.

The [toc]action[/toc] code is used to control the generation of the table of contents:
[toc]no[/toc] supresses the table of contents.

[toc]force[/toc] displays the table of contents even when there are fewer than 4 headings.

[toc]nonum[/toc] removes the table of contents numbering, leaving only the bullet points.

[toc][/toc] places the table of contents at the chosen position in the article.​
As an exercise, create an article in the Sandbox and copy the example heading codes from [main]Writing articles Heading example 1[/main] into it. Then experiment with the [toc] codes listed above.
NOTE: At the moment there appears to be a bug in the system, so you may get strange results.

To make it easier for the reader to distinguish between different heading levels, you can use text formatting, such as italic, color and size. Some examples are also shown in [main]Writing articles Heading example 3[/main].

Text layout

There are a number of ways in which you can control the layout of text:


The left, right and center alignment codes [left], [right] and [center]:
[left]This text is left aligned[/left]
This text is center aligned​
This text is right aligned​

This text is left aligned​
This text is center aligned​
This text is right aligned​


The indent code [indent] indents text from the left margin. It can be nested to produce multiple indents:
Left margin.[indent]Indented text.[/indent]Back to the left margin.
Now the text has been indented twice,​
and then once,​
and back to the left margin again.

Left margin.
Indented text.​
Back to the left margin.
Now the text has been indented twice,​
and then once,​
and back to the left margin again.

Horizontal rule

Finally, the horizontal rule code [hr] inserts a horizontal line. It has 3 parameters separated by vertical bars “|”:

  1. width=value (optional) This specifies the width of the rule either as nn%, a percentage of the window width, or nnpx, a fixed length in pixels.
  2. size=value (optional) This specifies the thickness of the rule in pixels.
  3. color (optional) This specifies the color of the rule. There are two different ways to specify color:
    • color=rule color The rule is of a single color.
    • color1=border color|color2=rule color The rule is of color2 with a thin border of color1.


Note: Due to browser differences, the two-color line appears differently in different browsers. For example the center is black with FireFox, but red with Internet Explorer.​


Lists are constructed by using three codes:

  1. [list]
    : The list code can be used in three ways:

    • [list] with no parameters produces a bulleted list.

    • [list=1] with a number produces a numbered list.

    • [list=a] with a letter produces an alphabetical list.

  2. [*]text
    : Each list item begins with
    [*]. The following text can be several paragraphs if needed.

  3. [/list]
    : This code ends the list.

The article [main]Writing articles List example[/main] illustrates the use of these codes.

Footnotes and References

It is essential that Encyclopedia articles cite the sources used for the information in them. Articles represent the present knowledge in a subject and this knowledge is usually compiled from a number of reputable articles and books that have been written on the topic. These citations are normally gathered together at the end of the article and are often referred to by using footnotes, although sometimes they are simply listed in a separate section titled References.

Citations of books should consist of author, title, date, publisher. Citations of journal articles should consist of author, title, journal, volume and/or issue number, date, pages.

In addition, writers sometimes want to make some minor point, but do not want to interrupt the flow of the text. So these points are often placed in footnotes.


Creating footnotes is rather awkward. The author has to do two things:
  1. Place the text of the footnote in the text of the article at the required place. This is done by inserting [footnote]FootnoteText[/footnote]. The FootnoteText is any text you want.
  2. Insert the codes [reflist][/reflist] where the footnotes are to appear, usually near or the end of the article under a suitable heading. If you do not use the codes [reflist][/reflist] the footnotes will not appear!

[main]Writing articles Footnote example 1[/main] gives a simple illustration of the use of these codes.


Generally articles use two types of citations:
  1. General citations. This is where the whole article or book is relevant. There are two ways to handle such citations:
    • If the reference is generally relevant to the article, it is simpler to list it in a References section and not use footnotes for it.
    • If the reference is relevant to only one part of the article, then provide a footnote at the appropriate place and list the reference in a Footnotes section.
    Both methods can be used in the same article if necessary.
  2. Specific citations. This is where only a particular part of the article or book is relevant. Such citations are best handled by using footnotes which specify the particular part of the reference that is relevant (usually by providing page numbers).

[main]Writing articles Footnote example 2[/main] gives an example.

Multiple references

Sometimes it is necessary to make multiple references to the one book or article. This can be done by making a number of footnotes refer to the one reference in the [reflist].

To do this, the footnote is given a name: [footnote=FootnoteName]FootnoteText[/footnote] Then several footnotes in the article can use the same name and all will then be linked to a single reference.

[main]Writing articles Footnote example 3[/main] explains how to do this with an example.

Footnote and reference templates

To make the creation of citations easier a number of templates have been developed. By using these templates inserting standardized references to books and articles is straightforward.

These templates and their use are described in the article [main]Guidelines for Citations in Encyclopedia Articles[/main].


Just as references are important, many articles need illustrations. Inserting illustrations, images, is done in two steps:
  • The image is uploaded to the Encyclopedia Images namespace. How to do this is described in the article [main]Creating images for the Encyclopedia[/main].
  • The [image] or [img] code is used to insert the image into the article.

The [image] code

The [image]image name|parameters[/image] code is used to insert large images into articles.

The image name is the name of an image article in the image namespace.

The parameters, which are separated by “|”, allow you to control the size, position and border of the image and to add a caption.

The simplest use is with no parameters. For example:
[image]Creative Commons Attribution symbol.gif[/image]
displays the image on the left and places the following text to the right of the image.

That is:

displays the image on the left and places the following text to the right of the image.

Details of the parameters and examples are given in the article [main]Using Images in Articles[/main].

The [img] code

The [img]image address[/img] code is used to insert small images into text. For example:
This sentence has the image [img][/img] inserted in it.
This sentence has the image [​IMG] inserted in it.
The image should be in the encyclopedia image namespace. The image address is not the name of the image or the address of the image article (in this example, it is the address of the image itself.

Finding the address of an image depends on which web browser you are using. In all cases, right click on the image in the image article and then choose an appropriate menu item. Some examples are:
  • In Internet Explorer choose Open Link in New Window (if available) and then copy the address of the image. Alternatively choose Properties and then select and copy the address.
  • In Firefox choose Copy Image Location.
  • In Safari choose Open Image in New Window (or New Tab) and then copy the address of the image. Alternatively choose Copy Image Address.

In all cases you can then paste the address into the [img] code.

The [alt] code

The [alt] code is also used to insert small images into text. The difference between this code and [img] is that the [alt] code allows you to provide some text which is displayed when the cursor is held over the image:
[alt=image_address]display text[/alt]
For example:
This sentence has the image [alt=]Creative Commons Attribution Symbol[/alt] inserted in it.
It produces:
This sentence has the image inserted in it.
The image address is the same as used for the [img] code.

Categories and tags

Categories and Tags are the general index names associated with an article.


Tags are key words. They are added to an article using the special Tags area at the bottom of the article display (the normal display for viewing).

Tags can also be added to message board threads.

If you click on a tag you will be shown a list of articles and message board posts which have that tag.

Tags are automatically created from the words in the article title. Although this is useful, sometimes the tags are not suitable and you should always check and edit the tags.


Every article should end with a list of relevant categories:
[category]category name[/category]​
In choosing categories, the least inclusive (most precise) categories must be used. For example, an article on the Hamilton watch company should have:
[category]American pocket watches[/category]​
It should not have:
Such an article might belong to more than one category, and the above example might specify:
[category]American pocket watches[/category]
American wrist watchesRepair and tools
You can find out what categories exist by navigating to the category namespace.

If you think an appropriate category does not exist, then you can create one; see [main]Categories, creating and editing[/main].
Links can be used for a variety of purposes:
  • Inserting images (this has been covered separately).
  • References to other articles in the encyclopedia.
  • References to web sites outside the encyclopedia.
When an Encyclopedia article name is used in another article or message board forum post, a link to the Encyclopedia article may be automatically created. That is one reason why Encyclopedia article names tend to be a bit formal; it would be annoying to have them popping up in unwanted locations. (Unwanted AutoLinks can be prevented by using the [plain] code around the words that form the title.)

Articles and message board posts may contain explicit links to articles in the Encyclopedia, however it is necessary to specify the namespace in which the article is found. There are two forms:
  1. [namespace short name]article name[/namespace]: In this form the article’s name is displayed as the link. For example:
    [main]Navigating in the Encyclopedia[/main]
  2. [namespace short name=article name]replacement text[/namespace]: In this form the replacement text is displayed instead of the article name. For example:
    [main=Navigating in the Encyclopedia]Learning your way around[/main]
    [main=Navigating in the Encyclopedia]Learning your way around[/main]

Requesting articles

Posters in forums and authors of Encyclopedia articles may also request that a particular Encyclopedia article be created. To do this, they create the article name and enclose it in the code for the namespace where they think it should be created.

The Advanced and WYSIWYG editors provide a set of buttons that may be easily used for this purpose:
  • Encyclopedia article
  • Book name
  • Help item
  • Category name
The request for an article will show up as the article name in red highlighting until such time as the request has been responded to with an article. At that time it will become a standard blue article reference link.

References to web sites

References to external web sites (including other parts of the NAWCC site) should be avoided, because the external site may change or even disappear, resulting a broken link leading nowhere.

However, there are times when an external link is very useful. These are when the information on the external site needs to be referred to, but that information cannot be put directly into the article. For example, most copyright photographs cannot be copied into the encyclopedia’s image namespace, but links can be provided to the photographs. Or, an article mentions some general term, like apprentice, and a link to the wikipedia article on the subject may be better than including a detailed discussion of the term.

External links are handled by the [url] code:
  1. [url]address[/url]: In the simple form only the complete web address is used. For example:
  2. [url=address]replacement text[/url]: In this form the replacement text is displayed instead of the web address. For example:
    [url=]National Association Of Watch And Clock Collectors[/url]


Using tables is explained in the article [main]Writing articles with tables[/main].


Creating and editing books is explained in the article [main]Creating and editing books[/main].


Creating and using templates is explained in the article [main]Creating and using templates[/main].


The comment code allows you to insert text into an article which is not displayed:
A comment can only be seen in the edit view. It is used to explain some aspect of the design of the article. It could also be used during editing to stop some part of the article from being displayed without removing that part completely.

Codes you should not use


A redirect article is an article which automatically transfers to another article. If you click on a redirect article you not see its contents, but the contents of the other article.

Redirect should not be used unless you are absolutely sure of what you are doing. It is much better to get a moderator to resolve problems or set up a redirect than to do it youself.

Redirect should not be used for incorrect article titles. If you create an article with the wrong title, do not create an article with the correct title and get it to redirect to article with the incorrect title. Instead, contact a moderator and get the incorrect title fixed.

The only correct use of a redirect is when an article can and should have two different titles, and this is rare.

An alternative to using a redirect article is to create an ordinary article containing text such as: “See reference to article

A redirect article is an article with the text:
explanation for the redirect
Nothing else can be put into a redirect article; it would be pointless anyway, because normally it will never be seen.

The contents of a redirect article can be seen and edited. For example, the article AL Dennison consists of:
This article redirects to the main article.
[redirect]Dennison, Aaron Lufkin[/redirect]
If you select this article, you are automatically transferred to the article Dennison, Aaron Lufkin where the article heading includes (redirected from AL Dennison):

By clicking on AL Dennison you will be taken to the redirect article where it can be edited.

Message Board BB codes

There are a number of codes that are used in message board posts that should not be used in encyclopedia artices:
  • marquee A marquee (text that scrolls across the page automatically) is fun, but it does not belong in an article.
  • post and thread These codes enable you to link message board posts and threads to articles. But most posts are ephemeral and are not written in a form suitable for inclusion in an encyclopedia.
    If you want to use information from a message board, insert it diectly in the article. But you may need permission from the author of the post to do so.
  • quote The quote is a very important tool when writing posts in message board threads; they allow you to refer back to an earlier post and comment on it, even if there are many intervening posts.
    But an article is a single piece of text and there is nothing to refer back to (except, of course, the article’s history tab). So quotes simply look out of place.
    This restriction is no problem anyway. Instead of putting in a quote, either comment on the article using the discussion tab, or simply edit the article and include your remarks in the text.
  • smilies Smilies are useful and fun, but encyclopedia articles are meant to be serious studies of horology.
    Using smilies simply looks wrong.

In addition, there are some codes that are irrelevant to articles. These are:
attach, code (java), email, html, php and sigpic.​
Categories: Category Tutorials