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Wikipedia How-To: Using Templates

Today, I’m starting a new series covering the basics of how to represent your brand ethically on Wikipedia. First up: templates! These snippets of code are vital to communicating and organizing information on Wikipedia.

What are Wikipedia templates? 

Templates are code snippets that serve a variety of functions on Wikipedia. Inserting a template on a page will likely add a bright yellow box of information to it. To see what this looks like, check out the talk page for the article on Harriet Tubman. Each of those yellow boxes at the top is a template, and each serves a unique purpose – both for providing information, and for integrating the article into Wikipedia’s infrastructure. For instance, some of the templates on this talk page indicate that the article is within the scope of several WikiProjects – groups of editors on Wikipedia who work on articles related to certain topics (in this case, military history, Methodism, feminism and more).  

Cleanup templates

When you see a banner at the top of an article flagging a problem with the article, this is a cleanup template. Common article cleanup templates are {{copy edit}} (for when an article’s writing quality can be improved), {{Refimprove}} (for when an article needs more citations) and {{POV}} (for when an article seems to be written from a biased point of view). It’s good Wikipedia citizenship to tag articles with cleanup templates where you see that they’re needed (although it’s even better to make the fixes yourself, assuming you don’t have a COI – a conflict of interest – on the article topic). Just make sure you follow the template’s guidelines – for instance, noting the month and year that you’re adding the template. To see the documentation, rules and parameters for any template, simply search “Template:[template name]” anywhere on Wikipedia.

Cleanup templates cause articles to be categorized among other articles needing similar help. For instance, articles with the {{POV}} template are added to Category:NPOV disputes. Many Wikipedians have pet maintenance tasks they like to perform and will patrol these cleanup categories to fix up the tagged articles. (Personally, I occasionally pass time adding categories to uncategorized articles.)

A few templates you should know about

  • {{request edit}}, which tags a talk page posting from a COI editor and asks that someone else review and reply to the COI editor’s request. These requests are automatically added to Category:Requested edits. I’ll explain more about how to post edit requests in the future!
  • When posting suggestions on a talk page, fully format your references as you would in a Wikipedia article, and then add {{Reflist-talk}} to the bottom of your post. This creates a subsection for your references that appears within your post, as opposed to creating a brand new References section as appears in regular Wikipedia articles. See here for an example.
  • When posting on a talk page for an article with which you have a conflict of interest, add the {{Connected contributor (paid)}} template to the top of the talk page. See here for an example.
  • Infobox templates create the boxes that appear on the right-hand-side of the page at the top of many Wikipedia articles, providing basic information. {{Infobox company}} and {{Infobox person}} are two of the most common ones, but there are tons more, too.

More info

Published inWikipedia

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© Mary Gaulke, 2019.