A video tutorial explaining talk pages and how to use them
Talk pages are a key feature of Wikipedia, offering the ability to discuss articles and other issues with other Wikipedians. They are not to be used as a chat room, soapbox, battleground or for general discussion of the article topic.
If you have a question, concern or comment related to improving an article, put a note in the article's talk page and not in the article itself. You do that by clicking the "talk" tab at the top of the page. Do not worry if the link shows up in red; it is all right to create the talk page if it does not already exist.
If you are responding to someone else's remarks, put your comment below theirs. You should indent it properly (see section below). If you are not responding to someone else, but are posting about something new, use the "Add topic" or "New section" tab/link at the top of the talk page to create a new section, which automatically is started at the bottom of the page. Be sure to fill in a helpful "Subject/headline" to uniquely identify what the new discussion is about.
You should always sign your comments by typing ~~~~ for your username plus a time signature. Then, when you click "Publish changes", your signature will be inserted automatically. Otherwise your posting will still appear but without your name. (For your convenience, there is a button at the top of the edit box with a signature icon which inserts "~~~~" when clicked.)
If you do not have a username account, or if you have one but have not logged in, your computer's external IP address will be used as your signature instead when you type ~~~~ and publish your edit. And in such cases, whether or not you sign your comment, your IP address will be recorded (in the page history) as having made the edit. If you do not want your IP address recorded by Wikipedia in this way so that everyone can see it, then you should get a username by creating a free account.
User talk pages
Every editor (every person with a username) has a user talk page on which other contributors can leave messages. This includes contributors who have not created an account. If someone has left you a message, you will see a note across the top of Wikipedia pages (if you are signed in) 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 intend to use this approach, it is a good idea to post a notice to that effect at the top of your talk page, so people know they have to keep an eye on the page to see your response rather than getting your response on their page.
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 to indent in Wikipedia:
The simplest way to indent 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.
- 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.
You can also indent using bullets, which are also used for lists. To insert a bullet (when your edit is saved), type 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
You can also create numbered lists. For this, use the number sign or "octothorpe" (#). This is usually used for polls and voting, and otherwise is fairly rare. 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:
- First item
- Second item
- Sub-item under second item
- Third item
Here is an example of a well-formatted discussion:
Hi. I have a question about this article. I'm pretty sure purple elephants only live in New York! JayRandumWikiUser 02:49, 10 Dec 2003 (UTC)
- Well, last time I was in New York, the elephants I saw were green. — try2BEEhelpful 17:28, 11 Dec 2003 (UTC)
- I think you should find a source for your claims. Living × Skepticism 20:53, 11 Dec 2003 (UTC)
- Okay, these elephant journals agree with me:
- Elephants Monthly
- Elephants World
- — try2BEEhelpful 19:09, 12 Dec 2003 (UTC)
- Well, those two sources are unreliable. According to New York City Animal Control, there are no elephants, purple or otherwise, in New York outside of zoos. IloveNYC&elephants 17:28, 13 Dec 2003 (UTC)
- I live in Australia, where the elephants look like kangaroos! The people below agree with my statement: -DontGdayMateMe 17:28, 14 Dec 2003 (UTC)
- ElefantLuvr 01:22, 15 Dec 2003 (UTC)
- AisleVoteOnAnything 05:41, 15 Dec 2003 (UTC)
- alittlebehindthetimes 18:39, 27 Jan 2004 (UTC)
- I think you should have a source. Remember verifiability. IloveNYC&elephants 20:56, 28 Jan 2004
Note that if you want to include a list in your comments, add colons before each item, for example:
- ::: Okay, these elephant journals agree with me:
- :::* ''Elephants Monthly''
- :::* ''Elephants World''
- ::: ~~~~
Again, signing your message (posting) is done by:
- Writing ~~~~ for your name and date (try2BEEhelpful 19:09, 12 Dec 2003 (UTC))
You can add a signature only, or a date only, but this is unusual. Here is how:
- Writing ~~~ for the name (try2BEEhelpful), or
- Writing ~~~~~ for the date only (19:09, 12 Dec 2003 (UTC)).
Votes are often signed with names only.
Unfortunately on the English Wikipedia, VisualEditor is not enabled for any talk pages, in the Template or Wikipedia namespaces, or in several of the namespaces that are rarely edited. The "Edit" button for VisualEditor is not available on pages where VisualEditor cannot be used.
Note: To view this information in an article style format, see contributing to Wikipedia. Wikipedia also has "topic specific tutorials"; and The Wikipedia Adventure a comprehensive and fun 7-mission interactive guided tour, which covers all the essentials about editing and the expectations and norms of the Wikipedia community.