Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Lists

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Lists are commonly used in Wikipedia to organize information. Lists may be found within the body of a prose article or as a stand-alone article. This guideline explains when and how to use lists appropriately.

Types of lists[edit]

A list can stand alone as a self-contained page, or it can be embedded in an article.

Stand-alone list articles[edit]

List articles are encyclopedia pages consisting of a lead section followed by a list (which may or may not be divided by headings). The items on these lists include links to articles in a particular subject area and may include additional information about the listed items. The titles of stand-alone lists typically begin with the type of list it is (List of, Index of, etc.), followed by the article's subject; like: List of vegetable oils. They can be organised alphabetically, by subject classification or by topics in a flat or hierarchical structure.

The title and bullet style, or vertical style, is common for stand-alone lists. These Wikipedia articles follow the Wikipedia:Stand-alone lists style guideline.

Most lists on Wikipedia are item lists, but not all. Specialized types of stand-alone lists include:

Embedded lists[edit]

Embedded lists are lists used within articles to present information that supplements the article's prose content. Wikipedia also uses several types of standard appendices, usually in list format, including "See also", "References", and "External links" sections, as well as navigational templates.

Purposes of lists[edit]

Lists have three main purposes:


The list may be a valuable information source. This is particularly the case for a structured list. Examples would include lists organized chronologically, grouped by theme, or annotated lists.


Lists which contain internally linked terms (i.e., wikilinks) serve, in aggregate, as natural tables of contents and indexes of Wikipedia. If users have some general idea of what they are looking for but do not know the specific terminology, they could browse the lists of basic topics and more comprehensive lists of topics, which in turn lead to most if not all of Wikipedia's lists, which in turn lead to related articles. Users without a specific research goal in mind might also find the articles listed in articles' see also sections useful. Lists are also provided in portals to assist in navigating their subjects, and lists are often placed in articles via the use of series boxes and other navigational templates.

Users with a specific research goal, described in one or two words, are likely to find Wikipedia's search box useful.


Some lists are useful for Wikipedia development purposes. The lists of related topics give an indication of the state of Wikipedia, the articles that have been written, and the articles that have yet to be written. However, as Wikipedia is optimized for readers over editors, any lists which exist primarily for development or maintenance purposes (such as a list that consists entirely of red links and does not serve an informational purpose; especially a list of missing topics) should be in either the project or user space, not the main space.

Lists and categories[edit]

Redundancy of lists and categories is beneficial because the two formats work together; the principle is covered in the guideline Wikipedia:Categories, lists, and navigation templates. Like categories, lists can be used for keeping track of changes in the listed pages, using the Related Changes feature. Unlike a category, a list also allows detection of deletion of its entries, and, more generally, a history of its contents is available; lists also permit a large number of entries to appear on a single page.

List naming[edit]

For a stand-alone list, the list's title is the page name. For an embedded list, the list's title is usually a section title (for instance, Latin Empire#Latin Emperors of Constantinople, 1204–1261), but it can be shorter. The list title should not be misleading and should normally not include abbreviations. Additionally, an overly precise list title can be less useful and can make the list difficult to find; the precise inclusion criteria for the list should be spelled out in the lead section (see below), not the title. For instance, words like complete and notable are normally excluded from list titles. Instead, the lead makes clear whether the list is complete or whether it is limited to widely-known or notable members (i.e., those that merit articles). Note that the word "famous" is considered an unnecessary "peacock" embellishment and should not be used.

List layout[edit]

Bulleted and numbered list basics[edit]

Do not use a list if a passage is understood easily as regular text. Many stub articles can be improved by converting unnecessary lists into encyclopedic prose. See also: WP:Manual of Style/Trivia sections.

Use proper markup: Employ careful wikimarkup- or template-based list code (see Help:List for many pointers). Especially do not leave blank lines between items in a list, since this causes the MediaWiki software to misinterpret each item as beginning a new list. (There are HTML techniques to insert linebreaks or additional paragraphs into a list item.) Avoid misuse of list markup in articles for visual styling of non-list material.

Use a bulleted (unordered) list by default, especially for long list. Use a numbered (ordered) list only if there is a need to refer to items by number, the sequence of items is important, or the numbering exists in the real world (e.g. tracks on an album).

List items should be formatted consistently in a list. Unless there is a good reason to use different list types in the same page, consistency throughout an article is also desirable.

Use sentence case by default for list items, whether they are complete sentences or not. Sentence case is used for around 99% of lists on Wikipedia. Title case (as used for book titles) is not used for list entries.

Lowercase is best reserved for:

  • lists introduced by a sentence fragment, with a short list of items, also fragments, continuing the extended sentence;
  • glossary entries, where it is important to convey whether something is usually capitalized or not;
  • lists of items with non-English names (that have not been assimilated into English), from a language in which their capitalization would be incorrect.

Use the same grammatical form for all items in a list – avoid mixing sentences and sentence fragments as items.

  • When the items are complete sentences, each one is formatted with sentence case (i.e., the initial letter is capitalized) and a final full stop (period).
  • When the items are sentence fragments, the list is usually preceded by introductory material and a colon. Items may be given in with initial lowercase or in sentence case. No final punctuation is used in most cases.
    • Semicolons may be used when the list is short, items are lowercase, and the entire list forms a complete sentence (typically with its introductory phrase and possibly with a closing phrase after the list to complete the sentence). Many cases of this are better rewritten as paragraphs unless it is contextually important to "listify" the items for clarity (e.g. because they correspond to sections in the rest of the article below the list).

A list item should not end with a full stop unless it consists of a complete sentence or is the end of a list that forms one.

When elements contain (or are) titles of works or other proper names, these retain their original capitalization, regardless how the rest of the list is formatted.

A list title in a section heading provides a direct edit point, if one enables section editing. It also enables the automatic table of contents to detect the list. It is not required, however, and should not be used for a list that is not the focus of a section, or for lists in an article that uses a lot of short lists and which is better arranged by more topical headings that group related lists.

Lead section or paragraph[edit]

The contents of an article that is a stand-alone list should be clear. If the title does not make clear what the list includes, then the list's lead section should do so. Don't leave readers confused about the list's inclusion criteria or have editors guessing as to what may be added to the list.

However short or schematic a list description, Wikipedia:Neutral point of view applies, including:

It should not be asserted that the most popular view or some sort of intermediate view among the different views is the correct one.

Lead sections and paragraphs should also follow the Self-references to avoid guideline.

Lead sections in stand-alone lists[edit]

Stand-alone lists should always include a lead section just as other articles do.

Wikipedia:Featured list criteria recommends that "[a list] has an engaging lead section that introduces the subject and defines the scope and inclusion criteria of the list".

Furthermore, non-obvious characteristics of a list, such as those regarding the list's structure, should be explained in its lead section (e.g., List of compositions by Franz Schubert by genre) or in a separate introductory section (e.g., List of compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach#Listing Bach's compositions).

Lists should not be used to create content forks between a topic that has a separate Wikipedia article (e.g., "republic") and a list complementary to that topic (e.g., "List of republics").

Introductory material for embedded lists[edit]

An embedded list should have introductory material preceding it, especially in a case where the section title is ambiguous, or when the list has non-obvious characteristics.


Although lists may be organized in different ways, they must always be organized. The most basic form of organization is alphabetical or numerical (such as List of Star Wars starfighters), though if items have specific dates a chronological format is sometimes preferable (List of Belarusian Prime Ministers). When using a more complex form of organization, (by origin, by use, by type, etc.), the criteria for categorization must be clear and consistent. Just as a reader or editor could easily assume that the headings A, B, C would be followed by D (rather than 1903), more complex systems should be just as explicit. If a list of Australians in international prisons contains the headings Argentina and Cambodia (organization by country), it would be inappropriate for an editor to add the heading Drug trafficking (organization by offense). If a list entry logically belongs in two or more categories (e.g., an Australian in an Argentine prison for drug trafficking), this suggests that the list categorization might be flawed, and should be re-examined.

Lists should never contain "Unsorted" or "Miscellaneous" headings, as all items worthy of inclusion in the list can be sorted by some criteria, although it is entirely possible that the formatting of the list would need to be revamped to include all appropriate items. Not-yet-sorted items may be included on the list's talk page while their categorization is determined.

Adding individual items to a list[edit]

Lists, whether they are stand-alone lists (also called list articles) or embedded lists, are encyclopedic content just as paragraph-only articles or sections are. Therefore, all individual items on the list must follow Wikipedia's content policies: the core content policies of Verifiability (through good sources in the item's one or more references), No original research, and Neutral point of view, plus the other content policies as well. Although the format of a list might require less detail per topic, Wikipedia policies and procedures apply equally to both a list of similar things as well as to any related article to which an individual thing on the list might be linked.

It is important to be bold in adding or editing items on a list, but also to balance boldness with being thoughtful, a balance which all content policies are aimed at helping editors achieve. Edits of uncertain quality can be first discussed on the talk page for feedback from other editors.

Besides being useful for such feedback, a talk page discussion is also a good review process for reaching consensus before adding an item that is difficult or contentious, especially those items for which the definition of the topic itself is disputed. Note that, as with other policies and processes mentioned in this section, this process can be used for any type of difficult or contentious encyclopedic content on Wikipedia.

Reaching consensus on the talk page before editing the list itself not only saves time in the long run, but also helps make sure that each item on the list is well referenced and that the list as a whole represents a neutral point of view.

When an item meets the requirements of the Verifiability policy, readers of the list can check an item's reference to see that the information comes from a reliable source. For information to be verifiable, it also means that Wikipedia does not publish original research: its content is determined by information previously published in a good source, rather than the beliefs or experiences of its editors, or even the editor's interpretation beyond what the source actually says. Even if you're sure that an item is relevant to the list's topic, you must find a good source that verifies this knowledge before you add it to the list (although you can suggest it on the talk page), and add that source in a reference next to the item.

In lists that involve living persons, the Biographies of living persons policy applies.

When reliable sources disagree, the policy of keeping a neutral point of view requires that we describe competing views without endorsing any in particular. Simply present what the various sources say, giving each side its due weight through coverage balanced according to the prominence of each viewpoint in the published, reliable sources.

When adding to a stand-alone list with links to other articles, follow the established format when adding your item, and then see if you can a link that item to an article focusing on that item's topic. If so, then consider if the list's format allows room for all the details of competing views in the list item or if those details should only be covered in the linked, main article on the topic. Either way, make sure to add them to the main article if they are not already there.

Images and lists[edit]

 [[File:Example.jpg|thumb|Caption text]]* Example 1* Example 2* Example 3* Example 4
 * Example 1* Example 2[[File:Example.jpg|thumb|Caption text]]* Example 3* Example 4
 * Example 1* Example 2* [[File:Example.jpg|thumb|Caption text]] Example 3* Example 4

To float pictures to the right of the list, one should put the image markup before the first item in most cases, see the example "A" at right:Inserting the image markup as a separate line within the list (as in example "B") once again will split it into two half-lists.

Should the length of the list items or the topical relevance of said image discourage display at the top corner, consider placing it after the asterisk of the first list-item it illustrates (as in example "C") to avoid breaking continuity of the unordered list (<ul>) element.

Note: When floating images to the left of a list, use the {{flowlist}} template to prevent disrupting the indentation of the bullet-points.


You can add one or more suitable subcategories of Category:Lists at the bottom of the page containing a list that may be of independent encyclopedic interest. If there is a redirect for the list (e.g. from "List of Presidents of Elbonia" to "President of Elbonia#List of Elbonian Presidents") put list categories on the "List"-named redirect instead. Use a sort key to sort alphabetically by topic.

List styles[edit]

There are several ways of presenting lists on Wikipedia.

Bulleted lists[edit]

This is the most common list type on Wikipedia. Bullets are used to discern, at a glance, the individual items in a list, usually when each item in the list is a simple word, phrase or single line of text, for which numeric ordering is not appropriate. They are not appropriate for large paragraphs. Simple bulleted lists are created by starting a line with * and adding the text of a list item, one item per * line.

List items should be formatted consistently. Summary:

  • Prefer sentence case.
  • Prefer using full sentences, and avoid mixing sentences and fragments as items in the same list.
  • No terminal punctuation is used with sentence fragments.
  • Do not put blank lines between list items.

For details, see § Bulleted and numbered lists, above.

Good example
==Title of list==* Example 1* Example 2* Example 3
<h2><span class="mw-headline" id="Title_of_list">Title of list</span></h2><ul><li>Example 1</li><li>Example 2</li><li>Example 3</li></ul>
Title of list
  • Example 1
  • Example 2
  • Example 3

HTML formatting can be used to create rich lists, including items with internal paragraph breaks. Using images with lists requires some care.

For infoboxes, a bulleted list can be converted to unbulleted or horizontal style with simple templates, to suppress both the large bullets and the indentation.

Do not double-space the lines of the list by leaving blank lines after them. Doing this breaks the list into multiple lists, defeating the purpose of using list markup. This adversely affects accessibility (screen readers will tell the visually impaired user there are multiple lists),[1] and interferes with machine-parseability of the content for reuse. Moreover, in certain Web browsers, the extra white-space between one block of list output and the next can have a visually jarring effect.

Blank lines between items of a list will not only cause the same broken-list problems as in bulleted lists, but will also restart the numbering at "1". This cannot be fixed without complex markup (defeating ease-of-editing expectations), so double-spacing should always be avoided in numbered lists.

Bad example
==Title of list==* Example 1* Example 2* Example 3
<h2><span class="mw-headline" id="Title_of_list">Title of list</span></h2><ul><li>Example 1</li></ul><ul><li>Example 2</li></ul><ul><li>Example 3</li></ul>
Title of list
  • Example 1
  • Example 2
  • Example 3

Doing this actually produces three lists with one item each! Notice the rendered HTML in which there are as many <ul> tags as <li> tags.

Unbulleted lists[edit]

For lists of up to thirty items (may increase later) without bullets, use a {{Plainlist}} or {{Unbulleted list}} template. Typical uses are in infobox fields, and to replace pseudo-lists of lines separated with <br />. The templates emit the correct HTML markup, and hide the bullets with CSS (see Template:Plainlist § Technical details).

== Title of list =={{Plainlist|* Example 1* Example 2* Example 3}}
<h2><span class="mw-headline" id="Title_of_list">Title of list</span></h2><div class="plainlist"><ul><li>Example 1</li><li>Example 2</li><li>Example 3</li></ul></div>
Title of list
  • Example 1
  • Example 2
  • Example 3
== Title of list =={{Unbulleted list| Example 1| Example 2| Example 3}}
<h2><span class="mw-headline" id="Title_of_list">Title of list</span></h2><div class="plainlist"><ul><li>Example 1</li><li>Example 2</li><li>Example 3</li></ul></div>
Title of list
  • Example 1
  • Example 2
  • Example 3

A benefit of {{Plainlist}} is that it can be wrapped around an already-existing bullet list. A feature of {{Unbulleted list}} is that, for a short list, it can be put on a single line: {{Unbulleted list|Example 1|Example 2|Example 3}}.

Numbered lists[edit]

Use a numbered (ordered) list only if any of the following apply:

  • There is a need to refer to the elements by number.
  • The sequence of the items is critical.
  • The numbering has some independent meaning, for example in a listing of musical tracks on an album.

Use a # symbol at the start of a line to generate a numbered list item (excepted as detailed in this section, this works the same as * for bulleted lists, above).

List items should be formatted consistently. Summary:

  • Prefer sentence case.
  • Prefer using full sentences, and avoid mixing sentences and fragments as items in the same list.
  • No terminal punctuation is used with sentence fragments.
  • Do not put blank lines between list items.

For details, see § Bulleted and numbered lists, above.


==Title of list==# Example 1# Example 2# Example 3
<h2><span class="mw-headline" id="Title_of_list">Title of list</span></h2><ol><li>Example 1</li><li>Example 2</li><li>Example 3</li></ol>
Title of list
  1. Example 1
  2. Example 2
  3. Example 3

Blank lines between items of an ordered list will not only cause the same broken-list problems as in bulleted lists, but will also restart the numbering at "1". This cannot be fixed without complex markup (defeating ease-of-editing expectations), so double-spacing should always be avoided in numbered lists.

HTML formatting can be used to create rich lists, including items with internal paragraph breaks; some basics are illustrated below. Using images with lists also requires some care.

Other cases[edit]

Experienced editors can use raw HTML to achieve more complex results, such as ordered lists using indexes other than numbers, and ordered lists not starting from 1.

<ol type="a"><li>this</li><li>list</li><li>uses</li><li>letters</li><li>as</li><li>indexes</li></ol>
  1. this
  2. list
  3. uses
  4. letters
  5. as
  6. indexes
<ol start="10"><li>this</li><li>list</li><li>starts</li><li>from</li><li>10</li></ol>
  1. this
  2. list
  3. starts
  4. from
  5. 10
<ol type="I" start="50"><li>this</li><li>list</li><li>uses</li><li>roman</li><li>numerals</li><li>and</li><li>starts</li><li>from</li><li>50</li></ol>
  1. this
  2. list
  3. uses
  4. roman
  5. numerals
  6. and
  7. starts
  8. from
  9. 50

Valid values for the list type are:

The start value can be negative, but only if the list uses numbers as indexes. Otherwise, bizarre results are achieved.

<ol type="a" start="-2"><li>definitely</li><li><b>not</b></li><li>a</li><li>good</li><li>idea!</li></ol>
  1. definitely
  2. not
  3. a
  4. good
  5. idea!

Description (definition, association) lists[edit]

Wikipedia has special markup for description lists (formerly called definition lists in HTML4 and association lists in early HTML5). A description list contains groups of "terms and definitions, metadata topics and values, questions and answers, or any other groups of name-value data.".[2]

There are templates for producing description lists such as glossaries, in ways that provide for richer, more complex content than bare wikimarkup syntax. The basic format of a template-structured description list is:

MarkupRenders as

{{term |name 1}}
{{defn |value 1}}
{{term |name 2}}
{{defn |value 2}}
{{term |name 3}}
{{defn |value 3}}
{{glossary end}}

name 1
value 1
name 2
value 2
name 3
value 3

The content in any {{defn}} can be complex, including multiple paragraphs, block quotations, sub-lists, etc. See Template:Glossary for full documentation.

The simpler, but very functionality-limited and easily broken, basic wikimarkup format is:

MarkupRenders as
; name 1 : value 1; name 2 : value 2; name 3 : value 3
name 1 
value 1
name 2 
value 2
name 3 
value 3

An alternative source layout is to put the descriptive value on a separate line straight after the term, like so:

MarkupRenders as
; name 1: This is the value associated with the first name and may be quite long, but must be one unbroken line in the source.; name 2: This is the value associated with the second name, which may also be long.
name 1
This is the value associated with the first term and may be quite long, but must be one unbroken line in the source.
name 2
This is the value associated with the second term, which may also be long.

This still keeps the names and values within a single description list, and the alternation of typically short names and longer values makes the separate components easy to spot while editing. The resulting layout and HTML are identical to that generated by the single-line syntax.

A major weakness of both variants of ;-and-: markup is that they are easily broken by later editors attempting to create multi-line values. Use of template-structured formatting prevents that problem. (For full details on the problems with colon-delimited list markup, see WP:Manual of Style/Glossaries/DD bug test cases.).

Use template-structured or wikimarkup description list format instead of other, made-up formats, as they may mismatch reader and editor expectations, hamper reusability of Wikipedia content, make automated processing more difficult, and introduce usability and accessibility problems.

As with unordered (bulleted) and order (numbered) lists, items in description lists should not be double-spaced, as it causes each entry to be its own bogus "list" in the output, obviating the point of putting the entries in list markup to begin with.

In some cases, tables are better-suited to associating content than description lists, especially when there are multiple values for each item.

When wikimarkup colons are used just for visual indentation, they too are rendered in HTML as description lists, but without ;-delimited terms to which the :-indented material applies, nor with the list start and end tags, which produces broken markup (see WP:Manual of Style/Accessibility § Indentation for details). More accessible indentation templates can be used, e.g. {{in5}} or one of its variants for one line, and {{block indent}} for more than one line (even if misuse of description list markup on talk pages is too ingrained to change at this point).

Many of the considerations at WP:Manual of Style#Section headings also apply to description list terms, which serve the dual purpose of subheadings and list content.


Although the use of tables to display lists is discouraged—because they provide low-quality accessibility and have a more complex notation that hinders editing—there are some instances where they can be useful, such as when three or more columns are required. See Wikipedia:When to use tables.

Horizontal lists[edit]

In situations such as infoboxes, horizontal lists may be useful. Examples:

List with commasEntry 1, entry 2, entry 3Just plain text
List with {{Hlist}}
  • Entry 1
  • entry 2
  • entry 3
{{hlist|Entry 1|entry 2|entry 3}}
List with {{Flatlist}}
  • Entry 1
  • entry 2
  • entry 3

* Entry 1
* entry 2
* entry 3

Note the capitalization of only the first word in this list ("Entry 1 ..."), regardless of coding style. Words that are normally capitalized, like proper names, would of course still be capitalized.

A benefit of {{Flatlist}} is that it can be wrapped around an already-existing bullet list. A feature of {{Hlist}} is that, for a short list, it can be put on a single line.


For lists of dated events, or timelines, use one instance of {{Timeline-event}} per event, thus:

* {{Timeline-event|date={{Start date|1904|11|18|df=y}}|event=A thing happened}}* {{Timeline-event|date={{Start date|1905}}|event=Not much happened}}* {{Timeline-event|date={{Start date|1906|01|21}}|event=Something else happened}}

to render as:

  • 18 November 1904 (1904-11-18): A thing happened
  • 1905 (1905): Not much happened
  • January 21, 1906 (1906-01-21): Something else happened

(note optional df=y (date first) parameter – date formatting should be consistent within individual articles).

Chronological lists, such as timelines, should be in earliest-to-latest chronological order. See Wikipedia:Stand-alone lists § Chronological ordering.

Line breaks[edit]

MarkupRenders as
cake<br />cheese<br />chocolate<br />


This "pseudo-list" method is deprecated, as it does not meet Web standards and can cause accessibility problems. Instead, use one of more formatted list styles defined above.

Boilerplate text[edit]

Directly before an incomplete list, insert {{expand list}}, which will substitute the following onto the page:

Several topic-specific variations of this template are also available within Category:Hatnote templates for lists. Only one of {{expand list}} or its variations should be added, unless the topic is significantly related to more than one of the subcategories. Do not add both {{expand list}} AND a variation to any list.

Pro and con lists[edit]

These are lists of arguments for and against a particular contention or position. They include lists of Advantages and disadvantages of a technology or proposal (such as Wi-Fi) and lists of Criticisms and defenses of a political position or other view, such as libertarianism or evolution. Pro and con lists can encapsulate or bracket neutrality problems in an article by creating separate spaces in which different points of view can be expressed. An alternative method is to thread different points of view into running prose.

Either method needs careful judgment as to whether and how it should be used. In particular, pro and con lists can fragment the presentation of facts, create a binary structure where a more nuanced treatment of the spectrum of facts is preferable, encourage oversimplification, and require readers to jump back and forth between the two sides of the list.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Blank lines cause particular problems for users of screen readers. The badly formatted example above is read out loud like this: "List of 1 items: Example 1, list end. List of 1 items: Example 2, list end. List of 1 items: Example 3, list end." Improper formatting can more than triple the length of time it takes to read the list.
  2. ^ HTML5: A Vocabulary and Associated APIs for HTML and XHTML – W3C Recommendation, World Wide Web Consortium, 28 October 2014, "4.4.8 The dl element" .