RSS

Style guide

TagLast edit: 15 Jun 2021 1:18 UTC by Pablo

This Style Guide describes the stylistic rules to which all EA Wiki articles should conform. We are definitely happy for you to begin contributing to the Wiki without having learned these rules. We would much rather have good content we need to reformat than no content at all, and we are grateful for your contributions either way.

The document is heavily based on Wikipedia’s Manual of Style, and a few parts of it are directly copied from that article. However, it also deviates from it in a number of respects, and is considerably shorter. If you are broadly familiar with Wikipedia’s conventions already, you may want to skim liberally and just focus on the sections that present you with new information.

The Style Guide is a work in progress, and it will be revised and expanded over time. If you have questions about matters of style not answered by this document, or answered inadequately, feel free to make an edit or leave a comment.

Organization of articles

Titles

The title of an article should be a precise, concise and recognizable name or description of the topic of the article. Use sentence case, and avoid articles at the beginning and punctuation marks at the end, unless doing so would result in the removal of an inseparable part of the name.

History of effective altruism

The history of effective altruism

The Life You Can Save

Life You Can Save

If the title is a name that has an associated acronym, use the acronym only if that is how the subject is primarily known.

ALLFED

Animal Charity Evaluators

ACE

In general, give preference to the singular over the plural:

existential risk

existential risks

If the title involves a conjunction, use “and” rather than an ampersand (&).

Sections

Begin every article with a lead section, or a summary of the subject, followed by a body.

The first sentence of the lead should contain a definition of the topic of the article. The title of the article should appear in this sentence, in boldface.

GiveWell is a nonprofit charity evaluator based in San Francisco.

If relevant, include alternative or former terms or spellings for the topic in parentheses. These variants should also be boldfaced.

Open Philanthropy (previously the Open Philanthropy Project) is a research and grantmaking foundation based in San Francisco.

Divide the body, but never the lead itself, into sections. Each section may be further subdivided into subsections, as needed.

The sections of the body may be followed, when appropriate, with the sections Bibliography, External links and Related entries, in that order. See here and here for examples.

Section headings

Each section in the article, except the lead section, is associated with a section heading. When naming headings, follow the same rules as govern the naming of titles.

Tone

Write in an encyclopedic tone. Avoid slang, colloquialisms, legalese or unnecessary jargon. Do not write from a first- or second-person perspective. Avoid bombastic wording, innuendo, humor, or irony.

Entries should adopt a neutral point of view rather than advocate for a particular point of view. If controversy exists, do not take sides; rather, summarize the relevant views, and the evidence and arguments presented in their favor, fairly and accurately.

Avoid stating as facts claims that would be disputed by someone endorsing reasonable epistemic standards. Conversely, avoid presenting a claim that would pass the above test as a mere subjective opinion.

Avoid making value judgments. If contextually relevant, you may describe value judgments made by others, but never in a way that suggests endorsement.

Varieties of English

When differences in spelling, vocabulary or grammar exist between different national varieties of English, you are free to use whichever variant corresponds to the variety of English you speak, or that you prefer for any other reason. However, this is subject to the following qualifications:

Abbreviations

Write words in full when they first occur in the article, mentioning the abbreviation in parenthesis, unless an abbreviation is so familiar that it is used more often in full.

The BBC

The British Broadcasting Corporation

Use the abbreviated form throughout the rest of the article, but also consider alternative ways of referring to the entity in question to avoid unnecessary proliferation of capital letters.

The terms ‘effective altruism’, ‘existential risk’ and other expressions commonly abbreviated in informal discussion should be spelled in full and—unless they occur as part of a name—in lowercase.

Criticism of EA

The Effective Altruism movement

anthropogenic x-risk

The Centre for Effective Altruism

The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk

Emphasis markers

As noted in the Organization of articles section, the article’s title, as well as variant spellings, should appear in boldface. Otherwise, you should use only italics—rather than boldface or capitals—for emphasis.

The use of italics for citing works is covered in References.

Quotations

Enclose short quotations in double quotation marks, and use block quotations for longer quotations. We consider a quotation short if it consists of less than one full paragraph and at most 40 words, and longer otherwise.

For short quotations, the citation should follow the quotation.

In Jan Naverson’s famous dictum, “We are in favor of making people happy, but neutral about making happy people.” (Narveson 1973: 80)

For long quotations, the citation should precede it.

Derek Parfit has expressed a version of this view (Parfit 2017: 436–437):

>If we are the only rational beings in the Universe, as some recent evidence suggests, it matters even more whether we shall have descendants or successors during the billions of years in which that would be possible. Some of our successors might live lives and create worlds that, though failing to justify past suffering, would have given us all, including those who suffered most, reasons to be glad that the Universe exists.

Punctuation

To keep the length of this document within reasonable boundaries, there are many punctuation rules we do not cover here. We just focus on the most important rules, or those where we expect most uncertainty to exist. Please refer to the corresponding section of Wikipedia’s manual of style for further details.

Use logical punctuation, always keeping periods and commas inside the quotation marks when they are meant to apply to the quoted material.

Steven Pinker says you should use logical punctuation “if you write for Wikipedia or another tech-friendly platform”, or “if you have a temperament that is both logical and rebellious”.

When a quotation occurs inside another quotation enclosed in quotation marks, use single quotes for the inside quotation. Otherwise always use double quotes.

The EA Wiki Style Guide should really stop trying to be funny by writing things like “Steven Pinker encourages the use of logical punctuation [...] ‘if you have a temperament that is both logical and rebellious’.”

As illustrated by the above example, inessential parts of a quotation may be omitted by enclosing the ellipsis in square brackets.

The use of serial commas is typically optional. However, serial commas should be either used or avoided when this is necessary to avoid syntactic ambiguity.

This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.

To mark divisions within a sentence, either singly or in pairs (parenthetical dashes), use em dashes (—) with no spaces on either side.

you should use only italics—rather than boldface or capitals—for emphasis

To insert an em dash on MacOS, press Option-Shift-Hyphen; to do so on Windows, type 0151 while holding Alt. You can also use a shortcut application like AutoControl Shortcut Manager or AutoHotkey to make this punctuation easier to access.

Dates and time

Dates

Write dates in the formats “1 January 2021” (full date), “January 1″ (month and day), and “January 2021” (month and year). Do not write “1st”, “2nd”, and so on. Note that the separator is always a space and never a comma.

For decades, use “the 1920s” rather than “the ’20s”.

For the current date, use “As of January 2021” or “As of 1 January 2021″, replacing the dates in the examples by the current date.

As of January 2021, Giving What We Can has 5,600 members.

Time

Use either a 12-hour clock or a 24-hour clock. Twelve-hour clock times are written in the form 8:15 am and 2:30 pm. Twenty-four-hour clock times are written in the form 08:15 and 14:30.

If the time zone is relevant, use Coordinated Universal Time. You may also specify the number of seconds, using a 24-hour clock.

The first nuclear device was detonated on 16 July 1945 at 11:29:45 UTC.

Numbers

Spell integers from zero to nine in words. Integers greater than nine expressible in one or two words may be spelled in either words or numerals.

There are four main cause areas in effective altruism.

Good Ventures has given over $1.25 billion in grants.

Do not abbreviate “thousand”, “million”, “billion” and “trillion”.

For ranges—including date and page ranges—use an en dash (–). To insert an en dash on MacOS, press Option-Hyphen; to do so on Windows, type 0150 while holding Alt. You can also use a shortcut application like AutoControl Shortcut Manager or AutoHotkey to make this punctuation easier to access.

For large numbers, use scientific notation.

what hangs in the balance is at least 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 human lives (though the true number is probably larger).

What hangs in the balance is at least 1058 human lives (though the true number is probably larger).

Currencies

Unless the context requires the use of a different currency, express amounts of money in United States dollars, euros, or pounds sterling, and indicate the currency by the symbols $, € and £, respectively. Use only one symbol with ranges separated by a dash, and do not insert a space between the symbol and the number.

A donation of $1000–2000 to the Against Malaria Foundation can avert the death of a child under five.

For other currencies, use ISO 4217 codes. The code should precede the currency amount, with a space separating the two.

Units of measurement

Use the metric system and, more generally, the International System of Units and the accepted Non-SI units. Unit names should be given in full if used only a few times, but symbols may be used when a unit (especially one with a long name) is used repeatedly after spelling out the first use. Do not insert a period after the symbol, unless a period is required for other reasons. Use “per” when writing out a unit, rather than a slash.

Mathematical symbols

For mathematical symbols, consider using LaTeX. You can use Ctrl-4 (Windows) or Cmd-4 (Mac) to open a LaTeX prompt in the Forum’s editor. Otherwise

Vocabulary

Avoid contractions. Use “is not”, “cannot”, “will not” instead of “isn’t”, “can’t”, and “won’t”, etc.

Use gender-neutral language. To avoid generic masculine and generic feminine pronouns, consider the following approaches:

Some Forum users have suggested using the singular they. Reference works do not have a consistent position on this, so we tentatively leave the decision to the discretion of contributors. If you have suggestions concerning gender-neutral language, please leave them in the comments below.

Links

Internal links

Internal links are links to other articles of the Wiki. As a general rule, if a term occurs for which there is a Wiki entry, or refers to the topic of an entry without explicitly mentioning it, you should link to this entry. However, you should not create an internal link if this would result in repeated links to the same article within the span of a few paragraphs or so. In these cases, readers are likely to have already been exposed to that link, so there is no need to add another one.

External links

External links are all links other than internal links. They include links both to other websites, and to pages within effectivealtruism.org that are not Wiki articles.

External links should only be used in the Bibliography and External links sections of the article, and never in the lead or body sections (see the Organization of articles section).

In the External links section, add links each in a separate line. The title of the link should be the name of the webpage to which the link points. Next to the title, add a brief description of that link; often, the description should just be “official website”. See here and here for examples.

Related entries

This section should list the entries most closely related to the topic of the article. If an entry is already linked to in the body of the article, you may still include it in this section, provided that it is sufficiently related.

Names should be listed in lowercase, in alphabetical order, and separated by a vertical bar (|) with spaces on either side. Do not add a period after the final entry. See here and here for examples.

Citations

Citations in a Wiki article have two parts: first, an inline citation that immediately follows the text that is being quoted or referenced; and, second, a bibliography where the details of the work cited inline are provided in full.

Inline citations

Inline citations indicate sourced text parenthetically, with the last name of the author or authors followed by the year of publication, with no intervening punctuation.
80,000 Hours was called High Impact Careers for a year or so before adopting its current name (MacAskill 2014).

When adding an inline citation for works authored by more than one person, list all the authors if the work has three or fewer authors, and otherwise only list the first author followed by “et al.” Use an ampersand (&) to separate the last two authors and otherwise use a comma.

Currently the only existing vaccine is just 35% effective and its use is slightly less cost-effective than that of insecticide treated bed-nets (Gessner, Wraith & Finn 2016).
According to one meta-analysis, each dollar spent on the Scared Straight program had a net social cost of over $200 (Aos et al. 2004).

When possible, specify the relevant page or chapter numbers. This should be done by adding, between the year of publication and the closing parenthesis, a colon followed by a space and the relevant page or chapter numbers. By default, the numbers are assumed to refer to pages, so there is no need to provide an explicit indication (i.e., “p. 5” is unnecessary). In contrast, when chapters are being referred to, indicate that by using the abbreviations “ch.” (singular) and “chs.” (plural).

According to one view in AI strategy, the concept of a decisive strategic advantage discloses an important connection between two seemingly unrelated ideas: those of a fast takeoff and a unipolar outcome (Bostrom 2014: ch. 5).

Separate multiple references within the same inline citation with semicolons.

Cari Tuna read Peter Singer’s The Life You Can Save, which introduced her “to the idea of not just trying to do some good with your giving, but doing as much good as you can.” (Tuna 2011; Gunther 2018)

Bibliography

This section should include every work cited inline, as well as works especially helpful for users interested in reading further. Below these suggested readings, you may include a sentence summarizing the work’s contents. (To add such a line using the editor, without creating an extra space, press Shift + Enter.

Selgelid, Michael J. (2016) Gain-of-Function research: Ethical analysis, Science and Engineering Ethics, vol. 22, pp. 923–964.
A paper outlining the main moral considerations surrounding gain-of-function research.

Posts from the EA Forum are eligible for inclusion, just like any other work, despite the fact that these posts would typically also be tagged and therefore show up below the article. The bar for tagging a post is lower than for adding a post to the article’s list of recommended readings, so in general a small subset of posts tagged should appear in the bibliography.

Formatting citations can be quite time consuming. Currently, we do not require contributors to format citations properly: you are only asked to provide enough details to allow a contractor that we have hired for this purpose to handle the rest.

It is tedious to specify all the rules that govern how the different types of work should be cited in the bibliography. Below, we provide sufficient examples to allow contributors to infer the underlying rules, followed by a series of notes that make the most important rules explicit.

Books

Ord, Toby (2020) The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity, London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Anthologies

Bostrom, Nick & Milan M. Ćirković (eds.) (2008) Global Catastrophic Risks, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Theses

Beckstead, Nick (2013) On the Overwhelming Importance of Shaping the Far Future, PhD thesis, Rutgers University.

Papers

North, Ace R., Austin Burt & H. Charles J. Godfray (2019) Modelling the potential of genetic control of malaria mosquitoes at national scale, BMC Biology, vol. 17, pp. 1–12.

Blogs

Diabate, Abdoulaye (2019) Target Malaria proceeded with a small-scale release of genetically modified sterile male mosquitoes in Bana, a village in Burkina Faso, Target Malaria’s Blog, July 1.

Websites

Open Philanthropy (2016) Center for global development — general support 2016, Open Philanthropy, February.

Magazines

Tuna, Cari (2008) Denzel charms Silliman students with ‘sexy smile’, Yale Daily News, April 25.

Newspapers

Vastag, Brian (2012) ‘Radical’ bill seeks to reduce cost of AIDS drugs by awarding prizes instead of patents, The Washington Post, May 19.

Book chapters

Jamison, Dean T. et al. (2013) Infectious disease, injury, and reproductive health, in Bjørn Lomborg (ed.) Global Problems, Smart Solutions: Costs and Benefits, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 390–438.

Working papers

Wilkinson, Hayden (2020) In defence of fanaticism, GPI working paper no. 4-2020, Global Priorities Institute, University of Oxford.

Reports

Sandberg, A. & Nick Bostrom (2008) Global catastrophic risks survey, technical report no. 2008-1, Future of Humanity Institute, University of Oxford.

Interviews

Koehler, Arden, Robert Wiblin & Keiran Harris (2020) Hilary Greaves on Pascal’s mugging, strong longtermism, and whether existing can be good for us, 80,000 Hours, October 21.

Conversations

Crispin, Natalie, Teryn Maddox & Tom Adamczewski (2020) A conversation with Dr. James Tibenderana, Helen Counihan, Maddy Marasciulo and Dr. Arantxa Roca, GiveWell, May 11.

Videos

Dalton, Max & Jonas Volmer (2018) How to avoid accidentally having a negative impact with your project, Effective Altruism Global, October 27.

Comments

Rice, Issa (2019) Comment on ‘Cause X guide’, Effective Altruism Forum, September 1.

Unpublished works

Arrhenius, Gustaf (2021) Population Ethics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.

Parfit, Derek (1988) ‘On giving priority to the worse off’, unpublished.

Notes

Use italics for major works (books, journals, magazines, newspapers, and websites). Use simple quotation marks for minor works (chapters, papers, articles, posts, and web pages) if the title is not also a hyperlink, otherwise omit the quotations.

Doing Good Better

Astral Codex Ten

‘Famine, affluence, and morality’

Beware surprising and suspicious convergence

Use title case for major works and sentence case for minor works.

List each work in a separate line ending with a period and no extra line breaks.

For interviews (including GiveWell and Open Phil “conversations”), do not include the interviewers in the list of authors, since usually their names are mentioned in the title.

Koehler, Arden, Robert Wiblin & Keiran Harris (2020) Hilary Greaves on Pascal’s mugging, strong longtermism, and whether existing can be good for us, 80,000 Hours, October 21.

Crispin, Natalie, Teryn Maddox & Tom Adamczewski (2020) A conversation with Dr. James Tibenderana, Helen Counihan, Maddy Marasciulo and Dr. Arantxa Roca, May 11, 2020, GiveWell, May 11.

As with inline citations, list all authors of a work if the work has three or fewer authors, and otherwise only list the first author followed by “et al.” (in italics and with a period at the end). Use an ampersand (&) to separate the last two authors and otherwise use a comma. Only for the first author should the last name precede the first name.

Use “vol.” and “p.” to indicate volume and page, respectively. For volume or page ranges, use “vols.” and “pp.”, with the first and last volume or page in the range separated by an en dash (–). (As noted in the Numbers section, such dashes should be used for all numerical ranges.)

If a web page does not credit an author, list the name of the website.

For interviews, web pages, newspaper articles and magazine articles, provide the month and day of publication, when available.

If a work includes both the date of publication and the date it was most recently updated, cite it using the former, but append the date of update parenthetically, like this:

Tomasik, Brian (2009) Do bugs feel pain?, Essays on Reducing Suffering, April 7 (updated 28 July 2017).

Provide links to all works cited. These links should be attached to the entire title of the work, and should be constructed as follows:

No entries.