# Style guide

TagLast edit: 15 Jun 2021 1:18 UTC by

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.

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:

• If a more universal variant exists, give preference to it, e.g. use “glasses” rather than “spectacles” (British English) or “eyeglasses” (American English).

• If an article is already written in a particular variety of English, use that variety throughout the article.

# 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

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 • for a negative sign or subtraction operator, use a minus sign (−). • for multiplication, use a multiplication sign (×) or a dot operator (⋅). • for exponentiation, use superscript. # 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: • Pluralization. By turning a phrase from singular to plural, gender neutrality is insured since plural forms in English do not change with gender. However, for a number of different reasons, this option is not always available or advisable. • Disjunction. Another approach is to use both singular forms, with the expression “he or she” or their cognates (“Each politician is responsible for his or her constituency”). However, such turns of phrase can be ungainly or tedious if repeated many times within a short space. • Avoidance. As a third alternative, consider rewording the phrase in a way that makes no use of pronouns. 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.

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:

• If the work has an associated digital object identifier (DOI), use a URL of the form http://​​doi.org/​​number

• If the work lacks a DOI but has an ISBN, use a URL of the form https://​​en.wikipedia.org/​​wiki/​​Special:BookSources/​​ISBN

• If the work is a book chapter, use the ISBN of the book containing that chapter. The link should still be attached to the title of the work—in this case, the book chapter—rather than to the book itself.

• If the work lacks both a DOI and an ISBN but otherwise has an associated canonical URL, use that URL. (This will typically be the case with web pages, newspaper articles, and magazine articles.)

• If the canonical URL no longer works, link to the version archived on the Wayback Machine, if it exists. Otherwise do not include a link.

• If the work lacks a DOI, ISBN and canonical URL, do not include a link. (This will typically be the case with books published before 1967, when ISBNs were first issued.)

No entries.
• Should entry/​tag names use “&” or “and”? E.g., should it be “sentience & consciousness” or “sentience and consciousness”?

It seems like recent entries/​tags—since the announcement of the wiki, not just tags—are mostly using “and”. And maybe that looks more encyclopaedic. So I guess we should go with that?

• There are many entries/​tags for which there is a very related EA-aligned Facebook group (see here for a directory to such groups). I think that, in all such cases, it’d probably be good to add a link to the relevant group in an External links section in the entry/​tag. (This is for the obvious reason that many people checking out the entry/​tag might also find the Facebook group useful, e.g. to find more info, get career advice, or share relevant drafts for feedback.)

As for how related the Facebook group should be in order for it to be linked to, the rule of thumb I’m leaning towards is “Each Facebook group should only be linked to from one entry/​tag. If the Facebook group seems relevant to multiple entries/​tags, that suggests that those entries/​tags should probably link to each other in the Related entries section, and the Facebook group should just be linked to from the most relevant one. This should still allow the readers most likely to be interested in the group to find it.”

E.g., I’d link to the Risks of astronomical suffering (s-risks) Facebook group from the s-risks entry; but I wouldn’t link to it from the entries on suffering and pain, existential risks, trajectory changes, the long-term future, mind crime, etc.; but I’d ensure many of the latter entries link to the s-risks entry.

(I also plan to post in the relevant Facebook groups to mention that the relevant tags/​entries exist, so people can check out the posts, tag more posts, or edit the entries [though I’ll skip groups where I did this already last year or this year]. But I feel more confident that that makes sense to do, and it’s not really a matter for this style guide anyway since it involves promoting rather than editing the entries.)

• I don’t a strong opinion either way. Part of me wants to encourage people to use the Forum to conduct these discussions, rather than point them to a group on a closed social media platform with mediocre editing and commenting features, especially insofar as this to a significant extent happens because of network effects and trivial inconveniences (rather than revealing an inherent preference for one venue over the other). I also worry slightly that linking to Facebook may make the entries look a bit amateurish and not intellectually serious. On the other hand, I recognize that such links could help users find relevant content and connect them to others with similar interests. I’d like to know what others think before we make a general decision on this.

(By the way, I’m using ‘entry’ as a neutral term to refer to what may, depending on what functionality is emphasized, be either called a ‘tag’ or a ‘wiki article’. We may want to use that term in the future.)

• What should our norms be, or what is the legal situation with, copying text from LessWrong wiki entries verbatim as the text for a Forum wiki entry?

I guess we should probably paraphrase and cite them, rather than copying verbatim, but maybe we don’t have to and sometimes it’s better (to save time) to at least allow a verbatim copy?

• Should there be a norm where, for (almost?) every Forum wiki entry that has a corresponding Wikipedia article, the Further reading /​ Bibliography /​ External links section includes a link to that Wikipedia article?

• I’d be opposed to such a norm. Very often, Wikipedia is not the best reference on a given topic, and their articles are already extremely easy to find. I would decide whether to cite them on a case by case basis, with a relatively high bar for citing them.

(A rule of this sort may be more plausible with reference works of exceptional quality, such as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, but even then it doesn’t feel to me like we should have such a rule. I guess the underlying intuition is that I don’t see a reason to deviate from the general principle that decisions on whether to include a particular work in the bibliography should be based on an assessment of that specific work’s quality and relevance, rather than on some general rule.)

• Very often, Wikipedia is not the best reference on a given topic, and their articles are already extremely easy to find.

These are good points I hadn’t really considered.

I think what I had in mind was something like this: In cases where the topic covered by a Forum wiki entry is also covered by a Wikipedia article or an SEP article or whatever:

• It seems reasonable to ask “Wait, why should there be an EA Forum wiki entry about the exact same topic?”

• The main reason this is a reasonable question is primarily that those other encylopedias are fuelled by much more effort than ours is.

• (That said, I think it does still often make sense to have a Forum wiki entry on a topic, either because that’s also a tag, or to highlight that this topic is relevant to EA stuff, or because EAs might be interested in a specific aspect or implications of the topic that other sources don’t cover or don’t emphasise.)

• It also seems like the existence of those articles in other encylopedias pushes against investing as much effort into expanding and polishing the corresponding Forum wiki entries as we should invest in entries that don’t have an existing entry in another encyclopedia.

• E.g., I think it would be weird for us to write a huge article covering all the just generally useful info on “Policy change” that one could find on Wikipedia. Mainly because that’s just like a waste of effort.

• It seems like linking to a larger entry on the topic from another encyclopedia might (a) signal that we’re aware that that exists, and we’re not just weirdly and ignorantly reinventing the wheel but rather presumably have some reason for making our own thing too, and (b) allow people to find that more detailed info on things we won’t write loads of details about.

(I wrote that quickly; not sure I explained it well.)

But, as mentioned, I think your points are good too, so now I’m unsure what norm I’d favour here.

• I very much agree with your points, especially the first one. Perhaps as we gain more experience, we can get a better sense of the types of articles that warrant a policy of linking to some external source by default. I can imagine that being the case e.g. for core philosophy topics (e.g. ‘normative ethics’) and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

• And what should the norm be for cases where there’s a corresponding LessWrong wiki entry /​ concept /​ tag? So far, I’ve been including a link to that in the Further reading section in (almost?) any case where the Forum wiki entry has little text and/​or the LessWrong entry has a bunch of text. But it’s plausible I should do this more or less than I currently do.

• The principle I’ve been following is to treat LW like I do all other sources, and cite their articles iff they seem worthy of inclusion. (I do think it’s always worth checking out the LW tags, because they are more likely to pass that test than most other sources.)

• Sounds good to me! (Also sounds very obvious in retrospect, I guess.)

• Is this style guide the right place for policies/​norms about how to use tags? E.g., a policy about which posts should be tagged with a tag for an organisation, as discussed here?

Or is there/​should there be some other place for such policies/​norms?

Seems like that’s more about “tagging” and less about “style for the wiki entries”.

• This doesn’t seem like the right place. I’ve written my thoughts on tagging norms in a few places, but it would be good to collect that (plus others’ thoughts) in one place. I’ll talk to Pablo and see about one of us creating this resource.

Meanwhile, if you have thoughts on tagging policy, feel free to mention them in replies to this comment (or to create a question post to collect others’ thoughts — though I’m not sure how much discussion is required here, as I think our tagging norms/​policy will end up being pretty simple).

• I think the Style Guide is not the right place for discussion of these norms. As you note, this concerns tagging rather than Wiki content. I’d tentatively suggest commenting on the proposed tags thread, but I’ll ask Aaron.

• 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).

I think external links should be allowed in the lead or body sections. And in discussions on a draft of this style guide, I seem to recall that you (Pablo) moved to agreeing with that view? (ETA: As discussed in replies, it turns out I misremembered that.) Should that line of the style guide be changed?

(Let me know if I should explain my reasoning for this position again.)

• I don’t recall agreeing to this. As I wrote in a comment to the Google Doc:

I am personally quite reluctant to have external links in the body of an entry. I think this looks unencyclopedic. Maybe this is colored by my experience editing Wikipedia, but I’d like to explore the technical approaches described above before considering a relaxation of the “no external links” rule.

The approaches alluded there are to allow users to insert citations entries from a database rather than having to enter the bibliographic details manually. This should make the insertion of a citation roughly as easy as the insertion of a link, so requiring one over the other shouldn’t feel constraining. I understand that the tech team is very busy with other stuff, so I’m not sure whether we can expect any of these innovations to be developed soon (or at all), but for the time being this work can be delegated to our assistant, and we will make it clear in our FAQ users should not waste any time formatting citations. If the situation doesn’t change in 3-6 months, we can reconsider.

I realize I probably haven’t made this very clear, but a core principle I’ve been following when writing content and planning (and one that I feel reluctant to abandon, given its centrality to how this project was conceived) is to follow existing scholarly norms as closely as reasonably possible. I believe this is generally desirable insofar as many of these norms can be observed at little or no cost, while providing significant benefits in the form of recognition and authoritativeness, but is especially important for a Wiki that will cover areas that are in many ways speculative and are either neglected or not held in especially high esteem by academia, journalism, and other elite institutions.

So my opposition to having external links in the body of an entry is based on my perception that this is generally not an accepted scholarly practice. Wikipedia doesn’t normally allow the use of such links except in special sections (such as “external links” and references sections), and my casual acquaintance with other encyclopedias and reference works suggests that they too follow norms of this sort. If you or others could point me to counterexamples sufficient to establish that this is not in fact common, I would be happy to revise the policy, to which I have no personal attachment.

• I don’t recall agreeing to this.

Ah, yes, I just checked the doc comments and you’re right. I must’ve simply misremembered.

I realize I probably haven’t made this very clear, but a core principle I’ve been following when writing content and strategizing (and one that I’m reluctant to abandon, given its centrality to how this project was conceived) is to follow existing scholarly norms as closely as possible. [...this] is especially important for a Wiki that will cover areas that are in many ways speculative and are either neglected or not held in especially high esteem by academia, journalism, and other elite institutions.

That makes sense, and I think I’d underestimated that argument in favour of not allowing external links. So I’m now less sure what we should do here.

If you or others could point me to counterexamples sufficient to establish that this is not in fact common, I would be happy to revise the policy, to which I have no personal attachment.

I don’t have any counterexamples. Instead, I’ll point to some reasons why I think allowing external links may make more sense for our wiki than for Wikipedia:

• We’re way, way smaller.

• Apparently English Wikipedia has over 6 million articles, whereas it looks like our Tags Portal lists ~500 tags.

• If Wikipedia limits itself to only internal links or references in the body of an article, that still allows a link to an article or section on a substantial portion of all things ever. If we limit ourselves to only our internal links or references in the body of an article, that limits us much more.

• When someone uses a bit of jargon, or alludes to an argument or concept or debate or body of evidence without wanting to fully explain it there, it seems like good practice to add a link to somewhere where it’s explained. (I do this in my regular Forum posts a lot and I advocate for it here.) A substantial portion of the time, the link that’s provided is to Wikipedia.

• I don’t think peppering our wiki articles with inline citations to Wikipedia is a good way to handle this, both because some articles might end up with lots of these in-line citations taking up space and because the term might be somewhat tangential or not the sort of thing where we really want to give a “reference”—we just think some readers might be unfamiliar with the term and want to learn more.

• But I’m not 100% sure on this point.

• Wikipedia already has an easy way to add footnoted references in which you can place external links, with the text for those references appearing as soon as a reader hovers their cursor over the footnote. This means they can effectively get the convenience-to-a-reader of allowing external links in the body of an article even if they technically disallow it.

To say some overlapping points in another way, I think the three main benefits of allowing external links in the body of an article are:

• As noted above, I think sometimes a link to e.g. a Wikipedia article is more appropriate than an in-line citation

• E.g. if we just want to provide an optional explanation of a term used in the middle of a sentence.

• As a reader, it’s more convenient to have the link right there when I’m reading, rather than having to find it in the end section.

• This would be solved if we had the same sort of footnote reference thing Wikipedia has, but we don’t (yet) have that.

• It’s lower effort to just add a link than to add an inline citation in a proper format + a full reference in the Bibliography.

• So not allowing external links in the body of an article may in effect discourage addition of citations, which seems bad.

• Of course, people can just add a link despite what this guide says (or add a rough version of an inline citation + full reference) and let someone else fix it. But overly conscientious people or people worried about their edit being seen as stupid or wrong or bad might (unfortunately) be inclined against doing that.

Given all this, I see four options (there are probably more):

1. Just allow external links in the body of an article

1. But this has the downside you mention

2. Just disallow external links in the body of an article

3. Just disallow external links in the body of an article, except links to Wikipedia

1. Arguably, this is “following Wikipedia’s policy” to roughly the same extent as option 2 would be

2. I’m not sure how this scores on the respectability/​prestige front, but I’d guess it’d be good?

1. I think the main thing we want to avoid is having external links to a random assortment of papers and especially blog posts or the like? Having external links to Wikipedia only might be fine? Really not sure.

4. Do options 2 or 3, but also try to get the same sort of footnote reference feature Wikipedia has as soon as we can

1. But obviously that’s not up to you, and as you say the tech team is very busy

I think maybe the best option is option 3? Not sure, though.

• For whatever it’s worth, this also seems pretty constraining to me. Internal links are already specially marked via the small degree-symbol, so differentiating internal and external links is pretty straightforward.

• Should there be a policy that the “Related entries” section should typically not include links to entries that were already linked to in the body of the entry in question? Or should the “Related entries” section just include links to the most relevant entries, regardless of whether they were already linked to or not?

For example, for the “Dystopia” entry, I think a link to “Totalitarianism” would in theory be worth including in “Related entries”, but I’m not sure whether to add it since that entry is already linked to earlier in the “Dystopias” entry.

• Initially I was weakly in favor of excluding entries already linked to in the body, but now I’m moderately in favor of including them. My main reason for excluding such entries was that I thought this looked inelegant, but now (1) I’m not sure this is the case and (2) I believe the benefits of having a ‘Related entries’ section that always lists the most related entries probably outweigh those costs, even if they are genuine. I would be interested in hearing whether you or others agree with this.

• I think I’d weakly vote for a policy like:

1. You can include things in Related entries even if they were linked to earlier in the article

2. You’re encouraged to do so for the most relevant related entries

3. For things where it’s already not super clear whether they’re relevant enough to be in Related entries, you should maybe not include them if they were already linked to earlier (i.e., that could tip the balance towards leaving it out, in ambiguous cases)

But maybe that’s unnecessarily complicated. If we had to simplify, I’d weakly vote to keep 1 and 2 and cut 3.

• Also, should the Related entries section basically always include a link to the entry for the category/​cluster that this entry is part of (where relevant)? For example, should all entries that are part of the Movement building category/​cluster include a link to that entry in their Related entries section? And likewise for all entries that are part of the Moral philosophy category/​cluster, and all that are part of the Global health & development category/​cluster, etc.?

Or is that unnecessary, perhaps because in future users will automatically see where an entry fits in the hierarchy/​structure of other entries?

• My hunch is that this should be assessed on a case-by-case basis: I would imagine that sometimes it makes sense to include those entries but not on others. I guess the underlying intuition is that the relative degree of relatedness of an entry to its parent isn’t constant, and that the variation is such as to justify inclusion in some cases but not in others. But if you find yourself confronting this question repeatedly and feel like it warrants a general policy, let me know (by leaving a comment here).

• Just to flag that I was not notified of all these comments, so I see them only now. I will start responding shortly.

• I think it’d be good to add something similar to Wikipedia’s “neutral point of view” policy, covering things like avoiding giving subjective opinions in the EA Wiki’s own voice (referring to other people’s subjective opinions, such as by quoting them, would still be ok). See discussion here.

• I agree that this would be desirable. I have some reservations about Wikipedia’s own policy, which places great emphasis on “reliable sources” and understands that notion in a way that would exclude lots of relevant publications (see e.g. Gwern’s Wikipedia and dark side editing). I intend to take a look at other existing policies in the coming days, but if you have any concrete suggestions, please let me know.

• I think that it makes sense for us to allow or heavily use sources Wikipedia wouldn’t see as reliable. But I think we could still copy other large chunks of their policy, such as on tone?

• Okay, I updated the Style Guide with a section on “Tone”. Feel free to make any revisions you think are appropriate. I have also edited the Shulman article to remove the problematic sentence.

• The policy, and the tweaked Shulman article, both look good to me!

(And thanks again for all your work on the Wiki—I’m really excited about the shape it’s taking.)

• Yes, I agree. I’ll try to draft something later today.

• It looks like Pablo/​Aaron/​both has been using bold for section headings in entries? Is that something we should all be using? See here for an example where the existing heading was in bold and I added a new heading that isn’t: https://​​forum.effectivealtruism.org/​​tag/​​space-colonization

• Thanks for flagging this. Section headings should never be boldfaced. I have fixed it in this instance, but would like to identify the origin of the problem, so I can address all entries affected. Off the top of your head, can you recall other articles that exhibit this? I suspect this happened as a result of importing some of the content from EA Concepts.

• I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I think it was a substantial portion of the entries I’ve seen and edited. I’ll let you know if I stumble upon more examples.

• I’ve now stumbled upon some examples:

(I’ve now edited them to remove bolded section names, but you could still check their edit history.)

• Thanks, yeah, it looks this was related to EA Concepts. I’ve made a note to be on the look for other instances of this and fix them when I find them.

• tl;dr: I think we should use an established citation style (e.g., APA, MLA), rather than creating a new one for this wiki.

(This comment is adapted from a discussion I had with Pablo about an earlier draft of the style guide. I’m sharing it here so other people can upvote, downvote, provide their own thoughts, etc.)

There are already many established citation styles, and they’re very widely used, many people are used to them, and many resources on how to use them exist. So it seems to me that one should start off fairly strongly thinking we should just use one of those, and only move from that position if there are quite strong reasons to do so.

I can see two main potential arguments for the EA Wiki having its own, unique citation style:

1. Perhaps the EA Wiki’s needs are very different from the needs of any of the publications, sites, etc. that use established citation styles

• (I.e., perhaps those citation styles are good for what they’re used for, but wouldn’t be ideal here)

2. Perhaps all of those citation styles are just far from ideal in general, and the one proposed here would just be better in general

At first glance, I’d feel a bit skeptical of either of those arguments.

And even if those arguments true, it’s still not obvious that that would make it overall worthwhile to create and use a new citation style. I think the costs of doing that are:

1. The time spent generating and writing up the basic ideas of this citation style (but this cost has already been paid by Pablo, so it’s no longer relevant, really)

2. The time people will spend reading and later re-checking the citation style section of the EA Wiki style guide, minus the time that would’ve been spent on that if a standard citation style was suggested instead.

• The latter time would likely be smaller because a substantial portion of Forum users are already very familiar with at least one standard format.

3. The time people will spend editing mistakes that were made in applying this citation style, minus the time people would’ve spent if a standard citation style was suggested instead.

• Again, the latter time would likely be smaller, because:

• many Forum users will be better at using existing citation styles due to being more practiced with them

• many Forum users will naturally assume they should use existing citation styles (so they’ll use them correctly, but that’ll be a mistake that needs editing if we’ve decided they should use a new citation style instead)

• many resources exist on existing citation styles, which should make it easier for people to learn to use them; if they don’t find one explanation clear or comprehensive, they can find another, and the best will tend to rise to the top

4. The time people will pend deciding how the Wiki should handle various special cases that may arise that this style guide doesn’t get into, or alternatively the lack of consistency that would then occur between different instances of those cases.

1. Established citation styles involve lots and lots of rules for lots and lots of situations, which seems to suggest any new citation style would naturally tend towards that over time or else would have inconsistencies in how it’s used.

5. Maybe the time people spend debating or explaining the rationale for this new citation style’s particular rules or for using it at all rather than established citation styles.

• I expect I won’t be the only person to raise these sorts of points

• And indeed I see evelynciara has already made a comment pushing back on one of the rules in this new citation style

I’m not sure how large those costs are, but I’d guess they’re significant, at least relative to the potential benefits of this new citation style relative to using an established citation style.

(Though I can definitely imagine changing my mind about the stuff I’ve said above.)

• Thanks for pushing me on this point.

I have no strong attachment to the current citation format. My main reasons for preferring it are:

1. I spent a few days, back when I started working on this project, exploring the existing formats (using this tool) and I wasn’t able to find a format that handled all the problematic cases in a way I found satisfactory. This was many months ago, so I don’t remember the details.

2. Considerable time has been spent already (mostly by Leo, my excellent assistant) in making sure that all citations conform to the current format. (Most of this time had already been spent by the time you raised this objection a few weeks ago.) The costs are sunk, so that is not in itself a reason, but it provides an estimate of the costs that would have to be incurred to make the citations conform to a new format.

I would be open to the proposal if (1) I was presented with a concrete alternative that handled basic cases correctly (such as not requiring URLs to be listed explicitly) and (2) a quick, back-of-the-envelope calculation of the time that would be saved by adopting this new style. I could then ask Leo to estimate how much time he has spent fixing the citations, and by comparing the two estimates we can decide whether this is worth it.

[I could be wrong about all of the following. Also, this response at least slightly has the vibe of the sort of annoying and counterproductive “slapdown” Eliezer writes about here, partly because I don’t have the time to provide a more constructive, detailed, object-level response, so my apologies for any frustration that that causes!]

I spent a few days, back when I started working on this project, exploring the existing formats (using this tool) and I wasn’t able to find a format that handled all the problematic cases in a way I found satisfactory. This was many months ago, so I don’t remember the details.

As noted above, I see two main potential arguments why that would be true, and I’m a bit skeptical of both for meta reasons. One thing I’d add is that the new citation style has only really been evaluated by its creator (you), I think, so it’s possible that part of why it seems better is because of your idiosyncratic views.

But of course neither of us have highlighted specific, object-level arguments (aside from you saying “not requiring URLs to be listed explicitly”), so this is somewhat hard to evaluate. I do think it’s plausible that your proposed citation style would be better, and I don’t mean to be taken as “slapping down” even the mere idea of trying to generate an alternative to the existing approaches.

One other thing I’d note is that it might be possible to identify an existing citation style that’s mostly good but has 5 issues in your view, 3 of which seem especially noteworthy and clearly problematic, and then have our citation style be “that one but with these 3 tweaks”. E.g., “APA but you don’t need to list URLs explicitly”. That might avoid most of the costs I mention from a new citation style and most of the costs you think an existing citation style would have.

Considerable time has been spent already (mostly by Leo, my excellent assistant) in making sure that all citations conform to the current format. (Most of this time had already been spent by the time you raised this objection a few weeks ago.) The costs are sunk, so that is not in itself a reason, but it provides an estimate of the costs that would have to be incurred to make the citations conform to a new format.

At first glance, I think we should probably mostly focus, when making these decisions, on scenarios where the wiki becomes fairly widely used and edited for a long time. Those scenarios seems to account for most of the expected value of work on this project. In those scenarios, there will be much more time spent on entering and editing citations in future than has been spent so far.

So I think the fact that those sunk costs were considerable mostly pushes in favour of thinking carefully about and getting feedback on the decision about citation styles within the next few days /​ weeks /​ maybe months. I think it also pushes a bit in favour of keeping the existing citation style, to avoid paying a cost to switch the existing citations to a new style, but I think that that push is probably smaller?

I would be open to the proposal if (1) I was presented with a concrete alternative that handled basic cases correctly (such as not requiring URLs to be listed explicitly) and (2) a quick, back-of-the-envelope calculation of the time that would be saved by adopting this new style. I could then ask Leo to estimate how much time he has spent fixing the citations, and by comparing the two estimates we can decide whether this is worth it.

It does sound like that’d be useful info, but I guess I feel like by default no one will think to and take the time to give you that info even if a different citation style would be better. I don’t have time to do this soon myself. (Part of why this wouldn’t be super quick is that I don’t already have strong views on which citation style would be best; I more so have a meta-level epistemic-humility-style skepticism that any new style that’s only really been evaluated by its creator will be better than all existing ones.) So I think I’d say the Forum/​wiki team should take it upon themselves to try to work that stuff out or to actively solicit someone else to do so.

In other words: Due to time constraints and lack of detailed cached thoughts on this question, I’m just going for a drive-by “this seems worth thinking about”, rather than being able to compelling argue for any particular alternative.

• What should our norms about something like “Further reading” links be? I.e., if there’s a source that it seems worth pointing readers of an entry to but that isn’t referenced in the entry, can/​should we include that link in External links? Can/​should we have “Further reading” sections just for this?

E.g., on the Accidental harm entry, I think it’d be useful to point readers to one or more of these sources. I could do that by adding text that references these things, but that’d take me longer than just adding the links, and it might just be shoehorny that text in.

(It’s possible that this info is already in the style guide and I just missed it. The one relevant thing I saw is that it seems we currently at least have the stance that links to the home page of an org’s website are worth adding in External links for the entry on that org.)

ETA: Oh, I now see that there’s at least one entry that already has a Further reading section, added by Aaron Gertler: https://​​forum.effectivealtruism.org/​​tag/​​space-colonization So maybe some mention of Further reading sections should be added to the style guide?

• The entries with a “Further reading” section are all imported from the EA Concepts. I agree that it would be desirable to have a way of including pointers for further reading, though I am not sure how to best implement this. The problem with a dedicated “Further reading” section is that it’s unclear what to do with works deemed worthy of inclusion in that section but which are already included in the Bibliography. I don’t think it looks good to list them in both sections, but excluding them is also problematic because the “Further reading” section then effectively becomes something like a section on “all the works the reader may want to consult for more detailed coverage of the subject with the exception of works already listed in the bibliography, some of which are also worth consulting”. Essentially, the problem arises because we have two orthogonal distinctions—cited versus not cited, worthy versus not worthy of consultation—that generate four possible combinations, three of which we want to include (the fourth being works neither cited nor worthy of consultation, which of course should not be explicitly listed anywhere), yet we have at most two distinct sections where they could be included. The approach I would tentatively favor is (1) to include works in each of these three categories all under the Bibliography section, which is the practice of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and other reference works, and (2) for works worthy of consultation include also a brief, one-sentence descriptive summary, following the practice established by EA Concepts. What do you think of this approach?

• Actually, I’ve just gone on a spree of integrating links to or from my earlier shortform collections into EA Wiki entries, and now I think I see the situation a bit differently. I’d say there are three relevant distinctions, which are neither entirely orthogonal nor entirely the same:

• Cited in the entry vs not cited in the entry

• Relevant to this topic vs not relevant to this topic

• Worth looking at (in general or in relation to this topic), in the editor’s subjective opinion

For comparison, the tag system itself seems to be benefitted by a norm of people tagging pretty much any post that seems relevant, unless it really seems quite low quality, rather than only tagging things the tagger themselves thinks are unusually high quality. Then everything relevant is collected in one place, and people can decide what to read for themselves, based on a mixture of how high the tag karma is, how high the regular karma is, the title, the opening paragraphs, the top comment on the post, etc.

But currently there’s not necessarily a way to do that for non-Forum sources.

My shortform collections liberally collected anything that seemed relevant (though I sometimes also put things in descending order of usefulness in my subjective opinion), rather than strictly screening for quality. I think this was useful because I was collecting sources on somewhat obscure topics. But this would become ridiculous if done for a topic like “Existential risk”.

And even if it didn’t lead to a ridiculous number of things mentioned, I feel like inclusion of something in an EA Wiki Further reading or External links section would by default carry a stronger implication that this is high quality than just me including it in a personally made (and slightly messy) shortform would?

So maybe we need a norm about how notable or perceived-as-high-quality-by-us an external link should be for us to mention it in these sections of Wiki entries. But I’m not sure what the norm should be. And maybe it’d be better to have an additional type of section or a linked google doc or something where people can more liberally mention anything that’s relevant, and this doesn’t clog up the main part of the entry itself, and it’s more obvious that these sources haven’t been screened for quality?

(Also, FWIW, this morning I just fairly randomly used either Further reading, Bibliography, or External links for mentioning relevant external works that weren’t cited in the article, partly depending on what section was already in the entry. This is a bit messy, but I think it was better to do and then let it be cleaned up later than not to add those things at all.)

• I think it’s weird not to have punctuation between the author and title, as in this example:

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.

Pretty much all major citation styles (e.g. MLA and APA) have a period after the author’s name.

• Sorry for the delay in responding—currently I do not get a notification when someone comments on an entry.

My impression is that it is not uncommon for a citation style to omit a punctuation mark when the author’s name is followed by the date of publication enclosed in parenthesis. The first Google Images search I ran produced this; I don’t know who popular BIOI is, but at least it establishes that this practice has some precedent. My approach has generally been to omit punctuation marks in citations unless necessary (that’s why there is no comma between the author’s surname and the year in inline citations), so I would prefer to maintain the current format. But feel free to raise anything else that strikes you as worthy of flagging.

• The Tags Portal page’s link to the style guide actually links to a doc that then itself links to the style guide. Could the portal be edited to link directly to the style guide?

• ## Citation Formatting

I would suggest that we don’t encourage citations to books to include the name or (especially) city of the publisher. This information is almost always superfluous.

• Yeah, I agree it’s superfluous. I was reminded of this tweet by Diana Fleischman. Scholarly conventions change at a glacial pace, but unfortunately this convention is followed by all the major reference works that I’m aware of, including Wikipedia. Since the formatting can be outsourced to an assistant, I think the costs of adhering to this convention are worth its relatively low costs.