Drs. Richards and Stein

English 264

Interim 2013

Wiki Writing Guidelines

Wiki writing is different than academic writing. When writing for the web--especially for wikis-- you’ll want to follow modify your writing style, strategies, and structures. In this document, you will find information on wiki writing in terms of:

1. Audience

2. Layout

3. Drafting

4. Paragraphing

5. Sentence Style

6. Images and Multimodal Texts

7. Linking

8. Editing Other’s Work


Wikis are public documents that rely on crowd-sourcing. Crowd-sourcing is the term for aggregating the knowledge of many people for the betterment of the group. In other words, our class wiki demonstrates the collective intelligence of the students in English 264 for the interim 2013 of St. Olaf College. You should keep in mind, however, that it is possible that someone outside of the class could read and edit this document.

As you write, you will want to write using strategies to target this specific audience. This could mean referencing class discussions or vocabularies that emerge as part of the class. You will want to primarily rely on class texts as resources. Additionally, this means that your writing will not be comprehensive in the way that a wiki like Wikipedia is. Instead, it should explain and contextualize topics, ideas, and readings relevant to the class.

Your audience is a wide-ranging group of St. Olaf students. The students of this course represent a variety of majors and class levels. Therefore, you will need to explain any disciplinary concepts that you bring from your major(s). You cannot assume that your audience understands your disciplinary specific jargon (outside of gender and literary studies language presented in this course).

Finally, this wiki is your document to demonstrate your work and learning over the course of the semester. While I have given a few structured assignments to build this wiki, you should not assume that this is all your wiki could do. The real, radically-democratic potential of wiki writing only emerges when the wiki citizens make it their own, useful space.


The basic layout of the wiki has been made for you. The home page links to three major categories: vocabulary, textual analysis, and creative critiques. However, this is your class wiki. This means that you should modify the existing structure and add pages as needed/appropriate. Obviously, add any new major categories need to the homepage.

As you add pages and modify the structure, you should incorporate headings and subheadings that help users navigate the content. Headings create hierarchy, so you’ll want to map out the hierarchy that you want to create before enacting any significant changes.


You should not draft major entries of the wiki in the wiki itself. Since other users could simultaneously edit the same page you are working on, you must protect your writing by developing it in a stable, saved word processing document. When you feel it is ready for posting, you can cut and paste it into the wiki. For all major assignments (textual analysis, vocabulary entry), you should create a saved word processing document that you could submit for assessment purposes.


Web writing normally requires chunking. A chunk is a short, readable paragraph. It is possible to have a one-sentence chunk, but this strategy should be used sparingly to add emphasis to a point. Because web-readers skim and scan differently than print-based readers, overly-long chunks should also be avoided. Consider this document an example of appropriate chunking.

Chunks are formatted in block formatting. Block formatting means that the text is single-spaced with one space between chunks. Additionally, writers do not indent the first line of a chunk as with traditional paragraphs.

Sentence Style

As mentioned earlier, people read screens differently than they read print-based texts because it takes 30% longer to read a text on a screen versus a printed copy.[1] Therefore, web-readers mine the text for the information they need. This means that you should avoid overly-embedded clauses and tedious sentence structures; they are ineffective writing strategies. Try to write with clear concrete subjects and active verbs.

Additionally, you should rely on the vocabulary created in this class wiki to enhance your writing. By incorporating other course terminology throughout your entry, you can harness the hypertextuality of the web.

Images and Multimodal Texts

Adding relevant images and multimodal texts (items that rely on sounds, still or moving images, spatial renderings, and alphabetic texts) increases the scope and utility of your wiki. When you add a multimodal text, you must include an appropriate, short caption explaining the item. Additionally, the multimodal text should be placed as closely as possible to the body text that it relates to.

Fair use describes how a person or people can use copyrighted material. Since this is a class assignment, you are protected by fair use for multimodal texts. However, you should attribute the source of your item when possible. Additionally, if you were to create a wiki for a non-educational purpose, you would be less protected in your use of images and copyrighted materials.


A wiki is not read linearly. Instead, it is a hypertext document, meaning that readers use links to navigate around the document to mine the information that they need. You should link to other pages in the wiki and to outside sources when relevant.

At the first reference of another wiki term or wiki page, you should link to the wiki page. However, you do not need to link to the given page for every instantiation of that same term. This is called overlinking.

Another example of overlinking is linking out to too many pages and resources. It is possible to find a link for nearly every idea, concept, or illustration. Choose only external links that enhance your readers’ experience or add to comprehension. Link in moderation.

Editing Other’s Work

Collective intelligence means that we all must take responsibility for our class wiki. This means that you should add and edit other student’s work. However, you should be judicious in this process. Omitting sections of text that someone else wrote can be a silencing and hegemonic gesture. Instead, consider adding a paragraph that complicates the idea.

Typos and grammatical errors abound in web-based writing. Partially this is because web-texts shift and change rapidly. Help each other out by making small edits. Please use MLA formatting and grammatical guidelines. If you do not own a writing handbook, e.g., The Writer’s Reference, you should refer to the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab):

All edits are subject to professorial approval. This means that your changes can be redacted at any time by your professor. Should someone make a vulgar/inappropriate addition/change, the student may be penalized or warned-- depending on the severity of the case. If the student continues to vandalize the wiki after warning, the student will be considered in academic conduction violation.

[1] See Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World (2010) by Naomi Baron.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.