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ESP Wiki:Style guide

This is the ESP Wiki style guide that all contributors should follow. We have established some rules to make the content of ESP Wiki more uniform, consistent, credible, and understandable. Before reading further, make sure you understand ESP Wiki's content policies.

Note: This style guide is not final. A lot of old entries do not follow it and require editing. Please use it for any new entries you contribute.

General guidelines

In a nutshell:

  • Don't be afraid to contribute if you aren't knowledgeable about software patents! Every contribution counts, and if there is a mistake, other people will soon correct it.
  • Use simple words and simple sentences.
  • Focus on writing great summaries. Details come later.
  • Follow the standard entry structure. Omit any redundant sections.
  • Use citation templates for references.
  • Link dumping is permitted, but please prefer digesting the linked information.
  • Preview your changes before publishing.

ESP Wiki and Wikipedia

Much of ESP Wiki's content overlaps with Wikipedia. There are two notes to have in mind:

  • Wikipedia is a helpful source and contains relevant information to many ESP Wiki entries. A Wikipedia article can be cited both as an external link and, occasionally, as a hyperlink in the main body.
  • ESP Wiki aims to provide more detailed information on software patents. Unlike Wikipedia, ESP Wiki strives for a well-structured database of material against software patents, not a balanced representation of views.

Prefer free JavaScript

ESP Wiki's mission is about liberating the use of computer programs, and non-free JavaScript is one of the challenges we face. Please prefer citing sources that don't use proprietary JavaScript, such as the databases listed here.

You can use LibreJS to ensure that you don't use proprietary JavaScript. If the contact form demands it, don't hesitate to disable LibreJS in order to ask the webmaster to free their JavaScript.

Editing netiquette

ESP Wiki does not currently have a Visual Editor. If you have questions about formatting, consult Wikipedia's markup formatting page. Therefore, when editing any page, you should try to make it easy for other contributors to read your markup. This section provides some guidelines.

Entry page

When contributing to an ESP Wiki entry, you should:

  • Keep your markup simple. Do not use HTML when wiki markup is available.
  • Leave line breaks before (but not after) subheadings so that the sections are defined clearly.
  • Link to other ESP Wiki pages where appropriate. Section headings should not themselves contain links; instead, the {{Main}} or {{Also}} templates should be placed immediately after the heading.
  • Provide an edit summary after contributing. This is especially helpful for moderators when reviewing an entry's edit history.

Discussion page

When participating in an entry's "Talk"/"Discussion" page, you should:

  • Use ==Subheadings== for the title of your topic, if you are adding one.
  • Always sign your comment with ~~~~.
  • Reply to a discussion by indenting your comment with :.

Though not mandatory, you can use our custom signature template.

Style and consistency

  • End Software Patents is part of the Free Software Foundation. As such, we are committed to using words that accurately represent the values of libre software. For example, do not use the term "open source" (learn why).
  • Use DD Month YYYY to indicate a date (e.g. "1 January 2022"). Do not use other date formats (exception: citations use YYYY-MM-DD).
  • Use straight quotation marks " ". Do not use other kinds of quotation marks.
  • Quote text only with <blockquote>...</blockquote> where it is necessary to refer to the exact wording to communicate a piece of information. Do not italicize quoted text.

Sentence structure

Legal sentences tend to become complicated. Instead of replicating complex and technical wordings, try explaining the facts in simple terms. Here are a few tips:

  • Start with the subject, the verb, and the object.
  • Use the active voice rather than the passive.
  • Use the past simple tense for historical information.

Legal wording

  • Use the full word "Article". Do not use abbreviations such as "Art." or "Art".
  • Add paragraphs and subparagraphs in brackets, e.g. "Article 52(2)(c) EPC".

English variants

It doesn't matter if you use British or American English, but try to be consistent with the style of the entry you're editing.

Entry structure

The usual entry structure should be the following:

  • Summary of the content with the main topic text in bold.
  • ==Headings== and ===Subheadings===. Consult similar articles before formatting.
  • ==Related pages on ESP Wiki== section. Relevant ESP Wiki entries, separated by bullet points.
  • ==Notes== section. Comments, in the form of footnotes, that should not be part of the main text, displayed automatically with <references group="note"/>. Enclose your notes in <ref group="note">...</ref> tags.
  • ==References=== section. Academic citations for verifiability, displayed automatically with {{Reflist}}.
  • ==External links== section. Websites that are relevant to the entry, separated by bullet points. Ideally, these should only contain links to specific websites relevant to the entry, such as "" for the USPTO. However, they also occasionally contain unprocessed links (see link dumping).


Contributors are encouraged to use templates where needed. Templates are pages that are embedded (transcluded) into other pages to allow for the repetition of information. The most important ones are the following:


Use inline citations for all material likely to be challenged. Citation markers are normally placed "after" adjacent punctuation such as periods (full stops) and commas.

Most contributors are not law practitioners and nobody is expected to know the different citation styles used for court decisions, legislation, etc. For this reason, ESP Wiki uses custom, simplified citation schemes to make entries, especially those referring to legal material, more consistent.

The following templates are available for citing:

Citing the same source multiple times

Sometimes, you need to cite the same source multiple times. Creating the same long citations over and over again wouldn't be optimal, so there are solutions for cases like this.

Citing the same exact source

If you need to cite the same exact source (e.g. a web article), then you can reuse your citation by attributing a unique identifier to your <ref> tag with the name attribute and invoking the {{R}} template. For example, <ref name="johnson">{{web ...}}</ref> can be reused elsewhere with just {{R|johnson}}.

Citing different parts from the same source

If you need to cite the same source but refer to different parts to be more specific (e.g. different pages from the same book), then you use the same technique as above but together with the r= parameter. For example, for <ref name="johnson">{{book ...}}</ref> you can use {{R|johnson|r=123}} to refer to page 123. The original citation must not refer to any pages (i.e. the |page= and |pages= parameters must be excluded).

Link dumping

Many ESP Wiki entries contain unprocessed links in the ==External links== section. This is permitted, because we want the ESP Wiki to contain as much information on software patents as it possibly can. However, the point of the entry is to provide digested information for an otherwise complicated topic. Readers do not have the time to read dozens of articles on just one particular issue.

For this reason, we mark all pages containing unprocessed links with the {{Process}} template. These links are supposed to be digested and converted into concise information with appropriate citations.

Other style guides

This style guide draws influence from other manuals: