Provide an accessible overview
The lead section should briefly summarize the most important points covered in an article in such a way that it can stand on its own as a concise version of the article. The reason for a topic's noteworthiness should be established, or at least introduced, in the lead (but not by using subjective "peacock terms
" such as "acclaimed" or "award-winning" or "hit"). It is even more important here than in the rest of the article that the text be accessible. Editors should avoid lengthy paragraphs and overly specific descriptions – greater detail is saved for the body of the article. Consideration should be given to creating interest in the article, but do not hint
at startling facts without describing them.
In general, introduce useful abbreviations, but avoid difficult-to-understand terminology
and symbols. Mathematical equations and formulas should be avoided when they conflict with the goal of making the lead section accessible to as broad an audience as possible. Where uncommon terms are essential, they should be placed in context, linked and briefly defined. The subject should be placed in a context familiar to a normal reader. For example, it is better to describe the location of a town with reference to an area or larger place than with coordinates. Readers should not be dropped into the middle of the subject from the first word; they should be eased into it.
Apart from basic facts, significant information should not appear in the lead if it is not covered in the remainder of the article.
According to the policy on due weight
, emphasis given to material should reflect its relative importance to the subject, according to published reliable sources
. This is true for both the lead and the body of the article. If there is a difference in emphasis between the two, editors should seek to resolve the discrepancy. Significant information should not appear in the lead if it is not covered in the remainder of the article, although not everything in the lead must be repeated in the body of the text. Exceptions include specific facts such as quotations, examples, birth dates, taxonomic names, case numbers, and titles. This admonition should not be taken as a reason to exclude information from the lead, but rather to harmonize coverage in the lead with material in the body of the article.
The first paragraph should define
or identify the topic with a neutral point of view
, but without being too specific. It should establish the context in which the topic is being considered by supplying the set of circumstances or facts that surround it. If appropriate, it should give the location and time. It should also establish the boundaries of the topic; for example, the lead for the article List of environmental issues
succinctly states that the list covers "harmful aspects of human activity on the biophysical environment".
"MOS:FIRST" redirects here. For the guideline on ordinals, see MOS:1ST
The first sentence should tell the nonspecialist reader what, or who, the subject is. It should be in plain English
. Be wary of cluttering the first sentence with a long parenthesis containing alternative spellings, pronunciations, etc., which can make the sentence difficult to actually read
; this information can be placed elsewhere.
- If possible, the page title should be the subject of the first sentence. However, if the article title is merely descriptive—such as Electrical characteristics of dynamic loudspeakers—the title does not need to appear verbatim in the main text.
- Similarly, if the page is a list, do not introduce the list as "This is a list of X" or "This list of Xs...". A clearer and more informative introduction to the list is better than verbatim repetition of the title. A good example of this is the List of Benet Academy alumni. (See also Format of the first sentence below).
- When the page title is used as the subject of the first sentence, it may appear in a slightly different form, and it may include variations, including plural forms (particularly if they are unusual or confusing) or synonyms.
Similarly, if the title has a parenthetical disambiguator, such as Egg (food), "(food)" should be omitted in the text.
- If its subject is definable, then the first sentence should give a concise definition: where possible, one that puts the article in context for the nonspecialist. Similarly, if the title is a specialized term, provide the context as early as possible.
- Keep the first sentence focused on the subject by avoiding constructions like "[Subject] refers to..." or "...is a word for..." – the article is about the subject, not a term for the subject. For articles that are actually about terms, italicize the term to indicate the use–mention distinction.
- For topics notable for only one reason, this reason should usually be given in the first sentence.
- Try to not overload the first sentence by describing everything notable about the subject. Instead use the first sentence to introduce the topic, and then spread the relevant information out over the entire lead.
- While a commonly recognizable form of name will be used as the title of biographical articles, fuller forms of name may be used in the introduction to the lead. For instance, in the article Paul McCartney, the text of the lead begins: "Sir James Paul McCartney ...".
- If the article is about a fictional character or place, make this clear.
Format of the first sentence
If an article's title
is a formal or widely accepted name for the subject, display it in bold as early as possible in the first sentence:
Otherwise, include the title if it can be accommodated in a natural way:
Common abbreviations (in parentheses) are considered significant alternative names
in this sense:
If an article is about an event involving a subject about which there is no main article, especially if the article is the target of a redirect
, the subject should be in bold:
Azaria Chantel Loren Chamberlain
(11 June – 17 August 1980) was an Australian baby girl who was killed by a dingo on the night of 17 August 1980 ... (Death of Azaria Chamberlain
, redirected from Azaria Chamberlain)
"WP:REDUNDANCY" redirects here. For redundant articles, see WP:REDUNDANT
to a minimum in the first sentence. Use the first sentence of the article to provide relevant information that is not
already given by the title of the article.
The title of the article need not appear verbatim in the lead if the article title is descriptive. For example:
are the relations between Pakistan
The statement relations are the relations does not help a reader who does not know the meaning of diplomatic relations. The second version sensibly includes new information (that relations were established in 1947) in the first sentence, rather than repeating the title.
Avoid these other common mistakes
Links should not be placed in the boldface
reiteration of the title in the opening sentence of a lead:
If the article's title does not lend itself to being used easily and naturally in the opening sentence, the wording should not be distorted in an effort to include it. Instead, simply describe the subject in normal English, avoiding redundancy.
The 2011 Mississippi River floods
in April and May were among the largest and most damaging recorded along the U.S. waterway in the past century. (2011 Mississippi River floods
In general, if the article's title (or a significant alternative title) is absent from the first sentence, do not apply the bold style to related text that does appear:
Proper names and titles
If the title of the page is normally italicized
(for example, a work of art, literature, album, or ship) then its first mention should be both bold and italic text:
(Spanish for The Maids of Honour
) is a 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
(Italian: Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo
) is a 1966 Italian epic Spaghetti western
If the mention of the article's title is surrounded by quotation marks, the title should be bold but the quotation marks should not be:
If the subject of the article is closely associated with a non-English language, a single foreign language equivalent name can be included in the lead sentence, usually in parentheses. For example, an article about a location in a non-English-speaking country will typically include the local-language equivalent:
(Ukrainian: Чернівецька область, Chernivets’ka oblast’
) is an oblast
(province) in western Ukraine
, bordering on Romania
Do not include foreign equivalents in the lead sentence just to show etymology.
(plural; pronounced /
If the name of the article has a pronunciation that is not apparent from its spelling, include its pronunciation
in parentheses after the first occurrence of the name. Most such terms are foreign words or phrases (mate, coup d'état
), proper nouns (Ralph Fiennes
, Tuolumne River
, Tao Te Ching
), or very unusual English words (synecdoche
). Do not include pronunciations for names of foreign countries whose pronunciations are well known in English (France
). Do not include them for common English words, even if their pronunciations are counterintuitive for learners (laughter
). If the name of the article is more than one word, include pronunciation only for the words that need it unless all are foreign (all of Jean van Heijenoort
but only Cholmondeley
in Thomas P. G. Cholmondeley
). A fuller discussion of pronunciation can come later in the article.
The opening sentence should provide links to the broader or more elementary topics that are important to the article's topic or place it into the context
where it is notable
For example, an article about a building or location should include a link to the broader geographical area of which it is a part.
In an article about a technical or jargon term, the opening sentence or paragraph should normally contain a link to the field of study
that the term comes from.
Exactly what provides the context needed to understand a given topic varies greatly from topic to topic.
is the component of the Talmud
comprising rabbinical analysis of and commentary on the Mishnah
Do not, however, add contextual links that don't relate directly to the topic's definition or reason for notability. For example, Van Cliburn's
opening sentence links to Cold War
because his fame came partly from his Tchaikovsky Competition victory being used as a Cold War symbol. The first sentence of a page about someone who rose to fame in the 1950s for reasons unrelated to the Cold War should not mention the Cold War at all, even though the Cold War is part of the broader historical context of that person's life. By the same token, do not link to years
unless the year has some special salience to the topic.
Links appearing ahead of the bolded term distract from the topic if not necessary to establish context, and should be omitted even if they might be appropriate elsewhere in the text. For example, a person's title or office, such as colonel, naturally appears ahead of their name, but the word "Colonel" should not have a link, since it doesn't establish context. Do not, however, reword a sentence awkwardly just to keep a needed contextual link from getting ahead of the bolded term.
Under the main guideline
on this, the opening paragraph of a biographical article should neutrally describe the person, provide context, establish notability
and explain why the person is notable, and reflect the balance of reliable sources.
The first sentence should usually state:
- Name(s) and title(s), if any
. Handling of the subject's name is covered under MOS:NAMES.
- Dates of birth and death, if found in secondary sources (do not use primary sources for birth dates of living persons or other private details about them).
- Context (location, nationality, etc.) for the activities that made the person notable.
- One, or possibly more, noteworthy positions, activities, or roles that the person held, avoiding subjective or contentious terms.
- The main reason the person is notable (key accomplishment, record, etc.)
Cleopatra VII Philopator
: Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ; 69 – August 12, 30 BC), was queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom
of Egypt, and its last active ruler.
François Maurice Adrien Marie Mitterrand
(26 October 1916 – 8 January 1996) was a French statesman who was President of France
from 1981 to 1995, ...
However, try to not overload the first sentence by describing everything notable about the subject; instead, spread relevant information over the lead section.
When a common (vernacular) name is used as the article title, the boldfaced common name is followed by the italic un-boldfaced scientific name in round parentheses in the opening sentence of the lead. Alternative names should be mentioned and reliably sourced in the text where applicable, with bold type in the lead if they are in wide use, or elsewhere in the article (with or without the bold type, per editorial discretion) if they are less used. It is not necessary to include non-English common names, unless they are also commonly used in English, e.g. regionally; if included, they should be italicized as non-English.
) is the most common gazelle of East Africa
When the article title is the scientific name, reverse the order of the scientific and common name(s) (if any of the latter are given), and boldface as well as italicize the scientific name. Avoid putting the most common name in parentheses (this will suppress its display in some views of Wikipedia, including Wikipedia:Pop-ups
and Google Knowledge Graph
, the common grape vine
, is a species of Vitis
, native to the Mediterranean region
, central Europe, and southwestern Asia ...
Scope of article
In some cases the definition of the article topic in the opening paragraph may be insufficient to fully constrain the scope of the article. In particular, it may be necessary to identify material that is not
within scope. For instance, the article on fever
notes that an elevated core body temperature due to hyperthermia
is not within scope. These explanations may best be done at the end of the lead to avoid cluttering and confusing the first paragraph. This information and other meta material in the lead is not expected to appear in the body of the article.