This guideline is a part of the English Wikipedia's Manual of Style.
|This page in a nutshell: The lead should identify the topic and summarize the body of the article with appropriate weight.|
The lead section (also known as the lead or introduction) of a Wikipedia article is the section before the table of contents and the first heading. The lead serves as an introduction to the article and a summary of its most important contents. It is a news-style lead or "lede" paragraph.
The average Wikipedia visit is a few minutes. The lead is the first part of the article that most people will read. A good lead tells the reader the basics in a nutshell, and also cultivates the reader's interest in reading more of the article, but not by teasing the reader or hinting at content that follows. The lead should be written in a clear, accessible style with a neutral point of view.
The lead should stand on its own as a concise overview of the article's topic. It should identify the topic, establish context, explain why the topic is notable, and summarize the most important points, including any prominent controversies. The notability of the article's subject is usually established in the first few sentences. Like in the body of the article itself, the emphasis given to material in the lead should roughly reflect its importance to the topic, according to reliable, published sources. Apart from basic facts, significant information should not appear in the lead if it is not covered in the remainder of the article.
As a general rule of thumb, a lead section should contain no more than four well-composed paragraphs and be carefully sourced as appropriate.
Elements of the lead
As explained in more detail below, the lead section may contain optional elements presented in the following order: disambiguation links (dablinks/hatnotes), maintenance tags, infoboxes, foreign character warning boxes, images, navigational boxes (navigational templates), introductory text, and table of contents, moving to the heading of the first section.
- Disambiguation links should be the first elements of the page, before any maintenance tags, infobox, or image; if a reader has reached the wrong page, they will want to know that first. Text-only browsers and screen readers present the page sequentially. A "for topics of the same name ..." disambiguation link is sometimes put at the beginning of an article to link to another article discussing another meaning of the article title. In such cases, the line should be italicized and indented using hatnote templates. Do not make this initial link a section. See also WP:Hatnote.
- Deletion tags (speedy deletion, proposed deletion, and articles for deletion notices).
- Maintenance tags should be below the disambiguation links. These tags inform the reader about the general quality of the article and should be presented to the user before the article itself.
- Infoboxes contain summary information or an overview relating to the subject of the article, and therefore should be put before any text (though in actuality they will generally appear to the side of the text of the lead). The primary difference between an infobox and a navigational box is the presence of parameters: a navigational box is exactly the same in all articles of the same topic, while an infobox has different contents in each article.
- Foreign character warning boxes let readers know that foreign characters which may not be supported by their platform or browser appear in the article. If required, they should come adjacent to, or near, any text that has the foreign characters in question, such that scrolling is not required to see the box. This is generally after short infoboxes, but before long ones.
- Images. As with all images, but particularly the lead, the image used should be relevant and technically well-produced. It is also common for the lead image to be representative because it provides a visual association for the topic, and allow readers to quickly assess if they have arrived at the right page. Image captions are part of the article text. If the article has disambiguation links (dablinks), then the introductory image should appear just before the introductory text. Otherwise a screen reader would first read the image's caption, which is part of the article's contents, then "jump" outside the article to read the dablink, and then return to the lead section, which is an illogical sequence.
- Sidebars are a collection of links used in multiple related articles to facilitate navigation between those articles. Sidebars are sometimes placed in the lead, especially when no infobox is present. If an infobox is present, the navigation sidebar may be moved to either the top or bottom of any other section in the article.
- All but the shortest articles should start with Introductory text (the "lead"), which establishes significance, includes mention of significant criticism or controversies, and make readers want to learn more. The lead has no heading; its length should be commensurate with that of the article, but is normally no more than four paragraphs. See also Wikipedia:Writing better articles § Lead section.
- The table of contents (ToC) automatically appears on pages with at least four headings. Avoid floating the ToC if possible, as it breaks the standard look of pages. If you must use a floated TOC, put it below the lead section in the wiki markup for consistency. Users of screen readers expect the table of contents to follow the introductory text; they will also miss any text placed between the TOC and the first heading.
The lead must conform to verifiability, biographies of living persons, and other policies. The verifiability policy advises that material that is challenged or likely to be challenged, and direct quotations, should be supported by an inline citation. Any statements about living persons that are challenged or likely to be challenged must have an inline citation every time they are mentioned, including within the lead.
Because the lead will usually repeat information that is in the body, editors should balance the desire to avoid redundant citations in the lead with the desire to aid readers in locating sources for challengeable material. Leads are usually written at a greater level of generality than the body, and information in the lead section of non-controversial subjects is less likely to be challenged and less likely to require a source; there is not, however, an exception to citation requirements specific to leads. The necessity for citations in a lead should be determined on a case-by-case basis by editorial consensus. Complex, current, or controversial subjects may require many citations; others, few or none. The presence of citations in the introduction is neither required in every article nor prohibited in any article.
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.
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 the limits of that list.
The first sentence should tell the nonspecialist reader what, or who, the subject is.
- 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 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 specialised term, provide the context as early as possible.
- Keep redundancy 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.
- 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 recognisable 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, say so.
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 normal English:
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:
Avoid these 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.
In general, if the article's title is absent from the first sentence, do not apply the bold style to related text that does appear:
(Disambiguation pages, however, use bolding for the link to the primary topic, if there is one.)
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; if it is usually 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:
Do not include foreign equivalents in the lead sentence just to show etymology.
Do not boldface foreign names not normally used in English. Some foreign terms should be italicized. These cases are described in the Manual of Style for text formatting.
If the name of the article has a pronunciation that's 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, atlatl). Do not include pronunciations for names of foreign countries whose pronunciations are well known in English (France, Poland). Do not include them for common English words with pronunciations that might be counterintuitive for learners (laughter, sword). 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.
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.
The first sentence of an article about a person should link to the page or pages about the topic where the person achieved prominence.
Exactly what provides the context needed to understand a given topic varies greatly from topic to topic.
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.
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.
- Thomson's gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii) is the most common gazelle of East Africa ...
- Grunters or tigerperches are fishes in the family Terapontidae ...
- The rove beetles are a large family (Staphylinidae) of beetles ...
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.
- Vitis vinifera (common grape vine) is a species of Vitis, native to the Mediterranean region, central Europe, and southwestern Asia ...
- Brassica oleracea is the species of plant that includes many common foods as cultivars, including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, savoy, and Chinese kale ...
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.
Biographies of living persons
|It has been suggested that this section be merged into WP:Manual of Style/Biographies#Opening paragraph. (Discuss)|
When writing about controversies in the lead of the biography of a living person, notable material should neither be suppressed nor allowed to overwhelm: always pay scrupulous attention to reliable sources, and make sure the lead correctly reflects the entirety of the article. Write clinically, and let the facts speak for themselves.
Well-publicized recent events affecting a subject, whether controversial or not, should be kept in historical perspective. What is most recent is not necessarily what is most notable: new information should be carefully balanced against old, with due weight accorded to each. When a subject dies, the lead need not be radically reworked. Unless the cause of death is itself a reason for notability, a single sentence describing the death is usually sufficient.
By the design of Wikipedia's software, an article can have only one title. When this title is a name, significant alternative names for the topic should be mentioned in the article, usually in the first sentence or paragraph. These may include alternative spellings, longer or shorter forms, historical names, and significant names in other languages. Indeed, alternative names can be used in article text in contexts where they are more appropriate than the name used as the title of the article. For example, the city now called "Gdańsk" can be referred to as "Danzig" in suitable historical contexts. The editor needs to balance the desire to maximize the information available to the reader with the need to maintain readability.
Although Wikipedia's naming conventions recommend the use of English, there are instances where the subject of an article is best known in English-speaking sources by its non-English name. In this case, the non-English title may be appropriate for the article.
Usage in first sentence
|It has been suggested that this section be merged into WP:Manual of Style/Biographies#Opening paragraph. (Discuss)|
The title can be followed in the first line by one or two alternative names in parentheses (but see Wikipedia:Naming conventions (geographic names) for special guidelines for place names). The following are examples of names that may be included parenthetically, although inclusion should reflect consensus.
- Archaic names, including names used before the standardization of English orthography should be clearly marked as such, i.e., (archaic: name).
- foreign-language names, such as in an article on a person who does not themselves write their name in English, are encouraged. Separate languages should be divided by semicolons, and romanizations of non-Latin scripts by commas.
The name of a person is presented in full if known, including any given names that were abbreviated or omitted in the article's title. For example, the article on Calvin Coolidge gives his name as John Calvin Coolidge Jr.
If a person is commonly known by a nickname that is not a common hypocorism (diminutive) of their name, used in lieu of a given name, it is presented between quote marks following the last given name or initial, as for Bunny Berigan, which has Roland Bernard "Bunny" Berigan. The quotation marks are not put in bold.
If a person has a well-known common hypocorism, used in lieu of a given name, it is not presented between quote marks following the last given name or initial, as for Tom Hopper which has just Thomas Edward Hopper. Also acceptable are formulations like "Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, known as Sandro Botticelli", when applicable.
Consider footnoting foreign-language and archaic names if they would otherwise clutter the opening sentence.
Separate section usage
Alternatively, if there are more than two alternative names, these names can be moved to and explained in a "Names" or "Etymology" section; it is recommended that this be done if there are at least three alternate names, or there is something notable about the names themselves. Once such a section or paragraph is created, the alternative English or foreign names should not be moved back to the first line. As an exception, a local official name different from a widely accepted English name should be retained in the lead.
Where the article is a stub and has no section headings, a lead may not be necessary. Although Wikipedia encourages expanding stubs, this may be impossible if reliably sourced information is not available. Once an article has been sufficiently expanded, generally to around 400 or 500 words, editors should consider introducing section headings and removing the stub classification.
The appropriate length of the lead section depends on the total length of the article. As a general guideline—but not absolute rule—the lead should usually be no longer than four paragraphs. The length of the lead should conform to readers' expectations of a short, but useful and complete, summary of the topic. A lead that is too short leaves the reader unsatisfied; a lead that is too long is intimidating, difficult to read, and may cause the reader to lose interest halfway. The following suggestions about lead length may be useful ("article length" refers to readable prose size):
|Fewer than 15,000 characters||One or two paragraphs|
|15,000–30,000 characters||Two or three paragraphs|
|More than 30,000 characters||Three or four paragraphs|
Editing the lead section
By default there is no  link for the lead section, but registered users can get them via:
Comparison to the news-style lead
Wikipedia leads are not written in news style. Although there are some similarities, such as putting the most important information first and making it possible for any reader to understand the subject even if they only read the lead, there are some important differences. The lead paragraph (sometimes spelled "lede") of newspaper journalism is a very compressed summary of only the most important facts about a story. These basic facts are sometimes referred to as the "five Ws": who, what, when, where, and why. Journalistic leads normally are only one or two sentences long. By contrast, in Wikipedia articles, the first sentence is usually more similar to a definition, the lead is longer, and it ultimately provides far more information, as its purpose is to summarize the article, not just introduce it.
|"Toxic gas leaking from an American-owned insecticide plant in central India killed at least 410 people overnight, many as they slept, officials said today. At least 12,000 were reported injured in the disaster in the city of Bhopal, 2,000 of whom were hospitalized."
||The Bhopal disaster, also referred to as the Bhopal gas tragedy, was a gas leak incident in India, considered the world's worst industrial disaster. It occurred on the night of 2–3 December 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Over 500,000 people were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other chemicals. The toxic substance made its way in and around the shanty towns located near the plant. Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259. The government of Madhya Pradesh confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. Others estimate 8,000 died within two weeks and another 8,000 or more have since died from gas-related diseases. A government affidavit in 2006 stated the leak caused 558,125 injuries including 38,478 temporary partial injuries and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries.|
Tabloid, magazine, and broadcast news leads may have "teasers" that intentionally omit some crucial details to entice readers to read or watch the full story. They may even "bury the lead" by hiding the most important facts. This style should never be used on Wikipedia.
For a list of template messages related to the clean-up of lead sections, see Wikipedia:Template messages/Cleanup#Introduction. Editors are encouraged to improve leads rather than simply tag them.