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Version 4 (May 2000)

This is a statement of the policies and procedures that that editors, peer reviewers, writers, copyeditors, and others will be expected to follow in the production of the Nupedia encyclopedia.  Those actively involved in this project are expected to be familiar with the relevant parts of the policy statement.  This statement is essential to our giving the project direction, consistency, and coherence.

If you're looking for an answer to a specific question, you have three options.  You can guess which section contains your answer by looking at the general outline, just below; you can see if your question is listed among our frequently-asked policy questions, which contains links to parts of the text containing the answers; or you can write a human being, such as an editor, the editor-in-chief, or the subscribers of Nupedia-L.

General outline

I. Overview of the editorial process
	A. General overview
	B. Overview: Assignment
	C. Overview: Finding a lead reviewer
	D. Overview: Lead review
	E. Overview: Open review
	F. Overview: Lead copyediting
	G. Overview: Open copyediting
	H. Overview: Final approval and markup
II. General Nupedia policies
	A. Goals of the project
	B. The international nature of the project
	C. Access to the disabled
	D. Our ways of thanking contributors
	E. Our privacy policy
III. Why join Nupedia
	A. Resources and a plan
	B. Nupedia is open content
IV. Nupedia personnel: roles and instructions
	A. Writers
	B. Editors
	C. Lead reviewers
	D. Peer reviewers
	E. Moderators
	F. Copyeditors
	G. Programmers
	H. Translators
	I. Casual participants
V. Assigning articles
VI. Guidelines for writing and formatting articles
	A. General article policies
	   i. General features of written style
	   ii. Lack of bias
	   iii. Our audience
	   iv. Explaining jargon
	   v. Explaining why a topic is important
	   vi. How to
	B. Article format
	   i. Article lengths
	   ii. Article types; biographies; top-level articles
	   iii. Article titles
	   iv. Article subtitles
	   v. The first few sentences of articles
	   vi. Section headings
	   vii. Reference lists: for further reading,
		lists of works, and discographies
	   viii. Keywords
	   ix. Complex article formatting, multimedia, and
	       associated files
	   x. Images: image captions, image formats, etc.
	C. Markup
	   i. Notes (footnotes, endnotes)
	   ii. Pronunciations
	   iii. Italics and other presentational markup
	   iv. Cross-references and external links
	   v. In case you don't know what markup to use
VII. Lead review
	A. Assigning a lead reviewer
	B. The lead review process
VIII. Open review
	A. Open review moderation
	B. Primary areas and secondary areas
IX. Copyediting
	A. Chief Copyeditor
	B. Official style and usage guides
	C. General copyediting policies
	D. Lead copyediting
	E. Open copyediting
X. Final approval and markup
XI. Mailing lists
XII. Editorial functions
	A. How to get started
	B. Setting category-specific guidelines
	   for writing articles
XIII. Some frequently-asked policy questions


Nupedia's editorial process is complex but thorough.  To help give you a basic grasp of this process, we present here a general overview of this process, followed by a slightly more detailed overview of each of the seven steps of this process.


Here is an general overview of the editorial process.

A writer (often, and as appropriate, an expert on the topic) asks the editor to be assigned a given topic, or an editor asks someone to write on it.  The topic is assigned (step one, assignment) and the writer goes to work.  The article is also assigned a "lead reviewer" (step two, finding a lead reviewer) and there is a "blind review" exchange between this initial, lead reviewer and the writer (step three, lead review).  The resulting draft article is posted on the relevant review group (or, in some cases, groups); peer reviewers suggest revisions (step four, open review).  When approved by the peer reviewers and subject editor, the article is then forwarded for copyediting by two copyeditors who are assigned by the author (step five, lead copyediting).  After the article has been checked and revised for good grammar, usage, etc., the completed article is posted publicly for a final, "open" copyediting by anyone interested (step six, open copyediting).  The final product is then approved by the relevant area editor and the article is marked-up so that it is properly presented on the website (step seven, final approval and markup).  Then the article is made "live," i.e., posted as a completed article on the website.

The steps, therefore, are:

  1. General overview
  2. Assignment
  3. Finding a lead reviewer
  4. Lead review
  5. Open review
  6. Lead copyediting
  7. Open copyediting
  8. Final approval and markup


Once an article has been proposed, the first stage in the Nupedia editorial process is assignment.  Each category editor (e.g., each of the editors of the Philosophy, Chemistry, and Sociology categories) must assess, based on the volunteer's member profile or information conveyed via e-mail or other means, whether the person is adequately qualified to write an article on the topic in question.  Some topics are very general, nonspecialist topics and do not require many special qualifications; other topics might require more stringent qualifications.  We leave this up to the each editor's own discretion (but see our information on assigning articles">).


Once an article has been assigned, the editor must find a lead reviewer for the article.  (The article's lead reviewer is an expert on the topic who reads and comments on the article "anonymously," so that the lead review process is "blind.")  The editor may choose a lead reviewer from among the category's official peer reviewers or may opt to find someone from outside the project entirely; in some cases the editor might make him- or herself the lead reviewer.


The lead review process has two purposes: first, to ensure that the article is at least minimally competent for Nupedia (and if not, to reject it); second, to help improve it so that it is "almost ready to be posted" on Nupedia.  The lead review process takes place on a special automatically-created discussion web page that is accessible only by the author, the lead reviewer, and the category editor.  The system does not identify the lead reviewer and author to each other, and in their discussion they are expected to keep their identities hidden from each other.  The lead reviewer does not merely supply an evaluation of the article for the use of the editor, as in the case of professional journals; in addition, the reviewer is actively involved in making specific recommendations for improvement to the article.  The author then makes required changes on a special page on the website accessible only by the author.  When the article is, in the opinion of the lead reviewer, "nearly satisfactory for inclusion in Nupedia," the reviewer approves the article.  It is then posted on the website for public, open review.


The open review of an article is a public discussion/critique of an article on a special, automatically-created web page.  The purpose of open review is to provide the author with further feedback on how the article should be improved and thereby prepare the article for final inclusion in Nupedia.  In particular, the peer reviewers of the category are tasked with explaining whatever requirements they might have before they are willing to give their approval to the article.  The general public, too, is strongly encouraged to comment.  In order to pass the open review stage, three people--the editor, the article's lead reviewer, and at least one category peer reviewer--must approve the article.  When the editor and lead reviewer are the same, a second peer reviewer must approve the article.  In either case, the article is approved by three experts before it moves on to the copyediting stages.  If the article concerns a topic that is "multidisciplinary," it might then be sent on for an exactly similar open "secondary review" process by a secondary review group.  For example, an article on the subject "God" might begin life in the religion group but require comment and approval by the philosophy group as well.


When an article has passed open review, a notice is sent to the relevant (American English or British English) copyediting mailing list inviting copyeditors to sign up to copyedit the article.  The author must then select two copyeditors for the article and must also decide whether to make copyediting changes or to choose a copyediting proxy to do so.  Then, again on a specially-created web page, the copyeditors, serially, offer their comments to the author who then makes appropriate changes; alternatively, if a proxy was chosen, the proxy simply makes changes to the article directly, and the second copyeditor gives comments to the proxy.  When both copyeditors have approved the copyedited draft, the article moves on to the open copyediting stage.


When an article's two lead copyeditors have approved the article draft, it is posted for public, "open" copyediting.  Members of the public are able to point out problems that the lead copyeditors might have missed, and again either the editor or a copyediting proxy makes the necessary changes.  After a minimum one-week comment period, the two lead copyeditors again approve changes to the article, and it is sent on for final approval and markup.


Before an article is posted on the website, it is given one last, final approval by the category editor; then it is marked up using XML markup before being posted as an officially approved Nupedia article.  At this time, the author may write for a free t-shirt or coffee cup.



Our long-term goal is to create an open content encyclopedia, usefully cross-referenced, arranged, and searchable, freely available on the web and in various other inexpensive formats, and with a greater amount of content than any encyclopedia has had in history.  Also essential to our goal is that articles will be peer-reviewed and academically respectable, unbiased, translated into various non-English languages, and will offer both practical and theoretical information.  We recognize that this goal cannot be achieved without considerable time, effort, and ambition, as well as some humility and goodwill.  Nupedia cannot exist without an online community to create it, so a further goal is to foster the growth and health of this community.

Significant near-term milestones have already been reached: (1) our first article has been given final approval, (2) a dozen articles have appeared on the website, and (3) we have a functioning web-based editorial process.  Other near-term goals include: (4) all of our review groups are staffed; (5) at least one article from each subject area appears on the website; and (6) 1,000 articles appear on the website.


Nupedia is, by design, an international project in several senses.

First, since the project is web-based, it is amazingly easy for us to have participants from around the globe.  We do, therefore, strongly encourage participation by people from all nations.

Second, though our first articles will appear in both American English and British English, we will, as soon as is practical to do so, set up a system whereby translations of Nupedia articles into many other languages are made available.  Our hope and intention is to render Nupedia articles in all major world languages.

Meanwhile, we hope to avoid regionalisms, insofar as that is possible, thus making articles in American English comprehensible to British English speakers and articles in British English comprehensible to American English speakers.  The very fact that this rule needs to be made testifies to the truly international nature of the undertaking, which could not have been achieved on this scale before the advent of the Internet.

Moreover, we are quite willing to accept articles written in languages other than English.  Currently, all editorial functions are carried out in English, however.  Therefore, probably, before an article can be considered, it should be translated into English; we have many open-minded and multi-lingual people in the project, so we are very willing to entertain proposals.  There are many people associated with Nupedia who are very willing and quite able to assist with making Nupedia multi-lingual.

Third, in virtue of our nonbias policy, we hope to make it possible to bring radically divergent viewpoints together in a way that, it is to be hoped, cannot reasonably be regarded as tendentious by anyone.  We believe this is absolutely essential to the establishment of an international institution.


We affirm our commitment to make Nupedia accessible to those contributors and users who are disabled, or differently able, as fully as possible.  We shall adopt whatever reasonable policies and procedures we find necessary to implement this; hence we intend Nupedia to be among the best-suited for browsing and use by the disabled.  The Nupedia staff will write or re-write our HTML in such a way as to assist disabled contributors and users.  Some examples:

  1. We will use text equivalents for all images.
  2. We will make descriptions of all video content.
  3. We will write transcripts and/or caption all audio content.
  4. We will include text summaries of all charts and graphs.

At the same time, we assume that some groups of disabled contributors and users do use assistive and/or adaptive technology and, thus, we see it as our goal to make our website, our procedures and policies, and our content compatible with this technology.  For example, for those individuals with voice-enabled browsers, we will try to provide a navigation system for our web pages and content that compliments such browsers.

We welcome the input and advice of persons who wish to see Nupedia improved in this regard.


All Nupedia authors will receive prominent bylines, and other contributors to the editorial process--editors, the lead reviewer, other peer reviewers, and copyeditors--will receive credit on every article on Nupedia that they help to create.  Every byline or other credit will be linked to a brief member biographical entry, created by the member and edited for consistency of format, spelling, etc., by Nupedia staff.  Therefore, all contributors are encouraged to fill out the name and bio portion of their member data files.

For writing an article of any length that is included in Nupedia, as a small token of our appreciation, the organizers of the project will send the writer's choice of a t-shirt or a coffee cup (emblazoned with the Nupedia logo).  All peer reviewers will automatically have this choice as well, and editors will receive both.  Copyeditors who copyedit three articles can receive their choice of t-shirt or coffee cup as well.  To receive these items, once you have met the requirements, simply e-mail with your name, t-shirt size, and address. Please allow ample time for delivery. Moreover, after copyediting three articles, copyeditors may request reimbursement for their copies of required copyediting books such as The Chicago Manual of Style. Please send copies of the relevant receipts to Nupedia Reimbursements, 3585 Hancock St., Suite A, San Diego, CA, 89108, USA; Bomis, Inc., which supports Nupedia, will send a reimbursement check promptly.

While Nupedia is an open content project and the various possible benefits of the project can be had by the entire world, those of us who are leading the project feel it is appropriate to express our own appreciation in this small way.  This is not, of course, meant as any sort of payment for services rendered.

II.E. OUR PRIVACY POLICY., the website organizing the Nupedia project, is fully committed to protecting your privacy.  The trust of project participants is absolutely essential to the success of this project, and therefore we will protect your privacy.

We may collect--only with your consent--e-mail addresses and other personal information from you.  Consistent with applicable law, we will not divulge this information without your permission.  But in many cases this information is necessary for us to have--for example, in order for editors and some others to make informed decisions, or in order to contact you.

Those who will not receive any of your information from us include bulk e-mail companies (which, by the way, we officially despise), employers, and the government.  We will not use the information that you are a member of Nupedia to help publicize Nupedia (except in impersonal summary format, or with your permission to do so).

We will not make your name or e-mail available, except to editors and specially-tasked, specially-designed editorial associates, on the website without your consent.  If you are very concerned about this, however, you should make sure you understand how Nupedia resources work.  If, for example, you use Nupedia mailing lists, and you post, then of course your name and e-mail address may show up on your posts and in web-accessible archives.

In short, while for obvious administrative/editorial purposes it is important that we have contributors' names, contact information, credentials, and related information, we are absolutely committed to not letting anyone know anything about you unless you agree to it.


Nupedia cannot succeed without a motivated volunteer base, therefore it is a good idea to explain why it's important to join and work on the project.  The Nupedia encyclopedia is a public endeavor; its articles will be publicly accessible and distributable in accordance with our open content license, and it will be constructed by qualified members of the international public.

We at aim to provide the structure, direction, and mechanisms, agreeable to all (or almost all) participants, whereby this public endeavor can be pursued in a professional manner.  Our goal is to create the largest encyclopedia the world has ever seen.  This will no doubt require years of work, but we are committed to that scale of endeavor.  We hope the encyclopedia will be distributed widely through electronic and print media, again in accordance with the open content license.  Consequently, we expect the work of our contributors to receive worldwide attention.

Membership is free, of course.  But the success of this endeavor crucially depends on our attracting and retaining highly qualified contributors--hence the need to clarify why participation in Nupedia is, or can be, attractive to potential contributors of such caliber.

Two features of Nupedia make participation attractive: we have resources and a plan, as well as an open content license.


Quite a lot comes under this heading.

First, there is financial backing behind the project.  In particular, there is a full-time paid editor-in-chief; the assistance of other paid employees; a modest budget for advertising; and a strategy for getting the word out in general.

Bomis, Inc., the owner of, is committed to building the website on a long-term basis, and the present editor-in-chief, Larry Sanger, is committed to making a serious career out of fostering its development.  Larry received his Ph.D. in Philosophy, with a concentration in Epistemology (the theory of knowledge), from one of the better departments in Epistemology, that of Ohio State University.  He has years of experience organizing Internet projects and interactive websites.  He has also been an avid, prolific writer nearly all his life. 

We have been soliciting highly qualified editors, writers, and peer reviewers through a variety of means, and we make a point of inviting the best-qualified people we can find.  Hence, qualified contributors are encouraged to contact us.  Others who have active areas of interest (if not bona fide areas of expertise) are encouraged to become members of Nupedia as well and help in appropriate ways.

We hope that, in time, Nupedia will grow to superlative breadth and depth.  We plan to initiate processes to keep the articles up-to-date.  Strict Nupedia policy, combined with the ongoing processes of peer review and public feedback--executed on a huge scale made possible by the Internet--has the tremendous potential to make this the most unbiased, balanced encyclopedia that has ever existed.

The directors of Nupedia are on a philosophical mission.  We are determined to uphold the standards of breadth, depth, timeliness, and lack of bias in large part because we are morally committed to the mission of creating something of clear, significant, and lasting value.  Exactly how much value it could prove to be to the world in general can be understood only by grasping the implications of the fact that the encyclopedia may be distributed freely under our GNU free documentation license.


The implications of our license are complex but important for our potential contributors to understand.

The content of Nupedia is "open content" in approximately the same way that the source code for Linux is "open source."  This means, in brief, that anyone can use the material from Nupedia on web pages, in books or pamphlets, on CDs, etc., for profit or not, for educational purposes, etc.  You may do this at your discretion, so long as you credit Nupedia prominently as the source and you do not try to deny others the right to distribute Nupedia material; for more details read the Nupedia GNU Free Documentation License.  In a very real sense, then, the articles that make up Nupedia will be public resources, created by what we believe will eventually be an enormous body of volunteer scholars.

Hence, since the standards the encyclopedia follows are high, we can expect that it will, if not immediately then eventually, receive heavy use from all manner of persons and entities who need freely-citable information.  Features we intend to add later will increase its value; e.g., we will provide the structure whereby translations of articles are freely available, thus increasing the international value of the project.  Therefore, because of this expected wide use, the values both of a contribution and of being known as a contributor to the encyclopedia are expected to become--eventually, at least--high.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that editors and others will be able to release print versions of Nupedia articles, in for example single-volume subject encyclopedias, whenever they choose, without the permission of Bomis, Inc. or any other entity.  The Nupedia license obligates the project to allow you to do this.  You may, therefore, use Nupedia resources to develop the content of projects you are working on.

We think there is, thus, a clear incentive for experts to become involved, particularly as editors, writers, and peer reviewers.  They will receive proper credit for their contributions on Nupedia, which will (in time) become one of the most important encyclopedias by virtue of its size, peer review mechanisms, editorial policies, and other features.


Depending on your qualifications and commitment, you may join the project as a writer, editor, lead reviewer, peer reviewer, moderator, copyeditor, programmer, translator, or casual participant.  This part of the policy statement will outline the roles of each of these types of contributor and give some general instructions for each.  We have information about and instructions for persons interested in the following roles:


See also our guidelines for writing and formatting articles.

We wish to extend a warm invitation to potential Nupedia writers and our continuing gratitude to those who have already started in on or finished their articles.

Many of the first articles we wish to have written will be brief, one- to five-paragraph introductory articles.  We are aiming for breadth first, and then depth.  Any longer articles will also have to be accompanied by short introductory articles.

Beyond this, with the subject editor's advice and consent, the topic and contents of the article is up to you.  We'll be delighted to learn from you.

Here is how you'd create an article for Nupedia.

  1. Get a Nupedia member ID.

  2. Volunteer to write on a topic.  Please follow the directions on the sign-up form carefully.  If the appropriate subject area for your article is not listed on the page, we will not be able to assign you the topic (unless it's a brief, nonspecialist topic that can be assigned in the "General and Other" category).  We can assign topics only in active areas, i.e., those with an editor and at least two peer reviewers.

  3. If you want to write an article in some language other than English, at present, we can only (with our apologies) suggest the following.  Find a colleague who does speak English adequately, and ask that person to both translate the article and guide it through the review process.  You would put both your own and the translator's names down as co-authors of the article.

  4. Moreover, you might simply e-mail editors in your areas of interest, letting them know of your availability.

  5. The category editor then decides whether to assign you the article topic (step one).  The editor may, in some cases, ask what qualifications you have to write on the article, and therefore it would be a good idea to have completed your member profile.  (This is private information.)

  6. Write the article.  When very well satisfied with the draft, return to the member area (but be sure to log in first).  Find a table on that page called "Your articles," and click on the name of your article.  On the page that comes up, scroll down to the "Article body" box.  Paste your article there, and then scroll to the bottom of the page and save your changes.

  7. Next, your article will go through a rigorous review process.  You should receive automatic reminders and other notices in the e-mail address you supplied to us.  Please refer to other sections of Nupedia's policy guidelines to learn more about what to do in the review process.  At some point, you may wish to subscribe to the relevant Nupedia mailing list(s).

  8. At this time a lead reviewer, whose identity should be unknown to you, will be assigned to your article (step two).  When one is found, then the reviewer will engage you in a critical discussion of your article, or "lead review" (step three).  From the member area homepage you should see a link to a discussion page where you can conduct an "anonymous" conversation about your article.

  9. Next, your reviewer will (it is to be hoped) approve your article; then it's sent on for "open review" (step four).  Again, there will be a link to the relevant discussion page from the member area homepage.  Humility, patience, and possibly thick skin in going through this process is good advice--particularly if the article must be reviewed by multiple review groups, as will happen in some cases.  In order to pass open review, your article must be approved by the area editor, the lead reviewer (again), and at least one peer reviewer.  When the editor and the lead reviewer are the same person, a second peer reviewer must approve the article.

  10. When approval is rendered, the next stop is "lead copyediting" (step five).  Notices that your article is available for copyediting will be sent to Nupedia copyeditors.  Your first task here will be to choose two copyediting volunteers, called "lead copyeditors."  Again, see the member area homepage for the relevant links.  You can either let them make changes directly to your article, or else make the changes yourself (in response to their recommendations or requirements).

  11. When the lead copyeditors have approved changes, the article is sent on for "open copyediting" (step six).  This happens on a publicly-accessible web discussion (like open review).  Your lead copyeditors have the option of requiring or rejecting certain proposed changes made by the public.  To complete this step, the same lead copyeditors must then approve the article again.  If you gave the responsibility to the copyeditors to make changes directly, you'll be required to press a button rendering your approval of their changes before the article can be sent on to the final step of the process.

  12. The final step is "final approval and markup" (step seven).  As an author, there's really nothing left for you to do; simply wait for the editor to give a final approval of the article and the Nupedia mark-up crew to make sure the article is marked up correctly so that it is displayed neatly on the website.

  13. At this point you can request your free t-shirt or coffee cup from!

So, essentially, as a Nupedia writer, you work with a subject editor, lead reviewer, peer reviewers, and copyeditors to fine-tune your work.  The process is complicated, but thorough--and rewarding.


See also Editorial functions and the policy guidelines generally.

Editors are in charge of particular subject matters, such as philosophy, music, and chemistry.  They enjoy considerable autonomy on issues of content.  Editors assign topics to writers and formulate any necessary policy and direction with respect to their own categories, though they are expected to follow and enforce general Nupedia policy guidelines.  Also, the editor's approval is required for any article to be accepted as part of the encyclopedia.  We wish editors to be true experts in their fields and (with few exceptions) possess Ph.D.'s.  The responsibilities involved can be discharged without imposing a serious burden on the editor's valuable spare time.

We wish to encourage all accomplished scholars to consider heading up a category that addresses his or her interests.  You can apply very easily online, where you can even upload a CV for viewing by the editor-in-chief or another relevant editor.  For more information or general inquiries, please write the editor-in-chief, Larry Sanger, at  To apply, we require a CV or resume, as well some means of establishing bona fides (a web page will probably suffice).  And please do not hesitate to write any of our present editors for advice.

Like work done building open source software projects and, these are volunteer positions, but, we think, both rewarding and interesting.  Nupedia's editorial structure is such that your participation will be a solid addition to your credentials.


See also lead review and especially the lead review process.

The lead reviewer's primarily responsibility is to ensure that an article is "almost ready" for inclusion in Nupedia.  The lead reviewer is expected to be able to speak and judge authoritatively on the topic of the reviewed article.

Nupedia has a complex and thorough review process.  If you are with us as a lead reviewer for only an article or two, it would be unreasonable for us to expect you to be familiar with every part of our policy guidelines; the following should provide an adequate orientation.

  1. Go to the signup page and create a Nupedia user ID for yourself.

  2. We provide a byline and short bio for lead reviewers.  So, please fill out "Your Bio" (but log in first).

  3. E-mail the area editor (i.e., the person who asked you to review the article) and let him/her know what your Nupedia user ID is; we will use the ID to record the information that you're the lead reviewer of the article.  The system will then make it possible for you to view the article discussion page when you've logged in.

  4. You should be notified automatically by e-mail when the article is ready for review.  To view the article, go to the member area homepage (but be sure to log in first).  On that page, there should be a direct link to the lead review discussion page for the article; you can find this link under the heading "Articles for which you are lead reviewer." (Alternatively, a direct link to this discussion page should be sent to your e-mail address.)

  5. As you conduct the review, a few things are very important to bear in mind.  First of all, this is supposed to be a blind review; therefore, your identity will be masked by the system as will that of the author.  Please do not reveal your identity unless you are certain the author already knows it.  Second, if and when you believe the article is acceptable, go to the approval form (a link to this form will be on the member area homepage when you have logged in) and press the approval button.  Only when the lead reviewer believes that the draft article is nearly satisfactory for inclusion in Nupedia should the article be approved.  Third, it's possible you might conclude the article is irremediable; please write the subject editor for help in this situation.

  6. When the lead review process (step three) is complete, the article moves on to an open review process (step four), in which it is hoped you will participate.  Again, at the end of the open review process, your approval of the article will be required in order for it to be included in the encyclopedia.  Again, you can find a link to the relevant discussion page from your member area homepage after you have logged in.

If you need further help, please e-mail the subject editor.  Also, our editor-in-chief, Larry Sanger, is happy to answer questions about what to do when; write him at


See also open review.

Peer reviewers for particular subject areas are responsible for public discussion of how to improve articles that have been submitted and also of article approval.  Unlike other, rank-and-file Nupedia members, peer reviewers can vote to accept or reject an article.  They can also be called upon to be the lead reviewer for a new article.  This involves doing an initial, blind review/editing of the article before it is posted for open, public review.  Peer reviewers should be true experts in their fields; the vast majority have Ph.D.'s or are a few months from getting their Ph.D.'s, or have equivalent publishing, teaching, and/or professional experience.  All responsibilities are to be executed at the reviewer's discretion.  One can participate as much or as little as one wishes (of course, the more the better).

We wish to encourage all accomplished scholars to join us peer reviewers in their areas of competence.  You can apply very easily online, where you can even upload a CV for viewing by the the relevant subject editor (or by the editor-in-chief, if your area still lacks an editor).  For more information or general inquiries, please write the relevant subject editor or the editor-in-chief, Larry Sanger, at  To apply, we require a CV or resume, as well some means of establishing bona fides (a web page will probably suffice).

Like work done building open source software projects and, these are volunteer positions, but, we think, both rewarding and interesting.  Nupedia's editorial structure is such that your participation will be a solid addition to your credentials.


Please see also our moderation guidelines.

There are two kinds of moderators for Nupedia: open review moderators and mailing list moderators.

Open review moderators are responsible for checking comments posted on open review pages for articles in a particular subject area.  While comments from the author, the category editor, the lead reviewer, and the category peer reviewers are unmoderated, comments from everyone else are moderated.  Generally speaking, all comments are approved unless they are impolite or simply add nothing of importance to the discussion.  Moderators are expected to have at least a bachelor's degree or similar qualification in the subject area they're moderating.  You can easily apply online to become an open review moderator.

Mailing list moderators are responsible for checking e-mails posted on Nupedia mailing lists.  Generally speaking, all comments are approved unless they are impolite or simply add nothing of importance to the discussion.  If you're interested in becoming a moderator for a particular mailing list, please write the editor-in-chief at


See also our copyediting instructions and policy.

We have a continuing need for people who can do a good job of copyediting articles in either (or both) of American English or British English.  (Within the next year or two, we will be prepared to accept and copyedit articles in other languages as well.)

There are a number of good reasons to join us as a copyeditor.  It's interesting and, for a perverse few no doubt, fun.  If you copyedit three articles (no matter how short), we'll send you a Nupedia t-shirt or coffee cup.  If you purchase one of our required copyediting books, then after you've copyedited three articles, we will reimburse you the full price you paid for those books.  (See below for details.)

It's also excellent practice and really a good education for those who are excellent writers but who haven't paid very close attention (e.g., to the point of studying usage guides on a regular basis) to their grammar and usage.

Most importantly, it represents a crucial part of the whole Nupedia editorial process.  That being the case, we give credit to the people who copyedit any given article--including a biographical note, if you wish.  For example, see the very end of the Irish traditional music article, and click on the names that follow "lead copyeditors."  In addition, you get the knowledge that you are contributing to an important, long-term, worthwhile, serious project.

We do not check copyeditor qualifications, except insofar as an author examines your qualifications you when you sign up to copyedit an article (see below).  Your work as a copyeditor will be checked publicly, however, and so you'll be expected to have an excellent command of the English language--grammar, usage, spelling, etc.  Among our copyeditors are a number of college professors, professional copyeditors, English literature students, and other word hounds.

To become a Nupedia copyeditor, follow these simple steps (and if you have any questions you can always get help from

  1. Sign up as a Nupedia member.  This will allow us to give you credit when you copyedit an article.  So, also, please fill out your member profile information, particularly the part that says "YOUR BIO."  (Note, when you get to the latter page, that the purpose of the "MEMBER PROFILE" section is to help editors learn more about you.  Your "MEMBER PROFILE" is not publicly-viewable;  it is "YOUR BIO" that is publicly-viewable.)

  2. Join either the American English copyediting group or the British English copyediting group (archives are here and here).  The system sends notices of new articles to copyedit to these lists.  In addition, if you are at all interested in discussing general issues of copyediting policy, please sign up for copyedit-l (archives are here).

  3. Read our copyediting instructions and policy.  This is absolutely essential.

  4. Purchase or otherwise obtain (we don't condone theft, but libraries are nice) copies of (1) The Chicago Manual of Style, preferably the most recent edition (the 14th), and (2) either Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage, the second edition (if you join the British English copyediting group), or Bryan A. Garner's recent and excellent Dictionary of Modern American Usage (if you join the American English copyediting group).  Unfortunately, we require that you have these references.  They'll cost you $40-$50 from or  We are willing to reimburse you for this cost (just ask)--after you have copyedited three articles for us.  We apologize for this initial cost you will have to incur; we might offer to reimburse you from the beginning, but for the fear that too many people might take this as an opportunity to get a few books for free, and with no intention of copyediting any articles for the project.

  5. Obtain reimbursement by sending the relevant receipts to: Nupedia Reimbursements, 3585 Hancock Street, Suite A, San Diego, CA, 92110, U.S.A.  Or you can fax copies to (619) 296-1754.


Nupedia's software is open source, and we have set up a mailing list for discussing Nupedia's software.  We also have CVS repository.  Please join us in making Nupedia's supporting software the best it can possibly be.  You will be participating in creating possibly one of the most powerful open source software systems for peer review processes.  You might be interested to know that Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation has agreed to support Nupedia by sending programmers and others our way.  In short, our credentials with the open source/free software movement are impeccable.


We have set up a mailing list for general Nupedia translation planning: Interpret-L.  We have groups set up to help provide translations into German, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese (Deutsch-L; Espanol-L; Francais-L; Italiano-L; Portugues-L).  Information on these projects can be found on our translation page as well as by subscribing to one of the above lists.  If you would like us to set up a group similar to these for Swedish, Russian, Japanese, etc., please write to the editor-in-chief at; please don't ask unless you are willing to become an active participant in developing a translation project for your language.

If you want to write an article in some language other than English, please see our guidelines for writers.


You do not, in fact, have to become an official part of Nupedia in any of the above capacities in order to participate; there are a number of ways in which you can help while remaining "in the background."  Here are a few:

  • Comment on articles undergoing open review or open copyediting.  You can even do this without signing in (though your comments will be humorously credited to "Anonymous Coward").  You can find these articles by skimming our articles in progress page, our production area, or our copyediting area.  If you're possibly interested, just go to those pages and browse around a bit.

  • Join Nupedia mailing lists in your areas of interest, and contribute comments about the format and policy of articles.

  • Help editors find lead reviewers.  There is particularly a need for this in the General and Other category.  Write the editor of an area you're interested in and let him or her know that you're available.

  • Publicize Nupedia.  There are many ways to do this, of course: put up links to Nupedia from your web pages; post announcements (after getting permission, of course) on specialized mailing lists; post our (RTF format) flyer in academic department bulletin boards and other places; talk to friends about the project; etc.

  • There is a growing need for graphics and sound files associated with existing articles.


Preliminary note: if any unsolicited articles are received, subject editors should not feel obligated to accept them.  The typical procedure is for articles to be assigned first, and Nupedia's instructions are clear enough that we can expect potential writers to understand this.

Also note: before a "longer article" on a topic can be assigned, it must be accompanied by a brief, introductory article on the same topic, which serves as an introduction to the longer article--the sort of thing one might find in a desktop reference.  The person or persons responsible for the introductory article on a topic need not be the same as the person or persons who write the longer article on that topic, but that might be convenient.  Please see our information about article lengths.

This section has two parts: one paragraph about how editors can use the system to make an assignment and several more paragraphs about what policies to follow in making an assignment.

To make an assignment to someone who has used the system to volunteer to write an article, an editor needs simply go to the "editor's page" for that article, select "Assign article," and press "Submit."  To make an assignment to someone who has not thus used the system to volunteer--e.g., someone who via e-mail has agreed to write an article--the procedure is to go to the article sign-up page as though you, the editor, were signing up for an article yourself, and in the space indicating the article author, where you see your member ID, simply type in the member ID of the volunteer.  Editors can locate the ID of the volunteer by clicking on the "search members" link at the top of all member area pages.  If a volunteer does not yet have a member ID, he or she will have to get one.  Of course, this can be done very easily and quickly, and it should be stressed that the volunteer will not receive any unwanted e-mails.

Nupedia editors have broad discretion on whom to assign what topic.  Editors must walk a fine line between being open and inclusive, on the one hand, and maintaining high standards of quality, on the other.  Nupedia as a project wishes to maintain both of these ideals as far as is possible.

In general, editors should determine, before making an assignment, that a candidate writer is adequately qualified for the job.  This is the main purpose of member profiles, which editors are able to search by following the "search members" link at the top of each page of the member area.

There are some Nupedia topics on which, no doubt, very satisfactory brief articles could be written by a good writer with no special training at all, or a hobbyist's interest.  A great many of the more specialized topics, and perhaps the bulk of topics overall, however, should be assigned to specialists in the relevant field.  This does not necessarily mean the person needs a Ph.D., of course.  The rule of thumb an editor should bear in mind is: would an article on this topic be of significantly greater quality if it were written by an expert on the subject?  If yes, we will require that the writer be an expert on the subject.  If no, nonspecialists (who are good writers) are more than welcome.

Expert, however, is a notoriously ambiguous term.  Just to take an example (that is not intended to bear any relation to any actual person): if a man who had received a Master's degree in French literature focusing exclusively on Victor Hugo had written five peer-reviewed articles about Hugo, the fact that he lacks a Ph.D. should not stop us from assigning him topics related directly to Hugo.  The same man, however, might not be asked to write the general article on French literature; the editor might determine that that job would belong to someone with a broader background, probably a senior scholar of French literature.

In many cases where the topic is specialized, highly academic, or where the editor expects the category as a whole might be closely judged based on the result, we will want to assign topics to persons who have already done extensive, high-quality research (not necessarily published work, but probably, in most cases) on those topics.  It obviously is not necessary, to have done extensive, high-quality research on a topic, to have any particular degree or credential at all.  But in some cases, of course, it will be practically necessary.

Any qualified writer who asks to be assigned a topic should be assigned that topic, unless the editor wishes to reserve the topic for some special reason.  Peer reviewers should be assigned most topics they request; an editor would have to have a rather good reason to deny the request (e.g., the peer reviewer is not an expert in the subject, and a much-better qualified person will soon be able to write the article).

Some people have generously offered to Nupedia the use of their content and other materials.  Exactly how these materials might be adapted for Nupedia's use is to be determined by the editor-in-chief and the relevant subject area editor(s), but as a general rule, we expect all materials, if even previously web-posted or published, to undergo Nupedia's entire editorial process.  Any exceptions to this general rule should be proposed to the editor-in-chief and on Advisory-L.

If a subject editor has any question, particularly on decisions that might be seen as setting important precedents, on whom should be assigned a topic, the editor should consult with the editor-in-chief.


For step-by-step instructions on how to submit an article, please see our instructions for authors.

These guidelines are divided into three large sections: A. General article policies, which concerns some general standards to bear in mind when writing any article, such as written style and lack of bias; B. Article format, which concerns such things as article lengths, titles, headings, "For Further Reading," and generally the mechanics of articles; and C. Markup, how to indicate notes (i.e., footnotes), italics, pronunciations, etc., by using angle brackets, <i>like this, for example</i>.

An article can be immensely improved if the author carefully compares it to these guidelines.


This is a discussion of what we would like to encourage in every article: the general features of written style, lack of bias, audience-targeted writing, explanations of jargon, explanations of why a topic is important, and attention to procedural ("how to") knowledge.


Nupedia articles will, we hope, be exemplary specimens of the languages in which they are written.  In general, we desire Nupedia articles to exhibit the following qualities (among others): unimpeachable standard usage, grammar, punctuation, and spelling; clarity (i.e., being readily comprehensible by Nupedia's audience); the use of active voice and concrete language (with examples); a high degree of logical structure that is made plain to the reader; lack of bias; and a natural, lively, and even witty style.  For English-language articles, it is worth perusing Strunk and White's Elements of Style as a general guide to style.  Within the general constraints of good usage and style, we want to encourage writers to be as lively, and even as humorous--or at least good-natured--as reasonably formal writing permits.  Encyclopedia articles do not have to be written in a boring style, and Nupedia articles shouldn't be.

It is worth emphasizing that, though there are, in principle, no space constraints, there are constraints on our readers' patience.  Consequently, we wish to avoid rambling articles and prefer them to be (if you will) densely packed with information.


Nupedia articles are to be unbiased.  There are many respectable reference works that permit authors to take recognizable stands on controversial issues, but this is not one of them.  This is, admittedly, a difficult ideal to achieve; but we feel that, where bias can be detected, it can also be eliminated.

This question is a good (albeit not infallible) test of a lack of bias: "On every issue about which there might be even minor dispute among experts on this subject, is it very difficult or impossible for the reader to determine what the view is to which the author adheres?"

This requires that, for each controversial view discussed, the author of an article (at a bare minimum) mention various opposing views that are taken seriously by any significant minority of experts (or concerned parties) on the subject.  In longer articles, of course, opposing views will be spelled out in considerable detail.  In a final version of the article, every party to the controversy in question must be able to judge that its views have been fairly presented, or as fairly as is possible in a context in which other, opposing views must also be presented as fairly as possible.  Moreover, if objections to any particular views are offered (which will be an essential component to certain articles, e.g., those on philosophy and public policy), the most serious or relevant objections to other, opposing views must be offered as well.  The reader should, ideally, be given the tools for deciding the issue; or, failing that, the reader should be introduced to the problems that must be solved in order to decide the issue.

On any controversial issue, it is usually important to state which views, if any, are now (or were at some time) in favor and no longer in favor (among experts or some other specified group of people).  But even this information can and should be imparted in such a fashion as not to imply that the majority view is correct, or even that it has any more presumption in its favor than is implied by the plain fact of its popularity.

To present a subject without bias, one must pay attention not just to the matters of which views and arguments are presented, but also to their wording or the tone in which they are mentioned.  Nupedia articles should avoid describing controversial views, persons, events, etc., in language that can plausibly be regarded as implying some value judgment, whether positive or negative, except when the judgment is on some relatively innocuous matter and is virtually universal.  It will suffice to state the relevant (agreed-upon) facts, to describe various divergent views about those facts, and then let readers make up their own minds about what the correct views are.

We acknowledge, however, that there will inevitably be some element of bias involved in arranging some articles (i.e., putting them into some order) on a web page.  This task will be left to the discretion of Nupedia editors; but, as a rule, we will attempt to arrange articles on controversial views according to the popularity of those views.

One solution to the problem of bias is to permit bias in articles but then to offer "articles in disagreement."  While this is not our official solution--we believe that where there is occasion for such an article, there is occasion to amend a currently existing article in some appropriate fashion--we might at some future date include, as a separate feature, a series of such articles, or an online debate among experts.

This nonbias policy does not mean that, as a Nupedia writer, you may not, to a large extent, speak with your own voice in terms of writing style (certainly you may).  Writers should avoid use of the first person, however; the third person will be expected.


Articles, and particularly introductory and general articles, should be readily comprehensible to nonspecialists and nonacademics generally, and all purely technical terms should be defined.  General articles are to be written for an average college graduate or for an intelligent high school graduate.  Articles on technical and abstruse subjects and on current topics of debate among specialists may be fully understandable only by some people with advanced degrees in those subjects, but they should always be linked to more general articles where the subject is discussed on a more introductory level, at least briefly.  Nonetheless, all Nupedia articles are meant for the consumption of educated adults and are to be written so simply, clearly, and with such liveliness that others will have relatively little trouble understanding them wherever the complexity of the material itself does not prevent this.  This does not imply that vocabulary and sentence construction are to be simplified for the purpose of being easier for beginners such as schoolchildren to understand; Nupedia materials can, under our open content license, be adapted for them in all sorts of ways.

The responsibility for ensuring that articles are well-written for our audience falls to all our contributors--editors, peer reviewers, copyeditors, and of course writers.


As a general rule, jargon should not be used without being explained.  This might be somewhat complicated in the context of Nupedia as a whole, because, very likely, the item of jargon will have its own entry, however brief.  Hence some care must be taken to ensure that the gloss given of a bit of jargon squares with any "official account" already given in Nupedia.  Explanation of jargon could (and no doubt will) be handled, in the future, using special cross-references (in which clicking on or hovering the mouse over a word will cause its definition to pop up); but until some such system has been perfected, the rule will be that all jargon should be explained within an article itself.  This rule can be relaxed with regard to basic jargon within very advanced/specialized material that a lay audience could not be expected to understand in any case.


It is one thing to impart bare facts and information, and it is another to place the facts into a context whereby the reader can understand why a person, place, species, event, concept, etc., may be regarded as important.  Nupedia articles should differ from some other encyclopedias by consistently highlighting the latter sort of information, when relevant.  Claims about inventions, achievements, revolutions, assassinations, etc., can and should be placed in a broader context to explain why they do indeed deserve our attention.

Thus, for example, in a bibliographic entry, the author should indicate why the actions of the entry's subject are regarded as important; it should be made clear what impact, whether good or ill, those actions have had.  Another example: entries concerning inventions and discoveries should relate some hard facts that make it clear how and why the invention or discovery has impacted the world.  Why was the cotton gin so important, anyway?

An explanation of the importance of a topic is an opportunity to entertain readers.  It is also one sort of area where some care will be necessary, because, obviously, there is considerable disagreement about what are properly considered achievements, and whether the results of given acts and events have been positive or negative.  So it will be important to avoid bias in explaining why certain topics are important.  It may turn out that for one segment of the educated populace, a particular topic is simply not important, while for another it is extremely so, and that this difference in assessment is due to political or religious reasons, for example.  In such a case it should be made clear, in as unbiased a fashion as possible, for whom the topic is important, and why. HOW TO.

Philosophers distinguish between declarative knowledge, which is conveyed in the sort of declarative sentences ordinarily found in an ordinary general encyclopedia, and procedural knowledge, or the knowledge of how to do things.  A complete compendium of human knowledge, as an encyclopedia is supposed to be, ought to impart both kinds of knowledge insofar as mere words (and other online media) permit this.  Thus, eventually, we will want articles not merely on the history of violins, the different violin makers, etc., but also on how to play the violin.  Articles in the Family and Consumer Science category should explain to how to cook and clean, and give advice to families on childrearing.  Articles about dogs will not merely explain the physiology and typology of our canine friends but also their care and feeding.


Authors (and others helping them, particularly copyeditors) should pay attention to article length, titles, the "Further Reading" section, and other mechanical elements.  This section will detail Nupedia requirements on these matters, which will help to keep Nupedia articles to a similar format while providing room for individuality.

This section has numerous subsections:


While we are willing to accept articles on all manner of topics, we would like to encourage our authors to help Nupedia achieve breadth before depth.  Therefore, we encourage that they write brief articles of one to five paragraphs, of the sort that one finds in a good one-volume desk reference on a subject area.  At the beginning and end of a brief article there will be a link to a longer, more in-depth article on the same topic.  Below the link to the longer article, there will be links to articles on subtopics, which go into even more depth, on selected points, than the longer article.  A brief article can be simply the first few paragraphs of a longer article, as long as the paragraphs can stand alone.

In some cases, we might simply to have a brief article by itself.  It is also possible that we will want an article slightly longer than five paragraphs, say 8-10 paragraphs--a "medium-length" article--that can stand on its own, without any brief introduction and without a longer article on the same topic to accompany it.

So there are three types of Nupedia articles planned: (1) a brief, one-to-five paragraph introduction to a topic, which may or may not stand alone; (2) a medium-sized article, which must stand alone; (3) a longer article, which must be accompanied by a brief introduction.

While very lengthy articles will always require a brief introduction, writers and editors might decide that a topic warrants something over five paragraphs, but nothing as long as, say, 3,000 words.  In that case, they have the option of creating a "medium-length" article that will (1) appear in the place where the shorter article would normally appear and (2) not have an associated longer article.  This type of article should not exceed 1,500 words.

A longer article may be of any length, but if it grows past, say, 3,000-5,000 words, then it should be truncated in some fashion, with individual parts of the article developed in more detail as subtopics; links to these subtopics should be added to the original category page below the link to the longer article. There are no limits to the degree of specialization Nupedia articles can exhibit.


For many identifiable types of articles, articles of a general type will be managed by one or a few particular subject areas.  So, for example, we would probably want to set some basic guidelines for articles about philosophical classics, wars, battles, languages and dialects, countries, cities, professional/academic jargon, etc., etc.  The editors of the relevant subject areas should--if necessary with the assistance of the editor-in-chief--identify such article types in their own areas and discuss, with their reviewers, any necessary or helpful guidelines for writing articles of those types.  The guidelines should then be placed in the area-specific guideline pages for each category.  (See "Setting category-specific guidelines for writing articles.")

Biographies are only one type of article about which we might wish, for the sake of uniformity, to make a few general rules.  The bulk of biographical articles should consist of discussion of the person's achievements or "claims to fame" as opposed to relatively inconsequential personal data.  E.g., regarding the entry about Descartes, there should be a much higher priority placed on discussions of his dualism, rationalism, and methodological skepticism, and the impact that these views had, than on relating the tragic fashion in which he died.  Of course, longer articles may be exhaustive in all respects.

Articles on the most general topics, or "top-level" articles (e.g., "music"; "philosophy"; "computers"), will have special characteristics that can be specified in advance.

First, they should indicate "the lay of the land," the conceptual landscape that most experts explore in thinking about the subject.  Thus in the introductory article about philosophy, after attempting a brief definition of the term, one would explain, for example, the distinction between contemporary philosophy and the history of philosophy as subjects of study, some of the main areas of philosophy (such as metaphysics and ethics) and problems or questions associated with them, and perhaps the fact that philosophy is these days pursued mainly in philosophy departments at universities, although in some broad sense people use and discuss philosophical concepts in many other fields and areas of human endeavor.  One might also want to have probably an entire paragraph devoted to the question, "Why care about philosophy at all?"  (The above is only an example and is not meant to constrain what the philosophy editor and review group might decide after more considered discussion.)

Similarly, with the topic of music, the top-level article might discuss, e.g., musical instruments, different kinds of music around the world and written vs. aural music, music theory, why play an instrument and how (in general) to start, why go to concerts, etc.  What the topics will be will have to be a matter of choice for the brief article, which of course is as it should be.  The longer general article about music might go into considerably more detail on the same topics and more, albeit at a still quite-general, schematic level.

Second, top-level articles should be content-rich, or contain a lot of information, even if it is information that would be obvious to many educated adults.  That's quite all right; very well-educated people are probably not going to be so interested in the top-level articles on a subject.  Also, and correspondingly, while we would wish to keep the articles as readable, well-written, and entertaining as possible, we would also like them to be full of information and to avoid rambling.

Third, in general, those responsible for top-level articles should look in other online encyclopedias or others you have on hand, to see what their articles cover.  We do, of course, want to do at least as well.  In many cases, this will not be difficult for us.

The editor-in-chief would be a suitable candidate for lead reviewer of all top-level articles.  But in any case, the candidate should be particularly well-informed about Nupedia policy and expectations.


Care should be taken in giving a title to an article. In deciding on how precisely to word the title, some general rules that should be borne in mind:

  • In a title, prefer the more common of two or more names for a thing, unless one of the less common titles is for some clear reason clearly more appropriate.  Thus our music section may prefer to title an article about the orchestral instrument as cello, not violincello; but we may use automobile rather than car due to the ambiguity of the latter.  Bear in mind that, for searching purposes, all variants on names should be in the Nupedia database as keywords.  Bear in mind, too, that article subtitles may list alternative names or spellings associated with a topic.

  • Ambiguous words in titles are to be disambiguated with parenthetical clarifications.  Thus: Athens (Greece) and Athens (Georgia, U.S.A.).  Also: Madonna (popular singer) and Madonna (Virgin Mary).

  • Subtopics of more general topics are to be indicated without the use of commas.  Thus: history of morality, not morality, history of (or history of morals--that's up to our cultural historians to decide); nineteenth-century German drama, not drama, nineteenth-century German.  In an online encyclopedia, articles that are found by searching a database rather than looking an article up in an alphabetically-arranged volume, there is no need for rearranging titles in this way.

  • Similarly, names of persons should be stated with first names first and last names last, as follows: George Washington; Sir Walter Scott; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Catherine the Great.

  • The words for things given in article titles should be the common words for the things in the language in which the article is written.  Thus, for articles in English: use "Rome," not "Roma"; use "Avicenna," not "Ibn Sina."  When articles are translated into other languages, titles will also be translated, of course.  Also, titles in other languages may be indicated in the articles themselves and as alternate titles (as per the above discussion)--but only if relevant for some special reason.

  • Avoid creating two topics that are, conceptually, closely related. The point here is to avoid confusion and duplication of effort. An example should help. Ethics is a subcategory of philosophy and will certainly be a topic (and probably a subcategory).  So, perhaps, the topic morality should not also be created, except as part of a distinct topic such as history of morality or an article about the state of morality in the contemporary world.  Alternatively, we might have an article explaining the meaning of 'morality' as understood by philosophers and other groups, concluding with a prominent link to the article on ethics for more in-depth exploration of morality.  Topics should not be created for alternate designations for a single place, person, etc.; it's either Cicero or Tully, or perhaps even better, Marcus Tullius Cicero.


Writers and editors will have the option of including subtitles, i.e., secondary titles.  These will be printed just below the main title, in smaller type but still set off from the main article.  Subtitles should be used when writers and editors feel that the main title by itself might be less informative than is needed or when an alternative spelling is common or important to note.  Secondary titles are not to serve the function of definitions, but they are to be used to disambiguate or otherwise clarify the subject under discussion.  They should be written with the first letter capitalized and a period at the end.  They will often, but perhaps not always, consist of remarks on words or names rather than their meanings.  For example, a secondary title for "Aesthetics": "Also spelled 'esthetics.'"  For "Irish traditional music": "Also known as 'Irish music,' and, in Ireland and Irish music-playing circles, as simply 'trad' or 'traditional music.'"  What secondary titles should be used, if any, should be discussed during the article review process.


The first one or two sentences of any Nupedia article should contain a definition, or concise description, of the topic.  As a loose rule, this sentence or these sentences should be written in plain, prosy, nonfancy language rather than specialists' jargon.  The purpose of this definition or description is to introduce and clarify the topic of the article for people who do not know, or might not be quite sure, what the topic is.  It is not to state The Truth as to what the proper analysis of the concept is.  (A discussion of the literature of attempts to state that particular truth, however, would be a very suitable subtopic in many cases.)  Hence there is no requirement that the definition should avoid circularity or be perfectly precise, in the way that a technical definition should.  Also, citing familiar examples of items mentioned in the definition (or of things to which the defined term applies) is to be preferred, not avoided.

In biographies, the first few sentences of the article should sum up what a person is best known for.  Biographies should not without further ado dive into biographical trivia: some sentences of context, summing up achievements and claims to fame, should first be provided for why the biographical details are of any interest at all. SECTION HEADINGS.

In longer articles, descriptive, straightforward headings should announce the subjects of blocks of text (a group of, just for example, five related paragraphs).  Section headings are probably not necessary for brief articles (but are acceptable, however).


Please note!  See the notes section for information on how to create notes (footnotes, endnotes) and the links section for information on including hyperlinks.  Authors will include notes and links in the article body using special markup--not as a separate, attached lists.

Various reference lists can be associated with articles.  These lists should be compiled according to the applicable guidelines in The Chicago Manual of Style and any other category editor-specified guidelines.  The article's author should compile all these lists with the advice of the relevant review group(s).  As a rule, any of these reference lists that fail to be exhaustive should constitute a balanced, unbiased attempt to represent the variety of works, style, etc., in question.

All items on these reference lists may include some useful annotation.  These can be judgmental but only insofar as they express extremely common or universal views; it's best, as usual, to say things that are both informative and uncontroversial, whenever possible.  Annotations are not required.

A section titled "For Further Reading" should be associated with every (or nearly every) Nupedia article.  This is in its own text box, not part of the article text itself.  "For Further Reading" is neither a bibliography nor a list of works cited.  The purposes of the "further reading" section are to give readers credible sources of introductory reading and to make a record of the most important, influential, etc., works on the subject in question.  Brief reading lists should be associated with brief articles and longer lists with longer articles.  Works cited or crucially used in the preparation of an article should be noted in notes.  It is helpful to give a sentence or two of descriptive comments after each article (see existing articles for examples).  Please, if you have it on hand, consult the Chicago Manual of Style and make sure the works are listed according to the standards in that reference.

For biographical entries and other entries as appropriate, lists of works--for example, musical compositions, novels, best-known works of art by the subject of a biography--are also permitted and encouraged, but of course not required in every case.  They are required for famous writers and thinkers.  In any case, the briefer articles should have briefer lists of works--around five to eight items as a rough upper limit.  The lists attached to longer articles can be of any length.

Articles about music may include discographies.  A separate text box has been included in the system for this purpose.


For purposes of searching, a list of keywords, or search terms, is a required part of article submissions to Nupedia.  In order to determine whether to include a word or phrase in a list of keywords, the rule is: is this word a word that someone might type with the hope of finding this particular article (among possibly many other articles)?  If so, include that word among the keywords; if not, don't.  Note: the keywords do not have to be words that occur in the article itself.  So, for example, if it so happens that this specific article may be of interest to people who search on thirty different words or phrases, then there might indeed be thirty different keywords or phrases.  For example, the keyword list for "Irish traditional music" might read as follows: Celtic music, Irish music, traditional music, trad, Irish folk music, ceili, ceilidh, ceili dance, ceili music, Riverdance, sean nos, Irish dance music, fiddle, pipes, whistle, concertina, accordion, banjo, bodhran.  Please limit yourself to about 20 words and phrases (separated by commas, as shown).  Don't exceed 256 characters.  Be sure to include common misspellings, if any, among your keywords (don't worry, this information won't be publicly displayed; it's used only for search purposes).  You might also bear in mind that our system will return partial matches; for example, "philos" will return articles that contain "philosophy" as well as "philosophical."


See also our information about images.

Preliminary note: You can upload various images, sounds, etc. to Nupedia's database.  Multimedia files of all sorts can be uploaded by following the link just above the "article body" text box in the article information form.

Also note: To indicate where an image, or a link to another file (e.g., sound or video) should be placed within the text, please simply make use of comments markup to communicate your intentions to the markup crew.

Nupedia articles are visible to and editable by authors and editors in the form of a series of "plain text" boxes.  So complicated formatting, mathematics, odd characters, images, sounds, and other important information can be lost in the process of pasting the basic text of an article into these text boxes.  Therefore, we permit and ask authors to upload various file types to the Nupedia server, which can then be downloaded by editors and reviewers.  See above for instructions.  We prefer that authors simply paste the text of "plain text" articles directly into the text boxes.  Moreover, it can help others, who might not be able to read the files that authors have uploaded, to see some text-only version of the article; so we ask that authors copy and paste the text of the article into the system's text boxes for the article.

We strongly encourage everyone working on Nupedia to seek out or create high-quality (noncopyrighted, or copyright-with-permission) multimedia of all sorts to enhance articles.  So submission of imagesgraphs, diagrams, maps, photographs, sounds, video clips, etc., is strongly encouraged.  Please create the highest-quality multimedia resources you can!  If necessary, other members of the project will adapt these resources in formats, size, etc., that can be displayed on the website and that are appropriate to keep in the Nupedia database.

Multimedia specialists are strongly encouraged to offer their services to article authors.  For example, a photographer who saw an article (or article-in-progress) about a certain kind of tree might offer to take a picture of the tree, scan the photo, and send it to the author to post to the system.  The relationship might indeed be the reverse; we might find a willing author to write an article to accompany a really excellent piece of multimedia (e.g., the periodic table; the circle of fifths; illustrated diagrams of various column types; etc.).


Images are the sort of media we expect to accompany articles most commonly.  Therefore, we have developed a few specific guidelines regarding the use of images in articles.

All images must have accompanying captions.  Please do not make an image's caption part of the image (among other things, this renders your image less accessible).  Simply indicate, using a comment, where the image should go in the text; then, below that, write the image caption according to the following format.

The following rough guidelines on how to write captions are based on the Chicago Manual of Style, which copyeditors can use to decide questions of detail. 

  1. Every graphic should be labeled as such, with a number; e.g., "Figure 1."
  2. All figures should be referenced in the text; e.g., "There are two steps in the XYZ Process (Fig. 1)."
  3. Following the figure number, there should be a phrase or sentence conveying the source of the image.  What the source should be depends on how the image was obtained.  If the author created the image and is donating it to Nupedia: "Image created by the author and donated to Nupedia."  If the image is copyrighted and specific permission is given to Nupedia to use it (for this, please write the editor-in-chief): "© John Doe 2001.  Used with permission."  If an image is in the public domain: "Image is considered to be in the public domain."
  4. Following the source information, all graphics should have a caption, which includes both a descriptive title as well as a legend.  The legend should provide an explanation of what information the reader should derive from the image, thereby increasing the accessibility of the article.  (The markup crew will reproduce the caption in both "alt" and "longdesc" attributes.)
  5. As stated above, captions must not part of the images themselves; they must be in the text of the article.

An example:
<b>Figure 1: Schematic of the XYZ Process.</b>  <br>(<i>Image created by the author and donated to Nupedia.</i>)  <br>The XYZ process consists of two steps.  (1) The merging step consists of the combining of X, the blahblah and Y, the whatshimacallit into Q, the combo.  (2) The separating stage consists of the isolation of of Z, the thingamabob, from the combo Q.

Another example:
<b>Figure 1: The Seine, a water color by Pierre Le Peintre.</b>  <br>(<i>Image is considered to be in the public domain.</i>  <br>This water color exemplifies Le Peintre's great attention to detail.  On the left is the famous refuse pile from the Cafe Français.  On the right are the usual couples enjoying the view by starlight.

Please see the Polymerase Chain Reaction article, already published, for an actual implementation of these principles.

We prefer to store and display images in non-proprietary, high-quality formats.  PNG and JPG image formats are fine, while GIF and BMP are not; if the author creates an image in one format and does not know how to convert it to a more preferable format, many other people in the project can easily convert it.  Technically-adept authors are also asked to submit images in EPS, PDF, SVG, etc., formats--the "source format" rather than the "object format."


What is markup and why is there a special section about it in the Nupedia guidelines?  Our articles are saved in the Nupedia database in a "plain text" format, i.e., a format that uses only a very limited number of characters.  Therefore, to generate the fancy formatting you see in some articles, markup is used.  Markup is, roughly speaking, characters that do not appeared in displayed text but that determine how the text that does appear is interpreted (either how it is displayed or what it means).  For example, to make some text appear italicized, like this, one writes: <i>like this</i> .

The following subsections explain the markup that is used to generate notes, pronunciations, italics and other presentational markup, and cross-references and external links.  If you don't know what markup to use, you can just use a bit of comments markup and our markup crew will figure it out for you before the article is posted.

Computer programmers might be interested in knowing that, since we will be using XML (we have decided on TEI Lite as a DTD), we plan to include (eventually) semantic markup, i.e., markup that classifies parts of text according to meaning.  We will provide extensive guidelines on including semantic markup of Nupedia articles when we start using it, of course.


Notes (i.e., what are called "footnotes" or "endnotes") are permitted but are generally not encouraged for more introductory material.  We will be using the "documentary note" format as described in The Chicago Manual of Style 15.2.  Please do consult CMS if you have a copy on hand.  When preparing articles for inclusion in the encyclopedia, the author should include any notes within the text of the article itself, as follows.  The beginning of a note should be marked by <note> and the end by </note>.  Our system interprets the text between these two symbols as a note and includes, precisely in place of the entire note text, a clickable symbol, which opens a pop-up window that contains the note.  Please pay special attention to the exact placement of the <note> markup in relation to punctuation.  Notes are usually placed after punctuation.


We prefer, but do not require, that pronunciation of non-English and uncommon words and names be given.  Pronuncations should be written out according to Nupedia's pronunciation guides; at present, only the American English guide and the British English guide have been finalized.  Generally, if there is a substantial chance that an intelligent high school graduate or an average college graduate will not know how to pronounce a word, name, etc., then it would be helpful to supply a phonetic explanation.

For those who would like to assist us by writing out pronunciation entries according to proper XML format, the format is as follows.  (Please just ignore this if you don't understand it.)  Exactly where you would like the clickable pronunciation superscript letter "P" to appear in the text (typically, immediately after the word or name, or sometimes after punctuation that follows the word or name), write out the following:

    <entry><orth>word or name</orth><pron>word or name's pronunciation</pron></entry> 

For example, you would type:

    Mycenean<entry><orth><Mycenean</orth><pron>mei-s&n-nee'-&n</pron></entry> society 

Another example:

    How is Nupedia<entry><orth>Nupedia</orth><pron>noo-pee'-dee-&</pron></entry> pronounced?


We make use of some markup to indicate italics and other ways to display text.

Words that writers would like italicized like this should mark up those words (and punctuation marks) <i>like this</i>.  This is for the benefit of those marking the articles up using XML, who will be instructed to see to it that exactly what is between the <i> and </i> tags is italicized.  As a rule, we will prefer italicization for emphasis.

Other marks can be used to indicate how text should be presented, including bold, <b>like this</b>; underlining, <u>like this</u>; and SMALL CAPS, <sc>LIKE THIS</sc>.

Generally speaking, we can accept HTML markup.

(XML coders please note: eventually, we will not, in fact, be using presentational tags in the XML versions of our articles; you can think of this as just a way for writers and copyeditors to communicate their intentions to the XML markup crew.  This policy might change later, when we've implemented a DTD and stylesheet.  At present, we're simply trying to generate articles.)


Under the heading of cross-references and external links, the most important item to note is that Nupedia articles will not--yet--have very many external links, because we do not yet want to go to the considerable trouble of maintaining these links.

We can distinguish between three kinds of links that we might consider including in a Nupedia article:

  1. cross-references to other Nupedia articles and resources; e.g., the article kangaroo will have a link to the article marsupial;
  2. links to off-site material that is essential to understanding the text of the article; e.g., an article about a classical Roman author will feature links to websites where that author's texts can be found; and
  3. links to purely supplementary material; e.g., an article on horses might have a link to a general informational website about horses.

Internal cross-reference links (of type (1)) will be added within the text of a new article only if an article on the topic in question exists.  In that case, the writer, for the benefit of those who will mark the article up in XML, should indicate the link as if it were an HTML link.  The XML crew will render these links correctly.  For example:

Plato posited the existence of what are called <a href="article about Platonic forms">"Forms" or "Ideas"</a> (these words are sometimes capitalized and sometimes not; they are translations of the Greek "eidos," prn. \'ay-dohs\).

Moreover, when a new article is accepted, the writer or other Nupedia members should compile a list of other text mentions in other articles that should contain direct links to the new article.

Links of type (2) are permitted, if we are more confident than we would be for the average website that the URL in question will not change (i.e., we are confident that the URL is "stable").  The URLs for any links of type (2) should be specified by the authors of articles.

As stated above, links of type (3) will, for now, be left out of Nupedia articles entirely.  We might (and probably will), eventually, include associated web information--what would be, essentially, a Nupedia web directory, integrated with our own content.


Writers might wish to communicate more complicated formatting that they don't know how to implement themselves.  That is fine.  This communication should be placed between these two symbols: <!-- and --> .  Please make an effort to get these symbols exactly right; we will appreciate that.  Examples:

The chemical formula for water is H20.  <!-- the "2" should be a smaller font and subscript, of course -->

<!-- include figure1.jpg here -->
<br><b>Figure 1.  A widget.</b>


This section contains information on how lead reviewers (LRs) are to be assigned as well as about the lead review process itself.  For an overview of the lead review process, see Overview: Lead review.  This section itself is divided into sections about assigning a lead reviewer and giving details about the lead review process itself.


The LR may be the editor but may not be any of the authors of the article; the LR should be selected from those with the greatest expertise in the relevant area.  We would prefer that this be a Nupedia peer reviewer; but if none of the present peer reviewers have adequate expertise in an area, the editor should try to find someone from outside of Nupedia to help with this task, on an ad hoc basis if necessary.  Generally speaking, the LR for an article should be an expert on the subject of the article.

To assign an article to an LR, the editor simply writes the Nupedia UserID in the appropriate place in the article information page and then saves changes.

The identity of the LR is initially to be kept hidden from the writer, and vice-versa.  To this end, the Nupedia system sends to the LR and the writer the web address of a page that they can use to discuss the article with each other anonymously.

If an LR needs to be replaced partway through the lead review stage, it will be useful to entirely erase the old reviewer's UserID from the article information form, temporarily moving the article back to the stage of Finding a Lead Reviewer.  When the new LR UserID is supplied, again, an information e-mail (which will be very helpful to the LR) will be sent.


Nupedia's lead review process and policy is as follows.

The article author posts the article draft on the website, and the LR comments on it.  For the basic mechanics of how to do this, please see our instructions for authors or our instructions for lead reviewers, as appropriate.  In sum, the LR is tasked with providing feedback, via our private web-based discussion page, to the author; the author then responds to the comments and amends the article (or explains points of disagreement).

It is possible that, at some stage of this process (including the very beginning of the process), it will become clear to the LR and/or the editor that the submitted article is simply unacceptable.  In that case, the editor should, with the LR's help, send a rejection note that is as tactful and sensitive as possible to the writer.

Only when the LR believes that the draft article is nearly satisfactory for inclusion in Nupedia is the article posted to the relevant review group(s).  The LR should carefully consult our guidelines for writing and formatting articles in making this determination--particularly if the LR is new to the lead review process.  The LR need not believe the article as it stands is flawless, but it must be clear to the LR that a version of the article fairly close to the present version will, very probably, be acceptable.  As a rough rule of thumb, LRs might ask themselves, "If this draft of this article were to be published under my name, would I be embarrassed by it?"  If the answer is yes, the article should probably not be approved.

It is at that time that the LR should locate the "go to form" link on his or her member area homepage (after logging in), to the right of the name of the article.  This will bring up an approval button for the article; pressing the button will indicate the LR's approval of the article, and the article will then be posted for open review.

It is highly recommended that, during lead review or open review, the writer solicit feedback on the article from a non-Nupedia mailing list that specializes in the subject matter of the article.  If appropriate, the writer should ask permission from the list owner or moderator before making such a post.  This is an excellent way both to get expert help on the article as well as to interest more people in Nupedia.


This section contains general information on the procedure and policies of the open review process.  For an overview of the open review process, see Overview: Open review.  Following the present section are a section about open review moderation policies and a section explaining the functions of primary and secondary areas for an article.

In the open review process, rank-and-file peer reviewers are most important in leading a discussion of the article; the category editor and the LR are important as well.  In the discussion, politeness, helpfulness, and good nature is to be encouraged and is expected.  Discussion might include: posting some brief general criticisms and questions; posing specific question; making corrections of facts, or asking someone to check the facts in an article against a particular source; responding to questions; etc.  Peer reviewers are asked to consult the guidelines for writing and formatting articles to determine the acceptability of the article.  The author(s) should provide revisions, and, when available, the revised version is then the subject of discussion.

When an editor gets the sense that the article has been hammered into proper shape (or if it arrived in perfect condition), approval of two peer reviewers is solicited (in case the LR is the editor), or of one peer reviewer and the editor.  At that time, however, other peer reviewers might wish to make it clear that that particular article version is not acceptable (for specific, enumerated reasons).

When approval of the editor, the lead reviewer, and at least one peer reviewer is achieved, the article moves on to the copyedit stage.  When the editor and the LR are the same person, the approval of two peer reviewers is needed; when the LR is neither the editor nor a peer reviewer, however, only one peer reviewer's approval is needed.  In any case, there is a minimum of three votes required: the editor's, the LR's, and (depending on the identity of these people) at least one peer reviewer's.  The Nupedia system tallies votes automatically.  When the relevant people have indicated their approval to the system, the article automatically moves on to the copyedit stage.

Failing an acceptable rewrite within an editor-established time limit, the article can be rejected at the category editor's discretion.  The topic can then be reassigned to a different writer.  This is something that must be decided and acted upon by the editor.

See also our information about open review moderation as well as about the functions of primary and secondary areas.


Since Internet discussions, notoriously, can be acrimonious, and because we want to encourage discussion from the public at large but without wasting the time and energy of the experts who are mainly responsible for the creation of the bulk of our articles, we moderate open review comments from the general public.  Among those whose comments are not moderated are the subject editor, the subject peer reviewers, the article's author, and the article's lead reviewer.

Moderators are selected according to subject; so, for example, there are Computers moderators who might not be Philosophy moderators.  See our information about the role of moderators for more information.

The following rules constitute our general policies about which comments might be rejected by a moderator.  They can be regarded as flexible.

  1. The moderator's role is not to guide conversation (unless the list has decided that that will be your role).  It is to make sure that comments that, for various reasons, should not be posted are not posted.

  2. When in doubt, approve the post.  Most posts are perfectly fine.

  3. If the person is rude or makes offensive personal remarks, including but not limited to what would normally be regarded as "flaming," reject the post, explaining what needs to be changed before it can be posted.  (Most rejected comments, in our experience, are "flames.")  The system does not allow the moderator to make changes to anyone's post.

  4. A message should not be rejected simply because it raises a difficult or thorny question--so long as it does so in a polite, non-inflammatory manner.

  5. Innocent, lighthearted banter is not to be rejected, even if it gets a bit off-topic.

  6. Otherwise clearly off-topic posts, including posts that should be made to general Nupedia mailing lists, should be rejected with an explanation.

  7. If a message brings up a point that has already been discussed in great depth, with nothing new to add, it should be rejected with a note directing the person to read the discussion history.  Post on an issue should be responsive to what's already been said on the issue.  Please bear Rule #1 (above) in mind in making this determination; when in doubt on this point, post the post.

  8. If it is absolutely clear to the moderator that a message has little value, because, e.g., it is both poorly written and completely confused or ill-informed, it can be rejected.  The moderator should be tactful in making a explanation, if the post is rejected.  For example: if someone posts an article evaluation that demonstrates that he simply doesn't know what he's talking about, and you're quite sure that all of the peer reviewers would find the post a complete waste of time, then (probably) reject the post.  You should probably never reject posts from peer reviewers for this reason (unless, e.g., they were obviously drunk).  Please bear Rule #1 (above) in mind in making this determination.

  9. Messages that are obviously best sent only to the person addressed in a post (as opposed to everyone engaged in the discussion) should be rejected with an explanation.  This should be obvious, if you decide to reject a post for this reason; some people simply have a style of addressing a post directly to another person, but they certainly do intend everyone in the discussion to see it.

  10. As moderator, please do not feel obligated to post posts that are critical of you or of your moderating habits.  Please direct any offended/-ing parties to the subject editor and/or editor-in-chief.


Associated with each topic will be at least one review group.  For many topics, of course, there will be one obvious review group responsible for overseeing the topic.  Less frequently there will be topics that we will want edited by more than one group; e.g., God or deity will probably need input both from Religion as well as Philosophy.  As a rule of thumb: if within a given discipline there are experts who study the topic in considerable depth, the corresponding review group ought to have a say about the article.  Generally, editors are expected to be alert to the fact that other review groups might want to have a say about certain topics that they create.  In obvious cases, he or she can simply select any other relevant group into the other areas part of the article information form.  In less obvious cases, he or she may wish to consult with the other area editors and the editor-in-chief.

There will be one primary editorial group associated with every topic in any case.  In case of dispute or uncertainty, the decision as to which group this will be will be left up to the editor-in-chief.  The editor of the primary area will have final responsibility for determining who is assigned the topic.  This editor will also have the responsibility for deciding what other areas govern the topic and for determining precisely what issues need to be decided by the other areas.  That is, the editor of the lead area may give specific instructions to the other areas that are reviewing the topic about what aspects or parts of a given article are to be reviewed.  It is hoped that such decisions can be made in consultation with other interested parties, as appropriate.  It is hoped that "turf wars" will be kept to an absolute minimum.  In all of these matters, any disputes can be resolved with the assistance of the editor-in-chief.

If an article must be submitted to more than one review group, it must be approved by all of the review groups to which it has been submitted, before it can be sent to the copyeditors.  The system automatically forwards an article that has completed open review by one group on to the next group.


This section lays out general policies about copyediting: the role of the Chief Copyeditor; Nupedia's style and usage guides; general copyediting policies; and the procedures of lead copyediting and open copyediting.  For overviews of the copyediting process, please see Overview: Lead copyediting and Overview: Open copyediting.

Copyeditors and potential copyeditors, please read about the role of copyeditors.

The present part is divided into these five sections:


There is a Chief Copyeditor who oversees Nupedia's copyediting.  At present, you may reach the Chief Copyeditor at  The Chief Copyeditor is essentially a resource that those who are undergoing the copyediting process can consult.  Her main responsibilities are these:

  • answer questions, advise copyeditors as to Nupedia copyediting standards (with the occasional advice of the editor-in-chief and members of copyedit-l), help resolve disputes
  • guide new authors where they need to go on the website; do any necessary hand-holding of authors who do not understand our copyediting process
  • find new copyeditors for the project, welcome them, and guide them; receive notices by e-mail of potential new copyeditors (based on member profile responses)
  • nudge the process along here and there when it becomes stuck; advise those who need to know when a problem occurs (e.g., when an author or an assigned copyeditor is not responding)
  • do some copyediting

To make the Chief Copyeditor's job easier, she will have the right to go in and make changes to articles that are at steps 5-7 (post-open review); i.e., the right to change the article's "master file."  This is necessary to resolve some copyediting issues quickly and easily.  The Chief Copyeditor also has the right to search member profiles, just as subject area editors have.


The first language of Nupedia will be English in both its American (U.S.) and British varieties.  We are in the process of setting up translation/language groups so that encyclopedia articles can be translated from any given language to many other major languages; but at present, it is still quite ambitious enough to hope for an English-language encyclopedia.  If any writer feels ambitious enough to write an article for us in another language, we will take that opportunity to determine what policies are appropriate--whether we must translate article into English or whether we have the resources to handle the review and editing of the article in its original language, and in either case, how we might accomplish this.

We will adhere to the most recent edition (the 14th) of The Chicago Manual of Style on questions of citation and other issues common to both American and British English.  Questions of American English usage are to be answered with the help of the Dictionary of Modern American Usage by Bryan A. Garner (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).  (The hardcover edition of the latter is fairly inexpensive and can be ordered online.)  Questions of British English usage are to be answered with the help of H. W. Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage, Second Edition, edited by Sir Ernest Gowers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1965).  All copyeditors will be expected to have and use the relevant references (and indeed, American copyeditors are encouraged to get a copy of Fowler); editors, peer reviewers, and writers are encouraged to use them as well.  Garner's pragmatic stance toward nonsexist language will be Nupedia policy for both British and American English.

On any matters of general policy left open, unclear, in dispute, etc. by these references, please consult the Chief Copyeditor or the editor-in-chief; generally, these matters can be left officially unresolved, i.e., left to the discretion of individual writers and/or copyeditors.  Forced to make a choice, in general, we will probably prefer the more well-established of two options; we have no great desire to be linguistic innovators (or, for that matter, dusty curmudgeons).  We simply want Nupedia to be written in a fashion that is most easily understood by a reasonably intelligent contemporary reader.


What follow are some general policies that all copyeditors are expected to follow in commenting on articles:

  1. Copyeditors are not, except in extreme, very unusual cases, tasked with rewriting articles, and generally speaking they are to comment on the basic mechanics of grammar, spelling, etc., rather than trying to render someone else's style in their own.  Rewriting and copyediting are difficult sometimes to distinguish, but it is a sign of a good copyeditor to know the difference.

  2. In general, the copyeditor encourages in articles (without rewriting!) the following qualities (quoted from general features of written style): "unimpeachable standard usage, grammar, punctuation, and spelling; clarity (i.e., being readily comprehensible by Nupedia's audience); the use of active voice and concrete language (with examples); a high degree of logical structure that is made plain to the reader; lack of bias; and a natural, lively, and even witty style."

  3. A few formatting matters need to be attended to.  Copyeditors generally should (1) make sure that there are two spaces between each sentence, and that typographically the article is otherwise correct; (2) put <p> before each paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph (including "For Further Reading" and other such sections), and that italics and other basic markup is properly used; (3) format keywords (put commas between them); (4) optionally, identify words that need pronunciations, and (with the author's help) supply them in accordance with the American English pronunciation guide or the the British English pronunciation guide.  Note, the author and copyeditors can confer with the mailing list pronounce-l about pronunciation questions and format.

  4. Determining the acceptability of the content of the article is not the copyeditors' responsibility.  Respectfulness toward authors demands that copyeditors understand this.  Copyeditors should confine their "official" copyediting remarks strictly to copyediting matters.  In some cases, of course, some recommendations (better couched as questions) along those lines are acceptable--conveyed preferably via private e-mail, however, or otherwise very carefully distinguished from ordinary copyediting remarks.  If the writer makes any very significant changes, they should be confirmed by the relevant subject editor(s) and perhaps (if the changes are indeed very significant) the relevant review group(s) again.  In some cases, the copyeditors might be well-suited to spot bias that might be missed by the review group; in such cases, the copyeditor should approach the writer with suggestions/questions.  But these are indeed merely suggestions and are completely non-binding.

  5. With regard to material intended for a more general audience, the copyeditor is charged with detecting technical, "in-group" jargon that requires explanation, cross-references, or rewriting into "plain English."  Similarly, regionalisms are to be avoided.  This policy does not apply to particularly technical and specialized articles of the sort that simply demand the use of technical jargon.  With regard to more specialized material, the copyeditor has no such function.

  6. Further Nupedia copyediting rules, of a very specialized nature, will be maintained on our Selected Copyediting Rules page.


Nupedia's system automatically posts notices of new articles to copyedit to copyeditame-l and copyeditbre-l (the American English and the British English copyedit mailing lists) will check those articles that have been approved by all relevant review groups for proper spelling, punctuation, grammar, usage, and (to some small degree) style.  An article's copyeditors will be properly credited for their work, just as the editor, lead reviewer, and author(s) are properly credited.  The copyediting procedure and policy will be as follows.

  1. After an article passes open review, the Nupedia system posts a message on copyeditame-l (for articles in American English) or on copyeditbre-l (for articles in British English) soliciting help from copyeditors.  Copyeditors can follow an URL given in this message to sign up to copyedit an article.  Generally speaking, it's preferable that they not be experts on the subject of the article, unless the article is particularly technical.  It is best, in any case, if copyeditors can understand what they propose to copyedit.

  2. The author chooses two people, from among those who respond, as the first and second copyeditors.  This is accomplished by logging into the system and following the links provided on the member area homepage.

  3. The author has the choice of making one of the copyeditors a copyediting proxy.  In this case, the author does not make copyediting changes to the article.  The copyediting proxy makes changes directly to a draft of the article, rather than suggesting changes which the author then decides on.  The proxy can of course confer with the author about ambiguous wordings, pronunciations, and other matters as necessary.  But the proxy's role is not to give feedback to the author but directly to make those changes to the article that the proxy believes are necessary and appropriate.  The copyediting proxy is expected not to rewrite the article, though (unless absolutely necessary and the author gives permission)--some sentences might have to be reworded, of course, but the style and wording of the original article are to be preserved wherever possible.  Once an article has undergone the whole copyediting process, the system will send the author a notice asking for his or her approval of the copyediting changes.

  4. The first copyeditor copyedits the article in accordance with the general copyediting guidelines and, if the first copyeditor is not made a copyediting proxy, posts suggestions for changes back to the author.  A series of comments and adjustments then takes place.  After the author makes all required changes to the satisfaction of the first copyeditor--or after the proxy copyeditor finishes making all changes deemed necessary--the first/proxy copyeditor approves the changes made (there is a link to an approval button on the article's copyediting discussion page).  The second copyeditor then goes to work, and the process is repeated.  If at any point in this process, the author has reasoned disagreements with something the copyeditor requires, the article can be passed provisionally (rather than unconditionally).  That is, the copyeditor asserts that after the controversial issue in question has been discussed publicly, he or she might still refuse to give final approval the article.  Sometimes, it's wise just to keep things moving along rather than getting stuck over relatively insignificant points.  When the second copyeditor approves the article (i.e., presses the approval button), the lead copyediting stage is complete.


The open copyediting stage is intended to put the final polish on articles.  When the lead copyeditors have done their job well, there will be relatively little for anyone to do in open copyediting; but mistakes have a way of getting through despite honest efforts, so help from the public with copyediting can be useful.  The open copyediting stage proceeds as follows.

  1. An announcement that an article has passed lead copyediting is posted on copyeditame-l or on copyeditbre-l (the American English and the British English copyedit mailing lists) for comment from listmembers.  Listmembers and the public at large can then go to the article's open copyedit discussion page and offer their comments.

  2. Author copyedit procedure.  If the author is making copyediting changes, the two copyeditors may then, if they wish, require the author to make some or all of the changes that are suggested.

  3. Proxy copyedit procedure.  If the author chose a proxy copyeditor, then the proxy assesses the suggestions made by the public (and the second copyeditor if necessary), and makes changes as necessary. The author has no responsibility to participate in open copyediting, and in fact the author is not notified of comments posted on the web.  But the copyeditors, as in lead copyediting, should e-mail the author with any questions about rewording that might affect meaning, pronunciations, etc.

  4. After a mandatory one-week comment period, the copyeditors can, in either order, approve the article, whereupon it moves to stage 7: final approval and markup.

  5. If there is a copyediting proxy, then there is an additional step: the author must approve the changes made by the copyediting proxy, before the article can be moved to stage 7, final markup and approval.  If substantive changes were made (which they should not be, without consulting the author), the author might withhold approval until the appropriate text appears.

We ask persons offering comments in the open copyediting stage to bear in mind that the entire purpose of offering comments is to improve the article.  Sometimes commentators unfamiliar with Nupedia's copyediting policies have a tendency to ask that articles be rewritten in their own styles or to comment on content, which is inappropriate.  So, please, bear in mind our general copyediting policies.


The final stage of Nupedia article production, step seven, is final approval and markup.  Each article must be given a final approval by the subject area editor; he or she should determine that the review and copyediting processes have worked effectively.  The editor indicates approval by going to the editor's page for the article, scrolling to the bottom of the page, selecting the appropriate option, and saving the changes.

At that point, the article is sent on to the "XML markup crew" (currently, the editor-in-chief), which checks over the article for correct markup.  At present, our articles have only a minimal amount of markup, though in the future we hope to use more complex, contentful XML tags (employing TEI Lite).


Nupedia's editorial process was originally conducted via mailing lists (i.e., e-mail based discussion groups), and our many different mailing lists continue to play an essential role in the project.  If you are active in the project, you should be subscribed to a few of these mailing lists, at least.

To join, leave, or view the archives of our mailing lists, please see our important mailing list area.

  • Subject area mailing lists.  Lists like Biology-L, Philogic-L, and Psych-L are a way for the subject editors and others to communicate about plans, policy, and other matters regarding their subject areas.  Subject area mailing lists can be used to suggest article ideas, discuss what needs to be included in articles of a certain general type, point out outdated parts of existing articles, etc.  Also, being on a mailing list that addresses one's areas of interest can be important for building a sense of community among project participants.  Discussion of the merits of various controversial views, etc., however, is probably better conducted in our heretofore underused "debate groups" (see below).

  • Nupedia general discussion list (Nupedia-L).  This is a general discussion list open to everyone on all issues related to the direction, policies, features, etc., of Nupedia.  Most important policy issues are brought up on this list as well as on Advisory-L.

  • Advisers' list (Advisory-L) and the editors' list (Editors-L).  A general discussion list restricted to Nupedia editors, peer reviewers, and other selected individuals; essentially, an advisory board.  By invitation only.  Another related list, Editors-L, is limited in membership to Nupedia editors but is used primarily to make announcements; policy is not discussed or settled on Editors-L.  All editors should be on Editors-L, and if you're an editor and you're not on that list, then please go here to subscribe or else simply e-mail the editor-in-chief.

  • Debate groups.  General debate about the encyclopedia's topics can be undertaken in our debate groups (those titled "-Talk-L").  For instance, a history debate group would be open to all manner of questions and theoretical and political discussion related to history.  These groups are not be tasked with examining the merits of submitted (or existing) articles.  Accordingly, the moderators of review groups that become bogged down in debating the merits of this or that controversial position may suggest that the debate be removed to the corresponding debate group.

  • Nupedia newsletter.  This is strictly an announcement mailing list, apprising Nupedia members of new features, policy changes, and Nupedia news in general.  Mail is sent via this list less than once per month.  When signing up as a Nupedia member, you are automatically be added to this announcement list, unless you opt out.  (You can opt back in, of course.  We never give or sell or otherwise your address to anyone.)

  • Copyediting groups (Copyedit-L; CopyeditAme-L; CopyeditBre-L).  Copyedit-L is used to discuss copyediting issues; all potential copyeditors interested in discussing copyediting policy should be subscribed.  CopyeditAme-L is used to alert copyeditors of articles in American English (AmE) of new articles to copyedit; CopyeditBre-L is used for articles in British English (BrE).  Curmudgeons and insufferable pedants are encouraged to join.

  • Translation groups (Interpret-L; Deutsch-L; Espanol-L; Francais-L; Italiano-L; Portugues-L).  Translate-L is used to discuss general issues in making Nupedia multilingual; all Nupedia translators should be subscribed.  At present, the mailing lists for individual languages are used to discuss and coordinate translations of particular Nupedia web pages.  Unlike most other Nupedia mailing lists, the translation groups are all unmoderated.

  • Tools list (tools-l).  This list is devoted to unmoderated discussion among programmers of the software used in the development of Nupedia.  Nupedia software is open source.

  • Unmoderated discussion of all things Nupedia (Opendiscuss-L).  As the title says.  As of this writing, not a widely-used list.


It has turned out that category editors are probably the most important class of persons working on the project; with some exceptions, it seems there is a direct relationship between the amount of work that an editor does for the project and the number of articles and general amount of activity happening in the category.  It is very important, then, that editors understand what needs to be done.  The following is an introduction/orientation for editors.  Further questions will be very willingly answered by the editor-in-chief.

This is addressed to editors (i.e., "you" refers to an editor reading this).  There are just two sections: how to get started and setting category-specific guidelines for writing articles.


The following is a list of things for new editors to do to get started.  Some of the following are absolutely necessary (in order to do the job at all), while others are just suggestions.

  1. Subscribe to your subject area mailing listRequired.  Absolutely necessary.

  2. Write to this mailing list to introduce yourself and/or to introduce your thoughts on how the category should be organized and started.  You might invite others to do the same and to offer their ideas on where the category should go.  Strongly urge your peer reviewers to write an article, so that they can better understand the process from the writer's point of view.  It would be best if you, too, did the same.  Even a brief article will provide the requisite experience.  Highly recommend--eventually, required.

  3. Subscribe to Advisory-l.  This is a very important group for Nupedia; it is where Nupedia policy and procedures are discussed and settled.  Your input on these issues is greatly desirable, not least because they are policies and procedures that you yourselves will be enforcing and following.  Optional but highly recommended.

  4. Make a game plan.  Plan out how you'll spend the time you have for Nupedia as well as how you'd like the category itself to be formulated.  Perhaps what you should do is concentrate on creating one or two articles and learn how the system works in that way.  Perhaps you would prefer to spend some hours writing to colleagues and ask them to get involved.  Or perhaps one of the first issues you should raise is what subcategories should be created.  (As to the latter, it would be a good idea to forward a proposal to your mailing list and to the editor-in-chief as well, who will almost certainly adopt whatever you and your group recommend.)  Optional but highly recommended.

  5. Fill out your publicly-viewable bio (as distinguished from your member profile).  Required.

  6. At some point, please read through the Nupedia Statement of Editorial Policy.  This is absolutely necessary.  Until you do this, you are likely to be confused about a lot of things that are explained there.  Our editorial system is somewhat complex, and unfortunately, there is no way to understand it except by doing a fair bit of reading.  Required.

  7. Do explore the member area, but be sure to log in first; as editor, you have special privileges in the system, and in order to exercise those privileges you must be logged in.  The more you simply explore, the better you will understand the system.  Required.  You really can't make progress until you do this.

  8. Some other pages definitely worth looking at: your subject area "production page" (go to the member area, but be sure to log in first; on your member area homepage, you'll find a link to your subject area page); Nupedia's "about" page and FAQ (if you haven't read these, you might learn some basic, important facts about the project); Nupedia's newest articles; the latest news about Nupedia (which might not be very recent, but should give you an idea of what sort of progress we do make in this project).  Very highly recommended; eventually, you really should do this.

  9. Examine the list of editors and peer reviewers in your category.  If there are two peer reviewers in addition to yourself, then your category can become active, which means that you can begin assigning articles.  The editor-in-chief should make your category active, and if he neglects to do this, you might remind him.  If there are not enough peer reviewers (i.e., either none or one), it is strongly recommended that you use the member search form (which only editors and editorial associates can see) to search our member database for potential peer reviewers.  There are probably quite a few.  Then e-mail any likely candidates and ask them to join us.  You can use the same search form to find potential authors and lead reviewers.  You should also receive e-mail notices when someone applies to become a peer reviewer.  Optional, but highly recommended.

  10. Send your mailing address to who will see to it that you are sent a Nupedia t-shirt (please specify size) and coffee cup if you want them.  This is a small way that the organizers of the Nupedia project have of thanking new editors.  Optional.

Write with any questions!


Nupedia editors can, and eventually should, develop their own category guidelines pages.  With input from their subject mailing lists, editors should establish any necessary formats and guidelines for writing specific sorts of articles that are uniquely (or primarily) in their purview.  For example, the biologists could discuss what is required for articles about different species; the historians, about battles; the art historians, about art styles/movements.

On the same page as the category-specific guidelines, editors can suggest article topics.  Various links in the member area point authors to this page as a place to look for article ideas; so it would be helpful if you'd take a bit of time and list (and perhaps organize) many of the articles you'd like to see.

Anyone might start a discussion (1) identifying the types of articles for which there is a need for guidelines, and (2) suggesting guidelines for those article types.  The editor might wish to assign the task of composing specific guidelines to particular specialists (though input should be possible from all quarters).

The editor should also take care to distinguish article types that are clearly in the review group's purview from those that are more general or global.  Guidelines for the latter types of articles will be established under the direction of the editor-in-chief with the help of the advisory group and will be posted in future versions of this policy statement.

An area editor, after consulting with the area's review group, may choose to adopt a more specialized style guide.  When the specialized guide comes in conflict with The Chicago Manual of Style or Garner's Dictionary, then the latter are to outweigh the more specialized guide, with some exceptions at the area editor's discretion.

The area editor might wish use the occasion of the assignment of an instance of a new type of article as an excuse to discuss and formulate precise guidelines for that type of article.  The editor can then make the resulting guidelines available to writers and peer reviewers via their (editable) guidelines pages in the member area.

Some general advice on leading a discussion on requirements: editors should encourage discussants to think creatively about what sorts of qualities superlative articles need to have.  They need not simply try to codify what a standard encyclopedia article on a subject might include (and in fact they are discouraged from doing this); Nupedia's articles can and should be much better than ordinary encyclopedia articles, in terms of clarity, depth, organization, and other qualities.  Nonetheless, it is recommended that, in formulating guidelines, steering committees review a variety of reference works.  Hence a reader should, in the end, be able to find all the information and positive qualities in a Nupedia article that can be found in articles from any other encyclopedia, and more. 


In our experience, there are a few questions that come up repeatedly.  We have, therefore, included a list of some frequently-asked questions here; the links below lead to parts of the guidelines that contain an answer.  The questions are arranged roughly in order of popularity.

    The singlemost frequently-asked question:

  • I want to write.  I think I might want to write an article.  Are you interested?  (Of course!)  What do I do?

    Other questions asked exceedingly frequently:

  • Am I qualified to peer-review/edit?  I'm interested in joining as an editor or peer reviewer, but I'm not sure I'm qualified.  What do you think? (See also the peer reviewers section.)

  • Lead review problems.  I'm a lead reviewer/lead reviewee/editor, and something seems to have gone seriously wrong in the lead review process.  What do we do now?

  • Since Nupedia's academic, I'm excluded, right?  Nupedia looks like an academic project.  (Well, sort of.)  I'm not sure I'll be welcome to write an article on my proposed topic.  What do you think?

  • Open review problems.  This article undergoing open review is awful.  Or this isn't a bad article, but the author isn't responding to any of the comments.  Or this is a great article; why aren't the reviewers approving it?  What do we do?

  • I have complex formatting!  My article has associated files, like tables, pictures, and graphs.  Your interface seems to be text-only.  What do I do?

  • Short article assigned before long?  Arrrgh!  Why is the system insisting that there be a short version of this article topic assigned before a longer version can be assigned?  Please tell me.

  • Should I assign this article?  I'm an editor, and someone just signed up to write an article.  The person didn't include any personal information to help me make a decision.  Or this person doesn't seem quite qualified, but maybe he/she is.  What do I do?

    Still more frequently-asked questions:

  • I want to translate.  I want to help translate Nupedia into my language.  How do I do that?

  • I want to copyedit.  I'd like to help with copyediting.  How do I do that?

  • I want to code.  I am a programmer and I understand Nupedia's software is open source.  How can I help?

  • Can't I include a list of weblinks?  I want to include a list of weblinks as part of my article.  Can I?  If so, how?

  • "Footnote" format.  What format should my footnotes (N.B. they're included in the text of the article, so they aren't "footnotes") follow?  Please tell me.

  • Article stuck in copyediting.  Aaargh!  My fine, upstanding article is stuck in copyediting, of all places.  What do I do?

  • How do I assign the LR?  I'm an editor, and it looks like I have to assign a lead reviewer.  What requirements must a lead reviewer satisfy?

  • Open review finished.  Now what?  I'm an author/editor and my/this article has just been approved by the open review process.  I'm totally in the dark about what happens next, though.  What do we do?

  • What's my audience?  I can't write this article until I know who I'm writing it for.  What is my audience?

  • "Bibliography" format.  What format should the bibliography (note, it's "For Further Reading") follow?  Please tell me.