Getting Started Writing on a Wiki

M. C. Morgan’s wiki is at

The Simplest Writing Space

Wikis were designed with simplicity in mind: The writing space is minimal—a text field. The controls are pedestrian—Edit and Save. The formatting is fundamental—Type to enter text, hit return twice to create paragraphs. Use equal signs or hash signs for headings, slashes for emphasis, enclose links in double-brackets, or just paste in urls. The tools are basic—Create and link new pages by using WikiWords.

The writing space is easy to read, and creating pages is simple so that you can focus on writing.

Navigation and page management is also stripped down—Use the PageIndex to see what’s on the wiki, use RecentChanges to see what’s new, and use the all-important PageHistory to look at previous versions of the page.

Morgan styleguide page


Caption to Image I (Image of StyleGuide page): A well-developed WikiPage. Writers have used headings to organize the page and included links to related topics by writing Wikiwords into the flow of the text. The writers have also left three signals that invite readers to develop the page further: the [more] under Jumping In, the ellipses in the bullet list, and the note “Let’s add a WelcomeRitual.”

Wikis don’t demand that you write in a particular way, but they don’t give you any guidance on how to proceed, either. Wikis are very different writing spaces than weblogs and paper notebooks, and to make the most of them, you may need to learn some new moves, some of the new media literacy skills Kyle Steman mentions. Wiki users have developed some general practices for writing on wikis. This article will help you get started developing your own techniques, whether you use a wiki collaboratively or on your own.

One Draft Centrally Located

Wiki articles develop over time and often by multiple hands. So the idea on a wiki is to keep things centrally located—all in one place. Notes, the developing draft, and discussion on the draft are all posted to one place. Everyone’s on the same page, everything is always current, and additions and changes and deletions are played out on the page itself.

If you’re working solo, the centrally located draft is a benefit. All your notes, considerations, and sections of developing drafts are all in one place. And what you’re working on is always the most up-to-date material. You access it from any device, you can recover earlier drafts using the PageHistory, and that means that you can move in and out of drafting and refactoring easily, without shuffling through versions.

The WikiWord

The WikiWord is central to using a wiki. WikiWords—more accurately, wiki phrases—are created in traditional wikis by using capital letters in the middle of the phrase or word, as in WikiWord, or CamelCase, or MyGreatIdea. The wiki treats a phrase in CamelCase (as this move is called) as a potential page name and a link to that page. That means that you, as the writer, treat a CamelCase word as a topic: A point of interest to be developed, a path to create, an idea, problem, issue, concept to think about. On any page, create a WikiWord to start a new page.

WikiWords are powerful because the WikiWord is both the title of the page and a link to that page. Once created, using the WikiWord anywhere on the wiki will link to that page, and that allows you to cross-reference any page from any other page.

Some wikis are not set up to use CamelCase WikiWords but require another way to indicate a WikiWord, such as double square brackets. While there are good reasons for this, there are better reasons for using CamelCase to designate WikiWords. If you’re setting up your own wiki, use CamelCase to encourage you to keep your WikiWords concise.