User:Whiteknight/New Book Guide/Book Formatting

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Once a new book is created, the issue about how to format the book is raised. I personally think that the book should use a minimal amount of formatting when it is first created because a new book is subject to far more alterations than a large, well-established book is. In the first few months your book is going to undergo many changes, if not at your hands, then at the hands of the other contributors. As such, it doesn't make sense to format your book rigidly, or to expect other contributors to use large blocks of boiler-plate code for each new page, or each new section. To make a book look good, it should be consistent. Each page should use the same navigation scheme, and therefore navigation is probably best handled by a template. If you want to add cool formatting and all sorts of special tables and CSS markup to your page, I suggest making a single template page or example page, and then apply the markup to the rest of the pages after they have been established.

Local Manual of Style

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I find that it's a good idea to post a list of all templates that are specifically designed for your book. I personally put this list on the talk page of the main page of the book. This way, new contributors can read about the various templates and will be able to contribute to the book more effectively.

Another option is to establish a Local manual of style (LMOS), which is essentially a guideline for all contributors to follow. A LMOS can help to prevent arguments and disputes further down the line, as more contributors join the project.

Formatting Templates

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There are a number of templates available for adding specially formatted text and other objects to your text. It is generally preferable to use a pre-made template than to create an entirely new template for your book. Many of the general templates have been parameterized so that their look and style can be altered to suit your book. If you don't find a template that you want to use, you can consider making your own. However, make sure that all the contributors to your book know about these templates and how to use them properly. This usually requires the creation of template documentation, which can be costly in terms of time.

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I am on the fence about putting "forward" and "backward" navigation page links in the page-header template, if one is used. Keep in mind that this can be a tedious process for new pages, because links need to be altered when a new page is added, and you need to make sure that no pages are left out of "the loop." I do like the idea of using optional parameters in a template to optionally add forward and backward links, if needed. However, adding optional links is difficult for new users to master, and therefore can probably just be ignored for a new book.


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Again, this is the most important point: New books should refrain from having a lot of formatting, templates, or boiler-plate code. New books will undergo heavy editing, reconfiguring, and even reformatting before they are well established. The biggest rule that people should take with them is: Work on content first, Formatting later.