User:Whiteknight/New Book Guide/Formatting

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Ugly Pages

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There's nothing more deterring to readers then ugly "wall of text" pages. Maybe dense pages of text are good for some readers, but for most a better and richer formatting is required. Books needing formatting help are typically in the Revise or Review stages.

The Wikitext Solution

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Wikitext provides a number of tools that you can use to break up large blocks of text:

  1. Numbered and bullet lists
  2. Definitions ; and :
  3. Preformatted text
  4. Tables
  5. Headings and Subheadings.
  6. Images

We've also provided a number of templates that can be used to set text apart from the main paragraph structure: {{TextBox}}, {{LeftHalf}}, and {{RightHalf}}. Also, other templates can be used like {{SideBox}}, {{LeftBox}}, {{Info}} and {{warning}}. These all help to break large blocks of text up into managable bits.

The HTML Solution?

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You can write stuff in HTML, but consider the cost. You gain some additional control over presentation, but your book becomes harder to edit. Also, if you do something clever on one page, consistency demands that you continue that clever presentation on other pages as well. You could end up spending more time and energy adding clever formatting to pages and fixing it when unwitting editors break it, than you spend actually writing your book. If you do want to use fancy formatting, consider putting it all into templates.

The CSS Solution

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There is a Per-Book Javascript gadget that enables books to provide their own custom Javascripts and CSS Stylesheets. This can be nice for increasing the aesthetics of a page, but keep in mind that most users (and almost all casual readers) won't activate this gadget.

The Upper Limit

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Books don't need to be works of art. Accessibility and Editability demand that books keep formatting to a minimum, so people can more easily edit them. This is the purpose of wikitext in the first place, to be more simple then HTML or LaTeX so people can contribute more easily. Using Wikitext is really the best option when formatting a book, because it's simple to implement and it's easy to edit.

When formatting or reformatting a book, keep in mind that it doesn't need to be a work of art. Being too fancy is actually a bad thing. Use some basic wikitext and some templates on the page in a consistent way, and it will make an amazing difference.

Improving Formatting

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Some things to do to improve the formatting of a book:

  1. Improve the look of any page header templates or other book-specific templates
  2. Make sure all templates are used consistently throughout the book
  3. Break long blocks of text up with headings, lists, tables, diagrams, and other features.