Style Guide

Target Audience

Write as if you are telling a story
to a friend.
Joshua Mark
  1. Many high school teachers use WHE for their courses. Always write with a high school student in mind, as we want them to be able to understand and grasp our content.
  2. This should not lead to oversimplification, though: we still want university students and academics to find our content useful, at least for a general overview of the subject.

Writing Style & Tone

  1. "Story" is the key part in the word "history", and our content should reflect that.
  2. Make your text interesting, exciting and a pleasure to read. You can be funny too!
  3. Avoid jargon and try not to sound overly academic; we are not lecturing.
  4. Focus on being clear and easily understood.
  5. Avoid long sentences.
  6. Be factual; don't speculate.
  7. Be as neutral as possible, including using gender-neutral language, and treat every culture or belief system equally.
  8. Grab the reader's attention from the beginning: your first paragraph should give the reader the most important information while encouraging him/her to read further. Tell the reader why he or she should care about your topic. Be straightforward.
  9. When appropriate, include a wrap-up at the end that discusses legacy; influences on later events, people, or ties to the modern world (what the site is like today or a popular movie in which the person is portrayed, for example).

Written Content Types & Specifications

  1. Definitions: Definitions are an introduction to a topic. In your first paragraph, be sure to specify what your topic is and include dates when applicable (birth and death of a person, beginning and end of a war, reign of a king, etc.). The title should be short and to the point and using the most common English spelling: "Constantine the Great" or "Hoplite" or "Ziggurat".
  2. Articles: Articles usually provide a more detailed discussion of a topic and are often more academic. For example, while the definition "Ziggurat" provides the basics about ziggurats, an article could be "The Role of the Ziggurat in Mesopotamian Cities" or "An Analysis of Mesopotamian Ziggurats and Egyptian Pyramids".
  3. When you submit a definition or an article, we recommend that you also submit images to be used with them. If you want to use images in the text, submit the images first. Refer to the "Images" section below for guidelines.
  4. All text submissions should be between 1,500 and 3,000 words in length.
  5. Plagiarism and AI-assisted writing is strictly forbidden. Such content is automatically rejected, and plagiarizing authors are not allowed to resubmit. 


  1. All content must be in English; non-English quotations must be translated.
  2. Check your spelling and grammar! We recommend Grammarly, which is free to use and works directly on the WHE website.
  3. Use either British or American English (whichever you're most comfortable with), but be consistent.
  4. Avoid contractions, e.g., "don't" should be written as "do not".
  5. Non-English terms must be italicised.
  6. When referring to places or people, always use their most commonly known English name:
    1. Examples:
      • "Babylon", not "Babili"
      • "Mark Antony", not "Marcus Antonius"
      • "Hammurabi", not "'Ammurapi"
    2. If possible, state the original names of places, as Wikipedia often does, such as: "Hammurabi (Akkadian from Amorite 'Ammurapi, 'the kinsman is a healer', from 'Ammu, 'paternal kinsman', and Rapi, 'healer')."
    3. When in doubt, use the Latin or Greek name.

Bibliography / Sources

  1. We expect all textual contributions to have a bibliography with a list of sources used. The bibliography is an important element of our publishing criteria; we expect our authors to use a wide range of academic works.
  2. At least half of your sources should be from academic books or journals, as, sadly, online sources still don't give our readers the same level of trust as print material does (even though there are some great online sources). Wikipedia is not an acceptable source.
  3. Please use the bibliography/references section to create your bibliography, and don't list it inside your article. Use the book search in the bibliography tool, as this will create links to where readers can find the books.

Numbers, Dates & Measurements

  1. Numbers up to twelve should generally be written as words; numbers from 13 upwards should be written with digits.
  2. Use BCE / CE for dates instead of BC / AD.
  3. Centuries are written as numbers, for example "8th century BCE", not as words.
  4. Dates with BCE or CE following them should be separated by a space, for example: "323 BCE".
  5. Approximate dates are given with circa or c. in front of them. If a date range is approximate, add the c. in front of each date, separated by a space: c. 1000 BCE to c. 800 BCE.
  6. Date ranges should be connected with a hyphen, e.g. "1400-1450 CE". If anything else needs to be inserted between the numbers, such as a "circa", the word "to" should be used instead of a hyphen; e.g. "c. 1400 to c. 1450 CE".
  7. All numbers must use (,) as thousand-separator and (.) as decimal-separator, e.g. "1,324,000.07".
  8. All measurements must be in metric units and have their approximate imperial equivalent (in abbreviated form) written next to them in brackets, "e.g., 3.2 kilometers (2 mi)". Use the most common abbreviations for measurements, such as cm (centimeter), cm² (square centimeter), cm³ (cubic centimeter), g (gram), ha (hectare), kg (kilogram), km (kilometer), km/h (kilometer per hour), l (liter), m (meter), mm (millimeter), sq (square), t (metric ton), in (inch), ft (foot), yd (yard), mi (mile), oz (ounce), lb (pound). Do not use "and" within measurements or decimals for imperial measures. Example: "9 meters (29 ft 6 in)". Units of measurement are written after each number, separated by a space and without a full stop. The correct form is "16 km" not "16km.".

Timeline Events

  1. When adding timeline events, do not use pronouns – always use the names of the people or locations. In a timeline search the reader might see the entry out of context, and "He conquers Persia" has no meaning within a random timeline. Instead, write "Alexander the Great conquers Persia".
  2. Use complete sentences and write in the present tense.
  3. Timeline events should never be longer than two short sentences.


  1. Images should always have a description that includes the name of what is depicted, why it is significant, and from when it dates. If it is not in its original location, include where it is now if possible (e.g. which museum).
  2. Try to follow the following pattern: Title, medium, artist, provenance, date. Further description and importance (if appropriate). Museum, city. (e.g. "David, marble sculpture by Michelangelo, 1501-1504. Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence." or "Terracotta tablet listing the year formulae of King Shulgi of Ur. From Southern Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq, Ur III period, 2094-2047 BCE. Ancient Orient Museum, Istanbul.")  
  3. Only add images that are your own or that have a copyright that allows you to use them (i.e. public domain or Creative Commons).
  4. If possible, track down the original source (a museum or library) and use the information you find there instead of Wikimedia.

Book Reviews

Reviews should cover books which are currently available to buy on either Amazon or Book Depository. The recommended word length for a review is around 600 words and it should address most, if not all of the following points (the preview snippet should include points 1, 2 & 5):

  1. Who is this book aimed at (scholars, students, general enthusiasts, young readers, etc.), and does it succeed or not in that aim?
  2. What is the purpose of the book (provide an overview, examine one specific aspect of a culture, provide new research, etc.)?
  3. Who is the author and what is their background?
  4. An overview of content (chapters, sections, etc.) and review of its approach (archaeology, art, warfare, social history, etc.).
  5. Why the reviewer recommends or not this book? (style, entertainment value, accuracy, unique insights, omissions, etc.).
  6. How does this book compare with others on the same subject?
  7. A description of particular edition features (images, maps, footnotes, index, further reading, bibliography etc.).


When in doubt, ask the editor.
  1. Always add tags, but no more than three, when submitting articles, images, book reviews, or timeline events.
  2. Replace any spaces in a tag with an underscore, such as "Alexander_the_Great".
  3. When adding tags, always ask yourself: "What subjects does this submission help illustrate?"
  4. When adding a map, add tags of the major locations shown and the time period.
  5. When adding timeline events, add tags for the personalities, states, and events involved.
  6. When adding an image, add tags for which you believe the image is a useful illustration. Don't overdo it, though: A map of Greece would certainly get the tag "Greece", but a Greek vase should not be tagged with "Greece", as that tag is too unspecific. Instead, it might be tagged with "Greek_Art".
  7. If you are not sure, make a guess. Our editors review all tags, so we may change what you have added.



  1. In headlines and subheadings, all names and nouns should have their first letter capitalized.
  2. Use "Heading 3" for subheadings:


  1. Quotations are always enclosed by normal double quotes ("); replace any special quotes that might have been inserted by Word.
  2. The person that is being quoted (and the source of the quotation) must be indicated, either in the sentence before, or in brackets after the quote. Examples:
    1. In Genesis 1:3, God says: "Let there be light."
    2. "Let there be light." (God, Genesis 1:3)
  3. Punctuation marks of a quoted sentence are within the quotation marks, not after.
  4. Quotations longer than three lines should be quoted using the quote function of the online text editor, without any quotation marks:
  5. The name of the person quoted should be included within the quotation block, in brackets.


  1. Capitalize titles, "Emperor", "Queen" and the like, when they are used to as part of the name: Emperor Augustus, Queen Zenobia. Don't capitalize these words when used on their own: Augustus was the Roman emperor; The queen issued an edict.
  2. Capitalize words like "empire" when they are used as part of the name: the Roman Empire. But do not capitalize them when used on their own: The empire grew as more territory was conquered.
  3. A common source of confusion: "Queen Zenobia ruled the Palmyrene Empire" but "The Mesopotamian king Gilgamesh was also said to have been buried beneath a river."


Semicolons have two uses only:

  1. They are used to separate two independent clauses that are connected by ideas. So you could write:
    1. I walked to the Roman Forum today, and it was much bigger than I expected it to be.
    2. I walked to the Roman Forum today; it was much bigger than I expected it to be.
    3. I walked to the Roman Forum today. It was much bigger than I expected it to be.
    4. But not: I walked to the Roman Forum today; and it was much bigger than I expected it to be. Do not use conjunctions with semicolon.
  2. Semicolons can be used to separate items in a complicated list. For example, "The House of the Faun at Pompeii was chock full of fascinating mosaics: the Alexander Mosaic, now in the Naples Archaeological Museum; a depiction of masks, also now in Naples; and some still in situ, including the word 'Have', meaning 'Hale', on the floor as you enter."


  1. Use Chicago style for references and citations.
  2. You need to add in-text citations only for direct quotations.
  3. Always add your bibliography using the references section of an article, definition, or image; do not include the bibliography in your text.


  1. Emphasise words by italicising them.
  2. Book titles should always be italicised, both in the bibliography and in the text.
  3. Avoid underlines in your texts because they suggest a web link.
  4. You should aim to include at least one image in each of your articles. For definitions, select a featured image. You may also add additional images using the search button.
  5. For hyphens used as dashes within a sentence, use spaced en dashes:
    "Flattened road beds – often raised – were usually made using packed earth, sand, or grass." 
  6. For appropriate use of "commas", please refer to the UNC Writing Center.

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