Documentation guidelines

Writing style guide

To ensure consistency in tone and language, follow the Google developer documentation style guide when writing the Wagtail documentation.

Formatting recommendations

Wagtail’s documentation uses a mixture of Markdown and reStructuredText. We encourage writing documentation in Markdown first, and only reaching for more advanced reStructuredText formatting if there is a compelling reason.

Here are formats we encourage using when writing documentation for Wagtail.

Paragraphs

It all starts here. Keep your sentences short, varied in length.

Separate text with an empty line to create a new paragraph.

Latin phrases and abbreviations

Try to avoid Latin phrases (such as ergo or de facto) and abbreviations (such as i.e. or e.g.), and use common English phrases instead. Alternatively, find a simpler way to communicate the concept or idea to the reader. The exception is etc. which can be used when space is limited.

Examples:

Don’t use this

Use this instead

e.g.

for example, such as

i.e.

that is

viz.

namely

ergo

therefore

Heading levels

Use heading levels to create sections, and allow users to link straight to a specific section. Start documents with an # h1, and proceed with ## h2 and further sub-sections without skipping levels.

# Heading level 1

## Heading level 2

### Heading level 3

Lists

Use bullets for unordered lists, numbers when ordered. Prefer dashes - for bullets. Nest by indenting with 4 spaces.

-   Bullet 1
-   Bullet 2
    -   Nested bullet 2
-   Bullet 3

1. Numbered list 1
2. Numbered list 2
3. Numbered list 3
Rendered output
  • Bullet 1

  • Bullet 2

    • Nested bullet 2

  • Bullet 3

  1. Numbered list 1

  2. Numbered list 2

  3. Numbered list 3

Inline styles

Use bold and italic sparingly and inline code when relevant.

Use **bold** and _italic_ sparingly and inline `code` when relevant.

Code blocks

Make sure to include the correct language code for syntax highlighting, and to format your code according to our coding guidelines. Frequently used: python, css, html, html+django, javascript, sh.

```python
INSTALLED_APPS = [
    ...
    "wagtail",
    ...
]
```
Rendered output
INSTALLED_APPS = [
    ...
    "wagtail",
    ...
]

When using console (terminal) code blocks

Note

$ or > prompts are not needed, this makes it harder to copy and paste the lines and can be difficult to consistently add in every single code snippet.

Use sh as it has better support for comment and code syntax highlighting in MyST’s parser, plus is more compatible with GitHub and VSCode.

```sh
# some comment
some command
```
Rendered output
# some comment
some command

Use doscon (DOS Console) only if explicitly calling out Windows commands alongside their bash equivalent.

```doscon
# some comment
some command
```
Rendered output
# some comment
some command

Note and warning call-outs

Use notes and warnings sparingly, as they rely on reStructuredText syntax which is more complicated for future editors.

```{note}
Notes can provide complementary information.
```

```{warning}
Warnings can be scary.
```
Rendered output

Note

Notes can provide complementary information.

Warning

Warnings can be scary.

These call-outs do not support titles, so be careful not to include them, titles will just be moved to the body of the call-out.

```{note} Title's here will not work correctly
Notes can provide complementary information.
```

Images

Images are hard to keep up-to-date as documentation evolves, but can be worthwhile nonetheless. Here are guidelines when adding images:

  • All images should have meaningful alt text unless they are decorative.

  • Images are served as-is – pick the correct format, and losslessly compress all images.

  • Use absolute paths for image files so they are more portable.

![The TableBlock component in StreamField, with row header, column header, caption fields - and then the editable table](/_static/images/screen40_table_block.png)
Rendered output

The TableBlock component in StreamField, with row header, column header, caption fields - and then the editable table

Autodoc

With its autodoc feature, Sphinx supports writing documentation in Python docstrings for subsequent integration in the project’s documentation pages. This is a very powerful feature that we highly recommend using to document Wagtail’s APIs.

```{eval-rst}
.. module:: wagtail.coreutils

.. autofunction:: cautious_slugify
```
Rendered output
wagtail.coreutils.cautious_slugify(value)

Convert a string to ASCII exactly as Django’s slugify does, with the exception that any non-ASCII alphanumeric characters (that cannot be ASCIIfied under Unicode normalisation) are escaped into codes like ‘u0421’ instead of being deleted entirely.

This ensures that the result of slugifying (for example - Cyrillic) text will not be an empty string, and can thus be safely used as an identifier (albeit not a human-readable one).

Tables

Only use tables when needed, using the GitHub Flavored Markdown table syntax.

| Browser       | Device/OS |
| ------------- | --------- |
| Stock browser | Android   |
| IE            | Desktop   |
| Safari        | Windows   |
Rendered output

Browser

Device/OS

Stock browser

Android

IE

Desktop

Safari

Windows

Tables of contents

toctree and contents can be used as reStructuredText directives.

```{toctree}
---
maxdepth: 2
titlesonly:
---
getting_started/index
topics/index
```

```{contents}
---
local:
depth: 1
---
```

Version added, changed, deprecations

Sphinx offers release-metadata directives to generate this information consistently. Use as appropriate.

```{versionadded} 2.15
```

```{versionchanged} 2.15
```
Rendered output

New in version 2.15.

Changed in version 2.15.

Progressive disclosure

We can add supplementary information in documentation with the HTML <details> element. This relies on HTML syntax, which can be hard to author consistently, so keep this type of formatting to a minimum.

<details>
    <summary>Supplementary information</summary>

    This will be visible when expanding the content.
</details>

Example:

Supplementary information

This will be visible when expanding the content.

Formatting to avoid

There is some formatting in the documentation which is technically supported, but we recommend avoiding unless there is a clear necessity.

Call-outs

We only use {note} and {warning} call-outs. Avoid {admonition}, {important}, {topic}, and {tip}. If you find one of these, please replace it with {note}.

Glossary

Sphinx glossaries (.. glossary::) generate definition lists. Use plain bullet or number lists instead, or sections with headings, or a table.

Comments

Avoid documentation source comments in committed documentation.

Figure

reStructuredText figures (.. figure::) only offer very marginal improvements over vanilla images. If your figure has a caption, add it as an italicized paragraph underneath the image.

Other reStructuredText syntax and Sphinx directives

We generally want to favor Markdown over reStructuredText, to make it as simple as possible for newcomers to make documentation contributions to Wagtail. Always prefer Markdown, unless the document’s formatting highly depends on reStructuredText syntax.

If you want to use a specific Sphinx directive, consult with core contributors to see whether its usage is justified, and document its expected usage on this page.

Arbitrary HTML

While our documentation tooling offers some support for embedding arbitrary HTML, this is frowned upon. Only do so if there is a necessity, and if the formatting is unlikely to need updates.