Documentation guidelines

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.


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

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

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


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, inline code when relevant.

Use **bold** and _italic_ sparingly, 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, console.


Note and warning call-outs

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

```eval_rst note:: Notes can provide complementary information.

```eval_rst warning:: Warnings can be scary.
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Notes can provide complementary information.


Warnings can be scary.


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.
![Screenshot of the workflow editing interface, with fields to change the workflow name, tasks, and assigned pages](/_static/images/screen44_workflow_edit.png)
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../_images/screen44_workflow_edit.pngScreenshot of the workflow editing interface, with fields to change the workflow name, tasks, and assigned pages


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 which we highly recommend using to document Wagtail’s APIs.

.. module:: wagtail.core.utils

.. autofunction:: cautious_slugify
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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 e.g. Cyrillic text will not be an empty string, and can thus be safely used as an identifier (albeit not a human-readable one).


Only use tables when needed, with the “simple” reStructuredText syntax, which is hard enough to format as it is.

=============  =============
Browser        Device/OS    
=============  =============
Stock browser  Android      
IE             Desktop      
Safari         Windows      
=============  =============
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Browser Device/OS
Stock browser Android
IE Desktop
Safari Windows

Tables of content

toctree and contents can be used as reStructuredText embeds.

.. toctree::
    :maxdepth: 2


.. contents::

Version added, changed, deprecations

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

.. versionadded:: 2.15

.. versionchanged:: 2.15
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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.


<summary>Supplementary information</summary>

This will be visible when expanding the content.



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.


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


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


Avoid documentation source comments in committed documentation.


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

Other reStructuredText syntax and Sphinx directives

We generally want to favour 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.