Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Lead section

The lead section (also known as the lead or introduction) of a Wikipedia article is the section before the table of contents and the first heading. The lead serves as an introduction to the article and a summary of its most important contents. It is not a news-style lead or "lede" paragraph.

The average Wikipedia visit is a few minutes.[1] The lead is the first thing most people will read upon arriving at an article. It gives the basics in a nutshell and cultivates interest in reading on—though not by teasing the reader or hinting at what follows. It should be written in a clear, accessible style with a neutral point of view.

The lead should stand on its own as a concise overview of the article's topic. It should identify the topic, establish context, explain why the topic is notable, and summarize the most important points, including any prominent controversies.[2] The notability of the article's subject is usually established in the first few sentences. As in the body of the article itself, the emphasis given to material in the lead should roughly reflect its importance to the topic, according to reliable, published sources. Apart from basic facts, significant information should not appear in the lead if it is not covered in the remainder of the article.

As a general rule of thumb, a lead section should contain no more than four well-composed paragraphs and be carefully sourced as appropriate.

Elements of the lead

The lead section may contain optional elements presented in the following order: disambiguation links (dablinks/hatnotes), maintenance tags, infoboxes, foreign character warning boxes, images, navigational boxes (navigational templates), introductory text, and table of contents, moving to the heading of the first section.

Structure of lead section:

[[File:TypicalRocket.gif|...|A typical rocket]]

A '''rocket''' is a ...

<!--Unless suppressed or modified via special syntax, or the article has fewer than four section headings, the table of contents is automatically generated at this point.-->

==First section==
  • Disambiguation links should be the first elements of the page, before any maintenance tags, infobox, or image; if a reader has reached the wrong page, they will want to know that first. Text-only browsers and screen readers present the page sequentially. A "for topics of the same name ..." disambiguation link is sometimes put at the beginning of an article to link to another article discussing another meaning of the article title. In such cases, the line should be italicized and indented using hatnote templates. Do not make this initial link a section. See also WP:Hatnote.
  • Short description is a concise explanation of the scope of the page. See Wikipedia:Short description and Wikipedia:WikiProject Short descriptions for more information.
  • Deletion tags (speedy deletion, proposed deletion, and articles for deletion notices).
  • Maintenance tags should be below the disambiguation links. These tags inform the reader about the general quality of the article and should be presented to the user before the article itself.
  • English variety and date style tags help editors maintain consistency in articles as they are developed.
  • Infoboxes contain summary information or an overview relating to the subject of the article, and therefore should be put before any text (though in actuality they will generally appear to the side of the text of the lead). The primary difference between an infobox and a navigational box is the presence of parameters: a navigational box is exactly the same in all articles of the same topic, while an infobox has different contents in each article.
  • Foreign character warning boxes alert readers that the article contains foreign characters which may not be supported by their platform. If required, the warning should be sufficiently near any text using the foreign characters that scrolling is not required to see the warning. This is generally after short infoboxes, but before long ones.
  • Images. As with all images, but particularly the lead, the image used should be relevant and technically well-produced. It is also common for the lead image to be representative because it provides a visual association for the topic, and allow readers to quickly assess if they have arrived at the right page. Image captions are part of the article text. If the article has disambiguation links (dablinks), then the introductory image should appear just before the introductory text. Otherwise a screen reader would first read the image's caption, which is part of the article's contents, then "jump" outside the article to read the dablink, and then return to the lead section, which is an illogical sequence.
  • Sidebars are a collection of links used in multiple related articles to facilitate navigation between those articles. Sidebars are sometimes placed in the lead, especially when no infobox is present. If an infobox is present, the navigation sidebar may be moved to either the top or bottom of any other section in the article.
  • All but the shortest articles should start with introductory text (the "lead"), which establishes significance, includes mention of significant criticism or controversies, and make readers want to learn more. The lead has no heading; its length should be commensurate with that of the article, but is normally no more than four paragraphs. See also Wikipedia:Writing better articles § Lead section.
  • The table of contents (ToC) automatically appears on pages with at least four headings. Avoid floating the ToC if possible, as it breaks the standard look of pages. If you must use a floated TOC, put it below the lead section in the wiki markup for consistency. Users of screen readers expect the table of contents to follow the introductory text; they will also miss any text placed between the TOC and the first heading.