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Wiktionary:How to write Simple English entries

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This page is a soft rule on Wiktionary. Many editors agree with acting this way. It is a good idea to follow it, but it is not a hard rule. Feel free to change the page as needed, but please use the talk page to suggest any big changes.

This page describes how to write Simple English entries.

Think about your readers


First, think about your readers. Many readers of Simple English are people whose mother language is not English. Other readers may be young (they may be children who don't have much knowledge of English) or have learning difficulties. The language is simple, but the ideas don't have to be.

Basic English and Voice Of America Special English


Simple English Wikipedia follows some of the rules of Basic English, but is not so strict about using only a certain number of words. Simple English is still changing, and does not have only one word list. A good starting point to writing in Simple English is to learn to write using Basic English words. This helps you to write with a limited vocabulary.

Start with Basic English (BE) 850. Let us say that your readers know the BE 850 words. If your writing sounds strange, or is not clear, use a less common word. The less common word may be in BE 1500 or Voice Of America (VOA) Special English.



The example below shows why we do not insist on using only Basic English words. The full English sentence is from Winston Churchill:

Full English: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."

Basic English BE 850: "... blood, hard work, drops from eyes, and body water."

  • "Blood" is a BE 850 word.
  • "Hard work" is good for those who understand English as their mother language. But a learner could understand the word "hard" as "solid" or "difficult to understand". Perhaps "much work" is better.
  • "Drops from eyes" sounds strange to people whose mother language is English. "Tears" is a BE 1500 word, and you can use it.
  • "Body water" also sounds strange to a person whose mother language is English. "Sweat" and "perspiration" both sound better. "Sweat" is a more common word, and you can use it by linking to the article on sweat. Often, for difficult words that are from Latin (like "perspiration") there will also be a native (Old English or Anglo-Saxon) word like "sweat" meaning the same thing, that is much more common and basic, but this is not always the case.

Another way is to write the more difficult words, but explain what they mean in parentheses, "(" and ")", if they cannot be linked. For example, write "blood, toil (hard work), tears, and sweat".


  1. Write your words normally, as you would speak to another person.
  2. Look for your words in the word lists. Try to use the simplest word list:
    1. In Basic English BE 850 (pictures)
    2. In Basic English BE 1500.
    3. In VOA Special English Word Book.
    4. If a word is a name, idiomatic (the meaning of the words is not clear from the roots), or jargon (special words used by experts), then it should be described in more detail. Linking to an article about the word can also help.
      Stephen Hawking is a cosmologist--someone who studies the structure of the universe (stars and space).
    5. Not all words can have a good encyclopedia article written about them. To link to the dictionary definition of a word rather than an encyclopedic article, link to the Simple English Wiktionary using a link like [[wikt:this]] (put your word in place of "this"). For a more complex definition, you may also link to the English Wiktionary like this: [[:en:wikt:this]].
  3. Change to active voice. Example: change from "The bird was eaten by the cat." to "The cat ate the bird."
  4. Look for a Basic English verb in past, present or future only.
  5. For writing special to science or trade, do as asked by the process of Wikipedia:AECMA Simplified English (see external link below for International Aerospace Maintenance Language).
  6. After finishing the article, check to have at least one link (to another article in Simple English Wikipedia) and one Interwiki link (to a version of Wikipedia in another language). The first is so the article is not a dead-end article, and the second is so that robots can fill in all the missing links to other language versions.

What not to do


Do not...

  • Use bad grammar and bad spelling.
  • Use bad English: This is Simple English, not Bad English.
  • Use idioms (words or phrases that mean something other than what they say).
  • Use words you're not sure about without using a dictionary.
  • Write entries so short that they offer no useful information.
  • Put links in titles (or other elements that structure the article). Try to keep the navigation and the structure of an article separate.

See also


Other websites