Help: Manual of Style

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This page is an official policy on DCCWiki. It has wide acceptance among editors and is considered a standard that all users should follow. Feel free to update the page as needed, but make sure that changes you make to this policy really do reflect consensus, before you make them.

Style guide for editing/creating articles within DCCWiki.


This is the general style guide for editing articles within the DCCWiki. Please help to keep this up to date.

DCC Terminology

Use the NMRA terms found in the Standards whenever possible.

Avoid analog concepts and methodology, as it can be misleading and confuse the reader. Many, such as polarity, are not relevant to Digital Command Control technology, and therefore should be avoided. If making a comparison, identify the technology used.

DC vs Analog

Please use "Analog" rather than "DC" or Direct Current when talking about the "old style" or legacy control systems. There are several good reasons to do this:

  • It is less confusing when reading or speaking.
  • There is less chance of a typo - either dropping or adding one letter results in a valid term, but invalid information.
  • It reads better - "She sells DCC and DC by the seashore"? All that hissing... ;)

Command Control

Command Control refers to any system which allows independent control of several vehicles on the same length of track. Many command control systems were analog in nature. Even today, some command control technologies call themselves digital while using an analog carrier to transmit the information.

Digital Command Control or DCC refers to the NMRA Digital Command Control Standard. DCC is a trademark of the NMRA.

There are other command control systems which use or used digital technology, they are not to be referred to using the term DCC.


To avoid confusion use the terminology found on the DCCWiki for turnout construction. These are the terms used by the prototype.

Unfortunately the terminology has been polluted over the years by various publications, resulting in inconsistency when describing the parts of a turnout. This makes trying to troubleshoot or explain things difficult when everyone is speaking a different language.

A complete turnout consists of two parts:

  1. A Switch and a
  2. Frog

The switch is the portion with the moveable switch rails and their associated stock and closure rails. The sharp, pointed end of the switch rails may be referred to as the points, but not as point rails.

The frog is constructed from the wing and point rails. The entrance of the frog is the toe, and the exit is the heel. The point rails form a point at the toe and diverge from there. In the UK the point rails are often referred to as the Vee Rails, due to their shape.

The term comes from the shape of a pad found on a horse's hooves, called a frog, which helps absorb the shock as the hoof hits the ground.


The term "decoder" should not be used until the type of decoder has been established. The following are NMRA terms for decoders:

  • Multifunction Decoder: Used in vehicles to control multiple functions including speed and direction
  • Function Decoder: A secondary decoder which is used either in conjunction with a multifunction decoder to add additional functions, or used in a caboose or similar vehicle to control lighting effects
  • Accessory Decoder: These are used to control turnout motors, signals and animation features on the layout.

Avoid adjectives like "mobile" and "stationary", as they can be vague. A function decoder can be mobile or stationary, depending on its application. Sound decoders are a subset of Multifunction Decoders, and should be referred to as a multifunction decoder. The presence of sound capability is almost a given today, but it can be mentioned if necessary. At one time a sound decoder was a separate unit installed in the locomotive to augment the multifunction decoder.

A multifunction decoder lacking sound can be referred to using the adjective Silent to differentiate it from a decoder featuring sound capability.


DCC, being digital, does not have the concept of polarity. Signals on the track are in–phase or out of phase. The rails are always in one of two states, On or Off. When one rail is in the ON state, the other is the inverse, or OFF.

Short circuits occur at reverse loops due to a phase mis–match, not a polarity issue. Boosters must be kept in–phase for this reason.

For this reason the term Polarity is not used, as it is incorrect. It is a property of analog control.


The correct term for the pair of wires supplying power to the track is the power bus. The term bus was borrowed from the computer industry, which had borrowed it from the French word Omnibus or autobus; a bus or motorcoach; a road vehicle designed to carry passengers.

French, being a Romantic language, gets the term from Latin, omnibus being the plural of omnis, meaning For All.


Informal term for a kiss. It is also a trademarked proper name, Buss, being a manufacturer of fuses. It is not the correct term to use when describing the power or track bus.

General Grammar

Its versus It's

Its is the possessive form of it.

It's is the contraction of It Is

Many authors confuse the two and write "it's (it is) colour is black" when they mean an object (it) possesses the property of being black.


Another trend in incorrect grammar is using the term manufactures in place of manufacturer. Manufactures refers to finished (manufactured) goods, made by a manufacturer.