Motorway Services Online

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Style Guide

This guide has been created so that, when we go back and review our content, we have something to check it against. Although we should encourage everybody to follow it, we wouldn't hold it against new members with information to add; it is more about regular users having something to reference.

Writing Style

Pages should be written in an objective style, free from bias or speculation. There is nothing wrong with including some personality in the writing, although be careful that one person's "funny" is another person's "cringeworthy".

Even on a website like this which deals with a niche subject, and even though this is the internet and there's no character limit, we need to be wary of offering too much detail. For example, it's OK to say that a car park is full of potholes, but we wouldn't want to list the location and diameter of each individual one.

Text should be written in third person, or first-person plural if that would look odd.

Paragraphs should rarely be more than three sentences long, except when dealing with detailed history. Where possible, we should try to weave paragraphs together to create a story rather than it being just a relentless list of facts.

Photos, user pages and talk pages are allowed to include the author's opinion, but we need to be careful that it doesn't look like that is the website's opinion, especially with photos which may be included on the home page (unless it is in Category:Miscellaneous Pictures).

Irritating though it may seem, phrases and even grammar rules go in and out of fashion. To stop the website looking dated, sometimes you have to go through and change text that previously made sense.

Technical Terms

Abbreviations such as MSA should always be written out in full, unless the text is aimed only at professionals or enthusiasts who would understand it, or if it is a brand page infobox where the full term would take up too much space.

Other technical terms should be used sparingly, and include a link to the explanatory page.

Specific Issues

Ironically, it's best to avoid using the word "services", because it reads weirdly. You can write the full name (ie, "Keele services"), in which case the word should be in lower case, in line with UK signage rules. Other descriptors, like "Junction" and "Bypass", should be written with a capital letter, if that word is part of the official name of that landmark.

"A-roads" should be stylised as such. N-roads should normally be referred to as "national roads", with care that the sentence doesn't duplicate motorways. Junctions with a suffix like "J23A" should be written entirely in capitals for the UK, and in lower case in Ireland.

"Outlet" refers to a small shop or restaurant, but not a small, portable stand. More precise words should be used if possible. "Store" is the term the industry now uses. 'Restaurants' have a dedicated dining area.

"Forecourt" refers to the part of a filling station (colloquially a 'petrol station') where vehicles move, but it is not a big deal. The building is a "sales shop" (or similar), as opposed to the service area's "amenity building".

Brand Names

As we're an information website, we generally write about brands as the public would see them, rather than getting too worked up about who owns each licence. Unless it is particularly relevant, there is no need to write about the companies that own each brand or operator.

All brand names should be written as they appear in the Brands section, which should itself reflect the name as it is written by the respective brand in their small print (usually with a capital letter at the start even if they don't use one). This causes a problem with drive thrus, as most brands are inconsistent. You should use mixed case if you're calling it Costa Drive Thru (brand name), or lower case if you're talking about a drive thru Costa.

When talking about history, it's acceptable to use an old stylised version of the brand name as it would have been at the time. 'Roadchef' is currently stylised like that but used to have two capitals.

If a brand name is stylised with an ampersand (&) or a full stop (.), it may be necessary to work around this to stop it breaking the website. What they call M&S Simply Food we sometimes have to call Marks and Spencer Simply Food - this is OK.

When we name templates, we need to be careful to ensure it does what people expect. Template:KFC prompts Template:KFC Drive Thru. This means if someone searches for KFC it will include drive thrus in the result, rather than making them search twice. Think about this with other brand names that have different versions, for example "Waitrose" and "Little Waitrose" - we load them under the same template because most people think they are the same.


This website is not interested in politics, so shouldn't have an implied preference for Northern Ireland's political status. Where a decision is required, Northern Irish services should be filed with the UK.

There is no country called Republic of Ireland. "Ireland" alone should be used, qualified by "(Republic of)" or "(island)" if clarification is required.


Units should generally be given in imperial for UK pages, and metric for Irish pages, with a conversion provided where appropriate. This is not necessary if you're quoting an old document.

Other Grammar

Use of apostrophes ("Fortes's") and a/an ("an MSA") should be whatever is easiest to read. This can vary by accent, so we may never agree. They shouldn't be needed for clarity ("10's").

Numbers 1-9 should be written as words, unless they're mixed with larger numbers. Try to avoid starting sentences with numbers. Try not to start every sentence with the same word (it's very easy to do this with dates!).

Full stops should be avoided in company names ("Ltd."), because it makes it hard to read.

Font Style

Bold text and italics should be used sparingly to draw attention to important key words.

Links should be included where a new topic is introduced, or where further information is likely to be useful. The link title should be relevant and helpful, and contain the full noun referred to (for example, if the sentence said "Stafford services southbound", the whole item should be part of the link). Redirects are made available for convenience, however, redirects put unnecessary strain on the server and should be avoided in links wherever practical.

External links should only be included in prose if they add something: generally a brand we have no information on, or evidence of something controversial. Regular sources should be put in the edit summary, rather than the text.

Pages should be broken up with headings. Two headings next to each other should be avoided wherever possible. The use of capitals in headings should be appropriate and consistent across the page.

Database Pages

It's important to strike a balance between consistency and tidiness. All pages in each category should be in a similar style, for instance, all the motorway service area pages should have the same headings in the same order (Facilities, Parking Prices, Contact Details, Trivia and History, Alternatives, Visitor Feedback), with additional map and gallery pages.

When dealing with smaller services, it would look ridiculous if there were lots of sections and each one had no content. In this case, it is acceptable to omit the empty sections, and to move the headings around to fit (for instance moving the trivia to the introduction). One empty section for the sake of consistency is OK.

Every page should have an introduction, a photo which uses {{#setmainphoto: and either Category:UK only or Category:Ireland, assuming it's not in both. Be aware that many templates assign these automatically. 'Set main image' (normally the infobox image) should be a photo which summarises the page; where possible it should be clear, distinctive and interesting - not necessarily the newest, so long as it's still representative.

All pages should have relevant pictures floating to the right, normally size 250px with a caption and alternative text, although they may be resized to fit. Avoid having too many pictures for the text.

Where an external map link is required for directions, this should be to Google Maps UK for the UK and Google Maps IE for Ireland. Ideally, the map should be focused on the entry road, and not any particular facility.

We now no longer list survey results, only the most interesting ones.


Long trivia sections may be annexed to another page, such as a History: section. In this case the heading should become "Trivia and Design" to avoid confusion.

There is no point leaving space for ratings and reviews if nobody is going to use it. But equally, people won't use it if it's not there. To decide what should be included means looking at other pages of a similar importance, and the page views.

Which services qualify for inclusion is a touchy subject, discussed at MSO:Criteria.


A detailed guide to the phrases used in the facilities section can be found at Help:Facilities.

Alternative Services

Alternative services should be included if they are less than 70 miles or 100km away, and are the nearest services along that route which meet that criteria. "M1" should be included in the brackets if you'd need to join a new road; "M1 west" if you'd need to pick a direction; and "westbound" if it is on one side of the road only. We should generally include everything up to the next fully accessible, equivalent facility, on any route that people are reasonably likely to take.

"none nearby" can be given as an answer, as well as "start of road" or "end of road" and "none". The italics are added automatically.

Proposed Services

Services which are under construction or otherwise likely to be built can use Template:Services with |type = planned.

Services which are merely proposals which need to make it through the planning system should use Template:Planned. If they fail, they should go into the table at the bottom of the relevant Unbuilt Services page.


Roads normally run north-to-south or west-to-east. Where different journeys might look at it differently, you can use "north-west"/"NW". But don't overdo it.

For example: the M6 is a north-to-south motorway with a significant lurch to the east, so saying "south-eastbound" for that final section is fine. Using it for the bendy section around Stoke-on-Trent is just being pedantic. People taking the M3 out of London could be convinced they are going either west or south, so "south-west" is fine. But where the A55 eastbound takes a big dip to get around the Dee Estuary, saying that it's a south-eastbound road will just confuse the many readers who are using it on their journey north.

In the case of the M25, M42 and M60, directions should be given relative to that particular section.

Maps and Directions

On the main services infobox, coordinates should point to the main amenity building, or in between if there are two.

On the directions page, coordinates should point to each entry slip road.

When listing "nearby locations", each place should usually get more significant as you get further away, starting with the nearest settlement and ending no more than 70 miles or 100km. Distances are measured by road from any exit point. You can also include some airports, ferry terminals, shopping centres, theme parks, zoos and other tourist attractions, but don't get carried away: try to consider how popular they actually are, whether they are close enough to a city that's already listed, and whether we're dealing with a truckstop or a service area. Try to avoid brand names: if the place is well known by its local name, or named after a village that is close by, use that.

Map layers can be compared at Template talk:Map. Each template should use the best style for the job (while respecting usage limits).

Brand Pages

In general, brand pages are only interested in that company/brand's appearance at motorway services. It may be worth breaking away from this to introduce the company, and if they are a roadside brand it would be sensible to mention that they've branched out to sites away from services, but mostly this should be avoided as we are, after all, a site about service stations.

On a brand page, the 'introduction' may be broken in to headings to tell the full story, so long as it is relevant to service areas. There is no need to give too much detail for brands that aren't closely related to roads.

"Operator" is a special type of brand that develops and runs whole service areas. Anything else is just a "Brand". In Ireland, "Brands" and "Operators" are happily mixed, as there are so few operators.

There is benefit in keeping brand page names as short as possible, and grouping together sub-brands. In other words, Starbucks, Starbucks Drive Thru, Starbucks On The Go, and other franchises are all covered by the Starbucks page. Sainsbury's Local and Sainsbury's On The Go should both be listed under Sainsbury's - even though the two didn't exist at the same time, we're still talking about them both. "Waitrose & Partners" is listed under Waitrose and "Arlo's Pantry and Kitchen" is listed under Arlo's, because their full names are lengthy and there's no benefit to using them. This is fine so long as we use the correct name in all the links and in the |name = part of the infobox. We debate page names over at MSO:Contentious Names.

In most cases we spell a brand name exactly as they write it in legal text. Don't use all-lower case styling in text (and avoid all-capitals, unless it stands for something). "Drive Thru" only needs to be in mixed case if it's part of the name - ie, if they call themselves "KFC Drive Thru" - if you're just describing the type of building that it is, then it should be in lower case.

Brand Locations

The list of locations (titled "Locations") should start with a brief summary, such as "This brand can be found at most Moto service areas". Where available, a map should be linked to, but this is only needed if there are already a number of sites. An alphabetised list of bullet points then follows.

Brand lists may be broken up by headings in an appropriate order, but there is no point using a heading with only one item under it. There's nothing wrong with one TRSA being included in an MSA list. Each heading should be followed by a summary, especially for A-road services, where people are prone to thinking branches which aren't part of a signposted TRSA will be included.

For operators, there should be a heading for proposed and unbuilt services, however not for brands where it is a big deal. That information can be included in the narrative if necessary.

Each location should be followed by the road's number. Generally start with the most important road that this service area is signposted from, and then list any other high-speed roads that this junction serves, in decreasing importance. Don't include motorways that pass the service area without any signs. Example: * [[Newark]] (A46/A17) For former brands, write this as it would have been when it closed.

If either the services or facility is only accessible on one side of the road, the annotation "(eastbound only)" (in italics) should be used. If it's only signposted in one direction but very easily accessible in both, it's probably best to leave that out.

Some brands give all their branches different names. We normally only give the 'official' name that we use on this website, with a few exceptions for brands which are synonymous with motorways. So for KFC we list each branch by the name of the MSA, but for Little Chef we made an exception and listed each branch under the name Little Chef used.

Sites which are not part of a fully signposted service area - even if it has a page in this database - should not be included here. This is so we don't have to answer the question "why is this branch included but not that one". An exception is made for a few brands that are very closely associated with motorways, in which case we are the best place to list every branch and the road they were aiming to serve; any of their branches that weren't a service area should be listed without a road.

Additional information may be included next to one of the listed branches, so long as this is only done once or twice.

Former Locations

If the brand isn't at any services any more, the introduction should make it clear that it "used to be found at". There is no need to change the heading title. The appropriate category should be used too.

If the services have since changed name, the name used at the time may be given. Alternatively, the name used by the restaurant or hotel chain may be given, so long as a link to the "real" services page is included.

There is no need to clarify whether it is "(eastbound only)" or not - it doesn't matter if it's not there any more. If you do want to specify which building it was in, edit the link text.

We should make sure the text is clear whether the brand is completely withdrawn, or just removed from the motorways. If the latter we still regard it as a former brand, but the text should be in the present text.

Ratings and Reviews

If the brand is also the main operator of the service area being listed, the bullet point should be followed by the rating, if available.

Current operators may have a star-rating in the infobox, and both operators and brands may have reviews included at the bottom. In both cases, it depends on whether the page is likely to attract many comments or ratings.


See also: MSO:Contentious Names

We always use the name that is used on the official road signs, exactly as it is written.

If the road signs don't give it a name, things get complicated. We consider official planning documents, OS and A-Z mapping, the Royal Mail directory, and each facility's website, giving preference to the forecourt operator over other facilities. If a name is written anywhere around the site (usually on the forecourt sales shop), then that should be strongly considered too. We need to think about what name the average passer-by who might be searching for information would know it by. A judgement call that bares all this in mind is then needed.

Stafford and Sedgemoor

Stafford and Sedgemoor are listed twice on this site, because the two sides are physically different (unlike Tebay where the two sides are apart but very similar). We could do the same with any A-road service area where the two sides are totally different - but only if there's enough content to justify making two pages!

When linking to Stafford or Sedgemoor, it works like this:

  • If we're talking about a brand which is on both sides of the road, call the links "Stafford (North)" or "Stafford (South)" with no need to say that it's north or southbound only. This gives us two links for two branches.
  • If we're talking about a current brand which is only on one side of the road, call the link "Stafford (northbound only)" - this stresses that it's only one side of the road, and matches the rest of the lists.
  • If we're talking about a former brand which was only on one side of the road, call the link "Stafford northbound" - this makes it obvious which building we're talking about, and matches the rest of the lists.
  • If we're talking about the next service area on the road, it's probably best to just link to "Stafford", and let the next page do the work. This keeps it tidy.

The reason the page was saved as "Stafford (North)" was thanks to an old Highways Agency document which said this. We have since learned that nobody else calls it that, but we needed something to separate it from the other side. As it happens, Moto have recently taken to calling it "Stafford North"!