There are two types of talk pages - standard talk pages are used to discuss an article, whilst user talk pages are used to communicate with other users or leave them messages. Every page has an associated talk page, except pages in the Special: namespace. If there is no discussion of a page, the link to its talk page will be red. You can still discuss the page - you will just be the first person to do so.
Accessing a talk page
To access a talk page look for a link labelled Talk, Discussion or Discuss this page. These links will be found either at the top of the page or on the left hand side (near Edit this page).
A talk page adds Talk: to the beginning of the main page's title. If the main page has a prefix then talk is added after this prefix. For example, a talk page associated with the main article namespace simply has the prefix Talk:, while a talk page associated with the user namespace has the prefix User talk:. This article is in the Help: namespace, so the talk page for this article is Help talk:Talk page. The Main Page is in the main namespace (because it has no prefix), so its talk page is simply Talk:Main Page.
After someone else edits your user talk page, the alert "You have new messages" is automatically displayed on all pages you view, until you view your user page.
Using talk pages
You should sign your contributions by typing three or four tildes (~~~ = Username)
(~~~~ = Username 19:36, 10 January 2006 (UTC)). See Help:Automatic conversion of wikitext.
On a talk page, "this page" usually refers to the main page (i.e. the page the talk page is associated with). If the talk page itself is referred to, write "this talk page".
When debating the name of the page or discussing merging it with another page, always mention the current page name. Otherwise after renaming (moving) a page, references to "this page name" become ambiguous.
The "Post a comment" feature allows you to start a new section without needing to edit the whole page. The section header becomes the edit summary when you save the page, so it only needs to be typed once.
The practice of "spamming" - posting similar messages to more than a few users' talk pages, often for the purpose of soliciting a certain action - is discouraged.
Because the wiki software platform provides for a wide range of formatting styles, proper or at least consistent formatting is essential to maintaining readable talk pages.
The reference of a comment is determined by the number of colons (':') in front of it. If a reply is made to a statement, one adds a colon to the number of colons used in the statement being replied to. This style of conversation is easy to read.
How's the soup? --[[Bob]]
The above will produce this:
How's the soup? --Bob