Naming conventions

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This page is a list of general policies on how to name pages. Most important to read are the first few sections: Free Links, Simplicity, Precision, Capitalization, and Pluralization.

The purpose of these policies is to make creating new pages with appropriate links easier. When writing Wiki pages on any subject, names, words, or phrases that you think should be linked to further information should be bracketed so that they will appear as links. Following consistent naming conventions makes it more likely that these links will lead to the right place.

Use Free Links

We should be using the new Free Links style of linking. There might be a few links where it will seem more appropriate to retain the old-style links (e.g., WikiWiki), but for the main content, there is no reason not to consistently use free linking. The old style of links are just a little silly-looking for an encyclopedia.

Lowercase second and subsequent words

For multiword pages there are two different styles of capitalization: capitalize only the first word, or capitalize all of them except articles and prepositions. For names of works obviously the latter should be used, but for everything else both systems are being employed. Notice: when you create a link with the first letter of the link uncapitalized, like this, the first letter of the target page is capitalized. So like this points to Like_this. In future versions of the Wiki software, this will occur with all words, including the first word of a subpage name; but for now these letters are case-sensitive so pay close attention to the conventions: subpages (like "/Talk") currently begin with an uppercase letter--please preserve this standard.

I (Larry Sanger) am strongly in favor of leaving as many things uncapitalized as is appropriate. If we capitalize words within a page title, then whenever we want to link (quickly and easily) to that page, we must capitalize the page title. But this results in grammatically incorrect sentences, which is jarring. For example, I would much rather write "Good on potato chips is clam dip" (which points to Clam_dip; see above) than "Good on potato chips is Clam Dip" which makes it sound like I'm talking about the god of clam dip, or something. We switched to Free Links so we could avoid this sort of jarring situation. Another example: philosophical doctrines are usually lower case: direct realism. If we title a page Direct Realism, then whenever anyone wants to link (quickly and easily) to that page, he'll have to use the words "Direct Realism" capitalized--which might force him into a capitalization style that is uncommon and annoying.

Most names of doctrines shouldn't be capitalized. Most jargon should not be capitalized. Most long phrases (e.g., Ich bin ein Berliner; the most remarkable formula in the world) shouldn't contain capitalized words.

This topic has its own page. See Wiki Canonization.

Prefer singular nouns

Let's say you were writing a page about crayons. Should you call the page crayons, which is basically what the page is about, or crayon, which makes it easier to link to from passages like "Harold took out his purple crayon and drew up the covers"? Probably the latter. One can always write crayons, but if the page is called crayons, then whenever one wants to use the term in the singular, one is forced into typing the ungainly crayon. (If you didn't understand the latter link, you need to read this: How does one edit a page?)

Use common names of persons

As to names of persons, there are two schools of thought: use the most commonly used name, or use the person's full name. After a vote among those interested, we've come down in favor of the former. Names of persons should be the most commonly used name for the following reasons:

  • We want to maximize the likelihood of being listed in other search engines, thereby attracting more people to Wikipedia. Also, the Jimmy Carter page has the string "Jimmy Carter" in the page title. This is important because other search engines will often give greater weight to the contents of the title than to the body of the page. Since "Jimmy Carter" is the most common form of the name, it will be searched on more often, and having that exact string in our page title will often mean our page shows up higher in other search engines.
  • We want to maximize the incidence of accidental links.
  • Using full formal names requires, if one wants to link directly to the article, both that people know the full formal name and that they type it out, both of which are a royal pain. If one links to a redirection page, there's the messy "redirected from" announcement at the top of the page.

Examples of common names that should be used instead of formal names are: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Mozart, Bach, Goethe. Middle names should be avoided unless they are the most common form of a name. Names with initials should have spaces after each period as in normal English text, for example, H. G. Wells.

Use simple titles

Remember that a link is the title of the page it links to. Titles should be as simple as possible without being too general. For example, the page about jazz should simply be called "Jazz", not "Jazz music", because "jazz" does not refer to anything other than music, and the simpler title makes linking easier. Adding the word "music" is redundant. On the other hand, country music should be on a page called Country music because the word "country" has other referents besides the musical genre. If we ignore potential ambiguity, the ideal of simplicity can be at odds with the ideal of precision: see below.

Prefer spelled-out phrases to acronyms

Whether the acronym or the spelled-out phrase is preferable in many particular cases is debatable, but this can work itself out with the #REDIRECT new page name command. For instance, DMCA and Digital Millennium Copyright Act have oscillated as to which is primary and which page redirects. Other less controversial pairs are MPAA versus Motion Picture Association of America and IMDb versus Internet Movie Database. Usage in the language is also a factor. Radar is an acronym, but spelling it out only obfuscates the meaning. WYSIWYG is a newer example of an acronym that's crept into English usage on its own (Rowan and Martin notwithstanding :-).

Discussion of this continues, though.

Be precise when necessary

Please, do not write or put an article on a page with an ambiguously-named title as though that title had no other meanings!

It's very important that we name our article titles precisely. If a word or phrase is highly ambiguous, and your article concerns only one of the meanings of that word or phrase, you should probably--not in all cases, but in many--use something more precise than just that word or phrase. So what should we call our articles when the title we want is ambiguous? This is a problem that is important for all Wikipedians to understand. There are a number of solutions; the appropriate solution in any case cannot be determined automatically, it seems. Finer-grained applications of these solutions, applied to individual subject matters, should appear further down on this page (or on appropriate subpages).

  1. More precise titles: In many cases, the most appropriate method will be simply to rename the articles with a more precise title, reserving the more general and obvious title for the central meaning of a word or phrase. For example, the central meaning of "Apollo" is the ancient Greek sun god; an article about the Apollo space program or about individual Apollo missions, for example, should probably be called "Apollo space program" and "Apollo 13" or whatever along those lines is appropriate. On the "Apollo" page, of course, one can always link to other pages that use "Apollo" in the title; see just below. For discussion of how to do this, see /Disambiguating.
  2. Central links pages: One general solution to the problem of ambiguous names would be to have the central page, for example pipe be simply a pointer page to the pages that a person might be looking for: smoking pipe, plumbing pipe, bagpipes. In this way, accidental linking still works, although a person will have to detour through the central page. Of course, this isn't always the most appropriate solution; often, a word or phrase does have one central meaning, in which case the article should concern that meaning and then link to other, secondary meanings either on more precisely-named pages (see above) or on subpages (see below).
  3. Central pages with subpages: It is entirely possible to make subpages of pages (see our editing instructions). For example, on a page about horses, one might make a /Breaking subpage to discuss horse-breaking. Alternatively, one might simply have a page called "Horse breaking". But be careful when choosing this option. Make sure that the subtopic is always or nearly always considered in the context of the main topic. For example, I might want to make a subpage of Jimmy Carter about his election: Jimmy Carter/Election. But bear in mind, there was another candidate in the 1976 U.S. presidential election--more generally, not everything about the 1976 election is properly considered in the context of Jimmy Carter's election. If I just want to link to an article about daffodils, I shouldn't have to know their exact place in the tree of life.
Notice! (the above needs to be appropriately edited...) I think we've discussed subpages quite a bit--certainly enough to air the issues and give people a chance to state their views and change their minds--and in view of this, I've decided to get rid of them.
Let me explain this decision--I'm done arguing for it, but of course you are owed an explanation, since the issue has been very controversial.
Examining the various pages on which people have discussed them, it seems there is at least a majority of people in favor of getting rid of them or who are amenable to the idea of getting rid of them. I think it's pretty important, although perhaps not absolutely essential in every case, that we at least not contradict majority opinion, when a consensus cannot be arrived at. The majority includes many old hands who have had more experience with the problems associated with subpages than some of their newer advocates, which I also think is important. Finally, and probably as importantly as anything else, my well considered opinion is that the arguments in favor of getting rid of them are much, much stronger than the arguments in favor of keeping them. I predict yer gonna thank me in a year. (Maybe not all of you. :-) ) --Larry Sanger

Use English words

I have so far been stubborn about keeping names in their original language. I think it is time for me to give in to the language origin of the Wikipedia. For clarity I will formulate this resignation here. LinusTolke

Name your pages in English! If you are talking about a person, country, town, movie or book use the most used English version of the name for the article (as you would find in other encyclopedias). If you want, you could have an alias for the name of the person in his language, country or town in the there spoken language, original title or the movie or book stating what language it is in and where the actual information is (the article). Example Sweden Sverige.

Only use numbers for years

In my opinion, numbers as page names should only be used for Year in Review entries. So call it Form 1040, not 1040, and Intel 386, not 386. That way, if we ever want to add a page about what happened in the year 1040 or the year 386, we won't have a collision with the other uses of numbers. -- Simon J Kissane

Other specific conventions

Movie titles

Some movie titles describe other things about which we want articles. For example, An American in Paris describes both a Gershwin musical piece and a movie, and Dune is a geological term, a novel, a movie, and a made-for-cable miniseries.

I propose the following solution to this problem. Where a movie title is unique or virtually unique, let the title of the article be the same as the title of the movie. But where it's the same as a subject in science, a novel, or whatever, unless the movie title is far and away the most common accepted meaning of the word or phrase, title the movie article like this: Movie Title--films. Then, in case of more than one production of the film, make subpages. (This remains to be worked out, by people who care!)

I think the movie titles solution is still suboptimal. Problem one is that it's really hard to say whether or not the movie title is the most common use, because it depends on what field of knowledge you are coming from (for example Hannibal, Matrix etc.). Problem two is that many people won't adhere to the convention and many more people will search for the movie title and not for title--film when looking for information. So I would rather make films a subdirectory of the page in question, because for the said reasons, we will have to include links to the movie pages on the "main" page anyway. I propose to change the convention from title--film to title/film with a link on the title page. --Sonic

Another possible solution that will become available when Wikipedia switches to version 0.92 of UseModWiki is to use parentheses: "Dune (movie)", "Dune (book)", etc. There is clearly a "primary" meaning here of the big sand pile, so that page should still be named just "Dune", possibly with links to the other pages. -- anonymous

I like the parentheses solution, but until it gets implemented, we could do what movie producers have been doing when registering domain names: add "the movie" to the title, e.g. Left Behind--the movie. <>< tbc

Even indicating "movie" or "film" in a title is suboptimal because of various versions of a movie or even completely different movies with the same title--for instance The Fugitive (Andrew Davis movie with Harrison Ford) versus The Fugitive (John Ford movie with John Wayne). Years don't always work for disambiguating, either, because sometimes two movies are released in the same year with the same title. I imagine policy on this will come largely on a case-by-case basis. --KQ

Philosophy

Name your pages precisely. If you want to discuss a particular version of realism, e.g., Platonic realism, then don't call your page realism; call it, e.g., Platonic realism or Platonism (though the latter, too, is ambiguous) or even just Platonic theories of universals.

Only a very few famous philosophers can be referred to by their last names. E.g., Socrates, Plato; but cf. James Mill and John Stuart Mill, or R. W. Sellars and Wilfrid Sellars. Remember that there are famous non-philosophers who might have the name in question, about whom we might eventually want to have articles! Best to do a Google search first.

Languages, both natural and programming

Programming languages should be suffixed with "programming language", and natural languages with "language". For example, Visual Basic programming language and English language.


See also: topic creation, Wikipedia commentary/Get rid of subpages entirely


Maybe others could add similar suggestions to this list, e.g., for history, literature, etc.


Okay, how do we romanize Japanese names: Hepburn, then kill long vowels?

Color or colour?

/Talk