The perfect stub article

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Let's say that you want to start adding in a bunch of stub articles on various subjects. So what guidelines would you follow in order to create the perfect stub article?

  1. Add a link to your stub from requested articles.
  2. Give a clear, precise definition (or description--see below) of your topic. Make the first sentence a full sentence, which repeats the topic title in bold. See fallacies of definition if you're not sure what constitutes a good definition. But make sure that your topic (and therefore your definition) is one on which we are going to want an actual encyclopedia article. In other words, bear in mind that Wikipedia is not a dictionary. There are probably only two (closely-related) sorts of article that will consist of just a definition. First, jargon. In some cases it will be fine and quite useful to include just a definition of some jargon, where the substantive issues surrounding that piece of jargon are discussed elsewhere. For example, I might define a priori in the a priori article, and then put pointers to a priori truth and a priori knowledge articles, where the real content about the topic will exist. Second, pointer pages. The other sort of acceptable "definition-only" article would be a pointer page, consisting of a list of several divergent senses of a word, each defined on the page, and each definition followed by a pointer to an article where the topic, in that sense, is discussed in more depth. On such a pointer page, by the way, there is rarely any good reason to list senses of the word or phrase if those senses are not the subjects of encyclopedia articles.
  3. For biographies and articles about non-concepts (e.g., about countries and cities), definitions are impossible; so begin with a clear, helpful, informative description of the thing, e.g., what he person is famous for, where a place is and what known for, the basic details of an event and when it happened, etc.
  4. Do not simply repeat the title in the article, except as part of a full sentence. The article already has a title, at the top of the page.
  5. Give more than just a definition--at least a little more. Write at least a sentence, giving a few more details about why the person is important, what role a concept plays in a field of study, some important details about a historical event (or some of its important consequences), etc. Why should this be considered important? It's very reasonable to think that it is important to the psychology of Wikipedia that we all understand ourselves as not writing articles that simply identify people, events, and concepts, in a very basic way, but that actually give details, "empirical facts," content. That tiny extra bit of content is very important, psychologically speaking, because every time it is written, or read by another contributor, it makes it clear that the project is indeed eventually going to be about going deep into all these subjects.
  6. Follow the standards of proper English. Write in full, clear sentences.
  7. Be accurate. Say things that are true, not false.
  8. Be unbiased.
  9. Make sure any relevant linkable words have been linked. But be careful about which words you link to; see naming conventions.
  10. Optional: leave something undone, or even ask a question (often, italicized) in the article for others to answer.

For most of us, these aren't hard rules to follow; it just requires a bit of extra time and concentration. And it is possible to follow these guidelines without writing a treatise. Generally, for the shortest of Perfect Stubs, two sentences will do fine--as long as they're two good sentences.

On the other hand, you can always ignore these guidelines entirely, and someone will probably fix the article for you! That's the beauty of a wiki.

I agree completely with all of these aspects, but sometimes I come across a page that a) is completely blank, and b) I know absolutely nothing about. So... I put the word stub in. My reasons for this are that at any point I can use th search engine to search on "stub" and hence find out what stub articles are around. I can then choose one to fix. -- ManningBartlett

This is surely very confusing to new readers; I recommend against this practice. We should bear them in mind whenever we work on very short or otherwise totally inadequate articles. Imagine you came across Wikipedia for the first time, went to an alleged article about your favorite topic, and just found the word "stub." In Magnus's wiki, there's an automatic stub lister. --LMS

I agree with LMS. I was putting this on pages: [[The perfect stub article|Stub]], creating a link to this page like so: Stub. I still think there needs to be some way in the article to acknowledge that the article is a less-than-perfect (or even a perfect) stub. A stub is still a stub. Sigh. I look forward to the rollover to Magnus' software. When did you say that would be? :-) <>< tbc

If I can suggest - put in a placeholder for the history of the subject. One of the great weaknesses of wikipedia currently is that (often) there's no history of a viewpoint - also one of the best ways to encourage NPOV is to detail the history of a viewpoint and thus implicitly give the reasoning behind it rather than exposit it on the reader wholesale, which often appears biased.- Iwnbap

I suggest that the perfect stub should usually include a link back to the referring page. This might not be relevant in all cases, but it would provide browsers and editors with a measure of context. -- Cayzle