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CZ:Naming conventions

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Revision as of 14:19, 31 July 2009 by Russell D. Jones (Talk | contribs) (Disambiguation in page titles: Royalty)

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We've got various conventions about how to name articles. Maybe most importantly, a word in an article name should be lower case and singular, unless it is consistently written in the upper case or plural (e.g. Great Britain and pants). Another important convention is that the common names for things should be used in preference to the recondite or obscure, although this may have a few exceptions. See below for details.

How to Title Articles

It is important to choose the right title for an article.

The title should describe the contents of an article accurately. If you have written an article about a topic, only to discover that your article concerns only one aspect of the topic (such as its history), then it is preferable to place your article on a more accurately-named page, to write a short article about the original topic, and then link from that short article to the new page. For example, if you were to write an article about Russia only to find that you had written exclusively about the history of Russia, then you should move your article to History of Russia, and link to that new page from a brief article about Russia on the Russia page.

Generally, prefer common names. The common names for things--if accurate--should be used in preference to the recondite or obscure (although this may have a few exceptions). For instance, you might better place an article about the 42d President of the United States at Bill Clinton rather than William Jefferson Clinton since he was known as and identified himself as Bill Clinton.

Typographical and Stylistic Rules

Prefer lowercase except when uppercase is commonly written. The article title should be lowercase.[1] A name which is typically used with title case in a normal sentence should use that form in the article title. So: love and computational complexity theory; but American Chemical Society and Mississippi River. The same applies to subheadings within articles. Aside: content policies such as this one do not necessarily apply to pages that are not in the article namespace. As it happens, most CZ policy pages, e.g. CZ:The_Author_Role, use title case.

Prefer singular. Prefer the singular form of nouns (with few exceptions). For example, prefer bear to bears. This makes articles easier and more intuitive to link to.

First name first. Unless there is a compelling reason not to, articles about people should begin with the person's first name first (e.g., Albert Einstein). Our metadata template will alphabetize the page in category listings according to the "abc" field. Fill in the "abc" field in the metadata template as abc = Einstein, Albert. This field will file the Einstein article in all categories under "E" rather than "A". (See CZ:Using the Subpages template)

Disambiguation in page titles

See also: CZ:Disambiguation

To disambiguate is to reduce ambiguity. It is occasionally necessary to place clarifying phrases within parentheses to specify which of various possible topics might be meant. There are at least two sorts of case in which this is necessary:

  • The title (i.e., the word or phrase in the title) is used in multiple ways, and the sense discussed in the article is not the most common sense. For example, there is a line of cosmetics called "Philosophy"; the article about that might live at Philosophy (cosmetics). The article about deep thought continues to live at Philosophy--no parentheses needed.
  • The title takes a common word or phrase, or what might appear to be common, and uses it in a special way. For example, "attack surface" is a term in computer science, but the words themselves could mean all sorts of things, such as the deck of an aircraft carrier or a ping-pong table. Simply to clarify that we are using the word or phrase in a special way, we include a disambiguating phrase: attack surface (software). More examples: phenomenon (Kant's philosophy); frontal scale (snakes); pissant (insect).

Note: use parentheses for disambiguating phrases. Do not use dashes, hyphens, or commas in the article title except in cases of geographical place names where the names are often written with a comma: Anchorage, Alaska.

Some titles should always be disambiguated— in particular, those titles that do not suggest any one particular sense. For example, "Georgia" is apt to bring to mind the U.S. state as much as the country in the Caucasus. Or, in any event, in the interests of neutrality, we should not pretend that any one sense is the primary one. Therefore, we should use Georgia (U.S. state) and Georgia (country), or similar, suitably unambiguous titles. What should we put at Georgia (with no parentheses)? At Georgia, we should put a "disambiguation page," i.e., a page that lists and links to the different pages with the title in question.

Similarly, royalty should be disambiguated by kingdom in parentheses. King James I should be disambiguated in the title by kingdom: James I (England), James I (Scotland), James I (Aragon).

Geographical Places

Names of geographical entities should be written in full, in title case, and without the definite article ("the"): Pacific Ocean, Red Sea, Nile River, North America. Please use the common name in English (Amazon River not "River Amazon" since the river is usually known by the former name). Generally, use the name of a geographical entity usually given by the locals if English-speaking, and most often used in English if the locals are not English-speaking (e.g., Rio Grande). In uncertain cases, some sort of disambiguation should be used in the title.

Incorrectly named articles

If you see a page which you think has been incorrectly named, look on the article's Talk: page to see if the issue has been previously discussed, and a consensus reached. If not, leave a note with your suggestion, and add the article to Category:Rename suggested (add [[Category:Rename suggested]] to the bottom of the talk page).

Special cases

Lowercase first letters

Some pages, like pH and e (mathematics), require lower case titles, which are done like this:

{{lowercase|title=pH}} at the top of the article gives the correct title form for pH
{{lowercase|title=e (mathematics}} gives the correct title form of e (mathematics).

Article titles with a "/" in them

Some pages, like 9/11 Attack, require a "/" in their titles, which for technical reasons doesn't work with our subpage system. Use {{slashtitle}}, and follow the instructions on that page.


  1. The first character is currently "forced" uppercase by our software, but the names of the articles are generally considered to be lowercase: "computer."

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