Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Stand-alone lists

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For the style guidelines, see: WP:Lists and WP:Embedded list; for the main topic list, see: Wikipedia's contents: Lists of topics. For the requirements for a stand-alone article, see WP:Notability

Stand-alone lists (also referred to as list articles) are articles composed of one or more embedded lists, or series of items formatted into a list. Most, but not all, stand-alone lists identify their content's format in their titles, beginning with descriptors such as "list of", "timeline of", or similar.

Being articles, stand-alone lists are subject to Wikipedia's content policies, such as verifiability, no original research, neutral point of view, and what Wikipedia is not, as well as the notability guidelines.

A well-written lead section is of particular importance to stand-alone lists that feature little or no prose in their article body.

Lead[edit]

Stand-alone lists should begin with a lead section that summarizes its content, provides any necessary background information, gives encyclopedic context, links to other relevant articles, and makes direct statements about the criteria by which members of the list were selected, unless inclusion criteria are unambiguously clear from the article title. Even when the selection criteria might seem obvious to some, an explicit standard is often helpful to others, and reduces the tendency to include trivial or off-topic entries. The lead section can also be used to explain the structure of embedded lists in the article body when no better location suggests itself.

General formatting[edit]

There are a number of formats, both generalized and specialized, that are currently used on Wikipedia, for list articles.

  1. Alphabetized lists or indexes, such as Wikipedia:WikiProject Mathematics/List of mathematics articles (0-9) and Index of economics articles, as well as simple alphabetized lists without letter subheadings.
  2. Annotated lists, such as List of business theorists, and List of bicycle manufacturing companies.
  3. Chronological lists, such as Deaths in 2007 and List of winners and shortlisted authors of the Booker Prize for Fiction. (Lists whose titles begin with "timeline of" are always chronological.)
  4. Sortable lists, which are formatted as tables, such as List of social networking websites.
  5. Subheading-structured lists (i.e., categorized or hierarchical lists), such as List of cat breeds, Lists of mathematics topics and Lists of philosophers.

Specialized list articles[edit]

  1. Glossaries, such as Glossary of philosophy and Glossary of pinball terms, where the annotations are definitions of the list's entries. Wiktionary is also compiling glossaries (in Appendix: namespace), and glossaries found on Wikipedia should best be transwikied to wikt:Category:Glossaries.
  2. Timelines, using the timeline syntax, such as Timeline of architectural styles and Graphical timeline of the Big Bang. Most "timeline of" list articles do not use this specialized type of timeline syntax.

Selection criteria[edit]

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Selection criteria should be unambiguous, objective, and supported by reliable sources. In cases where the membership criteria are subjective or likely to be disputed (for example, lists of unusual things or terrorist incidents), membership criteria should be based on reliable sources.

When establishing membership criteria for a list, ask yourself:

  • If this person/thing/etc., wasn't an X, would it reduce their fame or significance?
  • Would I expect to see this person or thing on a list of X?
  • Is this person or thing a canonical example of some facet of X?

Common selection criteria[edit]

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  1. Every entry meets the notability criteria for its own non-redirect article in the English Wikipedia. Red-linked entries are acceptable if the entry is verifiably a member of the listed group, and it is reasonable to expect an article could be forthcoming in the future. This standard prevents Wikipedia from becoming an indiscriminate list, and prevents individual lists from being too large to be useful to readers. Many of the best lists on Wikipedia reflect this type of editorial judgment.
  2. Every entry in the list fails the notability criteria. These lists are created explicitly because most or all of the listed items do not warrant independent articles: for example, List of minor characters in Dilbert or List of paracetamol brand names.
  3. Short, complete lists of every item that is verifiably a member of the group. These should only be created if a complete list is reasonably short (less than 32K) and could be useful (e.g., for navigation) or interesting to readers. The inclusion of items must be supported by reliable sources. For example, if reliable sources indicate that a complete list would include the names of ten notable businesses and two non-notable businesses, then you are not required to omit the two non-notable businesses. However, if a complete list would include hundreds of entries, then you should use the notability standard to provide focus to the list.

"Creation guide" lists—lists devoted to a large number of redlinked (unwritten) articles—don't belong in the main namespace. Write these in your userspace, or in a Wikiproject's space, or list the missing articles at Wikipedia:Requested articles.

Titles [edit]

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Standard practice is to entitle list articles as List of ___ (for example list of Xs). A list of lists of X could be at either Lists of X or at List of X: e.g., Lists of people, List of sovereign states. However, if the purpose of the list of lists is purely navigational in character (ie a list designed to aid readers in finding other lists), it is suggested that Index of lists of X might be more appropriate. If (as is often the case), the list has multiple columns and so is in layout table form, the name or title List of Xs is still preferable to Table of Xs or Comparison of Xs (though the latter may be appropriate for articles that are actual tables of data comparing numerous features, e.g. Comparison of Linux distributions). For multi-page lists (a.k.a. "long lists"), see Wikipedia:Naming conventions (long lists).

The title is not expected to contain a complete description of the list's subject. Many lists are not intended to contain every possible member, but this does not need to be explained in the title itself. For example, the correct choice is List of people from the Isle of Wight, not List of people who were born on or strongly associated with the Isle of Wight and about whom Wikipedia has an article. Instead, the detailed criteria for inclusion should be described in the lead, and a reasonably concise title should be chosen for the list. Best practice is usually to avoid words like notable, famous, noted, prominent, etc. in the title of a list article. Similarly, avoid titles like List of all Xs.

  • People: People by nationality are either List of Finns or Lists of French people, preferring List of ___ people. United States folk are a special case: List of United States people redirects to Lists of Americans which contains, amongst other things, lists by US state. (Special treatment is necessary because American is ambiguous.) Note, however, that lists of people organized by individual city should be at List of people from [city], rather than List of [city] people. In all relevant lists, people is far preferred to alternatives such as persons or individuals.
  • Language: Poets and authors listed by language are at, for example List of German-language poets (see List of poets for the list-of-lists of them).
  • Fiction and real life: List of fictional dogs is a list of fictional creatures, whereas List of individual dogs is a list with real-life examples. Note that the lead section of both lists explains what their contents are.

Set index articles do not need to be titled with list of unless there is also a disambiguation page using that title. For example, Dodge Charger is a list of cars named Dodge Charger, but does not need to be titled List of cars named Dodge Charger. However, since Signal Mountain is a disambiguation page, the related set index article is at List of peaks named Signal Mountain.

Chronological ordering[edit]

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Chronological lists, including all timelines and lists of works, should be in earliest-to-latest chronological order. Special cases which specifically require frequent daily additions, such as Deaths in 2014, may use reverse chronological order for temporary convenience, although these articles should revert to non-reverse order when the article has stabilized, such as Deaths in 2003.

Appropriate topics for lists[edit]

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The potential for creating lists is infinite. The number of possible lists is limited only by our collective imagination. To keep the system of lists useful, we must limit the size and topic of lists.

Lists that are too general or too broad in scope have little value, unless they are split into sections. For example a list of brand names would be far too long to be of value. If you have an interest in listing brand names, try to limit the scope in some way (by product category, by country, by date, etc.). This is best done by sectioning the general page under categories. When entries in a category have grown enough to warrant a fresh list-article, they can be moved out to a new page, and be replaced by a See [[new list]] link. When all categories become links to lists, the page becomes a list repository or "List of lists" and the entries can be displayed as a bulleted list. For reference see Lists of people, which is made up of specific categorical lists.

Lists that are too specific are also a problem. The "list of one-eyed horse thieves from Montana" will be of little interest to anyone (except the person making the list).

Some Wikipedians feel that some topics are unsuitable by virtue of the nature of the topic. Following the policy spelled out in What Wikipedia is not, they feel that some topics are trivial, non-encyclopedic, or not related to human knowledge. If you create a list like the "list of shades of colors of apple sauce", be prepared to explain why you feel this list contributes to the state of human knowledge.

Lists of people[edit]

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A person may be included in a list of people if all the following requirements are met:

  • The person meets the Wikipedia notability requirement. An exception to this requirement may be made if the person is famous for a specific event, the notability requirement need not be met. If a person in a list does not have a Wikipedia article about them, a citation (or link to another article) must be provided to: a) establish their membership in the list's group; and b) to establish their notability on either BLP1E or BIO1E.
  • The person's membership in the list's group is established by reliable sources.

Special care must be taken when adding living persons to lists based on religion or on sexual orientation. For further information, see Wikipedia's policy on biographical information about living people, in particular the category/list policy for living persons. There is an editnotice available for lists of people: {{Editnotice for lists of people}}.

Lists of companies and organizations[edit]

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A company or organization may be included in a list of companies or organizations whether or not it meets the Wikipedia notability requirement, unless a given list specifically requires this. If the company or organization does not have an existing article in Wikipedia, a citation to an independent, reliable source should be provided to establish its membership in the list's group.

Lists of lists[edit]

Wikipedia has many list of lists articles (see List of lists of lists). On lists of lists, nonexistent lists should not be included. That is, all the links in a "lists of lists" should be active (blue, not red).

Lists of lists should also be available as alphabetical categories. Put lists that have actual content in one of the subcategories under Category:Lists.

Lists of words[edit]

Some lists of words – glossaries, as opposed to lists of notable entities – may be better suited to Wiktionary, in accordance with Wikipedia is not a dictionary, particularly if it is just a list of words, with little comment. Some lists can yield an encyclopedic page, such as List of English words containing Q not followed by U, the condition being that notable secondary sources for the topic can be cited.

Glossaries (annotated topical lists) have historically been compiled on Wikipedia. The condition is that the topic of the glossary in question can be established as notable within Wikipedia's usual criteria (WP:N). Glossaries that do not meet Wikipedia's notability criteria should be migrated to Wiktionary's wikt:Category:Glossaries.

Categories, lists and navigation templates[edit]

As useful as lists are, certain lists may get out of date quickly; for these types of subjects, a category may be a more appropriate method of organization. See Wikipedia:Categorization and Wikipedia:Categories, lists, and navigation templates for more information on the appropriate times to use lists versus categories.

Taxonomic links[edit]

For many genera there may be a considerable number of species. For the smaller genera a taxobox may suffice but for the more speciose including genera such as Anopheles it is probably better to move these into their own page. The bulk of the page will be taken up by the list. Such lists do qualify as encyclopedic: for many of these genera there are specialized monographs to assist in the identification of these species.

Citing sources[edit]

Stand-alone lists are subject to Wikipedia's content policies and guidelines for articles, including verifiability and citing sources. This means statements should be sourced where they appear, they must provide inline citations if they contain any of the four kinds of material absolutely required to have citations.

When an inline citation is not required by a sourcing policy and editors choose to name more sources than strictly required, then either general references or inline citations may be used. It is generally expected that obviously appropriate material, such as the inclusion of Apple in the List of fruits, will not be supported by any type of reference.

Bulleted and numbered lists[edit]

  • Do not use lists if a passage is read easily as plain paragraphs.
  • Use proper wikimarkup- or template-based list code (see WP:Manual of Style/Lists and Help:List).
  • Do not leave blank lines between items in a bulleted or numbered list unless there is a reason to do so, since this causes the Wiki software to interpret each item as beginning a new list.
  • Use numbers rather than bullets only if:
    • a need to refer to the elements by number may arise;
    • the sequence of the items is critical; or
    • the numbering has some independent meaning, for example in a listing of musical tracks.
  • Use the same grammatical form for all elements in a list, and do not mix sentences and sentence fragments as elements.
    • When the elements are complete sentences, each one is formatted with sentence case (i.e., the initial letter is capitalized) and a final period.
    • When the elements are sentence fragments, the list is typically introduced by a lead fragment ending with a colon. When these elements are titles of works, they retain the original capitalization of the titles. Other elements are formatted consistently in either sentence case or lower case. Each element should end with a semicolon, with a period instead for the last element. Alternatively (especially when the elements are short), no final punctuation is used at all.

Lists and the "Related changes" link[edit]

A very useful Wikipedia feature is to use the "Related changes" link when on a list page. This will show you all the changes made to the links contained in the list. If the page has a link to itself, this feature will also show you the changes made to the list itself.

See also[edit]