Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Biographies

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Common name, birth name and post-nominal initials[edit]

I noticed an editor making a excellent job of cleaning up bios to conform with the MOS. In one case Mark Evaloarjuk, I notice that the style guide does not give any information as to the correct format. Is the current opening correct, with the exception that "nee" should be "ne", or should it be '''Mark Evaloarjuk''' (né '''Evaluarjuk'''), [[Order of Canada|CM]] (died [[July 3]], [[2002]] By the way would it be possible to rewrite Wikipedia:Manual of Style (biographies)#Maiden names so that it applied to both women and men?

Linking name with honorific[edit]

When linking to a person who is referred to with their honorific prefix, should the full name including honorific be linked (e.g. Sir John Soane or just the name as it is in their article title (sans honorific), with the honorific present but unlinked (e.g. Sir John Soane)? Colonies Chris (talk) 15:56, 22 April 2014 (UTC)

If it makes any difference – I think it doesn't – I'd prefer the more direct link: Sir John Soane. That's personal preference, and I would never change it if I encounter a different form. I don't think we need instructions on this. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 03:23, 23 April 2014 (UTC)
Personally, I pipe, as in [[John Soane|Sir John Soane]], as I think the title looks better as part of the link. But it's personal preference. -- Necrothesp (talk) 11:58, 8 May 2014 (UTC)


GiantSnowman recently reverted a change to OPENPARA, claiming that not mentioning a person's place of birth and death in either the lead generally or the opening brackets specifically is consistent with general encyclopedic practice. This is untrue: many encyclopedias include places within the opening brackets (eg Britannica, Canadian), as do several non-English Wikipedias (eg German). Looking at previous discussions, it appears that the enjoinder not to include POB/POD in the opening brackets was added without discussion and that consensus favoured its removal. Nikkimaria (talk) 12:11, 3 May 2014 (UTC)

Stating the place of birth in the lede is fine and I have no opposition to that; my only concern with OPENPARA is that we should not state the place(s) of birth/death in the opening brackets, because is a) messy and b) not good practice. Not a single FA/GA I have encountered has it, which says it all really. GiantSnowman 12:19, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
Not really - since FAs are required to follow MOS, the fact that they do does not demonstrate that MOS is correct. As already shown, including places in the brackets is "good practice" for several other encyclopedias; what evidence do you have that it is not? Nikkimaria (talk) 12:24, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
Your examples of the Britannica and Canadian encyclopedias are misleading, seeing as they have a completely different overall MOS to us regarding this and much more. And, of course, what other language Wikipedias do is wholly irrelevant. GiantSnowman 12:26, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
As you need a log in (which I no longer have) I can't link to it but the BND uses the format of:
SMITH, JOHN (1899 – 1994), journalist and author, born on 21 July 1899 in New York City
which has the POB in the lede but not the brackets. GiantSnowman 12:28, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
So why are my examples "misleading" and "irrelevant" but yours not? Some encyclopedias include places in the brackets, others don't; this seems a good enough reason to not prohibit it, as it's clearly an acceptable practice and one that already has support from editors here. It's not like we're suggesting mandating it. Nikkimaria (talk) 12:32, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
Well of course that's not to say mine also isn't "misleading" and "irrelevant" - we are a unique encyclopedia which uses some, but not all, of the formats of other, more 'traditional' encyclopedias. To try and base our MOS on theirs is a folly. If you believe that POB should be in the opening brackets then make a case for it, but my edit (to restore the small sentence you removed (twice!) stating that "[POB] should not be mentioned within the opening brackets") merely reflects and clarifies both current MOS and current practice. A few editors who prefer to add the POB in the opening brackets, or do so through innocent ignorance, does not mean we should change current MOS and current practice.GiantSnowman 12:35, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
  • GiantSnowman should not have made this change without continuing from existing discussion. Further, re "we are a unique encyclopedia which uses some, but not all, of the formats of other, more 'traditional' encyclopedias.", that largely isn't true beyond the restrictions of html format. We do aim to look like an encyclopedia, and what other encyclopedias do is a common reference point in both MOS and content discussions. Biographical dictionaries frequently do give exactly the POB POD format for scientists, artists, historical figures - while sports html for example does not. As Nikkimaria says it's clearly an acceptable practice and one that already has support from editors here. Not least from any editors coming over from de.wp fr.wp pl.wp and so on and editing in a global wp style - which we need to continue to welcome. In ictu oculi (talk) 13:06, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
  • One I was merely restoring the current status quo, two forgive me but I had completely forgotten about the discussion over 12 months ago. Anyway, please explain why this is "clearly an acceptable practice" when it's against long-standing MOS and actual common practice (as seen in FA/GAs)? GiantSnowman 13:10, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
I suggest that a change that affects this many articles have input from the wider community via an RfC. An edit war is not the way to deal with this change one way or the other(Littleolive oil (talk) 13:22, 3 May 2014 (UTC))
The change (which should not be made) being, of course, to include place(s) of birth/death in the opening brackets, seeing as both the MOS and current, wide useage prohibits that. GiantSnowman 13:26, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
It seems to me that the previous discussion reached consensus that such prohibition was unwarranted. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 13:43, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
If that is the case then why was such consensus never actually implemented, and why has the MOS remained the same for the last 12+ months? The answer, of course, is that there was no such consensus. GiantSnowman 13:47, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
Looking around in other-language Wikipedia: German has the places within the brackets (de:Henry Purcell), French has them after the brackets (fr:Henry Purcell). It would be nice to be able to do the same in English, as valid options. What we have now is MoS police, sometimes removing a location from the lead without placing it at least in the body. --Gerda Arendt (talk) 13:58, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
Like I said, the place of birth/death should definitely be in the lede, just not in the opening brackets; it certainly should not be removed entirely (unless it is unreferenced!). GiantSnowman 14:01, 3 May 2014 (UTC)

It's not really that unusual to see "John Smith (April 1, 1883, Birmingham, England – June 3, 1929, Paris, France ) was..." at the start of an article. I don't normally do that myself. If it's a long article, and there's no infobox, and the death location is near the end, and one feels that quick access to complete vital information is a virtue, I can see doing it. I wouldn't proscribe another editor from doing it or change it if she had.

From an organizational development standpoint, people do not like to be told "You can't do it the way you like, you must do it this way" and we should avoid doing that absent a compelling reason. I don't see a compelling reason to say "no, you can't do that" in this situation.

IMO there's no gain in trying to be as rigidly formatted as other publications, since we're not like other publications in having a chief editor and employees whom we are paying. We "pay" our "employees" by trying to ensure that they have as enjoyable an experience as possible commensurate with publishing a reasonably standardized work. Every time we constrain an editor's freedom by prescribing a particular format for something, we gain something in standardization and lose something in editor retention. (Others may disagree. The point that "if we look sloppy or are too loosey-goosey that alienates people too" is also reasonable.)

Possibly there should be a proper RfC on the question. However, the proscription against giving vital locations in the opening parens, however it came to be there, is the status quo now I guess, and an RfC would probably circle around and 50-50 or 60-40 and so end in no consensus and thus no change. So maybe best to let it lie. I could be wrong about that though. Herostratus (talk) 16:05, 3 May 2014 (UTC)

That's kind of my point as well - surely if there was as big a support for this change as some are claiming then it would already have been suggested/made? This MOS (of having no places in the brackets) has been around for as long as I can remember, and I've been here over 8 years. GiantSnowman 16:10, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
This MOS was added, by you, in December 2012, and removing it was suggested in early 2013. Given the support for its removal then, I don't know why it wasn't removed, but now seems a good time to rectify that. Nikkimaria (talk) 17:21, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
GiantSnowman, that's exactly the point isn't it, this isn't "a change" because there has never been a RfC to ban POB and POD from brackets, which is why 10,000s of scientist, painter, composer, etc articles on en.wp follow standard "European" bio entry format. We had this discussion before a year ago and no evidence was provided of any such consensus having been sought or agreed. There is no intention to get sports bios to include data which is not as relevant for sportsmen as it is for mobile Renaissance painters. In ictu oculi (talk) 17:23, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
In fact looking back through discussion on this page I only see 1 editor committed to not allowing the European lead style in any en.wp articles. In ictu oculi (talk) 17:25, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
My addition of 9 words 18 months ago did not change the MOS, it merely clarified the existing MOS. Take a look at the examples at OPENPARA, how many of them have POB in the opening brackets? None. Take a look at every single bio FA over the past God-knows-how long, how many of them have POB in the opening brackets? None. That is the status quo - you need to start a RFC if you want to change that and introduce POB into the opening brackets, I don't know how much clearer than that. You are the one wanting to make a change, not me. And no, there was no consensus 12 months ago, hence why the discussion fizzled out with no change being made. GiantSnowman 18:00, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
Just look at the wording before my change - "Birth and death places should be mentioned in the body if known, and in the lead if they are relevant to the person's notability" - where is the mention of including birth and death places in the opening brackets? GiantSnowman 18:06, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
I mean if including birth and death places in the opening brackets was allowed - which it isn't - it would be detailed at the MOS. Does the place become before or after the date? Is there a comma or not? etc. etc. GiantSnowman 18:08, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
We had this discussion before, as before there is no evidence of any community consensus for a ban on the format found in so many articles. This happens occasionally a small local consensus, or lack of discussion, at a MOS pages sets up some guideline at odds with widespread editing practice, and gets left in the MOS because editors get on with editing. In this case it has been called. In ictu oculi (talk) 18:11, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
No, no, no, no no - you've got it the wring way around, what you actually mean is there is no community consensus to include the format. The current MOS does not allow it, why can't you understand that, other than the fact that you don't agree with it? GiantSnowman 18:15, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
GiantSnowman, again that is your interpretation of the MOS as edited by yourself and others.
However, out in the article corpus, I just randomly put in "French architect Paris" and got plenty of articles like Libéral Bruant by User:Wetman, Jean-Michel Chevotet, Mathurin Cherpitel created by User:Neddyseagoon. Incidentally editor names I recognize as productive Bio editors, coming across their work frequently, but these aren't footballer stubs (who shouldn't even be in a real encyclopedia imho) these are real encyclopedic content - following one encyclopedic bio format. These predate your opposition to this format. If there has been broad community consensus banning "Paris" next to date of birth why do so many articles from 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 do so? In the previous discussion, last year, following lack of evidence, I concluded that it is because there has never been a properly advertised and agreed decision to ban the mention of "Paris" "Berlin" etc. in historical bio stub birth death brackets. In ictu oculi (talk) 18:27, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
First of all, kudos on being a snob, exactly the kind of attitude we need here at Wikipedia. Secondly, you're completely correct when you say the MOS has not been "properly advertised" - but ignorance of the law does not excuse the crime, does it? Perhaps if you spent more time trying to educate these "productive bio editors" about the MOS to prevent future indiscretions we'd have less of a problem? I know plenty of editors for whom this is not a problem. GiantSnowman 18:35, 3 May 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Arguing about whether a local MOS-consensus existed or not is unproductive. In the absence of a diff showing an RfC discussion agreeing to ban "Paris" etc. from historical bio stub birth date brackets, the alternative is an argued logical proposal as to the benefits of banning fr.wp de.wp pl.wp (and much of en.wp) style from en.wp. In ictu oculi (talk) 18:31, 3 May 2014 (UTC)

Um I'd hardly call MOS:BIO "a local MOS-consensus" - I don't know when the consensus was formed, I don't know who took part in the discussion (I certainly didn't), all I know is that the current MOS - and it has been the MOS for as long as I can remember! - does not allow places of birth and death in the opening brackets. If you want to change that now, start a RFC, but you will seriously need to have better arguments that "they do it in Germany!" and "me and my mates don't like it" if you want to get anywhere. GiantSnowman 18:37, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
Well that's what I'm calling it based on (a) discussion last year, (b) evidence of article practice. And please stop with the "I don't like it"-calling, it's annoying and cuts both ways. When I see a properly supported advertised and practiced community consensus I support it, and you have absolutely no right to imply otherwise of any editor. That for now is enough, I will pop back in in a few days. Cheers. In ictu oculi (talk) 18:43, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
So because of a minor discussion you and your mates had (which didn't actually result in any consensus), and because some few articles violate the MOS, you are going to ignore it? Go ahead, be disruptive; I will continue to adhere to the MOS and continue to remove places of birth and death from the opening brackets. If you want to change it, the start a RFC, as I have said far too many bloody times already. GiantSnowman 18:49, 3 May 2014 (UTC)
An RfC does not appear to be necessary for this point: you did not have one to make the change (which was indeed a significant change - you can't expect a few examples to cover every possible formatting, and what was previously there did not mandate exclusion of places from the brackets), and there seems to be a fairly clear consensus of those commenting on the matter so far that your change should be excluded. It might be worthwhile to have an RfC discussing whether the entire sentence about places should be removed from OPENPARA, as you suggested with "place of birth/death should definitely be in the lede". Nikkimaria (talk) 00:25, 4 May 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Well, I think the crux of the matter is "This MOS was added, by you, in December 2012, and removing it was suggested in early 2013. Given the support for its removal then, I don't know why it wasn't removed..." I don't know either, but it wasn't. That makes it current stable version. Any attempt to remove it now must achieve one of these two things: 1) clear preponderance in strength of argument, which is impossible because there is no clear Wikipedia rule that prohibits the passage, and on the merits its just a matter of opinion, or 2) a supermajority -- at the very least in the area of 63-65% or so -- which is very difficult to achieve. Failure to achieve either devolves to no change, keep the current stable version.

People who don't like the passage should have been more alert and more vigorous in asserting their WP:BRD rights in early 2013. But they weren't, and so it looks from here that they're SOL. They can try for for a supermajority if they like and good luck with that. You never know until you try, though.

Sometimes the Wikipedia works like that. Somebody slips something in, or wrote something in 2002, and that becomes the rule and remains the rule forever. WP:NOTCENSORED is like that. There's a rule that you can't write "In January of 1920..." but must write "In January 1920..." that I find annoying. There's a rule that you can't use piped links in disambig pages, which working around that is tedious and pointless. And so on. It is what it is. I wouldn't worry about it too much. It's just a minor detail.

FWIW one of the interesting problems with the entire section is that the habit if adding parenthesized vital information is never described let alone prescribed, and AFAIK also not at WP:DATE or anywhere else. Examples are given showing parenthesized vital information, but those are just examples. Adding the dates in parenthesis is just something that people do out of habit, the MOS doesn't require or even suggest it (unless you consider examples to be suggestions, which is reasonable but not inarguable). The one passage we're talking about says "within the opening brackets" as if a person is supposed to know what those are, but they're never described. (They're not brackets BTW they're parentheses, brackets are these: []).

It's possible that clever person could leverage this into a more overarching RfC which address the entirety of what-goes-in-the-parentheses on a clean-slate basis. Doubt it though. Or an alternative strategy is for editors to just ignore the passage and keep putting in the parenthesis what they think best. I certainly ignore some rules that I consider to be over-controlling pettifoggery. Eventually someone will go on a refactoring spree, citing the passage, and this will piss off enough people all at once that the passage might then be removed. Dunno what to advise. Herostratus (talk) 03:30, 4 May 2014 (UTC)

Herostratus, I don't think that 1 editor (do you mean Giantsnowman or someone else?) adding something which was objected to and then putting it back constitutes the way MOS consensus works.
Taking consensus back a notch further, to the state I thought MOS was in since I don't sit on it watching for changes, W Nowicki added this on 16 June 2010

Birth and death places should be mentioned in the body if known, and in the lead if they are relevant to the person's notability.

This of course is a quite reasonable and non-confrontational addition, since it doesn't say "a large number of historical bios are henceforth banned" it recognises something simple, flexible and including various formats. In the absence of discussion, that is what I regard as the last consensus-supported version of the MOS. Up to GiantSnowman adding the bit it seems nobody supports 7 Dec 2010 being BOLD and clarifying - any issues please let me know on my talk page). It was objected to almost as soon as it was put in and there has been no support for reintroducing it. In ictu oculi (talk) 03:44, 4 May 2014 (UTC)

That's not how it works. The passage is there and has been there since 2012 (I've been told; didn't check). It's the current stable version. It's entirely possible that someone could have or should have reverted per WP:BRD and insisted that the person (GiantSnowman I guess) discussed the matter and, if necessary, show a consensus for the change. Coulda woulda shoulda. No one did. What do you suggest -- just edit warring over it? What if you run an RfC and you get 11 people (57%) against the passage and 8 people (43%) in favor -- a statistical tie? What version would then prevail? The current stable version.

OK, drilling down. Looking over the current discussion, I get:

  • User:GiantSnowman is in favor of the passage proscribing birth/death location in the parens.
  • User:Nikkimaria, User:In ictu oculi, and User:Herostratus against the passage. The totality of User:Michael Bednarek's comments here and elsewhere clearly puts her in the opposition camp too IMO.
  • User:Littleolive oil said "I suggest that a change that affects this many articles have input from the wider community via an RfC". It's not clear what she means by "a change" -- GiantSnowman's 2012 edit inserting the passage, or Nikkimaria's recent edit removing what had become by default the stable version. If it's the 2012 edit she's a little late. I won't count her either way without knowing more.

Looking at the earlier (spring 2013) discussion at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Biographies/2013 archive#POB in WP:OPENPARA, and not counting people already counted above, I get these people opposed to including the passage:

  • User:Kleinzach says "I'd agree that MOS:BIO is being overly prescriptive... The important thing is the quality of the information, not following little rules".
  • User:Apteva, ditto: "overly proscriptive". However, Apteva is is now indef blocked, probably forever, so IMO he doesn't have standing and I'm not counting him.

A number of people didn't flat out say that including the natal/death locations should be prohibited, but they don't like it. I get:

  • User:Yworo said "The municipality of birth... should preferably not be in the lead at all, neither in nor outside of the parens" except for stub-type situations with "no sections".
  • User:Necrothesp "No it isn't [common practice], and many of us hate that style [of including natal/death location in the parens]".
  • User:GeorgeLouis said "I really prefer to keep things simple, viz.: "Joe Blow (1932-1955) was a . . . "".
  • User:Dirtlawyer1 said "the proper place for stating a biographical subject's place of birth and place of death is in the article's infobox and in the main body text of the article... this is the majority practice in the overwhelming majority of American biographies... and this standard formatting has been widely enforced by various WikiProjects... [it is] awkward and confusing when both POB and POD are included..."
  • User:GoodDay includes the natal/death location in the parens when he writes. You'd think that obviously he would thus be opposed to prohibiting it, but then later he clearly says "Oppose reverting GiantSnowman's addition", further confusing me by saying "Furthermore, (DoB PoB - DoD PoD) is more common..." Odd, but "Oppose reverting GiantSnowman's addition" is what it is. Have to count him as endorsing the passage proscribing birth/death locations in the parens.

Taking both discussions together, and not counting

  • User:Apteva who is blocked, or
  • User:Yworo who advocates one style for stubs and another for non-stubs, so I don't know exactly what he thinks we should say, or
  • User:Littleolive oil who I'm not clear on what she's objecting to

I get five people who don't agree with the statement "they [birth and death place] should not be mentioned within the opening brackets", and five who do agree. Of the five who do agree (for all cases), it's not clear that all of them support actively saying so in the MOS, but since the discussion is about that you have to assume that they do.

So 5-5, no consensus, no agreement. Stable version holds absent further discussion, presumably a proper RfC. As I said, such an RfC will expand the discussion but in my guess change 5-5 to 18-18 (or 19-16 or whatever) leaving: no consensus, no agreement. Stable version holds. Again, the time to deal with this was immediately after User:GiantSnowman added the material or very soon after, by reverting per WP:BRD. Way too late now. You cannot go back to 2012 and say "Oh, reverting this 1.5-year-old edit per BRD". If we tried to stretch BRD to work like that it would bring chaos. Let this be a lesson. But run an RfC if you want to.

I would admonish User:GiantSnowman though. You "win", but only by exploiting a flaw in the Wikipedia, although I know it wasn't done with malice. Changes to actual rules should not be boldly made but discussed first and please do this in future. I commonly revert undiscussed changes to the rules pages I watch automatically regardless of the merits. Even if I agree with the change I'll often revert it unless it's clearly uncontentious, and I recommend that other editors also do this for rules pages. Herostratus (talk)

As I've already stated, my minor addition did not actually change the MOS, it merely clarified it. Hence no RFC was required, hence no consensus was required - the consensus was already there! It was merely tightening-up what was already MOS. If that is not the case, please can somebody show me where it says "places of birth and death should be included in the opening brackets" in the MOS? Please can somebody show me where is says how we should display the location - before the date, after the date, with or without commas? Please can somebody point me to one of the listed examples where places of birth and death are included in the opening brackets? Oh, you can't. Putting in into practical effect - please can somebody show me a bio FA where places of birth and death are included in the opening brackets? Oh, you can't. GiantSnowman 09:22, 4 May 2014 (UTC)
Not explicitly saying something is allowed is not the same as saying it is disallowed. As already pointed out, you should not expect a few examples to cover all possible situations - none of the examples cover pronunciations, for example, yet those are allowed. Nikkimaria (talk) 12:22, 4 May 2014 (UTC)
You have not answered any of my questions. GiantSnowman 12:25, 4 May 2014 (UTC)
I've explained that your questions are irrelevant, and that your addition (which, again, did change the MOS) should be removed. Since you are the only person here explicitly disagreeing with that, consensus seems to be against you. Nikkimaria (talk) 13:16, 4 May 2014 (UTC)
We'll have to agree to disagree; and you'll have to get a RFC to change the MOS. GiantSnowman 17:08, 4 May 2014 (UTC)
GiantSnowman, no one is saying change the MOS. The issue is about 1 editor who has made a diff reverted by 2 editors, who has put it back a third time. In such a case do editors need an RfC to remove that diff? Please address the actual disputed diff. If an RfC required to undo your diff? Yes or no please. In ictu oculi (talk) 02:01, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Herostratus you write "I would admonish User:GiantSnowman though. You "win", but only by exploiting a flaw in the Wikipedia, although I know it wasn't done with malice." - Giant Snowman hasn't yet said "I win", he could accept that his addition without discussion having been quickly reverted the first time, and not supported in following discussion, and then reverted a second time when again added without discussion, and again not supported a second time in following discussion can be reverted by a third editor. There are obviously enough editors here who consider pushing through the pushing through addition a third time to be not the way to make a consensus based edition, it only needs a 3rd different editor to remove the 3rd time 1 editor has made the same addition and the problem is solved. It is not edit warring when 3 different editors revert 1 editor's addition to a MOS page. In ictu oculi (talk) 02:09, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

I'm not sure that attitude's any better though; what you describe can as easily be a WP:TAGTEAM of three people coordinating to thwart an actual consensus position as misc. editors representing consensus happening to all independently revert a non-consensual change. It's not about who is reverting how, it's about how good the rationales are on either side.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  07:59, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Well no IIO, actually you are wanting to change the MOS. Even without my minor clarification, the MOS still states that "birth and death places should be mentioned in the body if known, and in the lead if they are relevant to the person's notability" - it makes no mention that they should be included in the opening brackets at all and that is because the current MOS does not allow for that. My 9-word clarification was simply that, a clarification intended to avoid any confusion for those who say "well, it doesn't explicitly state you can't do it" - by that crappy logic I can go around calling everyone "cunts" because it is not explicitly forbidden by WP:NPA. GiantSnowman 08:46, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Hmph. I'm not following you. We all know quite well that you can't go around calling people names like that on the bogus basis that NPA doesn't specifically forbid that exact attack. So why would we presume that editors in general would make the same kind of bogus argument about the open parentheticals in the lead? I.e., the slippery slope argument you raise actually militates against the change you propose here. For myself, I don't terribly mind when guidelines reinforce each other, so the addition doesn't seem "bad" to me; I just don't really buy that particular rationale for it. That said, I'm not convinced that MOS "forbids" including birth/death places in those parentheticals, even if we are moving away from them.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  09:31, 5 May 2014 (UTC)
Not at all; NPA doesn't explicitly say that calling someone a "cunt" is forbidden, even though it clearly is given the context of the rest of the page. Likewaise, OPENPARA may not have explicitly said that places are not allowed in the opening brackets, but given the wording of the rest of the MOS that is clearly the case, hence why I introduces 9 words to try and make it clearer. GiantSnowman 10:40, 5 May 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Hi User:SMcCandlish that is one way of looking at it, however on a MOS page 2 editors reverting an addition and 1 editor putting it in/back 3 times is not the usual way consensus is built. I'm not sure I share your observation that we are moving away from placing "(Paris, 1685 - Lyon 1721)" stubs - if anything I've been seeing more of them, but maybe it's the area I edit. Or it maybe that Maksymilian Gierymski (Warsaw 1846 - Reichenhall, Bavaria 1874) was a Polish painter, Kazimierz Alchimowicz (born December 20, 1840 in Dziembrów, Vilnius Region – December 31, 1916 in Warsaw) was a Lithuanian-born Polish romantic painter. ...etc... were made mainly 2003-2010, when we were building up a stock of notable bios, wheras disproportionately new bios in 2014 tend to be WP:BLPs (and often trivial). Of course we don't see the European bio header format in football stubs, but then it isn't sports style - it's more appropriate to historical figures for whom place of birth and death are almost automatically notable and significant - as the stable version of the MOS indicates. In ictu oculi (talk) 01:21, 6 May 2014 (UTC)

In WP:STUBs, sure; the usage actually makes sense there. Who cares? Stubs are stubs - they're just fragments of what article should actually develop there. I can't really get worked about who where a birtplace is put in their formatting. Seems kind of like worry about the exact placement of cheese slice on a cracker right before you eat it. :-)  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  07:13, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
Plus the "stable version" you mention clearly says that "Birth and death places should be mentioned in the body if known, and in the lead if they are relevant to the person's notability" - no mention of opening brackets. Why not have John Smith (1 January 1800 – 1 January 1850) was a British painter. Born in London, he..."? GiantSnowman 11:59, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
Because imposing this obligation on the editing community effectively demands adding copy text to the first line of 100,000s of bios to stretch out the lead sentence, thereby putting excess weight on geo-bio-data which can be conveniently and simply contained in POB/POD brackets. From:

John Smith (London, 1 January 1800 – New York, 1 January 1850) was a British painter.


John Smith (1 January 1800 – 1 January 1850) was a British painter. Born in London, he died in New York.

If there's something else specific to add such as "he died of the plague [in 1630] while on a diplomatic mission to Venice" then there's a reason for spelling it out, but even then it creates the inconvenience of having to split/dislocate D.O.D. and P.O.D. information, and probably the additional inconvenience of having to repeat the birth and death year twice, like this:

John Smith (1 January 1800 – 1 January 1850) was a British painter. Born in London in 1800, he died in New York in 1850.

This is why bio-dictionaries for highly mobile historical figures such as painters, soldiers, composers invariably use a compact (Paris, 1731 - Berlin 1787) format. The new "not in brackets" rule, if adopted, would just serve to bloat leads with repeated information. In ictu oculi (talk) 01:24, 8 May 2014 (UTC)


See comments in white box. Formerip (talk) 21:49, 19 June 2014 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Result is no consensus. Clearly views are split on this and there are fair arguments on both sides. The oppose arguments are stronger. You don't necessarily need to agree with the sentiment to agree that "don't clutter the lead" is at the very least a valid aspiration, and it seems generally in line with WP:MOSINTRO ("emphasis given to material should reflect its relative importance to the subject") to see birth and death places as "clutter". I think the support argument that other encyclopaedias do things differently to us should be given little weight. We're free to differ from other encylopaedias if we choose, and we have the convention of infoboxes as a place to put biographical data for easy reference. The argument that a prohibition is unnecessary instruction creep is one to take seriously, but at the same time the very existence of OPENPARA and WP:LEAD suggests that there is community consensus that tight guidelines for the very beginning of an article can be necessary (not that this cancels out the argument, which is valid). The difference between the two sides in terms of strength of argument is such, IMO, that I toyed with closing this by declaring a winner.

It has been suggested that a "no consensus" result should, as an exception to normal practice, result in the wording in question being removed rather than retained, because it should never have been inserted without an RfC in the first place. That there should have been an RfC may be fair comment, but it's too late and too bad given that there is no doubt that the version with the wording inserted became stable. It has also been claimed that there is a pre-existing consensus, which should apply in any event, to remove the words "they should not be mentioned within the opening brackets". I don't agree. There's some discussion about that in the section immediately above this one, but I am not able to read a consensus into it and, in any event, a supposed consensus in a discussion leading to an RfC can't be used to overturn the result of the RfC. There was also a relevant discussion in March 2013, but I am also not able to read a consensus into that and, even if there was one, it is too late to implement it once discussion has been restarted all these months later.

So, the wording should be retained. Formerip (talk) 23:23, 19 June 2014 (UTC)

Should the sentence "Birth and death places should be mentioned in the body if known, and in the lead if they are relevant to the person's notability; they should not be mentioned within the opening brackets" be removed from the section about the opening paragraph?Nikkimaria (talk) 21:49, 7 May 2014 (UTC)


  1. Support: as detailed above, the practice of including places either in the opening brackets or within the opening paragraph generally is common to several respected encyclopedias, other Wikipedias, and many of our own articles. There is already consensus to remove the part about the brackets. I do not suggest mandating the inclusion of places in the opening paragraph, but it should be an option available at the discretion of contributors to a particular article. Nikkimaria (talk) 21:49, 7 May 2014 (UTC)
  2. Strong support: although the RfC should really have been starting from the reverse point "Should a ban on place of birth/death in birth/death brackets be added" - since the prohibition was repeatedly added by one editor and removed by more than one editor, and has not been applied/enforced in the editing community. An attempt to unilaterally introduce a rule counter to existing practice, requiring adding longer copy such as "...who was born in Paris and died in Berlin" to 10s if not 100s of 1000s of European historical bio leads, will create an enormous disruption to the existing compact format. See essay Wikipedia:Avoid instruction creep. It will also create friction with editors who have created/translated, and will continue to create/translate such bios from fr. de. pl. it. ru. etc. wikipedias, where this European bio dictionary style is universal. A style appropriate to soccer stubs should not be imposed on Italian Renaissance architects, and likewise a style appropriate to Italian Renaissance architects should not be imposed on soccer stubs. It's appears from discussion above that the editor who added the new "not in brackets" rule is confusing two issues - (Q1) to add "Paris... Berlin" at all, and (Q2) if adding "Paris... Berlin" to do so inside brackets or after brackets. All the new rule succeeds in doing is bloating the lead sentence by requiring expansion to "born in Paris... died in Berlin" and information moved after the brackets, separated from the actual dates of when born in Paris, when died in Berlin, or demanding repeating the birth year and death year twice in the same lead. The new "not in brackets" rule wasn't discussed before addition to MOS and therefore the consequences weren't well thought through by the editor who added it. In ictu oculi (talk) 01:11, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
  3. Support: Not sure I do enough mainstream article editing experience to have a firsthand account of such an existing need for an RfC, but the proposed method is clearly more clueful. If it's a matter of needing to go one way or the other, I choose the way that makes intuitive sense. -TIM(Contact)/(Contribs) 03:34, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
  4. Support – The prohibition of placing birth and death places into the opening brackets should be removed – I can't see any good reason to prohibit a widely used style. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 04:14, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
    @Michael Bednarek: and what about the "Birth and death places should be mentioned in the body if known, and in the lead if they are relevant to the person's notability" element? GiantSnowman 12:18, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
  5. Support: Doesn't reflect real-world or WP practice, is not practical or sensible, and doesn't represent consensus (here or more broadly). Note that permitting and requiring are not the same thing.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  07:40, 8 May 2014 (UTC) Clarified, 12:54, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
  6. Support per Michael Bednarek, for compatibility with other encyclopedias including other Wikipedias, --Gerda Arendt (talk) 23:48, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
    Adding, in response to a question below: this is not my only reason (I tried to keep it short and simple). I - as a reader - would like to see the data of birth and and death early in the lead, especially in articles without an infobox supplying them, such as Karl Ludwig Gerok. Instead, they were just removed completely. while the article is on the Main page and this is discussed. --Gerda Arendt (talk) 12:06, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
    So it's personal preference as opposed to anything else? And as for the Karl Ludwig Gerok example, they were removed as opposed to being re-located because they were not referenced. If it is referenced, it is relocated to the body as per the MOS. GiantSnowman 12:15, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
    Lead facts are not referenced, but a summary. I didn't write the lead (I follow the current MoS in "my" articles, although I don't like it), but I saw no need to change it. If you see a reference to a cemetery, wouldn't that tell you where to find a reference for the place of death? I this case it also references the place of birth. Simple removing doesn't help our readers, I don't like it ;) --Gerda Arendt (talk) 12:54, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
    Unreferenced material doesn't help our readers, I don't like it ;) GiantSnowman 12:57, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
    German articles typically don't have inline citations, they are referenced summarily by books, see? A translation of such a thing is not "unreferenced", and we do try to add inline citations. --Gerda Arendt (talk) 13:06, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
    But we are not German Wikipedia - we are English-language, we do have in-line citations, and we have our own style. The fact that German-language's MOS is to include places in brackets is wholly irrelevant, they also seem to have weird symbols like '†' which we don't. GiantSnowman 17:45, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
    Support There is no earthly reason to prohibit including POB in the lead. Bladeboy1889 (talk) 12:12, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
    @Bladeboy1889: you have 'supported' removing the line about POB in the lead but then said that it should not be prohibited - you appear to have contradicted yourself. GiantSnowman 12:16, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
    How so? Removing the sentence as indicated, removes any interpretation that inclusion of POB in the lead is prohibited by default and leaves it open to article consensus? Bladeboy1889 (talk) 12:38, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
    The RFC was started by those who wish to be allowed to include POB in the opening brackets. The current wording does not prohibit POB in the lede. I think what you want, and what I would support, is a change to "Birth and death places should be mentioned in the body or the lead if known; they should not be mentioned within the opening brackets." GiantSnowman 12:42, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
    Ah - thanks, I had only read this section, not the whole debate above. I concur with you then - the RfC is poorly worded and should make it clearer what the change would be. Bladeboy1889 (talk) 13:05, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
  7. Support: The best place for pob is in opening brackets, this certainly shouldn't be prohibited. Im not opposed to pob being included elsewhere in lead but only if correctly written and not if its the only place its included, must be in main article and sourced properly. A very short stub article for instance wouldn't need pob in main bulk of lead if its included in main article would be appropriate in opening brackets.Blethering Scot 16:09, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
  8. Support. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of it generally (it's appropriate for some situations and I've done it myself occasionally) but that's just my personal style and I'm much less a fan of prohibiting other editors from doing it if they want to. What's the attraction of making rules for other editors when it's not needed? We don't need to be consistent on this particular matter. We just don't. Let the article creator or main editor(s) decide. Herostratus (talk) 00:33, 13 May 2014 (UTC)
  9. Support. I've recently been annoyed by this issue. The sentence should not have been added without a RFC, so a "no consensus" outcome here should mean its removal.—S Marshall T/C 19:23, 15 May 2014 (UTC)


  1. Oppose: People may flagrantly ignore it, but I see this more as a case of "monkey see, monkey do". I believe it is sufficient to cite their years of birth and death, and leave the precise dates and locations to the body. These factoids are WP:INTERESTING but tend to clutter up the lead with sets of needless nested parentheses and wikilinks that are better off later in the less "blue" parts of the article. The place where a person is born or dies is often disconnected with the country of their citizenship, and it's already good that a person's nationality is usually already part of the opening sentence of the bio. -- Ohc ¡digame! 09:31, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
    Comment: @Ohconfucius: There would be no requirement to put these places in the lead sentence parenthetical, so of course a case where place of birth/death isn't very relevant to the subject's notability, such as you posit, is a case in which this would not be done. In the average case, they places are relevant, so on what basis would you prohibit it?  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  12:54, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
    @Ohconfucius: Yes, SMcCandlish is correct, supporting the new rule is simply mandating move John Smith (London, 1 January 1800 – New York, 1 January 1850) ... and adding a new sentence "Born in London in 1800, he died in New York in 1850" to lead. Who is going to go through 100,000s of historical bio articles and move "(London, 1 - New York, 1850) to new sentences outside brackets? Who is going to warn/block new article creators/translators following a more euro bio dictionary format? No one is proposing to simply go through 100,000s of articles and delete place of birth and death information, it would have to be expanded not deleted. In ictu oculi (talk) 23:33, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
    @In ictu oculi:I don't get the point you are trying to make, but the point isn't who's going to do such and such. This is a wiki, and the "who" question comes after the decision has been made, whether it's by one individual or a group. There may be external conventions, but it would be wrong to say there were hard and fast rules about how things are done. Old habits may die hard, but moving from print media to electronic will weaken some conventions and strengthen or help develop others. Some editors might rue that we hadn't adopted Chicago or AP early on as style guides and be done with it, for our lives would have been much simpler and we would have saved many hundreds of hours of needless discussion and endless arguing as to whether we use curly quotes or not, or put full stops after quote marks or before, or universally ignore the ndash and use hyphens exclusively. But the fact is we developed our own style guide, and not allowing the lead to be cluttered up with interesting factoids (often with their associated wikilinks) instead of pertinent facts is a sensible evolution. -- Ohc ¡digame! 01:34, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
    Sorry, I was too verbose. The point is that the new rule increases/inflates the clutter you refer to. Where POB/POD is not interesting/relevant - like sports bios - it isn't there anyway. In ictu oculi (talk) 04:38, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
  2. Oppose - the undisputed guide of "birth and death places should be mentioned in the body if known, and in the lead if they are relevant to the person's notability" clearly implies that they should not be placed within the opening brackets; so therefore the additional line of "they should not be mentioned within the opening brackets" merely clarifies that advice, as opposed to changing it. This is something that FA/GAs already abide by and have done loooong before the "opening brackets" clarification was added by myself. However I am open to discussing possible re-wording as per W. P. Uzer. GiantSnowman 12:00, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
    Comment: That implication isn't clear at all, or we wouldn't be here. The very prevalence of the practice indicates that it's in fact the natural inclination of most editors to include it in the opening sentence's parenthetical, not at some random location elsewhere within the lead. "X goes inside Y" does not in any way imply that "X does not go inside Z", when Z is part of Y.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  12:54, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
    Well if we're talking about the "natural inclination of most editors" on Wikipedia, that is probably actually vandalising articles, so that does not mean it is a correct course of action. I mean, if they were already allowed by the MOS, then a) it would say so and b) tell you how to display the information. GiantSnowman 13:58, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
    What are you talking about? Only a tiny fraction of edits on WP are vandalism, and we do not count their perpetrators as editors. Next, "that which is not forbidden is permitted" as a matter of policy (WP:BOLD) and common sense WP:CREEP, WP:BEANS, etc.); all sorts of typical WP editing practices are not formally documented; neither of your points a or b are actually supportable.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  20:44, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
    So if "all sorts of typical WP editing practices are not formally documented" what is the point of our many, many MOS pages, policies, guidelines etc.? GiantSnowman 20:50, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
    To document the ones that experience tells us need to be documented to resolve recurrent disputes, obviously. You seem to be making an argument that if everything isn't documented nothing can be, and conversely that if anything is documented everything must be. No such principle applies here (or anywhere in life). WP:CREEP in particular addresses this adequately. There are a million rules we could write and do not. There are already far too many rules here; it's one of the main reasons we're losing productive editors and attracting abusive wikilawyers and other system gamers. Just the facts that a bunch of editors from all walks of wiki-life (i.e. not some WP:FACTION pushing an entrenched topical POV, as is so often behind contentious style disputes here) think it is often okay to include b/d places in the lead-opening sentence's parentheticals, and no one is advocating unreasonably that it always be done that way, and hundreds if not thousands of our articles do it or had done it until editwarred into not doing it, and this issue is a perennial "why do we have such a rule?" discussion here, and the practice is normal in offline sources like biographical dictionaries and other encyclopedias, is collectively way more than enough to ditch this "thou shalt not put them in the parentheticals" rule. WP:COMMONSENSE is one of the most important pages on the entire system, and this certainly qualifies.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:43, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
  3. Oppose We need to avoid cluttering the intro with too much information. Some biographies also include one or more renditions of names in other scripts, and adding POB and/or POD could lead to them being overlong). Number 57 14:47, 10 May 2014 (UTC)
  4. Oppose adding the place of birth/death in the parentheses leads to inconsistency with the majority of cases where this is omitted; and could clutter parentheses whether other data is included (e.g., pronunciation, names in other languages, etc.). This information should be included in the infobox (if there is one), in the lede (if relevant) or in the "Early life" and "Death" sections (if they exist). If an exception is needed for how to deal with cases where none of these alternatives is available, let it be explicitly stated. sroc 💬 23:18, 10 May 2014 (UTC)
  5. Oppose: I spend a lot of time correcting this ugly, superfluous practice which causes more confusion than it resolves. It's not common practice in encyclopaedias, and with good reason. Let's distinguish between things we need to do differently in wikipedia because it's an on-line encyclopaedia and things we want to do differently out of sheer perversity. Deb (talk) 09:23, 12 May 2014 (UTC)
    Deb, it is common practice in encyclopedias - for example, Britannica includes places in the brackets, and ODNB within the first sentence. Nikkimaria (talk) 12:08, 12 May 2014 (UTC)
    No, it is common practice in some encyclopedias - but not in all, for example the DNB (which I have mentioned before), as well as Hutchinson's. Therefore that element of argument is irrelevant. GiantSnowman 12:13, 12 May 2014 (UTC)
    In my experience it's very uncommon. Having said that, I notice the Oxford DNB also doesn't begin by stating what the person is famous for in the opening sentence. There was a time, in the early days of this project, when we started articles by stating where and when the person was born and then went on to describe the rest of his/her life experiences in chronological order, so that you had to read half the article to find out what they were well known for. We abandoned this practice because wikipedia articles are by nature concise and are meant to help people find out the salient points as easily as possible. That's why it's not a good idea to follow ODNB's practice. Deb (talk) 12:54, 12 May 2014 (UTC)
  6. Oppose: As Sam Blacketer points out in the next section, inclusion of the places of birth and death within the parentheses makes the first sentence too clunky, particularly if other information that is often added within or in proximity to the parentheses is also included (such as post-nominal letters, translations of the name into other languages, alternate names, and pronunciation of the name). The place of birth and death information will very often appear in an infobox next to the lead section anyway. I agree with the statement "Birth and death places should be mentioned in the body if known, and in the lead if they are relevant to the person's notability" – there is no need to insist that the birth and death places be stated in the lead section unless they are relevant to notability. — Cheers, JackLee talk 09:40, 12 May 2014 (UTC)
  7. Oppose. Someone's exact place of birth and death is rarely particularly relevant to them. Where they grew up is far more important, which is not necessarily where they were born. Of course it should be mentioned in the body of the article, but the only thing mentioned in the brackets should be the dates of birth and death. Anything else is ugly, unwieldy and unnecessary. -- Necrothesp (talk) 15:25, 12 May 2014 (UTC)
  8. Oppose adding places in the brackets would just clutter the lead sentence with what in most cases is not that important, if the locations are that important, which is not that often, then it should just be mentioned in the lead as per the statement. MilborneOne (talk) 17:59, 14 May 2014 (UTC)
  9. Oppose due to the reason described by JackLee above. Holdek (talk) 05:58, 15 May 2014 (UTC)
  10. Oppose "Birth and death places should be mentioned in the body if known, and in the lead if they are relevant to the person's notability; they should not be mentioned within the opening brackets" is appropriate and useful guidance to ensure that focus is paid to what is important, and that simplistic layout copying that is inclined to introduce potentially misleading trivia is avoided. SilkTork ✔Tea time 20:09, 6 June 2014 (UTC)
  11. Oppose Only if relevant to notability, which eliminates 99% of possible subjects. It becomes too cluttered and leads to excessive linking early in the article, not to mention WP:OVERLINKing. Walter Görlitz (talk) 22:47, 16 June 2014 (UTC)

Other viewpoints[edit]

  1. "Birth and death places should be mentioned in the body sourced if known, and is not prohibited in brackets at start of lead.
    Or any other better way of saying is should still be sourced in main body of article to back up in relation to WP:BLP.Blethering Scot 00:08, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
  2. I don't think the sentence should just be removed, but I would support changing it in some way from a prohibition to a mere suggestion. I agree that in many cases it's going to be preferable to avoid locations in the opening brackets, for the reasons given by Ohc, but in certain cases it may be perfectly reasonable and even the most convenient option. W. P. Uzer (talk) 09:56, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
  3. Neutral and confused: Basically, I believe that locations in opening brackets or lead should not ever be mandated, so to that extent I think I support that part of the proposal. II think that the above example of (London, 1899 -New York, 1999) is very poor style too and I think it should be discouraged. Birth and/or death locations in lede pargraphy at most would only be suitable if it somehow was strongly linked to notability. I'd add, though, that location has relevance within general body text and/or infoboxes, it is particularly important for those who are emigrants - someone like Einstein, for example; useful to note where they were born and where they died. Montanabw(talk) 00:28, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
Hi User:Montanabw Confusion is understandable. To be clear no one is saying that locations in opening brackets or lead should be mandated, POB and POD data will continue to be missing for bios where it isn't relevant - POB and POD are really only relevant for Einstein types as you say, but in the Renaissance to Napoleonic era mobility in Europe was the rule rather than the exception and if POB and POD are in articles they shouldn't be deleted. In ictu oculi (talk) 04:45, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
  • I feel that people often try to add lots of different details into the lede, and having to include birth/death places/dates in parens is just a symptom of that; each pair of brackets is a lost battle in the war for clear summary ledes. There may be cases where we absolutely have to put this information in the first sentence because it's particularly relevant to the person's notability, but I want to avoid this becoming common or default - we should instead focus on ensuring that the first sentence is a readable description of the person and why they're so notable. bobrayner (talk) 11:22, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
    • I agree; my own preference is just birth/date in parens and anything else has to be significant enough to be a part of the lede for other reasons, probably not in parens or brackets. Montanabw(talk) 16:21, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
  • To those citing "other encyclopedias" as seemingly the only reason to remove this sentence - firstly we are not a normal encyclopedia and have our own style, and secondly what about the DNB which deliberately excludes POBs from the brackets? GiantSnowman 11:51, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
    • We all agree that wikipedia is not a normal encyclopedia! Montanabw(talk) 16:21, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment – I'm still opposed to including places of birth/death in the opening parentheses, but I don't see why it shouldn't be mentioned in the lead. I've just come across an issue at James Wilson (footballer born 1995) where I added it to the lead as a minor piece of information relating to Wilson's eligibility for the England national team (not realising that it was prohibited by this policy). I've always included it the lead section of articles I've written as I feel it's useful info, so I don't see why the MOS shouldn't change. – PeeJay 12:29, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
    • I like your example, it may be relevant, but neither mandated nor prohibited. The main thing I don't agree with is (born London, 1950- died New York 2012); that's poor style. Montanabw(talk) 16:21, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
      • @Montanabw: - what style should be used? I have asked that question multiple times in the earlier discussion, as well as at various user's talk pages, and I have never received an answer. GiantSnowman 17:47, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
          • My own personal opinion is that, subject to IAR, WP can follow standard biography entry procedures used across many platforms; "Joe Schmoo (1867-1932) was a person who..." But that's just my opinion and it's how I want to write articles; but I can think of many exceptions to this, so it probably is best to not be a rule set in stone. Montanabw(talk) 18:07, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
            • Sorry, I meant "style" for those articles where places of birth/death are in the opening brackets. GiantSnowman 18:17, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment - As per PeeJay2K3 - there is no reason to legislate against including POB in the opening para. Bladeboy1889 (talk) 12:38, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment. I too agree with PeeJay2K3, and Bobrayner. The Britannica style, always putting place of birth in the opening brackets, leads to an overloaded and distracting beginning to an article. For instance look at this one for an opening sentence:
James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan, original name in full Leonard James Callaghan (born March 27, 1912, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England—died March 26, 2005, Ringmer, East Sussex), British Labour Party politician, who was prime minister from 1976 to 1979.

Contrast with the current Wikipedia article:

Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, KG, PC (27 March 1912 – 26 March 2005) was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980.

Is it helpful to the reader to have the place of birth thrust at them before they see why this subject is noteworthy? I would say 'not particularly'. But in some cases we might want to note where someone came from, and it ought to be in the lede, and even in the first sentence. It's a matter of editorial judgment. Sam Blacketer (talk) 15:51, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
  • Support what Sam Blacketer said. Not confused about that! Montanabw(talk) 16:21, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
Agreed. Sam Blacketer's example shows that (a) if we try to shoehorn specific details into the ledes of biographies, by rote, they become unreadable; and (b) we don't have to slavishly follow the example of other encyclopædias, if we find a different way that serves readers better. bobrayner (talk) 16:48, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
My point exactly. Keep it as neat and simple as possible in the introduction! GiantSnowman 17:50, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
GiantSnowman, a point yes, but distinct to the new rule you have unilaterally added to the MOS. Then you need to start a second RFC to ban "Portsmouth" "Ringmer" from lead. As it is the new rule to always move POB and POD out of lead produces this:
James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan, original name in full Leonard James Callaghan (Portsmouth, March 27, 1912, — Ringmer, March 26, 2005, ), British Labour Party politician, who was prime minister from 1976 to 1979. Callaghan was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, and died in Ringmer
Which is a bad example anyway because en.wp James Callaghan doesn't have this in lead because he wasn't a mobile historical figure where POB and POD are important. Again you are confusing two issues (1) discouraging POB POD, (2) when POB and POD are needed, where to put them. In ictu oculi (talk) 22:14, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
I haven't added a new rule; and you need to explain what type of articles merit having places of birth/death in brackets, and which ones don't. I'd advise you not to mention football again. GiantSnowman 08:22, 10 May 2014 (UTC)


User:GiantSnowman Given that football player bios don't need POB and POD, and given that you yourself are a football project editor, do you think that that was a wise thing to do? Isn't there a danger that advertising this RfC on WT:FOOTY will bring editors from WT:Footy to this RfC? In ictu oculi (talk) 12:42, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
What do you mean "football player bios don't need POB and POD"? Why wouldn't they? As I've already stated I advertised it at that WikiProject (of which my membership is irrelevant) because a related discussion was already ongoing and this RFC could have an effect on said discussion. GiantSnowman 12:45, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
"Isn't there a danger that advertising this RfC on WT:FOOTY will bring editors from WT:Footy to this RfC?" - I didn't realise there were private discussions that certain editors or projects were barred from? Bladeboy1889 (talk) 13:07, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
There have been concerns about individual wikiprojects developing and enforcing their own specialised style, which diverges from what the broader community has agreed. I think it would be better to seek a much wider consensus which isn't dominated by editors from a single wikiproject. bobrayner (talk) 16:50, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
Whatever happened to AGF?!... GiantSnowman 17:42, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

There's a couple oddities here. One is that AFAIK I know nowhere is the parenthesized vital information mentioned in any of the MOS's except in this one place where it's assumed that the reader understands what's meant. (And even then it confusingly says "brackets" rather than parenthesis which is what are actually used.) (N.B. by "vital" is meant "of life" (Latin vitae) rather than "crucial".)

Everyone sees and uses them in every bio article and the various MOS's give plentiful examples, but... for no other commonly-followed are we like "There's a format that we use universally, but we're not going to mention it, just look at existing articles or the examples and you can infer the rule from that". We ought to have a passage to the effect of

Biographies include parentheses containing some vital information, immediately following the name and any attached qualifiers (III, M.B.E., etc.) and the name in non-English languages, if these are present. The parenthesized vital information always includes the birth and death year, and sometimes the birth and death dates or locations or both, and no other information). See ____ for details, examples, and special cases; see _____ for advice on what vital information to include and when.

The other oddity is that's it's arguable whether the passage should currently exist. Probably not. It was written in by one person and there were objections, but nobody reverted it. As I predicted the RfC, like most, seems to be tending to no consensus, which defaults to the existing state. An example of how one lone person can make up a rule and make it stick if the page not heavily watched and/or people aren't vigorous in using WP:BRD. This is not necessarily bad if it's a good rule I guess. But usually most of our rules codify existing practice, and when we do have prescriptive rules that create a new practice, not sure that having one lone person making them is a great idea. Might be, sometimes. Anyway: be vigorous and rigorous in policing rules pages, people! Use your WP:BRD rights on rules pages with alacrity, celerity, and frequency! If someone wants a substantial change make them prove their case first! Herostratus (talk) 03:04, 13 May 2014 (UTC)

"it confusingly says "brackets" rather than parenthesis which is what are actually used" - in British English, brackets is the term used for all styles including the default '()', whereas American English seems to use the term only to refer to square brackets. Probably this section of the MOS was originally written by someone who used British English. Sam Blacketer (talk) 10:40, 13 May 2014 (UTC)
Bingo, I added the "brackets" sentence and I am British. GiantSnowman 10:42, 13 May 2014 (UTC)
Well it's an international publication and in American brackets means [these]. Do people in Britain understand what "parentheses" are or is that word uncommon there? Herostratus (talk) 12:31, 13 May 2014 (UTC)
Of course the term is known, it's just not widely used. If your issue is over the wording, not the content, then that can be very easily rectified by changing "brackets" to "parentheses". GiantSnowman 12:38, 13 May 2014 (UTC)
The typical way around these problems is to refer to () as "parentheses (round brackets)" or "round bracket (parentheses)", and [] as "square brackets". Zero confusion on the part of anyone.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  01:15, 14 May 2014 (UTC)
I am more than happy to support that change in wording to clarify what is actually meant. GiantSnowman 09:35, 14 May 2014 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Nicknames in OPENPARA[edit]

Could we make add an edit to Wikipedia:OPENPARA#Pseudonyms, stage names and common names discouraging users from adding nicknames that are not used as substitutes of legal names in professional/public settings? Something like:

Do not include nicknames that are not used as stage names or otherwise in place of the legal name. For example, do not write, Zachary Randolph (born July 16, 1981) nickname "Z-Bo", is an American professional basketball player... because he is not known professionally by the nickname. Exceptions include cases like Shaquille O'Neal, who commonly goes by simply "Shaq".

Please feel free to tweak or otherwise offer suggestions. --Mosmof (talk) 16:12, 14 May 2014 (UTC)

I'm not sure I understand your example. Where is Randolph known as "Z-Bo?" Holdek (talk) 22:28, 28 May 2014 (UTC)
Sorry for the delayed response, the "Z-Bo" example is in an earlier edit. It's one of those things NBA fans care about, but it's not something that's used professionally, so yes, exactly my point. Mosmof (talk) 04:36, 7 June 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I don't think it's necessary. Uncommonly-used nicknames would already be precluded by Wikipedia: LEDE. Holdek (talk) 23:52, 8 June 2014 (UTC)
    • But based on basketball and American football articles I've edited, that WP:LEDE is often ignored or misunderstood, and there's a demonstrated need for clarification between nicknames used professionally and casually, however commonly. Mosmof (talk) 00:42, 9 June 2014 (UTC)
Nicknames used professionally go before the legal name, like "Mr. T[1] (born Laurence Tureaud; May 21, 1952) is an American actor...." (Mr. T.)--Holdek (talk) 02:27, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

de, von, van, etc[edit]

Can someone advise me where the policy for capitalization of such name particles is, for use in running text? I mean in cases such as Charles de Gaulle or Vincent van Gogh, not when the particle is normally capitalized, e.g. Dick Van Dyke. There is inconsistency in the articles (He knew de Gaulle, He knew Van Gogh). In other articles, e.g. Alexis de Tocqueville, Marquis de Sade, the particle is omitted (He knew Tocqueville, He knew Sade). Thanks! Spicemix (talk) 16:05, 28 May 2014 (UTC)

Probably not exactly what you're looking for but maybe have a look at WP:MCSTJR, 7th bullet (discusses sorting of such names in categories, which is sorting by last name). --Francis Schonken (talk) 16:31, 28 May 2014 (UTC)
Thanks Francis! I'm thinking if you know policy as hidden as that, but don't know of a central guideline, then there probably isn't one. My current view is that the running text should be consistent with the article name (He knew de Gaulle, He knew van Gogh, he knew Van Dyke). In cases like Tocqueville, the particle can be lost if that is accepted usage. But I think MOS should say something on this topic. Spicemix (talk) 17:15, 28 May 2014 (UTC)
There are two issues:
  1. When is the particle dropped?
  2. When a lower case particle is not dropped, when does it change to upper case?
Language of origin plays a part, country of origin too, for the first question I suppose also habit plays a part.
Some examples regarding the first question:
  • (German:) Beethoven, Bismarck, but Von der Leyen: I suppose the rule is: the higher your fame, the more likely people start referring to you without the particle.
  • (French, France:) de Gaulle, but La Fontaine (not de La Fontaine): maybe de rule is that the "de" particle normally gets dropped, unless the last name is so short it stops making sense. It might also be that a difference is made when referring to nobility ("de" always dropped, which would also explain Sade while Marquess, but not Tocqueville) and regular last names. So, habit (???)
Note that generally "de" in French means "of" in English (which is not the same as "de" in Dutch, which means "the" in English - "of" in English translates to "van" in Dutch, "von" in German - Dutch "van den Bogaert" would translate as of the Orchard in English) - Thomas Percy, 1st Earl of Worcester is shortened to Worcester (without "of"), so it shouldn't surprise that Marquis de Sade is shortened to just Sade.
  • (Dutch, Netherlands - Dutch, Belgium - French, Belgium): all particles always kept afaik
Re. 2: more complications, but there are definitely rules:
  • (French, France): de Gaulle - same capitalisation as when the name is written in full
  • (Dutch, Netherlands): Van Gogh - first letter of the first particle changes from lower case to upper case when not preceded by a given name (and all particles always lowercase when preceded by given name) - I think these are also the German rules.
  • (French, Belgium): no lower case to upper case changes: de Bethune (nobility, "de" stays lower case) - d'Udekem d'Acoz (nobility, all d's stay lower case) - De Decker (no nobility, "De" stays upper case)
  • (Dutch, Belgium) Since the first letter of the last name is always capitalised, there are no lower case to upper case changes necessary, e.g. Van den Brande. Note that normally only the first article gets capitalised (Pol Van Den Driessche is not correct I think - though it should be noted that many Dutch speaking Belgians capitalise all particles of their name which are in fact the French/Belgium rules for non-nobility - habit can be stronger than rules I suppose?)
  • more errors: Chris van den Wyngaert should follow Dutch/Belgian rules, but since she works in the Netherlands someone must have thought it better to have her follow Dutch/Netherlands rules. Anyway, by last name she would be Van den Wyngaert (although in Belgium also Van Den Wyngaert would not really be considered wrong - that was also how it was written in English by her employer at The Hague [1])
To say something on the matter would take a lot of place, I don't even think it is possible to find someone who is sure of the major rules. Although... maybe this summary might be effective:
Dropping a particle when the surname is mentioned in running text (without given names) follows convention (see what others have done before you);
Regarding capitalisation there's maybe only one rule worth remembering: nothing changes except for German names (in German-speaking countries) and Dutch names (in or from the Netherlands) where the first letter of the first particle changes from lower case to upper case.
--Francis Schonken (talk) 18:50, 28 May 2014 (UTC), updated Francis Schonken (talk) 09:30, 29 May 2014 (UTC)
Thank you Francis. I was unaware of the Dutch convention to capitalize the particle when not preceded by a given name; however, from limited research at German Wikipedia I see that the particle (when it is retained) stays lower case there – see Manfred von Richthofen for example. You'll see too that they follow their own convention, not the Dutch, at Vincent van Gogh – and I think they have a point. English Wikipedia should not necessarily follow foreign language conventions.

Like you, I was thinking that the particle is more likely to be omitted when the subject is noble, but there will be doubtful cases when the subject is more remote from the aristocracy. I agree that convention (the sources) should be our guide there. Spicemix (talk) 15:45, 29 May 2014 (UTC)

Struck the German thing. Anyhow, no there's no reason. Why not move Chris van den Wyngaert to Chris Van Den Wyngaert with the capitalisation as in reliable English-language sources? No need to go through all the complexities at WP:NAMESORT any more. But yeah then there are all the sensitivities... Someone took the trouble of moving Chris van den Wyngaert to that version of the name, but believe me there's much more.
In sum, maybe this: do as good as you can, but don't worry if there are minor culture-specific issues you'd have missed - a bot might come around, or another editor more knowledgeable in the field, and will adjust (e.g. [2]). Or nobody's bothered, and then your version is fine. In most cases multiple versions are arguably correct in English. Try to keep coherent on one page though. --Francis Schonken (talk) 16:13, 29 May 2014 (UTC)
Thanks Francis, I've learned a lot talking to you. Spicemix (talk) 13:12, 30 May 2014 (UTC)

On a related issue, what is the MoS policy on alphabetical sorting of such names. Our article Dutch name says that while in Dutch directories, the prefixes are ignored for the purposes of sorting, in English directories "may be ordered on the full name including all prefixes". Is this enshrined as policy anywhere? Should it be? Kevin McE (talk) 19:52, 18 June 2014 (UTC)

Well, WP:NAMESORT is a guideline. I don't think we need a hard policy on sorting of names - is it often a problem? bobrayner (talk) 22:01, 18 June 2014 (UTC)
In Dutch (with Dutch = language) directories from Belgium the prefixes are not ignored for sorting. " Dutch directories, the prefixes are ignored for the purposes of sorting" is only correct when Dutch = from country (namely: from the Netherlands). --Francis Schonken (talk) 00:51, 19 June 2014 (UTC)

Yes, it leads to absurdities. See for example LGBT writers in the Dutch-language area#Dutch-language sources: in an attempt to sort alphabetically I put Ronny De Schepper (Dutch/Flemish) before Ed van Eeden (Dutch/from the Netherlands). I'd be very much pleased with a more uniform solution for such sortings. --Francis Schonken (talk) 11:31, 25 June 2014 (UTC)

en.wikipedia is an English language source, so should follow the rules of English. Identification of which of an individual's plural names is to be indexed is dependent on the language/culture of the person in question, but once identified, English treats that as a single entity, even if it is more than one word: prefixes are considered within alphabetisation.
That does not overrule wp:commonname in relation to when the prefix is dropped. Kevin McE (talk) 13:19, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
I don't think that's correct, at least not for all languages. You won't normally find Beauvoir, Sade etc shelved under "d". Formerip (talk) 14:07, 29 June 2014 (UTC)
It looks like you didn't read what I wrote.
A) We are talking about indexing for an English language resource (en.wikipedia), so it is only about one language;
B)"That does not overrule wp:commonname in relation to when the prefix is dropped." Kevin McE (talk) 16:45, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
Are we aiming to be descriptive, here, or prescriptive? Describe what is currently done, or establish the best way of doing things? The two differ.
If we're just going to be prescriptive, then French prefixes (and to a lesser extent some other western European languages) are recognised as separate entities, not as part of the name itself to be used for sorting; maybe that's helped by French's long status as a prestige language. However, common English usage is less likely to extend that courtesy to other languages. The same happens elsewhere - prefixes, titles &c do tend to get absorbed into names over time. I'd like to hope that an encyclopaedia can avoid that entropy and try to steer towards more faithful handling of names. 14:05, 13 July 2014 (UTC)

Are these orders or honors?[edit]

At James O'Higgins Norman User:Ollamhnua states that ", MStJ and KLJ" are "honors not memberships". Is this the case? I was also reverted when I removed Dr. from in front of his name (which I've removed again. Thanks. Dougweller (talk) 18:38, 25 June 2014 (UTC)

Sex/gender in the opening paragraph[edit]

Should we treat sex (or gender) in the first paragraph like ethnicity and sexuality, for the same reasons, and on the additional grounds that the person's sex will become clear upon first use of a pronoun? I'm looking right now at a new article, Betty Harris (scientist), that describes her as "an African-American female chemist". Even just as "a female chemist", this doesn't sit right with me. She's a chemist, period, as far as the source of her significance is concerned. OK, an American chemist. —Largo Plazo (talk) 20:35, 12 July 2014 (UTC)

Yes, "American chemist" is sufficient - no need for her ethnicity ("African-American") or gender ("female"). GiantSnowman 08:10, 13 July 2014 (UTC)
Agreed - sex should only be included if it is sufficient notable eg Margaret Thatcher being the first female UK prime minister. Bladeboy1889 (talk) 09:26, 13 July 2014 (UTC)
The lede should describe a person and emphasise why they are notable. We shouldn't emphasise gender or colour unless they are closely related to the subject's notability - Margaret Thatcher is a great example.
Few chemists are notable. Few patent-holders are notable. Harris seems to be different in that she is listed in various websites showcasing "black inventors" &c, so it's reasonable for the first sentence to mention that she's African-American. Strangely, I can't find anything from the horse's mouth about the "Trailblazer Award" - but there are plenty of other women who received a "Trailblazer award" from the "New Mexico Commission on the Status of Women". If her gender was a factor in her only significant award, then yes, we ought to mention gender somewhere in the lede.
As an aside, the article also says "She is recognized as a distinguished African American Scientist by the National Academy of Sciences", which makes it sound like some kind of title or certificate that one might hang on the wall; the reality is that there's a bio page on a NAS website. bobrayner (talk) 14:24, 13 July 2014 (UTC)