Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Lists

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Should lists about people require the linking biography page to mention the subject's relationship to the list?[edit]

This issue is being debated for a single article here. The issue resolves around violating BLP, that if a biography doesn't mention a scientist's relationship to a very political issue, why should a list label them as such. Counter points seem to include issues of using Wikipedia biographies as a primary reference for BLP violation. I think this issue should be brought to the greater Wikipedia community, since all politically charged lists of people likely face similar issues. Dkriegls (talk) 21:47, 21 January 2012 (UTC)

I think I agree with you, if you're suggesting that we make clearer that in lists which include people, BLP principles apply. —WFC— 07:01, 22 January 2012 (UTC)
Kinda; essentially should BLP be fact checked against a person's biography page. If biography editors have decided this is not a notable position of said person, should it be a violation of BLP to add them to a list that suggests it is a notable position? Dkriegls (talk) 21:27, 22 January 2012 (UTC)
It depends: Is this something that the editors have properly discussed and made a conscious decision about, or just another case of the biography being WP:NOTDONE or even suffering from POV pushing? If the latter, then you should ignore the contents of the biography. If the former, then those editors' reasons should be made known to the editors at the list. Fundamentally, it's the job of the people at the list itself to decide what their criteria for including or excluding people are, not the job of the people at the biography. WhatamIdoing (talk) 01:12, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
Shouldn't any issue of BLP be resolved at the biography page, not on some list? This is obviously most relevant to contentious issues where inclusion of said person on a list declares them in allegiance with a contentious issue. Lists are poor places to use prose to discuss the minutia of a person's position on the issue. Dkriegls (talk) 04:35, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
No, like any other content dispute, any BLP issue should be resolved at the actual page where the BLP issue exists.
Additionally, a well-written list can provide substantial information about why an entry was included. WhatamIdoing (talk) 06:14, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
I dont agree that there must be a mention of X in John Doe's article for John Doe to be included in List of X , although there does need to be sources. While X may play a minimal role in understanding John Doe and his importance, the fact that John Doe is X may be of great importance to X. Wikipedia is not paper and so we have list articles of very trivial things. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 04:32, 9 February 2014 (UTC)
I guess we're revisiting this two years later ;) I do agree that in general a trivial X doesn't need to be mentioned in John Doe's biography to make a list about category x. Example: Celebrity John Doe is a yearly pie eating judge in the small Maine town where he keeps a summer home. Not notable enough for his biography, but not WP:Undue weight to list him as one of the town's judges (given that the event is notable about the town. However, what I was originally asking was if there is a PLB issue, shouldn't that be resolved at the Biography page where editors are more familiar with the subject? Dkriegls (talk to me!) 12:40, 9 February 2014 (UTC)
For the particular list you started this discussion about they already do check the bio article talks about their relationship to the subject. I'm not too keen on your use of the word notable though, yes it should be mentioned in a reliable source and have enough weight to be put in a bio - but the person may be notable for something else and would not have been put in Wikipedia if their only contribution had been on the topic of the list. E.g. Prince Charles talks to plants and if people who talked to plants was a notable topic he would definitely be on it, but he isn't notable because he talks to plants, he is notable because he is a prince. Dmcq (talk) 13:04, 9 February 2014 (UTC)
Lets say we find a source that quotes the prince from 1992 as saying "When I talk to my plants I use an American accent". Editors who want to advance the idea that plant talking is normal and even princes do it, will be happy to use that source and add him to their list of people who talk to plants. But on his biography page, it is such a minor quote and not a position he actively endorses, that it is likely not to get mentioned there. Now, there might be a BLP and WP:Undue weight issue of adding the Prince of Wales' as an endorser of that position. Or more realistically, lets say he just used homeopathy but wasn't such a big endorser of it. His use probably wouldn't be noted in his biography, but people looking to highlight celebrity use of homeopathy might be keen to add him to their list given that his use is well cited. This is the type of thing I come across on lists like List of African-American Republicans or Lists of important people endorsing so and so. I do understand your position, but just think that if a list is going to make a claim about someone having a politicized or controversial position, it should be a position significant enough for inclusion on the biography page were editors more familiar with the person can asses BLP issues with the claim. Dkriegls (talk to me!) 06:11, 12 February 2014 (UTC)

Or, I guess just informing the talkpage of said biography that a BLP discussion is happening about the subject on a list page is probably the best way to go. I just find it hard for Wikipedia to claim a scientist as "anti" climate change unless they are full-on endorsing that position in a very public way that would be included in their biography. Most scientists I know always have nuanced positions, making it hard to say they belong on a list about endorsing a position because they wrote a paper on it three years ago. Dkriegls (talk to me!) 06:17, 12 February 2014 (UTC)

Conflicting instructions[edit]

From MOS talk:

WP:BULLETLIST says "As a matter of style, list items should start with a capital letter. They should not have a punctuation mark such as a period, a comma or a semi-colon at the end, except if a list item is one or more full sentences, in which case there is a period at the end." But MOS:#Bulleted and numbered lists says "When the elements are sentence fragments ... [they] 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." (emphasis added)

How do we want to resolve this? — kwami (talk) 19:08, 21 October 2012 (UTC)

I compromised: consistent capitalization, no final punctuation unless required by items themselves. This reflects what we actually do, and I've not seen any objection to this format. I'm not claiming consensus, simply resolving the conflict until (or if) there is further discussion. — kwami (talk) 23:18, 21 October 2012 (UTC)
Years later, this is not fixed. We still have "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 or comma (whichever you would use if the items were not formatted as a list), with a period instead for the last element. Alternatively (especially when the elements are short), no final punctuation is used at all" (my emphasis). Earlier in the page, "They should not have final punctuation unless they consist of complete sentences". One instruction says not to use final punctuation when elements are sentence fragments, and one instruction says to use a semicolon or comma, except if you decide not to, whatever that means. Yipes, I hardly ever see lists with semicolons or commas. Periods on every element, yes, I see those, but I remove them. The same semicolon blather is found near the end of WP:EMBED. Chris the speller yack 02:05, 14 July 2014 (UTC)
My usual practice is:
for sentences in a list to use sentence case and end in a period
for fragments in a list to use no closing punctuation
for fragments in a list to start with a capital letter or not depending on how they are being used
I understand that to be constant with WP:MOS, though that is confusing, but in disagreement with WP:LIST and WP:EMBED. I'd support changes to LIST and EMBED. SchreiberBike talk 04:26, 14 July 2014 (UTC)
I have made those changes. Chris the speller yack 21:33, 15 July 2014 (UTC)
Eek. What were the odds? Chris the speller, here it is, almost exactly 24 hours after you made the change, and I just happened onto the scene, looking for the "official word" on the use of semicolons in lists of sentence fragments, and I encountered silence. Making matters worse, I did encounter the previous bullet, which looks like this:
  • 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.
Actually, that is a lie – the "or" was at the beginning of the final bullet, but I doubt anyone would support that as being correct. I saw that silence as a deficiency in the MOS, especially where the MOS itself so clearly used the semicolon. Without any knowledge of the earlier conflict, I made the change listed below. But first, SchreiberBike, I agree with your assessment of the previous guideline as "blather", and I also agree that commas should never be used. However, I disagree that semicolons should be altogether eliminated. I was always taught that the semicolon should be used in lists of sentence fragments, or dependent clauses, when introduced by a lead fragment. In other words, the bulleted list shown above is correct. I haven't looked, but I daresay that other style guides would agree. Without further ado, here is how I modified the guideline:
  • 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. Each element fragment is formatted in lower case ending with a semicolon – except for the last one, which ends in a final period. Each element fragment, when coupled in turn with the lead fragment, should form a syntactically-correct sentence if it were to stand on its own.
    • When the elements are titles of works, they retain the original capitalization of the titles, without final punctuation.
    • Other elements are formatted consistently in either sentence case or lower case. No final punctuation is used.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks,  Grollτech (talk) 23:12, 16 July 2014 (UTC)
I thought there were two major styles of bulleted lists: those with whole sentences, and those with sentence fragments. The second type could be titles of works or some other sentence fragments. So there are three styles in total: sentences, fragments that are titles of works, and fragments that are not titles. Your modified guideline seems to have four styles ("Other elements" being the fourth), so now I'm confused. Before we go further, note that disambiguation pages have a style that fits with fragments that are not titles (well, mostly not titles). WP:DABSTYLE says "Entries are sentence fragments; do not end them with periods or other punctuation." Having done a lot of work with dab pages, now bulleted lists with ending punctuation, when not full sentences, look very strange to me. Don't you agree that the vast majority of the bulleted lists of sentence fragments on WP currently are without final punctuation? It might be time to have examples of properly formatted lists of all 3 types, or all 4 types. Chris the speller yack 02:51, 17 July 2014 (UTC)
@Grolltech: Oh, now I think I figured it out. You may be equating "sentence fragment" with "dependent clause", while I think of "sentence fragment" as one or more words, but less than a full sentence. Let's get that settled first. Chris the speller yack 03:00, 17 July 2014 (UTC)
I am no grammar expert; nonetheless I'll share my thoughts. I think the style described in green above works well for lists in running text, but to my eye the use of bullets ( • ) in a columnar list makes ending punctuation for each line unnecessary. I think the use of bullets also means that it is unnecessary to add the final conjunction (or/and) and the period. In restricted spaces like infoboxes, the same would apply to unbulleted columnar lists. SchreiberBike talk 03:42, 17 July 2014 (UTC)
Musdan77, I'd like to invite you to this discussion, in light of your revert, which I understand, but please take a moment to review this thread.]
SchreiberBike, I'm no grammar expert either, but I agree with the premise that you would not write:
For breakfast, I had:
  • eggs;
  • ham; and
  • coffee.
That would be foolish, and I think the original paragraph attempted to cover that scenario by saying, "Alternatively (especially when the elements are short), no final punctuation is used at all." I do know enough about grammar to know that the following sentence – which is achieved by simply removing the bullets – is gramatically correct:
"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"
That fits with the original paragraph's clumsily-worded, "Each element should end with a semicolon or comma (whichever you would use if the items were not formatted as a list), with a period instead for the last element."
So, Chris the speller, I think that you are correct as to the two "major" types (whole sentences and sentence fragments), but I think there are three types of "fragment" elements:
  • longer sentence clauses that are dependent on an introductory or "lead fragment";
  • titles of works; and
  • everything else.
For another point of view, Section 6.125 of the Chicago Manual of Style – self-proclaimed as "one of the most widely used and respected style guides in the United States" – says,
"In a numbered vertical list that completes a sentence begun in an introductory element and that consist of phrases or sentences with internal punctuation, semicolon may be used between the items, and a period should follow the final item. [...] If bullets were used instead of numbers ... the punctuation remain the same."
Interestingly, CMOS would not have us place a colon after the lead fragment. The conjunction on the penultimate line is also optional, and is trending out of favor.  Grollτech (talk) 01:57, 18 July 2014 (UTC)
For the record, I'm in basic agreement with all those who say that there are two (or 3) types. So, let's make sure that the MOS clearly shows the use for each one. --Musdan77 (talk) 02:32, 18 July 2014 (UTC)

Templates for lists in tables[edit]

My addition of the words "commas may be used, but {{Flatlist}} is preferred, for improved accessibility:" has been reverted, with an edit summary of "no consensus for replacing comma lists with flatlists". Aside from WP:DNRNC applying, there is widespread consensus for the use of that template; its in most infoboxes' documentation and used on hundreds of thousands of articles. The template emits proper HTML list, in accordance with HTML standards, improves accessibility, and provides better data granularity for parsers. User:RexxS gave a good, detailed explanation. The wording should be restored. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 19:31, 3 June 2013 (UTC)

I disagree that bullets are better than commas. Perhaps you should consider the hcomma class? Frietjes (talk) 19:35, 3 June 2013 (UTC)
The issue is not whether "bullets are better than commas", but whether we should use proper list markup for lists. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 20:51, 3 June 2013 (UTC)
I'm with Andy, standardizing the format to {{Flatlist}} is preferred. The text doesn't omit use of commas. --Dkriegls (talk to me!) 05:35, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
There are two reasons to prefer {{Flatlist}} or {{Hlist}} to commas:
  1. Marking up a list as such helps natural text recognition programs to correctly identify the structure. This is most useful inside infoboxes and summary tables, which are most likely to be targeted by those programs.
  2. Using list markup can be a help to screen readers which are capable of announcing the number of items in a list. Sighted readers can quickly spot the number of items in a list and it is easy for us to look back and count them if we wish. Visually impaired readers may find that rather more difficult and the opportunity to glean extra information about a list from its markup is a worthwhile improvement to their experience of using Wikipedia. Clearly, if the list only contains two or three items, there is no great advantage for screen readers in marking that up as a list.
However, we are all accustomed to having list items separated by commas in running prose - so much so that nobody would seriously consider replacing such lists in the normal body of an article. In this case, it seems sensible to alert editors to the advantages of {{Flatlist}} and {{Hlist}}. It would certainly not be unreasonable to describe them as "preferred" wherever a summary is used, but not in running prose. --RexxS (talk) 15:39, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
sounds like more reason for the hcomma class, that way you wouldn't have to change the visual appearance just to get list markup. Frietjes (talk) 17:49, 4 June 2013 (UTC)
Has hcomma made any headway? I've had flatlists removed that I'd added, and one argument was that the dots are "ugly" (though personally I'd prefer the dots). Curly Turkey ⚞¡gobble!⚟ 01:29, 20 May 2014 (UTC)

Alphabetical order?[edit]

I've noticed that there is a discrepancy in the way that "St." is alphabetized in the lists of U.S. counties; some put it where "Saint" would go, some put it in the St-s. I've also noticed that the Wikipedia articles on collation and alphabetical order name no strict convention, and that the manual of style has no specific guidelines on the preferred alphabetical standard for Wikipedia. Should we adopt some sort of consistent standard, or just let each article be different? Someone the Person (talk) 16:23, 25 April 2014 (UTC)

If it's consistent within each article it shouldn't pose a particular problem. The most obvious way to handle it is to not abbreviate in the first place. Gigs (talk) 18:05, 25 April 2014 (UTC)
I remember looking hard for such instructions when I started at Wikipedia. I just found Help:Alphabetical order which describes automated alphabetization of capital letters before from lower case letters. For instance in this example Schreiber's Green Lizard is sorted before Schreiber's bat. That's certainly different from how I've alphabetized. I think the encyclopedia would benefit from a standard way of alphabetizing. If you're up for proposing a system, I'd be interested in seeing it. I did put this together for my own use when I was spending a lot of time on surname pages. SchreiberBike talk 22:47, 25 April 2014 (UTC)
I'm actually surprised there isn't a standard. Perhaps this question should be asked over at the manual of style main page, to see if any editors over there recall any such previous efforts to standardize and what the reason for not doing so was. If there hasn't been any previous effort, I think it makes for a respectable cause. Dkriegls (talk to me!) 04:59, 27 April 2014 (UTC)
The archives are searchable at WT:MOS. Check for discussion in the WT:CFD talk page too, perhaps? Or where ever else categorization is being figured out. And, yes, this should be covered somewhere, and yes, we should advocate that the search key be for the non-abbreviated version (Saint). Other standard cases are to treat characters with diacritics as if without for search purposes (e.g. search key for a bio of "Elías Blöm" should be "Blom, Elias"), and Mac/Mc/M' names are done as if all "Mac", etc. I'm sure there are some external publications somewhere that outline how to do all of this sanely. We should find, review and synthesize them into a standard here. This become more important the larger our categories get, especially when full of things like human surnames and geographical names based on Saints and such, where spelling is hard to predict.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  12:42, 27 April 2014 (UTC)
Capitals are sorted before lower case because that's the order they are in the ASCII table. Of course, that's a little skewed here because mediawiki doesn't support case sensitive first letters by default, probably partially for that exact reason. Gigs (talk) 16:29, 28 April 2014 (UTC)

Proposed copyedit and layout change at WP:AVOIDYOU[edit]

There is a copyedit and layout proposal at "Avoiding personal attacks". Your participation would be appreciated. Lightbreather (talk) 00:26, 20 September 2014 (UTC)

The List Key[edit]

I would like some feedback and guidance about the placement and style of "Key/symbol" sections in list articles. I think I have complained about them in the past, but this has re-appeared due to a current FLC. Looking through lots of other sporting featured lists, I see that the key at the top of the list is very common. Most are only a few lines, so easier to ignore, and some use smaller font, but I see it as a giant roadblock before you get to the actual data. I'd like to move it to the side or end, do it via popups, notes or links or something clever (these are meant to be our best possible lists, remember). Here is the example in the current FLC:


Johnson fielding during a tour match against Northamptonshire during the 2009 Ashes series.
Symbol Meaning
Date Day the Test started or ODI held
Inn Innings in which five-wicket haul was taken
Overs Number of overs bowled
Runs Number of runs conceded
Wkts Number of wickets taken
Econ Runs conceded per over
Batsmen Batsmen whose wickets were taken
Result Result for the Australia team
Johnson was the man of the match
double-dagger 10 or more wickets taken in the match
Five-wicket hauls in Test cricket by Mitchell Johnson
No. Date Ground Against Inn Overs Runs Wkts Econ Batsmen Result
1 20 November 2008 The Gabba, Brisbane  New Zealand 4 17.3 39 5 2.22 Won

I'm not sure of how to best provide the key, but I am adamant, that despite a strong resistance of "it's how we've always done it" and "it's been accepted in 100s of lists", (Discussed at the FLC linked above, WT:CRIC and by @NickGibson3900: and @The Rambling Man:) it isn't the best way to do it. Has anyone seen a better way.

Should there be some guidance in the MOS as to put the key at the beginning, side or end of the article, or replace it with something cleverer, like notes, links, popups or whatever is acceptable from a visual, usability and accessibility point of view. I was surprised to not be about to find any mention of the use of a key in any MOS page. The-Pope (talk) 12:33, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

Whatever is discussed or decided, please remember that featured lists comply with WP:ACCESS, so small fonts, pop-ups etc aren't going to be used there. Also, remember that a large portion of Wikipedia readers now use mobile devices, so having the key section on its own may actually be a good thing. Thanks. The Rambling Man (talk) 12:35, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
As I noted some time ago at WT:CRIC, please make a counter proposal, this discussion is going nowhere fast. The Rambling Man (talk) 05:05, 29 September 2014 (UTC)
User:The-Pope, are you going to do anything constructive about this, or should we close this down? The Rambling Man (talk) 19:09, 4 November 2014 (UTC)
The key as-is doesn't inspire any similar motivation for change in me. I'd be interested to compare it to any alternative layouts, but none have been proposed. Seems like a working layout for me, but I'm always up to suggestions. Though, I will say I think I'm against end of page keys. Dkriegls (talk to me!) 09:17, 7 November 2014 (UTC)


I'm looking at a list article where deceased is indicated by formatting the name in italics. This violates emphasis and accessibility guidelines. What is the best way to indicate deceased here? --  Gadget850 talk 20:47, 16 October 2014 (UTC)

How about a symbol, such as the widely-used death dagger (also known as the obelisk) † → † --Redrose64 (talk) 21:35, 16 October 2014 (UTC)
I was looking at that, but I don't know how accessible it is. What does it do to screen readers? Here is a previous discussion on that topic. We have a template for almost everything... --  Gadget850 talk 22:06, 16 October 2014 (UTC)
We do, it's {{dagger}}. We also have {{double-dagger}}. The Rambling Man (talk) 12:53, 17 October 2014 (UTC)
dagger with date is often death, whereas asterisk * with date is birth. In physics, the same symbols are used mathematically for annihilation and creation operators. SBHarris 04:39, 23 December 2014 (UTC)

All glossary templates nominated for deletion[edit]

FYI: Pointer to relevant discussions elsewhere.

Please see WP:Templates for discussion/Log/2014 October 22#Glossary templates (and the related WP:Templates for discussion/Log/2014 October 20#Template:Gbq), as the outcome will strongly affect handling of template-structured description lists (covered in more detail at MOS:GLOSSARIES).  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:02, 22 October 2014 (UTC)

Lists of people - notability for each subject?[edit]

I've tried reading archived discussions about redlinks in lists and notability requirements for list items, but I am still at a loss for how it applies to lists of real people. I have seen many "lists of" for musicians, groups, and singers from certain genres or geographic locales. Of those I've examined, they include almost entirely subjects which are notable, i.e. have or may soon have articles on Wikipedia. Additionally, they include either just each subject's name, or perhaps include active years and/or a short explanation of who they are. The following series of lists (List of South Korean idol groups (2010s), List of South Korean idol groups (2000s), List of South Korean idol groups (1990s)) attempts to include ALL "idol groups" that have ever existed within South Korea, including those for which notability does not and will not likely ever exist. The list also includes an extraordinary amount of extra information on each subject, all of which is already included in the notable subjects' articles. We've attempted to have discussions about these lists, but editors seem to be divided into two camps: the "keep everything because kpop fans like it" and "make these lists like other wikipedia lists" camps. I think it's hard for us to see these lists in the wider scope of Wikipedia because, like any fandom, kpop fans tend to be insular and very passionate. I've tried to do my research, but I'd really like other eyes to look at these lists and give some guidance about the appropriateness of their length and inclusiveness. *note: I know sourcing is an issue at the moment, so no need to bring that up right now. Thank you - I just want to get better ideas of Wikipedia standards so some of these arguments can stop. Actually, the list of possibly-overly-inclusive lists is an issue for many, many kpop articles, but I'll start with just this set of lists.  :) Shinyang-i (talk) 04:28, 23 December 2014 (UTC) edit: Sorry if I posted this at the wrong place. I have also posted it now at WikiProject Lists. Shinyang-i (talk) 04:55, 23 December 2014 (UTC)

Can we include the meta-info "We have an article on this" (beyond just the bluelink) and if so how[edit]

Looking at List of statues of Queen Victoria... There are plenty of bluelinks, for the towns and even neighborhoods in which the statues are located, which IMO is fine... But for some (not most) entries there is also an article... which is probably of much more importance to the reader. My questions are:

  1. Is it proper to communicate to the reader the meta-information "We have an article on this entity"
  2. If so, how is this done?

What I've done placed the link to the articles (when there is one) in bolded italics. However, I haven't specified that this means anything in particular -- leaving the reader to maybe figure it or (or maybe not). We could remove the bluelinks that don't link to a statue article (that is, the bluelinks to the town where it is and so forth), leaving the remaining bluelinks much more clearly pointing to the statue articles. The cost is it leaves the reader who is like "Oh, it's in Lancaster, where's that and what's it like?" with no link to follow.

Another way to go would to have a key that says something like "bolded italics = that's a link to an article on the entity" or even color the box and have a key at the top saying "This color means we have an article on this entity". I've never seen this and I'm skeptical if it's a good idea. Any thoughts? Herostratus (talk) 14:09, 8 February 2015 (UTC)