Wikipedia talk:Article titles

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We use both title case and sentence case in our titles, and TITLEFORMAT should say so[edit]

NOTE: This was moved from Wikipedia talk:List of shortcuts where it was started by me by mistake (I have no idea how I did that) --В²C 17:40, 18 March 2015 (UTC)

On October 26, 2014 the following unqualified sentence was added to WP:TITLEFORMAT, without discussion[1]:

Titles are written in sentence case.

This is plainly false, and I reworded it accordingly yesterday to this[[2]]:

Titles use either title case or sentence case depending on most common usage in reliable sources.

I justified this change in my edit summary as follows:

Correct misleading statement added on 10/26/2014. Titles don't always use sentence case. Often they use title case. Depends on usage in reliable sources.

This was reverted by Herostratus yesterday[3] with the following explanation:

"Well thats a big change. Prove your case first please -- reverted per WP:BRD, take it to talk."

Big change? Yeah, it's a big change in what it says, not in what we do. Do I really need to find examples of titles using title case to prove that we don't always use sentence case? Whatever. Here we go, thanks to one minute with SPECIAL:RANDOM:

The statement that "Titles are written in sentence case" is plainly inaccurate in terms of reflecting actual titles and title decision making on Wikipedia. The sentence I added is plainly accurate in those same terms. The policy should not be misleading, and it currently is. --В²C 16:11, 18 March 2015 (UTC)

Well but all those are proper nouns. So they're in sentence case, e.g. in a sentence we would say "...he then became involved in Operation Crooked Code as a trainee..." and so forth. I hope you're not suggesting that not titling an article Tim blanchard indicates the our MOS is to use title case.
Of course in English capitalization is fraught. You can say "He went down the East River Road..." (if that's the name of the road) or "He went down the East River road..." (if it doesn't have a name, or you don't know it, or don't care to name but just want to describe it (maybe it's named Hawthorne Road but you'd rather describe where it is)) or whatever. And this carries over to titles too. So we have House at 196 Main Street (not "At"). We could have titled it Hiram Eaton House instead, which is the proper name of the house so we would not use "Hiram Eaton house". But it if we didn't have a proper name or address to work with we might well have titled it "Hiram Eaton's house" since that's a description and not a proper name. We would not title an article "Hiram Eaton's House" or any such thing.
As to someone just inserting "Titles are written in sentence case" with no discussion on October 26, 2014, I would say:
  • I don't recommend any substantive changes to rules pages w/o prior discussion so I deplore this.
  • But it pretty much just describes what everyone knows, which is probably why it went unnoticed.
  • At any rate IMO unchallenged since October 26, 2014 is way too late for WP:BRD to be in play, so fair or not the ball is in your court to get consensus to have it removed. Herostratus (talk) 16:37, 18 March 2015 (UTC)
But Herostratus, it says "Titles are written in sentence case"; it doesn't say "Titles are written in sentence case, except for proper nouns." What about Seattle General Strike, for example? Someone on that talk page is arguing that this title should be changed to Seattle general strike because TITLEFORMAT says "Titles are written in sentence case". But then you get into the debate about whether the name of that particular strike is a proper noun. And how do we decide? By looking at usage in reliable sources, right? Well, there ya go, which is why I changed it to say, "... depending on most common usage in reliable sources." --В²C 19:55, 18 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree with "Titles are written in sentence case." Sentence case essentially means "as would be written in a sentence." So if something would be uppercase in a sentence, it's uppercase in the WP article title, and vice-versa. As at sentence case itself: "only the first word is capitalised, except for proper nouns and other words which are generally capitalised by a more specific rule." Where something is found in both upper- and lowercase in sources, then we discuss (as with many recent proper name RMs). Sometimes sentence case and title case will look identical - as with the examples given above by B2C. But that does not mean we are actually using title case for those articles - it just means that, in those cases, sentence case looks like title case. As for the procedural point, I think BRD probably still applies, but in any event do agree with the addition. Dohn joe (talk) 20:22, 18 March 2015 (UTC)
I dunno... if you stretch WP:BRD back six months, where are gonna draw the line? As to the rest, right... I think what we have here is matter of semantics. I think that Born2cycle and everyone else would agree that if an article begins "The Seattle General Strike of 1903 was..." then the article should be title Seattle General Strike, and if it begins "The Seattle general strike of 1903 was..." then the article should be title Seattle general strike. Right? I think we all agree on that. And if they don't match, then we use whatever means -- reliable sources, !vote, argument, trial by combat, whatever -- to make them match, whether by changing the case in the text or in the title. Right? My objection is that saying "Sometimes we use title case" is confusing. My personal opinion is that saying "we use sentence case" is pretty clear, but I guess its not. So I think the solution is not just add "or sometimes we use title case" but rather a more detailed explanation of what "sentence case" means -- "write a title just as you would write the words in a sentence, except for titles the first word is always capitalized" or some more elegant way of saying that. Herostratus (talk) 20:40, 18 March 2015 (UTC)
Given that we seem to have a lot of editors who misunderstand what "sentence case" actually means... who don't understand that proper names are written with capital letters even in sentence case... I think B2C has a point. We do need to find a better way to word this. Perhaps something along the lines of: "Article Titles are written in sentence case (but note: In sentence case, proper names are always written with the first letter of each part of the name capitalized)." Blueboar (talk) 09:04, 19 March 2015 (UTC)
I agree entirely that what "sentence case" means needs to be explained (sigh...), since many editors regularly mis-understand it. However, referring to "proper names" is unhelpful, as lengthy previous discussions, often acrimonious, have shown. There's no clear grammatical definition of "proper name" in English (there are at least two different kinds, those which don't allow articles, like "Peter" or "New York", and those that require them, like "the White House"). Capitalization is a convention which differs by country (less capitalization usually in the US than in the UK, for example), and by date (the trend is for less capitalization). I think that all you can really say is something like "In sentence case, capital letters are used for the first word and then only for other words normally capitalized in running text in sources considered appropriate models for the English Wikipedia." Peter coxhead (talk) 11:05, 19 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree with "Titles are written in sentence case.", including the following explanation, i.e.

Titles are written in sentence case. The initial letter of a title is almost always capitalized by default; otherwise, words are not capitalized unless they would be so in running text.

If that is not clear enough, it could be changed to something like

Titles are written in sentence case. In other words, the title is written as it would be at the beginning of a sentence, i.e. the first word is capitalized by default, and other words are not capitalized unless they would be capitalized in running text.

--Boson (talk) 13:48, 19 March 2015 (UTC)

Descriptive vs Proper Name[edit]

This policy notes the distinction between using "Name Titles" (titles that are simply the topic's name) and "Descriptive Titles". I am thinking that this distinction could be used to clarify the "sentence case" confusion If we state "Descriptive titles are written in sentence case" we prevent that confusion. Yes, some of us know that a Name is written with capital letters in sentence case... but it is clear that many editors don't understand that - they erroneously think we are saying that only the first letter of the first word should be captialized ... even in a name. By simply adding the word "Descriptive" to "Titles are written in sentence case" we prevent that misunderstanding. Blueboar (talk) 14:33, 21 March 2015 (UTC)

This is not a good division; many things can be considered "names" but not "proper names", and this just invites people to start capitalizing anything that they can argue is not "descriptive". And where have you seen this confusion you assert, that some editors think we mean that proper names should be downcased? I've not seen that. Can you point to a recent case? Dicklyon (talk) 16:13, 21 March 2015 (UTC)
I agree with Dicklyon. Adding "Descriptive" implies that we do not use sentence case for "Name titles" when we clearly do. I also have not seen this widespread confusion; most editors seem to catch on to the convention pretty readily. If we need to add anything, it should be a short definition of "sentence case" as was suggested above. Dohn joe (talk) 19:36, 21 March 2015 (UTC)
  • OK... perhaps my idea of separating "Descriptive" titles from "Name" titles won't work... but that still leaves the root problem that B2C identified unresolved. The simple fact is that we DO write most names in title case... regardless of whether the name is a "proper name" or not. This issue comes up at RM all the time ... to give an example, when it was suggested that we move Pullman Strike to Pullman strike, the move was resoundingly opposed. I can give a lot of other examples. This is actually something that Dicklyon has repeatedly complained about at MOS, and while I sympathize with his complaint - the reality is that our editors still prefer to write names in title case. You can argue that this is "wrong"... but they do it never the less. And when you try to "correct" them, it causes resentment and disruption. Our job as policy wonks is to describe what our fellow editors actually do... it is not our job to proscribe what we think our editors should do instead. Blueboar (talk) 22:49, 21 March 2015 (UTC)
    I think you're still somewhat conflating two separate issues. The one issue is that WP uses sentence case, for all titles. Sometimes, when a topic is uppercased in running text, sentence case looks like title case and vice versa. The second issue is that some topics are not uniformly uppercased in sources. This is the Pullman strike question. The question in those and similar RMs is not, "Should we use sentence or title case for this topic?" Instead, the question is, "Is this topic uppercased in running text in reliable sources to the extent that WP should as well?" If the consensus for a given topic is yes, we use uppercase; if the answer is no, we use lowercase. But in either case we are using sentence case in the title. Dohn joe (talk) 22:58, 21 March 2015 (UTC)
I understand that, and you understand that... but I am not sure that the average editor will understands it. More importantly, it isn't something they actually do. Blueboar (talk) 23:07, 21 March 2015 (UTC)
Blueboar, you completely mischaracterize that Pullman Strike situation; the RM closer noted that "There is no clear consensus for these proposed moves", which is a long way from "the move was resoundingly opposed". In fact, there is generally moderate support for moving titles to conform with the suggestions of the MOS, and a moderate number of apparent MOS haters such as B2C and yourself who oppose such fixes even when both the MOS and the usage is better sources (books) both point clearly in the direction of lowercase. I don't understand why that is, but there's plenty of evidence of that pattern, like at the recent Civil Rights Movement RM discussion, where the specialist lovers of the topic area add to the MOS haters and preserve title case when consistency with WP style would be to use lowercase. It's pretty bizarre really. Note that most editors, especially new ones, are completely naive to this distinction, and will be default make new article titles in title case; that's why we routinely need to move the ones that are not proper names to comply with the advice of the MOS. Dicklyon (talk) 16:00, 22 March 2015 (UTC)
OK, first... I am not "an MOS hater". In fact, I think the MOS is quite good. Second... I have no problem moving articles that inadvertently are written in title case. That said... What I do have a problem with is editors going on "anti-capitalization crusades", mass moving articles that may well have intentionally been put in title case... especially when the only real reason for the move is "they don't conform to MOS". There may be a reason why an article title does not conform to MOS, and the crusaders need to be less strident, and much more willing to make exceptions to the MOS. Blueboar (talk) 00:09, 23 March 2015 (UTC)
Yes, I wrote "apparent MOS haters" because that's how it looks sometimes. And I suppose I'm the "crusader" you refer to. I do try to move things toward compliance with the MOS, and I'm not often seeing anything like good reasons not to fix articles that someone has intentionally capitalized without a good reason. Perhaps you can point out some? Dicklyon (talk) 03:10, 23 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Suggest "Titles are written in ordinary sentence case. Within sentence case, proper names and composition titles are capitalized". Yes, this is overlapping, redundant, etc. Boson above is technically correct, but policy is not a technical exposée or exemplar, correct when deconstructed, but low level explanation meant to communicate basic ideas to newcomers. Some editors mistake policy as a place to have high level oblique debates among policy experts, they forget the intended audience. "Sentence case" can be confusing to non grammaticians, but "ordinary sentence case" is hard to misunderstand. Proper names are capitalised, and we can leave it to proper name to explain the very complex nuances. "Composition titles" are proper names, but I think a great many mainspace contributors know a composition title when they see it, and will find "proper name" used for composition titles confusing. Explaining simple things simply may tend to sucking eggs, but simple explanations that are easy to understand are reassuring, and reassurance is good for the intended audience. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 11:34, 22 March 2015 (UTC)
My concern is about titles that are not technically "proper names"... but where there is consensus to capitalize anyway. This may be because the average editor does not really know (or care) what the difference between a proper name and other forms of names is (to many editors... a name is a name is a name, and "names" should always be capitalized). What really has me concerned is that the number of RM requests that center on relatively petty capitalization questions has gone up dramatically in the last six months or so. There seems to be a "de-capitalization" crusade going on (which ends up causing a countering "re-capitalization" crusade) and it's getting to the point of being Pointy and disruptive. It's causing all sorts of debates and distrust between editors who focus on subject matter, and those who focus on style/grammar concerns. I am worried that WP:AT is simply adding fuel on to that slow burning fire. Blueboar (talk) 12:33, 22 March 2015 (UTC)
Titles that are not technically "proper names" can be capitalised because they are proper names regardless of invented technical rules. English is as it is used, and usage changes. This policy, and the MOS, should steer clear of trying to define a proper name. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 04:44, 23 March 2015 (UTC)
About the only recent example of that I can think of us was Cuban Missile Crisis, though I still don't see why or how that consensus to capitalize a non-proper-name came about. Dicklyon (talk) 03:11, 23 March 2015 (UTC)
It came from "Cuban Missile Crisis" having become a proper name. It's much like how the "American Civil War" took a few decades to become accepted as a proper name. A problem with insisting on MOS compliance is that it suppresses the changing nature of the language. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 04:41, 23 March 2015 (UTC)
But the evidence shows that it's still mostly lowercase in sources; see Talk:Cuban_Missile_Crisis#More_recent_book_data. So asserting that it has become a proper name is just nonsense. Dicklyon (talk) 05:54, 24 March 2015 (UTC)
It would seem that your evidence failed to convince other participants. My reading of the discussion is that other participants, including myself, decided the name is a proper name despite your evidence as presented. That's WP:Consensus, it's a bit funny like that, surely you realize that the community failed to agree with you, and decided to treat the name as a capital name. "many editors think of items like the Cuban Missile Crisis as proper nouns", someone said. Anyway, my point here is that it remains correct that titles are in sentence case, with proper names, and composition titles, being capitalized in sentence case. The trouble with deciding whether something is a proper name is not the fault to be laid at the feet of this policy. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 11:00, 24 March 2015 (UTC)
If I may add for the record, the 'more recent book data' about the Cuban Missile Crisis that Dicklyon mentions, when looked at individually as I did in the same section, shows that the books were mainly reprints of old textbooks, which I know (from familiarity with textbook publishing) are not gone over sentence by sentence when republished. I may add that I was reverted when linking 'Cuban Missile Crisis' on the proper noun page (which has a link to 'Cuban missile crisis') with an edit summary by Dicklyon asking me to 'stand down', so I didn't retry that for sake of not edit-warring, but I will politely ask him here to link both forms of the missile crisis on that page, for fairness and consistency. EDIT: I see that the link was made on the proper noun page earlier today, and I will add a link to the lower-case as well for consistency of the page. Randy Kryn 12:42 24 March, 2015 (UTC)
I disagree with the notion that anything we do here possibly “suppresses the changing nature of the language.” Anyone who accepts Wikipedia as an arbiter of the English language is a dummy. The language will be what it will be, regardless of how long we wait to catch up. And naturally, as a tertiary source, Wikipedia does wait to catch up. — (talk) 08:00, 28 March 2015 (UTC)

RfC: putting more emphasis on description in WP:CONCISE and across WP:AT[edit]

Previous related discussions:
please add discussions I have missed GregKaye 16:34, 24 March 2015 (UTC)

The explanation of WP:CONCISE is currently: "The goal of conciseness is to balance brevity with sufficient information to identify the topic to a person familiar with the subject area". Why is "familiar with the subject" mentioned? Surely people may mostly benefit to research a topic if they are unfamiliar with the subject.

As one set of examples: in Category:Mesopotamian gods there are the disambiguated articles: Amurru (god) Ashur (god) Erra (god) Gaga (god) Gerra (god) Hani (god) Kulla (god) Kus (god) Lahar (god) Ma (deity) Ma (Sumeria) Neti (mythology) Shara (god) Sin (mythology) Tammuz (deity) Tutu (Mesopotamian god) Wer (god) Anzû (mythology)

In comparison Britannica presents:

  • Ashur Mesopotamian deity - Ashur, in Mesopotamian religion, city god of Ashur and national god of Assyria. ...

While we present Mercury (mythology), Britannica presents:

  • Mercury Roman god - Mercury, Latin Mercurius, in Roman religion, god of merchandise and merchants, commonly identified with the Greek Hermes, fleet-footed messenger of the gods. ...

From what I have seen Britannica presentation typically gives wider information in its subtitles than we give in disambiguation.

Propose that we present a greater emphasis on provision of description in titles.

I also think that WP:PRECISION is written to suggest the provision of minimal information rather than the provision of content that will be usefully informative for readers across the our whole cohort of readership.

GregKaye 08:15, 24 March 2015 (UTC)

Very good point, Greg. I've never understood why familiarity was used in this way. I believe the "familiarty" phrase should be removed. Tony (talk) 08:25, 24 March 2015 (UTC)
TY. I think that more information such as to say whether someone is, say, defined as a ".. (comedy actress/actor)" or a ".. (pornographic actress/actor)" [although, arguably, ".. (adult entertainer)" might better suit the later case] or as a ".. (sumo wrestler)" or a ".. (professional wrestler)" with the later case not being involved in forms of competitive sport which are described as Wrestling. In these cases comedy, pornography, sumo and pro-wrestling can be considered as artforms in their own rights. GregKaye 10:29, 24 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree. Britannica titles are read with their subtitles. I would delete not just "familiar" but all of "to a person familiar with the subject area". A title should identify the topic. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 11:38, 24 March 2015 (UTC)

See Recognizability – The title is a name or description of the subject that someone familiar with, although not necessarily an expert in, the subject area will recognize.

There is yards of text in the archives for the reasons for this particular wording [and I assume that those participating in this conversation to date have read them -- so this is of course just a warning for those who have not]. I would strongly oppose any changes to the wording of Recognizability and without that the arguments for changing WP:CONCISE one way or another evaporates, as its implementation has to complement that of "recognizability". -- PBS (talk) 12:28, 24 March 2015 (UTC)

  • I honestly think that the general presentation of criteria, particularly in relation to disambiguation, leads our article titles to be relatively impoverished of descriptive content.
The stated "characteristics" of a "good Wikipedia title", as has oft been mentioned, are:
  • Recognizability – The title is a name or description of the subject that someone familiar with, although not necessarily an expert in, the subject area will recognize.
  • Naturalness – The title is one that readers are likely to look or search for and that editors would naturally use to link to the article from other articles. Such titles usually convey what the subject is actually called in English.
  • Precision – The title is sufficiently precise to unambiguously identify the article's subject and distinguish it from other subjects.
  • Conciseness – The title is no longer than necessary to identify the article's subject and distinguish it from other subjects.
  • Consistency – The title is consistent with the pattern of similar articles' titles. Many of these patterns are listed (and linked) in the box of Topic-specific conventions on article titles.
However, while the titles may in many cases be good, I do not thing that, in every case, they are as great as they could be and, particularly in comparison to the Wikipedia titles and subtitles that I have seen, they can be relatively poor in specific content. "Precision" has connotations of efficiency and, as if to back this up, the Mother Theresa example is mentioned before Leeds North West (UK Parliament constituency).
"Conciseness" presents: "The title is no longer than necessary ..." There is nothing here about richness or generosity of description so as to offer added value in helping the reader understand the content of a topic.
As far as the content at WP:CONCISE is concerned I see nothing wrong with saying:
The goal of conciseness is to balance brevity with the provision of information to help readers identify a topic.
The having of a primary goal of "Recognisability" also seems quite miserly to me. Someone close to me goes to art classes. Suppose that person showed me a sketch and asked what I thought of it and suppose I said, "well its recognisable". Presuming that the picture was meant to be recognisable my comments would go down much less than well. Less is not always more and I think that we have gone too far down the path of prioritising "brevity" GregKaye 16:32, 24 March 2015 (UTC)
Do you really want to rehash the arguments that are already in the archives and he reason why it was decided to keep "someone familiar with, although not necessarily an expert in". If not then please read the archives, because I would rather no have to go through it yet again. -- PBS (talk) 16:46, 24 March 2015 (UTC)
There is a problem with wanting to make titles informative to the lay person. Take, for example, Egil Krogh. That title means absolutely nothing to the vast majority of people. In fact, it is unlikely that most people will ever look this article up at all. So what is it? A place name? A syndrome? In fact, it's the name of a person, and specifically of a lawyer who worked for the Nixon administration and went to jail for certain things that went on there. The title could be more informative - Egil Krogh (lawyer), Egil Krogh (Nixon administration official), etc., but that would really be of no value to anyone who has enough of a basis of information to want to look the topic up in the first place. bd2412 T 17:23, 24 March 2015 (UTC)
BD2412 I was more thinking along the lines of content that might more readily lead to Abyss being defined as a professional wrestler, Aja being defined as a pornographic actress and Ashur being defined as a Mesopotamian god. I think that in such situations the additional information provides valuable clarity at very little cost. GregKaye 18:26, 24 March 2015 (UTC)
Are there people who know enough to know that there is a wrestler named "Abyss" at all, but don't know that he is a "professional" wrestler? I would say the same with respect to the other two items. bd2412 T 18:31, 24 March 2015 (UTC)
BD2412. Going back to your example of Egil Krogh, I agree, there is no need to add additional qualifiers/descriptions/information to the title when there is only one Egil Krogh. But let us suppose another Egil Krogh becomes notable? We have, according to some editors, three or four choices (which will be debated endlessly until somebody gets fed up). What should happen in the event of two Egil Krogh's at WP? That is the real question, which if we can answer in advance, will make WP much more stable. --Richhoncho (talk) 19:51, 24 March 2015 (UTC)
That's actually a pretty easy question to answer, especially in the abstract. If there comes another notable Egil Krogh, we will ask ourselves: "Is one of these two Egil Kroghs the WP:PRIMARYTOPIC for "Egil Krogh"?" If yes, then Egil Krogh 1 will be at Egil Krogh, and Egil Krogh 2 will be at Egil Krogh (occupation or other appropriate disambiguator). If no, then Egil Krogh will be a disambiguation page, and both Kroghs will be disambiguated. Dohn joe (talk) 02:12, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
Dohn joe it is often at the "..(appropriate disambiguator)" stage that I think we fall short in comparison to Britannica. Our concern is all to often to distil the most measly yet "concise" disambiguation that can be whittled down from all the various possible content. In comparison to other ways in which we might work I think that we are often the poorer for it. We often fail at precision in regard to those many disambiguations that are not nearly as WP:PRECISE as they easily could be. GregKaye 20:32, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
I actually think we get the balance of the various WP:AT criteria right 99% of the time. I don't think that "(Romanian playwright)" is substantially better or more helpful than "(playwright)". In any event, I was just trying to respond to Richhoncho's scenario, which I was trying to show was pretty commonplace around here. Dohn joe (talk) 21:16, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  • I would respectfully oppose and instead work the other way--if there is a primary topic, that subject's article should be located at the base name. Someone who types in turkey expecting a bird will be educated that there is a more significant "Turkey" in the world, and still be a mere one click away from the article they want. Red Slash 01:09, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
If you put "Turkey" into a search engine you get mostly get the country (with the Wikipedia article on the country near the top of the results). Google is smart enough on it's own to figure out what the most significant Turkey in the world is. But Wikipedia isn't smart enough (without further intervention) to figure out the appropriate link targets for: "Birds present in the area include robins, cardinals and turkeys". Robin and cardinal go to dab pages. Turkey goes to the country. Are cardinals a kind of bird, or officials in the Catholic church? Declaring that the country of Turkey is the PRIMARYTOPIC, or that cardinals are priests ensures that some readers are going to get sent to the wrong Wikipedia article from internal Wikipedia links. External search engines can sort out ambiguity (i.e. lower precision in Wikipedia article titles) better than Wikipedia can itself (without invoking more precise but less concise title).Plantdrew (talk) 05:36, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
Yes, those mistakes in linking happen. It's absolutely the principal downside of WP:PRIMARYTOPIC. The plus, of course, is that readers and editors can type "turkey" into the search bar, the URL bar, or a wikilink and get to the article they most likely want right away. But I would not want to discount the negatives. On the whole, I think that Turkey is natural and appropriate given the disparity between the topics' primacy (and I live thousands of miles away from Turkey in the heart of turkey country), and I would note that turkeys does get you to the page you want. Red Slash 21:28, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
Red Slash I quite agree that if there is a clear primary topic and as long as the title affords helpful description then this is the way to go. As you know one of the most common classes of topics to have items appear in WP:RM is songs. An example of a song from Category:The Beatles songs is Michelle (song) which may be argued to pass Wikipedia's minimum standard of "Recognizability". However I would argue that a title such as Michelle (Beatles song) gives better quality of description. In its current state I think that WP:AT discourages fuller descriptions such as this and this, I think, is shown by the large number of RMs that, for some reason, want to cut an artist's name from a title. The impression I have gained is that esteem is somehow given if a song can be presented as, for instance, ".. (song)" rather than ".. (Michael Jackson song)" GregKaye 09:45, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
Greg, I know that there is a sense of esteem given to a primary topic, which is why people get so motivated to defend primacy of "their" topics; see move requests at Limerick, Plymouth, Birmingham, Perth, and yes, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Portland. I accept that this is a perfectly understandable (if not entirely logical) perspective, but as far as partial disambiguation, I don't get it. Thriller (Michael Jackson song) would be totally appropriate. (Then again, there are IAR circumstances for partial disambiguation; Birmingham, USA is an extremely useful redirect, even though there are multiple American Birminghams.) Red Slash 21:28, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Support reverting B2C's undiscussed unilateral change of April 3 2014 (this diff). His edit summary claimed "Use wording more consistent with what WP:CRITERIA says to be less ambiguous in meaning" but this is bullshit; I'm sorry I missed it at the time. He's trying to push further toward putting no value on actual information in titles, to make them shorter, as he always has. Dicklyon (talk) 06:43, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
    I would oppose the revert because as he say the wording is more consistent with Recognizability in WP:CRITERIA. The wording Dicklyon proposes reverting to: "way the average person searching for it will recognize" opens up to obvious questions: "searching" by what method? What is an "average person"? -- PBS (talk) 10:43, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment Some Wikipedia disambiguations are downright nonsensical. For instance the article Indian (motorcycle) begins, "Indian is an American brand of motorcycles" and should, in any sensible world, have a title such as Indian (motorcycle brand), Indian (motorcycle company) or even Indian (motorcycles). As it is I think that the AT rules can permit the unnecessary amputation of key or otherwise useful information. GregKaye 07:19, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
    GregKaye article titles are not the issue, much more relevant is the content of the first sentence. See for example a Google search on "Cromwell"
    • Oliver Cromwell (25 April 1599 – 3 September 1658) was an English military and political leader and later Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, ...
    • Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, KG was an English lawyer and statesman who served as chief minister to King Henry VIII of England from 1532 to 1540.
    No matter what was added as a more descriptive description to the title, it is the first sentence that contains the detail for someone less than familiar with the subject. That is unless we were to start making titles a long as the first sentence.
    Compare that with a Google Search on [Cromwell tank]
    • "Tank, Cruiser, Mk VIII, Cromwell (A27M), and the related Centaur (A27L) tank, were one of the most successful series of cruiser tanks fielded by Britain in the ..."
    Unless one is familiar with what the term "Cromwell tank" means the lead sentence does not help tell if that is a relevant article. Just adding a dab extension "Cromwell tank (British, Second World War)" leads us to ask per dab are the other British and foreign tanks with the same name? I think GregKaye, as is discussed in detail in the archives your proposal would encourage people to want to expand article titles to include details which properly should appear in the first sentence. If I am copying a biography from the DNB and it mentions "Cromwell" I know from the dates of the biography that the DNB author assumed the person reading his/her biography is familiar enough with the subject to know the names of Tomas and Oliver Cromwell and the Century they were prominent (Hence recognisability). I would not expect the DNB author to mean Oliver Cromwell (died 1655) unless they made that obvious. On the talk page of the article Oliver Cromwell (died 1655) I have suggested that the dab should be changed because the DOD is close to the of Oliver Cromwell the regicide who died in 1658 -- eg to (Royalist) or to "of Hinchingbrooke". One suggestion with tongue-in-cheek was "Oliver Cromwell (not the one you are probably looking for)" to which I suggested we could dab both of them "Oliver Cromwell (Royalist)" and "Oliver Cromwell (non-Royalist)". The point I am making here (and has been made many times in the archives) is that "someone familiar with, although not necessarily an expert in" has served Wikipedia well and I see no advantage in changing it. -- PBS (talk) 10:43, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  • Takings PBS's point of 12:28, 24 March 2015, I suggest changing
The goal of conciseness is to balance brevity with sufficient information to identify the topic to a person familiar with the subject area
The goal of conciseness is to balance brevity with recognizability
More concise. Less repetition with "familiar", more repetition of "recognizability". I find the definition for recognizability good, but somehow the repetition of the same words for the expansion section on conciseness doesn't work quite right. On "brevity": There has been a lot of confusion about brief and concise not being the same thing. Setting out brevity as a factor to weigh against recognizability for conciseness clearly establishes that brevity is not conciseness. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 11:32, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  • It's important to leave the "to a person familiar with the subject area" clarification in there precisely because so many don't understand it, as this discussion demonstrates. Making titles recognizable to the public in general is not a goal, and should not be. That is the role of the lead. The title is a step a unique identifier for the topic, a step or two above a randomly chosen string, making the subject recognizable from the title alone to those familiar with the subject. That's all. Trying to make it more is opening Pandora's Box. --В²C 19:48, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  • В²C what exactly does "familiar with the subject area" actually mean anyway? It seems phenomenally vague to me. However, in POV wrangles that I have seen at WP:RM, many of the problems are raised at the point of disambiguation. Perhaps there would be a way to annex this issue in some way from general AT issues and perhaps consider it as something akin to "ST" (sub-title). At present content at WP:NCDAB reads:
"... Parenthetical disambiguation. A disambiguating word or phrase can be added in parentheses. ...".
Perhaps this could read as something like:
"... Parenthetical disambiguation. A descriptive word or phrase can be added in parentheses so as to provide disambiguation. ..."
As per all the examples that I have given, a guideline wording such as this would, I think, facilitate the kind of value added as I think is evident in various usages of Britannica subtitles. I appreciate that this is the wrong place to be proposing this but was interested to see what other editors thought. GregKaye 20:16, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
I agree "familiar with the subject area" is vague; it used to say "familiar with the subject", which is far better. What it meant was that someone familiar with the subject of the article should be able to recognize the subject from the title. The point is that Square matrix is recognizable to those familiar with linear algebra, and does not need to be described further in the title. But it's clearer to say that it's recognizable to anyone familiar with square matrices. The main point is that we do not strive to make this subject recognizable from the title to someone who is unfamiliar with square matrices or linear algebra.

The only time we add descriptive information to a title is when it's necessary for disambiguation, which is the process of determining titles for topics that share the same name. --В²C 20:46, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

В²C Reducing to "familiar with the subject" would permit even less descriptive titles. Even in the case of obscure stubs, a "balance (of) brevity with sufficient information to identify the topic to a person familiar with the subject" might be very brief indeed. Why do we only cater for people who have familiarity with a subject/subject area? GregKaye 07:41, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
In the specific and very narrow context of deciding titles, we only cater to those with familiarity with the given subject to have a clear standard, and because it really doesn't matter. It's critical to understand that titles could be computer-generated random strings and WP would still work effectively. Allowing for more titles more descriptive than needed to meet the familiarity standard opens Pandora's box, manifested here in an ever-growing RM backlog. If the standard is not familiarity with the subject, what is it, and how do we decide if a given title is sufficiently descriptive, or whether it should be even more descriptive? John Wayne, or John Wayne (actor)? Why not John Wayne, academy-award winning actor born in Winterset, Iowa in 1907? Seriously, why not?. If you don't want to limit titles at familiarity (or need for disambiguity), then how do you define the standard? --В²C 16:55, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
В²C Do you honestly think that this would be a likely result of a text such as: "The goal of conciseness is to balance brevity with recognizability" or are you just being argumentative. I do not think that absurd extrapolations are helpful to this discussion. GregKaye 01:03, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
I don't think B2C's example is an absurd extrapolation. In retrospect it would have been better if the last extension of the article had been a computer generated sequential number as used in many projects (for example and, and then used redirects to the number. However that was not the system that was introduced at the start of the project and Wikipedia works with user created strings of characters and this policy to overlay some control. GregKaye, If this policy was to be relaxed to allow longer strings, what makes you think that B2Cs last extrapolation is absurd? Let us use as an example the article titles Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex and Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex, both famous for their deeds 40+ years apart. Do you think these names with their standard dab extensions (their titles) would change and if they did why would editors not include a large part of the first sentence for both men. How exactly would editors agree where to stop adding details to the article title? -- PBS (talk) 11:28, 27 March 2015 (UTC)

Okay, we do use sentence case, but only in descriptive titles. Other titles use proper names of the topics; that's not really sentence case.[edit]

After the discussion above about sentence/title case, Blueboar made this clarification to "clarify the situation" by changing:

Use lowercase, except for proper names: Titles are written in sentence case


Use lowercase, except for proper names: Descriptive titles are written in sentence case

I agree, but Dicklyon reverted, on the following grounds: "That just brings up a new loophole for arguments by people who prefer title case."[4]

I found Dicklyon's reasoning to be dubious at best, and restored Blueboar's change, with the following explanation: "It's not a loophole. It's a fact that we use sentence case for descriptive titles; not for titles which reflect the proper name of the subject" [5]

But Dicklyon reverted again[6], now claiming that "discussion does not support this change; see talk". Umm, it was that discussion that prompted to make Blueboar to make the change! I too see nothing in the discussion that does not support this change. Seems like a good compromise to me, reflecting consensus there. When a topic has a name, we use its proper name as the title, not sentence case. It's only in descriptive titles that the sentence vs title case issues is relevant.

What do others think? --В²C 19:34, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

I think you should take another look at the discussion. The gist: Sentence case includes words and phrases that are capitalized. As an example, the following sentence is in sentence case: "The United States of America sent many soldiers to fight in World War II." Note the use of uppercase within that sentence. This is because sentence case asks us to use uppercase when we normally would in a sentence.

Applying this to titles, using sentence case means that we use uppercase in titles when we normally would in a sentence. This is as true for United States of America as it is for List of sovereign states. Just because something is uppercased doesn't mean it's not also in sentence case. As I said above, sometimes sentence case and title case look identical, as in World War II.

Right now, WP uses sentence case for both proper name titles and descriptive titles. No need to muddy the guidance by implying that we don't use sentence case for proper names when in fact we do. The confusion comes when certain phrases are not uniformly uppercased in sources (e.g., Watts Riots vs. Watts riots). When this is the case, we use our editorial judgment and consensus to decide whether the uppercase them in the title. But either way, we are using sentence case. Dohn joe (talk) 19:54, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

The point is that Watts Riots is a name title, and and Watts riots is a descriptive title. The decision should be about whether to use the name of the topic, or a descriptive title, based on how the topic is most commonly referenced in reliable sources. It is only with descriptive titles like Watts riots that we need to clarify that we use sentence case. For name titles like Watts Riots it doesn't matter, since sentence case and title case is the same. --В²C 20:35, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
The problem, though, is that if you specify "sentence case" for descriptive titles, you imply "not sentence case" for name titles, when in fact both kinds use sentence case. As above, an explanation that sentence case covers both name and descriptive titles might be okay, but can't just say it applies to one category of titles. Dohn joe (talk) 21:10, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
Dohn joe, how or why is it a problem to imply we don't use sentence case in titles that are not descriptive? John Wayne, for example, is John Wayne in sentence case and title case. It might be pedagogically inaccurate to say we use sentence case only in descriptive titles, but it makes no practical difference in titles that are not descriptive.

If we don't say that, then we have a real practical problem: it looks like we prefer descriptive titles (using sentence case) to name titles in situations like Watts riots vs. Watts Riots, when we should have no preference at all, but rather should look exclusively at usage in reliable sources. --В²C 23:15, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

  • Trying to think outside the box here... What if we invent some Wiki-Jargon? ... something like: "Names appearing in article titles (or used as an article title) should be written in Name Case but, otherwise, titles are written in Sentence case." Would that help clarify? Blueboar (talk) 21:17, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
  • The way it's written right now, where it just says "Use lowercase, except for proper names" is just fine, as are the first two sentences "Titles are written in sentence case. The initial letter of a title is almost always capitalized by default; otherwise, words are not capitalized unless they would be so in running text." All of these things are correct: as dohn joe said, the concept of sentence case includes capitalizing proper nouns, as the wikipedia article itself specifies. Adding in a qualifier like "only use sentence case for descriptive titles!" is just going to lead to unnecessary confusion – people will fight about whether a particular title is in fact descriptive (what about 'watts riots'? saying 'it depends if it's capitalized' is a tautology, not an answer). And after all, it really doesn't matter whether it's a descriptive title, what matters is whether reliable sources consider it a proper noun. In the latter case, sentence case decrees capitalization; in the former, it doesn't. That's what this page currently says. AgnosticAphid talk 21:37, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
    • Follow-up: I wouldn't be opposed to changing the second full sentence to read "The initial letter of a title is almost always capitalized by default; otherwise, words are not capitalized unless they are proper nouns." or something similar. AgnosticAphid talk 21:42, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
OK I think everyone agrees that a proper name appearing in (or as) an article title should be capitalized as such. And as long as that is clear, I am content to let others nit-pick the language. Of course, that still leaves open the issue that we frequently don't agree on... determining whether <insert Name here> qualifies as being a Proper Name or not. Blueboar (talk) 21:52, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
Absolutely. And resolving the question should defer to sourceable nuance located in mainspace at proper name. Writing Project Space rules to clean up the messy language is inward looking, and barrier-creating for newcomers. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 22:30, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
You're all ignoring or missing the point. There are cases that come up all the time where we have to choose between using a proper name or descriptive title for a given topic. By saying that we use sentence case, or saying that only the first letter is capitalized except if its a proper noun, we are implying that the descriptive title be preferred when available in such cases. Instead, we should make it clear that usage in reliable sources should make the determination. How do we say that most clearly and concisely? --В²C 23:20, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
We already say it pretty clearly: "Article titles are based on how reliable English-language sources refer to the article's subject." We only use descriptive titles if there is no commonly used name. Dohn joe (talk) 23:40, 25 March 2015 (UTC)
If we're not more clear than that, then certain lower case adherents will continue to use the "sentence case" argument to advocate for lower case descriptive titles over proper noun names in cases where the choice is between those two. For example (keep in mind the context there is "Seattle general strike" vs. "Seattle General Strike"). --В²C 01:00, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
A logical flaw is that Wikipedia's preference for sentence case implies a preference to deny recognition of proper names as proper names. ╠╣uw's !vote that you diff carries an unstated necessary assumption that the name is not a proper name. I suggest participants in such discussions should address whether the name is a proper name, as a more important point than that non-proper names are uncapitalised as per this policy. My point is that the issue at hand in these contentious cases is not at the foot of this policy. The wording changes being discussed I see as being insubstantial. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 01:33, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
Insubstantial? They come up all the time, in both directions! We need help, somewhere, being clear that the focus on such discussions should be about whether the name in question is proper noun or descriptive, and the main determining factors for such questions needs to be usage in reliable sources. --В²C 01:46, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
It's the wrong question. "is proper noun or descriptive". A proper name can be descriptive. A descriptive name can become proper. "American Civil War" for example. The proper question is: "It is a proper name or not a proper name". Proper names are capitalised. Otherwise, not. I see a major source of confusion for the majority non-titling aficionados coming from composition titles, because composition titles, which may or may not be descriptive, are not recognized by many as proper names, and yet are capitalised, albeit partially if there are little unimportant words included. That's why I suggest highlighting both proper names (linking to proper name) and composition titles (linking to MOSCT), and dropping reference to "descriptive" as unhelpful. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 02:19, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
Semantic nonsense. Of course you can define descriptive such that a proper name can be descriptive, but that's not helpful. We have titles that not the names of the subjects, usually because the subject has no name, and we need to be able to refer to them. Many people use the term "descriptive titles" to do so. If you don't like that, fine, but then come up with an alternative term. Don't redefine descriptive from how others are using it and then say their statements using your definition are wrong. --В²C 17:08, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
Not semantic but an actual problem with writing policy in wiki-jargon instead of real meanings. Members of the intended audience will read "descriptive title" according to real world meanings, not this wikijargon meaning which apparently means "not a proper name". It is not a question of a definition being wrong, but of the same words having multiple possible interpretations. The existing text could be clarified, but adding "descriptive" doesn't do it, and but first, the problem has not been demonstrated. The alleged problem is instead at the feet of the definition of "proper name". --SmokeyJoe (talk) 06:32, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
B2C: To be clear, the diff you cite has nothing to do with being a "lower case adherent". I simply noted that it's Wikipedia policy to format our titles in a way that corresponds to the format used by reliable sources in running text (i.e., sentence case)... and as others have already explained, that may mean that we use either lower or upper case text. ╠╣uw [talk] 12:25, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
Thanks. --В²C 17:08, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
The definition of a "proper name" is simply, "a name used for an individual person, place, or organization, spelled with initial capital letters". Whether a given event meets that definition is of course subjective, and the way we decide such matters on WP is by usage in reliable sources. All opinions about whether a given use meets the definition should be backed up by references to such usage. --В²C 17:51, 30 March 2015 (UTC)

a title for template:naming conventions[edit]

What is the best title would be best to place on Template:naming conventions which appears to the top left of the project page. The title is currently:

Topic-specific conventions
      on article titles

I made a reverted edit of this to:

Topic-specific article title
    naming conventions

with my edit summary of: preserving the common presentation of "naming conventions"

My thinking here is that the commonly used wording "naming convention(s)" should best be used here as this would likely be the wording that editors would scan the document for. All of the relevant project pages are found in Category:Wikipedia naming conventions.

Other possibilities inclusive or the common designation might include:

      Naming convention
       project pages

GregKaye 08:03, 26 March 2015 (UTC)

  • Caution... there is a distinction between a subject's name and an article's title. They are not necessarily the same thing. We intentionally downplay the word "name" here on this Policy page (as much as we can). This page focuses less on the question of "What is the subject's name?" and more on the (more neutral) question of "What is an appropriate title for the article". While it is appropriate to point editors to the various project naming conventions, this page is not really about names, nor are the naming conventions really about article titles. We leave the issue of "names" to the projects. Blueboar (talk) 13:41, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
    • That's not quite correct, Blueboar.

      First of all, for most of our articles the title is some name of the subject. That's certainly the case for almost all articles about people, locations, books, films, plants, animals, etc. Of course, if disambiguation is required then often the name is augmented for the purpose of disambiguation, though we prefer and usually use natural disambiguation (an alternate name) when possible. So, this page really is mostly about names; it's just not only about names.

      Secondly, we do not leave the issue of "names" to the projects. The WP:NAMING CRITERIA on this page is largely about, well, choosing names. Also, many articles are not in a category with a project page. The project specific naming convention pages determine titles to the same extent this page does, just to more specificity, especially to clarify how relevant articles are to be disambiguated when necessary.

      Finally, when we renamed this page from NC (naming conventions) to AT (Article Titles) we could have renamed all the project specific NC pages, but that was not deemed as important. But really there is no reason not to change (say) Wikipedia:Naming conventions (television) to Wikipedia:Article titles (television), except it would be a huge effort, and a mess, either leaving or fixing all the existing links. It's just not worth the trouble, but it would not be incorrect to do it. --В²C 01:26, 27 March 2015 (UTC)

"we could have renamed all the project specific NC pages, but that was not deemed as important" It was not "that it was not deemed important", but because prior to the rename many editors were confused as to what was policy and what was guidance. Having distinct names for the policy page and the guidelines made it much easier to make that distinction. -- PBS (talk) 11:00, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
Oh, that's right. The rename here was to more clearly distinguish between policy and mere guidelines; it was not because there was something inherently wrong or misleading with calling this "naming conventions". --В²C 16:08, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
Let's not rewrite history. Look back through the archives for the discussion on the change (which, as I remember, I initiated). The issue we were trying to resolve at the time was constant disruptive debates over what was the "correct" name to call the subjects of articles (a very emotional, and frequently POV issue) ... and we wanted to move the policy beyond those debates. We did this by re-focusing the policy towards "what is the most appropriate title for the article" and away from "what is the correct name of the subject".
Yes... we do use the name of the subject for many of our titles (indeed, the majority of them)... but that is because so often the most appropriate title happens to be the subject's name. However, that is not always the case, and by focusing the policy on the concept of "most appropriate title for the article" instead of the concept of "most correct name of the subject", we made that distinction clearer.
It really didn't have anything to do with trying to differentiate policy and guideline pages. That may have been a side effect of the change, but it wasn't part of the calculation when we discussed the change. Blueboar (talk) 16:40, 27 March 2015 (UTC)
It may not for you, but while I was neutral on the new title (so did not support or oppose it), I was in favour of making it different from the guidelines and had propose a move in 2008 for that reason (see Archive 11 § Requested move) -- PBS (talk) 15:22, 29 March 2015 (UTC)