Wikipedia:Abbreviation expansion

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Abbreviation expansion in Wikipedia and Wikimedia is the process of resolving abbreviations, acronyms, apocopation, and initialism. An abbreviation is often associated with one or more different topics that share the same term or a similar term.

Wikipedia thrives on the fact that making links is simple and automatic: as you're typing in an edit window, put brackets around AAA (like this: [[AAA]]) and you'll have a link. But were you intending to link to AAA the "American Automobile Association", the credit rating, the battery, or any of 30 possibilities?

Two related methods of abbreviation expansion are discussed here:

Abbreviation links[edit]

When a user searches for a particular term, the search term might be a shortened version of the desired article. Therefore, helpful links to articles with similar names are needed.

For each abbreviation that only has a single existing expansion, a redirect is created to the existing topic.

When there are expected variations for an abbreviation (for example, W8 and W-8), the longer abbreviation is redirected to the shorter, and an abbreviation page is created there.

For each abbreviation redirect, immediately following the target of the redirect on the same line, the template {{R from abbreviation}} is added.

Abbreviation pages[edit]

The purpose of the abbreviation page is to help people find the information they want quickly and easily. These pages are useful for exploration, to help a user understand a particular abbreviation without further exploration, to help the user navigate to a specific article, and to help editors expand abbreviations in articles. Abbreviation pages replace disambiguation pages (see Wikipedia:Disambiguation and abbreviations).


Before constructing a new abbreviation page, determine whether an existing article or any abbreviation links are in place. Use the What links here list of any existing page to update all of the links to the page.

Move any conflicting article to its appropriately expanded name. Use the What links here list of the moved page to access the redirect page created by the move, and replace that redirect page with the new abbreviation page.

Use the new abbreviation page to find and replace any old links in existing pages with a link to the new abbreviation page.

Linking to Wiktionary[edit]

Check for available dictionary definitions. To cross-link to the Wiktionary sister project, add the appropriate template at the top of the page:

  • {{Wiktionary}} – {{wiktionary|WORD|WORD2|...|WORD5}} – up to five optional parameters; useful for linking dictionary entries with multiple capitalizations (star, Star, and STAR).
  • {{Wiktionary pipe}} – {{wiktionary pipe|WORD|optional display name}} – without parameters, defaults to using the current page's name.

The multiple-option templates are useful to link to dictionary entries with alternate capitalizations.

Introductory line[edit]

Like a standard article, the title of the page should be in bold (not italic). Start the first line with a bold page title, followed by any important redirected abbreviations in bold, (optionally with the words "may be") and finishing with a colon.

Individual entries[edit]

These pages are composed of a list of links.

  • Begin each entry with a bullet (an asterisk in wiki markup), a space, and a link to the expanded abbreviation target page.
    • There is no need to emphasize the link with bolding or italics, although titles (such as for books and movies) may need to be italicized, in conformance with Wikipedia:Manual of Style (titles).
    • Include the complete title of articles listed (for example, W8 engine). In many cases, this may be all the user needs to distinguish the article.
    • If the article's title contains both a title and a clarifier, use a piped link to quote or italicize only the title.
    • If the item described appears in a specific section of an article, link to the relevant section of that page (using the #anchor notation), but do not conceal that by making it a piped link.
  • After a comma, include a short description of the target (often the first sentence of the target article).
    • Like regular articles, link each important concept in the description. These descriptive links may be piped.
    • Arrange the description so that its links are ordered from most specific to least specific.
    • The description is not required to be a complete sentence, and should not end with a comma or period at the end of the line.

Order of entries[edit]

Order the entries alphabetically within groups. A recommended order is:

  1. Articles that begin with the title, followed by a qualifying word or phrase (W8 engine).
  2. Articles with the item as part of the name (Audi A8 as part of the A8 page)
  3. Synonyms
  4. Larger subject articles that treat this item in a named section

Related entries[edit]

Group any two or more related entries (such as, "highways and roads" or "military terms") in separate bold subsections.

If the list is longer than a single display page (more than twenty entries), use level 2 section headers instead (or in addition to subsections). Only a single level of section headers should ever be necessary. Use {{TOCright}} to place the table of contents on the right hand side.

When background information about related entries may be helpful, or to reduce duplication in the descriptions, a short introductory paragraph is appropriate at the top of the page, or at the top of a subsection.

"See also" section[edit]

There may be a "see also" section for similar terms that may be confused, misspellings, and the like, but don't use "see also" for any legitimate use of the main title word.


Include the appropriate template messages at the bottom of the page. Several templates have been prepared to ensure a common appearance of abbreviation pages:


A number of categories have been prepared to help browse, locate, and update abbreviation pages. The standard templates add the page to their respective categories:

Following the template, include any of the other categories appropriate to the list:


Interlanguage links[edit]

Pure abbreviation pages should contain interlanguage links only where a similar problem of abbreviation exists in the target language; that is, they should not point to a single meaning from the list of meanings, but to another abbreviation page.

Links to abbreviated topics[edit]

A code of honor for creating abbreviation pages is to fix all resulting mis-directed links.

Before creating a new abbreviation page, click on "What links here" to find all of the pages that link to the page that is about to change. Make sure that those pages are fixed or that they won't be adversely affected before performing the split.

When repairing a link, the first use should always be completely expanded, sometimes followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. For example, "American Automobile Association (AAA)". Later use in the article may pipe the link (for example, [[American Automobile Association|AAA]]).

Links to abbreviation pages[edit]

There is rarely a need for links directly to abbreviation pages. In most cases, links should point to the article that deals with the specific meaning intended.

The Wikipedia software has a feature that lists "orphan" pages; that is, no other page links to them. But for abbreviation pages, that's perfectly correct; we usually want pages to link to the more specific pages.

In order to make the orphans list more useful by not cluttering it with intentional orphans, abbreviation pages are linked from several tables and lists in Category:Abbreviations and Category:Lists of abbreviations:

When you create an abbreviation page, update links to it in one of those pages as appropriate.

See also[edit]