Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Biography

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This page sets out guidelines for achieving visual and textual consistency in biographical articles and in biographical information in other articles; such consistency allows Wikipedia to be used more easily. While this guideline focuses on biographies, its advice pertains, where applicable, to all articles that mention people.

For a short version, see Wikipedia:Biography dos and don'ts.

Lead section[edit]

The lead section should summarise the life and works of the person with due weight. When writing about controversies in the lead section of a biography, relevant material should neither be suppressed nor allowed to overwhelm: always pay scrupulous attention to reliable sources, and make sure the lead correctly reflects the entirety of the article. Write clinically, and let the facts speak for themselves. These concerns are especially pressing at biographies of living persons.

Well-publicized recent events affecting a subject, whether controversial or not, should be kept in historical perspective. What is most recent is not necessarily what is most noteworthy: new information should be carefully balanced against old, with due weight accorded to each.

When a subject dies, the lead need not be radically reworked; Wikipedia is not a memorial site. Unless the cause of death is itself a reason for notability, a single sentence describing the death is usually sufficient, and often none is included in the lead at all, just a death date.

Opening paragraph[edit]

MoS guidelines for opening paragraphs and lead sentences should generally be followed. The opening paragraph of a biographical article should neutrally describe the person, provide context, establish notability and explain why the person is notable, and reflect the balance of reliable sources.

The first sentence should usually state:

  1. Name(s) and title(s), if any (see also Wikipedia:Naming conventions (royalty and nobility)). Handling of the subject's name is covered below in § First mention.
  2. Dates of birth and death, if found in secondary sources (do not use primary sources for birth dates of living persons or other private details about them).
  3. Context (location, nationality, etc.) for the activities that made the person notable.
  4. One, or possibly more, noteworthy positions, activities, or roles that the person is mainly known for, avoiding subjective or contentious terms.
  5. The main reason the person is notable (key accomplishment, record, etc.)

However, try to not overload the first sentence by describing everything notable about the subject; instead, spread relevant information over the lead section.

Birth date and place[edit]

The opening paragraph should usually have dates of birth and (when applicable) death. These dates (specific day–month–year) are important information about the subject, but if they are also mentioned in the body, the vital year range (in brackets after the person's full name) may be sufficient to provide context. For living persons, privacy should be considered (see WP:BLPPRIVACY, which takes precedence). Birth and death places, if known, should be mentioned in the body of the article, and can appear in the lead if relevant to notability, but not in the opening brackets alongside the birth and death dates.

Birth and death labels are included only when needed for clarity. When given, use full words, whether immediately preceding a date or not:

  • William Alexander Spinks Jr. (1865–1933) was an American professional player of carom billiards in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. – no need for labels, and specific dates are in the article body
  • Gro Harlem Brundtland (... born Gro Harlem; 20 April 1939) is a Norwegian politician ... – "born" label used to introduce birth name

For an approximate date or range of dates, use c. (abbreviation for circa); at first occurrence this should be done with the template {{circa}} a.k.a. {{c.}}, which explains the abbreviation: c. 1457. When the only date known for a historical subject is a date (or range) when they were alive, fl. for floruit (Latin for 'he/she flourished') is used; at first occurrence the {{floruit}} a.k.a. {{fl.}} template produces similar output: fl. 1432.

For full details on how to format simple and complex dates and ranges, see WP:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers § Chronological items.

Beyond the first paragraph of the lead section, birth and death details should only be included after a name if there is special contextual relevance. Abbreviations like b. and d. can be used, if needed, when space is limited (e.g., in a table) and when used repetitively (e.g., in a list of people).


The opening paragraph should usually provide context for the activities that made the person notable. In most modern-day cases, this will be the country, region, or territory, where the person is a citizen, national, or permanent resident; or, if the person is notable mainly for past events, where the person was a citizen, national, or permanent resident when the person became notable. For guidance on historic place name versus modern-day names, see WP:MODERNPLACENAME.

Ethnicity, religion, or sexuality should generally not be in the lead unless it is relevant to the subject's notability. Similarly, previous nationalities or the place of birth should not be mentioned in the lead unless relevant to the subject's notability.[a]

Positions and roles[edit]

The lead sentence should describe the person as they are commonly described in reliable sources.

The noteworthy position(s) or role(s) the person held should usually be stated in the opening paragraph. However, avoid overloading the lead paragraph with various and sundry roles; instead, emphasize what made the person notable. Incidental and non-noteworthy roles (i.e. activities that are not integral to the person's notability) should usually not be mentioned in the lead paragraph.[b]

Offices, titles, and positions, should accompany a name only if contextually relevant, and if common nouns, should not be capitalized. For particulars on different types of titles, see § Positions, offices, and occupational titles, below.

Wherever possible, avoid defining a notable person, particularly in the title or first sentence, in terms of their relationships. Generally speaking, notability is not inherited; e.g. a person being the spouse or child of another notable person does not make that person notable.



Most of the examples throughout this section illustrate usage in the title sentence, but are generally applicable to personal names in any encyclopedic text unless the advice provided is explicitly about the lead section at the subject's own biographical article.

Most recent personal names have but one correct spelling for a particular individual, although presentation (use of initials, middle names, nicknames, etc.) can vary and still be correct. In these cases, it is best to use a recognizable form. The most complete name should appear at the beginning of the article to provide maximum information. Inclusion of middle names or initials when they are widely known, can be a useful form of disambiguation if there is more than one person known by that name. This can be particularly useful in disambiguating family members with very similar names (e.g., George W. Bush, George P. Bush, George H. W. Bush). However, if the person is conventionally known by only their first and last names and disambiguation is not required, any middle names should be omitted. When a foreign-language personal name is written in a romanised form, it is encouraged to include the authentic spelling of the name at least once. For a person who has a biographic article, a link to that may suffice.

Names from history are less certain as to spelling, and the further back one goes the less particular societies were about exactness, so variations are more likely. Reliable sources on history should be consulted when a decision about naming must be made or a controversy arises. A readily accessible and authoritative source for the accepted name of a person who has written books, or who has been written about, is the US Library of Congress Authorities database, which provides the accepted name and variant names used by the British Library, the National Library of Canada, and other English-language libraries. Redirect pages can ensure that all variants lead to the desired article.

Text formatting[edit]

Standard English-language text formatting and capitalization rules apply to the names of individuals and groups, such as bands, troupes, teams/squads, and families.[c] Example: in running text, the team is the Miami Heat, not The Miami Heat, except at the beginning of a sentence.[d] (See also: WP:Manual of Style/Trademarks; WP:Manual of Style/Capital letters § Institutions; WP:Manual of Style/Capital letters § Proper names).

For capitalization details, see Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Capital letters § Personal names.

First mention[edit]

While the article title should generally be the name by which the subject is most commonly known, the subject's full name, if known, should usually be given in the lead sentence (including middle names, if known, or middle initials). Many cultures have a tradition of not using the full name of a person in everyday reference, but the article should start with the complete version in most cases. For example:

Changed names[edit]

In some cases, a subject may have changed their full name at some point after birth. In these cases, the birth name may be given in the lead as well, if relevant:[e]

In other cases, a subject may have changed name multiple times.[f] Multiple former names may be mentioned in the lead, boldfaced if they redirect to the article. However, it is not always appropriate to list every previous name of a subject, only the birth name and those that were in use during the period of notability:

  • Bill de Blasio (born Warren Wilhelm Jr.; May 8, 1961)  is a politician .... He was briefly known as Warren de Blasio-Wilhelm ...

The names should be distributed throughout the lead to mark major transitions in the subject's life:

  • Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD) was a Roman emperor .... He was born Gaius Octavius Thurinus into a wealthy family .... He assumed the name Octavian after his adoption ...

A person named in an article of which they are not the subject should be referred to by the name they used at the time being described in the article. For example, Pope John Paul I was known as Albino Luciani before he was elevated to the papacy, so material about the time before he became pope should use the name Albino Luciani. In some cases, it is helpful to the reader to clarify, e.g., Albino Luciani (later to become Pope John Paul I). The principle of avoiding anachronistic naming is also usually employed in the subject's own biography (including that of John Paul I), especially when the article is no longer a short stub.

If a subject changed their surname (last name) for whatever reason (e.g., marriage, adoption, personal preference), then their surname at birth should generally also be given in the lead. Editors may denote this with "born" followed by the subject's surname or full name; for name changes due to marriage, they may also use née (feminine) and (masculine) followed by the surname, provided the term is linked at first occurrence. The templates {{nee}} and {{ne}} provide this linking and do not require typing the é character.

Some practical examples:

  • From Courtney Love: Courtney Michelle Love (born Harrison; born July 9, 1964) is an American singer, songwriter, actress ...
  • From Jack White: John Anthony White ( Gillis; born July 9, 1975) is an American musician, singer, songwriter ...
  • From Barbara Flynn: Barbara Flynn (born Barbara Joy McMurray; 5 August 1948) is an English actress ...
  • From Marion Worth: Marion Worth (born Mary Ann Ward; July 4, 1930 – December 19, 1999) was an American country music singer ...

Specific guidelines apply to living transgender and non-binary people (see § Gender identity, below).


Use initials in a personal name[g] only if the name is commonly written that way.

An initial is capitalized and is followed by a full point (period) and a space (e.g. J. R. R. Tolkien), unless:

  • the person demonstrably has a different, consistently preferred style for their own name; and
  • an overwhelming majority of reliable sources use that variant style for that person.

In such a case, treat it as a self-published name change. Examples include k.d. lang, CC Sabathia, and CCH Pounder.

In article text, a space after an initial (or an initial and a full point) and before another initial should be a non-breaking space: J. R. R. Tolkien (or use the {{nbsp}} template). This also works inside links: [[J. R. R. Tolkien]], though only with   markup, not the template.

Initials in other languages are sometimes treated differently from usual English practice. For example, a name beginning with two letters representing a single sound is treated as a single two-character initial in some European languages (e.g., Th. for Theophilus), and hyphenated given names are sometimes abbreviated with the hyphen (J.-P. for Jean-Pierre). If reliable sources consistently use such a form for a particular person, use it on Wikipedia as well.

Avoid formerly common multi-letter abbreviations used in English as a shorthand in letter-writing, genealogies, etc. (examples: Geo. = George; Jno. = John; Jna. = Jonathan; Thos. = Thomas; Jas. = James, Chas. = Charles), except in quotations and as they survive in trademarks (Geo. Hall & Sons). E.g., refer to the author as George W. Proctor, though some of his books have Geo. W. Proctor on the cover (the alternative form should redirect to his article).

With initials, it is not necessary to spell out why the article title and lead paragraph give a different name. For example, H. P. Lovecraft has that title, H. P. Lovecraft appears in his infobox, and his lead sentence just gives Howard Phillips Lovecraft ... was an American writer ..., without "explaining" to the reader what "H. P." stands for. Initials are not nicknames; do not put them in quotation marks or insert them in mid-name, as in John Thomas Smith better known as "J. T." Smith or John Thomas (J. T.) Smith.

Generational and regnal suffixes[edit]

Using Jr., Sr., or other such distinctions as a disambiguation technique is advised only for cases in which the name with the suffix is well-attested in reliable sources. Otherwise, explain in longer form which party is meant, e.g. The younger Jackson was elected mayor of Wolverham in 1998.

Omission of the comma before Jr. or Sr. (or variations such as Jnr) is preferred.

In running text, in the unusual case that a comma is used before the suffix, then a comma (or equivalent[h]) is also placed after it (Neil Brown, Jr., is an American actor; but prefer Neil Brown Jr. is an American actor).

When the surname is shown first, the suffix follows the given name, as Kennedy, John F. Jr.[i] When the given name is omitted, omit the suffix—Kennedy, not Kennedy Jr.—except where the context requires disambiguation.

Do not place a comma before a Roman numeral name suffix, whether it is patronymic or regnal: use Otis D. Wright II, not Otis D. Wright, II.

The French fils ('son') and père ('father') can be used for subjects for whom this usage is typical in English-language works: Alexandre Dumas fils. These terms are not capitalized.

See § People with the same surname for an additional usage note.

Pseudonyms, stage names, nicknames, hypocorisms, and common names[edit]

For people who are best known by a pseudonym, the legal name should usually appear first in the article, followed closely by the pseudonym. Follow this practice even if the article itself is titled with the pseudonym:

  • Louis Bert Lindley Jr. (June 29, 1919 – December 8, 1983), better known by the stage name Slim Pickens

Investigation in reliable sources may be needed to determine whether a subject known usually by a pseudonym has actually changed their legal name to match (e.g., Reginald Kenneth Dwight formally changed his name to Elton Hercules John early in his musical career). Where this is not the case, and where the subject uses a popular form of their name in everyday life, then care must be taken to avoid implying that a person who does not generally use all their forenames or who uses a familiar form has actually changed their name. Do not write, for example:

  • John Edwards (born Johnny Reid Edwards, June 10, 1953).

It is not always necessary to spell out why the article title and lead paragraph give a different name. If a person has a common English-language hypocorism (diminutive or abbreviation) used in lieu of a given name,[j] it is not presented between quotation marks or parentheses within or after their name. Example:

For any kind of alternative name, use formulations like the following (as applicable):

  • Timothy Alan Dick (born June 13, 1953), known professionally as Tim Allen
  • Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi (c. 1445 – May 17, 1510), better known as Sandro Botticelli
  • Ariadna Thalía Sodi Miranda (born 26 August 1971), known mononymously as Thalía

If a person is known by a nickname used in lieu of or in addition to a given name, and it is not a common hypocorism[j] of one of their names, or a professional alias, it is usually presented between double quotation marks following the last given name or initial. The quotation marks are not put in lead-section boldface. Example:

A nickname can eventually become a professional alias, even the most common name for a person. Such a case loses the quotation marks, other than in the subject's lead section if introducing the nickname in mid-name. If the nickname is dominant (in general or in a particular context) it can often be used in other articles without further elaboration. Example:

  • From Magic Johnson: Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr. (born August 14, 1959) is ...

In the article (and in other articles) use: Magic Johnson left Michigan State after his sophomore season to enter the NBA draft. Dr. Ruth and Dr. Drew (covered in more detail in § Academic or professional titles and degrees, below) are trademarks; though they originated as informal nicknames, they do not require quotation marks.

If a nickname is used in place of the subject's entire name, it is usually given separately:

  • Alphonse Gabriel Capone ... sometimes known by the nickname "Scarface".

A leading "the" is not capitalized in a nickname, pseudonym, or other alias (except when the alias begins a sentence[d]):

  • Use: Jack "the Assassin" Tatum; or: Jack Tatum, nicknamed "the Assassin"
  • Avoid: Jack "The Assassin" Tatum; and: Jack Tatum, nicknamed "The Assassin"

Nicknames should not be re-presented with additional name parts unless necessary for usage clarity.

  • Use: Earl "the Pearl" Strickland; or: Earl Strickland, nicknamed "Earl the Pearl"
  • Avoid: Earl Strickland, nicknamed "Earl the Pearl" Strickland

Common nicknames, aliases, and variants are usually given in boldface in the lead, especially if they redirect to the article, or are found on a disambiguation page or hatnote and link from those other names to the article. Boldface is not needed for obscure ones or a long list, and those that are not well known to our readers may not need to be in the lead at all.[k]

  • Use: Genghis Khan or Chinggis Khaan (born Temüjin; c. 1162 – August 18, 1227) was the founder of the Mongol Empire.
  • Avoid: Genghis Khan or Chinggis Khaan (Mongolian: Чингис хаан, romanized: Çingis hán; Chinese: 成吉思汗; pinyin: Chéngjísī Hán; Wade–Giles: Ch'eng2-chi2-szu1 Han4; c. 1162 – August 18, 1227), born Temüjin (Тэмүжин Temüjin; traditional Chinese: 鐵木真; simplified Chinese: 铁木真; pinyin: Tiěmùzhēn; Wade–Giles: T'ieh3-mu4-chen1), was the founder of the Mongol Empire.
    Excessive foreign language details can make the lead sentence difficult to understand.
  • Use: Joseph John Aiuppa (December 1, 1907 – February 22, 1997), also known as "Joey O'Brien" and later as "Joey Doves", was a Chicago mobster.
  • Avoid: Joseph John Aiuppa (December 1, 1907 – February 22, 1997), also known as "Joey O'Brien", "Joey O.", "O'Brien", "Joey Doves'", "Joey the Doves", and "Mourning Doves", was a Chicago mobster.
    The various nicknames are mostly how other mobsters—not so much the reliable sources—referred to Joey Aiuppa, and only two of them were widely reported, the rest being minor variants.

Nicknames and other aliases included must be frequently used by reliable sources in reference to the subject. For example, a sports journalist's one-off reference to a player as "the Atlanta panther" in purple prose does not constitute a nickname, and treating it as one is original research. Highlighting uncommon or disputed appellations in the lead section gives them undue weight, and may also be a more general neutrality problem if the phrase is laudatory or critical. Example: "Tricky Dick" does not appear in the lead of Richard Nixon; this label by his political opponents is covered, with context, in the article body. Nicknames that are sourceable but not generally known to the public (e.g., a childhood nickname, a hypocorism only used in private life, or a term of spousal endearment revealed in an in-depth biographical book) are not encyclopedic.

Do not cram multiple hypocorisms and nicknames into the name in the lead sentence; complicated naming should be explained separately.

  • Poor, confusing example: William Emery "Emory, Spunk" Sparrow (September 15, 1897 – February 2, 1965) was a Canadian professional ice hockey forward....
  • Clear rewrite: William Emery Sparrow (September 15, 1897 – February 2, 1965) was a Canadian professional ice hockey forward.... As a professional player, he spelled his name Emory, and was commonly known by the nickname Spunk Sparrow. (The article title is Emory Sparrow, already establishing that as the common, primary name.)


Royal surnames[edit]

Only incorporate surnames in the opening line of royal biographies if they are known and if they are in normal use. But do not automatically presume that the name of a royal house is the personal surname of its members. In many cases it is not. For visual clarity, articles on monarchs should generally begin with the form "{name} {ordinal if appropriate} (full name – but without surname; birth and death dates, if applicable)", and articles on other royals should generally begin with the form "{royal title} {name} {ordinal if appropriate} (full name – including surname if known; birth and death dates, if applicable)"; in both cases with the full name and dates information unformatted, but the title, name and ordinal that are outside the parenthesis, in bold. Using this format displays the most important information clearly without an unattractive excess of formatting. Other information on royal titles should be listed where appropriate in chronological order.

Subsequent use[edit]

After the initial mention, a person should generally be referred to by surname only – without an honorific prefix such as "Mr.", "Mrs.", or "Ms.", and without academic or professional prefixes like "Dr.", "Prof.", "Rev.", etc. – or may be referred to by a pronoun. For example:

  • Fred Smith was a Cubist painter in the early 20th century. He moved to Genoa, where he met singer Gianna Doe. Smith and Doe later married.

However, where a person does not have a surname but a patronymic (like many Icelanders, some Mongols, and those historical persons who are known by names-and-patronymics instead of surnames), then the proper form of reference is usually the given name. (See also § Country-specific usage, below.) For example:

Generally speaking, subjects should not otherwise be referred to by their given name; exceptions include royalty, e.g. Prince Charles or Charles. Any subject whose surname has changed should be referred to by their most commonly used name. If their most commonly used name includes their earlier surname, and you're discussing a period of their life before the surname change, refer to them by their prior surname. In other words, when discussing the early lives of Hillary and Bill Clinton, use "Rodham met Clinton while they were students at Yale", referring to Hillary using her then-current surname.

A member of the nobility may be referred to by title if that form of address would have been the customary way to refer to him or her; for example Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, may become the Earl of Leicester, the Earl, or just Leicester (if the context is clear enough) in subsequent mentions. For modern-day nobility it is better to use name and title; at some time in the future the Prince of Wales will be a different person than Charles, Prince of Wales, and a great many articles risk becoming out of date. Be careful not to give someone a title too soon; for example, one should use Robert Dudley or Dudley when describing events before his elevation to the peerage in 1564.

When a majority of reliable secondary sources refer to persons by a pseudonym, they should be subsequently referred to by their pseudonymous surnames, unless they do not include a recognizable surname in the pseudonym (e.g. Sting, Snoop Dogg, the Edge), in which case the whole pseudonym is used. For people well known by one-word names, nicknames, or pseudonyms, but who often also use their legal names professionally – e.g., André Benjamin ("André 3000"), Jennifer Lopez ("J.Lo"); doctor/broadcaster Drew Pinsky ("Dr. Drew") – use the legal surname. If they use their mononym or pseudonym exclusively, then use that name (e.g. Aaliyah, Selena, and Usher).

For fictional entities, use common names. For example, Jason, Luigi, and Wesker.

Culture-specific usages[edit]

  • Burmese names are personal names that consist of one or more words, with no patronymic or surname. Always use the full form of the person's name. (See Wikipedia:Naming conventions (Burmese).)
  • Ethiopian and Eritrean people are almost always referred to by their given name as they do not have a family name. There are some rare exceptions to this: where the person—usually a member of the later generations of the Eritrean diaspora or Ethiopian diaspora—has adopted the patronymic as a formal family name. Consider using the template {{Patronymic name}}.
  • Icelandic people with patronymics (which is most of them) may be referred to by their given name or their given name and patronymic, but not by their patronymic alone. Consider using {{Icelandic name}}.
  • Japanese historical (and some modern) figures may be conventionally known by either their family (clan) name and their given name or their given name only but not their family name only.
  • In Southeast and South Asia, many people use only a personal name, which may be followed by a patronymic; in such cases, they should be referred to by their personal name.
  • Mongolian people are referred to by their given name, with their patronymic placed in front of it, usually in genitive case. There are no family names. For more details, see Mongolian name and Wikipedia:Naming conventions (Mongolian); consider placing {{Family name hatnote}}.
  • Spanish and Portuguese naming customs generally call for one or more given names followed by a patronymic then a matronymic (and the latter two may be separated by y or another article). In most cases, the common name of such a person lacks the matronymic. Consider using {{Family name hatnote}} or {{Portuguese name}}.
  • Thai people are almost always known and addressed by their first name (i.e. given name). Hence, on second and subsequent mentions, they should be referred to by first name alone.
  • In Vietnamese names, given names also take priority over family names. The given name, not the surname, should be used to refer to the person. The given name is nevertheless placed after the family name, following the East Asian naming scheme, even when written about in English.

See also Wikipedia:Categorization of people § Sort by surname, on the proper sorting of these names.

People with the same surname[edit]

To distinguish between people with the same surname in the same article or page, use given names or complete names to refer to each of the people upon first mention. For subsequent uses, refer to them by their given names for clarity and brevity. When referring to the person who is the subject of the article, use just the surname unless the reference is part of a list of family members or if use of the surname alone will be confusing. This applies to minors as well as adults.[l] While citations and bibliographies should use full names even in subsequent mentions (if full names are the style for citations and bibliographies in the article), the body of an article should not unless confusion could result.

For example, in the text of an article on Ronald Reagan:

  • Correct: Ronald and Nancy Reagan arrived separately, Ronald by helicopter and Nancy by car.
  • Correct: The Reagans arrived separately, Ronald by helicopter and Nancy by car.
  • Redundant: Ronald and Nancy Reagan arrived separately; Ronald Reagan by helicopter and Nancy Reagan by car.

In the text of an article about the Brothers Grimm:

  • Correct: Jacob Grimm was 14 months older than his brother Wilhelm.
  • Redundant: Jacob Grimm was 14 months older than his brother Wilhelm Grimm.

Individuals distinguished with a generational suffix can be written about in Forename Suffix style to disambiguate from other family members in the same article: William Sr., John Jnr, James III. No comma is used in these short constructions.

If an article about a person mentions another person with the same surname who is not related by family or marriage, subsequent mentions of the other person should use the full name:

In an article that is not about either unrelated person with the same surname, continue to refer to them both by their full names. Source citations, bibliographies, and in-text attributions usually include names of authors and others. Consider them when checking for people with the same surname.


Eponyms – derived usage of personal (or other) names, as in Parkinson's diseasecapitalize the name portion, aside from conventionalized exceptions.

Titles of people[edit]

Overview: Titles should be capitalized when attached to an individual's name, or where the position/office is a globally unique title that is the subject itself, and the term is the actual title or conventional translation thereof (not a description or rewording). Titles should not be capitalized when being used generically. Use titles where they are necessary for clarity or identification in the context, except in the lead sentence of a biographical subject's own article. Exact specifics may vary, as described in more detail below. Non-English titles are most often translated into English, but this is left to editorial discretion and may be conventionalized across a category, based primarily on usage in English-language reliable sources (e.g. recipients of German knighthoods like Robert Ritter von Greim are not translated into "Sir Robert Greim", and are usually rendered in Robert von Greim form in running text; the Tibetan title Dalai Lama is far more familiar to English speakers than any literal or figurative translation.)

Hyphenation and compounds: When hyphenated and capitalized, e.g. Vice-president (as it is usually spelled in contexts other than US politics), the element after the hyphen is not capitalized. When an unhyphenated compound title is capitalized (unless this is simply because it begins a sentence),[d] each word begins with a capital letter: In 1973, Vice President Agnew resigned. This does not apply to unimportant words, such as the of in White House Chief of Staff John Doe. Do not use a hyphen, dash, or slash to fuse two titles someone holds; give them separately: XYZCo Regional Director and Staff Counsel Janet Goldstein.

Positions, offices, and occupational titles[edit]

Offices, titles, and positions such as president, king, emperor, grand duke, lord mayor, pope, bishop, abbot, prime minister, leader of the opposition, chief financial officer, and executive director are common nouns and therefore should be in lower case when used generically: Mitterrand was the French president or There were many presidents at the meeting. They are capitalized only in the following cases:

  • When followed by a person's name to form a title, i.e., when they can be considered to have become part of the name: President Nixon, not president Nixon
  • When a title is used to refer to a specific person as a substitute for their name during their time in office, e.g., the Queen, not the queen (referring to Elizabeth II)
  • When a formal title for a specific entity (or conventional translation thereof) is addressed as a title or position in and of itself, is not plural, is not preceded by a modifier (including a definite or indefinite article), and is not a reworded description:
Unmodified, denoting a title Modified or reworded, denoting an office
Richard Nixon was President of the United States. Richard Nixon was the president of the United States.
Richard Nixon was a president of the United States.
Nixon was the 37th president of the United States.
Nixon was one of the more controversial American presidents.
Mao met with US president Richard Nixon in 1972.
A controversial American president, Richard Nixon, resigned.
Camp David is a mountain retreat for presidents of the United States.
Theresa May became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 2016. Theresa May was the prime minister of the United Kingdom.
Theresa May is a former prime minister of the United Kingdom.
Louis XVI became King of France and Navarre in 1774, later styled King of the French (1791–1792). Louis XVI was a king of France.
Louis XVI was the king of France when the French Revolution began.
The French king, Louis XVI, was later beheaded.

Even when used with a name, capitalization is not required for commercial and informal titles: OtagoSoft vice-president Chris Henare; team co-captain Chan.

The formality (officialness), specificity, or unusualness of a title is not a reason to capitalize it.

Academic or professional titles and degrees[edit]

Academic and professional titles (such as "Dr." or "Professor"), including honorary ones, should be used in a Wikipedia article only when the subject is widely known by a pseudonym or stage name containing such a title (whether earned or not). In this case, it may be included in the pseudonym as described above (e.g. Ruth Westheimer, better known as Dr. Ruth ...). However, verifiable facts about how a person attained their title should be included in the article. For a note about periods (full stops) after abbreviated titles, see MOS:POINTS.

Post-nominal letters for academic degrees following the subject's name (such as Steve Jones, PhD; Margaret Doe, JD) may occasionally be used within an article where the person with the degree is not the subject, to clarify that person's qualifications with regard to some part of the article, though this is usually better explained in descriptive wording. Avoid this practice otherwise. See Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Abbreviations § Contractions.

Post-nominal letters[edit]

When the subject of an article has received honours or appointments issued either by the subject's state of citizenship or residence, or by a widely recognized organization that reliable sources regularly associate with the subject, post-nominal letters may be included in the lead section.

The lead sentence should be concise: Academic (including honorary) degrees and professional qualifications may be mentioned in the article, along with the above, but should be omitted from the lead, as should superseded honors (e.g., the lesser of two grades in an order), and those issued by other entities (e.g., sub-national organizations).

Post-nominal letters should either be separated from the name by a comma and each set divided by a comma, or no commas should be used at all. If a baronetcy or peerage is held, then commas should always be used for consistency's sake, as the former are separated from the name by a comma.

When an individual holds a large number of post-nominal letters or seldom uses them (common among heads of state and members of royal families), they should be omitted from the lead, and the titles only described in the main body of the article.

Post-nominals for honours awarded by the United Kingdom (e.g. KCB, CBE) may be used as soon as they are gazetted; investiture is not necessary.

Formatting post-nominals[edit]

Where this manual provides options, consistency should be maintained within an article unless there is a good reason to do otherwise. The Arbitration Committee has ruled that editors should not change an article from one guideline-defined style to another without a substantial reason unrelated to mere choice of style, and that revert-warring over optional styles is unacceptable.[m] If discussion cannot determine which style to use in an article, defer to the style used by the first major contributor.

Editors should remember that the meaning of the most obvious (to them) post-nominal initials will not be obvious to some readers. When post-nominal initials are used, the meaning should be readily available to the reader. This may be via a wikilink to an article, or with the {{abbr}} template (or its underlying <abbr>...</abbr> markup) which provides a mouse-over tooltip expanding the abbreviation.

This is all most easily done using the {{post-nominals}} template:

  • With commas: '''Joe Bloggs''', {{post-nominals|size=100%|sep=,|country=GBR|VC|OBE}} gives:  Joe Bloggs, VC, OBE
  • Without commas: '''Joe Bloggs''' {{post-nominals|country=GBR|VC|OBE}} gives:  Joe Bloggs VC OBE

This template needs the |size=100% parameter when it is used in an infobox, or its output will be too small. Otherwise the |size=100% parameter is optional with or without commas.

At the least, use a piped link to an article with the appropriate title, e.g.:

  • '''Joe Bloggs''' {{sc2|[[Victoria Cross|VC]]}} {{sc2|[[Officer of the Order of the British Empire|OBE]]}} gives:  Joe Bloggs VC OBE

This ensures that readers who hover over the initials see the target article's URL as a hint and in the status bar at the bottom of the window. This manual formatting is only needed for cases where {{post-nominals}} does not handle the abbreviation in question. If there is nothing to link to, and a redlink is unlikely to result in eventual creation of an article, use the {{abbr}} template to explain the acronym. Because there is an accessibility issue with relying exclusively on such tooltip cues (touch-sensitive devices and assistive technologies generally do not utilize mouse-cursor hovering), a link is preferred when available.

Post-nominals should not be added except to a biography subject's own lead sentence, in an infobox parameter for post-nominals, when the post-nominals themselves are under discussion in the material, and in other special circumstances such as a list of recipients of an award or other honor. For example, "Brian Lara TC OCC AM" should not appear in an article like Warwickshire County Cricket Club.


Honorifics and styles of nobility should normally be capitalized, e.g., Her Majesty, His Holiness. They are not usually used in running text, though some may be appropriate in the lead sentence of a biographical article, as detailed below, or in a section about the person's titles and styles.

Honorific prefixes and suffixes[edit]

In general, honorific prefixes—styles and honorifics in front of a name—in Wikipedia's own voice should not be included, but may be discussed in the article. In particular, this applies to:

There are some exceptions:

The inclusion of some honorific prefixes and styles is controversial. See Wikipedia:Naming conventions (royalty and nobility) for use in article titles.

Knighthoods, lordships, and similar honorific titles[edit]

The honorific titles Sir, Dame, Lord and Lady are included in the initial reference and infobox heading for the subject of a biographical article, but are optional after that. The infobox heading includes pre-nominals, name and post-nominals as separate elements. The title is placed in bold in the first use of the name. Except for the initial reference and infobox, do not add honorific titles to existing instances of a person's name where they are absent, because doing so implies that the existing version is incorrect (similar in spirit to the guideline on English spelling differences). Similarly, honorific titles should not be deleted when they are used throughout an article unless there is consensus. Where the use of an honorific title is widely misunderstood, this can be mentioned in the article; see, for example, Bob Geldof. Honorific titles used with forenames only (such as "Sir Elton", "Sir David", "Dame Judi") should be avoided unless this form is so heavily preferred in popular usage that the use of the surname alone would render the entire name unrecognizable.

Honorary knights and dames are not entitled to "Sir" or "Dame", only the post-nominal letters. Not all non-honorary inductees into an order of chivalry are entitled to use the pre-nominal titles, either, and may receive distinct post-nominals. For example, the Order of the British Empire has five classes, each with different post-nominals; only the senior two are entitled to Sir/Dame.

Titles signifying honours awarded by the United Kingdom (i.e. Sir, Dame) may be used as soon as they are gazetted. Investiture is not necessary.


Biographies of living persons should generally be written in the present tense, and biographies of deceased persons in the past tense. When making the change upon the death of a subject, the entire article should be reviewed for consistency. If a person is living but has retired, use is a former or is a retired rather than the past tense was.

  • CorrectJohn Smith (1946–2003) was a baseball pitcher ...
  • CorrectJohn Smith (born 1946) is a former baseball pitcher ...
  • IncorrectJohn Smith (born 1946) was a baseball pitcher ...

Historical events should be written in the past tense in all biographies:

  • Smith played for the Baltimore Orioles between 1968 and 1972 ...

The present tense may be used when discussing the work of a writer or philosopher, even if they are dead: In his Institutes, Calvin teaches .... The general rule is to describe statements made in literature, philosophy, and art in the historical present. Past tense should be used for news and marketing materials, public statements, and any other quoted or paraphrased material which is not itself a subject of consideration as a lasting work: Trump controversially referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as "Little Rocket Man" in a September 23, 2017, tweet. (not ... refers ...).

Out-of-date material[edit]

It is best to avoid time-dependent statements, which can often be creatively rewritten anyway. When making any statements about current events, use the "As of" template; for example, "as of April 2011" or "in April 2011". If you're giving a precise date range from the past to the present, as with a living person's age or career, you may use the "Age" template. The article subject's age can also be calculated in the infobox.

There is no need to add "deceased" to a person's article, or those in which they are mentioned. If they have their own article, this should already be sourced. Otherwise, it is unnecessary. "Survived by" and "survivors", phrasings commonly found in obituaries, should not be used.

Order of events[edit]

In general, present a biography in chronological order, from birth to death, except where there is good reason to do otherwise. Within a single section, events should almost always be in chronological order.


Care should be taken to avoid placing undue weight on sexuality. A person's sexual orientation or activities should usually not be mentioned in the article lead unless related to the person's notability.

Gender identity[edit]

Refer to any person whose gender might be questioned with gendered words (e.g. pronouns, "man/woman", "waiter/waitress") that reflect the person's latest expressed gender self-identification as reported in the most recent reliable sources, even if it does not match what is most common in sources. This holds for any phase of the person's life, unless they have indicated a preference otherwise.

If a living transgender or non-binary person was not notable under a former name (a deadname), it should not be included in any page (including lists, redirects, disambiguation pages, category names, templates, etc), even in quotations, even if reliable sourcing exists. Treat the pre-notability name as a privacy interest separate from (and often greater than) the person's current name.

  • From Laverne Cox, not notable under prior name: Laverne Cox (born May 29, 1972) ...

A living transgender or non-binary person's former name should be included in the lead sentence of their main biographical article only if they were notable under it; introduce the name with "born" or "formerly":

  • From Chelsea Manning, notable under prior name: Chelsea Elizabeth Manning (born Bradley Edward Manning, December 17, 1987) ...
  • From Elliot Page, notable under prior name: Elliot Page (formerly Ellen Page; born February 21, 1987) ...

Outside the main biographical article, generally do not discuss in detail changes of a person's name or gender presentation unless pertinent. Where a person's gender may come as a surprise, explain it on first occurrence, without overemphasis. Avoid confusing constructions (Jane Doe fathered a child) by rewriting (e.g., Jane Doe became a parent). In articles on works or other activity by a living trans or non-binary person before transition, use their current name as the primary name (in prose, tables, lists, infoboxes, etc.), unless they prefer their former name be used for past events. If they were notable under the name by which they were credited for the work or other activity, provide it in a parenthetical or footnote on first reference; add more parentheticals or footnotes only if needed to avoid confusion.

Paraphrase, elide, or use square brackets to replace portions of quotations to avoid deadnaming or misgendering, except in rare cases where exact wording cannot be avoided, as where there is a pun on the notable former name, etc.

  • Critic X said "Juno needs a fine [actor] to play its pregnant teenage star, and [Elliot] Page has shown [himself] to be the perfect [man] for the job." involves many bracketed changes, so is better paraphrased: Critic X argued that portraying the pregnant teenage lead in the film Juno required a fine acting talent, and said that Page had proved perfect for the job.

In source citations, do not remove names of authors, or references to former names in titles of works. If the author is notable, the current name may be given, for example as "X (writing as Y)". Do not replace or supplement a person's former name with a current name if the two names have not been publicly connected and connecting them would out the person.

Authority control[edit]

Place {{Authority control}} at the foot of biographies (immediately above {{DEFAULTSORT}}, if present). Add authority control identifiers (VIAF, ISNI, ORCID, etc.) in the subject's Wikidata entry, from where they will be automatically transcluded into the template.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ There is no preference between describing a person as British rather than as English, Scottish, or Welsh. Decisions on which label to use should be determined through discussions and consensus. The label must not be changed arbitrarily. To come to a consensus, editors should consider how reliable sources refer to the subject, particularly UK reliable sources, and consider whether the subject has a preference on which nationality they identify by.
  2. ^ In general, a position, activity, or role should not be included in the lead paragraph if: a) the role is not otherwise discussed in the lead (per MOS:LEAD, don't tease the reader), b) the role is not significantly covered in the body of the article, or, c) the role is auxiliary to a main profession of the person (e.g. do not add "textbook writer", if the person is an academic).
  3. ^ Avoidance of unusual text formatting, like over-capitalization and letter substitutions, includes nicknames (Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson) as well as stage names and other trademarks (Kesha not Ke$ha). As covered in detail under § Initials, exceptions are made only when the subject clearly declares a preference that would be an exception, and the vast majority of independent reliable sources go along with it; thus The The and danah boyd but not e e cummings. An exception that could apply in rare cases is when something like a team or band is commonly known by a single, official acronym, and that acronym begins with T for The. While English typically retains a leading The in the name of a published work even when grammatically awkward (Stephen King's The Shining), this is not done otherwise (use a Beatles song not a the Beatles song).
  4. ^ a b c Wikipedia uses sentence case for sentences, article titles, section titles, table headers, image captions, list entries (in most cases), and entries in infoboxes and similar templates, among other things. Any instructions in MoS about the start of a sentence apply to items using sentence case.
  5. ^ Wikipedia may consider that marginally notable living persons (e.g., subjects in the public eye only due to a single event) have privacy interests in their birth names. Such concerns are not raised by biographies of the deceased, nor in most cases those of major public figures who are still living.
  6. ^ Wikipedia uses names as reported by reliable sources, without regard to legal status of a name. Numerous professional names are not legal names, and whether a name change has been legally formalized has no bearing on its use in or exclusion from an article. Some effective name changes are retrospective, involving no action on the part of the subjects to whom they refer; e.g., the spelling Rameses now dominates in modern sources over the formerly more common Ramses, in reference to various ancient Egyptian figures. See also: WP:Article titles § Use commonly recognizable names.
  7. ^ WP:Requested moves has consistently interpreted the "Initials" section as also applying to names of fictional characters. Its application to human names used as trademarks (e.g. J. C. Penney) is also typical, and consistent with WP:Manual of Style/Trademarks.
  8. ^ When Jr., Jnr, or the like is preceded by a comma, it must be followed by a comma, or by a grammatical replacement including semicolon, colon, period/stop, exclamation point, question mark, dash or ellipsis, as dictated by the sentence structure. But do not "double up" punctuation ungrammatically. The second comma is used before a quotation following the name. Omission of the comma with possessives and parentheses (round brackets) – Neil Brown, Jr.'s early life, or Neil Brown, Jr. (an American actor) – is disputed in style and usage guides, so such constructions should be avoided. If the first comma is used, include the second before a parenthetical if that comma would be present had the parenthetical not been inserted: Cornelius C. Brown, Jr., (born June 19, 1980) is an American actor.
  9. ^ An index-order name may also be given with a comma before the generational suffix (Kennedy, John F., Jr.) depending on citation style. Do not append "Jr." and the like to the surname (Kennedy Jr., John F.) especially in citations, as this pollutes the surname metadata with extraneous information and will also alter the sorting order, to after all simple "Kennedy" entries.
  10. ^ a b Consider as a "common" hypocorism one that shortens in a conventionalized way, sometimes also with a diminutive suffix added, and which is derived from a name frequently used in English-speaking countries, e.g. Liz, Beth, Lizzy, Bettie, etc., from Elizabeth. If it is not conventional, it is not "common" (e.g. Nifer from Jennifer). Short forms that differ significantly from the name may be non-hypocoristic nicknames, depending on the particular case. A few such forms are well-known common hypocorisms, such as Bob for Robert and Bill for William, but most are not (e.g. Reba for Rebecca). Assume that most non-English hypocorisms (e.g. Lupita for Guadalupe, Mischa for Mikhail, Sascha for Alexander or Zuzka for Zuzana) are not familiar as hypocorisms to readers of the English Wikipedia, even if well-known in their native culture.
  11. ^ Criminals often use multiple aliases; ones unfamiliar to the public should generally not be in the lead section. Various rulers and other nobility have often had numerous variant names in different languages. Avoid clogging the lead with a boldfaced litany of these; reserve them for an appropriate place in the body of the article, in an infobox or language sidebar, or in footnotes.
  12. ^ There have been repeated proposals to treat small children, or all minors, differently and to always refer to them by given name. These proposals have not gained consensus. Especially do not refer to notable minors by given name (in their own article or elsewhere) except as necessary to disambiguate from other family members.
  13. ^ See Arbitration Committee statements of principles in cases on style-related edit warring in June 2005, November 2005, and February 2006.