Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Biographies

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Request for removal of year of birth[edit]

Sad to say, a common request at OTRS is from a subject requesting that there date of birth be removed due to age discrimination. This particularly involves people in the entertainment field.

Our current guidance states: If the subject complains about the inclusion of the date of birth, or the person is borderline notable, err on the side of caution and simply list the year.

While this permits the removal of the month and day, presumably to help thwart the use of the full date in an appropriate way, it obviously doesn't address the concern of someone whose age is an issue.

At a minimum, this guideline need some additional clarity. I think it is based upon a presumption that a reliable source for the full birthdate exist and we are providing guidance that the month and day can be removed while retaining the year. However in many articles, possibly even the majority, a year exists without a reliable source. A naïve application of the guidelines suggests that the year should be retained in an article even if not supported by a reliable source. I don't think that's what we intend to say. I'm quite sure any entry can be removed if contested and not supported by a reliable source, but that doesn't quite work here. In my specific case, the subject isn't contesting the year but simply does not wanted included. Presumably, they could claim they are contesting it but I don't want to encourage lying.

Obviously, step number one is to be clear about our policy and step number two is to craft wording that clearly expresses our policy.

At a minimum, I suggest that a birth year not supported by a reliable source can be removed upon the request of the subject.

Separately, we need to debate whether we would accede to such a request even if supported by a reliable source. I suspect we will answer in the negative but I'd like to make sure we are all on the same page. I hope it can be taken as obvious that source means reliable source and a mere entry in IMDb or some bloggers fan page does not constitute a reliable source.--S Philbrick(Talk) 18:03, 15 May 2017 (UTC)

It is my view that a year not supported by a reliable source can and should be removed, just as any unsourced fact may be if challenged. Whether we should remove cited years of birth in response to a request I am less sure about. Perhaps the same "widely published" standard which WP:DOB uses for the inclusion of the month and day should be used for this also? DES (talk) 00:58, 16 May 2017 (UTC)
I appreciate your contribution to the discussion but you didn't answer the key question. I have no problem supporting the removal of a piece of information if it's challenged, but this specific situation involves the request for the removal of a year of birth for privacy reasons. The person making the request isn't challenging at, i.e. they are not claiming it is wrong they are claiming they prefer that it not be included. I cannot rely on the "removed is challenged" guideline. The guideline is written suggests it should not be removed. Is that really our policy?--S Philbrick(Talk) 22:07, 16 May 2017 (UTC)
Our basic policy is, as I understand it, that sourced and apparently accurate information is not normally removed just because the subject objects to it. However, when the information is not highly important to an article, and has not already been widely publicized, it may be removed on request for reasons of privacy, or because it is judged to be irrelevant trivia. Now the year of birth is always relevant to a biography article, it gives context. However, it may invade privacy, as mentioned above. Currently WP:DOB says: "Wikipedia includes full names and dates of birth that have been widely published by reliable sources, or by sources linked to the subject such that it may reasonably be inferred that the subject does not object." I am suggesting that a similar standard be used when the subject of an article requests removal of the year of birth: That it be retained if it has been "widely published by reliable sources", or apparently published by the subject him- or herself, (such as on a personal web site) but removed otherwise. It may be that this should only apply to articles about "people who are not well known" as WP:NPF puts it.
Are my views clearer and perhaps more helpful now, Sphilbrick? DES (talk) 23:47, 16 May 2017 (UTC)
@DESiegel: Yes, your position seems clear which means you are in agreement that the guideline needs revision because it is inconsistent with your position. As you stated "it should "be retained if it has been widely published by reliable sources…" But "removed otherwise" [if requested]. I agree with you, but my point is this is not what the current guidelines says so are you on board with a change to the guideline? If so, we need to craft revised wording and probably get some broad support for it.--S Philbrick(Talk) 00:19, 17 May 2017 (UTC)
Yes i would be willing to have such a change made, Sphilbrick, but only if there is an advance consensus supporting it, I don't think this is a case for a bold edit first. Also, I am unsure whether this change should apply only to "People who are not well known". Oops, I overlooked that you were already callign for a broad consensus, so my note on that was redundant and might seem disrespectfull, Sorry. DES (talk) 00:32, 17 May 2017 (UTC)
I did edit the guideline just now to address your lesser point above: "I think it is based upon a presumption that a reliable source for the full birthdate exist and we are providing guidance that the month and day can be removed while retaining the year. However in many articles, possibly even the majority, a year exists without a reliable source." This edit I think clarifies but does not change the meaning, so I felt free to be bold in this matter. DES (talk) 00:30, 17 May 2017 (UTC)
No disrespect registered.
I do think we might need to list cases. It occurs to me that me might distinguish between Living (and recent deceased) versus Not Living. The current wording distinguishes between barely notable and others. That leaves me queasy. We clearly have to distinguish between sourced and unsourced, and may need to further distinguish between weak sourcing and solid sourcing. We need to decide whether removal requires a request from the subject (including authored representative) or can be done on the initiative of any editor. I may try to put together a table.--S Philbrick(Talk) 00:41, 17 May 2017 (UTC)
I see your point, although I somewhat dread the resulting multi-dimensional table. I will add that my view is that removal of a sourced year of birth should require a specific request from the subject, probably via OTRS, or otherwise verified to be from the actual subject. None of this should apply except to living persons. non-living persons should always have full dates if there are sources to confirm them. DES (talk) 01:44, 17 May 2017 (UTC)
I'm also concerned about making it overly complicated. Sometimes an issue arises, and the best thing to do is address it as narrowly as possible to fix the specific issue. Other times, an issue arises and it points to the need for a more comprehensive review. The problem with more comprehensive reviews as they can get bogged down. I'm honestly not sure which situation best applies here. I don't think there's any rush; I'll give it a little thought.--S Philbrick(Talk) 12:31, 17 May 2017 (UTC)
If a reliable source is available for a birthdate, then a request for removal should be refused. End of discussion. --Khajidha (talk) 13:59, 26 June 2017 (UTC)

Singers genres in lead sentence[edit]

Over the past few months, I've gotten into several debates on whether or not we include the genre of music in the lead sentence for singers primarily known for a single genre. Genre is always included in the lead for bands. However, as the current policy is written, it neither clearly supports or clearly opposes including it. For singers primarily known for a single genre, I strongly feel that it should be included in the lead because being a country singer is different than being a rock singer or being a pop singer (not saying that one is better than the others, just they're different). How do others feel about this? JDDJS (talk) 16:09, 28 June 2017 (UTC)

Is anyone actually arguing we should not include this in the lead? Or is it just a question of whether it belongs in the first sentence? If the lead sentence is way long for other reasons (multiple aliases, complicated nationality, whatever) I wouldn't mind seeing it moved to the second or even third sentence. I would not want it moved any farther down. Can you give an example article where this has been a problem? Kendall-K1 (talk) 13:41, 29 June 2017 (UTC)
The most recent example is Tim McGraw. JDDJS (talk) 13:49, 29 June 2017 (UTC)
I am leaning towards saying yes to this... but just to play devil's advocate (and out of curiosity)... exactly how is a singer of (say) county and western music different from a singer of (say) death metal? Blueboar (talk) 14:06, 29 June 2017 (UTC)
The same way, for example, that a rock guitarist is different from a classical guitarist. --Deacon Vorbis (talk) 23:17, 29 June 2017 (UTC)
You mean one typically wears a tuxedo when performing while the other doesn't? Blueboar (talk) 23:20, 29 June 2017 (UTC)
There's a fine line between playing devil's advocate and trolling. --Deacon Vorbis (talk) 04:45, 30 June 2017 (UTC)
Sorry, that was a bit snide... to address your response more directly: could you expand on your comment... I get that a classical guitarist needs a different skill set than a rock guitarist (the fingering required in each genre is different) but is there a comparable difference for singers? Does a Country singer need a different vocal skill set from a Heavy Metal singer? Blueboar (talk) 11:23, 30 June 2017 (UTC)
@Blueboar: It's the style of music being played, not the skill set or what clothes they're wearing. - FlightTime (open channel) 12:25, 30 June 2017 (UTC)
Ok... so why is the style of music being played important to mention in the lead of a bio article? I could understand noting that "John Doe is a classical guitarist", because that information tells the reader something about the performer's skills and training (an analogy for singers might be "Jane Doe is an opera singer")... but I do question whether noting the specific rock genre (or rock sub-genre) conveys the same sort of information. Blueboar (talk) 12:59, 30 June 2017 (UTC)
I suggest you discuss this on the article talk page instead of edit warring. I don't think we need any changes to the MOS to cover this situation. Kendall-K1 (talk) 22:44, 29 June 2017 (UTC)
This is exactly the place for the discussion (unless there's some more specific subpage I'm unaware of) because it affects far more than just one article. It might be a good idea to start a new section on the talk page there and point to the discussion here, though. And since it's apparently been a point of contention on multiple articles, it would be worth it to add a brief note to the MOS. Personally, if a singer is primarily known for a particular genre or two, I don't see why it shouldn't be mentioned. I don't buy the complaint that Elvis or Ozzy don't have listed genres -- they can be added too. --Deacon Vorbis (talk) 23:15, 29 June 2017 (UTC)
A discussion needs to take place here because this something that should be consistent throughout Wikipedia. I just messaged the two users that I have disagreed with me on this issue about this discussion. However, I'm likely going to start an RFC in order to get more editors involved in this discussion and form a stronger consensus on what to do. JDDJS (talk) 16:24, 30 June 2017 (UTC)
  • Absolutely not; genre isn't an occupation, and we shouldn't treat it like such in the opening sentence. It's especially bad for those who use multiple genres since listing only one incorrectly implies it's all they work with. Subsequent sentences in the lead would be far more appropriate for discussing the genre(s) someone uses (i.e. for albums with different genres, note each album's genre in the lead). Snuggums (talk / edits) 18:18, 30 June 2017 (UTC)
  • From the start of this discussion, I specified that I was referring to singers primarily known for a single genre, so your concern about that is completely irrelevant. For example, Taylor Swift is equally well known for country and pop singing, so no genre should be listed in the lead for her. However, Tim McGraw is only known for country music (as far as I know he has never released a song that hasn't been country or a subgenre of it. He definitely has never released an album that wasn't mostly county music).
And I disagree that genre is not an occupation. Singer is the generic occupation while country singer (or rock singer or whatever) is the specific occupation. Just like for baseball players, we list their position because while their generic occupation is baseball player, their specific occupation which is the position in baseball that they play. I would say that the differences between a country singer and a rock singer are far greater than the differences between a left fielder and right fielder. JDDJS (talk) 18:36, 30 June 2017 (UTC)
It seems to me that a singer is a singer how you do that job is described by genres. - FlightTime (open channel) 18:41, 30 June 2017 (UTC)
I know that other stuff exists is generally not considered a good argument to use, but can you explain how different positions in the same sport are more of a different occupation than different genres of singing? The genre is a very significant part of a singer's career. It affects what awards they are eligible for, what stations play their music, what type of singing ability they have (while many people can do both, singing country music requires very different abilities than it does to sing Jazz, for example) and what type of people listen to their music. With some genres, it can also affect what geographic locations that they are most popular in, and most genres also have a different type of image that they generally promote for their stars. JDDJS (talk) 18:51, 30 June 2017 (UTC)
The only possible difference I could think of for commercial success would be eligibility for component charts (i.e. country chart vs. rock chart), but those charts of course are far less important than any nation's main overall charts. What truly matters is the fact that somebody makes music as a profession. Other stuff also is irrelevant and (by your own admission) a poor argument. Snuggums (talk / edits) 19:14, 30 June 2017 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I listed half a dozen differences genres can make in a singer's career, and you haven't addressed any of them. JDDJS (talk) 20:49, 30 June 2017 (UTC)

Perhaps I should've been more explicit; genre by itself isn't likely to have much (if any) significant influence on overall commercial success. I highly doubt anybody purchases/streams a song or files a play request solely because it's a pop, rock, country, electronic, metal, etc. General radio stations (i.e. not limited to certain types of music) also won't play songs based on that trait alone. Snuggums (talk / edits) 21:38, 30 June 2017 (UTC)
While I understand what you're saying, I don't see how it's relevant. Sure, commercial success isn't based on what genre the singer is, but that is just one single similarity. It doesn't at all negate the major differences that I pointed out. JDDJS (talk) 23:04, 30 June 2017 (UTC)
On the contrary, given that commercial success is what drives one's professional career, the other points except for maybe certain types of radio stations playing tracks or categories of awards (if someone makes a new record for accolades/airplay received) aren't really defining features for a singer. Snuggums (talk / edits) 02:33, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Clarification needed... does this question apply to all singers, or just solo artists? For the lead singers of bands, the genre really applies to the entire band, and not the singer... solo artists, however, are more likely to be associated with a particular genre. Blueboar (talk) 22:35, 1 July 2017 (UTC)


Should the style of music be listed in the lead for singers primarily known for a single genre? And should the wording of the style guideline be changed to include what is agreed upon?

  • Option 1A Include the genre of all singers primarily known for a single genre in the lead sentence.
  • Option 1B Same as 1A, however we also change the wording on the style page to specify that the style guideline is to list genre in the lead sentence.
  • Option 2A Include the genre of solo artists primarily known for a single genre in the lead sentence.
  • Option 2B Same as 2A, but we also change the wording on the style page to specify that the style guideline is to list genre in the lead sentence for solo artists.
  • Option 3A Do not include the genre of singers in the lead sentence.
  • Option 3B Same as 3A, but we also change the wording on the style page to specify that the style guideline is to not list genre in the lead sentence.
  • Option 4 We set no rule, but rather decide it on a case by case scenario.

Please note the discussion that started above. JDDJS (talk) 22:23, 1 July 2017 (UTC)


  • Option 1B For reasons listed in the discussion above and below. JDDJS (talk) 22:59, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Option 3B per my comments below Snuggums (talk / edits) 01:05, 2 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Option 1B - With the caveats I described in the discussion section below. - FlightTime (open channel) 01:26, 2 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Option 4 - I think there are too many unknowns to resolve this one way or the other. I could certainly see adding the genre for a solo artist (example: "Jane Doe is an Grammy Award winning R&B singer")... but not for the singers in bands. In the latter case, I think it is the band (as an entity) that the genre applies to and not the singer. So... while I could see saying "Joe Foo is the lead singer for the Hair Metal band 'Nanodeath'", I would not say "Joe Foo is a Hair Metal singer". Blueboar (talk) 03:01, 2 July 2017 (UTC)
  • @Blueboar: I'm confused. If your problem is with lead singers of bands being listed with a genre, option 2A and 2B only apply to solo artists. JDDJS (talk) 05:03, 2 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Option 4 – The discussion above points to Tim McGraw, where the lead already clearly described his crossover genre history, yet proposer here wanted to put simply "Country" in the lead sentence. I think this is a good example of wanting to change the rules to rescue a lost argument. I'd leave Tim McGraw as it is, and therefore oppose the changes suggested here. Dicklyon (talk) 04:41, 2 July 2017 (UTC)
  • @Dicklyon: Country is the only genre listed in the infobox for Tim McGraw. While some of his songs are more country-pop than traditional country, they are all still considered country songs. Your accusation that I'm just trying to change the rules to rescue a lost argument is extremely ridiculous for multiple reasons. One is that I never "lost" that argument because there was never a real discussion there, it was just two editors reverting each other without any outside editors commenting on it. But more importantly, this is about more than just the Tim McGraw article. I have gotten into this debate on several articles, and realized that we were never going to get anywhere in this discussion because we both interpret the style rules differently, so I thought that clarifying the style with other editors was the best way to get a clear consensus on the policy. Option 4 does nothing to stop the constant edit warring and debating about this issue and makes this whole RFC pointless. JDDJS (talk) 05:03, 2 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Option 4 Summoned by bot For instance, if someone is known as a rock roll and singer, omitting the genre doesn't help them. L3X1 (distænt write) )evidence( 13:17, 5 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Option 4 Summoned by bot Some editors place far too much emphasis on genre, and most successful singers perform in a variety of genres. I oppose over-emphasis on genres. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 04:45, 7 July 2017 (UTC)
  • I disagree that most singers perform a variety of genres. Most country singers stick to just country music (and its subgenres) for 99% of their music. JDDJS (talk) 14:08, 7 July 2017 (UTC)
Except it is broken. Editors edit war to have articles there way, and since the rule is unclear, there's no end to it. JDDJS (talk) 14:04, 7 July 2017 (UTC)
Unfortunately, "genre warring" is a seemingly unavoidable consequence of work in the area of articles relating to the arts. I agree that this all-too-frequently leads to some truly silly and obstinate behaviour, but none of the other options presented above would alleviate that nonsense at all; each of these "one-size-fits-all" approaches would just make editors who are already inclined to be disruptive over the matter to alter the wording of their entrenched views some. Indeed, those options could even encourage some to stick to their gun longer, insofar as they have a "directive" on whether or not to try to force the issue one way or the other. In any event, edit warring is a behavioural issue that should be addressed on its own terms, to some degree independent of what the actual content arguments are in a given case; editors should always discuss, rather than edit warring and when they are unable to do so, it is cause to examine their behaviour, not particular content rules. Snow let's rap 04:53, 14 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Option 4. Such individuals and their biographies are going to be far too variable (both in terms sourcing and the nature of their notability) to set any hard and fast rule here that's going to do anything but spawn needlessly bureaucratic arguments. Adding such "guidance" would only cause particularly entrenched parties to shift the semantics of their argument to focus on whether or not an individual was "truly" known for work that is "primarily" of one genre. This is not an area that requires micromanagement from MoS; I trust that editors can resolve these matters via WP:LOCALCONSENSUS and in the best interest of the biographies in question. In fact, it's arguably inappropriate to try to stretch our style guideline into areas that are already the appropriate purview of more important content guidelines, including WP:Verifiability and WP:WEIGHT. Snow let's rap 04:45, 14 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Option 2A default, but Option 4 is always open. It's correct that singers for bands, without a solo career, are usually given in "Joe Foo is the lead singer for the hair-metal band Nanodeath" format, and this makes sense, and we have no reason to change it. It's also true that if he were a solo artist, primarily known for a single genre, our standard operating procedure is "Joe Foo is a hair-metal singer". Or something to this effect that varies by context and facts, e.g. "Joe Foo is a rapper and an R&B musician and producer", or whatever; sometimes two genres are given if the person is notable for both, or both are linked and usually given together because of near-universal overlap; sometimes two related occupation are given like guitarist and songwriter. What we don't want is a long list of genres, "micro-genre" hair splitting that people are going to fight about, confusing "Joe Foo is a hair-metal singer and the lead singer for the band Nanodeath" that makes these things sound unrelated when they're not (they could be for real though, e.g. a punk guitarist who is also in a orchestra as a cellist, or whatever), or litanies of "every role every played", like "six-string guitar player, twelve-string guitar player, bouzouki player, mandolin player, sometimes keyboardist, co-engineer, [barf]". We also don't want "lead sentence shoe-horning" of material that is better explained in more detail in the lead. Whether something is in the infobox is utterly irrelevant; infoboxes are summaries of key facts from the article; the tail does not wag the dog. And Option 4 is always an option and always will be, no matter how this RfC closes, because of the WP:Ignore all rules policy, the WP:Common sense meta-policy, and the general way that Wikipedia operates; we're here to write good content, not to force good content to be worse in the name of fitting someone's idea of a simplistic one-size-fits-all content layout template [in the usual sense of "template", not the weird Wikipedia sense, of interpreted code snippets that everyone else in the world calls "scripts"].  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  10:57, 14 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Option 4 Genre should be listed in the lead sentence only if it's what makes the singer notable, otherwise place the genre further into the lead where the editor can expand on why, if need be. How would you list an artist that starts out in a band in one genre, then sucessfully goes solo in another genre? It needs to be case-by-case.  — Myk Streja (when?) 17:58, 16 July 2017 (UTC)


I'm leaning towards 1B as I feel the inclusion of the base/core genre (only) should be included in the opening sentence of the lead as it would be an immediate identifier of what type of singer you're reading about. In the event that the singer cannot be adequately described by one core genre such as country, gospel then the genre styles should be addressed further down in the lead and not in the opening sentence. - FlightTime (open channel) 22:50, 1 July 2017 (UTC)

I explained in the original discussion why I feel that genre is important to a singer. I feel that we should also clarify the wording on the policy to save from having future unnecessary discussions. I extremely oppose option 4 (only included it to cover all my bases) because without a clear style, editors will just continue to edit war to have articles whatever way they prefer (I admit to doing that myself in the past). JDDJS (talk) 22:59, 1 July 2017 (UTC)

  • 3B; for someone who works with multiple genres to any extent (it's hard to think of people who don't), even if one genre is unquestionably used more than others, including just one gives the misleading impression it's all they ever work with. Furthermore, it needlessly overfills the sentence when somebody unfamiliar with a subject looking for a quick description is much more likely looking for their general occupation rather than the type of material they make. We should keep lead sentences concise, and add any further details about a subject's career in subsequent text. Including genre in other sentences within the lead is fine (i.e. for someone who uses different genres for different albums, that can be noted in the lead). Snuggums (talk / edits) 23:10, 1 July 2017 (UTC)

"Jr." in running prose[edit]

When writing about "[Name] Jr." in the article prose, where there is no "[Name] Sr." present, is the suffix included on each subsequent mention, or does it get dropped after the first? Mac Dreamstate (talk) 14:12, 4 July 2017 (UTC)

The answer would depend on specific context... whether the reader would become confused as to who we are talking about. Blueboar (talk) 14:18, 4 July 2017 (UTC)
In the context I'm referring to, "[Name] Jr." would not be confused with anyone else. But does the suffix still get repeated? Mac Dreamstate (talk) 14:25, 4 July 2017 (UTC)
I'm no expert, but I think it's pretty safe to drop the suffix after the first mention (and easier to read) if there's little chance of confusion with someone else. --Deacon Vorbis (talk) 15:35, 4 July 2017 (UTC)
Update: Here's all I could really find on the topic; most it was just on whether or not to include a comma before the "Jr.". It's just a blog, but she's got pretty good advice in general. The gist seems to be to use the suffix for the full name, but not when just using the last name (although as you mentioned, if both people are under discussion, then I think it should be kept either way). --Deacon Vorbis (talk) 15:43, 4 July 2017 (UTC)
A good example of this is our article on Martin Luther King Jr. Blueboar (talk) 15:46, 4 July 2017 (UTC)
Looks clearcut to me. I'll take it. Thanks. Mac Dreamstate (talk) 15:52, 4 July 2017 (UTC)
Good example: Sammy Davis Jr. is usually called "Sammy Davis Jr." in long form, not just "Sammy Davis". It's fine to just refer to him as "Davis" on subsequent mention in a clear context, like an article on a Rat Pack movie. In such an article, calling him "Davis Jr." over and over again would be pedantic, because there's no other possible referent. In Sammy Davis Jr.'s own article, he's just called Davis except in the lead sentence and the first sentence of the early life section. Another case to look at would be Marvin Gaye. His father, Marvin Gaye Sr. became world-famous overnight for killing his legendary son, but no one refers to the singer as Marvin Gaye Jr., so it's never necessary to call him by "Jr." except in a sentence or couple of linked sentences discussing him and his father at the same time.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  10:42, 14 July 2017 (UTC)

Request for changes to "honorific prefixes" in infoboxes[edit]

Current Wikipedia policy is for "honorific titles" (e.g. Sir) to immediately precede names in infoboxes, while "honorific prefixes" (e.g. The Right Honourable) come before the name and honorific title on the line above.

Honorific prefixes vs honorific titles are a semantic distinction without a difference. Generally, both are simply called "honorifics" in English (see Wikipedia's own page on English honorifics), or more accurately "pre-nominal honorifics". Mr, Mrs, and Miss are in fact titles, just as Dr, Rev'd, and Sir are.

Even if there were a meaningful difference (the only difference is what the title signifies — marital status, knighthood, academic achievement, etc. — not its linguistic categorisation as a pre-nominal honorific in all cases), Dr, Rev'd, and Sir remain an honorific of some kind, not a name, so wherever they belong, it is not as part of a name as though they were forenames. Sir John Major's forename is John, not Sir.

I propose that:

  1. "honorific_prefix" be changed to "prenominal_honorific" in infoboxes; and
  2. pre-nominal honorifics such as Dr, Rev'd, and Sir be noted in the line currently entitled "honorific_prefix" rather than as part of the substantive given name ... because they are honorifics.

Vabadus91 (talk) 23:08, 12 July 2017 (UTC)

That sounds sensible to me. [Aside from disagreeing that Mr./Mrs/Ms/Miss "are in fact titles" in modern English – they clearly are not, but are customary gender and sometimes marital status indicators, used in registers with more formality than casual chats or a note left for a co-worker.] WP is already making too many PoV concessions to royalist/classist stuff. The way I see it, a knighthood in the UK is akin to the Congressional Medal of Honor (military) or Presidential Medal of Freedom (civilian) in the US, and similar national-hero awards in various countries (Russia has a huge system of them, inherited from the USSR), and in many places they are direct conversions from former systems of knightood, sometimes continuing the same Order of [Whatever] names (lots of that in Germany). Abbreviations for these would not be used as if part of a name in the same kind of entry in the templates at issue here. If "Dr[.]" and "Rev./Rev'd" and "Rt Hon" are put in the "honorific prefixes" parameter separate from the name, "Sir/Dame" should get the same treatment.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  10:24, 14 July 2017 (UTC)
No. When describing its position in the honours system, it may be fair to describe a knigthood as equivalent to a Congressional Medal of Honor, but when we are talking about style they are completely different. "Sir" or "Dame" becomes, in essence, a part of the person's name, not a mere prefix. This is not about "royalist/classist POV" (which is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard) but the proper usage - at least in the countries that use these titles, per WP:NATIONALTIES. There are cases where a person may not use their title (a number of actors, for example) where this may not apply, but the thought of applying this historically in particular is appalling. And how would you propose to deal with the spouses of knights under this system? Sir John Smith's wife Mary is no longer Mary Smith, she is Lady Smith (or, alternatively, Mary, Lady Smith). There is obviously no way to extract the "Lady" part for the prefix box. And I can only assume this attempt to deal with "royalist POV" will eventually extend to the peerage, and can scarcely imagine what a mess that would be. The current way this is done is correct and should not be changed - in fact frankly it doesn't go far enough and should be extended to article titles, but that's an argument for another day. Frickeg (talk) 11:00, 14 July 2017 (UTC)
WP doesn't care about styles of address (except in an article about styles of address). From an encyclopedic perspective, "Sir"/"Dame" has definitely not "become, in essence, a part of the person's name" any more than "Dr." or "Prof.", which we also do not attach to names in our writing. The comment below that "Professor Dame Jane Smith is never called Professor Smith or Jane Smith" is patently false in encyclopedic writing (and many other forms, for that matter, outside the jurisdiction of the knighthood). As a stark obvious example, Sir Francis Drake is regularly referred to as Francis Drake in innumerable publications (just typically not British ones). What's happening here is a confusion between a) how would you address or introduce this subject in person and/or write about them in a polite manner to an audience expecting the deference, versus b) how do you write about the subject in a neutral and distant manner (neutral even with regard to the government or figure who conferred the title and about how much of an honor it might be). Wikipedia must do the latter.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  05:23, 13 August 2017 (UTC)
No, there's no confusion here whatsoever. Apart maybe from yours as to what is part of the name and what is merely an honorific form of address. Neither is there anything non-neutral or deferential about using someone's title in the first line or infobox (or when referred to in an article other than their own). It's purely a statement of fact. Elsewhere in the biographical article we merely use the surname, as with anyone else. But the title is as much a part of someone's name as the suffixes "Jr" or "III" are in American names. They're bolded too, if you hadn't noticed! -- Necrothesp (talk) 10:46, 18 August 2017 (UTC)
  • No. The present careful wording of MOS:HONORIFIC is the result of much discussion over the years. For a start, read the 2008 discussion on honorific prefixes, linked at the top of this talk page. Some of the participants in that discussion are still active on Wikipedia, so I'm pinging them: Necrothesp, Mackensen, Mr. D. E. Mophon.
    The reason why the British (and Commonwealth) honorific titles Sir, Dame, Lord and Lady are treated differently is simply because they are different: they do become part of a person's name, in the sense that people with those titles are always called by them formally, even if informally they may drop their titles. I'm talking here about Sir for a knight; Dame for the female equivalent of a knight; Lord and Lady for a son or daughter of a duke or earl, as in Lady Antonia Fraser (Lord/Lady [placename], or Lady [surname] (wife of knight or baronet), are different). Being knighted or damed is a legal process, and a knighthood or damehood can only be taken away by another legal process, which is very rare. Professor Smith can also be called Mrs Smith or Dr Smith or simply Jane Smith; Professor Dame Jane Smith is never called Professor Smith or Jane Smith. A newspaper (and Wikipedia) may introduce her as Dame Jane Smith and subsequently refer to her simply as Smith.
    The authority on this is Titles and Forms of Address – my link is to a public-domain edition – more recent editions may be available in your public library.
    Of course there are exceptions. Two formal exceptions: a clergyman or -woman who receives a knighthood or damehood is not called Sir or Dame; honorary knights or dames (non-citizens of the awarding country, such as Bob Geldof) also are not called Sir or Dame. Celebrities such as Sir Elton John or Sir Tim Berners-Lee are often mentioned, especially by foreign media, without their titles. — Stanning (talk) 12:49, 17 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Absolutely not. This has been discussed many times before. "Sir", "Dame", etc, are titles, not honorific prefixes, and the difference to countries that use the former is very real. Sir John Major is always referred to as Sir John Major or Sir John; it has effectively become part of his name. Before he was knighted it was entirely optional as to whether he was referred to as Mr John Major or not. Using his knighthood, however, is not optional. Anyone who argues differently really does not understand how the honours system works or has some sort of anti-title agenda as one poster here clearly does have. Whether you like them or not is irrelevant; they are a fact and this is an encyclopaedia and not a soapbox. -- Necrothesp (talk) 12:56, 17 July 2017 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose. Too much discussion over this in the past with a strong consensus and I think this suggestion misses a few points.--Mark Miller (talk) 22:18, 19 August 2017 (UTC)

Should we use forenames or surnames for children?[edit]

There's a debate going on at the Charlie Gard case page about how to refer to Charlie Gard, who was still an infant at the time of his death.

Several editors feel that referring to a child by the surname (as per MOS:SAMESURNAME) is odd or inappropriately harsh or formal. It's been pointed out that some newspaper style guides for newspapers specifically recommend using first names for children. For example, Telegraph style guide: "Children under the age of 18 are referred to by their forenames and surnames at first mention and by their forenames later." Guardian: "Under-18s should normally be referred to by their first names."

Should we update the MOS to recommend using first names for children? (For the record I don't really have an opinion here, but I think it's interesting.) Popcornduff (talk) 08:51, 1 August 2017 (UTC)

It's not a question about a child or someone under the age of 18. The issue concerns an 11-month old baby. Johnuniq (talk) 09:48, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
But we want to determine how to refer to children generally. If we were to change the MOS to refer to children by their forenames, we'd presumably have to agree a cut-off age, too, be it 18 or something else. Popcornduff (talk) 09:56, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
No one is wondering whether MOS:SAMESURNAME is a good guideline—it obviously is. No one wants to use a forename to refer to, say, Thomasin McKenzie (born 2000). The actual issue is whether the guideline should be applied to a baby who died aged 11 months. Johnuniq (talk) 10:23, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
  • Rather than create a "one-size-fits-all rule, I would suggest "follow the sources"... if they use the forename so do we... if they use the surname so do we. Blueboar (talk) 10:20, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
  • Agreed. It should not be imagined that a guideline covers all situations. Johnuniq (talk) 10:23, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
If it's acceptable to use forenames for kids, I'd like to mention it in the guideline. Because that isn't obvious to all editors, including me. I had presumed the fact that it wasn't mentioned meant we should probably use the surname. Popcornduff (talk) 12:10, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
We can't cover every situation in our guidelines... use common sense and (where appropriate) WP:Ignore all rules. Blueboar (talk) 12:32, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
Guess I'm lacking in common sense, then, because it wouldn't occur to me to have used the forename in the first place, in an encyclopaedic context. Popcornduff (talk) 12:41, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
  • IMO, the concern about being "inappropriately harsh or formal" is irrelevant. We're here to write an encyclopedia article and we should be formal. Resolute 14:42, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
  • I agree with following the sources. Coretheapple (talk) 17:13, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
  • I wouldn't suggest using first names for all under-18s. But for babies, it seems obvious not to use surnames. We don't need a rigid cut-off point. When in doubt, follow the high-quality RS. SarahSV (talk) 18:12, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
  • To add to the Guardian and Telegraph style guides above, The Associated Press Stylebook (2017), p. 48: "In general, call children 15 or younger by their first name on second reference. Use the last name, however, if the seriousness of the story calls for it, as in a murder case, for example. For ages 16 and 17, use judgment, but generally go with the surname unless it's a light story. Use the surname for those 18 and older." SarahSV (talk) 01:21, 2 August 2017 (UTC)
  • Yes, and to that could be added participants in junior competitions (such as sporting events). Tony (talk) 03:26, 2 August 2017 (UTC)
I don't much care either way here, but what specific sources do is irrelevant. This is a question of style for Wikipedia, which sets its own guidelines for style. And frankly, this question has wider implications than just this one article, so at the very least some sort of rule-of-thumb would be appropriate for inclusion into the MOS. --Deacon Vorbis (talk) 18:20, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
I would suggest adding something like: "Unless there is a strong editorial reason to do otherwise, use first names for infants under five years old. Where there is disagreement, follow the preponderance of high-quality reliable sources." I added the part about "strong editorial reason" because I can think of one case where Wikipedia uses a surname for a young child for good reason. SarahSV (talk) 18:38, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
It seems following the "very reliable" source for a BLP is a good fall back, but SlimVirgin's point is the best option I see here. - FlightTime (open channel) 19:09, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
Quick side note: "infant" generally refers to someone much younger than 5 (up to 6-24 months according to wiktionary). But more importantly, that's an unrealistic suggestion. Suddenly we have to debate which (reliable) sources are "high-quality" or not, and when in doubt, to bother counting up which sources do what. We're not talking about using the most common spelling for a transliteration of a name from a non-Latin alphabet or something. This is a style question, and what other sources do in this one particular case is irrelevant. It's fine to use other style guides as inspiration when deciding on a style for Wikipedia, but this is ultimately a style question and not a content question, and so what sources do doesn't matter. --Deacon Vorbis (talk) 21:15, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
I disagree that style guides and sources don't matter. If we find that we're the only publication in the world to do something, it might signal that we have a problem. SarahSV (talk) 21:54, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
They do matter, in that we use them to write our own style guide (and depart from them as we deem necessary for our own project and audience). But we do have our own style guide for a very particular kind of writing, an unusual kind. It includes many unique things, and necessary does so, and they are not problems. E.g., there is no third-party source that can tell us better than we can determine for ourselves how WP's leads should be written, or how to format an infobox, or how to balance ENGVAR conflicts, since these are WP-specific matters. How to write about small children isn't WP-specific, but how to write about them in an encyclopedic manner is a very, very encyclopedia-specific one, there appears to be no other style guide but ours that is specifically about encyclopedic writing. So, we're on quite solid ground in coming to our own collective, informed, carefully consensus on this particular matter. Journalism style guides – the only ones mentioned so far – are terrible for almost all WP style questions for the obvious reason that news style has very little in common with encyclopedic style, other than being more formal than love letters, Internet spam, and gamer blog posts. Our writing has much more in common with academic style. We take almost nothing from journalism style guides; about the only clear example I can think of where we have is MOS:IDENTITY because we had to do something, and the academic style guides most of MoS is based on were not addressing the issue yet, and (for once) the journo style guides actually were all pretty consistent with each other on writing about transgender people.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  05:17, 13 August 2017 (UTC)
  • No new rule needed: We already use first names (for adults) in any context in which we need to, e.g. when multiple family members are under discussion in the same paragraph. When such a child is mentioned in an article here, they're likely to be in such a context, so we're already free to refer to them by first name when it seems awkward not to, and such a contextual condition applies. There are plenty of contexts, however, were this will not be the case. For example, the witness to a crime was a child, and this person is mentioned by name, and their family is never under discussion; or the aforementioned children's sports. We would not use first-name-only in such cases. This is all WP:Common sense, and we do not need yet another WP:CREEP rule, especially an unworkable one like a "use first names for infants under five years old" blanket proposal.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  05:17, 13 August 2017 (UTC)

Add explanatory note to guideline about lead sentence[edit]

The guideline on the lead sentence for BLPs states: "The lead sentence should describe the person as he or she is commonly described in reliable sources." I would like to add the following, into an explanatory footnote: "Roles in the lead sentence should be cited to reliable sources. It is not enough to establish that a person has performed an activity, reliable sources must regularly should commonly refer to the person in that way." Checking community consensus on this issue. --LK (talk) 09:21, 2 August 2017 (UTC)

I'ld like to explain a bit more about why we need this in the guideline. Quite often, an editor adds a role to a lead sentence, justifying it with a source that establishes that it is true. For example: "Jack Kerouac is an American novelist and artist ..." – here are sources that say he sketched portraits. Emily Blunt is an actress and singer" – here are sources that she sang in the movie, Into the Woods. If the lead sentence can contain anything which is verifiable, we'll end up with leads like:

"Glenn Lee Beck (born February 10, 1964) is an American television and radio host, conservative political commentator, author, television network producer, filmmaker, entrepreneur, rancher, and CEO, owner and founder of Mercury Radio Arts, the parent company of his television and radio network TheBlaze." ...

This was actually the lead in the the Glen Beck article until I changed it yesterday. [1] I'ld like to clarify in the guideline, that the lead sentence should be based on how reliable sources refer to the person. --LK (talk) 04:10, 3 August 2017 (UTC)


  • Oppose – I don't like it. First, WP policy is that everything must be verifiable, and I see this as more a policy issue than MOS. Second, per WP:LEADCITE I don't think we should be suggesting putting citations in the lead. Third, what constitutes "regularly"? Kendall-K1 (talk) 10:49, 2 August 2017 (UTC)
@Kendall-K1, I've removed the first sentence. I've also changed "must regularly" to "should commonly". I hope that satisfies? LK (talk) 03:53, 3 August 2017 (UTC)
I still think more policy is not needed. The remainder of that paragraph sums it up: "However, avoid overloading the lead paragraph with various sundry roles; instead, emphasize what made the person notable. Incidental and non-notable roles (i.e. activities that are not integral to the person's notability) should usually not be mentioned in the lead paragraph." Agreed that "role overload" is a problem but I don't think more policy will help. I have fought these battles myself. WP:V already requires sources, and if there is no source that says Glen Beck is a firefighter or whatever, you can remove it on BLP grounds and escalate normally if needed. Note that "Beck fought a fire once" is not the same as "Beck is a firefighter", and you may have to point this out to the other editor. Kendall-K1 (talk) 19:08, 8 August 2017 (UTC)
  • Oppose If there is enough to establish notability for somebody doing something, than it belongs in the lead whether or not they are referred by it in sources. For example, most sources just refer to George Clooney as an actor. So should we just ignore his work as a producer in the lead, despite the fact that he won an Oscar for it? JDDJS (talk) 18:16, 2 August 2017 (UTC)
We don't ignore notable activities, they should be mentioned in the lead, perhaps even in the lead paragraph if notable enough. However, following general Wikipedia practice, we should refer to people as they are referred to by reliable sources. See the lead in Winston Churchill for example. The lead sentence describes him as a "British politician and statesman" – as that is how sources refer to him. He is not described as "soldier" or "writer" in the lead sentence, even though he fought in several wars and won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Instead, his other notable activities are described in the rest of the lead (as suggested by MOS:LEADSENTENCE). LK (talk) 12:38, 3 August 2017 (UTC)
  • Oppose How much to include in the lead sentence should be decided through editorial judgment and consensus instead of a cookie cutter formula. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 05:19, 4 August 2017 (UTC)
  • Comment -- the guideline the OP cites already states: "...commonly described in reliable sources" (emphasis mine). Is this not sufficient? If it's not common for RS to describe the subject in this way, don't include it, no? K.e.coffman (talk) 05:04, 6 August 2017 (UTC)
  • Comment Cullen hit it right on the head, IMO. L3X1 (distænt write) )evidence( 18:45, 8 August 2017 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Cullen - It is an editorial thing and IMHO the current wording/footnote is better than the one suggested. –Davey2010Talk 11:56, 9 August 2017 (UTC)
  • Comment - I think the explanatory note in place already tell the user not to describe less important roles, although the note says lead paragraph and not lead sentence: However, avoid overloading the lead paragraph with various sundry roles; instead, emphasize what made the person notable. Incidental and non-notable roles (i.e. activities that are not integral to the person's notability) should usually not be mentioned in the lead paragraph. Mysteriumen•♪Ⓜ •♪talk ♪• look 14:40, 11 August 2017 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I concur with Mysteriumen. We just don't need a new rule about this, even one buried in a footnote. The Beck article's crap lead was the result of poor writing, not lack of rules.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  05:20, 13 August 2017 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Cullen. Sometimes it is easy to find sources that treat a subject as "whole" - e.g. Churchill (who was copiously written about as a complete subject - so it's really just a copy-paste/merge from the more notable RSes' summaries). In other occasions subjects might be treated separately for different phases of their life - e.g. (per a bio I worked on recently) you might have a whole bunch of sources covering 1861-1865 referring to a person with one title (military) and sources covering his death at 1869 as something entirely else (trader) with many not mentioning his 1861-5 activities. People change careers - later coverage doesn't always cover previous activities (if we have a swimmer turned business executive - would later sources cover his swimming activities? Maybe a brief mention, maybe not at all). This should be a matter of editorial discretion.Icewhiz (talk) 12:36, 20 August 2017 (UTC)

Usage of "Committed suicide"[edit]

It seems that consensus is needed for the use of this term. I see two discussions claiming consensus [2] and [3]. I have no concrete preference (I do lean towards "died by") except for, which way to go on usage. - FlightTime (open channel) 18:58, 12 August 2017 (UTC)

The main objection of those who oppose the phrasing "Committed suicide" appears to be the implied connotation to having committed a crime. While I recognize the sensitivity in addressing mental health issues, the verb "commit" has multiple meanings and, while I can't speak for anyone other than myself on this issue, I have never inferred any criminal connotation with this phrase, and therefore I don't see a strong enough reason to change it. However, in the spirit of compromise, I will point out I've only seen one alternative that I can agree with, and that would be something like this, where the phrases "[Person] was found dead," and "death was ruled a suicide" are used instead. I strongly oppose to the phrase "died by suicide," however, because of the obvious redundancy. Davejohnsan (talk) 23:02, 12 August 2017 (UTC)
Generally agreed, though "death was ruled a suicide"-type wording only applies when the sources indicate this, e.g. a coroner's report, and we often don't have that level of specificity, especially regarding historical subjects. It is certainly true that "commit" has multiple uses and meanings, so the assertion that it makes suicide a crime is nonsense. I commit fully to that analysis. (Just to provide an example.) A general principle at MoS, and in good writing in general, is to use plain, understandable English, not contorted wording. Everyone understands "commit suicide" without any weird implication of criminal intent. The only people who rebel against the usage are "on a mission", and Wikipedia does not exist for, or permit, language-change activism. Even MOS:IDENTITY took years to formulate, based not on TG activists' demands (many of which have in fact been outright rejected here), but on a close analysis of real-world style guides and what they've evolved to say and do about such matters over the last generation. WP is never to be on the bleeding edge of language usage. And the "stop saying 'commit' with regard to suicide" activists are way, way fewer in number and public mindshare than the TG activism crowd.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  04:53, 13 August 2017 (UTC)
I don't buy the 'multiple meanings' argument: a look in the dictionary confirms there are only two, and, when there is no possibility of the verb being ditransitive, its object is invariably a "mistake, crime, or immoral act". Given that there are other ways to put it, "commit suicide" is a form of words I generally avoid. Plain "hanged himself", "jumped from a window", etc, is always available. In the absence of evidence from other style guides, MOS should probably stay silent at this stage.William Avery (talk) 08:10, 13 August 2017 (UTC)
If only we could banish "hung himself". Kendall-K1 (talk) 11:04, 13 August 2017 (UTC)
While I (personally) would prefer to use more explicit phrasings ("Killed himself", "shot herself" etc.) I do agree that "committed suicide" is not wrong. So... this isn't something that the MOS should go into. Leave it up to local consensus. Blueboar (talk) 11:37, 13 August 2017 (UTC)
The Linkin Park article currently uses the phrase "suicide by hanging", which seems appropriate given we have an article by that title. Kendall-K1 (talk) 11:57, 13 August 2017 (UTC)
It isn't Wikipedia's place to try and change common usage of words and phrases. "Committed suicide" is the most common way to describe someone committing suicide so there is and should be no issue using it generally. Resolute 13:51, 13 August 2017 (UTC)
But it most certainly is Wikipedia's place to say which common words and phrases are preferred here. "Passed away" is a very common euphemism, but Wikipedia style prefers "died". In this case, "killed oneself" is also quite common. Your claim of "committed suicide" being the most common is without evidence. --Deacon Vorbis (talk) 14:59, 13 August 2017 (UTC)
I support avoiding the term. "Killed himself/herself" is clear and direct. This is also recommended by the Guardian style guide, I notice. Popcornduff (talk) 15:14, 13 August 2017 (UTC)
Suicide was historically considered to be a crime, although of course one could not be prosecuted and attempted suicides were subject to prosecution. However, in England the law was changed in the Suicide ACt 1961 which read, "The rule of law whereby it is a crime for a person to commit suicide is hereby abrogated.
"[4] So the meaning of "to commit suicide" is a clear reference to breaking a law. I do not think we should use the expression since it implies criminal guilt. The word suicide is sufficient since it merely implies killing oneself without any connotations of criminality. TFD (talk) 23:34, 19 August 2017 (UTC)
That's not a valid reason not to use the phrase (although there are some better ones listed above, and I'm not really taking a strong position on this one). But, simply because the law criminalizing the act used the phrase "commit suicide" doesn't mean that the phrase wasn't already in use, and it's easily possible that the writers of the law were simply using preexisting language. Even if that is the origin, connotations change over time, and if that's not a common view of the users of the phrase, then it shouldn't stop us from using it. --Deacon Vorbis (talk) 02:52, 20 August 2017 (UTC)

Using two different surnames for a subject throughout the Mary Kay Letourneau article?[edit]

Opinions are needed on the following matter: Talk:Mary Kay Letourneau#Use of "Fualaau". A permalink for it is here. The discussion concerns whether or not to use "Letourneau" for some parts of the article and "Fualaau" for other parts of the article. Flyer22 Reborn (talk) 18:56, 20 August 2017 (UTC)

Relevant discussion[edit]

See Wikipedia:Village pump (policy)#RfC: Should "Sir" and "Dame" be treated as part of someone's name?. -- Necrothesp (talk) 08:00, 24 August 2017 (UTC)