Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Biography

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RfC: First mention in the first sentence... (MOS:JOBTITLES)[edit]

The following discussion is an archived record of a request for comment. Please do not modify it. No further edits should be made to this discussion. A summary of the conclusions reached follows.
Consensus was reached to keep consistency in style between the first sentence and the remainder of the article. A fresh and more precise RFC about other issues that were raised during this discussion is recommendable. (non-admin closure) Marcocapelle (talk) 14:27, 14 February 2020 (UTC)

...of these numerous articles about the position itself

Should the first mention of a position in the first sentence of the article about the position be de-capitalized? See collapsed just above this line. Relisted by C&C (Coffeeandcrumbs) 18:35, 6 January 2020 (UTC), originally opened by Coffeeandcrumbs 22:16, 9 November 2019 (UTC)

!vote "yes" or "no"[edit]

  • Yes.Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 22:29, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
  • (moved from Discussion below) Yes. Where it appears in the article is irrelevant, and if it's capitalized early on in the lead, then people will capitalize it everywhere, per MOS:ARTCON.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  22:30, 14 November 2019 (UTC)
    See clarification below; in the wake of polarized attention being drawn to this RfC (a month after its expiration), some of the responses to it seem to be misunderstand what it means.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  23:54, 8 January 2020 (UTC)
    @SMcCandlish: Can you clarify if that is a "yes" to my comment or a "yes" !vote to the RFC question of de-capitalizing first mention of the position?—Bagumba (talk) 12:20, 15 November 2019 (UTC)
    It was a "yes" !vote to the RfC question; I didn't notice the intervening subhead. In response to your comment, part of the point of the wording of MOS:JOBTITLES is a compromise between "traditionalist" and "contemporary" styles. If the subject of the material is itself the title/position, then it can be capitalized, if it's a unique title that is often capitalized, and treating it that way makes some sense in the context. Thus, President of the United States should begin with "The President of the United States ..." (while Chief executive officer should not capitalize that title, being generic). In a genericized context, that same PotUS-related phrase would not be capitalized: "Tension levels between the president of the United States and the prime minister of the UK have varied considerably by who in particular has been in these offices. However, the two countries have been careful to maintain their alliance since the 19th century." It would be easier, "in a vacuum", to just never capitalize these things except when directly connected to a name. But it's not easy in practice; we're not going to get consensus to do that. Just getting consensus to not capitalize every f'ing occurrence has taken a decade+ and lots of proof that mainstream, off-site sources are no longer, in the main, rampantly capitalizing them.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  03:04, 16 November 2019 (UTC)
  • Yes per SMcCandlish reasoning. If this does go thru, MOS:JOBTITLE should distinguish it from the existing "Richard Nixon was the president of the United States" example, which is presumably not capitalized because "the" precedes "president" (?).—Bagumba (talk) 11:52, 24 November 2019 (UTC)
    • What is this rule about a preceding "the"? --SmokeyJoe (talk) 00:16, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
      • @SmokeyJoe: See end about articles: 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)Bagumba (talk) 10:37, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
    • Striking my !vote for now. I realized that SMcCandlish said capitalize for President of the United States, but not for Chief executive officer. That might be OK, but is more of a "depends" than a definite "yes". Will revisit later.—Bagumba (talk) 10:41, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Yes. Per SMcCandlish Gog the Mild (talk) 13:19, 3 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Many of these positions are never decapitalised in any form of usage, so it'd just be an attempt to use Wikipedia to push a position. The Drover's Wife (talk) 02:26, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Oppose we are not leaders of global change nor the standardisation of the english language we respect what the source say and the unique styles of every country. Now I really dont give a flyingfox about us-english, Australian English style guides say that where a title is used in relation to or conjunction with an individual the title is capitalised. Gnangarra 02:38, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
    I don't know where you got the idea that this practice was more common in U.S. It is not any more common to decapitalize in the U.S. than it is in Australia. --- C&C (Coffeeandcrumbs) 18:57, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
    In this discussion about John Cain 41st Premier of Victoria because every example you posted was of US presidents. And this edit which said the chicago style guide Gnangarra 08:28, 10 January 2020 (UTC)
  • It depends. As a rule, no. Often to usually, yes. If the term is treated as a proper name by most quality sources, like “39th President of the United States” or “34th Premier of Victoria”, then it should be treated as a proper name and capitalized, on every use. These wordy proper names are not much repeated after the lede, so the notion is setting a bad example is not compelling. —SmokeyJoe (talk) 10:47, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
    • oppose de-capitalization can lead to ambiguity. The 34th premier of Victoria was Collingwood Football Club. :) Doug butler (talk) 19:56, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
  • No Personally I think MOS:JOBTITLES should be removed from the MOS. It's unnecessary and obviously conflicts with real-world usage per Coffeandcrumbs and TDW below. Number 57 16:02, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Yes. This is best practice and decapitalisation is consistent with many other sources, albeit not all. Deferring this element of style to source usage on a case-by-case basis would prolong rows that the manual of style can and should prevent. Ralbegen (talk) 16:25, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Comment - The Rfc tag expired about a month ago. This Rfc should've been closed. GoodDay (talk) 16:53, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
  • No... This is an extreme reading of MOS:JOBTITLES. When a governmental position is itself the subject of an article, we should capitalize the name of that position. ESPECIALLY when the position is held by one person (ie not generic). Blueboar (talk) 22:06, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Comment - If you capitalise in the intro or decapitalise, shouldn't this be done through out the entire article? GoodDay (talk) 23:09, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Yes per SMcCandlish. CThomas3 (talk) 23:15, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Oppose Specific positions are proper nouns and we shouldn't be forcing awkward decapitalisation onto every article. MOS:JOBTITLES is an unnecessary confused mess (particularly given different approaches in different countries). Timrollpickering (Talk) 23:38, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Yes, of course. Oxford Style Guide, The Chicago Manual of Style, AP Stylebook, and Wikipedia's own style guide are all clear on this. I have yet to see a single academic style guide that prescribes capitalizing job titles in such a case. Surtsicna (talk) 23:42, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
1. Richard Nixon was the president of the United States.
2. Richard Nixon was a president of the United States.
3. Nixon was the 37th president of the United States.
Do the external style guides speak directly to 1 & 3? I think 1 & 3 should be capitalized, while 2 should not. I think the preponderance of sources supports this. I note that there is a trend over many decades to capitalize less, however, "37th President of the United States" can be read as a proper name. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 00:11, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
As another point of reference, Britannica doesn't capitalise 3: here and 1: here. But that's about MOS:JOBTITLES more generally and not within the scope of this RfC. which is just about articles about positions. Ralbegen (talk) 00:23, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
Considering that none of the style guides Surtsicna mentioned are freely available online, it'd be extremely helpful for clarifying this discussion if people could cite, specifically, the guidance they're relying on, as we're getting into the less obvious nuances of capitalisation principles and it's very hard to tell (considering how much it, in many if not most cases here, differs from common usage) if these takes are things that they're actually explicitly trying to prescribe or the interpretation of some Wikipedians. The Drover's Wife (talk) 00:30, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
CMOS 17 says that when a title is "preceded by the or by a modifier", "it is considered not a title but rather a descriptive phrase and is therefore lowercased". Does this help? —Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 00:43, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
Yes, it's really useful for these discussions to be able to refer to the actual text of these so we know we're not talking at cross-purposes: if I'm apparently disagreeing with the take of the CMOS in some situations, it's useful to know that I'm actually disagreeing with their take in some situations and not some Wikipedian's interpretation of it. Do you have the other ones Surtsicna referred to handy by any chance? Ultimately I'd like to get to understand the style guide differences that are causing the clashes with what's actually being used in real-life, for lack of a better word, sources - because this specific RfC is a big one for that - and I'm just not enough of a MOS nerd (meant in the nicest possible way) to have these things on hand. The Drover's Wife (talk) 00:57, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
I only subscribe to CMOS, since that's what my employer uses. I can see if the others are available at my local library. (Separately, if you are willing to WikiMail me, I'll send you more explicit examples from CMOS.) —Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 01:03, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
I'm about to run off for work, but that'd be fantastic. I'll see if I can dig up copies of the others myself. The other thing I meant to add about digging these up is that our guideline is not particularly clearly written regardless of one's take on the issue and I'm generally keen on greater clarity, so reference to the actual language of style guides might provide us guidance on tightening that up regardless of which stance our guide ultimately takes on some of the finer nuances of capitalisation. The Drover's Wife (talk) 01:11, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
@SmokeyJoe:, @The Drover's Wife:: CMOS (16th edition) 8.21: "Much of the usage below is contradicted by the official literature typically generated by political offices, where capitalization of a title in any position is the norm (see 8.19). In formal academic prose, however, civil titles are capitalized only when used as part of the name (except as noted)."
AP Style Book: "In general, confine capitalization to formal titles used directly before an individual’s name."
Oxford Style Guide: "Use capitals for titles prefixing names, but not for job descriptions." (It might be relevant to note the example given by Oxford Style Guide: The 17th president of the United States was Andrew Johnson.)
In short, yes, these style guides do speak directly to 1 and 3 in that they all clearly state that titles should be capitalized only when preceding the holder's name (and are not set off by commas). This means that MOS:JOBTITLES is much more accepting of capitalization than the world's major academic style guides, and that any move towards more uppercasing on Wikipedia would set the project apart from mainstream academic prose. It would be a mistake. Surtsicna (talk) 01:17, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
Thanks for the quotes - as I said to Eyer, it's really useful to know what, specifically, they say as we start getting into quite nuanced areas. Am I reading you correctly that the CMOS acknowledges that they're contradicting normal layperson usage though? That seems surprising. The Drover's Wife (talk) 08:31, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
You are welcome! No, the CMOS says that the usage in "formal academic prose" is contradicted by the "official literature typically generated by political offices". There is no mention of normal laypeople, whoever that may be. For example, while gov.uk capitalizes "prime minister" in every instance, David Cannadine and Stuart Ball do not. Surtsicna (talk) 10:49, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Neutral - Just hoping we have this settled once & for all, so I can go forward with implementing the decision, throughout the bio articles. GoodDay (talk) 01:07, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Yes, should be de-capitalized, for consistency and to avoid disputes in the future. --K.e.coffman (talk) 01:18, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
  • It depends — I think SmokeyJoe's evaluation is closest to my own. I also concur with the point that the current guideline is not as clear as it could be, so whatever the final decision is, I hope it's communicated more effectively. XOR'easter (talk) 01:29, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
  • No, I am not convinced of the logic by which "the United States" amounts to a proper noun but "the President of the United States" does not. What if it were "the Grand Poobah of the United States" that should be "the grand poobah of the United States"? "the Unmitigated Holy Divine High-man of the United States" vs "the unmitigated holy divine high-man of the United States"? If it is in Wikipedia's voice, it is not a proper noun, if it is in the voice of the title-giver, it is a proper noun, right? —DIYeditor (talk) 01:53, 7 January 2020 (UTC) I must say I was confused about this RfC and what it implied, I did not see that it meant only this specific list (I feel the text of the RfC that was not collapsed should've read differently). I still have to give a strong oppose to that and think that we need to come up with adjustments to JOBTITLES if anything is not clear. Deciding by fiat from one list serves no good purpose. We need to know why things are being capitalized or not. —DIYeditor (talk) 05:30, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
    Your comment does not make sense. "President of the United States" is not a noun at all, let alone a proper noun. Surtsicna (talk) 02:00, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
    My whole comment does not make sense because you object to "amounts to"? What about the rest of it? Anyway, saying the "President of the United States" is not a proper noun seems to me about like saying the Apache HTTP Server is not a proper noun. Or the United States of America. Let's not quibble over the meaning of "proper noun" in English, let's talk about cases like "Supreme Leader" or whatever that I don't think we can say in Wiki's voice as "supreme leader". —DIYeditor (talk) 02:20, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
    DIY’s post could be corrected by substituting proper name for proper noun. A common unimportant mistake. —SmokeyJoe (talk) 03:10, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
  • It depends I mostly agree with what SmokeyJoe said. I would suspect that capitalization is not appropriate in a majority of cases, but not all jobs are created equal and we do not need a one-size-fits-all answer to the capitalization question. Lepricavark (talk) 03:13, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I completely agree with Number 57. There is no reason for this to be in the MOS at all. We need to be flexible and accept the norms that are specific to the preferences of each nation or dialect. This can all be determined through local consensus in each article, but we shouldn't invent an arbitrary and dubious common standard to impose on every article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by ErinRC (talkcontribs) 03:17, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
  • No. An attempted extension of already egregious instruction creep. I would also fully support a revisiting of MOS:JOBTITLES, which (as so often with MOS) has ceased to be reflective of actual general usage. Frickeg (talk) 05:49, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
  • No. Our normal MOS rules should apply. We don't need special creepy first-time decapitalization rules. —David Eppstein (talk) 08:25, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
  • No common usage is capitalisation, and this is yet more MOS-creep. Certainly capitalise in the case of usage as a proper name, such as "37th Premier of Victoria". Peacemaker67 (click to talk to me) 09:23, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
  • No - common usage is to capitalise. Wikipedia shouldn't take a position that suggests something different. Bookscale (talk) 11:04, 7 January 2020 (UTC)
  • To clarify my !vote-proper up top (about which SmokeyJoe asked): We should not do the lead sentence differently from the article title and the rest of the article. Now that this RfC is belatedly getting attention (much of it polarized by an ANI discussion), the vagueness of its wording is turning out to be a problem. The question wasn't about whether every title should always be de-capitalized in every lead sentence; it was about whether we should fix cases where people are over-capitalizing titles in the lead sentence just because it's in the lead sentence. Yes, we should fix those instances, per MOS:EMPHCAPS and MOS:ARTCON as well as MOS:JOBTITLES. That is, when the article itself is about a unique title like "President of the United States", or a sharply delimited one like "Member of the European Parliament", we're dealing with it as a proper name in that context, and the capitalization should be consistent in the article (except where used as a common-noun phrase, e.g. "seventeen presidents of the United States were ..."). When the article is about a generic title, like "chief executive officer", it is not a proper name at all, and should not be upper-cased in the lead sentence just to emphasize it because it's in the lead sentence (we boldface the term at first occurrence instead; see MOS:FIRST). This is the same capitalization pattern you'll find in the majority of modern-day reliable sources (in style guides in giving advice about how to do this, and in other kinds of works in their running-text usage: "two senators", "Senator Schubert", "when Schubert was elected as the senior senator from Ohio", "The office of United States Senator is held by two individuals at a time per US state, a senior and a junior senator", "this list of 20th-century Republican senators of Ohio", etc. Capitalize when attached to a name or when treated as a proper-name subject (the office itself, as such), but lower-case when used in a common-noun manner (descriptive, pluralized, generic, etc.) Source usage is not universal on these matters, but consistent enough (and getting more so every year) for us to apply them consistently here, and hopefully end all this move-warring and other strife. As someones else put it below, Oppose any MOS change, malformed request is perhaps the best interpretation. This should be reformulated more clearly in a later discussion, perhaps with an eye to also addressing the related thread further down this page.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  23:54, 8 January 2020 (UTC); rev'd 11:22, 14 January 2020 (UTC)
    • Thanks. I note that I find you make much more sense when I find your writing to be easily understood. {{"Should the first mention of a position in the first sentence of the article about the position be de-capitalized"}} reads very easily as "Should positions de-capitalized". I think a better question is Should positions in lede sentences be capitalized any different to elsewhere in the article, including the title?, to which the answer is an easy "no". --SmokeyJoe (talk) 01:02, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
      • This seems entirely reasonable but this RfC explicitly asked to decapitalise the first sentence for a list of specific positions of which basically every one was a unique title, which on your logic as I understand it, shouldn't be decapitalised. It seems to me like there's a bit of cross-purposes going on here and that you and Coffeeandcrumbs are effectively arguing for completely different (and apparently contradictory) things in the same RfC. The Drover's Wife (talk) 01:10, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
        • Please stop trying to personalize style disputes, especially with me in particular, and double-especially when there's still an open ANI on it. I'm not inclined to get into a mutual interaction-ban with you just because you don't seem to know when to give it a rest. You've said your piece in this RfC and so have I (that's commenting on the content), which is sufficient, and we need no further comment on contributor. PS: The RfC is not "ask[ing] to" do anything; it's neutrally asking whether we should. My view is that we should by default use lower-case (in title, lead sentence, and general text), not deviate from this except for proper-name usage, and not be inconsistent at the same article whether we deviate from the default or not. I didn't make that clear enough at first, but I don't need you in particular to continue getting on my case about it.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  01:37, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
          • To be clear, I'm trying to understand your position because when you've gotten more specific about your views you've made some comments that make me wonder how much we actually disagree at all. You said above: "That is, when the article itself is about a unique title like "President of the United States", or a sharply delimited one like "Member of the European Parliament", we're dealing with it as a proper name in that context, and the capitalization should be consistent in the article (except where used as a common-noun phrase, e.g. "seventeen presidents of the United States were ...")." Wouldn't that mean that most, if not all, of the articles listed in the RfC should be capitalised in the article title and lead section (they're all functionally equivalent examples to "President of the United States")? If I'm reading you correctly, we basically agree; if I'm not, I'd like to understand what I'm not understanding. The Drover's Wife (talk) 01:48, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
  • No with rider: Use of a specific title which is in and of itself about a specific position|title|office should capitalise the usage. Where the article is about the position, it should be capitalised where it appears in the lead subject that the lead should be written in a way that complies with with the provisions of MOS:JOBTITLES. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 07:32, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
    • The problem, as we've seen at Talk:President of the United States, is that making the position/title/office the sentence subject leads to a cumbersome lead sentence. For this reason, the subject in each of these cases is not the office but the officeholder. Surtsicna (talk) 19:43, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Malformed: Per my comment immediately above. It should be possible to write the lead to capitalise the position in a way that is compliant with MOS:JOBTITLES. Given this, what is then being asked by the RfC? As the question is unclear, I would observe that the RfC is consequently malformed. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 07:47, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
  • No These are formal positions which are unique hence they should be capitalised. I have yet to see any valid reasons to change this. Example:
  • Green tickY Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
  • Red XN prime minister of the united kingdom
  • Red XN prime minister of the United Kingdom
  •  Spy-cicle💥  Talk? 19:08, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
The third version, "prime minister of the United Kingdom", is recommended by the most reputable style guides in the world, including The Chicago Manual of Style, Oxford Style Guide, and AP Stylebook. A nay from you or me holds little weight. Surtsicna (talk) 19:43, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
The UK Government offically states "Prime Minister of the United Kingdom" among other sources. Furthermore, as shown above and below the usage tends towards the first option since it is a specific and proper role. Also please could I see the sources for those manual guides you mentioned.  Spy-cicle💥  Talk? 14:57, 12 January 2020 (UTC)
As noted by The Chicago Manual of Style, these style guides are followed in "formal academic prose" and are "contradicted by the official literature typically generated by political offices". As an encyclopedia, Wikipedia should look up to academic prose rather than websites of political offices. In a comment below I explained how the job title is not capitalized in any of the biographies of Lord Salisbury (a random choice) cited in our article about him. Therefore I cannot confirm that tendency. I am not sure what you mean by "sources for those manual guides". Hopefully SMcCandlish can help me out with figuring this out. Surtsicna (talk) 16:02, 12 January 2020 (UTC)
The Google Ngram suggests to me that these style guides are trying to be trend setters. Wikipedia should follow its sources, the sources for the material is the articles. Capitalisation conveys meaning, it is not just style. —SmokeyJoe (talk) 22:01, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
I'm more interested in conforming to common style guides that I am conforming to sources. That said, New York Times [1] has it lowercase. So does Washington Post [2]. BBC has it lowercase in many instances [3]. —Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 22:08, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
Having recently checked the biographies of Lord Salisbury cited in the article about him, I can tell you that such over-capitalization is very uncommon. To be more precise, I have not encountered it. It is not capitalized in the 2001 biography by Michael Bentley, or in the 1987 biography by Lord Blake, or in the 2002 biography by Paul R. Brumpton, or in the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, or in the 1964 biography by John Ashley Soames Grenville, or in the 1978 biography by Peter T. Marsh, or in the 1996 biography by Richard Shannon, or in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, or in the 2002 biography by E. David Steele, etc. I do not know from which kind of books Google picks those results, but from what I can see, these style guides are not merely setting trends. Surtsicna (talk) 22:31, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
@Surtsicna: So I am still wondering, I assume these style guides you cited would have us capitalize "Supreme Leader" (of North Korea) but not "prime minister" (of the United Kingdom) even though both make sense literally not just as proper names or titles. Is there some logic on this we can take from the style guides? I think for Wikipedia's purposes we need a "because" that people can take to the bank. —DIYeditor (talk) 07:33, 11 January 2020 (UTC)
I'll just point out that Kim Jong-un already uses "supreme leader" (lowercase), presumably because of WP:JOBTITLES, in spite of the obvious issues you've raised earlier that there is a clear difference in meaning. The Drover's Wife (talk) 08:12, 11 January 2020 (UTC)
I don't know why you assume so. Surtsicna (talk) 00:18, 12 January 2020 (UTC)
@Surtsicna: Because it doesn't sound quite right to say someone is the "supreme leader" as a factual statement in Wikipedia's voice versus a proper name (their job title) in capital letters. How about "brotherly leader and guide of the revolution" should that be lower case as well? By what possible standard should the editor's voice be used to parrot whatever conceivable title someone manages to come up with as if it will always make sense in plain English as a description of them? —DIYeditor (talk) 08:06, 12 January 2020 (UTC)
A supreme leader is a factual thing, so it sounds right to me to describe someone as such. I do not even understand how capitalizing it would diminish anything. Since brotherly leader and guide of the revolution is not a thing, it is pointless to discuss it. Surtsicna (talk) 11:48, 12 January 2020 (UTC)
A Wikipedia article existing is not a good citation for the use of "supreme leader" as a neutral, factual description. Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution has an article too, for whatever that means, except like other political titles it's all capitalized. What is your rule of thumb here? If political position titles should be lowercased by not Brotherly Leader? Why does the declaration of a government hold sway with what particular terms we must use in lower case to describe a leader when all we are doing is applying some factual description, not the factual description (title). —DIYeditor (talk) 15:44, 12 January 2020 (UTC)
There is nothing biased or non-factual about describing someone as supreme leader when reliable sources refer to that person as supreme leader, e.g. when The New York Times, BBC, The Guardian, etc, refer to "Iran's supreme leader". Since we are never going to describe anyone as a brotherly leader, the point is moot. My rule of thumb is to write as reputable style guides advise. Surtsicna (talk) 16:22, 12 January 2020 (UTC)
Well, where would Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution fall on this RFC - would it be a candidate for lower case in the same way as the articles listed? If not is there a reason we can include in the MOS that explains why that article must begin with "The Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution..." rather than lower case? —DIYeditor (talk) 18:04, 12 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Oppose any MOS change, malformed request Too many open interpretations of what the question really is. See #Motion to close and start a new clarifed RfC below.—Bagumba (talk) 16:29, 11 January 2020 (UTC)
  • NO. I think I am supporting a clarification in the language and application of the MOS guideline, not a change in its intent. I've stumbled into this conversation, read some of the comments above and below, looked at the current guideline and one of the example articles in the collapsed section. The current version of President of East Timor begins with "The president of East Timor, officially the president of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste (Portuguese: Presidente da República Democrática de Timor-Leste, Tetum: Prezidente Republika Demokratika Timor-Leste), ...". I think that violates the third bullet point of the guideline, but seems to be the current accepted form. I think it looks ridiculous to have "president" (lower-case 'p' - twice), but "Presidente" and "Prezidente", and note that it is talking about the position, consistent with the second example on the left "Theresa May became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 2016. --Scott Davis Talk 04:15, 12 January 2020 (UTC)
No, Scott Davis, that wording is entirely in line with the third bullet point because the "formal title for a specific entity" is "preceded by a modifier (including a definite or indefinite article)". Thus, according to MOS:JOBTITLES, the job title may be capitalized in "President of East Timor" but not in "the president of East Timor". I do not agree that it looks ridiculous to have lower-case p in English and upper-case p in other languages because different languages have different capitalization standards. In German, for example, the first letter of every noun is capitalized. Surtsicna (talk) 16:31, 12 January 2020 (UTC)
  • No. For all the reasons stated above for "no" and "oppose." --Coolcaesar (talk) 06:25, 12 January 2020 (UTC)
  • No. For example, there is a position "the Archivist of the United States". I cannot find anywhere where it is written "the archivist of the United States." It does not make any sense to omit a preceding "the" from "the Archivist of the United States" in most English sentences, which means this official job title and position would almost always be found in Wikipedia sentences with a lowercase "a" archivist? NOTinman44 (talk) 19:36, 31 January 2020 (UTC)
See [4] and [5] for examples of "the archivist of the United States". —Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 20:44, 31 January 2020 (UTC)
I note several of your examples include those with a capital "A" following the word "the": "the Archivist of the United States". I also note that almost all of the examples that use a small "a" also state the archivist's name either before or after stating the title. Therefore, it seems to me that referring only to the title, and not using the name of the person, the "A" should be capitalized even if it follows the word "the."Tinman44 (talk) 22:04, 31 January 2020 (UTC)
I provided those examples because you said 'I cannot find anywhere where it is written "the archivist of the United States."' Regardless of how it appears in those sources, MOS:JOBTITLES states that "[o]ffices, titles, and positions [...] are common nouns and therefore should be in lower case when used generically" and that "a formal title for a specific entity" preceded by a modifier (including a definite or indefinite article) should be lowercase. —Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 22:11, 31 January 2020 (UTC)
  • No/Oppose. I'm of the opinion that Wikipedia is better following how language is actually used, rather how select academic style dictate it should be used. It is abundantly clear that in most instances these academic style guides aren't describing common usage or even how most published works treat capitalisation of job titles. Editing with Eric (talk) 00:25, 2 February 2020 (UTC)

Discussion[edit]

That's a yes in my book... Positions aren't capitalized... only titles are. I fear you've given me a to-do list. —Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 22:14, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
Eyer, I have hundreds, perhaps 2000+ more, if the rough calculation I did in my head is correct. --- Coffeeandcrumbs 22:20, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
I am going to cry. :). —Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 22:30, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
Here is a fun one Special:PrefixIndex/Secretary of. --- Coffeeandcrumbs 22:42, 9 November 2019 (UTC)
And Special:PrefixIndex/First Lad. —Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 22:49, 9 November 2019 (UTC)

MOS:JOBTITLES is pretty clear about not capitalizing titles or positions when they are "preceded by a modifier (including a definite or indefinite article)". So President of the United States currently seems OK with "The president of the United States (POTUS) is the ..."—Bagumba (talk) 08:38, 12 November 2019 (UTC)

This becomes more complicated when you consider Vice Presidents and Prime Minister. By this logic, there is no reason why Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is not titled Prime minister of the United Kingdom. Titles on en.wiki should use sentence case. --- Coffeeandcrumbs 08:53, 13 November 2019 (UTC)
See above. It's because the article Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is about the title/position as such.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  01:21, 27 December 2019 (UTC)
This ngram shows that MOS:JOBTITLES is against common usage in corpus. --- Coffeeandcrumbs 09:06, 13 November 2019 (UTC)
Irrelevant. Our standard is to not apply a stylization, including capitals, unless current and actually reliable sources (in English and across genres, not just in specialist literature) apply that stylization to that specific case with near-uniformity. A simple majority isn't sufficient.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  01:21, 27 December 2019 (UTC)
This is has gotten to the point where you've got two or three Wikipedians attempting to make Wikipedia use an entirely interpretation of English grammar as distinct from the entire rest of the language. We've got a situation at John Cain (41st Premier of Victoria) where every single source on the internet that uses that phrase ("41st Premier of Victoria") capitalises Premier, the Cambridge Australian English style guide says it should be capitalised, and we've got one editor insisting that it must be decapitalised because WP:JOBTITLES says so. These changes are ungrammatical and they're not supported by reliable sources either in practical usage (in any sense) or in authoritative style guide usage and they've slipped in because a very small number of editors (I count three on this talk page) have changed a guideline on their own whim with outcomes that are increasingly ludicrous. What Wikipedia says is defined by definition by what is written in reliable sources and not the passionate if completely unique interpretation of English grammar of Wikipedia users Eyer and Coffeeandcrumbs. The Drover's Wife (talk) 11:14, 29 December 2019 (UTC)
I've been frustrated with this topic, for a long time. GoodDay (talk) 14:51, 29 December 2019 (UTC)
Perhaps it might be time for an RfC to whack WP:JOBTITLES on the head once and for all if this keeps up: the take of this handful of users is so grammatically unusual that I highly doubt it'd survive full-blown scrutiny extending beyond the usual suspects on this page. The Drover's Wife (talk) 05:51, 30 December 2019 (UTC)
It already has, in multiple RfCs (and now this one, which is going WP:SNOW, and a proposed additional one below, the outcome of which is just as predictable). Your comment above is the kind of WP:BATTLEGROUND "campaign tirelessly against guidelines I hate until I get what I want" attitude I keep waving you away from. You don't seem to be clear on what grammatical means. What you're talking about is stylistic convention, not grammar. A subjective claim that something grammar-unrelated is "ungrammatical" is a very reliable indicator of that we are dealing with a linguistic prescriptivism PoV, which is the last thing WP needs, and is the last kind of viewpoint that is ever going to get satisfaction here, but the most likely to be long-term problematic and a drain on others' editorial time, fomenting WP:DRAMA over trivial matters. As I said in a related thread below, you've had many opportunities to prove that current reliable sources almost always capitalize titles like this when not directly attached to names, yet when we all look at the evidence, we find not only is it not true, there's an increase over time in use of lower case (especially in about the last 40 years, accelerating in the last 20). Every single time this debate re-re-re-surfaces, we get the same results (which mostly happens in WP:RM discussions, not on this talk page). At some point, we need to stop rehashing the perennial; it's tiresome and unproductive. Pretty much the most that can be said in favor of capitals is that some titles, like President of the United States, show in the sources a bit more capitalization than some other titles, but it's nothing like a consistent approach. Look, I understand where this urge comes from; I'm old enough that in my schoolboy days I, too, was taught to capitalize these things. Language changes, and we have to change with it. Well, WP does; no one can tell you how to write your own letters (do those still exist? :-) and e-mails and webpages.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  02:16, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
It's telling that three people !voting is what passes for WP:SNOW around here on discussions that impact hundreds if not thousands of articles. @SmokeyJoe, Coolcaesar, GoodDay, and Gnangarra: - as people who've participated in this talk page discussion but not !voted, you may want to do so before three people wind up having all these articles changed. The Drover's Wife (talk) 02:26, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
When an RfC runs for over a month and it's unanimous, that's a SNOW result. It may be a small snowball, but it still is one. Coming along a month late and directly canvassing someone to go the other direction is transparent and silly.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  07:24, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
As a gnome, I've got to know. Do we capitalise or de-capitalise. Give me sign, oh Wiki community. GoodDay (talk) 02:29, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
Decapitalize, since the guideline has not changed. Or wait and see if the handful of people upset about this actually do bother with a fourth RfC; maybe consensus will magically change overnight.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  07:15, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
I think I misread something somewhere. @SMcCandlish: You !voted above that it would be The President of the United States is the ..., but the proposal is Should the first mention of a position in the first sentence of the article about the position be de-capitalized (underlined for emphasis). Is your "yes" really a "depends" e.g. The chief executive officer is ...?—Bagumba (talk) 17:13, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

As a matter of process, considering this RfC proposes specific changes to specific articles, it would generally be Wikipedia practice to notify users on those particular talk pages that it is proposed to change them. It is very telling that this hasn't been done (as it would inevitably drag in many times more responses to the RfC) and that the same four people are then inclined to claim that their views are a WP:SNOW consensus. The Drover's Wife (talk) 02:31, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

BTW your RFC isn't tagged. GoodDay (talk) 02:32, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
Who is that targeted at? I don't have an RfC? The Drover's Wife (talk) 02:34, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
Wait the Rfc expired over a month ago, sorry. GoodDay (talk) 02:38, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

The Rfc-tag expired over a month ago. This Rfc opened by @Coffeeandcrumbs:, should've been closed & reviewed, back then. GoodDay (talk) 17:30, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

It is just now getting going. The holiday season was slow. I have restarted the RfC. --- C&C (Coffeeandcrumbs) 18:35, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
It started early in November though, so at best very early in the holiday season. So probably a factor, but I think also a combination of the ANI effect and the realisation that this wasn't just obscure change in some obscure guideline that few read and wouldn't make any difference but instead something which could affect many articles. Nil Einne (talk) 07:17, 7 January 2020 (UTC)

A terrifying thought: what if the first sentence also refers to Star Trek [I/i]nto Darkness?? XOR'easter (talk) 01:24, 7 January 2020 (UTC)

Then teh Pedia asplode.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  23:55, 8 January 2020 (UTC)

Can we 'merge' the JOBTITLES discussion (which is lower down on this talkpage) with this Rfc? GoodDay (talk) 15:09, 12 January 2020 (UTC)

Motion to close and start a new clarifed RfC[edit]

I propose to close this RfC as people do not have a consistent understanding on what the RfC is asking (lead sentence only vs everywhere, de-captialize always, decapitalize sometimes, does "no" or "oppose" mean to capitalize always or no new rule is needed, etc.) Open a new RfC with a refined statement e.g. provide explicit examples on what would happens for a few representative examples like President of the United States and Chief executive officer.Bagumba (talk) 06:42, 9 January 2020 (UTC)

Comment The "e.g." was meant purely as an example, not a mandate. Striking. The key point is to take feedback and tighten proposal.—Bagumba (talk) 09:26, 9 January 2020 (UTC)

Support

  1. Support as nominator.—Bagumba (talk) 06:42, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
  2. We need more clarity on what's going on. Heck even my home country has the Clarity Act, for future referendum questions. GoodDay (talk) 19:18, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
    Aside: Clarity Act could use a sentence or two in the lead on what it was clarifying.—Bagumba (talk) 02:15, 10 January 2020 (UTC)
  3. Yes, this RfC is confused and is just a wash.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  11:23, 14 January 2020 (UTC)

Oppose

  1. There is strong evidenced based opposition sufficient for consensus in the RFC to stop the decapitalising of titles, there are few individuals running around decapitallising article titles where they can, which how we got here. If you want to restart then first close this as is with consensus for capitals. Then start a new RfC with reasons to change given that there are different style guides for different countries one size will not fit all either way. Wikipedia is not a driver of change. Gnangarra 08:58, 10 January 2020 (UTC)
    @Gnangarra: The problem is this RfC is unclear if "no" means change nothing in MOS, or add something to say capitalize. And a lot of the "yes" votes are following someone whose later explanation is not really a "yes" to the original RFC proposal.—Bagumba (talk) 09:42, 10 January 2020 (UTC)
    I you read each statement a closing admin can draw a consensus, the issue I have is that because its not ever a vote its the reason why yes/no/oppose/delete or any other term you like is irrelevant to that issue. I cnat support closing and rehashing all of this again unless the closure clearly states that MOS:JOBTITLE is not to be used as guide(its not a policy), and no changes to existing usages are to be done. Gnangarra 10:00, 10 January 2020 (UTC)
    It would be closed with no changes to MOS, with no prejudice against a new proposal. And the original proposal was never to remove MOS:JOBTITLE completely.—Bagumba (talk) 11:17, 10 January 2020 (UTC)
    Gnangarra's summary simply isn't accurate. To the extent any sort of consensus can be gleaned from the above mess, there's evidence that some specific titles have a stronger tendency in RS to be capitalized even when not attached to names, and that some editors have been misapplying the guideline to try to de-capitalize such cases even then the title/position/role itself is the topic and is effectively a proper name, and that some editors are also misapplying it to try to do the title in the lead and body differently. So, there is basically a vague sense that the guideline needs clarification, but without a proposal for specific changes to get at that clarity. (Plus there's some out-of-band nonsense like the idea of deleting the entire guideline section.) None of that soup of concerns and observations and ideas can be distilled to Gnangarra's over-generalized claim of "consensus ... to stop the decapitalising of titles". Not even close.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  11:30, 14 January 2020 (UTC)

Malformed

  1. Another malformed survey to which I object. This is not a simple proposal but a series of them and one doesn't logically follow from the other (even if it is just an example "e.g."). Should this train wreck RFC be closed? Absolutely. Should we start an RFC based on examples rather than new logical text/criteria for MOS:JOBTITLES negotiated after discussion? Absolutely not. That RFC would be just as bad as this one. We need more discussion first so things can be honed into a proper RFC. Let's just say Close RFC and start new discussion before starting another RFC. Do not include examples in any future RFC unless they are examples to be used in the MOS alongside logical rules. Stick to a simple neutral question of whether to adopt new rules. Don't ask questions that force someone to agree to something they disagree with to aggree with the other components. —DIYeditor (talk) 07:04, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
    It's all well and good to say "stick to a simple neutral question of whether to adopt new rules", but when, as happened here, people are confused as heck about how those rules would apply in practice those examples get pretty crucial to a resolution - people need to clearly understand exactly what they're agreeing or disagreeing with. Though I agree with you beyond that, I think - we need things honed into a clear and logical proposal for what text/criteria would change and it's probably worth not rushing straight into a second RfC until that's been straightened out more. The Drover's Wife (talk) 07:11, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
    Examples are most of the problem with this RFC. RFCs are supposed to be clear, simple, neutral questions that someone can look at and understand the logic of. What good is an example without explaining why it is such, and where else would you explain the why except in a clear concise proposal for new rules? Include a brief, neutral statement of or question about the issue. e.g. "Should the following criteria be adopted for MOS:JOBTITLES?" not "Should we say: well because President of the United States is a proper name and usually capitalized and most people want that to be capitalized, should we capitalize that, and because "head janitor" is not a very important title and most people and sources wouldn't capitalize it and it would look silly we won't capitalize it?" —DIYeditor (talk) 07:20, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
  2. We've got virtually the same kinda discussion taking place on this topic right now, lower down on this very page. GoodDay (talk) 19:21, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
    Looks like at #Looking_at_JOBTITLES_from_the_other_direction. All the more reason to close this one here.—Bagumba (talk) 04:51, 10 January 2020 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

MOS:JOBTITLES for "U.S. Secretary of Defense Penelope Penwinkle" and "U.S. Representative Felicia Filbert"[edit]

I have encountered an editor who seems to think these should be "U.S. secretary of defense Penelope Penwinkle" and "U.S. representative Felicia Filbert", based on the example of "Mao met with US president Richard Nixon in 1972." In my opinion, the reason "president" is lowercase in that phrase is because the proper form of the title is "President of the U.S." rather than "U.S. President". So I believe "U.S. Secretary of Defense Penelope Penwinkle" and "U.S. Representative Felicia Filbert" are correct. There does not seem to be an example in MOS:JOBTITLES that directly addresses this question. —BarrelProof (talk) 21:24, 10 November 2019 (UTC)

That should be US President Richard Nixon. Lowercase, if it were Richard Nixon, US president. GoodDay (talk) 21:26, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
@GoodDay: that's expressly counter to MOS:JOBTITLES which lists the example "Mao met with US president Richard Nixon in 1972", with "president" modified by "US". —Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 21:31, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
I agree with Eyer on that one. The proper alternative would be "Mao met with President of the United States Richard Nixon in 1972." —BarrelProof (talk) 22:04, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
@BarrelProof: we've already discussed my thoughts on this: "U.S." modifies "president", "secretary", "senator", and "representative". I'll wait for other editors to weigh in on your question. —Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 21:31, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
I disagree, as you know; the titles here are "U.S. Secretary of Defense" and "U.S. Representative". The "U.S." is part of the title. —BarrelProof (talk) 22:04, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
I am curious... Would the titles be "U.K. Member of Parliament" and "E.U. Member of Parliament"? Or would "U.K." and "E.U." describe the type of "member of parliament"? (Trying to extrapolate beyond just U.S. settings.) —Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 22:28, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
A better use of our time might be to review the number of articles that link to Members of Parliament using an uppercase "M", but here we are. —BarrelProof (talk) 22:47, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
Good point. No reason for plurals to be capitalized in that way. —Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 22:51, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
I think the more proper form in the E.U. case would be "Member of the European Parliament Elwood Ellison". For the UK case, I'm not sure. Perhaps "Member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom Priscilla Premington". —BarrelProof (talk) 22:55, 10 November 2019 (UTC)
I would have thought that the normal way to refer to such people in the UK would be Elwood Ellison MEP and Priscilla Premington MP, with links from MEP and MP to the relevant articles. MP being treated the same in Australia, not sure about Canada. MEP and MP don't seem to have an equivalent in the US, but aren't they generally referred to as Representative James Bloggs and Senator Jimmy Diamond? Peacemaker67 (click to talk to me) 07:52, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
That might be more a matter of whether the article is written in American English or UK English rather than whether it is referring to a person with a U.S. jobtitle or a non-U.S. jobtitle. Sometimes an article written in AmE may refer to someone who holds a non-U.S. title. Also, it is not uncommon to use "U.S. Representative" rather than just "Representative", e.g., in order to identify a member of the federal U.S. House of Representatives as contrasted with a member of the House of Representatives of a U.S. state. —BarrelProof (talk) 19:17, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
Note that American officials are often referred to as Representative Smith or Secretary Jones (or indeed President Trump) as though they are ranks. The UK does not do this. We do not say Prime Minister Johnson (although the American media often does) or Member of Parliament Smith or Minister Jones or Secretary of State Bloggs. We would simply say Mr Johnson or Ms Smith or Dr Jones or Mrs Bloggs, depending on what their usual honorific was just like anyone else. So the cases are slightly different. -- Necrothesp (talk) 11:08, 11 November 2019 (UTC)
To my mind, "US representative John Smith" would indicate that Smith is acting in some capacity to represent the US, perhaps on an international committee. "US Representative John Smith" indicates much more specifically that Smith is a member of the US Congress. So the capitalization carries important semantic information; it is not just an arbitrary style thing that we can change without changing the meaning. —David Eppstein (talk) 19:43, 15 November 2019 (UTC)
Yes, this is one reason why (per MOS:JOBTITLES, as in most other English-language style guides) such a title is capitalized when attached to a name.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  01:22, 27 December 2019 (UTC)
That's what I thought, but another editor who participated in this thread has interpreted it differently, saying MOS:JOBTITLES prescribes lowercase for these instances. The editor invited me to start this thread after I disagreed with their changing such instances to lowercase (see here and here). I don't see an explicit example in MOS:JOBTITLES that covers these cases precisely enough to exactly counter that argument. —BarrelProof (talk) 11:02, 24 January 2020 (UTC)
This is all the more reason why, regardless of people's opinions on the broader merits of WP:JOBTITLES' stance, it clearly needs a rewrite for clarity because these issues keep arising in contexts where, when discussed, there's actually general agreement. The Drover's Wife (talk) 12:04, 24 January 2020 (UTC)
I would hesitate before substantial rewriting, because I think it is more clear than it used to be, and there seems to be more consistent support for it than there used to be. —BarrelProof (talk) 00:21, 26 January 2020 (UTC)

Applying MOS[edit]

I appreciate that @Mechanical Keyboarder: wants to decapitalize office titles in the bio intros, per MOS. However, I wish he'd do it via articles series. Instead he's only making such changes to the 'incumbent' officials & that's merely throwing off the series of articles. If you're going to make a change to (for examples) Boris Johnson? then make those changes to the articles of his predecessors. GoodDay (talk) 21:34, 29 November 2019 (UTC)

Articles are improved one at a time. Having 1 correct article and 19 incorrect articles is better than having 20 incorrect articles. Surtsicna (talk) 22:54, 29 November 2019 (UTC)
And given that “mass-conforming” multiple articles (all at once) is something that has gotten other MOS editors in trouble... going slowly and taking it one article at a time makes a lot of sense. Blueboar (talk) 23:01, 29 November 2019 (UTC)
Yep. There is absolutely no principle on WP that every article that could be made to conform to some guideline must be made to do so all once! Absurd.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  01:10, 27 December 2019 (UTC)
If that was the approach for 'hard cover' encylopedias? an editor would be fired. GoodDay (talk) 19:56, 27 December 2019 (UTC)
It's simply not practical here. --Izno (talk) 23:46, 27 December 2019 (UTC)
At the moment MK's application of de-capitalisation isn't being universally accepted. That's a fact. GoodDay (talk) 23:50, 27 December 2019 (UTC)

There's one thing that's annoying me for sure. Mechanical Keyboarder's refusal to engage in discussion on this topic, while at the same time steamrolling ahead on multiple articles. GoodDay (talk) 14:07, 1 December 2019 (UTC)

Well, there's a discussion open right here. What's your objection to MOS:JOBTITLES or MK's interpretation of it? — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  01:10, 27 December 2019 (UTC)
His refusal to put on the breaks, when other editors have protested his changes. GoodDay (talk) 19:54, 27 December 2019 (UTC)
If his edits bring the article into compliance with the guidelines, I would think that the burden of proof is on you to show that they somehow don't apply to a particular case. Remember that WP:BRD is an essay, not a policy.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  23:39, 5 January 2020 (UTC)
Thanks to MK, we've now articles (even within groups) that are inconsistent. GoodDay (talk) 21:34, 9 January 2020 (UTC)

WP:JOBTITLES[edit]

I think we urgently need to clarify WP:JOBTITLES, because it's suddenly being applied in ways that are ungrammatical and contradict all usage in reliable sources. The capitalisation of office titles in actual, real-world, usage, depends on the context: they can be common nouns, or they can be proper nouns, and the way the guideline is written currently has a couple of editors changing proper noun usages as if they were common nouns with religious fervour. It should go without saying that if literally 100% of sources agree that a word in a particular context is a proper noun, we should also treat it as a proper noun - but we've got editors claiming that Wikipedia should essentially rewrite the rules of English grammar and decapitalise proper nouns because of WP:JOBTITLES.

The table in particular should go - it's encouraging people to change the language in the first column (which is perfectly fine as it refers to proper nouns) to the language in the second column (i.e. changing it to common nouns for the sake of changing it to common nouns, and replacing fine prose with worse prose in the process), or to just refer to proper nouns in lower-case which generally looks ridiculous and is a usage that is entirely unique to Wikipedians interpreting this table in absurd ways.

I'm trying to find where exactly this started and every discussion on this page featuring this stuff seems to feature the same five or so people with strong opinions that are never grounded in any actual sources of any kind. I'm not sure this ever had consensus in the first place. The Drover's Wife (talk) 08:24, 29 December 2019 (UTC)

There's an editor steam rolling through bios of heads of state & government, decapitalising offices & positions. As a result? we've now got inconsistency among those bio articles & it's frustrating. GoodDay (talk) 14:53, 29 December 2019 (UTC)
It's a problem being created without a solid reason, english is such a wonderful language we already have WP:ENGVAR with good reason, while we speak on common language we all use it differently. That goes with the way we write it, take the recent drama over ise vs ize or the ongoing discrimination/racism/colonialism of WLM in Australia. WP:MOS has a flaw that isnt being addressed its these variants one size has never fitted all, and it may never will. Wikipedia's role is not to lead changes but to reflect what is being said in sources WP:JOBTITLES and the current focus on it is. We kill sources when they are circular yet JOBTITLE is embracing a usage that isnt even in common use, nor has that usage even been explored appropriately by linguists to ensure that its an actual change to the title styling. This source shows a drop in the use but it still exceeds by 2:1 the JOBTITLE guide and it only applies the President/president of the US, according to policies firstly its not the primary usage or even close to it, secondly engvar would only mean it only applies to US english, more specifically article about the president. It would not any other versions of english, nor to other titles, but it doesnt apply until such time as there is clear accepted linguistic support for such usage. Gnangarra 06:56, 30 December 2019 (UTC)
  • JOBTITLES is overreaching some MOS aficionado's wish for lowercase consistency, and does not represent community consensus. I have applied the {{Disputed tag}}. Nixon was the 37th president of the United States in particular is weak, see Foogle ngram. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 01:19, 2 January 2020 (UTC)
I don't see a particular problem with it. It has them capitalized when they should be (part of the name, reference to an individual by referencing their office), when they are proper nouns, and uncapitalized otherwise. That's the correct way to use them. So, "the President of the United States", but "a president of the United States". Seraphimblade Talk to me 01:40, 2 January 2020 (UTC)
The problem is that it's so vaguely written that it's not remotely being applied that way - there is an enormous gulf between what you said (which is logical and I agree with) and the interpretation being applied by a couple of the regulars on this page that virtually all references to offices should be decapitalised. The concept of office titles as proper nouns is completely lost on these people and WP:JOBTITLES doesn't clarify things for them. This is why we had a move discussion at John Cain (41st Premier of Victoria) where, despite every single source for "41st Premier of Victoria" on the internet capitalising Premier, the proposer insisted that WP:JOBTITLES mandated that it be moved anyway, and some other random user then unilaterally moved it this morning not noticing that there'd been a failed requested move with unanimous opposition. The Drover's Wife (talk) 03:02, 2 January 2020 (UTC)
"Nixon was the 37th President of the United States"
"Nixon was the 37th president of the United States"
There is a style battle going on. Newer sources are tend to lowercase, older sources tend to uppercase. There is also variation around the world with similar jobs. Editors frequenting the MOS pages as a whole tend to prefer lowercasing a rule, and prefer one consistent style across the encyclopedia. Others prefer styles to follow the sources. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 03:06, 2 January 2020 (UTC)
Wikipedia generally acknowledges that linguistic uses in one country may not be appropriate for another, which is why, for example, we have the "use Australian English" template and respect that articles on Australian topics shouldn't use Americanised spelling even if some Americans might really really want to change it in the interests of a consistent style. I can't really speak to the finer quirks of American English, but our style guides and our sources in general usage are quite clear about when an office is a proper noun and the whims of a small handful of Wikipedians shouldn't override actual reliable sources on correct grammar in a country/subject area. The Drover's Wife (talk) 03:12, 2 January 2020 (UTC)
I've largely abandoned this issue because of the absence of a clear consensus. To me that means an uninvolved close of a single coherent community-level discussion, probably an RfC. I will defend any such clear consensus whether I agree with it or not, and I'd suggest that you set about pursuing one if you feel strongly about the issue. Until you have one, your arguments weigh no more than MOS:JOBTITLES, which at least has the advantage of having existed unchanged for eighteen months. In other words, this unstructured, low-participation discussion is a waste of time as far as I'm concerned. ―Mandruss  07:28, 2 January 2020 (UTC)
There are a whole bunch of people frustrated about this who haven't seriously challenged it because of the hassle of going up against the hardcore RfC crowd, as this example demonstrated very well: unanimous consensus that the interpretation of someone who believed they were following WP:JOBTITLES was ridiculous. A fire always starts with a spark, and traction only comes from people discussing the issue. This is the first step, not the only one. The Drover's Wife (talk) 07:40, 2 January 2020 (UTC)
An RfC is people discussing the issue. The only differences are (1) wider participation and (2) (commonly, while not required) added structure to clarify editors' positions. If you feel it's constructive to do this first (I don't), knock yourself out. In the meantime, while I won't spend my time and energy actively resisting it, I will consider it disruptive and destabilizing for editors to edit articles based on their personal opinions, on the grounds that there is no clear consensus (not a reference to the actions of any specific editor(s)). ―Mandruss  07:53, 2 January 2020 (UTC)
An RfC is one way of people discussing the issue, but nowhere does it mandate it has to be the first step. I wasn't the one who tagged it as lacking consensus, but he was right: there are about as many editors who've commented in opposition to it in the last week with zero advertising that the discussion's come up as those who've enthused about it on this talk page for years. It patently lacks consensus as a starting point - and the reason you've got so many non-MOS-regulars popping up in the first place is because of the disruption and destabilisation of articles being edited based on the personal opinions of individual editors even where contradicted by literally 100% of sources. The Drover's Wife (talk) 08:18, 2 January 2020 (UTC)
Again, those editors (and I have been one of them in the recent past) are merely implementing a guideline that has existed unchanged for 18 months. If that's disruption and destabilisation of articles, I'd like to know what guidelines are for. I doubt there are many Wikipedia guidelines (particularly MoS guidelines) that aren't strongly opposed by quite a number of editors, so that argument is extremely weak AFAIC. It makes no sense that a dozen or so editors should be able to block implementation of a guideline because they disagree with it.
I grant you, this is merely another example of a seriously flawed system that neither of us created, a system that attempts to be simultaneously bottom-up and top-down, resulting in far more instability than stability. I'm retired from a successful career involving complex human-based systems, and I can assure you that is not what a reasonably orderly, efficient, and effective system looks like. ―Mandruss  08:38, 2 January 2020 (UTC)

Yeah, this kvetching is pointless. It's the same old rehash, along various tired lines which can be paraphrased thus: 'Me and my friend disagree with MoS, ergo MoS doesn't have consensus.' (Wishful thinking; WP:CONSENSUS does not require unanimity, or we would have no consensus on anything, ever.) 'I didn't get to participate in the earlier discussion, ergo it must be a false consensus.' (Ditto.) 'I'm not getting my way, thus there must be a nefarious conspiracy of terrible people oppressing me.' (Ditto; see also all our civility-related policies.) 'We are legion. But we are afraid.' (Uh ... yeah, whatever.) 'Some jerk misapplied the guideline in one case that pissed me off, ergo the guideline is wrong.' (Obviously fallacious.) 'WP does, stylistically, what the sources do.' (That's just patently false, as explained in detail at WP:CSF and WP:SSF, except when sources independent of the subject are pretty much overwhelmingly doing one specific something different, for a particular type of case, than what MoS advises. We already know for a proven fact that this condition is not met for the capitalization of job titles, including high offices. There's a really ridiculous subtext to this, that runs something like 'This marginally notable person has a job title of "Social Media Evangelist", and the grand total of three sources that mention this person, all of them newspapers that capitalize every job title at all occurrences, give her job title in this form, ergo 100% of sources do, ergo WP must also.' Doesn't work that way, sorry.) 'Since we have MOS:ENGVAR, this means any slight trend I think can be shown in some dialect must be implemented on WP.' (Nope. ENGVAR applies to firmly fixed features of English at a national dialect level, like the colour/color split. Any alleged dialectal trend that doesn't rise to that level falls to the razor of MOS:COMMONALITY. You cannot [without looking silly] cite the first of these guidelines without understanding the latter, how they interact, and the actual purposes of both of them.) 'Various articles don't comply, so there is no consensus.' (A really silly fallacy, given that we all know that any change to any policy or guideline can take many years to be implemented in the content, and none of them are 100% implemented.) 'Since the world's writers are not consistent on it, MoS can't have a rule about it.' (Nope. If this were true, MoS could not have a single thing in it, since there isn't anything in English that 100% of writers out there are consistent about. Our actual rule, throughout MoS, is that if writers out there are not remarkably consistent in applying some stylization, then WP will not use it.) 'A few characters changing case in "my" article is disruption.' (No, it's not, or editing could not happen at all.) 'Articles being brought into conformance with guidelines and policies is disruption.' (No, it's not, or we couldn't have any at all.) 'Actual disruption like editwarring at the article and flamewarring on its talk page, between people trying to implement MOS:JOBTITLES and regular editors at that article, is the fault of the guideline and people implementing it.' (No, it's not. It's the fault of tendentiously trying to sabotage other editors implementing our guidelines, and you can't keep doing that indefinitely.) To use an actual quotation, The Drover's Wife's "A fire always starts with a spark ..." screed is a clear demonstration that this is a WP:GREATWRONGS / WP:BATTLEGROUND matter for this person, who seems unaware that 'become an activist against guidelines I don't like' behavior routinely leads to topic bans. (Fortunately, most editors who arrive at MoS, AT, or other WP:P&G pages with this attitude are disabused of it before it gets to that level.)  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  15:01, 2 January 2020 (UTC)

Suggesting that users who disagree with you are going to get banned is comical behaviour and you know better. This is how a tiny handful of users who frequent MOS pages are used to acting: try to shut down discussion, ludicrously aggressive personal attacks (branding a unanimous failed WP:RM as "flamewarring on its talk page") and intimidate people into thinking moving to change the thing is too hard or pre-emptively moving an RfC too early. And you've just got the wrong mark if you think that's going to work here. The Drover's Wife (talk) 00:36, 3 January 2020 (UTC)

Open an Rfc on this matter, in whatever place you think will get the widest participation. GoodDay (talk) 13:00, 2 January 2020 (UTC)

Or those in favor of capitalizing job titles at every occurrence could just WP:Drop the stick. It's a very lost cause. When RM after RM goes against one's position, it's time to stop advocating it, per WP:TE. The existence of a handful of 'I'm a bonehead who didn't really read the guideline' cases that result in move requests that don't happen or moves which get reverted, doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the guideline or that it doesn't have consensus. It simply means that boneheads exist. See longer comment above for all the other fallacies detectable in this thread. If someone wants to RfC this, go right ahead. The outcome is firmly predictable from the stability of this guideline material; from it becoming less and less friendly to capitalization over time, following real-world shifts in English usage over the last ~20 years (actually starting around the 1980s); from lack of much opposition before, during, or after these shifts and discussions of them; from the few opponents being the same handful of people over and over again recycling the same already-refuted arguments endlessly as if they had not already been addressed and found lacking (a clumsy form of forum-shopping); from the actual RM results consistently applying the guideline as intended (and not just recently; much of the reason the guideline was tightened was to reflect the RM pattern – our guidelines codify best practices, and are not a means of trying to forcibly change them); from failure of move review to overturn those moves; and so on and so forth. There's just no evidence at all that consensus has changed to favor over-capitalizing these terms again. They're capitalized when they should be: when attached to and effectively part of a name, and when treated in proper-noun form as the subject itself (the President of Ireland as the role/office/title, versus "two presidents of Ireland in the 1980s", a common-noun-phrase usage).  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  15:01, 2 January 2020 (UTC)
"When RM after RM goes against one's position". Where's the evidence? I saw some RMs, and they pointed to source usage. Now there's a JOBTITLES shortcut and that is being used as sufficient contrary to source usage. There is a logical flaw in there. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 23:44, 2 January 2020 (UTC) NB. I am not in favor of capitalizing job titles at every occurrence. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 23:46, 2 January 2020 (UTC)
I went back at least a couple of years years in the talk pages of this page and couldn't find a discussion about WP:JOBTITLES involving more than a tiny handful of people, and none of those people cited a "RM pattern": if anything, as SmokeyJoe says, it's following the sources as long as anyone checks, does an analysis, and points out that the sources wildly contradict WP:JOBTITLES. The Drover's Wife (talk) 00:36, 3 January 2020 (UTC)

To my knowledge, Wikipedia doesn't generally look to sources for style. Content, yes. Style, no. Instead, Wikipedia looks to common (mostly academic) style guides for development of its own style manual. MOS:JOBTITLES is nearly identical to Chicago Manual of Style's guidance for handling job titles, positions, etc. I spot-checked a couple of Encyclopedia Britannica articles, too, and they seem to match the guidance found in MOS:JOBTITLES. I am strongly in favor of striving to consistently style Wikipedia as an academic, encyclopedic source. Our existing MOS lays the appropriate foundation for this. —Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 00:52, 3 January 2020 (UTC)

Wikipedia doesn't generally look to sources for style. No, it doesn't, not if it is just style. Capitalization is not just style. Capitalization conveys meaning. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 02:36, 3 January 2020 (UTC)
Except we do look to sources for style, in two ways. First, we look to mainstream, academic-leaning (not journalistic) style guides of high reputation in developing MoS (i.e., we use the sources that are reliable for English usage in an encyclopedic register, and try to merge their often-conflicting advice, with an eye to what is best for WP, for reasons like MOS:COMMONALITY, WP:CONCISE, MOS:JARGON, WP:Common sense, and various technical matters, starting with MOS:ACCESSIBILITY). Second, in various places throughout MoS is the provision that when reliable sources in the aggregate [across all genres, not just specialist literature] overwhelmingly favor a stylization for a particular subject and it is not what MoS would default to, then there can be an exception for that subject. As for "capitalization conveys meaning": it conveys meaning when the RS in the aggregate and/or the RS on English usage in particular overwhelmingly agree that it does; it doesn't convey meaning just because you say so (WP:NOR, WP:NPOV). See also especially MOS:SIGCAPS; the primary impetus for over-capitalization of this sort is to signify that something is "important" or "special". Not doing that is the primary, foundational guideline of MOS:CAPS. While it's a style that remains common in marketing English, and some journalism (particular in headlines), it's been disfavored in regular English writing since the late Victorian era.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  22:58, 5 January 2020 (UTC)
User:SMcCandlish, you are confusing external MOS-es with sources. These external style guides would be sources for the article Style guide and similar, but Wikipedians do not use the term "source" the way you are using it here. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 02:49, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
I'm not. I don't think you properly parsed what I wrote. I'm simply restating that internally, as a talk-page, consensus-formation process about MoS itself, we make heavy use of off-site style guides. That is, I'm echoing Eyer's main point and trying to thwart someone taking the statement "Wikipedia doesn't generally look to sources for style" out of context and spinning it to mean something unintended.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  04:17, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
If we're consistently finding that usage in reliable sources disagree with WP:JOBTITLES, then that strongly suggests that the Chicago Manual of Style - much as it might be preferred by a small handful of editors - is not the most appropriate style guide to be using. For example, in my part of the world, it certainly is not the guidance of the Cambridge style guide for Australian English, which probably explains why it's such a fail when it comes to source usage. The Drover's Wife (talk) 01:03, 3 January 2020 (UTC)
You and others have had every opportunity (over and over again) to demonstrate that "we're consistently finding that usage in reliable sources disagree [sic] with WP:JOBTITLES", but have failed. Every time we do mainstream source research on the kinds of phrases at issue here (mostly titles of elected office), the sources are provably not consistently doing anything, and they lean lower-case more and more over time. Even your "ally" in this, SmokeyJoe, himself said clearly: "Newer sources are [sic] tend to lowercase, older sources tend to uppercase." See if you can guess what that means.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  22:58, 5 January 2020 (UTC)
Struck through above. I suspect a mental change of word mid-typing on a mobile device, where it is hard to review. I think I meant that styles change. Capitals used to be widely used to denote importance. Now, less so, but still some. This creates conflict between following sources for old topics, and the desire for consistency. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 02:56, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
I can only speak to the U.S. (and even then, probably not very well). My company uses Chicago Manual of Style as its base style guide. The education program at my university uses APA. The languages program at my university uses MLA. The local newspaper uses AP. They are all appropriate for their materials/readers/etc. I'll say it differently: even if they all style things differently, they're all correct.
Wikipedia has MOS:JOBTITLES, which appears to be based on CMOS (though I don't know that for sure). Just because a newspaper, journal article, or primary source styles something differently doesn't make WP:MOS incorrect.
I assume that WP:MOS was drafted intentionally by editors before I got here. Just because other style guides don't agree with it doesn't make it wrong. —Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 01:11, 3 January 2020 (UTC)
It just means that at some stage, someone with a strong preference for CMOS has managed to get that into the MOS. As you note that the alternatives are also correct in your view, it shouldn't be surprising, especially as it gets more aggressively rolled out in a global project (and in geographical places where the CMOS style is particularly alien), that people might revisit whether CMOS was indeed an appropriate choice for this particular project. The Drover's Wife (talk) 03:50, 3 January 2020 (UTC)
You've not been involved in MoS discussions long enough to understand the history, I suppose. MoS is based primarily on 2000s–2010s editions of The Chicago Manual of Style, New Hart's Rules, Fowler's Modern English, Garner's Modern English Usage, and Scientific Style and Format. Your idea that it's basically a copy of CMoS is false.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  22:58, 5 January 2020 (UTC)
Thanks for the explanation: it doesn't change the situation but it's useful to know where these ideas are stemming from. The Drover's Wife (talk) 23:24, 5 January 2020 (UTC)

It's quite frustrating when you see lack of consistency in the intros of article groups. See all the British prime minister bios, from Winston Churchill to Boris Johnson, some are capitalised (like all Churchill's predecessors), while others are de-capitalised. GoodDay (talk) 01:21, 3 January 2020 (UTC)

I agree, but I can only fix them so fast. —Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 01:22, 3 January 2020 (UTC)
A need to fast fix many things is evidence of the possibility of a false consensus in a guideline, and evidence that the wider community is not aware. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 02:46, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
This is hypercorrection. Forcing new rules only old language and pretending the rules always were. Dicklyon may lambaste people who want to capitalize important things, but that was English. The job, Premier of Victoria, is a singular job of great importance, and was properly capitalized, mostly was, and mostly still is. Unlike the Local Dog Catcher. Primary sources say "Nixon is the President of the United States". Indeed, he was the President of the United States. He was the 37th President of the United States, if you have an affection for counting them. JOBTITLES is an attempt to modify past English. Do it if the sources do it, but Wikipedia follows the sources, it doesn't lead. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 02:33, 3 January 2020 (UTC)
It's not even old language. Decapitalisation of offices is a preference, in some style guides, in some regions of the world, but not necessarily a widely used one in many contexts. The Drover's Wife (talk) 03:50, 3 January 2020 (UTC)
And see also the first rule of MOS:CAPS: "Do not use for emphasis: Initial capitals or all capitals should not be used for emphasis. ... This includes over-capitalization for signification, i.e. to try to impress upon the reader the importance or specialness of something in a particular context." (MOS:EMPHCAPS So, "people who want to capitalize important things" can go do that on their own blog, not here.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  22:58, 5 January 2020 (UTC)
SMcCandlish is doing such an obvious job of talking sense here that I feel no need to add anything. I shall merely watchlist the page in case anyone is daft enough to push it to an !vote. Gog the Mild (talk) 13:35, 3 January 2020 (UTC)
"It's quite frustrating when you see lack of consistency": Yes, it does take time to clean up, especially when a handful of editors go the WP:BATTLEGROUND and WP:GREATWRONGS route for a period of time. The same tendentiousness ran for over a year when implementing MOS:JR dropping the comma. It's a very similar case, actually: an optional stylization found decreasingly in contemporary, reputably published sources and the style guides they depend on, but considered "the correct form" in an emotionally laden way by a minority of editors who grew up with it and have latched onto it as important when it is trivial. What's important is that our material be consistent and that editors stop fighting over a bit of style nit-picking, which has/had (in both cases) been going on for years. It is not possible for any line-item in MoS or any other WP:P&G page to satisfy 100% of editors, and no editor is satisfied by 100% of our P&G. Fortunately, WP:Consensus does not require unanimity, just more community-persuasive arguments for one option over another.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  22:58, 5 January 2020 (UTC)
I'll just say at this point that if you're yet another person who's frustrated with WP:JOBTITLES but you don't want to put yourself on the receiving end of the kinds of threats and personal attacks that are par for the course from its defenders here, feel free to contact me privately. This is something we'll be working on for a while. The Drover's Wife (talk) 23:41, 3 January 2020 (UTC)
And now canvassing to conspire offsite for long-term battlegrounding against a guideline you don't like? I'm sure we'll see that diff come up again later.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  22:58, 5 January 2020 (UTC)
This is the second time you've directly threatened me for having a different opinion from you. Changing things on Wikipedia often takes time, especially when you know there's existing small-but-determined opposition, which is obvious to anyone who's been on Wikipedia for more than five minutes. You clearly see that moving to change the MOS is completely acceptable when you're doing it and "long-term battlegrounding" and cause for direct threats when someone disagrees with you. This is not appropriate and you are an experienced enough Wikipedian to absolutely know better, especially because you're already under one discretionary sanction for your talk page interactions over the MOS. Most of those who agree with you are capable of respectful disagreement, and I'm not going to reply to any more of your replies containing threats lest I get drawn into the mire. The Drover's Wife (talk) 23:24, 5 January 2020 (UTC)
Oh, please. I'm trying to prevent you eventually ending up topic-banned, by pointing out what you're doing that's likely to lead there if it continues. Also, reminding you of our behavioral dispute resolution procedures like WP:ANI isn't a "threat" of any kind, from/to anyone; it's a description of process. Also, I am not individually under any such sanctions. See the top of this page. Everyone who edits MoS or its talk pages is subject to discretionary sanctions; that's kind of the point. If you continue railing and ranting indefinitely, there's only one way that ends.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  01:25, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
Watchlisting it now too, Gog the Mild. Thank you, SMcCandlish, for taking the time to explain the matter in such detail. Wikipedia usage should be in line with modern academic style. That is why MOS:JOBTITLES is based on style guides such as The Oxford Style Manual, The Chicago Manual of Style, etc. Surtsicna (talk) 01:19, 4 January 2020 (UTC)

Hopefully, the entire community will come to an agreement on whether to capitalise or not. GoodDay (talk) 01:29, 4 January 2020 (UTC)

I'm afraid there is not a single thing the whole community could agree on, but an agreement exists and has been codified as MOS:JOBTITLES. Surtsicna (talk) 01:37, 4 January 2020 (UTC)
but an agreement exists and has been codified as MOS:JOBTITLES. . Evidence? Link to the archived thread please. —SmokeyJoe (talk) 20:43, 4 January 2020 (UTC)
WP:You can search, too. In particular, try the archive search box at the top of this page and at WT:MOS.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  22:58, 5 January 2020 (UTC)
Indeed. I did. No evidence of a formal agreement. JOBTITLES is a decade old. The early versions were much more softly written than the current. I suspect it "evolved". Somebody with a history of editing JOBTITLES may well have more sense of context that may tremendously help with searching for what has been implied. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 01:08, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
@SmokeyJoe: - see the latest section at the bottom of the talk page. Someone else did the digging with predictable results. The Drover's Wife (talk) 01:11, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
Indeed. One of the troubles of catching on things in chronological order. However, I do like to reply personally to User:SMcCandlish, when he posts directly to me. I think mostly share most views, and we are probably friends, but sometimes small differences can be irritating. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 01:18, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
Sure. And of course it evolved, just like all our P&G material. As for the diff-digging below, incomplete as it is, they key point is that the major evolutions happened through RfCs. So, I'll go back to what I said above: feel free to RfC it yet again, but we already know what the answer is going to be. If the principal response the two of you are getting to this latest round of rehashing old decisions is more people defending the current wording and some also saying they're now watchlisting this to oppose if you do open it as an RfC, well, that's telling you which way the wind blows. :-) What's really irritating, community-irritating, is when someone's irritation at a small difference isn't put into perspective and becomes a fight-about-it-forever push. MoS's value is especially in its stability and its favoring of simplicity over complication in matters like this. It's really not hard: if the vast majority of current sources aren't doing something (the same something) stylistically for a specific case, then WP won't either. The exact results of this rubric cannot possibly please everyone all the time, but it's the best we've got, a hard-won compromise between having a fixed house style (like almost all publishers do) and "follow the sources" (a WP specialty). That is, everyone should be happy with the system, even if they don't like every tiny bit of output of that system. Analogy: odds are we each have a favorite restaurant, but do not love every single thing on the menu.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  01:39, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
If the principal response the two of you are getting to this latest round of rehashing old decisions . Please stop there. Please link the old decision. You are alluding to some RfCs? --SmokeyJoe (talk) 02:02, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
See thread below with links to RfCs, etc. I'll chalk this up to the threads being "out of phase". On second thought, it's probably best to refactor that into a subsection.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  02:49, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

I'm a little unclear on JOBTITLES, in particular "and is not a reworded description" because many of the examples are simply the title, or could be simply the title, and are not reworded. To me the following are true (not that the "correct" ones should be the house style just that they are valid):

  • Green tickY Donald Trump is President of the United States.
  • Green tickY Donald Trump is the President of the United States.
  • Green tickY Donald Trump is the president [or leader or whatever] of the United States.
  • Green tickY Kim Jong Un is Supreme Leader of North Korea.
  • Green tickY Kim Jong Un is the Supreme Leader of North Korea.
  • Red XN Kim Jong Un is the supreme leader of North Korea.
  • Green tickY Muammar al-Gaddafi was Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution of Libya.
  • Green tickY Muammar al-Gaddafi was the Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution of Libya.
  • Red XN Muammar al-Gaddafi was the brotherly leader and guide of the revolution of Libya.

I don't think we should say in lower case that Kim is the "supreme" leader of North Korea because that has loaded connotations in English and is not how we would phrase things. This is arguable though since it's not technically incorrect. The Gaddafi example is more unwieldy but it is also more clearly wrong to lowercase the title. Not every title of a leader is equal to how we would describe the position in plain English and I think that disqualifies it from "common noun". So coming up with a broad-brush rule doesn't work IMO, we need something slightly more nuanced. —DIYeditor (talk) 09:31, 7 January 2020 (UTC)

  • Yes JOBTITLES is outdated or being misinterpreted in its current form. We have to got to the point where editors are the changing "Boris Johnson is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom" to "Boris Johnson is the prime minister of the United Kingdom" which does not makes sense. This is becuase "Prime Minister of the United Kingdom" is the full name of the specific role hence it should be capitalised and is not generic form. However, if I were to say "A new prime minister is elected every five years" that would make sense since your refering to prime minister in its generic form. Even the UK government use "Prime Minister" over "prime minister" when referring to Boris Johnson.  Spy-cicle💥  Talk? 15:50, 12 January 2020 (UTC)
FWIW, UK prime ministers are appointed, not elected :) GoodDay (talk) 15:55, 12 January 2020 (UTC)
Spy-cicle, it might make some sense if you consider the following. The problem lies with the sometimes idiomatic usage of the definite article.
  • Boris Johnson is the prime minister of the United Kingdom. Is referring to the office but is lc per JOBTITLES as it is preceded by "the". It is idiomatic to precede with "the" and subtlely different from omitting "the".
  • Boris Johnson is Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. A reference to the office which is capitalised per JOBTITLES and arguably more correct.
  • Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, arrived at ... A phrase in apposition in which the title is used to refer to a specific person as a substitute for their name during their time in office - in this case, by virtue of the definite article. This is consistent with dot-point two of JOBTITLES.
  • A new prime minister of the United Kingdom is elected appointed ... Preceded by an article and lc per JOBTITLES. Refers to the position of prime minister of the specific country and not to the specific title. A subtle but more obvious distinction.
Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 23:03, 12 January 2020 (UTC)
Cinderella157, You make some valid points. I will think about this and come back to you later on this matter.  Spy-cicle💥  Talk? 19:32, 16 January 2020 (UTC)
FWIW, UK prime ministers are not elected. GoodDay (talk) 23:18, 12 January 2020 (UTC)

Tracing the history of MOS:JOBTITLES to lay a foundation for potential dispute resolution[edit]

To clarify who is responsible for this train wreck for anyone with the time to initiate dispute resolution on this, I just traced the history of MOS:JOBTITLES to figure out how we got from a MoS section that used to accurately reflect the way the vast majority of educated intellectuals learned how to write into something that has been completely mangled beyond all recognition.

It looks like MOS:JOBTITLES used to be over at Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Capital letters. That portion of the MoS used to have a section on "Titles of people." The last good version that most strongly resembles what I recall applying during the 2000s and early 2010s is 4 April 2014.

On 10 September 2017, User:Great scott initiated a RfC on the capitalization issue, which I was unaware of because I had just started a new job a few weeks earlier. User:Great scott was soon blocked as a sockpuppet of User:Kauffner. Earlier, User:The Clever Boy, another sockpuppet of User:Kauffner, had previously vandalized the relevant MoS section by lowercasing "President of the United States" on 9 March 2014. That text was then rephrased by User:Blueboar on 8 February 2015 and so the improper lowercasing of "President" disappeared.

In any event, after User:Great scott was blocked, the next time such improper lowercasing re-emerges is when User:SMcCandlish initiated a second RfC on 21 September 2017 on a specific proposal to revise MOS:JOBTITLES. As far as I can tell, this was never properly advertised on the village pump, and after a tiny minority of WP users concurred, User:SMcCandlish promptly implemented it on 22 October 2017.

On 26 June 2018, User:SMcCandlish then transferred MOS:JOBTITLES into Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Biography. Notice how that version already contains most of the flaws of the current version.

It is entirely unpersuasive to call this issue a "a very lost cause" (I am referring to that editor's above comments at 15:01 on 2 January 2020) when the edits in favor of lowercasing after 21 September 2017 were mostly the work of a single editor whose individual views do not reflect the way that most educated people actually write. It is entirely unpersuasive to engage in begging the question by pretending a nonexistent consensus exists. It is entirely unpersuasive to do so on a wiki where every edit is publicly recorded and patterns can be easily discerned.

It takes only a casual glance at Google News to see that most well-trained American journalists (especially those working for famous newspapers and newsmagazines) still refer to "The President of the United States" and not "the president of the United States." The entire point of Wikipedia's core policies is that it follows. It never leads. Or as Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not puts it: Wikipedia is not a soapbox or means of promotion. Those who do not understand that need to find something else to edit on the Internet. --Coolcaesar (talk) 00:44, 6 January 2020 (UTC)

Thanks Coolcaesar. It seems that your position is very similar to my reading of this. However, I hope this doesn't have to be a "trainwreck". I would prefer to call this "moderate overreach". The notion of not capitalizing job titles where reliable sources are mixed, and of not being tied to specialist sources, is fair. Mandating lowercase regardless of mainstream reliable secondary sources is not fair. There has recently been a wave of decapitalizing "Governor of XXX" articles, which I opposed in one or two cases. It is, in my opinion, a boundary skirmish on rules preferring to not capitalize things. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 01:15, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
About 2 years ago, when nearly all of the US state governor & lt governor bio intros used capitalisation, I came across '2' bios (Al Quie & Rudy Perpich) of Minnesota governors which didn't use them. Every time, I would capitalise? the same 2 editors would revert me & refuse to get into a discussion with me on the matter. This was the first time, I came across the 'de-capitalise per WP:JOBTITLES' push. GoodDay (talk) 01:19, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
There is clear evidence of style changing at these articles.
The "35th Governor of Minnesota", he "served as the 35th governor of Minnesota from January 4, 1979, to January 3, 1983.
"In 1970, Perpich was elected the 39th lieutenant governor of Minnesota." Are lieutenant governors important?
There's going to have to be an unnatural break somewhere between "Local Dog Catcher" and "President of the United States"
Related articles are in the crossfire. List of lieutenant governors of Minnesota. "This is a list of lieutenant governors of the U.S. state of Minnesota." "state of Minnesota"? The official name of the state is "State of Minnesota", and so it is a proper name. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 02:00, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
There's still inconsistency within group articles to this day. As a gnome, it's difficult at times, when coming across opposition on both sides. Note: Recently I've been 'de-capitalising' on US political party national conventions. Already (months ago) implemented 'de-capitalisation' in the intros of all the US presidents & vice presidents, the Canadian prime ministers. There's potential confusion still at UK prime ministers, though. GoodDay (talk) 02:07, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
The official name of the state is "Minnesota", per https://www.usa.gov/state-government/minnesota. CThomas3 (talk) 02:46, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
Thanks, I didn't find that. I'll call that a style change. Long ago, it was the style to be wordy. In modern terms, we value the concise. However, there is also the fact that back then "Minnesota" was used for many things, and the concept of it being a state was relatively new. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 03:02, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
Also, things like "the State of Minnesota" and "the City and County of San Francisco" are not names of places, but of legal entities. There's a distinction and it matters. No one lives in the City and County of San Francisco, unless they're illegally squatting in a municipal government office building. >;-) More seriously, consider the difference between "Oakland's best-kept secret" (a local hotspot the tourists haven't invaded yet) and "the City of Oakland's best-kept secret" (probably something scandalous and illegal on the part of someone[s] in the municipal government).  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  04:24, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
User:SMcCandlish, why does it matter if a name is a legal entity? Does a legal entity not get a proper name? Why is The Great State of Minnesota not both a well-defined place and a proper name? Is Trinidad and Tobago a place? I’m pretty sure the City of San Francisco is a place with a name. I think counties engulfed in suburb and sprawl have lost their identity. —SmokeyJoe (talk) 10:37, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
I'm not sure where you're going with this, SmokeyJoe - as unhelpful as SMcCandlish has been on this issue more broadly, he's not wrong about this issue regarding titles that are effectively legal entities for geographical places. It seems an odd tangent from the broader issue of offices. The Drover's Wife (talk) 13:54, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
Odd tangent? I’m asking questions. What does it matter if a name is a legal entity. Proper names are capitalized, no? —SmokeyJoe (talk) 21:28, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
  • There has definitely been some creep here. A few years ago, we distinguished between “Louis XVI was the King of France in 1789” vs “Louis VII was a medieval French king”... that was a distinction most people could understand. Applied to presidents it would be: “George Washington was elected President of the United States in 1789” vs “The first American president was George Washington”.
Then came the question of what to do when there was an ordinal... and the decision to decapitalize in sentences like: “Thomas Jefferson was the 3rd president of the United States.” I opposed that, but accept that I was in the minority.
Now the argument seems to have morphed into the idea that we should decapitalize the position itself, even when there is no ordinal, as in: “The president of the United States is elected every four years”. That is a step too far, and an example of over-reach. Blueboar (talk) 13:17, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
Agreed; I think it's simply a misinterpretation of what the guideline is saying. It doesn't mean the guideline in general is "broken" or "wrong", but rather that it needs a wording tweak for clarity.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  23:58, 8 January 2020 (UTC)
@Blueboar:, you may want to !vote on the RfC at the top of the page before it's closed, since it deals with that very topic and your opinion's going to be practically overlooked otherwise. The Drover's Wife (talk) 13:56, 6 January 2020 (UTC)
Actually, it doesn't. It's about whether the lead sentence should have different capitalization from the rest of the article, but this has become confused, and the RfC wasn't very clearly written to begin with. [sigh]  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  23:59, 8 January 2020 (UTC)
Whether the lead sentence adopts that structure is part of the issue, at least. If you actually agree with Blueboar, I'm not sure we even disagree about that needed "wording tweak for clarity". The Drover's Wife (talk) 00:53, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
I would hope so, but this isn't about you and me in particular. Disputation about MOS:JOBTITLES keeps arising, and it appears to be due to misinterpretation of its wording. The larger thread above this has multiple calls for a more general RfC than the one at the top of this page. While I've predicted that the actual advice in the section wouldn't substantively change, maybe such a process would result in clearer wording. (And is it the "rule" wording? Is it the examples? Both?). It's hard to say unless it's tried. I'm just really tired of arguing about this.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  01:44, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
I don't know that we need to argue, and if I'm reading you correctly you might well be the solution. What I was trying to say above is that (unless I'm misunderstanding multiple posts) there seem to be some specific differences between the nuances of what people on the pro-decapitalisation "side" of the argument, if you will, actually support, and those differences in practice amount to the difference between what Blueboar articulated above - people accepting something that they mightn't entirely agree with - and people thinking that it's a step too far entirely. The Drover's Wife (talk) 01:54, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
I for one must say I was and still am confused both by the RfC's wording and the criteria being used for inclusion on the list or what this implied. To be honest I thought the list was just an example but I can see now it was intended to be inclusive. This makes the RfC even more questionable. I think some clarification of JOBTITLES is in order. Rather than decide by fiat which individual articles should be capitalized or not we need some clear rules. Or am I still missing the point here? —DIYeditor (talk) 05:19, 9 January 2020 (UTC)
Well, both of the above comments get to unresolvable issue that some don't seem to understand isn't a resolvable problem but is an operating constraint: It is not possible for any rule or set of rules to please everyone or match every kind of usage in sources. Ultimately, all style matters really are fiat: they're editorial decisions to do X not Y or Z when attestable usage variation presents us with conflicting options (and, in a narrow stylebook like MoS versus a comprehensive one like Chicago Manual or New Hart's Rules, the question occurs often enough and with enough acrimony that the issue actually needs to be codified in the manual at all – much variation is left to editorial discretion, when it doesn't result in constant conflict). The principal purpose of a style guide is to produce consistent output to reduce the potential for reader confusion; WP's style guide, like those of other major publishers of many individuals' work, also has a secondary purpose of reducing time wasted speculating and fighting about style trivia. That is to say, it is virtually always on every style matter going to be the case that some individuals will just be going along with (possibly even wanting to resist) something they don't prefer, or which they think is even subjectively "wrong". That doesn't invalidate the style guide, nor any line-item in it (in our style guide or any other), or it would simply never be possible to have a style guide that anyone accepted and followed (on- or off-site). The real "job" of crafting and maintaining any manual of style is to be clear and sensible enough in whatever choice is made (always with readers in mind over editors) that random editors' urge to resist and squabble is reduced; otherwise, half of the purpose of the style guide is being thwarted. I think this can be accomplished here, on this particular point of usage, with some revision, but am disheartened by all the tooth-gnashing above (accusations and finger-pointing; vastly over-blown claims of what consensus is, what sources are doing, what is "right", etc.; hyperbolic nonsense like someone's proposal to just delete the entire guideline section; obvious confusion of "someone is applying the guideline wrong" with "the guideline is wrong"; etc.). That's not how to fix anything, it's just how to piss people off and cause a lot of unproductive noise.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  12:07, 14 January 2020 (UTC)

Looking at JOBTITLES from the other direction[edit]

We have had a lot of discussion and debate about decapitalization ... and at this point, most editors are thoroughly confused. So, perhaps it would help if we shifted focus, and discussed situations when we should capitalize. If we start there, perhaps we can write less confusing guidance. Blueboar (talk) 20:59, 9 January 2020 (UTC)

I think that sounds like a great idea. The Drover's Wife (talk) 21:28, 9 January 2020 (UTC)

Comment and Question: In the first sentence of the lead about a particular position, we might write either:

The president of the United States is ...

or

President of the United States is ... - which would be capitalised in full, not just because it is the first word of the sentence. This was reverted with the claim that it was incorrect but without explanation when requested.

or perhaps

The office of President of the United States is ...

These examples capitalise IAW MOS:JOBTITLES, but the first is not capitalised even though it is refering in and of the position because it is preceded by "the": 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. In text, we might write:

Richard Nixon, President of the United States, arrived at ...
Richard Nixon, President of the United States during ... , arrived at ...
Richard Nixon, the President of the United States, arrived at ... He was President of the United States when the event happen.
Donald Trump, President of the United States, arrived at ...
Donald Trump, the president of the United States, arrived at ... He is the current President of the United States.

Job titles are not unlike other titles where title-case is used (such as titles of works) but, while we might commonly write the President of the United States, we would not write the Anne of Green Gables ... but the book, Anne of Green Gables, ...

I think I have correctly followed the guidance of JOBTITLES in each case. I don't have an issue with the guidance except that I would querry how it apples to the definite article. In each of the examples (of presidents), the title for the office is used in and of itself. In each case, the phrase might equally be written with or without the definite article. In the former examples, it appears to be idiomatic to append the definite article to the title when referring to the position but not a particular person holding the position. The sense and meaning in either case is not substantially different - at least not for most readers. In the second set of examples, the titles are used in parenthetic clauses. It is telling us that the person held the position and the position is being referred to in its full and proper form. Where the definite article is used, it is an apposition and either the office or the name may be omitted without compromising the sense of sentence. Omitting the name in those examples, is to refer to the particular president by using the title (in its full form) as a substitute for the name of the person. This is touched upon by the second dot-point of the guideline: a substitute for their name during their time in office - not that they are the current incumbent. My question is substantially to my analysis.

I would observe that the rule at dot-point three in respect to the definite article is probably the source of some of the angst regarding the guideline. On the one hand, there is the idiomatic tendency to add the definite article when perhaps, it is not appropriate but does not alter the intended sense or meaning substantially; and, on the otherhand, what might be seen as being senselessly hyper-pedantic - applying a rule so subtle that has no apparent rhyme or reason to it. To my mind, there are then, two possible solutions: either make the distinction clearer or acknowledge and permit the idiomatic usage. If the former course were chosen, I would suggest a footnote might be appropriate. Doing so would not clutter the succinct nature of the guidance given but would serve to elucidate the subtle distinctions in a way that facilitates the application of the guidance. I might also recommend some further discussion and clarification in respect to dot-point two. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 01:09, 10 January 2020 (UTC)

The president of the United States, the bishop of Rome, the sultan of Oman, the queen of United Kingdom/England, the emir of Kuwait, the secretary-general of the United Nations, the supreme leader of North Korea, and the duke and duchess of York met with the Supreme Court of the United States, the House of Representatives of the United States, and the Senate of the United States.
My problem with the MOS is that the lack of capitalization in the above sentence disregards the importance of the titles used in the first part. To even write that sentence I had to override the auto-correct on my phone. Those positions are not generic, they are proper nouns describing particular positions/institutions that are de-capitalized solely because they represent one person.
Specifically to the US, we have 3 co-equal branches of government and as a result they should be all written in the same style.
Slywriter (talk) 15:39, 11 January 2020 (UTC)
There is no queen of England. GoodDay (talk) 15:42, 11 January 2020 (UTC)
Corrected. Then uncorrected since numerous articles on the net use the Queen of England. Regardless, it does not change the substance of the example as numerous other Queens/Kings could be used. Slywriter (talk) 16:47, 11 January 2020 (UTC)
Slywriter, under the present rule, all of the persons would be capped per dot point 2, as they are a reference for a particular person, using the full form - except perhaps, "the duke and duchess". Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 22:53, 11 January 2020 (UTC)
I would guess that in an article specifically named after a title like President of the United States, there would be consensus to write "The President of the United States ..." e.g. this post from above RfC, which should probably be closed with a reworded one started.—Bagumba (talk) 17:52, 11 January 2020 (UTC)
Unfortunately, the MOS police are all over that exact article insisting it remains uncapitalized including a pointy hidden comment warning against such change. I look forward to a resolution that puts the 'P' back Slywriter (talk) 22:48, 11 January 2020 (UTC)
Bagumba, The article for the position of President of the United States starts withe the sentence: The president of the United States is ... Going back to my long post, is this phrasing idiomatic, since I believe it would be equally valid to write: President of the United States is ... It is not impossible to write in a form that results in capitalisation under the guidance as written. However, if we want to write, for the office in and of itself, with the definite article and capitalisation, then we should amend dot-point three to exempt the definite article "the". Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 23:10, 11 January 2020 (UTC)
For what it's worth, CMOS specifically calls out "the" as requiring lowercase. —Eyer (If you reply, add {{reply to|Eyer}} to your message to let me know.) 23:14, 11 January 2020 (UTC)


OK... let’s refocus on situations when we agree to capitalize... My wording on this will be clunky, but I think we would all agree on the following:

  • Capitalize when the job title is used as an honorific or rank - in conjunction with the office holder’s name. Example: “During the ceremony Mayor Smith thanked Commisioner Gordon and Zoo Keeper Brown for their heroism in subduing the escaped tiger.”

Does anyone disagree with this? (and can those who agree suggest a better wording for a generalized rule?) Blueboar (talk) 18:01, 11 January 2020 (UTC)

MOS:JOBTITLES says lowercase "zoo keeper": ... capitalization is not required for commercial and informal titles Generally, don't capitalize if the English words have the same meaning when lowercase. Aside for a few exceptions, don't capitalize just for added prominence e.g. Assistant Manager Wile E. Coyote of ACME.—Bagumba (talk) 19:34, 11 January 2020 (UTC)
Agree with Bagumba, so, first two yes, third no. I think this is a case where the existing guidance is fairly clear though ("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"..."Even when used with a name, capitalization is not required for commercial and informal titles: OtagoSoft vice-president Chris Henare; team co-captain Chan") and so it's one of the (only, perhaps) places where there's minimal confusion otherwise. The Drover's Wife (talk) 22:21, 11 January 2020 (UTC)
hmmm... What if it was “Keeper Brown” instead of “Zoo Keeper Brown” (I was thinking of “Zoo Keeper” as a rank within a zoological service... like “Patrolman Brown” or “Constable Brown” if I were referring to a policeman. However, I can see how that might be confusing... because “zoo keeper” is ALSO a more generic job description). Blueboar (talk) 23:37, 11 January 2020 (UTC)

MOS:JOBTITLES already prescribes which job titles should be capitalized and when. If any change to MOS:JOBTITLES is warranted, it is to comply even more with the most reputable style guides out there (e.g. The Chicago Manual of Style or AP Stylebook). That would mean less capitalization than MOS:JOBTITLES currently prescribes, not more. Surtsicna (talk) 23:23, 12 January 2020 (UTC)

I think the takeaway from this discussion is that changes are needed, not necessarily to change the stance on capitalisation either way so much as to clarify it because many users (on all sides) are completely confused about some of the finer points of its application. The examples of actual style guide language you provided are much clearer than the current language of WP:JOBTITLES, even if I don't agree with its substance. SMcCandlish has made a couple of takes in his last few posts on this page that most people don't seem to disagree with (apart from the WP:TNT advocates) that would seem to be a reasonable place to start. The Drover's Wife (talk) 01:00, 13 January 2020 (UTC)

I also want to note that in all these capitalization debates, I find surprisingly few references to publications which are generally held to be authorities on the matter. The idea that Wikipedia editors should decide what ought to be capitalized without reference to other manuals of style is very strange to me. That is not objective or productive. It is a recipe for a protracted discussion about personal preferences and lessons learned in schools in various places and in different times. Surtsicna (talk) 23:41, 12 January 2020 (UTC)

It shouldn't be surprising because it's a case of style guides (or at least the style guides being referred to here) clashing heavily with common usage, which is fairly high on the list of "MOS things that get the attention of people who don't otherwise generally care about MOS stuff". If it's a context where common usage is actually mixed, I could care less about what we use, but at least in my part of the world there's too many examples where a more hardline interpretation of WP:JOBTITLES conflicts with absolutely overwhelming real-world usage (i.e. basically 100% of the time). I am interested to know why that is, which is why I was asking about the specific style guidance before, because ultimately I think working that out would clarify a useful way forward. The Drover's Wife (talk) 01:00, 13 January 2020 (UTC)
Thanks. I believe I now understand your position: MOS:JOBTITLES could indeed be simpler. I have to question the "basically 100% of the time", however. Not only is capitalization (other than in cases of titles preceding names) uncommon in academic biographies, it is uncommon in the most widely circulated newspapers and news websites in English-speaking countries. For example, The Independent, The Guardian, the BBC, The Australian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Toronto Star, and the National Post all capitalize job titles less than Wikipedia; The Globe and the Mail and The New Zealand Herald seem to capitalize as much as Wikipedia (though the latter is wildly inconsistent); and The Daily Telegraph capitalizes more than Wikipedia. Am I misunderstanding where your impression of real-world usage comes from? Surtsicna (talk) 10:47, 13 January 2020 (UTC)
I can't really speak for anywhere outside of Australia because it's basically the only place I edit about and it's most of the media I consume, but it's certainly the case for a lot of Australian offices: "41st Premier of Victoria" (the one that sparked the attention of most of the Australians here) was 100%, "Chief Justice of Australia" (one of the targets of the RfC above) was very close to 100%, I'm struggling to find an Australian source that decapitalises "Prime Minister of Australia", etc. (Other usages: e.g. "chief justice" or "prime minister" when not used as part of a formal position title are not uncommonly decapitalised, but the office itself is very rare.) This conversation is making me wonder if it's actually a geographic/Australian English thing: one of the Australian editors in that WP:RM suggested the Cambridge Style Guide to Australian English was prescribing the other way, and I checked my local library's catalogue this morning and they've got it, so I'll have to pop over when I get a chance and record what it actually says (as with our conversation above, I like to have the actual text of these things so I can be sure it's not a case of a Wikipedian reading it wrong). Having said all of the above, after I'd written this post, I just noticed that the Australian Dictionary of Biography (a high-quality source we use all the time) decapitalises all offices, which I'm a bit surprised about given that it's quite unusual in more general use. The Drover's Wife (talk) 11:10, 13 January 2020 (UTC)
(Ec)Paper on JSTOR about P vs p
Others can reach their own opinions, but this study succinctly states in its conclusion on page 21/179 'The decision in the post-watergate period to de-capitalize the "president" of the United States symbolically reduced the standing and respect directed towards the office.'
As Wikipedia should always be NPOV, the P should be restored. As should the S in speaker of the House of Representatives.
Slywriter (talk) 01:06, 13 January 2020 (UTC)
I won't oppose re-capitalisation of those articles, if that's what folks here want. GoodDay (talk) 01:09, 13 January 2020 (UTC)
It is not Wikipedia's place to restore or increase deference to anyone. Surtsicna (talk) 10:47, 13 January 2020 (UTC)

To me, both "the President of the United States" and "the president of the United States" are valid and should be permissible for some uses by the MOS (even if one should be preferred for the first sentence on an article about the position). They imply different things. "The President of the United States" means the person who officially holds the title, or the office itself. "The president of the United States" on the other hand means the person whom Wikipedia is saying is president of the United States, not as a title only but as a description of their actual position, and is equivalent to "the leader of the United States" or any other phrasing. It may seem like a very small difference in meaning but I think it is a useful distinction to draw. A proper noun (or "proper name" as some have insisted) can be preceded by the definite article and still capitalized as in "the United States" (and many, many other examples). When this becomes an issue is when Wikipedia cannot say, for some reason, that the person who holds an office title is factually, in lower case common nouns and noun phrases, the same thing as what the title says. The decrees of governments are not always reliable sources for what job someone actually fills, or might, for example, include adjectival qualifiers that we cannot repeat in lower case in Wikipedia's voice ("Brotherly Leader"). —DIYeditor (talk) 06:23, 13 January 2020 (UTC)

[[User:|]], you need sentences as examples of usage to give context to when capitalisation or lowercase is used and perhaps also explain why it is ether in caps or not. You might look at edit which does this. The problem is, that by placing "the" in front of it no longer refers to the office formally as a discrete noun phrase "President of the United States", which is the office. Adding "the", "of the United States" is then a prepositional phrase of "the president" and "the president" would be referring to the person holding that position and not the office, when the original intent was to refer to the office. Or that might be my take after a fair bit of thought. Perhaps someone might correct me if I am wrong. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 07:27, 13 January 2020 (UTC)
I think that's the way they rationalise it, but we don't usually start sentences with a singular noun, so in practice "The President of the United States..." is how people would refer to the office; if you have to switch to tortured wording like "the office of President..." to be able to refer to it as a discrete noun phrase and fit it in an English-language sentence I think that it is less than ideal. The Drover's Wife (talk) 07:32, 13 January 2020 (UTC)
One can write "The president of the United States is ..." or "President of the United States is ...", when referring to the office but not the person - though the former is idiomatic and the latter arguably more correct. Both are singular nouns though. By definition, there is only one "the president". We might choose to acknowledge the idiomatic usage and capitalise it when referring to the office - ie make an exception to the definite article at dot-point three of JOBTITLES. However, much of the preceding discussions have not grasped this as being the stumbling point in the guideline as it stands. Consequently, the RfC above is malformed. It proposes an exception but does not identify what precisely is being exempted, why it is being exempted and why it is in conflict with the current guideline except that they think it should be de-capitalised (in the first sentence of the lead) regardless of how that sentence is constructed. One needs to identify what the problem actually is otherwise one is just groping in the dark. It is always better to treat the cause and not the symptom. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 09:01, 13 January 2020 (UTC)
One can't write "President of the United States is..." because that's not a sentence in English, as it is not a language that starts sentences with nouns, therefore by this logic it's impossible to capitalise "President of the United States" when referring to it as an office in an actual sentence (unless one writes "...office of President of the United States" solely to avoid using "the"). As for the rest ...you do realise the RfC proposes to decapitalise lead sentences? I've never seen a one-sentence question cause so much intense confusion. How does one take away from that question that Coffeeandcrumbs wants to capitalise more things? The Drover's Wife (talk) 09:35, 13 January 2020 (UTC)
Note my correction. It does not change the substance of my comment - ie, while there are many instances of article that are capitalised when they shouldn't be because they commence with the definite article, it is quite possible to construct an opening sentence that is capitalised IAW the guideline. The premise that all instances should be decapped regardless of and contrary to the guideline is wrong and I have said as much above. You are, however wrong to say that English is a language that does not start with nouns: "John went to the shop" or "Anne of Green Gables was written by ...". The latter example is a title but we are dealing with the title of offices. You are right though, that the RfC has caused confusion - because it is malformed. Much of the confusion is because people don't understand the guidance and not because the guidance is inherently wrong. The guidance produces a result that is idiomatically contrary to the semantics of the language. Some of the problem is that Englih is a very forgiving language. We therefore either need to make an exception for the idiomatic norm or give a better explanation of the rule. This does not mean that we need to rewrite the guideline. Such an explanation could be by way of a note or an essay. That a rule is poorly understood, does not mean the rule is wrong. It just means that it needs a better explanation. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 10:36, 13 January 2020 (UTC)
On definite-article confusion: At President of the United States it could start with "The President of the United States is ...", because the office itself is the subject of the piece, treating the unique title as a proper name. The down-casing when the title is preceded by a modifier (including a definite or indefinite article) happens in predicate/object usage: "As a president of the United States, Nixon ...", "Nixon, while still the president of the United States, ...". The guideline is not mandating a lead of "The president of the United States is .... That said, The office of President of the United States is ... would be a better lead, anyway, and should be the model for how we treat such subjects. (Extra geekery points: "The Office of the President of the United States" (capital-O, and commonly just referred to as "the White House" by the press, and generally a bit more narrow than "the Administration") is something different, a multi-individual entity consisting of the president plus various aides and staff under the direction of the president. A position statement by that office may not have a single word in it written by or even directly reviewed by the president; the press secretary and chief of staff often speak officially as authorized voices of the presidency, though with the understanding that they'd better get it right and that the actual president is apt to contradict them if they don't.) — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  11:50, 14 January 2020 (UTC)
For the intro at the President of the United States article: "The President of the United states...", would be preferred to "The office of President of the United States...", as the latter is cumbersome. GoodDay (talk) 13:15, 14 January 2020 (UTC)
Preferred by whom? It's actually far less precise, and readers have to parse a fair amount of the material (maybe even re-read some of it) to be certain that the article is about the office, not about whoever is presently the the in that role (or perhaps both). By being clearer in the lead sentence we establish the exact scope right off the bat. This is less obviously helpful in this particular case than at, say, various articles on titles of nobility and on lower offices, where we more often commingle coverage of the title and those who have held it.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  03:08, 30 January 2020 (UTC)

Should a subject be named in full after the lead?[edit]

Some confusion over the section on referring to subjects after the lead cropped up at the help desk. The section says to only use a subject’s surname after "the initial mention", but it is unclear whether this "initial mention" includes mentions in the lead or not.

I looked at some FAs and found a majority named subjects in full again in the article proper, typically in an "early life" section, although a significant minority dissented and only used the surname.

In my opinion, naming the subject in full post-lead generally conveys redundant information and should be avoided, but the important thing is that the intent of the guideline is cleared up. – Teratix 05:38, 14 January 2020 (UTC)

  • The post-lede use of the full name is a "re-introduction". It may be appropriate for a "Personal life" section that jumps backward in time relative to the preceding sections, and would be especially appropriate if the names were given further context, namesakes and family. Generally though, I think "no". --SmokeyJoe (talk) 07:47, 14 January 2020 (UTC)
  • As a general rule, no, after the lead you should just use the surname. In special cases, such as when the surname alone would be ambiguous, the full name is appropriate. —David Eppstein (talk) 07:57, 14 January 2020 (UTC)
  • No. Completely unnecessary. Surnames are fine after the first mention in the article (that's the lede). Too many editors are rather fond of using the full name every other mention. As above, the only time it's necessary is where the surname alone would be ambiguous (e.g. if two members of the same family are mentioned in a paragraph). -- Necrothesp (talk) 09:07, 14 January 2020 (UTC)
  • For someone who has changed their name since birth it is common to start the "early life" section with "Shula Mary Archer was born on 6 November 1952 in Ambridge ..." when the article title is "Shula Hebden-Lloyd", because they weren't born with the name which is the article title. But apart from that, surname only except where we need to distinguish them from someone else with same surname (commonly their spouse, but could be a parent or sibling). PamD 09:18, 14 January 2020 (UTC)
    • That's unnecessary since that too should be in the lede. -- Necrothesp (talk) 15:27, 14 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Perhaps unnecessary, but a helpful extra for the reader who may otherwise find it confusing. PamD 17:36, 14 January 2020 (UTC)
  • The additional use of the fullname at the start of content after the lead as noted by SmokeyJoe above seems to have been something that has crept (back?) in over the last year or so and often seems not to be corrected to just the surname. Personally I've no objection to a fuller version of the name (first or given name and surname only) at the start of the bio section immediately after the lead but not the fullname as might be found as the 'boldname' – The enquiry at the HD was sparked by edits at William Hartnell. It is something that is seen often in drafts via AFC; particularly from newer editors. However, I would agree that it should really be surname only and that this needs to be made clearer somehow. Eagleash (talk) 11:31, 14 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Agreed with David Eppstein's generality as a default, and PamD's observation of an uncommon but obvious exception. I think SmokeyJoe's observation of a more common but less obviously useful exception is a judgement call; it doesn't make sense to do that in a short article, but it can in a long and complex one, especially if a short form of the name (Jim for James, etc.) is used as the title. Another exception is when someone else with the same surname also features heavily in the article/section, if the reader could be confused about whether the article subject or a parent is the subject of the present sentence/clause.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  11:35, 14 January 2020 (UTC)
    • Agree, after looking at some articles where in the article the subject's parent with the same surname is discussed. The surname-only rule of referencing the subject makes it slightly hard to read. However, this is a question of disambiguation the reference, which might not require the whole full name, and which might be better solved by better writing, in that brief section. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 00:13, 30 January 2020 (UTC)
  • Always repeat – It is important to start with full birth name because of WP:V. The lead section and infobox should not need any citations, therefore, it is important to have the full name at the beginning of the Early life section and to give a source for the first, middle, and last name at birth. Otherwise, any one can insert a fake middle name and there would be no way to challenge that. This issue I describe has happened at Nipsey Hussle and Doris Day. The full name needs a source for verification and the best place to that citation is just after the lead. For both Hussle and Day, hoax middle names were created and proliferated through RS because of our carelessness. --- C&C (Coffeeandcrumbs) 06:19, 18 January 2020 (UTC)
    • Wouldn't the appropriate practice in those cases be to cite a source for the full name on its first mention (in the lead), rather than a needless repetition? – Teratix 08:33, 18 January 2020 (UTC)
      • Teratix, no, it is common practice to have 0 citations in the lead. Everything in the lead and infobox should be repeated in the body and cited there. This is how FAs, our very best articles, are written. --- C&C (Coffeeandcrumbs) 18:52, 18 January 2020 (UTC)
        • From MOS:LEADCITE (emphasis mine): The lead must conform to verifiability [and BLP] ... material that is ... likely to be challenged, and direct quotations, should be supported by an inline citation ... statements about living persons ... likely to be challenged must have an inline citation every time ... including within the lead.
          ... [E]ditors should balance the desire to avoid redundant citations in the lead with the desire to aid readers in locating sources for challengeable material. Leads are usually written at a greater level of generality ... and information in the lead section of non-controversial subjects is ... less likely to require a source; there is not ... an exception to citation requirements specific to leads. The necessity for citations in a lead should be determined on a case-by-case basis ... Complex, current, or controversial subjects may require many citations; others, few or none. The presence of citations in the introduction is neither required in every article nor prohibited in any article.Teratix 22:56, 18 January 2020 (UTC)
  • The full name should be given in the first section (Early life or similar), because there it is cited along with place and date of birth per WP:V. It is far better to do that than introduce a citation into the lead. Peacemaker67 (click to talk to me) 08:38, 18 January 2020 (UTC)
    • Why should citations in the lead be avoided to the extent that the same text is unnecessarily repeated? – Teratix 08:54, 18 January 2020 (UTC)
      • See MOS:LEAD. Please don't ask questions or make statements that imply there is must be no WP:P&G principle at issue, if you have not actually read the applicable P&G material. Short version: If facts were "unnecessarily repeated" by being in the lead as well as the body, then leads could not exist at all. The entire purpose of the lead is to summarize the most important points in the article. We don't add citations to the lead material, and instead do it in the main-body material, unless the claims are likely to be (or have already proven to be) controversial and inspiring of dispute, in which case go ahead and add an otherwise-redundant citation in the lead, too, to forestall both editwarring and confused reactions from readers. If the claim is not controversial, then a redundant cite in the lead is simply visual clutter than impedes the speed at which the lead can be absorbed. Leads and bodycopy serve different purposes.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  18:17, 29 January 2020 (UTC)
        • Please don't imply I haven't actually read the guideline in question, and see the above reply to Coffeeandcrumbs. There is no requirement for leads to be free of citations, even for material less likely to be challenged. True, in many cases citing noncontroversial material in the lead would be redundant to the body and lead to the visual clutter that you mentioned. However, in this case avoiding a citation would, in fact, lead to more clutter, as identical text (not "facts") would be repeated with no benefit to the reader. – Teratix 23:40, 29 January 2020 (UTC)
          I have no idea what your point is in telling me that "There is no requirement for leads to be free of citations" immediately after I just explained reasons to have citations in leads. (And me personally providing an explanation is irrelevant, anyway; the P&G material already covers this. You seem miffed that you're being pointed to the P&G, but you keep making arguments that don't seem to consider that they're already there and already cover all this.) Just repeating your argument that what you object to is "more clutter ... with no benefit to the reader" does not make it so, especially when no one seems to be agreeing with you. Either you are presenting an argument that is not going to be accepted, or you're presenting a possibly valid argument too poorly for it be accepted at this time. Continuing in this vein isn't likely to be productive.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  02:39, 30 January 2020 (UTC)
          • Really don't know what to say here. I said "there is no requirement for leads to be free of citations" because you seem to be citing MOS:LEAD to advocate for avoiding naming subjects in full in the lead with a citation. Is that not true? In my reply to Coffeeandcrumbs, I pointed out that the guideline explicitly does not prescribe or prohibit citations. I am trying to show that a citation in the lead is not such a terrible thing, and would be beneficial if it meant avoiding redundant text.
            You seem to disagree with my point that repeating the name in full in both the lead and the body is redundant and a cited full name occurring once in the lead would be preferred if avoiding clutter is the prime concern, but don't seem to have explained any refutation.
            I agree that continued discussion is unlikely to be helpful if we can't figure out what the other is talking about. It is somewhat tangental to the reason I started the thread, which was to clarify a point from a different policy, so I'm happy to conclude it here. – Teratix 04:02, 30 January 2020 (UTC)

Hypocorisms that stem from the beginning of a name not permitted, but one from the end is?[edit]

There was a discussion at Talk:Al Capone#Hypocorism "Al" is unneeded where the consensus looks to be in favour of excluding the hypocorism "Al" for the full name Alphonse Gabriel Capone in the lead. In short, I was in favour of keeping it because although "Al" can be a "common English-language hypocorism" (MOS:HYPOCORISM), it is not one for "Alphonse" (not an English name). I seem to have been overruled (pending any last thoughts) by those who think it is not necessary because there will be no seemingly obvious (relative) confusion to a potential reader that the "Al" comes from the first two letters of his given name—I am still in disagreement—but if that's the way it goes, fine. My question comes to the example for that of Tina Fey (used in MOS:FULLNAME) permitting "Tina" in Elizabeth Stamatina "Tina" Fey. "Tina" is also a "common English-language hypocorism", and just as "obviously" comes from the last four letters of "Stamatina". Put it this way, if we put both of the names in front of the average reader and ask them to tell us where the hypocorism came from, they would likely be able to deduce where, but I think we should be leaning more towards covering our bases given that they are both non-English names, and any supposed "obviousness" on our part is just WP:OR. So is there a reason that the inclusion of a hypocorism that comes from the last few letters of a name be permitted, but not one from the first few? It was said that "Stamatina has no obvious nickname." According to who? You ask an English speaker, the only plausible one they'll probably come up with is "Tina" even though it is a name that is foreign to them. Although it has also been pointed out that the most common way to create a hypocorism in English is the first syllable, it is not uncommon to have names that go to the last syllable like Robert or Albert to Bert, etc. But again, if "Al" is deemed to be unnecessary here, fine, but by the same regard, "Tina" appears to also go against the MoS by being a "common English-language hypocorism" (regardless of where in the full name it is derived, and also does not specify the language of origin of the name in question). Courtesy ping to @JesseRafe:, @Bagumba:, @Muboshgu:, @Larry Hockett:. Vaselineeeeeeee★★★ 01:56, 24 January 2020 (UTC)

Vaselineeeeeeee, this isn't about what is "permitted", it's that "Al" is a common English-language hypocorism, and "Stamatina" is not a common name and does not have a common hypocorism. – Muboshgu (talk) 04:11, 24 January 2020 (UTC)
Did you even read what I wrote? Tina is a common English-language hypocorism, like Al. NEITHER of which, however, are common hypocorisms for their names because they are non English names and do not follow English hypocorism formation. Implying that Al is a common hypocorism for Alphonse is OR. The MOS says “a common English-language hypocorism” without mention of origin of names. As such, Tina should not be permitted based on the MOS wording being an English-language hypocorism if we are not taking into account name origin. Vaselineeeeeeee★★★ 05:30, 24 January 2020 (UTC)
I suggest you bring up that very point at Talk:Tina Fey. CThomas3 (talk) 05:35, 24 January 2020 (UTC)
As I posted at the Capone discussion: A name shortened to its first syllable is the most common nickname. From Language and the Sexes, p. 22: The single most frequent device is: cut the first name to its first syllable ...Bagumba (talk) 03:41, 27 January 2020 (UTC)
Yes, and I mentioned that. That still does not change the fact that Tina is still “a common English-language hypocorism”. Vaselineeeeeeee★★★ 16:09, 27 January 2020 (UTC)
I have responded to that at Talk:Tina Fey, which seems like the better place to continue this conversation. I think there might be a more clear case for eliminating the explicit mention of the nickname if Elizabeth Stamatina Fey's nickname was "Beth" (which is another nickname derived from the end of a name). —BarrelProof (talk) 19:43, 28 January 2020 (UTC)
The two cases are different circumstances. I was only responding to Capone. Regards.—Bagumba (talk) 07:25, 29 January 2020 (UTC)
The way Tina Fey's hypocorism is structured at her article was changed—but even without the change—should be removed from MOS:FULLNAME as two definitive examples will suffice. Vaselineeeeeeee★★★ 16:25, 27 January 2020 (UTC)
Agreed with Muboshgu; this has nothing to do with starts/finishes of names, but about whether a hypocorism-to-name relationship is so common and/or obvious (in English) that it does not need a brow-beating explanation in the lead sentence. If the relationship between the hypocorism and the name it is short for is really, really obvious despite the longer name not being too common in English, we do not need to browbeat readers with that, either. (Thus we don't need to say Al is short for Alphonse at Al Capone. In an article on a Russian named Dmitri we should not refer to him as Dima without having already explained that is a hypocorism used in reference to him, e.g. "better known as Dima Popov", or whatever; the average English speaker/reader has no idea that Dima is a common Russian hypocorism for Dmitri, similar to Jimmy for James or Bob for Robert in English). WP:Common sense applies; line-items in MoS are not algorithms to apply robotically even if they reach reader-unhelpful results.

Tina is a very, very common hypocorism for Christina/Kristina. Stamatina isn't a common name and Tina isn't commonly a hypocorism for it, and it's her middle name, and nearly no one knows either of those names for her, only Tina. That not a situation where "obvious" applies, to much of anything. But the lead of that article doesn't follow MOS:NICKNAME anyway. The hypocorism should not be in quotation marks (it's not a nickname like "the Rock" or "Earl the Pearl"), and there is no cause to run-together everything into a big awkward mess like that. Try "Elizabeth Stamatina Fey, best known professionally as Tina Fey (/f/; born May 18, 1970) is an American actress, comedian, writer, producer, and playwright." Better yet, just start with the common name and move the full name to a section on early life; it is not a name anyone is ever liable to encounter being used to refer to Tina Fey, only dug up in some article over-dwelling on her past/origins, like those that insist on telling us that Winona Ryder's original surname is Horowitz. These things can sometimes be wrong, too, and may be wrong for years. A good case in point is Demi Moore about whom numerous sources (including ones we used to mis-write our own article for a long time [6]) incorrectly claimed her birth name was Demetria; some of them had been doing this since the 1980s, which is when I first encountered the claim).

If there isn't a good reason (for that particular case) to clutter the lead with a birth name, then let's not do it. If an MoS passage seems to make it "mandatory", then maybe we should revise it. Various editors may want to front-load every bio with a birth/legal name, out of habit and out of a sense of a particular kind of "consistency" that WP and MoS do not actually care about or insist on, but that doesn't make it a good idea. There are sometimes good reasons cram name variants in the lead (MOS:BOLDSYN after all), such as when the name is pretty common knowledge (Samuel Clemens for Mark Twain), when the subject has used multiple aliases that are known to the public (many criminals, and some performers), when English-language sources have mostly preferred a particular spelling for a non-English-speaker subject while non-English sources have not and and even the English ones aren't consistent (Alfons Mucha, Alphonse Mucha), when someone's life work tends to be analyzed under their original name rather than a stage name, when the subject draws a whole lot of school-child research and may be confusing if it doesn't present the info right up front (e.g. Bill Clinton), when a historical personage is referred to in period sources differently from how English-language modern ones have conventionalized their name (lots of medieval rulers and ancient Romans and such), and so on. Use human judgement.

PS: Alphonse/Alfonse/Alfons/Alfonzo/Alphonso/Alfonso/etc. are not rare in English, they're just not terribly common (though verge on semi-common among certain populations with strong French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, etc. connections). "Stamatina" is almost unheard of in English (it seems to be Greek, a diminutive of Stamatia, which is also rare, though some of those unreliable baby naming websites counter-claim that it's Italian, and it could be Italian by way of Greek).
 — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  18:09, 29 January 2020 (UTC)

@SMcCandlish: The MoS may not take into account consistency, but it also does not take into account rarity of names—"Tina" is not "A short form that differs significantly from the name". Why don't you think "Tina" belongs in quotes in Elizabeth Stamatina "Tina" Fey? The only place it fits is "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", the "not a common hypocorism" being of particular note for those who insist that because "Tina" is not a common hypocorism for "Stamatina", it be permitted to use, in quotes (it does not appear to fall under the "alternative names" such as Alphonse Mucha or Tim Allen. Fey, however, certainly does not belong in the "First mention" section with quotes, as the examples of Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz and Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, much more adequately show the use of "first mention" (unlike Fey due to the insertion of her nickname there does not follow the MoS "the article should start with the complete version"). Vaselineeeeeeee★★★ 18:54, 29 January 2020 (UTC)
It doesn't belong in quotes (which in this kind of construction are "scare quotes" indicating something like "so-called", i.e. laced with a hint of dismissiveness) because it's not a nickname, like "Ballbuster" or "Fathead", it's a hypocorism like Liz or Robbie. Please just read the guideline in the spirit it's intended (as rules of thumb, not something to semantically wiki-lawyer to death), and just go along with what others are doing with it in the majority of cases. Please also keep in mind that MoS's purpose is to account for common, recurrent points of disruptive style disputation and defuse them. It does not exist to try to account for and "out-logic" every imaginable style question and quibble anyone could ever come up with (if you want that, try The Chicago Manual of Style and New Hart's Rules). It is not possible for MoS to precisely account for every conceivable style question that could ever come up even at our own articles, without being about 100× longer than it already is (and even then we'd fail; there is no end to the stylistic trivia people will battleground about). I've already provided you two better ways to write the lead. If you (or someone[s] you are arguing with over there) insist on cramming it all into one string in the lead, it would be Elizabeth Stamatina (Tina) Fey – no nickname scare-quoting. But that kind of cramming is not helpful to readers, so let's just not do it. In the overwhelming majority of cases where a subject is known to the public almost entirely by a short name that is not their birth name and which is not a stupendously obvious hypocorism for their first given name, we do this: "Alice Beatrice Ceedie, best known as Bea Ceedie ..." or something very similar, so just do it in this case and there is no longer any problem. While some of us would rather see the long birth name stuff moved to an "Early life" section in many cases, no one's head gonna asplode in the interim. :-) If there's some wording tweak in the guideline you think would improve it, then let's hear it (but beware the WP:Policy writing is hard fact; changes to wording of pages like this can easily have unintended effects if not thought through from every angle; the very reason this thread is open is the difficulty in crafting language everyone understands the same way and which no one can try to find a loophole in. It's hard work and no one's paying us as a litigation or lobbying team; we're all volunteers here!).  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  19:43, 29 January 2020 (UTC)
@SMcCandlish: Interesting choice of nicknames. Your very comparison of "Tina" to "Liz" for why it should not belong in quotes shows, according to MoS, that it should not be stated at all. "Tina" is not an alternative name as shown in the MoS with examples like Tim Allen, it is a hypocorism, so the way of writing "professionally better know as Tina Fey" is not particularly helpful. I'm not sure why Tina Fey has been forced into the MoS, as her case does not fit well with "first mention" or "alternative names". As I said above, the closest fit it has is with "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", although when you compare it to the example of "Roland Bernard "Bunny" Berigan", it would seem ridiculous to include. An example of Tina Fey need not be used unless it is to show when not to use quotes. Vaselineeeeeeee★★★ 20:13, 29 January 2020 (UTC)
I don't know what you mean by 'the way of writing "professionally better know as Tina Fey" is not particularly helpful'; it's what we do most of the time, specifically because it is helpful. If we want to include the full/original/legal name in the lead sentence, and we want to make it clear that readers are at the right article by providing the name they are overwhelmingly more familiar with, and which isn't painfully obvious the way it is with, say, "Rob" for "Robert", then the way we do it is this way. Whether to do it in Tina Fey's specific case is open to question; it is perhaps (as you suggest) not a good example to use here. I'm tired of arguing in circles with you about the other stuff, so will just leave it at that. However, I just realized (an apologize for not getting it sooner) that someone had edited the guideline itself to say to use 'Elizabeth Stamatina "Tina" Fey' (I thought were we discussing just changes people were squabbling about at the article), and somewhere along the line also changed it to suggest incorrectly that including the full birth name in the lead sentence is mandatory, which cannot actually be true, since there are various cases in which we do not do this, most obviously for MOS:GENDERID reasons (deadnaming), which we even say not far below that in the very same section of MOS:BIO. I've fixed both of these problems [7][8] and hopefully that is sufficient to resolve the extant issue. And added a way more obvious and common kind of case (Spanish names) [9]. Also did a bit of cleanup in the section on foreign names in general (patronymics, etc.); combined diff: [10].  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  02:12, 30 January 2020 (UTC)
@SMcCandlish: It initially started as what you call "squabbles", however, I also wanted to bring up how forcing an example with Fey into the MoS is not helpful. How is having either of Elizabeth Stamatina "Tina" Fey or Elizabeth Stamatina (Tina) Fey following "First mention" when the non-legal name of Tina is being inserted into her legal name on first mention? I propose that that example be removed or shifted to a more prudent section that would show when not to use quotes. Vaselineeeeeeee★★★ 02:27, 30 January 2020 (UTC)
Yeah, we could massage that section to include it there instead, e.g.: If a person has a common English-language hypocorism (diminutive or abbreviation) used in lieu of a given name,[extant footnote here] it is not presented between quotation marks or parentheses within or after their name. If a hypocorism (or name–hypocorism pair) is uncommon in English, and the hypocorism is inserted into the name, use parentheses not quotation marks, but consider presenting it separately with the surname, later in the lead, as we do with other alternative names (see above). I.e., add that last sentence. Then move the Fey example under the Hopper example. That would probably go a long way to clarifying, since people can (apparently, somehow) presently come away with the idea "hypocorisms don't go in quotation marks, except when they're uncommon", which is not what the material's trying to convey at all. I think the guideline is not saying something like this at present, with a Fey-like example, because it was thought more helpful to simply never inject hypocorisms into names. That might be okay as some kind of thought-experiment, but it's poor as an MoS rule, because it's being done frequently anyway, and the exact wording of the passage was unclear enough it didn't actually discourage it in uncommon cases. So, we may as well just clearly account for it instead of trying half-assedly to prevent it.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  03:02, 30 January 2020 (UTC)

Parentheses vs quotes: I'm opposed to recommending hypocorisms be in parentheses at this point. Per WP:PROPOSAL: Most commonly, a new policy or guideline documents existing practices, rather than proposing a change to what experienced editors already choose to do. Not only do I see quotes as the existing common practice in articles, MOS:HYPOCORISM also currently states: 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 of one of their names, or a professional alias, it is usually presented between double quotation marks ... There's no benefit to opening up a churn of minor edits now, as there is little confusion. Barring a major oversight, this is why we have an MOS to just be consistent and avoid widespread, minor tweaking.—Bagumba (talk) 10:00, 30 January 2020 (UTC)

I'm indifferent on the use of quotes or parentheses, but either way, Elizabeth Stamatina "Tina" Fey or Elizabeth Stamatina (Tina) Fey has been forced into the MoS at the "First mention" section (which it does not follow) given the insertion of her nickname within her legal name ("the article should start with the complete version")—and so, it will be removed or shifted to a more prudent section. Vaselineeeeeeee★★★ 16:34, 30 January 2020 (UTC)
And editwarring to force this to say to use quotation marks for hypocorisms needs to stop. There was never any consensus for such a idea, and trying to force it in is not going to work. It's directly counter to how we write articles (When's the last time you saw something like 'William Jefferson Clinton, best known as "Bill" Clinton'? It's not just against WP style, it's against mainstream English writing style in all genres.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  18:43, 30 January 2020 (UTC)

More input needed at RfC on infobox birthplace/nationality/citizenship[edit]

FYI: Pointer to relevant discussion elsewhere.

Please see Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Infoboxes#RfC on birthplace, nationality, and citizenship parameters with matching values.

This RfC has been running for a while but input has dropped off, and right now it's about an even split between the guidelines a) saying nothing at all about the matter, or b) saying to avoid putting the same country in two or three infobox parameters (the other options in the RfC have attracted nearly no support). It's not going to be a useful outcome (just another RfC again some time later) if this closes with "no consensus", so this tie needs to be broken – with good reasoning, not with WP:JUSTAVOTE of course.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  03:48, 30 January 2020 (UTC)

"Saint" or "bishop" and honorifics?[edit]

Need 3rd opinion. user:FyzixFighter edited a few articles removing titles like "bishop", "saint", or "servant of god" citing MOS:HON. Examples: edit #1, edit #2, edit #3. The user has edited a lot articles that clearly violated MOS (ex.), but these couple examples I believe go a little too far. In the cited examples, the titles introduce the person and provide important context. Plus, none of them are listed in either MOS:HON or English honorifics. In example #1, it introduces a group of people that the subject "hung out with" not as some random people but similarly recognized Catholic saints/blessed/servants of god -- in historiography, the group is known as Faelix Saeculum Cracoviae. The intro is particularly important since some of the articles don't exist in English Wikipedia. In example #2, "bishop" is used as a job title and not a honorific. In example #3, again introduces the people and explains why they are significant in a very succinct manner. Particularly, compare the diff between "became the spiritual advisor of Blessed Jane of Orvieto" vs. "became the spiritual advisor of Jane of Orvieto". Thoughts? Renata (talk) 05:26, 5 February 2020 (UTC)

MOS:HON passes clergy on to Wikipedia:Naming conventions (clergy), which includes a section on saints. Admittedly this is nearly all about articles titles, with not enough on running text. Johnbod (talk) 05:47, 5 February 2020 (UTC)
As the other party in this disagreement, here is my rationale. Examples #1 and #3 would fall under the guidance in WP:HON to not use (emphasis mine) "styles and honorifics related to royalty, clergy, and sainthood, such as Her Majesty, His Holiness, The Reverend, and The Venerable." The "such as" indicates that this is not an exhaustive list, and the field where these are usually inserted in the the Infobox saints template is called "honorific-prefix". The non-use of these honorifics aligns, imo, with the guidance in MOS:SAINTS that "the word "Saint" can lead to controversy (depending on who considers whom to be a saint) and possible non-neutrality." As another editor has already pointed to WP:NCCL and noted it mainly is about article titles, it does circularly say in the first paragraph that "For the use of names of clergy and saints in article text, see Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Biographies." Personally, I agree with this comment from a similar current discussion over on WT:CATHOLIC for handling the honorific in the first sentence of the lede if needs be.
For example #2, I am also very interested to hear a third opinion. I am not sure of the right solution or of a consistent rule to follow in these situations. Admittedly I was trying to take the principles used in the last bullet of MOS:LDSJARGON, which advises against the use of ecclesiastical titles when referring to LDS Church leaders, and apply them to a broader range of religious articles. If we don't use "President", "Elder", or "Bishop" when referring to Russell M. Nelson, Jeffrey R. Holland, or Gérald Caussé, why is the same not true for Cardinals and Bishops, whose ecclesiastical roles are of similar level in the respective ecclesiastical hierarchies? Perhaps the solution is simply that when "cardinal" and "bishop" are used as job titles, they need to not be capitalized, similar to saying "LDS Church president Russell M. Nelson"? --FyzixFighter (talk) 15:03, 5 February 2020 (UTC)

A good old tally[edit]

I've done the honours.

On de-capitalising
"The President of the United States"/
"The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom"/
"The Secretary-General of the United Nations"/
etc.
in the lead and elsewhere on political office articles
Those in favour of/not against de-capitalisation Those who commented a neutral, unclear or
conflicting stance
(+: in favour of de-capitalisation,
~: neutral or unclear, –: against de-capitalisation)
Those not in favour of/against de-capitalisation

☑Y Ralbegen [17]

☑Y Cthomas3 [17]

☑Y Eyer [12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19]

☑Y K.e.coffman [17]

☑Y SMcCandlish [2, 7, 17, 18]

☑Y Gog the Mild [17]

☑Y Surtsicna [14, 17]

☑Y ChrisJBenson [9]

☑Y Dicklyon [2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 19]

☑Y Yaksar [7]

☑Y The Gnome [9]

☑Y Jayron32 [9]

☑Y UpdateNerd

☑Y Anomalocaris [4]

☑Y Collect [3]

☑Y Nine Zulu queens [7, 8]

☑Y Tony1 [2, 4, 8]

☑Y Millionsandbillions [7, 8]

☑Y GenQuest [8]

☑Y WCCasey [8]

☑Y ErikHaugen

☑Y JFG [7, 11]

☑Y Woko Sapien [16]

☑Y Mitch Ames [8~]

☑Y XOR'easter [17~]

☑Y BarrelProof [8~]

☑Y Coffeeandcrumbs [14–?, 15–?, 17+?]

☑Y Bagumba [17+?]

☑Y MelanieN [12~]

☑Y GoodDay [7–, 8–, 9–, 10+, 15+, 17~, 18–?, 19+?]

☑Y Cinderella157 [4–, 17–?, 18?, 19+?]

☑Y Wehwalt [10]

☑Y Station1 [7]

☑Y RGloucester [4]

☑Y Markbassett [10]

☑Y Colonestarrice [19]

☑Y Randy Kryn [7, 8]

☑Y AvRand [7, 8]

☑Y Semmendinger [8]

☑Y Canuckian89 [8]

☑Y Qballer82 [8]

☑Y Davey2010 [8]

☑Y SMP0328. [1]

☑Y Jojalozzo [1, 2]

☑Y Bbb23 [1]

☑Y Coemgenus [3]

☑Y Sundostund [2]

☑Y LittleBenW [2]

☑Y LtPowers [3]

☑Y UnQuébécois [3]

☑Y Moxy [3]

☑Y Enric Naval [2]

☑Y Golbez [2]

☑Y Shearonink [5]

☑Y Djflem [6]

☑Y SnowFire [7, 8]

☑Y TommyBoy [7]

☑Y Magidin [13]

☑Y White whirlwind [14]

☑Y Gnangarra [17, 18]

☑Y SmokeyJoe [17, 18]

☑Y Doug butler [17]

☑Y Number 57 [17]

☑Y Timrollpickering [17]

☑Y DIYeditor [17, 18]

☑Y ErinRC [17]

☑Y Frickeg [17]

☑Y David Eppstein [17]

☑Y Peacemaker67 [17]

☑Y Bookscale [17]

☑Y ScottDavis [17]

☑Y Tinman44 [17]

☑Y Editing with Eric [17]

☑Y The Drover's Wife [17, 18]

☑Y Seraphimblade [18]

☑Y Spy-cicle [17, 18]

☑Y Coolcaesar [11, 14, 17, 18]

☑Y Blueboar [4, 7, 8, 17, 18]

☑Y Thewolfchild [7]

☑Y AmYisroelChai [8]

☑Y Slywriter, [18, 19]

☑Y SUM1 [me]

Total: 24 Total: 7 Total: 52
Percentage: 28.9% Percentage: 8.4% Percentage: 62.7%

One confirmed duplicate sockpuppet (10W40 [5], the same as Nine Zulu queens), was removed from the in-favour-of/not-against de-capitalisation column.

This is from discussions I could find, both from archive search terms and the ones from this page, in which the above specific issue is mentioned and the viewpoint of a user on the issue is explicitly stated, or the user states that the title/office should always or always not be capitalised. I did not include support or opposition of different issues or statements that could not confirm whether the user would've supported or opposed this issue (such as viewpoints on the plural form, in which it could be argued that that form is not an official/proper title, or viewpoints on the short form "the President"). I ignored discussions where only the exact same editors as other discussions participated in the discussion and had already given the same views elsewhere, like here or here. I collected 19 discussions in total. The oldest was from 2011, but most were from the last 2 years.

These were:

There were many more down the further pages, which you can view here, but I stopped here.

Of course, feel to correct my categorisation if I'm wrong and rearrange your place in the tally.

I picked the issue that was causing the most strife for the time being. Leave "U.S. president", "presidents of the United States" and other stuff like that (even simply "the President") for another tally. I think the only way we'll be able to solve guideline disputes is to actually assess consensus on a single, bitesize issue.

This is not to state that it should be one way or another, this is merely to provide and collate information on a very disorganised issue, and maybe explain why it's been persisting for so long. It would seem that in this case, the idea that there's consensus for the current MOS:JOBTITLES guideline is a myth, and in fact the viewpoint is almost exactly 2:1 in favour of capitalisation. This seems to be reflected in the ngram link provided by Dickloyd, who supported de-capitalisation, in 2012 [3] (here's a British one for reference) and is against what Mandruss and SMcCandlish have said about it being a minority of editors coming up repeatedly [9, 10]. It turns out that the minority of editors coming up repeatedly were in fact the users in favour of de-capitalisation. Mandruss stated in December 2018 [10], "If you feel that a majority of the community disagrees with the current guidance, you are free to prove it using well-established process. Until you do that, your claims are unfounded."

I may also point out that 99% of the time, the governmental agencies (US, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India – Prime Minister, India – President, or intergovernmental; the United Nations), capitalise the political office in this case, including in the abbreviated "the President" or "the Prime Minister". · • SUM1 • · (talk) 03:56, 16 February 2020 (UTC)

Thank you. Perhaps this issue will finally be laid to rest. Slywriter (talk) 04:01, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
I agree. · • SUM1 • · (talk) 04:32, 16 February 2020 (UTC)

Proportional tags of users involved in current discussion (except Slywriter, who's already here):

Ralbegen Cthomas3 Eyer K.e.coffman SMcCandlish Surtsicna Gog the Mild Dicklyon Woko Sapien Mandruss

GoodDay Cinderella157

Magidin MelanieN Gnangarra SmokeyJoe Doug butler Number 57 Timrollpickering DIYeditor ErinRC Frickeg David Eppstein Peacemaker67 Bookscale ScottDavis Tinman44 Editing with Eric The Drover's Wife Spy-cicle Coolcaesar Blueboar

· • SUM1 • · (talk) 04:32, 16 February 2020 (UTC)

Fallacious misuse of statistics, since all of these were different discussions, in which whether to capitalize or not had varying context-dependent rationales. You've manufactured a false dichotomy in which either every use must be capitalized or none of them may be, yet this has never been the actual discussion. You're pitting two extreme straw men against each other. See also WP:NOTAVOTE.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  05:06, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
Pretty creative, aka desperate, way to spin the question, though! Dicklyon (talk) 05:49, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
It is extremely helpful to have a broad, cited review of past discussions and the various responses they've gotten from people who might not consistently hang out on this page over time, and it certainly contradicts some assertions made in the above discussions that it's a settled issue with support/that people with issues were deserving of scorn and abuse. Many people on the above list might be open to more nuanced positions in the hope of reaching the most broadly agreeable consensus, or may take slightly different positions depending on the context, but this certainly helps inform the way forward. The Drover's Wife (talk) 06:35, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
All 83 people in those lists are tagged. If many of us are not comfortable with which list we have been placed in, there will be a mass of edits of users shifting their names to other columns (or removing the completely) I am comfortable with the column that contains my name. --Scott Davis Talk 06:47, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
Since I was named multiple times above, I'll clarify that I have been known to defend this decapitalization because it's what JOBTITLES says, period. I really don't care whether we capitalize the "preceded by a modifier" case, what I care about is quasi-professional site-wide consistency and low editor-time cost. Therefore it's a bit misleading to include my username in the leftmost list, and I'm removing it.
I took the word of a few editors who said JOBTITLES – all of it – had consensus. I certainly didn't have the time, or the energy, to verify their claims for myself. In the end, the guideline itself must be the final word since (1) many of us have not been involved in the entire history of this issue, and (2) few of us has the time to individually research all the discussions for ourselves. Those who allowed the "preceded by a modifier" clause to be added and to remain for 18 months have nobody but themselves to blame for the instability and strife that have occurred.
SMcC, you can't have it both ways. You say this has never been the actual discussion, and yet it's the actual guideline.
I continue to favor consensuses that are easily verifiable, and that means RfCs on clearly-defined questions and with clear uninvolved closes. I've yet to see such an RfC covering and providing a clear result for the "preceded by a modifier" clause. I find this remarkable considering how easy it would be to run one, and I don't understand the resistance to running one. This really doesn't have to be this difficult. ―Mandruss  07:39, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
Comment - you have me in the right box. Bookscale (talk) 10:28, 16 February 2020 (UTC)

The tally ignores the fact that Wikipedia is not a democracy, which is a policy. Wikipedia:Consensus says: "The quality of an argument is more important than whether it represents a minority or a majority view." Three style guides most commonly used in academia were quoted in the latest discussion. All of them prescribe even more lowercasing than WP:JOBTITLES does. The users favouring more uppercasing were repeatedly asked to cite style guides which support their views. None were cited. What is then the issue with finding that there is a consensus for WP:JOBTITLES? Surtsicna (talk) 12:40, 16 February 2020 (UTC)

I don't think this is accurately describing the other side to the argument; if editors don't understand the other side of the argument this entire debate is pointless. Whether it's framed as overtly as this, editors such as myself see it as an issue of prescriptive vs descriptive language usage, therefore style guides shouldn't be the only guiding principle. For example, the style guide dictates that 'chancellor' is a common noun, so when talking about numerous people who have been 'Chancellor of the Exchequer' it should be written 'chancellors of the exchequer' or even 'chancellors of the Exchequer'. However, this doesn't reflect normal language usage, as can be seen in the (admittedly sometimes misleading) Ngram Viewer results. That's where the issue for many comes from.
I think the question of voting/democracy is problematic though. There are some strong arguments in favour of decapitalisation, but what happens when a majority of other editors aren't convinced by them? Are they weak arguments by virtue of failing to convince other editors and should be disregarded; or should some omnipotent Wiki-god deem those arguments powerful and rule in their favour? In my opinion this a weakness of the Wikipedia:Consensus policy. Because there isn't a right or wrong outcome here, instead being a matter of stylist choice I don't know how it can be resolved other than voting, which is effectively against policy. There is no end in sight and hundreds (if not thousands) of editor hours will go towards a capitalisation issue which doesn't actually matter much. Editing with Eric (talk) 13:54, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
Acknowledeged consensus or an RfC would be great but absent that, I am happy to see a list that shows it's a minority of editors imposing a false consensus, based on an echo chamber conversation. Since they patrol this page, that same minority constantly swats the one or two editors who dare challenge the false consensus at any given time. Slywriter (talk) 14:59, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
But the list doesn't show that. Numbers have nothing to do with consensus building. You have been directed to a policy which explicitly says so. Coming up with more convincing arguments would do more good than whinging. Surtsicna (talk) 18:30, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
My point is the policy doesn't say that. The example is "Richard Nixon, president of the United States" a double proper noun. A different rule mentions non capitalization after "The". Neither of those is an MOS about article titles which by precedent always start with "The". And the false consensus is that "The President of the United States" is not a proper noun worthy of "president" being capitalized. It's a unique position. Only one person holds it as a time and they are not a generic "president". That's the false consensus I am whining about because it is not actually covered in the MOS document that the de-capitilizers point to. Additionally, I have already pointed to a study that shows the lowercase use is a political statement against the presidency that has infiltrated contemporary style guides. Slywriter (talk) 19:03, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
I am talking about the WP:NOTDEM policy. "Richard Nixon, president of the United States" is not a noun at all. Neither is "The President of the United States". The study you cite says that "prominent presidential scholars ... led the nation's intellectual charge to make the lowercase 'president' the rule rather than exception" in the 1970s. It is not Wikipedia's job to reverse academic practice established 50 years ago, nor is it Wikipedia's job to restore or increase deference to the president of the United States. Surtsicna (talk) 19:45, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
I'd just that Surtsicna - the idea that your views have more "quality" than other views, while extremely common among people with views about something in any given Wikipedia discussion, is very questionable, and there are multiple reasonable given views on the issue for the reasons Editing with Eric noted above. I feel like these kinds of defensive responses tend to sway editors with a range of positions broadly unhappy with the present wording towards a position of WP:TNT, who might well be open to try to find some sort of compromise given a different and more collaborative attitude. The Drover's Wife (talk) 20:29, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
But these are not my views. I do not consider myself an expert on this matter, so I do not presume to have views. I am citing those who are the experts - or at least are widely held to be experts. And I do believe that their views have more "quality" than the views of Wikipedia editors, myself included. Surtsicna (talk) 21:00, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
But it isn't "experts" versus "the views of Wikipedia editors", it's "prescriptive style guides" versus "actual language usage in reliable sources". That is something that reasonable people can disagree on, so "I'm right and everyone who disagrees with me should just be ignored" takes are profoundly unhelpful to finding any sort of resolution to this ongoing issue besides inclining people who disagree with you to just want to WP:TNT the thing. The Drover's Wife (talk) 21:16, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
But it evidently is experts versus Wikipedia editors. The usage in reliable sources has not been proven to contradict these style guides. I cited the example of Lord Salisbury, where all the cited biographies comply with the capitalization rules set by these style guides. So do all the major English-language media outlets I mentioned last month: The Independent, The Guardian, the BBC, The Australian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Toronto Star, the National Post, etc. If the academic usage contradicted these style guides, the style guides would not be as reputable as they are; and then the argument would have to be that reliable sources follow some other style guides (of which none have been cited) or none at all (which would make Wikipedia's entire manual of style unwarranted). It is really difficult to have a constructive discussion when one side cites while the other only repeats uncorroborated claims. Surtsicna (talk) 22:05, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
The opposition occurs because it's extremely common in contexts where people start trying to apply the current guidance they wind up prescribing against absolutely overwhelming reliable-source usage elsewhere. There's essentially a pattern that keeps happening over time in this area: the "decapitalise" group swear up and down that this is just the way things are done, then people apply this guidance in specific context, editors in that area do a source review and find that the guidance is overwhelmingly prescribing against actual usage and go "what the heck is going on?", the controversy around this guidance pipes up again and again, and the same people seem shocked that they're meeting with yet more opposition and conclude it's just more people with strong, random feelpinions about capitalisation in general as opposed to people frustrated with prescribing against common usage and demand that their arguments be ignored. The just-closed RfC was an excellent example of this, as a source review of the articles proposed to be decapitalised turned up very different results in many cases from what might be imagined from the arguments of its supporters. You can cite newspapers who use your preferred style, but that doesn't change the lack of widespread adoption of this guidance. (It may well have been adopted in some places because I obviously can't speak globally, and I do note the case you often bring out of one English article where the main sources did use that style, but it is my experience that in just about any given context in my part of the world it wildly prescribes against common usage and I'm clearly not the only one finding this given that the opposition is coming from all over the place internationally.) The Drover's Wife (talk) 22:31, 16 February 2020 (UTC)

As I mentioned before, whatever the community decides (capitalise or don't), I'll proceed to implement. Has the community decided, yet? GoodDay (talk) 16:22, 16 February 2020 (UTC)

  • Thanks for the ping. I am going to move myself from the "opposed" column to the "neutral" column. My opposition was only about the term First Lady, which I felt was basically a proper noun and should be either capitalized or replaced by "president's wife". I was neutral about words like president or prime minister when not used directly in front of the name, and I have been enforcing the lowercase rule since I heard about it. -- MelanieN (talk) 18:37, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
  • I think this is a complicated matter, where some titles should be capitalized, others shouldn't, and there is a continuum of cases in between. I had thought of trying to write a delineating rule. Eg. capitalise when the job is: (1) singular; (2) of generally long incumbency by a single person; (3) frequently used capitalised in reliable sources to refer personally to a single individual. However, these rules of thumb can lead to more complications than simplifications, and can have the unfortunate effect of turning into their own rigid rules. I oppose firm rules, and encourage looking to source use to guide and to justify exceptions. Wikipedia covers diverse cultures, and job title capitalisation varies with culture, and there is usually meaning in the capitalisation. MOS aficionados should take care that they are not trampling natural diversity of English by hypercorrecting variations. The MOS serves a marvelous role, but it needs to be prevented from overgrowing. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 23:13, 16 February 2020 (UTC)
  • Comment: I think de-capitalization has been useful for lists of officeholders (i.e. List of governors of Michigan, List of prime ministers of Canada, List of vice presidents of the United States). I think we should at least stick with lower case when referring to the office in the plural ("There are four living former presidents of the United States") or when not referring to any one particular officeholder, as is the case with list articles. --Woko Sapien (talk) 16:14, 17 February 2020 (UTC)

Inconsistencies is frustrating in this area. I first came across it in the bios of governors of Minnesota, where (at the time) all but two bios used capitalisation in their intros - Governor of Minnesota. The editors who opposed capitalising on those 'two' exceptions, wouldn't comment on the other bios & merely insisted 'de-capitalisation' on just those 'two' bios. In that example, coordination & refusal to comply with consistency across the board, is the most FRUSTRATING thing about this topic. GoodDay (talk) 16:47, 17 February 2020 (UTC)

  • What I think this tally clearly shows is that the current guidance does NOT have consensus. What the tally doesn’t show (or even address) is any consensus on what to replace it with. Blueboar (talk) 02:10, 18 February 2020 (UTC)
    • I think this is the best summary of the current position. The Drover's Wife (talk) 09:21, 18 February 2020 (UTC)
A tally can never clearly show whether there is a consensus. That is because it is against Wikipedia policy to determine consensus via a tally. Surtsicna (talk) 10:52, 18 February 2020 (UTC)
A tally does not tell us what consensus IS, but a tally CAN indicate that there ISN’T a consensus. Blueboar (talk) 14:06, 18 February 2020 (UTC)
No, Wikipedia policy explicitly denies that. But I agree that there isn't a consensus to change MOS:JOBTITLES to either capitalize more or capitalize less. Surtsicna (talk) 15:08, 18 February 2020 (UTC)
  • How helpful such an analysis is questionable. It does not convey the context of each discussion/comment. It assumes that context of usage does not alter whether or not capitalisation is applied. I would agree, therefore, that such an analysis represents a false dichotomy. My interest is in the interpretation and application of the guideline (as it stands) but also in possible improvement. It remains though, to clearly articulate what such changes might be.
    • I would also note some inconsistency within the guideline in consequence of an undiscussed good-faith edit.
    • If the assertion is that "President of the United States" or "the President of the United States" should be capitalised because it is a proper name then one should consider the defining properties of proper names. Typically, English proper nouns are not preceded by an article (the or a) or other determiners ... Because they are used to refer to an individual entity, proper names are, by their nature, definite; so a definite article would be redundant ... However, some proper names (especially certain geographical names) are usually used with the definite article. Where the definite article is part of the name, it cannot be omitted except when used attributively.
    • In previous discussions, I have reflected upon the application of the guideline.[11][12] By Cunningham's law, it would appear that I have got these right. Having said that, I have been researching the matter and might revise some of these.
    • Per previous, we might write an article about an office (eg President of the United States) and commence the lead: "The President of the United States is ...", with the expectation of capitalisation, since it is the formal title and, some would argue, a proper name. However, by using the definite article, the sentence is no longer about the office (with that name) but about the person holding the office. We might argue that using the definite article is semantically incorrect if it is about the office. Others have actually claimed omitting the article to be incorrect. However, we might acknowledge that such a construction is idiomatic and choose to accept both the construction and the capitalisation.
    • Per WP:CON, Consensus is ascertained by the quality of the arguments, WP:NOTAVOTE, and per WP:CONSBUILD, The goal is to find a solution everyone can live with. These are not inconsistent. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 10:09, 18 February 2020 (UTC)
      • Thank you, Cinderella.
The president of the United States has the powers of a mediaeval monarch. Not a proper name. Does not refer to an individual.
The President of the United States is a celebrity politician. Proper name. Refers to a specific individual.
Context matters. Simple rules produce errors. —SmokeyJoe (talk) 10:49, 18 February 2020 (UTC)
And that is what MOS:JOBTITLES says now. That is the middle road. The Chicago Manual of Style, Oxford Style Manual, and AP Stylebook all call for less capitalization, i.e. recommend that job titles such as "president" be capitalized only when preceding a name. (This is practiced by the vast majority of English-language media outlets.) This whole debate is about people rejecting this middle road. Surtsicna (talk) 11:09, 18 February 2020 (UTC)
The President of the United States is a celebrity politician has President capitalised without preceding a name. The President of the United States is a name, and is used as a proper name. —SmokeyJoe (talk) 11:35, 18 February 2020 (UTC)
Yes, it is capitalized even though it does not precede a name; that is in compliance with MOS:JOBTITLES rather than virtually every reputable style guide out there. That is what I call a middle road. No style guide cited in any of these discussions treats "the President of the United States" as a name, but Wikipedia does. Yet even that is apparently not enough. How much more do we need to turn our backs to academic and journalistic practice? Surtsicna (talk) 12:19, 18 February 2020 (UTC)
SmokeyJoe, I am not certain by what interpretation of JOBTITLES you assert that The President of the United States is a celebrity politician? Further, it is hardly a proper name a priori, since it relies on the definite article to be specific. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 23:20, 18 February 2020 (UTC)
In that sentence, "The President of the United States" is an alternative to "Donald Trump", him, and only him, and this makes it a proper name, the definite article notwithstanding. --SmokeyJoe (talk) 23:47, 18 February 2020 (UTC)

Implementation is the 'big' problem. With thousands of bios articles, is it possible to impose capitalisation or non-capitalisation on all of them? GoodDay (talk) 21:49, 18 February 2020 (UTC)

Are we gonna have a Super Duper Rfc, that will settle this entire Capitalise -vs- de-capitalise dispute, once & for all? Where would be the correct place, WP:JOBTITLES or WP:VILLAGE PUMP? GoodDay (talk) 13:21, 19 February 2020 (UTC)

  • Sounds like you want to push a false dichotomy. —SmokeyJoe (talk) 13:55, 19 February 2020 (UTC)
What's a false dichotomy? GoodDay (talk) 13:58, 19 February 2020 (UTC)
I think he's saying that it's too nuanced an issue for an RfC that basic. The Drover's Wife (talk) 23:27, 19 February 2020 (UTC)

It is interesting to observe how the US government itself deals with some of the issues. Regards, Cinderella157 (talk) 00:01, 20 February 2020 (UTC)

We still have inconsistencies. Lower case is used in the bios of US presidents, US vice presidents, Canadian prime ministers, Australian prime ministers (for example), yet Upper case is used for bios of British prime ministers. GoodDay (talk) 16:55, 21 February 2020 (UTC)

RfC MOS:LEADBIO death info clarity[edit]

"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."

Is this guideline clear enough to be useful to a user trying to determine whether somebody's cause of death should be included in the lead of their bio? What I see as a lack of clarity - especially with wording like often none is included - can lead to long animated discussions such as this recent one. Those discussions wouldn't be such a waste of time and effort if briefer, or if altogether unnecessary, given we had a clearer guideline.

Being rather a strong anti-sensationalist myself, hoping always that Wikipedia articles about people will not develop into tabloid-type material, perhaps I have misunderstood the guideline along those lines. If normal (statisticlly) suicides, car crashes, drug overdoses, for example are to be considered by Wikipedia as defining factors in what's notable about those people, then I am wrong in removing them from leads, whereas with a clearly notable death such as that of Christine Chubbuck I would not do that. If a celebrity's cause of death is widely reported in media, and that alone makes the cause of death in itself a reason for notability, then I am also wrong in feeling it should be removed from the lead as non-notable.

I am inviting other editors to chime in here, and to help write a clearer guideline in this detail. --SergeWoodzing (talk) 11:14, 22 February 2020 (UTC)

  • I think the current guidance is sufficient and that this is one of the cases where trying to make more specific guidance across all kinds of situations right across the world causes way more disagreements than it helps resolve. The Drover's Wife (talk) 11:41, 22 February 2020 (UTC)