Wikipedia:Consistency in article titles

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Wikipedia:Article titles states as its fifth naming criterion, after recognizability, naturalness, precision, and conciseness:

Many of these patterns are listed (and linked) in the box of Topic-specific conventions on article titles, to the right. In determining the appropriate title for that article, editors should consult the topic-specific conventions that are relevant to a particular article. This essay collects general examples of applications of title consistency that have been widely accepted by the community in various discussions, as well as exceptions that have also been widely accepted by the community. It should not be read in a way that overrides any topic-specific convention, but it may be helpful where existing conventions do not address consistency.

General description and purpose[edit]

Consistency in titles means that titles for the same kind of subject should not differ in form or structure without good reason. Where multiple titles are available, and where titles are equally usable in terms of recognizability, naturalness, preciseness, and conciseness, then the title to be used should be consistent with titles used for similar or related topics in Wikipedia.

Title consistency is useful because it makes it easier for readers to find articles on similar subjects by searching with terms or presentation used in article on similar subjects. As a whole, it makes the encyclopedia appear more professional and less haphazard. Having consistent titles also makes it easier for articles to be checked by bots that search for articles by title, and to use certain templates that generate collections of related titles. WP:TITLECHANGES notes that an article title should not be changed if "there is no good reason to change it"; because of the benefits of having consistent titles for similar subjects, making a title more consistent with other titles in the same field is a "good reason" for a title change.

Field-specific conventions[edit]

Some standards exist for naming subjects within a given field of related topics. For example:

Within the context of these projects, titles that are specific to these projects should be consistent with these conventions. It must be noted, however, that some topics are of importance to multiple fields, and may have titles reflecting the conventions of only one of those fields. For example:

  • Wolverine (character) is a character originating in comic books. Generally, such characters use the disambiguator "(comics)", but in this case the community has determined that the use of the character in other media is broad enough to justify the more general disambiguator, "character".

A topic-specific convention may require the use of less common or less concise names for certain topics in order to maintain consistency within the field. For example, pursuant to Wikipedia:Naming conventions (royalty and nobility), titles used for members of royal families incorporate certain formalities, so that we have Charles, Prince of Wales rather than the more common and more concise Prince Charles, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge rather than the more common and more concise Kate Middleton.

Relationship between consistency and other considerations[edit]

Consistency is only one of several title considerations, and it generally falls below several other considerations in the hierarchy of title determination.

Inconsistency resulting from inconsistent common or recognizable names within a field[edit]

It would be easy to consistently name all of the articles on the legislative branches of various countries, "Legislature of [Country]". These bodies, however, have a wide variety of official names that are more well known and more widely used, and are therefore the common name, and most recognizable name, of the entity. Therefore, we generally use the titles that are the most common and recognizable names, even if they are inconsistent:

Some articles on animals and plants use the well-known vernacular names of the subjects:

However, other articles lack a well-known vernacular name, and are therefore identified by their scientific name:

Although it would be easy to consistently use the scientific name for every species of plant or animal, this is outweighed by the preference for having the most common, recognizable, and natural name in each case.

Inconsistency resulting from primary topic determinations[edit]

If a topic is found to be the primary topic for a title (or if a title is found to have no primary topic), then a second topic that happens to share that title can not use that title, even if this would enable the second topic to be more consistent with other articles in its field. For example:

All titles for articles on Madonna albums would be consistent if they had no disambiguator, but this can not be done because, for example, Music is already a primary topic. It would be easy to consistently title all Madonna albums with the disambiguator "(Madonna album)", but this would result in moving titles away from their existing primary topic title, and in making these titles less natural and less concise.

Note that this kind of inconsistency does not affect the consistent application of primary topic determinations to subtopics of a primary topic, as discussed below.

Topics and subtopics[edit]

Consistent application of primary topic determinations[edit]

Where a topic has been determined to be the primary topic of a term, subtopics should follow that primary topic determination. For example, the primary topic of the term "China" has been determined to be the Asian country formally titled "The People's Republic of China", the primary topic of "Florida" has been determined to be the U.S. State, and the primary topic of "Paris" has been determined to be the city in France. Therefore, despite the existence of other topics sharing the name (like the "Republic of China", "Florida, Uruguay", and "Paris, Texas", titles for subtopics relating to these places should be at "Football in China", "Government of Florida", and "History of Paris", and not at "Football in the People's Republic of China", "Government of Florida (United States)", and "History of Paris, France".

As noted above, the common name of a national legislature or military is likely to be the formal name of that body. Although we have Armed Forces of Guatemala and Armed Forces of Turkmenistan, the title Armed Forces of the United Kingdom redirects to the common name, British Armed Forces. Where a subtopic does not have a distinct common name, the title should be at a name consistent with the common name of the topic; for example, Football in China, not Football in the People's Republic of China.

This is applicable to any field for which a primary topic of a term can be determined. For example:

Consistent use of common name for subtopics[edit]

Titles of subtopics should be consistent with the names of topics associated with them. Where a title has been determined to be the common name of a term, then subtopics of that topic should generally follow the same common name determination. For example:

An exception to this rule is where a specific subtopic has its own common name, which is therefore likely to be the more natural or recognizable title. For example:

Use shorter forms for unambiguous subtopic names[edit]

Where a topic has a long or disambiguated title, and a shorter form or abbreviated form of that title is recognizable when used in context, unambiguous subtopics of that topic commonly use the shorter form or abbreviated form for conciseness and naturalness. For example:

Disambiguated titles
Abbreviated titles

Note also that an ambiguous topic can have both ambiguous and unambiguous subtopics. If a subtopic is unambiguous, then the disambiguator can be removed for the subtopic article. For example, Georgia is a disambiguation page, due to the existence of both Georgia (country) and Georgia (U.S. state). Therefore, Government of Georgia is also a disambiguation page, because both Georgia (country) and Georgia (U.S. state) will be expected to have a government. The article on the government for the U.S. state is at Government of Georgia (U.S. state). However, we have Georgia in the American Revolution, not Georgia (U.S. state) in the American Revolution, because readers will expect that an article discussing "Georgia" in the American Revolution will be about the Georgia that was geographically connected to that event. See also Talk:Georgia in the American Civil War‎#Requested move.

Application of WP:ENGVAR[edit]

WP:ENGVAR supports having regionally appropriate spellings. We therefore do not change titles so that all consistently use one regional spelling or wording. For example:

Note, however, that where it is possible to use terms commonly recognized in different English-speaking countries, articles from all such countries may be consistently titled using that wording. For example:

Use consistent descriptive titles[edit]

In some cases, descriptive titles are invented specifically for article, because they most effectively convey the contents of the article. Furthermore, some templates are designed to automatically link to a family of articles using such a descriptive name. For example, the regional topic template, {{Europe topic|Agriculture in}} will generate:

Note that it is able to do this because the linked topics are consistently titled "Agriculture in" followed by the name of each country. In some cases, where such an article does not exist, the title is redirected to an article containing that information; however, the title is available if the article is made in the future. In this case, use of consistent titles has the added benefit of causing the titles for missing topics to show up as redlinks, making it immediately apparent that articles may need to be written on these topics.

Consistency and disambiguation[edit]

Use consistent disambiguators for similar kinds of topics[edit]

Disambiguators should also be consistent when used for the same kinds of titles.

For example, the terms "surname", "given name", and "family name" could all be used to indicate that an article is about the portion of a name that reflects a person's ancestry. However, historically, these articles have used "(surname)" as a disambiguator. This term is also more concise, and is more precise because it avoids some potential ambiguity (in some cultures, the surname comes before the given name, and therefore is not "last"; sometimes people change names, so that they have a chronologically "first" and "last" surname; sometimes a given name is used in several generations of the same family, and is considered a "family name"). Therefore, the universal convention in Wikipedia is that all articles about this portion of a name use "(surname)" as a disambiguator where a disambiguator is needed. If an article on a surname is created at a title using "(last name)" as a disambiguator, it should be moved to a title using "(surname)" as a disambiguator. See Talk:Mikhaylovsky (surname)‎#Requested move.

The terms "film", "movie", and "motion picture" could all be used as disambiguators, but the convention set forth at Wikipedia:Naming conventions (films)#Disambiguation states, "[i]f the film is not the primary topic, name its article after the film's title with "(film)" added at the end". Although this may arguably be a more ambiguous term, given the many meanings of film, circumstances where confusion is likely are rare, and it is more concise. This disambiguator is used even where a work could be identified by its genre or year of release; where two films, we consistently disambiguate them by using the year of release followed by the word "film". Similar principles apply to other kinds of media using common disambiguators, such as albums, songs, books, and TV series.

For example:

Some other very commonly used disambiguators include: "(song)" for songs, "(album)" for recorded albums, "(TV series)" for television series, "(band)" for music groups composed of people who play instruments, "(group)" for music groups composed of only vocal artists, and "(novel)" for long written fiction.

Disambiguators for subjects significant in multiple fields[edit]

Although individual projects may develop their own standards for naming subjects within a given field, it must be noted that some topics are of importance to multiple fields, and may have a disambiguator only reflecting one of those fields.

For example:

  • John Davies (swimmer) was an Olympic swimmer, and later a United States federal judge. The disambiguator for this article is "(swimmer)" although "(judge)" would also apply; in theory, "(swimmer and judge)" could also be used, but would be unnecessarily lengthy.
  • John Davies (poet) was also Attorney General for Ireland, and was influential in both roles, but is of most interest as a poet.
  • Jimmy Williams (coach) was both a baseball player and a baseball coach, but he is most notable as a coach.

The selection of a field for the disambiguator is case-specific, and depends on the same issues of primary usage as other titling issues.

Don't add unnecessary disambiguators simply for consistency[edit]

Parenthetical disambiguation should not be used simply to create a consistent "look" with similar articles. For example, Georgia (U.S. state) and Washington (state) have disambiguators because neither is primary topic for its name, and New York (state) is disambiguated from New York City in some contexts. The other 47 US states are the primary topics for their titles, so titles like Montana (U.S. state) or Arkansas (state), while acceptable as redirects, would not be good choices for article titles.