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Wikipedia:Naming conventions (common names)

Table of contents
1 Use simple titles
2 Don't Overdo it

Wikipedia:Naming conventions (common names)

Convention: Use the most common name of a person or thing that does not conflict with the names of other people or things. The principal exception is in the case of naming royalty and people with titles. For details of the naming conventions in those cases, see the Wikipedia:Naming conventions (names and titles) page.

When choosing a name for a page ask yourself: What word would the average user of the Wikipedia put into the search engine?

The Wikipedia is not a place to advocate a title change in order to reflect recent scholarship. The articles themselves reflect recent scholarship but the titles should represent common usage.

Names of articles should be the most commonly used name for the following reasons:

  • We want to maximize the likelihood of being listed in other search engines, thereby attracting more people to Wikipedia. Also, the Jimmy Carter page has the string "Jimmy Carter" in the page title. This is important because other search engines will often give greater weight to the contents of the title than to the body of the page. Since "Jimmy Carter" is the most common form of the name, it will be searched on more often, and having that exact string in our page title will often mean our page shows up higher in other search engines.
  • We want to maximize the incidence of accidental links (and reduce duplication)
  • Using full formal names requires, if one wants to link directly to the article, both that people know the full formal name and that they type it out, both of which are a royal pain. If one links to a redirection page, there's the messy "redirected from" announcement at the top of the page.

Examples of common names that should be used instead of formal names are: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton (not [[William Clinton]]), Al Gore, Occam's Razor (not [[Ockam's Razor]]), Julius Caesar, Jesus Christ, Mark Twain. Middle names should be avoided unless they are the most common form of a name (as in, say, John Wilkes Booth).

Names with initials should have spaces after each period as in normal English text, for example, H. G. Wells.

Use simple titles

Remember that a link is the title of the page it links to. Titles should be as simple as possible without being too general. For example, the page about jazz should simply be called "Jazz", not "Jazz music", because "jazz" does not refer to anything other than music, and the simpler title makes linking easier. Adding the word "music" is redundant. On the other hand, country music should be on a page called Country music because the word "country" has other referents besides the musical genre. If we ignore potential ambiguity, the ideal of simplicity can be at odds with the ideal of precision.


A page with a slash (/) in its title is treated like any other page and there are no longer any special subpage features. So the use of subpage notation when naming pages is discouraged. Therefore, contributors have the burden of showing that a subpage is necessary, otherwise articles using a subpage will be moved to a main page. For example, use "James T. Kirk" or "James T. Kirk (Star Trek)", not "Star Trek/James T. Kirk", for an article on the fictional character Captain Kirk. Unnecessary subpages existing prior to this convention are in the process of being moved to their own main page. For discussions leading to the use of this convention see the Talk page.

Don't Overdo it In cases where the common name of a subject is misleading (For example: "tidal wave" would be a misleading title since these phenomenon have nothing to do with tides), then it is sometimes reasonable to fall back on a well-accepted alternative (tsunami, for example). Also, some terms are in common usage but are unreasonably offensive to large groups of people (Eskimo, Black American and Mormon Church, for example). In those cases use widely known alternatives (Inuit, African-American, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for example).

This does not mean that we should avoid using widely-known pseudonyms like Mark Twain, Marilyn Monroe, Billy the Kid, or widely-known common names of animals and other things. But it does mean that we need to temper common usage when the commonly used term is unreasonably misleading or offensive to one or more groups of people.

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