Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Disambiguation pages/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2 Archive 3 Archive 5

This is now an official supplement to the Manual of Style.


Judging by the part about there being flexibility in disambiguation pages, can I guess that a strict format of a disambiguation page has been discussed and no consensus reached, thus a compromise was proposed?

I think it is fairly obvious that all disambiguation pages should be at the very least similar, if not of a strict format; this makes them the navigational aids they claim to be. But I figure that, looking at the page, a consensus probably never came about - otherwise the format would be on the page. Unless, of course, the initial consensus was for flexibility... can I please ask which? Neonumbers 10:44, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I'm not sure if the layout has been much discussed, but they all start with a formula like "XYZ may stand for:" or "Xiness may be:", followed by a list and concluded by the "{{disambig}}" template.
For sample layouts: Popular_Democratic_Party (with a bullet list) Altdorf[1] or BC[2] (with definition tables).
Some fields are a bit different, e.g. Letters and numbers, see "A#Meanings_for_A" or "9_(number)#In other fields". For two-letter combinations and TLAs, there is a sample layout at Disambiguation and abbreviations (it dates a bit).
When working on disambiguation pages with meta:pywikipediabot, it's easier if only the terms that lead to articles are wikified, e.g. on Georgia: [3], but if a term is an option on the page, but the link is red, you may want another word of the definition to be wikified. To some extent this is covered by Make only links relevant to the context.
BTW, personally I find those pages where the actual article title is displayed (e.g. James_Kelly), easier to read than those using pipes (e.g. John_Taylor). -- User:Docu
for a diambig with a more structured layout see Nexus. I agree about the pipes. Thryduulf 12:11, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I didn't intend to start a debate on an ideal, strict, format, but i would say that Nexus, though structured, does not make for a good disambiguation page, purely because there is too much text (and too many non-Nexus links). A disambiguation page is a navigational aid, according to the template, so presumably the reader always has a topic in mind (unless he got there through the random page thing), and therefore will not need a complete, detailed description of everything somethign can possibly mean. I have found many disambiguation pages like this, and found them rather annoying, especially when you can't tell the real links from the random links, or the article names aren't bolded etc., and some articles which have completely irrelevant things, let alone things a reader probably wouldn't be looking for.
But anyway, pushing all that aside, I was meaning to refer a very strict layout, that is, somethign that says "first write this, then write this, do/don't make links that don't lead to one of the articles being disambiguated, always/never bullet-point/number/bold/italic the names of the articles, etc. etc.". A successful navigational aid will, after all, be completely consistent, won't it? I just thought maybe there were too many proposals to be able to say that one had even kind of reached consensus — and only if there hasn't will I propose that one exists. Neonumbers 13:18, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I'm not aware of any such proposal having been made, at least during the 4 months I've been here. As nobody has provided a link to any yet, I'm inclined to think that if ever there was one, that it was a fair while ago. Thryduulf 14:01, 26 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Instead of a set of rules, how about just creating a model dab page and encouraging editors to format their dab pages likewise (a template, even)? For every rule you think up, there will be some page which has a good reason to disregard it. —Wahoofive (talk) 06:38, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)
No-one's as yet said anything about there being a previous proposal, so everything I'm going to say from here on is on the assumption that no-one's ever put forward one (and I couldn't find one in my quick scan through the archives of this page), but if there has been a previous (unsuccessful) proposal to have a strict and specific layout and format for disambiguation pages, please say so (bolded so that other people browsing will see it). Therefore, here begins a proposal to unify disambiguation pages into a strict layout rather than having the degree of flexibility that is present now.
The reason I think there should be a strict layout is because a disambiguation page, by definition, is a navigational aid and only a navigational aid. Its only purpose is to direct a reader to the correct page, where a word has more than one meaning. Therefore, they should not only all be simple, but also the same.
I like Wahoofive's idea of having a model dab page; with a strict layout it becomes tedious to explain and much easier with a model.
Not all dab pages could follow exactly the same layout - names of places which apply to more than one place might want to follow their own because there will be no need to give a brief explanation of its meaning (it has none). Likewise with really common names of people.
Also, I don't want to come across as proposing a no-variation type page. I realise the style of dab pages at the moment is greatly varied, so compared to this, it will be rather restricting, but of course there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all. I don't intend to fix wording, only format and layout which are, at the moment, very varied.
This is the layout I tend to think of basic disambiguation pages (for meanings, not places or people) as:

Thingymabob can mean:

This is similar to Mercury (which I have never edited). The reason why the name of the actual article (with the context in parentheses) is spelt out is because it is a navigational aid, so the actual article name may as well be stated. Also, I don't like the idea of having links to other pages on the dab page; they are unnecessary because it is only used to distinguish between pages of the same title. (People will probably disagree with me on this one - I don't guess it would matter too much as long as the disambiguating links are in bold.)
Yes, I disagree. Other links can help to establish the context, see for example Aki. -- Rick Block 14:55, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Entries which will never get an article should not be on the page (relevant because this would not be linked, thus spoiling the boldness of the links).
The same general layout could follow for people, places, etc., but other things would have to be there (don't know what myself). Also:
  • When the disambiguation page isn't the main page (i.e. it is a "Thingymabob (disambiguation)" as opposed to "Thingymabob" page), should there be a reference to the main page in the list or before the list or should there be one at all:
  • When categorising pages as in Mercury: use headings or just (this point also goes for names of places which are actual things too):

Thingymabob can refer to many things.

In science:

In culture:

These are just things I've thought about, there's probably heaps of other things too. The point is, disambiguation pages are solely a navigational aid and should therefore be simple, uncluttered and uniform - and the uniformness to a certain extent (more than there is now), whatever it turns out to be, should be reflected in policy. So, anyone? Neonumbers 11:51, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Rather than policy I think this should be a style guideline, ultimately part of Wikipedia:Manual of Style. I don't think you're thinking (for example) that editors who violate these formatting suggestions should be censured in any way (right?), and I'd be very surprised if you've been involved in edit wars on disambig pages that couldn't be resolved because of a lack of a policy page. I think it's fine to try to develop guidelines for the style of disambig pages, but please don't call it policy. -- Rick Block 14:55, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)
You're right - I wasn't thinking of policy when you put it that way, perhaps style would fit better. I did want to strongly encourage one single format for all dab pages, so that new dab pages will follow it and old ones will get there. So, let it be style.
One thing I forgot to consider (among many, I suspect) is pages that are a synonym of a word with a disambiguation page(thus the risk of confusion). This is rarer, so current style varies more here, but it could be, for example:

Thingymabob can refer to many things.

Thingymabob is also another word for:

  • Objectmabob is a thing that does this or is this or something on these lines. (et cetera)
For people that have the same name, a brief description of their main reason for recognition might be in order, for example:

There are/is (also where applicable many people/more than one person called John Sample:

(et cetera)

A description longer than this (I think) probably isn't necessary)
For places, just the name of the article should be sufficient.
I haven't got a way to highlight the main article where the disambiguation page isn't one. Please post suggestions. Neonumbers 05:29, 1 May 2005 (UTC)
In general, it sounds like you've distilled best practice. For people, I like to add b/d years, because it tells whether a "British actor" is modern or 18th century without having to look at article. I don't like to have links to any other terms than those being disambiguated, just to reduce link clutter, including on "What links here" from the term being linked, and the same links will be in the articles that the disambig page points to. Exception would be dicdefs that define the term enough to see that there won't ever be an article, but it's convenient to link to the general concept mentioned in the definition. Stan 17:07, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

There are a number of other considerations. In many cases, there isn't a separate page describing the item -- instead it's a small part of another page on subject which includes it, or has a significantly different name, e.g. Adonis (disambiguation), Alas, Baccalaureate, Madness, Maidenhead (disambiguation), Madras. On many pages all the items are like this: Tail, Abyss, Back, Mac, Mailbox.

Also, what about articles like Accumulator or Magic bullet which contain part content, part disambiguation?

What about Mackinac, where essentially all of the entries use Mackinac as only part of their name? (later addition: I see this is a violation of the dab policy)

As I've said on your talk page, we really need a separate page to discuss this. I encourage everyone interested in this topic to browse Category:Disambiguation to examine examples of existing dab pages. —Wahoofive (talk) 22:58, 1 May 2005 (UTC)

Several points (some of my preferences):
  • Leading line (this should make clear a list of choices follows and that list may not be exhaustive):
  • Phrasing: build a sentence with the leading line and don't repeat the verb with each choice, e.g.
    Thingymabob may be:
  • In general, use definition list instead of bullet point (unordered) or numbered lists, e.g. BC[4], John Kelly
  • Articles covering the disambiguated term among others: if the entry is dealt with in another article besides other things, e.g. "John Kelly" do mention it on the disambiguation page, e.g. James Kelly which includes those on List_of_proposed_Jack_the_Ripper_suspects and United Parcel Service.
  • Wikification (wikify the item's title and/or the item's definition?):
    • if there is an existing article: wikify just the term
    • if the article isn't available yet: wikify the part of the definition
    • if the item is dealt with in another article, don't wikify the title, unless it's a redirect to the article.
  • Bolding: bold only the article title (note: in some skins, definition lists create bolded text for the defined term), wikification should be sufficient guide.
  • Piping: don't pipe the article titles as you would do elsewhere, otherwise can't easily figure out how the different articles are titled.
  • Use section headers for long lists (e.g. John Taylor
  • Use a see also section for related terms (e.g. John_Taylor#See_also)
-- User:Docu

BTW Mackinac might be laid out differently, e.g. as List_of_places_named_for_George_Washington or with a "see also section". Accumulator (currently an article and a "disambiguation list" should either be split unless there is a way to have a general article leading to more specific ones. In that case and it's current form accumulator shouldn't have {{disambig}} (IMHO).

Tail, Back should really make it clear where one is supposed to go on reading, e.g. as mac and mailbox do. Possibly part of tail could be an article of its own. Abyss could make it clearer as well. "The Abyss" shouldn't be on top of the page. -- User:Docu

First draft

I've created a first draft for this project page. As usual, edits and comments are welcome. I've tried to incorporate most of the comments above, except I'm sticking with bullets (rather than definition lists) because (a) it's already in widespread use; and (b) it's much more compact. I'll mention it on Village Pump. —Wahoofive (talk) 17:20, 2 May 2005 (UTC)

Good work! Even though I prefer definition lists, I suppose I could live with bullet lists (definition had some problems in earlier mediawiki versions).
  • I'm not sure about the tail sample, maybe it should read:
    Tail may mean:
    • Tails, the reverse side of a coin.
  • Possibly, if it starts with "xx may mean: *x1 *x2 ..", the items may not need to be capitalized?
  • The bolding on mb indicates the correct capitalization of the abbreviation. I suppose we could use italics instead.
BTW John Taylor uses __TOC__ to place the table of contents on the right hand side. This way it doesn't lengthen the page (maybe we should include that string in a template Template:TOCright?). -- User:Docu

I don't see how the TOC helps on John Taylor (disambiguation), but I don't have that strong an opinion either way. (I do like that page, however, especially the See Also section.) —Wahoofive (talk) 18:20, 2 May 2005 (UTC)

It gives an overview, but I agree having it on left side isn't needed. JT is a difficult page and it must have been quite some work to set it up, find article titles for everyone, and disambiguate all references to the page. Half of the "see also" is probably debatable (Arms/Gatto/Gilman/Thomas), but I haven't bothered finding out how their names are used in practice. -- User:Docu
Awesome! That's like almost exactly how I imagined it.
In accordance with the supplementary [[Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dashes)|Manual of Style for changes, I changed the hyphens in the b/d years to en dashes.
The sentence fragment (as I was thinking about the other night) works better than a complete sentence in both the lead and the bullets. I'll support that.
I want to take a moment to question the validity of section headers in a disambiguation page, however long it is. I think using "In science:" would be better - though if everyone else likes section headers I won't complain (much).
I changed the wording for synonyms etc from "may mean" to "may also be". This is to distinguish it from the first part, with the "real" articles on the topic.
In longer lists, should we use second-level bulleting, or have the subject names in normal text, i.e.:

Thingamajig may mean:

In science:

In world music:

Do people go on a disambiguation page if their last (and only last) name is the same as the title?
I will add places and parts of names to the project page. (later edit: second thoughts, just places for now, we'll discuss parts of names a bit)
One thing we haven't yet touched on is the order (yes, the order) of entries, which I will place in a new section below. Another thing is how to highlight the main article Thingymabob in a Thingymabob (disambiguation) page. Neonumbers 06:41, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

I don't have a problem with "may also be," except that there are some pages where these synonymous entries may be the only ones, so "also" is unnecessary. (In fact, "also" should appear anytime there are several different categories of meanings, like both people and things.) If the list is short, I don't see why such words need to be separated out -- it depends how synonymous it really is: Is a swarm of fish the same thing as a school? —Wahoofive (talk) 16:21, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

The disambiguation policy says this about partial names:

In most cases, do not list names of which Title is a part, unless the persons are very frequently referred to simply by their first or last name (e.g. Shakespeare, Galileo).

and perhaps we should reiterate this here. —Wahoofive (talk) 16:30, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

As for highlighting the main article School from School (disambiguation), in theory no one should ever get to the latter page except via a link from the former, so in theory we might not need a link to the main article at all. In practice, that would be stupid; but it doesn't need any special highlighting. Maybe we should have

Main article: School

at the top. That would be reasonably unobtrusive. —Wahoofive (talk) 16:30, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

Order of entries

In general, I think the order of entries should follow roughly in the same order as presented in the project page. This is: articles that actually have that name, then articles which have that as part of the name, then synonyms and as part of another article. Synonyms and as part of another article should always get a "section" to themselves.


Thingymabob may mean:

Thingymabob may also be:

I could go on to ask for alphabetical order but I don't think this is necessary.

The purpose of this is to make it look neater (it looks messy if you've got things scattered around).

If applicable, people go just before the synonyms and places go just before the synonyms and just after the people.

Perhaps, though, alphabetical order for long lists of places? Neonumbers 06:51, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

I think you're too obsessed with the title of the article. Whether a school of fish is called a school or a swarm doesn't really matter, and forcing that into a "synonyms" section just because its article title is different doesn't really make sense.
The article Galileo (disambiguation) is right to put Galileo Galilei first, ahead of Galileo (unit) or Galileo (Amy Grant song), because that's the most likely meaning (ignoring for a moment my suggestion above on main pages vs dab pages). This despite the fact that (a) the word is only part of his name and (b) he's a person coming before a thing.
I think we should advise that the most likely meanings go up top, and otherwise leave the order of the entries up to the discretion of the editor.
As for alphabetical order, I don't think that will be very helpful. I can just imagine
but that won't necessarily help me find what I'm looking for, because I don't know whether I'm looking for an article on Foo (Dewey decimal system), Foo (library), Foo (books), Foo (category system), etc. In summary, I vote we say something about order, but stop short of any prescription. Our goal is usefulness, not order. —Wahoofive (talk) 16:50, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

I see what you're getting at, and usefulness is the most important thing. But, I think that that order, for many pages (with exceptions) will make the page easier to use.

The main article always goes at the top, like the Galileo example. There is no question about that. This concerns everything except the main article(s). (Sorry I didn't mention that explicitly earlier)

My reason for proposing that order was to assist with the appearance and organisation of the page. This makes it easier to scan the context words quickly, as they will appear all down one line (within brackets), then the next (before the word), rather than having to filter them out yourself. This makes them much easier to use. Obviously, there will be exceptional cases. But in most pages, this will be beneficial. Compare (scan the lists quickly as if you're looking for the right link quickly and see which is easier):

Thingymabob may mean:

Thingymabob may also be:

Thingymabob may mean:

Also, most (emphasis most) lists will follow the order of usefulness naturally by going in that order. Someone searching for Mercury will most likely be looking for an article whose natual title is "Mercury" and only "Mercury". Likewise, some searching for "contraction" will more likely be looking for contraction (childbirth) than tensor contraction. And synonyms will be the most unlikely searches - someone looking for "tail" is unlikely to be searching for the side of a coin.

Another reason for placing synonyms after everything else is so that it is clear why they are listed on that page. Someone might come along and not see the relationship between the dab page and the synonym article at all - but if it says that it can also mean that, then all is clear.

This goes for "normal word" pages. Places will be places, and people will be people. For normal words that are also names of places, judgement comes into it. This is a very, general order, probably the most general that will ever reach here, but I think it will work a lot, if not most, of the time, so it worth encouraging. I don't intend to imply that all pages will follow this.

The thing about alphabetical order for normal context is completely useless, let us not consider that at all. For lists of places with equal standing (like all those places that have countless possiblities in various states/counties), alphabetical order would help (again, if there is a main article, that goes at the top). Neonumbers 10:07, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

Breaking rules sample

I'd advise against providing an example of a page which breaks the rules. While we want to let editors know that these guidelines aren't rigid, an example seems like too much encouragement. Anyway, Diamond Lake isn't really a disambiguation page since it doesn't link to other Wikipedia pages. —Wahoofive (talk) 17:01, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

You are probably right. Let's remove it. Talk:Granite_Peak has an explication how it's to work. -- User:Docu

Various comments

  • Occasionally it's helpful to provide a short summary of the general concept represented by the topic name, if it's shared by all or most of the topics. Made-up example: Flud, from the Roman flvd, is a word commonly applied to various things that are either fat or purple. These include:
  • Sometimes a concept doesn't have its own article but is discussed in the context of a larger article. In this case either that article should be linked, with a section anchor if applicable:
  • I'm rather against using full article names including parens in the middle of a sentence, but I do like the way it lines up all the links at the beginning. The alternative is to do this:
  • I would like to codify the notion that the list should be ordered more or less in decreasing order of notability. It's particularly important that users don't have to scroll to see a highly notable article strongly associated with the name, because this really damages time to reach the article.

That's all for now. Deco 18:23, 3 May 2005 (UTC)

  • Your computer-science example is exactly what we're trying to deprecate via this policy -- it's too hard to find the link you're looking for, especially in a list where each item is a different length.
  • However, the transistor example is good; the section anchor is probably desirable, although I wouldn't have a problem with piping in this case. I'm eager to hear other opinions on that.
  • Could you provide some real examples corresponding to your first comment? I don't think we're obliged to provide dicdefs or etymology in Wikipedia, but I'm sure there are pages with a legitimate need for some explanatory text. —Wahoofive (talk) 00:27, 4 May 2005 (UTC)
The section anchor idea is good. Neonumbers 10:29, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

Linking to the main article

This section is somewhat related to #Order of entries, but it is somewhat unrelated. It is related in the sense that the main entry always goes at the top.

There are two situations: Thingymabob (disambiguation) pages and Thingymabob dab pages. In the latter type, refer to the section above on order of entries because, they, of course, go at the top.

But, for the former: how do we word this?

The reader probably got to that dab page through a link on the main article page that says, "For other uses, see Thingymabob (disambiguation)". So, the reader probably won't be looking for that, so, it shouldn't (in my opinion) be on the bulleted list. But, it should, as the most likely meaning, still go at the top of the page. So, for example, it could be placed at the very very top, thus:

The main article Thingymabob is about the main thing that thingymabob means.
Thingymabob can mean: etc.

Or, for example, it can go after the first line:

Thingymabob can mean:
The main article Thingymabob is about the main thing that thingymabob means.

Or, someone else will have a halfway decent idea unlike mine. Anyone? Neonumbers 10:44, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

We do need to include this, and I agree that it should be handled differently somehow for the reason you cite. This situation occurs when there's a consensus that the main article contains the most commonly-used meaning of the term, so if the School (disambiguation) page simply says at the top:
Main article: School
that might be sufficient, without needing any description. (The Wikipedia:Disambiguation page calls it "primary topic," but that seems stilted to me.) This would mirror the dab link on the main page, which would say something like:
For other uses of school, see School (disambiguation)
Perhaps we could make a template similar to {{Otheruses}}
Wahoofive (talk) 16:38, 5 May 2005 (UTC)
In these cases, I prefer the format that I used on Hugh the Great (disambiguation) yesterday:
Thingymabob most commonly refers to:

It may also mean:

(or actually, I would use a pipe on those two last links; it seems so much neater. But it seems consensus would be against that.) Eugene van der Pijll 21:08, 5 May 2005 (UTC)
(hope you don't mind that I re-formatted your example as a table —Wahoofive (talk) 21:34, 5 May 2005 (UTC))
Regarding the pipe question, your "river in Tasmania" example does make it look silly. We've been talking as if the parenthetical expressions are always large topic areas such as (chemistry) or (music), but you're right that they are often nouns themselves describing the entry. (album) and (song) are common ones. Would it be too complicated if we encouraged piping in these latter cases, but discouraged it in the former cases? —Wahoofive (talk) 21:34, 5 May 2005 (UTC)
See... I knew someone'd come up with a decent idea (Wahoofive). I'd be behind that idea over the Hugh the Great one... that one's a little round-about in my opinion. Or rather, I'd prefer to have the "may also mean" reserved for a synonyms section (see order of entries above).
With pipes, it would get complicated, but then again if it makes more sense I still think it's worth encouraging. Just be sure to put it in italics (of course). I can kind of see the logic either way, so I'm stuck on that one - but in my opinion complication wouldn't be an issue there. Neonumbers 10:37, 6 May 2005 (UTC)
I take it you're supporting my Main article: School suggestion (please clarify if you meant something else). Do you think the phrase "main article" is correct? That's what people use on large topic pages to refer people to subtopics (e.g. Language). Is that confusing? Also, Wikipedia:Disambiguation#Types of disambiguation uses the term "primary topic" — maybe we should modify that page to match, once this is settled? —Wahoofive (talk) 16:11, 6 May 2005 (UTC)
Yeah, I mean I was supporting the Main article: suggestion.
The phrase "main article" which I think I used first in this discussion: I used it only because I couldn't think of another phrase on the spot. Realistically, "Main article" is probably wrong (confusing). Then again, "primary topic article" seems a bit long. Maybe "primary article" would work, but that's also prone to confusion, though not as much so as "main article". Something to consider is that that way doesn't give a brief explanation of that page, so in the unlikely event that someone does end up there without first going to the main/primary/real article, they may get confused - this is easily solved by adding a very very brief explanation afterwards (e.g. Primary article: Thingymabob — about the planet.)
The Disambiguation page should be modified if the name we finalise doesn't have "primary" in it ("Primary topic" dab is more descriptive than "Primary article" dab, but "Primary article" is more descriptive in the article itself.) Right now though, I say Primary article: School — about the educational institution (or description to the same effect) (and perhaps a better conjunction than a dash)? Neonumbers 09:51, 7 May 2005 (UTC)
This is getting too complicated. The format of the main article link ("principal article"?) should match the others, so if you think a definition is necessary (which I don't) we should eliminate the words "main article" completely and make something more like
Ceres, the Roman Goddess
Ceres may also be:
or just include it with the other definitions. But remember that these pages only come about when there's an obvious principal meaning, so we don't really need to describe it. What's the worst that can happen? Someone will have to click on the link to see where it goes. —Wahoofive (talk) 16:46, 7 May 2005 (UTC)
lol. Yea I see what you're getting at. My worry was about the unlikely event that someone, somehow, manages to end up there without first seeing the main article. This is one of the (few) areas in dab pages I was really stuck over - so if you're absolutely certain that a definition is unnecessary, I'm happy to go with that. I think it is probably more important to have it as not part of the other links than it is to have a definition. And, the chances someone getting there first are quite small indeed. But I could just imagine someone staring at it, thinking, "what's that for?". If we went, Principal/primary article: Ceres (goddess), would that be simpler?
But whatever happens, I think it's important not to have it as part of the main list. Aside from that, I'm really stuck - maybe a third (or rather, second) opinion is in place. (In the meantime, feel free to place on the project page what you think goes, if you really think that's what should happen.) Neonumbers 08:11, 9 May 2005 (UTC)
On the other hand, I think it's really important to have it as a part of the main list, or at least in a comparable format. For Ceres, the difference between the different meanings is rather obvious. However, consider, for example, Eusebius. There have been several bishops and other Christian authors and philosophers, all called Eusebius (often, but not always, followed by their birth place or episcopal seat). I can well imagine that someone searches for an Eusebius, arrives at our Eusebius article, and is not sure if he has the right fellow. So he visits Eusebius (disambiguation), to see if there's a Eusebius who is more likely to be the one he is looking for. If he wants to compare the other Eusebii to "the" Eusebius, what will he prefer:
Main article: Eusebius
Eusebius may refer to:
Eusebius of Caesarea (275-339), historian of the early Christian church
The style guide now says that it's very unlikely that people are looking for the primary meaning, but I disagree. The "main article" is often just another option; someone who is just a bit better known than the rest, but not well enough for people to be certain if they mean that person or not, so we should really present the same info as if that article wasn't the "main article.
(Except, possibly, to note that it is really the most likely option, which is rather nicely shown in my Hugh the Great (disambiguation) example, above. But no-one likes that one. Sigh.) -- Eugene van der Pijll 16:57, 12 May 2005 (UTC)
If you look at the current project text, it gives the option of writing:
Main article: Hugh the Great ( -956), duke of the Franks
and Eusebius could do something similar (btw, Eusebius should go to the dab page, not to Eusebius of Caesarea, but that's not germane to this discussion). Anyway, our break-rules section might apply to Eusebius; in 98% of such cases, there won't be that kind of ambiguity. —Wahoofive (talk) 17:15, 12 May 2005 (UTC)
It's true that the current text allows me to include that text, but it should be formatted the same as the other options; if it's in italic, as in your example, the entry seems less important than the rest, while it is the most important. Maybe Eusebius is an exception, but I don't believe it represents only 2% of the cases. I think a lot of disambiguation pages on people and places fall under this case (but not all, of course). These are the pages I encounter the most; perhaps you visit other parts of wikipedia, and see mainly the "subject" disamb pages?
(About Eusebius linking to the wrong place: it was changed a few days ago. I don't know to whom "Eusebius" most commonly refers; if it really is the Caesarea one, the redir is correct IMHO. Compare New York, New York, which redirects to New York City, even though there is a page New York, New York (disambiguation).) Eugene van der Pijll 19:35, 12 May 2005 (UTC)
I've been looking at disambig pages via Random page and by randomly looking at articles in Category:Disambiguation. I recommend everyone involved in this discussion do the same. —Wahoofive (talk) 21:11, 12 May 2005 (UTC)
You could be right about Eusebius. Ararat is the same way, pointing to Mount Ararat rather than Ararat (disambiguation). I note that one of the entries in New York, New York (disambiguation) is to another disambiguation page; I'll be bold and fix that pretty soon.—Wahoofive (talk) 21:11, 12 May 2005 (UTC)
As for the main-article format, I'm not set-in-stone on my way. I'd like to hear from more voices. Maybe I'll announce it as a "proposed policy" on VP. My informal sampling of Category:Disambiguation is that almost all articles with (disambiguation) in the title just mix the principal article in with the others; a few put it in left-justified text before the bullet list (e.g. Archimedes (disambiguation), Amaretto (disambiguation), Artemis (disambiguation)). We probably shouldn't propose anything that doesn't reflect at least some current practice, which really rules out both your and my proposals.—Wahoofive (talk) 21:11, 12 May 2005 (UTC)
I think there should be some kind of emphasis (or at least statement) that the main/principal/primary/most-common/whatever-you-want-to-call-it article is indeed the main/principal/etc. article. So perhaps, instead of just saying that "A school is an institution for learning" (again, I can just imagine someone who randomly arrives there sitting there thinking, "why is that there?"), say that "The main article School is on the institution for learning. / School may also mean..." (note the capitalisation, I put it there because it is the name of an article, not a word in the sentence - trivial matter though). I've seen this used once, I don't remember where, but I don't know if its practice is widespread or not. There will, of course, be different ways to word the same thing, as long as somehow, it is stated or strongly implied that that page is probably where you came from. Neonumbers 10:51, 15 May 2005 (UTC)

Definition list

Semantically, it makes more sense to use a definition list for a disambiguation page, than it does a simply bullet list. The term itself is bold at the top, and what follows are links to various definitions of that term.

Formatting may be a problem, however. With a normal list, you can start off like so:

XYZ can mean:

But with the auto-bolding of a definition list, it would look like this:

XYZ can mean

Obviously this would break Wikipedia's stylistic conventions, despite being semantically correct. Is there some sort of workaround available? thames 04:13, 6 May 2005 (UTC)

I'm afraid if we force people to do something complicated (i.e. any kind of workaround), that will just lead to many noncomforming pages; KISS principle applies. Anyway, even though we say "mean", we're not really talking about a definition. I mean, if I do a Google search for "define:Interval" (did you know you could do this?) I'd be annoyed if I got back a bunch of results defining it with things like "Interval (music)". —Wahoofive (talk) 05:18, 6 May 2005 (UTC)

It's really easy to do, if you add a definition after the term:

XYZ may mean:

the Xs of YZ
the Ys of XZ
the Zs of XY

For a sample, you may want to check James Kelly or BC. -- User:Docu

Thanks for the examples. I think those are just as good as the bullet-point markup visually, and they have the added benefit of being semantically correct. Can we make this part of the official style guidelines? thames 20:09, 9 May 2005 (UTC)
I'd vote against having this option, mainly for purposes of consistency. The point of this style page is to have most dab pages look similar, and if we open the option of definition lists as well as bullets, we lose that advantage. There are many subjects which wouldn't fit in that format, especially geographical locations, since there's nothing to define. If Lake Placid could mean Lake Placid, New York, there's not much more to say. So we can't do all the dab pages this way; and it's the variations in style that led to this proposal in the first place. Finally, the bullet list is much more compact. —Wahoofive (talk) 22:01, 9 May 2005 (UTC)
I think not only for the sake of uniformity but also because bulleting is currently in more widespread use, that bulleting would probably work out better. In fact, I'd even go as far to say that bulleting would be more useful because it means that the reader can scan the links quickly down one single column without either jumping around or having other text in between. Looking at the examples given, I think it would take more time to decide there because you have to filter the links from the text - and some people might be perfectly content with just the subject in parentheses to go to their desired page: having bullets will allow for both those who are and those who need a better explanation. Being a navigational aid, disambiguation pages should ideally not have too much time spent on. Neonumbers 07:53, 12 May 2005 (UTC)

Definition lists are a "new" feature in MediaWiki (in earlier versions, they didn't work). The formatting is now very easy to write and personally I find they are easier to read, if there are definitions. Obviously, if there are none, bullets are preferable. -- User:Docu


I wonder if it's really necessary to boldface the links, if people really obey the proscription on making other links? I noticed this when creating the "Linking back to the main page from a (disambig) page" section, where it doesn't appear. —Wahoofive (talk) 17:04, 9 May 2005 (UTC)

Personally, I think we could do without, especially if you try the keep the definitions short and unwikified, bolding is just all over the page. Personally, I use Cologne Blue skin and there bolding seems even more imposing. -- User:Docu
I think it would be a good idea - it still makes the important parts stand out. Of course, if people don't make other links to other pages, then they won't be that necessary - but I still think it'd be a good idea. Neonumbers 07:44, 12 May 2005 (UTC)
For a page with a lot of bolding, check out Georgia in different skins. -- User:Docu
Yea... if the page followed other conventions as well (or even without them), I still think it'd be okay; different skins didn't seem to have any major effect on the effect of the bolding. The bolding still made the links stand out from the body text. Neonumbers 11:52, 14 May 2005 (UTC)
Too much bolding makes it difficult to read. I very strongly support NOT bolding the links on a disambig page. olderwiser 12:05, May 14, 2005 (UTC)

An random scan of several dozen dab pages (from Category:Disambiguation) suggests that the vast majority of dab pages don't use bolding. A majority here seems to agree. Accordingly, I have removed it from the project page. —Wahoofive (talk) 20:52, 17 May 2005 (UTC)

Pipes on links

Using Thingamajig (chemistry) instead of [[Thingamajig (chemistry)|Thingamajig]].

To help people figure out how the different articles are titled, personally I think the actual title should always appear on the disambiguation page. Possibly in cases where a link is to an anchor, we could pipe that part. I would propose to update the page to suggest this solution. -- User:Docu

Perhaps I should have said this earlier (as I see you've already changed the text), but I disagree. In the case of:

Secretariat may refer to:

why would it matter if the word "racehorse" in the description is a wikilink?
The reason why I want to use the pipe trick here, is because the text above is an awkward sentence. The closer the description is to a normal sentence, the easier and quicker one can read it. -- Eugene van der Pijll 15:47, 13 May 2005 (UTC)
In fact it was the initial solution and changed without much discussion. Beside my comments didn't draw any observations, so I changed it back.
As for your sample, you wouldn't apply pipes on "Secretariat (racehorse)". Just in case there was no article on Secretariat (racehorse), one might want to wikify racehorse and just in case the article about horses was at racehorse (horse) in that case you would link it with [[racehorse (horse)|racehorse]]. In it's current status, the following should do:

Secretariat may refer to:

If you have a look at John Smith (currently with pipes), you can't decide based on that page, where the article of any on Special:Whatlinkshere/John Smith should link. ("John Smith" may be a too ambitious sample, but it should be possible to do this with shorter disambiguation pages). -- User:Docu
I don't understand your point about John Smith. Why would it easier to see that a link should go to
(your solution) than to
  • John Smith (18th century), mathematician at the University of Oxford, 1766-1797
(my solution)? -- Eugene van der Pijll 13:08, 14 May 2005 (UTC)
It's not so much about repeating "mathematician", but about being able to see the title of the listed articles, e.g. as on John Smyth (disambiguation). -- User:docu

Found a related policy

Wikipedia:Disambiguation and abbreviations. It's only for TLAs, but we should make sure that policy and this one are coordinated. —Wahoofive (talk) 21:21, 12 May 2005 (UTC)

Putting things into practice

Following a suggestion by Wahoofive to browse a couple of existing disambiguation pages, I've reformatted some of them. This leads to a couple of suggestions:

  • Artemis (disambiguation): had more than one wikilink per item; I removed them. It also has a few red links; for these items, I've included an extra link to a page that includes that item; I think this would be a useful exception to the rule.
  • John Smith: I've ordered these people chronologically (approximately), which I think works better than judging each one's importance. Before, it was partly ordered alphabetically by middle name; I don't really like that, as you would typically visit the page when you don't know the middle name. Also, some of the John Smiths without a known middle name probably had one, which means their place in the list could change when we discover their full name. Should a note about chronological ordering be added to the policy?

--Eugene van der Pijll 22:45, 12 May 2005 (UTC)

Good work, especially on Artemis (disambiguation). I'm warming to the left-justified approach. Any reason you didn't link the first word in the main entry, instead of having to say "See Artemis"? Also, "software management" (or whatever it is) shouldn't be linked, but I agree with the link on European Defense Policy since Operation Artemis is a redlink.
I'm more proud of John Smith actually: it's a much harder page to get into shape. It's by no means there yet, of course.
I don't like articles that link their bold-faced name (or part of it), like this, for example: "The King of England is a ...". The blue colour of the link seems to take away most of the effect of the bolding. In your example in the current text,

A school is an institution for learning.

School may also mean:

it just looks to me if the article only starts at the second sentence, as the first occurence of the word school is not nearly as prominent.
About the software package: Project management software is the only location in Wikipedia where this package is mentioned. You may be right, though. It's not as useful as the Operation Artemis/EDP link. Eugene van der Pijll 15:57, 13 May 2005 (UTC)
I'm thinking of creating a WikiProject:Disambiguation cleanup once we get the policy thrashed out. —Wahoofive (talk) 03:37, 13 May 2005 (UTC)
I don't know if that would work. It's a lot of pages that should be changed; you can't really say which ones are complying to this policy, so we can never be certain about how it's progressing; and it's not that important, really. The most important goal of this policy, in my mind, is to have a page to point at when I remove all the useless (according to me) wikilinks from a disambiguation page, and someone complains of vandalism. That hasn't happened to me, but it was the reason why I haven't done that clean-up in the past. Eugene van der Pijll 15:57, 13 May 2005 (UTC)
I'm eager to have a policy to point to also, but your example is strange, since determining which content doesn't belong on the page isn't the point of this policy. If you want to remove John Brown from the article on Brown, you can do it based on the Wikipedia:Disambiguation policy already in place. —Wahoofive (talk) 19:25, 13 May 2005 (UTC)
I meant the superfluous wikilinks as in the example:
Eugene van der Pijll 21:01, 13 May 2005 (UTC)

Artemis (disambiguation): personally, I would include Artemis in the list. This makes the page less dependent on the page title. -- User:Docu

John Smith

It might be easier to locate a person, if they are ordered by country or profession. Obviously, if they are all US politicians, at one point you would need to find another criteria, e.g. centuries. -- User:Docu

Take a look at John Smith now? Within each category, they are still chronological. Eugene van der Pijll 13:20, 14 May 2005 (UTC)
I don't think we should get too detailed in prescribing how long pages should be organized. It will be different in every case.—Wahoofive (talk) 16:13, 14 May 2005 (UTC)
Now that there are sections, I like it much better. -- User:Docu

Wikipedia:WikiProject Location Format

This wikiproject suggest a format that adds additional links to disambiguation pages. -- User:Docu

I've written on that article's talk page that I don't think it's a good idea (for dab pages), and encouraged them to join the discussion here. —Wahoofive (talk) 16:14, 14 May 2005 (UTC)
I believe WikiProject Location Format is a good idea for formatting. Instead of just linking to a city name, it allows users to potentially find out more about the county/country in which the city is located as well as linking to the city. Though the Disambiguation pages are not used for exploring, this format allows users to possibly find other pages they may want on Wikipedia quickly. One example of this format being helpful to Wikipedians is if they are researching a city or area which a certain city is located in. тəті 04:31, May 15, 2005 (UTC)
I think to have that kind of format on dab pages would just be confusing. It adds additional, unneccessary links to the dab page, and destroys the no-piping idea. The chances of someone going to London (disambiguation) looking for Ontario are practically nothing. If they really wanted to know about Ontario, I'm sure most people if not all would be smart enough to look up "Ontario"; just like most people would be able to go through the article page to get to another otherwise unrelated page. Neonumbers 10:24, 15 May 2005 (UTC)

Personally, I'm a bit hesitant what to think about the project in general (I like WikiProject Geographical coordinates BTW). For disambiguation pages, I agree with Neonnumbers and I think the additional links aren't needed, unless there is no article about the place yet. In that case, a link to the U.S. county might be more useful than to the US state.

As many articles are about places in the US, they generally have articles (oddly most of them don't name the country the place is located in, but additional links on the disambiguation page wont fix that). -- User:Docu

I also think that is is unnecessary clutter to add links to items that are not being disambiguated to the disambig page. olderwiser 13:46, May 15, 2005 (UTC)

Next step

I think we're ready to formally make this a proposed extension of the Wikipedia:Manual of Style. How would we go about it? I can't find any precedent -- it seems all the existing supplementary manuals started life as sections of WP:MOS and got spun off into separate pages. Presumably, we should set up a poll on this talk page, and announce it on Village Pump and the MOS talk page. Anything else? Is there a proper template to put on top? —Wahoofive (talk) 21:04, 17 May 2005 (UTC)

I think it's time we put it out too... but I know less than you do about MOS proposals... Neonumbers 09:59, 18 May 2005 (UTC)

I'm thinking there isn't really a standard procedure, so I'm going to make one up. Here's another place to post it: Wikipedia:Current surveysWahoofive (talk) 16:29, 18 May 2005 (UTC)

Suggestions for Clarification

Sections by number

0. (Lead section)
  • --> "Wikipedia:Disambiguation or "dab" pages are (like redirects), non-article pages in the name-space that also includes articles. Dabs are solely intended to allow users to choose among several Wikipedia articles.... (Nothing with an extraneous purpose should be included, since it may slow the user down or involuntarily distract from them from their straightforward desire to find the article covering the sense of the dab-title that, for them (or the editor who contributed the link they followed to the dab page), seemed like an obvious way to title that article."
--Jerzy~t 21:27, 19 May 2005 (UTC)
  1. Leading line
  2. Individual entries
    --Jerzy~t 21:27, 19 May 2005 (UTC)
    • "If the item described appears as part of another page, bold that instead." --> "If the item described appears as part of an article, link the relevant section of that page instead." (assuming i have any idea what was intended by the sentence.)
    --Jerzy~t 21:27, 19 May 2005 (UTC)
    1. Piping
    2. Linking back to the main article
  3. Order of entries
  4. Longer lists
  5. The "See also" section
  6. The disambig notice
  7. Break rules

Responses to comments

Thank you for your comments.

  • Your suggestions for the opening paragraph are good, although a bit long. I'll incorporate some of your wording, or you can do it boldly.
  • I'm confused by your objection to the "Dark Star" example. The Dark Star page is a dab which has a Grateful Dead link. And we need to be cautious about using real examples as counterexamples, so as not to tread on any toes. These examples are obviously all made up. Can you clarify your objection?
  • I've fixed the "as part of another page" reference — that's a leftover from when the style called for bolding the links. Good catch.

Wahoofive (talk) 05:36, 20 May 2005 (UTC)

And in turn:
  • Short is good, i admit, and i expect your shorter version will be better than if i were to try cutting. Many eyes are better than two, so i'd rather wait for you or a third person to do it.
  • OK, i think i see. What's wrong with "Dark Star is a song by the psychedelic rock band The Grateful Dead"? IMO, the example is confusing, bcz:
    1. the live lk wd be a self-lk at present if used on that dab page.
    2. it distracts from its point, sin 3, by demonstrating sins 1 & 2
      1. Use of the word "is" in itself has the effect of encouraging turning any entry into the kind of micro-article that this entry constitutes.
      2. So many unneeded modifiers are the essence of a micro-article entry, with or w/o the "is" and/or lks
      3. And, of course, the lks are unsuitable for a dab entry, which is the point of the (negative) example.
I suggest using instead a ruined version of a real example (by someone who won't be offended in any case):
Flying Circus may mean:
See also:
*Barnstorming, early airshows whose multi-plane form was the flying circus
and then pointing out that the entry should be
*Barnstorming, early airshow whose multi-plane form was the flying circus
Die may mean:
Die (manufacturing), device that imposes a shape upon material, esp. metal
with the correction
Die (manufacturing), device that imposes a shape upon material, esp. metal
(But of course, these examples may be too long in despite my opinion to the contrary, in which case i am suggesting that others trim them back as necessary.)
  • Good, the catch was the point, and i'll now reread to learn more about the proposal (and learn how bad my guess was at the intention).
--Jerzy~t 16:51, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
I put in a correct vs. incorrect for the redundant links part and the first-word part, it probably would make it more clear. I left the examples as the fictional ones, though I don't suppose I see any harm in using real ones if we specify the correct ones (mind, most of the page uses fictional examples.) Neonumbers 10:13, 21 May 2005 (UTC)

So, what was the outcome?

So, what was the outcome? The conversation here seems to have died, but it seems most people supported the guideline. Why hasn't this been added into the WP:MOS? Josh Parris 02:56, 6 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I'll do it over the next few days. I was stalling because eleven votes is a pretty small turnout. —Wahoofive (talk) 03:22, 6 Jun 2005 (UTC)