User:Born2cycle/Concision razor

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Concision razor refers to WP:CONCISION-based reasoning commonly used[1] [2] [3] in deciding which of two titles to use for a given article when neither is favored by title selection criteria other than concision. The underlying idea is often referenced by editors in title discussions. For example, BD2412 (talk · contribs) once stated it as follows[4]:

Conciseness favors the shorter title to convey the subject. If two titles are equally good at identifying the subject, then the shorter one is preferred.

While WP:CONCISION is often a consideration in title decisions, the concision razor reasoning is meant to be used specifically when neither of two titles is favored by criteria other than concision. This would mean that neither title is more commonly used than the other in reliable sources (WP:UCN), both are used naturally (WP:NATURAL), both precisely distinguish the topic (WP:PRECISE), and both are consistent (not inconsistent) with titles of related topics. In such a situation both titles are equally reasonable choices. Applying the concision razor means resolving such a conflict by choosing the shorter title.

The flipside of this is that the razor does not apply when the longer title meets common name or any of the other criteria besides concision better than the shorter name. For example, we have California slender salamander and not California slender because the WP:GOOGLE test shows the longer form is used about 50 times more often than the short form, indicating it is the more natural and recognizable choice. Similarly, we use Baton Rouge, Louisiana rather than Baton Rouge to be consistent with titles of other articles about US cities as specified at WP:USPLACE, even though Baton Rouge is more concise. However, we use Laeken rather than Laeken, Belgium, even though we have Haren, Belgium, because we use the longer names in Belgian city article titles only when disambiguation is required.

Counter arguments[edit]

The following arguments may be presented in opposition to using the concision razor.

  1. When the current title is the longer one, some may argue that the status quo title, even if it is longer, should be retained in such cases per WP:TITLECHANGES and WP:RETAIN: "if there is no strong case to change, do not change".
  2. Editors should be polled to determine which is preferred by the majority of the participants.
  3. More weight should be given to the to the introductory terms use by the most authoritative and reliable independent sources.
  4. The more descriptive title should be chosen because it is more helpful to readers.
  5. Concise does not merely mean shorter. A longer title can be more concise if it is more comprehensive.
  6. Concision is a threshold which is either met or it isn't. Something can't be more or less concise; it is either concise or it is not. If the two titles are both concise, then they're both concise. The shorter one is not "more concise".
  7. Often the longer title identifies the topic more readily to the user. To increase user benefit we should favor the longer, more descriptive, title.

Applying the concision razor is preferable for the following corresponding counter-arguments.

  1. The TITLECHANGES/RETAIN position is based on the assumption that there is no good reason or strong case to move to the shorter title. This argument dismisses the argument that better adherence to WP:CRITERIA (specifically WP:CONCISE), is a good reason to change. Presumably, WP:CRITERIA, including WP:CONCISE, reflects community consensus regarding how title decisions should be made. What better reason can there be than to select a title that meets this criteria better than the current one?
  2. Polling for preferences among discussion participants is inherently subjective and is destined to reflect only the preferences of those who happen to be participating. Since no guidance is provided on how to decide which of the two titles to prefer, preferences are necessarily entirely subjective. Therefore, some time later another poll with a different set of participants is likely to result in the opposite choice. This can lead to instability. In contrast, the shortest reasonable and available title is an objective characteristic and will always remain shortest.
  3. As far as we can see, there is no basis in policy or convention to give more weight to the introductory terms use by the most authoritative and reliable independent sources when determining the name most commonly used in reliable sources, or as any kind of consideration in title determination. Those favoring the use of the Authoritative introductory term razor (if you will) in such cases might consider presenting an argument for doing so in a separate essay, or as a proposal at WT:AT. But something to consider is what happens when usage in RS indicates one name, and the Authoritative introductory term razor indicates another? Do we give it a higher or lower priority? Who decides? Doesn't this just provide more grist for the subjectivity, opinion, debate and argument mill?
  4. Choosing the more descriptive title is contrary to policy, guideline and practice for a variety of reasons, including those presented at WP:UNDAB, and because "more descriptive" is open-ended. Almost any title can be "improved" in terms of being made more descriptive. If we are to prefer From Chaos (album) to From Chaos, because the former is more descriptive, then we should also prefer From Chaos (311 album) over From Chaos (album). Where does it end, and how do we decide? By polling participants for consensus that is likely to change depending on the makeup of those participating? This is an unstable method not rooted in objective criteria for making title selection. In contrast, choosing the shorter title is objective. Using the concision razor in appropriate situations results in reasonable titles that meet WP:CRITERIA better than any alternative by definition (it meets concise better, and the other criteria equally).
  5. It is true that concise does not merely mean shorter; that comprehensiveness is also a factor to consider in concision. But in the context of title decision-making, what does "comprehensive" mean? Particularly for titles of topics that have unambiguous names, the title merely needs to indicate the name of the topic; there is no requirement to describe the topic in the title (that's what the lead is for). So if we're choosing between two names, one longer and one shorter, and they are both comprehensive in the context of title decision-making, the shorter one is more concise.
  6. At WP:CRITERIA we define conciseness as, "The title is no longer than necessary to identify the article's subject and distinguish it from other subjects.". If two potential titles both "identify the article's subject and distinguish it from other subjects", then the shorter one is more concise and the longer one is "longer than necessary".
  7. Every single title represents a tradeoff between brevity and descriptiveness. In other words, almost any existing title can be made more descriptive; more readily identified by users. For a quick demonstration, click on SPECIAL:RANDOM repeatedly. In almost every case you'll find an opportunity to "improve" the title. For example:

And yet, we don't change these titles for this reason. That's because the standard for deciding how identifiable a title needs to be is not from the perspective of any user, but from the perspective of a user already familiar with the topic.


Sometimes it is pointed out that conciseness is not just brevity, so it doesn't necessarily mean the shorter one. That is true. Comprehensiveness is also a key component of conciseness. Thus we don't prefer "Clinton" to "Bill Clinton" for the title of Bill Clinton, even though "Clinton" is shorter than "Bill Clinton", because we don't consider "Clinton" to be a comprehensive title, in terms of WP:CRITERIA, for that topic.

In the context of Wikipedia title selection, comprehensive cannot mean a comprehensive description of the topic—the introduction and body of the article are for that. This is exemplified by all of our titles, none of which are a comprehensive description of the topic. It means the title must be complete, or whole; not a partial title. So conciseness in the context of Wikipedia title decision-making means to use the shortest complete title. Of course, the title should also meet the other WP:CRITERIA, including natural and recognizable.

The comprehensiveness component of conciseness is not a reason to use a more descriptive title.