Wikipedia talk:Technical terms and definitions

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Preliminary discussion[edit]

Originally on the Village Pump

I would like to start to develop a consistent style on marking up technical terms and defined terms in articles (especially technical or scientific articles) to be put somewhere in the Style Manual. I've looked and I see only a few pointers and how to's — no style definitions. Should I just go ahead and add where appropriate in the Manual(s), or has something like this been done before and 1) I missed it or 2) it proved too controversial ? I was thinking of an intro paragraph, a list of options (bold, obique, underline), then perhaps a bulleted list that others could alter or add to until the details are solidified. Any suggestions? - Marshman 18:09, 23 Aug 2003 (UTC)

With term definition lists, wouldn't there be many overlaps in the same sub-field then? --Menchi 18:14, Aug 23, 2003 (UTC)
Maybe I'm misunderstanding your question, but what I have in mind is a guide (in the Style Manual) as to when to put words in oblique, bold, link, or other mark up such as underline. I have my own style and I can see others doing the same sorts of markup in technical articles, but without (at least I have not) a consistent style (One consistency that seems to exist is foreign words). - Marshman
No underline, please, that interferes with possible underlining of links. - Patrick 19:04, 23 Aug 2003 (UTC)
Good point, and that could be part of the "article" I'm envisioning - Marshman

Latin-italics & textbook bolding[edit]

Are you talking about the style of the technical terms? Like those Latin species names? Because most chemistry, physics and other biological technical terms are not italicized, in the first or third mentioning. Or are you thinking of textbook keyword bolding style? If it's really important, it deserves its own article. --Menchi 19:14, Aug 23, 2003 (UTC)

Judging from your example, you mean both. (A simple yes would've suffice for that time being! :-)
Latin species names are italicized everywhere on this planet. So, of course! (I think this is like teaching people how to use comma or question mark. But go ahead and state the obvious. Perhaps we need a English writing manual at
And textbook bolding, well, no argument from me. Currently, we only use it for bolding the article subject and maybe redirects -- which are quite obviously anymore. So, use them for key terms looks fine too. In textbook, only the 1st appearance of a new term is bolded, perhaps something we should follow too. -- But then, wouldn't WP be like ? Perhaps such a system is better suited at ?
--Menchi 19:55, Aug 24, 2003 (UTC)

Discuss on its own page[edit]

Yes, this all makes sense. Add it to wikipedia:manual of style or create a subpage. Martin 22:49, 23 Aug 2003 (UTC)

I can see there are people ready to comment, although I think their questions can be best answered by doing it and putting it out there (then the questions can be real specific). I'll work on it this weekend and provide a link. - Marshman 01:57, 24 Aug 2003 (UTC)

I have created a Style Manual page for what I am proposing at Technical terms and definitions. The discussion can move to the talk page for that article - Marshman 18:09, 24 Aug 2003 (UTC)


Unit Disagreement, MiB vs MB[edit]

I am not sure where this should be discussed, but we have an computer technical issue that needs to be resolved as it is generating confusion. In particular the use of the terms of KB and MB, or kilobyte and megabyte which currently most manufacturers use inaccurately to define the memory capacity of devices. The technically correct term to use is KiB and MiB for memory as it is described using base 2 instead of base 10. The whole debate centers around whether to use the technically correct term that few people use or to use the technically incorrect term that few more people use.

It isn't feasible to have related pages intermix these terms. --Thax 5 July 2005 18:26 (UTC)

Do we want to move this to Village Pump (Policy)? Also, I think that we should use the terms that the company itself uses. For example, Microsoft released the specs in MB and GB, so I think it should be that way in the page. — Ilγαηερ (Tαlκ) 5 July 2005 21:19 (UTC)
Yes, lets move it there, since you seem to have a better idea of where things should go could you find a spot for it?--Thax 5 July 2005 22:44 (UTC)
"The whole debate centers around whether to use the technically correct term that few people use or to use the technically incorrect term that more people use." -- Corrected. -- uberpenguin July 6, 2005 00:30 (UTC)
What I wrote was much funnier though.--Thax 6 July 2005 03:06 (UTC)
Okay, I moved this to the village pump as I was not getting any activity in it's current location. --Thax 8 July 2005 03:02 (UTC)

See here for the discussion. — Omegatron 16:20, 30 January 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]


This page seems to be implying that the <tt> HTML element stands for technical term. I'm pretty certain it stands for teletype, and that is why text that occurs in <tt> elements appears in a monospaced font—because it is supposed to look like it came from a teletype. I may be wrong (I haven't checked the specs) but I'm pretty sure this is the case. Was the author confused or is there something else going on with <tt> that I'm not understanding? Nohat 07:05, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)

What you say makes sense, although I've never seen it called "teletype". If you are pretty sure, then make the change. The article does not put any stock in using <tt> for anything. - Marshman 17:03, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Stubs vs. redirects[edit]

There needs to be some sort of policy on whether or not it is appropriate to have technical terms redirect to related but distinct technical terms. It's certainly very easy to do, and it allows the discussion of any particular topic to be consoldiated in one place, but it leads people to believe that the two terms are synonymous. --Smack (talk) 02:43, 26 July 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I think this should be merged with Wikipedia:Explain jargon and Wikipedia:Make technical articles accessible.-- Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus | talk  00:16, 29 July 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree with the merge suggestion. This is very confusing. -- Quiddity (talk) 18:01, 18 May 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Rare technical term" test?[edit]

It's not at all clear what is meant by this. And the example that is given doesn't seem to illustrate this guideline. If it refers to the way conventional current is formatted, it is in italics, not bold as suggested by the guideline. --Itub 11:19, 24 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Foreign words[edit]

Is this true?

"Higher taxonomic levels are not italicized."

In school, I was taught that Latin was italicized, so "ungulate" ought not to be, and "Ungulata" should. This is in agreement with what I find in The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (The Unabridged Edition) [1], which italicizes (and capitalizes) "Ungulata," but not "ungulate."

Also, is the word "title" used properly in the following sentence?

"When both the classification term and its name form a unified title, they are both first-letter capitalized: 'Family Poaceae'; when they do not form a title, only the name is capitalized: 'the family Poaceae.'"

If so, the rule for titles ought to apply.

Also, I don't understand what the "name" of a term means in this context. Evidently, the "classification term" is meant to be "family," and the "name" is "Poaceae," but "Poaceae" isn't the classification term's name.

Except for the convention about capitalizing a genus, but not a species, I don't consider these rules necessary. They are already covered by broader rules, namely, those about foreign words and titles. Unfree (talk) 21:19, 24 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This is a brief suggestion for a style change regarding the language used to describe the internment of people's bodies. Comments are appreciated. (Crossposted at WT:EJ, WT:MOSB, WT:TTD, WT:EJ, and WT:WTA) -Stevertigo 21:53, 28 April 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Proposal: CS keywords and identifiers[edit]

I'd like to propose a change that came up during a review of a computer science-related article. We seem to be completely lacking any guideline stating how to write about keywords and identifiers. Most journal articles use Monospace font to distinguish these terms (you can make a cursory verification of this by browsing the references at Aspect weaver, for example). Wikipedia enables this functionality with the use of <code> tags. The GAs Python (programming language) and Forth (programming language) (the only relevant articles out of all of WikiProject Computer Science's GAs and FAs) both use this formatting for keywords and identfiers, so there at least seems to be some agreement for this. So, I'd like to propose a formalization for this as a new section below the 'bold text section:

Monospaced text (edited as <code>Monospaced text</code>); used for:

Function calls should include any delimiters as monospaced text. For example, Foo(), not Foo().

I think this proposal falls well in-line with what Wikipedia readers interested in Computer science articles would be expecting, and thus it makes sense for us to cater to that audience. This would also help clarify formatting constraints during GA and FA reviews for those that are less familiar with the subject domain. I welcome any comments on this proposal or proposed adjustments. Thanks. --Shirik (Questions or Comments?) 19:30, 29 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • I believe the GAs Allocator (C++) and Decltype are relevant too, despite not being listed under WP:CS, since they contain source code. I used monospacing in a similar manner as outlined here when writing those articles — this proposal looks reasonable to me. decltype (talk) 19:42, 29 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

One issue that might come up is in articles about mathematical topics that include implementations of related algorithms; an example is binary logarithm. For most of the article it follows the mathematical typographic conventions in which the variable whose logarithm is being taken is formatted in italic: n. However, there is also example code that has a variable named n. I wouldn't want this convention to be interpreted as requiring that n be used throughout the article in contravention of the mathematical standards of formatting in WP:MOSMATH#Variables. —David Eppstein (talk) 19:52, 29 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Good point. I agree that that would look odd. Which reminds me of Stroustrup's approach in The C++ Programming Language: "At first glance, this presentation style will seem 'unnatural' to programmers accustomed to seeing code in constant-width fonts. However, proportional-width fonts are generally regarded as better than constant-width fonts for presentation of text. Using a proportional-width font also allows me to present code with fewer illogical line breaks. Furthermore, my experiments show that most people find the new style more readable after a short while." (Not that I necessarily agree). decltype (talk) 20:04, 29 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That is a good point. My intention is not to override anything already specified by WP:MOSMATH. Unfortunately I do not have my TC++PL book with me right now so I can't see exactly what Stroustrup said to disambiguate between variables in italics and other identifiers. I'll take a look at that when I can. Any suggestions on exactly where the line should be drawn? --Shirik (Questions or Comments?) 20:49, 29 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Literate program also aren’t typeset in monospace. I don’t like the idea, preferring to be allowed to write (and read) about while-loops instead of while-loops in running text, and see code or pseudo-code typeset just as beautifully as everything else. Thore Husfeldt (talk) 20:51, 29 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think what the problem is the above proposal is too aggressive in the change, that is, it encompasses more than what we want. Peronally, I think keywords, in passing, should be in a monospace font, and this is fairly common. However, an entire article on while loops which has half of the article in monospace would be quite distracting, I agree. But in cases like Aspect weaver#Performance where the keyword does not make up for a major concept in the article, but rather just something that needs to be referenced, there should be some standard way of identifying it. Currently, the guideline seems to suggest italics, but that seems awkward. Maybe the appropriate approach is that only the first use of the keyword be formatted in monospace? --Shirik (Questions or Comments?) 21:09, 29 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Note: I do like decltype's example (which I missed since I only checked WP:WPCS) of Allocator (C++)#Requirements where the necessary distinction between italics and monospace exists. --Shirik (Questions or Comments?) 21:13, 29 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Guess I'll put my two cents in seeing as I sparked this somewhat in the peer review. Contrary to my original belief that they should be in italics, I'm seeing quite the opposite view now. The MoS and Technical terms I original stated are based on words that are still meant to be read as part of the sentence while these programming terms tend to have to be read differently. I believe if they are in italics or normal font, then it's just going to confuse people reading due to some programming terms being words that easily fit into sentences so their meaning may be misconstrued. Especially the use of terms like "IF", rather than looking like a code example, it'll look like emphasis on the word "if". But then again, this may depend solely on the writing and how it portrays the word in the first place. My main point, I think there should be a way of distinguishing these terms aside from italics, whether it be a different font or something else. CrimsonFox talk 15:00, 30 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Support With caveat about not affecting math when discussed in the same article. monospace formatting is rather standard in books about programming. --Cybercobra (talk) 03:23, 31 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Oppose There are also plenty of books about programming that do not use a monospaced font, but use (for example) bold face keywords and italic variables, like this:

m:=a[1]; for i:=2 to n do if a[i] > m then m:=a[i]

I find that a lot more pleasant, and see no reason to outlaw it. In particular, it often meshes much better with what is going on in the body text, where you want to talk about the array a or the variable i. Thore Husfeldt (talk) 11:10, 31 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think that's acceptable for pseudocode and personally wouldn't oppose a proviso exempting pseudocode from being monospaced. --Cybercobra (talk) 23:32, 31 January 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I agree with the provision for pseudocode, but I think when you start to try to discuss keywords in-line in text it becomes difficult to comprehend if they don't stand out in some manner, and bold isn't really an option in my opinion because that already has several other meanings and gives an undue strength to the word that offsets the other text. --Shirik (Questions or Comments?) 05:30, 1 February 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What are we going to do with this page?[edit]

The Styleguide Taskforce is currently auditing three very similar styleguides:

I'm sorry to be blunt, but I find this "styleguide" contains nothing much substantive that does not appear in other styleguides (Legal, Biology, Italics, Bold, MoS main page). I wonder whether the opening is helpful to editors; i.e., does it state the obvious?

I'm struggling to come to terms with the convoluted rules for bolding, italics and bold italics. Apart from a few examples that are expressed in other styleguides, there appear to be a number of rules that are not generally practised or known by WP editors; forgive my directness, but some of these points seem to be alternatives to other standard practices; I have not seen them mentioned at WP:FAC, where it is mandatory to apply these rules.

For example:

"Although it is standard practice in text books to put in italics or bold font those words likely to be new to the reader only the first time the word appears, it is helpful to the learning process if newly defined terms that reappear are rendered in italic font elsewhere in a Wikipedia article."

I have no idea what this means:

"It is also the case that such an article can cover a range of related subjects that might not each justify a separate article or Wikipedia page, and therefore making technical terms stand out in the text is the first level in a sequence from definition to subtitle to separate article."

Nor this:

"On the other hand, do not treat every “scientific” word as a technical term. Ask the question: Is this the only article or one of a very few where the term might be encountered in Wikipedia?"

This styleguide seems to make the whole business of technical language impenetrable, even for experts. In the interests of rationalising our complicated and bloated system of styleguides, can anyone explain why this page should not be deleted? I mean no offense to editors who have contibuted to this page; please regard this proposal as in good faith. I am prepared to debate these matters and learn from editors here. Tony (talk) 10:08, 1 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I think the most important question. Does any article use this MOS ? I've check out Central processing unit , Heart bypass and Constitution. None seem to be using it. Mark as historical? Gnevin (talk) 17:50, 1 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
As Piotrus and I said above, merge please. Note that Gnevin has redirected (merged?) the page Wikipedia:Explain jargon to here.
I have no strong opinion on which title/location we want to merge them to, but a single location is definitely wanted. -- Quiddity (talk) 19:59, 1 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
But in this section under the bullet point "Use jargon and acronyms judiciously", it sends reader back to here. Surely it means that this page explains that point in detail? OhanaUnitedTalk page 06:06, 3 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • The questions I have raised have not been answered. The lead is bloated and "has a bet each way". There are signs that this is not coordinated with the other styleguides. There is large-scale repetition of what is in them. The MoS needs to be rationalised, and these three so-called guidelines all had problems, and—frankly—said not enough to justify being on an entirely separate page. The aim is to make it easier for editors to learn about WP style, from far fewer pages, and to rationalise bloat. I am sorry to be rude, but this page is bloated; it looks like much of it has been written to be self-justifying as a separate styleguide. This is the very opposite of what we need. Now, user Rschen7754 has been busy reverting, so now we are back to square one. Is there WP:OWNERSHIP going on here? I can't imagine why this user and others have not yet engaged in substantive debate about why this should remain, and why the subsection I added to the main MoS a few days ago doesn't say it all. Please justify the separate fragmentation that currently exists, or cooperate with the styleguide audit. Tony (talk) 03:19, 4 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    • There is WP:OWN going on here on your side. You're not giving enough time for appropriate discussion - you're just going ahead and merging guideline after guideline without letting the general Wikipedia editors affected by all this comment. --Rschen7754 03:40, 4 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
      • Calm down: what exactly is the Styleguide Taskforce owning? If anything, the push to rationalise the whole sprawling mess of styleguides that is upsetting editors and weakening the function of style guidance on WP. I still note that there are no substantive arguments for keeping this as a separate, fragemented page. Please take a look at the new Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Technical_language section in MoS main page; it was put there as an efficient way of presenting what substantive information there is on this page (little, I believe). I ask that you point out what is missing from that section. Tony (talk) 03:52, 4 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
        • I oppose any precipitate merge without discussion. The so-called and self-appointed "taskforce" has no particular authority. I do not find this page of such limited value. DES (talk) 03:54, 4 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
        • You are owning the entire MOS. You are making drastic changes that affect the entirety of Wikipedia articles without appropriate discussion. Your taskforce does not carry any authority. --Rschen7754 03:59, 4 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Would you mind putting that claim—that I am owning the whole of MOS—to the host of regular editors at WT:MOS, or better, why not take it to WP:ANI? Now, instead of personalising the matter, we are still waiting for substantive argument as to what is missing from the new MoS main-page section. Such an argument is essential if we are to improve that new subsection (if that is necessary and there is consensus), and rationalise the styleguide structure. Can you please participate? Tony (talk) 04:08, 4 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    I have a concrete suggestion. I agree with Tony that the page seems redundant; but I'm open to discussion. Will those who want to keep this page name one thing on it that is not covered elsewhere? As far as I can tell it is all covered at WP:MOSTEXT. Ozob (talk) 02:33, 5 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Comment - As an other member of the "so-called [...] self-appointed" Task Force, I agree that this page is at least redundant, if not potentially misleading and in open contradiction with the other MoSes. BTW, neither Fern nor circinate vernation use bold italics, FWIW. See also my comments here regarding the related page (now "(merged?)", as pointed out by Quiddity above) --Jubileeclipman 07:48, 5 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Proposed demote to historical[edit]

I propose we demote this page to historical. There has been little editting in the past two years and more important I can't find one page that follows this MOS Gnevin (talk) 12:48, 4 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

As predictable, I agree with Gnevin. I ask that editors who have contributed to this page take a big-picture view of the service that the MoS styleguides offer editors, and ultimately readers, of the most important information site in the world. Again, is there anything from here that needs to be added to the new MoS main-page section added last week? Tony (talk) 08:18, 5 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I too agree with this approach and the rationale behind it (per my comment above). The guideline was perhaps useful at some point but is now of no obvious use. Any one strongly disagree? --Jubileeclipman 10:46, 5 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Addendum - The recent discussion about monospaced fonts should be taken into consideration, however, so there may be valid reasons to oppose this --Jubileeclipman 10:56, 5 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If there are no objections in the next few days, then I'll go ahead and mark the page historical. There's no need to merge, since all its content seems to be covered elsewhere. Ozob (talk) 11:43, 6 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The benefit of merging&redirecting, vs marking historical, is that this would result in one less page for people to stumble-upon and be confused by. (whether via categories or searches) -- Quiddity (talk) 20:16, 6 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
In that case it might be better to just turn this page into a redirect to an appropriate section of the MoS. Ozob (talk) 02:46, 7 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The page could be folded into MOS, but I suggest we check how many pages may be folded into MOS before moving any.
In either case, I think the content can be rationalised:

Wouldn't it make more sense to tag this with {{failed}} instead? -- œ 04:42, 28 July 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It should be merged to Wikipedia:Manual of Style (text formatting) and any relevant styleguides, and redirected to Wikipedia:Make technical articles understandable. This page was a styleguide page until April 1, which is when Gnevin deleted all the content at Wikipedia:Explain jargon stating in the edit summary "merge to Wikipedia:Technical_terms_and_definitions" (however no content was actually added here then, so it also needs to be properly merged somewhere).
Merging and redirecting makes for one less page that people will stumble across and be confused by. (but just deleting the content, and then redirecting, is not good). -- Quiddity (talk) 05:30, 28 July 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  1. ^ Library of Congress number 67-12237