wikiHow:Title Policy

Three Methods:Choosing the Best TitleChanging TitlesResearching Your Title

The title of a wikiHow article is important to help readers find the information they're looking for. This article will outline what wikiHow's standards are for choosing titles.

Choosing the Best Title

  1. 1
    Find the most distinct title that accurately describes the article. It's very common for people to start a specific article with a broad title. Read the article in question and consider whether there is a more fitting title, specific to the article's content:
    • Are the instructions aimed at a particular audience? Example: A page has a title like "How to Apply Makeup" but you notice that the steps are addressing teen girls. Change the title to "How to Apply Makeup (for Teen Girls)".
    • Does the article describe a specific method or software? Example: Someone starts a page titled "How to Draw Clouds" but the steps are obviously specific to Adobe Photoshop. A better title would be "How to Draw Clouds in Adobe Photoshop".
    • Are the instructions specific to certain circumstances? Example: A person may start a page with the title "How to Grow Tomatoes" but the steps describe how to plant a specific cultivar that has unique requirements. In that case, the title should be changed accordingly (e.g. "How to Grow Beefsteak Tomatoes").
    • If you are changing a very broad, commonly searched title, delete the redirect (or ask an admin to). Whenever a title is changed, the old title gets filled with redirect code that prevents that title from being written by others. Deleting the redirect will allow that title to be started by someone else in the future.
  2. 2
    Find the simplest, most commonly searched title for a particular topic. From step 1, you may have a number of title candidates that are specific to the article's content. If there is more than one potential title for an article (e.g. "How to Jump Rope" and "How to Skip Rope"), choose the most concise and widely searched one. There are a few tools you can use, outlined below, which will tell you which title is most commonly searched.
    • If the title that you found already exists on wikiHow, tag the article for merging or, if the article doesn't contain any new insights, nominate it for deletion as a duplicate. E.g. Imagine you come across an article titled "How to Bathe a Cat" but you find that the most commonly searched title for that topic is "How to Give a Cat a Bath". If we already have a page with that title, you would edit "How to Bathe a Cat" and write {{merge|Give a Cat a Bath}} at the very beginning.
    • Don't place a broad title on specific instructions just because that title is simpler and more commonly searched. For example, someone starts an article title "How I drift my car". You discover that "How to drift a car" is commonly searched, but you then read the instructions closely. You might find that they are tailored toward a specific kind of car, like a truck. If so, the title should be changed to "How to Drift a Truck". Even though that title is not as commonly searched, it reflects the content accurately and will help readers find the specific information they're looking for.
  3. 3
    For recipes, try to find an objective description of the final product. Rather than use arbitrary or subjective descriptors like "delicious" or "Grandma's", think of more direct descriptors like "chewy" or "with honey". See How to Handle Recipes on wikiHow for more details.
  4. 4
    Avoid titles that address two or more separate topics.
    • If you see an article with a title like "How to Be Cool and Make Friends" and both of the topics are already represented on wikiHow (e.g. Be Cool and Make Friends), place a {{split}} tag on the article or nominate it for deletion as a duplicate.
    • A title like "How to Pick Apples and Oranges" should either be split into two different articles ("How to Pick Apples" and "How to Pick Oranges") or be changed to something broader, like "How to Pick Fruit" (and then create subsections for each kind of fruit).
    • An exception to this would be if the article describes how the two topics are linked. A title like "How to Hand Baste and Hem a Skirt" might seem like it's talking about two separate topics, but the steps may describe how a person can hem a skirt by hand basting, so a more appropriate title could be "How to Hem a Skirt by Hand Basting" or "How to Hem a Skirt (Hand Basting Method)".
  5. 5
    Change titles that indicate societal instructions. If the goal outlined in the title cannot be accomplished by an individual, a title change might be necessary. If the steps outline actions an individual can take, change the title to "Take Action Against..." If the content itself is broad or descriptive (e.g. "The amount of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere needs to be lessened") nominate the article for deletion with this tag: {{nfd|soc}}
  6. 6
    Eliminate any superfluous descriptions.
    • How to XYZ my way/a better way - Usually what's needed here is a more objective description of the method (as discussed in the first step).
    • How to XYZ properly/correctly/the best way/the right way - It's implied that when someone is reading an article on how to do something, the article is intended to show them how to do it properly.
    • How to XYZ in 5 steps - Since this is a wiki, the number of steps fluctuates as the article gets edited.
    • How to XYZ (written by a girl/from a boy's perspective) - Anyone is welcomed to add to a page, so saying that an article is written by a specific group of people is misleading.
  7. 7
    Use correct capitalization.
    • Always capitalize the first and last word of a title.
    • Capitalize every word except articles, coordinate conjunctions and prepositions (particles). These include a, an, and, at, but, by, else, for, from, if, in, nor, of, off, on, or, out, over, the, then, to, up, with and when.
    • Capitalize prepositions that are used as part of a verb. These include Make Out, Put Off, Get Over, Prepare For, Go From, Get Along With, Be Without, Act As, etc.
    • Prepositions for the above rule also include by, for, from, in, into, of, off, on, onto, out, over, up, with and without.
  8. 8
    Limit punctuation:
    • Symbols create problems with certain browsers.
    • Avoid a period, exclamation mark or question mark at the end of a title.
    • Avoid / and &.
    • Parentheses are acceptable.
  9. 9
    Clarify most abbreviations. Unless the abbreviation is widely used (e.g. TV, CD, DVD) spell out the words and put the abbreviation in parentheses.

Changing Titles

  1. 1
    Write {{title|New Title}}. In this template, where you see the word "title", put the word title; replace NEW TITLE with a new suggestion, omitting "How to".
    • Write {{Title}} when you cannot think of a new title, but still believe it should be changed. Leave a note on the discussion page explaining why you think the current title doesn't fit well.
  2. 2
    Wait for an Admin to change the title.

Researching Your Title

  1. 1
    Research title ideas to determine which phrases are most commonly searched. You can start by just typing the possible titles into Google or another search engine and seeing which one has the most results; this is a likely indicator of the most common/obvious wording.
  2. 2
    Use Google Trends, if desired, to investigate the options further. Click here to access the Google Trends tool.
    • In this example, which of the following phrases is more popular?
      • How to make a website
      • How to create a website
      • How to make a webpage
      • How to create a webpage
    • Type the first phrase into the search box. When the display pops up, click "+Add Term" and add in the other phrases you want to compare.
    • Review the graph of the search queries to see which one has been most popular over time. For this example, "how to make a website" wins over the other results.

Article Info

Categories: Writing and Editing | Policy