Wikipedia:AKA names

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This essay, AKA names, concerns having extra also-known-as (AKA or a.k.a.) or alias names to further identify a person or thing. To reduce clutter, most alternative names should be listed further in the article rather than in the first line. Many Wikipedia articles have grown over the years to include long lists of alternate names which have been exhaustively listed in the first sentence, immediately following the main name. Eventually a long list of AKA-names is likely to overwhelm a reader and distract or divert attention from the primary description of the subject.

Per WP:MOSLEAD, the alternative titles of a subject should typically appear bolded within the first paragraph. However, the distraction caused by listing the long or numerous AKA names raises an issue of "WP:Ignore All Rules" because all the extra, bolded names are likely to overwhelm a new reader. Ignoring the rule about listing the bolded titles will improve Wikipedia's presentation of a subject. As a compromise, the extra alternative titles can be listed further down the page, perhaps not even bolded if seen as too distracting later. The strategy is to seek a psychological balance of reasonable text, because if a subject has 6 major alternative or AKA-names, then listing them bolded at the top is likely to seem very peculiar to most readers.

Analogy to etymology of a word[edit]

The long list of alternative names or titles for specific person is somewhat like documenting the etymology or formal origin of a word, such as starting with the Greek and/or Latin words, then the French word, or Old English, followed by the Middle English word, etc. Hence, the format is familiar and easy to copy, as if it represented the optimum explanation of a subject. However in most cases it does not. Psychologists have warned that analogies or listing related terms can be very distracting, especially when new readers begin to nitpick the associated terms or diverge into related tangents tied more to the analogy, rather than the original concept. The most meaningful approach is to directly describe the subject first, then a little later offer a list of alternative or AKA names, to ensure relatively prompt warning that all those names refer to the same subject, rather than let the readers imagine similar names do not identify the same one. In cases of numerous alternatives, aliases, or AKA names, then perhaps link a lower subsection (as "See below: Other names") to more-fully explain all the major related names.

Search-engine summary line[edit]

It is important to note that search-engine results often display only about 20-30 words from an article, and the inclusion of top-level AKA names will cause the summary to omit the actual descriptive text about the subject. A reader seeing only a "laundry list" of AKA-names will still be unable to determine the specific description of the topic when displayed in the search-engine results. Hence, deferring the list of AKA-names until later on the page allows the top 20-30 words to directly describe the subject in a quick, concise summary of the key concepts about the topic.

See also[edit]

[ This essay is a quick draft to be expanded later. ]