From Electrical Engineering TA Handbook
This page contains an overview on issues related to limits on article size, which are set by:
- reader issues, such as readability, organization, information saturation, attention spans, etc.
- editor issues, for example talkpage tensions, arguments over trivial contributions, debates on how to split up a large article, etc.
- contribution issues, such as articles stop growing significantly once they reach a certain size – this does not imply, however, that there is no more information on the topic to be contributed
- technical issues, for example, browser limitations, upload speeds, cellular connections, etc.
Each Wikipedia article is in a process of evolution and is likely to continue growing. Other editors will add to articles when you are done with them. This is not a problem, because for most practical purposes, Wikipedia has unlimited storage space, but long articles may be more difficult to read and navigate.
An article longer than one or two pages when printed should be divided into sections to ease navigation (see the Manual of Style and Wikipedia:Layout for guidance). For most long articles, division into sections is natural anyway; but even if there is no "natural" way to split a long list or table, many editors believe that it should be done to allow easier navigation and per-section editing.
Readers may tire of reading a page much longer than about 6,000 to 10,000 words, which roughly corresponds to 30 to 50 KB of readable prose. If an article is significantly longer than that, it may benefit the reader to move some sections to other articles and replace them with summaries (see Wikipedia:Summary style). One rule of thumb is to begin to split an article into smaller articles after the readable prose reaches 10 pages when printed. Articles that cover particularly technical subjects should, in general, be shorter than articles on less technical subjects.
For stylistic purposes, only the main body prose<ref name="exact_list">Specifically, for stylistic purposes, readable prose excludes: External links, Further reading, References, Footnotes, See also, and similar sections; Table of contents, tables, list-like sections, and similar content; and markup, interwiki links, URLs and similar formatting. To quickly estimate readable prose size, click on the printable version of the page, select all, copy, paste into an edit window, delete remaining items not counted in readable prose, and hit preview to see the page size warning.</ref> (excluding links, see also, reference and footnote sections, and lists/tables) should be counted, since the point is to limit the size of the main body of prose.
What is and is not included as "readable prose"
"Readable prose" is the main body of the text, excluding sections such as:
- Footnotes and reference sections ("see also", "external links", footnotes, bibliography, etc)
- Diagrams and images
- Tables and lists
- Wikilinks and external URLs
- Formatting and mark-up.
A more exact list, and a means of calculating readable prose, is given in the notes.<ref name="exact_list" />
Two exceptions are lists and articles summarizing certain fields. These act as summaries and starting points for a field and in the case of some broad subjects or lists either do not have a natural division point or work better as a single article. In such cases, the article should nonetheless be kept short where possible. Major subsections should use summary style where a separate article for a subtopic is reasonable, and the article should be written with greater than usual attention to readability.
Readers of such articles will usually accept complexity provided the article is well written, created with a sensible structure and style, and is an appropriate length for the topic. Most articles do not need to be excessively long, but when a long or very long article is unavoidable, its complexity should be minimized. Readability is still the key criterion.
In the past, because of some now rarely used browsers, technical considerations prompted a strong recommendation that articles be limited to a maximum of precisely 32 KB in size, since editing any article longer than that would cause severe problems.<ref>Some multi-line text box controls, used by browsers to show the edit page, have a hard coded limit of 32kB</ref> With the advent of the section editing feature and the availability of upgrades for the affected browsers, this once hard and fast rule has been softened and many articles now exist which are over 32 KB of total text size.
Even so, the total article size should be kept reasonably low, because there are many users that edit from low-speed connections. Connections to consider include dial-up connections, smartphones, and low-end broadband connections. The text on a 32 KB page takes about 5 seconds to load for editing on a dial-up connection, with accompanying images taking additional time, so pages significantly larger than this are not recommended.
Mobile browsers can be a problem because these devices usually have little memory and a slow CPU; long pages can take too much time to process, if they can be fully loaded at all. Current mobile browsers and some older PC web browsers cannot correctly edit long pages because they crop the source text to 32 KB. When using slow connections, e.g., a desktop computer with an analog modem dial-up or the wireless connection of some mobile devices, long articles can take too much time to load.
Very long articles
With some web browsers with certain plug-ins running in certain environments, articles over 400 KB may not render properly or at all. If possible, such very large articles should be split. If possible, split the content into logically separate articles. If necessary, split the article arbitrarily. Avoid arbitrarily splitting mainspace articles unless there is a demonstrated technical problem loading the page on at least one major browser. If you do split an article arbitrarily, be careful to link the resulting parts to each other. For non-mainspace articles, consider splitting off the top and bottom parts of the article and transcluding them into the split parts. See Wikipedia:List of missing journals for an example of an arbitrary split with a transcluded top part. Be careful with transclusion in mainspace articles, as it may confuse inexperienced editors who make subsequent edits.
Web browsers which have problems with long articles
This last issue has been found in versions of Netscape Navigator up to 4.76 (discontinued, the final build was 184.108.40.206) and Opera up to version 6.04 (the latest version is 9.5). No other Microsoft Windows browsers are known to be affected. More recent versions should not have this problem. No versions of Internet Explorer for the Mac are affected. However, the early iMac G3 (1998 to 1999) is affected by the 32 KB limit; for example, an iMac G3 with OS 8.6 using Internet Explorer 5.1 can only copy and paste or display 32 KB in an editing box.
Under certain environments, Firefox 2.0 and Internet Explorer 6 are known to have difficulty loading articles over about 400 KB.
For notes on unrelated problems that various web browsers have with MediaWiki sites, and for a list of alternative browsers you can download, see Wikipedia:Browser notes.
Splitting an article
Template:Shortcut Template:Main Template:Details When you split a section from a long article into an independent article, you should leave a short summary of the material that is removed along with a pointer to the independent article. In the independent article, put the Template:T1 or Template:Tl tag on the talk page to create a banner that refers back to the main article.
To conform with §4(I) of the GFDL, the new page should be created with an edit summary noting "split content from [[article name]]". (Do not omit this step or omit the page name.) A note should also be made in the edit summary of the source article, "split content to [[article name]]", to protect against the article subsequently being deleted and the history of the new page eradicated.
No need for haste
Do not take precipitous action the very instant an article exceeds 32 KB overall. There is no need for haste, and the readable prose size should be considered separately from references and other overhead. Discuss the overall topic structure with other editors. Determine whether the topic should be treated as several shorter articles and, if so, how best to organize them. Sometimes an article simply needs to be big to give the subject adequate coverage. Certainly, size is no reason to remove valid and useful information.
Breaking out trivial or controversial sections
Template:Details A relatively trivial fact may be appropriate in the context of the larger article, but inappropriate as the topic of an entire article in itself. In most cases, it is a violation of the neutral point of view to specifically break out a controversial section without leaving an adequate summary. It may also violate the neutral point of view policy to create a new article specifically to contain information that consensus has rejected from the main article. Consider other organizational principles for splitting the article, and be sure that both the title and content of the broken-out article reflect a neutral point of view.
Breaking out an unwanted section
If a section of an article is a magnet for unhelpful contributions (such as the "external links" section or trivia sections), be aware that while moving it to another article may help to clean up the main article, it creates a new article that consists entirely of a section for unwanted contributions. If a long article includes an unwanted section, or unwanted information, it is better to simply remove that content than to create a new article for it.
A rule of thumb
Some useful rules of thumb for splitting articles, and combining small pages:
|Readable prose size||What to do|
|> 100 KB||Almost certainly should be divided|
|> 60 KB||Probably should be divided (although the scope of a topic can sometimes justify the added reading time)|
|> 30 KB||May need to be divided (likelihood goes up with size)|
|< 30 KB||Length alone does not justify division|
|< 1 KB||If an article or list has remained this size for over a couple of months, consider combining it with a related page. Alternatively, why not fix it by adding more info? See Wikipedia:Stub.|
- Please note:
How to find long articles
The 1000 largest articles are listed at Special:Longpages.
For pages longer than 30K, the size of the page is displayed when editing, with the message MediaWiki:Longpagewarning – for example:
The ability to edit a section rather than the entire page lessens some of the wait for editing, thus lessening some page length problems, provided that each section of a page is within the limit. However, people with slow modems who want to read a page will still have to wait for the entire page to load.
You can set your preferences to make links to pages smaller than a certain size appear in a different colour. "Size" in this context means the size of the source text seen in the edit box.
If you have problems editing a long article
If you have encountered an article that is so long you can't edit it, or if your browser chops off the end of the article when you try to edit it, there are a few ways you can solve the problem.
The best permanent solution is to simply upgrade to a more modern web browser, if possible. No major modern web browsers have this problem on their recent versions, and there are many other benefits to upgrading to their latest version: more recent versions will be considerably more secure, will do a better job displaying content written to more modern HTML (and other standards), and will have fixed many bugs, besides this one. Many articles on Wikipedia are going to be longer than 32 KB on a permanent basis, so you will continue to have occasional problems with article length as long as you are using an older browser.
If you find a section too long to edit correctly and safely, you can post a request for assistance on the Village Pump. Follow the "post" link for the assistance section, which will allow you to post a new comment without editing any existing text. Answering your request may take from an hour to a week, depending on the response of your fellow volunteer editors.
- Wikipedia:How to archive a talk page
- Wikipedia:Summary style
- Wikipedia:Template limits
- Wikipedia:Section size
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