Tolkien Gateway

Forum:Introductory section of articles

I would like to bring up the matter of the introductory section. This section is usually the few paragraphs before an article's table of contents.

Now I can observe some inconsistency to how it is used.

First of all, let me make refer to how other wikis treat their lead sections:

  • In Wikipedia, the lead section is a "teaser" which defines the topic, establishes context, explains its notability, and summarizes the most important points. Wikipedia also describes a policy about its extent, eg. neither too short or long relatively to the rest of the article.
  • In the Star Trek wiki, the lead section establishes context, eg. explains that Spock is a Vulcan of the 23th century who served on the Enterprise and then became an ambassador.
  • In the Star Wars wiki, the lead section is a summary of the whole article, eg. describes a person's biography from birth to death, with highlights of his life. That way, information is unnecessarily repeated, but a hasty reader can read most of Darth Vader's life without reading his enormous biography.

Now, TG doesn't have a specific policy about what the lead section is about. It can be anything from a brief mention of a character's nature (Beleg was an Elf of Doriath"), his genealogy ("Frodo Baggins was the son of Drogo.") to what made that person significant ("Aragorn was a member of the Fellowship of the Ring and King of the Reunited Kingdom."). Mostly the lead section can include information that can't fit anywhere else in the article, such as appearance and description ("He was also tall, his hair was dark with patches of grey").

If you look at it, this creates inconsistent layout and unbalanced articles. Even a long biography can have a disproportional single introductory sentence stating something trivial, such as who that character's father was or where he was from.

An example of a bad introduction can be seen at Elfstone (which I wrote) that highlights the problem. That was until I decided that the description also belongs there, giving the lead section a purpose.

Perhaps the matter is trivial, or perhaps it could be a milestone for even better articles. Sage 13:58, 30 June 2013 (UTC)

The matter is not trivial -- I agree with you that it would be good with a standard for the introductory sections here on TG.--Morgan 20:25, 30 June 2013 (UTC)
Here are some ideas about what a lead section should contain:
  • Establish general context (race, Age, titles, timeframe, location)
  • Significant events associated with the topic
  • Genealogy and siblings (and they won't have to be repeated in the "History" section)
  • Appearance and description
  • Other names
  • Summary of its history per the Star Wars wiki (not very much inclined)
Some or any of these elements would form a good introduction. Aragorn is a good example of that template.

Here's an example:

Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck (S.R. 1382 - After S.R. 1485) was a Hobbit of Buckland, the son of Master Saradoc Brandybuck and Esmeralda Took and the heir of the Brandybucks of Brandy Hall. He had Tookish blood through his mother, and also his father's grandmother, Mirabella Took.

Merry was famous as a of the Fellowship of the Ring and his participation in the War of the Ring during which he entered the service of King Theoden of Rohan. On his return after the War, he assisted his companions with liberating the Shire from Saruman, he married Estella Bolger and became Master of Buckland.

He was curious, practical, loyal and resourceful, and good friends with his relatives, the Ringbearer Frodo Baggins and Peregrin Took. Along with Pippin, they became the tallest recorded Hobbits having tasted the Ent-draughts.

Merry was known as Master Holbytla and Holdwine of the Shire by the Rohirrim. During his rule he was known as The Magnificent. Sage 17:08, 1 July 2013 (UTC)