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Editing Help
1328101905 Help.png
Editing guide
Textual standards
Visual standards
Glossary of terms
Edit review process

Categories are tags at the bottom of articles that help the reader of a page find other articles that are in a similar topic, and help the editors of the wiki organize groups of articles. For example, this article belongs to the Category:Intro editing help. When a reader of this article clicks on that category, they will be directed to a collection of other articles that are about basic editing on Ballotpedia.

This help page contains information about the purpose of categories on the wiki, and how they are used to arrange information in the various parts of Ballotpedia.


Categories are the organizing elements of the wiki. They allow you to put all the articles about a certain subject in one area. If pages are not placed into one or more categories, they may be lost or forgotten. Making sure that each page contains at least one category is essential to the health and growth of the wiki.

Categories also make it easy for readers and editors to find all the articles of a certain type, such as all Congressional districts of Indiana, ensuring that these articles are properly updated and easy to navigate to.

Though each article should have at least one category, there is no upper limit on how many categories an article can belong to. For example, in the case of the United States House of Representatives article, there are (at least) three categories: Category:Terms and definitions, Category:Unique congress pages and Category:Federal legislative branch.

Each category page must also be categorized. Categorizing the categories links groups of pages together and ensures that all pages of the wiki belong to the larger organizational structure. Continuing with the United States House of Representatives example, Category:Federal legislative branch belongs to the Category:Federal desk. If you click on this category, you will continue to find categories at the bottom of each category page. The category one level up from your current category is called the parent category, and is more generalized than the category you are currently in. In turn, the category you are in is a subcategory of its parent.

Style guidelines

Consistent style guidelines are important because categories are case sensitive. For example, if one contributor puts an article in Category:Current member, U.S. Senate while another contributor puts an article in Category:Current Member, U.S. Senate (the only difference being whether "Member" is capitalized or not), as far as Ballotpedia's software is concerned, these are two different categories: Current member, U.S. Senate and Current Member, U.S. Senate.

Style consistency also matters from project-to-project because it enables regular contributors to know what category to put an article in without having to look it up. For example, if a contributor who doesn't regularly work on the Arizona state legislature starts a new article about a legislator in Arizona, it makes things easier for that contributor to know whether to categorize it in Current member, Arizona State Senate, Current Member, Arizona State Senate or even Current member of the Arizona State Senate.

Some general style guidelines are:

  • In most cases, do not capitalize the second and subsequent words in a category. The exception to this rule is proper nouns.
  • It does not matter whether you capitalize the first letter of the first word of the category or not. The MediaWiki software used by Ballotpedia automatically capitalizes it.

For a comprehensive look at style guidelines please refer to the textual style guide.

Assigning categories

The basics

If you are creating a new article or editing an existing page and you want to assign a category, make sure you know the correct name for the category before assigning it. You can determine the proper name for the category by reviewing the relevant pages in the writing guidelines or by reviewing other pages of the same type. If you are creating a new category, make sure that it conforms to the project guidelines. Taking these steps increases the chances that the category structure on Ballotpedia will remain consistent and useful for readers and writers.

If you use the preview feature prior to saving an edit (recommended), you can check to see if the category tag you added already exists. If the category you have added appears as a blue link, then it exists and no further action needs to be taken. If the category is a red link, it does not exist, and either needs to be created or an existing category found.

Adding categories

Once you have decided to put your article into a category (or categories), follow these steps:

  1. On the "edit" page for the article, place your cursor at the end of the article.[1]
  2. Type two initial square brackets
  1. Type the word Category followed by a colon[2]
  1. Type the name of the category, which can be new or pre-existing
[[Category:Ballotpedia basic information
  1. Type two concluding square brackets
[[Category:Ballotpedia basic information]]
  1. Preview your work
  2. Once the preview has been reviewed and confirmed, click Save page

Category names are case-sensitive. If you are trying to put an article into the category Louisiana district courts and you type Louisiana District Courts, your article will go into a different category. By default, all words in a category should be lowercase. Exceptions are generally only made for proper nouns.

Creating categories

Creating a new category is easy. If you determine that the category needed for an article you are editing does not yet exist, make sure you know the proper naming conventions for the category by reviewing the relevant writing guidelines, then simply add that category to your article.

Once you preview and save the page, you will note that your new category is a red link. To create your new category, click that link to be taken to the category page. The category page will open in edit mode; to create your new category, you need to add the proper parent category to the category page.

A parent category is the more general category to which a more specific category belongs. You can determine the proper parent category (or categories) by reviewing other similar categories and reviewing your project's writing guidelines. Once you have added the proper parent category, click Save page to create the category.

Talk pages

Categories should have filled out talk pages, just like any other page on the wiki. To create the talk page for your new category, click the red "Talk" tab at the top left of the category page. Add the appropriate WikiProject template and click "Save page."

Parent categories and Subcategories

Parent categories

A parent category is the more general category to which a more specific category belongs. To use this article as an example. Help:Categories belongs to the Category:Intro editing help. If you go to that category's page, you will see that it belongs to the Category:Editing help. So, Category:Editing help is the parent category of Category:Intro editing help. We could also say this another way; Category:Intro editing help is a subcategory of Category:Editing help.

All categories must have a parent category. The only exception to this rule is the Category:Lucy Burns Institute, which is the topmost category on the wiki. To see how categories are nested within one another, you can use the special feature Category Tree.


Categories can be designated as subcategories of other categories. This allows you to create a hierarchy, which can be simple or complex depending on project needs. A category that has subcategories is called a parent category.

One reason to link categories together in this way is that it prevents large categories from becoming so full that they lose their value. For example, if you put all articles that had anything to do with Maine into Category:Maine, that category would soon become functionally useless. Instead, you want to create useful subcategories that are part of the Maine category, such as Category:Maine ballot measures, which is a subcategory of Category:Maine.

Within Category:Maine ballot measures, you can have several smaller categories, such as Category:Alcohol, Maine‎ and Category:Elections and campaigns, Maine.

The way you make one category a subcategory of a larger category is to click "edit" when you are on the page for the category, and then add the desired parent category. Look at Category:State portals for an example.

Linking to a category

See also: Help:Links

If you want to link to a category in an article without putting the article in that category, you must insert a colon (:) before the category namespace and name.

For example, [[:Category:Federal desk]] will link to that category like this: Category:Federal desk; but [[Category:Federal desk]] would place this article in the category about Ballotpedia's federal desk.

See also


  1. Though categories can be typed at any point in the article, it is convention for them to be typed at the end of the article, so they are easy to locate by any editor
  2. Category can be capitalized or left lower case (Category or category); both will function in the same way.