Problem with common names, guidelines and format

Most of the common names featured on iNat do not have a consistent format, but there is still a guideline to make the format match in the “Curator Guide” page (
The thing is that the guideline featured in the “New Taxon Name” pages do not say anything about that format guidelines; and anyone, not only curators, can add common names to almost any taxa
(For example if you would want to add a common name for Bellis perennis this would be the page and the guidelines
I think that this make little to no sense, and I think that this guidelines should appear in the guidelines of the “New Taxon Name” page, at least as an external link.
This probably could help not also to the consistency of the format, but also some other issues, for example with “bad common names”, also featured in the “Curator Guide” page.

What do you think? Is there any information of this topic that I am unaware of?

This is not a bug nor a feature, so I wasn’t sure in what category I should put this draft.


For clarity purposes, what consistent format do you believe is missing ?

If it is capitalization, that is a function of different standards across different areas of life, which is handled by forcing display into capital case at the display level (something not universally accepted, but it does enforce display consistency).

If something else can you please clarify.

I am refering to this (where to use capitals is the problem):

I did not see any place where it makes the difference to have this names with the first letter capital, or all words first letter capital…, just in the taxon page “Name” display ; but I am just a little bit OCD with format.
Also on the “Curator Page” it is said explicitly that “common names for plants, fungi, and other non-animal taxa should be entered in lowercase”:

I am not sure why this is explicitly said and who did this specific rules or guidelines if it is not important anyway.

I’m not sure there is a good way to enforce it. You also have the secondary issue of certain languages always use upper case, others always use lower case.

So for instance while the standard for birds in English, other languages such as Czech, Polish always use lower case. Despite the English ‘rule’ for plants, German should always be capitalized.

Having an English specific rule does not seem to help much.

What I inferred with the Curator Page guidelines is that this capitalization rules are not specific for the names in english, but for all languages (and the curator page is only avaliable in english). But maybe I am wrong.

The capitalisation guidelines for plants etc state that there’s an exception for proper nouns “which should start with a capital letter wherever they appear”. So if “Tasmanian blue gum” is acceptable, then so is “English daisy”.

(Strictly speaking “English” and “Tasmanian” are proper adjectives, rather than proper nouns, but that’s just splitting hairs).

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Maybe that was not the best example, muy bad.
This could be a better one:

Putting aside why we need one with a dash and one without, the one with the dash is properly formatted. Unless it is a proper noun, content after a hyphen is supposed to be lower case.

I just don’t know how you would ever enforce a standard. Forcing a format on display is much cleaner, even if getting agreement on what that format should be is not easy, or that people simply need to tolerate the format that is centrally decided upon

My point is not that the format is right or wrong, or to force the format or not; is that the guidelines are hidden from where they should be used. I think that the real need that I am proposing is to either get all the guidelines from the “Curator Guide Adding / Editing Names” into the “New Taxon Name”/“Editing Taxon Name” or to make a link to get to the “Curator Guide Adding / Editing Names” from the “New Taxon Name”/“Editing Taxon Name” guidelines.

(Also the one with the dash is not properly formatted, it should be hoop-petticoat daffodil, without any capital letters, but just forget the specific examples please)

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I see that you are a curator, because you have the ability to edit all the names. Are you also able to see how these names were added? That is, were they added by curators, ordinary users, or by some other process?

Also, it seems odd to have all these guidelines if the names are automatically fixed up by the interface. Are there places (other than the Taxonomy page) where this doesn’t happen?

I am able to see how it was added only if the person who added them give the proper data, and that rarely occurs. (my past self included). Most of the time a person adds the common name that they have always heard, and it does not have a proper source for the information, or they just forget to fill the information box. For example:

I also do not know if this happens in other place, I would have to check.

Ordinary users can’t edit the fields in the bottom right corner. I would have thought that only gets filled in when the name is imported from an external source, like Catalogue/Encyclopedia of Life. Or can curators edit it as well? But whatever the case, the point of my previous post was that if many/most common names aren’t added by users, there’s not much that can be done to control the format (for the general case). Even if everyone followed the guidelines to the letter, there could still be many wrongly formatted names coming in from other sources.

You are totally right, curators cannot edit that box.
Most of the common names have been added by the users I think (at least what I have seen). I do not know how names are formatted when coming from other sources.

I’m with @pdfuenteb on this, it has been an OCD thing for me too ever since I joined iNat. When I investigated into how and whys of vernacular names on iNat, it became apparent to me that those entering common names (anyone can) were not seeing the “guidelines” in the curator guide. I myself didn’t even notice them until I was made a curator, which was after I had added perhaps a dozen or more common names. Just simply adding a link “read more about adding names here” for those new to doing it, would make the world of difference, and I can’t imagine it being difficult to do. A link would be preferable, so as not to overly clutter the page, as well as making only one place that any changes to the guidelines would need to be done.

@tiwane This would be an easy change, with little to no complications?


Are you going to enforce the “English” rule on all languages including those that use different formats, for example tell Germans they must enter plants in lower case even if that is wrong in German etc?

Unless you want to state every language rules, I just don’t see how this is workable.

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Maybe it could be helpful tu add a language rules for all of them indeed, but that is not what I am trying to say; as @kiwifergus said adding a link “read more about adding names here” could be just enough for now I think, the format of the common names may be discussed later, maybe in other draft that then could be a feature request probably.

They are guidelines. I can’t imagine there being any enforcement involved, unless we are talking extreme cases. At the moment, it is a bit like having the instructions for opening the box hidden inside the box… the suggestion is just to bring the guidelines more to “before you start adding names” than (long) after. I think it would have been about a year and a half after adding my first vernacular that I came across those guidelines, and even then it was because I had been made a curator and felt I should “read the instruction manual” so to speak!

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If anyone can show me any evidence that writing up these long guidelines, especially if they are done for every language will work, then great, but every bit of evidence on the web and in research says they don’t.

If we are going to cycle back to every combination of language and family of life needs to be ‘properly’ formatted, then it should be done as a trigger at the database level upon upload to automatically convert to the required format.

Regardless of where it is put, any guidelines are still going to be not known / ignored / disagreed with by some people entering the names and you are still in the same place with being upset they are not consistent.


I doubt anyone would bother to show you evidence, even if it existed. I doubt anyone is going to write up long guidelines in multiple languages… all that is being suggested here is to link to existing guidlines in the curator guide from the taxa page where people are adding new names. I point out above that I discovered those guidelines, which aren’t comprehensive but still help, long after I started adding names. It might not be the ideal mode of transport, but horse before the cart would improve it.


I still don’t see or understand what you want to appear.

The curator guide is only in English. The add taxonomy name page is translated. I run the site in Danish, if you link to the curator guide is the implicit meaning of that that I must use English standards for names ?

Somewhere there needs an accounting for the internationalization of the site, or a statement saying all languages will use english standards