Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Manual of Style
WikiProject icon This page falls within the scope of WikiProject Manual of Style, a drive to identify and address contradictions and redundancies, improve language, and coordinate the pages that form the MoS guidelines.

MOS vs source styles?[edit]

In a discussion on WT:AT, User:Blueboar posed the following question. I’m copying it here as well as my answer since it’s more a style question than anything else, and I feel it would be best discussed here, or perhaps WP:Village pump (policy):

When a significant majority of reliable sources (especially those that are independent of the subject) consistently present a name with a stylization that is contrary to our MOS guidance, should Wikipedia:

a) ignore the sources and conform our presentation of the name to MOS guidance... or

b) ignore MOS guidance and conform our presentation of the name to the sources?

My take on it is as follows: I don’t think we should ever ignore MOS guidance, and I don’t think following MOS guidance should mean ignoring the sources. If you have to ask this question, I think you’re forgetting perhaps the most important guidance our MOS contains, at the top of every page: Use common sense. To me, applying common sense in making exceptions to any given point is not the same as ignoring the MOS’s guidance [to use common sense]. To this particular question, my personal idea of what’s best for the encyclopedia would be similar to the guidance in MOS:TM, but with a slightly higher standard: Among the styles found in multiple reliable sources with demonstrable editorial oversight, we should use the one most closely resembling standard English. — (talk) 02:41, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

TL;DR: Ignore neither. If we can’t take both into account, our MOS needs revising. — (talk) 02:53, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
  • To answer my own question - I lean strongly towards b - when a significant majority of sources agree that a name should be presented with a specific stylization, Wikipedia should conform to the sources and ignore the MOS guidance. I don't think the situation I present in the question will come up all that often, but when it does, I think we should follow the sources. It is presumptuous of us to say that "we know better" than a majority of sources (and I am talking about those that do have demonstrable editorial oversight). MOS itself acknowledges that there will be exceptions to its rules... and I see this as being a situation where we should make an exception.
As for the option to "ignore neither"... That is not always possible. Trying to account for every single variation and permutation of style that might occur not only leads to INSTRUCTION CREEP, it would be simply impossible. Names are unique things, and have to be considered uniquely. There might be only one subject in the world that is routinely referred to with a specific stylization... It would be silly amend MOS to account for (and thus "allow") that one name. All we need to do is look at the sources that discuss that subject and see whether they indicate that we should make an exception to our rules in that one specific case. Blueboar (talk) 03:23, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
Yes, but Bluboar, you have a long history of gaming WP:Article titles against WP:MOS. I think we can safely disregard this political stuff. Tony (talk) 10:23, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
Can you give an example of where the MOS and widespread coverage conflict, where my proposed solution would not be possible because MOS guidelines allow no exceptions? — (talk) 04:42, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
  • Every case should be taken on its own merits, and individual decisions arrived on by weighing the various principles involved for every individual case. We cannot make blanket statements about universal principles, and never should do so. If you have a specific case in mind you want people to weigh in on, let us know what that is, so we can do so. However, it is impossible to make any universal pronouncement on a question like this. --Jayron32 03:53, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
Yet our MOS guidance is stated in the form of universal pronouncements (and "enforced" as such). That's part of the problem. When an examination of sources indicates that we should make an exception to such universal pronouncements, shouldn't we do so? Blueboar (talk) 04:18, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
Our MOS is subservient to WP:IAR which is the most important rule at Wikipedia, which says that if the rules make an encyclopedia article worse rather than better, don't follow the rules. If you don't have a concrete reason to disobey the rules, just follow them. But if you can justify why the rules make something worse, then do the thing which makes the article better. That's why everything must be judged on its own merits. If we make blanket pronouncements on vague principles, we shouldn't then use them to blindly make an article worse merely because "it's the rules". So, if you have a specific example you think is causing this conflict, present that one example, and lets discuss that one example. Otherwise, the discussion gets us nowhere, insofar as its asking us to abandon IAR. --Jayron32 02:11, 22 January 2015 (UTC)

I find the question odd. Does the MOS ever ask us to style things in a way that is not found in sources? If so, let's air those so we can put some meat on the question. If this is an important issue, surely it has come up at MOS before; it's not a TITLE-specific question, so why did it come up there? Dicklyon (talk) 04:25, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

  • Titles obviously have different rules. For one thing, with very rare and special exceptions (like iOS), every title in Wikipedia is capitalized, even if it is for a common noun like shoe, that would be presented as a lowercase term in running text. bd2412 T 04:33, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
    • Titles use sentence case—if it would be capitalized at the beginning of a sentence, it’s capitalized in the beginning of our titles. “Shoe” is, so it is; “iOS” isn’t, so it isn’t. — (talk) 04:37, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
      • I do think the MOS specifies this already. If it does not, it should, and it would be an easy fix. BD2412, are you saying the MOS is missing this simple info? I find that MOS:HEADCAPS comes pretty close, though it could use more detailing of what "sentence case" means, so that "iOS" would more clearly come out right. In any case, title capitalization is not different from heading capitalization, as the MOS says. That is, "Titles have different rules" is wrong; and if it is in any way right, let's fix that. Dicklyon (talk) 05:24, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
        • Of course titles have different rules. Look at a title like The Air Up There, derived from a common phrase. We don't title the article "The air up there" even where sentence case applies, and we don't refer to it in the body as "the air up there" because we know that what we are talking about is the title of a thing. bd2412 T 19:39, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
          Nonsequitur – we were talking about article titles. The MOS, at MOS:CT tells us how to style composition titles in text, and we do them the same if we title an article for them. Title case, italic, in both cases for The Air Up There (unless there's some question about the role of "up" that would suggest not capitalizing it, but that still would not be different between title and text.) Dicklyon (talk) 19:49, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
  • Another example: WP:LQ directly contradicts almost every source and style guide for U.S. English and a smaller proportion of style guides for other varieties. In this case, repeated attempts have been made to bring the MoS into compliance or at least compatibility with the sources without success. If a policy of "Ignore the MoS when it contradicts the majority of sources" were adopted, WP:LQ would fall very squarely under its purview. I'd love to see WP:LQ removed, but a lot of people here really like that rule and should take that into account when answering Blueboar's question. Darkfrog24 (talk) 05:45, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
    • Does that relate in any way to the question being addressed in this section, which is a relationship to titles? I understand that you don't care for the consensus quote style arrived at at MOS, but that's a different issue altogether. Surely you're not saying that we need to let sources vote on what our style should be? Dicklyon (talk) 06:17, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
    • WP:LQ enjoys consensus because Wikipedia is not American (how is this a redlink?). — (talk) 07:27, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
    • It relates to this question because the question is "Should we ignore the MoS when it contradicts the sources?" and this is a place where the MoS contradicts the sources very cleanly. Anon174, Wikipedia might not be American, but we do write articles in American English. We require American spelling in articles written in that variety, so it's really glaring to require British punctuation across the board. If we wrote the whole encyclopedia in British English this would not be an issue, but we don't. Darkfrog24 (talk) 14:56, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
      • I’ve never quite understood the reasoning for that one myself, but—despite being an American and often using American-style quotes in discussions—I for one prefer it. The American quotes I grew up with, and continue to use, never made logical sense to me. — (talk) 15:48, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
        • You have every right to have personal preferences, but that doesn't mean that other people should have to follow rules based on those preferences. The logic of American punctuation is that it's easier to use, easier to teach, easier to learn, easier to copy edit and more consistent than British style. (Not that I think British style is bad; it's fine. I've used it in British English articles. Writing correctly is worth the effort.) Other than that, consider that human readers aren't computers, processing words one character at a time. The human brain is a lot more complicated. For example, a human reader experiences serif and sans serif fonts differently depending on the light source. If American punctuation did involve a non-arbitrary disadvantage, then some evidence of it would have appeared in the past 160-odd years. Darkfrog24 (talk) 16:01, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
          • “that doesn't mean that other people should have to follow rules based on those preferences.” Of course not. The fact that a consensus supports that preference does. I don’t think I’d either support or oppose a proposal to change that, but best of luck to any compelled to start one. — (talk) 16:06, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
            • Consensus isn't supposed to be based on the preponderance of editors who arbitrarily like something but on the preponderance of sources and logical arguments. WP:LQ happens to have more supporters than detractors but whether it has consensus depends on whether or not consensus is a popularity contest. Darkfrog24 (talk) 16:15, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
              • No, it just means there is (or was) agreement that it was best for the encyclopedia. I’m not sure it can be argued that it’s bad for the encyclopedia. — (talk) 16:21, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
                • It is bad for the encyclopedia for the same reason that we have an MoS at all: that incorrect and sloppy punctuation and style do not foster confidence in the content and correct punctuation does. It also alienates professional writers. Considering your emphasis on "was," I dug through the archives and it's possible that WP:LQ was originally put in place as a compromise based on the belief that British English required single quotation marks in all cases (it doesn't). Darkfrog24 (talk) 18:39, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

Ideally, bring the MoS into compliance with style guides and reliable sources. I'd love to say "and ignore it until it does" but that doesn't usually work. If the majority of sources say one thing and the MoS says something else, then the MoS is probably wrong. We're mostly presumed amateurs and the sources are mostly written by experts, so we should defer to them for the same reason that we use to justify requiring lowercase species names (that being "Ornithology articles are written by bird experts but style guides are written by writing experts, so consult style guides for writing issues"). (However, like I mentioned above, attempts have been made to do this in the case of WP:LQ without success.) I'd make one exception to that, though: If there is a proven, non-hypothetical technical problem that applies specifically to Wikipedia, then the MoS may deviate from standard English to address that problem for as long as that problem exists. For example, the preference for single quotation marks over double is based on the way single quotation marks affect searches. That's not the sort of thing that would be a problem in printed books, so style guides intended for nonsearchable media should be ignored when determining what the majority of style guides say for that issue. Any such deviation should be removed once another way of resolving the problem becomes available (such as improved browsers). Darkfrog24 (talk) 05:45, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

This is a wholly different question, unrelated to titles. If the MOS is "wrong" we can change it. Make a proposal. If your proposal lost already, live with it. If your proposal is that the style in expert or specialist sources should get more weight than the style in generalist sources, I respectfully disagree. Dicklyon (talk) 06:17, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
The original question wasn’t about titles (which was why I asked it be moved from WT:AT), but about conflicts between WP:MOS and sources. — (talk) 07:27, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
Dicklyon, in the case of WP:LQ, the MoS is wrong, if we define "wrong" as "directly contradicts the overwhelming majority of both expert and general sources," but attempts to change it didn't work. Blueboar is right to ask what else we should do. I'm bringing this up not because I have a new proposal for changing WP:LQ but because it is an example of why the obvious answer to Blueboar's question, "Just change the MoS" isn't as usable as it looks.
As for the specialist vs. generalist argument, I'll restate my position more clearly: Style guides are expert sources for presentation, so they should be given more weight than other sources on issues of presentation. That means, for example, lowercase for species names even though ornithology journals and birder guides use uppercase. We defer to style guides because they are expert sources on style. Darkfrog24 (talk) 14:56, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
I agree that style guides are good expert sources worth consulting for style issues. Style guides discuss different quote styles including LQ. We adopted LQ. I can't see what you mean by "directly contradicts the overwhelming majority of both expert and general sources," just because the style we adopted is not the style of a majority of sources. Dicklyon (talk) 15:53, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
What I mean by that is that almost every American English style guide says "tucking periods and commas inside Q marks is right and leaving them untucked is wrong" but the MoS requires the opposite. You seem to be asking why that's bad. It's bad because Wikipedia shouldn't just make up rules without a good reason, especially not when those rules directly contradict what people were taught in their writing classes and professional training. We didn't just make up our rules about capitalization or spelling or italics. We consulted sources. Using correct English inspires the reader's confidence. The incorrect punctuation in the American English articles makes them look sloppy and stupid, and that will make the reader wonder if the content was brought in sloppily too. That's the whole point of having an MoS in the first place.
To bring this back to the issue at hand, Dicklyon, I think you and I have some common ground: Neither one of us seems to like it when people break the rules just because they don't like them. What Blueboar seems to be asking is what we should do when the rules don't all match. Darkfrog24 (talk) 16:11, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
How about English style guides that are not American? I contest the claim that Wikipedia made up those rules. — (talk) 16:26, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
What about them? We use English style guides that are not American for information on varieties of English other than American. "Leave periods and commas outside the quotation marks" is on the same level as "spell 'center' c-e-n-t-r-e." We don't presume to require it in AmE articles and don't presume to ban it in BrE articles. Darkfrog24 (talk) 18:39, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
  • Neither a or b Sorry but the question seems to be a false dichotomy to me. We should follow the MoS as a guideline where reasonable and if it seems that the MoS needs to be updated in some cases, then those should be considered. PaleAqua (talk) 06:26, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

COMMENT - We seem to be drifting off topic. Just to be clear, my question relates specifically to the presentation of stylized names in our articles ... and even then, it relates only to cases where a significant majority of reliable sources consistently present the name using stylization that differs from our MOS guidance. These are going to be unique and rare occurrences... and I don't see any need to amend the MOS to account for such unique situations. The MOS already says that there will be exceptions to its guidance... so what I am trying to clarify with my question is whether we should (or should not) make an exception in these rare situations. Blueboar (talk) 16:12, 21 January 2015 (UTC)

In that case, consider the iPhone. When the product first came out the lowercase-then-uppercase structure was a lot rarer than it is today and I seem to recall that the MoS has a rule about non-standard capitalization. Darkfrog24 (talk) 16:17, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
What is that rule? Blueboar (talk) 16:27, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
MOS:TM#Trademarks that begin with a lowercase letter. --Rob Sinden (talk) 16:31, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
Would trademarks apply to the kinds of names you're taling abou
In such cases, we should weigh the quality of the sources rather than looking at a simple majority before considering that exception. But yes, if professional editors consistently make the same editorial choice regardless of their normal conventions, then I’d say so should we. — (talk) 16:31, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment. I don't think this is all that complicated. We follow the COMMONNAME principle regarding sui generis stylisations. "Sui generis" is important, because we should avoid the pitfall of copying sources that are simply using a rule of style inconsistent with our MoS. For example, however many times you find "I Am The Walrus" in sources, and even though it has appeared that way on a record sleeve, it should still appear as "I Am the Walrus" in Wikipedia, because this is not a question of sui generis styling. I think that way of looking at it might cut through some of the difficulties in the discussion at WT:AT. Formerip (talk) 17:55, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
    • I like that, but I don’t think it’s entirely true of consensus. For instance, Numb3rs has a sui generis styled name used by every source I can find, but we have Numbers (TV series) per consensus on its Talk page. But you’re right that this is a precondition for even considering a stylization. — (talk) 18:06, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
      If by "every source I can find" you don't mean to include the ones cited in our article, such as ref number 1 there. Dicklyon (talk) 23:47, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
      • If you're right about "Numb3ers", then I'd say the wrong decision has been made on the talkpage. But I don't think it matters in terms of the general principle - a lot of things set out in MoS are not followed consistently on the project. Formerip (talk) 18:22, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
I agree that quality of sources needs to be considered in addition to simple quantity of sources ... and we should discuss that aspect as well. Numb3rs is actually is a fairly good example here, because source quality was cited by the RM closure as being something that was a deciding factor. Blueboar (talk) 19:24, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
FormerIP and Anon174 seem to be bringing up the issue of how we should deal with it when a large number of sources say the same thing but are probably just all making the same mistake, like the capital T in "I Am the Walrus." We could stand to work out a threshold or rule of thumb for when "follow standard English" gives way to "use the common name." Darkfrog24 (talk) 18:48, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
An individual source can make the occasional "mistake"... but when the majority of sources all present something the same way, I think you have to admit it was intentional... and I don't think you can call something that was intentionally done a "mistake". Blueboar (talk) 19:24, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
When it comes to the title of a work or the stage name of a performer, the one source we can be sure is not making a mistake is the author/artist who chose that title. Plenty of sources mistakenly reported the 1997 film U Turn as U-Turn; we need not perpetuate their errors. bd2412 T 19:42, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
Agreed. We should recognize and respect what is correct. However, we should also recognize and respect that style differences are not errors. That hyphen might be an error, but caps differences in "Dot the I", for example, are not. Dicklyon (talk) 19:54, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
True, we can trust primary sources to use the names they prefer stylized as they prefer. But there is longstanding consensus against simply using that. Maybe consensus has changed, I don’t know, but that’s what e.g. WP:TM said last time I checked. — (talk) 21:19, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
Yes, if COMMONNAME conflicts with the "official" name, COMMONNAME wins. This is why we don't have an article titled "Romeo and Iuliet", for example. Of course, sources that are clearly erroneous should just be disregarded, but "U turn" looks like a good example of how not to do it. It seems like the only source for this is a logo put together for the movie poster. This seems to have omitted the hyphen as a design choice, but virtually all other sources call the film "U-Turn". So, it should be "U-Turn" per COMMONNAME. But, before you get outraged, take a look at the DVD sleeve here. You can see that the logo reads "U Turn", but the name on the spine and on the picture credits on the back is "U-Turn". If you have very sharp eyes, you can see the same thing in the image used on our article. Formerip (talk) 21:57, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
I think you’re conflating titles, names, and stylizations. WP:COMMONNAME is not part of MOS, but it’s about which name to use in an article title (namely the one most commonly used). MOS:TM does not say to use the most commonly used style, but one that is most standardized (so “U turn” with the lowercase word would be discouraged regardless of popularity). The presence or lack of a hyphen, I think, would be a naming question rather than a stylistic one. And one that could certainly be affected by errors. — (talk) 06:26, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
Another way of looking at it is that you use COMMONNAME when it is a question of naming, but not when it is a question of style. The only problem with that is that a lot of people will find it hard to tell the difference. But something like "Deadmau5" is not a question of style. Something like "I Am (t)The Walrus" is.
Although COMMONNAME is, strictly speaking, only about article titles, it's common and uncontroversial to entend its logic to article content. Formerip (talk) 11:29, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
  • b. Sources are for what to call something.... is Mr Smith usually called "Tom Smith" or "Thomas Smith" or "Thomas Kennedy Smith" or "MC Dynamite" or what. Our MOS decides the typography of that, including punctuation. If Mr Smith is best known as "MC Dynamite", very well; but if he chooses to style it as "M!C! DynAMITE!!!!" then we need to think about that. If, and only if, Mr Smith is 1) quite notable and not a person of marginal notability, and 2) his name is given as "M!C! DynAMITE!!!!" so widely that we would look silly and idiosyncratic not doing it and and/or our readers would be scratching their heads over who is this "MC Dynamite" person (with no exclamation points in his name), then we should consider going along with that. Otherwise, let's not let ourselves be jerked around by every D-lister who wants to get cute with his typrwriter. Herostratus (talk) 21:40, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
This is exactly why I included the caveat "especially sources that are independent of the subject" in my question. I think we can take the concept expressed at WP:Official names and apply it to the question of style. We are not required to follow what the subject himself wants... unless the majority of reliable sources do so as well. If the sources accept his odd styling... fine, so will we. But if not... also fine, neither will we. Of course the reality is that it will be very unlikely that reliable sources will refer to some D-lister using his preferred odd styling. That sort of thing tends to be reserved for A and B listers. However, if and when reliable sources do use the subject's chosen styling... we need pay attention to that fact, and accept that the odd styling has become the accepted way to present the name. Blueboar (talk) 22:15, 21 January 2015 (UTC)
Herostratus's second point, "use standard English unless it would look weird if we didn't" is probably what we should be doing. It's so subjective that it couldn't be used to resolve disputes but maybe we could work out some kind of threshold, like a 2:1 ratio of sources not controlled by or directly connected to the subject. Something similar worked in a naming dispute at New York Theater District [1]. Except in that case, it was sources not written in American English that were given more weight. I'm not behind the typography vs. wording distinction, though. iPhone would be Iphone. Darkfrog24 (talk) 01:19, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
I do recall seeing some official documentation use “IPod,” with the first two letters capitalized. I thought it was weird when I saw that in my box. Anyway, on wording vs typography, wouldn’t it be a CamelCased compound, a variant of “I-Phone”? Looked at that way, “I-Phone” is uniformly styled as “iPhone.” — (talk) 06:52, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
I never understood why IPod is wrong when it begins a sentence. The APA, at least, says names like de Haan should be De Haan at the start of a sentence. Wikipedia is inconsistent: "hooks has undertaken three scholar-in-residences at The New School" vs. "Hampton is originally from Detroit". --NE2 07:26, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
Isn’t the “de” in such names simply a foreign word for “of”? Unless I’m mistaken, those should be capitalized as any other word, while the first letter of “iPod” and “eBay” is explicitly lowercase. At least that’s my understanding of the grammar involved. And doesn’t our MOS say to avoid beginning sentences with lowercased names? — (talk) 07:44, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
(Yes, MOS:TM does say to avoid beginning sentences with lower cased names... and it is excellent advice. Of course it isn't always possible to avoid doing so... but it helps if you can.) Blueboar (talk) 13:11, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
Well you are mistaken, somewhat. "De", "von" and "van" are indeed "foreign words" for "of", but when they form part of proper names the grammar (English or foreign) ceases to matter, and WP should just follow RS usage as best it can. This will vary - the variability is perhaps clearest in the case of "van" in surnames, where usage varies between the Netherlands ("van", enforced by legislation I think) and Belgium (generally "Van"). See Dutch_name#Surnames; actually it's a deal more complicated than that. But sentences should always begin with "Van". Johnbod (talk) 12:18, 22 January 2015 (UTC)
Leaning towards b, but not as an absolute rule. I'd accept "iPhone" but not "M!C! DynAMITE!!!!" for reasons of encyclopedic tone. I'd also consider how important it is to readability or recognizability. I'd probably choose E.E. Cummings rather than e.e. cummings (and even moreso, for people whose preference for lowercase letters is even less famous): IPhone is slightly harder to read than iPhone (the CamelCase approach helps readers sort out which letters belong to which syllables). English readers are accustomed to leading caps (which are used at the start of every sentence on any kind of word), so E.E. Cummings is no less readable than e.e. cummings, even if you're used to the lower-cased version. I'd generally oppose substituting symbols (like $ for S—imagine how confusing that is to a non-native reader), but I don't know what other editors think about that. For pop culture subjects, I usually assume that such discussions are a waste of time. There will always be fans who are determined to include whatever L33t5p34k-like styling their minor idol's marketing machinery is promoting. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:37, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
True... but what the fans want does not matter... what the subject wants does not matter... our own individual likes or dislikes as editors do not matter... what matters is what reliable sources actually do. If the majority of reliable sources use Leetspeak characters (or some other non-standard stylization) when referring to the subject then so should Wikipedia. If they don't, then neither should we. Blueboar (talk) 02:20, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
What ultimately matters is what the editors of the publication want to do—what we want to do. If we all agreed that we wanted Wikipedia to style all names in Title Case with unadorned Roman letters even if no source ever used “Ipod,” or that we wanted to match popular usage as closely as possible and check each title weekly to make sure we were still using the majority style, or that we wanted to render all our titles in 13375p34|<, then that would be what Wikipedia should do. The only thing that matters here is consensus among our editors, which does not necessarily go along with how the editors of our sources choose to style their text. — (talk) 03:40, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
No, Anon174, if we base rules merely on what we want to do then Wikipedia will end up a sloppy mess of popular mistakes and angry Wikieditors. Darkfrog24 — continues after insertion below
Which is something WIkieditors do not want. That’s something we want to avoid. So we base rules on what we want to avoid. — (talk) 06:40, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
You're assuming that people would create sloppiness and anger on purpose. Rather, these would be an unintended consequence of basing the MoS on preferences rather than on sources. Most people think that their own preferences are more obvious, widely held and logical than they really are, so they don't see how they'll cause problems until after it happens. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:28, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
No; I’m saying some of our rules are in place because our editors (such as yourself) want to avoid the possibility of sloppiness and anger by deferring to expert guidance. In short, these rules are based on what editors (on the aggregate) want to do—to pay attention to what professionals do. Of course you don’t have to look at it this way, but it’s valid. If there were consensus for not paying attention to the style choices of sources, we wouldn’t. — (talk) 22:49, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
(Continuation of refactored response to Anon 174) Remember that Wikipedia is different from most publications in that it has no hierarchy. We're all volunteers and we're all presumed amateurs. In an ordinary publication, the head editor can impose whims, like using incorrect spelling on purpose because 1) it is presumed that he or she has a position that he or she presumably earned and 2) they're being paid to put up with stuff like that. However, if we want to get the Wikieditors to do something, we have to give them a good reason why they should. Wikieditors don't get to decide by simple majority what to put in the article space; they have to use sources, and we've been able to enforce that rule. We have to use sources too for the same reason. Why take Darkfrog's or Dicklyon's or Blueboar's or Anonymous User's word for it? Take Hart's Rules, the AMA's, Chicago's, MLA's and Oxford's instead. Darkfrog24 (talk) 05:49, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
I don't see this as a question of which "rules" to follow... but a question of when to make an exception to the "rules". Blueboar (talk) 13:12, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
What do you think of the New York Theater/re District case? In that case, the rule to which an exception would have been made was standard American spelling (for a place unambiguously located in the U.S.) There were two reasonably plausible names for the district, and we ended up going with the one that the sources favored 2:1. We did not at that time distinguish between theater-related and non-theater-related sources. Upon a quick recount, it was 40 generalist and 2 theater-related sources for "Theater District" and 14 generalist and 5 theater-related sources for "Theatre District." (I'm counting entertainment and tourism as generalist sources but feel free to see for yourself [2]). This case has national variety issues that wouldn't come into play in most naming situations, but it did involve dealing with whether the term in question was a proper noun or not, like in the recent RfC on Mustang. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:28, 23 January 2015 (UTC)

A related question. What do screen reader users hear when they reach something like "Numb3rs" or "Ke$ha" in the text? Does the software cope or does the user get an error message, or a garbled attempt, or something in between? Is their an audio version of alt text that needs to be added if the reader can't cope with the styling? Should we be treating stylised names in a special way for screen readers? - X201 (talk) 16:56, 26 January 2015 (UTC)

Mac OS X’s default text-to-speech voice reads “Numb3rs” as “numb-three-R-S,” but it reads “Ke$ha” as “Kesha.” I’ve never used a screen reader, but I hope this tidbit is useful. — (talk) 04:46, 27 January 2015 (UTC)


In MOS:CAPS, instead of "Wikipedia avoids unnecessary capitalization", it might be more accurate to say "Wikipedia lets editors capitalize anything they think is important, especially if there's an article about it", as that would be more in line with how recent Requested Move discussions are going. Dicklyon (talk) 22:29, 23 January 2015 (UTC)

I don't know which discussion specifically you're referring to. I suppose I could look in your history and figure it out, but I'm not that interested.
However, in the past, you and some of the other "anti-capitalists" here have characterized arguments that way, when that is not the argument being made. --Trovatore (talk) 22:35, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
I'm talking about things like Rose Bowl Game and American Civil Rights Movement, among others (and non-RM discussions, too, like at Mustang). Sources are unambiguously in favor of lowercase, but editors want to capitalize them anyway. I'm not sure what you mean by "that is not the argument being made"; I have not characterized the various arguments that they use to try to justify capitalization. And I am not "anti-capitalist"; but pro-MOS, yes. Dicklyon (talk) 22:49, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
"What they think is important" has not in the past been the argument being made, but you and McCandlish have tried to characterize it that way. --Trovatore (talk) 22:51, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
I'm not saying they are making that argument; but the arguments they make are less sensible than that; mostly unsupported claims of "it's a proper name", so I was being generous. I'm just saying that our current MOS:CAPS does not reflect that way things are going, as anyone who looks at it will see. Dicklyon (talk) 22:56, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
The proper-name argument is usually the key one. You need to address it rather than dismissing it. I do think that the "unnecessary" bit should be edited to clarify that it means "don't overdo caps when there's no good reason for them", not "always pick the least-capitalized style that any decent source uses". --Trovatore (talk) 23:00, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
MoS is not gospel, and needn't be applied. Application, when there is a dispute, is based on the consensus of editors at a particular article. That's simply the way it goes. RGloucester 23:12, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
The proper name argument is very well refuted in the discussions, by looking at stats on usage in better sources (books, typically). As MOS says, "Wikipedia relies on sources to determine what is a proper name; words and phrases that are consistently capitalized in sources are treated as proper names and capitalized in Wikipedia." In most cases, it's easy to show that caps are in a minority, yet they insist. Other, like RGloucester, suggest simply ignoring the MOS and capitalizing anyway. Dicklyon (talk) 23:16, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
(ec) I'm not getting in the middle of your current disputes. Heck, I might even be on your side, in the ones you've mentioned. But I suggest you address the arguments that are actually proffered, rather than an ulterior motive of which you have no real evidence. --Trovatore (talk) 23:20, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
(Edit conflict) I agree with Dicklyon that Wikipedia should almost always use lowercase when the sources do. However, changing the MoS in the manner suggested is probably not our best bet. How about changing its wording to match the main MoS more closely? I'd suggest: "Avoid unnecessary capitalization. Use capitals for terms that are consistently treated as proper nouns by reliable sources. Example Rose Bowl game but American Civil Rights Movement" and a few alternatives. Then call an RfC and invite people from those debates so we can work it out (or at least notify people that they're not supposed to be using title case so widely). Darkfrog24 (talk) 23:19, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
The MoS does not claim to be a gospel. Taking it as such, as you tend to do, is contrary to its purpose. As it says, "Where more than one style is acceptable, editors should not change an article from one of those styles to another without a good reason. Edit warring over optional styles is unacceptable. If discussion cannot determine which style to use in an article, defer to the style used by the first major contributor". You ignore this. The changes from capitalised titles to lowercase titles and vice-versa for no real reason other than to enforce "MoS compliance" is plain disruptive. There is nothing unacceptable about either "Cuban Missile Crisis" or "Cuban missile crisis". If there are sources that use both styles, and the appropriate information is conveyed, it makes no difference to the reader, other than from an aesthetic perspective. From an aesthetic perspective, titles look better and more distinguishable when capitalised, which is why they usually are. Sentence case for titles looks sloppy, like something a primary schooler would write up. That's why I think we should just adopt title case for article titles, as any good publication would do. It is aesthetically better, and more standardised. It eliminates all absurd capitalisation debates. RGloucester 23:23, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
That's not at all the issue here; we're not talking about titles. Changing titles to title case doesn't help, as the RFC at Talk:Mustang should illustrate, not to mention all the places where Randy Kryn won't let me fix "civil rights movement" in article text. Dicklyon (talk) 23:37, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
Yes, it would eliminate the issue, because if we recommend title case for article titles, we could also recommend user lowercase style for prose, eliminating the debate. RGloucester 23:41, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
Why would you say something so idiotic? Surely you must understand that we would not want to use lowercase in text for proper names? Or maybe you don't? Dicklyon (talk) 02:21, 24 January 2015 (UTC)
Why? As Wikipedia's way of defining what a "proper name" is so far from how people usually think of the concept, it isn't getting us very far to hold onto it anyway. Recommend universal lowercase in the text, why not? If we can recommend such an absurd definition of "proper name", we might as well kibosh the whole distinction. RGloucester 02:24, 24 January 2015 (UTC)
Oh, thanks for clarifying that you're playing the idiot on purpose. At first I thought you were serious, in spite of the idiocy of it, as you have said things about that idiotic before. Excuse me for not always recognizing the difference; Poe's law, you know. Dicklyon (talk) 02:54, 24 January 2015 (UTC)
Despite those recent RMs, the sentence in MOS:CAPS is still valid. Wikipedia does still avoid unnecessary capitalization. What the RMs indicate (at least to me) is that there may be issues not discussed at the MOS (because they are not really style related) that can make capitalization necessary. Blueboar (talk) 23:25, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
Explain? Example? Whatever the reasons are, I'd like to understand how caps can be "necessary" yet most sources use lowercase. What, for example, makes it necessary to capitalize Cuban Missile Crisis, which is lowercase Cuban missile crisis in most books? Dicklyon (talk) 23:34, 23 January 2015 (UTC)
+1 Tony (talk) 02:24, 24 January 2015 (UTC)
@Dicklyon: "What ... make it necessary" seems to have been the subject of the recently closed discussion at Talk:Cuban_Missile_Crisis#Requested_move_8_January_2015, which you were also involved in. Your most constructive options might be to take this to Wikipedia:Move review or to WP:DROPTHESTICK.—Bagumba (talk) 03:16, 24 January 2015 (UTC)
I'm not beating anyone with a stick. Just pointing out that the MOS seems to have carried no weight there, where fans of political events prefer to capitalize what's important to them, in spite of most sources not doing so. Dicklyon (talk) 03:46, 24 January 2015 (UTC)
What you describe as "fans of political events" are editors who see a particular event, like the Cuban Missile Crisis (where you added a comment after it was closed, btw), as a unit. Thus, to them, they are obviously proper names which fall under Wikipedia common sense provisions and guidelines, and are backed up by many sources. The majority of the books you listed there were new printings of old - some very old - textbooks, which don't get totally edited on reissue. So, some names which you see as violating policy are names seen by millions of people and many many sources as proper names. Some others aren't, such as many of the 'riots' you lower-cased (except for the Watts Riot, which has 'earned' upper-casing because of its prominence - again, common sense applies). I know you must realize and, as the old-kids say, 'grok' this point on some level, so why can't you just change the ones which are noncontroversial and not change the names which are seen, as I said, by millions of people as proper and common names? Randy Kryn 12:17 24 January, 2015 (UTC)

Essays: Gender-neutral language and the generic he[edit]

I really think we need a way to improve how essays are looked at. Go to WP:GNL. I support that when something on Wikipedia has no consensus, there should be one essay for each point of view. For this, it should have an essay explaining the point of GNL advocates and the point of view of GNL opponents. But the essay is centered on GNL advocates and talks about it as if it were a policy. Please alter it so that it has the point of view of GNL opponents as well. Georgia guy (talk) 16:45, 26 January 2015 (UTC)

This looks to be WP:FORUMSHOPPING based on how the discussion is going here Wikipedia:Miscellany for deletion/Wikipedia:Gender-neutral language. Gg asked for a consensus there and the one forming is not the one they desired. OTOH anyone is allowed to write an essay so Gg is free to create one of their own. MarnetteD|Talk 16:53, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
I left out the fact that this is only my opinion. Thus it should be taken with the same grain of salt as the OPs request. MarnetteD|Talk 16:54, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
The Mfd discussion is a week old and there doesn't appear to be any consensus on what to do. I want essays (in general) to discuss both points of view; namely the points of view of advocates and opponents. Georgia guy (talk) 16:58, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
Uh really. You are the only editor who has said that the essay should be deleted. So it looks as though that is not going to happen. Thus, the need for this new tack in the situation. Essays are NOT policy so there is no need to "balance" them. As I say you are free to create your own essay stating how you fell about things. MarnetteD|Talk 17:06, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
If an essay is not policy, the points of view need to be balanced to make it clear that it's not policy. Georgia guy (talk) 17:13, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
Perhaps you have missed the box at the top of the article (and all essay article for that matter) that states "While this essay is not a Wikipedia policy or guideline itself, it is intended to supplement the Wikipedia:Manual of Style's Gender-neutral language subsection, to which editors should defer in case of inconsistency between that page and this one" {I have added the bold for the word not) thus it does not need balancing. An alternative essay is the way to go. MarnetteD|Talk 17:16, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
If it's not a policy, then the simple statement in the GNL section of the MOS needs to be removed. In practice, the majority of Wikipedians disagree with the essay. Georgia guy (talk) 17:27, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
The relevant section of this guideline states
That text has been there since 2009. So there is consensus for the use of gender-neutral language. I see no indication that this consensus has changed.
The link to the explanatory essay has been there since 2008. So there is consensus for that link. I see no indication that this consensus has changed.
--Boson (talk) 17:29, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
Yes, consensus has changed. Most chess Wikipedians agree that gender-generic "he" is how we talk in chess. They don't want me to change "White moved his king to e4" to "White's king moved to e4". Georgia guy (talk) 17:59, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
Why stop there? Why not go all out: "White moved his king to e4, as his hirsute testicles produced sperm, egged on by his surging testosterone. Egged? Whoops, I mean balled!! In this game, even the queen had a penis, one which would put Murray Head to shame...." DeistCosmos (talk) 22:16, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
"Chess Wikipedians" cannot dictate to the project as a whole. There is absolutely no reason to use gendered language in articles about chess. Peter coxhead (talk) 19:01, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Gg consensus has not changed. Ihardlythinkso pointed out in their post of 02:26, 26 January 2015 at the Wikipedia:Miscellany for deletion/Wikipedia:Gender-neutral language that your chess analogy is incorrect. I would also suggest that you stop using language like "the majority of Wikipedians disagree" - unless you can prove that with factual evidence it falls under WP:ATATP. IMO it actually weakens any point that you are trying to make. MarnetteD|Talk 19:02, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
Yes, nearly all chess Wikipedians disagree, as well as spaceflight Wikipedians. In the former case, I even brought up the discussion at Wikipedia talk:Wikiproject Chess and it appears that no one but me involved in the discussion supports GNL in chess articles. Georgia guy (talk) 19:20, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
There is absolutely no reason to abandon conventions that have kept us well and truly good for centuries. The idea that someone could complain about the gender neutral use of the pronoun "he" is absurd. "He", determined by context, is gender neutral, and always has been. Therefore, it is supported by the guideline. RGloucester 19:26, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
Well then, why do we all learn as 3-year-olds that "he" is a male pronoun?? Georgia guy (talk) 19:27, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
"He" serves two separate purposes: firstly, as the gendered masculine pronoun, and secondly, as a generic gender neutral pronoun. Any primary school teacher who fails to mention this isn't doing a very good job. RGloucester 19:29, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
Traditionally that was common, primarily because of the influence of male superiority. Please read Gender neutrality in English. Georgia guy (talk) 19:31, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
No, it is common and correct now. It has nothing to do with "male superiority". It is simply a function of language. It is not uncommon for words to have multiple meanings. For example, "savoury" means both something that isn't sweet, and something delicious or pleasant. Of course, many sweet things are delicious too. RGloucester 19:35, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
Neither definition of savoury has any special properties. Both definitions are equally correct. But "he" as a male pronoun is what all anglophones learn when they first learn the meanings of words. "He" as a gender-generic pronoun is common primarily because of the influence of male superiority, although language is more flexible now than it was in the 1960's. (At that time, nearly everyone considered it proper to use gender-generic he.) Please see the article Gender neutrality in English for details. Georgia guy (talk) 19:40, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
Everyone learns "he" as a gender neutral pronoun now, as it has always been. They also learn the masculine pronoun "he". It has nothing to do with "male superiority". It is simply a function of language. Wikipedia is not the place for your radical views that counteract centuries of tradition and precedent. Please take your advocacy to some forum where people care to entertain it. RGloucester 19:42, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
Somebody please make sure this discussion isn't stuck between RGloucester and me. Somebody besides the 2 of us please reveal your thoughts. Georgia guy (talk) 19:56, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
RG fails to admit that the language as traditionally taught and used is biased toward male terminology, and that there is a consensus to try to use language that's more neutral in WP. That doesn't mean we have to change how chess games are described, if the masculine-based language is formally standardized there. Dicklyon (talk) 20:25, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
There is no bias toward "male terminology", and that's a fallacy based in political advocacy that has no place here. If you'd like to right great wrongs, go elsewhere and form a Society for the Elimination of the Knowledge Passed Down to Us by Our Forefathers. Standard English usage is neutral, and that's that. "He" is gender neutral when used in gender neutral contexts. Have radicals taken over the encylopaedia? RGloucester 21:20, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
RG, I agree 100% that if people want to change or improve the English language, they should do what they like but not do it here, but that's pretty already happened in the case of the generic he. Using "he" to mean "any person" and "men" to mean "all humans" is sexist, which is why it is falling or has already fallen out of standard use. Check out page 81 of the W Handbook, passage on sexist language: [3]
Actually, there is a gender-neutral third-person pronoun. It's "one," though "he or she" is recommended more often. Darkfrog24 (talk) 21:43, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
It isn't "sexist", because it isn't gendered. Language cannot be "sexist". It is simply a word. You can ascribe whatever bizarre connotations you like to it, but the fact remains that it is gender neutral, it is not falling out of use, and it is essential to the English language. Yes, I'm one to use "one" on a frequent basis, but that serves a different purpose than the gender neutral "he". The gender neutral "he" is usually used in conjunction with non-gendered nouns, whereas "one" is used standalone. RGloucester 21:54, 26 January 2015 (UTC)
RL, "he" most definitely is gendered. It's the male pronoun. That's like saying that "man" isn't gendered because it's part of the word "woman." It is simply not so. But you do not have to take my word for it: The Oxford English Dictionary gives the following:

2 Until relatively recently he was used to refer to a person of unspecified sex, as in every child needs to know that he is loved, but this is now generally regarded as old-fashioned or sexist. Since the 18th century they has been an alternative to he in this sense (everyone needs to feel that they matter), where it occurs after an indefinite pronoun such as everyone or someone. It is becoming more and more accepted both in speech and in writing, and is used as the norm in this dictionary. Another alternative is he or she, though this can become tiresomely long-winded when used frequently.[4]

Do you have any sources to cite that support the position that the generic he is not sexist? Darkfrog24 (talk) 01:49, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
It is not gendered. It is serves two distinct purposes. You are correct, "man" is not gendered. It can also serve as a gendered noun, but its non-gendered form is the earlier one. It is not "sexist". There is no such thing as "sex". The fact that you are dwelling on the most trivial of matters, overriding centuries of usage for your own radical political purposes is disgusting. You can take your little "old-fashioned" epithet and scurry away into a digital haze where reality is far from your eyes. The knowledge of your forefathers is knowledge absolute, and to forsake it for political reasons is sacrilegious. RGloucester 02:08, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
You seem to have misunderstood me. "Man" is a gendered noun. The fact that it's part of the word "woman" does not make it non-sexist. I don't know what you mean by epithets or politics. All I did was cite a source. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:44, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
"Man" has always been non-gendered. It has nothing to do with whether it is part of "woman" or not. The original meaning was non-gendered, and so is the current meaning. It is also has another meaning, referring to male men. That's the newer usage. RGloucester 23:10, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
No, "man" is a male noun. It is not that using "man" to mean an adult male human is new; it's that the idea that it can be used to mean anything else is archaic. If someone calls a woman a man, that's an insult. If someone says, "My men" when meaning "my (male and female) soldiers" or "my (male and female) associates," that creates the illusion that there are no women present. Darkfrog24 (talk) 02:55, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
"Man" simply means "a person". The usage of "man" to mean "male men" is a newer usage. The original usage remains gender neutral, and common. We are all mankind, all men amongst men, both female and male men. RGloucester 22:39, 28 January 2015 (UTC)

So… can anyone tell whether RG is being ironic here? Because this may be a case of Poe's law due to forgetting that text doesn’t carry vocal tone. — (talk) 04:40, 27 January 2015 (UTC)

I'm a revanchist street-walker, to the core. I shan't tolerate the destruction of language (our absolute knowledge) because of false ideas of etymology, semiotic failure, and misconstruction of sex as an extant object. RGloucester 05:38, 27 January 2015 (UTC)

Anyway, here’s my 2¢: If there is consensus that we should use GNL in general and avoid generic use of “he,” then that should extend to articles on chess as well as every other subject area. Otherwise, our language provides us two singular pronouns to choose from: he (when used generically) and it. (Singular “they” is something of a weird hybrid.) — (talk) 05:51, 27 January 2015 (UTC)

If you want to proscribe the gender neutral "he", you need to proscribe it in the MoS. Presently, the guideline encourages its use. RGloucester 06:14, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
And if the consensus is against it, then the MOS should proscribe it. — (talk) 06:25, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
Feel free to open an RfC on the matter. RGloucester 06:46, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
RG, I'm not saying that it never was acceptable to use "he" as a generic pronoun. No one is trying to erase history. I'm saying that the English language has shifted and that it isn't acceptable now. (But yes, it always was sexist; people just didn't notice.) Actually, it's not even me saying it. It's Oxford.
If I wanted to go into the Wikipedia article on sexism and say "It is sexist to use 'he' as a generic pronoun" I would be able to do it because I can cite reliable mainstream sources that support that position. Can you support your position with anything other than your own opinions and conclusions? I'm not saying that your word isn't as good as mine; I'm saying that it's equally as good as mine but that sources trump both of us. Just in case I'll be even more explicit: My agenda is that the MoS should follow sources and not whims so if you can show me sources better than the ones I've shown you proving that the generic he, sexist though it is, is acceptable, standard English, then I will support allowing it under the MoS. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:44, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
If you hadn't noticed, the MoS already allows it, per the "gender neutral language" section. If you want to proscribe it, the burden is on you to gain consensus for that change. Sources mean nothing, tradition means everything, and is our absolute knowledge. Usage has not shifted, except in the minds of some digitally acquainted people who have no consciousness of their own absurdity. There is no "sexism". Your politics are contrary to position of the neutral observer. RGloucester 20:04, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
Sources are what separate Wikipedia's MoS and articles from a pile of arbitrary whims, and if we want people to actually follow the rules we're setting down, we need to prove that they're not arbitrary whims. OED isn't just a digital sources; it's followed by print publishing too. If the abandonment of the generic he isn't as widespread as I think it is, then show me proof that I am wrong. What politics? The only agenda I've espoused here is "The MoS should follow the sources." Darkfrog24 (talk) 20:10, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
As you are aware, your "common style" ideal is not embedded into the MoS, and never has been. The MoS is a pile of the arbitrary whims of "editors concerned about style", as the infamous Mr Lyon puts it. That's why we've got an absurd mishmash of stuff at WP:UNIT, for instance, and why we cannot use title style for article titles. It has nothing to do with "sources". I don't need "sources" to demonstrate a basic English-language concept that is taught in primary school. There is no "abandonment". Your "politics" is to cleanse the language of what you perceive of as "sexist", whilst ignoring common usage amongst proper good folk who call a spade a spade, and ignoring etymologies. It is an activist and radical principle. Remember your ancestors, please. Think of what they'd say. RGloucester 20:16, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
Following etymology and our ancestors would mean that we would still distinguish between "ye" (nominative plural and polite form), "you" (accusative plural and polite form), "thou" (nominative singular and familiar form) and "thee" (accusative singular and familiar form). But we don't. Language changes; meaning is determined by use, not vice versa. Using "he" as a generic pronoun is now increasingly unacceptable, regardless of any individual's protestations to the contrary. Peter coxhead (talk) 20:29, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
It is not "unacceptable". It is in common daily use. Certain pronouns having died a natural death is fine, but an unnatural cleansing is sacrilege. RGloucester 21:01, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
Do you have a comment on the OED’s claim (quoted earlier) that “this is now generally regarded as old-fashioned or sexist”? — (talk) 22:19, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
RG, we have a lot of common ground here. Should people push political agendas on Wikipedia? 100% no. Should people try to "improve" the English language by banning practices that they don't happen to like? 100% no. Is there too much of that sort of thing in the MoS? 1000% yes. I'm going to guess that if I asked you whether Wikipedia should base itself on current standard English I bet you'd say yes. If that's correct, then what we need to do is come up with a measuring stick to determine what is and isn't current standard English. I don't like the generic he because it's sexist but if you can prove that more style guides endorse it than not then I'll change my mind about what the MoS should say about it. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:45, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
Yes, I do have a comment on that. First of all, that's not the OED. That's a dumbed down version called "Oxford Dictionaries". I have an academic subscription to the real OED. It provides no such bizzare commentary. See definition 2b. It does not even mark the usage as "archaic", as it usually does for things that are "old-fashioned". It does not mention "sexism", or any such similiar thing. Standard English is standard English. There is no need for sources. There is no need for anything, other than the elimination of radical revolutionaries. RGloucester 23:09, 27 January 2015 (UTC)
Interesting link: "a person, a personage. † any he: any person whatever (obs.). Chiefly arch. and literary." Guessing "arch." is for "archaic," though the examples suggest that they're talking about "he" as a sub for "person." As for 2b, only one of the examples is from after 1958 but it directs us to the note on "they." It's not unusual for dictionaries to provide their usage note in only one place. Aaaaand now I've hit a login wall. But let's say for now that we have one version of OED that describes the generic he as sexist and another that does not say anything about whether it is sexist at least in its particular entry. I just checked and it has a usage note describing the generic he as sexist but it's not as one-sided as the AED online one [5]. Let's look further to sources that offer explicit guidance on this matter. Since you mentioned what people learn in school, I checked the National Council of Teachers of English. Their guidance says not to use it [6]. So does Purdue [7]. Does anyone have a CMoS or MLA or APA handbook handy?
I just checked the American Heritage Dictionary and I think their usage note may be especially helpful here because it describes the history of the approval and disapproval of the generic he.

Historically, the pronouns he, him, and his have been used as generic or gender-neutral singular pronouns, as in [...] No one seems to take any pride in his work anymore. Since the early 1900s, however, this usage has been criticized for being sexist in its assumption that the male is representative of everyone. As long ago as 1987, a majority of the Usage Panel indicated that they preferred to avoid the generic use of he. Certainly the avoidance of this usage has become common at all levels of formality. Typical strategies for doing so include [...] overturning of tradition. The writer who chooses to use generic he and its inflected forms in the face of the strong trend away from that usage may be viewed as deliberately calling attention to traditional gender roles or may simply appear to be insensitive. In certain sentences, the generic pronoun can simply be dropped or changed to an article with no change in meaning. [...] The sentence Every student handed in his assignment is just as clear when written Every student handed in the assignment.[8]

Italics theirs, bold mine, trimmed some irrelevant stuff from the middle ([...]). Darkfrog24 (talk) 00:15, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
First of all, that definition "a person, a personage..." (III B2) is not the "generic he", which is evident if one looks at one of the examples of that usage, e.g. "I am not the only ‘he’ in the world". Only I 2b is the gender neutral "he". There are no usage notes for "he" that say it is archaic as an anaphoric reference. You are twisting the sources. There is a "cf." to the entry for the pronoun "they", which provides this definition (I 2): "In anaphoric reference to a singular noun or pronoun of undetermined gender: he or she. Especially in relation to a noun phrase involving one of the indefinite determiners or pronouns any, each, every, no, some, anybody, anyone, etc. This use has sometimes been considered erroneous". Guess what? When used as an anaphoric reference, "they" is sometimes considered erroneous, according to the proper OED, but "he" is not "sexist", nor "erroneous", nor "archaic". Ha! We have no version of the OED that says it is sexist. "Oxford Dictionaries" is not the OED. I was taught the gender neutral "he", and I went to a North British Catholic primary school, praise God! If I was taught it in primary school, it is good enough to be used here. Go away, radical. Do not force me to start writing Wikipedia articles with the English T-V distinction in the prose. RGloucester 00:27, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
Teachers can be wrong—not that it’s necessarily the case here, but it must be acknowledged as a possibility, as well as the possibility that this has changed since you were in primary school. And I’m going to have to ask you to back up your claim that Oxford Dictionaries is “dumbed down” or otherwise unreliable, and to explain why we should disregard all the other sources he cited. Also, do not disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point. — (talk) 01:03, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
Thou art the wrong one, that's all that I know. English is English, let it be. Yes, I used "thou" in the disrespectful sense. My apologies to you, thou. As far as what "Oxford Dictionaries" is, I can show thee quite easily. It is not a dictionary, in the traditional sense, but more of a usage guide. It claims to have a progressive edge, and is inherently non-neutral in its guidance: "For us, it’s not only about defining words or charting the history of English in the OED. From the beginning, we have immersed ourselves in everything to do with language. As lexicographers and linguists, we collect, process, and analyse the living language and how it’s changing, its history, its usage, its relations with other languages, and who’s using it, from highbrow to slang. The result is a new Oxford Dictionaries that promises to keep evolving to meet your needs, bringing you closer to English and a growing range of world languages". Their claims of a "living language" are only a deceit to hide behind. They want the "living language" to change in the way that they direct it to, through their guidance. A grand treachery, that is, dear IP. Stick to the proper OED, which is a neutral documentation of facts. Veer away from the political linguists, with their edge. Regardless, if ye auld fellows want a proscription, I think ye ought start writing an RfC proposal to codify it. RGloucester 01:17, 28 January 2015 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Again, I ask that you substantiate your accusations. One could easily make inverse accusations about you that would be more well supported. — (talk) 01:28, 28 January 2015 (UTC)

Are you blind, man (gn)? One might note the tone of the words written by the creators of that thing. It is not a neutral source. RGloucester 01:49, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
So what you're saying is that Oxford Dictionaries is not another version of the OED but rather another dictionary produced by Oxford University press? Okay, let's call it "The Oxford Dictionary"/"OxD" for now. The Oxford Dictionary, and American Heritage dictionary say it's sexist and the OED declines to comment on the matter, but let's say it's an endorsement by omission (in that it marks other uses as archaic etc. but doesn't mark this one). That's still 3:1; 2:1 if we cut out the lukewarm As for OxD's reliability, they don't say anything about being progressive. They say they have been making dictionaries for 150 years and that they embrace new technology. Evolving to meet needs sounds like it refers to things like aps and smartphone compatibility in this context.
When I was in school I was taught that two spaces, not one, should be placed between all sentences. Now both are allowed and one is preferred. I was taught to separate paragraphs with indentation and warned that vertical spaces were a new style that was still considered incorrect in the best circles. Now vertical spaces are one of two acceptable standards. English changes over time. Wikipedia's job is to reflect English as it is, not English as it used to be or as anyone wishes it might become.
The singular they is a separate issue; we've had other RfCs about it on Wikipedia.
We could set up a set of two lists of sources. You know how I love making those.
As for an RfC, why? The MoS already says "use gender-neutral language." That means no generic he. Darkfrog24 (talk) 02:55, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
"He" is gender neutral, and therefore explicitly allowed by the MoS. The recommendation by the MoS to use gender neutral language only shows disdain for the like of paintress and administrix, which were favoured by dear old Dr Fowler. RGloucester 03:26, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
If the gender-neutral sense of “he” were universally supported by current, reliable, respected usage guides, I would agree with you—I vastly prefer using it over the clumsy politically correct alternatives. But it’s not, so I can’t. By the way, do the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary (if they are different editors to those of Oxford Dictionaries) publish a grammar/style/usage guide as well? Because that would be the natural place to check. — (talk) 04:30, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
Whether they write a style guide or not is irrelevant. Style is a matter of preference, which is why different style guides recommend different things, why some people like the "singular they" and others like the serial comma. Style guides, too, are inherently non-neutral, and a matter of preference on the part of their authors. I could cite Dr Fowler and mandate the use of "administrix", "doctress", and the like. Of course, why would I do that? A manual of style is a matter of preference, and so too is Wikipedia's. One can put whatever one wants in it. One could mandate metric units, one could mandate serial commas. One could mandate "logical quotation", as is done here, despite the fact that many people disagree with that preference. Basing one's style on someone else's style guide is unnecessary. The only thing one can do is look at the facts, that is to say, the realities of etymologies, and of practicality, and of tradition, and make the choice that makes the most sense for a given medium in a given moment. If you'd like to proscribe the gender neutral he, go ahead. Feel free. It isn't proscribed now. If you did so, it would be a shame. However, I'm already quite ashamed of the mess that is Wikipedia style, so what different does it make? I'd mandate Oxford English, as does the UN. It is a nice compromise between North American and Commonwealth usage. I'd mandate title case for title style. I'd mandate metric units (despite personal preference for imperial). We could eliminate all these petty debates that take place in far corners of the encylopaedia, that result inconsistency and unnecessary rowing, but that's not what Wikipedia wants to do. It wants to claim a "consensus" model, based in some skewed notion of "democracy". The result is a mess, and that's the mess we have. Now, if you'd like to proscribe gender neutral "he", go ahead. I'm all for definitive action. RGloucester 04:53, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
Well, I did find some detailed guidance published by the same publisher: “‘He or she’ versus ‘they’”. And, predictably, it calls the gender-neutral “he” “outdated and sexist.” And RG, you may want to read WP:NOTDEMOCRACY. — (talk) 05:02, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
That's the same note that was in the Oxford Dictionaries selection, and once again, also comes from Oxford Dictionaries. Now, as I much as I hate the rag, let me show you something else. It also says "In the past, people unquestioningly..." used the gender neutral he. I wonder when this "past" was. Perhaps they mean "five minutes" ago? I'm an anti-democracy activist (irony). You can cite that all you want, as I've done. That's why I put "democracy" in inverted commas. It is this skewed notion of democracy, of being "not a democracy", but also being "democratic" that ruins the encylopaedia. Decisive and absolute action must be taken, demos be damned. That's for another they, however. RGloucester 05:07, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
And I’ll reiterate that Oxford Dictionaries comes from the same publisher as the OED, and for all I know is maintained by the exact same staff. It’s certainly endorsed by the OED. Incidentally, I’d be interested in a Wikipedia-like project whose MOS was controlled by a dedicated and professional editorial team rather than a nebulous consensus that does too often seem to be determined by vote counts. (talk) 05:19, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
"While Oxford Dictionaries focuses on the current language and practical usage, the OED shows how words and meanings have changed over time". Quite clear. OD is a documentation of what certain people think is "practical". As you are aware, that is a matter of point-of-view, and of activism. It is inherently non-neutral. There is no reason why their idea of what is practical should be favoured over anyone else's, as I said above. OED, on the other hand, is a book of pure fact, useful for analysis and determinations. RGloucester 05:23, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
If you’re aware of a case where OUP has claimed that something was common in modern language when it was objectively not, or something similarly controversial, please share. Otherwise, please dampen your anti-activism activism, as it obscures the quite reasonable and valid points you do make. — (talk) 05:37, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
I don't make any valid or reasonable points, as that's antithetical to my character. I only make points, full stop. If it isn't apparent to you, I fear it isn't apparent to you. Sad. RGloucester 06:02, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
Actually, you do. I don’t know that you try to, but valid and reasonable points are included among the points you have to date made, along with some pretty outlandish ones. And one of the other kinds of point you make, over here we call them periods. — (talk) 06:13, 28 January 2015 (UTC)

I think I know what might help. A good hypothesis should be falsifiable. We can keep talking about our positions (I'm still having fun with it) but I think we all know where everyone stands well enough. Let's go around and say what would get us to change our minds (by which I mean "support/cease supporting the idea that the MoS either currently bans or should ban the generic he"). I would change my mind if presented with a preponderance of high-quality sources endorsing the use of the generic he as part of current, standard, acceptable English (formal and for general audiences). I consider dictionaries, publishers' guides and both specialist and general style guides to be good sources but I also find actual use in newspapers and books and other reliable sources to be reasonably convincing. Because RG doesn't consider style guides convincing in this way, it might not occur to him or her to bring them up. RG, maybe what would convince you is not something that would occur to me or is something that I'd dismiss as irrelevant. That doesn't matter here because you're the one I'm trying to convince. How about you two? Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:56, 28 January 2015 (UTC) ────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────

No convincing is necessary. The present MoS does not proscribe the gender neutral pronoun "he". There is no "current, standard, acceptable English". Gender neutral "he" has been used for centuries, and that's that. Nothing has changed. It is just as current now as it was fifty years ago. RGloucester 20:13, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
  • Here is what CMOS has to say. It does appear that generic he and his are officially sexist these days. The style mavens haven't come up with a good solution though: "Writers of lengthy books or articles can use “his” in some passages and “her” in others." Psssft! NotUnusual (talk) 21:33, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
I don’t think the MOS “bans” anything, but I think it should be more assertive than “Use GNL, mkay.” In modern English, the neuter “he” does not qualify as GNL and should be actively discouraged. What would convince me otherwise is nothing less than a consensus that we should feel free to use the neuter “he.” 21:42, 28 January 2015 (UTC)— (talk)
He male. She female. WP:UCS As well's 2015? Randy Kryn 21:58 28 January, 2015 (UTC)
"He" is a gender neutral pronoun. There is also another pronoun "he", which is gendered masculine. "She" is gendered feminine. If anything, I think one should object to the allowance that the MoS provides for referring to ships with the feminine pronoun "she". "He" is a legitimate gender neutral pronoun, and always has been. "She", on the other hand, has only ever been gendered feminine, and that includes when it has been used to refer to ships. Therefore, that's not gender neutral, and really rather absurd, if one thinks about it. "He", on the other hand, is gender neutral, always has been, always will be, and is part of our absolute knowledge. RGloucester 22:07, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
In this discussion, it looks like RGloucester is the only one who supports gender-generic "he". This strongly contrasts with the discussion sometime a while ago (it's now archived) in the chess Wikiproject, where there were several people in the discussion and I was the only one against gender-generic "he" in chess articles. It appears that Wikichess and Wikipedia look like separate projects with separate rules. Georgia guy (talk) 22:30, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
I thought I commented above (but never at the chess project) & I favour strongly keeping "he" as a) liguistically the normal default where "it" would be odd, and b) the normal usage in RS chess sources. We should not be trailblazers in such matters. Johnbod (talk) 22:42, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
I can’t find your earlier comment on this. And I think your definition of “trailblazers” is significantly different from mine. — (talk) 23:23, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
If there is a broad consensus, then it doesn’t matter what WP:LOCALCONSENSUS any wikiproject may come to. But I think the question with chess was the assumed sex of the anonymous White and Black, which is a subtly different question. — (talk) 22:36, 28 January 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The problem is that we have very specific words for specific gender (male:he, female:she) but 'he' is reused for the singular non-specific gender. This is correct English and there is no grammatically correct alternative but it greatly upsets the politically correct brigade. Many people use 'they' instead but this is a plural and thus upsets the grammarians. The CMS mentioned above discourages 'they' and instead recommends that the sentence be rewritten to avoid the generic pronoun altogether (in their example 'the client' replaces 'he'/'she').  Stepho  talk  03:26, 29 January 2015 (UTC)

Since it hasn't been referenced yet, I'll add the APA manual to the stack of style guides cited above that recommend gender-neutral language:

"Sexist bias can occur when pronouns are used carelessly, as when the masculine pronoun he is used to refer to both sexes or when the masculine or feminine pronoun is used exclusively to define roles by sex (e.g., "the nurse... she).... Use of either pronoun [he or she] unavoidably suggests that specific gender to the reader." (6th edition, pp. 73–74)

Using he as a generic pronoun would put WP at odds with the broad consensus of standard contemporary English. Tdslk (talk) 03:41, 29 January 2015 (UTC)

No, it would not. "Broad consensus" isn't made-up by a few advocates with the power to print a trifling guidebook about what they think is "sexist". English is English as spoken by everyday folk that call a spade a spade. The common folk will not allow their heritage to be suppressed by such cretinous folk as these. There is no "bias". "He" is gender neutral, and that's that. It always has been, and always will be. Take your advocacy elsewhere. RGloucester 03:44, 29 January 2015 (UTC)
@RGloucester: When you say "It always has been, and always will be", are you saying that English doesn't change over time? Or are you saying that you don't like the way it has changed? I can understand the latter, but it is clear that words do change meaning over time, so I don't think you mean the former, but that's what I'm hearing you say. SchreiberBike talk 04:38, 29 January 2015 (UTC)
No, I said that it hasn't changed. RGloucester 04:39, 29 January 2015 (UTC)
Perhaps it hasn't for you, but a great deal of evidence has been provided above that it has changed for many English users. It seems to me that usage in Wikipedia should reflect that change. SchreiberBike talk 04:51, 29 January 2015 (UTC)
No such change exists. Evidence is meaningless. Please cease and desist in your drive for linguistic cleansing. RGloucester 05:21, 29 January 2015 (UTC)
I don't find it useful to engage with a person who says "No such change exists. Evidence is meaningless." Thank you. SchreiberBike talk 05:40, 29 January 2015 (UTC)
I don't find it useful to engage with people that believe in the concept of "evidence". There is no such thing. Evidence is nonreal. It is constructed by those who want to claim to have objective reality on their side, when no such reality exists. It is a false construct. Anyone can make-up whatever evidence they like. It is manipulatable, mouldable. It is nothing at all, really. Focus on the essential bit, here, which is that the gender neutral "he" exists, has existed, and continues to exist. It has been a part of the English language for centuries. Therefore, it is present now. Simple. RGloucester 05:46, 29 January 2015 (UTC)
Probably we can all agree that he non-gender-specific "he" exists; that doesn't mean we agree that that existence makes it "neutral". This is where evidence can help. I know you prefer to follow what God tells you, but some of us prefer to look at evidence as more objective. Dicklyon (talk) 06:06, 29 January 2015 (UTC)
I don't think that depicting the two sides in this discussion as being "common folk" vs. "cretinous folk" is very helpful. Do you really think that the many people here and everywhere who support gender-neutral language are "cretins"? As for your other descriptions, the APA Manual is not "trifling", it is quite popular in many academic disciplines, and the "broad consensus" I was referring to was that across many style guides in many fields. Finally, I am sure that you did not intend to order me to stop participating in this discussion, as that would be highly uncivil, so could you please clarify what you meant by "take your advocacy elsewhere"? Tdslk (talk) 05:25, 29 January 2015 (UTC)
I support gender neutral language, as demanded by English in usual circumstances. "He" is gender neutral. As I said before, do you see me pushing for the use of administrix? No? I wonder why (though I shan't be forced to give up my dear fishwives). Academic circles and style guides are the political works of cretinous folks who use their status in society for the sake of their own ends, a product of the bourgeois cultural machine. It is the fallacy of the "the principle of the equivalence of the sign and of the real", nothing more than a money-making enterprise at its core. As far as your advocacy, it is your political linguistic cleansing drive that I refer to. RGloucester 05:39, 29 January 2015 (UTC)
Actually, Stepho, "he or she" and "[plural subject] they" are both grammatically correct alternatives. Does anyone have any sources to cite that contradict the claim that the generic he is sexist?
RG, you say that we should ignore the evidence and focus on the "essential bit, that the generic he exists." Yes, no one's contesting that it has a history of use in English. The issue is whether or not the generic he is acceptable and correct. You seem to think that it is. Do you have anything other than your own opinion to support this? Why should we believe you instead of the dictionaries and style guides that have been offered here?
Or we can try something else. You say you don't find the style guides or dictionaries convincing because you feel they're fabricated. I'm guessing that you don't mean that you think that Anon174 or Tdslk or myself went back in time and forced the publishers to print them. Do you mean that you believe that English as it's actually used is the real evidence? We can see about checking the rate of use in newspapers and books and even Google if you think that's better. Darkfrog24 (talk) 23:57, 29 January 2015 (UTC)
I rather like the the example of the purportedly "gender-neutral" he in a letter to the New York Times:

"The average American needs the small routines of getting ready for work. As he shaves or blow-dries his hair or pulls on his panty-hose, he is easing himself by small stages into the demands of the day." [from a letter to the New York Times, 1985]

--Boson (talk) 01:18, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
  • "Evidence is nonreal. It is constructed by those who want to claim to have objective reality on their side, when no such reality exists."[9] Everyone has been very polite about this so far. Politeness is a good thing. But I think the time has come to ask: LG, have you been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and if so, which mental hospital were these words written at? NotUnusual (talk) 02:14, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
Very funny. I simply accept the reality that there is no such thing as reality, that there is no such thing as evidence. Regardless, the reality is that "he" is a standard gender neutral pronoun in the English language. RGloucester 02:46, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
I don’t think anyone here has claimed that the gender-neutral sense of the word did not exist. But this sense has become less standard than it once was. Since you don’t believe in evidence, that’s essentially the end of the conversation. — (talk) 04:03, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
"He" has not been a gender-neutral pronoun in the spoken language in many a generation—that job has been handled by "they" for centuries—and has long been considered an affectation of the written and artificially "formal" languages, one that doesn't pass unnoticed. In fact, I don't think I've ever come across a speaker (no matter how old) who used "he" in a gender-neutral sense unless they were being transparently facetious—that's how powerfully unnatural it has become in the spoken language, and that happened generations before the language police joined the discussion. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 05:23, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
You must live in a foreign land, then, because that's not how we speak where I come from. I've never heard someone use "they" for anything other than the plural, and I've never heard anyone not use "he" when referring to some noun of indeterminate gender. The fact that so many people here seem to have been corrupted by modernity is quite shocking, shocking. It seems that there is no real connection to reality on the ground, to the point where people can claim that "he" is unnatural. I fear Wikipedia is a cabal with undue influence on the world's language, if this is the case. If such people are erasing usages they dislike and claiming such absurdities as this, then the world is damned. RGloucester 05:36, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
You just made every native English speaker in the world snort milk out their nose with that one. You've never heard someone use "them" in the singular? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!! The centuries-long usage of singular they in your homeland is well documented, as it is in English-majority countries around the world. If you object to it as a colloquialism, then object to it as a colloquialism, but don't look us in the eyes and simply tell us it doesn't exist. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 08:46, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
Anyways, to keep this from going off on a tangent (I didn't advocate the singular they): the general eader does not accept gender-neutral "he" as valid. It does not exist in the spoken language, and it has been decades since it was general in the formal written language. Society has deprecated it at every level—let it die. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 08:53, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
“You must live in a foreign land, then”—exactly. Wikipedia is global. The English Wikipedia is global. Your experience (or mine, or anyone’s) is not necessarily applicable to the broad spectrum of how the language is used. For any usage guidance to enjoy consensus, it needs to take foreign lands into account. — (talk) 05:53, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
I'm pretty sure CT was referring informal spoken English by native speakers. The solution is not use any form spoken English as our standard, since there is so much variation. We should follow the English of the style books and dictionaries. That still leaves us with Oxford British English and Merriam-Webster/CMOS American English, but at least it takes all these other options off the table. NotUnusual (talk) 06:43, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
Actually, singular "they" is common in speech around the world. Your user page says that you speak British English, so here's a study that found that singular "they" was used in >90% of circumstances that call for a non-gender-specific singular pronoun in British English[10]. Tdslk (talk) 08:01, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
And before you react to that, RG, let me just suggest that you read a bit about confirmation bias and about the genetic fallacy. — (talk) 08:19, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
My native language is actually Scots. Why not do a study of Scots speakers, and see what they use? Regardless, I don't believe in studies. They are just power fantasies for self-important academics. RGloucester 13:46, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
Why would we do that? This is the English Wikipedia. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 14:48, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
Scots is essentially a subspecies of English. At least, that's how most speakers perceive it, despite the fact that some nationalist linguists claim otherwise. RGloucester 17:49, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
Any study of a particular dialect would not tell us about general usage in the language as a whole. At best, it could highlight a peculiarity in a dialect. Your assertions about the general language would remain false. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 13:16, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
Then I’ll also suggest you look into “no true Scotsman.” — (talk) 21:06, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
I can totally buy Scots English as a variety of English. It's an English-speaking country. I could see putting the generic he under ENGVAR if RG (or anyone) can show that the generic he is considered acceptable in that specific variety. Darkfrog24 (talk) 21:30, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
For clarification, do you mean that generic he is officially part of Scottish English?? If so, this means it should be supported in articles specifically Scotland-related, which in turn is a statement that if the consensus ends up as such, it should be added to the essay at Wikipedia:Gender-neutral language as an addition to the list of situations it does not apply to. Georgia guy (talk) 21:34, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
To be clear, I wasn't referring to Scottish English, but to the leid. Regardless, that essay is irrelevant. Unless it is proscribed in the MoS proper, or that essay is elevated to guideline status, it has no power. RGloucester 21:50, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
That’s not quite how it works. See WP:Essays, under “Wikipedia information pages.” — (talk) 22:24, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
It is how it works. It has no backing behind it. RGloucester 22:37, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

How are we interpreting "use gender-neutral language"?[edit]

Quick show of hands: Who here thinks that the MoS, in its current form, does ban (proscribe, term of choice) the generic he and who here thinks that it doesn't? I'm not asking what you think the MoS should do. I'm asking what you think it says and means right now. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:46, 30 January 2015 (UTC) EDIT: I will be more specific. Please say whether you think the MoS's line about gender-neutral language applies to or covers the generic he, whether you think the MoS is a guideline or a set of rules or neither or something else or whatever. Whatever you want to call what MoS does, say American punctuation and using title case in headers, do you think it also do it to the generic he? Darkfrog24 (talk) 00:54, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

Does. It says "use gender-neutral language," so the generic he is out whether we include the essay or not. The essay just makes that extra clear. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:46, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

  • It is impossible to think it does – If "he" is used to refer to things of indeterminate gender, by default it is "gender neutral", in the same way that the noun "painter" is gender neutral. Otherwise, using the word "painter" would not be considered "gender neutral", because it has two meanings, one referring to male painters, and one referring to painters of indeterminate gender, in the same manner as "he". It, along with the word "paintress", would have to be proscribed if what Mr Frog says is true. The gender neutral pronoun "he" remains. It is entirely separate from the masculine pronoun "he", just as the masculine painter is separated from gender neutral "painter". RGloucester 22:50, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
    That’s a false analogy. Words like “paintress” have almost entirely fallen out of use, but “she” and “her” are still in use. (Please don’t respond to this with absurdly extreme fundamentalism.) — (talk) 23:13, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
    It isn't false at all. "He" is a gender neutral pronoun, and remains so, just as "painter" is a gender neutral noun, and remains so. RGloucester 23:16, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
    “He” is primarily used to specifically refer to males. “Painter” is not. — (talk) 23:24, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
    Incorrect. "He" is primarily used to refer to indeterminate gender, whereas "he" is primarily used to refer to things of male gender. "Painter" is primarily used to refer to male painters, whereas "painter" is primarily used to refer to painters of indeterminate gender or as an amorphous collective ("painters"). RGloucester 23:31, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
    You’re drawing a distinction where none is apparent. And my point still stands. Please stop this line of argument; it’s increasingly difficult to avoid assuming that you’re trolling. — (talk) 23:40, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
    I simply don't understand what's hard to understand about it. "City primarily refers to large urban areas, but "city" primarily refers to small settlements. What's so hard to understand? As I already said before, "savoury" means things that are not sweet, but "savoury" means things that are delicious. There are sweet delicious things. It is not uncommon for there to be multiple meanings of words, where one class of things is only a small sub-set of what the word can actually refer to. It is the same with "he". RGloucester 23:43, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
    It is also not uncommon for some meanings of words to fall out of use, at which point it is incorrect (or at best misleading) to claim that the word continues to hold that meaning. Language changes, regardless of how much you wish it wouldn’t or insist that it doesn’t. — (talk) 23:51, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
    No such change has occurred, nor can it be possible for such a change to have occured. There is no Académie anglaise. Imagine if those poor fellows were forced to ban the gender neutral "ils" (I will grant that that usage is not really "gender neutral" at all, given the nature of the language). Heads would roll. RGloucester 23:56, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
    Sure it is. If speakers of the language change the way they speak it, that changes the language. That’s how English works, always has been. Just like the word “tweet” acquired a new meaning, words lose meanings to disuse. I don’t know how you got it into your head that this can’t happen. — (talk) 00:03, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
    Speakers have not done this, outside of a cabal. Regardless, only a dictate by God can signal such a change, and he certainly hasn't mentioned anything about a "tweet", whatever that is, in his correspondence to me. RGloucester 00:36, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
    Human languages are in the domain of people, not God (and either way, no one has to check in with you). There is nothing sacrosanct about the English language. — (talk) 01:00, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
  • MOS:GNL discourages gender-specific language such as “he.” It doesn’t say not to use it, just says GNL is preferred. — (talk) 23:03, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
    No it doesn't. It's phrased in the imperative. Formerip (talk) 23:17, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
    But it says nothing imperative about gender-specific language. It says, “Use gender-neutral language where this can be done with clarity and precision.” It does not say, “Do not use gender-specific language.” That’s why I say it’s discouraged rather than banned. — (talk) 23:24, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
I'll let you off if English is not your first language, but you're wrong. The wording is a clear instruction, with an allowance given *only* for cases where it can't easily be done. So, for example, we might consider that there is no gender-neutral alternative to "waitress" without producing very awkward wording, so in that case we either do not use gender-neutral language or we say "waitress or waiter", if that works. What the wording doesn't do is make the general rule to any extent optional. Formerip (talk) 23:41, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

"He" or "she" are not banned. MOS is a style guideline, not a policy, unlike WP:IAR, which is policy. The use of the feminine pronoun in ship articles and lists is well-established and supported by WP:SHIPS and WP:MILHIST. Editors are allowed to write ship articles in the neuter gender should they wish, cut the vast majority of us who actually write the articles use the feminine pronoun. Mjroots (talk) 23:22, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

But, when it comes down to dispute resolution (which is the only time policies and guidelines get enforced anyway), the side that says "it's only a guideline" is always going to lose. So, for practical purposes, "he" and "she" pretty much are banned where gender neutral language would normally be used, except in the unfortunate and anomalous case of ships. Formerip (talk) 23:26, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
I guess we can put RG down for a "doesn't."
@FormerIp, @Mjroots, @ I will be more specific about what I meant. Please say whether you think the MoS's line about gender-neutral language applies to or covers the generic he, whether you think the MoS is a guideline or a set of rules or neither or something else or whatever. Whatever you like to call what MoS does to American punctuation and using title case in headers, do you think it also do it to the generic he? Darkfrog24 (talk) 00:54, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
Yes. (talk) 01:03, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
Yes. Formerip (talk) 01:06, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

Does "Use gender-neutral language where this can be done with clarity and precision" means that he should not generally be used. SchreiberBike talk 00:16, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

Yes. Georgia guy (talk) 01:13, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
This is a pointless exercise. The reality is reality. If you are so scared of basic English, I suggest you find some other language that is more suitable to your taste. There are many languages that do not have these features. Go join them. RGloucester 01:16, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
  • Given that the section was added at the height of the great "Chelsea Manning" debate, I think the language was intended to apply across the board, even to the generic "he"... That said, I think it is time to take a second look at this section, and revise it. Whether we like it or not, the reality is that most of our editors regularly use "he" generically, and they will continue doing so despite the MOS saying they shouldn't. I am a firm believer in not having policy (or even guidance) that will be routinely ignored, and this is a provision that is widely ignored. This is a case where actual practice shows community consensus far better than any poll or !vote we can conduct here on this talk page. Blueboar (talk) 02:50, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
Mr Boar, as much as I will defend the use of the gender neutral "he", even I would not endorse such an outlandish claim as "editors 'regularly' use 'he' generically, and they will continue doing so 'despite' the MOS saying they shouldn't". I think that there is rarely ever an occasion when writing a Wikipedia article where such a pronoun is necessary. It simply isn't in the encyclopaedic register, given that the usual uses of the gender neutral "he", such as "a student should to his work", or an "a Briton must do his duty", are not something we ever need to write. We may use them on talk pages, as I do, using the pronoun "he" to refer to anyone who has not specified a preferred imagined gender status. In reality, though, from a style perspective, this is an non-issue, much like the British milk rule at MOS:UNIT. RGloucester 03:06, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
Blueboar: "most of our editors regularly use 'he' generically": You can't be serious. This is laughably false. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 09:18, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
It sounds like Blueboar has seen enough editors use the generic he to make it feel like a lot. Depending on which subjects Blueboar prefers to edit, this is perfectly possible. I haven't encountered it myself.
As for Blueboar's position, in cases in which English has multiple correct options, like the serial comma, I agree, but this is a case in which almost all the sources say that the generic he is no good. The MoS should not be changed to endorse a mistake just because a lot of people keep making it. If the generic he comes back into standard English we can always change the MoS then. Darkfrog24 (talk) 16:08, 1 February 2015 (UTC)

Clarifying the MoS's position on the generic he[edit]

Proposed text:

Use gender-neutral language where this can be done with clarity and precision. For example, avoid the generic he and prefer words such as "chair"/"chairperson" or "firefighter" to "chairwoman" and "fireman." This does not apply to direct quotations or the titles of works (The Ascent of Man), which should not be altered, or to wording about one-gender contexts, such as an all-female school (When any student breaks that rule, she loses privileges).

Thanks for answering my earlier question everyone. I feel the conversation would be neatest if responses were "add this text," "add other text" or "no change is necessary" but these things have a life of their own. EDIT: If anyone thinks we need a full RfC, we can do that too. Darkfrog24 (talk) 16:08, 1 February 2015 (UTC)

  • No change necessary – Say what you want about the generic "he", but there is no way I will support mandating "chair/chairperson", and utter monster of a usage that isn't even support by a variety of parliamentary and corporate rules. This is a recipe for a straitjacket that doesn't comply with sources, and is exactly the type of advocacy rule that the MoS does not need. RGloucester 16:31, 1 February 2015 (UTC)
RG, we know you don't think the MoS bans/whatevers the generic he, but it does and it has for a long time. You are misinterpreting it. If you want the generic he to be permitted, you must suggest that it be changed. Darkfrog24 (talk) 16:32, 1 February 2015 (UTC)
I don't care about the gender netural "he", because it is irrelevant, as I said above, and we'll never be needing to write with it on an encylopaedia anyway. However, "chairman" and the like is a totally different kettle of fish, and such a mandate for "chairperson" is not supported by RS or usage in general. Such a change would require a massive RfC, and would affect a massive number of articles (such as our article title ("Chairman"). It is not even remotely comparable to the "generic he" issue. The existing wording does what it needs to do. RGloucester 16:35, 1 February 2015 (UTC)

Request for Comment[edit]

There is currently an RfC at Talk:Ryukyu Kingdom#RfC: Infobox concerning the MoS of the article. Thank you. ミーラー強斗武 (StG88ぬ会話) 19:52, 27 January 2015 (UTC)

Linking to sections[edit]

The main MOS says this:

Linking to sections: A hash sign (#) followed by the appropriate heading will lead to a relevant part of a page. For example, [[Apostrophe#Use in non-English names]] links to a particular section of the article Apostrophe.

However, Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Linking says:

If you decide not to use a redirect, you have to use a piped link, because the format "Article name#Section name" is inappropriate for display in an article.

A few points:

1. The MOS should not give as an example a format which is stated elsewhere to be bad practice.

2. While I agree with the sentiment expressed in the second quote above, the wording "have to" seems odd to me. It seems to be implying that the link will not work otherwise, which is incorrect.

3. No advice is given about cases where there is no convenient paraphrase to use in the piped link, or where it may be confusing to present users with what appears to be a link to an article only to throw them into a subsection of a different article. The best solution that I have seen uses the section sign, §, i.e. [[Article#Section | Article § Section]]. It would be useful for this to be mentioned.

4. The section Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Linking#Piped links and redirects to sections of articles gives, and apparently endorses, the example [[Oman#Culture|culture of Oman]], but then goes on to say that links to sections like "Eastern Anyshire#History" are "bad practice" because an article "History of Eastern Anyshire" could later be created. It is unclear why the same does not apply to "Culture of Oman". (talk) 05:02, 29 January 2015 (UTC)

Non-English songs[edit]

Shall names of songs, organizations etc. in another language than English be italicized in addition to songs being in quotation marks? Shall the title of songs be in italics if they are translated (by Wikipedians) into English? 19:05, 29 January 2015 (UTC)Iselilja (talk)

  • I'd definitely not use Wikipedian translations for titles. — Crisco 1492 (talk) 19:07, 29 January 2015 (UTC)

Addition to WP:IDENTITY[edit]

It says:

An exception to the above is made for terms relating to gender identity. In such cases, Wikipedia favors self-designation, even when usage by reliable sources indicates otherwise. Any person whose gender might be questioned should be referred to by the pronouns, possessive adjectives, and gendered nouns (for example "man/woman", "waiter/waitress", "chairman/chairwoman") that reflect that person's latest expressed gender self-identification. This applies in references to any phase of that person's life, unless the subject has indicated a preference otherwise. Direct quotations may need to be handled as exceptions (in some cases adjusting the portion used may reduce apparent contradictions, and "[sic]" may be used where necessary).

However, go to the bottom Talk:Gregory Hemingway. It suggests that this needs to be changed to:

An exception to the above is made for terms relating to gender identity. In such cases, Wikipedia favors self-designation, even when usage by reliable sources indicates otherwise. Any person whose gender might be questioned should be referred to by the pronouns, possessive adjectives, and gendered nouns (for example "man/woman", "waiter/waitress", "chairman/chairwoman") that reflect that person's latest expressed gender self-identification, if possible. If not possible, just use the pronouns, possessive adjectives, and gendered nouns that reflect the gender used by most reliable sources to refer to the person. This applies in references to any phase of that person's life, unless the subject has indicated a preference otherwise. Direct quotations may need to be handled as exceptions (in some cases adjusting the portion used may reduce apparent contradictions, and "[sic]" may be used where necessary).

This person is someone where the latest expressed gender self-identification is difficult to work out. (See the requested move at the bottom of the talk page for details.) Any thoughts on the change?? Georgia guy (talk) 01:17, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

I think the change is a good one... It respects self-identification, while also taking into account the reality that self-identification isn't always clear cut. Common sense should govern here, and the proposed addition allows us to use common sense. In essence it allows us to make an exception to the exception. Blueboar (talk) 15:09, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

Suggest instead of the strange and convoluted(IMHO) language choices:

Self-identification is a general requirement for statements about gender identity on Wikipedia. Words and grammatical usage in Wikipedia's voice should reflect as much as possible the stated desire of the subject, including different usages depending on date if that is the desire of the subject. Where such a desire is clearly inapt, then Wikipedia should seek to quote sources, using the gender identity as the source gives it. Direct quotations should be labelled as such, and "[sic]" should not be used in direct quotations from others.

I find implying that a person or source making a statement is incorrect where they may not have been incorrect when making the statement to be improper. The first rule on gender treatment on Wikipedia is to try to obey the person's wishes when making claims in Wikipedia's voice, but that can not apply to rewriting what others have said or written. Collect (talk) 16:15, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

I will concur with Collect's basic thrust. Gender is a complex issue, with more than one way to view it, and we should not be indicating that someone else is in error merely for not having a viewpoint on it that concurs with Wikipedia's voice. (Although as written, it would even not allow "sic" where there is not apparent viewpoint difference - i.e., "I have met Barack Obama and she [sic] is a very nice man." However, this has been a matter for discussion on the IDENTITY talk page, and may better be handled there... my suggestion is simply to drop any discussion of "sic" from the guideline. --Nat Gertler (talk) 16:28, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
Struck through the "sic stuff". Collect (talk) 18:37, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
This is the WP:IDENTITY talk page, but I take it you mean the WP:Gender identity talk page? Either way, how to outline gender identity has been discussed to death on this talk page, especially because of the Chelsea Manning/Bradley Manning gender identity matter. Recent discussions showing that to be the case are the following: Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 149, Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 152#Gender Identity - proposal on names used, Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 154#MOS:ID removal, and Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 157#MOS:IDENTITY. Archive 149 shows substantial discussion about WP:IDENTITY and a WP:RfC that was held on the matter. Flyer22 (talk) 16:53, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
And per all of those past recent discussions, I prefer the current wording of WP:IDENTITY. Flyer22 (talk) 16:57, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
This is mostly the same wording, with nothing changed, just something added, namely; ... if possible. If not possible, just use the pronouns, possessive adjectives, and gendered nouns that reflect the gender used by most reliable sources to refer to the person.... These words apply to when the latest expressed self-identification is unknown, as is the case with Hemingway. Georgia guy (talk) 17:02, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

I don't think the proposed wording is particularly clear (i.e., "if possible" sounds like "if the pronouns can be used"). It would be more clear and succinct to say: "...that person's latest expressed gender self-identification, if known. This applies..." or "...that person's latest expressed gender self-identification, unless this is unclear. This applies..." sroc 💬 17:39, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

I understand; I just wasn't thinking about that statement initially. Georgia guy (talk) 17:45, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
I think Sroc's version is clearer. I would change the "If not possible" to "If no such preference has been made clear" because that is more specific. Darkfrog24 (talk) 20:25, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
Yes, I agree; the only thing to know here is that I didn't initially think about Sroc's comment when I first brought up this section. Georgia guy (talk) 21:02, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
It was not meant as a criticism of yourself, GG. I'm only doing my bit to work out a good wording. Darkfrog24 (talk) 21:26, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
I don't think the addition of the sentence "If not possible..." or "If no such preference has been made clear..." is necessary because the exception simply would not apply in that case. sroc 💬 14:14, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
What rule do you support in that particular situation?? Georgia guy (talk) 14:26, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
How about WP:Ignore all rules? Blueboar (talk) 14:38, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

MoS guidance[edit]

I feel that I once read a guideline but can not locate it at this time. It spoke to the unencyclopedic redundancy of closing a partial list of examples with a phrase like "and others". If, for example, we were to say: "article subject has produced several top ten albums including A, B, C, and others.", the "and others" would be unnecessary. Is anyone familiar with where in the MoS this is covered? Thank you.--John Cline (talk) 03:49, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

I have not seen that in the MoS, but I agree that including does make and others unnecessary. I have made similar edits multiple times and have felt confident in it. SchreiberBike talk 05:07, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
Something along those lines sounds familiar. “Including” implies a partial list and should not be used for complete listings, something like that. And I agree that the “and others” is absolutely superfluous in the example text. — (talk) 05:32, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
Yes, thank you both. I am certain that I read of this somewhere; I did think it was on Wikipedia but it could of easily had been elsewhere – and I am confident that removing the redundancy is an improvement. Since a discussion was started in good faith by AtomsOrSystems, by reverting Starship.paint's previous edit,[11] I was hoping to answer the question with a link instead of what might sound like an opinion. Especially on this particular article, with 1rr and AE/DS restrictions. And this is why I came to ask the question. So I am also inviting these editors to comment if they would like; so we can see a good answer. Thanks to all who help in answering it.--John Cline (talk) 06:00, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
  • 174 IP explained it well already above. That was my rationale for that specific change in that edit. I don't feel super strongly about this issue though, which is why I did not pursue the matter. starship.paint ~ ¡Olé! 06:05, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
  • After consideration and the advice above, as well as rereading the sentence, I don't have any particular objection to removing the "and others." My revert was the result of me seeing an edit with no explanation or summary pop up that appeared less than non-controversial, it being something like 3AM my time, and the heightened wariness of edits inspired by that particular article (as John Cline notes).
On a mostly-unrelated note, I still tend to think that the "death threats" change should remain how it is, since I believe the "threats of a mass shooting" are intended to be included as an extreme addition to the general death threats. AtomsOrSystems (talk) 06:18, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

Determining "national ties" from references[edit]

I wonder if "the styles appearing in a clear majority of references" should be considered in determining "national ties", or otherwise influencing the style used in an article? What if an article's first major contributor happens to use Commonwealth English, but almost all of the references were published in the U.S. and use "color", "the XYZ company is", and mdy dates? Doesn't that say something about the styles the article should use?

This concept has precedent. IEC Binary prefixes are normally not allowed to be used in WP (per WP:COMPUNITS). An exception is "when the majority of cited sources on the article topic use IEC prefixes". It seems like a defensible approach. Jeh (talk) 12:03, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

  • Oppose: If the subject itself does not have clear strong ties to any nation then MOS:TIES should never be invoked. It should only apply when the subject itself has strong ties to an English-majority nation, in which case that nation's ENGVAR should be preferred. "Strong ties" should not be considered a mere majority of anything—the ties should be clear and overwhelming. There are likely far more American sources on AC/DC than Australian ones (it shouldn't be hard to guess why). This is the kind of case where TIES applies, and will always trump the ENGVAR of sources. I can't imagine a case where I'd agree the ENGVAR of the sources was in the least bit relevant. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 13:07, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
  • I see what you mean. Ok. Jeh (talk) 13:09, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose Then we'd just get Wikieditors adding sources to get the national balance that they prefer. Darkfrog24 (talk) 15:59, 1 February 2015 (UTC)