Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Capital letters/Archive 6

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Optimising examples at WP:CAPS

Does anyone disagree that contentious examples should be substituted with those that have wide consensus? Tony (talk) 09:02, 8 October 2011 (UTC)

No disagreement. Examples should, where possible, have wide consensus. --Boson (talk) 12:16, 8 October 2011 (UTC)

Consensus doesn't mean unanimity. This is all about the comet examples, where Tony and others failed to show consensus against the examples. Since they can't address the actual arguments, they have first resorted to edit-warring and now to creating this discussion, which again allows them to avoid addressing inconvenient arguments. --Enric Naval (talk) 12:49, 8 October 2011 (UTC)

As I understand it, the capitalization of the first part of the name (e.g. "Andromeda" or "Halley's") is undisputed but the capitalization of the second part of the name (e.g. "galaxy" of "comet") is somewhat contentious and may not be the same for all such objects. Regardless of the motivation of any given editor, this seems to make them bad examples, examples being intended to use a specific instance that holds true for all entities in the classes described in the rule, as understood by the reader. If these examples are meant to do more than illustrate the rule "Names of planets, moons, asteroids, comets, stars, constellations, and galaxies are proper nouns and begin with a capital letter", then the rule should be changed. I disagree with the use of the example "Andromeda Galaxy" with a capital 'G' unless the rule (that it is meant to illustrate) clearly states that both parts of the name should be capitalized. Personally, I agree with the capitalization of Galaxy and Comet in these two cases, but I disapprove of examples being used to imply general rules that are unstated and may be against consensus in individual cases. For instance, I would understand the examples to imply that "Andromeda Constellation" should be capitalized thus. --Boson (talk) 14:02, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
Yes, the rule does state that "Galaxy" should be capitalized. Yes, "Andromeda Constellation" would also be uppercased, just like the example suggests That constellation is called simply "Andromeda" or "the Chained Maiden"[1], so, unlike the galaxy, "constellation" is not part of the proper name. These rules follow the rules at the astronomy naming convention, which in turn follows the rules of the International Astronomical Union, the international entity responsible for naming celestial bodies.
All our articles in celestial bodies already follow these rules. For example, all galaxies are either "Name Galaxy" or "Name (galaxy)", all lowercased titles are all for types of galaxies like spiral galaxy. --Enric Naval (talk) 20:39, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Replace contentious examples with examples where there is little or no disagreement. This is a no brainer. LK (talk) 09:34, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

The existing statement is not contested: Names of planets, moons, asteroids, comets, stars, constellations, and galaxies are proper nouns and begin with a capital letter: "The planet Mars can be seen tonight in the constellation Gemini, near the star Pollux. The problem comes up when trying to decide whether to combine the generic terms "comet" and "galaxy" and stuff like that with the name part into a compound "proper noun". Yes, the astronomy buffs, as represented by the IAU, have a convention to do so. But we haven't got any widespread consensus (among more than the astro buffs) to adopt that style in WP. Until we do, we shouldn't be adding examples that suggest that we have that agreement. In the mean time, majority usages shows lower case, indicating the IAU style has not caught on in general usage ([2], [3], [4]), so why would we even consider going that way, given WP's MOS:CAPS? Dicklyon (talk) 21:26, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

Dick, I've restored the examples to the astronomy section. You indicated in your edit summary that the 'lack of consensus was abundantly clear' in the RM, which is patently incorrect. The discussion was heavily leaning in favour of keeping the capitalisation when you withdrew your move request, and the closer of the discussion after you did so even stated that there appeared to be no chance that your proposed change would gain consensus. Please don't misrepresent the consensus in this way - your request failed to gain consensus to change the capitalisation, it did not establish a lack of consensus to keep the capitalisation.
You and Tony seem intent on changing this area of Wikipedia. In the past you have changed the MOS without consultation, then pointed at your change in move requests as though it had always been there. When your move requests fail, you wait a few days until attention has moved elsewhere and then try to make changes to the MOS, pointing (falsely) at the results of your failed move requests as evidence that things should be changed.
Enough. The consensus on astronomical topics is and has always been to follow the capitalisation guidelines of the IAU. It has nothing to do with 'astronomy buffs' and the consensus built on Wikipedia thus far extends beyond 'astronomy buffs' as you allege above. I find it dishonest that despite seeing consensus (and in strong numbers) on astronomy articles for this convention, you brought it up here with only a small handful of people commenting, and used that as justification to change the article. Consensus doesn't have to be built on the specific page being altered, the consensus established in astronomy articles on naming is relevant and valid to this MOS page. If you insist on changing this text, I would strongly suggest you open an RFC - people knowledgeable in this field may not have the MOS on their watchlist, but are absolutely entitled to express their views. TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 00:44, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
And let me be clear: in this discussion right now, there are three people supporting the change and two opposing. This is not consensus. Per BRD, the text was removed, it was restored, now it must be discussed before being removed again. TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 00:46, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
TS, I withdrew my RM because it was clear that there was no consensus. The counts had drifted from about 16:15 to 16:17 or something like that, which is certainly still in the "no consensus" territory. Your characterization of the issue is patently unfair. I advertised my changes on several relevant talk pages and made the RM as a test case. Please assume good faith. And if there's a consensus to follow IAU, please do point out the discussion that shows that. Dicklyon (talk) 04:28, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
As I commented in the "comet and galaxy examples" section, the RM was 1-3 against moving. --Enric Naval (talk) 12:07, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
I'd like to see the IAU matter ratified (or discarded) through a specific RFC, actually, so that there's one place we can point to when the question is raised again. Existing discussions on the matter are scattered across a variety of topics and could be characterised as a 'trend', but it's really something that needs to exist centrally, much like the IUPAC naming conventions are mentioned for chemistry articles. I think such an RFC would belong here (and be mentioned in the MOS section for astronomical terms if accepted), but certainly WP Astronomy should be brought in since it's something that precisely overlaps with their scope. Thoughts? TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 05:05, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
I agree. The current scheme of astronomy just ignoring the principles of the MOS causes a lot of thrashing. We should get an exception ratified if that's what we need, or go back to following the MOS principles. Dicklyon (talk) 18:16, 22 October 2011 (UTC)

Where did these examples come from?

The contested examples were added in Dec. 2008, in this diff, the day after Christmas, in a month when the talk page had no edits at all. Seriously, is there any reason to think there was some consensus to add these, under summary "clarification"? Dicklyon (talk) 04:36, 21 October 2011 (UTC)

It's impossible to know if the matter wasn't discussed at WikiProject Astronomy or some other appropriate venue. I'll take you up on your suggestion of assuming good faith and assume that the paragraph's addition was approved of, and that its existence in the MOS for three years, including discussions specifically about it, gave some degree of implicit consensus over time. I don't mind if current consensus is to remove it, as long as that is indeed what current consensus is, and my main issue here is that the people that edit in this area that are knowledgeable and likely to understand the nuances better than others aren't aware that a change like this is even being proposed. We've got a few ways to try to figure out what consensus is, as well as some alternatives that might remove the need to debate that specific paragraph altogether (see my comment on an IAU RFC above). TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 05:16, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
Dicklyon's last edit is acceptable to me, although I am tempted to stick a "citation needed" tag behind "popular usage". --Enric Naval (talk) 18:11, 22 October 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict) (I am also tempted to count how many of the opposers in the Halley's Comet's RM were from WikiProject Astronomy.) --Enric Naval (talk) 18:11, 22 October 2011 (UTC)
Since we're not in article space, I suppose a citation to some original research that supports the assertion might be in order. Feel free to call for if you like. Dicklyon (talk) 18:13, 22 October 2011 (UTC)
One problem is that usage is determined by "usage in reliable sources", not by "popular usage". And people at Halley's RM were saying that Science & Telescope Sky & Telescope was the most reliable source, and that it capitalized the name. --Enric Naval (talk) 18:30, 22 October 2011 (UTC)
Not all popular usage is reliable, true. But things in books are generally considered reliable. The tendency of specialists to capitalize their own subject matter, when general authors do not do so, has been commented on many times, and is well represented in the astronomy magazines (though the name you quoted is not one) and is enshrined in the recommendations of the IAU. The question for WP is thus whether to follow the general practice, or the practice of specialist communities. Recall the RM on Halley's comet was winning until Greg came in and started throwing around his weight as long-time serious amateur astronomer (asserting: I’ve been an amateur astronomer for 40 years. Indeed, there is mixed use of “Halley's Comet” and “Halley's comet.” But when it comes to deciding what is most-proper, encyclopedic practices, one must look towards the quality of the sources. Best practices within this discipline has been to follow the lead of the International Astronomical Union.). But it has not generally been WP policy to adopt recent specialist org recommendations as "best practices", except within some projects. Most of the votes to capitalize were from astronomers, I think. Is this sort of "local consensus" the way forward? Or not? Let's decide. Dicklyon (talk) 20:57, 22 October 2011 (UTC)
(err, I meant Sky & Telescope) WP's practice is to follow the usage in reliable sources, per WP:COMMONNAME, which only makes exceptions for ambiguity, accuracy and neutrality. Our naming convention doesn't mention "popular usage" anywhere, it only mentions usage in RS. Greg said that the usage in the best reliable sources in astronomy is to follow IAU's rules. Now, if you are arguing that we should follow the usage of the less reliable sources over the more reliable ones.... --Enric Naval (talk) 11:26, 23 October 2011 (UTC)
WP:COMMONNAME is a naming policy, not a styling policy. But even if you copy the capitalization style from reliable sources instead of following the top-line principles at MOS:CAPS, your argument loses, because "Halley's comet" and "Andromeda galaxy" are more common in reliable sources. You have to promote Sky & Telecope as more important than Science, Nature, Montly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Astronomy and Astrophysics, Icarus, Reviews in Modern Astronomy, The Astrophysical Journal, etc., and above all the books and articles that are independent of the astonomers, to get your result. The local consensus on the "Halley's Comet comes from the IAU recommendation, not from actual usage. Dicklyon (talk) 15:44, 23 October 2011 (UTC)
You already made that argument in the RM, and Greg L. already addressed it[5][6]. You choose to ignore that two other encyclopaedias also capitalize the name. Your claims of usage in astronomy books are against the evidence I found in my searches, which are detailed in the RM. I suspect that a detailed search of google scholar (clicking in the links and reading the abstracts, instead of simply reading the text in the search results page) wouldn't find overwhelming usage of any of the two forms. And finally, you say that capitalization is against popular usage, but an editor complained in the RM that there was no evidence for popular usage by laymen[7], and you indeed didn't provide any such evidence. --Enric Naval (talk) 10:58, 2 November 2011 (UTC)

Reverted imperative

The acknowledgement of the IAU caps style in astronomy was converted to an imperative here. I think it is rare for the MOS to have imperatives at all; it should be about advice, guideance, and statement of a preferred style, per consensus. To have an imperative where there's not consensus seems particularly wrong. Dicklyon (talk) 18:49, 29 October 2011 (UTC)

Really? The main MOS is largely and extensively written in the imperative. This is just following that. And there was more than one reason for that edit, namely the need to spell out the IAU initialism on its only use on the page. I object to the previous phrasing; it does more than waffle, it serves to undermine the instruction, with its use of "despite". Seems that someone doesn't like the exception and is putting in something to weaken it. (Not saying you personally, just that that's how it reads, which doesn't work). oknazevad (talk) 04:40, 2 November 2011 (UTC)
Imperative language is used fairly extensively through the MOS, including on this page. "Use sentence-style capitalization", "avoid writing with all capitals", "do write in all capitals for acronyms and initialisms", as well as any sentence in the format "X should be Y". The only fundamental difference between "Use the IAU for capitalisation guidance" and "The IAU should be used for capitalisation guidance" is their relative strength, both are still imperative statements. TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 04:40, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
What an entirely unintended timestamp coincidence... TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 04:42, 3 November 2011 (UTC)

socialism/Socialist communism/Communist libertarianism/Libertarian

one is the ideology, the other refers to a person, should both be capitalized, or only the person? Darkstar1st (talk) 07:51, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

  • Neither should be capitalized. That's the way I read the style guide. It should be capitalized only if it's part of a proper name. e.g. "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics", "Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy". LK (talk) 09:39, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
A communist is a person with communist ideas, whereas a Communist is a member (or a supporter) of the Communist Party; a socialist is a person with socialist ideas, whereas a Socialist is a member (or a supporter) of the Socialist Party: a libertarian is a person with libertarian ideas, whereas a Libertarian is a member (or a supporter) of the Libertarian Party (which, BTW, is not quite “libertarian” in the standard non-US meaning of the word). A. di M.plédréachtaí 20:18, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
Where does the assertion that members of a political movement or party should be named with a capitalised epithet. So I'm a Free Trader or a Fascist because I pay a membership fee to political parties of those names? Socialist with an S invites mistaken attribution, for example. Which socialist party? Can one be a Socialist but not a socialist (a rat in the ranks)? Tony (talk) 10:42, 30 October 2011 (UTC)
Of course one can. The Militant Tendency's criticism of Tony Blair was pretty much that he might be a Socialist, belonging as he did to a member party of the Socialist International, but was not a socialist. Note that the previous sentence would require translation into English without the M and the T.
FYI: User:JCScaliger has been indef blocked as a sockpuppet of User:Pmanderson (blocked for another year for sockpuppetry), who was topic-banned from MOS.
Capitalization exists, mostly, to make such distinctions. Even farther apart, a free trader engages in commerce; a Free Trader holds certain economic views. JCScaliger (talk) 14:46, 19 January 2012 (UTC)

Edit warring

There's currently a very slow-moving edit war going on over this bit of text. It was reported at WP:AN3, and I declined to block anyone for now, but there has been yet another revert since then, so let this be a warning to all users involved: this simply can't be allowed to go on and on indefinitely. I would recommend that you all refrain from reverting each other entirely, and pursue methods of dispute resolution if need be. Remember that thinking you're reverting disruption, thinking you're supported by consensus, or thinking you're "right" in an edit war does not excuse you, and neither does avoiding 3RR. Let's try to voluntarily modify our behavior and avoid further disruption. Thanks, Swarm X 01:40, 21 October 2011 (UTC)

For the record, that 'yet another revert' was mine, though I haven't participated in this particular edit war and wasn't aware there was one. I've left a message above for discussion on the matter, in any case. TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 02:20, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
Swarm, I wonder whether you feel in a position to bring the parties together, perhaps on a subpage, to find a resolution, or at least to find common territory and calm the waters. Tony (talk) 13:58, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

Capitalisation of military terms at General of the army (United States) and General of the armies

I'm having a bit of bother with what started out as general house keeping. Would somebody who understands the capitalisation (or non-capitalisation) of military ranks as laid down in WP:MilTerms do me a favour and pass by at the talk pages, Talk:General of the army (United States) and Talk:General of the armies? I'd be grateful. Shem (talk) 17:52, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

Definitely need some neutral editors here. The user moved these pages against a primary source and then engaged in canvassing when his edits were challenged [8]. I'm off Wikipedia until Monday, at the earliest, so I leave this in the hands of others. -OberRanks (talk) 18:41, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

My much esteemed accuser isn't against a touch of canvassing himself, but we'd both welcome a rush of neutral editors. Shem (talk) 18:52, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

Religious doctrines being capitalized in accordance with sources/tradition

There has recently been an RFC started at Wikiproject Buddhism about the capitalization of many Buddhist doctrines in accordance with how they are normally capitalized. The RFC has began, IMO, primiarly due to this wording:

"Doctrinal topics or canonical religious ideas that may be traditionally capitalized within a faith are given in lower case in Wikipedia, such as virgin birth (as a common noun), original sin or transubstantiation."

I am not sure when this was added, but this seems to go against various guidelines that support referring to something as it is commonly called by sources. For example, if we apply WP:COMMONNAME then the article Three Jewels should be capitalized, but according to this policy it should not. I hope I'm not unknowingly opening a can of worms—I did not readily see this being discussed in the archives—but it would seem to me that precedence for capitalization should follow how sources usually capitalize the subject.AerobicFox (talk) 01:44, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

This can of worms has been open for a long time. COMMONNAME doesn't have much to say about styling. MOS:CAPS says we only capitalize proper names. The problem is in determining what's a proper name. Sources are important here, but counting is not typically going to predict or determine the consensus answer. In this case, capitalization is more common, but lower case is not rare, so WP's house style has plenty of precedent and should not be a problem. But some editors will disagree; such is wiki-life. Dicklyon (talk) 07:08, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
WP:CAPS: "Wikipedia avoids unnecessary capitalisation". Tony (talk) 07:26, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

Laws, comets, eras, and suchlike

I really don't understand the reluctance to treat terms that are clearly used as proper nouns, as proper nouns. Murphy's Law is a named maxim; the name of the maxim is "Murphy's Law", and as a name, it is (and should be treated as) a proper noun. Same with Elizabethan Era and Halley's Comet and many other named instances of specific entities. It is completely incomprehensible to me to treat these names as common nouns, no matter how many style guides recommend against it. Powers T 18:37, 13 November 2011 (UTC)

This tradition of English usage seems to date from at least the Elizabethan era, and MOS:CAPS says that we avoid unnecessary capitalization. Capitalization is necessary for proper names, and most sources capitalize more than WP does, so a lack of capitalization in broad usage is pretty good evidence against interpretation as proper name. If you admit a difference between a name and a proper name, it's less confusing; when a particular instance of generic object is named for a person or something, it is traditional to not include the generic as part of a proper name; the name is better thought of as a description, as the law articulated by Murphy, or the comet described by Halley, or the era of Elizabeth. Dicklyon (talk) 19:28, 13 November 2011 (UTC)
Similary, for things like the Mesozoic era, usage has been moving toward more capitalization in recent decades, but has only reach about 50%. This is strong evidence that capitalization is not necessary, and therefore WP style is to not jump on that particular bandwagon, right? When such a term gets accepted as a proper name, the evidence shows it, like for Korean War]. Dicklyon (talk) 20:25, 13 November 2011 (UTC)
Sources already treat those names as proper nouns. Claiming that they might stop doing so in some far future is WP:CRYSTAL. --Enric Naval (talk) 21:52, 13 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm intrigued, Powers and Enric Naval. Do you also think that "second law of thermodynamics" is a proper noun? (Well, first: do you think it is a noun? Why?) Do you think that these are "proper nouns":
  1. second law of thermodynamics
  2. law of the excluded middle
  3. principle of maximum entropy
  4. fallacy of quoting out of context
  5. cherry picking
  6. post hoc ergo propter hoc
  7. Kullback–Leibler divergence
  8. Pontryagin's minimum principle
  9. denying the correlative
  10. common practice period
  11. Newton's law of universal gravitation
  12. law of universal gravitation
How do you decide? Is each of those titles a "noun"? Please list the ones you would capitalise (like this: "Fallacy of Quoting out of Context"), and explain.
Additional question for both of you, but especially for Enric: why do we have MOS at all (and why do you contribute to its development), if in your view the drift of diverse practice in sources governs these matters directly?
NoeticaTea? 22:16, 13 November 2011 (UTC)
Since a noun is a class of word, we should probably use the term "proper name" when talking about the above, which are noun phrases. --Boson (talk) 23:25, 13 November 2011 (UTC)
In most of those cases, I can't really say without doing a fair bit of research, Noetica. It depends on whether the phrase operates as a name (i.e., a discrete semantic unit that uniquely (within a particular scope) identifies a specific entity) or as a simple descriptive noun phrase. "Murphy's Law", for instance, is the name of a particular axiom, and alternative ways of phrasing (e.g., "the 'law' coined by Murphy") are rarely used. "Cherry picking", on the other hand, is just one descriptive phrase of several that are used for a specific fallacy. Also, compare and contrast "Elizabethan Era" with "Shakespearean times". One is a well-defined, named period of time; the other is a general reference to a vague period of time that could be described in a number of ways. Powers T 02:22, 14 November 2011 (UTC)
Elizabethan era is already downcased on WP. Tony (talk) 14:31, 14 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm aware of that; you may have noted that I mentioned it in my initial comment at the top of this section. Powers T 21:00, 14 November 2011 (UTC)
Eras, theorems, models, laws, theories: these should be upcased only if there's a compelling reason there might otherwise be ambiguity. I can't see any other possible meaning for Elizabethan era, can you? Tony (talk) 07:02, 15 November 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Powers, you come here making a claim that something is really simple:

"I really don't understand the reluctance to treat terms that are clearly used as proper nouns, as proper nouns. Murphy's Law is a named maxim; the name of the maxim is "Murphy's Law", and as a name, it is (and should be treated as) a proper noun."

But when asked how you decide, with a dozen clearly enumerated examples, you say "In most of those cases, I can't really say without doing a fair bit of research." You then cherry-pick "cherry picking" as a supposedly easy negative instance. But in fact, as used in the linked article it names a definite fallacy just as surely as "fallacy of quoting out of context" does, and just as surely as "Abhyankar–Moh theorem" names a theorem. Why is one easy, and not another? I repeat also: Are these items even nouns, let alone "proper nouns"?

Let's look at the criterion you would use in researching these things:

"It depends on whether the phrase operates as a name (i.e., a discrete semantic unit that uniquely (within a particular scope) identifies a specific entity) or as a simple descriptive noun phrase."

Well, "cherry picking" is a discrete semantic unit that uniquely (within a particular scope) identifies a specific entity, right? It also is a simple descriptive noun phrase, employed metaphorically. Are we to assume that there are only two mutually exclusive possibilities? Why? And why is simplicity important, and what counts as simplicity for your criterion? Isn't "Elizabethan era" a simple descriptive noun phrase, as well as a discrete semantic unit that uniquely (within a particular scope) identifies a specific entity?

I will press you to give an analysis for these four, so that we can get some idea of what on earth you trying to tell us:

  1. Newton's law of universal gravitation
  2. law of universal gravitation
  3. structure theorem for finitely generated modules over a principal ideal domain
  4. Cauchy's integral formula

NoeticaTea? 07:42, 15 November 2011 (UTC)

We had already agreed that scientific laws are lowercased in sources. We are talking about fictitious laws, comets, and other proper names of specific entities. --Enric Naval (talk) 11:48, 15 November 2011 (UTC)
I don't agree with that, either. If the names of these entities are treated as names, they should be capitalized. If they're merely descriptive, then they should be lowercased. For Noetica's four examples: #1 could go either way, since it's descriptive and you could rephrase it a number of ways. #2 is the same. #3 is purely descriptive; it would be odd to see it capitalized. #4 is really hard for me to say, as I'm finding the literature a bit over my head... I'd say it could probably go either way, but you could make an argument for using either capitalization exclusively. Powers T 15:05, 15 November 2011 (UTC)
When you can make an argument for it going either way, then it's pretty clear that capitalization is not necessary, so WP style is to not capitalize. It would be a major disruptive change of WP style to start capitalizing things like "Cauchy's integral formula" or "Newton's law of universal gravitation", which by the way are seldom capitalized in sources except in headings. Similarly, a huge number of reliable sources find it unnecessary to capitalize Murphy's law. Dicklyon (talk) 23:58, 15 November 2011 (UTC)
Wikipedia's guideline is fundamentally flawed in that it fails to define what 'unnecessary' is. Nine sources that capitalise and one that doesn't is not sufficient to establish 'unnecessary', as has been argued by some editors in the past. What constitutes 'unnecessary' varies from dialect to dialect and field to field. It's not possible to make one rule that applies to everything, each dialect or field of study is entitled to define what their capitalisation standards - and as such, what is unnecessary and what is - themselves. In this respect I have long argued that since individual interpretation is subjective, we should apply either the standard of official industry bodies, or in their absence WP:COMMONNAME to matters of capitalisation. TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 01:30, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
TS, that principal guideline is not as flawed as you suggest. Sure, it could be abused in the way you have outlined; but that does not make it worthless by any means. It expresses a clear preference for lower case, when a choice is to be made between plausible alternatives. What are plausible alternatives? First of all, those supported by other Wikipedia style guidelines (or at least by the intent that is discernible in them); and second, those that are found in relevant reliable sources. Usually these two criteria will be in accord. When they are not, Wikipedia's style guidelines trump "reliable sources". Why would we have them, if they did not?
Some vagueness in the mention of necessity is perfectly understandable. Probably inevitable, in fact; necessity takes a good deal of formal regimentation at the best of times, and comes in many philosophical flavours. The principle is not vacuous; it contrasts sharply and usefully with this alternative: "Wikipedia prefers capitalisation whenever a half-believable case can be made for it." That is the principle many seem to prefer at RM discussions these days. We could wish them to respect the guidelines instead.
Our first principle has to be a quick and memorable summation. That's the way with first principles. The later, wordier details do the rest of the work.
NoeticaTea? 05:04, 21 November 2011 (UTC)
I disagree that Wikipedia's guidelines should trump verifiable real world practice. Capitalisation in particular is something that can alter the meaning, intention or reception of a word, and official bodies and reliable sources are typically the best qualified to understand such nuances and choose capitalisation accordingly. On simplicity, which do you think is easier to convey? "Use standard English capitalisation style - unless it's k.d.lang in which case it's okay to have all lowercase - unless it's iPod or eMarketing in which case it's okay to have the first letter lowercase but the second letter has to be a capital - unless it's a title in which case capitalise it if it's a prefix but downcase it if it's a suffix or in the middle of a sentence - unless it's certain scientific exceptions like 'abelian group' which can be downcased - unless it's a season in which case it should be downcased but if it's in a name it should have an uppercase first letter - unless - unless - unlses", or "Use the capitalisation style used either by official representative bodies for the field in question, or in their absence, the majority of good quality reliable sources"? TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 22:48, 21 November 2011 (UTC)
It's interesting that you want the style of "official representative bodies for the field in question" to trump common usage, but you won't grant wikipedia the same right to set their own style. Personally, I think that's backwards. There are very good reasons for WP to adopt a style that emphasizes clarity, meaning, and readability, over the common casual and official usages that over-capitalize words they like to emphasize or reify, or that drop hyphens from compounds that are so familiar in a field that clarifying their meaning has become unimportant, and things like that. That's why we have a manual of style. Dicklyon (talk) 23:38, 21 November 2011 (UTC)
I'm fine with common usage trumping official usage in some cases. Our adoption of the IUPAC spelling for chemical names drastically reduced the amount of pointless discussions about aluminium vs aluminum because we have something concrete to point to. Overcapitalisation is not a recognised problem in fields that have official bodies (like chemistry or astronomy). We have a manual of style for a lot of reasons, and it's a guideline and not a policy for some very good reasons too. TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 23:43, 21 November 2011 (UTC)
TS, in very many cases "reliable sources" are hopelessly muddled and indecisive. Look at this current RM, where editors themselves are bamboozled, and need correction for the very sources they cite. In fact, I am ready to change my vote there. But the point is that it can only be settled rationally by appeal to the correct Wikipedia guideline, which so far has not surfaced in the discussion.
If any Wikipedia guideline is not rationally supported, and lacks sound precedent in the world of quality publishing out there, that guideline can be challenged and revised. That is how CMOS operates (read their prefatory notes, at each new edition), and New Hart's Rules, and every other well-managed guide to style or manual of style. Wikipedia's is one of those influential manuals. The fact that opinion differs, the fact that sources do all sorts of things – none of that is surprising. We do not throw up our hands and yield to the tide of uncertainty and chaos. Interested and competent editors collaborate to fashion sound recommendations; and good citizens of the Project respect the resulting guidelines.
NoeticaTea? 00:17, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
The sources you decry as confused, uncertain and chaotic are the very same sources we rely on for providing us with content. We have reasonably effective policies in place already on how to deal with conflicting information in sources. There's no evidence to suggest that these same policies can't also be applied towards determining capitalisation. Wikipedia's job is to reflect reliable sources, even if we think they're wrong. It is about verifiability, not truth. There's no harm and significant gain (in terms of reduction of red tape and streamlining of decision-making processes) to the project in using capitalisation based on the majority of reliable sources (something one might consider fairly trivial to the main objective of sharing information) given that the exact same standard of inclusion governs our use of content (something I'm sure you'd agree is far more relevant to the project's goals). There is no justifiable reason why our style guideline should be stricter and more convoluted than our content policies. TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 00:54, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── But TS, we need to be clear about the domain of the present discussion. Sure: reliable sources are used for content. That's always been the point of invoking them. But this discussion at a talkpage is (obviously!) concerned with use of capital letters, and in that and other style matters the sources that are reliable for content are often inept. At the very least, they vary among themselves if not within themselves (see the RM I link above, for two cases of this last). You write:

"There's no evidence to suggest that these same policies can't also be applied towards determining capitalisation. Wikipedia's job is to reflect reliable sources, even if we think they're wrong."

Really? On the contrary, there is. Again, look at the wildly conflicting styling in many sources that are drawn on for content. In fact, the very idea that verifiability and truth are apt at all in matters of style is ill-founded. Well, it is both verifiable and a fact that a certain source uses lower case or upper case for a certain term. But so what? The source does not make that choice "truly" or "verifiably"! It simply makes a choice – often irrationally, often inconsistently.

TS, I fear you have fallen victim to a very pervasive category error. Content and style work quite differently. Content can be true, or verifiable; style, in its essence, cannot be either.

"There's no harm and significant gain (in terms of reduction of red tape and streamlining of decision-making processes) to the project in using capitalisation based on the majority of reliable sources (something one might consider fairly trivial to the main objective of sharing information) given that the exact same standard of inclusion governs our use of content ..."

There is harm in what you propose. Note the categorial distinctions I have just made. If Wall Street Journal is equipoised between "LEGO Group" and "Lego Group", and another source that is fantastic for content has only "Lego Group", while the company calls itself "LEGO Group", hand-waving in the direction of "reliable sources" is rather to be read as drowning. Therefore we have guidelines; and they do settle the matter, along rational industry-best-practice lines.

"... (something I'm sure you'd agree is far more relevant to the project's goals)."

So what if content is more "relevant" than style? Here the topic is style, and we give it its due.

"There is no justifiable reason why our style guideline should be stricter and more convoluted than our content policies."

That's way off the mark. Content disputes are settled by a concurrence of reliable sources, by verifiability and a few straightforward principles. But wresting good style out the chaos – style that will work in the unique Wikipedia experiment – is not so easily achieved. There is no direct precedent; and the excellent indirect ones (CMOS, New Hart's, ACS Style Guide, CBE Manual) are all very complex. Here there is the added difficulty of web-based collaborative editing by volunteers. Why should we think it easy, to fashion guidelines for such a project? Yet it must be done.

NoeticaTea? 01:27, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

There's no problem with using the MOS for general style matters like number and date formatting, paragraph and section guidance, suggestions for active and passive voice in differing situations and so on. Capitalisation differs in that it is not exclusively a matter of style. As I've detailed a few times, capitalisation, particularly of names, alters their meaning. Meaning is information is content, and altering the meaning of a name contrary to its usage in reliable sources is a violation of our policies.
The meaning of the 'i' in iPod is what necessitated an exception to the rule. The same for the singers 'k.d. lang' and 'will.i.am'. Halley's Comet (denoting the name of a unique entity) is meaningfully different to Halley's comet (denoting possession of a common entity). A reasonable individual would tend to surmise that if a rule has an excess of exceptions, it may need to be rewritten, and I believe that's the case here. Given that these carry meanings that would be altered if their capitalisation were changed, it is not reasonable to treat them as matters of mere style, nor to apply a generic style guide to them. As long as a particular rendition in such cases is carried by a majority of reliable sources, it is Wikipedia's job to reflect that rendition as verifiable and meaningful. Altering it is not an acceptable option. TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 02:22, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
And with respect to your comment regarding how easy or difficult it is to formulate a general guideline for style, effective solutions are, with few exceptions, simple solutions. The more complex a solution becomes, the more open it is to individual interpretation and the more frequently flaws in that solution appear. Wikipedia's MOS is not nearly as elegant a solution as our content policies are, and having seen our content policies applied to style issues in articles before, I can assure you that it does work, and works quite smoothly. TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 02:28, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
You could, alternatively, address what I actually say – as I did, in answering your post. Few people in this discussion are actually engaging, or answering questions put to them. Including the initiator of the discussion. It's one thing to pick easy cases that support your view, another to deal fairly with challenges put to you.
So TS, what is the resolution to be in the case of "LEGO Group" versus "Lego Group"? We all know how "iPod" works. That one's too easy. Show us "the" way reliable sources might resolve this other case.

"Altering [that rendition] is not an acceptable option."

So a band likes to use Courier New in presenting its name. Do we keep that? A company insists on a ligature to join "f+f" in its name. Do we keep that? A web entrepreneur insists that her name is to be rendered in italics. Do we respect that? (Not just rhetorical questions. I want answers, with explanations.) If you draw the line, you simply draw it differently from other editors. But Wikipedia as a whole must choose one location for the line; and it has style guidelines that trace that larger line dividing what is to be retained and what may be altered.
As for "Halley's Comet" (or "comet"), what if most sources started doing that one with "comet", but used "Comet" for all the others? Do we track the obscure trajectories of the diverse "reliable sources"? The preference appears to be that we follow IAU guidelines. Very well. Now, suppose an article needs to mention Murphy's Law and the precautionary principle in the same sentence, and compare them. Do we track the dominant choice for each of these (as I have just shown them)? And if the choices change? I think you want guidelines for comets; do you want them for such laws, also? Please tell us why or why not. Murphy's law and the precautionary principle are closely comparable in their semantics and syntax. It is perfectly reasonable to deal with them with similar styling – and to be aware that "Murphy's" is just another modifier like "precautionary". The capital in "Murphy's" has no bearing on the choice made for what follows it, if sound linguistic and stylistic principles are to be understood and followed. Do you think that following "reliable sources" should include emulating their prolific confusion? I don't; and I don't think that the ill-motivated and confused inclination to do so is an easy or responsible way out of genuine stylistic difficulties. We can't evade making our own style choices. Live with it.
NoeticaTea? 03:19, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Your post was predicated on the (mis)understanding that capitalisation is purely stylistic. I explained why that position was incorrect. I don't intend to go in circles with you, Noetica, nor do I plan to debate the smallest of semantics. You resolve the matter of LEGO capitalisation by examining the range of reliable sources and determining (with consensus) a dominant form. There are more sources available than the hypotheticals you referenced. Given that I stated very clearly that I was discussing capitalisation, and that capitalisation affects meaning, it should be clear that my reference to renditions were about capitalisation and as such none of your questions regarding visual effects need response. In the event that you can find an instance where the majority of reliable sources use a specific font in rendering a subject's name that differs from surrounding text, we can examine that in more detail.
Wikipedia already does have a line drawn, as dictated by its policies. Guidelines like the MOS don't override policies, and where conflict between them exists, policies take precedence. Capitalisation alters meaning; meaning is information and thus not purely stylistic. Information must be verifiably accurate to our sources. The rest of your reply (including your distinctly poor form "ill-motivated and confused" comment) isn't worth addressing. We can, and have in the past, addressed style concerns through dominant use in sources, and I will repeat again, very clearly for you, that capitalisation is not a purely stylistic concern to begin with, and thus cannot be governed in a purely stylistic manner. Perhaps you're the one who is having difficulty "living with it". TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 05:31, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
If capitalisation is not at least primarily stylistic, it is odd that CMOS, New Hart's Rules, and practically every style guide has a sizable chapter devoted to the topic. And it is odd that the major resource for capitalisation on Wikipedia is the very page we are here to discuss: part of the Manual of Style.
I don't want to go in circles either, TS. In fact, I am so tired of useless long debates like this one, which in the time-honoured fashion started with the old appeal to proper "nouns" as the natural bearers of initial capitalisation, with the natural bearers of initial capitalisation being primarily ... proper nouns! To avoid such breathtakingly tight circularity, I ask people what they mean in the first place by "proper noun". And I get no answer that stands up to scrutiny. I get no answer for a number of cases that I present, which would be easy to allocate if the matter were as simple as we were told at the top of this section.
As for the LEGO case, I see that you are insensitive to the issue. Reliable sources disagree sharply; and a decision must be made. In fact there are guidelines to decide that one, if only editors who consider such things were versed in the guidelines. Many editors pick and choose, invoking a guideline if it suits their preconceptions, but ignoring inconvenient others in favour of policy at WP:TITLE, or some other force majeur. Myself, I respect all relevant policies, and all relevant guidelines. I call on others to do that also. We would be in a sorry state if those policies and these guidelines were in conflict; but in fact they are not. With small exceptions that should be fixed, they are beautifully complementary.
Capitalisation affects meaning? Of course it does! Who denies it? So does punctuation, and our major style page WP:MOS has a great deal to say about matters of hyphenation (see WP:HYPHEN), the slash (see WP:SLASH), and certain uses of the en dash (see WP:DASH). None of it conflicts with WP:TITLE (which ignores punctuation), or with any proper consideration of "reliable sources" in determining titles.
I don't know what you intend by this: "including your distinctly poor form 'ill-motivated and confused' comment". Did you really intend no hyphen between "poor" and "form"? Anyway, I take it that you prefer to be pejorative rather than answer genuine questions. If you have a change of attitude, you might like to look through the section and see how genuine and thorny issues are simply not addressed. If you find anything I fail to answer that is asked of me, point it out and I'll be happy to fix that.
NoeticaTea? 06:27, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
I have no intention of addressing your strawmen, nor engaging you in detailed conversations of insignificant minutiae, nor in responding to your poor attempt to shift attention for your own pejorative writing onto someone else. If you tired of long discussions, you were more than welcome to address the point that I made rather clearly in every one of my replies here, regarding the informative nature of capitalisation. Instead you enjoyed constructing your strawmen, insisted I reply to them and only addressed the point - too late - in your last post. I'm disappointed with your style of argument here, it's not befitting the image of a considered and intelligent individual you presented in our last discussion. It is, specifically, your style of argument that you have employed here that has dissuaded me from expending any further time speaking to you. Unless that changes, we have nothing further to discuss. TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 22:30, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
TS, I am confident that both of us can shuffle off any discomfort occasioned by this exchange. You are disappointed? So am I, of course. If you now find it difficult to continue, by all means blame the style rather than address the content squarely, with a view perhaps to learning something – as we all might, if we stay the course. But before we abandon all this as yet another futile and unproductive talkpage deadlock, I will answer a point you have just made:

... you were more than welcome to address the point that I made rather clearly in every one of my replies here, regarding the informative nature of capitalisation.

I wonder what you think this was about:

Capitalisation affects meaning? Of course it does! Who denies it? So does punctuation, ...

And I closed with this:

If you have a change of attitude, you might like to look through the section and see how genuine and thorny issues are simply not addressed. If you find anything I fail to answer that is asked of me, point it out and I'll be happy to fix that.

Well, if that invitation is awkward for you, by all means withdraw. But do so without pretending that I am not answering questions – like Powers, who started all this but left long ago; or Enric, from whom one must never expect a straight answer.
Best wishes to you! Drop in for tea sometime if you like, when conditions are more congenial.
NoeticaTea? 23:43, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

Sources consistently capitalize "Murphy's Law" and other fictional laws, but not the names of scientific laws. We should follow the advice of our own manual of style. --Enric Naval (talk) 14:19, 17 December 2011 (UTC)

Capitalization of "The Kappa Alpha Society"

I've been going through and doing Wikilinks for Kappa Alpha Society when I noticed that most of the occurrences have the "the" capitalized, as in "While attending University of Toronto, Joe Schmo joined The Kappa Alpha Society". In addition to wikilinking Kappa Alpha Society, I started changing the "The" to "the", however I'm not so sure now. As shown in http://www.ka.org/public5.asp , the group itself will capitalize the "The" in the name. For example on that page is the sentence

It is John Hart Hunter's legacy of constant questioning, constant striving for knowledge, and desire to never stop learning that the members of The Kappa Alpha Society are bound to uphold.

. So this isn't just some editor (generally a consistent IP address, from what I've been table to tell) doing this for a prideful reason, the Society does it. So change to lower case based on WP:MOSCAPS or have an exception?Naraht (talk) 12:31, 16 November 2011 (UTC)

Depends on whether "The" is part of the name, like The Beatles. If it's part of the name you will have, for example: "He joined The Kappa Alpha Society" or "looking at The Kappa Alpha Society's membership". If it's not part of the name, then it's always "the".
Looking at 1977's Baird's manual, which I will assume to be reliable, "the" is not part of the name [9] "(...) in the autumn of 1825, the Kappa Alpha Society was formed (...)". According to Fraternities_and_sororities#Greek_letters, the name is formed only by the greek letters, without "the".
The guidance is at WP:MOS#Capitalization_of_.22The.22 and Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style_(music)#Names_.28definite_article.29. --Enric Naval (talk) 12:54, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
I called the National office and they confirmed that the full name of their organization includes the "The". What would be an appropriate reference for that, Is the example on the Fraternity website good enough, are the articles of incorporation good enough or is there some sort of secondary source that would be appropriate?Naraht (talk) 20:01, 16 November 2011 (UTC)
Typical usage in books uses lower-case "the". I think we should do the same, since this shows that capitalization is not necessary. Dicklyon (talk) 00:28, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
Yes, generally we don't cap "the", even if it's part of an organization name. The "The Beatles" example is an exception and has been the cause of "more and bloodier [talk page] wars" than many editors will see in their editorship. And the 'The "The Beatles"' at the start of the previous sentence shows why, eliding the "the" use-mention distinction allows us to talk about the Who, instead of the The Who. Rich Farmbrough, 15:58, 26 November 2011 (UTC).

General principles

In this edit of May 10 2009, PMAnderson added a "general principles" section with an odd and unilluminating provision of his favorite "follow the sources" sort. There was no discussion or acknowledgment of these "principles". I recommend we put it back more like it was before that, incorporating the specifics there into a section not called "general principles", and removing the "follow" clause that was just part of his campaign to de-emphasize WP style. Dicklyon (talk) 15:48, 27 November 2011 (UTC)

As best I can tell, PMAnderson's edit was following a discussion on the capitalisation of Holy Spirit where it was suggested that too many rules (and exceptions to rules) weren't beneficial. I've indicated clearly myself on this page and others that I think we would be better off deferring to sources rather than constructing a tangled web of faulty rules and their necessary exceptions. It may be worth noting that while we refer to (and in some cases revere) the CMOS quite often, its own authors tend to emphasise that a style guide is just a guide, and when it doesn't fit comfortably with the objectives of the work (such as to convey accurate information, or to reflect common usage), it should be ignored. Wikipedia's style guide is no different in this respect, and we should be careful not to have our faces so close to the page as to lose sight of the bigger picture. It's easy to get caught up in the technicalities of trivialities, when effort spent there could be better spent elsewhere.
So in short, I support PMAnderson's edit being kept, at this point. TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 23:26, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
But we already had the most important general principle in the lead: "Wikipedia avoids unnecessary capitalization. Most capitalization is for proper names, acronyms, and initialisms." His addition of a "general principles" section to say "Wikipedia does capitalize initial letters of proper nouns, and often proper adjectives. In doing this, we follow common usage, and when uncapitalized forms are the normal English usage (abelian group, k.d. lang), we follow common usage." is just confusing. What is its point? Dicklyon (talk) 00:16, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
There does seem to be some redundancy there, you're right. I'd have no problem with the redundant text being refactored out of the paragraph, though removing it altogether would also remove information that is not otherwise present in the surrounding text, being: "In doing this, we follow common usage, and when decapitalized forms are the normal English usage (abelian group, k. d. lang), we follow common usage". As I have fairly strong opinions on how Wikipedia should treat this area, I don't think I'm in the most neutral position to propose a reworded paragraph, but I'm happy to comment if you have proposed rewording yourself. TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 00:29, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Techno, the "tangled web" of (usually inconsistent) practices outside will be adopted into WP itself if the sources themselves are not balanced by the need to maximise consistency throughout the site. Decisions need to balance several things, only one of which is the range of uses out there. If we took the "do as you please if you've got one major source to back you up" approach, we wouldn't need much of a style guide at all: WP's usage would be all over the place. This is what Mr Anderson wanted—essentially to give the responsibility to local editors of each article, for almost all stylistic decisions. This would be chaotic and would significantly reduce WP's authority. Tony (talk) 04:09, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
That's the thing; we consult sources, and we use what we find, but we don't always "follow" them. Maybe we can come up with a wording that we can all accept. I'd start to re-uniting the lead, getting rid of the superfluous "general principles" section that snuck in without any discussion. Maybe the lead should be more like this:
  • Wikipedia avoids unnecessary capitalization. Most capitalization is for proper names, acronyms, and initialisms. Wikipedia relies on usage in sources to determine what is a proper noun; words and phrases that are consistently capitalized in sources are treated as proper nouns and capitalized in Wikipedia. A few names and words based on names, however, are consistently lower case in sources, and therefore are lower case in Wikipedia (abelian group, k.d. lang).
I've taken out the advice to "consult the style guide on proper names" as there's nothing there about determining what's a proper name (it's about deciding which name to use). And I would omit the old bit on regional differences, as I don't believe there's anything to it. What say? Dicklyon (talk) 05:12, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
As the guideline currently stands, there is ambiguity – and one that is quite a "signature". I very much agree with what's in the lead: "Wikipedia avoids unnecessary capitalization. Most capitalization is for proper names, acronyms, and initialisms." I've also noticed there are corners of WP that are inflicted with "Capitalisationitis" with various degrees of entrenchment. All I can say at this point is that if there are any sources out there – and I mean any "proper" source – that do not use capitalisation for a given construction, it is by definition "unnecessary capitalisation" and ought to be downcased within our walls. We don't then need a "general principle" to follow the source. --Ohconfucius ¡digame! 07:28, 2 December 2011 (UTC)
Using one source, "any source" as you say, in the face of tens or hundreds of sources to the contrary to justify your definition of "unnecessary capitalisation" is not in the slightest manner a reasonable interpretation of Wikipedia's guideline on the matter. I'm reasonably confident that if you were to RFC that line for clarification, the consensus would not support your interpretation. TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 22:10, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
I agree; one source is seldom enough to be definitive. That's why I used the "consistently" term, which was originally proposed here by DGG if I recall correctly. It doesn't try to say how many it takes, but suggests that there's an obvious source-based answer when sources are consistent, and an obvious non-necessity to capitalizalize when sources are inconsistent. There will still be times when editors disagree on which side of the boundary things are on, but it's not at 1 nor at simple majority. Dicklyon (talk) 22:52, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
Forgot to note, Dicklyon, your proposed change seems reasonable. The wording on using sources for proper nouns seems restrictive (there are cases where acronyms only get an initial capital or none at all, for instance) but it seems like a good middle ground. TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 22:16, 4 December 2011 (UTC)
Feel free to add something about acronyms, to to loosen it up, whichever works better there. But let's don't try to get it all into the lead. Dicklyon (talk) 22:52, 4 December 2011 (UTC)

I made the edit; we'll see who balks. Dicklyon (talk) 04:31, 6 December 2011 (UTC)

Ok. I'll bite. How do we reconcile this with specific down-casing guidelines like WP:JOBTITLES or WP:DOCTCAPS where it explicitly says we're going against the usual style of sources? Should the intro mention that there are explicit cases where sources are not used? Or perhaps it's simply wrong to say that any noun that's capitalized in sources is a proper noun - maybe it's capitalized for some other reason (tradition, convention, puffery). Jojalozzo 04:35, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
I don't see where it says that's against sources; aren't those more just examples/clarifications of the principle? There certainly are many capitalizations in sources for reasons other than proper nouns; are there cases we need to clarify where sources are consistently capitalized but we're still sure they're not proper? Might be, but it would be hard for me to go that far. Dicklyon (talk) 04:46, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
"Doctrinal topics or canonical religious ideas that may be traditionally capitalized within a faith are given in lower case in Wikipedia, such as virgin birth (as a common noun), original sin or transubstantiation."
Also, up-casing common nouns is standard practice in systems of thought to indicate a specific interpretation for terms with the particular system. The MOS says we don't follow the sources there either.
Likewise it is standard practice to up-case common noun phrases that have acronyms to help the reader see how the acronym is derived.
I could probably go on. My understanding of most of the special down-case guidelines is that they indicate exceptions to "rely on sources" guidelines. Jojalozzo 05:03, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
Can you find an example that's consistently upper case in sources, but that we prefer in lower case? Certainly virgin birth is not, though it may be capitalized "within a faith". Lots of things are capitalized within the domain of people who care a lot about the thing, but not more generally in sources, and there we don't capitalize; they're not exceptions to the principle. Phrases that are upper only for acronym definition are still not "consistenty" so (unless they're so rare that they never get mentioned except to define the acronym, but I'm not sure I've ever encountered that). Some exceptions where we do capitalize (Halley's Comet) have been spelled out. Dicklyon (talk) 05:50, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
Your edit to the lead suggests that we present and discuss exceptions to the principle. I'm not so sure we do; or not in the direction you suggest, anyway. Dicklyon (talk) 05:53, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
Joja, the MoS specifically says that we don't upcase initials just because a compound item is abbreviated using caps. On the initial caps with specific technical meanings in a particular field, I'm navel-gazing at systemic functional linguistics, in which Halliday et al. have a specific protocol for upcasing items of a certain technical category. It works ok in their texts, but in a WP article to duplicate this "convention" would require a specific note at the top of the article ... clumsy or laboured, so I'd be inclined to italicise these, our usual fall-back for marking items. This often works for items that are sometimes capped out there, on first mention in a WP article, where we downcase. Tony (talk) 11:17, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
Tony: My point is that is if the lead says we should use sources but doesn't say there are exceptions then whenever we try to down case for the special cases, editors will rely on the lead guideline to override the special case guideline. This already happens enough that the new changes will make it worse unless we explicitly provide for exceptions in the lead guideline. Jojalozzo 16:44, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
Dick: There are plenty of articles where the special case guidelines are ignored and this is defended by claims about the sources. See how rank is capitalized in most/many articles about armed forces, "pope" in Pope, religious doctrine such as Assumption of Mary and Immaculate Conception, job title in Chief Mechanical Engineer - I could probably fill this endless page :-). You can run these through Google n-gram viewer ([10], [11], [12]) to see that the sources capitalize rank, job titles, religious doctrine when the guidelines say to down-case them, but the real issue is that editors use capitalization in sources to defend their personal preferences when the guidelines clearly tell us to do otherwise. Jojalozzo 16:44, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
You had a mistake in one ngram link; should be this. In any case, the n-grams all show that sources do not consistently capitalize these, and so we shouldn't either. I understand the problem that people with a particular affinity to a topic will point to majority capitalization to try to justify their position; but that's not the WP style, nor does clarifying that require any statement of exception. I thought you were worrying about things consistently capitalized in sources that we don't capitalize in WP; I'm not convinced that such problems exist, nor that we specify any such exceptions as your lead edit suggests. Dicklyon (talk) 19:42, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
I didn't review your other quoted articles, but regarding immaculate conception, I think you may have only skimmed that article. It uses capitalised "Immaculate Conception" when referring to the religious dogma, which is functionally a proper name, and lower-cased "immaculate conception" when using those words in their common meanings (ie. a conception that is immaculate). This is quite consistent with scholarly sources and I (weakly) don't think it needs an explicit exception as we have currently.
There is a delicate balance between consistency and accuracy in situations like these, and it should come as no surprise that, given Wikipedia is an international project with contributors from thousands of cultural backgrounds and language dialects, consistency is not a prime focus of the project. We strive for it where we can, but things like ENGVAR try to emphasise that variation across the project is not only likely but appropriate.
Accuracy, on the other hand, is considerably more important to the project and is the main purpose of a number of our core policies. What our style guide tells editors shouldn't compromise the accuracy of the information we're trying to present. It should be very rare indeed that situations arise where words are consistently capitalised in reliable sources but we don't do the same here, and I'd suggest that in situations like those, it's much more likely that we're in the wrong than everyone else. TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 22:18, 6 December 2011 (UTC)
By my reading of the MOS for religious doctrine, "immaculate conception" is always down-cased, like "virgin birth". By what basis is one up-cased and the other down-cased?
"Doctrinal topics or canonical religious ideas that may be traditionally capitalized within a faith are given in lower case in Wikipedia, such as virgin birth (as a common noun), original sin or transubstantiation."
Jojalozzo 03:47, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
Ah, the key word here is consistently. I didn't fully absorb the meaning of that word when I read it. Let's italicize it.
However:
  • I am concerned that words that are predominantly (rather than consistently) capitalized in sources will be brought under the same general guideline rather than special case guidelines. There is major resistance to down-casing terms that people are used to seeing up-cased but which the MOS avoids up-casing.
  • How do we determine consistency? How many counter examples are needed to show sources are inconsistent?
Thanks, Jojalozzo 03:47, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
Yes, the issue is how we determine consistency. As I said above, it's not majority, and it's not a single example, but somewhere in between. Trying to pin that down is probably not a good idea. Dicklyon (talk) 04:35, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
  • Further to what Joja says: WP articles are a unique genre and demand their own guidelines. Outside usage, I believe, should be just one of a number of criteria that are balanced in our decision-making. In some cases outside usage might loom large; in others, there will be good reasons for overriding it. I agree with the suggestions you've made. And to me, one of the few good reasons to upcase is if there might be ambiguity or confusion with the same term in generic guise, a relatively rare occurrence. Immaculate conception ... no doubt there what it means. Let's remember that in article text there's always the option of italicising the first occurrence of an item. This is usually better than the disruptive (unsmooth) upcasing device employed on every occurrence in an article (since up/downcasing needs to be consistent, wheareas face doesn't). Tony (talk) 04:11, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict × 2) I'll put this here though it answers Jojalozzo's question above. Immaculate conception is capitalised when it refers to the dogma, which is essentially a formalised declaration, usually in a published form, from the church. In this sense the term functions as the title of a work and would follow title case. As Tony says, the capitalisation difference also helps to distinguish between Immaculate Conception (the dogma) and immaculate conception (the concept). It's my reading of the MOS section on this area that the idea of immaculate conception, even though the church may capitalise it, should be downcased. I don't interpret it as addressing formal titled dogma but rather concepts and ideas. In this sense I would treat an official dogma in the same way as, for instance, a UN resolution, in title-casing it.
Wikipedia articles can certainly be subject to a project style guide, but as the authors of any style guide will tell you, if the guide doesn't fit well with any given use case, ignore it. Style guides are there to help bring consistency to a work that has its own purposes and objectives, never to be a purpose or objective in itself. Wikipedia's purpose is to reflect the world around us. Being accurate but internally inconsistent (eg. color and orange (colour) aren't consistent, but each article is accurate within itself) is more important to the project than being consistent at the loss of some accuracy (eg. what would happen if the iPod exception didn't exist, and we styled Ipod consistently with our other product names).
Forgive the use of analogy, but the MOS is like a paintbrush - it should be used gently and when appropriate. Wielding it with too much force, or treating it as something it isn't, only serves to ruin both the brush and the artwork. TechnoSymbiosis (talk) 04:38, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
Dick, in a google search, in amongst the mess of protein/protein, protein protein, protein-protein, and if you please, protein — protein, if I see protein–protein in an article title in PLoS One (highest-profile online biological sciences research journal—very very respected), I almost stop looking down the google search, since the en dash accords with our MoS and a bunch of external style guides. Tony (talk) 04:43, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

Cat, looking at the Queen

"Misty the cat regarded the Queen of Sheba uncertainly. The Queen was wearing a fur coat. Cat fur. The Queen looked back at Misty with a considerably more settled gaze." Animal welfare aside, in the example above, does "Queen" refer to an example of the class of people called queens, or is it a short form of the full title? There seems to be no consensus and no uniformity, and in this society of nit-pickets and guerrilla pedants I am astonished that some hard and fast rule hasn't been thrashed out long ago. My preference is to capitalise a title if it clearly refers to a specific person, and this appears to be common usage in the wider world, but here I find a lot of text that reads awkwardly. --Pete (talk) 18:14, 17 December 2011 (UTC)

Does anyone care?

I participate in a most of the requested moves associated with capitalization relative to these MOS guidelines. When the evidence in sources supports the interpretation as generic as opposed to proper, I support downcasing or oppose upcasing. But usually there's not more than me and one other person arguing to follow MOS:CAPS, and couple of editors from the domain arguing to capitalize the things that their domain cares about. See Talk:Relative_Strength_Index#Requested_move for an example. Is there really nobody else who cares enough about style to support such things? Should I just give it up and let "local consensus" in each domain set what to capitalize? Dicklyon (talk) 04:10, 28 December 2011 (UTC)

Actually, I think I agree with the capitalizers on this one. Lowercase "relative strength index" could be a lot of things. The fact that it's this one particular measure of relative strength, rather than just any old relative strength index, makes it strike me as a proper noun or something close to it. --Trovatore (talk) 04:38, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
Sure, it could be, but you'd think that if someone wanted to attack the point of 2/3 lower-case in books, they'd try to find at least one example of a book hit in which the term is not used in the sense of the topic. In the first several pages of book hits, I don't see any. The lead sentence in MOS:CAPS does say we rely on sources, doesn't it? Why all is this stuff about wild hunches making people ignore evidence from sources? Dicklyon (talk) 04:52, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
Trovatore, what else could it be? Seriously ... Tony (talk) 06:43, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
Well, it could be any sort of numerical measure of relative strength, whatever "relative strength" may be. I'm not a stock guru particularly. Are you claiming that this is the only natural measure of relative strength? --Trovatore (talk) 09:56, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
I'm just wondering (i) how the caps would make it more "recognisable" to anyone, whether expert, "familiar" with the area, or normal person; and (ii) whether there's a competing relative strength index. Dick has demonstrated that most writers don't go for the boosterism inherent in the caps and prefer the smoother effect of unmarked lower case. I don't know what else there is to say ... Tony (talk) 11:50, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
The administrator who closed that discussion does not care a great deal, no. Others give more or less weight to guidelines vs. local consensus. ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 01:28, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Organism capitalization synch

FYI: Pointer to related discussion.

I'm working to make sure that WP:Manual of Style#Animals, plants, and other organisms, WP:Naming conventions (capitalization)#Organisms, WP:Naming conventions (fauna)#Capitalisation of common names of species WP:WikiProject Tree of Life#Article titles, WP:Manual of Style/Capital letters#Animals, plants, and other organisms, WP:Naming conventions (flora)#Scientific versus common names, etc., are synched with regard to common name capitalization.

Please centralize discussion at WT:Manual of Style#Organism capitalization synch

SMcCandlish Talk⇒ ʕ(Õلō Contribs. 07:59, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

"Proper nouns", "proper names", and other concerns: amending the lead

I have boldly altered the lead, though I expect that the edit will be rapidly reverted. Before doing that, please consider the change closely and discuss it here. There were serious problems with the old version. [NoeticaTea? 00:14, 7 January 2012 (UTC)]

The old lead:

Wikipedia avoids unnecessary capitalization. Most capitalization is for proper names, acronyms, and initialisms. Where is it not clear if a term is a proper noun, Wikipedia relies on sources to determine; words and phrases that are consistently capitalized in sources are treated as proper nouns and capitalized in Wikipedia.

There are exceptions for specific cases discussed below, such as common names of fauna.

The lead I propose:

Wikipedia avoids unnecessary capitalization. Most capitalization is for proper names, words or phrases derived from proper names, acronyms, initialisms, and titles of persons. Where is it not clear from the provisions on this page whether a word or phrase ought to be capitalized, Wikipedia consults reliable sources.

Problems with the old version
  1. There are differences between proper nouns and proper names, though the terminology is unsettled in the linguistic literature, and style-guidance resources, and dictionaries. The article Proper noun is poor, and does not deal with the difference; but it is the best we currently have, apart from the far more sophisticated article Proper name (philosophy), which also needs work. It is certainly best to speak clearly of proper names in the lead, since that avoids confusions and theoretical uncertainties. For example, by the best current terminology North Carolina is a proper name, but not a proper noun. It contains a proper noun (a kind of word, not a kind of phrase): Carolina; but some proper names do not contain a proper noun, like United Kingdom.
  2. The article Proper noun abounds in such errors. One very relevant example from there:
    "Which nouns are considered proper names depends on the language. For example, names of days and months are considered proper names in English, but not in Spanish, French, Swedish or Finnish, where they are not capitalized."
    Wrong! This perpetuates the hopeless circularity people fall into all the time at RMs: a proper noun is a noun that is capitalised is a proper noun is a ...! Names of days and months are as much proper names in French, Albanian, or Vulcan as they are in English. What differs is the set of conventions for capitalisation of such items. Those conventions are independent of status as a proper name.
  3. These and associated confusions come up again and again, most unproductively in RM discussions. It is remarkable that editors appeal to these notions, without any clear sense of what a proper name is (or proper noun, as they assume is equivalent). For example, there is talk of "proper adjectives"; but there is no such thing, in the regimented terminology of modern linguistics. In "the Kantian system", Kantian is an adjective; but it is not a "proper adjective". It is a plain vanilla adjective that by a convention (not much shared beyond English usage) is capitalised because it is derived from a proper name: Kant. Even more commonly, editors assume that because it is capitalised and truly a noun, Kantian is a proper noun in "he is a Kantian". But no. Similarly for an Australian, a New Zealander, a South Sea Islander. These are noun phrases (NPs).* But they are not proper names and certainly not proper nouns (by the best modern accounts). The old version of the lead is inaccurate and misleading in not covering such capitalisations.
    [* Note added later: Very technically, when stripped of a or an they can be called nominals; but this is not explained at the article Nominal, which uses that term differently. It is unnecessary for the page to be complicated by this term, so I confine myself to a simpler distinction between noun and NP.–Noetica]
  4. The old version gives too much weight to reliable sources. Of course they are important, always. But we have on this page of the Manual of Style a well-articulated set of guidelines to settle appropriate uniform capitalisation practice. There can be no point in having them if they are to be dismissed in favour of "reliable sources". Three crucial points:
    • Sources that are reliable for content are not necessarily reliable for style: neither for internal consistency nor conformity with major style guides.
    • The whole point of a manual of style is to rise above such uncertainties in sources, and specify practices that are appropriate in the new context – which for us means practices appropriate on Wikipedia, given the unique way it is edited (and by whom), and the unique way it is read (by users of English all over the world).
    • Nothing in the proposed version of the lead, or anything I say above, supports unprincipled style innovation on Wikipedia. The current style guidelines, at WP:MOS, on the present page, and elsewhere, give the closest consideration to sources: best-practice contemporary publishing, and the deliverances of dictionaries, and of general and specialised style guides and style manuals. I hope that will continue.

I commend what I see as a vast improvement to the lead. I am hoping for productive non-partisan discussion here, conducted in good order, with good listening and respect. Two special requests:

  1. Please do not complicate the situation by a succession of new drafts to consider, before the one currently on the table has been adequately dealt with. Too often the discussion gets entirely unmanageable when that happens.
  2. Similarly, please by all means either revert the amendment I have boldly put in place (retaining the discussion template) or keep it on the page for the time being. Let's be happy with one or the other, for a little while. It we all jump in and tweak components of it on the page itself, again the discussion gets unmanageable; and we descend into warring. Plenty of time to get things right, here on the talkpage.

NoeticaTea? 00:14, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

  • Support though I disagree about a couple of points in the rationale. ― A. di M.​  00:58, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment. Here’s my concern, Noetica. Wikipedia’s guidelines are not stable. A year from now, a whole new set of editors will be active on our many guideline pages. Some will be descending to Change the World To a New and More Logical One®™© whereas others will want to follow a practice observed by MTV. Even policy guidelines well-cemented by WP:Five pillars like WP:Consensus are currently being revised by a well-intentioned editor who is new to that venue and is endeavoring to modify it so it better suits his worldview.

    By distancing Wikipedia from drawing its guidance by looking towards the RSs, we invite even more of this well-intentioned effort by editors—some of whom haven’t even graduated from high school—to use Wikipedia as a vehicle to help lead by example. Now…

    Though it isn’t an issue over capitalization and was instead an issue of diacritics, I note that at Talk:Crêpe, here, the issue was settled by your exemplary work to discern the best sources to use as guidance. In fact the closing admin, GTBacchus, closed as follows (mentioning you by name):

The result of the move request was: page moved per discussion. In particular, Noetica's excellent and thorough analysis of the sources behind the Google searches establishes that the use of the circumflex is significantly more common in reliable sources addressing this topic, so the COMMONNAME argument is turned right around. This discussion is where I'll probably point people in the future as an example of how Google searches should be treated; that's good work.

I'd also like to give props to ErikHaugen for his grace in fielding quite a lot of criticism in this discussion. I'm grateful for the work you do in closing move requests, Erik. - GTBacchus

My worry is that what you are suggesting makes it even more tempting for budding journalists (read: someone who would like to be a journalist someday but has no advanced education in the discipline as of yet) can try their hand at it. Were that to happen we would soon be falling victim to more time-wasting infighting to reverse the capitalization-equivalent of using “mebibytes” instead of the “megabytes” that is standard for computer industry. We actually used that sort of terminology for three whole years! Dumb stuff can come about amazing fast and persist amazingly long if you give it an excuse. Greg L (talk) 01:28, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

P.S. I hated to write what I did, particularly because your above suggestion is—I think—a paradigm for the tone and content of how these sort of suggestions should be made. Nicely done. Greg L (talk) 02:15, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

  • Support. Noetica's arguments are worthy of a Supreme Court judgement. I'd never thought through the logical distinctions concerning capitalisation, proper names, and proper nouns. Now it is much clearer. Greg, I support your work to stop the mebi- silliness at MOSNUM, but as you know, I believe units and conversions need to be documented in detail in a MOSNUM appendix. This has not yet been set up, and we owe it to editors at large. I don't see the analogy with caps. Tony (talk) 02:53, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
The connection is that those who have good-faith intentions but lack competence come to Wikipedia in hopes of affecting change in how the world works without understanding how the world works. And I’m not alluding to any present company, but to future “youngins” who parachute into Wikipedia on regular occasion.

Wikipedia is a huge amalgam of articles cutting across many disciplines. Literary (capitalization and other) practices that are most professional in one discipline, like automotive, may be different from those used in genetics, biology, archeology, or optics. It’s complex and sometimes our global guidelines should say “look to the most-reliable RSs” rather than pretend that any single set of humans can craft such a complex manual of style in the collaborative writing environment that is Wikipedia.

Since the job of any good encyclopedia is to educate its readers on a subject and properly prepare them for their continuing studies in that discipline, following most-reliable RSs in the respective disciplines best serves the interests of our readership. That’s not to say that “follow the RSs” is the be-all, end-all solution to things. I just find the present language to be a suitable balance and would neither weaken nor strengthen it. Greg L (talk) 03:03, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Greg, I am holding off on detailed responses till we have heard from more editors. I very much appreciate your careful submissions; but my hope is that we can get many views expressed first to tease out a variety of issues, before we move on to the most fine-grained analysis. Your point is well and truly registered! Let's see what others will say.
I have refactored slightly (adding "Comment" in bold to your initial comment). I hope no one will object. It is imperative that we keep a complex discussion readable: for us, but more especially for those who join in later.
NoeticaTea? 03:47, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment – I agree and disagree with both Noetica and Greg L. Does the current version put too much emphasis on sources? I don't think so; the wording (which I added after a discussion where nobody objected) says "words and phrases that are consistently capitalized in sources are treated as proper nouns and capitalized in Wikipedia." Perhaps it was bad to put "treated as proper nouns" since I don't really know what I'm talking about in that department. How about "words and phrases that are consistently capitalized in sources are capitalized in Wikipedia"? I don't know of many cases where application of this principle has resulted in an outcome that I don't like (just Peter Principle). The problem is that people don't apply it, and argue for non-sourced-based capitalization, or they argue for capitalization even when sources are very mixed. How will new and more complicated explanations help? Dicklyon (talk) 05:31, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Comments - 1) The immediately previous version is the product of independent editors hacking the consensus version developed a month ago in #General principles. I think it makes more sense to compare the new language to that consensus version since it at least uses complete sentences:

    Wikipedia avoids unnecessary capitalization. Most capitalization is for proper names, acronyms, and initialisms. Wikipedia relies on sources to determine what is a proper noun; words and phrases that are consistently capitalized in sources are treated as proper nouns and capitalized in Wikipedia.

2) I share the concerns of others here that the ability to override the MOS when sources disagree is problematic. However, when the guidelines are not clear (and loopholes abound, especially in those areas where traditional capitalization is at odds with the MOS's minimal caps style), and we refer to sources, I think the previous consensus version's requirement for consistent usage in sources improves the likelihood of resolving disputes: when sources capitalize consistently we have resolution and when sources are not consistent we can move on to other methods of settling the question. The new language does not offer help in dealing with inconsistent capitalization in sources. Jojalozzo 05:48, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Support, but... Noetica's corrections to the misuse of "proper" are indisputable, and the lead is much better in this respect. However, I would retain a little more of the original version for absolute clarity:
"... Where is it not clear from the provisions on this page whether a word or phrase ought to be capitalized, Wikipedia consults reliable sources; words and phrases that are consistently capitalized in such sources are capitalized in Wikipedia."
The reason being that otherwise it's not clear whether we are consulting sources such as style guides which say what to capitalize or consulting sources which include the relevant words or phrases to see whether or not they are capitalized. Peter coxhead (talk) 10:46, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
Sort of support, but I'm not convinced by the new wording either. "We avoid unnecessary capitalization" sounds too one-sided and slogany as the first sentence of a guideline that's supposed to help solve a variety of delicate problems. The general principle I suppose is that we solve problems by consulting our own style guidance (which in turn is based on that of reliable style guides) and usage in reliable sources, and come to a conclusion based on all of what we find. But no particular need to put anything like that in the lead (here and on every other MoS page). I would just have a lead that says something laconic like "This page contains style guidance concerning the use of capital letters in Wikipedia articles." (We already have the guideline box that says there will be occasional exceptions.)--Kotniski (talk) 14:59, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose - complete rewrite needed. Too slogany, one-sided, etc as per Kotniski. -- cheers, Michael C. Price talk 15:07, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Support—I appreciate the technical corrections, but more importantly I think that for stylistic issues like capitalization it is best for us to, where possible, to use a consistent style rather than defer to sources in each case. ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 16:38, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Support, though I am not against a few of the suggestions others have made. The important part is to prefer style consistency for styles, not to prefer inconsistency at whim of "my source is better than your source" sword-waving contests. Quibbles a can be sorted out later. That said, I have to oppose Peter coxhead's wording change, because it will be far too easy to edit-war over it, especially where sources that are very narrowly focused on something consistently do capitalize but equally reliable, more general sources consistently do not. We should always prefer the more general sources, because specialist sources of literally thousands of types uniformly capitalize things that no one else does. Bickering about just one example (bird common names) has already lead to an unbelievable amount of wikistrife for seven straight years. — SMcCandlish Talk⇒ ʕ(Õلō Contribs. 19:35, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

    PS: I endorse what Jojalozzo says below, about needing to "explicitly address the issue of common sense and b) say explicitly that we will fall back on minimal capitalization as the foundational style when the MOS is unclear and sources are inconsistent". — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 23:29, 17 February 2012 (UTC)

  • Support. I agree that the additions, removals, and other changes proposed are all beneficial. Here are some points for consideration. Mention by me on this list is not endorsement.
  1. From my Web search for proper adjective, the first result is the Wikipedia article "Proper adjective".
  2. Wiktionary has information at wikt:proper and wikt:proper adjective and wikt:proper name and wikt:proper noun.
  3. One of my bidirectional dictionaries of Latin and English has a section "List of historical and mythological proper Names." [sic] and a separate section "List of geographical Names." [sic].
  4. OneLook Dictionary Search is again accessible (after about 10 days, to my knowledge, during which it appeared that the domain was for sale), with links on each of these pages.
Wavelength (talk) 20:27, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment - I think that issues with the MOS capitalization are both strategic and tactical. We have a strategy of minimal capitalization that previously allowed override by consistent sources. This new proposal does not allow for such override but provides for the determination of capitalization by sources when the MOS is unclear and I support that since I also have a strong preference for a consistent style across all articles of the project rather than a consistent style for articles and their sources.
However, in my experience, the main reasons for inconsistencies are not that the MOS uses sources for capitalization style but a) the notion that the MOS is just a guideline that we can override when "common sense" (whatever that means - often it seems to be consensus of those most familiar and invested in a topic) leads us to do so and b) most of the sections in the body of this page as well as a diverse array of related capitalization sections of the MOS provide myriad exceptions (or are poorly written to allow for unintended exceptions) offering justification for most any variance from house style that sources support.
I don't know how to address issue (a) where a large majority of editors who are used to a particular capitalization style simply ignore the MOS because it's common sense to use the style they commonly use outside the project.
I think that issue (b) is where the proposed language will fail us since we will still be using sources whenever the exceptions, loopholes and unclear writing allow. Aside from attempting to clean up MOS ambiguities, we should at the least, in cases where the MOS is unclear, only defer to sources when they are consistent. Otherwise the discussion devolves from interpreting the MOS to evaluating sources, analyzing n-gram results, often leading to resolution by deferring to common sense (a) anyway. Instead, I think the lead should a) explicitly address the issue of common sense and b) say explicitly that we will fall back on minimal capitalization as the foundational style when the MOS is unclear and sources are inconsistent. Jojalozzo 23:53, 7 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment. Here are some additional points for consideration.
  1. OnlineStylebooks.com (a stylebook search engine) has search results for proper adjective, listed here.
  2. Language Log has search results for proper adjective, listed here.
  3. LINGUIST List has search results for proper adjective, listed here.
  4. Other-language versions of Wikipedia have guidelines for decisions about letter case.
Wavelength (talk) 01:49, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Wavelength, Language Log is the most highly respected academic linguists' log that is accessible to all comers. The professional linguists there use terms with great precision. Your linked search of the site is misleading, though I'm sure that was not intended. Like Google, its search facility uses double quotes for phrases; and a search on the phrase "proper adjective" yields no hits. The term is quite informal, and not found in current linguistics. This is confirmed when we alter your linked Google search for LINGUIST List to search for a phrase instead of two independent words. Then there is only one hit: from an anthropologist. A linguist in the same thread makes this relevant comment: "The proper/common distinction is strictly a noun distinction." NoeticaTea? 03:11, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Noetica, you are correct: I did not intend to mislead, and I should have searched for "proper adjective". Incidentally, I use typographical alteration (such as boldface, underscore, or italics) instead of quotation marks to distinguish my search terms from the surrounding text, because quotation marks are sometimes included with the search terms, and I consider the expressions "with the quotation marks" and "without the quotation marks" to be somewhat awkward.
Wavelength (talk) 20:09, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
There's {{code}} for that, e.g. Search for "proper adjective" -Wikipedia. ― A. di M.​  20:17, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Several methods are effective: boldface, underscore, italics, big text, small text, colors, code tags and template code.
Wavelength (talk) 01:01, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment as proposer. It is very encouraging to see clearly expressed opinions, presented in good order so that even newcomers can follow the contours of the discussion. I for one am developing a better sense of the main issues.
I suggest that we continue like this, gathering many comments, for two more days from the time of this post. As proposer of the new version of the lead I would then like the opportunity to make a summary response, and to put forward a plan of action for the entire page: one that should meet the genuine concerns of all commenters.
I trust this will be considered a fair procedure.
NoeticaTea? 03:11, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Suggestion to other participants. A lot of people are opposing on the grounds that the new text is not as good as possible. This smells like the perfect solution fallacy to me; can you support or oppose based on whether you think the proposed text is better or worse than the current text instead? (I guess that's what the OP meant by “Please do not complicate the situation”.) ― A. di M.​  11:05, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
    • Is one person "a lot"? (Anyway, there seems to be overwhelming agreement that the new text is an improvement, so discussing ways of making it even better would seem to be the most profitable direction to take at this stage.) --Kotniski (talk) 12:17, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose the changes about reliable sources. The overriding criteria is consistent usage in reliable sources, we use the guidelines when there is no consistent usage. This is better explained by Greg L., Jojalozzo and Kotniski. --Enric Naval (talk) 16:28, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
And guidelines are supposed to reflect current consensus, which is to adapt our guidelines to what reliable sources use. There is a very recent example at Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style#Middle-Eastern_cuisine.3F.3F. --Enric Naval (talk) 16:38, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
I think you're over-generalizing there. The hyphen clarification was in response to some confusion about the incomplete attempt to summarize good hyphenation practice. There's no consensus to "adapt our guidelines to what reliable sources use", which would be another way to phrase the deprecated "follow the sources" concept. If we did that, we'd just say don't use any hyphens, because they are most often not used in sources. Dicklyon (talk) 16:56, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
The change was rejected because it doesn't reflect usage in sources. The guideline was changed to reflect better the usage in reliable sources. This is the current practice and consensus. That part of Noetica's wording doesn't reflect current practice and consensus, since it instructs editors to ignore the usage in sources. --Enric Naval (talk) 21:34, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
"Ignore" is strong language; nobody is advocating ignoring sources. Our style is informed by sources, at all levels. But sources have a mix of styles, so going with our own, while not "following", is also not "ignoring". And I think I know why the Middle-Eastern thing was fixed, and said so when I fixed it: it's based on what I was taught about proper hyphenation. Still, I like what it said about sources before, as I mentioned; you are one of the people who I mentioned as having a hard time following that it said there, since you typically argue to capitalize things that are NOT consistently capitalized in sources. Dicklyon (talk) 21:47, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
If you read the discussions, you will see that it was changed because of usage in sources, not because of "good hyphenation practice" or "proper hyphenation". If an editor wants to ignore the usage in source, then Noetica's wording allows him to do so. --Enric Naval (talk) 22:32, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
My explanation of consistency is not particularly congruent with Enric's position as I understand it. I support the use of sources only when it is unclear how to apply the guidelines (and I would see the guidelines made clearer). I think stylistic consistency within the project should not be sacrificed for per-article stylistic consistency with external content sources. Jojalozzo 05:04, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment - The proposal is not clear about title of persons. Capitalization is used for titles of specific persons not generic persons. It will avoid unnecessary dispute if it was worded : "Most capitalization is for ..., and titles of specific persons." Jojalozzo 23:18, 9 January 2012 (UTC)
I think the simple solution to how to word that sentence is simply to leave it out. The guideline covers all these points in detail. I'm all in favour of using lead sections to sum up briefly what's on the rest of the page, but in this case, I really think that just telling people that it's the WP style guideline on capital letters is enough to ensure that everyone knows what to expect. (However, I think we need a first section on general principles, to establish what we mean by "proper nouns" and "proper names", since these terms are used throughout the policy without any attempt to help people identify what is and isn't one, except by implying that a proper name is one that's capitalized - which as Noetica has already pointed out, is somewhat circular.)--Kotniski (talk) 12:54, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment as proposer. I note that people are still commenting, and that Kotniski has decided to take some action that I myself would have proposed, but with other "structural" reforms included too. I'll continue to hold back from any systematic response for another day or so. Let's see what else comes in.
NoeticaTea? 22:54, 10 January 2012 (UTC)
I think we can move forward now. What do you propose? Jojalozzo 16:25, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Support, with tweaks as deemed appropriate. Per Jojalozzo's worry, "Most capitalization is for ... titles of persons" is correct: that is one of the primary uses. It does not say *"Most titles of persons ... are capitalized", which would be wrong. Perhaps the wording could be tweaked to make the directionality clearer if there's a concern people would misunderstand it. — kwami (talk) 04:05, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose (post-analysis, & I think I'm not the only one) I appreciate the problems, but placing a MOS page above RS is rarely going to be a good idea. See Jojalozzo's crusade based on his, I think mistaken, reading of WP:DOCTCAPS. But that section is very brief and loosely worded. This wasn't open very long for such a large step, was it? Johnbod (talk) 21:02, 16 January 2012 (UTC)
Without entering into the dramatis personae or the politics at the page you are coming from, Johnbod, I observe: 1) that no one here has expressed the intention of "placing a MOS page above RS" (the dominant idea being that reliable sources are fundamental in developing MOS guidelines in the first place, and explicitly retain a default role); 2) that no one has declared this discussion closed, and I am about to adjust all of what follows to accommodate in the analysis your blanket "oppose" (in respect of RSs, since that is what you appear to be objecting to); 3) that we agree that such changes in the lead (and beyond) are large steps (what is replaced was recent and by no means consensual, and was itself a large step); 4) that you are the first to agree with me on the need to take this slowly! NoeticaTea? 21:40, 16 January 2012 (UTC)
I don't see how "Where is it not clear from the provisions on this page whether a word or phrase ought to be capitalized, Wikipedia consults reliable sources" does not constitute "placing a MOS page above RS". Reading the actual page over, it seems riddled both with lack of clarity and an over-simplistic approach that fails to allow adequately for context (it would indeed by a huge task to cover these matters properly), and also for a slight but distinct WP:ENGVAR issue, as Americans tend to capitalize less than Brits. I think we all know that whatever the page says is likely to be interreted in an even more simplistic way by many people, and I just don't think it is ready to be given such a special status. The discussion may not be closed, but it looks it to a newcomer: "I suggest that we continue like this, gathering many comments, for two more days from the time of this post" dated 8 January, etc. Johnbod (talk) 11:04, 17 January 2012 (UTC)
Johnbod—we use reliable sources for determining what the MOS should say. As long as we do that, there is nothing like "putting the MOS ahead of RS" going on here. In other words, if a source about a particular subject deviates from the best style guides about something style-related like capitalization, which should we follow? One argument here is that the style guides are in fact the best source for style and that we might as well be internally consistent on style issues as much as possible. ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 19:42, 17 January 2012 (UTC)
Johnbod, thank you for articulating your concerns with precision. You stress a problem that others also discern. How large that problem looms and what to do about it can be more fully addressed soon. Myself, I agree with Erik; and I do not see that sources reliable for content are in any way relegated for their contribution to style, in their particular areas – especially if they show the right sorts of consistency to influence style guides, and therefore if they influence the development of our MOS guidelines. This has all worked very well for punctuation (at WP:MOS), though predictably we all have some gripe or other with detail there. Every sensitive editor will have some gripe with every style guide! The development of the present page has fallen behind; that needs a sustained effort and much wider scrutiny than it has so far had, and it needs more expertise and less readiness to put sheer unexamined opinion into black-letter guidelines for 4,553,930 articles. Personally, I am concerned that Kotniski is making many changes to the page even while this discussion is active. Some of those changes are connected with this discussion. I wish the page could be left alone more, till we have established bearings for it more reliably. No matter how well motivated Kotniski's changes are, they are not "consensual" in a way that will lessen concerns such as you have expressed. His rate of activity (and the absence of adequate comment and scrutiny) is an additional reason for my not putting in a sustained submission here yet, in response to comments. We need a change of culture in the development of our Manual of Style, and pages like WP:TITLE. I think we might agree about that, because things have not been working well so far. I do make an exception for WP:MOS and perhaps WP:MOSNUM, where editors have seen the dangers and difficulties and worked hard against them. Finally, yes: I did suggest earlier waiting "for two more days from the time of this post" for more posts; but I did not say "and then close the discussion". I am trying to keep flexible and responsive in all of this; and to the extent that I have some informal stewardship of the process, I will continue to do so. NoeticaTea? 23:25, 17 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Johnbod, Enric Naval and others. Generally speaking I am in favour of consistency but in individual cases RS's should be trumping MOS, not vice versa. The suggestion that "we use reliable sources for determining what the MOS should say" is an ideal but (for example) reliable sources don't have umpteen different ways of presenting references across the publication, in my experience at least. Ben MacDui 19:59, 17 January 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for your involvement, Ben. The analysis below has been adjusted to take account of it. NoeticaTea? 23:25, 17 January 2012 (UTC)
FYI: User:JCScaliger has been indef blocked as a sockpuppet of User:Pmanderson (blocked for another year for sockpuppetry), who was topic-banned from MOS.
  • Oppose. We should follow reliable sources. The only addition useful here would be a note that we put titles in sentence case, not title case; this appears to have been what was originally meant by the much-quoted "unnecessary capitalization." There is no harm in unifying to "proper names," but no real benefit either. JCScaliger (talk) 07:24, 19 January 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for joining in, JCScaliger. I have no idea what you mean by "unifying to 'proper names' ", but I take it you are 100% opposed to the proposed new wording as it concerns reliable sources. I am adjusting the analysis below accordingly. NoeticaTea? 07:42, 19 January 2012 (UTC)

New lead proposal: analysis of discussion

Since Jojalozzo has asked that we move forward now, I provide this report of opinions expressed in the week-long discussion above. See notes below. NoeticaTea? 08:42, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

17 participants' attitudes concerning PN (proper names) and RS (reliable sources) in the proposed new lead
0 = completely opposed to the new principle
5 = evenly divided between old and new principles
10 = completely in favour of the new principle
– = indeterminate
Analysis of support for the proposed lead
The proposed specification for proper names:
10 editors expressed an opinion; mean of scores: 10.0 out of a possible 10
The proposed relation between MOS guidelines and reliable sources:
16 editors expressed an opinion; mean of scores: 5.9 out of a possible 10 [Updated after 3 adjustments to ratings, and 3 late "oppose" additions to the discussion.–NoeticaTea? 07:42, 19 January 2012 (UTC)]
Notes
  1. The scores concern the principles underlying the proposed wording, not the precise details or whether these things ought to be stated explicitly in the lead.
  2. I invite editors to adjust the numeric value I have assigned to them; I will then redo the analysis when I come back. (I have tried to be conservative in my assignments, in favour of the older wording. This is necessarily rough; some editors proposed modifications but seemed broadly in favour regarding reliable sources.)
  3. If any other editors would like to add their names and their levels of support (out of 10) for the proposed new lead, please do so.
  4. The issues arising go far beyond changes to the lead. Eventually I would like to respond in detail to some concerns and suggestions, and I would like to propose modifications to the structure and content of the entire page.

NoeticaTea? 23:31, 17 January 2012 (UTC)


Comments on the analysis
  • I indeed completely support not misusing the term proper noun. As for attitudes concerning RS, do you mean whether it should say “consults” or “relies on” (in a context which makes clear it applies only when the choice would otherwise be unclear)? I'm not fond of either, and would prefer “follows”. ― A. di M.​  10:33, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
  • I would just repeat for the record, and in the hope of hearing others' reaction, that I agree that Noetica's changes are an improvement, but would much prefer a simple one-sentence lead saying just "this is our style guidance on capitals", without trying to pre-empt any of the issues that are addressed later in the page. However, more important at this stage is getting the rest of the content of the page right, since as we can see from the various threads below and above, it's not doing a particularly good job at the moment of settling capitalization issues.--Kotniski (talk) 10:47, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Noetica, you counted my "comment" as considerably more negative than I intended. Dicklyon (talk) 05:32, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Please score my position 10 10. Jojalozzo 17:58, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
Proposer's brief responses to four comments, etc.
  • A di M, clearly the real issue is the whole page. The exact wording of the lead can be adjusted once we have confronted what the discussion has revealed. The lead was a vehicle to find the issues. I too would be happy with "follow". But the optimal way to accommodate RSs is something still to work out. The majority seems to think it happens through proper development of MOS guidelines in the first place. I agree with that, and I suppose you do too. I will address this soon in a new section. The present draft for the lead reflects that. Nevertheless, I have adjusted the mean support score down because of your adjusted support rating of 5.
  • Of course we should take note of Kotniski's suggestion that the whole page be sorted out. I'll put forward some ideas soon.
  • Dicklyon, I have therefore adjusted your rating from 0 to 5.
  • Jojalozzo: done; and the analysis is adjusted.
  • Johnbod, Ben MacDui, and JCScaliger have made late entries into the discussion, and in response the analysis has been updated.
Note

I do want to put forward a submission about restructuring the page and resolving certain long-standing issues, but I'm hesitating because I want to get things right. A lot could be at stake. More when I can. No rush, really. I'll notify participants when this thing moves forward. On the evidence from the discussion, I suggest that the lead I have put in place be left to stand. It has much more support than the old one, and it appears to summarise the page well enough for now. It makes a concession in mentioning reliable sources at all (unusual at a MOS page), even if the role they are said to play is not as central as all parties would like.

I will be away from easy access to Wikipedia till 23 January, so I will not be doing anything here before then.

NoeticaTea? 07:42, 19 January 2012 (UTC)

Note the new arguments in #Wikipedia_does_not_use_unnecessary_capitalization and #The_provisions_on_this_page, explaining the problems with this text and proposing a new version. --Enric Naval (talk) 14:53, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
Further delays

Rather than starting new discussions, we might instead have gone really carefully over the issues that have been exposed in the orderly discussion and survey of opinions above. I waited for latecomers, welcomed them, and duly entered their opinions into the approximate analysis that might let us know which way the wind blows, for the recalcitrant problems of the lead.

But I might just as well not have taken any care at all. I see that JCScaliger has got the page locked up, and made fixing its manifold errors of detail extremely difficult. I don't want to be uncivil to people here; but I take issue with an attitude that captiously quibbles over typos as if they were the mark of the beast, that rejects a plain compromise proposal (prominently mentioning reliable sources in a respected default role, most exceptionally for a MOS page), and that boneheadedly puts in place illiterate effusions suggesting that "reliable sources" have the vaguest idea what a "proper noun" [sic!] is. Has anyone been paying attention? Why did I bother to post scrupulously and at length about the difference between "proper noun" and "proper name", a couple of weeks ago (see start of this whole section)? Why did I bother to point out that whether certain items are capitalised is one question, and whether they are proper names is another question?

I cannot do anything for this page while JCScaliger ignores patient exposition of issues, and dismisses all decorum in editing this important MOS page. I am called to comment at WT:TITLE (which I will not do until litigious threats against me are withdrawn). But I start the sort of long process here that offers the only hope of breaking perennial and numbingly stupid deadlocks, and this is what happens.

Let me know when you want some expert input here, editors. We gave up the present sort of nonsense years ago at WT:MOS. Let me know when this talkpage is ready to move out of the dark ages also.

NoeticaTea? 10:40, 23 January 2012 (UTC)

We would greatly welcome some expert input. If you could start being the expert, incisively analytical Noetica again (as we know you are more than capable of being), instead of the personalizing edit-warrior you seem to have (hopefully only temporarily) been acting lately, then it will be of great benefit to everyone. Threads are continuing below on the subject of the lead, on proper nouns and much else - your contributions of substance will be very welcome.--Kotniski (talk) 10:49, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
"We" would, would "we", Kotniski? Well, let me counter with this. We would like you to stop tampering unilaterally with the page beyond your considerable expertise, and encouraging those with less competence who have seen to it that the page is protected and only fixable with difficulty. You have ignored, I see, all that I say about slow process. How absurd to accuse me of edit-warring, when JCScaliger was editing even against himself, eventually blanking the lead! Just step back and look at the long-term big picture, instead of jumping to the conclusion that every effort to slow things down and bring about real change must be some sort of a war effort. One-dimensional thinking will get us nowhere; but at least it will do so fast, which appears to be your dominant concern.
As I say, editors: let me know when you're ready for change. I'm not interested in going round in a tight circle.
NoeticaTea? 12:05, 23 January 2012 (UTC)

Requested move for k.d. lang

I am trying to close the notorious k.d. lang loophole in the guideline. There's an RM here. Kauffner (talk) 11:57, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

  • Awwwee, jeez; you went and did it. I wrote a few days ago as follows over at WP:Article Titles:

I am utterly mystified why our article is titled “k.d. lang”. Now I can see what others mean by “double standard.” I can only assume that a bat-shit-crazy, rabid following on that article established a local consensus in violation of WP:LOCALCONSENSUS. I wouldn’t touch an RM on that article with a ten-foot pole; my writing style comes across as “The Man” and I’d be blocked for twelve years for something like ending a sentence with a preposition.(disclaimer)

Nevertheless, I touched that RM with better than a ten-foot pole, I !voted “Support” (∆ edit, here). (*sigh*)
I nevertheless predict the RM will fail. And that failure will no-doubt be only due to the fact that it is hard to get sufficient regular rank & file editors to weigh in on these sort of things. The faithful active on a particular article can circle the wagons in greater numbers. It’s the exact same phenomenon as when a mere 20 editors voted—while the rest of the community was asleep at the switch—that Wikipedia should exclusively adopt “mebibytes” instead of the “megabytes” the rest of the planet uses for denoting computer memory capacity. So Wikipedia was off doing that for three whole years. It doesn’t mean that was *smart* (it was reversed after a three-month-long battle to the death); just that small numbers of wikipedians can do odd things. Greg L (talk) 02:44, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
FYI: User:JCScaliger has been indef blocked as a sockpuppet of User:Pmanderson (blocked for another year for sockpuppetry), who was banned from commenting on MOS.
It did fail, on grounds of both self-identification and of common usage. (Most funky spellings aren't common usage, and we have guidance against those already in MOS:TM; when appealled to, discussions tend to abolish such spellings.) This is one sign (there have been several others) that this guideline - or at least the way it is being applied - does not reflect what Wikipedians actually do. Perhaps it should. JCScaliger (talk) 07:31, 19 January 2012 (UTC)
But k.d. lang is the form that the guideline currently supports, right? --Kotniski (talk) 07:42, 19 January 2012 (UTC)
Depends on who's reading it, doesn't it? JCScaliger (talk) 08:29, 19 January 2012 (UTC)
Well there's a sentence that deals with this specific instance (under WP:MOSCAPS#Items that require initial lower case - perhaps it ought to be somewhere else to make it easier to find), that explicitly permits k.d. lang. --Kotniski (talk) 09:12, 19 January 2012 (UTC)

Advice please? Generic or not?

Power by the Hour raises a not-uncommon issue: the theme of some articles is a mish-mash of the generic and the non-generic. What are your thoughts here? Tony (talk) 10:07, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Second question: Tornado Intercept Vehicle. My hunch is that this should be downcased as a generic class of vehicle: the article describes a Tornado Intercept Vehicle 1 and a Tornado Intercept Vehicle 2, which are clearly titles and should be upcased as now. Tony (talk) 10:31, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

I can see nothing generic about that. It's about two individual vehicles. (On the first three pages of Google results, I can see none using that phrase with lowercase letters or referring to vehicles other than Casey's.) ― A. di M.​  10:56, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Well, it is now; my query here appears to have prompted an editor to fix the generic skew at the top of this second article. Tony (talk) 12:04, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Facebook

Is it necessary to mention in the lead that Facebook is often written in lower-case, as "facebook"? I mean, it obviously is, but is it worth mentioning? I have always understood MOS:TM to rule this out unless there are special reasons to do so. What do others think? --John (talk) 13:15, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

I understand MOS:TM to be about what to use, not what small>oeticato mention. The first sentence of the lead typically mentions alternative spellings, though I might agree that facebook is indeed too obvious to be mentioned. ― A. di M.​  18:16, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Revert

I don't understand this objection - Tony (or anyone else), can you explain? Or try to do better (that short paragraph is rather confused as it is now).--Kotniski (talk) 18:14, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Relation between this page and the main MOS page

Some issues seem to be dealt with better in the WP:MOS#Capital letters section of the main MOS page (for example, capitalization of "The", which isn't mentioned here at all). Presumably that section is supposed to be a summary of this page, right? So everything that's there ought at least to be here (and some details don't have to be there if they're addressed here)?--Kotniski (talk) 19:05, 8 January 2012 (UTC)

Yes, and yes. ― A. di M.​  20:14, 8 January 2012 (UTC)
Right, well I've started trying to fix this up (including by moving the full wording of the section on "The" to this page).--Kotniski (talk) 11:56, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Does WP:MOSTM apply to ALL phrases that happen to be trademarks, in ALL uses?

For those who can't get enough of this k. d. lang matter, here's a formal posing of the definitive general question at WT:MOSTM. I draw it to editors' attention as relevant in a few recent RMs, and potentially in many more to come.

NoeticaTea? 07:04, 9 January 2012 (UTC)

Proper names section

I've started a new section called "Proper names", which seems to belong near the start of this page (probably because it's so obvious, we haven't even bothered to say up to now that we capitalize personal and place names). Ideas welcome on how to expand and clarify this section so as to provide a context for the rest of the specific sections of the guideline (which often refer to "proper names", although there's no definition of that term).Kotniski (talk) 13:08, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

Hey! I'm glad you've started this section. I've got two points I'd like to bring up. (Please excuse my ignorance.)
  1. Should we call this section "Proper nouns" instead of "Proper names"? If so, let's copy the definition from the Proper noun article.
  2. From the section "Titles of people", a title should be capitalized
  • when the correct formal name of an office is treated as a proper noun; it is correct to write Louis XVI was King of France or Louis XVI was the French king. Exceptions may apply for specific offices.
How do I know when the correct formal name of an office should be treated as a proper noun? Here is an example that I am working on now:
"The constitution does not explicitly say that the president has to be the leader of the party, but the National Progressive Front charter states that president of the Syrian Arab Republic and the secretary of the party is also the president of the front.{{clarify}}<!--What if the President of the Republic and the Secretary of the Party are two different people?-->"
I am not sure which nouns I should be capitalizing and which I shouldn't. What do I do with constitution, president, party, and front? Bah! I should have learned this in elementary school. The best resource I have found is Proper noun—that is probably the place from which we should borrow information and examples. Regards. Braincricket (talk) 09:50, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
P.S. There is inconsistency in the capitalization of convention in Constitutional Convention (United States). Braincricket (talk)
As a general rule, Braincricket, downcase where you can. The example you give looks good to me, although I wonder whether it might be Front as the abbreviation for the NPF. On the definition of proper nouns, I'm a little nervous about the definition offered in the WP article. Tony (talk) 10:10, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
Yes, we need to try to address this issue here (Wikipedia articles are not reliable sources, can't be relied on not to change - and in any case we need a definition that we can apply in solving actual problems according to our internal style). Does anyone want to have a go at defining what, for our purposes, a proper name (or proper noun) actually is?--Kotniski (talk) 10:23, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
As to the question asked (which is quite illustrative of the problem we have to solve here), I would certainly agree that "Front" needs to be capitalized (it's a short form of the full name of the NPF, not a generic term - you'd choose some other word, like "party", if you wanted a generic term there). Some of the others are borderline.--Kotniski (talk) 10:28, 12 January 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Well Kotniski, who do we have who is most competent to define proper noun and proper name on the page?

I am disappointed that you started changing the page (as I note that you often do) without a full discussion on the talkpage. Yes, I did so with the lead (see discussion above); but that was to remove something that was messy, factually in disarray, and plainly non-consensual. And I invited reversion and started an orderly process. Frankly, I am at a loss to know how to proceed now. There are numerous particular debates going on all over the place, all related to the issues we were beginning to come to terms with: the usual totally confused RM discussions; bird-naming at WT:MOS yet again and at enormous length; cluelessness at WT:MOSTM. So when we have a general conversation going (one that I started this time), with some prospect of resolving what will always fall into muddle when we focus prematurely on details we do not understand, it would be great to finish that sustained conversation first, without distraction.

I'll leave things in your hands once again, since you have seized the initiative; and to those who are happy with page-changing before patient reflection as a group of concerned editors. Sincerely, good luck! I'll watch for a while.

NoeticaTea? 11:19, 12 January 2012 (UTC)

I'm not entirely sure which of my changes you're objecting to now - as far as I'm concerned, I was just tidying up a lot of mess. If you think I changed anything substantial, then please say so. But the question of how we define "proper name" was an outstanding one regardless of any of my changes - the answer is hopefully one that we can arrive at together (and your input, in particular, would be extremely valued).--Kotniski (talk) 11:30, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
Try this then: "I've started a new section called 'Proper names' ...". Why do that, when the whole matter was being systematically and patiently discussed, and I myself had said I would make an assessment and lay out a response to people's abiding difficulties? What was the hurry? You diverted attention from a slow respectful process that was intended to bring lasting results, solving several related perennial problems with capitals and so-called "proper nouns".
Just carry on. I don't want any drama; I'm not editing the page. Go for it. You know what you're doing? Great!
NoeticaTea? 12:15, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
I really don't see the problem here. You started a discussion about one matter (changes to the lead); I started one about another (the absence of a definition of proper names). Clearly they may be related; but there's no need for a talk page to be restricted to discussion of only one issue at a time (particularly as traffic is not particularly high for either of them).--Kotniski (talk) 12:58, 12 January 2012 (UTC)

Newspaper headlines

In WP:MOSCAPS#All caps it says to reduce newspaper headlines from all caps to start case. It then gives a footnote claiming that this is what the NYT does. However the link given shows that what the NYT does is not start case (a term I admit I didn't know, but which is defined on WP as meaning that every word is capitalized). What's it supposed to say here: that we use start case in such situations (and so the claim that NYT does it is wrong); or that we actually use normal title case with unimportant words uncapitalized (like the NYT really seems to do)?--Kotniski (talk) 16:15, 12 January 2012 (UTC)

No response, so I'm going to change it to say "start case or title case". If anyone feels that we ought to recommend specifically start case, then please change it back, but do remove or rephrase the footnote at the same time, since it's wrong as it stands.--Kotniski (talk) 10:37, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

Composition titles

Another devil in the detail. MOS:CT (here) tells us to capitalize "prepositions that are long (such as those not listed above)". Whatever that's supposed to mean. However WP:ALBUMCAPS (not part of the MoS) sets out much more precisely which prepositions should have capitals (although it also omits some of the other details that are given here). Is it intended that the same guidance apply to other composition titles as for albums; is the guidance given at ALBUMCAPS to everyone's liking; and (therefore) can we introduce the missing detail from there to here and from here to there?--Kotniski (talk) 16:46, 12 January 2012 (UTC)

I agree we should harmonize the 2 guidelines. I suggest taking the most precise language from each and combining them into a single guidance. ALBUMCAPS can summarize the guidance with a mainlink to here. --IllaZilla (talk) 18:24, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
No objection, so I'm going to have a go at doing this.--Kotniski (talk) 11:43, 17 January 2012 (UTC)

Internet, internet?

This is a question I'd have expected to see answered or at least mentioned on this page - do we capitalize Internet?--Kotniski (talk) 11:41, 13 January 2012 (UTC)

The fact is, internet is a common name when it means an internetwork, but by far the most widely known and used internet happens to be called the Internet. Hence, the answer is that 99% of the times it doesn't bloody matter whether you capitalize it, as with moon/Moon (though you have to use moon if you're talking about a moon other than the Moon, and you have to use Moon if you are indeed talking about the Moon but in a context where using the moon might be ambiguous as to which moon you're talking about – though in such a context Earth's Moon might be even better). ― A. di M.​  12:01, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
Fair enough, though you could say that about almost anything - it doesn't ultimately matter whether you capitalize england or the united states, you'll still be understood, though naturally we do what's right and capitalize them. My feeling is that (just for the professional look) it's more appropriate to refer to the Internet with a capital letter - though I know views differ on this matter. (If we don't care, then we could at least say that we don't care, just to stop people fruitlessly searching multiple MoS pages for the answer to the question.)--Kotniski (talk) 12:52, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
Nope; england is not a common name, and united states is but it has the wrong grammatical number and semantics. ― A. di M.​  13:06, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
Yeah, I do know that - I was just pointing out that from the point of view of utility, most capitalization is redundant, but we still do it, because we want to look professional etc. So - even though it rarely helps resolve any ambiguity (as you point out) - do we think that capitalizing "Internet" benefits our professional look sufficiently to make it worth recommending that people do it?--Kotniski (talk) 13:17, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
I increasingly see the internet. Tony (talk) 15:54, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
Where? ― A. di M.​  19:00, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
That graph (if reliable) would seem to support "increasingly", though the capital still has it by a large margin. My intuition would perhaps be to use "Internet" when considering it from a technological point of view, but "internet" when considering it from a user's point of view, as a means of communication/consumption (you wouldn't capitalize telephone or television, so why internet?) But if good sources are still capitalizing it everywhere, then I guess we follow.--Kotniski (talk) 10:30, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
I suspect sources other than books (e.g. newspapers) use the lowercase version much more often, but then again, Wikipedia is supposed to be written in a formal register. ― A. di M.​  10:36, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

point of fact: there is only one internet but lots of intranets (and in this sentence there are no capital letters). -- PBS (talk) 04:20, 18 January 2012 (UTC)

Actually, there is one Internet, but multiple internets. Dicklyon (talk) 04:26, 18 January 2012 (UTC)
do you have an example of another one? -- PBS (talk) 20:07, 19 January 2012 (UTC)
See Internetwork. ― A. di M.​  11:01, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
The second paragraph in the lead does not support you: "The most notable example of internetworking is the Internet, a network of networks based on many underlying hardware technologies...". Yes there can be different internetworks but AFAICT other internetworks would not be called "internet" which has a specific meaning for a specific network. Do you know of any reliable source which states there is more than one internet? -- PBS (talk) 22:18, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── So if there is only one [Ii]nternet could someone answer Kotniski's question? -- PBS (talk) 01:56, 31 January 2012 (UTC)

Sure. Yes, we capitalize for the Internet, but not for an internet. The latter doesn't come up so often, so don't worry about it. Dicklyon (talk) 05:00, 31 January 2012 (UTC)
You write "an internet" not an intranet. As I pointed out above as far as I know there is only one internet, do you have an example of another one? -- PBS (talk) 19:07, 3 February 2012 (UTC)

The Kingdom of Heaven or the kingdom of heaven? The Last Supper or the last supper?

Please see Wikipedia talk: WikiProject Christianity#Application of MOS guidelines on capitalization in articles on Christianity. Jojalozzo 19:16, 13 January 2012 (UTC)