Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Capital letters/Archive 7

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Start case

It wasn't clear from the link what this is; I presumed it means sentence case. Tony (talk) 11:32, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

If that's the case (no pun etc.), then the example needs to be changed as well: War begins today.--Kotniski (talk) 11:43, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
Apparently, it means capitalizing the first letter of each word, including function words. See #Newspaper headlines above. ― A. di M.​  11:48, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

Wikipedia does not use unnecessary capitalization

It seems that this sentence at the start of this guideline is being interpreted, by some, to mean that "if there's any doubt as to whether to capitalize or not, then don't". (An example is Noetica's reasoning at Talk:Synoptic Gospels#Requested move.) Is this really what we mean; and if so, when was it decided thus? Surely Wikipedia is not actually so dogmatic on this point – we try to get capitalization right in each case, which means we avoid "purposeless" capitalization (perhaps), but not literally all "unnecessary" capitalization (since, like en dashes, much or all capitalization is not strictly necessary – some sources omit it – but still serves a useful purpose).--Kotniski (talk) 12:27, 16 January 2012 (UTC)

I don't think anyone is going to seriously try to interpret this to mean we should not use capital letters at the beginning of sentences, etc. I don't see the problem. ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 19:30, 17 January 2012 (UTC)
Well the problem is not that severe, obviously, but as I've pointed out above (with the discussion link) it is being interpreted to mean that we have a strong bias against capitalization, in cases where sources differ (even if the great majority of sources use capitalization). I don't think this is actually our attitude in general nor that it would be a helpful attitude – we ought to be making capitalization decisions carefully based on the issues in each case, so as to best exploit the differences between capitalized and non-capitalized forms in the interests of discerning readers (like we do with hyphens and dashes) - we don't have some sort of ardent anti-capitalist (hmm) agenda.--Kotniski (talk) 07:40, 19 January 2012 (UTC)
Looking at stuff like Talk:Synoptic_Gospels#Move_to_pluralized_title, I can see how that sentence is being used as a slogan to downcase everything. --Enric Naval (talk) 12:33, 19 January 2012 (UTC)
Reading this thread makes me wonder which bits are in jest and which are not. Kotniski, many aspects of professional writing are "not strictly unnecessary". Should we abandon them? I'm not sure the interpretation is a strong bias against capitalisation, and do we not already make capitalisation decisions "carefully based on the issues in each case"? The Synoptic Gospels example cited by Enric is a case in point. At that RM there are some detailed, specific arguments. I find a definitive conclusion difficult there; Noetica seems to be expressing doubt, too, I see. But the point is that where usage is mixed, WP has traditionally preferred the unmarked lower case. In this matter we have strong support from prestigious guides on both sides of the Atlantic. The preference for lower case runs deeply at WP: sentence case for titles is a major feature of the site's stylistic underpinnings. Tony (talk) 13:36, 19 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.
Which is why phrasing like "Wikipedia avoids unnecessary capitalization" is too strong to be useful, and is easily abused. Necessity is too strong a test, in the guideline, as on this page. Without that, the lead describes existing practice. JCScaliger (talk) 14:02, 19 January 2012 (UTC)
Your opinion is that WP should indulge in unnecessary capitalisation? Tony (talk) 14:04, 19 January 2012 (UTC)
That's a caricature; as it would be a caricature to suggest that you support unnecessary capitalization at the beginning of sentences. JCScaliger (talk) 14:07, 19 January 2012 (UTC)

The problem is the interpretation of "unnecessary". Clearly the capitalization in Synoptic Gospels isn't "necessary" in any absolute sense (people will always work out what we mean), but it's useful and it conforms to what most good sources do and probably(?) to what most good style guides recommend, so there really isn't any reason for us not to do it - except that we are concerned about obeying our self-imposed rules. If it weren't for over-sweeping statements like "avoid unnecessary capitalization" and similar ones under WP:DOCTCAPS, the question of capitalization of that phrase would never have arisen - it would have been obvious to everyone that we should follow good usage and capitalize. Style guidance is useful when it settles doubts; it starts to have a negative value when it produces doubts where none would otherwise have existed.--Kotniski (talk) 14:14, 19 January 2012 (UTC)

By the way, WP:DOCTCAPS should mention cases like "an annunciation" versus "the Annunciation"? --Enric Naval (talk) 15:13, 19 January 2012 (UTC)
Probably should. This sort of thing is being considered in the discussion which is linked to a few threads above this one ("Kingdom of Heaven"...)--Kotniski (talk) 15:33, 19 January 2012 (UTC)

If anything, that lead needs to be strengthened. A couple of editors, most notably Enric Naval and JCScaliger, usually argue to capitalize things where sources clearly show that the capitalization is optional, or unnecessary. It's a concise statement of WP caps style; why fight it? Dicklyon (talk) 06:38, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

Because, as has been pointed out twice already in this section, it is unclear and is being used to waste everybody's time with silly suggestions that we should use "last supper" etc. Johnbod (talk) 13:11, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
Well, again we need to know what we mean by "unnecessary". If you really think that every time sources differ on a point of capitalization, then we follow the lowercase version, then this seems highly damaging and quite at odds with the usual discerning way in which we handle style questions. We want to get the capitalization right, for the benefit of readers (and I'm sure there are many more readers who get the difference between Gospels and gospels than there are who get Smith–Jones vs. Smith-Jones; but we don't say "Wikipedia avoids unnecessary en dashes").--Kotniski (talk) 07:13, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

I agree; “unnecessary” is near-meaningless unless you specify a purpose. It doesn't mean ‘unnecessary for comprehensibility’, as (as was pointed out elsewhere) even if we wrote “england” people would still understand. (In fact, some scripts such as Arabic and Hebrew have no letter case, and they work just fine.) It then means something more like ‘unnecessary for Wikipedia to be written in standard English and be easier to understand and not violate the principle of least astonishment’ or something, but unless we define that something, that sentence is about as meaningful as ‘Letters should not be capitalized except when they should.’ ― A. di M.​  11:08, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

Unnecessary for ease of reading, where readers are not in clear expectation of caps (such as in days of the week, months of the year, the first letter of (almost all) sentences, and where proprietary names are almost always capped (Coca-Cola) – where lower-case initials have virtually no effect on readability or recognisability. Tony (talk) 11:37, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
So in fact by "unnecessary" we mean something like "purposeless", as I've suggested before (I think). But I think that much will be more or less understood by everyone (no-one would expect us to go round putting in random capitals for no reason), so I still think (even if "unnecessary" were clarified or replaced by a better adjective) that we can happily leave this sentence out of the lead, and make it clear later on, in the individual sections of the guideline, in what contexts we consider capitals appropriate or inapproriate. (With, as you say, more examples.)--Kotniski (talk) 12:31, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
No, several editors have already objected to what would be a major change. I believe it would be wise to have an RfC if you're really serious about this abrupt change of course. There is no consensus for it. Tony (talk) 15:25, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
I don't intend any change of course (the substantial guidance in the rest of the page would still be there), but it would be helpful to get rid of a vague sentence that is so obviously open to misinterpretation. I don't think it's a big deal; if there's some kind of sentimental attachment to that sentence, we can leave it for now and work on the rest of the page, which has a lot of defects, as we all keep saying. --Kotniski (talk) 18:32, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
I still don't see what misinterpretations you are seeing that concern you. I think it's a good lead, summarizing the idea behind the guidelines. Basically, the text clarifies where caps are necessary, and we otherwise avoid them. Dicklyon (talk) 05:09, 21 January 2012 (UTC)
I've kind of explained the "misinterpretations" - it's being used to mean "if there's any doubt, then don't capitalize". And since the text of the guideline currently leaves most practical questions unanswered, this vague and one-sided dogma is being used by some as a poor substitute for any genuine and properly thought-out guidance on the use of capitals. As I say, it would be more profitable to work on the meat of the guideline at this stage than to worry excessively about the lead, but it seems clear to me that this sentence should go, since it is either empty of meaning ("capitals should not be used except where they should") or plain wrong ("downcase any letter if you can find the slightest reason for doing so").--Kotniski (talk) 14:22, 21 January 2012 (UTC)

General principles section

I think it would be useful to have a general principles section at the start of the page - with a bulleted list of the situations where capitals are used, followed by a bulleted list of situations where capitals are not used (but where people might be tempted to use them). This could contain links to more detailed sections further down the page. Thoughts?--Kotniski (talk) 07:49, 19 January 2012 (UTC)

I've been suggesting greater use of examples for a long time. But please don't launch in and add them without significant discussion of proposed examples here. Tony (talk) 13:38, 19 January 2012 (UTC)
This isn't really a suggestion to add examples (we have plenty of those already, though certainly there are some points on which we need more of them) - just a general introductory section containing the main points and helping people to find the right section if they want details.--Kotniski (talk) 14:04, 19 January 2012 (UTC)
What a pity. Without many more examples, the page will continue to be impenetrable for editors at large. Tony (talk) 14:06, 19 January 2012 (UTC)
Sure, I agree there are certain parts of this page that are lacking in examples (indeed in any information at all, like the "Proper names" section that I started in the hope that it would be developed).--Kotniski (talk) 14:18, 19 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.
I skimmed the early versions of this page and its relatives. The use of sentence case in titles appears to have been to make linking easier; the use of sentence case in sections appears to have been because it used to be much more common to make sections into articles and the other way around. Emphasizing with italics not FULL CAPS does make us look like an encyclopedia, not a web rant.
I think those (and the fact that some editors avoid capitalization of respect, and see it more often than it really happens) are all there ever was to "avoid unnecessary capitalization." I can see how, especially without the technical term to hand, one might describe sentence case that way. But it doesn't add up to a general preference, much less a Rule.
Saying something to that effect would serve as half of a decent general principle. The other half would be "follow reliable sources". JCScaliger (talk) 20:42, 19 January 2012 (UTC)

The provisions on this page

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.

The really controversial phrase in the new lead is

where is it not clear from the provisions on this page

This language has problems; is seems to have wandered from its proper place; but more importantly, what provisions? What does this page actually provide?

  1. Do not capitalize for emphasis. Largely uncontroversial, but not properly described as correct or incorrect, and not decidable from reliable sources.
  2. Use sentence-style capitalization in headers and titles.
  3. Begin sentences (etc.) with capitals. (So will reliable sources.)
  4. Proper names are capitalized in accordance with standard usage. In other words, follow reliable sources.
  5. Do not capitalize The in the middle of sentences, except where idiomatic. In other words, do what reliable sources do.

And so on. (I number the sections as they are in my skin.) If anybody wants to complete the list, all 21 sections before the notes, feel free.

The first two are Wikipedia's treatment of cases where reliable sources will not help. The others - as far as I can see, all the others - are follow reliable sources with more or less indication of what reliable sources actually do. Saying "Follow reliable sources, except where we say to follow reliable sources" is not helpful; doing it at this length is silly. JCScaliger (talk) 14:26, 19 January 2012 (UTC)

Yes, I kind of agree. Certainly I think (as I've said before, but apparently not loudly enough to provoke anyone's reaction) that the lead as it is now is unhelpful and would be best reduced to a single sentence saying what the topic of this page is. The "general principles" section that I propose above would serve instead of the rather hurried sentence about "most capitalization is for..."--Kotniski (talk) 14:32, 19 January 2012 (UTC)
Done. Let's see what happens. JCScaliger (talk) 16:40, 19 January 2012 (UTC)

This discussion belongs in the section already devoted to Noetica's lead proposal (#"Proper nouns", "proper names", and other concerns: amending the lead). Jojalozzo 18:57, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

No, please, don't try to kill new arguments by referring to old ones. If this argument is correct (and I still have to see anyone arguing that it is not), then Noetica's proposal is based on flawed assumptions about what the guideline actually says. --Enric Naval (talk) 19:08, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

Ensure consensus before making changes to MOS pages

I am concerned that several discussions are in progress on this page related to the lead and other sections with participating editors making changes at the same time and edit warring rather than participating in further discussion when their changes are reverted. There is no consensus for many of these edits and waiting less than a day for responses to proposals does not justify implementation. I urge everyone to slow down and allow consensus to develop before making more changes, especially in the lead but elsewhere also. The style-guide template tells us to "ensure that any edits to this page reflect consensus" plus there is a tag that the lead is under discussion which also suggests checking here before making edits. Jojalozzo 01:38, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

Some might say you're a fine one to talk, but I'm glad you've seen the light... Johnbod (talk) 02:29, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
If you are referring to my changes at Last Supper, I am not aware that there was an ongoing discussion there at the time. I made those changes in the spirit of BRD as a possible lead into discussion. Jojalozzo 18:52, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
I have just reverted Enric Nazal's extraordinary attempt to make a major change at the top of this guideline. Please discuss it here first, and gain proper consensus. Tony (talk) 06:39, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
Well, great, we have again Tony, Dicklyon and Noetica making knee-jerk reverts when they don't have answers for the arguments in the talk page. Note that the long-standing version was changed by Dicklyon in 6 December[1] and further changed in 7 January by Noetica[2]. The technique is to restore their version claiming that it's the long-standing version. Now that there are finally good arguments to why the changes are incorrect, they resort to edit-warring and claims of consensus and long-standing versions that they wrote themselves weeks ago. Go to the two sections above #Wikipedia_does_not_use_unnecessary_capitalization and #The_provisions_on_this_page, and address the arguments. --Enric Naval (talk) 14:47, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
There's no consensus for JCScaliger's recent changes to the lead nor for the reversions of them in the edit war. Calling out those on the other side of an edit war tells on everyone involved. Jojalozzo 18:52, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
It's not the first time Dicklyon resorts to editwarring when he doesn't have answers for the arguments, Wikipedia:Administrators'_noticeboard/3RRArchive166#User:Dicklyon_reported_by_User:Enric_Naval_.28Result:_1_week.29 and Wikipedia:Administrators'_noticeboard/3RRArchive167#User:Dicklyon_reported_by_User:Enric_Naval_.28Result:_No_action.29, and Tony comes to help him with the edit warring, also not addressing any arguments. --Enric Naval (talk) 19:04, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
I would have protected this page awhile ago if I wasn't involved in the relevant discussion. Please stop edit warring on guidelines. ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 17:39, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
Please ask for help. Jojalozzo 18:52, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

Elephant in room?

Judging from some of the bad-tempered exchanges above, I've concluded that this must be another of those rooms that has an elephant (or possibly several elephants) in it. Has there been some major disagreement about the capitalization of some term or terms? If so, then can we perhaps have then clearly on the table so we can consider them and decide what principles are at stake, with a view to reaching some conclusions and making the guideline provide some clear guidance about whatever it is? (At the moment the guideline is so vague that it's hard to imagine it usefully settling any specific question that there might actually be genuine disagreement about.) --Kotniski (talk) 19:16, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

Who is being bad-tempered? I don't see that. What I do see is a lot of smoke and steam, none of it called for, about a long-standing policy. Disagreements are nutted out at individual RMs, where the admins are trusted to make judgements without fear or favour, and largely do so as far as I can tell. The claim that the current policy is "being used to mean 'if there's any doubt, then don't capitalize' " is not supportable, I believe. Although there's no set ratio of upper and lower case evidence, successful RMs to downcase titles have usually revealed significant downcasing in good sources.

Please calm down and debate the matter in a measured and complete fashion here. Thanks. Tony (talk) 15:22, 21 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.
Of course Tony doesn't see it; he is one of those exhibiting the temper; his undiscussed reversion, to a text first invented two weeks ago is an example. JCScaliger (talk) 19:53, 21 January 2012 (UTC)
Who would not have reverted that destruction of long-standing guideline? Dicklyon (talk) 21:05, 21 January 2012 (UTC)
This begs a question; what Tony reverted to was Noetica's bold edit from two weeks ago. But the answer is: if something is not consensus - and many people have been deprecating this text for some time now - and is controversial, it ought to be removed until consensus is established; those who disagree with it are expected to do so. JCScaliger (talk) 02:04, 23 January 2012 (UTC)

The actual old text was:

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. — Preceding unsigned comment added by JCScaliger (talkcontribs) 20:33, 21 January 2012 (UTC)


The elephant is that two or three editors have been going around removing capitals from a lot of article titles, based on an extreme reading of this section. These have fallen into three classes.

  • Some articles are titled, unsurprisingly, in title case. Changing these to sentence case has been uncontroversial.
  • Some of the changes have passed unnoted by anybody else, or objected to by a single editor. These have passed 3-1.
  • Most or all of those discussed by more than three or four editors have failed. JCScaliger (talk) 19:53, 21 January 2012 (UTC)
I agree that Tony and I have been active in RMs involving case, downcasing lots of things that have unnecessary capitalization. It's less clear who you are thinking of in third place, as lots of others have supported these moves. If you think there's an elephant in the room that people are afraid to mention, why not go ahead and mention it so we know what you're thinking? As you note, many of these changes were not controversial, and many attracted no notice or opposition. I don't believe it's the case that "those discussed by more than three or four editors have failed"; maybe you can collect stats from old RMs and let us know what you find. Also, you could let us know who are the three most active capitalizers (or who comes in third after you and Enric Naval). Dicklyon (talk) 21:05, 21 January 2012 (UTC)
I am intentionally excluding any discussion based on the (so far uncontested) language that says that section headings and titles should be in sentence case. This makes linking easier and is uncontroversial.
However, there is a long list of disruptive and failed move requests from these three editors, based solely on their private reading of the preamble.
Two occur to me right off. I invite additions to this list:
That's non-responsive to the question. The French Quarter RM was not about capitalization, and I withdrew the Halley's Comet RM to prevent further argument when it was clear that the community was polarized 50/50 over it. Neither of these supports what you are accusing us of. And you're still saying "three editors" without saying who you are accusing. So put up or shut up, please. Dicklyon (talk) 22:25, 21 January 2012 (UTC)
50/50? It was 4-7 (plus one for Comet Halley) when withdrawn. Three of the four are familiar from this conversation (the fourth is a simple Support without justification).
For the other, I sit corrected: most of the discussion of "French quarter" was Talk:French Quarter (disambiguation); although it did crop up in the RM . The editors involved are equally recognizable.
I am not accusing anybody, yet. This is not the page to do so. JCScaliger (talk) 02:04, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
Maybe not exactly that on the comet; I counted 5–5 before my friend Greg L came in and convinced me that moving toward a consensus to move would not be possible; after a bit of pushing back on his position, I gave it up. It's sort of like the birds project: the astronomers are going to go with the IAU, independent of most sources. Anyway, that's a long time ago. If you have a complaint about how the lead is being interpreted, something about the "long list of disruptive and failed move requests from these three editors" would be needed to get us to look at it. By the way, the opposition to the comet move included the usual over-capitalizers Enric Naval, LtPowers, and TechnoSymbiosis (but not you), siding with the astronomers. A quick review of my contribs for the last month or so (closed RMs starting Dec. 15 to Jan. 14) shows no downcasing RMs at all only two downcasing RMs (did I miss some?), so maybe I'm not one of the two or three you're alluding to. One was the move at Talk:Tunisian_revolution#Requested_move_3, which only you opposed in this 3rd RM after the evidence was clarified. The other Talk:Here's Your Mule lost with only one oppose (LtPowers) and no support; I'll probably try that again. I assume Tony1 is on your shortlist; I reviewed his downcasing RMs for that same period, and found that half of them (9) passed without opposition, and the majority of the others (5) passed over moderate opposition, usually from you and/or Enric. So it's still not clear what "disruption" you're talking about. In the same period, Tony and I, and probably others, fixed the over-capitalization of many more articles than that, without needing RMs, about 99% without any pushback (in one case I did an RM to reverse what Tony did). You should be thanking us, not whining. Or show us the "disruption". Dicklyon (talk) 04:01, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
Back in September I already told Dicklyon that the RM was not 50-50[3]. Repeatedly misrepresenting the results of past discussions is tendentious editing, and you should stop doing it. --Enric Naval (talk) 20:31, 23 January 2012 (UTC)

I do not think personalizing any dispute moves the project forward. Please deal with individual issues on user talk pages. Jojalozzo 22:28, 21 January 2012 (UTC)

To the extent that JCScaliger believes that the wording of the lead is being badly used, or misconstrued, to make inappropriate downcasing moves, we need to hear the specifics from him if we are to examine that as a potential problem. If he's not willing to provide the specifics (like a survey of RMs, not necessarily editor names), then he should just retract the complaint. I'm sure there will be a handful of cases where I will agree with him that Tony went too far; in most cases Tony was willing to back off of those when I presented evidence; this is RM discussions working, not disruption. If JCScaliger is complaining that the RMs that failed were disruptive and the others were OK, then I don't know how to accommodate that thinking. Dicklyon (talk) 22:37, 21 January 2012 (UTC)
Can I put the question the other way round - have there been cases where this opening lead sentence ("...avoids unnecessary...") has been essential for making an argument? In other words, is it needed for anything? I suspect that if it has been, then this is because some concrete point about capitalization is missing from the rest of the page, and needs to be addressed specifically.--Kotniski (talk) 12:05, 22 January 2012 (UTC)


Continued disruption in the lead

Could I ask why someone has been adding and removing the text, first with the posting of non-consensual text that has serious categorical flaws, and then its blanking. I see that the plainer text that more closely reflects consensus has since been restored. I ask that editors not change the lead again without extensive consultation and consensus. Tony (talk) 05:26, 22 January 2012 (UTC)

"Consensus" here (and at WP:AT) seems to mean "whatever Noetica decides". We've had difficulty defining consensus in the past - I'm glad we've now reached a clear and easily applicable interpretation of the concept. --Kotniski (talk) 11:57, 22 January 2012 (UTC)
Consensus is decided by numerous editors, not one. The Board of the Chicago Manual of Style, for example, comes to a consensus that "we prefer lower case" unless there's a good reason for upper case; they reconfirm this in their FAQ updates several times a year. Hart's New Rules, the Oxford style manual, is not quite as point-blank, but their consensus is not far from that of Chicago. I can't see a problem with the opening sentence of WP's guidance. Tony (talk) 12:06, 22 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 would seem that Kotniski's claim does need amendment: "consensus" requires that Tony agrees with Noetica. Has he ever failed to do so? Does anybody but Tony and Noetica support this text? JCScaliger (talk) 01:01, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
Isn't "this text" the subject of the ongoing discussion above (#"Proper nouns", "proper names", and other concerns: amending the lead)? If so, a) there are a number of supporters and b) lack of awareness of that discussion may explain some of the disruption in the lead. Jojalozzo 01:16, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
Well, "it's necessary" is not the same as "there's a good reason for it". Can't we change it to say the same as you quote Chicago as saying? --Kotniski (talk) 12:10, 22 January 2012 (UTC)
I would favour this change. However, many differences of opinion over capitalization styles are based on what constitutes "a good reason". For example, the lengthy argument above about whether or not to capitalize the common names of organisms has this disagreement at its core. So I suspect that those who want the MOS to be more directive won't be happy with this wording, as it appears more permissive. Peter coxhead (talk) 12:36, 22 January 2012 (UTC)
Not necessarily - there can be just as much difference of opinion over what would constitute "unnecessary capitalization" (and the problem in that case is exacerbated by the fact that "unnecessary" is not actually what we mean).--Kotniski (talk) 17:31, 22 January 2012 (UTC)
Inserted "good reason", with a note that title case is not a good reason for us, and why. Let's see who disagrees, and if they say why. If "unnecessary" is not what we mean, we should not say it. JCScaliger (talk) 02:26, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
This is OK by me. It could be tightened with "only when there is a good reason" since it otherwise does not preclude using caps when there is no good reason. While you're there, why not make it grammatical as well (e.g. per Noetica's proposal) or did you want it in the garbled state you've changed it to? Jojalozzo 02:43, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
I see this is where Noetica got his ungrammatical text; but it should work now. Let's not have only unless we really need it; it would expose us to much the same abuses as unnecessary. This is a topic sentence, not a Rule. JCScaliger (talk) 03:30, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
And reading strictly, only is redundant: when there is a good reason is a defining clause. That isn't going to stop anybody who is really determined; but neither will this whole guideline. All it can do is to guide those in good faith; if, as with "unnecessary", language is abused, it can be changed when the occasion arises. JCScaliger (talk) 03:54, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
(ec) Maybe it could work with "only", but I reverted JCScaliger's edit that is clearly not going to get any consensus here. Let's discuss before changing it. Dicklyon (talk) 03:31, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
But we did discuss; this entire section is a discussion of these ideas, which I merely summarized. Since Noetica's text is not consensus and was invented less than three weeks ago, it has no claim whatever to stand. (One of its few supporters has just endorsed this text, note.)
What is missing, and has always been missing, is any discussion of why Dicklyon objects (if he does) to "good reason".
This is the recommended approach to difficulties in phrasing: when an objection is explained, try something else which may meet it. But since the objectors have never explained what their objection is (is it really, as Kotniski suggests, that only Noetica can be bold?) one can just try things until it works. Edit summaries of "no consensus" are not helpful. JCScaliger (talk) 03:39, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
I object to edits to guidelines when they are newly introduced, approved only by an ally, and not yet commented on by people likely to be in opposition. As to the particulars, the change from a lead discouraging capitalization to one encouraging it is in the wrong direction, and it's huge. Jojalozzo suggested how it could be made more acceptable, using "only", but you ignored that and added the permissive version. Congrats, you got it locked in for a while. Dicklyon (talk) 04:08, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
And, again, you fail to provide any substantial reason to oppose the text, except that "some could oppose" or "I oppose". A repeat of the stalling tactics in Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style/Capital_letters#comet_and_galaxy_examples. --Enric Naval (talk) 15:24, 23 January 2012 (UTC)

And contrary to policy. Just saying "no consensus" is no reason to oppose; if Dicklyon has substantive objections, he may convince the rest of us. Even if he doesn't, once we've seen them, we may be able to propose a compromise. Does he? JCScaliger (talk) 04:58, 24 January 2012 (UTC)

On Jan. 21 you removed the longstanding consensus summary of WP capitalization style. Since then there are about 15 edits. What exactly do you want to know my objections to other than the disruptive editing? Dicklyon (talk) 08:02, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
I removed it for two reasons: It wasn't long-standing (Noetica invented it less than three weeks ago); and there were substantive objections to it on this talk-page, by several people. Nobody, including Dicklyon, has ever given a reason to prefer "unnecessary capitalization" to "capitalization without good reason"; nobody has come up with an objection to the substance of the change.
When I see a discussion of substance, it may convince me or others; it may reveal a risk I had not considered, and produce a compromise proposal. But this requires actual discussion, beginning with a declaration of why somebody dislikes the new text. If nobody actually dislikes it, it should stand, in place of the text which Kotniski, Enric, and Johnbod dislike.
Another route is to express the idea you see in unnecessary in new language; it may be less liable to abuse, and may attract more support, than unnecessary did. We are a Wiki; we are not carved in stone. JCScaliger (talk) 23:02, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
Your removal that I refer to is this one which removed, among other things, the lead sentence "Wikipedia avoids unnecessary capitalization." This long predates the Noetica edit that you refer to. Apparently you went way further than you intended in removing stuff, and caused quite a mess. Dicklyon (talk) 02:23, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
What mess? I followed the general tendency on this page (see, in addition to the above, the next section) to support Tony's language about "good reason"; Jojalozzo (who had been arguing for the old wording) supported the change.
You chose to revert war. You haven't even said you dislike the new text; you haven't answered Kotniski's question in the previous section. The key part of BRD is discussion. Please stop wiki-lawyering and discuss substance, if you have anything to say; or is this the old advice: "When the law and the facts are against you, abuse the plaintiff's attorney"? JCScaliger (talk) 02:59, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

Let me ask it again: "have there been cases where this opening lead sentence ("...avoids unnecessary...") has been essential for making an argument? In other words, is it needed for anything?" JCScaliger (talk) 03:09, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

I can't remember a case when it has been essential, and nor should it be: it is there as a general guiding principle for editors. This is particularly important given the confusion in some areas of the language, especially on the internet, about the use of caps. It is one of a number of facets to individual cases. Tony (talk) 03:23, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
An extreme exaggeration even as a guiding principle. This page is full of instructions to capitalize; so is CMOS. It certainly should not be used as a replacement for the detailed specifications. JCScaliger (talk) 04:11, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

Though this disruption section started on Jan. 22, it seems to relate to changes made earlier in the month by Noetica. So to avoid taking sides after the unprotect, I've put it back to the previous long-stable baseline version. Please let's discuss changes before editing the page this time. Dicklyon (talk) 16:12, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

Well, that is at least an improvement. But the claim is still false, and if it continues to be abused, I will return. JCScaliger (talk) 18:51, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

What CMOS says

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.

Since it is being suggested that CMOS is somnehow responsible for the present campaign against capitalization, let us consider what they actually say. They are a promising source for such a war, prefer sparing use of capitals—what is sometimes referred to as a “down” style. Although Brussels (the Belgian city) is capitalized, Chicago prefers brussels sprouts—which are not necessarily from Brussels. (I omit cases where they, and we, appear to be uncontroversial, like capitalizing sentences.)

  • Unconventional spellings strongly preferred by the bearer of the name or pen name (e.g., bell hooks) should usually be respected in appropriate contexts (library catalogs generally capitalize all such names). E. E. Cummings can be safely capitalized; it was one of his publishers, not he himself, who lowercased his name. Most editors will draw the line at beginning a sentence with a lowercased name and choose either to rewrite or to capitalize the first letter for the occasion. 8.4 We only use bell hooks when other people generally use it, as well as hooks herself; this is somewhat more in favor of capitalization.
  • Civil, military, religious, and professional titles are capitalized when they immediately precede a personal name and are thus used as part of the name (typically replacing the title holder’s first name). In formal prose and other generic text (as opposed to promotional or ceremonial contexts or a heading), titles are normally lowercased when following a name or used in place of a name 8/19We agree.
  • Most titles of sovereigns and other rulers are lowercased when used alone 8.21
  • Titles denoting civic or academic honors are capitalized when following a personal name. Laurence L. Bongie, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; the fellows. 8.32 We omit this, although Wikipedia often uses this construction in leads.
  • A descriptive or characterizing word or phrase used as part of, or instead of, a person’s name is capitalized 8.35 the Wizard of Menlo Park We omit this.
  • In references to works of drama or fiction, epithets or generic titles used in place of names are normally capitalized 8.34 Alice encounters the Red Queen and the Mad Hatter. *.36 I would have called this uncontroversial, but I have seen it denied.
  • Entities that appear on maps are always capitalized, as are adjectives and nouns derived from them. An initial the as part of a name is lowercased in running text, except in the rare case of an initial the in the name of a city. 8.44. Omitted
  • Names of mountains, rivers, oceans, islands, and so forth are capitalized. The generic term (mountain, etc.) is also capitalized when used as part of the name. In the plural, it is capitalized when it is part of a single name (Hawaiian Islands) and when it is used of two or more names, whether beginning with the generic term (Mounts Washington and Rainier) or—in a return to earlier editions of this manual—when the generic term comes second and applies to two or more names (e.g., the Illinois and the Chicago Rivers). Such capitalization signals unambiguously that the generic term forms part of each proper noun 8.55 Omitted.
  • Designations of prophets, apostles, saints, and other revered persons are often capitalized. 8.92 the Virgin Mary. We expressly deny this.
  • Words for transcendent ideas in the Platonic sense, especially when used in a religious context, are often capitalized. 8.93 We make this a general rule.
  • Many terms that are lowercased when used generically, such as animism, fundamentalism, or spiritualism, may be capitalized when used as the name of a specific religion or a sect. a popular medium in turn-of-the-century Spiritualist circles We espressly deny this.
  • Named prayers, canticles, creeds, and such, as well as scriptural terms of special importance, are usually capitalized. 8.106.

In short, there are many cases of preference for capitalization; we follow most of them, as most of the indications for lower case. A generalization that we always lower case when there is doubt misstates both this page and CMOS. Their preference, as is that of the text of this page, is for brussels sprouts and George Washington, first president of the United States; these limited choices are not "only when necessary". JCScaliger (talk) 04:11, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

We certainly do not "expressly deny" the Virgin Mary example, using Virgin Mary, Saint Paul, Pope Benedict etc just as we would in comparable non-religious cases (Eric Bloodaxe, King Canute etc). Johnbod (talk) 14:35, 27 January 2012 (UTC)
You are correct; I was misled by the overwhelmingly negative tone of the section.
  • Our general practice, which MOSCAPS ought to document, is of course to use Virgin Mary, as literate English should.
  • But the provision does differ from CMOS in not explicitly affirming the capitalization. As one of the few differences, this is notable. JCScaliger (talk) 04:50, 28 January 2012 (UTC)

Purposeless?

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.

As an example, which I would have tried if possible, would be "Wikipedia avoids purposeless" or "unfunctional capitalization", as suggested some sections above. There is no objection to it there; is there objection to it now? JCScaliger (talk) 04:04, 23 January 2012 (UTC)

There are many purposes for capitalization. WP discourages most of them. Why do you want to change that? Yes, I object. But you can't do it now anyway, since the page is locked over your warring to modify the lead. Dicklyon (talk) 04:09, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
Misprint, presumably ("your" for "our", easily done). Equally, there are many cases in which capitalization can be shown to be "unnecessary", but where Wikipedia still capitalizes. I really think that trying to sum up our take on capitalization in one sentence is a pointless exercise that would be best avoided by simply not attempting to include any substance in the lead, but if we have to attempt this, then I think Tony's suggestion is the best we've seen so far - we prefer lower case "unless there is a good reason to capitalize".--Kotniski (talk) 07:56, 23 January 2012 (UTC)
And this page discourages two of them: sentence case, and WRITING IN FULL CAPS. One of these is in the present text of the lead; we could mention the other, although it would make the lead wordy. Otherwise it says things like in accordance with standard usage. Why not have the lead summarize the page? JCScaliger (talk) 03:07, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
Dicklyon puts it very well. And why, one might ask, does the esteemed CMOS repeatedly clarify their preference for the use of lower case when there's doubt? They think it's worth saying for a number of reasons. We could go into these if you think it's helpful. Tony (talk) 03:20, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
For the same reason that they (and this page) also repeatedly prefer to capitalize. Both are sometimes clearer, and sometimes the common usage of good writers. JCScaliger (talk) 04:14, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
The phrase "in accordance with standard usage" is used once, semi-carefully, in a place that I agree with: "Proper names of specific places, persons, etc. are capitalized in accordance with standard usage." This is a good example of where capitalization is "necessary" (assuming one doesn't get carried away with interpreting the "etc." too liberally, as you so often do in claiming "it's a proper name"). If there were other usage standards, we could follow those, too, but simply copying inconsistent usage is not a good way to get to a good place. That's why we specify the direction of our bias: toward avoiding unnecessary capitalization. Dicklyon (talk) 04:28, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
The text is not uniform. But standard usage could be used in most other sections without changing the guidance. No, the bias of this text is towards the sources; what some editor's bias may be is a different question. Even more, this is what actual editors do. JCScaliger (talk) 04:33, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

Capital letters are a good thing

Just before I go on my Wikibreak, just a thought for those of you who seem to have decided that capital letters are the work of the devil and need to be expunged ruthlessly wherever possible - they're actually pretty useful, if properly used. We spent ages discussing en dashes and hyphens and seeing how the distinction between them can be useful for conveying information to suitably discerning readers - doesn't it seem a bit stupid to pass up the opportunity of doing the same thing with small and capital letters? Distinctions between conservatives and Conservatives, gospels and Gospels, comet and Comet - these are all good things. Deciding that "we always downcase given the slightest excuse" is just like saying we're always going to use hyphens instead of en dashes - we could take that approach, but it would be more beneficial to Wikipedia to make the distinctions more subtly and carefully. Anyway, good luck, be nice to each other, and don't take it all too seriously.--Kotniski (talk) 00:01, 24 January 2012 (UTC)

They are a good thing. No doubt about it. So is a great deal of your editing, Kotniski. I have expressed my appreciation of it before, and I do so again now. We have disagreed on the pace of development, and how to manage it. But we agree on the importance of getting these style pages right – that is, rational and genuinely consensual. If you take a break now, you have well and truly earned one. I know the feeling. I absented myself for most of 2010. Doesn't hurt really; and the world doesn't end. All the best to you! NoeticaTea? 00:32, 24 January 2012 (UTC)

How much does this page advocate lower case?

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 would seem to be a better summary of the actual contents of the page to say something like

In certain contexts, Wikipedia, like the Chicago Manual of Style, prefers to use the lower case when many writers would have used capitals.

It's not a banner for the War Against Capitals; but we're not supposed to be conducting a war. JCScaliger (talk) 18:53, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

So is there an objection to saying this? JCScaliger (talk) 20:28, 3 February 2012 (UTC)
I object. The characterization "when many writers would have used capitals" completely misses the point. It's not about writers, but about what the style is of the publication that you are writing for. I capitalize most words of titles and headings when I'm writing my book; for when writing for wikipedia, or for the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, I don't, because that's not their style. Dicklyon (talk) 20:34, 3 February 2012 (UTC)
In certain contexts, Wikipedia, like the Chicago Manual of Style, prefers to use the lower case when many other guides would have used capitals. ?? ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 22:14, 3 February 2012 (UTC)
Still sounds confused. I'm not convinced that our style is so close to CMOS, for one thing, and the "prefer to use" seems like a confused message. It's not what they use, but what they recommend that is being contrasted. But I think it's really a setup. Does anyone who knows our MOS really think it's a good idea to pin it on CMOS? Why not just directly contrast our MOS with some other sources? But "certain contexts" is silly, too; say what context is being contrasted. Is it title and headings? Or something else? Dicklyon (talk) 23:59, 3 February 2012 (UTC)
Our style may not be; but this page is - see examples above, where the closest I can find to a disagreement is one piece of CMOS advice which this page omits without comment; articles generally follow it anyway. (I left out a lot more cases where we have simply taken CMOS language; there is a case to put up this page as a copyright violation.) JCScaliger (talk) 19:41, 6 February 2012 (UTC)

Titles of people

"After the war, Prime Minister Churchill was defeated in the 1945 election." This is American English. It is unusual in British English to use Prime Minister as a title or as it is described in this guideline:

  • when followed by a person's name, when they can be considered to have become part of the name: "President Nixon", not "president Nixon";

I suggest it is changed to an American example such as "Vice President" and the second example to a British one like Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (or whatever). --PBS (talk) 09:12, 27 January 2012 (UTC)

I agree. If we wanted a British English example with a compound title preceding the name, we could use something like Group Captain Hubbard was the president of the Megaton Club.--Boson (talk) 13:05, 27 January 2012 (UTC)
Looking at it a little more deeply I think there is more problems with the section than at first appears. There is a difference between a job title and as the American constitution describe them titles of nobility. Is it
  • Gerald Grosvenor, Duke of Westminster or Gerald Grosvenor, duke of Westminster
  • Gerald, Duke of Westminster or Gerald, duke of Westminster?
What about foreign nobility do we use English capitalisation of local capitalisation?
Also there is a statement "when followed by a person's name, when they can be considered to have become part of the name:" Yet while that may be true that President Richard Nixon can be expressed as "President Nixon", can he ever be addressed as "President Richard"? Is it not also true that Sir Richard Nixon can not be Sir Nixon, but can be Sir Richard? So it depends on the type of title and it is misleading to say that all titles preceding a name can be considered part of a name.
It seems to me that this confusion arises because the Americans treat some of their job descriptions as if they were titles of nobility. And then from that tradition extend it to job descriptions in other countries (such as the habit of using Prime Minister as a title as in: Prime Minister Churchill). After all one would not usually describe a Mr. Smith, the president of Wigits Galore Inc., as "President Smith", he would remain "Mr. Smith, [Pp]resident of Wigits Galore". In British English there seems to be more of a distinction between job titles, titles of nobility and honorific titles. -- PBS (talk) 14:13, 27 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.
Prime Minister Churchill is also unidiomatic as American; in Churchill's time, this was part of what was mocked as TimeSpeak. But what do you content the British for the phrase would be? "Churchill, the prime minister," does not appear to be particularly common. JCScaliger (talk) 02:49, 3 February 2012 (UTC)
I think normal British usage would be to write just "Churchill", "Mr. Churchill", or "Winston Churchill". In the unlikely event of further disambiguation being necessary, one could write "Winston Churchill, the prime minister".--Boson (talk) 10:41, 3 February 2012 (UTC)
Agreed. Job titles are not normally treated as honorifics in GB English. If more formality was desired, the "Right Honourable Winston Churchill" might do. Ben MacDui 18:41, 3 February 2012 (UTC) PS As you can see, I am an exception myself :)

Change to the lead (again)

The second sentence of the lead currently reads 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.

As Noetica carefully explained here, this sentence misuses the technical linguistics term "proper noun". I really don't think we should leave it there; it's simply wrong to imply that all (or even most) words or phrases that are consistently capitalized in sources are proper nouns (or even proper noun phrases). Please note that I do not want to in any way change the substantive meaning of the lead; I do not agree with many of the other changes that have been attempted recently. I just want to correct this factual error.

I suggest instead Wikipedia relies on sources to determine what should be capitalized; words and phrases that are consistently capitalized in sources are treated as proper nouns and capitalized in Wikipedia.

Views? Only on this change, please; not on whether the substance of the lead or the page is right or wrong – that's a different discussion. Peter coxhead (talk) 18:03, 1 February 2012 (UTC)

That was my mistake; I defer to Noetica on the technical linguistics, and I think your fix is OK. It's closer to what was stable for many years in WP:TITLE, too, the "unless almost always capitalized in English" provision, until that was lost in the turmoil of Sept. 2009. Dicklyon (talk) 18:13, 1 February 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.
Object; while the general idea of following sources is a welcome relief, proper names are our chief reason for capitalization. As a compromise, this might be acceptable if the first sentence were removed; see #Wikipedia does not use unnecessary capitalization above for the objections to it. I do not think Dicklyon or Noetica are helpful contributors to this page. JCScaliger (talk) 02:46, 3 February 2012 (UTC)
Please, please note what I said above; I do not want at this time to change the underlying meaning of this sentence, merely to correct it. It's simply ignorant to write words and phrases that are consistently capitalized in sources are treated as proper nouns: e.g. phrases can't be proper nouns, although they may be proper noun phrases; words such as Islam, Christianity, Catholic, Pentecostalist and Calvinist which are rightly noted here as being consistently capitalized, are not proper nouns (the last three are often used as adjectives, not nouns), and no amount of consistent capitalization can make them proper nouns. Proper nouns may or may not be the chief reason for capitalization (who has ever counted?), but this is irrelevant. Proper nouns (and noun phrases) are always capitalized in English, but the reverse isn't true: capitalized words are not always proper nouns (or noun phrases).
The Wikipedia community can (and I hope always will) reach a compromise where necessary on style recommendations, but can't on errors, which this is. Believing that Noetica is wrong on some style recommendations (which I do) doesn't mean that he's wrong on the linguistics.
JCScaliger: can you suggest a change other than mine which will (a) preserve the underlying meaning (b) remove the factual error, which, I repeat, is of saying that whatever is capitalized is, or is treated as, a proper noun? Peter coxhead (talk) 10:43, 4 February 2012 (UTC)
There is no factual error; the examples the OED gives under "noun" include United States. The idea that a "noun" cannot include spaces confounds spoken language, of which the parts of speech are aspects, and written language. But since "name" is essentially synonymous with "noun" in such contexts, being a different form of the same word, Wikipedia relies on sources to determine what is a proper name; words and phrases that are consistently capitalized in sources are treated as proper names and capitalized in Wikipedia would be acceptable. The change suggested is a substantive and objectionable change of guidance. JCScaliger (talk) 19:22, 6 February 2012 (UTC)
Which words are or are not nouns seems irrelevant in the context of the proposed change. The second sentence of the lead would remain:
Most capitalization is for proper names, acronyms, and initialisms.
The third sentence would change to:
Wikipedia relies on sources to determine what should be capitalized; words and phrases that are consistently capitalized in sources are capitalized in Wikipedia."
Though the second phrase might not catch the nuance that parts of words may be capitalized, as in AutoCAD. Maybe end the sentence at the semicolon. The third sentence in the existing lead allows for the possibility that Wikipedia does *not* rely on sources to determine what is an acronym or initialism. - Ac44ck (talk) 19:40, 6 February 2012 (UTC)
Which words are nouns doesn't matter; which words are proper (nouns or names) does. That is the differentiation of meaning implied by capitalization. JCScaliger (talk) 19:47, 6 February 2012 (UTC)
Agreed, which words are proper (nouns or names) does matter. But they are not the only thing that matter. The second sentence in the lead seems to cover most cases. It seems to me the third sentence of the existing lead would serve better in the section Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style/Capital_letters#Proper_names, where no similar guidance currently exists.
I now see there is ongoing discussion of this topic elsewhere: Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style/Capital_letters#Proper_names_section. Discussing it here in addition to there seems counterproductive. I don't think the lead needs to parse this point at all. I suggest deleting the third sentence from the existing lead. If the lead needs additional wording for bulk, maybe it can address a more general topic. - Ac44ck (talk) 20:42, 6 February 2012 (UTC)
This discussion stopped, which is why I came back to it here. Peter coxhead (talk) 22:39, 7 February 2012 (UTC)
The proposed wording seems good to me. The title of this article is "Manual of Style/Capital letters" not "Manual of Style/Proper nouns." It is not within the scope of this article to define a proper noun. That is the topic of another Wikipedia article: Proper noun. - Ac44ck (talk) 20:03, 4 February 2012 (UTC)

Although I think it's still not quite right, the wording proposed by JCScaliger, i.e. changing "noun" to "name" is better, and there have been no objections other than that it doesn't go far enought. So I'm going to make this change now. Peter coxhead (talk) 09:20, 8 February 2012 (UTC)

Military terms (sports)

Does the following make sense, and should it be included under Military terms?: The terms Army, Navy and Air Force standing alone should be considered proper names and capitalized as such when referring to athletic teams of the U.S. Military Academy, Naval Academy, and Air Force Academy, respectively. Just seeking opinions. Thank you.    → Michael J   05:00, 5 February 2012 (UTC)

Is this consistent with the general rule? If so, nothing needs to be said. If not, what's the deal? Dicklyon (talk) 05:10, 5 February 2012 (UTC)

Changes re common names of species

Stale: Essentially replaced by narrower discussions and edits later.

There is currently no consensus for changes to the page in this respect, as is amply demonstrated by the discussions here. Merely asserting that there is a consensus does not demonstrate that there is one. So I have reverted changes to Animals, plants, and other organisms. Peter coxhead (talk) 11:56, 6 February 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.
If there is no consensus, then this page should say there is no consensus, or be silent. JCScaliger (talk) 19:25, 6 February 2012 (UTC)
I'm pretty sure, per all the flaming at WT:MOS about it, that the "saying there's no consensus" is what WP:BIRDS people are upset about. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 20:40, 6 February 2012 (UTC)
However, these reverts have also removed the reminder that Neo-Latin names for species and genera are italicized, and that higher level divisions are not. This is uncontested, as far as I can see; more importantly, it is the recommendation of several reliable style guides, and is usage except in texts without italics available. Please be more careful. JCScaliger (talk) 19:34, 6 February 2012 (UTC)
This mass revert was excessive in a number of other ways, including removal of every change made recently to bring this sub-guideline into agreement with the noncontroversial guidance as written at MOS, which is the parent guideline; this page is supposed to expand upon, not contradict it. It also removed every edit I've made for logical, clarity and other reasons. Every edit was made separately, on purpose, with a clear rationale for each minute change, so that they can be independently addressed. WP:BRD exists for a reason, certainly, but it's not "bold, revert every thing you possibly can just to make a point, discuss". I'm restoring the changes I've made to resolve these various, unrelated issues, under the assumption that any specific issues anyone has with particular change be discussed individually, (after being more specifically reverting if this is felt necessary), instead of making this a "revert what SMcCandlish does" personal matter. "Doesn't have consensus" is an argument to avoid, because it often reflects a skewed version of consensus, especially WP:LOCALCONSENSUS. There is clear consensus at MOS and has been for a long time for most of what I'm trying to polish up here, and I have no tried to pre empt the debate at WT:MOS#Species capitalization points. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 20:29, 6 February 2012 (UTC)
PS: I've commented out the part that I think is most likely to be viewed as controversial, even though it is 100% true and accurate. I've also restored the "each part of" the common name wording that was too nitpicky at MOS proper but should definitely be in here (to forestall things like "the Common cat" or "the common Cat"). I feel kind of silly saying the same things here in talk that I'm saying in edit summaries but if it leads to less essentially unexplained reversion, I'll be happy to do so. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 20:38, 6 February 2012 (UTC)
PPS: If anyone is still trying to preserve the "there are three ways of doing this, all equally valid", there's been a consensus against that at MOS for a long time (the dispute there now is about how and why to word the fact that the exception demanded by WP:BIRDS is controversial; nothing more). No one bothered updating this page to conform with the parent guideline; it was simply forgotten. I'm bothering, that's all. Other than being more specific about details too fine-grained for the main MOS page, this sub-guideline needs to be in complete agreement with the main guideline. The only reason pages like this exist at all is that MOS was getting too long, so some of the nitty-gritty has been forked out into subpages. That's not blanket license to make up different rules, or stick to old rules after MOS has obsoleted them with new ones. Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style exists for a reason if anyone feels the main guideline doesn't reflect what it should. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 20:49, 6 February 2012 (UTC)

The changes, enumerated, so that discussion of each can happen instead of mass reversion

I'm going to step through the changes in order (skipping typo fixes and the like), so we can identify if any of them are actually disputed, and on what grounds. I've numbered them so they can be discussed explicitly and severably.

  1. Rm. the "capitalized according to local custom" thing. Edit summary: "Rm. total nonsense per WP:BOLLOCKS: There's no common term outside Spanish for enchilada, but MOS would never sanction capitalizing "Enchilada" even if large numbers of Mexicans capitalized it for some reason." Further comment: This is obviously true. The section was clearly added for some unknown reason by someone somewhere (to MOS proper, in 2007 or so, as I recall), but was deleted a long time ago there, because it's WP:CREEP, because it doesn't appear to reflect anything in any style guides (I've looked), because it didn't seem to actually address anything MOS cared about, and because MOS wouldn't agree to such a weird exception anyway. I think the use case was something like (to use a silly mythical example) "The locals fear what they call the Chupacabras." At any rate, MOS dumped this ages ago, and it's just confusing "noise" here that someone forgot remove, not a sub-page clarification of an extant MOS point. Consensus: Sub-guideline can't contradict the main MOS, per WP:LOCALCONSENSUS policy and, well, just per WP:COMMONSENSE.
  2. Rm. the claim that capitalization of species is endorsed by MOS as one of three valid styles. Edit summary: "This text has not reflected MOS consensus since 2008." Further comment: None needed. Consensus: Sub-guideline can't contradict the main MOS.
  3. Used a longer variant of MOS's current wording. Edit summary: "That's more like it (and I removed the bullet point about scientific names since it made no sense here - this is MOS:CAPS not WP:FNAME; not a list any more; not just species)". Further comment: This as a four-in-one:
    1. I used the extant MOS wording, plus some variant, longer language from discussion at WT:MOS, to produce something that agrees with both MOS consensus, as best I could determine it (we'll come back to that: I comment out the parts that were subject to renewed controversy at WT:MOS) and with the facts. It did include the fact that the birds exception is controversial, using the "does not have Wikipedia-wide consensus" version of the wording. I chose that as a "trial balloon" to see if people would get angry about it like they got angry about the word "controversial". Aparently at least one did, since I got reverted. I have since commented out that wording because a debate re-arose about it (albeit a bogus one generated by WP:IDHT flamewarring and blatant canvassing), at WP:MOS. Consensus: Exact same points as the main MOS page, in less clipped wording, and the currently MOS-debated part about "controversial" commented out.
    2. The second bit was removal of something that isn't within the scope of this guideline. Consensus: Routine, non-controversial maintenance.
    3. Next, I changed the formatting to regular prose, since two items don't make a list. Consensus: Routine, non-controversial maintenance.
    4. Fourth, I changed "species" to "species, genera, families and all other taxonomic levels", since this was deemed important in the "points to include" discussion at WT:MOS. (The genesis of this point being the worst forest-for-the-trees case in WP history, when the cetaceans project some while back actually were debating their heads off over whether to have what is now called the common bottlenose dolphin be at the lowercase bottlenose dolphin article and the genus of bottlenose dolphins be at the upper-case Bottlenose Dolphin article, as if anyone in the entire world other than the gaggle of people involved in that discussion would ever understand the disambiguation convention they were pulling out of their backsides. Sanity finally returned, I guess after the full moon was over or something. It's also in response to the cases of editwarring over the capitalization of "Lion", "Great Ape" and other above-species capitalization disputes, which while not terribly common do arise. Consensus: This was one of the bits of the "points to include" discussion that had unanimous approval at WT:MOS.
  4. Added italicization rules. Edit summary: "More cleanup". While not a capitalization issue, there's no reason not to add a couple of words here mentioning that, by the way, binominals are italicized, while we mention how to capitalize them. It's "user hateful" to make people go look for another guideline to figure this out. Also fixed some link and other markup glitches. Consensus: Routine, non-controversial maintenance
  5. Rm. policy violation. Edit summary: "Rm. blatant falsehood that contradicts policy at WP:LOCALCONSENSUS; WP:MOS has specifically contradicted this for over FOUR YEARS." Further comment: WP:LOCALCONSENSUS, which is a policy, forbids wikiprojects and other groups of editors from making up their own rules against the wider consensus. It's actually come to my attention that quite a few WP:BIRDS and WP:TOL editors do not even know this policy exists, and continue to believe and advise that projects should ignore MOS and make up their own rules based on their own preferences, as if this were still 2005 when that idea was being experimented with. Consensus: Removing direct contradictions of policy from a guideline has consensus automatically, because policy is policy and guidelines can't contradict it.
  6. Moved text around for better logic flow. Various edit summaries. Further comment: None needed. Consensus: Routine non-controversial maintenance.
  7. Rm. POV-pushing language that contradicted MOS. Edit summary: "WP:MOS recognizes no such exception, it simply notes that one project controversially ignores the MOS; this sub-guideline isn't in a position to contradict this." Further comment: None needed. Consensus: Sub-guideline can't contradict the main MOS.
  8. Rm. explicit mention that WP:FLORA does not have a consensus on capitalization]. Edit summary: "Rm. irrelevancy; WP:MOS *does* have a consensus against upper-casing species names, so whether some random project *doesn't* have one is a non sequitur." Further comment: Should have said "some random sub-guideline" not "some random project"; a slip of the typing fingers. Consensus: Both routine, non-controversial maintenance and ensuring that sub-guidelines do not conflict with MOS, because the "news" that some page hasn't come to a local consensus on a style issue that MOS already has a site-wide consensus on is just "noise" and can safely be deleted, meanwhile the particular passage in question necessarily implies that maybe the sub-guideline at FLORA should come to a consensus against MOS. That would be outside its scope as a subpage of MOS/AT/NC, and it's not the role of this sub-guideline of MOS at MOSCAPS to make such a suggestion, which again violates policy at LOCALCONSENSUS. If some one wants to argue against this, I'm highly curious on what basis.
  9. Misc. textual improvements. Edit summary: "bird example; several more examples, incl. narrower & broader, so people don't get weird ideas. BASED ON REAL CASES: Many times I've had to de-cap. "Great Ape", and Mountain Dog used to be the title [of that article]." Consensus: Unclear, but not specifically objected to, so per WP:BOLD I should proceed unless WP:BRD is invoked on this change specifically. Simply wanting to oppose all edits by me is not a valid revert rationale.
  10. Language tightening. Edit summary: "typo; bird specifics; okay, NOW this section actually reflects what the MOS has said since 2008, and the 8 WT:Manual of Style#pointstocover that have gained concensus". Further comment: Worked in phrases like "(capitalization of all name parts except after a hyphen)" about birds, and "It should not be used in any other category of article", per clear consensus at WT:MOS; even in the middle of a huge debate no one disagreed with these ideas. Also added "official" to "common names of birds" since the birds project actually makes a distinction between official and non-official ones. The part someone might object to was the addition of "there is no site-wide consensus for" this (an earlier version of these edits also had this wording, but I must've dropped it during part of the editing process, because I put it back in, in this edit). As noted above, I've commented this out since there's argument about it at WT:MOS. Consensus: All of the points that were not commented out either reflect clear consensus at MOS's wording itself, at WT:MOS as "points to be covered" in MOS (or a sub-guideline), or at WT:BIRDS's own page.
  11. Simple but crucial one-word change. Edit summary: "'snot animals, but organisms generally". Further commentary: It really did say "animals", as if plants didn't exist. Consensus: Routine, non-controversial maintenance.
  12. Tweaks. Edit summary: "re-order; the bit about personal/place names has to come before the group/type paragraph, but it can't interrupt the flow of the species stuff, so it has to go at end. Stronger wording." Further commentary: The stronger wording was the addition of the word "always" in ref. to lower casing of groups of animals, so no one thinks they can make an exception for "Fish" or whatever, just because some specialty publication somewhere prefers to do so. Consensus: Routine, non-controversial maintenance, and also reflects consensus at MOS that the subguideline should including language, as mentioned and edited-in above, that this applies to higher taxonomic levels than genus and species.
  13. General style cleanup, more helpful wording Edit summary: "Titles of people: cleanup; clarifications". Further comments: Totally unrelated edits that you mass-reverters of everything I do have clobbered in your zeal to make this personal and shut me up. The edits made the text actually conform to basic wiki list formatting per MOS, added some useful example text, commented out something inexplicable and confusing, and clarified some cases (e.g. the extant advice had forgotten that you don't capitalize hyphenated proper nouns after the hyphen unless the second element is independently a proper name). Consensus: Unclear; where it isn't non-controversial maintenance, it has not been specifically objected to, so per WP:BOLD I should proceed unless WP:BRD is invoked on this change specifically. Just reverting me reflexively isn't civil or constructive.
  14. Here's where I commented out the allegedly controversial wording. Edit summary: "Commenting out the language that is most likely to be interpreted as controversial; it's all TRUE, but whatever. The OTHER changes are more important than bickering over whether WP:BIRDS is controversial or not!" Consensus: It's proper to remove or comment out the language in question while the matter it addresses is under renewed debate at WT:MOS.
  15. Minor tweaks. Various edit summaries. Further comment: Swapped a template for a better one (has class="example" in it); added in some wording that was taken out of MOS proper as too nit-picky for the main guideline; typo fix; wording flow tweak to prevent two consecutive links. Consensus: Moving detailia from MOS to sub-pages is why this page exists; the rest is routine, non-controversial maintenance; no one at MOS objected.

So, instead of treating this like no one else is allowed to edit here, how about addressing what specific edits anyone finds troublesome and why. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 22:23, 6 February 2012 (UTC)

WP:BRD: I was bold, I was reverted, now it's discussion time. Since I've been blunt-instrument mass reverted under the blanket phrase "no consensus" by Peter coxhead (talk · contribs), I've added my reasons why these edits do in fact represent consensus, mostly derived from MOS proper, where consensus for nearly everything in this sub-page ultimately derives, other than nit-picky details. The recent reverts are preventing me from helping to ensure that this sub-guideline is doing its job, which is to expand with more detail upon advice sanctioned by MOS proper, while not conflicting with it.
The second revert, by Enric Naval (talk · contribs) makes no sense, as it suggested that my edits are to make this page conform to changes I've supposedly made for personal reasons (see WP:AGF) at WP:FNAME and WP:FLORA. That chain of logic is missing some links, since this sub-guideline does not descend from other sub-guidelines, and I wouldn't and am not citing them as rationales for these changes; that would be nutty. They, too, need to stop conflicting with the mainstream MOS and with policy, but that's a discussion for those talk pages, and is not a rationale for reverting my attempts to bring this sub-guideline into synch with its parent and to perform basic maintenance and cleanup. Enric's statement "then he put here that the other guidelines are in agreement" is untrue; none of my edits here have made any claims at all about the content of those other, obsolescent sub-guideline pages. I've been saying for a month now that the entire problem, with all this rampant capitalization crap, like "Lions" and "Domestic Cat", is precisely because those sub-guidelines are giving advice that dates from ca. 2007, that has long since be obsoleted, and that they need to be synched with the main guidelines on style in MOS (andm, yes, NC sub-guidelines are subordinate to MOS, on style matters, as well as to WP:AT on most matters). The accusation is backasswards, Enric.
Back to BRD: Now it's your turn. I unreverted my changes at 20:31, 6 February 2012‎ (UTC), with a clear rationale for doing so, as if the original edit summaries weren't clear enough. That was more than seven hours ago. And I made some more constructive edits, which were thrown out by Enric as if they were vandalism in the second revert, for factually incorrect reasons that don't even have anything to do with the merits of the edits, but with the bad-faith-assuming wikipolitics of the reverter. I posted the gist of the above list of reasons for the changes at 22:23, 6 February 2012‎, over 5 hours ago, after that second revert. Five hours seems like more than enough time to come up with at least one reason, in concrete wording, about what in particular either reverter considers substantively objectionable about any of the actual edits and their alleged lack of consensus, instead of continuing to make this personal. If the objection is simply that I didn't discuss it here first, 1) it's already been discussed at the parent page, and 2) WP:BOLD is policy for a reason, as is WP:NOT#BUREAUCRACY. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 04:01, 7 February 2012 (UTC)
This is a great deal to discuss all at once. If I do discuss it (and this is the first time I've seen any of it) I will set up separate subsections for each one of SMcCandlish's Fourteen Fifteen Points that I cover; I invite others to do likewise.
I do not believe either of two propositions (in both cases, I deny All; I would also deny None. Some is, some isn't.)
  • All of MOS is consensus (of the editors who have commented on it, let alone Wikipedians in general)
  • All of MOS is uncontroversial [presumably excluding tags].
There has been too much revert-warring to believe either.JCScaliger (talk) 19:13, 7 February 2012 (UTC)

Local custom (1)

Resolved: No non-sockpuppet objection, and already removed by someone else, indicating support.
FYI: User:JCScaliger has been indef blocked as a sockpuppet of User:Pmanderson (blocked for another year for sockpuppetry).

The text about local custom may refer to local custom in English-speaking countries. If so, it is WP:ENGVAR, one of the few genuinely uncontroversial parts of MOS; if it means writing about Mexico and using Spanish capitalization without quoting Spanish, it is extremely controversial, and I do not support it.

Clarify and restore. JCScaliger (talk) 19:26, 7 February 2012 (UTC)

  1. You've been blocked as a sockpuppet; your opinions on WP:POLICY matters, especially MOS matters, are automatically suspect as disruptive bollocks, per the year-long MOS topic ban on your real user account, User:Pmanderson. And as a sockpuppet your position is completely irrelevant for WP:CONSENSUS purposes.
  2. What it "may refer to" could be anything. It's unclear blather, and needs to be removed as such. This is a site-wide guideline page, even if a disused one, and has to provide usable guidance; it's not someone's essay.
  3. I was using the Spanish example as a logic tool, to separate the rule from the overly-emotional biology context which so many people are screaming about on so many pages. The fact that the logic upsets you when removed from that context strongly suggests that it's faulty.
  4. WP:ENGVAR is already a guideline and does not need to be reiterated here, if that were actually the case, which is suspect. And ENGVAR is about vocabulary and spelling, not typographic conventions, which it does not discuss at all. If it were intended to include capitalization, it would say so. This sub-guideline cannot tell ENGVAR what ENGVAR means.
  5. That's all moot, anyway. MOS proper says nothing like what this passage says any longer, and hasn't for a long, long time. This sub-guideline's job is to interpret and more specifically apply MOS, not retain stuff that was intentionally removed from MOS several years ago as noise, so it has to come out. MOS already had a consensus to remove this long ago, and retaining it here is a violation of WP:LOCALCONSENSUS policy.
SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 02:55, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
It's been over a week now. Unless there's a substantive objection, I'm going to delete this utter nonsense from the guideline page again. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 23:31, 17 February 2012 (UTC)
Going twice... — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 22:25, 19 February 2012 (UTC)
Oh, never mind. Someone else already long-since re-removed it. Lack of objection from anyone but a sock puppet after about 3 weeks, and silent support in the form of someone else deleting it, would seem to indicate consensus to remove this confusing nonsense from the guideline. Marking this "resolved" and moving on. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒ ɖ∘¿¤þ   Contribs. 08:52, 27 February 2012 (UTC)

Capitalization of species (2)

Stale: Current text of the guideline is becoming more consistent with WP:FAUNA, and this may permit easier synching with MOS proper.
FYI: User:JCScaliger has been indef blocked as a sockpuppet of User:Pmanderson (blocked for another year for sockpuppetry).

SMcCandlish has been discussing this heatedly at WT:MOS. From my POV, it is a canonical example that we should shut up when there is no consensus. The bird experts should not be forcing universal capitalization just because it occurs in bird books; they should not be forced to abandon the usage they are familiar with. In short, no force.

Capitalization here is more common than SMcCandlish seems to think; I first encountered it in a work of popular fiction (published and set in the UK, which may be part of the problem). JCScaliger (talk) 19:26, 7 February 2012 (UTC)

It is part of the problem. Although there are no absolutes, for any given group of organisms, capitalization of common names appears to be much more common in British and Australian sources, for example, than in North American sources. Peter coxhead (talk) 09:43, 8 February 2012 (UTC)
Whoa there. Are you saying that if I create a new bird article that I can do so using lowercase and that nobody can move it? This isn't my understanding of the state of affairs right now—is it yours, or are you arguing for a change? ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 18:36, 8 February 2012 (UTC)
It is undesirable that anybody move it without discussion (most moves without discussion tend to be uncontroversial; these aren't); more importantly, nobody can jump up and down and demand it be moved "because MOS or WP:BIRDS or whatever says so." If somebody wants to file a RM, he can argue that it should be upper case, and he may well persuade people. (Quoting Roger Tory Peterson should be persuasive; saying MOS says so, and we must all follow it, tends to be less so.) JCScaliger (talk) 19:04, 8 February 2012 (UTC)
What would actually happen though is that someone from WP:BIRDS would move it (someone like User:KimvdLinde – she somehow got admin bits – could even do it forcibly over a redirect), and the project would WP:GANG up on you. They control bird articles like they were the project's wholly owned intellectual property. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 03:12, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
At the risk of standing in the middle and being shot by both "sides", I agree with SMcCandlish that purely local consensus should have no sway over general policy. WP:BIRDS does not WP:OWN all articles about birds and has no special authority over them. It disappoints me (as I've said before) that many on both "sides" seem to want to treat birds specially. I can only repeat that reliable sources, not all "specialist" as SMcCandlish claims, capitalize the English names of various kinds of organism (only yesterday I was looking at the Canadian Talk about Wildlife website, which capitalizes and is hardly "specialist"); other reliable sources do not capitalize. The widespread use of both styles is, I contend, a key reason for the current lack of consensus. Where there is no consensus, we must all accept that we have to tolerate inconsistency between articles. Peter coxhead (talk) 09:38, 9 February 2012 (UTC)
If it were really widespread, I would have no issue with that. But what's actually happening is that nearly zero reliable sources on style, grammar and writing advocate or even tolerate capitalization of common names of species. That there are some semi-generalist sources, like TalkAboutWildlife.ca that have emulated specialist practice, since they're topical and a lot of the specialist lit suggests the practice, doesn't make it "widespread" outside of a) reliable specialist sources and b) secondary works based almost exclusively on them. The style effectively does not exist at all in c) secondary works written more generally (newspapers, general magazines, books that are not specifically about certain kinds of life science) and (most importantly) d) tertiary works, including encyclopedias and dictionaries. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 03:12, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
Reliable sources do indeed capitalize. Sometimes. Tetrapod Zoology capitalizes only the first letter: "I saw a Bald eagle." Reliable sources do all kinds of whacky style things. I suppose you can call it widespread, but ut by far most of them—even for birds—use all lowercase. This is what most people do, too. Almost nobody writes this way: "I saw a Lion and a Gorilla at the zoo." Most people agree that species names shouldn't be capitalized. ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 17:39, 9 February 2012 (UTC)
I've tried to address the issue clearly at WP:Specialist style fallacy. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 03:12, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
This is all well and good, but MOS has already had a default for 4 years that animal and plant species names are not capitalized, and this sub-guideline has to reflect that, as a matter of plain policy. If you want to change MOS on this matter, go to WT:MOS and gain consensus. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 03:12, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
It's been over a week since last reply here. Unless there's a substantive objection, I'm going to change the sub-guideline wording to agree with the main MOS page again. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 23:33, 17 February 2012 (UTC)
I went to WP:FAUNA and looked in history the text of 4 years ago (February 2008). In February 2007 it already mentioned the birds exception and it was synchronized with MOS.[4] Back in December 2005 the WP:BIRD exception was already there, and editors trying to remove it were rebuffed [5]. Article for birds are still capitalized. I think it's the main page of MOS that has derived away from current practice. It doesn't reflect, for example, the current consensus that breed names of dogs should be capitalized. --Enric Naval (talk) 00:03, 18 February 2012 (UTC)
If you mean that there has been no consensus at WT:MOS to officially adopt all sorts of random, pet WP:LOCALCONSENSUS ideas that WikiProject-WP:OWNed sub-guidelines have tried to push, you are correct. WP:FAUNA is one of the worst in this regard, as it has been managed to intentionally and explicitly disagree with MOS. We call that forum shopping. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 22:17, 19 February 2012 (UTC)
Is there a consensus about dog breeds? I thought that was still an open debate. Dicklyon (talk) 00:10, 18 February 2012 (UTC)
As with birds and species names, it's not really about dogs, they're just the most entrenched project on the matter. This one is really about all human-engineered animal breeds and plant cultivars, and it's certainly an open question. I really hope no one raises it in earnest at WT:MOS any time soon, just because we all need a break. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 22:17, 19 February 2012 (UTC)
@Enric Naval: The fact that some other sub-guideline full of WP:LOCALCONSENSUS stuff, arrived at on a talk page virtually no one watches outside of a few projects, is also out of synch with MOS (actually, I've pointed this out myself several times, but let's pretend you just discovered this) is an interesting observation, but doesn't constitute what I'd call a substantive objection to synching this page with MOS. Let's be more explicit: Please describe in your own words your policy-based rationale for opposing efforst to stop having this sub-page of MOS contradict its parent guideline at MOS. Factor in consideration that MOS proper is one of the most-watched non-article pages on the entire system, and watched by the broadest cross-section of editors, and it has had consistent wording on the matter for several years, clear evidence of widespread, non-parochial consensus. Or should we do another RfC? — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 22:24, 19 February 2012 (UTC)
How about WP:GUIDELINE#Derivation, policies and guidelines have to reflect the consensus of the community. Bird and dog articles have been capitalized for years, and Talk:Welsh_Corgi#Requested_move shows that the consensus still favors capitalization. --Enric Naval (talk) 17:52, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
That's not what it showed at all; it showed no consensus to move that particular article, at this time, nothing more. MOS more closely represents the consensus of the community, being one of the most-watchlisted pages on the whole system, than specialist style that has been editwarred into articles by WikiProjects with such tenacity that no one dares try to contradict them, and 99% of readers/editors WP:DGAF enough to push back anyway. The fact that most dog, cat, etc. articles capitalize breed names is evidence of nothing other than that people from the relevant projects have a WP:LOCALCONSENSUS in favor of caps because magazines like Cat Fancy do it this way. Virtually zero non-specialist sources like newspapers, non-animal magazines, encyclopedias, dictionaries, general English usage style guides, etc. ever capitalize the non-proper-name parts of breed name. That said, you'll be shocked that I'm actually not certain I even disagree with the capitalization in this case, for reasons that will become clearer later. But it should be up to the community, not can't-see-the-forest-for-the-trees editors more interested in "defending" "their" articles and "their" projects from "capitalization warriors" "attacking" them, or an other such total crap and WP:BATTLEGROUNDing. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 01:50, 22 February 2012 (UTC)
I support what SMcCandlish says on this. I didn't support a downcasing of corgi there only because it would be disruptive to take on dog breeds one at a time. I did present evidence there that the capitalization of corgi is a minority thing in reliable sources. Hopefully we can agree on those facts. Dicklyon (talk) 04:01, 22 February 2012 (UTC)
@Dicklyon, you said that a thesaurus and a 24-page booklet for young people were reliable sources for dog information [6]. And, from all the really reliable sources, you picked only those two that supported your position, ignoring all the others that didn't. That is the only evidence that you produced in that RM....
Yes. Are you saying they're not reliable sources? I can point out as many more as you like. I also pointed out there what book n-grams show, as you know since you already commented on it. Dicklyon (talk) 05:56, 23 February 2012 (UTC)
Man, a thesaurus and two thin booklets with big pictures are more reliable than thick specialized books on the topic? --Enric Naval (talk) 08:39, 23 February 2012 (UTC)
@SMcCandlish. (replied in Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style/Capital_letters#Dog_breed_capitalization) --Enric Naval (talk) 11:15, 22 February 2012 (UTC)

Italicization rules (4)

Resolved: There was no consensus to revert this.
FYI: User:JCScaliger has been indef blocked as a sockpuppet of User:Pmanderson (blocked for another year for sockpuppetry).

I hasten to add I like these edits, and hope they are genuinely uncontroversial. Much obliged. Several other points, below, are equally useful. But the question of what WP:Consensus says is much more important than any of these changes. JCScaliger (talk) 19:43, 7 February 2012 (UTC)

Of course they're uncontroversial. I was just being blanket reverted for convenience. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 03:14, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
It's been over a week now. Unless there's a substantive objection, I'm going to re-correct errors like this in the guideline page again. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 23:34, 17 February 2012 (UTC)

Not policy (5)

Stale: The matter has been brought up at WT:MOS, since WT:MOSCAPS is not in a position to declare itself a sovereign entity.
FYI: User:JCScaliger has been indef blocked as a sockpuppet of User:Pmanderson (blocked for another year for sockpuppetry).
Extracted from the discussion of (2), as the same issue

This is essentially the same as the key point in (2): the claim that "Sub-guidelines cannot contradict the main MOS"; far more important, the implicit claim that the way to deal with such contradictions as do arise is to impose the wording of MOS without discussion.

This is not what WP:LOCALCONSENSUS says, and to impose it is undesirable. Contradictions should be removed; but they should be removed by discussion involving all parties (and if possible neutral editors). To suppose that a half-dozen editors on another page can simply overrule a half-dozen editors on this page (or conversely) because of the name of the page is disruption. JCScaliger (talk) 19:39, 7 February 2012 (UTC)

Regarding the puppet's points: "Contradictions should be removed; but they should be removed by discussion involving all parties (and if possible neutral editors)." No one is preventing partipants on this page from participating in the wider debate at WT:MOS, which has in fact been "advertised" at WP:VPP, so Scaliger/Anderson's condition has been met, to the extent we should pay him any heed. "To suppose that a half-dozen editors on another page can simply overrule a half-dozen editors on this page (or conversely) because of the name of the page is disruption." This isn't "another page", it's a sub-page, i.e. it is a {{em|section}] of WP:MOS that happens to have been moved to a /subpage URL simply because the page Wikipedia:Manual of Style was getting too long. It has no independent existence. It is not like WT:MOS trying to determine what should be said at WP:CIVIL. You are (I should say "he is" since he's not part of a the debate any more, legitimately or otherwise) blatantly comparing apples and oranges, or more like an apple stem and an orange. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 03:56, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
Further, the key sentence in WP:LOCALCONSENSUS is "Consensus among a limited group of editors, at one place and time, cannot override community consensus on a wider scale." (The reference to WikiProjects is just a "for instance" of this.) It's not just a "limited group of editors" who have objected to SMcCandlish's changes; the objectors come from a number of different WikiProjects. Nor have the objections been "at one place and time"; they have been repeated many times and in a considerable number of different places. Peter coxhead (talk) 09:43, 8 February 2012 (UTC)
If nobody minds, I will move this to point 5, which is entirely about "being against policy". JCScaliger (talk) 18:06, 8 February 2012 (UTC)
[I've moved this comment of mine here (and slightly changed it to fit) because it seems the best place, although it applies to many of the changes.] SMcCandlish's supporting arguments for his contentious changes repeatedly rest on the logic that:
1) the statements in the main MOS re capitalizing common names have consensus
2) therefore any contrary statements in a subpage of the main MOS can be changed, regardless of any discussion at the subpage.
  • It's only possible to claim that (1) is correct by ignoring all the discussion of the issue here. (If it matters to anyone where the discussion takes place, then I will happily copy all the relevant material here to the talk page of the main MOS; but this would be a silly requirement and a silly response.)
  • There's no reason to accept (2) either; a fruitful discussion here on a specific capitalization topic which reached a consensus on changing the MOS/Capital letters page would be a perfectly good reason to go back and propose changes to the main MOS page.
Peter coxhead (talk) 00:36, 9 February 2012 (UTC)
See WP:CONSENSUS: The fact that MOS has remained consistent on the matter for years is proof of consensus; it's the #1 type of proof on the system of consensus, in fact. If a contradiction between one of the most widely used, trusted and watchlisted guidelines on the entire system and some disused sub-guideline page of it arises, of course the wording in the major guideline wins. If you want to change it, you do so at the major guideline. I'll use my favorite device of removing the logic from the emotional tableau that's been raising tempers and clouding critical thinking. I find that it's almost always helpful.
Let's say WP:RS newly includes a section, #Collectibles, to cover when and how sources about collectibles (coins, stamps, comics, antiques, baseball cards, whatever) can and can't be considered reliable. WP:Reliable sources/Collectibles is ultimately split off from this, and mirrors the meaning of the wording at WP:RS, but using less clipped language, and more examples, this being the entire purpose of such a split, a guideline variant of WP:SUMMARY style, as is our wont. Later, WP:RS itself, in response to issues raised at its talk page, comes to a consensus that a collectible guide cannot be considered a reliable source with regard to collectibles having a higher value just because they have been graded by a professional grading service (e.g. Comics Guaranty), if the source accepts advertising from such services, because it is an obvious conflict of interest that makes them unreliable on that point. No one remembers to update the /Collectibles sub-guideline, which in the interim has been edited by proponents of grading services like Comics Guaranty, PGX, etc., to favor them. Two years pass, and someone notes the disconnect, and edits to synch the sub-guideline with the guideline. Would you even briefly consider reverting this on the basis that the change "didn't have consensus"? (Note I'm not talking about whether the change at RS was "right"; implicit in the scenario is that there are some editors who disagree with it and a concentration of them has gathered at the /Collectibles page and intentionally kept it divergent, and that they might wish to raise the issue at WT:RS or in an RFC.) You can also substitute any WikiProject with a "project-level style guide" for this example, such as, to make up an example, if WP:CUE wanted to always capitalize things like "the 7-Ball" and "Cue Ball" because a lot of reliable sources on pool do so. Whatever. The point is to get your head out of organism-specific thinking/feeling for a moment.
Regarding Peter's point #2, above, there isn't a fruitful discussion on this subpage reaching a consensus to have this page disagree with MOS and to go change MOS, because this page has been out of step with MOS for years, pretending that it doesn't clearly say to use lower case for species common names. Head in sand. Note that I'm not even asserting that I'm right that species names should not be capitalized, I'm only saying that the guideline changed and this subpage just got forgotten and left behind. That's no reason to suggest that there's really a "different consensus" here ("a small group of editors at one place and time"); there's simply a much, much smaller and narrower subset of editors here, including an inordinate number from WP:BIRDS and other projects at least sympathetic to animal capitalization, who gathered here to protect what they see as their very important interests in capitalizing organisms. I've previously cited direct evidence that the birds project in particular has blatantly gamed the system by intentionally "shepherding" guideline subpages to favor their position, figuring no one would notice, so that they'd have a separate guideline's skirt to hide behind and could ignore MOS with impunity. If an actual fruitful discussion did happen here, e.g. through an RFC that attracted the attention of editors beyond the stacked deck that watch this page, then sure, a consensus arrived at here could easily propagate upward to MOS. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 03:46, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
Responding to both parts above. Your first paragraph poses an imaginary situation in which bad faith editing has taken place at a subpage of a guidance or policy page and asks what the consequences should be. Your second paragraph asserts that members of WP:BIRDS have engaged in bad faith editing in subpages of the MOS and says that therefore it's ok to alter the subpages in this specific case to fit the main MOS. I think that you haven't taken your own advice ("remov[e] the logic from the emotional tableau"). I don't dispute that some bird-oriented editors have not behaved as well as they should have. I have already said elsewhere that if it were just a question of members of WP:BIRDS wanting to capitalize the English names of birds and no other group (even within the same article) this would clearly be local consensus and I would not consider it acceptable; I suspect an RfC on this specific question would not either.
However, not all those who have engaged in discussion have acted in bad faith, and you should not behave as if they have. Perfectly sensible points have been made here and elsewhere on this subject, which show that the material in the main MOS cannot simply be assumed to have consensus now, whether or not it did four years ago. Consensus can change (WP:CCC).
What we need to do, though, is to move forward, if this is possible by consensus. If not, then the right thing to do in order to avoid disruptive editing is to leave all the relevant parts of all the pages alone for the present, regardless of their contradictions. There is a "Curtis Clark proposal" which I have set out here. It could move us forward, I think, if both "camps" are willing to compromise. Peter coxhead (talk) 13:53, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
My arguments enumerated above for every edit I made, most of which have never been addressed after the blanket reverts, are in no way predicated on even WP:BIRDS acting in bad faith, much less all editors here, only on the idea that sub-guidelines of main guidelines are not sovereign entities, but are simply sections of the main guideline that happen to be at URLs that don't have "#" characters in them. Virtually no one, even "MOS-watchers" pays any attention to the sub-guidelines' talk pages, so any consensus reached here and not mirrored by discussion at WT:MOS is by definition is a local consensus. But, sure, let's talk about compromises. I don't think your #Fuller proposal at WT:MOS will gain much traction, because they're no precedent for and lots of reasons to oppose a title that doesn't match the article text. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 21:30, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
The flaw in this argument has always been the notion that the MoS itself represents a wide consensus, which is simply false. --Trovatore (talk) 22:46, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
Right. One of the most-watchlisted pages, with one of the most-active and debatory talk pages, yet most stable guideline text on the entire system is really just the product of the WP:CABAL. Two quotes for you:
  1. Four years of MoS stability on the matter is waaay more than enough time for you to have brought up what you feel are consensus problems, at WT:MOS with an RfC, or at VPP: "The more visible the statement, and the longer it stands unchallenged, the stronger the implication of consensus is." — Wikipedia:Silence and consensus
  2. This was about a poll, on a related page, but it applies equally well to failing to take part in WT:MOS debates and just lurking on sub-pages no one GAFs about, other than a few stalwarts, and too many people manipulating them quietly for their fave WikiProject's WP:GAMING purposes: "If a high-profile [Wikipedian] poll is conducted that brings in widespread participation from editors who had previously stayed away from [the] venue, and the holdouts who had been stonewalling and preventing progress merely slouch, stuff their hands in their pockets, and walk away, then that proves that they knew full well that their arguments were not sufficiently persuasive, or didn’t have sufficient numbers, or both. ... Trying to now torpedo the current consensus by stating that certain people somehow didn’t have an opportunity to participate is nothing but sour grapes ... On Wikipedia it’s called ‘wililawyering’ which is disruptive and mustn’t be rewarded." — Greg L (talk · contribs), 00:49, 10 February 2012 (UTC) Wikipedia talk:Article titles thread "Why no action on implementing community consensus"
That about says it all. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 05:26, 11 February 2012 (UTC)
I am speaking in general terms, not about this specific issue. MoS regulars have far too high an opinion of how "non-local" a consensus they represent. --Trovatore (talk) 06:27, 11 February 2012 (UTC)
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the argument here (which I gave up trying to follow some time ago) I fear you are right. Very few Wikipedians care about MOS at all. Of those that do, only a small minority care about the processes behind it. Of those that so care only a minority have the time to get involved. There have been 50 different revisions of the "Manual of Style/Capital letters" in the last twenty days. Of course not all of them contradict one another, but my abiding observation of these discussions is that the process by which MOS is created is simply dysfunctional. If editors spent a little more time thinking about solutions to that problem and a little less trying to force "consensus" upon unwilling minorities (see also oxymoron) we might have a little more time to actually write articles. Ben MacDui 09:46, 11 February 2012 (UTC)
No doubt that last is true. But there's an underlying logic issue here. The fact that writing articles is more important that style matters doesn't mean that style matters have zero importance, and the fact that the process is imperfect doesn't mean it should be abandoned. By way of analogy, it's more important to just live your life, raise your family, and concern yourself with your and their well-being and future success, than to spend any cycles at all on what's happening down at the courthouse [if you're not a party to a case, a lawyer, etc.]. Yet the legal system is not irrelevant, and we shouldn't throw it out simply because it is grossly imperfect and sometimes injustices happen. Anyway, this particular MOS subpage is seeing a lot of major (reverted) edits, because it directly conflicts with is parent guideline. Normally it's considerably more stable. It's expected that people mostly ignore MOS/AT/NC unless they a) have a style/naming question or b) are WikiGnomes doing cleanup work. In the absence of an MoS we would not expect the average Wikipedia to keep a copy of Hart's Rules or Chicago Manual of Style next to them, either, but just write as they saw fit and leave it to grammar gnomes to tweak things.
The idea that MOS is somehow a non-consensus document because the average Wikipedian just doesn't care or get involved would suggest that every single page on the system, from policies to articles, has no consensus unless it has an enormous amount of traffic, like being in the top 100 or whatever pages by number of active participants. I.e., Albinism, Ankylosaurus, Thomas More, WP:WikiProject Military History and WP:Ignore all rules, and a million more, are just trash, because "very few Wikipedians care about them; of those that do, only a small minority care about the processes behind them; and of those that do care, only a minority have the time to get involved." What we see instead is that the pages on the system with the most traffic are those that are most disputed, and least represent consensus. There's a happy medium of activity and amount of participation. MOS and other major guidelines have it. Near-forgotten subpages like this don't (and neither does VPP, at the other extreme, being just a firehose of noise that never seems to actually resolve anything, ever, other except to say "no", and always "no", to usually poorly-thought-out proposals, which I guess is at least some kind of useful function, even if it's more like an angler fish swallowing everything that comes too close; the meme pool like the gene pool is stiff competition). I follow MOS and regularly participate in its formation but DGAF about or remember 95% of what it says; it's not something to memorize and live by, but something to refer to when a question or dispute arises. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 15:49, 11 February 2012 (UTC)
Thank-you for your lengthy, considered, polite reply. There seem to be two theories abroad. One is promoted by those who believe that one day, after further blizzards of words and discussion, MOS will be a complete and professional work admired by all and no longer a happy hunting ground for drama-seekers. Perhaps there is some evidence for this, although I confess it escapes me. The alternate is that MOS has become a war of attrition, stable in outline but endlessly unstable in detail. To repeat what I have said before - I am far more interested in a Manual of Style that is genuinely stable than in taking a strong position in relation to any of the numerous details. I think it is probably best if I, like so many before me, simply take these MOS pages off my watchlist and leave them to those who imagine the former theory to be true. Good luck to everyone at ArbCom. Ben MacDui 11:25, 12 February 2012 (UTC)
I don't now anyone with that attitude/belief. I've made the point many times myself that because, like all style guides, MOS is a prescriptive and proscriptive set of rules (however loose – MOS isn't policy), even if based on linguistic description rather than pure traditionalism like some guides, it necessarily means that for any rule it proposes, there will automatically be some people unhappy with it, namely those who habitually do something different. This is unavoidable, not just at MOS on WP, but in game theory generally. E.g., there is no law in any country any where at any time that zero people have disagreed with and no one has ever broken. There is no rule of football or baseball or cricket that has not be questioned by various fans, players and officials. And so on. The idea that MOS must be an idyllic utopia or a scorched battleground is a false dichotomy. Is is pretty stable on most points, and even after site-wide flamefests that drag on for years, like linking of dates, the drama dies down and things go back to normal. There will always be little controversies, but they don't last forever. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 18:26, 13 February 2012 (UTC)