Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers

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

Rfc: Is YYYY-MM an acceptable date format? Part 4[edit]

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

There is no consensus that YYYY-MM is an acceptable format, nor any consensus that it is an unacceptable format. I would recommend against any mass changes being made purely on the basis of this RfC. HJ Mitchell | Penny for your thoughts? 23:44, 29 March 2014 (UTC) Clarified per request at 22:01, 2 April 2014 (UTC)


Continuing on from Part 2 and Part 3 above, I will restate it so that contributors brought in for the RFC can see the problem.

The recent (29 Nov 2013) banning of the yyyy-mm format brings about a conflict between parts of MOS but also highlights that the conflict was waiting in the wings as an unknown consequence. The guidelines state:

  1. WP:DATEFORMAT - various formats with spelt out months are allowed (no problem). yyyy-mm-dd (all numbers) is allowed in tables, references and similar places where conciseness is needed. No mention of year and month combos (ie no day of month) at all. It points to Wikipedia:Citing Sources § Citation style, which explicitly allows yyyy-mm-dd.
  2. WP:BADDATEFORMAT - lists various bad formats and the recommended replacement. yyyy-mm was unobtrusively added to the list on 29 Nov 2013 as a single line in a table with no reasoning or rationale given.
  3. MOS:DATEUNIFY - states that only a single format is to be used within an article (some reading between the lines allows the main text to use spelt out months and tables/references/etc to use yyyy-mm-dd.

Articles are free to use references in the yyyy-mm-dd format. This is explicitly allowed. The conflict comes when we get a reference that has only year and month (typical of magazine references). Since BADDATEFORMAT disallows yyyy-mm, we must replace it with a spelt out format such as Dec 2013. But then this causes a conflict with DATEUNIFY, which forces us to replace each and every reference with a spelt out format. In effect, that single line disallowing yyyy-mm means that every article using yyyy-mm-dd in references has a very good probability of being forced to change to a spelt out format. That's a wide ranging effect for a single sentence fragment with no rationale given in the guideline. The rationale given on the talk page is that it can be confused with the date ranges like 2002-03 (ie from 2002 to 2003).

The talk page discussion was only among a small set of contributors over a short period of time, so the repercussions were not obvious and were not thrashed out. After two months of looking for acceptable solutions, none of the solutions presented in Part 2 found consensus and only the following were found to have any followers:

  1. Ban yyyy-mm-dd altogether. Some editors were very much in favour of this and some were very much against it. Unlikely to gain consensus.
  2. Ban yyyy-mm but allow yyyy-mm-dd. Needs an explanation that all yyyy-mm-dd references are allowed but will need to be changed to spelt out dates (eg 7 January 2012 or January 7, 2012) as soon as the first year+month combo is added.
  3. Allow yyyy-mm and hope that readers can use context to understand that it is year and month, not a year range.

Since the December 2013 addition of the banning of yyyy-mm triggered the conflict, I will hide that in the guideline until a result is found.  Stepho  talk  23:06, 3 February 2014 (UTC)

Survey[edit]

Note: 'Support' and 'Oppose' don't work for a 3 way choice; please specify 'Ban yyyy-mm-dd', 'Ban yyyy-mm' or 'Context'

  • Context Most readers that care enough about the date can figure it out without too much stress.  Stepho  talk  23:06, 3 February 2014 (UTC)
  • Ban yyyy-mm. A reader may not bring the entire article to the library when following up a citation; (s)he may just write down what the reader thinks the date means, for example, write 2010-11 as Nov. 2010. When the issue written down does not exist, reader may have difficulty figuring out the reason for the error. Jc3s5h (talk) 23:22, 3 February 2014 (UTC)
  • Ban yyyy-mm. We are supposed to be writing articles which are clear and unambiguous, this is not clear and is certainly not unambiguous. People should not have to read the MOS to find out the meaning of something in an article it should be obvious. For similar reasons I would also support a Ban yyyy-mm-dd. Keith D (talk) 01:42, 4 February 2014 (UTC)
  • Ban yyyy-mm. and any format where the month is not clear and unambiguously represented by its proper name (and not some notional number) -- Ohc ¡digame! 02:07, 4 February 2014 (UTC)
  • Ban yyyy-mm. It's just too ambiguous and prone to confusion with yyyy-yy (a year range). I can see why people are opposed to yyyy-mm-dd as needing to be interpreted and as more ambiguous than dd mmm yyyy, but I can't work up adequate passion against it. – Jonesey95 (talk) 05:15, 4 February 2014 (UTC)
  • What is the problem that needs to be solved?  As per Wikipedia:MOSNUM#Ranges, yyyy–yy uses an en dash.  I checked http://reftag.appspot.com/, and curiously it has two different modes (possibly a bug) when asked to convert July 2009 into y-m-d format.  One is "July 2009" and the other is "2009-07".  I also recall contexts in which software deems "July 2009" to occur on the first day of the month.  Since it doesn't seem to be clear, I'd recommend specifying that mmm yyyy format is acceptable in the yyyy-mm-dd context.  Unscintillating (talk) 03:03, 6 February 2014 (UTC)
  • YYYY-yy should be banned, it causes confusion with YYYY-MM, and that format is used in the world at large. We shouldn't engender confusion just because we are Wikipedia. We can avoid confusion by using YYYY-YYYY. -- 70.24.244.161 (talk) 12:24, 11 February 2014 (UTC)
  • Context – If the area in question previously uses YYYY-MM-DD especially, or if the prose speaks of months not year-ranges, the reader will be able to infer the correct meaning. If anything should be banned, it would be YYYY–YY, which is purposeless and easily avoided by YYYY–YYYY. Also en dashes are not hyphens. startswithj (talk) 00:36, 13 February 2014 (UTC)
  • Allow YYYY-MM and ban YYYY-YY. Year ranges should not be using a hyphen, anyway. YYYY-MM is the standard way of representing years and months, as specified by the ISO 8601 international standard, and its national variants. In the case of conflicts, YYYY-MM and YYYY-MM-DD date formats should be preferred. --Joshua Issac (talk) 11:41, 6 March 2014 (UTC)
@Joshua Issac: Year ranges are already supposed to use an endash, not a hyphen (though I don't think this does enough to resolve the ambiguity). —[AlanM1(talk)]— 23:15, 8 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Allow YYYY-MM and ban YYYY-YY. I am in agreement with Joshua Issac. We should allow YYYY-MM and ban YYYY-YY. I also agree with AlanM1 that the use of a en-dash does not do enough to resolve ambiguity. Those who need to do a year range should spell the full four digit year YYYY–YYYY and preferably use an en-dash. This seems dis-ambiguous enough as there are no four digit months. Zell Faze (talk) 14:58, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Context While YYYY-MM is not ideal in most places, in a table that has a row for each month of several years, it makes sense, and avoids the burden of a hidden sort key. For clarity, I'd add "(YYYY-MM)" in the header. —[AlanM1(talk)]— 23:15, 8 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Context The immediately preceding is logical. So "Allow YYYY-MM (allowed particularly within tabular / sorting settings, and disfavored in "open text" settings) and ban YYYY-YY (for which there is no "utility" value)" is also logical. The overall logic is driven by the ability to autosort descending hierarchicals. Conversely, banning YYYY-MM as a conceptual step toward banning YYYY-MM-DD (or YYYMMDD) is counterproductive prejudice, and also indirectly raises the irresolvable: MM-DD-YYYY versus DD-MM-YYYY. FeatherPluma (talk) 17:37, 13 March 2014 (UTC)

Threaded discussion[edit]

  • The most likely place for the problem to occur is in references. A date like 2003-08 is unlikely to mean a publication covering multiple years. A date like 2003-04 could mean April 2003 or an anniversary issue covering 2003-2004 but it is usually clear from the context which it is. The majority of readers won't care anyway and for the few that want to look it up it will become obvious quite quickly. For the few times where it does represent a problem (eg the magazine had both an April 2003 issue and a 2003-2004 anniversary issue), then that article can choose one of the other date formats.  Stepho  talk  23:06, 3 February 2014 (UTC)
  • I know this is a personal opinion, but to my eye, "2003-08" just looks like a typo. My eye comes to a complete halt and my brain is forced to wonder if someone simply made a mistake of some sort. Did they mean "2003-04"? "2007-08"? Did they forget the day (or the second half of the year) in a YYYY-MM-DD date, like "2001-03-08"? I don't have a grammar or style argument here, it's just a visceral thing that happens when I encounter one of these odd creatures. – Jonesey95 (talk) 05:20, 4 February 2014 (UTC)
(This appears to be the freshest part of the discussions, feel free to move my comment to a better place.) Thanks to Trappist_the_monk for the pointer on Category talk:CS1 errors: dates, I haven't looked into any MOS pages for ages, replacing GB by GiBi gibberish would annoy me; and some ISO "standards" are certainly crap. However, RFC 3339 and the 1997-09 note published by the W3C are no nonsense, and it's the job of the MediaWiki software to display YYYY-MM-DD or YYYY-MM in the form chosen in the preferences or some default chosen by the site admins for editors without an account or preferring to edit without logging in. It's not the job of MOS guidelines. My 0,02€ –Be..anyone (talk) 14:18, 5 February 2014 (UTC)
Date autoformatting has been resoundingly rejected by the community for many reasons, see footnote 7 of MOSNUM. One of the reasons is you can't get the commas right. Consider "the meeting is set for July 22, 2014, at Grand Central Terminal." If "22 July 2014" is substituted for "July 22, 2014" there will be an incorrect comma. Jc3s5h (talk) 14:43, 5 February 2014 (UTC)
What is incorrect about the comma in the clause "the meeting is set for 22 July 2014, at Grand Central Terminal"? --Joshua Issac (talk) 12:17, 6 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Seems like the yyyy-mm-dd haters have all chimed in for 'Ban yyyy-mm'. So be it. Now we are back to where we were 2 months ago. What do we do when we want to add a month magazine as a reference in an article chock full of yyyy-mm-dd references? Since yyyy-mm is not allowed then we are forced to use mmm yyyy. MOS:DATEUNIFY then forces us to change each and every other reference over to a spelt out form. That's a rather radical change that is not obvious from the current text of the guideline. Two solutions are:
    • Add text in the guideline to make it clear that yyyy-mm-dd dates are okay only until the first year+month reference is added, then they become illegal due to MOS:DATEUNIFY.
    • Relax MOS:DATEUNIFY so that July 2006 and 2006-06-01 can sit side-by-side.
Both of these solutions were proposed in Part 2 and neither found favour. But since yyyy-mm is banned, we have to select one of them.  Stepho  talk  23:02, 6 February 2014 (UTC)

History[edit]

Our use of YYYY-MM-DD dates is pretty much an accident. In the early days of Wikipedia, the concept was to use YYYY-MM-DD dates and link them— the user date preference would then show them in the users desired format. As early as 2006, it was realized that readers who were not logged in would see dates in the YYYY-MM-DD format. In late 2008, the consensus was to stop linking dates— dates were delinked and sometimes reformatted, but no changes to the MoS was made as to formats. There have been several discussions about YYYY-MM-DD date formatting over the years, with little or no result.

For discussions on date formats, mainly in the context of citation templates, see User:Gadget850/FAQ/YYYY-MM-DD dates. --  Gadget850 talk 20:45, 27 February 2014 (UTC)


The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Writing SI unit names[edit]

The current guidelines on pluralising unit names seem to be incomplete. I'd suggest incorporating the advice in this NIST guide, at least for metric units: thus units combined with values below 1 are considered grammatically singular (e.g. 0.25 metre, 10-3 watt). Phrasing such as "0.1 of a metre" should also be avoided.

In addition, it should be specified that numbers with unit symbols should not be hyphenated (e.g. "100-m bridge"), and periods with unit symbols ("100 m.") should be avoided — I cannot see this in the current guidance.

It might be worthwhile to emphasise that the prefixes are always attached to the unit name (never spaced or hyphenated as in "milli gram" or "kilo-pascal"), and are uncontracted except in the case of: kilohm, megohm and hectare. The plural of "henry" is written "henries" since it's considered a regular noun for English grammatical purposes. Archon 2488 (talk) 16:47, 5 March 2014 (UTC)

Or Henry's. wink --2 potatoe's (talk) 07:27, 6 March 2014 (UTC)
Sounds good to me. The plural of hertz (hertz) might also be worth a mention if not there already. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 18:19, 5 March 2014 (UTC)
I've added the invariant unit names to my proposal and put it in my sandbox with a couple of minor fixes. I didn't look closely enough: it already says not to use periods. Let me know what you think. Archon 2488 (talk) 21:37, 5 March 2014 (UTC)
I would oppose pluralising English words - be they units or otherwise - in a way that does not conform with English grammar. According to your proposal, it appears to me that we are to talk about zero cakes and 0.75 dollars, but zero kilogram and 0.75 kilometre. I do not believe that this would be grammatical. Kahastok talk 22:19, 5 March 2014 (UTC)
I agree in opposing this. Standard English usage would be 0.25 metres and 10-3 watts, regardless of what NIST advocates. Wikipedia follows actual use, not official standards. sroc 💬 23:26, 5 March 2014 (UTC)
This is quite a thorny question, I think. The rules of English grammar are very weird with fractions: when you use vulgar fractions you'd always use the singular: 3/4 dollar, not 3/4 dollars. Likewise, "a half litre", not "a half litres"; I suspect we instinctively don't like the sound of "0.5 litre" because the numeral next to "litre" is "5" which makes us think "plural", even if it's not really logical. Since decimal fractions are just a different way of representing the same numbers it's not obvious why they have to be treated differently, and style guides aren't consistent. The number zero is a separate case of its own: I think it should probably always take the plural (obviously 0 is neither singular nor plural, but grammar is a bit illogical), however the degree Celsius (or for what it's worth, the degree Fahrenheit) is the only unit you'd commonly use with a zero (because 0 °C is just an arbitrary temperature, not the true physical zero point of temperature). There's not too much sense in talking about "zero kilometres" because if something has no length (or mass, or whatever) then units aren't really relevant: 0 km = 0 Mpc = 0 Å. To add to the complication, it's formally permissible to write the SI unit names in the singular even when the value is greater than 1, so you'll commonly encounter strange-sounding things like "the magnetic field has a strength of 2 tesla". Absolute zero is commonly referred to as both "zero kelvin" and "zero kelvins" so it's a bit of a coin-flip really. Derived units without special names, such as kJ/(mol K), are supposed to be read as invariant singulars, but this rule is commonly ignored: most people don't say "100 kilometre per hour".
All that being said, the guidelines are just NIST's interpretation of how to say and write SI units in (American) English: they're not an intrinsic part of the SI. For the purposes of Wikipedia it might be best to pick a more simple and consistent set of rules: for all metric units, with values other than ±1, use the plural form; otherwise use the singular (so you would also write "negative/minus one degree Celsius" for example). Imperial/USC units written with vulgar fractions should use the singular: "5/16 inch", not "5/16 inches" (metric units are never written with vulgar fractions, so this rule doesn't apply to them). Opinions? Archon 2488 (talk) 23:36, 5 March 2014 (UTC)
I have modified the proposed changes in my sandbox in line with the suggestions above. I've also added a bullet point on how to write the names of units containing powers. Archon 2488 (talk) 00:26, 6 March 2014 (UTC)
I would say half a litre but .5 litres. Linguistically, it is easy to say that something is "half" or "quarter" of a whole ("a litre") because these are basic divisions, but it's not as easy to do this with decimals. If we said .5 litre, then would we also say .6 litre or .521 litre? We would not say five hundred and twenty-one thousandths of a litre in words, so as a corollary, the equivalent in numerals seems odd. sroc 💬 01:00, 6 March 2014 (UTC)

Archon, you write "Since decimal fractions are just a different way of representing the same numbers it's not obvious why they have to be treated differently". I agree, it's not obvious. However, what is obvious is that they are treated differently. It's not obvious why "I" is always capitalised whereas "he", "she", "me", etc. are not. It's not obvious why it's "himself" and "themselves" (not "hisself" and "theirselves") whereas we have "myself" and "yourself". It's not obvious why we don't spell "yacht" as "yot", "friend" as "frend", "head" as "hed", etc. Decimals and fractions may represent the same things but they are different things. When you see "34 metre" you read it as "three quarters of a litre" (just as you read "on 6 February" as "on the sixth of February") but when you see "0.75 litres" you read it as "zero point seven five litres". I suspect that it was some failure along the way to see the distinction between fractions and decimals that lead to the artificial rule that they should be treated as equivalent. Wikipedia is not bound by outside style guides (nor need it be nor even should it be). We are free to make and follow our own rules. In creating such rules it would seem that normal English usage should trump the dictates of some organisation like the US NIST. In normal English usage we don't make any special exception for metric unit names when it comes to pluralisation: they are simply treated as ordinary nouns. This is what we should follow. It is possible to combine fractions with metric units (albeit less common) just as it's possible to combine fractions with imperial/US customary units; in fact fractions and decimals can be combined with many things (not just units). You write "For the purposes of Wikipedia it might be best to pick a more simple and consistent set of rules" and I agree but the rules you suggest are more complicated and inconsistent for my liking. I suggest units be they metric, imperial, US customary or otherwise be treated as any other noun for the purpose of pluralisation and that for ±1 and fractions (but not decimals) between the noun be singular and for other numbers it be plural. Jimp 08:36, 6 March 2014 (UTC)

I've revised my proposed changes in line with other people's suggestions. Some of the NIST guidance is still useful, even if their pluralisation advice is a bit strange, and it covers some points which the existing MOSNUM version does not — I think this should be included, at least for the sake of completeness.
Metric units aren't supposed to be written with vulgar fractions in general, and this is already covered by MOSNUM:
Unless there is sound reason to the contrary, fractional parts of metric units should be expressed as decimal fractions (5.25 mm), not vulgar fractions (514 mm). However Imperial, English, avoirdupois, and United States customary units may use either form – both (5.25 inches) and (514 inches) are acceptable, provided that there is consistency in the way that the fractions are represented.
Archon 2488 (talk) 12:02, 6 March 2014 (UTC)
I'm fairly certain that, with regard to imperial, one should not write "5.25 inches" or whatever. This is contrary to how the system was designed, and how it was meant to be used. It should be "514 inches". RGloucester 16:46, 6 March 2014 (UTC)
Traditionally, you would be correct, but (at least in the USA) the convention of decimalising inches (and other such units) is well-established. American firearms are typically described in terms of their nominal caliber in decimal inches (.308 Winchester, etc.). For machining in USC units, it's common to subdivide inches into thousandths (or "mils"). There's no real contemporary guidance on how imperial/USC units should be used, so you'd just follow the use that was conventional in the relevant field, whether that be fractional or decimal inches. This is why MOSNUM allows both formats. Archon 2488 (talk) 17:48, 6 March 2014 (UTC)
I suppose so. It feels weird, however, to use a system meant to be used with vulgar fractions, but use decimalised fractions instead. RGloucester 18:07, 6 March 2014 (UTC)
I agree with it feeling "weird" every time I take a measurement with a ruler and convert 1/4 to 0.250, but I think computers have pushed us towards doing it because of not having the 1/4 and 1/2 (let alone 3/16) characters in the standard 7-bit ASCII character set or keyboards any more, the "ugliness" of having to insert a space for the fraction when not written in a smaller font (i.e. 5 1/4) and the result still not being as "clean" as 514, etc. So, we just get used to converting to 5.25 because it's easier to type, see, and store in a database. There are a few special limited circumstances that still work better retaining values as fractions, like some financial instrument pricing (and not even there for much longer, with most markets having been decimalized), and we should retain them in quotes as well.
As far as plurals, it seems the best "sounding" rules are those that follow how one would read it aloud: 14 liter, but 0.25 liters; ¾ [of an] inch, but 0.75 inches; 12 [an] acre, but 0.5 acres. —[AlanM1(talk)]— 18:54, 6 March 2014 (UTC)
The Daily Telegraph, which is quite biased in favour of Imperial units (which it calls "British units"), recommends the following:
"Fractions: use half, quarter, three quarters, third, fifth, eighth in preference to decimals in general copy. Use decimals when they aid comprehension or comparison, but not with imperial measurements: e.g. write 3ft 9in rather than 3.75 feet, or 6lb 8oz not 6.5lb. Do not use decimals and fractions in the same story except when necessary in financial copy. In money markets all dealings are in fractions. Write 2¼, but one-quarter per cent."Link
I tend to agree with recommending "3ft 9in" over "3.75 feet". RGloucester 19:05, 7 March 2014 (UTC)
Generally, yes, but this is another reason why we need to bear in mind that a style guide is not holy writ. Being too strict about the details of usage (as opposed to purely stylistic things, such as not pluralising unit symbols and needing to insert a space between value and unit) can lead to editors being recommended to write about the "Winchester 77250" (or, indeed, a "6.2-mile race"). It's important to bear in mind that these rules have to cover a myriad of cases from many different disciplines.
Now that the discussion seems to have quietened down, can I assume that there are no further objections to my proposal? I'll leave another few days for comments, then incorporate my sandbox version into the MOS. Mostly, they are just stylistic advice included for the sake of completeness, so I don't imagine they could cause problems in practice. Archon 2488 (talk) 16:10, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
I'd prefer "mixed units are traditionally used for most measurements in the imperial and US customary systems". I'd also like an example given for weight and liquid volume, as well as for length. RGloucester 18:43, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
OK, changes made. Archon 2488 (talk) 19:38, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
It looks pretty good to me. RGloucester 20:42, 10 March 2014 (UTC)

I don't believe that there is consensus for all of the changes that have been made. I stick by my comments above. Also see the various comments by other most other regarding the notion that units names are somehow special nouns for the purpose of pluralisation. Here is the inserted/modified text. (I've numbered the the points for reference.)

  1. Only the unit of appropriate magnitude, or the unit generally used in the relevant context, should be used: thus 10 metres not 0.01 kilometres. In particular, measurements in metric units should not be given using mixed units: 1500 metres or 1.5 kilometres, as context dictates, but never 1 kilometre and 500 metres. Mixed units are traditionally used for most measurements of appropriate magnitude in imperial and US customary units: 10 feet 5 inches, 3 pounds 2 ounces, 1 pint 8 fluid ounces.
  2. The SI prefixes centi-, deci-, deca-, and hecto- are rarely used, and thus should be avoided, in most contexts: exceptions include the centimetre, the decibel, the hectolitre, the hectare and the hectopascal. Thus: 100 metres, not 1 hectometre.
  3. Measurements in metric units consisting of values other than ±1 should use the plural form of the unit name; otherwise the singular form is used. Thus: negative one degree Celsius, 10-3 watts and 0.25 metres, not 10-3 watt, 0.25 metre or 0.25 of a metre. In the case of imperial or US customary units with values in vulgar fractions less than 1, the singular form is used. Thus: 516 inch, not 516 inches or 516 of an inch.
  4. Unit names are typically considered to be regular nouns for the purposes of English grammar. Thus their plurals are most commonly formed by appending an s: 10 metres. The exceptions are the henry: 10 henries, not 10 henrys, as well as the hertz, the lux, and the siemens: these are invariant, so their plural forms are always the same as their singular forms: 10 hertz, 10 lux, 10 siemens.
  5. Unit prefixes are considered to be part of the unit name, and should never be separated by spaces or hyphens, thus: 25 kilopascals, never 25 kilo pascals or 25 kilo-pascals.
  6. Unit prefixes should be written without contraction; the exceptions are the kilohm, the megohm, and the hectare (not kiloohm, megaohm, or hectoare).
  7. The "metre-newton" as a unit of energy is properly and commonly called the joule in the SI: thus 10 joules, not 10 metre-newtons.
  8. When unit symbols are combined by division, use a slash ... Common exceptions in imperial and US customary units include mph for the mile per hour and psi for pounds per square inch; metric unit symbols should always be written according to SI convention, thus g/m2 not gsm.

Most of this seems okay; however, there are a couple of problems. Here are the main ones.

  • I wonder whether some of this is fixing a problem which doesn't exist. Most of the advice is sensible but it seem obvious enough not to need mentioning.
  • "Avoid this" and "only use that" seems a bit strict, exceptions do exist.
  • It looks like we're proposing one set of special rules for the names of metric units and another set for the names of imperial/US units which differ from how ordinary nouns are to be treated. Unit names are just nouns and should be treated as such.

Here are a few more detailed comments.

  1. Whilst generally, yes, we'd use the unit of appropriate magnitude exceptions may exist (e.g. if elsewhere in a paragraph you're using hectares for the size of parks but one or two of them are larger than 100 ha, you wouldn't switch to square kilometres). Isn't this just common sense though? Also I don't recall seeing the likes of "1 metre 45 centimetres" on WP. So need we advise against this?
  2. This isn't really a big problem. These are rarely used out there, it's true, and they're therefore rarely used in here. I'm just not sure that we need to mention this but if we do we needn't be as strict as to say "avoid". They are used, albeit rarely, since there are some occasions where they are appropriate. So they should be used where appropriate. Do we need to mention that appropriate units should be used?
  3. We follow the rules of English when it comes to pluralisation. These rules do not distinguish between metric units, imperial units, US customary units, other units or other things in general. This has nothing to do with what system of measurement you're using. Forget talk about metric vs imperial/US, we need only state that 1, −1 and fractions (but not decimals) between are singular and anything else is plural.
  4. The phrasing is a bit confusing here. It's not clear whether you mean that the henry, hertz, lux and siemens are exceptions to the rule of forming a plural by adding an "s" or to being typically considered to be regular nouns for the purposes of English grammar. Units names are nouns. It's common for an word ending in "y" to be pluralised by turning the "y" into an "i" and adding "es" (e.g. "party"→"parties", "story"→"stories", "lorry"→"lorries", etc.) and it's not that uncommon for a plural to have the same form as it's singular (e.g. "fish", "sheep", "deer", etc.).
  5. I'm not sure that we need to mention every possible misspelling.
  6. Again, you might find that it's common knowledge that unit prefixes are considered to be part of the unit name (that's what a prefix is). Do we need to spell this out? I don't recall seeing this mistake.
  7. Again, I haven't seen a joule being called a "metre-newton". Do we need to mention this?
  8. This clearer than what was there before.

So, like I said, it's mostly fine though a bit over-the-top in parts and seems to imply that unit names are somehow special noun that defy the rules of grammar. Jimp 15:19, 12 March 2014 (UTC)

Thanks for your feedback. Like I say, most of this is included for the sake of completeness and unambiguity. The advice on what not to write covers things that are certainly wrong; it's not about which units to use in which context, which is a more subtle question.
  1. This is why I added the phrasing "or the unit generally used in the relevant context". If you're talking about aircraft flight levels, you'll give numbers in feet and metres, even though the numbers are large, without switching to miles and kilometres. Sometimes people who apparently don't understand how to use the metric system properly will say things like "1 metre 45 centimetres"; it's useful to clarify that this is incorrect usage.
  2. It says "should be avoided in most contexts", which I think is fair. You should switch directly from metres to kilometres without using decametres or hectometres. Nobody talks about centigrams. Perhaps this could be changed to "... are rarely used in most contexts" to remove the "avoid" phrasing, if you think it's too strong.
  3. Yes, I think your phrasing is clearer. My original phrasing was intended to emphasise that only imperial/USC units should be written with vulgar fractions, but this could probably be clarified.
  4. I should clarify that I abandoned the position that unit names are in any way "special nouns" for the purposes of pluralisation (my added text says they are "regular nouns"). The henry deserves special mention because people can sometimes get confused by unit names derived from proper nouns: the unit is not considered a proper noun. It's useful to name the three SI units with invariant names.
  5. If by "misspelling" you mean "kiloohm" etc., then those are the only three cases where the unit name should be written with a contracted prefix. It's an exclusive list.
  6. Maybe this is spelling things out in too much detail.
  7. The phrasing of this in the original was a bit odd: saying that for torque units have force unit first and energy is length-first, is relevant advice only for imperial/USC. The SI doesn't have this problem because the energy unit has another name. I could rephrase it so that it's clear it applies only to foot-pounds and pound-feet.

Archon 2488 (talk) 11:54, 13 March 2014 (UTC)

Perhaps we could add some advice recommending decimals with metric and fractions with imperial/US but I wouldn't make it a hard-and-fast rule. Sometimes it's useful to do the opposite, e.g. the "1.6" in "about a mile (1.6 km)" seems to imply more precision than it should whereas "about a mile (1 12 km)" avoids this, on the other hand, "3.1453 centimetres (1.2383 in)" would generally be far better than "3.1453 centimetres (1 19528192 in)".

Oddly it seems that your sensible (if possibly unnecessary) advice disallowing metre-newton has evolved into a comment merely calling it less common than the equivalent joule. The current wording seems to imply that it's okay. It's surely not but this is probably a topic of its own. Jimp 08:07, 17 March 2014 (UTC)

Incidentally, in Australia and New Zealand—possibly elsewhere—it's standard practice to close the 12-hour clock number and the am or pm: 3pm, 9am. Tony (talk) 14:34, 29 March 2014 (UTC)

Adding examples of both correct and incorrect usage can help greatly, especially if the reader's English comprehension is not the best (and for whom the guide is most useful). While I agree there are exceptions to the prescription of correct units to use, mentioning those may well be too much. Looks good to me. —[AlanM1(talk)]— 06:49, 5 April 2014 (UTC)

UK horses' heights[edit]

At the moment MOSNUM says that horses and other equines are measured in hands. This may be true, but it doesn't seem to be the whole truth.

Equine World UK says:

The term used for height measurement of a horse is "hands high" or "hh". Often the height is just over a number of hands eg 16 hands and 2 inches and the height is therefore referred to as 16.2 hh. With Europeanisation horses are also now being measured in centimetres, particularly small ponies. See conversion table for horse's height in hh and cm. [1]

The Joint Measurement Board website doesn't appear to mention hands but its references to measurements seem to be centimetres first.

7. The animal must be positioned for measurement with the front legs parallel and perpendicular; the toes of the front feet should be in line, allowing not more than 1.5 cm (½ in) difference. Both hind- feet must be taking weight and as near perpendicular as possible; the toes of the hind feet should be not more than 15 cm (6 in) out of line with each other.
8. The animal’s head must be in its natural position in relation to its neck, positioned so that the eye is neither more than 8 cm (3in) below, nor more than 8 cm (3 in) above the highest point of the withers.

British Showjumping has this question and answer on its website:

If a pony (148cms or smaller) has been registered as a horse can it be registered back as a pony?
Yes, however the request must be sent to the British Showjumping office in writing and must be accompanied by a valid up to date JMB Height Certificate stating that the animal is 148cms or below.

On the other hand, Blue Cross uses hands. Even when it appears to use kilograms for their weights (but they work it out with a weight tape in inches that works out an approximate weight in pounds that is divided by 2.2 to give you kilograms!) see [2]

Scottish Horse had this headline: Measuring Horses and Ponies - ongoing controversies [3]

Here were some problems:

  • ...it is the inescapable fact that there is no rigid anatomical connection between the withers and the feet that touch the ground. *...simply allowing an excited pony to stand and relaxed can, in my experience, cause the height to drop by as much as 6cm. *...Measurements are taken without shoes and simply trimming the heels and leaving the toes long can reduce height by more than cm. (sic)
  • Lowering the head to the ground can significantly reduce the height at the withers – by nearly 2cm – whereas raising the head can increase height by over 2cm.

Then there was this passage:

I distinctly remember, in the line of ponies waiting to be measured at Avenches, Switzerland in 2008, a grey horse that looked at least 15.2hh. Fearful of creating an international incident I anxiously awaited its arrival at my station. It settled into the stable and when I put the stick onto its withers the horizontal bar read over 156cm. But the withers instantly started to shrink under the bar – as if contact with the stick had triggered a reflex – and kept sinking until, within a couple of minutes, the pony measured 151.5cm. Many of the ponies at this year’s championships showed similar reactions, no doubt the results of months of training at home. Why go to all that effort? Putting it bluntly, a European team pony might be worth several hundred thousand Euros, whereas a pony that won’t measure 151cm is practically worthless.

There is no way that I can be dogmatic about ponies and horses. However, it would seem that "Hands for horses and other equines" is perhaps an over-simplification. Michael Glass (talk) 13:52, 8 March 2014 (UTC)

In whatever units the horse may be measured, I think we can all agree that it is dead. Please stop flogging it. Kahastok talk 14:25, 8 March 2014 (UTC)

👍 Like Montanabw(talk) 19:26, 10 March 2014 (UTC)

OK, but where's your evidence to justify the present policy? Michael Glass (talk) 21:26, 8 March 2014 (UTC)

The whole section on UK units is more than a bit arbitrary and overly simplistic, but it's the product of an uneasy political compromise between editors. Until our country actually does something to sort out the bizarre non-system of units in use here, the situation will not change. Archon 2488 (talk) 16:34, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
Actually, in the particular case of units for measurement of horses in the UK there was no compromise or indeed discussion; the present text was added by Montanabw with this edit. Since what it says seems to be at variance with the usage of bodies such as the Joint Measurement Board and the National Pony Society], some discussion is probably called for. Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 18:26, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
There are now four discussions on UK-related units on this page, three of them started by the same editor. I think they all ought to be combined.
I don't accept your link as relevant because you're inferring a policy from individual instances of usage. All of Michael's "evidence" is in the same category. We have no reason to assume that all or any other documents use the same units as the ones you have found. Demonstrate a policy and that might make a difference, though I would note that it would be surprising if more than a small minority of horses actually took part in competition. I note that there is no actual proposal here at all, and that in a previous discussion (still on this page) the proposal was to add a qualification ("most") that achieved nothing but to make an already little-used rule harder to follow.
This is all standard stuff and Michael has heard all of it before, because he has opened similar sections here on dozens of occasions. Kahastok talk 19:05, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
  • I did add the hands material here, believing in good faith that it reflected the consensus of WikiProject Equine. This issue was debated quite extensively at WikiProject Equine, with the UK-resident editors all in agreement with the USA editors on this matter: horses are generally (though not exclusively) measures in hands in most (though not all) of the English-speaking world, including the UK. We have gone on to do a lot of work on the convert height template so that it displays in hands, inches and centimeters, and editors may choose which default to go first; those editors who wish to begin with metric measurements and then have the conversion work in that direction can do so on the articles where they are doing most of the work and/or have a clear consensus on the matter. This was a situation where we seem to have reached a workable solution everyone can live with. But there were a lot of strong feelings on all sides before we got there and I believe we are all rather weary of it now and yes, WP:STICK is my feeling as well. JLAN's comment above about pony measurements outlines a couple of situations, 1) some ponies, especially the smaller ones, are often measured in inches or cm than hands, (also true of donkeys) and 2) the FEI uses centimeters for most of their height regulations, due to the international nature of this organization. I don't think it will benefit the wiki to reopen this whole situation again, though if we want to refine the instructions here to reflect the occasional exceptions (i.e. some ponies and donkeys if their governing organizations so state and if editors reach consensus on the matter, basically) Montanabw(talk) 19:26, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
The issue with spelling all of this out ad nauseam is that it threatens to produce instruction creep. As I said before, why do we bother to tell WP editors how to talk about bottled milk in one country? This isn't a dairy. Archon 2488 (talk) 20:38, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
I agree with you Archon, but I am also open to a spirit of compromise if it seems helpful. Most of these types of disputes usually wind up being decided on an article by article basis in the long run, anyway. Montanabw(talk) 20:46, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
If usage is somewhat divided and these questions are usually decided on an article by article basis, why not qualify the general statement with many or most? Michael Glass (talk) 00:46, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
Adding words like "many" or "most" doesn't change the substance of the statement, so there is little point. It introduces a degree of vagueness which isn't helpful; if you want to provide more detailed information on usage in different contexts, that would be far better. Archon 2488 (talk) 17:38, 11 March 2014 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I propose that both the milk-bottles and the horse heights be removed from the guideline, mostly for the good reasons such as WP:CREEP given above, also because the former is unlikely to be used outside Milk bottling in the United Kingdom, the latter because it does not accurately reflect the actual practice of British institutions concerned with horse measurement (unless of course Kahastok can cite a policy to the effect that it does?). Justlettersandnumbers (talk) 21:09, 11 March 2014 (UTC)

I'm of mixed feelings; I'm no fan of WP:CREEP, but OTOH the chart seems to have many other exceptions, troy ounces, carats, (and karats), knots, etc... My sense is that one reason to keep it is to avoid future fights like the one we had about four or five years ago where someone (not anyone involved in this discussion) wanted to eliminate use of hands altogether and replace every article with SI units, citing, if I recall, this page of guidelines. Montanabw(talk) 23:30, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
Groan, oh no, not again. Suggest the guideline stays and the WP:STICK is dropped. Wee Curry Monster talk 08:47, 12 March 2014 (UTC)
The milk bottle thing is pretty much a waste of space, and it strikes me as boring editors with trivia. Even if the arch-demon Michael Glass were to get his wicked way and banish the milk exception from MOSNUM, I doubt it would make a difference to a single article. If the need arose, you would describe the milk bottle in terms of pints or litres, depending on whether it was an imperial or metric bottle. That's common sense, it already falls under the rule to give nominal/defined quantities in the original units first, and does not need a separate rule.
Regarding the hands, if it's the normal notation used to express horse heights in the English-speaking world, why is it positioned so that it seems to apply exclusively to the UK, and not even mentioned in the context of other Anglophone countries? That's a bit odd. Archon 2488 (talk) 11:22, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
Didn't know it was positioned only as a UK measurement; it's also the default in the USA and Australia. Montanabw(talk) 18:44, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

Please lend a hand[edit]

Since you horsey people have dropped in to visit, could you clarify something while you're here? At WP:Manual_of_Style/Dates_and_numbers#Specific_units it says "Hand... A dot followed by additional inches specifies intermediate heights." Can someone clarify that, maybe with an example (in addition to doing whatever needed, if anything, to incorporate the withering discussion here above)? EEng (talk) 15:15, 11 March 2014 (UTC)

I'll take a peek, may need rewording. See Hand (measurement).
What it means is that you have notation such as "16.1 hh", meaning a height of 16 hands and 1 inch (or 16.25 hands in decimal notation). It's not a decimal point, which is very confusing. My own feelings on the recommendation to use hands are somewhat mixed: I generally support having as the primary quantity the unit that is most used in the real world, even if it's otherwise quite unfamiliar (I'm not so persuaded by the "this might disadvantage our readers" argument, because that is why we provide conversions), but on the other "hand", it seems to me that Wikipedia should generally prefer SI units for most things, because they're the "gold standard" of international measurement.
Most people who aren't horse types would think about horses' heights in cm or inches, so conversions are provided to those units. This seems like a reasonable compromise. I don't think the hand notation should be primary in articles about (say) horse biology, but should be OK for racing horses etc. Archon 2488 (talk) 16:04, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
Horse heights would never be stated as "16.25" hands under any set of circumstances - the period is a radix point not a decimal point. If someone was wanting to explain to non-horse poeple they might say "16.1 hands of 65 inches" or if a horse was a half-inch between hand measurements, it might be 16.1-1/2 hands. Hands is used as a measurement in both sport and even in some general science/biology articles in English-language works, with the caveat that in certain types of studies, yes, centimeters might be used. But hands is the general default. We've been over and over this at least five times since I've been on wiki, in various contexts, and like other oddball measurements, such as the nautical mile, there are IAR exceptions all over the place, as below. WikiProject Equine has hashed this out pretty thoroughly, as noted above, mostly in our desire that whichever unit is preferred, that convert templates are used so that everyone gets it. We have been quite meticulous to be sure to use {{hands}} and its relatives to convert any hands measurements to both inches and centimeters, so all can understand. Montanabw(talk) 23:20, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
I know that "16.25 hands" is nonstandard, but if you're not very accustomed to the non-decimal arithmetic of imperial units, it's a bit more intuitive. Likewise with other imperial units: "16.25 miles" would more traditionally be rendered as "16 mi 440 yd" or "16 miles 2 furlongs", but most people understand the decimal notation much more readily, especially if they're more used to working with metric units. Archon 2488 (talk) 23:56, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
But completely incorrect and not to ever be used! For example, when surfing Craigslist for horses, a lot of people who try to sell a horse that is, say, 15.2 hands - i.e halfway between 15 and 16 hands - will advertise it in a decimal as "15.5 hands" which will get them labeled as a) a total idiot who knows nothing about horses, or b) a slimeball trying to pass off a 15.2 hand (62 inch) horse as one that is 16.1 hands (66 inches). Of course, these same people usually have ads that read something like "well-bread mare with gud confirmashun, 15.5 hands, we havnt riden her in 10 yrs but she likes to eat carrots and we kin ketch her 2x yr to trim her feets." So, do with that as you will (LOL) Montanabw(talk) 03:10, 12 March 2014 (UTC)


Thanks. For the record, I'm not interested in the argument about whether or where hand should be recommended/required, just making the table clear in its explanation of what the unit is. And also for the record, I don't know why I didn't just look in the article linked from the table. BTW, yes the use of the "point" is unfortunate, but then I've always thought that the American colon for time-of-day (3:05pm) makes much more sense than the more international 3.05pm, for the same reason. But then no one seems to have seriously suggested decimalizing time for some reason, so maybe time measurement has some kind of reform immunity. EEng (talk) 19:53, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
American baseball statistics use a similar faux decimal notation for innings pitched. Innings pitched are measured in thirds, since there are three outs per inning (per half-inning, really, but let's not get into that), so a pitcher who pitches seven full innings and gets one out in the eighth inning will be shown as having pitched "7 1/3" or "7.1" innings, depending on the style guide of the publication in question. – Jonesey95 (talk) 20:01, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
I don't know that 3.15 pm is a more international notation for times... everywhere I know of in the English-speaking world would use a colon, and the international date-time standard ISO 8601 mandates the use of the colon for hour-minute separation in times. Also, most parts of the world would prefer 24-hour time notation (most languages don't even have an equivalent of am/pm). So I'd say 15:15 would be the most international way of writing that time.
Decimal time has been proposed occasionally throughout history (most famously during the French revolution) but it never really caught on. Archon 2488 (talk) 20:09, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
(ec) The same happens for balls in an over in cricket. There are six balls to an over, so "11.5 overs" means 11 full overs and 5 balls. Kahastok talk 20:17, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
The French Revolution reference is particularly apt since it provides so many striking precedents for what we see at Talk_MOS -- calls for heads to be chopped off and so on.

It turns out the Tower of London is open "Tuesday - Saturday 09:00 - 16:30" but "The last Yeoman Warder tour starts at 14.30" so the jury seems still to be out even in that most English patch of the English-speaking world. Meanwhile the first weekday Bakerloo train leaves Elephant & Castle at "0537", so go figure.

Jonesey and Kahastok, please add all the baseball and cricket units to the table, working in Gunter's chain if you can.
EEng (talk) 20:48, 11 March 2014 (UTC)

Great examples! Montanabw(talk) 23:24, 11 March 2014 (UTC)
@Archon 2488: British-influenced West African nations seems to commonly use the 12-hour time with a point separator (e.g. "11.15pm"): GBC TV schedule (Ghana), GRTS schedule (The Gambia). French-influenced countries tend to use a 24-hour format with an 'h' (or 'H') as a separator (e.g. "23h15"): RTI (Côte d'Ivoire). In both cases, the part after the separator is in minutes, not decimal hours, as expected. —[AlanM1(talk)]— 00:53, 12 March 2014 (UTC)
I'm aware of the French "h" convention. I think the use of the period to separate hours and minutes is an older British notation, but you don't see so much of it any more in the UK (obviously, real-life usage isn't going to be so consistent, which is why I pointed to the ISO standard as a meaningful guide to international convention). Computers, for example, almost invariably use the colon. Archon 2488 (talk) 00:57, 12 March 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── @ EEng

The ones you chose were probably 50% of the incorrect usage.

@ all
As a copyditor working on a horse article for GOCE, I would use this process:

  • Is it about horses in general?
Yes, use MoS - refer to biology related horse projects for guidance on standard practices for height.
No, it's about olympic horse riding competition/steeplechasing/equine care - MoS & olympics projects discussions on horse measurement/use MoS & sports projects (horse racing) discussions/use MoS & horse riding/rearing projects for height.

As an aside, Londoners do NOT speak English ... "innit", "yeah man" and "call me a cab" are rarely used outside the "Big Smoke", where the terms "it is", "ok/sure/why not/yes/yup", and "call me a taxi" are more regularly used. Chaosdruid (talk) 23:18, 13 March 2014 (UTC)

Um, Chaosdruid, how about consulting WikiProject Equine for guidance? (smile) Hands is the default for measuring horse height across all wikipedia horse articles - biology, sport, or otherwise - and is standard in the English language unless there is some very compelling reason to measure height in some other fashion, such as, e.g. Miniature horse or something where there is a clear choice made to deviate from that standard. Montanabw(talk) 18:50, 14 March 2014 (UTC) (interesting about London - "init" is also slang in a lot of northwestern US Native American communities too!)
It isn't slang. It is dialect. There is no reason to denigrate the diversity of our language. RGloucester 19:16, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
You sir, are a cab! All the best, Rich Farmbrough, 22:35, 6 April 2014 (UTC).

Revisit: the use of "×" and "x" for indicating "by" in arrays and dimensions[edit]

From recent changes in various places in MOS, and a growing use of terms such as "4 × 4", "4×4", or "1920×1080" it appears the time has come to revisit the use of "×" and "x" when substituting for "by".

My understanding of the current consensus from reading the the various MOS pages (prior to the changes made in the last 36 hours) and reading through a few of the threads in the archives on this topic is that the consensus as of the last time this was discussed was:

  • "x" can be used as a substitute for "by", but only unspaced. Example: "1920x1080".
  • "×" can be used as a substitute for "by", but only if units are specified, and spaces must be used. Example: "1920 pixels × 1080 pixels". The primary concern expressed was the possible confusion by a naive reader of reading "×" as multiplication.

My personal interpretation of the consensus has been that "×" is acceptable in some other situations if the use in that instance has been explicitly defined as "by". Thus, in some editing situations I have let the use of "×" stand when a naive reader could not confuse the use of "×" with multiplication. Examples:

  1. Tables where the units were specified in the header but the actual text in the table did not have units (e.g. "1920 × 1200" where the header states "x (px) × y (px)".
  2. The four-wheel drive article uses "4×4", instead of 4x4. The use of "4×4" is clear in that article because it is explicitly stated in the first sentence of the article that "4×4" is being used in that manner within the article.

However, my interpretation in these instances is from reading the concerns expressed in the discussions of the issue, not the actual statement of the consensus.

Some of the history of earlier discussions on this issue is contained in the following archives:

I believe I recall reading at least one more longer discussion which I am just not finding right now. Search seems less effective than it used to be, or my search-fu is low.

The problems are (at least):

  • We have a significant number of articles which now use the "1920×1080", "1920 × 1080", and "1920 × 1080 pixel" formats.
  • We have some editors who prefer the "1920×1080" format, and some who prefer the "1920x1080" format. There have been times when articles have been changed back and forth between formats. It would be nice to have a bit more clarity.

The formats we currently have as acceptable are:

  1. "1920x1080"
  2. "1920 pixels × 1080 pixels"
  3. "1920 by 1080" (if no actual units), "1920 by 1080 pixels", and "1920 pixels by 1080 pixels"

Do we want to add additional acceptable formats? If so, which ones? — Makyen (talk) 13:07, 12 March 2014 (UTC)

Personally I'd gravitate towards using "x" (e.g. "1920x1080"), as display resolutions are not mathematical formulae (so WP:⋅ doesn't really apply). The pixel counts are generally not given for the purposes of multiplication, and are almost universally pronounced with "by", so "x" seems more appropriate. I'm not necessarily opposed to using × either, but it seems to me like the extra requirements for it (spaced and accompanied by a unit) would introduce extra maintenance overhead, whereas most people (especially novice editors) don't need to read guidelines to be able to correctly write "1920x1080".
So long as consistency within each article is maintained and change for the sake of change (like some recent edits) is discouraged, I'd be fine with sticking with the currently accepted formats as listed above. Indrek (talk) 13:31, 12 March 2014 (UTC)

I would prefer "×" in all cases. Although "1920 pixels × 1080 pixels" is not generally seen as a mathematical calculation, in essence, it is one: it describes a display consisting of 2,073,600 pixels, which is calculated by multiplying the numbers. That's what the symbol represents. It has no semantic meaning related to the letter "x"; it just happens that the graphic representations of these characters are so similar that "x" is commonly used for "×" (also because the former is easier to type), but strictly speaking, "×" is the correct symbol. It should be spaced, too, as with mathematical equations. sroc 💬 15:54, 12 March 2014 (UTC)
Agreed. "x" should only be used because you don't have font support for "×". It can be difficult to read, for one thing: "1920x1080" looks like one long number in my display font. Whenever I come across "x" I correct it, just as I correct double hyphens used as a shortcut for dashes. — kwami (talk) 22:02, 12 March 2014 (UTC)
Agreeing with sroc and kwami. Disagreeing with Makyen's examples (more in the edit history and user talk page) and I don't believe the MOS or consensus supports them.
However, to better guide good faith users such as Makyen in interpreting the MOS I suggest we add clarification in the following four areas:

1) An example should point out that statements such as "1920 × 1080" re display resolutions do in fact imply multiplication whether you are interested in calculating the resulting total number or not, therefore "×" is the correct symbol.
2) There must be nothing to confuse editors to believe that just because something is pronounced "by" there is no multiplication and therefore somehow letter "x" would be ok. The unfortunate "4x4" drivetrain example has had that effect. If that example is to survive, we may need to emphasize its word "may" and its restriction "common terms".
3) Regarding units, I believe "1920 × 1080 pixels" is correct and in fact preferable to "1920 pixels × 1080 pixels". I don't consider it analogous to examples such as "2 in × 4 in" because a pixel is an inherently two-dimensional physical entity and its counts in a graphics array are simple dimensionless numbers which therefore themselves don't have units.
I suggest we avoid unreasonable interpretations of the MOS's statement that "[w]hen the multiplication sign is used, each number should be followed by a unit name or symbol" by adding something like "unless a number indicates a simple count (which is dimensionless, i.e. inherently has no unit)" and at least one example such as:
* "The multiplication table says 5 × 5 = 25"
* "She walked 7 km 12 times. Therefore she walked 12 × 7 km = 84 km"
* "The display uses pixels arranged in an array of 1920 columns and 1080 rows. The display resolution can be calculated with the formula: 1920 × 1080 pixels = 2,073,600 pixels (around 2 megapixels)"
* "Each tile measures 2 ft × 2 ft = 4 sq ft. If you arrange them in a 2 × 3  rectangle you cover 2 × 3 × 4 sq ft = 24 sq ft"
4) Re spaces surrounding "×", I personally believe they should be used where they make formulae more readable but they shouldn't be strictly required. They should be optional in a compact context such as "The LCD shows 2×16 characters of 8×8 pixels". (And a minor benefit is not risking editors forget to use nonbreaking spaces.) I do however agree that spaces should be explicitly forbidden if the unfortunate "4x4" drive train example is to remain because otherwise they would break that up so that it is no longer a "common term", but we may need clarification that that is not to be read as to use the letter "x" if you don't want to use spaces, which someone may have beleived.WinTakeAll (talk) 00:25, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
Agreed, except that I would use much simpler examples:
"a 1080×720-pixel screen",
"a 2×3 rectangle" (or "two-by-three rectangle").
As for mandating multiple tokens of the unit, consider {{val}}, which departs from ISO standards by not repeating the unit. That template is used in physics and astronomy articles, where you might expect people to get uptight about units. We even had a big argument over an unrelated issue that focused a good amount of attention on how it formats numbers and units. At 4 Vesta, for example, we give the dimensions as
(572.6 × 557.2 × 446.4) ± 0.2 km.
If a little common sense is okay there, it should be okay here.
We might want to think about the spacing a bit. Spacing is clearly beneficial to legibility in equations and examples like Vesta. However, when used attributively, they become a problem, because we can't use hyphens and it starts getting confusing where the attributive phrase begins. Imagine:
? "a 2 × 3 rectangle" [Seems like an oversimplification. Would need expansion e.g. to "a 2 × 3 rectangle of tiles" to point out there are no units of length. -WinTakeAll]
? "a 1080 × 720-pixel screen" (or should that be "a 1080 × 720–pixel screen" with an en dash?)
That is, "4×4" without spaces is equivalent to "four-by-four" with hyphens: Both strategies bind the phrase together so that it's obvious what is modifying what. — kwami (talk) 00:39, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
Multiple comments here have demonstrated one of the reasons I have serious concerns about the use of "×" in these abbreviated formats. The concern is that when "×" is used multiple possible interpretations exist for the text. Even sophisticated readers have an increased tendency to conflate the possible meanings being represented. Multiple people above have stated that "1920 pixels * 1080 pixels display" is also talking about multiplication. It is most certainly not talking about multiplication (an action), it is talking about display containing a 2 dimensional, rectangular array of pixels (an object). The fact that you can use multiplication (action) to determine another property of the array, the total number of pixels, is just how it works, but the multiplication (action) and the array (object) are two very separate things. Overloading the use of "×" for "by" blurs that distinction. It is quite possible to be talking about one and not the other. In fact, I believe it to be much more prevalent to be talking only about one interpretation rather than both at the same time. Using "×" in both manners adds ambiguity when doing so is just not needed and the added ambiguity makes it inappropriate.
My personal opinion is:
  • Neither "x" nor "×" should be generally used in this manner in prose, or where space is not at a premium. Using a spaced "×" instead of "by" saves all of one character. The cost of the ambiguity is not worth it. "By" should be used in almost all cases.
  • The use of whatever abbreviated format(s) we decide upon should be considered for use only:
  • In locations where space is at a premium. For example, some tables.
  • When a large number of such objects are being referred to throughout the text. The use of an alternate format can make the text flow and read smoother in some cases.
As to formats: I tend to use an unspaced "x", mostly out of long habit. However, having thought about it quite a bit, I prefer the unspaced "x" because it leaves no ambiguity as to what is being referred. "1920x1080" is not confused with multiplication. Is it the best possible solution? No. It would be nice if there was a specific character which had as its only use to mean the separation of two numeric values in the description of an array or dimension. Unfortunately, there is not such a character.
I agree that "1920x1080" does not visually separate the numbers as well as "1920×1080" does. I just don't think that the extra visual appeal of "1920×1080" justifies the potential ambiguity introduced by the use of the "×" character. In situations where the format has been clearly stated to be representing something other than multiplication, I do not have a problem with it. My original post has two examples of that type of situation. The problem is that we are defining a style that will be used throughout the English Wikipedia. We can not control each instance where a format will be used to be sure that the writer has provided enough extra explanatory material to make it clear as to what is being represented by a format that has multiple potential interpretations, which are often all reasonably valid interpretations of the text when read by a naive reader.
@WinTakeAll: As to your arguments wrt. my misinterpretation of what MOS currently states and the consensus behind those words: I believe you are wrong. I suggest that you actually read the discussions linked in the original post to see the discussion which went on to form the current consensus. While you do so, I would hope that you set aside your current point of view and try to understand the conversations without bias. My point of view is that you have made statements in various places that directly contradict the very explicit text and examples contained on the MOS pages, and you have tried to make changes to those pages because they do not say what you want them to. However, continuing a discussion as to my, your, or anyone's understanding of the current consensus is not as productive a use of our time as might be possible. We have begun a discussion from which will, hopefully, arise a consensus which we can use moving forward until such time as it is appropriate to revisit it again.
— Makyen (talk) 02:19, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
To sum up: Does anyone share Makyen's POV that "1920x1080" is preferable to "1920×1080" for reasons of disambiguation? I don't.
Can we remove the "4x4" drive train example used to promote letter "x" for other cases of "m-by-n"? After all, the consensus on its page is clearly to write it "4×4", never mind that it is quite a confused term on its own. -WinTakeAll (talk) 06:57, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
I agree that for disambiguation purposes the letter "x" is a better choice, and disagree with User:WinTakeAll that multiplication is the implied purpose of listing pixel counts. Yes, the total number of pixels can be useful, depending on the context, but in such cases it is always given explicitly, in appropriate units (e.g. megapixels), precisely because readers are not meant to multiply the pixel counts themselves.
If you think about it, dividing the pixel counts is just as useful an operation as multiplication (to determine the aspect ratio), but that doesn't mean we should start writing resolutions as "1920/1080" or "1920÷1080".
I don't think that readability is much of an issue with common fonts. Maybe if the letter "x" was uppercase ("1920X1080"), but a lowercase "x" is a pretty clear delimiter.
As for the "4x4" example, are we sure it refers to the type of drivetrain? I was sure I read somewhere (possibly by User:Makyen) that it was originally meant to describe pixel arrays. Even if the example does refer to a drivetrain, then I think it should stay and the article be updated instead, because in that case there is even less reason to use the multiplication sign than with display resolutions, because the result of the multiplication (16) is not even a useful number (a 4x4 car does not have 16 wheels). See also Tractor unit, which uses "x" to describe drivetrain configurations.
Indrek (talk) 07:34, 13 March 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Thanks for your comments. I believe they are wrong on the following points:

"disambiguation purposes": There is no disambiguation because "x" and "×" are used all over the place to mean the same—multiplication. However the former is not supported by MOS since it is incorrect. (Although it is a tolerated approximation in cases outside of WP where "×" is unavailable, such as US ASCII constrained text files or old mechanical typewriters.)

"disagree with ... that multiplication is the implied purpose of listing pixel counts": It is, because the definition of a pixel based device's resolution is tied to its total count of pixels. A pixel resolution is considered higher than another if it has a higher total count of pixels, which you get to by multiplying.

"total number of pixels can be useful ... but in such cases it is always given explicitly ... (e.g. megapixels): It is very often not given explicitly. There are countless examples such "the new model's resolution is quadrupled—from 320×480 to 640×960"

"dividing the pixel counts is just as useful ... as multiplication": Dividing is not useful for specifying resolution; it is however useful for specifying aspect ratios but that is beyond the scope of this discussion. "1280×800" is not the same resolution as "1440×900" just because they share the same aspect ratio of 1.6.

"don't think that readability is much of an issue with common fonts": It is. "×" visibly separates numbers much better than "x" in every font because it is positioned differently and uses a different line stroke than numbers. Particularly valuable in fonts with text figures such as Georgia, WP's standard example font (part of Core fonts for the Web), cf. 32x24 vs 32×24. But even if the "x" or any other symbol did happen to better separate the numbers, I wouldn't use that to justify an incorrect notation.

"are we sure it refers to the type of drivetrain": Yes we are because that's where the editor has linked it and because of the mention of "common terms such as 4x4". The myriads of resolutions out there aren't common terms, and a tiny resolution of 4×4 pixels would have been a poor choice of one to use as an example. -WinTakeAll (talk) 08:51, 13 March 2014 (UTC)

There is no disambiguation because "x" and "×" are used all over the place to mean the same—multiplication. That is clearly not the case, as the "four-by-four" example demonstrates. There is ambiguity, which should be resolved by not using the multiplication sign where multiplication is not intended. The main issue, then, is whether or not multiplication is intended when describing display resolutions (or pixel-based devices in general).
It is, because the definition of a pixel based device's resolution is tied to its total count of pixels. Incorrect. The resolution of a pixel-based device is defined by the number of distinct pixels in each dimension (see display resolution), not the total pixel count. For instance, 480x250 and 400x300 are distinct resolutions, despite having the same total pixel count (120000). Ditto for 1600x768 vs. 1280x960, and probably more.
Dividing is not useful for specifying resolution I didn't say it was, I simply said that it was useful, period. We shouldn't assume that multiplying the pixel counts is the default operation when division is just as useful and common (arguably even more common, at least with display devices). My point was that "1920x1080" doesn't (and shouldn't) specify a mathematical operation of 1920 × 1080 anymore that it specifies a mathematical operation of 1920 ÷ 1080.
It is. "×" visibly separates numbers much better than "x" in every font because it is positionened higher than numbers. Oh, I agree that "×" is a slightly better separator. What I was saying was that "x" is good enough.
Yes we are because that's where the editor has linked it and because of the mention of "common terms such as 4x4". Fair enough, I guess. The rest of my point still stands, though, with regards to not using the multiplication sign in that particular case.
Indrek (talk) 09:56, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
The original discussion in which the 4x4 example was generated is the first link I provided to the history of this discussion. The first sentence, written by SandyGeorgia includes "...we find: Sprites can be 8x8, 16x16, 32x32, or 64x64 pixels, ... is that correct and is it covered?" The "4x4" example comes into the thread slightly later and is unspecified as to its intended meaning. However, the paragraph in which it is located talks mainly about wood (e.g. 2x4, 4x6).
@WinTakeAll: Your logic that the fact "4x4" is linked to the Four-wheel drive article is proof that "4x4" is supposed to mean "drive train" in this instance is flawed. Among other flaws, it rests on the assumption that text "4x4" was linked by the original editor to the Four-wheel drive. People add links to articles all the time; often just because that person thinks of an association, not because the specific text actually is intended to mean what is then linked to. The text "4x4" was originally entered on 30 July 2007. It existed on the project page not linked for 6.5 years until linked 2 days ago on 11 March 2014 by EEng. So, yes, to EEng, who is also the person who changed the wording to "conventional terms" from "terms", the text "4x4" is associated with drive trains. However, using similar logic to yours, then the converse must be true and the fact that it was not linked for 6.5 years – throughout which time the 4x4 redirect page did exist and could have been linked – means that it it was certainly not intended to mean drive trains, or at least not to be limited to that.
@WinTakeAll: Two requests: First, please do not put new comments within other people's posts on the same line as their text. It borders on editing the posts of someone else which is seriously frowned upon. Second, please do not edit your own posts, even to make grammar or spelling corrections, after they have been replied to by others without indicating that the post has been changed. While the changes you made to your own post(s) here were not that significant, you have made such changes more extensively elsewhere. There are some good reasons to edit your own posts. WP:REDACT has a list of such reasons, and suggestions how to make such edits. I would suggest you read all of WP:TALK.
Prior to this conversation, I was almost ambivalent as to possibly changing over to using "×". This conversation has convinced me that its use as a separator in text describing two dimensional rectangular arrays helps generate confusion which is significantly more widespread than I previously believed. It is clear that this confusion exists and is detrimental. In order to reduce this confusion, I would strongly prefer to not use "×" at all for this purpose (perhaps continuing its use in the fully spaced and with both units version). The additional cost of, at most, 3 characters per instance to use the full, spaced "1920 by 1080" format is trivial when compared to the ambiguity introduced, and increased confusion generated by the use of "×" for this purpose. This cost of 3 characters assumes the the unspaced "x" format is eventually deemed unacceptable, if it is acceptable, then the benefit of using "×" is either one to three characters, or slightly enhanced readability. None of those benefits outweighs the cost in ambiguity and confusion. — Makyen (talk) 11:24, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
  • For what it's worth, I prefer "×" in all cases on Wikipedia. The "x" is shorthand for "×" in contexts where it cannot be generated (typewriters, marquees, ads where the "×", even if available, would be misread by the typesetter, etc.). The ambiguity is minimal. In other words: Unspaced "x" represents unspaced "×"; it's acceptable for entry, but should be repoaced by bot. Spaced "x" is unacceptable. Spaced or unspaced "×" is acceptable. Spaced "by" is usually acceptable. I would like to see evidence than anyone except Makyen is confused. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 18:24, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
  • It's worth noting that "x" is widely used for specifying resolutions of pixel-based devices outside of Wikipedia - tech news and reviews, spec sheets for displays and image sensors, and so on. In many of those cases I don't think the argument that "×" is unavailable or inconvenient holds water, as similar special symbols (e.g. superscript numbers or non-Latin letters) are also used. The fact seems to be that "x" is acceptable in a lot of contexts, it isn't just "shorthand that should be replaced". I'm not saying that Wikipedia necessarily needs to follow the herd, so to speak, but at the very least I think it allows us to discard any remaining concerns about the legibility of "x" as a separator, given the wide variety of fonts and text sizes it's been used in, apparently with no problems whatsoever. Indrek (talk) 09:37, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
  • @Sroc: "Anyway, the argument that we could easily use "m÷n pixels" because it can be useful (in determining aspect ratio) is invalid because that's not how people specify resolution (which is the intended meaning of "m×n pixels" in the real world)." (Responding here because the below subsection where you posted this is hopelessly derailed.) I wasn't actually suggesting that we should write resolutions using the division sign (indeed, I explicitly stated that this shouldn't be done), I was just pointing out that just because we can multiply the numbers doesn't mean we must use the multiplication sign. In fact, by your own logic, we shouldn't use the multiplication sign, because "that's not how people specify resolution" - the most commonly used symbol is the lowercase letter "x". Yes, you can argue that "x" is just a convenient shorthand for "×" (debatable), but at the very most that's an argument for using "×", not against using "x". Personally, I would argue that "x" is shorthand for "by" and there are cases where it doesn't necessarily mean multiplication. Drivetrain configurations like the oft-mentioned "4x4" are a good example (clearly a 4x4 vehicle does not have 4 × 4 wheels), and I see no reason why resolutions of pixel-based devices couldn't also be considered such. After all, as I've explained above, resolution is defined by pixel counts in each dimension, not their product. In other words, it's the individual numbers that matter, and the primary purpose of the symbol between them is to visually separate the numbers (of which "x" is doing a good enough job). Any mathematical operations that the symbol might imply and that might yield a useful result are of secondary importance at best. Indrek (talk) 21:58, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
  • See also Wiktionary where the applicable definition (13) of "by" is "Used to separate dimensions when describing the size of something" (emphasis mine). TheFreeDictionary and Dictionary.com also give essentially the same definition (12b and 18, respectively), and distinguish this use from mathematical operations like multiplication and division. Resolutions are read with simply "by", e.g. "nineteen-twenty by ten-eighty", not "nineteen-twenty multiplied by ten-eighty". Indrek (talk) 22:07, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
@Indrek: "Yes, you can argue that 'x' is just a convenient shorthand for '×' (debatable), but at the very most that's an argument for using '×', not against using 'x'." That is, in fact, what I argued. It is evident that "×" is the correct symbol in cases of "m × n pixels" and "4 × 4" because it is derived from the concept of multiplication, even if it is not directly advising the reader to multiply the numbers. Indeed, Multiplication sign#Uses states:
In mathematics, the symbol × (read as times or multiplied by) is primarily used to denote the
  • Multiplication of two numbers
  • Cross product of two vectors
  • Cartesian product of two sets
  • Geometric dimension of an object, such as noting that a room is 10 feet × 12 feet in area, where it is usually read as "by" (for example: "10 feet by 12 feet")
  • Dimensions of a matrix
Conversely, I have yet to see any argument that the letter "x" has any semantic or etymological relation to such uses, other that the glpyhs looking similar. I have read no cogent argument why "x" is preferable to "×" other than being easier to type.
Similarly, Merriam-Webster's definition of "by" states:
10 —used as a function word in multiplication, in division, and in measurements <divide a by b> <multiply 10 by 4> <a room 15 feet by 20 feet>
Thus, it is clear that the "by" in "m by n pixels" and "4 by 4" is indeed related to multiplication and that measurement dimensions are treated in the same way as multiplication. sroc 💬 04:44, 15 March 2014 (UTC)
"Thus, it is clear that the "by" in "m by n pixels" and "4 by 4" is indeed related to multiplication and that measurement dimensions are treated in the same way as multiplication." I've explained multiple times that the "by" in terms like "four-by-four" is in fact not related to multiplication. If you disagree, kindly explain in what way is the product of that multiplication (4 × 4 = 16) related to four-wheel-drive. Likewise, a 6x4 tractor unit is supposed to have 24 of what, exactly?
Also, we have two sources distinguishing use for array dimensions from use for multiplication/division, one source not distinguishing them, and one not even mentioning multiplication/division. I wouldn't exactly call that situation "clear". But thanks for the Merriam-Webster link.
As for reasons to prefer (or at least allow) "x"? A) It's what people actually use to denote resolutions (an important consideration, by your own admission); B) it's just as easy to read as "×"; and C) it's not subject to the same strict requirements as "×" (which needs to be spaced and each number followed by a unit). And yes, of course that it's easier to type. To clarify, as far as resolutions are concerned, I'm not arguing that "×" is incorrect and should be forbidden. It was primarily Makyen who expressed concerns about using "×", and that's a subject I'd like to see addressed in a bit more detail. But those concerns notwithstanding, my opinion (as I've stated above) is that both "x" and "×" are OK, so long as consistency within each article is maintained. Getting the ambiguities in the various MOS pages cleared up would also be nice. Indrek (talk) 08:17, 15 March 2014 (UTC)
Regarding 6x4 tractors and such, I think that this represents an evolution in language. Originally, "by" was used for dimensions, in rooms, lumber, arrays and probably other things where it made sense to multiply the numbers to get an area (square feet or square yards, etc.) or number of elements (arrays). As time passed and the use of "x", and later "×" to mean "(multiply) by", became solidly embedded in the language, only then did newer uses (multiplied-by) to describe the number of drive axles or drive wheels on tractors came into use. I'd be interested to know when this usage for drive-wheels started. Wbm1058 (talk) 14:02, 15 March 2014 (UTC)

No one gives a shit[edit]

This is a typical Talk:MOS waste of time and brainpower. In nailing a 2x4 or driving a 4x4 an alphabetic x is just fine—everyone knows what it means and how it would be read out, because these are conventional ways for writing such things. Trying to legislate such usage away is spitting in the wind, and is just another opportunity for editors to busy themselves making trivial "corrections" all over the place while tsk-tsking at people who actually dare to contribute content prior to crowding their brains MOS' minute hyperprescriptions.

Other than that I will only say that no one's going to be confused or misled by any of these formats, nor is there any grammatical or mathematical blunder, by which WP's reputation might be besmirched, to be avoided here. Arguing about whether a mathematical operation is implied is ridiculous. The choice of format is a matter of aesthetics, and it matters little if different articles adopt different formats, though each article should be internally consistent. The endash-emdash (or is it endash–emdash?) guideline (WP:EMDASH) is the right analogy here.

The problem with these conversations is that they are so bloated, relative to the importance of the issue at hand, that all are dissuaded from participating except obsessed zealots, who after endless arguing come up with some convoluted prescription everyone else ignores. No one gives a shit.

EEng (talk) 14:56, 13 March 2014 (UTC)

Modifying final comment: I should have said No one else (i.e. other than the obsessed zealots) gives a shit. EEng (talk) 19:04, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
Please don't use bad language. My view is that the use of the proper mathematical symbol should be maximised. Apart from other reasons expressed above, it looks better. Tony (talk) 15:07, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
Please don't fuss about "good" or "bad" language. You seem to recognize that this question is, at least to a large degree, just a matter of taste, so I say again that WP:EMDASH is the right model. EEng (talk) 15:27, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
@EEng: The thing is, you clearly "give a shit". If you did not care significantly about this then you would not have changed the wording on the project page from "terms" to "conventional terms" and made the change bold. It is ridiculous to harangue other people in the manner you have done above when your intentional actions – not just a copy & paste – clearly indicate that you have a stake in this issue. — Makyen (talk) 01:12, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
I inserted conventional to clarify the use of alphabetic x in writing names of things which are, well, conventionally spoken as "something-by-something" -- two-by-four lumber, three-by-five file cards, etc., which I thought was the intention of the guideline. I added the bold because -- as even a brief review of the edit history will show -- I've been bolding key phrases systematically, throughout the page, to make it easier for editors to locate the guideline on any particular point. That you are able to infuse such innocent changes with dark and malignant motives adds to the impression of paranoid alarmism warned of by Wbm1058 below. EEng (talk) 04:49, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
EEng, I have never thought you have had dark and malignant motives. I don't believe anyone around here has dark and malignant motives. I have thought, multiple times, the work you've done is excellent and that you have put in a huge amount of time and effort, which has been less than fully appreciated.
If the specific changes at issue had not been used as the basis of, and reason for, propagating changes by others elsewhere, or used as the basis for arguments (above), I would have had no problem with them. Frankly, I did not think about those changes much until WinTakeAll started using the exact wording and emphasis (linking) as a basis for arguments (above, and on my talk page). I certainly did not, and do not, believe you had any motive beyond improving Wikipedia. My mentioning that the changes had been made recently was not intended to have anything to do with it being you that had made the changes, only that the changes were recent, days, and had not had enough time pass to indicate that they were so firmly a part of the consensus that the details changed should be used as the basis for arguing that other changes should be made. [NOTE: exactly such an argument was made above (the meaning of "4x4" being linked), and the argument accepted by another editor.]
Frankly, my assumption had been that the changes you made were basically for the reasons you detail above – bolding for convenience, etc. – and that they were not intended to change the meaning. My issue was not with you or your changes. My issue was with someone else using the specific details in your changes, which had been made with no intent to change meaning, as the basis for arguments.
Perhaps I should not have mention you by name as the editor who happened to make those changes. At the time, I did state you as the author of the changes because I did not feel it appropriate to reference the change without giving attribution.
Reading parts of what I wrote over again, it does appear that my tendency to be overly verbose led to too much text indicating you as the contributor. It should have been trimmed prior to saving. I also realize now, that I used you as the subject in a rhetorical argument intended to show the fallacies in the original argument based on the fact that "4x4" was linked. I'm sorry about doing so. I should have kept your name out of any involvement in that.
On the other hand, I did feel your statement that begins this section, and your titling the section "No one gives a shit" was beyond what was appropriate in its tone, although I understand the sentiment. Perhaps my reaction above to the tone of both of those was a bit strong, and for that I apologize. — Makyen (talk) 09:11, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
And I apologize as well, but you gotta compress your posts or people are going to judge you, in advance, as crazy -- TLDR. I suggest you take a long break, then start over with a simple, short-as-possible post. EEng (talk) 12:50, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
@EEng: As you suggested, I have taken a month-long break from this discussion. I will attempt to make my responses less verbose to meet your, and others, concepts of what a response should be. However, I would suggest that you allow more variation into your preconceived notions of what a response should be in order to accommodate a wider variety of writing styles on on the part of other editors. — Makyen (talk) 00:25, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
Even in expressing future personal resolve, appertaining to determination to eschew excessively verbose expression of technical opinions/positions, the prior writer (just above, ultimate to this missive) nonetheless achieves and managemes to addenduate in a manner unappreciable moderated in prior-mentioned verbosity.
It's not a preconceived notion, Makyen. It's a postconceived notion, borne of years of WP discussion: people won't read long, overwrought arguments about minor issues. EEng (talk) 02:05, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
Nice 8-).
@EEng:, there is a big difference between saying "people won't read it" and "judging you as crazy". I understand there is a issue with respect to "people won't read it". We all have a point where we just don't read something because it is too long.
However, I was talking about the point at which you were "judging [someone] as crazy". There is a wide variation in how people express themselves. I was suggesting that you not prejudge someone as "crazy" based on the length of their posts at quite the point you implied.
I am going to try to make my posts shorter. I hope I will be successful, and that it helps. — Makyen (talk) 05:00, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
@Makyen: For what it's worth, I don't have a problem with reading longer posts. And, I suspect, neither do many others who have managed to participate in this discussion without resorting to expletives and childish histrionics. If that makes me an obsessed zealot, then so be it. I'd encourage you to leave this particular subsection alone so that those who profess not to give a shit can continue to do so without the distraction of other editors trying to reach a consensus. Indrek (talk) 13:03, 20 April 2014 (UTC)
The problem is that, while the great silent majority don't give a shit about what x is used, they do give a shit about being clubbed over the head later by the zealot-developed micromanagement provision insisting that this trivial thing be done some particular way -- we care about not have one more thing to worry about. Some things are too trivial to warrant a long discussion and resulting rule. As with endash-emdash, in-article consistency is enough. EEng (talk) 15:27, 20 April 2014 (UTC)
The problem is ... being clubbed over the head later by the zealot-developed micromanagement provision insisting that this trivial thing be done some particular way No, the problem is joining the discussion with a preconceived notion regarding its end result and then berating people for it.
That aside, if it's your opinion that in-article consistency is enough and no rules prescribing the use of one symbol over another are necessary or even desirable (a position I agree with, BTW), then please, feel free to voice that opinion in the #Change proposal section. Be sure to mention the great silent majority, because the small vocal minority in that section currently seem to favour "insisting that this trivial thing be done some particular way". Hope to hear from you there. Indrek (talk) 16:25, 20 April 2014 (UTC)
I am in the same line as EEng. Clear wording notwithstanding. FeatherPluma (talk) 01:15, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
  • I give a shit. ISO provides good, authoritative guidance on style and there is no reason to go against it in WP's house style. × is ×. Not x. Tony (talk) 07:45, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
As I said earlier: The problem with these conversations is that they are so bloated, relative to the importance of the issue at hand, that all are dissuaded from participating except obsessed zealots, who after endless arguing come up with some convoluted prescription everyone else ignores. No one [else] gives a shit. If I may say, my crystal ball has told truly. And see my next comment immediately below. EEng (talk) 19:04, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
  • I give a shit. ISO provides good, authoritative guidance on style and there is no reason to go against it in WP's house style. 1 MB is 106 B. Not 10242 B. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 16:35, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
What could prove my point (just above) better than that, apparently, Dondervogel has so lost his way, in this miasmic labyrinth, that he thinks we're discussing that perennial thorn, the Mega-means-what conundrum. Sorry, D, wrong section -- this is the when-is-an-x-not-an-x inquisition. EEng (talk) 19:04, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
You have completely missed my point, which was perhaps not clearly made, so let me repeat the same point with less cryptic language. ISO Standards, without exception, follow a peer review process out of which they must emerge with the support of a broad consensus of experts. Without that broad support they do not see the light of day. This is completely the opposite with Wikipedia, which can be (and is) edited by all and sundry. That's not a bad thing - on the contrary, it is WP's great strength - but it is something that mosnum should bear in mind very carefully every time an ignoramus chooses to knock the advice of ISO. I am not saying that WP should follow all ISO standards blindly, because not all ISO standards are applicable. But when there is an applicable ISO standard, there needs to be a very clear and broad consensus on WP to *not* follow that standard. I do not see that clear and broad consensus here, and that is why I support Tony's point of view. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 12:14, 20 April 2014 (UTC)
You mean like the ignoramuses (ignorami?) at ANSI describing here [4] how they decide the extent to which they do/don't use ISO material in their own standards. Even ISO itself ([5] - "Are standards mandatory") says modestly, "A number of ISO standards - mainly those concerned with health, safety or the environment - have been adopted in some countries as part of their regulatory framework, or are referred to in legislation..." -- hardly evidence that all but the ignorant adopt ISO standards unquestioningly. You're sure you understand we're talking about what x to use, right, not the color codes on the nuclear power plant emergency switches? EEng (talk) 15:16, 20 April 2014 (UTC)
ISO is not in a position to mandate any of its standards. Only legislators can do that. I am not advocating the unquestioning adoption of any standard. What mosnum can (and should) do is adopt ISO standards where appropriate, and not otherwise. Of course ISO standards should be questioned. If having questioned them they are considered suitable, that is when they should be followed. What is a sign of ignorance is not to adopt or not adopt, but to so (either way) unquestioningly. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 15:40, 20 April 2014 (UTC)
You said there better be a broad consensus if we're not gonna follow ISO -- so ISO is the default? As someone said, let's drop this line of inquiry, but please, think about CREEP. Is this really a problem that needs fixing? That's a rhetorical question -- please don't answer. EEng (talk) 16:03, 20 April 2014 (UTC)

Disagree with Makyen, the originator of this discussion[edit]

  • "Even sophisticated readers have an increased tendency to conflate the possible meanings being represented. Multiple people above have stated that "1920 pixels * 1080 pixels display" is also talking about multiplication. It is most certainly not talking about multiplication (an action), it is talking about display containing a 2 dimensional, rectangular array of pixels (an object). The fact that you can use multiplication (action) to determine another property of the array, the total number of pixels, is just how it works, but the multiplication (action) and the array (object) are two very separate things. Overloading the use of "×" for "by" blurs that distinction. It is quite possible to be talking about one and not the other. In fact, I believe it to be much more prevalent to be talking only about one interpretation rather than both at the same time. Using "×" in both manners adds ambiguity when doing so is just not needed and the added ambiguity makes it inappropriate." Please. You have taken something relatively simple, that I thought even most "Randys" understood, and just twisted it up so much that my mind is spinning. You're insisting on creating a significant and important distinction where no relevant or material distinction actually exists.
  • Does "1920 pixels by 1080 pixels" mean "1920 pixels in close proximity to 1080 pixels, as in "by" meaning nearby? Wouldn't using an × avoid that confusion?
  • The unspaced "x" indeed leaves no ambiguity as to what is being referred. "1920x1080" is not confused with multiplication. 1920x1080 is clearly a model number (and the next generation of that product has model number 1920y1080).
  • I do not believe that your interpretation of the only three currently acceptable formats is correct. Perhaps all three of your examples may be acceptable, but none of them are ideal in certain contexts and usage.
  • If you push on this issue too hard, you risk gaining a reputation similar Apteva's regarding hyphens and dashes, where "Hyphens can be used for initial entry of any of the above, and replacement with a more precise form may be done by other subsequent editors. Disrupting Wikipedia to constantly complain about the consensus for the more precise forms can be annoying." Here I might say that "by" and "x" may be used for initial entry of array dimensions, and replacement with "×" may be done by other subsequent editors. Disrupting Wikipedia to constantly complain about the consensus for "×" can be annoying. – Wbm1058 (talk) 16:20, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Is the "by" in "4×4" or "2×4" etymologically derived from "multiplied by"? Anyway, the argument that we could easily use "m÷n pixels" because it can be useful (in determining aspect ratio) is invalid because that's not how people specify resolution (which is the intended meaning of "m×n pixels" in the real world).
If a preference is to be stated, it should be for "×" over "x". It is a matter for consensus to determine whether both forms should be permitted, although I note that MOS:MINUS (the link is currently broken) [link fixed] requires that &minus; be used rather than a hyphen or en dash, which is nothing new although there are good reasons for this which were previously stated and have recently been deleted. sroc 💬 22:27, 13 March 2014 (UTC)
I started this discussion because I desired we end up with the project page not explicitly excluding text that has become common on article pages. Currently, the project page explicitly excludes using the symbol "×" to specify dimensions without using units on all numbers. It says so very explicitly and gives examples of wrong ways of writing dimensions. I routinely see editors entering such text, and some editors specifically going through articles changing them to using such text.
Frankly, I did not care if the issue of pages using formats explicitly not permitted was resolved by changing the project page, or by changing the text on article pages. EEng made a change in February to the text on the project page from "Dimensions may be given using the" to "Length-width-height–type dimensions may use the" which at least opens up the possibility of arguing that the specification is only to apply when three dimensions are given. NOTE: I don't recall seeing any discussion on the talk page regarding limiting the guideline on dimensions to only "Length-width-height–type dimensions". From what I recall from looking at the archives, such limitation was certainly not part of the original consensus.
In my initial post, I attempted to be neutral to the issue, and only describe what discussions had gone before and what the project page explicitly states. My goal was, and is, to engender discussion on the issue and eventually reach a consensus.
However, when two of the first four people to respond to the thread effectively said that describing an array was multiplication, I started to be concerned. Describing an array and multiplication are two very different things. Multiplication can be used to determine properties of the array, but it is not the array itself. I don't know if the use of the multiplication symbol to separate the dimensions of the array is contributing to this impression on their, and probably other peoples, part or not. However, it does seem like it would contribute to the lack of distinction between the object and the action which has been expressed above. The hope of not having the distinction between these two become even more blurred for more people is what has me leaning in the direction of being against using "×" as a separator in describing dimensions/arrays.
I interpret a variety of comments from other editors to indicate that they believe I am rabidly for using "x" over "×". I am not. I am not sure what has given that impression. Do I personally use, "x" over "×"? Yes. Do I, now, think that using "×" has potential negative consequences that outweighs the visual benefit from using it? Yes. Am I rabidly one way, or the other? No.
@Wbm1058: Your making the statement: "Disrupting Wikipedia to constantly complain about the consensus for "×" can be annoying" and putting it in a section that has a heading title with my user name implies that you believe I am disrupting Wikipedia when talking about consensus. I don't believe that I am, or have ever, disrupted Wikipedia. If you could point out some specific examples where I have disrupted Wikipedia so I can see where that is the case and modify my behavior, I would appreciate it. If there are actually any such cases, I would prefer that you do so on my talk page rather than here, but if you feel it more appropriate to do do so here, then go ahead. I really am not sure to what you are referring, and I would like to know. Is it that you have an issue with my being conscientious enough to take the time to find, and read, the old discussions so I could get an idea about what consensus was actually reached in prior discussions rather than blindly assuming I know exactly what was intended from looking at very little information?
WP:CONS says "Consensus refers to the primary way decisions are made on Wikipedia". Let's all try to continue this process of forming a new consensus without straying into arguments which begin to border on personal attacks. — Makyen (talk) 03:12, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
I didn't occur to me that anyone would be idiotic enough to interpret the phrase Length-width-height–type dimensions as excluding e.g. length-width-depth or length-width (only) or similar things. Again, your rabid hysteria is beginning to sound really crazy. Anyway, I've added further examples for the avoidance of doubt. EEng (talk) 04:49, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
(edit conflict)When a couple of editors I respect say what I am doing is "disruptive", or "rabid hysteria" which is sounding "really crazy" it is certainly time for me to step back and try to figure out what it is I am doing which is objectionable. I will do so.
Prior to doing so, I feel I should try to correct what appears to be a significant error on my part:
EEng, I agree, it did not naturally occur to me that someone would believe the phase Length-width-height–type dimensions was intended to restrict the guideline.
The comments with respect to 2D vs 3D notation were not intended to be public, and are poorly written. They should have been deleted prior to saving. They follow a thought experiment trying to figure out some hypothetical other person's thought process. It is not an argument I was putting forward myself. The thought experiment was prompted by having just re-read the argument put forward (above) by WinTakeAll that the dimension guideline should not apply to pixel dimensions because "a pixel is an inherently two-dimensional physical entity".
Given that argument was ... something I had not previously considered, I was attempting a thought experiment to see if I could come up with some other argument I had not previously considered. Because that text was not intended to be public and potentially imputes another editor, I have struck it out. As it has been quoted and commented upon by a third editor, I understand the situation to be such that it is no longer appropriate for me to strike out that text. — Makyen (talk) 22:25, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
  1. I started this discussion because I desired we end up with the project page not explicitly excluding text that has become common on article pages. OK
  2. Currently, the project page explicitly excludes using the symbol "×" to specify dimensions without using units on all numbers. It says so very explicitly and gives examples of wrong ways of writing dimensions. I routinely see editors entering such text, and some editors specifically going through articles changing them to using such text. Frankly, I did not care if the issue of pages using formats explicitly not permitted was resolved by changing the project page, or by changing the text on article pages. EEng made a change in February to the text on the project page from "Dimensions may be given using the" to "Length-width-height–type dimensions may use the" which at least opens up the possibility of arguing that the specification is only to apply when three dimensions are given. NOTE: I don't recall seeing any discussion on the talk page regarding limiting the guideline on dimensions to only "Length-width-height–type dimensions". From what I recall from looking at the archives, such limitation was certainly not part of the original consensus. Thankyou for bringing this to my attention, but this is off-topic for this section.
  3. In my initial post, I attempted to be neutral to the issue, and only describe what discussions had gone before and what the project page explicitly states. My goal was, and is, to engender discussion on the issue and eventually reach a consensus. An admirable goal. Describing what the project page explicitly states is at best difficult, when it is being changed so often. Over 400 edits so far this year... Four hundred edits in 2 12 months! This is supposed to be a guideline, how can anyone respect a guideline that is not itself being respected? Where is the respect for {{MoS-guideline}}? Please ensure that any edits to this page reflect consensus. I do see that Makyen has been pretty good in this regard, and that this excessive guideline editing is mostly by others. Some of these edits may be OK and uncontroversial, but Makyen's point #2 above is certainly cause for concern.
  4. However, when two of the first four people to respond to the thread effectively said that describing an array was multiplication, I started to be concerned. Describing an array and multiplication are two very different things. Multiplication can be used to determine properties of the array, but it is not the array itself. I don't know if the use of the multiplication symbol to separate the dimensions of the array is contributing to this impression on their, and probably other peoples, part or not. However, it does seem like it would contribute to the lack of distinction between the object and the action which has been expressed above. The hope of not having the distinction between these two become even more blurred for more people is what has me leaning in the direction of being against using "×" as a separator in describing dimensions/arrays. I interpret a variety of comments from other editors to indicate that they believe I am rabidly for using "x" over "×". I am not. I am not sure what has given that impression. Do I personally use, "x" over "×"? Yes. Do I, now, think that using "×" has potential negative consequences that outweighs the visual benefit from using it? Yes. Am I rabidly one way, or the other? No.
    1. An array (definition) is a systematic arrangement of objects, usually in rows and columns. What we are discussing here is more specifically usage of the term in programming: Any of various data structures designed to hold multiple elements of the same type; especially, a data structure that holds these elements in adjacent memory locations so that they may be retrieved using numeric indices. And a particular application of arrays: pixel arrays as described in the article on display resolution.
    2. "Describing an array" is not multiplication. I don't think anyone claimed that it was.
    3. "Describing an array and multiplication are two very different things." What's the point of this point? Describing a steering wheel and measuring its diameter are two "very different things". Describing a steering wheel and identifying its RGB color are two "very different things". Describing a steering wheel and driving are two "very different things". Describing a steering wheel and the planet Mars are two really different things. So what?
    4. Multiplication can be used to determine properties of the array, but it is not the array itself. This can be better restated as "Multiplication can be used to determine the number of array elements, but it is not the array itself." And the RGB color model can be used to describe the color of a steering wheel, but is not the steering wheel itself.
    5. The use of the multiplication symbol to separate the dimensions of an array is not contributing to any false impressions, such as "multiplication is an array", "an object is an action". Do you have any evidence that it is? The use of the multiplication symbol to separate the dimensions of an array is, hopefully, contributing to the correct impression that the dimensions may be multiplied together to determine the number of array elements, and by describing that particular property of the array, is also helping to describe the array itself. The multiplication symbol is not commanding the reader to multiply the numbers together. But, this argument for preferring the letter x over the symbol × is a nonstarter because the letter x is used as a proxy for the symbol for multiplication. Otherwise, array dimensions would be described as "1920 ex 1080" rather than "1920 by 1080". It's used as a proxy by people who don't know how to enter the symbol on their keyboards, among other reasons. "By" can generally be considered to be shorthand for "multiplied by", although there are notable exceptions like four-wheel-drive vehicles. If I say that a room is 10 × 12 feet, is there any confusion about what I mean? The room is 120 square feet in size, and if it was a 10 foot × 12 yard room, I would have said so. Mixing dimensions in that way is not generally done.
    6. The impression that you are "rabid" (your word, not mine) is fostered by:
      1. The time and effort you have "required" me to put in to make a serious and thoughtful response to your last post to this thread. I hope you are not trolling me.
      2. Your edits to Display resolution and other related articles which are overturning a defacto consensus, if not one that has been explicitly stated in this guideline, neither is there consensus for not using the × symbol in these articles. The sheer number of articles using the symbol should have alerted you to the idea that changing it would be at least potentially controversial.
  5. @Wbm1058: Your making the statement: "Disrupting Wikipedia to constantly complain about the consensus for "×" can be annoying" and putting it in a section that has a heading title with my user name implies that you believe I am disrupting Wikipedia when talking about consensus. I don't believe that I am, or have ever, disrupted Wikipedia. If you could point out some specific examples where I have disrupted Wikipedia so I can see where that is the case and modify my behavior, I would appreciate it. If there are actually any such cases, I would prefer that you do so on my talk page rather than here, but if you feel it more appropriate to do do so here, then go ahead. I really am not sure to what you are referring, and I would like to know. Is it that you have an issue with my being conscientious enough to take the time to find, and read, the old discussions so I could get an idea about what consensus was actually reached in prior discussions rather than blindly assuming I know exactly what was intended from looking at very little information? WP:CONS says "Consensus refers to the primary way decisions are made on Wikipedia". Let's all try to continue this process of forming a new consensus without straying into arguments which begin to border on personal attacks. Sorry, maybe I could have said this better. I am annoyed that I have spent so much time here composing this reply, that could have been spent doing something more productive. This last point of mine may be premature; it's only intended as advice or maybe a warning, not as an attack. There should be some actual proposed change to the guideline text put up for a !vote, which supports the symbol × as the preferred method for describing array dimensions. I can't fault you for disrupting a consensus that doesn't yet formally exist, and I guess you're not the only editor here I can find fault with. Wbm1058 (talk) 19:55, 14 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Wiktionary lists thirteen meanings of the word (preposition) by, and the meaning we are discussing here is listed last. Yet somehow readers know the correct meaning from the context in which "by" is used. I think the same is true of both symbols "x" and "×". Wbm1058 (talk) 03:48, 15 March 2014 (UTC)
@Wbm1058: That is not the point. Some people use spaced hyphens - like this - or sometimes even without consistent spacing- for example, like this- to separate a parenthetic remark. Most readers will understand what was intended, even though what they really should use is a dash. We have MOS:EMDASH, which says to either use an unspaced em dash—like this—or a spaced en dash – like this – to achieve the same thing. It is understandable that sometimes editors will use hyphens instead, but these should be replaced when we find them to bring Wikipedia up to standard by using the correct punctuation. Why shouldn't "x" → "×" be treated the same way? Even if people understand "x", the only reason it has become commonplace is because it is easier to type than "×", and the trend is towards replacing "x" with "×" (as shown in the Ngrams below). sroc 💬 00:39, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
I agree with you. The point I was making was in response to the contention that some[who?] readers understand "x" to mean "by" but think that "×" always means "multiply" and never means "by". I think such readers are extremely rare, and that most would figure out whether "by" or "multiply" was the intended meaning based on the context of usage, just as when they see "by" they are able to tell from the context of the use which of "by"'s 13 meanings was intended – even though it may be the least frequently occurring of the thirteen. Wbm1058 (talk) 03:06, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
Oh, yes, absolutely agree. sroc 💬 03:16, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
Disagree. Reasons for preferring (or at least not forbidding) "x" other than that it's easier to type have been given. And the Ngram data, while fun to look at, is far from conclusive. For one, in several examples usage of "x" is also growing in popularity, and secondly, the data ends in 2008. Also, at least as far as I can see, Ngram only counts usage in printed media, but not online usage. Conversely, what good reasons are there for replacing "x" with "×" other than that they look similar? Indrek (talk) 09:54, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
Reasons why "×" is preferable to "x" have been given, namely, that "×" (the multiplication symbol) is semantically related to the inherent meaning whereas "x" (the letter) is not. sroc 💬 13:02, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
What is the semantic relation between "×" and the word "by" in terms like "four-by-four"?
What is the semantic relation between "×" and the word "by" when listing display resolutions (e.g. "nineteen-twenty by ten-eighty")? Personally, I've seen people use a variety of other symbols, like "-", "/" and "*". It's not nearly as common as "x" or "×", and I'm not saying we should allow all of those on Wikipedia, but I think it supports the point I've made above, that the exact symbol used is of secondary importance, so long as it helps visually separate the two numbers that define a specific resolution. If both "×" and "x" satisfy that criterion, why not allow both? Indrek (talk) 14:02, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
I would be repeating myself. sroc 💬 14:30, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
Not if you were to actually respond to my counterarguments, but of course I can't force you to do that. Indrek (talk) 16:05, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
Before I could answer that question, I would need to understand what a semantic relation is. The Wikipedia link seems to veer off into a computer science topic. Wbm1058 (talk) 16:23, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
I see that wikt:semantic relation is more helpful: "Any relationship between two or more words based on the meaning of the words." Is "×" a word, or is it a symbol? Can symbols have semantic relationships? Wbm1058 (talk) 18:17, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
Very simply put, two things can be said to be semantically related to each other when they mean the same (or similar) thing. As symbols can have meanings, they can also have semantic relationships.
As I understand it, sroc is saying that the word "by" in phrases like "four by four" and "nineteen-twenty by ten-eighty" means "multiplied by", and therefore the correct symbol to use is "×", because it also means "multiplied by".
I'm saying that (s)he is wrong on both counts. In "four by four", the "by" means something like "out of", as in "four wheels out of four being driven by the engine". See Four-wheel drive#Terminology and Tractor unit#Axle configuration for more on this usage. As for display resolutions and similar cases, I rather like Dictionary.com's definition (18) "having an adjoining side of". Neither case has any semantic relation to multiplication. Indrek (talk) 18:48, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
@Indrek: My take on this, repeating what I posted above, with one word (in boldface) added: Regarding 6x4 tractors and such, I think that this represents an evolution in language. Originally, "by" was used for dimensions, in rooms, lumber, arrays and probably other things where it made sense to multiply the numbers to get an area (square feet or square yards, etc.) or number of elements (arrays). As time passed and the use of "x", and later "×" to mean "(multiply) by", became solidly embedded in the language, only then did newer uses (multiplieddriven-by) to describe the number of drive axles or drive wheels on tractors came into use. I'd be interested to know when this usage for drive-wheels started. Perhaps there was a similar evolution with room measurements. At first "by" always meant "multiply" when the measurements were used to calculate the area of the room. Later, the "having an adjoining side of" interpretation comes in when people use the term by without bothering to do the actual calculation. One could also interpret "by" to mean "near to or next to", i.e., the east wall is next to the south wall. So the semantic relation may be more indirect, but it is still there. I think that room measurements in this regard are an apt analogy for array dimensions, which is the usage that prompted this whole discussion. – Wbm1058 (talk) 14:12, 17 March 2014 (UTC)
Interesting hypothesis. Of course, it's just as possible that "x" was originally used in this context completely independently of its similarity to the multiplication sign (especially since multiplication is also commonly denoted with the middle dot, which bears no resemblance to the letter "x"). This image, from Four-wheel drive#Terminology, clearly uses the letter "x", although it's of course anyone's guess whether or not the multiplication sign would have been possible. In any case, it's not inconceivable that, in a slightly ironic twist, "×" came to be used in such contexts due to its similarity to "x". Indrek (talk) 12:55, 30 March 2014 (UTC)
We should not prescribe or require usage of one over another when clearly both forms "x" and "×" are commonly used. We should not call for replacing "x" and/or "×" with "by" when the spelled out word is less commonly used than either symbol. This big discussion started because an editor was replacing "×" with "x" or "by". What good reasons are there for that? I would just call for consistency of usage within individual articles, possibly enhanced by explanation of the conventions used in the article before or with the first usage, where explanation is needed. My preference is to defer to the content creator's usage, when that usage is a matter of taste and there is nothing inherently wrong with it. There is certainly enough stuff on Wikipedia that is flat-out wrong to keep any editor busy forever fixing errors. I don't want to see "style police" annoying content creators by "fixing" things that are not incorrect, but rather are just a matter of taste. Maybe consensus can be formed for more specific usages in some content areas, but I don't see a consensus forming project-wide. Maybe the only guideline here should be "be consistent within an article, and don't fix what's not broken". Wbm1058 (talk) 14:33, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
Agreed, although I would still like Makyen expand upon his/her original concerns regarding the use of "×". Indrek (talk) 16:05, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
I also agree, and to resonate let me repeat part of what I posted earlier:
No one's going to be confused or misled by any of these formats, nor is there any grammatical or mathematical blunder, by which WP's reputation might be besmirched, to be avoided here. Arguing about whether a mathematical operation is implied is ridiculous. The choice of format is a matter of aesthetics, and it matters little if different articles adopt different formats, though each article should be internally consistent. The endash-emdash (or is it endash–emdash?) guideline (WP:EMDASH) is the right analogy here.
EEng (talk) 19:40, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
@Indrek: My concerns arose as a result of the first few responses to this discussion. The fact that two of the first 4 responses (here and here) to the original thread argued that multiplication was inherent in specifying dimensions. The argument that multiplication is inherent in representing an array has been expanded upon (above) and restated by at least one additional editor (below). It has also been argued that the "fact" that it is inherent is cause to use "×" instead of "x".
I strongly disagree that multiplication is inherent in the specification of dimensions or arrays. It is a property of the object described by the dimensions that area or volume can be determined by multiplication. It is a property of the array object that the number of items in the array can be determined by multiplication. I believe that most people here agree with that. I view it as a misconception that multiplication is inherent in the representation. While I do not feel that representation with "×" causes this misconception on the part of at least some editors, using "×" probably contributes to the misconception.
When initiating this conversation, my expectation was that we would eventually agree to permit both some version of "×" without units and unspaced "x". In addition, that a rule similar to WP:RETAIN or WP:DATERET would be used to retain the format used by the first major contributor. — Makyen (talk) 00:25, 19 April 2014 (UTC)

Google Ngram Viewer[edit]

Take a look at this chart in the Google Ngram Viewer. It makes it pretty clear where the trend is headed. In another five or ten years this won't be controversial anymore. "4 by 4" can also refer to lumber used in construction. I'm guessing that use of that type of lumber became widespread in the years around World War I, the good old days when there was still lots of old-growth forest around. Houses were built more solidly back then, just my opinion. Wbm1058 (talk) 02:15, 15 March 2014 (UTC)

Another example here, this one for VGA, another one that Makyen took retro at the beginning of this year. Again, the trend is clear. 1024 × 768 (XGA), Full HD (1080p), and Ultra high definition television 3,840×2,160. Sigh. The Google data needs updated. They only go to 2008. Try graphing other resolutions if you like. Warning, I've heard that this could be addictive. Wbm1058 (talk) 03:05, 15 March 2014 (UTC)

Interesting charts, to be sure. Of course, they paint a somewhat different picture once you add in unspaced "x": 4x4, FHD, XGA etc. Also, WUXGA and SXGA+.
You're right about one thing, though - it is addictive :) Indrek (talk) 08:31, 15 March 2014 (UTC)
Hey, that's not fair! I added a couple more terms to your 4×4 chart, see here. This compares "4 x 4" with "4x4" and clearly shows that the unspaced version has become the dominant usage. But it shows identical lines for "4 × 4" and "4×4": "Replaced 4×4 with 4 × 4 to match how we processed the books". How do we get "4×4" to work, is there a special syntax we can use to show that one? Wbm1058 (talk) 14:30, 15 March 2014 (UTC)
How do we get "4×4" to work, is there a special syntax we can use to show that one? I don't think you need to do anything special. From what I understand, Google considers "4×4" and "4 × 4" the same, and the graph shows usage for both. Indrek (talk) 14:55, 15 March 2014 (UTC)
Maybe you're right. I found the documentation here. "Try enclosing the phrase in square brackets". Using square brackets it says "Ngrams not found: 4×4, [4×4]" (I needed to re-click "Search lots of books" to get that message). So, it appears that in 2008, unspaced "x" was the dominant usage. What we don't know is how that might have changed in the last five years, although "×" was gaining on it, we don't know whether it has caught up yet. – Wbm1058 (talk) 15:33, 15 March 2014 (UTC)

Invalid conclusion, unfortunately. Books digitized by scanning and OCR will almost always have recognized × as x. Thus Google ngrams deny that "× Fatshedera" occurs (where × is the biological hybrid symbol), but it's easy to find botanical or gardening books digitized by Google where the image shows that the symbol is × not x, such as this. If you search inside this book for "×" the response is that it doesn't occur. Only books which were originally digital (and thus recent) are likely to have the correct symbol. Peter coxhead (talk) 14:57, 16 March 2014 (UTC)

Interesting, I was not aware of this usage. So what does × Fatshedera lizei mean? "By Fatshedera lizei", "multiply Fatshedera lizei", "times Fatshedera lizei" or something else? I have no clue, and the article should explain what the "×" means. Very odd to see it there. Wbm1058 (talk) 15:32, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
Duh. Read the article. The hybrid symbol ×... Give myself a trout. In biology, the multiplication sign is used in a botanical hybrid name, where it is read as "cross". Wbm1058 (talk) 15:42, 16 March 2014 (UTC)
Look it up in Wiktionary: wikt:cross: amongst twenty definitions: (biology) An animal or plant produced by crossbreeding or cross-fertilization.;(by extension) A hybrid of any kind. Wbm1058 (talk) 16:10, 16 March 2014 (UTC)

Yes, I think you're right. Use of × in publishing did not begin in the digital publishing era. Typesetters have been able to use special symbols for a long time, longer than computers – indeed before computers as we know them even existed. Take a look at Peter Norton's first book, the classic Inside the IBM PC. In the section titled Technical information (page x) he says, "My primary IBM/PC, on which this book was written," and on page 175, he just uses an "x": "In high-resolution graphics, there are 640 x 200, or 128,000, pixels." The publisher just took what he typed on his PC and printed that as-is. But by the time his "pink shirt book" was published, the publisher was doing lots of stuff to make it spiffy, including using real multiplication signs. But Google shows "x" which I know to be wrong because I have the actual book in front of me. Maybe we should call them "by signs". Where code examples show actual multiplication operations, the asterisk (*) represents multiplication, as any programmer knows. So whether "x" or "×" was used back in the day is probably more a matter of publishing budgets and schedules. Wbm1058 (talk) 17:31, 16 March 2014 (UTC)

When books were prepared by expert typesetters, my experience is that the proper symbol was generally used, as it tends to be now that authors are expected to supply digital copy. There was a time in-between when copy was prepared by typists rather than typesetters, and they naturally didn't appreciate or have access to the range of symbols available in a full font.
However, the key point remains that Google has digitized older books using OCR, and this process makes many mistakes when the source is not a word in its dictionary. (Even the title of a programming language book I wrote appears wrongly in the Google books digital version; as for code...) Somewhere lost in the archives there's a discussion in which I participated that used Google ngram evidence to determine whether "Bronte" or "Brontë" is the most common form in English. But it turns out that Google's OCR regularly loses diacritics, so the "evidence" was useless. Peter coxhead (talk) 21:31, 16 March 2014 (UTC)

Change proposal[edit]

As there have been no new comments for a while, and at least in one branch of the discussion we appear to have reached an accord, I propose to change the wording at WP:UNIT#Unit names and symbols to the following (with similar changes at WP:COMMONMATH, MOS:COMMONMATH, etc.), so we can finally wrap this up.

The unspaced letter x may be used in terms such as 1920x1080 (when describing display resolutions) or 4x4 (when referring to four-wheel drive).

Please indicate support or opposition below. Indrek (talk) 13:32, 22 March 2014 (UTC)

  • Support, per discussion above, as both "×" and "x" are commonly used. Indrek (talk) 13:35, 22 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. "×" is the only logical character here, and should hence be the only acceptable one. Using "x" originated from the resemblance with "×" and the ease of typing the former and difficulty typing the latter. Such things as in screen resolutions are really multiplications. A screen with "1024×768 pixels" has 1024×768 = 786432 pixels. Requiring "×" is analogous to requiring a "−" for subtraction and not allowing a hyphen ("-"). In at least many instances when people type an "x", a bot could come by and fix it to a "×", just like it comes by to fix, for example, the placement of references after interpunction. --JorisvS (talk) 13:50, 22 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Please see above discussion where the relation to multiplication has already been discussed and debunked. Indrek (talk) 12:29, 30 March 2014 (UTC)
Where? --JorisvS (talk) 08:19, 1 April 2014 (UTC)
If you've the time, I recommend reading the entire current discussion from the beginning, but in short - display resolutions are defined by pixel counts in each dimension, not the total number of pixels, and the purpose of whatever symbol is used is to simply distinguish the numbers, not to imply any specific mathematical operation. Such operations (like multiplication or division) can be used to determine specific properties of the display, but not to define it, and thus saying that, quote, "Such things as in screen resolutions are really multiplications" is fallacious. Hope this helps. Indrek (talk) 08:50, 1 April 2014 (UTC)
Well, I'll comment on that by referring you to the comment below by Mikhail Ryazanov. --JorisvS (talk) 09:08, 1 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I have little objection to 4x4, but in screen resolution, it's "×", read "by". I add my comment here to indicate that it does not necessarily represent multiplication, but an alternate use of "×" in the dimensions of rectangles, rectangular cuboids, or boxes in general. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 16:33, 22 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose – it's best to pick a convention and stick with it consistently. Just use the muplitplication sign; there's no need to overload the "x" character. Archon 2488 (talk) 14:07, 23 March 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Where does the guideline give any guidance on display resolutions? If anything, we should add: "The unspaced symbol × may be used in terms such as 1920×1080 (when describing display resolutions) or 4×4 (when referring to four-wheel drive)." I don't want anything in the guidelines that supports any editor actively "fixing" 1920×1080 to read 1920x1080 and I don't believe that there was ever any consensus for that. Wbm1058 (talk) 12:38, 29 March 2014 (UTC)
  • There isn't currently any guidance for use cases like display resolutions, hence this whole discussion. I agree that "fixing" from one commonly used format to another should be discouraged, but that should also include "fixing" from "x" to "×", especially since it's mostly being "fixed" to unspaced "×", which currently isn't allowed by the MOS. "1920x1080" is currently allowed, I'm simply proposing to make the wording clearer in that regard. I'm not opposed to also allowing "1920×1080" (i.e. unspaced "×"), and in fact I thought we had reached a consensus for allowing both, but in any case I don't think the very common use of "x" should be disallowed. Indrek (talk) 12:29, 30 March 2014 (UTC)
"x" is really just bad practice due to the ease of typing it compared to that of "×". "×" is really the only correct way. Though maybe technically these would need to be spaced, it appears to me that these are rather regularly unspaced, and so it would appear okay to me to explicitly allow the "×" in (screen) resolutions to be unspaced. --JorisvS (talk) 18:13, 30 March 2014 (UTC)
So you're saying that unspaced "×" is okay because it's regularly used this way? Then by the same logic, unspaced "x" should also be okay because it's also regularly used. Why exactly is something that is easy to type and gets the job done "bad practice"? Indrek (talk) 20:11, 30 March 2014 (UTC)
On a related note, if you want an example of bad practice, you need look no further than your own current behaviour of editing and reverting based on what you want the MOS to say (as opposed to what the MOS actually says right now) while the relevant discussion is still ongoing and no clear consensus has been reached. Indrek (talk) 20:14, 30 March 2014 (UTC)
Suggestion: change now-obscure redirect {{x}} to a template that inserts "×" with (thin) unbreakable spaces, so that "1920{{x}}1080" produces a nicely formatted result. — Mikhail Ryazanov (talk) 01:07, 1 April 2014 (UTC)
Your suggestion is interesting. A couple notes:
  • See Thin space. This represents an interesting compromise for the debate over whether "×" in array dimensions should be surrounded by spaces or not, and would be another step in the direction of giving Wikipedia a "professionally typeset" appearance.
  • Template:x is currently a redirect to Template:Hammer, which is heavily used, so we probably shouldn't try to appropriate it. Template:× is also heavily used to serve another purpose, as is Template:by. Template:Dim (short for dimensions) is available. Template:Array is also available (not to be confused with Template:Image array). – Wbm1058 (talk) 15:27, 1 April 2014 (UTC)
I can't see why {{X}} should really be used to refer to the curling term {{Hammer}}, I looked through the history and the curling page but couldn't see why that is at all a logical, just seems they got there first... Current {{X}}s could be substituted for {{Hammer}} using AWB or a BOT, then {{X}} could be re-appropriated for ×— Preceding unsigned comment added by Jamesmcmahon0 (talkcontribs) 15:42, 1 April 2014
Looking at this more closely, I agree regarding {{Hammer}}. To see the difference between using narrow no-break spaces and normal spaces:
  • 1920 × 1080 (U+202F narrow no-break space (HTML: &#8239;))
  • 1920 × 1080 (just using a space)
The difference is subtle, but noticeable, in Google Chrome. I could support this. – Wbm1058 (talk) 20:02, 1 April 2014 (UTC)
It has about the same appearance in FireFox and Opera. Internet Explorer 8 shows empty boxes instead of spaces. (All are running on the same system.) —PC-XT+ 01:08, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
IE is still broken?! Unbelievable... Anyway, controllable spacings can be obtained simply with style="margin: ...":
  • 1920 × 1080 (&nbsp;)
  • 1920×1080 (3 pt)
  • 1920×1080 (2 pt)
  • 1920×1080 (1 pt)
  • 1920×1080 (unspaced)
I'm not very familiar with English typesetting details, but, for example, Russian rules often specify 2 pt for "small" spacing. — Mikhail Ryazanov (talk) 01:19, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
That seems to be the best option. I expect {{X}} would be used more than the current redirect if this change was implemented. —PC-XT+ 06:26, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
Interesting suggestion indeed, but is it really an improvement? It's five symbols instead of one, and although all are present on the keyboard, curly braces can be a bit cumbersome to reach on many layouts. Non-breaking spaces would be desirable, yes, to prevent wrapping to two lines, but only if we don't permit unspaced "×".
BTW, IE isn't "still broken", the above examples all look fine in IE11. Indrek (talk) 06:38, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
I'm glad that IE11 finally works, :–) but I recall a discussion somewhere in the past that &thinsp; should not be used in WP because of the problems with IE6, so I was surprised that IE8 has the same issue. I don't know what is the current minimal browser configuration that WP tries to support, but it should be kept in mind when implementing the template.
As for the "improvement", my suggestion was only about the spaced "×", if we decide that it is needed/required. {{x}} is easier to type and more readable than &nbsp;×&nbsp; (or &nbsp;&times;&nbsp;, or those with &#8239;). The unspaced "×", of course, does not need a template. (And those who have problems reaching curly braces are perhaps suffering with WP code anyway. I suspect, they just click "Wiki markup: {{}}" in the insert panel.)Mikhail Ryazanov (talk) 08:24, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
As far as I can tell, MOS generally requires a regular space (non-breaking recommended) between a number and a symbol (whether a unit or mathematical symbol). So allowing a thin space would constitute an exception, in which case it seems to me we might as well drop the spaces requirement altogether for cases like display resolutions. Or, to avoid having very specific exceptions in the MOS, allow unspaced "×" as an option wherever the numbers are dimensionless?
Also, I'm still of the opinion that unspaced "x" should also remain an option, if only due to it being extremely commonly used for describing resolutions. If I may make an analogy, it's similar to how the MOS currently recommends against using binary IEC prefixes for bits and bytes, even though they're "technically correct", for the reason that the majority of relevant literature uses the decimal SI prefixes. I see no reason why the same logic shouldn't also apply to "x". Indrek (talk) 19:09, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
Why? Someone who is typing and doesn't make the effort to do so correctly will do so regardless of the MoS and it will, in the Wikipedia spirit, subsequently be corrected. There is also a difference between the binary prefixes and "×": Those prefixes are not very commonly understood, but "×" is. --JorisvS (talk) 09:40, 3 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment about "4x4". The wheel formula (or how is it called in English?) is not a mathematical formula, but a special notation, like classification of locomotives or floral formula. They have their own meanings and rules, which in this case are probably defined somewhere by ISO, SAE or other relevant organizations. There is an article in German WP (translation) with a nice illustration (and a similar article in Russian WP) but unfortunately without any references to standards.
So, I believe, this question should be dealt with in the vehicle-related MOS (if we have it) and based on available standards or other reliable sources. — Mikhail Ryazanov (talk) 12:47, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
Yes, the issue of drivetrain configurations like 4x4 has been discussed in-depth above. Personally I feel that, unlike with display resolutions, "×" should definitely not be used in such cases, precisely for the reason you point out, that it's not a mathematical operation (nor does it describe dimensions). Thanks for also mentioning locomotive wheel arrangements as a related example; I had stumbled across them earlier but lost track before I could mention them on this talk page.
In any case, the reason I didn't propose to remove "4x4" from the MOS text is twofold: first, to keep the proposal focused on display resolutions, the original topic of this discussion, and second, because there was some debate above as to whether or not that example was originally even meant to refer to four-wheel drive (Makyen pointed out that the "4x4" part was linked only recently, over 6 years after the text itself was added, and that the original discussion whence it originated also involved pixel arrays and dimensional lumber). However, if consensus can be reached here on that particular subject as well, then all the better. Indrek (talk) 19:09, 2 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment I am fine with having more explicit examples of the use of unspaced "x". The use of an unspaced "x" as a substitute for by has been permitted for the last 6.5 years. It is only recently that the text was changed to imply a limitation on its use and the person who changed it has stated explicitly (above) that there was no intent to change the meaning. However, this proposal does not address the issue that the use of "×", without dimensions and/or unspaced, is currently not permitted. — Makyen (talk) 00:25, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
  • Personally I'd be fine with permitting unspaced "×" as well. If you want to post your own proposal that incorporates that, I'd be happy to indicate support, but given the current opposition to allowing "x", I'm not sure if that would be particularly constructive right now. Indrek (talk) 16:29, 20 April 2014 (UTC)

Wither style guide[edit]

I wonder which style guide these guys use... They write: "Meanwhile, aviators said MH 370 was safely cruising at about 40,000ft (about 12,121.2m) on the airways and had passed the Igari checkpoint" -- Ohc ¡digame! 04:56, 22 March 2014 (UTC)

Even the presence of the "about" doesn't seem to have alerted them... On that subject though, our article about the plane, in line with news reports such as the above, gives flying altitudes in feet first, while according to this style guide it should be metric first. Assuming this is an exception that we would accept, and considering we already list obscure exceptions like milk bottles and horses' heights, how come this one isn't listed? W. P. Uzer (talk) 08:00, 22 March 2014 (UTC)
It's not listed there because it's not a UK-only exception, but applies pretty much everywhere.
It's not listed elsewhere because, as a result of wrangling similar to that found above, the old rule to use the units in most common use internationally in a given context - which far more accurately reflected the aim of the guideline - was replaced with a general instruction to use SI. Kahastok talk 08:39, 22 March 2014 (UTC)
Seems a bit irrational to list exceptions with very limited scope (UK-only), but not those with worldwide scope (and applicable to fields like aviation that we write about much more frequently than milk bottling and horse measurement). What you describe as the "old rule" sounds to me a more sensible solution, and probably closer to what editors do naturally. W. P. Uzer (talk) 09:32, 22 March 2014 (UTC)
The about 40,000 is probably right as aircraft heights are actually measured in Flight Levels, so FL400 is about 40,000 feet but it depends on the air pressure at the time as Flight Levels use a standard pressure rather than actual pressure, fwiw. MilborneOne (talk) 23:06, 27 March 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── What exactly is the question? To me, the sentence has many problems:

  1. Space-separate a value from its "symbol" (e.g. 40,000 ft)
  2. Aviation globally uses feet for altitude, right? No need for meters.
  3. If conversion to meters were necessary, while you can't generally discern the original precision of a number with four trailing zeros, in this instance, as mentioned, flight levels are usually given in hundreds of feet, so in the absence of evidence to the contrary, 3 sigfigs makes sense: {{Convert|40000|ft|m|sigfig=3|abbr=on}} → 40,000 ft (12,200 m).
  4. Navigational aids, waypoints, etc. should be in all-caps (e.g. IGARI, BITOD, ESPOB) by convention.

—[AlanM1(talk)]— 10:18, 31 March 2014 (UTC)

Not quite true. Some countries (mainly former Soviet countries and China) use metres for altitude in aviation. Strictly speaking, feet are meant to be deprecated and replaced by metres at some unspecified point in the future. Anyway, the conversion to SI units is supposed to be provided in accordance with the MOS. You might as well say that because US hydrologists talk in acres and square miles, acre-feet and cu ft/s, there's no need for articles on lakes and rivers in the USA to provide SI conversions, even tho this would make these articles barely intelligible to anyone outside America. Archon 2488 (talk) 11:46, 1 April 2014 (UTC)
I think people here have missed the point. FWIW I took the original message as a humorous response to our units debates.
The source for the quote was the New Straits Times, which clearly is under no obligation to follow MOSNUM. It appears that if they have any style guide, it's not been followed or it's not worth the paper it's written on. They convert 40000 feet to metres and quote the answer to six significant figures. The original measurement is only quoted to at most two significant figures, so six significant figures is far too precise.
But even if the 40000 feet was precise, the six significant figures is still far too much. Because they've gone and assumed 3.3 feet to the metre, rather than the exact figure. As a result their quoted conversion is actually 70.8 metres (232 ft) short of 40000 feet. An approximate conversion is fine if you use an appropriate rounding - if they'd said 12000 metres, 71 metres either way wouldn't have made a difference. But if you're giving a precise result you need a precise conversion. Kahastok talk 21:07, 1 April 2014 (UTC)

Do not use words[edit]

Why not add something about not naming decades in just words, as in the sixties? This is not my last name (talk) 16:31, 2 April 2014 (UTC)

Do you mean we shouldn't refer to the period from the years from 60 through 69 as the sixties? Or were you thinking of 1960 through 1969? Do you intend to just prohibit "the sixties" as referring to 1960 through 1969, or maybe you also want to prohibit calling that period "the nineteen sixties"?
The current guidance is

For a social era or cultural phenomenon associated with a particular decade two digits (with a preceding apostrophe) may be used, but only if this is a well-established phrase seen in reliable sources (the Roaring '20s,  the Gay '90s,  condemnation of the '60s counterculture

I think we would apply the spirit of this guidance; if it turned out that reliable sources frequently refer to a certain social era or cultural phenomenon with number words, we should allow that usage. I think the present guidance already prohibits "the twelve twenties" if that phrase isn't already found in reliable sources. Jc3s5h (talk) 16:49, 2 April 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── It's probably best to avoid such phrases at first-use, but allow them subsequently:

Pink Floyd were active from the 1960s to the 1990s; in the 60s their frontman was Syd Barrett...

-- Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 20:23, 18 April 2014 (UTC)

Excess examples[edit]

User:This is not my last name has been adding many extra examples, as seen in this edit. I believe this is undoing the work of many editors in making this guide concise. There is considerable concern that most editors ignore this guide because it is too long; making it longer will drive off more editors.

I want to know if other editors think these examples are excessive. Jc3s5h (talk) 16:56, 2 April 2014 (UTC)

Since this is Talk:MOS you will excuse a correction: surely you mean excessive examples? Anyway, I agree with you. In any writing, every word added necessarily dilutes the power of all the others, by requiring the reader to spread his attention that much more thinly, and as you point out it's even more important to keep this in mind in crafting MOS. These examples add very little by way of helping the reader understand these specific points, and take away too much by bloating the guideline overall. EEng (talk) 18:48, 2 April 2014 (UTC)

Abbreviation of "circa"[edit]

The section on uncertain dates currently days:

use of the spaced, unitalicised form c. 1291 (or the {{circa}} template) is preferred

The former should be <abbr title="circa">c.</abbr>, or use {{abbr}}; WCAG, the ISO standard for web accessibility, recommends marking up abbreviations so. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 20:19, 18 April 2014 (UTC)

This question arises because I wondered at Help talk:Citation Style 1#circa if the <abbr>...</abbr> tags are necessary in Citation Style 1 dates because they are not required at WP:DATESNO.
Does WCAG require or merely recommend?
Trappist the monk (talk) 20:35, 18 April 2014 (UTC)
Even if it requires, are we bound to comply? In the "everyone can edit" culture of Wikipedia, insisting on adding such strange-looking markup every time anyone wants to use a simple abbreviation could significantly reduce accessibility (unless this new advanced editing tool is going to make it all transparent). W. P. Uzer (talk) 08:05, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
Expecting editors to type {{abbr}} is a non-starter. It's possible the CS1 template code could be modified to add <abbr>...</abbr> if people who have difficulty accessing Wikipedia find this helpful. Jc3s5h (talk) 10:54, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
This is a wiki. If an editor doesn't want to type out the template form, another editor (or bot) can come along afterwards and do so. While it may be possible to get Lua to detect and fix this in citation templates, the guidance above applies also to running prose and other cases. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 11:05, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
Let's not get hung up on a minor semantic side-issue. We know that if we do not follow WCAG guidelines - the ISO international standard for web accessibility - we erect unnecessary barriers to people wanting to read our content. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 11:05, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
But in our particular case, that has to be balanced against the barriers we erect to people wanting to edit our content. I don't mean so much that the requirement itself would be a burden on editors (as you say, editors who don't know or don't care just won't bother), but that the additional markup clutter in the edit window (whether added by bots - which would sometimes get it wrong, probably - or by humans) makes the wikified text less legible and harder for other people to edit. W. P. Uzer (talk) 12:46, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
By default, JAWS, the most popular screen reader, doesn't do anything with <abbr> markup. Also, if the average reader doesn't know what "c." means, I'm not sure how much it would help them to find out that it stands for "circa" without elaboration. Graham87 13:24, 19 April 2014 (UTC)
As I said above, "This is a wiki. If an editor doesn't want to type out the template form, another editor (or bot) can come along afterwards and do so". Our use of templates is so ubiquitous I don't think that the introduction of confusion of editors is a likely result. At the very least, we should not be putting technical barriers in the way of editors who wish to use such markup; so that if they does it breaks other things, like COinS. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 12:26, 20 April 2014 (UTC)