Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 12

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

years and commas

Is there a policy on the use or not, of commas with years, as in "On June 10, 1993, blah blah ..."? Maurreen 07:07, 15 Sep 2004 (UTC)

What most people would write in either normal form ("On 10 June, 1993, blah blah ..." and "On June 10, 1993, blah blah ...") would both work with this bracketting-comma use, and its form seems most prevalent, so...
James F. (talk) 08:27, 15 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I'd write "On 10 June 1993, blah, blah..." -- Arwel 12:10, 15 Sep 2004 (UTC)
What Arwel said. "On dd Month yyyy, I went..." doesn't take a comma; "On Month dd, yyyy, we came..." does bracket the year between commas. These are the two formats[—]with commas duly inserted and removed[—]as they are generated by the automatic date preference display setting in Special:Preferences. Hajor 13:15, 15 Sep 2004 (UTC)
DD MM, YY may not be correct but it still displays correctly. Rmhermen 13:28, 15 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Dates in articles will be displayed according to the settings in the reader's Special:Preferences Date format whether or not a comma is included between month/day or day/month and year and regardless of their order, but only if both are wikilinked. The reader's view of the date will be displayed in the correct form even if the article's date didn't have a comma where it should have had one or did have a comma where it shouldn't have had one ("[C]orrect" means one of the four forms in Preferences[.]). Thus January 15 2001 can be correctly displayed as January 15, 2001 (note the insertion of the comma), 15 January 2001, 2001 January 15, or even 2001-01-15. Uniquely, only a single wikilink of the entire date is required if the article's date is in the 2001-01-15 format—then the reader's view of the article will show the month/day and year as separately wikilinked and in their preferred view. If the reader is not logged in (or has no preference), then they[sic] will see the nearest "correct" date format, but only if both month/day and year are wikilinked. — Joe Kress 22:03, 15 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I don't follow all of that. But the comma is missing from the title and article on the September 11 attacks, and I can't change it with the current formatting. Maybe that's because it is a title.
The comma is also missing elsewhere. I didn't know if those cases were policy or mistakes. Maurreen 04:26, 16 Sep 2004 (UTC)
[I].e., "September 11, 2001 attacks". Yes, I find the absence of a comma there jarring, too; the same goes for "Nashville, Tennessee is the country music capital of the world". But it's a common enough practice, and I'm not sure whether it's not considered pedantic to insist on those commas. Hajor 04:39, 16 Sep 2004 (UTC)
No, it is simply incorrect to not have a comma between the day and year in Month Day, Year format or between municipalities, counties, states, provinces, countries, etc. - Centrx 02:16, 17 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I agree with your comment, but I think you misunderstood what I was saying—I was referring to the "missing" commas, the ones that come afterwards, the comma that isn't there but should be, the one that would make those phrases read "September 11, 2001, attacks" and "Nashville, Tennessee, is where it's at". I think Maurreen meant those, too. Hajor 02:35, 17 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The problem is that dates can be used in different ways. When used in an adverbial phrase, commas may be used (though some would omit them):

On 5 November 1605, Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the English parliament; OR On November 5, 1605, Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the English parliament.

As nouns and adjectives, no comma would be used after the year:

5 November 1605 saw Guy Fawkes try to blow up the English parliament; OR November 5, 1605 saw Guy Fawkes try to blow up the English parliamnet.

The 5 November 1605 plot was perpetrated by Guy Fawkes and others; OR The November 5, 1605 plot was perpetrated by Guy Fawkes and others.

So, coming back to 9/11, this could be referred to as

The 11 September 2001 attacks; OR The September 11, 2001 attacks.

I must say, however, and please take this as a pure aside, that when used as an adjective, even the American format of the date looks better without a comma to me, perhaps both with and without are correct there. Jongarrettuk 19:27, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I need to amend my comments in one respect! Would you believe it, I can only find US websites on the point. I'll revise the noun construction ([S]ince the format MM/DD/YY is American, I'll have to concede to US English on this one—though it is very jarring to a British eye[.]). This gives

November 5, 1605, saw Guy Fawkes try to blow up the English parliament.

I can find no examples of dates being used as adjectives. But I can see no reason to break the normal rule of having no comma between an adjective and the noun. Certainly, even if you find an American reference for it, I would argue strongly against it for an International encyclopaedia. Jongarrettuk 20:06, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Actually, I've just searched on [G]oogle under "September 11, 2001 attacks"—this version wins out easily. Jongarrettuk 20:19, 27 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Are you people illiterate? Commas are for pauses. There are no pauses after adjectival dates, unless there are more adjectives. lysdexia 21:55, 13 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Accuracy in number reporting

I, personally, couldn't care less whether Imperial or metric units are given first in any given article, and I agree that in most cases conversions are appropriate.

However, what I have seen lately has been a somewhat confused practice of putting the metric conversions ahead of the Imperial originals. Apparently some folks think that the metric measurements are more important (or whatever) and should go first.

In some cases this is fine, but when the source of the information has "5 inches" and the metric conversion is given as "13 cm" (or, to keep the same number of significant figures, 10 cm, which makes the problem even more apparent), it is essential that the original measurement goes first and that the conversion follow it in parentheses.

If we report "5 in[.] (13 cm)", then it is clear that the latter measurement is an approximation for the former. If someone changes that to "13 cm (5 in[.])", then it looks like the metric conversion is actually more precise, which is giving false information. (If the original measurement were "13 cm", it would have been better to put "5.1 in[.]". In this case the different is tiny and probably insignificant, but it can become more pronounced.)

I don't want to get into the Imperial vs. metric debate (and I don't think this issue is even entirely relevant to that debate), but I do think it's simple enough to say that whatever the original measurement was, it needs to be listed first to avoid confusing the round-off errors. --[[User:Aranel|Aranel ("Sarah")]] 14:53, 16 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I agree with the idea, but it seems difficult to enforce. Maurreen 15:23, 16 Sep 2004 (UTC)
No more so than anything else in the Manual of Style. "The original measurement should always be listed first and the converted value should go after it." There are many well-intentioned folks who just don't have the scientific background to be automatically aware of the inherent problems. I would like this to be written somewhere as a guide to the over-zealous on both sides of the argument. --[[User:Aranel|Aranel ("Sarah")]] 15:40, 16 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I would agree with such a policy in general. My point about enforcement is that it's not always obvious which was the original number and that it could take a lot of time to find out which was the original measurement. Maurreen 03:44, 17 Sep 2004 (UTC)

If the original number is available with more digits than useful for Wikipedia, the problem does not arise, and the order of the values (each suitably rounded with a similar accuracy) can be chosen on other grounds.--Patrick 06:38, 2004 Sep 17 (UTC)
I'm not so much talking about going back and doing massive copyediting as not switching the order in the first place. If the numbers are reported in inches, that can be taken as "original" and should be listed first unless you know that it's an approximate number. [[User:Aranel|Aranel ("Sarah")]] 19:38, 23 Sep 2004 (UTC)

"September 2004" vs "September 2004"

The current style guide dictates that when specifying a month of a specific year, one should leave the month unlinked. This is very reasonable for months such as July 1903. However, more recent months, such as August 2003 usually have articles created for them. When copyediting, I have been adhering to the current manual of style, and replaced Month Year with Month Year, but in some cases it feels wrong...What do others think? — David Remahl 18:10, 20 Sep 2004 (UTC)

That makes sense to me. But when would be the cut-off year? Maurreen 04:04, 21 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Yeah, that's the problem. I didn't mean to suggest we select a year, but perhaps we could find some other solution...I'm just brainstorming here, but what about a software tweak, so that August 2003 links to August 2003 if it exists, or 2003 otherwise. It could also be done using approximately 60,000 redirects, but I think we should avoid that if possible ;-). — David Remahl 04:08, 21 Sep 2004 (UTC)
There might be another technical problem, because the date is also a link, so the month would have to overlap somehow with the date and the year. Maurreen 05:05, 21 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Why not just link to the month if the month page exists, and not if it doesn't? Rule of thumb, it looks like we have month pages for all the months in 2001-2004. I suggest the format September 2004. - Nat Krause 05:40, 21 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Because that involves trial and error and having to manually go back to all pages and check for January 1902 when that page is eventually created. — David Remahl 12:11, 21 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Why not just link it and let it show up as no article. If someone eventually creates the article, it'll be linked. Chuck 19:30, 23 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Because red links detract attention from the content even more than the sometimes overwhelming amounts[sic] of blue date-links...Besides, September 1901 may be more useful than a red September 1901. It is a difficult problem to solve... — David Remahl 19:33, 23 Sep 2004 (UTC)
If the red links are created, this would provide a guide as to which individual months needed articles created for them (the original reason for having red links in the first place IIRC). --Phil | Talk 09:00, Oct 4, 2004 (UTC)

Degrees? space[,] no space

  • option 1: 90°
or
  • option 2: 90 °

When talking about angles, not temp., which is correct in SI world? I can't find a set rule. I know what I am used to seeing though. If it is option 1, then it is different then[sic] other units, where a space is put between number and unit designation (13 MHz). Hobie 00:29, 2004 Sep 27 (UTC)

The signs for degrees, minutes and seconds are exceptions, taking no space: 0°0′0″. The international standard for this is in ISO-31, I think, but I don't have a copy here. As for degrees Celsius, style guides differ as to whether there is a space or not. The Canadian standard is 0°C, but NIST in the States uses 0 °C. I forget what ISO-31 has to say on the subject.--Indefatigable 14:14, 28 Sep 2004 (UTC)
As has been said, the default is to use a space between value and unit symbol with the exceptions of angular degrees, angular minutes and angular seconds. This is also mentioned in the FAQ for the the[sic] newsgroup misc.metric-system http://www.cs.uu.nl/wais/html/na-dir/metric-system-faq.html There is no exception for temperature. The symbol is "°C" and that gets a space. You will see it used, as in "630 °C" on the official SI website. http://www1.bipm.org/en/si/history-si/temp_scales/its-90.html It is not an official SI matter, it may be in ISO 31 as suggested. Bobblewik  (talk) 17:49, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Angles in degrees, minutes and seconds should look like this: 12° 34′ 56″ (that's 12° 34′ 56″). Gdr 12:21, 2004 Nov 17 (UTC)

Date formats

I recently found out that the two links

 [[January 15]], [[2001]]

are treated as a single date entity for formatting. This is not obvious. If the date is treated as one entity, surely it should look like one link, for example:

 [[January 15, 2001]]

Bobblewik  (talk) 16:54, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Billion

  • A billion is a million squared in virtually all languages that use the term. France was briefly an exception (using it for a thousand million) and at that time the US borrowed their usage. For a long time this meant that in English there was a distinction between an "American billion" of 109 and a "British" or "international billion" of 1012. Nowadays the English-speaking world has almost entirely succumbed to American influence on the matter, with a billion being almost always 1,000,000,000 in Britain, Canada, Australia, etc. However, some traditionalists may still prefer the old billion. It may be advisable to avoid these names altogether and instead use scientific notation, or at the very least explain your usage at its first occurrence in an article. The same problem arises with other numbers in the ~illion family greater than a million. See detailed discussion in Number names.

A lot of this is inappropriate for a style guide, which is not for historical discussion but for specific recommendation. It does not matter for the English Wikipedia whether other languages use "billion" in a certain way. There is also some bland POV, for instance in the use of the word "succumb". Also, this prose is not formal enough for the Manual of Style and, according to the article billion and to the OED, the increasingly common usage is 10^9. I have reverted the article to the meaning that was there before, as this is a controversial change that ought to be discussed here in the discussion page before changes to the article. - Centrx 21:15, 11 Oct 2004 (UTC)

It's so not controversial. Chameleon 21:42, 11 Oct 2004 (UTC)
There is nothing controversial about Chameleon's version: everything he writes is certainly factually true. More so than the old version, in fact, which implied that billion = 1012 was still widespread in the UK. But it does contain too much historical background, which makes it hard to find the advice that this page is meant to give. Suggest a much-condensed version like
The word "million" is unambiguous, but "billion", "trillion", etc. have more than one meaning in English. It is advisable to avoid these names altogether and instead write in terms of the million. Or, if appropriate, use scientific notation or SI prefixes. See detailed discussion in Number names.
The Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dates and numbers) in "Number names" under "Style for numbers, weights, and measures" still only mentions scientific notation in this regard. It should also specifically mention SI prefixes and engineering notation as additional options to avoid these number names. Gene Nygaard 19:48, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)
[[User:Smyth|– Smyth]] 08:30, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Well, two different people think the changes should be reverted, and apparently Smyth agrees that the changes contain too much background information. I am not asserting that the facts of the additions are controversial, only that the changes to the page are; it doesn't matter if the information is true if it doesn't belong, paragraphs upon paragraphs of true, but tangentially related, information could be added to the Manual of Style, but that doesn't belong. - Centrx 19:18, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)
It is a reasonable amount of relevant information. Wikipedia is not paper and can cope with this short paragraph summarising the "billion" issue. Chameleon 19:51, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Wikipedia is not paper, but the issue in question is covered properly on many other pages. This particular page is Manual of Style (dates and numbers), and it has to cover a lot of ground. Its content for each issue should therefore be limited to simple advice with simple reasons given for it, and links to pages where the interested reader can learn more. [[User:Smyth|– Smyth]] 21:01, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)

It's quite short. Many other sections are longer. Furthermore, it is incorrect to claim that some dialects use it as 1,000,000,000 and others as 1,000,000,000,000. I used to use the latter and now I use the former. I haven't changed "dialect". What I wrote is a clear, concise picture of the facts. Chameleon 21:49, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Then, if those other sections are unduly long, they should be shortened. It is correct to state that the difference in billions is one of dialect: the general schism is between two subordinate varieties of the same language that arise from peculiarities of vocabulary in the Commonwealth and the US - Centrx 06:50, 16 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Discussion moved from Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style

Go to Talk:Earth. I removed the word billion from the article yesterday because billion is a word with ambiguity in its meaning. Then, later on, it was returned, with scientific notation also being kept. Does anyone have any opinions about the use of the word billion at Wikipedia?? 66.245.96.130 16:30, 10 Oct 2004 (UTC)

As I understand it, although it is certainly ambiguous when reading a document from many years back, and while its cognates in foreign languages may have different meanings, in contemporary English "billion" almost always means the value 1,000,000,0000[sic], and any other use is increasingly seen as archaic or obscurantist. Certainly this is the case in the US,[sic] as far as I know it's the case in Canada and the UK. Are there places where this is not so? Do you have recent citations of it being used in any other meaning in English? -- Jmabel 05:14, Oct 11, 2004 (UTC)
In English, one "billion" is 10^9, or 1,000,000,000. The problem may arise in other languages, where the loose translation of "billion" (in Spanish "billón") means 1,000,000,000,000; in other words, that's a million millions, or a trillion in English.--Logariasmo 06:59, 11 Oct 2004 (UTC)
"In English"? That depends on American English, British English or the others. Billion is indeed ambiguous and should be avoided where possible, though I agree 10^9 is the most common definition now. violet/riga (t) 19:29, 11 Oct 2004 (UTC)
That's very vague. Again, I will ask: "Do you have recent citations of it being used in any other meaning in English?" - Jmabel|Talk 19:49, Oct 11, 2004 (UTC)
Yes, but only in discussions of the difference between the [largely historical] British-based meaning of 10^{12} and the (now more more common) American-based meaning of 10^9. Certainly, the British government stopped using 10^{12} about 30 years ago [1], and in my experience everyone in the UK these days would expect "billion" to mean 10^9. However, I cannot vouch for the rest of the English-speaking world. -- ALoan (Talk) 20:14, 11 Oct 2004 (UTC)
My point was that if there is some other way of stating the information then that should be preferred. Unfortunately, however, it's rarely the case that you can write it some other way. violet/riga (t) 20:37, 11 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Fortunately, it is usually the case that you can write "thousand million", which is easily understood and unambiguous. —AlanBarrett 21:22, 11 Oct 2004 (UTC)
But we all trip over "thousand million" every time we read it. Just say "billion". I doubt that a Wikipedia article will flabbergast anyone on Earth, by introducing the word "billion" as meaning 10^9. Tempshill 23:55, 11 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Oh, does "thousand million" sound weird to some people? I did not know that. I never use the term "billion" (except in discussion about the term itself), and every time I read or hear the word "billion", I wonder what the speaker or writer means ([M]y bias is that I think of 1e12 as a "real billion", and 1e9 as an "American billion"[.]). —AlanBarrett 22:51, 13 Oct 2004 (UTC)
There's a part of the introduction to the Style Guide that may be relevant here: "One way is often as good as another, but if everyone does it the same way, Wikipedia will be easier to read and use, not to mention easier to write and edit." It's reasonable for us to select one meaning of "billion" to be used here. But in this case, it's not in fact true that one way is just as good as the other—using it to mean 10^9 is far more common. So why not make it official and use it that way all the time? Factitious 02:46, Oct 12, 2004 (UTC)
This is covered in the Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dates and numbers). Maurreen 03:46, 12 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Ah, thank you. Looks like that issue has already been argued to death—avoiding the billion wording seems a reasonable solution in light of all that. Factitious 04:20, Oct 13, 2004 (UTC)

We should definately[sic] avoid this, as there are other, clearer ways of saying the same thing. It is like the flamable[sic]/inflamable[sic] debate. The amount of confusion is not worth being right. Mark Richards 03:15, 13 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Proposed policy for "thousand million" and "million million"

I suggest that we create pages named thousand million and million million, and on those pages explain that "billion" or "trillion" are ambiguous, and in the style guide recomend that people use [[thousand million]] and [[million million]]. —AlanBarrett 23:04, 13 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Nah. Let's just accept that a billion is 1,000,000,000 these days. I'm as keen to avoid Americanisms as anyone (probably more than anyone!) but the battle is really lost on this one. A billion is now the same everywhere in the English-speaking world. The OED agrees, The Guardian agrees... I think we should recommend it in our style guide, though backing it up with scientific notation. Chameleon 23:33, 13 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I agree, we should just standardize on billion. It seems that it is the major and increasing usage, and is supported by authoritative sources. Should this extend to trillion, and so on, in general? - Centrx 06:50, 16 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I can accept the use of billion as 10^12, but in that case it should always be linked on first occurance[sic] in an article to thousand million or 1 E9, like so: [[thousand million|billion]]. — David Remahl 17:51, 17 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Please note that my proposal is that "thousand million" be written as a wikilink, in square brackets, like "[[thousand million]]". My recent edit to the style page (which was reverted) was not an attempt to preempt discussion of this proposal (it mentioned the phrases "thousand million" and "million million", but not the use of those phrases in wikilinks). —AlanBarrett 15:42, 14 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Years vs. [n]umbers

I think that it is more logical for an article named something like "60" to refer to the number sixty. It can be distinguished from the date by titling the date articles "AD 60" or "60 BC". If a user searches for "60", doesn't it make sense that they want the number 60, not AD 60?

Perhaps, but if a user searches for 1997, it almost certainly means that he/she is looking for the article about the year 1997. Years are linked to in almost every article, so changing this would take a lot of work, both on the technical side and on mindset. — David Remahl 15:57, 17 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I don't understand the rationale for the many number articles in general. Maurreen 17:26, 17 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Many people find numbers interesting, and they have arguably encyclopaedic properties. — David Remahl 17:40, 17 Oct 2004 (UTC)
1997 is a prime number! So it is possible that the user is looking for information about this number! I think that 1997 is a number and in the Gregorian calendar it is associated to a year. But it is a number in first place. Fupis 20:43, 05 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Sept. 11 attacks

You're invited to a poll at Talk:September 11, 2001 attacks over whether that should remain the article's title or it should be changed to "Attacks of September 11, 2001".

I favor the latter, because using two commas to set the year off is widely supported by US English reference books, and Wikipedia style says: "If a word or phrase is generally regarded as correct, then prefer it to an alternative that is often regarded as incorrect." Maurreen 07:35, 19 Oct 2004 (UTC)

quote and cite? lysdexia 21:55, 13 Nov 2004 (UTC)
If you followed the link, you'd see my references. But that vote is well past anyway. Maurreen 07:49, 14 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Wikilinking units of measure

It has currently come up on WP:FAC#Marginated Tortoise that some editors prefer to see all the units of measure linked—1 m (3.3 ft[.])—while others consider this to be "ugly". The style manual doesn't mention doing this or not doing it ([B]y not mentioning, perhaps there is a tacit statement not to link[.]), but it would be good to reach consensus. The style manual also suggests links like 1.5 m, which I've not yet seen "in the wild". Is that an optional convention, a recommendation, or a style policy? Mpolo 07:30, Oct 30, 2004 (UTC)

I don't see any reason to link units of measure as a general practice. And I don't remember what you refer to in the manual, but I might have missed it. Maurreen 07:47, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)
It's on this "project page". It's never set out as a policy to link to the "orders of magnitude" pages, but it is done in two or three of the examples on the page. Actually, the example incorrectly links 1.5 m to 1 E 1 m instead of 1 E0 m. I don't particularly like those links—especially since several examples are somewhat "obscure" to say the least... Mpolo 08:33, Oct 30, 2004 (UTC)
There's good reason for some units to be wikilinked. For example gallon has a different meaning in America as it does in Britain. Where ambiguous words are used, the ambiguity should be removed (e[.]g[.] by referring to US gallons or UK gallons) and a link should be made to help readers unfamiliar with the term used. The same should be true of units of measurement that may be unfamiliar with the reader. jguk 08:05, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)