Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 127

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Template for aligned dates in tables

I just wrote Template:tdate. You might find it useful. ___A. di M. 11:58, 1 October 2009 (UTC)

You should be aware of {{dts}} which has been used in tables for sorting for a long time. Vegaswikian (talk) 15:39, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
The point of tdate is to vertically align them by using three-letter abbreviation and mono-spaced fonts. (As a bonus, it also has the functionality of dts, except that it also works for yearless dates.) —Preceding unsigned comment added by A. di M. (talkcontribs) 2009-10-01T16:07:27
Should we use abbreviations for Month names? As far as I can see we should only use Months written out per Wikipedia:Mosnum#Full_date_formatting. If you need a shorter date in list o.a. use the format YYYY-MM-DD as pointed out in Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style_(dates_and_numbers)#Dates (last bullet point "However, they may be useful in long lists and tables for conciseness.") Nsaa (talk) 17:59, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
Under "Longer periods" there's "Abbreviations such as Feb are used only where space is extremely limited, such as in tables and infoboxes." A table where you might want to use DD Mmm YYYY but not YYYY-MM-DD is Large_Hadron_Collider#Test_timeline (it used to use YYYY-MM-DD but I've just changed it). ___A. di M. 18:23, 4 October 2009 (UTC)

Wikilinking AD etc

Resolved: Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 08:10, 2 October 2009 (UTC)

From Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Longer_periods:

  • AD and BC are the traditional ways of referring to these eras. However, the CE and BCE is becoming more common in academic and some religious writing. No preference is given to either style.
    • Do not use CE or AD unless the date would be ambiguous without it. e.g. "The Norman Conquest took place in 1066." not 1066 CE or AD 1066.
    • BCE and CE or BC and AD are written, in upper case, spaced, and without periods (full stops).
    • Use either the BC-AD or the BCE-CE notation, but not both in the same article. AD may appear before or after a year (AD 106, 106 AD); the other abbreviations appear after (106 CE, 3700 BCE, 3700 BC).

Any reason for all the duplicate Wikilinks? I was momentarily wondering why we have separate articles for AD and BC; of course, we don't – both links both point to Anno Domini. The current formatting almost implies editors should link these terms on every occurance, which I'm sure is not intended. Any objections to removing all those links except the first instances of AD and CE? Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 15:14, 1 October 2009 (UTC)

I'd change the links in the first sentence to AD and BC and CE and BCE so that it doesn't look like they go to different places. I agree to remove links from all subsequent occurrences. ___A. di M. 15:42, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
I'd do the same. JIMp talk·cont 17:07, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
Concur with A. di M. and Jimp. TheFeds 18:54, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
Concur. SimonTrew (talk) 00:25, 2 October 2009 (UTC)

Thanks everyone, looks like strong consensus. I've implemented A. di M.'s suggestion here, at the main MoS, and at Tony's condensed version. Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 08:10, 2 October 2009 (UTC)

Dates and places of birth

Hi, WP:MOSNUM#Dates of birth and death used to have a bullet saying "Locations of birth and death are given subsequently rather than being entangled with the dates." - has this criteria been changed or has it been relocated somewhere else? Thanks, --Jimbo[online] 08:49, 5 October 2009 (UTC)

I don't know if there was any final formal consensus, but I and several others felt during a recent discussion that this should be left up to the editors of a particular article, since (as I put it) there are people whose birthplace and/or place of death are as significant as the exact dates (e.g. Napoleon, Hitler, Gauguin, Barack Obama), while for many other subjects these places are of secondary or tertiary interest for most readers (some minor artist who was born and died in Paris, or minor thinker who lived and died in London). It's a relatively-recent discussion in the archives of this talk page or the Manual of Style's. Other ready-reference books (e.g. Petit Larousse vs Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Encyclopedia) are not uniform in whether they add places to the initial dates. —— Shakescene (talk) 09:35, 5 October 2009 (UTC)
—— Shakescene (talk) 09:53, 5 October 2009 (UTC)
Shakescene I think I was involved with that discussion. My view and I think yours is that a date is important for itself, not for someone being dead or born on that day or it is St georges day or whatever. So I would say Hitler's birthday is important because of the postfacist organisation that names itself after his birthday or pretends not to, and would say that Gauguin's birthday is not because we remember him for his work not what day he happened to be born. SimonTrew (talk) 18:14, 6 October 2009 (UTC)
Well the years are important for placing someone's life, achievements and failures in time, but the day and month are usually not (unless, say, [s]he died a month before or after an election or winning the Nobel Prize). I feel similarly about places of birth and death; sometimes they might be significant and sometimes not. I think some people do think it significant, for example, that Napoleon was a Corsican and Hitler an Austrian by birth, or that some of the great British writers were born in Ireland and India. I don't think a uniform rule applies as well here as it would to a printed ready-reference book, since we have Information Boxes to help readers who just need to check an exact date and place of birth and/or death in a handy and predictable place. —— Shakescene (talk) 19:33, 6 October 2009 (UTC)
Agree with Shakescene.--Epeefleche (talk) 19:33, 14 October 2009 (UTC)

And now for something completely different: YYYY-D-MMMM

We've discussed a huge range of date formats, but I just ran across a new one queried (by the user) at the user's talk page, "1940 21 November". See Queen Victoria#Issue and User talk:AndreaMimi#Correct form?. I think that most of us here, whatever our other preferences, logic or bias might be, would agree that this seems to combine the worst features of every other date format. You can argue for "September 3, 1940", "3 September 1940" and even in some cases for "1940 September 3", while we're arguing at the moment over where and whether "1940-09-03" should be used. But I can think of no good reason for YYYY-D-MMMM off the top of my head. —— Shakescene (talk) 23:36, 10 October 2009 (UTC)

No - better if we don't have that sort of date IMO. But we don't need a new rule as WP:MOSNUM#Full date formatting already says this. Pfainuk talk 09:07, 11 October 2009 (UTC)
I fixed the dates (see Victoria of the United Kingdom#Children of Victoria and Albert). ¶ It would be nice if there were another place to discuss style issues in general, and editors' specific questions about their own non-MoS articles, without necessarily thinking about specific changes to (or retentions within) one of the Manuals of Style. Not only would the conversations be freer and less stilted, it might mean that discussions here would be sharper and more focussed on the Manuals' own language, organization and direction. —— Shakescene (talk) 18:33, 11 October 2009 (UTC)
Sheesh. What will they think of next.--Epeefleche (talk) 10:52, 14 October 2009 (UTC)

Time of day

This edit popped up today on my watchlist. I wondered about the Colon, and looked at WP:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)#Time of day and at WP:MOS#Times for guidance—finding none.

I think that both project page sections mentioned above would benefit from the addition of style guidance regarding this. FWICS, the guidance should probably be that the leading zero should be present where appropriate in four-digit expressions of time (e.g., "0800" or "08:00"), and the colon should be omitted in expressions of time in a context implying military time, and should be required (or perhaps should be optional) for four-digit expressions of time in other contexts. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 00:53, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

I assure you that everyone I have ever met in the United States knows that 12:00 PM is noon and 12:00 AM is midnight. It's written that way on opening hours signs, spoken in common speech, and written in legal documents. This business about it being ambiguous is just shocking to me. Who doesn't know how to tell time? On the other hand, I prefer 24 hour time, but I'm also confident that most Americans can translate it but would prefer 12 hour time. -143.215.96.183 (talk) 06:19, 16 October 2009 (UTC)
The United States Congress has entrusted in 15 U.S.C. 261 the Secretary of Commerce in coordination with the Secretary of the Navy with the duty to interpret Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) in the US. UTC is the basis of timekeeping in the US, and in effect "Secretary of Commerce" means the National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIST says it is an error to write "12:00 AM" or "12:00 PM" as explained below. The anonymous editor at 143.215.96.183 says NIST does not know how to keep time. Hmm...who should I believe? Such a tough decision. --Jc3s5h (talk) 16:02, 16 October 2009 (UTC)
Well, I could say this: Just use the form of time most familiar to most people for whom English is their first language. My son is in the military and he knows both military and standard civilian time. Hospital nurses use 24-hour time with colons, but they too are familiar with classic civilian time (7:30 PM). However, most people don’t use military time and don’t use 24-hour clocks. So, were it me, I’d do what the Associated Press does and what magazines like Newsweek and Time do, and what pretty much any quality publication does when they want to communicate clearly and unambiguously to the widest possible audience. That would be to do what is (fortunately) common all over en.Wikipedia and is exemplified in our September 11 attacks article: to write “Tuesday, September 11, 2001 at 8:46 AM (UTC‑4)”. But…

Foolish me. I believe this where someone weighs in here regarding how the BIPM or the ISO has some weird standard for how to write times and how Wikipedia should use it because it is an *international standard*. Or perhaps this is where someone cites some Google search *proving* that 24-hour time is most common in real-world usage and should be used here. (*yawn*) To that I respond, “I wish you hadn’t even asked the question, Wtmitchell, and had simply employed your own common sense, which would have likely been a hundred times better than some of the advise you’ll get here. Greg L (talk) 05:03, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

P.S. I do however, see an issue over which editors can get all excited and start engaging in the MOSNUM-equivalent of Turkish butt-stabbings: we can argue over whether it is “8:46 am” (as our September 11 attacks article says) or “8:46 AM”, which I think is most common and most familiar (but I’m not sure). Greg L (talk) 05:16, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
It is unusual to see the 24-hour clock used in written prose in generalist publications, but it is common in certain spheres of life such as transport and military matters. So it probably depends on the subject of the article. I notice a big difference between North America and elsewhere. It was a shock to me to find US rail and bus timetables written in the 12-hour clock, something not seen in Europe for very many decades. -- Alarics (talk) 07:33, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
You seem a bit jaded, Greg. Powers T 12:41, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
A metric butt-load of weapons-grade bullonium has been shoveled here this week, Powers. To some here, I would really like to say “F*ck off; you’re arguments are profoundly retarded.” Instead, I have to be *civil*. (*sigh*) Greg L (talk) Stardate 2009.27291
Civility is not something to be endured, it should be embraced as the social lubricant that prevents even worse disruptions. Powers T 22:50, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
Oh, I can beat that one: Why can’t we all just get along and love our fellow man as we love ourselves? Why can’t we truly embrace multiculturalism and learn from each other and become enriched by our differences, rather than fear those who might be different and allow those differences to divide us? There is truly no “right” or “wrong”; these are divisive labels. Greg L (talk) 00:24, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
I agree with Greg. The twelve-hour clock is generally best for local time. Where the 24-hour clock may be useful would be for times given in UTC. JIMp talk·cont 13:59, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
The 24-hour clock is generally used where precision is necessary, and in international documents. You normally use a colon for punctuation in prose, as in 12:45 or 21:15, but the colon is often left out by the military and other specialized groups. The 12-hour clock has a few ambiguities, notably whether 12 a.m. is 12 midnight or 12 noon (it is actually 12 midnight, but many people don't know that), so it is best to use 12 midnight and 12 noon instead of 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. There are also some inconsistencies such as whether to use uppercase or lowercase and dots or no dots (AM, PM, A.M., P.M., am, pm, a.m., p.m.), and whether to use a colon or a dot between hour and minute (12:45 or 12.45) The British tend to use the dot and the Americans the colon. The national variation in the style of the 12-hour clock is the main reason for the international popularity of the 24-hour clock.RockyMtnGuy (talk) 15:51, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
Excuse my being the smart-arse but seconds are used where precision is necessary. JIMp talk·cont 09:33, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
RockyMtnGuy wrote "it is actually 12 midnight, but many people don't know that". NIST disagrees:
Are noon and midnight 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.?
This is a tricky question. The answer is that the terms 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. are wrong and should not be used.
To illustrate this, consider that "a.m" and "p.m." are abbreviations for "ante meridiem" and "post meridiem." They mean "before noon" and "after noon," respectively. Noon is neither before or after noon; it is simply noon. Therefore, neither the "a.m." nor "p.m." designation is correct. On the other hand, midnight is both 12 hours before noon and 12 hours after noon. Therefore, either 12 a.m. or 12 p.m. could work as a designation for midnight, but both would be ambiguous as to the date intended.
When a specific date is important, and when we can use a 24-hour clock, we prefer to designate that moment not as 1200 midnight, but rather as 0000 if we are referring to the beginning of a given day (or date), or 2400 if we are designating the end of a given day (or date).
To be certain of avoiding ambiguity (while still using a 12-hour clock), specify an event as beginning at 1201 a.m. or ending at 1159 p.m., for example; this method is used by the railroads and airlines for schedules, and is often found on legal papers such as contracts and insurance policies.
If one is referring not to a specific date, but rather to several days, or days in general, use the terms noon and midnight instead of 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. For example, a bank might be open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon. Or a grocery store might be open daily until midnight. The terms "12 noon" and "12 midnight" are also correct, though redundant.
No doubt Greg will oppose anything that comes from a standards agency just on general principle. I, however, would not go against an agency that is expressing a view on a matter that is substance, not style, and clearly within the realm of its official duties. An agency, furthermore, whose handbooks, tables, and standards are explicitly recognized by the laws of many states.
If you look on the website of Britain's National Physical Laboratory you will find similar advice. --Jc3s5h (talk) 18:09, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
I agree with Jc3s5h. That 12 am is actually 12 midnight is a convention not followed by everyone. The fact is that midnight is just as much am as it is pm and noon is neither. 12:00 am = 00:00 and 12 pm = 24:00 would be the only logical convention to adopt, i.e. the only convention which flows logically from the meanings of "am" & "pm". But, of course, that would probably cause confusion so it's best just to avoid them. JIMp talk·cont 09:33, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
(edit conflict) My two cents: The 24-hour clock is widely used in writing in most of Europe, including Britain. (In speech, the 12-hour clock is probably more common in most informal situation, but then here we write "do not", not "don't"...) I think both should be allowed, while recommending consistency within each article; IIRC, last time I checked that was what MOSNUM did. As for the colon, I can't see the usefulness of omitting it (except perhaps some specialized military articles, but using a colon there, too, shouldn't be the end of the world). I have no opinion either way about the leading zero; personally, I tend to use it in tables but to omit it in prose, but it's not the kind of thing I would normally bother to change in an already-existing time of day, no matter how bored I were. YMMV. ___A. di M. 16:09, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
I quoted the Oxford Style Manual when it said that 12 a.m. is 12 midnight (in a completely authoritative tone and a British accent). You could probably find an American style manual that thinks it is 12 noon. This is why people give up in frustration and switch to the 24-hour clock. On the 24-hour clock, noon is 12:00, and midnight is either 00:00 or 24:00. Using ISO date and time format, 2009-09-30 24:00 is midnight tonight, and 2009-10-01 00:00 is midnight tomorrow morning. Whichever you pick is doesn't matter - both represent the same time. Leaving out the colon is a military convention and not really suitable for an encyclopedia. The military has all kinds of conventions that civilians wouldn't normally use. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 20:18, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
I agree that we should not omit the colon (nor use a full stop in its place). There are articles about the military but this is an encyclopædia not a military publication. JIMp talk·cont 09:33, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
To clarify RockyMtnGuy's post, and supposing that ISO refers to ISO 8601, "2009-10-01 00:00 is midnight tomorrow morning" contains two separate fields, an ISO 8601 date, and an ISO 8601 time. It is up to the reader to realize that these fields go together. If one wanted to write that as a ISO 8601 extended date and time representation, one would have to write "2009-10-01T00:00". Not that that has anything to do with the formats presently accepted in Wikipedia. --Jc3s5h (talk) 20:39, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
To clarifying even further, ISO 8601:2004 may have said it better:
  • Midnight will normally be represented as [00:00] or [24:00].
  • The end of one calendar day [24:00] coincides with [00:00] at the start of the next calendar day, e.g. [24:00] on 12 April 1985 is the same as [00:00] on 13 April 1985.
My own preference, resulting from on my computer background would be to always use 00:00 for midnight.RockyMtnGuy (talk) 22:55, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

I seriously hope all this talk about ISO 8601 and military time is purely academic. As far as I know, every military-related article on Wikipedia can be considered as being directed to a general-interest readership. The same goes for medical-related articles (also an industry that tends to use a 24-hour clock). For guidance, we need to look no further than what is far and wide the most common practice in the real world. It’s just that simple. Greg L (talk) 20:55, 30 September 2009 (UTC)

The fact is that what is the most common practice in some parts of the real world isn't the most common practice in other parts of it. Would American really be more confused by "23:04" than by "lorry"? ___A. di M. 23:05, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
Hmmm… let me see… which is the more confusing? You got me stumped on that one. But you’re asking the wrong question. It isn’t “which practice causes confusion that can be compared to something that is even worse.” The proper question to ask here is “which practice causes the least confusion with our target readership.” Those practitioners of reading time primarily on a 24-hour clock are much rarer than those who do so on a 12-hour clock. More importantly, those who understand a 24-hour clock, also always fully understand the 12-hour clock. The reverse is not true. So the proper practice on Wikipedia is to use a 12-hour clock since it is understood by all. Greg L (talk) 00:34, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
I guess that people who understand "lorry" also understand "truck" (given that Hollywood films don't get dubbed in British English) but the reverse is not true. So do we ban British English altogether? Ditto for "33 CE" v "AD 33", "therefore" v "so", "pharyngitis" v "sore throat", "otolaryngologist" v "throat doctor", yadda yadda yadda. The Simple English Wikipedia exists for a reason. BTW, I once did meet a guy working at a train station in Paris who misunderstood what "the train leaving this evening at nine o' clock" meant, and had to explain him "I meant nine pee em: twenty-one!"; but Frenchmen are a particular case, so that doesn't count. <g,d&r> (A friend of mine hypothesized they deliberately pretend not to understand any language other than French, or even French spoken with a foreign accent, just because they don't like dealing with foreigners.) ___A. di M. 01:12, 1 October 2009 (UTC)

Oh, and, again; standards like ISO 8601 don’t have the slightest bearing in this discussion because most of our readership has never heard of the standard (let alone read it). Also, most of our readership has never written out a date like “2009-11-09T19:40”. Common practices in the English-speaking world are much different; this much is too obvious. If an ambiguous time like 12:00 AM (12:00 midnight) needs to be written, we can simply write it “12:00 midnight” instead of “00:00”. Everyone—including my 87-year-old mother—understands the former; many don’t understand the latter. Just because something is a cool idea and ought to be adopted is never, ever a valid reason for any publication to adopt it. The objective of all technical writing is to communicate with minimal confusion. Just because an idea like “256 kibibytes” is a good idea and is an international standard, certainly does not mean that it is the clearest way to communicate in writing. Greg L (talk) 00:52, 1 October 2009 (UTC)

While I generally agree that we should not prematurely adopt trendy notation, it would be ambiguous if I were to write "midnight September 30, 2008, in Miami". I would have to write something like "midnight September 30/October1, 2008, in Miami". If I were writing an article that contained many references to midnight, it might be expedient to adopt a 24 hour clock just for that article. --Jc3s5h (talk) 01:03, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
  • Or “midnight, the morning of October 1, 2008.” There are any number of ways to communicate this time of the day clearly and unambiguously using conventional terminology and writing style that doesn’t call attention to itself. Writing “2008-11-01T00:00”, while a splendid method in theory, is ambiguous simply because it is unfamiliar to so many people. Moreover, being able to cite the odd case of “precisely midnight” is certainly no excuse in the world to adopt less common ways to write times in general here on Wikipedia. Greg L (talk) 01:19, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
    And no-one is proposing to do that; but writing "The train departed on 2 October 2008 at 21:45 and arrived on 3 October at 4:53" sound perfectly good to me. (I'd still write "midnight" rather that "0:00" for some reason, but I'm not sure of which. But I wouldn't usually refer to a time before dawn as "morning", either. Anyway, that's relative: 4am is morning for the baker who's just got up, but night for the bartender who is just about to lie down. "Since October 1 inclusive" or "until September 30 inclusive" are quite unambiguous.) ___A. di M. 01:33, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
As long as we aren’t introducing United Federation of Planets time, military time, ISO time, etcetera, I’m fine. Plain ol’ everyday time on a 12-hour clock will be perfectly clear to everyone. How we handle “exactly midnight” isn’t what I was prepared to deal with in this thread (other than the fact that we aren’t properly addressing the problem by adopting MILSPEC-UFOP-348540-B-2007.) Greg L (talk) 03:00, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
Take a look at the bottom of any article: the boilerplate text includes a statement like "This page was last modified on 4 September 2009 at 23:13." Look at the headers of any e-mail message: there'll be a field like "Date: Tue, 3 Jul 2007 17:40:26 -0700 (PDT)". Look at the BBC website and you'll see "17:05 Europe Today". Anyone who doesn't understand what 13:57 means will have many other problems on the Internet. The 24-hour clock wasn't invented by either ISO or the United Federation of Planets, even if they might happen to endorse it. ___A. di M. 16:24, 1 October 2009 (UTC)

Getting back to the original proposal, it boils down to suggesting that 2:00 and 200 be avoided in favor of 02:00 and 0200. It also seems to suggest 0200 in a military context, and is undecided about non-military contexts. I don't think anyone writes 02:00 AM, so I think there is an unstated assumption that 24 hour time is acceptable in any article. The only reader group I'm sure would prefer to see 12 hour time is Americans; I just am not equipped to guess whether the number of people who are fluent in English exceeds the number of Americans or not. I do think that the subset of Americans who read Wikipedia, that is, those who use computers, have had considerable exposure to 24 hour time, and could cope with it. In any case, any proposal about the extent to which 12 hour time should be favored would be a new proposal. I think the current proposal can be dropped with no action. --Jc3s5h (talk) 03:22, 1 October 2009 (UTC)

I prefer the 12-hour clock and I'm no American. JIMp talk·cont 09:09, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
Jc3s5h, Americans and other readers could “cope” with “mebibyte” too. That’s not the point, is it? Best practice on Wikipedia would clearly be to express time in the format that everybody understands, which is 12-hour clock with colons, even though you can point to some segments of our English-speaking readership that can “cope” with 24-hour time. Nor does it matter that an article like B-52 or United States Navy are “military contexts,” we don’t have military people coming to Wikipedia to set their watches for when their next meeting with the colonel occurs. We do, however, have an abundance of plain ordinary civilians reading those articles. As for time formats MOSNUM says are “acceptable,” why, you just go ahead and knock yourself out using 24-hour time in your articles (because you can apparently point to people who you are certain can “cope” with it); I prefer to write my articles so they read most naturally with the least confusion using a time format absolutely everyone recognizes. (silly me). Greg L (talk) 23:07, 3 October 2009 (UTC)
"Mebibyte" is a bad comparison. Probably less than 5% of readers know what a mebibyte is, whereas the fraction of people able to understand 17:05 is probably closer than 70% (and much higher than that among people able to use a web browser). And someone who doesn't understand what 17 and 18 mean in "17:05 BST (18:05 UTC)" is unlikely to understand what BST and UTC mean, either; so do we convert any time to all time zones containing at least ten million native English speakers so that practically anyone would understand? The "the format that everybody understands" argument would lead to the ban of British English in favour (sorry, "favor") of American English, as everybody understands "truck" due to Hollywood films (sorry, "movies") but not everyone understands "lorry". (It'd also ban 1029 in favour of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, but nobody would ever be so perverse to write the latter.) BTW, I had the impression that you was proposing to discourage the 24-hour clock, but if I understand your last post correctly — I'm getting older than the age at which you can recognize sarcasm with more than 99.9% confidence — you are just expressing your personal preference and you're fine with the current wording of the MoS. If so, so am I, so this "issue" is resolved. --___A. di M. 10:35, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
Quoting you: …the fraction of people able to understand 17:05 is probably closer than 70%. Did you know that causing unnecessary confusion in technical writing is just that:unnecessary”? So using a date format that is recognized by *close to 70%* of our readership when there is a format that is recognized by 100% is a profoundly dumb thing to do, don’t you think? It’s just more of this space-cadet philosophy of “it’s such a damned cool way of writing time, we ought to use it here and indoctrinate those readers who don’t understand it nor use it in their daily life.” And, no, I’m not “fine” with the current MOSNUM wording permitting a practice that unnecessarily confuses 30% of our readership. But I actually don’t particularly care about this issue and am pleased to let this issue lie as I and am no longer as retarded as I used to be. Greg L (talk) 16:33, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
A lot of people using en-wiki strongly strive to understand AM/PM. You now turns the argument on it's head. 1:00 PM/9:00 PM (I hope I've cosen the right one) is the problem, not 13:00 or 21:00. 24h clock should clearly be strongly encouraged so more than the US population can easily read the articles. Nsaa (talk) 17:12, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
Do xenophobic Frenchmen use en.wiki, or do you have another "lot of people" in mind? If the latter, and if you're right, having conversions "21:00 (9:00 PM)" much like we have conversion "47 kilometres (29 mi)" might make some sense, although people able to convert from 24- to 12-hour time and vice versa in less time than they can tell left from right (such as me) would be astonished by that (though that would not hinder their understanding). Now when you give conversions to UTC that might start being clumsy, but an idea would be to assume that whoever understands UTC understands 24-hour clock, and writing "21:05 (9:05 pm) local time (19:05 UTC)". What about that? ___A. di M. 18:06, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
Do you think that more than 70% of readers understand "lorry" or "1029"? If not, would you recommend against them? And anyway, most of the time zones are not understood by far more than 30% of readers. (For example, I understand Central European Time (UTC +1), Central European Summer Time (UTC +2), Greenwitch Meridian Time (UTC), and British Summer Time (UTC +1), but I would have to look up any other time zone to understand it. Now, converting any time to any other time zone is infeasible, so we normally just convert to UTC: "19:50 CEST (17:50 UTC)". Now, I guess that any person who can't understand 17:50 can't understand UTC, either, so writing "7:50 pm CEST (5:50 pm UTC)" is no improvement, as there probably isn't one single person who can understand the latter but not the former. ___A. di M. 18:06, 4 October 2009 (UTC)
Why not simply "9:05 pm local time (19:05 UTC)"? JIMp talk·cont 17:38, 6 October 2009 (UTC)
Sounds good; can {{convert}} handle this, or can it be modified to do so? --Redrose64 (talk) 18:00, 6 October 2009 (UTC)
I think it already does many jobs; it'd make more sense to make a new template for that. ___A. di M. 10:18, 7 October 2009 (UTC)
"9:05 pm local time (19:05 UTC)" sounds fine, but I don't think a template is a good idea. The editor would have to know what time zone abbreviation would be accepted by the template (EDT, MST, etc.). The editor would have to know better than to use the template before January 1, 1961, UTC, because UTC didn't exist before then [1]. The template would have to have an extensive array of time zone abbreviations, and it is quite possible some of the common ones in various languages collide with each other. The editor would have to know whether daylight saving time was in effect at the time and place of interest, and the daylight savings time laws have been in a state of flux ever since it was invented. --Jc3s5h (talk) 16:29, 7 October 2009 (UTC)
Anyway, I'd still allow "21:05 local time". Personally, I'd prefer to suggest to give the local time in the format that is dominant in formal written English in the place where the time is local, such as the 24-hour clock in Ireland and Malta, or the 12-hour clock in the United States; and I'd consider both formats acceptable if there's no dominant formal written English format there (either because both formats are widely used—as in the United Kingdom or Canada, or because people don't normally write in English—as in France or Japan). But that'd be bordering WP:CREEP, so I'm fine with considering both acceptable regardless.) ___A. di M. 15:25, 10 October 2009 (UTC)

{{circa}} template - opinions?

Is there an opinion/policy on whether the {{circa}} template is recommended for use under MOS:DOB on en-wiki in place of the plain abbreviation? Thanks Rjwilmsi 11:06, 17 October 2009 (UTC)

"0.57 second" or "0.57 seconds"?

What is the correct grammatical number for nouns preceded by number whose magnitude is strictly less than 1? It appears to me that the singular is used in American English and the plural in British English, but I've never seen a source explicitly dealing with this. ___A. di M. 23:33, 12 October 2009 (UTC)

In English there are few absolute rules. That said, to me as an American, "0.57 second" looks more "correct", but "0.57 seconds" looks and sounds more "natural". I would say that neither form is clearly incorrect, so you can use either form. Marco polo (talk) 00:16, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
I don't think the terminology is related to the magnitude of the number. E.g., "0 seconds" is usually written in the plural, isn't it? I think unit terms are usually count nouns, so the only time you use the singular is for a value of 1. But that's just my interpretation. You might want to look through the SI documents to see if there's an established international standard. Another option would be using "57 centiseconds" or "570 milliseconds", but I doubt that's what you want. :) Indeterminate (talk) 01:56, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
If there's a particular place where this is causing difficulty, perhaps someone here could suggest a sound turnaround (for example, and depending on context, 57 hundredths of a second, 0.57 sec. or 0.57 sec). And why is this being forked or duplicated to Wikipedia:Reference desk/Language?
¶ As for the style, even when it's something concrete (or that could be concrete) like a penny, a pound or a dollar, English-speakers always pluralize it in speech when giving decimal fractions, but not when giving normal fractions. Half a dollar, five-sixths of a shilling, and 25 pence (or cents), but 0.25 pounds (or dollars). I'd stick to idiomatic English that will not make Anglophone readers hesitate, and 0.37 second will just look stiff and weird, or hyper-grammatical. 0.37 seconds may not be technically correct according to the style-books, but it won't look wrong to 95%-plus of readers. They just won't notice it the way they might notice (and wonder at) 0.37 second. —— Shakescene (talk) 04:58, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
I've had to make that choice several times in the last month or so, for example in kilometre (is it 0.6214 miles or 0.6214 mile?). As for me, the plural sounds more "natural" (but I guess that's just because my native language, Italian, uses it), but I've seen some sources using the singular for such numbers (e.g. "1.782×10−27 gram", "10−12 second", "10−7 metre" in The Feynman Lectures on Physics), and the only other thing these sources appear to have in common is that they're written in American English, so I guessed that's an ENGVAR issue. (Also, on the reference desk I just intended to provide a pointer to here, because I thought the people hanging around there were the ones most likely to have clearer ideas about that; too bad someone replied directly there. Also, I shouldn't have used prescriptivist words (What is the correct grammatical number for), but rather descriptivist ones (Which grammatical number is used for); so I clarify the question, "Is it the case that "0.57 second" is more common in American English and "0.57 seconds" is in British English? Does anyone know about a source dealing with this matter?" ___A. di M. 10:15, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
Here's a text:

Names like 'metre' or coulomb' are the names of standard quantities and are used in sentences like ordinary nouns. We write 'twenty coulombs' or '20 coulombs', 'one tenth of a coulomb' or '0.1 coulomb'.

  • Harrison, R.D., ed. (1972). "SI units". Book of Data: Chemistry, Physical Science, Physics. Harlow: Longman for the Nuffield Foundation. p. 4. ISBN 0 582 82672 1. 
which in turn cites:
  • McGlashan, M.L. (1968). Physico-chemical quantities and units. Monographs for Teachers No. 15. Royal Institute of Chemistry. 
--Redrose64 (talk) 10:44, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
  • I for one have never seen the singular appended to anything but the unit value (that is, one second). The reason for this is rooted in the meaning of the word "singular" – strictly speaking, something less than one is not singular. So it makes sense. —Anonymous DissidentTalk 05:23, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
    • If it's 1.00000001 seconds, we use the plural because it's more than 1 second; but we also do the same when it's 0.99999999999 seconds when it's less than 1 second; I even write 1.0 seconds or 1.0000 seconds, rather than 1.0000 second. —— Shakescene (talk) 20:36, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
      • That makes good sense, because it's contextually clear with "1.0 seconds" that sub-integral numbers are being analysed. —Anonymous DissidentTalk 00:57, 15 October 2009 (UTC)

OK, so it's not an ENGVAR issue; it's more an issue of grammarians recommending something without ever checking what native English speakers actually do, like "don't split infinitives" or "don't end sentences with prepositions". (OTOH, I think Feynman isn't the kind of guy who gives a damn about what grammarians say without ever checking what native English speakers actually do, and I guess his editor Leighton isn't, either. So, maybe there are speakers who do find it "natural" to use the singular in these cases.) ___A. di M. 10:31, 14 October 2009 (UTC)

It seems to me that it might be a prescriptivist thing. Pluralising anything but ±1 doesn't seem right to me (even "e2πi second" seems a little awkward). I'm guessing that the prescriptivists may have thought that "0.5 second" is either nothing but a short form of "0.5 of a second" or a different way of writing "12 (a) second". English is not maths. JIMp talk·cont 12:35, 15 October 2009 (UTC)
Well, the way that we were taught at school (in England) was basically: "half of a second" should be written "0.5 second", not "0.5 seconds", because "[of] a second" is singular. --Redrose64 (talk) 13:03, 15 October 2009 (UTC)
The style guides don't really seem to address the issue, but the most common rule seems to be: if a value is greater than 1, it should be plural and if it is 1 or less it should be singular. E.g. 1.01 seconds, 1 second, 0.9 second, 0.1 second. I think the basic idea is that 0.9 second is short for 0.9 of a second. However, for values of zero or less they seem to go back to being plural again: 0 seconds, -1 seconds. SI abbreviations avoid the issue by never using plurals. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 17:38, 15 October 2009 (UTC)

Apply WP:ENGVAR and common sense. The MOS is already overly large and increasingly a barrier rather than an aid - let's not seek to inflate it further where existing consensus (ENGVAR) already exists. --Dweller (talk) 06:06, 16 October 2009 (UTC)

Yeah, but my point was that not everybody knows which national variety of English uses which grammatical number in these cases. But now I see that nobody does, so I agree we'd better keep it off the MoS. ___A. di M. 13:13, 21 October 2009 (UTC)

Wtmitchell posted the following in Talk:Grammatical_number#.220.57_second.22_or_.220.57_seconds.22.3F:

The question, "What is the correct grammatical number for nouns preceded by number whose magnitude is strictly less than 1?" was recently asked at WT:MOSNUM#"0.57 second" or "0.57 seconds"?. The answer so far arrived at there seems to be "Nobody knows". The question doesn't seem to be addressed in this article. Perhaps it should be. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 04:49, 22 October 2009 (UTC)

To which I replied:

The answer varies from language to language even for languages that share a similar system of grammatical number.
There are other questions that also arise about how to match a grammatical number with a numeral that is not a positive whole number.
Even if the language has only "singular" and "plural" grammatical numbers, a question arises whenever the numeral is less than one (including zero or negative as well as fractional), or more than one but less than two (a mixed-fraction numeral).
For languages with a dual number distinct from singular and from plural, the question arises not only of what to do with 0.5, 1.5, 0.8, 1.2, etc., but also 1.8, 2.5, 2.2, 2.8 etc.
For English the answer appears to be usually "if it's not 'one', use a plural". For French, the answer appears to be different. I know this has been stated in print and in an online-searchable source, but I don't remember what the source was.
So perhaps the answer should be given in each specific language's section on grammatical number, and this cross-linguistic article on "Grammatical Number" should only mention that such sections contain such answers.
In English it may depend on how the fraction-numeral is written and pronounced. We might say "half a second" but "0.5 seconds"; "fifty-seven hundredths of a second" but "0.57 seconds".
It is less clear how grammatical number should match up with a mixed-fraction numeral greater than 1 but less than 2. We would probably say "1.5 seconds", but would we say "one-and-a-half second" or "one-and-a-half seconds"? I think we would probably say "one-and-a-half seconds" but "a second and a half".
I apologetically admit that the above doesn't satisfy the "verifiability" nor the "no original research" requirements of Wikipedia.
You say "The question doesn't seem to be addressed in this article. Perhaps it should be." I encourage you to do so. (Is that being WP:BOLD ?)
--Eldin raigmore (talk) 21:49, 22 October 2009 (UTC)

Request to unprotect Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Datestempprotectedsection

Really, there's no reason to leave it protected anymore. Please comment at the relevant request section. Dabomb87 (talk) 22:36, 16 October 2009 (UTC)

It's been merged back. Dabomb87 (talk) 00:06, 23 October 2009 (UTC)

Infoboxes

Could someone please enlighten me on what formatting to use when editing music articles infoboxes? 2005-Present? Or Since 2005? Or are both acceptable Thanks! GaudiumInVeritate (talk) 16:33, 19 October 2009 (UTC)

We had a discussion at Talk:Simple Plan. I commented on WP:OTHERDATE. No dog in the fight, just one of the editors on the Simple Plan article.--Wehwalt (talk) 16:58, 19 October 2009 (UTC)

I guess everyone else is confused too. GaudiumInVeritate (talk) 22:19, 19 October 2009 (UTC)

Non-breaking spaces

The NBSP guidelines make sense for the most part, but I'm a little concerned by them. Some articles are now getting tons of   tags added into them, especially those related to measurement... and even in some other articles, like in the "official breed standard" section edited in this diff by my AWB-bot. My feeling is that   s look pretty confusing mixed in with article text, especially for non-programmers and new users. Could you imagine someone trying to make their first edit to an article and coming across that kind of code... it would be worse than citation templates, IMO. So, to help reduce the number of hardcoded   s that are being used in article, I have a proposal. For things which commonly use hard spaces, templates should be created to help make it easier. For example {{cm}} would have the code: {{{1|}}} cm, so that you could use {{cm|5}} in articles, rather than 5 cm ... the former of these looks much more user-friendly to me. There are already "shortcut" templates like {{US$}}, so this may be a logical extension of existing templates and to help make editing more newcomer-friendly. Thoughts? Opinions? –Drilnoth (T • C • L) 18:25, 19 October 2009 (UTC)

My thought and opinion is that it would be a good idea to have a feature in MediaWiki which turns underscores to non-breaking spaces in the rendered page, except in URLs and within <code> or <source> tags. I think that more than 99% of underscores in typical articles are in template parameters, HTML attributes, etc. where they don't get rendered, and 99% of the ones which are rendered are in URLS or in computer code within <code> or <source> tags. If such a feature were implemented, a source of 5_kg would look much less cluttered than 5&nbsp;kg and no more cluttered than 5 kg. ___A. di M. 19:12, 19 October 2009 (UTC)
To the new editor, it would seem that underscores turn into regular spaces; that's just too confusing. If you want a new MediaWiki feature, how about turning &nbsp; into a hard space, but have the editor render the non-breaking space in a special color so it can be distinguished from a regular space. --—Preceding unsigned comment added by Jc3s5h (talkcontribs) 19:19, 19 October 2009
The fact is that some browsers convert literal hard spaces into regular spaces when submitting; so I'm not sure that'd work. (Maybe with some JavaScript-based magic, but that'd slow down the page for users with slow connections, so I'm not sure that'd be a good idea.) I don't think someone would be likely to accidentally find out that underscores turn to spaces (how often would they use underscores where they'd be rendered?), but if that's a concern, Noetica once proposed to use ,, for it. ___A. di M. 16:53, 20 October 2009 (UTC)

Another ammunition exception

Being discussed here. Chris Cunningham (not at work) - talk 10:09, 21 October 2009 (UTC)

RfC ISO 8601 use in System time article

I have requested comment on the use of the YYYY-MM-DD format at the System time talk page. --Jc3s5h (talk) 21:21, 26 October 2009 (UTC)

Ratios

There seems to be no guidance as to how ratios should be specified.

Best wishes Si Trew (talk) 02:58, 2 November 2009 (UTC)

"Units most appropriate"

This Manual of Style states that "put the units most appropriate to them first ... for the UK, they usually are metric units". This is, presumably, based on the fact that the metric system is generally used by the British Government. It is not the system generally used by the British people. Are the latter not the more important, and should actual usage rather than official policy not be the determining factor? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Sam1930 (talkcontribs) 18:37, 13 November 2009 (UTC)

What reliable source do you have to establish that the British people generally do not use metric units. In what domain do they not use metric units (driving a car, receiving medical care, designing bridges)? Are the non-metric units only spoken, with written transactions (including cash register receipts and product labels) in metric units? --Jc3s5h (talk) 22:23, 13 November 2009 (UTC)
This is a talk page. Reliable secondary sources are helpful but not a requirement. The question is what unit is most-readily apparent in each particular case to an ordinary British reader, like the 4-minute 1.6 km (1.0 mile). By the way, I've argued before that the subject of an article can be a poor guide as to the nationality of its possible readers. Britons are probably going to be the most-common readers of Wolverhampton Wanderers, but who knows who reads Big Ben, Tower of London, Statue of Liberty or Taj Mahal? —— Shakescene (talk) 23:16, 13 November 2009 (UTC)
I think the best idea is to follow the sources as a general rule. Yes, this will result in some inconsistency, but I think it's better to be faithful to the sources than consistent with a rigid convention. Of course, many will argue that this is inconsistent and messy, and so it is, but it is a fair reflection of usage in the United Kingdom, which is both inconsistent and changing. Michael Glass (talk) 22:35, 14 November 2009 (UTC)
And I don't agree. I think that the current wording, requiring a modicum of consistency in similar contexts while allowing different units to be used in different contexts, is probably the best approach. We trust editors of articles to determine the most appropriate wording for articles and it only seems fair to trust them to choose the most appropriate units when this is context-dependent. I think that requiring editors use the units used in sources is liable to lead to source tennis, whereby editors insist on using the sources that favour their preferred units (I have seen people accused of this in the past) and is an unnecessary restriction.
Usage of units in the UK is not inconsistent or messy. But it also does not rigidly follow either the imperial or metric system. Rather, it is based on a complicated set of cultural rules, a simplified version of which you can see in the Times Style Guide, cited on MOSNUM. Pfainuk talk 22:55, 14 November 2009 (UTC)

Usage is the guideline - so for UK we use miles for road distances. But we use metric tonnes for shipping. No big deal. Rich Farmbrough, 09:16, 16 November 2009 (UTC).

Sam1930, have you read the ending of the sentence whose beginning you quoted? --___A. di M. 13:43, 21 November 2009 (UTC)

propose date unlinking to use date template

Several articles are appearing on my watchlist (and I guess other people's) with this edit summary

Delink dates (WP:MOSUNLINKDATES) using AWB

the associated edits are to unlink previously autoformatted dates. Could this be enhanced to also replace the linking with a {{date}} template call? This would allow readers to decide the format of the dates they see (without linking) using their preferences. Feel free to move my suggestion elsewhere if this is not the best place. -84user (talk) 22:21, 14 November 2009 (UTC)

The {{tl|date} template does not honor the date preferences. There is a dateformat magic word that would do what you want. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 22:28, 14 November 2009 (UTC)

This idea has little merit because some of the dates, the ones that are linked, are being processed, while the unlinked dates are not. Readers with date preferences turned on would see a mish-mash of inconsistent dates. Also, the magic word does not work in all situations, such as date ranges, and a sentence like the following:
A major terrorist attack occurred September 11, 2001, in the United States.
would be displayed to a few readers as
A major terrorist attack occurred 11 September 2001, in the United States.
Notice the inappropriate comma in the second version. --Jc3s5h (talk) 19:21, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

Yes, it does appear that {{date}} template does not react to date preferences. I must have been confused with {{Birth date}} which does appear to follow the preferences but requires an input syntax different to these dates in any case. How about dates in {{cite web}} template's accessdate parameter, whether linked or not (even unlinked dates are being modified by AWB)? I made this suggestion to make the template do the formatting automatically, thereby saving AWB some work. If all cite templates followed the preferences (or used some default) then they would all be consistent within an article. -84user (talk) 20:02, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

If you have not already done so, please read every discussion mentioned in Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)#Notes. All the problems with automatically formatting dates are laid out there. Jc3s5h (talk) 20:23, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

Date autoformatting is a controversial subject; there is no clear consensus that it should be implemented (linked or not), and it still doesn't address a few issues, such as the ability to format specially formatted dates (e.g., ranges such as February 23–24, 2009,), and the fact that 99.5% of our readers (i.e. IPs) don't benefit from this. Please do not encourage users to implement this, through semi-automated means or otherwise. Dabomb87 (talk) 02:58, 18 November 2009 (UTC)

I think "there is no clear consensus" is rather an understatement. There is no consensus, period, unless I'm very mistaken. The community has decided that it just doesn't need this month-day versus day-month thing to be fiddled with in a small number of logged-in WPians' displays, at huge cost. Clutter, further barriers to newbie induction and anon editing, technical problems in ranges, Julian vs Gregorian, etc. Wherever technical means have been tried, the result has always been disasterous. Let's get on with improving articles. Tony (talk) 03:42, 18 November 2009 (UTC)
Yes, the very minor advantage of date formatting according to user preference is vastly outweighed by its many many disadvantages. This was all discussed exhaustively (and exhaustingly) in the recent RFC and earlier - let's not start down that road again. Colonies Chris (talk) 08:55, 18 November 2009 (UTC)

Pointless rule

Resolved
  • Yearless dates (5 March, March 5) are inappropriate unless the year is obvious from the context. There is no such ambiguity with recurring events, such as "January 1 is New Year's Day".

This is not something that will surprise anyone who can find the MOS. I think we can just drop that line. Rich Farmbrough, 23:38, 18 November 2009 (UTC).

I agree. Pointless instruction creep. Hans Adler 13:14, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
Yep. Tony (talk) 14:23, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
Perfect example of instruction creep, I agree.Dejvid (talk) 11:20, 28 November 2009 (UTC)

My revert

Just because this was too big to go into the edit summary, here are my objections to Michael Glass's changes:

  • The rule on conversion was changed to require a conversion even in contexts where the entire English-speaking world use the same units. I don't see the need unless there is some difference between different parts of the English-speaking world.
  • The exception on places/times/people was changed in such a way that it could be read that the only cases where the exception applied where on US- and UK-related articles. In fact it applies on all articles strongly related to a certain person, time or place - it's just it most commonly makes a difference on US- and UK-related articles.
  • The UK-related articles rule was changed in such a way that it could be read that imperial measures could only be used for road distances and draught beer. In fact, these are merely examples - the most obvious examples, perhaps, but not the only ones. Pfainuk talk 11:07, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
Obviously things are being read into my change of wording that were not intended.
  • Different parts of the English-speaking world" vs "different English speaking countries" : more concise wording, no essential difference in meaning, but see below.
  • "different units for the same measurement" vs "different units for some measurements": slightly more concise wording
  • "the "primary" unit should be followed by a conversion in parentheses" vs "follow the "primary" unit with a conversion in parentheses" : replacing a passive voice with the active voice.
  • "for example" vs "Examples" There are two examples, each from different parts of the world. This is not a single example as the wording could be taken to imply.
The most important change was to point out that there are two examples where the present wording could be taken as referring to one example where for some unaccountable reason, one river was measured in miles while the other was measured in kilometres. By making the wording clear that these are two examples it clears up this ambiguity. The next important change was to remove the vague phrase "English-speaking world" with a more focused reference to "different English speaking countries". It also removes a phrase which could be taken as suggesting that the whole world is English-speaking, a piece of arrogance that we could do without.
While I note Pfainuk's objections, these two revisions have nothing to do with the concerns that he raised. Michael Glass (talk) 12:58, 21 November 2009 (UTC)
I don't object to these two changes.
My issue there in particular focussed around the word as, meaning "because" rather than when or where meaning "if this is a case in which". It read to me as saying effectively: Some countries use different units when dealing with the same measurement. Therefore, you should put a conversion in parentheses after the primary unit. - implying, that we should be putting a conversion in regardless of whether it is needed or not. I don't think that you intended this since it would defy common sense, but that's how I thought it could be read. Pfainuk talk 14:34, 21 November 2009 (UTC)

A proposal for more concise wording

One of the points on measurement could be expressed more concisely:

The second sentence is particularly convoluted. I believe that this:

For example, in US articles, they usually are United States customary units, and for the UK, they usually are metric units for most measurements, but imperial units for some measurements such as road distances and draught beer (see the examples in Metrication in the United Kingdom and the Times Online style guide under "Metric").

could be edited to this:

For example, in US articles, they usually are United States customary units, and for the UK, they more often are metric units, with imperial units for some measurements such as road distances (see the examples in Metrication in the United Kingdom and the Times Online style guide under "Metric").
  • The policy is not changed, only the wording is trimmed.
  • It trims a repetitive phrase 'they usually are metric units for most measurements' to 'they more often are metric units', 6 words instead of 8.
  • It excises a reference to 'draught beer'. Very few articles need to refer to draught beer, so why clutter the text?

Any comments? Michael Glass (talk) 22:17, 21 November 2009 (UTC)

It does concern me slightly that the mention of road distances (and draught beer) may be taken as a definitive list, rather than as examples - but I have no counterproposal to prevent that, and we do explicitly say "such as", implying an example rather than a full list.
The other significant area where imperial units are near-universally preferred in UK usage - and which is likely to come up on Wikipedia - is in personal measurements. Height is measured in feet and inches and weight in stones and pounds (and almost never just in pounds, as it is in the US) - this is detailed in the cited style guide, so I don't think we need to spell it out. But it may be a good idea to put "and personal measurements" in place of "and draught beer".
Beyond that, I have no issues with your new wording. Pfainuk talk 22:37, 21 November 2009 (UTC)

I have no problem with the mention of personal height and weight and would further refine the wording like this:

For example, in US articles they are usually United States customary units, and in the UK, they are more often metric units, with imperial units for measurements such as road distances and personal height and weight. See the examples in Metrication in the United Kingdom and the Times Online style guide under "Metric".

I think it reads more naturally to put the adverbial elements after the verbs and to bring the last clause out of the parentheses. Michael Glass (talk) 08:03, 22 November 2009 (UTC)

I'm happy with that. Pfainuk talk 08:43, 22 November 2009 (UTC)

ArbCom election reminder: voting closes 14 December

Dear colleagues

This is a reminder that voting is open until 23:59 UTC next Monday 14 December to elect new members of the Arbitration Committee. It is an opportunity for all editors with at least 150 mainspace edits on or before 1 November 2009 to shape the composition of the peak judicial body on the English Wikipedia.

On behalf of the election coordinators. Tony (talk) 09:44, 8 December 2009 (UTC)

Format of automatic access dates changed?

Looks like the format of automatic access dates given by the edit toolbar has changed from "2009-12-08" to "8 December 2009". I think this is very problematic since old access dates are mostly in the YYYY-MM-DD format, and the change creates an inconsistency. I also started a discussion here. Offliner (talk) 03:23, 9 December 2009 (UTC)

Looks like the author of the tool changed it on 18 November because someone thought the YYYY-MM-DD format isn't allowed anymore: User_talk:Mr.Z-man/refToolbar#Date_formats. Offliner (talk) 03:57, 9 December 2009 (UTC)
The obvious answer is for the tool not to have a default entry for this field. Just leave it blank and let people type in the date in their preferred format (or the format which is standard for that particular article) -- if, indeed, they want to include accessdate at all, which is often unnecessary, in the case of most news citations for instance. -- Alarics (talk) 10:05, 9 December 2009 (UTC)
I don't agree with the last statement (I dig up many news stories for research & citation long after they were published), but it's probably a good idea just to let the editor pick his or her preferred date format so long as it isn't XX/ZZ/YYYY or XX/ZZ/YY where (to the reader, whatever the editor's intent) either XX or ZZ could be the month. I'd prefer to ditch YYYY-MM-DD in non-specialist contexts too, but clearly there's no consensus yet for that in footnotes. I think the same about the date of publication. —— Shakescene (talk) 08:46, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

Casual use of imperial units in prose

What is the policy on "throwaway" use of imperial units in article texts, e.g. "a few feet", "a few miles", "a few yards", etc.? Should international users be expected to know what rough quantities these descriptions refer to? Mixsynth (talk) 12:00, 19 December 2009 (UTC)

I'd add something like (1 ft ≈ 30 cm) after the first time the feet is used that way, and hope the reader will remember that at least until the end of the article. (This is the approach I used in String (music)#Gauge, although I gave the exact conversion of the thousandth of an inch because these are more precise measures than "a few".) ― A. di M. — 2nd Great Wikipedia Dramaout 12:31, 19 December 2009 (UTC)
I'd be tempted to say that, generally speaking, we shouldn't be using either imperial or metric units casually in this way. Better to give an accurate figure and then convert it. But failing that I'd agree with A. di M. Looking at the case in point (A1 road (Great Britain)), there doesn't seem to me to be much benefit in giving either: we can probably reasonably assume that if a pub is being mentioned in this context it's near enough to the road to make it a convenient stopping point.
I'd also point out that metric and imperial units are probably in the same boat here: either both "a couple of metres" and "a few feet" would really need to be converted, or neither would. Pfainuk talk 12:49, 19 December 2009 (UTC)
As a test, how do you react to a passing reference to "several versts" or "many fathoms down" or "a few extra pennyweight" or "a couple of li" or some similar unit that you may have seen but of whose actual magnitude you have little idea? Would some conversion help? (And as a city boy, I don't really know quite what an acre is on the ground, so a conversion from hectares to acres doesn't always help me that much.) —— Shakescene (talk) 13:02, 19 December 2009 (UTC)
I don't know if that was addressed to me, but if so then yes, generally speaking they would need conversion. To clarify, on the article in question, the OP replaced "a few feet" with "a couple of metres" ([2]). This and the focus on imperial units in his discussion here lead me to believe that s/he felt that the metric versions did not need converting. As I say, better to either to give an explicit measurement or a rough conversion in the manner A. di M. describes, and to do it in all cases, regardless of which measuring system the original measure is given in.
When I said "there doesn't seem to me to be much benefit in giving either", I meant I'd get rid of the measurement entirely. If we're talking about a pub on a road, it doesn't really matter whether the pub's five feet away from the road or fifty. And if it was a lot further, we'd say so. Pfainuk talk 13:27, 19 December 2009 (UTC)
Just one thing the original poster failed to mention, he has been going around changing instances of "a few yards", "a couple of yards" etc on UK roads articles to "a few metres, "a couple of metres". As clearly stated in the guidelines UK roads use imperial measurements in this respect (notably yards and miles) and as such he keeps getting reverted. Many of his edits are starting to become tedious and disruptive. Jeni (talk) 13:17, 19 December 2009 (UTC)
Almost all of my changes have been to add {{convert}} templates to all non-SI distances. My aim was just to implement these guidelines in UK articles to improve accessibility.
It's true that I converted references to yards to metres in a few cases, merely because I thought it unnecessary to state "yards/metres" every time when the metre is understood both in the UK and internationally. A di M's suggestion is a good compromise though. I also tried to change a few primary measurements in feet to metres, as it's consistent with the Times style guide, but it now appears they might be nominal measurements quoted in the source text(s); in any event, it's another matter.
I was originally of the mindset of Pfainuk, i.e. not to mention units when describing vague distances, so I re-phrased "a few miles" as "a short distance" or similar, but I kept getting reverted. This is why I'm asking the question here to settle the issue, and the responses so far have been very helpful. Mixsynth (talk) 14:29, 19 December 2009 (UTC)

Confirmation of guidance on date ranges

The manual is clear on the correct format for a date range within the same month e.g. "5–9 March 2009" or "March 5–9, 2009" where an unspaced endash is used. It's also clear on ranges across years e.g. "12 February 2007 – 19 April 2008". But what about if the range spans over a month in the same year: is it correct to use "5 March – 11 April 2009" and "March 5 – April 11, 2009"? This may be obvious to others but I'd like to be clear. Thanks Rjwilmsi 20:36, 22 December 2009 (UTC)

the discussion of spaced/unspaced dashes going on here may be of interest to you ... Sssoul (talk) 22:29, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
Always remember that we are writing text that helps the reader, so when in doubt, spell it out. How about "from 5 March to 11 April 2009" or even "from 5 March 2009 to 11 April 2009"? Your meaning is then clear, and you can move on. Some kindly soul will tidy it up based on policy (as soon as that can be determined). Personally, in your case, I don't think that "5 March – 11 April 2009" is too bad.  HWV258.  23:57, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
I'm looking at this from the policy perspective as I want to know what AWB should be doing around date ranges. So far it's doing the right thing. Rjwilmsi 10:42, 23 December 2009 (UTC)

Date linking in Year articles

It seems that many (perhaps all) of the Wikipedia year articles (ex: 2006) have Month-day dates wikilinked, which seems to be in contradiction of the guideline in MOS:UNLINKDATES. The year articles encourage date linking with the embedded comment "<!-- Link dates even if repeated, for date-format preferences. -->". Should there be a campaign to delink these? Or have these been granted an exclusion from the general guideline to not link dates for formatting reasons? Thanks. Truthanado (talk) 17:57, 29 December 2009 (UTC)

They have indeed been granted an exemption. This was part of the deal—a concession, as it were—to those who run the chronological articles and were fearing large-scale orphaning (I myself think this is hardly a concern, especially given the main-page featuring of these items daily in rotation).
Ideally, the day-month/month-day units would be bolded, not linked, in my view. That would prevent the juddering together of what is typically a linked item straight after the opening date. But this is for another day. Tony (talk) 23:03, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
Should this exemption be described in the Specific case section of the guideline, perhaps something like the following:
For historical reasons, linking of Month-day dates and years in Year articles (ex: 2006) is allowed and should be maintained.
Thanks. Truthanado (talk) 17:33, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
I'd only link those items which are really relevant to some anniversary widely celebrated every year (e.g., the entry in 493 for St Patrick's death could link to March 17). This would be more useful if day-of-the-year pages contained more focused info than the current listcruft, eliminating entries about things which happened some day and whose anniversary no-one celebrated even in the following year. (See User:A. di M./April 23 for a proof of concept.) ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 20:17, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

Decades and centuries

I just noticed the following sentence: "Forms such as the 1700s are normally best avoided (although the difference in meaning should be noted: the 1700s is 1700–1799, whereas the 18th century is 1701–1800)."
It seems a good idea to mention the biggest problem with using the term 1700s: that it is the proper way (and the only way) to refer to the decade between the 1690s and the 1710s and such a wording can be ambiguous and very misleading. I'd also suggest changing "the 1700s is 1700–1799" to something a little less definite. Any objections to a small amendment? --86.25.239.107 (talk) 19:39, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

Any thoughts about a revised wording along the following lines?

"Forms such as the 1700s often refer to the first decade of a century (i.e. 1700 - 1709) rather than to the century itself. Because of this ambiguity it is normally best to avoid referring to a century in this way (although the difference in meaning should be noted: the 1700s would refer to 1700–1799, whereas the 18th century is 1701–1800)."

--86.25.238.211 (talk) 21:11, 31 December 2009 (UTC)
I once did the same and was reverted; it was explained to me that, despite people searching hard, no-one had found a sourche where "1700s" meant "1700–1709" rather than "1700–1799". <sarcasm>So I reckon that the late-2000s recession is one which will occur when I'm an elder, rather than the one from which we are recovering now. ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 23:04, 1 January 2010 (UTC)
It's tricky in the case of the eighteenth century. People are unlikely to enumerate a single decade of three hundred years ago in the way they might speak of the 1960s and such examples will inevitably be overwhelmed by the outpourings of people who find "eighteenth century" confusing. There are numerous published examples in the case of the twentieth century though. Consider the titles and scope of the following three books: [3] [4] [5]. --86.25.239.63 (talk) 23:47, 1 January 2010 (UTC)
Besides which, WP:V isn't a strict requirement for MOS is it? This isn't part of the encyclopedia and a mere observation that something might cause confusion suffices in most cases. --86.25.239.63 (talk) 23:50, 1 January 2010 (UTC)
Actually, I just looked and I found it very easy to find dozens of sources for the 1700s too. For a start: [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]--86.25.239.63 (talk) 00:21, 2 January 2010 (UTC)

Impending announcement: silliest wikilink of the month awards

Users are advised that His Grace the Duke of Waltham has agreed to be the inaugural judge of the Silliest wikilink of the month awards. There will be five monthly winners (August–December 2009) and an overall winner for 2009.

His Grace will make the announcement at WT:LINK when He is ready. The Duke's private secretary, Harold Cartwright, has emphasised that no correspondence will be entered into regarding the awards: His Grace's decision will be final. Tony (talk) 23:51, 1 January 2010 (UTC)

A proposal to tweak some wording

The present wording states:

    • For topics strongly associated with places, times or people, put the units most appropriate to them first. For example, in US articles they are usually United States customary units, and in the UK, they are more often metric units, with imperial units used in some contexts where they are more commonly used in the UK; it is suggested that such contexts include:
      • Miles for distances and miles per hour for speeds
      • Feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight measurements
      • Imperial pints for draught beer/cider and miles per imperial gallon for fuel economy
      • See also Metrication in the United Kingdom and the Times Online style guide under "Metric"

I propose changing this as follows (changes bolded):

    • For topics strongly associated with places, times or people, put the units most appropriate to them first. For example, US articles usually have United States customary units. UK articles more often use metric units, but imperial units may be used in some contexts. These include:
      • Miles for distances, miles per hour for road speeds and miles per imperial gallon for fuel economy
      • Feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight measurements
      • Imperial pints for draught beer/cider
      • See also Metrication in the United Kingdom and the Times Online style guide under "Metric"

As far as I can see, these changes don't change the guidelines, but express them slightly more concisely and group all the road measurements together. Any comments or suggestions? Michael Glass (talk) 22:31, 2 January 2010 (UTC)

The proposed changes to the bullet list make sense, however I am not in favor of the textual change. The proposed wording uses the verb "have" for the US and "use" for the UK, which breaks the consistent verb usage "are" in the existing wording. Consistency enhances understanding, and the proposed words don't do that. Thanks. Truthanado (talk) 22:53, 2 January 2010 (UTC)

It wasn't a US/UK thing. I varied the verbs to avoid usually use. What about this?

    • For topics strongly associated with places, times or people, put the units most appropriate to them first. For example, US articles usually have United States customary units. UK articles more often have metric units, but imperial units may be used in some contexts. These include:
      • Miles for distances, miles per hour for road speeds and miles per imperial gallon for fuel economy
      • Feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight measurements
      • Imperial pints for draught beer/cider
      • See also Metrication in the United Kingdom and the Times Online style guide under "Metric"

Michael Glass (talk) 00:26, 3 January 2010 (UTC)

The suggested change is unacceptable. "Are" refers back to the units listed first. "Have" or "use" indicate they are the only units present, and would contradict the requirement to provide conversions for the first unit (with certain exceptions). --Jc3s5h (talk) 00:36, 3 January 2010 (UTC)

You could employ use instead, though this requires a change to avoid usually use.

    • For topics strongly associated with places, times or people, put the units most appropriate to them first. For example, US articles generally use United States customary units. UK articles more often use metric units, but imperial units may be used in some contexts. These include:
      • Miles for distances, miles per hour for road speeds and miles per imperial gallon for fuel economy
      • Feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight measurements
      • Imperial pints for draught beer/cider
      • See also Metrication in the United Kingdom and the Times Online style guide under "Metric"

Michael Glass (talk) 04:10, 3 January 2010 (UTC)

"Use" is unacceptable because it implies only the named system will appear, when in fact what should ordinarily happen is that both SI and customary/imperial will appear, the only issue being in what order. Of course, if customary differs from imperial in a particular case, it may be necessary to give all three. --Jc3s5h (talk) 04:20, 3 January 2010 (UTC)

And in what order should be determined on an individual-measurement basis, not on an article basis. Gene Nygaard (talk) 05:10, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
No, not usually. An encyclopedia article brings together information from various sources in a cohesive way (without introducing novel interpretations). This means the disparate styles of the various sources are changed to the style of the article. The only exception would be if there was something significant about the source values (say if a source claimed that an error was due to transposed digits). --Jc3s5h (talk) 05:21, 3 January 2010 (UTC)

Jc3s5hm, if you don't like have and you don't like use then what about this:

    • For topics strongly associated with places, times or people, put the units most appropriate to them first. For example, US articles generally put United States customary units first. UK articles more often put metric units first, but imperial units may be put first in some contexts. These include:
      • Miles for distances, miles per hour for road speeds and miles per imperial gallon for fuel economy
      • Feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight measurements
      • Imperial pints for draught beer/cider
      • See also Metrication in the United Kingdom and the Times Online style guide under "Metric"

Michael Glass (talk) 05:17, 3 January 2010 (UTC)

That looks OK. Jc3s5h (talk) 05:26, 3 January 2010 (UTC)

Thanks. Michael Glass (talk) 13:39, 3 January 2010 (UTC)

Short scale billion

Discussion about whether the usage of "billion" to denote the short scale version violates WP:WORLDVIEW at Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view/Noticeboard#Short_scale_billion. Betty Logan (talk) 18:38, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

Clarifying policy on UK primary units

There seems to be total disagreement between UK-related articles as to which primary unit to use for any one type of measurement. Some say "the 344-foot (105 m) tall hill", others "the 5-metre (16 ft) wide tunnel; some say "2 inches of rain", others "10 centimetres of snow"; some say "highest temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit", others "lowest temperature of -7 degrees Celsius". This state of affairs is confusing, to say the least, and obviously less consistent than one would expect from an encyclopaedia.

This is in spite of the fact that these guidelines, as they are currently written, should prevent these inconsistencies from occurring. They state that for UK articles, the Times Online Style Guide should serve to determine which units should be mentioned first for any situation. Said guide is fairly clear that metric should have priority except for distances, speeds, personal height/weight, aircraft altitude, draught beer and fuel consumption. One main problem appears to be that a great many UK editors haven't read the guide, probably because the relevant section is buried in a long page on an external site, so they don't know what should be metric first and what shouldn't be.

So, I suggest that we summarise the exceptions here, in WP:UNITS, so as to clarify the policy and make conflict resolution simpler. There are only two extra exceptions to add anyway, so it wouldn't add much wording to what exists already. This way, all that would be necessary would be to cite this page in any cases of disputes over primary units in UK articles, and it would no longer require editors to dig through the lengthy page at the Times site in most instances. For example, we could amend the second bullet point under "which units to use and how to present them" along lines such as these:

For topics strongly associated with places, times or people, put the units most appropriate to them first. For example, in US articles they are usually United States customary units, and in UK articles they are usually metric units, with the following principal exceptions:

  • Miles for distances and miles per hour for speeds
  • Feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight measurements
  • Feet for aircraft altitude
  • Imperial pints for draught beer/cider and miles per imperial gallon for fuel consumption

Obviously, the existing exceptions for nominal and defined values and non-SI specialist units in use internationally would also apply. Mixsynth (talk) 21:20, 23 December 2009 (UTC)

While I don't know how much good it would do, and I don't care so much which unit comes first as that there always be a conversion (as I've done wherever possible for Yankee Stadium (1923) and Yankee Stadium), I think the language also should add—somewhere and somehow—that for periods before metrication (1970?) the primary unit in non-scientific British & Irish contexts should be Imperial units. Dickens' characters shouldn't be carrying kilos of coal through kilometres of snow. —— Shakescene (talk) 21:36, 23 December 2009 (UTC)
You are reading more absolutes into the text than were intended. The Times Style Guide and article on metrication aren't intended as absolute rules but rather suggestions. The whole point is that we leave it up to editors to determine what the most appropriate units are where an article is strongly tied to a person, time or place.
I think it's worth mentioning that the mix you observe reflects, to some extent, common usage in the UK. There are general rules, but usage also very much depends on the context, speaker and audience. We can't require all-metric or all-imperial units per WP:NPOV (as this would appear to endorse one side or the other in a political debate). But any other prescription seems pretty unlikely to get adopted in practice, as overly complicated rules tend to get ignored.
On Shakescene's point, I think this is what's intended by the wording For topics strongly associated with places, times or people - but perhaps that could be made clearer. Pfainuk talk 22:12, 23 December 2009 (UTC)
Shakescene: I agree, in part. It's appropriate to give measurements of things (other than the named exceptions) in imperial first only when those things no longer exist and the only measurements available are given in pre-metrication literature. However, there's no reason why, say, Big Ben should be measured in imperial first just because it was constructed before metrication, because it still stands today, alongside dozens of other post-metrication structures, and more recent (and therefore more accurate) metric measurements of it are available.
Pfainuk: on the point of absolutes: absolutely! The point I was making wasn't that the guidelines should be treated as unimpeachable rules (note "usually" and "principal exceptions"); it was that we should highlight the key UK metric exceptions, as outlined by the style guide WP:UNITS refers to, to increase the chances that editors will actually read them.
That said, I don't necessarily agree that to require consistent use of one system or another for any particular kind of measurement is endorsing any political ideology; it's simply trying to improve the internal consistency of what is, after all, one single international encyclopaedia. I can't think of any other encyclopaedia available in the UK that randomly switches between imperial and metric for the same measurements throughout its articles so as not to appear "politically orientated". (For that matter, I can't think of any other encyclopaedia available in the UK that uses different units for different countries either, but that's another issue.)
Anyway, all I'm suggesting at this moment is just to highlight the key UK metric exceptions as in the original post to help editors decide. Would there be any objections to this in principle? Mixsynth (talk) 18:04, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
I think you've slightly misunderstood my point on POV. My point is that it would be POV for Wikipedia as a whole to adopt either the metric system or the imperial system in principle for UK-related articles (unless it was part of a project-wide standard - including US-related articles - something that I do not believe is likely or indeed necessarily desirable). I do not consider it POV to expect UK-related articles to maintain a reasonable level of consistency in their use of units in a given context.
The MOS can very easily seem to try to bind editors to a specific way of doing things - whereas we seem to agree that it's better in this case that the best idea is to give discretion to editors. To suggest examples where imperial may be used, but not to imply that it is necessarily wrong to use imperial units in other areas as well.
I have no problem in principle to highlighting the key exceptions to metric-first, provided that it is clear that these are examples and not an exhaustive list. It may also be worth improving the wording differentiating unit choices in historically-based articles from unit choices in other articles.
So, in this case, I would suggest a wording like:
...and in the UK, they are more often metric units, with imperial units used in some contexts where they are more commonly used in the UK. It is suggested that such contexts include:
  • Miles for distances and miles per hour for speeds
  • Feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight measurements
  • Imperial pints for draught beer/cider and miles per imperial gallon for fuel economy
  • See also Metrication and the United Kingdom and the Times Style Guide
How does that sound? I've removed feet for aircraft altitude as that's already cited as the most widespread unit in the world in that context. Pfainuk talk 20:05, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
The problem outlined by Mixsynth concerns the mixture of units used in measurements other than the ones listed immediately above. As sources of information vary in their use of units, there is no way that Wikipedia can be totally consistent. However, I believe that something can be done. A simple rule of thumb would be to follow the sources. If the source is Imperial first, then put the Imperial values first; if it is metric first, then that's the way to go. If the source is inconsistent or the sources are mixed, then follow the rules as outlined above, go with the majority of sources or put the SI measures first. Michael Glass (talk) 06:52, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
And of course, you're well aware that I disagree with you on this: relying totally on sources to determine the appropriate unit is liable to lead to rather greater inconsistency than is seen already. Because in cases where Brits are generally consistent - such as in using miles for distance - your proposal would make Wikipedia inconsistent. You would sacrifice the existing WP:ENGVAR-like rule so that (unlike every other country in the world) UK-related articles would not be using the most appropriate units, but would instead use whatever units that the source used - even if that source was written for an American audience using US Customary units in inappropriate places or a continental European audience using metric units in inappropriate places.
Better for us simply to tell editors to use the most appropriate units and trust them to make an editorial judgement about what the most appropriate units are. We trust them to use the most appropriate wording, the most appropriate content, why not? Trying to force them to use whatever units are in the sources, regardless of whether that gives them the most appropriate units or not, is inappropriate. Pfainuk talk 11:19, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
As mentioned in previous discussions, it is always possible to find sources to fit whatever agenda you have in this regard. We can easily see from Michael Glass' contibution history that he is on a crusade to metricate Wikipedia by finding sources, no matter how obscure they may be, that show measurements in metric and using them as validation for converting articles. He has also made previous attempts here to change the guidelines, sometimes against the consensus of discussion or even without any discussion at all, in order to add further justification for his changes. wjematherbigissue 11:40, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

(unindent) Contrary to what was claimed above, it is not always possible to find sources to change the measures from one system to another. Nor is it possible to change articles against the consensus of those who edit them most. Edits that people don't like are quickly undone, so the idea that any one editor can go on a crusade is fanciful. Many editors have no problems with following the sources; others prefer the articles to be in Imperial units, regardless of what the sources might state.


When Wiki articles have comments that are not supported by any citations, it is quite in order to check the information against the sources. Also, if there is an inconsistency between what the sources say and what the article states, it is in order to change the article to agree with the sources. If other editors have a problem with the information or the source or the order of the units, then they are free to change either or both or all of them. Michael Glass (talk) 13:04, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

Not always, but if you dig deep enough you can usually find a source for any measurement in any system you want.[11] Therefore, just saying "follow the source" is typically not enough: if a source uses feet and another uses metres for the same measurement, which one should I use? "Go with the majority of sources" would be more appropriate, as typically the majority of sources will use the most appropriate units. OTOH, just saying "the most appropriate units", as MOS:NUM does now, is best provided that we provide examples and pointers to more detailed discussions, as MOS:NUM does now, because a Frenchman might not be sure of which are the most appropriate units for an article about a town in Northumberland. ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 14:56, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

There are sometimes a variety of sources, and the more authoritative ones tend to use metric measures. Nevertheless, checking the sources is one way of checking educated usage. However, if an editor picks a source that other editors find objectionable, the edit will be quickly challenged. Finally, there is no way that an edit will stand in an article if other editors don't accept it. Michael Glass (talk) 15:37, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

That depends on what the source is. You might be checking educated usage. You might also be checking the units that the author has decided his audience is most likely to consider useful, or the units the author prefers, or something else. You've got no way of knowing unless you actually go and ask the author. Like it or not, most sources are not theoretically perfect.
You display your bias by saying that "the more authoritative ones tend to use metric measures". The fact that a source uses metric units as opposed to imperial units or US customary units does not, in the absence of other factors in its favour, make it more or less authoritative. And why should we force editors to use an inappropriate metric unit in favour of an appropriate imperial or US customary unit?
Telling us that we should blindly follow the sources regardless of whether the units that the sources use are actually appropriate or not is not logical. Editors should not be expected to have to argue the toss over sources in order to use the most appropriate unit in a given circumstance. It's an edit war that we don't need. Far better to tell editors to use the most appropriate unit and then give them examples and pointers to help them determine what that is. Pfainuk talk 16:06, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
(edit conflict, during which the terms of the debate discussion seem to have changed): While I'm usually comfortably pre-metric and always strongly anti-crusade, Michael Glass's [first?] suggestion seems perfectly sensible to me, even if it's not the solution we finally agree to, and I strongly support its intent. When the source for a measurement is reasonably clear, then lead with the source's unit before (as always) offering a conversion. I want to know whether the measurement of an English bird or an American plant was first given in inches or centimetres, especially if it's an estimate ("about 4 inches tall" or "nearly ten centimeters high"). [I go slightly berserk when an encyclopedia mechanically gives an animal's average length as 25.4 cm, because in 99.9687% of the cases the original source just said the average length was ten inches.] ¶ Track and field, swimming, boxing, wrestling, weightlifting and most racing events—about which I know next to nothing—used to be largely in feet, pounds, yards and miles in North America and the Commonwealth (e.g. the four-minute mile), but gradually adapted to international distances and weights (some of which, in turn, seem to have been chosen to come close to equivalents in Imperial yards, furlongs, miles and stones); so there will be many historical, biographical and comparative sports articles where it's important to know the original measurement first. That can mean, and should mean, that the primary units might not be consistent within the same article. ¶ What to do when there's more than one possible source, using different units, is another question, as is the best way to phrase guidance for the Manual. —— Shakescene (talk) 16:30, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
Good point. What about: In general, use the unit used in the sources first, and follow it with a conversion in parentheses; if several reliable sources are found using different units for the same measure, apply these guidelines to decide which unit to prefer:, followed by the already-present list. ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 19:50, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
I oppose this.
Defined units such as those used in sporting events come fairly firmly under the proviso: [n]ominal and defined values should be given in the original units first, even if this makes the article inconsistent. Under the existing wording, a 400 yard race should always be 400 yards (366 m), never 366 metres (400 yd).
To address the problem with 25.4 centimetres (10.0 in) animal, we already say, converted values should use a level of precision similar to that of the source value. Perhaps a statement equivalent in intent could be used to apply to measurements converted from sources, but I don't see that this should require that sources should be used to determine what units come first.
I think that relying on sources to determine all articles is likely to make the units in articles right across Wikipedia very much less consistent (both internally and when compared with one another) with very little overall gain. There seems to be an assumption in this discussion that everything on Wikipedia is backed up by lots of high quality sources. Most things aren't. There seems to be an assumption that sources will always use the most appropriate units for the topic at hand. A lot of the time, they don't. They may be written for a general audience or a local audience, but they may be written for a specific audience that uses a unit that is entirely inappropriate.
I also don't see this working in practice. The fact is, American editors are likely to use US Customary units on US-related articles. They're not going to stop doing that if the MOS is changed. Similarly, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand editors aren't going to stop using metric units on articles exclusively related to Australia, Canada and New Zealand. And British editors aren't going to stop using British-style units on UK-related articles just because the MOS says they have to use sourced units regardless of whether they make sense or not.
Then the current system is altogether easier to maintain. In most cases you can look at an article and judge whether the primary units used are appropriate without reference to any other website or source. OK, it's a little more complicated in the case of UK-related articles, but we do give guidance on MOSNUM, citing two other resources to aid in the decision. Rely on sourcing to determine the units and you have to check every source to see if the units match - which is likely to take far longer with very little extra gained, particularly when the source in question is not generally available online.
Better, in my view, to stick to the same principle as WP:ENGVAR. I find the current system altogether more likely to actually be observed, more likely to give appropriate units for a given articles, less likely to produce inconsistent articles, less likely to create inconsistency between articles and easier to maintain. So I see little overall benefit to a switch and quite a lot of downside. Pfainuk talk 21:44, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
One way to test usage is to find out what the sources are using. This is especially important in UK-based articles, where usage is divided between Metric and Imperial but is slowly changing towards the metric system. At the moment, some British editors use Imperial units, others use a mixture of units and yet others prefer metric units only. The argument that British editors only use Imperial units or that metric units are inappropriate is simply not sustainable. Nor is it logical to use the policy on varieties of English to imply that using metric measures is not British.
Now that British science, engineering, land measurement and meteorology use the metric system, a large proportion of authoritative information is available in metric terms. The most up-to-date and authoritative information is likely to be in metric. Therefore, quite rightly, a large number of UK-based Wikipedia articles are metric first.
It is not a case of choosing between Imperial or metric measures. The guidelines clearly state that we should supply both, so any disagreement is about which one should come first. As British articles can be either metric first or Imperial first we can either leave it to the whim of editors to decide which one should come first or suggest that they consider the sources. I believe it is in order to suggest that editors consider following what the sources use.
Take the case of Buckingham Palace. The palace website informs us that "Buckingham Palace is 108 metres long across the front, 120 metres deep (including the quadrangle) and 24 metres high. The total floor area of the Palace, from basement to roof, covers over 77,000 square metres." <http://www.royal.gov.uk/LatestNewsandDiary/Factfiles/40factsaboutBuckinghamPalace.aspx>. I think it would be appropriate for the Wikipedia article to provide a conversion to Imperial measures; what would not be appropriate is for the article to put Imperial measures first. Similarly, because the dimensions of the Great Hall of Winchester Castle are given in feet in the source quoted, it is appropriate to put these measures first and put the metric dimensions in parentheses.
It might be argued that following the sources will be messy. Yes, it will result in inconsistencies. However to leave it entirely to the whim of editors to decide which units to use is even worse, because the inconsistency of editors' choices will be added to the inconsistency of the sources. That is why, in the case of UK-based articles, it helps to suggest that the editors consider the sources. Michael Glass (talk) 00:59, 1 January 2010 (UTC)
I've never said or implied that metric measures in general are not used by the British. What I've said is that in some circumstances, metric measures are never used by the British - which is perfectly accurate. It is equally unsustainable to assume that British people just use imperial units to confuse foreigners, or that the mix of units in use is random or arbitrary, or that imperial units are somehow backward.
The policy on varieties of English is important here because of the massive parallels between the two rules. Right now, we use the most appropriate spelling, wording and units for the country we're writing about. Under your proposal, we would no longer use the most appropriate units for the country we're talking about (or rather, we'd use the most appropriate units except when dealing with the UK). I think this is a bad idea.
The fact that information is available in metric units does not imply that it should be included in metric units on Wikipedia. Rather we should use the most appropriate units in the context. In many cases (in a UK context) this will be metric - including science, modern engineering, most modern land measurement and meteorology (except for wind speed, which British meteorologists tend to measure in knots). In others, such as when measuring distances and people, it will be imperial. You're the one making this a metric vs. imperial thing, not me.
You say that sources are a way of testing usage, but whose usage? Under your proposal, to use the source, it could be anyone's. Use a tourist guide aimed at the Japanese and Britain suddenly becomes all-metric. But this doesn't reflect actual usage in the UK any more than if you used a guide to Australia aimed at Americans that uses US customary units exclusively. And that's very often the level of sourcing we're dealing with - sources aimed at a non-technical audience who will want to their information to use the units they know. In other cases, sources might be inappropriately technical - documents not aimed at the general public may very well use units that would not be considered appropriate in a document aimed at the general public.
If I drive around the countryside, signs giving distances to nearby towns and cities are reasonably common. These are far more accurate arbiters of usage than any source you're likely to find online - they're clearly aimed at British people going about their daily lives and are used by large numbers of people daily. They're all in miles. For shorter distances, they use yards. But most people aren't going to go around taking photographs of their local signposts, so your rule would tell us that if you can find an online source aimed at Norwegians that gives those distances in kilometres, we have to use kilometres. Even though it's perfectly obvious to anyone who has ever been to the UK that kilometres are not in widespread usage in that context. That makes no sense, and cases in which this rule will give results that make no sense will be far more common than would generally be accounted for by IAR. When a rule has to be ignored as many times as it's applied, it's a bad rule.
Such a situation does away with the general rule we have now. If we adopt this rule, the UK will be an exception to the general rule that we use the most appropriate unit for the country concerned, and instead UK units will be determined by the person with the most time to search out sources that back up their own POV. This is not an acceptable situation to me.
Another, better, way of testing usage is based on the style guides of modern British publications. This, while not without its disadvantages, has the advantage of actually eliminating inconsistency in usage both within articles and between articles (at least in theory). Such publications are clearly written for a wide British audience, so you'll eliminate most of the aberration. Compliance is easy to check (unlike source-based units which rely on permanent access to the source). You want a simple solution to resolve any dispute as to what the most appropriate units are in UK-related articles? Tell people to use the rules as outlined in the Times style guide. Pfainuk talk 13:24, 1 January 2010 (UTC)
Pfainuk, thank you for your detailed comments. I actually agree with considering the style guides and I have no issue with the guidelines about UK usage which specify metric measures in general except for road distances in miles, stones and pounds for personal weight and feet and inches for personal height. These are not the areas that are likely to cause trouble in an article. What is likely to cause trouble is reporting such things as temperatures or describing buildings in feet or metres.
For example, both MOSNUM and the Times Guide would favour hectares over acres. Despite this, there will be instances where sources will be in acres. Also there will be buildings such as Buckingham Palace or the Great Hall of Winchester Castle where the measurements may be given in feet or metres, depending on the sources. Under my proposal, the usage in the sources should be taken into account.
I note that your objection to using sources is that foreign sources might be used, such as using a Japanese brochure for information about England. This is fanciful. A down to earth example is using Weatherbase (an American website) to put Fahrenheit first in a table about temperatures in the Falkland Islands when modern British usage (see the Times Style Guide) is to put Celsius first. In this case it would be more appropriate to use a UK based website, such as <http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/city_guides/results.shtml?tt=TT004760>.
Also, I'd have to challenge your assertion that the British never use kilometres. They do. Here is an example from the Sandstone Trail in Cheshire, England <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Distance_Marker_Sandstone_Trail.JPG> While I agree that the use of miles for road distances is overwhelmingly more common, this is not as clearcut in other contexts. This puts the United Kingdom in a unique position, where much usage is unfixed and divided. In this situation it is appropriate to refer to the sources. This would mean, in practice, that the acre would not be banished to brackets just because the Times Style Guide favours hectares, or the kilometres be automatically rendered in miles just because the Times Style Guide says so. A little more flexibility is required, and lest liberty turn to licence, the admonition to refer to the sources should provide the guidance needed.
This is not a case of the present policy being replaced by a blanket rule to refer to sources. Rather it is in addition to the present guidelines governing UK-based articles. Michael Glass (talk) 23:21, 1 January 2010 (UTC)
Firstly, IANAL, but if that distance marker was placed by there a public authority it may well be illegal. Certainly, it's an oddity - very much the exception rather than the rule. I actually never said that the British never use kilometres (though it's true that they are very little used outside relatively specialist fields). I said that kilometres are not in widespread usage in that context [giving distances between towns] - which is perfectly accurate. Anyone who uses kilometres in that context in casual speech or in a document for British public consumption - including your milepost - will be assumed to be either foreign or doing the RL equivalent of WP:POINT. The same goes for all of the exceptions currently listed as suggestions in the guideline.
You confuse sources aimed at foreign audiences with foreign sources. It is perfectly plausible that a British source, written by British authors in the United Kingdom, might be aimed at Norwegians or Japanese people - or, for that matter, Australians or New Zealanders, or some undefined non-local audience - and thus use units appropriate to that audience instead of units appropriate to the local population. That said, sources aimed at a British audience do often use inappropriate units as well (pounds for body weight being the most common).
You say that it's not a case of present policy being replaced by a blanket rule to refer to sources. Yes it is. What you are saying is that instead of using the most appropriate units for the case in point, we should use the units used by the source, regardless of their appropriateness. The use of units by sources is not an accurate gauge of modern usage by people - your milepost is a perfect illustration of that. We should make the choice of units about the most appropriate units in the context, as determined by consensus, not about the person who has more time to scrabble about finding sources to fit their POV. And we should not have to open up looking at every individual source to confirm compliance with the guidelines.
You want flexibility? The current guideline is flexible. It tells people to use the most appropriate units and suggests what that might mean in practice. That's surely what the aim of this whole thing is - that we use the most appropriate units in the circumstances. But if that's the aim, why do we need to go through some proxy that very often won't have the desired effect? We should make the guideline to use the most appropriate unit then give non-binding suggestions as to how that guideline is best followed. Pfainuk talk 13:38, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
The present policy - rightly - refers to the Times Guide, as an example of usage, and you are quite right in stating that the present policy is flexible. The guidelines are suggestions rather than ironclad rules. We both agree that British road signs, by law, must display miles. In other contexts the usage is not so clearcut. That stone marker is not my "milepost", but it is an example of British usage of kilometres to mark a walking trail. (The British Weights and Measures Association - who are also not lawyers - spend many happy hours converting such signs back into yards and miles! <http://www.bwmaonline.com/Join%20-%20Signage.htm> Needless to say, the UK Metric Association disagrees <http://www.ukma.org.uk/Transport/default.aspx>)
If a British website is produced in French, it is obviously designed for a foreign audience. However, information in English is for anyone who uses that language, domestic or foreign. The fact that some people use metric measures in a way that you find inappropriate is evidence that usage is divided and contested rather than one of inappropriate use.
My point is that the source should be considered. It is already in the policy. However, I believe the wording could be tweaked, but I'll leave that for another discussion. Michael Glass (talk) 22:07, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
Your milepost - the milepost that you refer to - is highly unusual. I don't believe kilometrepost is a word, otherwise I would use it. I don't say that kilometres aren't occasionally used in some circumstances. I'm saying they're not generally used in that context and that one would normally assume that a person who erected a sign in kilometres is either foreign or trying to make a point by it.
Your argument in your second paragraph is frankly bizarre. You seem to be arguing that the most appropriate units for use in a UK context may well be decided by Australian or American usage. It is perfectly possible for a source to be aimed at a specific English-speaking country. Of course it is. Why, do you think, that when you go to a site like this one or [12] you get a list of different English-language versions? People from different countries want different spellings, different dialects, different currencies and - yes - they're likely to want different units as well.
And it's no different in cases where each country doesn't get its own dedicated site. Websites are often written (wittingly or not) with only one country's conventions in mind - anyone else can read it, but they'll get that country's spelling conventions, dialect usage, currency and unit conventions - that may be the country where the site is based, or it may not. Or they might be written with a general non-local audience in mind: as most of the rest of the world uses metric units, a source written with a general non-British audience in mind would be likely to use metric units in places where a British audience would expect imperial units. Same goes for books and magazines, except they might only be available in one country, so others might not have easy access to it. The idea that English-language sources are all intended for all English-speakers regardless of location is not just wrong, it's absurd.
The fact that Australians, Kiwis and others use metric measures in a way that does not match UK usage, and the fact that Americans use US Customary measures in a way that does not match UK usage, are evidence only that usage across the English-speaking world is divided - something that I would have thought entirely obvious given the nature of the guideline we're discussing. It is not evidence that usage in the UK is divided.
You still seem to be assuming that British people choose what units they use randomly or arbitrarily. They don't. In some contexts they're used fairly interchangeably, it's true, but in other contexts one unit is used nigh-on exclusively. And there's a whole spectrum in between.
You talk about units that I find appropriate. But note that what I'm arguing for is not my notion of appropriateness. I'm arguing that the most appropriate units should be decided by local consensus, guided by suggestions gleaned from the style guide of a reputable British publication. My own personal notion of what is appropriate is only relevant inasmuch as my experience of living in the UK all my life can help in describing usage on this talk page.
Here's a suggestion I would find acceptable. The rule remains that we use the most appropriate units in the circumstances. But we change the suggestions. We suggest the following, making it clear that they can be overridden by local and WikiProject consensus:
  • In cases where there is a clear preference in British usage (as sourced from the Times style guide) we should suggest that preference be used regardless of the sources. That's all the cases we list now (including those you just added), most non-metric units where they're widely used internationally and Celsius for temperature.
  • In cases where there is no clear preference suggest source-based units, inviting users to strongly prefer sources that are British-based and aimed at a British-audience.
That they can be overridden by WikiProject consensus is important to help maintain consistency. Usage in the context of elevation in particular is quite polarised, so it would make sense to adopt a single rule for elevation over all articles about mountains, for example. Another is the fact that units of measurement are a matter decided by the governments of BOTs and Crown Dependencies and BOTs in particular are remote from mainland Britain. The most appropriate units to use in a BOT may well be different from the most appropriate units in the UK proper. Local consensus is important to allow editors the flexibility to determine by consensus the most appropriate units in the field they're dealing with.
In cases where other guidelines apply (such as nominal and defined units and scientific topics), then obviously they would still apply. Pfainuk talk 00:25, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
Pfainuk, I am not talking about Australian usage, New Zealand usage or American usage. All but one of my examples were drawn from the UK and the exception was drawn from the Falkland Islands.
When I mention information, I mean local information that an editor might use to verify text for Wikipedia. For example, Chester County Council's website states that the Sandstone Trail "... has been split into three sections of 17km or just over 10 miles" <http://www.cheshire.gov.uk/countryside/Walking/linear_trails/sandstone/>. I see no evidence that this has been produced specifically for a foreign audience. It might be that miles and kilometres are used interchangeably for walking trails See also <http://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Northumberland+Coast+Path> because British maps are metric.
You acknowledge that in the UK, usage about elevation "is quite polarised", that some units are used "fairly interchangeably" in some contexts "but in other contexts one unit is used nigh-on exclusively" and "there's a whole spectrum in between". In addition you state that usage in a British Overseas Territory may be different from mainland Britain. Exactly. Your solution to this appears to be to both impose the Times style guide and to leave it to local editors to choose. My solution, of taking into account other evidence of usage, is more flexible than the Times Guide, but uses this evidence of usage to guide editors.
Your second dot point (above) appears to set out the kind of policy that I propose. I think the issues covered in your first dot point are dealt with better by existing policy. Michael Glass (talk) 08:18, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
My solution is to trust editors to determine the most appropriate units by consensus. If they're not sure, they can choose to be guided by the Times style guideline. If they don't want to be, they don't have to be. Your solution is to force editors to use units in contexts where they are inappropriate, based apparently on the notion that all sources are theoretically perfect. You argue that your version is more flexible, but what is more flexible than allowing editors to determine the most appropriate units for themselves?
Let me be absolutely clear here that I am not going to accept a situation whereby every other country in the world should use the most appropriate units but that units on British-related articles should be decided based on whoever has more time to scrabble around finding sources that conform to their POV. The primary rule must be that we use the most appropriate unit in the context, and any other guidance should be in the form of non-binding suggestions as to how that might be achieved for those unfamiliar with British usage.
Yes, there are cases where usage is not well established - where either unit can be used. But there are cases where it is well established and you seem to have decided that they aren't important. Though I've pointed out twice that it's completely wrong, you still seem to be assuming that all units are used interchangeably. Usage is not random. Usage is not arbitrary. And sometimes usage is not well reflected by sources.
The fact is that, in some contexts, one set of units is used nigh-on exclusively in Britain. As it happens, most of these are imperial, and thus more likely not to be reflected in sources aimed at an more general international audience (as opposed to a general British audience). That, incidentally, includes the sites you note - it may be km-first, but almost all Brits will be reading the distance in miles. Britain should not be an exception to the rule whereby we use the units most appropriate to the country concerned. If a unit is used nigh-on exclusively in Britain, it should be used nigh-on exclusively on British-related articles on Wikipedia - subject to local/WikiProject consensus to allow for any smaller differences in context (and of course to the principle that units should generally be converted). Pfainuk talk 10:26, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
Trusting editors to determine the most appropriate units by consensus is the only way that Wikipedia will work. The question is what advice can we give editors in the choice of units. First there is Wiki policy, then there are the examples given in the Times Style Guide. I agree that we should use the most appropriate unit in the context. I also agree that guidance should be in the form of non-binding suggestions. Wikipedia can't work any other way.
I see that you won't stand for other countries using the units that suit them best while British articles have to conform to the whims of activists for other usages. Fair enough, as long as conversions are used to provide for the needs of others. However, it can create difficulties in an encyclopedia where consistency and uniformity are also desirable. The situation is also complicated by the fact that British usage is slowly changing, so any policy needs to be flexible enough to accommodate the changes.
Your way of accommodating this situation is to rely on the good sense of editors, supplemented by Wiki policy and the advice that can be gleaned from the Times Guide. I have no problem with that, except that I believe it should also take into account the usage in appropriate sources. Take Buckingham Palace. The official website describes the dimensions of the palace in metres. It is therefore appropriate to do the same in the Wikipedia article. However, quite rightly, the Wikipedia article also supplies at least some dimensions in the older measures. On the other hand Information about Winchester Castle gave the Great Hall measurement in feet, and that is what the Wikipedia article also puts first.
You appear to suspect those who check sources. Checking sources is vital for accuracy. Take a case where miles turn out to be nautical miles <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mull_of_Galloway&diff=prev&oldid=334870556>. Checking is vital for accuracy. You also stated that sometimes usage is not well reflected by sources. Unless there was clear evidence to the contrary, I would regard such differences as evidence of contested usage.
But let's say I am wrong, that those who use kilometres are renegades. If so, such usages will soon be removed from UK articles; if not, then there is more support for the use of kilometres than might be suspected from the official policy on UK roads.
All of this, however, is a sideshow. The question is whether sources can be a guide to usage. I believe they can be useful. However, they would have to be used in conjunction with other sources such as Wiki policy and the Times Guide.Michael Glass (talk) 13:37, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
It's not a case of suspecting those who check sources, it's a case of limiting the amount of checking that people need to do in order to ensure compliance with this guideline. Source-based units require a lot more work to check than units based on a style guide, and needlessly creating work is not helpful to the continued development of the encyclopædia. There may be cases where it is not clear which of two similarly named units are used, but often enough it would simply be a case of having to check to see which of two otherwise equivalent units in a statement known to be accurate was primary in the source.
You say that if kilometre usages are inappropriate they'll be removed. I find this argument makes unrealistic assumptions about some of our editing community. Just as they may be removed, more may be added based on this guideline. We might say it can be overridden by consensus, but one loud POV pusher can fairly easily act as an active barrier to prevent consensus, forcing the inappropriate usage to remain in placed based on their own POV and the fact that they've managed to dig up a source that is not representative of British usage.
Your conclusion that if kilometres were not swiftly removed "there [would be] more support for the use of kilometres than might be suspected from the official policy on UK roads" is flawed for that reason and for another. It might - not necessarily, but might - show that there is more support globally, or among the English-speaking Wikipedia community as a whole, for kilometres than might be supposed if one was solely basing one's assumptions on UK law. But that would be the furthest you could go, and given that so many English-speakers live in countries where kilometres are the norm, it would be a distinctly unsurprising conclusion. It wouldn't imply anything about usage by actual real British people.
Can sources be a guide to usage generally? Probably, but it's not the right question. If British-style unit mixing was common throughout the English-speaking world then it might (or might not) be - but that isn't the real world. In cases where usage is mixed, then source-based units are not a bad suggestion, but where usage is consistent it makes rather more sense sense to suggest the unit that is consistently used. Pfainuk talk 22:31, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
Websites and other kinds of promotional literature are usually designed with an international audience in mind and it would be no surprise to see UK companies and organisations putting metric measures first in theirs. As such these kind of sources can absolutely not be used as an indication of common usage by the UK general public who in fact would largely use imperial units for a wide array of measures. It is this concern that should be the primary concern if the spirit of the guideline is to remain the same.
In case I'm not being clear, the units that are used by preference in any given set of sources is probably irrelevant. wjematherbigissue 23:13, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
I agree, this is quite common. The reason I'm prepared to accept it in cases where usage is divided is because in those circumstances both options match a reasonable segment of British usage and the metric version - traditionally the less common - is recommended by the Times Style Guide (a useful outside source). Where usage clearly falls on one side of the line or the other, I think a stick-to-sources rule is likely to get it wrong a lot of the time. Pfainuk talk 18:51, 4 January 2010 (UTC)
(edit conflict): I'm a little mystified. We should follow the same policy here as we do with quotations, which is stick to the original spelling and punctuation. It would be easier from the outside to avoid the hassle of checking external quotations and just impose the "correct" spelling and punctuation as dictated by some a priori policy but (apart from indisputable howlers) we don't. All we're talking about here is which unit to put first and I want to know (for reasons I gave above) what was in the original source. And this isn't just a problem of atavistic holdovers in UK usage; metric units are spottily making their way into non-scientific usage in the United States, so there are cases where an American would give a metric measurement. Blood donations are usually counted in pints (e.g. one pint every eight weeks), but there are times when blood's measured in liters or milliliters. While dry pharmaceuticals are usually measured in micrograms and milligrams, liquid measurements seem to be a mix of cc's and milliliters. —— Shakescene (talk) 23:52, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
Shakescene's position conflicts with the first general principle in the MOS:

An overriding principle is that style and formatting should be consistent within a Wikipedia article, though not necessarily throughout Wikipedia as a whole. Being consistent within an article promotes clarity and cohesion. Therefore, even where the Manual of Style permits alternative usages, be consistent within an article.

Jc3s5h (talk) 01:04, 4 January 2010 (UTC)
That's not the policy that the Manual of Style follows when an article cites quotations from different sources, using different styles. And I want to use the primary unit that's most faithful to the original source, especially when we always give a conversion. —— Shakescene (talk) 01:22, 4 January 2010 (UTC)
The whole English-speaking world (and probably other languages too) tries to quote sources accurately, preserving most style preferences as well as words. The whole English-speaking world puts corresponding numbers in corresponding positions. Swapping the positions of a given unit of measure from one paragraph to the next promotes erroneous interpretation. Anyone who really cares exactly how a source expressed something should go read the source. Jc3s5h (talk) 01:40, 4 January 2010 (UTC)
I think we all agree that quoting sources accurately is vital. Consistent formatting is also very important as Jc3s5h has explained. However, putting a derived figure first is potentially misleading. Take this statement about the size of the United States, quoted from the United States article:
the CIA World Factbook gives 3,794,101 sq mi (9,826,676 km2),[1] the United Nations Statistics Division gives 3,717,813 sq mi (9,629,091 km2),[17] and the Encyclopedia Britannica gives 3,676,486 sq mi (9,522,055 km2).[18]
While it is true that the Encyclopædia Britannica does provide its information in square miles, the other two sources provide their information in square kilometres. If editors decide - for the sake of consistency - that the primary units in this article must be US Customary units, so be it. However, the footnotes could give readers the original measures without disturbing the layout of the article itself. Michael Glass (talk) 02:12, 5 January 2010 (UTC)
Sure, sources should be quoted accurately, but we are not quoting sources here. Sources are being used only to provide the data, which may then be presented in an entirely different format as per wikipedia guidelines. As Jc3s5h states above, if readers what to view the original data they can do so by following any links provided in the footnotes, there is no need to duplicate the information. wjematherbigissue 13:03, 5 January 2010 (UTC)
A note to state that the original figure was in square kilometres is not a duplication of information. Michael Glass (talk) 00:33, 9 January 2010 (UTC)

Hypothetical resolution?

Since we're talking about two goods here, about whose relative importance there's a good-faith disagreement, let me just throw out in a very general and speculative way one hypothetical solution. When an article's citing sources that use different units (e.g. a biographical or comparative article), would it be possible within the conversion (either manual or by template) to indicate which unit the original source used? That way, there'd be a consistent primary unit throughout the article, but some indicator (without having to dig into the footnotes) of which was given in the sources consulted. I can't think of an intuitive way of showing it, but if an asterisk were used, you might have a sentence like While Continental scholars estimated the distance as 3.0 kilometres* (1.9 mi), British investigators measured it as much closer to 3.2 km (2.0 miles*). Or perhaps one could use some form of emphasis or de-emphasis, or (as in my example) abbreviate the conversion while writing out the source unit. P.S. what do IANAL and TLDR mean? —— Shakescene (talk) 16:29, 5 January 2010 (UTC)

Shakescene, I think your proposal could be valuable, and here is why:
  • Rounding errors If you convert one unit to another there are rounding errors. Usually these rounding errors are trivial but if you treat the derived figure as the original and convert it back, the errors can add up. In particular, using the convert function on the derived figure can misrepresent the source figure, especially if the derived figure happens to end in one or two zeros. Watch the discrepancy grow from 3 to 30 to 200km2
14,173 square kilometres (5,472 sq mi) compared with 5,472 square miles (14,170 km2)
14,170 square kilometres (5,470 sq mi) compared with 5,470 square miles (14,200 km2)
14,200 square kilometres (5,500 sq mi) compared with 5,500 square miles (14,000 km2)
  • A variety of sources Many articles depend on a variety of sources and these sources may use different units. For example, the United States article states " [T]he CIA World Factbook gives 3,794,101 square miles (9,826,675 km2),[1] the United Nations Statistics Division gives 3,717,813 sq mi (9,629,091 km2), and the Encyclopedia Britannica gives 3,676,486 sq mi (9,522,055 km2)." The presentation puts US Customary measures first; however, both the CIA and the UN use metric measures exclusively. I believe that the primary measures are significant enough to be noted, even if consistency demands that the US Customary measures must be put first.
What do others think? Michael Glass (talk) 21:57, 5 January 2010 (UTC)
In this case, the values are quasi-direct quotations, so personally I'd give the value in the source first no matter what. On the other hand, if a measurement isn't explicitly attributed in the text (e.g. Cambridge lies in East Anglia about 50 miles (80 km) north of London), it is acceptable to start with a different unit than a footnoted source uses, but situations where we have to do that are likely very rare. ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 01:41, 6 January 2010 (UTC)
I thought the same but the consensus was against it. Therefore I'm trying to work out ways to indicate the primary source that could be acceptable to those who put a greater value on having one system of weights and measures used consistently in an article. Here is one possibility, using parentheses to indicate the derived value:
The CIA World Factbook gives (3,794,101 square miles) 9,826,675 km2, the United Nations Statistics Division gives (3,717,813 sq mi) 9,629,091 km2, and the Encyclopedia Britannica gives 3,676,486 sq mi (9,522,055 km2).
In this example the order of presentation is preserved but the parentheses indicate the derived values.
Another possibility is to keep the order of presentation and the parentheses, but use an asterisk to indicate the primary measure when it does not come first.
The CIA World Factbook gives 3,794,101 square miles (*9,826,675 km2), the United Nations Statistics Division gives 3,717,813 sq mi (*9,629,091 km2), and the Encyclopedia Britannica gives 3,676,486 sq mi (9,522,055 km2).
The problem is that you would need a note to explain what the asterisk meant. Therefore I'm inclined to favour the first solution because it is easy to describe. The primary value stands but the derived value is put in parentheses. We could then change this rule:
If editors cannot agree on the sequence of units, put the source value first and the converted value second. If the choice of units is arbitrary, use SI units as the main unit, with converted units in parentheses.
to this:
In general, put the source value first and any converted value afterwards in parentheses. “The CIA Fact Book gives the area of the United States as 9,826,675 km2 (3,794,101 square miles).
The order of units may be varied if it clashes with the general style of an article, but keep the derived value in parentheses. For example, “The CIA Fact Book gives the area of the United States as (3,794,101 square miles) 9,826,675 km2.
If the choice of units in the sources is arbitrary, use SI units as the main unit, but always put converted units in parentheses.
This means that derived units should always be in parentheses, but they may put second if the dominant style of the article demands it. What do others think? Michael Glass (talk) 13:20, 6 January 2010 (UTC)
All completely unnecessary. It is instruction creep and I cannot see it ever being followed, as there is absolutely no need to highlight the unit preferences of the sources outside of a direct quotation. wjematherbigissue 13:50, 6 January 2010 (UTC)
There are rare circumstances when you do need to use the same unit as the source, even if it's not strictly a direct quote; see my latest edit to WP:MOSNUM, where putting kilograms first would be wrong even if the article is about a song by an Australian band. I'm not sure I could explain the circumstances in a few sentence, but I know it when I see it. ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 14:48, 6 January 2010 (UTC)
In quotations, direct and indirect, the unit from the source should be primary in most circumstances IMO. Obviously, quoting a source, directly or indirectly, is different from simply using information from that source.
On the other point, I see very little need to force people to highlight which unit was used in the source generally speaking - it's unnecessary instruction creep. If they want to know that they can look in the source. I also find both Michael's suggestions to be counterintuitive in the extreme, and would oppose both even if I accepted that such marking was necessary. Pfainuk talk 15:32, 6 January 2010 (UTC)
"In quotations, direct and indirect": that's it (for sufficiently broad definitions of "indirect quotation"). "The area of the United States is 9,826,675 km2" is not a quotation at all, but "The CIA Fact Book gives the area of the United States as 9,826,675 km2" is an indirect quotation. Jc3s5h's suggestion below is also valid. ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 20:26, 6 January 2010 (UTC)
Let me jump in with an alternative that is a bit less obtrusive than an asterisk: in the wikicode, after the code to display the quantity, enter the comment <!--Ref_Name: 100 furlongs-->. The casual reader is not informed about the source value, but editors (who deal with rounding and conversions) are—this is probably an appropriate editorial decision for the vast majority of articles. Also, this accounts for the case where a source value wouldn't otherwise be displayed directly (e.g. it's in an esoteric unit like furlongs, and the rest of the article uses metres and feet). Using something like this would also reduce the need for a non-obvious series of instructions as to the significance of one unit being used before another. TheFeds 17:59, 6 January 2010 (UTC)
TheFeds suggestion seems good for a certain range of circumstances: the article (or section) is an overview where analysis of exactly how the unit was converted and/or rounded is not justified, and there is something special about the number: it is a design value, it is only available from one source, etc. If the number (to a precision sufficient for the article) is available from many sources in many units of measure, there is no need to indicate the source unit, because there is nothing special about the source. --Jc3s5h (talk) 18:23, 6 January 2010 (UTC)

Aside: Imperial units not well-understood in U.S.

Just to throw a spanner/monkey-wrench into the works, we should be aware that most American editors and almost all American readers have no idea what a "stone" is, nor do they know that an Imperial Pint is 20 fluid ounces, or 1.201 times the volume of a U.S. customary pint (16 fl. oz). Since they're not yet familiar with metric, U.S. readers (and many U.S. editors) aren't helped much by a metric conversion as in "John Smith weighed just over ten stone (64 kilos) and could drain ten pints (45 litres) of cider at one sitting". Similarly (and more noticeably) for MPG, where 24 miles per Imperial gallon = only 20 miles per U.S. gallon and "24 miles per imperial gallon (8.5 km/L)" doesn't clarify matters for the U.S. reader.—— Shakescene (talk) 06:43, 29 December 2009 (UTC)

{{convert}} by default gives 10 stone (140 lb; 64 kg) and 10 imperial pints (5.7 l), which is almost OK (though I'd prefer 10 imperial pints (5.7 l; 12 US fl pt) and dropping the "imperial" after the first occurrence). ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 13:12, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
The differences between the Imperial system and American customary measures are a good reason for using metric equivalents in both US and UK articles when non-metric measures are used. It should be remembered that Great Britain and the United States are not the only countries where English is spoken. In other countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the metric system has been in use for over a generation. This also applies to countries such as India and Nigeria, where English is widely used, even though it is not the first language of most speakers. Michael Glass (talk) 14:28, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
As I said in the main section, I strongly believe in always giving conversions (in English Wikipedia) between metric and Imperial/U.S. customary units, both ways. Even though it might be a bit silly, I tried wherever possible, for example, to add metric equivalents for the batting distances, etc., in Yankee Stadium (1923) and Yankee Stadium (where as a non-expert, I hadn't written the underlying text or tables). After all some Canadian with almost no knowledge of baseball might still like to know what 383 yards means, just as an American who knows nothing of track and field might want to know the distance involved in the 400-metre hurdles in List of Olympic medalists in athletics (men), to which I've added a conversion table. —— Shakescene (talk) 19:01, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
I don't believe that anyone is proposing that metric units be left out - but metric units are not necessarily well understood in the US and UK, and the customary systems of measurement in the US and UK are not identical. I would agree with Shakescene, but would extend the point more generally. We should be converting between all three systems of measurement in cases where imperial and US customary units are different (principally when using fluid capacities). And I would note, per A. di M., that {{convert}} already does this by default.
The only thing I would add to that is that, when weighing people, the British and Americans use different standards. Saying that someone weighs 150 pounds (68 kg) is not particularly helpful to most people in the UK - both require conversion into stones before they can be intuitively understood. I would suggest that, as a rule, body weight should be given as 80 kilograms (176 lb; 12 st 8 lb) (in most cases), as 176 pounds (80 kg; 12 st 8 lb) (where US Customary units are put first) or as 12 stone 8 pounds (80 kg; 176 lb) (where imperial units are put first). Pfainuk talk 15:44, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
British authors need to understand that almost nobody outside the British Isles knows what a stone is. Australia and New Zealand may differ (I haven't been there), but the vast majority of Americans, Canadians, and other English-speaking people have no idea that a stone is a unit of weight, never mind that it weighs 14 pounds. As far as they are concerned, a stone is some kind of rock. The metric system has been standard in the Commonwealth countries for over a generation, it isn't taught in schools any more, and an entire generation has grown up that doesn't know Imperial units except as an archaic unit like cubits or furlongs. You may not like it, but if you use stones in an article, you need to translate it into pounds for Americans and into kilograms for the rest of the English-speaking world, particularly the younger people. Stones are a very British unit and only Brits really use it. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 17:42, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
Right. But that doesn't mean we should disallow stones, or that we should not be willing to convert pounds and kilograms into stones.
My point is that when we use pounds or kilograms as primary unit in the context of weighing people, we should not simply convert into the other and be done with it. Stones are near-exclusively used in this context in the UK. By saying that the guy weighs 200 pounds (91 kg), we leave a significant proportion of our audience with an awkward conversion to do in order to make the number make sense.
I'm not saying that stones should not be converted, I'm saying they should be converted - both into pounds and into kilograms. But I'm also saying that when we weigh people in kilograms or pounds, we should also give a conversion into stones. Pfainuk talk 18:36, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
http://i773.photobucket.com/albums/yy12/joedid/English/AtoEDictionary.jpg ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 20:00, 29 December 2009 (UTC)

Maintenance of correct date formats

I have been going through articles, unifying date formats whilst at the same time adding an invisible template to facilitate future maintenance. There is a new discussion going on at Template talk:Dmy‎, and I though regulars here might have some views on the subject. Ohconfucius ¡digame! 02:43, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

Clarifying policy on UK primary units

There seems to be total disagreement between UK-related articles as to which primary unit to use for any one type of measurement. Some say "the 344-foot (105 m) tall hill", others "the 5-metre (16 ft) wide tunnel; some say "2 inches of rain", others "10 centimetres of snow"; some say "highest temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit", others "lowest temperature of -7 degrees Celsius". This state of affairs is confusing, to say the least, and obviously less consistent than one would expect from an encyclopaedia.

This is in spite of the fact that these guidelines, as they are currently written, should prevent these inconsistencies from occurring. They state that for UK articles, the Times Online Style Guide should serve to determine which units should be mentioned first for any situation. Said guide is fairly clear that metric should have priority except for distances, speeds, personal height/weight, aircraft altitude, draught beer and fuel consumption. One main problem appears to be that a great many UK editors haven't read the guide, probably because the relevant section is buried in a long page on an external site, so they don't know what should be metric first and what shouldn't be.

So, I suggest that we summarise the exceptions here, in WP:UNITS, so as to clarify the policy and make conflict resolution simpler. There are only two extra exceptions to add anyway, so it wouldn't add much wording to what exists already. This way, all that would be necessary would be to cite this page in any cases of disputes over primary units in UK articles, and it would no longer require editors to dig through the lengthy page at the Times site in most instances. For example, we could amend the second bullet point under "which units to use and how to present them" along lines such as these:

For topics strongly associated with places, times or people, put the units most appropriate to them first. For example, in US articles they are usually United States customary units, and in UK articles they are usually metric units, with the following principal exceptions:

  • Miles for distances and miles per hour for speeds
  • Feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight measurements
  • Feet for aircraft altitude
  • Imperial pints for draught beer/cider and miles per imperial gallon for fuel consumption

Obviously, the existing exceptions for nominal and defined values and non-SI specialist units in use internationally would also apply. Mixsynth (talk) 21:20, 23 December 2009 (UTC)

While I don't know how much good it would do, and I don't care so much which unit comes first as that there always be a conversion (as I've done wherever possible for Yankee Stadium (1923) and Yankee Stadium), I think the language also should add—somewhere and somehow—that for periods before metrication (1970?) the primary unit in non-scientific British & Irish contexts should be Imperial units. Dickens' characters shouldn't be carrying kilos of coal through kilometres of snow. —— Shakescene (talk) 21:36, 23 December 2009 (UTC)
You are reading more absolutes into the text than were intended. The Times Style Guide and article on metrication aren't intended as absolute rules but rather suggestions. The whole point is that we leave it up to editors to determine what the most appropriate units are where an article is strongly tied to a person, time or place.
I think it's worth mentioning that the mix you observe reflects, to some extent, common usage in the UK. There are general rules, but usage also very much depends on the context, speaker and audience. We can't require all-metric or all-imperial units per WP:NPOV (as this would appear to endorse one side or the other in a political debate). But any other prescription seems pretty unlikely to get adopted in practice, as overly complicated rules tend to get ignored.
On Shakescene's point, I think this is what's intended by the wording For topics strongly associated with places, times or people - but perhaps that could be made clearer. Pfainuk talk 22:12, 23 December 2009 (UTC)
Shakescene: I agree, in part. It's appropriate to give measurements of things (other than the named exceptions) in imperial first only when those things no longer exist and the only measurements available are given in pre-metrication literature. However, there's no reason why, say, Big Ben should be measured in imperial first just because it was constructed before metrication, because it still stands today, alongside dozens of other post-metrication structures, and more recent (and therefore more accurate) metric measurements of it are available.
Pfainuk: on the point of absolutes: absolutely! The point I was making wasn't that the guidelines should be treated as unimpeachable rules (note "usually" and "principal exceptions"); it was that we should highlight the key UK metric exceptions, as outlined by the style guide WP:UNITS refers to, to increase the chances that editors will actually read them.
That said, I don't necessarily agree that to require consistent use of one system or another for any particular kind of measurement is endorsing any political ideology; it's simply trying to improve the internal consistency of what is, after all, one single international encyclopaedia. I can't think of any other encyclopaedia available in the UK that randomly switches between imperial and metric for the same measurements throughout its articles so as not to appear "politically orientated". (For that matter, I can't think of any other encyclopaedia available in the UK that uses different units for different countries either, but that's another issue.)
Anyway, all I'm suggesting at this moment is just to highlight the key UK metric exceptions as in the original post to help editors decide. Would there be any objections to this in principle? Mixsynth (talk) 18:04, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
I think you've slightly misunderstood my point on POV. My point is that it would be POV for Wikipedia as a whole to adopt either the metric system or the imperial system in principle for UK-related articles (unless it was part of a project-wide standard - including US-related articles - something that I do not believe is likely or indeed necessarily desirable). I do not consider it POV to expect UK-related articles to maintain a reasonable level of consistency in their use of units in a given context.
The MOS can very easily seem to try to bind editors to a specific way of doing things - whereas we seem to agree that it's better in this case that the best idea is to give discretion to editors. To suggest examples where imperial may be used, but not to imply that it is necessarily wrong to use imperial units in other areas as well.
I have no problem in principle to highlighting the key exceptions to metric-first, provided that it is clear that these are examples and not an exhaustive list. It may also be worth improving the wording differentiating unit choices in historically-based articles from unit choices in other articles.
So, in this case, I would suggest a wording like:
...and in the UK, they are more often metric units, with imperial units used in some contexts where they are more commonly used in the UK. It is suggested that such contexts include:
  • Miles for distances and miles per hour for speeds
  • Feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight measurements
  • Imperial pints for draught beer/cider and miles per imperial gallon for fuel economy
  • See also Metrication and the United Kingdom and the Times Style Guide
How does that sound? I've removed feet for aircraft altitude as that's already cited as the most widespread unit in the world in that context. Pfainuk talk 20:05, 28 December 2009 (UTC)
The problem outlined by Mixsynth concerns the mixture of units used in measurements other than the ones listed immediately above. As sources of information vary in their use of units, there is no way that Wikipedia can be totally consistent. However, I believe that something can be done. A simple rule of thumb would be to follow the sources. If the source is Imperial first, then put the Imperial values first; if it is metric first, then that's the way to go. If the source is inconsistent or the sources are mixed, then follow the rules as outlined above, go with the majority of sources or put the SI measures first. Michael Glass (talk) 06:52, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
And of course, you're well aware that I disagree with you on this: relying totally on sources to determine the appropriate unit is liable to lead to rather greater inconsistency than is seen already. Because in cases where Brits are generally consistent - such as in using miles for distance - your proposal would make Wikipedia inconsistent. You would sacrifice the existing WP:ENGVAR-like rule so that (unlike every other country in the world) UK-related articles would not be using the most appropriate units, but would instead use whatever units that the source used - even if that source was written for an American audience using US Customary units in inappropriate places or a continental European audience using metric units in inappropriate places.
Better for us simply to tell editors to use the most appropriate units and trust them to make an editorial judgement about what the most appropriate units are. We trust them to use the most appropriate wording, the most appropriate content, why not? Trying to force them to use whatever units are in the sources, regardless of whether that gives them the most appropriate units or not, is inappropriate. Pfainuk talk 11:19, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
As mentioned in previous discussions, it is always possible to find sources to fit whatever agenda you have in this regard. We can easily see from Michael Glass' contibution history that he is on a crusade to metricate Wikipedia by finding sources, no matter how obscure they may be, that show measurements in metric and using them as validation for converting articles. He has also made previous attempts here to change the guidelines, sometimes against the consensus of discussion or even without any discussion at all, in order to add further justification for his changes. wjematherbigissue 11:40, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

(unindent) Contrary to what was claimed above, it is not always possible to find sources to change the measures from one system to another. Nor is it possible to change articles against the consensus of those who edit them most. Edits that people don't like are quickly undone, so the idea that any one editor can go on a crusade is fanciful. Many editors have no problems with following the sources; others prefer the articles to be in Imperial units, regardless of what the sources might state.


When Wiki articles have comments that are not supported by any citations, it is quite in order to check the information against the sources. Also, if there is an inconsistency between what the sources say and what the article states, it is in order to change the article to agree with the sources. If other editors have a problem with the information or the source or the order of the units, then they are free to change either or both or all of them. Michael Glass (talk) 13:04, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

Not always, but if you dig deep enough you can usually find a source for any measurement in any system you want.[13] Therefore, just saying "follow the source" is typically not enough: if a source uses feet and another uses metres for the same measurement, which one should I use? "Go with the majority of sources" would be more appropriate, as typically the majority of sources will use the most appropriate units. OTOH, just saying "the most appropriate units", as MOS:NUM does now, is best provided that we provide examples and pointers to more detailed discussions, as MOS:NUM does now, because a Frenchman might not be sure of which are the most appropriate units for an article about a town in Northumberland. ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 14:56, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

There are sometimes a variety of sources, and the more authoritative ones tend to use metric measures. Nevertheless, checking the sources is one way of checking educated usage. However, if an editor picks a source that other editors find objectionable, the edit will be quickly challenged. Finally, there is no way that an edit will stand in an article if other editors don't accept it. Michael Glass (talk) 15:37, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

That depends on what the source is. You might be checking educated usage. You might also be checking the units that the author has decided his audience is most likely to consider useful, or the units the author prefers, or something else. You've got no way of knowing unless you actually go and ask the author. Like it or not, most sources are not theoretically perfect.
You display your bias by saying that "the more authoritative ones tend to use metric measures". The fact that a source uses metric units as opposed to imperial units or US customary units does not, in the absence of other factors in its favour, make it more or less authoritative. And why should we force editors to use an inappropriate metric unit in favour of an appropriate imperial or US customary unit?
Telling us that we should blindly follow the sources regardless of whether the units that the sources use are actually appropriate or not is not logical. Editors should not be expected to have to argue the toss over sources in order to use the most appropriate unit in a given circumstance. It's an edit war that we don't need. Far better to tell editors to use the most appropriate unit and then give them examples and pointers to help them determine what that is. Pfainuk talk 16:06, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
(edit conflict, during which the terms of the debate discussion seem to have changed): While I'm usually comfortably pre-metric and always strongly anti-crusade, Michael Glass's [first?] suggestion seems perfectly sensible to me, even if it's not the solution we finally agree to, and I strongly support its intent. When the source for a measurement is reasonably clear, then lead with the source's unit before (as always) offering a conversion. I want to know whether the measurement of an English bird or an American plant was first given in inches or centimetres, especially if it's an estimate ("about 4 inches tall" or "nearly ten centimeters high"). [I go slightly berserk when an encyclopedia mechanically gives an animal's average length as 25.4 cm, because in 99.9687% of the cases the original source just said the average length was ten inches.] ¶ Track and field, swimming, boxing, wrestling, weightlifting and most racing events—about which I know next to nothing—used to be largely in feet, pounds, yards and miles in North America and the Commonwealth (e.g. the four-minute mile), but gradually adapted to international distances and weights (some of which, in turn, seem to have been chosen to come close to equivalents in Imperial yards, furlongs, miles and stones); so there will be many historical, biographical and comparative sports articles where it's important to know the original measurement first. That can mean, and should mean, that the primary units might not be consistent within the same article. ¶ What to do when there's more than one possible source, using different units, is another question, as is the best way to phrase guidance for the Manual. —— Shakescene (talk) 16:30, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
Good point. What about: In general, use the unit used in the sources first, and follow it with a conversion in parentheses; if several reliable sources are found using different units for the same measure, apply these guidelines to decide which unit to prefer:, followed by the already-present list. ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 19:50, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
I oppose this.
Defined units such as those used in sporting events come fairly firmly under the proviso: [n]ominal and defined values should be given in the original units first, even if this makes the article inconsistent. Under the existing wording, a 400 yard race should always be 400 yards (366 m), never 366 metres (400 yd).
To address the problem with 25.4 centimetres (10.0 in) animal, we already say, converted values should use a level of precision similar to that of the source value. Perhaps a statement equivalent in intent could be used to apply to measurements converted from sources, but I don't see that this should require that sources should be used to determine what units come first.
I think that relying on sources to determine all articles is likely to make the units in articles right across Wikipedia very much less consistent (both internally and when compared with one another) with very little overall gain. There seems to be an assumption in this discussion that everything on Wikipedia is backed up by lots of high quality sources. Most things aren't. There seems to be an assumption that sources will always use the most appropriate units for the topic at hand. A lot of the time, they don't. They may be written for a general audience or a local audience, but they may be written for a specific audience that uses a unit that is entirely inappropriate.
I also don't see this working in practice. The fact is, American editors are likely to use US Customary units on US-related articles. They're not going to stop doing that if the MOS is changed. Similarly, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand editors aren't going to stop using metric units on articles exclusively related to Australia, Canada and New Zealand. And British editors aren't going to stop using British-style units on UK-related articles just because the MOS says they have to use sourced units regardless of whether they make sense or not.
Then the current system is altogether easier to maintain. In most cases you can look at an article and judge whether the primary units used are appropriate without reference to any other website or source. OK, it's a little more complicated in the case of UK-related articles, but we do give guidance on MOSNUM, citing two other resources to aid in the decision. Rely on sourcing to determine the units and you have to check every source to see if the units match - which is likely to take far longer with very little extra gained, particularly when the source in question is not generally available online.
Better, in my view, to stick to the same principle as WP:ENGVAR. I find the current system altogether more likely to actually be observed, more likely to give appropriate units for a given articles, less likely to produce inconsistent articles, less likely to create inconsistency between articles and easier to maintain. So I see little overall benefit to a switch and quite a lot of downside. Pfainuk talk 21:44, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
One way to test usage is to find out what the sources are using. This is especially important in UK-based articles, where usage is divided between Metric and Imperial but is slowly changing towards the metric system. At the moment, some British editors use Imperial units, others use a mixture of units and yet others prefer metric units only. The argument that British editors only use Imperial units or that metric units are inappropriate is simply not sustainable. Nor is it logical to use the policy on varieties of English to imply that using metric measures is not British.
Now that British science, engineering, land measurement and meteorology use the metric system, a large proportion of authoritative information is available in metric terms. The most up-to-date and authoritative information is likely to be in metric. Therefore, quite rightly, a large number of UK-based Wikipedia articles are metric first.
It is not a case of choosing between Imperial or metric measures. The guidelines clearly state that we should supply both, so any disagreement is about which one should come first. As British articles can be either metric first or Imperial first we can either leave it to the whim of editors to decide which one should come first or suggest that they consider the sources. I believe it is in order to suggest that editors consider following what the sources use.
Take the case of Buckingham Palace. The palace website informs us that "Buckingham Palace is 108 metres long across the front, 120 metres deep (including the quadrangle) and 24 metres high. The total floor area of the Palace, from basement to roof, covers over 77,000 square metres." <http://www.royal.gov.uk/LatestNewsandDiary/Factfiles/40factsaboutBuckinghamPalace.aspx>. I think it would be appropriate for the Wikipedia article to provide a conversion to Imperial measures; what would not be appropriate is for the article to put Imperial measures first. Similarly, because the dimensions of the Great Hall of Winchester Castle are given in feet in the source quoted, it is appropriate to put these measures first and put the metric dimensions in parentheses.
It might be argued that following the sources will be messy. Yes, it will result in inconsistencies. However to leave it entirely to the whim of editors to decide which units to use is even worse, because the inconsistency of editors' choices will be added to the inconsistency of the sources. That is why, in the case of UK-based articles, it helps to suggest that the editors consider the sources. Michael Glass (talk) 00:59, 1 January 2010 (UTC)
I've never said or implied that metric measures in general are not used by the British. What I've said is that in some circumstances, metric measures are never used by the British - which is perfectly accurate. It is equally unsustainable to assume that British people just use imperial units to confuse foreigners, or that the mix of units in use is random or arbitrary, or that imperial units are somehow backward.
The policy on varieties of English is important here because of the massive parallels between the two rules. Right now, we use the most appropriate spelling, wording and units for the country we're writing about. Under your proposal, we would no longer use the most appropriate units for the country we're talking about (or rather, we'd use the most appropriate units except when dealing with the UK). I think this is a bad idea.
The fact that information is available in metric units does not imply that it should be included in metric units on Wikipedia. Rather we should use the most appropriate units in the context. In many cases (in a UK context) this will be metric - including science, modern engineering, most modern land measurement and meteorology (except for wind speed, which British meteorologists tend to measure in knots). In others, such as when measuring distances and people, it will be imperial. You're the one making this a metric vs. imperial thing, not me.
You say that sources are a way of testing usage, but whose usage? Under your proposal, to use the source, it could be anyone's. Use a tourist guide aimed at the Japanese and Britain suddenly becomes all-metric. But this doesn't reflect actual usage in the UK any more than if you used a guide to Australia aimed at Americans that uses US customary units exclusively. And that's very often the level of sourcing we're dealing with - sources aimed at a non-technical audience who will want to their information to use the units they know. In other cases, sources might be inappropriately technical - documents not aimed at the general public may very well use units that would not be considered appropriate in a document aimed at the general public.
If I drive around the countryside, signs giving distances to nearby towns and cities are reasonably common. These are far more accurate arbiters of usage than any source you're likely to find online - they're clearly aimed at British people going about their daily lives and are used by large numbers of people daily. They're all in miles. For shorter distances, they use yards. But most people aren't going to go around taking photographs of their local signposts, so your rule would tell us that if you can find an online source aimed at Norwegians that gives those distances in kilometres, we have to use kilometres. Even though it's perfectly obvious to anyone who has ever been to the UK that kilometres are not in widespread usage in that context. That makes no sense, and cases in which this rule will give results that make no sense will be far more common than would generally be accounted for by IAR. When a rule has to be ignored as many times as it's applied, it's a bad rule.
Such a situation does away with the general rule we have now. If we adopt this rule, the UK will be an exception to the general rule that we use the most appropriate unit for the country concerned, and instead UK units will be determined by the person with the most time to search out sources that back up their own POV. This is not an acceptable situation to me.
Another, better, way of testing usage is based on the style guides of modern British publications. This, while not without its disadvantages, has the advantage of actually eliminating inconsistency in usage both within articles and between articles (at least in theory). Such publications are clearly written for a wide British audience, so you'll eliminate most of the aberration. Compliance is easy to check (unlike source-based units which rely on permanent access to the source). You want a simple solution to resolve any dispute as to what the most appropriate units are in UK-related articles? Tell people to use the rules as outlined in the Times style guide. Pfainuk talk 13:24, 1 January 2010 (UTC)
Pfainuk, thank you for your detailed comments. I actually agree with considering the style guides and I have no issue with the guidelines about UK usage which specify metric measures in general except for road distances in miles, stones and pounds for personal weight and feet and inches for personal height. These are not the areas that are likely to cause trouble in an article. What is likely to cause trouble is reporting such things as temperatures or describing buildings in feet or metres.
For example, both MOSNUM and the Times Guide would favour hectares over acres. Despite this, there will be instances where sources will be in acres. Also there will be buildings such as Buckingham Palace or the Great Hall of Winchester Castle where the measurements may be given in feet or metres, depending on the sources. Under my proposal, the usage in the sources should be taken into account.
I note that your objection to using sources is that foreign sources might be used, such as using a Japanese brochure for information about England. This is fanciful. A down to earth example is using Weatherbase (an American website) to put Fahrenheit first in a table about temperatures in the Falkland Islands when modern British usage (see the Times Style Guide) is to put Celsius first. In this case it would be more appropriate to use a UK based website, such as <http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/city_guides/results.shtml?tt=TT004760>.
Also, I'd have to challenge your assertion that the British never use kilometres. They do. Here is an example from the Sandstone Trail in Cheshire, England <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Distance_Marker_Sandstone_Trail.JPG> While I agree that the use of miles for road distances is overwhelmingly more common, this is not as clearcut in other contexts. This puts the United Kingdom in a unique position, where much usage is unfixed and divided. In this situation it is appropriate to refer to the sources. This would mean, in practice, that the acre would not be banished to brackets just because the Times Style Guide favours hectares, or the kilometres be automatically rendered in miles just because the Times Style Guide says so. A little more flexibility is required, and lest liberty turn to licence, the admonition to refer to the sources should provide the guidance needed.
This is not a case of the present policy being replaced by a blanket rule to refer to sources. Rather it is in addition to the present guidelines governing UK-based articles. Michael Glass (talk) 23:21, 1 January 2010 (UTC)
Firstly, IANAL, but if that distance marker was placed by there a public authority it may well be illegal. Certainly, it's an oddity - very much the exception rather than the rule. I actually never said that the British never use kilometres (though it's true that they are very little used outside relatively specialist fields). I said that kilometres are not in widespread usage in that context [giving distances between towns] - which is perfectly accurate. Anyone who uses kilometres in that context in casual speech or in a document for British public consumption - including your milepost - will be assumed to be either foreign or doing the RL equivalent of WP:POINT. The same goes for all of the exceptions currently listed as suggestions in the guideline.
You confuse sources aimed at foreign audiences with foreign sources. It is perfectly plausible that a British source, written by British authors in the United Kingdom, might be aimed at Norwegians or Japanese people - or, for that matter, Australians or New Zealanders, or some undefined non-local audience - and thus use units appropriate to that audience instead of units appropriate to the local population. That said, sources aimed at a British audience do often use inappropriate units as well (pounds for body weight being the most common).
You say that it's not a case of present policy being replaced by a blanket rule to refer to sources. Yes it is. What you are saying is that instead of using the most appropriate units for the case in point, we should use the units used by the source, regardless of their appropriateness. The use of units by sources is not an accurate gauge of modern usage by people - your milepost is a perfect illustration of that. We should make the choice of units about the most appropriate units in the context, as determined by consensus, not about the person who has more time to scrabble about finding sources to fit their POV. And we should not have to open up looking at every individual source to confirm compliance with the guidelines.
You want flexibility? The current guideline is flexible. It tells people to use the most appropriate units and suggests what that might mean in practice. That's surely what the aim of this whole thing is - that we use the most appropriate units in the circumstances. But if that's the aim, why do we need to go through some proxy that very often won't have the desired effect? We should make the guideline to use the most appropriate unit then give non-binding suggestions as to how that guideline is best followed. Pfainuk talk 13:38, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
The present policy - rightly - refers to the Times Guide, as an example of usage, and you are quite right in stating that the present policy is flexible. The guidelines are suggestions rather than ironclad rules. We both agree that British road signs, by law, must display miles. In other contexts the usage is not so clearcut. That stone marker is not my "milepost", but it is an example of British usage of kilometres to mark a walking trail. (The British Weights and Measures Association - who are also not lawyers - spend many happy hours converting such signs back into yards and miles! <http://www.bwmaonline.com/Join%20-%20Signage.htm> Needless to say, the UK Metric Association disagrees <http://www.ukma.org.uk/Transport/default.aspx>)
If a British website is produced in French, it is obviously designed for a foreign audience. However, information in English is for anyone who uses that language, domestic or foreign. The fact that some people use metric measures in a way that you find inappropriate is evidence that usage is divided and contested rather than one of inappropriate use.
My point is that the source should be considered. It is already in the policy. However, I believe the wording could be tweaked, but I'll leave that for another discussion. Michael Glass (talk) 22:07, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
Your milepost - the milepost that you refer to - is highly unusual. I don't believe kilometrepost is a word, otherwise I would use it. I don't say that kilometres aren't occasionally used in some circumstances. I'm saying they're not generally used in that context and that one would normally assume that a person who erected a sign in kilometres is either foreign or trying to make a point by it.
Your argument in your second paragraph is frankly bizarre. You seem to be arguing that the most appropriate units for use in a UK context may well be decided by Australian or American usage. It is perfectly possible for a source to be aimed at a specific English-speaking country. Of course it is. Why, do you think, that when you go to a site like this one or [14] you get a list of different English-language versions? People from different countries want different spellings, different dialects, different currencies and - yes - they're likely to want different units as well.
And it's no different in cases where each country doesn't get its own dedicated site. Websites are often written (wittingly or not) with only one country's conventions in mind - anyone else can read it, but they'll get that country's spelling conventions, dialect usage, currency and unit conventions - that may be the country where the site is based, or it may not. Or they might be written with a general non-local audience in mind: as most of the rest of the world uses metric units, a source written with a general non-British audience in mind would be likely to use metric units in places where a British audience would expect imperial units. Same goes for books and magazines, except they might only be available in one country, so others might not have easy access to it. The idea that English-language sources are all intended for all English-speakers regardless of location is not just wrong, it's absurd.
The fact that Australians, Kiwis and others use metric measures in a way that does not match UK usage, and the fact that Americans use US Customary measures in a way that does not match UK usage, are evidence only that usage across the English-speaking world is divided - something that I would have thought entirely obvious given the nature of the guideline we're discussing. It is not evidence that usage in the UK is divided.
You still seem to be assuming that British people choose what units they use randomly or arbitrarily. They don't. In some contexts they're used fairly interchangeably, it's true, but in other contexts one unit is used nigh-on exclusively. And there's a whole spectrum in between.
You talk about units that I find appropriate. But note that what I'm arguing for is not my notion of appropriateness. I'm arguing that the most appropriate units should be decided by local consensus, guided by suggestions gleaned from the style guide of a reputable British publication. My own personal notion of what is appropriate is only relevant inasmuch as my experience of living in the UK all my life can help in describing usage on this talk page.
Here's a suggestion I would find acceptable. The rule remains that we use the most appropriate units in the circumstances. But we change the suggestions. We suggest the following, making it clear that they can be overridden by local and WikiProject consensus:
  • In cases where there is a clear preference in British usage (as sourced from the Times style guide) we should suggest that preference be used regardless of the sources. That's all the cases we list now (including those you just added), most non-metric units where they're widely used internationally and Celsius for temperature.
  • In cases where there is no clear preference suggest source-based units, inviting users to strongly prefer sources that are British-based and aimed at a British-audience.
That they can be overridden by WikiProject consensus is important to help maintain consistency. Usage in the context of elevation in particular is quite polarised, so it would make sense to adopt a single rule for elevation over all articles about mountains, for example. Another is the fact that units of measurement are a matter decided by the governments of BOTs and Crown Dependencies and BOTs in particular are remote from mainland Britain. The most appropriate units to use in a BOT may well be different from the most appropriate units in the UK proper. Local consensus is important to allow editors the flexibility to determine by consensus the most appropriate units in the field they're dealing with.
In cases where other guidelines apply (such as nominal and defined units and scientific topics), then obviously they would still apply. Pfainuk talk 00:25, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
Pfainuk, I am not talking about Australian usage, New Zealand usage or American usage. All but one of my examples were drawn from the UK and the exception was drawn from the Falkland Islands.
When I mention information, I mean local information that an editor might use to verify text for Wikipedia. For example, Chester County Council's website states that the Sandstone Trail "... has been split into three sections of 17km or just over 10 miles" <http://www.cheshire.gov.uk/countryside/Walking/linear_trails/sandstone/>. I see no evidence that this has been produced specifically for a foreign audience. It might be that miles and kilometres are used interchangeably for walking trails See also <http://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Northumberland+Coast+Path> because British maps are metric.
You acknowledge that in the UK, usage about elevation "is quite polarised", that some units are used "fairly interchangeably" in some contexts "but in other contexts one unit is used nigh-on exclusively" and "there's a whole spectrum in between". In addition you state that usage in a British Overseas Territory may be different from mainland Britain. Exactly. Your solution to this appears to be to both impose the Times style guide and to leave it to local editors to choose. My solution, of taking into account other evidence of usage, is more flexible than the Times Guide, but uses this evidence of usage to guide editors.
Your second dot point (above) appears to set out the kind of policy that I propose. I think the issues covered in your first dot point are dealt with better by existing policy. Michael Glass (talk) 08:18, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
My solution is to trust editors to determine the most appropriate units by consensus. If they're not sure, they can choose to be guided by the Times style guideline. If they don't want to be, they don't have to be. Your solution is to force editors to use units in contexts where they are inappropriate, based apparently on the notion that all sources are theoretically perfect. You argue that your version is more flexible, but what is more flexible than allowing editors to determine the most appropriate units for themselves?
Let me be absolutely clear here that I am not going to accept a situation whereby every other country in the world should use the most appropriate units but that units on British-related articles should be decided based on whoever has more time to scrabble around finding sources that conform to their POV. The primary rule must be that we use the most appropriate unit in the context, and any other guidance should be in the form of non-binding suggestions as to how that might be achieved for those unfamiliar with British usage.
Yes, there are cases where usage is not well established - where either unit can be used. But there are cases where it is well established and you seem to have decided that they aren't important. Though I've pointed out twice that it's completely wrong, you still seem to be assuming that all units are used interchangeably. Usage is not random. Usage is not arbitrary. And sometimes usage is not well reflected by sources.
The fact is that, in some contexts, one set of units is used nigh-on exclusively in Britain. As it happens, most of these are imperial, and thus more likely not to be reflected in sources aimed at an more general international audience (as opposed to a general British audience). That, incidentally, includes the sites you note - it may be km-first, but almost all Brits will be reading the distance in miles. Britain should not be an exception to the rule whereby we use the units most appropriate to the country concerned. If a unit is used nigh-on exclusively in Britain, it should be used nigh-on exclusively on British-related articles on Wikipedia - subject to local/WikiProject consensus to allow for any smaller differences in context (and of course to the principle that units should generally be converted). Pfainuk talk 10:26, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
Trusting editors to determine the most appropriate units by consensus is the only way that Wikipedia will work. The question is what advice can we give editors in the choice of units. First there is Wiki policy, then there are the examples given in the Times Style Guide. I agree that we should use the most appropriate unit in the context. I also agree that guidance should be in the form of non-binding suggestions. Wikipedia can't work any other way.
I see that you won't stand for other countries using the units that suit them best while British articles have to conform to the whims of activists for other usages. Fair enough, as long as conversions are used to provide for the needs of others. However, it can create difficulties in an encyclopedia where consistency and uniformity are also desirable. The situation is also complicated by the fact that British usage is slowly changing, so any policy needs to be flexible enough to accommodate the changes.
Your way of accommodating this situation is to rely on the good sense of editors, supplemented by Wiki policy and the advice that can be gleaned from the Times Guide. I have no problem with that, except that I believe it should also take into account the usage in appropriate sources. Take Buckingham Palace. The official website describes the dimensions of the palace in metres. It is therefore appropriate to do the same in the Wikipedia article. However, quite rightly, the Wikipedia article also supplies at least some dimensions in the older measures. On the other hand Information about Winchester Castle gave the Great Hall measurement in feet, and that is what the Wikipedia article also puts first.
You appear to suspect those who check sources. Checking sources is vital for accuracy. Take a case where miles turn out to be nautical miles <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mull_of_Galloway&diff=prev&oldid=334870556>. Checking is vital for accuracy. You also stated that sometimes usage is not well reflected by sources. Unless there was clear evidence to the contrary, I would regard such differences as evidence of contested usage.
But let's say I am wrong, that those who use kilometres are renegades. If so, such usages will soon be removed from UK articles; if not, then there is more support for the use of kilometres than might be suspected from the official policy on UK roads.
All of this, however, is a sideshow. The question is whether sources can be a guide to usage. I believe they can be useful. However, they would have to be used in conjunction with other sources such as Wiki policy and the Times Guide.Michael Glass (talk) 13:37, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
It's not a case of suspecting those who check sources, it's a case of limiting the amount of checking that people need to do in order to ensure compliance with this guideline. Source-based units require a lot more work to check than units based on a style guide, and needlessly creating work is not helpful to the continued development of the encyclopædia. There may be cases where it is not clear which of two similarly named units are used, but often enough it would simply be a case of having to check to see which of two otherwise equivalent units in a statement known to be accurate was primary in the source.
You say that if kilometre usages are inappropriate they'll be removed. I find this argument makes unrealistic assumptions about some of our editing community. Just as they may be removed, more may be added based on this guideline. We might say it can be overridden by consensus, but one loud POV pusher can fairly easily act as an active barrier to prevent consensus, forcing the inappropriate usage to remain in placed based on their own POV and the fact that they've managed to dig up a source that is not representative of British usage.
Your conclusion that if kilometres were not swiftly removed "there [would be] more support for the use of kilometres than might be suspected from the official policy on UK roads" is flawed for that reason and for another. It might - not necessarily, but might - show that there is more support globally, or among the English-speaking Wikipedia community as a whole, for kilometres than might be supposed if one was solely basing one's assumptions on UK law. But that would be the furthest you could go, and given that so many English-speakers live in countries where kilometres are the norm, it would be a distinctly unsurprising conclusion. It wouldn't imply anything about usage by actual real British people.
Can sources be a guide to usage generally? Probably, but it's not the right question. If British-style unit mixing was common throughout the English-speaking world then it might (or might not) be - but that isn't the real world. In cases where usage is mixed, then source-based units are not a bad suggestion, but where usage is consistent it makes rather more sense sense to suggest the unit that is consistently used. Pfainuk talk 22:31, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
Websites and other kinds of promotional literature are usually designed with an international audience in mind and it would be no surprise to see UK companies and organisations putting metric measures first in theirs. As such these kind of sources can absolutely not be used as an indication of common usage by the UK general public who in fact would largely use imperial units for a wide array of measures. It is this concern that should be the primary concern if the spirit of the guideline is to remain the same.
In case I'm not being clear, the units that are used by preference in any given set of sources is probably irrelevant. wjematherbigissue 23:13, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
I agree, this is quite common. The reason I'm prepared to accept it in cases where usage is divided is because in those circumstances both options match a reasonable segment of British usage and the metric version - traditionally the less common - is recommended by the Times Style Guide (a useful outside source). Where usage clearly falls on one side of the line or the other, I think a stick-to-sources rule is likely to get it wrong a lot of the time. Pfainuk talk 18:51, 4 January 2010 (UTC)
(edit conflict): I'm a little mystified. We should follow the same policy here as we do with quotations, which is stick to the original spelling and punctuation. It would be easier from the outside to avoid the hassle of checking external quotations and just impose the "correct" spelling and punctuation as dictated by some a priori policy but (apart from indisputable howlers) we don't. All we're talking about here is which unit to put first and I want to know (for reasons I gave above) what was in the original source. And this isn't just a problem of atavistic holdovers in UK usage; metric units are spottily making their way into non-scientific usage in the United States, so there are cases where an American would give a metric measurement. Blood donations are usually counted in pints (e.g. one pint every eight weeks), but there are times when blood's measured in liters or milliliters. While dry pharmaceuticals are usually measured in micrograms and milligrams, liquid measurements seem to be a mix of cc's and milliliters. —— Shakescene (talk) 23:52, 3 January 2010 (UTC)
Shakescene's position conflicts with the first general principle in the MOS:

An overriding principle is that style and formatting should be consistent within a Wikipedia article, though not necessarily throughout Wikipedia as a whole. Being consistent within an article promotes clarity and cohesion. Therefore, even where the Manual of Style permits alternative usages, be consistent within an article.

Jc3s5h (talk) 01:04, 4 January 2010 (UTC)
That's not the policy that the Manual of Style follows when an article cites quotations from different sources, using different styles. And I want to use the primary unit that's most faithful to the original source, especially when we always give a conversion. —— Shakescene (talk) 01:22, 4 January 2010 (UTC)
The whole English-speaking world (and probably other languages too) tries to quote sources accurately, preserving most style preferences as well as words. The whole English-speaking world puts corresponding numbers in corresponding positions. Swapping the positions of a given unit of measure from one paragraph to the next promotes erroneous interpretation. Anyone who really cares exactly how a source expressed something should go read the source. Jc3s5h (talk) 01:40, 4 January 2010 (UTC)
I think we all agree that quoting sources accurately is vital. Consistent formatting is also very important as Jc3s5h has explained. However, putting a derived figure first is potentially misleading. Take this statement about the size of the United States, quoted from the United States article:
the CIA World Factbook gives 3,794,101 sq mi (9,826,676 km2),[1] the United Nations Statistics Division gives 3,717,813 sq mi (9,629,091 km2),[17] and the Encyclopedia Britannica gives 3,676,486 sq mi (9,522,055 km2).[18]
While it is true that the Encyclopædia Britannica does provide its information in square miles, the other two sources provide their information in square kilometres. If editors decide - for the sake of consistency - that the primary units in this article must be US Customary units, so be it. However, the footnotes could give readers the original measures without disturbing the layout of the article itself. Michael Glass (talk) 02:12, 5 January 2010 (UTC)
Sure, sources should be quoted accurately, but we are not quoting sources here. Sources are being used only to provide the data, which may then be presented in an entirely different format as per wikipedia guidelines. As Jc3s5h states above, if readers what to view the original data they can do so by following any links provided in the footnotes, there is no need to duplicate the information. wjematherbigissue 13:03, 5 January 2010 (UTC)
A note to state that the original figure was in square kilometres is not a duplication of information. Michael Glass (talk) 00:33, 9 January 2010 (UTC)

Hypothetical resolution?

Since we're talking about two goods here, about whose relative importance there's a good-faith disagreement, let me just throw out in a very general and speculative way one hypothetical solution. When an article's citing sources that use different units (e.g. a biographical or comparative article), would it be possible within the conversion (either manual or by template) to indicate which unit the original source used? That way, there'd be a consistent primary unit throughout the article, but some indicator (without having to dig into the footnotes) of which was given in the sources consulted. I can't think of an intuitive way of showing it, but if an asterisk were used, you might have a sentence like While Continental scholars estimated the distance as 3.0 kilometres* (1.9 mi), British investigators measured it as much closer to 3.2 km (2.0 miles*). Or perhaps one could use some form of emphasis or de-emphasis, or (as in my example) abbreviate the conversion while writing out the source unit. P.S. what do IANAL and TLDR mean? —— Shakescene (talk) 16:29, 5 January 2010 (UTC)

Shakescene, I think your proposal could be valuable, and here is why:
  • Rounding errors If you convert one unit to another there are rounding errors. Usually these rounding errors are trivial but if you treat the derived figure as the original and convert it back, the errors can add up. In particular, using the convert function on the derived figure can misrepresent the source figure, especially if the derived figure happens to end in one or two zeros. Watch the discrepancy grow from 3 to 30 to 200km2
14,173 square kilometres (5,472 sq mi) compared with 5,472 square miles (14,170 km2)
14,170 square kilometres (5,470 sq mi) compared with 5,470 square miles (14,200 km2)
14,200 square kilometres (5,500 sq mi) compared with 5,500 square miles (14,000 km2)
  • A variety of sources Many articles depend on a variety of sources and these sources may use different units. For example, the United States article states " [T]he CIA World Factbook gives 3,794,101 square miles (9,826,675 km2),[1] the United Nations Statistics Division gives 3,717,813 sq mi (9,629,091 km2), and the Encyclopedia Britannica gives 3,676,486 sq mi (9,522,055 km2)." The presentation puts US Customary measures first; however, both the CIA and the UN use metric measures exclusively. I believe that the primary measures are significant enough to be noted, even if consistency demands that the US Customary measures must be put first.
What do others think? Michael Glass (talk) 21:57, 5 January 2010 (UTC)
In this case, the values are quasi-direct quotations, so personally I'd give the value in the source first no matter what. On the other hand, if a measurement isn't explicitly attributed in the text (e.g. Cambridge lies in East Anglia about 50 miles (80 km) north of London), it is acceptable to start with a different unit than a footnoted source uses, but situations where we have to do that are likely very rare. ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 01:41, 6 January 2010 (UTC)
I thought the same but the consensus was against it. Therefore I'm trying to work out ways to indicate the primary source that could be acceptable to those who put a greater value on having one system of weights and measures used consistently in an article. Here is one possibility, using parentheses to indicate the derived value:
The CIA World Factbook gives (3,794,101 square miles) 9,826,675 km2, the United Nations Statistics Division gives (3,717,813 sq mi) 9,629,091 km2, and the Encyclopedia Britannica gives 3,676,486 sq mi (9,522,055 km2).
In this example the order of presentation is preserved but the parentheses indicate the derived values.
Another possibility is to keep the order of presentation and the parentheses, but use an asterisk to indicate the primary measure when it does not come first.
The CIA World Factbook gives 3,794,101 square miles (*9,826,675 km2), the United Nations Statistics Division gives 3,717,813 sq mi (*9,629,091 km2), and the Encyclopedia Britannica gives 3,676,486 sq mi (9,522,055 km2).
The problem is that you would need a note to explain what the asterisk meant. Therefore I'm inclined to favour the first solution because it is easy to describe. The primary value stands but the derived value is put in parentheses. We could then change this rule:
If editors cannot agree on the sequence of units, put the source value first and the converted value second. If the choice of units is arbitrary, use SI units as the main unit, with converted units in parentheses.
to this:
In general, put the source value first and any converted value afterwards in parentheses. “The CIA Fact Book gives the area of the United States as 9,826,675 km2 (3,794,101 square miles).
The order of units may be varied if it clashes with the general style of an article, but keep the derived value in parentheses. For example, “The CIA Fact Book gives the area of the United States as (3,794,101 square miles) 9,826,675 km2.
If the choice of units in the sources is arbitrary, use SI units as the main unit, but always put converted units in parentheses.
This means that derived units should always be in parentheses, but they may put second if the dominant style of the article demands it. What do others think? Michael Glass (talk) 13:20, 6 January 2010 (UTC)
All completely unnecessary. It is instruction creep and I cannot see it ever being followed, as there is absolutely no need to highlight the unit preferences of the sources outside of a direct quotation. wjematherbigissue 13:50, 6 January 2010 (UTC)
There are rare circumstances when you do need to use the same unit as the source, even if it's not strictly a direct quote; see my latest edit to WP:MOSNUM, where putting kilograms first would be wrong even if the article is about a song by an Australian band. I'm not sure I could explain the circumstances in a few sentence, but I know it when I see it. ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 14:48, 6 January 2010 (UTC)
In quotations, direct and indirect, the unit from the source should be primary in most circumstances IMO. Obviously, quoting a source, directly or indirectly, is different from simply using information from that source.
On the other point, I see very little need to force people to highlight which unit was used in the source generally speaking - it's unnecessary instruction creep. If they want to know that they can look in the source. I also find both Michael's suggestions to be counterintuitive in the extreme, and would oppose both even if I accepted that such marking was necessary. Pfainuk talk 15:32, 6 January 2010 (UTC)
"In quotations, direct and indirect": that's it (for sufficiently broad definitions of "indirect quotation"). "The area of the United States is 9,826,675 km2" is not a quotation at all, but "The CIA Fact Book gives the area of the United States as 9,826,675 km2" is an indirect quotation. Jc3s5h's suggestion below is also valid. ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 20:26, 6 January 2010 (UTC)
Let me jump in with an alternative that is a bit less obtrusive than an asterisk: in the wikicode, after the code to display the quantity, enter the comment <!--Ref_Name: 100 furlongs-->. The casual reader is not informed about the source value, but editors (who deal with rounding and conversions) are—this is probably an appropriate editorial decision for the vast majority of articles. Also, this accounts for the case where a source value wouldn't otherwise be displayed directly (e.g. it's in an esoteric unit like furlongs, and the rest of the article uses metres and feet). Using something like this would also reduce the need for a non-obvious series of instructions as to the significance of one unit being used before another. TheFeds 17:59, 6 January 2010 (UTC)
TheFeds suggestion seems good for a certain range of circumstances: the article (or section) is an overview where analysis of exactly how the unit was converted and/or rounded is not justified, and there is something special about the number: it is a design value, it is only available from one source, etc. If the number (to a precision sufficient for the article) is available from many sources in many units of measure, there is no need to indicate the source unit, because there is nothing special about the source. --Jc3s5h (talk) 18:23, 6 January 2010 (UTC)

Aside: Imperial units not well-understood in U.S.

Just to throw a spanner/monkey-wrench into the works, we should be aware that most American editors and almost all American readers have no idea what a "stone" is, nor do they know that an Imperial Pint is 20 fluid ounces, or 1.201 times the volume of a U.S. customary pint (16 fl. oz). Since they're not yet familiar with metric, U.S. readers (and many U.S. editors) aren't helped much by a metric conversion as in "John Smith weighed just over ten stone (64 kilos) and could drain ten pints (45 litres) of cider at one sitting". Similarly (and more noticeably) for MPG, where 24 miles per Imperial gallon = only 20 miles per U.S. gallon and "24 miles per imperial gallon (8.5 km/L)" doesn't clarify matters for the U.S. reader.—— Shakescene (talk) 06:43, 29 December 2009 (UTC)

{{convert}} by default gives 10 stone (140 lb; 64 kg) and 10 imperial pints (5.7 l), which is almost OK (though I'd prefer 10 imperial pints (5.7 l; 12 US fl pt) and dropping the "imperial" after the first occurrence). ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 13:12, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
The differences between the Imperial system and American customary measures are a good reason for using metric equivalents in both US and UK articles when non-metric measures are used. It should be remembered that Great Britain and the United States are not the only countries where English is spoken. In other countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the metric system has been in use for over a generation. This also applies to countries such as India and Nigeria, where English is widely used, even though it is not the first language of most speakers. Michael Glass (talk) 14:28, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
As I said in the main section, I strongly believe in always giving conversions (in English Wikipedia) between metric and Imperial/U.S. customary units, both ways. Even though it might be a bit silly, I tried wherever possible, for example, to add metric equivalents for the batting distances, etc., in Yankee Stadium (1923) and Yankee Stadium (where as a non-expert, I hadn't written the underlying text or tables). After all some Canadian with almost no knowledge of baseball might still like to know what 383 yards means, just as an American who knows nothing of track and field might want to know the distance involved in the 400-metre hurdles in List of Olympic medalists in athletics (men), to which I've added a conversion table. —— Shakescene (talk) 19:01, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
I don't believe that anyone is proposing that metric units be left out - but metric units are not necessarily well understood in the US and UK, and the customary systems of measurement in the US and UK are not identical. I would agree with Shakescene, but would extend the point more generally. We should be converting between all three systems of measurement in cases where imperial and US customary units are different (principally when using fluid capacities). And I would note, per A. di M., that {{convert}} already does this by default.
The only thing I would add to that is that, when weighing people, the British and Americans use different standards. Saying that someone weighs 150 pounds (68 kg) is not particularly helpful to most people in the UK - both require conversion into stones before they can be intuitively understood. I would suggest that, as a rule, body weight should be given as 80 kilograms (176 lb; 12 st 8 lb) (in most cases), as 176 pounds (80 kg; 12 st 8 lb) (where US Customary units are put first) or as 12 stone 8 pounds (80 kg; 176 lb) (where imperial units are put first). Pfainuk talk 15:44, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
British authors need to understand that almost nobody outside the British Isles knows what a stone is. Australia and New Zealand may differ (I haven't been there), but the vast majority of Americans, Canadians, and other English-speaking people have no idea that a stone is a unit of weight, never mind that it weighs 14 pounds. As far as they are concerned, a stone is some kind of rock. The metric system has been standard in the Commonwealth countries for over a generation, it isn't taught in schools any more, and an entire generation has grown up that doesn't know Imperial units except as an archaic unit like cubits or furlongs. You may not like it, but if you use stones in an article, you need to translate it into pounds for Americans and into kilograms for the rest of the English-speaking world, particularly the younger people. Stones are a very British unit and only Brits really use it. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 17:42, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
Right. But that doesn't mean we should disallow stones, or that we should not be willing to convert pounds and kilograms into stones.
My point is that when we use pounds or kilograms as primary unit in the context of weighing people, we should not simply convert into the other and be done with it. Stones are near-exclusively used in this context in the UK. By saying that the guy weighs 200 pounds (91 kg), we leave a significant proportion of our audience with an awkward conversion to do in order to make the number make sense.
I'm not saying that stones should not be converted, I'm saying they should be converted - both into pounds and into kilograms. But I'm also saying that when we weigh people in kilograms or pounds, we should also give a conversion into stones. Pfainuk talk 18:36, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
http://i773.photobucket.com/albums/yy12/joedid/English/AtoEDictionary.jpg ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 20:00, 29 December 2009 (UTC)

Maintenance of correct date formats

I have been going through articles, unifying date formats whilst at the same time adding an invisible template to facilitate future maintenance. There is a new discussion going on at Template talk:Dmy‎, and I though regulars here might have some views on the subject. Ohconfucius ¡digame! 02:43, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

Use of full dates

Hi everyone,

Something that's bugged me a little for a while now, can't find a quick answer from MOSNUM - is using the full date in articles encouraged, or is it a bit specific for most things?

As an example, I've just started copyediting Lewis Hamilton and it is full of stuff like,

  • "On 20 October 2007, Lewis Hamilton stated he wanted to live in Switzerland"
  • "On 1 November 2007, Hamilton announced this wasn't just for tax reasons..."
  • "On 13 December 2008 he was arrested for speeding."
  • "On 15 March 2009 his waxwork was unveiled at Madame Tussauds..." etc, all in quick succession.

You get the idea. While I'm editing this, I'm removing most of the ultra specific stuff, in the most part leaving just the month and year when necessary (so it appears, to my mind, how it would in a paper encyclopedia (which WP is not(!)). If anyone challenged this, a) am I right in doing so (apart from where the full date actually matters, obviously); b) am I supported by policy?

Thanks,

MDCollins (talk) 23:10, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

WP:PROSELINE? ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 01:19, 12 January 2010 (UTC)

Thanks - not seen that before.—MDCollins (talk) 02:38, 15 January 2010 (UTC)

YYYY-MM-DD dates

The Dates section says that the YYYY-MM-DD format "should not be used within sentences" but "may be useful in long lists and tables for conciseness". What about citations? I see a lot of YYYY-MM-DD in citations, especially in online access dates. Personally, I think that they look too geeky for a general encyclopedia (and I'm pretty geeky myself). Also, the statement under Format consistency, "Dates in article references should all have the same format", prohibits using a "human" date format for source dates and YYYY-MM-DD for access dates in the same article, but this combination is common; even good stylists do it.

I think we should clarify the guideline on this. My proposed clarification would be to disapprove YYYY-MM-DD anywhere in articles (including citations), with the sole exception being "long lists and tables for conciseness". Comments?—Finell 21:22, 12 January 2010 (UTC)

See Wikipedia:Mosnum/proposal on YYYY-MM-DD numerical dates. Discussed and rejected. wjematherbigissue 21:53, 12 January 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps it is more accurate to say there was no consensus to change the present wording. So it is ambiguous as to whether the date format in the references may differ from the date format in prose, and it is ambiguous as to whether the format for the publication date may differ from the access date. In the absence of consensus, there is no solution to the ambiguity. --Jc3s5h (talk) 22:16, 12 January 2010 (UTC)
I withdraw my proposal for broadening the disapproval of YYYY-MM-DD because that proposal recently failed (I apologize for not looking at the history). However, there is no ambiguity in this sentence: "Dates in article references should all have the same format." It means that one date format must be used consistently throughout an article's references; the mixture of YYYY-MM-DD with another format is not permitted. Further, the existence of the two consecutive statements in the guideline, one requiring consistency "within sentences" and the other consistency in the references implies that the two need not be consistent with each other. Despite that, I would hate to see an article use American-style full dates in text and International-style dates in references, or vice versa.—Finell 04:44, 13 January 2010 (UTC)
I think the general rule of thumb is to use full alphanumeric dates in text (either 13 January 2010 or January 13, 2010 works equally well in my opinion). However, I always use the YYYY-MM-DD format in citations under the pox on both your houses principle. The American and British numeric date formats are mutually ambiguous, and I just can't stand people arguing over date formats.RockyMtnGuy (talk) 06:21, 13 January 2010 (UTC)
All formal citations styles that I am familiar with in the real world use spelled out months, not all-numeric date formats, ambiguous or otherwise. When you edit existing articles, I certainly hope that you format dates in citations using the format that prevails in the article, rather than imposing your own personal preference.—Finell 07:16, 13 January 2010 (UTC)

The plural of euro is euros

In the MOS main article the plural euros is used; this is quite correct, but it would be helpful (vis à vis some long-standing arguments in the past to formalize the Wikipedia consensus with "The "legislative" s-less plurals notwithstanding, on the Wikipedia the plural of euro is euros and the plural of cent is cents. Or something similar. -- Evertype· 11:17, 31 December 2009 (UTC)

Isn't it dependent on whether the usage is as a noun or an adjective? "They cost 5 euros apiece." vs "The 5-euro piece price..." LeadSongDog come howl 14:37, 31 December 2009 (UTC)
That's standard English grammar - you would never use a plural noun in the second case. For example, the plural of "hour" is always "hours", but you would still refer to "a five-hour drive" using the singular form. Pfainuk talk 17:31, 31 December 2009 (UTC)
That's one of the differences between English and German: in German one would always use the plural form in the latter sort of usage. Michael Hardy (talk) 17:56, 31 December 2009 (UTC)
As an aside, Template:convert already incorporates that distinction with the parameter (instruction) "adj=on", so that it will convert some other currency to "5 euros" unless (with adj=on|abbr=off) it's a description as in an "x-currency (5-euro) box" [and, conversely "5 dollars" but a "y-euro (5-dollar) bag"]. —— Shakescene (talk) 13:57, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
Does that template convert currencies? I thought that was overly complicated given the changing nature of currency conversions. It'll certainly do it for the conversions it does. Pfainuk talk 14:04, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
It's not really tractable. You'd have to have access to databases of exchange rate histories at different times on different markets.LeadSongDog come howl 16:45, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
Yeah, that's what I figured. Pfainuk talk 17:45, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, I wasn't thinking very hard. That's the way it treats metres, inches and pounds (avoirdupois rather than sterling). In the inflexible years of the gold standard and Bretton Woods, you could do such conversions, but that was long before Wikipedia. —— Shakescene (talk) 23:32, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
There was a guy who was working on that, once, following a suggestion of mine. It'd be only suitable for present prices, it'd round conversions to two significant figures to avoid excess precision, and it'd give at least the month as a reference point. For example: Since 2001 the grant has been 10,000,000 Swedish kronor (approx. US$1.4M, €1.0M, or £800k as of August 2009). See /Archive 124#Automatic currency converter button idea. ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 13:47, 6 January 2010 (UTC)

OK, thanks everyone. Yes, we know that in adjectival use we say a "two-euro pen", "a ten-dollar meal", "a two-cent cigar", "a thirty-peso taxi ride". And we say that they cost "two euros", "ten dollars", "two cents", and "thirty pesos". And we know why in Ireland both "two euros" and "two euro" are used as ordinary plurals. But there has been a lot of discussion over this point over the years, and the community consensus has been to use the standard English plural for euros and cents, despite the use of the "legislative plural" by many people in Ireland. I am happy with that consensus: it accords with the recommendations of the European Commission's Translation Section, as well as with standard English grammar in all English-speaking countries. What I would like, is for this to be "enshrined" in the MOS, so that the MOS could be cited in the case of dispute. -- Evertype· 09:21, 9 January 2010 (UTC)

Thus, I propose:
  • When called on to use a plural with the euro, use the standard English plurals and not the "legislative" plurals (ten euros and fifty cents, not ten euro and fifty cent). In adjectival use, no plural form is generally used, but rather a hyphenated form: (a two-euro pen, a ten-dollar meal, a ten-cent cigar.
OK? (Apart from wordsmithing)-- Evertype· 09:32, 9 January 2010 (UTC)
Can you point to some of the arguments which there have been about this? I don't recall seeing "euro" used as a plural noun on Wikipedia articles, so this sounds a bit like WP:BEANS to me. ― A._di_M.2nd Dramaout (formerly Army1987) 12:41, 9 January 2010 (UTC)
Arguments leading to a policy decision were made as far back as 2004; see Talk:Linguistic_issues_concerning_the_euro. The reason I'd like this to be formalized in the MOS is that from time to time someone comes in and tries to re-set everything to the "legislative" plural. I've always kept an eye on this, but it is tiresome and it would be nice to be able to refer to the MOS. -- Evertype· 13:10, 9 January 2010 (UTC)

There seems to be no opposition to this. -- Evertype· 13:58, 15 January 2010 (UTC)

"If the source value is not put first the original value may need to be noted."

At present the policy reads

If editors cannot agree on the sequence of units, put the source value first and the converted value second.

This could be read to suggest that we only check the source value of units to work out which value to put first.

The following wording might be more appropriate:

In general, put the source value first and the converted value second. If the source value is not put first the original value may need to be noted.

This lays out the usual practice and suggests - but not insists - that an exception to this practice may need to be noted. This leaves it up to editors to decide whether the original value needs to be noted and how it may be noted.

What do others think? Michael Glass (talk) 19:53, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

In short, nonsense. The above discussion should have made that abundantly clear for you. wjematherbigissue 19:58, 7 January 2010 (UTC)
That is neither the "general practice" of Wikipedia, nor of any other publication I have ever seen. --Jc3s5h (talk) 20:24, 7 January 2010 (UTC)
Conversions by their very nature are subject to various kinds of error, and it's often useful to know what units the source was thinking in ("is it closer to 11 miles or 12? Looks about halfway between 10 kilos and 15.") I prefer the existing language, but the revision is also good, and less peremptory. —— Shakescene (talk) 20:32, 7 January 2010 (UTC)
I oppose this per the above discussion. Pfainuk talk 20:44, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

Interesting comments. Thank you, all. The wicked idea of putting the source value first has been voted down. Or was it the subversive idea of suggesting that if the source value is not put first the original value may need to be noted? Whatever it was, the vote was clear and MOSNUM is safe from these dangerous proposals. Michael Glass (talk) 09:43, 10 January 2010 (UTC)

What vote? At least one editor (this one) agrees with you, and I think about three clearly disagree. There's no consensus, but it's not a hands-down rejection. —— Shakescene (talk) 17:12, 10 January 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for your support, Shakescene. I can't understand why such a moderate proposal has garnered such opposition. The proposal is not pro metric or anti Imperial/US measures. Nor is a hard and fast rule to force editors to follow the sources, come what may. I am afraid that it may have been opposed because it was seen as being pro-metric. Michael Glass (talk) 00:52, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

Funny thing is that I'm rather more partial than you to customary/Imperial measures, so on other questions we'd probably disagree while I'd probably agree with PFAinUK—as we've agreed in the past. —— Shakescene (talk) 01:08, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

I think I should explain where I stand. Yes, I support the metric system, but I'm not about to ram it down everyone's throats. For one thing it's impossible to get all information in metric figures. For another, there are too many diehard supporters for the traditional measures. This makes the idea of metricating Wikipedia any time soon a pipedream.

However, in this particular proposal the idea was to ensure that sources were quoted accurately, and when conversion factors are used, they are applied transparently. It is neither pro nor anti metric. I would have classed it as pro-scholarship. Michael Glass (talk) 05:51, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

"In general, put the source value first" – can you not see the problem with that? We're back to justifying the finding of sources to suit a particular agenda. MOS should not be used in this way.
"the original (source) value may need to be noted" – why? If the source has been used properly, it will hardly ever be necessary, if at all. I class this as instruction creep. wjematherbigissue 08:36, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

I came in a bit late on this one. Could someone provide a couple of examples illustrating this issue? Thanks.  HWV258.  08:51, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

See above section for prior discussion. Unclear as to why this was started as a separate thread. wjematherbigissue 09:52, 11 January 2010 (UTC)

The idea that finding sources for information is "to suit a particular agenda" strikes me as a bit paranoid. It makes verifying information sound like a subversive activity. But let's say that an editor is deliberately seeking out sources to push a particular agenda. The answer to this is to find and insist on using the best sources of information. Here is an example. The Falkland Islands article gets its weather information from a site called Weatherbase [15]. This site has been chosen because the information is available in Fahrenheit [16]. Now I have never heard of Weatherbase and cannot vouch for their accuracy, but I know that similar information can be obtained from the BBC [17] and the BBC is known throughout the world for accuracy of reporting. If it was up to me I would prefer the BBC over Weatherbase. But let us say that the consensus of editors is to continue with Weatherbase, then that's the way it will stay.

The second point of wjmather is that noting the original value is an example of instruction creep. It's an easy charge to make about any new requirement, but it's not an onerous requirement and it's left entirely to the editors to decide whether the note is worthwhile. So here again the power is entirely in the hands of the editors. An example again from the Falkland Islands. The article is in Imperial units, but there is a note in one place that is visible when editing that says: "The metric measurements come from the source footnoted. The Imperial measurements are derived from them." This alerts editors to the fact that the editors of the Falkland Islands article have insisted on using Imperial measurements, but it also notes that certain figures are provided in metric measurements. Michael Glass (talk) 08:30, 12 January 2010 (UTC)

There are also positive reasons for encouraging people to refer to sources: accuracy and verification. Plenty of articles cite no sources. A sensible policy on adding sources will encourage people use appropriate sources and not be inhibited if they happen to use units that are not used in the article in question. This might apply both ways, for instance, if good information was found about Socotra in an American source that used US Customary units, it would not be good to reject it simply on the ground that Socotra used the metric system and therefore the source could not be used. Similarly, it would be nonsensical to reject the American CIA website for information about the United States simply on the ground that it uses metric measures exclusively on its website. It might also be of interest to readers that the CIA uses the metric system, so a note to this effect could be of interest to readers. Michael Glass (talk) 09:51, 12 January 2010 (UTC)

A lot of people seem to have their own agendas in resisting the metric system and imposing the imperial system on articles whenever possible. The fact is that in the modern age, almost all information is now in metric at the source, even for the US. The Falkland Islands article is an interesting case of editors imposing their own standards by converting distances to statute miles. In fact, the British Navy would have done the original surveys of the islands in nautical miles rather than statute miles, and the Falklands now use the metric system, so nobody would have ever measured the distances to and between the islands in statute miles. There is quite a large difference between statute miles and nautical miles, and speaking as a sailor, I would never use statute miles at sea. Has anybody checked these distances to see which they are?RockyMtnGuy (talk) 05:40, 13 January 2010 (UTC)
I would note that the choice of units on Falkland Islands was extensively debated at that talk page. Michael refers to it as though he did not have any role in determining what the units were. Far from it. He initiated and was extensively involved in the discussion, but it did not go his way as consensus went for imperial units in March and did not change in August. The Falkland Islanders are in many senses more British than the British are, so the notion that they use imperial units primarily should not be surprising even if the FI are officially metric.
Why is Weatherbase used as a source? Michael's claim that it's because it's in Fahrenheit is false. Actually it has nothing to do with units at all: the person who first added the table cited the Celsius version of Weatherbase. It changed from Celsius to Fahrenheit after Michael pointed out that it didn't conform to the imperial-first consensus; the source changed from the Celsius version to the Fahrenheit version of the same site after he complained about rounding errors.
The comment on which units were sourced was something he insisted on and no-one cared enough to argue - that hardly argues that we should adopt a rule across the board saying they have to be there. Finally, I'd note that those distances are definitely in statute miles - this was discussed at the time. Pfainuk talk 21:18, 13 January 2010 (UTC)
There are a number of traps for the unwary in the Imperial system, one of them being the use of the same name for units of different size. If the distances from the Falklands over the seas to the South American coast are in statute miles, you should say so explicitly in the text, because otherwise knowledgeable readers may be justified in assuming they are nautical miles. A nautical mile is exactly 1852 metres, a statute mile is approximately 1609 metres. Statute miles are normally used on land, nautical miles are standard at sea. Nautical miles are also normally used for aircraft navigation. Statute miles are only for landlubbers. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 22:55, 14 January 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I did complain about rounding errors in using the Celsius version of Weatherbase to generate Fahrenheit figures for the Falkland Islands article, and yes, this prompted a change to using the Fahrenheit version. Clearly, then, the Fahrenheit version of Weatherbase was chosen because of the Fahrenheit figures it supplied. However, the question that I have now raised is about the use of Weatherbase when similar figures are available from the BBC, arguably a more reliable source.
The problem of conversion of figures is particularly acute in the Falkland Islands article because a majority of the editors insist on putting the Imperial measures first when many, if not most of the sources are available in metrics. Pfainuk has asserted that the Falkland Islanders prefer it that way. However, this Falkland Island website <http://www.falklandislands.com/contents/view/98/about-falklands/falkland-facts> does appear to be predominantly metric, but it does use miles for distances <http://www.falklandislands.com/contents/view/24/get-here/getting-here-by-air>, as does the UK. If Pfainuk has documentary evidence to show that the Islanders are more British than the British, he should produce it. However, the local paper mentioned "the erection of a fence over one -metre height " in one of its reports <http://www.falklandnews.com/public/story.cfm?get=5574&source=3> Michael Glass (talk) 01:34, 14 January 2010 (UTC)
You stated (or at least strongly implied) that Weatherbase - as opposed to the BBC or some other source - was chosen because it gave values in Fahrenheit. This accusation was false.
The units to be used on that article is not a discussion for this page, but for the talk page concerned. My point was that it should not be taken for granted that official usage is the same as actual usage. But I will note that you demonstrate one of the problems with mandating source-based units by claiming that a website aimed at an international non-FI audience is necessarily reflective of FI usage. Pfainuk talk 18:53, 14 January 2010 (UTC)
I take Pfainuk's point about discussing specifically Falkland Island matters on the talk page concerned. I was using it merely as an illustration of some of the problems inherent in switching units of measurement. He also has a point about the difference between popular and official usage. My own feeling is that Wikipedia, because it is an encyclopedia, would tend towards official usage, and if Government sources use one or other set of units, then this is the way that it should go unless there are compelling reasons to be different. It is, of course, possible that a website aimed at an international audience might choose different measures (as in the use of the US Dollar for measures of economic activity). However, I think we should be careful about assuming that using metrics means appealing to a foreign audience. I think the evidence suggests that there is a mixture of units used in real life. Take, for instance, this web page (again taken from the Falkland Islands by way of illustration): http://www.falklandislands.com/contents/view/67 .Michael Glass (talk) 21:11, 14 January 2010 (UTC)
I would make the points that the weather stations on the Falklands probably have instruments calibrated in metric, and the British Army grid maps of the islands almost certainly are in metric, so that the values you get from them in Imperial are mostly conversions intended for casual use. However, I see a lot of problems with the conversions that are used. They are gaining too many significant figures on the conversions. E.g. the sentence: "The total land area is 4,700 square miles (12,173 km2), ...with a coastline estimated at 800 miles (1288 km)". Obviously the Imperial numbers are very approximate, and their conversions are unrealistically exact. If you use the defaults on the convert macro, you get a more realistic-looking "The total land area is 4,700 square miles (12,000 km2), ...with a coastline estimated at 800 miles (1,300 km)". Obviously they're not working from the British Army maps which I'm sure are much more precise, and almost certain have a metric grid on them. On the other hand, the army maps may be unavailable to civilians and the army may be fuzzifying the numbers for security reasons.RockyMtnGuy (talk) 23:34, 14 January 2010 (UTC)
The above posting reveals the problem in presenting a derived figure as the primary measure. It just happens that 12,173 km2 is almost exactly 4700 square miles. If you take the square miles as the original number, treat it as an approximation and reconvert it into square kilometres, you end up with 12, 000 km2, a difference of 173km2 or just under 67 square miles. So passing the derived figure off as the original can misrepresent the source figure by quite a significant amount. This was an actual issue in the Falkland Islands article. Michael Glass (talk) 04:11, 15 January 2010 (UTC)
You'll recall that it was argued at the time that there was a good chance that 12,173 km2 was based on exactly the kind of error that RockyMtnGuy describes - that it was originally rounded off as 4,700 mi2 and then converted to metric as though that was an exact figure. But this kind of discussion does not belong here.
I would disagree with your notion that official units should be preferred over units that people actually use. Government sources have their own problems, particularly in countries where the choice of units is a political issue. The UK is the obvious example - officially the UK uses the metric system, but metric units are almost never used by the general public in many situations and would not be appropriate on Wikipedia in those situations. Pfainuk talk 17:32, 15 January 2010 (UTC)

I just encountered a real-world quandary at Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll#Sleigh accident (near Ottawa on Valentine's Day 1880), although I'm not sure what point it would support. "The horses then panicked, and dragged the overturned carriage 366 metres (1,200 ft)." [The Princess, a daughter of Queen Victoria, was married to the then-Governor-General of Canada.] The article cites Jehanne Wake's biography published by Collins (London) in 1988, a century after the accident, when both Canada and the UK had been well-metricated. It seems far more likely that at the time and place, it would have been reported as having been dragged 1,200 feet than a suspiciously-precise 366 metres, but when I flipped the conversion I got 1,200 feet (370 m). I suspect that the biographer's source (or the source of her source) used Imperial measures, but one can't be completely sure. —— Shakescene (talk) 06:05, 13 January 2010 (UTC)

It's not that big a quandary. Go to the original source. If you look at an original newspaper clipping here, you find that The infuriated horses increased their pace and dragged the sleigh on its side a distance of over 400 yards. You could call it "over 400 yards (370 m)". Most likely the observers thought it looked like a quarter mile, more or less, and the horses felt it was a couple of furlongs. RockyMtnGuy (talk) 06:47, 13 January 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for that, even if you did refer me to the Maori-language side of the web site! (Need to brush up a little—as no doubt do many of us.) I've made the adjustments, and added a useful example of the palace-induced press downplaying of Princess Louise's injury. —— Shakescene (talk) 22:07, 13 January 2010 (UTC)

I think that this points out the need for a flexible approach to measures, especially in an historical setting. I would suggest that people have another look at my proposed revision of the policy wording. I think that it could be an improvement on the present wording. Michael Glass (talk) 07:31, 13 January 2010 (UTC)