Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 17

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Excessive wikilinking dates?

I've noticed some articles have an excessive amount of wikilinking especially when it comes to dates and years. Is it an explicit wikipedia policy that *EVERY* date and year in an article should be wikilinked? For a biographical article the majority of dates and years after the intro paragraph are needlessly wikilinked in my opinion. Should years be redundantly wikilinked even if the same year is wikilinked in the line above? Based on my experience excessive wikilinking slows wikipedia down and can damage the overall look and feel of an article (there are additional examples of excessive wikilinking outside the scope of dates and years). For a current date wikilink policy controversy see the Julia Stiles article's references section. zen master T 23:14, 15 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Sheesh, he calls me a vandal and carries discussion in no fewer than three places...
Wikipedia:Manual of Style (links) says:
In tables, unlike in paragraphs of text, it is useful to link relevant terms in every entry of the table, regardless of whether or not the same terms appear as links elsewhere in the article. Tables are often searched to find information of interest, and the reader might ignore everything except one particular entry in the table, so it is useful if the entry that the reader focuses on contains all the relevant links.
I consider a list of references no different than a table. Both contain repetitive data and both are things I don't want to have to search elsewhere for links, notable dates. Whether or not Zen-master here finds them useful is irrelevant to if someone else finds them relevant. Considering I have and will use them, I think that voids his irrelevancy position.
I won't go so far to call his actions as bad faith, but he's using the references section of Julia Stiles to paint a broader brush of "excessive" wikilinking since, after all, it was the references section that brought him to post this here. Cburnett 23:26, 15 Mar 2005 (UTC)

With that said, I will agree that excessive linking is bad. I generally go with "if it's already linking on the visible part of the page or section then don't link it again." So I'll link the same thing multiple times if it shows up in different sections of the same article (e.g. Archer linking on Star Trek: Enterprise). As a viewer, I don't want to back track or hit the search function of my browser to find a link. Same thing goes for dates.

However, if it's in tabular data or repetitive data or data that one seeks a specific entry (like a reference list) then I'll opt to link every time for the same reason: I found exactly what I want and I don't want to back track or search or (*gasp*) type in the link myself. Cburnett 23:30, 15 Mar 2005 (UTC)

The wikilinking criteria should not be whether a date "term" is inside a table/list or not, the criteria should be whether any specific term is relevant to an article. Random dates inside a references section that just link to say June 5 (because one reference happened to mention something about the article's subject that day) can not possibly have any relevance (you still have not defended your original check in comment claim that the date wikilinks in this case are somehow relevant to the article?). So you agree we should disallow wikilinking the same year twice in an article or sub section? zen master T 23:40, 15 Mar 2005 (UTC)
You may think a linked date is irrelevant, and I disagree. I already stated this. If I want to see what else happened on June 5 or 2004 then that's my prerogative. Maybe I want the dates to display according to my preference, is that now irrelevant as well? I think you need to step out of your box and realize there are people different from you.
NO NO NO NO NO, I'm not saying anything about making linking twice a "no no" in the MoS. Twice is no where near "excessive." Like with my summary, and now discussion here, you're incorrectly reading into what I say. Cburnett 23:51, 15 Mar 2005 (UTC)
The point is the date June 5 is NOT relevant to the original article where it is being wikilinked. To be considered wikilinkable a term should have a greater than zero relevance factor within an article. The source article is where this wikilink has 0 relevance, not necessarily the target. Perhaps dates should be presented in the format they are presented in in their original source or where the subject comes from. Wikipedia uses both british and american english now so it probably can handle different date formatting. This is especially true within say a reference section where an linked article reference would use one date format while someone's preferences may display the date in a different format.
I wasn't clear about what you were saying Cburnett so I asked, thanks for clarifying. zen master T 00:07, 16 Mar 2005 (UTC)

It's not about links it's about the visual presentation and the formatting of the links. I very much dislike seeing US-style mm dd yy and have my preferences to avoid that - something that only happens when dates are wiki'd. Policy is that all dates (not years) are wiki'd and you should follow the MoS. violet/riga (t) 23:53, 15 Mar 2005 (UTC)

What if a reference link is to a source that displays dates in a format other than the one you use? I believe en wikipedia uses both british and american english now so why not date format as well? Can date formating be handled some other way besides wikilinking? Perhaps articles should be written with less irrelevant dates so your concern wouldn't even be an issue? zen master T 00:07, 16 Mar 2005 (UTC)
There are currently no ways around it other than linking them. If there was a system in place that allowed the language type to be changed between BE and AmE (and the others) then that would be great, but there isn't that option. We can at least do it with dates. I very much dislike excessive wikilinking and fix it where possible, but date linking is a good thing. No, most people won't click on the date (especially if it's not particularly relevant to the context), but it does fix the formatting issue. More importantly it is set in the Manual of Style. As for slowing the system down I think you'll find that it has very little effect indeed. violet/riga (t) 00:16, 16 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I think you may be missing my points, formatting dates within a *reference* section in many cases does not make sense. For hypothetical example say the June 5 edition of the U.S. version of Rolling Stone contains a relevant quotation used in an article, so it's *NOT* the 5 June edition of that magazine (so why wikilink at all in this case since the alternative format would get the version of the magazine wrong?). Secondly, I am saying that if date wikilinking is excessive in an article then perhaps, in some cases, the date should be removed from the article entirely, rather than merely de-wikilinking? What about my suggestion that dates on wikipedia should be formatted on an article by article basis? If a brit is reading a biographical article about an american then american date formatting should apply, I wouldn't mind it if all british related articles used the alternative date format. We should all learn alternative date format just as we are all learning alternative spellings.
Side note: The majority of my edit to the article in question (which was reverted) was de-wikilinking years, not dates. So, to be clear, there is currently no wikipedia policy that says all years have to be wikilinked, is there? zen master T 00:46, 16 Mar 2005 (UTC)
No, no, no. Seeing the "wrong" format as defined by a users' preferences is a very bad thing indeed. I do a double-take every time I see a date in AmE format. We had a very long discussion about this nearly 2 years ago before the current solution was adopted, and I strongly advocate sticking to the current MoS standards. As for not wikilinking years, remember that the ISO date format (2005-03-16) is one of the user preferences offered and the year has to be wikilinked as well as the day and month. -- Arwel 02:54, 16 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Even with the spelled out months in either format, it doesn't work right without linking the year as well as the month and day; there's the presence or absence of that intermediate comma. Maybe that earlier comment referred to years not connnected to a year and month. Linking years standing alone is a different story, and I strongly think they should only be linked when significant, and when that year isn't already linked in the article. Gene Nygaard 03:06, 16 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Yes, I agree with you. -- Arwel 03:30, 16 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Formatting concerns should not force things that shouldn't be linked linked in my opinion, I wouldn't care if all dates on wikipedia were in an alternative format, excessive links are worse than potentially misformatted dates. Perhaps the articles in question should be rewritten to remove date links altogether to avoid misformatting and excessive linking concerns. Note this is not an issue of formatting regular dates in an article, this is a matter of formatting the reference section, date format should be preserved for a particular publication as far as reference sections go. Anything that reduces wikilinks on wikipedia should be encouraged. zen master T 03:09, 16 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Stand-alone years I can agree shouldn't be over-linked, but otherwise I'm not in agreement with you and you don't seem to be attracting much support for your viewpoint. -- Arwel 03:30, 16 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I am not trying to radically change policy, I just don't see how errantly formatted dates within a reference section matter for an article which is likely already using alternative english spellings. I still say the format of dates inside a reference section should be reference source specific for exactness reasons. As far as the section of the article in question goes it should perhaps be rewritten to remove the need for dates, direct citations are generally better than a reference section anyway, especially when excessive wikilinking is an issue. zen master T 06:03, 16 Mar 2005 (UTC)
If that magazine officially calls it the "June 6 edition" then that is fine. However, they don't. It's a statement to show the date that that edition was released and is not different from any other date. violet/riga (t) 08:41, 16 Mar 2005 (UTC)
In fact even that I don't really like - the date should be used in preference to the edition number. violet/riga (t) 08:43, 16 Mar 2005 (UTC)
In general, I think there's too much wikilinking of dates and years. If the only value is to save people from occasionally being jarred by an unfamiliar format, it's not worth the time. As a side note: With many U.S. magazines, the cover date isn't the release date; it's the last date through which that issue is current. Regardless of how the magazine picked the date, though, that is the official designation of the issue. (The Village Voice is among those that use the range format, e.g., "August 4-10, 2004" is the designation of an issue. I can see that some people might dislike it, but that's the correct name. It's like somebody in the U.S. wanting to see Tony Blair identified as a member of the Labor Party. JamesMLane 09:13, 16 Mar 2005 (UTC)
And there you've shown a failing with the wikification - date ranges. I could accept "August 4-10, 2004" because that is the identification of that individual issue, not a date per se. violet/riga (t) 12:07, 16 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Fwiw (which is prolly nothing), I'm a firm believer in the current MoS standards. Like Arwel, seeing dates in non-preference format is just jarring (and potentially confusing, given that AmE and BE use contradictory formats). When it comes to date ranges, I don't have a problem with them being listed like [[August 4|August 4–10]], [[2004]] (so long as the month name is used), I guess. But I really need a cigarette, so that might be a stupid idea  ;o) — OwenBlacker 13:10, Mar 16, 2005 (UTC)

To avoid the possibility of date formatting issues, I propose that all dates use sentence form. E.g. the 17th day of March in the year 2005, or, in mid March of 2005, or the second thursday of March etc etc. Wikipedia uses sentence capitalization which looks silly initially so sentence form dates shouldn't be that strange. In places where sentence form dates don't work we could put the specific publication's date in quotation marks like Rolling Stone "June 5, 2000" or italics so it's clear to alternative date format users that we aren't trying to force our format upon them (and vice versa). What do people think? zen master T 07:19, 17 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I appreciate you coming up with suggestions but think the way it is right now is the best way. Sentence form is horribly long, and the other part of your proposal is still using the (wrong!) US format. violet/riga (t) 08:24, 17 Mar 2005 (UTC)
My point is when reference dates are italicized or quoted it's not a "wrong" format issue so no one should be offended.... For british articles we can write in year 45 of her majesty Queen Elizabeth's reign etc :-) The italics or quotes should be enough to explicitly signify that this date has an exact coupling to the referenced source. zen master T 08:33, 17 Mar 2005 (UTC)


Excessive linking of dates - an example?

I found the following example of excessive linking. Take a look at:
List of hereditary baronies

The Manual of style says: An article may be considered overlinked if any of the following is true:

  • 10% of the words are contained in links
  • it has more links than lines
  • a link is repeated within the same screen (40 lines perhaps) of text that appears in paragraphs.
  • more than 10% of the links are to articles that don't exist.

It goes on to suggest that the definition does not apply to tables, but that is an unnecessary restriction of scope. The amount of linking permitted by the definition is huge. Examples such as List of hereditary baronies illustrate the point. The restriction of scope in the definition should be removed. It is very generous. I can't see how anyone would want more links than are permitted by the definition, in text or in a table. -- User:Booblewik

The page you cite (List of hereditary baronies) being a list rather than an article, IMHO it's reasonably wikified. There may some wikilinks missing in the rare cases where the surname should be linked as well (see list of popes for a sample). -- User:Docu
I was referring only to dates, not names. What do you think of the duplicate linking of years? Bobblewik  (talk) 22:17, 17 Mar 2005 (UTC)
P.S. Docu, was there a particular reason why you modified my signature for my last comment? Bobblewik  (talk) 22:22, 17 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Personally, I think it's debatable if the second column should be wikified. Personally, I don't always wikify this type of column, but I would think it excessive to wikify a given year just once. (PS I added, not modified your sig.) -- User:Docu
I think we agree that List of hereditary baronies is an example of overlinking. It has far too many duplicate links. Do you agree with me that tables should not be exempt from the very generous definition of overlinking above? (PS I now see that you did add, not modify my sig. Thanks). Bobblewik  (talk) 10:10, 19 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I disagree with you. The rules are and should be different for lists. Gene Nygaard 13:41, 19 Mar 2005 (UTC)
So (a) do you think that the dates in List of hereditary baronies are overlinked and (b) even if you don't, what is the stopping rule for duplicate links in lists? Bobblewik  (talk) 13:48, 19 Mar 2005 (UTC)
You don't read lists the same way you read regular articles.
When people use the lists, they are often interested in only one row, or a small number of rows. The available, relevant links should be linked in that row. (And that bookmarklet mentioned in that other reply, which I haven't looked into, may also be relevant.)
However, the linking of dates seems to serve a different primary purpose. It is more often used as an aid for those looking for interesting things that happened in a particular year. So I think reducing excess linking of year-only dates would be acceptable--or not linking them at all in lists unless they are associated with a red-link entry, since the ones that link to actual articles should have those dates in that article as well. Gene Nygaard 14:59, 19 Mar 2005 (UTC)
To express differently what I said before, I don't think it's unreasonable to wikify the second column entirely, but personally I don't generally wikify it.
It would be a bit complicated to ask people to wikify just the first occurrence of a a year, especially since in this table, the first occurrence isn't more important than subsequent ones.
BTW did you try the table sort bookmarklet [1]? Works much better if the column is uniform. -- User:Docu

Per cent (%)

The Manual of Style currently constrains the use of '%'. This surprising constraint is in a section called [names]. The symbol '%' is widely English and other language text. It is language independent. I see no benefit in forbidding it and several benefits in using it. If the style guide has a statement on this, I would have expected it promote the symbolic form '%'. We even use it several times right here on this talk page. What do others think? Bobblewik  (talk)

I think the percent symbol isn't banned, it's simply good style to write it out in words in body copy. It's just like you would usually write out numbers under ten, like three and seven, but use figures for larger ones, like 21 and 1,306. Imagine if the Sherlock Holmes story was called The Seven% Solution. The symbol is probably perfectly appropriate to use in in tables and lists of figures. Michael Z. 2005-03-20 16:22 Z
What a silly example. It would be The 7% Solution. The symbol is only appropriate for use with numerals, not with spelled out words. Similarly, in technical writing, there is a strong preference for measurements to be expressed in numerals, no matter their size, and symbols for units of measure rather than spelled out words—that preference is based on the international and interlanguage nature of those symbols for both the numbers and words, something we struggle with on Wikipedia all the time.
See, for example, NIST Special Publication 811, Guide for the Use of the International System of Units (SI):
  • This Guide takes the position that the key elements of a scientific or technical paper, particularly the results of measurements and the values of quantities that influence the measurements, should be presented in a way that is as independent of language as possible. This will allow the paper to be understood by as broad an audience as possible, including readers with limited knowledge of English. Thus, to promote the comprehension of quantitative information in general and its broad understandability in particular, values of quantities should be expressed in acceptable units using
    • the Arabic symbols for numbers, that is, the Arabic numerals, not the spelled-out names of the Arabic numerals; and
    • the symbols for the units, not the spelled-out names of the units.
Gene Nygaard 17:40, 20 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I agree with generally spelling out "percent". That is cusomary in formal writing. I also agree that there are exceptions, such as lists and tables. Maurreen 18:58, 20 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Well, The 7% Solution certainly wouldn't look as good on the frontispiece of a book as The Seven Percent Solution. Michael Z. 2005-03-20 20:45 Z
I don't mind "percent" but would prefer to avoid "per cent". Personally I'd choose "percent" when the number is written out (such as "seven percent") and the symbol for the numeric version. violet/riga (t) 19:07, 20 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Then, it's "percent" when the number is spelled out and "%" in the other cases? -- User:Docu

  • Support That would be a 90 % improvement on the current guidance. I note that the the NIST treats it somewhat like a unit symbol in that they recommend that it is preceded by a space character. Bobblewik  (talk) 20:35, 20 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I don't think we're voting on any formal proposals here. And this is a matter of writing style; you can't just declare a simplistic rule and expect to apply it to 100 percent of the possible cases. Michael Z. 2005-03-20 20:45 Z
I think that we can indeed make it much clearer.
  • I think that the trend is towards "percent" as one word, with "per cent" also still used and the older "per centum" and "per cent." with a dot to indicate abbreviation are pretty much obsolete.
  • I'm not sure, but some might consider "percent" best when used as an adjective and "per cent" when used as a noun. I favor "percent" in all cases, but have no problem with this MoS accepting either "per cent" or "percent".
When the symbol is used (and ignoring for now the spacing issue), it should always be used with numerals and not spelled out words.
When "percent" is spelled out, the small numbers should be spelled out, up to ten or twelve at least. I have no problem with spelling out "thirty percent" or "ninety percent" or "one hundred percent" (and maybe even the sports jargon "one-hundred-and-ten percent"). But I think that 43 percent would be acceptable in text (not tables), and preferred over "forty-three percent" and that even 31.6 percent would be acceptable in running text (but almost never with the number spelled out in cases like this example).
Whenever lots of numbers are given as percentages, the numeral and symbol form should be preferred. Gene Nygaard 17:29, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Gene, I'm not sure that much detail is a good idea.
I'm not sure we need any changes on this at all.
The style is of The Associated Press is not to use the percent symbol in body copy, and to only use it with figures.
What do other style guides on formal writing (not scientific or technical writing) say about the matter? Maurreen 18:29, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Journalism style is not more relevant than technical style. Gene Nygaard 20:00, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)
We don't necessarily need that much detail on the MoS page. We need it on the talk page, if we are seriously going to consider the issues.
One big difference about AP style is that it is aimed primarily at newspapers within the U.S. The intended international audience of Wikipedia makes it more like the same considerations NIST mentions in recommending the use of numerals and symbols, the fact that they are easily understood even by those with a limited command of English. Gene Nygaard 20:05, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)
The Wikipedia Manual of style mentions the Guardian Manual of style as a source. The Guardian is a British national newspaper. It says "% in headlines and copy". Bobblewik  (talk) 21:53, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Wikipedia has long passages of text, but many article sections with lots of figures and formulae. I think ultimately this question has to be left up to the discretion of individual editors. But I would at least recommend usually using "percent" with written-out numbers, and un-spaced "%" with figures. If you follow this simple guideline, you can't go too terribly wrong (I think), and your writing won't clash with 85% of what's already there. Michael Z. 2005-03-26 22:33 Z

We have a variety of opinions, but I go along with Michael's suggestion to leave it to individual editors. Maybe if the style guide is going to change, we could compromise to that. Maurreen 23:04, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I would not want to see a statement that went against the ISO recommendation for a space character. If there is disagreement about that issue, I can accept making no comment about the space and leaving it up to editors. Otherwise the suggestion of Michael appears to match what Docu suggested. I would accept that. Bobblewik  (talk) 09:55, 27 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Percentages and number names


This is copied from the project page. Maurreen 15:37, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)

  • Percentages

Use the symbol % rather than a written form. If you choose to write numeric values in full, such as 'seven', then you may choose to write the percentage term in full as 'seven percent'. For example 'seven percent'. Do not mix the formats. For example 'seven %' or '7 percent'.

The preferred style is to leave a space between the value and the symbol e.g. '95 %' rather than '95%'. This is in accordance with ISO 31. In this respect, '%' is like a unit symbol because they also require a preceding space.

The preferred style is to use the term 'percent' rather than 'per cent'.

  • Number names

The preferred style is to use digits ('17') rather than words ('seventeen'). This makes reading easier. It is appropriate for an international audience and simplifies the job of translators. If you choose to write numeric values in full, then limit this to non-technical body text. Try to limit use of the word format to values below 10 and ensure that the format is consistent throughout the article.


I don't see any consensus for these changes. I believe they are against what is customary in formal writing. So I'm reverting them. Maurreen 15:37, 26 Mar 2005 (UTC)

This was added to the article:
The preferred style is to leave a space between the value and the symbol e.g. '95 %' rather than '95%'. This is in accordance with ISO 31. In this respect, '%' is like a unit symbol because they also require a preceding space.
* This is contrary to standard typographic style (e.g. in the book The Elements of Typographic Style)
* This is contrary to the way it's generally used in Wikipedia.
Standardization is great, but not when it artificially imposes non-standard usage. I'm going to remove or alter the passage. Michael Z. 2005-03-26 15:48 Z

Adjectival use of unit measurementns

The following example is given under Style for numbers, weights, and measures:

  • The 155 mm diameter projectile offers a wide range of options for battlefield usage.

I think this is definitely fine when referring to a measurement as a noun: The calibre of the gun is 20 mm, for twenty millimetres. But when used as an adjective, shouldn't this be hyphenated: They brought up the 20-mm guns (twenty-millimetre guns)? On the other hand, as part of a name, it seems to look okay to write about a 20 mm Oerlikon, or an Oerlikon 20 mm.

These measurements/names also show up in tables like the infobox at T-34. I'm not sure what looks best here. There are also lists of names, like List of artillery.

Incidentally, in publications about guns and armoured vehicles where calibre is used as an adjective hundreds of times, it is common to join the number and unit, as in "76mm gun". I would prefer to avoid this special exception to the rule, and use standard English style consistently throughout Wikipedia.

Any thoughts? Michael Z. 2005-03-31 23:43 Z

Hyphen with spelled-out words, space with symbols. Gene Nygaard 04:01, 1 Apr 2005 (UTC)
That rule would disregard the difference between unit phrases as nouns and adjectives. It definitely wouldn't work in many cases, for example "There are ten-centimetres in a decimetre." Michael Z. 2005-04-1 17:20 Z
That centimetre is a noun, not an adjective. No hyphen. Gene Nygaard 02:10, 2 Apr 2005 (UTC)
I see. It's not as consistent, but it seems like a good compromise because the number formatting will always be the same. Reads okay, and editors can apply the same rule everywhere.
I did find a situation where it seems kind of awkward though, when it's used as part of a longer adjectival statement. Found the example in this sentence, from KV-1: It was soon put into production, both as the original 76 mm-armed KV-1 and the howitzer-mounting assault gun, the KV-2. Maybe that should be 76-mm-armed in this case only? Michael Z. 2005-04-10 20:52 Z