Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 20

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24-hour clock vs 12-hour clock

Whenever I use 24-hour clock times (ex. 16:34), they always get changed to 12-hour clock times (4:34 pm), despite the fact that the Manual of Style says to use 24-hour times. I imagine this is because I mainly edit articles on American subjects, where the 12-hour clock is used almost exclusively and many people are confused by the use of 24-hour times. Perhaps the Manual of Style should be edited to reflect this. Should we allow 12-hour times where it makes sense to use them (for example in articles primarily of interest to Americans), while still recommending 24-hour times for more general subjects? Kaldari 16:20, 8 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Sounds good to me. Maurreen 02:44, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)
No! Definitely not!
It's really unprofessional and unergonomic to have various
  • orthographies,
  • punctuation schemes,
  • measurement systems (brackets, like this, are clumsy),
  • number formats (name, grouping character, decimal divider),
  • date formats (only taken care of to some extent if linked, bad ISO 8601 implementation) and now
  • time formats
in one and the same encyclopædia. If everything is consistent, readers (and writers) have to adapt just once, otherwise they have to do it for every other article again and again. It's no problem if somebody enters something in a non-MoS format, but it should be corrected to the one agreed upon form sooner or later. Christoph Päper 04:10, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC) (PS1: Please nobody suggest that Wikimedia software should do autoconverting. PS2: Please someone beat up the screen designer or producer of 24.)
The problem here is not a matter of style, but a matter of use. Americans are (for the most part) not familiar with 24-hour times. Certainly standardizing would be more "professional", but what about the usefulness of the information? If 99% of the people who read the article Nashville Tornado of 1998 are confused when they read that the storm rolled in at 15:30, isn't that a problem? For the record, Britannica and Encarta both use 12-hour times. Kaldari 06:22, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)
It seems to me that here, as with units of measurement, often the ideal alternative is to provide times in both formats. I really don't think some of the other inconsistancies of format Christoph Päper complains of above as being all that terrible. Having some articles that use "color" and others that use "colour" for example, does not strike me as likely to overly confuse users, nor make using wikipedia harder in any way. There is more reason to insist on standardizing number formats IMO, because ambiguity can result. As to time formats, the really important thing IMO is that all uses of the 12-hr clock be clearly identified with an am/pm designation, so there is no ambiguity. DES 21:42, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Dual displays are always a rotten compromise, and that simple ± 12 calculation certainly doesn't demand it.
If it was not a matter of style, the MoS would not have to care about it and just specify best practice (that being hh:mm[:ss]). And no, it's not a problem, because sooner or later they will read a Wikipedia article that does use 24-hour times. I further refuse to believe that a majority of US Americans could be that ignorant to have never heard of 24-hour clocks and that dumb to not be able to do the little math. Christoph Päper 05:32, 10 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Here is my suggestion for replacing the current guideline:
In most instances, times should be written in the 24-hour clock (HH:MM or HH:MM:SS). The 12-hour clock has a number of problems: it isn't used throughout the world; it often makes it harder to convert between different time zones; and "12:00 am" and "12:00 pm" are ambiguous. For articles primarily of interest to American readers (or readers in any area that does not use the 24-hour clock), 12-hour times may be used. When using 12-hour times, it is important that they are identified with an am or pm designation, so that they are not confused with 24-hour times. Kaldari 22:55, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I would suggest a few tweaks:
In most instances, times should be written in the 24-hour clock format with colons (HH:MM). For articles primarily of interest to American readers (or readers in any area that does not use the 24-hour clock), the 12-hour format may be used, with an a.m. or p.m. designation for clarity.

Maurreen 02:19, 10 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Make that: "(...) are ambiguous. When using 12-hour times anyway, (...). Do not change 24- to 12-hour times, but accept the reverse. Use only one format in an article." That way the input of 12h is tolerated (and regulated a bit), but discouraged.
Would you also specify the hour/minute and minute/second separator (usually a colon, sometimes a dot), "pm"/"p.m."/"p"/"PM"/"P. M." ... (with or without a (non-breaking) space in front), whether minutes may be omitted, zero padding and the disambiguation of midnight and noon (IMHO 00:00 = 0 am = 12 pm; 12:00 = 12 am = 0 pm)? Christoph Päper 05:32, 10 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Do people in the US really not get the 24-hr clock? Are you sure you're (indeterminate plural you; read "we") not underestimating the eye-opening influence of the Boy Scouts, amateur radio, service in the military, foreign travel, global TV networks, etc., etc? I'd prefer not to see am/pm times in articles -- the 24-hr format is simply so much clearer, easy to convert, and unambiguous. Hajor 02:37, 10 Jun 2005 (UTC)
We get it; we're just not used to seeing it. (I have no preference one way or the other.) —Wayward 02:56, Jun 10, 2005 (UTC)
I don't feel strongly either way, but I think a lot of us don't get it and most Americans aren't even aware of it. Maurreen 03:09, 10 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I find the 12h format highly confusing, if not plain dangerous. Is it not a ridiculous idea to have

  • a first roll-over in the notation (from 12 to 1) already after the very first hour of the day,
  • then to switch from am to pm 11 hours later,
  • then to have another roll-over from 12 to 1 an hour later,
  • finally followed by another switch from pm back to am 11 hours later?

That makes four (4) discontinuities in the time notation every day! It is no surprise that the vast majority of the remaining world chose the much simpler 00-23 hour counting scheme long ago, as did every user community in the United States that seriously depends on getting times right (astronomers, computer programmers, aerospace industry, military, etc.). The 24h format is the only acceptable choice for a modern encyclopedia project. If US popular culture still requires a few more years to catch up with this neat, practical, well-established, global standard, then be it so. This should certainly not hold back Wikipedia to do the right thing today. After all, readers come here to learn, and not to be shielded in a patronising fashing from good editorial style! I also dislike the notion of "articles that are of particular interest to Americans". Every article should be written for everyone, and therefore follow the same house style. Wikipedia is meant to be a global project for all of humanity. Markus Kuhn 22:01, 13 Jun 2005 (UTC)

I liked the recommendation the way it was (i.e., use the 24 hour clock). Can we put it back the way it was? Gdr 22:29, 2005 Jun 13 (UTC)
I agree with you completely, Markus. I think the 12-hour clock is an archaic anachronism that should be thrown in the dustbin of history. However, I don't believe that it is Wikipedia's role to put it there. The unfortunate reality is that a large percentage of Americans are completely unfamiliar with the 24-hour clock (and the metric system, and electricity). If some yokle in Bucksnort, Alabama looks up the article on the Dixie County Rodeo and it says that the rodeo starts at 14:15 every Wednesday, he's probably going to think that "14:15" refers to the Bible verse they read during the opening ceremony. To many Americans "14:15" isn't even recognizable as a time, much less convertable into something they can understand. And although I would imagine that at least half of Americans know that the 24-hour clock exists, I'm sure that less than 10 percent are familiar enough with it to be able to use it. Until the 24-hour clock gains at least a small bit of familiarity in the States, it's futile to try to enforce the 24-hour clock across all articles. American editors will in many cases just revert them to the familiar 12-hour clock, regardless of the style guide. Thus I think we need to say that the 12-hour clock is allowed, although I'm certainly open to revising the wording. BTW, I originally brought up this topic because I was having an impossible time enforcing the 24-hour clock. If it were my choice, I would declare the 12-hour clock illegal. Kaldari 22:38, 13 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Kaldari, could you please avoid anything that comes across as anti-Americanism? Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (sticking with English-speaking countries) have "yokels" in just the same way that America does. Every country does. I personally don't know any American who isn't familiar with the 24-hour clock, but then again, I don't know any American "yokels". SlimVirgin (talk) 07:46, Jun 20, 2005 (UTC)
Like I said, I don't feel strongly, but Kaldari makes good points. I see this issue as somewhat similar to use of British or American English. To some extent, we use whichever is most appropriate to the article topic. Maurreen 02:53, 14 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Well, I'm more comfortable with a 12 hour clock and guess what, I'm not an American. It seems to me that most native speakers of English are in the same boat ... not just the Americans. However, when doing conversions across different time-zones the 24 hour clock is far easier to use. Also, as mentioned above, there is the ambiguity ... or rather meaninglessness of "12 am" and "12 pm". You can say "12 noon" or "12 midnight" but this could get cumbersome. I would never declare the 12-hour clock illegal but I would delcare it illegal to sell alarm clocks without a 24 hour option. I think that there's a time and place for everything. The appropriateness of either or both would best be judged on a case by case basis. Jimp 20Jun05
In New Zealand, we (or at least, I and the people around me) use the 12-hour clock, mostly, not that it would have a major effect on this discussion, us being a tiny four-million-people country in some random place at the bottom of the world. Anyway, my opinion is that for an encyclopedia, the 24-hour clock is preferable, but I don't know internationally what's used, and I suppose some people would argue that this is, after all, Wikipedia.
I think the question of ambiguity in 12 hour clocks isn't an issue; the am/pm system is universal, isn't it? Anything after noon is pm, anything before is am, maybe for noon and midnight you could say "12 noon" or "12 midnight" if you really wanted to. But my personal view is still for the 24-hour clock. Neonumbers 11:12, 20 Jun 2005 (UTC)
In spite of sounding Latin, use of the abbreviations "am" and "pm" is pretty much limited to the English-speaking world and therefore hardly "universal". Most other languages use phrases such as "in the morning" and "in the afternoon" if a 12-hour time is used in spoken conversation. The fact that writing down such phrases is cumbersome is one of the factors that helped the 24-hour notation to replace the 12-hour notation so widely in written communication worldwide. Markus Kuhn 3 July 2005 14:36 (UTC)
Additionally, in common speech, people would say 8:45 pm as "a quarter to eight", not often as "eight forty five pm". It is the unwieldiness of spoken times that encourages writing the concise and unambiguous 24-hour times. −Woodstone July 3, 2005 14:47 (UTC)

I think when discussing usage of the 24-hour clock, we have to be careful to distinguish spoken usage from written usage. It is not just English-speaking countries where the 12-hour clock is still widely used in conversation - people in most European countries still converse with each other about time using the 12-hour format. However, in written contexts, virtually every country in the world is intimately familiar with the 24-hour clock except the United States. Surely it is not unreasonable for Wikipedia to, in some cases, insist upon best practice rather than conforming to a lowest common denominator (which allowing whatever time format an article author prefers would be). Kennethmac2000 3 July 2005 16:46 (UTC)

I am not American. I never use the 24 hour clock where I can avoid it. Only a tiny number of people I know use it. Most find it a pain in the butt. As with dates, it should be something that can be wikified, with users in their preferences deciding whether they want to see it or ban it. Personally I'd ban it straight away from my screen if I had the option. FearÉIREANNFlag of Ireland.svg\(talk) 2 July 2005 23:14 (UTC)
Whence come these people who feel qualified to speak for the rest of the world? I don't have a clue about the rest of the world, 'cept maybe New Zealand a little bit (they're much like us usually), but in Australia, 24-hour time seems to be the domain of academics & what have you. Anyone else who has any knowledge beyond the fact it exists learnt it from their mobile phone. Just before they set it back to 12-hour. — SirPavlova (I hate passwords) 14:11, 6th July 2005 (UTC)

Changes to era guideline

After all the recent controversy surrounding era styles and Jguk's resignation, it seems obvious that some better guidance on how to apply era names was necessary here. Thus I have decided to be bold. Hope I don't get flogged for this one :) Kaldari 18:15, 13 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Well, I think that's really well done. The bit about plain numbers for AD/CE dates is good but there is the problem that numbers less than 1000 don't "look like" years. And instead of "most readers" being unfamiliar with MYA and BP, I'd say "non-specialists". Sharkford 20:54, 2005 Jun 13 (UTC)

Plain numbers for dates in the common era has always been the recommendation. Plain numbers avoid the whole vexed problem of AD versus CE. Gdr 22:27, 2005 Jun 13 (UTC)

OK, well I'm in the minority. I don't think this is a wise change at least for now.
This has nothing to do with my views of either form.
But given that the issue has been so controversial, I don't think it's fair or appropriate to change the style without wide discussion and consensus.
Are you aware that a similar vote was held and failed to gain even a majority?
I think it would be best to withdraw the change, propose it and publicize it. Maurreen 02:46, 14 Jun 2005 (UTC)
I am aware of the vote in question, although it was my understanding that the topic of the vote was considerably more controversial, i.e. making BCE/CE the Wikipedia default. The changes I made to the guideline are an attempt to codify the few areas where there seems to actually be consensus:
  1. No one should go around making unilateral changes to era styles where those changes are controversial without first building a consensus to do so. This is actually a reflection of the failed vote in question, i.e. because the vote to make BCE/CE a standard failed, no on has a mandate to change articles across the board. Alternately, just because the vote failed, that doesn't mean that BC/AD is now the standard to be enforced. Both styles must be permitted to co-exist for now.
  2. Articles about Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and other non-Christian topics should use BCE/CE so as not to impose a Christian POV where it is clearly innappropriate. Judging by the recent Request for Arbitration against Jguk, this seems to be a pretty widely accepted policy, even though it has never been officially codified. This is a far cry, however, from the idea of implementing BCE/CE as the standard form across the board. Of all the topics where it has been suggested that BCE/CE would be more appropriate than BC/AD, non-Christian religious topics seem to be most agreed upon. Pretty much anywhere else and you'll find a contentious debate.
I realize my edit was stepping out on a limb, but I honestly don't have time to organize discussion and voting on it. If you disagree with it, go ahead and revert it. Personally, I don't think anything in it is really that controversial, but I know Wikipedia can be quite a hornet's nest at times. The best I can do is be bold and hope for the best. Kaldari 04:51, 14 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Hi, thanks, I appreciate your permission (and I mean that in the best sense). I don't feel strongly about either form but I do think it's best to wait until a stronger consensus is formed. So I will revert (but if anyone reverts me, I will probably just move on). Maurreen 05:05, 14 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Date ranges

I've observed various awkwardness with ranges of dates.

I introduce here for discussion: Template:daterange

The primary purpose is actually to mark the pair of dates as being a time period, for future manipulation of the information. (SEWilco 03:30, 16 Jun 2005 (UTC))

Template:daterange Usage

{{daterange|Starting Date|Ending Date}}

  • Starting Date is the starting date for the range.
  • Ending Date is the ending date for the range.

The usual Date Style should be followed within the parameters. This template does not add markup to the parameters. For example, years should be marked as Wiki links with double brackets ([[]]).

The template displays the range using the recommended style. Another purpose of this template is to mark the pair of dates as representing a range of dates, for possible future manipulation of time periods.

It is specifically acceptable to use this template with date ranges for which there is no Wiki markup, such as {{daterange|15,000 years ago|7,500 years ago}}. Doing so will mark this text as containing a time period in case future manipulation of the information is desired.

* {{daterange|[[2002]]|[[2004]]}}
* {{daterange|[[July 2002]]|[[April 2004]]}}
* {{daterange|[[July 4]] [[2002]]|[[April 8]] [[2004]]}}
* {{daterange|[[3rd century|3rd]]–[[4th century]]|}} <!- null parameter for custom formats -->

Date ranges discussion

IMHO, an en dash without spaces indicates a connectedness between the two elements, more so than when spaced. Both the Chicago Manual of Style and the Oxford Manual of Style (2003) call for closed up (without spaces) en dashes to denote elision in elements that form a range. —Wayward 16:14, Jun 16, 2005 (UTC)
The question (and the holy wars of dash fetishism) could be side-stepped by modifying the template to produce "July 4 2002 to April 8 2004", etc. (Having glanced at Minnesota Twins, this would also be desirable given that formulations such as "from 19621964" are frowned on by Chicago and their ilk.) Hajor 16:39, 16 Jun 2005 (UTC)
  • Good points. I changed the template to use "A to B" style. (SEWilco 17:21, 16 Jun 2005 (UTC))
Way cool. Hajor 17:29, 16 Jun 2005 (UTC)
One point of contention: "July 4 2002 to April 8 2004" is an American style, and therefore commas should follow the years, e.g., "the peroid July 4 2002, to April 8 2004." —Wayward 19:09, Jun 16, 2005 (UTC)
Absolutely correct for "July 4, 2002, to April 8, 2004," but the extra comma appears, superfluously, when the date conversion function in Special:Preferences kicks in for the other supported automatic date formats: they then render as "2002 July 4, to 2004 April 8", "2002-07-04, to 2004-04-08" and "4 July 2002, to 8 April 2004". Which is unfortunate. Is that something we have to live with, or can the template be adjusted to accommodate all the variants? Hajor 15:22, 17 Jun 2005 (UTC)
I do know a way to selectively insert commas with the present template technology but it would use too much storage space. However, a template would insert commas at edit time and not for each user. Doesn't the generated text trigger the Preferences date detection? I think omitting the comma is reasonable, although the template can be reexamined when template behavior changes. Another possibility is to offer a "tag" template to insert near a date range but which does not create visible info. (SEWilco 01:37, 18 Jun 2005 (UTC))
Actually, right now "all the variants" are not recognized as dates. "15,000 years ago" is not now recognized as a date, much less adjusted in any way. Another way to deal with multiple styles would be to have another template with three parameters, the middle parameter being the desired glue between the others. "daterange" can remain as is for the many situations which it presently can handle. The new template would have less of a display purpose and its primary function would be marking the date phrases. Various adjustments would take place in the future as MediaWiki abilities change; the hard part is having the phrases identified. (SEWilco 02:27, 19 Jun 2005 (UTC))

I changed the template so the second parameter is optional. This allows use of any desired date range formatting in the first parameter, when the second parameter is null (empty). This allows marking text as being a daterange despite whatever formatting is needed. (SEWilco 21:29, 21 Jun 2005 (UTC))

Null parameter for custom formats, as described on Template talk:Daterange. Thanks, that's neat. Hajor 22:46, 21 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Good. I don't think I have commented about dashes so far but I don't like them. I always use a preposition such as 'A to B'. This matches other constructions that I use 'A and B', 'A or B'. Another advantage of the "A to B" style is that it does not confuse linking punctuation, negatives or arithmatic operators.

I think that this issue applies to all number ranges, not just dates. For example:

  • I was surprised at the value - 5, but then it was an unusual day. Does that mean (-5) or merely (5) with link punctuation?
  • I was surprised at the range - 5 - 9, but then it was an unusual day. Is the second value (-9) or merely (9) with link punctuation?
  • How about -5 - -9? I don't think that looks good.
−5 – −9 would be the correct punctuation, but is still not ideal. (En dash denoting the range, and minus-signs denoting negative numbers; no hyphens). — mjb 20:11, 17 Jun 2005 (UTC)
    • I was concerned about date ranges. Please start a new discussion with a suitable description. (SEWilco 01:37, 18 Jun 2005 (UTC))

Non-wk Dates

There are some dates for which there presently is no MediaWiki markup, such as "15,000 years ago" (or the approximate equivalent "15,000 years Before Present"). If it is encouraged for such dates to be wrapped within a template, they can be more easily found for manipulation.

One can foresee bots monitoring or making appropriate style changes. Such marked dates may also be of interest to timeline editors, or for checking consistency between related articles. (SEWilco 03:43, 16 Jun 2005 (UTC))


On the Internet Explorer article, there is an interesting issue that came up, and I'm surprised it hasn't been discussed before: seasons. Sometimes dates are given in terms of seasons, such as John Doe said, "The release will be out in Summer 2005." There should be a style guideline to remind folks that seasons are meaningful to people only in the non-tropical/equatorial regions of the world, and are inverted between the northern and southern hemispheres. If John Doe is in the northern hemisphere, he probably means June–August 2005. At the moment we've settled on saying "mid-year" but this is somewhat inaccurate (summer begins then, in his hemisphere). Complicating matters is the fact that it is a direct quotation, and we're hesitant to edit it at all. What's the ideal thing to do? — mjb 19:57, 17 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Perhaps quarter years would be appropriate. John Doe said, "The release will be out in the second quarter of 2005." In a direct quotation: John Doe said, "The release will be out in Summer 2005 [Q2 2005]."Wayward 20:39, Jun 17, 2005 (UTC)
Fiscal or calendar year? :-) (SEWilco 01:42, 18 Jun 2005 (UTC))
Maybe you could go, John Doe said, "The release will be out in Summer 2005 [in the northern hemisphere]." This way, the direct quotation is not spoilt too much and the meaning is clarified.
If there is to be such a point here on this manual, then obviously this example is an exceptional case because it is a direct quotation. Neonumbers 07:02, 18 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Another possibility, a note: John Doe said, "The release will be out in Summer 2005."[1]
  1. ^ Summer in the northern hemisphere, ca. June through August.
Wayward 12:44, Jun 18, 2005 (UTC)
Okay, it was me who was first to ask about this, and, in the internet explorer example, was not actually a direct quote, just a "microsoft has stated that XXX will be released in summer of 2005". I see the argument from both sides... adding too many qualifiers could be awkward, and many alternate terms are inaccurate (quarters are offset by a month to seasons, "mid-year" might be a bit vague, etc...), but I think it is necessary to restore context to issues such as this for an international encyclopedia. I would be fine with leaving it as summer, but clarifying in a footnote or stub page that summer in a business context is implicitly northern hemisphere summer. One other option is rewriting it so it is not as directly sourced from Microsoft (e.g. something like "recent statements from Microsoft suggest a third quarter 2005 release" - given that it only has a few days to release it for summer to be more accurate). StuartH 23:00, 18 Jun 2005 (UTC)