Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 37

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I see USD and USD being used in some articles in lieu of US$. The style manual does not mention USD. Should something be said about whether USD is OK or not? Outside of Wikipedia, I have seen USD used in various contexts, but all meaning "United States Dollar". Thanks Hmains 23:10, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

The style guide mentions USD implicitly by its reference to ISO 4217. I am of the opinion that we should modify the style guide to state that using ISO 4217 codes (abbreviations) is always acceptable. −Woodstone 23:49, 28 January 2006 (UTC)
I disagree. Using "US$150" is preferable to "150 USD" in 95% of the cases, and preferable to "USD$150" or "USD 150" in 100% of the cases, and probably preferable to "$150 USD" and whatever other variants we run into, always, as well. Gene Nygaard
ISO 4217 does not say whether alpha-3 codes should preceed or follow numbers. Presuambly USD 150 and 150 USD are understandable but less used than US$150. I consider that using ISO 4217 alpha-3 codes for less known currencies would be better than many various symbols.--Jusjih 04:58, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

Decade apostrophes

According to [1] whether or not to include apostrophes in decades (i.e. 50s vs. 50's) is a matter of choice - the Wikipedia Manual of Style currently indicates that apostrophes should not be used. I agree with the Wikipedia style suggestion, but has there been community consensus on this point? If so, there are about 86,000 articles that use 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, or 90's in them, and I doubt that many of those are possessive. Ziggurat 21:49, 29 January 2006 (UTC)

It's been there since 24 August 2002 with this edit to the original manual (it has since been shunted to this supplementary page, as it got long), so I'd say it's a fair bet it has. It was probably added just to encourage consistency, you know, to avoid having 1950s here and 1950's there.
As for those 86,000 articles, if you have time, I'd say go out there and change them :-) (with a bot.) If you're changing them, remember to change them to 1950s, 1960s, etc. not just 50s, 60s. Neonumbers 00:30, 30 January 2006 (UTC)
Ha! Thanks. It's not a task I'd relish, but if I see them I may just change them from now on. Cheers, Ziggurat 00:51, 30 January 2006 (UTC)

Can we document scope and duration of suspension of the Manual of Style?

From my talk page:
Bobblewik, you've been asked nicely, you've been given a short block as a warning, and you continue making these changes at rapid speed, despite it being obvious (as evidenced by your own talk page) that many people view these changes as being disruptive and not being supported by consensus or policy. Please discontinue until this is sorted out, or I will have to block until such an assurance can be given. Ambi 04:22, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

He has not been revert-warring over this. Many of us welcome the changes and those who don't revert them without problems so I don't really see any disruption. But perhaps Bobblewik could add something like "revert freely" to his edit summaries to make it clearer that he is just making a suggestion rather than trying to force the issue. - Haukur 07:56, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
There is massive overlinking of dates in Wikipedia articles that contravenes policy as stated in:
My edits are intended to improve Wikipedia articles and bring them into line with that policy.
Some of the complaints are from people that are unaware of, or disagree with, that policy. I have also received praise, and there is a silent majority that make no complaint or praise. If implementing the Manual of Style is a problem, then those that disagree should change the Manual rather than complain about editors that use it for reference. Ambi has made some specific suggestions and I will address these:
  • I should not make fast edits. I am now trying to keep the sustained rate below 120 edits per hour. I understand that is in-line with guidance. If it is not, please tell me what the limit is.
  • I should suspend editing of this type. I did refrain from implementing current policy on basis of 'until this is sorted out'. it did not get sorted out. I even proposed some revised wording myself. that would have added constraints but nobody responded. As I noted I have now lifted my voluntary suspension. If you think my previous suspension was too short then please tell me what the time period should be. If people have new wording for the Manual, then I can understand a desire for a suspension. Suspending a policy or a constitution on the basis of 'until this is sorted out' is too vague. Suspensions of policy should be
  • stated in scope and duration
  • reasonable in scope and duration
  • only in place while the proposer of the suspension is active in proposing new policy
If there is no limit on such a suspension, it becomes 'meta-guidance' (as I noted in my comment of 21 January).
I would really like to see more debate in appropriate places. bobblewik 13:06, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

It seems that there are objections to date linking guidelines. The mismatch between policy and implementation in articles is excessive. The policy should change, or articles should change, or both. It is bizarre to have policies that cannot be implemented. Ambi asked for a second suspension of implementation of policy 'until this is sorted out'. See my talk page.
Suspensions of policy should be

  • stated in scope and duration
  • reasonable in scope and duration
  • only in place while the proposer of the suspension is active in proposing new policy

There are quite a few editors interested in this topic. I would like to see a resolution. What do others think (PS if you see no response from me, Ambi, Talrias or other objectors may have blocked me again)? bobblewik 13:30, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

I am with Bobblewik on this. If the MoS is wrong it really should be changed. And I also agree with Bobblewik that MoS does not have to authorise de-linking of years for it to be pemissible: it has to forbid it if this is what is expected of editors. I (in my ignorance) used to think all years had to be linked and, being a well behaved soul, I did so. The comparatively large number of complaints is deceptive. Bobblewik makes enormous numbers of changes and upsets a small proportion of editors. I first came across Bobblewik (as many people did!) when he changed units in an article I had written. I didn't like his change! But I now know that in fact he goes to very great care and makes a low propoertion of mistakes. Has there been a RfC on this? I think a block at present would be utterly wrong. Thincat 14:05, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
  • Judging from previous discussions, I think it's going to be hard to get consensus on the underlying issue of whether dates should be linked. However, I don't see any reason to block someone for doing what the Manual of Style currently advises. Stephen Turner (Talk) 14:20, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
    • It is clear that linking Day Month and, then separately Year, is practically useless (viz the 100,000+ links to the "2000" page.) But old habits die hard. I still harbour hopes however that linking to specific days (at least for recent years) will become the norm, finesseing the current discussion and improving the usability of the encyclopedia to boot. Sadly it is issue that affects so my editors it is nigh on impossible to get consensus, and thus have a mandate to actually execute the change. Pcb21 Pete 15:21, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
    • I've heard it from the developers' mouth (well keyboard) that it would be an easy fix. I will try talking to them directly again (sure to be better than talking amongst ourselves here :)), it will really open the possibilities for us if we can get that fixed. Pcb21 Pete 17:16, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
      • That would be nice -- the issue is currently listed as "resolved: won'tfix" DES (talk) 19:40, 2 February 2006 (UTC)
        • I would hope they wouldn't change this. We have date pages for a reason. They're informative references, yet they're at risk of being entirely hidden because of a small number of dedicated editors with bots attempting to expel them from the project because of a personal stylistic beliefs. What happened to caring about the concerns of others? Ambi 05:46, 3 February 2006 (UTC)
          • The arguments of those in favour of de-linking would be massively reduced if we have single date linking. Some day the great WP community will en masse realise it is the Way Forward :). Pcb21 Pete 08:46, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

I'm not the only one who has complained about this. This section in the MOS exists because the only people who know this exists are the people who are pedantic about killing date links. One look at Bobblewik's talk page reveals just how controversial his edits are - there's a litany of complaints and requests to stop, at least for the present.

120 an hour is, frankly, bot speed. It's impossible to undo without a bot, and it's incredibly bad faith to do this when you know that it's controversial. I have no objection to people changing these on the articles they edit (as exists with other issues like BCE-CE), but it's really rude to make these en masse across the entire project. Bobblewik's campaign is a personal one; if he can't stop until he is at the very least sure he has even majority (let alone consensus) support for his actions, then he should be blocked from making those edits. Ambi 05:34, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

It is certainly not justifiable to block someone for making edits for the manual's current advice.
Bobblewik has asked twice on this page about the guideline — the first to propose an alternative and the second to ask about the validity of a run-down guidance — neither of which got any responses at all (except for one, by me). It is understandable if he took this lack of response as evidence that his edits could continue, as no-one was responding to what was practically an offer to stop. Controversial or not, I do not believe he was acting in bad faith, the fact remains that he was acting on the manual's current advice.
As we all know, this issue is has us split half-half right down the middle, and each of us involved are convinced that our alternative is the indisputable better. A compromise will not work in this issue; a solution (a way forward) must be found. With solutions, I'm all out; there will be a creative mind someone that will step forward, and I encourage that any such idea be put on a subpage, rather than this page. Neonumbers 09:24, 3 February 2006 (UTC)
This is a very obscure page - while he may not have received responses here, he has most certainly received responses on his talk page, and the slightest glance will show that I'm far from the only one posting there.
I'm not disputing that this issue has split us half-half down the middle - indeed, that's my point. On all similar issues, such as BCE-CE, the stance tends to be respectful of all perspectives, stating that you don't run around changing them en masse, and leave it as what it was initially. I'm not running around linking dates en masse - I don't expect Bobblewik (or anyone else) to run around (particularly with a bot) unlinking them either. Ambi 09:29, 3 February 2006 (UTC)
I see it as a very different issue from BCE/CE or color/colour, because of the way that date preferences are mixed up with linking so that some types of dates have to be linked. I think there are about 10% of people who think that linking years is generally useful, 10% who think that linking years is generally useless (at least for recent years), and 80% who have never thought about it and link years because that seems to be what's done around here even though they would never follow a year link themselves. Am I being too cynical? Stephen Turner (Talk) 10:43, 3 February 2006 (UTC)
Dates have to be linked because of the preferences issue, but that's not what Bobblewik is removing. He's removing links to individual years, and this is where the comparison to BCE-CE comes in. As with BCE-CE, it's a purely personal stylistic decision, without any technical issues involved. As to the numbers, I think your breakdown is fairly accurate, which means there's no grounds for anyone to be running around with a bot changing them. Ambi 05:07, 4 February 2006 (UTC)
I understand about date preferences, and I understand what Bobblewik is doing, but I disagree with your conclusions. It is mixed up with date preferences, because years do have to be linked as part of a complete date, and many editors don't understand the difference. So although links to years can be useful, the majority of them are pointless links to recent years, included not because any thought went into whether they were helpful to the reader, but out of habit or perceived convention. And this is a very good reason to unlink them. If I thought the editor had actually decided to include the link, I would agree with everything you say. But this is very rarely the case. Stephen Turner (Talk) 09:12, 4 February 2006 (UTC)

Bobblewik has indeed been blocked again, I have already given my opinion on this(above): [2] Thincat 12:27, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

I'm not clear how this is going to be resolved. Bobblewik is going to continue to reducing date linking, pointing to the Manual of Style. Ambi and others are going to continue to call them disputed edits, and block him. Other admins are presumably going to think he's being helpful and unblock him.
This sort of war is not going to get us anywhere. Does anyone have a suggestion for how to proceed more constructively?
Stephen Turner (Talk) 12:53, 3 February 2006 (UTC)
There is a simple way to solve this - leave dates as they are while the technical situation demands that, and don't run around either linking or de-linking individual years en masse on articles you don't usually edit. It's the easiest compromise, and the one that applies in most similar instances. Ambi 05:07, 4 February 2006 (UTC)
That's a very one-sided 'solution'. Stephen Turner (Talk) 09:12, 4 February 2006 (UTC)
How is that one sided? If you write articles, feel free not to link years. I'll feel free to link years on the articles I write. The same can apply to everyone else. It avoids the need for repeated crusades and counter-crusades on the issue. Ambi 01:35, 5 February 2006 (UTC)

I'm coming in late on this. I am assuming that all Bobblewik has been doing is unlinking isolated years, e.g. "George Orwell's novel takes place in [[1984]]," and that that is what people are objecting to. If I'm offbase on this, then ignore these comments; otherwise, I completely fail to understand how anyone can object to what Bobblewik is doing.

  • If Bobblewik's edits are good faith, competent implementations of Manual of Style recommendations, they are helpful. If the Manual of Style does not really reflect consensus, it should be changed. If a small portion of his edits are mistakes and there's a good reason for treating particular edits as exceptions, they should be reverted with a plain and unemotional explanation.
  • In the past sometimes been annoyed by what I believe to be inappropriate metric conversions by Bobblewik, but wish to point out that all of them without exception have been completely accurate. The speed of his edits should not be an issue. He seems to make very few mistakes.
  • Overlinking is a problem on Wikipedia. Some editors seem to enjoy linking anything that can be linked, and many articles acquire huge numbers of intrusive links to utterly generic topics that do not lead the reader to information bearing even tangentially on article. You know the sort of thing, "Jack London was an American author who wrote over fifty books." I have to believe that the people who do this sort of thing don't actually try to read articles... or else that over time experienced Wikipedians stop noticing links as they read and no longer perceive how intrusive they are.

--Dpbsmith (talk) 13:56, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

Suggestion: As I think about this, it seems to me that it's the recent years which are the most useless as links, and the earlier a year is, the more likely it is to be useful. So is there any possibility that people could agree to Bobblewik unlinking only the most recent years, since 1980, say? I think a very, very high proportion of them would have been added without any thought of benefit to the reader. Ambi et al., does that sound like a compromise, or do you not want to concede that any year links are bad? I'm just trying to find a way forward here. Stephen Turner (Talk) 09:58, 4 February 2006 (UTC)

(As a side note, not directly related to the Bobblewik's edits or the suggestion(s) above, this issue, including Bobblewik's edits which I maintain are justified, creates a significant amount of urgency in the finding of a solution, so I strongly urge creative minds and everyone else to help find a solution to the larger overlinking issue. Because I am so unwaveringly convinced that practically all such links are unnecessary, I have no solutions at hand.) Neonumbers 10:16, 4 February 2006 (UTC)
1980 is a completely arbitrary cutoff. It's patently obvious, as you yourself have admitted, that there is no consensus on the issue. So I won't go around linking years on articles you write (except rollbacking any bot edits I find), and I don't expect you to go around unlinking years on articles I (or anyone else who included them originally) wrote. That's how it's solved on every similar issue, and that's how it should be solved here. Ambi 01:35, 5 February 2006 (UTC)

Era Proposal; CE/AD Compromise

Hello, everyone. I am in support of the anno Domini terminology personally, but I have a different proposal that may just satisfy everyone who reads Wikipedia. This proposal would remove the edit wars, as well as all problems of "confusion" and the extreme likeness of BCE to CE. Also, it would stop confusing pages like this one from referring to years like 164 BC/BCE. I got this idea from the customs of the History Channel. Here is the proposal:

Years from 1 forward will be abbreviated with CE (Common Era; can be interpreted as Christian Era).

This ensures that nobody is acknowledging that Jesus Christ is God, and it also leaves Christians with the Christian era option.

Years prior to and including 1 BC will be abbreviated with BC (Before Christ; can be interpreted as Before Current).

Although this method would acknowledge Jesus (Christ) directly, noting this era as Before the Common Era simply masks the reasoning behind the Gregorian/Julian calendars. Unlike using AD, using BC does not acknowledge Christ as a god, simply as a historical figure, which most scientists agree that he is. It is basically the same as saying the days of the week, such as Wednesday, because it only acknowledges the historical meaning behind the word, not that the historical meaning is a god. It can also be difficult to speak BCE in dialog, and also, it has three letters. When we drop the "E" and use just BC, it has no grammatical similarities to CE, meaning the terms cannot be confused with one another easily. (One of the reasons of support given for the use of AD and BC on the common era page). Finally, using both BC and CE in a sentence also roll off the tongue easily (e.g - It was ongoing from 2 BC to 5 CE).
The best part about this proposal is that it will not be required that we change the current Wikipedia policy. The current Wikipedia years pages use BC, but they use neither CE nor AD for years after 1. Also, like the History Channel does, we can use AD in replacement of CE for exclusively Christian pages, and we can use BCE rather than BC for exclusively non-Christian religious pages. However for religion-neutral pages, meaning all pages other than those associated with religion, will use the proposal above. How does this sound? CrazyInSane 06:59, 4 February 2006 (UTC)


  1. A very reasonable compromise. CrazyInSane 06:59, 4 February 2006 (UTC)


  1. It'd be making up our own dating system - it'd be confusing, and we don't usually engage in original research. The present compromise is fine. Ambi 07:01, 4 February 2006 (UTC)
    • I disagree. Both dating systems used in the compromise currently exist, and since alot of pages (see Jesus) are confusingly using both these systems at once in their entirety (i.e. 189 BC/BCE or 200 AD/CE), it would be much more appropriate, in the sense of taking less space and looking more formal, to use both systems in a compromise that not only eliminates POV, but eliminates other subtle annoyances with the original systems in their original state (i.e. having to place AD before a date, and the grammatical similarities between BCE and CE). Darwiner111 07:09, 4 February 2006 (UTC).
  2. But a brilliant idea, thanks for trying to help. While the present compromise is not fine, I'm afraid that I see this as making up our own new way (as far as I'm aware this compromise is never used elsewhere), which despite its intentions isn't really that appropriate, and could confuse (new) readers — undoubtedly an unintended side effect, but one nevertheless. Neonumbers 10:20, 4 February 2006 (UTC)
  3. I think that CE and BCE should be used in historical articles as this is what was created in the academic world (or other worlds?) for NPOV purposes and seems to serve that purpose well. The Wikipedia definitions of CE and BCE allow readers to personally assign their own meaning as they read the terms. Wikipedia should not be inventing usage that does not exist in the real world. Thanks for asking. Hmains 23:25, 4 February 2006 (UTC)
  4. Bad idea. CE/BCE is only in use in American academic circles overly concerned with political correctness. The rest of the world uses AD/BC. >Radiant< 01:40, 5 February 2006 (UTC)
    Ah, but is common usage or neutrality more important? :-) — Omegatron 04:44, 5 February 2006 (UTC)
  5. No thanks. Common usage is more important than any "neutrality" issues. — BrianSmithson 14:29, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Why are you discussing this here, when there's a project page for centralized discussion? Please, bring your ideas and your suggestions and your energy to Wikipedia:Eras. -GTBacchus(talk) 02:23, 6 February 2006 (UTC)

Month-Date vs Date-Month

Since the main articles have names such as January 1 and not 1 January, is that also the standard usage on Wikipedia? Shawnc 04:17, 7 February 2006 (UTC)Date lks piped to make sense of them for users with the pref set.--Jerzyt 23:06, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

No. Putting brackets around the day month or month day allows the software to convert it to the format you set in your user preferences. So putting brackets in is the standard. The default for non-logged-in user is month-day I believe. Rmhermen 04:23, 7 February 2006 (UTC)
The default is "no preference" — it will be displayed as written. Neonumbers 10:01, 7 February 2006 (UTC)


Spelling out of centuries vs Arabic numerals.

Having trawled through the entire talk archive I have come up with the following

Don't use Roman numerals "XI century".
A few (maybe four) people expressed a preference one way or the other.
One style guide recommends spelling out.

The Guardian style guides recommend spelling out first - ninth following their newspaperish take on numbers.

I suggest rewording the MoS to at least allow spelling out centuries on an equal footing with Arabic numberals. Rich Farmbrough. 22:46, 8 February 2006 (UTC)

I could not find anything in the MoS that forbids it. Can you? bobblewik 16:57, 9 February 2006 (UTC)
Well, sure, spelling out is on an equal footing with Arabic numerals (though not Roman numerals), why not. Neonumbers 11:24, 10 February 2006 (UTC)
The 'Numbers in words' section appears to cover it. bobblewik 11:46, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Location of birth

I apologize if this has been previously covered, but I'm not going to read through 36 pages of archives and I don't know how to search just the archives. Currently, in section 1.3 Dates of birth and death, there is a statement saying, "Locations should be included in the biography portion of the body article." I see many, many articles where this is not the case, and I've cleaned up many, many articles to move the location from the date area to the body of the article per the current style guide. I'd like to propose that the style guide be changed to allow locations in the date area. Many times, it does not seem appropriate to have a sentence in the body just to say where someone was born if it isn't relative to the rest of the article. Thoughts? If this has already been discussed and decided, please direct me to the appropriate discussion area and I'll happily be on my way. Lbbzman 18:37, 9 February 2006 (UTC)

Some Thoughts

Some thoughts: I think the bottom line throughout the encyclopedia should be consistency. Create a base and stay with it. I realize that is what a Manual of Style is supposed to create and maintain. What I see are a group of people, each with their own personal style to promote. There can and will be “chaos” in the substance of the material in the encyclopedia since it covers such a wide area of information. However, if the structure, the basic framework that is supposed to contain that information is chaotic, and changes from article to article, you have an unreadable disaster. One of the primary functions of Wikipedia (as in any encyclopedia) should be to organize this chaos.

Our brain depends a great deal on a certain amount of consistency and familiarity in our day-to-day surroundings. If the very basic elements of your life changed day to day you would soon be unable to function. But if the basic elements remain constant, you are able to deal with those elements that are different day to day. Each article in Wikipedia is a day; that basic structure should remain constant as the information changes.

Without this consistency it's like a group of architects arguing about what the basic structure of a building should be; each having their own creative concept; without considering that real people are going to have to navigate it every day. If that basic structure changed from day to day, the effect on the person trying to navigate it would be total disorientation.

Specific suggestions: Constants article to article - Presentation of Birth & Death Dates should be consistent, easily read and located in the same place (that's all the reader may be looking for); Location of Birth should be presented as close to the beginning of the body of the Article as possible (that's all the reader may be looking for); Links to other Articles should be relevant to the specific article it's keyed in. Imagine you're sitting in a library with unlimited resources; you come upon a term, name or other piece of information in the Article you're reading; would you get up, cross the room and pull out another text to look-up that reference? (I know that Pittsburgh is a city; I know it's located in Pennsylvania; is knowing more about the city of Pittsburgh going to enhance my knowledge of the specific subject I am researching at the time, or is it going to be an unnecessary sidetrack? The trunk of the tree is the primary subject you are researching; how many branches can there be before you no longer see that trunk?

I’m fairly new to Wikipedia, and am fascinated by its concept and execution. I plan to contribute as much as I can. More later… Michael David 13:09, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

The "sidetrack" is one of the fascinations of good reference works. I generally assume the target audience is reasonably smart in their late teens, with good English, from a distant land, who is not familiar with the subject. Therfore I don't expect them to know more cities than perhaps New York, London, Paris and Tokyo, to know any jargon, or obscure words (like propinquity or crapulence for example). Therefore liberal (but not silly) use of linking, can provide a key to contextualise articles. One of my problems with policy is "wikipedia is not a dictionary" because it can (and often does) provide a valuable self-glossary. Rich Farmbrough. 18:32, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Michael David, welcome, and I fully agree with you (as you can see on my user page rants). One of our main problems is that, in a consensus-driven community, we often end up with compromise such as, "do either" — acceptable in some situations, but with trivial matters, absolutely not. However, the manual is doing a fairly decent job of standardising, at the very least, what it can. Your suggestions are welcome. (I think, but am not sure, that dates but not locations of birth and death have already been standardised.) I'm meant to be on a wiki-break, and I might not be back for a while. Neonumbers 05:36, 14 February 2006 (UTC)