Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 5

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Having British dates and British spelling in articles about British subjects is not a compromise, it's the most convenient solution you can get away with, one which allows you to write your way most of the time. It also leads to massive inconsistencies, as, believe it or not, some non-Brits start pages about British subjects, and even some non-Americans (such as myself) and some Brits prefer the "US" date style. Furthermore, US-style spelling is more popular around the world and most of Wikipedia's users are Americans, so you will inadvertently end up with American spelling in articles about British subjects. So you end up with some pages about British topics which use the "correct" style and others which don't. According to Mav's latest update to the policy page, the opinion of the person who invested the most work in the page should be respected. The result: more inconsistency.
Now I would love a solution that eliminates all inconsistency. But Mav tells me that the Brits will start World War III if this comes to pass, so I won't hold my breath. But a real compromise would entail that the British users of Wikipedia give up at least some of the privileges they cleverly obtained, which would be the case if we kept the Month Day format (which was never changed in accordance with the expressed wishes of the majority of users) the official standard on all pages. This makes me unhappy, because I still have spelling inconsistency on some pages. And it makes you unhappy, because you have to type ugly dates or tolerate that people change them. So it's a compromise. What we currently have is a segment of Wikipedia with different rules: the "UK-pedia". If that becomes official policy, we should take the next logical step, set up "uk.wikipedia.org", and move all articles about British subjects there. --Eloquence 06:06 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)

I really have to laugh at all of this. Wikipedia purports to be an english language encyclopædia. Yet it is unashamably US orientated. Worldwide most people use British english or variations on BE (including two of the world's biggest states population-wise, India and Nigeria). BE is used throughout every state of the commonwealth as either the the main or a subsidiary language. AE is in a minority worldwide. Yet wiki that purports to an english language encyclopædia is overwhelmingly written in AE, the language of one english-speaking country the US. Most of its articles are written from a US perspective, focusing on US issues, US agendas, etc. And when it comes to dating systems, almost every state in the world uses dd/mm/yy. The main one that doesn't is the US. And which format is mainly used on wiki? mm/dd/yy. Put bluntly wiki is so americocentric it irritates non-Americans mad.

Lets take examples: today's main page.

  • in the news - Harry Potter (written in AE, with AE dating), Same sex marriages in Canada (US dating) monkeypox (This page was recently featured on TV the article says. No. it featured on US TV. Most of the world never saw that.) Martha Stewart (US orientated article using US dating), Eric Robert Rudolph. (ditto). That's 5 out of 5.
  • recent deaths - 3 out of 5 US, 1 brit, 1 Canada. All 5 written in AE with AE dating.
  • New articles - United Kingdom National Physical Laboratory (yippee. Something that isn't about the US. But as it carries no dates it doesn't fit into either camp. Alaska range - AE on an American topic. Gartner - US company written about using AE. Child sexuality - written in AE. But then the article isn't about Child sexuality at all. It is about American child sexuality, and contains a sub-heading America Today. Kenelm Digby - a Brit who lived a full century before the US was created. Yet he is written about in American english, using American spelling, and American dating. 10 Rillington Place - written about a British topic by British people but which Eloquence wants to americanise. (The fact that it is currently in BE and uses rest of the world dates is simply because Eloquence's attempts have been, and will continue to be, reverted.)
  • Historical Anniversaries - June 22 (so we know where that comes from!) Flag of Greenland: AE, AE dating. Midsummer: AE, AE dating. New Hampshire - US topic, AE, AE dating Manchester Mark I - computer developed in the UK, but no matter, AE, AE dating. Tennis Court Oath - about France. Written in AE, AE dating. Flight to Varennes - about France but AE capitalisation but shock of shocks, an article that doesn't have AE dating and instead uses the dating system the French and the rest of the world but the US uses. Woopee! Lizzie Borden famous American alleged murderer; AE, AE dating. Ed Sullivan Show US TV programme, AE, AE dating. GIF - some BE spelling but of course AE dating. Federal Communications Commission yet another US orientated site written for americans using AE and AE dating. Rosenbergs - surprise, surprise, yet another American article about an american topic for american readers using american english and american dating.


So, out of 28 articles on the main page, 2 use the form of dates used by the entire world. The rest, including those few articles that aren't about American topics, are written in a form of date that almost nobody but the US uses. And of those two, Eloquence is determined to turn one of them into US dating, even though it is the work of a non-american, is about a non-american subject and is using the dating system that the entire world other than americans uses.

The funny thing is that wiki claims to be an english language encyclopædia. Except or course that it is anything but. It is written for Americans to suit Americans, using the language Americans like and the dating system they and they almost alone use. And when anyone has the audacity to use a form that the entire world but America uses, all hell erupts, from people who claim that non-standard grammatical idioms, non-standard spelling, non-standard dating, non-standard capitalisation are being forced on wiki. Actually it is wiki who is forcing non-standard english usage on every other potential english language wiki reader outside the US, because to the millions in Britain and in Ireland, the millions of english language users in Europe, the billions of english language users in Austral-asia, India, South Africa and elsewhere, the vast majority of users of english on the planet, wiki's perferred house style is completely alien and foreign.

But then that is simply the tip of the iceburg. The entire world uses the word car. So do any americans. But a lot of americans use automobile. Any guesses under which name the article appears? When non-Americans (and some americans) suggested moving the article, americans queued to say how unfair it was, how it was called an automobile so what was the problem calling it that? During the Iraq war, non-Americans had to fight to get the right usage of the Iraqi dictator's name. The world correctly referred to Saddam, because that is his surname. But some Americans went ballistic and kept trying to calling him Hussein. After all that's what NBC Nightly News called him! The fact that it was wrong didn't enter into it. It was a question for some (not all!) of 'how dare you propose to use a name we regard as his first name!"

When someone created a page on First Lady, it was written as exclusively being about the US First Lady. It never seemed to dawn on people that over 150 countries have first ladies. When I renamed the page to rename it to state that it was simply about the US First Lady, I got told off by someone who didn't see the need. 'Sure everyone knows it is about the US First Lady' I was told. 'The article doesn't need to say that.' Oh really? And how then do we refer to the first ladies in the rest of the world? We have pages and pages of lists about most watched TV programmes and films in a particular year. The lists are exclusively about the US. Yet to suggest that their name be changed simply to saw [[Top Ten TV shows in the US in 1966]] was like committing a heresy. Again the idea that there might be a different list in Germany, France, Nigeria, Russia, Chile or elsewhere didn't seem to dawn on people, just as nobody thought to say in the Monkeypox page that the page had featured on US TV. Billions of people never heard of this. Billions never saw it on their TV screens. But to make that distinction would be seen to be anti-American. One article relating to abortion had the experiences of other countries shuffled off to daughter articles to make way for more information on America. When I complained I was told I was being anti-american and anyway, America's experience was "particularly important". Obviously everyone else's wasn't!

That is why there is such resentment over the issue on BE usage on wiki, and why, as Mav said, there would be WWIII if Eloquence had his way. He seems to think that all the world's english speakers should be made to conform to American english on wiki, and that if somehow that does not happen, wiki will be destroyed by inconsistency. Most of the rest of the world finds wiki's pre-occupation with american english, and with americanising anything and everything irritating. They understand how it can happen, and do not suspect it of being some sort of attempt to force AE on people. It is just that an encyclopædia most of whose contributors are American, isn't always aware of its own americocentrism. And that americocentrism is damaging wiki's ability to be a genuine worldwide-used source book. Why should the rest of the world be forced to read about the history of England, the history of Ireland, the history of Russia, through Americanised articles? While should people from Ireland, who never ever ever ever use the mm/dd/yy format be forced to read their fifth president's birth date in an American format that they no more want to use or see than the British want, the French want, the South Africans want? And all this on an encyclopædia that is supposed to be an english language encyclopædia, not an American english encyclopædia? Why should the British queen have to have her birth date americanised? Why should Nelson Mandela have to have his birth date americanised? It is as insulting to South Africans, the Irish and the British to force them to have their history americanised as it would be for Americans to have their history written in British english. It isn't as if non-American users are demanding that wiki be written in BE. All they are asking for is that a supposedly world-wide english encyclopædia allow the use of world-wide english, rather than force everyone in the world to confirm to what suits americans and a small number of non-Americans like Eloquence.

There is no technical problem whatsoever with allowing articles to vary the date form between the two forms of english. No-one is saying change everything to British english. But if wiki was to follow the date rules of each state in which english is spoken, American english would be restricted to entries about the US and maybe some other states on the American continent. When the issue was debated, it was clear that there was no consensus on any one form of date. But there was clear evidence that many users were deeply unhappy at being expected to use American dating, something which other than on wiki most would avoid using like the plague. It was in view of that the an understanding grew that people could use whichever form they would normally use. The clear impression was left with people that mm/dd/yy, which had always been optional, never mandatory, was now totally optional, with a full system or redirects for every date available. I specifically asked whether I could interpret the debate as meaning either form could be used. I was told, as others were told, that the idea of enforcing mm/dd/yy was dead in the water. I specifically asked whether as of now can I stop using that form. I as told yes, how the redirects were now in place. I suggested that in that case the MoS be adapted to formally change that. I was told that would be done, but in any case the MoS was purely advisory. People had always had the right to ignore it. In fact, of those discussing the issue I was almost the very last one to stop using mm/dd/yy, because I wanted to make sure it was OK and that redirects were in place.

The situation is quite simple. I and all the other people who abandoned the use of the mm/dd/yy format have no intention whatsoever of going back to it. I have no intention of changing any articles to that format, other than those that specifically are about America and so should be in American english using american dates. The solution that whatever Eloquence thinks was agreed in the debate, provided a workable method of dealing with the issue. Eloquence's suggestion of either dropping British english or dd/mm/yy is ludicrous in the extreme. As I have shown, the vast majority of articles written on non-american topics are written in AE with AE dating. It is frankly insulting to tell non-Americans that they must choose between having to write in American english or take american english dating, because they must have one. Non-Americans have put up with a lot in working on wikipedia; I've had people not merely try to americanise things I write but even change things I wrote on talk pages to American english! If Eloquence wants an American english dictionary so badly he can always go off and set one up. But as he seems to be forgetting, this is english wikipedia, not just american-english wikipedia. And the form of english that most of the world uses, and the form of dates that most of the world uses, has as much right to be on english wiki as American english and American dating.

The final words come from the Manual of Style which Eloquence seems to love quoting so much. He seems to constantly miss this bit:

Writers are NOT expected or required to follow all or any of these rules

In the circumstances it is abusive of fellow wikipedians and of a potential worldwide readership to presume the right to americanise the work of non-americans, particularly when the Manual of Style makes it crystal clear that they don't have to write in AE. In view of that, any attempt to americanise the work of non-American users would be in breach of the Manual of Style. If such an attempt is made, it will be undone.

Users of British English have been more than accomodating to American english users. Articles that logically should have been in British english but which were written in American english have been left in that state. Articles on American topics that had a mixture of AE and BE have been converted to AE by BE users. I turned on two line stub into a very large article recently. As it had been started in AE, I wrote it all in AE, even though that meant using spellings and constructions that I would never normally use. BE users have bent over backwards to accomodate AE. And many though not AE users have been similarly accomodating towards BE users. It would be nice if AE users like Eloquence showed the same courtesy for a change. FearÉIREANN 11:49 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Conciseness is a virtue, Jtdirl... Martin
It should also be noted that MoS is a set of conventions not policies. Eloquence has been throwing the "p-word" around in respect to this issue and that is plain wrong. Oh, and I agree that we should tolerate both date and spelling styles. --mav 13:24 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)

I think it's time for us to put on our Blue Hats and try to decide on a method for finding a resolution to this thorny problem. I propose two votes, one after the other, with a one month fixed polling interval for each, and a one month interval between the two for any procedural objections to be raised.

Note that much is generally agreed on, such as having a maximum of one date format per page, and we don't need to revisit old ground. Similarly, nobody believes that anyone should be forced to write in any particular format

Vote One

Should the Wikipedia article on the first day of August live at? If Wikipedia later decides to encourage (however mildly) a particular format, this vote also determines which format is encouraged.
  1. 1 August
  2. August 1
  3. none of the above / return of nominations

Vote Two

If option one is picked, the second vote is:

When Wikipedians are copyediting articles written entirely in August 1, 2003 format, should they:
  • if they wish, change dates to 1 August 2003 format
  • leave dates untouched
  • none of the above / return of nominations

If option two is picked, the second vote is:

When Wikipedians are copyediting articles written entirely in 1 August 2003 format, should they:
  • if they wish, change dates to August 1, 2003 format
  • leave dates untouched
  • none of the above / return of nominations

If option three is picked, we try and figure out why... ;-) Hopefully, by having two seperate votes, rather than a single combined one, we're more likely to get a clear result. However, votes are easy things to rig (accidentally or not), so I welcome alternative. Martin


I think debating over European vs. American date format is really silly and hitting a straw man. I will ask an hypothetical question: Why even stick to the Gregorian calendar? what about the Islamic calendar, Hindu calendar, Japanese calendar etc.. This is not a provocative question, but a matter of international standards. English is not the property of Americans nor British nor anyone else. It is the current standard of communication between foreign nations, and is spoken in many places as a second or first language.

Suggesting that a date format like December 20, 2003 is US-centeric is the most idiotic (and straw-manish) thing I have ever heard. There are much worst systematic biases on the encyclopedia that are constantly being practiced and communally ignored.


The votes for both formats seem about even. I will challenge further, let's not get a majority (that in my opinion won't bring anything except a green ticket for forcing someone's writing style over another person of the minority), let's get a consensus, I see three possible solutions:

  1. Software mechanism that translates any date/time (don't forget time!) format to the one preferred by the user. (More problematic to implement and use than the third option)
  2. ISO formatting (ISO 8601). The same silliness to endlessly fight over the use of Pound vs Kilogram, Meter vs. Feet etc. can be resolved with adopting international standards. -- I retract from endorsing this, too computerized style


  1. A combination of both. Using ISO units (during editing) will be mandatory, that would be only markup standard the software will recognize. It will render it to whatever format the user had chosen in their preferences. Possibly even to different calendars, including the Japanese calendar, Chinese calendar etc. (can be useful for Wikipedias in different languages).
Note: other date units and formatting will still be officially acceptable by the policies, but wouldn't be rendered by the software to anything.




Rotem Dan 13:17 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Please no. Adopting ISO as the standard is forcing people to write like machines. But having the software convert one date format to be displayed in the format set in a user's prefs seems like a neat idea. But the defaults should show whatever the explicit WikiCode is. --mav
ISO 8601 is the standard for Information interchange between computers. It's not a standard for displaying dates and times to humans. This was covered in the archive, I believe.
An (efficient) software solution would be very lovely, and, if it ever exists, I'm sure it will be widely welcomed. However, we still need a solution in the interim. Martin 13:29 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)
I think the interim solution is what we have now. -- Rotem Dan 13:34 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Finally, some common sense in this silly argument. Is the notation for writing dates or spelling the word color/colour the most important issues facing Wikipedia? As for the Americocentrism/Eurocentrism debate, it is all a bunch of rhetoric--"I don't like your system because it is you-centric, so lets move over to my system which is me-centric." Voting is not the resolution either. Frankly, there are more Americans than British, Irish, Australians, South Africans, and New Zealanders, combined, and then there are the Canadians ... In other words, one group is numerically far more powerful, so in theory, the vote will always go in their favor anyway. It's just the tyranny of the majority. I suggest putting a moratiorum on it for a while. Work on really improving Wikipedia, and have everyone stop trying to score points for their personal systems. Even if we decide now, the debate will pop up again in a couple of months and all the old animosities will flare again. Give it a break! There are so many more important things to do. Danny

That is exactly why JT and I think Wikipedia should tolerate both formats in the same way we already tolerate different spelling styles. If people just use the date and spelling styles most comfortable to them (where appropriate) then we can get back to work on the important stuff (like CONTENT). --mav

I never raised this issue. Eloquence did. Not only am I happy to tolerate both formats. I have been writing in both formats. As far as I am concerned, both formats should be used. But this issue arose because Eloquence decided that one format was unacceptable and decided to turn an article on a British topic into American english and american dating, to the fury of a British user who asked me to intervene. As to Danny's claim that I suggested "I don't like your system because it is you-centric, so lets move over to my system which is me-centric", that is the exact opposite of what I said. I said that using the American system exclusively (Eloquence's idea) is disrespectful to the billions who use dd/mm/yy and BE. The corollory is true. To use BE and dd/mm/yy exclusively would be disrespectful to the billions who use the other system. All I have asked for is respect for both sides, and pointed out that wiki (unstandably given its current user numbers) is americocentric, and exclusively using an american dating system makes that even more so. Both sides should be shown respect. That was what I asked for. FearÉIREANN 13:56 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Actually, I had no idea that it was you who said that. I was talking in generalities. It seems that we agree entirely then. I apologize if it seems as if I misconstrued what you said. In general, I am opposed to the voting system being imposed now to come to a final resolution of the conflict and think that both sides are valid. (Well, actually, I will be a lot happier knowing that I can use the European format, which is what I am most comfortable with, but that's neither here nor there.) Sorry again if I wasn't clear. Danny

We're not talking about using numerical dates here, are we? (jim)

No Jim, we're not talking about numerical dates - there's been near-unanimous agreement that numerical dates are inappropriate. -mrd

So what's the problem? Vote 1: the vast majority of the pages reside in the American form, why change it? Is that really an issue? (jim)

All 366 date articles currently reside in the American form.
Judging from the ~100K of discussion here, yes it is an issue, for some people. If you don't think it's an issue, then don't vote. -mrd
No. It is simply that if someone writing a topic on Britain, Ireland or Europe, where they use a different date format, that can be used without Eloquence announcing 'sorry. I'm not allowing that. All pages have to follow the American format. Non americans for months have been following a format that allowed for flexiibility. ALL I want, we want, is to be allowed to continue doing that. Eloquence wants to change it and have only the american format used. FearÉIREANN 14:25 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)

As for vote two, I can't see how anyone could choose anything other than "leave the dates unchanged". (I'm a BE user) -- Jim Regan 13:58 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)

And yet, Eloquence (and others) wish to choose otherwise. If you disagree with them, then I suggest you vote appropriately. Martin
And I suggest we cut out the voting entirely. All it does is create two opposing camps and help to fortify people in their positions. Consensus will eventually be reached, perhaps even by some creative solution. Meanwhile, even the way the vote is posed indicates some bias in the way the person who posed the options. Meanwhile, the voting is so close that it just takes one or two more new people to tip the balance either way. In a flash of disgust I add--unless people take some particularly perverse pleasure in seeing people feud here, drop the subject. Danny
Danny, we pretty much did' drop the subject for about four and a half months, if you look at the page history of this page - all that happened in the interim was a few votes being cast and a bit of village pump discussion on unrelated subjects. Really, if you think this discussion is a waste of time, that's fine - you don't have to get involved with it. Martin 14:37 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)
Martin, are you saying that we managed just fine for four and a half months without debate so it is time to fan the fires again? By the way, I am not thrilled with your patronizing attitude. I am getting involved, and I am proposing a solution. As for your summary that it has "zero votes", check again. It already has two. I suspect that when more people see it, they will consider voting that way too. Danny
I'm not being patronising, nor am I fanning any fires, nor do I get perverse pleasure in seeing people feud. Congratulations on your (now) three votes - a good start. Martin 15:37 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)

OFFTOPIC: Hm. Just wondering about the claim that Wikipedia is dominated by American users. Every time I look around I see a great many non-American users and not as many American users. Maybe I'm just not seeing my own kind. But then it may not be just a numerical thing; Americans may just be a bit more pushy and prone to Wikiholism. :) --mav

heh. I think culturally America is quite dominant in wiki. It isn't deliberate or premeditated. We all see the world from our own experiences and America historically can sometimes misjudge the world outside it, because its sheer size means 'the world outside' may be 1000 miles away from some people. Where I am right now, it is 80 miles away up the road in Northern Ireland. I get Irish TV, British TV, French TV, etc. In the US, you get US TV, most people travel within the one country. America is like many countries rolled into one in one sense. Yet it has its diversity. But its sheer size makes it more self focused and so makes it harder to understand what is happening outside its border. If I was running wiki in Ireland, for example, I could not hope to fill a front page just with Irish stories. There would not be enough of them. So due to issues of scale, it would have to have a highly international flavour. But America's size can both protect itself and isolate itself from the outside world. Yet it itself may not realise the extent of its own isolation. One of the thing I enjoy most about wiki is its internationalism but also its americanism. But it does have to be careful not to become so America-preoccupied that it spends all its time looking at itself and loses contact with the world outside itself. FearÉIREANN 14:25 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Wow. Well, as the person who wrote the 10 Rillington Place article which restarted this whole debate, I am amazed at the controversy that has been stirred up. I wrote the article about an incident in British history, including I think 6 dates in British format, which seems the logical way to do it. I watched and voted in the debate on date formats last March and was strongly of the opinion that it had been agreed that either date-before-the-month or date-after-the-month was acceptable provided that we didn't mix them in the same article. I and many others have been happily creating articles on that basis for more than three months, and until Eloquence took it upon himself to needlessly switch dates around yesterday (and in the process lose a non-date link in the article) nobody seemed unhappy with this compromise. What is so desperately important that all dates in Wikipedia have to have the same format? It is clear to see that this is a question which can arouse passions, so why not just revert to the status quo ante yesterday when either can be used, and avoid unnecessary edit wars and votes? -- Arwel 14:39 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)

I [...] was strongly of the opinion that it had been agreed that either [...] was acceptable

Where did you get that opinion from? I've been trying to find any hint of such an agreement, and so far I can't. Martin 14:42 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)

The vote showed that those wanting dd/mm/yy or to allow both well outnumbered those wanting to keep just mm/dd/yy. The creation of redirect pages for all dates from "date Month" to "Month date" was also, I think, a pretty good sign that people were under the impression that we'd agreed to allow either format. -- Arwel 19:33 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)
Put a moratorium on the subject for at least 6 months. Use whatever people want in the meantime.

This "solution" amuses me. So Eloquence gets to do what he wants (which is to change articles to have a month/day format), and Jtdirl gets to do what he wants (which is to revert Eloquence whenever he does so). And this is going to reduce feuding? ;-) Martin 14:52 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)

The vote was badly formed and there was no clear winner. Therefore we have been in limbo this whole time without a convention on this issue. Things were working so nicely during those 4 months too. Now we are dealing with this crap again. --mav
Amen to that -live and let live (although FearÉIREANN's passionate plea almost convinced me that IONA is a good idea). Attempts to force a single style invariably leads to US v the rest divide, and ends up with a stand-off anyway. Pax vobiscum jimfbleak 15:07 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)