# Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 84

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I've put in a note on units consistency, as I've found several places where passages switch back and forth between metric and US units. Please comment/revise. Mangoe 01:49, 4 September 2007 (UTC)

While it's not a problem in the nautical frame of reference, if I put on my medical hat, there are annoying laboratory values that really are converting between metric and metric. For example, I learned to specify blood glucose values as milligrams per deciliter. The trend is to specify millimoles per liter, and I am rather baffled when I hear people saying the first is "US" and the second "metric". In physical constants, it's hard to argue metre-kilogram-second (mks) system measurements are "US", and the centimetre-gram-second (cgs) "SI".
I don't have a ready way even to explain this succinctly, much less make it consistent, to say nothing of medical measurements that use different systems of "international units" per weight or volume, the units based on biological activity. There are especially nasty examples, such as the International Normalized Ratio for blood clotting, that applies correction factors for variability in the biological reagents -- and, where there is a measurement of weight, volume, etc., that measurement is metric. Howard C. Berkowitz 02:27, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
I'm more concerned about nontechnical passages where units are mixed. The example that caught my eye is in Chesapeake Bay, where it says that so many acres are less than two meters deep. It's obvious to me that this sort of inconsistency is confusing, but I fail to find a place where we advise against it. Mangoe 13:44, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
Unless that passage was corrected recently in the Chesapeake Bay article, it looked ok to me: A person 6 feet 7 inches (2 m) tall could traverse some 700,000 acres (2,800 km²) of.... There were some other MOSNUM problems (like 30') that needed to be corrected.
That's actually a case of mixed units-- simply translating meters to inches doesn't fix the problem. Hmmmmm..... I've gotten rid of part of the problem by going to a percentage for one number, but the problem remains that the primary unit in the clause is the meter, because it's the round number. Someone working in US units would have used a six foot tall man (which is more plausible anyway: how many people do you know are 2m tall?). The whole paragraph needs citation anyway, but at any rate the point is that simply converting and putting the predominant unit first doesn't necessarily get rid of the mixed units. Mangoe 13:05, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
If we are playing this walk-in-the-water game properly, we can't even use 6 feet. According to the wikipedia article Human height, the average US non-Hispanic white male is only 5 ft 10 in. Walking in water as deep as the average American, would drown 50% of them, of course. Furthermore, Americans are not half-dolphin with breathing holes in the head. Walking in the water needs *chin height*, not the top of the head height. All in all, the article is better off without talking about it in that way. Lightmouse 18:40, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
If you were talking about the unit order, then sometimes the unit orders are "mixed" due to the units used by the sources being stated first. I personally don't have a problem with switching the unit's order to be consistent (in most cases) as long as there is a reference for the values. I think the exception would be where one would except to see a specific unit of measure always used for a certain topic. The example that comes to mind is ammunition for rifles and handguns, where bullet weight and powder weight are almost always given in grains and not grams; even in metric (mm) cartridges. To swapped the unit order for the bullet weights for the metric weapons would go against what is commonly encountered in the firearms industry.
Do we need a specific point in the MOS to address this? Probably not. —MJCdetroit 15:16, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
Traditional units for a particular topic sometimes have a technical basis for their use, and are part of a system, such as knots, nautical miles, and angular measurement of latitude. In other cases, such as your ammunition example, while "early" metrication might make the article more accessible to a complete novice in the subject, but less accessible to a reader looking for further detail, such as a hypothetical student of military ammunition who wanted to compare the .30 caliber 173 and 154 grain bullets.
I suppose, as well as customary usage, there is an issue of common sense. Does it make sense to call the instrument, on the bridge of a fishing vessel, a fathometer or a 1.829metermeter? Many charts, incidentally, have the depths marked in fathoms, admittedly an archaic measure but one still used. Howard C. Berkowitz 16:05, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
This sort of argument that says my "fathometer" is now called a "1.829metermeter" seems to surface regularly and it is not appropriate in a reasoned discussion. In Australia you can still talk about mileage or order a pint of Guinness, you just measure it in km and get 500ml respectively. Common phrases do not get converted. They may evolve with time, but they do not convert. "Look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves" is still a valid phrase in Australia - and that country went to decimal currency 41 years ago. Maybe the phrase is used in the US as well - which took the lead in decimalised currency way earlier.
What's important here is that measurements can be understood. And on the other hand we don't want conversions everywhere because it stuffs up readability - and it's just plain ugly. So where do we draw the line. Some people in some countries somewhere may still use the cubit - do we provide a conversion? No. To communicate in this world the phrase "Speak in English, measure in metric" is used. A metric measurement is something that must mandatorily be provided for every measurement in Wikipedia. For example an article on a planet may talk in Astronomical Units, but a measurement in km needs to be present. Likewise a nautical article that uses fathoms or nautical miles must have a measurement in metres (or km) as well.
I strongly agree on readability though. If an article continually mentions that Neptune is 29.8 AU (4.6 billion km) from the sun then using 29.8 AU by itself with no conversion is to be recommended in subsequent parts of the article.
Back to fathoms and nautical miles. Nautical miles are no longer accepted in SI. So a conversion to km must be given. You state that fathoms are used to measure depth, well that may be the case in the US (and some other countries) but I think you will find metres are quite common. Sea charts are certainly in metres in Australia. Also, the Global Positioning System (the way all modern nautical navigation is done) is entirely calculated in metric and only converts to nautical miles and feet in the devices themselves predominantly for US, Myanmar and Liberian users. Jim77742 12:09, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
I have addressed both your 'fathometer' question and your non-metric chart question where you raised them earlier in the frequency of conversion section.
Lightmouse 11:05, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

## BC/BCE in articles on religious figures

Specifically referring to figures important to both Christianity as well as other religions, is it appropriate and/or acceptable to switch from BC to BCE? In these cases, the religious overtones of the nomenclature are enhanced due to the religiosity of the subject, and I feel if the person is is of significant importance to other religions, the less pointedly Christian terminology should be used. For example, see Isaiah. Thoughts? Thank you. -- Avi 20:57, 4 September 2007 (UTC)

That makes sense to me. I get the feeling this talk page has 10 thousand pages of debate on this subject. There might already be a policy on this? Jeff Carr 01:36, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

With the overwhelming response (thank you Jeff), is it safe to say that the above suggestion can be added to the MoS for clarification purposes? -- Avi 18:44, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

I don't think we need to specifically clarify anything in the MOS for you to do this. Do it with a clear edit summary and if someone reverts you, then take it to the article's talk page. When it comes to BC/BCE, editors tend to argue with each other and do what they want anyways. Just look at the Jesus article—one article that should use BC/AD— and what a mess that is in respect in the BC/BCE. —MJCdetroit 20:11, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
I second that. Tony 01:52, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
May I make a suggestion for such situations? Many general readers without an academic background do not recognize "BCE/CE". It might be wise to recommend linking the first use in an article to "Common Era", which would not only explain it but also point out that it may be read either as such or as "Christian Era" if the reader so desires. I suspect a lot of those fighting over its use are completely unaware of the latter point. Askari Mark (Talk) 19:50, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
Agreed. it usually is ala BCE, but where it is not, it should be; as should AD -- Avi 20:37, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

## Centuries again

Interesting to see the above discussion recommending spelling out centuries in text, and pointing to a number of external MoS which recommend this (to which one can add the Oxford MoS) resulted in the option to spell out being removed on the basis of existing practice. IMHO "16th century" is fine for notes, but unsuitable for text. We certainly shouldn't be encouraging it's use over "sixteenth century". Any objection to al least reinstating the option on centuries? Rich Farmbrough, 13:44 7 September 2007 (GMT).

Richard: what don't you like about 16th century? To me, it's much easier to read, and I'm happy to retain the choice. Tony 14:19, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
Depends on context. "The sixteenth century brought a new cultural openness to England" should be spelled out, and probably capped, as a personification. "The 16th-century musician William Byrd" would be fine by me (but should be hyphenated). Septentrionalis PMAnderson 15:47, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
I have to concur with Tony's readability point. And I do not understand PMAnderson/Septentrionalis's gist here. For one thing, the first is not an exmaple of personification at all (it is a mistake to think of generic transitive verbs like "bring" as anthropomorphic; contrast "the 20th century murdered American trust in government" – for it to be personifying, it generally has to be verb limited to conscious, human-specific action). There doesn't seem to be a strong contextual difference between the two examples. And "16th century" would only be hyphenated in the 2nd example because it is a compound adjective; "William Byrd was a musician of the 16th century" would not get a hyphen. — SMcCandlish [talk] [cont] ‹(-¿-)› 15:12, 17 September 2007 (UTC)

## Linking the first use of common units

Discussion moved from Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Ships. Begin moved text.

I generally try to provide a link to the appropriate article the first time I use a unit, even a very common one. For example, I link ft to Foot (unit of length). Lightmouse has unlinked a few of these. When I asked him about it, he says he doesn't feel it's necessary to link such common units. I see his point, and so I wanted to ask you guys for your opinion. Certainly I think it's important to link specialty units like knot (and Lightmouse is certainly not unlinking those). However, is it a good idea to link the first use of any unit, even if they're as common as feet and inches? I'm not sure, and I'd like to know what WP:SHIPS thinks about it. TomTheHand 19:54, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

I'd think this is very pertinent for tons - quite often it is quoted in tonnes where it should be tons, and the reader is not sure if we mean long tons or short tons etc. Emoscopes Talk 20:55, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
(edit conflict) It may be unnecessary to have them, it certainly seems unnecessary to remove them though. Bit of an odd argument from Lightmouse. I don't tend to link them, but it could only be useful to have them there, so taking them out when they're already there seems a backward step to me. --Benea 20:58, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
I wouldn't bother linking feet and meters, but I wouldn't bother removing links to them, either. Maralia 21:00, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
Well, Lightmouse does this stuff, along with many other kinds of useful fixes and unit conversions, automatically, so it's not taking him any time to perform this unlinking. So... should we ask him to stop making this particular edit? Are there people on English Wikipedia who look at feet and inches, with a metric conversion next to them, and say "I'd sure like to look at an article and find out just what a 'ft' is"? Or are the links useless to just about anybody, and removing them streamlines the article? TomTheHand 21:05, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
I would go further than Benea and Maralia. It is not just unnecessary to remove links to a unit like the foot, it is even harmful to do so because it adds ambiguity. (Just because it is common does not make it unambiguous). In a nutshell: link all units except those defined by SI. Thunderbird2 21:12, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
Just to clarify, there are about 6 different definitions for the foot listed here. Thunderbird2 21:21, 6 September 2007 (UTC)
Personally, I almost always link the first use of finite, measuring terms like feet, inch, m, knot, nautical mile, ton, tonne, etc. in articles. Not only are the exact definitions of these terms of integral importance to most naval articles, but I would hazard to say that the majority of casual readers are more than a little fuzzy on what exactly some of these terms mean (especially if they are users of the imperial/metric system, and the article they are reading uses the other system). It would be a different story if we were talking about words like ocean, ship, Tuesday, etc. --Kralizec! (talk) 01:42, 7 September 2007 (UTC)

Discussion moved from Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Ships. End moved text.

I have taken the liberty of moving this general discussion about unit links here. Feel free to comment. Lightmouse 16:22, 7 September 2007 (UTC)

My main thought is that common units are like plain english. A second thought is that the argument for a linking '50 miles' becomes weaker when the metric conversion is provided, as in '50 miles (80 km)'. Thirdly, my metrication script cannot handle linked units, so that is why it delinks them. Depending on feedback here, I can amend the code but it will be much less effective at metrication. If you want to use or copy the metrication script, feel free. Lightmouse 16:38, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
This explanation changes my position somewhat. The question becomes whether the value in adding metric equivalents outweighs the ambiguity introduced in removing the link. I think it probably does. Thunderbird2 17:12, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
You can have your cake and eat it too. Although Lightmouse is unable to automatically provide metric conversions when ft is linked, the conversions can still be added manually. On the pages where I noticed ft being de-linked, I had already provided metric conversions; Lightmouse made no changes to that area except removing the link. Lightmouse can provide automatic metrication for subsequent, unlinked uses of ft and in, and allow the first use to remain linked. I don't see the script becoming "much less effective." TomTheHand 19:34, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
I might agree that "common units are like plain English" if there are units that are indeed universally common. I think it applies to the basic units of time (seconds, hours, days), but are there any others? Perhaps the basic SI units (kg, m, s) as these are taught in secondary schools around the world. For all other units I think it is good practice to link on first use. Thunderbird2 07:54, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
I don't agree; I'd insert such a link only if absolutely necessary. I don't mind generally if Lightmouse delinks: it usually improves the appearance and readabiliy of the text. But if the locals object, I'd be inclined not to persist, unless, for example, if every occurrence is linked throughout an article—that's excessive and needs to be dealt with. Tony 08:21, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
Unfortunately, the script is complicated and dumb. It metricates unlinked units only. It is ignorant about the link total per article and link position (1st, 2nd, etc). Blindly delinking all common units is an easy way to apply the metrication code to a *lot* more values. The increase in metrication efficiency is why I added the feature but I can simply remove it again. I may be able to modify the delinking feature so that it tests for a parenthesis so it will not delink 50 miles (80 km). That might reduce some of the false positives noticed by TomTheHand. Lightmouse 11:32, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
If this modification were possible, my objections would pretty much vanish. I objected to the delinking of units when metric conversions were already present and weren't being modified. It looks like units are being delinked for delinking's sake and I don't really agree with that; I think linking the first use of a unit is a good idea. However, if I noticed a delinking and metrication I wouldn't object in the same way.
MoS readers may not have had the benefit of seeing exactly what I'm talking about. This is an example. In the text of the article, Lightmouse metricates a yards figure, which I think is great. However, in the article infobox, "ft" (the first use in the article) is delinked without touching anything else in the area. TomTheHand 16:47, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
I looked at TomTheHand's example and noticed that 1000 yd is converted to 1000 m. In my book that should be 900 m. (It would be different if it said "1 kyd", because that implies a degree of rounding that "1000 yd" may not"). Thunderbird2 17:03, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
I just re-visited USS Segundo and see now that it's easy to get one more significant figure (ie 900 m) just by changing "-3" to "-2" in the convert command. While I was there I linked ft and bhp [and resisted the temptation to change nm to nmi ;-)]. Thunderbird2 21:24, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

The example given by TomTheHand is interesting. I think it shows that almost impossible to check for existing conversions of 'foot'. In the case of mile and km, the parenthesis is within usually 2 characters. However, in the example given by TomTheHand, the parenthesis is not even within 20 characters because it is on the other side of inch. I have decided to stop delinking foot and amended the script accordingly.

The 900/1000 metre example given by Thunderbird2 is also interesting. Unit conversion is part science and part art. Lightmouse 08:29, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

## Conversions – recent edit

Anderson, for once it was an improvement. But why "200 miles"? Isn't this intended as an example? As is, it's not. What was wrong with "exactly the same unit and value"? (Is that what is meant, with an "e.g.," for the "200 miles"? Tony 15:18, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

• There are two extremes: provide a conversion for every instance of mile, which would be redundant in an article on maritime law, and simply assume that a link to mile and nautical mile will suffice. In these articles, neither is desirable; it is for editorial judgment to decide what intermediate point is clearest, balancing providing information when wanted against having the reader's eyes glaze over at the mass of parentheses. Such articles may well have several successive sentences of the form: At X conference, limit A was set at 50 miles, limit B at 80 miles, limit C at 200 miles. Y conference revised this to..."
• I reprehend the use of "imperial unit"; "Imperial" is idiomatic.
• I dispute the existence of two exceptions, when there are (at least) three; these are the three that happen to have come here. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 15:42, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
I didn't have an issue with any of that, so I'm sorry that your effort there was wasted. It's the "but excessive to convert "200 miles" every time it occurs" that is problematic. Some people will take it to be an example; it could theoretically refer to that and only that precise example (doesn't apply to 201 miles), or a number of values, as you are perhaps saying above. If the latter, it would be better not to specify 200 miles, surely? I'm confused, so many readers will be. I won't be back for nine hours. Tony 16:04, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
I am disappointed to see this new guideline. Edits to the main page are either trivial or have a prior conclusive discussion. Look back at the discussion we had on this one, it was rambling and inconclusive. My metrication script cannot comply with this guideline so that will be the end of all the good work it does. The wording is unacceptable. It is not just biased against metric, it is *only* anti-metric. Furthermore, it takes no account of proximity of conversions. I think it should be removed and if anyone thinks it is necessary, they should allow proper debate with examples of the edit disputes that it is trying to solve. Lightmouse 16:24, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
Manderson, I see that you've taken to slapping a dispute tag on any section where your sudden, unilateral edits are not accepted. Yet your accomplice, Radiant, told me off pretty rudely when I put one on (something like "one person's disagreement doesn't justify a tag"). You two can't play it both ways. Tony 16:48, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
I got the same treatment at WP:N, which Radiant was fairly controlling over. I stuck to my guns and got a lot of changes made over several months (I think largely because Centrx acted as something of an informal mediator between us). The point being, this double-standard isn't anything new. However, I think it should be noted that the nature of {{disputedtag}} has changed quite a bit since late 2006, when it was used at WP:N. Last I looked, its once very vague documentation is pretty explicit today that it is not to be used just because someone has a disagreement about something; that's what talk pages are for. The purpose of the template is to annotate for incoming readers that there is a widespread dispute on-going, so that they are aware that the section may not be reliable, and that there's a debate they may wish to participate in. Guidline language that's been stable in its message if not is exact word-for-word language hardly qualifies; a small handful of detractors of a section does not make the section "Disputed" in the sense of that template. Really, my present take on that tag is that it should not actually be applied by anyone who is a party to the debate, but rather only by a neutral one, since it's point is to serve incoming readers/editors relying on the policy page, not to help a party to the dispute get the message across that they don't agree with something or that they think that the community should be disputing it along with them. I.e., the template is for flagging genuine community not individual or mini-cabal disputes about policy. It is definitely being grossly abused on this projectpage. — SMcCandlish [talk] [cont] ‹(-¿-)› 15:33, 17 September 2007 (UTC)
My dispute is specific: That we have three exceptions and say "two". Fix that and take off the tag. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 17:32, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
That has absolutely nothing to do with my point. Tony 01:39, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

As for Lightmouse: it is precisely editorial judgment which takes account of the proximity of conversions. The eye of the reader should judge that, not a script. As for it being totally anti-metric, nonsense. There are articles which should use metric overwhelmingly (or natural units, which we have not yet discussed, and should); there are articles which should use US/Imperial overwhelmingly, because it's their subject matter. When both kinds of articles should convert should be decided by editors, not by scripts. (A program that would recognize these exceptions and allow for them would be most useful; a program that worked article by article, with human intervention, would be sensible; but we should not rewrite large patches of Wikipedia on autopilot.)

Please note also that MOS cannot make a script useless, or otherwise; it's a guideline. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 17:32, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

I have to disagree on a few points here. I think the clause "in topics such as the history of maritime law in which imperial units (for example, miles and nautical miles) are part of the subject" does, perhaps, carry the imprimatur of an anti-metric bias. I will say again, though, that something along the lines of "It is useful to provide metric/Imperial or Imperial/metric conversions, but excessive to convert exactly the same unit and value every time it occurs. No more than one conversion of the exact same unit and value should be made in any given paragraph." (that's my proposal) is appropriate, useful, and necessary.
I also have to disagree with Lightmouse and agree with Anderson on another point -- edits should not be made on autopilot. I appeciate the value and universality of the SI system, and acknowledge that articles should have both Imperial and metric units, but sweeping edits with bots or scripts is NOT a good solution. As I mentioned on Lightmouse's talk page, his conversions have swapped out phrases like "flew 600 miles" in naval articles, and replaced them with "{{convert|600|mi|km|-2}}, which now specifically implies statute miles and an inaccurate conversion to kilometres, when in fact the original intent was probably nautical miles. Also, that script, without a check by a reasonable editor afterward, repeat conversions of exactly the same unit value occur again and again in single paragraphs. That is plainly ridiculous. Lightmouse's assertion that his "metrication script cannot comply with this guideline so that will be the end of all the good work it does" is not a sufficient reason to prevent some sort of MOS limitation. Pages can be converted manually, with an editor checking for reasonable conversion frequency, and not wholesale markup that only makes a mess of parentheses. It will take longer, but it will be easier to read, require fewer cleanup edits, and will not introduce errors of statute v. nautical miles. If improving Wikipedia, and not eradicating the Imperial system, is the real goal, then this seems like a reasonable position. Sacxpert 20:29, 8 September 2007 (UTC)