Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 93

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Use of metric units in UK-related articles

MJCdetroit made this change back on 1 September, to introduce what in my view is a reasonable and realistic compromise:

"For UK-related articles, the main units are metric except for fields in which imperial are still officially used, such as street traffic."

Before that, the UK was covered in a blanket guidelines about all countries other than the US:

"For other country-related articles, the main units are metric; for example, 16 kilometres (10 mi)."

That had resulted from Crissov's removal of the fudgy-smudgy do-what-you-want non-guideline for UK-related articles (see second line):

"For UK-related, the main units are either metric or imperial (consistently within an article)."

Now, because of a fracas on an FAC page, where the nominators are insisting on old-speak as the main units (inconsistently, actually), it has come to my attention that MOS central still has the fudgy-smudgy version.

What are we going to do about this inconsistency? Tony (talk) 04:09, 22 December 2007 (UTC)

As set out on Metrication in the United Kingdom proposals to outlaw imperial units have now been withdrawn
"In August 2005, the European Commission announced it would require Britain to set a legal deadline for the completion of metrication.[1] However, on 9 May 2007, Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen announced that the European Commission had dropped its plans to enforce the abolition of Imperial measures from 2010. This means that 'supplementary' imperial indications will be able to continue indefinitely after that date. Furthermore, in a letter to the British MEP Ashley Mote dated 5 June 2007, Commissioner Verheugen announced that in relation to the mile and the pint, "the Commission has no intention to endanger the historical and cultural traditions of Member States."[2][3]"
References
  1. ^ Britain gave an inch. Now the EU wants 1.609km
  2. ^ Brussels is Caving in on Enforced Metrication of UK – at Last!
  3. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6988521.stm
Therefore I feel that the imperial units in common usage are stil appropriate for UK based articles - as long as there is internal consistency.— Rod talk 09:51, 22 December 2007 (UTC)
The whole issue is also muddied by inconsistencies in use among the general public in the UK, and while we still use miles and pints those inconsistencies are unlikely to go away. Younger generations, for example, would use metres or centimetres to describe their height, but miles for geographic distance – and it is geographic distance, not just street traffic. X is y miles from Z, whether by road, as the crow flies, or as a jumbo jet flies. Same with a pint of beer (and that's an Imperial pint, not the US pint, even more confusing) but litres and half litres of other liquids. Even an individual, of the appropriate age, often mixes and matches at the moment (stones & lbs for personal weight, kg & g for groceries, for example). Carre (talk) 10:58, 22 December 2007 (UTC)
Just to be clear, my edit was, "For UK-related, the main units are either metric or imperial (consistently within an article)." I thought that this, the original way it was written, is the best way to handle this. The British government (and the Canadian and some Caribbean governments for that matter) officially favor metric units. However, this may not be the preference among the population. We (the MOSNUM) should not try to force something that maybe considered inconsistent with how people actually would describe something in that location. As I said in my edit summary, "We should let the UK (and Commonwealth) editors decide this one", on the individual article level. I say to change it back to the September 1st version. —MJCdetroit (talk) 20:51, 22 December 2007 (UTC)
Generally Carre is on the money when describing usage. My view is that the article should use the appropriate units of measurements as used consistently in the relevant professional field in the UK in which the units are being discussed - e.g. what units do UK geographers use for distance? or how would a UK gazetteer describe geographic distances? In the present article (Wormshill) which sparked this debate the use of miles was disputed as a unit of measurement for geographic distance which then sat as an obvious inconsistency with the use of metres to describe geographic altitude and then feet as a unit to measure the depth of a denehole. My view is that inconsistency should be tolerated in UK articles - however clumsy or awkward that may be to non-UK readers - since official usage in the UK contains its own inconsistencies. Requiring usage to be linked to the common unit of measurement used in the relevant professional field is the best way to approach it in my opinion. Dick G (talk) 00:48, 23 December 2007 (UTC)
I think I understand the problem here now. I share Dick G's standpoint; the UK does use different measurements for different things. Sport is a great example of this - yards for football, furlongs for horseracing, metres for athletics, miles for marathons and the various forms of car racing. Certainly we don't measure mountains in miles or kilometres though, and distance across land is ususally in miles (per road signs). But if the system is consistent, and a conversion is provided, I don't see any real point of contention. It does strike as worrying that a convention that applies to the UK, hasn't involved British editors at any stage (Wikipedia's second largest contributor); I think a lack of communication has caused this issue. -- Jza84 · (talk) 02:28, 23 December 2007 (UTC)
In the matter of dual vs. metric-only labelling the European Commission did cave in regarding the US market, the influences to the UK were mere side effects.
What anyone feels should not matter at all. Christoph Päper (talk) 13:23, 24 December 2007 (UTC)

(unindent) My initial thought was that of course MJCdetroit's edit ought to be restored, and I still think it's better than any of this nonsense about "old-speak". But Dick G's point is well-made; in the UK different fields use different units of measurement, and it also made me wonder how articles about racehorses handle purchase prices or prize monies in guineas. So perhaps the issue is deeper than just about metric vs imperial. But the bottom line is that in the UK - old-speak or not - although we buy our beer by the pint and we measure our distances by the mile, it would be absurd in an article about a British 400-metre runner to have to convert that to a 437-yard runner. (Are US 400-metre runners described as 437-yard runners in their articles?) Is there any scope in the MOS for common sense when dealing with units of measurement? I'm in favour of their consistent use wherever possible, but consistent within the article, with common usage in the UK, and in the particular field being discussed. So I guess that comes down to how "consistent" is defined in MJCdetroit's edit. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Malleus Fatuarum (talkcontribs) 04:01, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

Yes, there is a little bit of common sense built in to the MOSNUM. The 400-metre runner example would fall under the "where inserting a conversion would make a common expression awkward (the four-minute mile)" provision of the same section in the MOSNUM. So it would not be converted. This would be in much the same way that "35 mm film" would not get converted either. —MJCdetroit (talk) 04:26, 23 December 2007 (UTC)
It is difficult at times to disentangle the real issues from the somewhat unprofessional language used in reviews in the article in question and in this discussion here (reference to "old speak", etc, when, as argued by Carre, it isn't old speak in the UK at all!) I agree with his assessment of the use of units in everyday life in the UK. I also think the suggestion by Dick G of how to resolve the issue is probably the best way forward. Like Jza84, I am surprised that a change was made which did not involve any of the editors from the UK: at the time there were many places where appropriate notification of changes could have been announced to initiate discussions, and there are probably more in existence now.  DDStretch  (talk) 10:24, 23 December 2007 (UTC)
Personally, I am in favour of MJCdetroit's amendment and that generally speaking metric units should be used as the default position. It is inevitable in a period of transition that there will be some confusion and inconsistency. Clearly there are exceptions and "he drank 0.56 litres (1 pint) of beer" is absurd, but in my view they should be just that - exceptions, and clearly listed as such.
If that were to to fail , the 'fudgy-smudgy' would be my next choice. It would be ridiculous to have Orkney in metric and Shetland in imperial of course, based purely on the whim of an editor or two, but at least individual articles would make sense. The idea that an article could routinely swop between the two systems based on some more-or-less arbitrary assumption about what was 'common usage' strikes me as being unworkable and indeed eccentric. If older editors and readers don't know what a kilometre or kg is then the helpful little bracket after the metric measure will help them. Yours from a 1,309 metre high mountain some 400 kilometres north of London. Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 12:10, 23 December 2007 (UTC)
I think Wikipedia should reflect modern formal usage. I still use miles in everyday conversation, but I know that the kilometre is the unit used to measure distances in formal situations. The MOS should specify metric as the default, and then list the situations where convention allows imperial measurements to be used in formal situations (measures in pubs etc.). Although people may use units such as stones and pounds in everyday conversation, kg etc. are used in newspaper articles, medical journals etc. Wikipedia should reflect formal useage, not what happens in informal conversation. Lurker (said · done) 13:52, 23 December 2007 (UTC)
But then you are going against what has always been accepted practice here - that we follow common usage in the country of origin. If we have a article on a british place and it says "X is 73km from Y", most british editors would have to do a conversation to try and work out what it means - nobody discusses distance or indeed speed in terms of kms. I'd also dispute that kgs are used in newspaper articles, if british newspaper article is going to say, for example, about a rugby player "he's a 120kgs of muscle", they will say "he's 16 stone of muscle". What are you are suggesting is a dicate that would actually lead to edit wars as UK editors see "foreign" metrics being used and spend their time converting them to something that makes sense to the majority of brits. I'm under 30 BTW rather than an old person. --Fredrick day (talk) 15:14, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

Oh as for "what newspapers use" - the times style guide states that (withan an overall context of shifting to metric) - he following will remain (for the time being) the principal exceptions to the foregoing:

1. Distances globally Give miles first, and convert (at first mention) to kilometres in brackets for all countries apart from the UK and the US. Speeds: use only miles per hour (mph) in the UK and US; for all other countries use mph but also convert to kilometres per hour (km/h) in brackets at first mention. 2. Personal measurements in height and weight. Continue to say she was 5ft 7in (1.7m) and weighed 9st 10lb (62kg).

3. Altitude and depth: The main exception to metric should be aircraft altitude, where a pilot will announce that "we are now flying at 33,000ft"; metric conversion to 10,058m may be used in brackets here. But now specify mountain heights in metric first, eg, Ben Nevis is the highest peak in Britain at 1,343m (4,406ft).

4. Volume: The main exceptions to metric should be pints of beer and cider, while milk (confusingly) is still sold in pint bottles as well as litre containers. With petrol and fuel now sold in litres rather than gallons, use metric, eg, 75p a litre (no longer any need to convert), but because car manufacturers still do so, give fuel consumption in miles per gallon. '' --Fredrick day (talk) 15:23, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

Just to confuse matters the Guardian Style Guide says:

"The Guardian uses the metric system for weights and measures; exceptions are the mile and the pint. As understanding of the two systems is a matter of generations, conversions (in brackets) to imperial units should be provided wherever this seems useful. Imperial units in quoted matter should be retained, and converted to metric [in square brackets] if it doesn't ruin the flow of the quote. It is not necessary to convert moderate distances between metres and yards, which are close enough for rough and ready purposes (though it is preferable to use metres), or small domestic quantities: two litres of wine, a kilogram of sugar, a couple of pounds of apples, a few inches of string. Small units should be converted when precision is required: 44mm (1.7in) of rain fell in two hours. Tons and tonnes (metric) are also close enough for most purposes to do without conversion; again use tonnes (except in shipping tonnage). Body weights and heights should always be converted in brackets: metres to feet and inches, kilograms to stones/pounds. Geographical heights and depths, of people, buildings, monuments etc, should be converted, metres to feet. In square measurement, land is given in sq metres, hectares and sq km; with sq yards, acres or sq miles in brackets where there is space to provide a conversion. The floor areas of buildings are conventionally expressed in sq metres (or sq ft). Take great care in conversions of square and cubic measures: 2 metres is about 6.5 feet, but 2 sq metres is about 10.5 feet"— Rod talk 17:27, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

A guide equating 2 sq metres to 10.5 feet—getting both the number and the unit wrong—is hardly worth mentioning as a source. −Woodstone (talk) 17:13, 24 December 2007 (UTC)
I'll second that. Recommending a conversion of 33,000 ft to 10,058 m is just about as bad. No, even worse with respect to Wikipedia usage; the square metres error is likely to be corrected, whereas false precision errors often hang around far too long. Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:17, 3 January 2008 (UTC)
  • Ok, so being a lawyer I couldn't resist trying to come up with a definition that covered this off. How about:

    For articles in which the subject matter is sited in the United Kingdom the appropriate unit of measurement is either: (a) the unit of measurement as consistently applied by officials or professionals in the United Kingdom; or (b) such unit of measurement as the principal newspapers or broadcasters of the United Kingdom would use, in each case in respect of the subject to which such unit relates.

Feel free to tone down the legalese :) Dick G (talk)

If the Times would convert an airplane altitude of 33000 feet to 10058 metres (not 10000), they thereby show their lack of competence in the field. The guideline to convert from miles to kilometres for the metric world is just the wrong way around. This guide therefore seems avoidable. The Guardian seems more sensible, though faulty still.
The beer pint is irrelevant for pretty much all articles in Wikipedia, UK-related or not. The same applies for the gold ounce, which is only used in pricing, not in measuring.
The English statute mile is the same as the US land mile for all practical purposes. I do not like it, but it is probably the most sensible approach to allow it (besides kilometres) for distances in the UK (and USA) for now. With speed limits defining source units are used of course, with conversion to km/h (not m/s) where necessary. For other speeds I tend to want to disallow miles per hour in UK-related articles – I know it is hopeless to want the same for US-related articles. If it is seen as necessary it should be the secondary unit.
Overall Wikipedia is written to last, unlike newspapers. It uses a formal style, unlike some of the mass media. It should also be readable by anyone, not just certain native speakers; the common denominator is metric, US customary units being provided as a mere service and imperial units – i.e. where they differ from the former – being virtually unused even today, especially legally. (There is the stone, but I believe it is not too much to ask Brits to understand either kilograms or plain pounds in an international project.)
JFTR, I really dislike the idea of specific style rules for articles related to Foo or because they were started / mainly written by John Doe. Christoph Päper (talk) 13:23, 24 December 2007 (UTC)
To be fair Wikipedia is a dynamic project. It can still be "written to last" when articles can be adjusted and evolve according to prevailing convention. In general the project would not seek to impose metric on US articles and in the same way it should not be used to impose metric on UK articles. Anything less underestimates the strength of feeling and the common understanding of those units in the UK. Policies do not need to be "one size fits all" to achieve credibility.Dick G (talk) 00:52, 25 December 2007 (UTC)
I think that pretty much all Brits do understand both kgs and lbs. But the fact remains that many common measurements like distance are still reported and recorded in imperial units like miles, furlongs and acres. The European Union has agreed that those units are acceptable, so I really can't see why wikipedia makes such a fuss about them.
The issue isn't about ownership by John Doe or anyone else. It's about being consistent with the terms used in the country or subject being written about. In point of fact, I think that it's the US articles that stick out like a sore thumb, where neither the metric or imperial measurement systems are used consistently. --Malleus Fatuorum (talk) 02:39, 29 December 2007 (UTC)
Actually, a bot has cleaned up many of the U.S. articles in this regard to make them more consistent. As for the UK related articles, I've changed the MOSNUM back to the original bullet (which is still in the MOS) giving editors the freedom to choose between the systems; which the UK editors were doing anyway. —MJCdetroit (talk) 03:11, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

This concerns me for two reasons. First of all, whilst it may bring peace in the short term, it will probably stoke up ongoing difficulties over the years to come. Let us imagine two villages somewhere in the UK.

Gramsford is 10 kilometres (6 miles) from Poundbury. The market cross is 200 metres (656 feet) above sea level, and the average summer temperature is 17 degrees C (63 degrees F). The village's tallest man is 2 metres (6 feet 8 inches) tall - he also recently won the 100 metres (110 yards) sprint at the annual gala and scored a goal from 20 metres (22 yards) against local soccer rivals Poundbury.

But

Poundbury is 6 miles (10 kilometres) from Poundbury. The market cross is 300 feet (91 metres) above sea level, and the average summer temperature is 66 degrees F (19 degrees C). The village's shortest man is 5 foot 1 inch (1.55metres) tall - he also recently won the 110 yards (100 metres) sprint at the annual gala and scored a goal from 22 yards (20 metres) against local soccer rivals Gramsford.

If they are stubs and I am interested in expanding one of them, I can probably get away with changing the details to my preferred system. What however if I find a GA and wish to take it to FA and do likewise? As time goes on and Wikipedia grows such conflicts become more and more likely.

Secondly, I am not sure that this 'fudge' allows for common sense exceptions. Do the citizens of Gramsford have to celebrate their sporting victories with 568 cl (1 pint) of beer? Is the reference to 110 yards in the Poundbury example correct? - the name of the race is "the 100 metres". Unless such exceptions are clearly listed I suspect this may run and run. Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 12:58, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

Unfortunately, too many of us spend too much of our time cleaning up articles looking just like that.
Gramsford is 10 kilometres (6 milesmi) from Poundbury. The base of the market cross is 200 metres (656660 feetft) above sea level, and the average summer temperature is 17 degrees CCelsius (63 degrees F°F). The village's tallest man is 2 metres (6 feetft 8 inchesin) tall - &mdashhe also recently won the 100 metresmetre (110109 yardsyd) sprint at the annual gala and scored a goal from 20 metres (22 yardsyd) against local soccer rivals Poundbury.
But
Poundbury is 6 miles (10 kilometreskm) from Poundbury. The base of the market cross is 300 feet (9190 metresm) above sea level, and the average summer temperature is 66 degrees FFahrenheit (19 degrees C°C). The village's shortest man is 5 footfeet 1 inch (1.55metresm) tall - —he also recently won the 110 yardsyard (100101 metresm) sprint at the annual gala and scored a goal from 22 yards (20 metresm) against local soccer rivals Gramsford.
It doesn't really matter a whole lot if we have two different articles, where:
Gramsford is 10 kilometres (6 mi) from Poundbury. The base of the market cross is 200 metres (660 ft) above sea level, and the average summer temperature is 17 degrees Celsius (63 °F). The village's tallest man is 2 metres (6 ft 8 in) tall—he also recently won the 100 metre (109 yd) sprint at the annual gala and scored a goal from 20 metres (22 yd) against local soccer rivals Poundbury.
But
Poundbury is 6 miles (10 km) from Poundbury. The base of the market cross is 300 feet (90 m) above sea level, and the average summer temperature is 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 °C). The village's shortest man is 5 feet 1 inch (1.55 m) tall—he also recently won the 110 yard (101 m) sprint at the annual gala and scored a goal from 22 yards (20 m) against local soccer rivals Gramsford.
Lots of problems, but the differences in two different articles pale to insignificance when compared to the rest of them. Gene Nygaard (talk) 17:22, 3 January 2008 (UTC)


  • My parting comment is that people who doggedly persist with old-speak fill me with revulsion. It's the most bloody-minded conservatism. No time for it. So I think it should be changed back to metrics for UK-related articles, and that's that. Tony (talk) 13:26, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

Some options

  • Perhaps it would be helpful to ensure that the current position has genuine support. There seem to me to be four options:
1) Metric first with a few very specific and listed exceptions including 'pint of beer' and race horse prize money.
Main advantage - consistency.
Disadvantage. Annoys people who think miles should come before kilometres and other pro-imperialists.
2) Metric first with a few very specific and listed exceptions such as 'pint of beer' and miles for land distances.
Advantage - fairly consistent and suits those who like miles.
Disadvantage. Annoys those who prefer imperial units.
3) The existing Fudge - editors must be consistent but can use either system (presume continuing use of a few very specific exceptions).
Advantage - internally consistent and editors can suit themselves.
Disadvantage. Inconsistent between articles. Possible edit wars.
4) Use commonly used phrases and 'professional standards' regardless of metric/imperial.
Advantage. Easy to understand for most British readers and corresponds closely to the way some (but not all) people think and speak
Disadvantages. Very internally inconsistent. Difficult (or at least annoying) to read for non-Brits. May need an ongoing set of adjudicators to determine which units to use in which contexts and a set of protocols that even British editors will find hard to remember. (Example below).
Gramsford is 6 miles (10 kilometres) from Poundbury. The market cross is 656 feet (200 metres) above sea level, and the average summer temperature is 17 degrees C (63 degrees F). In winter the temperature sometimes reaches minus 5 degrees C (23 degrees F). The village's tallest man is 6 feet 6 inches (2 metres) tall - he also recently won the 100 metres (110 yards) sprint at the annual gala. The highest hill in the area is 423 metres (1,388 feet) above sea level and there is regular race to the summit for all local horses over fifteen hands (1.52 metres) high. 10 stone (63.5 kg) jockey Bill Smith puts his success down to regular gym workouts where he aims to bench press 50kg (110 lbs).

Declaring an interest, I mostly work with articles such as Scottish islands where land distances are not much of an issue. I am in favour of (1), but would reluctantly accede to (2). (3) is ridiculous, but at least it is better than the mess that I fear (4) is likely to result in.

I make that two (Tony and I) in favour of (1). Any other takers? Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 15:24, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

Versions (1), (2), and MJCDetroit's version are identical in principle. I would accept any of them. People should note that there are adequate caveats elsewhere in the guidance (e.g. for non-metric source data). Lightmouse (talk) 15:49, 30 December 2007 (UTC)
No, there aren't "adequate caveats". This whole notion is nonsense. There is no monolithic usage that justifies that "hobgoblin of little minds" (i.e.,a foolish consistency, per Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes), trying to specify "metric-first" or "English-first" on an article-wide basis, let alone some vaguely defined classes of articles. The usage often varies in different fields of activity within an article. The usage often varies over time (official temperature records in degrees Fahrenheit through some date, and degrees Celsius thereafter, for example). The usage often varies with geographic location within an article. We don't need this additional bone of contention to conflict with and complicate those other "adequate caveats" to which Lightmouse refers. Gene Nygaard (talk) 13:41, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
Please pardon my inability to understand exactly what you mean. Are you proposing that Option 4 is appropriate (I don't think so) or that "do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" or …? Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 10:42, 2 January 2008 (UTC)
Of the options, option 4 is clearly the best, and clearly mischaracterized and phrased in a way as to discourage support. There is nothing to be gained by some strange supposed consistency between a distance between towns in miles and a tractive force in pounds force, or between a foot energy in calories and protein in grams per hundred grams and the size of a package, or between an area in acres and an international sale of 100,000 metric tons of wheat.
The biggest problem is that some vague notion of "UK-related" articles is the silliest basis on which to put a determination of which of several possible units of measures should be listed first. There are usually better reasons for the choice for each of the individual measurements. And there are going to be a great many articles in which not all of the primary measurements are best expressed in some limited subsystem of units. Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:11, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

I see that so far there is no support for either options 3 or 4 above in this section of the discussion. If there are no further comments I will amend the page back to some variant on "For UK-related articles, the main units are metric except for fields in which imperial are still officially used, such as street traffic." Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 14:27, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

  • Good move, Ben. Tony (talk) 14:54, 3 January 2008 (UTC)
Bad move. First, what is "UK-related"? Why should this apply to an automobile built in 1947, to an aeroplane built in the UK in 1933, or a railway line in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland that was disestablished in 1875? To the record high temperature at a place, which was recorded in 1913? What is "officially used"? and why does "street traffic" fit into that category? What measurements do you have in mind with respect to that "street traffic", for example? How broad is the notion of a "street" in UK-speak? Is it the same in other flavors of English? Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:39, 3 January 2008 (UTC)
    • I think Ben is basically on the right lines but the "UK-related" and "street traffic" phrasing is sufficiently ambiguous to allow for confusion. Naturally I'd prefer something a little tighter, perhaps a variant of my previous formulation? Thus: For articles in which the subject matter is principally sited in the United Kingdom the appropriate unit of measurement is metric save in the case of those instances where non-metric units of measurement are consistently applied by officials in the relevant field in the United Kingdom to which the subject matter relates.
    • As a final thought, have some pity for us Brits who have to persevere with "old-speak" because our government retains imperial measurements. We have to use miles because that's what our roadsigns and speedometers say. Furthermore every generation since the 1970s has been educated widely in both metric and imperial across all fields of measurement (perhaps more so than any other country?) and are, one would hope, capable of appreciating instantly both sets of units. We are not all stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the march of time but we do have to acknowledge those units we are presented with by our law-makers. Dick G (talk) 01:08, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
    • Gene Nygaard makes some valid points. Wikipedia, perhaps unfairly and unkindly, is thought to be written by twenty-years olds who are re-writing history; I know that it is not true, but it is worth considering whether it is 30 year-olds trying to re-write history. The UK went (partially) metric it the 1960s / 1970s; and we have a long history of engineering that predates this. Consider something simple like screw threads: I wish to talk about 1/8" BSW, 1/8"BSF, 0 BA, 3/8" BSW, 1&1/8" BSW threads, etc. Do those who wish to enforce rule (1) and (2), for example, require us to write about 0.125 cm BSW & BSF threads and 0.25 cm BSW & BSF threads - they don't exist; presumably you wish to deny that they ever existed, on the basis that metric threads are preferred. Similarly on armaments, World War I & II guns were designed in measurements of inches and pounds: we had 2" & 3" rockets (which are approximately (50 mm) and (75 mm) respectively, but they were not 50 mm & 75 mm rockets; and we had 25 lb guns; now we may have 120 mm and 155 mm guns. Canals and railways in the UK were built with Imperial gauge, not metric gauge. I would suggest that where something has been designed and/or built to metric units, then metric units should be preferred; and conversely were something has been designed and/or built to Imperial units, then Imperial units should be used. I'm all in favour of adding other units in brackets afterwards: I just don't accept that the cult of youth should be able to rewrite history, or pretend that anything before their time does not exist. So, I'm in favour of (1), (2), (3) and (4), when appropriate.Pyrotec (talk) 13:23, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
    • I sympathise with many of the points raised above. For example, I have a GA that concerns itself largely with 19th century engineering and is imperial and another GA that is primarily about the circumstances of a present-day island that is metric. GAC reviewers seem quite happy. What I am attempting to avoid is editors getting a ritual bollocking at FAC for not conforming to MOS. You can't be in favour of more than one system 'when appropriate' unless there are very detailed policies that outline what is and is not 'appropriate'. Lets not forget that we are all taking about the same information here, it's just the order it's presented in, and that conforming to the colloquial (UK) use of everyday language is just going to look daft (per example 4) to non UK readers. More later, must dash. Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 15:18, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
If GA-reviewers and FA-reviewers need to justify any pushiness along these lines based on sound reasoning applicable to a particular article, that is a good thing, not something to be whining about. Gene Nygaard (talk) 19:25, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

I'm suggesting that context is important. I have no problems with a article that talks about, say, a part that is 1.4 m x 45 mm x 45 mm (as I might buy timber that size from B&Q), and I can live without the feet and inches in brackets afterwards; but if I see an article about George Stephenson and railways, then I expect to read about 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)} gauge; I don't expect to see 1.4 m, 1.43 m, or 1.435 m gauge depending on now much expertise the box ticker who converts 4ft 8.5in has, I also expect to read articles about 7ft wide Narrow boats. My argument is technical: railway gauge is measured as 4ft8.5in and narrow boats as 7ft, these are principal units; the derived equivalents are (1.435m , or 1,435mm) and (2,121mm) so they go in brackets afterwards. 1.435m (4ft 8.5in) and 2,121mm (7ft) are not strictly interchangeable with 4ft 8.5in (1,435mm) and 7ft (2,121mm); as the figure in the brackets will change depending on the level of precision that is given to the conversion. That point, I see, has also been made above. That rule can be drafted quite precisely - the principal unit (metric, Imperial, mm, m, whatever) is used first and the derived units follow afterwards in brackets, with the necessary level of precision. Even the proverbial "box ticker" should be able to grasp that. Pyrotec (talk) 20:04, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

Indeed, 'source units' includes legacy units for articles about old trains and old canal boats. To digress into train spotting for a moment: Source data for Victorian trains was non-metric, so a metric conversion '(1435 mm)' should be second. Source data for trains being specified now is almost certainly hard metric '1435 mm', so I would expect that to be first. Perhaps you wisely chose the George Stephenson example to avoid the esoteric issue of rail metrication. Lightmouse (talk)
In 1965, the UK agreed to go (partially) metric within ten years (i.e. by 1975), so yes it is Victorian, but we are also talking World War I, World War II and in the UK more than 65% of the 20th Century; the USA followed much later.UK metric time line Pyrotec (talk) 14:30, 6 January 2008 (UTC) (re-edited. Pyrotec (talk) 15:35, 6 January 2008 (UTC) )
Yes, I agree with you. Lightmouse (talk) 15:00, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

Taking a step back to reflect

Many, too many problems and dicussions on this and nearby pages result from the wishy-washy, arbitrary and often random rule which decides on orthography, style of dates, system of measurement etc. to use in a given article. Geographic relation and relevance is taken into account, first and major authors, voodoo sometimes and, of course, the loudest and most persistent voices in Talk.

We could avoid, to a sane degree at least, these constantly returning battles, which often get lost in minor details, if we chose one simple style guide once and for all articles. This ruleset would not have exceptions that creep in just to cater for someone’s assumed or possible feelings; only well-founded ones would stay, e.g. such helping disambiguation.

To achieve this, we would have to concentrate on the lowest common denominator among the global readership (or the preference of the majority where no common denominator exists) and on reason. The authorship came second, because the wiki principle allows the individual to diverge as long as the community has a common goal. The goal is a coherent and consistent encyclopaedia of non-pareil quality and quantity.

There is no established form of International English yet, so we would have to create one, probably based on a select one. There really are not that many issues and they are all resolvable without one current variant looking like the major contributor. So maybe we would write analyse the color of the encyclopaedia at the center or analyze the colour of the encyclopedia at the centre or somehow else.

There is an International System of Units, however. It makes sense, though, to keep definitions in different systems intact. Associated standards might not all be applicable to Wikipedia; perhaps an adjective like 8cm instead of eight-centimetre serves our needs best, a small non-breaking space is still problematic on the Web and we use units outside formulas, where italic letters indicate variables, as well.

In numerical dates only an incremental or decremental order makes sense. With alphabetic month for prose, the parts of inversed order should be separated by a divisor, i.e. a comma, or maybe they should not be used at all.

And so forth.

We do not have to follow the established rules for books and newspapers too closely, because those are made with certain restrictions in mind, that do not apply in most usecases of WP (being a huge hypertext), e.g. brevity in thin columns or consequences from sequential reading and looks before logic.

Think about it and have a happy New Year (and new year), Christoph Päper (talk) 14:31, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

Advantages and disadvantages of "standardisation"

I have some major problems with this attempt to impose standards which may be unrealistic. To me the purpose of an encyclopedia is to record and represent the world. If we accept the definition cited at Encyclopedia then we need to use terms, units etc which have meaning for the readers.

I am not aware of any reliable profiles of the readership of wikipedia (that would be an interesting project in its own right) and therefore it is difficult to be sure what their needs/desires might be. I suspect that most readers look at UK topics if they live here or are considering visiting, or want to learn about what the UK is like, and therefore we should be representing this. I would agree with the comment above that many people in the UK can cope with both metric and imperial units, and that readers from elsewhere in the world can adapt if provided with alternatives and links to further info (eg wikilinking the first occurrence of a unit in an article).

The world related to units in the UK is not standardised it is "messy" and therefore I feel it is reasonable for wikipedia to reflect that messiness. To give a few examples: This morning I

  • Bought a container with 1.44 litres of milk
  • Received a letter from the National Blood Service asking for a pint of my blood (as long as I'm healthy & weigh more than 7st 12lbs)
  • Was asked by my 18 yr old (normally at university doing a science degree) about the fuel consumption of a 2nd hand car in miles per gallon
  • Had to find trainers for my 8 yr old who has just got Shoe size 2 (UK sizes) but her new ones are labelled in EU & US sizes.

I could go on - but that quick snippet of daily life illustrates the reality (not necessarily old-speak) and I would argue against the imposition by those who may not have as much insight into the UK of a simple metric for everything rule.

I don't have a problem with "For UK-related, the main units are either metric or imperial (consistently within an article)." and have taken several articles to GA & FA using that guidance.— Rod talk 09:24, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

I'm with Rod here on this one. The UK's units are a terrible, even politicised mess. I myself however never saw any problem with the previous wording. If the units are consistent and have a suitable conversion, I didn't see any harm, or even any objection from British users. -- Jza84 · (talk) 13:04, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
I think there is plenty of agreement here. Even in the examples quoted, there are nuances. The public-facing word for blood taken is 'pint', but blood is officially measured in 'units' (a variable amount of about 400 to 500 ml) or explicitly in ml. The public facing words on road signs are non-metric, but everything else with regard to road design and construction is metric. My only concern with the guideline is with the term 'consistency'. It might be misunderstood by non-UK (or even UK) editors. For example, Pan Am Flight 103 is inconsistent in its use of km, nautical miles and miles but some of the inconsistency might be reasonable if it can be attributed to the source data. Lightmouse (talk) 19:12, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
Pardon my recent absence with illness, but I am not at all sure there is 'plenty of agreement' save that we all notice that currently there is a lack of standardisation with regard to units of measurement in the UK. Some of us want metric first, some either/or consistently, some don't seem to mind a sort of vox pop usage. I'll come back with a few thoughts soon Insh Allah. Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 18:25, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

As there has been no further comment my supposition is that we have reached a stalemate rather than a genuine consensus, presumably one of the reasons the "the fudgy-smudgy do-what-you-want non-guideline" was reached in the first place. Absurd of course, but its main appeal seems to be that it offends fewest people. C'est la MOS. Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 19:21, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

I agree with Rodw's remarks here, and I have always taken what Jza84 wrote as read. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that when I did A levels, the education system was in a process of transition so that I did Physics using SI units, Chemistry using cgs units, and Applied Mathematics using Imperial units. "In the head conversion" is not a problem with me, but I appreciate that others may not find it so easy. If I were to become more prescriptive, however, I would definitely like us all to move to total use of SI units, but the reality (which, once again, I must state is not "old speak", much as I would like it to become so) seems to act so as to restrict us, and we must try to reflect reality here.  DDStretch  (talk) 11:04, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
I fear if we persist with the extant wording with its inherent ambiguity, we'll be dredging this one up again in a matter of months. "UK-related" and "officially used" are formulations that are going to continue to cause consternation. As a guideline it's wishy-washy enough that non-UK editors will struggle to interpret it; particularly in applying it as a preferred style for FACs, GACs &c. At the risk of laboring the point, can we not give this one a final, concerted shove, to see if we can get the MOS a little closer to a workable solution? My tuppence is reproduced for convenience: For articles in which the subject matter is principally sited in the United Kingdom the appropriate unit of measurement is metric save in the case of those instances where non-metric units of measurement are consistently applied by officials in the relevant field in the United Kingdom to which the subject matter relates. 05:53, 14 January 2008 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Rjgibb (talkcontribs)

Good example of the damage that autoformatting does

Just reviewed a FARC nomination (a FA that is on the chopping block). By going into the wiki-edit window, I discovered that many of the full dates are the wrong format for a US-related article. This has been on display for 99% of our readers for how long? I've removed the autoformatting and Amercianified the format for our readers out there, but only in one section, with a note on the FARC page.

If the autoformatting is changed, the problem will be the difficulty of knowing who has added/changed what date format in the future, which is disguised by the blue splotches that only we see.

In a week's time, I'll be presenting a proposal to change "is normally autoformatted" to "may be autoformatted" in MOSNUM. We owe it to our readers out there to manage date formattting better now. Tony (talk) 00:46, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

This seems to identify the wrong problem, which will lead to the wrong solution. Autoformatting isn't doing the damage here, but rather this exposes a general need to review articles in unregistered mode. Date formatting isn't the only preference settings to be concerned about when considering how articles appear to the 99%. Instead, it would be better to present a proposal at WP:FAR to include steps to review articles in logged-out mode. And date formatting seems to be the least of F-4 Phantom II's issues in FARC. Dl2000 (talk) 03:00, 23 December 2007 (UTC)
Oh no, and if you bring that proposal to MOSNUM I shall end up strongly opposing it again. Your edit lasted all of 22 minutes before it was reverted because day-month-year is the preferred format by the US Air Force and by WP:AIR. Please stop these continuous efforts to scrap the present autoformatting - it's starting to look like WP:POINT. -- Arwel (talk) 23:15, 23 December 2007 (UTC)
I also strongly oppose Tony's ripping out of links to kill autoformatting, but I don't see where day-month-year is specified in WP:AIR (which specifically defers to this guideline), and I don't give a rat's ass what the US Air Force uses, as these articles are not owned or maintained by them (or for them). Chris the speller (talk) 20:04, 24 December 2007 (UTC)
Actually, WP:AIR follows the general MOS on dates. (Also, the USAF uses a variety of date forms, depending on particular usage.) I think that requiring editors to log out to check the "presentation" is a non-starter. What seems to me a better approach is to create a "reader" that editors can employ to check it; I believe this could be easily integrated into existing editorial tools. Askari Mark (Talk) 21:01, 24 December 2007 (UTC)
Wouldn't it just be easier to go into your own preferences and turn it off? That's the way I have my own set up. —Elipongo (Talk contribs) 22:11, 24 December 2007 (UTC)
  • I have no idea why people are talking about turning off their preferences: all you need to do is view the edit-box to check for date-mess, where editors have insisted on blue-splashing an article with autoblotches. As for these accusations that I'm "ripping out" autoformatting—that's consistent with the hysterical, personalised reaction by a few people above, in contrast with the general support for inserting more explicit advice concerning optionalisation. I still have no intention of being swayed from advising people that they should consider autoformatting to be optional. MOSNUM already points out several instances in which it cannot be used. It's not mandatory by any stretch of the imagination. Tony (talk) 13:33, 26 December 2007 (UTC)
The root problem here is that the MOS is in error by calling month-day-year the "American format", because day-month-year is widely used in the American military (not just the USAF), or in writing about the military, which when taken together is not an inconsiderable body of work. Some use a combination: David Hackett Fischer's Pulitzer Prize winner Washington's Crossing uses month-day in the text, but day-month-year in the footnotes. The American National Biography uses day-month-year. Literate Americans will be familiar with both styles; the MOS claim that month-day-year is the "American format" is misleading.
Whether or not a Wikipedia article about an American military topic uses day-month-year or month-day-year is certainly too trivial for me to care about, but for those who worry about such minutiae, be aware that both styles are perfectly acceptable in such articles. There are probably hundreds of articles on American military topics that use day-month-year; none of them need "fixed". —Kevin Myers 01:25, 1 January 2008 (UTC)
Agreed. All Americans understand both formats; the only catch is that day-month-year seems kind of "formal" to us, but there is nothing wrong with an encyclopedia sounding formal! Some Americans (myself included) tend to prefer day-month-year anyway. (By way of disclaimer, I was raised in a US military family. Then again, so were millions of others.) — SMcCandlish [talk] [cont] ‹(-¿-)› 18:56, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
I wouldn't characterize it as "more formal", and doubt that many would. (BTW, I'm also one of those Americans who routinely use DD Month YYYY.) One thing to note about American military usage is that it generally avoids all-digit formats (at least other than YYYYMMDD), those hideous monstrosities such as 6/5/07 so common in general American usage.
Other examples in American usage of DD Month YYYY include Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and all but the earliest of the novels by James Michener. Nonetheless, our shorthand term "American format" is generally understood as intended, and isn't much more misleading than "ISO format". Gene Nygaard (talk) 19:53, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
I notice also that the US Department of Das Fatherland Security uses 'day, month, year': Customs Form and Immigration Form. A large number of editors in the US and elsewhere tolerate both formats. We know this because a large number of editors see dates exactly as written in the raw text. I think it is remarkable but satisfying that ambiguous 'mm' formats are rare on Wikipedia. I can see no disadvantage to having a per article guideline for dates that matches the per-article guidelines for spelling. Lightmouse (talk) 20:20, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
The only reason digits for months are rare on Wikipedia is that auto-formatting to make date preferences work is indeed the norm here, contrary to the arguments often put forth by Tony who doesn't like that feature. The only digits for months that are acceptable in formatting for preferences are in that 2008-01-07 format, any of the other formats with digits for months will give you an easily noticed and soon-fixed redlink. Gene Nygaard (talk) 20:59, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

Short dates and ambiguity

Could I suggest adding to the MOS a policy of converting all short dates to be compliant with the ISO standard. This would serve to eliminate ambiguity which use of the DD/MM/YY and/or MM/DD/YY formats may cause. --GW_SimulationsUser Page | Talk 01:30, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

Nice idea, but how many wp readers understand the ISO date format? On the other hand, what if the ISO format dates were always linked ... Thunderbird2 (talk) 14:11, 26 December 2007 (UTC)
What do you mean by "short dates"?
All-digit dates are nonsense, whether the full year is used or it is shortened to two digits as in your examples, and should always be removed, with the exception of the specific eight-digit YYYY-MM-DD format. That is the only format in which digits for the month should be acceptable. No "short" forms of that should be permitted.
There is a "short date" variant that is supported by date preferences linking; you can use three-letter abbreviations for the months, something that is particularly useful in some tables:
[[27 Dec]] [[2007]] displays as 27 Dec 2007
[[Dec 27]] [[2007]] displays as Dec 27 2007
[[27 Dec]], [[2007]] displays as 27 Dec, 2007
[[Dec 27]], [[2007]] displays as Dec 27, 2007
The actual display depends on your preferences setting. Gene Nygaard (talk) 03:36, 28 December 2007 (UTC)
Note that in the typical half-thought out notions so typical of this MoS, the project page says "Abbreviations such as Feb are used only where space is extremely limited, such as in tables and infoboxes." But actually, those are useful in tables even when space is not "extremely limited". They are useful in a column of numbers because both the years and the day of the month are more closely aligned in a column (even without a monospaced font) than they would be if some included the three-letter month "May" and others included the nine-letter month "September". That isn't necessarily because the space is "extremely limited". It works well even if there is only one other relatively narrow column involved. Gene Nygaard (talk) 03:45, 28 December 2007 (UTC)
As I understand it, DD/MM/YY and MM/DD/YY are already unacceptable under the MoS; nothing needs to be changed. Furthermore, DD/MM/YYYY and MM/DD/YYYY are just as unacceptable; it has nothing to do with "short" forms or "long" forms of the year. It is the digits for the month that are unacceptable, unless in YYYY-MM-DD format.
Where those formats exist, they need to be fixed. But we should not be over-specifying that they be replaced with an all-digit format. They can just as well be replaced by an acceptable spelled-out month, or in appropriate cases the first three letters of the month. (Note that because they are ambiguous, we do not always know how they should be fixed, no matter how we try to fix them.) Gene Nygaard (talk) 03:59, 28 December 2007 (UTC)

Dates of birth and death

Do single years in dates of birth and death have to be linked? The examples suggest they do. Epbr123 (talk) 18:30, 23 December 2007 (UTC)

See the Archive D4, section "Link only years?" (there's a link at the top of this page) from May 2007. The discussion was inconclusive. The best point was that it's more useful to link ancient years. I agree, if you link a birth year of 1066, I'm not likely to unlink it, but I'll probably delink 2006. Chris the speller (talk) 19:47, 24 December 2007 (UTC)
The reason I ask is because of this edit. From the examples in Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)#Dates of birth and death, I can see why some users might be confused about whether single year birth/death dates should be linked. Epbr123 (talk) 01:17, 25 December 2007 (UTC)
I am not "confused" thank you you very much. My response is here. Cheers, CP 18:20, 28 December 2007 (UTC)

Dates: MoS differs from what actually gets displayed

The MoS currently notes:

X mark.svg Incorrect October, 1976
Yes check.svg Correct October 1976

However, if one adds, say, [[December 27]] [[2007]] to an article and saves the page, it gets auto-formatted to:

December 27, 2007     <--- note the comma

Is this a known issue? If so, is it going to be changed to match the MoS, or is the MoS going to be changed to match the behavior? Right now the inconsistency is a little confusing. :) -- Hux (talk) 03:20, 28 December 2007 (UTC)

  • No comma without the date (27); comma mandatory in US formatting with the date. Tony (talk) 03:23, 28 December 2007 (UTC)

Mandatory in US formatting, except for the USAF (which has its own rules)? Thunderbird2 (talk) 18:29, 28 December 2007 (UTC)

No, go read that section again. USAF practices do not apply to Wikipedia, and WP:AIR defers to this guideline. Tony1's statement is correct. Chris the speller (talk) 01:15, 31 December 2007 (UTC)

Sports seasons that overlap years

I don't know if this topic has come up yet... ...But about sports seasons like in the Jim Boeheim article. Specifically the notable players section, since the years overlap each other, how should they be displayed?

Salisbury Steak (complaint dept. - contribs) 20:29, 28 December 2007 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dates_and numbers)#Longer periods says "A slash may be used to indicate regular defined yearly periods that do not coincide with calendar years (the financial year 1993/94)." Jɪmp 21:05, 28 December 2007 (UTC)
So then for a players career the correct way would be: (from 1993/94-1996/97)...Thanks, I must have missed that when I was looking at it. Salisbury Steak (complaint dept. - contribs) 01:02, 29 December 2007 (UTC)

Position of AD

Since when is it acceptable to put AD after the year? I was just pointed here because I changed the illiterate "471 AD" to the correct "AD 471" and someone changed it back, saying the Manual of Style allows it. Quite apart from the CE vs. AD issue, can we at least agree that if AD is going to be used, it should at least be used correctly? (Of course AD comes after the name of a century; "2nd century AD" is the only phrasing possible.) —Angr If you've written a quality article... 19:01, 29 December 2007 (UTC)

We could agree to put AD before the date. Or we could agree to put AD after the date, a now-common usage. I see no reason for specifying either; I'd say leave it alone unless the change is being made for purposes of consistency in an article. Gene Nygaard (talk) 01:43, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
If we were writing some kind of textbook to show people what usages are acceptable, listing two choices would be fine. That is not the purpose of a style manual for a single publication; the purpose of this style manual is to choose among the acceptable usages in order to make Wikipedia more cohesive. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 04:01, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

Should we tidy up usage of the terms 'SI' and 'metric'?

The term 'SI' is officially defined by the SI authority as "the modern form of the metric system". Thus for most purposes in the last few decades the terms 'SI' and 'metric system' are synonyms for units under the control of the SI authority. I know that there is a bit of fuzziness when it comes to legacy articles and the belief of people that some non-SI units are metric. However, the MoS uses both terms as synonyms. Certainly, I can detect no difference in intent between either use.

I was going to replace each instance of the term 'SI' with 'metric'. Or vice versa. It will not add or remove any constraint on editors, it will merely make the text more consistent. What do people think about using a single term rather than both? Lightmouse (talk) 16:19, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

I don't really have an opinion on your question, but if you're going to do some updating, the page should mention the International System of Units by name, instead of tossing around the "SI" acronym without being clear about who's in charge of this stuff. -/- Warren 16:30, 30 December 2007 (UTC)
I agree with Warren that "SI" should be spelt out, at least on first use. I don't know whether "SI units" and "metric units" are used synonymously in the MOSNUM text (it would not surprise me), but it is important to distinguish between them in general. Crissov recently made a well argued call for reflection on whether SI should be adopted more widely. He did not say (and I believe did not mean) "metric". Having said all that, I trust Lightmouse to make a sensible judgement here. If you think it's an improvement, be bold and do it. Thunderbird2 (talk) 17:41, 30 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes, "metric" is broader in general than the "International System of Units", a limited subset of the former. There is also the set of units which are "acceptable for use with SI", to further complicate things (the liter, for example, is not and never will be an SI unit, but it is acceptable for use with SI). Let's not have any foolish consistency in the MoS, but rather determine which term is appropriate in each case. Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:51, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
A peek at Category:Non-SI metric units might help some people better understand this; note especially the subcategory Category:CGS units and its contents as well. Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:55, 31 December 2007 (UTC)

Proposed clarification of "Date range" for autoformatting purposes

Recently Lightmouse delinked a pair of dates in Wikipedia:Manual of Style here where the pair of dates in question were 52 years apart, citing MoS guidance "Do not autoformat dates that are ... in date ranges". While I can see how Lightmouse gets his interpretation, this is an interpretation of the guidance which seems to me to be contrary to normal practice on Wikipedia since autoformatting was created in 2003, and would cause birth and death dates in many tens of thousands of biographical articles to be delinked, among other problems. The guidance note on WP:MOSDATE#Autoformatting_and_linking gives the example:

The autoformatting mechanism will not accept date ranges (December 13–17, 1951) or slashes (the night of 30/31 May), which must be input without using the function.

i.e. the range is only a few days. Further up the guidance, at WP:MOSDATE#Dates_of_birth_and_death, the item begins:

At the start of an article on a person, his or her dates of birth and death are provided. For example: "'''Charles Darwin''' ([[12 February]] [[1809]] – [[19 April]] [[1882]]) was a British ..."

thus clearly showing that it is intended to autolink 'date ranges' in this case, which has been normal practice.

I therefore propose to clarify the present guidance in WP:MOSDATE#Autoformatting_and_linking to make plain the original intention that only date ranges within the same calendar month are excluded from autoformatting, as the reason that guidance was given in the first place was because of the well-known problem of getting the appearance right with different formats in the same month ("29 December-30") which does not apply when separate months are involved ("29 December-1 January" or "December 29-January 1").

The proposed new guidance is:

Do not autoformat dates that are:
In date ranges within the same calendar month (see below). (inter alia).

Thoughts? -- Arwel (talk) 16:55, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

What's wrong with saying "[[12 February]] [[1809]] – [[28 February]] [[1809]]" - have it say what it means: "date ranges that are expressed without showing the full date for both ends of the range". —Random832 23:08, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

Excuse me, forcing our readers to digest that hedgehog just for the sake of using this blessed autoblotch system is just beyond belief. I have no objection to Arwel's wording. However, the reason the full date in MOS was delinked in the first place was because (1) it looks silly at the end of a list of non-date items, (2) it undesirably emphasises that last item over the others (newbies will ask "Why on earth?"), and (3) which format is displayed here (for the chosen few who log in and register their preference) is totally irrelevant to the point being made, which is about en dashes and ranges. Tony (talk) 23:20, 30 December 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for your support, Tony. I didn't revert that edit a second time because I agreed that the format wasn't particularly germane to the point at hand, although there would always be an element of "the wrong format" whichever one was chosen - there is always the risk that newbies would get the impression that one format was always preferred. Random832: Well, yes, you could link dates including the year as you suggest, but I think it looks unnatural - I can't think offhand of any instances on- or off-wiki where I've seen the year quoted twice in a date range within the same month. -- Arwel (talk) 01:27, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
Ahem. Please do not attribute this to me. The history of the article shows that my role is merely secondary. Tony made an edit. Dhaluza reverted him and made an assertion. I merely undid the revert because that assertion was inconsistent with the MoS as it stands. Lightmouse (talk) 11:31, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes, and then I reverted you because I thought the dates should have been linked, and a bit later Tony reverted me... I'll make the change in a few days if there are no objections. -- Arwel (talk) 11:46, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
"Make the change"? Can you clarify, Arwel? Just one comment: if newbies might be in danger of misconstruing the US date format in MOS as "always preferred", why would they not be in danger of thinking that the whole of WP requires US spelling? MOS is written in AmEng, merely because it was started in that variety. Tony (talk) 12:54, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
With "make the change" I simply mean apply the changed text to the guidance as described above. Really, don't read too much into words - I'm just allowing plenty of time for people to state their opinion rather than foisting the new text onto them with minimal discussion. AGF! As to AmEng, we don't have autoformatting for that, unlike dates. BTW, I think "Happy New Year" is in order in your timezone? -- Arwel (talk) —Preceding comment was added at 14:16, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
To Tony—the MoS being written in American English should not preclude examples which are not in American English. Nor of appropriate mention of other varieties of English. In fact, due to the nature of this guide in applying to articles written in various varieties of English, that would seem desirable.
To Arwel—some change is needed, but not necessarily along your lines. What is there is both too overprescriptive (I agree with Random832 and there are other options, used well in many Wikipedia articles, as well) and too broad, especially in the interpretation you pointed out in the disputed lifespan dates; but yours is also too overprescriptive. Gene Nygaard (talk) 15:07, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
Gene, could you give an example of what you would think is not too overprescriptive? -- Arwel (talk) 14:33, 1 January 2008 (UTC)
I think there are two issues:
  • 1. Guidance about brackets around dates. As with legal issues, the wording should match the intent. It clearly did not in this case. I think I agree with Arwel about the intent. As long as everybody else is happy, I will go along with whatever wording meets the intent.
  • 2. The use of autoformatting within the MoS itself. I agree with Tony that autoformatting is not required to understand the point being made and could have a negative effect. Article space and MoS space serve different purposes. The "style guide for the style guide" should not mandate autoformatting within the MoS. The priority should be clarity of communication, not trying to look like an article. Lightmouse (talk) 17:05, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
Why not use the date format that is used in the majority of sources related to each article with disambiguation to the mostly internationally recognised format (dd/mm/yyyy) on the first occurrence of a date format that is opposite? Fnagaton 07:02, 1 January 2008 (UTC)
Autoformatting doesn't exist for "disambiguation" purposes. It exists to make the articles more easily read when the preferences are set. For that, you need all the dates properly formatted. Gene Nygaard (talk) 07:51, 1 January 2008 (UTC)
What do you think is "properly formatted"? Fnagaton 13:27, 1 January 2008 (UTC)
"Properly formatted" means "wikilinked", thus "[[1 January]] [[2008]]" or "[[January 1]], [[2008]], - either will appear as the reader wishes to see it if the users preference is set. -- Arwel (talk) 14:33, 1 January 2008 (UTC)
So like I said above the format of the date used in the article should be that found in the reliable sources used for that article. Fnagaton 15:29, 1 January 2008 (UTC)
Most certainly not. That would leave us with a horde of ambiguous all-digit dates, for example. We are entitled to set our own "look and feel" and use a consistent style. In this case, our consistency limits it to a small number of options. It doesn't allow the display to include either decimal points as ordinal indicators on dates, nor "th" and the like. It doesn't include two-digit shortening outside of a range of years (no 15 January 79 when you mean 15 January 1979). No ugly "January 15 1979"; with autoformatting, a comma in the middle is always included (even for people who do not have preferences set) for Month DD, YYYY format, and it is always excluded in DD Month YYYY format. This is an important part of our overall look and feel; even if it does allow for a reasonable degree of variation, it is one consistent format within each of the classes of options available for preferences. Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:03, 2 January 2008 (UTC)
Not using the hint from the reliable sources means you get editors choosing their own personal preference, which is also broken. Fnagaton 23:20, 3 January 2008 (UTC)
  • (outdent) Yeah, pity about that heroic intention: many people, including me, find that it makes articles harder to read. Tony (talk) 08:18, 1 January 2008 (UTC)
The following are *not* reasons for autoformatting
  • ambiguity. Most editors use 'mmm' or 'mmmm' and they are unambiguous. The ISO format is the only unambiguous 'mm' style.
  • ease of reading. The highlighting of dates is a distraction that makes articles harder to read.
In all the discussions about autoformatting, the most common reasons given is:
  • preference. Similar to variant of english preference 'color' over 'colour'.
Lightmouse (talk) 14:06, 1 January 2008 (UTC)
  • I certainly agree with Lightmouse's observations immediately above, and his argument further up that in MOS, "the priority should be clarity of communication, not trying to look like an article". Tony (talk) 15:03, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

related Template:Daterange

On a related note, consider improvements to {{Daterange}}. -- SEWilco (talk) 17:33, 31 December 2007 (UTC)

user-friendly hard-space code

Hard spaces are the subject of a section in MOSNUM. May I point out to contributors that this requires hard spaces to be inserted between all instances of "p." and page number, and "pp." and page range. It is onerous using the current html code to satisfy the requirement in large numbers of references in an article.

It is in all our interests to vote for a better code, and to support the subsequent process of having it implemented technically. Noetica and others have finalised a shortlist of options for a new hard-space code; you can register your vote HERE. Tony (talk) 13:00, 31 December 2007 (UTC)

If it weren't grossly overused, due in large part to this subpage's recommendations, we wouldn't need any new code. Especially the example cited here by Tony, where a hard space serves no useful purpose. Gene Nygaard (talk) 13:24, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
An interesting minority opinion, Gene, especially given all of the recent discussion of spacing in numerals. Now consider this text:

12 sq ft (p. 37)

Are you happy for this text to break between 12 and sq, or sq and ft, or p. and 37? Most editors aren't, and such breaks are frowned upon in print. Current markup to prevent this? These are available:

{{nowrap|12 sq ft}} {{nowrap|p. 27}}

12&nbsp;sq&nbsp;ft (p.&nbsp;37)

Wikipedia can do better, as it has done by replacing <i>...</i> with ''...''.
Are you one of the 0.01% (my guess) of Wikipedia editors who prefer and use <i>...</i>?
Vote now, I say!– Noetica♬♩Talk 20:21, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I'm perfectly happy for that text to break between "12" and "sq". That's a logical place to break.
So are authorities such as the NIST Guide for the Use of the International System of Units (SI), and I don't know of any authority giving rules remotely close to the Wikipedia MoS nonsense.
That is even more self evident when you have measurements such as "G = (6.67428±0.00067)×10–11 m3 kg−1 s−2", as Gravitational constant does (expressed using math markup there). There are hundreds of other examples on Wikipedia more like this one than your "12 sq ft" example.
  • The only logical places for a break in that sequence are after the equal sign and "between the numeric element and the non-numeric element" (in Wikijargon terms), i.e. between the 10–11 and the m3.
  • It is rather short-sighted and senseless to write our rules as if the most complicated measurements anybody here is going to have to deal with is "12 ft" or something along those lines.
No, I'm not happy for that text to break between "sq" and "ft", but unfortunately the MoS does NOT say that it shouldn't. It prescribes nonbreaking spaces where they are not necessary, and yet doesn't mention them where they should exist, for example to keep a single unit symbol from breaking, or to keep a single number from breaking, as in its prescription of "33 1/3&nbsp;rpm" (33 1/3 rpm) rather than prescribing "33&nbsp;1/3 rpm" (33 1/3 rpm) or in "0.453 592 37 kg". Neither of those involve "numerical and non-numerical elements are separated by a space" (the Wikipedia magic invocation); the former is between two letters, and the latter is between two numerals.
Yes, I see no problem whatsoever with a break between "p." and "37". Gene Nygaard (talk) 08:13, 1 January 2008 (UTC)
Gene, it is mildly interesting to see your preconceptions on display, once again. Let me say where I agree with you: MOS and its satellites do not yet do an adequate job of prescribing uses of the hard space. (There, that's it!)
MOS should do better with prescriptions for the hard space; but I for one am reluctant to work towards that until we have adequate markup. For your information, other style guides do rule on such things. Some don't, much: they assume that it will all be fixed at the typesetting stage, and they don't address that stage. But we can't pass the buck here: we editors are writers, checkers, reviewers, and "typesetters" ourselves. Many who edit at MOS miss that salient difference. I fear you are one of them.
You might be interested in the deliverances of authorities that do rule on hard spaces and SI practice. Here's a sample I found, after just fifteen seconds of searching:

Leave a space between the number and the unit, for legibility. On a computer, use a non-breaking ("hard") space, when available, if there is a danger that the space will break and wrap to the next line. (Metric in Minutes: The Comprehensive Resource for Learning the Metric System (SI), Dennis Brownridge, 2001).

Then again, perhaps you will not be interested.
The source I cite cites the source you cite. But since yours is silent on the matter, mine has to supplement it with rules for hard spaces. However, even your source, in its HTML version itself uses the hard space where there is a risk of separating a number from the unit that follows:

[...] 0.25&nbsp;s is the correct form, <I>not</I> .25&nbsp;s. [...]

And though it doesn't use the format "p. xx", it does use the exactly analogous format "Sec. xx". In doing so, it consistently follows the very principle that MOS currently prescribes, and that you reject:

[...] that represents a number (see <a href="#10.2.1">Sec.&nbsp;10.2.1</a>,<a href="#10.2.3">Sec.&nbsp;10.2.3</a>, and <a href="#10.2.4">Sec.&nbsp;10.2.4</a> [...].

So the very source that you cite refutes you: not in what it says (because it says nothing relevant), but in what it does!
– Noetica♬♩Talk 11:48, 1 January 2008 (UTC)
"Do as they do, not as they say" doesn't really help you much with respect to NIST SP811. Not only do they not state such a rule, but they also don't follow such a rule, at least not invariable. The html version does not use spaces in many places where this Wikipedia MoS prescribes them. But it isn't also the html version, either. Let's look at the pdf version (86 pages) and the printed version available from here.


NIST Guide for the Use of the International System of Units (SI), 1995
Breaks at Section, etc. page
5 × 1010
NO3 molecules/cm3
Sec. 7.5 print p. 17
Secs.
6.1.1 to 6.1.8
Sec. 4.2 print p.4
(see Table
5.)
Sec. 6.2.2 pdf p. 26
(see Sec.
5.4)
Chapter 2 pdf p. 13
in Chapter
11, which
Preface pdf p. 6
Let's take a look at some more examples, also. Which of these is more sensible, the existing MoS guidance, or the way I'd do it?
Version Wikicoded Possible line breaks
MoS version constant&nbsp;(6.67428±0.00067)×10–11&nbsp;N m2 s−2
  • constant (6.67428±0.00067)×10–11 N
    m2 s−2
  • constant (6.67428±0.00067)×10–11 N m2
    s−2
My version constant (6.67428±0.00067)×10–11 N&nbsp;m2&nbsp;s−2
  • constant
    (6.67428±0.00067)×10–11 N m2 s−2
  • constant (6.67428±0.00067)×10–11
    N m2 s−2
Note that if I'm adding that constant myself, I'd generally prefer the alternative version "constant (6.67428±0.00067)×10–11 N·m2·s−2" with centered dots. The &middot; has a couple of advantages: 1) it is nonbreaking in Wikipedia, and 2) it is, AFAIK, thinner than a hard space, or at least no wider than it, in any font/platform/browser combination. But if the article already uses the also-acceptable spaces in this context, I'll likely leave it that way (going with the dots in case of preexisting inconsistency).
MoS version
(literal)
25,566.497&nbsp;acre feet per year
  • 25,566.497 acre
    feet per year
  • 25,566.497 acre feet
    per year
  • 25,566.497 acre feet per
    year
MoS version
(de facto)
25,566.497&nbsp;acre&nbsp;feet&nbsp;per&nbsp;year none
My version 25,566.497 acre-feet per year
  • 25,566.497
    acre-feet per year
  • 25,566.497 acre-feet
    per year
  • 25,566.497 acre-feet per
    year
Wikipedia hyphens appear to always be nonbreaking, which is weird. Is there any way to get around that?
MoS version
(literal)
five&nbsp;miles none
My version five miles five
miles
 
MoS version
(literal)
less than&nbsp;12&nbsp;lb/sq in
  • less
    than 12 lb/sq in
  • less than 12 lb/sq
    in
My version less than 12 lb/in²
  • less
    than 12 lb/in²
  • less than
    12 lb/in²
  • less than 12
    lb/in²
From Office of Commercial Space Transportation article. Note that these are not psi (so that is not an acceptable substitute here), these not units of pressure or stress; the pounds in this ballistic coefficient are not pounds-force. Note that we don't need to worry about spaces in the denominator of the units, breaking or breaking, if we use "in²". Note also that hardly anybody outside Wikipedia MoS uses "sq in" rather than "in²" in contexts such as this.
The MoS rules are wacky, often bass-ackwards from what they should be. In many measurements, the space between the numerical part and the units is a logical place for a break, there is no reason to avoid a break when using spelled out words rather than symbols, and there should be no breaks within the numerals, nor within the units expressed in symbolic form. Gene Nygaard (talk) 18:39, 1 January 2008 (UTC)

Noetica's response to Gene Nygaard

Gene, here are some points raised by your contributions above:

  • This section was initiated to remind editors of a discussion about possible new markup for the hard space, and in particular to invite editors to vote (HERE!). The link takes editors to an orderly discussion: one that has not been possible at this page or at WT:MOS.
  • While we are all free to divert to any topic we like, it is not helpful always to do so. The primary intention may be obscured.
  • Clearly you don't like the hard space much, no matter how it is implemented. Nevertheless, many MOS editors and others do want better markup for the hard space. And anyway, the question of markup should be treated separately from policies for the use of the hard space. Please try to respect the independence of these two issues.
  • Since you have raised the matter, though, I will answer you once more in summary form:
  • You wrote: "I'm perfectly happy for that text to break between '12' and 'sq'. That's a logical place to break." But you cannot cite a source that agrees with you. Some sources admit the need to compromise, in complex cases. No one disputes that some cases are difficult! On the other hand, where the issue is addressed at all in style guides, such a break is by default prohibited. I gave an excellent example above, and you ignored it. I could give more; but obviously I would be wasting my time. Instead of looking at the evidence presented, you pursue the detail of complex cases that demand compromise.
  • Yes, there are a few lapses in the HTML version of the work that you cited and that I analysed. So what? A consistent effort is made in that document to do exactly what MOS currently prescribes. How else can we account for the very prevalent use of &nbsp; in that document (in "Sec.&nbsp;xx" especially)? The PDF version of that document as you cite it supersedes the first printing in April 1995, and "includes some minor typographical corrections." All such documents are acknowledged to be fallible, and the newer printing is not perfect either. Again, so what?
  • You wrote, concerning hard space when giving page numbers, of "the example cited here by Tony, where a hard space serves no useful purpose". Faced with the evidence that major style guides addressing this issue agree with Tony and disagree with you, how will you react? For this, and the last point about numbers with units, consider the ruling from the pre-eminent British style guide:

The same device [the hard space] should be used to link abbreviations and numbers that belong together: 3 km, pp. 6–10, etc. (New Hart's Rules, 2005, section 2.5.1.)

That is an unimpeachable and respected source. You are entitled to disagree with its ruling (as I myself often disagree with CMOS). But very plainly yours is the opinion of a tiny minority.
  • In the end, you are free to write whatever you like here. But I would ask you to think first: separate the issues, and don't relentlessly push only your own agenda. Some of us want to focus on improving markup; your minority views on usage are a separate matter. Discuss them separately and elsewhere, please. I will engage with you on usage when markup is made rational. But no more here, and no more now.

– Noetica♬♩Talk 00:02, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

Since you have chosen to rely on Dennis Brownbridge's rules as one of your authorities, are you now willing to back me up on getting the MoS pages fixed in accordance with his next rule?
  • "Use normal (upright) type for unit and prefix symbols. Use italic (slanted) type for quantity, variable, and constant symbols." (See the subthread discussion in #combinations of units below.)
Note also that neither of the two authorities you cited provide any support whatsoever for using non-breaking spaces with spelled-out units. All their examples involve unit symbols, and simple one-unit-only (not involving more than one unit) symbols. Just like the situation with our MoS, the failure to include more complex examples is clear evidence of a half-thought out, unbaked idea. Calling for non-breaking spaces with spelled out units is just one of the ways in which the current MoS rules are grossly overreaching. The prior longstanding MoS rules did only apply to symbols.
In fact, New Hart's Rules is very explicit in limiting its scope to "abbreviations" for the units.
Note also that despite Brownbridge's "Guidelines for correct use (and common mistakes)", Rule 2, which you cited above, on the source code for that page the spaces are ordinary spaces, not non-breaking spaces, even for the examples such as "35 mm" illustrating that very rule. Gene Nygaard (talk) 04:53, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

Not relevant to the vote (although I like the idea of a simple markup rather than using &nbsp; to get hard spaces), but relevant to the MOS itself: just checked the {{harv}} series of reference templates, and they don't use &nbsp; in their code; I've left a message at harv's talk page to see if anyone objects to changing the templates. If there aren't any objections, I'll do that in the next few days. Carre (talk) 15:30, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
That's true, Carre. And it should be fixed. We need to make the same point more explicitly at WP:MOS and a few other places also. I'll do that myself in a moment.
Don't forget to vote! :)
– Noetica♬♩Talk 20:25, 31 December 2007 (UTC)
How do I look up what <i> means in Wikipedia? --Gerry Ashton (talk) 20:34, 31 December 2007 (UTC)

Wikipedia editors are not the only group interested in hard spaces. I recently discovered that the newest stable release of GNU Emacs (22.1.1) displays the Unicode no-break space (decimal code 160) as a colored underscore. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 23:34, 1 January 2008 (UTC)

  • Gerry Ashton and Gene Nygaard, there's too much talk and not enough action on this page. I'm very disappointed that you're causing the process of making a very worthwhile technical improvement to Wiki harder, not easier. I'm starting to think that you're just conservatives for the sake of being so, and will stand in the way of any change. Tony (talk) 06:12, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

combinations of units

Omegatron just added

  • When units are combined by multiplication, use a middle dot to separate them (kW·h, not kWh, kW h, kW-h, or kW•h)

It's a good edit, in the sense that it improves on what was there before. However, I see nothing wrong with a space (as alternative to the dot) to separate the units (kW h). I also agree with a point Gene Nygaard has made on numerous occasions, which is that unit symbols should not appear in italics. It helps nobody, and confounds those attempting to make a distinction between symbols representing variables (which in standard scientific writing practice are italicised) and symbols representing units (which are not). Thunderbird2 (talk) 21:56, 1 January 2008 (UTC)

The edit would be even better if it suggested easy ways to enter the dot, and specified which of the several Unicode raised dots should be used. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 22:20, 1 January 2008 (UTC)
It's the one which appears right in the top row of the characters on your edit screen, right after "Insert", the character following the right arrow and preceding the section sign. It is not the "bullet" character, which appears under "Symbols" there just before the paragraph sign. It is the one you can enter using &middot; (·) (not the one you get with &bull;; that • is heavier, the one in the final entry of THunderbird2's list). I enter it on my PC using numeric keypad Alt-0183, which means it could also be entered using &#183; · or &#0183; · or &#xB7; · as well.
I'd suggest "middle dot (&middot;)" on the project page, to show one way it can be achieved.
However, I think it is overprescriptive for us to prohibit the also-acceptable to the standards organizations use of a space in this context, but we need to specify that if a space is used it should be non-breaking. Can we recommend the middot (as the simpler, and easier to read version, taking up less space, while allowing the non-breaking space alternative? What would be the simplest way to specify that?
And yes, once again, symbols for units of measure should never be italicized. This rule was set forth by the CGPM way back in 1948, and there is no good reason for us not to follow it everwhere including the MoS pages. There are too many cases such as C for heat capacity and C for coulombs, T for temperature and T for teslas, and the like, where a distinction based on typography needs to be made. It causes people familiar with the normal rules to do a double-take to try to figure out what is meant, when they run across improperly italicized unit symbols. Gene Nygaard (talk) 02:05, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

Can anyone tell me what purpose this apparently eccentric change achieves? Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 10:34, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

Omegatron's edit specifies how to present combinations of units when they are multiplied together. The purpose of the change is to make such combinations unambiguous. For example to distinguish between a millisecond (ms) and a metre-second (m·s or m s). I see no eccentricity except the use of italics for unit symbols. Thunderbird2 (talk) 10:50, 2 January 2008 (UTC)
Accepting that there are ambiguities that need attention, in what countries or circumstances is anything other than 'kWh' normally used? A second more general question if I may. Given that such a change will likely impact many thousands of articles, by what mechanism are editors made aware of either the proposal or the outcome (other than the painful expedient of watching this page and its siblings)? Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 11:08, 2 January 2008 (UTC)
  • I don't know how often kWh is used as an abbreviation for kilowatt-hour, but I don't see it as the job of an encyclopaedia to promulgate the incorrect use of unit symbols, regardless of how common the error might be. It is the beauty of WP that we can fix these things as we find them.
  • The main mechanism for promulgating correct usage is through the watt-hour article itself (which I have just updated to give the correct unit symbol). Thunderbird2 (talk) 12:05, 2 January 2008 (UTC)
With all due respect, you have answered neither question. I shall assume that for the second is "none". I am afraid the further I wade into MOS the more dysfuctional it appears to be, and I would love to be corrected on this front. The idea that edits on obscure pages can result in thousands of articles falling foul of MOS without any serious discussion is bizarre. You suggest a correct usage, but based on what? I looked at 'What links here' from kilowatt-hour and any of the articles I looked at that had an abbreviation had 'kWh' (of course). I have little doubt that this idea will be widely ignored - and rightly so. Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 16:07, 2 January 2008 (UTC)
  • I did not reply to the first question because a) I consider it to be irrelevant, for the reasons stated (although I know editors who would probably disagree) and b) I don't know the answer anyway. I did answer the second question.
  • Your reply suggests that changes are made without discussion. In what sense is the change not being discussed? Thunderbird2 (talk) 16:49, 2 January 2008 (UTC)
There may be all kinds of things going on here that I do not understand but -
a) I conclude that 'kWh' is used just about everywhere except, for the nonce, Wikipedia. This seems to me to be an attempt to ignore standard usage rather than create a style based on the same. A sort of "MOS OR".
b) I note that the above discussion begins: "Omegatron just added", as opposed to "Omegatron just proposed" or "After discussion and agreement at WP:ABCD Omegatron just added.." (Obviously I could attempt to revert it but somehow I imagined that important changes in style affecting a whole raft of articles might somehow emerge after full discussion rather than just become a rather lame edit conflict.)
c) I suspect that one tenth of one per cent of users of 'kWh' bother to watch kilowatt-hour. I also note that whilst the "main mechanism for promulgating correct usage" is apparently the relevant article, you imply this occurred after the change here.
I fear it is the system that is the problem here, not those who are attempting to work with it in rather difficult circumstances. Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 17:49, 2 January 2008 (UTC) PS I am an XL5 fan myself.
I believe Omegatron's edit is an improvement. Otherwise I could have reverted it (and so could you). Consensus is sometimes achieved before making an edit and sometimes after. A controversial edit is liable to be reverted immediately, and so is best to discuss before-hand. You only need to watch the page a couple of days on the trot to witness that. But in less controversial cases, it is sometimes more effective to just get on and do it. Thunderbird2 (talk) 18:29, 3 January 2008 (UTC)
Ben MacDui does not seem to have noticed that language related to measurement is often controlled by an entirely different mechanism than language in general. The government (with the possible exception of France and Quebec) generally leaves language to develop according to the consensus of the people; for most language, "standard usage" is the arbitier of correct usage. However, language related to measurement is regulated by the government. Wikipedia is located in the United States, and the U.S. constitition, article 1, section 8, states: "The Congress shall have Power To. . .fix the Standard of Weights and Measures". I am not aware of a similar power that applies to split infinitives. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 18:28, 3 January 2008 (UTC)
I had noticed, and I see below that we agree that MOS's intention is not to reflect the ambiguities and inconsistencies of everyday language, but to provide a consistent style that helps readers and editors can follow. Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 15:04, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
Ben MacDui has also chosen to revert my correction to watt-hour. In doing so he removes the most obvious route by which other articles can be improved. That is his choice. Thunderbird2 (talk) 18:35, 3 January 2008 (UTC)
Well, it is a little mean to encourage me to be bold, and then grumble when I take you up on the suggestion. The reason I reverted the edit there is that I do not believe that 'kW h' is an accepted abbreviation. The edit certainly did not supply a reference. Perhaps I am ill-informed, but I don't believe that articles are the places either to suppress legitimate abbreviations or to invent usage for the supposed purposes of MOS. Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 15:04, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
Hello Ben. You had every right to revert my edit. As a result of my "grumbling" (your choice of word) Gerry Ashton gave you the reference you quite rightly insisted on, and Wikipedia has improved as a result of the whole process. I agree that abbreviations that are in widespread use should be acknowledged. Friends? Thunderbird2 (talk) 15:40, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
Friends - absolutely! I'll try to find time to look at the article again. Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 11:11, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

I went back to the article and added the abbreviation 'kWh' plus refs from 3 different countries and a combination of business, education and industry. It is (in my limited experience) by far the most commonly used abbreviation. If for practical reasons that still elude me MOSNUM wishes to use a less common style, so be it, but the article should reflect international usage, not exclude information to suit MOS. Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 11:41, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

specific counter proposal

How about this to replace Omegatron's new bullet:

  • When units are combined by multiplication, use a middle dot or hard space to separate them (e.g., for newton-metre, use the symbol N·m or N m, not Nm, N-m, or N•m)

Thunderbird2 (talk) 18:47, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

The space is allowed by NIST, but that does not mean we have to use it. This is a style manual, a place to make arbitrary choices between acceptable alternatives in order to make Wikipedia look better. I suggest that Wikipedia always use the middle dot, and avoid the hard space, for this purpose. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 18:55, 3 January 2008 (UTC)
I wonder is this to some degree a US/UK issue. To be candid I have never seen either 'middle dot' or 'Non-breaking_space' usage here. I also continue to wonder what the size of this problem is. 'kWh' is not likely to be confused with anything else. How many problem abbreviations are we talking about here? Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 15:04, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
How many? Those N·m discussed above, I've had people grumble about them. In addition to kW·h, Wikipedia has many articles using MW·h, GW·h, and TW·h.
More references:
SAE TSB003 Rules for the SAE Use of SI Metric Units, 1999, section C.1.17:
6. Symbols for units formed from other units by multiplication are indicated by means of a half-high (that is, centered) dot or space.
EXAMPLE— N·m or N m
BIPM SI brochure, 8th ed. 2006, section 5.1[1]
In forming products and quotients of unit symbols the normal rules of algebraic multiplication or division apply. Multiplication must be indicated by a space or a half-high (centred) dot (·), since otherwise some prefixes could be misinterpreted as a unit symbol.
Google search [2]
kW·h -kWh -Wikipedia
This Google search will show you many places outside Wikipedia which use "kW·h"; of course, it will also show you some using weird things like "kw/h" for this unit as well, but the main point is that this certainly is not a Wikipedia invention, and it is one specifically mentioned in various places as the proper way to do it. Gene Nygaard (talk) 15:59, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
More yet? Certainly.
"kgm" Nissan March Superturbo (which is, of course, the same as one of the pre-standardization symbols for kilograms, though that isn't what this is; this one should be converted to newton-meters)
"kgm" Browning Hi-Power (this one would convert to joules) this one and the torque example above should be "kgf·m" to disambiguate those nonstandard force units)
"kgm-3" Nuclear density
"kgm/min" Da Costa's syndrome (I don't even know what this is supposed to be)
"gm" Hepatorenal syndrome, this one shouldn't have a dot (shouldn't have an "m" either)
"mAh"
"VA"
Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:33, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

Sloppy and incorrect usage of unit names and symbols is rampant in commerce and in the popular media. Let's not sink to the level of the History channel, let's call for the correct usage in our manual of style. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 17:35, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

The Chicago Manual of Style says to use "kWh" etc. That's a more appropriate source for a general audience publication. A google search on kWh produces 8.3 million hits; kw.h produce 500,000 hits, most of which are kw-h. The dot is quite rare. --agr (talk) 12:35, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
Half a million hits is not "rare" by any stretch of the imagination. Furthermore, Google's "kWh" search includes the correct "kW·h" as well as "KWH" and "kwh" and a host of other improper usages. There's no reason for us not to do it properly, in accordance with the rules of the measurement standards organizations. Gene Nygaard (talk) 13:48, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
Very strange: a Google search for "kW·h -kWh" gives 7.3 million hits! Any explanation? −Woodstone (talk) 14:19, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
I got 118,000 for "kW-h -kWh". It's because the middot doesn't work like my hyphen does; your results would be the same if you replaced with with a space. You are getting a search for both terms kw and h, but the h doesn't have to follow as the next word after kw.
The results are different yet if you search for
  • "kW h" -kWh [936,000 hits]
Note that my quotation marks here are part of the search here; don't know why that differs from my results using kW-h, I thought they'd be about the same.
The hyphen when preceded by a space (or maybe if first character in search), of course, is a "not" operator; it is only when it is preceded by a letter that it works something like adding quotation marks, though apparently not exactly the same. The capitalization probably doesn't matter in any case. 69.57.91.44 (talk) 15:38, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
Still mysterious. Searches including quotes:
  • "kW·h" [581k hits]
  • "kW·h" -kWh [936k hits]
Apparently less is more. But all this is not relevant for the discussion. −Woodstone (talk) 15:58, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

Revised counter-proposal

Gerry, while I have no objection in principle to standardising on N·m, I have a very real, practical objection, which is that the symbol · appears on my screen as a meaningless black square. In case I am not the only user of WP afflicted with this problem, I suggest we compromise like this:

  • When units are combined by multiplication, use a middle dot (or hard space) to separate them (e.g., for newton-metre, use the symbol N·m or N m, not Nm, N-m, or N•m).

Thunderbird2 (talk) 11:33, 5 January 2008 (UTC)

The character is even in ISO 8859-1 (and MacRoman), that’s about as safe as you get if you don’t want to limit to ASCII. You’re either using a strange, overly simple or broken font, or your system is seriously malconfigured (although I don’t know how).
A single preference is always the better choice for a style guide. Christoph Päper (talk) 19:27, 5 January 2008 (UTC)

Further revised counter-proposal

OK, you've convinced me there's no significant advantage in permitting the space as alternative to the mid-dot. Does anyone object to this?

  • When units are combined by multiplication, use a middle dot to separate them (e.g., for newton-metre, use the symbol N·m, not Nm, N-m, N m or N•m).

Thunderbird2 (talk) 13:57, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

Oh geez

  1. Why do such little things generate such protracted discussion?
  2. I added it because of an edit changing my usage of a middle dot · to a big ol' • dot. I am pretty sure the latter is not recommended by any standard or style guide.
  3. I based this recommendation on the usage in kilowatt-hour, the standards, and what I've seen as the consensus of Wikipedia editors over several years.
  4. I italicized the units because every other unit in this section is italicized when used as an example.
  5. We should stick with standards unless they are really out there. This is just a style guide, after all. Anyone is free to ignore it.
  6. "Descriptive" in this context doesn't mean "describing the way units are used in conversations at the mall" or even "the way units are typically used in Wikipedia articles by people who don't care"; it means "a generalization of the outcomes of many independent Wikipedia discussions on this subject".
  7. I personally don't like the space variant, and it will be interpreted as "they left out the slash" by too many people. — Omegatron 02:07, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

Hmm - you are only free to ignore these guidelines if you don't intend to put an article through GA/FA. Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 11:11, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

Another revision to the counter-proposal

I suppose it's too complicated for some, but how about this, an attempt to cover the common kWh cases but exclude the confusing or uncommon ones:

  • When units are combined by multiplication, use a middle dot (or hard space) to separate them (e.g., for newton-metre, use the symbol N·m or N m, not Nm, N-m, or N•m). A combination that is commonly written with no space between units may be expressed in this way if this is unlikely to cause confusion (e.g., kWh for kW·h is acceptable, but kgm for kg·m is not). atakdoug 06:32, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

This makes sense to me. Ben MacDuiTalk/Walk 09:47, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

Why in the world would we encourage incorrect usage of units? How is "kW·h" likely to cause confusion?
And which is most "commonly written"? "kWh"? "kWhr"? "kW-hr"? My energy bill says "KWH".
It's fine if people put them in articles because they don't know any better, but we should at least be encouraging editors to fix them when possible. That's like saying "grammar and spelling errors are ok as long as they're common enough." — Omegatron 01:35, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
If we were writing a general purpose usage manual, not associated with any particular publication, we might wish to list every acceptable usage. But we are not. We are writing a style guide just for Wikipedia, and we should describe the best usage for our purposes. Out of the thousands of possible compound units that could be formed by multiplication, I only know of one that is often written with no separation of any kind between the two symbols: "kWh". Why is a compound symbol that departs from the system used to form all (or almost all) other compound symbols the best symbol to use in Wikipedia? --Gerry Ashton (talk) 02:33, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
I like the wording that is there now. If we wanted to permit exceptions, a much stronger case can be made for N m (or kW h), but even that did not find consensus. The place to mention that alternative symbols or abbreviations may be encountered is in the relevant individual articles, which in this case would be watt hour. Thunderbird2 (talk) 09:24, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

Is the ångström a 'natural unit'?

The MoS contains the phrase:

  • "For example, natural units are often used: ångströms (or angstroms) are widely used ..."

I find it difficult to parse this. I looked at the link to the 'natural units' article and could not find ångström there. Can anybody tell me what that phrase means? Lightmouse (talk) 13:53, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

No, the ångström is no more natural than the nautical mile, it's no natural unit. It seems to me that there's been some confusions of senses of the word natural. I don't believe that what was intended was the reference to natural units but to units the use of which seems "natural" in that feild, i.e. those units which are typically used there. Jɪmp 14:31, 2 January 2008 (UTC)
I've changed it to "... for example, natural units are often used in relativistic and quantum physics, ångströms are widely used ..." Jɪmp 14:38, 2 January 2008 (UTC)
Thanks.
Digressing a little, that bullet is too dogmatic. It should be modified to permit non-specialist options. Wikipedia is not an in-house publication targetted at specialists. It is an encyclopedia for non-specialists. Conventions within domains are relevant but not decisive. We should not *mandate* lakhs, dunams, hectolitres, ångströms, or tatami just because they are common in specialist publications. If an SI term does the job, it is worth using for the benefit of communication in a pan-domain international publication used by both specialists and non-specialists. Lightmouse (talk) 15:11, 2 January 2008 (UTC)
The biggest problem with this section is that its whole purpose to prohibit the sensible conversions to the interdisciplinary and International System of Units. The rule here has nothing to do with sometimes including other units, but merely with saying that we cannot include conversions of them It should be thrown out in its entirety. And angstroms in particular are one unit not deserving of any special notice as being generally acceptable—I have no problem with their occasional use, as long as they are converted to the modern SI units as well. But there is absolutely no good reason to give them any endorsement on this MoS page. Gene Nygaard (talk) 15:27, 2 January 2008 (UTC)
Lightmouse makes a good point, which is reminiscent of Crissov's call for "reflection" a couple of days ago. This is a pan-national encyclopaedia that should use - for the benefit of its pan-national readership - a pan-national system of units. This is precisely the purpose for which the International System of Units (or SI) was developed. There should be a statement encouraging its use as default at the start of the "Units of measurement" section. Thunderbird2 (talk) 15:57, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

Digression on spelling: "ångström" and "angstrom"

The point about the ångström that I would raise right here is the spelling. JIMP has taken out the alternative spelling angstrom. This was the topic of a long exchange some time ago. Given that angstrom and several other variants are in style guides, most dictionaries, scientific literature, and Wikipedia, I suggest we retain the major alternative.

A Wikipedia search on one variant will find the others. But once a relevant article has been located through a Wikipedia search, a reader's or editor's browser search through a long article will find only the form searched for. For the reader, this then requires reading through the article until the wanted term is found. For the editor, it adds to the risk of errors and omissions in improving articles.

Google distinguishes between the forms, and a search on one may not find another.

Ångström itself gives the major variant immediately:

An ångström or angstrom (symbol Å) (pronounced /ˈæŋstrəm/ (deprecated template); Swedish: IPA: [ˈɔ̀ŋstrœm]) is a non-SI unit of length that is internationally recognized,...

Ångström and ångström are both exceedingly awkward to type in, as editors conributing to this very discussion have found! So unfriendly to new editors, especially. This also makes it hard to input them as search terms.

A Windows search for a filename (or file content) that includes ångström will not retrieve angstrom, and vice versa. Same for a search in MSWord. So if you have Wikipedia content stored locally, or want to edit it locally, the most used platform and the most used wordprocessor are at a loss with ångström and angstrom. But having one instance of each at the most salient locations helps dramatically.

For these reasons I am reinstating the variant (just one occurrence) in this long project page. Please leave it there: unless you present compelling reasons to remove it, strong enough to overcome the reasons I have taken the trouble to spell out here.

– Noetica♬♩Talk 23:35, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

If the spelling of ångström causes so much grief, why is it even mentioned here? There are plenty other examples given to make the point. I say remove it altogether. What is needed is an example of a "natural unit", as the meaning is not explained. I suggest electron-volt. Thunderbird2 (talk) 09:09, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
I'd say spell it the normal English way, angstrom. Just as the normal English spelling of ampere differs from the French spelling of that unit, and though it isn't named after a person, both English spellings of the meter differ from its spelling in French or Spanish or whatever. Even though ångström is one of the things I can easily enter myself; I've gotten pretty quick on my Alt-keypad entry of those characters plus a few others.
I wouldn't bet on Noetica's claim about search engines. It is possible that in this specific instance most of them will generally treat "angstrom" and "ångström" as synonyms, it is not in the general case true for spelling variants like that. And in any case, it can be at least partially overridden in most search engines. Just try the Google advanced searches for "angstrom -ångström" or "ångström -angstrom". Neither of them come up empty. Far from it, in fact, with 1.8 million hits for the former, and over 100,000 for the latter.
Just checked it out; not only would I not bet on it, but Noetica is just plain flat-out wrong. Here is the clincher:
Do this Google search for the unit plus the phrase "interplanar spacings" on English Wikipedia:[3]
  • angstrom "interplanar spacings" site:en.wikipedia.org [0 hits]
Now try it again, changing the angstrom to ångström and you can find the article you were looking for, the one that Google missed when using the normal English spelling.
Other search engines such as the Yahoo! and the primitive Yahoo!-driven search engine on your Wikipedia page with the "Go" or "Search" box will also treat them differently. The Wikipedia one especially; its so crude that I'd be surprised if many people ever use it for serious searches, as opposed to being thrown into it when the article name you typed in and hoped to go to doesn't exist. Gene Nygaard (talk) 09:58, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
To Thunderbird2's suggestion: The electronvolt (modern preferred spelling) is not a "natural unit" either. See, for example, NIST Special Publication 811, with Sec. 5.1.3 Electronvolt and unified atomic mass unit,[4] contrasted with Sec. 5.1.4 Natural and atomic units.[5] Gene Nygaard (talk) 10:22, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
I stand corrected then. Also, I didn't notice that the term "natural unit" is already linked, making an example less important. I still think that including ångström/angstrom is overkill. Thunderbird2 (talk) 10:42, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
Let me clarify my comment above, too. There is a great big if involved here. I'd only say go with "angstrom" as opposed to "ångström" if there were any good reason for this unit to be mentioned at all in the MoS. But I don't see any such reason. Unless we are going to say never use it except in discussions of its existence and definition, there is no reason for it to be here. If we want to say that angstroms don't fit our style, that we choose not to make ourselves look like a herd of dinosaurs, and that when used in any actual measurements they can be replaced on sight with SI units, with the angstroms completely removed from the text, I'd be happy with that. In this case, we generally don't have the situation of losing the sense of the precision of the original measurement, as we do with many other old units that are not related to the SI units by even powers of 10, such as millimeters of mercury or kilograms-force. Gene Nygaard (talk) 10:56, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

Gene Nygaard, before you claim that an editor making a careful, reasoned submission here is "just plain flat-out wrong" wrong, get your own facts right. No, wait: read first, then think, then experiment, then get your facts right, then report accurately.
I wrote (emphasis added, now):

Google distinguishes between the forms, and a search on one may not find another.

That is a cautious statement, based on experience and analysis. Your reponse is wild. Conduct the following two searches in Google (including the quote marks):

Search 1. "of 17 ångström"

Search 2. "of 17 angstrom"

Report your results here. And I await your retraction and your apology.
Which other statements of mine do you question? I want details, not blustering accusations that I am wrong, when I have checked my facts assiduously.
– Noetica♬♩Talk 11:07, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
I owe you no apology whatsoever. You claimed that "A Wikipedia search on one variant will find the others." That is false. Sometimes true, sure, as I said. They are indeed sometimes treated as synonyms by search engines. But all it takes is one counter-example to prove that false as a general statement.
I will grant that there is some ambiguity in what you meant by that—what did you intend by "a Wikipedia search"? But no matter what you intended, the simple fact is that most anybody else will read that as I did, as applying to a search of Wikipedia on any search engine. You clearly knew that I was so interpreting it, because what I talked about was a Google search, and then you told me to do the search below "on Google" and report on it. (Nobody actually uses the box on our Wikipedia pages for any serious searches, do they? That's used for its "Go" function, it switches to an occasionally useful search if an article with that particular spelling and capitalization is not found.)
Here is your suggested search
Google hits link
"of 17 ångström" 0 [6]
"of 17 angstrom" 18 [7]
Wikipedia built-in search engine hits link
of 17 ångström 71 [8]
of 17 angstrom 71 [9]
Note that the crude Wikipedia search will not do exact phrases. Including quotation marks around those searches results in zero hits. The word "of" is most likely completely ignored. Not sure if it is an "and" search for both "17" and "angstrom/ångström"; it is not an "or" search (would have more hits).
The Google results you asked me to report on clearly disprove your prior claim that "A Wikipedia search on one variant will find the others." Gene Nygaard (talk) 12:22, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

Gene Nygaard, anyone who reads through what you have just written, and who then looks above to check what's going on, will find that you are completely and utterly lost.

Yet again, look at what I wrote (do try to pay attention this time, especially to the added emphasis):

A Wikipedia search on one variant will find the others. But once a relevant article has been located through a Wikipedia search, a reader's or editor's browser search through a long article will find only the form searched for. For the reader, this then requires reading through the article until the wanted term is found. For the editor, it adds to the risk of errors and omissions in improving articles.

Google distinguishes between the forms, and a search on one may not find another.

Now, all the evidence you present above confirms what I have written! It is therefore astonishing that you claim the contrary, and seek to have it seem that I was incautious. I used the phrase Wikipedia search with its obvious meaning: twice. It is a search using Wikipedia's search facility. I had not at that stage even mentioned Google. Then in a new paragraph, I went on to say something about Google (something true!).

No one with the slightest interest in reading through this painful exchange, and equipped with even a modicum of capacity to analyse, will be convinced for a moment.

It is clear that you are either unwilling or unable to deal with the rather simple issue I have raised. I suggest we drop the matter, and move on. It is absurd that I should have to labour at demonstrating the obvious to you, over a two-word clarification on the page we are supposed to be improving.

– Noetica♬♩Talk 21:52, 4 January 2008 (UTC)[A link added, later.– Noetica♬♩Talk]


Shall I try explain why I removed it in the first place? Surely the MoS is no place for details such as this. The word had been linked to its article so anyone interested in the details could have looked there. Removal of clutter: this is the reason which compelled me to remove the varient spelling. Could you have found the word with this search engine or that? What did it matter? The mention of the unit was merely for the purpose of example. If you're looking for ångströms, what use would what you'd have found here have been? They've been removed altogether now so varient spelling is a moot point ... as long as it stays that way ... and well it should for this is not the type of unit we should be encouraging as Gene rightly points out. Jɪmp 18:42, 5 January 2008 (UTC)

Thanks, Jimp. (Thanks also to Thunderbird2 for removing ångström from the text.) Of course I understand your reasons for taking out the gloss angstrom; and I am sure you can understand the reasons I have put forward for retaining one occurrence of it on this long project page, if that unruly term ångström had been retained.
The angstrom-Angst has served to illustrate a number of problems in devising and maintaining MOS guidelines. They are important, and we should direct our attention to them.
– Noetica♬♩Talk 22:53, 5 January 2008 (UTC)

Proposed revision of section "Which system to use"

The current text is:

Which system to use
  • For US-related articles, the main units are US units; for example, 10 miles (16 km).
  • For UK-related, the main units are either metric or imperial (consistently within an article).
  • For other country-related articles, the main units are metric; for example, 16 kilometres (10 mi).
  • American English spells metric units with final -er (kilometer); in all other varieties of English, including Canadian English, -re is used (kilometre).
  • In scientific articles, use the units employed in the current scientific literature on that topic. This will usually be SI, but not always, for example, natural units are often used in relativistic and quantum physics, ångströms (or angstroms) are widely used in such fields as x-ray crystallography and structural chemistry, and Hubble's constant should be quoted in its most common unit of (km/s)/Mpc rather than its SI unit of s−1.
  • If editors cannot agree on the sequence of units, put the source value first and the converted value second. If the choice of units is arbitrary, use SI units as the main unit, with converted units in parentheses.

I propose simplifying and replacing that with:

Which system to use
By default, the main units are SI. Exceptions are as follows:
  • For US-related articles, the main units are US units; for example, 10 miles (16 km).
  • For UK-related articles, the main units are either SI or imperial.
Sequence of units
  • Main units should come before any other units.
  • If editors cannot agree on the sequence of units, put the source value first and the converted value second.
Spelling
  • American English spells SI units with final -er (kilometer); in all other varieties of English, including Canadian English, -re is used (kilometre).

I think it expresses the same principles in a simpler form, apart from eliminating the bizarre prohibition on SI units in some scientific articles. Comments? Lightmouse (talk) 17:56, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

I agree with this proposal. At work we use angstroms all the time (UV and visible light astronomy) but before I started working here I wouldn't have known one from a hole in the ground. FYI: an angstrom is 1/10th of a nanometer. Dfmclean (talk) 18:09, 2 January 2008 (UTC)
If you are going to get into spelling, Americans don't use "tonnes" either, but Canadians do. Gene Nygaard (talk) 19:10, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

I'd throw the whole thing out. Sure, if I had my druthers, I'd do an all-SI encyclopedia and get rid of everything else, but I'd be in a small minority there. But this is just too much of a gross oversimplification. And to much U.S./UK–centric on top of it. There are too many contexts for which the most-used units in the U.S. are metric, for example. For another example, Australia is one of the few places where SI units are common for food energy, even though a number of other places in the world do include the SI units on their nutrition labels; but the U.S. does not use U.S. units in this context, nor does the UK use imperial units. No British thermal units for this anywhere, nor foot-pounds force. Rather, both the U.S. and UK use a different flavor of Fred Flintstone units. Another example is blood pressure. Not SI in most places. Not U.S. units anywhere, either. Gene Nygaard (talk) 19:23, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

I think a lot of discussion (a.k.a. arguing) went into that "scientific articles" bullet part. If you were to drop/alter it, you may cause another huge storm over it again. It's probably best to just leave well enough alone.
I know this is a discussion up above this discussion, but for what's it worth: I wouldn't use the term SI. I would use the term metric instead. Reason being, that I've seen editors change Hectares to square kilometers and even square meters and change centimeters to meters, some claiming to do so to comply with SI format (or something similar). I don't remember anyone changing grams to kilograms, but I am sure somewhere that someone is itching to do so. I think that the Hubble example kind of demonstrates that common use of non-SI metric units. There is also the odd need to include the SI unit hPa with the metric unit mbar in almost all Hurricane articles. Millibar, the standard metric unit for hurricane pressure used by most sources that I've seen and hPa are equal to each other and it looks odd right next to each other in articles such as Hurricane Katrina. Another area that I've seen this, is the use of the metric unit centipoise (cP) and the SI unit millipascal-second (mPa·s) for viscosity measurements. Again both are equal to each other and cP is the more common of the two in usage. While adding the SI unit of equal quantity looks odd, I can only assume that there is a need for it. My thinking is that if you use the term SI instead of metric, someone may take that as a license to start removing non-SI metric units that maybe much more common to that particular situation (i.e. the Hubble telescope or viscosity of Toluene). —MJCdetroit (talk) 21:24, 2 January 2008 (UTC)
The addition of SI units (in the proper, strictest meaning) should always be acceptable, at least in the case of other units not specifically listed as acceptable for use with the SI (and in most cases for those units as well). That's the modern metric system, the one taught throughout the world, the one most likely to be understood by anyone, the interdisciplinary as well as the international standard. Just like much of the old computer software, there is only one system of measurements still fully supported and updated today. Some people can get by without updating for a while, but eventually they will find a need to communicate with the rest of the world and need to make the upgrade. To what extent non-SI units should remain and especially whether they should be added to articles already including the SI measurements is debatable, but it doesn't matter if they are numerically equivalent or not, it is still different units and some people are going to be familiar with one and not the other. And remember, we are addressing a general audience; jargon peculiar to a particular field of activity would at most justify the inclusion of that jargon usage in an article. It does not justify exclusion of the units understood by a more general audience (which will, in almost every case, also be understood quite readily by those familiar with the obsolete units still clung to by dinosaurs in that field). Gene Nygaard (talk) 04:27, 3 January 2008 (UTC)
Two points:
  • The default should definitely read "SI", and not "metric". The whole point about SI is that it is an international system of units, understood the world over. I see no a priori reason to prefer non-SI metric units over other non-SI units. At the same time it needs to be clear that the default units are there for when there is no obvious alternative (isn't that what "default" means?).
  • I see no need to mention differences in spelling, except to remark that usual spelling rules apply.
Thunderbird2 (talk) 10:16, 3 January 2008 (UTC)
Can we move forward on this? Feel free to make alternative proposals. Lightmouse (talk) 09:33, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
Gene Nygaard: if I had my druthers, I'd do an all-SI encyclopedia and get rid of everything else, but I'd be in a small minority there. I'd certainly be in that minority, and wonder how small the minority would be. I also wonder about the truth of the frequent allegations hereabouts that Brits have great difficulties with units that are used consistently to their immediate east, south, and west, and often even, I think, among themselves.
Archaic measurements are of course fine for matters that were (or, bizarrely, still are) so defined. And non-SI metric units too have their little places. -- Hoary (talk) 12:42, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

I would like to see something that embodies two simple principles: that units are chosen by local consensus; and that the preferred default system, in absence of consensus, is SI. Perhaps something like this:


Which system to use
  • The system of units is chosen by consensus per article. Once chosen, the units are applied consistently within that article.
  • Where no clear consensus emerges, the International System of Units (SI) is used.
  • In those articles for which a consensus emerges to use an alternative, a conversion to SI is provided (example conversion here)
  • All non-SI units are linked or defined on first use.

What this text does not address is the loss of accuracy that can arise due to conversion from source units. I think that can be treated as a separate point. Thunderbird2 (talk) 12:46, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

I disagree with the proposed changes. The units used in the reliable sources relevant to the article should always be used as the primary units in the article. Fnagaton 13:58, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
I am not sure what you mean. Are you suggesting that the current guidance relating to source units should be retained? It says:
  • If editors cannot agree on the sequence of units, put the source value first and the converted value second.
If so, I would not object. Lightmouse (talk) 14:06, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
Yes, but none of this By default, the main units are SI. The primary rule should be use the units found in the relevant reliable sources. Fnagaton 14:13, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
There will be many cases (the majority?) for which information comes from different primary sources. Fnagaton's rule would mean jumping between different unit systems within an article, defeating its object by making it incomprehensible. Can we at least agree on "Once chosen, the units are applied consistently within that article."?Thunderbird2 (talk) —Preceding comment was added at 15:37, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
No there wouldn't be any "hopping around" within an article since (like I posted before in a section below) it's easy to look at the reliable sources relevant to the article, pick units most often used in those sources (a majority) and then apply that to the article. Only in rare cases will there be sources for an article where it is unclear what the real world (according the to reliable sources) consensus is for the units used and in those cases SI could be used. The "Once chosen, the units are applied consistently within that article" isn't really needed since an article should be allowed to grow and change to reflect changes in the reliable sources used for that article. So if in the future the sources are updated that reflect using different units then the article should be updated to reflect that change. By using my proposal the article is actually easier to understand since it reflects whatever units are used in its reliable sources. Fnagaton 15:49, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
The process you describe as "look at the reliable sources relevant to the article, pick units most often used in those sources (a majority) and then apply that to the article" sounds to me like one that requires consensus. Thunderbird2 (talk) 15:58, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
Not really. In most cases it's obvious what units are used in relevant reliable sources so there is hardly need to ask what the consensus is for each article. It also reflects the spirit of "In scientific articles, use the units employed in the current scientific literature on that topic." and "If editors cannot agree on the sequence of units, put the source value first and the converted value second." by using more exact language. So if you want keep those two existing guidelines and drop the "By default, the main units are SI" that would be fine. The "main units are SI" is pushing one point of view over what the real world consensus is when considering each article. Fnagaton 16:06, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
You are proposing some nonsensical determination of "majority", for one thing; just because somebody has put similar nonsense about vague, undefined "scientific articles" in the MoS already is no excuse. "Source value" is one of several different meanings, a vague term with respect to what "source" means, but with no vagueness in the fact that it applies to particular measurements and not to some article as a whole concept. Furthermore, specialized jargon usage in any field of activity should never be determinative with respect to Wikipedia style. We are not a specialty publication in that field; we are addressing a general audience. A factor to be considered, sure. But in the case of determining which units of measure to use, it should be far down the line, perhaps just above some weird notion of UK-relatedness and U.S.-relatedness of an article considered as a whole in determining which units to use for a particular measurement. Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:48, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
You are wrong because I am not proposing some "nonsensical determination of majority" rather it is representative of the spirit of the existing guideline. We are addressing a general audience and that is precisely why Wikipedia is descriptive not prescriptive which means Wikipedia doesn't get to decide what units should replace those used by reliable sources relevant to an article. Even official international standards organizations do not agree on all aspects. By the way "source value" in the context of the current guideline does mean "the value from the source in its original form" which also means what I wrote about "The units used in the reliable sources relevant to the article". Fnagaton 17:40, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
I have to object to this blind pushing of SI units, regardless of context. Metric units have been used in science in Europe (and I include Great Britain in Europe), but it was the "cgs" system, centimetre, gram, second system; the current "mks", metre, kilogram, second system, is more recent (very early 1960s?). Metrification in the UK only dates back to a decision in 1965 to go metric within ten years; Australia and most of the British Commonwealth agreed to change at the same time, and did so before Britain. Much of the engineering in the UK was only changed to metric in the early 1970s, and it was not retrospective. The Weights and Measures Regulations (metric) only date back to the 1980s. We may have metric nuts and bolts, but most wood screws are still sold in Imperial lengths; cars are still assessed in consumption of miles per gallon, but we have also litres per 100 km. The USA has barely started to metricate, but it still uses Fahrenheit temperatures in engineering calculations. Could it be that some editors are pushing SI units merely to differentiate between British English and US English; and that this is preventing them accepting that there are good reasons for using Imperial and metric units (even in the same article) .Pyrotec (talk) 16:56, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

I object to Pyrotec's suggestion that there is a hidden US-UK agenda here. The reason for proposing SI as the default choice of unit system (to be used when consensus fails to be provide an alternative) is that it provides a pan-national, unambiguous and language independent framework in which to work. It is used by scientists the world over (yes, that includes the United States of America) when they wish to be clear and minimise the chances of being misunderstood. If you read my words carefully you will see that the only time I mentioned the word "metric" was to say "I see no a priori reason to prefer non-SI metric units over other non-SI units". Where is the metric bias in that? While there may be legitimate reasons for mixing different units systems in the same article, I would expect such cases to be rare. Such cases excepted, what units would Pyrotec advocate in the absence of consensus in a particular article? Thunderbird2 (talk) 17:47, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

If what you say is true then drop the language about "By default, the main units are SI." because that is seen as forcing the use of SI units. Instead keep the sections that effectively say "use the units used by the reliable sources". Fnagaton 17:54, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
I agree with your point about reliable sources - I have seen numerous occasions when a unit has been converted back and forth like a yo-yo, losing information (or worse, adding misinformation) on each trip. The best way of dealing with this, in my view, is to find a way of labelling source information as "verbatim" and not paraphrased or converted. To be readable though, it is important for an article to maintain some consistency in both its language and units.
I do not wish to force SI on anyone or anything. What I do want is to provide a default for local editors to fall back on where they fail to reach consensus. And I do feel (strongly) that that default should be SI, not because it is a metric system, but because it is an unambiguous and universal system. Thunderbird2 (talk) 18:15, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
I think you'll find that what one person thinks is unambiguous is sometimes seen by others as an attempt to rewrite history by promoting one point of view about what system to use. So if the intention is to provide some kind of default then how about "If the units to be used in an article are not obvious from the reliable sources relevant to the article then try to form consensus when changing the article from one unit to another. If consensus cannot be reached for an article then default to using SI units." Fnagaton 18:27, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
That's pretty close to what I'm trying to say. I think it needs to be slightly less prescriptive about the precise process leading to the consensus though, while including a warning somewhere about the dangers inherent in any units conversion. Thunderbird2 (talk) 18:43, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
I have no objection whatsoever to SI units being used for scientific articles. I have made that point numerous times above. What I object to is the scientific argument being copied across the board, e.g. for Wikpedia articles the rule is: UK then SI units are preferred, US then US units preferred. We have Imperial Gallons, which are different to US Gallons, why do you insist that SI units go into UK articles. If I'm writing an article about a reservoir built anytime between the start of the canal age and (say) 1970, its capacity will have been given in Imperial Gallons, not litres or cubic metres, its acreage will be given in acres and its depth in feet - these are all legal units. If I'm writing about British weapon system anytime up to the 1970's, it would be described in lbs or inches. e.g. a 25 lb gun, a .303 rifle, a 2" or 3" rocket; post 1970s they would be 155 mm, or 105 mm, or 72 mm guns. When you agree to the use of legal British units of measurements in articles about pre-1975 (non-scientific) subjects and metric units where there is a legal requirement to use them I will be satisfied. The point has been made by others above that our speed limits are mph, we buy milk in bottles that contain one pint and we get beer in pint glasses. Why are the MoS rules being pushed way beyond the legal requirements of the Weights and Measures (metric) Acts; and why try to ignore the fact that metric units in the UK, for non-science applications, are little more than an introduction of the last 25 - 30 years. I've had WW I & WW II articles with in-line citations vandalised by box tickers, who change 2" to 50 mm, 3" to 75 mm, when those units were certainly not the units of measurements that were in use at the time.Pyrotec (talk) 18:45, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
I think the issue is whether an article is trying to convey what people called things when they were built or used, or whether the article is trying to convey information about the size or quantity of something. If one were writing about how larger and larger water tunnels had to be built to supply drinking water to London, from the 18 century through today, it would be logical to put SI first, since that is the most understandable system, and the emphasis is on quantity. If one were describing the attributes of a U.S. WW II dual-purpose 5 inch naval gun, it would be logical to put inches first, since that's how it was named.
Once the main purpose of the article is determined, it should be consistent throughout, except official names of objects should not be altered, even if this means being inconsistent with the rest of the article. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 19:01, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
Thunderbird2, that's good. :) I'm sure you've seen times when vague language in the MOS has been argued about a lot inside article talk pages. Specifically I'm trying to get across that using SI units is a last resort and that there is a process that leads up to that last resort. For example the language "If the units to be used in an article are not obvious..." is there to stop one person appearing on an article, claiming there isn't consensus and then forcing the default to happen. I've seen it happen with one user in the past where they preferred to use one style of units and changed hundreds of articles even though the reliable sources clearly use another type of unit style, then when they were challenged they basically tried to Wikilawyer by taking it to the talk page on each article individually. Basically abusing the process to stall their changes as long as possible which is not productive. I feel the pain of Pyrotec because strictly speaking having SI mandated would mean someone could Wikilawyer that to mean all the references to WWI&II weapon sizes have to be changed. I gather from your comments that globally changing weapon sizes from inches to mms goes against what you would want to see as well? If so then that's why I think the guideline needs to use precise language (be prescriptive) for those times when editors do try some Wikilawyering. Fnagaton 19:02, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
"it should be consistent throughout", it should be consistent throughout the article and always use the value from the reliable sources first, when there is little doubt what the reliable sources use. Say for example if an article had two reliable sources and one used "feet" and the other used "chains" then I'd advocate using SI as coversions consistently in that article if nobody can make up their minds. If however the same article had ten reliable sources all using "feet" and maybe on reliable source using "chains" then the article should use feet first with a conversion in brackets to SI to disambiguate. Fnagaton 19:07, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
I must disagree with Pyrotec on one point. Pyrotec wrote "Wikpedia articles the rule is: UK then SI units are preferred". This is wrong. It actually says "for UK-related, the main units are either metric or imperial (consistently within an article)". I would also suggest that in the case of a UK article that covers a timespan before and after metric conversion, and the sources reflect that change, SI should be preferred. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 19:15, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
That's what it currently says, but the driving force on this page appears to be to force the use of SI, "because the user is too dumb, reader gets confused, editor was not born before metrication, "box ticker" can't handle uncertainty, etc, ad nusium". I'm not arguing about science articles - they can be also SI units, provided we can use temperature units of Fahrenheit in the article about Fahrenheit; it would also be useful to be able to measure blood pressure in units of mm of Hg (even if we have to use Torr and rename it). Pyrotec (talk) 22:11, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
I would like the freedom to be able to use SI units in a (non-science) articles, where something was designed and built in SI units; and to use Imperial units for something that was built and designed using Imperial measurements. I'm not too worried if a tunnel that was built in chains, gets converted to metres, that is not necessarily important. However, we in the UK have hundreds of years of engineering experience, where power was historically measured in horsepower; and it makes much more sense to refer to it as a 10 hp (7.45 kw) engine - was the Austin Motor Company selling 7.45 kw cars in the 1910s to 1930s? We have an article on the .303 British bullet, where 0.303 is measured in inches, is it sensible to rename that to its metric equivalent? I would, also, like (in a very limited number of cases) to be inconsistent, where it is logical to do so: to give an (carefully chosen) example: Cordite, size matters. The descriptive numbering system, from its invention in the 1880s up to the 1960s, was to use a number such as "SC 120", where 120 is a dimension measured in thou; but after the 1960s it went metric, post-1960s the dimension is measured in mm, so obviously the number (and the unit of measurement changes). Obviously, we wish to use thous - which in this case is thousands of an inch (and inches) and mm in the same article.Pyrotec (talk) 22:11, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

[Remove Indent] I quite agree with the above - especially in historical articles one should in general use the most appropriate historical units, for instance (to use an invented example), 'The great Pyramid was designed to be 1000 Egyptian Length Units along each side.' Often this will necessitate a conversion into both Imperial and Metric units - for instance '1000 Egyptian Length Units' (1.112 miles, 1.790 kilometres).' Equally I agree with the above with other comments on this page with respect to sources. If one is quoting a source then one should first use the value quoted in the source, whether or not this is in agreement with convention elsewhere in the article - e.g. 'the Spirt Rover was built with a 30.0 cm (0.982 foot) [Ref: NASA technical specification] wheel base.... On its first day in operation it travelled 75 feet (23 meters) [Ref: NASA public press release]', and sadly accept that this may be a little confusing for some readers. [Of course one should always attempt to use sources which are consistent - i.e. if NASA technical specifications are in meters, then try to find press releases for the European press which quote values in meters]. —Preceding unsigned comment added by NeilTarrant (talkcontribs) 22:42, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

Cases where a source is "quoted" are rare, and perhaps should be rarer than they are. But a source we use to get the information isn't the most relevant meaning of "source" when it comes to the measurements. The units in which the measurements were made are the relevant "source".
A more important distinction to be made is the difference between design elements and strictly measured quantities. The height of a mountain is a measured quantity, one that has often been done sometimes in feet and sometimes in meters even for any particular mountain anywhere in the world. The length of a horse race is a design element. It is set to be 9½ furlongs, or 2,400 meters, or whatever. The length of an Olympic sprint is a design element, one that we know to be designed in meters for most Olympics (but not all; some--probably especially the 1904 or 1908 or both from my recollections--had courses designed in yards). The distance an Olympic shot is put is a measured quantity. But in this case, unlike many other measurements, it is not measured in a variety of units. The primary, official distance is in meters to the nearest hundredth. That is the relevant "source" unit for our purposes: Even if we have a "cited source" giving that distance as "69 feet 3½ inches" to the nearest quarter of an inch (which can be evident from that publication saying so, or from looking at similar measurements in the same publication), from knowing the way those measurements are made we can reconstruct the original, official measurement of "21.12 meters".
And it doesn't matter in the least where some particular runner is from; the distances that runner runs are still designed in the same units. The notion of "US-related" or "UK-related" is totally irrelevant, here and in a huge number of our other measurements.
In particular, you are being disingenous in your [[Ref: NASA technical specification] vs.[Ref: NASA public press release] examples. What if it is the same measurement
'the Spirt Rover was built with a 300 millimeter (0.982 foot) [Ref: NASA technical specification] wheelbase... [using the units likely to be used in a technical specification; centimeters are good for your hat size and cubic centimeters, but that's about all]
'the Spirt Rover was built with a twelve inch (305 mm) wheelbase [Ref: NASA public press release] wheelbase...
That more fairly illustrates the point. My point is, once we have the technical specifications, that overrides the fiddling done by the public affairs office. The relevant "source" now are those design numbers, not the fact that we can cite a reliable source giving a translation to some other units. And whether or not that "(0.982 ft)" was contained in some cited source or simply added by a Wikipedia editor, it would be entirely appropriate for another Wikipedia editor to come along and change it to "(11¾ in)". Gene Nygaard (talk) 01:13, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
Note that we don't need to throw out our general knowledge when we act as Wikipedia editors. Part of the reason why I'd change the conversion of 300 mm to 0.982 ft is my own knowledge that while American civil engineers often use decimal fractions of a foot, American mechanical enginieers do not; they prefer decimal fractions of an inch. And nobody uses thousandths of a foot outside conversions like this. The general public is more likely to use inches and eighths or sixteenths, as are people in the construction trades. So if somebody changed that converted value to "11¾ in" in, maybe someone else will come along and argue that "11.8 in" is more appropriate in this mechanical engineering context.
But in all those cases, such as the practices in various fields of construction or engineering, there are a whole lot of other factors that are more important than "U.S.-related" or "UK-related", which remains the primary issue under discussion here. That country-relatedness, which has some relevance when talking about the use of national varieties of English in spelling and word choice issues, should be far down the line in any consideration of the appropriate units to use for any measurement. Gene Nygaard (talk) 01:27, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
I think it has little to do with country and it's been used so far as a red herring. The nature of the country for each article will mostly come from its reliable sources since if a subject has most interest in a specific country then that country will most likely produce the most references for that subject. So say there is a car that is produced for the UK market then most of the reviews and technical details for the customer will use mpg etc. If people used the simpler "use the units found in the majority of reliable sources relevant to the article" I'm willing to bet that would produce practically the same result as "decide what country the article is for". :) Fnagaton 16:59, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
Would you like to propose better wording? Lightmouse (talk) 12:51, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
I'll have to do some thinking on that. ;) Fnagaton 18:34, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
I disagree with basing the first measurement system on what the majority of reliable sources use. An event covered by the U.S. mainstream media, but not especially related to the U.S., will probably be reported in mostly U.S. units, but SI units should be used first in Wikipedia. (Suppose, for instance, the issue is whale hunting in international waters by ships from several nations, and that no U.S. whalers are involved). --Gerry Ashton (talk) 17:26, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
I know you disagree but saying "SI units should be used first" ignores the fact that other units are legitimately used in various topics, I don't think you have thought it through. Just because a "standards organisation" publishes something it does not automatically mean those are the units to be used. Wikipedia is descriptive not prescriptive therefore the sensible option is to let the real world decide what units should be used. i.e. The consensus from the real world where publications with editorial control, for example reliable sources, tell the article writers what units to use. If you really think "SI units should be used first in Wikipedia" regardless of the units used by the majority of relevant reliable sources then go ahead and try to edit feet and yards in American Football, I'll be very interested to see your reasons for why you don't get very far. Fnagaton 18:33, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
Realistically, editors will use the sources they are familiar with. If the editors happen to be from the U.S., they will lean toward U.S. sources. Also, some topics may be covered mostly by U.S. based publications just because there are many U.S. publications. Naturally, U.S. based publications usually use traditional American units. That does not necessarily mean the topic is closely associated with the U.S. It does not mean that if editors undertook a survey of all coverage of the topic throughout the world in all languages, they would find the majority of sources use U.S. units to report about the topic. If the topic is not closely connected with the U.S, or a period and subject matter in another English-speaking country where traditional units were used, then metric units should be used first in the Wikipedia article.
As an example, being an American, I tend to read U.S. based newspapers. In today's online [www.nytimes.com] I see an article about the Tata Nano, described as the world's cheapest car, to be sold in India. Part of the descripton says "The four-door Nano is a little over 10 feet long and nearly 5 feet wide. It is powered by a 623cc two-cylinder engine at the back of the car. With 33 horsepower, the Nano is capable of 65 miles an hour."
So, I have a reliable source, and I could write an article about this car. But obviously, even though the source I read uses mostly American units to describe it, metric units would be more appropriate to use first since this topic has little to do with the U.S. In principle, I could try to survey all the publications in the world to get a sense of whether metric or American units are used most often, but this is a waste of time and an unnecessary burden to put on an editor. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 19:23, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
Not really. When researching sources for a particular subject then sources can easily be found from any world wide source, it's not rocket science. UK cars for example use mpg and mph and a quick survey of the sources finds that when talking about British cars the units used are mpg and mph then looking at the British motor industry article it also shows mph first, which goes against what you're saying earlier about "SI units should be used first". So, are you going to edit feet and yards in the American Football article? Fnagaton 19:19, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
I will research to find enough sources to write a good article or make a good edit. I will choose which measurement system to put first based on whether the topic has ties to an English-speaking country and a time period when that country used (or uses) traditional units. I will not look for sources solely for the purpose of finding out what measurement system most sources use to discuss the topic.
That relies on you making a judgement call to decide what units to use based solely on your personal opinion about what country the topic is related to, which is not as logical as doing the work to find out the majority of units used for that subject. Fnagaton 19:37, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
As for American football, as an undergraduate at the University of Southern California, I found I could scalp my tickets and keep myself well-supplied with pizza; I will not be editing American football articles. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 19:31, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
So you agree that your earlier statement "SI units should be used first in Wikipedia" is not realistic when considered for use on Wikipedia? Fnagaton 19:37, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

(unindent) I never made an unequivocal statement "SI units should be used first in Wikipedia". I wrote "An event covered by the U.S. mainstream media, but not especially related to the U.S., will probably be reported in mostly U.S. units, but SI units should be used first in Wikipedia.". I was saying that in a particular case of an event that is not especially related to the U.S., a Wikipedia article about that event should be use metric units first. (I neglected to mention that traditional units might apply if it concerned another English-speaking country that used traditional units at the time the event occured.) The metric units should be first even if most of the sources located by Wikipedia editors were published in the U.S. and therefore use U.S. units.

The fact that you quoted me out of context makes me wonder if you hate metric units, and have an unstated agenda to eliminate them entirely from Wikipedia. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 14:58, 11 January 2008 (UTC)

Firstly, I did not quote you out of context. Secondly I mentioned what you said multiple times above and at no point previously did you mention anything about it being misquoted until I showed exactly where your statement is incorrect. Lastly, I note your entirely inaccurate statement about “my agenda” above which has already been tackled by other editors below. Fnagaton 17:12, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
Actually Gerry, the reverse of imperial and U.S. customary units is clearly true and has been a publicly stated agenda of some editors. I see the value of not eliminating any information. I also understand what you mean by your specific example above, and if you had all instances backed by easy to find citations and the article was stable, then I wouldn't demand that the source units be first. Also, I hope that spent some of that USC scalping money on some beer to wash down that pizza. It's odd to have one without the other; especially in a college town. —— MJCdetroit (yak) 16:10, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
I see no evidence of an anti-metric agenda in Fnagaton's contributions. Fnagaton is very active in relation to the binary versus decimal prefixes for bits and bytes. You can see edit summaries like "Making consistent with relevant reliable sources" for a change from 'gibibyte' to 'gigabyte'. Lightmouse (talk) 16:41, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
Gene Nygaard makes a crucial remark that the rest of us had missed, which is the need to distinguish between measured values (which can be converted between any units of the same dimension) and defined or designed ones (for which the units of the original design or definition play a special role, and would normally be preferred over other units for that reason). If added to the proposed text (which I've just placed between separator lines to make it easier to find), I feel that this would cover most of the concerns raised, like the 2-in gun or the 1000-ELU pyramid. What it does not cover is Fnagaton's concern about possible loss of accuracy. The best way I can think of for dealing with that is to include a warning that care is needed when converting from "source units" (whatever that means) to "preferred units" (the units agreed by local consensus). Thunderbird2 (talk) 16:42, 11 January 2008 (UTC)

New proposal
Which system to use

  • The system used in the best sources should come first
  • For US-related articles, US units can come first
  • For UK-related articles, either metric or imperial units can come first
  • Otherwise, metric values should come first

Lightmouse (talk) 17:34, 11 January 2008 (UTC)

Refinement of new proposal by Lightmouse
Which system to use

  • The system used in the best sources should come first.
  • For US-related articles, US units can come first.
  • For UK-related articles, a preference towards metric units first; however imperial units can come first where metric units have not been adopted (such as miles), or where the subject pre-dates the adoption of metric units.
  • Otherwise, metric values should come first.

Pyrotec (talk) 17:47, 11 January 2008 (UTC)

I'm not implying anything negative or deceptive about Lightmouse, but why did you use US units can come first... Otherwise, metric values should come first? Shouldn't that line read, US unit should come first? Pyotec's revision just keeps us going in circles and is not what many of the UK editors want forced on them, which is what got this line of discussions started in the first place. — MJCdetroit (yak) 17:57, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
There is no way to decide what the best sources are. Which is better, the The Times of London or The New York Times? Also, U.S. related articles should use the units usually used in the U.S. for that subject area. There are some subjects which use only metric units even in the U.S. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 18:03, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
Two points:
  • I fail to understand the need to mention either "US" or "UK" explicitly here. This is a global encyclopaedia and should have globally applicable guidelines.
  • I am uncertain what is meant by a "metric" unit.
Thunderbird2 (talk) 18:16, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
How about this version which goes some way to solve the problem of deciding what the best sources are...

Refinement of the refinement :) of the new proposal by Lightmouse
Which system to use

  • The system used in the majority of sources should come first.
  • For US-related articles, US units can come first.
  • For UK-related articles, a preference towards metric units first; however imperial units can come first where metric units have not been adopted (such as miles), or where the subject pre-dates the adoption of metric units.
  • Otherwise, metric values should come first.

Fnagaton 18:14, 11 January 2008 (UTC)

Is it necessary to explain it all again? Feet, inches, pounds, etc were the units used in Great Britain, they are known as Imperial Units and US units. Metres (or Meters) Kilograms, litres (or Liters) are known as metric or SI units.Pyrotec (talk) 18:23, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
Yes, I am afraid it is necessary to explain terms that are used in the guidelines. I don't agree that "metric" is synonymous with "SI". There are many units that I consider to be metric (eg hectare, litre) that are not part of SI, and there are SI units that have no obvious connection with the metre. Is the mole a metric unit? You also appear to be saying that "imperial" and "US" are synonymous in this context. I doubt it. Thunderbird2 (talk) 18:36, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
We agree with each other on the fine detail. See my discussion about the cgs (centimetre, gramme, second) System and the MKS (metre, kilogram, second) System above. I'm just concerned that some editors do not appear to know what Imperial Units and US units are; and that these differ from metric and SI units. Yes, I'm aware that the litre is an non-prefered unit; it happens to be a useful one, it is far easier to order beer in litre or half-litre glasses than to request one-thousandth of a cubic metre of beer in a glass. I don't like hectares either, I prefer acres.Pyrotec (talk) 18:50, 11 January 2008 (UTC)Pyrotec (talk) 18:53, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
The need for global guide lines is just another smokescreen, wikipedia recognises that there are national differences in spellings, e.g. liter and litre, etc. SI units have a long history of use in science but not in engineering or everyday use; and in many cases there is no legal requirement to use metric units. In many cases there is no exact conversion between units, so why the intolerance of history and legal units of multiple units of measurement.Pyrotec (talk) 18:32, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
If there is a good historical reason to use (say) gallons or ounces, local editors will quickly arrive at a decision to use such units, by a process of consensus. If no such reason is apparent, there is a good reason *not* to use them on the grounds that they are ambiguous. Thunderbird2 (talk) 18:51, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
To MJCDetroit, I used the terms 'can' because sometimes Americans would regard US units as wrong in a particular application (as Gerry says). If you want to change it to 'should' that is fine by me, it will get covered by the 'best sources' bullet. For the vast majority of editors, this section is just about miles and gallons versus kilometres and litres. Hopefully, we can proceed with the following:
Which system to use
  • The system used in the majority of sources should come first.
  • For US-related articles, US units can come first
  • For UK-related articles, metric or imperial units can come first
  • Otherwise, metric values should come first.
Lightmouse (talk) 18:38, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
The above is OK with me. To Pyrotec, I see it as a problem of trying to mandate one system at the expense of coveying the information found in reliable sources on a particular subject. For example when editing this whole page it says "This page is 486 kilobytes long", I checked and this means 498,877 bytes, 498877/1024 ~= 487.1 which is close enough to 486K to demonstrate my point that Wikipedia uses kilobyte in the binary power of two sense and not in the base 10 sense. Now a few years ago a "standards organisation" called the IEC tried to introduce kibibytes, depsite it being "a standard" hardly anyone uses the term (Google shows 43,300 for kibibyte and 1,270,000 for kilobyte). This is because the industry, those who know what they're talking about and who write the material we use for reliable sources, know that using a neologism is not preferable. Also there is another standards organisation calle dthe JEDEC who define kilobyte in the binary power of two sense. The standards organisations cannot agree. :) For other topics such as ammunition during WWI&II the meaning is in the sizes of the rounds expressed in inches not mm/cm etc. For me it's always been about consistency with the reliable sources. Fnagaton 18:50, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
Yes, I approve of "consistency with the reliable sources", but an awful lot of weight is carried by that one little word "reliable". Amongst other things, it needs to be unambiguous. Thunderbird2 (talk) 18:57, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
When I say "reliable sources" I mean WP:Reliable sources. Not what I personally consider reliable, my Dad is a reliable source to me but may not be to the man in the street, but rather those sources that meet the criteria for WP:Verifiability. Fnagaton 19:05, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
The problem is the box tickers, wiki-lawers and those with an intolerance of ambiguity. If the MoS says metric or (SI units) first, then 2" is going to get changed to 50 mm some of the time, 51 mm elsewhere and 50.8 mm in other places. You can say good buy to historical accuracy. I'm in favour of ambiguity. If I read a oldish UK government document about, e.g. WW I or WW II which predated metrification, it will be in Imperial units; but if I read a less-authoritative book written in the last 20 years it will use metric units. There is uncertainty, but it is not due to uncertainty of what happened in that historical time period; it is entirely due to a change in the measurement units and the lack of direct equivalence. If the Mos says metric first then these 2" rockets, will be either 50 mm, 51 mm, or 50.8 mm rockets - which is historically inaccurate. Pyrotec (talk) 19:08, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
I completely agree with you with regards to the box tickers and wiki-lawers and I've seen it happen several time during my editing time here where someone with a bee in their bonnet about a particular system will go on an edit rampage while ignoring the consensus of many editors. That's why I debate on the side of "The system used in the majority of sources should come first.". :) One day perhaps the majority of sources will change and new units will be used in articles, but I really do think that it's best to leave that choice to those who write the reliable sources and not up to a few people making policy on Wikipedia. Fnagaton 19:24, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
I can understand your argument, but I think the historically accurate units should be used. For example if we could agree that 10 horsepower and 7.45 kilowatts were identical, I would expect to read articles about 1930s 10 HP Austin cars, not 1930s 7.45 kilowatt Austin cars; I don't really care whether the sources agree that they were 7.45 kilowatt cars; the UK did not make 7.45 watt cars prior to the adoption of metric and/or SI units.19:39, 11 January 2008 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Pyrotec (talkcontribs)
I think most reliable sources about 1930s cars, even modern sources written last week, will most likely contain HP not kilowatts as their primary units. So in that case your use of historical units is safe for a good while yet it seems. I can think of one subject off the top of my head where use of historical units have changed a little and that would be the article on the Great Pyramid of Giza. The units to begin with were just cubits since most sources referenced used those units, however later on more sources came to light so that now cubits are used first but the article also uses the modern units later on. Fnagaton 21:07, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
Lightmouse, if you change your last revision from can to should as discussed, I'll get on board.
Fnag, forgive me for asking but what's a box ticker? — MJCdetroit (yak) 20:02, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
I've generally thought of a box ticker as someone who has a checklist of changes they apply to each page robot fashion without thinking about whether those changes are needed. Fnagaton 21:07, 11 January 2008 (UTC)

(unindent) It is generally not feasible to read all the reliable sources on a topic. If we only consider the majority of the sources actually cited in the article, that is determined by which sources the editors who worked on the article have easy access to, and is therefore biased by which country those editors reside in. I believe the consensus of the editors about whether the article is related to an English-speaking country during a time when that country used, or uses, traditional units for the topic at hand is a better guide than what units are used in a majority of the sources. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 20:00, 11 January 2008 (UTC)

It is more logical to check reliable sources than it is to go around in circles trying to get personal opinion to agree on what country a topic comes from. Fnagaton 21:07, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
I'm happy to accept the Fnagaton and the Lightmouse, MoS, which units to use, suggested changes; they allow the use of Cubits in the Great Pyramid of Giza article with the metric/SI equivalent in brackets afterwards; and the use of horsepower, etc, etc. In contrast, the suggestion at the top of this section would force the use of metric/SI units (with cubits in brackets). You also have a definition of a box-ticker that I can sign up to.Pyrotec (talk) 23:06, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
I like the first bullet of the latest version by Pyrotec (best sources). Quantity should never win over quality. I dislike the continued focus on "US" vs "UK" (This is meant to be a global encyclopaedia). Thunderbird2 (talk) 09:23, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Why not spell out the principles first? It's OK then to include US and UK as examples, but they should not carry the same weight as the principles themselves. Thunderbird2 (talk) 09:30, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
The thing is "best sources" relies on personal opinion much more than "majority of reliable sources" or just "majority of sources". Someone could reference a source that uses a choice of units that does not have anywhere like the consensus found in the real world, then claim that source "is the best source" and then use that to push what they want. By using the term "majority" instead of "best" the choice as to what the majority/consensus is in the real world is less to do with personal opinion. Also having "the best" isn't really that important since articles should be using the WP:Reliable Source and WP:Verifiability anyway. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that "the best" is a bit fudgy-smudgy (which is what we are trying to reduce in the guideline) and open to too much broad interpretation whereas "majority" is more concrete which would hopefully lead to less edit warring/"Wiki-lawyering". Fnagaton 10:49, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
I'm happy with 'reliable sources' instead of 'best sources'. But not with 'majority of sources'. Thunderbird2 (talk) 11:08, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
OK, how about "The system used in reliable sources should come first."? Fnagaton 13:13, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

Yet another

Which system to use
The metric system in its most recent form (SI) is preferred on Wikipedia.
Information on historic subjects or articles geopolitically bound to a different system of measurement should also give data using applicable units, especially if they have been used in a defining sense. This applies contemporarily to many fields regarding the United States and some regarding the United Kingdom. If reliable, recent sources use “jargon units”, these should be acknowledged but not endorsed blindly.

Wording needs improvement, though. Christoph Päper (talk) 12:47, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

Definitely a no from me as it doesn't solve the problems in the section above. Fnagaton 13:09, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Chrissov's proposal does solve some of the problems, but I agree not all of them. Fnagaton has argued that reliable sources are important. I agree with him, so let's start with a reliable source on units of measurement. Such a source is the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, the organisation responsible for maintaining the International System of Units.
The wording needs improvement (acknowledged anyway by Crissov), but it starts with a sound general principle: that we should have a good reason before departing from an international standard. It then goes on to give examples of valid exceptions to the general principle. No doubt there are other exceptions too, but this is a good starting point. At least the structure is right. Thunderbird2 (talk) 13:26, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
I think consistency with reliable sources should trump whatever any standards body says. Take for example most of the articles on couputers here, they use kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte. Why? Well those terms are the most often used terms in the relaiable osurces used for most of the articles. Now then we have one standards body (IEC) trying to push the use of kibibyte, mebibyte etc and hardly anyone uses uses those terms. The same goes for the IEC trying to promote different symbols for AND/NOT/NOR gates, hardly any engineer uses those symbols. Then we also have another international standards body (JEDEC) that uses kilobyte, megabyte etc. So I think it needs to be made clear that the units to use first in an article have to be consistent with the sources used. Fnagaton 13:36, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Two points (deja vu!), one general and one specific:
  • general point: Standards bodies are (mostly) reliable sources.
  • specific point (aimed at the megabyte): A source that prefers an ambiguous unit to an unambiguous one is not a reliable one, whether it is a standards body or not. Let us learn from the mistakes of the computer industry.
Thunderbird2 (talk) 13:46, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Firstly, kilobyte/megabyte/gigabyte are not ambiguous when used in the context of computers. A standards body that is not followed by the majority of the industry is not a relevant reliable source of unit styles to be used in an article for that industry. The consensus in the real world as shown by the majority of relevant reliable sources for the article show the units to be used. Anything else is just pushing PoV and sacrificing accuracy. Fnagaton 16:07, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
A kilobyte used to be 2 raised to the power 10, e.g. 1024 bytes. That seems pretty unambiguous to me. A megabyte should be 1024 bytes (2 raised to the power 20); and a gigabyte, 1024 megabytes (2 raised to the power 30).Pyrotec (talk) 18:53, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

(unindent) Kilobyte/megabyte/gigabyte are ambiguous, because they have been used as powers of 2 when discussing memory chips, but as powers of 10 when discussing disk drives. So the meaning must be derived from context. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 19:22, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

Even worse, a megabyte is sometimes used to mean 1024,000 bytes (as in 1.44 MB floppy disk). The gigabyte article describes the gory details. Thunderbird2 (talk) 19:31, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
No they're not ambiguous since the context and the sources define how many bytes there are, I'm never confused about how many bytes there are in something. Just because some people get confused (or see the chance for a lawsuit) when manufacturers use the same name for something on their drives doesn't mean the use of those units in reference to memory sizes is wrong or non-standard. Wikipedia is descriptive not prescriptive, that means articles should reflect the use of units that are used in sources relevant to the article being written and the use of those units in language. Even if someone is confused that still does not mean discarding the units by used the sources and using units from one standards body, so if an article has sources that use kilobyte, inches, cubits, miles or yards then the first units in the article should always be those units first with converted units in brackets afterwards. Fnagaton 20:12, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
I think this section was trying to say that metric/SI units is prefered; it then allowed Imperial units and Jargon units. The problem is jargon, it is a poor label. If Jargon is removed from the Chrissov definition, then it appears to meet our needs. The good unit megabyte appears to be debased to mere jargon as it can mean 1,024 kilobytes or 1,000 kilobytes depending on what the context is.Pyrotec (talk) 20:38, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Pyrotec. Thunderbird2 (talk) 20:47, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Even with that change I now prefer the existing version on the project page because it addresses the issue in much clearer terms "If editors cannot agree on the sequence of units, put the source value first and the converted value second". This of course effectively means "use the units used in the sources for the article" and in most cases for the example articles I gave above this means using cubit/kilobyte/megabyte/gigabyte/yard/feet/inches. Consistency with relevant reliable sources is the priority here, not pushing one particular system. All this waffle about "geopolitically bound" is far too loose (fudgy smudgy), OK the existing guideline is also loose but a least it tackles the wider picture. Fnagaton 20:44, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
I am disappointed that this debate is beginning to look like it will only end if it can solve the holy war over prefixes. I have no intention of becoming involved in that. Therefore I withdraw all my proposals. Lightmouse (talk) 20:51, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
I thought that all were close to agreement just before the 'yet another' subsection proposal; which gets definite NO from me. The prefix thing...I'm with Lightmouse. I'm fine with status quo anyway. — MJCdetroit (yak) 20:58, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Fnagaton wrote "consistency with relevant reliable sources is the priority here". I disagree, consistency with relevant reliable sources is only a possible means to an end. The goal should be to make the encyclopedia understandable to as many people as possible. The default way to do that is to use SI units. There are some topics where it will be more understandable if traditional units currently or formerly used by some English-speaking country are used first. There are some topics where it will be more understandable if some non-SI metric unit is used (for example, blood pressure measured in millimeters of mercury). The units used in reliable sources may give a clue as to what units will be most understandable, but they are not a perfect guide, because the anticipated readership of the reliable sources may be different from the readership of Wikipedia.
The history of measurement is full of instances of certain occupations developing their own units with total disregard and/or ignorance that they are measuring the same quantiy, and that using a single unit for the quantity would reduce the barrier to outsiders who wish to understand the field. The metric system was developed to solve that proplem. I say, DAMN THE BARRIERS, AND THOSE WHO ERECT THEM.--Gerry Ashton (talk) 21:17, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Looking at the real world consensus for binary prefixes your point of view is in the minority (about 0.5% based on a quick Google test, I'll be generous and say your point of view has 1% support). Consistency with relevant reliable sources is the priority here because it makes Wikipedia understandable to as many people as possible by using the same units they will read in the reliable sources cited in each article. What you propose actually introduces confusion into articles and makes it harder for someone to follow. Fnagaton 22:04, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
OK, instead of all the "historic geopolitically bound" phrasing which is open to interpretation, personal opinion, wiki-lawyering and box-checkers how about using the less is more approach?
  • In articles use the units employed in the sources on that topic.
  • If editors cannot agree on the sequence of units, put the source value first and the converted value second in brackets.
With "source value" being defined as the unit style being used in the sources for that particular subject. For example it's easy to see that cubits are used in articles about the Pyramids, yards are used in articles about American Football, mpg for British cars, inches for World War artillery and kilobytes for nearly all computer related articles. This way all mention of SI is removed to avoid any bias towards one system because mandating one system cannot solve all problems. It allows the consensus from the real world to act as a template for the articles which also follows the Wikipedia is descriptive not prescriptive paradigm. Fnagaton 21:05, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
The only possible justification for using cubits is if an object, such as a pyriamid, was designed to be a round number of cubits (or if some archeologists argue that is the case). (Or if not a round number, then some number that has some special significance.) If simply describing the size of the pyramids, SI should come first with a conversion to traditional U.S. units in parenthesis. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 21:23, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Do you have any evidence or verifiable sources that the pyramid were designed and built using SI (or metric) units; and why should they have US units in parenthesis afterwards, if the archaelogist was British he would use metric and Imperial units?. Pyrotec (talk) 21:39, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
The units used in designing and building any structure should not be used in a Wikipedia article unless those units are familiar to modern readers, or unless there is some special significance to the numerical values of the original design. (To make up an example, a certain ancient people thought the world was 1,275 years old and designed a structure 1,275 cubits square.)
As for which customary units should be used for a pyramid article, I would think most of the units would be lengths or areas; U.S. and U.K units are practically the same for length and area. If any masses were mentioned, then it would be necessary to consider the source units. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 22:13, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
It's not up to you to decide what units to replace reliable source units with. Fnagaton 22:16, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
I do have the perogative of changing units of measure, if I have a good reason. An example of a good reason would be that a reliable source was aimed at a specialist audience, and different units would be more suitable for a general audience. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 22:32, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Gerry Ashton, there you go again with your "SI units should be used first"/"SI should come first" talk, I refer you to my argument above where I show why that argument is incorrect, you know the bit where you then deliberately misrepresent me. Also the "special significance" thing is too open to interpretation. Fnagaton 21:35, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
My overall impression of your approach is that you value adhering to the units used in original sources over the goal of making the articles easy for a modern, worldwide readership to understand. I don't care about the units used in the sources per se, I only consider them to be one possible gauge of what units will be easiest to understand. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 22:13, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Then you are wrong for the reasons I have already given above. I also demand that you stop trying to second guess my intentions and retract your statements to that effect. Fnagaton 22:16, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Fnagaton: Do you consider understandability by a worldwide modern readership to be the most important goal of this "Manual of style (dates and numbers)"? --Gerry Ashton (talk) 22:29, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Of course I promote "understandability" but what you propose does not help "understandability", as already explained by what I previously wrote. Fnagaton 22:34, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
I don't accept that the use of mm of Hg to measure blood pressure was instances of certain occupations developing their own units with total disregard and/or ignorance that they are measuring the same quantity. Atmospheric pressure was measured using columns of mercury approximately 1 metre high (or 39 inches), or columns of water approximately 30 feet high - it does not matter whether the unit of measurement was cubits, feet or metres, the technology works. They were called monometers; and they are (were) used to measure low pressure systems, such as blood pressure, domestic gas pressure, fume extraction systems, etc. It was only concerns over the toxicity of mercury that we stopped using simple manometers containing mercury. We now use pressure transducers, that are probably calibrated in pascals; but who uses pascals for blood pressure measurements and why should we change? Pyrotec (talk) 22:03, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Because otherwise you are asking the poor old lay reader to convert between psi, mmHg, mbar, atm, hPa, dBA and god knows what else. Use of a single unit system (whichever it may be) has the benefit of making it clear to the reader that tyre pressure, blood pressure, atmospheric pressure and sound pressure are all different manifestations of exactly the same phenomenon, and permitting comparison between their magnitudes without a degree in physics. Thunderbird2 (talk) 22:19, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Umm no? The article writer uses the source unit first and gives a good conversion in brackets to a more common system. In your scenario the use of a single system means the reader will read "kph" in an article then read the sources which are all in "mph" and then sit there wondering what this "mph" is. In what I propose the article will have (something like) "mph (kph)" which makes it obvious what the units are used in the sources and also helps them understand what "mph" is when they read those sources. It educates the reader and doesn't confuse them by leaving out relevant information. Fnagaton 22:26, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Medical professionals began measuring pressure in mm of Hg before SI was created in 1960, so there was little guidance about what units pressure should be measured in; I don't fault the medical professionals for their choice. As to "why should we change?", we now have the case where students learn about pressure measurements in school, and are told about their blood pressure in mm of Hg, and can't relate the two. Many U.S. firefighters are now trained as EMTs or paramedics; they have to use PSI when they operate a pumper or fill their oxygen tanks, but mm of Hg when they treat patients. This leads to having to learn more vocabulary, and difficulty in understanding how the different pressures relate to each other. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 22:23, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
This argument is all talk and no substance. My blood pressure target (I think) is 120 over 80 measured in units of mm of Hg; if it is significantly different from that action may be needed. Why should I wish to compare my blood pressure, 120/80, against the recommended pressure of air in my car tyres, which happens to be 30 psi. I suspect that I will die if my blood pressure reaches 30 psi, but it is not necessary for me to posses a Degree in Physics to appreciate that. Again, in the UK medical oxygen is supplied in medical cylinders with outlet pressures of 137 bar, or 4 bar if it has a built-in pressure regulator. I know that atmospheric pressure is approximately 14.5 psi, so I can guestimate what 137 and 4 bar are, it is even better if the article says: medical oxygen cylinders are either "137 bar (approx. 2,000 psi) or 4 bar (approx 60 psi)". In the UK our gas cylinders are dual labelled, e.g. 137 bar (2,000 psi) outlet pressure. The common SI unit is pascal (Pa), so cylinders are 13.7 MPa, car tyres are 0.2 MPa and blood pressure is quite small and is below scale when measured in MPa; but how does that improve my ability to be a US fireman (which I'm not)? Again, the cubit is approximately 18 inches or 45 cm. If I write that a "pyramid had (say) a square base 1,000 cubits (18,000 inches, or 1,500 feet) (45,000 cm or 450 m) long", how does that prevent a US fireman from running a fire hose from one end to the other. I suspect that the US fireman is not a dumb (US term) as you are trying to make him.Pyrotec (talk) 11:22, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
Our role should be to present information in such a way that is most likely to be understood by WP readers, some of whom probably are US firemen. Use of obscure units does more to hinder than help, and I for one cannot make head or tail of the comparisons made by Pyrotec. Thunderbird2 (talk) 12:22, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
Those units are not obscure. Using the units found in the sources relevant to a subject helps more than using some other units and adding confusion to the issue. Fnagaton 13:10, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
Fnagaton got in first; and he used the words that I initially wrote. So I'll expand on his words. I'm willing to accept that a cubit is an obscure unit, but are you serious describing, feet, inches, cm, m, psi, bar and Pa as obscure units. I went onto the NY City fire Department's web site to see if there was any supporting evidence: I found pounds, I found feet and I found psi. What I could not find is bar and MPa, these happened to be metric and/or SI units. I presume that you are an American citizen and that you do not know what bar and MPa are; can you confirm that? (Note: atmospheric pressure is approximately one bar; and 10 bars are equivalent to one MPa; and in the UK and Europe gas cylinders are labelled in bars and psi). Actually it proves my point if I use SI pressure units, the USA does not understand them. I assume that you are in favour of US units and Imperial units?Pyrotec (talk) 13:32, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
Sorry to interrupt here, but yes, to most of the world feet, inches and psi are obscure units. So even if reliable sources use them, conversions should be required. −Woodstone (talk) 14:19, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
I'm not saying "don't convert". I am saying conversions should not be the primary or only units in an article. Fnagaton 14:37, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
You are welcome to contribute. The proposal above is discussing the convention of units: it is that US units be used in US articles, metric and Imperial units being used in UK articles and metric elsewhere, with alternative units in brackets afterward; an alternative is that SI units be given preference. Imperial/US units were in use for nearly 75% of the 20th century and the USA and Britain (in part) still uses them. There are also objections to use of measurements such as blood pressure in units of mm of Mercury. All I want is a simple answer from Thunderbird2 - what units are obscure; are you answering for that user?Pyrotec (talk) 14:34, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
My nationality is irrelevant. The issue of which units I personally happen to find obscure is also irrelevant. What is relevant is whether we can agree on the thesis (outside of the present context of US firemen) Use of obscure units does more to hinder than help. I sincerely hope so. I should explain that by "obscure" I mean units that do no not make for clarity; a non-obscure unit is one that helps the reader understand what is written in the article and how it is related to information in other articles. Thunderbird2 (talk) 13:53, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
Not when it means mandating one system to use regardless of the system used by the real world for a particular subject. Insisting on units that are not used by the majority of relevant reliable sources by definition makes those units obscure. For example the demonstration I gave below shows the units you prefer have such a lack of consensus that only 0.5% of the world follows your point of view. Fnagaton 14:03, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
Don't you think that use of units used by the majority of reliable sources might help the reader understand how the article relates to other articles? Thunderbird2 (talk) 14:18, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
I do think that use of units used by the majority of relevant reliable sources helps the reader understand how the article relates to other articles. It is you who is proposing using a system that mandates units which are not used by the majority of relevant reliable sources, as shown by the figures listed below. Fnagaton 14:22, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
It is worth coping the following -

Because otherwise you are asking the poor old lay reader to convert between psi, mmHg, mbar, atm, hPa, dBA and god knows what else. Use of a single unit system (whichever it may be) has the benefit of making it clear to the reader that tyre pressure, blood pressure, atmospheric pressure and sound pressure are all different manifestations of exactly the same phenomenon, and permitting comparison between their magnitudes without a degree in physics. Thunderbird2 (talk) 22:19, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

Pyrotec (talk) 16:55, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
Pyrotec's edit summary says "copied quotation from Thrunderbird2 in respsonse to bad faith posting by Thunderbird2)". I do not wish to take part in a discussion in which good faith is not assumed. Good day. Thunderbird2 (talk) 17:37, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
Blood pressure is measured in units of mm of mercury (mm of Hg), a metric non-SI unit. Tyre (or tire) pressures are measured in psi (or kPa), gas cylinder pressures are measured in bar, MPa or psi. These are all reliable non-obscure units. If Thunderbird2 agrees to this and Gerry Ashton does not insist on the use of conversions that Thunderbird2 does not understand, then we have a workable system.Pyrotec (talk) 14:53, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

(unendent) I don't need to know your nationality, but I wish you to state which units in my discussion are obscure. Pounds, feet, inches, psi, mm, cm and meters (metres) are all legal US and UK units of measurement. Pascal and MPa are SI units; bars are units of pressure used on gas cylinders in Europe and the UK. I went onto the NIST web site for pressure calibration | NIST Pressure calibration and I found MPa units. The Proposal above require the use of US units, SI units and Imperial units, in certain orders of preference. I used SI units (Pa, cm, m); non-prefered SI units (bar); I used US and Imperial units (feet, inches) and I used Cubit. I directly related gas cylinder pressures to tyre pressures to blood pressure using SI units, with the common units in brackets, because another contributor considers that it adds clarity to readers. Please state which units are obscure, or withdraw your statement. Pyrotec (talk) 14:12, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

(unindent) What's this prefix war, I'm not fighting a prefix war; I'm fighting a blanket imposition of metric/SI units. Fnagton's latest posting is acceptable to me, and it does not mention prefixes. Pyrotec (talk) 21:08, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

Yes, let's stay off prefixes. I can live with Fnagaton's first bullet if amended to include the adjective 'reliable'. I disagree with the second though, because it would result in flipping backwards and forwards between units in the same article, which would be very confusing for the reader. With rare exceptions, an article should stick to a unit once adopted. Thunderbird2 (talk) 21:21, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Articles should be internally consistent so there wouldn't be any flipping around within an article if the consensus from reliable sources was used instead. So...
  • In articles use the units employed in the reliable sources on that topic.
  • If editors cannot agree on the sequence of units, put the source value first and the converted value second in brackets.
With "source value" being defined as the unit style being used as shown by the consensus from reliable sources for that particular subject. This mention of consensus is intended to avoid situations where you have a large body of reliable sources using one style and a small body of reliable sources using another style. Fnagaton 21:29, 12 January 2008 (UTC)
Here is an example that shows exactly how much consensus the IEC standard has. A while ago on Wikipedia we had one user edit hundreds of articles to change from kilobyte to kibibyte (and all of the other units as well). Since this action would alter any attempt to use Google to judge real world consensus on this issue the searches will be conducted with "-wikipedia".
Historical use search terms Results
kilobyte -wikipedia 1,940,000
megabyte -wikipedia 6,190,000
gigabyte -wikipedia 3,640,000
Total: 11,770,000
IEC Search terms Results
kibibyte -wikipedia 28,800
mebibyte -wikipedia 17,100
gibibyte -wikipedia 19,000
Total: 64,900
Consensus for historical use: 99.449%
This shows the IEC standard does not have consensus, so I don't think the IEC can be seen as authoritative in this regard.
So Gerry if you're not familiar with the term "neologism" I suggest you look it up because only using unit terms which have so little support in the real world does not make something easier to understand. What does make an article easier to understand is if the article is consistent with its sources. That's why I say use the unit terms that appear in the majority of reliable sources relevant to an article should be used first. Fnagaton 09:25, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
This argument is about kibibyte irrelevant. I do not argue that every suggestion from every voluntary standards body be adopted immediately; it is entirely appropriate to wait a while and see if it catches on in the publications relevant in the field. My objection is to the phrase "majority of the reliable sources". If I were describing the IBM 709 computer, I might prefer to give the size of the memory in bytes, even though that word was not in general use back in the day of vacuum tube computers; they used to talk a about "words", and you had to know which computer you were talking about, because every computer model had a different word size.
The problem is that "majority of the reliable sources" is unworkable. Which sources? The ones cited in the article? The ones that are about the specific topic of the article (the IBM 709 computer)? The ones in the general field of the article (computer hardware)? The problem is, the list of cited articles keeps changing; shall we change the units in the article every time the majority (in the cited articles) changes? A single editor probably does not have access to all the cited sources anyway, so it could take a few weeks of wrangling on the talk page just to figure out which units the majority of the cited sources use.
If you want us to use the majority of the sources that exist on the specific topic, or in the general field, that is not feasible. It is to expensive and time-consuming to obtain and read every source on a specific topic, and reading every source in a general field is flatly impossible.
An additional problem is that when writing about a historical subject, the majority of the reliable sources might be contemporary with the subject, and use obsolete units. It might be more appropriate to use units familiar to the modern reader first. Remember, we are writing an encyclopedia, not an annotated bibliography.
I noticed that when you reverted the mass change from kikibyte to kilobyte (a reversion which I support), how did you decide what the majority of the sources was when certain articles failed to cite any reliable sources?
By the way, conducting surveys and judging the usage of words with Google searches is considered original research. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 17:18, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
You're wrong because the argument about kibibyte is relevant since you want to impose SI units on every article, therefore this touches on binary prefixes. You are also wrong because the majority of reliable sources is much more feasible than your proposal of deciding what the personal opinion is of each editor about where the article comes from or your proposal of imposing whatever units you decide. You are also wrong because Wikipedia is descriptive not prescriptive, which means you don't get to decide what units to impose. Also what you wrote about the research is irrelevant since it demonstrates a perfectly valid point about the lack of use of those prefixes in the real world, it does not mean you can just dismiss it with "it is original research". Fnagaton 17:31, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
You say it is feasible to determine what the "majority of the reliable sources" is. Can you explain in detail how this is to be done? Until you have presented a feasible protocol to determine the majority of reliable sources, I deem that your proposal does not exist. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 17:36, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
It is easy and common sense. Take an article, take the Reliable Sources (those sources cited in the article which meet the guideline about reliable sources), inspect the sources, more often that not it is obvious what system is used when talking about the article. If it isn't obvious then the editor is unsure and should leave the job to someone who has more knowledge on the subject. Quite frankly if someone is incapable of even that simple amount of due diligence they shouldn't be making technical changes to articles in the first place. Fnagaton 17:46, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
OK, lets suppose I come across an article which uses units inconsistently, and I want to clean it up (we all agree that the first-used unit should be consistent throughout an article, except within quotes). So I find there are three sources listed. They are books, I don't own any of them, and they don't seem like the kind of books that would be available at my local library. Now as it happens, I have years of experience in the topic of the article, and I have lots of books and journals on closely related topics, and they are all consistent with each other about which units to use. But I can't clean up the article, because I can't inspect the cited books. So I should request the books on inter-library loan and wait 3 months to clean up the article, even though it's perfectly obvious what units to use. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 18:00, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
Then you leave the article for someone who is better equipped to do the job and you might consider putting something on the talk page asking someone else to help tidy it by, for example, contacting the editors who cited the books in the first place. By the way, when you say it's perfectly obvious what units to use you have previously stated that you would change all units to SI, so what you think is obvious isn't necessarily correct. Fnagaton 18:15, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
I was right. Your proposal is unworkable. This is not to say the units used in the field that covers the topic shouldn't be considered, I'm just saying that "majority" implies counting, and counting is not feasible. By the way, your statement "you have previously stated that you would change all units to SI" is not true. I'm done discussing the concept of counting sources to decide which units to list first, and will revert any introduction of that concept into the MOS. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 18:39, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
Well you're wrong because it is feasible to find out the majority and I gave a very good example of how to do that above. If you're not capable of making a simple judgement about what a majority is then you're not going to be capable of making technical changes to an article. Also your denial is contrary to what you actually wrote, for example "SI units should be used first in Wikipedia" at 17:26, 10 January 2008 and "SI should come first with a conversion to traditional U.S. units in parenthesis" at 21:23, 12 January 2008. By the way if you deliberately revert changes to the MOS that have consensus you will get into trouble. Fnagaton 19:04, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

Fnagaston seems to think "SI units should be used first in Wikipedia" is a fair representation of what I actually wrote, "An event covered by the U.S. mainstream media, but not especially related to the U.S., will probably be reported in mostly U.S. units, but SI units should be used first in Wikipedia." Fnagaston also seems to think "SI should come first with a conversion to traditional U.S. units in parenthesis" is a fair representation of "If simply describing the size of the pyramids, SI should come first with a conversion to traditional U.S. units in parenthesis."

My actual view is that SI units should come first in the absence of a good reason to do otherwise, and the current version of the MOS (dates and numbers) is better than anything I've seen in this thread. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 19:39, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

Thank you for proving my point about what you wrote. Fnagaton 20:56, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
OK, the first bit about SI units coming first is clear in both paragraphs. The second paragraph contains a caveate: in the absence of a good reason to do otherwise, could you expand, or review, what you mean by that? Would e.g. the availability non-SI metric in preference to US/Imperial units fall in the scope of good reasons?Pyrotec (talk) 20:53, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
I'll list three good reasons to list a non-SI unit first (any one of these reasons would be sufficent). This is not meant to list all possible good reasons.
  • The article is strongly connected to an English-speaking country, is about a time period when traditional units were or are used in that country, and the topic of the article was (or is) usually discussed in traditional units during the time period in question.
  • The article is about a topic where non-SI metric units are generally used (for example, blood pressure is usually given in mm of Hg).
  • The article is about a structure that was designed in round traditional units, or round metric units that are non-SI. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 23:20, 13 January 2008 (UTC)
That’s matching the spirit of what I wrote, it’s just more verbose. I think it’s good practice to briefly provide the reasoning, followed by practical conclusions – guidelines. My last sentence about jargon was aimed at torr, ångström, lightyear, M etc.pp. I’m still unsure how to phrase it.
Which system to use
Wikipedia, being an international project, prefers the International System of Units (SI), which is the most recent form of the metric system.
Information on historic subjects or articles geopolitically bound to a different system of measurement may also provide data in applicable units, especially if these are essential to definition or design. Contemporarily, this applies to many fields regarding the United States and some regarding the United Kingdom.
This Manual of style includes a list of topics, where consensus found that most reliable, recent sources use “jargon units” which should be given preference over SI equivalents.
Unlike Fnagaton I don’t see anything wrong with defaulting to SI in general. He seems to think his pet peeve, i.e. binary prefixes, would be affected and turned a large part of the long discussion above to that issue. I didn’t have that in mind explicitly, but would file it under jargon, which needs separate discussion and (preferably enWP-wide) consensus compatible to the reasoning outlined. Christoph Päper (talk) 10:55, 14 January 2008 (UTC)
The problem with that proposal and what Gerry Ashton wrote is that it is as "fudgy smudgy" as the current one and doesn't clear clear enough guideance. The problem with defaulting to SI is that it ignores what the real world consensus is for a particular topic and then box tickers come along and make changes that are not needed to articles. Fnagaton 11:05, 14 January 2008 (UTC)
I believe that not all style issues can be decided in a mechanical fashion; sometimes the "editors" (who are really authors) have to make a judgement call. In those cases where individual editors made an odd choice for units, or went on a campaign to promote their favorite unusual unit, the problem was corrected quickly enough (in one case, Fnagaton participated in the cleanup). --Gerry Ashton (talk) 18:59, 14 January 2008 (UTC)
Using due diligence when editing articles and being able to read references, what I promote, is the opposite of acting in a mechanical fashion. Forcing SI to be used on all articles, that is deciding in a mechanical fashion, like a robot box ticker. Fnagaton 19:34, 14 January 2008 (UTC)
I can live with the reasons given by (Gerry Ashton) on 14 January 2008 for the use of non-SI units where appropriate. At one time it appeared that the default was going to be SI only, e.g. earlier statements of opinions / MoS could be read as - only recent references will be taken into account & if recent US newspaper references are in non-metric/SI units they don't count. I recognise the problems of confusion that the definition of a kilobyte, as 2 raised to the power ten, cause but I have no view on the way forward to this particular problem.Pyrotec (talk) 17:57, 16 January 2008 (UTC)
User:Swtpc6800 has written an excellent page covering this topic of binary prefixes showing why the IEC prefixes shouldn't be used. Fnagaton 18:57, 16 January 2008 (UTC)

Metric to Imperial conversion

10:16::25:40 The second ratio just has the numerator and denominator multiplied by 2.5. As human beings, in general, have 10 fingers, it is preferable to leave the former ratio. A better integer approximation is 37km ≈ 23 mi. The error there is on the order of 0.04% as opposed to 0.58%, but I believe it is too unwieldy for regular quick estimation. -- Avi (talk) 17:41, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

Using 33 km ≈ 20.5 mi has an error of around 0.03% amd using 35km ≈ 21.75 mi has an error of around 0.01%, but let's not get crazy here Face-smile.svg -- Avi (talk) 17:46, 3 January 2008 (UTC)
Using a multiple of 10 in one unit, but not the other, suggests a bias to one of them. If one has 10 miles, it is not clear what the accuracy is. It may mean 1·101, in which case the best conversion would be 20 km. So it's better to use an example that unambiguously has the same number of significant digits. I have changed to the best approximation in 2 digits each. The numbers in these example do not have to be intuitive, since it's the principle that is being explained. −Woodstone (talk) 18:53, 3 January 2008 (UTC)
Sounds fine to me. -- Avi (talk) 19:03, 3 January 2008 (UTC)
[I have altered indentation of Avi's latest contribution.] I'm with you, Woodstone. Give an example that is not meaninglessly keyed to numbers that are under discussion in a different way. Since the number 10 is at the core of the topic, avoid its irrelevant intrusion in the example. A subtle and judicious change; very reader-friendly!
– Noetica♬♩Talk 00:59, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
I must be missing something. What is this discussion about, anyway? What does it have to do with WP:MOSNUM in particular? I can see no connection whatsoever. Is this tied into some earlier discussion? Gene Nygaard (talk) 10:36, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

Choice of numbers for use in our MoS examples

I guess I figured it out by looking at the edit-warring between Crissov and Avraham (Avi) about those numbers as used in an example in the Which system to use subheading under the Units of measurement header, it was just a very unexplanatory subject header here with no explanation of where those numbers were coming from in the original posting here.

It has nothing to do with the rule being illustrated there. It has no more relevance there than it does up above in the very next subsection, Conversions. No, take that back. It is a change that needs to be made in the "Conversions" subsection, with its own examples. Changing it in the "Which system to use" subsection instead borders on the frivolous.

I agree with that ultimate change, that 23 mi = 37 km are better than either the 10 mi = 16 km or the 25 mi = 40 km used before. But it doesn't really improve that section at all. It does nothing whatsoever to clarify the points being made there. It only really has any relevance with respect to totally unrelated rules as to the precision of measurements, a topic relevant to the "Conversions" subsection but unrelated to the "Which system to use" subsection. Gene Nygaard (talk) 11:33, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

It indeed doesn’t improve the section much but at least a little, that’s why I marked my initial edit as minor and didn’t expect reversion (or discussion). Christoph Päper (talk) 14:54, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

False primacy of non-metric in space articles. Use of 'yards' may indicate meters in source data

Some of the space articles use 'yards' as primary values e.g. Spirit rover. This is almost certainly because the primary data is in meters. Some primary feet values (such as '33 feet') look like conversions from metric primary data. A check of the NASA websites indicate that NASA does use metric for primary data in many cases. It seems that press releases are where the metric source data is lost or falsely relegated to parenthetical form. There are lots of different projects on Wikipedia that could be the place to raise this. Does anybody have any suggestions? Lightmouse (talk) 13:40, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

There's little excuse for space articles to use metrics alone (see MOSNUM), and to check the primary sources thoroughly. Unsure what should be done. Have you put a not on the talk page of Spirit rover? Tony (talk) 13:53, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
Sometimes NASA publishes stuff for public viewing in customary units, but its researchers/astronomers most definitely submitted their report to the PR department in SI units. Considering that there is not a source for that passage in that section of the article, I don't think anyone would be upset if you were bold and switched the order. —MJCdetroit (talk) 14:15, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
This is not a question of style but of accuracy and should be brought up on the article talk page, or, better, find the sources and enter correct data. Here's one [10], for starters, that gives a different distance traveled to Bonneville crater, and that article has a different value for the crater diameter from the Spirit Rover article.--agr (talk) 14:24, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
I have now put a comment on the talk page of the article. As ArnoldReinhold says, there is a loss of accuracy. I raised it here because it is a problem that is not unique to that article. It is a generic problem that relates to any non-metric value (and some metric values) in space articles. I am more concerned about a generic solution than the individual data but will consider amending it, unless anyone else gets there first. I would like to ask people at an active relevant wikiproject. Any suggestions? Lightmouse (talk) 14:38, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
I agree with agr, it's best to always cite (using {{Cite web}}) a source. —MJCdetroit (talk) 14:49, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
To change the subject only a little, I have seen heights of space shuttle missions quoted in nautical miles. It seems odd to use such an earth-centric unit for space travel, especially as it is normally reserved for distances measured along the earth's surface (which are not straight lines). Does anyone know the origin of this bizarre practice? Are they quoted in nautical miles by NASA or does Wikipedia convert from more sensible units? Thunderbird2 (talk) 14:53, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
Many times quoted as such, as heard here: [11]MJCdetroit (talk) 15:06, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
Nautical miles for vertical heights are indeed bizarre, not found anywhere else in aeronautics or space, but they are indeed used by NASA.
This whole discussion has little to do with the MoS. There are a number of different "levels" of primacy of measurements. When the NASA public affairs office gets there fingers on the numbers, they often come out different from what the NASA engineers and the like use. But it certainly would be damn foolish to assume all NASA numbers are metric; the $328 million Mars Climate Crash-lander project is ample evidence of that, plus the fact that the NASA bigwigs explicitly refused to adopt the recommendation of their own Inspector General in the wake of that fiasco, that they stick to SI units. Gene Nygaard (talk) 15:21, 4 January 2008 (UTC)
This is also a time-sensitive issue. For example, through the end of the Apollo project at least, most of the NASA data was originally done in English units, with of course a number of specific exceptions. Another example is the thrust in the not-acceptable-for-use-with-SI kilograms-force that were the primary units in the Soviet space program until the late 1980s at least. Now the Russians often use newtons, but others such as the Chinese and even the European Space agency still use those obsolete non-SI units today. Gene Nygaard (talk) 15:29, 4 January 2008 (UTC)

Wikilinking and autoformatting

I am involved in an argument with another editor about the interpretation of the above:

per WP:DATE:"Wikipedia has articles on days of the year, years, decades, centuries and millennia. Link to one of these pages only if it is likely to deepen readers' understanding of a topic." While there will undoubtedly some dates which require linking, I believe the vast majority do not warrant linking. The other editor contends that WP:DATE says that dates should be linked for autoformatting. A date is a unit that includes all three of day, month, and year, and that it never says that a date should not be linked. However, I'm afraid I really don't get the distinction. What is the consensus interpretation on that "rule"? Ohconfucius (talk) 08:23, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
This is the subject of heated debate. I will soon launch a proposal to make the auto-lemon optional. See above and archives of this page for copious discourse on why. I've held off pending the development and implementation of a solution to the coupling of autoblotch and linking, at Bugzilla, but I'm not confident. Tony (talk) 09:53, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
Tony, you are in a distinct minority in regard to not formatting dates so preferences work. But like you, I think it is senseless that Bugzilla complaints for years haven't led to a better way of implementing autoformatting independent of linking. Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:34, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
That's your opinion, is it? Tony (talk) 14:45, 17 January 2008 (UTC)

When metric conversions are forbidden

A user refers to Marquise Walker and says the following on my talk page:

Please see Wikipedia:MOSNUM#Conversions. Yards in football are a statistical measure equal in length to the common english unit of length. However, they are not converted in general usage when referring to this football statistic.

I usually find non-metric values in sports articles difficult to understand. So I normally leave them alone and I am not bothered about this particular article. However, I would like clarification on principles:

  • Does the cited section actually forbid conversion of yards in football? If so, it needs rewording because I cannot detect that prohibition.
  • Is this issue similar to previous terms of art suggestions about weapon measurements ("9 mm") and race distances ("100 m")?

Lightmouse (talk) 11:43, 5 January 2008 (UTC)

We need input from an American editor to be sure, but let me hazard a guess. Although I don't see it in the guidelines particularly, I think the point here is that the term 'yard' in American football, while not counting directly towards the final result, is used a partial measure of sporting success during a match, similar to individual 'games' in tennis. In tennis, if you win enough games on the trot you will eventually win a set and then the match. I think something similar applies here to yards. Does that make sense? Thunderbird2 (talk) 12:07, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
(edit conflict; I'm an American editor) "Forbid" is an awfully strong term, but I do agree that converting yards to meters when discussing American football is rather pointless. When we say, "He first recorded 15 receptions against the Washington Huskies football team on September 8 2001 in a 23–18 loss where he accumulated 159 yards and two touchdowns from quarterback John Navarre", we're not actually talking about a distance of 159 yards (145 m) per se; it's just a sports statistic. And yes, this is very much the same as the terms of art discussion you linked to above. —Angr If you've written a quality article... 12:13, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
So what does "159 yards" mean? Lightmouse (talk) 12:18, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
In football, you have to advance the ball by a certain number of yards from its starting point in a certain number of tries. In your attempts to advance the ball, you may actually lose ground, because the quarterback is standing behind the ball's starting point when he receives it, and may drop further back to avoid the opposing team before finding someone to throw it to. If the opposing team gets to him first, he'll actually lose yards. So if your team is successful, at the end of the game you'll have a positive number of yards, but that number won't have any direct reference to how far anyone actually ran during the game. If Walker accumulated 159 yards, it means that's how far he advanced the ball in total, but it was probably spread over a dozen plays in which he probably actually ran at least twice that far. Basically, you can think of yards in football like points, but points that contribute not to the score of the game, but only to the statistics showing how good an individual player or an entire team is. —Angr If you've written a quality article... 12:22, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
And, on each play, the number of yards is a count of the number of yardlines crossed; 38 inches might be two yards, whereas 34 inches might be zero yards. Subject to somebody's somewhat subjective judgment of where the lines are, of course; the lines aren't drawn every yard. Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:39, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
That doesn't mean, however, that there aren't measurements in relation to American football that might benefit from a conversion. For example, an often quoted statistic is a player's time in running 40 yards. A conversion of that fixed number for the distance of this performance testing to 37 meters or even 36.6 m would be reasonable. Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:43, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
An American football field
Gene stated, "the lines aren't drawn every yard". Yes, there are two sets of "hash-marks"; one on each side of the field. Each hash is one yard apart. Every five yards a "line" is painted all the way across the field—see the image to the right.
A minimum amount of conversions maybe helpful, but what may be best would be to simply state (not a link) what a yard is equal to after the first occurrence and not convert after that. Would you also convert something like Asafa Powell or Donovan Bailey's to be completely converted to yards and ft/s?—Probably not. —MJCdetroit (talk) 18:36, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for all the comments. They are helpful. Lightmouse (talk) 09:29, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
Whenever the ball is spotted between those hashmarks, MJCdetroit, it is still always somebody's guess as to where the ball is in relation to those "lines". Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:38, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
It's not up to Wikipedia to set in stone what units are to be used and what units are not to be used. The units used in articles are according to the MOS (and always should be) those used by the majority of reliable sources relevant to the article with the option of using disambiguation conversions to some other units in parenthesis. Fnagaton 12:22, 6 January 2008 (UTC)
On the contrary, it is entirely proper for us to make such style choices. The only issue is whether or not we should do so. Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:39, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

Markup for hard space: voting ends soon!

There is discussion here about improved markup for the hard space (non-breaking space, non-break space, &nbsp;, etc.). Some of us are working towards an important proposal for this essential element in good editing (relevant for proper formatting of numbers with their associated units, formulae in mathematics and the sciences, and many other purposes). It usually escapes attention because spaces are invisible. See some of the earlier discussion at WT:MOS.

Editors still have the opportunity to vote for their preferred markup for the hard space. But voting ends soon: about 24 hours from the time of this posting, at 00:03, 7 January 2008 (UTC).

Let's all work on this one together.

– Noetica♬♩Talk 00:28, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

Hard space: results of the vote on preferred markup

The hard-space working group has voted on preferred markup. See the results and join the discussion HERE. All editors are welcome, of course. The page has been trimmed and archived. Get oriented by reading at the top. The current agenda item is highlighted in yellow.

These discussions and votes do not aim at "official" status, but they will feed into a big proposal that we will make to the whole Wikipedia community.

– Noetica♬♩Talk 08:58, 7 January 2008 (UTC)


appearance of N·m on your browser

Feedback is requested on the following problem. The text "N·m" (the symbol for a newton metre) appears in my internet browser as

  • letter "N" and letter "m" separated by a black square, like a check box, about half the size of the letter "N",

whereas it should be

  • letter "N" and letter "m" separated by a middle dot.

I am not looking for a solution to this problem (though I would be grateful for one nevertheless). Rather, I am trying to establish how widespread it is. Which of the following do you see here: "N·m" ?

a) a black square between N and m
b) a black dot between N and m
c) something else (please specify)

Thanks Thunderbird2 (talk) 09:30, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

It shows as a correct middot on my IE7. −Woodstone (talk) 10:30, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
It's a correct middot for me too (Firefox on Windows XP, using Verdana as my standard display font). —Angr If you've written a quality article... 15:50, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
It shows as a middle dot for me, using Windows XP SP 2, with two browsers, IE7 and Firefox. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 20:02, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
Same for me. EdChem (talk) 12:14, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

What browser are you using? —Remember the dot (talk) 20:13, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

And have you changed the default browser font, encoding preferences, or the regional settings of your operating system? For the record, it works for me on WinXP x64 edition, with the latest Firefox or IE7, with the default settings for the UK, except the font set to Arial Unicode MS. – Kieran T (talk) 20:19, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
I use MS Internet Explorer v6.0, with Windows Millenium. I haven't (knowingly) changed any settings or preferences. (At work I have Firefox with Windows XP; it works fine there) Thunderbird2 (talk) 10:22, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
Shows as a mid dot on my UK default Safari 3.0 on Mac OS X 4 Dick G (talk) 21:23, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

Grammar in the guideline

"Spell out ordinal numbers when they are inclusive used as the first word" doesn't look right to me. If someone knows what is meant by that, please fix it. Chris the speller (talk) 18:50, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

I have no idea what is meant. But if you look at the whole sentence and the examples given, there is a high probability that it is a stupid, half-thought out rule of the sort all too common in the MoS, one that should not be there in the first place:
  • The full sentence says: "Spell out ordinal numbers when they are inclusive used as the first word of a proper name (e.g. Fourth Amendment; Seventeenth Judicial District)."
Nobody ever writes "Seven Hundred Eighty-Fourth Tank Battalion"; nobody ever even bothered to make a redirect from that to 784th Tank Battalion (United States), and Sixth Ranger Battalion is against the conventions of the United States Army as well; it is quite properly found under 6th Ranger Battalion.
That's likely one example out of many for which the stated rule, even if someone can make it comprehensible, will still be nonsense. Gene Nygaard (talk) 20:33, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
In United States Army nomenclature, IIRC, the spelled-out ordinals are used only for "Armies", such as the Sixth Army. The conventions may differ elsewhere; we have Wikipedia articles at Sixth Army (France), Sixth Army (Germany), 6th Army (Soviet Union), and Sixth United States Army. Roman numerals for Corps with no dots or other ordinal indicators in U.S. usage such as V Corps and III Corps, Arabic numeral ordinals for most everything else above company level (usually with just "d" appended to the number for second or third or blankety-second and the like). Gene Nygaard (talk) 20:46, 7 January 2008 (UTC)

Extra bullet regarding citation in units

I added an extra bullet to the units section regarding citing sources. It stated:

Measurements should be accompanied by a proper citation of the source using <ref name=> </ref> tags and a citation template such as {{Cite web}} from Category:Citation templates.

That was disliked for the reasoning that "citation TEMPLATES are not required; any method of formatting citations is allowed". Therefore, I made the bullet much more generic and inserted as:

Measurements should be accompanied by a proper citation of the source using a method described at the style guide for citation.

My question is: shouldn't we have a preferred method of citing a source for units of measurement? If the the Harvard style is used it could result in something that looks clumsy or cluttered (for lack of a better words). Does anyone have any thoughts on this? —MJCdetroit (talk) 16:35, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

I think the second version of the edit is a definite improvement. I don't think we can have a different method for measurements than for the rest of the article. There seems to be no hope of establishing a uniform system of citation for Wikipedia, but if I were choosing a system for a paper with lots of measurements, I would choose Harvard. This is because the superscripted numbers used with notes might be confused with an exponent. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 16:58, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
I'm happy with the change and with the use of "Harvard"; strictly, Wikipedia goes a bit beyond Harvard as ISBN's are added for books, but that is not a bad thing.Pyrotec (talk) —Preceding comment was added at 17:21, 8 January 2008 (UTC)
More senseless instruction creep. Gene Nygaard (talk) 01:03, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
Senseless instruction creep is the insistance on this or that citation style but I'd say that (at least generally) there is sense in the insistance on a citation of some sort but this latter is not a case of instruction creep since it's already policy, it's simply been given an explicite mention here, which ain't really a bad thing. Jɪmp 03:23, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
Citation of some sort is no different for measurements than for anything else. The rules for that aren't in the province of the MoS. It's instruction creep for the MoS to deal with it. Gene Nygaard (talk) 05:11, 10 January 2008 (UTC)
Then it's an existant instruction creeping in where it doesn't belong. Jɪmp 08:37, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

ISO dates as wiki markup for formatting

See User:Omegatron/Date formatting for examples and explanation of the "ISO as markup" proposal. Please comment. — Omegatron 05:16, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

Question about linking

Just a quick one, hopefully, as I can't see this discussed on the page anywhere. Ignoring for now the merits or otherwise of date linking, what is the preferred method of linking when the exact date is not known? e.g. should I use [[November]] [[2007]] or [[November 2007]] - both of which return valid articles? Thanks in advance, Steve TC 08:48, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

Where you don't have the full date, then the answer is neither. Unless the month or year has some special relevance to the article, and following the link would be useful for the reader. Date linking is used, where the date hasn't got special relevance, only for auto-formatting according to user preferences. Since auto-formatting just controls whether, for example, "9 January 2008" or "January 9, 2008" is displayed, there's nothing for it to do when you don't have the full date. So, to answer again: neither. HTH. Carre (talk) 09:12, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
Many thanks; that was indeed helpful. Best regards, Steve TC 09:31, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
And give the full auto-lemon a miss, too; your readers will appreciate not having silly blue blotches everywhere. Tony (talk) 14:18, 9 January 2008 (UTC)
Please stop, Tony. You have not achieved consensus for your positions on this matter. Rmhermen (talk) 20:19, 11 January 2008 (UTC)
I will not stop. Read the text of MOS carefully and you'll see problems in enforcing what you call a mandatory function. Tony (talk) 00:05, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

One-digit ages

Her son died at the age of 1.
Her son died at the age of one.

Are such usages as the one above mentioned here? It seems as if this should be another exception to the rule of spelling out one-digit ages. Michael Hardy (talk) 23:57, 11 January 2008 (UTC)

If we are not talking about arithmetic (or addresses), then I'd been led to believe that numbers of ten or less should be speltout as words not written as numbers; e.g. one, not 1; whereas 11 or 12 was OK. On that basis the preference would be Her son died at the age of one., not Her son died at the age of 1.. I'm not sure whether it is in MoS, or where?Pyrotec (talk) 01:17, 12 January 2008 (UTC)