Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions (geographic names)

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Q: Why do articles on populated places in the United States primarily use the [[Placename, State]] "comma convention" format? Why are those cities listed in the Associated Press Stylebook as not requiring the state modifier exempt from this guideline?
A: This is an issue where different rules of Wikipedia:Article titles conflict with each other, thus consensus determines which ones to follow. Most of these articles were created by User:Rambot, a Wikipedia bot, back in 2002 based on U.S. Census Bureau records. When creating these pages, Rambot used the "Placename, State" naming format, initially setting a consistent naming convention for these articles. Supporters of keeping the "Placename, State" format argue that this is generally the common naming convention used by the Associated Press (AP) and most other American reliable sources. Opponents argue that this format is neither precise nor concise, and results in short titles like Austin redirecting to longer titles like Austin, Texas. After a series of discussions since 2004, a compromise was reached in 2008 that established the "AP Stylebook" exception rule for only those handful of cities listed in that style guide as not requiring the state modifier. There has been since no consensus to do a massive page move on the other articles on U.S. places (although individual requested move proposals have been initiated on different pages from time to time). There is currently a moratorium on changing the USPLACE policy, unless it's for a reason that has not been discussed previously.
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SEE ALSO: Wikipedia_talk:Naming_conventions_(places)/Archive

WP:USPLACE: May 2004 discussionJune 2004 discussionJuly 2005 proposal (not passed)December 2005 proposal (not passed)August 2006 proposals (not passed)Aug 2006 proposal to use one international convention (not passed)September 2006 proposals (not passed)October 2006 proposal to use the AP Stylebook for major US cities (not passed)November 2006 proposal to mirror Canadian city conventions (not passed)November 2006 straw pollDecember 2006 proposal (not passed)January 2007 proposal to use the AP Stylebook for major US cities (not passed)January 2007 discussionJuly 2007 discussionJuly 2007 proposal to use one international convention (not passed)October 2008 decision to use the AP Stylebook for major US cities (passed)March 2010 discussionJune 2010 discussionJanuary 2011 RFC (consensus to maintain status quo)April 2012 discussionOctober 2012 discussion on whether to initiate another RFCDecember 2012 Collaborative WorkspaceDecember 2012 RFC (consensus to maintain status quo)February 2013 RFC (no consensus)June 2013 discussion
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Contents

Commas in metro areas[edit]

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

CLOSE[edit]

The following closing statement of ~8500 words was written by Herostratus (talk) 08:17, 16 November 2013 (UTC)
I'm closing the discussion. I'll detail all reasons below. The result is:
1) No change to the conventions used for article text.
2) For article titles incorporating the specific phrase "metropolitan area" the form is "[city name] metropolitan area, [state name]", for example "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio". Only applies firmly to entities in the United States, only applies where disambiguation is required, applies for terms closely related to "metropolitan area" (see below).

2A) For such titles where the metropolitan area spans two or or more states (or provinces, etc.), the form is "[city name] metropolitan area, [state name 1–state name 2–state name n]", for example "Kansas City metropolitan area, Kansas–Missouri".
2B) For such titles where the metropolitan bears the name of two or more cities, the form is "[city name 1]–[city name 2]–[city name n] metropolitan area, [state name(s) (if included]", for example "Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area, Minnesota".
The use of "Kansas City metropolitan area, Kansas–Missouri" and "Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area, Minnesota" as examples is not intended to imply that Kansas City metropolitan area or Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area require the further amplification, only that if they did the form shown should be used. The use of "and" (as for instance ""Kansas City metropolitan area, Kansas and Missouri") is to be avoided.
2C) State names should only be included when disambiguation is required (per the spring 2013 RfC here which asked the question "Should US metropolitan area article titles include a state name, even when no disambiguation is strictly necessary?" and the conclusion was "No", superseding the previous WP:USPLACE suggestion the state name should be omitted only if the first principal city is one of the 30 U.S. cities cited by the Associated Press Stylebook for stand alone datelines (BTW WP:USPLACE needs to be updated to reflect that).

3) There was little discussion of non-USA entities, so no hard decision is made here regarding non-USA entities, BUT it's strongly recommended that when practicable the same form ("[city name] metropolitan area, [appropriate larger polity name]", for instance "Leeds metropolitan area, Yorkshire" (if disambiguation were required for Leeds)) should be used, UNLESS superseded by some consideration specific to that nation and there's a strong demonstration that that consideration requires the general rule to be overridden.
4) No decision and no change for all other article titles. (Thus, no decision is rendered on whether (for instance) "Columbus, Ohio, train disaster" or "Columbus, Ohio train disaster" or "Columbus train disaster, Ohio" or "Columbus train disaster (Ohio)" or "Train disaster in Columbus, Ohio" or some other construction is preferred.)

In this and all text that follows, I've assumed that "metropolitan area" also includes very closely related terms such as "metropolitan statistical area", "micropolitan area" and "conurbation", and similar terms used outside the USA, such as "census metropolitan area" in Canada, if for some reason these need to be used in titles (when not inappropriate, the use of the uncapitalized non-country-specific generic English term "metropolitan area" is encouraged.)

Scope[edit]

The specific question was this:

"Recently our guideline Wikipedia:Naming conventions (geographic names) was edited to state that when the city and state is given followed by something else, such as Dublin, Georgia micropolitan area, a comma is used after the state. Should there be a comma there, yes or no?"

And in the Survey section, the question was stated thus:

"On just the question of whether one comma or two commas are preferred when a state name is used parenthetically as in "Rochester, New York metropolitan area" versus "Rochester, New York, metropolitan area", in a title or in a sentence, please make a brief numbered signed entry..."

As I expressed in the subsection "Requested closure" at the bottom of the discussion, the questions could be taken to cover various circumstances. However, in reading the discussion and various related discussions, I find that most of the participants, by far, understood the discussion as bearing on article titles only. To expand this discussion to include a ruling on article text would not be proper, there simply wasn't enough discussion for me to gauge community feeling on that. This would be a significant change affecting very many articles and we'd need a new a separate discussion for that, one in which it was specifically made clear that article text was in play.

Furthermore, by far the majority of the examples used, and the discussion, specifically took the question to bear on titles that include the term "metropolitan area" (and related closely similar phrases) -- enough that I did not consider other terms to have been discussed enough that it'd be fair to gauge the community feeling on terms other than "metropolitan area". So I can't render a decision on those.

Besides this discussion, I read through these related discussions, and included them in my deliberations.

The titles (and contents) of these discussions further reinforces my feeling that only article titles are in play, and only those containing the term "metropolitan area".

I can't forbid someone taking this discussion and leveraging it as a implied precedent to cover either article titles that don't contain the term "metropolitan area", or article text of any kind, but I wouldn't recommend that, at all. Instead, run a new discussion; pointing to this one as a precedent would be a reasonable argument but no more than that.

Let's get down to brass tacks.

Policy arguments[edit]

The controlling authorities are, in descending order of precedence:

In summary, my considered judgement is that on this particular issue, the first three of these authorities provides little useful guidance. They don't really prescribe or even suggest to the level of detail sufficient to answer the question we're asking here: should, or should not, there be a comma in a particular case in a a particular circumstance. The fourth authority WP:COMMA does provide guidance to this level of detail, but its applicability to titles is clearly subject to debate.

Let's look at the policy. Wikipedia:Article titles opens with

"[I]t is sometimes necessary to add distinguishing information, often in the form of a description in parentheses after the name. Generally, article titles are based on what the subject is called in reliable sources". The first section ("Deciding on an article title") reiterates this by opening with "Article titles are based on how reliable English-language sources refer to the article's subject". This in turn is based on the admonition that article titles should be formed in light of "other policies, particularly the core content policies Verifiability and No original research"

So article titles are based on what the subject is called in reliable sources, and we're not supposed to make up our own titles for entities (original research) or use titles that the reader can't independently verify is the actual correct name. This supersedes everything. If and only if what the subject is called in reliable sources is different in different sources (and there's not a clear and overwhelming preponderance in favor of one form over others) is there any need to continue looking into the issue or reading any further into WP:AT. That's what WP:AT says.

However, looking at our actual practice, it's clear that it's not that cut and dried for parenthetical disambiguation. But while preponderance of sources is (according to my reading) not, as a matter of Wikipedia practice, always a case-closed end-of-discussion point for disambiguating terms, it is true that preponderance of sources is something to pay strong attention to. You can't just wave away what the policy says.

OK, so at Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions (geographic names)#Commas in metro areas#What do sources say? it looks the preponderance of sources says to use two commas, according to some exhaustive and highly laudable research by User:Dicklyon (thank you Dicklyon!). However, this research covers what style guides and prescriptive grammars say. When it comes to what people actually write in newspapers and official documents and so forth, the answer is a less clear, and it looks like people ignore the style guides and grammars to some extent. My inclination is to take actual usage in text as the reliable sources.

By the way, the argument that this applies only to body text is pretty much knocked for six because the MOS says "The guidance contained elsewhere in the MoS, particularly in the section below on punctuation, applies to all parts of an article, including the title." (emphasis added).

(This leads to some contradictory prescriptions, as when the MOS says "Official names (of companies, organizations, or places) should not be altered" but WP:AT (in its WP:COMMONNAME section) says "Wikipedia does not necessarily use the subject's 'official' name as an article title; it prefers to use the name that is most frequently used to refer to the subject in English-language reliable sources." In cases of conflict, I assume that WP:AT is the operative authority, because it's a policy and because it's specifically tailored for titles. But there's no conflict here because neither the MOS or WP:AT address our specific issue.

(The MOS also says "Places should generally be referred to consistently by the same name as in the title of their article". This doesn't apply to us because adding or omitting a second comma doesn't really change the name of the entity.)

Anyway, User:Huwmanbeing and some others make a cogent and impassioned argument that we have to use common sense and not take this too far. The point was made that our article titles violate many rules that we apply to body text (by not containing verbs or ending with a period, for instance), which is true, and this shows a de facto flexibility on the matter (which is then further avowed to be beneficial). I'm constitutionally amenable to that point -- I don't think our rules were meant to be read as a fundamentalist might read the Bible -- but I'm not willing to just wave away the clear statement "The guidance... applies to all parts of an article, including the title.", so I'm somewhere in the middle on this I guess.

But there is also the argument that our other disambiguation policies carry some weight of precedent -- a great deal of weight, actually. Regarding the latter, User:Frungi makes the case "We don’t consult reliable sources for how to title articles for disambiguation... no reliable source uses the terms “Jumper (film)”, “Jumper (novel)”, “jumper (dress)”, “jumper (computing)”, etc. We have our own conventions for that, and I see no reason that they shouldn’t apply to ambiguous X-politan area names as well."

That's a fair point. Since it's a fair point, let's at least look further down into the policy.

So we then find in WP:AT (in the lede) "When [reliable sources] offer multiple possibilities, editors choose among them by considering several principles: the ideal article title

  • resembles titles for similar articles,
  • precisely identifies the subject, and
  • is short, natural, and recognizable."

and the first section ("Deciding on an article title") expands on this a little, with five bolded bullet points: Recognizability, Naturalness, Precision, Conciseness, and Consistency with other articles of the same type (for which we are then pointed to this page (WP:PLACE) for details on, and I assume only on, this last point (consistency)).

None of these five bolded points are "Grammatical correctness" nor is there any prescription that article titles should be complete sentences or be congruent with normal rules for grammar in text. ("Naturalness" here means "[use what] readers are likely to look for" rather than natural prose stytle and "Precision" is about helping the reader "unambiguously identify the article's subject", not grammatical precision). It doesn't say "ignore rules of grammar" either. It doesn't say anything.

I think a fair assumption is that the prescription of use the name generally used in sources is to serve the important virtue of recognizability, and the other four virtues too, on the macro scale. And so really the prescription "follow reliable sources" is written to handle big differences -- whether to call an article New Orleans or The Big Easy or nouvelle-Orléans -- and not really to dictate small formatting details. The precise formatting used by the preponderance of sources is not something to completely ignore either, it's just the intent of the rule as I read it is not to make this the sole controlling factor.

Drilling down through each of the sections: "Use commonly recognizable names" (WP:COMMONNAME) -- again, I note that all of the many examples give much grosser differences than what we are talking about here -- "Use Guinea pig and not Cavia porcellus" and so on. There're no examples bearing on fine-tuning via comma placement or whatever. The editors who wrote the rule could have included some, but they didn't, and I think that that says something.

And here's something interesting: " Wikipedia prefers the name that is most commonly used (as determined by its prevalence in reliable English-language sources) as such names will be the most recognizable and the most natural." (emphasis added.) To stretch that out and informalize it a bit, the passage could be restated like this: "Remember when we said 'article titles are based on what the subject is called in reliable sources'? Well, we mainly did that because what we really want is the 'most recognizable and most natural' titles, and reliable sources almost by definition provide that. (After all, it's practically impossible to image a case where a clear preponderance of many reliable sources called a place by a certain name, yet significant numbers of readers did not recognize that name.)" This makes sense, and it explains an important reason why we go by preponderance of sources, I think.

So. There are two reasons for using commonly recognizable names:

  1. So the reader can find the page, ("natural"), and
  2. So the reader, when she has found the page, quickly and accurately perceives what it's about ("recognizable").

For the first purpose, I think that the addition or subtraction of a comma makes essentially no difference given the way our search engine works. It doesn't exactly ignore commas, but the autocomplete on "Columbus, Ohio, metrop" and "Columbus, Ohio metrop" (as well as "Columbus Ohio metrop") are identical, and I think this would be true in 100% of cases or very nearly so. (This is not even considering that, after all, we do have hard redirects.) I think that Google can't easily tell these forms apart either.

For the second purpose, I think that the addition or subtraction of a comma makes very little difference but not absolutely no difference. When a reader accesses the page about the Columbus (in Ohio) metropolitan area, we don't want her to think that maybe she's looking at a page about the Columbus (in Georgia) metropolitan area, or just the city of Columbus proper, or about a city called Columbus in the state of Ohio Metropolitan Area, or a neighborhood in Columbus called the Ohio Metropolitan Area, or any other wrong thing. If these last two seem silly, consider the foreign reader who has an indifferent grasp of English and isn't familiar with the names of our states and so on.

As a practical matter, I'm skeptical about how much the addition or subtraction of a comma is going to matter much. Any comma placement will suffice to differentiate between Columbus in Ohio and Columbus in Georgia, and no comma placement is going to much help the person who thinks that that maybe "Ohio metropolitan area" is the name of a state or a neighborhood.

However, "not much" is not exactly "none", and there is a difference between implying (Columbus)(Ohio metropolitan area) and (Columbus)(Ohio)(metropolitan area), and it mattersw. But then, since we're dealing with a person who's all at sea regarding American geography and English, "Columbus, Ohio, metropolitan area" could be taken to mean something similar to "Columbus, Ohio, great lakes region" (which would be a logical progression in size of entities) -- maybe "metropolitan area" is what Americans call the geographic core of the country and Ohio is a subset of that (see Metropolitan France for instance).

All in all, I'd avoid overemphasizing how much technical grammar structures are going to be helpfully understood by a person in this predicament, and as a practical matter, the person probably going to have to read the first sentence, which is "The Columbus Metropolitan Area is the metropolitan area centered on the American city of Columbus, Ohio".

So to some extent we're grasping at straws here. The fact is that all the solutions, suggested or imaginable, have flaws and are subject to various misinterpretations. If there was a perfect solution we wouldn't be here. We do want to find the solution that is least subject to misinterpretation.

Final note, we're advised via Wikipedia:Official names to not pay much heed to legal names, which doesn't really apply here anyway.

"Neutrality in article titles" WP:POVTITLE

Doesn't apply.

"Explicit conventions" WP:MOSAT

That takes us to this page (Wikipedia:Naming conventions (geographic names)) of course. We'll look at that closely later, keeping in mind that it's a guideline not a policy.

"Precision and disambiguation" WP:PRECISION

It says that if you can't use natural disambiguation (which we can't), then "add a disambiguating term in parentheses"; but then "With place names, if the disambiguating term is a higher-level administrative division, it is often separated using a comma instead of parentheses" (emphasis added). Note that "metropolitan area" is not a higher-level administrative division. WP:CONCISE says "be concise" and I suppose that an extra comma makes a title a tiny bit less concise.
If you take this section straight up literally, my reading is that you might end up with "Columbus metropolitan area (Ohio)", which a couple of editors did suggest -- for instance User:Frungi says (in another discussion) "Rochester metropolitan area (New York); Rochester metropolitan area (Minnesota). This is consistent with parenthetical disambiguation across Wikipedia". He's right, I believe. That didn't gain much traction and isn't on table, though. And by precedent interest groups are permitted to set their own standards -- for instance ship names are usually in the format Soviet patrol boat Tuman rather than Tuman (Soviet patrol boat) per an decision made long ago (dunno why) by Wikipedia:WikiProject Ships. It may be the geography-oriented folks just like commas, or it may be just random chance that "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio" is on the table and "Columbus metropolitan area (Ohio)" isn't. They're not substantively different and even if it made a difference its too late to worry about it now.

The rest of the page, English-language titles WP:UE and on down, doesn't apply to any issues in contention here.

Survey, and headcount[edit]

Italics indicates that that's the editors second choice.

Supporting one comma:

  • User:Dohn joe. Second comma is awkward.
  • User:MelanieN. Reliable sources differ. Argument either way not sufficient to change status quo (which is one comma).
  • User:SarekOfVulcan Titles are not sentences, so appositive rules may not apply.
  • User:Omnedon. Titles are not sentences, clarity is key, and ll in all one comma does this best.
  • User:Huwmanbeing. Per others. Second comma is pedantry. Making a big change for pedantic reasons not called for.
  • User:BDD. Ditto Huwmanbeing.
  • User:Ntsimp. It's not an appositive. Second comma after the state rarely called for.
  • User:ὁ οἶστρος. Because "metropolitan area" is referring to the whole term "Columbus, Ohio", it's (Columbus Ohio)(metro area) and one comma is the best way to show this.

Supporting two commas:

  • User:Dicklyon. Per accepted style guides including our own, state in middle takes commas on both sides. (Open to other constructs which obviate the issue.)
  • User:sroc. Per style guides on proper construction of parenthetical clauses. (Open to other constructs which obviate the issue.)
  • User:HandsomeFella. Per obvious sentence grammar. (Editor tentatively supported (in the discussion sections) "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio" type structure as a second choice at least better than the one-comma version.)
  • User:Bkonrad. Good grammar.
  • User:Arthur Rubin. State name is parenthetical, which requires that it be set off by two punctuation marks.
  • User:LtPowers. Longstanding grammatical practice and improves clarity.
  • User:Frungi. Per standard English grammar and MOS:COMMA.
  • User:Tony1. Grammar per others, avoids ambiguity.
  • User:Agnosticaphid. It's both wrong and confusing to omit the second comma. ESL users will be confused if its omitted.
  • User:Reify-tech. It's clearer and that's key. (Open to other constructs which obviate the issue.)
  • User:Stfg. More precise and clearer.
  • User:TCN7JM. Proper grammar and clearer.
  • User:Orlady. Grammatically correct. Clearer: this discussion and others shows some are confused by one-comma form.

Supporting "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio" type structure, as first choice:

  • User:Ohconfucius. Avoid comma overload.
  • User:Frungi. This, or a variant using parentheses, is by far the best option.
  • User:Stfg. The 2-comma form is clunky and hard to parse, while the 1-comma form is misleading.
  • User:sroc. Avoid awkward construction.
  • User:Waggers. Makes much more sense, especially to English speakers outside of the USA.
  • User:No such user. Ditto Waggers.
  • User:Agnosticaphid. Least awkward. Some reservations but still best option.
  • User:Ronan McGurrin. Much more unambiguous and clear cut option than slapping on more commas.
  • User:Chris troutman. Best option.
  • User:David Eppstein. It's the city that names the metro area, not the state, so why separate the two parts of the metro area's name?
  • User talk:76.65.128.222. Preferable, it gets rid of arguments over one or two commas by displacing the whole state. "City (State) metropolitan area" or "Metropolitan area of City, State" OK too.
  • User talk:71.21.81.61. Most logical option. [N.B.: redlinked IP, but sufficient edit history to have standing.]
  • User:Ezhiki. Solves both problems at once.

(Specifically opposed to "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio" type structure)

  • User:Nyttend. Fails common name test, people don't talk or write like that.

Here's a somewhat recent discussion which is germane regarding, and only regarding, article titles, but not limited to those about metropolitan areas: Wikipedia talk:Article titles/Archive 42#Do article titles that include proper names need to follow standard grammatical rules? There's a huge of amount of discussion here. Furthermore, there are pointers to many other discussions which I looked at but which I'm not really going to bring in here, there's got to be cutoff somewhere.

The example of Riverside, Buffalo, New York (a neighborhood in Buffalo) is pointed out. User:Born2cycle makes the point: "I don't know of any precedence or reason to use 'common natural sentence form' in article titles". Note that he's talking about precedent and reason, not what our rules say. It is true that the three-word phrase ("including the title") that ties the MOS to article titles doesn't give any reason for doing that; and there's no objective reason that I can think of offhand, and really no one offered a strong objective benefit during the long discussions, and I don't think it's possible to do so; and as thinking persons we're permitted to heavily discount sentence fragments that may be the work of a few people long ago and for which no objective demonstration of benefit may be obtained. That's my reading of Born2cycle's point (OK I expanded it a little), and I think it's a fair point.

As far as individual editors (not included ones who commented in this current RfC) I get:

  • User:Peter coxhead. Two commas, the article title should be styled the same way as it would be in text.
  • User:Born2cycle. Neither, use parens e.g. "Columbus metropolitan area (Ohio)". [Editor did not say if this would extend to "Columbus train disaster (Ohio)".]
  • User:Blueboar. Ditto Born2cycle. Also suggested "Columbus, Ohio (metropolitan area)".
  • User:BD2412. How about "Columbus (Ohio metropolitan area)".
  • User:DanielPenfield. Points to here with approval: "When the state or country's name becomes part of a compound structure, the second comma is dropped". This editor had many other things to say, and I think he was clear enough for me to count him as a one-comma guy. Hope that's right.

Here's a recent discussion which is germane regarding, and only regarding, the use of the phrase "metropolitan area" (and close cognates I assume): and I'll include it too: Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions (geographic names)/Archives/2013/August#Metropolitan/micropolitan areas and the like. It's specifically and only about metropolitan areas.

  • User:Apteva expressed support for the one comma rubrick.

36 respondents. For now, I'm going to put aside User:BD2412, as he had a (useful) suggestion different from the ones in play (and different enough that I can't guess if he'd support one of the others.) For now I'm going to put aside User:Nyttend as he just had an oppose to one option, don't know what he actually supports. That leaves 34. User:Born2cycle and User:Blueboar had early suggestion of "Columbus metropolitan area (Ohio)" which in my judgement is close enough to (the later-suggested) ("Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio" that I'll count them in that camp. This gives, counting first choice only:

  • 9 for "Columbus, Ohio metropolitan area"
  • 10 for "Columbus, Ohio, metropolitan area"
  • 15 for "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio" (Also 1 specific oppose.)

34 respondents divided 9/10/15 is 26%/29%/44%. Obviously the more choices the more diffuse your spread, and it's hard enough to get supermajority with two viable options on the table and near impossible with three. On the other hand, refusing to stick to a binary vote is good, and I'm not inclined to throw up my hands and say "no consensus possible!" just because people were flexible enough to not be binary. So let's see if we can tease something out of this. I feel I do have to try to do this because a lot of this comes down to opinion. I've done closes where most of the work is figuring out which of many applicable policies apply most strongly, and this ain't one. I need to try tease out a feeling of where people are at for this one.

There's a number of ways to look at this. One is "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio" has about a 60% to %40 plurality over any single other option, but I don't think that means much. The two less popular options have near identical support, so something along the lines of "remove the least popular single option and refactor the survey" would be too close to "remove an option at random". Instead, I'm going to very loosely group the "Columbus, Ohio, metropolitan area" and "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio" together for bit. Here and in subsequent exposition I'm going to call these these the "correct grammar faction".

My reason for doing that is that several of the "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio" folks had "Columbus, Ohio, metropolitan area" as their second choice, but none had "Columbus, Ohio metropolitan area" as their second choice. (Put another way, none of the one-comma folks migrated to "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio" but several of the two-comma folks did). This, and just the general tone of argument and what seems important to people, leads me to feel that that's how to do it. I just get the vibe that a lot of people who aren't on the one-comma boat are appalled by it, that to the extent that there are two camps, they would be "grammar doesn't apply to titles" vs. "grammar must be correct, however it's done".

OK, so this leaves 9/25 or 26%/74% for the two positions "grammar not so important/correct grammar is important" (or however you want to call it), so we knock out the one-comma folks, and when the remaining unstable compound splits apart we have 10/15 or 40%/60% for "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio". With these numbers, and on this topic, that's just barely enough to consider a supermajority in play. Certainly not even remotely enough of one to say "case closed" but enough so that I consider headcount a factor.

Anyone who doesn't like my reasoning, we can talk. I'm doing my best to tease some forward movement out of this inchoate and widely-spread series of discussions. Giving up is not high on my list of options.

There was a an attempt at further polling in the "poll" section, which used a first-second-third-fourth-choice paradigm, which is probably a good idea when there are more than two options on the table, but not enough participation to count for much. "Metropolitan area of City, State" was brought up an alternative here, and (who knows?) might be the best form, but hasn't gained much traction.

Analysis of the discussion[edit]

OK, moving forward to the discussion.

  • Point: Single comma not permitted by by rules of grammer.
  • Counterpoint: Grammar rules don't apply to titles.
    • How I weighted this factor: A fair amount, in favor of either the two-comma version or the "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio" version, either of which is viewed as preferable to the one-comma version from the standpoint of pure grammar, I think. The MOS does say in black and white "The guidance contained elsewhere in the MoS, particularly in the section below on punctuation, applies to all parts of an article, including the title.", with the "guidance contained elsewhere" including "In geographical references that include multiple levels of subordinate divisions... a comma separates each element and follows the last element (except at the end of a sentence)" and the example of correct use is "Cooper hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft that had taken off from Portland, Oregon, and was...".
There was some discussion of cases such as "Columbus OH" but we don't use those kinds of abbreviations in article title; and many other points of grammatical detail.
  • Point: Two commas is clearer.
  • Counterpoint: No it's not.
  • Point: One comma is clearer.
  • Counterpoint: No it's not.
  • Point: Putting "Columbus metropolitan area" all together, unbroken by punctuation, is the clearest construction.
  • Counterpoint: No it's not.
    • How I weighted this factor: Somewhat, and in favor of "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio". Couple things are clear to me: 1) there's no perfect solution here -- each option offers chances for misinterpretation -- and 2) absent an extensive survey of a broad reader population it's not possible to know which kinds of misinterpretations readers are going to have, particularly readers with low knowledge of American geography and maybe of English language conventions. (I discussed both of these points more extensively above.)
Because of that, I didn't give a huge amount of weight to this factor. If there was a clear "winner" in terms of clarity, that'd be a huge factor. After reading through the discussion, I think that the point that the entity is (Columbus)(Ohio)(metropolitan area), not (Columbus)(Ohio metropolitan area), is a reasonable point of grammatical logic for what that's worth and militates a bit for the two-comma version, but the point that "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio" is maybe just a little bit clearer because it puts the actual topic of the article (Columbus metropolitan area) at the front, unbroken by any punctuation, probably has something to recommend it.
  • Point: as WP:TITLECHANGES says, "Changing one controversial title to another is strongly discouraged. If an article title has been stable for a long time, and there is no good reason to change it, it should not be changed."
    • How I weighted this factor: Zero. There is a good reason to change these titles, mainly that the situation is contentious and inherently unstable. There were many many arguments for the various versions, it's not like this is somebody's not-well-thought-out whim. And absent a controlling decision the situation will remain unstable. Not an option.
  • Point re actual usage (as opposed to prescribed usage in grammar guides and style guides): User:MelanieN writes "Reliable sources (not counting the US government, which uses state abbreviations) are split: in a search for half a dozen MSAs where disambiguation is needed, I found that the comma is usually added in formal or legal situations ('Portland, Oregon, Metropolitan Statistical Area'), but omitted in newspapers and general usage ('Portland, Oregon Metropolitan Statistical Area')". Later she writes "What I found was the second comma is commonly used in legal or official use, such as the name of a legislative action or a term in a lawsuit. On the other hand here's the EPA: 'Portland, Oregon metropolitan area'. But I also found that professional journalists find ways to write around it - not to use the actual phrase 'Portland, Oregon statistical area' but rather things like 'the statistical area of Portland, Oregon' - but when they do use the phrase 'Portland, Oregon statistical area' they generally omit the second comma. Example 'Portland–South Portland–Biddeford, Maine Metropolitan Statistical Area'. '[G]reater Portland, Oregon metropolitan area'. On the other hand here's CNN: 'the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area'... The more I look, the more I find no pattern at all; some Reliable Sources use the second comma, some don't." There was a great deal of back-and-forth on this, some of it dealing with the difference of usage in formal and legal documents vs. news stories, and much else. At the end of the day I feel reasonably comfortable stating that neither version (one-comma or two-comma) can be shown to be clearly preponderant over the other.
    • How I weighed this factor: a lot, to the effect of "reliable sources is not really a factor here" since there's no clear preponderance. And thank you MelanieN! (And Frungi, sroc, and Dicklyon, and everyone else!) As I pointed out above, this actual-usage info carries a lot more weight to my mind than style guides. As I expounded on above, I'm already inclined to take the "use reliable sources" prescription as weak in this case because 1) it's not intended to deal with punctuation, and 2) it's somewhat negated by our de facto actual methods of disambiguating titles. And since there's no clear preponderance anyway, it's basically off the table.
  • User:Nyttend points out a pretty knotty problem, taking Columbus in Georgia as an example. The metro area spans two states. "Columbus metropolitan area, Georgia-Alabama" (or "Columbus metropolitan area, Georgia and Alabama") is not satisfactory because it doesn't define what state Columbus is in, and the implication is that that's necessary (or at least useful) info. There wasn't really any counterpoint given to this.
    • How I weighed this: Quite strongly, in favor of either the one-comma or two-comma versions, because (since we have redirects to help searches) the single most important virtue for a title is to make it instantly clear to the reader exactly what she's looking at. Nyttend argues that using the "[city] 'metropolitan area' [state(s)]" construct works against this when multiple states are involved. He might be wrong, but he might be right, so its a good point. It wasn't refuted.
I'll just note that "Columbus metropolitan area, Georgia-Alabama" contains different information than does "Columbus, Georgia, metropolitan area" -- not saying one is better, it's just different info. The first doesn't tell us what state the city of Columbus is in, but it does tell us all the states the metro area is in. The second does tell what state the city of Columbus is in but it doesn't tell us what states the metro area is in. Which is preferable might depend on the individual reader, and which of these mindsets the term "Columbus metropolitan area" puts her in (I'll exaggerate a bit for effect):
  • "Here's an article about Columbus in Georgia, and also (by the way) the contiguous large densely populated area which is technically outside the city limits."
  • "Here's an article about a large densely populated area sprawling over several counties, which (by the way) is named for the large city at its center, Columbus in Georgia."
I don't have the answer to that and I guess no one does.
  • The point is made that two commas is awkward, and this is bad. The general prescription is to try to avoid the situation by rephrasing. User:Dicklyon again did yeoman work in looking at various style guides, essentially proving that it is awkward or commonly seen as awkward, at least in style guides. For this quality (awkwardness) style guides carry a fair amount of weight, I think.
There's a great deal of discussion in the "Awkward" section, regarding different standards for titles as opposed to body text, and much else. Gets into some closely-argued points of grammar. Interesting and well argued from all points, but not necessarily always bearing directly on the subject of awkwardness. I saw Dicklyon's style guide cites as carrying a lot of weight here.
    • How I weighed this: Somewhat (not a whole lot), in favor of the "[city] 'metropolitan area' [state(s)]" which avoids the one-comma/two-comma problem, and secondarily in favor of the one-comma version which breaks up the flow of the title phrase a little less. It's not nearly as important as clarity, but it's not nothing.
  • In the "Articles and categories affected" section, an editor (User:Apteva, I think) provides a list of usage of in titles. Very good work, Apteva, and useful, and thank you! One thing this shows is precedent. According to Apteva's list, which is certainly substantial but may not be exhaustive, the preponderance of one-comma to two-comma version is 100 to 3, not counting categories and not counting articles which don't use the term "metropolitan area" or something close. That's a large preponderance. (BTW of these 103, only three include the name of more than one city (Canton–Massillon, Ohio; Harrisburg–Carlisle, Pennsylvania; and North Port–Sarasota–Bradenton, Florida).)
(User:Apteva then provides a subsection, "Other examples of incorrect usage", which shows some use of the one-comma form. These don't include the term "metropolitan area" and (by intention) aren't balanced by examples of the two-comma form, so not very germane here.)
There's more discussion, around the concepts of "correct" vs. "incorrect". User:MelanieN makes the point "English is a dynamic language. Grammar rules change over time through usage" and "What Dicklyon called 'just an informality' is actually an English grammar rule in the process of changing", which I think is well put. The descriptive-vs-proscriptive approach to grammar is never settled, and I think that 100 years ago the prescriptive camp may have held the prevailed, but in this world in these times the descriptive camp has the whip hand, as a matter of practical fact, I think.
All this means is to to me personally prescriptive grammar points are not usually convincing so I don't give them too much "weight of argument" merit. For headcount, its totally different and what I think has no bearing: if a lot of Wikipedians are convinced by prescriptive-grammar arguments, then it matters -- a lot, in this case.
Getting back to User:Apteva's list, I think it shows two things:
  1. To this point, the Wikipedia's editors have "voted with their feet" to go with the one-comma version, and thereby established a precedent, and
  2. Changing away from the one-comma version will require a fair amount of work.
    • How I weighed this, for the first point (established precedent): A little -- those 100 titles were created by thinking humans who knew what they were doing -- but only a little. The whole point of this exercise is to establish a new precedent going forward (or sustain and codify the existing one), for the purpose of having the best encyclopedia in the future. It may be that the editors who created 100 one-comma version titles were doing so based on a long and closely-reasoned discussion, or they may have been blindly following a precedent established by whim or at random, or it may have been a precedent originally established from a single source (such as when a bot (User:Rambot) used U.S. Census Bureau records to create many articles back in 2002), or whatever. Not having any evidence at hand of why this situation exists, and since this is a long and closely reasoned discussion, to my mind it takes precedence over existing precedent. We're not slaves to the past.
    • How I weighed this, for the second point (workload): Essentially nil. We're talking about a few tens of man-hours or whatever. I'd certainly not be inclined to let an unsatisfactory situation continue to exist for another ten years or longer to avoid a bit of work now.
  • After a great deal more discussion -- again mostly centered around concepts of grammatical correctness -- The suggestion of the form "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio" is proposed (actually User:Bkonrad and User:Frungi expressed the opinion that "Columbus metropolitan area (Ohio)" is even better; but User:BDD opined "This form seems to be an invention on our part, which should be avoided at all costs".

Other discussions[edit]

A Recently closed RfC[edit]

Concurrently with this discussion, there was this RfC, opened on 25 October 2013 and closed (by the proposer) on 8 November 2013, and specifically mentioning WP:PLACE as a page to affecte:

The proposal was

  1. Instead of being mandated or not being mandated, MOS should be changed to make it optional as to whether a comma should be included after a date or a place: "Rochester, New York metropolitan" area or "Rochester, New York, metropolitan area", for instance, both being acceptable.
  2. If passed, then all pages within a certain Project be the same. This means that the comma would be optional on the "national" standpoint, but one version would be mandated by a discussion from a "local" Project standpoint (all pages within any Project either with the comma or without the comma). This allows members of a project to decide themselves on what to do.
  3. This apply to titles and not sentences within an article (a clarification which was made only after the discussion had been live for awhile).

The proposal didn't pass.

(If one thing's clear from all this, it's that the proposition "Whatever forms are prescribed for article body text automatically applies to titles also" is debatable and not at all universally accepted. So therefore changes to article titles have to be implemented at WP:AT, the "Article titles" section of WP:MOS, and (for places) WP:PLACE. Changes made anywhere else don't apply to titles unless this is specifically stated. It's either at WP:AT or WP:PLACE (or WP:MOS, but only if a change to the "Article titles" section is specifically proposed) that such proposals should be made. It's unfortunate that this proposal was made at WP:MOS and wasn't clearly specified to apply only to titles from the get-go.)

There was some discussion at that RfC, including some of the same editors from this discussion and going over some of the same ground, specifically points of grammar. Since this was bound up with the question "individual projects should have the controlling authority", and also the proposal and its examples included dates, nor did it seem likely that "metropolitan area" was considered a special case, so the applicability of this to our discussion here is limited. FWIW, and not counting editors whom I've already counted here, I get:

  • Support -- "My personal preference is not to punctuate unless it makes it easier for the reader" (but individual projects should decide) -- User:Tony1
  • Support -- "There is no reason to require the second comma" -- User:Neljack
  • Support -- User:SlimVirgin had just "Support per Dohn joe". Again, it's hard to tell if she was mainly supporting the idea that individual projects should decide, or what. But since User:Dohn joe had summarized his lengthy (and cogent) remarks as "We should not mandate an awkward second comma where it is not syntactically required, especially when omitting it is already WP practice, and when omitting it is recommended by a major style guide such as Garner" I gather she's supporting at least the option to go with the one-comma form.
  • Oppose -- "These commas are needed for clarity, and that's why they are required by standard rules of punctuation" -- User:Orlady
  • Oppose -- "If the correctly-punctuated result looks awkward, then rephrase." -- User:Odysseus1479
  • Oppose -- "Although the construction with more commas can be awkward at times, it is often needed for clarity, which is more important than the secondary goal of smooth readability. Perhaps the MoS should recommend recasting a sentence if it is awkward" User:Reify-tech

There was some discussion of, and support for, avoiding the situation by recasting the title (I assume in some manner of the "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio" form for instance, although this particular form wasn't mentioned). User:Nyttend suggested "PLACENAME, PLACENAME be in a title is [only] when that's the entire name of the article, e.g. Monowi, Nebraska, or when it's at the end of the name, e.g. History of Charleston, South Carolina. We entirely avoid the issue in this manner" which is a useful thought. User:Nyttend has a lot of cogent and useful thoughts, but they don't seem to gain much traction for whatever reason.

Anyway, proposal failed, I can see three new faces in the one-comma camp, one in the two-comma camp, and two in the rephrase-it camp. This discussion was on a different enough premise that I didn't formally add these into the headcount, though.

An open RfC[edit]

Here, the proposal is to keep the same rules for commas, but add the advice to recast the sentence to avoid the one-comma/two-comma problem.

It's specifically about article text, but of course ideally WP:COMMA should match how our titles. (That'd be ideal but not absolutely necessary, as long as any differences are spelt out at at the places where titles are described -- WP:AT, the "Article titles" section of WP:MOS, and (for places) WP:PLACE -- using footnotes as necessary, as some rules pages do.)

Its stil open and right now its running 12 in support, 7 opposing (61% support), so its up in the air I guess. Fortunately, based on how I've close this discussion, it won't affect this close. Since this close is basically "recast", then if that proposal passes is just reinforces this one. If it fails it doesn't matter since we've carved out an exception for metropolitan areas and we'll support that with appropriate footnotes in the appropriate places.

Summary[edit]

OK then. Here's what we've got. Points that devolve to a policy or guideline are shown in red lettering. Points that refer to the discussion are shown in normal black font.

  • For the two-comma version ("Columbus, Ohio, metropolitan area"):
    • Grammatical correctness, which is somewhat important. (I know that some editors don't agree that the one-comma version is incorrect, but that's a minority view.)
    • The rule WP:COMMA, which I judged as only a little important. (My reasons for giving relatively little weight to the policy are described above.)
  • For the one-comma version ("Columbus, Ohio metropolitan area")"
    • Precedent (most titles use this format now), which I judged as only a little important.
  • For the "[city[-ies] metropolitan area, [state[s]]" (e.g. "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio") form:
    • Headcount, which is somewhat important. (It'd be very important if there was a clear headcount winner, but there wasn't.)
    • Grammatical correctness, which is somewhat important. (I know that some editors don't agree that the one-comma version is incorrect, but that's a minority view.)
    • Clarity, which is somewhat important. (It'd be extremely important if was clearly clearest form, but there wasn't. I judged this form to be a little bit clearer.)
    • Recognizability, per WP:AT, which I judged as only a little important. This is really just restating the above point, clarity, but by reference to a rule rather than the discussion, so this is kind of double-counting. (It'd be extremely important if was clearly most-recognizable form, but there wasn't. I judged this form to be a little more recognizable, at least in cases where the metro area doesn't span two or more states.)
    • The rules spelled out in WP:PRECISION, which I judged as only a little important. (Actually WP:PRECISION would give us "Columbus metropolitan area (Ohio)" if I'm reading them correctly,but "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio" is the closest match. I didn't give this a lot of weight because it'd be kind of rules-lawyering to take this too literally.)
    • Lack of awkwardness, which I judged as only a little important.
    • As a negative, paucity of sources using this exact form, which I judged as only a little important. (I discussed at length above my relative discounting of sources as a control over how we disambiguate, as opposed to the actual names for things.)
    • As a negative, the point that for state-spanning metro areas the state in which the core city is in is not shown, which, all things considered, I judged as somewhat important. (Note that applies to only a small subset of articles, though.)
    • There's one other thing. The one-comma version makes some people pound their forehead on the table. The two-comma version makes some people claw at the draperies. This is matter where people's opinions matter a lot. I don't get the feeling that there's as much strong negative feeling around this version (except for User:Nyttend). That counts for something I think.

There's no one "right" answer here. All of the suggested solutions have virtues and weakness, and there's no perfect form. All things considered, I think that balancing consensus and strength of the arguments and weighing the existing rules, and even subtracting for its negatives, that the "Columbus metropolitan area, Ohio" form seems most acceptable to the community.

Re en dash for multiple states[edit]

Regarding the admonition to use the en dash rather than the word "and" for metro areas spanning two or more states (that is, "Kansas City metropolitan area, Kansas–Missouri" rather than "Kansas City metropolitan area, Kansas and Missouri", this wasn't discussed and I don't want to shove this down people's throats, and you want to have another discussion on this matter go ahead, but my reasoning was:

  • Had to decide something.
  • And the en dash is parallel with how the cities are named. We'd have ""North Port–Sarasota–Bradenton metropolitan area, Florida" and not "North Port and Sarasota and Bradenton metropolitan area, Florida", I think.
  • And -- this is highly arguable -- but "Kansas City metropolitan area, Kansas and Missouri" (for example) might tend just a little more to imply the existence of the entity "Kansas and Missouri" (analogous to Turks and Caicos Islands for instance) than does the en dash. It's probably about the same really.
  • And the word "and" is a little less succinct than the en dash, and WP:AT suggests succinctness.
  • And if any metro areas requiring disambiguation span more than two states, you'll have stuff like "New York metropolitan area, New York and Connecticut and New Jersey" and that's a lot of "and"s. (And I'm pretty sure we don't want "New York metropolitan area, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey"...)
  • And I could be wrong about this, but I think the en dash is a little more common, for our titles and in the general world, than the word "and" for situations like this. Herostratus (talk) 08:17, 16 November 2013 (UTC)

END CLOSE[edit]

Beginning of discussion[edit]

Recently our guideline Wikipedia:Naming conventions (geographic names) was edited to state that when the city and state is given followed by something else, such as Dublin, Georgia micropolitan area, a comma is used after the state. Should there be a comma there, yes or no? There are dozens if not hundreds of articles and categories affected by this decision. Apteva (talk) 00:38, 2 August 2013 (UTC)

...and that revision was reverted since the discussion at the Talk Page had not reached any conclusion. --MelanieN (talk) 14:37, 4 August 2013 (UTC)

Survey[edit]

On just the question of whether one comma or two commas are preferred when a state name is used parenthetically as in "Rochester, New York metropolitan area" versus "Rochester, New York, metropolitan area", in a title or in a sentence, please make a brief numbered signed entry, with optionally up to 50 words of explanation, in one of these subsections. Keep responses and discussion in subsequent sections (neither of these choices is to be interpreted as a preference to not change to a construct that avoids the parenthetical state).

(this survey started late; we have notified editors who expressed an opinion before; note that nom has explicitly stated that he takes no position on the question)

One comma[edit]

  1. Oxford and Chicago find the second comma awkward; I agree. Dohn joe (talk) 03:35, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
  2. It's true that the second comma is required from a strictly grammatical viewpoint. But Reliable Sources often omit it, and titles here are supposed to be based on usage by Reliable Sources (that's per WP:AT which is policy). Since Reliable Sources are split, the argument for adding the second comma is not strong enough to change all those stable titles (that's also per WP:AT). --MelanieN (talk) 14:33, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
  3. Since this isn't a full sentence, it's not clear that the appositive rules should apply here. --SarekOfVulcan (talk) 17:51, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
  4. Titles are not sentences. I don't think any reasonable reader would mistake the meaning of "Rochester, Minnesota metropolitan area", and adding the second comma introduces different problems already noted. Omnedon (talk) 13:24, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
  5. Per the rationales advanced by Dohn joe, MelanieN, BDD, et al. (and the reasons elaborated in the discussions below), a single comma in the title is preferable. Adding a second seems necessary only to satisfy what I consider questionable grammatical pedantry – an insufficient basis for changing a large number of stable article titles, particularly given the reasonable counter considerations voiced by various other editors. ╠╣uw [talk] 20:21, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
  6. Omnedon has summed it up best here. It's disheartening to see how absurd some editors' priorities are around here. --BDD (talk) 21:36, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
  7. "Cleveland, Utah" does not contain an appositive. It's the name of a town. That's the standard way we write the names of populated places in the United States. There is rarely any use for a second comma after the state. The metropolitan area centered on a particular city shouldn't be any exception to this. Ntsimp (talk) 23:34, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
  8. Because "metropolitan area" is referring to the whole term "Rochester, New York", not just to "Rochester" and not just to "New York". So, it's
    • "Rochester, New York metropolitan area" in the same way as it is
    • "Rochester, New York-related issues" ("-related issues" referring to the whole "package" "Rochester, New York") or
    • "the September 11, 2001 attacks" ("attacks" referring to the whole "package" "September 11, 2001").
    NB: other constructions would obviously still very much require two commas, e.g.:
    • "his house in Cookeville, Tennessee, was known throughout the city" (↔ "his Cookeville, Tennessee house was known throughout the city")
    • "they moved from Cookeville, TN, to Somerset, KY"
    • "Irn-Bru is produced in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, by A.G. Barr"
    • "on September 11, 2001, an article appeared in [...]" (↔ "a September 11, 2001 article")
    Please, everybody, think about it. – ὁ οἶστρος (talk) 16:48, 5 September 2013 (UTC)
    (Just realized the up-to-50-word request, which I missed upon slotting my two cents; my apologies. If it's preferred I move my contribution someplace else, let me know. – ὁ οἶστρος (talk) 17:43, 5 September 2013 (UTC))

Two commas[edit]

  1. per overwhelming consensus of guides to grammar, including our MOS, if we're going to have the state in the middle it should be set off by matching punctuation of some sort, whether parens, brackets, dashes, or commas. Dicklyon (talk) 03:00, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
  2. Per style guides on proper construction of parenthetical clauses; better yet, avoid the construction altogether (e.g., "Rochester metropolitan area, New York"—which would also need to been followed by a comma if used in continuing text—or "Rochester metropolitan area (New York)" or "Rochester (New York) metropolitan area"). sroc 💬 05:31, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
    Moving my !vote to the newer proposal for "[City] metropolitan area, [State]" below as my preferred choice to avoid the awkward construction as suggested in my original comment. Leaving my original comment here (struck out) since others have referred to it subsequently. sroc 💬 23:37, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
    Unstruck my !vote since it was pointed out that favouring "[City] metropolitan area, [State]" need not rule out counting for "One comma" or "Two comma" (for some reason). Thanks, Dicklyon! sroc 💬 23:38, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
  3. Per obvious grammatical resons. WP:Copyedit has a few examples, which, in my opinion, needs to be expanded further. I'll use a similar example: He was born in Vilnius, Lithuania, in 1955. The appositive Lithuania calls for a closing comma. With less geographical precision, that sentence could read: He was born in Lithuania in 1955. No appositive, no comma. Thus, the only reason for the comma was the appositive. But there can be more than one reason for a comma. If there are, it doesn't mean that you put two commas there. Example: He was born in Vilnius, Lithuania, but moved to Poland with his family in his teen years (lots of creative writing here). With less precision: He was born in Lithuania, but moved to Poland with his family in his teen years. The phraseology calls for a comma between the two parts of the sentence. Thus, there were two reasons for the comma here. I think Dohn joe didn't realize this when he said "That comma serves a completely different function than the proposed one. It serves to set off two clauses, as opposed to setting off an appositive" on Talk:Rochester, New York metropolitan area. My response is that a single comma can serve both purposes. Regarding the "Awkward?" section below, it's the same thing with dates: The minister of finance said in a June 10, 2011, interview .... It's an awkward construct, but it doesn't get any better by adding a grammatical error to it. HandsomeFella (talk) 12:03, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
  4. Good grammar requires two commas. If this construction is awkward, then find a way to re-word to avoid the need to use this form. olderwiser 12:27, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
  5. Definitely two commas. Even if there were no confusion, the state name is parenthetical, which requires that it be set off by two punctuation marks, whether they are commas or parentheses. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 20:06, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
  6. This is longstanding grammatical practice and improves clarity for everyone. Powers T 21:30, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
  7. Per standard English grammar and MOS:COMMA which advocates the same. On top of the precision concerns voiced by others, as an encyclopedia, we should adhere to the rules of the language and strive for professionalism, rather than preferring what several guides call an “informal” practice. Preferably, though, these titles should be written to require no commas whatsoever, which would avoid many of the problems pointed out by both sides. —Frungi (talk) 01:05, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
  8. Yeah, per Arthur Rubin and Bkonrad. Avoiding potential ambiguities is best done by an unerring application of the second comma, even though I sometimes find it a bit bumpy. Tony (talk) 04:23, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
  9. It's both wrong and confusing to omit the second comma. Is the "Rochester, New York metropolitan area" article referring to the part of the "New York metropolitan area" called Rochester? Clearly not, but I only know that because I'm familiar with New York geography; ordinarily, on Wikipedia an article titled "A, B" is talking about location A within area B. This is the most egregiously confusing example, but it illustrates what's wrong with this misbegotten proposal. AgnosticAphid talk 17:59, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
  10. In an encyclopedia, clarity should always take precedence over avoiding simple awkwardness. However, it is even better to reword and preserve clarity while avoiding awkward constructions, as suggested above. Reify-tech (talk) 18:16, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
  11. Two commas means that Rochester isgives its name to the metropolitan area; one comma would mean that New York is the metropolitan area. Therefore two commas are needed if commas are to be used at all. Those of us not in the US can't be expected to know which it is, so the one-comma fudge increases systemic bias. (I prefer the clearer phrasing of the option below, though.) (I overlooked that supporting the rephrase option doesn't preclude supporting here, too. Thanks to sroc and Dicklyon.) --Stfg (talk) 08:47, 8 August 2013 (UTC)
  12. Two commas are necessary to change the title from "Rochester, in the New York metropolitan area" to "Rochester (New York) metropolitan area". This is especially significant since there is also a New York metropolitan area, and we're not writing an article about some Rochester in that metro area. Dworjan (talk) 00:51, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
  13. My absolute disgust of this rule being broken aside, there should be two commas plainly because it is proper grammar in the English language, and it allows for more clarity. TCN7JM 02:12, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
  14. Two commas looks odd in this context, but it's the grammatically correct form. Furthermore, the need for the second comma is supported by evidence in these discussions that a few users have misconstrued the meaning of the single-comma form. --Orlady (talk) 05:04, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

Rename "[City] metropolitan area, [State]"[edit]

Feel free to also support this option, whether or not you have registered one way or the other on the main question.

  1. I absolutely detest the comma overload, just like with US style (mdy) dates, but I can see the necessity to separate with that construction. so I would prefer to avoid this. We should rename it, per sroc. -- Ohc ¡digame!¿que pasa? 22:27, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
  2. This, or a variant using parentheses, is by far the best option, in my opinion. In many cases, the state isn't included when such an area is referenced (the Detroit metropolitan area), so it makes sense to separate the state from it. —Frungi (talk) 07:41, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
  3. My opinion is exactly as expressed by User:Agnosticaphid, but the 2-comma form is clunky and hard to parse, while the 1-comma form is misleading. Better this of or one of the other forms suggested by User:sroc above. --Stfg (talk) 16:10, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
  4. Moving my vote here, now that this is being considered as a separate option, since this would be my preference to avoid the awkward construction. sroc 💬 23:37, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
  5. Per my earlier comments - this makes much more sense, especially to English speakers outside of the USA. WaggersTALK 08:26, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
  6. I wanted to offer a comment of my own, but gave up after I read this one by Waggers, because I can sign every word of it. Both of the alternatives above stretch the grammar rules (and plain English) to an extreme (phrases containing appositions should not be used attributively), and are quite confusing, especially for readers less familiar with U.S. practices. No such user (talk) 08:55, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
  7. I'm going to go ahead and support this, too. It is less awkward than sticking the state in the middle. And recasting an awkward title in a grammatically correct way is much better than leaving the articles at the current title, which are wrong and make wikipedia look bad. I kind of feel like this is a slippery slope to get rid of the "comma convention" in WP:USPLACE, which I am not really completely on board with, but that being said the recast title is a stylistic improvement. AgnosticAphid talk 15:32, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
  8. This is unequivocally the most congenial conclusion in my mind. It is a much more unambiguous and clear cut option than slapping on more commas. Ronan McGurrin (talk) 22:29, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
  9. Best option. Chris Troutman (talk) 01:55, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
  10. Of course. It's the city that names the metro area, not the state, so why separate the two parts of the metro area's name? —David Eppstein (talk) 02:44, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
  11. This form seems preferable, it gets rid of arguments over one or two commas by displacing the whole state. Alternately, "City (State) metropolitan area" also works form me; Or Metropolitan area of City, State -- 76.65.128.222 (talk) 04:15, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
  12. Definitely not; this completely fails the WP:COMMONNAME test. Everyone speaks of metro areas in one of three ways: "Metropolitan area nickname" (e.g. Chicagoland), "City metropolitan area", "City, State metropolitan area". Nyttend (talk) 13:43, 10 August 2013 (UTC) (Comment: Note that this is an "oppose" comment although it is listed and tallied here as if it was support. --MelanieN (talk) 15:48, 10 August 2013 (UTC))
  13. This is the most logical option as the state name is a disambiguator, i.e. it is used to distinguish between other metropolitan areas of the same name but in different states. 71.21.81.61 (talk) 14:48, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
  14. Solves both problems at once. Better yet, use "[City] metropolitan area (State)", the same way disambiguation is done is other similar situations across Wikipedia.—Ëzhiki (Igels Hérissonovich Ïzhakoff-Amursky) • (yo?); September 5, 2013; 19:06 (UTC)
  15. Only this option. I find both the comma solutions confusing. "Rochester, New York metropolitan area" seems to me like its the city of Rochester in the New York metropolitan area and "Rochester, New York, metropolitan area" just leaves me confused.--User:Salix alba (talk): 20:29, 10 November 2013 (UTC)

Discussion[edit]

  • No As I said at a recent RM, "I think it's frankly absurd to suggest the presence or absence of that second comma is going to do anything for readers. And the highly pedantic justifications offered in support of the move fall apart upon investigation. The topic is either [for example] the metropolitan area of Rochester, New York, or the New York metropolitan area centered around Rochester. New York has several metropolitan areas, including Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse. Let this be. There are probably hundreds of articles which would need to be changed, all for a very unclear benefit." Don't assume our readers are idiots. --BDD (talk) 16:47, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for your input, BDD. (See, folks, I TOLD you this wasn't settled!) I used to agree with you. I think it is perfectly obvious that "Rochester, Minnesota metropolitan area" means "Rochester (Minnesota) metropolitan area." I would like to be persuaded that this change isn't necessary, but is Apteva really the only reader who is ever going to make this mistake? --MelanieN (talk) 17:12, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
Which mistake, this one? (Rochester (Minnesota)), (Minnesota metropolitan area)? Minnesota has 17 of these. Rochester has one. With or without a comma does not move the boundaries of the statistical area, as only the OMB can do that. Apteva (talk) 17:32, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
Does Apteva really get confused about these titles based on the presence or absence of that second comma? Apteva, aren't you just trying to settle the inconsistency? --BDD (talk) 17:43, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
No, he actually argued strongly - in the discussion above - that the lack of a second comma was correct precisely because the relevant entity was "Minnesota metropolitan area". At least I think he did; he appeared to shift away from it later. I found it so hard to believe he could actually think this, I think I didn't respond until his third repetition of it. His insistence on that is the ONLY reason I shifted my opinion toward requiring the second comma. @Apteva, if you will assure me you do understand that "Rochester, Minnesota metropolitan area" means the metropolitan area centered around "Rochester, Minnesota," I will change my opinion back to "no second comma". --MelanieN (talk) 17:59, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
This has never been in contention. I have always held that it was centered on Rochester, Minnesota. Yes I have been trying to find a logical reason why all of our articles were created using a one comma format. The most telling one that I could see is that the census bureau abbreviates the state, which requires not using a comma, and when people spell out the state they just leave the commas unchanged. Apteva (talk) 19:50, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
Um, ok. So this is only an issue because someone's making a semantic fuss? Why not just leave it alone? --BDD (talk) 19:04, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
  • I'm changing my opinion back to Don't move. Thank you, BDD, for bringing me to my senses. It was crazy[2] for me to change my opinion based on the confused interpretations of one person - and it was crazy for me to suggest that hundreds of titles should be changed to avoid the mere possibility of such interpretations. To those who are arguing grammatical correctness, I apologize; you are correct and I agree with you in principle, but I think grammatical correctness is more than countered here by the policies of Reliable Source usage ("This page in a nutshell: Article titles should be recognizable to readers, unambiguous, and consistent with usage in reliable English-language sources") and Title Stability ("If an article title has been stable for a long time, and there is no good reason to change it, it should not be changed.") Reliable sources (not counting the US government, which uses state abbreviations) are split: in a search for half a dozen MSAs where disambiguation is needed, I found that the comma is usually added in formal or legal situations ("Portland, Oregon, Metropolitan Statistical Area"), but omitted in newspapers and general usage ("Portland, Oregon Metropolitan Statistical Area"). Title stability is firmly on the side of not changing the titles. Grammatical correctness is not enough of a "good reason," in my revised opinion, to change all these titles - if you ignore (as I should have) the peculiar theories of one person. --MelanieN (talk) 19:16, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
  • One comma only. Ultimately, this comes down to a simple rule: more commas = less readability. Commas disrupt the flow of text, and should only be used where necessary. In this case, we have a proper noun, "Rochester, New York", that is functioning as an adjective, modifying "metropolitan area". While an argument can be made that "Rochester" and "New York" are separate nouns, connected appositively, I think that given the universally recognized "city, state" construct, the appositive reading is vestigial at best. The one-comma approach is also supported because there is no such usage as "(City), (State metro area)", and so there is no ambiguity to resolve with a second comma. No one lives in "Rochester, New York metropolitan area"; that's just not usage, anywhere. I'll also repost my contribution to the RM: "Grammatically, the second comma is not necessary, because "Rochester, New York" constitutes a single lexical unit. Just as we wouldn't insert a comma if we were writing about the "Rochester metropolitan area", neither do we need one for the "Rochester, New York metropolitan area". The confusion or misinterpretation of other editors is not pertinent to that. Adding the second comma would cause more confusion that omitting it. The second comma may satisfy some pedants, but it actually conveys the meaning of the phrase less naturally." Dohn joe (talk) 20:29, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
  • One comma. In this case, the subject of an article is a metropolitan area. Which metropolitan area? The metropolitan area of Rochester, Minnesota (for example). Given that the city is indeed Rochester, Minnesota (with no trailing comma), I personally see that as being the modifier – rather than seeing Rochester as the modifier, which itself is further modified by the disambiguator of Minnesota. To me, this makes Rochester, Minnesota metropolitan area seem the more natural and less awkward choice – though I do understand the reasons advanced on the other side.

    As for the assertion made above that commas in this case work as parentheses do, I disagree. For instance, one could title the article on the Minnesota city of Rochester as Rochester (Minnesota) (with parentheses surrounding the state), but one would not title it as Rochester, Minnesota, (with commas surrounding the state). To surround the state on both sides with commas is not always necessary when using commas, whereas to surround it on both sides with parentheses is necessary when using parentheses.

    Also, regarding literalists: if I wanted to be obtusely literal, I could misread the two-comma form and interpret it as "Rochester, Minnesota, a metropolitan area" – as if a metropolitan area is all that Rochester is. I don't honestly think readers would make such an error... but nor do I think they'd make the kinds of pedantic errors that others suggest. Satisfying a minority of literalists would seem an inappropriate basis for changing the punctuation, and I don't see benefits emerging from changing the current form that would outweigh the awkwardness of a second comma – one that I don't see as necessary in accurately conveying the subject of the article. Per BDD, I think it's best to leave well enough alone. ╠╣uw [talk] 11:36, 3 August 2013 (UTC)

@Huwmanbeing: To surround the state on both sides with commas is not always necessary when using commas, whereas to surround it on both sides with parentheses is necessary when using parentheses. Have you read WP:COMMA and WP:COPYEDIT#Parenthetical comma? sroc 💬 15:12, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
I have. The sentence you quote is correct. ╠╣uw [talk] 19:59, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
The sentence I quoted was you. It is contradicted by:
  • WP:COMMA: "In geographical references that include multiple levels of subordinate divisions (e.g., city, state/province, country), a comma separates each element and follows the last element (except at the end of a sentence)."
  • WP:COPYEDIT#Parenthetical comma: "Location constructions such as Vilnius, Lithuania require a comma after the second element, e.g., He was born in Vilnius, Lithuania, after the country had gained independence."
How do you reconcile your statement with the above? sroc 💬 01:28, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
If I might be so bold, I think I get his point well enough to provide that answer: (except at the end of a sentence), among other situational exceptions. Hence, not always. Nitpicky. —Frungi (talk) 01:47, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
My point is that Huwmanbeing is lobbying for one comma despite the fact that this situation would not fall under one of the exceptions in running text (e.g., The statistics were drawn from census data from the Rochester, Minnesota, metropolitan area or The statistics were drawn from census data from the Rochester metropolitan area in Minnesota; not The statistics were drawn from census data from the Rochester, Minnesota metropolitan area). sroc 💬 02:00, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
Sroc: Again yes, the sentence you quoted was from me, and it's correct. It states that the two kinds of enclosing punctuation – commas and parentheses – close according to different rules, and they do. For instance:
  • Rochester (Minnesota: no closing parenthesis and invalid.
  • Rochester, Minnesota: no closing comma and valid.
That there's a difference seems clear, though I'm still not sure why that concerns you. Do you feel that the two are always treated the same (the example above notwithstanding)? I guess I'm just not sure what point you're trying to make by focusing on that one particular sentence.
As for what I favor, it's an approach to titling that considers more than merely the demands of grammatical pedantry, which as far as I can determine is about the only point in favor of injecting a second comma into the titles – and stands against the varied and legitimate concerns of awkwardness, misapplication of sentence rules to other areas, diminished use in reliable sources, being unnecessary to convey meaning that's already clearly conveyed in the current title, etc., etc. You are correct that the single-comma form does not match the examples sentences you cite... because (again) titles are not sentences. They're titles. ╠╣uw [talk] 23:11, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
I don't understand what "grammatical pendantry" means. Or why you'd want titles to be different from the same phrase in text. Or how you can say mean is conveyed clearly in the construct missing the comma. That only works for people who already know what it means, and would not work if the city and state were, for example, replaced by unfamiliar place names. Dicklyon (talk) 23:21, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
Pedantry means giving undue attention to rules, details, etc.; grammatical pedantry would be giving undue weight to grammatical rules – in this case the enclosing-comma convention. I say undue because it seems that the intention here is to apply additional commas to titles simply because there's a rule (one that seems very much geared toward prose), and not because there's any other compelling need for it. If there is some further compelling need to now add commas to so many titles that have been stable for so long, it has yet to be demonstrated. (As for titles differing from what appears in the text, that happens frequently – most notably with parenthetical disambiguation – so I don't personally consider that problematic.) ╠╣uw [talk] 10:11, 6 August 2013 (UTC)

Back to basics? It's really sad that this discussion has been driven so far off the point by Apteva's bizarre theories. The result has included about three cycles of flip-flopping by MelanieN, and lots of ink wasted on the distraction of Aptevas confusion. He should never have gotten involved, and should certainly not have started this latest RFC even while being sanctioned for his disruptions. But now at least we have a comment or two from people with an opinion based on readability, which is roughly back where we started. Dohn Joe says "more commas = less readability". I don't agree, but it's something we can discuss. BDD says "I think it's frankly absurd to suggest the presence or absence of that second comma is going to do anything for readers." Again, I don't agree, but at least it's a point we can discuss. As I mentioned in previous related discussions, guides do differ a bit, but they mostly say that, in formal writing (an encyclopedia is kinda formal, no?), the second comma is generally preferred. It seems to me that the second comma clarifies the intended grammatical structure, in a way that will help, more than harm, readability. I hope we can talk about that, and not be further distracted by nonsense. Dicklyon (talk) 23:24, 2 August 2013 (UTC)

RE: about three cycles of flip-flopping by MelanieN: Feel free to WP:TROUT me; I deserve it. But at least my new (and original) position of "no second comma" is based on policies, namely Reliable Sources and Title Stability. --MelanieN (talk) 23:34, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
Consider yourself trouted. I'm not sure where you found policy on title stability, other than B2C's user page; can you link it please? And I'm not sure I see your point on sources; if you search books for "statename metropolitan area", for most states you see mostly comma after the state, it looks like to me. Of course lot of books are wiki mirrors, so you see a lot of missing commas for Georgia, New York, Florida, and some of those others you can find in the list below. Try it. Also, the guides mostly require the second comma (I can post a long list later; does anyone have one that advising against?), and the gov't bureau of labor statistics uses it, even if the census doesn't, so I'd like to see a deeper look at sources. And how do you interpret WP:RS policy as having anything to say about grammar, punctuation, or title styling? Dicklyon (talk) 00:55, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
I, too, wonder what reliable sources we're talking about. It's not the census bureau, because then the articles would be titled like Rochester, NY Metro Area. That's a proper noun that refers to a specific definition that our articles may or may not precisely follow. Our articles are titled (quite properly) as generic nouns -- that is, we don't have articles on all of the proper statistical areas that the census bureau has defined, but rather we have articles on the generic concept of metropolitan areas centered around certain cities. Generic descriptive titles such as these should be formatted using our Manual of Style, with no need to reference any sources. Powers T 01:52, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
(ec) @Dicklyon: The Article Stability quote is not from B2C, and in fact I often use it to mean the opposite of whatever he is arguing for. It is from WT:Article titles#Considering title changes, which is a POLICY page. It says "Changing one controversial title to another is strongly discouraged. If an article title has been stable for a long time, and there is no good reason to change it, it should not be changed. " and "Debating controversial titles is often unproductive, and there are many other ways to help improve Wikipedia." As far as Reliable Sources, I searched for about 20 minutes using half a dozen different city names. What I found was the second comma is commonly used in legal or official use, such as the name of a legislative action or a term in a lawsuit. On the other hand here's the EPA: "Portland, Oregon metropolitan area"[3] But I also found that professional journalists find ways to write around it - not to use the actual phrase "Portland, Oregon statistical area" but rather things like "the statistical area of Portland, Oregon" - but when they do use the phrase "Portland, Oregon statistical area" they generally omit the second comma. Example "Portland–South Portland–Biddeford, Maine Metropolitan Statistical Area"[4]. "greater Portland, Oregon metropolitan area"[5] On the other hand here's CNN: " the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area"[6] Many of my best examples are dead links or behind paywalls. The more I look, the more I find no pattern at all; some Reliable Sources use the second comma, some don't. The search is complicated by the fact that the official name of the MSA often includes multiple cities rather than just the main city, but our Wikipedia article may be named only for the main city. Legal sources and mainstream newspapers are both Reliable Sources, so I considered that a wash on RS. --MelanieN (talk) 02:05, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
Ah, yes, that one. I see that it came from this edit way back in 2007, without discussion (followed by this). It's awesome how much damage this guy did before he was banned. Anyway, that's fine, since the current discussion is not about controversial titles, nor about changes for no reason, but simply about trying to make titles more grammatically correct and explicitly parsable. As I mentioned before, we don't usually ape the styling and punctuation of sources; and if we punctuate these right, that doesn't interfere with any efforts to change to alternative less awkward titles wherever there's good reason to do so. One way we do so is by omitting states sometimes, especially where multiple city names makes it very unambiguous. I'm not opposed to such things when they help, but basically have a state set off by commas is so common and formally correct that there's no real reason to be avoiding it except in otherwise too-long titles. Dicklyon (talk) 03:00, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
@Powers: That's not what it says at WP:Article titles. The nutshell summary says "Article titles should be recognizable to readers, unambiguous, and consistent with usage in reliable English-language sources." See anything in there about MOS overriding Reliable Sources? I don't. --MelanieN (talk) 02:08, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
I didn't say the MOS overrode reliable sources, I'm saying that we're not using reliable sources to title these articles. We do that sometimes, such as for the reasons at WP:NDESC. Note there where it says "In some cases a descriptive phrase is best as the title ... . These are often invented specifically for articles..." While the passage is speaking mainly of cases where sourced terms have POV issues, it's very common for us to invent a descriptive title in cases where no "official" title is available. That's the case here, as our metro-area articles do not always strictly follow the census bureau definitions. We can tell this is true by the fact that our metro-area titles are not the proper nouns that the census bureau uses. Powers T 21:36, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment: Note that the vast majority of metropolitan areas should not have any state name in their title. State names are needed only for ambiguous metro-area names (like Portland and Rochester, each of which is the name of at least two metro areas) and for metro areas whose principal cities have non-unique names and are smaller than the usual census threshold for a metropolitan principal city (like Morristown, Tennessee, and Brunswick, Georgia). --Orlady (talk) 03:49, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Aren't we here due to a discussion about standardizing the naming of metro and micro areas of the US? If that's the case, then the decision to include the state would not have received consensuses if those commenting on on that discussion where aware of the fallout. If I'm right, then the decision to include the state should be reconsidered. Vegaswikian (talk) 23:15, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
    No, we are not here to standardize the naming of metro and micro areas. It was previously established that we can omit the state when there's no ambiguity. We're here to talk about how to fix the agrammatical constuctions like "Rochester, New York metropolitan area" with the missing comma. Dicklyon (talk) 04:02, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
  • At first glance this seems very nice, but on further thought it has a major limitation - many metropolitan areas straddle two or more states, and as such this form becomes inaccurate. For example "Kansas City metropolitan area, Missouri" is wrong because that metro area is half in Missouri and half in Kansas. "Kansas City, Missouri(,) metropolitan area" is OK though because it then becomes clear that it's the metro area centred on the city of Kansas City, Missouri.  — Amakuru (talk) 21:32, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
    @Amakuru: Easy: "Kansas City metropolitan area, Kansas and Missouri". This is expressly provided for in WP:USPLACE, giving the example of Glenrio, New Mexico and Texas. sroc 💬 23:42, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
    Even easier: Kansas City metropolitan area. Nothing’s wrong with this current name (unless there are multiple Kansas Citys of which I’m unaware), and it avoids this problem entirely. Do we have any titles that do span multiple states? How are they currently handled? —Frungi (talk) 02:15, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
    Ahem. Glenrio, New Mexico and Texas. sroc 💬 04:08, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
    That, along with Ray, Freedom, and similar pages, are completely different. These are individual unincorporated communities that span state lines, not metro areas: they need the state names because they're part of the community name, not for disambiguation purposes. See Columbus, Georgia metropolitan area for a better comparison: it's the metro area centered around Columbus, Georgia, but it includes areas in Alabama too. "Columbus metropolitan area" isn't an option because there are several Columbuses with metro areas, "Columbus, Alabama and Georgia [comma or no comma] metropolitan area" and "Columbus metropolitan area, Alabama and Georgia" both obscure the fact that this is centered around Columbus, Georgia, and "Columbus metropolitan area, Georgia" makes it sound as if it's only in Georgia. Nyttend (talk) 13:54, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
    Frungi has it. Cities which are sizable enough to have a metropolitan area named for them are likely to meet WP:PTOPIC, so disambiguation will seldom be necessary. "Rochester metropolitan area" is adequate. When WP:PTOPIC isn't satisfied, the single comma looks more natural to me. The disambiguation could be enclosed in parentheses as is done for other kinds of Wikipedia articles: "London metropolitan area (Ontario)". —rybec 03:07, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
    It was previously established that this is one of those disambiguation is needed. See Rochester, Minnesota metropolitan area, which will obviously get whichever fix we come up with for this one. Dicklyon (talk) 03:58, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

What do sources say?[edit]

Many good grammar and style guides are not available online, so let us know if you find info in some you have.

Some online guides that recommend or mandate matching commas around states (I think it's fair to read "phrase" where they say "sentence"):

Or generally in pairs around parenthetical items:

And those that don't like commas around states, or allow the second to be omitted:

Dicklyon - thank you for that thorough search of style guides. I had done a similar search, with a slight variation: looking only for guidance where "City, State" was being used as an adjective, as it is in our metro area articles. As you can see, the only guidance that explicitly addresses that situation (your last excerpt) advises against it generally - but finds the two-comma construction even worse than the one-comma kind. ([7] This excerpt uses the construction, but without addressing it explicitly.) So while it may be more proper (albeit increasingly less common) to include the second comma when "City, State" is used as a noun, I think we're on solid ground if we decline to do so when it's used as an adjective. Dohn joe (talk) 04:23, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
Plus I would hate to move 100 articles, along with all of the many more edits that entails just to decide in a year or two that it was "standard practice to eliminate the comma", and take them all out again. Apteva (talk) 04:28, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
Well, it's true that it's hard to find anything that specifically addresses the use as adjective, but the principle would seem to apply equally well to either context (my search was hardly thorough, though). If you have guides that talk about that case, I'd like to see them. In the mean time, look at what people actually do when not copying from wikipedia articles (section below). Dicklyon (talk) 04:34, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
Ah, here's one: 11.7 City and state act as an adjective. When a city and state precede a noun and help to describe it, no hyphens are used. Also, make sure a comma (,) follows the name of the state..
That's a nice find. The Chicago Manual of Style seems to follow Oxford/Garner in recommending avoidance of commaed placename adjectives. I can only see the snippet online, but it says "A place-name containing a comma ... should generally not be used as an adjective because a second comma may be deemed obligatory," and the second comma "is awkward." So I'm not the only one who finds it awkward. But as long as we don't deem it obligatory, we can avoid that awkwardness. Dohn joe (talk) 06:58, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
Though sources do say that a comma should be placed after the state, and give sentence examples like "I arrived in Glens Falls, New York, at three o'clock," that's not always so — for instance, our article on Glens Falls is not titled Glens Falls, New York, (with a second comma). In this way, a comma is different from, say, a set of parentheses, where one would always have to supply a closing parenthesis when using them to note the state. That said, I entirely agree that the convention should be applied in normal writing; I'm just not entirely sure that it is (or should be) applicable in brief article titles. ╠╣uw [talk] 12:05, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
But the sources clearly cover that case, saying "when the sentence continues" and such. The "pair" concept is explicitly discussed as having such begin and end cases in this one that I quoted above. The fact that we don't put a spurious comma at the end of title like in Glens Falls, New York, in no way bears on the present discussion. Dicklyon (talk) 14:59, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
I understand; I was just noting that it's not contrary to the broader guideline for there to be exceptions in which the final comma does not appear. Your point that the guideline applies "when the sentence continues" is also reasonable to consider, since titles are not sentences. ╠╣uw [talk] 17:29, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
I think it would be beyond odd to use the comma in the lead sentence, and then omit it in the title just because it's not a sentence. As I noted already, I think it is fair to read "sentence" as "phrase" in all of these. I've seen no suggestion anywhere that those would ever be treated differently. Am I'm not sure what would motivate "exceptions" to the formally correct grammar in our context. Are metropolitan areas special in some way? Dicklyon (talk) 18:23, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
I agree that we should be consistent between the title and the body of the article. But I don't think that we would be creating an "exception" here. We'd simply be choosing between two perfectly acceptable - and correct - options, both of which are sanctioned by outside guides, and both of which are used in reliable sources. Dohn joe (talk) 18:41, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
Style and usage guides overwhelmingly advocate the second comma. I should hope that an encyclopedia, of all things, would use proper English and strive to be grammatically correct. I would be more than happy to see the state name done away with entirely wherever “City metropolitan area” would be unambiguous, and as I’ve suggested previously, “City metropolitan area (State)” could be done for disambiguation with nary a comma. —Frungi (talk) 22:38, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
I concur. sroc 💬 02:22, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
Except that it would be a completely artificial construct, one that is virtually never used by Reliable Sources. --MelanieN (talk) 14:26, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
We don’t consult reliable sources for how to title articles for disambiguation. Do correct me if I’m wrong, but no reliable source uses the terms “Jumper (film)”, “Jumper (novel)”, “jumper (dress)”, “jumper (computing)”, etc. We have our own conventions for that, and I see no reason that they shouldn’t apply to ambiguous X-politan area names as well. —Frungi (talk) 22:40, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
Dicklyon: If I understand you correctly, you're saying you see no reason why a phrase or other isolated set of words would "ever be treated differently" from a sentence when it comes to rules of punctuation. This seems odd: we treat the two differently all the time. To take one obvious example, any well-formed sentence should end with a punctuation mark like a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point – that's a clear rule of punctuation, but we would never apply such a rule to titles, because they're titles and not sentences. Should the specific "enclosing comma" punctuation rule under consideration here apply to titles? Perhaps, perhaps not. I can see both sides, and I do appreciate the desire to apply all rules consistently (since it's one I normally share), but in this particular case I'm just not convinced it's necessary or adds any benefit for the reader. ╠╣uw [talk] 00:05, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
An article title clearly is not a sentence (they usually lack verbs, for example) and we make exceptions for some rules (style guides generally do not require sentence-terminating punctuation) but we don't just disregard all punctuation rules in the case of headings. No comma should come at the end of a heading that ends in a parenthetical remark, just as it wouldn't in a sentence. sroc 💬 02:22, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
H, as you twisted my words "ever be treated differently" into a stupid context, you put stupid words into my mouth. Don't do that. We routinely punctuation sentence endings differently from phrase endings in captions, titles, headings, etc. Nobody would dispute that. So what's your point? Mine was that there's not a different rule for parenthetical state names in phrases from in sentences. If I'm wrong about that, show me something relevant. Dicklyon (talk) 02:44, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
Since you so politely ask what point I'm trying to make with my "stupid words", it's this: not all rules that apply in the context of a sentence should be made to apply in the context of a title, and I feel that the particular rule in question is one, for various reasons already given. That's all. ╠╣uw [talk] 08:59, 4 August 2013 (UTC)

Dohn Joe is laying a lot on two guides that don't quite agree with the rest. Let's look at them.

On the Oxford/Garner/American guide: Garner has a personal take on style that I usually like. I like his suggestion "The practice of using as adjectives place names having two or more words is generally to be resisted." However, I'm not sure why he states that using two commas is "even worse" than one for such things. It's OK that he has that opinion, but no other guides agree. No other Oxford guide, as far as I can tell, has anything but requirements that the commas be used in pairs for setting off a parenthetical state or such. For example, New Hart's Rules says "Ensure that a parenthetical phrase is enclosed in a pair of commas; do not use one unmatched comma: Poppy, the baker's wife, makes wonderful spinach and feta pies". The old Hart's Rules has nothing about parentheticals set off by commas; it has very little on commas.

And Chicago echos the sentiment, as Dohn Joe notes. They recommend avoiding the parenthetical interruption, because when it's used, "a second comma may be deemed obligatory". They seem to be admitting what almost all guides call for, even while admitting that they don't like the awkwardness of too many commas. Like Garner, an OK opinion, but not something that gets one away from the fact that in English grammar, the matching comma is "obligatory" in formal contexts. But I don't have this one handy; my 14th has nothing like that, but calls for commas "to set off the individual elements in addresses", and has examples with tons of commas consistent with the advice of all the other guides. The 14th does introduce a dropping of commas around years, but only when the day number precedes the month: "On 6 October 1924 Long arrived in Bologna." and "On October 6, 1924, Longo arrived in Bologna." Seems OK. But no evidence of any dropping of commas after states, and no opinion that they're awkward or to be avoided.

My impression is that the dropping of commas that we find in some sources is just an informality, not based on any reason to think it's better (as no such reason can be found in guides). It leaves the parse open to misinterpretation, especially by people not from the US that don't know that a metropolitan area is often designated by one city name, or one city name disambiguated with its state, as in "San Jose, California, metropolitan area". Dicklyon (talk) 05:01, 5 August 2013 (UTC)

Dicklyon (talk) 05:01, 5 August 2013 (UTC)

@Dicklyon, please see my discussion with sroc and Powers, below, about English being a dynamic language. (I originally replied to you here, but these are discussions about the same point and should be in one place. --MelanieN (talk) 14:34, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
I understand all that, but for the benefit of our diverse readers, we usually strive to use best practices as detailed in guides. When the language changes enough that new ways of writing are being taught, then we should follow. Until then, we should follow what people all over the world are taught, to keep the text as standard, clear, and unambiguous as possible. Dicklyon (talk) 17:26, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
But it's debatable whether adding further commas to a small set of words like a title actually does make the title clearer to a reader – particularly when no data has been presented that the current and highly stable article titles have been causing any problem for the readership. Further, a number of editors – notably even including several who favor the rule – have voiced their opinion that the two-comma form is "awkward", which I think quite clearly begs the question of whether the change is really in the best interests of the average reader. ╠╣uw [talk] 10:22, 6 August 2013 (UTC)


This guide acknowledges and specifically disagrees with Garner, suggesting that he is alone on encouraging writers to omit the second comma after city, state, used as adjective. The author notes his own observation that "leading writers in leading newspapers put in the trailing comma even when the expression serves as an adjective." Dicklyon (talk) 04:20, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

Nice find, again. But why would it suggest that Garner is alone? Why doesn't it suggest that this one fellow disagrees with the other fellow? They both seem to think that leading stylists are on their side. Dohn joe (talk) 05:39, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
It bears mentioning, I think, that this writer also calls it apposition—another point of disagreement with Garner. —Frungi (talk) 04:33, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
True. And our own article Apposition defines it more broadly than some, in a way that would be appropriate here: "Apposition is a grammatical construction in which two elements, normally noun phrases, are placed side by side, with one element serving to define or modify the other." Dicklyon (talk) 04:45, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

What would California say?[edit]

Try more searches like this one on states not over-represented in the list below: [8]. Do you see many that omit the comma after the state? Any? Dicklyon (talk) 03:18, 3 August 2013 (UTC)

Or pick a city not listed below, like Albany, New York. Let us know what you find. Dicklyon (talk) 03:27, 3 August 2013 (UTC)

Good illustration of my off-the-cuff opinion that the comma usually IS added in formal or legal situations - which virtually all of these examples are of that type. But try a similar search at Google News instead of Google and you will get quite a different result. [9] [10] --MelanieN (talk) 15:46, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
In the Rochester RM, I had found several sources that omit the second comma: see [11] [12] as examples. I can look for more, but I think we can all agree that usage is mixed. Dohn joe (talk) 04:26, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
Indeed, and I'm not suggesting that it's not done. It's becoming more acceptable to depart from the formal standard as one of the guides points out. But they're not so common as to be compelling, and for some states, for some reason, they're really quite rare. Dicklyon (talk) 04:37, 3 August 2013 (UTC)

Awkward?[edit]

Chicago is quoted above saying, "A place-name containing a comma ... should generally not be used as an adjective because a second comma may be deemed obligatory," and the second comma "is awkward."

Oxford/Garner say, "The practice of using as adjectives place names having two or more words is generally to be resisted." for similar reasons; the flow of the sentence is interrupted by the comma-separated state, whether with one comma or two.

They don't recommend using one comma; they recommend avoiding the construct altogether. We can do that, too. But when we have the awkward construct with the intervening state, is there any reason to not punctuate it in the way it is punctuated in documents designed to help the unfamiliar reader understand the intended meaning, namely formal and legal and such documents? Are we not an encyclopedia for the masses, trying to help the unfamiliar read things correctly? Dicklyon (talk) 03:51, 4 August 2013 (UTC)

I don't understand what's awkward about it anyway. It's no worse than "The July 15, 2012, trial ended in a hung jury." Powers T 21:40, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
That's an identical construction, and I would be surprised to hear anyone say that one is awkward and the other is not. —Frungi (talk) 22:27, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
Yep, that one is awkward too. And a lot of Reliable Sources are leaving it out in that formulation as well. I just did a survey of recent (within the last month) Google News stories using a similar formulation. I found that while some publications (including the New York Times) still do use the second comma...
  • "the aftermath of the July 7, 2005, bombings in London" [13]
  • "In this Friday, June, 28, 2013, file photo," [14] (interesting, that one includes a punctuation error - the stray comma after June - so not a good source for a punctuation lesson)
  • "Smith was on trial for the June 24, 2011, robbery of" [15]
many others do not.
  • "free on bond as he awaits trial for the April 21, 2013 murder of his wife" [16]
  • "The court’s July 17, 2013 settlement order states " [17]
  • "Simpson was booked Wednesday July 24, 2013 for allegedly making threats" [18]
  • "ordered up a March 17, 2014 date for a trial " [19]
  • "potentially face the death penalty for the June 20, 2008 attack" [20]
In other words, as I keep saying, Reliable Sources are split.--MelanieN (talk) 22:48, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
And it always bugs me when they don’t include it, just as it bugs me when they misspell a word or do a comma splice. But anyway, do we have a WP-namespace page that says to consult reliable sources (and not major style guides) for questions of grammar? —Frungi (talk) 23:12, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
Me, too. I'm with you on this, Frungi. My reading of WP:AT is that we should consider reliable sources for what a topic is most commonly known as (e.g., Bill Clinton not William Jefferson Clinton or William Jefferson Blythe III) but we adopt our own style for how that title is presented in the article title (e.g., we have our own rules for when to use dashes and hyphens which apply equally in titles regardless of whether reliable sources follow the same style). sroc 💬 23:32, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
MelanieN: Thanks for the sources; I spot-checked some as well and found similar inconsistency. Also agree on the awkwardness. ╠╣uw [talk] 10:05, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
I agree the construction is awkward because it is an exceptional case where a comma comes between the adjective and the noun it qualifies (the red balloon, not the red, balloon); but it is required because the adjectival phrase itself contains a parenthetical phrase which requires a comma (the September 11, 2001, attacks, not the September 11, 2001 attacks). The elegant solution is to avoid the awkward construction in such cases (the September 11 attacks or the attacks of September 11, 2001, … or the 11 September 2001 attacks or the 9/11 attacks). There are many ways to avoid the awkward construction; contradicting style guides is not a good one. sroc 💬 23:42, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
Sroc: Other considerations go into the formation of the small set of isolated words used to form a title than go into regular body sentences – that in part is why we have separate guidelines for article titles. For instance: we widely use parenthetical disambiguators in titles; however, WP:COMMA seems to favor comma delimiters instead on the grounds that they "interrupt the sentence less". Does that mean it'd be reasonable to deprecate parenthetical disambiguation in titles in order to interrupt the title less? That would seem unlikely. Why? Because it's understood that guidelines for punctuation in sentences aren't always appropriate in titles – and titles are not sentences. Other considerations come into play.

That said, I certainly don't suggest that no rules of punctuation apply in titles – many do and should – but in this case there are good reasons articulated by various editors for why the current, long-standing, and stable titles are preferable and should persist... and seemingly little beyond what I would consider the over-broad application of a single grammatical rule arguing for why they should not. ╠╣uw [talk] 10:38, 5 August 2013 (UTC)

I must admit that I fail to see the logic in removing the comma just because it's not a full sentence. If you have the sentence NN worked in the World Trade Center, and was one of the victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks, and remove the "NN worked in the World Trade Center, and was one of the victims of" bit, why on earth go on and also remove a single comma a bit further down the string? HandsomeFella (talk) 11:02, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
Disambiguation is not a good guide: disambiguation does not occur in normal prose, e.g., one would not say ...he played alongside Tom Jones (footballer born 1964) at..., but we have to make a special exception due to technical limitations that require disambiguation between unique articles titles. Titles do not have full stops because they are not sentences per se, and this is generally followed by style guides; that does not make a blanket exclusion to burn the style guide when it comes to titles. There is no particular justification to exclude titles from the application of MOS:COMMA, except you don't like it. sroc 💬 11:14, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
Please don't mischaracterize my position. I entirely agree we should not "burn the style guide," and have never suggested otherwise. (Perhaps you missed the part above when I said very specifically that I was not asserting that.) I'm simply noting that there are special considerations in article titles that don't necessarily apply in normal prose, and vice versa. It sounds like we both agree that Wikipedia accepts such differences, so the idea that everything in the non-title sections of the MOS must apply equally to titles as well as body sentences can, I think, be safely set aside.

Now, in this particular case the question is whether the enclosing-comma convention is one of those rules that must apply equally to titles as well as sentences. The relevant guidance in the MOS only gives sentences as examples, and provides as justification the notion that commas "interrupt the sentence" less than parentheses, so I think the question is an open one. I understand you favor applying the convention to titles in the interests of absolute grammatical consistency; I don't favor it on various other grounds as elaborated both by myself and others such as MelanieN, Dohn joe, etc., including the fact that insertion of further commas into an already very brief set of words produces what I consider an unnecessarily awkward result that hasn't been shown to serve the readers (and for which the alternative has not been shown to harm them). Put simply, there's a bar of justification that must be reached for us to legitimately change a large number of article titles that have been stable since their inception... and disputed grammatical pedantry by itself is not (in my opinion) sufficient to get us over that bar.

PS: Disambiguation occurs all the time in prose. An English teacher (the one I had in high school) taught me that. :) ╠╣uw [talk] 15:39, 5 August 2013 (UTC)

Sorry that you felt I was mischaracterising your position. I didn't mean to suggest that you thought we should "burn the style guide". What I meant was that there may be exceptions but I have not seen a valid justification for this particular exception which seems, to me, to be arbitrary.
I think we understand each other now. Your view is that "the enclosing-comma convention" (as you call it) does not need to be applied to titles and should not be changed in this case. My view is that the convention always applies, should be applied consistently, and the fact that there are many mistakes that do not follow the convention is no reason to continue or endorse the mistakes rather than correct them.
I might add that I find a flaw in your argument: "The relevant guidance in the MOS only gives sentences as examples, and provides as justification the notion that commas 'interrupt the sentence' less than parentheses, so I think the question is an open one." What MOS:COMMA actually says is: "Pairs of commas are often used to delimit parenthetic material, forming a parenthetical remark. This interrupts the sentence less than a parenthetical remark in (round) brackets or dashes." (It is really an explanation of the rule, not a "justification".) This indicates nothing to suggest that commas can be used in this way other than in pairs, but rather that commas can be used for parenthetical remarks in place of matching parentheses, e.g.: Rochester (New York) metropolitan area is equivalent to Rochester, New York, metropolitan area; but it does not support Rochester, New York metropolitan area as the guide explicitly refers to "pairs of commas". sroc 💬 23:29, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
I think we're getting quite a ways into the weeds here, but I'll try to stay with you for now:
First: Regarding the MOS's guidance on the parenthetical use of commas, you say there's "nothing to suggest that commas can be used in this way other than in pairs"... but I gave clear examples in the discussion above showing how commas are used in that way without having to be paired. If you're saying that a parenthetical comma must always close with a comma (just like a parenthesis must always close with a parenthesis), then I'm afraid that's simply not so. I learned that from an English teacher, the one I had in high school. (That sentence is an example.)
As for WP:COMMA (which we both quote): again, it repeatedly and explicitly puts its guidance in the context of sentences. Just from its five brief bullet points:
  • "This interrupts the sentence less than..."
  • "There are usually ways to simplify a sentence..."
  • "Before a quotation embedded within a sentence..."
And, as already noted, every example is a sentence. To be clear, I don't mean to nitpick this or to say that we can't apply a rule just because it doesn't say "titles too"; however, I think it's incumbent upon those seeking to change many years' of stable article titles (which quite consistently do not apply this rule) to say why the rule must now apply to titles – despite the fact that titles are not sentences, and that they frequently follow their own conventions that differ from rules of normal sentence prose. As yet, I just don't see sufficient justification for that. ╠╣uw [talk] 09:55, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
Aside from usually having an initial capital (and occasionally a parenthetical disambiguation that isn't really part of the title), Wikipedia's article titles are always written as they would be in running prose. I'm pretty sure that I'm not wrong here, but I expect counterexamples. —Frungi (talk) 10:30, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
@Huw/Huwmanbeing, and your example "'I learned that from an English teacher, the one I had in high school."
You're forgetting the "a comma separates each element and follows the last element (except at the end of a sentence)" in WP:COMMA. You don't need a comma before the end of the sentence (that would look awkward, if anything). Why don't you need it? Because comma as a disambiguator works differently than other disambiguators, such as parentheses. The difference is that comma disambiguations implicitly end at the end of sentences (or when other punctuation appears). This is why the title is "Rochester, New York", not "Rochester, New York,". As soon as it is clear that it is not the end of a sentence or an expression, there should be a comma. That is undeniably what WP:COMMA says. HandsomeFella (talk) 11:35, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
Titles are not sentences. You've added "or an expression", but the rule refers to sentences. Omnedon (talk) 13:24, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
What Huw said was a sentence, so he was obviously wrong. It's pretty obvious that the same rule goes for the end of expressions, or else we would have "Rochester, New York,", with the comma at the end of the title, because – as you've said several times over now – it is not a sentence. HandsomeFella (talk) 13:37, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
Not sure what you mean here -- he clearly makes the distinction between titles and sentences. You are applying the WP:COMMA rule and quoted a portion of it which specifically addresses itself to sentences. Omnedon (talk) 13:41, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
Sure he does (as do we all), but when he denied that commas come in pairs, using that sentence, it seems he forgot the exception clearly stated in WP:COMMA.
HandsomeFella (talk) 13:56, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
HandsomeFella: When did I ever "deny that commas come in pairs"? Sometimes they do, of course. What I said was that they don't always have to come in pairs, whereas parentheses do. I also didn't forget about sentence endings, so I think you may be misreading parts of this thread. To clarify:
I entirely agree with you that there are cases where you don't need a closing comma (like at the end of a sentence), which is what I said to begin with; however, there is not a corresponding case where you don't need a closing parenthesis. That's all I said in the sentence that Sroc for some reason quoted, and which he seemed (confusingly) to be challenging.
I also agree that WP:COMMA presents that rule; I merely question the appropriateness of using it to change a large number of very stable article titles that have never used nor needed the two-comma construction before – particularly when so many editors (even including a number who otherwise favor the rule) are conceding that the two-comma construction is "awkward". In what way does making a title awkward serve the reader? It may serve to satisfy grammarians, but per WP:TITLE we should not form titles to satisfy specialists – and deliberately introducing an admittedly awkward construction into a large number of titles simply to meet a rule seems like something done more to satisfy specialists than readers. ╠╣uw [talk] 15:18, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
Ok, Huw, we seem to agree on the grammatics issue. I probably misread you somehow. Sloppy reading on my part, and not the first time, I'm afraid (not even on this page). Still, you're asking why we should include the comma in titles, and wonder in what way it serves the reader. I say it should be included because it's correct, and it serves the reader by being correct.
I put it to you that people who are not "interested" (for lack of a better word) in punctuation, or don't care much about it, will not complain on correct punctuation, just like people who are not "interested" in spelling, or care much about it, will not complain on a correctly spelled word. We don't misspell words here just because people commonly misspell it.
I instead ask you: in what way does incorrect punctuation serve the reader?
About the title stability argument: it is far more likely that we will have stable article titles if we spell and punctuate them correctly. Incorrect spelling and punctuation will provoke challenges to titles foever.
HandsomeFella (talk) 16:45, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
It seems my point has been conveniently ignored rather than refuted, so I’ll say it again: Wikipedia titles are written as they would be in running text. If I am mistaken, please provide counterexamples; if not, please stop claiming a substantial difference. I don’t recall any policy or guideline that advocates the use of informal language (or grammar); rather, Wikipedia should present itself professionally. —Frungi (talk) 17:33, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
In case clarification is needed: I totally agree with you. An interesting thing was pointed out in a discussion I started on WT:MOS#Clarification needed in WP:COMMA; a logical error by those who use the "a title is not a (full) sentence" argument, pointed out by User:Trovatore. HandsomeFella (talk) 18:46, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
HandsomeFella: Thanks for answering my question about why this is needed; your answer ("because it's correct") affirms what I'd assumed elsewhere in the discussion – that really this is simply about applying a grammatical rule. As for your question to me: I don't say that incorrect punctuation serves the reader. But what constitutes incorrect punctuation in a title? Is a title incorrectly punctuated if it does not follows every rule that a sentence follows? I don't believe that's so. Titles in Wikipedia exist for a different purpose than does the prose in the body of the article; they're of a different form and must satisfy different criteria and considerations. That being the case, I'm afraid I still don't consider (disputed) grammatical correctness a sufficient basis for changing extremely stable article titles to a form both sides concede is awkward.
As for stability, I agree that better titles tend to be more stable titles. In this case, these titles have already been remarkably stable, and applying the additional commas would in the great majority of cases change titles that have never been changed before, so on both counts I'd have to say that stability favors the status quo.
At this point I think we seem to understand each other (even if we don't agree with each other) and should probably just agree to disagree. ╠╣uw [talk] 09:44, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
@Huwmanbeing: To be clear:
  • We agree that commas are not always paired. In particular, a final comma is not required at the end of a sentence, as specified at MOS:COMMA. A comma is also not required when followed by other punctuation such as a dash or closing parenthesis; and when followed by a remark in parenthesis, the comma is moved to after the parenthesis—these exceptions are not specified at MOS:COMMA, but they could be added if necessary. None of these exceptions apply to the case in point, however. In this case, the comma would be paired in a running sentence.
  • We agree that some rules of grammar/style that apply to sentences do not apply to titles. In particular, titles do not end in full stops and do not require verbs as sentences do. The fact that there are these exceptions does not justify making exceptions to other rules of grammar/style at will. In my view, there is no justification to except matching commas in titles.
  • Just because sections of the MOS give examples as sentences does not mean that it they do not apply to titles unless they expressly say so or it is a necessary implication from the context. There is no reason to conclude that here, since the use of commas in titles or sentence fragments is not materially different from use in sentences.
  • Your view, as I understand it, is that title stability justifies making the exception for matching commas. I disagree. The justifications for making the change are, in no particular order: (a) to comply with the MOS, which reflects grammar/style set out in the pre-eminent style guides; (b) for consistency with use in prose; (c) for the sake of clarity (even where individual cases may not necessarily cause ambiguity either way, consistent use avoids confusion across the board). I do not see any real justification not to make the change save that it's a nuisance.
sroc 💬 11:05, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
Regarding exceptions, it's good for titles to be discussed/considered by interested editors (as we're doing here), and to be formed based not just on an automatic application of certain rules but also on what the community determines to be most appropriate for certain classes of articles. This seems more likely to yield titles that better satisfy all the requirements of WP:TITLE, including the requirement that they meet the needs of users ahead of the needs of specialists (like grammarians). A title construction that's agreed to be "awkward" and "clunky", even by those favoring it, to me seems not to meet that requirement.
I also don't say that stability by itself justifies retaining the current titles; I do say it's questionable to argue for changing titles which in almost all cases have been extremely stable for years on the grounds of improved stability. In the case of metro area, most have been perfectly stable and unchanged since their creation, so my point is simply that changing them around now can't really be said to serve the purpose of improving stability. ╠╣uw [talk] 10:09, 8 August 2013 (UTC)
I don't think it's helpful to suggest that only a group of "specialists (like grammarians)" have an interest in using English correctly; all English speakers have an interest in it, even if it's only a certain breed that will go to the effort of defending it. This encyclopedia is written in English and should use it properly. The use of two commas is correct, even if it is "awkward", but that doesn't justify doing something that's incorrect just to avoid awkwardness; there are ways to be both correct and not awkward simultaneously.
As for stability, if we can reach consensus on an appropriate format that is at once accurate, grammatically/stylistically correct, and not awkward, then that will inherently promote stability—especially once it is established as a precedent (appropriate revisions to MOS guidelines may help, too). Sticking with the current format which is incorrect just because it's the status quo and it's been like that for ages is only likely to engender these wearisome debates. sroc 💬 13:11, 8 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Sure, "Rochester, New York(,) metropolitan area" is a title and not a sentence. So New York is not at the end of a sentence, therefore it requires the comma. WP:COMMA does not say that the comma rule applies only in sentences; it just says that the comma is omitted at the end of sentences. --Stfg (talk) 18:34, 6 August 2013 (UTC)

Articles and categories affected[edit]

Question: what is the point of this section? --MelanieN (talk) 18:02, 2 August 2013 (UTC)

I think it serves multiple purposes: it will be a useful guide to anyone who wants to help update titles after this discussion settles out; and it occupies Apteva's time. I think the intent, however, was to scare people about the scope of the work needed to actually bring titles into uniform alignment with what we agree is normal English punctuation. It will take literally hours to fix. Dicklyon (talk) 18:12, 2 August 2013 (UTC)
My expectation was that all of these were going to be moved, and I was simply making a list for that purpose. Of course, not putting in a second comma means that instead of moving 100 articles (after removing duplicates), only 3 need to be moved. All articles affected were listed, not just ones that were of one or the other format. Apteva (talk) 19:45, 2 August 2013 (UTC)

Other examples of incorrect usage[edit]

In spite of these examples (which set a precedent for others to follow in folly), I maintain that there cases are incorrect and should also be corrected to follow MOS:COMMA. sroc 💬 11:39, 5 August 2013 (UTC)

But these seem to be entirely clear. For titling purposes, the second comma wouldn't really serve a purpose. Omnedon (talk) 13:13, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
Except for being grammatically correct, you mean. Powers T 13:36, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
No, I don't mean that. These are titles, not sentences. See above. Omnedon (talk) 13:44, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
Why shouldn't titles follow rules of grammar and style? We still put adjectives before nouns. We still capitalise proper nouns. We still use en dashes for date ranges (even in the above examples). We still have matching parentheses. Why should the use of commas consistent with our own style guide (MOS:COMMA) be excepted? sroc 💬 13:50, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
This has all been gone through above. Not all rules of grammar for sentences apply to titles. Parentheses must match for reasons beyond grammar; commas are not the same. Omnedon (talk) 14:03, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
@sroc and @Powers, English is a dynamic language. Grammar rules change over time through usage, and that is what we see happening here. How many people do you know who still say "It is I" or "That was he"? Is it still illegal to split an infinitive, or end a sentence with a preposition? Those were iron-clad rules 100 years ago, but they are rarely observed now except as examples of pedantry. The dual-comma requirement, although it makes sense logically, is clearly destined for the same ash-heap of grammatical history - as demonstrated by many, many Reliable Source examples that have been cited here. --MelanieN (talk) 14:14, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
Strawman argument ... even if some people incorrectly express themselves that way, that's no reason for Wikipedia to do it (unless in direct citation). If and when English evolves into that, Wikipedia would probably evolve with it, but as it currently isn't viewed as correct English, it will not find its way here. Btw, why do you keep capitalizing "Reliable Sources"? It's not a proper noun. HandsomeFella (talk) 14:23, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
I found myself having the same discussion above with Dicklyon (where he dismissed Dohn Joe's citations from grammar guides as "just an informality"). I decided to bring my comments here since both discussions are about the same thing, namely "grammatical correctness". What Dicklyon called "just an informality" is actually an English grammar rule in the process of changing. The textbooks are always slow to catch up to usage, and some die-hards will fight kicking and screaming against the changes, but eventually they have to give way to changing usage (and of course I mean usage by educated people, thought leaders, and Reliable Sources). When usage changes, grammar must follow. You say it "currently isn't viewed as correct English," but that is also changing. In Dohn Joe's examples you actually can see the grammarians beginning to acknowledge the change. The reason I capitalize Reliable Sources is that the term has a specific meaning here on Wikipedia, and I wish to indicate that I am referring to that specific meaning. I do the same thing with Notability, Verifiability, etc. Finally, please look up the definition of "straw man", because it does not apply here. I did not accuse them of arguing against split infinitives; I gave it as an example of a grammar rule that has changed.--MelanieN (talk) 14:48, 5 August 2013 (UTC) P.S. ...and why do you italicize "incorrectly"? Do you think that makes it truer? --MelanieN (talk) 14:56, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
You are confused. My "just an informality" referred to usage in sources. No guides recommend dropping the second comma; one says they're required in formal writing but are increasingly dropped in other usage, or something to that effect; I am agreeing. Everything I have said about the guides respects the opinions therein. Dicklyon (talk) 17:23, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
Italicization is frequently used to signify emphasis in written text. Powers T 14:59, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
Everybody knows that. I just wondered why he felt compelled to emphasize it. --MelanieN (talk) 15:01, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
I did it for emphasis of course, as it is in fact not correct English, not now, and not in the foreseeable future. I guess it could be common in daily parlance, but that probably depends on the company, and I doubt that it's more common than correct English. Having said that, Wikipedia does not lead, it follows. HandsomeFella (talk) 15:04, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
We are not talking about "common parlance" (which in fact is impossible; "parlance" means spoken language, which does not include commas). We are talking about written usage by educated people, thought leaders, and Reliable Sources. You and other here have made it abundantly clear that you regard this as a matter of "correctness", as if those grammar rules had come down from on high; does emphasizing it like this (aka shouting) make it even more true? --MelanieN (talk) 15:21, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
You misunderstood me. I was referring to the "It is I" and "That was he"? expressions you put forth as being more and more common (your claim), as support of the argument for removing a grammatically correct comma. I assume you agree that those expressions can be spoken language. HandsomeFella (talk) 15:28, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
OMG - you mean you actually meant to defend the old rules about "It is he" and split infinitives and prepositions at the end of sentences? I would not have insulted you by implying such; I assumed you would accept those as examples of "rules" that are no longer rules. If you still believe in those things as well as the commas, we are going to have trouble communicating. As Winston Churchill may or may not have said to a copy editor who altered one of his sentences in a manuscript, "This is the sort of arrant pedantry up with which I shall not put." --MelanieN (talk) 16:24, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
My mistake – "it was I" who misunderstood you, not the other way around. I totally misread what you had written. For some reason (a temporary bout of dyslexia?), I thought you had written something like "I is", "you is", expressions I've only heard coloured people utter (often in films or tv series). I'm sure you understand why I doubted that was coming into common use. HandsomeFella (talk) 17:13, 5 August 2013 (UTC)

By the way, if this discussion is about whether the encyclopedia should get ahead of the curve on this apparently changing rule, then it's WP:COMMA that would need to change. Here, all we should be talking about is whether WP:COMMA applies to article titles. Powers T 15:03, 5 August 2013 (UTC)

That's a good point. Since the discussion at WT:Article titles#Do article titles that include proper names need to follow standard grammatical rules? is currently unresolved, there is NO way we should impose any such change here. --MelanieN (talk) 15:29, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
That discussion concluded with a consensus to use the second comma in titles. It's unclear why Apteva opened this repeat, but it seems to also be showing that at least a majority respect the idea of using good grammar, in titles as well as in text. Dicklyon (talk) 17:17, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
You are mischaracterizing the position of those that disagree with you; please don't do that. I am all in favor of using good grammar, and I believe that's true of everyone here. I am not convinced this is a grammar issue. Omnedon (talk) 17:21, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
I admit to thinking of it as a gramma/style issue (that is, WP style is to use "best practices" grammar), and don't really understand what the alternative POV on it is. Perhaps you can explain. Dicklyon (talk) 20:18, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
You say "grammar/style". Which is it? As has been stated several times by several contributors here, titles are not sentences. Not all rules for sentences necessarily apply to non-sentences. Omnedon (talk) 13:25, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
True, but those rules tend to specifically address the nature and structure of a sentence. The rule in question has nothing to do with sentences specifically, so there's no reason it wouldn't apply. Powers T 14:31, 7 August 2013 (UTC)

Interpretation[edit]

This comment made me think:

Two commas means that Rochester is the metropolitan area; one comma would mean that New York is the metropolitan area.
— User:Stfg 18:47, 8 August 2013

Actually, I think that:

  • Rochester, New York, metropolitan area doesn't mean that either Rochester or New York are a metropolitan area, but rather that Rochester, New York, is an adjective describing the metropolitan area—that is, the metropolitan area may be located in or centred around Rochester, which is in New York, but the metropolitan area is not synonymous with Rochester. (In this respect, I disagree with Stfg's comment above.)
  • Rochester, New York metropolitan area refers to Rochester, which is in the New York metropolitan area. (In this respect, I agree with Stfg's comment above.)

sroc 💬 12:57, 8 August 2013 (UTC)

Regarding the first bullet, you draw a distinction I had overlooked, and you're right. I should have said that two commas means that the New York Rochester gives its name to the metropolitan area. Quite similar to the fact that the phrase Sydney opera house doesn't mean that Sydney is an opera house :) --Stfg (talk) 14:53, 9 August 2013 (UTC)

I continue to be stymied by the claims of ambiguity caused by using one comma. I just don't see it, in any sort of practical way. Could someone from the two-comma camp please explain to me how the following sentence can have more than one plausible reading: "The Rochester, New York metropolitan area is known for its friendly inhabitants." How does having one versus two commas affect the meaning of that sentence? Dohn joe (talk) 18:13, 9 August 2013 (UTC)

This is the perfect example of the ambiguity. Because besides there being a Rochester metropolitan area, there is also a New York metropolitan area (for New York City). Without the second comma, we are referring to a Rochester that is within the New York metropolitan area. Not the Rochester metropolitan area that is within the state of New York. Contrast an article title like "Rochester, New York, metropolitan area" with something like "Jamaica Bay, New York metropolitan area". Since the second one refers to the Jamaica Bay neighborhood in Queens, it is within the New York metropolitan area, not its own metropolitan area in New York. If the state is going to be included, it is a parenthetical, and needs to be set off as such with two commas. Dworjan (talk) 20:54, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
But no - if you read it as "New York metropolitan area", that means you begin the sentence with "The Rochester", which makes no sense. Which means you cannot read it as "New York metropolitan area" if you want the sentence to mean anything. Right? Dohn joe (talk) 21:03, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
Okay, maybe you're right that if you're an astute reader you could figure out that something like, "The Rochester, New York metropolitan area is awesome!" probably doesn't refer to a neighborhood in the NY metro area, based on the presence of the word "the." But really, we're talking about article titles here, not complete sentences. Nobody is proposing to call the article "The Rochester, New York metropolitan area". AgnosticAphid talk 21:13, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
But if the second comma isn't necessary in a sentence, why would we include it in the title? Dohn joe (talk) 21:27, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
In the context of that sentence, it is obvious what the meaning is, absent the second comma. The thing is though, in the article title, the reader does not have that same context to determine the meaning. That is why we need to be more grammatically strict with the article title than the inline grammar, because those commas are the only way to interpret the meaning. Dworjan (talk) 21:33, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
I'm glad you agree that that sentence has one obvious meaning with one comma. As for titling, again, while I understand the logical position, I don't see any practical ambiguity - i.e., how an actual reader would be confused. There is a longstanding, ingrained convention to use "Placename, State" with U.S. settlements (see any debate on WP:USPLACE for confirmation). There is essentially zero usage of the type "Placename, State metropolitan area" referring to a place within a metro area. A search for your earlier term, "Jamaica Bay, New York metropolitan area" has no results, for example. So again, there is no practical ambiguity to worry about, even in the title. Anyone reading the title will read it as "(City, State) (metropolitan area)" - and if they are confused, the article itself will soon enough explain the scope of the article. Does that make sense? Dohn joe (talk) 21:52, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
The meaning of the sentence is clear only because of the context of the sentence, not because the second comma is or isn't there. I've already highlighed how a reader could be confused; there is a New York metropolitan area. One which is far more well known than the Rochester metropolitan area. My earlier term wasn't to state that it was also used that way, but to point out that it is a valid way to describe a place, because of the absence of the second comma. And we also have a convention on wikipedia to use "placename, New York city borough". I go back to my earlier point. Regardless of whether the second comma is always necessary, it should be there for clarity. You may be right that most readers won't be confused by the title with one comma, but the fact is that no readers would be confused by the title with two commas. No reader should have to start reading the article to figure out the scope of it, when a simple second comma in the title could solve that problem.
Grammatically, the second comma should be there. So arguments that state it is pretty much just as easy to understand without the second comma don't make sense. If we agree that either way is equally easy to understand (which I don't agree to, but bear with me), then the grammatically correct way should be the way to title the articles. In short, I see no advantage to the titles only having one comma. The only argument I see is that the titles are 'just as good' with one comma. If someone would like to present an opinion that the titles are better without the second comma then they should, because the grammatically correct form should be the default, unless the second comma should be dropped to make it more readable. Dworjan (talk) 22:12, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
Your last sentence is, in fact, the argument of most of the one-comma supporters, if you check out the survey and the discussion just below it. The second comma is awkward and disrupts the flow of the phrase/sentence, and otherwise is "just as good" as two commas for understanding and conveying of meaning. So one comma is more readable. Dohn joe (talk) 22:50, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
The second comma is supposed to 'disrupt the flow'. If we're going to have "CityX metropolitan area" that need to have the state name inserted as parenthetical it needs to be set off with commas (or parenthesis, if we really want to go whole hog) in order to be clear. Proper grammar calls for the second comma; being explicitly clear on meaning calls for the second comma; it's both grammatically and technically correct. That the second comma gives some editors the willies because it is "awkward" is poor reason to abandon the rules of grammar and have improperly written titles that have different meaning than what it should. Dworjan (talk) 23:09, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
See my response to Stfg below. Dohn joe (talk) 23:17, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
Dohn Joe: I think you express things well. So far I've seen nothing to suggest that normal readers actually have any problem at all interpreting titles with the current single-comma form. To misread them would seem to require a greater degree of grammatical hair-splitting (or obtuse misreading) than I think a normal reader would bring to the consideration of a title. ╠╣uw [talk] 19:45, 11 August 2013 (UTC)
@Dohn joe, much of the discussion has been about the title "Rochester, New York metropolitan area" rather than about how to refer to it in a sentence of running text. The sentence "The Rochester, New York metropolitan area is known for its friendly inhabitants" isn't so much ambiguous as ungrammatical. In that sentence, because it's referring to the Rochester metropolitan area, correct grammar requires a comma after New York. On the other hand, the sentence "Jamaica Bay, New York metropolitan area is known for its friendly inhabitants", also requires a further comma, but because it's referring to the New York metropolitan area, the comma needs to be placed like this: "Jamaica Bay, New York metropolitan area, is known for its friendly inhabitants".
Perhaps the best way to figure this is to replace the commas with parentheses, thus: Rochester (New York) metropolitan area versus Jamaica Bay (New York metropolitan area). Then you can replace both parenteses with commas, except that you omit the second comma if (a) it is followed immediately by other punctuation, or (b) if it's at the very end of something like a title, caption, list entry or table entry. --Stfg (talk) 22:46, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
Stfg - I appreciate the thoughtful explanation. Like I indicated above, though, I do understand the logical underpinnings of the two-comma argument. "New York" is in apposition to "Rochester", and apposition (at least nonrestrictive apposition) requires paired commas. Generally speaking, I agree with that rule. What I'm saying, though, is that in this situation, where you have a placename that includes a comma by convention and is used as a modifier, the second comma is superfluous, which makes following that rule unnecessary. Because no one uses the "Jamaica Bay, New York metropolitan area"-type construction, there is only theoretical ambiguity to contend with. But resolving that theoretical ambiguity creates actual issues of readability and distraction. Because there are actual benefits to using one comma, using two simply because "that's the rule" is pedantic and ultimately unhelpful to our readers. I hope that makes sense. Dohn joe (talk) 23:15, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
Yes, I see, thanks. But I don't agree that there are significant benefits there, except not having to bother to correct the error, and that's just lazy. OTOH, I think that having ungrammatical titles etc looks crass and amateurish. Sorry to be so blunt, but I do. --Stfg (talk) 23:30, 9 August 2013 (UTC)
I fail to see how properly applying the rules of English grammar (especially since there are so few actual rules in English) is being pedantic, and I've absolutely no idea how it is unhelpful to our readers. You agree that the correct way is to write the title with two commas, but then contend that that creates issues of readability? I've no idea how properly applying the rules of grammar is a bad thing. I don't think anyone of functional intelligence is getting distracted by a comma in a phrase or is unable to read that phrase because of the second comma. And it is only a theoretical example because I didn't take the time to find an actual example. But it highlights that it is an ambiguity.
I am completely confused as to how this is possibly a debate. Someone noticed a grammatically incorrect structure to article titles and pointed it out. It has been further explained that that grammatically incorrect structure leads to an improper reading of the phrase without some background knowledge. That should be all it takes to get this fixed.Dworjan (talk) 01:42, 10 August 2013 (UTC)
Should it be "Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital" or "Diana, Princess of Wales, Hospital"?  — Amakuru (talk) 20:28, 11 August 2013 (UTC)
Interesting example. I can't figure how to apply WP:COMMONNAME, because Google seems to ignore punctuation in search terms. The name on the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Trust web site is "Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital", so would use that. It isn't a geographical reference, though, so I assume WP:COMMA doesn't apply to it. --Stfg (talk) 22:41, 11 August 2013 (UTC)
Amakuru: That's an interesting parallel to the metro areas question. Is the article about a hospital named for Diana, Princess of Wales? Or is it about Diana who is the princess of a medical facility called Wales Hospital? Or perhaps Diana whom we disambiguate by specifying her association to the Princess of Wales Hospital?
There are various possible misreadings, but they seem very unlikely; to me, the intended meaning is clear without the second enclosing comma. ╠╣uw [talk] 09:59, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
@Stfg the two cases seem to be quite closely related to me. Both concern a proper noun "Rochester, New York" and "Diana, Princess of Wales" which has been formed using two other proper nouns and inserting a comma between the two. The metropolitan area and the hospital are both other nouns to which those aforementioned proper nouns apply. On the hospital issue, most sources seem to use the one comma form, but of course this is a British hospital so it's not entirely impossible that there's an ENGVAR issue here as well.  — Amakuru (talk) 15:03, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
Dworjan: Actually it's only been claimed that the current title "leads to an improper reading of the phrase". I see no actual evidence that that's the case – that readers are actually having any difficulty reading the current title. Certainly if one wishes to speculate on ways that a reader might obtusely misread something, one can, and under such circumstances practically anything (including both the one- and two-comma forms) is potentially suspect, but I'm not sure that strained grammatical interpretations/misinterpretations reflect the reality of how readers are actually using these pages... and it's for readers that we choose titles.
One of my concerns is that a sizable number of commentators (notably even including some who support the rule) concede that the additional comma makes things "awkward", "clunky", etc., so I think we have to ask whether the benefit to be gained from applying the rule outweighs making the title awkward and clunky. For myself, I'm not convinced that it does, particularly given the absence of evidence that the current title is in practice at all problematic, the long stability of the current title form, etc. (And as I've elaborated before, I also have my doubts about whether the absence of the second comma in the title is even necessarily incorrect, given that we don't apply to titles all the same rules of grammar and punctuation as we do to prose sentences... and that good titles must meet other considerations beyond what may be correct punctuation elsewhere.) ╠╣uw [talk] 20:42, 11 August 2013 (UTC)
Additionally, it has only been claimed that the grammatically correct comma would lead to improper reading of the phrase. HandsomeFella (talk) 20:49, 11 August 2013 (UTC)
It's a comma, a comma that is supposed to be there. I don't see how that's "awkward" or "clunky". Multiple examples have been posted showing that without the second comma the title can be misread (Amakuru has just added another one above). Besides being necessary to properly label places it is also grammatically correct despite it not being a sentence. The rule states that parentheticals (which we all agree the state name would be), should be set off by commas before and after. The rule that people are misinterpreting is the one that says the second comma may be omitted at the end of a sentence or phrase. It is being read to somehow mean that if it isn't a sentence, the comma isn't needed. When what it is saying is that the second comma should be there, except in cases when nothing follows that second comma. We do have different rules of grammar and punctuation for titles and sentences, but those rules state to which they apply. So 'capitalization in titles', 'punctuation at the end of sentences' don't apply in all cases. But 'commas around parenthetical phrases' applies whether it is a sentence or not.
I don't see how "Rochester, New York, metropolitan area" is so horribly awkward and clunky as to make it unreadable as compared to "Rochester, New York metropolitan area". Especially since the second one is wrong. Not just "grammatically", but also in content. The second article title refers to a Rochester in the New York metropolitan area, not a Rochester metropolitan area in New York. Regardless of what grammar rules we apply, whether some construct is awkward or not, the plain fact is that the second construct refers to something different than the first. And that is why the comma is necessary. Dworjan (talk) 21:05, 11 August 2013 (UTC)
As one of those guilty of calling the two-comma form "clunky", may I just say that I find the one-comma form even more "clunky", on my own private and admittedly subjective scale of clunkiness. I used it only to explain why I like the option to rephrase. --Stfg (talk) 22:45, 11 August 2013 (UTC)
In simple terms, this should be the order of preference:
  1. Rochester metropolitan area, New York—grammatically/stylistically correct, un-clunky and unambiguous (the Rochester metropolitan area in New York);
  2. Rochester, New York, metropolitan area—grammatically/stylistically correct and unambiguous, but clunky;
  3. Rochester, New York metropolitan area—grammatically/stylistically incorrect and ambiguous (Rochester in the New York metropolitan area?).
sroc 💬 00:45, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
An alternative could possibly be Rochester (New York) metropolitan area, but I think both that and your number 1 fails WP:COMMONNAME. People do say "Rochester, New York, metropolitan area", unless of course the context is clear (e.g. when being in the vicinity), in which case people say "Rochester metropolitan area". And your number 3 would actually have 999 on my list.
I think it's time to close this discussion. The outcome is clear. HandsomeFella (talk) 09:17, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
I didn't have 996 other options ;-p sroc 💬 10:53, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
Dworjan: You don't think it's awkward, and that's fine. I simply note that many others (including even a number who seemingly favor the rule) do say that it's awkward. As for your assertion of that it's a "plain fact" that the two constructions will be read differently, that again is an opinion that you're welcome to, but (as far as I can see) there's no evidence for that. ╠╣uw [talk] 09:47, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
We can debate whether or not the second comma is "awkward" but that is simply an editorial opinion. Editors have also pointed out that they feel the first comma is awkward as well. Whether we think something is awkward isn't the basis for titling articles. Now, if it was artificial, then yes, that would be a good reason not to use a particular form. Which is why I would not support "Rochester (New York) metropolitan area" because that is an artificial construct. It has been pointed out several times how someone who understands English grammar, and the standard format of placenames (when X Location is a part of Y Area then it should be written "X Location, Y Area", not only could misinterpret "Rochester, New York metropolitan area" as Rochester of the New York metropolitan area, but in fact should interpret it that way, and given that there is in fact a New York metropolitan area which is also much more well known than the Rochester, New York, metropolitan area, that interpretation is entirely possible. Which is why the first format "Rochester metropolitan area, New York" isn't good either. Because we have metropolitan areas that span state lines, an article titled with that first format would be referring to that portion of the Rochester metropolitan area within New York. Dworjan (talk) 22:08, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
I agree with all except your last point: in the case where a metropolitan area crosses state borders, we name them both (e.g., Rochester metropolitan area, New York and New Jersey) just as we do for unincorporated communities (e.g., Glenrio, New Mexico and Texas) in accordance with WP:USPLACE. sroc 💬 23:19, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
What about “Rochester metropolitan area (New York)”, as we do for any other disambiguation? This is of course assuming that the area may be called “Rochester metropolitan area” in context. I don’t think there have been any objections yet to this form, except for one who didn’t seem to understand how Wikipedia does DAB. —Frungi (talk) 23:45, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
Correction: One argument I’ve seen that could apply against this is the fact that we follow Wikipedia practice here rather than dictate it. So then I guess the question is, would anyone object to making it the practice? It suffers from no grammatical errors. —Frungi (talk) 01:01, 13 August 2013 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── So, if I've understood the discussion correctly (which is far from certain), the discussion is now about these remaining alternatives (in no particular order):

  1. Rochester, New York, metropolitan area
  2. Rochester (New York) metropolitan area
  3. Rochester metropolitan area, New York
  4. Rochester metropolitan area (New York)

Right? Then, how do we proceed? HandsomeFella (talk) 18:12, 15 August 2013 (UTC)

I like 4 best, but by my reading, there seems to be the most consensus for 1 and 3. I guess the next steps are to determine which one of those we should use, and then go about moving the articles. —Frungi (talk) 18:48, 15 August 2013 (UTC)
If the title uses a form similar to #1, then the second comma is necessary. Among reformulations to avoid that construction, my preference would be for #4. #3 is a bastardization of the comma convention in that no one commonly uses that form, whereas the justification for the comma convention is that people do commonly refer to "Rochester, New York" and as such it is a sort of alternate title that incorporates natural disambiguation. As an aside, I find many of the other extensions of the comma convention, as with neighborhoods, to also be uncommon aberrations. Similarly, #2 seems an extremely odd use of parenthetical disambiguation that would effectively render the pipe trick unusable for such titles. olderwiser 19:04, 15 August 2013 (UTC)
I like #1 best. I have started a poll below. If the participation is good, it could prove more effective than discussions/essays. — Preceding unsigned comment added by HandsomeFella (talkcontribs) 08:22, 16 August 2013

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The point abouit the pipe trick is interesting. Here are the details:

--Stfg (talk) 09:20, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

There seems to be a mistake in the poll: it doesn't include the option of Rochester, New York metropolitan area.  — Amakuru (talk) 14:40, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
I second this comment. Just because the "no second comma" people haven't been engaged in this latest round of the interminable discussion, or haven't been continuing to comment on a daily basis, that doesn't mean they have conceded the point. It may just mean they got tired of the squabbling and moved on to other things. Please include that option in your table. --MelanieN (talk) 15:18, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
P.S. I just saw this comment: I guess the next steps are to determine which one of those we should use, and then go about moving the articles. Forgive me, Frungi, but I object to the notion that you can just "go about moving" hundreds of article titles based on the consensus of maybe half-a-dozen people toward the end of an exhaustive/exhausting discussion. What about the fact that currently none of the existing articles use any of these four formats - so that EVERY disambiguated metropolitan area article would have to be changed? Is current usage to be given no weight at all in this discussion? Whatever happened to "policy is supposed to be descriptive, rather than prescriptive"? Please see the discussion on this point below. --MelanieN (talk) 15:31, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
I've got to agree with MelanieN about that. The poll below overlaps the proper RFC survey without subsuming it, and it can only generate confusion. I've removed my entry from that table, and I strongly suggest that the whole table be removed. --Stfg (talk) 16:18, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
I don’t think that was her point, but I have to agree, Stfg. But what do you suggest? Support for the two options in the original survey is about even. —Frungi (talk) 16:52, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
It's no mistake. There seems to be a stable majority against the one-comma option, and few new editors have arrived lately, and so it is not likely to change. That poll has already taken place, so to speak, and the one-comma option lost 7–14.
The latest discussions have only been re-hashing old arguments. After a couple of days with no new input to the section, we need to go on and implement. A discussion on alternate formats then arose, and I started the poll between these. HandsomeFella (talk) 16:22, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
Current usage is grammatically incorrect, and there appears to be consensus for fixing that. There have been move requests in the past, including during this discussion, and the closing comments at Talk:Rochester, New York metropolitan area#Requested move 2 elected to wait until this discussion was resolved. Guidelines describe best practices, and that is exactly what we are trying to determine here. —Frungi (talk) 16:52, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
I don't think you can categorically state that the current usage is "grammatically incorrect". That's part of the nub of the argument, I would have thought. And your assertion that "there appears to be consensus for fixing that" is based not on arguments, or an attempt to genuinely find consensus, but on a straw poll which, as Melanie says, was hardly conclusive.  — Amakuru (talk) 17:25, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

If it would assist clarity, I'm fine with adding the status quo as a fifth option. My concern is with how the disambiguator in #3 and #4 is to be determined. As metropolitan areas sometimes cross state lines, would we have to list multiple states within the parentheses or after the comma? (It's not an issue with #1 and #2, because then the disambiguator applies to the city, which (with a very few exceptions) is only in one state. Powers T 17:45, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

Is the disambiguator necessary when the base name is unambiguous? We require the state name for cities and towns, but do we also for areas named for cities? —Frungi (talk) 17:52, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
These are not named after a city but rather use the name of the largest city, or multiple cities, included in the area. Not quite the same. So using Vegas as an example it is either Las Vegas–Paradise, NV MSA which was changed this year to Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV Metropolitan Statistical Area. These are commonly shortened to use one city in the name. Vegaswikian (talk) 18:14, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
Sorry for the confusion; I meant descriptive titles rather than proper nouns. Our “metropolitan areas” don’t always match up with statistical areas. So I’ll rephrase: Is the disambiguator necessary in unambiguous descriptive titles? —Frungi (talk) 18:30, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
I don't know if it's "necessary" but the prevailing style across the Wiki appears to be not to disambiguate with a state name where it's unambiguous. Thus Albuquerque metropolitan area but Albuquerque, New Mexico.  — Amakuru (talk) 19:27, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
For the record, I think option 3 (Rochester metropolitan area, New York) is the preferable option, as it provides natural disambiguation (using the accepted "[small area name], [larger area name]" convention) while avoiding the two-comma adjectival construction. sroc 💬 13:10, 17 August 2013 (UTC)

Poll[edit]

Give points on a scale of 1 to 4. Most preferred = most points.

Editor Rochester, New York, metropolitan area Rochester (New York) metropolitan area Rochester metropolitan area, New York Rochester metropolitan area (New York)
HandsomeFella 4 p 1 p 3 p 2 p
sroc 3 p 1 p 4 p 1 p
Stfg 2 p 1 p 4 p 3 p
Dicklyon 4 p 2 p 1 p 2 p
Total 13 p 5 p 12 p 8 p
  • I'd like to write in Rochester, New York metropolitan area, though I agree that another form of voting is unlikely to make things any more decisive in the survey above. --BDD (talk) 22:27, 22 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Ditto BDD. This poll should have included both the one-comma version, as several people have mentioned above, as well as "Metropolitan area of City, State", which is the only other naturally occurring option. Dohn joe (talk) 05:17, 29 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Ditto BDD and Dohn Joe. That makes three !votes for this format, which if included in the table above would have come to 12 points or a virtual tie with the other two leading alternatives. This issue is nowhere near as settled as some here claim; the apparent "consensus" mainly reflects the fact that most of us have lost interest in the interminable debate and have moved on to other things. --MelanieN (talk) 14:32, 29 August 2013 (UTC)
Comment: given the fact that 10 of the 14 "two-comma editors" remain to vote here, I guess that would also affect the sums. HandsomeFella (talk) 14:49, 29 August 2013 (UTC)
The poll may be moot now, but as I said further up, the "poll" on including the one-comma version has already taken place, so to speak, and it lost 7–14. This poll is/was on the remaining alternatives, as they were then (I'm not sure whether that has changed). HandsomeFella (talk) 08:10, 29 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Perhaps this "poll" was a bad idea, as appears to have confused the issue. I thought it was intended to clarify what would be the preferred form if the New York were to be viewed as parenthetical, IOW to ask what form the Rename "[City] metropolitan area, [State]" section should have offered, and not as an excuse to dissipate the 2-comma vote. --Stfg (talk) 17:01, 29 August 2013 (UTC)

Using one comma is not grammatically incorrect[edit]

Folks, there's a major misconception here that using one comma is "grammatically incorrect". This misconception underlies 90% of the opposition to using one comma. The problem is, it's just not true. Using one comma is perfectly acceptable from a grammatical standpoint. There are dueling theories at work here. One, the dominant one, is that "State" acts as an appositive, and therefore requires paired commas to set it off.

The problem with that theory is that it's not an appositive, really. An appositive "points out the same person or thing by a different name," according to Garner's Modern American Usage. In other words, it requires a degree of identity between the two: "My brother, the dentist;" "George, the king of England;" "Route 12, the quickest way to get there." There is no identity, however, between "City" and "State." "Rochester" is not "New York" or vice-versa. The only way to get a degree of identity is to add a couple of words: "Rochester, (the one in) New York." Now, this or a similar construction may be how the comma convention originated (I'd love it if someone could find the history of the comma convention). But as I said above, this at best is a vestigial appositive reading.

The far better interpretation is that "City, State," at least in the U.S., is itself a single, unified name of a thing - that happens to have a comma included by convention. As such, "State" does not need a second comma to set it off, because "State" is an integral part of the name itself. Anyone who's hung around WP:USPLACE for five minutes knows this is one of the main arguments for defaulting to the comma convention in the first place. As a placename, it does not require an extra comma when it is used as a modifier, any more than "City" by itself needs one.

Bottom line? Stylistically and grammatically, one comma is a better option than two. Dohn joe (talk) 18:11, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

Very well said indeed. Omnedon (talk) 18:16, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
You have a point that “appositive” is the wrong word to use here. But that’s not relevant. The fact of the matter is that every style guide says to use two commas in a “City, State” construction. Some say that omitting the second one is accepted in informal writing, but since informal writing doesn’t seem suited to an encyclopedia, and since we base much of our style guidance off of established style guides, I thought this matter had been settled. —Frungi (talk) 18:22, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
Dohn joe, this sounds like a novel theory. However, published style guides almost universally recommend paired commas. olderwiser 18:24, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
Possibly when "City, State" is being used as a noun. However, we have only one guide that recommends doing so when "City, State" is being used as a modifier, and two giants of style (Garner and Chicago) that are squeamish about the second comma - and do not definitively recommend its usage. (Garner even says that some people will put in a second comma based merely on the theory that it is an appositive.) Dohn joe (talk) 18:31, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
IIRC, both recommend avoiding the use of two-part place names as adjectives -- NOT that using one comma is OK. olderwiser 18:46, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
Neither one takes a position either way on one versus two commas. One reason they say to avoid the construction is because people will think they have to use two, not that the second comma is actually required. Dohn joe (talk) 18:51, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
Both recommend to avoid the use of two-part place names as an adjective. They do not appear to take any authoritative position regarding grammar. I see no reason to ignore the nearly universal advice of style guides to avoid the use. olderwiser 19:27, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
But the point is that there is almost no guidance on the placename-as-modifier issue, and when two of the most well-respected guides do refer to it, they are silent. Dohn joe (talk) 20:40, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
On the contrary. There is abundant guidance, nearly universal, recommending to avoid using two-part place names as adjectives. And the vast majority are clear that when two-part place name are used as adjectives, they should use paired commas. olderwiser 21:00, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
I don't know if it's "abundant", but I generally agree with the first part. But I've only seen one guide that addresses the adjective issue. Can you show other guides that do so? Dohn joe (talk) 21:21, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
(ec)Do any style guides have specific guidance for MSAs? I'm not sure it that was listed above, this discussion is getting rather lengthy and some points are easy to miss. Vegaswikian (talk) 18:32, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
The only relevant guidance I've seen is to omit the second comma when the state is given in its postal abbreviation (thus, no second comma after "Las Vegas, NV".) But nothing specifically in the context of MSAs that I recall. Dohn joe (talk) 18:53, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
If I remember correctly, it was originally you, Dohn joe, who said it was an appositive in the move discussion on Talk:Rochester, New York metropolitan area#Requested move 2. HandsomeFella (talk) 19:56, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
No, 'twasn't me - I got it from Frungi here. And several other editors, yourself included, have relied on that rule in calling the one-comma-version "incorrect grammatically". Garner refers to it as well in real life. Dohn joe (talk) 20:40, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
I don’t know if I was the first to use the word, but I was definitely one of the loudest. It was the best word I knew to describe the function. I accept that it was the wrong word (anyone know the right one?), but the function is similar enough that I think my points regarding it still stand. —Frungi (talk) 23:07, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
You're certainly not the only one to use it. Like I said, Garner himself says that many people feel obligated to use the second comma on the theory that the state is appositive. Dohn joe (talk) 23:19, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
Ok...so it isn't an appositive. Many of the style guides make specific recommendations on how to use commas when given a "City, State" construction. So why are we debating whether it is an appositive, a parenthetical, or a single multi-word entity? The style guides provide direction on what to do in this exact circumstance, so we should just be using those guidelines. Dworjan (talk) 22:29, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
Again - I have only seen one guide that recommends the second comma when "City, State" is a modifier. Garner and Chicago punt on prescribing, but don't prohibit using one comma. If it is a single multi-word entity, that means it's not grammatically incorrect to use one comma, and thus it comes down to a question of style. Since most people here agree that the one-comma option is less awkward, we should be able to choose it. The MOS does not always pick just the most popular option when there are several possibilities. We should have that latitude here as well. Dohn joe (talk) 22:52, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
Again - I have only seen one guide that recommends the second comma when "City, State" is a modifier. Do the others recommend using the second comma unless the pair is used as a modifier? Because I thought it was recommended without qualification. Anyway, if the best practice is to avoid such usage, we can do so easily: [[City metropolitan area, State]]. [[City metropolitan area (State)]]. [[Metropolitan area of City, State]]. Or is there some reason we should use [[City, State[,] metropolitan area]] rather than consider alternatives? —Frungi (talk) 23:18, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
I never did think that "appositive" was the right concept here, but it's set off the same way. Some guides (e.g. this web page) treat appositives and states in distinct but similar rules. Dicklyon (talk) 23:52, 16 August 2013 (UTC)
To me the clincher, the conclusive evidence that the second comma is no longer required, is "Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital". If even the Brits are willing to accept this format - even about something named for their late beloved princess - then the second comma rule is dead. It is no longer a rule. It is as dead as "never end a sentence with a preposition" and "never split an infinitive", and we would be fools to rename hundreds of articles based on this former-but-no-longer requirement. --MelanieN (talk) 18:26, 17 August 2013 (UTC)
That may not be a very good comparison as it is both the formal and common name of a tangible entity. Many of these metropolitan areas are statistical abstractions. For those that are solely about the U.S. Census data, the article names probably should use the census names. For others that include a mix of census data and other information, the article should probably use a name based on common usage. olderwiser 19:46, 17 August 2013 (UTC)
I realize it is not directly comparable. I was using it as an argument to support the thesis of this section, namely, using one comma is not grammatically incorrect. To me the example of "Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital" shows that omitting the second comma is OK grammatically - and destroys all the arguments here based on "grammatical correctness". --MelanieN (talk) 20:00, 17 August 2013 (UTC)
It destroys no arguments at all. One reason is that the meaning does not change by the missing comma in the "Princess of Wales Hospital" part. If you look at that separately, it has the intended meaning, because Diana was the Princess of Wales. In the case of the metropolitan areas, the "New York metropolitan area" is something entirely different than the "Rochester metropolitan area". HandsomeFella (talk) 22:07, 17 August 2013 (UTC)
Exactly. --Stfg (talk) 22:14, 17 August 2013 (UTC)
One counterexample does not a rule break, especially in cases of possible ambiguity (cf. HandsomeFella). If what you say is true, then sources will all stop using a second comma and style guides will stop recommending it, and then—after the rule change proliferates, not before—we should change our style guidance to match. (This has not yet happened, and I sincerely doubt it will any time soon, but we’ll see.) It’s a similar situation to changing place names; we don’t (or shouldn’t) move an article the moment a new name is announced, but wait to see if it’s picked up by reliable sources. —Frungi (talk) 01:39, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
On a side note, “never end a sentence with a preposition” and “never split infinitives” were never rules to begin with. —Frungi (talk) 01:46, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
Concur. The "one comma" version is a grammatical error, and we shouldn't use it unless it becomes accepted. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 02:18, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
The point is that the one-comma version is not an error. Dohn joe (talk) 05:42, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
I agree it's pointless to call it an "error", which really just depends on how you interpret the various rules and guidelines. What's clear, however, is that it is less preferred, and recommended against, by the majority of style and grammar guides. Dicklyon (talk) 05:45, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
Other than the one guide you found, where is it recommended against using one comma when a two-part placename is used as an adjective? Dohn joe (talk) 06:06, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
I think you mean, "… when a two-part placename is used?", to which the answer is what Dicklyon said above. As I've mentioned before, the recommendation does not have that restriction; all they say about the adjectival construction is that it's best avoided entirely—which we could easily do here. —Frungi (talk) 07:55, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
I've been pretty consistent in talking about the adjectival form, which has been separately addressed in style guides, including the one that dicklyon found, and Garner and Chicago. There's reason to believe that the comma guidance for the noun form and the adjectival form may be different. That's the guidance I'm looking for that no one has been able to provide beyond the three references mentioned above. Dohn joe (talk) 17:52, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
Can you quote the guides that recommend the second comma distinctly and exclusively for when the construction is used as a noun, or that recommend against the second comma for any other use? Because I’ve read several of them, and I don’t remember that exclusivity at all. Again, what they do say—in all the guides that discuss the topic at all, if I’m not mistaken—is to avoid using the construction as an adjective, which seems like the advice that we should heed here. —Frungi (talk) 22:12, 18 August 2013 (UTC)
──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── In the analogous case of dates, yes. See Garner's Modern American Usage, pp.225-226, which describes the exact situation we find ourselves in. I won't quote the entire entry, but here are some interesting excerpts:
  • "Stylists who use [the Month Day, Year] phrasing [as an adjective] typically omit the comma after the year, and justifably so: in the midst of an adjective phrase (i.e., the date), it impedes the flow of the writing too much."
  • "The idea of the comma after the year, as it has commonly been taught, is that the year is in apposition, so the second comma is required....The more plausible argument - supporting the absence of the comma after the year - has two parts. First, the comma is really just separating the two numerals, so if a second comma isn't syntactically required, then it doesn't belong....Second, the comma after the date marks a nonexistent pause: when a full date is used adjectivally, a knowledgeable speaker of the phrase marches toward the noun instead of pausing after the year."
  • "It makes little sense to punctuate a forward-looking adjective with a pause at the end of it."
  • "Most usage books that call uniformly for a comma after the year in a full date, by the way, don't address the question raised just above. They show the comma without illustrating what happens when the date functions as an adjective. In other words, they illustrate the easy cases, not the more difficult ones."
Substitute "State" for "year", and "City, State" for "a full date", and you have our situation precisely. And yes, Garner does call the construction "particularly clumsy", so an alternative might work. But there's certainly no reason to move hundreds (thousands?) of articles and change article text to add a comma that is even clumsier when there's powerful authority against the need to do so. And for those worried about being in the minority, Garner explicitly says that stylists who use this construction typically omit the comma after the year. Dohn joe (talk) 18:25, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
"It makes little sense to punctuate a forward-looking adjective with a pause at the end of it." Nevertheless, it's what we do. Either we speak with no pause at all, like "Rochester New York metropolitan area", or we speak with two (however minute) pauses. No-one speaks with one pause (for a single comma). It's the same thing with dates: " ... the minister said in a June 10, 2011, interview ...". Another thing that can be observed, is that the intonation actually changes when we say it. The name of the state, and the year in the other example, is said with another pitch (slightly lower), and the previous pitch is reassumed after the state/year. This – how we speak it – actually supports the presence of a second comma. HandsomeFella (talk) 18:45, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
That's all WP:ORIGINALRESEARCH. We have an established style/grammar authority who explains otherwise why the second comma is wrong, or at least not preferred. Dohn joe (talk) 19:22, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
I note that you're not responding to the issue at hand. HandsomeFella (talk) 19:37, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
Why do you continue to ignore the advice to avoid using it as an adjective? —Frungi (talk) 18:54, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
I didn't; I said "And yes, Garner does call the construction "particularly clumsy", so an alternative might work." My point is that we have a grammatically sound phrasing - as is - for these articles, and that making it worse for the sake of hypercorrectness would be a step in the wrong direction. Dohn joe (talk) 19:22, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── This discussion is going nowhere. We need to move past the filibustering from the one-comma side, and start implementing. Is there anything that needs to be changed in the guidelines, before we start the process? HandsomeFella (talk) 19:37, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
It's hardly filibustering. There have been plenty of responses from both sides. To what process are you referring? Omnedon (talk) 19:42, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
Yeah, but there's not really been anything new the past week. I was referring to the process of renaming mis-named articles and categories, according to the outcome of the discussion. HandsomeFella (talk) 19:56, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
How is it not new to show - when specifically requested by Frungi - that a major style/grammar guide says a) most stylists use one comma in this situation; b) using one comma is more grammatically/stylistically sound than two; and c) most style guides don't even address this particular issue? Wouldn't we want people to consider that new evidence? Dohn joe (talk) 20:07, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
But you haven't shown that. You have extrapolated invalidly from the case of dates to the case of metropolitan areas. With dates, the presence or absence of a comma makes no difference to the meaning; here, there is a distinction between Rochester metropolitan area in New York and Rochester in New York metropolitan area. By the way, what about WP:LOCALCONSENSUS? --Stfg (talk) 21:46, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
But Garner makes the same connection: "Modern writers have taken to making adjectives out of dates, just as they do out of place names." He then goes on to make the description/analysis quoted from above. Elsewhere he makes the same connection to faulty reliance on appositive rules. And what about local consensus? Dohn joe (talk) 22:08, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
Yes, Garner says that, but he does not go on to apply what he says about dates to place names. WP:LOCALCONSENSUS seems to apply because the one-comma proposal is a sepcific exception to MOS:COMMA. --Stfg (talk) 22:20, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
Which part of MOS:COMMA are you referring to? The lines which deal specifically with cities and states were added a couple of months ago and in a sense form part of this debate, so that's not really a valid argument. Furthermore, MOS:COMMA has a general policy "Modern practice is against excessive use of commas" which seems to favour the one comma version, all other things being equal.  — Amakuru (talk) 22:27, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
The second bullet. That it was added a couple of months ago rather than a couple of eons ago is neither here nor there; MOS is the overarching guideline. If those lines "in a sense form part of this debate", then the debate should be happening there, not here. The avoidance of excessive use of commas is a separate point; it obviously doesn't extend to the avoidance of necessary commas. --Stfg (talk) 07:42, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
I presume Garner has a section on place names or some equivalent term. Does he address the adjectival use there? —Frungi (talk) 03:45, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
A local library has a copy, so I’ll be able to check for myself if no one else does by the time I get my hands on it. —Frungi (talk) 03:48, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
Place Names: As Adjectives redirects to Adjectives: Proper Names as Adjectives. Dicklyon quoted this in a previous section, but to repeat what Garner says: "The practice of using as adjectives place names having two or more words should generally be resisted. But it is increasingly common. Although California home and Austin jury are perfectly accrptable, Sacramento, California home and Austin, Texas jury are not." This section seems to be the only place where Garner addresses this. Let me emphasize: Using two-part place names as adjectives is not acceptable grammar, according to the guide that some have used to argue against using two commas. —Frungi (talk) 18:43, 24 August 2013 (UTC)
That's a complete misreading, of course. Garner's recommendation against two-part place names as adjectives is a stylistic proscription, not a grammatical one. Elsewhere, as with multi-part dates as adjectives, Garner is comfortable describing the grammatical underpinnings of the construction. Dohn joe (talk) 19:55, 24 August 2013 (UTC)
I think the point is that not a single style guide recommends the use and this guide that speculatively equivocates on the gramaticality also recommends unequivocally to avoid using them. olderwiser 20:50, 24 August 2013 (UTC)
As far as I can see the RfC has not been closed by an uninvolved editor yet, as required by Wikipedia:Requests for comment#Ending RfCs. Furthermore, I personally don't see that a convincing case has been made that a change is necessary. Most arguments for the two comma version seem to be either (a) because its "bad grammar" (despite the fact that there's no real independent evidence for that), or (b) because a few obscure style guides suggest it, or (c) because they think the title could be mis-read as Rochester in the New York metropolitan area. The last point could be a valid one, I'm not sure which policy would apply for determining that; certainly there's no disambiguation issue, because we never refer to a city or suburb in terms of the metropolitan area it is situated in. You might also like to ask yourself why these vast numbers of supposedly "incorrect" titles were created in the first place. Were the editors back in 2007 really completely dumb? Or was there just one initial dumb person and everyone else just followed like sheep? Food for thought anyway.  — Amakuru (talk) 22:01, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
I object to your (b) point as mischaracterizing the argument. Please see #What do sources say?, as well as this comment from WT:AT—hardly “a few”. I believe the only major guide discussed so far that could be said to recommend against the second comma—and then only by reader inference—is Garner’s. Nearly all guides that discuss it agree that, regardless of how many commas are used, “City, State” should not be used as a modifier. —Frungi (talk) 03:40, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
In other words: [[City, State metropolitan area]] and [[City, State, metropolitan area]] are both bad grammar. —Frungi (talk) 04:02, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

Opinion on moving to the "City metropolitan area, State" form[edit]

Given Frungi's assertion, and others above, that both the adjectival forms are quite questionable, here's a question for everyone: do any of you have serious objections to the proposed alternative Rochester metropolitan area, New York form? I don't want this to turn into another poll, and I realize this ground has been partially covered above, but would be interested to know if anyone (from either the one comma or two comma camps) has any serious objections to it. If not, then this might represent the best compromise position.

I guess a few of the votes for the one comma version were on the basis that this is all a waste of time, so presumably those people would still be against any move, but assuming we have the legwork to make the move happen that doesn't seem too valid an argument.  — Amakuru (talk) 07:53, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

  • Strong support: it's neater and clearer than either form where New York is in the middle. Not being an admin, I can't move over redirects, but if there aren't redirects of this form, I can offer some of the legwork. (P.S. did you mean this to be a top-level section rather than a subsection of the above?) --Stfg (talk) 08:09, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Tentative support: although I'm all for moving away from the current title one-comma titles, I'd prefer just adding a second comma to the previous title (as I indicated in the poll section above), since I believe this is the WP:COMMONNAME. HandsomeFella (talk) 09:38, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment: there is already a poll section above. Why not use it? HandsomeFella (talk) 09:40, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
    As I said above, I wanted to avoid framing this as a poll. Unless all the protagonists agree up front on exactly how to interpret the results, polls are of limit value in my opinion. For example, when assessing the poll results will you just take into account the total number of points each option received, or would you also take into account how many people had strong opposition to a particular option rather than just slightly preferring something else? As I see it, "City metropolitan area, State" could be a good compromise if fewer people have strong objections to it that either the one or two comma versions, but that compromise might not necessarily emerge in the poll.  — Amakuru (talk) 13:23, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment: This actually fits better with the existing WP:USPLACE guideline, I think. Everything else is [[Placename, State]]. See the line on counties and parishes: “Articles on counties and parishes are typically titled [[X County (or X Parish), State]].” Not [[X, State, County (or Parish)]] (assuming that the county was named for a city or vice-versa, as some are). —Frungi (talk) 04:23, 22 August 2013 (UTC)
  • I think the Rochester metropolitan area, New York form is a bastardization of the comma convention. It has little basis in actual usage. I'd prefer using the metropolitan area name (e.g., "Rochester metropolitan area") and if disambiguation is necessary, use a parenthetical term. olderwiser 12:04, 22 August 2013 (UTC)
    I find this preferable also, and it seems less likely to get “invented form” complaints—it’s the same way we disambiguate any other title. Have there been any objections to [[City metropolitan area (State)]]? —Frungi (talk) 02:15, 23 August 2013 (UTC)
    It's still an invented form. It's a little less inventive than the proposal, but it's still inventive. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 02:38, 23 August 2013 (UTC)
    But it’s how we disambiguate between titles of same-named subjects on WP. Or do you mean that not including the state in the title (when DAB is unnecessary) would be an invented form? —Frungi (talk) 03:13, 23 August 2013 (UTC)
    @Arthur Rubin: Right, parenthetical disambiguation is the norm where natural disambiguation is not possible or is undesirable. Part of the justification for the comma convention is that the form "City, State" is really an alternate form of the city's name in U.S. parlance. However, this convention has been bastardized in various ways to apply to entities that are rarely if ever referred in that form outside of Wikipedia. olderwiser 11:25, 23 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Bkonrad. Sorry, I know it's appealing to think we can strike a compromise here, but this form seems to be an invention on our part, which should be avoided at all costs. --BDD (talk) 22:29, 22 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Bkonrad and BDD. There are metro areas which are "City, State, metro area", but are "City metro area, states". — Arthur Rubin (talk) 02:46, 23 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment: Unless there’s going to be further discussion on this, I think it’s time we either change the guideline to recommend [[City metropolitan area]] / [[City metropolitan area (State)]], which seems minimally objectionable, and start moving articles; or leave it as is—[[City, State, metropolitan area]] with a comma before and after per MOS:COMMA—and start moving articles. —Frungi (talk) 04:21, 29 August 2013 (UTC)
I'm sorry to say that I kind of checked out of this discussion earlier, and so I haven't read all of it and maybe you guys agreed on this already (but I kinda doubt it!). I guess the question is, do we need to have a separate RFC about whether or not the USPLACE rule applies to metro areas? I don't think that's covered by the other USPLACE discussion, below – but again I could be mistaken. AgnosticAphid talk 04:44, 29 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose – like Bkonrad, BDD, and Arthur Rubin, I don't see the advantage of inventing a new term, when "Rochester, New York, metropolitan area" and such are so common and conventional. The RFC results support simply fixing the commas. Dicklyon (talk) 05:12, 29 August 2013 (UTC)

Requested closure[edit]

I have requested closure at WP:AN/RFC. --Stfg (talk) 10:53, 23 September 2013 (UTC)

Pending. I'm looking at this and reading the various applicable rules and the older discussions. I have not yet read through this thread; I'll soon turn to this thread and render a close soonest, within a couple days I hope. Although it's not usual, I'll share some of my preliminary thoughts regarding what issue are and are not on the table.

One issue is that the question is not stated with perfect clarity. The statement is:

On just the question of whether one comma or two commas are preferred when a state name is used parenthetically as in "Rochester, New York metropolitan area" versus "Rochester, New York, metropolitan area", in a title or in a sentence

And it's open to interpretation what "as in" means, and also what is the intended function of the "or" in "in a title or in a sentence". So to my mind, after looking at the actual issues under consideration a bit, is that there are four questions at least potentially hiding in this:

  1. The question of whether one comma or two commas are preferred when a state name is used parenthetically generally, as in (to pick a random example) "Rochester, New York metropolitan area" versus "Rochester, New York, metropolitan area", in a sentence.
  2. The question of whether one comma or two commas are preferred when a state name is used parenthetically specifically when followed by the phrase "metropolitan area" as in "Rochester, New York metropolitan area" versus "Rochester, New York, metropolitan area", in a sentence
  3. The question of whether one comma or two commas are preferred when a state name is used parenthetically generally, as in for instance "Rochester, New York sports teams" versus "Rochester, New York, sports teams", in a title
  4. The question of whether one comma or two commas are preferred when a state name is used parenthetically specifically when followed by the phrase "metropolitan area" as in "Rochester, New York metropolitan area" versus "Rochester, New York, metropolitan area", in a title

As a practical matter, I don't think #3 would come up very often -- we probably wouldn't title an article Rochester, New York, sports teams but rather List of sports teams in Rochester, New York or Professional sports in Rochester, New York or something, and ditto for most other cases.

It also doesn't look like #1 has been discussed much. The name of the section is "Commas in metro areas" and I'm seeing a lot of examples of the use with "metropolitan area" and not with other uses. If it's an overall rule change for article text that's being proposed, this would require changes to WP:COMMAand so forth, and this -- as opposed to specifying an exception for "metropolitan area" -- would be a pretty big deal, and my inclination is that this isn't the intent of the RfC we'd need a separate discussion for that.

As far as #2 and #4 being in play separately, I understand and appreciate that the most important thing to look at, for both article titles and article text, is preponderance of sources, but:

  • As far as I'm aware there's no rule (or custom) specifying that article titles and article text have to be the same.
  • And in fact they're often not, for various reasons including our article titling rules; for instance we have Joe Smith (footballer born 1890) even though the preponderance of sources may not use that exact phrase, nor is that exact phrase necessarily used anywhere in the article body.
  • And the purpose filled by article titles and article text are not exactly the same. WP:AT either requires or suggests certain virtues, such as succinctness, that article text need not (and sometimes should not) be required to have.

So here's my understanding:

  • We are considering carving out an exception to the general rule regarding parenthetical commas in place names, and not about the rule overall.
  • The first question is whether, in article text, one comma or two commas are preferred when a state name is used parenthetically when followed by the phrase "metropolitan area"
  • The second question is whether, in article titles, one comma or two commas are preferred when a state name is used parenthetically when followed by the phrase "metropolitan area"
  • And the answer to these questions need not be identical (granting that there are certain factors pushing them to be identical)
  • Also and by the way, I'm taking "metropolitan area" to mean "'metropolitan area', and very closely similar phrases such as 'metropolitan statistical area' and 'metro area' and 'MSA' and probably 'conurbation' but probably not just the term 'area'".

And if any of these are assumptions are not correct, now'd be the time to disabuse me ASAP. Herostratus (talk) 01:59, 2 November 2013 (UTC)

I'm not sure why you say "I don't think #3 would come up very often". There are, in fact, many other examples where a state name (or, equally, a province, country, etc.) is included in a title where the same considerations apply. See Other examples of incorrect usage above for a few hand-picked examples.
You may also note that there is a concurrent RfC on the use of the comma in such cases generally (see RFC: Should it be "optional" as to whether a second comma after a date/place should be included?). sroc 💬 07:06, 2 November 2013 (UTC)
I think it's safe to say that this RFC is mostly about parenthetical commas in article titles, specifically article titles relating to geographic names, not text. We already have MOS:COMMA for sentences, and this page is mostly about titling geographic articles, although I suppose whatever this decision is conceivably might inform outside choices made for non-geographic titles. AgnosticAphid talk 15:39, 2 November 2013 (UTC)
Sroc, you're right, thanks. Agnosticaphid, you're also right. It's a tough question, but my feeling is that the part of WP:COMMA that refers specifically to geographic place names is a summary of one aspect of WP:PLACE. WP:COMMA and WP:PLACE are both guidelines and neither is a controlling authority over the other. One thing is certain: WP:COMMA and WP:PLACE can't say different things. If the decision is to make a change I'll populate it in both places. I'll have more to say at the close. Thanks for posting, sorry for the delay, will finish soonest; there's a great deal of cogent thought in the RfC discussion and I'll try to honor that. Herostratus (talk) 08:01, 4 November 2013 (UTC)
@Herostratus: Note that consensus is building to amend the pertinent section of WP:COMMA to read as follows:
  • In geographical references that include multiple divisions (e.g., city, state/province, country), a comma separates each element and follows the last element. Dates in month–day–year format also require a comma after the day and after the year. In either case, a comma is not required after the last element when the place name or date appears by itself (as in a title or list) or is followed by other punctuation (such as a full stop, dash, parenthesis, etc.).
Incorrect: On November 24, 1971 Cooper hijacked an aircraft that had taken off from Portland, Oregon and was destined for Seattle, Washington.
Correct:    On November 24, 1971, Cooper hijacked an aircraft that had taken off from Portland, Oregon, and was destined for Seattle, Washington.
Wherever possible, avoid using compound place names or dates in month–day–year format as adjectives, as such uses can seem unwieldy and may raise disputes whether the final comma is appropriate in this context.
Avoid:    The April 7, 2011[,] trial of John Smith brought a capacity crowd to the Toledo, Ohio[,] courtroom.
Better alternative:    On April 7, 2011, the trial of John Smith brought a capacity crowd to the courtroom in Toledo, Ohio.
The main protagonists in that discussion have all agreed on this wording, so this seems likely to be adopted. As you say, we would not want WP:PLACE to be inconsistent. sroc 💬 22:29, 4 November 2013 (UTC)
OK, got it. Herostratus (talk) 23:08, 4 November 2013 (UTC)
Jesus, there's a lot of stuff here. One more big push and I'm done, still shooting for midnight Tuesday EST. More likely it'll be midnight Wednesday. I will say that it's certainly clear that for this close I'm not going to be touching article text. There's relatively little discussion of article text and it's just titles in play.
As to the other discussion you point to, sroc, ermmm. I can't really process all that. I'll close this one and we'll see where we stand. If that one's closed it'll either support this close or not. If it doesn't then I dunno, that's over my pay grade. Having simultaneous RfC's going on at once on different boards is maybe kind of sub-optimal, though.
I'm not sure why the discussion you point to is at WP:MOS rather than WP:AT since there's certainly a number of editors who hold that normal structures for article text (which I think the MOS is mainly about) don't necessarily apply to titles. Whether that's true or not I don't know -- I guess it's neither true nor false but something that people believe or don't. WP:AT is the controlling authority for titles though AFAIK, or has been up to now. None of this much affects me now, I'm just grinding to finish this one. Herostratus (talk) 07:59, 5 November 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────FYI, a new discussion has opened at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style § RFC: Proposed amendment to MOS:COMMA regarding geographical references and dates. sroc 💬 08:19, 7 November 2013 (UTC)


The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.


Consistency of naming across articles[edit]

So a certain Swiss canton is known in English as both "Graubünden" and "Grisons", and after some discussion its Wikipedia article settled on Graubünden as the most common name. However, over at Romansh language, the guy who wrote much of it apparently prefers "Grisons" and reverts attempts to shift to the other, which seems a bit WP:OWN-y to me. However, I'm not seeing anything in this particular policy about enforcing consistent use of names *across* articles -- what's the guideline here?

It's probably also worth mentioning that, to the best of my knowledge, the difference between the name isn't American-vs-British, nor is there a political or perspective difference between the two names (or the two articles), it's just that Grisons is the "old" name in English and Graubünden is what it's usually called today. Jpatokal (talk) 10:13, 13 October 2013 (UTC)

That discussion is rather finely balanced, and I wouldn't regard this issue as closed even there. In any case, I don't know anything that covers this specifically, but the spirit of things like WP:STYLEVAR and WP:ENGVAR is surely to seek consistency within any given article, but not to forbid the use of correct variants across the whole encyclopedia, which can lead to instruction creep. Since both names are apparently used by English speakers, I would let it go. --Stfg (talk) 11:35, 13 October 2013 (UTC)

Advice needed (regarding guideline no.2)[edit]

I'd like to ask your opinion about the way of application of WP:PLACE guideline. More exactly, I tried to apply the general guideline no.2 for at least 3 alternative names, but some editors (all of them being Hungarians who support the keeping in the first phrase of the alternative Hungarian name) are claiming that this is not "a widely accepted approach". Please submit a comment at Talk:Alba Iulia to help us to settle the dispute. Thanks in advance! 79.117.183.29 (talk) 06:44, 15 October 2013 (UTC)

Request for informal discussion re joining state names in metro areas[edit]

RESOLVED:

"And" shall be used rather than the en dash. It's 9-1 in favor (9-2 if you count me) and since IMO it's basically a matter of opinion, that settles it. There are some arguments each way, but they're all sort of grasping at straws, and a clear consensus is show in the headcount. Herostratus (talk) 01:41, 27 December 2013 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

So do you all want to use the en dash or the word "and" when joining names of states in metropolitan area, that is, which if these do you want?

I don't care. An editor had implied that maybe it needed more looking into, so let's do that. I had originally specified the en dash, on the following basis:

  1. Had to decide something.
  2. And the en dash is parallel with how the cities are named. We'd have ""North Port–Sarasota–Bradenton metropolitan area, Florida" and not "North Port and Sarasota and Bradenton metropolitan area, Florida", I think.
  3. And -- this is highly arguable -- but "Kansas City metropolitan area, Kansas and Missouri" (for example) might tend just a little more to imply the existence of the entity "Kansas and Missouri" (analogous to Turks and Caicos Islands for instance) than does the en dash. It's probably about the same really.
  4. And the word "and" is a little less succinct than the en dash, and WP:AT suggests succinctness.
  5. And if any metro areas requiring disambiguation span more than two states, you'll have stuff like "New York metropolitan area, New York and Connecticut and New Jersey" and that's a lot of "and"s. (And I'm pretty sure we don't want "New York metropolitan area, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey"...)
  6. And I could be wrong about this, but I think the en dash is a little more common, for our titles and in the general world, than the word "and" for situations like this.

Regarding #65, that's just meaningless blather. I can't back that up. Regarding #5, as a practical matter the number of three-state metro areas needing disambiguation is probably pretty small. Metro areas that span three states are going to be centered on pretty big cities I suppose -- Chicago, New York -- and those usually won't need disambiguation.

Regarding #3, it's probably not really fair to say that "and" implies anything that en dash doesn't. BUT, in looking as small sample of places at random, I do find Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago, Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Wallis and Futuna, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, and Brighton and Hove. All of these are formal names for actual administrative divisions, I think.

Not finding any dashes in the names of joined entities. There is Nuku-Hiva and many other similar French dependencies. But I think this doesn't mean "Nuka and Hiva" but rather "Nuka Hiva, with a connecting dash because we're French and that's how we roll", since Nuku Hiva is the name of the main island. And ditto for the other French stuff. There is Guinea-Bissau, but it doesn't mean "Guinea and Bissau" but rather "The Guinea whose capital is Bissau". So I dunno, maybe I was on to something?

But then, looking at our formats: Glenrio, New Mexico and Texas. This is not the name of an administrative division, it's just a unincorporated town, BUT it's actually mentioned at WP:USPLACE as an example of handing a case like that. Metro areas aren't administrative divisions either, so you could take Glenrio as a precedent. It's a pretty tiny precedent IMO since it applies to very few place (just that one, for all I know) and WP:USPLACE kind of goes out of its way to describe this as a special case.

So anyway, does Glenrio, New Mexico and Texas possibly imply "The town of Glenrio, which is in the American state of New Mexico and Texas"? It might if you're from N'djamena and don't speak English very well, I guess. It's a little confusing and naming the article Glenrio, New Mexico and Glenrio, Texas would arguably be better, gaining some precision at the cost of some succinctness. Why the article isn't just named Glenrio I don't know, since there aren't any other Glenrios.

But actually the question is, does Glenrio, New Mexico and Texas possibly imply "The town of Glenrio, which is in the American state of New Mexico and Texas" more than Glenrio, New Mexico–Texas implies "The town of Glenrio, which is in the American state of New Mexico–Texas"? Dunno. Thoughts?

There still remains points #2 and #3 which maybe have a little bit of weight but probably not a lot, and most importantly point #1: gotta decide something. IMO it doesn't much matter. I propose we discuss this below, and if it's OK with everybody I'll pick one based on that, as subset of the close I did above. If there's no agreement or some demonstration the superiority of one form over the other I'll generate a random number and go with with whatever comes up, if that's OK. We need this nailed down to move forward. Herostratus (talk) 03:55, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

  • I favour the "and" construction. It's consistent with the treatment for "unincorporated communities" and there's no real justification to treat "metropolitan areas" as a separate special case. (After all, how many special cases with their own quirks do we need — and why?)
Such titles may require some clarification in the text, but this is to be expected in either case. Herostratus hit the nail on the head with this: 'But actually the question is, does Glenrio, New Mexico and Texas possibly imply "The town of Glenrio, which is in the American state of New Mexico and Texas" more than Glenrio, New Mexico–Texas implies "The town of Glenrio, which is in the American state of New Mexico–Texas"?' No, it doesn't. An ignorant reader who knew nothing of US states might be equally unsure whether "New Mexico and Texas" or "New Mexico–Texas" was a state, but in either case, this should become clear within the article. In reality, most readers (especially ones who are interested in a particular metropolitan area) would know enough of US geography to know that New Mexico and Texas are two separate states, so actual confusion is unlikely to arise in practice.
It is also the correct syntactic construction. Readers who routinely fail to include a paired comma after state names might argue that the construction suggests that Columbus metropolitan area, Georgia and Alabama, implies that the Columbus metropolitan area is in the state of Georgia, but this would not be logical because no one would write an article about one metropolitan area in Georgia and the entire state of Alabama as one topic. sroc 💬 09:45, 20 November 2013 (UTC)
Right. I agree with you that it's 50-50 as to which is like to be misinterpreted. But let me finish laying out the idea that formed in my head, based on the (very sketchy) research I did above. Keeping in mind that Glenrio, New Mexico and Texas is entirely our own Wikipedia construction (I suppose) and has nothing to do with the following real-life argument.
  • It looks to be that when an actual political division is formed from two things, the word "and" is used a lot. It's "Wallis and Futuna" not "Wallis-Futuna". Ditto the other examples, and no counter-examples came up right off.
  • But when two things are informally grouped, the dash is used a lot. "Minneapolis-St. Paul" and so forth. The Twin Cities are not an actual political union. "Champaign-Urbana" in Illinois, same deal, and so forth.
  • So therefore, if a person, knowing this (maybe even just subconsciously), sees "ABC and XYZ" she will interpret this as an actual political division, but interpret "ABC-XYZ" as being informal like "Minneapolis-St. Paul".
Of course, as a practical matter that's meaningless, because we're talking about a person who maybe thinks that "Georgia and Alabama" is a state, so the subtlety of difference between "and" and dash will be miles over her head. Bottom line is it's 50-50.
But as a matter purely of style, I guess you could argue this: if it really is true that polities are usually named "X and Y" and informal joinings are usually written "X-Y", in sources, and since our use of "Georgia-Alabama" here certainly is an informal ad hoc joining for the purposes of clarification and not a reference to a political union of the two states, then we should use the dash, since we should tend to give some weight to what sources do, all else being equal which I think they are here. Herostratus (talk) 02:03, 21 November 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Well OK then. It looks like it's just you and me, sroc. Well there's a couple ways to look at this:

  • Since I'm not a party to this, your "vote" is the only one and 1-0 wins the day, so we'll go forward on the basis of "and". Or:
  • I'm not a party to this, but on the other hand truth be told I do kind of prefer the en dash I guess, which would make it 1-1 among the people who've bothered to consider it, and anyway, neither 1-0 nor 1-1 is any kind of quorum, so I'd be just as fair to flip a coin, but how about asking a random stranger to decide via Wikipedia:Third opinion. Her random opinion makes the decision. That way we at least get one more person weighing in.

Either is fine with me, it's your call sroc. What you wanta do? Herostratus (talk) 21:57, 27 November 2013 (UTC)

Before getting a "random stranger" involved, why not tag in everyone who participated in the earlier discussion and invite them to comment first. They might have overlooked this thread and it's better that we get someone who has a considered opinion on this before we rope in someone at random, I think. sroc 💬 22:13, 27 November 2013 (UTC)
OK. Herostratus (talk) 17:48, 11 December 2013 (UTC)

En dash vs. "and" for multi-state metro areas[edit]

So do you all want to use the en dash or the word "and" when joining names of states in metropolitan area, that is, which if these do you want?

As far as I know it's basically a matter of opinion. There's some discussion above though. Herostratus (talk) 18:06, 11 December 2013 (UTC)

  • I prefer "and" as well. I suppose the confusion with a phantom jurisdiction is present with both, suggesting either a Georgia–Alabama or a Georgia and Alabama. The "and" simply seems more natural, but I'm struggling to come up with a good argument besides personal preference. --BDD (talk) 18:22, 11 December 2013 (UTC)
    • Personal preference is fine IMO. I don't really think there's any guidance much beyond that, so I don't see any big discussion happening here, just going what what feels right to people I guess. Herostratus (talk) 18:46, 11 December 2013 (UTC)
  • I just slightly feel that "and" is nore natural, but it's only a feeling. I certainly won't argue the toss. --Stfg (talk) 18:32, 11 December 2013 (UTC)
  • I read through the discussion above. I prefer the dash. I think there is a 0% chance of confusion with the dash, as opposed to a maybe 5% chance of confusion with the and. I don't think there are actually any single locations that use an en dash in their formal names. I'm familiar with various article titles on WP that use en dashes, like airports (Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport) and comets (Comet Hale–Bopp), but those use dashes precisely because they are named after multiple things (towns in the case of airports; discoverers in the case of comets). Both Minneapolis-St Paul and Champaign-Urbana use en dashes, as the person noted above. So I think that "Glenrio, New Mexico and Texas" raises the possibility that there is a state "New Mexico and Texas" whereas to me "New Mexico–Texas" or some foreign equivalent would mean that it is certainly two places. People listed a few French places above (Nuku-Hiva) but it appears that that place uses a hyphen, not a dash. I also think it is marginally more consistent with our titling rules to use an en dash rather than an "and" for these same reasons; usually distinct sub-components of a title are linked with an en dash here. Plus the risk of some northeastern abomination of "X, New Jersey and Pennsylvania and Delaware and Maryland" or something certainly exists, even if it's remote. YMMV. AgnosticAphid talk 18:44, 11 December 2013 (UTC)
  • I can live with either, but still have a slight preference towards "and". It also sounds more natural to me, plus there are always more maintenance problems with the titles using ndashes than with the titles not using them (hardly anybody bothers to type a proper endash into the search box, so there's a higher chance that a redirect for some "endashless" alternative would be missing, resulting in broken links and other problems). And as for the possibility that someone could think that "New Mexico and Texas" is a state, with all due respect, to a person who never heard of New Mexico or Texas either "New Mexico and Texas" or "New Mexico–Texas" may mean pretty much anything at all (if you don't know what North Ossetia–Alania is, for example, can you guess whether it refers to one entity or two without clicking through?). No two people think alike, and trying to second-guess this kind of thing never satisfies all.—Ëzhiki (Igels Hérissonovich Ïzhakoff-Amursky) • (yo?); December 11, 2013; 19:03 (UTC)
  • My preference is for and, mainly for consistency with "unincorporated communities" per WP:USPLACE (e.g., Glenrio, New Mexico and Texas) since it is an analogous case and there does not seem to be a good reason for having different formats for these. It's also semantically correct. All things being equal, the en dash also gives rise to more technical issues as Ezhiki pointed out. If we go with a dash, we ought to amend the rule for unincorporated communities to be consistent. sroc 💬 22:28, 11 December 2013 (UTC)
  • Definitely and. Putting a non-typable character into a title is just asking for problems - completely unnecessary ones. Besides, "Georgia and Alabama" is much clearer in its meaning than "Georgia–Alabama" - whatever that is supposed to mean. --MelanieN (talk) 23:24, 11 December 2013 (UTC)
    • Melanie, the fact that a basic character for writing isn't available means that you haven't yet made a macro for it (via insert symbols). And it's also available by button under the edit window. Tony (talk) 03:03, 12 December 2013 (UTC)
    • @MelanieN: It’s not non-typable. WP:How to make dashes. —Frungi (talk) 03:53, 12 December 2013 (UTC)
      • Please don't be condescending; I know how to make an en-dash. It's still not a "normal" keyboard character, and thus it is inaccessible to a huge portion of our readership. (Do we really expect our readers to have made macros? Or to have memorized the keystroke combinations for obscure symbols? Yes, like it or not, the en-dash is an obscure symbol to most people. BTW the edit window is not available when you are using the search function.) To choose such a character, unnecessarily, when a simple English word would do just as well or better, is simply not serving our readership well. --MelanieN (talk) 05:21, 12 December 2013 (UTC)
        • Redirects exist. --Jayron32 13:45, 12 December 2013 (UTC)
  • The and feels more natural to me. It can be argued that the dash doesn’t really make sense; Georgia–Alabama, for instance, is not a single entity. (I know that’s not the intention of the dash here, but that’s what it feels like.) —Frungi (talk) 03:53, 12 December 2013 (UTC)
  • I'm leaning towards and, because it seems more natural to me when paralleled to the case of Bothell, in King and Snohomish Counties, Washington. Referring to "Bothell, King–Snohomish Counties" just sounds wrong. --SarekOfVulcan (talk) 14:25, 12 December 2013 (UTC)
  • Both have their reasons, but since choice is needed, I'd prefer "and", partly because it sounds more natural as Sarek says, and also for the reason articulated by MelanieN: why use non-keyboard characters for titles when you don't have to? --Arxiloxos (talk) 19:52, 12 December 2013 (UTC)
  • I have a preference, but I won't share it, because, like the preference of everyone else here, it's irrelevant. The issue here is what do reliable sources use in this case? We should follow that.

    However, in most cases I would think it's not an issue at all, as disambiguation should not be required for almost all metropolitan areas that span states. --B2C 04:37, 13 December 2013 (UTC)

    • Ok, but when it comes to titles, for the purpose of disambiguation, and at the level of punctuation, reliance on reliable sources breaks down, because our sources don't have the exact disambiguation needs that we do. As User:Frungi pointed out in the earlier discussion, ""We don’t consult reliable sources for how to title articles for disambiguation... no reliable source uses the terms “Jumper (film)”, “Jumper (novel)”, “jumper (dress)”, “jumper (computing)”, etc. We have our own conventions for that..." and I think that's spot on. Herostratus (talk) 01:41, 27 December 2013 (UTC)
  • It's the Columbus, Georgia, metropolitan area. The fact that it includes parts of Alabama should not be mentioned in the article title. --Orlady (talk) 05:26, 13 December 2013 (UTC)
Well... That depends on whether the term "metropolitan area" is viewed a "name" or as a "description". But the point is valid. This isn't dualistic choice between using an Em-dash or using "and"... its a choice between using an Em-dash, using "and", or creating a title that uses neither.
I think we need to be flexible here and not lock ourselves into over-consistency. There is no need for all our articles on metropolitan areas to do things exactly the same way... Sometimes it will make more sense to us a dash, at other times it will make more sense to use "and"... and in a few cases it is appropriate to not put any state name (for example, it's just: New York metropolitan area... not New York, New York, metropolitan area or New York metropolitan area, New York and New Jersey and Connecticut).
I would devolve the decision as to the title to a discussion and consensus at the article level. Blueboar (talk) 13:25, 13 December 2013 (UTC)
@Orlady, that's been decided and we're talking about a detail of an aspect of that decision. @Blueboar, right, about the New York thing, we'll only use disambiguation when it's called for. While I do personally agree that in theory there's no harm to the project if one article is titled "Podunk metropolitan area, Ohio and Pennsylvania" and another is titled "East Nowhere metropolitan area, Texas–Lousiana", I also think that:
  1. Lots of people do care about consistency in these matters, which is entirely legitimate.
  2. It's arguable that's it's a bit amateurish to have different title formats for the same thing in this way. (We are amateurs, but...).
  3. But as the major point, it's a resource-waster to have these discussions on a case-by-case basis. Case-by-case is fine for deciding between (say) "Peter the Great" and "Peter I of Russia" for instance, where case-specific data and arguments can be brought to bear; but that doesn't really apply to the situation at hand. Herostratus (talk) 01:41, 27 December 2013 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.


Moving forward on metro name disambiguation[edit]

OK, to my mind, the next steps for the metro areas thing is:

  • Wait a few days, at least until the issue in the thread above is decided. If I've made some huge mistake or missed something crucial or something, this'd be time and place to bring that up.
  • I'll Integrate the decision into the rules, using footnotes in the appropriate places (WP:PLACE and WP:TITLE, and possibly at [[WP:MOS][ if that seems useful or necessary). If you look at Wikipedia:Notability (people) for instance there're a lot of footnotes, in small text at the bottom, pointed to by a ref in the body. Other rules use this format too. This is a lot better than putting every little thing in the body of the rules, I think.
  • Then there's a lot of articles to be moved. We also have to check most of them: we can't just move (say) Mason City, Iowa micropolitan area to Mason City micropolitan area, Iowa; maybe it's Mason City micropolitan area, Iowa–Nebraska (or Mason City micropolitan area, Iowa and Nebraska if we're going with that). So the contents of some of these have to be checked. On top of that, I believe that any articles with an en dash in the title have to have a redirect pointing to them, using the hyphen, since our readers can't type an en dash.

Here's a list User:sroc generated (and a huge thank you to scroc! I had mistakenly misattributed this someone else above). Sroc, is this exhaustive? -- seems like it only covers a few states. We don't have to get every single one at once, it's something that can be completed over time. Herostratus (talk) 04:39, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

Ah, that list was not mine. I believe it was Apteva. sroc 💬 10:04, 20 November 2013 (UTC) [21] sroc 💬 10:08, 20 November 2013 (UTC)