Wikipedia talk:Version 1.0 Editorial Team/Style guide

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Please read the first few paragraphs of the project page first; this project is currently limited to just those items, including arguments over style that have resisted consensus, but might be able to reach consensus when we consider what happens when Wikipedia becomes a printed encyclopedia. Here is the discussion that started this project from WP:VPP#Throwing several consensus-gathering projects into one basket:

Throwing several consensus-gathering projects into one basket[edit]

Several discussions (such as the ones at WT:Layout and WT:CITE) have dragged on a bit and seem to get stuck in some of the same places. The fact that we unfortunately let some of the style guidelines contradict each other (but we're working on that) is part of the problem, but there's a bigger issue. Every other day, I see a new question along the lines of "Encyclopedias generally look like this, why don't we?". And the fact that the printed Wikipedia Version 1.0 is approaching means we can't be certain that consensus hasn't changed or won't change on look-and-feel issues. Is there consensus to put See also first and External links last in end sections, how should quotations be handled, where should lines and pages break, should every book cite name the publisher? Except for that last bit, which just came up today, these are long-running discussions. People tend to care more about the appearance of printed material, and take it more seriously. Even Wikipedia policy takes printed material more seriously; see WP:V. (Btw, I've read everything I could find at WP:1, including the archived discussion from 2003, Thread on Wikipedia 1.0 Paper plus, including lots of input from Jimbo, and I don't see where any of these look-and-feel issues have ever come up in the context of Wikipedia Version 1.0. I've only seen them come up as off-hand remarks in current discussions. I'd be very happy to find out that I'm wrong.)

There's disagreement over the extent to which these issues should be discussed on policy pages vs. guideline pages. Stylistic choices follow guidelines, but if there really is consensus that, for instance, if the External links section exists, it should always be the last section (especially in the paper Wikipedia ... printed encyclopedias rarely allow authors discretion in look-and-feel issues), then are we talking about policy? Assuming that no one wants to go through a huge number of articles by hand looking for irregularities, how do we use bots appropriately, and aren't bots more suitable for policy issues than guidelines? You can see why we get stuck.

We have to get consensus before we do anything about any of this, but so far, everyone has been hesitant to post a narrow style question on a lot of wikiproject talk pages, for fear of looking spammy. But if we don't get wide consensus, we'll get flamed for that too. I'm wondering if the best way to proceed would be to generally get the word out (widely, but I'm agnostic on how widely) that certain look-and-feel issues need to be discussed, especially in the context of Version 1.0, so that we can figure out which things fall in the category of being so widely supported that standardization would be appropriate. So, you guys tell me, because I really don't know: which questions here are policy questions, and should those policy questions be dealt with here [at WP:VPP] first, or would it be better just to create a page somewhere where people could nominate issues to be discussed, and then come back here with the results? - Dan Dank55 (talk) 21:27, 13 March 2008 (UTC)

Questions... This seems to be about conforming articles that will be placed in Version 1.0 to a uniform format style... a desire which I can understand... but does 1.0 have to conform to the online version of Wikipedia and vise/versa? Do we need to have the article match exactly what goes to print? And is it really important that all our articles follow the same format style? Blueboar (talk) 13:14, 14 March 2008 (UTC)
There are a number of topics, particularly layout and look-and-feel topics, where it's perfectly reasonable to assume that consensus might change for a printed Wikipedia, so the presumption against re-opening discussion on already-settled consensus dies. I don't know if this answers your questions, but there's a principal of database design that storing two different versions of roughly the same information in two different places is a Very Bad Thing: people think they're referring to one when they meant the other, the data gets out of sync and therefore pulls down the credibility of both, it's an order of magnitude more work to update the data both places and continually check the two lists against each other ... the list goes on. For all these reasons, it would be a bad idea to "fork" Wikipedia Version 1.0 before it's really, really necessary, and you'll see support for that from Jimbo and others at the link I cited ... I'll pull out one of the messages from Jimbo if anyone is interested. And, really, how many people would have a cow if the External links in their favorite article moved to the end? These are just not the kinds of issues that inspire heated debate, generally. The debates that have dragged on have been more in the nature of "What gives YOU the right?", which is a perfectly valid objection. So, my proposal is to get everyone together who cares (which may not be all that many people), throw issues on the table that might be affected by Version 1.0, brainstorm them, come back here [at WP:VPP] to get permission for anything that involves standardization, bots or policy, as opposed to all the little things that are pleasurable to style wonks like me, update policy and guidelines to reflect a world where we're trying to look good on paper as well as on the web, (as long as that doesn't unduly burden anyone) making sure that, through a combination of good design, clear guidelines, and helpful bots, it's not any harder for anyone to function under the new guidelines, and deploy. - Dan Dank55 (talk) 18:04, 14 March 2008 (UTC)
P.S. I did the strikeout because I'm fairly confident that there's no need for this to be a struggle between conflicting desires; I don't have any Machiavellian plans to turn this into anything other than a way to find out those printed-encyclopedia style issues that almost everyone already agrees on, which aren't going to be very different from what we've got already, and we've already got years of consensus to give us a pretty good idea what those are. The new part of this is thinking about deploying bots to standardize, and I'm agnostic on whether bots should make any actual changes or simply alert people of changes that should be made. It seems to me it would work either way, simply because if bots or software aren't working, people will holler and we'll stop. - Dan Dank55 (talk) 18:44, 14 March 2008 (UTC)
P.P.S. I'm being deliberately vague about the topics because I want to be very careful not to "control" the process. We open a page, anyone who thinks they can get consensus for a look-and-feel or layout issue concerning Wikipedia 1.0 throws it on the table; we conduct a large poll saying "is there really consensus for this?" (stating the arguments pro and con, but without too much clever argumentation ... none of the stuff I've seen is breathtakingly important, even to style wonks), we ask if there's also consensus for using a bot to help flag irregularities, and if we can get a reliable bot running (or help from MediaWiki, if the techs decide they like that approach better than a bot), we do it. Simple, in theory, and hopefully in practice. - Dan Dank55 (talk) 19:00, 14 March 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for raising this issue, it is certainly interesting to those of us working on Wikipedia 1.0. FYI, we now have a test selection (around 15,000 articles) put together for Version 0.7, and once we have have some minor bugs resolved this will be ready for all to take a look at. At present the immediate plans are for a DVD version, but we would very much like to get a paper project going once the DVD is organised (are you interested in helping?). Our system is to create a dump of articles on a given day, and that becomes the snapshot we release, and there is always a lot of cleanup on this static dump - removing unwanted tags, unlinking redlinks, etc. We could re-organise the order of sections at that stage if needed, but that is an extra bit of work we'd rather not do.
As I see it, the problem you describe breaks down into two parts, formatting of articles online and formatting of articles in offline releases. Clearly the latter is influenced by the former, but there are quite a few things we change in going from one form to the other. I think standardization of format for the online version is a good end in itself, which will of course benefit WP1.0 as well. Must dash now, Walkerma (talk) 15:18, 15 March 2008 (UTC)
I've been following progress at Wikipedia 1.0. As soon as this proposed project is finished, along with the WP:WPMoS project to find and correct resolve all contradictions among style guidelines, I'll be happy to help. I didn't want to come to you guys first and ask if you wanted to host this, because I felt that some projects get torpedoed for not taking the "blank slate" approach: state the goals without saying who owns it or what the topics can and can't be. But ... you're the only ones to show up so far. Is there any objection to allowing the Wikipedia 1.0 guys to host a page in their project where people can put these kinds of issues on the table? - Dan Dank55 (talk) 05:44, 16 March 2008 (UTC)

[There was no objection, end of thread on WP:VPP.]

Martin's suggestion on getting started, from my userpage[edit]

Please go ahead and create a page such as Wikipedia:Version_1.0_Editorial_Team/Style_guide, if this will help things move along. Please can you look at how the articles appeared in Version 0.5 (which can be downloaded from here) if you haven't looked at that yet, even though the "look" of the interface is going to be very different for Version 0.7? Being a wiki, we can let [this project page and talk page] evolve as the versions evolve, I think. It is about time we did this anyway, so I appreciate you taking on this job. It should also be mentioned on WP:VPP [done], and I will add the page to the WP:1.0 template once it is mostly written. We can brainstorm awkward issues there, though I think we can only really get consensus for 1.0, not for the whole of Wikipedia (not to deny that we may influence debate elsewhere, though). Thanks, Walkerma (talk) 02:46, 19 March 2008 (UTC)

Not yet[edit]

Even though this project will, hopefully, eventually, produce style guidelines suitable for Version 1.0, it seems premature to me to ask whether those guidelines are going to be different from the online Wikipedia style guidelines, when there are still many conflicts between Wikipedia style guidelines pages, and many conversations on style guidelines talk pages that never reach consensus. Does it seem reasonable to everyone to encourage people to solve problems on the other style guidelines pages when they can, and only bring those issues here, for now, that have gotten "stuck" in other places, that we might be able to get unstuck? - Dan Dank55 (talk) 03:04, 20 March 2008 (UTC)

The style guidelines for 1.0 probably should be different than those here; it's a different medium. But this is one of many reasons (chiefly the avoidance of incidental vandalism) why the 1.0 version of a page should be a protected or semi-protected copy of the Wikipedia article, probably in a subpage.
I note Jimbo's edict on the main page. I would expect these semi-protected subpages to be temporary, simply pulling something out of WP and cleansing incidental vandalism and other problems, to have a printable version. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 01:24, 21 March 2008 (UTC)
The extent to which 1.0 should pay any attention to WP:MOS is debateable. Most of their interminable disputes are a handful of editors, each one pressing xer insular preferences for what English must do. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 19:46, 20 March 2008 (UTC)
I respectfully disagree. We cannot start working on style guidelines from scratch, and even if we should, this would create more trouble than it's worth, only to finally gravitate somewhere around either the Wikipedia Manual of Style or an already existing manual. And then we'd have to create separate versions of the same articles which would conform to that manual, causing all of the problems described in this page something like that would entail. As has already been stated, the purpose of this workshop is to fine-tune the style guidelines in over to improve both the on-line encyclopaedia and its printed clone, not to start over.
I agree with Dank's view: we sort out the MoS contradictions first (there aren't that many of them, anyway), and then we can bring the finished guidelines here for discussion, if it turns out that something is not likely to be suitable for the printed version. That, of course, would mean that we have to actively comb the MoS for guidelines liable to change and compare them to publishing houses' manuals of style, a process which should start about... now. Waltham, The Duke of 22:23, 20 March 2008 (UTC)
Nice to see some respect; but it depends how we are going to publish this. If we use a commercial house, we may expect to reedit to their specifications anyway; if it's a vanity press operation, who cares? I certainly won't buy what's more accessible (and, by publication, better edited) on the web. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 23:05, 20 March 2008 (UTC)
I suddenly realise that it would all be much easier if we just knew who would publish this. Waltham, The Duke of 00:55, 21 March 2008 (UTC)
Please be aware that PManderson has been conducting a campaign against the role of MOS in creating a stylistically cohesive encyclopedia. The campaign, which has gone on for a year or so, has consisted of numerous short entries at MOS, MOSNUM, and other styleguide and policy pages in the project. Anderson values the freedom of individual editors to do what they like far above the benefits of stylistic and formatting consistency. He has continually flown a flag for some anarchistic ideal (do I hear "tax relief" and "small government"?) that sees no advantage in safeguarding the cohesion of the project. Fortunately, experienced editors at MOS et al. are willing to counter these beckonings, since they believe the English language, big and baggy as it is, is best when corralled into a reasonably unified presentation. That, they believe, is what makes WP's articles special among the rag-bag of pages that a google search will otherwise yield. It is partly responsible for the authority of WP, and certainly makes it easier to read and comprehend, they believe. I ask editors here to take into account the bigger picture of the agenda he is pushing. Tony (talk) 02:55, 21 March 2008 (UTC)
Curious: the last time I was personally attacked for my presumed political beliefs, I was declared a Communist. It may be possible to deduce my nationality from my contributions, but it is clearly impractical to deduce my politics — Tony is quite wrong. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 14:53, 21 March 2008 (UTC)
You forgot the "kettle" link; really, you seem to feel you can frame anything as a personal attack, while issuing such attacks from time to time yourself. I'm pleased to hear that you dissociate yourself from Reagonomics and the like; however, my point was only that there are similarities between your campaign against encouraging stylistic conformity in this project and the arguments of those who spread propaganda about "getting the government off the people's backs". I wasn't accusing you of any political beliefs, although it's surprising that the similarities have escaped you thus far. Tony (talk) 15:39, 21 March 2008 (UTC)
Anarchistic is perhaps a bad word, Tony - surely you would prefer not to be labeled as advancing the totalitarian ideal. Christopher Parham (talk) 02:44, 22 March 2008 (UTC)

←I'd like to see this project succeed ... any little success would make me happy ... and then slowly build on its success. (I feel some sense of ownership, and I invite anyone to tell me if this ever seems to become a problem.) I don't want to get fussy and tell people where they can argue and what they can argue about, but in this particular case, we're constrained by the conversation at WP:VPP (see above), because almost any definition of "success" here will involve bot approval and other policy decisions that require the approval of WP:VPP. WP:VPP is full of people who are quite comfortable saying "no", and they do so with great gusto and regularity in response to new proposals. If I go back now and try to change the scope of this project, there's no telling what would happen. Apart from the things in the lead paragraph on the project page, the only subjects I feel are in the scope of this project are:

  • formatting issues (including punctuation, line wrapping, and order of end sections, but specifically not language)
  • that seem to have wide acceptance (given that lots of editors would like to see their work get into the printed version, and given that most people concede that printed encyclopedias generally have a more standardized format than the online Wikipedia)
  • and for which Version 1.0 is a deciding factor (because formatting issues which can maintain consensus as Version 1.0 approaches don't need our help in this project).

My feeling is that anything that doesn't meet all 3 guidelines is off the table here. (Perhaps WP:WPMoS would be a better place to continue your conversations? I really don't know if that's a good idea or not, it depends on what can be accomplished.) My hope is that if Wikipedians can actually come to wide agreement on at least some formatting standardization, then neither the Foundation nor the publisher will interfere. Of course, we don't want to waste a lot of time and then find out that my hope is wrong. User:Rlandmann has expressed the opinion that the last thing we want to do is "kick this upstairs", but it's just not my sense of the bureacrats at Wikipedia (particularly Kingturtle and Angela) that they love to jump in and interfere with processes that seem to be working ... just the opposite. I would love for some of us to make a wild guess on how formatting issues will play out, present those wild guesses to one or more bureaucrats, and ask them to help secure some reassurance that neither Jimbo nor anyone else will step in at some point and say "Ooh, that's ugly, can't have that in our printed encyclopedia." As for what the publisher will require, Martin will be setting up an online chat with the publisher soon to answer just those questions. - Dan Dank55 (talk) 16:27, 21 March 2008 (UTC)

P.S. If there's no objection, I'm thinking of moving my 3 bullet points to the lead paragraph of the project page. I changed the language to "maintain consensus as Version 1.0 approaches" because people who either didn't know or didn't care what style pages say might start caring if it makes a difference to Version 1.0. I am hoping that it will be easier to get good-faith debates on these topics than on some of the trickier MoS issues. - Dan Dank55 (talk) 21:19, 21 March 2008 (UTC)

The short version[edit]

Really the only two style guidelines you need are;

  • Use idiomatic English
  • If several stylistic choices are idiomatic, be consistent within each article.

We have already arranged several major inconsistencies between articles: Some use Harvard citation; some use footnotes (each in several variants). Some use American; some use British English; some use Strine. Attempting to be consistent between articles in less visible matters is a waste of effort; no one will notice.

Much of the Manual of Style is good advice, which should have been considered (and followed except for good reason) before you see the articles. Some of it is guidance on where to use British English (on British articles) or how to use footnotes; again, you don't have to worry about that, it's already been done. Most of the rest is the result of one or two editors trying to legislate their prejudices into law for all of Wikipedia to follow. This will have been followed where it makes sense, but where it has been ignored, it probably should continue to be ignored. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 01:24, 21 March 2008 (UTC)

  • Important note: BrEng is not restricted to "British articles. Tony(talk) 02:54, 22 March 2008 (UTC)
    • Response to trivial note: Of course it isn't. I've been in on most of the discussions of yoghurt myself, and support the retention of our established spelling. But this is an incidental reference; if it had been germane to quote all of WP:ENGVAR, with exegesis, I would have done so. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 16:11, 22 March 2008 (UTC)
I don't think it is that simple. Although the English Wikipedia is meant for readers from all English-speaking countries, this does not mean that it should be (I'll recycle the phrase from an earlier post of mine) a patchwork of national versions, but instead it ought to be an international project. Therefore, there ought to be some standardisation across the various languages and dialects, which would give the different articles a greater sense of uniformity. After all, one should not forget that many articles do not have any special connections to any specific country, yet they use a certain version of English because that was the dialect of the first major contributor; it is not right to have an article about any virtually international concept be too strongly American or British (or Australian, Canadian, or Irish, for that matter). Besides, greater uniformity, especially in punctuation, which is not that different between the regional variants, makes our articles look more professional, which is certainly desirable in an encyclopaedia. Waltham, The Duke of 02:27, 21 March 2008 (UTC)
When we can be neutral without loss, it is harmless to do so; but I do not think we can, or should, aim for a nondescript midAtlantic, or even midPacific, English. Some articles will use color, some will use colour; changing all of them to hue will just make them dingy. Some articles will use many commas (within the range of English usage), some will use fewer; this is the result of being written by many people. We should not try to hide this; it is a feature, not a bug; and attempting to do will only waste effort which could be devoted to clarity, accuracy, verifiability, and neutrality (in the sense of NPOV, this time). Septentrionalis PMAnderson 15:04, 21 March 2008 (UTC)
I agree that we should use different variants of English in different articles, but I do not believe that we should extend the differences to the full spectrum of linguistic elements that are present in articles (and often do not even concern prose). As a matter of fact, many aspects of punctuation are less connected to dialects and regional variants, and punctuation is also one of the areas where standardisation has the greatest benefits. We gain in clarity, we gain in accuracy, we gain in professionalism. Readers encounter a uniform punctuation system, and can therefore read the text more comfortably and understand it more easily. It is not to our interest to confuse our readers, and widely disparate style and punctuation tend to have that very effect. We want Wikipedia to form a cohesive work. Waltham, The Duke of 19:59, 21 March 2008 (UTC)
I don't see that. At best, we gain the appearance of professionalism, and lose the reality. Editor time is our only real limiting resource; attempting to devise and enforce a rule on how many commas a sentence should have provided the actual number is consistent with idiom wastes that time.
FA makes clear: if editors sre encouraged to count spaces and tweak dashes, they will. It's much easier to quibble over punctuation than to actually understand and improve English prose; this is again much easier than actually editing the content of an article. So if we have STYLE1.0, everyone will bravely volunteer to do that, and articles with writing problems, like Augustus, or severe sourcing problems, like Daniel Webster, will slip into 1.0, just like they slipped into FA.
And we may not even get professional appearance. FA makes equally clear that many reviewers are not fluent in English, and not competent to criticize it; there are of course several valiant and useful exceptions. The results of Spellcheck, when employed by someone who doesn't know what he's doing, are notorious, and the subject of running jokes; this may be worse. Leave all of this to the underpaid minions of our publisher; they are at least paid, and in practice. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 23:44, 21 March 2008 (UTC)
For Unicorn's sake, I'm not talking about commas. You understand perfectly well what I am trying to say; do not interpret "punctuation" as referring to something as simple as a comma. Of course the usage of commas lies in editors' discretion. Dashes, however, of all kinds are much more noticeable, and their misuse is not only more glaring, but might also create misunderstanding. As I said, we want clear and accurate text, and this means that we cannot leave room for confusion. The usage of hyphens and dashes is regulated as it is exactly for this purpose: unlike commas (whose misuse, however, can still cause misunderstandings under certain conditions), an erroneously placed hyphen can easily change the meaning of text. And ambiguity is not an option when writing an encyclopaedia. Waltham, The Duke of 00:24, 22 March 2008 (UTC)
Then do be concrete; I don't know what you mean until you say so. (On commas, I refer you to this discussion, where a well-meaning reviewer is, all unawares, insisting that an article be translated into American before he will support it.) Where hyphens are forbidden by idiom (in encyclopedic text), they come under the first rule above; where they are not, as where English and American hyphenation differs, we should not have a rule. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 00:31, 22 March 2008 (UTC)
There are more than enough examples about hyphens in the Manual of Style page itself; I don't know, but perhaps that may be because this means that their presence there is justified...? Example: little used care and little-used car. Example: re-dress and redress. There are many more, but I guess you can look them up yourself. As far as commas are concerned, their correct usage is very important when interrogative pronouns are concerned. I'd think examples are really redundant here, wouldn't you? Waltham, The Duke of 01:50, 22 March 2008 (UTC)
But what here does not fall under Be idiomatic? Little-used car is mandatory (if that's what the writer means); little used car is tolerable for a small previously owned vehicle. So are redress and re-dress and your elegant last sentence. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 16:17, 22 March 2008 (UTC)
  • Why be a wet blanket here—because I can't be bothered to explore the nooks and crannies of what appears to be an attempt to hard-copy publish selected parts of WP. Can someone please explain why this is being planned? What earthly reason could there be? Why won't it be an utter embarrassment? Tony (talk) 02:09, 22 March 2008 (UTC)
Deciding what does and doesn't get printed and when Version 1.0 comes out is above my pay grade, and also not within the scope of this project. We have the modest goal here of at least getting the printed and DVD version to have non-embarrassing, and even attractive, formatting. Martin is generally considered the go-to guy for Version 1.0. - Dan Dank55 (talk) 02:35, 22 March 2008 (UTC)
    • My implication is that we should all stop wasting our time here: what on earth is the purpose of a dead-tree publication for something that is intrinsically online? Tony (talk) 02:47, 22 March 2008 (UTC)
    • Presumably the current MoS reflects the community consensus about "attractive formatting," so it is unclear what the policy discussions being suggested here will add. It appears to me that an additional forum will only be a distraction. On the whole I agree with Tony that it would be a mistake to cater the style of the online Wikipedia to the needs of a static version - those who consume these articles online outnumber by orders of magnitude those who will ever consume a printed or DVD static version. Christopher Parham (talk) 02:53, 22 March 2008 (UTC)
    • Wow, for once I agree with Tony :). I have always found the idea of publishing Wikipedia in static form rather unappealing. It seems to be motivated by a feeling, among those who grew up before the Internet arrived, that things printed on paper are somehow more respectable than the same things available online. At best it was a harmless distraction that pulled editors away from actually improving Wikipedia and had them working on pointless ratings of articles by quality and importance. Now, though, it is proposed that the WP1.0 project should actually alter the style of Wikipedia itself. I fear that this will end up introducing style conventions that make more sense in print than online, merely because of the difficulty (expressed above) in dealing with separate versions of the articles for online and print. --Srleffler (talk) 05:32, 22 March 2008 (UTC)
Indeed. Perhaps you're right about the the oldies: my father insists on printing everything he receives—including emails. Seems ridiculous to me. This dead-tree publication will be reviewed in the main press in deprecating terms, I predict. Why are we doing ourselves such harm? Tony (talk) 09:14, 22 March 2008 (UTC)
I wonder: would it be that tough to not produce one edition but two? Each in line with "common use" practice of "AmE" and "BrE". So make sure orthography is correct, that Imperial units are in the AmE version, metrics in the BrE (That is not to say that one should remove anything - only add whats missing). Use local SOPs for capitalization, punctuation, hyphenisation, footnotes, etc; that should all but silence the debate. I mean, proofreading will need to be done anyway, and probably much of it by bot. The fact is that en.wikipedia is not written in any one particular style of English. The fact is also that en.wikipedia is the default Wikipedia for many non-English people (like myself, for whom it is only 3rd language, really; hence I have a very inconsistent spelling because I use what looks nicest to me). It is like a CVS, while the hardcopy is like a stable version. They should not really treated according to the same measure if that's by any means possible, I think. Dysmorodrepanis (talk) 02:11, 29 March 2008 (UTC)