Template talk:SI unit lowercase

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Hi Orzetto,

thanks a lot for this template. It is useful and instructive and will save us from a lot of errors. I have made some refinements. Please, tell me what do you think about them. BTW, do you think a link to SI writing style is in order too?

Ciao, Gennaro Prota 16:55, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

PS: What about the degree Celsius article? Should we add something there too (maybe not this template, but a simple, ad-hoc note at the beginning)?

The most important information about an SI unit is not the fact that it is written in lower case; it is its meaning, definition and use. The spelling box therefore belongs lower down in the article, so I moved them all for you. You will also have to fix the problem that the etymology of each unit is now mentioned twice, once in the spelling box and once again, often with more context, in the article. I have not tried to fix this yet. --Heron 19:20, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
Hmm, I have looked at the Volt and Sievert articles and I must say that the box looks a little ugly in that position (besides almost overlapping the TOC box). Let also wait for others to express their opinions. I prefer it to be at the top. As to the duplicated information I thought to that too, but I think we should first wait and see if the template has wide acceptance; if so we can decide what to do about the duplication. In the meantime what about something like this (note that it doesn't have the scientist name parameter and so doesn't duplicate the etymology):
This SI unit name is derived from the proper name of a person. As such, its symbol begins with a capital letter ({{{2}}}). When its name is spelled out, instead, it shall always be written in lowercase ({{{1}}}), unless it begins a sentence (the only exception to this rule being the name "degree Celsius").
Usage of the template
{{SI unit lowercase|pascal|Pa}}.
Gennaro Prota 19:57, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
Yes, it's a shame about the formatting in some of the articles, but I think that allowing people to find their information as quickly as possible is more important than appearance.
Thank you for altering the template. I think it's an improvement. I would also suggest removing the bit about Celsius, since visitors to "ohm", for example, do not want to read a digression about a different unit. Apart from that, I agree that we should wait to hear opinions from other editors. --Heron 21:07, 7 March 2006 (UTC)
 I have invited Benhoyt to join the discussion, as I think we can finally find a consensus on this.
My opinions:
  • I like Ben's formatting and wording of the last line ("Based on" instead of "Reference"). However I would still point to http://www.bipm.org/en/si/si_brochure/ rather than to the exact section page, either because there the user can also choose the French version (actually the only one which is official), besides the Supplement 2000, and because that's what the link text hints at.

    I'm afraid the section number could change with new versions of the document. So I would specify the version we are using. Since AFAIK that's the version of the document, not of the standard, I don't see any other solution than mentioning "brochure" in the text, even if that appears less "professional":
    — Based on The International System of Units brochure, 7th edition, section 5.2.
  • I like both the Ampère image and the brochure cover (but are we sure there's no copyright problem with it?). Another alternative could be specifying the image filename as a template parameter so that for each unit we can have the image of the corresponding scientist (Volta for volt, Faraday for farad etc). Is there any way to specify a default value for a template parameter, which would be used as a fallback if the user doesn't specify the image name?
  • I think the template should expand at the beginning of the article. Ironically, I find it less intrusive there than on the middle, where it is also more likely to screw up formatting.
  • I have not a strong opinion about the "degree Celsius" part. One one hand I would like to leave it, so that we give the user the complete, exact, naming convention. On the other hand it make the whole a bit dull reading. So, if you native speakers find a way to include it without too much burden I would prefer that.
  • Should we add something like: "see SI writing style for more details"?
  • Finally this template is really poorly named. What about something like "SI unit named after a person" or "SI unit name in honor of"?
Please, express your opinions about each point. Thanks. --Gennaro Prota 13:45, 9 March 2006 (UTC)
Gennaro, fair points. My (Benhoyt's) further thoughts:
  • I like your final "Based on" referency thing above, and reasons for it.
  • I thought about the "picture of actual person" thingy, but it gets a bit complicated, and could be confusing – in my mind, the picture should relate to the template's point, not the person in question. Oh yes, and copying of covers, of books and DVDs and whatnot, are covered under Fair Use.
  • I think the last phrase could be changed to "with the exception of degree Celcius" (the point about beginning of sentences is obvious for English).
  • I don't think a link to SI writing style is necessary. If they want more info, they can either go to the brochure or to the already-linked SI page.
  • Your name for the template is better, though I don't suppose it's a big deal. If someone wants to change it (and the references to it), I'd be for it. "SI unit named after a person" seems best to me.
Benhoyt 20:03, 9 March 2006 (UTC)
Thank you for removing the misplaced warning, Gennaro. However, I'm still not going to accept putting this template at the top of every article, above the table of contents. Most readers do not want a quarter of their screen taken up by a grammatical footnote. Footnotes belong at the bottom. --Heron 21:09, 9 March 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for your comments. I've put up a first cut version in a subpage of my user page. It addresses most of the points discussed here and incorporates a couple of new ideas. Please tell me what do you think of it.
Two examples:
a) using default parameter for the image name:
{{SI unit named after a person | name = volt | symbol = V}}
This SI unit has a name derived from the proper name of a person. As such, its symbol begins with a capital letter (V). Its name, instead, is always spelled out in lowercase (volt), unless it begins a sentence (or is the name "degree Celsius").
— Based on the 7th edition of The International System of Units reference

b) specifying an image name:
{{SI unit named after a person | name = farad | symbol = F | image = Faraday.jpg}}
This SI unit has a name derived from the proper name of a person. As such, its symbol begins with a capital letter (F). Its name, instead, is always spelled out in lowercase (farad), unless it begins a sentence (or is the name "degree Celsius").
— Based on the 7th edition of The International System of Units reference

--Gennaro Prota 21:26, 9 March 2006 (UTC)
But you've left out the actual name of the person, like "This SI unit is named after Michael Faraday"? Shouldn't the parameters be backwards compatible? Benhoyt 21:42, 9 March 2006 (UTC)
I still say the reference to Celsius is a waste of space. You are saying "volt is spelt with a lowercase v unless it's Celsius". It isn't Celsius, so there's no point in mentioning it. --Heron 21:51, 9 March 2006 (UTC)
The whole problem is that this isn't some rule specific to the SI; it is an English language rule. It doesn't apply to SI usage in the German language, for example. But it does apply to non-SI units such as the gauss or angstrom or torr or gal or whatever.
Furthermore, degrees Celsius isn't really an exception to the rule, nor are degrees Fahrenheit or degrees Rankine, for that matter. Of course, when SI started, we also had "degrees Kelvin", and the K was properly capitalized in that unit's name, before it was replaced with "kelvins" in 1967. This is one of the quirks of the English language. The nouns which are the units themselves are not capitalized. However, when a proper adjective is used to identify the particular unit which would otherwise be ambiguous if just stated as "degrees", that proper adjective is capitalized. Gene Nygaard 22:09, 9 March 2006 (UTC)
Hi guys, I'm realizing we would need mails or a newsgroup here. Ironically a "discussion" page is just ok to put in comments, not to perform... "discussions"! :-/ Anyway, leaving out the actual name of the person was intentional and addressed a comment made by Heron: “You will also have to fix the problem that the etymology of each unit is now mentioned twice, once in the spelling box and once again, often with more context, in the article”. I thought that was already settled but I'll provide a little list of alternatives at the subpage linked to above. I agree that "volt isn't degree Celsius" is pointless. It doesn't make sense when you supply arguments; it would on a general message. But all these can be easily solved. What puzzles me is when you, Gene, say this is an English rule, not an SI convention. Have you looked at the reference here [1]?
--Gennaro Prota 23:16, 9 March 2006 (UTC)
 I'll start formatting replies in a mail-like style (with one > sign per quoted section); let's see if this helps Gennaro
On 10 March 2006 (UTC), 01:40 the user bobblewik wrote:
> Gene is right. SI does not constrain the capitalisation or spelling of units in full.
Nobody told it constraints spelling. As to capitalisation the document seems clear to me. Unless section 5, for some reason, is non-normative.
> You can spell it kilometre, kilomètre, kilometer, Kilometer, chilometro, Километр, 公里, according to your language.
But we are just talking about the *case*, not about the exact spelling.
>But in symbol form, only 'km' is correct SI. English speakers happen to be lucky in that the symbols and words are easy to relate to each other (µ is an example of one that is not). We are not so fortunate with chemical symbols whereby mercury is Hg. I assume you also know that it is only the SI brochure in French that has official status. bobblewik 01:40, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
I know and said it above. That doesn't mean it only refers to the French language.
Gennaro Prota 02:41, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
Case is exactly what we are talking about with respect to the German language, where all nouns are capitalized, including units such as Meter and Kelvin and Grad Celsius and Kilogramm and Weber and also non-SI units such as Sverdrup or Ångström or whatever. Nobody in Germany, nobody at BIPM, nobody at NIST or NPL or whatever, interprets the SI brochure as prohibiting that usage in the German language. And in any case, BIPM doesn't establish the rules. The CGPM sets the basic framework; the details are filled in by ISO and many other standards organizations. The international rules are the ones dealing with the symbols, not the spelling of spelled-out words.
The Germans also normally use a null plural form (no ending or vowel change) for measurement units, expecially when the units are accompanied with a specific number. Gene Nygaard 02:59, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
Same goes for Fuß, of course, capitalized whether that is used for one of the many old German feet, or for the English foot. Gene Nygaard 04:35, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
The flip side of the coin, of coure, is the fact that these units were generally lowercase in English long before the SI was introduced in 1960. For example,
  • Rogers D. Rusk, Introduction to College Physics, Appleton-Century-Crofts, 2nd ed. 1960 uses henry, volt, ampere, gauss, maxwell, weber, etc.
  • Noel Charlton Little, College Physics, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1928, uses lowercase watt, joule, etc.
This is just a long-standing English language rule, picked up by and mentioned in the BIPM brochure. Gene Nygaard 04:56, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for your explanation, Gene (just one curiosity: is really "second" more common than "seconds" as a plural form?). Now, unless the consensus is to mark the template for deletion I'll try and prepare a more accurate version, which makes clear that:
  • the international rules only concern the writing of unit *symbols* and *numbers*, not of their names; an English-specific convention exist, though, which is also recommended by BIPM.

[Back to margin] I'm not particularly enamored with this template, but I haven't suggested it be deleted.

Others may feel that it should be; but your proposed change would more likely worsen that situation than alleviate it.

  • This is English Wikipedia. We can concern ourself with English language rules.
  • A simple addition of "in English" somewhere would take care of any likely objections along those lines, and I wouldn't insist that even that is necessary.
  • You could also delete the SI from "SI unit" in the parts of the template dealing with this rule, since it doesn't apply just to SI units. Of course, as I pointed out before, degrees Celsius are not really an exception to the general rule; degrees Rankine and degrees Fahrenheit follow this rule the same way that degrees Celsius do, with proper adjectives capitalized but not nouns even when derived from a person's name.
  • Most of the objections to this template which I have noticed, with changes being made in the articles containing it and the accompanying edit summaries, have to do with its size and placement and obtrusiveness with the coloring. A wordier explanation isn't going to help that.
  • A detailed discussion of this belongs on the SI page, or maybe primarily on the metric system page since it also applies to cgs and other obsolete metric systems (and English system units as well), with only a summary on the SI page. It doesn't belong on a template slapped onto every unit to which it might apply.

I don't understand your question about "second". My point about the null plural dealt specifically with the German language. Now, I'm no expert on German, but I did study it a couple of years in college, and I was stationed in Germany for 17 months with the U.S. Army, so here are my best guesses.

  • I think the normal German usage would be "9,7 Sekunden" and the like, with the "-en" ending added in the plural. That's probably because seconds are not something specific to SI, and the time units such as "Minuten" and "Secunden" are not viewed as part of the "units of measurement" category in German language usage.
  • The normal German usage is, however, "9,7 Meter". Or, "12.560.400 Joule" (de:Energieverbrauch), etc.

Note also that in the English language, a prenominal adjective doesn't change in the plural. So while we would say that a magnet has a magnetic flux of 3.5 teslas, it is a 3.5 tesla magnet. That's just like a "ten-foot pole" whose length is 10 feet.

Note also that the normal convention is to use singular for numbers whose absolute value is less than or equal to one and greater than zero. For some units such as the tesla, most measurements in the real world, if expressed without a prefix, should be singular: a magnet might be 0.03 tesla, but that is 30 milliteslas.

Consider something along these lines:

  • This SI unit is named after [1]. As for all units whose names are derived from the proper name of a person, the first letter of its symbol is uppercase (3). But when this unit is spelled out in English, it should always be written in lowercase (2), unless it begins a sentence.

Specifying "this unit" and not putting it on "degree Celsius" obviates the need to clarify anything about the use of adjectives. — Gene Nygaard 14:55, 11 March 2006 (UTC)

You might also experiment with a fixed or percentage width box, maybe on the right margin and down on the page. Maybe if it looks more like an image box or infobox, rather than being spread across the whole page, people will find it less intrusive. Gene Nygaard 15:05, 11 March 2006 (UTC)
Personally I don't find it so intrusive: it is visually separated from the article contents, so you'll naturally skip over it once you know (and thus recognize) it. It's similar to
which I don't even notice anymore. Anyhow, I see this template as more oriented to editors than readers (though useful to both); IOWs its main purpose is to avoid silly capitalisation mistakes which would mess up the edit history and increase the amount of control and trivial fixes we have to make on each article. If we are not able to find a quick consensus then a comment in the code may reach the goal anyway, and we can concentrate on more urgent things.
[Just for the records, my question was about the use of "seconds" in English, not German.]
Another variant will be available in one hour or so at my user space. If nobody will like it then it might be better to go for a comment (though a comment may easily go unnoticed when using "section editing").
--Gennaro Prota 18:04, 11 March 2006 (UTC)

A suggestion for major rephrase[edit]

newton (N)
named for
Sir Isaac Newton
For units named after a person (not counting "degrees Celsius"), the official SI rule is that the first letter of the abbreviated form is always capitalized (e.g., N), but the actual name is treated as a usually lowercase common noun (e.g., newton).

How's this? A "usually lowercase common noun" is valid for English and other languages such as French, but the "common noun" retains its validity in German where common nouns are also capitalized. The "degree Celsius" exception is moved slightly out of the way. Most importantly, the correct form is seen clearly on the left. A person picture could be more appropriate than the SI picture. --Geoffrey 03:54, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

It has all the bad things I mentioned above--plus the additional spacing problems in the person's name in that second cell. Gene Nygaard 04:37, 29 March 2006 (UTC)
Years ago (well, almost ;)) I have provided six variants (sic) of this template and no one seems to have noticed them. In the end I don't know what to do about the problem. For articles that I edit myself I'll try following the right convention. As to other articles, it seems that there's not much willing to solve the issue. --Gennaro Prota 12:07, 29 March 2006 (UTC)


This box is absolutely hideous and intrusive. A bright yellow border is not in any way attractive and it's very distracting to catch a glimpse of. This sort of formatting is not used anywhere else on wikipedia and with good reason. Night Gyr (talk/Oy) 02:24, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

Wrong about degree Celsius[edit]

The template is wrong. It states that the SI unit "degree Celsius" is an exception to the lowercase rule. This unit is not an exception, since it begins with a lowercase letter: "d". The fact that it has a capital C in the middle is a weird anomaly that is not relevant to any other unit, so does not need to be mentioned in this template. --Heron 18:17, 3 July 2006 (UTC)

Yes, it is wrong[edit]

Right now, the template says this:

"This SI unit is named after [[{{{1}}}]]. As with all SI units whose names are derived from the proper name of a person, the first letter of its symbol is uppercase ({{{3}}}). But when an SI unit is spelled out, it should always be written in lowercase ({{{2}}}), unless it begins a sentence or is the name "degree Celsius"."

1) This text is clearly wrong about degree Celsius. Degree Celsius is not an exception; it is actually in keeping with the rule. The SI brochure clearly states: "In keeping with this rule, the correct spelling of the name of the unit with the symbol °C is "degree Celsius" (the unit degree begins with a lower-case d and the modifier Celsius begins with an upper-case C because it is a proper name)".

2) The text also ignores the fact that an SI unit may be written with an uppercase starting letter "in capitalized material such as a title".

I will change the text to something correct, and then it can be discussed if the wording should be different. Wikipedia should not state something clearly wrong while this is been discussed.

I will change it into this:

"This SI unit is named after [[{{{1}}}]]. As with all SI units whose names are derived from the proper name of a person, the first letter of its symbol is uppercase ({{{3}}}). But, in English, when an SI unit is spelled out, it should always start with a lowercase letter ({{{2}}}), except at the beginning of a sentence or in capitalized material such as a title. Note that e.g. "degree Celsius" is in keeping with this rule."

The reader can then follow the link to the brochure if she wants to read the details.

--Jhertel (talk) 06:55, 12 January 2008 (UTC)


Full name: jimbowale
Abbreviation: Jw
Named after: Jimbo Wales
Definition: 1 Jw = 1 Wp / s
Comparable units: 1 Jw = 100 e2

1000 Jw = 1 kJw

See the SI regulation on unit names for capitalization rules.

How about an infobox or something listing the name (in lowercase), the abbreviation (in uppercase), whatever other fun infoboxy stuff we like, and a link to the SI rules? --Geoffrey 01:19, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

It's certainly more attractive than the horrible yellow thing, and the subtle link to the SI rules doesn't get in the way. Without the globe it would be even less obtrusive. Perhaps a small icon meaning 'unit' would work, although I'm not sure what such an icon would look like. This is the nearest I can find to a logo for the SI, but then it's presumably copyright. Perhaps we can make one up. How about this, as a crude example:
A logo I just invented
 ? --Heron 19:54, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

The idea of the template was to tell people that "watt" or "kelvin" are normal words, and should not be capitalised as names of people are. The larger template is nice though, and maybe it should be applied to all SI units: a new template should be made for that ("SI unit lowercase" is not very descriptive, just Template:SI unit would do).
Maybe we could simplify this template to something very essential, such as:
This SI unit is derived from the name of a person. The name of the unit, however, is capitalised as a normal word, not as a person's.
Less is more...
Yes, I agree to simplification. I withdraw my suggestion of a logo, since no image at all would be even better. BTW, the second sentence is incomplete. How about the version below?
This SI unit is named after a person. The name of the unit, however, is capitalised as a common noun, not a proper noun.
--Heron 20:45, 4 August 2006 (UTC)
I don't really see the need for this clarification at all, as a template. This seems to me to be normal encyclopedic content, and should just go in the body of the article. The template using the example jimbowale is bad, because that's a case where you would capitalize it, under common wikipedia standards for common nouns. You wouldn't put, say, erg in lowercase in a template like that. A joule is not an exception, it's the fact that it isn't an exception which is causing this problem. If there must be a template, the more minimal the better. Arturus 05:23, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

Changes for grammar and clarity[edit]

I have made some small changes to the wording so that it reads better. I marked the edit as major because its effect is magnified by being on a number of articles. Feel free to tweak it further if you feel it is necessary.

The reasons for the changes are as follows: it is improper to begin a sentence with "But" and the last part was not clear (because of the upper case "C" - it was the reason I came here after checking the SI brochure link). I changed "is in keeping with" to "comforms to" partly because it is more encyclopedic, but also to ensure that the template doesn't wrap to another line. Secret Squïrrel, approx 02:55, 27 January 2007 (Earth Standard Time)