Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2008-06-02/Dispatches

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The Wikipedia Signpost

Dispatches: Style guide and policy changes

By Tony1, June 2, 2008

May was a big month for changes, topped by wholesale structural reform of the Featured list candidates process. We present the two most recent monthly updates, for April and May 2008. For feedback and any corrections that are required, please leave a note here. All monthly updates from the start of this year are listed here.

May 2008

Nymphs and elves are furious that the reference to them in Wikipedia's MoS has been removed (see "Capitalization" below). Here, Ricardo's moon nymph is in a state of relative composure.

Manual of Style (main page)

Non-breaking spaces. The scope of the recommendation to use a non-breaking (i.e., "hard") space was narrowed from all instances where:

"numerical and non-numerical elements are separated by a space",


"measurements in which values and units are separated by a space".

Compound items such as "20 chairs" are thus excluded from the recommendation.

En dashes vs. minus signs. Previously, en dashes were permitted as an alternative to minus signs. This is no longer the case:

"Do not use an en dash for negative signs and subtraction operators: use the correct unicode character for the minus sign (−) (see also Wikipedia:Manual of Style (mathematics).)"

Foreign terms and italics. The second of these two sentences was struck out:

"Use italics for phrases in other languages and for isolated foreign words that are not current in English. However, in an article on a subject for which there is no English-language term, such terms do not require italics."

Spelling and transliteration of foreign terms. The use of anglicized versus native spellings was clarified:

"Names not originally in a Latin alphabet—such as Greek, Chinese or Russian scripts—must be transliterated into characters generally intelligible to English-speakers. Do not use a systematically transliterated name if there is a common English form of the name, such as Tchaikovsky or Chiang Kai-shek. The use of diacritics (accent marks) on foreign words is neither encouraged nor discouraged; their usage depends on whether they appear in verifiable reliable sources and on the constraints imposed by specialized Wikipeda guidelines."

Identity. There was a change from:

"When there is no dispute, use terms that a person uses for himself or herself, or terms that a group most commonly uses for itself", to:
"When there is no dispute, the name most commonly used for a person will be the one that person uses for himself or herself, and the most common terms for a group will be those that the group most commonly uses for itself".

Alignment of images. The previous preference for the right-alignment of images, with exceptions, was simplified to:

"Images of faces should be placed so that the face or eyes look toward the text, because the reader's eyes will tend to follow their direction. Therefore, portraits of a face looking to the reader's right should be left-aligned, looking into the main text."

Manual of Style (dates and numbers)

Symbols for bits and bytes. The following sentence was added:

"By extension, the symbols for the units of data rate kilobit per second, megabit per second and so on, are "kbit/s" (not "kbps" or "Kbps") and "Mbit/s" (not "Mbps" or "mbps"). Similarly, kilobyte per second and megabyte per second are "kB/s" (not "kBps" or "KBps") and "MB/s" (not "Mbps" or "MBps")."

Binary prefixes. A dispute tag still hangs over this section.

Units of measurement. The section "Follow the literature" is still the subject of a dispute tag and has been unstable.

Minus signs. A similar change was made to that listed above under "En dashes vs. minus signs". [Editorial note: The wording of both points now needs to be made consistent.]

Geographical coordinates. This section was restored with an edit summary to see WP:GEO.

[Editorial note: MOSNUM and the main page of MOS are now in need of housecleaning to ensure consistency in duplicated sections.]

Merger of two supplementary MOS pages

Naming conventions (abbreviations) was merged into Manual of Style (abbreviations).

Manual of Style (capital letters)

Capitalization of names of deities, etc. This was removed:

"Pronouns referring to deities, or nouns (other than names) referring to any material or abstract representation of any deity, human or otherwise, are not capitalized."

Capitalization of religious and mythical beings. This was clarified:

"Do not capitalize terms denoting types of religious or mythical beings such as angel, fairy or deva. The personal names of individual beings are capitalized as normal (the angel Gabriel). An exception is made when such terms are used in fantasy fiction and they also denote ethnicities, in which case they are capitalized."


A long and discursive guideline for the See also section was replaced by a shorter one, introducing a new requirement:

"Like links in other embedded lists, the links in the See also section should be worked into the text where possible, and usually removed from the See also list, unless that would make them hard to find."

The Further reading section may now be called "Books" if it contains only books; it is best to avoid the title "Bibliography", because it may mean different things to different readers.

Citing sources

Reference qualification in article text. This new section was added, opening with:

"An incontrovertible statement requires no qualification in the article apart from its reference."

Examples were provided.

Featured article criteria

The criteria were reformatted to reduce redundant repetition; bolded titles were inserted for easier comprehension. The numbering and substantive meaning of the criteria are unaltered. The word count was reduced by about 11%.

Featured article candidate instructions

The instructions now clarify and reinforce the proscription, in the lead, of dual nominations, with the addition of the underlined words:

"Before nominating an article, ensure that it meets all of the FA criteria and that peer reviews are closed and archived."

Featured list criteria

The criteria underwent a major overhaul to produce a set of clearer, more concise tools for nominators and reviewers, reduced from 420 to 220 words. The major substantive changes involve the requirements that the writing be of "professional standard" and the lead "engaging", and the clarification of "scope" and "comprehensiveness". The need to take particular care in sourcing claims about living people was made explicit.

Featured list candidate instructions

There were significant changes to the FLC instructions to legitimise the identity and roles of the first two Wikipedians to be appointed as FL directors. Some of the wording and new procedures were borrowed from the FAC instructions. Two important changes were (1) the abolition of the rule that a nomination must have a minimum of four declarations of support to be eligible for promotion, and (2) the way consensus is judged and the weight of "support" declarations compared with the resolution of critical comments, as embodied in the following insertion:

"Consensus is built among reviewers and nominators, as determined by the FL directors, Scorpion0422 and The Rambling Man. A nomination will be removed from the list and archived if, in the judgment of the director who considers a nomination and its reviews:
  • actionable objections have not been resolved; or
  • consensus for promotion has not been reached; or
  • insufficient information has been provided by reviewers to judge whether the criteria have been met.
It is assumed that all nominations have good qualities; this is why the main thrust of the process is to generate and resolve critical comments in relation to the criteria, and why such resolution is given considerably more weight than declarations of support.

Featured portal criteria

The criteria were amended in two ways. Added this sentence: "Article and biography summaries should not significantly exceed 200 words in length." Added these underlined words: "images where appropriate, with good captions, linked credits, and acceptable copyright status.

Non-free content

Non-free content policy statement. The following sentence was inserted: :"There is no automatic entitlement to use non-free content in an article".

WP:NFCC#3a. The criterion was amended from:

"As few non-free content uses as possible are included in each article and in Wikipedia as a whole. Multiple items are not used if one will suffice; one is used only if necessary." to:
"Multiple items of non-free content are not used if one item can convey equivalent significant information."

WP:NFCC#3b. The scope was broadened (italics replacing struck-through text):

"Low- rather than high-resolution/fidelity/bit rate is used (especially where the original could be used for piracy deliberate copyright infringement)."

April 2008

Manual of Style (main page)

Titles. Clarification that common nouns denoting deities or religious figures are not capitalized.

Acronyms and abbreviations. The terms "abbreviation", "acronym" and "initialism" were clarified.

Quotation marks. Clarification that (block-quoted) multiparagraph quotations "must be precise and exactly as in the source. The source should be cited clearly and precisely to enable readers to find the text that supports the article content in question." Instead of HTML tags, {{quotation}} or {{quote}} can be used to render block quotes.

SI symbols and unit abbreviations. This was added:

"A lowercase s is the SI for seconds; thus, kgs means "kilogram-seconds"."

SI symbols and unit abbreviations. This was added:

"Exponentiation is indicated using a superscript, an; do not use a caret, a^n" and "Do not use E notation".

Disputes over people's proper names. The previous statement:

"Use terminology that subjects use for themselves (self-identification) whenever this is possible"

was replaced with:

"Disputes over the proper name of a person or group are addressed by policies such as Verifiability, Neutral point of view, and Naming conventions where the name appears in an article name. When there is no dispute, use terms that a person uses for himself or herself, or terms that a group most commonly uses for itself.

Alignment of images. The last four words were added to the statement:

"Right-alignment is preferred to left- or center-alignment for the lead image."

An exception was added:

"Wherever possible, images of faces should be placed so that the face or eyes look toward the text, because the reader's eye will tend to follow their direction."

This was added:

Where the lead image is a portrait with the face looking to the reader's right, it should be left-aligned, looking into the text of the article. Where this is the lead image, it may be appropriate to move the Table of Contents to the right by using {{TOCright}}."

Pronunciation. The last three words were added:

"For ease of understanding across dialects, fairly broad IPA transcriptions are usually provided for English pronunciations."

This sentence was added:

"For English pronunciations, pronunciation respellings may be used in addition to the IPA."

Manual of Style (dates and numbers)

Decade abbreviations. Two-digit abbreviations for decades may have a preceding apostrophe only in reference to a social era or cultural phenomenon as a stock phrase that roughly corresponds to or defines a decade (the Roaring '20s, the Gay '90s), or where there is a notable connection between the period and the immediate topic (a sense of social justice informed by '60s counterculture, but grew up in 1960s Boston, moving to Dallas in 1971). [This is now inconsistent with the main page of the MoS.]

Units of measurement. A new section was inserted:

"Use terminology and symbols commonly employed in the current literature for that subject and level of technicality. When in doubt, use the units of measure, prefixes, unit symbols, number notation, and methods of disambiguation most often employed in reliable periodicals directed to a similar readership.

This was marked with a dispute tag and has been the subject of an edit war and page protection.

Units of measurement. The recommendation to use "sq" and "cu" with US-unit abbreviations was removed; now superscript exponents may be used in that system.

Manual of Style (disambiguation pages)

The piping of disambiguation pages. Clarification: piping may be used to add italics to the part of an article name inside parenthetical clarifiers (for instance [[Neo (The Matrix)|Neo (''The Matrix'')]]); until now the guideline only allowed italics and quotation marks for the part outside the parentheses.

Featured article candidate instructions

The third bullet was added to the instructions (underlined here):

"A nomination will be removed from the list and archived if, in the judgment of the director or his delegate:
  • actionable objections have not been resolved; or
  • consensus for promotion has not been reached; or
  • insufficient information has been provided by reviewers to judge whether the criteria have been met."

Featured portal criteria

The following sentence was added to the Featured portal criteria:

"It should include links to other Wikimedia Foundation projects when applicable. Portals that focus on a specific group of life-forms (other than humans) should contain a link to Wikispecies project."

Non-free content

The phrase that was removed from Non-free content Criterion 8 last month (underlined here) was reinstated and is currently under discussion:

"Significance.' Non-free content is used only if its presence would significantly increase readers' understanding of the topic, and its omission would be detrimental to that understanding.

Also this week:

Board elections — WikiWorld — In the news — Dispatches — Features and admins — Technology report — Arbitration report

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