Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2008-04-21/Dispatches

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Dispatches: Monthly updates of styleguide and policy changes

By Tony1, April 21 2008
Don't get sore eyes hunting through styleguides and policy pages to keep up with the changes: go straight to the monthly update.

How on earth do featured-content nominators and reviewers keep abreast of changing guidelines and rules?

Even a brief reading of the criteria for Wikipedia's featured content reveals a host of links to pages that have a major bearing on tasks of both nominators and reviewers. For example, the featured article criteria presuppose a knowledge of the Manual of Style and its many subpages, other important styleguides, and policy pages such as those that regulate the use of non-free content, captions, verification, sources, and when to cite. In a user-generated environment, these styleguides and policy pages are subject to continual modification, which makes it hard to keep track of how they impact on the task of preparing, reviewing, promoting and maintaining our very best work.

At last, a solution!

FAC delegate SandyGeorgia and others came up with the idea of a centralised location at which all significant styleguide and policy changes are summarised periodically. This has been implemented recently in the form of a new service to the community: monthly updates of styleguide and policy changes. The changes are now published shortly after the start of each month, and are transcluded at the talk pages of the featured content candidate processes and the major styleguides. This enables all Wikipedians to keep abreast of what is happening, quickly and conveniently. Copy-editing and trivial changes are generally not included in these summaries, and when the monthly diffs boil down to substantive changes, the result is unexpectedly straightforward.

Some of the changes may sound fussy, but these details do help to make the project stylistically cohesive. Take, for example, a recent alteration to the Manual of Style in January, that a sentence fragment in a caption finish with a period if there's already a full sentence in the caption. An example is the caption for the image of Niccolò Machiavelli at the bottom – oops!

You can help

While we can't guarantee that all substantive changes are included in every monthly update, we try to cover a reasonably broad number of pages in our monthly surveys of diffs. But you can help to keep us on our toes. Contributors to styleguide and policy pages are asked to notify us of changes for each upcoming monthly summary by posting a brief note of substantive changes (with a diff) on the talk page.

At some time in the future, consideration will be given to moving the service into the Wikispace. The summaries for the past three months appear below.

March 2008

So many words to keep track of!

Manual of style, main page

  • Multiplication symbols. Inserted: Do not use an asterisk to represent multiplication between numbers in non-technical articles. The multiplication sign in exponential notation (2.1 × 108) may now be unspaced, depending on circumstances (2.1×108); previously, spacing was always required in exponential notation.
  • Punctuation in quotations. "Punctuation" was added to the requirement that "Wherever reasonable, preserve the original style, spelling and punctuation".
  • Em dashes. "Em dashes are normally unspaced" was strengthened to "should not be spaced".
  • Instructional and presumptuous language. "Clearly" and "actually" were added to the list of words that are usually avoided in an encyclopedic register.
  • '"Pull" and block quotes. Removed: Pull quotes are generally not appropriate in Wikipedia articles. Added: Block quotes can be enclosed using {{quotation}} or {{quote}} (as well as the existing specification, i.e., between a pair of <blockquote>...</blockquote> HTML tags).
  • Numbers as figures or words. The lead statement expressing the default was reverted to the wording that pertained until it was changed last month: "In the body of an article, single-digit whole numbers (from zero to nine) are given as words; numbers of more than one digit are generally rendered as figures, and alternatively as words if they are expressed in one or two words."


  • "See also" sections. It was clarified that links should be presented in a bulleted list, and that rather than grouping them by subject area, it is helpful to alphabetize them.

FAC instructions

  • Added: "Nominators must be sufficiently familiar with the subject matter and sources to deal with objections during the FAC process. Nominators who are not significant contributors to the article should consult regular editors of the article prior to nomination."
  • As an alternative to striking out their "objection", reviewers may "cap off their resolved comments; the cap should include the reviewer's signature, and editors [not nominators] should cap only their own commentary.

WP:Non-free content policy

  • Criterion 8. The second clause was removed: "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."
  • Enforcement. Inserted: An image with a valid non-free-use rationale for some (but not all) articles it is used in will not be deleted. Instead, the image will be removed from the articles for which it lacks a non-free-use rationale.

February 2008

Manual of style, main page

  • Numbers as figures or words. In the body of an article, whole numbers from zero to ten (rather than the previous zero to nine) are spelled out in words. [Now inconsistent with MOSNUM] The previous insistence that ordinals for centuries be expressed in figures (the 5th century) has been made optional (the 5th century or the fifth century).
  • Avoid first-person pronouns. It is now acceptable to use we in historical articles to mean the modern world as a whole (The text of De re publica has come down to us with substantial sections missing).
  • Foreign terms. "Unitalicized" was added to this point: "A rule of thumb is: do not italicize words that appear unitalicized in an English language dictionary."
  • Spelling and transliteration. [Additions underlined, removals struck through] For terms in common usage, use anglicized spellings; native spellings are an optional alternative if they use the Latin English alphabet. The choice between anglicized and native spellings should follow English usage (e.g., Besançon, Edvard Beneš and Göttingen, but Nuremburg, role, and Florence). Article titles follow our naming conventions. Diacritics are optional, except where they are required for disambiguation English overwhelmingly uses them, whether for disambiguation or for accurate pronunciation (résumé, café). Where native spellings in non-Latin scripts (such as Greek and Cyrillic) are given, they normally appear in parentheses (except where the sense requires otherwise), and are not italicized, even where this is technically feasible.


  • "See also" sections. Slight rewording: Links already included in the body of the text are generally not repeated in "See also"; however whether a link belongs in the "See also" section is ultimately a matter of editorial judgment and common sense.
  • End sections. Greater flexibility is now permitted in the order of these sections: although the preferred order [of the sections is "See also", "Notes" (or "Footnotes"), "References" (or a combined Notes and references), "Bibliography" (or Books or Further reading), and "External links", it is permissible to change the sequence of these ending sections if there is good reason to do so. However, if an article has both "Notes" and "References" sections, "Notes" should immediately precede "References".


  • Op. cit. was added to Ibid as an abbreviation that should not be used in footnotes.
  • Addition (underlined): "Unsourced or poorly sourced material may be removed from any article, and if it is, the burden of proof is on the editor who wishes to restore it."

FAC instructions

  • Phrase added (underlined): Before nominating an article, nominators may wish to receive feedback by listing it at Wikipedia:Peer review or the League of Copyeditors.
  • Phrase added (underlined): Nominators are expected to respond positively to constructive criticism and to make an effort to address objections promptly.
  • Minor changes to the mechanics of adding a nomination.
  • Addition: "[Stating at the top of the page] a reason for nominating, and a declaration of "Support" are not necessary."

January 2008

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527) was the author of The Prince and a prototypical Renaissance man. Detail from a portrait by Santi di Tito

Manual of style, main page

  • Non-breaking spaces. Added: "In compound items in which numerical and non-numerical elements are separated by a space, a non-breaking space (or hard space) is recommended to avoid the displacement of those elements at the end of a line." A caveat was inserted concerning disadvantages of using the {{nowrap}} template.
  • Captions. Added: If a caption contains a complete sentence, any other sentence fragments in the caption should themselves end with a period.

FAC instructions

  • Added: "If a nominator feels that an Oppose has been addressed, they should say so after the reviewer's signature rather than striking out or splitting up the reviewer's text.... nominators should not alter, strike, break up, or add graphics to comments from other editors; replies are added below the signature on the reviewer's commentary."

Non-free content policy

  • Criterion 3. Removed: "If your image is greater than 500–600px add {{non-free reduce}} to the Image: namespace and someone from Wikipedia will shrink the image to comply with this guideline."

Also this week:

BLPs — School threat — Global features — WikiWorld — News and notes — In the news — Dispatches — WikiProject report — Features and admins — Technology report — Arbitration report

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