Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Shortcuts:
WikiProject Manual of Style
WikiProject icon This page falls within the scope of WikiProject Manual of Style, a drive to identify and address contradictions and redundancies, improve language, and coordinate the pages that form the MoS guidelines.
 

It has been 104 days since the outbreak
of the latest dispute over date formats.

Metre or meter in scientific articles?[edit]

Does Dr John Howard have an active account on this Wikipedia? BushelCandle (talk) 23:54, 30 January 2016 (UTC)

Let's hope not. But official pronouncements aside, American readers expect meter for the unit of length, and perceive metre as a Briticism (as does, BTW, my spellchecker as I type this). EEng 00:32, 31 January 2016 (UTC) Keep up the good work!
Since they have successfully resisted the introduction of metres and kilograms in their daily life in the US, do they not just regard "metres" as foreign words anyway and have no real problem encountering the more usual spelling? The US army overseas often spells it as metres and kilometres (mind you, that bunch seems to be quite un-American in using the 24h time notation...). Since there isn't a US equivalent of the académie française, how do you determine that theatre and metre are wrong and theater and meter are right in scientific articles ? BushelCandle (talk) 00:48, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
[FBDB] In case you haven't heard, Donald Trump makes all these decisions now, and he says meter is the best, the smartest, the classiest unit of measure ever, while metre is for ignorant loafing Muslim commie illegal immigrant criminal terrorists. EEng 02:51, 31 January 2016 (UTC) Seriously, American usage is kind of like Wikipedia, actually—​no official hierarchy or central authority, but a de facto consensus of respected writers. A quick sample shows that NYT, for example, uses meter.
Meister des Hausbuches 003.jpg
If meter was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for us. Dicklyon (talk) 02:53, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Nonsense. Everyone knows Jesus was partial to feet. EEng 03:04, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Meter has more meanings than metre, so there's less potential for confusion with the latter. In the English-speaking world, metre is more common. As the Frogs came up with the whole system, their spelling has more resonance. Same deal with liter, I guess which always looks to these eyes like some way of describing low-taste food. Lite, liter, litest. --Pete (talk) 09:25, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
Fabulous article, BTW. Written in extraordinary detail by a fair dinkum word nerd. --Pete (talk) 09:49, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
The spelling is "meter" in American English, and "metre" in International English (i.e. the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and almost everywhere outside the US.) The choice for the latter countries was determined by the need to prevent ambiguity between "meter" the measurement device, and "metre" the unit of measure (similar to the spellings for "to", "too", and "two" and "for", "fore", and "four"). International English is gradually becoming the lingua franca of the entire world (e.g. every school child in China is now learning English from the age of 3) so... if you're not American, maybe you should use "metre".RockyMtnGuy (talk) 17:43, 31 January 2016 (UTC)

Singular version with whole number 1?[edit]

I just noticed that the WP:DECIMAL section says:

"Nouns following a number expressed as a decimal are plural (averaging 0.7 years)."

It seems to me that this should be amended for when the number is the whole number 1 without any fractional component, as in:

"Nouns following a number expressed as a decimal are plural (averaging 0.7 years). The exception would be for the whole number 1, in which case the singular is acceptable (lasting 1 hour)"

I was going to be WP:BOLD, because I've been copyediting to reflect this exception, but thought I'd better bring it here first. Slambo (Speak) 12:10, 4 February 2016 (UTC)

"Expressed as a decimal" means "with a decimal point and digits to the right of it". This is what WP:DECIMAL addresses. The number 1, written as a whole number in your own example, isn't "a number expressed as a decimal", and is outside the scope of that rule, as are 3, 42, 0, -5, 6½, π, etc. —Largo Plazo (talk) 13:20, 4 February 2016 (UTC)
  • I've made a bold edit [1] which I hope is on target:
Nouns following any number other than 1 (unsigned) are plural (increased 0.7 percentage points, π radians, 365.25 days, final balance zero dollars, increased by 1 vote but net change +1 votes or net change of −1 votes).
I'm certainly open to discussion on the +1 and -1 cases. EEng 00:11, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
I think your series of recent edits means that the style guide prose is now correct as it appears on the page. (The only tiny quibble I would have is that, strictly speaking, it is unnecessary to have a non breaking space between an amount and "dollars" or "days" - a normal space is also acceptable.) BushelCandle (talk) 14:19, 5 February 2016 (UTC)
The  s aren't there as part of the code being specified/recommended for actual use; they're just there to prevent certain unintended line-wraps in the presentation of these examples here in MOS, since MOS is hard enough to understand as it is. In this case, I wanted to be sure that the decimal-other-than-unsigned-1 (or in one case, decimal-which-is-unsigned-1) always is immediately adjacent to the singular or plural noun, so that the lesson of the example can't be lost. EEng 03:23, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
Excellent point! (Perhaps replace non-breaking spaces with the template Nowrap then ?) BushelCandle (talk) 03:54, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

YYYY–present[edit]

I see in the talk archives that there is no agreement whether the year range "YYYY–present", or the expression "Since YYYY", or the template {{As of}} should be used to indicate on ongoing year range, e.g. in succession boxes. It is often acknowledged that many Wikiprojects do use the "YYYY–present" format, though, and some of those have it in their own documentation. Rather than reviving a discussion on the merits on one system over the other, I would like to raise something slightly different, and that is that when the "YYYY–present" is used, some editors use a spaced endash, whilst others (most?) use the unspaced version. It's certainly not clear from the current MOS wording in WP:DATERANGE what to do. Hence my suggestion to clarify what the correct use of this particular range is where Wikiprojects allow, prefer, or encourage its use, whilst stating that there is no global consensus for any of the various ways of expressing an ongoing year range. I'm sure that such a compromise would be a useful addition to the MOS, as it removes an area of style ambiguity.

And by the way, my understanding is that the unspaced version is the correct form for this year range, as there isn't another space already in the range. Schwede66 00:42, 17 January 2016 (UTC)

  • Absolutely agree unspaced, and we should add this as an example. However, since ranges frequently arise in tables (where horizontal space is at a premium) I suggest we explicitly allow
1985–pres.
in the case of tables (not text), so it will be no wider than "1985 to 1999". EEng (talk) 01:36, 17 January 2016 (UTC)
<ping> EEng 00:40, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
Not thrilled with the abbreviation "pres.". Definitely unspaced, and no capital P either. I often find myself correcting these mistakes. I have no problem allowing "Since ...". Tony (talk) 05:58, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Wait, aren't we supposed to avoid statements about "the present", because they are instantly dated? Maybe there's no real use case here anyway. EEng 06:16, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Year ranges that extend to the present time are commonly used in succession boxes, lists, and the likes. There would be hundreds of use cases occurring in articles that the New Zealand politics task force covers. Schwede66 18:01, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
Good point; I wasn't thinking. So that brings us back to my earlier point. If we follow Tony's advice and disallow 1985–pres., then in a table of officeholders the "Years in office" column would have to be wide enough to accommodate 1985–present, even though all the other values are only as wide as 1981-1985 -- either that, or the "to present" value would have to be coded as 1985–<br/>present to break it into two lines. (I'm a great believer in using horizontal space in tables as efficiently as possible.) Personally I think it'd be ok to allow 1985–pres. EEng 19:06, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
Open-ended date ranges are an issue in other places as well; for example some online sources suggest referencing them with forms like "2001 onwards" (e.g. here) but, citing this MOS page, the maintainers of the cite/citation templates don't allow open-ended date ranges which throw an error. So be aware that a decision here could have implications elsewhere.
Personally, I think the use of "present" should be avoided; it's spuriously precise. Tony1's "since YYYY" is fine, as is "YYYY onwards"; both are slightly vague about the end date. Peter coxhead (talk) 20:36, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
Since implies up until the present, so there is no obvious difference.—Bagumba (talk) 20:44, 21 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Facts that can be expected to be updated regularly are an exception to WP:DATED and the use of words such as present. —Bagumba (talk) 20:44, 21 January 2016 (UTC)

Discussion revives...[edit]

Should a date range that includes the present be expressed as "1963–present", "1963 – present", or "1963 – Present"? Should such an expression be avoided (e.g., by using "since 1963"?) Looking into the archives, I see that this has been discussed before, but I do not see any guidance in MOS:DATERANGE about it. If multiple ways of expressing such a range are allowable, I think it would be helpful to say that explicitly. As a specific example of the issue, please see this edit (by me). —BarrelProof (talk) 19:37, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

I see no reason to include spaces. There is no difference between "xxxx–xxxx" and "xxxx–present" in my mind. RGloucester 20:01, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
I agree. I'm not sure guidance is required in the rule (maybe it is). I'd be careful about using "present" and I don't do it myself, I use "1963–2016" instead. The problem with "1963–present" is that it's out of date as soon as you hit the ENTER key, the danger is that you forget about it and nobody notices it and all of a sudden it's 2021 and the situation described under "1963–present" became no longer true in 2018... (There is {{Asof}} and other templates such as {{Update after}} which can help with this I guess, providing enough people patrol these, which I kind of doubt.) Herostratus (talk) 20:31, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
Herostratus, may I point out the obvious, and that is that as soon as 2017 arrives, your entry has become outdated? Schwede66 20:35, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
Even before 2017 arrives, if a specific year is identified as the end of the range, the reader may get the impression they are being told the described period of time has ended. Look at the opening sentence of the David Cameron article. It has three uses of "since", and all of those would seem rather strange if converted to "20xx–2016". We also cannot escape the need to use "is" or "has been" for periods that include the present and "was" for periods that do not – which is another aspect that must be updated when something happens. Also, the need to repeatedly update the end year seems rather strange – especially when the described status seems highly unlikely to change. —BarrelProof (talk) 21:08, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
There are a lot of good points made about the usage of "Since YYYY", but they are really only valid in prose. In a table, where there are lots of year ranges, "YYYY-present" for the latest period will have to be more logical than any construction with "since". Schwede66 04:00, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
As seen in my post below (the one with the little example table) I think the apparent disagreement re present/pres. vs. since is really just that some editors are thinking more of prose, and others are thinking more of tables. I thought about adding something saying that present/pres. is only for tables/infoboxes, but it comes out awkward and overworried, and I couldn't convince myself that there are no cases in which they might be used in prose. Thus I'm inclined to leave this to editor's good sense. EEng 05:22, 8 February 2016 (UTC)

Proposal[edit]

Under the heading Ranges, there is a subheading Notes with three bullet points. I propose that we add a fourth bullet point as follows:

A range may extend to the present time, but there is no consensus to the use of the term "present"; some editors argue that the the expression "Since YYYY" should be used instead. Where the use of "present" is preferred, an unspaced endash is to be used. Where year ranges are used in narrow table columns, the use of "YYYY–pres." is acceptable. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Schwede66 (talkcontribs)
I would prefer something like this:
If the start of a range is determined, but the end is undetermined because the subject is ongoing, the form YYYY–present may be used. An unspaced endash is used in this case. Do not use a hyphen (YYYY-present), spaces (YYYY – present), or a capital "p" (YYYY–Present).
I don't think we should comment in the MoS about when or whether or not this format should be used, merely on how to style it. RGloucester 21:10, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
  • How about saying this:
In cases where the date range starts with an identified year and includes the present time, the period of time may be expressed as "since YYYY" or "YYYY–present". Do not use a hyphen (YYYY-present), spaces (YYYY – present), or a capital "p" (YYYY–Present). Where year ranges are used in narrow table columns, the use of "YYYY–pres." is acceptable.

BarrelProof (talk) 21:33, 7 February 2016 (UTC)

That's fine, though I don't know how keen I am on "pres." I shan't object to its use, however. RGloucester 21:56, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
  • I've tinkered with BarrelProof's edit a bit [2] to generalize it:
Constructions such as 1982–present (unspaced ndash), and January 1, 2011 – present or January 2011 – present (spaced ndash), may be used where appropriate (see #Statements likely to become outdated and WP:RELTIME). In tables, infoboxes, and so on, pres. may be used (1982–pres.) to conserve horizontal space.
Pinging Tony1 since he too had some hesitation about pres., but I'm hoping he will join RG in shan't objecting to it as well, at least the way I've phras'd it, my liege. EEng 22:16, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Never use "present" in this context, I'd oppose any style recommendation that even suggests "present" or "Present" in this context would be acceptable. Find another way to express it but never using the word "present". --Francis Schonken (talk) 22:41, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
    • I prefer Barrel's. But just one point: "Since YYYY" is the same length as is YYYY–pres., but doesn't involve a dash and a dotted abbreviation. As a copy-editor I would always correct it to the former, which is easier to read and recognise. But that doesn't reduce my pref. for Barel's proposed wording over RG's, which doesn't even mention "since". In both proposals, "a capital" could be just "capital". Tony (talk) 23:11, 7 February 2016 (UTC)
Tony, if what you're saying is that "Under the leadership of Williams (chairman 2010–present)..." would be better as "Under the leadership of Williams (chairman since 2010)...", I agree -- even though "Under the leadership of Jones (chairman 2005–2010)..." is OK. But would you really object to this table?
Company chairmen
Name Term
Smith 2001–2005
Jones 2005–2010
Williams 2010–pres.
One not-minor consideration is that the format above will sort properly. EEng 01:41, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
I really hate "pres." too (and it's not entirely obvious as to what it means for non-native speakers of English like myself) but I'm wracking my brains to think of a clearer, less ugly, short alternative for use in tables, etc and coming up with zilch other than the spuriously precise "today"... BushelCandle (talk) 04:02, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
How about "2010–now"? Just kidding. EEng 05:22, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
You won't believe this, but while I was airborne I reached the same conclusion; "now" is less prone to baffle folks on first encounter, shorter, less ugly but still has the same problems with sorting properly and a spurious air of exactitude. However, were it to gain traction, then presumably it would be a relatively trivial task to tweak the sorting routine? BushelCandle (talk) 08:34, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
Um, perhaps you missed my little Just kidding -- now is too colloquial, I think.
Not sure what you're saying about sorting. If everything's of the form YYYY-[something] (where [something] is maybe YYYY or maybe pres. or maybe now, but in fact can be anything) AND no two entries have the same YYYY on the left side, then the entries sort correctly even if treated as just text -- no change to sort routine needed (because no sort routine is needed). EEng 09:18, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
In tables or other ‘short form‘ usage, what’s wrong with just a dash, “2010–”? Elsewhere I certainly agree with the above about avoiding “present”, be it with “since” or something more specific, “appointed”, “elected”, “acceded”, “born”, &c., according to context.—Odysseus1479 06:13, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
You see "2010–    " on the last entry on tablets on buildings e.g. "Pastors of the First Church", so that when the present pastor retires, you just add the missing year. But in writing I think it looks at first like something's been accidentally omitted. EEng 07:07, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
  • To me it seems that the use of constructions like "YYYY–present" and "Month DD, YYYY – present" is a very widespread phenomenon on Wikipedia. I doubt we can get a consensus to prohibit that (and I don't personally see anything too wrong with it). The best we can do is acknowledge that it exists and try to give it a consistent formatting (i.e., not "YYYY–Present" or "YYYY – present" or "YYYY – Present"). —BarrelProof (talk) 06:36, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
I strongly agree with this position. There is no need for the MoS to proscribe a widely used way of expressing date ranges on Wikipedia at this moment. I agree that it should not be used in prose, but it is often times the best solution in tables, lists, article titles, section headers, and so on. All we can do is ensure that it is styled correctly, which is what the proposed guidance does. Editorial consensus on talk pages can determine whether or not a specific instance of its use is appropriate. RGloucester 14:27, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Still oppose anything of the kind, and the complacency that goes with it. The reasons why expressions of this kind can not be used are obvious (sorry if you're insensitive to them), I think these reasons start with WP:V. "Present" in Wikipedia's voice can't be referenced to a reliable source. "Present", "currently", "now", etc can only be referenced to reliable sources that most obviously would have a publication date, so it can only be used with an in-text attribution that makes clear when the reliable source said it.
FYI, this sorts as well:
Company chairmen
Name Term
start end
Smith 2001 2005
Jones 2005 2010
Williams 2010
Also just saw that the proposals above would be incompatible with WP:EPHEMERAL which is another section of this same guideline. --Francis Schonken (talk) 09:17, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
Your statement that present-type statements need in-text attribution is nonsense. President of the United States and Barack Obama (the latter an FA, BTW) say "On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama became the 44th and current president" and "Barack Hussein Obama II is an American politician currently serving as the 44th President of the United States"—​without in-text attribution—​and that's perfectly OK for obvious reasons. (Sorry if you're insensitive to those reasons, and you probably should cut the high-handed faux regret. If you were the master stylist you seem to imagine yourself to be, you wouldn't use comma splices and independent parenthetical suspensions, and write "the reasons why", and certainly not all those in one "sentence".)
Anyway your arguments against "2010–present"—​were they valid—​are just as valid against "2010–    ", because they have exactly the same semantics. So why are you using them to (apparently, from your table) argue for the latter over the former?
FYI, your table has nothing to do with anything, since
Company chairmen
Name Term
Smith 2001–2005
Jones 2005–2010
Williams 2010–
sorts correctly too, as does
Company chairmen
Name Term
Smith 2001–2005
Jones 2005–2010
Williams 2010–pres.
And finally, WP:EPHEMERAL is the same as WP:DATED, which was discussed above already: pages that can be expected to be updated regularly are excepted.
Lest this seem overharsh, I note that I'm the second person in 24 hours [3], and one of many over a longer period, who's needed to warn you about your misplaced confidence in your command of English. The "complacency" would seem to be yours. EEng 10:08, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
How about something in this vein:
Company chairmen
Name Term
Smith 2001–2005
Jones 2005–2010
Williams 2010–...[a]
Notes
  1. ^ Started a second 5-year term in 2015
Or:
Company chairmen
Name Term
Smith 2001–2005
Jones 2005–2010
Williams As of 2010
(with a data-sort parameter in the last row)
Even for the supposedly "regularly updated" variety this would imho work better: take the last two rows for the table at History of FIFA#List of Presidents of FIFA, currently using "2015–present", wouldn't this be more informative to the reader:
8 Sepp Blatter   Switzerland 1998–2015
Issa Hayatou (acting)  Cameroon 2015–...[a]
Notes
--Francis Schonken (talk) 10:40, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
  • My reaction to the various suggestions above: In tables and parentheticals where the format XXXX–YYYY is used to denote ranges, I've seen XXXX– and I've seen XXXX–present. I don't think I've seen XXXX–pres., XXXX–now, XXXX–..., or since XXXX}}. (The last one makes me think of a restaurant: "Serving everyone's favorite steaks since 1937.")
I don't understand Francis Schonken's arguments against "present", "current", etc. If I write on February 8 that Barack Obama is currently the president of the United States, and thousands of reliable sources published on February 8 refer to Barack Obama as the president of the United States, it's done. Of course, any such reference is a candidate for becoming speedily outdated, but an encyclopedia really can't avoid speaking of the present. The table Francis Schonken offers as an example doesn't help, in my opinion. Leaving an empty box for the end of someone's term is still a statement that currently, in the present, his term hasn't ended. The day after his term ends, it will be untrue that his term has no end date, and no reliable source will support it; but it will remain empty until someone fills it in. I briefly, some years ago, realized the problem posed by "currently", especially with respect to such ephemera as "X is currently filming ...", but stopped worrying about it once I realized that, as a practical matter, there was nothing to be done about. —Largo Plazo (talk) 16:51, 8 February 2016 (UTC)
  • After reading all the above, I'd just add that as so many of our articles aren't kept up-to-date very rigorously, slightly vaguer forms can be safer, such as "from 2010" in prose and yes, "2010–" in tables. "Present" is too definite and "pres." is a jarringly unfamiliar abbreviation and even potentially confusing, e.g. in a list of vice-presidents. I'm not sure deprecating "-present" and "-pres." would be effective, even if we found consensus here, but I'd rather we didn't actually recommend them. NebY (talk) 17:34, 8 February 2016 (UTC)