Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style

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Pronoun pref[edit]

Regarding MOS:IDENTITY I am wondering if we can include Janae Marie Kroc as an illustrative example.

This applies in references to any phase of that person's life, unless the subject has indicated a preference otherwise

JM Kroc has stated a desire, in genderfluidity, to be addressed by whatever pronoun is appropriate to how they are presenting. So since Kroc presented as male for the earlier portion of life, it would be appropriate to use male pronouns earlier in their life.

Even now, with Kroc assuming a female name and central identity, this also means they can be referred to as male in present day if presenting as a male, like for example if Kroc was to compete in another male powerlifting event, set a male world record, compete in a male bodybuilding event, or challenge CM Punk in a UFC fight or something. However is Kroc is dressed in female clothing it would be appropriate to use female pronouns. (talk) 17:36, 14 August 2015 (UTC)

You are interpreting the rule correctly. If anyone gives you trouble, make sure you have a link to a quote of Kroc stating his or her preference. A personal blog is acceptable in this case. Darkfrog24 (talk) 18:50, 14 August 2015 (UTC)
I believe that this is saying that Kroc is the exception to MOS:IDENTITY because she prefers to be thought of as someone who actually was a man before her body was changed with surgery, not a woman trapped in a man's body. Georgia guy (talk) 18:56, 14 August 2015 (UTC)
I believe this is why MOS:IDENTITY is poorly thought out. It was authored by wanna-be "allies" not by transgender people, and they're making incorrect generalized, politicized assumptions and WP:SOAPBOXing them here. I know quite a few TG people, and only a small minority are into this "deadname" stuff and trying to erase their past, though many, yes, did feel they were misgendered from an early age. These experiences, sentiments about them, and actual expectations differ widely and frequently. MOS (and, should this be moved, any other policy or guideline) should not attempt to "legislate" some language police WP:ACTIVISTs' personally preferred one-size-fits-all solution, but approach this from a "how to best serve the readership while accounting for WP:BLP subjects' interests where reasonable" perspective like we do everything else. The huge thread atop WP:VPPOL indicates the general shape how to approach this: Use clarifying language (e.g. "Kaitlyn (then Bruce) Jenner won the [whatever medal], competing as a man"), and avoid pronouns. This is not rocket science, it's just clear writing.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  00:57, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
User:SMcCandlish, what do you support the rule should be changed to?? Please simply reveal what you think the paragraph that starts with "Any person whose gender might be questioned..." Georgia guy (talk) 13:17, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
I had actually written up a new version, and an analysis, word by word, line by line, what to change and why (from policy, socio-linguistic, utility, and other perspectives) and then lost it in a browser crash. Several hours of work. I haven't had the heart to try it again just yet, and it might be wasted effort until we see what emerges from Wikipedia:Village pump (policy)/Archive 121#MOS:IDENTITY clarification, which I didn't realize until just now had been archived without formal closure. It's unclear if it will be unarchived for closure, or left to rot, but it's 4:1 in favor of a formal closure of that, at WP:ANRFC. I'm skeptical that changes made here without closure of that discussion, with whatever consensus findings can be extracted by it, would be accepted long term. A large number of people put a large amount of time into that discussion and are unlikely to want to see it ignored. If it the closure request is administratively rejected, or ignored for another month or so, maybe the best approach would be a review it as if closing, and try to figure out what the community wants, and then rewrite from there. I know what my own perception was, but I haven't looked at that discussion in probably a month, and am not certain how it shaped up at the end. In the interim, I guess I could write up what I think some of the issues are with the current wording. It's very palimpsestuous and has a "too many cooks" problem that's resulted in some logic problems, not all of which are immediately apparent.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  04:13, 22 August 2015 (UTC)

RE MOS:IDENTITY. I searched for Bruce Jenner, which was redirected to Caitlyn Jenner, and I see the article uses she and her pronouns instead of he and him. This is a misuse of the English language. Wiktionary defines "her" as the form of "she" after a preposition. "She" refers to a "female" person or animal. "Female" is defined as "Belonging to the sex which typically produces eggs, which in humans and most other mammals is typically the one which has XX chromosomes." Bruce Jenner does not belong to the female sex by this definition: he is male, i.e. he has testes and XY chromosomes. By calling Bruce "she" you are not using the English language; rather some arbitrary LBGTQ language Ascherf (talk) 18:09, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

Wiktionary also notes that female refers to the female gender. That is the definition Wikipedia has chosen to follow in MOS:IDENTITY: because Jenner presents as female, particularly with respect to gender identity, articles here use the feminine pronouns. —C.Fred (talk) 18:17, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
Sex and gender are actually more complicated than just XY or XX. Our genes (chromosomes), gene expression, body chemistry and sometimes even diet and environment all figure into it. For the overwhelming majority of humanity, everything matches and there is no ambiguity, but not always. For example, there are women who have XY chromosomes, women with the more complete form of androgen insensitivity syndrome. They appear female to all outward examination (even when newborn babies with no clothes on), and they have XY chromosomes, but their cell receptors can't process testosterone, so they develop into women during puberty. Many of them don't even know that their bodies have this male trait, and they're called "she" all their lives.
But that's not the same thing as being trans. I imagine at some point in the future there will be studies out of neuroscience and psychology to explain exactly why some people are trans. Perhaps Jenner always had some kind of female brain anatomy. Right now, though, we have to do the best we can. What we do know right now is that Jenner and Manning and all the other trans individuals in the news are not making this up; something about Jenner always was female, even though her body certainly does have male traits as well. We might as well use the pronoun that is most polite, which in Jenner's case is "she." We don't ask to see under Queen Elizabeth II's clothes to tell what pronoun to use for her; we should take Jenner at her word too. Darkfrog24 (talk) 18:21, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

Some fairly recent history: See Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 149#Self-designation trumps reliable sources?. The original attempt at this rule was unanimously rejected at the time. What was objectionable about that version has something to do with the problems with the current one, though it's one of only about a dozen problems.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:21, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

RfC: Are personal pronouns (including "who") to be avoided for fictional characters?[edit]

Is it incorrect to use personal pronouns such as "he", "she", or "who" to refer to fictional characters? For example:

Nelvana is a fictional superhero who first appeared in Triumph-Adventure Comics #1.
Nelvana is a fictional superhero that first appeared in Triumph-Adventure Comics #1.
Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 09:14, 18 August 2015 (UTC)

Discussion (pronouns for fictional characters)[edit]

  • There are editors who insist that, since a character is not a living human, it cannot be referred to with a personal pronoun. I am not aware of any style guide that recommends avoiding personal pronouns for characters, nor am I aware of this being generally true in spoken or written English (or why it should be). Some editors nevertheless change "who" to "that" in articles on fictional characters, as here. Lacking evidence from real-world usage or styleguide recommendations, this appears pointless at best, and in many cases unnatural and awkward.
    Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 09:14, 18 August 2015 (UTC)
    How widespread is this problem? Did this just come up once or more than once? If lots of people are getting confused by this issue, then an addition to the MoS is warranted. Darkfrog24 (talk) 12:51, 18 August 2015 (UTC)
    This has been "standard" at WP:COMIC for longer than I've been here. I'm not aware of any other WikiProject that supports the idea, but the editors at WP:COMIC have come to believe that their local decisions are valid elsewhere (for instance, disambiguating all comics character articles with (comics) where (character) is standard elsewhere, which has resulted in endless moves at articles like Wolverine (character) and Hulk (comics)). Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 22:04, 18 August 2015 (UTC)
    This came up a couple of years ago at Batman. My comment then was: I'm a strong supporter of the WP:WAF guideline, but I don't think it suggests we should grammatically treat fictional characters as inanimate objects; that's just not how English works. That interpretation would lead to truly absurd text: "It fights an assortment of villains assisted by its crime-fighting partner, Robin." *Of course not. The only reason that sounds less glaringly wrong is because it is increasingly common to use that when referring to people, however, doing so is still widely considered an error, and should be avoided.--Trystan (talk) 13:14, 18 August 2015 (UTC)
  • How is this any different from centuries of literary criticism where people have referred to fictional characters as "he" or "she"? See Jane Eyre (character) for the first one who came to mind. PamD 13:35, 18 August 2015 (UTC)
    OK, that's not the best of articles, lots of unsourced stuff, but Lady Macbeth is a Good Article and refers to the character as "she" throughout. I wonder if there are any FAs for fict characters. PamD 13:38, 18 August 2015 (UTC)
    Yes. Kenneth Widmerpool. FA, and "he becomes increasingly formidable, powerful and ultimately sinister as the novels progress". Or am I missing something, and superheros are in some way different (beyond their superpowers) from characters in novels? PamD 13:43, 18 August 2015 (UTC)
    This appears to be a pet issue of the superhero faction of WP:COMIC, but they do make the claim that it applies to all fictional characters, so if any of them were interested enough in any of the articles you've linked to, I imagine they'd make the same change. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 21:59, 18 August 2015 (UTC)
    This is the fairly classic "popular culture isn't as good as older but still popular culture which has become known as heritage, literature, and etc--at least on Wikipedia" bias that spawned as a counterforce to the overwhelming documentation of fictional elements relative to "scholarly" elements prior to 2007 or so. It's nothing new. --Izno (talk) 15:08, 18 August 2015 (UTC)
  • There is a somewhat interesting question hidden in the question of: what about characters that appears as both genders (aka genderbent) at some point in their history? I can't think of any off the top of my head presently, but I suspect we'll be seeing more of them as time passes and cultural barriers come down. --Izno (talk) 15:11, 18 August 2015 (UTC)
    I'm not confident of that, Izno. The question seems to be "Should we refer to fictional characters the same way we'd refer to real people?" The answer is "Yes (and really why did you have to ask?)." I imagine we'd refer to a genderfluid fictional character the same way we'd refer to a genderfluid human, though for actual fictional beings who do not have gender at all, like fictional aliens, we could find some precedent in the literary criticism of 20th century science fiction. Darkfrog24 (talk) 17:32, 18 August 2015 (UTC)
    Genderfluidity isn't what I'm getting at, actually. I'm talking about characters who are distinctly one or the other given a particular serialization referencing that character e.g. female Thor. Yours is probably still the correct answer, but it's an interesting question because there's no actual definite "he"/"she" then. "Predominantly depicted as a he/she" would be a phrase I'd expect to see in that case, I suppose. --Izno (talk) 18:09, 18 August 2015 (UTC)
    This discussion is supposed to be about animate vs inanimate pronouns. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 21:59, 18 August 2015 (UTC)
  • This matter seems to be, "The only reason we don't have a rule about this is because it's a non-issue the overwhelming majority of the time." There seems to be no serious question regarding what the rule is, only whether we need to use the space to tell people about it. Darkfrog24 (talk) 17:32, 18 August 2015 (UTC)
  • We're not going to use pronouns because they are fictional? What kind of weird fundamentalist idea is this? Refer to fictional persons as we would real people. Ogress smash! 23:31, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
  • And the answer for gender-unclear individuals is "they", which is been the gender neutral 3p singular pronoun. Chaucer and Shakespeare used it and people who say they don't use it even use it speech unknowingly all the time. Ogress smash! 23:33, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
  • I don't think there's a universal answer here. When talking in terms of the fiction (including talking about the development of the character in the work of fiction such as the Batman/Robin example given above), refering to the characters with "who" rather than "that" makes sense, because we're writing about a fictional person at that point. But when we're talking about the character as strictly an element in an out-of-universe fashion, as the lead example gives, referring to the character as a thing ("that" instead of "who") makes more sense. But it all really depends on the context and I don't think one rule can capture all uses easily. --MASEM (t) 23:39, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
    • ^^You understand it perfectly. That is exactly how it is.Cebr1979 (talk) 23:49, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
      • You mean, that's how you wish it were. Meanwhile, back in reality ... Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 23:52, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
    • It's fine to have a belief, Masem, but
      1. where in the real world does this belief hold currency?
      2. in what tangible way is the encyclopaedia improved by adhering to such a belief? In what way could the encyclopaedia suffer damage by using personal pronouns for fictional characters?
      3. how would this hold for hypothetical (thus fictional) persons? e.g. is "There will never be a person who can travel backward in time." an error?
      Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 23:52, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
I think the difference is understanding when the character is being discussed as a character whether within the work of fiction or as the development of that work of fiction (to which "he/she/who/etc." type pronouns apply) and when the character is being discussed as a creative idea or concept (for which "that/which" type pronouns apply). It is also important to recognize that one should not force the idea of "individualizing" a fictional concept when the context is not appropriate. For example (not real wording but to get the idea across) "Superman is a character created by Siegel and Schuster. They created him in 1933." is forcing the personal pronoun since we know that Siegel and Schuster never actually created a "person", which the "him" pronoun implies. Instead the language that our article acctually uses "The character was created by the two in 1933." is the right way to approach it, or "They created the character in 1933..." So sometimes these knots of which pronoun to use are created by poor approach to the existing language around it. --MASEM (t) 16:21, 20 August 2015 (UTC)

How many times are we going to have this conversation? Oh, until someone gets the only definitive answer they'll accept.Cebr1979 (talk) 23:46, 19 August 2015 (UTC)

  • Support Masem - his description covers it perfectly. It basically depends on context. Excluding gender pronouns altogether is going to lead to awkward sentences, and probably general confusion as to what the pronoun is referring to in more complex sentences, so avoiding altogether is not a good approach. Either way, I don't see this being much of a problem that a guideline needs to be put in place. If its just one person who keeps bringing it up, they drop it and work on more pressing issues. Sergecross73 msg me 12:55, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
Talk about failure of reading comprehension (and overuse of "talk about"; twice in the same thread? Seriously?). No one said it's never used, just that it looks terrible and is easily avoided with better writing: "Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, appearing in the 1880s, was the most popular ...".  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  17:37, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
And this would be my suggestion too: when it is clearly not talking about the character within the scope of their fictional world but as a creative element or property or similar out-of-universe factor, then rewriting sentences to simply avoid having to use a controversial choice of pronouns is a better solution. If we're talking the character as related to their role in the work of fiction , then one can use the natural-sounding "person" pronouns without issue. --MASEM (t) 17:44, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
Yep. The very fact that this is so heated and so perennial conclusively proves it's controversial, and much of the point of MoS is helping editors avoid getting into the same controversies over and over again. MoS clearly should advise rewriting to avoid controversy, and should note that the difficulty only arises in poorly worded cases like "Superman, who was sold" vs. "Superman which was sold", never in cases like "The trademark rights [or whichever ones we're actually talking about] to Superman, which were sold", and not in cases like "Superman, who was born on a planet named Krypton", when writing in-universe plot summaries.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:46, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

I think it is safe to say there is a majority consensus, there is only one editor who wants it his way...Cebr1979 (talk) 22:03, 20 August 2015 (UTC)

  • Amazing you state this, when you've just cited this RfC which I didn't start (and which rejected your ridiculous prescription). But when you have no evidence to bakc yourself up, I suppose you resort to ad hominems. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 05:09, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

From my point of view, fictional characters are still "people" - as in, they have identities and personalities. If the character in question has an identity that can be considered reasonably close to human, the term "who/whom" makes sense, as you're referring to an individual. This also applies to a group of individuals. If you're referring to something that is inanimate (eg. a computer with no specific identity), then "it" and "that" make more sense. However, HAL 9000 is identifiably male, and GLaDOS is identifiably female, and as such it makes sense to use gender-specific pronouns for them, as well as refer to them with "who" rather than "that". IMO, there is almost no difference between real-life identities and fictional ones in this respect. Also, while I'm not participating in the comics project, I have never once seen a review or article about a comic book character that used inanimate pronouns to refer to that character when it had a gender identity. The only times I've seen the words "it" and "that" used to describe such a character have been when referring to generic robots and machines, alien creatures for which individual identity isn't important, etc..) — KieferSkunk (talk) — 21:47, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

  • No rule needed, just say no to micro-management. It and that is used with antecendents that are impersonal, where as he/she/who is used with human/personal antecedents. Hence "Superman depends on his ability to fly" is correct. And so is "The superman character depends on its ability to fly". Writers must have freedom to choose between these two construction types.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 06:15, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
Comment: while I agree with your instinct not to micromanage, "The superman character depends on its ability to fly" is not a good example and not remotely correct. You're talking about personal attributes of the character, and should still be using "his". The use of "its" is only reasonable when you're talking about a character as a property or a franchise, in terms of ownership, copyright, film options etc. "The Superman character, which has long been a goldmine for its owners, DC Comics" is good English. But when talking about a character as a character, in terms of personality, attributes, abilities etc, as in your example, "its" is incorrect. --Nicknack009 (talk) 08:02, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
Neither is "incorrect". Some people around these parts really need to learn that not every usage with which they are not personally acquainted or otherwise comfortable is "incorrect" or "bad English".·maunus · snunɐɯ· 04:08, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
  • No rule needed - First of all, does Jerry Seinfeld count as a fictional character? "Jerry Seinfeld is a character that appears in the television sitcom Seinfeld." Very weird. The proposed rule is completely unenforceable and counterintuitive, and will be roundly ignored by everybody who edits here. No child that comes here to write about its favorite animated television character will care about personal pronouns. (See what I did there?) We should be considering the worst-case scenarios when we make new rules, and children's television articles are the worst-case scenarios. Cyphoidbomb (talk) 18:16, 22 August 2015 (UTC)

Suggested wording (pronouns for fictional characters)[edit]

Since Cebri has provided evidence that this is an actual problem that occurs at a non-negligible frequency, I believe it's worth adding a line to the MoS or MOS:FICTION, location TBD. I suggest the following first draft:

Editors are not required to use inanimate pronouns ("that," "which") for fictional characters. Decide on "who" vs "that" depending on the context of the sentence.
"He first appeared in print in 1961 alongside another hero who was, at the time, more famous."
"Wonder Woman is one of many characters that have become a franchise unto themselves."

I believe "not required" expresses our meaning very well. Darkfrog24 (talk) 01:31, 20 August 2015 (UTC)

"Not required" tends to be taken as implying "but preferred", and that is not at all how I read the prevailing opinion above. If you're trying to express the lack of a hard rule, perhaps something along the lines of "no requirement for either … or …; it depends on the context". Xover (talk) 05:16, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
Given there exists no support for the prescription oustide the dark basement of the superhero faction of WP:COMIC the wording should avoid the appearance of giving it any legitimacy. Wikipedia is not the place to introduce novel linguistic prescriptions. If an editor chooses to avoid personal pronouns when adding text, that's an editorial decision; but prowling pages to removing such pronouns in no way improves the encyclopaedia, and in many cases (as cited) hurts it. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 06:18, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
The truth seems to be that English overwhelmingly prefers "who" over "that," so that's what we want to communicate. Take two! "In general" is usually interpreted as "Most of the time."
In general, use animate pronouns ("who," "she") for fictional characters, but there are some contexts in which inanimate pronouns are suitable ("that," "which").
"Laertes and Ophelia both took action, unlike Hamlet, who continued to delay."
"Wonder Woman is one of many characters that have become a franchise unto themselves."
What really has to shine here are the examples. It would be best to really hammer home how these contexts are different. Darkfrog24 (talk) 12:04, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
Whenever this discussion pops up, it always seems to center on passages that refer to the character by name, specify the fictional nature, and then say something else. Take the primary example for this new debate: "Nelvana is a fictional superhero who first appeared in Triumph-Adventure Comics #1." Break it down into two sentences. "Nelvana is a fictional superhero. ___ first appeared in Triumph-Adventure Comics #1." Does she or it belong in the blank? I think very few people would argue against she, so it follows a personal pronoun, who should go in the combined sentence.
Most of the time, though, the simple solution is to rewrite the passage to eliminate the issue altogether. Why argue about "Other characters that have adopted this name" vs "Other characters who have adopted this name" when you can shorten it to "Other characters using this name"? Argento Surfer (talk) 13:09, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
In whatever MOS wording we adopt, I would suggest not leaving out it when discussing pronouns. Who/that errors are fairly common at the best of times, so (s)he/it is perhaps a better test, as Argento points out above me. So your second example could be:
"Wonder Woman is one of many characters that have become a franchise unto themselves.It has been enduringly popular since its creation."
That sounds wrong to me, but it is clearer what is being suggested.--Trystan (talk) 13:28, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
That is a case where I would replace "It" with "The character" to avoid the pronoun knot. --MASEM (t) 16:22, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
Dancing around personal pronouns might work for a sentence or two, but becomes unwieldy when you are discussing a fictional character as a concept for whole paragraphs. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 16:39, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
Why not write: "Wonder woman, as a character, has become a franchise unto herself. She has been eduringly popular since her creation." If you avoid writing about fictional characters "as a concept", and instead just write about that particular character, you can avoid having "pronoun trouble". Blueboar (talk) 16:52, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
Yeah, it is actual far less frequent when one writes about a character as a concept than as a character, though it sometimes is needed; the intro on Superman I think captures a place where one does need it: "The Superman character was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1933; the character was sold to Detective Comics, Inc. (later DC Comics) in 1938." In any of this sentence to us "he" instead of "the character" implies an ownership of a living being which is the one sticking point in the language; it is the concept that has ownership and creation. Past that, "he/who" all make sense. --MASEM (t) 16:56, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
In any of this sentence to us "he" instead of "the character" implies an ownership of a living being: it implies no such thing—or do you have a source which addresses this to back up such a statement? This is a solution looking for a problem. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 21:17, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
There is something that I do not know what it is that is odd or off-putting about saying "Smith created him" or "Smith transferred ownership of him", and less so but still begging the question of "Smith envision him" (where "him" here is the fictional character of interest). You create, transfer or envision the character as non-entity, not as a fictional person or being. If there is a rule of language for this, I don't know but I do see this used around many sources that discuss concepts and development of fictional characters. --MASEM (t) 21:48, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
You mean you find something off-putting about it. Nothing wrong with that, but it is not grounds for introducing a new linguistic prescription. In the real world people have no problem saying "Shuster created him". Can you show evidence to the contrary? Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 21:55, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
Well, it's not a new linguistic prescription as both ways are technically proper English, it's purely a style aspect and one that I don't think any of the major style guide goes into this. I do think WP does have the ability that, if by consensus, we adapt a style that we feel is better in the larger picture for I personally feel there's something offputting when we use certain combinations of verbs and pronouns that can be simply avoided by better word choices or restructuring. --MASEM (t) 22:16, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
No, the underlying principle you're suggesting is not "technically proper English": the only reason "that" is acceptable at all is because many use "that" interchangeably "who", as in: "There's the guy that was here yesterday." In the case of "Superman is a character that was created by Shuster & Siegel", "that" is not chosen because "Superman is inanimate"---at least, not anywhere outside of WP:COMIC. In the real world, there is no issue using personal pronouns with ficitional characters, because personal pronouns do not imply actual living human beings (I've already given you the example "There will never be a person who can travel backward in time.", and you know there's no end to such examples). Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 22:51, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
"That" is proper English when we are talking about a non-person, which a fictional character may be treated as at times. Consider "John Q Smith created the painting that was later transferred to the museum.", "John Q Smith created the character that was later transferred to a big publisher." It's completely acceptable language, when we are not at all describing any aspect of the characters as a person in the text, because in situations like this, it is a thing. And again, I do want to stress that my main solution here is to avoid situations where one would need such pronouns to minimize the potential "disruption". "John Q Smith created the character. The character's rights were later transferred to a big publisher." --MASEM (t) 01:25, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
Boson has already pointed out the fallacy in your understanding of "that". You've also failed to provide evidence that there is any "disruption" to be avoided. "Nelvana is a superhero who was created by Adrian Dingle." is not a problematic sentence—nothing needs to be "fixed", nothing needs to be recast. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 01:32, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
We should avoid giving inappropriate advice on the use of English, and especially refrain from giving the incorrect impression that "that" (as opposed to "which") is an "inanimate pronoun". That is a relative pronoun used for restrictive (aka defining, integrated) relative clauses, both for inanimate and animate entities, as in This Is the House That Jack Built: the farmer that kept the rooster, the judge that married the man, the man that kissed the maiden, the maiden that milked the cow, etc.). To avoid additional confusion, any examples should use non-restrictive (aka non-defining, supplementary) relative clauses with which and who, which do distinguish between personal and non-personal (including most animals). Yes, recommended usage of that and who is slightly more complicated, but is not something that needs to be dealt with in the Manual of Style. That can be a useful way of avoiding the distinction between personal and non-personal (as in some examples here?), but that is also something for English teachers that does not need to be described here. --Boson (talk) 17:34, 20 August 2015 (UTC)

Take three (wording of MoS entry on pronouns for fictional characters)[edit]

Take three:

In general, use animate pronouns ("who," "she") for fictional characters, but there are a few contexts in which inanimate pronouns are suitable ("which," "it"). However, it is often possible to avoid the issue entirely by rewording the sentence.
"Laertes and Ophelia both took action, unlike Hamlet, who continued to delay."
"The character Superman, which was sold to Detective Comics, Inc. in 1938, was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1933."
"The character Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster in 1933 and sold to Detective Comics, Inc. in 1938."

Remember the points that we're trying to convey: 1. It's best to use animate pronouns, 2. but we're not banning inanimate pronouns (and 3. here's what we mean by that). Those issues are not in dispute here. As for locations, I'm thinking both here and at MOS:FICTION. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:23, 20 August 2015 (UTC)

Again, this seems to be legitimizing a non-issue—is there anyone here who is not from WP:COMIC that would have batted a lash at "The character Superman, who is owned by DC Comics ..." before this RfC was started? Of course not—this is perfectly natural everyday English that poses no problem to readers whatsoever and does not need to be "fixed". It does not imply—even slightly—that Superman is a real person. The language does not work that way. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 21:28, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
Huh. I mostly agree that it's fine to use "who" for fictional characters, but actually, maybe not in this case. Is Superman a slave? Can he buy his freedom from DC? Until I read your example sentence, I would have said there was never any problem with using "who" for Superman, but now I think maybe there's a distinction between Superman-the-fictional-person (for whom "who" is fine) and Superman-the-item-of-intellectual-property (for which "who" is a bit weird). --Trovatore (talk) 01:49, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
Exactly, and note how your own use of "whom" and "which" naturally distinguishes. No one is actually making the argument that one should have written "Superman-the-fictional-person (for which ...)", but CT has been spinning it this way incessantly to make the argument look weak when it is not.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  18:23, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
It seems off to me to mark explicitly that this has to do with fictional characters vs. non-fictional people. That's not how English works. Otherwise, I agree with darkfrog's three points. — Ƶ§œš¹ [lɛts b̥iː pʰəˈlaɪˀt] 23:12, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
Curly Turkey brings up a good point that the problem should be big enough for the solution to earn the space it takes up in the MoS or MoS:FICTION. A few links were offered in the previous section. @Cebr1979:, do you know of any more? Darkfrog24 (talk) 00:09, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
Not off the top of my head, no. I wasn't a part of the original conversation, though. It's possible that one grew out of something from somewhere else but, like I said, I don't know for sure. Sorry couldn't be of more help!Cebr1979 (talk) 00:15, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
Nah, thanks, Cebri. I guess if it's only that one incident that we know of then it's not really necessary to codify it. But just so I don't leave a job half-done, the kicker seems to be whether the character is acting or being acted upon like a person rather than like an object or concept:
Wonder Woman is one of two female characters who were on the original Justice League." / "Wonder Woman is one of many characters that have been marketed to children"
Darkfrog24 (talk) 00:25, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
That's really my only issue. The lead of a fictional character article should be: "White Tiger is a fictional character that appeared in the Marvel Comics series, Heroes for Hire," in order to denote we are talking about a thing: aka: a lifeless, inanimate object. As for the rest of the article, I don't think it matters as, most of it would be written in-universe anyhow. If it would make this all go away (and stay away as I feel like too many editors are having to spend too much time on this), I'd even compromise with "White Tiger is a fictional character appearing in the Marvel Comics series, Heroes for Hire" -OR- "White Tiger is a fictional character having appeared in the Marvel Comics series, Heroes for Hire and bypass the whole "who vs. that" thing altogether! That's just a suggestion, though. If it ends up being the beginning of a whole new conversation taking up a whole lot more time, I'll simply withdraw it and go back to the "White Tiger is a fictional character that appeared in the Marvel Comics series, Heroes for Hire" position I've had since the beginning.Cebr1979 (talk) 00:59, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
I hope you are not suggesting that "Wonder Woman is one of many characters who have been marketed to children" is invalid English. We have yet to see any evidence of such a prescription in English, or any evidence that any sort of problem arises from it. The axiom that personal pronouns refer only to real persons has already been shown to be invalid, as in the example "There will never be a person who can travel backward in time." Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 01:08, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
I'm trying to create an example in which it is clearly better to use "that" or "which" than to use "who." If you can think of a better one, then by all means. Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:43, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
If there is such an example, I'm sure it will be obvious to any English speaker and not require addressing in the MoS. That is not the issue. The issue is that a small coterie of WP:COMIC editors want prescribe against the usage of personal pronouns, even where real-world usage has no issue with it. They would have the "who"s in the Britannica examples changed. To what purpose? What would be improved? Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 03:57, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
(edit conflict) "There will never be a person who can travel backward in time" is not fiction, it's a hypothetical. Different case no matter how you look at it (grammatically, psycho-linguistically, socio-linguistically, language-philosophically, etc.). We have special grammar rules for hypotheticals ("If I were to go to Japan" not "If I was to go to Japan"), that do not apply to fictional characters.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  18:06, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
in order to denote we are talking about a thing : In stark contrast to the way the English language actually works, which makes no such distinction. What it comes down to is that there is a group of superhero editors at WP:COMIC who wish the English language worked in a different manner from which it does. English does not distinguish fictional vs non-fictional persons via pronoun usage. For example, Britannica uses "who" to refer to the characters of Spider-Man and Superman: ["Spider-Man, comic-book character who was the original everyman superhero." "Superman, 20th-century American comic-strip superhero who first appeared in Action Comics in June 1938 ..." ]Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 01:08, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
You keep relying on links to Encyclopaedia Britannica. WP is not Britannica. No one suggested that counter-examples, using "who" indiscriminately for fictional characters, cannot be found, only that it's unclearly writing from several different perspectives. It's actually interest to read a lot of Britannica articles on fictional characters, and you can see that their (inconsistent) pool of writers are individually wrestling with this issue, and no following a rule about it. The usage veers all over the place. Their article on Superman just gushes with "who" and reads like a somewhat nutty comic book collector of half-believes the character is a real person. The "Sherlock Holmes" are mostly studiously avoids this usage, and only slips up in a couple of places; it reads much more encyclop[a]edically. This is a good indication of why MoS should actually give clear guidance on this.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  18:06, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
There isn't a shred of evidence the author of the Sherlock Holmes article "studiously avoids this usage"—the article uses out-of-universe "he" twice! Even if it didn't appear at all, that would be not evidence of "studiously avoid[ing] this usage".
Nor do I "rely" on Britannica—the vast majority of links I've provided have been to other sources. I get the feeling you haven't read WP:NOT (as an editor pointed out to you at another of these discussions). Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 20:42, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

I like Cebr1979's final wording (some of the work-arounds are quite awkward), but not entirely for their reasons. "That" is used for people, and fictional people are treated as people. But the concept is not a person. "That" doesn't mean the referent is inanimate, but I agree that the concept of a fictional character should use the same pronouns as the concept of a commemorative garden. But when discussing the character itself, the same pronouns should be used as when discussing historical people. — kwami (talk) 01:17, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

  • For the record, you support a wording like: "Superman is a fictional character. It was created by Shuster and Siegel."? Do you have any evidence for such usage outside of Wikipedia? Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 01:26, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
    • CurlyTurkey: you really do put a lot of words in peoples' mouths and that is something you need to stop doing. ASAP. The only person who has ever mentioned the word "it," is you.Cebr1979 (talk) 01:49, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
He's doing it again, below. No one who knows how to use English would use such an "it" construction, and I'm confident that CT knows this. This mischaracterization approach is a combined straw man and red herring fallacy pile-up, an attempt to distract from a weak argument that depends principally on outrage instead of reason (this is also whence his projecting stuff like "gut feelings" (see below) onto arguments based on logic instead of the gut feelings his own argument is clearly rooted in).  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  18:06, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
One has to wonder why SMcCandlish keeps resorting to synonyms of "outrage" to discredit me. I doubt anyone reading this discussion is going to get the impression that SMcCandlish has approached it with a cool head. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 20:45, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

Comment: So how do we deal with figures whose reality is disputed? Do we use "who" or "which" for Jehova and King Arthur? Of course, in real life we use "who", as we do for Superman. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 01:26, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

No one does that for Superman, except in an in-universe context, unless they want to [that was sarcastic] don't realize that to many readers it will sound silly. For possibly-real entities, use "who", except when discussing them conceptually (hint: exactly like fictional characters): She believed in King Arthur, who she was sure would return some day, just as she felt Jesus would., but the character known as "Princess Diana of Themyscira" and "Diana Prince" The end. Basic MOS advice all the time: Rewrite to avoid WP:LAME disputes. This rewrite in particular makes perfect sense, because it's linguistically sound, it ties this back to the real world (the knowledge of the readers and what they're looking for – i.e. the actual purpose of disambiguation), and it eliminates the (yes, in this case quite silly) who vs. that dispute. [I checked, and the article presently uses "other characters given this name", which is pretty much just as good as "other characters known by this name".] But resolving that one doesn't resolve the larger issue. We have thousands and thousands of articles on fictional character, and they should not begin with leads that look like "Mr. Bigglesworth is a fictional cat. He likes to sit on Dr. Evil's lap." WP is not a seventh-grade writing exercise.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  08:25, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
all this personal venting: you might want to step back and examine your tone and approach before making these accusations. I have yet to see "reasoning" on your part—simply bald assertions that the evidence provided contradicts (e.g "No one would say XXX"—countered with a whole list of RSes saying "XXX"). I'm asking for evidence that real-world English distinguishes fictional persons from non-fictional ones via pronouns. You've provided none; I've provided piles, which you refuse to engage with. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 08:35, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
Cebr1979 already provided you counter-examples. There's no point in providing successive piles of counter-examples; every single person in this e-room (except perhaps you) realizes that actual usage in sources is divided on this point. We're moving on past that, into reasoning about whether one or another usage (there are at least three approaches, not two) is better for WP purposes. You're still mired back in trying to prove that some people do use "who", a point that no one has been disputing. Please catch up.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  18:06, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

Update: It's much more instructive to analyze actual use in a carefully written article, as I've done below in a separate sub-thread.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:08, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

I think I understand what's the issue is, @Cebr1979:. You are thinking as if English were logical. It isn't. The overwhelming practice (though I'd say it's a bit shy of being a rule) is to refer to fictional characters as if they were people except when the context heavily and explicitly treats them as things. But still, I don't support adding a rule to the MoS or anything else for just one person. You've been shown proof and you've been shown consensus. Even if there were an edit war or something, there are processes for that. Tacking a new, permanent rule up into the MoS targeting just one person wouldn't be appropriate. Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:43, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
Are you sure you were responding to me there? I don't really see anything where I'm acting as if the English language is logical?Cebr1979 (talk) 23:41, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
Doesn't have anything to do with "just one person", though (the same point I'm trying to make above). Rather, this is a long-standing, repeat-argued issue, and certainly pre-dates WP and MOS. Serious linguistic and other literature have addressed the question of distinguishing, in our language use, between real-world facts and fictional ones about the same character. The solution proposed is not novel, but routine.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  08:25, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
Yes, @Cebr1979:, I was talking about you. Your said: "in order to denote we are talking about a thing: aka: a lifeless, inanimate object. As for the rest of the article, I don't think it matters as, most of it would be written in-universe anyhow." This suggests that you think that inanimate pronouns should be used when the fictional characters are discussed as objects or out-of-universe and animate when they are discussed as people or in-universe, but there is no such clear line. Darkfrog24 (talk) 12:05, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

Take 3B (wording of MoS entry on pronouns for fictional characters)[edit]

Let's call this take 3B. Relevant changes in bold (not to be preserved if used in the MoS).

In general, use animate pronouns ("who," "she") for fictional characters, even when writing out-of-universe, but there are a few contexts in which inanimate pronouns are also suitable ("which," "it"). However, it is often possible to avoid the issue entirely by rewording the sentence.
"Laertes and Ophelia both took action, unlike Hamlet, who continued to delay."
"The character Superman, which was sold to Detective Comics, Inc. in 1938, was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1933."
"The character Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster in 1933 and sold to Detective Comics, Inc. in 1938."

"Also" should cut down the possibility that someone will insist on changing "who" to "that" or "which" in an out-of-universe context. Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:00, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

This still fails to distinguish between in-universe and real-world context.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  18:06, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
"Fail" suggests I was attempting it. This version specifically tells editors to use "who" even when talking out of universe. That is standard English usage. "In-universe vs real-world" does not seem to be the litmus test for whether to use animate or inanimate pronouns, if such a test even exists. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:19, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
Doesn't suggest anything of the sort, since "this" is a pronoun that doesn't apply to you, a person. Why return to the theme of "litmus tests" and "hard-and-fast rules" after it's already been pointed out that this isn't what we're discussing? Again: This is about how to best write for our readers, not about forcing MoS compliance with some imaginary external language authority.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:30, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
SmC, you and I have very different ways of thinking about language and writing. Please accept that I find your arguments unconvincing and stop trying to convert me to your way of thinking. As for what I am thinking, this is one of the least rule-ish things I've ever composed for the MoS. I'm deliberately trying not to make "use 'who'" look like a universal requirement, and I'm saying not to use a specific litmus test because this seems to be the one time here on WT:MOS where there actually might not be one. If possible, enjoy the moment of an English-has-rules person like me being the one to say, "I don't think that's a rule." Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:42, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
There is no "conversion" process in operation here; this is not a religious discussion. I not certain you actually understand my arguments exactly (which is probably my fault and means I need to restate them better); your objections to them match neither their wording or intent. I accept that you're not trying to push something as an external rule that MoS should adopt; I don't recall anyone suggesting that you were, or suggesting that this should be done, or even suggesting that such a "rule" exists. There's a difference between adopting some externally provided "rule" (e.g. "capitalize after a colon when what follows it is a complete sentence", which many though not all style guides advise), and MoS adopting an internal rule by consensus that amounts to "do not use pronouns confusingly, but write more clearly instead". This is a good illustrative case of why the "everything MoS says should be cited to an external style source" idea is unworkable. No external source is required for the WP editing community to come to it's own internal consensus on one point of how to avoid writing poorly. Maybe we'll never agree about this "source the MoS" thing. I'm happy that we seem to be agreeing that "rewrite to avoid confusing pronoun use" is the way to go, but the evolving consensus to do this isn't based on external rulebooks; it's based on observation of and reasoning about the nature of the dispute.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  20:18, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
SmC, you keep saying things like, "English doesn't really have hard rules" as if you think I've never heard you say that before. You know by now that I think of English as having rules, whether you agree with me or not, so stop acting surprised/clutching your pearls/whatever when you see me use the word "rules" to describe the MoS.
Example: You know that I don't think "typesetters" is the real name for American punctuation (used by almost no sources; if "American" is no good because it's not exclusively used in the U.S., then the fact that the practice isn't exclusively used in typesetting should hold some weight, etc.). But I don't go "Oh, SmC, it's actually called 'American'; here's a link to a source that didn't change your mind the first seventeen times I showed it to you!" every time I see you use it, only when you try to insert it into an article or guideline. By now, I know that that's just how you talk. At the very least, you should be able to accept that "rules" is how I talk and think about the MoS. Unless I'm trying to put some wording into the MoS or article space ("The MoS is a set of rules that..."), then it's not an issue.
As for the MoS being sourced, it would prevent things like your take four: It's not really the way English works; it's just what you personally think looks good or feels right, and that's not suitable for a set of rules that other people have to follow or else. Darkfrog24 (talk) 00:57, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
It has nothing to do with whether I agree or disagree with you about English having hard-and-fast rules. The science of linguistics proves that it does not, making the view that it does WP:FRINGE. If you don't believe me, feel free to go create a Rules of English article and see what happens to it. Its perfectly appropriate to challenge a fringey approach to MoS, and you can count on me to continue to do so. MoS is a guideline; there is no "or else", and it recommends a large number of things that are not "rules" but methods of reducing recurrent strife. I know that you know that; I'm not the one "acting surprised".  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:33, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
"English has rules" is taught in every school in the English-speaking world. The idea that it does not have rules is closer to a fringe position, though I'd personally describe it as a specialist position. If you want to keep talking about this, we can hit my talk page or yours or start a new section here. You know me: I like a spirited discussion.
But the point I'm trying to make is this: You know that I believe English has rules. You've shown me what you think is convincing proof. I don't consider it convincing proof. Please stop showing me the same points over and over in the middle of a conversation about something else. I do you the same courtesy when you use fringe terminology. Since this is a talk page and not the article space, you're perfectly within your rights to do so. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:05, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
Wikipedia already has many articles about the rules of English. Quotation mark, Comma, British and American English differences... Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:06, 22 August 2015 (UTC)

Take four (wording of MoS entry on pronouns for fictional characters)[edit]

Use animate pronouns ("who", "she") for fictional characters only in an in-universe perspective. There are contexts in which inanimate pronouns are suitable ("which", "it"), especially when referring to characters conceptually. However, it is usually possible and preferable to avoid awkward constructions by rewording, often with the side benefit of increased brevity.
In-universe perspective using who: Superman, who arrived on earth as a child, and Lex Luthor, a human, are arch-enemies throughout various comic and filmic depictions.
Real-world perspective using which: The character Superman, which was sold to Detective Comics in 1938, was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1933. (Permissible but perhaps awkward.)
Rewritten real-world perspective: Superman was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1933, and sold to Detective Comics in 1938.
Misuse of animate pronoun who: Superman, who was sold to Detective Comics in 1938, was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1933. (Superman is not a person in this sense.)

(Fixed some typos, formatting, and example mismatches in the process.) This version gets at the fact that we usually do want animate in the in-universe sense (and do no need to avoid it), but never want it in the out-of-universe sense, but can usually avoid it. Whatever the final text, it probably belongs at MOS:FICT not the main MOS, though it could be summarized here without delving into examples. The main MOS page is already too long and needs to be pared back to giving the advice without so many examples. The detailed subpages exist for all the examples and other details.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  03:16, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

PS: I fully support replacing Superman with Wonder Woman, but don't remember enough about the character to do it well myself.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  03:17, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

  • Strong oppose: the proposal is in conflict with real-world usage, has no evidence to support its axioms (in fact, all the evidence provided contradicts the proposed axioms), and is burdensome instruction creep. It's a solution looking for a problem based on a misunderstanding of how the English language works and does not improve the encyclopaedia. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 03:28, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Wishful thinking I don't like this wording either, SmC. The "that"/"which" set of pronouns is actually really rare. Like, Cebr, you seem to be treating English as more logical than it really is. Really, English uses "who" for characters even in most of the cases in which it would make sense to use "that" or "which." Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:48, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
    • Um, the fact that it's commonly awkward to use a "that" or "which" construction is why it says look toward rewriting. The proposal pre-addresses your complaint about it. It could just be that we wouldn't even need to go that far and just state that it's often awkward, instead of illustrating it with an example at all.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  08:30, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
I'll be clearer: What I don't like about this is that "Use animate pronouns when the character is acting like a person and inanimate pronouns when the character is acting like an object" does not seem to be a hard rule in English, and this passage treats it as if it were (or at least is likely to be interpreted as such). Something looser is more likely to serve Wikipedia well. What we actually want is for people to use "who" almost all the time but not make a fuss over the occasional "which." This passage could give us the same people making a fuss over "it should be 'who'!/no it should be 'that'" in one passage and "it should be 'that' this time!"/"no, this time it should be 'who'!!" in the same article. Darkfrog24 (talk) 12:44, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
See Linguistic description vs. Prescriptive grammar. There really is no such thing as "a hard rule in English". There is only usage, in different contexts. The question here is what is more useful to our audience, in the encyclopedic register. A large proportion of MoS (and of all style guides) is advice on writing in a formal rather than informal register. This is such a case.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  18:15, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
We've been through this, SmC. Yes, English does have rules. You don't happen to like to think of them that way, and that's your business, but the fact of the matter is that anything that goes into the MoS is going to be interpreted as non-negotiable by at least some of the users in the article space. This new text, whether you want to call it a rule or not, looks like it will cause more fights than it will prevent, and it does not look like it reflects the actual state of what is required in correct English. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:14, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
Thoguh it should be pointed out that it only happens one way—changing "who" to "that". I'm not aware of any editor making the rounds doing the opposite. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 13:06, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
Except everyone else understands that it happens more than one way, and this version of the proposal explicitly states this and provides examples of how it happens more than one way. Please stop engaging in straw man and red herring arguments. It's getting disruptive.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  18:15, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
Except everyone else understands that it happens more than one way: Oh, really? Diffs, please (not holding my breath). Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 20:33, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
I think what SmC is saying is that it is perfectly theoretically possible for the problems to arise in both directions. What Curly T is saying is, "But does that actually happen in practice on Wikipedia?" SmC is offering induced/deduced knowledge. Curly is asking for observed knowledge. Darkfrog24 (talk) 01:10, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
Such a thing cannot be deduced. The proposal is not to replace "that" with "who"—it's whether to prohibit personal pronouns when referring to fictional characters in an out-of-universe context. And "everyone else understands that it happens more than one way" doesn't sound like a deduction—it's a statement of alleged fact. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 03:04, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose. Curly Turkey is absolutely right (and is the only editor on this thread doing the work of finding examples to illustrate his points). Using inanimate pronouns to refer to fictional characters is a hypercorrection on the part of a small number of comics-focused Wikipedia editors in response to having to write from a real-world perspective. It doesn't happen anywhere else, and is not good English usage. --Nicknack009 (talk) 10:49, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
    • Did you actually read the proposal? It suggests using alternative constructions instead of inanimate pronouns.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  18:15, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Suggestion - Rewrite "The character Superman, which was sold" as "The Superman character, which was sold". I think reversing the order makes it more clear that Superman is describing the word character, not the other way around. Argento Surfer (talk) 11:28, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
Counter-suggestion: "the rights to Superman, which were sold". --Nicknack009 (talk) 11:51, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
Yes those things would both be good if we were talking about a real article, but the point of the passage is to give an example of a case in which "...Superman, which..." would be better than "...Superman, who..." Darkfrog24 (talk) 12:48, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
I think the distinction this discussion is groping towards is that inanimate pronouns can be appropriate when talking about a character, not as a character, but as a property - for example, when discussing things like rights and copyright ownership. When discussing a character as a character, I can't think of any situation where inanimate pronouns would be appropriate. --Nicknack009 (talk) 14:29, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
That's definitely one of the points. The other is to avoid use of "who" except in an in-universe way, rewriting to avoid any awkwardness that might results from use of inanimate pronouns. Darkfrog24 is definitely picking that up. Why say "Superman, who was sold" or write "Superman, which was sold", when rewriting to avoid the confusion makes more sense: "The rights to Superman, which were sold".  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  18:29, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

Should the MoS state this rule explicitly? (pronouns for fictional characters)[edit]

We've established that general English practice is to refer to fictional characters as "who" almost all of the time. Consensus seems to be 1) use "who" and 2) but we don't want to do anything that could be construed as banning "that"/"which," and that consensus seems to be overwhelming. We're working out exactly how we'd phrase this above. Next question: Is the problem big enough to merit taking up space in MoS, MoS:FICTION or both? My own take is that if this is just one person, then a line in the MoS isn't appropriate. But if it's a group of people or if this is a recurring problem, even on just one Wikiproject, then a line in the MoS is just the thing. Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:43, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

I quite like your third take above, Darkfrog, but I tend to agree that we have all fallen down a rabbit hole here. I'd suggest that pointing to the rough consensus of this conversation in the archives will be sufficient should this issue arise intermittently in the future.--Trystan (talk) 03:57, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
Nobody's proposed banning "that". The proposal is to overturn the ban the on "who", "he", and "she". Here we have Darkfrog24 telling us "who" is used "almost all of the time", while SMcCandlish and Cebr claim it never is (while ignoring all evidence that it is). Communication is not happening. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 08:46, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
This is at least the fifth time in the same conversation you've blatantly misrepresented others' arguments to try to make your own seem more reasonable. I insist that it stop, immediately. It's getting beyond disruptive at this point, and is patently uncivil.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  18:18, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
I've been a part of discussing who vs that at least three times. Aside from the two discussions linked above, here's a third one. (It starts off on something different.) From personal experience, I think this should be mentioned specifically in the MoS. People who strongly oppose using who for a fictional character are the only ones who cause these discussions, and pointing to previous consensus usually doesn't sway them. Either the previous consensus was "obviously wrong," or "maybe it's time to have another discussion and see if consensus has changed." Having something spelled out in the MOS would (hopefully) be more definate. Argento Surfer (talk) 16:05, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
That seems to be the trust of this. Maybe there really people who think that "who" should never be used for a fictional character even in an in-universe plot summary, but I don't see that view being advanced by anyone in this discussion, so one would think the result will be sensible. Somewhere between "never ever use 'who'" and "always use 'who' no matter what", the encyclopedic approach will be found. I'm pretty sure it's already been outlined pretty clearly.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  20:48, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
To be clear, I've never seen anyone oppose using who/he/his pronouns in a plot summary.

I have seen people suggest not using those words outside the summary. Go here, then ctrl+F for "Joe Blow". Argento Surfer (talk) 21:01, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

Where has anyone suggested avoiding personal pronouns in in-universe contexts? I've yet to see such an argument. Every time I've seen this come up it has been about out-of-universe writing—almost always in the context of the lead. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 21:04, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
For once I agree with CT.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  04:15, 22 August 2015 (UTC)

Yes the MoS should state this rule explicitly (pronouns for fictional characters)[edit]

This list is based on comments made in this thread, but minds change and interpretation is subjective. All users have blanket permission to add or remove their own name from this list. If you add someone else, ping them so that they can correct any errors. I personally am NOT interpreting interest in any specific version of the rule as belief that the rule should be included. Darkfrog24 (talk) 16:58, 24 August 2015 (UTC)

  1. Yes @Argento Surfer: [1] Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:38, 24 August 2015 (UTC)

No the MoS should not state this rule explicitly (pronouns for fictional characters)[edit]

This list is based on comments made in this thread, but minds change and interpretation is subjective. All users have blanket permission to add or remove their own name from this list. If you add someone else, ping them so they can correct any errors. I personally am NOT interpreting disapproval of any one specific version of the rule as belief that the rule itself should not be included. Darkfrog24 (talk) 16:59, 24 August 2015 (UTC)

  1. No @Sergecross73: [2] Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:38, 24 August 2015 (UTC)
    No @Curly Turkey: [3] Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:38, 24 August 2015 (UTC)
    I started the RfC with the intention of removing a restriction rather than adding any sort of rule, but I am not opposed to having it spelled ou i the MoS given Cebr's stated intention to continue with his contentious editing regardless of consensus. P.S. Darkfrog24: your ping didn't show up in my notifications, so it may not have for the others, either. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 23:48, 24 August 2015 (UTC)
    Well crumbs. Will alert. Darkfrog24 (talk) 02:11, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
  2. No @Maunus: [4] Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:38, 24 August 2015 (UTC)
  3. No @Cyphoidbomb: [5] Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:38, 24 August 2015 (UTC)
    I approve this summary of my opinion. The MOS should not legislate the pronouns we use when we describe fictional characters. My really snappy answers are somewhere on this page. Cyphoidbomb (talk) 03:29, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
  4. No @Trystan: (see above "rabbit hole") [6] Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:38, 24 August 2015 (UTC)
  5. No @Margin1522: (see "emphatic") [7]Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:38, 24 August 2015 (UTC)
  6. No Cebr1979 (talk) 03:34, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

A case study from Britannica on rewriting to avoid[edit]

Above, someone insists Encyclopaedia Britannica uses "who" for fictional characters (and very selectively links to examples of this; in reality some of Britannica's writers do it and some do not). Leaving aside the WP:NOT-Britannica point, let's actually examine a one of their articles that is not written like their "Superman" article. I'll run with the second one I looked at, "Sherlock Holmes" [8].

  • "Sherlock Holmes, fictional character created by the Scottish writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The prototype for the modern mastermind detective, Holmes first appeared in Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887." Avoidance of pronouns.
  • "As the world’s first and only “consulting detective,” he pursued criminals throughout Victorian and Edwardian London, the south of England, and continental Europe. Use of pronoun in an appropriate in-universe way.
  • Rest of lead paragraph: avoidance of pronouns.
  • Second paragraph: "his professor at the University of Edinburgh Medical School." Pronoun refers to Conan Doyle, not Holmes.
  • "his honed skills of observation and deductive reasoning ... Holmes offered some insight into his method ... His detecting abilities become clear, though no less amazing, when explained by his companion, Dr. John H. Watson ... declaring his abilities to be 'elementary,' ...". All four pronouns are references to Holmes, in-universe.
  • Third paragraph: "His London abode at 221B, Baker Street, is tended by his housekeeper ... his even wiser but less ambitious brother, Mycroft; and, most notably, his formidable opponent, Professor James Moriarty ...". All three pronouns are references to Holmes, in-universe.
  • Fourth paragraph: "Claiming that Holmes distracted him 'from better things,' ...". Pronoun is a reference to the author.
  • "Conan Doyle ... attempted to kill him off". This actually does appear to be use of "him" to refer to Holmes as a character, after a great deal of studious avoidance of doing so. It's also not unclear in the context, because it the sentence is carefully constructed and is about the author's relationship to the character; any professional editor could have missed this, or caught it and considered it permissible.
  • "Holmes and his nemesis ...". Use of pronoun in an appropriate in-universe way.
  • "By popular demand, Conan Doyle resurrected his detective in ..." Pronoun is a reference to the author.
  • Fifth paragraph: "Among the most popular stories in which he is featured are ... Holmes’s character has been translated to other media as well, and he is widely known on both stage and screen." Like the above case, this is non-confusing use of "he" to refer to the character in an out-of-universe way, that cannot be mistaken for anything but real-world reference to a character, not in-universe actions of the character.
  • "... his meerschaum pipe and deerstalker hat ... his investigations in the country". Pronouns are in-universe.
  • Sixth paragraph: "... a genre of parodies and pastiches has developed based upon the Sherlock Holmes character ...". A return to the intro's studious avoidance of pronouns.

What we can learn from this:

  1. A great deal of care was taken to avoid confusing use of "he".
  2. Mostly it was avoided by careful construction of sentences, that used pronoun-substitute phrases like "a popular figure", "fictional character", "the Sherlock Holmes character", "Holmes's character, etc.
  3. It was only used about the character in two sentences that very explicitly spelled out that the character was being discussed in a real-world context; and both of these could easily have been rewritten to not use the pronoun even then (one suspects they were added by later writers/editors; the piece is credited to both one main author and to "Ed.", about which see here).
  4. Awkward constructions using "it" and the like were never used to refer to the character.
  5. There is never any confusion of any kind between the in-universe character actions and the real-world analysis of the character.

This is pretty good writing, but WP can do better (in part by rewriting to avoid both cases of out-of-universe "he", but in other ways: the article has neutrality and tone issues that WP would not permit, cites no sources, is not very comprehensive but highly summarative, and is otherwise very "Britannica-ish", which is not what WP is going for.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:07, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

If the moral is "Use personal pronouns for fictional characters in both in-universe and real-world contexts, but avoid pronouns altogether where it may cause confusion," then I'm all for it. --Trystan (talk) 19:51, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
SMcCandlish, there is no evidence that "A great deal of care was taken to avoid confusing use of 'he'."—the author used it twice! It was natural and utterly un-confusing, and such pronouns are used throughout Britannica. You've shot your own argument in the foot. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 20:27, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
CT, the entire piece avoids doing so, going out of its way in this regard again and again and again, except in only two places where it explicitly reiterates that we're talking about a fictional character outside the context of the fiction. This clear message is to generally avoid using pronouns out-of-universe, and be very careful when you do chose to use them. This is a pretty simple and obvious lesson. You'd see it, too, if you were devoting less brain power to trying to prove everyone wrong and more on actually looking at usage. Your approach to this has been suboptimal because you find uses of poor constructions like "Sherlock Holmes, who was created in ..." and latch onto this as if it's proof that it's a good idea. It's not. It's just illustration some some writers are less careful than others. You then try to deny all counterevidence that doesn't agree with you, and misstate the opposing argument as being in favor of something like "When Sherlock Holmes was created, it was ..." (as you've done multiple times in the above discussion) which not one single person here has advocated. It's not constructive, and just demonstrates that you're not understanding the actual discussion.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  20:43, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
the entire piece avoids doing so: based on what evidence other than mindreading? How can you possibly characterize that as "avoid[ing] doing so"? If the author was honestly "avoiding" it, it must have been quite the burden to do so if two "he"s managed to slip in! The rest of your comment is a mess of ad hominems and bald assertions that your own evidence disproves. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 21:22, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
I decline to respond further to such circular and time-wasting WP:NOTGETTINGIT reactions out of you, which I feel compelled to say is starting to become indistinguishable from certain unconstructive behavior patterns, and this wouldn't be the first time, but it's rather characteristic of many of your forays into WP style and titles debates. This area simply is no your long suit, and I have better things to do that try to re-re-re-explain to you that which you so strongly resist understanding. You've provided no evidence of anything other than "some people use 'we' to write about fictional characters sometimes", a point that was never under debate. Good day.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  03:12, 22 August 2015 (UTC)

PS: What "managed to slip in"? I've already indicated where "he" was used twice it was done in constructions that reinforced that a fictional character was being discussed as such, a use that it not confusing. You're approaching this as if I'm still arguing something like "ban use of out-of-universe 'he'", when I and everyone else has clearly moved past that idea. The very point of this Britannica exercise was to point out how to use "[s]he" in an out-of-universe way without it being confusing. — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:55, 22 August 2015 (UTC)

Good day. I won't miss your tautologies, mindreading, or refusal to engage with evidence. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 03:15, 22 August 2015 (UTC) Revised:
Repeat, since you're still WP:NOTGETTINGIT: You've provided no evidence of anything other than "some people use 'we' to write about fictional characters sometimes", a point that was never under debate.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:13, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
Personal pronouns should not be prohibited, but I agree some sentences can be rewritten to as to not raise this issue, like how people would replace "he" and "she" with "one", or use "the character". The Superman example is nice for that. Also, there are fictional characters that are not people, like HAL 9000: "is a sentient computer that controls the systems of the Discovery One spacecraft and interacts with the ship's astronaut crew." While the character is in the concept stage, the character can be person-less. For example: "The author planned for Holmes to be a sentient computer that would light up and make a pinging sound when it solved the question. He changed it to be a normal person after realizing that computers would not fit the setting." When the character is obviously a person, then using "who" would be fine. For example: "The author wanted a magical girl heroine who would appeal not only to tween girls but also adults" . The Wonder Woman example is not relevant as it supports the usage of "that" and "which" on the genderless word "characters". Similarly, Justice League refers to the team which is genderless/impersonal. Sorry if this retreads on what was already posted. I think we don't need to spell out or impose extra rules that would cause folks to make more grammatical errors. AngusWOOF (barksniff) 22:16, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
(edit conflict)@AngusWOOF: Curly Turkey's "The question is whether MoS should prohibit the use of personal pronouns..." is a misstatement of the debate, another in a long string of straw man arguments CT has been clouding this discussion with. The principal shape of this debate is actually whether to advise rewriting to avoid confusing uses of (and grammatical errors involving) such pronouns, to refer to characters in an out-of-universe way. But CT refuses to acknowledge this, so the discussion has largely been moving on around and past him, despite his angry and not terribly coherent interjections. To him this debate is only about "banning" the use of "we" and the like in fiction, even though no one is proposing anything like that. It's a bunch of FUD.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  03:25, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
To him this debate is only about "banning" the use of "we" and the like in fiction: Wow, so now you're stooping to straight-up lying. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 03:49, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
If I've actually misunderstood and mischaracterized your position, I certainly apologize; you seem to be restating it more clearly. (See? That wasn't hard. You owe several people here the same apology.)  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:17, 22 August 2015 (UTC)

Actually, just reviewing your comments, it's easy to see why such a perception of your view is hard to avoid. These are direct quotations from you, starting with the sentence opening this non-neutral, misleading RfC:

And so on. All addressing general, not out-of-universe, use of personal pronouns.

Note further than when this distinction is drawn by others:

You oppose them all vehemently. So, it's pretty clear why it's been difficult to interpret you as specifically addressing the use of personal pronouns in an out-of-universe context. It's nice that you've clarified, finally, but the damage to the RfC has already been done.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:44, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
All addressing general, not out-of-universe, use of personal pronouns.: They were all presented in the context of out-of-universe writing—and I've stated repeatedly and explicitly that this was about out-of-universe writing. CTRL+F finds me stating so (using the term "out-of-universe") five times besides this statement, including statements that you responded to. It seems perfectly clear to editors who responded before you did: Masem's comments address out-of-universe examples, as did Cebr1979's, PamD's and others.
This discussion has become unreadable. Would you accept rebooting it with the explicit disclaimer that it is strictly about out-of-universe writing? As in retitling it "RfC: Are personal pronouns (including "who") to be prohibited for fictional characters in out-of-universe writing?" None of my arguments will have changed. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 21:15, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
Re: "This discussion has become unreadable. Would you accept rebooting it with the explicit disclaimer that it is strictly about out-of-universe writing? As in retitling it "RfC: Are personal pronouns (including "who") to be prohibited for fictional characters in out-of-universe writing?" Agreed entirely. Too many respondents here, and too much of the heat, has clearly been generated by people thinking this, or some part of this, is about preventing use of "(s)he" and "who(m)" in in-universe writing.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  03:50, 27 August 2015 (UTC)

At this point, it's clear CurlyTurkey is not going to stop until he gets his way or no way. You all do realise we could just move on without him and create a majority rules consensus, right? Or, do we all want to go around in circles forever and ever amen? Personally, I don't.Cebr1979 (talk) 23:44, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

  • What, you mean like the current consensus? I could go with that. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 23:47, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
    • You mean the conversation where everyone (except you) agrees that who should not be used for fictional characters? Sure.Cebr1979 (talk) 23:51, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
      • Cebri, I count only three people who said any kind of "use 'who' when X and use 'that' when Y," four if you're generous. That RfC had more than twenty people total. Darkfrog24 (talk) 01:05, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
    • We're clearly converging on a consensus for something, that even Darkfrog24 agrees with (for different reasons than my own), even if it's not as far as Cebr1979 would go, and maybe not as far as Masem and I would take it. There are obviously not only two views here, but a spectrum, with CT at one extreme, and maybe Cebr1979 at the other, with me and Masem toward Cebr, but pretty centrist, and DF more toward CT, but also centrist. Consensus will lie toward the centrist position, as it most often does.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  03:25, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
      • Darkfrog24: according to SMcCandlish, the "extreme" I'm pushing for is this: "To him this debate is only about "banning" the use of "we" and the like in fiction". Does this look anything like my position to you? My position—which I've stated explicitly more than once—is that there should not be a prohibition on personal pronouns in out-of-universe writing about fictional characters, as in the example edit I linked to in my opening remarks. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 03:57, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
        • Thank you for restating your position more clearly. As I noted above, in at least 5 places, it was not at all clear what you meant.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:44, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
          • Actually, I got the impression that Curly T's position is that using "who" for fictional characters is standard English, and the purpose of this RfC is to stop people from changing "who" to "that." Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:34, 24 August 2015 (UTC)
      • Since I was brought in unexpectedly, I'd like to offer a quick statement, perhaps raising or ignoring issues that have already been discussed. The Britannica article is a fine example of how we should write in this manner: don't make firm rules of "do" or "don't", but write to be easily understood. I did see the Superman example up above, so for example, the idea of "he was sold to whoever" makes it sound like Superman became somebody's slave: you don't realise immediately that we're talking about intellectual property rather than about some new turn of the story. You have to become rather wordy, or you have to say "the character was sold", in order to demonstrate that you're discussing intellectual property. Conversely, "he's well known on the stage" is easy to understand: any normal user of English will realise that we're talking about out-of-universe appearances, and you'd have to go out of your way if you were talking about a non-canonical story in while Holmes becomes an actor. Good writing in this manner is something that really can't be defined by any rules, so avoid further rule-creep by simply requiring articles to be written in the manner that's most easily understood. Nyttend (talk) 03:44, 22 August 2015 (UTC)

I am convinced by Curly Turkey's arguments that the whole rule-making idea on the subject is ridiculous and makes Wikipedians look like nutters. Furthermore, SMcCandlish's reading for the Brittanica article is purely ideological and self-serving. The article uses "his" in reference to both Holmes and his creator in several occasions, and we can not really determine the writer's views on the subject. I fail to see any "studious avoidance". Any sentence which violates SMcCandlish's imaginary rule is attributed to editorial mistakes: "any professional editor could have missed this, or caught it and considered it permissible." and "one suspects they were added by later writers/editors; the piece is credited to both one main author and to "Ed."" I consider it more likely that there was nothing objectionable to catch.

  • "A great deal of care was taken to avoid confusing use of "he"." No evidence here that "he" is confusing and there are several instance where the writer uses "his" instead.
  • "pronoun-substitute phrases like "a popular figure", "fictional character", "the Sherlock Holmes character", "Holmes's character, etc." Which are all reasonable terms to use for a character but it is unclear if they are used to avoid referring to Holmes as a person. No indication if a real-world context has anything to do with the sentence formation. By the way, a popular figure could be used to refer to real-world people like politicians.
  • "WP can do better (in part by rewriting to avoid both cases of out-of-universe "he" ". How would that be better, since it would make the article use less natural English and impose a confusing, artificial rule?
  • "the article has neutrality and tone issues that WP would not permit, cites no sources, is not very comprehensive but highly summarative, and is otherwise very "Britannica-ish", which is not what WP is going for." Britanica uses its own house-style? Shocking but irrelevant to the discussion. Dimadick (talk) 07:44, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
    • Re: 'No evidence here that "he" is confusing and there are several instance where the writer uses "his" instead.' I specifically spelled out where those cases were and why whey were not confusing: In each case, the writer constructed the sentences to reinforce that a fictional character was under discussion as such. I feel that you did not actually read what I wrote very carefully, since you're using the very point I made as if it's evidence I missed. Re: "How would that be better...?" See "pronoun-substitute phrases like 'a popular figure'..."; I already covered that, too.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:51, 22 August 2015 (UTC)

Since I was invited here to comment, I shall. In the fictional character articles I have written, I have taken care to avoid using personal pronouns like "who" outside of direct quotes that might make use of the world, and been extra careful in my use of "him/her". Example: the articles on Lightning and this Prince characters are articles I've extensively worked on, and while they do refer to the fictional characters in sections like development, this was only to break up any monotony or repetitiveness in the text. Admittedly there is a use of "whose" in the Lightning article, but only because any other noun would either look clunky or would not communicate the information accurately. In general, I avoid the personal pronoun where it would cause confusion or seem too much like a dedicated fan wikia, which is certainly not held up to the same criticism as articles on Wikipedia. So on this issue, I think I'm in agreement with AngusWOOF, while taking SMcCandlish's comments on Curly Turkey's possible position and phrasing of the issue when they pinged other editors and asked the above question. --ProtoDrake (talk) 08:12, 22 August 2015 (UTC)

  • With respect to the question in the subtitle – "Should the MoS state this rule explicitly? (pronouns for fictional characters)" – my answer is an emphatic No. The question is whether fictional characters and comic book characters in particular should be regarded as "people". That question belongs to literary criticism. It is not the kind of question that can or should be settled by a manual of style. If someone wants to debate that question, they should take it to some other forum. – Margin1522 (talk) 00:53, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
    • Margin1522: Would that it were, but the issue is under discussion because editors are forcing the issue onto articles they otherwise have no stake in as if the prescription were already in force. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 01:14, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
      • "they otherwise have no stake in" What exactly do you mean by that?Cebr1979 (talk) 01:22, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
        • Meaning making driveby edits to enforce a particular POV to articles the editor has not otherwise contributed to. When it comes to spelling, date formatting, serial commas, and other contentious stylistic issues a new consensus is required to overturn the article's established style. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 01:31, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
          • And do you have any proof of that or are you simply making baseless allegations?Cebr1979 (talk) 02:11, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
            • You're commenting on the MoS talk page and can't be bothered to read the MoS itself (MOS:RETAIN, MOS:DATERET, etc)? RETAIN's not even on a subpage—you have no excuse for this. Do your own homework. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 03:07, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
I'll add that to my collection of people mistaking MOS:RETAIN for some form of WP:OWNership and an excuse to try to bar incoming editors' participation on already extant articles.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  05:01, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
bar incoming editors' participation? Give it a break—this is an editor who systematically forces his preferred style on articles: [9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25] including one today while this discussion is still underway—editors have been blocked for that kind of thing. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 05:25, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
I have an interest in every single one of those pages. You saying "they otherwise have no stake in" is you lying. I (and anyone else on the planet) can edit whatever page I want to when I want to and you're only option is to sit there and like it. I'm assuming you're already seated...Cebr1979 (talk) 07:23, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
Does anything on this page ever stay short enough to read? Anyway, characters are essentially real people who simply don't exist. They have genders, personalities, hopes, fears, the whole nine yards. Fake ones, but actual, or else we wouldn't know about them. Nothing wrong with saying a developer "wanted to give her 15% less spunk and 20% more moxy." Of course, if the developer is also a woman, don't be ambiguous, just like when discussing two real women. InedibleHulk (talk) 03:39, August 23, 2015 (UTC)
I think avoiding use of pronouns in articles about fictional characters is ridiculous. If they are clearly one gender or the other, then using a pronoun is not only natural, and makes the writing better. ···日本穣? · 投稿 · Talk to Nihonjoe · Join WP Japan! 18:14, 24 August 2015 (UTC)

Toward a "take five"[edit]

Working in ideas from all the conversations above, something like this could emerge:

Animate pronouns ("who[m]", "[s]he") are usually appropriate for fictional characters in an in-universe perspective. While their use in reference to characters as such may not be confusing if the context is clear, sometimes inanimate pronouns are more suitable ("that"/"which", "it"), especially when referring to them as intellectual property. However, it is usually possible and often preferable to avoid awkward constructions by rewording.

Followed by some examples that can be hashed out separately.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  20:08, 22 August 2015 (UTC)

Ah, just realized we can use also use the word "brand", which would make it suitable for inanimate pronouns in the Superman example, should that come up again. AngusWOOF (barksniff) 20:24, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
I am late to this discussion, but have just read through it start to finish. I strongly oppose the above suggestion. I think "take 3B" is the best that has been offered so far. Or perhaps something like this:
Animate pronouns ("who[m]", "[s]he") are normally appropriate when referring to fictional characters either in an in-universe perspective or in an out-of universe perspective. In a few cases such pronouns may be confusing, and inanimate pronouns may be suitable ("that"/"which", "it"), especially when referring to characters as intellectual property. However, it is usually possible and often preferable to avoid awkward constructions by rewording.
This drops the in-universe vs out-of-universe distinction as the decisive criterion, which I think is both wrong headed and not well supported above. DES (talk) 21:07, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
I also prefer take 3-B above, but of course I'm biased. (And I prefer to phrase the MoS in the imperative.) But it's looking like consensus is leaning toward "we don't need to explicitly state this rule." Concur that in-universe vs out-of-universe should be dropped from any version we use. It doesn't seem to be the decisive criterion. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:24, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
(ec) @DESiegel: I could lean toward that version. It goes farther toward promoting personal pronouns out-of-universe than I'd like, but it's a good basis from which to work, and should be good enough to try out, since it permits dispensing with them in cases where it is in fact confusing. [relevant portion of older post; off-topic portion under collapse] — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  04:55, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
since it permits dispensing with them in cases where it is in fact confusing: such a thing doesn't need to be "permitted" as it is not prohibited—it is an editorial decision requiring editorial judgement. The idea is to stop allowing certain editors to force one style whose validity is in question, not to introduce new rules. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 05:08, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
That's your idea; clearly several participants in this debate don't agree with you on that point.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:00, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
I think this wording is fine. Argento Surfer (talk) 20:49, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
"The idea" as in "The idea behind the RfC as I proposed it"; that there are those who disagree is the whole reason there is an RfC. You seem bent on painting my comments as Bad Faith. (talk) 20:56, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
To whom are writing, anon? Your comment doesn't seem responsive to me, to Argento Surfer, or to Curly Turkey.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  23:53, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
The "as I proposed it" should have made it obvious it was me accidentally signed out. Curly Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 01:03, 27 August 2015 (UTC)

This conversation has been going on for days and we're nowhere further along than when we started. In fact, parts of this conversation have gone outright childish. I'm now leaving the conversation and won't be returning. I'm just going to keep on doing what I decide to do. Have a good one, all!Cebr1979 (talk) 08:38, 23 August 2015 (UTC)

Actually, we are further along. We've formed a consensus of "Animate pronouns are standard English usage," and "this might be so obvious that we don't need to state the rule." Darkfrog24 (talk) 21:14, 23 August 2015 (UTC)
Repeating what I said above: "People who strongly oppose using who for a fictional character are the only ones who cause these discussions, and pointing to previous consensus usually doesn't sway them." Cebr1979's stated decision to ignore this conversation and continue removing who/he/she is exactly why this rule needs to be explicitly covered in the MOS. Otherwise, this discussion will just happen again in a few months, and a lot of effort will be spent reaching the same consensus. Though, to be honest, Cebr1979's history has made it clear his opinions are higher than Wiki rules and consensus. (The conversation started in edit summaries here on July 9, 2015.) Argento Surfer (talk) 12:42, 24 August 2015 (UTC)
I have to point out that "people who strongly oppose [doing any objectionable style/grammar thing] are the only ones who cause ... discussions [about the objectionable style/grammar thing]" is true of every single valid style/grammar issue, as well as the invalid ones. It's not a cogent rationale for ignoring their concerns, nor (as Darkfrog24 points out) a cogent rationale for having no rule. We are in fact further along toward resolving this, also as DF24 said.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  18:58, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

Take 3C (wording of MoS entry on pronouns for fictional characters)[edit]

Having being called, I will too offer my position. I oppose adding any specific recommendation to avoid the WP:CREEP. But in case that editors feel some text has to be added to the MOS in order to avoid edit warrings because of this concern, the added text should be a non-rule, keeping with the spirit of WP:NOTBUREAUCRACY; i.e. a clarification explicitly saying that Wikipedia doesn't have a specific criterion for which pronoun to use and all possibilities are legitimate, thus preventing editors from claiming that the guideline supports their preferred version and disallows the rest.

In particular, it should not say that some version is "preferred" nor that some uses are more or less "frequent" than others. I agree that take 3B is the closest to this (by marking both possibilities as valid), although I would change the "in general, use animate pronouns" with "animate pronouns may be used", and would remove the "few" in "few contexts". Let's call this version 3C:

Animate pronouns ("who," "she") can be used for fictional characters, either when writing in- or out-of-universe, but there are contexts in which inanimate pronouns are also suitable ("which," "it"). However, it is often possible to avoid the issue entirely by rewording the sentence.
"Laertes and Ophelia both took action, unlike Hamlet, who continued to delay."
"The character Superman, which was sold to Detective Comics, Inc. in 1938, was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster in 1933."
"The character Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster in 1933 and sold to Detective Comics, Inc. in 1938."

Diego (talk) 21:23, 23 August 2015 (UTC)

Descriptive phrasing is good for the article space, but the MoS is a list of instructions, so it should be in the imperative mood ("do this"). "Can be" seems too vague. Inanimate pronouns are an extreme minority in English, so it's perfectly all right to put animate pronouns above them in some way. But I do like this more than take four. Darkfrog24 (talk) 21:37, 23 August 2015 (UTC)

The most common fictional characters in out-of-universe situation I encounter is when I'm writing up a list of characters and have the voice credits in prose. For example: "Natsu is voiced by Tetsuya Kakihara. In the English dub, his voice is provided by Todd Haberkorn." Here it does not make sense to list Natsu twice, but it gets complicated when the sentences are combined and there are several voices to convey. Here's another example from List of One Piece characters#Smoker: " In the Japanese anime series, he is voiced originally by Ginzō Matsuo, later by Mahito Ōba. In the 4Kids English adaptation, referred to as Chaser the "Smoke Hunter", he is voiced by Scottie Ray. In the Funimation English adaptation, where he is called Smoker the "White Hunter", his voice is supplied by Greg Dulcie." AngusWOOF (barksniff) 18:05, 24 August 2015 (UTC)

Use less telegraphic writing, wikify, and preserve some points other consider important, and I think we may have a winner. Something like:
Animate pronouns ("who[m]", "[s]he") are usually appropriate for fictional characters when writing in an in- or out-of universe perspective, but there are contexts in which inanimate pronouns are also suitable ("that"/"which," "it"), especially when referring to characters as intellectual property. However, it is usually possible and often preferable to avoid awkward constructions by rewording.
followed by examples.
The word "normally" should be avoided here, because it is not normal to use "he" or "she" for genderless characters, nor even "whom" when referring to characters as intellectual property; using "normally" (i.e., asserting a norm with which others are expected to comply) is an overstatement that introduces a factual error. "Ususally" conveys the commonness of the situation without any such incorrect implication.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:10, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

That is not inanimate[edit]

This comment applies to most of the versions above: I firmly oppose labeling that as an "inanimate pronoun". It is always correct (but not required) to use that to refer to humans in a restrictive clause. See these classic examples, as merely a few among many thousands:

All of those are grammatically correct. There is nothing wrong with using that construction to refer to actual people or to comic book characters, if you want to. WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:10, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

  • WhatamIdoing: You've misunderstood what the RfC was about—not one editor argued that "that" was incorrect. The argument was whether "who" should be prohibited when referring to fictional characters in an out-of-universe context, as in AngusWOOF's example: "The author wanted a magical girl heroine who would appeal not only to tween girls but also adults". What started the RfC is that there are editors who change "who" to "that" in such contexts under the pretext that "who" cannot be used to refer to fictional characters in an out-of-universe context. The argument applies to "he" and "she" as well, and as "it" is obviously an unacceptable substitute in many examples, some editors prescribe recasting such sentences to avoid pronouns altogether; others of us believe this is an unreasonable burden not backed by actual English usage. Curly Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 01:26, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
    • I'm not very interested in the actual question. I'm interested in avoiding a problem in several of the proposals in this section. These proposals would result in the MOS directly labeling the word that as being an "inanimate" pronoun. Doing so would be bad for the entire encyclopedia and produce disputes about whether we can write things like Vice Presidents that are still living, or if it's insulting to use an "inanimate" pronoun to describe living people.
      As for the actual question, if it's correct to introduce a dependent clause with who, then it is equally grammatically correct to use that (for restrictive clauses) or which (for non-restrictive clauses) instead, and I have no complaint about editors who choose that style. However, I wouldn't choose to use it on the grounds that it will confuse readers. WhatamIdoing (talk) 01:36, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
      • Calling "that" inanimate is indeed an error and such wording should be amended in the proposals. Nobody here has expressed complaint about "editors who choose" to use "that" as a relative pronoun, only about those who insist that editors have chosen to use "who" are mistaken and must be corrected. Curly Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 02:01, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
        • I switched to using "which" for the inanimate example for this reason. But it looks like the issue is academic, at least for now. We don't have consensus that any rule needs to be inserted at this time. Darkfrog24 (talk) 02:21, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

Revisiting possessive for words ending in unsounded s[edit]

Can someone point me to justification within the WP confines of why Illinois, Descartes, and Verreaux have an added ’s rather than only an apostrophe? Perhaps I missed it, but I don’t see it on the pages listed at Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style/Register#Possessives. humanengr (talk) 06:47, 19 August 2015 (UTC)

  • I doubt Wikipedia has decided on this, as it appears to be a matter of dispute. Recently Arkansas passed a resolution that the possessive of the state name be Arkansas's, though some were nonplussed, saying it was "too many esses". I'm in the 's camp. Curly Turkey ¡gobble! 08:16, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
    • I'm also in the always-use-the-same-formula camp ('s); but there are too many detractors to get consensus. I believe that as long as usage is article-consistent, either approach has to be accepted. Tony (talk) 09:13, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
      • I think we should follow Fowler's Modern English Usage, which says "With French names ending in (silent) -s or -x, add 's (e.g. Dumas's, le Roux's) and pronounce the modified word with a final -z." DrKiernan (talk) 14:00, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree with the above commenters: Consistently use 's. Leaving it out because of how you think it sounds [which varies considerably on a regional basis, BTW] is eye dialect, and WP is not a novel trying to mimic people's speech patterns. When Jones says something it's Jones's speech. When I break a glass and cut myself while cleaning up, it was one of the glass's fragments that cut me. The temple I was in in Greece last year was a former center of Zeus's worship. People resist this mainly because many Bibles use Jesus' (often in red like that) and they don't ever want to do it differently. If it comes down to it, we can just make an exception for Jesus' in the context of scripture, only (use Jesus's in the context of, e.g., the historicity of Jesus), and move on, the same way it's permissible to use smallcaps for the Tetragrammaton and English Bible translation of it as GOD, and we even templates for this stuff (I just used one of them). A WP:COMMONSENSE exception to avoid religious flamewars and permit "Jesus'" is no reason to throw the rest of the rule baby out with the religion bathwater.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  00:55, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
  • OP here. WP MoS states "For the possessive of most singular nouns, add 's (my daughter's achievement, my niece's wedding, Cortez's men, the boss's office, Glass's books, Illinois's largest employer, Descartes's philosophy, Verreaux's eagle). …" [silent (unsounded) 's' boldfaced]. I was asking not for further argument at this point, but for reference to old discussions to have that as a grounding. humanengr (talk) 03:28, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
Is this any help? --Boson (talk) 19:51, 20 August 2015 (UTC)
thx -- am going through that … will report back humanengr (talk) 06:08, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
(edit conflict) See also Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Register#Possessives. It may not be exhaustive, either. The key material to me is the series of 2009 threads showing that a total mess had been made in MOS trying to account for varying preferences here, and it led to frequent strife, both at articles and here at WT:MOS. This is one of the cases where we just need to pick something and stick with it or the flaming would never die. It appears that once something has been picked and stuck with, virtually no one cares, and dispute dies off almost entirely.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  02:24, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

[outdenting to present new info] The part I’ve gone through so far starts out with a contrived example as an object of discussion: ‘"These are Doris'[s] copies of Morris'[s] books on Socrates'[s] and Descartes'[s] philosophies.”’ It’s slow-going to pick out rationale specifically re the unsounded s. (And nearly all archive search results for ["Possessives"] are after 2009, so a thorough search to find rationale supporting the past decision will be a massive undertaking.) What I've seen so far identifies consistency and simplicity as overall drivers on the Possessives section. Noble goals, perhaps, but what’s striking is how far the guidance is from actual usage.

Looking at the 3 examples given — Google searches for Illinois, Descartes, Verreaux show:

  1. "Descartes's" -"Descartes’” — 12,100 hits
  2. -"Descartes's" "Descartes’” — 19,400,000 hits
  3. "Illinois's" -"Illinois’” — 5,540 hits
  4. -"Illinois's" "Illinois’” — 479,000,000 hits
  5. "Verreaux's" -"Verreaux’” — 21,900 hits
  6. -"Verreaux's" "Verreaux’” — 321,000 hits

In Google Scholar, the ratios are more striking — for Verreaux, there are 0 and 2,820 hits, respectively.

For unsounded s, usage is overwhelmingly in favor of apostrophe only.

Thoughts? humanengr (talk) 20:21, 21 August 2015 (UTC)

  1. Your statistical method in those searches is invalid because of how Google operates and the nature of the data. Any work that included the string "Verreaux's" would also be likely to include "Verreaux" by itself. Google drops all punctuation from searches, even when the search terms are quoted. This means that, operationally, your searches on "Descartes's" -"descartes'" and "Descartes's" "descartes'" are, respectively, actually being performed as "Descartess" -"descartes" and "Descartess" "descartes", respectively, which are basically gibberish.
  2. Google is useless for this sort of thing, even aside from the punctuation problem, since there is no way to distinguish high-quality sources from random kids' blogs, nor from one regional usage variation to another, nor even from material written by native English speakers vs. those with only partial fluency (or the output of machine translation). There's also no way to use it to distinguish between material written to a particular published style guide vs. another one or vs. no guidance at all.
  3. Published mainstream style guides are more useful, in general, for questions of this sort, but they prove not to all agree with each other, and some have strange rules like use ' not 's (e.g. Zeus' not Zeus's) for "names from antiquity", whatever that means; others are pronunciation based; others are consistent on 's; others are semi-consistent on 's except after another s; etc.
  4. Whether an -s is sounded or not varies from speaker to speaker, often regionally; previous discussions illustrate this actually, though I don't know if you've run into the ones that do yet, so the "based on pronunciation" model fails in an international encyclopedia, even if it (allegedly) works on some national levels (my linguistic training tells me even that assumption is patently false).
  5. Whether it's sounded or not in spoken English is of questionable relevance in written English to begin with.
  6. Rehashing old discussions to "re-legislate" a current issue is rarely helpful. It can be helpful in discerning why a guideline (or whatever) presently says what it says, but generally is not helpful in determining whether to change it or how. It's not necessary to re-argue all previous argument in order for WP consensus to form today.
  7. WP doesn't operate on a "precedent" basis much of anywhere, and even where it is a concern, it's a limited one. So no "massive undertaking" is required to ferret out every prior thread that ever mentioned possessive suffixes (and your search for "possessive prefix" would not be expected to find anything useful, since English doesn't use prefixes to indicate the possessive). Anyway, the WP:CCC principle tells us to rely on current thinking, not thinking from several years ago.
  8. It's more important to examine the present context. Is a MoS rule "working" for the most part compared to an old rule or a lack of any rule? Where disputes arise what are they about? Are they widespread or limited to a specific topic or case? Are they frequent or rare? Are they populous, or is it mostly the same editor or handful of editors re-re-raising the same "issue"?
  9. Is the WP rule based on citation to some external "authority", or based on internal consensus about what works best here? (Obviously the latter in this case.)
This is a case where off-WP guidance is very inconsistent, and where the consensus has emerged to pick the one of several possible treatments of the issue (the version with the least variation, for simplicity), and run with that for the sake of forestalling further strife. As a rule, it's intent is conflict reduction, not propriety (contrast this with a rule like "capitalize after a colon when what follows the colon is a complete sentence", a rule that is found in most style guides, and about which people rarely edit-war; here, the rule is intended to match what actually is a prevailing usage, rather than put an end to a perennial conflict by picking something out of competing usages none of which are predominant). Some MoS rules (perhaps most of them) serve both the "look professional" and "forestall fighting" purposes, but this is not required. (Some serve other purposes, e.g. technical ones, that don't relate to either of those two more common rationales.)  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  21:14, 21 August 2015 (UTC)
> Re #Google is useless for this, since there is no way to distinguish high-quality sources …
Google Scholar:
  • "Descartes's" -"Descartes’” — 12,100 hits
  • -"Descartes's" "Descartes’” — 19,400,000 hits
  • "Illinois's" -"Illinois’” — 11 hits
  • -"Illinois's" "Illinois’” — 2,300,000 hits
  • "Verreaux's" -"Verreaux’” — 0 hits
  • -"Verreaux's" "Verreaux’” — 2,820 hits
> your search for "possessive prefix"
Apologies for mis-writing the link label. The search was for "Possessives" in the search archives for the MoS page. ("prefix" was inserted by the WP search tool as a code for the page archive.)
humanengr (talk) 04:27, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
Using Google Scholar doesn't escape my point #1, above; that search also drops all punctuation even for quoted search terms. See the N-gram data below for what valid data on this question looks like. The N-gram search does not drop punctuation so we actually get what we're looking for.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:11, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
Thanks. More precisely: while Google, Google Scholar, and Google Books drop most punctuation, they don't drop apostrophes within words (Illinois’s), so that’s handled correctly. However, they do drop the apostrophe at the end of a word (so Illinois’ is treated as Illinois). It's because of the latter issue that the results I reported above are misleading. (I provided feedback to Google on this.) humanengr (talk) 22:51, 23 August 2015 (UTC)

A shipload of N-gram data[edit]

N-gram searches of published book are more useful; although they're provided by Google, it's with different search algorithms that do not drop punctuation, and they are of ostensibly reliable sources, not random webpages generated by the questionably literate. (You may have to re-click the "Search Lots of Books" button after loading each of these URLs, to actually run the searches):

  • The odd American placenames: Illinois's has always trailed Illinois' [32], but the former has been on the rise since the late 1970s, while the latter has been simultaneously declining since ca. the mid 1990s. Arkansas's trailed Arkansas' [33] until the former started to rise in the late 1970s, becoming dominant by ca. 1993, and it remains so [34]. Despite the pronunciation difference at the end (the trailing s in Arkansas is silent), Kansas's badly trailed Kansas' [35] until rising in the 1980s to become even with the shorter spelling [36].
  • The silent French s: Camus's and Camus' [37] have gone back and forth over time, with Camus' leading, starting in the 1950s, then Camus's since the mid 1980s, evening out as of 2008.[38] Descartes's has always trailed Descartes': [39], but not by much, and the pattern has been consistent even in recent publications.[40] Dumas's has achieved parity with Dumas' after a century-and-a-half of the latter being mostly the more dominant form [41]. But this one data point may not be valid, since there are two famous Dumases (pere and fils), and sometimes or Dumas's or even Dumas' (instead of Dumases', the arguably correct form) is used as a plural possessive for them both; MOS is right to advise rewriting as "each Dumas" to avoid this entire question, but it's advice on apostrophe use with regard to Dumas is pointless, wrong to many of us, and should be removed, leaving only the rewriting advice. Moving on: Dubois's mostly has lagged behind Dubois' [42], until Dubois' dropped out of favor in the 1990s, followed by a sharp spike in its use in the early 2000s, with the two variants neck-and-neck since then [43]. But if you switch to the alternative spelling and use Du Bois's vs. Du Bois' [44], the 's spelling has been dominant since the late 1970s, and massively dominant since the mid 1990s. Degas's now rules Degas', though the former was strongly the case [45]. A bigger sample is needed, but so far it seems that if the shorter form still has a slight edge, it is badly eroded. It would be wise in further testing to pick a wide field of test subjects, e.g. from politics, science and sports, since the arts lean strongly toward the shorter version (which makes the above results even more surprising than they might be; I would have expected a landslide in favor of Dumas' and Degas', but it simply isn't there.
  • The silent French x: Verreaux's has always dominated Verraux' [46] (there were big spkies in 's usage in the 1950s and 1970s, which has evened out again, though perhaps indications of a trend further toward 's again recently [47]). At no time has just Verraux' prevailed. Same for Lascaux's vs. Lascaux' [48]. For some such cases, like Vignaux's, the ...x' case (e.g. Vignaux') is not attested in print at all.[49].
  • The [usually] z ending: James's has totally dominated James' [50] since mid 17th century! I didn't expect that. Jones's has mostly dominated Jones' [51], except from the mid 1910s to mid-1940s. The current trend is very strongly away from Jones'. Hodges's has been far behind Hodges' since the early 19th century, probably because Hodges's in spoken English has a repetitive uz-uz at the end. One sticking point: Proper pronunciation of a possessive written as Hodges' would, for many speakers, sound the same as Hodges's, otherwise it would be indistinguishable from Hodge's, and Hodge is an actual name. MoS's present wording "Add only an apostrophe if the possessive is pronounced the same way as the non-possessive name: Sam Hodges' son, Moses' leadership" is meaningless to many native English speakers, depending on their dialect, as many of us would pronounce Moses' as /MO-zez-uz/, certainly not /MO-zez/ or /MO-zuz/). Anyway, back to the data: Hus's and Hus' don't produce enough data to be statistically significant but appear to be neck and neck with Hus's having a tiny advantage. Brahms's has been beating Brahms' since the 1950s [52]. Dickens's has also been beating Dickens', since the 1850s (despite the fact that Dicken is also a name, the correct plural possessive of which is Dickens', skewing the data toward that version). This, by the way, proves the "Hodges'/Moses'" point is in the present wording is nonsense; anyone who pronounced Hodges/Hodges' or Moses/Moses' indistinguishably would do the same with Dickens/Dickens'. Moving on: Leeds's is still trailing Leeds'. [53]. It can't be a British thing, or the Dickens data wouldn't be what it is.
  • The [usually] s ending: Morris's has been beating Morris' since nearly 1700. Dennis's has always dominated Dennis' [54]], except for brief blips. Note that the feminine Denice's has no published Denice' counterpart [55], despite Venice' being attested; the Denise's spelling is common, the Denise' spelling rare. [56] Venice's and Venice' tracked closely [57], believe it or not, until ca. 1950 when Venice's took the lead, which it retains to this day (a quite strong lead since the early 1970s) [58]. Virtually no one writing today would use "Venice'". Similarly, niece's is almost universally preferred over niece' (with regard to the place in France, Nice's is actually at a loss to Nice' [59], oddly enough, after 200 years of back-and-forth, and despite the opposite with Venice, but this may be skewed by the use of "nice" as a regular word; any title or heading ending with the character string Nice' will trigger a hit). Columbus's vs. Columbus' [60] has veered back and forth again and again, Columbus's has been dominant since the mid 1980s. The informal Vegas's vhas followed a similar pattern of recent dominance over Vegas' [61], and this tracks the more formal case, Las Vegas's now beating Las Vegas', both since the latter quarter of the 20th century [62]. Despite a brief "flare-up" of bus' a generation or two ago (depending on your reckoning), the bus's is clearly leading over the bus' [63]; in the 20th century it went back-and-forth several times. Prentice's seriously dominates Prentice', which is barely attested [64], disspelling the idea that pronunciation has much to do with it. Prentiss's and Prentiss', by contrast [65], have long tracked each other very closely, with the 's spelling on the rise again.
  • The doubled ss ending: Glass's and Glass' have tracked each other very closely [66], with a slight edge to Glass' most of the time, but not enough for us to care about; Ross's dominates Ross' [67]; Hiss's dominates Hiss' [68]; Voss's dominated Voss' [69]; Blass's has taken the lead from Blass', though the latter was more prominent for a long time; Klaas's beats Klaas's consistently, Hass's loses to Hass' after years of tied results [70]; but Haas's beats Haas' (also after a long tie/draw) [71]. Hesse's dwarfs Hesse' (barely attested), but we'd expect this, since in proper German pronunciation, the final e is not silent, and some English-speakers know this. But Hess's has won over Hess' for decades. A test for my distant cousins: McCandless's has been beating McCandless' since the latter part of the 20th century. [72] For the boss's vs. the boss' [73] and my boss's vs. my boss' [74], the 's spelling has been consistently preferred since the mid 19th century, and dwarfs the ' version.
  • Let's try a name with lots of variant spellings and a pronounced s (or sometimes z) ending: Nicholas leads against Nicholas' [75], though this was not always so; the former ('s) spelling has been dominant since the mid 1970s. Nichols's leads Nichols' [76] and has since the mid 1980s, after a period of Nichols' dominance beginning ca. 1907 [77]. Nicklaus's beats Nicklaus' [78]; Niclaus's beats Niclaus' (unattested) [79]; Niklaus's beats Niklaus' in modern writing [80] (it was the other way around ca. 1950–1980); Nikolaus's and Nikolaus' [81] have gone sharply back-and-forth several times with the former leading today; Nicolas's presently leads over Nicolas' [82] though it was long the other way around; Nikolas's is suddenly behind Nikolas' after decades of back-and-forth; and so on.
  • Spanish z (plus s variants): Diaz's and Diaz' are an interesting case [83]; this is Spanish name properly pronounced with a final s (or even a th in high Castilian), but usually with a z in American English. Despite some Diaz' spikes in the 1930s and 1960s, it's overwhelmingly Diaz's today [84]; this is surely good data because of the popularity of Cameron Diaz, who gets a lot of press (or did a while back; I don't follow celebrity magazines, an N-gram data only goes up to 2008 anyway). This is especially telling since in this context it's always pronounced with a final z (i.e. "you can't end with 'z-z'" is a bogus rationale that is not supported by the actual data). "Dias" has too many other uses to produce meaningful test results (if you're curious, usage goes back-and-forth, and has converged to even). Cortez's is preferred over Cortez' and mostly has been, though the latter has had its periods of vogue [85]. Cruz's has consistently dominated Cruz' [86] since the 1950s. Rodriguez's and Rodrigues's both beat the Rodriguez' and Rodrigues' spellings [87] [88] in modern writing, though Rodrigues' was dominant over Rodrigues's until ca. 1999, and started slipping in the 1980s [89]. Exact same situation for Gonzalez's vs. Gonzalez' (former always dominant) and Gonzales's vs. Gonzales' (former dominant since the 2000s, rise beginning in the 1980s). The ancestral form, Gonsalves's vs. Gonsalves', also shows the former dominant in modern English writing, again with the rise starting in the 1980s [90].
  • Some "polluted"-by-French cases: Paris's consistently loses to Paris' [91], probably because the s is silent in French and, as a historical figure, it's a "name from antiquity", resulting in a double-whammy. Nevertheless, Paris's has been rapidly gaining since the late 20th century. St. Louis's is now dominant over St. Louis' [92] despite the opposite being true throughout most of the last century-and-a-half, and despite the fact that sometimes it refers to the actual person, where the terminal s is silent.
  • A variable case (usually pronounced with terminal s by English speakers): Soros's has totally dominated Soros' [[93]] since that name hit the media in a big with the George Soros. (The name is properly pronounced with a terminal sh sound, but most English speakers don't know that.)
  • Let's test sh endings: Koresh's totally dominates Koresh' [94]. Same with Tosh's vs. Tosh' [95], a trend that has sharply increased since the early 1970s. Macintosh's dominates Machintosh' by a long way [96]. Names that are also words, like "English", and "Danish", produce too many non-name results to be useful tests, but there are plenty of other sh names, and you can test them if you like. A few more are Jansch's which is real vs. the unattested Jansch' (despite the fame of Bert Jansch); Bosch's which dwarfs the barely-existent Bosch'; and Rakesh's sorely beats Rakesh' [97] (it's one of the top-5 male names in India).
  • Endings in [non-silent] x consistently take 's, as any number of searches show, e.g. Max's vs. Max' [98], Alex's vs. Alex' [99], etc.
  • What about ch endings: Church's dominates Church' [100], consistently.
  • Same goes for Mitch's vs. Mitch' [101]; no contest.
  • Ditto for Milosevic's vs. Milosevic' [102] (properly pronounced with a terminal ch).
  • Just for completeness, here's one ending in the zh sibilant: Sauvage's dominates Sauvage' [103] though the latter is actually attested, perhaps surprisingly.
  • One last thing to test is this notion that names of mythological figures, or "names from antiquity" in general, are treated with a bare '. Zeus's trails Zeus' [104], Xerxes's trails Xerxes' [105], Ramses's trails Ramses' [106]. But the trend is less clear-cut than one might think. Vilnius's was long losing to Vilnius' [107], but this has recently flipped, with a trend toward Vilnius's beginning in the late 1980s [108] Caratacus's has recently taken a lead over Caratacus' [109], and so has Bors's over Bors' [110]; Brutus's has made gains on Brutus' and actually surpassed it before; Venutius's is leading Venutius' again (and has several times in the past); Marius's vs. Marius' has gone back-and-forth more than once; Lucius's has made massive gains on Lucius' (which still leads but only by margin that has probably disappeared since the data was processed in 2008); Wenceslaus's and Wenceslaus's have converged after the latter leading since the 1930s; and Prasutagus's has taken the lead from Prasutagus' since the early 2000s [111]. Combined with the "x effect" shown above, a case like Vercingetorix's clearly dominates Vercingetorix' [112] (a trend that continues with modern names in this style: Asterix's strongly leads Asterix' [113], though this was not always so).
  • As we know already, Biblical names in particular (especially New Testament ones) are most often given in the shorter form, due to the influence of the KJV: Jesus's is very much less attested than Jesus' [114], and so on. But the influence of this particular Protestant religious tradition on other classical names has clearly slipped and continues to do so.

Conclusion: Sources simply are not even close to consistent on this matter, with writers and publishers following whatever would-be convention they prefer. WP is therefore free to settle on whatever option is simplest for our editors, since our readers will have no consistent expectation at all, other than perhaps for Biblical names, where most Protestant Bibles (maybe also Catholic one – I don't have one handy to check) do not use 's for names ending in sibilants.

I would do my usual "go through a huge pile of style guides" routine, but I strongly suspect this has already been done (maybe even by me) in a previous edition of this debate, and I don't want to waste the effort if it's not necessary, as it's very time consuming. The point is already proven above: There is no consistent external rule, so MoS should just advise what produces the least conflict. consistently use 's.

 — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  03:02, 22 August 2015 (UTC)

Hadn't noticed you started a separate section on same topic; will review; thx humanengr (talk) 05:30, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
Re: "There is no consistent external rule, so MoS should just advise what produces the least conflict." and "WP is therefore free to settle on whatever option is simplest for our editors." Let's not forget the option to NOT choose sides on the issue. The simplest rule would be "We allow both forms... so don't engage in edit wars over to change one to the other." Blueboar (talk) 16:18, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
Hear hear. Darkfrog24 (talk) 18:07, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
(ec) We've already tried that, and it's not working.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:08, 22 August 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for your efforts; much appreciated. Interesting that of the ‘unsounded s’ terms, Illinois’ is still favored 2:1 and Descartes’ 3:2. The trend for possessive apostrophe to ‘consistency’ over brevity seems surprising. It's in contrast iiuc to, e.g., prefix hyphenation as well as general language evolution toward efficiency except where new distinctions are required. Anyone care to comment? humanengr (talk) 18:13, 24 August 2015 (UTC)
It's just a different kind of efficiency, of the same kind that has lost us "thou" and "havest" from Middle English, and all sorts of complications that used to be present in Anglo-Saxon. We don't need hard-to-remember nit-picks when a consistent, simpler rule will suffice. This is also the explanation for full-compounding of once-hyphenated prefixes, etc. People get tired of trying to remember whether it's "co-operate" or "coöperate" (I remember that spelling from my youth!) or "cooperate"; given no reason to hyphenate (there is no "coop" + "-erate" with which to confuse it), "cooperate" is becoming the norm over time. It's also why specialist publication tend to drop hyphenation of compound adjectives; both the writers and reader already understand that "blunt force" in "blunt force trauma" is an adjective modifying "force" and never means anything else; MOS would still hyphenate that "blunt-force trauma", because not all of our readers will know to parse it that way (rather than as a "force trauma" that's blunt).  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:19, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

Headings with citations[edit]

According to MOS:HEAD, "[c]itations should not be placed within or on the same line as section and subsection headings." Occasionally, I have encountered these misplaced citations, and, not knowing where to put them, I left them where I found them, and I continued editing. My latest example is "Meithei language" (version of 01:57, 24 August 2015), which has three subheadings with citations. Where should those citations be put? I suggest a brief addition (of no more than ten words) to the existing guideline. (I am hesitant to suggest any addition, because WP:MOS is already very large; maybe a subpage is more appropriate.)
Wavelength (talk) 02:13, 24 August 2015 (UTC)

I have thought about this further, and now I retract my suggestion to add to the existing guideline information about where to move citations from headings and subheadings. Instead, I suggest that the guideline presently at MOS:HEAD be repeated at Wikipedia:Citing sources (WP:CITE), and that the advice on where to put citations removed from headings and subheadings be added in the same place. Also, the guideline at MOS:HEAD can have a link to the information at WP:CITE.
Wavelength (talk) 03:34, 24 August 2015 (UTC)

This seems a similar problem to the one documented as "not enough inline citations"--usually reserved for general references provided--, since the citations are not inline in this case. --Izno (talk) 11:03, 24 August 2015 (UTC)
Thank you.—Wavelength (talk) 15:49, 28 August 2015 (UTC)

Can anyone do this?? (remove comments about gender pronouns from the page history)[edit]

Look at the last few edits to this specific talk page and please try to make them invisible. They were ignorant comments made by User:Ascherf and I reverted them, but they're still visible in the history. Georgia guy (talk) 15:56, 25 August 2015 (UTC)

Georgia guy, please put back my comment. Deleting comments is vandalism Ascherf (talk) 16:35, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
Georgia guy, you may disagree Ascherf's opinion on this topic, but he's right about deleting comments from other users on talk pages. Neither of his edits (especially this one directly above, which I've restored) were off topic or hateful. Argento Surfer (talk) 17:35, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
Please examine Ascherf's edit just a few edits before I started this particular talk page section. I can conclude from this very edit that Ascherf disagrees with WP:MOSIDENTITY. He supports that chromosomal sex is the proper rule for determining how to refer to people with pronouns, not gender identity. Georgia guy (talk) 17:38, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
I read it. Is there something wrong with diagreeing with something in the MOS? Argento Surfer (talk) 17:44, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
He disagrees with it and thus he wants it changed badly. I reverted his edit, and I want it to become invisible in the history, but he keeps saying no; he wants it back. Georgia guy (talk) 17:47, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
GG means this edit: [116]
1) @Ascherf:, you're not supposed to put your own comments at the top of an existing section; you're supposed to put them at the bottom or, if they're a response to a specific previous comment, below that comment and indented. If you put them at the top, it looks like you're promoting a political position rather than participating in a discussion. As for using trans individuals' preferred pronouns, [content moved to relevant section by poster]
2) But yeah, @Georgia guy:, deleting Ascherf's comment outright was excessive. Ascherf is allowed to disagree with the MoS, ask questions about the MoS, suggest changing the MoS and even flat-out complain about the MoS. Moving it would have been appropriate. It does not belong where it was; I doubt you'd have gone so far as to delete it if it had been placed correctly. Darkfrog24 (talk) 17:53, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
I'm a newbie, and on most forums the new stuff goes on top, so that's why I put it there. Before Georgia guy deleted my comment however Irn had already moved it to the bottom of the section . I put my comment back where Irn had it Ascherf (talk) 18:10, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
@Darkfrog24: No, that comment was inappropriate and I assume Ascherf read this comment before deleting it. Disagreeing with MOS can be done without naming names or misgendering. --NeilN talk to me 19:26, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
By "naming names," do you mean specifying a page as an example? Because that's pretty weak. And if you read Ascherf's initial edit, he laid out a pretty clear argument for why he thought the article in question was already "misgendered", hence why he brought it up. Either way, if an editor has an "ignorant" point of view, the correct response is to educate them with links and explanations. Not try to have their opinion erased from the record. Argento Surfer (talk) 20:07, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
I can see why Ascherf's original post could be mistaken for heckling, but it's since become clear that it's within AGF to say that it's not. Let's not make this a bigger deal than it is. If GG or anyone doesn't want to hear about it (again), then we'll take it to the user talk pages. Darkfrog24 (talk) 20:14, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
I really don't want anyone to make such comments anywhere in Wikipedia, period. For clarification, this means comments saying that chromosomal sex is the proper way to determine what pronouns to use. Georgia guy (talk) 20:26, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
WP:NOTCENSORED If they don't ask, how are they going to learn? What if a teenager from a town with no out LGBQT needs to know how to write about such issues on Wikipedia? This place is pretty byzantine. If you're sick of having the educating-the-new-guy conversation, you don't have to. There are plenty of other people who can do it. Plus, if you think about it, considering that people's chromosomes do match their pronouns in the overwhelming majority of the human population, it's not so strange that a few people would get tripped up on how to write about the few people for whom they don't. Darkfrog24 (talk) 20:36, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
(edit conflict), LOL. WP:NOTCENSORED. That's actually the majority viewpoint of the English-speaking human race, even if you or I disagree with it, so it's not unreasonable for someone to express it here. Desires to change this or that in MOS are a frequent topic here, and many of them are not well-reasoned in WP terms (not cognizant of WP:POLICY, previous consensus discussions, the nature of encyclopedic writing, WP:BLP concerns, how WP:CONSENSUS works and the fact that it trump any old paper style guide, etc. But we don't just delete them.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  20:37, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
GG, you need a major trouting on this one. Your behavior was entirely unacceptable. Recognize it, apologize, and move on. --Trovatore (talk) 20:51, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
GG has not attempted to delete the comment again. Let's not make the deletion a bigger deal than it really is either. It's already been fixed. Darkfrog24 (talk) 21:20, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
Fair enough. --Trovatore (talk) 21:21, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
It's not the first time comments have been deleted from this conversation so... apparently anyone can do it (which is extremely odd and shouldn't be the case).Cebr1979 (talk) 23:00, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
They tried to cover up Barbara Streisand's transgressions once. Then again and again. Anyone can do it, but anyone can object much louder, so a public complaint's not worth the trouble for those genuinely wanting to hide something. WP:OTRS is the obscure way. InedibleHulk (talk) 00:05, August 26, 2015 (UTC)

Gender identity[edit]

Why, when, and how was the part about gender identity decided? Was there a discussion about it? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

What's your problem?? Do you disagree with it?? What do you think it should be?? Georgia guy (talk) 18:48, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
Ascherf's problem is that he or she is a newb, GG (WP:DONTBITE). And yes, there was an initial discussion about it and it is often challenged and revisited. I think the last big discussion was at the village pump somewhere.
EDIT: Found it. [117] Darkfrog24 (talk) 18:52, 25 August 2015 (UTC)
And it's a valid set of questions. At the related thread above, I posted a link to the discussion overwhelmingly disapproving of the original version of this, and in many ways the text has only gotten worse since then, even as the intent has actually been clarified. Some careful rewriting can probably salvage it, but some of it arguably is not MOS material, but content policy material.

I think we need to carefully assess the entire VPPOL thread DF24 just linked to. While requests to properly close it have been open for months, it doesn't look like that's going to happen, so we're just going to have to do it informally, and try to rewrite this section to go with consensus. The discussion there is likely to be as in-depth as WP can muster on such a topic. It was open for a long time, and everyone interested appears to have had (lots of) their say. It's very clear that some degree of respect for gender identity is wanted, but that many object to anything that smacks of "rewriting history", with the clear solution being MOS's standard "rewrite to avoid conflict and confusion". That's the nutshell version. I have too much going on IRL right now to parse that whole thing, post-by-post, and try to draft something, though, unless a big windows opens in my schedule some time soon.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  04:56, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

As I said in one of these RfCs, don't remember when, I think that the present MOS:IDENTITY should be spun-off as a guideline of its own. It does not seem to make sense to keep it within the MoS, as its purpose is quite different. RGloucester 17:06, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
In other words, while the main thrust of MOS:IDENTITY, the rule you're talking about, has remained roughly the same for some time, it is revisited often. If what you really want is to get your two cents in, just hang out and wait for someone to bring it up. You are allowed to bring it up yourself, but it would help if you had a specific proposal to make and if you really are new to Wikipedia, you might want to get your feet under you, watch a few other RfCs (requests for comment, which is the term for a formal discussion with a specific intended outcome) before attempting that. Darkfrog24 (talk) 05:24, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

Thanks for that link. Well, I didn't read it all, but I don't agree with any of those options. My problem with the current rule is that it is very unlike an encyclopedia, to call a man a she, just because he said so.
My options would be:

  • Just as we source everything, gender should be the same. The personal pronouns should be used based on someone's legal gender. Obviously name too. I have never seen anywhere that Bruce Jenner has legally changed his name to Caitlynn, yet that's his article's name. Didn't find a source for that there.
  • Or, even if someone had their legal gender changed, use the one given at birth. As most countries don't allow gender change, that means gender should generally mean the one obtained at birth.
  • Or just call them an "it". (talk) 20:40, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
That last comment is clearly trolling. EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 21:15, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
Can that statement of "it" be stricken please as harassment by a moderator? Ogress smash! 21:17, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
In my opinion this entire conversation is trolling by the IP. Do we have to have the "transgender people are, in fact, people" conversation every time some jerk comes to MOS? What's the standard for dealing with racists here? Ogress smash! 21:24, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
Ogress, please stop insulting me. I raised this topic as I don't think the use of language adviced in the manual is appropriate for an encyclopedia, which should be more scientific. (talk) 21:36, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
The anon is trolling. There's no rational basis for a discussion here. Pburka (talk) 21:43, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
Nonsense. The anon has an extreme POV, but there is no evidence that "he" (to choose a pronoun) is not honestly expressing his beliefs. In that case, the comments are not disrespectful. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 21:48, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
Absolutely wrong. Calling a trans person "it" is a slur. Doesn't matter if the speaker has a sincere extreme pov or not. EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 21:53, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
Thanks Arthur. I don't really know what extreme POV is, but I think it also applies to the current manual. EvergreenFir, I would like to hear your arguments too, since you seem to be on the other side of this. Besides, why do you think "them" meant the transgender people? (talk) 22:03, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
From context. The guideline you're citing is "anyone whose gender might be questioned," which primarily means trans men and trans women. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:04, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
That very wording is part of the problem of the guideline. Isn't the entire point supposed to be that we're not questioning their own gender identity? <sigh> As I say, the entire thing needs rewriting.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:13, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

Ascherf (talk · contribs), if that's you, please sign in ASAP so we know to whom we're speaking. Even if we give you every benefit of the doubt and assume you're new to writing about gender politics in neutral spaces, you should certainly know that calling a person an "it" is an insult. This is why GG thought you were a troll. The conclusion I'm drawing from your statements is that you don't think that transgenderism is real, that you think Jenner and Manning etc. are making it up. But their claims are backed up by decades of albeit incomplete scientific research and a far longer history of experiences from unrelated individuals from many walks of life. Do you have any proof that they're lying? Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:04, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

Darkfrog24 I'm not That's a Hungarian IP, and I'm in California. Please delete your comment and my reply here thanks Ascherf (talk) 22:19, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

I'm not Ascherf (talk · contribs). I'm just saying that the use of personal pronouns based on legal gender would be more appropriate for an encyclopedia, and simpler. (talk) 22:20, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

Or how about everyone just stop deleting everyone else's comments. This kind of editor-vs-editor censure is going on at two different MOS talk page (at least) and needs to stop. (In this particular case there's no need for DF24 to refactor out their own comments and Ascherf's response, since the exchange demonstrates Ascherf's distinction from the IP editor, which several of us were wondering about; it's to Ascherf's benefit to have this around; if IP is deemed to be trolling and blocked for it, that won't affect Ascherf). Can we get back to focusing on the guideline now?  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:23, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
Read the Wikipedia:Gender identity essay and study the question "Shouldn't we wait until the name/gender change is legal??" Please highlight what part of the question's answer you disagree with. Georgia guy (talk) 22:22, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
Legal gender? What are you talking about? Caitlyn doesn't deserve to be treated as a woman until some bureaucrat stamps a paper, assuming such a thing is possible?Ogress smash! 22:26, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
I'm not the one who thinks we need to wait until a legal change; the IP is. They need to create an account. Georgia guy (talk) 22:28, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
For starters, this is a false statement: "Wikipedia's policy on article titles (see also the essay on "official names") gives no weight to legal names." WP:AT doesn't give primacy to official names, and usually prefers the WP:COMMONNAME, though they most often coincide. We do in fact move things to official names pretty often, even if they're not the most common name, where the change is thought to be helpful for some reason. One example off the top of my head is International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (which really is capitalized that way); the common name is the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (its name until 2011), and almost everyone still refers to it as the ICBN for short.

Moving on, the questions, and this text, "Furthermore, jurisdictions vary widely in how they regulate changes of name or gender: some jurisdictions do not recognize gender changes at all", are confusing non-identical and not particularly comparable, but separate legal processes (where they are legal processes at all). This should really be forked into two separate questions.

The essay has a large number of other problems, stemming from its focus on advancing an external WP:ADVOCACY position instead of a Wikipedian consensus. The "Her testicles" section actually skirts the entire issue raised by such shite use of language, and pooh-poohs legitimate concerns. It also mistakes how WP works and how WP is used; millions of editors per day do not read articles from top to bottom but are linked directly to particular sections, either by internal WP links, or by following external ones. I could go on, but this isn't the Wikipedia talk:Gender identity talk page.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:39, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

Reminder that this area is subject to discretionary sanctions and drawing attention to this remedy: "All editors, especially those whose behavior was subject to a finding in this case, are reminded to maintain decorum and civility when engaged in discussions on Wikipedia, and to avoid commentary that demeans any other person, intentionally or not." Referring to a person as an "it" qualifies as demeaning. --NeilN talk to me 23:05, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

No person was referred to as "it"; an anon suggested the pronoun could be used generally, without addressing anyone in particular (much less Manning in particular); there's obviously no support for that notion, but the remedy in question has not been triggered. The hypersensitiveness and censoriousness surrounding this topic needs to take a long vacation. We can't even reaffirm why "it" is a bad idea without being able to discuss it in the abstract to begin with. If the anon is in fact trolling, you're simply WP:FEEDing, by overreating by pulling out the "call in the WP:AE enforcers" big guns. I have to suggest this is not helpful.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  23:43, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
It's completely warranted. This user was warned previously about their disruptive editing here by Acroterion. I will go a step further and give a discretionary sanctions notice as well. This kind of behavior should not be tolerated. EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 00:03, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
Um, the entire point of my response to NeilN was that he already dropped a discretionary sanctions notice ("Reminder that this area is subject to discretionary sanctions"), and this is heavy handed. I've already explained why: It has a chilling effect on the ability to even carry on a conversation in which why "it" should not be used can be discussed. [Should not be used, generally speaking, anyway. I actually find it implausible that no intergender person anywhere prefers "it"; Genesis P-Orridge uses as a set of intergender, constructed pronouns like "s/he", but could just as easily have preferred "it", and we wouldn't, under WP:IDENTITY, be in a position to contradict P-Orridge on that, would we? Beware sweeping, over-generalizing statements that paint us into unintentional corners.]  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  03:53, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
I agree with SMC here. It is important to remember why there are discretionary sanctions when discussing gender identity issues... this is an issue that is very controversial, and engenders very strong emotions. We need to put the emotions to one side... We must allow calm, reasoned discussion of the issue, while at the same time we need to limit POV warring (and yes, there are POV warriors on ALL sides of the issue). We do, and should, allow differing opinions to be expressed on talk pages... as long as those opinions are expressed with civility and respect for those who hold opposing opinions. That goes for for everyone... no matter which side of the gender identity debate you come from. Blueboar (talk) 12:36, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
There are some gay men who refer to themselves as "fag", but that does not negate the fact that it's used as a slur. Same case with "it". It's unacceptable to refer to trans folks in as a whole as "it". EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 16:44, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
@SMcCandlish: No, it is not heavy handed. It is a note (especially to new editors) to carefully consider their words before posting. --NeilN talk to me 17:47, 27 August 2015 (UTC)

First, thanks SMC for trying to keep the discussion on track, while others seem to try to derail it.
I read the essay, and I disagree with most written there. In my opinion, the only valid arguement for was about avoiding harm, and, according to WP:HARM, that principle was rejected (but I also disagree that pronouns are harmful). The part about Legal name you referenced, Georgia guy, doesn't give any reason for a gender change on Wikipedia, only about names. My problem was mainly the ambiguity with the names, and the overall confusion about Jenner's gender. I don't see a reason why pronouns are preferred to be used based on someone's own imagined gender instead of the biological or legal one. Maybe we could also add a person's gender to their infobox? (talk) 18:32, 27 August 2015 (UTC)

Imagined?? Please do research and realize how transgender identities work. They don't work simply by arbitrarily making up a gender to call yourself. Georgia guy (talk) 18:39, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
I have an idea. Let's look at an infant's genitals and decide for life what their gender should be. We'll ignore the extremely frequent cases where their genitals are visibly unclear, we'll ignore all other information like cellular makeup, and most importantly we'll definitely ignore their personal preferences about how they want to live their own lives. The ones with outties will only wear blue and pants and must engage in sex with the ones with innies only, who will dress in pink and skirts and have long hair. Yes, this is a good idea. Let's now enforce this standard in Wikipedia infoboxes. Ogress smash! 19:04, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
Can you provide actual arguments to your side? (talk) 19:15, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
This is not the place to argue the legitimacy of trans people's gender or the research on it. If you want to do that, there's plenty of articles on Wikipedia (transgender, gender, sex, gender and sex distinction, everything in Template:Transgender). This discussion is about the manual of style and how we discuss trans people. Your insistence that we restrict ourselves to legally recognized gender is (1) against common practice in other manuals of style (e.g., APA, AMA, Chicago, etc.), (2) against recommendations from trans advocacy groups (e.g., GLAAD, Lambda Legal), and (3) against past consensus. EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 19:23, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
Unfortunately I couldn't find anything on this topic by the manuals you mention on the Internet. Nevertheless, if it is true, it can still be very confusing for the readers on Wikipedia. We should consider including a note at the top of such articles, explaining which pronoun is used, and why. Also, I don't see a reason why infoboxes shouldn't include gender(s). (talk) 20:19, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
If you all are so convinced this anon is trolling, just read WP:DENY and move on. There's another obvious possibility, though. The actual majority of people do not accept (fully, sometimes not even partially) the language-activist stance on this issue. It doesn't matter how certain you, I, or other metropolitan folk feel about the matter. While those in the linguistically permissive camp are largely those in control of the media, we're actually outnumbered vastly by people who feel otherwise, and they, too, have Internet connections.

We need a more measured, "what is most important for the encyclopedia and it's readers?" approach to this, or we're setting up MOS and WP in general for many years of unproductive strife, for no one's real benefit (it certainly doesn't help TG people to have another decade of argument about applying pronouns to them at Wikipedia). The main sticking point seems to be "This applies in references to any phase of that person's life" following "should be referred to by the pronouns ...". As the huge VPPOL thread indicates, many are taking this as license to write "he gave birth", "she won the Men's Gold Medal", etc. While we (finally!) have back in there the advice to "Avoid confusing constructions", it's at the very end where no one notices it.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  20:41, 27 August 2015 (UTC)

  • It would actually be useful to collect here [See #What other style guides say sub-thread below] what the various paper style guides are saying, since it may inform how we formulate and word our own approach to the issue. I have several of these sources on my bookshelf and can start digging out what they say on it. We need to avoid confusing what general-audience-writing style guides say with what "recommendations from trans advocacy groups" say; we already know what the latter, language-change activism, position is, and WP is not a soapbox for preaching that gospel (and it would invite, e.g., religious fundamentalist groups to add their own counter-arguments). It's much more useful to us to know what the consensus is (if there is one) across works regarded as authoritative on formal language use for publication.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  20:41, 27 August 2015 (UTC) Parentheticals added 23:01, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
@SMcCandlish: is the section below for how MOS deal with gender, or trans stuff specifically? EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 21:12, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
Well, as a sub-thread of the gender identity one, I've been trying to limit the material to identity-specific and gender-generally, but not gender-generally-to-the-exclusion-of-identity, as it were. I'd have to quote way more material from CMoS to cover everything it says about gender and gender-neutral writing that doesn't relate in any way to identity. Clarified the wording.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:53, 27 August 2015 (UTC)

What other style guides say[edit]

This section is for direct quotation of and citation to mainstream English-language style guides (not activist materials, whether pro or con), where they address identity, or address gender in a way that we can relate to identity.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:57, 27 August 2015 (UTC)

  • Siegal, Allan M.; Connolly, William G., eds. (1999). The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage (Revised and Expanded [4th] ed.). New York: Three Rivers Press / New York Times Company. pp. 142–143. gender, sex. In general, gender is the grammatical classification of words as masculine, feminine or neuter[,] and sex is a characteristic of living things. Use sex in unambiguous phrases like sex discrimination and single-sex schools. But gender has taken on new meaning in social and political contexts. Use gender, for example, in idioms like gender gap and in references arising from its use in legislation or other legal documents. Use it, too, when necessary to avoid confusion with physical sex or to avert double meanings. In other words, gender is not to be, well, confused with sex. 
    This was reprinted in 2002 (with no revisions of which I'm aware). Has entries relating to sexual orientation and other concepts, but none address this particular issue in any further detail. There's a brand new 5th edition coming out at the end of September [118], which I've pre-ordered, and I'd be almost surprised if it did not address this in more detail. Even this older version's "Use [gender], too, when necessary to avoid confusion with physical sex" can be taken as supporting the notion that we should distinguish between asserted gender and physical (genital- or chromosome-determined) sex. The 4th ed. has no mention of the issue in its section on pronouns.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  21:01, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Associated Press
    • "AP editors' note on Manning". 22 August 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2015. Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.  EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 21:20, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
    • Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law (46th ed.). Basic Books. July 2015. ISBN 978-0465062942. 
      Brand new edition; on order.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  23:57, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.). University of Chicago Press. 2010. 
    • "Section 5.40: Agreement of pronoun with noun". CMoS 16th. p. 213. A personal pronoun agrees with the noun for which it stands in both gender and number {John writes, and he will soon write well} {Sheila was there, but she couldn't hear what was said}.  This is a very general statement, and the examples indicate it's meant to be taken rather literally. But, logically speaking, if we accept that Caitlyn Jenner is now a woman, the rule applies. Whether it would apply retroactively to when Jenner was [publicly known as] a man named Bruce is questionable and uncertain in Chicago.
    • "Section 5.41: Pronoun and gender". CMoS 16th. p. 214. Only the third-person singular pronouns directly express gender. In the nominative and objective cases, the pronoun takes the antecedent noun's gender {the president is not in her office today; she's at a seminar}.  [Rest of section not relevant.]
    • "Section 5.45: Special uses of personal pronouns". CMoS 16th. p. 215. It eliminates gender even if the noun's sex could be identified. Using it does not mean that the noun has no sex—only that the sex is unknown or unimportant {the baby is smiling at its mother} {the mockingbird is building its nest}.  [Rest of section not relevant.]
    • "Section 5.46: The singular "they"". CMoS 16th. pp. 215–16. Because he is no longer accepted as a generic pronoun referring to a person of either sex, it has become common in speech and in informal writing to substitute the third-person plural.... While this usage is accepted in casual contexts, it is still considered ungrammatical in formal writing. Avoiding the plural form by alternating masculine and feminine pronouns is awkward and only emphasizes the inherent problem of not having a generic [singular] third-person pronoun. Employing an artificial form such as s/he is distracting at best, and most readers find it ridiculous. There are several better ways to avoid the problem. For example, use the traditional, formal he or she, him or her, [etc.] Stylistically this device is usually awkward or even stilted, but if used sparingly it can be functional. For other techniques, see 5.225. 
      This does not directly address this issue, though is a sound approach to the problem it does identify, and sect. 5.225 does offer good advice that MoS needs to integrate. More on that immediately below. At any rate, it does suggest that using singular-they for TG people isn't a good solution.
    • "Section 5.225: Nine techniques for achieving gender neutrality". CMoS 16th. p. 302.  Summary version: 1) omit the pronoun; 2) repeat the noun, but not to overuse; 3) use a plural antecedent; 4) use a or the; 5) use one; 6) use who; 7) use the imperative mood; 8) use the phrase he or she sparingly; 9) revise to avoid a construction that calls for a pronoun.
      All of these except #7 ("how-to" voice) are applicable to Wikipedia, and MOS should integrate such points, but few of them are applicable to TG subjects in particular. The ones that are, are 1, 2, 6, and 9. That's actually quite a lot to work with, and the solutions should be examined carefully to identify advice MOS could integrate into MOS:IDENTITY.
    • "Section 5.227: Gender-neutral singular pronouns". CMoS 16th. p. 303. The only gender-neutral third-person singular personal pronoun in English is it, which doesn’t refer to humans (with very limited exceptions). Clumsy artifices such as s/he and (wo)man or artificial genderless pronouns have been tried—for many years—with no success. They won’t succeed. And those who use them invite credibility problems. Indefinite pronouns such as anybody and someone don’t always satisfy the need for a gender-neutral alternative because they are traditionally regarded as singular antecedents that call for a third-person singular pronoun. 
      It then repeats the advice that singular-they is only acceptable in informal writing.
That's it for CMoS. It never mentions "transgender" anywhere (I have access to the online version and searched it).  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:47, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
  • BBC says the following:
    • Gender/sex - Using appropriate language is an important part of how we portray people in our stories. Sexuality, race or disability should not be mentioned unless they are relevant to the subject matter. But when we do focus on one aspect of a person's character, we should ensure we do not define them by it. Use gay as an adjective, rather than a noun (eg: two gay men - but not 'two gays'). It can apply to members of both sexes, but current preferred practice is to refer to 'gay men and lesbians'. For wider references, talk about LGBT people or the LGBT community (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender). Homosexual means people of either sex who are attracted to people of their own gender, but take care how you use it. While it can be fine in historical or judicial references, it can be considered offensive in other contexts because of past associations with illegal behaviour and mental illness.
    • Transgender, or trans, is a good umbrella term. A person born male would be described as a transgender woman and vice versa. Use the appropriate pronoun - "she" or "he". If reporting on someone who is making their transition public, it may be appropriate to refer to their previous identity. However, in other contexts, we would generally refer to a trans person by their current identity only. Transsexual refers to someone who has changed, or wishes to change, their body through medical intervention. Do not say 'transsexuals', in the same way we would not talk about 'gays' or 'blacks'. Take care with the term 'sex change', unless referring specifically to the surgical element of a transition. It should not be used as a general description for a transgender person. If in any doubt, ask the person involved how they would like to be described.
Source: "News style guide - searchable version". Retrieved 27 August 2015.  (download Word document linked on source page for full style guide) EvergreenFir (talk) Please {{re}} 21:50, 27 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Reuters, in its sections on gender and transgender, says:
"People generally have a clear sense of their own gender, sometimes called gender identity, which may conflict with their sex at birth. When in doubt, ask people what gender pronouns they prefer. Respect their wishes if they ask not to be identified as either male or female. If it’s not possible to ask their preference, use pronouns that are most consistent with the way they present themselves. Do not use quotation marks around names or pronouns used for transgender or gender-nonconforming people. See transgender."
"Always use a transgender person’s chosen name. We typically only mention that a person is transgender if it is relevant to the story. For example, no need to describe one of three victims of a random car crash as a transgender person. If you are not sure which gender pronoun to use, ask. If you can’t ask, then use the one that is consistent with the way a person presents himself or herself. In some situations confusion may be avoided by not using pronouns."
-sche (talk) 04:38, 28 August 2015 (UTC)

Mentioning a long title repeatedly in the body of an article[edit]

Hi. Just wondering, is there a 'correct' way to repeatedly mention a title of a published work in the body of an article? E.g. at Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, should we refer to the album title in full each time it is mentioned, or can we use a shortened version (e.g. Lift Your Skinny Fists, Skinny Fists or even Antennas to Heaven)? Thanks! — sparklism hey! 14:57, 28 August 2015 (UTC)

Take a leaf from the lawyer's book & at the first mention go "Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven ("Lift") ..." and then just use Lift, or whatever shortened title you've specified. Johnbod (talk) 15:38, 28 August 2015 (UTC)
Agree... the first appearance of the name/title should give the full name/title - and establish the "short form" for the reader... once that is done, the "short form" can be used alone. It is similar to how we establish and use abbreviations. Blueboar (talk) 15:51, 28 August 2015 (UTC)
If you can, it's good to use an abbreviation which appears in external sources. --Izno (talk) 16:37, 28 August 2015 (UTC)
Thanks guys! — sparklism hey! 05:49, 29 August 2015 (UTC)

WP:Prose vs. table format for cast lists[edit]

Opinions are needed on the following matter: Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Television#WP:Prose vs. table format for cast lists. A WP:Permalink for it is here. Flyer22 (talk) 06:00, 29 August 2015 (UTC)

Merge proposed of how-to essays on hyphens, dashes and minus[edit]

FYI: Pointer to relevant discussion elsewhere

Proposal at Wikipedia talk:How to make dashes#Merge proposed, to merge Wikipedia:Hyphens and dashes essay (2012) to Wikipedia talk:How to make dashes how-to page (2011).  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  00:10, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

"Wikisource" in MOS:SHY[edit]

The paragraph about soft hyphens uses the term "wikisource" to mean what would more commonly be called "wikitext." Am I understanding correctly that this is unrelated to the WMF project known as Wikisource? If so, how might this paragraph be reworded? I assume the wording has been present for a long time, which is why I am discussing it first. --SoledadKabocha (talk) 19:17, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

I just noticed that MOS:SHY actually redirects to the top of the "Hyphens" section; an {{anchor}} should probably be added to the paragraph that is specifically about soft hyphens. --SoledadKabocha (talk) 01:08, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
I've changed "Wikisource text" to "wikitext" in diff. -sche (talk) 20:39, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

Unnecessary comma in WP:LQ example?[edit]

I was streamlining WP:LQ and took a closer look at the examples:

Dory said, "Yes, I can read!", which gave Marlin an idea.

I'm not 100% that the comma after "read" is necessary. I'd expect to see no further punctuation there at all because the exclamation point has already done the job. Most of the sources I have on hand concern American English. Is this an error, a Britishism, or a case in which English gives us multiple options? Darkfrog24 (talk) 20:23, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

I've run into the odd editor who insists it's the way to do it because it's "logical" (ditto sentences like He said, "I'm here.".), but as far as I'm aware no style guide recommends such a style. I think it would be a poor idea to appear to promote such a style. Curly Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 01:36, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
A comma before a relative clause distinguishes it as a non-restrictive clause.
Wavelength (talk) 02:09, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
My concern is not that the comma is there at all, Wavelength, but rather that the comma and exclamation point are both there. To me, this looks a lot like Dory said, "Yes, I can read,", which gave Marlin an idea. It's redundant. Darkfrog24 (talk) 04:26, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
Per Wavelength. It's mandatory before that "which", and the exclamation mark doesn't perform the comma's function. Tony (talk) 10:12, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
Ditto, per Wavelength.
Btw, I'm a bit concerned that all mention of logical quotation has now been removed from this Punctuation inside or outside section. Also, we state: "For the most part, this means placing periods and commas inside the quotation marks if they were part of the quoted material and outside if they are not." I think that's confusing, and more importantly it misrepresents the approach regarding LQ. I regularly impose logical quotation in articles I edit, and usually include the MOS:LQ shortcut in an accompanying comment. The problem is, when occasionally I follow the shortcut myself, just to check, I realise the text is open to misinterpretation of LQ – eg, "For the most part, this means placing periods and commas inside the quotation marks if they were part of the quoted material …" The situation's not helped by a statement we link to (at Quotation marks in English#Order of punctuation), which says: "The prevailing style in the United Kingdom and other non-American locales—called British style and logical quotation—is to include within quotation marks only those punctuation marks that appeared in the original quoted material, but otherwise to place punctuation outside the closing quotation marks."
We hammered this point out in early 2014 (I thought), that the crux of LQ is about the placement of punctuation being governed by sense. That message comes across eventually at Quotation marks in English, with the reference there to Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, as it does in the MoS – the Marlin needed, he said, "to find Nemo". is a good example. I can't help thinking, though, that the criterion regarding "sense", rather than any reference to punctuation in the original quote, should be first and foremost. Any thoughts? JG66 (talk) 12:58, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
The only thing that was removed was the name. If we're going to mention the name of the practice at all, it should be the common name, which is "British." Using the secondary name by itself is POV-pushing.
We've used the "and outside if they are not" phrasing before, and I thought it might simplify things for editors not familiar with the British practice. "Placement according to sense" is not an expression with which most American readers will be familiar. But if you don't like it I could take it out. @JG66: if you have a source with a better description or summary of British punctuation, it would be a help.
@Tony1: Do you have a source for the treatment of exclamation points in combination with commas under conditions like these? Darkfrog24 (talk) 14:33, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
I don't. On "British etc", quite a few British etc publications do use the generally inside practice. I don't think it's good to tag it with nationality. Tony (talk) 14:55, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
And I don't think it's a good idea to tag it with value judgments. Fortunately, we don't need to use either of the practice's names in order to tell people how to use it on Wikipedia. The only non-POV purpose of including the name would be so that people who have heard of the practice before go, "Oh yes, that," and can skip the rest of the explanation, but for that, using both names would be the most effective route. Darkfrog24 (talk) 17:14, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
Darkfrog24: thanks for making that change. I do think it's clearer without that sentence, right now at least. In reply to your question, I'll see if I've got a decent source that helps clarify things. I remember supplying some at the discussion last year – I'll take a look soon. (And I'll also stop being so cryptic and actually link to that 2014 discussion!) Cheers, JG66 (talk) 15:42, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
Thanks a ton. That would be great. Darkfrog24 (talk) 17:14, 1 September 2015 (UTC)