Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers

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Time of day[edit]

"Context determines whether the 12- or 24-hour clock is used ... " says the guideline, and that's all. This has been used as an excuse by Europeans from non-English speaking countries, when writing in English on enWP, generally to impose 14:35 rather than 2:35 PM pm (for example) upon all of us working with this project, no matter what the actual context. Being bi-continental, and a translator, I have grown up with these problems and worked with them for over 50 years. It is my firm conviction that military time, aka the 24-hour clock, normally is confusing to people in English-speaking countries and is not normally used (knowledgeably) in English text. Even in Britain, that time format is only used on a few formal documents and a bits of rare transportation information. Google seems to clearly bear me out on that. Couldn't our guideline be more specific as to what is meant by "context", since "context" is now being interpreted as "do as you please even if most people will be confused". --SergeWoodzing (talk) 11:20, 4 May 2017 (UTC)

It's only called "military time" in North America, see para 3 of 24-hour clock. Para 4 gives the history, which is possibly a lot longer than you might think. My working life has been spent in the computer industry and probably that's why I tend to use the 24 hour clock in ordinary life (and I'm a Yorkshire-born Brit who's spent all his life here, not a European). Certainly it is used widely, not rarely, in all forms of transportation and virtually exclusively for things like tide tables and almanacs. I agree that some people often take a moment to add or subtract the 12 hours, but you do the population a disservice to state that it "normally is confusing".
The question of which form to use in Wikipedia shouldn't rely on perceptions of common colloquialisms however. Wiki tries to be an encyclopaedia and use a more formal, precise language. I would suggest to you that you need to frame your proposal from this standpoint, and you also need to address "pm" or "p.m." (by the way, "PM" is not acceptable, see MOS:TIME) and that's assuming that Latin abbreviations don't upset other editors. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 12:14, 4 May 2017 (UTC)
Can you give some examples? I think it would be difficult for us to give precise guidance. For example, in my experience 24 hour times are common for transportation in the UK, but not in the US. Any guideline we try to write would be full of exceptions and corner cases. Kendall-K1 (talk) 12:19, 4 May 2017 (UTC)
Have y'all googled this? E.G. "is military time used in Britain"? I know we cannot use informal Internet Q&As or blogs as sources, but the confusion we cause seems obvious with something like this and, to me, is totally unnecessary. 2 pm isn't going to go away as standard English. Wouldn't it be better to have people try to pick up on, and get used to, what's normal in English text, all over the world, rather than trying to teach (force upon) them what's normal in Swedish (Swedish language) text, but not in English (English language) text?--SergeWoodzing (talk) 17:50, 4 May 2017 (UTC)
I have not "googled" anything. You brought this up. The burden is on you to give us examples of where the MOS has failed, and a proposal as to how you would like to fix it. So far you have given one example, which looks more like a content dispute to me, and no proposals. Kendall-K1 (talk) 19:14, 4 May 2017 (UTC)
  • As usual (and per Kendall) there's no point in talking about this until we see some actual examples in actual articles. Until then it's just the usual MOS philosophizing. EEng 18:41, 4 May 2017 (UTC)
As usual (in spite of over 10 years experience regularly with Wikipedia) there is no point in my trying to get something discussed, when I see something that I really think is wrong, because I obviously never (never) know what I'm doing, get dismissed accordingly and the problem is still there. Someone suggested this forum. I'm sorry it is just not possible for me to research more examples you for several days. I thought one might be enough, plus the very obvious attitudes of the general public (Google). I should have known better. Maybe I'll try an RfC on the article's talk page. Bye! --SergeWoodzing (talk) 10:53, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
I mean, right. Come on, User:SergeWoodzing has said it's a problem he's run into, so I'm inclined to believe that it's a problem he's run into. True, though, a few particular examples would help to illustrate.
"Context determines whether the 12- or 24-hour clock is used" is, after all, pretty vague. If we had for instance "Context determines whether BC–AD or BCE–CE should be used" with no shred of further guidance that would be considered unsatisfactory. Right?
The current rule, with no further elucidation, does seem to imply "do what you like". Which possibly is best, I dunno. But if so it should maybe say so directly, with a prescription against changing what you find, except that articles should be internally consistent, as is done for the serial comma.
Unless it's a WP:ENGVAR thing, IMO it ought to say "Use the 12 hour clock", basically. The 24 hour clock is not used in America as a rule and is confusing to American readers probably. If the default in Britain etc. we can add the usual ENGVAR langauage or just say some variation of "its an ENGVAR thing, see ENGVAR.
We obviously have to leave some wriggle room. There may be contexts where the 24 hour clock is appropriate (although I can't think of any right off, at least for America; even in a military context I think we would say "the attack commenced at 10:00 pm" rather than "the attack commenced at 22:00" since we are writing for a general audience and not writing an after-action report for our colonel. Of course direct quotes that use the 24 hour clock shouldn't be changed.
So "Use the 12 hour clock, generally, unless a specific need to use the 24 hour clock is demonstrated" or something. Of course leaving the wriggle room leads to "it happened in Europe, so that demonstrates a specific need to use the 24 hour clock" which is tedious. But you have to leave the wriggle room. Herostratus (talk) 11:46, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
is confusing to American readers probably I doubt it. --Izno (talk) 12:20, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
What is the reasonable basis for your doubt? We have quite a variety or readers here. And your edit summary was "23:59 is not hard to understand". I think what you meant to say say is "23:59 is not hard to understand for me personally". And that's different. Herostratus (talk) 12:28, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
What reasonable basis do you have for your assertion that Americans may be confused by the notation? Please don't flip the burden of proof. --Izno (talk) 12:36, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
  • Getting back to the original post, SergeWoodzing made several questionable assertions. This has been used as an excuse by Europeans from non-English speaking countries, when writing in English on enWP, generally to impose 14:35 rather than 2:35 pm – where's the evidence that it's people from non-English speaking countries who use the 24 hour clock here? I would always do so in formal writing because it removes ambiguity. Even in Britain, that time format is only used on a few formal documents and a bits of rare transportation information – nonsense; it's used on every bus, railway and flight electronic information board I've ever seen in the UK and in the corresponding printed timetables, as is easy to demonstrate by searching online. The guideline is fine as it is; if it were changed it should move towards suggesting the least ambiguous format, namely the 24 hour clock. Peter coxhead (talk) 13:05, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
See Sittinbourne & Kemsley Light Railway timetable for example. Interesting that it uses both formats! Martin of Sheffield (talk) 13:59, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
Why complicate matters unnecessarily? (after 50 years of trying I still don't understand what is meant by 12 am, or 12 pm). If in doubt, the 24 hour clock should be preferred, for the reasons given by Peter coxhead. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 15:02, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
  • I wasn't clear. When I said there's no point in talking about this until we see some actual examples in actual articles. Until then it's just the usual MOS philosophizing, I meant that we need to see examples of article editing situations where either "the wrong outcome" was arrived at, or excessive editor time was consumed before arriving at the "right" outcome, and changing the guideline would fix that. If it's not possible to give such examples, there's no point in changing the guidelines. EEng 16:07, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
Maybe. On the other hand, if people are writing stuff like "By 15:30, the fire had spread to the main building..." in articles, that's a problem even if people aren't fighting over it, because it's hard to read, for Americans anyway.
OK. It sounds like this is a WP:ENGVAR thing, and nothing wrong with that. We should set it up as an ENGVAR thing thing.
@User:Izno, the reasonable basis that I have for your assertion that Americans may be confused by the notation is that I live in America and I know. You don't or if you do don't get around enough I'd say. You have not met my in-laws apparently. Nobody -- and I mean, literally, basically nobody -- uses 24 hour notation in America. I don't believe I have ever once heard somebody say "off to lunch, back at thirteen-thirty". It would be considered both peculiar and opaque. Timetables don't work like that, TV schedules don't work like that, very little works like that except computer system timestamps and the Army.
Yes, sure, I get it that many, maybe most, literate Americans are familiar with the concept of what we call "military time" and can translate 24 hour time: "OK, 'By 15:30, the fire had spread to the main building...' let's see that's... 12-13-14-15... 3:30". Why slow down the reader that way for no gain? Many literate Americans can also translate "au contraire" or whatever, but we don't just randomly write "Strauss had hoped this would expand sales, but au contraire revenues actually fell" for no reason.
And of course, some subset of Americans can't translate 24 hour time. Schoolkids for instance. I mean, 46% of American voters voted for Donald Trump. Not to cast aspersions, but just as an actual question, how many of them do you think understand 24 hour time at all let alone facilely? I mean some, sure, but...
There's two ways to handle this. The MOS:SERIAL way -- "Do what you like, but leave what you found", which is basically what we have now, or the WP:ENGVAR way, where it depends on various factors such as the article topic. Where the Canadians and Australians etc. fit in I don't know. Articles should probably be internally consistent I guess. Whether it should say "American-subject articles should use 12 hour time, English-subject articles should use 24 hour time" or "American-subject articles should use 12 hour time, English-subject articles can use either 12 or 24 time, depending on the first edit establishing a time, please maintain consistency within articles" is up to the British to say.
Or we could do nothing. Nothing might be OK too. The current guideline is mediocre, but it's not a crisis I guess. This would leave it at "do what you like".
(As to 12:00 am and pm, these are specialized cases where it is best to write "midnite" and "noon" and we should probably say so (FWIW midnite is 12am as the new morning begins on the stroke of turning 12, and noon conversely is 12pm)). Herostratus (talk) 16:55, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
Herostratus: I also live in America--why else would I question you? You should review what your assertion was re Nobody [...] uses 24 hour notation in America, since I have not disputed that statement. The statement I disputed was is confusing to American readers probably. And then you get wormy about Americans having to do the translation. You seem to continue changing your goalposts. --Izno (talk) 17:06, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
Hero (one of my favorite editors) says, On the other hand, if people are writing stuff like "By 15:30, the fire had spread to the main building..." in articles, that's a problem even if people aren't fighting over it. Well, if people are writing that stuff, and it's a problem, and someone can shows us examples of it, why hasn't that person attempted to change it in those articles? If not, then for all we know this could just be fixed in those articles, with no debate and no need for a guidelines change. That's what I mean by Until then it's just the usual MOS philosophizing. "Problems" that were never even the subject of talk page discussion aren't problems. EEng 17:13, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
@EEng: ah, but the real work (i.e. developing articles) is hard; MoS philosophizing is so much easier – no need to find, understand and summarize sources, just say whatever you think. Peter coxhead (talk) 18:38, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
I prefer to take the more generous view that the philosophizers are taking a break from the hard work of article-building. EEng 18:52, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
Quite. I believe "slumming" is the operative term. I'll let be known I have been labeled a "bloviator" by Wikipediocracy (If I can now just get them to call me a "public scold" and a a "shrill harpy" I can fill in my bingo card), so where else would I be found but at MOS discussions. @EEng:, who is well advised to avoid violations of WP:NPC: yes you and I often in agreement that "let the editor do what she wants, the world will not end, and there are morale benefits". This, though, is a reasonable thing for an MOS to address and adjudicate, I think. Herostratus (talk) 22:05, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
Show me the article-talk discussions that would have been avoided, or which came to a "bad outcome", because this guideline wasn't different from (than?) it is. EEng 22:13, 5 May 2017 (UTC) You're still my Hero.
Wikipedia: where the dearth of self-awareness leads to people sneering down their noses at style discussions when they do not interest them, only to carry on protracted debates when they do. Primergrey (talk) 12:18, 15 May 2017 (UTC)
Well, point (although I think the gentleperson noted that here we have "no need to find, understand and summarize sources, just say whatever you think", although maybe they were being sarcastic). OP averred that it had happened to them. But even one diff would be helpful. User:SergeWoodzing, can you produce such a diff? Herostratus (talk) 22:23, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
  • Impressive discussion now, thank you all!
Actually, when I posted here, I had overlooked this "Prefer vocabulary common to all varieties of English.", which, as placed at the top of the guideline, already sort of settles the matter, ay? There is only one option in this case, as far as I know. And none of you seem to have asserted that military time is "common to all varieties of English" in giving the hour of, say, a terrorist attack in Stockholm? --SergeWoodzing (talk) 20:04, 5 May 2017 (UTC)
Well then, everything is all Sir Garnet. This puts a new colour on matters. Perhaps this bit of advice can be brought down to the body of the time-of-day rule to avoid further confusion, and everything will be shipshape and Bristol fashion. Herostratus (talk) 22:05, 5 May 2017 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Searching on "at 15:30" randomly I found that:

  • Most uses were British or European or anyway non-American subjects. (IMO there's a difference between "a bus departing Claverham at 15:30" at Hooe, East Sussex (mostly local interest) and "At 15:30 on 26 May, Hitler ordered the panzer groups to continue their advance" at Dunkirk evacuation (universal interest), but I recognize that this an argument that can never be won.)
  • Some were in situations where local conditions don't apply, such as "Closest approach of 200 kilometres (120 mi) at 15:30 UTC on 10 July 1992" at List of missions to comets, describing an event in outer space where there is no "afternoon". Arguable. "...over twenty times greater than the estimated age of the universe: approximately 292 billion years from now, at 15:30:08 UTC on Sunday, 4 December 292,277,026,596" at Year 2038 problem describes when all our computers will stop working. I can see how "At 3:30pm on Sunday, 4 December, 292,277,026,596" sounds a bit off, and anyway applies everywhere.
  • However, a few were American: "At 15:30 UTC on October 15, Hazel made landfall just west of the North Carolina" at Hurricane Hazel. "arriving at her berth at 15:30 13 March 1999 to a crowd of citizens, dignitaries, veterans, and civic officials" at USS Massachusetts (BB-59).

I think these latter, at least, are wrong. It's not crisis, but it a low-level degradation of the accessibity of the material. I understand where they probably came from: source documents from weather scientists in the first case, military people in the second. IMO it's lazy to not fix these these.

"The race was held over a duration of 24 hours, starting at 3:30pm on Saturday, January 28" at 2012 24 Hours of Daytona, would, if changed to "at 15:30", be even worse. However, it doesn't say that, and no point inventing theoretical problems.

IMO MOS:COMMONALITY would tend to indicate use of 12 hour time generally if it is common in Britain (and Canada etc.). If a British person were to read ""At 3:30 pm on 26 May, Hitler ordered the panzer groups to continue their advance" and think "well that just looks odd" MOS:COMMONALITY might not apply. If they had to think "OK... that means... hold on... yes, 15:30" to understand the time of the event, then MOS:COMMONALITY would definitely not apply. I don't know if this is the situation or not.

Indian and other non-Anglosphere readers might matter some. They're a secondary consideration, but many of our readers are ESL cases, some of whom might have enough trouble already accessing the material, and if "3:30 pm" makes them pause and stumble, that's a data point.

@User:Izno, I guess we just disagree. Have you graduated college perhaps? That could be the problem right there. Most people have not graduated college. This is something to keep in mind I think. And Americans are pretty provincial. Most speak only the one language and know less about the world than outsiders realize, I think. Herostratus (talk) 00:27, 6 May 2017 (UTC)

Oh, great. First you drag in Trump, and now Hitler. EEng 00:36, 6 May 2017 (UTC)
  • Serious points: when "UTC" is used, it does seem wrong to use the 12 hour clock: "1:03 pm UTC"?? Readers who don't understand the 24 hour clock will surely not understand or be interested in "UTC" either. In running text in non-specialized contexts, I agree that the 12 hour clock has the merits of MOS:COMMONALITY. The existing guideline covers this perfectly well. Peter coxhead (talk) 08:43, 6 May 2017 (UTC)
Everyone knows what UTC is -- it's the barcode they scan at the cash register. You think we're all yokels or something? EEng 09:17, 6 May 2017 (UTC)
I thought it was a mistake to switch from GMT to UTC for most common things. The difference is negligible in most cases, and people were just starting to get comfortable with GMT. I bet we even have some articles that incorrectly give UTC times for historic events that originally were marked in GMT. Kendall-K1 (talk) 19:36, 6 May 2017 (UTC)
Aren't they the same? UTC says "For most purposes, UTC is considered interchangeable with GMT".
Tunis has "On 7 May 1943, at 15:30 in the afternoon" which at first seems an error, but on reconsideration might be an attempt at a functional belt-and-suspenders solution, and it got to me thinking that maybe all we need is an addition to {{Convert}}. It should be simple. Thus "...attacked Lobau at 16:30" would be "...attacked Lobau at 16:30 (4:30 pm)" or ""...attacked Lobau at 4:30 pm (16:30)". Wouldn't this the best solution? Herostratus (talk) 21:08, 6 May 2017 (UTC)
UTC is, like, 573/8,000,000 of a second different from GMT because of the relativistic effects of the drag Jupiter imposes on the angular momentum of the sun. Or something. Other than for astronomers and network administrators, they're the same.
Please, let's not suggest a dual presentation. [Later clarification: By this I mean let's not have a dual presentation of 12-hr format and 24-hr format, nothing to do with GMT/UTC.] In about 5 seconds someone can learn to convert from one to the other. EEng 21:44, 6 May 2017 (UTC)
@EEng: I don't think it is the GMT/UTC issue that Herostratus is suggesting, it's the 12/24 conversion. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 22:50, 6 May 2017 (UTC)
I understood that, and my post was confusing because it involved both the GMT/UTC issue and the 12/24 issue. We do, in fact, sometimes present times in both a dual "local + UTC" format, but never a dual "12 + 24" format. It was the latter I was discouraging. EEng 23:26, 6 May 2017 (UTC)
Well, a dual format is better than a just-24 format which -- I seem to be having trouble convincing people of this, but that doesn't make it any less true -- many people can't read easily, and a non-trivial number can't read at all. Yeah people can learn to convert, but the same is true of kilos/pounds and meters/feet and we convert those.
I mean, I would have thought that a 12-format (when we're talking local time) would be the solution. But apparently British people find this either odd or actually opaque? I'm not sure, but maybe. And if so then we need to be converting so as to offer a format that everyone can read. Herostratus (talk) 04:33, 8 May 2017 (UTC)
In speech, my experience is that people in both English-speaking North America and the UK are much more likely to say "a quarter to three" than "2:45" or "half past seven" than "19:30", so this form is more quickly understood in both countries. Should we use it here? No. Speech and formal writing are different: the former has a context and uses language not employed in the latter. In formal writing there are contexts where the 12 hour clock is right, and contexts where the 24 hour clock is right. Leave the present guidance alone, and stop trying to micromanage editors. Peter coxhead (talk) 07:43, 8 May 2017 (UTC)
You may have been hoist with your own petard on this one, Herostratus. EEng 12:48, 8 May 2017 (UTC)
Enh, I think this is different. Sure, you don't want to micromanage editors on a lot of stuff. That doesn't mean you shouldn't have rules when it serves the reader. In this case its a matter of serving the reader.
It's kind of like a feet-meters thing. If an editor was of the mind "I want to write '12 meters' here and I don't want to use the {{convert}} template or otherwise specify the distance in feet, as I don't actually believe there are any readers who don't understand the simple English statement '12 meters', so please don't micromanage me on this", I wouldn't really support that approach, and invoking the magic term "micromanage" would not much change my opinion.
Some American readers don't understand military time, and a lot more of them don't read it easily. Apparently some editors above don't believe this. That they don't believe it doesn't make it any less true, though.
I still haven't gotten a clear picture on whether British (and Canadian etc, and also ESL non-native-speaker European etc.) readers understand 12 hour time easily. If they don't, we need a convert function. If they do, we should use 12 hour time except in specialized cases, such as when we are not describing an event in local time. Herostratus (talk) 11:53, 10 May 2017 (UTC)
Having lived in most of the English speaking parts of the world, I'm pretty sure there is no place where 12-hour clock is not understood, and I don't think anyone in this discussion is saying that. There may be places where it seems odd in certain contexts, like the example above of a Panzer attack that starts at 3:30 pm or a bus that leaves at 4:15 pm, but it would certainly be understood. I do not find the ESL argument persuasive. We can't guard against the possibility of using any English expression that might not be understood by non-native speakers. The prospect of including a conversion for every appearance of time-of-day in every article is too horrible to contemplate. Kendall-K1 (talk) 12:09, 10 May 2017 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────

Arbor-treeish break[edit]

I'm aware there are a few topic areas (hurricanes/weather events, military history, maybe others) where guidelines (maybe informal) call for use of 24-hr format. Can someone point to examples of other articles where there was argument over which format to use? I agree that 12-hr format should be universally understandable, if not always the natural format for some readers for some topics. EEng 15:22, 10 May 2017 (UTC)

I don't see why we should adopt the approach "if its about weather or military, we'd just as soon some of our readers don't know when it occurred". What's the benefit? What, specifically, is it about weather and military events where we want to throw a shade of mystery over the time when they occurred?
Is it because the native primary sources use 24 hour time? That seems weak tea. We recast technical jargon all the time into terms understandable to the reader, and should. And when we don't, its because to do so would cost precision, which is not an issue here. 13:20 is not more precise than 1:20 pm. Herostratus (talk) 03:01, 15 May 2017 (UTC)
I can see the argument for using 24 hour time when you're using UTC maybe, as when there's no local time for the even (non-localized events such an eclipse for instance). Other than that... Herostratus (talk) 03:01, 15 May 2017 (UTC)
Erm, UTC is the "local time" for the UK, parts of Europe and parts of Africa. There is life east of Cape Cod! Martin of Sheffield (talk) 08:45, 15 May 2017 (UTC)
Right. But I mean, certain events don't really have a local time, because they don't occur on the Earth or else occur over a large area (more than one time zone for instance) simultaneously, and UTC is used for those as a matter of convention I believe. Like if describing an exact time that a spacecraft entered Saturn's rings or whatever. You could indeed say "The spacecraft impacted Pluto at 3:28 pm UTC" and that'd be fine, but in this case "...at 15:28 UTC" might be OK. The reason being, "3:28 pm" helps the reader put the event in context -- "Oh OK in the mid-afternoon with a few hours of daylight left" or whatever. That context doesn't really apply to events on Pluto etc. It remains true that "15:28" is still gibberish to some people though, so not sure about what's best here. Herostratus (talk) 09:19, 15 May 2017 (UTC)
I wasn't approving of those practices, just reciting them. The more I think about it the more I like the idea of just saying everything should be in 12-hr format (with the exception of UTC). EEng 03:30, 15 May 2017 (UTC)
This thread seems to neglect the main benefit of the 24-hr clock, which is its avoidance of the discontinuities through 12 noon and 1 pm. If a bus leaves Bath at 11:15 and arrives at London at 13:30 I can tell at a glance that the ride takes 2 hours and 15 minutes. If that same bus departs at 11.15 am and arrives at 1.30 pm, how long does it then take? The same of course but the simplest way of working it out is to first convert to 24-hr notation. Why make unnecessarily hard on the reader? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 22:39, 15 May 2017 (UTC)
Hate to tell you, but if a bus leaves Bath at 11:15 and arrives at London at 1:30, I can tell at a glance that the ride takes 2 hours and 15 minutes. It's second nature. However hard that may be on some readers, it's nothing to how hard it is on some readers who have no idea what 13:30 means. (Honestly, if you told me a ride lasted from 11:15 to 13:30, the first thing I'd do is mentally turn 13:30 in to 1:30pm, then figure that 11:15 to 1:30 is 2 1/4 hours.) EEng 23:48, 15 May 2017 (UTC)
Anyway, I suppose that most uses of time are a single time rather than a range -- over 90%, I would guess (searching on the string "16:30" just now, the ten results were not ranges. (FWIW eight were start time of European or international sports events, the other two were international stock exchange opening/closing times). Searching on "4:30 pm" returned three of eleven as ranges -- all three were opening/closing times ("9:30 AM–4:30 PM", "8.30 am to 4.30 pm", "8.30 am to 4.30 pm") where, perhaps, the actual times of the events is the major data. But... if you did want to calculate the range, I do agree that "08:30-16:30" makes it a little quicker than "8:30 am - 4:30 pm".
Of course probably many time ranges don't include noon (although all three of my quick sample did), and those that pass midnite aren't much improved in terms of calculation (IMO it's no easier to calculate elapsed time with "he was alone on the ice from 22:30 to 03:30" than "...10:30 pm to 3:30 am"). So "ease of calculating ranges which include noon" is a point IMO, but maybe a minor one.
(I also note that some people use a dot ("8.30") rather than a colon ("8:30"), and some use uppercase AM/PM and some lowercase am/pm. If I was really micromanaging those are the kinds of things I would be going after. But I don't care about that and don't think anyone should -- but of course the MOS, which says "we have no idea ('Context determines')" on the 12-24 clock question, specifies the colon and lowercase undotted am/pm. See Bike shed discussion). Herostratus (talk) 17:58, 16 May 2017 (UTC)
"But I don't care about that and don't think anyone should". But many people do. Enough, in fact, that a site-wide MOS was created and continues to be adjusted and amended (in many cases by people who love to tell us all how much they don't care). Any micromanaging taking place is not of editors, but of articles, as it should be on a project with high standards (style and content). Primergrey (talk) 19:15, 16 May 2017 (UTC)
Based on what's going on there I'm more and more convinced that here at MOSDATES we should indeed give more guidance. EEng 12:39, 25 May 2017 (UTC)

AD/CE for one- and two-digit years[edit]

The page currently says:

In general, do not use CE or AD unless required to avoid ambiguity[....]

I think this is fine advice for four-digit years, and maybe even for three-digit ones, but not for one- and two-digit years. It is not very intuitive for most people to interpret a bare small number as a year, in a phrase like Sextus Aelius Catus (consul in 4). Consul in four what?

It's true that the advice allows an exception to avoid ambiguity, but I'm not sure the phrase is ambiguous. It's not that there's another available meaning; it's that many readers may struggle to find even one meaning. But if you say consul in 4 AD, then it's clear.

On a possibly related note, there was a convention until not too long ago that articles on AD/CE years appeared at the bare number (like 1972). That was confusing for small numbers, many of which were more intuitive as articles about the numbers themselves rather than the years. So now all one- and two-digit bare-number links are either to the article about the number, or to a disambig page including links to the number and the year.

I propose that the guidance be amended to allow (and possibly even encourage) AD/CE for one- and two-digit years, even if not "ambiguous" per se. --Trovatore (talk) 09:58, 23 May 2017 (UTC)

Subject to the approval of my esteemed fellow editors, I added a bit to suggest that including the era with one- and two-digit years might be "more natural" at times. [1] I hesitate to say even something as strong as the era "should" be included. As I've done it, the idea is put in the editor's head without twisting his arm. EEng 22:30, 23 May 2017 (UTC)
Thanks; I think that's an improvement. --Trovatore (talk) 02:16, 24 May 2017 (UTC)

getting an error for one such date[edit]

On Bibliography of biology#Zoology, I'm still seeing an error, no matter what I do to the Pliny reference. Any help? = paul2520 (talk) 18:32, 24 May 2017 (UTC)

If you're talking about the Pliny, it's because of the circas. Ask at Help talk:Citation Style 1, though I warn you the answer there often is to tell you you shouldn't want to do what you want to do, instead of helping you do it. EEng 18:39, 24 May 2017 (UTC)
I'd say the problem is you're trying to use the citation template to cite a work in abstract terms, but the citation templates are intended to cite a specific edition of a work that an editor actually read. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess you didn't read a book that was actually written on paper in c. 77 to c. 79. What you're doing is perfectly legitimate; describing in abstract terms a book written back then which has come down to us through the copying of manuscripts. But it isn't what the citation templates were designed for, so I suggest you don't use them. Jc3s5h (talk) 19:11, 24 May 2017 (UTC)

First major contributor[edit]

A question about this sentence from MOS:DATERET: Where an article has shown no clear sign of which format is used, the first person to insert a date is equivalent to "the first major contributor".

Does this mean the first person to insert a date in the article's text, or does it mean the first person to insert a date anywhere, even citations? MOS:DATEUNIFY seems to say that the format used in the article's text may influence the format used in citations, but not necessarily the other way around. Bmf 051 (talk) 01:10, 29 May 2017 (UTC)

Discussion about Era Notation Intertia[edit]

Currently the manual states that if a specific page has dates set using a certain era notation (BC vs. BCE) then it should remain that way unless their is a specific reason for this. I do not understand the motivation behind this and think it should be amended. If a user is willing to take the time to change a page to have more modern and proper notation (BCE-CE) then that should be appropriate and encouraged, specifically on pages regarding mathematical or scientific topics which should use the most current notation and be devoid of any of the religious connotation that BC-AD holds.Lessconfusedthanbefore (talk) 16:59, 14 June 2017 (UTC)

I flat-out reject your belief that BCE is better than BC. Further, you can't prove that most English-speakers prefer BCE over BC. Jc3s5h (talk) 17:47, 14 June 2017 (UTC)

-Jc3s5h, I'm not interested in whether a "majority" believe one way or another. Rather, respectable organizations like Chicago Manual of Style and Smithsonian declare a prefrence for CE and it seems that in order for Wikipedia to be a more inclusive and credible resource, it would behoove us to follow in their stead.Lessconfusedthanbefore (talk) 01:02, 15 June 2017 (UTC)

There is no religious connotation over using BC/AD, just as there is none over e.g. calling the first month of the year January (after Janus), or today’s day Wednesday (after Odin). Other than that the guideline makes it clear that both forms are acceptable and widely used, neither is better than the other. You simply have a preference for BCE/CE, which is fine. Use it in any article you write. But do not change the style in an existing article, unless there is some other good reason for it.--JohnBlackburnewordsdeeds 18:46, 14 June 2017 (UTC)
  • Lessconfused, you are unknowingly stepping into a minefield. This has been an extremely contentious issue; there's even a special section of archives for this page devoted to it. Search the string BCE in the archives using the box at the top of this page, and you'll see. There are some doors man was never meant to reopen. EEng 19:27, 14 June 2017 (UTC)

Question about fractions at Japanese units[edit]

Over at Japanese_units_of_measurement, one user has added precise unit conversions in the form of what seem to be astonishingly large fractions, such as "62,500,000/158,080,329" (n.b., commas are part of what that user included). Is there a formal MoS position on such fractions? Editors here are invited to weigh in on the talk page there. Rhialto (talk) 20:05, 14 June 2017 (UTC)

Date format for a duo where one is from U.S. and one from UK[edit]

The Kipper Kids article mentions a duo where one is from the U.S. and one is from the UK. Which date format should be used? Right now the DOB is in the format for the particular person. AngusWOOF (barksniff) 03:33, 15 June 2017 (UTC)

The article says one was born in Argentina, the other in England. They were both born in d/m/y countries, and apparently did most of their work in Europe (presumably western, due to the dates involved), which is also d/m/y. Based on the information in the article, d/m/y seems correct. While one might well be currently *in* the USA, that doesn't make him *from* the USA. Rhialto (talk) 05:33, 15 June 2017 (UTC)
Using a connection to a particular county only applies to English-speaking countries. Since a number of countries and regions are connected to this article, either format would be acceptable. What looks to me like the first non-stub version of the article uses MDY, I would use that for all dates unless a different consensus is established on the talk page.
In any case, the date format should be consistent throughout the article, rather than depend on who or what is being discussed in a certain passage. Jc3s5h (talk) 10:54, 15 June 2017 (UTC)
Rhialto is right, one's from Argentina, and based on the fact that they met in the UK to conceive of the ideas that would favor DMY. What threw me off was that most of their Wikipedia notable writeup concerned activities in the U.S. I guess that it would be a coin flip if the duo did have origins from two countries with different date formats. AngusWOOF (barksniff) 12:59, 15 June 2017 (UTC)
I would say go with the ENGVAR of the page as a whole. There don't appear to be strong national ties, so go with established variety if there is one, first major contributor if not. If both of those come up empty, then go ahead and pick one, maybe after asking on the talk page if there are any strong opinions. If there's a strong consensus at the article itself, respect it, even if it doesn't seem to be exactly what the seventeenth tiebreaker seems like from the written guideline. --Trovatore (talk) 20:53, 15 June 2017 (UTC)

One-and-a-half in prose[edit]

What's the guideline for "one-and-a-half" in article prose -- to use words, or numbers? I've read the "Fractions and ratios" section of this page but I'm still not clear on which is recommended. "these single-family homes are narrow, one-and-a-half story brick structures", or "these single-family homes are narrow, 1 12-story brick structures"? (Pinging @Chris the speller:, re this edit.) Mudwater (Talk) 21:10, 18 June 2017 (UTC)

Well, for starters a --> one. I fear the right answer is one-and-one-half–story (hyphen, hyphen, hyphen, ndash) but you might consider "narrow, single-story structures with an additional half story in the rear" (or whatever), since I think a lot of readers might need a bit of explanation anyway. EEng 21:40, 18 June 2017 (UTC)
You might want to use {{engvar}} here. One and one half sounds very stilted to English ears, for articles written in British English use one and a half. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 22:05, 18 June 2017 (UTC)
It also sounds very stilted to American ears. I wouldn't recommend anyone changing a --> one. Chris the speller yack 23:00, 18 June 2017 (UTC)
I guess I'm getting stilted in my old age. EEng 23:23, 18 June 2017 (UTC)
@Mudwater: The guideline says "Mixed numbers are usually given in figures", so it favors the second option above. Just as "a two story structure" needs a hyphen ("two-story") because of the compound modifier, the first option above needs a hyphen after "half", but that would create "these single-family homes are narrow, one-and-a-half-story brick structures", and I thought that four words strung together with hyphens (or perhaps an en dash) would be a little unwieldy, so I went with the second option. The main purpose of my edit was to put a hyphen into the compound modifier, not just to change words to figures. Chris the speller yack 21:55, 18 June 2017 (UTC)