Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers

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Strong national ties question[edit]

I did a search through the MOS talk archives. I can't say I read through every thread, but I have not yet seen a clear explanation of "strong national ties". It seems like I regularly see people act as though any person, place, thing, event, idea, company, etc. that was born, formed, created, invented, or otherwise primarily existed in a given country has "strong national ties" to that country such that WP:DATERET does not apply. "Strong national ties" suggests it's also possible to have "weak national ties" or "moderate national ties" that would not be sufficient to change the date format on the basis of such ties. I would not say that being born in the United States gives me "strong national ties" to the United States, for example. If I were also an employee of the Federal Government, if I were a Founding Father, or if I ran for President of the United States, then there would be "strong national ties". Similarly (at the risk of belaboring my point), a book that happens to be published here has no strong national ties unless, say, it's a book about American exceptionalism or the Constitution. I'm intentionally omitting the specific examples that led me to ask this question, since I'm looking for best practices rather than dispute resolution. — Rhododendrites talk \\ 18:17, 22 July 2017 (UTC)

One thing I can address is that place of birth gives strong ties for the purposes of this particular convention. I may or may not agree with it, but when wielded by nationalistic types, it's pretty unassailable. Primergrey (talk) 19:12, 22 July 2017 (UTC)
I'm not being flip when I say that we might not need a clear explanation, absent evidence that editor time is being wasted arguing this question on individual articles. EEng 19:14, 22 July 2017 (UTC)
So my question is whether this has been clarified. The implication here is that the answer is no. I haven't proposed anything such that digging up diffs to provide evidence would be sensible, but I also would be surprised if most of the regulars on this page had not seen disputes concerning the "strong" in "strong national ties". How about I rephrase: why is "strong" there at all? It seems like it's typically taken to mean any national ties, and when there are ties to multiple nations then deferring to the stronger of them. If there's such a thing as "strong national ties", then, as I said, there must be a "[less-than-strong] national tie" that doesn't qualify for the purposes of changing date format (or, I imagine, ENGVAR, etc.). Absent competing claims, if strength of the national tie doesn't matter, that seems awfully unclear (the kind of unclear that indeed saps editor time). — Rhododendrites talk \\ 20:30, 22 July 2017 (UTC)
I think you're right that, in practice, it reads "...strong[est] national ties". I also agree that it probably does sponge a lot of time, but if that time is spent in a "which ties are strongest" debate, it falls into a concensus-reaching realm. Which is positive. Primergrey (talk) 20:41, 22 July 2017 (UTC)
My view is that "national ties" is a special case, and should be used only when the ties are clear. Biographies, places, legal issues specific to a country, that sort of thing. For example Kurt Gödel would have American ties because he was a US citizen, but Gödel's incompleteness theorems does not inherit the ties and is governed under WP:RETAIN.
I do think, though, that a bio of a person who was born in and lived as a citizen of an English-speaking country ordinarily does have strong national ties. Persons from non-English-speaking countries, not so much. A special case is someone who was, say, born in the UK and moved to the US, or vice versa — in those cases, I would say the ties are unclear, and we should fall back to RETAIN. --Trovatore (talk) 22:16, 22 July 2017 (UTC)
@Primergrey, EEng, and Trovatore: Thoughts on Lucien Conein who was born in France, settled in US at age 5, briefly returned to France at the outset of WWII, then served in US military and government? The ties seem stronger to US, but wondering what others think. -Location (talk) 03:08, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
I believe we have a team of rabbis for questions like this. EEng 03:16, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
Feel free to point me in that direction. Thanks! -Location (talk) 03:48, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
My take: France is not an English-speaking country, so it doesn't enter into the equation. Conein was apparently an American citizen and lived most of his life either in the States or working for the US government.
So I would say the article plausibly has strong US ties, not the strongest I've ever seen, but not a stretch either. However, if it were clearly written in British English and that was not a recent change, I'd leave it be. --Trovatore (talk) 08:55, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
That was my initial interpretation reading MOS:DATETIES, too, but I wasn't sure if there was a rule for subjects tied to non-English speaking countries that place date before Month. Thanks for the feedback! -Location (talk) 13:56, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
Concur with Trovatore.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:02, 22 August 2017 (UTC)

Date ranges and commas in prose[edit]

Here's the sentence in question from the article Toronto Maple Leafs:

Between October 17, 1992, and October 15, 2016, the Maple Leafs took a unique approach to retired numbers.

The general rule is that, with that date format, there is always a comma after the year. There's no exception to that in a range spelled out with "and" instead of a dash, is there? —C.Fred (talk) 20:11, 23 July 2017 (UTC)

I'm going to make a secret confession to you, C. Fred -- don't tell anyone: This comma-after-year obsession is the one and only bit of MOS I intentionally ignore. Except in a few situations (e.g. setting off nonrestrictive clauses) most comma placement is a matter of rhythm and cadence only – nothing to do with grammar or correctness. In your case I'd write:
Between October 17, 1992 and October 15, 2016, the Maple Leafs took...
To be clear, if we were using DMY dates, I'd recommend:
Between 17 October 1992 and 15 October 2016, the Maple Leafs took...
Just to really rankle the rigid-rule crowd, I'll even say that I'd write:
After 2016 the Maple Leafs took...
For the intermediate case, I might write either of the following
After October 17, 1992, the Maple Leafs took...
After October 17, 1992 the Maple Leafs took...
depending on the pacing of the rest of the sentence and the surrounding text.
If no one's arguing with you about this, I suggest you just do what feels best (and see User:EEng#Why_every_goddam_thing_needn.27t_be_micromanaged_in_a_rule). Remember, don't tell anyone what I said. EEng 20:28, 23 July 2017 (UTC)
What EEng chooses to ignore isn't really of any relevance. No, there is no exception for the case you outline, C.Fred. If EEng has a case to make for changing MOSNUM on this matter, he can make it and we can collectively weigh it. I'm fairly certain it will not achieve consensus, since the format he prefers is idiosyncratic and hard to parse, grouping "1992 and October 15" into a false clause. PS: Since it's a Canadian-English article and both date formats are common in Canada, you could switch the article to the DMY format, unless consensus on the article's talk page goes against the idea. "I don't like this one comma" seems unreasonable as justification for the change, but I'm not sure anyone really cares that much.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:01, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
SM, are you're really this compelled to respond to everything, no matter how stale? EEng 22:18, 22 August 2017 (UTC)

Deprecation of ordinals[edit]

Is there a credible rationale for why ordinals, e.g. the 1st of November, etc., are deprecated; and if there is, is it worth inclusion in the article? Graham.Fountain | Talk 10:17, 29 July 2017 (UTC)

Most manuals of style, including Chicago and MLA, say not to do it. Grammar Girl has an explanation here: [1] Kendall-K1 (talk) 03:28, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
Actually, that example doesn't explain why, only saying that it should be spoken and written differently, not why each is correct in its context. And the article isn't even clearly against the use of ordinals in all situations, stating the following:
'The instance in which it is OK to use an ordinal number is when you are writing the 1st of January, because you are placing the day in a series: of all the days in January, this day is the first. For example, your invitations could say, “Please join us for a party on the first of January.” In that case, it's correct to use the ordinal number, first.'
However, that doesn’t cover why it shouldn’t be the fifth [day] of January, or any other ordinal. Arguably, in the British format, they are always ordinals, which is why they are always spoken as such.
As to MoSs, neither ‘'Hart's rules’' nor ‘'The Oxford Guide’' are of any help on why it is what it is, i.e. the disparity between written and spoken forms. Just that it is. Hart's may be a bit of help, in suggesting that written ranges should always be expressed in the minimum number of characters, i.e. 1841-5 for 1841 to 1845, etc.
But, the question is, why is there this disparity between written as spoken forms? If it is only, as might be inferred from Hart’s comment on minimizing the character count, to save ink and paper, then the next question would be why this applies to an electronic format like Wikipedia, where the cost per character is essentially irrelevant? It’s not as though the inclusions of st, th, or rd would slow or distract the reader who is unaffected by ridged notions of style.
Graham.Fountain | Talk 09:32, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
A number of times I have had trouble distinguishing 1st (first) and lst (common abbreviation of last) - especially in some fonts where 1 and lower-case L are pixel perfect identical. Not a full or authoritative answer but certainly something that has annoyed me in the past.  Stepho  talk  10:16, 1 August 2017 (UTC)
Anyone who writes lst for "last" should have his head examined. EEng 11:13, 1 August 2017 (UTC)→

I don't think it's about the (pointless) effort to save characters -- it's about clarity. Even when directly quoting a verbal speech, we don't write "...cost three hundred dollars", but "...cost $300", even though that makes the "dollars" appear out of the spoken order. We do this to make it quicker and easier for the reader to understand, even if that ignores a technical detail of quoting accuracy. Does adding ordinals in dates make things easier to read? I don't see how. "31st August" just adds a couple letters of clutter over "31 August"; if reading this out loud, I'd bet most people would say it the same either way. Numerals are preferred over spelling out numbers for a reason. That same reasoning should discourage inserting character hints of ordinals in dates, where they are assumed to be ordinals anyway.

I'm not sure that means our MOS should banish these ordinals, but I think it's one argument to do so. --A D Monroe III (talk) 17:27, 1 August 2017 (UTC)

And I'm not sure there isn't almost necessarily a tension between style and clarity: one man's clutter is another man's ornamentation.
I think another point is, which of these causes the man on the Clapham omnibus (unaffected, as I assume him to be, by ridgid notions of style) to pause longest (albeit only ever minutely), and go (at some subconscious level) "Oh! It means 'the first of August'." ( I assume for the 'man on the Staten Island Ferry' that's "... 'August first'.",): "1 August" or "1st August" {or even "the 1st of August"} ("August 1" or "August 1st" on the ferry)?
The overarching question is, whether there's a real need to mandate a specific wikistyle for this, or whether there might be room for the personal taste and style of the contributor? I don't think putting "photographs... taken on 1 November 1977" is better, in any quantifiable way, than "photographs... taken on the 1st of November 1977". Indeed, I personaly think the former looks ugly in comparison, and stops me 'dead in my tracks', as it were.
Graham.Fountain | Talk 09:33, 2 August 2017 (UTC)
It's not about better or worse. The purpose of MOS and MOSNUM is to harmonize style for the sake of clarity. Allowing a free for all, with each editor adopting his or her personal preference, would not contribute to this goal. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 11:54, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
Precisely. Random variation between styles is the worst option. Peter coxhead (talk) 12:04, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
Have to agree, we already have too many variations in style for dates, some of which are ambiguous, trying to get something reasonably standard should be a goal. Keith D (talk) 17:44, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
Agreed on both parts of that. We should be cutting out more date formats, not adding new ones.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:09, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
"Why" is irrelevant. MoS is not an article, and isn't here to provide linguistic history research. Its purpose is to produce consistently formatted output, and to reduce editorial squabbling over stylistic trivia, sometimes with rules that are essentially arbitrary (though few of them actually are, and usually have clarity, comprehensibility, usability, accessibility, etc., rationales). If you really demand a reason on this one, it's because "21st of December" format is not concise, and it forces a specific sounding-out interpretation on the reader's brain. Not everyone, at all, actually reads aloud "21 November" as "21st of November"; some give it as "21st November" and others exactly what it says, "21 November". The "21st of November" date format looks and sounds old-fashioned, even stilted, to many.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  22:09, 22 August 2017 (UTC)

Topic ban[edit]

There is a discussion at WP:AN#Appeal my topic ban regarding a topic ban which I have suggested could still apply to MOS/MOSNUM, but active editors here may think that unnecessary. (talk) 22:08, 20 August 2017 (UTC)