Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers

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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)

It means the main text. Various citation formats use date styles that are never used in our article body text at all.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  20:10, 10 July 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)
  • Aside from the central question, some cleanup edits needs to be made now. "Seek consensus on the talk page before making the change" as an emphatic commandment is against policy and must be reduced, since this is a guideline, to a recommendation, e.g. "It is advisable to seek ...". The specific demands in the material following this to use particular subject lines are WP:CREEP, are unlike anything else in MoS or any other guideline, and need to be removed. They don't serve any purpose anyway; "Why is this article using 'BC'?" is much more apt to attract discussion than a subject line of "Era". The "how to discuss things" material in the sentence after that is also CREEP.

    As for the central quetsion: EEng is correct that this topic is a stylistic warzone and has been one for a long time. However, the assertion by JohnBlackburne that "there is no religious connotation [to] using BC/AD" is absurd on its face, since the religious connotations of it are the source of the recurrent controversy, on and off Wikipedia, and were the very reason that CE/BCE alternatives were ever implemented. Etymological arguments about "Wednesday" are false equivalence through analogies that are not actually analogous. No analogies are ever going to get around the demonstrable fact that people on and off WP object to BC/AD specifically because of its tie to Christian dogma. The recurrent dispute here (which is a rather obvious WP:Systemic bias matter) is never going to go away until we revise MOS to use BCE/CE by default and to reserve BC/AD for topics in which those are especially appropriate (biblical and Christian church matters, and the history of Christendom before the modern era, including its interactions, e.g. the Crusades, with neighboring cultures). Whenever I encounter BC/AD used in articles that are not within the appropriate purviews (i.e. "there are reasons specific to [the article's] content" for a change), I change it to BCE/CE dating (especially in science articles, including archaeology), and am very rarely reverted on it. There appears to me to be a general editorial consensus on the matter, which we've simply not updated MOSNUM to include. I generally oppose substantive (versus clarifying) changes to MoS at this stage of its development, but we should continue to make those that tie off disputatious loose ends and which will curtail recurrent strife.
     — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  20:09, 10 July 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)
Yep, go with the ENGVAR of the page as a whole. We don't flip date formats in mid-article, and the TIES arguments here are weak. If one were to be made, it should be made to set the ENGVAR article-wide, not to twiddle with date formats in particular.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:41, 10 July 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)
If you do spell it out for some reason (which seems pedantic to me unless it's necessary because it's in a section that is dense with numerals being used for other purposes) the correct format is "one-and-a-half-story" (or "-storey", depending on ENGVAR), all hyphens; there is no cause for an en dash anywhere in that construction, since it's just a compound adjective, as in red-and-black-spotted frog. Also agreed that the aone change is not necessary; either style is recognizable, and a is more common today. It only needs to be a avoided in constructions that would be confusing, especially for screen readers (e.g. "a one-and-a-half ..."). As with anything that can seem stilted, only use one[ |-]half when there's a real reason to do so, and look for a way to rewrite to avoid it.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:37, 10 July 2017 (UTC)

Section 3.5 - Dates and numbers#Decimals/Grouping of digits/Grouping with narrow gaps - Typo?[edit]

In section 3.5, Dates and numbers#Decimals/Grouping of digits/Grouping with narrow gaps, the following sentence appears to contain a typo:

  • Digits are generally grouped into threes. Right of the decimal point, usual practice is to have a final group of four instead of a lone digit (e.g.  99.1234567  or  99.1234567).

Shouldn't the 'or' be a 'not'?

  • Digits are generally grouped into threes. Right of the decimal point, usual practice is to have a final group of four instead of a lone digit (e.g.  99.1234567  not  99.1234567).

It seems that it should, but I didn't want to make a change on an important guide like this one without double checking. Thanks!   - Mark D Worthen PsyD (talk) 11:38, 24 June 2017 (UTC)

Also red, not green. Kendall-K1 (talk) 12:19, 24 June 2017 (UTC)
My reading of that text is that both forms are permitted, which is why both are green. In other words, follow the 3-digit rule if you like (3+3+1 digits) or make an exception with a final group of 4 digits (3+4+0) if you prefer it that way. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 14:07, 24 June 2017 (UTC)
If that is the case, then the sentence needs to be rewritten. Something like:
* Digits are generally grouped into threes. Right of the decimal point, you may use a final group of four instead of leaving an 'orphaned' digit at the end of the sequence, e.g. 99.1234567. However, one or two digits at the end of a sequence are also acceptable, e.g., 99.1234567.   - Mark D Worthen PsyD (talk) 14:59, 24 June 2017 (UTC)
  • For the consideration of my esteemed fellow editors, I have boldly installed something based on MDWP's proposed text [1], but condensed. EEng 01:34, 25 June 2017 (UTC)
Looks great to me EEng. :O)   - Mark D Worthen PsyD (talk) 04:30, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
Seems reasonable too, with the caveat that a lot of people hate this "spaced numbers" style regardless of twiddles to it. PS: I'm disinclined to continue opposing it, as long as we're clear that this needs to be done with a template that does not use actual space characters but just inserts visual spacing with CSS that doesn't mess up copy-pasted numbers. We need a bot that at least detects likely mis-formatting with real space characters (of various sorts) and reports them for cleanup, since mangled numbers like that are both a WP:ACCESSIBILITY and WP:REUSE problem.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:25, 10 July 2017 (UTC)

names of units: singular or plural?[edit]

Has anyone noticed the discussion at Wikipedia_talk:Naming_conventions_(plurals)#.27Measurements_involving_two_or_more_units_.28such_as_pounds_per_square_inch_or_miles_per_hour.29_should_usually_have_the_first_word_in_the_plural.27? The question is whether units like metre per second and foot-pound should be renamed as metres per second and feet-pound. The discussion has far reaching consequences and could result in widespread renaming of units from singular to plural (or limited renaming from plural to singular, depending on the outcome). Dondervogel 2 (talk) 14:14, 24 June 2017 (UTC)

I mentioned it at WT:Manual of Style/Archive 192#Unit plurals: pounds per square inch but did not notice much interest. Johnuniq (talk) 04:51, 1 July 2017 (UTC)
I mentioned it at WT:MOS again.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:22, 10 July 2017 (UTC)

"Vol." and "no."[edit]

FYI: Pointer to relevant discussion elsewhere.

Please see Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style#Overcapitalization of "vol." and "no.", which is also relevant to MOS:NUM (including proposal of merging some material to this page), but is addressing material presently in the main MOS page.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  23:21, 4 July 2017 (UTC)

"Unacceptable date formats" table error[edit]

In Chrome on Mac OS, I'm seeing an error in the table (but have not gone and fixed it, in case others do not see it on other platforms).

The "Do not use a leading zero in month or day, except in all-numeric (yyyy-mm-dd) format" cell in the Comments column is spanning the "2007-4-15" example in the "Unacceptable" column, which is not an example of what the comment proscribes.
 — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  19:02, 10 July 2017 (UTC)

It illustrates the except bit i.e. that in yyyy-mm-dd the mm and the dd should be zero-padded. EEng 19:58, 10 July 2017 (UTC)
Very unintuitive, and better as a separate point about what to do, rather than an inference one has to tease out of an "except".  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  20:19, 10 July 2017 (UTC)
Yes, I agree that it would be clearer to have separate explanatory comments:
09 June 9 June Do not use a leading zero in month or day, except in all-numeric (yyyy-mm-dd) formats
June 09 June 9
2007-4-5 2007-04-05 Do not omit leading zeros in all-numeric (yyyy-mm-dd) formats
Peter coxhead (talk) 20:48, 10 July 2017 (UTC)
  • For the consideration of my esteemed fellow editors, I've adapted a technique used in the units-of-measure table: [2]. EEng 21:14, 10 July 2017 (UTC)

For the sake of simpler English, may I suggest that the instructions be re-written as positive statements rather than negatives?

09 June 9 June Remove leading zeros in date formats that have months written out as words.
June 09 June 9
2007-4-5 2007-04-05 Include leading zeros in all-numeric (yyyy-mm-dd) date formats

Rhialto (talk) 21:28, 10 July 2017 (UTC)

That's inconsistent with the rest of the table. This is the "naughties" table. EEng 22:04, 10 July 2017 (UTC)
The "naughties" table. Love it!  ;o)   - Mark D Worthen PsyD (talk) 06:37, 14 July 2017 (UTC)
Or in French, Le tableau de neau-neaux. EEng 07:09, 14 July 2017 (UTC)
I'm quite sure Thatcher would have said Le tableau de neau-neau-neaux. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 08:55, 14 July 2017 (UTC)