Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style

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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Wikipedia's Manual of Style contains some conventions that differ from those in some other, well-known style guides and from what is often taught in schools. Wikipedia's editors have discussed these conventions in great detail and have reached consensus that these conventions serve our purposes best. New contributors are advised to check the FAQ and the archives to see if their concern has already been discussed.

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Gender[edit]

Why is gender an exception to the general policy of following reliable sources? The MOS says to use a person's self-designated gender even if it goes against reliable sources, while all other matters of designation are to follow reliable sources. I'm sure this has been discussed many times but if there are good reasons for the exception could they perhaps be summarised in the MOS? Otherwise it comes across looking blatantly ideological and non-neutral, as if wikipedia is taking a side in debates about gender.

Also, saying "Jane Doe became a parent" instead of "Jane Doe fathered a child" seems to obscure potentially useful information: whether the person was the biological father or mother of their child. This seems particularly important information for someone whose gender is unclear or debateable. Colonial Overlord (talk) 08:19, 3 March 2017 (UTC)

This is mostly a PC thing when you first look at it. But, as you get deeper into it, it has substance. Gender unlike "sex" is a cultural construct defined based on "gender roles", meaning it is a behavioral characteristic and language-based identity. Identity is something that can only really be accurately identified by the self so far, we don't normally consider self-"authored" items to be "reliable". However, when it comes to identity and cultural labels self-authored items are arguably the most reliable source even if some policies don't yet reflect that. I hope that using gender-neutral terms in cases where the gender is unknown is something that most editors understand. What does everyone else think? Endercase (talk) 14:28, 4 March 2017 (UTC)
But the view that pronouns and words like "man" and "woman" should be used to describe subjective self-pereception rather than objective biological reality is a controversial view. And to be honest it's not a view I understand the reasoning for at all. What's the point of having these words if all they describe is a person's subjective perception rather than biological facts about a person that determine their procreative role? What's the point of dividing people into two categories if they are based on nothing more than a person's choice of which category they want to be in, that they can change at any time? It seems utterly absurd.
I always thought this use of gendered pronouns was just a matter of people who are upset which sex they were born as asking other people to basically indulge their fantasy that they were born as the other sex instead of just accepting their biological sex but that that need not constrain their lifestyle or other choices in any way. It's bizarre that this push for self-designated pronouns is coming from the left since it seems to be based on a conservative idea of gender roles: that everyone has one of two sets of personality attributes that determine their lifestyle and role in society, with the caveat that which one they have has nothing to do with their biology.
Tl;dr: what reason is there for making pronouns refer to subjective gender rather than objective sex? If a person's biological sex is unclear that's a different matter, but if someone has all the biological aspects of a male but "identifies" as female, what basis is there for calling them anything other than male? Colonial Overlord (talk) 02:20, 5 March 2017 (UTC)
I missed this part in my longer response, below, to the thread as a whole: Regarding "seems to obscure potentially useful information: whether the person was the biological father or mother of their child" and "biological facts about a person that determine their procreative role" – That will be obvious from the early part of the article where their biological sex at birth is mentioned. Ain't broke, don't "fix" it. Regarding "I always thought this use of gendered pronouns was just a matter of people who are upset which sex they were born" and "it's not a view I understand the reasoning for at all" – A lot of people would tell you that you thought wrong, and others that you ought not be staking out a position while simultaneously professing to be confused or lacking information about the nature of the issue, and not all of these people would overlap. Some are agnostic on the first matter and awaiting more science, while others just DGaF, in between the squabbling camps in this debate, and there are actually more than two of them. Two are obviously socio-political activism viewpoints (mostly of confused people who think there is only one political axis, of "left versus right" or "liberal versus conservative", when there are actually three major socio-political axes plus numerous minor ones). On this issue, there are also socio-linguistic, neurological, genetic, anthropological, sociological, and other viewpoints that commingle in various ways and have little to do with politics.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  08:48, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
You haven't addressed any of my arguments. I gave several reasons why it seems absurd to use pronouns to refer to subjective "gender" rather than objective sex and I asked what argument is there for doing so. You've just declared that I "thought wrong" (or that "a lot of people" would say that, but it seems to be what you think as well) and given no argument whatsoever. Also, I didn't say I lacked information, I said I don't understand the reasoning for using self-designated pronouns, which is a polite and open-minded way of saying that as far I can see there IS no good argument for it.
So I'll ask again: what argument is there for even having these words if they don't refer in any way to objective reality?
If we're going to have this policy there had better be a rational argument for it beyond "some people don't like the alternative", or as they would probably phrase it "the alternative erases their lived experiences". Because there sure as hell is a rational argument for referring only to biological sex: this is the way the words have been used throughout history, why the words were developed in the first place, and it gives them (in most cases, the exceptions as I noted above being a different matter) a clear biological definition. Colonial Overlord (talk) 06:49, 20 March 2017 (UTC)
The reason why we make an exception is that we had a huge debate on the issue (in the wake of the Bradley -> Chelsea Manning and Bruce -> Caitlin Jenner name changes), and this was the only compromise that could gain consensus. Perhaps it is time to revisit the question and see if consensus has changed. Blueboar (talk) 14:50, 4 March 2017 (UTC)
Forgive me, but how is this a compromise? It seems like a complete concession to the left-wing position that gender is purely a matter self-perception. Colonial Overlord (talk) 02:33, 5 March 2017 (UTC)
The MOS discusses gender in more detail because the issue has been contentious in the past, but I don't think there is really an exception in practice compared to other matters of self-identification. If someone comes out as gay, or announces they are of a different religion than they had previously professed, we would naturally use the most recent reliable sources, even if most sources (now out-of-date) indicate otherwise. The wording doesn't suggest not following reliable sources, just giving precedence to current ones.
The wording about "becoming a parent" has been discussed before. I support some sort of revision to it, because I don't think the examples are particularly helpful. Phrasing such as "fathered a child" is pretty rare to begin with, not because it would be confusing in the case of trans people, but because we aren't usually inclined put an undue emphasis on the biological aspects of procreation. We just say that so-and-so had a child.--Trystan (talk) 17:24, 4 March 2017 (UTC)
Yes, because in normal cases it's obvious based on a person's sex and gender what their biological role in procreation was. But this policy almost seems to be trying to obscure a person's actual biological sex so that you can't deduce it from the article. Colonial Overlord (talk) 02:25, 5 March 2017 (UTC)
I agree it's not a "compromise", but in some areas there can't be one. Either you accept that pronouns are based on gender not biological sex, or you don't. These are stark alternatives. The consensus here, following changes in scientific understanding and social trends in most Western countries, and from a desire to be respectful, is to accept this proposition.
Where there is room for compromise is in writing about historical events, when someone's gender role was different – issues like how to write about Caitlin Jenner's sporting achievements as Bruce Jenner. Peter coxhead (talk) 09:29, 5 March 2017 (UTC)
I'd like to point out that the current MoS rule actually is a compromise between the various positions. There was a serious proposal put forward to remove all references to a trans-person's at-birth gender assignment, with the sole exception of cases where that person would have been sufficiently notable to have had an article written about them in their pre-transition gender presentation. Rhialto (talk) 15:43, 9 March 2017 (UTC)
To respond in more detail: It's definitely a compromise on what to do and how, between at least three and perhaps as many as a dozen competing positions on the matter (depending on how you want to factor it), and it's a hard-fought compromise at that (with multiple Village Pump RfCs that sometimes ran for months, and with copious amounts of heated invective). Even on the underlying question, the polarization is not as sharp as it looks; plenty of us see multiple sides of it, are able to distinguish easily between "this is how party A wants to be addressed", "this is what activists at both extremes wish usage was" and "this is how mainstream publications are actually writing"; we are concerned primarily about effects on reader comprehension, secondarily about editorial strife reduction, and not at all about satisfying unreasonable expectations from either extremist camp.

"Why is gender an exception to the general policy of following reliable sources?" Loaded and misleading question (it seems to actually mean "sources that agree with my view that oversimplified and binary views of male or female biological sex are the only usable determinant of what pronoun to apply"), but to answer it anyway: The reason is simple. It's because every time the issue is raised in any earnest, WP gets invaded by a WP:MEATPUPPET horde of trans-activists (almost entirely cis-gendered, busybody "allies") bent on language-change advocacy, then our right-wing editors lose their shit at this flood of far-left sabre-rattling, and the centrists among us find something better to do while the battle rages. What we have now is about as good a compromise as we're going to get any time soon.

"[W]hat reason is there for making pronouns refer to subjective gender rather than objective sex?" It's now a common practice to refer to transwomen as "she" and transmen as "he", including in other frequently updated style guides like the AP Stylebook (you won't find it in old, infrequently updated ones), and in current mainstream news publications when they write about TG people. We're just going along with where the language usage patterns are going in reliable sources, as long as the encyclopedic result is not confusing.

There's nothing confusing about an article on, say, a transwoman that makes it clear the person was born bio-male and now identifies as a woman, with our article thereafter using "she" and avoiding using "he" before that point, and being clear about what happened before versus after. For subjects who had long notable careers as a different gender, like Jenner, it can get complicated, but we're handling it. We've been browbeaten with, but not acquiesced to, unreasonable, history-distorting demands that people be allowed to write nonsense like "Caitlyn Jenner's notable athletic career preceded the Olympics. She won the Men's [Championship Name Here] in [year]."

Our article at Caitlyn Jenner appears to handle all of this adequately, and due to its prominence is probably the model article for this, if the one on Manning isn't. The only "cost" to editors of compliance with this "be polite about people's pronoun preferences, within reason" nascent norm is to not pepper the article with "he", yet also to not use "she" for before the public coming-out, and just rely on using the surname. The only impact on readers is that the article uses "Jenner" a lot and it gets a little monotonous, especially since encyclopedic writing avoids euphemistic name replacement techniques used in journalism for variety, as in "In 1978, the Olympian appeared on a show called ...". Dry prose comes with our territory.

PS: One thing we're not doing is accepting made-up pronoun replacements like "s/he", "zir", "hirs", etc., even if the subject in question uses them (e.g. Genesis P-Orridge), though we may note that they use them. This encyclopedia's article on a subject is written for the public not for the article's subject shimself. WP doesn't exist to stroke people's self-identity feathers, any more than it exists as a platform for introducing proposed changes to English usage. We're going along with some attested shifts because and only because they are in fact RS-attested.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  08:27, 13 March 2017 (UTC)

SMcCandlish brings up some excellent and important points. I think that the impact this issue has on actual copy-writing is far less than it may seem at first glance. One must not take the pervasive use of pronouns in discourse to mean they're a fundamental requirement of an article on Wikipedia.

The sacrifices made by repetition of a last name instead of a pronoun are purely aesthetic. I also think that it is essential that somewhere it is unequivocally codified that we do not adopt the vernacular in lieu of the dictionary as SMcCandlish alludes to on the subject of faux-pronouns like "zir" "s/he."

In my opinion GOCE should more visibly encourage a philosophy of putting intelligibility, cohesion, spelling, and grammar far above politics and elegant phrasing. We're not editing op-eds for The Economist, we're wrangling edits made by many people so they can cohesively present information. We shouldn't be worried about anything beyond that.

Jasphetamine (talk) 11:48, 18 March 2017 (UTC)

Discussion of nicknames in the lede of biographies[edit]

There is currently a discussion Talk:Terry Pratchett#Nickname obvious from title of article, in which a user argues that the MoS requires the removal of nicknames from the lede of articles when the article title equals the nickname. Since this potentially affects a huge number of articles, it would be good to have input from more users. Regards SoWhy 07:22, 10 March 2017 (UTC)

See also #Toward a MOS:NICKNAME, below.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  05:11, 13 March 2017 (UTC)

RfC: Substantiating the choices of examples (MOS:EXAMPLES)[edit]

Older version

Topics are limited to a certain level of detail, factoring in encyclopedic and topical relevance, not just verifiable existence. If an article gives examples, the choice must be substantiated. That someone simply listed them does not automatically mean that we must copy them in the style of "X is an example of Y". Examples must be the most prominent cases, of unique character, of defining contribution, or otherwise encyclopedically relevant. The remaining ones must be referred to in a "List of ..." article, providing that they meet the article's inclusion criteria. Reasonable exceptions may be found in many topics outside the realms of culture, aesthetics, or the humanities, which often depend on arbitrary examples to effectively illustrate their subject (i.e. Equation, Algorithm, Cryosphere, Mammal).

Topics are limited to a certain level of detail, factoring in encyclopedic and topical relevance, not just verifiable existence. If an article gives examples, the choice must be substantiated. That someone simply listed them does not automatically mean that we must copy them in the style of "X is an example of Y". Examples should be the most prominent cases, of unique character, of defining contribution, or otherwise encyclopedically relevant. The remaining ones may be referred to in a "List of ..." article, providing that they meet the article's inclusion criteria. Reasonable exceptions may be found in many topics outside the realms of culture, aesthetics, or the humanities, which often depend on arbitrary examples to effectively illustrate their subject (i.e. Equation, Algorithm, Cryosphere, Mammal).

Option B, proposed on 23 March

Topics are limited to a certain level of detail, factoring in encyclopedic and topical relevance, not just verifiable existence. If an article gives examples, the choice must be substantiated. That someone simply listed them does not automatically mean that we must copy them in the style of "X is an example of Y". Examples should be the most prominent cases, of unique character, of defining contribution, or otherwise encyclopedically relevant. For example:

The remaining ones may be referred to in a "List of ..." article, providing that they meet the article's inclusion criteria. Reasonable exceptions may be found in many topics outside the realms of culture, aesthetics, or the humanities, which often depend on arbitrary examples to effectively illustrate their subject (i.e. Equation, Algorithm, Cryosphere, Mammal).

Should the quoted text be added under a section titled "Examples"?--Ilovetopaint (talk) 16:36, 11 March 2017 (UTC)

I moderated "must" language, per the feedback below.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  00:40, 13 March 2017 (UTC)

Background[edit]

The proposed addition was worked out by myself, @Staszek Lem:, and @SMcCandlish:. It is an attempt to tie together the following:

  • WP:BALASPS (An article should not give undue weight to minor aspects of its subject)
  • WP:ONUS (While information must be verifiable in order to be included in an article, this does not mean that all verifiable information must be included in an article.)
  • WP:DETAIL (Many readers need just a quick summary of the topic's most important points. Others need a moderate amount of information on the topic's more important points)
  • WP:LISTCRITERIA (Criteria for inclusion should factor in encyclopedic and topical relevance, not just verifiable existence. )

We have several related cleanup templates for this issue, none of which can be linked to any one of the above. They are: {{Refexample}}, {{Specific-section}}, {{Example farm}}, {{Importance example}}. I've written more at WP:NAMEDROP. There was also a similar proposal which could not find consensus due to its ambiguous wording.--Ilovetopaint (talk) 16:36, 11 March 2017 (UTC)

Survey[edit]

  • Support As nom, I believe we already have this guideline in place. However, this particular elaboration helps give something specific to point to when addressing issues in articles like Concept album (see this revision)--Ilovetopaint (talk) 16:44, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
    • Well, the whole point is that we have a section about examples, and it doesn't presently make these points clear. The only way right now to get all of them is to trawl through a tremendous amount of WP policy and guideline verbiage and internalize all of it and how it inter-relates, something the average editor will never do, and something the non-average editor who is really, really into WP policy will take years to do.  :-)  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  00:01, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
  • Support. One of the principal purposes of WP having style (including layout, presentation, and relevance) guidelines is providing best practices that explain to new (and longer-term but not policy-focused) editors how to apply WP's general policies and content guidelines to various style matters in the broad sense, without making them guess or do "what does WP want?" research – editorial time better spent on content sourcing. I think this material should also be linked to from the section on embedded lists, since any given excessive pile of examples is very likely to be appear in the form of a list, or even be reformatted into one by later editors uncertain whether to prune the excess but certain that it is a list.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  00:01, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
  • Oppose Do we really need this defined anywhere? It's down to common sense, and there are far too many guidelines already for anyone to keep up with. If there are minor examples given, or too many, just trim the list and have done with it. If any item is unsupported by a cite, take it out. Simon Burchell (talk) 12:03, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
  • Oppose (for now). I don't see what the heck this is trying to say, quite honestly. Are we saying that we should only use examples that are used together in one source (i.e. don't combine different examples from different sources)? Or is it saying that we should only use examples used in many sources (i.e. only use the most prominent ones mentioned in lots of sources)? Or are we trying to solve the perennial problem of trivia mentions of every time a historical person appears in some movie, comic, or TV show? Ealdgyth - Talk 12:54, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I also don't know what it's trying to say. If it's about content, this isn't the place to hold it anyway. SarahSV (talk) 02:55, 14 March 2017 (UTC)
  • Strong Oppose What is one supposed to do inside "the realms of culture, aesthetics, or the humanities"? Never give any examples? Ridiculous. Even if each example is referenced, it would not seem to meet the criteria here. The last sentence is ambiguous. This would just be used to remove all examples of anything, anywhere. Johnbod (talk) 04:31, 14 March 2017 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose. Articles in the realms of culture, aesthetics, or the humanities often need examples to explain to the reader what's being described (anyone fancy trying to describe Picaresque novel, Romanticism or Hudson River School without giving representative examples?). This would give the MOS hardliners carte blanche to gut Wikipedia's arts and humanities coverage. ‑ Iridescent 18:03, 15 March 2017 (UTC)
  • Oppose. This seems like scope creep to me, but in any case the situation with examples is too complicated for a single piece of the MOS to describe. The complexity of deciding which examples should be included in each article requires detailed discussions at each article, which should not be short-circuited by the MOS. As with many aspects of writing, it is better here to allow the editors to do their work in peace, rather than trying to micromanage their decisions centrally. — Carl (CBM · talk) 21:16, 23 March 2017 (UTC)
    Also, new "options" should not be added so long after the discussion begins, so that editors can comment on the RFC and move on. But my argument applies equally to "Option B". — Carl (CBM · talk) 21:19, 23 March 2017 (UTC)

Threaded discussion[edit]

  • I am somewhat supportive of this (I certainly agree that we need something to limit the phenomenon of "example bloat" in articles)... but I am not sure that the MOS is the right venue for it (then again, I am not sure which policy or guideline page would be the right venue... perhaps WP:UNDUE?). I am also concerned by the word "must" in the sentence: "The remaining ones must be referred to in a "List of ..." article, providing that they meet the article's inclusion criteria." That could be construed as saying that MOS requires our editors to create a new "list of" article, any time they give a few examples of something in an article. Perhaps the sentence should say "may" or "can" instead? Blueboar (talk) 17:34, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
  • I'm struggling to grasp/visualise what exact issue this is attempting to deal with, or what exactly it is suggesting should happen instead. Plus it seems only to be a matter of "style" in the broadest and more thematic and abstract sense. The MOS is big and sprawling enough as it is, and is probably better limited to concise and clear instructions or guidance on more micro-level issues of typographical/grammatical etc consistency (or otherwise). N-HH talk/edits 17:45, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
  • Can those who worked on this comment on why the MoS is the right venue for this? Generally I think what's being said is sensible, though I'm not yet convinced we need it codified, but it doesn't seem to me to be a style issue. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 19:58, 11 March 2017 (UTC)
  • @Blueboar, N-HH, Mike Christie, and Ilovetopaint: To respond to all three of the above in one go: My comment in the section above addresses much of this in short for. A more detailed answer:
    • MoS has never been limited to minutiae, and the principal criticism ever levelled at it is that it has too much minutiae and should be more general. So this is a step in the right direction. MoS has also never been limited to only the narrowest sense of style, like grammar and spelling; our guidelines on accessibility, article structure, and many other matters are also part of MoS, so style in the broad sense is already MoS's scope. WP:UNDUE is a policy, but this sort of thing is clearly a guideline matter, a best-practices suggestion, not a core requirement for how WP has to operate. (Note that, similarly, there are MOS:DAB and WP:DAB for guideline material that does not rise to the level of WP:ATDAB policy.)
    • No other venue is needed, we don't have one, and creating one would be a WP:CREEP, WP:BUREAUCRACY, and WP:LAWYER problem. We've already been through this at WP:SAL and at many topic-specific MoS pages; while some individuals seemed to have trouble accepting that style, content, and sometimes naming guideline material could possibly all be at the same page, in actual practice it of course works just fine. The purpose of WP:P&G pages is to get helpful/guiding points across to editors, not to provide a Platonically ideal "rule categorization" system as some end in itself; the P&G serve us, not the other way around. See again above point about DAB guidance.

      Also, every previous attempt to establish a policy or guideline on content relevance, scope, trivia, and related concepts, as a new "venue" in itself, has failed to gain consensus, so pursuing that again is likely to be seen as WP:PERENNIAL, and a rehash of "fame and importance" debates from WP's early days. The resolution of that was the creation of WP:Notability for articles, and WP:NOT#INDISCRIMINATE for content in them, yet we still have continual problems with "example-itis" and obsessive attempts at "completion" of incompletable lists by the addition of cruft. So, just having our already-broad style and presentation guideline tie together all the P&G rationales for avoiding endless lists of examples is the obvious choice. It's a main-MoS thing because overuse of examples is not particular to any type or format of article.

    • Finally, please don't get hung up on one-word concerns. I, too, would change that "must" to a "may" or "can" (for the same reason), and change another "must" to "should" to match MoS's usual wording since it's a guideline not a policy. This can be done either in the course of this discussion or after the fact. I'll make the change now, and see if anyone objects.
 — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  00:12, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
OK, but I'm still really not clear what this is all about. Is this simply saying "don't include lists of examples to explain what something is or to illustrate a point, or even cite excessive numbers of them in prose"? Then why not just say that? Or leave it unsaid as coming under decent writing practice? The point about provisions on "micro" issues – eg "use double quotation marks", or even "don't use instructional language, eg by saying, 'It is worth nothing that ..'" – is that they are clear and easy to explain and understand, and it's easy for anyone to assess objectively whether content meets the standard. Here, I can't see that either is the case. N-HH talk/edits 10:40, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
  • "What issue is this trying to solve?" / "Why do we need this?"'
    I linked several cleanup templates, referenced several already-existing policies, and even linked my own essay that specifies what exactly this guideline is supposed to address. If you can imagine a better phrasing or a point that should be clarified, that is appreciated, but commenting "I don't know what issue we're solving" shows you've completely missed the #Background section I provided. --Ilovetopaint (talk) 16:27, 23 March 2017 (UTC)
None of that clarified either the specific nature of the problem or what you are trying to do or say here. Indeed, the previous proposal you linked to was closed with the observation that it was unclear. If several people aren't getting it, it's worth realising that you haven't been clear and making an effort to explain rather than just telling them they don't get it and should read it all again. And if they can't even work out what problem you are identifying, they can hardly propose better wording. Nor should they have to – even though I, for one, did as it happens. Just as I asked specific questions for clarification which, it seems, you couldn't be bothered to answer, instead telling everyone else how lazy they were being for failing to understand you. N-HH talk/edits 18:43, 23 March 2017 (UTC)
  • @Iridescent: — Your point is irrelevant; Picaresque novel cites Lazarillo de Tormes, which is credited for beginning "modern picaresque"; Hudson River School has a painting by Thomas Cole, who founded the school. These "representative examples" are all put in context. The articles aren't mentioning just anybody or anything, but people or works that are "the most prominent cases, of unique character, of defining contribution, or otherwise encyclopedically relevant".--Ilovetopaint (talk) 16:27, 23 March 2017 (UTC)
  • Suggestion — Would this addition clarify the proposal?
Option B
... or otherwise encyclopedically relevant. For example:

The remaining ones may be referred to in a "List of ..." article, providing that they meet the article's inclusion criteria. ...

--Ilovetopaint (talk) 16:50, 23 March 2017 (UTC)
Not much. The puzzling last sentence remains. I think this proposal is buried under snow anyway. Johnbod (talk) 18:16, 23 March 2017 (UTC)

Since when can project pages overrule languages and the WP:MOS?[edit]

WP:DEADHORSE. --Jayron32 12:22, 14 March 2017 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

According to user:‎Kintetsubuffalo when referring to a military, tribe, or any other group that might have a scout the word scout should be lower case, as the English language and WP:MOS#Institutions agree; however since some project page says that when the word scout is used for a boy or girl scout the word scout is somehow magically transformed into a proper noun and therefore must always be capitalized, directly defying both the English language and WP:MOS. Since when can random project pages overrule languages and the WP:MOS?Abel (talk) 16:22, 13 March 2017 (UTC)

Surely you agree that Boy Scout and Girl Scout are both proper nouns? The Scouting project appears to assert that, when used more generically to refer to a Boy Scout or a Girl Scout (or, presumably, a Cub or Eagle Scout), the word Scout on its own is still a proper noun. This seems reasonable to me, and doesn't "defy" the MOS. There's probably room for a discussion here, but it's not outrageous. Pburka (talk) 17:29, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
That is not their argument. They insist that every use of the word scout must be capitalized when in any way connected to scouting, but not when used for any other type of scout. That blatantly contradicts both English and the WP:MOS. This means that a project with no leaders can overrule any Wikipedia policy they like by adding something to their project page. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Id4abel (talkcontribs) 18:23, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Look it up in Collins or AHD. A boy scout is a boy who scouts, or someone who is upright or straitlaced. A Boy Scout is a member of the Boy Scouts. - Dank (push to talk) 18:21, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Either the WP:MOS, on which good and feature articles rely, is in fact what controls article content or projects are free to invent and enforce whatever rules they please and the WP:MOS is just a bunch of suggestions that editors are free to ignore at any time. Abel (talk) 19:37, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
How does this contradict the MOS? They're providing guidance on what constitutes a proper noun. I don't see where the conflict arises. Pburka (talk) 19:49, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Not quite. They are saying that scout when referring to scouting is always a proper noun and when not referring to scouting is not always a proper noun, “used in the context of the Scouting Movement are considered to be proper nouns and are always capitalized. In other contexts normal rules will apply. Example: In the context of military reconnaissance, scout will be lower case.” So either projects can continue to make up and enforce rules whenever they like or the WP:MOS is not just a bunch of suggestions and actually means something. Abel (talk) 20:06, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Please clarify which part of this you disagree with. Is it the assertion that "scout", in relation to the Scouting Movement, is a proper noun? Or the assertion that, in other contexts, it may not be a proper noun? Or maybe the implication that this isn't the "normal rule"? Pburka (talk) 20:12, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
The project page very clearly states that “normal rules will apply,” meaning the actual WP:MOS and English, when the word scout is used for any scout that is not a boy or girl scout, yet those “normal rules” are to be ignored when the word scout is used for anything connected to scouting, which project members are enforcing. Meaning that the actual WP:MOS is deferring to whatever nonsense someone put on a project page. How many more wikiprojects have their own rules that contradict the actual WP:MOS, invented rules enforced by project members? Abel (talk) 20:38, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
The project does not say that the normal rules will be ignored. It says that "scout" is a proper noun in the context of Scouting, and the normal rule is to capitalize proper nouns. I think you're reading too much into some awkwardly worded guidance on the project page. Pburka (talk) 20:57, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Project members are using the “awkwardly worded guidance on the project page” to capitalize any word that they consider a scouting word at all times, which is an obvious direct conflict with the actual WP:MOS. Is that kind of enforcement of fictional rules is perfectly okay, as long as someone posts something incoherent to a project page, or not? Abel (talk) 21:06, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
The capitalization in the link you provided looks correct to me. Consider Blueboar's mason vs. Mason example below. If that article were about Freemasons, all uses of Mason or Masonic would be capitalized. I believe that your interpretion of the MOS is incorrect, and that the word Scout should be capitalized in these contexts. Pburka (talk) 21:11, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
The project page very clearly says all contexts with is obviously wrong on the face of it, and the word troop is not the word scout. Either the project page "guidance" needs correcting or WP:MOS#Institutions needs a note saying that project pages can overrule the MOS and so editors need to somehow find any possibly related project pages before they defer to the rules in the actual MOS. Abel (talk) 21:21, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Are you conceding that "scout" should be capitalized? I didn't realize we'd switched to discussing the word "troop." That wasn't mentioned in your original question at all. Pburka (talk) 21:36, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
The project page "guidance" says that the word scout is forever and always capitalized, which is clearly wrong. In the example diff the word troop was also forever and always capitalized which is equally wrong. Abel (talk) 22:23, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
When referring to members of a specific organistion using a word derived from the organisation's name it's normal to use upper case - e.g. we say "Foobar was a Rotarian", not "Foobar was a rotarian". DexDor (talk) 19:55, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Not quite. They are saying that scout when referring to scouting is always a proper noun and when not referring to scouting is not always a proper noun, “used in the context of the Scouting Movement are considered to be proper nouns and are always capitalized. In other contexts normal rules will apply. Example: In the context of military reconnaissance, scout will be lower case.” So either projects can continue to make up and enforce rules whenever they like or the WP:MOS is not just a bunch of suggestions and actually means something. Abel (talk) 20:06, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
See MASEM's reply below (20:20). DexDor (talk) 20:29, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
I see no conflict: the relevant advice: "Scout, Scouting, Boy Scout, Girl Scout, Guide and similar words and phrases used in the context of the Scouting Movement are considered to be proper nouns and are always capitalized. In other contexts normal rules will apply. Example: In the context of military reconnaissance, scout will be lower case." clearly says to capitalize only when talking about the role of a scout that is connected to the proper Scouting Movement. --MASEM (t) 20:01, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Not quite. They are saying that scout when referring to scouting is always a proper noun and when not referring to scouting is not always a proper noun, “used in the context of the Scouting Movement are considered to be proper nouns and are always capitalized. In other contexts normal rules will apply. Example: In the context of military reconnaissance, scout will be lower case.” So either projects can continue to make up and enforce rules whenever they like or the WP:MOS is not just a bunch of suggestions and actually means something. Abel (talk) 20:06, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
No, they're referring to the international organization of the Scouting Movement, a very specific definition. A scout in any other context is to be kept lower case. This is completely fair and within the bounds of what a Wikiproject can define without overstepping the MOS. There's no conflict that I can tell, unless you can point to diffs where this is being misued. --MASEM (t) 20:20, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Already did. Abel (talk) 20:42, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
That seems a completely valid use of the capitalized form to refer to the Scouting organization, rather than the generic act of scouting. So that's not conflict. --MASEM (t) 20:45, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Meaning that you think the word troop not a proper noun like Troop 154 can also be capitalized any time someone feels like it. Abel (talk) 20:52, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Again going back to the language from the Scouting guidance: "In other contexts normal rules will apply." (emphasis mine) If the context has nothing to do with the Scouting organization, editors are to defer to the MOS. The boundaries where the Scouting GLs apply is pretty well defined and not as arbitrary as you seem to think they are. --MASEM (t) 21:30, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Similar to mason and masonry (i.e. Those who build walls etc) and Mason and Masonry (Freemasons) Blueboar (talk) 20:33, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Not quite. They are saying that scout when referring to scouting is always a proper noun and when not referring to scouting is not always a proper noun, “used in the context of the Scouting Movement are considered to be proper nouns and are always capitalized. In other contexts normal rules will apply. Example: In the context of military reconnaissance, scout will be lower case.” So either projects can continue to make up and enforce rules whenever they like or the WP:MOS is not just a bunch of suggestions and actually means something.Abel (talk) 20:42, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Id4abel When everyone is disagreeing with you, and clearly indicating that you are incorrectly interpreting the wording of the project MOS, perhaps it's best to just accept that you are the one not understanding things, not that everyone else is doing so. ···日本穣 · 投稿 · Talk to Nihonjoe · Join WP Japan! 22:30, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Also, I have clarified the wording at the Scouting Project. Hopefully, that will make things more clear. ···日本穣 · 投稿 · Talk to Nihonjoe · Join WP Japan! 22:36, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
You are well aware, just like everyone else here, that forever and always capitalizing the word scout is wrong. Five million people can repeat that doing so is right, it would still be just as wrong. We are also all aware that forever and always capitalizing any word that you happen to envision is somehow “a scouting word” is equally wrong. We are all aware that the actual WP:MOS supersedes any nonsense found on a project page. Which is why you editing the project page. Why this obvious problem is such a sticking point for others, I do not know and do not care. Abel (talk) 23:05, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Being deliberately obtuse is not helping matters. That MOS specifically states that the word "Scout" (and the others it lists) are—and this is the important part, so please pay attention—always capitalized when used in the context of the Scouting Movement. Did you catch that? Nowhere does it say that everyone must "forever and always" capitalize the word. Nowhere. The new wording makes that even more clear. So no, "we" are not "all aware" of your misperception in this case. The specific MOS at the project only applies to a very narrow subset of the total articles here. Only in those cases should you apply it. If you are trying to apply it anywhere outside of that very narrow subset, you are doing it wrong. That's how specific MOSs work: they provide clarification and guidance for the small article subset to which they apply. The only person to whom this is a sticking point is you, because you are deliberately trying to imply that the Scouting MOS applies to everything instead of only to Scouting-related articles. Please go take a cold shower, a long walk, and get some sleep so you can apply a little rationality here. Right now, you are not making any sense at all. ···日本穣 · 投稿 · Talk to Nihonjoe · Join WP Japan! 00:10, 14 March 2017 (UTC)
"are considered to be proper nouns and are always capitalized. In other contexts normal rules will apply."Abel (talk) 00:19, 14 March 2017 (UTC)
Again, please notice that I changed the wording. Of course, you already know that, since you made a change, too. The current wording is as follows:

When Scout, Scouting, Boy Scout, Girl Scout, Guide are used in articles in the context of the Scouting Movement, they are considered proper nouns and are always capitalized. Example: "a group of 50 Scouts", not "a group of 50 scouts". For usage in other contexts not related to the Scouting Movement, refer to the Manual of Style for guidance on capitalization.

Now, please stop beating a dead horse when you know very well your complaint has already lost what little substance it originally had. ···日本穣 · 投稿 · Talk to Nihonjoe · Join WP Japan! 00:26, 14 March 2017 (UTC)
Again, the problem lies in not properly apprehending what a proper noun is. If "Boy Scout" is always to be capitalised, that is not because it's a proper noun. It's a separate convention – one concerning official, entrenched, formalised but still generic designations – that gets it capped. The same confusion is at the root of WP:MOSCAPS. Tony (talk) 23:57, 13 March 2017 (UTC)
Agreed. MOS:INSTITUTIONS and MOS:MILTERMS both directly contradict the "forever and always capitalize" idea with "Incorrect (generic): The University offers programs in arts and sciences. Correct (generic): The university offers programs in arts and sciences." and "follow the same capitalization guidelines as given under titles of people above. For example, Brigadier General John Smith, but John Smith was a brigadier general." I can happily treat a specific set of words as proper nouns, even when they are not used as proper nouns, but to do so I need a definitive list of the words to forever and always capitalize when and only when those words are connected to scouting or some rule that would tell me what words to forever and always capitalize when and only when those words are connected to scouting . Abel (talk) 00:15, 14 March 2017 (UTC)
Rather than an ill-considered attack on the Scouting project and their prerogative to clarify how MOS should be interpreted with regards to Scouting terms, perhaps you'd do better to focus on MOS:CAPS, which says "Wikipedia relies on sources to determine what is a proper name; words and phrases that are consistently capitalized in sources are treated as proper names and capitalized in Wikipedia." Dank pointed out that Collins and AHD both show it as a capitalized, proper noun. If you can show that reliable sources don't consistently capitalize the terms, you'd have a stronger argument. Pburka (talk) 00:47, 14 March 2017 (UTC)
Attack is just plain silly. While following the WP:MOS I was told that I was wrong. Was told to follow the project page, the same project page that needed multiple revisions to even come close to something coherent. I now know that when an article mentions scouting the words Scout, Scouting, Boy Scout, Girl Scout, and Guide are all to be capitalized no matter what. While that violates several portions of the WP:MOS, I do not care, “always capitalize the words Scout, Scouting, Boy Scout, Girl Scout, and Guide when they have something to do with scouting” is a rule that I can follow. Abel (talk) 01:08, 14 March 2017 (UTC)

Immediately after saying "is a rule that I can follow" the rules at the newly revised project page were broken by Cub Scout and Scoutcraft by the same editor who had just revised that rule. So the rule "Scout, Scouting, Boy Scout, Girl Scout, Guide and award names (i.e. Eagle Scout)" is still nonsense and the actual rule is "any word that members of the scouting wikiproject consider 'scouting' words" which I have no earthly idea what that list of words is supposed to be. Scoutcraft is apparently supposed to be on the list. How about pioneering, high adventure, and is it Scout essentials or Scout Essentials? Abel (talk) 02:09, 14 March 2017 (UTC)

Apparently all forms of venture also need to be added to the currently woefully inadequate rule. Abel (talk) 02:20, 14 March 2017 (UTC)
All three articles you are linking appear to be intimately associated with the official Scouting organization, so they clearly fall under the rules given. It is not like they are camps that part-time serve the Scouting organization where there would need to be a evaluation of each use of "scout". --MASEM (t) 02:39, 14 March 2017 (UTC)
No one said anything about “falls under” or articles. The repeatedly revised rule clearly states “Scout, Scouting, Boy Scout, Girl Scout, Guide and award names (i.e. Eagle Scout)” and nothing else. The edits I linked to involve other words that are not in the rule. I can think of plenty more words and phrases that are not in the rule but maybe should be, or maybe should not be, hence my asking above. Abel (talk) 02:47, 14 March 2017 (UTC)
The terms that were capitalized are terms that seem wholly related to the Scouting organization and would be appropriately capitalized. Here's a bit of advice: remember that policy and guidelines including the MOS are not hard-fast rules (see WP:NOT#BURO) so just because a specific word is not mentioned in the MOS doesn't mean it's not covered: common sense prevails over explicit wording. --MASEM (t) 03:06, 14 March 2017 (UTC)
Common sense is a phrase that can mean one thing to one person and a completely different thing to someone else, which is why telling another person to follow common sense is useless nonsense.The current rule needs more needs fixing. Abel (talk) 03:58, 14 March 2017 (UTC)
The rule has been edited once again to now include cub scouts and venturing but not the word scoutcraft. The latest version is also incapable of addressing the simple question I asked off the top of my head, “How about pioneering, high adventure, and is it Scout essentials or Scout Essentials?” This new version is vastly superior to “... are considered to be proper nouns and are always capitalized . In other contexts normal rules will apply.” So while a grand improvement, the current rule is still not yet a well thought piece of policy. I should not be able to ask a simple question off the top of my head that no one can answer, and “common sense” is still a nonsense answer. MOS:CAPS has lots of very well crafted rules, the project page that supersedes those well crafted rules needs to be at least in the same ballpark. Abel (talk) 06:35, 14 March 2017 (UTC)
Is the issue that you don't understand what a proper noun is? This stuff does not need to be spellt out in the MoS. Curly "JFC" Turkey 🍁 ¡gobble! 06:51, 14 March 2017 (UTC)

In addition to what the others said, this was mis-defined starting with the title. It starts with a presumed (and IMHO false) answer to a main question of the discussion which whether or not there is a conflict. And then based on that, mis-represented what was said as a claim of a project overruling the MOS. North8000 (talk) 11:24, 14 March 2017 (UTC)

Since Id4abel has the time to waste the time of others on this triviality, perhaps he would be so kind as to explain the notability of Ricardo “Danny” Nieves and Ryan Patrick McCormack in this edit? Or he can just stop wasting everyone's time. That would be better.--Kintetsubuffalo (talk) 12:03, 14 March 2017 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Serial comma[edit]

US judge agrees on its importance. Tony (talk) 13:26, 16 March 2017 (UTC)

This is just ridiculous! (gender-neutral language)[edit]

Recently, User:Double sharp reverted a few edits of mine that were intended to make the articles follow WP:GNL. DS could have chosen to re-word them, but he reverted them altogether. I changed this project's page to reflect this, but them User:Bkonrad reverted me. We really need clear discussion on the exact rule on when to use GNL and when not to. Georgia guy (talk) 14:04, 24 March 2017 (UTC)

I'm fine with some consensus-based improvements, but honestly, this is not an improvement and doesn't clarify anything. olderwiser 14:14, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
Why, it is very simple: precision is the key, especially when dealing with game rules and terminology like this. If you can't rewrite it to make it gender-neutral without sacrificing precision, then sacrifice GNL over precision. Never mind that I strongly suspect that there are still many people alive who don't think of generic "he" or even generic "she" as automatically calling to mind a male or female image respectively, including myself.
Let's take a look at each of the three reverts. (Note that the only reason that I'm doing this is because three is a small enough number that I can be bothered to go through it in detail.) The first one: here. First Georgia guy perpetuates a confusion with "...the player must call a ball and the pocket in which to make the ball, usually by pointing to a pocket with a [was: his] finger or cue...", which makes it vaguely unclear just whose cue this is done with: this ambiguity is at least not that bad, because the correct interpretation is obvious, but there is no need to create it. Then he perpetuates an illiteracy with "If the 10 ball is pocketed on the break, it will be spotted and the player will continue inning [was: continue his inning]", apparently unaware that inning is not a verb, and that his edit not only makes things less precise than they could be (for game rules, which need precision to avoid entertaining loopholes like the ones listed here for chess), but also makes them ungrammatical.
The second one: here. Georgia guy changes "A set of matching cards, typically three or more, that earn a player points and/or allow him to deplete his hand" to "A set of matching cards, typically three or more, that earn a player points and/or allow a hand to be depleted." Never mind that the former makes it clear that the player is depleting his own hand, whereas for someone like me who is unfamiliar with this particular game, it is conceivable in the latter that the player could be depleting somebody else's hand. After all, it is not as if the rules are covered in this article.
The third one: here. Now this is one of the most important problems with using singular they to make text gender-neutral: first of all, as a relative newcomer to the standard language (I am well aware that authors have used it for centuries for effect, but unless we want to write articles in the style of Finnegans Wake I think we can all agree that that is irrelevant), it is certainly not suitable for an encyclopaedia, but more importantly, he introduces an ambiguity: it is not clear if the inning allotment is something that belongs to one player or multiple players if singular they is used, and both are conceivable.
It is not as if I do not try to make things gender-neutral when it can be done without losing precision of writing. I have done so: here is a particularly felicitous example where it could be done gracefully. But it often cannot be done, in which case the answer to Georgia guy's question should clearly be: if making text gender-neutral necessarily gives it vaguely plausible but incorrect alternate meanings, don't do it. I would have thought that the words clarity and precision that we use should not need clarification, because if you don't know what clarity means you can't exactly ask for clarification: I hope against hope, given Georgia guy's history at chess-related articles (e.g. Antichess), that this will help somehow. Double sharp (talk) 14:17, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
Well, the WP:MOS section on GNL needs to give more emphasis to the statement that GNL isn't always best. Georgia guy (talk) 14:20, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
This is quite a reasonable point. The initial sentences are currently "Use gender-neutral language where this can be done with clarity and precision. For example, avoid the generic he." If it were up to me, I would have something like "When it does not worsen clarity and precision, gender-neutral language is preferred to gender-specific language. The latter is nevertheless always acceptable, and in some cases may be the only way to express an idea without awkward circumlocutions." Then making a text gender-neutral with clarity and precision would simply be considered just like any other change that improves the text, and making it gender-neutral while removing clarity and precision would be considered just like any other change that worsens it. Of course, we would still need a consensus to be expressed for such alterations to take place. Double sharp (talk) 14:26, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
I think the current guideline is well-written. (Manuals of style tend not to have exact rules.) One instance of a reverted edit between users does not justify unilaterally changing the MOS.
For text written originally with the generic he, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out how to reword it so that the result flows naturally. I can see why Double Sharp reverted you at Ten-ball, though I agree it would have been more constructive to make a further edit (the article now mixes "his" and "he/she" to refer to the same player in the same sentence), or at least to revert without the "illiteracy" jab. We all make mistakes now and then.--Trystan (talk) 14:33, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
Thanks for spotting that; I didn't notice it earlier, and have made it consistent now. And yes, I was rather tetchy there, although given that Georgia guy has a habit of putting opinions into the mouths of people who oppose him (example one, example two), and making and suggesting these sorts of unilateral changes, I hope that my frustration was understandable if still not excusable. Double sharp (talk) 15:09, 24 March 2017 (UTC)