Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive (style guide errata)

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NPOV or not NPOV?

With the comment "adding some NPOV" to the opening paragraph some words undermining the idea of a style guide have been introduced. Since I don't want to be too proprietary, I am raising the point here, rather than simply taking them back out, but the style guide is no place for equivocation and weak remarks about "some believe". No one is required to follow the style guide, but in the end every serious publication must have and use a style guide. The paragraph already says both those things.

I have bolded the phrases that were added:

A Manual of Style has the simple purpose of making things look alike - it is a style guide. The following rules don't claim to be the last word. One way is often as good as another: some Wikipedians believe that if everyone does it the same way, the Wikipedia will be easier to read and easier to use, not to mention easier to write and easier to edit; others disagree, of course. Be that as it may, new contributors are reminded that clear, informative and unbiased writing is always more important than presentation and formatting. Writers are not expected to follow all these rules -- rather, copyediting Wikipedians will be referring to these pages when weeding.

I have no problem with the and unbiased, but the other additions imply that the statement that "if everyone does it the same way it will be easier to read" is not true. If one article refers to the short story The Black Cat in italics and another as "The Black Cat" in quotes, and another article refers to Gogol's novel "Dead Souls" and compares it to War and Peace and contrasts it with "Remembrance of Things Past" and For Whom the Bell Tolls and Tobacco Road, the Wikipedia will be harder to read and edit without a doubt. People need to be able to tell the song "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" from the album Sgt. pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. This is not a matter of opinion, it is a conclusion that has been reached by every newspaper, every magazine, every book publisher, and every software documentation group. I have worked in every one of those environments. Out of respect for the reader and her ease of understanding all serious publishers use some such style rules. They may differ from place to place. The New Yorker puts quotes where most publications put italics, for instance, but all publications strive for consistency and so should this one. Ortolan88

I'm not against consistency. It often improves readability just as you say. And I've done my bit in improving it, I hope, through spell-checking and work I did on the history timeline pages a while ago. However I don't like consistency being imposed for its own sake. Mainly because the more style rules that are imposed, the more difficult it becomes for contributors to know them all and to avoid breaking them. Even longterm contributors can be caught out when style rules change, never mind newcomers.

There's no doubt that serious publishers use some style rules but as they depend on paid rather than volunteer labour they can afford to impose a great deal more than we can. I think that we have to be careful not to impose too many style rules and to ensure that the ones which we do impose are the really important ones -- whatever they might be :)

In any case, as you point out style rules do differ from publisher to publisher. Somehow readers manage to deal with this inconsistency between publishers without bursting into tears or becoming hopelessly confused. I'm sure that readers will behave just as well when faced with the inconsistencies which they are sure to come across no matter how many style rules we impose upon our contributors. Whether our contributors will cope is another matter however. -- Derek Ross

These are guidelines for volunteer copy editors and I fondly imagine they will continue following them. I certainly will. Most people who write articles will never look at them. Look at the statements on English and American spelling, or on use of quotation marks. These are very loose guidelines.

I just don't see the point of the additions you made. If you think a little consistency goes a long way, then just write on as you please. It is likely that no one will ever change it, but if someone else comes along and changes your inconsistency to consistency, that is a gain. If you think some of the rules given here are unimportant, they can be moved out to a specialist pages, as has already been done with biographies and dates.

That there is not one master style guide for the entire universe is no reason for there not to be a few straightforward rules for each publication (and this is a very simple style guide) that people can use so readers can tell one thing from another. Notice, by the way, that I don't raise any objection to your similar remarks elsewhere regarding dates. I am not rigid about this, but I think that smooth prose goes smoother when people take care with it. Best regards, Tom Parmenter Ortolan88

Maybe I'm just having an off-day. What you say above is entirely reasonable. -- Derek Ross

I've edited the opening to make it clearer that we don't expect everyone to burdern themselves with following these guidelines. -- Tarquin 09:00 Mar 1, 2003 (UTC)


Manual of Style or Manual of style?

Shouldn't this article be named Wikipedia:Manual of style? Kingturtle 18:29, 12 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Manual of Style. It is the title of a particular one. Not an article about various Manuals of Style. Rmhermen 18:37, Dec 12, 2003 (UTC)

American International English

"Most American Manuals of Style follow American English, or what is sometimes called American International English usage (the form used in the American print media, which combines American capitalisation with British English spelling)."

I removed this from the style guide because Google show only Wikipedia using the term "American International English". Are their any media that actually use this style? Rmhermen 23:40, Jul 2, 2004 (UTC)

Deletion from Misc. section

I'm going to delete the following, which was not discussed. The point here seems to be only that references can get outdated. Maurreen 22:51, 17 Oct 2004 (UTC)

"However, bear in mind that good manuals of style only report what constructions/language people used when they were researched. When dealing with new constructions/neologisms/changes in usage of language, they may not be adequate. And if it's a fine point you're faced with, you'll probably find both options you're thinking about are acceptable anyway."

It was me. I didn't put it on here because I didn't think it was in any way controversial. There are three points here:
The first point, as Maurreen notes, is that references can get outdated. The first edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage, for instance, is of limited value as far as current British English usage is concerned. Language can change fast, particularly now we have instant worldwide communication via the internet. It would be wrong for Wikipedia to remain with archaic formulations just because they appear in an old book.
The second point is that all a manual of style can legitimately do is report how language is used. It does not set hard and fast rules: 'correct' usage is whatever people in real life accept as being acceptable.
The third point, which is a smaller one than the first two, is that there may not be a unique answer to the question 'what is currently acceptable usage?' jguk 23:47, 17 Oct 2004 (UTC)
1. Re references can get outdated: I think most people already realize that, so I don't see the need to tell them.
2. On your second point: That is your opinion of what style guides do.
3. Your third point: I agree that there is not always a hard and fast answer to many issues. But I don't see any need for your addition to the style guide.
Maybe it would be better for you to add some of this to the Wikipedia's entry on style guides. Maurreen 00:10, 18 Oct 2004 (UTC)


I am going to revert to before the recent changes by jguk, which were not discussed and more than I initially realized. I will add back in the notes about discussing significant changes. Maurreen 05:11, 18 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I still don't understand which ones you think are significant. I consider none of the amendments I made to be significant, but just clarifying and dealing with inconsistencies. Apart from the one given above, the amendments I made were:
(1) Making clearer that differences in US/UK English and other forms of English appear in puntuation and phrasing;
(2) Deleting exhortations to use two particular US English constructions in an article otherwise not written in US English. One of these was asking people to write 'U.S.' rather than 'US'. This is silly. An article in UK English would look strange if it referred to 'the UK' and 'the U.S.'. The other was to promote a comma construction applicable to US English but which is dying out and becoming non-standard in UK English.
I'd be grateful for fellow Wikipedians' thoughts. jguk 06:38, 18 Oct 2004 (UTC)


I've moved a list of where all the Manual of Style-type guidance can be found to the top of the page. (i) It will be easier to see what policies we've got now; (ii) It will shorten that annoyingly long contents list; (iii) it's slightly shorter. Hope this isn't seen as too controversial. (And I'm not attached to the linking sentence I've added at the top of the new list. If anyone can think of better wording, please change it.) jguk 20:38, 27 Oct 2004 (UTC)

It is a drastic change, but I consider it an improvement. It's centralized things, eliminated a lot of redundancy, and drastically reduced the page and table-of-contents size. Derrick Coetzee 23:01, 27 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I changed it, partly to get the table of contents higher. Maurreen 04:02, 28 Oct 2004 (UTC)
The main point I have re: Maurreen's change is that many of the "guidance" bits really are policy and should be in the specialised section. These are Wikipedia:Captions; Wikipedia:Categorization; Wikipedia:Cite sources; Wikipedia:Explain jargon; Wikipedia:List; Wikipedia:Naming_conventions; Wikipedia:Proper_names. I'd rather rename these as Wikipedia:Manual of Style (captions), etc.. and put them in the first section. (I thought this too radical to do straightaway, without discussion, though.)jguk 06:21, 28 Oct 2004 (UTC)
This isn't clear to me, but I liked it better how it was before. Maurreen 21:06, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Maurreen, you've removed the guidance on Captions, Identity, Specific countries (and the references to the style guides within that section), When All Else Fails, Do Not Get Fancy, and all the other stuff that was at the end of the article. May I ask why? [1] jguk 06:27, 28 Oct 2004 (UTC)
It was an accident that I didn't realize and can't fix on this computer without reverting. Apparently the page is too long for me to edit on this computer. My apologies. Maurreen 07:30, 28 Oct 2004 (UTC)


For what it's worth, I think the elimination of all contractions on this page was a bit hasty. Some of the resulting expressions, such as "Do not get fancy", seem quite awkward to me. I'd also argue that Wikipedia's tone in general is more informal than paper encyclopedias and so benefits from more conversational wording (I also used this to argue for singular they.) While eliminating contractions is often acceptable, I would suggest it be avoided when it results in a stilted or awkward expression. Am I alone in this? Derrick Coetzee 16:18, 18 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I don't think it was needed, especially because the style guide isn't part of the encyclopedia per se. For that matter, I'd be OK with eliminating the style guide's rule against contractions. Maurreen 16:26, 18 Oct 2004 (UTC)
See my comments above. Personally, the non-contraction style do not seem awkward to me in the examples. But people use different kinds of English and are used to different kinds of English. If most disagree, then I have no horrible objection to changing Wikipedia style. But unless a new consensus appears, the recommendation should remain and the style guide should follow it. Jallan 01:16, 19 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Perhaps a better solution for the Manual of Style would be to use different expressions that don't seem so awkward without contractions? "Keep it simple" would work instead of "Don't get fancy". (Although I agree that contractions are becoming more and more standard in English writing, and there are places where it seems appropriate to retain them.) [[User:Aranel|Aranel ("Sarah")]] 03:20, 19 Oct 2004 (UTC)
That's a good idea. I don't feel strongly either way, but I'm a big believer in work-arounds. Maurreen 03:27, 19 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I agree with Derrick Coetzee. The advice on contractions should be removed. Different articles adopt different styles. It would be inappropriate to use contractions in an article with a very formal style, and no doubt would be quickly edited out where there are inappropriate. But similarly, it is inappropriate to force a "no contractions" rule on articles that do not adopt a very formal style. Contractions are part of standard English: there should be no absolute ban on them. I propose leaving this discussion open for a further week to 20:00 on 3 November, and if there are no strong objections (or objections are in a clear minority), then I'll delete the section. jguk 06:45, 27 Oct 2004 (UTC)
No. Jguk is going further than Derrick Coetzee. Jguk is the only person supporting changing the contractions policy. Maurreen 17:30, 30 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Style guide philosophy

In my view, some of the issues concerning this style guide might be resolved more easily if we decided some general philosophical issues that could guide future decisions. For example, these could include whether we think it should be more concise or more detailed, or how formal to be with the language. Any comments about such a possible philosophical underpinning? Maurreen 12:58, 2 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I favor a concise, prescriptive guide, clear and to the point, but one which also contains links for each item to sub-pages giving rationale for that rule, further examples, reasons for debate, and so on. In some cases the sub-page might contain nothing but links to sections in discussion page archives and external links to sections of other style manuals on the web or discussions of the points being considered. The main guide would be short for those doing a quick look to see if there is a rule there and what it might be. But if someone wants fuller examples, more clarification, or discussion of the rationale behind the rule along with what objections may have been raised to the rule, the information is only one or two clicks away. Jallan 03:27, 5 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Jallan, all that sounds smart to me. A few other things I favor:
I think we don't need to be nearly as extensive as many other guides. I think the style can more or less evolve on a basis of what is needed.
The links you suggest above could also better integrate the specialized style guides, etc. For example, "Dates" could link to the Dates and Numbers style guide or the dates section within it, or a similar set up.
I'd also like a more alphabetical organization and possibly cross-references. That is, a user could find "commas" under "C" (and perhaps also under "punctuation). But I think most style guides favor the topical approach, so I'd understand if anyone objected. Hopefully, the guide could eventually evolve so people could find things very quickly regardless of how they look things up.
Clarity and accuracy are two top guiding principles.
Maurreen 06:28, 5 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I'm all for a concise, prescriptive guide, that is clear and to the point, together with subpages giving examples of how the policy in the prescriptive guide may be implemented in practice. The subpages should be clearly marked as being non-binding guidance (ie they are not policy), but should, of course, be consistent with the concise, prescriptive policy in the Manual of Style proper. I don't mind a short discussion of why something is policy on a subpage, but any detailed discussion and arguments should be moved to the talk page of any subpage.
I also note that we have other 'style' type guidance on Wikipedia other than the Manual of Style (including its supplements). Wikipedia:How to edit a page and a host of other articles in the Wikipedia namespace that show how to write better articles. I'm trying to condense the latter type into one document on User:Jongarrettuk/Better writing guide, and will propose it as a consolidation of existing guidance (that is not policy) shortly.
I see these as three interconnected streams. Wikification (How to edit a page); a Style Guide that is policy (Manual of Style, including supplements); and suggestions as to how to write better articles (currently numerous articles that I will shortly propose consolidating). Some mixture of the subpages Jallan suggests and a Better writing guide (all properly ordered so it is easy to find related topics) in addition to a shorter, but definitive, policy in the Manual of Style, and would certainly make sense to me. I certainly agree with Maurreen that some sort of order and cross-referencing needs to be put into the supplemental Manuals of Style so that it's easy to find things. jguk 10:02, 6 Nov 2004 (UTC)
That sounds good overall. Maurreen 06:05, 7 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Perhaps we should set up a WikiProject to develop all this. Perhaps title the WikiProject 'Rationalising Wikipedia guidance on style' or something similar? I'd also welcome initial comments on my attempt to consolidate non-binding advice at User:Jongarrettuk/Better writing guide. I'll propose it on all of the individual pages I am consideing consolidating on Wednesday. The aim here is to consolidate advice, not change it. Please feel free to amend the main article so it reads better, or if I have inadvertently changed advice to reinsert it. But leave off proposals to change guidance for now. That can happen once it goes 'live'. jguk 20:09, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I doubt there is enough interest to support a Wikiproject. Maurreen 06:32, 9 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Visual presentation

Along the lines of what Jallan suggested about organizing supporting material for the style guide, I've been working on organizing the archives topically. One of these is called "Visual presentation."

I'm not sure what's the best title. Other options include "Layout" or "Design." What do you think? Maurreen 07:18, 5 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I like "Visual presentation". "Layout" or "Visual design" would also be OK. Just "Design" would be bad, because the term has such a broad meaning. —AlanBarrett 19:02, 5 Nov 2004 (UTC)

New template

I've created a new template to make it easier to navigate between all the various bits of guidance. I'll try it on this page first and roll it out more generally if people are ok with it. The template itself can be edited on Template:Style. jguk 10:38, 14 Nov 2004 (UTC)

If you're going to put all of that into a template, maybe you should add the "Further information" section to it. All of it is "further information." Maurreen 17:38, 14 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I'm tempted to add Wikipedia:How to edit a page and Wikipedia:The perfect stub article (and also Wikipedia:The perfect article and Wikipedia:How to write a great article which don't appear as "further information"). The other stuff in "further information" isn't really guidance on style, so wouldn't be suitable for the template. jguk 17:47, 14 Nov 2004 (UTC)

On further review

In my opinion, the top of the style guide is looking worse. The body text is now somewhat crowded and the intro is boxed in. Maurreen 05:54, 19 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Draft trim and restructuring

In line with the "style guide philosophy" section listed above, I have produced a concise version of the current Manual of Style. I have tried not to delete key policy and that is not my intention, I will reinsert bits that are missing. The aim is to shorten the Manual (and considerably too), but without changing policy. Guidance on how the Manual can be applied can then go on subsidiary pages. Going through the Manual has made me think that there's too much on links in the Manual (most, if not all, of it is already covered where it should be covered on Wikipedia:How to edit a page). I'm also thinking of tabulating the Capital letters section.

My proposed version is on Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Draft trim (November 2004). Please leave detailed comments on its talk page: Wikipedia talk:Draft trim (November 2004). A comparison of the current manual and the proposal can be seen on [2]. jguk 16:39, 14 Nov 2004 (UTC)


This is also a reorganization. I think the two should be handled separately. Maurreen
The simplest way to trim the style guide would probably be to put the section about links on its own page. Maurreen 00:22, 15 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I have added my comments on the discussion page for the draft trim. I wonder if the above might be better moved there also, with a prominent and bolder announcement of the draft trim appearing instead. This would keep the draft time discussion quite separate from any discussion of substantive changes. Jallan 04:57, 15 Nov 2004 (UTC)
OK, I moved most of my response. Maurreen 06:12, 15 Nov 2004 (UTC)