Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 114

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Default thumbnail image size is now 220px, but ...

Bugzilla 21117, the result of the overwhelming consensus to raise the default from the tiny 180px to 220px, has been reassigned to a Mark Bergsma, who I presume is a new WMF developer. Mark advises that he has upped the default to 220 on en.WP (it's true: I've checked), but that this is likely to be reverted soon. Why? Something to do with the notion that all WPs should have the same default size, and that they want to do a WMF-wide change all at once. I'm unsure why en.WP can't stay at 220px, frankly, since the Swedish WP has had 250px for some time. But this is a good start. Tony (talk) 01:59, 16 February 2010 (UTC)

Ah, so that explains why English Wikipedia has been so slow recently! It's re-rendering massive numbers of articles and images. I take it they didn't follow my suggestion of changing the default to 220px a few articles at a time? Anyway, I assume the performance problem is temporary. In the meantime, I'm cheating by changing my default to 180px while logged in. Eubulides (talk) 04:37, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
Hmm, I hadn't noticed any significant change in performance time. In any case, it might be worth noting at Wikipedia talk:Featured article candidates/Citation templates, if that's still ongoing. Dabomb87 (talk) 05:01, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
I suppose it could by my network connection instead of Wikipedia. That discussion and its performance figures predate this change, and the server-side performance of citation templates (which is the bottleneck with many articles) is largely unaffected by image size. Eubulides (talk) 05:56, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
Actually, WP has been faster over the past couple of days for me. Last week or two it went through a few bad patches. I think the enlargement was quite recent. What bothers me is the lack of agreement among the techs at WMF as to the issues involved in upscaling. There have been several opinions thus far, all quite different. Tony (talk) 11:58, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
Even in my limited experience, I think a fixed default should be a last resort. There too many variables:
  • Registered users can set prefs, but unregistered readers can't. I suggest our priority should be unregistered readers in our ideas about image size and other layout decisions.
  • Even on PC-type machines there are variations. For example my desktop has a widescreen that runs best at 1440px wide, but I recently also a basic netbook that shows at 800px or 1024px.
  • The user may change the browser's window size, or a reader with a visual difficult may change the showed size of text and images.
  • A mobile PC-type machine will need to accept the speed of the nearest connection, which can vary.
  • A WMF-wide default would need to consider dial-up connections, some more expensive than the broadband used by most contributors of this discussion.
  • And I haven't considered more limited machines such as PDAs and mobiles, as I have no experience of these.
  • Sometimes only the editor can decide the best size of an image, considering how the image (e.g. technical diagram or simple illustration)
I suggest a Javascript that resizes images both on load and if the reader changes the layout, e.g. by resizing the window - I think resizing the window will also adapt if the reader changes the showed size of text and images. The script to resize images should use as base the editor's size if specified or the basic default otherwise. --Philcha (talk) 07:14, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
  • I'm confused. My prefs now show the choice of 220px, which I don't think I set myself. Does this mean that all registered WPians have that choice as a default? I was expecting that a change would be made at a deeper level, so that our readers would see larger images when no pixel width for an image is set within an article. Tony (talk) 09:08, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
    Tony1, if you or any other registered user don't set the size in the prefs, they get the default. I also agree that unregistered readers get the default, as they can't set prefs - and that means they now get 220px rather than 180px. --Philcha (talk) 09:38, 21 February 2010 (UTC)

Allow more than two em dashes in a sentence

MOS:EMDASH currently states,

Do not use more than two em dashes in a single sentence: which two (if any) make a parenthetic pair?

I suggest this should be modified to draw attention to that issue while still allowing careful use of more than two. For example:

Within the Solar System, the inner planets—Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars—have dense, rocky compositions and no ring systems, while the outer planets—Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune—are known as gas giants and all have rings.

It's true that most such sentences could be recast or parentheses used instead, but when the function of each dash is clear in context (as in the above example) I suggest it would be preferable to allow a full range of expression and hence not have a fixed maximum of two. My proposed rewording is:

Ensure there is no ambiguity if using more than two em dashes in a single sentence: which two (if any) make a parenthetic pair?

PL290 (talk) 13:10, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

Good idea. This seems to be more a case of what constitutes good writing rather than what's correct or incorrect. I think this might be clearer, though:

Avoid overuse of em dashes. Most sentences can be recast to need no more than two of them. However, in those rare cases when three or more are necessary, ensure that there is no ambiguity about which form parenthetic pairs.

Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:20, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
I should perhaps have included the surrounding sentences here; I believe they already address those other points. Here is the full text I now propose (first two sentences unchanged):

Use em dashes sparingly. They are visually striking, so two in a paragraph is often a good limit. Ensure there is no ambiguity if using two "sharp break" em dashes, or more than two em dashes of any kind, in a single sentence: which two (if any) make a parenthetic pair?

PL290 (talk) 13:46, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
I don't like including a rhetorical question, as I think it's not direct enough. But the instruction works just fine if we leave it out:

Use em dashes sparingly. They are visually striking, so two in a paragraph is often a good limit. Ensure there is no ambiguity if using two "sharp break" em dashes or more than two em dashes of any kind.

Ozob (talk) 14:13, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
The rhetorical question is in the existing text so that isn't part of my proposed change. I'm happy with its removal. I also agree with your removal of "in a single sentence", since there's no need to spell that out. PL290 (talk) 14:22, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
Even without the question, it still looks chunky and messy to me. Something like "When using more than two em dashes of any kind in a single sentence, ensure that there is no ambiguity about which form parenthetic pairs" would serve better. Darkfrog24 (talk) 15:06, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I think that's better still for the last sentence. It draws attention to the exact point without unnecessary verbiage.No, "more than two" omits to address the two sharp breaks, when there are no parenthetical pairs. I think Ozob's wording is still best. PL290 (talk) 15:11, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
  • I don't like "sharp break": an em dash is an em dash, and has only one use. Isn't the current wording just fine? The sentence right at the top needs parentheses, not dashes. Tony (talk) 09:14, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
While I more often find myself using em dashes parenthetically—a personal preference, I suppose—it's undeniable that there are other uses—Emily Dickinson, for example, used "sharp break"-style em dashes—indeed, even more exotic em dashes extensively. Both types of dashes are called em dashes—but they behave differently—and the MoS needs to treat them both. Ozob (talk) 19:03, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
Tony, "sharp break" is the current wording—for the second of two types of em dash identified. PL290 (talk) 19:33, 21 February 2010 (UTC)

Accessibility and images

This series of edits removed longstanding WP:ACCESSIBILITY advice with edit summaries like "removed accessibility thing, because it reads as though it's discouraging people from doing it". It's true that the text was warning people about changing image sizes due to WP:ACCESSIBILITY concerns. But these concerns are real, and the warnings should not simply be deleted. Editors should take accessibility issues into account when changing image sizes.

Similarly, let's not water down the advice that textual info should be entered as text rather than as an image, as this edit did. Eubulides (talk) 09:07, 21 February 2010 (UTC)

If I understand, the series of edits you cite, removing longstanding WP:ACCESSIBILITY advice, it's main says editors may have good reasons for setting sizes, and I agree with this. Some images need to show important info, where a larger size is needed; other may need to be reduced because they are just general illustrations, and reduction may facilitate layout and reduce {{clear}}.
In some cases, a reader with severely poor vision needs a larger monitor and possibly graphics card, and in severe cases software - which is a responsibly of those to who support such readers (social serves, charities, ect.) Some readers with poor vision may get on OK by resizing in the browser (CTRL plus +) - and in such readers their "support staff" should advice. In addition, users with visual difficulties are by definition more diverse than "normal" users, so a "one size fits all" is unlikely to benefit readers with poor vision.
OTOH I agreed that text should be text, even when used as parts of a package that also includes an image, e.g. annotations on an image. However, the benefits are not WP:ACCESSIBILITY, as such package need spatial information, e.g. which annotations apply to which areas to the image. The benefits actual benefits are mainly in avoiding editing the image (especially of the image is not layers): placing and sizing of annotations; and internationalisation. --Philcha (talk) 10:15, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
Sometimes not changing the image size causes accessibility problems, either by leaving images too large for some screens, or too small for some eyes. We therefore can't say that it's only changing the size that might cause the access issue. SlimVirgin TALK contribs 10:45, 21 February 2010 (UTC)

The Element of Freedom

THis article contains the statement "The Element of Freedom has so far spawned three singles that attained chart success and was certified platinum in sales by the RIAA one month after its release". Is "so far" improper? If so, what rule/stye guidline page (eg. WP:Weasel words, WP:Albums) should I refer to when explaining it in a revision to the article? Dan56 (talk) 03:23, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

Under Precise language, the MoS recommends saying "As of [month and year], the Element of Freedom has released three singles..." Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:31, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

Spaced disjunctive en dashes

We recently had a long discussion about spaced disjunctive en dashes when a disjunct contains spaces, as in "Chicago – New York flight". (Note that this was not talking about spaced en dashes as a substitute for emdash; that's a different topic.) The result was inconclusive, reflecting a lack of consensus on the topic. No consensus has ever been established on-Wiki about the topic: the current requirement (for spaces around en dashes when either disjunct contains spaces) was added without discussion here, and when this was noticed and objections raised, the requirement was defended by some editors but vociferously objected by others. Scholarly publications and major style guides more commonly omit spaces in this case, though there are counterexamples.

This is a classic case of "no consensus", and as such the style guide should not claim to reflect a consensus where none exists. The current disputed tag at the start of En dashes has been present for weeks now, and now is as good a time as any to get rid of it. I've tried to start the ball rolling by making this change:

Disjunctive en dashes are normally unspaced, except when there is a space within either one or both of the items (the New York – Sydney flight; the New Zealand – South Africa grand final; June 3, 1888 – August 18, 1940, but June–August 1940). Exceptions are occasionally made where the item involves a spaced surname (Seifert–van Kampen theorem). However, when a disjunct itself contains spaces, spaced en dashes may be used: most style guides and scholarly publications avoid spaces (Chicago–New York route, Seifert–van Kampen theorem), but some guides specify spaces (17 May – 22 November, June 3, 1888 – August 18, 1940) and other guides allow editorial discretion.

This change is not trying to impose my personal preference (which is for unspaced en dashes uniformly), but rather trying to reflect the greatest consensus. Eubulides (talk) 20:11, 14 February 2010 (UTC)

This is a good start, but personally, I'd somehow point out that, while in "17 May" the space separates two units with their own meanings, "van Kampen" is one morphemelexeme which just happens to contain a space, but is syntactically no different from the one morphemelexeme "Seifert".
Rules which attempt to explain grammar on purely "typographic" grounds as if a computer had to understand them, with no regard for meaning, pronunciation, logic, or anything else, are often flawed. Pick a random English grammar book and take a look at its rule for spelling past tenses of regular verbs: it's likely to be unable to correctly predict that quitted has two T's and suited has one. But this is nowhere as bad as the typical Italian claptrap that the Latin pronoun aliquis "loses its ali" (ali meaning "wings" in Italian) after the words si, nisi, ne and num. The way that's usually worded seems to imply that's just some kind of euphonic rule, but actually aliquis means "somebody", si, nisi, ne and num mean "if", "unless", "lest" and "whether" respectively, and quis means "anybody"; put this way, it's obvious that it's just a different pronoun with a different meaning. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 20:42, 14 February 2010 (UTC)
Eubulides, first of all, you used a hyphen rather than an en dash to illustrate the issue. Do you know the difference? Second, there was no consensus to change the long-standing guideline, not about the guideline. Tony (talk) 22:01, 14 February 2010 (UTC)
Sorry about that hyphen above; I fixed it. Unfortunately there was never any on-Wiki discussion establishing a consensus for that guideline, and in light of the long discussion referenced above it can't be said that requiring spaces has ever had real consensus. I'm trying as best I can to reflect general consensus, rather than impose my personal preference. I'm not sure I follow the comment about morphemes: "van" is a tussenvoegsel that means "from" or "of": it's certainly a distinct morpheme from "Kampen" in Dutch, and I'd say it's a distinct morpheme in English too. Eubulides (talk) 04:48, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
"Van" might happen to be an English word too, but it has a completely unrelated meaning. And even in Dutch it has not the literal meaning there (although it likely had etymologically), as that guy was not from one of those towns. (C'mon, isn't "Leonardo Da Vinci" written with a capital D in English, and in that case it really means he was from Vinci...) BTW, sorry about "morpheme", I didn't mean that. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 11:40, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Among the people who would space all en dashes with spaced operands (other than surnames) were you (Tony), Headbomb, Trovatore, HWV258, Greg L, CuriousEric, SMcCandlish and Noetica; among people who wouldn't, were Sławomir Biały, Ozob, Carl (CBM), Eubulides, Christopher Parham, me, David Eppstein, DCGeist, and Art LaPella. I might have missed a few people and misunderstood the position of another few, but the point is that this doesn't look like consensus either for the status quo before Eubulides's recent change or against it. (And if you're going to mention 2007, go read WP:CCC.) ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 12:09, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Assuming there is indeed no existing consensus (I don't dispute that assertion, but I confess I'm not among the most ardent followers of dash discussion on this page so I simply don't know), then I think your change is an improvement; however, I think it has unnecessary bias towards the spaced presentation. Rather than introduce the position with "However, when a disjunct itself contains spaces, spaced en dashes may be used", I think it would be better to present the differing style guide information first, up to "... other guides allow editorial discretion.", and follow that with "Wikipedia editors should exercise judgement over the choice on a case-by-case basis." PL290 (talk) 10:18, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Status quo well-established until Ozob and Eubulides started shouting from the rooftops. Sorry, you need consensus to change it, not to keep it. Many editors have voiced their support for the long-established guideline. Personal peeves are not appropriate here. Tony (talk) 12:51, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
For the record I would like to point out that it was neither me nor Eubulides who started that long thread, but rather User:Sławomir Biały, and he did so on the basis of consensus at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Mathematics. Ozob (talk) 23:31, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
"Sorry, you need consensus to change it, not to keep it." Nope. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 15:36, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Actually I thought Tony had a point there. Not sure that essay should be treated as an authority; rather, the applicable policy is surely this one, which says it applies to "any page other than a talk page". Going by the policy, there was consensus for the existing MoS wording by dint of the fact that it was not changed all that time. If this consensus is now challenged, and a lengthy debate has not clarified it, a straw poll would seem to be the way forward. PL290 (talk) 16:50, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
The original change to require spaces (when disjunctions contain spaces) was made without discussion here, in such a way that editors didn't notice it; enforcement of the changed guideline wasn't made until quite a bit later, at which point complaints came in. I'm not saying anything underhanded happened: quite the contrary! These things happen entirely innocently. Still, the lack of consensus for the original change is supported by the reaction of editors once it started to have practical effect. Wording changes along the lines of those suggested by PL290 would be fine. Eubulides (talk) 23:17, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps, but the notion of spacing en dashes has been around long enough that a discussion among a few MOS regulars to change the guide won't cause a change in behavior in the many editors who have "learned" it the old way (including me). Many FAs and FLs follow the existing rule of spacing en dashes (assuming that they use en dashes in the first place). We need to advertise this discussion more widely if we want real change (and I'm not necessarily implying that change is necessary). Dabomb87 (talk) 03:12, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
The change does not invalidate any of these FAs and FLs, it allows spaced en dashes to be used wherever the previous version required them. Eubulides (talk) 22:24, 19 February 2010 (UTC)


FWIW I agree with Eubulides above that the seeming long consensus here for spaced en-dashes when the disjuncts contain spaces was illusory: as soon as this started being used to rename mathematics articles there was a strong reaction against. And the long recent discussion should make it clear that it's unlikely we can come to a new consensus that strictly defines when to use spaces. So I agree with the general principle that we shouldn't try to define what we can't define, and instead we should clearly state that there isn't a strict rule.

Perhaps this goes without saying, but if we're going to have a guideline that doesn't enforce one specific and clearly defined rule for whether to space en-dashes, we should at least have some consistency within each of our articles, with the usual rules against gratuitous style changes without building consensus on article talk pages first. —David Eppstein (talk) 03:21, 16 February 2010 (UTC)

Aside from the ivory tower of maths article, there appears to be no controversy whatsoever. Tony (talk) 12:00, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
I am a little surprised at seeing anti-intellectual and othering rhetoric such as this on Wikipedia. —David Eppstein (talk) 15:57, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
Add physics (and all sciences) to that ivory tower. Headbomb {ταλκκοντριβς – WP Physics} 12:41, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
This discussion, in which the silliness of writing "Toulouse–Bordeaux" and "Bordeaux – La Rochelle" in the same context is (rightly, IMO) pointed out, doesn't appear to have anything to do with mathematics to me. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 14:31, 16 February 2010 (UTC)
Errr ... like the silliness of writing "... and 15 cars. Eighteen trucks were sold, and 13 were found to be faulty."? Tony (talk) 00:34, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
Yes. Errr ... What's your point? The MOS has discouraged "five cats and 32 dogs" for as long as I can remember and indeed I can't recall many WP articles ever doing stuff like that. And in your example they are even more "comparable quantities" than with cats and dogs: most people would immediately try to estimate the fraction of trucks which were faulty, and doing it that way makes one take at least a half second longer to realize it's greater than 100% and yell "WTF?". ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 12:01, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
My point is that no one seems to mind that we require inconsistency in numeral/spell-out usage (start of sentence has to be spelled out). Nor do I. Tony (talk) 13:04, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
Eubulides, you know very well that there is no consensus to change the long-standing wording, yet you slipped it in last week. I have reverted it. Tony (talk) 13:11, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
Tony, I suggest you take a closer look at Eubulides' edit comments from 14 Feb, both here and on the article edits. I think you will find he was quite clear about his intentions. "Slipped it in" seems to be a rather harsh accusation. User:LeadSongDog come howl 14:09, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
There was indeed no slipping in. The "long-standing wording" is what got slipped in, and it never had real on-wiki consensus. I restored the new wording, which is less prescriptive and reflects actual consensus on Wikipedia better. Eubulides (talk) 22:24, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
Huh? I don't read it that way. If you read the whole point you're talking about rather than just the first sentence, you'll see that it suggests "and 15 cars; 18 trucks were sold, and 13 were found to be faulty", "and 15 cars. They sold 18 trucks, and found 13 to be faulty", or things like that. Also, it says "since using figures risks the period being read as a decimal point or abbreviation mark" which is not the case here, so it doesn't even forbid "... and 15 cars. 18 trucks were sold, and 13 were found to be faulty". ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 15:27, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
A. di M. is of course correct. And this whole cars-and-trucks thing is a red herring anyway. Please see #Unspaced en dashes are not ivory-tower below. Eubulides (talk) 22:24, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
I am starting to have nightmares about entire fleets of defective trucks bearing down on me as I drive, and being trapped in a room with 32 dogs, 5 cats and 1 herring. I take it all back—can we go back to a nice, calm topic like en dashes now please? Consensus is a funny thing sometimes; as I suggested previously, if parties disagree whether there even was past consensus, which anyway may not reflect current consensus, surely it's time for a straw poll? PL290 (talk) 11:22, 20 February 2010 (UTC)

Unspaced en dashes are not ivory-tower

Tony's assertion that there's no controversy "aside from the ivory tower of maths article" is incorrect. Here are two counterexamples that came up in my personal editing recently:

  • A list of large metropolitan areas included the usual suspects (New York, Mexico City), along with Tokyo–Yokohama, Seoul–Incheon, and Hong Kong–Shenzhen. In this list, it would have been inappropriate to put spaces around the last entry, because that would have distracted the reader's eye by making that entry look special (when it is not, in fact, special).
  • Medicine is full of disease names like ectrodactyly–ectodermal dysplasia–cleft syndrome. If this name were incorrectly written as "ectrodactyly – ectodermal dysplasia – cleft syndrome" it would naturally be parsed by non-experts as a combination of ectrodactyly, ectodermal dysplasia, and cleft syndrome, which is incorrect: it's a single syndrome that combines ectrodactyly, ectodermal dysplasia, and clefting, and the correct (unspaced) punctuation reflects the meaning better.

These are not isolated examples: this sort of thing is fairly common, reliable scholarly publishers such as Springer and Oxford almost invariably omit the spaces, and many (though not all) style guides also omit the spaces.

Requiring spaced endashes is even weirder than requiring Nature-style footnotes would be. At least with Nature, we have one high-quality journal publisher consistently doing it the oddball way, with footnotes before punctuation. There's nothing remotely comparable for disjunctive endashes: no high-quality journal publisher consistently does it the oddball way, with spaced endashes. The style guideline should should not require a style that's even less well-supported in practice than an oddball style it currently disallows. Eubulides (talk) 22:24, 19 February 2010 (UTC)

A prediction: Some of the proponents of spaced en dashes will say once again that Wikipedia need not follow print style guides, that Wikipedia need not conform to common publishing practices, and that the Internet, being a different medium from print, requires different standards. I do not think that any of these are correct. Good layout is universal; therefore printed style guides are as applicable on the web as they are in print. Common publishing practices are common because they are easy for readers and look good on the page, and we should not reject them without specific reasons (such as we have with straight versus curly quotes). I do not see any reason to space disjunctive en dashes; it is confusing and unaesthetic. The Manual of Style ought to be changed, and unspaced disjunctive en dashes should be required. Ozob (talk) 01:04, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
Now if you are going to take up everyone's time with another RfC, you will find that there is no consensus for allowing people to write "20 December 1918–21 January 1919" wherever they wish. Many editors objected to your proposal last time. I don't know why you think otherwise. But an RfC generating such consensus is what it would take, rather than trying to force your way by unilateral editing. I have very little time at the moment, but you will destroy what little I have for eating and sleeping if this is the way it has to be. Tony (talk) 07:17, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
Tony: please see WP:OWN. Or maybe WP:TEA. The last sentence of your comment seems to be taking this all a little too personally. —David Eppstein (talk) 07:37, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
David Eppstein, please see WP:OWN. Or may be TEA. Tony (talk) 08:13, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
I know nothing about the history of this issue, but in fairness to Tony, I'd say if he's very busy at the moment but this is an issue he cares about, it would be good to wait until he has more free time. Otherwise, he'll be trying to squeeze arguments into the few spare moments he has, and everything will feel more fraught than it needs to. The debate will no doubt stand to wait for a few days or weeks. :) SlimVirgin TALK contribs 08:29, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
Tony, can you suggest a time when you are less busy and more able to participate? I can see that you want to be part of this discussion, and I don't want you to be unable to contribute because of your other obligations. Ozob (talk) 13:54, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
There's certainly no rush to fixing the problem. I too would like to hear Tony's reasoned responses to the above points. Eubulides (talk) 09:11, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
As it says emblazoned at the top of my talk page, 3 March. It's a rare rescheduling that allows me to be here right now. I find none of your arguments convincing. For example, I would interpret "ectrodactyly–ectodermal dysplasia–cleft syndrome" as to do with a relationship between displasia and cleft, and between ectrodactyley and ectodermal. What makes you say that your personal preference is superior?

Now consensus arises not only from an overwhelming majority at a straw poll, but from established practice at WP. In this case, the guideline on spacing has been there for quite a few years and has been followed without complaint until this noisy debate by a few editors who were originally concerned with Seiffert – van Kampen, despite no clear pattern of usage in books or on the internet. You seek to change practice across the board, to allow the ungainly, ambiguous, hard-to-read squashing of the range dash in spaced dashes. No self-respecting publisher would allow that, and nor should WP allow such ugliness at the top of biographical articles. It is very hard to find a squashed dash in this context; why should it be encouraged? It just won't do. Tony (talk) 01:57, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

Tony, I don't want to start up the argument here again but you're being dishonest. The pattern of usage for Seifert–van Kampen in books is extremely clear. Despite spacing the dash in my query string, none of the snippets from the first 100 book results (ot of around 400) showed a spaced dash. None of them. In some cases there was a space after the dash but not before; my guess is that those correspond to line breaks, as the same sources also show unsourced dashes. Don't change the subject by talking about dates and ranges; that's a different though related usage. —David Eppstein (talk) 03:40, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
Tony, we'll continue on 3 March, then. Ozob (talk) 03:44, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
3 March is fine with me too. Again, there's no rush. I'd rather that Tony had time to form well-reasoned responses. Eubulides (talk) 06:31, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
FWIW, I interpreted "ectrodactyly–ectodermal dysplasia–cleft syndrome" the same way as Tony did, at first glance; but it only lasted about half a second until I noticed that the second word was an adjective and must be modifying the third. If I had seen it as "ectrodactyly – ectodermal dysplasia – cleft syndrome", I think I might have taken much longer to realize that it doesn't mean "ectrodactyly; ectodermal dysplasia; cleft syndrome" with only "cleft" modifying "syndrome" (provided that I would have realized it at all). "Ectrodactyly–ectodermal-dysplasia–cleft syndrome" maybe? Anyway, if that disease has an established name, what's wrong with just using it rather than decide by ourselves? ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 12:27, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
  • (1) I am wondering whether to file a case at ANI against David Eppstein. Please read the criteria for breaches of the civility policy. You have crossed the mark well and truly by labelling me as dishonest.
  • (2) Eubulides, you appear to imply that my previous responses (and I assume those of the many other editors who do not want the squashed-en-dash guideline) are poorly reasoned. I do not believe this is the case. Tony (talk) 11:49, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
Tony, my comments were about this thread: I wrote that I'd welcome well-reasoned responses, and I still would welcome them. Your responses so far in this thread have been rushed, but that's understandable, as you say that you can only rarely contribute now due to time pressures, and you also say that you're adding comments when half asleep, presumably due to time stress. I suggest taking a break until 3 March, when your schedule permits more time. Eubulides (talk) 20:38, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
  • Declaring Tony as “being dishonest” is an awfully unfortunate choice of words; I’ve known him for quite some time now and I’ve seen him get emotional, but never have I seen him intellectually dishonest. He does technical writing for a living and has a keen sense for what causes confusion. I’ve seen some of the arguments over this issue and have seen some examples of using en-dashes in date ranges that can be initially misinterpreted until one reads through the whole thing and you realize what the “range” applies to. Word-wrap can aggravate this. For instance, this:
…[yada yada] border-dispute negotiations, 3 December 1918–20
January 1919. During this period the Russians…

…initially reads as something that occurred over two years: from 1918 to 1920. In my opinion, great consideration should be given to what Tony is proposing. Alternatively, these kind of constructions might best avoid the en-dash altogether in favor of words like “to” instead. Greg L (talk) 21:17, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

Web layout and print layout

Actually, standard Web layout does differ from standard print layout. In print, one typically uses serif fonts, justified paragraphs with the first line indented and no extra space between a paragraph and the next, and curly quotes, whereas on screens, sans-serif fonts, left-flushed paragraphs (including the first line) with a blank line between a paragraph and the following one, and straight quotes are more common. But I have never noticed any different practice in the spacing of dashes between print and the Web. (Indeed, dashes are often replaced by hyphens on-line...) ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 11:41, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
Yes, but there is a specific reason for this, namely limited monitor resolution. We still have to accommodate people using 800×600 resolutions on their desktops, and the mobile site has to accommodate very small, low-resolution cell phone screens. Serif fonts do not show up well on low-resolution monitors; even on high resolution monitors, they don't always look ideal. We are a long way from everyone having 600dpi on their desktop, and consequently the web uses sans serif fonts much more frequently than print. I believe that paragraph spacing is another example of this; I'm not quite sure why in this case, but I know that I prefer to read flush-left, spaced paragraphs on a computer screen, and I also prefer to read traditionally formatted paragraphs in print. I wonder what I'd prefer on an eBook reader? Ozob (talk) 13:50, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
As for the fonts, I think you're right. (At least, that's the historical reason for that; nowadays there are serif fonts which read easily even at tiny resolutions, such as Droid Serif, but sans-serif font have been used long enough that most readers are too strongly used to them.) As for the text alignment, I think there are two factors here: all other things being equal justified paragraphs would look "neater" but: 1) in print, words at the end of a line are hyphenated at syllable boundaries so that the number of characters per line is roughly constant; doing that in HTML would be a major PITA, so some lines are significantly shorter than others, and spaces would need to be stretched or shrunk too much to justify text; 2) in print, columns are relatively narrow (typically about 80 characters per line, often less); lines much longer than that (as they sometimes are on webpages) are harder to read, but the "ragged" right margin somehow helps. This in turn affects the first-line indentation: having both margins flushed would look too dull, and having both margins "jagged" would look too clumsy. (This is my impression, at least – YMMV.) But IMO one of the most important factors is that we are just used to see text formatted in a certain way on paper and in another certain way on screen. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 16:43, 20 February 2010 (UTC)


MOS:IDENTITY says "use black people rather than blacks". Political correctness is never logical, so does the same rule apply to "whites"? Art LaPella (talk) 04:39, 15 February 2010 (UTC)

It's not quite so sensitive, because whites have been the oppressors historically. Tony (talk) 07:30, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Note, however, that treating the historically oppressing differently from the historically oppressed would not be optimal. That favors equal care to use "white people". --Pi zero (talk) 16:03, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
By the way, it doesn't seems idomatic to use either color as a singular count noun (He's a white, she's a Black). Let's stick to using the color words as adjectives in such cases.
As to the nomifying the color word in the plural, it seem idiomatic when discussing demographic data (Whites are 50% more likely to watch hockey than Blacks.)
As to oppressors and oppressing and such talk, these things may explain why something is idomatic or not, but that's not what's important. The important thing is whether they are idomatic or not. Chrisrus (talk) 15:41, 17 February 2010 (UTC)
  • The current wording is "Avoid the use of certain adjectives as nouns: for example, use black people rather than blacks, gay people rather than gays, disabled people rather than the disabled.". This seems too vague to be useful — what are these certain adjectives and why should we avoid them? To start with, I don't agree with the specific example of blacks. Britannica uses blacks without any difficulty and so do many other respectable publications. And the principle seems unworkable when we try to extend it. Should we say lesbian people rather than lesbians, for example? It seems over-prescriptive and unworkable without a huge list of definitive examples. We should therefore remove it altogether per WP:CREEP. Colonel Warden (talk) 11:38, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
    • I agree. PL290 (talk) 12:05, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
      • I agree also. As an example of how silly this rule is, should we say mathematician people instead of mathematicians? Politician people instead of politicians? The current wording suggests we might. The list of all words this rule applies to is open to fiery, useless arguments: Does black belong on the list? Does gay belong on the list? What about tough people versus toughs? I think the right solution here is to remove the rule entirely; any situation it ought to apply to is already covered by our requirement for an encyclopedic tone. Ozob (talk) 14:07, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
And right before this, the MoS notes that most Jews prefer to be called Jews, not Jewish people. I suspect most Christians prefer to be called Christians, not Christian people; and that most Muslims prefer Muslims to Islamic people; and so on. This is ridiculous, and I've removed it from the MoS. Ozob (talk) 05:36, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
There are some usages of this sort that ought to be discouraged, although the rule-as-was grossly oversimplified the situation (and likewise its solution — adding "people" to everything? Seriously?). Most of the above supposed examples have nothing to do with the rule; "mathematician" is a noun so the rule didn't discourage it, ditto "politician" and "Muslim". "Christian" is now a noun as well as an adjective, having presumably become so because it was used this way — illustrating part of the problem. "Gays" works for me, and so for that matter so does "transsexuals", but "transgenders" doesn't. How about the following?
Avoid use of adjectives as nouns for groups of people, if the use is unusual or if there is an equally common alternative: for example, use black people rather than blacks, and Muslims rather than Islamics; but there is no difficulty in using, for example, Christians, or gays.
--Pi zero (talk) 18:22, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, but "Avoid use of ... if the use is unusual" is axiomatic. I think it's best left as it is. PL290 (talk) 18:47, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
In general, I like Pi zero's new text, but just to be safe, I checked the GLAAD Media Reference Guide and it uses "gay people." It also cites a few different newspaper style guides. The New York Times style guide, cited on page sixteen, specifically prefers "gay people," reserving "gays" for use as a "last resort, ordinarily in a hard-to-fit headline." The Washington Post, cited on page seventeen, permits "gays." The Associated Press does not say anything specific one way or the other. I don't think that the Wikipedia MoS needs to specifically state an opinion on "gays," but because usage here seems divided, I suggest that we choose a different example to replace "gays." Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:45, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
Clarity is needed on this point. Are you saying "gays" is not the most commonly used form? Or that some other criterion takes precedence over the rule advocated by the text I proposed — in which case as a practical matter you aren't really on board with the proposed text? To me, it appears that GLAAD (and some newspapers whose style guides they cite) are defying common practice to jump on the extreme political correctness bandwagon, which in my judgment is a mistake we should avoid here. Extreme political correctness is ultimately self-defeating because it highlights, by means of conspicuous circumlocutions, the very attitudes that it purports to avoid. I agree with SlimVirgin, "gay people" sounds odd. The current US political issue is gays in the military, not gay people in the military. That seems to suggest that if one accepts the proposed text, we should in fact be saying "gays". (It also suggests, BTW, that the proposed text is nontrivial.) --Pi zero (talk) 21:57, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
I am saying "don't use 'gays' as an example." Because "gays" has an iffy record with NYT and GLAAD, it is not the best example of an adjective-turned-noun as PC-acceptable language. I am not saying that we explicitly tell Wikipedia editors to use "gay people" instead of "gays" but rather that we should not explicitly tell them to use "gays" instead of "gay people." I'm confident that we can find something else that, like "Christians," is obviously inoffensive and has a long history of use by even the politically persnickety. "Asians," perhaps. (But not "Africans" because MOS:IDENTITY uses it as a counterexample and this might confuse people.) Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:16, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
Hm. How about "Arabs"? Already a positive example in MOS:IDENTITY. --Pi zero (talk) 00:53, 23 February 2010 (UTC)

She's a ship

Somebody changed every she to it on the article Essex (whaleship), but I changed it back. Was I wrong? Chrisrus (talk) 00:27, 18 February 2010 (UTC)

As far as I know, we don't have a rule about that.
Some people consider the "she" sexist.
The expression might be outdated, but I wouldn't say you were wrong. Maurreen (talk) 08:03, 18 February 2010 (UTC) But then again, you want to avoid repeated reversion or edit warring also. Talk with the other editor. Maurreen (talk) 08:05, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
I was initially appalled at the sexism of the generic female for ships. It's all about male control over what they ride (and I use "ride" with its full sex-act connotation—I'm not joking). However, I lost that battle and gave in. You'll generate outrage if you change "she" it "it"; however, where "she" and "her" occur several times in a paragraph, it's just plain bad style. There, rotation with "the ship" and "[name of ship]" are highly desirable. Tony (talk) 09:15, 18 February 2010 (UTC)
I always thought that men called their ships "she" because they loved them. I guess I noticed that they only men who called their cars "she" were those who really loved their cars to the point that they humanized them. The reason I regretted reverting was because it seemed a bit too quaint; old-fashioned and poetic and maybe therefore not encyclopedic. What about those grounds? Also, to be considered are the (very old) sources, who called her "she". Finally, the regret was all mine, no one objected to my action or reverted it and there was no discussion or "edit warring".Chrisrus (talk) 15:01, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
"She" was common usage for inanimate/nonliving objects in some countries. People probably still use it today. However, that convention is not universal. For example, I believe Russians call their ships "he" or "him." Given WP:WORLDVIEW, you're better off using a neutral term such as "it." Airborne84 (talk) 22:21, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
But that's the Russian language. Ships as "she" is pretty universal in English, and this is the English Wikipedia. What speakers of other languages do isn't particularly relevant here. The only debate is whether we should use what is essentially a poetic convention for the formal tone we're looking for. I'd say no, but it's such a well known, widely used convention, that it's not all that informal. oknazevad (talk) 23:51, 19 February 2010 (UTC)
International rules and regulations are anything but informal. The NAVIGATION RULES (International-Inland) published by the U.S. Coast Guard use the feminine gender for vessels. Jc3s5h (talk) 00:59, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
You have convinced me that the usage continues to be standard in the US Coast Guard. Would it be easy to check those of a few other major English-speaking countries? How about an international body of shipping? Chrisrus (talk) 01:09, 20 February 2010 (UTC)
It appears [1], [2] that the RN still uses "she". User:LeadSongDog come howl 06:04, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
Conventional usage should not be the guiding principle here. Sexist language was the convention for centuries, in many languages. Referring to ships or hurricanes (the US Weather Service dropped that convention a few years ago) as female, or feminine, is a remnant of sexist language. Following that convention in Wikipedia is contrary to the sound policy, and modern practice, of using gender-neutral language. The move toward gender-neutral language still has not caught up with some words with sexist etymologies, such as hysteria. Cultural bias of many kinds is still pervasive in language, because language is a cornerstone in culture's foundation.—Finell 22:40, 21 February 2010 (UTC)
Wikipedia is not supposed to be a hotbed of language innovation. No, we're supposed to follow the sources. If all our sources consistently use the feminine pronoun for ships, then shouldn't we follow them? If the US Coast Guard and the Royal Navy call one of their own ships a "she", who are we to correct them? They named the ship. They get to choose the pronoun. To our liking or not, sexist or not, and archaic or not does not matter. Ozob (talk) 00:43, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
This is the English Wikipedia. What speakers of other languages do isn't particularly relevant here.
I'll admit that was not the response I was expecting. Did you look at WP:WORLDVIEW? It would have been helpful if you had. Because this is not an article on North Carolina, for example, you must consider the view of all relevant countries. English is an official language in Hong Kong, India, Pakistan and other former colonies of the British Empire. English-language schooling is common in most European countries including: Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Poland, and...Russia. Children in St. Petersburg learn a mandatory eight years of English. I could move on to Australia, Canada, or even get into Africa, but I think you see the point. You cannot impose an American or British convention on an "english language" Wikipedia article. This is really rather straightforward. You could:
1. Research all the countries on the planet with english-speaking populations to see if they conform to the "she" convention
2. Stick to the neutral "it." Airborne84 (talk) 01:13, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
Maybe it is a narrow worldview, but I don't neccessarily consider the learning of English in a mandatory school classes in countries where the vast majority of the population are not native English speakers as normative and formative for the language as a whole. It's true the language is the international ligua franca, and that has expanded the numbers of those who speak the language, and the language itself has been expanded in vocabulary and coverage to reflect that (one of English's longstanding strengths is its ability to absorb other languages' words). But the crucible within which the language has formed and continues to evolve is the countries with large native-speaking populations. And while even then it's not uniform (witness the quotation questions above), all the sources found as part of this discussion show that the use of "she" for ships is pretty universal in the largest English speaking countries.oknazevad (talk) 05:31, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
As far as sources, yes - if you quote a source that uses the word "she" it would be appropriate to keep that wording. Wording within the prose of the article should conform to various Wikipedia policies and guidelines such as WP:WORLDVIEW. You should also maintain consistency within the article. E.g., if you used "she" five times in an article within quotes and "it" twice in the text - it would be appropriate (arguably) to maintain consistency and use "she" throughout - and vice versa. You can also skirt the issue and use like terms such as "the ship" and "the vessel." Good writing is in short supply on Wikipedia anyway. Most people just like to slap some facts into an article and leave it. Airborne84 (talk) 01:33, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
No, that's not the issue. Suppose I own a ship. That means I name the ship: I can call the ship anything I please. I can choose a feminine or neutral name and declare that my ship receives the feminine pronoun. I, as the namer of the ship, can do this; I, as the namer of the ship, am the ultimate reliable source on what pronoun my ship takes. If I tell you that my ship is a she, then that's the end of the discussion: Wikipedia has to "follow the sources", and I, the source, say that my ship is a she, not an it. If Wikipedia calls my ship an it because it thinks she is sexist, then Wikipedia is POV and OR, because the only reliable source says she.
This is pretty much the situation we're in for ships in the US Coast Guard, in the Royal Navy, and probably many others. The reliable sources say she. Are we going to take the POV that all the reliable sources get the pronoun wrong? I think that's counter to policy. We're forced to say she, whether or not we like it. Ozob (talk) 02:53, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
As a general principle, there's no reason that we need to follow the sources on this sort of thing. Similarly, if a person declares we must follow his name with a trademark sign, or write it in all capitals, we are free to ignore him, even if many reliable sources do include the trademark sign and use all capitals. The choice of a pronoun for a ship is not a matter of "correctness" that must be sourced; it's a matter of word choice that we can decide as we like. — Carl (CBM · talk) 03:07, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
Sorry Ozob, but that's not how it works. You can name a ship; you can't "designate it as female or male," just like there's no block on a registration form (in any country I've ever been in) to designate your car as a male or female. Certainly you can refer to your sailboat as a "she" but you can't post a photo of it on the web and require in a note below that people must "call it a she" when they talk about the photo. People will use whatever convention they use in their language, regardless of your convention. You can stand in front of your sloop and say "she's nice huh?" and a Russian next to you would say "he is." Neither of you are wrong. I guess I'm just confused. What precedent or form or rule makes you think that people get to designate the "sex" of their inanimate objects that they own or make that every person in the world must use when referring to it? Further, how would you communicate your chosen "sex" to everyone in the world so they knew? CBM is right. The name is followed. All the words around the name depend on the conventions followed by the writer or speaker. Airborne84 (talk) 03:40, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
Traditional usage declares (unfairly) that the pronoun is always she. Modern American and British usage, as evidenced by the US Coast Guard and the Royal Navy, also declares that the pronoun is she. The Royal Australian Navy uses she for the ships listed here. I googled "Indian Navy" and eventually found [3], in which Indian Rear Adm. Satyindra Singh Avsm (Retd.) consistently uses she. I'm sure I could find other sources. If we're going by whatever convention is most common in most dialects of English, then we get she, unquestionably.
What I thought you were getting at before was that we didn't have to follow tradition; we could choose the gender we wanted to call our ships, and you wanted to choose it. But I thought the situation was parallel to the transgendered, where the MoS specifies that we should use their most recently expressed preference. (Some have argued here with the precise wording of the rule, but that's not relevant here. We agree that they get to choose their own pronoun.) And that led me to my previous post on choosing genders, where we got she again!
As far as I can tell, she is universal. Because it cannot be sourced anywhere, its usage is OR; and using it because we think she is sexist is POV. There is another point I should make here, which is that I'm implicitly claiming that we have to be able to source our usage of English. Usually this goes unsaid; we assume that English is spoken as it usually is (however that happens to be for each of us). But it's worth pointing out here because I believe that we should write in standard English, and it is nowhere standard English. Ozob (talk) 04:11, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
English-language schooling is common in most European countries including: Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Poland, and...Russia. So what? Should we avoid using a word such as actual because its cognates in German, Dutch, Czech, ..., and Russian mean "present, current"? (IOW, errors made by non-native speakers out of ignorance of what native speakers do don't count. I myself have studied English for well over one decade, and probably these days I read more stuff in English than Italian, but until I read this discussion I incorrectly believed that she for ships was only used in very informal or poetic registers in present-day English – probably because I seldom read stuff about ships at all, in either Italian or English.) You can stand in front of your sloop and say "she's nice huh?" and a Russian next to you would say "he is." Neither of you are wrong. The Russian would be wrong, unless they said that in Russian; this is the English Wikipedia...
Anyway, if both she and it for ships are attested in formal present-day English (as they seem to be, looking at this discussion), both should be allowed.― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 17:33, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

(outdent) There is one thing we haven't considered yet. Since it appears that "she" is used by significant maritime authorities, it may well be that "she" is not merely historical, poetic convention, but may actually be enshrined in the English-language versions of the international agreements behind maritme law. Therefore, it's not simply a matter of debate between we editors, but something with a far larger scope. It bears more investigation. oknazevad (talk) 05:31, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

Fair enough. There are plenty of points left to argue, but it's just not worth arguing. Having traveled all over the world, I simply find that some people's viewpoints are rather narrow sometimes (not pointing fingers at anyone here certainly), and I try to discourage that here. I certainly can't say that the use of "she" is wrong. I just think it ignores the systemic bias Wikipedia currently suffers from (but she won't complain, I'm sure). Cheers! Airborne84 (talk) 06:39, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
By the way, standard style for U.S. newspapers is to use "it."
Where do you get "'It' cannot be sourced anywhere"? Has anyone looked in another style guide?
But I wouldn't get worked up about either version. And I definitely would not advocate researching umpteen countries. Maurreen (talk) 06:45, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
Interesting. I would like to reiterate that the reason seamen call their ships "she" is unknown to me, but if those with the conviction that it's "sexism" would please pause and ask themselves "how do I know?" There are other possibilities; it's not a given that it's sexist or disrespectful to women to do so. I gave an example earlier of men who call their sports cars "she" because they loved them so much that they wanted to humanize them as a beautiful women they were in love with and respected and wanted to protect. Well, I've thought of a second possibility: as far as ships go. Ships at sea are all that stands between sailors and certain death, they are literally the giver of life and protector and as such might be mother figures.
If you say that's pure conjecture on my part, you are right. But isn't this conviction some have that it shows disrespect for women when sailors call ships "she", I don't see why it's not just pure conjecture as well. While none of this means that Wikipedia should call necessarily ships "she", I don't see how you can state with any certainty that calling your ship "she" is disrespectful to women any more than I could state my theory that it is respectful is correct.
Second, and separately, I have been convinced that the practice is not, as I had thought, a quaint relic from the time the story of the Essex was written, but rather still standard practice in the field, all over the English-speaking world. That, in and of itself, it seems to me, does not necessarily mean that the practice is not a little weird in the context of Wikipedia, but it does make it a bit harder for me to explain why.
Finally, the question of what people do in languages other than English has no bearing at all. I feel free to state this with total conviction because I know for a fact that English is one of very few languages in the world where everything doesn't have to be either a "he" or "she" with no choice, or any feeling at all about it being even a symbolic reference to actual gender. If you've ever taken basic French or Spanish, you know that it's very rare, impossible in most cases, to use a pronoun for anything without assigning it a gender. This is just grammatical gender and has nothing to do with actual gender in most cases, and even when it does, it's unavoidable. The use of "it" and other "gender-free" language is only even thinkable in English and a few other languages.
Hope this helps!Chrisrus (talk) 07:15, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
In my multilingual household, the car changes gender from masculine (when we're speaking in Spanish or Catalan) to feminine (in French) to neuter (in English) several times a day! It's still the same old 1984 Peugeot 205 and, while I'd love it to reproduce itself... The idea that the use of the feminine gender to refer to means of transport in English is somehow "sexist language" is utterly ridiculous. Are the Japanese somehow less sexist than Europeans simply because they speak a language with no grammatical gender? Orwell would have laughed at such idiocy, a true thoughtcrime if ever there was one! Physchim62 (talk) 12:54, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

The U.S. military regularly uses "it" for ships

It's simply not true that ships are always called "she" by maritime authorities. For example, the official U.S. Coast Guard Magazine style guide says "Do not use the pronoun she in reference to ships. Use it instead." One can find many uses of "it" to refer to ships in U.S. military publications. I would say that "she" is more popular overall, but "it" is also quite popular, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with using "it". Here's a recent example: "Haitian patients began arriving on the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort even as the ship approached its anchorage this morning." The source: Garamone J. USNS Comfort arrives in Haiti, begins treating earthquake victims. 2010-01-20. American Forces Press Service. Eubulides (talk) 07:14, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

Now we're getting somewhere: we have reliable sources that prefer it! I have to say that this is a relief for me, as I'm not really a big fan of she (but I think it's quaint, not sexist).
That leaves the question, what do we do? Both she and it seem to be standard English, so maybe we should apply the usual rule of "follow the first major contributor"? Ozob (talk) 12:36, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
I think that Lloyd's List uses "it" as well, but I haven't been able to find a source for that (most of the LL site is behind a pay-barrier). Physchim62 (talk) 12:54, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
First, I never said anything about "other languages." I said "Russians" who are "people who live in other countries" that use english. To combat systemic bias on Wikipedia, the difficulty of obtaining resources from those countries should not mean that "english-speaking" countries get WP:Undue Weight.
Second, the latest (15th) Edition of the Chicago Manual of Style states on page 356:
"When a pronoun is used to refer to a vessel, the neuter it or its (rather than she or he) is generally preferred."
Of course, Chicago is mostly used by Americans, but I assume that it should be relevant nonetheless to quite a few people here. Airborne84 (talk) 14:41, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
The USN regularly names vessels after male former presidents and (predominantly) male sailors. The cognative dissonance of calling a so-named ship "she" effectively forced their change of practice. May I observe that many works avoid the pronominal entirely (we may presume for this reason). As it is unnecessary, why not simply use "the ship" or "the Concordia" or "S.V. Concordia". This approach is consistent with WP:ENGVAR#Opportunities_for_commonality. User:LeadSongDog come howl 17:27, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
I don't think the style guide needs to address this.
As a rule, the longer you make instructions, the less likely they are to be read. And as far as I know, this is the first time the issue has come up here. Maurreen (talk) 17:42, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
Especially, there is no need to avoid pronouns. That makes for unnatural writing. Maurreen (talk) 17:44, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
I'm not saying it has to be added, but there's an argument to do so. If Chicago added this to its style guide, it probably did so for a reason. I'll bet that other comprehensive style guides include this topic also. And no one is suggesting that the Wikipedia MoS needs to be a concise document that facilitates one complete, easy reading. It's a reference document. In that light, it's appropriate to add relevant material. Consider that the section on Double spacing at the end of sentences was added because people asked what rule should be used. If it makes the article better, include it. Airborne84 (talk) 18:32, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
Ok, so given all this; what do you all think I should do the next time someone changes the word "she" to "it" in the article Essex (whaleship)? (I recommend reading the article, it's very interesting story about the inspriation for Moby Dick!) Should I revert it back to "she" or leave it? (When I say "I", I mean "we")Chrisrus (talk) 20:47, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
Follow WP:BRD. They make a bold change. You revert it (if you think it necessary). Then you initiate a discussion on the talk page to talk it over and come to an agreement. Airborne84 (talk) 23:25, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
If it really is a WP:ENGVAR issue, however, then it's not merely a matter of BRD; the person who changes it is violating the principle that we should use the style of the first major contributor. Ozob (talk) 00:22, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
But wouldn't this be an opportunity for commonality? Any reader would understand "it." Darkfrog24 (talk) 01:50, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
I did revert it the first time, no one objected, and so it remains with several shes and hers, but I wasn't sure then, am not sure now, and am not confident I'll be sure in the future. No one objected or responded and the only person to "work it out" with was myself, so that's why I came here.
Let me phrase the question differently. What will wikipedia do if someone changes all the "she"s to "it"s in the article Essex (whaleship)? Personally, I'm going to sit back and watch. Chrisrus (talk) 02:38, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
Well, the danger is that someone will furiously revert, barking that all ships are she. The user who originally made the change may violently revert again, shouting that she is blatant misogyny. Then we have an edit war, and even UN peacekeepers won't be able to help. I think we've seen in this thread that ships can be called she or it in many varieties of standard modern English. I don't really see an opportunity for commonality, since we have to choose a pronoun (unless we want to discourage pronouns entirely in favor of the ship or some other neutral phrase). Everyone will understand both she and it (in a lot of sentences you can just swap one for the other and still make sense). I don't really see the point of switching from one to the other, so if it happened to an article I was watching I'd probably just ignore it (unless it made the article inconsistent or changed a quotation). We have the WP:ENGVAR rules for cases when people really don't want to let it go, and I guess I'd follow those if it ever became an issue. Ozob (talk) 03:39, 23 February 2010 (UTC)

←There seem to be a few misconceptions here. A criticism raised in an earlier discussion was contributors solely commented with their own style viewpoints or preferences rather than referring to authoritative sources. So, I'm including quoted text. Please fold the individual quotes into hatboxes if needed.

Most of the women I know—at least those that refer to their car as anything other than "my car", refer to their own vehicle using the feminine pronoun or a female forename. In no way is it comparable to anthropomorphizing. The suggestion that means in "entering" and "driving" the vehicle they perform a lesbian sexual act is completely without basis. Neither, does a male referring to their car as female carry any such negative connotation of control, sexual or otherwise. When we embrace the notion of "pioneering" one method onsite because of ideology, we divert from our policy mandate Wikipedia is not a soapbox.

The published reputable style guides I looked at overwhelmingly make clear ships should be referred to as she. Of those that referred to the 'alternative' it form, advice restricts to: adopt a consistent form within an article; none indicated they hold she offensive or undesirable, and nor should we. –Whitehorse1 17:41, 25 February 2010 (UTC)

There's already a guideline for ship pronouns

There's a guideline on this topic already, at Wikipedia:WikiProject Ships/Guidelines #Pronouns. Eubulides (talk) 04:35, 23 February 2010 (UTC)

Hey! Thanks! Who knew we had a ship article guideline!
So, how does this apply to my original question (which, as you may recall, was "Someone changed all the shes and hers to its in the article Essex (whaleship), and I changed it back. Was I wrong?)
I think it's saying that I should not have reverted the edit, because if both are acceptable, anyone can come along and change it from one form to the other for whatever reason they might have and Wikipedia shouldn't care. I predict that this will eventually result in the fading away of this traditional practice on Wikipedia. Chrisrus (talk) 06:08, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
No, the general principle is that when two forms are acceptable, you keep the existing one unless there's a consensus to change it. This minimizes useless thrashing. That's the idea behind WP:RETAIN, which is not exactly on point here, but pretty close. --Trovatore (talk) 09:42, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
Ok, so I did the right thing, then, by reverting it to "she". I should have given my reason as "no clear consensus" to make this change. Chrisrus (talk) 15:55, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
I would be even harder and say "no clear reasons". In the case of the Essex, the article is historical and about a ship which was the inspiration for a well known work of literature: I would see a clear reason for preferring the choice of pronoun used in the sources (even if there are no verbatim quotes) and Moby-Dick. I haven't checked, but I shall assume that they use "she" and not "it", simply from the dates. But there's no reason either to change the pronouns in Ady Gil (no verbatim quotes here either) from "it" to "she", that would be a waste of time with no benefit to the encyclopedia! Physchim62 (talk) 16:37, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
How about "No clear reason given; explain on "discuss" page before repeating"? Or better yet "Please explain your reasoning on the article's talk page. Guidelines as stand urge we revert to status quo ante pending discussion in such cases." Or some such. Chrisrus (talk) 01:16, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Good find, Eubulides. I would add though, that WikiProject guidelines can be useful resources, but individual WikiProjects cannot make site-global en-wiki 'binding' Guidelines. I'm in agreement with other commenters in this subsection. If a pre-existing accepted style is used that should normally be retained, and be consistent. –Whitehorse1 17:41, 25 February 2010 (UTC)


I'd like to bring up the subject of collages. After a request for one in the Graphics Lab and the statement "Milan... Like most important cities, they nowadays have collages", and having seen several quite unimpressive collages floating around Wikipedia, I started looking around to see if the use of collages on WP had been addressed. I found almost literally nothing. So, I would like to start a discussion with my own opinion on the matter...

I tend to think collages are unencyclopedic. I think grouping images in a gallery is good, peppering an article with relevant images is good, but simply pasting a bunch together for the sake of trying to make a stylish picture is not good and just adds unencyclopedic clutter. I would hate to see a trend in that direction.

Below is a random sampling of collages in use at Wikipedia...

Thoughts? JBarta (talk) 21:37, 21 February 2010 (UTC)

Another thought... these collages could potentially be troublesome from a copyright perspective. It's not a stretch to suppose User uploads a collage that is "his own work", yet the individual images making up that collage are grabbed from hither and yon. (and yon might get just a little pissed off about that) JBarta (talk) 23:06, 21 February 2010 (UTC)

They don't seem encyclopedic, but I'm not sure it's a matter for the style guide. Maurreen (talk) 06:32, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
You seem to be correct. Apparently there is a separate guide for images. You'd think I should have known that. Five years around here and I still feel like a rat in a maze. JBarta (talk) 07:36, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
Not to worry; it is a maze. Maurreen (talk) 17:38, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

Update (if anyone is interested): I've added a guideline on the use of collages on the image use policy page. JBarta (talk) 03:49, 24 February 2010 (UTC)

Thanks. Maurreen (talk) 04:25, 24 February 2010 (UTC)

Informative headings, subheadings, sub-subheadings, etc.

During five weeks in January and February, I have been maintaining Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive Directory, especially by adding links to archived sections, subsections, and sub-subsections. I have become even more aware than I previously was of how uninformative some headings, subheadings, and sub-subheadings are in regard to their content.

The headings in the Directory contain information which can be classified roughly in two categories: topical information and attitudinal information. (A more accurate name than "attitudinal information" is "non-topical information".) Topical information in a heading is useful for a person who is using a set of archived discussions to search for past discussions about a specific topic. It is also useful for a person who is using an active discussion page to search for current discussions about a specific topic.

Attitudinal information (sometimes the only information in a heading) has very limited value for such purposes. Please consider the following examples from the headings, subheadings, and sub-subheadings from WP:MOSA: Much ado about nothing, Puzzlement and question, Clarifying where we stand, Fresh start?, My main concern, Never understood, New proposal, Better Questions to be Asking, A proposal to simplify all of this, Removal, Arguments, New Proposal, Minor dispute, Two writing peeves, Where to go for help?, Question, What we are now discussing, Convoluted, This is getting out of control, Opinions sought, Addition, Where is this supposed to be used?, Time to reflect, Another unclear but significant change, Vague proposal, Observation, Request for input, Query, MOS thoughts, Need Help with this, Desperately unimportant question, Intuition, Compulsion, Over 5 days later, Groan, Reprieve, An example of a serious conflict, Opportunity to make friends, Consistency, Request for comment, Unclear statement, Unnecessary sentence?, Spot plague, A sentence that needs revising, Which has precedence?, Second opinion, Minor inconsistency, Off-topic question, Straw poll, Moving forward again, How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?, A grammatical mystery, Feedback request, Another query, diatribe, Curiouser and curiouser, A proposal, Bumbety-bump, Poor example, Hard to understand, More picky comments, New proposal, Move to close, and Request.

The following examples are topical but not informative enough: Y not?, The, That, Tennis, Follow the sources, and Summary done.

I wish to encourage all editors to think carefully when choosing headings for sections, subheadings for subsections, sub-subheadings for sub-subsections, and so forth. In Wikipedia:Talk page guidelines#New topics and headings on talk pages, point 3 says the following.

  • Keep headings on topics related to the article. It should be clear from the heading which aspect of the article you wish to discuss. Do not write "This article is wrong" but address the specific issue you want to discuss.

One way to indicate the aspect of the Manual of Style is by mentioning the heading, subheading, or sub-subheading used in the Manual. I wish to encourage editors to be bold in revising headings when it is necessary to make them more clearly refer to the topics of their sections.

It is true that a clear heading sometimes clarifies an unclear subheading, but if someone wishes to make a link directly to a subsection from a different page, the context is often unclear without the editor who follows the link scrolling up on the page to see the heading. Therefore, I suggest that a subheading repeat the wording of its heading, with one or more additional words added.

If an editor starting a new section wishes to present attitudinal information, it is better to do so in the body of the section itself. However, if it is in the heading, placing the topical information first is more helpful for readers searching through lists of headings.

Choosing headings, subheadings, sub-subheadings, and so forth is a skill which we all can improve with practice. For more information, please see the following external pages.

-- Wavelength (talk) 21:39, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Talk page guidelines#Editing comments (permanent link here), sub-subsection "Others' comments", point 12 of 18, says the following.

  • Section headings: Because threads are shared by multiple editors (regardless how many have posted so far), no one, including the original poster, "owns" a talk page discussion or its heading. It is generally acceptable to change headings when a better header is appropriate, e.g. one more descriptive of the content of the discussion or the issue discussed, less one-sided, more appropriate for accessibility reasons, etc. To avoid disputes it is best to discuss a heading change with the editor who started the thread, if possible, when a change is likely to be controversial. It can also sometimes be appropriate to merge entire sections under one heading (often preserving the later one as a subheading) if their discussions are redundant.

-- Wavelength (talk) 22:03, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

Template:Passive voice

Is this the right place to discuss the recently created template {{Passive voice}}? It looks like a style guideline template, but does not reflect what is stated at Wikipedia:MOS#Passive voice. The {{Copyedit}} template seems adequate for the occasions where the passive voice is used excessively and inappropriately. --Boson (talk) 06:16, 25 February 2010 (UTC)

I think they should both be killed. Maurreen (talk) 06:20, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Strong ditto. SlimVirgin TALK contribs 06:25, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Who uses words like "obfuscates" and "stilted" these days? The Passive voice template is indeed horrible! The copyedit one could be better but it does makes its point well. --Jubilee♫clipman 07:03, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Considering that we recently rephrased the passive voice section from "SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE" to "valid encyclopedic expression," perhaps the passive voice template is no longer necessary. Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:29, 25 February 2010 (UTC)

How does the template contradict Wikipedia:MOS#Passive voice? What else is wrong with it (or would require violence)? Hyacinth (talk) 16:46, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

It doesn't ...if one bothers to read the whole thing carefully and interpret it absolutely literally. In practice, it leaves Wikipedia editors with the impression that the passive voice is inherently undesirable. So it's not literally deceptive, but it does end up causing some problems. The template for weasel words will cover cases in which the passive voice should be changed to active. Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:34, 27 February 2010 (UTC)

Value of templates?

I wonder how effective cleanup tags are in general.Maurreen (talk) 07:05, 25 February 2010 (UTC)

I wonder how effective any editorial templates are. We have pages tagged as unreferenced from 2006, for example... I'd bin the lot, after all we should be actually doing the work rather than plopping a little note on the article and moving swiftly on! Rant over. --Jubilee♫clipman 07:15, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Exactly. Rant just beginning. SlimVirgin TALK contribs 07:18, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
I wonder if we can start a movement. Maurreen (talk) 07:20, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Keep me posted! I'd sign up to that --Jubilee♫clipman 07:23, 25 February 2010 (UTC)

I agree, {{Passive voice}} is too LOAD and broadbrush.
However, I suggest Wikipedia:MOS#Passive voice should give some actual guidance, e.g. "Active passive is actually more concise, clear and vivid. However, the passive voice may occasionally used, e.g. to give variation, or clarify the order, or avoid long or repeating list of names of agents." --Philcha (talk) 07:27, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
When to use passive depends entirely on context. If we give any general advice here, some editors will use it like a sledgehammer, that's the problem. SlimVirgin TALK contribs 07:29, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Exactly. The template seems to say "do not use passive voice or we'll all come round and beat you up!" Not useful... --Jubilee♫clipman 07:34, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
We've had editors who've gone around removing passive voice wherever they see it, no matter how oddly written it leaves the sentences, because they read on some website that passive voice is always bad. The last thing we need is to weaponize them with a template. :) SlimVirgin TALK contribs 08:50, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
When something isn't perfect you don't need to "kill" it, you could improve it. Hyacinth (talk) 16:49, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
Yes. I think the best any style guide can do is draw attention to the different effects of active and passive voice. (MoS doesn't actually do that at the moment, so great is its (correct) desire to leave the editor to make the choice—perhaps we should add a couple of examples.) This idea that goes round from time to time—that passive voice is always bad—is patently ludicrous. Myself I'm not against editorial templates in principle; {{Unreferenced-section}}, for example, may encourage the right response. But this one I don't like: as Philcha says (even though I think he wants to keep it), it's too broad-brush—and will remain so in effect whatever wording changes it undergoes. Tagging an entire article invites a broad-brush attack on passive voice in that article. Delete the template! PL290 (talk) 09:21, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Not that you'll be successful (although, I have been surprised before...), but I support any effort to deprecate/delete/remove any and all "cleanup templates". (PS:especially something as inane as {{Passive voice}}. My apologies in advance to the contributors towards that template, but it strikes me as a phenomenally stupid idea for a template! If the reasons given above are insufficient to convince anyone reading this that the template is inane, feel free to come talk to me on my talk page, where I'll gladly read you the riot act about the idiocy behind the criticism of the Passive Voice.)
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 09:44, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Has anyone nominated it for TfD, yet? I haven't checked. Perhaps we should, if not? --Jubilee♫clipman 10:07, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Ah... Template_talk:Article_issues#Passive_voice is where this started... --Jubilee♫clipman 10:15, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
  • Let me display my basest instinct. The copyedit and related tags show our readers that in WP's opinion, the article is not up to scratch in certain respects. There's a vast difference between blaming WP for dishing up bad prose or insufficient verification, as many people out there do, and having flagged that WP agrees with them on a particular article. It's a PR thing. Tony (talk) 10:33, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Tags for *intended* for readers (non-editors) might have some value. But I don't see these that way. Maurreen (talk) 10:42, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
We could make them look that way (or you could try and see them that way). Hyacinth (talk) 16:50, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
The {{Passive voice}} template should be deleted. Just try rephrasing that sentence accurately so as to use the active voice, and you will see how inane the template actually is! Physchim62 (talk) 10:49, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
The {{Passive voice}} template should be deleted by us [the missing assumed words] → we should delete the {{Passive voice}} template. To be fair... --Jubilee♫clipman 11:00, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Inaccurate. An admin should delete {{Passive voice}} after a discussion at TfD, and I have now started such a discussion. "Us" in this case would be ambiguous. ;) It's a classic use of the passive voice in a situation in which the identity of the active subject is irrelevant in comparison to the result of the action. Physchim62 (talk) 12:48, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
That's equivocating on two different connotations of the word "delete". "Delete" can refer both to the actual action of deleting, an admin function, as well to the process the community uses to decide that the article is not to be kept; in the latter respect, the admin's action is nothing more than the distillation of the community's action into a software function. =) Powers T 13:28, 25 February 2010 (UTC)

It is my opinion that such editorial templates are inspirational in nature, as well as (as Tony points out) advisory. Powers T 13:28, 25 February 2010 (UTC)

Indeed! It inspired me to take it straight to TfD! Physchim62 (talk) 13:39, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
I was not commenting specifically on the merits of Template:Passive voice. Powers T 14:26, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Oh, bullshit. This refrain has been unthinkingly repeated so often that it's turned into a cliche. I might buy into the idea if there weren't things such as Category:Orphaned articles from August 2006. 2006! There are hundreds of thousands of instances of these cleanup templates strewn inconsistently across the landscape, and despite any and all supposed intentions they've turned into permanent fixtures on many articles.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 20:25, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Just because these maintenance categories aren't worked thoroughly doesn't mean that they are useless. I just worked on a few articles from the category you mentioned, which I probably would have never encountered if they weren't tagged. That's not a big dent in the 300+ articles in the category, and clearly there is a lot of neglect of these tags, but I think the way forward lies with finding ways to work the tagged articles, not to stop using cleanup tags. (Which, by the way, is not intended as a defense of every specific tag, some of which are not particularly helpful.) --RL0919 (talk) 21:52, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
It's not that their "useless", or really a comment on the (perceived/potential/actual) utility of the tags at all which causes me to criticize the templates (mostly) in Category:Cleanup templates, though. To me, the main issue with these tags is ironically the precise the reason that they are so often used: they cause an editorial issue simply by their presence. There's been a general tenant on Wikipedia that editorial items should be on the talk page, limiting the material on the articles themselves to content as much as possible. This basic idea underlies at least parts of several policies and guidelines, such as Wikipedia:External links, Wikipedia:Editing policy, and others. The only reason that I point out the "backlog" is that it's really not a "backlog". It's unfortunately become apparent that there are many editors who feel that the tags themselves are somehow an important component of the actual content. Their being used not in order to create a work list or anything, but to present the message itself.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 23:06, 25 February 2010 (UTC)

The only templates I normally use are {{RoughTranslation}} and the contradiction templates, because if I can't understand the English then I can't fix it, and similarly I don't know which side of a contradiction to believe. Otherwise, if I can fix it, how can I expect someone else to know what I am somehow ordering them to fix? Furthermore, a cleanup tag doesn't induce me to clean it up; it induces me to avoid the article and clean up something else instead, thus sidestepping the questions of whether to remove the tag and whether the tagger's concerns have been corrected. Art LaPella (talk) 15:08, 25 February 2010 (UTC)

The only time I add a template is when I am unable to actually do the work myself and the issue is either not immeadiately obvious from a quick scan of the article or is so important that it needs immeadiate resolution (eg {{BLP unsourced}}). I also think these templates should be on the talk page (though a clear disclaimer could be included on the article page if sourcing issues are involved). They distract the reader by (apparently) saying "this article is rubbish because..." Editors always need to be aware of these issues, readers rarely do. --Jubilee♫clipman 23:33, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
well, some templates actually serve as reader warnings (NPOV and other content disputes, for instance) - those shouldn't go on talk pages. I hate to admit it, but I will sometimes template a section that I mean to come back to later, just as a written reminder for myself. I could go either way on the wiki-ethics of that...--Ludwigs2 01:10, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

You might all wish to peruse this essay which span off from this discussion --Jubilee♫clipman 14:21, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

While some articles are tagged a bit excessively, the templates do tell readers of potential problems in the article. In doing so, the templates may encourage readers to make an edit to improve the article so the template is no longer needed. Simply because some pages have been tagged for an extended amount of time doesn't mean that the templates don't serve their purpose, it simply means that they haven't served their purpose for that page.Smallman12q (talk) 02:48, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

Move selected clean-up templates to talk pages?

The main value of clean-up templates seems to be that they place the article into a clean-up category. People interested in doing that type of work can peruse the category. The same purpose would be accomplished by putting the templates on the talk pages, without detracting from the reader experience.

This would not apply to templates indicating substantive concerns, such as about the accuracy. Maurreen (talk) 14:19, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

Actually I second that. What about the[dead link] inlines though? Those can only[neutrality is disputed] go in the text[citation needed] and they can be even more distracting[dubious ] --Jubilee♫clipman 03:10, 2 March 2010 (UTC)

Size of archival pages

During five weeks in January and February, I have been maintaining Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive Directory, especially by adding links to archived sections, subsections, and sub-subsections. I have become even more aware than I previously was of how varied the archival pages are in regard to size, number of sections, and number of bytes. The latest one, Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 113, already has 57 sections. Who or what determines when an archival page is closed and a new one is started? -- Wavelength (talk) 21:39, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

Normally it's the call to User:MiszaBot/config at the start of this talk page. Currently it specifies |maxarchivesize=500K, which sounds about right. You don't want archives too small (as we can't handle hundreds and hundreds of them) and you don't want them too large (they take too long to download). Eubulides (talk) 22:00, 22 February 2010 (UTC)
I clicked the "edit this page" tab for Archive 113, and read "This page is 416 kilobytes long." -- Wavelength (talk) 01:15, 23 February 2010 (UTC)

Here is a list of 120 numbered archives, showing the number of kilobytes beside each one that indicated the size when I clicked "edit this page", and showing a blank for each existing one that did not.

-- Wavelength (talk) 21:10, 23 February 2010 (UTC)

Many of those archives are way too small. If someone has the time, I suggest coalescing the archives so that each page is about 500 kilobytes. The result should be a much smaller (and more manageable) number of archive pages. Eubulides (talk) 21:26, 23 February 2010 (UTC)
I have done that on several talk pages, especially after I convert to bot archiving. I agree that 500K is about right, but 750K is not unreasonable. I also would not object to someone combining the older arc hives to reduce the number and increase the size of each. The only question I might have is, are there links for reference purposes to any of the archives? If so, they should be updated so that they point to the new archive number. Vegaswikian (talk) 03:00, 24 February 2010 (UTC)
OTOH, archive 108 is too big! Are people archiving manually? Does the Bot have days off? Confused... --Jubilee♫clipman 07:08, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Please don't change things unless you are willing to update the "what links here" links (and section links). And then again, I doubt it's worth it since many discussions refers to "Archive 83" and "Archive 102" without linking. We'd be breaking a lot of discussions. Headbomb {ταλκκοντριβς – WP Physics} 15:46, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Please do not cause short pages to coalesce. (English has many verbs ending in "esce" [4], but I have only known them to be used intransitively. See also Inchoative verb and Inchoative aspect.) Please do not split any pages which are deemed to be too long. I brought attention to the variety in the size of the archival pages so that good decisions can be made in regard to page length from this moment on.
-- Wavelength (talk) 19:59, 25 February 2010 (UTC)
Seconded - please do not split, nor merge, any of these archives. They probably contain incoming links. I think 500k is a bit of the high side, though (but again, any change should be on a go-forward basis). –xenotalk 19:41, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

I have just sent a message to User:Misza13, who operates the archiving program. (I recommend that every user who operates an archiving program also watchlist every talk page archived by the program.) -- Wavelength (talk) 19:43, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

Why? He's simply the bot-writer. The bot itself is essentially operated by the user who places the archival tag. –xenotalk 19:51, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
User:MiszaBot says "This user account is a bot operated by Misza13 (talk)." -- Wavelength (talk) 20:02, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

At User talk:Misza13#Size of archival pages (permanent link here), User:Wwoods provided the following information.

Checking the edit histories, the small ones were done manually. The large ones were done by the bot, but sometimes the counter gets stuck, so it keeps adding to old archives as well as to the one that's supposed to be active. See 108, 109, & 110.

-- Wavelength (talk) 20:44, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

Passive voice

Could I add the following text to the Passive voice section:

For example, biographical articles often are primarily in the active voice ("he wrote his final book") while articles about scientific subjects are often primarily in the passive voice ("the first atomic bomb was tested in New Mexico").

? Hyacinth (talk) 16:44, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

These generalizations are problematic. It really does depend entirely on meaning and context, and the flow of the sentences around it. SlimVirgin TALK contribs
[Since there are none,] what context, what flow of what sentences? Hyacinth (talk) 16:55, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
Notice that the "Passive voice" section is one sentence while the "Nouns" section is paragraphs. It's like you and Wikipedia are telling me it's too complicated to explain, which gives me little confidence in either of you. Hyacinth (talk) 17:15, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
I mean, let's make it a manual! Hyacinth (talk) 17:27, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

How about:

For example, biographical articles often are primarily in the active voice while articles about scientific subjects are often primarily in the passive voice.

? Hyacinth (talk) 16:55, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

I believe it flunks the reality test. I opened two books about scientific subjects (The ABC of Relativity by Bertrand Russell, and The New Cosmos by Albrecht Unsöld) to a random page. I found only one passive sentence out of the first ten sentences from Russell ("Such an interval is called 'space-like.'") and zero out of ten from Unsöld. "Often" must not mean very often. Art LaPella (talk) 19:19, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
Opening The Feynman Lectures on Physics at random: "For instance, two sections of waveguide are usually connected together by means of flanges, as can be seen in Fig. 24–9. Such connections can, however, cause serious energy losses, because the surface currents must flow across the joint, which may have a relatively high resistance. One way to avoid such losses is to make the flanges as shown in the cross section drawn in Fig. 24–10. A small space is left between the adjacent sections of the guide, and a groove is cut in the face of one of the flanges to make a small cavity of the type shown in Fig. 23–16(c). The dimensions are chosen so that this cavity is resonant at the frequency being used." (All emphasis mine.) YMMV, of course. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 20:47, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
Opening A Student's Introduction to English Grammar at random:* "Some writers on scientific topics appear to think that passives are required for objectivity (The mice were anaesthetised rather than We anaesthetised the mice). At the other extreme, some usage books and style guides insist that the passive is better avoided altogether. Both policies are excessive: passives are fully grammatical and acceptable, and a passive is often the right stylistic choice." [Italics in the original, underlining mine.]
* I can't lie convincingly, can I? ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 20:57, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
Examining your example: three of the past participles that you italicise are being used adjectivally, without the associated copular verb that would render it a passive verb. So you are left with 6 passive verbs. On the other hand, to highlight the active verbs: "For instance, two sections of waveguide are usually connected together by means of flanges, as can be seen in Fig. 24–9. Such connections can, however, cause serious energy losses, because the surface currents must flow across the joint, which may have a relatively high resistance. One way to avoid such losses is to make the flanges as shown in the cross section drawn in Fig. 24–10. A small space is left between the adjacent sections of the guide, and a groove is cut in the face of one of the flanges to make a small cavity of the type shown in Fig. 23–16(c). The dimensions are chosen so that this cavity is resonant at the frequency being used." So the balance is 6-5 in favour of passive verbs: scarcely grounds for describing this style as primarily written in the passive voice. Kevin McE (talk) 12:19, 27 February 2010 (UTC)
Some past participles are adjectives, but I don't think it's the case here: they are non-finite clauses corresponding to the finite clauses "as it is shown", "which is drawn" etc. ("Shown picture" and "drawn cross section" would sound weird.) But my point was not that; it was that the "density" of passive voices can vary widely even across texts on the same topic (in this case, physics). ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 13:42, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Lying is a thing best left to experts.  ;-) --Jubilee♫clipman 21:18, 26 February 2010 (UTC)
Great, but we're not writing the Bertrand Russell "Manual of Style". Hyacinth (talk) 01:32, 27 February 2010 (UTC)

"Some writers of manuals try avoid any actual guidelines or advice. Others try to give a little bit of guidance. The best approach may depend on context."

"Some people think one should always carry an umbrella. Some people think this is absurd. The best approach may vary, depending on context." Of course, the context may be described: rain or the lack.

So. What are the contexts? Does A Student's Introduction to English Grammar have any advice? Hyacinth (talk) 01:38, 27 February 2010 (UTC)

The real problem with your suggestions, Hyacinth, is that almost everything we put in the Wikipedia MoS is interpreted as a rule. Yes, the whole MoS is marked as a guideline. Yes, you used the word "primarily" in appropriate places. There will still be editors who will take it to mean only write bio articles in the active voice and only write scientific articles in the passive voice. Then they go changing someone else's legit passive to active or vice versa, and we get edit wars. No, it shouldn't work this way, but it does. Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:38, 27 February 2010 (UTC)
The main problem, for me, is that the use of the passive or active voice in a particular sentence does not depend on the subject matter of the article; it depends on what you want to write about the topic. So biographical articles may contain a lot of information on what happened to a person:
  • Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 . . .
  • She was sexually assaulted . . .
  • Ruth Ellis was the last woman to be executed in the United Kingdom. She was convicted of the murder of her lover, David Blakely, and hanged at Holloway Prison, London by Albert Pierrepoint.
  • She was arrested immediately.
and a scientific article may contain lots of statements about the action of a substance:
  • Atropine increases firing of the sinoatrial node (SA) and conduction through the atrioventricular node (AV) of the heart, opposes the actions of the vagus nerve, blocks acetylcholine receptor sites, and decreases bronchial secretions. In general, atropine lowers the parasympathetic activity of all muscles and glands regulated by the parasympathetic nervous system. This occurs because atropine is a competitive antagonist of the muscarinic acetylcholine receptors . . . Therefore, it may cause swallowing difficulties and reduced secretions.
--Boson (talk) 10:43, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

I'm not going to avoid writing "2+2=4" because "someone" "out there" MIGHT interpret it as "2-2=6". I think living one's life that way might qualify one for a psychological diagnosis.

However, if you look at what I wrote, the last thing I asked was, what are the (more specific) contexts (implying: if not article subject)? And for use in explaining those contexts, where did you derive the supposed knowledge you are trying to explain to me from? Presumably that source or those sources would be of assistance. Hyacinth (talk) 11:38, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

How about:

For example, on Wikipedia details in biographical articles often are in the active voice while details in articles about scientific subjects are often in the passive voice.

? Hyacinth (talk) 11:48, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

I don't think choice of active vs. passive voice is something we should give any guidance on. For editors with a healthy sense of language it's unnecessary. For editors with no such sense there is a huge danger that they will interpret it in ways it wasn't intended and then defend bad style against other editors who know what they are doing. This is not a hypothetical danger; it happens all the time with the MOS, and it happens all the time with style advice in printed books, especially when it concerns active/passive voice.
I don't see the value in the sentence you are proposing. We want the relevant parts of MOS to be read and understood. Drowning them in irrelevancies is not going to help. E.g. we could also have a section explaining the origins of small letters in Carolingian minuscules. That would be similarly helpful. Hans Adler 11:52, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
What Hans says. The choice is so often based on a number of criteria. These subtleties are difficult to express in a style guide. Tony (talk) 11:57, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
Hyacinth: the last thing I asked was, what are the (more specific) contexts (implying: if not article subject)?
I attempted to address that. Though there may (or may not) be some correlation, that is not helpful in choosing what to write and is thus of limited relevance. The important "context" is not whether the article is about a biographical or scientific topic but (for instance) the immediate context of a given part of the article. However, even this context is of limited relevance; what matters is what you want to say about the topic, and in what order.
I agree with what others have written: it would not be easy to offer succinct advice on use of the active or passive voice. If we wanted to give such advice (which I don't really think we do), the following points might be more relevant than the article topic:
  1. The prose is often more readable (and "encyclopedic") if sentences and other structures begin with something known and end with new information; longer phrases are also better placed toward the end of a sentence. Judicious use of the active and passive voice may help achieve this desired positioning.
  2. Sometimes the person responsible for an action is unknown or irrelevant, or is best mentioned in a later sentence. In such cases, the passive voice is often appropriate.
  3. To maintain a consistent perspective, it is often appropriate for the grammatical subject of consecutive sentences to be a noun phrase or pronoun representing the general topic of the article. If that subject is the agent of the action, it will be natural to use the active voice, but if the subject is the target of an action the passive will be more natural.
In an article on John F. Kennedy, for instance, the section on his assassination might naturally begin
"President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time on November 22, 1963, while on a political trip to Texas . . .
He was shot once in the upper back and was killed with a final shot to the head.
He was pronounced dead at 1:00 p.m."
The passive voice is used because we are talking about Kennedy and he was the target of the action. The fact that this section is in the context of a biographical article is completely irrelevant. In an article about Lee Harvey Oswald, the same information might have been presented using the active voice.
--Boson (talk) 13:02, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
If it really were a "might," Hyacinth, then I might agree with you, but with regard to the MoS being interpreted as absolute rules, then it's more of a "has been in the past, repeatedly, and is extremely likely to be again."
If you feel strongly about the passive voice, you could always submit an essay about it. Darkfrog24 (talk) 21:01, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
Hyacinth, the SIEG is a grammar, not a style guide, but it does briefly describe the difference in focus between the active and passive voices, and what it says is essentially what Boson explained. I guessed that any native speaker of any nominative–accusative language with SVO default word order and a passive voice sufficiently similar to English would understand that intuitively, but apparently I was wrong. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 13:42, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────What's this? Bash Hyacinth Day? Well, that's him told I guess. LOL! --Jubilee♫clipman 03:16, 2 March 2010 (UTC)

It doesn't appear that Strunk nor White, or a host of other people, gave up because something, "would not be easy to offer succinct advice on". I believe they simply tried harder.

If "passive voice" is a style issue and not a grammar issue why is it the first thing under the grammar section? Hyacinth (talk) 03:37, 2 March 2010 (UTC)

Strunk and White is meant to be more comprehensive than the MoS is. In general, if the editors already understand something well enough, then the MoS does not need to elaborate on it. The way I see it, the MoS should fix problems for Wikipedia. If problems with the passive vs. active are so rare as to be insignificant, then the MoS does not need an elaborate section on the passive voice. Darkfrog24 (talk) 04:04, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Well, I could have attempted to picked a more general set of heroes, such as a Gandhi or a Roosevelt, but I figured that would actually be more controversial. You seem to have missed my point, and I'm beginning to think some respondents here are either doing it on purpose or taking so little time to read before responding that you may as well have.
There is a difference between, "we shouldn't do this because it would be outside of our intended scope of limited comprehensiveness," and, "we shouldn't do it 'cause it'd be too darn hard!" Hyacinth (talk) 11:00, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
I think you picked the wrong "heroes". [5] Ozob (talk) 12:52, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Yes. In the first sentence of the lead, MoS does indeed declare itself to be a Style guide (wikilinked) and I would say that the point is found in the first sentence of that wikilinked article: "A style guide or style manual is a set of standards for design and writing of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication or organization [my italics]". The latter applies in this case. MoS is not for general use but for defining standards, where necessary, applicable to WP articles. PL290 (talk) 08:55, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Fair enough, Hyacinth. We've given a couple of reasons why we shouldn't add your line about scientific content vs. biographical content: It would either mislead Wikipedia editors or be unnecessarily long and detailed. Can you give us a reason why we should? I don't see that it would help Wikipedia in any way, but if you feel I've overlooked some advantage in it, I'm willing to hear you out. Is there some problem that you believe that line would solve? (Note: I am a proponent of counting real problems only, as in "This happened and I think it'll happen again," and not imaginary problems, "I think that this looks like it would happen.") Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:15, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Whatever Strunk and White attempted to do, they miserably failed. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 16:04, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
I disagree with the professor's unpublished paper: Strunk & White succeeded admirably. I cling to the 1959 edition: it is a simple, straightforward guide that will, if followed, improve most individuals' writing. For every critic, most of whom are unknown outside their immediate families, there are 30 endorsers. Recall W. W. Rouse Ball's retort to criticisms of Euclid's Elements as a text on geometry: "[T]he fact that for two thousand years it was the usual text-book on the subject raises a strong presumption that it is not unsuitable for that purpose." Ball, W.W. Rouse (1960 [1908]), A Short Account of the History of Mathematics (4th ed. ed.), New York: Dover Publications, p. 55, ISBN 0-486-20630-0  Check date values in: |date= (help). While I certainly do not rank Strunk & White with Euclid, its critics are less notable, and worthy, than their target.
As for the main question, I use the passive voice when appropriate. However, far more writing, especially writing that is not edited by professionals, suffers from overuse than from underuse of the passive voice. If a bot accurately converted every passive voice construction in English Wikipedia to the active voice, it would do far more good than harm (although it would do some harm). The idea that the passive voice should be favored in scientific writing because it is prevalent there (to the extent that is the case) is ridiculous. Do you every read patents? Sentence after sentence begins It is well understood that ... [by whom? a person having ordinary skill in the pertinent art? the author's mother?] A long-standing problem has been the ... It will surely be appreciated that ... It is flabby, weak, deliberately vague, and leads to premature hair loss among readers.—Finell 20:10, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
I am not entirely convinced that such a bot would produce an improvement. I just looked at the latest new article that was more than a couple of lines (Bleckley Inn) and I was not sure how a bot would be expected to improve it. Perhaps you really mean "Most sentences that use the passive could be improved by being rewritten" (and some of the improved versions would use the active voice). Of course "It will surely be appreciated that ..." is "flabby" and "weak", but what does that really have to do with the use of the passive? Would you recommend "Someone will surely appreciate that . . .", or "Everybody knows that . . .", or "All right-thinking men know that . . ."? "A long-standing problem has been the . . ." also shows that you do not require the passive voice to achieve the desired degree of imprecision. --Boson (talk) 00:07, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
The passive voice lends itself to these kinds of problems. The passive voice is wordier, which is one strike against it. No one would write an active voice sentence without a grammatical subject as the actor; actor-less passive voice sentences are common. When instructed to write a sentence in the active voice, the writer will usually find a more concrete subject than Somebody or All right-thinking men. To recast my example, Yarn manufacturers know that .... They have been unable to increase productivity for eight years because .... The present invention increases throughput by ....Finell 02:02, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
"A long-standing problem has been the ..." is not in the passive voice. So, if the aim of Strunk and White's guidance about passives was to confuse their readers' ideas of what a passive clause is, they did succeed. :-) ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 09:27, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────How about this as replacement for the current MoS sentence:

When adding material to articles that is overgeneralized, imprecise, flabby, weak, deliberately vague, unsourced, confusing, or badly written in any other way, the choice of whether to do so using the passive voice (this was done) or the active (he did this) depends entirely on the context, and is left to the discretion of editors.

PL290 (talk) 09:54, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

How about: "Editors have no business should avoid adding material to articles that is overgeneralized, imprecise, flabby, weak, deliberately vague, unsourced, confusing, or badly written in any other way". That's probably nearer the mark... --Jubilee♫clipman 10:02, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

You know, I have just realised why the suggestion that we should avoid passive voice stinks: it reeks strongly of prescriptivism. We should not be in the business of telling our editors how to write, by telling them which voice/mood/tense/number/case to use when, but rather of gently suggesting ways to clarify the meaning. Descriptivism has to be the way forward here but only as it pertains to semantics rather than grammar or syntax. Rant over (for now) --Jubilee♫clipman 09:48, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

The MoS is too long already. I see no justification for adding a meaningless passage on this topic. Tony (talk) 12:10, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
The existing "Passive voice" section is not very meaningful, either. Whether to use the present or past tense also depends entirely on the context, as does whether to use the singular or plural number, yadda yadda yadda. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 12:38, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
I disagree, Jubilee. Prescriptivism is not the enemy and it's made out to be one far too often. An MoS is an essentially prescriptive document and if we acknowledge that, we'll make a better one. What we should not do is either make up invented rules or enforce unnecessary ones. That's not "prescriptivism," though. That's just ego.
As for the current passage, we redid it a couple of weeks ago as a reaction to the previous text. Now that the dust has settled, this might be a good time to reexamine it. (talk) 13:21, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
User:A. di M. is right, and this shows the whole point yet again. Except that in the case of passive voice it's become necessary, unfortunately, to make that statement. Maybe it should be moved to the General principles section, subsumed into a general statement about what MoS is and is not prescriptive about, something that perhaps needs to be made clearer anyway. PL290 (talk) 13:43, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

Hyphens vs. dashes in German federal-state names

I searched the archives but didn't find anything directly related, so I ask here now. What exactly is the rationale for using dashes instead of hyphens in names like Mecklenburg-Vorpommern? M-V actually is a conjunction of equal proper nouns (the state was formed through the merger of Mecklenburg and Vorpommern). And what's the difference between such state names and hyphenated (sur)names then?
Please also note this short discussion on Koavf's talk page that includes some interesting aspects. Any input or help (in understanding) appreciated :-) --:bdk: 02:05, 27 February 2010 (UTC)

Also My response, for what it's worth. —Justin (koavf)TCM☯ 02:15, 27 February 2010 (UTC)
bdk is right. Compound names are hyphenated. Endashes are disjunctive in nature, indicating two separate items or places, such as in a "from-to" combination. A "Chicago–Detroit train", for example, is a train that runs from Chicago to Detroit, two separate cities. Were North Rhine-Wetphalia dashed, it would mean the state wasn't one state, but two separate things. As that's not the case, they shouldn't be dashed.
Frankly, it's all the Allies fault. They're the ones who drew the current German state borders. (I kid). oknazevad (talk) 02:36, 27 February 2010 (UTC)
Right That's exactly what they are: two different things. (e.g.) Baden–Württemberg is a state composed of Baden and Württemberg. —Justin (koavf)TCM☯ 08:04, 27 February 2010 (UTC)
But that's just it. Baden and Württemberg no longer have any independence. Baden-Württemberg is a permanent combination, not a temporary connection between two still independent entities. The analogy to a marriage that Ozob cites below is absolutely correct. oknazevad (talk) 19:10, 27 February 2010 (UTC)

This one is an easy call: these are double-barrelled names, not disjuncts. Just to check, I looked at what high-quality English-language sources use. A quick search in Google Scholar for the phrase "Mecklenburg Vorpommern" (with the quotes) shows "Mecklenburg-Vorpommern" (with a hyphen) (doi:10.1002/fedr.200411043, doi:10.1002/iroh.19910760314 [6], [7]) and at this point I stopped looking: clearly the hyphen is more popular in English and this is a double-barreled name. Similarly, a search for "North Rhine Westphalia" showed only hyphens (see, for example, PMID 20159071), so use a hyphen there too, as in "North Rhine-Westphalia". The articles should be moved back to their hyphenated names. Eubulides (talk) 04:00, 27 February 2010 (UTC)

Following Eubulides confirmations, I decided to be slighlty bold and moved the double-barelled states back to the hyphenated versions. (PS, Eubulides, unfixed your sig, which seems to have fallen victim to a bug that's been floating about that causes incomplete signatures.) oknazevad (talk) 06:29, 27 February 2010 (UTC)
MOS What other sources do in terms of styling is not incumbent upon Wikipedia; that's the entire purpose behind a style guide. In point of fact, hyphens are probably more common in cases such as the one given above: "Chicago-Detroit train" is probably a lot more common than "Chicago–Detroit train." Again, this would be where a style guide would function in ignoring what is common (and poor typography) in favor of a consistent internal style. —Justin (koavf)TCM☯ 08:04, 27 February 2010 (UTC)
This argument would be stronger if some high-quality English-language sources used en dashes in German state names. But I found none, despite a search. It's a bit much to claim that a particular usage is "poor typography" when Wiley and Routledge are doing it the "poor" way and nobody is doing it the other way. The MoS says that double-barreled names use hyphens, so this is not a question of using a consistent style; it's a question of whether these names are double-barreled, which they do indeed appear to be. Eubulides (talk) 18:21, 27 February 2010 (UTC)

I think these names should be hyphenated. Consider, as an analogy, the case of surnames. Suppose Mr. Smith marries Miss Jones and they decide to combine their surnames. The usual practice is to write Smith-Jones (with a hyphen), not Smith–Jones (with an en dash). The reason is that Smith and Jones are no longer independent elements of the name: It is now wrong to refer to Mrs. Jones, for example; one can only refer to Mrs. Smith-Jones, formerly Miss Jones. In the same way, it is now incorrect to refer to the German federal state of Schleswig, because the region formerly known Schleswig and the region formerly known as Holstein have been unified, and the name of this unified region is Schleswig-Holstein.

An en dash, on the other hand, is used when the two items being connected are independent. One could talk about the Harz mountain range of Lower Saxony–Saxony-Anhalt–Thuringia because each of those elements is independent and can be used on its own. If Mr. Smith and Miss Jones chose not to get married but instead to start a law firm, one would call the firm Smith–Jones because the names Smith and Jones remain independent. This is not the case for German states, so an en dash is inappropriate. Ozob (talk) 16:24, 27 February 2010 (UTC)

Maybe not quite on-topic, but I've always thought "federal state" is a lousy way of translating the German Bundesstaat. The German word means one of the states in a larger federation. "Federal state" suggests a state that is a federation composed of such smaller units. This seems like a case where a bad translation persists simply because there isn't any good one. Michael Hardy (talk) 16:41, 27 February 2010 (UTC) contrast, translating Eidgenössisch as "Swiss federal" conveys the intended meaning (in those cases where it means that) very well, while losing all of the word's original literal meaning. Michael Hardy (talk) 16:44, 27 February 2010 (UTC)
Actually, Bundesstaat may mean both. I personally only use it in the meaning state that is a federation composed of such smaller units, not for any of the single states. --Rosenzweig (talk) 17:40, 27 February 2010 (UTC)
I hadn't realized the term was used in that other sense. Is there any decent term in German for a state that belongs to a federal union, if that word isn't it? Michael Hardy (talk) 04:47, 1 March 2010 (UTC) the German article linked to above I see the phrase "Gliedstaat eines Gesamtstaats". But Gliedstaat alone seems as if it could be used for other concepts, e.g. a member of the International Postal Union (or whatever it's called). I'll look into this further....... Michael Hardy (talk) 04:51, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Surely "Baden–Württemberg" should be written with a hyphen ... Tony (talk) 05:08, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
No, Gliedstaat has only the desired meaning; you would not apply it to a member of the Postal Union. Its only disadvantage is that it sounds very formal. Bundesstaat usually refers to a cohesive state subdivided into smaller states, as opposed to a Staatenbund, which is a looser federation of states that together form a state. The most common German term for a state that is a member of a bigger state is Bundesland. So a member of a Bundesstaat is typically a Bundesland. The problem is that when we just put together nouns we can't distinguish between "federal" and "federated". However Gliedstaat solves the problem by using "member" instead of "federation" in the compound. Hans Adler 09:50, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

Articles with no lead section

I've noticed a few articles lately that have no lead sections, i.e. they begin with a section heading. Although I've been editing Wikipedia for 6 years and always assumed that a lead section was required before a section heading, I haven't for the life of me been able to find any such requirement in any guidelines. I've checked here, Wikipedia:Layout, Wikipedia:Lead section, etc. Am I just overlooking something obvious, or is this not actually a requirement? Kaldari (talk) 20:23, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

Admittedly the lead of WP:LEAD (which is of course part of WP:MOS) doesn't actually state "there must be a lead", but it refers to the lead rather than a lead if present, and details what the lead should do. So I don't think there can be any doubt that WP:MOS expects all articles to have a lead, which "should be able to stand alone as a concise overview of the article." PL290 (talk) 20:54, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
A stub article with no section headers probably wouldn't having anything describable as a lead, but if an article is long enough for section headers, then it should have some sort of lead, even if it is just a one-sentence "X is a kind of Y" type lead. --RL0919 (talk) 20:57, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Yes. Also, WP:LEAD says that "the section before the table of contents and first heading ... should be able to stand alone as a concise overview of the article". Articles in which this section is empty do not satisfy the guideline. Eubulides (talk) 20:58, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
I can imagine there are a few articles that could do just fine without formal leads, but in general it seems to be understood that articles should have them.
So Wikipedia doesn't have an explicit ("Articles must have leads.") rule on this. Next question: Does it need one? Kaldari, is there a problem with these leadless articles? Are users creating lots of them? Is anyone reverting or fighting when other users add leads? Darkfrog24 (talk) 04:06, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
I've added leads to articles before and never encountered an objection. Most of the articles that lack them are probably either stubs or were created without leads by editors who probably aren't reading the guidelines. If there isn't a problem with people removing leads when editors add them, having a specific rule on the matter seems like unnecessary instruction creep. --RL0919 (talk) 04:18, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Eubulides. As for articles with no headers at all, I take the lead to be coterminous with the article. This is not necessarily a problem if the article is shorter than about a screenful (say, than four paragraphs). ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 16:08, 2 March 2010 (UTC)

MOS is contradicting itself on accessibility

Please change Wikipedia:MOS#Color_coding reads in part "When conveying information via colors, choose colors that are unambiguous (such as maroon and teal) when viewed by a person with red-green color blindness (the most common type)." In several sections of this (and other Wikipedia namespace pages), this is flatly contradicted; e.g. WP:SLASH. This should be changed per this page; any thoughts? —Justin (koavf)TCM☯ 17:58, 2 March 2010 (UTC)

In what sense is there a contradiction? Please bear in mind the next sentence after the one you quoted, namely "Any information conveyed via shades of red and green should also be conveyed in some other way." Eubulides (talk) 18:31, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
I think Justin is saying that the MOS uses green versus red to mean: do this, not this. He has a good point. Since we started using {{!xt}} for examples of incorrect usage, the surrounding text does not always tell the complete story without the color coding. Rather than abandon green versus red, the MOS should also indicate, in some clear and consistent way that does not depend on color, examples of correct and incorrect usage. Labels such as Correct: and Incorrect: would to the trick. That would also solve the same problem for editors who are sight-impaired and use screen readers.—Finell 19:00, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, but I still don't see the contradiction. I read WP:SLASH and all the examples there still make sense if one cannot distinguish red from green. That section doesn't need Correct: or Incorrect: labels: it's always clear from the context. Eubulides (talk) 19:07, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
It's a contradiction to me. The red and green colors are attempting to convey information, even if that information is arguably superfluous. Therefore, "When conveying information via colors ..." applies to WP:SLASH – or will at least be perceived to apply, by people wondering if we practice what we preach. So what would it take to switch to maroon and teal, or to otherwise remove this contradiction? Art LaPella (talk) 03:27, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
I do not think that we should switch to maroon and teal in this case. Red and green have strong connotations that are relevant to the way that the MOS uses them in examples. I believe that we comply with the accessibility requirement by having clear, consistent textual labels in addition to the colors. We can accommodate the needs of the relatively small percentage of editors who do not perceive the colors without eliminating the handy color cues for the vast majority who do perceive them.—Finell 08:59, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────That particular section looks unambiguous, even if read without regard for the colour-coding. I concur with Finell: the red/green colours are useful to most readers, and as long as comprehension of the text doesn't depend on the reader being able to perceive or distinguish the colours, it's no problem. If the MOS guideline needs fixing to reflect this philosophy, then we should do that. TheFeds 16:13, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

I looked at the color coding guideline again and you're right. Oops. Art LaPella (talk) 01:13, 4 March 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:WikiProject Cities/Guideline has been marked as part of the Manual of Style

Wikipedia:WikiProject Cities/Guideline (edit | talk | history | links | watch | logs) has recently been edited to mark it as part of the Manual of Style. This is an automated notice of the change (more information). -- VeblenBot (talk) 02:00, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

I see the word "consut" at the top. At least the typo wasn't "conslut", I guess. A number of MoS guidelines are breached. Was there consensus to promote the page? Tony (talk) 12:22, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
I have complained about the US-centric focus of this page. It's explicit in the yellow box at the top. Why is it not called "WikiProject Cities/Guideline for US cities"? Why was it promoted to MoS status given this issue?

Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Cities/Guideline#US-centric_focus_is_a_problem. Tony (talk) 05:34, 4 March 2010 (UTC)

Misplaced 'R'?

In the section Gender-neutral language under Grammar there seems to be a misplaced 'R'. Should this 'R' be here? -- (talk) 14:00, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

if you mean the R in the WP:MOSR link, that's the Manual of Style Register. thanks for noticing/enquiring, though! Sssoul (talk) 14:53, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
The "R" is explained at the top of Wikipedia:Manual of Style and at the top of Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style. Maybe the inquirer missed the discussion, now archived at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 113#Recording consensus, and especially the subsection Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 113#Revisiting my concrete proposal. -- Wavelength (talk) 15:58, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
Oh god. This must be the single most horrible notational convention I've ever seen on Wikipedia. Can we have the link legends expanded to something less confusing, such as "Register"?—Emil J. 16:09, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
I've seen worse, but the "R" is pretty bad. One cannot reasonably expect a reader to go up to the start of the MoS to see what the "R" means. It should be replaced with something like "See register." Eubulides (talk) 17:56, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
I have just provided links to the archived discussions about implementing this notation, which was proposed by Noetica in January 2010. Noetica said the following.

We provide links from each section (or subsection) of MOS to corresponding sections of MOSR, perhaps with an R (for record, or review, or register, or rationale) somewhere near the usual [edit] link, with [R] linking via a suitable anchor in MOSR when we have posted relevant material in MOSR, for the section in question.

If there is an issue about clarity, why was it not mentioned then? (Sometimes, a proponent or a supporter of an innovation might want to say "Speak now or forever hold your peace.") -- Wavelength (talk) 18:46, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
Because we didn't send out a message to every user saying "Hey! We're having a discussion on X in case you want to weigh in." Weddings tell witnesses to "speak now," but they also have banns published ahead of time. It's better to simply accept that things are going to be a bit fluid. It's not that people weigh in after the fact so much that the time of the fact is allowed to change.
I think the R's okay, or at least no worse than other longstanding abbreviations, but it's certainly not too late to change it to REG or something, now that we've seen that someone found R too confusing. Darkfrog24 (talk) 18:52, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
(e/c) We are not talking about a WP:XYZ-type shortcut (which happens to be WP:MOSR for the page in question), it's a different kind of usage. I don't see any reason to abbreviate it at all.
@Wavelength: I agree with what Darkfrog24 wrote above. Furthermore, Noetica's proposal as given in the archives looks reasonable, but it is quite different from what was actually implemented: the proposal asked for [R], not bare R, and most importantly, the link was supposed to go next to the [edit] section editing link, not below the heading. Both changes dramatically alter visual perception of the link.—Emil J. 19:10, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

I think it's pretty bad. I propose we create a template like this the above to make it clear, rather than rely on an obscure abbreviation. PL290 (talk) 19:01, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
Note: Edited comment to place new template above for easy discussion. Whitehorse1
I think that's intrusive, and implies unanimity/agreement where it may not exist or even be stated within the register. –Whitehorse1 19:09, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
At Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 113#Wikipedia:Manual of Style Register has been UNmarked as part of the Manual of Style, the editor SMcCandlish asked "What's a Style Register?" Therefore, it is important to avoid ambiguity by using a virgule, thus: "Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Register". Otherwise, I see no problem with the template.
I tried to put the "R" beside the "[edit]" section editing link, but I was not able to do so. I was hoping that someone with the necessary technical expertise would move it to that position, and at the same time explain to the rest of us [possibly in the edit summary; possibly on this talk page] how to put it there in the future for other sections.
It is not unusual for an encyclopedia to use abbreviations which are explained in the introductory matter. These might include abbreviations from general English, and others specific to the encyclopedia. When I find a puzzling notation in an encyclopedia, I remind myself to read the introductory material. -- Wavelength (talk) 20:29, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

← Can we just use {{abbrlink}} like WP:V? –Whitehorse1 20:06, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

Can we just use regular footnotes, like the section Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Stability_of_articles already does? -- Quiddity (talk) 20:12, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

Well, what is the aim? If it's to draw attention to the fact that there's a related entry in the register, then none of these abbreviated/referenced approaches really work, imho. PL290 (talk) 20:34, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
Whatever notation applies for linking to the Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Register should be equally usable on any policy or guideline page. This is not just a one-off for MOS. User:LeadSongDog come howl 20:38, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

{{MOSR-link|Test heading}}

I'm not really convinced that it is a particularly good idea to do this, but FWIW here's a way to put stuff next to the section edit links as in Noetica's proposal.—Emil J. 14:01, 4 March 2010 (UTC)

Thank you very much. I have just applied that method to the subsections "Article titles", "Quotation marks", and "Gender-neutral language".
I noticed that the "R" appears in the table of contents also, but it can be useful there also. -- Wavelength (talk) 20:59, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
It shouldn't appear in the table of contents at all, nor in the name of the heading. Headings should be in the form of Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Article_titles, not Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Article_titles.5BR.5D.--Father Goose (talk) 21:36, 4 March 2010 (UTC)

Different test heading: User:Father_Goose/x1#Gender-neutral_language. This takes it out of the heading name (and ToC) but keeps it in the upper right of the section, a reasonable place for it.

I don't think "[R]" is a good way to indicate what the link is supposed to be. In the test I offer above, I did it as "[discussion]", as the nearest thing to a self-explanatory link I could think of. The word "discussion" might also help to promote actual discussion, reducing the chance that the register will be considered the final word -- consensus can always change. "[see discussion]" is also a possibility, though probably unnecessary.--Father Goose (talk) 22:04, 4 March 2010 (UTC)

Perhaps the register could benefit from a note at the top explicitly stating that listings of previous consensus are not meant as references only and that consensus on Wikipedia is never beyond change. Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:54, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

Moving From when to use tables To This Manual Of Style?


Does Wikipedia:When_to_use_tables#Contents belong here or should Wikipedia:When_to_use_tables#Contents stay on the page? (talk) 20:33, 4 March 2010 (UTC)

Probably neither. That new "Contents" section is probably too prescriptive/creepy and is unlikely to remain in the Tables MoS, let alone be transferred here.--Father Goose (talk) 22:15, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
Here are just a few examples which led me to include the section:
  • [8]:
    • The problem with this table is it's title: "Top twenty green coffee producers — Tonnes (2007) and Bags thousands (2007)" and here is the revised version: "2007 Top twenty green coffee producers". The title is more succinct; both "Tonnes" and "Bags thousands" are already column headings, so it is just redundant to include them in the title; The time sensitive information common to both titles and columns of data are combined in the title. This helps to make the title more READABLE.
  • Here, the title is "Attacks on Oil Pipelines, 2001-2004" instead of "Attacks on Oil Pipelines". The latter is preferred because it is obvious by the information in the lower hierarchy (that is, the column headings) which years will be presented. It is a kind of generality, (good faith though it is) and redundant.
  • [9]
    • This is one reason why the clause about determiners ('do not use a, an, the')and 'do not end titles with a period' is important.
    • This is one reason why the clause 'do not end titles with a period' is important.
Also cf. [10] (talk) 22:57, 4 March 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:WikiProject Cities/Guideline is no longer marked as part of the Manual of Style

Wikipedia:WikiProject Cities/Guideline (edit | talk | history | links | watch | logs) has been edited so that it is no longer marked as part of the Manual of Style. This is an automated notice of the change (more information). -- VeblenBot (talk) 02:00, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Tables has been marked as part of the Manual of Style

Wikipedia:Tables (edit | talk | history | links | watch | logs) has recently been edited to mark it as part of the Manual of Style. This is an automated notice of the change (more information). -- VeblenBot (talk) 02:00, 6 March 2010 (UTC)

See section below for explanation.--Father Goose (talk) 07:10, 6 March 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:When to use tables is no longer marked as part of the Manual of Style

Wikipedia:When to use tables (edit | talk | history | links | watch | logs) has been edited so that it is no longer marked as part of the Manual of Style. This is an automated notice of the change (more information). -- VeblenBot (talk) 02:00, 6 March 2010 (UTC)

Specifically what happened is "Wikipedia:When to use tables" was renamed "Wikipedia:Tables" to generalize it. I also changed it from an MoS guideline to a general style guideline, as it covers material along the same lines as Wikipedia:Lists, another general style guideline.--Father Goose (talk) 07:10, 6 March 2010 (UTC)

Revisions by Noetica in January 2010

I have recently started User:Wavelength/About Wikipedia/Manual of Style/Revisions by Noetica in January 2010. I envisaged this sub-sub-subpage in January 2010, but I have only now got around to starting it. As we move forward in time, these revisions continue to recede (in a relative sense) and to become less easily accessible. I request that others not change my sub-sub-subpage, but I invite all editors to copy it to their own subpages, where they might change it to suit their preferences. -- Wavelength (talk) 04:01, 6 March 2010 (UTC)

Foreign titles

I am working on an article with quite a lot of French aristocratic titles. I am assured by a French speaker that French titles (such as marquis) are never capitalised, but to my eye it looks strange in English, especially when the noun that follows, (eg marquis de La Fontaine) is. I can't find a guideline for this. Rumiton (talk) 13:32, 27 February 2010 (UTC)

What do you mean by especially when the noun that follows, (eg marquis de La Fontaine) is. ? Do you mean by "noun" the word Fontaine, and the fact that it is preceded by the definite article la capitalised to La ? de La Fontaine happens to be a surname, that of Jean de La Fontaine, so it is normal that its *La* and *Fontaine* be capitalised. Never heard before that Jean de La Fontaine was a marquis, and certainly never that he was anything of the fountain. --Frania W. (talk) 17:42, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't have a style guide source on this, but in English-language non-fiction, the titles are capitalized, as in Marquise de Maintenon. (ref: Sex with Kings by Eleanor Herman) Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:42, 27 February 2010 (UTC)
For what it's worth, New Brunswick, as an officially bilingual province, has a bilingual style guide that addresses this. The relevant section starts on page 30: ( Modal Jig (talk) 16:55, 27 February 2010 (UTC)
The Dictionnaire de l'Académie française is the official French dictionary (in France). That is another source to investigate for your query. Airborne84 (talk) 03:41, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
I think there is no doubt that these titles are often not capitalised in (modern) French. But I once checked a French academic book about the reign of Louis XIV and found that it was extremely inconsistent in this respect.
What to do with them when they appear in English is of course a different matter. In my opinion they should be capitalised like English titles, by the same logic that makes German nouns generally start with a small letter when they appear in English text, even though in German all nouns are capitalised. Hans Adler 12:05, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Hans, especially as it seems that practice varies between French-speaking countries. The general rule in France is that a title preceded by the definite article is not capitalized, so "la marquise de Maintenon". On the other hand, see this address given recently by King Albert of the Belgians: "le Roi" and "le Premier Ministre" are capitalized where they would not have been in France or in New Brunswick. We would also have difficulties with academic titles such as Professor and Doctor: these are not capitalized either (e.g., "le docteur Livingstone", "le professeur Moriaty"), but would have to be capitalized when they are translated into English. Physchim62 (talk) 19:18, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
Agreed. It is English capitalization rules that must be followed on the English Wikipedia. Darkfrog24 (talk) 20:26, 28 February 2010 (UTC)
So it seems that English title rules prevail. Should the manual be edited to reflect this? Rumiton (talk) 15:02, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

Arriving on this discussion, I believe that I am the "French speaker" Rumiton is talking about.

Physchim62, may I point out what you wrote (my underlining): "... these are not capitalized either (e.g., "le docteur Livingstone", "le professeur Moriaty"), but would have to be capitalized when they are translated into English.

Exactly, if you translate into English docteur Linvingstone & professeur Moriaty, you capitalise *d* & *p*, but the words are not docteur & professeur anymore, they are Doctor and Professor: they have been translated into English, hence the capitalisation. However, when *baron*, *comte*, duc*, *marquis*, *seigneur* are kept in French, they should not get the upper case (unless taken from a quote in French where the first letter was capitalised), and they should be in italics. You may find these words (sometimes) capitalised in French 17th & 18th centuries writings, but not anymore; there has been an evolution in the French language since the time of Louis XIV, even since the 19th century. (Example: words that now end in ant & ent, which did not have the final *t*.)

But to go back to docteur & professeur, if you write a letter to docteur Linvingstone, you are going to begin the letter "Cher Docteur" and end with "Veuillez agréer, Monsieur le Docteur..." - capital *D*; however, if you write about him, it will be: "Aujourd'hui, j'ai vu le docteur Livingstone..." - no capital *d*.

Hans, you wrote: the same logic that makes German nouns generally start with a small letter when they appear in English text, even though in German all nouns are capitalised. When a German noun appears in German in a text in English, its German spelling with capitalised first letter should be respected. If it is not, it is an error which should be corrected, particularly if the error is done in an encyclopedia, as the *pedia* ending in wikipedia seems to suggest that it is.

Rumiton: Discussion should take place before editing the wiki manual of style & others - as there seems to be "rules & regulations" to be found a little bit everywhere.

--Frania W. (talk) 17:22, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

Quotation marks when linking to titles

Is there anything in the MOS that dictates that one of these is more correct than the other:

[[Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town|"Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town"]] vs. "[[Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town]]"

I prefer the former, and have been under the impression that the latter is used from laziness, not because it's dictated by the MOS or any other guideline or policy. But there is a bot now (User:FrescoBot)who's "fixing" these to use the latter format, leading me to ask whether I really am bound to use the latter. (If that's how we're supposed to do it, why can't Wikipedia be programmed to turn the outside quotes into part of the link, the way it does with plurals such as doctors? I just think it looks so sloppy to have the quotes separate from the link itself.) Propaniac (talk) 14:14, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

Hi! Well, in my opinion the second form is: easier, shorter, less prone to mispellings and more readable. Please note there are serveral articles with quotes like "Heroes", "The Spaghetti Incident?", etc. so quotes cannot be simply "put outside" by the mediawiki software. Basilicofresco (msg) 16:38, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
Furthermore quotation marks should be put outside the wikilink for the same reason we put outside also brakets, italics markup, tags, etc: they do not belong to the name of the target. -- Basilicofresco (msg) 17:03, 1 March 2010 (UTC)
So it's just your preference, am I right? I find it really obnoxious to create a bot to go through the entire website just to enforce your personal preferences (every edit you've made on my Watchlist, and there have been a lot, has been JUST to change the quotes), but I'm not going to bother with whatever bureaucratic process I'd have to go through to get that disapproved, so I guess you win. Propaniac (talk) 02:18, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

In dab pages is better not to pipe links. So the latter is better in this case. -- Magioladitis (talk) 00:49, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

No, you are wrong. Piping is explicitly supported by the Manual of Style for disambiguation pages for formatting, such as in Titanic (film). Propaniac (talk) 02:18, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
The difference between Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town and "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" is not merely formatting. There are two extra characters in the latter. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 23:38, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

@Army1987: we are talking about "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" vs. "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town". -- Basilicofresco (msg) 11:22, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

@Propaniac: so using a useless, harder to read, double-long piped version "it's just your preference, am I right?". ;) Please tell us the vantages of "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" over "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town". Is it all about linking also the quotation marks? In my opinion linking also the quotation marks is a mistake (if they do not belong to the article name). Moreover I'm not enforcing my personal preferences: Wikipedia:Piped link#When not to use talks about "keep links as simple as possible" and "avoid making links longer than necessary". -- Basilicofresco (msg) 11:22, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

Conflict between italics and possessive

Hello. I have encountered an anomaly when I try to write the possessive of a word in italics. I want to write "qigong's popularity" with the word "qigong" in italics. When I write that, however: qigong's, it makes the rest of the sentence bold. Does anyone know how to fix this? --TheSoundAndTheFury (talk) 01:25, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

That's quite strange, because it turned out properly above, whereas when I did it on the Zhang Baosheng page it created a problem. Please ignore this note. --TheSoundAndTheFury (talk) 01:35, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

I was wrong again. Here is the full text. I believe the problem arises when the sentence starts with a statement in bold:

'Zhang Baosheng was among the most famous of the qigong Grandmasters during the period of qigongs immense popularity in the People's Republic of China

I may have to rewrite that sentence. If there is a workaround, please advise. --TheSoundAndTheFury (talk) 01:36, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

One tactic that seems to do the job is to put a zero-width joiner html-entity (‍) between the end-italics markup and the apostrophe.
Zhang Baosheng was among the most famous of the qigong Grandmasters during the period of qigong‍'s immense popularity in the People's Republic of China
--Pi zero (talk) 02:50, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
There was just a thread about this at WT:MOSTEXT#Help with italics and apostrophes. I think the best solution is to use the apostrophe template {{'}}. Ozob (talk) 03:01, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

WT:MOSTEXT certainly helps here. However, I just tried this particular problem text out in my sand box and then tried various alternatives to see if I could identify any specific poblem and a specific solution for that problem:

  • Problem text: Zhang Baosheng' was among the most famous of the qigong Grandmasters during the period of qigongs immense popularity in the People's Republic of China
  • From: '''Zhang Baosheng''' was among the most famous of the ''qigong'' Grandmasters during the period of ''qigong'''s immense popularity in the People's Republic of China

Step-by-step analysis:

  • Opening: Zhang Baosheng was among...
    ('''Zhang Baosheng''' was among...)
  • Extend: Zhang Baosheng was among the most famous of the qigong Grandmasters...
    ('''Zhang Baosheng''' was among the most famous of the ''qigong'' Grandmasters...)
  • Further extend: Zhang Baosheng' was among the most famous of the qigong Grandmasters during the period of qigongs immense...
    ('''Zhang Baosheng''' was among the most famous of the ''qigong'' Grandmasters during the period of ''qigong'''s immense...)
  • Conclusion: ''qigong'''s is causing a problem
  • Possibe solutions: refactor the sentence to avoid the above problem (ie, either avoid italics where possessives are used or avoid possessives where italics are used); rephrase the sentence to avoid the problem; use {{'}} for all grammatical usages of the apostrophe; use <i>/</i> for certain italics
    • Refactor - just knock out the italics, if possible/approptiate
    • Rephrase - Zhang Baosheng was among the most famous of the qigong Grandmasters during the period of that practice's immense popularity in the People's Republic of China
      ('''Zhang Baosheng''' was among the most famous of the ''qigong'' Grandmasters during the period of that practice's immense popularity in the People's Republic of China)
    • {{'}} - Zhang Baosheng was among the most famous of the qigong Grandmasters during the period of qigong's immense popularity in the People's Republic of China
      ('''Zhang Baosheng''' was among the most famous of the ''qigong'' Grandmasters during the period of ''qigong{{'}}''s immense popularity in the People's Republic of China)
    • <i>/</i> - Zhang Baosheng was among the most famous of the qigong Grandmasters during the period of qigong's immense popularity in the People's Republic of China
      ('''Zhang Baosheng''' was among the most famous of the ''qigong'' Grandmasters during the period of <i>qigong'</i>s immense popularity in the People's Republic of China)

Neither of the last two is satisfactory, IMO, as a) few editors will have heard of {{'}} and b) mixing the markup is not a good idea. The rephrase is the best solution I can suggest, therefore. Any better suggestions? --Jubilee♫clipman 18:05, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

I've used <nowiki>'</nowiki> to isolate the apostrophe when this has come up in the past, but {{'}} sounds neater. The issue only arises rarely, so many editors won't have heard of any solution. {{'}} may be little known, but let's make it better known by recommending it, unless someone has a better way. PL290 (talk) 18:25, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
Indeed, {{'}} needs to be far better known. BTW, I have just noticed further that the actual then-displayed text in the article was formatted differently again from my above example, which is a little odd: see here. This rarely encountered issue needs to be resolved somehow if subtly different versions produce significantly different results... --Jubilee♫clipman 18:46, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
It's the bullet that produces that other distortion. Seems consistent (try it in preview)--we can ignore that aspect, I think. PL290 (talk)
Ah! I wondered if it was the fact that the old article version has a ref after it that also uses the apostrophe character (as single quote marks). The bullet seems more likely. Still, if the addition of a bullet also changes the display, then we have yet another issue to deal with, no? It is the subtleties that concern me here: even experienced editors can get tripped up by these! --Jubilee♫clipman 19:34, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
My impression is that no, it's not another issue. Just that when a bullet (or anything else, actually) occurs before the opening bold ' ' ', the existing problem manifests itself with a slightly different appearance. So, as long as the apostrophe is isolated in one of the ways we've discussed, there is no other problem. PL290 (talk) 21:47, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
Well the fact that prepending the wikimarkup with * / # / ; / : / etc causes the displayed text to be formatted differently is a strange fact that needs explaining. However, this is obviously a universal thing not only affecting bolding etc but other things too, it seems. As such, you are right: it is a side issue and not relevent to our present problem --Jubilee♫clipman 23:23, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

I have added the following to the Apostrophe section: For a template which can be used to avoid confict with the use of apostrophes in Wiki markup see Template:'. Alternatives to the use of the template include using <nowiki>'</nowiki> or the code &#39;

I hope that is acceptable and useful? Thanks --Jubilee♫clipman 20:22, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

Amazing. You are just the right people to be dealing with the Manual of Style. I thought I was anal until I saw this! The problem has been corrected with the wonderful {{'}}; thanks again. (PS: why not recommend using {{'}} in the Wiki markup document, alongside the lengthy < nowiki > code?--TheSoundAndTheFury (talk) 04:34, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

Template:New Zealand English&Template:Scottish English&Template:Hiberno-English&Template:Pakistani English


has been nomiated for deletion. (talk) 05:39, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

A historical vs. an historical

Is "an historical" an acceptable usage, or should we regard it as incorrect? The most comprehensive survey of the subject I found was this page, which finds that most American style guides consider the h in 'historical' to be a consonant and thus calls for an 'a'. That page also mentions that The Times style guide calls for 'an' before 'historic', although I note that in actual practice, Times writers use both about equally: a historic; an historic. The BBC seems to overwhelmingly favor "a historic" over "an historic": a historic; an historic. Furthermore, the Oxford English Dictionary, under its entry for historic gives "A historian. Obs." for definition B.1 and "ellipt. A historic work, picture, subject, etc." for definition B.2. So I don't think this is a case of Commonwealth vs. American English (unless you 'appen to be Cockney). Given that, may we formally state that "an historical" is an error in the MoS?--Father Goose (talk) 22:05, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

It's my understanding that "an historic" was used in the U.S. for a long time, but now it's considered old-fashioned and unnecessary. The American Heritage Dictionary, however, says that "an" is "still acceptable in formal writing." According to the same source, though, Chicago and the AP Style Book prefer "a." My take on the matter is that if it's old fashioned but not incorrect then Wikipedia shouldn't ban it. Darkfrog24 (talk) 23:26, 3 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Of course it's correct. They use it routinely at the BBC. Ohconfucius ¡digame! 12:39, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
    • My understanding is that the usage is applied when the initial "h" sound is dropped ("an hour", and in the English of some regions in the UK, "an hotel", "an history"). Tony (talk) 13:34, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
      • It's my understanding that an accented initial "h" sound obviates the "n" on the indefinite article, while an unaccented initial "h" sound does not: "a history", "an historian", "an historical novel". If I see "a" in front of an h-word, it's unpronounceable unless I accent the first syllable, as in "a historian" ( ≥ fingernails on a blackboard, conservatively). --Pi zero (talk) 20:01, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
That's right. You say "an" if you don't pronounce the "h"; otherwise you shouldn't. British people tend not to pronounce the "h" if the first syllable isn't strssed, so they tend to say "an (h)istorical", for example. Americans who copy this (many do) are wrong if they pronounce the "h" at the beginning of a word with an unstressed syllable, which we usually do, causing the "chalkboard fingernails" reaction. Wikipedia shouldn't care, though because it's written, not spoken, and both ways are correct. Chrisrus (talk) 20:31, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
In the dialect of English I speak natively (and quite fluently, thank you), an unaccented initial h isn't altogether unpronounced (unless perhaps one is speaking rapidly), it's just too weak to obviate the n on the article. I could imagine awkwardly inserting a glottal stop between the n-less article and the unaccented initial h, but in my dialect that's the sort of thing that one would only resort to if artificially taught, like never ending a sentence with a preposition. I think I've heard it done, but it puts me in mind of over-corrected usages like "with Bill and I".
If there really are dialects of English in which it's natively incorrect to use n with unaccented initial h (rather than being artificially taught so), then it certainly isn't one of the relatively few linguistic differences that breaks somewhat neatly along nominal American/British lines. --Pi zero (talk) 03:47, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

FWIW, Google Scholar gives 1,820,000 hits for "a historical" and 1,100,000 for "an historical"; Google Books gives 36,500 for "a historical" and 30,500 for "an historical"; Google gives 9,750,000 for "A historical" -wikipedia -wiki (6,230,000 in the US, 612,000 in the UK) and 4,920,000 for "An historical" -wikipedia -wiki (2,200,000 in the US, 325,000 in the UK). ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 15:30, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

In general I do not think Google is a good source for correct English. It is just as likely to report back common mistakes as common correct usage. ("It's" vs. "its," anyone?) However, I agree that Wikipedia should not ban "an historical" just because lots of us prefer the more modern form. Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:16, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
Here is a perfect example. —David Levy 03:27, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
...I don't get it. "Deserts" with one s like in "deserve" is the correct spelling (though I admit I got knocked for a loop for a minute there). There are twice as many hits for "just desserts" as "just deserts" but these include actual dessert web sites with play-on-words names. Darkfrog24 (talk) 04:00, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
Also it confuses Google with Google Scholar, which shows academic papers that are said to be more carefully edited. Even Google is often a good source compared to the most common alternative: "But X just isn't correct English!" "Yes it is!" "No it isn't!" "Yes it is!" ... Art LaPella (talk) 14:36, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
Ah, but the correctness approach has the virtue of allowing us to consult reputable style guides. We get "Chicago says so!" "But Cambridge doesn't!" more than we get "YII"/"NII," and we get "Chicago says so!" "So does Cambridge!" even more than that. Darkfrog24 (talk) 05:45, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
OK, does that mean we can settle the spaced dash debate, for instance, by simply listing style guides supporting each opinion, and debating which guides are more reputable? Art LaPella (talk) 06:36, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
They could certainly give it a try. It doesn't work all the time, but it's certainly better than arguing about which mistake is the most popular. Darkfrog24 (talk) 11:59, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
Which presumes that in the Manual of Style's subculture, "mistakes" are defined by style guides, not by God and not by the Emperor's new clothes. This talk page would be a lot shorter if there were a clearcut consensus on that point. Art LaPella (talk) 17:09, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
My point is that Google treats "just deserts" as a misspelling and suggests "just desserts" (the actual misspelling). —David Levy 15:58, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
Thank you, Levy. I see your point now. Darkfrog24 (talk) 05:45, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
If anything, that would show that it is "a historical" which is more likely to be a typo, since it has a larger relative frequency in the web than in scholar articles and in books, and it's the latter which are more likely to reflect what is actually normal in the writers' dialects. That said, frequencies within a factor of 2 of each other on both Google Scholar and Google Books seems clear evidence that both are much more common than can be dismissed as mistakes. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 15:14, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't find that commonness alone can do it, but commonness isn't alone here. Safe to say we do not have sufficient grounds to ban "an historical"? Darkfrog24 (talk) 05:45, 10 March 2010 (UTC)


When I edit an article, if I use the shortcut wp:retain, it highlights in red and says the article doesn't exist. If there a wp problem or am I doing something wrong? --MartinezMD (talk) 15:15, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

Capitalization matters for wikilinks. WP:RETAIN vs. wp:retain. Shortcuts are pretty much all in all-caps. --Cybercobra (talk) 15:16, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
Thank you.--MartinezMD (talk) 15:21, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

Capitalization and internal parenthesis

Feedback appreciated I nominated Hats Off to (Roy) Harper to be moved to Hats Off To (Roy) Harper due to my understanding of the following:

WP:CAPS: "...unless they begin or end a title or subtitle"
Wikipedia:MUSTARD#Capitalization "Titles that include parentheses should be capitalized as though both the part inside and outside the parentheses are separate titles (e.g., "(Don't Fear) The Reaper")"

This implied to me that since "to" is before the parenthesis within the title, it should be capitalized, even though it is usually not capitalized in proper English names. I had several other Wikipedians respond saying that I was misreading the style(s) and upon further reflection, I think they might be right. Does anyone else have two cents to add to these rare occasions? —Justin (koavf)TCM☯ 08:08, 6 March 2010 (UTC)

Addendum A similar conversation is going on here where I feel I am on more sure footing about (The Same Thing Happens with) The Birds and the Bees(The Same Thing Happens With) The Birds and the Bees, (Do the) Mashed Potatoes(Do The) Mashed Potatoes, and (The System of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether(The System Of) Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether. Please let me know if there is something I am missing there as well, or if I am correct in asserting that these pages should be moved. Thanks. —Justin (koavf)TCM☯ 08:08, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
"both the part inside and outside" is ungrammatical. I assume it means "both the part inside and the part outside". In the example you cite, the part outside is "Hats Off to Harper", so lc is correct.
In the 2nd case, what you say fits the wording of the quote. I'm inclined to think the quote is wrong. My inclination is to say instead that the part outside the brckets should be capitalized as it would be if the bracketed material weren't there, while the material inside should be capitalized as if the brackets weren't there. Peter jackson (talk) 12:13, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
Concur with Jackson. Alone, the proper title case is "Hats Off to Harper," so with the parentheses, it would be "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper." Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:11, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
Also agree, and some of these titles could be used as examples in the documentation. --A Knight Who Says Ni (talk) 14:45, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Jackson and Darkfrog24. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 15:23, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
I have modified the text in WP:MUSTARD to reflect what should be obvious. =) Powers T 20:49, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Jackson and Darkfrog. Tony (talk) 03:24, 7 March 2010 (UTC)

Interestingly (but irrelevant to this discussion), on the back cover of the album it's misspelled as HATS OF TO (ROY) HARPER with one F, but it's spelled correctly both on the CD itself and on the booklet. The other typo on that track list, "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp", is consistently spelled thus everywhere (but the same song is called "Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp" on 2003 albums). ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 21:50, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

New MUSTARD wording

  • Comment Do you realize this does not clarify the original meaning, but directly contradicts it? Earlier, the example that was given was "(Don't Fear) The Reaper", but with the present wording, the proper title would be "(Don't Fear) the Reaper". My points are two-fold: 1.) I do not think this is the appropriate standard to have (i.e. I prefer it the way it was before) and 2.) this new standard is not a clarification of the old rule but a new one that is contrary to it in many cases. If the consensus is to use this wording, that's fine and well I suppose, but I think I should point out how it is not a more precise version of the same guideline, but an entirely new one that results in different titles (affecting scores and possibly hundreds of articles.) —Justin (koavf)TCM☯ 03:40, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
Unless the woring has changed since you posted the above comment, you seem to have misunderstood it. It says the part outside brackets should be capitalized as if the part inside weren't there. In the case you mention, the part outside is "The Reaper", capitalized so. Peter jackson (talk) 11:04, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
Brilliant Once again, I have misunderstood. That's embarrassing. —Justin (koavf)TCM☯ 05:39, 12 March 2010 (UTC)

"grammatical form"

What is "grammatical form"? (talk) 08:16, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

What is the context? Maurreen (talk) 20:57, 11 March 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:WikiProject Cities/Guideline has been marked as part of the Manual of Style

Wikipedia:WikiProject Cities/Guideline (edit | talk | history | links | watch | logs) has recently been edited to mark it as part of the Manual of Style. This is an automated notice of the change (more information). -- VeblenBot (talk) 02:00, 14 March 2010 (UTC)


It's an essay at the moment, and there's a proposal on the talk page to promote it to guide-line status. It was linked at MOSQUOTE earlier today, although I removed that pending improvements. I've done an initial copy-edit, and have left several inline comments about organisation/repetition. IMO, it needs a few more examples. What do people think? Tony (talk) 00:34, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

Anyone really looking at things will be able to see that I added the link to the MOS, and it probably should be noted that I did so only after opposing the essay's promotion to either guideline or policy. My thinking was, the primary motivation behind the desire to promotion the page from an essay seems to be a desire to increase it's profile, which I don't have a problem with at all personally. I actually think that it would generally be a good idea to provide such links to relevant essays where it makes sense, in the same vein as the way that we seek to provide relevant links between articles. Copy editing the essay is a good idea for sure, although I'm not sure that should be a prerequisite, but I'll happily leave that up to y'all to decide.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 02:00, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
No, this essay has been proposed for upgrade since it was first written. It started out as an essay, but the ultimate goal was to make it protocol. This is probably the 5 request to make it a protocol. Also, if it remains as an essay, it will not have any judical power and many quotes will be used inappropriately. (talk) 10:06, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
It was a good move; but can we wait just a little while for the page to be improved? I'm keen to hear the opinions of people here and at WT:FAC. Tony (talk) 03:17, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
That's fine by me! Face-smile.svg As I indicated on your talk page earlier, the limit to my level of interest in all of this was actually reached with the addition of may vote on it's talk page, and the link to the MOS. I was simply curious as to the rational for the links' subsequent removal, which you've since explained more then adequately (incidentally, I can tell that I'm getting tired by the increase in the verbosity of my responses. lol).
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 04:06, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
Need to avoid duplication with WP:PLAGIARISM, otherwise there will be inconsistencies. --Philcha (talk) 05:47, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
I'd be a bit concerned about this having guideline status, because it would mean yet another page to monitor for inconsistencies with the other guidelines and policies. Also, editors tend to take that kind of advice very literally, so we'd end up with quotations being removed for spurious reasons. Is there a clear need to raise it above the level of an essay? SlimVirgin TALK contribs 07:28, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
Yes there is. (talk) 10:06, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree with those concerns, which is why I oppose the essay being promoted. I see that as a separate issue from linking to it from the MOS, thoguh. As an essay it does contain some decent advice, from at least one perspective, as is true with most essays. But... meh, if y'all would rather not have links, that's OK by me as well.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 19:13, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't see any need to promote this page to guideline status. While some of the advice is okay, most of it deals with questions of taste and style. Only the issues of attribution and verifiability need to be rules. The rest serves us better at the essay level. Darkfrog24 (talk) 21:59, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Manual of Style (exit lists)/Sandbox has been marked as part of the Manual of Style

Wikipedia:Manual of Style (exit lists)/Sandbox (edit | talk | history | links | watch | logs) has recently been edited to mark it as part of the Manual of Style. This is an automated notice of the change (more information). -- VeblenBot (talk) 02:00, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

Fixed... Imzadi1979 (talk) 02:04, 16 March 2010 (UTC)


MoS section titles are being updated with {{MOSR-link}} to link to Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Register. This breaks links into the MoS, as the [R] is part of the section title and the brackets have to be encoded. Templates should not be used in section titles; see {{shortcut}} for a better example. ---— Gadget850 (Ed) talk 13:19, 13 March 2010 (UTC)

Agreed. People have been starting to go nuts with the wikitext in section titles, ever since the devs fixed them last year. It's one thing to use wikitext in section titles on talk pages, it's quite another to do so on the actual page. We can ease up on the "rule", but it's generally a bad idea to simply allow anyone to add whatever wikitext they want to section titles.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 17:37, 13 March 2010 (UTC)
By the way, for those who may be interested, Ed's post above seems to have been prompted by this, from the Help desk.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 17:42, 13 March 2010 (UTC)
The "R" link was inspired by Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 113#Revisiting my concrete proposal, and its revision was inspired by Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style#Misplaced 'R'? (permanent link here, section 10). Unfortunately, Noetica is not here to comment on these unexpected complications in one feature of Noetica's proposal. -- Wavelength (talk) 18:07, 13 March 2010 (UTC)

I'm the one who posted the Help Desk item. My opinion is, first, that section titles in an article as often linked to as WP:MOS should be kept stable unless there is an actual reorganization. Second, that section titles should not contain square brackets, because of the difficulty in linking to them -- hence my Help Desk posting. And third, that the right way to provide the desired links was not to jam them into the section titles; instead, the style of the "Main article" template should have been followed. This is sufficiently obvious in my mind that if the article wasn't protected, I'd have gone ahead and changed it.

If there really is consensus that I'm wrong on the first and third points, could you at least change the square brackets to something usable in a normal wikilink? -- (talk) 01:40, 14 March 2010 (UTC)

At this moment, I have only begun to study Template:Shortcut (mentioned above), and I do not understand the relevance of the "Main article" template, but if (and only if) you really understand what you are doing, then please do go ahead and make the necessary change(s), as I wait and watch hopefully, hoping that this new solution does not bring with it yet another unexpected problem.—Wavelength (talk) 03:56, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
[I am striking out "with it", which should have been "with itself" anyway. -- Wavelength (talk) 04:17, 14 March 2010 (UTC)]
I agree with, jamming it in the section-title is a poor plan. It's especially bad if it's done via a template, because that makes a fragile point of failure: changing the template instantly breaks every incoming link to everywhere it's used. If it's not really supposed to be part of section-title text (which it seems is the intent, given that it's not displayed there in the body, only in the TOC), then I don't see a reason to implement as a template on the section-title at all (cleaner to put within the section itself since that's where it renders)? As for the item itself, why are we making it not self-evident what it means, one-word instead of single letter, for example? I think the "Main article" comment means to use a phrase in a section hatnote rather than as a right-corner shortcut item. Especially on MOS pages, short links in the shortcut area are commonly used for...shortcuts. My first assumption was that "R" was a shortcut link for the section I was reading and only came to this discussion when it wasn't. DMacks (talk) 09:37, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

Organizations vs. organisations

I'd like to point you all to this current CfD on the spelling of organizations vs. organisations which might well establish a precedence. To clarify my position, I'm in support of using whatever spelling is more widespread within a certain country, and to find a pragmatic solution for the countries where both spellings are just as widespread. IMHO, this is the only way to stay non-POV and to avoid renaming back and forth. Please join the discussion with your expertise, whatever position you might take on this. Thanks, — PanchoS (talk) 12:01, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

The Z is American English and the S is British English British English accepts either Z or S, but S is more popular. Because educational organizations, as a concept, do not have strong ties to either British or American English, each individual article should use the spelling system used by the first major contributor. It is all right if the articles do not match each other. Since the articles are about different countries, there should be little need for conformity anyway. Darkfrog24 (talk) 14:46, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
The discussion is about category names, but I would keep the existing spelling (unless -ise is used on a specifically America-related category) all the same. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 17:50, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
Agreeing with Darkfrog24. Unless there is an edit war or the talk page has the UK or US English banner, I'd be inclined not to worry too much. The same applies to -yse vs -yze, -or vs -our, -er vs -re, -ogue vs -og etc etc --Jubilee♫clipman 16:29, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
Agreed with Darkfrog and Jubilee. The claims in the above user's treatise are unfounded. There is no precedent being set - this is a simple matter where a new user to Wikipedia created "organizations" categories under head "organisations" categories which have existed for close on 5 years. I speedy renamed them to get them to conform - this is in line with speedy deletion criteria C2C: "A rename bringing a category into line with established naming conventions for that category tree". Nothing already in the category as "z" was changed - not even one - so both will continue to happily coexist as they have done for years. What this user is really unhappy about is unrelated changes I made to other work of his, and it essentially amounts to a case of WP:OWN. Sorry that this has wasted people's time. Orderinchaos 16:30, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
It doesn't matter which part of Oxbridge you're from, if you embrace WP:COMMONALITY. The content in Category:Educational organizations should be pushed down to the lower-tier subcats. Most of what is categorized there would be better under Category:Schools, Category:Educational associations, or Category:Student societies. User:LeadSongDog come howl 18:45, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
You won't find any disagreement with me on that - it does seem a rather bizarre category hierarchy. Orderinchaos 22:01, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

Bots making improper page moves claiming MoS in support

I don't appreciate bots running around moving Pseudo-Anosov map to Pseudo–Anosov map here with the claim that it is based on the MoS, with an edit summary "Bot: Moving page per WP:ENDASH". Unless somebody here wants to explain the contribution of Dr. Pseudo to this concept?

The worst part is, this improper move has stood for over nine months. How many others like it have there been? Gene Nygaard (talk) 20:51, 11 March 2010 (UTC)

If you mean others closely resembling it, I checked the bot's contributions, and it was apparently an isolated error among hundreds of proper moves. If you mean other errors of all kinds from all sources, well, I'm glad you caught that one, and I moved it back. Art LaPella (talk) 22:13, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
Glad to hear it was an isolated problem. It wasn't a bot that made this move, but could you fix Anti–Fengtian War, too? Gene Nygaard (talk) 22:52, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
 DoneDavid Eppstein (talk) 23:11, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
Saint–Venant's theorem is another one.
I suspect that it is an apprenticeship for aspiring stub-sorters, that they first need to put in some time slapping useless templates onto redirect pages, giving them a history so that we peons cannot fix improper moves such as these. Gene Nygaard (talk) 01:05, 12 March 2010 (UTC)
Also done. It does seem that the software should be able to recognize moves like that as innocuous and let non-admins do them. Oh well. —David Eppstein (talk) 02:42, 12 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Well and good. Looks like Dr Pseudo has gone, and with a name like that, it's probably a good thing. En dashes wrongly standing in for hyphens are worse than the other way around, to my eyes. Tony (talk) 05:11, 12 March 2010 (UTC)
  • There are literally millions of these sorts of redirects (hyphen to endash title), the last time that I looked. Doing those sorts of moves was really in vogue, for some strange reason, a few years ago. I'd be completely onboard if someone decided to try to reverse all of these, so that the names use regular hyphens. Dealing with endashes in article titles is a pain in the ass, generally.
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 19:24, 12 March 2010 (UTC)
    • Does that mean you want to move articles like Michelson–Morley experiment, for example, back to the redirect Michelson-Morley experiment? If so, I hope that means changing WP:ENDASH to match. The only thing worse than obscure written rules is obscure unwritten rules. Art LaPella (talk) 21:05, 12 March 2010 (UTC)
      • I wouldn't mind if the actual URLs have hyphens instead of en-dashes, but I don't want the displayed page title to show a hyphen that should properly be an en-dash. So if {{DISPLAYTITLE}} would be allowed to work in this case, I'd be happy. But I don't think it does currently work, due to the "provided the selected title normalises to the same title" language in mw:Manual:$wgAllowDisplayTitle. Does anyone have any idea what would need to be done to allow title normalization to transform en-dashes to hyphens? Because I think that's what would need to happen to do things that way. —David Eppstein (talk) 21:45, 12 March 2010 (UTC)
        • humm... I should make it clear that I don't really advocate doing anything in particular here. I realize now that my statement above tends to indicate the exact opposite, but really I seem to have simply overstated my case. The just of it is that I feel solidarity with Gene (and David?) in that these hyphen to en dash page titles are just annoying all around. It kind of bugs me that people started moving them all to their more technically correct title simply because it's nearly impossible to create new articles that use en dashes (and the vast majority of newer editors creating pages won't even know to try). The reason that I think this is an issue is because it makes it nearly impossible for Wikipedia to maintain any consistency, since almost any new article using a hyphen will be "wrong" automatically. Anyway, there are more important things to worry about (such as.. *ahem* the thread immediately below, perhaps?)
          — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 01:03, 13 March 2010 (UTC)
          • People are always free to make the page with a hyphen initially; someone else can take care of moving it. In the math project at least, the move will usually happen within a day once the new page is categorized. So everything does stay consistent, apart from very newly created articles. That seems reasonable enough to me: new users can do whatever seems natural, and some more experienced user will help bring it into consistency with the rest of the project. — Carl (CBM · talk) 16:47, 13 March 2010 (UTC)
            • It would seem more elegant to me if all these articles were named with a hyphen and used {{DISPLAYTITLE}} to appear with an en dash. Wikilinks to such articles could be given en dashes automatically by a bot. That avoids all of this trouble, I think. Ozob (talk) 17:31, 13 March 2010 (UTC)
              • Agreed. (now, can someone please address the thread below?)
                — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 17:34, 13 March 2010 (UTC)
                • That's way too complicated and unnecessary; redirects handle this just fine. However, let me address CBM's point that "people are always free to make the page with a hyphen originally; someone else can take care of moving it". Tat is, of course, quite true. However, that ISN'T WHERE THE PROBLEM ARISES. The problem arises when people create article names with the dashes originally, and fail to create the necessary redirects from the hyphen version. That happens frequently; no matter what the naming conventions pages or the MoS say about needing to create hyphen/dash redirects and needing to create redirects to article names without diacritics, that simply isn't done in a great many cases. Furthermore, while the en-dash pushers here will run around making sure that articles using hyphens get moved to dashes, none of them ever seem to take care of the flip side of this coin. Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:22, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
                • Here are a few examples from just a quick check of one category:
                  Bragg-Gray cavity theory
                  Leggett-Garg inequality
                  Runge-Gross theorem
                • Those should not be red—but they are. Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:38, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
                  • Those should not be red, although all 3 would be easy to find if you looked for them using a hyphen. Assuming there are more than just 3 such articles, I can't think of a good way to find them all short of using a bot. So is this an occasion for Wikipedia:Bot requests? Art LaPella (talk) 19:16, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
                    • Seems like it; I did a quick database query and it looks like there are about 14,000 of them. If you are wondering how we have that many, about 9800 involve year ranges (1899-1900 FA Cup) and exactly 2100 have the word "relations" in them (United Kingdom - Kyrgyzstan relations). — Carl (CBM · talk) 19:28, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
                  • Easy to find if you look for them using a hyphen? For these, maybe, if you are talking about using the "Go" box on the Wikipedia page, and look far enough down to see what you are looking for in the search results and click on it. But in any case, that's of no avail whatsoever when you run into the redlink on the page at Time-dependent density functional theory—on a "Main article" link, no less; you'll just think Wikipedia lacks that article. Gene Nygaard (talk) 19:41, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
                      • I have to admit I assumed there was already a bot that looked for these. Because it's such an easy bot task, and there are always people looking for easy bot tasks. — Carl (CBM · talk) 19:44, 14 March 2010 (UTC)

Re Ozob: It seems to me that you are saying that instead of this situation:

A-B redirects to A–B. Links to either one work, and searching for either one works.

we would have this situation:

A–B redirects to A-B. Links to either one work, and searching for either one works, but we have to make sure that there is a displaytitle template on A-B at all times. Also, any time we have a table or other list that includes names of articles, this list needs to detect the displaytitle template so that the table will show A–B instead of A-B. This includes the lists of good articles and featured articles, peer review, deletion discussions, and all sorts of other places where we display article titles.

That doesn't seem like an improvement to me. It's easier to let people mark which titles should have an en dash by simply moving the article to the name with the en dash. Otherwise, how would we ever distinguish automatically between titles like well-ordering theorem and titles like "Wells–Ordering theorem" by two mathematicians named Wells and Ordering? 18:13, 13 March 2010 (UTC)

Yes, when you put it that way, it does seem more complicated. I suppose that in order to make this proposal work, one would really need an additional feature: If one makes an unpiped wikilink to A-B, then it is automatically displayed as A–B. Of course, that might be undesirable, since you wouldn't get precisely what you wrote. So maybe this isn't such a good idea after all. Ozob (talk) 20:28, 13 March 2010 (UTC)
"People are always free to make the page with a hyphen initially"—I could not disagree more. It's like saying that people are always free to write crappy prose. They will, but please do not encourage breaches of the style guide here. Tony (talk) 00:23, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
Just so new contributors don't get the idea that they can't contribute until they understand how and when to encode an en dash. We'd lose 99% of our new contributions. Art LaPella (talk) 01:46, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
I think it's a standard principle: if you don't know exactly what to do, just do something reasonable, and someone else will change it if it needs to be changed. This applies to stylistic concerns, reference formatting, etc. There's no requirement that editors need to read instruction manuals before editing articles. Of course if I had to rename 15 articles by the same editor I would contact them, but an article here or there by a new editor is easy enough to fix. — Carl (CBM · talk) 01:58, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
It's not like crappy prose, Tony. And it should definitely be encouraged; you and the en-dash crew will still see that the articles are moved; going the other direction, when someone creates an article with dashes you won't bother to make sure that the necessary redirects are created. Thus we end up much better off when the articles are originally created with hyphens. Gene Nygaard (talk) 18:50, 14 March 2010 (UTC)

Images and third level headings

I'm certain that there used to be advice/recommendations somewhere about the interaction between images and third level or greater headings. It was good advice, and without it there are now people actively looking to make changes to do the "wrong thing". So, what ever happened to that advice?
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 19:19, 12 March 2010 (UTC)

You may need to be more specific for anyone to answer. I know there is advice somewhere about how images can make the [edit] links bounce around in some browsers. Is that what you are thinking about? — Carl (CBM · talk) 18:44, 13 March 2010 (UTC)
Ah, that makes sense, sorry. I wasn't talking about the [Edit] links directly, no. That was a part of what I remember though, I think. The main thing that I remember is that there used to be advice someplace about the placement of images around third level or (greater, or lesser? higher value) headers. The actual issue is that if you place an image immediately below a third, fourth, fifth, or sixth level header, that it causes the header to sort from "break away", or "float away", from the following body text. Since there's no horizontal rule to headers beyond the h2 level, having a header immediately above the image creates that floating appearance if the image is on the left, and we all know how it'll mess up the [Edit] links on the right.
I remember talking with someone about this a while back, and the work-around was simply to place the image immediately above the h3 header. It's still within the (h2, at least) section that the image belongs in, but that fixes the layout issue. Of course, if there's enough text in the section the other solution is to simply move the image down slightly, but even then I tend to think that putting the image immediately above the header looks cleaner.
Currently, MOS:IMAGE only includes the second bullet point that covers this at all, which says that "images must come after the header". I didn't realize that (it had changed?), so I was a bit surprised at being reverted with a claim that the MOS instructed the opposite. (and then some fool posted something on the talk page saying that we were edit warring, but I just ignored whoever that was, and luckily so did Miesianiacal). Seeing it may make it easier to understand, so take a look at the last few edits on March 11 to Elizabeth II, mostly in the Elizabeth II#Reign section.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 21:52, 13 March 2010 (UTC)
Ohms law, I believe this is what you are looking for (taken from the 09:26, 18 September 2009 (UTC) version of the MOS): "Do not place left-aligned images directly below a subsection-level heading (=== or lower), as this sometimes disconnects the heading from the text that follows it. This can often be avoided by shifting left-aligned images down a paragraph or two." The consensus to remove this advice was formed here; there were also discussions about this at an FAC and in my talk page archives, IIRC. Dabomb87 (talk) 00:34, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
That's it, thanks! Off I go to do some reading...
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 03:45, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
I might add that, if I recall correctly, the guidance against placing an image before the heading of the section in which it is supposed to appear stems from accessibility concerns. A screen reader would see the image before the section title, a potentially confusing situation. Waltham, The Duke of 03:44, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
Right, I understand that, but remember that we're talking about third level and above headings here. Generally, having such an image "appear before the section" isn't really an issue there, since everything should be part of the h2 section anyway, if you see what I'm saying.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 03:48, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
I think I do see what you are saying. However, I am not sure I agree with the assumption you seem to be making about the general tendency of readers to read entire sections. I have often read in an article only the lead, the table of contents and a sub-section or two which happened to have an interesting title. Waltham, The Duke of 05:30, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree with that, since I often do the same. Generally though, second level headers are the sections that people go to. Third level and (god forbid) higher subsections tend to generally be too specific to provide enough context that they are of interest all on their own. That's the main reason that a horizontal rule is not a component of h3 or greater headings, in most layouts (not just on Wikipedia, either)
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 05:36, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
  • OK, after having read the archives that User:Dabomb87 posted above, I have a couple of observations. This was a long standing point in the MOS for a decent reason; namely, that it really is visually distracting to most to have an image appear immediately below any heading which does not use a horizontal rule. However, I'm not going to argue that the point be reinstated (Others can do that, if they care enough), but I am going to ask that we do something to allow us as editors to address the problem when it is a problem. This all started because the MOS was apparently not allowing editors to do the Right Thing™, but instead of actually fixing anything we've simply shifted the problem from one extreme to another. So, I'd like to propose that the second bullet be modified in some manner. My suggestion, to start things off, would be something like: Images should be inside the major section they belong to (after the level 2 heading containing the content that the image belongs with).. That's less strident, which should make the point less of a battleground sort of issue for some, but most importantly it preserves the ability for editors to intelligently layout articles, as we've been discussing throughout all of this. Note that I've also removed the bit that said "and after any links to other articles," because I've noticed that the text from links, such as those created by {{See also}} and it's ilk, suffer from the same sort of flotation problems that headings do, if the layout isn't done correctly. Thoughts?
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 04:32, 14 March 2010 (UTC)
    So, is this WP:SILENCE, apathy, or are people distracted by other issues at the moment?
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 02:02, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
    In my case, it's total unfamiliarity with the issue. Art LaPella (talk) 05:25, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
    Yeah, you lost me on that one. Dabomb87 (talk) 23:53, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
    OK, I'm perfectly willing to attempt to explain further. The original language, stating "Do not place left-aligned images directly below a subsection-level heading" was problematic for the reasons that SlimVirgin and others criticized it for, but it still contained a kernel of good advice. The problem is that headers below level 2 ("== These ==", or <h2> in HTML) do not contain a horizontal rule beneath the heading in any skin that I am aware of (they definitely don't in monobook or vector, which probably covers upwards of 99% of readers/users). That being the case, images around level 3 and below headings tend to cause issues because they make the heading appear to "float" disconnected from the body text (this is especially true of left-aligned images), and they also cause "the bunching problem" to occur more readily (the HR with level 2 headers seems to push things around some, so there are a few fewer bunching issues with them).
    The kernel of good advice in the original text was fairly simple, that you need to do something with images around 3rd level or lower headings. Now, usually level 3 or lower headings are used do differentiate text that is covering a distinct subset of information that is closely related to the primary topic that the level 2 header is discussing. That being the case, if the associated images are somewhere within the section defined by the level 2 heading then the image will still be associated with the topic. The main point that the second bullet deals with is to keep all images within the section that discusses the topic that the image represents, so the goal here is to allow editors to place the images anywhere in the second level section, but avoid placing them immediately below level 3 headings. the usual method, that I'm aware of, in dealing with this is to either move the image down a paragraph or to move the image to be located immediately above the level 3 heading. either way, the "hanging header" issue, and many "bunching issues", are resolved while the image is still in the primary section which it represents. Is that a little bit better of an explaination?
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 02:36, 18 March 2010 (UTC)
I see that the change has been made, though it's not clear to me that consensus for the change was established here. I have not followed this discussion, but was attracted here by the wording of the replacement text. I want to nitpick it a bit on two points: (1) headings don't contain content; headings introduce sections which contain content, (2) dangling preposition (OK, up with which this is puttable—but it is a speed bump almost as severe as that introductory phrase). How about something like " Images should be inside the major section containing the content to which they relate (after that section's level 2 heading).? I'm sure that can be improved by someone who is a better writer than I. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 01:07, 18 March 2010 (UTC)
Well, I made the change a bit more then 24 hours ago. I wanted to give it a day to see if anyone would just revert it, which hasn't happened, but I'm willing to revert it myself if there's any real problem with it that we could discuss. Since the discussion here just petered out, I figured that the change would, at worst, kick this discussion back to life.
I actually do appreciate the nitpicks on the language, since I'm not real happy with it myself. One aspect to this is that I don't want to re-introduce the original language, which was removed earlier, though a back-door. I appreciate the criticisms that SlimVirgin and others leveled at it (links to that discussion are provided by Dabomb87's post above), but I'm hopeful that everyone can appreciate the counter criticism that I'm trying to highlight here, that simply removing the original language completely has unintended and unwanted side-effects.
Anyway, I rather like the proposed new wording. I'd say go ahead and add it yourself, or I can myself in a day or so. Thanks for the feedback!
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 02:20, 18 March 2010 (UTC)
Actually, how about this: Images should be inside the major section containing the content to which they relate (within the section defined by the most recent level 2 heading).
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 02:40, 18 March 2010 (UTC)
In the face of complete silence here Face-sad.svg, I've gone ahead and made the change.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 10:30, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

Table headers

M5 Motorway
Region km Northbound exits (B Carriageway) Junction Southbound exits (A Carriageway)
West Midlands 0.0 The North West, Wolverhampton, Birmingham (North & East), Walsall M6 M6, J8
[coord 1]
Start of motorway
4.4 West Bromwich, Birmingham (North West) A41 J1 West Bromwich, Birmingham (North West) A41
Rows omitted from table
254.2 Exeter A379
Sidmouth, Exmouth (A3052) A376
Exeter services
Exeter A379
Sidmouth, Exmouth A376
Exeter services
Start of motorway J31 Bodmin, Okehampton A30
Bodmin, Okehampton A30
Non-motorway traffic
Road becomes A38 from/to Plymouth and Torquay

I would like to get some input on the following from people who are familiar with MOS. (The relevant discussion is at WT:ELG). This would be placed on the article M5 motorway. I'd like to call your attention to the table header - a) do the colors violate any MOS or guideline of some sort? b) If no, is this still the best solution? --Rschen7754 03:22, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

Rschen doesn't mention that the colour conveys the status of the road (white on blue = motorway, yellow on green = primary route, black on white = non primary route). Colour is one of the main ways to identify the status of a road in the UK and it is foolish to ignore this. The colour coding system has been used in this way on these tables for years with no previous issues, though in reality to comply with the various guidelines, text would need to be added to the primary and non primary examples as this would not be conveyed by the existing text in the table cell itself. Something like (Primary) and (Non primary) would suffice in this case. Jeni (talk) 03:30, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
If it works for the article, then quite honestly I don't give a damn what the MOS or anything else says. From the explaination that Jeni just gave above, the answer from me is going to be "Yup, looks like a great solution to me".
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 04:25, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
The colours are indeed standard for the UK road system. See Road signs in the United Kingdom. It would seem odd to use any other colours! The suggested table above looks fine to me. If in doubt, WP:IAR; or, more specifically, WP:UCS... --Jubilee♫clipman 06:07, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
You might want to have look at the beautiful pictorial form exemplified by Sukhumvit Road or British Columbia Highway 7, originally developed for railways. See a small extract here:
Highway Depiction Extract
Traffic light.gif
Harris Road
Traffic light.gif
Park Road, Meadow Gardens Way
To Golden Ears Way southbound to Langley, Surrey via the Golden Ears Bridge
Eastbound exit only
Traffic light.gif
Meadowtown Centre Way south; North to Golden Ears Way/Abernethy Conector
Use this exit to access northbound Golden Ears Way from 7 Eastbound
Golden Ears Way overpass
Traffic light.gif
Dewdney Trunk Road, Maple Meadows Way south to Golden Ears Way southbound
Use this road to access southbound Golden Ears Way from 7 Westbound
Expressway ends, continues as 4-lane arterial road through Maple Ridge
Entering the District of Maple Ridge
Traffic light.gif
Haney Bypass eastbound to Mission
Highway 7 continues onto the Haney Bypass around the city centre along the Fraser River, while Lougheed Highway continues through Maple Ridge City Centre

Woodstone (talk) 14:30, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

With one reservation, I can't see any MOS problems. I've made two suggestions below: one to make the main header in bold type, so that it resembles even better UK road signs, the second to remove the black background from the second line of the header and replace it with italic type. I'm surprised that you don't include miles as well as kilometres for UK roads (possible breach of WP:UNITS), but I think this has already been covered by WT:ELG and miles will be included in the final version (MHO as a Brit is that they should be for UK roads). Physchim62 (talk) 14:11, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

M5 Motorway
Region km Northbound exits (B Carriageway) Junction Southbound exits (A Carriageway)
West Midlands 0.0 The North West, Wolverhampton, Birmingham (North & East), Walsall M6 M6, J8
[coord 2]
Start of motorway
4.4 West Bromwich, Birmingham (North West) A41 J1 West Bromwich, Birmingham (North West) A41
M5 Motorway
Region km Northbound exits (B Carriageway) Junction Southbound exits (A Carriageway)
West Midlands 0.0 The North West, Wolverhampton, Birmingham (North & East), Walsall M6 M6, J8
[coord 3]
Start of motorway
4.4 West Bromwich, Birmingham (North West) A41 J1 West Bromwich, Birmingham (North West) A41
The example posted here by Rschen wasn't an example of the recent consensus. Miles are to be included on the left hand side of km and the black header text will be going grey, its just that this hasn't been reflected in the majority of articles yet. Move the region col to the right hand side (though its starting to look like we aren't including it at all) and your proposal is practically perfect :) (Shown below as such, modified to mark the second line of the header as a header (!)) Jeni (talk) 14:23, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
M5 Motorway
miles km Northbound exits (B Carriageway) Junction Southbound exits (A Carriageway) Region
0.0 0.0 The North West, Wolverhampton, Birmingham (North & East), Walsall M6 M6, J8
[coord 4]
Start of motorway West Midlands
2.7 4.4 West Bromwich, Birmingham (North West) A41 J1 West Bromwich, Birmingham (North West) A41

I hadn't noticed that it was in kilometers! That is a little odd, I agree. Both would be better. I also like the bolding and loss of the black. Mind you the other system used for US and Indian roads looks great, also. Can't decide! --Jubilee♫clipman 02:59, 18 March 2010 (UTC)

*confused* What are you attempting to decide, exactly? Face-smile.svg
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 03:10, 18 March 2010 (UTC)
Ah. Someone above suggest a different design but now I read more closely I see that the issue has been resolved (in the correct place). There's obviously nothing to decide—and there appears to be no real MOS issue, in fact. Sorry for the confusion! --Jubilee♫clipman 03:33, 18 March 2010 (UTC)

Colors are fine given adequate textual hints as to their significance (if any). Consider those who are color-blind, reading a B&W print-out, and/or completely unfamiliar with the system. Doesn′t need a whole mess of it, just a word or two linking to some page that explains the non-obvious. ―AoV² 08:38, 18 March 2010 (UTC)

Proposal for all templates which display coordinates in the title line.

It has been proposed by Stepheng3 that {{Infobox mountain}} use the {{coord}}'s {{{notes}}} parameter to display a link in the title line to a bottom note. See an example here. This discussion is at Template talk:Infobox mountain. It is proposed that this style be adopted by all templates which include coordinates. –droll [chat] 10:26, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

Hyphen question

Which would have an easier time passing FAC, "Queen-Elizabeth-class battleship" or "Queen Elizabeth-class battleship"? - Dank (push to talk) 19:26, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

Ignoring the multilevel trick question (MoS does not define WP:Featured_article_criteria; FA candidates do not "pass" or "fail"—so they say) and concentrating on the hyphens: myself, I put them all in (in this case to make the compound adjective). But I notice people don't always feel they can use more than one hyphen at a time. Not that it comes up that often, so it's difficult to assess the general position. Interested to know if someone rationally defends not fully hyphenating (but unsure that MoS should pronounce on this). PL290 (talk) 19:54, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
I can move the question to WT:FAC if you prefer. Yes, it's an actual conflict in an article headed for FAC, that's why I brought it up. - Dank (push to talk) 20:44, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
No, I didn't mean to imply I thought you should move the question elsewhere. I'll be interested to see what answers it gets. PL290 (talk) 21:16, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
The reason I believe that Queen Elizabeth-class battleship is appropriate is because there is not a hyphen between Queen and Elizabeth in the name of the ship. This issue is here because of a disagreement over this brought forward at this MILHIST A-Class review over the use of {{Sclass}} to link to Queen Elizabeth class battleship. -MBK004 21:49, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
I could go either way. In this case, "Queen Elizabeth" is already a compound unit. It's like not hyphenating "peanut butter sandwich." Maurreen (talk) 22:47, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
The way that I parse the "rules" of using hyphens in English, I'd say that "Queen Elizabeth-class battleship" is most correct. The construction "Queen Elizabeth" is easily recognizable as a proper noun, even if you don't immediately recognize it as a ship's name, simply because we capitalize proper nouns in English. I think that most readers and writers are uncomfortable modifying a proper noun, for pretty good reasons. The space in the name is just incidental, more or less, so it's not really something that should be modified into a hyphen. That's my take, at least.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 03:46, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
Interesting distinction for proper nouns. Also I notice that the italics in MBK's Queen Elizabeth-class battleship visually isolate the first two words as one unit, which helps too if that is the intended rendering. PL290 (talk) 10:36, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
  • "MoS does not define WP:Featured_article_criteria"—not exactly, but FAs must follow the MoS, which makes this rather academic. As PL290 says, people don't always like multi-hyphen usage; I count myself among them where it's avoidable. Here, I don't much like Ohms's "Elizabeth-class", jammed together in the middle. Some style guides give the option of an en dash to avoid the use of two hyphens: "Queen Elizabeth–class battleship"; this is an awkward practice, IMO, even if my favourite magazine, Scientific American, sometimes uses it. You want my considered opinion? Don't hyphenate it at all; this is the route that would be taken by most North American editors, and British/Australian usage is not entirely inflexible on the matter: "Queen Elizabeth class battleship". Tony (talk) 09:54, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
    Yes, that's not bad. In principle, dropping the hyphen introduces parsing ambiguity, but in a narrow context with few words like this it's reasonable to rely on the reader to make the correct interpretation (which is the only sensible one). The other approach, as ever, is recast to avoid the issue. (Regarding "FAs must follow the MoS", how many FAC comments have been ignored with the terse rebuff "MoS is not policy", going on to be promoted without that response being questioned? Perhaps not many, but I've certainly seen it happen.) PL290 (talk) 10:36, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
    Actually, I completely agree. If not using a hyphen is an option at all (and, it really should be), then just don't use one. You've gotta admit, "proper" hyphen usage is a pretty esoteric subject. I believe that it's fairly well established these days that you can drop a hyphen almost at will, if it's reasonably clear that there's no ambiguity introduced by doing so. I just avoid them whenever possible, at least.
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 11:14, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
    I actually prefer one hyphen here: Queen Elizabeth-class battleship. The hyphen makes it easy to tell that Queen Elizabeth is modifying class. But as was already noted above, I don't think there should be a hyphen between Queen and Elizabeth. They're already a noun phrase; there's no need to change that noun phrase because it happens to have a hyphen after it. Ozob (talk) 11:53, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
    Agreed with many of you that this is a little awkward and workarounds are better when they're available. When they're not available, now I'm agreed with Tony and Ohm's Law, I'd prefer to avoid hyphenating this at all, if that's acceptable to SHIPS and MILHIST editors. - Dank (push to talk) 16:04, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
    It is definitely agreeable (at least to me), the template in question: {{Sclass}} is even set up to do just that. Instead of {{Sclass|Queen Elizabeth|battleship}} which produces Queen Elizabeth-class battleship, use {{sclass|Queen Elizabeth|battleship|6}} which produces Queen Elizabeth-class battleship -MBK004 23:59, 20 March 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── You could also consider "Battleship in the Queen Elizabeth class". Maurreen (talk) 05:36, 21 March 2010 (UTC)

Absolutely. Btw, the reason the sources aren't helping us out a lot here is that many of them would write this as "the Queen Elizabeths". That's tempting, but we've avoided this for the most part on Wikipedia, and I think it's because it just doesn't sound like good English; you don't write "the Endeavors" if what you mean is "all the space vehicles similar in some way to the Endeavor". If there's not a word for that class of vehicle, then we generally make one up (the Space Shuttles). - Dank (push to talk) 14:05, 21 March 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Manual of Style (road junction lists) has been marked as part of the Manual of Style

Wikipedia:Manual of Style (road junction lists) (edit | talk | history | links | watch | logs) has recently been edited to mark it as part of the Manual of Style. This is an automated notice of the change (more information). -- VeblenBot (talk) 02:00, 20 March 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Manual of Style (exit lists) is no longer marked as part of the Manual of Style

Wikipedia:Manual of Style (exit lists) (edit | talk | history | links | watch | logs) has been edited so that it is no longer marked as part of the Manual of Style. This is an automated notice of the change (more information). -- VeblenBot (talk) 02:00, 20 March 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Alternative text for images is no longer marked as part of the Manual of Style

Wikipedia:Alternative text for images (edit | talk | history | links | watch | logs) has been edited so that it is no longer marked as part of the Manual of Style. This is an automated notice of the change (more information). -- VeblenBot (talk) 02:00, 20 March 2010 (UTC)

RfC: Disjunctive en dashes should be unspaced

At present, the Manual of Style includes the following:

Disjunctive en dashes are unspaced, except when there is a space within either one or both of the items (the New York – Sydney flight; the New Zealand – South Africa grand final; June 3, 1888 – August 18, 1940, but June–August 1940). Exceptions are occasionally made where the item involves a spaced surname (Seifert–van Kampen theorem).

I propose that this be replaced by:

Disjunctive en dashes are unspaced (Antiqua–Fraktur dispute, the New York–Sydney flight, 1776–1788, June 3, 1888–August 18, 1940, Seifert–van Kampen theorem, Gell-Mann–Nishijima formula).

We've had extensive discussion of this over the past year or so. The relevant discussions are:

especially Archive 112's Spaces in endash. An older but relevant discussion is at Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style/Archive_82. I summarize the arguments for unspaced disjunctive en dashes as follows:

  • Unspaced disjunctive en dashes are preferred by many style guides, including APA, ACS, Oxford, CMOS, MHRA, Hart, EU Style Guide, and Bringhurst. Fewer style guides prefer spaced disjunctive en dashes.
  • Unspaced disjunctive en dashes are used by many publishers, including Springer-Verlag, Elsevier, Informa, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Annual Reviews, and Nature Publishing Group. While publishers are inconsistent about spacing and the use of en dashes instead of hyphens, unspaced disjunctive en dashes are acceptable everywhere and preferred in certain disciplines (such as mathematics: Seifert–van Kampen theorem, not Seifert – van Kampen theorem).
  • Spaced disjunctive en dashes can be confused with spaced interruptive en dashes: In They flew New York – Burbank – New York – Los Angeles had been the original plan, but bad weather forced them to reroute, it is unclear whether the original route was New York to Burbank to New York, or whether the original route was New York to Burbank. Put another way, it is unclear whether it is the second or the third en dash which is interruptive. This ambiguity is avoided with unspaced disjunctive en dashes.
  • Sentences containing two or more disjunctive en dashes are more beautiful if all dashes are unspaced or all dashes are spaced. However, there is consensus that if the disjunctive en dash separates single word items (such as years without months or days), then the en dash should be unspaced. Therefore the only consistent and aesthetic rule is for all disjunctive en dashes to be unspaced.
  • Tables whose items have disjunctive en dashes are more beautiful if all dashes are unspaced or all dashes are spaced. As in the previous bullet, spacing all en dashes is against consensus.

In Spaces in endash, we discussed at length the possibility of confusion. My conclusion was that there is no way to always avoid confusion: A determined editor can always construct a sentence that is impossible to parse. Bringhurst, I think, says it well:

A sentence such as The office will be closed 25 December – 3 January is a linguistic and typographic trap. When it stands all alone in a schedule or list, 25 December – 3 January will be clear, but in running prose it is better both editorially and typographically to omit the dash and insert an honest proposition: 25 December to 3 January.

Most ambiguous constructions are ambiguous whether the dashes are spaced or not. While we should discourage ambiguity, it is not a reason to prefer spaced to unspaced en dashes or vice versa except in the case I noted above. Bringhurst, in the paragraph immediately preceding the one I quoted, instructs us, Use close set en dashes or three-to-em dashes between digits to indicate a range and gives as examples 3–6 November, 4:30–5:00 pm, 25–30 mm. In this he agrees with the rule I have proposed above.

Our previous discussion was heated, so I would like to remind everyone to remain calm. I am confident that we can reach consensus this time. Ozob (talk) 05:15, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

  • Support as author. Ozob (talk) 05:15, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Support. The current requirement for spaced endashes has never had real consensus. The requirement was put in without discussion, it wasn't noticed or enforced for quite some time, and when it began to be enforced in examples like "Seifert–van Kampen theorem" it became immediately clear that it was strongly opposed. The Manual of Style should suggest a style that agrees with that of high-quality academic publishers: it should not insist on a style that disagrees with these high-quality sources. Eubulides (talk) 05:53, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Support. This seems to me to be the most self-consistent, as well as the most consistent with the published literature. And it's also simpler to follow than what we seem to have been doing up to now, which is something more like "unspaced, except when the disjuncts contain spaces, except except when they are personal names or when it would be inconsistent with nearby disjuncts..." —David Eppstein (talk) 05:58, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Strong oppose. This is flogging a dead horse. For all of the reasons given in previous incarnations of this attempt to change the MoS, the status quo should remain as it has for nearly nearly three years—ever since the Manual properly treated hyphens and dashes. There are quite enough sources out there to support WP's mandating spaced en dashes when the items themselves contain one or more spaces. It is easy to remember, and is universally practised in the opening dates in our biographical articles, just to cite one example. Allowing the innermost elements to be squashed when editors just feel like doing it that way creates ambiguity and, frankly, ungainlines (3 November 1910–12 January 1913). It is not intuitive. "Disjunctive en dashes are acceptable everywhere"—that is simply untrue. And by analogy, the majority of house styles use Caps in Their Headings and Subheadings; WP's use of normal case in headings has never been questioned simply because some people use title case in hard copy and elsewhere on the Internet.

    Oh, and producing contortions to bolster a case won't go anywhere. Any editor will tell you that this is the way to write it: They flew New York – Burbank – New York; Los Angeles had been the original plan, but bad weather forced them to reroute.Tony (talk) 11:44, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

  • Support. I notice that Tony correctly uses the unspaced em-dash for parenthetical phrases, but he cannot deny that the spaced en-dash is also used for this purpose in many English language texts. A reader coming along a spaced en-dash in English, without a solid knowledge of typography or the subject in question, would not know at the the first occurrence if the en-dash is disjunctive or parenthetical: such a reader would have to scan the rest of the sentence to make sense of a single word group, which is surely bad practice. We cannot enforce the unspaced em-dash for emphasized parenthetical phrases against the trends in the English language, and so we should allow the unspaced en-dash in disjunctive situations such as "Germany–South Korea relations" as opposed to "North Korea has diplomatic relations with Germany – South Korea relations are awaiting the signing of a peace treaty." Physchim62 (talk) 12:55, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
Tony often uses spaced en dashes as interrupters – having been persuaded by Noetica of their virtue – although he retains a slight preference for (unspaced) em dashes in that role. Again, a contortion has been invented to try to bolster a case. Dashes should not be used where they are at all likely to cause confusion or visual awkwardness: "North Korea has diplomatic relations with Germany; South Korea relations are awaiting the signing of a peace treaty." The "South Korea relations" bit desperately needs to be reworded, anyway. Tony (talk) 08:19, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Comment If this RFC is to have any weight, this discussion needs to be advertised more widely. En dashes are used in many articles, particularly in biographies (where I almost always see a spaced en dash between the dates of birth and death), and in FAs/FLs, where compliance for the MOS is a criterion for promotion. Dabomb87 (talk) 13:44, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
    • I just now put in a note at the village pump. Other suggestions for places to advertise are welcome. Eubulides (talk) 16:58, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
      • Template:Cent, WT:FLC also come to mind. Dabomb87 (talk) 00:06, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
        • You see it in biographies because that was specified in WP:DATE, not for any other reason. That was a specific usage in addition to the rule under discussion here. It should be changed, too. Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:55, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Weak support; the proposed alternative is superior, but I would prefer a guideline which permitted articles to use either method consistently. Christopher Parham (talk) 13:52, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Support, but I don't think ranges should be included in disjunctive dashes. For example, the EU style guide recommends unspaced disjunctive dashes (§2.19), but draws a distinction for ranges (§3.15), and I'm nearly sure I've seen the same usage before outside Wikipedia. I'd also support a proposal such as Christopher Parham's, so that it doesn't cause existing articles to stop conforming. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 15:47, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Support per nom.—Ëzhiki (Igels Hérissonovich Ïzhakoff-Amursky) • (yo?); March 5, 2010; 17:22 (UTC)
  • Support, in general. I've never really seen any satisfactory explaination why "Chicago–New York flight" should be punctuated any differently than, say, "Chicago–Philadelphia flight". They are equivalent constructs and should be punctuated the same way. I also don't particularly think there's a potential for confusion on date ranges, as the reader would have to ignore the context of the complete sentence, and I don't believe that constitutes a compelling reason to use spaces. That said, I can see making an exception for (non-year-only) date ranges, purely as a practical matter, due to the prevalance of the existing spacing in biographical articles. oknazevad (talk) 21:17, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Jimbo's "we make the internet not suck" -- in my opinion this change will cause more harm than good and will contribute to the internet "sucking". keep the status quo and stop changing all the articles in advance of this decision. User:Pedant (talk) 00:25, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
    Why do you believe that this change will cause more harm than good? Ozob (talk) 17:32, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
    Right, why? ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 20:22, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Weak oppose. I don't feel very strongly about it, and there are aspects of the current MOSDASH that I'm not crazy about, but it's consistent, it works, and I don't think this is an improvement. Visually I think there's a reasonable case to be made that "Los Angeles – Chicago" is intuitive to a reader. Unless we can argue that "Los Angeles–Chicago" is actually better, and not just equally good, I see no reason to change the status quo. The change would have a very broad impact and would absorb a lot of resources and needs to be well justified to succeed. The arguments presented don't convince me we have a problem that needs to be addressed. As a couple of people say above, sentences can be constructed to show the weaknesses in any system. If I could be convinced that a problem exists that needs correction I would change my vote, but the case seems to be one of stylistic preference, without an independently convincing reason to change our house style. Mike Christie (talk) 00:27, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose I could see an exception maybe being made for individual articles that overwhelmingly use unspaced en dashes in their names, but on the whole I don't see a real good reason to change what has been a relatively stable guideline. I've made changes to articles with regard to this section of MOSDASH; several editors have inquired about this change and have usually agreed that it makes sense to space the dashes. Dabomb87 (talk) 00:36, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
    Could you explain why you believe that it makes sense to space the dashes? I'm not aware of any good reasons to do so. Ozob (talk) 15:54, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose This proposal violates Technical Writing 101: Thou shalt not cause needless confusion for the intended readership—not even for a second. The parenthetical exception in the current guideline, (the New York – Sydney flight; the New Zealand – South Africa grand final), has long served us quite well and is sorely needed so readers’ minds don’t suffer a two-second-long *!?!*-interrupt and their eyes have to rescan to properly understand the construct. This construction is particularly confusing: 31 December 1910–11 January 1972 since it makes it exceedingly easy for many readers’ eyes to think it is a one-year range until their eyes stumble and trip over the rest of the construct. Fine typography and punctuation practices are all about allowing the eye to flow as quickly as possible without interruption. Such attention to detail is a small part of Jimbo’s “We make the Internet not suck.” Greg L (talk) 00:43, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
    I agree that it's possible to create confusing constructions, but I don't think that spacing those en dashes is any less confusing: If all en dashes are spaced, then 31 December 1910 – 11 January 1972 has the same problem! Inside parentheses or in an infobox, I don't think an unspaced en dash is confusing. In prose, I think the right solution is to say from 31 December 1910 to 11 January 1972. As Bringhurst says, anything else is a trap. Ozob (talk) 18:00, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
    Sometimes spaced dashes are confusing, because they look like interruptive ones. To minimize confusion, the guideline should say "The spacing should be decided on a case-by-case basis", give some examples in which an unspaced dash is used because it'd be confusing if spaced, an example of the converse, and suggest to use prepositions when both ways would look bad. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 20:22, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Keep the current wording! There's no need to introduce awkward connections such as "New Jersey–London flight" (is it a new flight from Jersey to London?) and "13 December 1913–14 February 1950" (is the 1913–14 supposed to indicate a two-year period from 1913 to 1914?) Ugly stuff. Binksternet (talk) 01:14, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
    It only removes the ambiguity if the reader knows this convention, and I think it is rare enough that most readers won't. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 20:22, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose: I've nothing to add to what Mike Christie and others say above, and fully endorse their reasoning. Brianboulton (talk) 01:19, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Permit both. There are reasonable arguments for both spaced and nonspaced disjunctive dashes; I see no reason why Wikipedia should impose either on its editors. Ucucha 01:36, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose: Such a sweeping change should require a compelling reason. Hawkeye7 (talk) 01:40, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
    Why do you believe the reasons I provided above are uncompelling? I think the simplicity and consistency of my proposal is alone a strong recommendation. There are also the recommendations of many style guides and common publishing practice in my favor. The argument for keeping the current guideline seems very weak to me; is it simply inertia? Ozob (talk) 15:57, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Support. As noted the current wording was made essentially in the "dead of night" with little or no discussion. It was pretty much unnoticed at the time and didn't become an issue until unwise attempts were made to enforce it in places where it is clearly not applicable. (The prominent examples were scientific usage.) The spaced endash usage doesn't conform to majority practice outside of Wikipedia and it is absolutely unacceptable in some contexts, a problem that unspaced endashes don't have in any context. The proposed instruction is also simpler than what the MOS has currently. Arguments that the sky will fall if Wikipedia conforms to majority usage in this case are unconvincing. Quale (talk) 04:21, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose: The sooner this RfC is snowed under, the less time it will ultimately waste. WFCforLife (talk) 06:22, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
    What are your objections to the proposal? Ozob (talk) 16:01, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Strong support: Almost all major style guides recommend unspaced en-dashes. CRGreathouse (t | c) 07:20, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose because I am very unhappy with both options. The present version is bad because it is inconsistent with traditional typography in many cases and sometimes just doesn't look right. The proposed new version is bad for the reasons given by Greg L. In my opinion the switch from one bad rule to another bad rule is the worst possible outcome. Hans Adler 08:07, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
    What would you propose, instead? ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 20:22, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
    Good question. Unfortunately I can't think of a better solution. If we give it free altogether there will be too much inconsistency, especially in article titles. There are situations where it's confusing to space, and others where it's confusing not to space. This doesn't have much to do with questions such as whether the dash is disjunctive or signifies a range or whatever, although it's probably statistically related. Any simple rule will produce confusing results in some instances. A very clever simple rule could minimise the confusing instances, but it would take a lot of research to find such a rule. Hans Adler 15:08, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Support: The new version seems to be preferable in general, but I did spend an extra second or two trying to parse "June 3, 1888–August 18, 1940". On the other hand the new rule has the advantage of simplicity, whereas the existing rule has the exception clause and exceptions to the exceptions. To me it seems to be better to have a rule that is easy to understand and follow than one that tries to specify what to do in every exceptional case. For the "June 3, 1888–August 18, 1940" example, my advice would be to rewrite it as "1888–1940" and avoid the whole issue.--RDBury (talk) 08:10, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
I just realized that the date range example would be used in many biography articles so maybe rephrasing it isn't an option. Maybe adding a common sense exception for cases like this would be best.--RDBury (talk) 08:18, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
There is an elegant solution for avoiding this particular issue entirely. Compare:
Albert Einstein ([...] 14 March 1879–18 April 1955) [11]
Albert Einstein (* 14. März 1879 in Ulm, Deutschland; † 18. April 1955 in Princeton, USA) [12]
Hans Adler 09:28, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
Using a cross to signify death (of a Jew, no less) is about as inelegant as it gets. Powers T 14:38, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
*blush* Excellent point. I think I was once aware of that problem, but now I simply forgot, and Einstein was simply the first person who came to my mind for an example. So we would probably have to find a different symbol, and the fact that the German Wikipedia is still using † suggests that that's a hard problem. :( Hans Adler 17:41, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • I'm sure Hans didn't mean to be insensitive! The real problem is that using an asterisk for birth and a dagger (not a Christian cross) for death is well recognized by German speakers, but almost unknown among English speakers (unless those English speaker happen to speak German as well). English Wikipedia simply could not adopt the German system, however handy it might be. Physchim62 (talk) 18:57, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree. Are birthdays so important to be in the first sentence? Couldn't one just write "Albert Einstein (1879–1955)"? The full dates are shown in the infobox, as well as in the "Early life and education" and "Death" sections respectively. An exception when the day of the year is somehow significant (e.g. 17 March for St Patrick can be made, but that's going to be very rare. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 20:22, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
Well, not all biographical articles have such sections, let alone an infobox. —Tamfang (talk) 00:14, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose per WP:RETAIN. It's nice to know that the dashes have been written about and that there are various schools which do things the same or differently. I don't think that should be the issue. The biggest issue to my mind is ensuring consistency. The guideline has remained stable for a very long time, and the 'problems' elaborated above (and I'm not sure they are all problems anyway) do not seem to me to be good enough reason to break with WP:RETAIN. Ohconfucius ¡digame! 08:55, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
    Allowing both formats, as some have suggested, wouldn't "break" any existing article. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 20:22, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Alternative The proposal is illogical. The purpose of putting a dash in in the first place is to tie words together. Therefore they are closer together than they are to other words. I suggest rephrasing wherever possible to avoid having dashes at all. Peter jackson (talk) 11:47, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Support a change (as the originator of this entire debate several moons ago). The revised wording at least agrees with the conventions of nearly every major style manual, including the Oxford Manual of Style, the Chicago Manual of Style, the APA Style Guide, the American Chemical Society style manual, and New Hart's Rules. Our own manual of style should not include mandates that are absolutely at odds with the best practices of major style manuals and publication houses. However, I would be eager to see one of the older proposals resurrected from Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 112#Spaces in endash which at least allows for some editorial judgment in deciding what alternative to use. As Hans has noted, in many cases the style mandated by the present version just doesn't look right. If I had to formulate a hard rule about it, I would say that disjunctive en dashes are always unspaced, except in the case of parenthetical date ranges. Sławomir Biały (talk) 12:23, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. No compelling need to change; the current methodology makes context clear and reduces confusion greatly. Powers T 14:38, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Strong Oppose. One example for rationale would be I know which of 29 December 1918–19 January 1920 vs 29 December 1918 – 19 January 1920 reads through clearer first time. Anybody else think this is becoming a bit perennial? Rambo's Revenge (talk) 17:11, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
    I hope this isn't becoming perennial. To my knowledge this is only the second time that this has been put forward, and the first time, in the thread Spaces in endash I referenced above, I don't think we got a wide enough discussion. We are finally having that now, thank goodness!
    Regarding the date, I disagree with you. But you knew that. Ozob (talk) 16:04, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Strongly support. The "Seifert–van Kampen theorem" example is especially compelling, as well as the need for a zillion more redirects at Seifert - van Kampen theorem and Seifert – van Kampen theorem, Seifert-van Kampen theorem, Seifert–van Kampen theorem, and Seifert – van Kampen theorem. There is an article at Seifert–van Kampen theorem, and the redirect called for in our existing rules (I think it is found at one of the naming conventions pages) at Seifert-van Kampen theorem already exists. For that matter, there should not be redlinks at Seifert-Van Kampen theorem and Seifert–Van Kampen theorem nor the ones with "Theorem" such as Seifert–van Kampen Theorem (I'm not going to list all the permutations here). Furthermore, the extra spaces are ugly and unnecessary in all cases. The dates examples in existing articles discussed above are in general not from the rule under discussion here, but from a more specific instruction at WP:DATE. The problem that there should be a non-breaking space at the left side of a spaced en dash (something already prescribed at the Manual of Style page, at least twice), but there in general will not be (WP:DATE specified that "En dashes are preceded by a non-breaking space per WP:DASH" but that is rarely found in those introductory dates in biographies now), is another complication we don't need. Gene Nygaard (talk) 17:21, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
I had too many redlinks originally, but the Seifert - van Kampen theorem one is especially important. People will see that the hyphen/dash/whatever is spaced, but they won't necessarily know which of all the possibilities it is, and the one they have on their keyboard is "-"; don't expect anybody to know how to enter any other specific dash into the "Go" box, for example. If there hadn't been page moves in the Seifert-Van Kampen theorem article, most of those redirects would not exist now. For most similar articles, it is likely there will be a lot more redlinks. Gene Nygaard (talk) 17:29, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose in regard dates, generally support in other cases (extending spaced surnames to spaced proper names). One bizarre example involved the relationship between concepts A–B and C–D; a sensible approach would be to call it the "A-B – C–D relationship". — Arthur Rubin (talk) 18:03, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • You'd try to avoid using the range dash in any such construction. A–B to C–D. Tony (talk) 03:22, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. When and why did they replace the old York–Sydney flight with a new one? Strad (talk) 20:23, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Comment Both spaced and unspaced dashes can cause ambiguity and confusion on occasion. I think writers should be encouraged to use the word to or to recast the phrase when this is an issue. I think 29 December 1918 to 19 January 1920 is clearer than either 29 December 1918–19 January 1920 or 29 December 1918 – 19 January 1920. Michael Glass (talk) 21:44, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose – Neither solution is perfect, but I believe the current guidance is better, especially for ranges and routes. In any case, I prefer unspaced em-dashes for interruption. If more people used them, a great part of the problem would disappear. Waltham, The Duke of 22:58, 6 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Thank you, Ozob, for providing links to some previous discussions about this issue. I wish to encourage all participants in this discussion to spend time in reviewing those discussions before commenting in this one.
From the section Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style/Archive_112#Spaces in endash (subsection Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 112#Too hasty, started by User:HWV258), I repeat the following information e-mailed by User:Noetica to User:Tony1, who "edited [it] for wikiformatting" and who posted it at 06:17, 19 December 2009 (UTC).
[Reformatted by Ozob (talk) 03:17, 8 March 2010 (UTC)]
These sources may be of some value:
A) Butcher's Copy-editing (4th edition 2006). This classic work is one of the most respected British guides. See the relevant page online (pp. 151–53). My commentary follows, drawing on salient points:
  1. Spaced en dashes (as opposed to spaced or unspaced em dashes) are now "most often used" for so-called parenthetical dashes.
  2. En dashes are also quite properly used to mean "and" or "to", in which case they are normally unspaced.
  3. On p. 152: "However, spaced en rules [en dashes] may be used between groups of numbers and words to avoid implying a closer relationship between the words or numbers next to the en rule than between each of these and the rest of its group." Three quite decisive examples follow, along with a caution that in no way detracts from the basic principle. A search for "en rule" in this work at Googlebooks confirms its robustness. See for example p. 131 and p. 246, where both the principle and the obvious caution are reiterated.
B) The Cambridge guide to English usage (Pam Peters, 2004). On p. 140: "A spaced en dash/rule is used when the words or numbers to be separated have internal spaces.
1 July 1991 – 2 June 1992"
This is essentially the same provisions as in source A (along with additional ones of interest), but more prescriptive. And there is NO restriction to dates; and there is NO provision for any alternative practice.
C) Texas State University's editorial style guide link. This is one of several academic sources online that prefer the general style given in sources above, though perhaps implicitly: "The event runs October 10–15. 6 a.m. – 9 a.m. (include a space before and after the hyphen or en dash in ranges of times)." This is one of several American sources in accord with the other sources cited.
D) The Cambridge guide to Australian English usage (Pam Peters, 2nd edition 2007). See pp. 155–56: Same wording as in source B.
E) Style manual: for authors, editors and printers (Wiley, 6th edition 2006). Probably the major Australian style guide; widely followed, especially by government publications: essentially the same ruling as above. For its prominence in Australia see Style_manual#Australia.
F) The Australian editing handbook (Elizabeth Flann and Beryl Hill, 2004). Same ruling as in source E and others.
There are others that I can't chase right now!
Finally, a nice example of practice from "established publishers". Spot the four ways of doing date ranges, in one table.}}
From the same section Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style/Archive_112#Spaces in endash (subsection Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 112#Butcher's advice, started by User:A. di M.), I quote the following boldface text from a post by Noetica at 12:02, 21 December 2009 (UTC).
[Original boldface removed by Ozob (talk) 03:17, 8 March 2010 (UTC)]
Wikipedia is unique. It confronts weighty problems of pan-anglophone, collaborative, dynamic online publishing that never intrude on the serene world of academic journals. The web is not paper, and very few Wikipedia contributors are professional editors; very many are not even experienced writers. No appeal to New Hart's, Chicago, Butcher's, or Elsevier practice is final. We have to fashion guidelines ourselves, for an entirely new situation. We must respect precedents, yes; but many precedents are vague, rashly conceived, or scarcely applicable in new contexts. We at MOS must above all respect the special needs of Wikipedia editors, if we are ultimately to serve the readership. That means no hasty or half-considered changes, which yield nothing but chaos and dismay.
Please see also the surrounding context.
I am repeating information in response to what appears to be a repeated proposal. -- Wavelength (talk) 01:07, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
  • It's not a repeated proposal, and the previous duplication and highlighting of a large chunk of one side of the already-cited discussion is an abuse of this discussion thread. There are far more authoritative style guides who favor unspaced endashes (APA, ACS, Oxford, CMOS, MHRA, Hart, EU Style Guide, and Bringhurst) than who favor spaced ones (Australian, mostly). The boldfaced claim that "Wikipedia is unique" is pure hot air: this minor layout issue is completely independent of whether material is printed or on the web. Eubulides (talk) 01:27, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
  • The convict stain, is it? Tony (talk) 01:35, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
  • No, I'd rather WP:AGF. If this whole debate comes down to Australian English vs. the rest of the world, and I didn't say it does, then population would be important. Art LaPella (talk) 02:57, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Regarding " completely independent of whether material is printed or on the web": remember that printed pages can't be resized. The fact that the width of the WP reader's screen can't be anticipated must be considered when constructing these guidelines.  HWV258.  06:18, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
I do not think that spacing of en dashes depends at all on whether we are in print or in electrons. This aspect of good design is independent of medium. If you do not think so, please explain why. Myself, I think it is as justifiable as the sometimes-made claim that electronic publications should always use hyphens; that is, I think it is ridiculous, and I know from experience that everyone who frequents the MoS agrees. But somehow, it's acceptable to vaguely invoke the differences between the web and print if it can be insinuated that these differences support one's side!
Also, the colored quote box was obnoxious enough the first time. I am about to remove it and the needless boldface. Ozob (talk) 03:15, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
Obnoxious because it disagrees with your line, possibly? Tony (talk) 04:14, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
Obnoxious because it distracts. Notice that discussion here has nearly stopped since it appeared. I am hoping that the discussion revives now that the quote box is gone. Ozob (talk) 11:38, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
I'm not sure I'd count sources B) and D) as two; anyway, the context shown is insufficient to show whether what it says is supposed to apply only to ranges or also to pairs of nouns modifying another noun. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 13:37, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
Eubulides, I repeated those two blocks of information as a convenience to readers. Even if I had simply referred to specific places in previous subdiscussions, there is a possibility that some people would have had difficulty in locating the passages in such a long, sprawling discussion.
Google found 40 pages with the exact wording "Wikipedia is unique". One of those pages is Another one is You can follow the links that Google found, for you to see some ways in which Wikipedia is said to be unique.
Please do not refer to Noetica's words as "pure hot air". Please have more respect for experts. As one Wikipedian has said, "we can ill afford to lose such a resource."
-- Wavelength (talk) 21:00, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
It was completely inappropriate to copy that long slug of anti-change argument here. I could have responded in kind by copying an even long slug of pro-change argument, but that would have been just as bad. People who want to read the old arguments can do so, and you can refer them to the arguments, but it's wrong to blast a long copy of the stuff here. I'm afraid that even experts sometimes give opinions that are pure hot air: all that comment was saying, basically, is that Noetica likes spaces around en dashes and doesn't care that most style guides disagree. Eubulides (talk) 21:22, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. As per others. Something like 29 December 1918–19 January 1920 looks ridiculous.  HWV258.  05:12, 7 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I don't have much to add that Tony and others haven't already written, but this change would create confusing in some cases and eliminate confusion in no cases. Net negative for the reader. --Andy Walsh (talk) 05:10, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

RfC: Disjunctive en dashes should be unspaced: Another proposal

Apparently, most people objecting object to 29 December 1918–19 January 1920, so, what about this (loosely based on Butcher's):

Disjunctive en dashes are normally unspaced; but when there is a space within one or both of the items being separated, they may be spaced or unspaced, depending on which format is clearer: unspaced dashes can be unclear because they can seem to imply a relationship only between the words immediately adjacent to it, and spaced dashes can be unclear because they can confused with en dashes used in lieu of em dashes (see below). (For example, if the spaces in 500 – 20 thousand are removed, it can appear to mean "from 500,000 down to 20,000", and if spaces are added in They flew New York–Burbank – New York–Los Angeles had been the original plan, but bad weather forced them to reroute, the sentence becomes ambiguous.) If neither format is satisfactory, use a preposition instead. Unspaced dashes are normally preferred with proper names (Seifert–van Kampen theorem), and spaced ones with ranges (29 December 1918 – 19 January 1920). In article titles, whichever format is chosen, create a redirect from the corresponding title with the other format.

(I'd welcome any suggestions for better examples.)

  • Support as proposer. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 13:37, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose again. What, after everyone has visited, you put up another proposal? How long will it go on for? I'm afraid you've missed the bus on this one: people have clearly indicated above that there is no consensus for change. It is not appropriate to advertise an RfC and then—after many many visitors have had their say—to change the text or to add other options. Waiting to see whether one option gains consensus, then moving the goal posts when you find it doesn't gain support will not lead to a legitimate consensus for change. Otherwise, you could keep adding new options every week, and people would tire of it all, and you could claim that this small hard-core of supporters then generates a consensus.

    Now, if you want to remove any doubt, it would be better to say simply that en dashes as interrupters should not be used in the vicinity of disjunctive en dashes: it's that simple; but that is what any good editor would do instinctively, anyway. I've already pointed out above that those who are pushing for this change have invented contortions involving proximate en dashes in these two different roles. Each time, I have responded by replacing the interrupter with a semicolon; that is the superior choice. Tony (talk) 14:11, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

    I can't see what's so shocking with making a proposal which tries to address the criticism to the previous one; I have not even edited the existing one. And IMO writing "Chicago–Boston" and "Chicago – Los Angeles" in the same sentence is confusing even if there's no interruptive dash around, as the reader will wonder what the difference between the two is and I'd bet that less than 5% of them will be able to come up with the answer. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 15:19, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
    Tony, I can see that you are happy with the current text and would therefore like to close down further debate. But there is no consensus for the present text. Look above: There are currently thirteen variations on "support" and nineteen variations on "oppose". That is, about 40% of those who have expressed an opinion support the proposal, and about 60% do not, and furthermore some of those are weakly held opinions. That is a supermajority, not consensus. If you do not want to participate in forming a new consensus, then please leave the rest of us alone so that we can do so uninterrupted. Ozob (talk) 22:47, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
Agreed with A. di M. and Ozob. A new proposal is a valid and potentially productive step, not an end run. Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:11, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. We can avoid ambiguity by writing 500 – 20,000 or 500,000 down to 20,000, as the case may be. The flight example appears to have been artificially contrived. No dashes are needed in They flew from New York to Burbank; flying from New York to Los Angeles had been the original plan, but bad weather forced them to reroute, and there is no ambiguity. -- Wavelength (talk) 21:16, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
It appears that a spaced en dash is used by professonal mathematicians. See the following variations of the name of the theorem.
"Seifert – Van Kampen theorem" at (Durham University)
"Seifert — Van Kampen theorem" at Lee J.M. — Introduction to Topological Manifolds :: Электронная библиотека попечительского совета мехмата МГУ (Lomonosov Moscow State University)
"Seifert and Van Kampen theorem" at Knill: The Seifert and Van Kampen theorem via regular covering spaces. (Pacific Journal of Mathematics)
"Seifert–Van Kampen theorem" at (University of Heidelberg)
"Seifert van Kampen Theorem" at C3.1a Topology and Groups | Mathematical Institute - University of Oxford (University of Oxford)
"Seifert/Van Kampen theorem" at (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
"Seifert–van Kampen Theorem" at (St.Petersburg Department of V.A.Steklov Institute of Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences)
"Seifert Van Kampen Theorem" at (Hungarian Academy of Sciences)
"Seifert and Van Kampen Theorem" at (Darmstadt University of Technology)
-- Wavelength (talk) 16:42, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
Nobody is saying that the spaced version is never used outside Wikipedia. All we're saying is that it's standard practice among high-quality published sources to use unspaced endash. The two examples you give of spaced endash are low quality (one guy's old lecture notes; and a web index in English prepared by a Russian publisher for a Russian book!). I can easily find similarly low quality sources for other incorrect spellings, such as "Seifert van-Kampen theorem"[13]. But low-quality sources like these prove nothing. Let's see what high-quality publishers do: publishers like Springer (Akhmedov & Park 2008, doi:10.1007/s00222-008-0118-x; Pawałowski 2008, doi: 10.1007/s00208-008-0215-6) and Oxford (Hackstein 2008, doi:10.1093/imrn/rnn050; Akhmedov et al. 2008, doi:10.1112/jtopol/jtn004) are doing. And sure enough, they use unspaced endash. Wikipedia should be inspired by the best professional English-language publications in the field, not by unrefereed amateurs and weird indexes by foreign-language publishers. Eubulides (talk) 20:42, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
Suddenly there is pontificating on which book or publisher is of high quality, and which is of low. Plenty of so-called high-quality publications persist with title case in their titles and subtitles: that doesn't mean WP should suddenly adopt this practice. Tony (talk) 23:39, 10 March 2010 (UTC)
Some high-quality publishers use sentence case in titles, some title case; but none of them use spaced endash for this example. And nobody would seriously argue that Oxford and Springer are lower-quality academic publishers than unreviewed course notes or a hacked-up web-only index to a Russian-published Russian book. Eubulides (talk) 05:26, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree that it is a weak feature of the current rule that it is out of sync with what seems to be a reasonably consistent standard for this theorem; and perhaps there are other examples from mathematics that could be cited. However, the original proposal would make too global a change. I might be persuaded that it would be a good idea to add exceptions for specific terms with established usage, or even for entire fields such as mathematics, if customary usage can be established to be different from our current rule. That would require a different discussion than this, and more evidence for multiple examples (not just this one theorem). Mike Christie (talk) 12:23, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Defer. This is a reasonable compromise proposal. There's nothing wrong with proposing a compromise. There is obviously no consensus for the current MoS, and there never has been a real consensus for it: a compromise like this is obviously appropriate for cases where consensus hasn't been reached. However, I agree that the previous RfC should be left to pass its course before starting on a compromise. Eubulides (talk) 21:22, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Comment. Contra Tony, the existing "consensus" seems not to be a consensus (it attracted far less discussion when it was inserted than these proposals had) and, on top of that, is clearly broken ("Seifert – van Kampen" is just incorrect, it is not formatted that way by any professional mathematician, and the rule needs weird exceptions to allow the standard formatting "Seifert–van Kampen"). But I am coming to feel that replacing Tony's beloved but broken rule by a different rule is not so much of an improvement. I am in very strong opposition to a situation that leaves the status quo ante as a rule, because it is broken. But this repeated proposal-rejection cycle doesn't seem to be making any progress towards making it less broken. —David Eppstein (talk) 21:41, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Oppose. This proposal is too ambiguous to be an effective guideline: Ambiguity leads to arguments; arguments lead to edit wars; edit wars lead to the Dark Side. The instructions of both the present text and my proposal above are unmistakable, and I think that virtue makes either of them more desirable (despite my disagreement with the present text's instructions). Ozob (talk) 22:43, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
    I wonder how comes that we manage to have no guideline about whether to use someone or somebody and the sky hasn't fallen. (No, that's not a purely rhetorical question. Why are some people care so much to some points of style but not to others?) ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 15:35, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Comment: I think this proposal accurately explains a problem with the current verbiage, and balances two fundamentally incompatible usage conventions, but I'm not totally sold on the exact phrasing. Also, it's probably worth discussing whether (on a philosophical level) it's better to put up with some ugliness in furtherance of a simple guideline (as the MOS apparently does at present), or instead, to complicate the guideline in pursuit of better typography and layout. TheFeds 16:32, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
    • Simply deleting the Spacing bullet would result in an even simpler guideline and would balance the two conventions, but for some reason I thought that would not be very popular... ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 17:11, 9 March 2010 (UTC)

RfC: Disjunctive en dashes should be unspaced: Distinguishing between different uses

Looking at the votes, it seems to me that most of the opposition is concerned about confusing constructions. I believe there may be a way to satisfy their concerns. Up until now, we have treated all disjunctive en dashes equally. My proposed solution is to distinguish between the different uses of disjunctive en dashes. In particular, I propose something like the following:

En dashes standing for to or through in ranges are unspaced if the two items contain no spaces (1919–1920) and are spaced if either of the two items contains a space (5 January 1919 – 21 January 1919, 100 – 110 kW June 2008 – Present). Disjunctive en dashes in other contexts are unspaced (New Zealand–South Africa grand final, Seifert–van Kampen theorem). In a table or list, if one item is spaced, then the others must be as well.

This alone does not eliminate all confusion. I believe that the only way to do that is to explicitly prohibit it. This prohibition is not about spacing, but since it's important to this debate I think I should propose specific language:

En dashes must not be used when they are ambiguous. For example, in New York–London flights began in 1968, it is unclear whether the flights are from New York to London or are from York to London. Instead, use New flights from York to London began in 1968 or Flights from New York to London began in 1968.

What would everyone think of this? Ozob (talk) 23:14, 10 March 2010 (UTC)

  • It's complicated and confusing. The current system is simple: one rule, which is that if there is one space or more within the elements, space the dash as well (given the more recently inserted optional exception for the mathematics lobby in "Seiffert–van Kampen"). The kW example is wrong: the elements are 100 and 110; kW applies to both, just as the month applies to both in 13–16 January. Tony (talk) 02:46, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
    The current system is more confusing, because it makes a strange optional exception for spaced surnames. Nowhere else is there a distinction between spaced surnames and anything else. But the section on en dashes already distinguishes three different uses of disjunctive en dashes. We all agree that these are different uses: None of us would argue that Newark – New York is a range or that 1 October – 14 October means 1 October versus 14 October. Since the distinction between ranges and non-ranges is already necessary, I don't see why it's so much more effort to space them differently.
    You are right about the kW example. At the moment I can't think of a replacement that shows off the case I want: One of the items has no spaces, the other does, and the dash represents a range. In such a case I believe that the dash should be spaced. If I think of an example I'll put it in. Ozob (talk) 03:12, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
    2 million – infinity? June 2008 – present? Iron Age – Renaissance? Art LaPella (talk) 03:40, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
    But again, let's be careful about using an en dash in any context. What is wrong with "to" in these examples? In a table, sure, it's better, or where there's a succession of time ranges in the running prose. But if just an isolated expample, I'd be inclined not to use punctuation. Tony (talk) 04:27, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
    Me too. Also, June 2008 – Present is exactly the kind of example I was looking for. I've added it to my proposal above. Ozob (talk) 11:53, 11 March 2010 (UTC)

Ambiguity is present no matter what system is used. For example, the sentence "New Mexico–South America flights began in 1968." is ambiguous regardless of whether that en dash is spaced or unspaced. So I suggest using this route in the example instead: that way the example is independent of whether one prefers spaces around such en dashes. Also, I suggest changing the kW example to something like "10 W – 200 kW". I also agree with Tony's suggestion to mention that the en dashes are more appropriate for tables and the like. Eubulides (talk) 06:00, 11 March 2010 (UTC)

You suggested "New Mexico–South America flights". What, the new flights from Mexico to South America? This is an ideal example of why jamming innermost elements should not be done. Tony (talk)
It appears that the previous comment missed the point of the example. That example is ambiguous regardless of whether the dash is spaced. "New Mexico – South America flights" is just as ambiguous as "New Mexico–South America flights". Both examples can be plausibly misinterpreted as talking about new flights from Mexico to South America. Eubulides (talk) 06:15, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
It is exactly the same situation as New York–London flights began in 1968 in my example above; writing New York – London doesn't make it any better. I propose above that we prohibit this kind of bad writing. Ozob (talk) 11:57, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
No, because if spaces are required around the en dashes if and only if a disjunct contains spaces, then New York – London flights does not make sense as meaning "new flights from York to London". To get the ambiguity in that case, one needs a space in a disjunct other than the space following the "New". (I freely admit that all of these examples are bad writing, regardless of spacing.) Eubulides (talk) 07:01, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
By the way, the example is ambiguous even without the en dash. New Mexico to South America flights began in 1968 suffers from exactly the same double meaning. Ozob (talk) 12:05, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
True. Should this point be worked into the proposal? Perhaps not, if it'd make things too complicated, but I thought I'd ask... Eubulides (talk) 07:01, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
June 2008 – Present should have a lowercase p; except for that, it seems OK to me. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 12:43, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
At the moment, "present" is proscribed in date ranges--see WP:OTHERDATE. PL290 (talk) 13:01, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
Dead horse. Tony (talk) 13:19, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
If it's a dead horse, why is it buried in MoS, and who's flogging it? I'd be quite happy to see it removed. While it remains, it has a bearing on the way this thread develops. PL290 (talk) 13:30, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
Dead horses don't tell tales—I've deleted it. PL290 (talk) 14:16, 11 March 2010 (UTC)

Ozob, have you had time to read through the above comments and update the proposal accordingly? Eubulides (talk) 07:01, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

Well, here is what I'm thinking. There are right now three numbered points in the en dash section. I think there should be four. The first would be about en dashes expressing a range, and it would have basically the same text as the first bullet of the current point one, plus a rule that says that ranges containing spaces should have spaced en dashes. The second numbered point would cover and, or, to, and versus; it would combine the second and third bullet under the current point one, and it would have a rule saying that such en dashes are always unspaced. The third numbered point would cover lists and the fourth, interruptive en dashes—these would stay the same. The separate spacing section would be removed. How does that sound to everyone? Ozob (talk) 00:23, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
There is no consensus for this change. Tony (talk) 00:31, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
That's right. Consensus would have to be developed through discussion. How do you feel about this idea? Ozob (talk) 02:27, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

I'd like more feedback on my new idea, so here is some actual wording that might be used to implement my suggestion above. It would replace the three numbered items in the en dash section. At this time I'm not proposing that we actually adopt this; I just want to know what people think. (Tony, that means I want to know what you like and dislike about this idea, not just that there's no consensus for this. Of course there isn't yet.)

  1. To stand for to or through in ranges (pp. 211–19, 64–75%, the 1939–45 war). Ranges expressed using prepositions (from 450 to 500 people or between 450 and 500 people) should not use dashes (not from 450–500 people or between 450–500 people). Number ranges must be spelled out if they involve a negative value or might be misconstrued as a subtraction (−10 to 10, not −10–10). If either endpoint of the range contains a space, insert spaces on either side of the en dash (5 January 1919 – 21 January 1919, 10 W – 100 kW). Otherwise, do not insert spaces.
  2. To stand for to, and, or versus between independent elements (male–female ratio, 4–3 win, Lincoln–Douglas debate, diode–transistor logic, Seifert–van Kampen theorem). An en dash is not used for a hyphenated name (Lennard-Jones potential, named after John Lennard-Jones) or an element that lacks lexical independence (the prefix Sino- in Sino-Japanese trade). In this role, en dashes are never spaced.
  3. In lists, to separate distinct information within points—for example, in articles about music albums, en dashes are used between track titles and durations, and between musicians and their instruments. These en dashes are always spaced.
  4. As a stylistic alternative to em dashes (see below).

Thoughts? Ozob (talk) 03:07, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

RfC: Spaced disjunctive en dashes should be restricted to date ranges

Following on from the discussion above (and with a new header to clarify discussion), I wonder if there is any case where we should use spaced disjunctive en dashes apart from the case of birth and death dates or similar simple date ranges. To take the example of a range of values for a physical quantity above, I would say that 10 W – 200 kW should be replaced by from 10 W to 200 kW or the range 10 W to 200 kW, depending on the context. The rational for restricting the use of spaced en dashes is that they have another common use in English – to introduce parenthetical phrases – and it is not our business to say that they should be replaced by parentheses (or, sometimes, semicolons) when this usage is widespread. We are not the defenders of the purity of English punctuation, especially when such supposed purity comes at the detriment of readability. Physchim62 (talk) 13:08, 11 March 2010 (UTC)

I don't think there should be any difference between dates and anything else; from 10 W to 200 kW is typically better in prose but 10 W – 200 kW may be useful in lists, tables, parentheses and the like, and the same applies to from 1 January to 31 July v 1 January – 31 July. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 14:38, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
The difference is that we have large numbers of spaced disjunctive en dashes (within parentheses) in the lead sections of biographies which are not problematic. Pretty much all the other occurrences of spaced disjunctive en dashes are problematic to some extent, depending on your point of view on the issue, although I agree that tabular material is another reasonable exception. Physchim62 (talk) 14:58, 11 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't want to second-guess an article's editors on whether an en dash is appropriate or not. Maybe 10 W – 100 kW is a good idea in context; we shouldn't sit on our thrones here and command them otherwise. We might want to recommend otherwise, but that's difficult to do because people in a typographical dispute often treat the MoS as absolute; they wield our words as weapons, whether or not we want that. So I think we really ought to have a rule that allows for en dashes in almost any situation.
I'm a pretty big fan of the rule I proposed above (distinguishing ranges from other disjunctive en dashes). I think I'd like to see it in the MoS. Ozob (talk) 16:32, 13 March 2010 (UTC)


Please change this page to recommend using … instead of .... The three periods is wrong. Despite what it says here, the … symbol is not too hard to read in squished fonts and it is easy to input (alt-semicolon) -- (talk) 14:31, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

You must be a teen. The "…" character is nearly impossible for me to see. Why does it really matter, anyway? It's easier to simply enter three '.'s anyway.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 14:39, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
And what advantages does "…" have over "..."? ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 14:42, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
The same advantage that X has over >< and W has over VV and and O has over (). It's the right character. -- (talk) 14:49, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
An ellipsis is three periods, so "..." are the correct characters for it. The "…" character is not standard on keyboards nor is it included in the list of symbols supplied by the wiki software when you edit a page (as far as I can tell). I had to copy it just now from the title of the section. How would I insert it without doing that? --Jubilee♫clipman 15:42, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
Quotes are double apostrophes and Ws are double Us, but we still use the right symbols for those. An ellipsis is typed by alt-semicolon. It's right on the home-row, and a lot easier to type than en and em-dashes or degree symbols, which Wikipedia does use. -- (talk) 16:22, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
On my keyboard, it doesn't. Also, " and W are in ASCII, and they look very different than '' and VV in most fonts, unlike ... and …. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 17:03, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
Nope... I have tried alt-; alt_gr-; ctrl-; and ctrl-alt-; all to no avail. Maybe an American Keyboard thing?
A double apostrophe has a special meaning in wiki software; indeed, A. di M. had to nowiki it in the above... Technically, it should be UU and uu for W and w... but that is beside the point: the name is traditional and no one writes two u's or v's for a w. Same goes for X/x and ><. 0, o and O are different, of course, but no one writes () or Q or anything else for those except on MySpace and FaceBook. I, l and 1 are also to be differentiated for obvious reasons --Jubilee♫clipman 19:31, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

Doesn't this hold:

  • ellipsis : three periods :: en-dash : hyphen-minus?

The analogy is a little imprecise because three periods are three characters. That aside, it seems like the logic should transfer. Melchoir (talk) 21:22, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

  • Hm... dashes and hyphens are not the same thing. They are like O and 0 or l and 1. Dashes are notoriously hard to render: see below for my technical question --Jubilee♫clipman 22:00, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
That's part of my point: an ellipsis and three periods aren't "the same thing" either! See e.g. Fluid Web Typography p.45 "Although an ellipsis looks a lot like three periods, it is not the same thing, and periods should not be substituted." Melchoir (talk) 22:10, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
Since we still haven't figured out how to use our keyboards to input "…", my only options are: 1. to use &hellip; (which I have only just now discovered by reading that article you pointed to—an article having nothing to do with WP, I note); 2. to copy "…" from someone else's edit (as I did just now); 3. to use the three periods. I know which I'll be using and which the majority of editors will do using...
BTW, the keyboard inputting method uses not a semicolon but a period: [14]. In Windows, ctrl-alt-period generates the character in MS Works but not in WP edit windows (not in FireFox, anyway)... Strange.
Also, I note that FF renders the title of this section as .E2.80.A6 when I click it in the contents. Could that code be used somehow?
Finally, the Chicago Manual of Style Q&A says this: "For manuscripts, inserting an ellipsis character is a workable method, but it is not the preferred method. It is easy enough for a publisher to search for this unique character and replace it with the recommended three periods plus two nonbreaking spaces (. . .). But in addition to this extra step, there is also the potential for character-mapping problems (the ellipsis could appear as some other character) across software platforms—an added inconvenience. Moreover, the numeric entity for an ellipsis is not formally defined for standard HTML (and may not work with older browsers). So type three spaced dots, like this . . . or, at the end of a grammatical sentence, like this. . . . If you can, add two nonbreaking spaces to keep the three dots—or the last three of four—from breaking across a line." --Jubilee♫clipman 23:21, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

It is not true that the ellipsis always looks almost exactly like three periods. For instance, in Courier New, we have: and .... The former is nearly illegible. We are not guaranteed our choice of font; we are not even guaranteed that users will be reading our text (instead of, say, using a screen reader). Three periods is more portable and at least sometimes more aesthetic. Ozob (talk) 23:49, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

Good call changing the title from the near-illegible ellipsis character! Your point about portability is similar to the point made in the Chicago Q&A: "...there is also the potential for character-mapping problems...". I agree with that --Jubilee♫clipman 00:03, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
From the reader's perspective (at least in standard Wikipedia fonts) there is absolutely no difference between three periods and an ellipsis character; they are indistinguishable. If it were not for the real technical problems that Ozob has demonstrated for us, I would fully support allowing both systems, to the point of considering converting three periods to an ellipsis character (or vice versa) to be a dummy edit. Should those technical problems ever cease to be an issue, that is what we should do. Darkfrog24 (talk) 00:11, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

I question much of the above, but I can't possibly respond to it all. :-) Let's keep this simple: is there a problem with the analogy? Melchoir (talk) 00:44, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

My original point was that hyphens are not dashes: AFAIK, we are not supposed to use hyphens for dashes—even for endashes. OK, periods and ellipses are not the same, either, but if even respected editors like those working for the Chicago MoS suggest using three periods (spaced, albeit, with non-breaking spaces, in their case) then why shouldn't we? --Jubilee♫clipman 04:56, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
You're aware that the analogy holds here too? The Chicago MoS also recommends that authors simulate dashes of various lengths with multiple hyphens.[15] Both guidelines are meant for a manuscript that will be further processed by an editor and a typesetter before reaching the end reader's eyes. Melchoir (talk) 07:28, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Please stay away from that frightful hellip thing. Three points, spaced both sides, or wherea punctuation mark precedes, no space on the left. Tony (talk) 03:58, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree, though I tend never to have a space on the left. Another issue to address, perhaps. However, I think that the general rule is to avoid white space before punctuation marks, though I may be out of date on that --Jubilee♫clipman 04:56, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Jubileeclipman: I am all for using three full-stops instead of the special character, but I am firmly against flanking the ellipsis with spaces everywhere. For one thing, I consider this a substitute for "[...]", which denotes omitted parts in quotations; for another, the ellipsis normally represents a trailing off of the voice at the end of a sentence, and therefore belongs to the preceding sentence. As I see it, using spaces on both sides implies an equal distance from the sentences separated by it, and that is only true in the former case (quotation gaps). It's the same principle that prohibits " ! ", really. Waltham, The Duke of 06:10, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

It looks like only Apple keyboards let you type an ellipsis with AltGR-semicolon. Windows seems to require some silly numerical code for all non-standard characters, even simple things like accented vowels or the Euro symbol. But special dashes are also hard to make with Windows, and Wikipedia is still picky about those, so I don't agree with the argument that the symbol is too hard to make. I also don't agree with the argument that it's hard to read in some fonts, because the same could be said of the dashes. If there is a problem with character mapping, that might be a real worry, but I don't understand why ellipsis wouldn't have a standard place in the character map while all of the other special symbols do. -- (talk) 15:03, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

Ah, but the dashes we use are longer than hyphens; if there is a problem in distinguishing between them in some fonts, that doesn't mean they cannot be seen for what they are (dashes). This is not true about the ellipsis character, which is often smaller than the sequence of three full-stops. Waltham, The Duke of 15:23, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

Punctuation question

Please tell me if you think this sentence is punctuated correctly:

Fastway are a British heavy metal band formed by guitarist, "Fast" Eddie Clarke, formerly of Motörhead, and bassist, Pete Way, formerly of UFO.

To me, the commas before "Fast" and "Pete" seem wrong. There has been no dispute about this particular sentence, and in itself it's no big deal, but I'm interested in people's thoughts because it is a punctuation style that I've noticed from time to time in various Wikipedia articles and it always jars. I'm wondering if it's just me. (talk) 01:12, 23 March 2010 (UTC).

No, it isn't. Johnbod (talk) 01:14, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
No it isn't just you. It would be acceptable to delete both of those commas. Darkfrog24 (talk) 02:36, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
It's not merely acceptable; to me it would be preferable. Ozob (talk) 03:09, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree: it's bumpy unless those commas are removed. Tony (talk) 03:52, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
It is preferable without them. Consider the two "asides" in the sentence: (1) "formerly of Motörhead," and (2) "formerly of UFO." If you were to remove them, the sentence would read:
Fastway [is] a British heavy metal band formed by guitarist "Fast" Eddie Clarke and bassist Pete Way.
You could also place the asides in parentheses for a similar result. Inserting the "asides" and setting them off with commas does not cause a requirement for the additional commas in question. Airborne84 (talk) 03:58, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Thank you all. (talk) 05:12, 23 March 2010 (UTC).
    I know that I'm late to the party here, but I just wanted to mention: Wikipedia:Reference desk. The Language page is set up to discuss exactly this sort of question (Not that I mind that this was posted here, but I understand what you meant when you prefaced your question with "There has been no dispute about this particular sentence". The Reference desk is designed to be nice, neutral territory).
    Anyway, I also wanted to chime in with my colleges here, in support of preferring not to use the commas.
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 08:16, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

Removed a small para in Engvar

Under "Strong national ties", a paragraph I'd never noticed was doing no particular service to readers' understanding:

This avoids articles being written in a variety that is inappropriate for the great majority of its readers. For example, Australians reading the article Australian Defence Force or Americans reading American Civil War should not stumble over spellings or constructions not used in their own variety of English.

The grammar of the opening is clumsy; the paragraph repeats examples that are listed above it; it makes a questionable assumption that only Australian readers matter in Australia-related articles, etc., that, for example, "the great majority" of readers of articles related to South Africa are those who speak South African English (says who?), and that English-speakers "stumble" over the minor differences in spelling and lexis between the varieties.

The section is quite long enough without this additional paragraph; was it there as a defensive justification of our highly successful engvar guideline? Why was it added? If anything, it provides ways of criticising the guideline more than explaining or justifying it. I've removed it. Tony (talk) 12:54, 21 March 2010 (UTC)

Good. PL290 (talk) 13:10, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
I know that this will go over like a lead balloon, but we should just dump the whole ENGVAR thang. I'm firmly of the opinion that it does more harm then good. (oh ya, this is a decent change though.)
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 13:43, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
What harm does it do? ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 20:48, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
It currently makes the Main Page say "France win the 2010 Six Nations Championship" for instance. It would go over like a granite balloon (lighter than lead) if you proposed an alternative. No guideline at all, and presumably a lot more arguments about U.S.-centrism? U.S. English only? What? Art LaPella (talk) 22:07, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
We need to either 1. pick just one variety of English for the whole English Wikipedia or 2. have some system for deciding which articles are written in which variety. If someone can come up with a better idea than ENGVAR, we should certainly hear it out, but I've yet to see one. ENGVAR isn't perfect, but we can reasonably assume that there are fewer fights with it than if we had no policy at all, and it shows respect to the diversity of the English language and English language usage among Wikipedia editors. is it that ENGVAR mandates that the main page say "France win the 2010 Six Nations Championship"? I'm afraid I don't follow you there. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:54, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
ENGVAR allows British English, and arguably prefers British English when discussing Europeans (who study British English in school, I'm told) playing a British game. If "France win ..." (which of course sounds like a typo to Americans) isn't British English, then that will be a surprise to WP:In the news regulars, where that issue comes up regularly with each non-American sports announcement, and is considered a long-settled issue. Art LaPella (talk) 23:27, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
I imagine at some point there will be a technical solution so that the page rendering determines if the reader requires British-English or American-English and the article will have some sort of option. Google determines your language setting already. So it's quite possible. Regards, SunCreator (talk) 23:13, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
Picking just one variety would really be worse then the current situation. It'd drive some people away, if nothing else. More importantly though, since Wikipedia encompasses a worldwide audience, picking just one variety would stifle the continuing development of the language itself.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 05:42, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

The main page is bound to mix varieties of English. One article will say "France win the Championship", another will say "France wins the title". If both articles happen to be featured that day, both versions of that construction end up on the Main Page. I don't see a problem here: it is a very minor issue, IMO; in fact, it might even be a good thing since it makes the Main Page neutral as regards language. In actual articles, ENGVAR is the best we can do, I suspect: we cannot impose one style of English on any group of editors so we have to compromise. Software that automatically rewrites pages according to your locality would be helpful but 1) it would take control away from real people, 2) it would need to be very intelligent in design, 3) quoting from one version in any talkpage might be a problem for users of the other version. Regarding #2: the software would have to allow for bad grammar and allow for a mix of styles; any bad grammar might throw it and a mix of styles might also throw it etc. Can't see how we can ditch ENGVAR for a while, yet --Jubilee♫clipman 23:42, 21 March 2010 (UTC)

It would only apply to articles. I envisage a user setting either in preferences(if your logged in)/browser setting/IP(if your not) that is set to either British or American. And that the articles says "France {{LanguageVar|british="win the Championship"|american="wins the title"}}". Same with words in sentence {{LanguageVar|british="colour"|american="color"}} etc. Regards, SunCreator (talk) 00:02, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
You mean you have to use a template for every occurance??? Or have I misunderstood? --Jubilee♫clipman 00:04, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
Not for common stuff. So my bad example of colour/color could be automatic and not a tempalte, but advanced stuff where grammar is involved like France Win/Wins then yes you'd add it specifically with a template. Regards, SunCreator (talk) 00:10, 22 March 2010 (UTC)


My complete rewrite suggestion for ENGVAR would be something like:

There are many varieties of spelling in the English language, and Wikipedia intentionally does not favor (nor does it favour) any particular system over another. Articles should be written to be internally consistent, so regardless of what form of spelling is used be sure to use it throughout the article (The accepted style of punctuation is covered in the punctuation section, above.) Articles should not be edited specifically in order to change spelling, and edit warring over spelling choices is considered to be disruptive; editors should feel free to adjust and correct spelling where needed, however.

Strong national ties to a topic

Certain topics naturally lend themselves to specific national varieties of English. Those topics which are clearly tied to certain varieties of English should be written in, or changed to, the variety of English most appropriate. Therefore, the spelling within American Civil War should always be American English, while the spelling within Parliament of the United Kingdom should always be British English.

Opportunities for commonality

(Essentially unchanged)

That's sorter, and slightly more permissive, while keeping the basic stricture against edit warring over spelling (which I can't imagine anyone wanting to refute).

The problem with the current ENGVAR, for me, has actually always revolved around RETAIN. Everyone offers it as a means of avoiding conflict, but in practice I've noticed it used more as a club, to "win", rather then something which actually helps. I realize that the current version of ENGVAR is derived from ArbCom cases, and other serious conflicts which have arisen over spelling. I don't think that we should loose that knowledge, which represent hard won gains from attempts to resolve such conflicts. The problem is, the current "solution" simply isn't a solution at all, as it causes its own conflicts by its very nature.

The other big issue that I see is that our current ENGVAR works to slow the ongoing development of the language itself, at least within our little corner of the world here on Wikipedia. Wikipedia acts as a worldwide platform for the development of the written word. Given the prominence of the website, the fact that we've chosen to forcibly segregate the varieties of English works at odds towards the ability for us to seek out ways to both bring together, and even potentially create new, varieties of English. Segregation is never the answer to these sorts of problems.

Closer to home, ENGVAR (specifically RETAIN) strikes me as the antithesis of attempts to foster a collegial atmosphere, which is a position set out in the Five Pillars. I think that it's a perfectly legitimate argument to say that RETAIN fails to meet the goals of the fifth pillar ("Wikipedia does not have firm rules."), and actually works at cross purposes towards supporting the fourth pillar ("Wikipedians should interact in a respectful and civil manner.").

I'm not really sure why I'm bothering to put so much into this right now, since it'll never change, but that's my suggestion and those are my arguments.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 05:37, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

Ohm, it is absolutely not Wikipedia's job to push artificial changes in the English language. What you describe as "ongoing development" is far more likely in practice to be what a bunch of Wikipedia editors decide that they like more than standard English. Language-wise, Wikipedia should go with the flow but not redirect the river.
Your suggestions aren't bad, but they could be streamlined:
There are many varieties of English, and Wikipedia does not favor (or favour) any particular variation over the others. Articles should always be internally consistent, so each article should use just one form of English throughout. Never edit an article solely to change the spelling from one form of correct English to another (center to centre or vice versa). Edit warring over spelling choices is considered to be disruptive.

When deciding which form of English to use in an article, consider the article's topic. Those topics that are clearly tied to certain varieties of English should be written in or changed to that variety of English. Therefore, the spelling within American Civil War should always be American English, while the spelling within Parliament of the United Kingdom should always be British English.

When the article topic has no clear connection to any variety of English over the others, [insert solution here].
We do need to add something for what to do about topic-neutral articles like orange (color) etc. There was a big ruckus about one of the colors a while back. Otherwise, people will reach and reach until they find some way to connect any topic to any variety of English. Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:00, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
It's not Wikipedia's job to get in the way of such development either, which is my main point. Wikipedia is artificially preventing change, currently (through RETAIN, primarily). Besides, define "standard English". If there really were a standard, we wouldn't be having this discussion. Not that I'm surprised to hear this, since this sort of prescriptivist attitude is actually fairly prevelent (especially here on Wikipedia, unfortunately).
The thing is though, I like your streamlined version. I wrote mine off the cuff, so it could definately use some polish regardless. The main point that I'm trying to make is that "[insert solution here]" should simply be "do what comes naturally to you".
I get the feeling that the main concern, of those who support the current version of ENGVAR, is simply a worry that British English and other varieties will disappear from Wikipedia. While I can understand and sympathize with such concerns, its just not a persuasive argument, to me. I don't want any particular form to be lost (unless we really do collectively choose to lose it), but i think that trying to actively fight against that possibility does more harm then good. I guess that I don't have a really strong argument myself, but I stand by my basic position that the current solution does more harm then good.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 14:32, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
"Never edit an article solely to change the spelling from one form of correct English to another" might seem to suggest that if an article is consistently written in BrE except that one of five occurrences of "centre" is spelled "center", I should not change it to "centre". While the second sentence shows that this is not the case, I'd prefer a clearer wording, if I could find one. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 13:21, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
Humm... I don't dismiss this sort of concern, but I don't see how that could be misread that way. That makes it hard to offer a suggested remedy. I'm not sure how much effort it's really worth to put into this either, since I really doubt that any significant change such as we're discussing here will be possible.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 14:32, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────My 2 cents/pence.

  1. Articles should not be edited specifically in order to change spelling: obviously, this refers to varieties (color/colour) but it reads as a prescription against copyediting articles to change "recieve" to "receive" or "teh" to "the", ect. [= "etc"...]. The second version of this is better, therefore.
  2. Wikipedia intentionally does not favor (nor does it favour) any particular system over another: this already favo(u)rs one variety and relegates the other to a parenthetical aside. Wikipedia intentionally avoids promoting any particular system of English might work better.
  3. Wikipedia acts as a worldwide platform for the development of the written word: no, it acts an encyclopedia. Period. Any development of language is incidental to all forms of communication unless the language itself is artificial or controlled e.g. Esperanto, Basic English, etc. Thus, no publication or group can be said to act as a worldwide platform for the development of the written word exept perhaps in the form of a report or study e.g. Evolutionary linguistics. (As an aside, the article Written language is terrible!)

My concern is not that BrE will be disappeared by AmE but rather, as Ohms law et al., that all varieties are valid and have their place. Commonality is better across the board, IMO; however, is there a common word for colo(u)r...? Bit of a sticky one that! (FWIW, orange (color) probably ought to be at orange since every other use of the word (including the name of the fruit) probably stems from this meaning ultimately. The dab should be Orange (disambiguation). That's a side issue though, of course!) --Jubilee♫clipman 16:31, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

Actually is the colour which is named after the fruit, not the other way round.[16] The colour used to be called "yellowish red" or the equivalent thereof in the English of the time, and I've even read some speculation that Newton might have promoted the use of orange as a homage to William of Orange (will provide a ref for this when I'm back home)(see below). Anyway, that's irrelevant to which is the primary meaning today, and [17][18] ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 17:17, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
Hm. Something new every day! Thanks for that info. It is a side issue though, indeed --Jubilee♫clipman 19:20, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
It's in Cosmical Imagery by John D. Barrow, footnote 11 to part 4. My attempt to a back-translation from the Italian translation: "There's a thesis according to which orange was added by Newton between red and green in memory of one of his protectors, William III, Duke of Orange, who had died two years before the publication of Opticks. The term was not in common use to describe the colour. Orange is also a city in the South of France. Elsewhere, Newton refers to this colour as "citrus", or "yellowish-red", when he describes its formation by the interference fringes in "Newton's rings". The inclusion of orange in the spectrum may also have had the aim of bestowing a particular credit to the political cause associated with William of Orange." ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 20:38, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
FYI: the spelling differences which cause the spelling of colo(u*)r to change, are directly attributable to our buddy Noah Webster. Since he was American, the spelling differences tend to be characterized as an American-izm, but I've always sided with the opinion that the intent was for the spelling revision to be universal (which is supported by Webster's own statements). The point though is that Webster's spelling revision is an excellent example of why ENGVAR type rules are a bad deal for English. The language has always been permissive on these sorts of issues. We have no central authority, we easily create brand new words for new ideas (where, from what I understand, other languages tend to favor reusing words I don't really know, since I've never been able to actually learn any other languages, damnit!), and worst of all we take on loan-words from other languages all the time! For example, is "Wierd" actually wrong? Really, why should it be incorrect? Why couldn't the "i before e" rule actually be a rule? I mean, if we collectively decided; if we actually decided to say that Weird should be spelled "Wierd", then it just would be. (Incidentally, I just looked, and we actually have an article at English spelling reform)
I'm getting all long-winded here, but what I've been getting to is this: Wikipedia already works this way normally. We say "anyone can edit", and we specifically allow anyone to have access to the edit function (most of the time...). The only place that this currently isn't true is when it comes to varieties of English, where we've set this system up to where the first editor to actually make any choice "wins", and everyone else has to play by that persons rules. RETAIN is an anachronism on Wikipedia, which is why it bugs me.
You're right though, in that the language within this particular proposal is a bit inadequate. If there's actual support for a change here, then I'll very gladly work on tightening it up into something that could actually go into policy. I'm just not going to expend the effort on something that isn't going to go any where. I'm somewhat surprised that this discussion has developed this much, and having a bit of fun actually talking about this in a collegial manner, but... is it really going anywhere?
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 21:15, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

Suggestion 2: trim WP:RETAIN

Personally I think WP:ENGVAR is basically fine. We're not going to get agreement to impose one universal variety (unless, of course, we choose my variety!) and to do so wouldn't achieve anything worthwhile; this is life's rich tapestry in our global community. But I do agree WP:RETAIN is problematic, and does get used as a club to "win" for the wrong reasons. I think that simply by making more than the basic statement, it creates more problems than it solves. I propose we delete all except for the first sentence:

;Retaining the existing variety If an article has evolved using predominantly one variety, the whole article should conform to that variety, unless there are reasons for changing it based on strong national ties to the topic. In the early stages of writing an article, the variety chosen by the first major contributor to the article should be used. Where an article that is not a stub shows no signs of which variety it is written in, the first person to make an edit that disambiguates the variety is equivalent to the first major contributor.

PL290 (talk) 08:05, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

  • There is nothing wrong with the current section, which has worked superbly well. Remove the "Retain" subsection or the point about the variety chosen by the first major contributor, and we'll have edit wars breaking out. The guideline must continue to provide automatic solutions where editors might disagree on this matter. Tony (talk) 08:56, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
    Agreed. We've got to have something there. In the sciences, they say that a good theory is the theory that holds together long enough to get the research team a better theory. WP:RETAIN will do until something better comes along. Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:02, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
    I'd argue the "worked superbly well" characterization. As a matter of fact, I did argue exactly that; and I see that PL290 has as well. That being said, I do agree that we should keep what we have until something actually better comes along. I'm certainly not seeking chainge for it's own sake. I like the basic idea here though, in that tweaking or "streamlining" RETAIN could be beneficial.
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 14:37, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
  • I'd like a provision added to "retain" that an article can change varieties if there is a very clear agreement - with some sort of supermajority in a formal vote - among the contributing editors to do so. Some articles get stuck in a variety from a stub, despite what the rules say. It is in fact rather difficult for most editors to write in the variety that is not their own, as User:Awadewit often complains. I notice, btw, that RETAIN only seems enforced for US or UK English. If someone started an article on a colour or chemical compound in Indian English, it would be unlikely that others would (or could) follow. Johnbod (talk) 15:03, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
    I've actually seen people argue, seemingly with a straight face, that there was no such thing as "Indian English". This is a whole other aspect of the harm that RETAIN inadvertently causes. It fosters a battlefield, capture the flag style, attitude among some. That's what leads to some thinking that there is an AmEng vs. BrEng competition going on.
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 15:29, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
    I agree. Dialects are not the issue to be resolved here, otherwise we get into Scottish English, Jamaican English, etc... The two main varieties of English really are BrE and AmE, AFAIK --Jubilee♫clipman 16:48, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
    There is an Indian English, but it's not a native English variety; nowadays, there are many fewer people for whom English is the primary languange in India than (say) in Singapore. As far as the formal written language (whose regional variations are much smaller than those of colloquial speech) is concerned, to a good approximation there are an American English variety and a Commonwealth English variety, but that's not an exact picture: for example, in Canada terms in some fields are typically spelt the US way and in other fields the UK way, and there are differences e.g. in legal vocabulary between England and Scotland. Nevertheless it is quite possible that a middle-sized or long article is simultaneously both "valid" New Zealand English and "valid" Irish English, for example.
    Anyway, if I came to article and see that it happens to be written consistently in BrE except that one of four occurences of "colour" is spelt "color", I just change that one; I don't recall anyone ever complaining for that. The passage with strikethrough above, taken literally, would instead incourage me to dig through the article history and check which way it was originally written, which I think it's a thing most people would rather not bother to do. But maybe we can let WP:UCS allow that in cases when there are no edit wars, and keeping the text being discussed for cases when edit wars do arise. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 20:35, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
    The trouble is, while you're right that most people won't be bothered, it only takes one. Since that person has policy "on their side", there's really nothing to be done about it if someone does that. I've seen it actually happen too, and I'm here to tell you that it's really demoralizing. There's one prominent article, which I have a ton of interest and knowledge about, which has been captured this way, forced into what I feel is an unnatural dialect. The person responsible even got the article approved as a "featured article" as well (*Rolls eyes*). Like I said, it only takes one person to gum up the works.
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 21:23, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
As it looks like staying, and I can understand the reasons given, it may help to clarify one aspect: I think part of the problem is that it's easy to miss the significance of the first few words of the part struck out above, "In the early stages of writing an article". Those words are, I think, intended to identify a special case, i.e., the initial time when the article has precisely not yet evolved to any degree, and is perhaps small in size and may not yet contain any words like "color" or "colour". That fact can be quickly lost as the reader's focus switches to understanding the rules for identifying the first major contributor. In the cases I can think of where RETAIN has been wielded unfairly—which are admittedly few, and in those cases it came to nothing—that is exactly what seems to have happened: the article was well-established, having evolved over time into its current state, yet an ancient contributor was wheeled out and this clause cited. So it may help to rejig things to make this distinction clear. On a related note, the very first words, "If an article has evolved using predominantly one variety" are themselves problematic, since there's unlikely to be any "if" about it (nor should the MoS imply that evolving in any other way would be a normal state of affairs). PL290 (talk) 22:21, 22 March 2010 (UTC)
How about "Wikipedia does not have an official variety of English, but rather allows articles to be written in any valid variety, so long as each article is written in only one variety." Also, we should specifically mention, if only in passing, one variety of English that is neither British nor American. Darkfrog24 (talk) 00:28, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Having read the thread above, I feel it's necessary to point out the binary division that has been established in both engvar and the guidelines for date format: "the club" comprises the ancestral native-English-speaking countries, of which there are seven: the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa. There are small proportions of native English-speakers within the populations of other countries, notably India, Liberia, Singapore, and HK, but they are not included. On the flipside, there are sizeable proportions of the populations within "the club" who are second-language speakers. Nevertheless, "the club" has been established on WP because editors from those countries are likely to get emotional about their own variety of English and/or date format. Editors from India, for example, usually don't give a toss about it, although wholesale changing of the spelling or date format in India-related articles probably wouldn't be welcomed by a lot of editors—nor the project as whole, which aims for stability, inter alia. Engvar and our date-format guidelines keep the peace very well and have been highly successful in largely ending the edit-wars that characterised the first few years of WP's existence. Tony (talk) 07:23, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
    I can agree to that sort of distinction, as long as nobody takes it to mean that "there is no Indian English", which I've seen occur, as I said above. The logic behind distinguishing "the club" makes intuitive sense to me, though. My only observation would be that Indian editors likely "don't give a toss about it" more due to the fact that Indians are generally more accepting of multiculturalism than most Westerners. We could learn a few things from India, and Indians.
    To be blunt though, I just don't buy into the idea that our current policies in this area have "kept the peace". I know that you have been heavily involved in at least the date formatting issue Tony, so it's perfectly reasonable for you to be taking this position. I'm not out to... I don't know, "out maneuver"(?) you on this, or anything like that. My only point is that we're not "keeping the peace". Over the last couple of years we've slowly created an atmosphere where any meaningful opposition to RETAIN, date-formats, or other similar issues has been shut out. That these issues reached ArbCom, essentially forcing the current language to exist in these areas of the MOS is, quite frankly, a disgrace. We should be better able to work with each other, rather then seeking out these sorts of "solutions".
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 08:55, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
    It was date autoformatting that went to ArbCom, not the matter of which format should be used in which article; until early 2008, we had no guideline on that at all. Then one was developed at MOSNUM, based largely on engvar. BTW, DA was preventing logged-in editors from realising that there was an unholy mess of within-article inconsistency and inappropriate choices (e.g., dmy for NASA and even one of the 9/11 sibling articles, I discovered; I even switched one yesterday, for a US TV show—at least now we can see the faults that our readers see). Anyway, that issue is resolved. Do you perceive that engvar still causes trouble? Tony (talk) 09:41, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
    See though, this is exactly the problem with having ArbCom dragged into issues such as this. Of course you're correct that the actual case involved autoformatting. The reality though is that ArbCom decisions have far reaching impact, and so their "limited" decisions are hardly limited at all (something which even ArbCom has a tough time grasping, it seems). Their formatting decision is seen as a general prescription regarding date formatting, to most.
    The real problem here is that we need to understand that the MOS, and most policy in general, are seen as being useful for last resort appeals to authority, to most editors. For better or worse, the vast majority of editors simply ignore the MOS and policy, and do what comes naturally to them. Wikipedia was actually set up to encourage that sort of behavior, and despite the problems that it does cause it actually pays dividends. So, the problem that things such as adding RETAIN to ENGVAR cause is that we end up with situations where people blithely make contributions, in good faith that their actually helping, and end up being sideswiped by unusually forceful policy. I hope that it's apparent that I don't necessarily disagree with the principles behind these issues, it's simply the manner in which their being implemented which is problematic.
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 10:08, 23 March 2010 (UTC) [Copied and continued on Ohms's talk page, since the dialogue seems to have strayed from WT:MOS's scope. Tony (talk) 11:02, 23 March 2010 (UTC)]
I am of the opinion that because people treat the MoS like a set of hard rules, we should take this into account whenever we add or remove anything from the MoS. On something that subtle, it's a lot more realistic to work with people's in-practice behavior than to try to get them to change. Darkfrog24 (talk) 12:31, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree with your first point; your second point revolves around "realistic"; are you being defeatist? I certainly don't agree with such a strategy. Tony (talk) 13:18, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
It's only defeatist if we have a mission to change the view of the MoS as providing hard rules. We don't. I'd say that the MoS does have a mission to correct behaviors such as, say, capitalizing the names of the seasons. I certainly wouldn't tell the MoS to give up on that. But it is something that can be clearly characterized as desirable vs. undesirable and it isn't something so subtle as an attitude. Darkfrog24 (talk) 17:12, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree that ENGVAR should only apply to native English varieties, but Tony's list seems weird to me... 8.2% of South Africans in 2001 (compared to 23.0% of Singaporeans in 2000 and 29.4% of Singaporeans in 2005) speak English at home, so how comes South Africa is in and Singapore is out? And why are Jamaica, Trinitad and Tobago, Guyana etc. out? English is the only official language there, and while local creoles might be more common in speech in informal settings, so is Scots in Scotland... We could say "ties to a particular natively English-speaking nation" even without listing those nations. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 15:52, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
I was going to say the same thing. The omission of Jamaica and Guyana jumped out at me, but I know quite a few people whose families come from those countries. But they are countries with small populations, so their impact on the worldwide English language is lessened.
I can excuse the Singapore omission a bit, because its a fairly small country, and only a portion of the populace is natively English-speaking, so the overall numbers of English speakers there is a small number of the worldwide total of English speakers. In contrast, the native English speakers in South Africa are roughly equal to the entire population of Singapore, English and non-English speaking. And thats not counting those who use it as a second language (as opposed to at home). oknazevad (talk) 17:56, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
Well, if you count the total number of native English speakers, the Philippines have about as many as New Zealand. Any such list of nations would require criteria at least partially arbitrary. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 08:37, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

MOS:COLLAPSE ambiguity, question about images

Scrolling lists and boxes that toggle text display between hide and show are acceptable for use, but should not be used in article prose. This includes reference lists, image galleries, and image captions; they especially should not be used to conceal 'spoiler' information (see Wikipedia:Spoiler)."

The second sentence is ambiguous because I'm not sure if "This includes" refers to "acceptable for use" or "should not be used". I assume the latter.

Why is there no guidance on collapsing images themselves? –xenotalk 16:43, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

No guidance on individual images, because that would open the can-of-worms that is WP:NOTCENSORED! Or is that the problem, and you're trying to stop some madness related to that...? (ie, is someone trying to hide the image at penis or similar? or are you just asking in the abstract?)
I suggest we change the second sentence to:
"Scrolling/Collapsing sections should especially not be used to conceal: reference lists, images, image galleries, image captions, or "spoiler" information (see Wikipedia:Spoiler)."
Or something similar. -- Quiddity (talk) 19:20, 24 March 2010 (UTC)
MOS:COLLAPSE already has a MOS:ANDOR, so it might as well have another MOS:SLASH. Art LaPella (talk) 19:39, 24 March 2010 (UTC)
I just thought we previously had guidance on it. It is of course related to the various image-related disputes that occur from time to time: Rorschach images; those of the prophet Muhammad; and of course, those of very stretched rear orifices. –xenotalk 19:42, 24 March 2010 (UTC)
"...should not be used in article prose. This includes reference lists, image galleries, and image captions..." Logically, this doesn't follow because lists, galleries, images etc are not prose. I assume, also, that collapsing is frowned upon in lists etc so the text would be better as: "...should not be used in article prose, reference lists, image galleries, or image captions; they especially should not be used to conceal 'spoiler' information (see Wikipedia:Spoiler)." --Jubilee♫clipman 21:02, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

"Wikipedia is not a dictionary"

Hi, I apologize if this isn't the correct place to post this, but it seems this is the best place I could find. My comment is about how quite a few articles in Wikipedia start out, I mean the phrasing of the very first sentence of some articles. Namely like for example this: "Unschooling refers to a range of educational philosophies and practices centered..."

What I wish to bring up is that, to me that looks as though one is talking about the word unschooling, as opposed to unschooling as such. It's not the main goal of an encyclopedia article to focus on the word or term in the article's title, but rather to focus on the article's topic. The topic is (usually) not any word or phrase, but, like I said, a topic. None the less, quite a few Wikipedia articles start out as though they're talking about the specific words in the article title. Like this were a dictionary.

The article about unschooling shouldn't focus on the word that the first sentence there very specifically does focus on as it is now. The first sentence should be something like: "Unschooling is a range of education philosophies and practices...." Anyone see what I mean? Do you reckon I have a point? And if so, is this here issue addressed in the writing manuals and so on, at all? My view is that, unless the article does actually talk about the word(s) in the title, not about the topic pointed to by the word(s) or name in the article title, each and every article that have "refers to" in the first sentence of the article should have those two words replaced simply by "is".

The unschooling article is just one of very many that have a first sentence like that. And it looks completely daft to me. Might as well have used such phrasing in, say, biographies. It would make about as much sense. How does this seem: "Barack Obama refers to the President of the USA.." It's daft. The article is about a man whose name happens to be Barach Obama. The article isn't about the words Barack Obama (at least in Wikipedia that won't normally be the case). Hope I've explained my view on this here sufficiently now. :-)

Please let me know if I've made some sense to you with all this, or if I'm simply totally mistaken. :-) Thanks in advance. - (talk) 04:25, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

I agree that "is" is usually preferable to "refers to", but a blanket ban seems dangerous because, like as not, examples will pop up where it's desirable. (talk) 05:03, 23 March 2010 (UTC).
The problem is that editors are expected to use bold for the subject as soon as possible in the lead eg "Barack Hussein Obama II... is the 44th and current President of the United States." Many editors fail to realise that: a) they don't need to quote the title exactly (as with Barack Obama, above); b) they are leading into an article rather than defining the terms of reference; and c) that indirect phrasing, such as "x refers to y", can usually be avoided by using more direct phrasing such as "x is/was y". Hence, unschooling: "Unschooling refers to is a range of educational philosophies and practices centered..." --Jubilee♫clipman 05:28, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
Yes, "is" is better, and I agree it's unsuitable for a MoS spec. There's a rash of anon entries on this page; I urge these users to get an account and log in—it takes four minutes, including your prefs, and you're anonymity is guaranteed behind the username. I can outline the benefits to you and the project if you wish. Tony (talk) 06:47, 23 March 2010 (UTC) PS I restate my hatred of the insistence on bolding. Tony (talk) 06:49, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
I can see the argument for refers to (or something other than is) in this context. The verb to be is normally understood in a defining or identifying sense in the first sentence (as in a dictionary), and it may not be appropriate to equate "unschooling" with the (singular) range of philosophies or with all such philosophies collectively.--Boson (talk) 07:29, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
Agree with Boson. I also think the original poster has a point about the way some articles start out, but the wrong things are being singled out as the cause. It's not that the word "is" is always better (per Bosun, it could even intensify the "this is a definition" / dictionary effect), and it's not the bolding either, which I quite like and think of as akin to those nice old illustrations you used to get around the first (huge) letter of the first word of a chapter in old books. I think the issue just comes down to careful choice of words to suit the article. PL290 (talk) 08:46, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 09:06, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
There may be some specific issues with articles, but most people that write a lede are following the guidelines in WP:LEDE, which gives specific guidelines for the first paragraph and the first sentence. Nothing should override common sense, of course. Just pointing out where the "driver" for this issue is. Airborne84 (talk) 16:31, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
There's already a guideline about that at WP:UMD. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 16:41, 25 March 2010 (UTC)

Defining news organisations

Hi, I am trying to start a debate about defining what news organisations, as a reliable source, are good for and/or not good for. Please see Wikipedia_talk:Identifying_reliable_sources#News_Organisations_section ~ R.T.G 18:39, 25 March 2010 (UTC)

Why is a MOS important?

Why is a style guide necessary and/or desirable for Wikipedia?

I noticed that this question isn't answered in the lead section. The linked style guide also doesn't answer it. Most newcomers might ask: why do we have to have a manual of style anyway? And WP:LEAD says that we should have an indication of the subject's notability in the lead section. Sometimes you get so caught up in the trees, you forget about the meaning of the forest.

I'm not suggesting that the whole Manual of Style should be scrapped. I am saying that the answer to this question should be included in the lead. --RoyGoldsmith (talk) 13:31, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

Well there's an irony! "Tell us what's notable about this subject in the lead" but the MOS doesn't tell us what's notable about the MOS in the lead! Perhaps: "A manual of style is necessary in order to help editors write and maintain articles that follow a consistant pattern, remain stable, are properly sourced, and are clear and precise in their language and layout; this in turn helps make the entire encyclopedia easier and more intuitive to use"? Probably far more to say, but a start? --Jubilee♫clipman 15:06, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
While that's useful, other issues should be resolved first, e.g.
  • What is the central criteria for identifying and resolving issues? I suggest "for the benefits to readers", especially non-contributing readers.
  • What are the objectives for a volunteer project? I suggest some parts of MOS impose at lot of work on editors but deliver negligible or invisible to readers.
  • What is the main formats by which WP is delivered. I suggest that the great majority of pages are read from screens, mostly via the Web but perhaps some from CDs/DVDs such as WP:Edition 1.0. A body of principles called "Web readability", which is part of Web usability, has been developed since about 1997. --Philcha (talk) 15:20, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
Please: Ask what is the central criterion, not what is the central "criteria". Michael Hardy (talk) 16:22, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

I'm a bit surprised by the question, since everyone is accustomed to every magazine, newspaper, scholarly journal, and periodical publication of any kind adhering to a style manual. Michael Hardy (talk) 16:22, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

Michael Hardy,
  • I chose criteria because at this stage we don't know whether singular plural - e.g. in RL I suggest there are trade-offs at the top level (unless you're a genetic reductionist).
  • AFAIK it's agreed that WP needs a MOS, but I suggest WP needs to re-examine the current WP:MOS from the top down,and that we should not assume that "every magazine, newspaper, scholarly journal, and periodical publication of any kind" is a model for WP. --Philcha (talk) 20:46, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
I actually think that's a pretty good assumption. Every periodical means both the print and online versions. I'd add "encyclopedia" to that list, though. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:10, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Bah, WP:LEAD and WP:N don't apply to the project namespace, just the main article space. :P EVula // talk // // 21:03, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
    • True. However, there is no indication of the need for this MOS in the lead: you have to scroll right past the huge list of contents before you even get close to finding an answer. I think that is the main concern. OTOH, the mainspace article, style guide, also failed (now corrected by Maurreen) to fully explain why style guidlines are actually necessary in its lead. I think those facts, taken together, are what the original questioner meant to bring to our attention --Jubilee♫clipman 21:38, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
      • There's no indication of the need of a need. Seriously, it's just the manual of style; why would it need to justify its own existence? That's not its purpose. We shouldn't be trying to apply mainspace restrictions to the project namespace; they're very different creatures. EVula // talk // // 19:01, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
  • (hehe) Regardless of anything else, this is always an important question to answer as soon as possible, in some fashion, in any document. Especially for technical documentation. It's sort of strange, but "long'ish" articles with poor leads are relatively common on Wikipedia, even in articles with excellent content in their body. That's something which we should probably all work on.
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 21:50, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
I have a question. Do we need to tell people why the MoS is important? Does it serve the MoS's purpose to do so? I certainly wouldn't object to adding a well-turned line or two, but I'm not convinced that it's necessary.
We should take into account that many of the editors using the MoS will not have used a style sheet before. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:10, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
Oh hell, we all know we're here to show off how many pointless rules we've studied, right? Why do we need to explain our purpose? :) To me, the first priority is to bridge the gap between this subculture and the rest of Wikipedia. Art LaPella (talk) 04:14, 16 March 2010 (UTC)
AFAIK every article about Web readability and usability contradicts Darkfrog24 's "pretty good assumption" that "every periodical means both the print and online versions" (22:10, 15 March 2010). Web readability and usability articles emphasis that layout and even sentence and phrase have to be different for screens, because reading from a screen is about 20% slower, and more tiring - because screens are more grainy than printed output. --Philcha (talk) 23:21, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
My two cents: of course such an explanation isn't vital, as the MoS has existed for nearly nine years without one and the sky hasn't fallen. But that's no reason for not even trying to write one. (It doesn't have to be long and detailed; one paragraph would suffice. Jubileeclipman's and Philcha's comments look like a good start.) At least, no-one could possibly get the impression that these rules need to be followed for their own sake, which would be contrary to the fifth pillar. ― A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 21:26, 16 March 2010 (UTC)

OK, ignoring the infinite regression conundrums above, how about this as an insertion to the first sentence?

The Manual of Style (often abbreviated MoS or MOS) is a style guide for Wikipedia[, encouraging uniformity and consistency in formatting and English usage for all] articles.

I believe that Jubilee's longer statement is better suited at the top of section 1, like this:

==General principles==
A manual of style is necessary in order to help editors write and maintain articles that follow a consistent pattern, remain stable and properly sourced, and are clear and precise in their language and layout. This, in turn, helps to make the entire encyclopedia easier and more intuitive to use.
===Internal consistency===
An overriding principle...

--RoyGoldsmith (talk) 12:56, 17 March 2010 (UTC)

That makes a lot of sense: a simple lead expanded on in section 1. Good --Jubilee♫clipman 14:45, 17 March 2010 (UTC)
That looks good to me (FWIW).
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 02:43, 18 March 2010 (UTC)

General statements about "a manual of style" would be better for a Wikipedia article about manuals of style. The lead should discuss this manual of style. How about this?

The purpose of the Wikipedia manual of style is to help editors write and maintain articles so that they remain stable and properly sourced, employ correct English, and deliver information in a clear and precise way. This makes the entire encyclopedia easier to use and more professional in appearance. Darkfrog24 (talk)
The lead does discuss this manual of style in RoyGoldsmith's suggested wording above. Every aspect of his suggestion looks good to me. PL290 (talk) 19:26, 18 March 2010 (UTC)
I question some parts of "A manual of style is necessary in order to help editors write and maintain articles that follow a consistent pattern, remain stable and properly sourced, and are clear and precise in their language and layout. This, in turn, helps to make the entire encyclopedia easier and more intuitive to use" as proposed by RoyGoldsmith (12:56, 17 March 2010) and Darkfrog24:
  • A MOS can do nothing about "remain stable", which is WP:CONSENSUS, WP:DE, WP:REVERT, etc.
  • Likewise MOS has nothing to with "properly sourced", which is the province of WP:V, etc. --Philcha (talk) 20:38, 18 March 2010 (UTC)
Actually, I proposed that text and it was straight off the top of my head [15:06, 15 March 2010 (UTC)]. You are correct, though, that those two items have little to do with the MoS and can be removed --Jubilee♫clipman 21:54, 18 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't think we should say "necessary" for maintaining good articles because it is possible to do it without a MoS. A MoS, however, does usually help, and it's perfectly true to say that such-and-such is the MoS's "purpose."
I don't think we should talk about uniformity or consistent patterns. Uniformity is not itself a virtue the way correct language and good structure are. It can improve readability, however, so it would be valid to talk about that.
The MoS does actually help articles remain stable in some ways: It establishes good form and that, at least in theory, is supposed to stand above otherwise warring editors' personal preferences on form.
Taking Philcha's comments into account, how about The purpose of the Wikipedia manual of style is to help Wikipedia editors write and maintain easily readable articles that employ correct language and deliver information in a clear and precise way. This makes the entire encyclopedia easier to use and more professional in appearance.' Darkfrog24 (talk) 21:47, 18 March 2010 (UTC)
That's much better. Good --Jubilee♫clipman 21:57, 18 March 2010 (UTC)
So that's why we say "six sentries" not "6 sentries", but "6th century" not "sixth century"! I always wondered about that ... Art LaPella (talk) 00:01, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
  1. I don't like "correct" (title and sentence case are both "correct" for titles, but we made a call to use sentence case, thank heaven, even though title case is more common out there).
  2. I wouldn't go into the stability issue; nor stray into "intuitive", "easier to use", "necessary", or "properly sourced". Let's not make claims that would take a whole talk page to justify.
  3. Who wrote "in order to"? Just "to", thanks.
  4. I'm not sure the current lead isn't fine. The MoS is far too long already—not in scope, but in terms of its wording, its superfluous examples, and the verbiage made necessary because of poor organisation.
  5. The second paragraph needs to be binned: what on Earth is it doing there, right next to a list of links to all of the sibling pages?
  6. If there has to be a change, let it be more like this:
The Manual of Style (often abbreviated MoS or MOS) is a style guide for encouraging consistency in style and formatting in Wikipedia articles. This main page contains basic principles. Subpages that set out topics in greater detail are linked in the menu to the right. If the Manual of Style does not specify a preferred usage, discuss the issue on the talk page.

Tony (talk) 00:28, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

I like Tony's paragraph. It's straightforward and easy-to-read. However, I'd prefer to shrink it even further:
The Manual of Style (often abbreviated MoS or MOS) is a style guide for Wikipedia articles. This main page contains basic principles. Subpages with greater detail are linked in the menu to the right. If the Manual of Style does not specify a preferred usage, discuss the issue on the talk page.
The more we can condense the MoS, the more likely editors are to read it! Ozob (talk) 02:25, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

OK. As near as I can tell, we now have two main flavors of proposals for the first paragraph of the lead section, each having two variations:

  • The minimalist suggestions (Adding a new clause [here in square brackets] to the first, definition sentence).
    • By Tony: The Manual of Style (often abbreviated MoS or MOS) is a style guide for [encouraging consistency in style and formatting in] Wikipedia articles. This main page contains basic principles. Subpages that set out topics in greater detail are linked in the menu to the right.
    • By RoyGoldsmith: The Manual of Style (often abbreviated MoS or MOS) is a style guide for Wikipedia[, encouraging uniformity and consistency in formatting and English usage for all] articles. This main page contains basic principles. Subpages that set out topics in greater detail are linked in the menu to the right.
  • The longer suggestions (Adding two new sentences [square brackets again], immediately following the first).
    • By Darkfrog24: The Manual of Style (often abbreviated MoS or MOS) is a style guide for Wikipedia articles. [Its purpose is to help Wikipedia editors write and maintain easily readable articles that employ correct language and deliver information in a clear and precise way. This makes the entire encyclopedia easier to use and more professional in appearance.] This main page contains basic principles. Subpages that set out topics in greater detail are linked in the menu to the right.
    • By Jubilee and Philcha, wording by RoyGoldsmith: The Manual of Style (often abbreviated MoS or MOS) is a style guide for Wikipedia articles. [Its purpose is to help editors write and maintain articles that follow a consistent pattern and are clear and precise in their language and layout. This, in turn, helps to make the entire encyclopedia easier and more intuitive to use.] This main page contains basic principles. Subpages that set out topics in greater detail are linked in the menu to the right.

Just to see where we are right now, can we have a preliminary consensus poll on only whether you favor (a) the minimalist approach, (b) adopting something like the longer suggestions, (c) doing nothing and leaving the article alone or (d) shrinking the lead down to one paragraph? We'll vote on which variation, if needed, at a later time. --RoyGoldsmith (talk) 03:36, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

  • Favor (b). I would also move the last two sentences (beginning with "This main page...") to the bottom of the lead, just above the TOC. --RoyGoldsmith (talk) 03:36, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
  • (b). Precise details can be discussed, but someting along the lines of "its purpose is to..." seems more useful than "encouraging...", IMO --Jubilee♫clipman 04:07, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
My comments about basic principles such as "reader first" have been misinterpreted - I'm a minimalist both about the "lead" and the content of WP:MOS.
Last time I was awake, RoyGoldsmith's and Darkfrog24's were the only version of "lead", and I rejects Darkfrog24 as a basic as it tried to stray topics that are none of WP:MOS's business, e.g. [[{WP:V]]. While I've been asleep, Tony's and Ozob's have been proposed. Since Ozob's currently has no explanation why we should bother reading MOS, IMO Tony's is the best at present. --Philcha (talk) 06:51, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
  • (b), preferring RoyGoldsmith's wording over Darkfrog24's (e.g., "easily readable articles" and "correct language" are vague and off-topic, compared to "follow a consistent pattern and are clear and precise in their language and layout" which is itself precise and hits the mark. PL290 (talk) 08:20, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
  • I don't know, I kind of prefer the (a) approach. I wouldn't mind terribly if the full paragraph change were made, though.
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 10:27, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
It still hasn't been established to my satisfaction that we need to add anything to the lead. Of the people who've come to this talk page to ask questions, I don't recall that any ever asked why the MoS was here.
However, if we're going to do it, we should do it right. Consistency and uniformity are not virtues to the extent that correctness is. Incorrect English makes the English Wikipedia look stupid and unreliable and the MoS (with a few exceptions that we've discussed elsewhere) instructs users in correct English to the point where we can say that that is one of its core purposes. More generally, its purpose is to give Wikipedia a professional appearance by showing editors how to write in something like professional-quality English. Darkfrog24 (talk) 12:26, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
It's more a case of taking away from what appears to be a bloated lead. Tony (talk) 12:58, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
I may agree with "professional-quality English", and probably disagree with "professional appearance":
  • I've seen comments elsewhere that WP's primary audience is "a bright 14-year old". That would imply English that's clear, concise and correct, but would reject any literary ambitions. I think suggest says, "clear, concise and correct" in the lead.
  • If "professional appearance" is simply the same as "professional-quality English" in the sense of "clear, concise and correct", then "professional appearance" is redundant. If it means anything else, that should be explained, and possibly challenged. --Philcha (talk) 13:21, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
I do not mean the same things by "professional appearance" and "professional-quality English." The second is what's actually there. The first is the impression left in reader's minds. The value of a professional appearance is that it raises Wikipedia's credibility.
Professionalism, in this case, doesn't have much to do with literary or artistic aspirations. It's more writing as craft than writing as art. Darkfrog24 (talk) 20:07, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
I'm a minimalist too, in some respects, but this is different. Forget the newcomers—this discussion has shown that even the regulars don't agree what MoS is for. As User:Ohms law said above, "Regardless of anything else, this is always an important question to answer as soon as possible, in some fashion, in any document. Especially for technical documentation." Answering this basic question is important not just to the reader but to to the whole process of creating and maintaining the documentation. How can we ever hope to do that effectively if there's confusion at the most basic level about its purpose? Darkfrog24, if you will look at style guide, you will find it is concerned with uniformity, consistency and formatting. I don't think you'll find it mentions correct English, and I don't think teaching correct English should be the primary goal of MoS at all. PL290 (talk) 13:28, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
Yes, but we're talking about this style guide. Wikipedia has long accepted that uniformity is not always good. We employ more than one kind of English spelling, for example.
The MoS already instructs its readers in correct English. Gender neutrality is correct English. Proper punctuation is correct English. Not capitalizing the names of the seasons is correct English. I'm not saying that the MoS should be expanded into a full language course, but it functions relatively well as a list of pitfalls and problems to avoid. We should accept that instructing editors in correct forms is a big part of what it does. Darkfrog24 (talk) 20:07, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

Comment - we seem to be getting into the whole prescriptivism vs descriptivism thing here. The point, IMO, is not to lay down any grammatical or stylistic laws nor even to describe what "good English" is in a modern context. Our purpose is to explain how WP normally does things, and why, and to explain when and where to make exceptions to this norm. Hence, we do need to explain why the MoS is important, otherwise it looks like we are simply saying "do this or else". Certainly, the entire MoS needs to be overhauled to make this point clear, also, but that is another issue... --Jubilee♫clipman 16:07, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

Asking this question of Jubilee, PL290 and anyone else who wants to answer: Why do you believe that answering this question is important to maintaining the MoS? What do you think will happen differently if it is answered? What problems do you believe exist now that would be solved or mitigated by answering this question? Darkfrog24 (talk) 20:07, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
I think it might help explain your position when dealing with reactions like this one or even this one (although that isn't exactly the MOS), which I encounter frequently when trying to apply the Manual of Style to the rest of Wikipedia. Art LaPella (talk) 22:41, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

User:Dank/Essays#What style guidelines are supposed to be. - Dank (push to talk) 21:11, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

@ Dank, that's an intriguing thesis to you're essay. I'd love to read more that supports the underlying idea! I also agree with the points on how it relates to this discussion.
@ Darkfrog24: Personally, I think that this is aimed more at the users of the MOS, rather then the maintainers. If definitely guides maintenance and further development of the MOS though (or, at least, it should), so the two aspects are probably inextricably intertwined. It seems that PL290 and I are of similar minds on answering the "what problems this solves" question. For maintenance and development, especially in a collaborative development setting such as this, the opening of the document (should) serve as a statement of principle. That we can't easily agree on how it should be structured, let alone what it should say, really ought to serve as a clarion call to all of us that this needs to be worked out to the satisfaction of all. If we can't even agree on how to introduce the subject, is it any wonder that the MOS has a reputation as being the domain of a "Cabal" of assholes?
I don't want to oversell this issue though. As has already been stated, the MOS has gotten to it's current state with an unclear introduction, so it's not as though this is a huge deal. If you think about it though, it is a pretty big deal, and I stand by my position that it causes problems to leave things like they are.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 03:35, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
I'm not convinced that the MoS needs a statement of purpose beyond "this is a style guide for Wikipedia articles". Everyone knows or ought to know what a style guide is and what it does. Once we establish that this page is a style guide, and that this page is about Wikipedia articles, what else is there left to say? Philcha commented above that my proposed text didn't seem to justify why we should reading the MoS. I agree, it doesn't; it says what it is, and if the reader doesn't understand why it's important, I don't think anything else we say will make a difference. Ozob (talk) 12:16, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
Dank--Love the essay.
Art--Thanks. You have established that this is a real problem (though, as Ohms law mentions, not necessarily a very big one) and not an imaginary one. I feel that any change we make to the lead should be aimed at convincing people like that that the MoS is worth their time and energy. I think that the best way to do that would be to focus on its practical effects, such as readability and professionalism.
Ozob--That is what the MoS does now. It says "this is a style guide" with a Wikilink to style guide. I too believe that it's pretty okay as-is, but if we could smooth out a few rough edges with one or two well-turned lines, then why not? Darkfrog24 (talk) 12:33, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
The problem is that we can't even agree amongst ourselves what "style guide" means, let alone what the purpose of the MOS is.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 05:29, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
Actually I thought we were getting pretty close. To get things moving, I've boldly added something along the lines we've been discussing. PL290 (talk) 08:47, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
Tony's already trimmed it to next to nothing, but if we're going to do this at all, we should come out and say what the actual benefit of a manual of style is. "Improves readability," "fosters a professional appearance and mindset," are two of the things that this MoS gives us. The sort of person who'd ask, "Why should I follow that MoS?" is the sort of person who'd be unimpressed with "Consistency." Darkfrog24 (talk) 11:56, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
Yes, exactly! Face-smile.svg
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 12:05, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
  • There are plenty of complaints about the size and complexity of the MoS. The previous lead, and a few of the proposals here to a lesser extent, gave these complaints oxygen. What we need is a clear, direct, brief lead. I have no issue with the careful addition of a small amount of text that justifies the MoS, but let's keep in mind that a strong MoS doesn't need to explicitly justify itself; it just is. The box at the top says it all, don't you think? It's too big already. I say get straight into it without ado. Tony (talk) 12:38, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
It's worth working at till we get it right. A statement of purpose, more than merely justifying a document's existence, can help to reduce bloat and complexity by focusing attention on what is and is not appropriate content. PL290 (talk) 13:11, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
  • The advantage of Ozob's minimalist offering above is that it neatly side-steps accusations of ideological non-neutrality—accusations that are easy to level at any style guide. I quote below Pullum's list of possible justifications for style guides, of which the MoS might be accused if it is to stick its neck out at the opening and declare what it aims to do in no uncertain terms. The list is from page 7 of his journal article "Ideology, power and linguistic theory"; A. di M. and Hoary have the link to the source of the pdf file; I can't find it at the moment. (Pullum says not to take his off-the-cuff labels too seriously; I've numbered the points and highlighted the labels.)
  1. Nostalgia. Justificatory basis: The past glory of some vanished golden age, an imagined linguistic utopia in which people spoke correctly. To avoid: Change — decay and deterioration, either linguistic or social.
  2. Classicism. Justificatory basis: The standing of other higher-prestige languages such as Latin. To avoid: Adoption of an inferior form of human language.
  3. Authoritarianism. Justificatory basis: Subordination to the established authority of high-prestige masters of the language. To avoid: Social disgrace from using low-grade English.
  4. Aestheticism. Justificatory basis: Beauty and aesthetic responses. To avoid: Ugliness and awkwardness.
  5. Coherentism. Justificatory basis: Consistency and order of patterning. To avoid: Chaos, randomness, disorder.
  6. Logicism. Justificatory basis: Logic in the strict sense. To avoid: Irrationality.
  7. Commonsensism. Justificatory basis: Common sense. To avoid: Silliness.
  8. Functionalism. Justificatory basis: Efficiency of the communicative function. To avoid: Ambiguity, misunderstanding, redundancy, etc.
  9. Asceticism. Justificatory basis: Discipline and self-control. To avoid: Laziness and sloppiness.

BTW, this is the writer who refers to "Strunk and White’s toxic little compendium of bad grammatical advice, The Elements of Style,..." (same page). Hehehe!

My point, again, is that we do not want to expose the MoS to nit-picking by those who might object to whatever is announced about intentions/aims/ideals at the top. Better not to indulge in such announcement in the first place. Tony (talk) 13:51, 21 March 2010 (UTC)

Pullum's article (which I warmly recommend) is here. -- Hoary (talk) 14:26, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
Then we should MFD all of the MOS pages, and prevent their recreation (a course of action which I wouldn't be entirely opposed to...). That ship has sailed though. Trying to hide from such criticism by avoiding defining what the MOS is is hardly effective, let alone beneficial. The fact is that our current manual of style is subject to the "ideological non-neutrality" regardless of this issue, so I dispute "The advantage of Ozob's minimalist offering above".
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 14:42, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
I haven't looked at Pullum's article, but from Tony's summary above, I question what point exactly is being made if we are to consider that (5) and (8) exhibit "ideological non-neutrality" or something of which the MoS might be "accused". Anyone in favour of chaos, randomness, disorder, ambiguity, misunderstanding, or redundancy presumably rejects the notion of a house style guide in the first place, let alone the notion of a global community working together to communicate information. Let alone the notion of an encyclopedia. Side-stepping the issue does not make it go away. PL290 (talk) 15:44, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't think the sort of person whom Art LP has pointed out as our target audience on this matter would be much impressed with Pullum. If we speak at all about the purpose of the MoS, it should be briefly and plainly, focusing on what real benefit the MoS brings to the readers and editors. "Consistency" would just bring the reply, "That just means that they're telling us what to do for no real reason," unless we point out how the MoS can improve readability. Darkfrog24 (talk) 15:57, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
Yes, but they're not the only people in the audience. Point taken that the statement should endeavour to bring those people on board, but there's no conflict between that the other aims being discussed. Let's produce a statement that meets all our aims. PL290 (talk) 18:38, 21 March 2010 (UTC)

Being bold, I've just changed the word "style" in the lead ("...consistent pattern of style and formatting"), which I believe is wishy-washy and circular, to "English usage". I've also fixed some grammar and added the word "please".

Does anyone else have anything more to say about why an MOS is important? Or should we consider the section closed? --RoyGoldsmith (talk) 01:31, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

I lost track some time ago (I lost my connection while moving house). The issues seem to be resolved, though, so I vote to close and move on --Jubilee♫clipman 21:26, 26 March 2010 (UTC)

Alt text

There's been a fair bit of upheaval in recent days at WP:ALT, resulting in the removal of its guideline status until we work out what it ought to advise. In brief, there were several objections about the length and style of alt text that was being recommended, so a few editors went off in search of expert advice, and one of those experts—Jared Smith of WebAIM—gave permission for his reply to be posted on talk; see here. He wrote that the guideline was fundamentally flawed and offered this article for suggestions. There are other views about alt text too, perhaps opposing, so several editors are now reading up about the issue to try to write a guideline that make sense and which observes industry standards, insofar as there are any. I've therefore changed the alt text section in the MoS to reflect the current state of affairs, [19] but this may change again as we develop an idea of what best practice is. For anyone wanting to see the whole discussion, it begins here. SlimVirgin TALK contribs 11:53, 20 March 2010 (UTC)

I support your edit to WP:MOS ... and God/gods bless you! - Dank (push to talk) 15:05, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
Ha ha, thank you. I've just told someone off on another page for invoking God, but I'll accept the blessing. :) SlimVirgin TALK contribs 16:19, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
That is an appropriate and clear summation of events. Is a similar update going to happen at WP:FACR as WP:ALT is current noted in the attribute on images. Regards, SunCreator (talk) 17:20, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
I've posted at WT:FAC here, which is busier than WT:FACR, but I'll post a link to the latter too. SlimVirgin TALK contribs 18:01, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
I've boldly made a few changes too. I reorganized the material so that it was in a more logical order (in my view!). The biggest change has been to change "editors are encouraged to" to stating that images should have alt-text (of some sort or another) because of what happens otherwise on screen-readers. This is partly because the formulation ("editors are encouraged to") appears out of step with the general style/tone of the MOS page, and partly because my reading is that that there is general agreement that we want to assist those who use screen-readers and agree that specifying some sort of alt-text attribute is necessary for this. What we aren't clear about, yet, is what the content of the alt-text attribute should be. For the content part, I think the emphasis on editorial judgment and the range of possible choices (caption/reference to text/short description/|link etc) is a good description of our current state of knowledge, and gives editors appropriate scope to choose any of the options given. --Slp1 (talk) 17:32, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
Your changes look good to me. By the way, I should add for anyone who wasn't involved that it was Slp1 who obtained the information from Jared Smith that I think is going to set us on the right road eventually, so kudos to her for putting in that extra work. SlimVirgin TALK contribs 17:59, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
My only real question to this is, what's up with the |alt=|link= stuff? Why are we making the MOS dictate the use of a bunch of pointless null parameters? If you don't use a parameter within a template or a link, it should just be unused rather then entered with a null value.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 05:25, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
I think it is like this because of how the Wiki software deals with image links. See the bottom of this section which contains something of an explanation of the issue.[20] --Slp1 (talk) 14:13, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
Did everyone miss Eubulides' reply at the very end of that discussion? He's essentially saying the same thing as I am, here.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 14:33, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
As far as I can see, he's responding about a question about reading the captions, not how to make the screen reader skip the image altogether, which is the goal of the code |alt=|link= But I'm no techie so I may be getting this wrong.Slp1 (talk) 14:39, 21 March 2010 (UTC)
Maybe there is a technical issue right now, but recommending the use of null parameters is just bad. if the use of |alt=|link= is really a requirement, then that needs somewhat urgent development attention.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 05:44, 22 March 2010 (UTC)


I don't usually do this sort of thing, but I feel compelled to speak out against this particular solution. The use of null fields in Image links is simply not an acceptable solution, for several difference reasons. Most seriously, this solution is creating attribution issues (though the addition of link= parameters), and is causing disruptive confusion among editors (I see that one user recently TFD'ed a couple of templates based on this.

Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying that we shouldn't do anything, but I am saying that this is the wrong solution. I'm betting that we need a technical solution here, so it's probably best to get someone from the Usability team on board, here (User:TheDJ springs immediately to mind). I hope we can work this out, but in the meantime I've pulled all of the text mandating use of "|link=|alt=", and pointed to here.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 10:40, 26 March 2010 (UTC)

My understanding is that that's needed to stop screen readers from reading out the file name. SlimVirgin TALK contribs 16:12, 26 March 2010 (UTC)
Right, that came across from the content which was removed (if you read it deeply enough, and understood the basic issue). The problem is, using a null parameter has other side effects, especially with the link= parameter. From a technical point of view null parameters are always worrisome, so using them as a solution is immediately suspect anyway. Add to that the side effects that they have to rendering, and the change that the recommendations caused in some editor's behavior, and the costs are simply too high to be acceptable, in my opinion. Besides, saying "this image should not be read by a screen reader" is actually different from saying "The text description of this image is (nothing)".
I'm not at all saying that the idea was wrong here, and I want to clearly state that I think this should be pursued further. All that I'm really saying is that the first attempt at a solution was unsatisfactory, unfortunately.17:51, 26 March 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:WikiProject Visual arts/Art Manual of Style

This has been in Category:Wikipedia style guideline proposals for some time now. It has been worked on by several people at Wikipedia:WikiProject Visual arts since it was begun in 2005 and is now pretty stable. I would like to add it to the "official" list, and will do so if no one objects. Of course improvements, suggestions or comments on specific points are welcome - please use the talk page there. Johnbod (talk) 13:50, 21 March 2010 (UTC)

Now done - page is now at Wikipedia:Manual of Style (visual arts), aka WP:VAMOS. Johnbod (talk) 15:44, 26 March 2010 (UTC)

Possible contradiction and no mention of the use of colon in ratios.

Article currently states

Do not use unwarranted abbreviations

Avoid abbreviations when they might confuse the reader, interrupt the flow, or appear informal or lazy. For example, do not use approx. for approximate or approximately, except to reduce the width of an infobox or a table of data, or in a technical passage in which the term occurs many times.

Later it then gives the example

In country-specific articles, use the currency of the country, together with approximate conversions to U.S. dollars, euros, pounds, or a combination of these: for example, Since 2001 the grant has been 10,000,000 Swedish kronor (approx. US$1.4M, €1.0M, or £800k as of August 2009).

Approx. in that case doesn't seem to be used many times.

On a different matter there doesn't seem to be any guidance on the use of colons in a ratio. For example if I wanted to state (at a conversion rate of US$1:AU$1.10), is the colon okay or is an equal sign preferable or do I use to? Lambanog (talk) 04:17, 26 March 2010 (UTC)

MOS:NUM recommends "In tables, infoboxes, or within brackets, use a tilde (~) or use approx." (emphasis added) which sounds reasonable, because in such a context (IMO) spelling it out interrupts the flow more than the abbreviation, because it makes the parenthetical note take up more space. As for the second questions, I'd think both are fine, but I think the colon is usually spaced in these cases (but I could be wrong). ― ___A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 10:05, 26 March 2010 (UTC)
On "approx.", personally I agree that it's preferable in a short, data-intensive parenthetical note, where I don't consider it informal even though it is elsewhere. On colons, my instinct is that they should not be spaced for ratios, and although I can't remember where/whether MoS pronounces on this, this article and this one seem to agree with me. However, in the case of "at a conversion rate of US$1:AU$1.10" I think the presence of more than digits makes the colon an unhelpful choice, and "to" would be preferable ("at a conversion rate of US$1 to AU$1.10". PL290 (talk) 10:31, 26 March 2010 (UTC)
I prefer spelling it out, too. But if you're in a table and you have a lot of ratios, you may want to use a colon. In that case I think a &thinsp; between the terms and the colon looks good: US$1 : AU$1.10. For comparison's sake, here's an unspaced 4:3, a thin-spaced 4 : 3, and a regular-spaced 4 : 3. I like the thin-spaced one the best. Ozob (talk) 11:42, 26 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree that using a thin space is a good idea there, if you do choose to use a colon. With all of the surrounding text though, I think that the colon ought to be avoided, even in tables. Using an equal sign seems to be a better solution, to me: (at a conversion rate of US$1 = AU$1.10), possibly even using a thin space there as well: (at a conversion rate of US$1 = AU$1.10). (although, using HTML entities generally sucks. There's some discussion about that from earlier).
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 12:11, 26 March 2010 (UTC)
Thin space works much better than squash in Ozob's example. But the equal sign and spelling it out are best, I think. Tony (talk) 12:35, 26 March 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Manual of Style (visual arts) has been marked as part of the Manual of Style

Wikipedia:Manual of Style (visual arts) (edit | talk | history | links | watch | logs) has recently been edited to mark it as part of the Manual of Style. This is an automated notice of the change (more information). -- VeblenBot (talk) 02:00, 27 March 2010 (UTC)

Inputting en and em dashes

I am not sure if the above RfC is dead in the water, nor if this is even relevent to it, but I have another issue. What is the preferred method of inputting dashes? The wiki software includes them in the edit window toolbox under Insert but some editors insist on using the HTML markup &mdash; and &ndash; claiming these to be superior or even required for readability. If they are included in the software what is the deal with using the less friendly-looking (in edit windows) HTML and especially with insisting on their use? Thanks --Jubilee♫clipman 21:53, 22 March 2010 (UTC)

Let's put it to the test. Who here can, without looking at the edit screen, tell which of these is code and which is from the insert bar? EMDASH#1: — EMDASH#2: — ENDASH#1: – ENDASH#2: –
They look exactly the same to me. If we can reasonably expect that they'll both be perfectly legible (if not perfectly indistinguishable) in most fonts, then the MoS should show no preference for either technique because it will make no difference to Wikipedia's readers. Darkfrog24 (talk) 00:16, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
I copyeditted your post to place a space before the first endash, making them all have spaces there. Space or no space aside, I see no difference, either, in FireFox 3 under Windows Vista HP. Let's find out what other can see... --Jubilee♫clipman 00:24, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
One advantage of using the HTML markup (not that I'm particularly advocating it, or feel particularly strongly one way or the other) is that it's much easier to distinguish in the editor window. In the fixed-width font that's used there, hyphens and en and em dashes all tend to look very similar. Perhaps that is the "readability" issue that people are referring to? (talk) 01:05, 23 March 2010 (UTC).
  • Darkfrog, get another browser or choose another font. They look different to me. Even if they didn't look different, the awful clutter created by the gobbledy is just not worth it when the symbols are plain as day in display mode. I often edit, anyway, with display and edit modes beside each other. Perhaps you need a bigger screen, too. Tony (talk) 03:55, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
  • What browser are you using? To specify further, I am using FF3.6, ie the very latest version. I tried in IE7, Safari and Chrome, also, and see no difference at all with those either. Which font have you chosen? It is the Sans Serif setting in Tools→Options...→Content: Fonts and Colours→Advanced... that changes it in FF (I never knew that till now). I have tried several dozen fonts and even changed the size to 28, but no font or size makes emdash 1 and 2 different nor endash 1 and 2 different: they remain resolutely identical whatever I do. Changing fonts in IE makes no odds either. Will try changing fonts in Safari and Chrome but I don't expect I will see much of a difference there if the major browsers don't show any difference. My screen is 20" at 16:10, screen res 1680*1050. Changing to 800*600 doesn't cause any subtle differences to display. Any further clarification on your configuration would help. Cheers --Jubilee♫clipman 04:43, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
  • I presume you're referring to Windows versions? I use FF3.6 for the Mac. FF settings (I'd never looked) are Garamond 16 pt (I'll experiment now), but under "advanced", it has lots I don't understand, like "Proportional" (Serif was chosen), then sans-serif (Helvetica), and Monospace (Courier). All double Dutch to me. Tony (talk) 06:57, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
  • Ah! I forgot about the actual computer type: IBM-compatibles (usually running a version of Windows) and Macs (Mac OS, of course) will give different results. Of course, Linux etc will give diferent results, too, but I assume those users will know about such things ;) I'll try Helvetica (I forgot that one!) and see what happens. Cheers --Jubilee♫clipman 07:07, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
  • I don't think there's a "preferred" method, and I wasn't aware of any effect on rendering so it shouldn't be a style issue. But I think has a point: using &ndash and the like does give clearer visibility in the code editor (hardly "awful clutter" when we're used to reading round citations and suchlike!). Since inexperienced editors often use hyphens, assuming them to be correct, I've come to the view that it's worth the effort of using &ndash for this reason, to make it crystal clear which kind of dash or hyphen lurks there. Even if not universally adopted, the practice brings its benefit in the cases where it is used. I remember there was a discussion a couple of months back (link anyone?) where it was concluded that editors should refrain from "tidying up" by replacing these html dashes with their "nice" equivalents, for this same reason of visibility in the code window. PL290 (talk) 08:14, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
    Meh... I understand your point here, but I lean towards the position that Tony holds, on this issue. The use of HTML entities in wikitext is just annoying. The thing is, I'd really like to insist on avoiding any firm rules here. People should be free to enter, or change; to, or from; the HTML entities and regular characters. There are good reasons to use either, at various points in time, and for various reasons. I understand that it can be a pain switching them back and forth, but there are many things that are like that. At some point we'll have better editorial tools to use, which will cause these sorts of issues to simply fall by the wayside. (By the way, if you use WikEd, characters such as en-dashes [ – ] show up with little super-scripted designators above them, so that you can distinguish them. WikEd is available as a Gadget, from your settings page, so there's no installation headaches to go through.)
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 08:29, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
  • WikEd sounds, well, wikkid. Must have a look. (Perhaps it can also be made to scrunge up html entities, giving them a different appearance, for those averse!) PL290 (talk) 09:01, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
    The only real issue with WikEd is that it can be a bit of a resource hog. I think that Cacycle is working on a standalone editor version of it though, which would be nice. Anyway, that's an outstanding idea about highlighting HTML entities, so I've suggested it on the talk page. Thanks for the excellent idea (why didn't I think of that?!),
    — V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 09:11, 23 March 2010 (UTC)
I go with Ohms on the clutter factor: it's not only annoying, but renders the edit-mode text much more difficult to read, especially when there's a raft of, say, year or page ranges, and especially for new editors and visitors. It's a seriously awkward html entity. &n; &m; and &h; would have been SO much more practical; developers from decades ago have a lot to answer for. Now, of practical significance is the dash script, which at the moment changes gobbledies to plain symbols: a relief for many folk, but you may wish to follow or participate in this thread. User:GregU, BTW, checks in irregularly. Tony (talk) 09:32, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for your thoughts on this, everyone. Clearly, the preferred input method is an "editor's choice" issue rather than a MOS issue and editwars on the issue are clearly silly and disruptive. Cheers --Jubilee♫clipman 21:31, 26 March 2010 (UTC)

Not to dig this debate back up, but I was about to post something similar. I think that "editor's choice" is the correct way to go here as well, but it's tough because lots of editors run around with automated scripts which replace the HTML entities with Unicode versions. I personally can't tell the difference at all when this is done, and such edits often come with other minor and harmless replacements to make a blanket revert suboptimal as well. Would there be any support to somehow trying to instruct bot owners / script runners not to change these back and forth? SnowFire (talk) 22:41, 27 March 2010 (UTC)

It's not really that most scripts actively work at replacing the HTML entities, but most string handling routines within the languages actually convert them. That being the case, it would require most bot operators to develop an (error prone) routine to specifically convert back to the HTML entities. That's hardly something that we should recommend, and most will simply ignore any such "requirement" (and I wouldn't blame them, either).
Besides, people shouldn't be using "blanket reverts" anyway, with the exception of reverting obvious vandalism. Using the undo function against real edits is disruptive. If you want to revert someone else's edit, take the 10 seconds to change the text back yourself (and take the opportunity to copy edit, while you're at it).
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 23:59, 27 March 2010 (UTC)
More the point, though, why are these bots set to replace one perfectly acceptable entity with another? Why set a bot's script to replace "—" with "&mdash;" or "..." with "…" or "&hellip;", or whatever? What right do these bot owners have to make a bot that forces the use of one style over another style? --Jubilee♫clipman 00:08, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
There's no setting or anything, though. That's what I was trying to get at, above. The languages themselves automatically change the HTML entities to actual characters when the text is loaded as a string. This isn't about "rights", or even choices, it's just done because... well, because. HTML entities are a pure kludge anyway, so I don't quite get what the problem is regardless.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 01:26, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
What is the point of running the bot then? Why run a bot that changes one perfectly acceptable entity to another perfectly acceptable entity? That's what I don't get... i.e. "it's just done because..." what? People design these things so they must at least define the code that causes this replacement when designing the bot even if there is no actual setting built in to change the bot on-the-fly afterwards. Presumeably the code could be changed to avoid making these changes. This isn't about the relative merits of unicode vs html vs whatever, it is about the rationale behind running the bots. OTOH, some people prefer html (witness other discussions on this page) and others prefer unicode: a bot that make blanket changes is worse, IMO, than an editor simply making a blind blanket reversion --Jubilee♫clipman 01:57, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
How about: "HTML entities are never intended to be seen"? When W3C, who created them, even recommends against retaining them; and every vendor and open source project in the world automatically converts them once their loaded into a string variable... if that doesn't inform at all, I don't really know what to tell ya. Does "Sorry, but you're outnumbered here" work? You're welcome to go try and shut down WP:BOT though, I guess. I don't see why this is an issue at all, however. If you prefer to enter them as HTML entities, I don't see anyone getting in your way. *shrug*
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 02:22, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I had never even heard that W3C were advising against the use of HTML coding. That does explain why bots are being designed to replace HTML with unicode. However, this now seems to suggest that those people I described in my original question are wrong to insist on replacing unicode with HTML. Hence my confusion here! First, editors above say "its up to editors" now you say "no, HTML should be avoided"... You do see the contradiction here, no? --Jubilee♫clipman 02:37, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

I said nothing of the sort, please don't put words in my mouth. I suggest re-reading all of the above, since I very definitively advocated for the "editors choice" stance. You might also want to familiarize yourself with the specifics here, since "W3C were advising against the use of HTML coding", for example, is a severe mischaracterization of what I said above.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 02:44, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, I didn't mean to misinterpret you. I read "recommends against retaining them" as basically meaning "advises against their use". If it is "editor's choice", though, in what way am I "outnumbered"? If neither is incorrect, why deprecate the use of one in favour of another? I am even more confused now... --Jubilee♫clipman 03:03, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

Placing this down here because it'd look out of place in the thread just above, but to respond to Jubilee...

Besides, people shouldn't be using "blanket reverts" anyway, with the exception of reverting obvious vandalism. Using the undo function against real edits is disruptive. If you want to revert someone else's edit, take the 10 seconds to change the text back yourself.

Edit: On second thought I may have misread you here. When you wrote "you" did you mean "the generic you, some editor" or "You, SnowFire?" If you meant "You, SnowFire, then this is a complete misreading of my comments. I said that blanket reverts were suboptimal. If that wasn't clear enough, then what I meant was "I don't do them, and have never done them, despite the fact that there appears to be no improvement to the article and it's less readable to me." As a result, editor's choice is being overturned in favor of what the script-runner is using because I am not blanket reverting. If you meant "the generic editor," I agree and noted my agreement earlier.

I agree that some bots are automatically and senselessly converting it, and a prohibition would be hard to enforce. Nevertheless, I don't see what's wrong with, at the very least, a recommendation against changing the style. Or perhaps a recommendation that if HTML entities to Unicode are the only change, the edit shouldn't be made (edits like this don't seem to do anything but make irrelevant spacing changes and upend the dash format). SnowFire (talk) 05:53, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

You quoted Ohms law (V = IR) there, but I did make a similar point later as regards bots. However, now I reread all of the above, I suspect Ohms Law was using "you" to mean "one" i.e. "the generic you, some editor" as you put it. I fully agree that neither HTML nor unicode should be enforced without good reason. Nor should a bot be used to enforce the use of one rather than the other as appears to be happening in certain cases --Jubilee♫clipman 06:18, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't think there are any bots converting to the plain symbols; rather, scripts, carefully managed. That is what I do with Greg U's excellent dash script. Please take it up with him. I think I've alerted him to this issue, on his talk page. I have to say that I don't mind the conversion one bit; but I'm willing to go with whatever consensus emerges. Tony (talk) 06:20, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Ah... for "bots" read "scripts". Anyway, I'll ask Greg U to clarify the situation after I have watched the Australian GP...! Thanks for clarifying that much, though, Tony. Cheers --Jubilee♫clipman 06:25, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Blazon has been marked as part of the Manual of Style

Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Blazon (edit | talk | history | links | watch | logs) has recently been edited to mark it as part of the Manual of Style. This is an automated notice of the change (more information). -- VeblenBot (talk) 02:00, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dermatology-related articles) is no longer marked as part of the Manual of Style

Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dermatology-related articles) (edit | talk | history | links | watch | logs) has been edited so that it is no longer marked as part of the Manual of Style. This is an automated notice of the change (more information). -- VeblenBot (talk) 02:00, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Blazon is no longer marked as part of the Manual of Style

Wikipedia:Blazon (edit | talk | history | links | watch | logs) has been edited so that it is no longer marked as part of the Manual of Style. This is an automated notice of the change (more information). -- VeblenBot (talk) 02:00, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

Contradiction regarding inline citations

This discussion has been transferred to Wikipedia talk:Footnotes as per #Warring editors on WP:FN

14:09, 18 February 2010 (UTC)

What is Blazon doing here?

I've never seen a more inappropriate control of detail and relevance. Blazon (now bloated, I see) is of interest to a very narrow range of editors, and should be in a separate page/essay. Make room for integrating more important stuff, please. Tony (talk) 02:48, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

See #Consolidation: Example, above.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 02:51, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Has there been a discussion about the maximum desirable length of MoS main page? Me, I don't care: I have a good connection; but others may very well care. If there's to be a rationing of scope, why on earth is an esoteric topic such as blazon suddenly taking up lots of space, rather than more important stuff that is not here. We could just as well merge all 50 or 60 pages into this one. Tony (talk) 06:26, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Blazons never used to be treated on this page. Then a small subsection crept in. Now we have a rather bloated, full description. Next, the styleguides for Dr Who and for road junction signs will be transcluded. I thank Ohms for greatly improving the page: good work. But can we please do this in an orderly way? Please see my section below: "Rationalisation Take II". Tony (talk) 10:17, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Just considering the content of the section itself, I'd be all for deprecating the entire thing, marking the page as historical in the process (I'd move it back to be a separate page again, in the process). Please note that what I've done with it was purely technical, not any sort of endorcement of what the section says, or whether it should be included here.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 16:50, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
OK, considering the lack of any additional feedback, I've moved the Blazon page back to it's original location and marked it as historical.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 13:56, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
I wouldn't have marked it as historical. I believe, if I'm reading him right, that Tony's main objection was including the entirety of of the Blazon page here, with which I agree. That doesn't mean the separate page is completely irrelevant for its purpose, nor that a link (possibly with a very brief summary) doesn't belong here. oknazevad (talk) 14:15, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
If it's no good here, then it's no good at all. Aside from that, the page quite literally receives no views the majority of the time, and has no watchers. That's why I chose to use it as an example, since using it wouldn't be stepping on anyone's toes. But, if you want to try to show that it has support as a style guideline, then I'm certainly not going to stand in your way.Face-smile.svg
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 14:23, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
That's like saying WP:Manual of Style (biographies) or WP:Manual of Style (music) or WP:Manual of Style (mathematics) are of no use because they are not transcluded onto this page. Would you mark those as historical, also? Presumeably not. If the Blazon page is genuinely of no importance these days, then it can reasonably be marked as historical but that would still need consensus.
OTOH, should the subpage not be linked in the side box or where ever? Indeed, should not all the other subpages also be linked somehow from the mainpage? How do we actually find those pages to comment on them, otherwise, unless they are transcluded onto the main page (like Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Clarity claims to be, but isn't)? E.g. the following appear to be unlinked from anywhere other than other subpages and usertalk pages: Wikipedia:Manual of Style/(Japan-related articles)/Name order, Wikipedia:Manual of Style/List of talk page search boxes [what is that?!], Wikipedia:Manual of Style/(biographies)/Survey on Style-Prefixed Honorary Titles/Ratification [shouldn't that and its parent page both be talk page subpages?], etc. Admittedly, most of these are obscure artefacts (or apeear to be) and are (probably) genuinely historical; but still: how do those that care about such things even know to look for these subpages? --Jubilee♫clipman 23:18, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
Not to mention, the page is less than a year old and was, according to the edit history, created in response to a specific discussion at WT:WikiProject Heraldry and vexillology. I would think that dropping a note there might have been a good idea before declaring one of their project pages dead.oknazevad (talk) 01:22, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

Is this page auto-archived?

It's of humungous size: is the archiving working? If so, can the number of days since activity for a section be reduced? Tony (talk) 06:27, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

Yes but only threads older than ten days. I concur: the bot needs to archive either threads older than, say, 5 days or when the page size gets too big --Jubilee♫clipman 06:32, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
I've decreased the time-until-archival from ten days to seven as an initial step. If this solves the problem, good; if not, we can decrease it further. Ozob (talk) 13:41, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Thanks, Ozob. Tony (talk) 13:12, 29 March 2010 (UTC)s


This page was named Wikipedia:When to use tables until this month, and has been in Category:General style guidelines for almost two years now. Lately, the content seems to be changing every month and seems focused on how-to and editing rather than style, so I'd prefer to remove it from the general style guidelines, with no prejudice against adding the cat back in the future. - Dank (push to talk) 15:39, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

Someone could split it into an actual how-to and a style guide...
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 17:35, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Actually, there was a single top-to-bottom rewrite of the guideline about a month ago, since it was hugely disorganized and out of date. The how-to you speak of is at Help:Tables. Wikipedia:Tables is meant to cover conventions of formatting and use.--Father Goose (talk) 23:17, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Blazon is no longer marked as part of the Manual of Style

Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Blazon (edit | talk | history | links | watch | logs) has been edited so that it is no longer marked as part of the Manual of Style. This is an automated notice of the change (more information). -- VeblenBot (talk) 02:00, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

Italicise the possessive tag?

Colleagues, User:Merbabu has asked about this on my talk page, but I don't know the answer. The "Effects on nearby punctuation" doesn't seem to refer to this aspect. My feeling is that the 's should be italicised, just as we blue it in links. Here's a copy of his query. Your thoughts, please?


... does wikipedia have a convention for how to deal with apostrophe's with italic text?

  • Abbey Road's first track...or Abbey Road's first track...

and as per above but with links:

Personally, I prefer the latter of the two bullet points - ie, with the 's in italics but I've had this quoted to me explaining why 's should not be in italics - but I'm not convinced. Sorry if this is already in the MOS or somewhere else - if so, could you please point it out? many thanks


Tony (talk) 07:24, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

That's covered at Wikipedia:Manual of Style (titles)#Punctuation. The only problem with that is that, for readers with poor-quality fonts, italicized "tall" letters can clash into the apostrophe (example: f's), but there's Template:'s for that (example: f's). ― ___A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 11:45, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Rather an important point to be missing from MOSMAIN, don't you think? What should I advise Merbabo to do? Tony (talk) 11:53, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
I would suggest using {{'s}}. I've added an instruction to that effect to the MoS, but of course feel free to change this if you have an objection or an improvement. Ozob (talk) 13:52, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
We should just italicize the whole thing. Regardless of what may be technically "more correct", most people will naturally prefer to italicize the whole... construction (I don't want to use "word" there). Not that we should cater to the lowest common denominator as a matter of course, but purely from a practicality standpoint this isn't a fight worth taking on (besides, I've always disliked the "you shouldn't italicize the 's" convention. It's always struck me as somewhat artificial).
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 16:46, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
How would you then distinguish Jane's? Ozob (talk) 19:32, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Indeed. If I saw a link Jack Daniel's, it'd look like it went to Jack Daniel's, to me. With Jack Daniel's, I'd know where the link goes right away. ― ___A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 19:57, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
What's "artificial" with it? ― ___A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 19:52, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
Exceptions are a dime a dozen, especially around Wikipedia. I don't see how that's relevant to the general question. Regardless, the word "artificial" doesn't adequately describe the feeling that I have, but it's the best that I could come up with on the fly. Is: "Not italicizing the 's seems pedantic" easier to understand?
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 21:02, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
OK, here is a linguistic explanation why not italicising the 's is strange: The apostrophe is just there to distinguish the genitive from the plural. (Many languages use accents for similar purposes, e.g. in French vs. ou.) Other Germanic languages also indicate the genitive with an -s, but don't use an apostrophe. Historically the -s evolved out of -es [21], and I guess when people stopped speaking the e they felt they had to preserve the distinction between genitive and plural at least in writing, by hinting at the dropped e with the apostrophe.
Conclusion: The 's is as much part of the word as is a plural ending or the -ess in lioness. Since we would never write lioness or lions, it seems absurd to write lion's.
And now I am going to contradict myself: English has the unusual feature that you can say things like "the king of England's crown". This indicates that the 's is no longer a case ending but has become (or is in the process of becoming) something else. If you wanted to italicise England in this particular example, then clearly it would have to be "the king of England's crown". But such constructions are still not very frequent, and I believe the 's is still primarily thought of as the word's genitive ending.
Now "Abbey Road's" is a borderline case. Because the 's clearly belongs to "Abbey Road", not just to "Road", it is not a case ending in the normal sense. Therefore it seems logical not to italicise it. On the other hand, if the entire phrase to which it refers is italicised (as in the question), one can also make a logical case for italicising it. It depends on whether you interpret the 's as an ending or as a separate word that is merely written as if it was an ending. In reality it's something in between. Hans Adler 22:45, 28 March 2010 (UTC)
One argument for regarding the possessive as an enclitic construction rather than a genitive inflection (of the sort that other languages have) is the fact that it is added only once to conjunctions like "Jack and Jill". --Boson (talk) 06:11, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
Yes, but constructions such as "Jack and Jill's pail of water" are famously ambiguous without contextual information. Does it refer to just the pail of water, or to Jack and the pail of water belonging to Jill? Physchim62 (talk) 11:56, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
"The pail of water of Jill and Jack" has the same two meanings, anyway. ― ___A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 12:01, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
Indeed, so you have to choose a different construction, such as "Jack with Jill's pail of water" or "Jack, Jill and their pail of water". Physchim62 (talk) 12:11, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Would you italicize "the" in the sentence "I read it in the Daily Mirror"? It seems to me that "the" is not much more nor much less "independent" than the "'s" in "Abbey Road's first track". ― ___A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 12:01, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
We already deal with this particular question, albeit through a bit of synthesis, under the combined efforts of: Wikipedia:Manual of Style#Use of "The" mid-sentence, Wikipedia:Manual of Style (titles), and Wikipedia:Article titles. Unless the word "The" is unquestionably part of the actual title (such as in The New York Times (although, even then usage varies)), you shouldn't italicize it. In your example, the first case would be correct: "I read it in the Daily Mirror".
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 14:05, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

I agree with Ohms that exceptions are ten-a-penny/cent around here, but surely one piece of advice would be to try to rephrase the sentence to avoid the problem, by forming a possessive with "of" instead of the Germanic genitive with "'s". "The crown of the king of England" is unambiguous to a human reader, while the plural forms "the kings of England's crown" or "the king of England's crowns" seem barbaric to me. Hence, "the first track of Abbey Road", "the wreck of the Mary Rose", etc. Physchim62 (talk) 02:15, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

This is clearly not just a matter of italics. The same principles should apply for all forms of highlighting, including links and bolding. Let's see if we can agree about the general principle:

  • An important step towards European unity was Spain's entry into the EEC in 1986. – no problem
  • An important step towards European unity was Spain's entry into the EEC in 1986. – no problem
  • Wow! She is the king of Spain's daughter! – discouraged (consider rephrasing)
  • Wow! She is the king of Spain's daughter! – discouraged (consider rephrasing)
  • No, she is not Italian, she is the king of Spain's daughter. – simply wrong
  • No, she is not Italian, she is the king of Spain's daughter. – discouraged (consider rephrasing)

Of course as usual we should be consistent within any one article. I used both bold and italics because otherwise the difference is so hard to spot. Which is actually a reason not to spend too much effort on this particular question. Hans Adler 12:29, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

I am inclined to agree with Hans and with Ohms. Italicisation looks messy where it excludes a legitimate part of a word; this has no bearing on the advice not to let italicisation and bolding leak into subsequent punctuation or brackets. Tony (talk) 13:15, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
The original question was about words that are italicized for stylistic reasons, not for emphasis, so let's try some examples of that
  • The Daily Mirror's political standpoint is centre-left. – discouraged, consider rephrasing
  • The Daily Mirror's political standpoint is centre-left. – the title to be italicized is Daily Mirror, not Daily Mirror's
  • The political standpoint of the Daily Mirror is centre-left. – best solution in most cases
  • I read it in the Daily Mirror. – just wrong
  • I read it in The Daily Mirror. – title is Daily Mirror
  • I read it in the Daily Mirror. – no problem
  • I read it in The Independent. – title is The Independent
Physchim62 (talk) 13:41, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
I would prefer not to discuss the issue of capitalised articles in titles here, as it seems to be completely unrelated. – We seem to disagree about what is your second point and my third point: In my opinion making the 's part of the highlighting in these cases is acceptable. It's a trade-off between highlighting an enclitic along with what it refers to, as if it was a grammatical case (not good) and the irritating optical effect of something of the form xyz's (also not good). But I wouldn't mind standardising here: While I believe your example two is not a priori wrong, I would agree with not allowing it in the MOS, in order to get uniformity and a simple rule for this very minor typographical matter. Hans Adler 14:07, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree that discussing the use of articles within titles only serves to muddy the waters, here. I also support the point about there being a trade-off to consider here. "the irritating optical effect" is, unfortunately, real. As I said earlier, while there may be a more technically correct answer to this, a simple question of practicality comes into play as well. I also agree with the idea of not allowing it into the MOS, for the reasons stated.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 14:13, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

I'm with Hans that this is probably a non-issue ultimately (due to the fact that the difference is usually very subtle and hard to spot). Furthermore, in the vast majority of cases, it is probably an editor's choice issue: no need to make up yet another "rule" that people may or may not ignore. Abbey Road's first track... vs Abbey Road's first track... - personally, I'd use the latter because helps differentiate between an apostrophe used in a grammatical/semantic role at that point in the sentence and one used as part of the title: Sgt. Pepper's first track.... Rephrasing is probably better in most cases, however, I agree: The first track of Sgt. Pepper['s].... The usage of the apostrophe in this special case is, anyway, problematic and the vast majority of sources seem to abbreviatiate that particular title without the apostrophe, which makes Sgt. Pepper's first track... equally correct... Basically, is it really that important? --Jubileeclipman 10:14, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

Question about names

Not sure if this is the correct place to ask this but how should you refer to a person when their surname is shared by other people or by an organisation in the same article? Can you use their forename or do you have to use their full name every time? Thanks -- (talk) 15:35, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

There's a sub-page on names. Here's the link to the relevant section: MoS:NAMES#Family_members_with_the_same_surname. It gives guidance about how to approach that question, including examples. PL290 (talk) 16:17, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for the link. Would the same thing apply to organisations that share their founder's surname? The article I'm editing is McLaren (founded by Bruce McLaren). Is it correct to refer to him as "Bruce"?-- (talk) 20:22, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
Hmm. I'm not sure if there's precedent on this, but if not I think the safest thing would be to refer to him as "Bruce McLaren" and the organisations as "McLaren Racing" and "McLaren Group". You'd then have to decide whether that was necessary throughout the article or just in certain sections (I haven't read it in depth, so I don't know if he's mentioned constantly, or just occasionally). It's better to be clear and a little verbose than brief and unclear. Barnabypage (talk) 20:35, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

ENGVAR issue

Talk:Eastern Gray Squirrel#Spelling Revisited. Ucucha 19:50, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

Outline of a rational MOS structure

  • Special concerns – a list of minor subpages that have the same basic structure as the main MOS page and its three main subpages (but obviously not spread over sub-subpages)
    • by country or religion (currently 18 pages)
    • by topic area (currently 12 pages)


In the above proposal I have included some topics that are not currently in the MOS but that editors can reasonably expect to find in the MOS. They need not be incorporated in the MOS, but they need to be summarised in the relevant places in the same way as if they were part of the MOS.

The most important feature of the proposal is its simplicity: There are just three clearly defined subpages: Structure/Language/Formatting. Each will be summarised briefly on the main MOS page. (This summary might be an "In a nutshell" section in the subpage itself, which would then be transcluded to the main MOS page.) Plus a bunch of special pages that contain the fine print for various special topics such as Korea-related articles, biographies or articles about chemistry.

The special pages will be refactored into the same structure so that they have three main sections Structure/Language/Formatting (just like the main MOS page), whose subsections will be structured like the respective MOS subpages. We can create links for going back and forth, e.g. the section on capital letters on the Language subpage should have a collapsible box with links to all special concerns pages that also have such a section. These will in turn link back to the main capital letters section which they amend.

The proposal can be realised gradually, by creating one of the three subpages at a time and finally converting the special concerns pages. Hans Adler 13:28, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

This sounds like a plan, to me. Keep in mind that there are some good, well established navigational aids which we can rely on as well. Regular Navboxes and the sidebar style lists that we currently use can be very helpful in maintaining cohesion among multiple pages.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 14:28, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
(ec)Seems reasonable, but I believe we'd still need a central location for easy access, whether the index mentioned/proposed above, or the "beginner's guide" that Tony put together a few months ago.oknazevad (talk) 14:29, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
See above ("Each will be summarised briefly on the main MOS page"). Under this proposal, this main MoS page will remain the central location for easy access. I agree with this approach. If an index is created, that should be as well, not instead. PL290 (talk) 15:52, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
Above someone linked to User:Tony1/Beginners' guide to the Manual of Style. I wasn't aware of that page, but it gives a good idea of what the main MOS page should look like in my opinion. I would structure it differently (four big sections, each with subsections), but that's a minor point. Hans Adler 17:47, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

I have created a quick draft of my vision of the refactored MOS. It consists of the main page and the first of its three principal subpages. I have put the content together very quickly, as it is not the point at all. The point of this exercise is a proof of concept: A usable MOS is feasible in this way. See User:Hans Adler/MOS. Hans Adler 19:39, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
Yes, this looks as if it will be an improvement. Art LaPella (talk) 21:06, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
Just as an in general FYI: I'm pretty busy for the next few days, but I have Thursday though monday off, so I planned to really help starting then. I'm right there with you on the suggested draft MOS. Personally, I'm more concerned with the sub-pages, primarily in reducing the number of them, but the main page should obviously come first... not quite sure where that leaves us, but there you go.
— V = IR (Talk • Contribs) 21:09, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
I think once we have sorted out the core of the MOS all those little satellites will take care of themselves. My plan involves going through them and putting them in the same order as the MOS itself. That process is no doubt going to lead to some consolidations, e.g. if people realise that the MOS satellites for various countries say basically the same things and can be merged. Hans Adler 22:33, 29 March 2010 (UTC)
I think this is going the right way. As you say, we need to ignore the content for now, but I think the structural approach is effective. On a detail, I'm not at all keen on the asterisks, for several reasons:
  • In the TOC, their appearance is confusing; also, the fact that they're not themselves links undermines the expectation that subsequent ones are (even if it does then say so)
  • In the summary, they don't make it obvious enough that there's a link to the detail section: I think that central fact must be made abundantly clear from first glance.
  • Their use in more than one way is confusing. For instance:
    • Article titles and section headings* - asterisk provides a link to the corresponding detail section Article titles and section headings, whereas
    • Daughter articles. If a section is covered in greater detail in a "daughter" article, flag this by inserting {{main|Article name}} just under the section heading.* - asterisk might be expected to link to a detailed Daughter articles section, whereas it only links to the one-sentence WP:MOS#Main_article_link, "If the topic of a section is also covered in a dedicated article, then this should be marked by inserting {{main|Article name}} directly beneath the section heading."
The position of the asterisk of course helps to some extent, but I think that's too subtle.
For all these reasons, I'd prefer to scrap the asterisks and stick to wikilinking of pertinent words (adding such, where necessary to enable that). PL290 (talk) 08:42, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for the excellent suggestion. I took the asterisks from Tony1's page, where they worked quite well, but I agree that there are some issues. For a busy page they are probably not suitable. I have implemented your first two points, since they are central to the demonstration. The last one is already outside the scope of the demonstration, as these links are just there to give a vague impression of what kind of content to expect in a final version. So I haven't done that yet. (Of course everybody is invited to edit the draft, but at some point we should start doing the real thing.) Hans Adler 09:37, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
The proposed new MOS structure visualised. Hans Adler 10:22, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

This approach, taken together with Tony's excellent "B's Guide to the MoS", is brilliant. I, too, would scrap the ******'s though: *they* just look silly**... *-) ... I like HA's boxed text, though: that looks very neat and professional; nagivation through that style also feels like much less of a challenge than it does in the usual sprawling mess of vaguely-structured-text into which these types of guideline tend to end up being converted over the years. The boxes compartmentalise the text and present it in logical small packets in a manner that section headings, alone, cannot, I feel, and suggest the "less is more" principle to any prospective editors. Many other reasons to accept this long-needed overhaul of the MoS but the preceeding comments have covered most of them and those that (undoubtedly) will follow are likely to cover the rest. Great work! --Jubileeclipman 09:34, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

Thanks! Hans Adler 09:39, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
Are people suggesting that the main MoS page be trimmed down? I got it down to about 40% of the current size in the Beginners' Guide, but it wasn't universally welcomed. The asterisks can easily be replaced by a work-link, but I was after a more compact, less cluttered way of linking than the current "Main page=" headlines. Where is WP:LINKING? I worry about the boundaries between format, language, etc. MOSNUM seems to fall between them. Tony (talk) 10:24, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
Well, you reduced it by using more concise wording, not by moving rarely-useful detail elsewhere. The result, while useful as a cheatsheet for someone who has already read the MOS but wants to quickly locate a particular piece of instruction he needs right now, is (IMO) way too terse as an introduction for someone who has never read a manual of style before. ― ___A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 12:28, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
I'm with AdM on this point. Chances are, if you're on this page participating in conversations about italics with possessive tags and the proper placement of commas, then you've already trained yourself to pay attention to things like punctuation and formatting and you're pretty good at it. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of people who are either new to all this or not that good at it—and Wikipedia's MoS will have a higher proportion of those than say, the style sheets of most companies. This means that our MoS would do well to have 1. instructions phrased as instructions in complete sentences that say exactly what we mean, 2. examples for key pitfall areas, and, though a lot of you don't agree with me on this point, 3. a central location that doesn't require new Wikipedians to jump to six and seven different pages just to take a look at the basics. Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:26, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree with these comments. In my opinion the brevity in the summaries for the main MOS page should be achieved by combining several positive examples into one, combining several important points together into a single sentence and forming paragraphs of such sentences, and leaving out everything that arises only rarely and some things that most readers take for granted anyway. (E.g.: "Normally, start every sentence with a capital letter.") And if something takes up too much room to explain properly, we can just say where to look it up. See #Abbreviations above for an example. Hans Adler 13:56, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree with point 2, too, provided you mean real pitfalls and not imaginary ones (see WP:BEANS). ― ___A._di_M. (formerly Army1987) 15:51, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
Good point. The "pitfalls" need to highlight those that are actually happening and are relatively widespread rather than those of the "don't use salt instead of sugar in this recipe" type... --Jubileeclipman 16:29, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
I am referring to the types of examples that we currently have on the current MoS. I find that they make the MoS's meaning promptly accessible to people who would not immediately understand the straight instructions. They also make the MoS more fun to read. Darkfrog24 (talk) 12:55, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
Tony, I like your asterisks, but they are unusual and I guess they present a bit of an accessibility problem. I agree that the boundaries aren't entirely clear and I am not totally happy myself with the three subpages that I have proposed. I am sure they need some tweaking, and perhaps we will end up with two or four. But if the main MOS page remains as the main point of entry for all users, then everybody can see at a glance in which subpage a topic is covered and go there for details – if necessary. (Follow the interlanguage link to the French or German MOS equivalent, and I am sure you will be surprised by what you find. This proposal is much less radical.)
To prevent duplication and make everything totally transparent, in the case of a topic such as WP:LINKING that fits into several places, we can just put it on one subpage and mention it in a section "related topics" in the other. This will help people to find it even if they go directly to the wrong subpage.
A lot of people seem to like your MOS cheat sheet. I wouldn't be surprised if itself or a fork ended up as a semi-official part of the MOS in project space, perhaps as WP:Manual of Style (cheat sheet). If not I will propose linking it from a MOS sidebar, along with helpful essays. Hans Adler 13:56, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
I like the idea of a "cheat sheet". It would also serve new editors by giving them the most essential facts, if I am envisioning this correctly. Anyway, I too agree fully with DarkFrog re the confusion caused by multiple pages. One particular problem is "drift": the main page and the various subpages pages can end up saying subtly different—even contradictory—things. Avoiding and even fixing that problem would seem to be one major issue that would need to be addressed in any new system. Though I find it a pain in most cases (because I expect to be able to click the edit link at the top of the page and get on with editing rather than be confounded by a load of {'s and }'s...), transclution is probably the way forward, in this case, since it will avoid having to coordinate several pages. Other than that, perhaps a hidden "If you make changes here please be sure to make relevent changes in the main MoS, also, if necessary" and vice versa for the mainpage? Linking WP:Manual of Style (music), WP:Manual of Style (mathematics), etc, from a sidebar, or whatever, makes sense, as does refactoring them in like manner (though not all MoSes will necessarily fit into that plan, the music one for starters...) however these changes will need the consensus of numerous members of various WikiProjects. For the main MoS, though, I say go for it! --Jubileeclipman 16:13, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
Actually, Tony's page is more like a cheat sheet that tries to be complete.
I would like to start implementing my scheme right away with the first subpage, which I think is so clearly defined that its scope may not need revising. I think it's not such a big thing, as it consists of many incremental steps. Many of them will result in an improvement over the current chaos even if the process stalls at some point:
  • Identify the pages that need merging.
  • Leave a message on the talk page of each affected page, directing editors to join this discussion.
  • After two days or so start the process for merging two of them.
  • Continue until all are merged.
  • Refactor the merged page so it starts with a summary fit for transclusion.
  • Merge any relevant sections from the main MOS page into the new big subpage.
  • Transclude the subpage into the main MOS page.
At that point we could stop and still have a tremendous improvement over the current situation. As I said, I would start right away, but unfortunately I will be (almost) without internet for the rest of the week and generally very busy in real life for the next two weeks. If someone wants to start it anyway, just make sure to stay relaxed. If there is any obstacle on the way (e.g. some page that doesn't want to be merged for whatever reason), just work around it for now. Hans Adler 16:40, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
Two days! It will take a lot more time too to generate CON .If two MOS's overlap and I've yet to see a solid case of where they do then a proposal to merge should be placed on both pages and the discussion should be held locally we can't discuss 20 merges here at once Gnevin (talk) 22:52, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
What are you talking about? This is not about overlapping MOS pages, it's a priori about relatively small closely related MOS pages. In the absence of people with an unhealthy fixation on process, putting them together on a single page should be a simple matter of bold editing. The prior warning and discussion is just a precaution to minimise the number of people who feel overrun. If we can't get a clear consensus to merge two such pages in two days, then it's probably not a good idea to pursue them further, and we need to concentrate on another pair of pages first. To be absolutely clear: That particular step is not about changing any text at all. Hans Adler 23:17, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

What is the problem

  1. Can someone clearly identity what the issue(s) are?
    1. Can you give some proper example not just the MOS is too big
  2. What are are people trying to fix?
  3. Are there any mocks up?

It seems to me that people who believe there is an issue are just rearranging the deck chairs on the the titanic Gnevin (talk) 18:54, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

The problem is that since the MOS, or at least the introduction to the MOS is too big, Wikipedians don't read it, don't comply, and in some cases are actually hostile to being bossed around by it. The MOS loses its reason for existence unless it is used throughout Wikipedia and not just here. The MOS subpages are worse; often they simply repeat what the main MOS page says, and occasionally they contradict it, thus compounding the runaround we inflict on an editor who just wants to know what the MOS says on some specific issue. Perhaps this is what you meant by a "proper example": Here is an example of where even an experienced MOS regular was unaware of what a MOS subpage says. Are there any mockups? Does User:Hans Adler/MOS answer that question? Art LaPella (talk) 21:44, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
The MOS isn't meant to be read like a book . It's a guide which we can point people too. The problem with the MOS is Use common sense in applying it; it will have occasional exceptions, every user thinks their case is the exception . No amount of playing about with the MOS will change the fact it's not policy. The MOS is in constant use on wiki and the majority of the subpages don't repeat what the main page says and if they do they are mostly likely relevant to the main page. Can you show me examples of where something is repeated on a MOS and it's not relevant. Your example shows that one user was unaware for 1 minor point of the MOS that's like saying a country should throw out it systems of laws because one experienced judge wasn't aware of a minor law. Is there a reason why User:Hans Adler/MOS has no content from WP:ICONS for example. Are users here attempting to create one MOS to rule them all? Maybe the main pages need a total rewrite but not consolidation Gnevin (talk) 22:41, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
It seems to me the sections tagged as needing merging into the main MOS should in fact be replaced by a simple further information like Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style_(icons)#Do_not_illustrate_or_introduce_unpublished_ideas Gnevin (talk) 23:04, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
The current merge proposals have nothing to do with my proposal and don't look feasible to me. My proposal is an alternative to merging everything into the main MOS page. Hans Adler 23:12, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
The problem is that nobody understands the MOS any more. I absolutely hate looking things up in the MOS because I have no idea where to look for them. It's a huge piece of work, spreading over roughly 40 pages, some of which are so long that some editors have difficulties loading them. There are already some things which it should contain but doesn't, e.g. because some editors opposed making WP:Linking a part of MOS. More than a year ago there was a huge group fight between a large number of MOS regulars and a large number of WikiProject Mathematics members. This fight had to do with real or theoretical inconsistencies between the MOS:MATH and the other MOS pages and how to resolve them.
Like all sets of rules, the MOS is growing too much and becoming internally inconsistent. The idea is to fight this by giving the MOS an obvious structure that everybody can understand at a glance, and by mergin many of the smaller guidelines into a few bigger ones. Then things can be rearranged more logically, and excessive detail and other superfluous and stuff can be removed.
Not everybody has the same strategies for dealing with the MOS. My normal strategy would be to read it through once, so then when I encounter a situation where it gives guidance I know instinctively what to do, or at least where to look it up. At the moment I am not doing it this way because it would be too painful. It's not written in an appealing style, and it's way too long. The first part is almost impossible to fix, but we can fix the second problem.
You asked for a mock-up and you got a mock-up which already existed and was very easy to find on this talk page. (Hint: It's linked under the picture.) It's amazing that now you complain about its content, when there are many indications that any content it has is just there to make the draft look more realistic. I already spent a few hours on it, I believe. Do you want me to spend a couple of weeks full-time on it so I can present a final version as a draft which you can then reject?
A rewrite is very hard to do under wiki conditions, for sociological reasons: Everything that was already settled needs to be negotiated again. Restructuring things is much easier, and while we do it (it will still be hard enough!) we can identify things that are actually worth debating. There proposals above to merge all MOS pages into one. My proposal is a counter-proposal that provides about two to three times as much space as a single MOS page would, but also provides for a single MOS view that consists only of the most important parts, with easy access to the details. If you think it won't work, please explain why, but a silly LOTR allusion is not constructive. Hans Adler 23:12, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
Seriously I'm just asking question. If you could not take my head off while I do so that would be nice Gnevin (talk) 23:26, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

User:Gnevin/MOS My mos would look like this as a start Gnevin (talk) 23:23, 30 March 2010 (UTC)

Have a look at Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style_(medicine-related_articles)#External_links this section makes no point that isn't found in one of the 3 see also listed. As per my example above I think a merging or plain deleting of see also references would remove so much of the spaghetti junction we have. We should also then discourage MOS from appending content on to other MOS by means of a see also . Take a look at User:Gnevin/MMOS is there any lost of guideance? I don't think so in fact some of the see also have very little relevance there and should go. A system like this would greatly improve the internal consistency on the MOS structure Gnevin (talk) 23:45, 30 March 2010 (UTC)
  • "The problem is that nobody understands the MOS any more. I absolutely hate looking things up in the MOS because I have no idea where to look for them." That is precisely why I spent a few days producing a trimmed-down version (40% of the size, but virtually the same scope). People here seemed to be threatened by it. I still think the main page should look more like the Beginner's Guide. The solution to the plethora of subpages is to rationalise them. I am happy with the basic scope of the main page. We also need a good index to the whole lot. Tony (talk) 00:47, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
    • Second that. There is no reason we can't have The Full Guide and The Quick Guide or whatever, though. The problem is that people (including highly experienced editors) just seem to make it up as they go along because they have given up trying to figure out what the MoS actually says. I know I am "guilty" of this... --Jubileeclipman 01:02, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
      I disagree. If we have two pages to maintain, then one of them will be out-of-date. The other one (probably the longer one) will slowly evolve into the "real MoS" and the other will rot. Eventually the rotted one will only confuse and mislead readers. The right solution, I think, is to have one MoS, but to keep it as short as possible. The MoS has far too many words. Ozob (talk) 02:37, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
      AH... good point. You are right: that would, indeed, also have the problem that I (and several others) have highlighted: "drift"... Agree: one simple MoS is the only possible solution. The above prop goes a long way towards giving us that, IMO --Jubileeclipman 02:58, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
    If we change to a system where by we can't use see alsos then the subpages should not become out of sync with other MOSs. Tony what sub-pages could be rationalised, the vast majority of these are marked as a MOS because they are needed . I think my Main mos and Medical mos examples are vastly clearer than before, don't contradict a other MOS and don't loose focus Gnevin (talk) 07:53, 31 March 2010 (UTC)

My take on the problem is a little different. I find that Wikipedia has too many pages of rules, guidelines and policies, and that this makes these policies too hard to find and too intimidating to new users. This is based on my own experience: When I was a newb looking for basic regs, I would find one page that would send me to another that would send me to another ad nauseam. And I wouldn't know when I started out whether it would take two or six or twelve pages to find what I needed. This current MoS might be big, but it is well-organized. Even new users can look at the ToS and find what they need almost immediately. "Should I capitalize 'spring' and 'summer' or leave them lowercase? Oh, a section that says 'capitalization'!" If I could, I'd put all of Wikipedia's basic policies on just two or three easy-to-find pages. No matter what we end up doing, the Wikipedia MoS should have enough detail so that people who are not great at copyediting will understand what we want them to do. I find that phrasing instructions in the imperative ("Do this" rather than "this is done.") helps with that, but examples help even more. At all times, we should consider, "Would a high school sophomore understand this? Would someone who hasn't already read the long-form MoS know that what the short-form is talking about?" Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:36, 31 March 2010 (UTC)

The problem with this is where is the fat on the likes WP:MOSICON or WP:MOSS. I don't think you'll find any so you'll just end up with two or three massive pages. My proposal is to remove as much of this follow the links problem by removing the main offender the see also Gnevin (talk) 13:50, 31 March 2010 (UTC)

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