Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 20

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European spelling

Would it be possible to actually state that subjects related to European countries should ideally be written with British spelling ?

I am not saying that we should force people to write articles with British spelling, but at least that they don't revert back to US when we correct them.

For now, this page already says that "article on European Union institutions and documents: British, Irish and Maltese usage and spelling"; the point would be to explicitely extend this to History, geographical, etc. articles, and also to explain that even countries which do not have English as their official language actually do have rules of spelling, which are British in most (if not all) of the cases. This can be seen with English translations of official documents, English taught in school, etc. (you can see that articles like France are indeed written with British spelling). Rama 12:17, 25 July 2005 (UTC)

I think it should be common courtesy to respect the spelling as is (as long as it's consistent within the article), and I don't think you should "correct" them. I see no need for a policy that favors British spelling, especially since it's not clear that editors of articles on European subjects generally prefer it. Rl 13:23, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
European countries have the rule that they use British spelling. Lots of people from these countries do not know that, since these countries so not use English as everyday language, or could have different habits (for instance, people dealing a lot with computer science might tend to favour the US spelling).
While I am fully agreed with you of the "respect as long as it's consistant" principle one articles about, say, algebra, medecine or flowers, it is clearly innapropriate when it comes to subjects touching to the identity of European states, like geographical or historical articles. It is a very logical extension of the "article on European Union institutions and documents: British, Irish and Maltese usage and spelling" principle. I would just like to suggest that this be put explicitly, since obviously some users have difficulties to see the issue here. Rama 13:32, 25 July 2005 (UTC)

I must have missed when WP became an extended arm of European administrations. You said yourself that those European editors may prefer US spelling. But that doesn't matter, because their own "European countries" say so, yes? – Unlike the controversy over the introduction of metric units, spelling changes are not adding any value whatsoever. I see no reason why you or European countries should impose one way of spelling. Rl 13:54, 25 July 2005 (UTC)

Why would we have the "article on European Union institutions and documents: British, Irish and Maltese usage and spelling" principle then ? Rama 13:55, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
Quite frankly, I don't believe that's necessary, either, but at least (British) English is an official language of the European Union. If you want to extend a rule that limits editing freedoms, though, it should be up to you to provide a rationale. How does it significantly improve WP for editors? For readers? How does that compare to the cost of "correcting" correct US English, and the cost to editors who have their correct US English "corrected"? Rl 14:16, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
Yes, English is in fact more official in the European Union than it is in the UK or in the USA :p Rama 14:38, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
Also, this idea is not in the perspective of a "conflict" between different dorts of spellings; it is just that it would never occure to anyone to write an article about a US island with Britsh spelling (or to contest the changing of spelling if it happened by mistake), but it does happen that some people mistakenly think that non-English-speaking countries have no preferences about English spelling, and therefore not only chose an improper spelling, but also do not understand why the correction happened at all. A notice about his would be helpful for them. Rama 14:03, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
Your assumption is that there is a similar consensus about proper spelling in Europe as there is in the United States. That is not the case. Very few US editors will be more comfortable with British spelling, but many European editors are more comfortable with US spelling. You want to force them to use the spelling of your preference, for no discernable benefit. Rl 14:16, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
I do not want to force anyone to write in any way --- the US citizens and the few European ones who are not aware of this difference, or for whom the effort would be too heavy a burden, are absolutely welcome to write in US English, of course. I simply would like people to understand why the correction is made later on. This probably won't handicap anyone's reading. Rama 14:38, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
The understanding you should be getting from this discussion is that no such "correction" should be made. Like you said, it doesn't hamper your reading— so leave it alone. Gene Nygaard 07:58, 5 September 2005 (UTC)

It remains a bad idea in my opinion and I still fail to see the merits of the case. But I have said my part, maybe others can contribute something that hasn't been said already. Rl 15:44, 25 July 2005 (UTC)

I agree with Rl. I would also agree with deleting the style concerning European Union institutions and documents, which was not strongly supported when it was added. Further, I think attempts to make spelling or usage conform to one regional version or another are often misguided. Maurreen 17:26, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
Rama, it would be best if you were to take up this discussion before you start messing around with articles written using American spellings. Your edsums [1][2] (and I see you've done this same thing to possibly dozens of other articles) are insulting and misleading. I'm changing them back to the original spellings, in keeping with the MOS. Note that your edsum at [3] has nothing whatsoever to do with the spelling changes you made. Tomer TALK 20:05, July 25, 2005 (UTC)
(I don't see how those edit summaries are insulting, but:) That is exactly what I was afraid of, but I thought I'd be accused of using hyperbole if I mentioned it. So there. It's only a matter of time until Europe extends to every bloody island that has at some point been claimed to be under the influence of any European country. Wouldn't this include all of the Commonwealth and maybe the United States, as well? Well, thanks Rama, your edits drove my point home much better than any arguments that I could have come up with. If anyone's ever holding a vote on pushing over "European Union is British spelling territory", make sure to let me know. (That's nothing personal, Rama, by the way; I have absolutely no problem assuming good faith on your part; I am convinced you will find a more productive way to make use of your enthusiasm) Rl 20:22, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
I do not mean to insult anyone, nor mislead anyone and I am acting in full agreement with the policy. The islands in question are under French juridiction, and therefore "institutions of the European Union"; saying that "[4] has nothing whatsoever to do with the spelling changes you made" is incorrect. I understand Rl's concern; however, this case is quite clearly whithin the scope of the present European Union, and I would think that these edits are one good reason why a formal and explicit policy would be useful. Rama 20:31, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
Incidentally, it is interesting to see that one of these articles was started with the US spelling because it was copy-pasted from a US military document, and that the other one was started with British spelling but was changed to US spelling. Rama 20:39, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
Uf. It's even worse than either of us have been imagining... Please see Talk:Mururoa. Tomer TALK 22:44, July 26, 2005 (UTC)

re RL's claim that many Europeans prefer American English spelling — I have never found that to be the case anywhere in Europe. On the contrary, many positively loathe it (its joke name in some places is Lazy English because of the tongue-in-cheek view that Americans for example spell color without a u simply because they are too lazy to get it right!!!) and take offense at its use. British English is in fact sometimes known as International English and it is the version of preference in Europe and most of the Commonwealth. Some countries (Ireland, India, etc) have local variants that are far closer to BE than AE. Hiberno-English definitely has nothing in common with American English. (Students who use American English spelling in essays, for example, in many schools and universities in Europe get automatic fails.)

FearÉIREANNCoat of arms of Ireland.svg\(caint) 20:53, 25 July 2005 (UTC)

European non-native speakers of English usually use a mixture of British and American spelling, because they are not aware of the differences or simply don't care. Germans usually write "center" without thinking about it, because "center" has become a German word. On the other hand, most Europeans will probably write "travelling" instead of "traveling". Or mix spellings like color, neighbour, humour... By the way, User:Jtdirl, you write about Europeans taking "offense"...? Shouldn't it be offence? ;-) SpNeo 17:48, 31 July 2005 (UTC)
All due apologies, I didn't include the insulting edsum, and don't care to find it was another edit where Rama changed an article to Commonwealth spelling because it was "correct". That said, the edsums I mentioned previously are still incorrect. Although French Polynesia is a France-controlled territory, it is not part of France, so what is used in France is irrelevant. Also, the "Institutions of the EU" thing is irrelevant, since PF is not an institution, and certainly not of the EU--in fact PF has specifically indicated that it is not interested in participating in the EU. Anyways, the problem has been addressed. I'm happy to move on. Thanks, btw, Rama. Tomer TALK 23:55, July 25, 2005 (UTC)
My apologies too:
# I am sorry for the "correct", I did not mean to say that US spelling was intrinsically incorrect, but that the correct thing to do regarding the article in question was to use British spelling. I should have worded my diff more carefully.
# I am now better-educated about French Polynesia, though I still have plenty of room for improvement in the domain.
This being said, I am left with the feeling that a more explicit policy might be welcome:
I find the case of the article about Mururoa very revelating, in the sense that there is clearly a much stronger link between Mururoa and France that between Mururoa and the USA; that the article was started with British spelling in the first place; yet that the article is now under US spelling, and that its moving back to British spelling proves to be a disturbance.
The concerns which Rl points to are of course valid ones, but there is nothing to suggest that there would be any more problems because of this than because of the rules regarding British and US spelling (Both the UK and the USA also have small islands everywhere, etc); in any case, the rule about not disturbing Wikipedia obviously has precedence, and I am confident that common sense is largely enough to decide of these questions (for instance it is obvious to me that an article about the Statue of Liberty should be written with US spelling, even though it is a French work of art, and that one statue of Liberty is located in Paris: commons sense says that the most proeminent statue of Liberty is in the USA, and that its main feature is its associations with the city of New York, rather than its construction of Eiffel).
The use for a more explicit rule is mainly to compensate for the fact that some people are not aware that even countries which do not have English as their national language still have preferences regarding spelling. Rama 07:56, 26 July 2005 (UTC)
Rama--I don't know when the change happened in Mururoa and wasn't aware that it was originally written in CE. Let's take it up on the article's talk page if necessary. Again, all apologies. As far as the discussion here, I'm willing to regard it as "settled" if you are, and we can all go get a beer. Tomer TALK 22:27, July 26, 2005 (UTC)
When you say that "countries" have preferences, what you actually mean is that their administrations and schools have preferences; they favour British spelling for obvious reasons. People who learned English as a second language are often most comfortable with a mix of both spellings, and they won't even realize or care that it is indeed a mix. Most Europeans would probably agree on "colour", but dialogue, centre, or travelling is a toss-up at best (check articles on big European cities and you will find centre and center happily co-exisiting on the same page). So here's my alternative proposal that suits the actual situation in Europe a lot better: In articles concerning European (non-English speaking) countries, any combination of U.S. and British spelling is fine. Rl 09:28, 26 July 2005 (UTC)
Firstly, I think this debate has become way more heated than it deserves (despite my preference, as a Brit, to use CE spellings, I would have made the same edits that Rama did had I cared to), but I'd just like to make the point that one of your examples, "centre", is a French word, and is similar ("centro") in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, being derived from the Latin "centrum". Given that English draws heavily on other European languages, the CE spellings of words are likely to be more familiar to a native even if they know no English at all. Then again, the en wikipedia is not written primarily for them, that's what the fr, de, etc. 'pedias are for. Our primary target is native English speakers, the majority of who are U.S. English speakers (although I'd be interested to know what variant of the language China is teaching the kids in school - when they get up to speed, they will outnumber all other English speakers put together). So, basically I'm neutral on this topic. PhilHibbs | talk

The main reason for saying that articles concerning U.K.-related topics should use U.K. English, etc., as discussed ad nauseam here and elsewhere, is that many readers find a mismatch between the subject and the style of English jarring. It isn't because of anything that the various governments (or other relevant bodies) have decided. I can't support Rama on this, therefore.

Incidentally, French Polynesia is part of France (as a pays d'outre-mer, though with more autonomy than, say, Martinique (which is treated as just another departement). --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 09:34, 26 July 2005 (UTC)

As discussed the first time around (or was it the 10th time? see Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style--Archive11#EU and Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style--Archive11#EU_and_OAS for two earlier discussions). I am in favour of CE English for "European Union institutions and documents" and I interpret this clause to mean that if one is writing about the European Parliament when in Strasbourg then it should be in CE English. But an article on Strasbourg Cathedral can be in AE or any other formal English dialect and should stay in the English of the primary author. Otherwise one ends up in the unreasonable position, that because someone writes an article on the bolts in a 1950s Ferrari that CE English should replace whatever the primary author wrote it in, or the Battle of the Bulge should use only CE because it took place in Europe and one of the major protagonists was German. I think this is a step too far. Also if "my memory serves me well" those lander in Germany which were occupied by the US after the war use AE in their schools, so why should Bavarians writing an article on BMWs have to put up with some Brit changing their spellings to CE which may look odd to them? Philip Baird Shearer 17:22, 26 July 2005 (UTC)

I'm unclear on what the problem is. Articles should use the spellings common to the subject. Articles about US subjects should use US spellings, articles about UK subjects should use UK spellings, and so on. European English-speakers are likely to have considerably more familiarity with UK English than with US English in the form of newspapers and books, so UK spellings should be used for those as well. Outside of that, the article should retain the spelling of its original author. Why the debate? --Tysto 05:10, 2005 August 4 (UTC)

Why the debate? "European English-speakers are likely to have considerably more familiarity with UK English than with US English in the form of newspapers and books, so UK spellings should be used for those as well." (User:Tysto) That's the critical point.
I can understand User:Rama's view, but I'm quite unsure about this...
As far as neutral articles are concerned - in my opinion, mixed spelling should be acceptable as long as it is "consistently mixed" (the same word shouldn't be spelled in two different ways) SpNeo 13:17, 10 August 2005 (UTC)
If you read the whole discussion you will find that it's worse than that. The proponents of British spelling for all European articles concede that European editors may be more used to US spelling (typically due to US media exposure). They argue that the non-English speaking European countries (read governments) prefer British spelling and so should all European editors, whether they like it or not. — I very much support what SpNeo calls "consistently mixed". Rl 13:34, 10 August 2005 (UTC)

I support using CE or British spelling in European topics. We learn them in schools, not US English. It isn't about forcing, it is about familiarity. People may later learn US spelling from Internet. English Wikipedia is for all people that understand English well enough to bother to read it. It is not only for native speakers. -Hapsiainen 18:24, August 27, 2005 (UTC)

I think one European spelling that should be adhered to is that of SI units. I think it is a tad absurd that "metre" is spelled as "meter" in many articles when the vast majority of Americans continue to use the Imperial system, thereby negativing the oft-touted (and specious) argument of sheer numbers.

Since SI units are used in science pursuits worldwide, and there are significant numbers of scientists using SI units and US spelling publishing scientific papers read worldwide, I think that the "respect the spelling as it is" convention still applies. Converting articles from one spelling convention to another in any case is highly undesirable and should only be done in the most exceptional of cases. Unfocused 15:10, 3 September 2005 (UTC)
SI symbols are standardized world-wide. Spelling of units is not. It is also "meter" in Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Dutch, and Indonesian, and "Meter" in German, as well as English, and even though chilogrammo doesn't start with a k in Italian, its symbol is still "kg". Gene Nygaard 07:49, 5 September 2005 (UTC)

Regarding the use of more than one English variant in an article; the style guide says don't do this because it can be jarring to the reader. What on earth does that mean? While in an article on, say, the colour green, to alternate color with colour throughtout the text might be a little off-putting - and unnecessary - I don't see a problem at all in having a certain degree of mixed spelling in an article (I think Britannica takes this approach at least in some articles). Consider an article where there is a US and a UK perspective on a topic (look at Identity theft for example). In such an article it makes sense to use US spelling in relevant sections and UK, Australian or whatever, in other sections. In the US the word check can mean a device for paying money. In the UK it's cheque, so it wouldn't be right to use the US spelling when dealing with the issue of checks/cheques in connection with identity theft in the UK. Furthermore, where there is no country-specific material in an article it still doesn't matter if there's a mixture of spellings. Perhaps the rule should be that there is no mixture within a section of an article. By far the majority of non-country specific articles use American English (e.g. see Tyre) simply because the Wikipedia project originated in America: American contributors got there first. For a truly international project this is not really satisfactory. Having a limited degree of mixed spelling could go some way towards (or toward if you're in the U.S.) remedying the situation. Apologies if this point has already been made. If it has, what was the consensus? Arcturus 19:51, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

I prefer the advanced modern spelling and grammar of the British English over the archaic American English. Not to say I'm good at it - I grew up in Southern California - but it is more logical and isn't nearly as whorish. BE is clearly the superiour dialect. However, in the context of Wikipedia, I think consistency should be the deciding factor. If an article is already written in AE, don't convert the whole thing. Same goes for articles in BE. Just because something is related to the UE doesn't mean the US doesn't have any interest in it. I go with KISS and don't necessarily think a new rule needs to be applied as consistency rules already apply. There are already rules in place in the MoS about regional spellings.glocks out 22:12, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

British vs U.S. Alphabetising

What is the Wikipedia standard for alphabetizing? By word or by letter? Should it be:

can do

- or -

can do

? -- Ravenswood 15:53, July 25, 2005 (UTC)

Commonly spaces are taking part in sorting. The space character comes before any others. If words are of unequal length, trailing spaces are assumed: "can " comes before "candy". Similarly "can do" comes before "candid". −Woodstone 17:11, July 25, 2005 (UTC)

Is that official policy? If it is, it should be in the Manual of Style. Ravenswood 21:27, July 25, 2005 (UTC)
Does it need to be part of the Manual of Style? I thought that that ordering (per Woodstone) was just 'understood'. Back when dictionaries were paper, a space came before alphabetic characters in sorting. The space character precedes all the alphanumerics in ASCII, so that takes care of the digital era. Heck, Excel even does it correctly when you ask it to sort a column of text entries. :) TenOfAllTrades(talk) 17:17, 26 July 2005 (UTC)
If one method was universally "understood" there wouldn't be (at least) five methods of sorting, would there? There have been and are dictionaries (on paper) which sort as if all the spaces were removed. Some people lump all "Mc" and "Mac" names together before other names starting with "M". Some people treat numbers as if they were spelled out, some don't. No, it is a matter of disagreement and controversy, which has occasionally led to edit wars and knife-fights. No murders yet, but a few skirmishes have come close. Ravenswood 23:22, July 26, 2005 (UTC)
There's also whether to sort St. with start and starve or with saint. —Wahoofive (talk) 16:10, 29 July 2005 (UTC)

Sorting should follow the Unicode collation algorithm for English, which can be used to sort any set of Unicode strings, except where the UCA gives unreasonable results. Nohat 18:52, 4 August 2005 (UTC)

UCA is a bit... complex for what we're trying to do, as it covers sorting items in every alphabet of the world mixed together, whereas for the English Wikipedia we just need a sorting standard for English.
I would propose:
  • Skip a, an, the
  • Sort spaces before all letters, so: cat food before catch, van der Waal before Vanderkellen
  • Intermingle accented letters with their unaccented forms, so: God, Gödel, Godfrey
  • If there's no difference between two listings other than capitalization or an accent mark, then capitals before lowercase, unaccented letters before accented
  • Numbers are sorted numerically before A. Special characters are sorted by ASCII value before numbers.
  • Non-English scripts are transliterated into English before sorting
  • Sort "St." as if it is spelled-out: "Saint"

Ravenswood 05:42, August 5, 2005 (UTC)

For most sorting purposes, whatever seems reasonable to the author should suffice. However, in the case of disputes, it makes more sense to defer to the experts rather than attempt to invent our own complicated system to maintain and argue about. Certainly your 7-rule example system misses something that someone else will think of, which result in the Wikipedia sorting system growing ever-more complex. Best to not have a formal policy and just defer to the experts. Nohat 06:04, 5 August 2005 (UTC)

That seems to be how most things in Wikipedia are handled: Do things however you like, until there's a disagreement strong enough to warrant intervention. OK, I can respect that. What I don't understand is, WHY hasn't there been a disagreement about this? The topics of straight quotes vs curly quotes, US vs U. S., and Latin abbreviations have all raged on for months, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and no easy consensus in sight. But sorting? Ignored. What gives? It's just as meaningless and arbitrary as the other topics people have been fighting over. Where's the five-way world war over sorting convention??? -- Ravenswood 15:01, August 11, 2005 (UTC)

  • OK, I changed the title of this section to "British vs US Alphabetizing", which doesn't make a lot of sense, but should get a bigger reaction out of people. Ravenswood 19:49, August 11, 2005 (UTC)
I edited slightly further along the path you started, Ravenswood. Maybe that will draw attention. ;) I think most of your rules above look like a good start. The only one I would differ with is sorting short forms as if they were spelled out. That can be confusing and can get complicated quite easily. (Writing "St." but sorting as if it were Saint or Street or what have you.) Much better, I think, to spell them out them out in full, then sort them, or barring that, to sort by what is actually written. No Account 23:34, 11 August 2005 (UTC)
Yes! YES!! Controversy at last! — Except, I agree with you. Ravenswood 16:02, August 12, 2005 (UTC)