Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers/Archive 136

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"Later this year"

This phrase should be added to the "never use" category. I'm running into it more and more, added by people who clearly don't realize why it shouldn't be used. I've been able to fix a few based upon context, but there's been a few articles where this isn't possible. (talk) 17:00, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

DRN thread on UK unit use

There's a thread at the dispute resolution noticeboard at the moment about which units to use in an article on a tunnel in the UK. If the editors here could take some time to share their insights I would be very grateful. The discussion is here: Wikipedia:Dispute resolution noticeboard#Hindhead Tunnel. — Mr. Stradivarius 23:31, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

If I may offer a different interpretation of the nature of the "dispute". I believe that the dispute is not about "which units" to use - the article uses the dual-unit format "imperial (metric)", it is actually about whether sufficient reason was given to to justify swapping the order of presentaion of some of the two-unit-pairs from "imperial (metric)" to "metric (imperial)". -- de Facto (talk). 07:21, 12 January 2012 (UTC)

Mixing "main" units

A point of contention in the Hindhead Tunnel dispute is the following bullet point from this guideline:

  • Avoid mixing systems of measurement used for primary measures. Write They could see the peak of a 600‑metre (2,000 ft) hill from a nearby 650‑metre (2,100 ft) hill, not …a 2,000‑foot (610 m) hill from a nearby 650‑metre (2,100 ft) hill.

Mixsynth tried to edit the point on 2 January, but in my view, Mixsynth's version had other problems so I reverted. I suggest restating the point as follows, so that the scope of the advice is confined to what is illustrated by the example:

  • Avoid using the same unit as a main unit at one point in the text and secondary unit in another point in the text. Write They could see the peak of a 600‑metre (2,000 ft) hill from a nearby 650‑metre (2,100 ft) hill, not …a 2,000‑foot (610 m) hill from a nearby 650‑metre (2,100 ft). hill. An exception would be where, in the field of the article, a particular unit is generally used for a specific unit type of measurement. For example, in an aviation article that lists distances in metres as the main unit, feet might be used as the main unit for altitude.

Jc3s5h (talk) 15:07, 12 January 2012 (UTC) modified 13:49 13 January 2012 (UT)

Yes, this is what I was trying to clarify too. My own effort was as a direct result of issues raised in the Hindhead discussion, where this particular guideline had been interpreted to mean that articles should use either "all-metric" or "all-imperial" main units throughout, despite the contrary guideline under "which units to use" for UK-related articles advising a specific metric/imperial mix. Jc3s5h's version above appears to correct both the US-specific issues he raises and the UK-specific issues I was concerned with.
However, I might go further and suggest that the point might safely be removed altogether since it seems that, if the guidelines relating to "which units to use" are followed, there shouldn't be a situation where the same unit is used as a main unit at one point in the text and as a secondary unit in another point in the text except for nominal measurements and UK-specific exceptions. I could be missing something, though. Mixsynth (talk) 16:08, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
Is it worth exploring the argument that the units used in the primary source should influence the decision. As an aside, the Hindhead Tunnel article has another interesting question - the tunnel was designed for traffic travelling at 120 km/h (as opposed to 100, 80, 70 or 60 km/h - Britians other standard speeds for road design). However the national speed limit is 70 mph. How should this be be represented? Martinvl (talk) 16:56, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
The style in an article should be consistent. I don't know what Martinvl means by a "primary source", but normally various points in articles are supported by different sources. I don't support changing the style to match whichever source supports a given passage. Also, people are always finding sources that are better, more up-to-date, or more freely accessible, so following the style in the source makes the style of the article unstable. Jc3s5h (talk) 17:10, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
Indeed - I note that there has also been a problem with editors choosing sources not for their appropriateness but for what units they use. It often isn't difficult to find sources that use units contrary to local usage (for example, a discussion of an Australian topic in an article written for a US publication is likely to use US customary units, even though Australia is fully metric) - we ought to aim for consistency and local usage, which a blanket use-the-sources rule fails to provide. Pfainuk talk 18:31, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
I don't necessarily agree that the sources referenced by an article should have any bearing on the units used in that article, either. More important should be consistent usage of units across articles aimed at similar kinds of audiences by way of a single, coherent style guide. Mixsynth (talk) 19:06, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
Design values and legal limits, like other nominal values, should be treated as quasi-quotations and shown with the original unit first no matter what, IMO. ― A. di M.​  17:21, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
Agree - we should be driving cars at 70 mph (110 km/h) through a tunnel with a design speed of 120 km/h (75 mph), because both are defined units - even though that might appear inconsistent. I think MOSNUM already advises this, mind. Pfainuk talk 18:31, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
We aren't intending to recommend a specific set of units for UK related articles, but rather attempting to guide editors as to how units might legitimately vary in UK-related articles. In particular, there are other contexts where imperial units may be appropriate both in UK contexts and generally. We don't currently make explicit provision for the foot for aircraft altitude, for example. Nor (though it's not a specifically imperial unit) do we mention the year: such a strict interpretation of WP:UNITS would seem not to allow any unit of time longer than a day.
In a UK context, I note that that particular point has a footnote advising that there are strong views on this subject and that in the absence of consensus, historically stable units should remain.
On the original point, may I suggest that this only really makes a difference if the two units are used in the same context? After all, it's not intended to strait-jacket articles into one system or the other. Pfainuk talk 18:31, 12 January 2012 (UTC)
While it's true that these guidelines are neither exhaustive nor binding, I would argue that they must be regarded as a set of standards to follow or they would have little practical purpose in helping ensure a consistent house style, that being the purpose of MOS. The foot for aircraft altitude is not on the list at the moment, but I see no reason why it shouldn't be added as metres are almost never used in that context in the UK.
I think the note about historically stable units relates only to situations where no overall consensus exists one way or the other. The unit use guidelines should still be the basis of consensus-seeking discussion into to whether or not any unit order change should stand, though.
Regarding the original subject, if removal of the "avoid mixing" point would be a step too far at this stage, let's implement Jc3s5h's amendment. Mixsynth (talk) 09:37, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
I think my proposal is longer than I would like, and it is really covered well enough by the requirement in the MOS that consistent style be used. So I favor dropping the bullet point altogether. Jc3s5h (talk) 13:51, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
I can go for that. Pfainuk talk 21:01, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
Clearly, wide consensus expressed through guidelines overrides arguments based on the history of the article - and is more likely to sway outside editors.
The general rule is that editors should follow common British usage on UK-related articles. All else is guidance as to how to meet that rule. Now, the particular instances listed are instances of imperial units that are near-universal in the UK - you can't reasonably claim to be following common British usage if you're measuring distance in kilometres, for example - so in that respect, those bullet points are an inherent part of the standard that we expect people to follow. But in many other circumstances, usage is highly context-dependent and such a blanket rule probably isn't appropriate.
On the foot for aircraft altitude, the advice used to be to use the units most commonly in use internationally (as opposed to SI), except where there are strong national ties or other good reasons. This avoided the whole bit about units that are near-universal in certain contexts but aren't technically endorsed by SI, including the foot for aircraft altitude and the year for time. Pfainuk talk 21:01, 13 January 2012 (UTC)
Agreed and clarified in the article text. -- de Facto (talk). 10:39, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
Reverted as this does not clarify anything. It introduces the vague phrase "common British usage", which is not defined and so is impossible for editors from other parts of the world to follow. The point of the guideline is to define what "common British usage" is as far as the Wikipedia house style is concerned. Any improvement should seek to further clarify the unmentioned contexts (if indeed there are any) where imperial should be used. Mixsynth (talk) 11:56, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
Agreed. The phrase "Common British usage" will lead different editors to read into it their often conflicting notions of what common British usage is. It's a recipe for even more disputation. Michael Glass (talk) 13:58, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
Of course there are additional contexts in which it would be a good idea to use imperial units. This is why the text puts the point in general terms, giving only a few common examples of imperial units that are near-universally used in modern Britain (so, that we should be using in our articles). We've already agreed on an example not listed - feet for aircraft altitude.
The fact is that we're never going to have a precise and definitive list of contexts in which imperial units are appropriate, which is what you seem to be looking for. Often this will depend very strongly on context and closely-related contexts may use different units: for example, fuel is sold by the litre but fuel consumption is measured in miles(/yards/feet/inches) per imperial gallon. In some cases there simply is no consensus in usage and trying to enforce one system or another is not realistic. The best advice we can give is that if, after reading WP:UNITS and any additional relevant WikiProject guidelines, you are still in doubt as to what common usage means, apply WP:RETAIN. Pfainuk talk 14:18, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
We agree that feet are always used for aircraft altitude in the UK, and indeed this appears to be the only specific exception made by the Times Style Guide (used as a reference document here for a very long time) that isn't also listed as an exception here. I do believe it should be added to the list as it's surely as universal an exception as miles and mph.
It appears that WP:RETAIN pertains specifically to varieties in the English language and not to measurement units. It also wouldn't seem appropriate for WP:UNITS to be interpreted only to specify certain contexts where measurements must be given as imperial first (e.g. miles but never kilometres) but offer no firm guidance either way on any others, as that would not seem to be balanced advice, permitting all-imperial use but (in many cases) preventing all-metric use. For example, editors who describe a vehicle's fuel consumption using litres per 100 km as main units may be upset at their figures being switched with miles per imperial gallon, but the guidelines are clear which are preferred; it follows that they should also be just as clear in the opposite direction.
If there are further contexts where all agree it is more appropriate to use imperial over metric as main units, and these contexts can be easily summarised, it would not be too difficult to include them in the guidance; however, no further such contexts have yet been agreed on. For example, DeFacto has suggested that road-related articles are a further case where entirely imperial units should be used; do we accept this? Is it "common British usage" to use Fahrenheit, cubic yards, imperial gallons, etc. as main units in any UK article, or would metric be preferable? Do we prefer to measure buildings, tunnels and hills in feet first or metres?
"The main unit is generally a metric unit" with specified exceptions would appear fairly clear as a guiding rule to determine what "common British usage" means for the purposes of Wikipedia. This is not to assert that metric is always a superior choice in every other situation than those specified, but it is at least as clear as should be expected of guidance, particularly when the guidance being sought is "which units to use". Mixsynth (talk) 18:53, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
Other contexts in which imperial units are appropriate would include screen size in inches, and many historical contexts. And I'm sure there are others. We don't want to be in a position where we have to list every single conceivable context because it would take up most of MOSNUM.
The point of the advice is not to be precisely balanced between metric and imperial, but to match (as closely as we can) British usage. As there isn't precise balance in British usage, there shouldn't be precise balance in our advice either. It so happens that there are several contexts in which imperial units are near-universal, but few metric usages that are similarly universal.
If you want the local equivalent to WP:RETAIN, read the top of the guideline. It's exactly the same rule: we don't change styles without good reason. Pfainuk talk 23:45, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
Screen sizes in inches is an obvious one, and one I'm sure we can all agree on, so let's add it to the exceptions list along with feet for aircraft altitude. I'm not sure what you mean by "historical contexts", but I can't imagine that they would be any different from historical contexts for any other country.
Styles should indeed not be changed without good-reason, but only where the original style is guideline-defined. Styles can of course be changed if they are not consistent with the guidelines.
My description of "balanced advice" doesn't refer to advising use of both systems in equal proportions but to giving equal strength of advice as to use of units of either system, i.e. "use imperial for these contexts and metric for the rest" rather than "use imperial for these and whatever you choose for the rest"; it's a moot point though, as the advice as it stands does appear to advise the former.
There are plenty of metric usages that are near-universal. Weights of objects other than people, volumes other than draught beer or cider, temperatures, construction projects, architecture, and so on. For example, it's clearly not consistent with "British usage" to weigh a car in pounds or long tons, or to measure a jar or bottle in imperial fluid ounces. So, the advice has to be interpreted just as strongly to use metric in these contexts as it is interpreted to use imperial for the specified exceptions.
It's true that we don't change styles without good reason, but a good reason has to be cases when the style currently used isn't consistent with the guideline and a change would make it so. Mixsynth (talk) 11:49, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
Mixsynth, "use imperial for these contexts and metric for the rest" isn't balanced, especially in the UK context. If it were balanced it would say: "use imperial for these contexts, use metric for these contexts and prevailing common usage for the rest" - or similar. However, with the UK context as it is, I believe that this would be more appropriate: "use metric for these contexts and imperial for the rest".
Your list of "plenty of metric usages that are near-universal" seems to be based on the erroneous assumption that units that are legally required in trading situations, or units which are used in metricated industries, have somehow been embraced and are now in universal common use. Nothing could be further from reality. Imperial units for volume, distance and weight are in common and everyday use. Heavy object weights are talked about in terms of "tons" and light objects in terms of "ounces". Jam is bought in jars by the pound. Pre-packed sausages are bought by the pound. Apples and potatoes are bought by the pound. Milk is bought in 1, 2, 4 and 6-pint plastic bottles. Distances are talked about in terms of yards or miles. Building sizes are talked about in terms of feet for height and yards for length. For UK articles imperial should prevail, other than for listed universal metric exceptions. -- de Facto (talk). 13:09, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
Once again DeFacto takes it upon himself to speak on behalf of the entire British public without giving any evidence for the claims he makes. The implication that metric units are actively rejected by most of the population does not tally with the country I know.--Charles (talk) 00:08, 21 January 2012 (UTC)
Do you have evidence that metric units are prefered by most of the population to support using them by default in Wikipedia articles, rather than the traditional imperial units? I would suggest that it is that implied assertion that the majority of the British population now prefer metric units, despite their history since the metrication process sarted of empatically rejecting them, that requires robust, credible and reliably sourced evidence. -- de Facto (talk). 10:13, 21 January 2012 (UTC)

Units of measure in common British usage

There seems to be a concerted effort in progress to force the use of metric units into non-science UK-related articles for contexts where some may assert that the "official" unit is a metric one. We need to review this unsatisfactory situation.

The UK has traditionally used the system of imperial units of measurements. However, although many industries (including engineering industries such as the automotive and aerospace industries) have long since chosen to use metric units and the government has introduced legislation attempting to force the use of metric units into certain trading situations and into public administration activities, imperial units are still in common usage in the UK in many, if not most everyday situations.

It is my belief therefore, that these guidelines should explicitly state that imperial units should be used for the main units in all UK-related non-science articles (unless context dictates metric - but a strong reasoning must be provided to justify this exception) and that metric (or imperial where the exception applies) conversions should always be provided where appropriate. This would mirror common British usage as mirrored in the style used by the UK's largest and most respected provider of factual information online - the BBC.

At the moment, the guidelines are being interpreted as only allowing the use of imperial as the main unit for applications where an imperial unit is the only legally allowed unit for that application and not where it is the commonly used unit. Wiki should reflect the real world - not attempt to force change onto the real world. -- de Facto (talk). 14:28, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

DeFacto claims "imperial units are still in common usage in the UK in many, if not most everyday situations". However, in the discussion at the Wikipedia:Dispute resolution noticeboard one UK newspaper style guide, the Guardian's style guide has been found that mostly advocates metric units and the Telegraph's, that mostly advocates "common British weights and measures". As far as I can see it's a tie, so Wikipedia could favor either approach, or could leave it to the first substantial contributor for each article. I favor the metric-first approach because this leads to the greatest ease of comparing quantities from different nations and different fields of study, even if these comparisons are being carried out by the reader, rather than being contained within the article. Jc3s5h (talk) 16:37, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
While I strongly agree with de Facto's point that we should reflect the real world, rather than forcing change on the real world, I don't think that's the effect of his proposal.
There are certain imperial units that are near-universal in British usage and recommended by both those style guides. Using kilograms to measure a person's weight in a UK context, for example, would completely fail in the aim of reflecting the real world: very few British people will have any idea of their weight in kilograms or their height in metres. The specific imperial examples that we list currently are those that are most commonly cited as imperial in British usage - though there are others (like feet for aircraft heights or inches for screen widths). We cannot claim to be reflecting the real world if we are not prepared to accept imperial usage in cases where it is overwhelmingly more common in the real world.
But at the same time, we do need to recognise that metric units have become common in many spheres of modern British life. Go to the supermarket and most of what you see will be in metric units (even if they're often 454 grams or 568 millilitres or similar). If you use measurements for your job, chances are they'll use metric units. Reflecting the real world doesn't just mean accepting imperial units when they're used. It also means using metric units where they are used in the real world.
Yes, it gets complicated sometimes, and there will be circumstances where the best advice we can give is WP:RETAIN. But that's what's necessary to reflect the real world. Pfainuk talk 17:06, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Pfainuk, I agree with most of what you write. Your supermarket examples are interesting. 454 grams equals one pound and 568 millilitres equals one pint. That's not really an example of using metric though is it, it's an example of continuing to use imperial, despite the law dictating that metric must be used. Customers won't be looking for a 454 gram jar of jam, they'll be looking for a one pound jar - and still finding it. It's the same in hardware shops. Wood and board is now compulsorarily labelled in metric (where it was once feet and inches). You now buy wood and board in dimensions which are multiples of 305 mm which happen to be almost identical to the former 12-inch multiples. So shoppers can still ask for, and get, for example: 4ft x 8ft sheets of hardboard (it will be labelled as 1220 mm x 2440 mm though). So that's still imperial too. -- de Facto (talk). 17:34, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Jc3s5h, if dual units are used, the ease of comparison remains the same whichever system comes first. The fact that we have one style guide for metric and one for imperial does not imply "a tie", it merely reflects the Guardian's position on metrication. We should reflect (and not try to undermine) the nation's character, customs, traditions, vernacular and preferences by using imperial as the primary system for UK-related articles. After all, even the EU has now formally abandoned its attempts to expunge imperial units from the nation's psyche. -- de Facto (talk). 17:09, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
DeFacto claims "We should reflect (and not try to undermine) the nation's character, customs, traditions, vernacular and preferences by using imperial as the primary system for UK-related articles." I do not believe DeFacto. I do not believe that imperial units are in fact the vernacular in the UK, with some specific exceptions such as road mileage and speed. Nor I believe the contrary; since I do not live in the UK, I can only go by reliable sources that are competent to describe what the vernacular is. The preceding statement demonstrates that DeFacto is a political advocate of imperial and his statements about what is or is not the vernacular should carry no weight. Jc3s5h (talk) 17:20, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
Jc3s5h, I resent and refute your assertion that I'm "a political advocate of imperial", I would just like to see the true case represented in Wikipedia - that means using imperial for the main units in UK-related articles and always with metric conversions for the sake of those unfamiliar with imperial. I have also spent a lot of time adding metric conversions to U.S. customery only units in articles for the same reason. I agree that my personal POV should not carry any more weight than anyone else's. That's why I'm happy to support it with reliably sourced information with the hope that I might convince some of the doubters here to agree with me. My statements and my POV are based on my experiences in the UK. Compare what I wrote with this very recent article from the eminently reliable source, the BBC, or this recent finding by the UK's 2nd largest supermaket chain (reported by the country's primary independent consumer campaigning organisation). -- de Facto (talk). 17:55, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
I too live in the UK, and my own observations are different from yours. In my experience, metric is used almost universally for everything (except in the handful of well-known excepted contexts), particularly in retail, education, science, business, healthcare, governmental and state affairs, all sport except horse racing and football (soccer) and in almost every field of professional employment. Generally speaking, the only time I see or hear imperial measurements (other than the few main exceptions) is in discussion with those who went to school before the mid-1970s, by reading older literature from before the same period and by reading certain publications of the British press. Mixsynth (talk) 20:49, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
Mixsynth, in that case, what do you make of the analysis in the BBC article (cited above too) or the results of the survey here (cited above too)? I wonder what proportion of the population went to school before 1975 too (all those born before 1970 - or now over the age of about 41). -- de Facto (talk). 21:00, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Last time I told an Englishman how many kilos I weighed, he replied “That means nothing to me.” And he was a 20-year-old college student; I suppose older or less educated people would be even less familiar with the SI. (Of course, one data point of anecdotal evidence doesn't prove anything, but...) ― A. di M.​  17:59, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
I can confirm that we are in a very mixed-up state in the UK. Food etc packaging gives metric, although still sometimes using imperial sizes (454 grams). On the weather I think metric is winning the battle & tv forecasts don't usually give fahrenheit at all. But (human) weight is still mostly stones, & approximate distances tend to be yards & feet, though building is all metric. Johnbod (talk) 18:13, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
Johnbod, which one of the following would you say most characterises the measurement system(s) most commonly used in the UK?
a) Metric only
b) Imperial only
c) Metric and imperial equally
d) Generally metric with a few exceptions using imperial
e) Generally imperial with a few exceptions using metric
f) Something else (please state what)
-- de Facto (talk). 18:25, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
c to d I think Johnbod (talk) 18:36, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

The probable reason that young Englishman did not know his weight in kilos is that Stones, Pounds and Ounces are used for personal weighing using bathroom scales and nothing else, so he could not convert it because he is used to working in metric units otherwise. If we were to go down the route suggested by DeFacto how would we determine what is the "vernacular" usage? It would be no good relying on anecdote, cherry-picked newspaper articles, or just who shouts the loudest. Extensive carefully designed and neutrally conducted surveys would be needed to determine this for each type of unit. It is unlikely anyone will spend that sort of money unless they have a POV to push. There is likely to be a generational difference as older people tend to think imperial while the younger are educated in metric units. I doubt if many people under fifty would see any need to translate the size of their heating oil tank from litres into gallons, even if they knew the ratio to use.--Charles (talk) 18:33, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

This is the sort of point that resulted in the status quo: we note that usage is mixed, recommend (but do not insist upon) metric units in most situations, but note certain exceptions where imperial units are more appropriate (because those usages are near-universal in the UK). This is based on the style guides of British publications. Pfainuk talk 23:16, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

As an alternative to the press, why not look at British school text books? All subjects, apart from maths, are entirely metric and maths pays lip service to conversiopns between metric and imperial, but does not teach children how to manipulate numbers using imperial units. The situation is summarised in the article "Metication in teh United Kingdom" as follows: Many aspects of life have been metricated either totally or partially; including industry, building, education and some sports such as rugby union. Many remain without visible evidence of metrication where Imperial units are used or even mandated[citation needed], including road signs, estate agents' advertisements and the non-specialist media.[citation needed] Trade is substantially metric. The citations would have been there if DeFacto had not removed them. On a point of correction - the DIY stores sell timber in multiples of 300 mm, not 305 mm as stated by DeFacto. One of my observations regarding persoanl weights is that journalists seem to alway use stones and pounds, even though people who use the gym tend to use metric units, the medical profession uses metric units as does the armed forces - particularky when assessing a soldiers backpack as a percentage of his weight. SO what we are really seeing is the influence of a few newspaper editors, not the country at large. Finally, Wikipedia is an encyclopeadia, not a newsheet, so should err on using the langauge of academia, rather than the language of the press. Martinvl (talk) 20:04, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

1) Do the school textbooks reflect current common usage or the political desire to metricate the UK? I suspect the latter - so how could they be a NPOV alterbative?
2) Were the citations you say that I removed WP:RS compliant?
3) Check the sizes of the hardboard sheets sold in Wickes, B&Q and Jewsons (3 of the UK's largest DIY suppliers) - none of those are 300 mm multiples.
-- de Facto (talk). 20:47, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
The idea that the British all use metric units really to measure their weights is simply inaccurate. The reason why the media always give people's weights in stones is because the public always describe their weights in stones. Where kilograms are used, it's in the context of, well you weigh 14 stone, we'll multiply that by 6.3 and that's the number we'll put into the computer. If that's what goes into the computer then that's what goes into the computer - but it almost certainly doesn't mean anything to you without doing the conversion (which you probably don't know).
Using school textbooks is deliberately choosing one of the metric contexts and saying, oh, that's clearly representative. No, school textbooks do not reflect normal usage in the UK. In fact, a good way of defining the split between metric and imperial units for younger people is that you use metric units for things you learn at school and imperial units for things you learn outside school. Pfainuk talk 22:47, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
I tend to agree. The later novels of of Kingsley Amis used metric units as in things like "two hundred metres down the road" & it read really oddly. All rulers, tape measures & (contrary to what was said above) weighing machines have both scales. The US also uses metric in science & most industry, but still firmly uses imperial in everyday contexts, & the UK is similar. Johnbod (talk) 23:13, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

Because British usage of units is inconsistent, contested between the pro and anti-metrics and slowly changing towards an increasing use of metric measures in some instances but not in others, it is impossible to draw up a set of guidelines that will satisfy all editors. Here are the possibilities:

  • Metric as a general rule. Will be fought tooth and nail by many editors and will be inconsistent with some good sources of information.
  • Imperial as a general rule. Will be fought tooth and nail by many editors and will be inconsistent with an increasing number of good sources of information.
  • Follow the style guides. Problem: the style guides themselves are inconsistent on many points and may be inconsistent with sources of information.
  • Follow the best sources. Problems: even good sources can be inconsistent, and there will still be conflict over which sources are best or whether sources are in accord with real British usage.
  • Follow "British usage". Problem: it's an invitation to disputation, as can be seen from above.
  • Follow the usage set in the article. Problem: articles can't be updated when more information becomes available.

I believe that the best policy is generally to follow local, authoritative sources. If the sources use Imperial measures, put them first; if they use metric measures, put them first. This seems to be the policy followed by the BBC, which apparently puts metric measures first when the sources are metric, e.g., here and imperial first when the source is imperial e.g., here. Michael Glass (talk) 23:28, 14 January 2012 (UTC)

Your claim of a BBC policy must be ignored because it lacks any credible basis. It is purely speculation, a claim of a policy based on individual instances of usage. As to your proposal, to make articles horrendously inconsistent in this way would seem to be a very bad idea. We must also remember that sources frequently do not match local usage because they are not written with a local audience in mind. There is no good reason why UK-related articles should not be allowed to use British usage when every other country in the world gets to use its local units. And it is of course worth pointing out your habit of going through articles with sources that you've decided are "the best" because of the units they use. Pfainuk talk 23:56, 14 January 2012 (UTC)
Your claim that following the units used in the sources would cause horrendous inconsistencies must be ignored because it lacks any evidence whatsoever. It is pure speculation, and must be rejected out of hand. Ignoring the units used by the sources is a very bad idea. We must remember that the best sources will use the best and most widely understood units of measure for the subject at hand. To turn our backs on educated usage is not best practice. And it is of course worth pointing out the habit of a few editors who flip the display of units to their favourite units rather than following the sources.
This is not to defend or justify using poor sources. If a source of information is not the best, it will soon be challenged and either removed or replaced with a better one. That is not at issue. No matter what rule editors follow, there will be inconsistencies.
  • If the rule is metric first or Imperial first, there will be inconsistencies.
  • If the rule is to follow the style guides, there will be inconsistencies, because the style guides are internally inconsistent and inconsistent with each other.
  • If the rule is to follow "British usage" there will be horrendous inconsistencies, because every man and his dog has different ideas about what is British usage. See above!
  • As there is a rule to provide both metric and Imperial equivalents, no-one will be badly disadvantaged if their favourite units of measure don't always come first.
Therefore, when deciding which units to put first, the units actually used by the sources of information must carry some weight.
Michael Glass (talk) 06:27, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
I'm with Michael here. I have little tolerance for the campaign among a few older WPs from the UK to enforce their personal preferences for imperial; they'd reintroduce pounds, shillings, and pence if you let them. The fact that old-style will still be in parentheses shows up the political nature of that push. Tony (talk) 08:47, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
I am old enough to have humped around Hundredweight sacks of cement before the slightly lighter 50 Kilo ones came in. Nobody would be allowed to carry anything that heavy now of course. I am also old enough to have done arithmetic using Pounds, Shillings and Pence. What a good thing those went. As it would be impossible to reliably establish what the relative levels usage among the general population actually are, and sources are all over the place, I think it is better to follow the law of the land in using metric units first except for those exceptions specified by UK law. I suspect there will be a fairly quick change to mostly metric usage as the older generation of newspaper/tv editors retire over the next decade.--Charles (talk) 09:42, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
Part of the trouble with that is that people may well be inclined to interpret it narrowly. For example, when measuring distance, I have seen it argued (for months on end) that because the law only mentions distance along roads, and not distances measured as the crow flies, we should draw a distinction as well. As a result, it was, argued, we should be saying (for example) that the road was 40 miles (64 km) long, even though the towns were only 45 kilometres (28 mi) apart. There's no real-world basis for such a distinction, and drawing it is distinctly unhelpful, but we were told that that was what following the law meant. There are circumstances that the law doesn't mention because there's no reason for it to - these are more frequently imperial because they tend to be on the taught-outside-school end of the spectrum.
For my part, I see no compelling reason in this discussion for any significant change of the current advice, which is based on the style guide of the United Kingdom's newspaper of record, in either direction. If Michael and Tony believe that anyone who thinks we should reflect real-world usage, rather than trying to force change on the real world, is a political campaigner - then that's their problem. I would be more inclined to see it the other way around. Pfainuk talk 10:18, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
Tony, 1) What campaign? 2) How do you know how old those you perceive to be the campaigners are? Isn't it more a case that you are not comfortable with the argument that Wiki should reflect reality and not attempt to suggest that metric units are in common use in the UK when they aren't? -- de Facto (talk). 10:31, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Michael, you characterise the contest as being "between the pro and anti-metrics", I perceive it as more between anti-imperial and pro-freedom-of-choice groups. I've seen calls to abolish imperial, but I've never seen calls to abolish metric - just calls to restore the freedom to use either metric or imperial at will. If we are to dictate anything it should only be:
  • Use the metric unit as the main unit if UK common usage is near-universally metric.
-- de Facto (talk). 10:24, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
I concur with Pfainuk: what the hell is wrong with the current guidance? (I'd broaden the thing about science to other specialist topics, but the part about “non-science UK-related articles” looks fine to me.) ― A. di M.​  11:15, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
I agree that Wikipedia should reflect reality, and an excellent way for it to do this would be to note what the reliable sources are saying. Take the conflict about the Hindhead Tunnel. As can be seen from this edit [1], the dispute was about whether the article should put cubic metres or cubic yards first and ditto with gallons and litres. There is not a mile in sight! This dispute seems to be a textbook example of the importance of giving first place to the units given in the sources. For example, the reader should know whether the tunnel was drilled at the rate of a metre a day or a yard a day. Over 1830 metres, the difference in time between the two rates would be 171 days! Taking note of the sources of information is not so much a matter of rewriting the style guide as using common sense and respecting the sources of information. Michael Glass (talk) 12:45, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
Slavishly doing whatever the sources do is actually a very bad approximation to real-life usage, not least because sources have different audiences. You're going to be putting hill elevations in metres in one sentence and feet in the next, because one source happened to prefer metres and the other happened to prefer feet. You're going to be dealing in miles and kilometres in the same sentence because you're mixing an Australian source with an American source. It's a recipe for enormous inconsistency.
It would also create a rule-gamers' charter, as we have seen with your habit of basing the definition of the "best source" on the units used by the sources.
In terms of that article, chances are the tunnel was not dug at exactly a metre a day or exactly a yard a day. Chances are that it varied - some days it went further than that, other days it went nowhere at all. The article notes that it was dug from both ends and implies that it was finished in less than fifteen months - far less than 1830 days. Your claim of 171 days' difference between the two rates is patent nonsense. If we need to know the precise amount of time taken, then doubtless we can provide it. And when it comes down to it, the precise use of units has to come down to the local editors sorting out their differences. Pfainuk talk 13:35, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
I would not put too much emphasis on the BBC. Under UK law is is an offence to stage a political demonstration within one kilometre of Parliament. This has been reported by the BBC on at least two occasions - in both cases they converted "one kilometre" to "half a mile". In both instances I contacted them telling them that they would look very silly if somebody was arrested for protesting 900 metres from Parliament and in hteir defence, they produced the BBC report.´ In both instances I contacted the BBC and they amended their reports within the hour.
In response to DeFacto's comment "Do the school textbooks reflect current common usage or the political desire to metricate the UK? I suspect the latter - so how could they be a NPOV alternative?" - the schools teach what is to be used in business, in engineering and in commerce. For the record, the UK's metrication program was initiated in the UK in 1965 by the CBI for business reasons - Parliament was half-hearted whith the result that we now have a half-baked system. The political element came about when the UK joined the EEC as it then was and as the UK's metrication program was the same as the program persued by the original six (introduction of SI in place of the CGS system, or in Britian's case), the imperial system, there was no problem. In short, DeFacto has got the wrong end of the stick. Martinvl (talk) 20:05, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
Martinvl, it isn't clear what your point is. Are you suggesting that because the CBI was involved, that there is no political desire to metricate the UK or that because the CBI was involved Wikipedia articles should be based on school textbooks regardless of the fact that they don't reflect common usage? And another question: what has EEC/EU involvement got to do with how we represent UK units in Wikipedia?
The newspaper report that the tunnel was dug at teh rate of one yard (or one metre) per day is a load of rubbish - do the maths´- the excavated part of the tunnel is 1770 metres long and it took just over a year to dig. at one metre a day, starting from both ends, about 1000 metres is unaccounted for. There diusmiss that newspapaer report as being totally unreliable. Yet another instance of the unreliablility of the press. Martinvl (talk) 20:09, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
Martinvl, what newspaper report? As far as I can tell, that unsupported assertion was added in this edit by User:Charlesdrakew. Charles, who has contributed to this discussion may be able to enlighten us on the source of it. -- de Facto (talk). 22:04, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
On checking the source, this BBC South video, which should have replaced or suplemented the existing BBC reference the reporter says "one metre at a time" not one metre per day as I had interpreted it. My bad. The BBC did use metre and not yard though.--Charles (talk) 23:17, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
I feel I must reply to Pfainuk's comments above. Slavishly following any rule will lead to anomalies. However, the idea that following the sources will lead to anomalies in every sentence is a fantasy. Pfainuk has come up with this canard repeatedly and I have challenged him to produce an example of confused usage caused by following the sources again and again. If following the sources is a recipe for enormous inconsistency, a real-life example should be easy to find. The fact that Pfainuk does not or will not provide us with one example of this enormous inconsistency means that his assertion is valueless and should be ignored. Michael Glass (talk) 03:21, 16 January 2012 (UTC)
I also note that Pfainuk made a personal attack. Just because he disagrees with me is no reason for his assumption of bad faith. Referring to the best sources of information is good practice, even though people's selection of sources will be influenced by their assumptions and opinions. Michael Glass (talk) 13:27, 16 January 2012 (UTC)

Unclear on {{fl}}

This page says {{fl}} shouldn't be used on disambiguation pages. Does this mean we should use "fl." without a link or that we should avoid it altogether? Thanks. – hysteria18 (talk) 00:59, 16 January 2012 (UTC)

The latter doesn't make much sense. (Also, you could use <abbr title="floruit">fl.</abbr>fl. so you get a tooltip text even without a blue link, but then again, someone who doesn't know what fl. means likely doesn't know what floruit means either. ― A. di M.​  10:42, 16 January 2012 (UTC)
That's a lovely solution. Perhaps that problem could be solved by saying "flourished" rather than "floruit'? (As a sort of temporary measure, I went for including the person's period in their description, like: William Farrington, 15th century English soldier and diplomat. Is that sort of thing acceptable?) – hysteria18 (talk) 12:42, 16 January 2012 (UTC)

Currency confusion

WP:£ says "For obsolete currencies, provide if possible an equivalent, formatted as a conversion, in the modern replacement currency (e.g., decimal pounds for historical pre-decimal pounds-and-shillings figures), or at least a US-dollar equivalent as a default in cases where there is no modern equivalent." I can see here that there was some discussion that touched on this sentence but I remain confused by "formatted as a conversion".

Conversion to what? Does this mean, for example, that 19 UK shillings (old currency) should be represented as 95 pence (present, decimal currency)? Or does it mean that we should find some decent location that attempts an inflation-adjusted conversion? Furthermore, does it mean that we should show old and new, and if so then is there something similar to Template:Convert that might do this job? Right now, this issue affects me at John Horsefield but it crops up quite frequently with articles that I create. - Sitush (talk) 14:48, 16 January 2012 (UTC)

I agree that this is confusing - if I were to write that in 1826 in the Cape Colony, the rixdaller was redeemed for "1/6", do I convert it to US dollars using the 1826 conversion rate, do I convert GBP 0.075 to US dollars at teh current conversion rate or do I convert ZAR 0.15 to US dollars at the current conversion rate? The historic context is that the South African currency was pegged to the British currency until the late 1960's - however South Africa decionalised her currency in 1961 at the rate of 1/- = 10c. In 1971 the UK decimalised at the rate of 1/- = 5p.
In my view, conversions of currencies that are more than same 50 years old are meaningless.
As an aside, how would one convert Zimbabwean dollars? I have seen a billion [Zimbabwean] dollar which is literally not worth the paper it is printed on - I checked its value again the cost of computer printer paper. Martinvl (talk) 15:47, 16 January 2012 (UTC)

Era convention

Could someone point me to the discussion that supported the change in wording to WP:ERA? I believe it used to say something along the lines of keeping the article's original era convention unless there was "substantial" reason for the change. Now it says: Do not arbitrarily change from one style to the other on any given article. Instead, attempt to establish a consensus for change at the talk page. This seems to me likely to encourage endless unproductive discussion over a relatively minor point of style; previously, editors who actively watched an article could just say "hey, it's always been this way and there's no substantial reason particular to this article to change it." Less time wasted. Cynwolfe (talk) 15:02, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

I didn't find actual discussion of that edit. I did find: Editor's question. Edit. Much longer related discussion. Art LaPella (talk) 22:19, 12 September 2011 (UTC)
Thank you, especially for digging up that long discussion. I think I see what the goal was, so perhaps I'll ask the editor to comment here. Cynwolfe (talk) 15:43, 13 September 2011 (UTC)
Hm. That editor seems to be blocked for socking. I think I'd rather have the wording go something like Do not change the era style of an article without first seeking consensus on the talk page. Reasons for the proposed change should be specific to the content of the article; a general preference for one style over another is not a reason. Cynwolfe (talk) 16:03, 13 September 2011 (UTC)
Surely for the sake of impartiality BCE should be used? Should not a carte blanche be granted allowing articles to be updated to BCE - assuming the article is fully and correctly updated. Thecoshman (talk) 11:04, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
Yeah, BCE seems like a more contemporary standard, and as mentioned above, a more impartial one with regards to religion. (Though I'm not sure how much that matters given the date system in question is based off the theoretical year of the death of jeebus. — Preceding unsigned comment added by EznorbYar (talkcontribs) 11:13, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
Maybe instead of suddenly replacing BC with BCE in every article, we should begin using BCE in new articles, while slowly phasing BC out. Aromir19 (talk) 14:48, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
I would agree with this sentiment, it makes sense that as a standard practice articles should be written with the sue of BCE opposed to BC. I personally find it strange that the only reason to keep BC is for the most part that people don't want to change the use of BC as it is what the article has always used. With the sentiment we would never move on; what if we think up a better of referring to reference material, surely we would aim to update all the articles to use the new improved system Thecoshman (talk) 15:26, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
In previous discussions of this perennial issue in the archives, I believe the main argument for BC isn't that it exists in a given article. It's that it is more prevalent in writing outside Wikipedia. "1000 BC" gets almost 4 times as many Google hits as "1000 BCE". BC is based on a religion, but so are days of the week ("Thursday" = "Thor's day", etc.) and months, and so is the starting point for BCE. Art LaPella (talk) 15:58, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
As for “more contemporary”, note that even in books from the late 2000s BC is nearly 4 times as common as BCE.[2] Maybe in 20 years BCE will be more common than BC, but it's not there yet. ― A. di M.​  20:23, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
A di M, we might want to look at AD and CE in ngrams also, yes? And it might be best to select whole centuries, and early ones for which the distinction is more likely to be made. This ngram evidence is especially interesting. I add the word "by" (feasible when we get larger samples by the means I just mentioned) to narrow the hits to dates rather than contaminants in which the abbreviations mean something different. Such ngrams are a challenge to analyse. They sample diverse literatures. NoeticaTea? 21:23, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
AD is more often written before the year number, so it's under-represented in the above. See this. (BTW, I should made clear that my position is for allowing both systems, in case it seemed I was in favour of BC/AD only.) ― A. di M.​  22:37, 15 January 2012 (UTC)

As a possible solution to this problem, is there any way the wiki engine can be set up so that people can choose between years being shown in BC/AD or showing as BCE/CE? If this would be possible, it would be a fine solution as people can simply choose what data format yo use. Though of course, the question must be asked what should the default data format be? Thecoshman (talk) 15:44, 1 December 2011 (UTC)

I don't think it works like that. Aromir19 (talk) 16:09, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
Even if changing the wiki engine were possible, how would readers make the choice? Do you mean like the date format preference (click "My preferences" above, then click "Date and time")? That choice is more useful rhetorically than practically. If you're only a reader, you have no reason to register, so you can't set a preference. If you're also an editor, you should see dates, and BC/BCE, the same way unregistered readers see them, because you're writing for readers not authors; therefore you shouldn't set a preference even though you can. Art LaPella (talk) 16:16, 1 December 2011 (UTC)
  • I have a strong reason to propose a change from BC to BCE on Wikipedia because there is no historical record of Christ. You may discuss Josephus use of the word Chrestus in relation to James at your will, but Wikipedia should not be governed or linked to religion and hence BCE should be adopted as standard for WP:ERA. Would it not be really great to form a battalion of editors, timecops. jedi and assistants here, clever enough to fight the time war and agree that using terminology that refers to a fictional person in Wikipedia articles is irrational? A Timelord (talk) 19:02, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
  • How is BCE less based on Jesus Christ? Christians already read it as "Before/Christian Era" anyways. St John Chrysostom view/my bias 13:02, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
It will allow the 4.5 billion people (66.7%) of the planet that do not believe in Christ to use the alternative terminology of "Common". (talk) 17:27, 31 January 2012 (UTC)
Maybe there are 4.5 billion people who don't believe in God and/or don't believe Jesus was his only son, but I doubt there are that many people who believe Jesus didn't exist. (As for calling him Christ ‘anointed one’, there are plenty of non-Buddhist people who call Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha ‘enlightened one’, not to mention Mahatma (‘great soul’) Gandhi...) ― A. di M.​  19:52, 31 January 2012 (UTC)
For crying out loud, why isn't this listed under WP:PEREN already? There's even less evidence for the existence of Thor, but we still say Thursday, don't we? :-) ― A. di M.​  20:08, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
This has been argued ad infinitum for the entirety of Wikipedia's history, and the only consensus that has been reached is to use both era notations. As for Wikipedia not being "governed by or linked to religion", does that mean you think we should replace all references to Thursday (named for pagan god Thor) with Common Fourth Day, or January (named for pagan god Janus) with Common First Month? The point being, just because a secular euphemism exists it doesn't mean Wikipedia automatically must use it. Wikipedia uses what is notable, and while BCE/CE are increasing in notability, BC/AD are still by far the most notable and widespread notations. If we don't use the Quakers' euphemisms for the pagan weekdays, we don't need to use the Jews' euphemism for the notable Christian era notations. Whether "Christ" exists or not is entirely irrelevant, because BCE/CE does nothing to change the fact that the era is based around an estimation of his birth, it only excises explicit reference to that. — FoxCE (talk | contribs) 21:13, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Well done A. di M. and FoxCE, you appear to have spotted the Daleks. These things are consumed by irrational hate. It seems to be some form of mutant created by the Pope. The name Thor seems to be noted in Laurence Waddell's British Edda, and Janus is well referenced in the Roman records, but they do not seem to be figures of worship in any currently practiced religion. This Christ terminology seems to refer to a current, practiced religion called Christianity and hence gives bias to an irrational concept that is not notable in the historical record, in breach of WP:NPOV over other currently practiced religions and should therefore be exterminated in order to save humanity. The time war is on! You can join me and live in peace or continue on your present course co-operating with this irrational enemy and face annihilation.[1] A Timelord (talk) 22:11, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
    Disclaimer: I believe that Jesus actually existed. (But this is not the reason why I'm OK with BC/AD; in fact, I believe that Jesus was born several years before AD 1. As for currently practised religions... BTW, the reason why I used the particular phrase for crying out loud, rather than any of its numerous synonyms which had sprung to my mind, is that it was the only one which included no mention of any religious figure or any supernatural being or place or state of existence or spiritual practice. In fact, the first one I thought of was for f–––'s sake, but that references a particular aspect of a particular set of religious beliefs too.) ― A. di M.​  22:37, 15 January 2012 (UTC) and (after two edit conflicts) 22:53, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
The Essenes had a Teacher of Righteousness that you can read all about in the work of John M. Allegro and is clearly notable in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Indeed, the last of these figures seems to have been born several years before 1 CE. So in some respects, we are not in total disagreement. Jesus, however, is a Dalek and should be exterminated. A Timelord (talk) 22:49, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
  • I agree the original text should be restored. I'd be prepared to have an addition suggesting a slight preference for BCE etc in articles on Asia and Oceania, but for example the British Museum still uses BC, at least for Europe & the Near East. The discussion dug out above seems pretty fimsy to me, & insufficient to overturn a long-established wording. Johnbod (talk) 23:37, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
  • The British Museum must be infested with Daleks, thanks for the information Johnbod, I had no idea that it was linked so closely to the Wikipedia project. I should go and investigate. A Timelord (talk) 00:38, 16 January 2012 (UTC)
  • You do realize that all references to era notations in the Doctor Who universe use BC/AD, not BCE/CE? Including the first episode, which is alternatively called "100,000 BC"? — FoxCE (talk | contribs) 01:54, 16 January 2012 (UTC)
That episode was written in 1963 when Christianity and irrationality dominated well over one third of the world (and the Pope still considered the Sun revolved around the Earth). (talk) 17:27, 31 January 2012 (UTC)
He seems to be on a campaign to use ASPRO chronology on all relevant pages, without starting any discussions at the relevant Wikiprojects or article talk pages. He refers to it as a 'time war' which he is "waging" or "fighting". Dougweller (talk) 09:10, 16 January 2012 (UTC)
I am interested to know how you have determined the fact I am a male Dougweller? Are you gay? ;-) A Timelord (talk) 16:00, 16 January 2012 (UTC)
Because you call yourself “A Timelord” and not “A Timelady”? ― A. di M.​  16:16, 16 January 2012 (UTC)
I think you may have spotted another invading alien here A. di M. although I can find no mention of the Timelady terminology in the records. The terminology to describe a female who lords over time would appear to be the same as that for a male. A Timelord (talk) 23:21, 16 January 2012 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Note that this editor has tried to delete any mention of 'Time Lady', including deleting the reference [3] from an article. That lists two incarnations of Romana, "Romana I (Mary Tamm) First incarnation of Time Lady traveller with the Fourth Doctor" and "Romana II (Lalla Ward) Second incarnation of Time Lady traveller with the Fourth Doctor - mark two." I'm beginning to think this editor is not exactly constructive. Dougweller (talk) 14:49, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

The full link for your source text [4] refers to Romana as a Time Lord giving equal balance to the argument and hence I AM not being disruptive. A Timelady (talk) 13:50, 21 January 2012 (UTC)
I second the proposal raised by A Timelord. Paul Bedsontalk 14:01, 21 January 2012 (UTC)
Third. Ban him (and, he changed his name, so WP:SOCKPUPPET). You couldn't tell he was a troll with his very first post about the Christ-myth hypothesis in this thread? St John Chrysostom view/my bias 13:08, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
Fourth. Crucify them! Crucify them! Exterminate the Timelords! Then bow and worship your new masters. Love, The Daleks. (talk) 17:27, 31 January 2012 (UTC)
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn. I hereby declare this the most awesome Wikipedia discussion thread ever. (But I still support allowing both BC/AD and BCE/CE.) ― A. di M.​  19:47, 31 January 2012 (UTC)
  1. ^ L. A. Waddell (May 2003). British Edda. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7661-5753-8. Retrieved 15 January 2012. 

Days of the week

I can't seem to find anything in WP:DATE relating to days of the week. For example, when is it appropriate (if ever) to include the day of the week before the date (e.g. Tuesday 7 February 2012) and when might it be acceptable to abbreviate the day (e.g. Tue). --Jameboy (talk) 23:57, 7 February 2012 (UTC)

1) When it's relevant (i.e. seldom, but not never), and 2) when space is scarce (e.g. in tables). ― A. di M.​  10:13, 8 February 2012 (UTC)
Agree. Yeah, I struggle to think of a context in which it is relevant, apart from the articles on the days of the week and closely related articles. Tony (talk) 12:04, 8 February 2012 (UTC)
Black Monday (1987) Art LaPella (talk) 23:32, 8 February 2012 (UTC)
There'll probably be a fair few articles about historical events that will only really make sense if you bear the day of the week in mind. During the banking crisis, much use was made of the weekends as breathing room to hammer out rescue deals. Many of the events of the Arab Spring become clearer when you realise the significance of Friday. That sort of thing. Pfainuk talk 18:55, 9 February 2012 (UTC)
I agree with Pfainuk on that one. Martinvl (talk) 07:57, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
In articles about elections (usually Tuesday in the U.S. and Thursday in Britain; often Saturday or Sunday in other countries), it's often helpful to readers to anchor the chronology of preceding and succeeding events, and sometimes the dates of press reports, by referring to the day as well as the date. For example a Tuesday election might be affected by something happening late on Friday, over the weekend, or on the day before (Monday). Tuesday election returns reported on a Wednesday might be less complete than those on Thursday or Friday. Saturday and Sunday editions of newspapers often differ from the weekday ones; sometimes smaller and less-read, sometimes much bigger and more widely-read. ¶ I'd think that abbreviating the day would be appropriate (though certainly not compulsory) in about the same circumstances as abbreviating months, when needed to compress table columns or give them a uniform width, and sometimes in footnotes, but very, very rarely in the body prose of an article (unless as part of a direct quotation).—— Shakescene (talk) 09:05, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
All good sensible advice, thankyou. Do you think WP:DATE should be updated with some of this info? --Jameboy (talk) 22:28, 16 February 2012 (UTC)

Units in specialist topics

In the present version of the guideline, science is singled out as the only context where a particular set of units is recommended, but I think it should apply to other topics as well. Hence, I suggest the following changes:

Current text Proposed text

For many articles, Wikipedia has adopted a system of writing a "main" unit followed by a conversion in parentheses (see Unit conversions below).

  • In non-science US-related articles: the main unit is generally a US customary unit (97 pounds (44 kg)).
  • In non-science UK-related articles: the main unit is generally a metric unit (44 kilogram (97 lb)), but imperial units are still used as the main units in some contexts, including:[1]
    • miles for geographical distances, miles per hour for speeds, and miles per imperial gallon for fuel consumption;
    • feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight measurements;
    • imperial pints for draught beer/cider and bottled milk.
  • In articles about specialized subjects: use the units normally used in the subject (e.g., SI units and non-SI units officially accepted for use with the SI for most scientific topics, yards in American football, or nautical miles in navigation). Conversions to other units are not required at every single instance, even though providing a link and/or conversion factors on the first instance can be useful.

For many articles, Wikipedia has adopted a system of writing a "main" unit followed by a conversion in parentheses (see Unit conversions below), where the main unit reflects the one commonly used in the geographic locale of the article topic for the quantity at hand.

  • In non-specialist US-related articles: the main unit is generally a US customary unit (97 pounds (44 kg)).
  • In non-specialist UK-related articles: the main unit is generally a metric unit (44 kilograms (97 lb)), but imperial units are still used as the main units in some contexts, including:[1]
    • miles for geographical distances, miles per hour for speeds, and miles per imperial gallon for fuel consumption;
    • feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight measurements;
    • imperial pints for draught beer/cider and bottled milk.
  • All other articles: the main units are generally SI units or non-SI units officially accepted for use with the SI, or other common everyday units such as the year.


  1. ^ a b Some editors hold strong views for or against metrication in the UK. If a disagreement arises with respect to the main units used in a UK-related article, discuss the matter on the article talk-page and/or at MOSNUM talk. If consensus cannot be reached, refer to historically stable versions of the article and retain the units used in these as the main units. Note the style guides of British publications such as Times Online (under "Metric").

Discussion (Units in specialist topics)

What do you think? ― A. di M.​  12:20, 15 January 2012 (UTC)

Just an observation, I tend to avoid these discussions of late, as you see the same 3 editors reprising the same arguments they were using when I first starting editing (that was back in 2007). No doubt this will be dismissed as a personal attack but its not so much flogging the dead equine as continuing to beat the bare patch of ground where the long since passed from this mortal coil equine had crumbled to dust and blown away in the breeze.
For those claiming its just the "older WP", may care to note what a young whippersnapper Pfainuk is, although there is quite a sensible head on those young shoulders. No, its not just the older generation, the British have stubbornly continued to use imperial units despite the fact that since the 1970s the education has only taught metric and there has been a strong push to go down the metric route. The attempt to force metrication simply resulted in the metric martyrs.
Nor is it a matter of personal preference, for I as a professional engineer use the metric system almost exclusively in my professional life.
For those who will no doubt decry this as a personal attack, I invite you to consider that I regularly see these discussions degenerate into bad tempered discourses, becuase of the bad faith gross generalisations that its only just the older generation who wish to re-introduce £sd. Again I see the same 3 editors on the metric side but a variety of editors on the other. Particularly so, when they're lecturing residents of this country how they use units. The common denominator is the same 3 editors and I have often wondered whether an RFC/U would be an appropriate route.
The existing guidelines are fine, they reflect British usage in general and as such should continue to be used. If those pushing for universal metrication find this unsettling or offensive, then I suggest you find another more harmonious area to edit. IF you want wikipedia to be exclusively metric, convince other editors of the merits of your case but please stop the offensive gross generalisations as they only entrench opinions. Wee Curry Monster talk 12:32, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
Well said WCM! Wiki articles should reflect the culture, traditions and customs of the related region, and not force everything through the same "standardisation" filter. -- de Facto (talk). 15:22, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
Every article that contains measurements must either be written in SI-only units or provide conversions to SI. Anything else is a return to the medieval guild system where each trade had its own system of measurement and all trade knowledge was kept secret among the guild members. Jc3s5h (talk) 12:35, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
This statement: "the main unit reflects the one commonly used in the geographic locale of the article topic for the quantity at hand." is an invitation to disputation, as every man and his dog has an opinion on which unit is commonly used. Please, don't even go there! Michael Glass (talk) 13:16, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
The possibility for dispute is addressed in the section below, in which we explain what we mean by this. When it comes down to it, the units commonly used in a geographic location is the rule we are following and we should be clear about it. I would, incidentally, agree with Curry Monster's points above: fact is this (in the above section) has been the same argument pushed by the same few editors for years and years now, and there's no benefit in repeating it ad infinitum.
On Jc3s5h's point, I'd agree in general, but would extend it: all measurements should have conversions except in cases where all English-speaking countries would generally use the same unit in a given context (which includes - to within the bounds of WP:IAR and WP:COMMONALITY - all units of time and all scientific contexts). The only exception should be the longstanding rule that we should find some way of converting other than inline conversion for articles that are chock full of (for example) yardages in American football.
On the proposal, I support. Pfainuk talk 13:42, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
I agree with Pfainuk that for non-SI units that would be used by virtually all English-speakers, both those who learned it as a mother tongue and those who acquired it as a second language, such as year, degree of angle, etc., there is no need for conversion. I also agree that it isn't always necessary to convert every instance of a unit; it may be sufficient to provide a conversion factor for each unit, or to only convert the most important instance of a unit. Jc3s5h (talk) 14:19, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
Jc3s5h, no UK-related article that contains measurements should be metric only, unless the only measurements in it use units that it is accepted are in near-universal use in the UK. -- de Facto (talk). 15:44, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
I fundamentally disagree with the implication that metric is the default unit system for UK-related articles. I'd be happier with this text for the UK bullet:
  • In non-specialist UK-related articles: the main units used are generally imperial units (97 pounds (44 kg)), but metric units may be used in contexts where metric units are near-universally in common usage.
I can't think of an example just now where metric is near-universal, but I'm sure someone here will think of one.
-- de Facto (talk). 15:37, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
I live in the UK, but can scarcely recognise the country described in de Facto's comments. Metrication is widespread in the UK - with some specific exceptions such as road distances, pints of beer, &c. Wikipedia, as an encyclopaedia, has a duty to present quantities in units that can be widely understood by readers rather than varying its style of writing to suit every local quirk; so I would support a metric-by-default stance, with common alternatives in brackets. bobrayner (talk) 16:45, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
Bobrayner, I haven't said that metrication hasn't been attempted - and in a widespread fashion. I've merely pointed out that it hasn't been accepted or embraced by the people for everyday life. Fair enough, it's taught in schools and most industries and government administration use metric - but outside of school or work life, where metrication cannot be effectively mandated, it is generally rejected. Even where metric units are "officially" used, often just lip service is paid to them; e.g 454 gram (1lb) jars of jam, 1220 mm x 2440 mm (4ft x 8ft) sheets of hardboard, 3.408 litre (6 pint) plastic bottles of milk, the list goes on. Wikipedia's policy is to reflect local language, customs and conventions, not to coldly standardise the language or to dumb everything down to the level of the lowest common denominator or even to attempt, where 40-odd years of government policy has failed, to force the use of an apparently unwanted imposition. -- de Facto (talk). 17:14, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
I think it's worth bearing in mind that Wikipedia articles on UK-related subjects are not likely to have a similar mix of units to those used in everyday life in the UK. Wikipedia is likely to be far heavier on those scientific, engineering and industrial contexts that are near-universally metric in the modern UK, and light on everyday contexts like grocery shopping and cooking. Metric units should be used when they are the near-universal choice, regardless of the mechanism by which they became the near-universal choice.
It's also worth bearing in mind that we're not discussing changing the rule by which nominal or defined units put first the unit in which they are nominal or defined.
As I've made clear, I strongly favour the use of imperial units in contexts where they are near-universal in British usage. For Wikipedia's purposes these are principally the contexts listed in the proposal above, but will include others (clothes sizing comes to mind as another, not particularly common, example). There are several more where some people strongly favour one unit while others equally strongly favour another (the example I'd normally give is land elevation, and in my view WP:RETAIN is the only reasonable answer to those cases). But we will have plenty of UK-related contexts where metric units are appropriate, and it may well work out that there are articles that don't actually have an imperial-first context in them. If that's legitimately how the dice fall (i.e. there's no attempt to force the issue), that's fine by me. Pfainuk talk 17:41, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
@de Facto: Grams of cocaine? :-) (Or, more seriously, most weights below an ounce; also, degrees Celsius, at least for temperatures below 30 °C, and I think litres for bottled soft drinks too.) Anyway, my proposal doesn't change the bullet about non-technical UK articles: the thing about geographical locales was intended as a rationale for the following two points more than anything else; but I wouldn't oppose changing that point to the main units are imperial units for certain quantities and metric units (see "Metrication in the United Kingdom") for other quantities, for example: (and adding a few metric examples to the list). But that's outside the scope of the current proposal, which is about technical fields other than sciences. ― A. di M.​  17:58, 15 January 2012 (UTC)
It strikes me that there are many less near-universal uses of metric than of imperial in the UK. By-the-way, the BBC offer °F as an option at the top of their weather page.
And the CNN offers °C. ― A. di M.​  10:37, 16 January 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps there's a more common usage of metric in the U.S. than in the UK? I think contributors here are making assumptions based, not on knowledge of local population customs and preferrences, but on the theoretical or legal status of metric units in the country. Experience in the UK shows that there is a huge difference between the two, there at least. -- de Facto (talk). 12:54, 16 January 2012 (UTC)
Who's experience - yours? If so, please tell us a bit about yourself. Your talk page is completely empty, so nobody has any idea of who you are or of how you arrived at that conclusion. Unless we know a little about you, I must dismiss your comment as being without foundation. Martinvl (talk) 16:40, 16 January 2012 (UTC)
Martinvl, how could you imagine that I would be writing here about my experience? -- de Facto (talk). 20:22, 16 January 2012 (UTC)
It wouldn't matter anyway. His saying your opinion is worthless because you value your privacy and/or because your personal connection to the topic is uncertain, is just ad hominem nonsense, and Martinvl surely knows better and may want to rethink what he's said. — SMcCandlish Talk⇒ ʕ(Õلō Contribs. 04:19, 17 January 2012 (UTC)
I'm an American (mostly; it's complicated) and do not think in metric, at all, but am generally supportive of a metric default since that is the way the world has been going for a few generations. "Default" means "all things being equal, do it this way, but there may be concerns that override this general preference." There are many cases even in UK English where the metric system's units are not the default for the topic, and putting metric units first would be counterproductive, jarring, even misleading. For example, much cue sports equipment is given in inches and feet, even in England, and this isn't likely to change any time soon (by the same token, cue tip widths are always given in mm, even in the US, so that unit should come first at cue stick regardless of WP:ENGVAR when talking about the cue tip. An I mean niverally; I've been playing pool competitively since ca. 1991, and I have never in my life heard or seen something like "my cue's tip is a half-inch" or "I need a 0.47 in tip on this cue". The article at billiard ball, must, per WP:V, give the units as they are specified by the sport governing body of each type of cue sport, followed by conversions, in that order, because the specifications are exact (whether metric or not) and the conversions are approximate, and are usually not given (i.e., no rounding level is specified) by the governing bodies. Thus, always doing metric first in a case like this would arguably also violate WP:NOR and WP:NOT#SOAPBOX as well as WP:V. While I am a big fan of MOS's general guidance to prefer to do things consistently within an article, all guidelines have exceptions, and an obvious one is to use the customary units of the topic (or subtopic), and convert them as needed, and do so in that specific order, even if it means putting cm first here and inches first there in the same article. You're virtually never, ever going to find any real-world mention of "2.74 × 1.37 m" pool tables, even in sources published in London or Oxford; they're universally called 4.5 (or 4 12) × 9 ft tables, and a metric conversion is simply a convenience approximation we provide for people so steeped in metrics that they cannot picture what "9 feet" looks like. When it comes to weird units like hands and stone as used with regard to horses, use them (see also furlongs, drams, hundredweight, carats, knots, etc., etc.), but provide metric and "American" (i.e. old English imperial) units as conversions, in that order. Simple, the end. Please drive through, and have a nice day. WP:COMMONSENSE is worth a frequent read. — SMcCandlish Talk⇒ ʕ(Õلō Contribs. 04:19, 17 January 2012 (UTC)
On the accommodation of specialised as opposed to purely scientific subjects, I generally support the principle. That being said, the concept of a "specialised subject" is not something I've seen explained anywhere in a WP context. If it can be readily established what is and is not a "specialised subject" in any one case, this particular part of the proposal makes plenty of sense.
The other part of the proposal, i.e. the additional wording "where the main unit reflects the one commonly used in the geographic locale of the article topic for the quantity at hand", requires editors from the rest of the world to know what the "commonly used" unit for any one quantity in any one geographic locale is, which (based on these very discussions) they often do not. In case of dispute, how will editors with conflicting opinions on usage decide which is the unit most commonly used? If the simple answer is "revert to stable edits", the guidelines become toothless as many editors with strong opinions either way will be able to keep their version in place if it happened to be in place first, regardless of how inappropriate the unit choice is. This is the exact issue with the Hindhead Tunnel article, discussion of which prompted this long, drawn-out debate in which we find ourselves embroiled.
To make the guidelines useful to the whole of the Anglosphere, it would be more useful to explicitly state what the commonly used units are, even if this makes the guidance more verbose. For example, if it's universally agreed that screen measurements, clothing sizes and tyre diameters use inches, one extra line in the exceptions list is all it takes to clarify this for editors. Measurements with no consensus on which unit is prevalent to describe it should default to either system or the other rather than being decided by 'which came first'. The guidelines currently say 'default to metric', in keeping with the Times Style Guide, and there seems little other than politics involved in trying to change this. Mixsynth (talk) 16:48, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
This is, I think, a slightly different discussion. But "where the main unit reflects the one commonly used in the geographic locale of the article topic for the quantity at hand" is a general statement that applies internationally (including to countries like Australia or Singapore that are not listed explicitly).
It appears that we differ on the role of local consensus. In my view, the MOS can't hope to have this much detail. Describing what unit would be appropriate in every reasonably conceivable situation in each of the 200-or-so countries in the world is not realistic. As I implied above, in many cases it will be more complicated by historical usage (which are often more appropriate in historical contexts). So we describe it in more general terms, with specific guidance as to what this means in most cases (the US, the UK and everywhere else).
But a phrase like this makes it clearer what the standard is that the local consensus should be aiming for. Not all-imperial, not all-US customary and not all-metric. Not whatever units happen to be used by whichever metric source a random editor has decided that they want to use, and not whatever the first units used were (unless there is otherwise no clear choice). It may not always be blindingly obvious, but it is at least some clearer direction. Pfainuk talk 18:24, 20 January 2012 (UTC)
Readers have Wikipedias in several languages to choose from. If no Wikipedia exists in the reader's favorite language, and the reader has limited skill in English, the reader can use the simple English Wikipedia. So this Wikipedia should cater those who's mother tongue is English, or who's ability approaches that of native speakers. Articles about non-English-speaking areas or people should place metric (usually SI) first with a few exceptions (feet for aircraft altitudes, etc.) and a conversion to a customary UK or US unit second. Of course there would be a few exceptions, such as customary units of the country concerned given in quotes, or used as nominal values.
This point doesn't come up very often, because it appears from the perspective of an English-speaker that the only countries that still make extensive use of pre-metric units are English-speaking. Jc3s5h (talk) 14:11, 21 January 2012 (UTC)
In general, yes. I'm not saying that we should be overriding our rule on obscure units (that will not be familiar to most English-speakers). But I believe that there are a few cases where imperial or US customary units are more appropriate first - even where the most common unit internationally is metric. Burma and Liberia are the general examples, but there are a fair number of countries (mostly in the Americas) where fuel is sold by the gallon. And it's not hard to find sources referring to incomplete conversion from Imperial and US customary units in the Caribbean. In most cases these are actually English-speaking countries - just not the sorts of countries that provide a lot of Wikipedia editors. Pfainuk talk 15:57, 21 January 2012 (UTC)
For the record, there appear to be moves in both Burma and Liberia to switch to the metric system while an EU aid package to the Carribean countries aimed at developing the infrastructure of those countries includes improvements to the administration of weights and measures. Martinvl (talk) 08:20, 22 January 2012 (UTC)
There have been moves in the United Kingdom and the United States as well. But that doesn't mean that imperial/US customary units are not more commonly used and more appropriate for Wikipedia in many contexts when writing about those countries. Pfainuk talk 10:45, 22 January 2012 (UTC)
We have a policy on the use of metric units, which in general terms says that we put the metric measure first in articles about most countries of the world. The two exceptions are the United States, where we should put US Customary measures first and in the UK where we put metric measures first with certain exceptions. It appears that some editors want to overturn the rule that applies to the UK and make it Imperial first with certain exceptions. Why? Michael Glass (talk) 07:59, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
Michael, the rule, in the UK context, doesn't say there are "certain exceptions" to metric. What it actually says is: "... imperial units are still used as the main units in some contexts...". Given the varying interpretations of this, it is obvious that there is room for improvement in the wording. So it's not a matter of overturning the rule, it's a matter of clarifying it. If we are to attempt to clarify it, we need to remember the historical fact that the UK traditionally use imperial measures, and we need to reflect the true status of imperial useage in the guideleines. Before we require metric units as the main unit in any context, we need emphatic and reliable evidence to support the assertion that metric has indeed superseded metric in common usage for that context. Imperial is the UK starting position, any deviation from that needs convincing evidence. That way the guidelines will be bullet-proof. -- de Facto (talk). 09:59, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
DeFacto, you are right about the wording, except that the contexts listed in MOSNUM are quite limited: miles for geographical distances, miles per hour for speeds, and miles per imperial gallon for fuel consumption, feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight measurements and imperial pints for draught beer/cider and bottled milk. Even some of these are questionable because the football and rugby teams frequently give metric measurements for the height and weight of their players. Because usage is so divided, total consistency is unattainable so it is better to follow the sources. Just remember that though Imperial might have been the starting point, the UK has moved on, and trying to make UK editors follow one rule is about as easy as trying to herd cats. All we can really do is tell editors to follow the local sources of information and try to be consistent. Michael Glass (talk) 12:21, 24 January
DeFacto, at risk of repeating myself - how do we measure "common useage"? Useage in The Daily Mirror? Not likely! For the umpteenth time, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and as such, where there is doubt, it should emulate other encyclopedias and favour academic language over popular language. In fact, if you care to read WP:RF, you will see that the editor suggests that the typical Wikipedia target audeince is high school or college students. In the context of units of measure, it makes sense to align the units of measuire with thsie that the students woudl find in their coursework. Martinvl (talk) 13:00, 24 January 2012 (UTC) 2012 (UTC)
Again, you're saying that we should pick a metric context and announce it's definitive. It isn't - those same students when they get home will be discussing distance miles and speed in miles per hour. They will be measuring their weight in stones and their height in feet. And it's probably worth mentioning that the metric unit we used at school for personal weight was not the kilogram but the Newton (it wasn't something that came up much, but when it did it was when dealing with gravitational acceleration in Physics). WP:RF would mean writing in a way that readers can readily understand, and insisting on putting units first on UK articles that UK readers will be less familiar with does not match this goal.
Michael, you are repeating yourself again. We have discussed all of this before and your arguments have been found wanting. WP:IDHT kicked in about two years ago. Pfainuk talk 18:17, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
Martinvl, you ask 'how do we measure "common useage"?' Well, if you can't measure it, you can't assert that it is metric - can you? We know for sure that the UK common usage was 100% imperial at one time. Until we can show evidence that metric has superseded imperial in common usage, the best we can do is assume imperial by default. The essay, an opinion piece contributed to by a handful of Wikipedians, offers no guidance for which units to use in UK related articles. -- de Facto (talk). 19:41, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
Michael, the contexts listed aren't supposed to be exhaustive, they're described as "including:". And the examples given are only those where there is either a legal requirement to use that imperial unit in that context, or where there is no legal requirement to use a metric unit in a related context. There are no examples given where there is a legal requirement to use a metric unit in an associated context, but where common use remains imperial; e.g. although jam, milk in plastic containers and pre-packed sausages have to be traded in metric units (with imperial secondary units permitted), those commodities are more commonly bought in imperial units. That is, shoppers ask for or look for 1lb of jam, 1 pint (or 2, 4 or 6 pints) of milk and 1 lb of sausages. To comply with the law jam is sold in jars labelled "454 g (1lb)" or "340 g (12 oz)", milk in containers labelled "568 ml (1 pt)", "1.136 L (2 pt)", "2.272 L (4 pt)" and "3.408 L (6 pt)" and sausages in packs labelled "340 g (12 oz)", "454 g (1 lb)" or "681 g (1lb 8oz)" - all traditional imperial sizes. Even if teams give member weights in kg, that's not sufficient evidence to suggest metric as the common usage unit for weight amonst followers of that particular sport. If, as you suggest, the UK has "moved on" from imperial, all you need to do is provide ample evidence to support that assertion - and it would become an established, incontrovertible, fact. As it stands, we don't have that evidence. -- de Facto (talk). 13:25, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
Out of interest I have just been looking through the fridge. Everything there is purchsed from a couple of the larger supermarket chains where most food is now sold and without paying attention to the weight. As well as milk in multiples of pints and a couple of 340 g jars of jam I found; cranbury sauce 350 g, redcurrant sauce 200g, horseradish sauce 200g, mature cheddar cheese 900 g, mixed nuts 1 kg, whipping cream 600 ml, lemon juice 500 ml, organic yoghurt 1 kg, grapefruit juice 1 litre, cheese biscuits 900 g, smoothie 750 ml and 1.25 litre. Apart from the milk none of these gives an imperial conversion. It seems that a lot of people are managing to survive without knowing the imperial weights of their groceries and I have not seen any riots at the tills over it.--Charles (talk) 19:05, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
Charles, your "research" seems to correlate with one of the things that I said anyway, that even where metric units are legally required to meet the trading laws, that many products are still produced in the traditional imperial sizes, with conversions to metric displayed to pay lip-service to the legal obligations. Do you think you can provide any reliably sourced evidence to support a statement in the guideline allowing jarred sauces and pre-packed cheese as an exception from a general clause that articles about groceries should use imperial measures? -- de Facto (talk). 20:05, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
Did you read the list? A tiny minority of the random products are in sizes that equate to traditional imperial sizes. I find it highly significant that supermarkets, who need to keep their customers happy in an intensly competitive market, do not see any need to provide imperial conversions on the packaging. It shows up your repeated claims that most of the public demand goods in imperial sizes as the crap they really are.--Charles (talk) 22:57, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
Yes, I read the list. That's how I know you also found milk and jam are sold in traditional sizes, as I had stated - it correlates with what I wrote. Have you read about the Asda survey, discussed in Metrication in the United Kingdom? In Early 2011 they found that 70% of their customers preferred imperial. Do you have any evidence that that was mistaken, or that things have changed in the last 7 or 8 months? -- de Facto (talk). 07:32, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
There is no information about how the survey was conducted. Such surveys tend to have a self-selecting sample as only the minority of people who care about an issue are willing to spend time talking on the phone, filling in questionaires or standing talking to a researcher. Older people with time on their hands are also more likely to participate than busy younger people. If there really was a widespread demand for imperial sizes and conversions all the supermarket chains would be doing it in an intensely competitive market. As you are the one wanting to change our interpretation of MOS units the onus is on you to provide reliable evidence.--Charles (talk) 10:52, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
All speculation though. As for interpretations; your interpretaion of MOSNUM requires evidence to support your implicit assertion that in the UK metric units have now superseded imperial units in common usage for those contexts in question - that evidence is currently lacking. My interpretation, that imperial is still the common use system is also based on the absence of that evidence. You want me to search for the evidence to disprove my interpretation? -- de Facto (talk). 12:42, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
In the 1970's, some items were metricated using hard metrication (eg butter, sugar, pasta, flour, mineral water, soft drinks etc) and some using soft metrication (eg jam, frozen peas, milk). In other words a bit of this and a bit of that. And yes, I have seen that load of rubbish about Asda - we had a long discussion about it last year and DeFacto was refused to accept that it either never happened or was stopped shortly after it was launched. He might of course be talking about the so-called statistical survey. Again, unless the questions that were asked and the means of identifying the population who were polled, surveys are not worth the paper the are written on. I have already told DeFacto this, but for some reason he does not want to accept this fact. Falacies in this particular case include a very biased sample - the Asda clientelle is heavily biased towards the C and D socio-economic groups whereas I suspect that the UK Wikipedia readership is biased towards the A and B socio-economic groups making the survey irrelevant in respect of the Wikipedia readership. Moreover, what happened to the "don't care" answers? I woudl be very surprised to find that only 10% of the population didn't care. Martinvl (talk) 10:56, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
Martinvl, have you found any evidence to support your speculation yet, or does it remain unfounded? I won't comment on your misrepresentations of those discussions elsewhere that you mentioned, other than to point out that your allegations of refusals by me are inaccurate. -- de Facto (talk). 12:57, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
What speculation? Martinvl (talk) 14:05, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
Your speculation about the Asda survey, the speculation that was rejected by the mediator, and others, in this discussion - the discussion that resulted from your refusal to accept that your speculation was nothing more than just that. -- de Facto (talk). 15:43, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
We have only inconsistent media reports of this supposed ASDA survey to go on, so it's not really evidence of anything. If ASDA did make any reference to a survey on their own website, they appear to have taken it down. Mixsynth (talk) 18:16, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
It's evidence that 70% of the Asda shoppers surveyed preferred imperial, I suppose. However it's certainly not evidence that metric has superseded imperial in common usage to the extent that we should insist on metric first by default, with imperial allowed for certain exceptions. And that's what we need to avoid the conclusion that imperial should be the default, with listed metric exceptions. -- de Facto (talk). 18:25, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
No. It is evidence that 70% of shoppers who responded to the survey preferred imperial. There is no way of knowing how many did not bother to answer.--Charles (talk) 14:35, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The Asda argument is irrelevant when disucssing how Wikipedia should present its facts - the demographic distribution of the Asda clientelle, relative to the UK as a whole is strongly skewed towards socio-economic groups C and D and weakly skewed towards females whereas the Wikipedia readership is probably strongly skewed towards socio-economic groups A and B, skewed towards males and skewed towards younger people. Martinvl (talk) 10:14, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

The main value of the Asda survey is that it is one of the only recent statements by a nationwide organisation on the imperial/metric question. It gives a hint that the UK population at large may not only have shunned metric where they have the choice, but also where it has been legally forced - as in shops. It may, or may not, represent the national picture, but do we have any better data that does? -- de Facto (talk). 10:39, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
Given that we do not know what questions were asked, given that we do not know how the organisation concerned handled "don't know/don't care" answers, given that the population sampled is vastly different to the population who read Wikipedia, this survey is, for the purposes of Wikipeida, pretty useless - and in case you did not know, bad information is worse than no information. OK, I appreciate that this is about the only bit that you added to the article [[Metrication in the United Kingdom] (apart from loads of "Citation needed" flags") and as a result you might have a parent's attchment to it, but it is still useless. Martinvl (talk) 11:12, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
Martinvl, I won't comment on that disgraceful contribution other than to point out that it wasn't me who introduced the Asda survey information to the Metrication in the United Kingdom article, it was YOU; in this edit. -- de Facto (talk). 11:43, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
DeFacto, we don't even know that the ASDA survey is "evidence that 70% of the ASDA shoppers surveyed preferred imperial"; ASDA tell us nothing. We don't know who was surveyed, how large the sample group was, what the question was, etc. In any event, my own recent observation indicates that, if ASDA ever did go ahead and conduct an "imperial labelling" trial on punnets of strawberries, they have since stopped it. The onus is on those who wish to change WP:UNITS from its long-stated metric default (as per the primary newspaper of record's style guide) to prove that an imperial default is more appropriate. Mixsynth (talk) 12:34, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
Mixsynth, the survey outcome was reported in reliable sources - that's all we know about it, I agree. Were your "recent observations" reported in a reliable source? If they weren't, then I'm afraid we'll have to discard them. We know what the starting point was, it was imperial, so it is the assertion that imperial has been superseded in this context that is in dire need of support at the moment. Was this a leap of faith, or is there evidence produced at some point in the past, do you know? Why do you think that the style guide of one newspaper (amongst many) should be used as the lead for the answer to this common usage question? Do you think that the Times reflects common usage more than it reflects the establishment position on what they would like common usage to be? -- de Facto (talk). 16:01, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
DeFacto, how do you think that the publication concerend obtained the information - in all liklihood from an Asda press release. In this instance, the term "reliable source" means that we can be sure that the statement came from Asda, and not from somebody who was trying to discredit Asda. Martinvl (talk) 16:08, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
Without any published methodology or data or any peer review tha ASDA survey is utterly worthless as a source. We can not even be sure it ever happened. It looks as though an ASDA publicity stunt was reported by a few lazy newspaper reporters looking for a cheap easy story. That does not give it any standing. It does not carry any weight as a source. It is beyond pathetic. Get over it.--Charles (talk) 18:29, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
Charles, whether it's an accurate reflection of anything, or not - and I've never claimed either to be the case - it was reported in reliable sources, sources with their reputation for factual accuracy to preserve.
However, that we don't have proof that the UK preferences haven't changed to metric isn't the same as proving that they have. And is is that latter proof that we need here, for each of the contexts that we are to assert has metric as the main measurement unit. Until that proof is forthcoming, we are left with no alternative other than to expect imperial main units - and indeed that is allowed with the current wording of the guidelines. -- de Facto (talk). 21:02, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

A problematical note

I find this note in MOSNUM quite problematical:

Some editors hold strong views for or against metrication in the UK. If a disagreement arises with respect to the main units used in a UK-related article, discuss the matter on the article talk-page and/or at MOSNUM talk. If consensus cannot be reached, refer to historically stable versions of the article and retain the units used in these as the main units. Note the style guides of British publications such as Times Online (under "Metric").

This is a stonewaller's charter. It points out the conflict, but offers no way of sorting out differences, except for rewarding those who refuse to compromise. The reference to British style guides is less helpful than might first appear, because the style guides of "The Telegraph," "The Times" and "The Guardian" are quite inconsistent. I suggest wording that goes something like this:

When editors disagree about whether to put Imperial or metric measurements first in a UK-related article, discuss the matter on the article talk-page and/or at MOSNUM talk. Aim for accurate measurements and consistency of presentation as recommended in MOSNUM. Where the sources of information for the article are consistent, follow the sources. Where the sources of information are not consistent and consensus cannot be reached, retain the usage in historically stable versions of the article."

This puts the emphasis on accuracy and consistency rather than on the conflict between pro and anti-metric editors. It removes the reference to the style guides as they are inconsistent and pushes editors to consider the sources. It retains the reference to the history of the article as a last resort in cases where the sources are inconsistent. Michael Glass (talk) 12:21, 24 January 2012 (UTC)

Following the sources used for a particular article has already been discussed over and over and has never been adopted. Reasons against this include the possibility of sources being selected for their use of units rather than their merit, or the style of an article being unstable as less-meritorious or older sources being updated with better or newer sources.
There is only one way to settle the metric mess in the US and the UK. Make enormous campaign contributions and explain to the politicians they are expected to make consistent laws and enforce the policy preferred by the donor. Be prepared to repeat the contributions for a decade or so until the usage becomes entrenched. Jc3s5h (talk) 17:01, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
Agree; there are various other reasons, But we've gone through them so many times that it is inconceivable that Michael is not already aware of them. This footnote should remain as-is. Pfainuk talk 18:10, 24 January 2012 (UTC)

Jc3s5h, if someone put up a source simply because of the units and not on its merits, are you seriously suggesting that this would not be challenged by editors who find better and more authoritative sources? It would make more sense to argue about the merit of sources rather than the appropriateness of systems of measurement.

Jc3s5h, your second argument appears to argue that instead of updating articles with better or newer sources, less meritorious and older sources should continue to be used. This puts stability before accuracy. Is this what you intend? Do you really think that such a position is in the interest of Wikipedia?

Pfainuk, give me one sound argument against the use of sources and I'll gladly stop advocating the use of them. Leaving the footnote as it is means that the stonewaller's charter remains unchanged. My proposal only modifies your stonewallers' charter when the sources are clear in their choice of unit. Michael Glass (talk) 20:17, 24 January 2012 (UTC)

Glass asks

Jc3s5h, your second argument appears to argue that instead of updating articles with better or newer sources, less meritorious and older sources should continue to be used. This puts stability before accuracy. Is this what you intend? Do you really think that such a position is in the interest of Wikipedia?

I intend that the units to list first be established by criteria that exclude the group of sources that are cited in the article in question. Then the article style will be stable no matter what sources for the article come and go. Jc3s5h (talk) 20:28, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
Jc3s5h, I agree with that. -- de Facto (talk). 21:36, 24 January 2012 (UTC)
You are welcome to go back and read the last three years in which we have discussed this topic, where you will note that I have discussed this with you, and given sound and reasoned objections to source-based-units, on dozens of occasions and in great detail. You choose not to listen. You have a long history of attempting to game the rules in this area, and I see no reason why we should not take this fact into account when you propose that we make such gaming easier for you. Pfainuk talk 20:50, 24 January 2012 (UTC)

Pfainuk, your accusation that I have been trying to game the rules is untrue. Instead of restating your case, you have descended to unfounded accusation and personal abuse. I don't abuse you and I expect the same courtesy in return. Michael Glass (talk) 22:26, 24 January 2012 (UTC)

I've restated my case against source-based units at least twenty to thirty times now. If you you want to see it in detail, go to the archives and reread it. This will take a long time - largely because you have brought up this proposal so many times in the past. There is no longer any visible trace of what was once a horse, but you seem insistent on keeping on flogging the ground to see if it'll get up and ride.
I have several examples of your attempts to game the system - mostly from while you were "testing consensus" on full metrication of a UK-based WikiProject every three to four weeks for a period of well over a year (driving away a fair few productive contributors in the process). That you claim that you have never tried to game this rule demonstrates clearly to me (if any demonstration were necessary - it wasn't) that my concerns about your arguments are well-founded. Pfainuk talk 23:04, 24 January 2012 (UTC)

Pfainuk, years ago I put several pieces of information in a Falkland Islands with the metric measurements first because that was the way they were presented in the sources. You didn't even notice this until I pointed it out to you. Then you went on as if the heavens had fallen in. I now regret that this caused so much anger but at the time I could not believe that the order of units could be so important to people who didn't even notice it until it was pointed out to them.

I have put forward this present suggestion in good faith. However, I think that the main problem for you in following the sources is that so many of them use metric measures and you are trying to prevent them being put first. Michael Glass (talk) 11:57, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

You came to the article and insisted that it had to be fully metric because you had decided to add some metric units. According to the rules at the time, we came to a consensus for imperial units. You then came back every three or four weeks for the next eighteen months to demand metrication. We had exactly the same discussion dozens of times. Until we got wise to your tactics, we would negotiate a position in good faith - only to find you'd then reinterpret the rules to their most metric possible extent. No loophole would go unexploited in your quest to metricate the WikiProject. If you don't like this being brought up, you shouldn't have done it in the first place. Because frankly it is near-impossible for somebody with as much experience of your tactics as I have to accept your assertion that this proposal is in good faith.
And in this case, I refer you to my previous answer. Given that I know full well that you will ignore any objection made to this point (again, years of experience), I see no point in repeating them. It's all in the archives - over and over and over and over and over and over and over... Pfainuk talk 18:18, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

Pfainuk, your misrepresentations, endlessly repeated, are still misrepresentations. I know full well that total consistency is impossible in UK articles because usage is divided in the UK. In fact, the very reason I proposed to follow the sources was to find way of avoiding disputes. In response to your objection that people could go source shopping and that sources are also inconsistent I further modified my proposal to remove this possibility, as anyone can read above.

The proposal above says is to follow the sources when they are consistent. That's an enormous difference from proposing total metrication and you know it. You also know that you had to partially metricate the Falkland Island articles to reach a consensus, a consensus that has held ever since. You also know that at one stage you fought tooth and nail to keep the weather data Imperial, even though you were clearly outnumbered on this point. More than one editor was pushing for change but you put all the blame on me. You also know full well that I have not disturbed the consensus on Falkland Island articles, but that does not stop you from maintaining your rage.

I believe that you would oppose anything I propose here simply because of personal animosity. Yes, two years ago I showed that you didn't even notice when data was metric first and you still haven't got over it. I am sorry you were offended. However, your comment above has more misrepresentations than a monkey has fleas. Michael Glass (talk) 21:47, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

You are the editor that, when the rule suggested source-based units in case of dispute, you tried to override all of MOSNUM's other unit policy by declaring that you disputed every single unit that didn't match its source on the entire WikiProject. You are the editor that insisted that anything short of unanimity was not consensus to use an imperial unit, but consensus for metric could be carried by simple majority vote. You were the editor who would seize on any metric unit in an otherwise entirely-imperial article (even if you had just added it) as an excuse to metricate the entire article in the name of consistency (one of the issues with converting weather units without agreement on other issues). This is what I mean when I refer to your long history of gaming - all that was par for the course. The sort of behaviour that I have learnt expect when you're involved.
At that project we bent over backward to meet your concerns. When MOSNUM changed to allow mixed units, editors on that topic were perfectly happy to change units with it. Including me - I helped bring forward that change in policy and favoured a mostly-metric mix on those articles. Trouble was, you wouldn't let us change unless we submitted to full metrication. The best compromise we ever got from you was that we could have 100% metrication by the back door instead of by the front. The rest of us were happy to let the whole thing lie, but you insisted on bring it up, again and again and again. And all the time the whole sorry saga was driving good productive editors away.
Oh, and your whole point about my not having noticed the change? That is actually because I trusted your motives. With the years of experience I now have, I think it is fair to say that it's a mistake that I'm less likely to make now. But there are concerns independent of this for this kind of proposal that I have detailed many times in the past. If you have forgotten them, look them up. They have been explained on dozens of separate occasions and in great detail. I see no reason why we need to go through this for what must be the thirtieth time. Pfainuk talk 22:23, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

Pfainuk, of course I pointed out that applying your rule to article stubs made them inconsistent. However, once the agreement was reached it has stuck. Despite what you have written above, the change happened because a majority of editors wanted it to happen. I was just one of several editors who pushed for change. As for this business about trusting me, Im not aware of any problems with the sources I quoted or with most of my copy edits. The only problem you had was when I put metric figures first. As for not letting things lie, well, I don't think I have edited anything on any Falklands article for months! The controversy certainly drove me away.

Pfainuk, despite our many clashes, I don't feel any particular ill-will towards you. I respect your intellect and I admire your energy and determination. However, when it comes to our interactions your animosity gets in the way. Despite this, I hope that we will be able to work together in future with fewer clashes. Michael Glass (talk) 00:02, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

Perhaps you have forgotten that you tried to use a Chilean scientific journal as conclusive proof that people in the UK use metric units for distances?
And it wasn't just that. It was all the other rubbish that I have already mentioned. Every time something was drafted, we had to check it like lawyers for loopholes, wordings that might be creatively reinterpreted to force metrication. Every time we seemed to reach agreement, we had to check every single detail because any failure to do so would be treated as agreement to full metrication. Every edit you did had to be scrupulously checked because if we missed even one metric unit in any context on any article in the project (added against clear consensus) you paraded it as proof that all British people actually use kilometres. This went on for eighteen months, during which time it became perfectly clear that any allowance for your kind of "consistency" (bearing in mind that the proposal always made allowances for consistency) was effectively consent to 100% metrication of the entire project. And you wonder why I say I don't trust you?
And you talk of a majority supporting the change. There was - I was part of it. And you weren't, apparently because it wasn't easy enough to game. If you felt you were driven away from those articles, then frankly it's the fault of your own actions. Pfainuk talk 20:19, 27 January 2012 (UTC)

Here we go again. The article about the Falkland Islands you referred to simply used metric measures and I referred to it. Big deal! And you know what? British people do use actually use kilometres in some contexts. Here is one: [5] to quote: "In total, the structure is over 2.5 km long." As for you being part of the majority for change, that only happened when at long last you realised that a majority of other editors wanted change. Even then you made sure that there was a minimum of change. Certainly I pointed out that this would cause inconsistencies in the article stubs, but when you were not prepared to countenance any more change I said I would not contest it, and I haven't.

As for the tenor of your remarks, I think they are intended to intimidate those who disagree with you. Michael Glass (talk) 04:34, 28 January 2012 (UTC)

If you do not it when others are made aware of your habit of gaming the system, perhaps spending eighteen months persistently gaming the system was a bad idea?
For the record, the eventual compromise was one that I had supported for most of the eighteen months concerned. We couldn't get consensus for it because it wasn't 100% metrication and therefore unacceptable to Michael (and another editor in this discussion). The "minimum of change" referred to is complete metrication in all contexts other than those in which imperial units are overwhelmingly more common in the UK. Given that the status quo was purely imperial, describing it as a "minimum of change" is simply inaccurate. The point about inconsistency was resolved early on as the proposal allowed for such articles to be made consistent - but as imperial units were to be favoured in such situations (an anti-gaming device) Michael apparently preferred inconsistency.
When Michael said he "would not contest" the proposal (and he did several times over the eighteen months), he would then generally contest it within 24 hours, so that wasn't actually meaningful. The Forth Road Bridge is a standard argument of Michael's: if he can find a source that uses metric units then that is necessarily representative. The argument would be that because the Forth Road Bridge site uses kilometres, British people would measure the distance from London to Edinburgh in kilometres (which they wouldn't). And this is itself a problem because he uses it for article sourcing. Pfainuk talk 20:11, 28 January 2012 (UTC)

I don't believe that all UK people use kilometres; I pointed out one instance where kilometres are used. That does not mean that I believe that UK people use kilometres all the time. Pfainuk's argument above is a straw man. Whatever disagreements happened in the past, I have had nothing to do with the Falkland Islands articles for months and months. As for the original status quo on Falklands articles being Imperial first, it wasn't. The record should note that though the main article was Imperial first, some of the subsidiary articles were substantially or completely metric first when I found them. The final agreement, which has stuck, was applied to all the Falkland Island articles, including the stubs. As I pointed out at the time, this meant that some of the stubs became inconsistent in style. However, that is the agreement that prevailed and it remains the status quo today. As I am not aware of any current dispute about units of measure in Falkland Islands articles, I can't see the relevance of bringing it up now. Michael Glass (talk) 00:12, 29 January 2012 (UTC)

It is difficult to see how it is not relevant to point out that an editor proposing a change to the MOS has a long history of gaming provisions similar to those that he proposes. In terms of the kilometres point, the argument I describe is precisely the argument that he has used on multiple occasions in the past. Arguments with similar reasoning can likely be found on multiple articles. Pfainuk talk 09:34, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
(And you're still doing it! One newspaper gives its temperatures in Fahrenheit, the other in Celsius and so you derive your own conclusion that usage is divided. It's disallowed original research in articles and not a credible argument in discussion. Pfainuk talk 09:46, 29 January 2012 (UTC))
Point taken about original research. I have recast this information so that no conclusion is drawn. The only information that remains is that one newspaper gives the temperatures in both scales, with Fahrenheit first while the other gives the temperatures only in Celsius. Michael Glass (talk) 11:33, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
Inviting readers to draw an inference that isn't present in the sources is just as bad as stating it outright. Your text did the latter, it now does the former. It's still OR, so I'm rereverting you. Pfainuk talk 12:18, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
It was my intention to simply record the facts about newspaper usage. Perhaps it would be better to discuss any actual wording on the article's talk page. Michael Glass (talk) 08:42, 30 January 2012 (UTC)
You have no sourced facts about newspaper usage. In both cases, you have an individual instance of usage by a newspaper and attempt to interpret the policy for the entire newspaper from it. This is disallowed original interpretation from a primary source. The weight given to the point is vastly greater than one might reasonably expect, implying that it illustrates a wider trend - again, this is disallowed original research because such implication is not backed by the primary sources. And this is typical of your argument style (there's one instance of a temperature in Celsius, therefore everyone uses Celsius), so it is also something that editors on this page would do well to bear in mind. Pfainuk talk 18:23, 30 January 2012 (UTC)

The Jamaica Observer uses Celsius for weather forecasts on its main page [6]. The Jamaica Gleaner gives temperatures in both Fahrenheit and Celsius on its main page [7]. I did note both these facts, so accusing me of arguing that there's one instance of a temperature in Celsius and therefore everyone uses Celsius is not rational. Michael Glass (talk) 23:30, 31 January 2012 (UTC)

And by including that you're doing a vast amount of interpretation. You're claiming that a single instance of usage on a single page of a newspaper's website necessarily and inherently implies a policy on use of units. You use this to strongly imply that Jamaica is in the process of metricating its usage of units in temperature. Neither point - and the strong implication that you propose is effectively the same stating the point outright - is even close to appropriate sourced, but this is typical of your sourcing style and typical of the arguments you have repeatedly used to try and push metrication, including in this discussion. Pfainuk talk 18:25, 1 February 2012 (UTC)

Our discussion on the article's talk page appears to be far more constructive. Let's continue the discussion there. Michael Glass (talk) 01:10, 2 February 2012 (UTC)

Jc3s5h, the use of units involves accurate measurements. It is not just a matter of style. Any style guide would have to deal with this issue. How would you deal with it? Michael Glass (talk) 22:43, 24 January 2012 (UTC)

My own view is that the determining factor as to which units to use in any one article should be these guidelines and not the unit choice of the sources. Nominal and defined values are the obvious exception.
I'm not sure as to what purpose the "some editors hold strong views" footnote was intended to serve; it seems entirely superfluous to me. "Which units to use" is sufficiently clear to guide consensus and resolve any "disagreement", and if there is still no general consensus, there can be no change anyway. I would suggest removing the footnote whilst preserving the link to the Times Style Guide in the main body of WP:UNITS. Mixsynth (talk) 18:32, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
It serves to highlight the fact that there are strong views on the choice of units, so not to be too surprised if what seems clear or obvious from your POV is challenged. Presumably there would be no objections to adding more style guide examples to improve the balance in the currently unbalanced (just one example) "such as" list. -- de Facto (talk). 19:18, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
The current example is good because The Times is the UK's newspaper of record. This makes it a more appropriate standard to follow in terms of formal writing than others publications might be. It's also the style guide that the current advice is based off - this makes sense because the instances noted are the most common universally-imperial-first contexts in British usage. And it's probably not useful to have a blizzard of style guides with editors picking and choosing which style guide to follow depending on their POV.
The only other style guide that I would suggest including in principle would be the BBC one - but at least last time I checked they made no mention of what units to use at all. Pfainuk talk 20:26, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
Out of interest, why do you think that a "newspaper of note" is likely to reflect common usage, rather than its own political nose, when it comes to choice of unit system? Would to choose them as the guide for the party political bias to give to an article? Secondly why the Times rather than the other UK "newspaper of note", the Telegraph? -- de Facto (talk). 21:24, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
One tends to expect a higher standard of quality and professionalism from a newspapers of record than of other media outlets, and they are thus likely to be more reliable. Not necessarily unbiased, but more likely to be factually accurate in news reporting and more likely to reflect formal British writing. Newspapers like the Mail or the Sun might very well use units to make a political statement, but the Times is far less likely to. Worth noting also that it's not being recommended blindly: the Times style guide passes a rough sanity check and has been recommended in this manual for this context for years.
Plus I know where this is going because I've been here several times before. The standard arguments on this point promote the Economist style guide instead: the Economist style guide is taken by some as cast-iron proof that all British people use metric units all the time anyway - and presumably just put miles on the road signs to confuse foreigners. Pfainuk talk 21:51, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
Reliable and factually trustworthy, maybe, but why go with the prefered units of an upmarket paper when we should be looking for common usage? By the way, you didn't write why you prefer the Times over the Telegraph - both are "newspapers of note". -- de Facto (talk). 22:43, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
My personal belief is that we should only prescribe what is common between the style guides and leave the rest to the good sense of editors. However, if it was decided to pick just one, then the advice in the Times style guide has two advantages: it is middle of the road as far as the guides go and it has been in MOSNUM for years. However, I support Mixsynth's proposal above. Michael Glass (talk) 00:02, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
As Pfainuk says, the style guide of the most widely acknowledged UK newspaper of record, The Times, is the most appropriate choice for the purpose of determining "common usage" for WP purposes. Also, it's quite right that referring to several different style guides as "alternatives" will only allow editors to pick and choose as per their POV, thus thwarting the goal of consistency.
As for the Telegraph being a second "newspaper of record", it's interesting that the only source to support this position is a single BBC featured article from 2004 in which one of their political commentators opined how "in the years the Tories were in power, [the Telegraph] even came to be regarded as the paper of record over The Times". This seems rather an anecdotal basis on which to conclude the Telegraph as being on a par with The Times as a newspaper of record (when there are numerous other sources which more definitively acknowledge the latter as such). But that's a matter for the Newspaper of Record editors to discuss. Mixsynth (talk) 01:21, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
A "newspaper of record" may be known for its factual accuracy, but not necessarily for its neutrality in choice of style, language use, etc. The Times style guide will not reflect common usage, but rather the "establishment"/legal-system view. If we do decide to place any weight on what style guides say, then of course we need to take a balanced look at them all, not just at the one least likely to reflect "common" usage and more likely to reflect the "official" view. What we could use the "newspapers of record" for is as a reliable source of articles detailing UK usage trends of unit systems.
We need to remember that "common usage" doesn't necessarily reflect the narrow Weights and Measures Act requirements placed on trading activities. You may be forced to sell sausages by the kilo (even if that means in multiples of 0.454 kg), but you certainly don't have to publicise the price solely by the kilo, or buy them by the kilo or use them by the kilo or visualise them or talk about them in terms of kilos. -- de Facto (talk). 07:33, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── If you visit Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources you will see the quote "academic and peer-reviewed publications, scholarly monographs, and textbooks are usually the most reliable sources". Why the discussion about what newspapers say without discussing more scholarly sources at the same time? After all Wikipedia is an encyclopeadia, not a newspaper. Martinvl (talk) 10:15, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

Yes, we know about reliable sources. They are sources for the information that they are conveying, not for the style in which they convey it. Newspapers may be reliable sources too. The challenge though is to find reliably sourced (peer-reviewed journals, newspapers, whatever) data that describes unit system usage in the UK, in terms of current common usage. -- de Facto (talk). 10:46, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
The English language does not have an Academy which sets in stone what usage must be. I think we must keep a sense of proportion in all this. For example, we are deciding whether Bruiser McThump, the boxer, must be described as 5ft 11 in before we say he's 1.8 metres tall.
Just how much does it matter? Just how much will be taken of our advice? In cases where people have strong feelings each way, I think it would be prudent not to be too prescriptive. The less we say, the better. Michael Glass (talk) 11:55, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
Michael, you asked: "Just how much does it matter?". It matters if we value the diverse cultures, traditions, customs, heritage and preferences of the English-speaking world. Should the English-language Wikipedia be written entirely in American English and using only the US customary units - does it matter? I'm sure that to many the units used matters as much as whether we put ,"London", "London (Londres)", "Londres (London)" or "Londres" when referring to the UK's capital city, in English Wiki articles. We need to be very careful to allow the current mainstream preferences to prevail, and not attempt to force our personal opinions of what they should be. -- de Facto (talk). 14:53, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
Hello DeFacto. You certainly have a point about American English or the compulsory use of US Customary Units in Wiki articles about the UK. However, when usage is divided it is impossible to be too prescriptive. For example I am sure that there would be an outcry if Wikipedia prescribed Oxford English spelling for all UK articles. I think you would soon realize/realise that the diverse cultures, traditions, customs, heritage and preferences of UK and other Wikipedians would be compromised, because so many of us prefer to have civilisation and other ise- words spelt with an s and not a z.
Now I agree that some aspects of UK usage are just about set in stone, such as road distances. However, there are other measurements where different people have different preferences. You would of course realise that the preference of The Telegraph, The Times and The Independent and The Economist are different. Who am I or you to say that the preferences of any one of these august journals is beyond the mainstream? I would assert that the mainstream is a river of considerable width, and it cannot be constrained in the narrow confines of your personal preferences or mine.
So, when the English Premier League gives the height and weight of Wayne Rooney [8] in metric measures, who are we to brand its usage as anti-British? Am I arguing here that all football players must be metric first? No! What I am stating is that the diverse customs, traditions and preferences of UK are wide enough to encompass both ways of noting the data. And that's why we should not be too prescriptive. Michael Glass (talk) 02:48, 27 January 2012 (UTC)
If article units are to reflect source use, we need to realise that primary sources will often follow the establishment "official" line, or even be legally obliged to follow it (especially if they are government agencies, businesses involved in trading or national establishment bodies). We need therefore to be careful to look at a cross-section of secondary sources to see what units the measurements are generally conveyed in, before deciding which units to use in the article. -- de Facto (talk). 07:30, 27 January 2012 (UTC)
On a practical note, this is asking a great deal of editors, who are hardly in a position to look at a cross-section of secondary sources before deciding between 180cm (5ft 11in) and 5ft 11in (180cm). Your comment seems to take it for granted that official use is at odds with popular usage. I think it is safer to assume either that usage is divided or that the official line is the way to go. If the official line is the way to go, then we might simply follow the usage of each sport. On the other hand if we assume that usage is divided, we can simply leave it to the good sense of editors to choose between the two options. For simplicity's sake it is better to leave it to the good sense of editors to decide which way to go, as long as both Imperial and metric measures are included.
At every step we need to be mindful of the fact that we are deciding between 180cm (5ft 11in) and 5ft 11in (180cm). I think we can safely leave it to editors to decide which of these two options is to be used. Michael Glass (talk) 10:55, 27 January 2012 (UTC)
Given your history, I would suggest that, to you in particular, the difference matters a great deal. We shouldn't be doing a formal survey of sources on units any more than we should be doing a formal survey for sources on spellings. Because we shouldn't be using purely source-based units any more than we use purely source-based spellings. Pfainuk talk 18:33, 27 January 2012 (UTC)
Maybe you're not arguing that football players should be metric-first in theory. But you are arguing for source-based units plus and that a metric site is necessarily the most appropriate source, so you certainly are arguing for it in practice. Nobody is saying that Premier League usage is "anti-British" (and your suggestion that they are misrepresents the argument), only that it does not accord with usages that are near-universal in the UK. One might suggest in this context that as a large majority of the Premier League's audience is overseas, they may be more interested in reflecting usage in their target countries rather than usage in the UK. And if they wanted to get this kind of information, most UK-based fans probably wouldn't go to the Premier League website anyway (they'd go to the club's).
Your point about Oxford English is closer to your suggestion that we rely on official usage rather than common usage, as common usage is "-ise" in these situations. The logical end to your argument as a whole is that we do away with the style guide altogether and instead use whatever style we want in any article. This doesn't make sense. This page is here to help to standardise usage. A widely-used principle in the MOS is that where rules in English-speaking countries are different and an article has strong ties to one country, we use the rule that applies in that country. In the UK, in many cases, that gives a fairly free reign (because usage varies). But we should be here to point out cases where it does not, including using units like stones and pounds for personal weights and feet and inches for personal heights. Pfainuk talk 18:45, 27 January 2012 (UTC)

I agree with Michael - use the official units unless there is good reason to the contrary. Furthermore, if you go into WH Smith and look at the magazines of archeology, orthonolgy, philately numismatics and the like you will see that they all use metric units without imperial conversions. This shows that the "man in the street" with an interest in those subjects is quite happy with metric units. Unless you are an expert in the subject concerned, you could end up with the ridiculous situation that the Daily Telegraph was in about twenty years ago - they religiously reported the heights of the tides at Dover in feet and inches with no metric conversions, yet when I was travelling to France by ferry, the depth gauge on the harbour walls was in metres with no imperial units at all. I am pleased to note that they now use metres. Martinvl (talk) 12:08, 27 January 2012 (UTC)

Well, bluntly, you would - official usage being more metric than common usage. I feel that I should also make editors aware of your previous argument that official usage required distances to be measured in kilometres when measured as the crow flies, but in miles when measured along roads - a split in usage that simply does not exist in the United Kingdom.
We ought to be using the units in common usage. That means feet and inches for people's height and stones and pounds for people's weight, when those people have strong national ties to the United Kingdom. Similarly, it means using miles for distance, miles per hour for speed and miles per imperial gallon for fuel consumption.
In other words, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the advice as it stands. The only point made in this entire discussion that I think would improve the advice is A. di M.'s proposal above. Pfainuk talk 18:33, 27 January 2012 (UTC)
Look at the effect of following this to the letter:
  • The Premier League website uses only metric units for player statistics on its website: [9]. Follow this rule strictly and every editor would have to use the disp-flip function to ensure that the Imperial units came first, even though this means that the derived units - together with any rounding errors - would have prime of place.
  • The Rugby Football Union puts metric units first. Instead of leaving it to the good sense of editors to determine whether to follow this or not, you say they must put the Imperial units first.
  • The Bradford Bulls (rugby League) put metric units first in their player profiles [10] Once again, a strict reading of the policy would insist on Imperial units going first.
I don't see any need for compulsion. Englishmen have the right to use Oxford spellings or ise spellings. In the same way I believe they should have the right to choose what units come first when reporting on sporting team members. Michael Glass (talk) 04:34, 28 January 2012 (UTC)
Editors on UK-related articles can use -ize or -ise spellings, maybe. But that's not a parallel situation to this. This is closer to demanding a "right" to refer to the UK "Labor" party in UK-related articles or to the "Sydney Harbor Bridge" in Australia-related articles. The MOS has to exist to give guidance to editors. The fact that you do not like the advice does not mean that it is what we should be doing. You suggestion of "the right to choose" is a red herring, a political slogan that does not match with what you actually demand. Pfainuk talk 19:47, 28 January 2012 (UTC)
Of course I agree with your points about the differences between British and American spelling, but when usage is divided, as it is with some sporting teams in sports with an international following, we need a bit more flexibility. Perhaps that is why the Guardian and Observer style guide says, "Body weights and heights should always be converted in brackets: metres to feet and inches, kilogrammes to stones/pounds." [11]. Michael Glass (talk) 23:31, 28 January 2012 (UTC)
If you're claiming that British sports figures who play in British leagues do not have strong national ties to the United Kingdom, then I am a bit surprised, but to some extent that's a decision that ought to be considered elsewhere. If usage was genuinely divided in British usage then I would agree that there should be a relatively free choice. But this is not such a case because usage here is not in any reasonable sense divided.
Essentially what we have here is a random Wikipedia editor (and one who is not based in the UK) who has decided that he does not like the units that British people use near-universally. It is exactly the same as an American deciding that we should be referring to the "Sydney Harbor Bridge" and then citing the occasional Australian source (aimed at an American audience) to back it up. Pfainuk talk 09:34, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
Pfainuk's interpretation of my motives is both hostile and wrong. I have quoted some evidence that suggests to me that perhaps usage in the UK is more varied than fans of the old measures might be prepared to admit. Pfainuk has responded with bile and misrepresentations but no concrete evidence. I believe that most people in the UK are more comfortable with the older measures. However, there is some evidence that metric measures are making some inroads. One example is in the National Health Service, which insists on the use of metric scales [12]. Other evidence is in the usage of some sporting codes and some individual clubs that I have already mention. This evidence, of course, needs to be weighed against other evidence of usage, and I would welcome any concrete evidence that Pfainuk or any other editor might supply. Perhaps if Pfainuk used some of his undoubted energy into actually finding some information on this subject, Wikipedia would benefit from his findings and we might both end up better informed. Michael Glass (talk) 11:33, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
Just to point out that there is a difference between a "requirement" for health workers to use metric scales and common usage. Whether hospital scales are metric, or not, doesn't necessarily translate into the units commonly used by the general population, or even by the health workers themselves. Patients, particularly babies, have had their weights recorded in kilos for decades, but relayed to the patient (or mother) in imperial, and certainly discussed outside the hospital in imperial. It's the same with the sale of loose fruit and veg., especially in the smaller independent shops and market stalls. There is a legal requirement to trade in metric, but prices will generally be given in imperial too (or even only imperial) and, if self-service, scales will be marked in dual units (even in the bigger supermarkets), or if you have to ask for what you want, imperial requests will be served. Supermarket internet shopping systems generally allow requests in imperial too. Don't be fooled by the fact that "officail" requirements are usually for metric - that doesn't translate into accepatance in common use. The evidence we need is of any non-imperial common usage, not of non-metric common usage - and we have yet to see any at all. -- de Facto (talk). 12:12, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
For the record the weights of both my children (born in SE England) were communicated to me in metric units. When DeFacto said that weights of new-born infants are communicated in imperial units, is he talking from expereience or from hearsay? Martinvl (talk) 07:47, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
Martinvl, neither my nor your recollections are relevent in this debate. You need RS supported evidence for it if you are now claiming that in the UK, kilos are the common-usage unit in the context of the weights of babies. -- de Facto (talk). 11:01, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
DeFacto - How about this reference? Martinvl (talk) 07:51, 2 February 2012 (UTC)
Martinvl, LOL! That's "evidence" of a 100% preference for the use of imperial weights for babies. That's another example then for MOSNUM. -- de Facto (talk). 08:25, 2 February 2012 (UTC)
DeFacto, yet again you show your complete ignorance of statistics. OK, 100% of the people in the sample objected - but the sample only contained a few people, all of whom were associated with the Metric Martyrs, so, from the point of view of polling public opinion, that is hardly a reliable source. However, I have no doubt that the factual reporting is reasonably reliable. Martinvl (talk) 16:06, 2 February 2012 (UTC)
Martinvl, explain for us in what way the Camerons, Blairs and Browns are associated with the Metric Martyrs please. -- de Facto (talk). 16:20, 2 February 2012 (UTC)
Don't be an idiot all your life. you know exactly what I mean - opinion was rendered by Heron and Thoburn - ie the sample contained 2 people. The views of Blair, Brown and Cameron were never sought. Again, since you did not understand the meaning of the word "sample", you have displayed your ignorance of statistics. Martinvl (talk) 16:56, 2 February 2012 (UTC)
Martinvl, the article stated that the Camerons, Blairs and Browns gave their baby weights in imperial, and that Thorburn thought it should be used. That makes 4 otut of the 4 mentioned = 100%. You then wrote: "but the sample only contained a few people, all of whom were associated with the Metric Martyrs". Didn't you read it? -- de Facto (talk). 17:14, 2 February 2012 (UTC
Drawing together the new born babies here with the BBC's use of units below this BBC News website article might be of interest. They are now using as their unit of weight not kilos or pounds but babies.--Charles (talk) 19:02, 2 February 2012 (UTC)
about 200kg (441lb) – That's the kind of stuff that makes me cringe. ― A. di M.​  21:06, 2 February 2012 (UTC)
(ec) Your own source makes the point that British people think of their own weight in stones and pounds. Kilograms are used in the NHS because dosage of drugs is frequently provided in terms of body mass of the patient, measured in kilograms (as, understandably, the Lords concerned were worried that people might get underdosed or overdosed because of unit confusion): this is not evidence that British people all use kilograms really - quite the opposite. Nor for that matter is your own personal speculation (and that's all it is) based on the units that websites related to some professional sports do. Pfainuk talk 12:16, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
I have no issue at all with the facts and opinions raised about popular usage of Imperial measures about heights and weights. Nevertheless, some sporting teams do use kilograms and metres for the heights and weights of the players. Where we differ is whether editors should be free to present this data with the metric measures coming first or whether the guidelines should insist that the Imperial measures should come first, regardless of the usage of the sporting team. As there seems to be no prospect of agreement on that point I can't see any purpose in discussing it further. Michael Glass (talk) 08:42, 30 January 2012 (UTC)
It is irrelevant is that the sporting team do this on their website, as our rule does not call for source-based units (these have been rejected yet again in this discussion - for what must be at least your twentieth proposal on the subject). That you continue to act as though the units that happen to be used by a given source have any relevance would appear to be deliberate refusal to accept consensus - deliberate refusal of a kind that I have personally seen from you, again, on dozens of occasions. Pfainuk talk 18:23, 30 January 2012 (UTC)

A recent BBC article on metrication

This BBC piece from December 2011 seems to support the notion of a general UK preference for imperial measures. We still haven't managed to find any RS that contradicts that suggestion - have we? -- de Facto (talk). 22:10, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

If you look at the comments you will find that opinions are divided. As I stated, preferences are divided. Therefore we should not be too prescriptive. Michael Glass (talk) 03:03, 27 January 2012 (UTC)
We seem to agree then that, at least, the clause "In non-science UK-related articles: the main unit is generally a metric unit..." is completely at odds with reality, so therefore unacceptable. -- de Facto (talk). 07:20, 27 January 2012 (UTC)
From the comment above I can see that you disagree with the present policy. Actually I have no problem with the clause that you quote. After all, the word "generally" gives enough room to cope with situations where the information available to editors is expressed in Imperial measures. However, I find the advice about heights and weights of people too restrictive, because written usage is more divided in this area than perhaps some are willing to acknowledge. So both of us have our concerns about different aspects of the present policy: yours with the general thrust of the advice, mine with one of the specific details. Michael Glass (talk) 10:38, 27 January 2012 (UTC)
The fact that you do not like British people measuring their height in feet and inches, or their weight in stones and pounds, does not change the fact that those are the units they use. If you wish this to change, I suggest you start running the public information campaigns. Wikipedia isn't in the business of trying to engineer social change in the way you propose. Pfainuk talk 20:53, 27 January 2012 (UTC)
No, Pfainuk, that's a factoid of your own invention. I am arguing for the right of editors to choose which measurement to put first. Michael Glass (talk) 04:47, 28 January 2012 (UTC)
Why are you not then arguing that we should remove all advice altogether? Why are you not opening an MFD seeking to delete the MOS altogether?
I'm sure that there are a lot of people in the United States and United Kingdom would find it convenient if distances in Australian-related articles are given in miles, and the weights of Australian Rules footballers in pounds. Similarly, who would like to translate Australia-related articles into American English. Your contribution history is full of such mass-conversions of UK-related articles.
The whole point of the MOS is that we tell editors what the most appropriate style to use is. The fact that you do not like the units that British people use is not a good reason for all of us to ignore them. Despite your protestations, that appears to be the entire basis for your argument. Pfainuk talk 19:44, 28 January 2012 (UTC)
I should clarify the point I was trying to make. There are instances when British sporting teams use metric measures. In this instance either metric (imperial) or imperial (metric) would be appropriate. Curiously, the Guardian and Observer style guide apparently favours metric (imperial) for heights and weights [13]. Michael Glass (talk) 23:21, 28 January 2012 (UTC)
So, the position seems to be that the personal opinion of Michael Glass overrides actual usage by British people. It doesn't matter that British people use imperial measures, Michael Glass uses metric measures and his view is more important than the actual usage by millions of British people. And as I have pointed out, you're not really arguing for a free choice here because your edit history demonstrates that you have a habit of mass-converting these figures from imperial to metric in direct violation of WP:RETAIN. Pfainuk talk 09:42, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
Pfainuk, I checked WP:RETAIN. It says nothing about units of measure. I think you are misapplying this section. As for my edit history I note your interest in it. I hope you will find that my edits are true to the sources quoted. If not, please revise them. Michael Glass (talk) 11:53, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
The beginning of MOSNUM says:
"The Arbitration Committee has ruled that editors should not change an article from one guideline-defined style to another without a substantial reason unrelated to mere choice of style".
This is the principle defined by WP:RETAIN and is the principle that you have repeatedly broken. Your claim that it's unrelated is Wikilawyering. Your point about sources should of course be read in the context that WP:UNITS does not dogmatically support source-based units (which is the rule you applied regardless). However, this has been done to thousands of articles (itself disruptive, see WP:FAITACCOMPLI), and unfortunately I don't have the time to sort out all of the mess you've made. Pfainuk talk 12:14, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
I note your reference to WP:FAITACCOMPLI and will bear it in mind in future. I also note your scrutiny of my edit history. Michael Glass (talk) 10:06, 30 January 2012 (UTC) One further note: I reject the charge that correcting players' heights against the official sources is either disruptive or is making a mess. Michael Glass (talk) 23:39, 5 February 2012 (UTC)
Difficult to see how mass-converting the units of hundreds of articles, in direct and clear violation of the MOS, is not disruptive. By there we are. Pfainuk talk 21:34, 6 February 2012 (UTC)
Look again. Some of the articles were already metric first and some weren't. What's disruptive about bringing them in line with the official information? Michael Glass (talk) 11:56, 7 February 2012 (UTC)
If you don't understand that flagrantly flouting the MOS on an industrial scale to impose your personal preferences is disruptive, then that is distinctly concerning. Pfainuk talk 18:51, 9 February 2012 (UTC)
Really? If it was as disruptive as you claim, I am sure that the edits would have been reversed, if not by you, then by others. Many of the articles were metric first to start off with and most of the articles had heights that were completely undocumented, and frequently at variance with the official sources. A policy that is frequently ignored is largely a dead letter. However, if it is any help, I can assure you that I have no intention of repeating the procedure. Michael Glass (talk) 12:01, 10 February 2012 (UTC)
"[F]requently at variance with the official sources" is only relevant, as you are perfectly well aware, if the actual values are different. And if the actual values are different then this does not give you licence to make stylistic changes in clear and direct violation WP:MOSNUM for no better reason than that you don't happen to like MOSNUM's advice. Any more than an incorrect fact in prose would give you licence to switch from British English to American English or vice versa. Pfainuk talk 11:55, 11 February 2012 (UTC)
When I wrote "at variance" that's exactly what I meant. Sometimes heights were given as six feet when the information gave 1.8 metres (a difference of close to 3cm). Occasionally it was even larger and In one instance it was about 10cm. Giving heights in metres or feet is not just a matter of style because even close approximations are not equivalents. Colour is equivalent to color, 140lb equals 10 stone, but 1.83 metres is not equal to 6 feet. So it's not just a question of style when we record the height of a footballer in feet or metres. Michael Glass (talk) 05:07, 15 February 2012 (UTC)
The above is yet another transparent demonstration of your trying to enforce your views on this subject by the back door when you were unable to do so by the front door. That argument relies entirely on trying to game the system. And I would note that it does most definitely not accord with MOSNUM, which actually tells us to avoid the false precision that you are introducing. Pfainuk talk 18:25, 15 February 2012 (UTC)
Once again you resort to a personal attack. Yes, it would be false precision to quibble about the difference between 1.83 metres and 6 feet, but there is a clear difference between 1.8 metres and 6 feet that would be better expressed by the derived figure of 5'11". When I wrote "at variance" I was referring to figures that were clearly inaccurate. One of the advantages of comparing undocumented heights with the official figures was to check them and correct them and that is what I did. I know you object to my changing many figures from Imperial first to metric first. However, it is not gaming the system to document the information or to correct the information against the official sources. Michael Glass (talk) 11:57, 16 February 2012 (UTC)
The above is an excuse, and has no validity in MOSNUM. Your decision to arbitrarily change the units on dozens of articles was a violation of MOSNUM. You're now trying to worm your way out of that, but none of your excuses justify these violations. If you have a problem with 1.8 metres being rendered as 6 feet, then render it as 5 foot 11. This does not require you any MOS violation. That said, your announcement that there is "a clear difference between 1.8 metres and 6 feet" is itself drawing false precision. To within the precision implied by each of those figures, the two are equivalent. Pfainuk talk 18:11, 16 February 2012 (UTC)
What nonsense! Of course I changed the order of units on articles. It is you who won't face up to the fact that I did more than that. What I did was document the height of the various team members, correcting many of them according to the official sources. In quite a number of cases the figures were clearly in error. Pointing this out is not worming out of anything. As for your allegation that rendering 1.8 metres as anything other than 6 feet is falsely precise is laughable. 1.8 metres is slightly less than 5'11". Michael Glass (talk) 12:08, 17 February 2012 (UTC)
Technically, converting 1.8 metres to 5 feet 11 inches is false precision, but if you're talking about the heights of people, nobody actually measures them that coarsely, so unless you're talking about an eyeball estimate rather than an actual measurement I'd just assume the 1.8 is a typo for 1.80. ― A. di M.​  14:44, 17 February 2012 (UTC)
Worth mentioning that 1.8 metres = 6 feet in particular is a common approximation in the UK (based on the common rule of thumb that a foot is about 30 centimetres) - to the extent that it would be entirely unsurprising to find out in the case concerned, the player himself said his height was 6 feet and the person entering the data into the website translated that to 1.8 metres. Worth noting also that it is unusual to give heights to precision of greater than an inch in the UK (and when people do so, they tend to get teased for their self-consciousness about it).
But it's also worth mentioning here that the difference that Michael is arguing is so intolerable that the only solution is industrial-scale metrication is the difference between 5'11" and 1.8 metres. That is to say, a difference in height of 3.4 millimetres. Chances are good that the players' height changes by more than that over the course of each day, and there's no way that any of the measures are that precise. But Michael is arguing that the difference is so significant that it is impossible to be accurate when using an imperial unit.
In other words, it's a trick. He's trying to game the system. He's trying to manipulate editors into accepting metrication in a context that is near-universally imperial-first in the UK by playing on concerns about accuracy - even though there is no objective reason for any such concern. Sure, the source is metric-first - of course it is: chances are good that that's a major part of the reason Michael chose it. This is precisely the sort of behaviour you have to expect when you deal with Michael on the topic of units. Pfainuk talk 18:23, 17 February 2012 (UTC)
Here we go again. Heaps of abuse from Pfainuk. It's what I have come to expect from him here. First of all I'm describing what I did when I documented the heights of the players. As far as I am concerned, that activity is at an end, and I have already stated that clearly. It's a lie to say that I am trying to manipulate people. I am stating my views upfront, and people are free to agree or disagree with them. Finally, if people think that 1.8 metres is good enough as an approximation to 6 feet when 5'11" would be more accurate, well, they're welcome to their sloppiness. Michael Glass (talk) 02:50, 18 February 2012 (UTC)
It's not sloppiness, it's rounding a measurement to the proper number of significant figures (though, in the specific case of people's height, it's likely that the original measurement didn't have the proper number of sigfigs to start with). Otherwise, why stop at 5′ 11″? Wouldn't 5′10 78″ would even more precise? ― A. di M.​  10:28, 18 February 2012 (UTC)
More precise, but probably less accurate. As I say, chances are good that the original measurement was actually 6 feet, and when it was converted it got turned into 1.8 metres. When people need to do these conversions in real life, they generally don't do them as precisely as is being argued here.
Even if you know the precise conversion factor (and I can't imagine many do - I had to work it out), it is not trivial to divide 180 by exactly 30.48 in your head and then convert the result into base 12. Multiplying 6 by exactly 30.48 in your head is easier, but still potentially daunting. And few people would see the point. If you know that 30 centimetres is about a foot (and that's fairly common), then it's easy to come up with 180 centimetres = 6 feet, from either direction. It's no accident that, in the UK, metric measures of this order tend to be given in even multiples of thirty centimetres.
I would imagine that to most Brits, quibbling over the 3 centimetres' difference would be a sign of pedantry. Even if quibbling over an inch wouldn't be. But let's remember that in this case, the 180-centimetre figure is claimed to be so precisely accurate that any rendering in imperial units is inaccurate. We are told that metric units must be used "because even close approximations are not equivalents". The 3.4 millimetres between 180 cm and 5'11", or the 225 micrometres between 180 cm and 5′10 78″, mean (we're told) that those measures are not precise enough because they are close approximations and not equivalents. The obvious logical conclusion to this argument being that Michael gets to enforce his source-based system that has been rejected here so many times. Only, it gets applied in practice instead of being applied in theory. In other words, normal service continues. Pfainuk talk 12:19, 18 February 2012 (UTC)
(The second sentence of my comment was intended to be sarcastic, as I hoped was obvious given the first sentence. ― A. di M.​  16:42, 18 February 2012 (UTC))
(I believe I understood it correctly, though perhaps this was not sufficiently clear from my response. Of course, it's still unexplained why the thing was not rendered as 5′10 110127″. Pfainuk talk 16:58, 18 February 2012 (UTC))
Let's let this discussion rest. Though I would advocate considering the sources, I'm not trying to enforce it or even to argue that it should be the only consideration., It's curious that quibbling over 3 centimetres would be considered pedantry but quibbling over an inch (2.54cm) would not, but so be it. Michael Glass (talk) 01:12, 19 February 2012 (UTC)

The BBC article you cite does not appear to be evidence of anything other than the fact that we have still not completed the metrication process.
In fact, WP's Metrication in the United Kingdom article does quite clearly say of the current situation: "as of 2012, imperial units are still used to describe, amongst other things: body measurements, journey distances and vehicle speeds". Strangely enough, this is exactly in line with WP:UNITS. Are you going to argue that that article is "completely at odds with reality" too? Mixsynth (talk) 23:56, 29 January 2012 (UTC)
I think it is quite clear where the Imperial system still dominates, and where it does not. The use of miles per hour as a measure of speed is almost universal, as is the use of imperial for any type of length. So feet and inches for height, miles for distance, and so on. The imperial also dominates for weight, especially personal weight: we are 13 stone 4 pounds or so, and almost everyone would respond so to a question about their weight. On the other hand, we do have a decimal currency, and Fahrenheit is used only by older people. Those of us with a technical education tend to live a double life, writing in metric, but switching back to imperial when out of the lab or office. I would say that articles on British geography, and others with clear-cut regional content, should give primacy to imperial measures in respect of weight and length. It is the right thing to do to address a general audience in the manner which will be best understood. Macdonald-ross (talk) 08:10, 26 February 2012 (UTC)

“a” as the symbol of the year? How common is that?

In my experience, “y” and “yr” are a lot more common, at least in nuclear physics and cosmology (maybe palaeontology/geology are different?), plus, they are more intuitive IMO. (Also, I think that “Only when SI prefixes are used” should be complemented with “or in tables” or something, as tables such as that in Isotopes of uranium would look weird to me if we used “year” but “Gy”.) ― A. di M.​  15:15, 14 February 2012 (UTC)

"a" is used as an abbreviation for "annum", e.g. "per annum", so you will see it used often. The problem with "y" is that it is also the SI symbol for "yocto" (10-24). However, according to the Wikipedia article for year: There is no universally accepted symbol for the year as a unit of time. The International System of Units does not propose one. A common abbreviation in international use is a (for Latin annus), in English also y or yr.. Most Latin-based languages would use a variant on "annum" instead of "year", so most scientific fields would probably prefer "a". RockyMtnGuy (talk) 18:27, 14 February 2012 (UTC)
Anyway, y and yr are both quite common on Wikipedia, and I think the MOS should acknowledge that. BTW, IMO the yocto- thing isn't much of a problem, because 1) y in that usage always precedes a unit symbol whereas the y for the year would follow any prefix, and 2) yocto- is extremely rare in practice – usually for such small numbers people just use ×1024 – whereas year is, like, the third most common noun in English. And FWIW “a” is also the symbol for the are (i.e. square decametre, as in the hectare). ― A. di M.​  16:49, 18 February 2012 (UTC)
The old British Standard on conversion factors (BS 350: Part 1: 1974 amended 1983 and confirmed 1998) listed the symbol 'a' for all years except light ones. - that was "l.y.". Sadly, I don't have the 2004 edition. Perhaps someone else has accesss to it or is inclined the buy it just to help us out - it retails for only £216. NebY (talk) 11:30, 19 February 2012 (UTC)

Date format -- "US military usage"?

I read here:

Strong national ties to a topic

Sometimes the customary format differs from the usual national one: for example, articles on the modern US military use day before month, in accordance with military usage.

I've read a lot of articles about the history of war, written in various dialects of English, and I've never seen evidence that articles published by American publishers prefer day/month over month/day. One sees day/month sometimes, sure, but that's not evidence that military usage is followed in published texts.

Where is the evidence for this claim? -- if that's the claim being made.

If it can't be provided, this rule should be eliminated.

Samuel Webster (talk) 17:05, 14 February 2012 (UTC)

The quote from the MoS above isn't a statement about articles about the history of war published by American publishers. It's about Wikipedia articles on the modern US military. You will find these using day-month-year formats; examples include Special Forces (United States Army) and Operation Enduring Freedom. Of course, total consistency has not been imposed so you'll find even articles about NATO operations using m-d-y (Operation Deny Flight) linked with others that use d-m-y (Implementation Force (IFOR)). Articles about American military personnel tend to use m-d-y but you can even find some that use both (Leighton W. Smith, Jr.). NebY (talk) 17:33, 19 February 2012 (UTC)

The MOS is not supposed to be descriptive, it's supposed to be normative. Imagine you found that most WP articles on Shakespeare were written in American English (which wouldn't be surprising, since most Shakespeare scholars are American). Someone then adds a note in the MOS under British English:

"Sometimes the customary spelling differs from the usual national one: for example, articles on Shakespeare use American spelling, in accordance with most usage in Shakespeare scholarship."

That would be bizarre, and totally contrary to the logic of virtually all other Wikipedia style conventions.

Samuel Webster (talk) 03:09, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

Some US military people feel very strongly that international date formats should be used. I usually leave related articles as I find them (well, majority usage if it's mixed ... which it usually isn't). I remember a couple of years ago I gnomed through the US battleships, lots, and found only one or two with md,y format. Tony (talk) 05:08, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
My anecdotal evidence is that the vast majority of such articles are dmy, and I agree that many MILHIST editors prefer it that way. Furthermore, I have received requests to align some such articles to dmy. --Ohconfucius ¡digame! 06:15, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

"Some US military people feel very strongly that [day/month] date formats should be used." Yes. And some Shakespeare scholars feel very strongly that American spelling should be used in articles about Shakespeare. That doesn't matter. The tie to a national interest rule has always trumped, elsewhere. Why make an exception here?

Ohconfucius, yes, but that's because people are following the MOS rule and changing date formats from month/day! I'm asking why the rule should be there, not what the consequences of it are, which we already can see. You are receiving requests? So what? Should we start using American spellings in Shakespeare articles if lots of Americans start working on Wikipedia articles on Shakespeare?

So far, I see no reason why the rule should be there. Anyone else have one? If not, let's eliminate it. Samuel Webster (talk) 03:56, 21 February 2012 (UTC)


WP:TIMEZONE seems fairly clear, but its brevity and lack of examples have me questioning whether I have understood it correctly. If I am right, in this article section, 20:45 CEST should be changed to 20:45 UTC+2, because we want the raw UTC offset rather than the name of the timezone or daylight saving. Is that correct? --Jameboy (talk) 22:34, 16 February 2012 (UTC)

Yes. "If known, include the UTC date and time of the event in the article, indicating that it is UTC." Nothing is said about local time zone names. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 22:21, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
oh, also the MOS doesn't specify whether we should write UTC+2 or UTC+02:00 --Jameboy (talk) 22:36, 16 February 2012 (UTC)
We wouldn't write "UTC+02:00" except when that precision is needed. MOSNUM actually does cover this more generally. We don't write "1.223439349 cm" unless there's a clear level-of-precision reason to do so. It's at WP:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers#Large numbers: "Avoid excessively precise values [...] where the precision is unnecessary in the context." — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 22:17, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

Are we ready to advise the use of metric main units in non-science US-related articles?

Judging by the content of some of the comments in the discussion on UK-related articles above, there is a desire to see metric units of measure, rather than customary units of measure, used as the main unit in all articles. Although the US has a long history and tradition of using English/US-customary units, is it now time to modify the guidelines here to place the emphasis on the use of metric units in favor of customary units in all US related article? If not, why not? -- de Facto (talk). 09:58, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

Why? ― A. di M.​  19:42, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
Why? Judging by the content of some of the comments in the discussion on UK-related articles above, there is a desire to see metric units of measure, rather than customary units of measure, used as the main unit in all articles.
So why not? -- de Facto (talk). 20:28, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
I don't believe you answered A. di M.'s question. As you are proposing the change, why do you want it? Pfainuk talk 20:47, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
I'm not proposing anything, I'm asking, based on the content of the other discussion I mentioned, if it's now time to consider it. -- de Facto (talk). 21:21, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
Desire by whom? Americans, or others? Herostratus (talk) 21:07, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
I don't know if they are Americans, or "others", but I do know there is a desire to metricate. -- de Facto (talk). 21:24, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
The very first sentence of WP:POINT is particularly appropriate to this line of enquiry. NebY (talk) 22:18, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
Please explain. -- de Facto (talk). 22:23, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
I can see exactly one (1) comment to the effect that “there is a desire to see metric units [...] in all articles” [emphasis added], namely SMcCandlish's. Indeed, Pfainuk endorsed the use of US units in US articles. ― A. di M.​  01:26, 22 February 2012 (UTC)

I believe that this is not the time to consider changing the guidance on US based articles.

  • Though individual editors have from time to time expressed the opinion that an all-metric Wikipedia would be desirable, there has never been any general move to apply this to US-based articles.
  • The advice to put US customary measures first on US based articles has remained stable for several years. The only modification to this advice has been to add the qualifying word, generally to the clause.
  • The situation in the US is quite different to the situation in the UK: hence the different advice in MOSNUM.
  • As the editor who raised this point has been campaigning to retain Imperial measures in first place in UK articles, it is impossible to take his question completely seriously.

So let's leave it at that and move on. Michael Glass (talk) 23:27, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

Michael, thanks for the civil (sadly uncommon with several others recently) and considered reply. You are correct that I believe that the current MOSNUM wording does not truely reflect the UK situation. It is because of that belief that I posed this question here.
Let me try to explain my reasoning...
  1. I was amazed when a user changed the long-standing condition of the Hindhead Tunnel article from imperial main units to metric main units.
  2. I challenged that change to the Hindhead Tunnel article on the basis of what I believed the MOSNUM advice was.
  3. I was incredulous at the reaction that I triggered, and at the bitterness expressed in the sometimes acrimonious discussion that followed.
  4. I was astonished at the interpretation of MOSNUM that prevailed.
  5. I researched the history of MOSNUM with respect to the main units advice for non-scientific UK articles.
  6. I was flabbergasted to find that the MOSNUM advice had been changed, in a very short period of time, from "Imperial" to "Imperial/Metric" and then to "generally Metric" without discussion, without any consensus or agreement, and with an inadequate edit summary explaining it.
  7. I challenged the validity of that last change here.
  8. I was gobsmacked by the negative response to that.
  9. I had noticed that the US advice had not been similarly targetted to favour metrication of the US articles.
  10. I decided to test the water here with the idea that perhaps the US advice should be reviewed, to review the types of argument, for and against, and to try and understand what the difference in perception between the US and UK position is.
  11. This discussion hasn't attracted much interest yet though.
Your comment, that you think that the "situation in the US is quite different to the situation in the UK" is very interesting though. Would you care to expand on what you thinks those differences are?
Thanks in anticipation! -- de Facto (talk). 16:09, 22 February 2012 (UTC)

DeFacto, regardless of our different opinions I have always found it interesting - and a pleasure - to exchange views with you. Your points make if clear where you are coming from and I appreciate your frankness and the friendliness of your comment. Let me explain how, in my opinion, the situation in the US differs from the situation in the UK regarding weights and measures.

The UK has made substantial moves towards metrication in many fields whereas the US has not moved so far. Here are four examples.

  • In the UK, petrol is sold by the litre; in the US, it is sold by the US gallon.
  • In the UK, despite spirited opposition by some, metric measures predominate in matters of trade; in the US, despite law mandating dual measures on packaged goods, US customary measures prevail.
  • In the UK, Celsius is taking over from Fahrenheit; in the US, Fahrenheit is the norm.
  • In the UK, engineering is in metric terms; in the US, this has been called for but it is not as predominant as in the UK.

The last one is important because it means that the information about such structures as the Forth Road Bridge and the London Eye are all in metric terms. Because of all this, MOSNUM now calls for metric to predominate in UK articles - with certain exceptions. However, in the US, metrication has made very modest inroads into US use of their customary measures. Metrics have made enough progress in the US for the word generally to be added to MOSNUM advice on which units to use, but the US has certainly not gone as far along that road as the UK has gone.

I hope that this answers your question. Michael Glass (talk) 23:57, 22 February 2012 (UTC)

I'd second that that metrification has made little progress in the US over the last 50 years, which has surprised and disappointed me but it is what it is. I assume that everyone is using {{convert}}, in which case it's not terribly important which value comes first, right? I will say that if one doesn't use {{convert}} (and shame on you!), and one gives a distance only in centimeters or meters or kilometers or whatever, the typical American, regardless of age or education, will look at that and have either only a vague idea or absolutely no idea whatsoever what distance is being described. Whether that's true of a typical Britisher I don't know, but kind of doubt. (Americans are a little better with kilograms and grams because marijuana and cocaine are measured in those units...) Herostratus (talk) 02:51, 24 February 2012 (UTC)
Michael, thanks for expanding on your reasoning. Your observations are interesting, but I think you overestimate the impact of certain enforced and unwelcome metrication events in the UK.
Although petrol has been sold by the litre there for decades and grocers have been prosecuted for continuing to sell their wares by the pound (lb not £) in defiance of EU-inspired legislation demanding that fruit and vegetables be sold by the gram, and the engineering industries do probably all use metric units for design and development, the public at large have not at all embraced the metric system. Petrol is bought by the tankfull or by the pound (£ not lb), grocers assume you are a foreigner if you ask for a weight other than in pounds (lbs) or ounces (oz) and the errant grocers are hailed as heroes and martyrs and credited as having played a significant part in influencing the massive campaign that led to a climbdown by the EU over their stated intent to eliminate the imperial system of measures. The imperial system has now been reluctantly endorsed by the EU as being part of the UK's heritage and it is to be preserved in perpetuity.
The person in the street overwhelmingly prefers imperial and rejects metric, and most - of all age bands - admit they are confused by metric measures. The weather is a favourite subject of many Brits, and they talk about wind speed in miles per hour, snow depth in inches and, following the indoctrination by the establishment Met Office (weather forecasters) into the Celsius way, will talk about low temperatures ("sub-zero" for example) in terms of degrees Celsius, but continue to imply Fahrenheit for high temperatures ("more than 100 degrees" for example). If you asked a random sample of British people to estimate how long the Forth Road Bridge was or the diameter of the London Eye, you can bet that around three-quarters of them would give their estimate in imperial units (miles, yards or feet). -- de Facto (talk). 20:09, 24 February 2012 (UTC)
DeFacto, thanks for that comment. I'm sure that you would speak for many Britishers in your comments. Even so, you do reveal the advance of metric measures in temperatures, engineering and other fields. However, the evidence suggests that perhaps you underestimate the amount of metric usage. Take Sainsbury's special offers [14]. Same for Tesco's prepared fruit [15]. Nigella Lawson's recipes also appear to be in metric [16]. Even in the publishing world, usage is divided [17]. In fact, the only really big holdout is the road signs.
Even on fuel prices, it's worked out in pence per litre (ppl). Look at the advice from the AA [18]. (As petrol is sold by the litre it could hardly be otherwise.)
When Britishers clash over metric usage, it's a clash between Britisher and Britisher. It was the British Parliament that passed laws to embrace the metric system and British judges and magistrates who enforced the law on the Metric Martyrs. And when activists change signs from metric to Imperial, these are British signs they are changing. Part of the success of the anti-metric brigade is their appropriation of British national feelings to advance their cause. They are also have a canny sense of strategy in the targets they choose! Though they appear to have stopped metrication in its tracks, the Times acknowledges that it "should keep abreast of the trend in the UK to move gradually towards all-metric use." For instance, the Premier League uses metric heights and weights. See, for example [19].
Therefore I think it's fair to say that British usage is divided in a way that is not apparent in the United States. Michael Glass (talk) 08:48, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
Michael, exactly - there has been some "advance" - mainly in industry, by establishment bodies obliged to comply with specific EU inspired regulations, and by those traders compelled to mark prices by metric units (like Sainsbury's and Tesco). Elswhere its take-up is limited, for whatever reason (the reason being irrelevant here), even in the theoretically regulated smaller shops and market stalls, where imperial units are de jure, to satisfy customer demand despite what the law calls for.
The main point is that, where they have a choice (in most of what they do actually outside of work and shopping for groceries), the UK population overwhelmingly reject metrication. So we see, that the current MOSNUM wording misrepresents the British situation.
Rather than say mainly metric with some imperial exceptions (a gross misrepresentation of the reality); if it were to reflect the actual reality of British common use it should say something like "use imperial units in all contexts except when: 1. discussing one of the following establishment regulatated use activities; selling by weight or measure, the wording of new laws, ... 2. discussing measurements related to design and development activities in metricated industries." Take at look at the responses to Q12 in this survey and the tabulated demographics in the table on page 23 in here to see where the UK is today - that is what we should reflect in MOSNUM. -- de Facto (talk). 09:41, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
Can you give a few actual examples of measurements which would be given as metric with the current wording but as imperial with your proposed wording? Because I'm under the impression that road distances, car speeds and consumption, weights and heights of people, amounts of drinks, trade and commerce, legislation, and design and development (i.e., the exceptions to metric according to the current wording plus the exception to imperial according to your proposal) would comprise the overwhelming majority of measurements in non-technical articles (well, except measurements of time, for which no metric/imperial problem exists). ― A. di M.​  10:37, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
A. di M., I'll give you some examples of measurements which would be given as metric with the interpretation of the current wording that prevailed in the Hindhead Tunnel discussion (which I believe was an incorrect interpretation, hence my desire to make the wording less open to abuse) but as imperial with my proposed wording.
Let's start with those disputed measurements in that tunnel article. In the same way that the length of road carriageways would undoubtedly have been designed and specified in metric units, yet were described in miles in the article because that is the way such dimensions are commonly described in the UK; the rate of excavation would be described in yards because that is the way such dimensions are commonly described in the UK; the tunnel diameter would be described in feet and the lining thickness in inches because that is the way such dimensions are commonly described in the UK; the carriageway width, headroom and verge widths would be described in feet because that is the way such dimensions are commonly described in the UK; the cross passage spacing would be described in yards because that is the way such dimensions are commonly described in the UK; and the fuel consumption rate per day of the excavators and the fire tank capacity would be described in gallons because that is the way such measurements are commonly described in the UK. -- de Facto (talk). 18:18, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
All of those would have been metric under "discussing measurements related to design and development activities in metricated industries" - including, plausibly, the tunnel distance (which is imperial in the current system). Britain's "metricated industries" include just about all industry in modern Britain, not excepting tunnel and road design. Pfainuk talk 18:59, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
Pfainuk, not at all! The article doesn't discuss those measurements in relation to the design or development of the tunnel; it discusses them in terms of the manifestation of that design - it is describing the end result. In the same way that the length is descsibed in miles and not the metres or kilometres that it was undoubtedly designed and specified in (why miles for that currently, but not feet for the diameter???). If the article was about all the steps in the planning and design proces, the stress calculations and concrete composition etc., then it should probably use metric units - but as it isn't, it certainly shouldn't. I'm well aware that most, if not all, of the UK's engineering industries work in metric - I've said so in the discussion. -- de Facto (talk). 19:32, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
At present, the distance is in imperial units because the current wording favours imperial units for geographical distance. This is as appropriate according to the interpretation of British usage that we use: based on the style guide of Britain's newspaper of record.
Your wording removes this rule, replacing it with a general idea that design is in metric units. It's not clear from your proposal that you intend the implementation of that design to be in imperial units. And trying to such a distinction is at best tenuous: it is unlikely to be drawn by editors or understood by readers.
Because if it did get accepted, we'd be putting ourselves in a surreal position whereby the road has to be 6.7 kilometres long right up until to the moment when it's finished, when we have to mysteriously switch to 4.2 miles. Such a switch that will appear to the reader as totally unexplained. Pfainuk talk 20:54, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
Pfainuk, to use the fact that one of the UK's "newspapers of record" advises the use of metric units for certain purposes in its style guide as an excuse for doing so in Wikipedia is like using the fact that it is politically biased to the right to justify writing similarly biased articles in Wikipedia. That a newspaper is trusted to support factual information does not mean that its opinions on everything, or even on anything are neutral. And what about the advice given in the style guide of the UK's other "newspaper of record", the one that advises the use of imperial units in most circumstances?
My wording reflects the common usage in the context of the article. For technical articles aimed at subject specialists, such as those discussing the technicalities of design etc. then, if it is a metricated industry (as it probably will be), use metric units - they will be the common usage units in that context. If the context of the article is UK related general interest, such as the one about the Hindhead Tunnel, then, of course, use the units most commonly used and preferred in the UK - imperial units. All that is perfectly logical and compatible and consistent with the recommendations in other sections of the MOS.
Are you saying that roads aren't designed in metric in the UK? If you're not saying that, then your argument doesn't support your interpretation of the current MOSNUM wording which requires them to be described in miles in an article. If the length of a road designed in metric can be described in miles why can't its width be described in feet? -- de Facto (talk). 23:20, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
The current MOSNUM wording doesn't say anything about how things were designed. It does not attempt to draw a distinction between the measures used when building something and after it is built - that's your proposal, not reflected at present. It simply says that geographical distances should be in imperial units. A clear and simple rule.
The notion that we should match a newspaper's editorial bias is patently inappropriate, and a violation of core policy. That this should prevent us from using it as an inspiration for our units policy or our policy on how we should spell the language does not follow from this.
Imperial units are not in general the most commonly used and preferred in the UK. They are in some cases, but there are some contexts where metric units are overwhelmingly more common - most notably temperature. Pfainuk talk 10:05, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
Pfainuk, the current prevailing interpretation of MOSNUM wording is irrational. It seems to require road lengths to be in imperial main units yet the widths to be in metric units, regardless of target audience and for the very same road! That needs fixing. My proposal is that the main units used should reflect those in common use for the content and target readership. If the content is design considerations and the target is engineers then it will likely be metric; however, if, as for the Hindhead Tunnel article, the content is general interest and the target is non-specialist, then the main units should be imperial.
Why should we take inspiration from the style guide of just one (up-market) newspaper, and not attempt to represent the common usage in the UK?
If we find evidence that metric units have superseded imperial for certain measurement types (temperature for example) then we should present it and consider recommending metric in that context, but without the evidence we should take the long-standing imperial unit as the default. -- de Facto (talk). 10:02, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
The question to which De Facto refers is "As you may have heard, the EU recently decided to drop rules that would require Britain to use metric measurements of traditional units like pounds, pints and miles. How strongly would you support and oppose Britain switching to use entirely metric measurements, rather than continuing to use traditional units?" It does not ask and the answers do not indicate what units of measurement the respondents use. NebY (talk) 14:32, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
The actual law states that in most cases that fall under under the description of "commerical, public administration, public health or public safety" metric units shall be used and any other (imperial, customary, etc) may used in addition as supplementary units. There was a "sunset clause" that would have prohibited the use of supplementary units after 31-Dec-2009, but this sunset clause was dropped. The inital proposal to drop the sunset clause was trumpetted by Eurosceptic groups who have unashamedly hijacked the anti-metication movement as a "victory to permit the use of imperial units" - in fact it wa a "victory to permit the [continued] use for imeprial units [as supplementary units]". The British Government's advice not to charge market stall holders for using imperial units is a toothless gesture - legislation in the past few years requires that any weighing devices used for trade shall be certified at regular intervals and machines that are calibrated in imeprial units fail the certification process, so no traders will be charged for using pounds and ounces, but they can be charged for using unccertified weighing devices.
DeFacto is wrong to state that "grocers" have been charged for using pounds and ounces - if he had bothered to check his facts first, he would realise that a few greengrocers (the sa-called Metric Martyrs have been charged, not for using pounds and ounces as the press has made out, but for using uncertified weighing equipment. Martinvl (talk) 15:57, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
This all seems a touch irrelevant here. We're not dealing with UK law, we're dealing with UK usage. Though if we're discussing the sunset clause, it's worth mentioning at as originally drafted, it was 31 Dec 1979. This was extended for ten years every ten years until it was recognised in about 2007 that the clause was achieving nothing beyond bad press for the EU.
One of the points here is the common use of what some call "soft metric". In football, if you mess about at a free kick, the referee has the right to advance the free kick by 9.14 metres. No coincidence that this happens to be 10 yards. But it also pervades in those contexts that Martin describes: when you go to the supermarket, you buy your milk, and it's often sold by the 568 millilitres, or a pint. Jam is sold by the 454 grams, or a pound. Supplementary indications are effectively used as a loophole to allow the continued use of imperial units.
That said, most of the measurements we use on Wikipedia aren't like that. Compared with real life, we are very light on grocery shopping and very heavy on engineering, design, legislation and suchlike. As A. di M. describes, de Facto's most recent proposal seems to me to amount to, we use imperial for all measurements except for most of the measurements we're actually likely to use. Notably, the unit mix currently on Hindhead Tunnel would remain in place. I see no need nor benefit in departing from the status quo.
Finally, I'm rather of the view that this is rapidly reaching WP:STICK territory. Could we at least rename this section, which is clearly not about units on US-related articles at all but in fact about units on UK-related articles? Pfainuk talk 16:38, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
Fun fact: as far as I can tell, in Italy lots of people know that association football goals are 7.32 metres wide, but few know how that number was chosen in the first place. (When I heard about the similarly ridiculously-sounding number for the height of volleyball nets in metres, I immediately took my calculator and converted it to feet and inches, but it turned out to be just as absurd.) ― A. di M.​  19:01, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
Pfainuk, it sounds to me like you are either: a) confusing specialist articles about engineering design and law writing with general interest articles describing the outputs of those processes. Or: b) misrepresenting my recent proposal. My proposal would result in the use of imperial units as the main units in UK related general interest articles, such as the "Hindhead Tunnel" article. -- de Facto (talk). 20:04, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
Your proposal doesn't make it clear that we should be trying to draw any such distinction. Your proposal certainly appeared to be that details of design should be in metric units. It said nothing about what articles that would go on. And as such it would seem to include all the design specifications of the Hindhead Tunnel. You also seem to be drawing a distinction between things that are designed and the actual process of designing them - a fine distinction that, as I note above, is not going to be respected by editors or understood by readers.
Given that you are now drawing such a distinction, perhaps you could give us some examples of these "specialist articles about engineering design and law writing", that are also non-scientific articles related to the UK? It strikes me that the number of articles that fall into this bracket is likely to be vanishingly small. Pfainuk talk 20:54, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
Pfainuk, my proposal is that imperial units should be used unless the article is aimed at specialists and the common units in use in that speciality are metric. If that isn't clear then it needs improving - offer a suggestion if you like. I can't think of any such specialist articles at the moment either, but I'm sure there must be some. We should concentrate on getting MOSNUM corrected so that the units used in the normal general interest type articles reflect those in common and preferred use in the territory first anyway; then we can worry about the obscure techy-targeted articles. -- de Facto (talk). 23:30, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
I am not convinced that we have any non-scientific UK-related articles that are aimed specifically at specialists in the way you describe. This is why I'm asking you to cite some. I want to understand what articles exactly you mean, what contexts you would want to allow metric units in. If you can't, it seems fair to assume that there aren't any.
I also don't believe the units in "common and preferred use" in the United Kingdom are purely imperial any more. This certainly doesn't match my own experience of living here, which is that common usage is decidedly mixed - with a few imperial-only cases and a few metric-only cases, and a few cases where some people prefer metric and others prefer imperial. Pfainuk talk 10:05, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
I strongly agree with the point that Pfainuk has made in the paragraph above. Common usage in the UK is decidedly mixed, and going from written usage, it is even more mixed than might be gleaned from any one of the style guides that govern the Times, the Telegraph and the Guardian. I believe that because usage is mixed the safest course is to have firm policy when the usage is clear and to allow more latitude when usage is mixed. This makes drawing up policy particularly difficult and it helps explain why the policy wording has changed so often. Michael Glass (talk) 11:24, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
Martinvl, according to this BBC report four of the metric martyrs, and their offences are:
  • "Steven Thoburn, fined for selling bananas by the pound,..."
  • "John Dove... for selling mackerel at £1.50 a pound."
  • "Julian Harman... for selling Brussels sprouts by the pound."
  • "Colin Hunt... for pricing pumpkins and other vegetables by the pound."
Were they mistaken? -- de Facto (talk). 19:55, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
If you visit Thoburn v Sunderland City Council#Facts you will see that the charges were as follows:
  • Thoburn - Use of illegal weighing equipment
  • Hunt - Displaying imperial prices only and giving short measure
  • Harman - Displaying imperial prices only and obstruction of a weights and measures officer
  • Monk - Displaying imperial prices only and obstruction of a weights and measures officer
  • Collins - Breach of Market Stall licence
So yes, the BBC was a liberal with the "truth". The full judgement can be read here. Martinvl (talk) 06:12, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
Martinvl, what I said was "grocers have been prosecuted for continuing to sell their wares by the pound (lb not £)". You challenged my comment, asserting: 'DeFacto is wrong to state that "grocers" have been charged for using pounds and ounces...'. I then provided support from a BBC item. You are now challenging it again, but this time apparently supporting what I wrote, including a reference to a "judgement" that also supports what I said. What actually is the point that you are trying to make? -- de Facto (talk). 09:31, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
NebY, do you really imagine that anyone who prefers to use metric over imperial is going to disagree with metrication? Can you cite any evidence at all that metric units have superseded imperial units in common usage in the UK. -- de Facto (talk). 18:26, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
I agree with Pfainuk that these engineering articles should be metric first. I think we should remember that this is not a dispute about which measure should be used, but which measures should come first. In this case, we should follow the measurements that were actually used. Michael Glass (talk) 21:12, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
Michael, these aren't "engineering" articles, they are general interest articles - so should be imperial first. I agree that articles targeted at specialists should use the units used in their speciality first though. I can't think of any such articles at the moment though. -- de Facto (talk). 23:35, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
De Facto, your first question suggests that you are confusing a preference to use the metric system and/or a customary use of metric units with the desire to forego any right to use imperial measures. Your second question suggests that you can provide evidence that metric units have not superseded imperial units in all but a narrow range of road miles, stroppy greengrocers and the like. Please do so. NebY (talk) 22:27, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
NebY, the UK historically and traditionally uses British English and imperial units. If I were to assert that British English has now been superseded by French as the main language of the nation, would you consider it a reasonable position to take if I insisted that all UK related articles be written in French from now on - unless evidence could be produced to prove that, actually, British English was still the main language there. Well of course (presumably) you wouldn't. In what way do you think that the assertion that imperial units have now been superseded by metric units is any less ridiculous, and why should the burden of proof not fall on those making that assertion? -- de Facto (talk). 23:51, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
I think it's a really big stretch to view the use of the metric system as equivalent to using a foreign language. After all, Imperial equivalents have to be provided, so it's not such a big deal. Michael Glass (talk) 05:16, 26 February 2012 (UTC)
Michael , the principle is the same. We should use common usage language, which isn't necessarily the same as the "official" language. Should, based on an unsupported assertion that British English has now been superseded by French, accept the lead being changed in the London article to "Londres (London)...", with no support for the assertion, but with the insistence that proof be provided of English language usage to support reversion? -- de Facto (talk). 12:23, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
Is this really all you can bring in support of your proposals? Constant references to "tradition", "history" and "custom"; inapposite analogies redolent with distaste for foreigners; dismissal of shopping, work and any other activities that happen to employ metric units as "specialist" and not part of everyday life; adulation of bolshie greengrocers; circular arguments papered over with repetitive rhetoric? How about providing some straightforward direct evidence for your case before we all walk away from your soapbox? NebY (talk) 11:48, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
NebY, the employment of logical fallacies in an attempt to defend the current irrational interpretation of MOSNUM does not disprove my proposition. I've shown professional survey data, BBC news content and quality newspaper content that reinforces my stance - and what has been put up to support the other POV? Nothing. To disprove my propositon requires evidence that imperial has been superseded by metric in common usage (for road and tunnel dimensions specifically). We have seen no such proof in either the Hindead discussions or in any of the discussions that have taken place here. Currently my proposition stands proven, not only by the weight of evidence supporting it, but by indirect proof too. We've also yet to see anything to contradict my previous the change to MOSNUM WRT main units in non-scientific UK articles was not evidence based. -- de Facto (talk). 12:56, 27 February 2012 (UTC)
DeFacto, I think the call for evidence really is a genuine one. What is your evidence that the use of metric measures is foreign to English people? Michael Glass (talk) 02:33, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
Michael, I'm sure you don't wish to exclude Scots, Welsh et al but still I should point out that the call is for straightforward direct evidence that modern common usage in the UK remains largely imperial even beyond the exceptions already provided in the MOS. NebY (talk) 13:14, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
This may be helpful to the discussion.
Wavelength (talk) 02:54, 28 February 2012 (UTC)

Editors have a right to be informed of discussions. Since the title of this section indicates it is about US metric usage, no discussion of UK usage in this forum section can justify any change to the guideline, because the title conceals the discussion from interested editors. Jc3s5h (talk) 15:39, 28 February 2012 (UTC) modified 14:07, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

Jc3s5h, are those assertions from a Wiki policy, or are you making them up as you go along? -- de Facto (talk). 16:10, 28 February 2012 (UTC)

Fractions when combined with small numbers, e.g. time periods

I've had a look around and can't see any reference to the preferred format of two-and-a-half etc. Have I missed something somewhere? This seems to be the preferred format for low numbers. Is this reasonable and therefore should it be incorporated as uncontroversial guidance? Thanks. -- Trevj (talk) 15:53, 22 February 2012 (UTC)

"Simple fractions are normally spelled out; use the fraction form if they occur in a percentage or with an abbreviated unit (1⁄4 yd or a quarter of a yard, but not a quarter of a yd) or if they are mixed with whole numerals." (WP:NUMERAL) Other guidance on fractions exists. Please search for "fraction". --Walter Siegmund (talk) 04:28, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
Face-smile.svg Thank you I did do a search for "fraction" before posting, and thought I'd read all of WP:NUMERAL but must've missed that bit. Sorry. Anyway, I've now added this example for clarification. -- Trevj (talk) 08:15, 28 February 2012 (UTC)

A proposal for a slightly more concise wording.

At the moment MOSNUM is worded as follows (emphasis added):

  • In cases where the primary measurement in the article is different from the primary measurement in the source:
    • Ensure that the precision of the converted unit in the article appropriately matches the precision of the value from the source.
    • Consider quoting the source measurement in the citation, particularly when the source only provides one system of units.
    • In some cases it may be useful to avoid this by taking the unit used by the source as primary.

I think the following wording is more concise:

    • In some cases it may be preferable to take the unit used by the source as primary.

Does anyone have any comment, suggestion or concern about this proposed change? Michael Glass (talk) 08:19, 2 March 2012 (UTC)

It sounds like a confusing and possibly contradictory clause to me. When would it be "preferable", or even "useful" to defy the advice given, for main unit selection in the context of the measurement, elsewhere in MOSNUM, and use the main unit given in one selected source? Could we, for instance, end up with US fluid ounces used as the primary unit, instead of millilitres, in a UK-related scientic article because someone managed to trawl up a US article describing it thus? -- de Facto (talk). 08:41, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
DeFacto, I note that your criticism is of the clause as a whole. Therefore I think it is important to point out why such a clause can be useful or preferable.
Take, for instance, a historical reference to a land grant in Australia. MOSNUM says that Australian articles should be metric first. However, the early land grants were worked out in acres. This is an obvious instance where it may be preferable to take the unit used by the source as primary. Another instance where it might be preferable to take the unit used by the source as primary might be in an article about Noah's Ark, where primacy is given to the measurement in cubits.
I hope that this demonstrates why the clause as a whole is useful, and that all we have to discuss about it is whether the more concise wording that I have suggested would be better. Michael Glass (talk) 10:06, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
Michael, sorry, yes I was looking at the purpose of the clause, and not the merit of your proposed change to its wording. We should discuss that separately. As for your proposal: it sounds good to me. -- de Facto (talk). 10:36, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
I interpret the clause to mean that in an article that predominantly uses one set of measurements as primary (and that set might be SI, imperial, US customary, or a mix) there may be a few individual quantities that should have the unit from the source as primary. If I understand the clause correctly, I think it it would be better summarized if we modify Mr. Glass' proposal to say
  • In some cases passages it may be preferable to take the unit used by the source as primary.
Jc3s5h (talk) 14:15, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
I sympathise with DeFacto here, Michael. I appreciate you're working to make the bullet-point more concise, but maybe we'd do well to extend it a little to clarify or explain it and not leave a general-purpose loophole or bone of contention. Taking your example of land grants, should the consequence of the clause be that where grants were made in blocks of (say) 1000 acres we should describe them so, adding a conversion in brackets, but that where the grant was of (say) "the island in the estuary, being 1000 acres" the article would use hectares? NebY (talk) 15:58, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
The example of land grants is a clear-cut case of nominal/defined units. The example of Noah's Ark is a clear case of quotation of sources (either direct or indirect). If we're doing size comparisons, then clearly it makes no sense to compare hectares with acres. But we should already be doing this under the existing rules. None of this requires the change proposed.
If none of these are the case - if we're just describing the size of the land grant that is not defined in any particular unit, without quoting anything - then there is no reason to prefer acres over hectares.
I also feel that it must be taken into account that (as has been much discussed in recent weeks) experience has shown that this is, or will be used by the OP as, a significant change in policy to undermine the rest of the advice. I oppose this change. Pfainuk talk 17:50, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
Turns out that right now MOS:NUM doesn't mention indirect quotations, but I agree that they should be treated the same way as defined and nominal values. ― A. di M.​  19:53, 2 March 2012 (UTC)

The proposed change in wording was to make it more concise, not to change the meaning. Can anyone point to any change of meaning between the present wording and the proposed wording? Also, who or what is "the OP"? Michael Glass (talk) 03:01, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

wikt:OP#English. ― A. di M.​  09:38, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
It indicates that it may be preferable. That we might prefer it. I think there are very few cases in which it would be preferable, though perhaps more where it would be useful. And it would be abused. We'd be better off getting rid of this entirely, replacing the imprecise "in some cases" to clear guidance: nominal/defined units need to use the units in which they are nominal or defined. Direct and indirect quotations need to preserve the integrity of the quote. Any other circumstances where we should be ignoring the preceding advice can be handled by IAR. Pfainuk talk 10:40, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

The proposed wording preferable replaces the phrase useful to avoid this where this stands for quoting the source unit in the citation. I would not object to using the word useful if preferable is a problem for you. I don't think we really need the phrase to avoid this. Do you see any particular need for this phrase? Michael Glass (talk) 11:40, 3 March 2012 (UTC) What wording would you recommend to replace "in some cases"? Michael Glass (talk) 07:56, 4 March 2012 (UTC)

We'd be better off removing this point. Instead, we should add a new point saying that quotations, including indirect quotations, should respect the unit choice of the person being quoted. Pfainuk talk 09:41, 4 March 2012 (UTC)

Could you put that proposal into draft form? Michael Glass (talk) 10:42, 5 March 2012 (UTC)

Conversion boxes

Tonne equivalents
1 tonne = 1000 kg
1 tonne = 2240 lbs
1 tonne = 1.10 short tons
1 tonne = 0.98 long tons

It happens at times that a particular unit of measure is repeated many times within a short piece of text. In such cases repeated conversion to the unit in question destroys the flow of the text. One such instance was in the article Economy of the Falkland Islands where I introduced the infobox displayed at the side of this note. My change was revoked by another editor. Since this carries implications for the whole of Wikipeida, I think it appropriate to discuss it here in the context of Wikipedia as a whole rather than on the article's own talk page.

What do other editors think about the use of conversion boxes such as this one in lieu of convert templates, especially in the case of tonnes which generates text such "1,234 tonnes (1,215 long tons; 1,360 short tons)"? Martinvl (talk) 08:33, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

There used to be a guideline saying that, for specialist topics in which the same units are used throughout the world, you don't have to give a conversion at each usage but you still should give conversions in a parenthetical or footnote after the first use of the unit name. (The guideline itself mentioned American football, but my favourite example was Strings (music)#Gauge.) I recently proposed to reinstate that, but alas the discussion somehow ended up being about imperial vs metric in the UK (again). Now Economy of the Falkland Islands isn't in the same class, but it does match the pattern of ‘same unit used umpteen times in the same paragraph’. ― A. di M.​  09:53, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
In this case, a better outcome would be a measurement cull. One of the side effects of the longrunning Falklands units dispute was that articles like this became a blizzard of measurements - anything that can be measured is measured, even if providing a measurement is not useful to the reader. For example, as well as my revert I changed dropped from 399,700 tonnes (393,400 long tons; 440,600 short tons) in 1969-70, to 101,560 tonnes (99,960 long tons; 111,950 short tons) the following year and 2,740 tonnes (2,700 long tons; 3,020 short tons) in 1971/72. to dropped by 99.3% in the space of two years between the 1969-70 and 1971-72 seasons. Such changes - and probably larger ones - need to be made throughout the article.
In the case of American football or string gauges, fine - but often we'll be doing comparison in such cases. In American football, notably, just about every yardage will be a comparison with the gridiron measurements painted on the turf.
In this case, we're not generally running such comparisons. Rather, it's tonnes of this, and then later tonnes of that, and then later tonnes of the other. The reader is not invited to run comparisons between them, but to know what is meant by x tonnes.
I don't think we ought to be asking our readers to get their calculators out every time they come to a measurement. Removing those measuements only makes the thing more readable for those who understand tonnes in the first place anyway. For those that don't, they're none the wiser. I note also that there are issues of precision with the table (if you try and convert 399,700 to long tons using the table and you get 391,700 tonnes, not 393,400 tonnes) and it does get one of its figures wrong (1 tonne is 2205 pounds, not 2240 pounds).
Note also previous discussion here with respect to the same article. Pfainuk talk 10:32, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
How many readers actually get their calculators out? I have a sneaky feeeling, though I can't prove it, that those people to whom the numbers actually mean anything probably use tonnes anyway (or are not bothered by the differences between long tons, short tons and tonnes). Martinvl (talk) 11:24, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
I rather think the reason the suggestion was culled, was the eternal battle to metricate wikipedia against the wishes of the majority of its editors. The same editors have tried all sorts of tactics to slip metrication into articles, one of the most frustrating to me was the one which killed the Falklands group off, when an article improvement drive was hijacked as part of the metrication crusade. I would oppose the suggestion to put in a table, simply because bitter experience tells me its one more thin end of the wedge to slip metrication in. Wikipedia is here to build an encyclopedia for our readers and presenting information in unfamiliar units does not promote education and understanding. KISS - Keep it Simple Stupid, we don't want readers forced to get their calculators out. Wee Curry Monster talk 11:37, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
One partial solution to the problem of units in Economy of the Falkland Islands might be to cull the long tons. First of all the difference between long tons and tonnes is only 2%, so for most purposes the difference does not matter. Anyway, I don't think that the long ton is much used even in the UK so I think it could be dropped in this particular article. Michael Glass (talk) 12:09, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
We don't and we shouldn't pack Wikipedia articles with information boxes explaining the terms used when we can refer to articles instead. Even paper encyclopedias don't do that. As noted by others, we can avoid cluttering articles with repeated conversions once we've established a baseline and can avoid blizzards of measurements by telling the story more clearly. I'm not even convinced we're being helpful by talking of long and short tons anyway, as I rather doubt most US or UK readers know whether theirs is long or short.
I do not know of anybody in the UK who uses long tons. They died a natural death when Hundredweight and half hundredweight sacks were replaced by 50 kg and 25 kg respectively.--Charles (talk) 13:13, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

I don't think obsessive conversions are that useful. Look at this: “dropped from 399,700 tonnes (393,400 long tons; 440,600 short tons) in 1969-70, to 101,560 t the following year and 2,740 t in 1971/72.” Someone who knows how much a tonne is will mentally skip the parentheses and go on reading the sentence without any problem; someone who doesn't use tonnes but uses short tons will read “399,700 tonnes (393,400 long tons; 440,600 short tons)”, notice that a tonne is a bit more than a short ton (about 10% more, if they do care about this), then they will know that 101,560 t is a bit more than a hundred thousand short tons (about 110 thousand, and in any event about one quarter the production the previous year) and 2,740 t is around 3000 short tons (in any event, about 2.7 per cent of the previous year). Finally, those who think in long tonnes, if any of them is still alive, would just notice they are pretty much the same and, unless particularly anal, shrug at the difference. The only people who will be disappointed are those who think in short tons and aren't contented with knowing that the production of whatever-that-is in the Falkland Islands in 1971/72 was about three thousand tons but want to know the figure with at least three significant digits; I think such people are extremely few and not likely to be bothered by having to use a calculator anyway. (This doesn't apply with more complicated conversions, as knowing that 68 °F is 20 °C is of little help in knowing what 41 °F is.) This unthinking repeated use of {{convert}} is another facet of the issue discussed at /Archive 135#Conversions of ratios embedded in prose. ― A. di M.​  15:10, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

There seems to be a consensus here that the long ton is dead and should be buried. Is that something we could agree on, if only for the Economy of the Falkland Islands article? Michael Glass (talk) 22:14, 3 March 2012 (UTC)
The problem with Economy of the Falkland Islands is not the four instances of long tons (plus three in footnotes) scattered throughout the article. The only really obsessive conversion of tonnes - the one that A. di M. quotes - has already been reduced to a footnote and can easily be eliminated entirely. The problem with that article is that you and Martin apparently felt that it helped your position in the Falkland units dispute to shoehorn as many metric measurements as possible into as many Falklands topics as possible, regardless of usefulness. As a result, large parts of that particular article need to be rewritten from scratch.
I don't think it unfair to suggest that, thanks to your many years of tendentious editing and gaming, you in particular are just about the worst possible person to make any proposal to increase metrication on Falklands topics. You've stirred up so much bad blood that the regular editors on Falklands topics are unlikely ever to trust your motives in that area. I oppose this change for the same reason Curry Monster did: it's just the thin end of the wedge. Pfainuk talk 09:57, 4 March 2012 (UTC)

Pfainuk, once again I note that you have resorted to a personal attack. I believe that the ton was replaced by the tonne by the Weights and Measures Act of 1985 {}. Instead of ranting at me as if I was the devil incarnate, why not look at the evidence? It is not rational to reject what I have to say simply because of personal animosity. I believe that the following are factual statements:

  • The long ton of 2240 lbs can no longer be used for trade in the UK.
  • The tonne of 1000kg is only about 2% smaller.

I believe it therefore follows that it is a waste of space to include the long ton. Trying to preserve the long ton is really flogging a dead horse, one that was put down in 1985, more than a quarter of a century ago. Michael Glass (talk) 13:37, 4 March 2012 (UTC)

No personal attack. Merely a statement of fact. If you wanted the trust of regular editors on Falklands articles, you shouldn't have spent 18 months trying every trick in the book to force them into fully metricating - against both what those editors wanted and MOSNUM.
The fact that a unit is not used for trade does not and has never meant that it is not used by anyone ever. We should be providing appropriate conversions for people to aid their understanding. It's long tons today, but it'll be Fahrenheit next month and feet the months after. No. Pfainuk talk 13:55, 4 March 2012 (UTC)
Sorry Michael, I agree with Pfainuk wrt tons here. When people in the UK, or in the Falklands probably, say "ton" or "tonne" (they sound exactly the same) they probably mean, even if they're reading "tonne", long ton (2240lbs). That is the traditional and customary measure for big weights/masses in the UK. Articles using ton or tonne in a UK context should use "ton" as the main unit unless there is a very specific reason not to (and neither the fact that road signs say "tonne" nor that trading is only legal in tonnes are good enough reasons). -- de Facto (talk). 16:55, 5 March 2012 (UTC)

Pfainuk, I won't respond to your accusation of bad faith except to point out that I did not push for the full metrication of Wikipedia. I believe that the units used in the source material should have some bearing on the decision on which unit to use. You believe that the long ton is important for the article. So iInstead of having a single conversion to the North American short ton, it looks as if the article will be saddled with three measures. The arguments you made against my proposal to end this cumbersome arrangement were that I suggested it, and therefore it must be the thin edge of the wedge to something else. Another argument appears to be that translating the figures into long tons would be useful for readers. Would it be possible for you to point out who would be disadvantaged if this conversion was not supplied? Michael Glass (talk) 10:39, 5 March 2012 (UTC)


I have a discussion ongoing at Template_talk:Convert#Fractions_when_adj.3Don.2C_abbr.3Don_do_not_display_as_fractions about whether that template should use a larger or smaller oblique (examining the HTML output {{convert}} insterts a <big> around the fraction bar, but frac does not. The examples given in the section on Fraction examples here at the MOS are inconsistent, because it us ues {{frac}} to give an example of how to use {{frac}}, i.e. specification by implementation. In the first sentence it has one style of oblique bar to separate the numerator for the denominator, and in the next sentence it has another, before saying in the third sentence both are discouraged "in mathematical and science articles", which perhaps would better defer to WP:MATH for the former and have "science articles" removed as meaningless (is, for example, Loading gauge a science article?)

In short, this section contradicts itself and hinders more than it helps. It needs very abruptly to be made consistent, or if not it is best to have it cut altogther and WP:AGF.

Si Trew (talk) 23:24, 4 March 2012 (UTC)

Was the change to the main unit advice for non-science UK articles ever discussed?

I've searched, but failed to find it - so I wondered if anyone still reading here can remember whether a discussion took place to decide on the advice change from this (circa March 2009):

  • In general, the primary units are SI (37 kilometres (23 mi)); however, US customary units are the primary units in US-related topics, and it is permissible to have imperial units as primary units in UK-related topics.

To this (circa September 2009):

  • With topics strongly associated with places, times or people, put the units most appropriate to them first. In US articles, this will usually be United States customary units; for the UK Imperial units for some topics and metric units for others, and a mixture of units for others (see, for example, the Times Online style guide under "Metric").

To this, the current advice:

  • In non-science UK-related articles: the main unit is generally a metric unit (44 kilogram (97 lb)), but imperial units are still used as the main units in some contexts, including:[1]
    • miles for geographical distances, miles per hour for speeds, and miles per imperial gallon for fuel consumption;
    • feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight measurements;
    • imperial pints for draught beer/cider and bottled milk.

-- de Facto (talk). 13:56, 16 February 2012 (UTC)

There was a lot of discussion during this period, though I haven't looked for them. The original advice (stable for years) was that all units in a UK-related article should be from the same system and that we didn't care whether that system was metric or imperial. This was silly, because it meant that we couldn't actually use units that people use: we couldn't put temperature in Celsius unless we put distance in kilometres. If we put distance in miles, temperature had to be measured in Fahrenheit. Never mind that the two have completely different usages and there's no inherent reason why they can be connected.
If you do find those discussions, you will note that most of the users discussing it were the same as in the recent discussion. Pfainuk talk 18:15, 16 February 2012 (UTC)
Ah. I'd be particularly interested to find the reasoning for the change from the second example above (either system as primary or mixed) to the current position. -- de Facto (talk). 18:33, 16 February 2012 (UTC)

Findings (hence action)

After spending a great deal of time researching the changes I discovered the following:-

Up until this edit (when the UK specific advice was removed altogether) of 2009-08-17T17:14:44 by "A. di M." the advice was:

  • UK-related topics may have either SI or imperial units as the primary units.

Imperial as an option was restored in this edit of 2009-08-21T11:30:57 by "A. di M." when the advice became:

... and for the UK Imperial units for some topics and metric units for others (see, for example, the Times Online style guide under "Metric").

Then this of 2009-09-08T17:49:39 by "A. di M." edit happened, and it became:

... and for the UK, they usually are metric units for most measurements, but imperial units for some measurements such as road distances and draught beer (see, for example, Metrication in the United Kingdom and the the Times Online style guide under "Metric").

That last change to being usually metric has persisted, despite no apparent reasoning for it. The accompanying edit summary was a brusque: "clarify", and looking through the discussion page from that era there is nothing I can see on this change, or agreeing to it. For that reason I have restored the content in the current version to reflect, as close as possible without undoing other changes, the state prior to this edit. Such a change certainly needs discussion before being proceeded with. -- de Facto (talk). 20:05, 18 February 2012 (UTC)

Sorry. That change was accepted in 2009, and has stood since then. You can't just revert it now without consensus, and you have seen from the many discussions that you have had that there is no consensus for changing it back now. - David Biddulph (talk) 20:23, 18 February 2012 (UTC)
Can you show where and when it was accepted - I couldn't find it? I think it slipped in under the radar. Without a demonstrated consensus it can't stand. Do you disagree? -- de Facto (talk). 21:47, 18 February 2012 (UTC)
The amount of edit activity on this passage proves editors were paying attention to it, as does the discussion at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 123#UK articles: a suggested change in policy to encourage more consistency (which was in April and May of 2009, and seems to have been inconclusive). The fact that the passage was being paid attention to, plus the fact that it has survived more than 2 years, demonstrates consensus even if consensus can't be found in the talk page. Jc3s5h (talk) 22:05, 18 February 2012 (UTC)
That it has escaped attention does not imply that the change has achieved consensus, or is therefore justified - it just means that it has escaped attention, and should be dealt with urgently. Without evidence of any consensus the change should be reverted. Discussion about re-appling the change can then commence.
I was amazed to see that clause in the the guidelines, knowing that the UK traditionally uses imperial units, and that there is still strong resistance there to the use of metric units. And now it appears that the change was spirited through, without evidence that imperial had been superseded by metric in common use in the UK. Without that evidence, the guidelines must be changed back to reflect the last known position there. -- de Facto (talk). 22:20, 18 February 2012 (UTC)
Discussion on this point that overlaps the time period of the last edit found by DeFacto may be found at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 125#Defining 'internationally accepted units' and getting rid of the phrase 'region-specific'. Due to the length of the discussion, I have not found passages within the discussion that directly explain why the current wording was adopted, but clearly the discussion and the change were contemporaneous. Jc3s5h (talk) 22:24, 18 February 2012 (UTC)
Yes, that's the discussion that I read. It tends to support "may have either SI or imperial units as the primary units" (but with no evidence) but certainly doesn't support the change that gave "... and for the UK, they usually are metric units for most measurements...". And that change, as it represents an assertion of fact and not just a balance of opinion, would require hard reliable evidence to support it too and not merely the opinion (OR) of a few Wikipedia editors. The best we can really say, with the lack of contraditory evidence at the moment, is "UK-related topics should have imperial units as the primary units." -- de Facto (talk). 22:40, 18 February 2012 (UTC)
I interpret "for the UK, they usually are metric units for most measurements" means that well-written articles that conform to this guideline will usually have metric units as the primary unit, not that most usage of English in the UK will use metric units. The situations are not comparable for many reasons, including that conversions are provided in Wikipedia but not in much other usage, Wikipedia is not a tabloid, Wikipedia is not casual spoken conversation, and Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. UK usage could vary widely depending on the type of usage that is examined, and much usage, such as casual conversation, is not accessible to language scholars. Jc3s5h (talk) 23:17, 18 February 2012 (UTC)
That's a different discussion though. Currently we don't have any evidence that the last change had any backing, let alone evidence to support it. Have you found any yet? -- de Facto (talk). 23:22, 18 February 2012 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The fact that the passage was discussed and the current version has been around for over 2 years is sufficient evidence of backing. Every publication is entitled to make its own style rules, including Wikipedia. We usually use metric units followed by an SI conversion in non-scientific UK-related articles because we said so. No evidence is required, just backing, because it is a matter for our collective discretion. Jc3s5h (talk) 23:29, 18 February 2012 (UTC)

The decision to change the advice from allowing either system equally in UK articles to insisting on usually using metric units was not discussed, as far I we know - or have you found that discussion now? -- de Facto (talk). 23:39, 18 February 2012 (UTC)
Would DeFacto please check the link that he gave for the Times on-line style guide. The link that he gave appears to be incorrect. Martinvl (talk) 06:15, 19 February 2012 (UTC)
Yes, the links I gave are perfectly correct - exactly as per the Wiki diffs that I quoted. Here are the same quotes unrendered:
  • 2009-08-21T11:30:57: " ... and for the UK [[Imperial units]] for some topics and metric units for others (see, for example, [ the ''Times Online'' style guide] under "Metric")."
  • 2009-09-08T17:49:39:"... and for the UK, they usually are metric units for most measurements, but [[imperial units]] for some measurements such as road distances and draught beer (see, for example, [[Metrication in the United Kingdom]] and the [ the ''Times Online'' style guide] under "Metric")."
-- de Facto (talk). 16:16, 19 February 2012 (UTC)
Looks like the reference has gone behind the paywall then, which is annoying. The guide is available through the wayback machine here. Pfainuk talk 16:34, 19 February 2012 (UTC)
Would it be kosher wrt copyright law to link to the Wayback Machine copy on WP:MOSNUM? I'd be tempted to say that if they didn't want people from the future to read that page they should have used robots.txt, but IANAL, and I fear that that would be like if I accidentally left my car open with the keys inside, somebody stole it, and the police told me that if I didn't want that to happen I should have taken the keys out and locked the doors. ― A. di M.​  22:40, 19 February 2012 (UTC)
Better not. The Times / News International own the copyright on it and almost certainly haven't given the Wayback Machine the right to reproduce it. Wikipedia does seek to respect copyright holders' rights, as for example in eliminating links to the lyrics of Beatles songs. NebY (talk) 22:58, 19 February 2012 (UTC)

Proposal to undo an apparently un-discussed and un-agreed change to the guidelines regarding non-scientific UK articles

In the absence then of any rational defence of the current wording, we need to agree what to replace it with. I propose this as being as close as possible to the form of wording most recently agreed upon:

  • In non-science UK-related articles: the main unit will be Imperial units for some topics and metric units for others, and a mixture of units for others.

It also reflects the reality and character of the situation in the UK. -- de Facto (talk). 07:26, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

Is your proposal intended to replace this:
  • In non-science UK-related articles: the main unit is generally a metric unit[under discussion] (44 kilogram (97 lb)), but imperial units are still used as the main units in some contexts, including:[1]
    • miles for geographical distances, miles per hour for speeds, and miles per imperial gallon for fuel consumption;
    • feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight measurements;
    • imperial pints for draught beer/cider and bottled milk.
with this?
  • In non-science UK-related articles: the main unit will be Imperial units for some topics and metric units for others, and a mixture of units for others.
Michael Glass (talk) 09:22, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Michael, effectively, yes - as there was no apparent discussion, or consensus reached, before that complete re-write of the clause was performed, and saved under the misleading edit summary of "clarify". Read my comments above, and follow the diffs to see what I mean. My proposal is, as far as I can tell, and given that the Times style guide is now inaccessible, as close as now possible the last fully agreed version of that clause. -- de Facto (talk). 09:53, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
DeFacto, first of all I would like to thank you for clarifying the scope of your intended wording. Do you think that it could be more concisely expressed like this?
  • In non-science UK-related articles: the main unit may be Imperial units, metric units or a mixture of units.
Michael Glass (talk) 11:11, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
I was using, as close as possible, the last agreed wording. The wording prior to the, apparently un-discussed and un-agreed (no-one has as yet been able to show where it was discussed or agreed), change made in this edit of 2009-09-08T17:49:39, as discussed above. But as your wordng effectively says the same thing, and more concisely, I'd be happy with that. -- de Facto (talk). 11:25, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

Oppose. Repeated discussions here and elsewhere have shown clear consensus for keeping the existing wording. As Jc3s5h has pointed out it is entirely up to Wikipedia what style we choose to use for units in British related articles regardless of unsourced speculation as to what current usage may or may not be.--Charles (talk) 09:28, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

Charles, can you direct us to some of that "discussion", particulary that where the change was agreed. I've been searching for it, and have been unable to find it. Presumably it included evidence that imperial use has been superseded by metric use in the UK on the scale required to justify the drastic change in emphasis, from imperial use to metric use, given to the advice by the change. Without evidence of that discussion, we cannot, of course, assume anything other than the change was not discussed or agreed? -- de Facto (talk). 10:04, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

Oppose: DeFacto's proposal is made on a false premise that Imperial units "reflect the reality and character of the situation in the UK". If this is DeFacto's own experience, he has obviously:

  • Never seen building plans (as opposed to estate agent's plans) (100% metric)
  • Never paid any attention when he has gone into a grocery shop (everything is in metric units although many have imeprial as supplementary units).
  • Never been into a haberdashery (cloth and cotton are sold by the metre and wool in 100 gram balls). *Never taken notice of motor car specifications (width, length, height, bolt thread sizes are metric, even though speedos are dual unit and tyre specifications are part-imperial).
  • Never looked at local authority planning documents.
  • Never looked at niche magazines on topics such as archeology, bird watching, numismatics and philately.
  • Never looked at his own medical notes.
  • Never done compound unit arithmetic at school (ie manipulaiton of lbs/oz, ft/in etc).
  • Never checked a water bill (water is sold by the cubic metre).
  • Never looked at an ordnance suvey maps (contours at 10 m intervals plus a metre-based grid system.
  • Never looked at farming magazines (metric apart from the occasional use of acres for farm avertisements).

He is also blind to the numerous errors that occur in newspapers due to journalists incorrectly converting units for the "benefit" of their readers. Martinvl (talk) 13:00, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

Martinvl, thanks for your comments, but they have absolutely no relevance at all to this discussion. The proposal being discussed is one to simply reverse the changes made to the guidance in this edit; on the basis that they were apparently never discussed prior to the change, and that they were apparently never agreed either. If you can point us to the discussion over them please do. Otherwise will you please reconsider your verdict based, not on what you would like the guidance to ultimately say, but on whether the current proposal is a fair summary of the guidance before the apparently un-discussed and un-agreed changes took place. Once we have re-established the agreed and consensus-based starting point, we can then discuss any subsequent changes or alterations to that sound foundation. Presumably you do not want us to believe that you are happy for un-discussed changes to be sneaked in to the guidelines, and be allowed to remain there in perpetuity even if they are rumbled? -- de Facto (talk). 13:28, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

(edit conflict) Oppose : DeFacto's description is not correctly representing the situation. It is obvious that many people interested in the subject (including some of the strong opponents of the 'primarily metric' view) were well aware of the wording of that section of the page. The discussion leading up to the change in September 2009 is archived here, and it is obvious that many eyes were on the subject at the time, and they were well able to object to the September wording if they had chosen to do so; to describe the change as "sneaked in" is not supportable. It was looked at again in November 2009 when there was further fine tuning to the wording, and in March 2010, so it is not reasonable to suggest that the change made in September 2009 was "sneaked in" and that nobody has noticed it subsequently until DeFacto came along now to point it out to us. There has never been unanimity in this discussion, and I doubt whether there ever will be, but that was the wording which best represented the consensus at the time, and that is why the wording has remained broadly unchanged for the past two and a half years. - David Biddulph (talk) 14:57, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

David, as far as we can see, the edit that I am proposing be undone (as far as is possible after such a delay) was not discussed in that September discussion (that's the discussion I checked through previously, and discus aove) or agreed upon prior to it being performed - so it got in under the radar. That some of its wording may have been discussed in the meantime - perhaps on the mistaken assumption that it was a bona fide and agreed addition - does no legitimise it. That it has survived for so long unchallenged does not mean that that edit must now be treated as if it were correctly accepted. Would you be similarly blasé about such an event if the result was guidance that did not meet with your approval? -- de Facto (talk). 17:16, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
My personal preferences don't come into it, but regardless of what my preferences might be in any hypothetical case I would regard something which has been in place (as this has) for two and a half years as the status quo. You keep saying that the September 2009 change was not discussed, but the editor concerned did suggest it in the talk page before introducing the change to the MoS, and I still fail to believe that all the editors who were watching this part of the MoS so closely might have blinked at the same time and allowed it to slip by "under the radar" as you put it. We'll wait to see how much support there is for your RfC for a change now. - David Biddulph (talk) 19:09, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
David, it certainly isn't my RfC; it is entirely Jc3s5h's RfC, and based on a misrepresentation of my concerns and my proposal to rectify the situation. -- de Facto (talk). 19:33, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

Considering the amount of discussion this went through in 2009, even though we can't find a specific endorsement of the current wording in the 2009 discussion, I believe this proposal should be in the form of a Request for Comment rather than just rehashing it among the group that has been discussing it recently to the point of driving others away from the discussion. Jc3s5h (talk) 14:30, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

If, between us all, we can't find discussion over such a fundamental change, we can surely only assume that it wasn't discussed - especially given the accompanying curt edit summary. Do you think that it's too much to expect contributors here to therefore accept that the correct (and honourable) course of action is to undo that edit? If there is good evidence to support it as a valid change, then a quick "show of hands" would quickly have it reinstated anyway. -- de Facto (talk). 17:35, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose The current language, posted with the edit summary, "clarify", is a clarification of the previous text. I think we can assume it was not challenged because it was see as a valuable clarification of the intent of that guidance not a substantive change. To return to the ambiguous and practically useless previous version only makes sense if we can benefit from eliminating meaningful guidance for UK units. Jojalozzo 19:49, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
There is no way that edit could be described as a "clarification" - it was a complete change of emphasis and effective meaning from:

...for the UK Imperial units for some topics and metric units for others, and a mixture of units for others...


...and for the UK, they usually are metric units for most measurements, but imperial units for some measurements such as road distances and draught beer...

Are you opposing my proposal that such a wide-ranging and controversial change should not be accepted without discussion or approval or are you opposing the guideline content that would necessarily result if this un-discussed and un-agreed change was allowed to stand? -- de Facto (talk). 20:08, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
I can see how one might think the new language is a substantive change but by my reading it simply clarifies which topics use metric, imperial and mixed units rather than the ambiguous and useless some and other topics. I oppose this proposal because I find the claim that the current language was put there without consensus as extremely unlikely and because the proposed replacement is a meaningless guideline. The fact that there was no explicit discussion (I'll take the proposer's word for it) can be easily explained by viewing the change as a welcome clarification of the "guidance" that was in place at the time. Jojalozzo 20:38, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
I agree that it seems unlikely that such a change could get through unchallenged, which is why I have gone to such lengths to find any discussion about it or consensus for it. But I found none and no-one here has yet been able to find any either. The result of the change is that the guideline now misrepresents UK reality and, because its wording invites misinterpretation, it disallows imperial main units for contexts where imperial main units should be used. We saw that in the case of the Hindhead Tunnel article. The result there was a change of the long standing use of imperial main units to metric main units; because the interpretation that was enforced in the discussion there was effectively that if the context of the article is not one of the specific examples given in the guideline of imperial usage, then metric units must be used as the main units in that article - regardless of what units would naturally be used in that context in the UK. -- de Facto (talk). 22:35, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose Delightful as it is that an editor called DeFacto refuses to recognise a de facto regime, this proposal comes entirely too late to be couched as upholding due procedure. It is an attempt to make a significant change to the MoS as it stands and has stood for years, and it consists, quite explicitly, of a proposed new wording. De Facto argues above that the guideline "misrepresents UK reality", disregards "what units would naturally be used in the UK" and "disallows imperial main units for contexts where imperial main units should be used", but has not established that there is any single "UK reality", what it might be, that Wikipedia should follow it, what "natural usage" in the UK is, whether there is such a thing as natural usage, that Wikipedia should follow whatever it might be or even that imperial units should have been used in any articles where they were disallowed. NebY (talk) 21:46, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
Just for information, the current rule is based on UK usage - as reflected by the style guide of the Times, which is Britain's newspaper of record.
In general we follow the rule that we should use the units in use locally, at least for articles with strong national ties to an English-speaking country: this is why US-related articles use US customary units. As a general rule this has various benefits, not least the principle of least astonishment.
In the UK, the units in common use can vary widely depending on person and context, so it's helpful to pin it down by basing our advice on an external standard - the Times in this case. As a widely respected newspaper, the Times is a logical choice, and notably it clarifies the situations in which imperial units really are nigh-on universal in modern British usage. The MOS will be the poorer for our not being able to link to that style guide directly, though it seems to me that it may still be sensible to cite it without a link.
Clearly, this proposal removes this guidance and essentially authorises a free-for-all on any UK-related article. I agree with others that this is a bad idea.
It is mildly ironical that we have both de Facto and Michael arguing that the status quo wording failed Hindhead Tunnel (given their wildly divergent views on the subject). I actually think it succeeded in providing the basis for an appropriate mix of units for that article, accurately reflecting modern British usage. Pfainuk talk 22:41, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
Me too (except that if a source doesn't even know how to multiply or divide by 1.609344 and round the result, then we should classify it as non-reliable and find another one, not reporting the same values in Wikipedia's voice (i.e. not as a direct or indirect quotation) and then adding a footnote saying they're wrong.) I'm not entirely convinced about miles for cables, but that's an indirect quotation (“A [...] leaflet [...] listed”) so it should be left alone anyway. ― A. di M.​  01:35, 22 February 2012 (UTC)
The site in question is a British Government agency site and as such should be authoritative. Martinvl (talk) 11:07, 22 February 2012 (UTC)
It should, but it isn't. I'm sorry but I trust my calculator more than the British Government when it comes to the fact that 1.83 divided by 1.609344 equals 1.13710928... ≈ 1.1 not 1.2, and conversely 1.2 times 1.609344 equals 1.9312128 not 1.83, especially when the 8 and the 9 are next each other on the keyboard. [On reading the rest of the sentence, it's more likely to have to do with the fact that the 1 and the 2 are next each other, though 1.2 for 1.1 is not as likely a typo. WTF?] ― A. di M.​  17:17, 22 February 2012 (UTC) [and 17:24, 22 February 2012 (UTC)]
In the Hindhead Tunnel dispute the matter would have been settled much more quickly if it had been decided by consensus. Instead, the dispute dragged on for months as people fought over the policy. A straightforward rule works well when things are straightforward, but when things are more complex, as with the usage of units in the UK, leaving the choice to the good sense of editors can work better than rules that cannot cope with every eventuality. While the consensus is in favour of the wording as it stands, this policy will not do anything to regularise the variety of usage that can be found in UK-based articles. Michael Glass (talk) 03:31, 22 February 2012 (UTC)

Proposal to avoid any preference for metric vs. customary units in UK

Should the proposal by DeFacto below, to avoid expressing any preference for the system of units to list first in non-scientific UK-related articles, be adopted? The "Manual of Style/Dates and numbers" currently indicates metric units are generally the main unit (that is, listed first, followed by a conversion if appropriate). Jc3s5h (talk) 18:41, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

  • Comment That is a misrepresentation of the proposal I am making, and why has it been inserted here, above my actual proposal? -- de Facto (talk). 19:11, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Note I've now moved it to after the original discussion content. -- de Facto (talk). 20:17, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

DeFacto's proposal, duplicated here due to DeFacto's heading rearrangement:

In the absence then of any rational defence of the current wording, we need to agree what to replace it with. I propose this as being as close as possible to the form of wording most recently agreed upon:
  • In non-science UK-related articles: the main unit will be Imperial units for some topics and metric units for others, and a mixture of units for others.
It also reflects the reality and character of the situation in the UK.
-- de Facto (talk). 07:26, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

End Defacto's proposal. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jc3s5h (talkcontribs) 20:31:44, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

Jc3s5h , you now need to explain the summary you provided in your RfC summary. You characterised my proposal to undo an apparently un-discussed and un-approved change to the guidelines as a proposal: "to avoid expressing any preference for the system of units to list first in non-scientific UK-related articles" - which it clearly wasn't. There is a presumption that an RfC summary will be neutral - your summary clearly was not. -- de Facto (talk). 21:24, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
Strictly speaking, the proposal is to avoid expressing a preference between imperial and metric systems of measurement. It seems to me like a minor point, since there are no other realistic candidates, but I would not object to describing as avoiding a preference of metric over imperial rather than avoiding any preference. On the other hand, if you insist on describing it as reverting a non-consensus change, there was consensus. Jc3s5h (talk) 21:37, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
It was I who made the proposal, I know what the proposal was about. I spent hours trawling through the guideline's history and through its discussion, investigating whether there was a consensus, or even any discussion of the surprising change. I found neither. I asked for help to find any such content here - but no-one here has managed identify any such content. I then made the proposal after that investigation, and in the light of my findings. The proposal is to undo that change - because of the lack of apparent discussion or consensus - nothing more, nothing less. What the result would be if that change is undone is incidental, and irrelevant - to argue against the undo because you dislike what the resultant guideline would say is to betray the principle that significant changes require a consensus. At each step of the way I have been careful not to discount the possibilty of a justification being found, and have tried to choose my words carefully, because I still assume that a change of such significance must have been discussed and approved. Are you now claiming that you are aware of a consensus for the change? If so please point out its whereabouts to us, and perhaps it will enable us put this discussion to rest. -- de Facto (talk). 22:20, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
(edit conflict)IMO, a neutral RfC would be something like "Please comment on a proposal to revert the current language on units of measure in non-science UK-related articles to the previous state on 2009-08-21 11:30:57." No need to include consensus, discussion issues or intent. Jojalozzo 22:23, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
Yes, and the problem now is that because the summary (and that is what appears in the listings elsewhere) was so biased and so misrepresentative of the spirit of my proposal, that we cannot now assume that those who have come here to comment, have come here with an open mind, free of prejudice and preconceptions of what the issue actually is. This in turn means that the result is, in effect, null and void. It also means that this topic is now blighted, and unlikely to get a neutral or dispassionate hearing in the near future. -- de Facto (talk). 07:19, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
Well, I came here to comment as a completely uninvolved editor and I am totally open-minded on the subject. Before the RfC, I had taken no part in this discussion, or any previous discussion related to the subject. I simply believe the current guideline wording is better than the wording that preceded it. Sorry  ⊃°HotCrocodile...... + 10:40, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
Yet your comment that the "current guideline wording is better than the wording that preceded it" appears to be a response to the misrepresentative title applied to the RfC, rather than a response to the original proposal which was more about the process by which the original content was overridden. -- de Facto (talk). 12:10, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
No, my comment is very specific because you, yourself, told me below that "the proposal isn't for new wording, it is to revert".  ⊃°HotCrocodile...... + 14:03, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
To revert, yes, because the change (even if we prefer the new wording more than the old) was apparently not discussed and not agreed - the normal consensus process was evaded. Or are we only going to object to failure to follow an accepted and important process if the end result does not align with our own, personal, POV? To be clear: do you oppose the idea that the un-discussed and un-agreed change should not be allowed to stand per se, or do you oppose the proposal simply because you prefer the current wording, regardless of how it got there? -- de Facto (talk). 14:18, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose [repeat of what I posted above while headers were being shuffled] - The current language, posted with the edit summary, "clarify", is a clarification of the previous text. I think we can assume it was not challenged because it was see as a valuable clarification of the intent of that guidance not a substantive change. To return to the ambiguous and practically useless previous version only makes sense if we can benefit from eliminating meaningful guidance for UK units. Jojalozzo 19:52, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose current guideline is clear and accurate, whereas the proposed wording is confusing, vague, and without any guidance for editors. I do not agree that the proposed wording "reflects the reality and character of the situation in the UK" except for market-stall fruit and veg sellers perhaps.  ⊃°HotCrocodile...... + 22:22, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
Comment: the proposal isn't for new wording, it is to revert an apparently un-discussed and un-aggreed change of wording. -- de Facto (talk). 22:39, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
Comment: The fact that the extant wording has been there for years is proof of consensus. Your position that it "doesn't have consensus" because it wasn't discussed to your personal satisfaction is a crock. This tired argument is getting very, very worn out in MOS disputes. WP:MOS and, among its sub-pages, MOSNUM in particular, are closely watched by a very wide array of editors. MOS and MOSNUM are among the most closely inspected guidelines on the entire system (some of its sub-pages like MOS:CAPS aren't, but MOSNUM is crucial). This whole concept has been very well covered at WP:Silence and consensus. See also WP:CONSENSUS itself: "Consensus on Wikipedia does not mean unanimity." — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 22:49, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose: That's not guidance at all, it's chaos. The purpose of WP:MOS and its sub-pages like this one is to set a standard, not describe vagaries of off-wiki practice. MOS is emphatically a prescriptive and sometimes proscriptive work. While what it prescribes is based on descriptivist observation of what reliable external sources say about grammar and style in general modern English usage, it is not itself a descriptive piece. The one and only purpose of MOS is to prescribe consistent style to ease reader confusion and editor frustration. MOS picks a standard, often arbitrarily, and sticking with it. This proposal is an explicit attempt to pick no standard at all, and let people do whatever the heck they feel like. It's a gross misapplication of the principles behind WP:ENGVAR, which exists to ease cultural tension when it actually arises, not sow discord by enshrining regional dialectal peccadilloes with impunity. PS: We should be preferring metric generally, even in "US topics". Americans have been systematically taught metric units for 3 generations. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒〈°⌊°〉 Contribs. 22:33, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
Comment: you obviously misunderstand the proposal (possibly as a result of Jc3s5h's misrepresentation of it in the RfC summary). The proposal isn't for new wording, it is to revert an apparently un-discussed and un-agreed change of wording. The resultant text would be the latest demonstrably agreed wording for that clause. I see though that the current wording aligns with your admitted preference for metric; so unless you are a person of honour, you would see no benefit from agreeing to the principled reversion that I am proposing. -- de Facto (talk). 22:52, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
Comment: I personally think it's very clear, you propose dumping the current well-worded guideline and reverting to something that gives little to no guidance (in fact it will be worse than it used to be, as it can't have a link to The Times Online style guide, which presumably used to clarify things that the vague wording here couldn't).  ⊃°HotCrocodile...... + 23:21, 20 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment: DeFacto's proposal is descriptive rather than prescriptive. At the moment, UK articles are a mixture: some are metric first, others are Imperial first and many are mixed. There is no prospect that this will change, if only because the sources of information on which the articles are based are themselves inconsistent in their use of units. The present wording might seem clear and well-worded, but it did not resolve the Hindhead Tunnel dispute. Nor has it changed the variety of usage in UK articles in the two years that it has stood. In the circumstances, a descriptive approach, with a nudge towards more consistency of usage might carry more weight than a prescriptive stance that is honoured more in the breach than in the observance. Michael Glass (talk) 00:20, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

Oppose - This is a radical step that has not been clearly thought out. Students are big users of Wikipedia - in the UK their work is alomost entirely in metric units. I also know, thought I am not at liberty to give more details, that compilers of sensitive commercial, industrial and government reports use Wikipedia to get an initial overview of their subject. Their reprots will be in metric units. In short, by using imperial rather than metirc units, we will be debasing Wikipedia in the eyes of serious users. Furthermore, what does DeFacto means by "Imperial units"? Prior to metrication, road lengths were measured in miles and chains - many railway lines still are. Does he propose using miles and chains? If not, then serious thought would need to be given as to what is meant by "Imperial units". Does he propose using Fahrenheit instead of Celsius? Even the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail use Celsius in their weather reports! How does he propose describing electrical units - they are based on metric units, not imperial units?

In short, the effort to define what is means makes it a non-starter, not to mention "If it ain't broke, don't mend it". Martinvl (talk) 07:40, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

Comment. Another obvious misunderstanding of the proposal I made, possibly due to the misrepresentaion in the RfC title and summary. The question is whether we revert an apparently un-discussed and un-agreed change, not whether the previous version aligns with our personal and unrepresentative POV. -- de Facto (talk). 08:04, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
Comment Would DeFacto please enlighten us as to why he discribes the changes as being "apparently un-discussed and un-agreed" when this page has 536 watchers? Martinvl (talk) 08:57, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
Again? Have you read any of the proposal that you have "opposed", or the discussion on it, particularly my contributions? -- de Facto (talk). 09:48, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
It can happen, since the page can get lots of edits in a short time and some can go unnoticed. But I don't believe it happened in this case, as evidenced by the sheer number of times the point has been discussed since. A bit late to the party with this, but I oppose the proposed change because the current wording is clearer - particularly given that we'll need to remove the reference to the Times style guide (though obviously that doesn't mean we can't base our advice on it). I think that there are changes that are worth making to this section, such as A. di M.'s proposal recently discussed. But I don't see this proposal as an improvement. Pfainuk talk 18:08, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

Oppose Responding to the RfC (which I assume has been recently posted, although the discussion here looks to be largely over). I can't see any good reason to revert to the previous wording, which is less clear than the newer phrasing. Whether or not that change was made against consensus seems to me to be a moot point, given that the change is, to my mind, a clear improvement, with far less ambiguity. Anaxial (talk) 22:33, 3 March 2012 (UTC)

Move to Close - This appears to be a one-person campaign that has no hope of achieving supportive consensus. A related discussion in which lack of support for the proponent's interpretation of units guidance was rejected on technical grounds at Talk:Hindhead Tunnel[20], immediately preceding this discussion, suggests a pattern of "not hearing". It's clear to me that there would be very little support for this proposal whether the RfC were perfectly neutrally presented or not. The participants will not consider the proposed guideline language to be an improvement whether sufficient discussion occurred when the current language was put in place or not. I propose we close it now per WP:SNOWBALL. Jojalozzo 16:37, 21 February 2012 (UTC)

  • Strongly agree. I believe that the biased way that Jc3s5h presented this RfC was a disgrace, and left no room for it to succeed - it was doomed to fail from the outset. Not only that, but the subject has been blighted because of that too. Perhaps that was the objective, I do not know. Either way, I don't see any point in continuing with it. -- de Facto (talk). 16:52, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Agree noting that it would be disgraceful to suggest that the many persons commenting and !voting have not properly considered the matter. I hope we can accept that although we have not reached unanimity, we have reached consensus and can move on without returning to the same arguments in a multiplicity of discussions of articles and policies. NebY (talk) 22:01, 21 February 2012 (UTC)
Question. Hi Czarkoff, do you think imperial units are much used inside the UK? -- de Facto (talk). 20:19, 24 February 2012 (UTC)
In everyday American life (the kind that most American readers of Wikipedia lead), U.S. Customary units (a very close relative to Imperial units) are still almost universal, with some tiny exceptions such as drug doses and (only because of legal regulations) some wine bottles and soda cans. The Coke bottle in front of me reads 16.9 FL OZ (1.06 PT) 500 ml. So it's obvious how Americans think. Now an article about Coke might well in this specific instance describe a half-liter (16.9 fl oz) bottle because that's more logical and less approximate, but to say Imperial units are rarely used outside the UK, or that American readers (who are probably the largest single group of English-language Wikipedia readers) would understand 500 mL better than a pint or 16.9 fluid ounces is just not true. —— Shakescene (talk) 05:36, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
As for “probably”, [21]. (But the American pint is smaller than the imperial pint, and I suspect there are lots of Americans unaware of this.) ― A. di M.​  10:24, 25 February 2012 (UTC)
  • Close I agree with the view of Hotcrocodile (23:21, 20 February 2012 (UTC)). --Walter Siegmund (talk) 03:28, 28 February 2012 (UTC)
Oppose as per Candlish and Martin. If anything, preference to metric should be urged and phased in. St John Chrysostom Δόξατω Θεώ 19:27, 16 March 2012 (UTC)
Closure Request. User DeFacto has been blocked from editing for an indefinite period. I suggest therefore that this thread be closed and that the status quo regarding units of measure be observed. New suggestions should be via a new thread. Martinvl (talk) 13:45, 17 March 2012 (UTC)
The RFC expires tomorrow anyway (they last 30 days, right?). After the bot removes the RFC banner, let's just put {{archive top}} and {{archive bottom}} around this thread. ― A. di M.​  15:10, 17 March 2012 (UTC)
    • ^ a b Some editors hold strong views for or against metrication in the UK. If a disagreement arises with respect to the main units used in a UK-related article, discuss the matter on the article talk-page and/or at MOSNUM talk. If consensus cannot be reached, refer to historically stable versions of the article and retain the units used in these as the main units. Note the style guides of British publications such as Times Online (under "Metric").