Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers/Archive 138

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Delinking dates

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section. A summary of the conclusions reached follows.
The consensus of this discussion is pretty clear; there is support both from contributors and in policy to implement this bot task. The operator has made good-faith efforts to address every reasonable concern that has been raised and I have no doubt that these efforts will continue should there be any problems in the future with his implementation. — madman 18:21, 10 July 2012 (UTC)

I request wider comment on the proposal below to create a BOT to delink certain date field in articles that are not about or closely related to calendars. Jc3s5h (talk) 12:30, 21 June 2012 (UTC)

I am seeking approval to set up and run a BOT using AWB to delink certain date fields in articles that are NOT calendar articles, such as days, months, years, decades, centuries, day of the week. This is implement WP:DATELINK and WP:YEARLINK and MOS:UNLINKDATES.

Delink changes throughout the selected articles will include:

[[year]] to year; Example: [[2010]] to 2010
[[year|nn]] to year; Example: [[2012|12]] to 2012 for end of ranges (will not be done by this bot)
[[monthname]] to monthname; Example: [[January]] to January
[[monthname day]] to monthname day; Example: [[January 3]] to January 3
[[day monthname]] to day monthname; Example: [[3 January]] to 3 Janaury
[[monthname year]] to monthname year; Example: [[January 1998]] to January 1998
[[monthname day year]] to monthname day year; Example: [[January 3, 2010]] to January 3, 2010
[[decade]] to decade; Example: [[1990s]] to 1990s
[[nnth century]] to nnth century; Example: [[19th century]] to 19th century
[[dayname]] to dayname; Example: [[Monday]] to Monday

A combination of filtering articles by certain words or phrases in the article name and skipping articles with certain templates, words or phrases in the text will be used to avoid editing articles that are themselves calendar articles, including day, month, year, decade and century articles. This exclusion will also extend to other articles, such as timeline articles, articles about numbers themselves and so on.

filter by article name:

  • calendar|day|week|month|year|decade|century|millennium|Showa|Shōwa|Meiji|Taisho|Taishō| in |Other events|(number)|(disambiguation)|Aught-|SO 8601|Timeline|acronyms|initialisms

skip by article content:

  • {{Decadebox|{{Year dab|{{Year nav|{{Month header}}|{{Day}}|Category:Days of the year|{{Portal:Current events/Events by month}}|Months in the|Eastern Orthodox liturgical days|#REDIRECT|disambig|{{events by month links}}|month category|Months of the|The following events occurred in

Have I missed anything regarding what should be done and what should not be done to implement these MOS guidelines? Also, your comments about using a BOT to implement this guideline in the manner I have stated. And thanks for any help you can provide to implement these edits to the articles. Hmains (talk) 19:14, 17 June 2012 (UTC)

You may want to consider an opt-out template that editors can add to avoid having the bot remove links, though again, this should be if they have an article where those links should stay but they are concerned the bot may misrecognize them, and not to bypass the delinking of dates elsewhere. --MASEM (t) 19:19, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
No problem. I can add that as another filter which if found in the article content will cause that article to be bypassed by AWB. Thanks Hmains (talk) 19:41, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
As long as care is exercised, this sounds like a good idea. How hard would it be to also cleanup abbreviations for the months? Small test runs with reviews of the results is going to be essential. Vegaswikian (talk) 19:43, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
I have being testing this logic manually with AWB semi-automated edits for some time. Trying to do anything automatically with month abbreviations leads to problems: there are tables where such abbreviations must be used. In any case, expanding month appreviatons (or any others) would be outside the scope of that I am proposing, which is based on the MOS sections I cite.
This was debated and after delinking of most dates was accepted by the community, this task was carried out with bots. What evidence do you have that enough linked dates have been introduced to be a problem? Jc3s5h (talk) 19:59, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
That delinking was done in 2009 and was a one-time effort to delink full dates (month day year) and nothing more. The current situation, as I have found using semi-automated AWB (manually watching) 'what links here', is that for current years (1990 or so to present) there are about 6,000 or so year links per year. For years 1850-1899, there are about 200 or so links per year (for years I have not manually worked on. I have also seen dozens of new date links being added per day. I can only suppose most editors do not read this MOS. I hope there are not templates for new articles that suggest such linking. Thanks. Hmains (talk) 20:17, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
Re abbreviations for months - just a reminder... --Redrose64 (talk) 20:03, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
I well know this and am not planning to do anything beyond what I propose, which does not include unabbreviating anything. Thanks Hmains (talk) 20:17, 17 June 2012 (UTC)

Oppose. After looking at the proposal, I see it essentially proposes to forbid date linking except in calendar-related articles, timelines, and that sort of thing. It shouldn't be necessary to insert a nobots template to protect articles that are in compliance with the MOS "Manual of Style/Dates and numbers)". Jc3s5h (talk) 23:14, 17 June 2012 (UTC) clarified 23:25 UTC.

Date linking has been stripped from the MOS for some time... --MASEM (t) 23:18, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
Not correct. MOS says "Dates should only be linked when they are germane and topical to the subject, as discussed at Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Linking#Chronological items." This is not the criterion that the proposed bot would use. Jc3s5h (talk) 23:28, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
The number of germane links to date and related terms outside the area of articles about calender terms is very very very small. Opt-out/nobots templates is an appropriate solution for the small number of exceptions that would occur. --MASEM (t) 23:33, 17 June 2012 (UTC)

Support There are plenty of links that either escaped the first bot run or have been added since. The vast majority of date links outside calendar-related articles are inappropriate. Just pick a date article, year article, day of the week article, etc., hit "what links here", skip through the first couple of hundred & you're sure to find articles with date links that shouldn't be there. No, it's not ideal to require a special template to protect your date link but it seems to me to be the lesser of the two evils. Dates are still being linked, a bot swooping down on these might be just the thing to drive home the message that we don't do this anymore. I support this bot. JIMp talk·cont 00:13, 18 June 2012 (UTC)

Oppose. Previous instances of this bot and/or AWB extensions have damaged some year articles, some beyond manual repair. I've had to revert to the version before the bot ran, and lost legitimate changes.

  • Specific problems
    • Strongly oppose any change from [[2012|12]] without manual intervention; it should rarely be linked, but sometimes should be 2012, and sometimes 12, at least in tables.
      My logic could be changed to that there would be no change to the visual appearance of the data to the reader; [[2012|12]] would become 12. No problem if desired. Hmains (talk) 01:16, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
      OK. Seems a better choice, if the links are not going to be there. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 07:37, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
    • If this is implemented, automated warnings should be placed on the talk pages of all pages that the bot would touch, a week before the bot would run.
      I think this would be impossible to implement with the staight use of AWB that I will be using. I don't that such a warning is a requirement of any existing WP bot (or any manual edit). Hmains (talk) 01:16, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
      OK, I'll probably change to neutral if this is impossible, and all the other considerations are met. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 07:37, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
    • At the very least, we need to have a bot to relink the damaged year articles first.
      I have no idea how such a thing would be implemented, but what kind of 'damage' do you have in mind? Please carefully check what I have proposed above. My manual AWB work on just my proposed changes have not resulted in any complaints about damage (or even any reverts that I now of). My manual work on other items than what I have included in the proposed bot have (on a small % basis) resulted in some probems--so I did not include such problem work in the proposed bot, of course, as a bot must be error free. Hmains (talk) 01:16, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
    • There is dispute as to whether year in the United States should be excluded. Until resolved, all "year in country" articles should be exempted.
      All 'year in anything' articles are already excluded by my logic. I have no plans to be involved in disputes. Hmains (talk) 01:16, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
      I'm not sure I follow your Regex. Could you explain which clause is met? — Arthur Rubin (talk) 07:37, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
      • as copied from above, all articles with the following words/phrases in their names will be bypassed:

calendar|day|week|month|year|decade|century|millennium|Showa|Shōwa|Meiji|Taisho|Taishō| in |Other events|(number)|(disambiguation)|Aught-|SO 8601|Timeline|acronyms|initialisms See | in |. '|' is the 'or' symbol. Any article with 'in' in its name is bypassed. Thanks Hmains (talk) 02:18, 19 June 2012 (UTC)

    • If this bot is implemented, anyone removing the appropriate nobot tag intentionally, against consensus, should be banned from Wikipedia. If this is not put in place, the bot is too dangerous.
  • More suggested modifications:
    • Why exempt "(number)" in title; in number; except for quasi-see-also sections, the guidelines should apply. If we replace them by a real "see also" section, and exempt those, we're probably better off.
      Numbers are not dates so I must avoid them of course Example 100 (number) Hmains (talk) 01:16, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
      I'm not sure what you mean. Is 100 (number) to be exempt from delinking? — Arthur Rubin (talk) 07:37, 18 June 2012 (UTC)

calendar|day|week|month|year|decade|century|millennium|Showa|Shōwa|Meiji|Taisho|Taishō| in |Other events|(number)|(disambiguation)|Aught-|SO 8601|Timeline|acronyms|initialisms See |(number)|. '|' is the 'or' symbol. Any article with '(number)' in its name is bypassed. It is not a date so my bot would not be touching it. Thanks Hmains (talk) 02:27, 19 June 2012 (UTC)

    • I think we should exempt legitimate "See also" sections, as unlinking them makes them violate other MOS sections.
      What MOS sections would those be? It seems like the no link MOS sections that are the basis of my work would specifically apply to 'see also' as such general links would not meet the justification to be a link. Also, I have no idea how this could be done with out of the box AWB logic I propose to use. I only want to use a safe product, which AWB has proved to be. Hmains (talk) 01:16, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
      WP:SEEALSO specifies that there should not be unlinked entries. In the event that someone (mistakenly, I'm sure), put a year in the "See also" section of a non-chronological article, your bot would unlink it, in keeping with WP:MOSYEAR, but in violation of WP:SEEALSO. I don't know if AWB can handle that. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 07:37, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
      My simple use of AWB is just to unlink date fields in the article. I have no logic to know where in the article this is happening. If its any comfort, I have found linked dates to be rare in the 'see also sections'. Maybe 1 in 1000 or 1 in 10,000 in the articles my bot would be touching. Thanks Hmains (talk) 03:18, 19 June 2012 (UTC)
    I hope its ok (and clear) for me to add my comments after each of your points as I have done. Thanks Hmains (talk) 01:16, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
    Fine. I'll get back to you on specific comments. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 07:24, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
    Change to Weak oppose, if my points (except notice) are met, and if no further extensions are made to the bot. The bot now seems unlikely to cause serious harm, but I don't see the benefit. However, apparently, others consider it beneficial. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 18:28, 29 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Support I maintain a MOSNUM dates script, and I have been waiting for the right time to disable the part that unlinks dates and date fragments, but that time is still remote based on the inappropriate linkings I find. As has been observed, there are date links aplenty, and new links get added on a daily basis. I generally keep away from chronological and calendar articles, and have found no date links that are sufficiently germane that need to be kept; I also get zero complaints regarding date unlinking. Some of the concerns above are legitimate, and these I believe have been considered by the proposer. There are other concerns that are, based on my experience, of a hypothetical nature that the risk of false positives approximates to zero. For example, year articles are universally a four-digit string, and there are no numbers among these that unlinking would damage; also, the idea to "relink the damaged year articles" is totally opaque and subjective. There is still considerable cleaning up to do, and automation has to be the way to go. --Ohconfucius ¡digame! 06:00, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
    Someone delinked many of the year articles, and most were never fixed; not necessarily because the links were not wanted, but because it is difficult to do manually, and apparently impossible to do with a script. The patch would be to relink any "month day" that appears immediately following a * at the beginning of a line, and link year of death in the births section and year of birth in the deaths section. — — Arthur Rubin (talk) 07:37, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
    • Let me get this straight... someone is proposing to kill the cockroaches whilst leaving the other bugs untouched, and in exchange for your support, you're asking him to resurrect some of the bugs that were killed by other people a while back? --Ohconfucius ¡digame! 10:09, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
      A bot did delink dates in clearly chronological articles. (I initially thought it was your bot, but I don't recall whether I traced it to you, or not.) Before further actions contrary to the guidelines might be taken, attempts should be made to repair the damage previously caused by similar bots. If you want to make an analogy, I believe the proper analogy is to replant and protect flowers previously killed by weed-killers, before another application. If you want a "bug" analogy, try re-apply and protect ladybugs killed by the previous application of bug-killers, before going after the cockroaches again. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 15:52, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
      You're implying that Hmain's proposal is contrary to guidelines. If it was, it shouldn't be done, but it isn't. If you're so upset about those ladybugs, then by all means set up your own bot task to repopulate them, because that job seems to be completely unrelated to the one under discussion and outside of the responsibility of the proposer. --Ohconfucius ¡digame! 09:13, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Support—thank god someone is doing something about this to preserve our wikilinking system so that it focuses readers on useful and relevant link targets. The linked years and month–day fragments that have never been addressed must number in the hundreds of thousands, if not more than a million. The situation is worsened by the large-scale dumping of (often poorly translated) articles from foreign-WPs in which they took up our practices from seven or eight years ago (virtually "link anything you like") and have never questioned them. and are particularly bad examples. Let's ensure that we make wikilinking a cogent facility for readers, please. Tony (talk) 09:47, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Question. There are over 100 "Deaths in..." articles (Deaths in 2012, etc), most of which link dates in accordance with long-standing consensus. Is it possible to program the bot to skip these articles, rather than someone having to add opt-out templates to each one? DoctorKubla (talk) 15:29, 18 June 2012 (UTC)
  • as copied from above, all articles with the following words/phrases in their names will be bypassed:

calendar|day|week|month|year|decade|century|millennium|Showa|Shōwa|Meiji|Taisho|Taishō| in |Other events|(number)|(disambiguation)|Aught-|SO 8601|Timeline|acronyms|initialisms See | in |. '|' is the 'or' symbol. Any article with 'in' in its name is bypassed. Thanks Hmains (talk) 02:18, 19 June 2012 (UTC)

  • Sounds good to me, although it will unfortunately omit a lot of non-chronological articles. It's a price worth paying, I suppose, if most of the grunt-job can be automated. Tony (talk) 04:35, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Support. If I remember that old discussion, I think there was an assumption that once this was cleaned up, we would not see large numbers of incorrect links. That was true for a while, but over time I seem to be manually fixing more of these when I'm making other changes. So it appears that editors are either not aware of the existing guideline or electing to ignore it. If this script is used, I'd recommend that it starts out slowly in case there are some concerns that have not been addressed. Vegaswikian (talk) 05:47, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Support. Links to day/month/year articles are not useful in most cases. I guess, however, that the number of articles still having such links is quite low - probably less than ten thousands. It should be possible to review the bot's edits manually after they're done, to fix any false positives. 1exec1 (talk) 07:56, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
Support: In my gnoming, I come across a small but significant number of these useless chronological links, and always delink them, and no-one has complained. Some of them, I think, are fragments left over from the bad old date-linking and formatting days, when new editors often didn't understand that the dates were linked for formatting purposes, and came to believe it was policy to link anything that looked chronological. The newer ones seem to be mostly copied from other-language wikis. A bot to finish the date delinking job and clean up the newer ones is a very good idea. Colonies Chris (talk) 11:39, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
Support: Less than one in a hundred linked dates should be linked. — SMcCandlish   Talk⇒ ɖ∘¿¤þ   Contrib. 06:48, 25 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose - This is completely against WP:IAR, and you are basically saying you want to make it so that it is impossible to link to dates in articles. I completely disagree. --Nathan2055talk - contribs 16:37, 25 June 2012 (UTC)
    • Comment It wouldn't make it impossible to link dates. In the rare case where such a link would be desirable (outside the set of articles the bot explicitly is to leave alone) the bot could be told to leave the link alone. For example, we could create a template which links dates. The bot would ignore such a template since the date would be surrounded by pipes & double curly brackets instead of double square brackets. As for being against WP:IAR, if WP:IAR prevents us from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore it. JIMp talk·cont 02:42, 26 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Support - this will improve the encyclopedia by helping articles to conform to the MOS. LadyofShalott 12:20, 28 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Support - Per nom. I don't see anything wrong with this proposal, as it's just applying a generally accepted guideline. Most, if not all, of the Oppose arguments are invalid in this discussion, as they challenge the date-linking guideline itself, and should be taken to the corresponding forum, where a more valid discussion would take place.—Yutsi Talk/ Contributions ( 偉特 ) 14:44, 28 June 2012 (UTC)
  • help re: 'opt-out template for dates' Does such a template(s) already exist? I have seen some dates in {{ }} braces but did note what they were doing. If no template exists, can someone write such a template(s) for the variety of calendar items involved? Thanks Hmains (talk) 02:49, 29 June 2012 (UTC)
{{Date}} can be used to create month links & day–month links (as well as full day–month–year links). It doesn't seem to like the idea of linking such things as years, decades, centuries or days for the week but that could be adjusted. JIMp talk·cont 05:59, 29 June 2012 (UTC)
I have adjusted {{date}}. Date linking isn't actually mentioned on the doc, I suppose we didn't want to advertise a capacity that might be abused; however, in the light of this, perhaps a mention should be made (with an appropriate caution, of course). The trick is to add l to the value of the formatting parameter. If you want the template not to format your input, you use none. What I've just added is lnone, i.e., link but don't format. However, lnone is kind of cryptic so I added link which is equivalent. Thus you get the following.
  • {{date|2012|link}} → 2012
  • {{date|2010s|link}} → 2010s
  • {{date|21st century|link}} → 21st century
  • {{date|Friday|link}} → Friday
  • {{date|June|link}} → June (l, ldmy or lmdy also work)
  • {{date|June 2012|link}} → June 2012 (l, ldmy or lmdy also work)
  • {{date|29 June|link}} → 29 June (l or ldmy also work)
  • {{date|June 29|link}} → June 29 (lmdy also works)
  • {{date|29 June 2012|link}} → 29 June 2012
  • {{date|June 29, 2012|link}} → June 29, 2012
  • {{date|29 June 2012|ldmy}} → 29 June 2012 (l also works)
  • {{date|June 29, 2012|lmdy}} → June 29, 2012
JIMp talk·cont 07:50, 29 June 2012 (UTC)
    • excellent. For those interested in this template subject, should I cut and paste the above info and place it on my (if approved) bot page so that date-delinked-worried people would know what to do? Hmains (talk) 17:56, 29 June 2012 (UTC)

Date delinking: Not an RfC

There was an extended controversy surrounding the decision in 2009 to delink dates. The only consensus that could be found was to do a one-time delinking of full dates. I believe it is inappropriate to overturn the hard-fought limits on that decision without a well-advertised request for comment. Jc3s5h (talk) 15:36, 18 June 2012 (UTC)

Whatever the group feels is necessary is of course fine with me. I am just an editor (who does lots of repetitive work) and don't know about an RfC. A member of the BOT approvals group, which is responsible for allowing bots or not, suggested I post a notice here to obtain more input for their decision. He also suggested that I 'Post a link to the discussion at WP:VPT, WP:VPR, and WP:AN', which I did at the same time. Thanks. Hmains (talk) 02:48, 19 June 2012 (UTC)
Jc3: sorry, that's a very distorted view of consensus there, which was one of the largest RfCs we've ever seen. Editors voted by a huge margin against the normal linking of years and day–month/month–day items. They voted by a good majority to end date-autoformatting (of all three units), judging that it was a flawed idea in the first place (2003) on a number of counts. They voted to exempt intrinsically chronological articles (articles about a chronological item), such as 2010 and 3 January.

And they voted in a separate RfC a couple of months later to run a bot to unlink all day–month–year and month–day–year items (i.e. date autoformatting). Fragments were untouched by the bot because the community was still recovering from the charged atmosphere surrounding the whole issue, and because it was thought prudent to get rid of date-autoformatting first before addressing the isolated fragments. The bot proposal was developed by User:Apoc2400, and the bot was run by User:Harej.

Hmains has judged that it is high time we clean up the project in relation to the community's strong consensus on fragments; you won't find many people disagreeing on this. In fact, this should have been done within a few months after the DA bot, but no one got around to it. Tony (talk) 03:06, 19 June 2012 (UTC)

There's plenty of consensus that familiar terms be linked only if they are relevant and appropriate. Chronological items (be they full dates, days & months, months & years, years, months, days of the week, etc.) rather than being a special exception are mentioned specifically in the guidelines as items to which this general rule applies. These guidelines have been in place for years. Chronological items should not be linked unless they contain information that is germane to the subject at hand (and they almost never do). Under what circumstances does consensus that a thing should not be done not entail consensus that it be undone? (I concede that such circumstances might exist but see no reason to believe that they apply here.) This is the limit to date delinking that there exists consensus for: don't delink chronological items that are relevant and appropriate to the topic. JIMp talk·cont 03:35, 19 June 2012 (UTC)
I'm a bit confused about your message in the last sentence. Tony (talk) 04:32, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
Jc3s5h talks of "hard-fought limits". I'm saying, yes, there is a limit to how far delinking should be taken. We should delink only that which is not germane to the topic at hand, i.e. don't delink what's relevant and appropriate. This is a limit of sorts. No consensus exists for any further limit to delinking of dates since WP:DATELINK explicitely states what should and should not be linked. JIMp talk·cont 15:21, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
But the proposal is for a fully automated bots, and bots cannot make judgements about what is or is not germane. Jc3s5h (talk) 16:44, 20 June 2012 (UTC)
True; unleash a bot and there is always the risk that it will make an edit that a human would realise is incorrect (or fail to make a correct edit). The question is whether the benefits outweigh the risks. Where it is judged that they do, send out the bots. What's the risk with this particular bot? What kind of ratio of bad to good edits are we potentially looking at given the various sets of articles this bot will explicitely be avoiding? I'm suggesting that this ratio is going to be extremely low (perhaps even zero). It seems to me much more time efficient to let the bot run and manually fix any mistakes it might happen to make (if any occur) than to go and do all the delinking manually. JIMp talk·cont 02:57, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Jc3, could you come up with one example of a "germane" link to a day, day–month, or year article, from an article aside from those white-listed above by Hmains? Tony (talk) 05:25, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
I decline to consider the substance of the proposal until it is in the form of a well-advertised RfC. Jc3s5h (talk) 12:13, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
I rest my case. Tony (talk) 12:18, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
"Birthday attack" contains a link to "February 29". I expect to Tony1 to find some explanation about why I'm wrong and the link in the "Birthday attack" article is a bad idea. But I'm convinced that what Tony1 really wants to do is delete almost all the date articles, and having failed to achieve consensus to do that, he'll settle for hiding them. Jc3s5h (talk) 12:46, 21 June 2012 (UTC)
There indeed might be a lot of useful links to February 29. The solution is simply to add February 29 to the list of dates to exclude. 1exec1 (talk) 13:21, 26 June 2012 (UTC)
Jc3, I don't know where you get that idea: I've been a member of Wikiproject Years since 2008; although not very active, I'm prepared to lend moral support to the improvement of year articles (which need a lot of improving, particularly on the verification front). I see less reason to support date articles ... there's a fundamental conceptual difference. And when the attacks have come concerning "On This Day", the extraordinarily valuable main-page exposure to millions of viewers a day for chronological articles, I've been in there as a supporter. Concerning the example proffered, that's a rare instance indeed, but as a general principle readers shouldn't have to divert to a link-target to learn what the sentence is talking about. If I were editing that article, I'd explain on the spot what the significance of choosing that date as the mathematical example is: not the current, cryptic "for simplicity, ignore February 29", but "for simplicity, ignore February 29, which as a "leap day" occurs only once every four years". That would be more reader-friendly. But as I implied, I suppose I'd not object if someone wanted to link it as well as explaining it properly.

Would you like to reconsider the accusation? Tony (talk) 13:45, 26 June 2012 (UTC)

  • To use 29 February in that way to stymie an automation is to use exceptions to prove a point. Of course, there will always be exceptions. I asked a friend to run a scan on the 1 June database dump, excluding year and month-day articles. In the 30+ months or so since FDUB did a full sweep to remove links to "full dates", there are once again upwards of 1900 articles with [[day month]] [[year]] or [[month day]], [[year]]. There are approximately 3500 freestanding [[day month]] or [[month day]] (not followed by linked year). It makes more sense for the task to be performed by a bot as there are no instances justify linking of "full dates". As to freestanding dates, exceptions exist but are low in number, and can be accommodated with whitelists. But from the above numbers, whilst it's not as enormous a task as the one back in 2009, automation would still be beneficial. But as a fallback, the task is not too big that a small bunch of users armed with AWB, or my script, for example, could process in a few weeks. But it would be a pain in the arse for the editor to do something as minor as unlinking dates in a bunch of successive dedicated edits. As an additional note, there are some 30,000 articles with bare links to year articles. --Ohconfucius ¡digame! 14:26, 26 June 2012 (UTC)
Personally, I would have linked to 23 April from William Shakespeare (though I would have expanded the paragraph in the former article to something like this; more generally, I'd prefer a less trivia-list-like style for all date articles): the fact that there's a celebration on the anniversary of his death is interesting but not so much as to need mentioning straight away. ― A. di M.​  11:03, 27 June 2012 (UTC)

The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

Full dates for biographical article leads

I notice the following puzzling remark:

When full dates are provided in the text or in an infobox, year-pairs can be sufficient for the lede in some cases; in such cases no spaces are used

So far as I can tell, this is almost never followed in practice - whether or not the dates are mentioned elsewhere in the text or in the infobox, the vast majority of articles give the full dates in parentheses after the article subject's name. And that seems completely appropriate and correct to me. When such dates are known, they should be given at the beginning of the article, whether or not they're given elsewhere in the article. What is the rationale behind the claim that year-pairs "can be sufficient in some cases"? Which cases? Why not just say that the full date should be given in the lead if known? That is what is actually done in practice, and it's more useful to the reader. john k (talk) 06:44, 9 July 2012 (UTC)

I wasn't aware of this. An admirable point that's worth following. The birth and death dates are usually in the text anyway, and the opening of an article is big picture; I've never seen the point of cluttering the days and months into the opening sentence as well. Tony (talk) 08:40, 9 July 2012 (UTC)
On an issue like this, where customary Wikipedia practice is clear and has basically been the same for more or less the entire history of wikipedia, I don't really think any of our opinions actually matters that much. It's fine for the Manual of Style to prescribe things when there's no clear rule that has emerged from practice, but if things are basically always done a particular way in practice, I don't think it's appropriate for the Manual of Style to try to prescribe an alternative. Two other points - first, the current phraseology is completely ambiguous. It may be sufficient in some cases. Which cases? How do we determine which ones? It's just a license to not have any rule at all. Secondly, I will say that I like being able to see the birth and death date information at a glance when I load up the article. When it's not there, I assume it's because it's not known, not because it's somewhere else in the article that I may have to scroll down to find. Given that we're already giving birth and death years, adding the full dates doesn't particularly clutter up the page; I don't see what the problem is. And again, this is customary usage in virtually every article. john k (talk) 13:56, 9 July 2012 (UTC)
Ideally, the first sentence of a typical article like Winston Churchill should tell you what's important: he was a British leader during World War II. The fact that he was born in November and not in December doesn't tell you anything one-millionth as useful as the rest of the first sentence. It might help you win a trivia contest, but it won't help you understand the past and be a better citizen in the present. But I agree that I couldn't find any articles actually written as that guideline suggests. Art LaPella (talk) 15:11, 9 July 2012 (UTC)
It is standard in encyclopedia articles to give birth and death dates up front, whether or not it helps you understand the past or be a better citizen in the present. And the exact date of death, at least, is quite often significant. But really, it's just a basic piece of information that it makes sense to give, and occasionally not including it just gives the impression that the information isn't known for that person, even when it is. john k (talk) 16:46, 9 July 2012 (UTC)
Are you sure it's standard? Here's what I found in the dated encyclopedias downstairs. Encyclopedia Britannica: "CHURCHILL, SIR WINSTON LEONARD SPENCER (1874– ), British statesman, the great national leader during World War II, was born on Nov. 30, 1874, prematurely, at Blenheim palace, Oxfordshire." Two other encyclopedias didn't mention the exact date until the second paragraph, and one didn't use it at all. What I'm surer of is that there isn't any significant practical purpose for the exact date (beyond the year) except in a context where people just expect you to know it – if you consider that a practical purpose. Art LaPella (talk) 17:28, 9 July 2012 (UTC)
I suppose it depends on the encyclopedia. Britannica Online does include Churchill's birth and death dates right off the bat. At any rate, again, it's standard practice on Wikipedia, and has been from the beginning, the current statement is very vague, and the admonition is almost never followed in practice. When it is followed, it is likely to cause confusion because it may imply to readers used to seeing full dates when they are known that we don't know the full dates for a person. john k (talk) 17:43, 9 July 2012 (UTC)
Yes those are also facts (except I didn't agree with the "very vague" part). Art LaPella (talk) 18:09, 9 July 2012 (UTC)
I mean it's vague in the sense that it says that when the dates are mentioned elsewhere, "year-pairs can be sufficient in some cases." I don't think this provides any guidance at all - how are we supposed to judge in which cases year-pairs are sufficient? john k (talk) 18:21, 9 July 2012 (UTC)
We might change it to "both styles are acceptable". But we have already noted that the guideline is universally disregarded. So the main effect of adding a list of exceptions to a disregarded rule would be to further increase the size and Wikipedia:Instruction creep of the rest of the Manual, ensuring that the rest of it will be similarly disregarded. Art LaPella (talk) 19:14, 9 July 2012 (UTC)
I think we should just remove all mention of not including full dates. john k (talk) 00:24, 10 July 2012 (UTC)
I won't stop you. Art LaPella (talk) 01:36, 10 July 2012 (UTC)
Done, then. john k (talk) 04:55, 10 July 2012 (UTC)
The earliest version of the Wikipedia entry for Winston Churchill was made 29 October 2001 [1] and starts with: Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (November 30, 1874 - January 24, 1965). This style appears to be the Wikipedia tradition. -- SWTPC6800 (talk) 18:05, 9 July 2012 (UTC)
(On a totally unrelated note, that also shows that the practice of linking dates pre-dated the implementation of date autoformatting. A. di M. (talk) 18:45, 9 July 2012 (UTC))

I've raised MOSNUM issues at an election template

Template_talk:Election_box#.2B.2F-.25_should_be_.2B.2F.E2.88.92 Here. Tony (talk) 04:09, 13 July 2012 (UTC)

Pages and years

See Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style#Pages_and_years for a new discussion about formats for ranges of pages and years. Michael Hardy (talk) 01:03, 14 July 2012 (UTC)


In WP:OTHERDATE, it says "Dates that are given as ranges should follow the same patterns as given above for birth and death dates.", suggesting that year ranges should be written as xxxx–xxxx per WP:OPENPARA.

In WP:YEAR, it says "A closing CE or AD year is normally written with two digits (1881–86) unless it is in a different century from that of the opening year, in which case the full closing year is given (1881–1986)."

Which is it? Bretonbanquet (talk) 21:46, 18 July 2012 (UTC)

Era notation

I believe it should be policy for the default era notation to be Common Era (CE/BCE) as it is secular & NPOV. The traditional AD/BC is a Christian notation meaning "year of our lord" and "before Christ". Tanath (talk) 03:46, 5 August 2012 (UTC)

If you want to rerun that frequent debate one more time, please be ready to discuss previous points made by both sides. Art LaPella (talk) 04:52, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
I see that some disagree, but I didn't see any good arguments why CE/BCE shouldn't be default. Tanath (talk) 14:05, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
No for reasons I have stated in the past. Tanath is invived to waste his/her time looking up my previous statements on this matter rather than making changes to his/her favorite notation. Jc3s5h (talk) 15:16, 5 August 2012 (UTC)


The section titled "percentages" does not specify that percentages should be written in figures, not words. That IS specified in the section "Numbers as figures or words", under exception bullet #9. Would it be OK for me to add that sentence - "Percentages are usually written with figures, e.g., 10 percent or 10%." - into the section "Percentages"? Here's why: at this article we are having a knock-down-drag-out fight over somebody's preference for "seventy percent". This sentence should end the debate, but I had not seen it because I was looking under WP:PERCENT. Thanks. --MelanieN (talk) 21:12, 4 August 2012 (UTC)

Since no one has objected, I went ahead and copied the sentence into the "Percentages" section. --MelanieN (talk) 20:19, 6 August 2012 (UTC)

Open date ranges

Our guidance on date ranges (and numerical ranges) clearly specifies that we use a en dash to separate the start and end points, so 1998–2004 is an obvious example. I would have thought that open ranges such as 1998– (meaning 1998 to the present) would have followed by analogy, but it seems that is not the case. The following is documented at Template:Infobox soap character 2:

  • "Closed dates should be separated by an en dash –. Open dates (for characters still in the show) should end with an em dash —."

This seems an anomalous use of the em dash, which is not used as a range separator anywhere else in Wikipedia. Is there consensus here for making it clear that the en dash is the only separator we use for date (or numeric ranges) – whether they be open or closed? --RexxS (talk) 01:23, 6 August 2012 (UTC)

I was under the impression that we didn't use open ranges in Wikipedia, and that we closed them with "present". Waltham, The Duke of 21:59, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
That opens the door to "2012–present", which is nonsensical. Anyway, the em dash shouldn't be used as a range separator. Bretonbanquet (talk) 22:38, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
When I wrote the documentation for the soap character template quoted, I am sure that I read it in the MOS at the time, which is why so many articles use the em dash this way. We were doing it even before the documentation was written. So I think it must have been in the MOS at some point, somewhere, and has since been removed. Otherwise we'd have stuck with the en dash all this time. It should be clarified anyway. –anemoneprojectors– 11:21, 15 August 2012 (UTC)


I just noticed that the navigational aids (i.e. the sidebar and the Project page, talk, edit etc. links) appear with a different font on this project page than on any other pages I have seen on Wikipedia. Is this a fixable error? (talk) 21:07, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

Year ranges in infobox

I brought this up on a couple of talk pages for Infobox templates, and the only reply was to take it here: Can we have some clarification on the standard procedure or consensus on the use of parenthetical year ranges in infoboxes? When should they be used, and when shouldn't they be? (I know they should for spouse). Is (0000–) or (0000—) ever acceptable? Is < small > acceptable or not? --Musdan77 (talk) 17:39, 22 August 2012 (UTC)

You are not giving us any context. What do the years mean? Why are you thinking of parentheses? One think I can tell you is acceptable notation for the year 0 is 1 BC or 1 BCE. Jc3s5h (talk) 18:23, 22 August 2012 (UTC)
Here's one example of its use in a person infobox. And here's an example of its use in a television infobox. --Musdan77 (talk) 22:19, 22 August 2012 (UTC)
I've never been a fan of the small texts in infoboxes. Tony (talk) 23:53, 23 August 2012 (UTC)

Removal of YYYY-MM-DD as ref format

Somewhat old news, but User:Gimmetoo removed the ISO format as a valid reference date format in August 2011 without acknowledgement that that change had been made. I have searched for a discussion about its removal and have come up with a blank. Was it intentionally removed? Am I safe to restore the ISO format as a valid date format (given previous consensus, and its neutral usage and conciseness)? SFB 19:44, 13 August 2012 (UTC)

I think so. Vegaswikian (talk) 19:52, 13 August 2012 (UTC)
Er, that edit looks like Gimmetoo was restoring the YYYY-MM-DD allowance that was removed. I've not seen anything to counter the use of those in date/accessdate parts of a reference either. --MASEM (t) 19:53, 13 August 2012 (UTC)
On second check, I'm essentially proposing something that was mentioned in the conversation related to that edit a year ago: can we use the YYYY-MM-DD format for publication dates in references? And if not, why not? SFB 20:11, 13 August 2012 (UTC)
The present text does not place any requirement on what the publication date format should be, only that whichever format is used should be used consistently. Basically, there are three groups: dates in the body of the article, publication dates, and access/archive dates. Each group should be internally consistent, but do not have to be consistent with each other. Publication dates could be in any format at all, except the ambiguous all-numeric formats like 08/09/2012. This guideline says access/archive dates can either match the publication dates, or be in the YYYY-MM-DD format. However WP:CITE says any consistent style is acceptable, and there is at least one recognized style that would comply with WP:CITE and not WP:MOSNUM. Jc3s5h (talk) 03:36, 14 August 2012 (UTC)
I have added the note from WP:Cite to explain that various styles other than dmy/mdy can be used for publication dates (that information had to be inferred or read from another page previously). SFB 06:54, 14 August 2012 (UTC)
I've reverted it. The guidance at Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers #Full date formatting gives the two generally accepted full date formats and YYYY-MM-DD is not one of them, probably because most editors parse 'April' much more easily than "-04-". The guidance on this page relating to YYYY-MM-DD indicates that it is uncommon in prose but may be useful where conciseness is needed, yet there is no argument made that the publication date in a reference benefits from being concise. In addition, the strongest argument for having access dates in ISO format is that it helps distinguish them "at a glance" from publication dates which have been overwhelmingly in dmy or mdy format throughout wikipedia. It's not helpful to encourage a proliferation of inconsistent formats without good reason. --RexxS (talk) 20:29, 14 August 2012 (UTC)
Except that it has been long argued that YYYY-MM-DD is acceptable only for use within cite template dates and accessdates, though consistency within references must be upheld. Just in May this year that was affirmed Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers/Archive 137. YYYY-MM-DD anywhere else is unacceptable. --MASEM (t) 21:01, 14 August 2012 (UTC)
Just noting that RexxS' reversion here [2] is saying exactly what I'm saying , limiting but allowing YYYY-MM-DD formats in citations only and nowhere else. That is, this version is "good" with current consensus. --MASEM (t) 21:04, 14 August 2012 (UTC)

Ideally, we'd have some kind of date processing, either in MediaWiki or a Wikipedia template, like {{Start date}}, so people could emit YYYY-MM-DD dates which are machine-understandable (and can be emitted as such in bibliographic metadata), and we'd output dates formatted either according to an in-template setting, or a user preference. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 20:44, 14 August 2012 (UTC)

Date autoformatting went the way of the dodo. The short answer is any preference that renders text differently due to being logged in or not is bad for WP, as you are suddenly potentially catering to a smaller audience. --MASEM (t) 21:06, 14 August 2012 (UTC)
Funny. I have skins, widgets, preferences and user scripts that do just that. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 00:05, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
They don't actually change the text content of the article. --MASEM (t) 00:43, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
Andy, we need editors to see the text as our readers do. That was one of the most serious faults with date-autoformatting, which meant no one ever fixed the mess of inconsistencies within articles—like ostriches, we could see them. Tony (talk) 00:45, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
Agree. I used to have my preference set to mdy because I'm American. But then I realized that an editor should see articles the way most readers see them. Most readers have no preference because only an editor has a reason to log in. Or are we talking about something more complicated? Art LaPella (talk) 01:03, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

RexxS: the RfC you supported which would have excluded the YYYY-MM-DD from footnotes, failed. I call upon you to respect the outcome of that RFC. Jc3s5h (talk) 01:33, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

But I'm not excluding ISO dates from footnotes. I'm recognising that MOS - like all guidelines - documents practice on wikipedia. The reality is that when full dates are used for publication dates, they overwhelmingly spell out the month. Do you think that the version of MOS that I reverted to excludes ISO dates from footnotes - or just accurately reflects the fact they are hardly ever used for publication dates? --RexxS (talk) 11:29, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
Let's just see where you're going with this. You want to use ISO for publication dates, right? So you are advocating writing publication dates like "2004", "April 2004", "Spring 2004", "2004-04-27" all in the same article. A coach and horses through consistency. Are you really claiming there is consensus for that? --RexxS (talk) 12:19, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
For many articles (but not all), all of the sources can have their publication and access dates written in that ISO format (or otherwise plain years as in the case of books) without a problem. Since the requirement is consistency, that's okay to use there. On the other hand, if you have a wide varied mix where publication dates do vary as much as this, then the ISO date is probably a poor choice and one of the other accepted formats needs to be used to achieve that consistency. --MASEM (t) 12:42, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
I do not the agree with the statement by RexxS that "I'm recognising that MOS - like all guidelines - documents practice on wikipedia." I believe guideline's document what the community considers to be good practices, practices which could be applied to a non-compliant article. The decisions about which practices are good and which ones aren't are based on consensus, and the strongest way to document a consensus is an RfC. There was an attempt to find consensus through an RfC that publication dates in the YYYY-MM-DD format was a bad practice, and that RfC failed. By the way, I supported that RfC just like RexxS did, but it didn't come out the way I would have preferred. Jc3s5h (talk) 14:28, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
Then the clear corollary of your belief is that guidelines do not document practice on Wikipedia, but only community consensus on what constitutes good practices. How then is community consensus to be determined? A few RfC's have shown what is - or isn't - consensus for a tiny handful of practices, but what of the other 99% of the MOS? Are we to assume that a self-selected group knows best what is good practice for the rest of Wikipedia? Or do we recognise that the editors who document practice in the MOS look at what is actually done in articles as the yard-stick for determining community consensus? I know which of the two I prefer. --RexxS (talk) 15:02, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
RexxS asks "are we to assume that a self-selected group knows best what is good practice for the rest of Wikipedia?" Yes. The qualification of this group is that it cares about style. Most contributors don't care about style, which is why the style in most articles is crap. Jc3s5h (talk) 18:16, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
  • YYYY-MM-DD dates are crap. We should get rid of them and use date formats that humans and real-world sources use, rather than cater for a few editors who prefer the machine-style dates. There is no evidence that our readers find the ISO dates helpful and we should remember that these are our customers. --John (talk) 18:50, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
    • There's no evidence that our readers find ISO dates unhelpful either. Again, just in May we have reconfirmed their use restricted to reference lists only is supported by consensus. --MASEM (t) 18:55, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
      • Has evidence been sought, from readers as opposed to editors, that they find the ISO dates helpful? --John (talk) 19:08, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
        • No, but there's no reason to single out this issue: nearly all WP policy is based on editors providing input, with the assumption that most of those editors have been readers before. --MASEM (t) 19:14, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
          • Indeed, and on all WP policy discussions the argument that "there's no evidence that our readers find x unhelpful either" is an especially weak one. --John (talk) 19:23, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
            • Almost as weak as "there's no evidence that our readers find x helpful". — Arthur Rubin (talk) 19:29, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
              • Weaker, because the onus is usually on somebody who wants to retain something to show evidence that it provides some benefit. In the absence of any such evidence, it is usually permissible to get rid of it. Hence my question. --John (talk) 19:32, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
                • The point is from the last time this was argued (and times before that), that unlike the use of YYYY-MM-DD dates in prose - where the reader likely will need to stop and think about what that means and negatively impact their understanding in a small way - YYYY-MM-DD are just data elements in citations, which are not read like prose. There's no benefit nor harm in putting datas in YYYY-MM-DD here because readers have to process the entire citation as data, not as prose. Thus, there's no impedus to favor or disallow YYYY-MM-DD over any other date type except when it comes to consistency, which is something that can harm the reader if we don't have a consistent citation style in the article. --MASEM (t) 19:40, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

(edit conflict)

                • The very fact that many editors over many years have taken the trouble to argue each side of this should be sufficient evidence that they find 1 Jan 2001 (or Jan 1, 2001 or 2001-01-01 respectively) to be helpful to them. We should take that as a given, even if we doubt that their preference is the right one. How many editors will take the trouble to advocate something they think is useless? LeadSongDog come howl! 19:46, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
                  • "How many editors will take the trouble to advocate something they think is useless?" How long have you been on Wikipedia?Face-smile.svg Mugginsx (talk) 14:04, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Agree that YYYY-MM-DD should be avoided (and thankfully real practice on WP seems to be pushing it the way of the dodo). WP has made the decision to spell out months to avoid the ambiguity that (something like) 1/2/2012 presents, however I'm certain that (something like) 2012-02-01 will present an ambiguity for at least some percentage of our readers (and I'm also convinced that there will be some readers who will look at 2012-02-01 and not even realise it is a date—as it is very nerdy and could easily be regarded as some sort of other identifier). No one has ever presented a convincing case for why the risks associated with YYYY-MM-DD should be taken when they can easily be avoided (and I do support the use of abbreviated months when space is at a minimum). I believe that a petition page should be set up somewhere so that opponents of YYYY-MM-DD can mount a case and all watch a common location so that we are ready when the trumpet shall sound (with the hope that "we shall be changed"). :-) GFHandel   22:13, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
"2012-12-01" has zero ambiguity. There is no commonly recognized date format where the order is "YYYY-DD-MM". (compared to 1/12/2012 which does have ambiguity) And again, I point out we just had a discussion on this in May, so its very unlikely consensus has changed. The fortunate part is that if we ever decide to fully move away from YYYY-MM-DD date formats, bots will be able to easily change that, but that's not a reason to move away for it now. --MASEM (t) 22:33, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
I suspect you are too optimistic in your assessment of the potential for ambiguity. For example, having taught secondary school youngsters for 25 years, I confidently predict that a much higher proportion of them would misinterpret "2012-12-01" than "1 December 2012", and many would not comprehend the phrase "commonly recognized date format". YMMV. --RexxS (talk) 22:58, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
I'm afraid Masem is also too optimistic in writing "if we ever decide to fully move away from YYYY-MM-DD date formats, bots will be able to easily change that." It's hard for a human editor, never mind a bot, to figure out what date format and what citation format an article uses (if indeed there is a consistent choice). — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jc3s5h (talkcontribs)
There is a reasonable level of competence that we expect from our readers here. I fully recognize that 1/12/2012 has the chance of being misinterpreted because both "MM/DD/YYYY" and "DD/MM/YYYY" are common and conflicting styles used around the world. But there is no place that recognizes "YYYY-DD-MM", and interpreting that in that way is flat out wrong. Yes, I see the point of a reader maybe being confused by, but that's the same as not knowing the meaning of a word or the like. A person with the education we expect them to have (high-school-ish), particularly in this day and age of computing, should recognize "2012-01-12" as "YYYY-MM-DD".
As for the conversion, the YYYY-MM-DD format is an easy phrase to regex on and make the conversion irregardless how its located in a citation; we'd have to know whether to use dmy or mdy format for the expanded English, but that's a trivial problem too. --MASEM (t) 23:43, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
Everything is hard for an unsupervised bot. The only way for a bot to decide whether to use mdy or dmy is to count all occurrences of each format, and give up both are zero, or both are non-zero. Finding YYYY-MM-DD is hard because it will always be allowed in quotes and URLs. Although there are methods to ignore most quotes and URLs, I don't believe it is possible to ignore all of them. Of course, if the bot confined its attention to the date-related parameters of citation templates, that would be a bit easier. Jc3s5h (talk) 23:50, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
No, actually, the process we have is already there. We have templates {{Use mdy dates}} and {{Use dmy dates}} that editors add to articles (particularly in the dmy case) as future indication to bots of how to handle dates. If we were ever to reject YYYY-MM-DD formats, we would likely give editors time to tag articles appropriate, and then assume that if not otherwise given to default to one or the other. Or, even given that, searching an article via regex for spelled out dates is trivial and counting is fine. But most importantly, this is a MOS. The only time that it needs to be applied "forcefully" is when we're talking about reviewing an article for quality measures at GA or FA or A-class, all human actions. Past ArbCom cases have suggested that the MOS should not be controlled via bots unless for reasonably specific reasons. But irregardless, the concerns you state are really not significant that makes the use of YYYY-MM-DD now a problem; they all can be engineered appropriately. --MASEM (t) 23:59, 15 August 2012 (UTC)
Regarding "Yes, I see the point of a reader maybe being confused by..." and " should recognize 2012-01-12 as YYYY-MM-DD ": the point is that there is no loss of functionality in removing the chance of problems (no matter how slight those problems might be) by using English. GFHandel   00:03, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
I've seen people in the US screw up by the "day month year" before, (in that they don't see the day as part of the day and think they only have a month and year, since that's how we'd write "month year") - I doubt that problem is reflexive for those outside the states reading US dates, but there's still the problem going the other way. That's no reason to force "month day, year" on everyone. Again, we're talking about dates in citations, not standard prose. The dates are there as data, not for meaning, so the data-oriented format YYYY-MM-DD is completely reasonable there. --MASEM (t) 00:10, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
There is an argument that confusion isn't a function of location. If confusion (no matter how slight the chance) can be obviated by using English, then it doesn't matter whether it happens in "data" or "prose". I understand that you feel it "is completely reasonable there", but it is important to realise that there are those of us who don't feel the same; and I am yet to see the article that has suffered from having YYYY-MM-DD date formats changed to English equivalents. GFHandel   00:53, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

So, MOS:DATEUNIFY#Consistency still seems to say that YYYY-MM-DD is acceptable for access dates, but Template:Cite_web/doc#URL says use the same format as other dates in the article. Which is it? —[AlanM1 (talk)]— 01:32, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

WP:CITE says any consistent citation style is acceptable (except that dates like 08/09/2012 are unacceptable). Citation Style 1 is a style. So although YYYY-MM-DD is an acceptable format, you should use the format chosen by Citation Style 1. The problem there is that the Citation Style 1 help page and the instructions for {{Cite web}} don't agree. So you have to find a way to persuade the template fans to get their act together. Jc3s5h (talk) 01:53, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
This can easily be fixed by updating the documents of each cite template to add "in citations" as explained in Citation Style 1. --MASEM (t) 02:07, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

Please note Gimmetoo's change today to the Cite template documentation (that adds YYYY-MM-DD as a "common" format). I have reverted that change (as per BRD) as I think such a change should be discussed by the wider community. GFHandel   04:44, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

Note that the entry was below the text

Citations within a page should use consistent formats. However, there is no consensus about which format is best. The following examples are for citations where one or more authors are listed in a single |author=authors parameter, using any format. Also shown below are some date formats that are commonly used in Wikipedia:

In other words, Gimmetoo was simply documenting a common practice, not creating one. This should not be controversial.LeadSongDog come howl! 05:23, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
But is it "common" (as putting it under section headings starting with "Common" would suggest)? I would argue that the number is still very small (compared to dmy and mdy), and that the addition of the format is an attempt to encourage its use (something that no one in the community there has found necessary for years). GFHandel   05:29, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
The ratio of what date formats are used probably vary by field. I know my browsing experience on WP, which generally stays in contemporary topics including current events, living persons, and published works, the YYYY-MM-DD format is quite common. I would suspect that ratio flips towards the appropriate mdy or dmy when you get to historical topics. But to say the YYYY-MM-DD is a minority date format is completely wrong. I do appreciate arguments that suggest that en route towards GA/FA that this be discouraged since the change is relatively easy, but again, MOS is not policy, so banning/forcing/automating change of such formats before gaining widespread approval is not going to work. --MASEM (t) 06:00, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
Gimmetoo has ignored the WP:BRD process and has reverted my edit. I have started a discussion here. GFHandel   05:29, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
Many editors are fed up with Gimme's apparently militant one-track fixation on this matter. I suggest she ease off and engage with editors more productively. Tony (talk) 05:50, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
Many users are fed up with the long-term refusal to follow the multiple RfCs about date formats. That Tony1 characterizes an example using yyyy-mm-dd format in the accessdate field as a "pet format" [3], despite years of RfCs and the clear, explicit wording of this very guideline that it is allowed, speaks volumes. As LeadSongDog says, this should not be controversial. The documentation used to have examples of accessdates in yyyy-mm-dd formats; these examples were removed and I have been unable to find the discussion about their removal at the time. User:GFHandel has previously noted that having only two example formats serves to encourage editors to use only those two formats; that effectively serves to undermine this very guideline. I also note that despite my name being used here, nobody bothered to inform me, nor has User:GFHandel informed me of any "discussion".. Finally, I note repeated incivility in this discussion, and that needs to stop immediately. Gimmetoo (talk) 06:00, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
Talk about bothering a bees-nest! Come on guys, these are only dates. DMY, MDY and YYYY-MM-DD are the three most common formats here, thus I think the guidance in its current form is very sensible. If people wish to deprecate the usage of YYYY-MM-DD entirely then that is something that should be agreed by consensus first (just like we have reasonably done for dd/mm/yyyy and YYYY-MM-DD in prose etc). Note that the exclusion of YYYY-MM-DD from the guidance will lead some editors to push towards its de facto deprecation, despite a lack of consensus for such a move. The very fact that removal of YYYY-MM-DD guidance would cause uncountable changes and its inclusion wouldn't lead to the introduction of a new format says enough about its current usage. SFB 22:29, 17 August 2012 (UTC)

While on the subject of date formats in citations...

I might have missed this discussion but I notice the advice on this page now suggests one can use abbreviated months for dates & accessdates. I thought there was agreement before that the only time that abbreviated month names should be used in if one is tight on space, such as in a table and thus can use the shorter names there. Everywhere else (prose & in refs) we're not worried about the width the date takes up so it should always be the spelled out month. --MASEM (t) 06:11, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

Some have argued that space is at a premium in citations. In paper style manuals, many tricks are suggested or required to save space. Since references in Wikipedia are usually are in-line with the wiki source code, making them shorter makes the wiki source code easier to read and edit. So you might not be persuaded by the argument, but the argument is not silly on its face. Jc3s5h (talk) 14:28, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
If space is a premium, then why are we complaining about the use of a fixed 10 character format that is always guaranteed to be one of the shortest options of representing a date? --MASEM (t) 15:05, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
Because few of our readers will comprehend what it is; and if they do realise it's a date, they'll be confused or misled by the common day-month-year/month-day-year duality: does 2003-4-2 mean 2 April or 4 February. This is the irritation I experience every time. Tony (talk) 02:53, 18 August 2012 (UTC)�
To the contrary, I believe most readers will immediately recognize it as a date and realize that it goes from the most significant figure to the least. We are all free to assert our opinion. — Carl (CBM · talk) 03:32, 18 August 2012 (UTC)
The point being that it is not opinion to realise that "1 March 2012" or "March 1, 2012" cannot be misinterpreted, however "2012-03-01" might be misinterpreted—so why take the risk (with the set you don't include in "most readers")? GFHandel   04:27, 18 August 2012 (UTC)

Strong national ties to other countries

The current text is: "Articles on topics with strong ties to a particular English-speaking country should generally use the more common date format for that nation. For the United States, this is month before day; for most others, it is day before month. Articles related to Canada may use either format consistently." This matches MOS:TIES. However, while countries not using English do not officialy prefer one variety of English, they do have a preferred date format. I think articles with strong ties to any country should use the "endian-ness" of the country, while using the punctuation used in English. The potential for misunderstanding is removed as this MOS does not allow using just the month's number, but I still think it ought to be considered. (talk) 17:48, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

No. Presumably readers fluent in the language of the country to which the topic of the article is strongly tied will be reading an article in that language, either on one of the non-English Wikipedias, or some other publication. The English Wikipedia concerns itself with English readers. When the topic of the article is tied to some non-English speaking country, we have no basis for guessing which English date format will be most comfortable for readers, and thus no basis for preferring one format over another. Jc3s5h (talk) 20:11, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
Fair enough. Your assumption is somewhat incorrect, as English Wikipedia often has better articles even in these cases, as it attracts more editors. Most of Europe can probably understand English well enough to use this site as readers, see English language#English as a global language. I am aware it is not a policy, but Wikipedia is primarily for the readers. There is a reason I brought this up, I am normally a reader and English is not an official language in my country, but I have edited a bit during the Olympics. Regarding which format to use it seems, based on the link given in my first post, that this would generally not be the American format as the US and Belize are the only countries who use that format exclusively. Anyway, it is not particularly important; it would be if it was allowed to use the the number of the month, as that would in some cases be misleading. (talk) 20:46, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
I'd be inclined to used the same standard we use for units of measurement in articles about non-English-speaking countries. That is, the units actually used. Kilometres in France, for example. [4] Measuring speeds on German autobahns in miles per hour jars as much as using American date formats in Russia. --Pete (talk) 04:40, 18 August 2012 (UTC)
Unfortunately it's not the same standard at all. We normally supply conversions for the benefit of the reader not accustomed to a given set of units, such as giving a speed on a German autobahn as "160 kilometres per hour (99 mph)", but there's no way we're going to be writing "19 August 2012 (August 19, 2012)" because either date format is perfectly well understood by everyone. --RexxS (talk) 14:46, 19 August 2012 (UTC)
Thanks. Do you think we need conversions for dates, when we are talking about which format to use for a strong national tie? I can't follow your thoughts here about conversions. --Pete (talk) 19:20, 19 August 2012 (UTC)
Do you mean that articles about Japan should use “2012 August 24”? — A. di M.  16:07, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

Military dates

Is there an encyclopedic reason for the need to use a modified military date format for United States military articles? The articles are written for the general reader and should not be using terminology and in this case a date format that is not used by the general reader. The military uses that format , or at least a variance of it, and has its won reasons for doing so. There is no encyclopedic reason for doing so on Wikipedia. --JOJ Hutton 12:26, 19 August 2012 (UTC)

But the US military does use a date format that is used by (arguably) the majority of general readers: dmy. The problem is that we actually have no "general reader", and the conventions we use to decide on date format actually ignore the reader's normal usage, and instead focus on links between the subject and a particular format. It seems to me that the use of dmy in US military articles complies with that convention as it stands. --RexxS (talk) 14:46, 19 August 2012 (UTC)
And what, pray tell, are the majority of readers you are referring to? --JOJ Hutton 15:11, 19 August 2012 (UTC)
The 75% of readers of the English Wikipedia who do not geolocate to the USA. What did you think I was referring to? --RexxS (talk) 19:06, 19 August 2012 (UTC)
Wow, 75%, thats a high number. Any source for that number, because I once heard that 52% of all statistics are made up.--JOJ Hutton 19:09, 19 August 2012 (UTC)
So basically there is no source for that number so we have to assume that 75% is incorrect.--JOJ Hutton 14:35, 20 August 2012 (UTC)
No, you assume good faith of your fellow editors. Or you could just look it up at the same as everybody else does. It's a well-known statistic that page views from the USA make up around 25% of the global total. --RexxS (talk) 19:23, 20 August 2012 (UTC)
Well I'm sorry to tell you, but I'm about to burst your bubble, as you just fell victim to one of the most classic blunders. The most famous is, never get into a land war in Asia, thank you Wallace Shawn, but slightly less well know is that you don't confuse Wikimedia stats with English Wikipedia stats. I assume you are referring to this chart when you reference that only 25% of all global traffic originates from the United States? Unfortunately for your argument, that chart refers to "ALL" Wikimedia sites, and not just the English Wikipedia. It includes traffic from the German Wikipedia, French Wikipedia, Spanish Wikipedia, Russian Wikipedia, Japanese Wikipedia, and for a list of all Wikipedias see List of Wikipedias. We are using the English Wikipedia, and on the English Wikipedia the stats are quite different. 46.7% of all global traffic originates in the United States. Taking into consideration only for the English speaking countries, the United States accounts the most traffic. I hope that I have educated you on the proper way to use statistics and hopefully you will no longer go around using faulty and incomplete data.--JOJ Hutton 21:23, 20 August 2012 (UTC)
Nicer, please (and I hope I don't have to get into who's worse, and how much worse). Art LaPella (talk) 23:46, 20 August 2012 (UTC)

Surely if the subject determines the format, then for articles with strong national ties we should use the date format of that nation? --Pete (talk) 19:22, 19 August 2012 (UTC)
Yes subject with strong national ties. in this case the date format (MDY) used in the United States for US military articles. And that should be the case across the board.--JOJ Hutton 14:35, 20 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Agree with RexxS. In gnoming, I've always left US miltary date formats as they are (and they're almost always article-consistent). I learned the hard way that there's objection from ex-military editors if you change from dmy. Naval articles seem to be more strongly oriented towards dmy. Some US military articles use mdy. I'm happy to let it be as editors originally chose for each article. I'm unaware of edit-wars or disputes on talk pages about the format for particular articles. Tony (talk) 00:56, 21 August 2012 (UTC)
    I think you may have hit on something. "Ex-military" editors. We shouldn't write the articles for the use of military and ex military editors. We write for the general reader. The military uses DMY dates internally, but if you take a quick look at each services official website, you'll find that the military agrees with me. As well as other encyclopedias. Will make an official request to strike the requirement tomorrow. Too long have the Military and Ex-military types controlled content decisions. And so that no one will think that I'm biased in anyway. I'm a former Marine (1992-1996).--JOJ Hutton 01:26, 21 August 2012 (UTC)
    Not all ex-military like dmy! However it is also true that shooting on site mdy dates is common in military articles, even if that was how the date first appeared. Vegaswikian (talk) 04:44, 21 August 2012 (UTC)
C'mon, everybody understands both formats (so long as the month is spelled out): neither is that uncommon on either side of the Atlantic. It's nice to have some rule to decide which to use, but it's not something to fight that passionately about. — A. di M.  19:35, 21 August 2012 (UTC)

Proposal to strike out the requirement that American military articles use military dates

It should be a fact that Wikipedia articles are and should be written for the general reader in mind. We haven't all been in the United States military, although I was a Marine. so I ask that we strike out the part of this MOS guideline that says military date format (DMY) be used on American military articles. There is no logical reason for it, since the articles are not written for the military reader, but for the general audience and shouldn't require such technical details. It has been a long time argument ,(falsely I might add), that since the military uses the (DMY) format, Wikipedia must do so also. I will present evidence that shows that although internal military documents use (DMY), the military is not a slave to the format and understands the issue of "general reader" I will also show that no other American "non-military" encyclopedia uses (DMY) because they too understand the concept of the general reader.


  1. First and foremost, these articles are about the "American" military. In the United States, the general date format is (MDY). And since the articles are not technical manuals or text books as one previous editor explained he envisioned he was doing, there is no reason to use such technical formatting for the dates, but should use the regular normal date format that the general reader from that country would use.
  2. Next, there is no encyclopedic reason to use two separate date formats for US articles. Other encyclopedias don't do this. The only online encyclopedia that I could find, that wasn't a wiki, is the encyclopedia Britannica entries for Douglas-MacArthur and for The United States Marine Corps. Both of these articles currently use (DMY) on Wikipedia. Print encyclopedias such as the Encyclopedia Americana and The United States Encyclopedia of History both use (MDY) as well. Civilian text books, at least the ones I own, also use (MDY) as well.
  3. Although it is easy to prove that the military uses the (DMY) date format internally, they have their own reasons for doing so. But the military does understand that externally, they do not need to write their internal date formats, but write the dates for the general reader to understand. Examples (notice the ".mil", these are official government military websites): Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Department of Defense, 11th MEU, Army history page, This official Army article, This official Navy article, This official Marine Memo, 2nd Medical Battalion, Marine Corp Magazine, This official Air Force article, and Many Many More.
  4. Since these articles are about US military subjects, the bulk of the traffic will undoubtedly be within the United States. The United States already accounts for 46.7% of all traffic on the English Wikipedia. One can only imagine the the stats are higher for US specific articles, just as the stats would be higher for UK specific articles within the UK. So since the bulk of the article traffic will come from within the US, its likely that most of the readers would enjoy seeing a familiar date format instead of an unfamiliar one.
  5. The only justification given for writing these dates this way is the part of WP:STRONGNAT that says so. To me it smacks of WP:POINT, as there is no justification for writing these articles like they are internal military articles intended for a military audience. They are not internal, but are in fact written for the genaral reader and not for US servicemen and women. WP:ENGVAR discusses differences in English variations and date formats should be no different. Another argument to keeping the (DMY) dates is that some articles have attained FA status with these dates. But that assertion is based on this MOS, which is incorrect, that is why I am proposing changing it.

In conclusion these articles about American military subjects should use the normal date format (MDY) used in the United States because there is no encyclopedic reason to require these articles to do so. Other encyclopedias don't do this. The bulk of the traffic on these articles will come from within the United States. These articles are written for the general audience and are not intended to be internal military articles, and as such should not be bound by the internal military date format. Many military websites, including every single service branch, the DOD, internal military articles, and several military units, use the (MDY) date format on their official websites and pages. That is because even the military recognizes the difference between internal use and general use. The single sentence in this MOS has been the only justification for using this internal date format in Wikipedia articles. I suggest we just get rid of that sentence and have all articles with strong US national ties, retain the same date format throughout.--JOJ Hutton 01:19, 22 August 2012 (UTC)

How was the original decision made, do you know? Surely there must have been some discussion - heated discussion, going by the history of similar matters of format here - and the decision would not have been made lightly or without consensus. It might be easier to look at the original arguments and conclusions than to battle over the same contested ground again. Wikipedia has enough bullets whistling around without calling for more! --Pete (talk) 23:35, 23 August 2012 (UTC)
I've never seen how this came about. I'm sure there are some discussions, but can't find any original one.--JOJ Hutton 23:39, 23 August 2012 (UTC)
I agree. Was there a discussion and can we have a pointer. If there was no broad discussion, I know how I would comment. But I'll hold back allowing old information to be provided to this discussion. Vegaswikian (talk) 23:42, 23 August 2012 (UTC)
I think there are after the fact discussions, but nothing I can find that began it all. Most of the arguments for using the (DMY) is that the military uses it. Well the links I provided confirms that they don't do so externally.--JOJ Hutton 23:52, 23 August 2012 (UTC)

Comment. The dmy format is not necessarily limited to members of the US armed services; it might also be predominant in English-language military scholarship, or perhaps scholarship of the US military. I don't know, but it would be something to look into. Also, Jojhutton's point about Encyclopedia Britannica and other general-interest American publications using the mdy format for articles about the US military is not applicable to Wikipedia, because most publications have only one date style for all articles, and don't make a separate decision about US military-related articles. Jc3s5h (talk) 23:33, 23 August 2012 (UTC)

I think thats the point. Why does Wikipedia make a decision to use a separate date format for US military articles when others do not? We don't need to use two formats if other publications don't either.--JOJ Hutton 23:41, 23 August 2012 (UTC)

Comment. So long as the month is spelled out, & there's no ambiguity what date 7/12/41 refers to, I'm fine with either. (I default to day first.) That said, I also don't think it would be worth changing it from whatever it is, provided it's consistent across the page. TREKphiler any time you're ready, Uhura 23:40, 23 August 2012 (UTC)

  • First, dmy is pretty common in military literature. Second, I'm not sure it's worth the effort to do this. There's a lot of American military articles. Third, I find it silly that you say something like "write the dates for the general reader to understand", because I'm relatively certain that American readers can understand dmy dates. I could be wrong, though. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 23:42, 23 August 2012 (UTC)
    • Can they understand the dates? Yes. Is it proper American English? No. Vegaswikian (talk) 23:55, 23 August 2012 (UTC)
  • The DMY format is readable yes, and understood, but awkward to look at for the general American reader. But Wikipedia guidelines state that we should use the date more common date format in the country the article is about. That date format is (MDY). Why not make all articles use one variance of English spelling as well? We all understand what "colour" means. It's because we use the most common spelling per WP:ENGVAR, just as we should use the most common date per WP:STRONGNAT.--JOJ Hutton 23:50, 23 August 2012 (UTC)
  • We should always include the month as a word so as to ensure that no-one is confused. 1/9/1939 is plain useless for an international project. Even if we were consistent in terms of dmy or mdy style, the reader can never be entirely sure. Formerip (talk) 00:01, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Thanks for pointing me to this discussion. I don't think it's a terribly important issue; people understand it both ways. I think Jojhutton has done a good job of supplying links, and I don't see anything wrong with his point or his links: the American military uses and has always used MDY in websites and publications, except for internal and technical materials. However, many people who want to write military articles feel more comfortable with DMY; it feels more authentic to them. I think we do best when we make an effort to let everyone "follow their Muse", even if we don't quite get it, and the Muse of military history seems to be whispering "DMY" into people's ears. I never impose my own date preferences, but if people are asking my preference as a copyeditor, I think it's easier to find support in style guides and in practice for MDY in AmEng. - Dank (push to talk) 00:06, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

Oppose. I have looked through the archives of discussion on this subject. Since the note about US military articles first appeared in 2009, there has been broad, sustained consensus on this issue. DMY is the format the community uses, is the preferred usage by those editors who know the subject best, and is in line with other format choices here. By that last, I mean that we use subject-appropriate units of measurement, subject-appropriate spelling, subject-appropriate terminology. We don't use uniform formats for the "average reader"; we tailor our choices to suit the subject. I would have to be very strongly persuaded to support overturning this successful philosophy, especially if it comes down to what individual editors prefer without regard to the wider community. --Pete (talk) 01:21, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

Actually Wikipedia is written for the average reader and not the specialist. Pardon me for saying so, but it sounds like a case of "I don't like it". And perhaps a bit of ownership, as these aren't written for the military writers and readers, but for the rest of us. I see no reason to not adhere to standard practices or WP:ENGVAR and WP:STRONGNAT.--JOJ Hutton 02:02, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Support. Is there really broad sustained consensus on WP military projects? Or is it just that most editors go along with the status quo? Maybe there have been votes on the issue in the past, I'm not familiar with whether there has been or not. In any case: History textbooks do not use U.S. military dates. They write the month out in full. And as FormerIP points out above, it is useless to have U.S. format as the only acceptable standard on an international project. For example, if an article is about an Allied operation in WWII, how do you decide whether to use the U.S. M/D/Y format, or the British/Canadian/ANZAC D/M/Y format? Count the operation's soldiers by nationality, and the majority gets their date format? Hmm. It is too much like military jargon, and too specific to one nationality (large though that nation may be), global military history is far more extensive than the U.S.A. as a sole participant.OttawaAC (talk) 01:35, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
One additional comment... there has an odd parallel with the metric versus imperial system dilemma. Or the debate over American English versus British English, Canadian English, and so on. The language debate has come down in favour of editors using whichever English they are comfortable using. I think that's fine, but I wonder if that's a solution that would work here? I think not, unfortunately; if "American" military articles restrict themselves to U.S. military dates, what about the Vietnam War? North Vietnam won, so would that be an "American" article with American date format? Not trying to be pedantic. Well, I suppose I am. But I think there's a bit of Ameri-centrism up for consideration here. Yes I just made up that word.OttawaAC (talk) 01:44, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
"everyone going with the status quo" = "consensus through normal editing". - The Bushranger One ping only 02:05, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose - Although I am not strongly opposed to this idea the scale of redefining all the dates would be epic and frankly not really worth the effort. This date standard has been in practice for a long time and has been thoroughly discussed many times in multiple venues. In every lengthy discussion the result was to keep it. Kumioko (talk) 01:59, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

Comment -- As a coordinator on the MilHist project, I've never seen dmy enforced in US military articles, it's simply been a style option and if the primary editor chooses it, that decision is generally respected. If they choose mdy, in US military articles, that too is respected. Cheers, Ian Rose (talk) 02:03, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

The fact the you have not seen it enforced is different then the fact that some editors have enforced it. Vegaswikian (talk) 05:21, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose - The current system is not broken. There is no need to fix it. - The Bushranger One ping only 02:05, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
    Actually the current system IS broken. The majority of readers on these articles should be able to see familiar date formatting and nor something that downs't look right.--JOJ Hutton 02:07, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
    I presume that should be "The majority of readers in the United States". MilborneOne (talk) 21:39, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose, not broken, no need to change. Well, really, Yawn. Someone who cares about date presentation can select it in their preferences, including the ISO time/date presentation (which is none of the suggestions here!) I personally write DDMonYYYY or DayDDMonYYYY, unless there is some requirement otherwise; I'm not offended by other orderings as long as they are understandable. 2/3/YY and YY/3/2 are NOT understandable without a label. Mom's USNavy, Dad's USArmy, I'm a Marine. Labels are always useful, that's what spelling out the month name does. It removes confusion. Other than that, it's taste, here, and we can argue that until the disk fills up. htom (talk) 03:30, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
OtterSmith seems to have missed the change; we no longer do autoformatting of dates because it was a bad idea from day 1. The preferences setting will have little or no effect within articles (but if I recall correctly, it will affect timestamps in some logs). Jc3s5h (talk) 03:40, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
So that's why it's so ineffective! Another eternal squabble enabled. htom (talk) 04:58, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Support Even if the article is on a military subject, it should still be written in an encyclopedic style. "Write for your audience" covers that. As for how the rule got there in the first place, Wikipedia has a lot of old rules that were put in place for mistaken reasons. For example, WP:LQ started out as a compromise between British and American English based on the belief that British English requires single quotation marks in all cases (which is not true). Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:43, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
"A lot of old rules" is why the project works. The rules and procedures that survive are there because they work and help us produce one of the wonders of the Internet, made up of the diverse efforts of a diverse group of people. This Manual of Style works through editors and topics and subjects, not some non-existent "ideal user". We are never going to find such a mythical beast in any case - we write for everyone. --Pete (talk) 11:37, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
Not really all that old of a rule. WP:STRONGNAT was working just fine until a few years ago when, in my opinion, someone comes along and tries to push their POV using faulty logic and arguments. A few people don't "oppose" so it gets added without complaints at that time. See it at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 112#US military articles. After that, its been used to change a series of articles using only this single sentence in the MOS. Just because it hasn't been seriously challenged up to this point does not mean that the sentence should continue to be there. And your "ideal user" is an attack on my wording of "general reader". It's election season in the US and its easy to spot that falacle "spin" of misrepresentation.--JOJ Hutton 13:50, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
My comment on "old rules" was meant in response to the question up top about how this rule got here in the first place. What I'm saying is that we shouldn't assume that the founderpedians must have had a very good reason to put this rule in place. Sometimes they didn't. Sometimes these rules were arbitrary or based on information that later turned out to be false. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:09, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Weak oppose. If I was starting from scratch, I'd probably have recommended that all US-related articles used a single US style, military or not. There's a tradition, however, of doing it a different way, and its not "broken", at least in the sense of being confusing to the typical reader (I can understand US article dates fine, and I'm sure that the typical US reader can manage fine with UK article dates; I doubt that a US military article using the D-M-Y format causes readers any difficulty either). I'd fall into the "not broken, no need to change" camp for that reason. Hchc2009 (talk) 06:27, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose I don't see a real need for this change. Intothatdarkness 15:11, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose There seems to be some unusual logic in this proposal - we are told that we must write for the "audience" of the article, who it is assumed are American and require MDY date formats, because the majority of en:wikipedia readers are American - taking this logic to its conclusion would discard engvar and force every editor to use US styles.Nigel Ish (talk) 17:52, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
The audience is encyclopedia readers. So we should write in a general encyclopedic style rather than in any sort of specialized style. As for ENGVAR, British and American English have both been shown to be real, recognized varieties of English. Military English has not. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:09, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
Oh, boy! You was never in the military, I'm guessing, with an attitude like that! The language of military folk is quite distinct, with jargon, phrasing, and cadences all its own. I remember as a young weapons instructor being advised by a veteran warrant officer exactly what phrases to use in my lesson, none of my long university words, thank'ee! And my mate Corporal Duff, an accomplished wordsmith and teacher, sought assistance from another veteran when given the task of writing a report on something or other. With the "Official Writing" pamphlet in one hand and a sheaf of printed forms in the other, he plaintively enquired of Lieutenant Moreton, "Please Sir, how do I write bullshit?". I can send you a few field manuals if you want examples. I have one on field-rigging a bulldozer for airdrop which will balkanize your brain in moments. --Pete (talk) 20:12, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose Don't agree that this is a problem that needs fixing. Strong ties would lead one to believe we should use what the subject would use. Since the military uses what is currently status quo then that is probably where it should stay. -DJSasso (talk) 17:58, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose nothing wrong with the current system, I would like to think that most American readers could read dates backwords if the month is spelled out, the rest of the world doesnt have an issue. MilborneOne (talk) 21:39, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose, the way it is now, that the consensus of active editors determines date formats works well, and an MOS regarding this is not necessary either way IMHO.--RightCowLeftCoast (talk) 08:32, 25 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose, having taken the time to add hundreds, if not thousands, of citations from a wide, wide range of sources; it is my opinion that the majority of material in this field uses the D-M-Y layout. Speaking personally, constantly translating the dates in sources, including official USM material, from one style into another would be only a needless obsticle to developing content. From my perspective, I see more negatives than benifits from the overturning of an established precident. Other people may disagree, but my opinion on the matter is mine to have. Kyteto (talk) 15:53, 25 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose - The system works, it's an unnecessary change in precedence. --Nouniquenames (talk) 06:35, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose Agree it's too much work for too little result. Disagree that anyone does not understand that (e.g.) 15 January 1940 is the same day as January 15, 1940. Disagree with suggestion above that months always be spelled out unless an exception is made for tables where full month names expand cells excessively. I don't know about the Navy, but based on Adjutant General organizational letters, prior to mid 1942 the Army did not use dmy, however.--Lineagegeek (talk) 13:03, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose - The change is unnecessary, everyone should understand the dmy system without any problems. What's next?...change the twenty four hour clock in military articles to that of twelve hour AM and PM system.? To change would be a gradual erosion of what makes military articles unique and they would lose some of the flavor of the histories that have been researched to reference the articles properly. Cuprum17 (talk) 17:44, 28 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose No evidence that Americans with no acquaintance with military matters are the readers of the article. Would require some powerful evidence of something more than widespread ignorance to warrant repealing WP:ENGVAR. Hawkeye7 (talk) 17:06, 29 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment by Proposer I would like to point out that most of the people opposing this measure are or were in the military, currently a member of the Military project, or both, or are not from the United States, so they would have an initial bias to the (MDY) date anyway. So despite the fact that it may seem that there a quite a few people who oppose this measure, we didn't really get a very good unbiased sampling. Mostly because of the Military project editors weighing in on something they feel comfortable with. Most of the oppose comments think that it should just stay the way it is based on some sort of Status Quo. Or that "active editors" (see WP:OWN for why that excuse is out the window) should have the say. Some say the system works. I beg to differ. Nobody "really" addressed any of the points I laid out, although some of you tried. Articles should follow the national date format of the country represented, and not some internal one. WP:STRONGNAT and WP:ENGVAR. We have them for a reason, why ignore them in this case? I assumed that many of the active users on the Military project would oppose this proposal. I was prepared for that, and basically it revealed the strong bias most of the members of the military project have against this change. It also shows quite a bit of an ownership issue, as well as unwillingness to look at the evidence presented in a neutral manner. Admit it. Most of you made up your mind before you read a word of my proposal. One of you even regurgitated the same old "they use it in the military" argument, even though I basically debunked that myth in point #3 above. That just proves that at least some of you, didn't even take the time to read the evidence. My guess is that an ArbCom request may come up with a completely different, unbiased and neutral decision. But ArbCom is last resort. Next step would be to have a neutral "RFC" drawn up and see what people outside the military project would have to say.--JOJ Hutton 19:33, 29 August 2012 (UTC)
Jojhutton, the preceding step could have been to AGF and ask why those of us (well, not really me, I'm not sure how I came to this discussion) dealing with the military articles prefer to use the American military date system in those articles ... because that's the format the sources use. This makes comparisons, creations, and copying dates both easier and more accurate. That's all. Our bias is different than yours, which seems to be that the articles should conform to a standard that does not exist. htom (talk) 03:16, 30 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose, it's only our convention – one that has been firmly adopted by the MILHIST brigade for aeons. I do support the underlying rationale of the proposal, because I do feel that it would look better to readers if the entire encyclopaedia were to use exclusively one date format. The argument is that the format is not reader-centric, but the truth is only the USA and perhaps Canadian readers are generally more familiar with [Month dd, yyyy], but the rest of the world finds [dd Month yyyy] more easy to parse. Although I prefer all Wikipedia articles were in a single format but I have accepted that it just is never going to achieve consensus. Switching all military articles to [Month dd, yyyy] is just a lot of disruption for not a lot of benefit no benefit whatsoever. It's better spent trying to ensure all date formats in an article are consistent, IMHO. --Ohconfucius ¡digame! 03:34, 31 August 2012 (UTC)

Time and "now" perspective

Summary: recommend that articles should be written using "timeless" text instead of simply listing some rules without explanation.

It is recommended, both here and in WP:RELTIME, that statements that date quickly should be avoided, except on pages that are regularly updated, like current events pages, with words to avoid such as recently, lately, currently, presently, to date, 15 years ago, formerly, in the past, but no reason is given. These are laid down as rules, with no reason given. My understanding is that articles should be written in a timeless way as far as possible, without any "now" perspective, so that when read at any time they are both understandable ("last year" may have been written several years ago, or yesterday) and not ridiculous, although not too misleading to people who have a vague idea about the topic ("computer processors with dual cores are under development"). This helps (1) with articles that go out of date and are not updated (very common with the less popular articles; but, while I have changed things like "Obama is the current US president; he was elected in 2008" in a very active article to "Obama became US president in 2008", even without my change the "current" is certain to be updated by someone at the end of 2012 or 2016). It also helps (2) with "frozen" text such as printouts and copies of articles. This is not, in my opinion, just for things that date quickly as recommended by the current guideline (what does "quickly" mean? next week? next year? next decade?), but totally timeless wording is always to be preferred, and is usually possible without difficulty, e.g., "J Smith is the principal" or "J Smith is the current principal" ==> "As of 2012 J Smith was the principal" (with the "As of" template if the editor knows it).

If my understanding is correct (please tell me if it isn't), it should be mentioned in guidelines; it is easier and clearer to "write articles in a timeless way so that they make sense whenever read (for example, avoid words such as recently" than to avoid a group of listed forbidden words. By the way, I don't see "formerly" or "in the past" as particularly objectionable as they remain valid in the future; why are they frowned upon?

I would suggest that the text of both guidelines be modified in this way.I'll add a link to this discussion in WP:RELTIME. Pol098 (talk) 12:32, 23 August 2012 (UTC)

In general, yes, you do have a good point but there are ways we can get away with writing datable text. If an article is frequently edited, there isn't such a concern. Also, it is possible to write code such that the displayed text changes with time automatically. You could get away with using, for example, "recently" and specifying a future date when the "recently" disappears. Of course, this requires you to know what you want it to say when; Neil Armstrong's death could be called "recent" at least for another couple of months but we don't know how long J Smith will be principle. Also, this wouldn't solve the problem of printed material's dating (but people are pretty used to the fact that a printed page doesn't update). We could even make a template with which we could specify what is to be displayed when (we could also have a bot to clean up the templates once they are spent). JIMp talk·cont 06:32, 31 August 2012 (UTC)

How do we define a decade?

Specifically, should we write assuming 1970 (or 1550 or 10) is the last year of the 1960s (or 1540s or Decade One) or the first year of the 1970s (or 1550s or Decade Two)? I'm thinking mainly for use in lists such as List of Atlantic hurricane seasons or List of 20th-century earthquakes, which currently each use a different system. Should we define a site-wide standard and, if so, which system should be used? InedibleHulk (talk) 06:28, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

  • Yes, Last Year Since our calendar starts at 1 (not 0) and decades last ten years (not sometimes nine). InedibleHulk (talk) 06:32, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
No. says "1970s ... the decade from 1970 to 1979". WP:CENTURY says: "Forms such as the 1700s are normally best avoided since it may be unclear whether a 10- or 100-year period is meant (i.e. 1700–1709 or 1700–1799)", not 1701-1710. I would expect 1970 to be in the 1970s because the name "1970s" means you have to say "nineteen seventy" to name any of the ten years. Although the absence of a year 0 is relevant when defining the 20th century, I don't see why it is relevant to the 1970s because we don't call it the 198th decade. "Decade Two" would be different, except I couldn't find anyone who uses that phrase to mean what you're talking about. Art LaPella (talk) 08:23, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
I don't even use that phrase, but had no idea what else to call it. I've never had to refer to it before. InedibleHulk (talk) 09:38, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

Nobody knows and probably, no one will ever know. The era described in our "Anno Domini" article and used, at least for purposes of international communication, throughout the world, was created by Dionysius Exiguus in 525, and considered his numbering to begin with the incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth. But Romans had methods of inclusive counting that would seem strange to modern English-speaking peoples, and various other problems are explained on pages 778–9 of The Oxford Companion to the Year which is more fully cited in the "Anno Domini" article. Dionysius might have considered the incarnation to have occurred in 2 BC, 1 BC, or AD 1. So there is little hope of clarifying the matter from the original source, who has been dead for 1.5 millennia. In my opinion there is no international organization with enough clout to decide the matter and make their decision stick. So don't rely on decade names if a year or two either way really matters. Jc3s5h (talk) 12:25, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

I agree entirely with the view that whatever may be case with expressions such as "the 17th century", the expression "the 1770s" means 1770 to 1779 inclusive, not 1771 to 1780 inclusive. (The purist view on centuries and millenia seems to be a minority one now; the start of the second millennium was celebrated at the start of 2000, not 2001. But this is not relevant to expressions like "the 1770s".) Peter coxhead (talk) 12:36, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
Addendum If someone wrote "the 177th decade" that would be another matter. But no-one ever does! Peter coxhead (talk) 12:38, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
That would be the 178th decade, strictly speaking. But yeah, your point remains. I consider the seventies (plural) to be the years beginning in "nineteen-seventy-", not the one year that is entirely "nineteen-seventy". I see years ending in zero like ceilings in a building, also the floor of the next "storey". Just my personal opinion, not an argument. InedibleHulk (talk) 20:59, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
As per Art LaPella and Peter coxhead, that's 1970–1979. Anyway, in cases when one-year differences are that important, why would you use decades rather than exact years in the first place? — A. di M.  16:12, 24 August 2012 (UTC)
I was thinking of lists like the hurricane and earthquake ones linked above, with sections divided into decades. Of course, if we're trying to say 1970, "1970" works best. InedibleHulk (talk) 20:47, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

I have been watching MOSNUM since 2007 (the kibibyte vs. kilobyte war). I have noticed that some contributors feel that precision and accuracy is the overriding goal of Wikipedia. Readability and understanding are secondary issues. In one Wikipedia article, I described events that happened in the "1970s". Most of the events happened from 1971 to 1977 but one happened in 1969. I fear the day that some purest corrects my "inexact" description with some convoluted date range. -- SWTPC6800 (talk) 18:20, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

  • Disagree - This falls along the same lines as WP:COMMONNAME. In short, people expect "nineteen seventy" to be part of the "seventies" since it has the word "seven" in it. We're not saying that mathematically 1970-1979 refers to the seventh decade (when in fact 1971-1980 would be the 8th decade of the 20th century), we're simply saying that 1970-1979 are all dates that have a "7" in them, which you can't argue about. This is what readers expect, so this is how it should be written. Deviating in some attempt to be mathematically correct will just confuse people. —JmaJeremy 03:42, 25 August 2012 (UTC)
It's sometimes necessary to confuse people to correct well-established mistakes, as those who went to bed on October 4, 1582 and woke up on the 15th eventually realized. But since I can't play the infallibilty card (damn Wikirules), I'll admit you have a point. InedibleHulk (talk) 05:43, 25 August 2012 (UTC)
Well in the simplest terms, a decade is really a set of 10 consecutive years. The lack of precision and the issue of decades and centuries not playing well together is why I think we should minimize their use. I think in articles is OK and it should be the main place where it is allowed. I don't see a need to use it at all in categories. Vegaswikian (talk) 06:36, 25 August 2012 (UTC)
When it comes to natural languages, “well-established mistakes” (when they are really well-established, even in copy-edited prose in high registers, and the purportedly correct usage isn't well-established) are not mistakes at all. It's not like there's a stone tablet in the sky that says that the 1970s means ‘the 198th decade AD’, so what it means is what native English speakers use it to mean, which is, the overwhelming majority of the time, ‘the years from 1970 to 1979’. — A. di M.  11:17, 25 August 2012 (UTC)

So we've got Yes, No, Nobody knows and Disagree (along with some less bold opinions). So, ladies and gentleman, this bout has been declared (unilaterally and without papal authority) a No Contest. Therefore, back to business as usual, if we have no objections. Thanks for your input! InedibleHulk (talk) 07:12, 27 August 2012 (UTC)

Important new RFC at WT:TITLE

Editors may be interested in a new RFC that has just started at WT:TITLE (not to be confused with an earlier RFC, which it appears to make redundant):

This RFC affects the standing of WP:RM as the established central resource for dealing with controversial moves; many of those involve MOS provisions, so perhaps the standing of MOS is affected as well.

NoeticaTea? 10:23, 1 September 2012 (UTC)

Date of death time zone ambiguity

There has been an interesting question raised at Talk:Sun_Myung_Moon#Date_of_death: Should the subject's date of death be Sept 3. 2012, which was the day in Korea where he died, or Sept. 2 which was the date in the U.S. at that instant. The majority sentiment seems to be for the former, which I agree with, but I think it is worth saying so this guideline. --agr (talk) 00:58, 4 September 2012 (UTC)

Where an event takes place within a given timezone the time and date the event is said to occur is the time and date within that timezone. This is pretty standard practice and is only logical. "The majority sentiment" is everyone except a single annonomous user. His/her argument is that this is the English Wikipedia ... or was it the US Wikipedia ... and because the readers are in the US, we must use the US timezone (but there are more than one). The argument here just makes no sense. These seem like the words of either a fool or a troll. The question is do we need to mention is here? Do we need a guideline against every stupid idea the fools and trolls out there might come up with? Guidelines won't deter this type of person, these users either don't read them or deliberately go against them. JIMp talk·cont 07:14, 4 September 2012 (UTC)
Where was he when he died? — A. di M.  07:47, 4 September 2012 (UTC)
I think dates and times of birth and death are reasonably inferred by a reader to be in local time at the place it happened, and should be documented this way. I occasionally find it necessary to clarify a discrepancy with a source via a footnote if that source uses a different time zone for some reason. —[AlanM1(talk)]— 09:06, 4 September 2012 (UTC)

Patrick Name (b. 1969), an American musician

In a list with people named Patrick, may I just put

Patrick Name (b. 1969), an American musician,

or can't the word born be here replaced with b.

Patrick Monahan (born 1969), an American musician.

Because for the abbreviation, there is no b. in this wiki, but a. or c. See Patrick (given name), --Schwab7000 (talk) 17:26, 20 August 2012 (UTC)

The exhibits are confusing because they are not lists. "(born " is appropriate in the lead sentence of a biography such as this exhibit. If we do have a list of people (full names) whose first name is Patrick, then neither "born" nor "b." may be necessary after the first instance or first two instances establish a pattern.

Compare "illustrated by Charles Keeping" for the first instance of a named illustrator in a list of some author's works, followed by "illus. by Keeping" or "ill. Victor Ambrus" or whatever in subsequent listings. In my opinion, abbreviate in a way that is clear and consistent within the article. Eg, if the list of author's works is very long with only a few illustrators, don't abbreviate. If every line is the listing for another person with firstname Patrick then extreme abbreviation will be appreciated. --P64 (talk) 18:29, 20 August 2012 (UTC)

Aside: If we have a template {{circa}}, for c., I wonder why we can't have one for b.? Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 21:14, 20 August 2012 (UTC)
Your idea, so you get to make the template. Roger (talk) 09:33, 25 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Here, this is just what I wanted to know:

b. (also b British English)

  • the written abbreviation of

// with an example: // Andrew Lanham, b. 1885 // at: /just that simple.--Schwab7000 (talk) 11:26, 25 August 2012 (UTC)

a template {{born}} for {{born}}, I would use it. Thanks Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing) --Schwab7000 (talk) 11:26, 25 August 2012 (UTC)
A proliferation of templates, a drag on server performance, for something so utterly simple seems pointless to me. -- Ohconfucius ping / poke 01:55, 14 September 2012 (UTC)

Proposal to remove fractions from Edittools

There is a proposal citing MOS:FRAC at MediaWiki talk:Edittools#Proposal to remove fractions. PrimeHunter (talk) 22:43, 13 September 2012 (UTC)

Mya and bya

This MOS seems to recommend that "science-related" articles use SI units Ga for "billion years ago", and Ma for "million years ago". Let me discuss three quotes from this MOS, and make some supported recommendations.

  • In science-related articles: generally use only SI units and non-SI units officially accepted for use with the SI.
  • Use symbol a for year Only when SI prefixes are used e.g. "540 Ma old"
  • The tya/kya, mya and bya symbols are deprecated in some fields such as geophysics and geology, but remain common in others, such as anthropology. [See contrasting quotes concerning "geology" below.]

I think we should take out that last sentence, for the following reasons, and instead make explicit support the use of mya and bya for "science related" articles. Please see Year#Symbol (and subsections) for the following quotes.

  • In English, the abbreviations y or yr are sometimes used, specifically in geology and paleontology, where kyr, myr, byr (thousands, millions, and billions of years, respectively) and similar abbreviations are used to denote intervals of time remote from the present. [It's followed by three citations.]
  • In astronomy, geology, and paleontology, the abbreviation yr for "years" and ya for "years ago" are sometimes used, combined with prefixes for "thousand", "million", or "billion". [It's followed by two citations.]
  • They are not SI units, using y to abbreviate English year, but following ambiguous international recommendations, use either the standard English first letters as prefixes (t, m, and b) or metric prefixes (k, M, and G) or variations on metric prefixes (k, m, g). [The SI has no unit for year.]
  • Use of "mya" and "bya" is deprecated in modern geophysics, the recommended usage being "Ma" and "Ga" for dates Before Present, but "m.y." for the duration of epochs.[13][14]This ad hoc distinction between "absolute" time and time intervals is somewhat controversial. [Note the two citations.]
  • Year#SI prefix multipliers, bullet Ma, says Ma has as an alternative "mya" but that "mya" is deprecated (period) (i.e. in general). It is however actually notable.

The the last bullets on the above two bullet lists are related: the phrase mya is depricated in this MOS has seemingly had support from this last bullet, which, by the one above it shows it to be misleading.

Some other points supportive of removing the dismissive sentence, and adding an accepting sentence for mya and bya in this MOS:

  • If an issue is notably ambiguous—whether to use mya or Ma, bya or Ba—we clarify the ambiguity for use on Wikipedia in the MOS. I say the current clarification in this MOS to not use mya (because it's "deprecated") should instead be reversed. Ga was deprecated the day the U.K. switched to the short scale to make "billion" and "giga" the same. (Wikt:billion says the long scale billion is obsolete.)
  • Bya is a short piece recommending bya and mya by "convention" and "widespread use" among scientists: "gigaannum" is equivalent to "billion years ago" except aesthetically; Ga has been deprecated since 1974 when U.K. switched the meaning of billion to 1×109 from 1×1012
  • Ma and Ga don't make the list at Template:Val/unitswithlink/test
  • Since the SI doesn't define a symbol for year, and since this MOS says to use SI/SI-accepted units for scientific articles, and since the SI-accepted units have neither bya or ga, the MOS will have to undertake to clearly define "science-related" (could it mean "science", could it mean "academic", or could it mean "expert" articles.) Yuk yuk yuk. And all for the sake of that sentence I'd replace; all for the sake of Wikipedia steering clear of those ghost (uncited European) geologists controversies because their MOS overrode the ghosts' notability. Who are these pre-1974 modern geophysicists?
  • This MOS say "generally" use SI... which is a perfectly reasonable because it leaves room for using mya and bya.

As for Ma and Ga, I'd like to note that

  • They are case sensitive, whereas bya, b.y.a. or BYA are all clear
  • A is for Ampere, so GA is for gigaAmpere, MA is for megaAmpere
  • a is also for Hectare#Are (but SI prefers ha)
  • Gya can also refer to a new unit of radiation exposure called the gray.
  • Most readers won't think "Ga, let's see... gigaannum?" or even "G, hmmm ... giga? Let's see, that's 109, which is... a billion."

CpiralCpiral 09:03, 20 September 2012 (UTC)

Mya and bya: arbitrary subsection

At Earth#Formation we can comfortably sling "model", "theory", and "hypothesis" and there I want to change the use of Ga and Ma to bya and mya. But a browser-search of this MOS page is misleading concerning the state of affairs outlined. So I propose a move in this MOS, towards the orientation outlined. How? Well, at the Abbreviations indicating long periods of time ago bullet, mention BP and modern geophysics in the first sentence. Pair up the BP sub-bullet with a new "modern geophysics" bullet explaining ka, Ma and Ga there. Then use the remainder of the main bullet to say something like Combine the abbreviations yr for "years" and ya for "years ago" with prefixes for "thousand" (kya, kyr), "million" (mya, myr), and "billion" (bya, byr).

CpiralCpiral 06:42, 18 September 2012 (UTC)

As I think I mentioned somewhere, it seems to me that in nuclear physics and cosmology at least the symbol for the year is almost always y or yr, so I disagree with the MoS recommendation of only using a. (Searching for "y", "yr" or "a" and excluding irrelevant stuff seems infeasible to me, so I don't know how to even begin making this observation into quantitative data.) I'm not familiar with the academic literature about geology or palaeontology so I don't know what they use. — A. di M.  11:13, 18 September 2012 (UTC)
I'm a physicist who has published on paleoclimate and geology, so I've touched a lot of it. I think the use of "yr" (kyr, Myr, Gyr) is still widespread in many areas, while geologists in particular have gone over to "a" (ka, Ma, Ga) for many things. Out of curiosity I pulled out a major geology text from 1989 and it was already using the "a" notation. However, my impression is that "ya" notation ( kya, mya ) is widely disfavored in academic circles at this point. You still see it in popular culture stuff, but I wouldn't generally encourage its use here. I would especially avoid use of "b" to mean billion, as in "bya" or "byr". I'm not sure I've ever seen those used in academic literature (though I'm sure someone could find an example if forced). Of course one could argue about whether we want to be "scholarly" (e.g. "yr", "a") or "popular" (e.g. "ya") in our choice of units and abbreviations. Personally, I would favor writing out "billion years" if it is only going to be used occasionally, and adopting scholarly prefixes (e.g. "Gyr", "Ga") if an abbreviation is really unavoidable. Dragons flight (talk) 13:33, 18 September 2012 (UTC)
The word "billion" is fine, as you say, thank you, for infrequent use. This MOS says to intro. the first unit appearance with a worded parenthetical explanation. My topic is is for featured articles like Earth with frequent need for the unit bya or Ga editors need. The prefix giga (or symbol "G") is probably what a featured article on Accretion disk would need. But how about the article on Earth?

The article Earth, being a topic about the place we all live, needs a "featured" phrase "billion years ago", because it's on stage for everyone in the world who can read "you are here", not just "scholars" like myself who know and like "giga annum". So I'm advocating that the MOS should aim for a style, featured article style, for a topic most likely because of greatest probable interest, much the way WP:redirect bypasses WP:disambiguation for what is most likely intended. Thus this MOS should in general redirect editors to use bya because it's most likely a common-reader featured article, and not a scholarly-reader featured article. Ga is fine for scholarly geophysical geography, but not for common geophysical geography. So the issue becomes a simple matter of pragmatics, (because the common-scholarly reader must soon-to-be applying the information there scientifically, expertly, or scholarly) and a matter of probability, because the readers of Earth, a featured article, are probably not scholarly. They are probably third graders, applying a lesson given to them. As it stands, the MOS is misleading for what would be an improvement (we seem to agree upon, almost) in a section in a featured article that I'm working on: Earth#Formation . — CpiralCpiral 20:00, 18 September 2012 (UTC)

So I boldly made the edit. But is it just geophysics? Probably not. Probably needs refinement of that exception, maybe a list. And is it the policy of the British Museum to spell out "years ago", "billion years ago" and "thousand years ago"? Almost certainly. Should some wiki-pedia advocate that for such a common-reader featured-article? I say No. — CpiralCpiral 21:07, 18 September 2012 (UTC)

Disagree - just write it out - neither form is sensible or easy to follow, and leads to abominations like Ga -0 (Galdolinium). Incidently, the gray is NOT a new unit, and is not a measuremeant of radiation, but of absorbed dose, and the symbol is Gy, not Gya.Nigel Ish (talk) 21:23, 18 September 2012 (UTC)
But units are needed sometimes, not only in the numbers of math and science, but in the general prose too. This MOS has those three paragraphs because the British Museum example you recommend is an exception WP doesn't make. Please note that I said I have (somewhat boldly) edited them already, hoping to get the discussion completed. Thanks. — CpiralCpiral 23:27, 18 September 2012 (UTC)
  • Just as long as if a non-intuitive abbreviation is used in an article, it is glossed in parentheses on first occurrence. Tony (talk) 01:37, 19 September 2012 (UTC)
Absolutely, and I would say that all the ones mentioned above are non-intuitive and sufficiently unfamiliar to our general readership that first-time glossing should be mandated here for the lot. Johnbod (talk) 15:45, 19 September 2012 (UTC)
We should bear in mind that some fields only study the past, so any phrase or abbreviation involving thousands of years, or more, can be assumed to refer to the past, not the future. But that is not the case in other fields, such as general interest articles or astronomy, so editors will need to take care to clearly distinguish between past and future. Jc3s5h (talk) 13:58, 19 September 2012 (UTC)

Mya and bya: summary

This above discussion was interesting but easy to ignore, like a lovers quarrel in the park.

I took out The tya/kya, mya and bya symbols are deprecated in some fields such as geophysics and geology, but remain common in others, such as anthropology because

  • "deprecated" scares the kids who associate it with old or insecure software
  • it's an unsupported statement
  • there's support against the statement
  • the debates could be endless and fruitless or ignored: bya or Ga? Science? SI-acceptance? Acedemic? Popular? (That the article be "science-related" to determine whether to use bya or Ga? Perhaps the MOS meant to say "academia-related" articles to use SI? (Again, Dragon flight) Perhaps it should say neither?) (See below.)

I esp. like the one relevant counter-assertion "Dragons flight" made, (concerning units) that the MOS recommend Ga in order for Wikipedia to be "scholarly" (e.g. "yr", "a") rather than "popular" (e.g. "ya"). But the scholars could be 3rd Graders using Earth in a school assignment. Let them write "mya" to discuss Earth, not "Ma". Their playground need not distinguish the complicated reasons "geophysicists but not anthropologists" have different initialisms or acronyms, discern "absolute" verses "duration" time, or have contentious variations amongst themselves, just because of the ad hoc nature of reality on their "playground". — CpiralCpiral 07:47, 20 September 2012 (UTC)

Prior discussion at Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style_(dates_and_numbers)/Archive_78#MYA_or_mya and Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style_(dates_and_numbers)/Archive_96#Ga, Ma, ka preferred to bya, mya, tya should be considered. I'm still in favour of the modern terminology Ga vice bya, if only because its use in graphs on commons does not have to be translated for other language wikis. Do we really want to have a situation where an en-only version is to be required, driven only by the unit representations selected in MOS? LeadSongDog come howl! 22:08, 20 September 2012 (UTC)
The two extremes are "spell it out" and "use universal units". Assuming the number of mental translations relate to accessibility, lets compare the compromises: universal units verses English acronym:
Ga -> giga-annum -> 10e9 years -> Billion years ago = six steps. V.S. Bya-> Billion years ago = three.
The later is more accessible, but less scholarly. If someone wants to work on Earth, they should realize the audience is potentially very widely everyone who can read the lingua franca. For Earth it should probably use mya, and let the scholars adjust downward, as they are used to doing all the time.
GA and FA used to have accessibility as a criterion, but not any more. Any featured article can obviously use either Ga or Bya. Now, each article has an audience. The MOS should not say to use mya, as it does now, but just list styles, then give many good reasons explaining when and how to match the target audience. (Please see below why we can do this without taking surveys, and how by being as creative as WP:FNNR.) Let's try to come up with a MOS proposal that does not commend or mandate as it does now. — CpiralCpiral 03:57, 21 September 2012 (UTC)

Mya and bya: observations into quantitative data

A quantified explanation for A.di M. as to my qualitative experience with this MOS, resulted in a meta-philosophy I'll try on for any future edits to this MOS. (Where I say "this MOS" or "that MOS" I refer to obvious sections of the MOS.)

More generally, "science related" articles means those that work with a global terminology: one language of numbers and units describing one (scientific) method, which involves conferences, committees and bureaus. Editors have only the MOS, and the MOS has only ad hoc discussions that just happen to happen. So the scientific institutes may deprecate terms (e.g. kilobyte), whereas we should not. We should mention and mandate styles and terms, but not commend them. The "audience line" here between scholarly and popular, science-related or not science-related, etc., should be purposely undefined, because the definition of the line would have to be either very complicated, or simple enough to become ignored. Undefined lines are the best real-life "utterances": subtle when no longer confused.

"The sentence removed" (above) contained a helpful list of fields where the surveyed literature is predominately…—wait a minute:

  • The MOS job is not to make or report upon surveys, then based on that, categorize a style or term. The MOS doesn't have members that can gerrymander the lines to paddle the boat to some drum. We've participants whose activity just happens to happen, and so we should try only to perfect editor ideals. The vicissitudes of life and the ad hoc nature of reality raise defiance precisely at "battle lines" of ambiguous and arbitrary thresholds.
  • The MOS job is to make life bearable on Wikipedia; to list notable styles and terminology. The editors job is then choosing listed terminology using ad hoc notions of aesthetics, which will include audience sentiments towards what style is notable for the article edited. Thus articles work themselves out, in an ad hoc fashion, for all manner of styles and terminology, which we list and explain in a neutral fashion.
  • Ideally, all articles are featured. Featured articles are the epitome of the MOS. Therefore the MOS should list what's notable and offer local reasons and associations as the articulation of the list evolves. The external reasons for terminology and style is thus made less relevant here, as we focus on internal rationalizations.
  • Ideally, an editor scans the entire MOS and then works-up articles towards featured status. The scan, if absorbing details, should leave style-oriented details, not content-oriented details, in the memory.
  • An encyclopedia should be "scholarly", not because it covers lofty ground, but because it covers notable knowledge on all grounds worthy of learning.
  • While this MOS requires more mandates than the WP:FNNR MOS, that MOS is par excellence where it says "possibilities include", and how it provides both explanations and reasons for associating them with choices. Even if some of those reasons are over the top, they're a list of internally usable rationalizations and mnemonics, and they are ignorable (in parenthesis) for those simply filling up there memories with a scan. WP:FNNR separates footnote-style-content and footnote-style-title/terminology. FNNR used to say "the most popular title for footnotes on the wiki", just as this MOS used to say "mya is not popular in geophysics".

Thusly, here:

  • If mya is notable, it's usable. Whether it's deprecated in the field or not is not notability's entire purview. I've made a reversal of the MOS stance on using mya and bya. I've said the MOS should avoid such stances.
  • What is a "Science related" article, in the bya/Ga context? It means an article's audience very likely knows how quickly to associate giga and tera with a number; or that M is both Million or Mega, but that Billion is only G.
  • This MOS now lists "SI, SI-accepted, bya, Ga and BP, and spelling-out" neutrally and generally, mandating mya and bya, but offering BP and Ga as alternative methods, and gives associations to consider. The geophysics bullet might better say Acedemic, to better match the style at the top where it says CE and BCE are common in some scholarly and religious writing.
  • The 'deprecated' label could have bred obstinance in new editors who naturally avoid such. But it was an understandable mistake to cite external contexts. The mandates coming from the MOS to the editors, should begin in Wikipedia. WikiProject Math has there own MOS; WikiProjectComputing does not, and their CLI-command articles are inconsistent with one another.
  • I can generalize this: the meta-MOS MOS-world, where there is a sad state, an army of wanna-be general semanticists (like me perhaps), is found dictating in a perfect oblivion "how things are", having no real (because responsive) ownership of the future's practical terrain.

CpiralCpiral 07:47, 20 September 2012 (UTC)

Informing editors about minus signs

Attempts to substitute, by several individuals, with dashes and even non-breaking hyphens were not unseen, but since user talk: Rursus #Misplaced .26ndash; I start to think that something is seriously wrong with this part of MoS. Incnis Mrsi (talk) 06:04, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

I agree with Incnis Mrsi abt the text. I estimate the base question to be this:
  • is minus signs (1) bad for the browsing or (2) good? I interpret the text so that minus signs provoke line breaks, while ndashes (maybe) don't,
  • I think the text must be elaborated so it explains why this or that sign is bad,
  • otherwise the rule seems ad-hoc,
Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 06:27, 24 September 2012 (UTC)
I got another idea: in many fonts, f.ex. DejaVu Serif, the minus - is half the width of plus +. That might be a reason why editors tend to replace - with ndash –. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 06:45, 24 September 2012 (UTC)
I suggest Rursus to start their typographic education from the article hyphen-minus. Possibly, it's this link what this part of MoS, unfortunately, misses. Incnis Mrsi (talk) 07:35, 24 September 2012 (UTC)
Whoops… it neither is missing nor was missing from the beginning (although I made a nasty typo in my edit which was happily fixed by another user). Then, I can't realize at all why MoS does not convince. Incnis Mrsi (talk) 07:48, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

Centuries format

I propose adding the bullet point below between the current first and second bullets of the Centuries and millennia heading at WP:CENTURY.

  • Centuries not in quotes or titles should be written with Arabic numeral(s) in the format 8th century.


  • Centuries not in quotes or titles should be either spelled out (eighth century) or in Arabic numeral(s) (8th century). The same style should be used throughout any article.


  • Centuries not in quotes or titles should be spelled out for centuries one through nine (eighth century) and Arabic numerals should be used for centuries 10 and above (18th century).

Reason: There are frequent uses of spelled out century numbers and occasional uses of Roman numeral century numbers in Wikipedia. My perception is that the first option is best because it is most concise and most common now in Wikipedia. I look forward to your thoughts. SchreiberBike (talk) 18:32, 17 September 2012 (UTC)

The first option is what we had years ago, and only a few Manual of Style experts could remember that WP:ORDINAL didn't apply to centuries. I derided it as the "sixth sentry, 6th century rule". We also had a separate version of the guideline at the main Manual of Style, which resulted in contradictions; Roman numeral centuries were explicitly forbidden at the main Manual of Style, but they weren't mentioned here, at the guideline the main Manual was supposed to be summarizing. But that problem has been fixed; if we want to change the rule, we only have to change it here. Art LaPella (talk) 20:29, 17 September 2012 (UTC)
Based on the small amount of comment, I don't want to assume that there's consensus on option one. Option two is more inclusive and more typical of the MOS. I did see that WP:ORDINAL does say "Centuries are given in figures or words using adjectival hyphenation where appropriate: the 5th century BCE; nineteenth-century painting. Neither the ordinal nor the word "century" should be capitalised." That would have to be modified also. Perhaps it should read the same in both places; adjectival hyphenation is a general rule for English and capitalization is covered by MOS:CAPS. Or perhaps it should be eliminated from WP:ORDINAL as duplication. It does seem to me to belong under WP:CENTURY. Thank you. SchreiberBike (talk) 01:33, 20 September 2012 (UTC)
I see no real need to mandate here. Some people like to spell the words, and many are trained to use "6th-century", & beyond mandating consistency within an article I see no need to make a change that would involve changing thousands of articles (do a search on "nineteenth century"). I don't mind banning "XIIth century" though it is very common in many European languages. Of those given, 2 is the least bad option; 3 is wierd, as "6th century" is just as common as "eleventh century" (ie very common) in sources covering those periods. Johnbod (talk) 01:46, 20 September 2012 (UTC)
This hasn't appeared to be controversial and I think, being bold, that the MOS would be better with option two above added. I'll go ahead and make the change. The adjustments to WP:ORDINAL can wait until later. Thank you. SchreiberBike (talk) 03:25, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
  • If something is to be mandated, it should be option 1 which is what most articles already have. And the purpose of MOS is a guideline across all articles, not the trivial exercise of a single article. Hmains (talk) 03:50, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
Google shows numerals (option 1) are about 6 times more common than words for centuries in Wikipedia. WP:ORDINAL already specifies option 2. Art LaPella (talk) 05:26, 22 September 2012 (UTC)
I just noticed that at Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Superscripts and subscripts it says "Centuries and millennia are written using ordinal numbers, without superscripts and without Roman numerals: the second millennium, the 19th century, a 19th-century book". I suppose that allows for spelled out or Arabic numbers. We do have references to centuries in at least three different places in the MOS. SchreiberBike (talk) 23:15, 30 September 2012 (UTC)

Two by five chains is no furlong

Two by five chains is definitely an acre.

I'm dragging up an old topic which has been discussed a couple of times with the discussion leading to some positive suggestions which were never carried through with.

The current guideline reads as follows.

When dimensions are given, each number should be followed by a unit name or symbol (e.g. write 1 m × 3 m × 6 m, not 1 × 3 × 6 m or 1 × 3 × 6 m3).

It was argued by some that the repetition of the unit was unnecessary (that, for example, "100 × 100 m" is unambiguously a one-hectare square) and that the rule should be removed. Others argued that, no, this should be treated as a mathematical expression (that, for example, "100 × 100 m" is 10 kilometres). No consensus was reached on this and the status quo remained.

However, there was an alternative mentioned: "by". How could "100 by 100 metres" be mistaken for 10 km? I don't believe it could. It seems to me the perfect solution. Furthermore "by" feels more at home in prose and is therefore, I reckon, more suitable when the units are spelt out; compare "2 feet by 6 inches" to "2 feet × 6 inches".

Here's what I propose.

  1. When dimensions are given using the multiplication sign each number should be followed by a unit symbol or abbreviation (as currently recommended).
  2. Dimensions may be given using "by", in which case only the last number need be followed by a unit name, symbol or abbreviation (perhaps even "... only the last number should be followed ..." unless there are more than one unit involved).
  3. When unit names are spelt out in full use "by" to give dimensions.

JIMp talk·cont 16:22, 21 September 2012 (UTC)

"By" is well understood in American English. I'm not sure about other national varieties of English. I suspect it might be an unnecessary burden to those who speak English as a second language. Jc3s5h (talk) 16:46, 21 September 2012 (UTC) modified 21:12 UT.
An unnecessary what? — A. di M.  19:04, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
Yes. — A. di M.  19:04, 21 September 2012 (UTC)

I'd say it's well understood in all varieties of English. I'm not sure that avoidance of burdening speakers of other languages should come before good writing nor would this be amongst the greatest of burdens at WP. JIMp talk·cont 01:08, 22 September 2012 (UTC)

If we're always concerning ourselves not to burden ESL readers, here's what we end up producing: the Simple English Wikipedia. Let ESL readers either go there use or a dictionary if this site gets to be a burden (though, I'm begining to wonder whether a mathematical symbol in the middle of prose is really significantly less burnensome for ESL readers than a word). Note that as they currently stand the guidelines don't rule out "by" anyway and there already exist instances of its use out there.

Okay, how about dropping point 3 above (the requirement that "by" be used whenever units are spelt in full)? This new proposal would mean that "by" is noted as an alternative (whereas currently is just isn't mentioned) and that where "by" is used repeating the units would be optional.

  1. Dimensions may be given using the multiplication sign or "by".
  2. When dimensions are given using the multiplication sign each number should be followed by a unit name, symbol or abbreviation (as currently recommended).
  3. When dimensions are given using "by" only the last number need be followed by a unit name, symbol or abbreviation (unless there are more than one unit involved).

JIMp talk·cont 03:55, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

I have added the second (green) version to the guidelines. Excuse me if I'm being overly bold but in light of the fact that this discussion seems to be gaining so little interest I don't think I'm overstepping the bounds in making the call that the currently mentioned concern about burdening ESL readers doesn't outweigh the support for this alternative expressed in the previous discussions which I have linked to. As noted, though, I have weakened the wording such that "by" would be optional regardless of whether the unit is spelt out whereas my preference would have been for the straight-forwardness and consistency of a rule strengthened such that the form used is determined by the form of the units i.e. the following rule.

  1. When units are given using a symbol or abbreviation use the multiplication sign for dimensions and follow each number should be followed by the unit symbol or abbreviation.
  2. When units are given using (a) unit name(s) use "by" for dimensions and follow only the last number by the unit name unless mulitple units are involved.

JIMp talk·cont 06:51, 26 September 2012 (UTC)

Year ranges

At WP:YEAR, it says:

Ranges expressed using prepositions (from 1881 to 1886 or between 1881 and 1886) should not use en dashes (not from 1881–1886 or between 1881–1886).

giving a solution for using the preposition form. What is the suggested language, though, if you want to use the endash range form? Example:

X was the name of Y from 1948–1990

Which of these is it?:

  1. X was the name of Y 1948–1990 (seems "naked" without the preposition)
  2. X was the name of Y (1948–1990) (it isn't really parenthetical)
  3. X was the name of Y during the year range 1948–1990 (ugly)
  4. X was the name of Y in the years 1948–1990
  5. There is no grammatically correct solution
  6. Something else

Also, if you do want to use the preposition form, is "to" or "through" the appropriate conjunction after "from"?:

X was the name of Y from 1948–1990


  1. X was the name of Y from 1948 through 1990 or
  2. X was the name of Y from 1948 to 1990

I would think "through" is more accurate because the original incorrect form would seem to be inclusive of 1990, while "to" is, at best, vague.

—[AlanM1(talk)]— 21:17, 29 September 2012 (UTC)

1. You can't use the en-dash form if you have a preposition before the first date, as your examples show. Why would you want to? For dates it's mostly useful parenthetically, as in "There was a period when X was the name of Y (1948–1990), but more recently ..." In other cases it works because the first preposition isn't needed, e.g. "It has has leaves which are 3–5 cm long."
2. There is an ENG:VAR issue with "through"; it's much less used in British English, where "from 1956 to 1980" would normally be understood inclusively.
Peter coxhead (talk) 21:46, 29 September 2012 (UTC)
  1. Yes, awkward.
  2. Parenthetical is bumpy in running prose unless in a list or a sequence of contrasts, where it's preferable, I think.
  3. Impossible.
  4. Bad.

Just use from 1948 to 1990, simple. Peter, it's not all prepositions: during 1990–95 is fine; n seems OK. But between and from seem to gag. Tony (talk) 02:10, 2 October 2012 (UTC)

"During" and "in" grate on me a bit in this context; if the period has been referred to previously, I'd probably be okay with them, but on first reference "during the years 1990–95" would be better. Powers T 15:20, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
It depends on whether the preposition ‘binds’ with only the first endpoint or with the whole range. From 1948 to 1990 is parsed as [from 1948] [to 1990], whereas during 1990–95 is parsed as [during [1990–95]]. — A. di M.  20:34, 2 October 2012 (UTC)

Two-year ranges: dash versus slash

Current advice indicates that "1989–90" indicates a full 24-month period, while "1989/90" is used to indicate a 12-month (or shorter) period that spans two calendar years (as in a sporting league season or fiscal year). While it is laudable to achieve this distinction for clarity, I have two concerns. First, I'm not actually aware of any sporting league/team season articles that actually make use of the slash instead of a dash. Second, I don't know that the slash notation is common enough for its meaning to be immediately understandable to readers. Am I missing something here? Powers T 00:08, 2 October 2012 (UTC)

A more exact statistic is that "2008–2009 season" and "2008-2009 season" together beat "2008/2009 season" by around 8 to 1 on Wikipedia. Art LaPella (talk) 01:38, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
  • I must admit to seeing/noticing a greater prevalence of the former (dashed) over the latter (slashed) in my Wikitravels. -- Ohconfucius ping / poke 01:44, 2 October 2012 (UTC)

Uncertain birth dates

The following addition to the WP:BORN section is suggested:

  • Where an exact death date, and age (e.g. died 18 June 1952 aged 76), are known, but not the exact birth date: (born 1875/1876; died 18 June 1952)

Discussion by the Wikipedia community is requested to determine if this change should be made. Thank you. Truthanado (talk) 17:03, 23 September 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── This is only part of the story; which originates with these disputed changes to John J. Mullen (mayor) and discussion on my talk page, in which Truthanado argues:

The changes to the birth dates were made in accordance with the following guideline at WP:BORN (a section in WP:MOSNUM:

When the year of birth is known only approximately: "John Sayer (c. 1750 – 2 October 1818) ..."

Since we know he was born in either 1875 or 1876 (because his age at death is known), "circa 1875" is appropriate.

In addition, a forward slash between dates is used to signify a night, as in this from WP:DATEFORMAT (a section in WP:MOSNUM:

A night may be expressed in terms of the two contiguous dates using a slash (the bombing raids of the night of 30/31 May 1942).

Which is of course, nonsense. 1875/1876 is not "a night"; and we don't only know the subject's birth-date "approximately". We know that it was 1875 or 1876, but not 1872, 1874 or 1877. "Circa 1875" is less precise than "1875/1876" and we owe it to our readers to be as precise as possible. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 18:00, 23 September 2012 (UTC)

When changing guidelines, remember to keep them consistent with each other. WP:YEAR says "... c. is preferred over circa ...". Art LaPella (talk) 20:24, 23 September 2012 (UTC)
How is that relevant to the change under discussion? Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 21:34, 23 September 2012 (UTC)
Truthanado argued that "circa 1875" can be appropriate, although WP:YEAR recommends c. not circa. Art LaPella (talk) 22:13, 23 September 2012 (UTC)
Let me clarify. I used the full word circa to emphasize the point and maker it clear that an approximate date is defined. Of course, the correct text to use in the article should be c. 1875, as defined in the guideline, and as in the edit that was reverted. Truthanado (talk) 05:21, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

I propose to restore my changes, unless anyone else objects. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 20:28, 7 October 2012 (UTC)

Long dash

How is the 'long dash' created, between the birth & death dates? GoodDay (talk) 02:55, 2 October 2012 (UTC)

According to Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers#Dates of birth and death, "Dates of birth and death ... are separated by an en dash". The en dash is a short dash, not a long dash, when compared to an em dash. For creation instructions, see Wikipedia:How to make dashes. Art LaPella (talk) 05:31, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Those instructions are too confusing. I'm gonna stick with creating '&ndash;' type. GoodDay (talk) 22:00, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Press ALT and hold it down then press 0150 while still holding down the ALT key. -DJSasso (talk) 22:30, 2 October 2012 (UTC)
Too confusing? Darn!! I thought that's why we have the "Short explanation". Art LaPella (talk) 02:30, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Howdy Art. I've tried the ALT & 0150 approach, but it's done nothing. GoodDay (talk) 10:30, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
It only works with the numeric keypad, and only in Windows. (I was about to suggest using the character palette below the edit box, but apparently it's gone.) — A. di M.  10:43, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Actually on my setup (Mac, Firefox or Safari) it's still there but is rendered mostly invisible and so useless by recent changes which have made the buttons and text above occupy more space. If anyone knows where to report this issue, please do so! Peter coxhead (talk) 11:28, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
To Peter: You mean Wikipedia:Village pump (technical)? I suggest you make that report, because it's completely gone as far as I can see, perhaps because it's replaced by "Special characters" above the edit box. Art LaPella (talk) 15:04, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Ok, will do. Peter coxhead (talk) 15:40, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Sigh... Turns out's well-known; see Wikipedia:Village_pump_(technical)#Edit_window_changes. If you go to My preferences / Editing and turn off "Enable enhanced editing toolbar", the missing stuff comes back. But this should never have been changed without warning. Peter coxhead (talk) 15:50, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
To GoodDay: If you know how to use &ndash; then that will certainly work. If you prefer alt 0150 then here is the quote from the "Long explanation" concerning alt 0150 (without the "plus sign" sentence, since we haven't introduced that unnecessary complication to you):
"Your keyboard probably has two Alt keys. While holding down the left Alt key (the right Alt key does not work if the US-International keyboard is enabled), type 0150 on the numeric keypad. The numbers above the letters on your keyboard won't work; make sure the "num lock" light is on and use the numeric keypad.
One user reported getting this to work on his laptop by pressing function key F11 to turn regular numbers into keypad numbers, and then press F11 again to turn them back to regular numbers. More explanation here." Art LaPella (talk) 14:58, 3 October 2012 (UTC)
Yikes, I think I'll stick with the way I've been doing it. FWIW, my computer is an Acer. GoodDay (talk) 01:26, 4 October 2012 (UTC)

There's a much easier way to insert an en-dash (or any other character, for that matter) than trying to remember keyboard shortcuts. First, click in the edit text where you want the character to appear. Then, at the top of the page (while in Edit mode), click on the blue arrow next to Special characters. Then click on the en-dash "–" character (3rd row, 14th from left; just right of m² and m³) to insert it into the text. Truthanado (talk) 02:41, 4 October 2012 (UTC)

A minor clarification

At present, Mosnum reads:

Two sentences give directions about which units to use and not use. They are separated by another sentence about specialist units which may be used. A minor change would express the same meaning in fewer words:

How do others feel about this proposed revision? Michael Glass (talk) 00:29, 9 October 2012 (UTC)

1. This is an example where the precision of an Oxford comma ("for use with the SI, and specialist units") would be helpful to clarify that there are three types of units that are allowed.
2. What is a "specialist unit"? If this doesn't have a specific meaning, I believe "specialized unit" better describes what is intended (i.e. one for which there is no SI unit). —[AlanM1(talk)]— 03:45, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Thanks, Alan M. I think that "specialized" would be a better choice of words, and the use of the extra comma is helpful. I would therefore revise the wording as follows:

How do you feel about that revision? Michael Glass (talk) 12:30, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Wording revised as per this discussion. Michael Glass (talk) 01:40, 14 October 2012 (UTC)

Dash or hyphen in ISO 8601 international date format?

I ran into a MoS section on the usage of the ISO 8601 international date format which somewhat oddly states, that we should use a 'dash' to separate the year, month and day values.

This is in violation to the ISO 8601 standard, which explictly mandates the separator to be a 'hyphen' (‐), if a separator is used at all.

Well, hyphens and dashes look very similar, nonetheless they serve different purposes, and since ISO dates are meant to be readable by humans as well as by machines and the ISO standard uses a number of other special characters for a variety of other purposes, I think it is important to not invent new non-standard pseudo-ISO representations here.

I assume that this was added to the MoS in "good faith" in order to stress that we should not use the abbreviated form without separators, and that we must under no circumstances use other separators like "/" or ".", which are commonly used in local date formats (and people therefore tend to use them in the international date format as well), but they have completely different meanings in ISO dates.

Therefore, I propose to change the sentence to indicate that we should use a hyphen rather than a dash in order to comply with the ISO 8601 standard. What do you think? --Matthiaspaul (talk) 11:25, 12 October 2012 (UTC)

I don't believe "I ran into a MoS section on the usage of the ISO 8601 international date format" because the character string "8601" does not appear in WP:MOS. However, the example of YYYY-MM-DD format in the "Manual of Style" does use the hyphen-minus character, which has the hexadecimal encoding 2D, and that is what ISO-8601 calls for. I think we should use the hyphen-minus for the convenience of those who mistakenly think Wikipedia has adopted ISO-8601 for some of its dates in articles. Jc3s5h (talk) 12:06, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
To be fair, the character string "8601" does appear quite clearly in the first bullet-pointed paragraph below the first table in MOS:NUM#Dates: Because year-initial dates might be assumed to follow the ISO 8601 standard, which mandates the Gregorian calendar, ....
But the required separator is described lower down (second bullet-point below second table) as "dash": do not replace dash characters ("-") with any other character;. As the character used is clearly an ordinary hyphen, I'd agree with changing that word, for clarity. cheers, Struway2 (talk) 12:34, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
I would agree with Struway2's proposed change. Since Matthiaspaul mentioned "MoS" and not "Manual of Style/Dates and numbers", and also did not give any quotes that we could search for, I am not 100% sure I know which passage Matthiaspaul wants to change. Jc3s5h (talk) 13:06, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done [5]. — A. di M.  21:48, 12 October 2012 (UTC)
Great, thanks. --Matthiaspaul (talk) 00:05, 13 October 2012 (UTC)


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.

Um, what is up with this US-centric bias? The hyping of "US dollars ($123), the dominant reserve currency of the world" is so POV and WP:PEACOCK that it would need to be toned down if this were an article. Also, if a currency is obsolete, odds are the territory on which it was formerly local money has switched to something else. The most common example is western Europe as a group of euro nations, abandoning francs, lira and drachma. The Newfoundland pound is replaced by the Newfoundland dollar, which is displaced by the Canadian dollar during the Canadian occupation of the Dominion of Newfoundland which originated as a 1949 April Fools' Day joke but inexplicably continues today. Likewise, the Ostmark from the former East Germany was replaced with the Deutschmark which in turn was replaced by the euro (currency). As such, Newfoundland pounds and ostmarks (or lira) should become C$ and €, not gringo dollars unless the territory in question has actually switched to the US currency for some odd reason (typically this was done as a last resort in places like Zimbabwe, after the Zimbabwe dollar collapsed as a result of hyperinflation). I know of no case where an entire nation and its currency have vanished to leave only uninhabited territory with no sovereign government, without leaving any successor nation with some sort of local money. Even Somalia lists Somali shilling (SOS) despite government having all but collapsed in that nation. The USSR no longer exists, so replace its ruble with Russia's ruble, Ukraine's hrivna, Latvia's lat (or the euro, to which LVL is pegged)... but not the US dollar unless it's actually in local use as primary currency in the former territory. K7L (talk) 14:51, 13 October 2012 (UTC)

One other pitfall to watch: there historically were instances where a currency like the Soviet-era ruble had an "official exchange rate" which was meaningless. These were not hard currencies, the USSR might have been officially willing to sell a ruble for U$1.67 but its actual worth was much less if attempting to turn rubles back into dollars on (usually) a black market. Any "US-dollar equivalent as a default" approach would have problems if the advertised official exchange rate bore no correlation to the actual worth of a currency. K7L (talk) 15:20, 15 October 2012 (UTC)

Units in plural

re WP:UNIT. I see that when spelled out, the unit is written in plural: 50 kilometres per hour (31 mph). I could not find that defined in the BIPM (SI) brochure (though they do write the plural too). Is it an English/American spelling rule? -DePiep (talk) 14:59, 14 October 2012 (UTC)

Yes, the spelling, capitalization, and plurals of spelled-out units of measure follow the rules of whichever language the text is written in. It is only unit symbols and prefix symbols that follow one set of rules for the entire world. Jc3s5h (talk) 16:19, 14 October 2012 (UTC)
I understand, but my question is: why a plural at all? To me that is non scientific. -DePiep (talk) 20:04, 14 October 2012 (UTC)
It seems like ordinary English to me. In this case, there would be no reason for a scientific text to be written any differently than a general-interest text. Jc3s5h (talk) 20:11, 14 October 2012 (UTC)
I meant to say: why not write 50 kilometre per hour (31 mph)? That is how I learned it (not in English). -DePiep (talk) 20:27, 14 October 2012 (UTC)
I'm an American engineer and am quite confident no one who speaks English as their native language, whether a scientist, engineer, or in other fields, would write or say "The vehicle's speed was 50 kilometre per hour." Often it would be written with symbols, such as "50 km/h", but if a native English-speaker were to read "50 km/h" it would be spoken "50 kilometres per hour".
However, if the whole phrase was being used as an adjective, such as "The fifty-kilometer-per-hour wind made it hard to put up the tent" the word would be written or spoken as singular. Jc3s5h (talk) 22:18, 14 October 2012 (UTC)
OK. -DePiep (talk) 07:47, 15 October 2012 (UTC)

Open-ended year ranges

What is the preferred form for a parenthetical range of years, when the ending year hasn't occurred yet? (Intended use, in a subsection title):

  • (1986–) (omitting the terminal year)
  • (1986–present)

I think the latter seems to make better sense; leaving it blank looks to me too much like a marking on a tombstone one owns while still alive. A little guidance in the MOS would be helpful; has this situation not come up before? JustinTime55 (talk) 15:49, 16 October 2012 (UTC)

My personal preference would be along the lines of "1986–", as it is usually something used in infoboxes and generally looks neater (examples: The X Factor (UK), Roxy Mitchell). But I don't know what the MOS would prefer. –anemoneprojectors– 17:35, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
Two previous discussions Art LaPella (talk) 17:43, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
My problem with (1986–present) is that it leaves the impression that the period is still active when it may have ended. It implies that someone is actively looking at the text where this is contained and always checking it. I'm sure most of us will agree that editors watching an article may not always reread it to make sure everything is up to date. So for me leaving the end point blank has some advantages. Vegaswikian (talk) 18:19, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
Vegaswikian, the maintenance problem is inherent in the ongoing nature of the subject, and is always there whether the right side is "present" or blank.JustinTime55 (talk) 20:14, 16 October 2012 (UTC)
When that has come up for me, I've been able to make it (established 1996) or founded or begun. That way I'm following the pattern on disambiguation pages of a living person being recorded as (born 1996) or whenever. Thanks. SchreiberBike (talk) 02:00, 17 October 2012 (UTC)

Thanks for the feedback and the pointer to the prior discussions. I can see why the MOS is silent; the result is obviously no consensus; the difference between the blank en-dash and "present" is pretty much in the eye of the beholder. "Since" makes an interesting alternative, but as someone has pointed out, there is value in consistency with items of finite range. JustinTime55 (talk) 20:14, 16 October 2012 (UTC)

Copy editing a footnote

At the moment, a footnote to the policy contains the following sentence:

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.

This could be expressed more concisely as:

If there is disagreement about the main units used in a UK-related article, discuss the matter on the article talk-page and/or at MOSNUM talk.

Are there any comments about this proposed change? Michael Glass (talk) 10:40, 20 October 2012 (UTC)

Looks like an improvement to me. Thanks. SchreiberBike (talk) 05:59, 21 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks. I'll make the change.Michael Glass (talk) 10:17, 21 October 2012 (UTC)

The year 55?

I just noticed something I figure worth bringing up:

Do not use CE or AD unless the date or century would be ambiguous without it (e.g. "The Norman Conquest took place in 1066" not 1066 CE nor AD 1066). On the other hand, "Plotinus was a philosopher living at the end of the 3rd century AD" will avoid unnecessary confusion. Also, in "He did not become king until 55 CE" the era marker makes it clear that "55" does not refer to his age. Alternatively, "He did not become king until the year 55."

The latter alternative provided doesn't sit within the style given for ... most everything else in this manual. It may be worth removing it for clarity, flow, and consistency with other materials within this document. BaSH PR0MPT (talk) 01:48, 21 October 2012 (UTC)

What's good style with four-digit years needn't be good style with two-digit years. I personally prefer “until the year 55” to “until 55 CE”, but YMMV. — A. di M.  19:57, 21 October 2012 (UTC)

Conflicting instructions

MOS:CURRENCY says "In non-country-specific articles such as Wealth, use US dollars (US$123), the dominant reserve currency of the world. Some editors also like to provide euro or pound sterling equivalents ...". But MOS:#Currencies has no "also": "In non-country-specific articles, express amounts of money in United States dollars, euros, or pounds sterling."

This direct contradiction needs to be resolved: Is the equivalent in US dollars required for good style? — kwami (talk) 19:03, 21 October 2012 (UTC)

Because MOS:CURRENCY contradicts itself further down: Conversions of less familiar currencies may be provided in terms of more familiar currencies, such as the US dollar, euro or pound sterling. I therefore replaced the conflicting instruction with that wording, per also the main MOS page. — kwami (talk) 23:34, 21 October 2012 (UTC)

Proposal for Year numbering systems

See previous discussion "Mya and bya" above. Working proposal:

Year numbering systems measure age and duration over historic, geologic, and cosmic time. Conventional terminology pairs "AD" (Anno Domini) with "BC" (Before Christ), or it pairs "CE" (Common Era) with "BCE" (Before the Common Era). The latter is common in scholarly and religious writing, but is less traditional. Either is an appropriate choice.

  • BC and AD, BCE and CE are written in upper case, no abbreviation points (full points).
    • Where AD is found before the number, the Latin "... in the year of the Lord" is being expressed, Reforms were mandated in AD 106. Placed after the number AD is more like a unit of measurement than an abbreviation.
    • The others appear after the number as in 106 CE, and 3700 BCE, and 3700 BC.
  • Use CE or AD mostly to avoid confusion
  • in reference: He did not become king until 55 CE, where CE (or AD) clarifies "55" does not refer to his age
  • in context of other calendars and their abbreviations.
  • At some point in the timescale of a subject, the date or century may become ambiguous without CE or AD: The Norman Conquest took place in 1066 not "1066 CE" or "1066 AD", but Plotinus was a philosopher living at the end of the 3rd century AD. Dates around the first century are usually ambiguous, and around the tenth are not.

A set of abbreviations indicating a long interval of time depends on the audience. For scientific and academic subjects and where long time intervals are mentioned frequently, spelling-out "X years ago", or "X years" can become trite, although the British Museum has allowed the spelling-out of the many. If abbreviations are chosen as content for an article, they will be one of two sets:

  • ka, Ma, Ga (annum "year") are the Greek and Latin abbreviations "kilo-annum" (103), "Mega-annum" (106) and "Giga-annum" (109) years ago; "years" and "years ago" will be implied, so do not use the three-letter Gya, Mya, or kya form. These three abbreviations are compact and efficient, for use in the more obscure topics.
  • kyr, myr, byr (years), kya, mya, bya (years ago) abbreviate thousands, millions and billions of years ago; nothing need be implied, and it is in English. These six abbreviations are for either plain or scholarly exposition. (Berkeley has allowed them.) For increased readability prefer two or even four of these, even when the other set's one or two abbreviations might suffice for the entire article.
  • For directly quoted abbreviations use a square-bracketed editor's note to match the article style. For example an article that would normally use bya would quote "The galaxy formed 4.5 Ga [billion years ago]".
  • BP (years Before Present), will mean calibrated, years before January 1, 1950. Uncalibrated data will prefix 14C, as in 2.3 ka 14C BP. So a BP-styled article writes The varve samples averaged 4.5 ka BP. Do not spell it out as before present, or years before the present or years before 1950.

The abbreviations used in cosmic and geologic timescales are uncommon, and the Greek and Latin ones are more obscure.

  • Introduce each abbreviation as soon as convenience permits in the article. In the lead it is spelled out followed by the abbreviation in parenthesis: 14 billion years ago (Ga); otherwise use the abbreviation directly, but gloss: 14 Ga (billion years ago). The same English glossing is used for either set of abbreviations.
  • Avoid glossing or linking the abbreviation in a focused subtopic. While text leveling an abbreviation style remember that an abbreviation's original intent is to minimize itself.
  • {{Val}} simplifies the styling of numbers, spacing, and markup, and it can link the abbreviation. (Val has many other numeric units on its current list.)

Do not change an established and consistent style in an article unless there are reasons specific to its content. Maintain article consistency in abbreviating. Seek consensus on the talk page before making many "obvious" corrections. Open the discussion under a subhead that uses the word "era" or "eon". Briefly state the reason. Personal reasons are usually not justification.

CpiralCpiral 00:35, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Here are the sentence, word, character counts:

  • Current version: 13 634 3838
  • Propose version: 29 679 4162

Thank you for your patience, I hope you have had time to form some opinions about the more controversial moves, additions, and removals:

  • mv "Years are numbered according to the Western Dionysian era (also referred to as Common Era)." --> "Year numbering systems measure age and duration described on geologic time scales." "Dionysian" is not really being used in a way to teach a style. We should rather relegate the (impossible) task of naming our common era: calendars are covered the next section of the MoS.
  • mv Do not change the established style in an article to the bottom, like a "footer".
  • mv the "article consistency clause" to the same "footer"
  • mv " without periods (full stops)," to "without abbreviation points (full points)"
  • +L list of calendars, showing many other types of similar abbreviations, such as BE for Buddhist Era
  • +sp AD now spelled out as Anno Domini
  • +bullet {{Val}} with links to val FAQ and val ops
  • +L readability
  • + "Berkely has allowed mya/bya" (from previous talk pages)
  • + explain/reason how, when, and why AD goes where it goes. This gave AD it own bullet.
  • mv "put a space between the number and the abbreviation" to its own bullet
  • + explain another reason for when to use AD or CE to avoid confusion
  • - "Do not abbreviate BP as YBP"
  • mv "A measured Libby radiocarbon date of 35.1 mya [million years ago] had to be calibrated." --> "500 B.C. [before Christ]"
  • + "use 14C BP"
  • + "use the word 'era' or 'eon'" in a talk-page subject-title
  • + "introduce the abbreviation as soon as possible, preferably in the lead if convient", and which of the abbreviation or spelling out to put in parenthesis. "Link the first occurrence" is implied.
  • + lead sentence includes cosmic as well as historic and geologic time
  • - links to the style guide for citation, footnoting and citing sources in the paragraph already linking the applicable "direct quotation" link
  • + Link to Systems of measurement and to abbreviation
  • + clarify "Dates around the first century are usually ambiguous, and around the tenth are not."

BP other:

  • - Uncalibrated (bce) radiocarbon dates: Just gone.
  • BP in the MoS, per User:Gdr the Manual of Style can't and shouldn't explain everything, lest its length prevent people from reading and following it. The details of prehistoric dating, and of calibrated and uncalibrated dating should have articles in the encyclopedia proper to which the Manual of Style can briefly refer (a talk page in 2004]).
  • BP stuff should be relegated to WP:V where we say "use direct quotes if it's uncalibrated" (Isn't the reason we say that so that relevant significant digits and measurement-uncertainty numbers can then be used to "verify" the conversion?)
  • BP stuff should be relegated to WP:NOR where we currently say "Do not convert uncalibrated unless you know what you are doing", because of (the understandable) fear-based and worry-worded concern here that someone will make a mistake or an omission, that therefor we must prepare abilities to check the calculations, rather than to rely simply upon WP:NOR or WP:V and just revert bad content for content reasons. BP is not a style issue because (1) the field of geohistory has no decided style for it, (2) it's style is related to a context, which is content (whose description is beyond our purview). How can MoS advise help? To limit style debates, period.
  • If BP is a style issue, we should just say "use 14C BP" for uncalibrated and "BP" for calendar years, like the article Radiocarbon_dating already styles it. (If I may analogize upon Kronecker's "God made the natural numbers...", "God made letters and fonts, all the rest is man-made.")
    • Per Radiocarbon_dating#Calibration "A raw BP date in BP years is calibrated to give BP calendar dates", and converted to common era calendar scale by yet more math. Apparently BP values are left uncalibrated in publications where the calendar year is less important than scientific methodological "reproduction of a measurement" Does WP home raw scientific data for the purposes of reproducing experiments? [[Would this not violate WP:IINFO item 3 "excessive listing of statistics"? If not, please give an example verifying that notable WP content does indeed fit in this three-mode-data presentation (uncalibration and/or calibrated and/or converted to common era calendar years, such as mya or BCE), so that we should all then proceed to begin to re-bother to recommend how to appropriate such style issues (against Gdr's judgement).
    • Similarly, we don't say, as that 2004 same talk page, "For prehistory use kya, then mya (esp. for the Mesolithic), then BP. Then in late prehistory, start using BC, optionally for the Neolithic, definitely anything about the Bronze Age or Iron Age."
    • Per Wikipedia:What_Wikipedia_is_not#Wikipedia_is_not_a_manual.2C_guidebook.2C_textbook.2C_or_scientific_journal, item 7, we should let the article handle itself, saying what notation will mean uncalibrated, and which calibrated, and whether or not to have to say there was a conversion from the raw data, and how that was done, and what the raw data was.

CpiralCpiral 04:30, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Comments on proposal for Year numbering system

This year is AD 2012 but approximately 1982 After Death. Anno Domini is short for ANNI DOMINI NOSTRI JESU CHRISTI which survives in transcriptions of the work of Dionysius Exiguus. The count begins with the Incarnation (Christianity), and while there are several issues with dating that event, it would be close to the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. "After Death" has no recognition within competently edited works, and exists only as a popular error. As such it has no conventional meaning, and has no conventional date that is used in the absence of actual knowledge. Therefore, an attempt to use "After Death" leaves the period from 1 BC to the actual death of Jesus without any year numbering scheme. The year 1 After Death would be somewhere in the general neighborhood of the year AD 31.
Allowing "After Death" into MOSNUM would prove the editors of MOSNUM can't count and the whole document would be subject to ridicule. Jc3s5h (talk) 12:24, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

The introductory sentence, "Year numbering systems measure age and duration described on geologic time scales" is not satisfactory. Although year numbering systems can measure geologic time scales, the AD/BC or CE/BCE notation is predominantly used for historic time, simply because more is written about history than geologic time scales (at least, that is my impression; I might be wrong if you count all the children's books and TV shows about dinosaurs).

by "on geologic time scales", I suppose I mean "over vast time scales". I like your point about AD being history-oriented but this confuses me as not applicable here at first, because at this point in the exposition, our abbreviations aren't mentioned yet, but when they are they will be covering the geologic timescales. How about

The bullet

  • Where AD is found before the number, AD 106, the Latin word "year..." is being expressed; 106 AD makes AD more like an abbreviation or a unit.

contains original research and a contradiction. An anonymous Wikipedia editor has no demonstrated expertise about what people mean, or are thinking, when they use words and abbreviations. We don't know what people are expressing unless some qualified author conducts a survey and publishes the result. Also, the phrase "the Latin word 'year...'" is contradictory because "year" is not Latin; also I don't know how to expand the ellipsis.

Nah, I got that from the lead of AD (footnote 12), but yes, the ellipsis is awkward. How about
  • Where AD is found before the number, "AD 106", the Latin is being expressed, "Year [of the lord] 106"; whereas "106 AD" makes AD more like an abbreviation or a unit. — CpiralCpiral 09:41, 13 October 2012 (UTC)

It would be better to just repeat what is in the MOS; having the same wording whenever possible in related guidelines avoids confusion:

  • AD may appear before or after a year (AD 106, 106 AD); the other abbreviations appear after (106 CE, 3700 BCE, 3700 BC).
We should repeat that, and I do. I do in two bullets. One about AD (with a notable explanation/reason provided for when to put AD upfront) and one hammering in the image "number&nbsp;unit" for all those units, as before. — CpiralCpiral 09:41, 13 October 2012 (UTC)

If we really feel a need to present information about how the custom of writing AD before the year came about, this historical information should be cited to a reliable source.

This bullet is unnecessary:

Well, maybe. I got that from the existing version, combining the BP-oriented statement where it says "include a footnote, a square-bracketed editor's note [like this], or other indication" and the bit about not changing "direct quotations". Well? — CpiralCpiral 09:41, 13 October 2012 (UTC)

Readers understand there are variations in usage and that usage within a quote will preserve the usage in the source rather than follow the style of Wikipedia. There is no need to explain the meaning of commonly recognized abbreviations and symbols, even when there are minor variations in how they are written. It is also common sense for an author to explain, with brackets or a footnote, any unusual word, abbreviation, or usage that may be unfamiliar to modern readers. The MOS and related guidelines would become bloated if this were pointed out at every point it could arise.

I agree. Do we agree to dump "500 B.C. [before Christ]" and don't say anything more than link to MOS:QUOTE? — CpiralCpiral 09:41, 13 October 2012 (UTC)

As for terminology for long periods, such as ka, Ma, etc., I am not familiar with the customary usage in the fields that use this terminology so neither endorse nor oppose the proposal. Jc3s5h (talk) 10:48, 12 October 2012 (UTC)

I'm going by old talk pages (where there are experts chiming in), WP pages and ELs, finding WWW pages, and by what's already there. — CpiralCpiral 09:41, 13 October 2012 (UTC)
I suggest this alternative to Cprial's replacement bullet:
This is because many of the items discussed are time scales; historic time isn't a time scale itself, it's something a time scale could be used to measure.
Concerning this bullet:
  • Where AD is found before the number, "AD 106", the Latin is being expressed, "Year [of the lord] 106"; whereas "106 AD" makes AD more like an abbreviation or a unit.
Your emphasis on "year", by placing the rest in brackets, implies a need to distinguish a year from other numbers, as in "He did not become king until AD 55 ". But the writer might be distinguishing AD from BC, or AD from some other calendar that is mentioned in the article, in which case there is no reason to emphasize year. Or the writer might just be imitating usage seen elsewhere without understanding it, in which case AD just means AD.
OK, the brackets are gone and the Latin phrase is literally and fully spelled out, as it should be, in the example itself. — CpiralCpiral 22:51, 13 October 2012 (UTC)
Finally, I agree with a simple statement that the capitalization and punctuation of era designations in quotes should be preserved. Jc3s5h (talk) 13:59, 13 October 2012 (UTC)
Done — CpiralCpiral 22:51, 13 October 2012 (UTC)
Cpiral stated an intention in the comments to remove the brackets from "Year of [our lord]" but didn't do so. I would also suggest removing the capitalization of "Year". Finally, Christian religious publications would certainly capitalize "Lord"; I would suggest researching some dictionaries, printed style manuals, etc. to see if that usage has carried over into secular English. Jc3s5h (talk) 13:46, 14 October 2012 (UTC)
Referring to AD footnotes 9-11, and keeping it simple, how about Webster's "in the year of the Lord"; that lowercase "i" is telling. I don't think we have to say "Don't use AD to start a sentence. On an interesting, related note, the capitalization of Anno Domini used in footnote 11 is "anno Domini", which is technically correct since the inventor of ANNO DOMINI was a 6th century Latin-speaking monk, and capitalization did not arrive until the 9th century Latin. — CpiralCpiral 01:15, 15 October 2012 (UTC)

I've published. Note either my stated changes or this talk page diffs. The furtherance of archiving this talk page pressured. — CpiralCpiral 06:55, 22 October 2012 (UTC)

Clearer and more concise wording?

At present MOSNUM reads as follows:

  • 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 meaning could be expressed more concisely and clearly below (changes in italics - I hope I haven't missed any):

  • If the primary measurement in an article differs from the primary measurement in a 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 if the source only provides one system of units.
    • Or use the unit used by the source as the primary measurement at that point.

What do others think? Michael Glass (talk) 11:47, 15 October 2012 (UTC)

I believe that the wording would be less ponderous if changed from this:

    • Ensure that the precision of the converted unit in the article appropriately matches the precision of the value from the source.

to this:

    • Ensure that the precision of the converted unit is equivalent to the precision of the figures in the source.

Any comments? Michael Glass (talk) 23:19, 17 October 2012 (UTC)

Text changed as per proposal. Michael Glass (talk) 01:03, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

Just a touch more flexibility?

In the advice about which unit to use, MOSNUM wording rightly allows for some flexibility. Therefore we get the following wording (‘’’bolding’’’ added):

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...

Despite this, the guidance for using Imperial units in UK articles does not suggest a similar flexibility. At the point where flexibility is most needed because UK usage so mixed, the wording lends itself to be read quite restrictively.

Instead of this:

  • 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...

I think that the point would be better and more concisely expressed like this:

  • In non-science UK-related articles: the main unit is generally a metric unit (44 kilogram (97 lb)), but imperial units can be put first in some contexts...

This gives editors the go-ahead to put Imperial units first as specified, but the wording does not lend itself to be read as if Imperial units must be put first in every instance. The sentence is also noticeably shorter.

What do others think? Michael Glass (talk) 03:51, 20 October 2012 (UTC) Michael Glass (talk) 11:11, 20 October 2012 (UTC)

Text revised as per proposal.Michael Glass (talk) 02:59, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

More concise wording.

There are a couple of instances where the same meaning could be expressed in fewer words. Here are some examples:


    • 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;

could be expressed more concisely like this:

    • miles, miles per hour, and fuel consumption in miles per imperial gallon;
    • feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight;

It really doesn't need spelling out that miles measure distances, miles per hour measures speed and measurements are measurements.

Also, this:

  • With imperial units which are not also US customary units, double conversions can be useful: The song's second verse reveals that Rosie weighs 19 stone (266 lb; 121 kg).

could be expressed more concisely like this:

  • Double conversions can be useful when imperial and US customary units are different: The song's second verse reveals that Rosie weighs 19 stone (266 lb; 121 kg).

Are there any comments about these proposed changes? Michael Glass (talk) 01:24, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

The first is a clear improvement. I don't see any improvement in the second; in fact, I prefer the original. — kwami (talk) 05:28, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for your comments. I'll change the first point.
The wording I proposed for the second point covers not only the stone weight (14lb) but also the difference between the US and imperial pints, gallons fluid ounces and tons. Here is my revised wording but with the original word order:
  • When imperial and US customary units are different, double conversions can be useful: The song's second verse reveals that Rosie weighs 19 stone (266 lb; 121 kg).
What do you think? Michael Glass (talk) 13:58, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
I don't see how that makes any difference, apart from being more difficult to parse. The original is not restricted to weight that I can see. — kwami (talk) 17:32, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
It's not intentionally restricted to weight, but that's the way it reads to me. You see, with the other units there is both an American and an imperial pint, gallon, fluid ounce and ton, each with different values. However, with the stone weight, there is no equivalent American value, because this measure isn't used in North America. So the stone weight is quite literally an imperial unit which is not also a US customary unit. This impression is reinforced by the example, which is of 19 stone Rosie. My way of opening up the wording was to rephrase the sentence. Can you think of a better way of expressing the issue? Michael Glass (talk) 01:14, 25 October 2012 (UTC)
I don't see what's wrong with the original. It's your version that I would have to read twice to understand. And your version is just as restricted to weight, so I don't see any benefit. — kwami (talk) 01:29, 25 October 2012 (UTC)

Two dot points can be better than one.

The dot point below is about the use of unit symbols and names in prose and also in contexts where space is more limited.

  • Where space is limited, such as in tables, infoboxes, and parenthetical notes, and in mathematical formulas, unit symbols are preferable. In prose it is usually better to spell out unit names, but symbols may also be used when a unit (especially one with a very long name) is used many times in an article. However, spell out the first instance of each unit in an article (for example, the typical batch is 250 kilograms ... and then 15 kg of emulsifier is added), except for unit names which are hardly ever spelled out even in publications for general audiences (e.g. the degree Celsius).

I think it would be better expressed in two dot points, like this:

  • In prose it is usually better to spell out unit names, but symbols may also be used when a unit (especially one with a very long name) is used many times in an article. However, spell out the first instance of each unit in an article (for example, the typical batch is 250 kilograms ... and then 15 kg of emulsifier is added), except for unit names which are hardly ever spelled out even in publications for general audiences (e.g. the degree Celsius).
  • Where space is limited, such as in tables, infoboxes, and parenthetical notes, and in mathematical formulas, unit symbols are preferable.

This does not involve any change in wording; all it does is to separate the two points. Are there any comments about this proposed change? Michael Glass (talk) 01:54, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

Support. — kwami (talk) 05:30, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
Support. Better (clearer) to separate two independent situations. -DePiep (talk) 09:02, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

Thanks. I'll make the change. Michael Glass (talk) 13:20, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

Could extra headings be useful?

In the section on units of measurement, I think it would be helpful to add two sub-subheadings and to hotlink a third sub-subheading. The result would be like what is below. (Note that one word has been changed in the text - many to other.)

Which units to use

Science-related articles

Other articles

For other 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.

How to present the units

  • Nominal and defined values should be given in the original units first, even if this makes the article inconsistent: for example, When the Republic of Ireland adopted the metric system, the road speed limit in built-up areas was changed from 30 miles per hour (48 km/h) to 50 kilometres per hour (31 mph). (The focus is on the change of units, not on the 3.6% increase.)
  • Measurements should be accompanied by a proper citation of the source using a method described at the style guide for citation.
  • If the primary measurement in an article differs from the primary measurement in a source:
    • Ensure that the precision of the converted unit is equivalent to the precision of the figures in the source.
    • Consider quoting the source measurement in the citation, particularly if the source only provides one system of units.
    • Or use the unit used by the source as the primary measurement at that point.
  1. ^ Some editors hold strong views for or against metrication in the UK. If there is disagreement about 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").

What do other editors think? Michael Glass (talk) 13:30, 21 October 2012 (UTC) Headings added as proposed. Michael Glass (talk) 01:06, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

Because of the rounding errors that creep in with conversions, I think it's generally a good idea to indicate which units are found in the source. This is especially true when the source gives only an approximation, and the conversion falsely implies greater precision. And this can be a problem in our sources, too: many articles (and many of their sources) will say that a newly discovered moon is about 16 km in diameter. The original would have been about 10 miles in diameter, as in, greater than 3 and less than 30, which even if we followed your advice above and said 20 km would be overly precise, because 20 implies greater than 15 and less than 25. But people, even sometimes in popular science journals, have a hard time saying 10 miles is 20 km, so they give the specious number 16 instead. In this case it would be more accurate to say 10 km, though people would have an even harder time accepting that. In cases like this, the only responsible recourse is to give the original units first, and maybe even relegate the conversion to a footnote. So even though it's a science article it should use imperial units, and will need to do so until NASA stops using them. (A purely metric solution would be "about 5–50 km", but that would be hard to justify advising in the MOS.) Something similar occurs with geographic numbers, such as the dimensions of the Great Lakes, though usually in such cases the original numbers are more precise and so not as sensitive to conversion errors. Last I checked, they presented imperial first, despite being scientific and thus contrary to the MOS, for just this reason. That is, I think scientific articles should also use imperial units, if that's what the source data is in (as in the original data, not just what our sources provide), unless the conversion error is insignificant. — kwami (talk) 05:22, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

Can we give an example of that, so readers are clear imperial should be used in such cases in science articles? Maybe change:

  • Or use the unit used by the source as the primary measurement at that point.


  • Or use the unit of the original data as the primary measurement at that point. For example, if the diameter of a moon is estimated to be 10 miles to within an order of magnitude, any conversion to kilometers would introduce a significant error or change in precision.

kwami (talk) 17:40, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

Some of the above is problematic, and doesn't address the core issue, which is what precision to infer from a source that gives a number with trailing zeros and no decimal point and no specific precision or error range. "d = about 10 miles" is one such difficult and unscientific statement because it can imply either 1 or 2 significant digits, meaning either 5 mi <= d < 15 mi or 9.5 mi <= d < 10.5 mi, and therefore either 20 km or 16 km, respectively. "About 1000 miles" is even worse. The same problem can exist with sources in metric units, and converting them to imperial. I don't know if there are standards in different fields about what precision one is supposed to infer in such cases, but that would be a helpful addition to the MOS. —[AlanM1(talk)]— 07:43, 25 October 2012 (UTC)
10 miles can also mean 101, that is, between 100.5 and 101.5, or approx. 3–30. — kwami (talk) 09:15, 25 October 2012 (UTC)
Or 101.49'? :-) More seriously, let's face the fact that there's common abuse of decimal places in all registers, including the scientific. It's not uncommon for me to have to query science authors on the issue as we negotiate their text. Tony (talk) 09:24, 25 October 2012 (UTC)

Is a tightening of the policy warranted?

I think this present wording

  • Measurements should be accompanied by a proper citation of the source using a method described at the style guide for citation.
  • If the primary measurement in an article differs from the primary measurement in a source:
    • Ensure that the precision of the converted unit is equivalent to the precision of the figures in the source.
    • Consider quoting the source measurement in the citation, particularly if the source only provides one system of units.
    • Or use the unit of the original data as the primary measurement at that point. For example, if the diameter of a moon is estimated to be 10 miles to within an order of magnitude, any conversion to kilometers would introduce a significant error or a change in precision.

is problematical.

  1. It's too wordy.
  2. The third point and the fifth point are at cross purposes
  3. The example, of scientific word done in imperial units is not good as most if not all scientific work these days is measured in SI units.
  4. The advice to consider quoting the source measurement in the citation is too weak.

Here is how I would like to see the wording:

  • Measurements should be accompanied by a proper citation of the source using a method described at the style guide for citation.
  • If the primary measurement in an article differs from the primary measurement in a source:
    • Either quote the source measurement in the citation, ensuring that the precision of the converted unit is equivalent to the precision of the figures in the source,
    • Or use the unit of the original data as the primary measurement at that point.

This gives the editor two options: either convert accurately and quote the source measurement in the citation, or use the unit of the original data at that point.

What do others think? Michael Glass (talk) 05:08, 25 October 2012 (UTC)

I like it. The 4th line could still be tightened up a bit.
I don't follow your criticism: there are only four points, and I don't see any crossed purposes.
I do think we should provide some guidance for a rather common problem: Someone at NASA makes an announcement that, say, a newly discovered moon is about 10 miles in diameter, meaning that as an order-of-magnitude approximation. Science News reports it as being about 16 km in diameter. In converting to SI, they have inadvertently exaggerated the precision 50-fold, from 5–50 km to ±0.5 km. Since the MOS prefers SI, we report the SI citation, perpetuating the specious precision. — kwami (talk) 06:14, 25 October 2012 (UTC)
This is not necessarily true. See my comments above. —[AlanM1(talk)]— 09:42, 25 October 2012 (UTC)
Kwami, the criticism of the wording was directed to what is in MOSNUM at the moment. One point says to convert with an appropriate level of precision; the other expresses the concern that any conversion could involve a significant level of distortion. I'd be happy to go ahead and change the wording in the policy but I think it may be better wait another day or two to give other editors a chance to comment. I would also like to refine the wording of the point beginning with either Michael Glass (talk) 12:35, 25 October 2012 (UTC)
I don' see that as a contradiction: we retain precision when converting. However, sometimes that may not be possible, in which case we should use the original units. — kwami (talk) 18:19, 25 October 2012 (UTC)

Revised proposal

Here's a revised proposal:

  • Measurements should be accompanied by a proper citation of the source using a method described at the style guide for citation.
  • If the primary measurement in an article differs from the primary measurement in a source:
    • Either convert the figures to a suitable level of accuracy precision and quote the source measurement in the citation,
    • Or use the unit of the original data as the primary measurement at that point.

I think that reads better. Are there any comments or suggestions for further improvement? For example, would it be appropriate to indicate which option is better? Michael Glass (talk) 12:52, 25 October 2012 (UTC)

Yes, better. But 'precision', not 'accuracy', no? — kwami (talk) 18:17, 25 October 2012 (UTC)
I am a little concerned that there is no guidance for cases where the source document has itself converted units of measure. For example, I have seen reports stating that the Eurostar is designed for speeds of "186 mph (299 km/h)". In reality, the design speed was 300 km/h, but this was converted to 186 mph for the benefit of the British public and then back to km/h. I would like to wording to be such that the unit of measure used in the primary source is the unit cited. This would also solve the "NASA 10 mile problem" given above - the reported diameter of the moon in question would have been given in kilometres in the scientific press, but converted to miles for public consumption. It would depend on whether Science News sources its statements from the public press or from the scientific press. Martinvl (talk) 13:24, 25 October 2012 (UTC)
Exactly. This is much more important than which units we use. (Actually, in the NASA 10 mile problem, it was originally given in miles, but converted to km in the press.) It's surprising how often I come across this kind of problem.
This ties into the change in wording from 'precision' to 'accuracy' above: in attempting to remain accurate, sources change the precision; if we retain the precision, we loose accuracy. It's Heisenberg's Conversion Principle.
Martin, can you suggest wording for an additional point that would provide guidance on this? — kwami (talk) 18:17, 25 October 2012 (UTC)
I'd accept precision. On the question of primary sources, this can also be a problem of reliable sources versus primary sources. There is an interesting discussion in the article about the CIA World Factbook about the accuracy of some of its information. See [1] so the problem is greater than just which measurement system was used for which measurement. Here is another suggested wording. Perhaps it will address the concerns that have been expressed.
    • Either convert the figures to a suitable level of precision and quote the primary measurement in the citation,
    • Or use the unit of the original data as the primary measurement at that point.
However, the "original" data in some contexts could refer to work done 200 years ago! See [2]. Michael Glass (talk) 22:14, 25 October 2012 (UTC)

Protection level

I was just noticing that this page has been semi-protected for several years whereas the main Manual of Style page is not. How sure is it that this protection is still needed?

(Reply here, please, not to this IP's talk page.) -- (talk) 23:53, 26 October 2012 (UTC)

Ga and Ma

When using ka, Ma, and Ga in an article, one must explicitly state "ago". Please see:

(in order of increasing levels of explanation.) And so for now, I'll undo the revert (adding a slight modification as I go). Basically WP had to decide upon one side of the debate or the other, as explained at the third bullet. — CpiralCpiral 17:25, 27 October 2012 (UTC)

The problem is that the text is nearly gibberish. Fixing.
I am favorable to change. It happens that Year numbering systems is still under the final phases of a five-week, on-the-talk-page reconstruction. I am happy to discuss the thing with you Kwami, and offer approval for many of your fixes, given that you will enjoy volunteering, interacting, and learning which details are which. Your fresh opinion will be welcomed. Always specify when using "gibberish", "inane", and "silly", so that an action can be discussed. — CpiralCpiral 22:38, 27 October 2012 (UTC)
We say that "Ga" does not imply "ago", but then give an example where it implies "ago".
There are many in that third link. Please read it before making further discussion remarks. — CpiralCpiral 22:38, 27 October 2012 (UTC)
There are many what?
You think I didn't read what I just commented on? — kwami (talk) 23:12, 27 October 2012 (UTC)
A lot of inane comments, ungrammatical phrasing, and odd forms such as "X million years ago before the Common Era". This needs some serious cleaning up. — kwami (talk) 19:13, 27 October 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps, but your fixes have been reverted until you present them on the talk page first. In this case, your quote does not exist on the page, but it has happened that you are confusing the intended application of "million years ago". Perhaps others will also be confused, and it should be made more clear that it only applies to the "two sets". Until your specific evidence is mentioned, how can I improve what I think is generally good? Please consider the possibility that some of your perceived difficulty and complexity is irreducible, and then prove me wrong. I'm easy. — CpiralCpiral 22:38, 27 October 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps you should read the section too, until you see the quote.
How am I confusing the intended application? — kwami (talk) 23:12, 27 October 2012 (UTC)

You gotta be kidding. You're restoring "X million years ago before the Common Era"?[6] If you contest the wording, fine, but don't restore gibberish. — kwami (talk) 21:14, 27 October 2012 (UTC)

For scientific and academic subjects and where long time intervals are mentioned frequently, spelling-out "X years ago", or "X years" can become trite, although the British Museum has allowed the spelling-out of the many.

Maybe it should just say "spelling out can become trite". Where is BCE connected to spelling things out or not? — CpiralCpiral 22:59, 27 October 2012 (UTC)

"Turn of the century"

There is a discussion at Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Guild_of_Copy_Editors#Turn_of_the_century: should "turn of the 19th and 20th centuries" be used? or "turn of the 20th century"? or other wordings? Can "turn of the century" be left well alone in a context where it is unambiguous? It may be of interest to readers of this page, and should perhaps be mentioned in MOSNUM. PamD 19:44, 27 October 2012 (UTC)

¿Perhaps s.t. like:
The phrase 'turn of the year/century/millennium' should be clarified by context. It is most often used without an explicit number. Where a single number is used, it refers to the new period, as in 'turn of the 21st century' (ca. 2000). As this is not a familiar expression to some people, context should be used to make the century clear. Where two numbers are used, as in 'turn of the 18th and 19th centuries', context should make it clear that this refers to a single turn of the century (ca. 1800), not to two.
kwami (talk) 05:29, 28 October 2012 (UTC)

Copy edits to Year numbering systems

Closing discussion. The passage has been replaced; see next thread. — kwami (talk) 16:22, 28 October 2012 (UTC)

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

Suggested corrections and stylistic changes:

  • Split Year numbering systemsEra style and Periods of time.
    Reason: They don't number years. That's what "1955" does. There are two independent topics here.
  • Conventional terminology pairs "AD" (Anno Domini) with "BC" (Before Christ), or it pairs "CE" (Common Era) with "BCE" (Before the Common Era). The latter is common in scholarly and religious writing, but is less traditional. Either is an appropriate choice.
    Conventional terminology pairs "AD" (Anno Domini) with "BC" (Before Christ) and "CE" (Common/Christian Era) with "BCE" (Before the Common/Christian Era). The latter is common in scholarly and religious writing, but is less traditional.
    Reason: Should include both meanings of "CE". (It was originally an abbreviation of 'Xian Era'.) Last point doesn't need mentioning.
  • Use a non-breaking space between the number and the unit. Terms like "14 mya BCE" will require two, or use {{nowrap}}.
    Reason: Forms like the ungrammatical example are never used.
  • A set of abbreviations indicating a long interval of time depends on the audience. For scientific and academic subjects and where long time intervals are mentioned frequently, spelling-out "X years ago", or "X years" can become trite, although the British Museum has allowed the spelling-out of the many. If abbreviations are chosen as content for an article, they will be one of two sets:
    For academic subjects and where long time intervals are mentioned frequently, abbreviations may be preferable to repeating "X thousand/million years ago". There are two sets of abbreviations; an article should use one or the other:
    Reason: Poor grammar, style. British Museum should be relegated to a fn if mentioned at all.
  • ka, Ma, Ga (annum "year") are the Greek and Latin abbreviations "kilo-annum" (103), "Mega-annum" (106) and "Giga-annum" (109) quantity of years; "years" is implied, but "ago" must be made explicit in the text, The Cretaceous started 65 Ma ago and ended 145 Ma ago, lasting for 80 Ma, so do not use the three-letter Gya, Mya, or kya forms. This set is compact and efficient, for use in the more obscure topics.
    ka, Ma, Ga are abbreviations for "kilo-annum" (103), "Mega-annum" (106) and "Giga-annum" (109), from annum "year". These indicate simple quantities of years. "Ago" is sometimes implied, but is best stated explicitly: The Cretaceous started 65 Ma ago and ended 145 Ma ago, lasting 80 Ma.
    Reason: Ungrammatical; years is not "implied". Not true that 'ago' "must" be made explicit; it is often implied. Last sentence: we don't choose conventions based on how obscure a topic is, and it's bizarre that we would recommend such a thing.
  • kyr, myr, byr (years), kya, mya, bya (years ago) abbreviate thousands, millions and billions of years ago; nothing need be implied, and it is in English. These six abbreviations are for either plain or scholarly exposition. (Berkeley has allowed them.) For increased readability prefer two or even four of these, even when the other set's one or two abbreviations might suffice for the entire article.
    kyr, myr, byr (years), kya, mya, bya (years ago) indicate thousands, millions and billions of years ago: The Cretaceous started 65 Mya and ended 145 Mya, lasting 80 Myr. These are used in both lay and scholarly exposition.
    Reason: Berkeley should be in fn if mentioned at all. Last sentence ungrammatical and nonsensical.

Any objections? — kwami (talk) 04:04, 28 October 2012 (UTC)

Kwami, I have no comment on the issues you are discussing here, but would you be willing to remove the {{copyedit}} tag from the section, please? While there is active discussion of something on the talk page, copy editors should not simply weigh in on the page itself. Regards. --Stfg (talk) 10:32, 28 October 2012 (UTC)
I think it is easier to deal with the points one by one. Perhaps we could concentrate on the first point before moving on to the rest. What do others think? Michael Glass (talk) 12:30, 28 October 2012 (UTC)


The first point needs rewriting. I would suggest something like this:

The conventional year numbering system dates events from the beginning of the Christian (or common) era. There are two ways of doing this: BC/AD and BCE/CE. BC/AD is traditional; BCE/CE is more common in scholarly or religious writing. Either is appropriate.
In a footnote I would explain the meaning of the four terms like this: BC means before Christ; AD means anno domini (the year of our Lord). BCE means before the common (or Christian) era; CE, common (or Christian) era.

I think this is a clearer and easier to follow way of presenting the material than the present wording. I believe it is necessary to say that either system is acceptable as some enthusiasts dispute this point. Michael Glass (talk) 12:30, 28 October 2012 (UTC)

The most I would be willing to say concerning popularity is that the usage of CE/BCE greater in scholarly or non-Christian religious writing than the usage of CE/BCE is in general writing.* I am not convinced the usage of CE/BCE is greater than AD/BC in any category of writing. I am not convinced the usage of CE/BCE is greater in religious writing if you include Christian writing, when you consider we are considering only the English language and a great deal of English language religious writing is Christian.
* Even though that's my impression, I can't prove it with a reliable source. Jc3s5h (talk) 13:09, 28 October 2012 (UTC)

How about this wording:

The conventional year numbering system dates events from the beginning of the Christian (or common) era. There are two ways of doing this: BC/AD and BCE/CE. BC/AD is the traditional usage; BCE/CE is common in scholarly writing. Either is appropriate.

If this is not satisfactory, could you suggest how the wording could be revised to improve it? Michael Glass (talk) 13:38, 28 October 2012 (UTC)

I think that's close to ideal. It's very clear, says everything we need to know for writing purposes, and doesn't raise issues that don't need to be raised here. --Stfg (talk) 13:45, 28 October 2012 (UTC)
I am content with Glass' version of 13:38, 28 October 2012 (UTC). Considering the number of unlinked instances of AD, BC, CE, and BCE, I would suggest listing them in the "See also" section in spite of the usual practice of not including items wikilinked in the article again in "See also". Jc3s5h (talk) 13:51, 28 October 2012 (UTC)
"Either is appropriate" is a value claim, and not one that is universally held to be true (nor should it be). To discuss, say, the history of Judaism entirely in terms of what happened "before Christ" and what happened "in the year of our lord" presents a view that the entire religion is a mere prequel to Christianity. To grant blanket appropriateness is both unneeded and improper. --Nat Gertler (talk) 14:10, 28 October 2012 (UTC)
I changed the section on the usage of BC/AD and BCE/CE back to the wording that was hammered out after a lengthy discussion. This represented a consensus, and no new consensus has been established on changing it. The rest of the section seems like a mess now too, but let me state this plainly: do not change the section on BC/AD and BCE/CE without achieving a consensus here first. I promise you, I will immediately report any editor who tampers with that section to ANI as disruptive. Cynwolfe (talk) 15:12, 28 October 2012 (UTC)
And please review the last discussion before wasting our time here by covering well-trampled ground. Nat Gertler should recall that one, as he and I were the last to leave comments. Cynwolfe (talk) 15:17, 28 October 2012 (UTC)

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

Would this suggested wording improve the advice about units in UK articles?

I think the advice on units in UK articles could be improved with a relatively small change in the wording.

  • There is no real guidance on when Imperial units can be put first. The phrase in some contexts does not explain what these contexts might be.

Here is a suggested revision of the wording. The changed words are bolded:

  • In non-science UK-related articles: the main unit is generally a metric unit (44 kilogram (97 lb)), but imperial units can be put first when this is the usage in the source documents, for instance:[1]
    • miles, miles per hour, and fuel consumption in miles per imperial gallon;
    • feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight;
    • imperial pints for draught beer/cider and bottled milk.
  1. ^ Some editors hold strong views for or against metrication in the UK. If there is disagreement about the main units used in a UK-related article, discuss the matter on the article talk-page, at MOSNUM talk, or both. 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").

What do other editors think? Michael Glass (talk) 09:05, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

Not sure. Maybe 'especially when'? I worry though that people may take the reason as s.t. that should be done, rather than simple allowance. We don't need to use imperial just because our sources do, unless we'd loose s.t. by conversion to metric. — kwami (talk) 10:25, 29 October 2012 (UTC)
Since geography is a science, (the first sentence in the article Geography reads "Geography ... is the science ...". Therefore under the MOSNUM, US and customary units are not required. There is however a convention that for geography-related artcicles, that imperial/customary units be included. If an article starts acquyiring many statistics, it might be appropriate to drop the conversion, or, as an alternaitve, we could look at using metric units only and having a standard template entitled "Common geographic unit conversions" similar to template:common metric prefixes. Martinvl (talk) 11:09, 29 October 2012 (UTC)
That change is going to cause arguments over which source documents are to be classed as the more reliable and allow people to selectively choose which source they use to get the units in the order that they think should be placed first. Better to avoid referring to source documents altogether and may be refer to common usage. Also may be good to include some wording to cover the timeframe of the article where you would not use metric first for articles relating pre-20th century UK. Keith D (talk) 11:54, 29 October 2012 (UTC)
If we can identify the units used in the primary sources from which the secondary sources obtained their information, then we should be using the units as per the primary sources. For example, it is common knowledge (and I am not going to try to define that term) that the United Kingdom has using metric unit for surveying purposes since about 1970 and maybe even back to 1938 when the National Grid was introduced, therefore anything that is likely to have been derived from post-1970 surveys should be quoted in metric units. Martinvl (talk) 20:07, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I think this is the wrong way to go. IMO there are two reasons to use imperial: ENGVAR, and because conversion would cause distortions. The era shouldn't matter. — kwami (talk) 20:17, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

UK usage of units is so mixed (and so controversial with some) that there is no easy formula for deciding which unit should go first. Look at the variety of concerns expressed in this thread.
  • Conversions cause distortions (so follow the sources).
  • Drop the conversions in geographical articles because Geography is a science.
  • A rule to follow the sources will lead to source-shopping.
  • Better to follow common usage.
  • Historical references should use the old units.
  • Strictly follow the original sources for information when they use Imperial for ENGVAR rules and also to avoid distortions.
I actually believe that following the sources (whether metric or imperial) would answer most of these concerns, and though there could be some source shopping by enthusiasts I think that this would tend to be self-correcting, as the best sources are usually pretty obvious (and they don't always come down on the side of metrics or of imperial measures). As for the matter of common usage, the best test of usage is to observe what people actually use and follow that.
However, all of this is speculation. I can see that my proposal has not achieved consensus. The present wording might be vague, but at least it has achieved consensus, so I'll leave it at that for the time being. Michael Glass (talk) 23:04, 29 October 2012 (UTC)
Yes, the proof is in the application, and we wouldn't know that unless we made the change. — kwami (talk) 00:03, 30 October 2012 (UTC)

Before and after

I feel like there was something wrong that just occurred, but I don't want to rush. Kwamikagami changed the work I had patiently discussed and researched and integrated into the wiki. In a day, Kwamikagami obliterated what is a conservative version five weeks in the making with untold hours of carefully crafted and subtle updates to technology, terminology and news of debates in the field, relevant to past discussions, coordinated with with template val, WP:MOSINTRO, the articles Earth, Mya, Bya and other related articles, with redirects, and on this talk page. I am Cpiral (talk · contribs). Kwamikagami is Kwamikagami (talk · contribs). Please see our styles, our substance, and our contributions, then see the events here and on the project page over the last few days, and help me decide if my biases are unfounded. As always, I am open to discussion and change about the version I crafted, but first, I want it back where it belongs, and I want discussions to proceed a little more carefully. Happy sleuthing! — CpiralCpiral 18:59, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

Read WP:BOLD. This is especially important to follow with guidelines.
I tried merely correcting the grammar and incoherence of your version, and you reverted me. It looked as if you didn't even bother to proof-read your edits. It really is important to have good style in a style guideline, whatever its substance. As I said when I restored the consensus version, the substance of some of your changes may have been improvements. Why don't you propose the changes you want here, as we're doing above? — kwami (talk) 20:32, 29 October 2012 (UTC)
Truth be told, I was going with your bold flow. Was, that is, until at some point, it got too fast and furious. And I am thankful to have someone just like you make callings forth. Let's just see how your boldness changes my things in a 'round about way that just works:

Year numbering systems measure age and duration over historic, geologic, and cosmic time. Conventional terminology pairs "AD" (Anno Domini) with "BC" (Before Christ), or it pairs "CE" (Common Era) with "BCE" (Before the Common Era). The latter is common in scholarly and religious writing, but is less traditional. Either is an appropriate choice.

  • BC and AD, BCE and CE are written in upper case, no abbreviation points (full points).
    • Where AD is found before the number, the Latin "... in the year of the Lord" is being expressed, Reforms were mandated in AD 106. Placed after the number AD is more like a unit of measurement than an abbreviation.
    • The others appear after the number as in 106 CE, and 3700 BCE, and 3700 BC.
  • Use CE or AD mostly to avoid confusion
  • in reference: He did not become king until 55 CE, where CE (or AD) clarifies "55" does not refer to his age.
  • in context of other calendars and their abbreviations.
  • At some point in the timescale of a subject, the date or century may become ambiguous without CE or AD: The Norman Conquest took place in 1066 not "1066 CE" or "1066 AD", but Plotinus was a philosopher living at the end of the 3rd century AD. Dates around the first century are usually ambiguous, and around the tenth are not.
  • Use a non-breaking space between the number and the unit. Terms like "14 mya BCE" will require two, or use {{nowrap}}.

A set of abbreviations indicating a long interval of time depends on the audience. For scientific and academic subjects and where long time intervals are mentioned frequently, spelling-out "X years ago", or "X years" can become trite, although the British Museum has allowed the spelling-out of the many. If abbreviations are chosen as content for an article, they will be one of two sets:

  • ka, Ma, Ga (annum "year") are the Greek and Latin abbreviations "kilo-annum" (103), "Mega-annum" (106) and "Giga-annum" (109) quantity of years; "years" is implied, but "ago" must be made explicit in the text, The Cretaceous started 65 Ma ago and ended 145 Ma ago, lasting for 80 Ma, so do not use the three-letter Gya, Mya, or kya forms. This set is compact and efficient, for use in the more obscure topics.
  • kyr, myr, byr (years), kya, mya, bya (years ago) abbreviate thousands, millions and billions of years ago; nothing need be implied, and it is in English. These six abbreviations are for either plain or scholarly exposition. (Berkeley has allowed them.) For increased readability prefer two or even four of these, even when the other set's one or two abbreviations might suffice for the entire article.
  • For directly quoted abbreviations use a square-bracketed editor's note to match the article style. For example an article that would normally use bya would quote "The galaxy formed 4.5 Ga [billion years ago]".
  • BP (years Before Present), means years before January 1, 1950. Do not spell it out as before present, or years before the present or years before 1950. BP implies the date is calibrated. If the date is uncalibrated use the abbreviation 14C yr BP. We write The varve samples averaged 4.5 ka BP and The varve samples averaged 2.3 ka 14C yr BP.

The abbreviations used in cosmic and geologic timescales are uncommon, and the Greek and Latin ones are more obscure.

  • Introduce each abbreviation as soon as convenience permits in the article. In the lead it is spelled out followed by the abbreviation in parenthesis: 14 billion years ago (Ga); otherwise use the abbreviation directly, but gloss: 100 Ma ago (million years ago). The same glossing is used for either set of abbreviations.
  • Introduce once. While text leveling an abbreviation style remember that an abbreviation's original intent is to minimize itself, and that a mouseover can serve to gloss mya, myr, bya, and byr when those are linked by the redirects that are spelled out.
  • {{Val}} simplifies the styling of numbers, spacing, and markup, and it can link the abbreviation (and in a way that provides the helpful mouseover information).

Do not change an established and consistent style in an article unless there are reasons specific to its content. Maintain article consistency in abbreviating. Seek consensus on the talk page before making many "obvious" corrections. Open the discussion under a subhead that uses the word "era" or "eon". Briefly state the reason. Personal reasons are usually not justification.

Read readability. Tear it up: 31 Sentences, 738 words, 4456 characters. (The current version (taken from Longer periods and Era style is 23 Sentences 689 words, and 4170 characters.) Consider also that the old (too?) civil debates (Categorical BC/BCE standardization and Era-change justification) dragged (patiently?) heavily on for 18,735 lines and were largely unfruitful except for (my take of course): In my opinion this "AD and CE" and all these discussions should become more highly focused than ever about style much more than content. It is a futile (but well-meaning) intension to debate a water-tight and flame-proof extension to guide editors. The old discussions seem mostly about MoS-Jesus and MoS-religion, but shows to be largely unfruitful:

  • "either AD or BCE may be appropriate" came out of the embroilment
  • all hectoring about "endorsement" and "offensiveness" by Nat Gertler, Kwami and Peter Coxhead and Dougweller were just lost to posterity
  • AD means "in the year of our Lord". So what? I'll tell you: know your Greek and Latin when you publish a featured article.
  • Mojoworker wanted to "minimize conflict" and "pass the buck" to WikiProjects to decide content. Yes!
  • Don't change the article style without discussion. Ahem. That stuck.
  • "The topic of the article should be taken under consideration." No! Nope on a visual survival of that.
  • Year numbering systems need to remind editors to use non-breaking spaces for the units. (Thanks Art LaPella.)
  • Surviving ideas by Cynwolfe, Jc35h and WP editor 2011: they "campaigned" against the inconsideration of those making the article content, and for the contributors original viewpoints of AD or CE, and for the monitoring for the consistency of it there, and for consistency of style everywhere, a pattern, an aesthetic.
  • "exploring a test case" (Coastline) was never done, and rightly because we are not politicians taking surveys or polls of world lit. — CpiralCpiral 22:27, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

There are at least as many more lines I've pondered elsewhere. Final resolution for me: MoS stands as volunteers, and we have no time or place for conferences, committees and bureaus to gerrymander terminology's religio-political course (much less considering every possible edit-war and POV battle of content). Except we can, as publishing the content of a manual of a style, list notable styles and terminology in the most general way fully and creatively packed with ideas and descriptions and explanations, and we can decide on a style that is spacing, glossing, capitalization and abbreviations. I hope I have done that above. And oh, the content of our MoS remember (most of the results of all our talk and it's outcome) has little effect on most of the ground, except to head-off edit-warring. Thanks for reading. — CpiralCpiral 22:27, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

Could "Conversion errors" be improved?

Proposal 1


Conversion errors may be introduced in secondary sources, in which case the figures of the primary source should be used. For example, reports state that the Eurostar is designed for speeds of "186 mph (299 km/h)", when the actual design speed is 300 km/h. This had been converted to 186 mph for the benefit of the British public and then back to km/h in the secondary source.

could be copy edited to this:

Conversion errors may occur in secondary sources, so figures from primary sources should be used. For example, a secondary report states that the Eurostar is designed for speeds of "186 mph (299 km/h)", when the actual design speed is 300 km/h. (The speed had been converted to 186 mph and then back to km/h in the secondary source.)

I think this is shorter and clearer. Any comments or concerns? Michael Glass (talk) 00:05, 30 October 2012 (UTC)

Over all an improvement, except now we say that people should (always) use primary sources, which might be difficult given our 2ary-source policy.
Not sure about the change to the sg in the ex, but maybe "one 2ary source"? — kwami (talk) 01:00, 30 October 2012 (UTC)
The abbreviations have me puzzled. What do you mean by the "change to the sg in the ex"? Also, what do you mean by the secondary source policy? Here's a revision of the wording that changes one plural to a singular.
Conversion errors may occur in secondary sources, so figures from the primary source should be used. For example, a secondary report states that the Eurostar is designed for speeds of "186 mph (299 km/h)", when the actual design speed is 300 km/h. (The speed had been converted to 186 mph and then back to km/h in the secondary source.)
Does that answer any of your concerns? If so, do you have problems with my suggested revision that you do not have with the present text? Michael Glass (talk) 08:44, 30 October 2012 (UTC)
Sorry, 'sg' = 'singular', 'ex' = 'example'.
All you did was add a 'the'. You're still saying that data from 1ary sources *should* be used, as a general process. That's probably a good idea; we don't want to play telephone with our data. However, wouldn't that conflict with our 2ary-source policy? — kwami (talk) 18:42, 30 October 2012 (UTC)
As far as I understand it, the policy you refer to is about avoiding original research. I don't think it's applicable in deciding between original and derived measurements or measurements from authoritative and less authoritative sources. Perhaps this wording would answer your concern:
Conversion errors may occur in some general reports, so figures from an authoritative source should be used. For example, one report stated that the Eurostar is designed for speeds of "186 mph (299 km/h)". However, the actual design speed was 300 km/h. (The error crept in because the original speed had been converted to 186 mph and then back to km/h in this report.)
Mentioning an authoritative source is important. We don't need to go back to the original cubits for the measurement of the Great Pyramid, but we might want a more authoritative source than our sixth grade primer or the local tabloid newspaper. This is, after all, an encyclopedia. Michael Glass (talk) 23:08, 30 October 2012 (UTC)
But that's just RS, which we already have. Most people would consider NASA to be an authoritative source, but they're not adequate. I think 'primary' is the way to go; I just worry that this may spark an argument down the line if we don't ensure that it doesn't conflict with our 2ary-source policy. As long as that's not a problem, I prefer your earlier wording. — kwami (talk) 00:36, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
The problem with NASA is that it is caught between two aims: writing for a general audience (who are more familiar with US customary measures) and reflecting their research work (in SI). Hence the inconsistency in their presentation. However, if the policy says to go for the original measure you run into other problems. Many things in Australia were designed and built to imperial specifications, including land surveying and many public buildings. However, most of this information is now available in SI. See In the UK, the latest buildings are designed and built to SI specifications while older buildings were constructed to imperial measures. When a modern report is written about these buildings, the description may well be in metric measures, as with Buckingham Palace. See Here's another proposal:
Conversion errors may occur in general reports, so use the most authoritative sources available. This can help avoid rounding errors, like this: a general report stated that the Eurostar is designed for speeds of "186 mph (299 km/h)". However, the actual design speed was 300 km/h. (The error crept in because the original speed had been converted to 186 mph and then back to km/h.)
Sometimes policy wording can have unintended consequences. That's why it's important to take our time working out what to recommend and how to express our ideas. Please look carefully at the proposal above. Michael Glass (talk) 02:47, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
Not knowing where the errors entered from, I wonder how many editors are aware of the {{convert}} 'disp=flip' parameter. So you can use the 300 number as the input and get this displayed, 190 miles per hour (300 km/h). Vegaswikian (talk) 02:59, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
Here is how:
  • Enter 300km/h to mph into Google and you get the answer: 186.411mph
  • Round it down to the nearest whole number and you get 186mph
  • Now enter 186mph to km/h into Google and you get the answer: 299.338km/h
  • Finally, round it down to the nearest whole number and you get 299km/h
That's how easily it can happen.
However, I want to ask just one question: Does anyone object to my replacing this:
Conversion errors may be introduced in secondary sources, in which case the figures of the primary source should be used. For example, reports state that the Eurostar is designed for speeds of "186 mph (299 km/h)", when the actual design speed is 300 km/h. This had been converted to 186 mph for the benefit of the British public and then back to km/h in the secondary source.
with this:
Conversion errors may occur in general reports, so use the most authoritative sources available. This can help avoid rounding errors, like this: a general report stated that the Eurostar is designed for speeds of "186 mph (299 km/h)". However, the actual design speed was 300 km/h. (The error crept in because the original speed had been converted to 186 mph and then back to km/h.)
I think the proposed wording, immediately above, is clearer than the present text. It also avoids the trap of referring to primary sources, which may have been superseded, like the cubits of the Old Testament, or Imperial measures in Australia and New Zealand, where they were replaced by metric measures several decades ago. Michael Glass (talk) 08:38, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
I'm not sure that really addresses the problem. I don't see the problem with 'primary': if there's no problem with the data in 2ary sources, we don't need to go to primary; if there is a problem with 2ary sources, then it doesn't matter that they're authoritative. — kwami (talk) 10:16, 31 October 2012 (UTC)

(unindent) There's nothing much we can do about data that appears to be corrupt. All we can do is find better data. Primary data can be outmoded (think pieds du roi from France), of uncertain value (think cubits), unobtainable (think of the original plans for many buildings), no longer used (think land titles in Australia, surveyed in imperial measures but almost universally described by the square metre with the caveat "approx".)

Better to just refer to the most authoritative sources available.

Remember that the issue is bigger than what NASA does. We are making policy for the whole of Wikipedia so we have to look out for unintended consequences for others. Michael Glass (talk) 12:58, 31 October 2012 (UTC)

Yes, thus the "not sure". In most cases it's obvious what we need to do, but how to make the point succinctly? — kwami (talk) 18:04, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
I thought I had made it succinctly in my suggested revision. If not, could you suggest any changes or revisions? Michael Glass (talk) 22:29, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
You're not happy with 'primary', and I'm not happy with 'authoritative'. Yet if it came to specific examples, I imagine we'd generally agree. That, what we'd base our decision on, is what I don't know how to put into words. — kwami (talk) 22:54, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
True. What about including both words. Then it would read like this:
Conversion errors may occur in general reports, so use the primary sources or the most authoritative sources available. This can help avoid rounding errors, like this: a general report stated that the Eurostar is designed for speeds of "186 mph (299 km/h)". However, the actual design speed was 300 km/h. (The error crept in because the original speed had been converted to 186 mph and then back to km/h.)
In this case we get the primary sources, which are, rightly, important to you and we also get the freedom to use the most authoritative sources available. This gives editors the freedom to use appropriate data even if it can't claim to be a primary source. Michael Glass (talk) 06:22, 1 November 2012 (UTC)
As there have been no objections I am including the revised wording immediately above. Michael Glass (talk) 02:23, 3 November 2012 (UTC)
None of these convey the point well, IMO, but I don't have a better suggestion. Maybe we should let your wording sit for a while, and see how people respond to it, and if there are any complications. Sometimes the way forward becomes obvious once you bump into a few walls. — kwami (talk) 02:35, 3 November 2012 (UTC)

Proposal 2

I am concerned about these passages:

Passage one

When common conversion factors are given as measurements, this is a clue that there may be conversion problems. For example, if a number of moons are given estimated diameters in increments of 16 km or 6 miles (implied precision ±0.5 km or mi), it is likely that the estimates in the primary source were in increments of a less-precise 10 miles or 10 km (implied precision ±5 miles or km).

This sounds like speculation to me.

  1. We may suspect that information has been changed but we need hard evidence to demonstrate it.
  2. With scientific information we may be pretty sure that work was done in metric units. (Geographical information is different, depending on when and where it was worked out.)
  3. We already have a good example of conversion errors in the paragraph (about the Eurostar train) so we don't need another.

Therefore I think this passage should be removed.

(1) Of course, we can't just change data on our own. Didn't think that needed spelling out, but perhaps it does. If you see numbers like this, you may want to check the original data to see if its been changed.
(2) This is not true. NASA, for example, commonly presents results in imperial.
(3) Perhaps. This was intended as an example of a common pattern to be aware of, a clue that we might want to look up the original data. — kwami (talk) 01:11, 30 October 2012 (UTC)

Passage two

Straightforward and accurate conversion may not be possible for loose estimates. For example, if the diameter of a moon is estimated to be 10 miles to within an order of magnitude, any simple conversion to kilometers would introduce a significant loss of accuracy or a gross change in precision. That is because an order-of-magnitude estimate of 10 miles implies a possible range of ≈ 3–30 miles, which would be ≈ 5–50 km. A secondary source will commonly convert such an estimate to a specious 16 km.

  1. A loose estimate, by its very nature, is uncertain. It cannot be precise.
  2. Astronomical work is scientific work, and would be done in SI. According to the rules, conversions are not required for scientific work, so the question is moot.

Therefore I think this passage should also be removed.

What do others think? Michael Glass (talk) 00:24, 30 October 2012 (UTC)

(2) "and would be done in SI". Except that it's not. You're effectively saying that we can present scientific data in imperial without conversion to metric.
(1) That's exactly why we need this passage. A loose estimate cannot be precise, so when a secondary source makes it precise, that's a problem. An estimate of ≈ 5–50 km should not be reported as 16±0.5 km. — kwami (talk) 01:04, 30 October 2012 (UTC)
I think you might be mistaken about NASA. Take this web page: It mentioned a temperature going "150 degrees Fahrenheit (83 kelvins) above normal" However, the diagrams in the web page were marked only in degrees Kelvin. Another web page contains the following quotes: "when rain drops become larger than 3 mm (0.11 inch) in diameter," and "The cloud shield associated with Hurricane Sandy extended well over 1,000 km from the storm center..." However, there were other references like this: "335.5 miles (540 km) " and references to the storm moving in mph, so its use of units of measure was quite inconsistent here.
As for presenting scientific information only in imperial, established policy says it can be presented in SI only, so that is a question that has been decided before you added this particular passage to MOSNUM.
A loose estimate would need to be equally loosely rendered in the other units, whatever they might be. As I said before, non-scientific examples would be more to the point, perhaps like non-US reports of news in the United States, where metric measures have been substituted. Michael Glass (talk) 09:11, 30 October 2012 (UTC)
Yes, SI for scientific articles has been settled, but you inadvertently just argued for imperial only in some cases.
NASA is inconsistent. Siarnaq, for example, is given as 32 km (19 mi).[7] This is equivalent to the Eurostar example. We have only the vaguest idea of its size. Ymir is given as 16 km (10 mi).[8] Thrym, Suttungr, and Mundilfari are all given as 5.6 km (3.4 mi). There's no reason random moons would have the same size: this is an artifact of the conversion. I don't know the history; perhaps "3–4 mi" converted to 5.6 km and then back again? (Arithmetically it could have been 5–6 km to mi and back again, but that's an unlikely degree of precision for these moons.) Paaliaq is 19 km (11.8 mi)—again, there's no way we know the size of that moon to the km.
They have the opposite problem for Telesto, which they give as 30 x 25 x 15 km (19 x 15.5 x 9 mi) rather than (20 x 15 x 10 mi).[9]
Figures like these should be a bright flashing warning that the data has been corrupted. If we go back to the original data and find it was in metric, then we have no problem. But if we go back and find it was in imperial, things are not so easy. Remember, NASA lost a Mars mission just a couple years ago because they did their engineering in imperial and someone made a conversion error.
A non-scientific example would be fine, if you have one. — kwami (talk) 18:32, 30 October 2012 (UTC)
Funny you should mention that, I came across one just yesterday. Kon-Tiki#Construction contains numerous dimensions shown in metric first with a conversion to feet and inches, but the non-metric numbers are generally simpler — most obviously, the diameter of a rope is given in metric to 4 significant digits! — so it seems obvious that it was taken from a non-metric source. However, the source can't be checked because it's also uncited. (I suspect it was an English-language edition of the book. I read it in school, long enough ago that I don't remember what units it used. If so, a better source would be an edition in Norwegian, or the language of some other metric country.) I didn't want to introduce errors like the "299 km/h" example, so I didn't make any edits. I would have tagged the article {{false precision}}, except that that template doesn't exist and I couldn't find one that refers to this issue, so I gave up and left it alone. -- (talk) 21:52, 30 October 2012 (UTC)
It does now! (I've been using {{fix}} for specious precision, but this is better.) — kwami (talk) 22:22, 30 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks! (Previous poster at a different IP address) (talk) 10:03, 1 November 2012 (UTC)
  • Comment: If the {{undue precision}} template meets with people's approval, shall we mention it in this section of the MOS? — kwami (talk) 23:11, 30 October 2012 (UTC)
I think we should all keep a sense of proportion with this. There is a small difference between 4ft 8.5in and 1435mm but it is well within the tolerances for rail gauges. Michael Glass (talk) 23:34, 30 October 2012 (UTC)
Sure. But there's a large difference between 30 miles and 16 km. — kwami (talk) 00:09, 31 October 2012 (UTC)
Agreed! This would have to be a mistake in the conversion. Michael Glass (talk) 02:03, 31 October 2012 (UTC) In cases like the one Kwami pointed to above we are not in a position to say what caused the discrepancy. Even if we suspect that the original figures were in miles instead of kilometres, we can't say that for sure, and even if we are sure that the original figures are derived from other measures this would have to be described as original research, which, as we all know, is the Wiki equivalent of Original Sin. All we can do is to depend on the best information available. Now in this case, NASA's scientific reports might be a better source of information than their press releases or website information. Michael Glass (talk) 08:50, 31 October 2012 (UTC)

WP:STRONGNAT needs to die a quick painful death

Policy nazis using this MOS guideline to change the dates on articles they haven't otherwise contributed to is frankly pissing off editors who write the articles. I've seen too many discussions on user talk pages of "please don't do this" by people whose edits the last few weeks have consisted almost entirely of date format switches. This is a globalized world...cultural quirks are adopted by other cultures, national patterns dont' really matter much. Sure there is inches vs. centimeters, but when it comes to 11 November or November 11, this isn't important. To assume all Americans use MDY, November 11, is just wrong--I'm an American raised and having lived in Europe, I prefer the European style. Being a policy nazi on this issue is likely to tick off those Americans who hate the aesthetics of MDY, Europeans and others who just happen to contribute to an article on an American subject. Personally, if ever I was notable enough for an article on Wikipedia, I'd loathe seeing MDY format being used. If the article is consistent in one format or the other--irrespective of the nationality of the subject--consistency should always overrule. It seemed to the general policy in the past. And to not abide by it just seems to be inconsistent. --ColonelHenry (talk) 22:34, 9 November 2012 (UTC)

Do you assume that allowing November 11 in a future article about a new British prince, would make date Nazis disappear? It might help and it might hurt, but I'm sure the wars would go on. Art LaPella (talk) 00:07, 10 November 2012 (UTC)
I see your point, but I think consistency should be the goal. Instead of being all things for all people, I wish Wikipedia would just adopt one standard over the other. If there is an article about a British prince and the article's creator started it MDY format, and it was consistent throughout, and then other editors who added to the article used MDY, there's no reason to change it just because one johnny-come-lately editor wants DMY. If that's the case, the matter should be discussed on the talk page and a consensus reached. Editors who have no connection to an article and don't really contribute except for editing thousands of articles to switch MDY to DMY and DMY to MDY should really be circumspect in exercising WP:BOLD to play with aesthetics vis-a-vis the contributions of other editors involved with the article. Right now, the few editors who are exclusively doing the MDY->DMY/DMY->MDY shifts are really pissing people off. It's largely a waste of time and a needless aggravation.--ColonelHenry (talk) 02:48, 10 November 2012 (UTC)
While the language ("Policy nazis ") is a bit strong, I agree with the sentiment. Consistency should be the key driver, and it appears we have already stepped into the overreaching bureaucracy whose avoidance was an expressly stated objective. -- Ohconfucius ping / poke 02:56, 10 November 2012 (UTC)
  • I recall years ago there was a user preference setting where dates were autoformatted based on the user reading the article, independent of how they were written in the article.--ColonelHenry (talk) 02:51, 10 November 2012 (UTC)
    • Yea, it fucked up the entire system for years, and created a huge mess to clear up afterwards, and we're not done yet. -- Ohconfucius ping / poke 03:11, 10 November 2012 (UTC)
I disagree. In my decades of international (including US) business and software development experience, people want to see the date and currency formats they have been using since childhood, and feel fairly strongly about it. Like the original poster, I prefer a date format (ISO 8601) which is different than the standard where I live (in the US). Any attempts to convince anyone outside limited technical audiences of the logic and beauty of it, however, were quickly shot down.
I wasn't here for whatever problems there were with custom date rendering per user, and don't know why it should have happened, but I can say that I've developed business software that (necessarily) correctly supports simultaneous users with differing locales (including currency and date formats, language, etc.) – it is certainly possible.
If there has to be just one en wiki, and different locales per user can't be made to work properly, I believe STRONGNAT to be a reasonable solution (as, I'm sure, the original discussion did), in the hopes that most consumers of US-topic articles are US people, and non-US articles are non-US people. —[AlanM1(talk)]— 04:21, 10 November 2012 (UTC)
I prefer ISO too. The century someone is born in is a tad more important than the day. It would also mean neither national convention is forced on the other. — kwami (talk) 05:59, 10 November 2012 (UTC)
ISO 8601 requires agreement between the parties exchanging data to use any date before 1583, and requires all dates to be stated in the Gregorian calendar. It is obviously unfit for use in an encyclopedia. Also, while it may be possible to express dates in the format preferred by a particular user when the date is isolated in, for example, a timestamp, it isn't possible to do so when it is embedded in prose and correct grammar and punctuation is required. Jc3s5h (talk) 18:12, 10 November 2012 (UTC)
I know this is not the original question, but would you explain more specifically where ISO 8601 requires Gregorian calendar? I'm not sure what that means, but Ethiopia and Eritrea both officially use a form based on the Julian calendar, and I am not sure if certain language wikis are able to get their recent changes timestamps to follow the Persian Calendar, or other non-Gregorian calendars that are official in a handful of countries - so that's why I'm wondering. Til Eulenspiegel /talk/ 19:58, 10 November 2012 (UTC)
It is mentioned repeatedly throughout the standard. The PDF version I have states:
3.2.1 The Gregorian calendar
This International Standard uses the Gregorian calendar for the identification of calendar days....
I understand the printed version has somewhat different section numbering. Jc3s5h (talk) 20:06, 10 November 2012 (UTC)