Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers/Archive 142

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Archive 135 โ† Archive 140 Archive 141 Archive 142

Imperial measurements


No clear consensus for a change in policy has emerged despite extensive discussion over many months. Current consensus is that wikipedia uses predominantly units of the metric system but that exceptions allow for the use of imperial measurements to reflect local usage. In such cases the primary unit and a conversion should be used (if the primary is metric convert to imperial equivalent and vice versa). Whilst it is clear that some editors hold strong views both for and against metrication, all are reminded that wikipedia is not a platform for righting great wrongs or a a platform for advocating a particular world view. Wikipedia's policies are decided on the basis of WP:CONSENSUS, which requires compromise and this is fundamentally incompatible with entrenched views. Wee Curry Monster talk 12:26, 14 November 2013 (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.

why are we still using archaic empiric measurements? only US and Burma are using them. How is it justified? thx (talk) 21:15, 3 August 2013 (UTC)

You mean "imperial" units, although some US units are different (e.g. gallons). The answer is because the US uses them and the US has by the far the largest number of native English speakers, so of course the English Wikipedia should provide both systems of measurement. By the way, the UK still uses miles. Peter coxhead (talk) 21:44, 3 August 2013 (UTC)
see CIA factbook: only US, Burma and Liberia are officially using them. Is there any source for your claim? some statistics?

India would be the largest native English speaking country (talk) 22:24, 4 August 2013 (UTC)

What proportion of Indians have English as their mother tongue? Peter coxhead (talk) 22:37, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
According to List of countries by English-speaking population, a little over 10%. India has about 125 million English speakers, compared to US at about 267 million. No other country comes close as far as total English speaking population. --RacerX11 Talk to meStalk me 23:24, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
And the additional figure has only 226,449 Indians with English "as first language". Is that the same thing as "native English speakers"? If that's the criteria then it appears the majority of native English speaking people use imperial units. --RacerX11 Talk to meStalk me 23:40, 4 August 2013 (UTC)
your explanation of statistics has some serious flaws. India, unlike US, has English as one of the two official languages.

We are referring to internet users only. there is about 250 000 internet users in US.that is not majority of English speaking users worldwide. Also keep in mind that you dont have to be "native " English speaking to use wiki in English language (talk) 23:55, 4 August 2013 (UTC)

250,000 internet users in US?? Where on Earth did you get that figure from? Try more like 200,000,000+. --RacerX11 Talk to meStalk me 00:07, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
sorry I clearly missed some zeroes. it is, of course estimated 250 million internet users (2012). (talk) 14:38, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
Also using internet users only isn't going to help you much I'm afraid. US - 80% of population. India - 10%. --RacerX11 Talk to meStalk me 00:19, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
According to Wikipedia:Wikipedians: "Most editors (20%) reside in the United States, followed by Germany (12%) and Russia (7%). The only country not in Europe or North America in the top 10, is India (3%)." โ€”sroc ๐Ÿ’ฌ 00:44, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
I think you'll find that's for all Wikipedias. I think it's almost certain that the second largest number of Wikipedians on English Wikipedia reside in the United Kingdom, where we also commonly use and understand Imperial measurements (no matter what our official units may be). -- Necrothesp (talk) 11:00, 9 August 2013 (UTC) This is the best I could come up with. 2.4 billion internet users worldwide. Of which, 27% use English (not native speakers, this is first, second and third language English users and those who simply use the language on the internet). So that's 648 million English using, internet users. There are 267 million English speaking people in the US. Of which, 81% use the internet. That's about 216 million English speaking internet users in the US. So subtracting US from World (and ignoring the relatively few English speaking internet users in Burma and Liberia) we get: 432 million metric using, English using, internet users vs. 216 million imperial using, English speaking, internet users worldwide. After rounding it worked out to exactly a two to one ratio; or in other words, one third of the total English using internet users, also use imperial (if my calculations and sources are correct). I can't think of any way to skew it in your favor any more than that. --RacerX11 Talk to meStalk me 01:17, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
keep in mind, that English wiki editors does not have to be native English speaker. for our purpose we are looking for en:wiki editors. They are global editors, not just US, UK, Australia, India etc. I am pretty sure there must me some wiki statistics as mentioned here by someone. btw I agree with your calculations (2:1) (talk) 14:38, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
As I mentioned above, the 27% includes all English language users. Not just native speakers. That figure includes all first, second, third, etc. speakers and additionally anyone who can communicate with English on the Internet. The US figure of total English speakers in the US is however only including first and second language speakers because that was the only source I had at the time. Like I said, the above data is skewed, but mostly in the favor of the metric using, English using, internet using population. RacerX11 Talk to meStalk me 16:24, 5 August 2013 (UTC)

In any case, note that imperial units are only preferred in "non-science US-related articles" (WP:UNITS), otherwise they are only given as a conversion, which is not unreasonable for the 20% or more of Wikipedians from countries that still use them. โ€”sroc ๐Ÿ’ฌ 01:31, 5 August 2013 (UTC)

Yes sroc, but to clarify, I think that 20% is US editors within the entirety of Wikipedia. Only English Wikipedia uses those conversions. I am sure the percentage of English Wikipedia editors who are from the US is much higher. --RacerX11 Talk to meStalk me 01:57, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
Ah, thanks. I thought there were statistics somewhere on the "typical" user on the English WP, but I can't find it now. โ€”sroc ๐Ÿ’ฌ 02:21, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
To answer your question, it's a compromise. If you want the justifications, feel free to search the archives. SchreiberBike talk 02:13, 5 August 2013 (UTC)
thank you guys.can you point me to the right direction,to the archives of previous discussions about imperial units usage please?
You might start with this search which looks for the phrase "imperial units" in the archives of this talk page. Further searches for "units" or "SI units" would give more background. SchreiberBike talk 06:39, 6 August 2013 (UTC)

@, referring to your recent comment placed a few posts above about Wiki statistics on usage. You expressed interest in refining the sample group from internet users to WP editors. I think it would make more sense to refine the stats to include WP readers (and editors), rather than only WP editors, but if you're still interested I found this chart at the article English Wikipedia for en:WP edits by country and this chart for en:WP page views by country. --RacerX11 Talk to meStalk me 01:39, 6 August 2013 (UTC)

The page views of English Wikipedia show that 39.9% of readers come from the United States and a further 16.7% come from the UK. (UK usage is a mixture of metric and Imperial.) This means that roughly half of our readers would be comfortable with Imperial/US Customary measures and about half would be comfortable with metric measures. The policy of providing both measures in general articles provides for all. Michael Glass (talk) 02:27, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
Slight correction. 39.9% of edits come from the US. 42.9% of page views come from US. Lets be clear about what we are looking at. An individual edit is different than an editor or a reader. Same for a single page views. --RacerX11 Talk to meStalk me 02:34, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for that. It is interesting that the US has 42.9% of the page views but only 39.9% of the page edits while the UK has 11.2% of the page views but 16.7% of the page views. Australia also has 3.6% of the page views but 4.2% of the page edits and New Zealand has 0.7% of page views but 1% of edits but Canada has 6% of both views and edits to the English language Wikipedia. Overall, however, the split between imperial and metric usage would still be about 50-50 for both editors and readers. This reinforces the need to provide both metric and imperial measures for readers, even though this requires a lot more work. Michael Glass (talk) 03:46, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
Agree. I think it would be safe to assume the percentage of readers and page views; editors and edits would be approximately the same. Then again, who would have guessed the statistical curiosities you have just pointed out? But overall, yes. The stats indeed support the consensus of display both units. It would be easier for uS editors (punny, yes even some American editors like myself wish that some things were simpler) to not ever have to worry about conversions and conversion templates and such if we went to metric units exclusively, but currently any serious attempt to rally the community in that direction would be WP:SNOWBALL --RacerX11 Talk to meStalk me 05:34, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
Perhaps the missing American readers are reading Conservapedia? It's well-known that Wikipedia is a hotbed of dangerous un-American liberals. :-) Peter coxhead (talk) 10:33, 6 August 2013 (UTC)

The UK uses both. For example petrol is bought in litres but distances are measured in miles. Beer has to be sold in quantities based on an imperial pints while spirits and wine are sold in millilitres (both by law). So not only the US but the UK still use imperial weights and measures, its just that the UK manges to have both on the supermarket shelves at the same time. -- PBS (talk) 08:33, 6 August 2013 (UTC)

Actually, note that the US doesn't use imperial measurements for volumes; US pints and gallons are different from imperial ones. So for volumes, at least three units are often needed: litres/liters, US gallons/pints, imperial gallons/pints. Peter coxhead (talk) 10:33, 6 August 2013 (UTC)
This can bite in reverse and mean that conversions can be next to impossible, a classic one is the bomb weights used during World War II as secondary sources often use tons for raids flown in the Combined Bomber Offensive but don't specify whether it is short ton or long ton (I suspect that in a number of sources the authors do not know as they themselves are quoting secondary sources and not the original RAF and USAAF primary sources (which may not be clear on their own without researching further primary sources to find out what weight the USAAF used when stationed in Britain)). Another one I was surprised to find,--it came to my attention via some obscure (to me) measurements in the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna (a Rhineland Ruthe)--that when reviewing old sources (particularly about international matters) there is no such thing as a standard mile, (or rod (unit), league (unit) etc) and that often like tons the secondary source reports the distance without noting a conversion to a standard contemporary unit, which makes including conversions in Wikipedia text a guess or original research. -- PBS (talk) 09:17, 7 August 2013 (UTC)
MilHist Coordinator says: The bomber offensive figures are in long tons; these were used by both the USAAF and RAF. The short ton was not used for this purpose. However, when dealing with logistics in World War II, you must always watch out for the more commonly used measurement ton, which was not a unit of weight at all. It is also worth noting that in SWPA US forces used imperial, not US gallons. I'm not sure if this was the case in the UK. Hawkeye7 (talk) 22:52, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
Also, we in the US manage to have both on the shelves at the same time as well. Soda, fizzy drinks, or whatever you want to call them, are sold in 1-, 2-, and 3-liter bottles (the latter is not terribly common) and in 20-ounce bottles and 12-ounce cans. Beer is sold in ounces, but wine and spirits are sold in liters. Most drugs, including the illegal ones, are measured in metric units, with the exception of marijuana. Just about all foods and drinks (but not medications) are labeled in both measurements, though. -Rrius (talk) 15:56, 8 August 2013 (UTC)
Funny I don't recall ever seeing a 3-liter bottle of soda. Must be very uncommon in my area. But yes, the liter is a fairly familiar unit in the US. Consider also its use in the US automobile industry (among the other metric uses and parts on US vehicles). My pickup truck was assembled 30 miles (48 km, heh:) from my house and it has a badge on the side displaying its engine displacement in liters; and the vast majority of Americans know exactly what a 5.7L engine is. Another example that comes to mind is the length of US cigarettes is given in millimeters: 72's, 100's etc. --RacerX11 Talk to meStalk me 23:41, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
May I put the Indian figures into perspective. About 250,000 Indians use English as their mother tongue, but the Times of India prints 7.6 million copies a day - more than double any UK or US newspaper. Martinvl (talk) 17:21, 8 August 2013 (UTC)

Policy implications

I think most editors accept the necessity of providing imperial/US customary measures along with metric measures for general articles, as usage varies across the English-speaking world. In most cases this is fairly clear-cut, with metric measures being given priority throughout most of the world and US customary measures being given priority in US based non-scientific articles. In the case of UK articles the situation is more complex, with metric units being used in some contexts and imperial units being used in others and where usage is both divided and hotly contested between the fans of both metric and imperial units. MOSNUM reflects this situation.

I believe the present policy could be improved with some copy editing. For example, "imperial units are still used in some contexts" is clearer and shorter than "imperial units are still used as the main units in some contexts". Are there any comments or suggestions about this proposed change? Michael Glass (talk) 14:54, 15 August 2013 (UTC)

I think the current wording is more correct. Older people in the UK still use imperial units in their personal life, e.g. feet and inches during DIY, or stones and pounds for their weight (I still do this!). But the "main" units in each case, in these cases the ones used by shops and by the medical profession, are metric. This is different from driving distances or beer glasses where the "main" units are imperial. So I would expect the order in which the units are given in a UK-based article would be different. For lengths of wood, say, it should be metric with an imperial conversion; for distance between towns, say, it should be imperial with a metric conversion. Peter coxhead (talk) 15:22, 15 August 2013 (UTC)
I do not assume good faith in the case of Michael Glass due to previous editing history. If the word "main" is removed Glass will use the new policy to present ONLY metric units and not give conversions to customary units at all. Jc3s5h (talk) 16:46, 15 August 2013 (UTC)

I don't edit to remove customary units and have only metric units. I have argued consistently for the need to provide both measurements, and my editing history is consistent with this belief. Michael Glass (talk) 01:07, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

Agreed. Or he might use it as an excuse to argue that the policy doesn't say that they should be the main units, and that therefore that metric units should be the main units instead. We certainly cannot assume that this is a mere copy-edit as suggested. Kahastok talk 17:06, 15 August 2013 (UTC)

You're wrong. It was just a suggested copy edit. The expression "main unit" would still be in the policy. However, as you object, I won't push it any further. Michael Glass (talk) 01:07, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

I'd like to propose a clarification of an ambiguity (potential clash between two points of guidance relating to units): the section relating to British articles states that "in some contexts" it is appropriate to give primacy to imperial units, e.g. miles, miles per hour, and fuel consumption in miles per imperial gallon (although it does not stipulate exactly what these contexts are, I assume the advice relates primarily to road transport). Shortly afterwards, the stlye guide states that "Nominal and defined quantities should be given in the original units first" (which I do not contest). In my experience (I am British), the UK has very mixed measurement traditions on some of these points (many distances are typically given in metric, often with no imperial equivalent, in daily British life, e.g. on OS maps, athletic events, hiking trails, and engineering/construction projects such as Crossrail) and I propose that the official policy on units in articles relating to Britain should be clarified to the following: Given the mixture of different measurement systems in use in contemporary British society, the main unit used in a given context should be the unit which is given primacy in the relevant primary sources. I view this as merely placing more emphasis on the second point that I quote above, namely that precedence should always be given to the original units, with any conversions clearly displayed as such, i.e. secondary or supplementary pieces of information. To extend the argument: if I were important enough to deserve my own Wikipedia page, and I gave information on my own height/weight in metric units (because that's what I prefer), would these figures need to be amended to prioritise Imperial, just because I'm British? Would changing my nationality exempt me from this rule? My point is that, given the confusing mess of units in use in the UK today, it's impossible to say in such a broad-brushed way that "when talking about subject X (distances, body dimensions, etc.) always use Imperial" - British people will use both, inconsistently. My proposed amendment is the only way I can see to steer clear of conflicts like the one on (for example) Talk:Edinburgh_Trams, where some editors understood the standing policy to mean that imperial units are always correct for distances, regardless of primary sources. In this case the primary source gave a metric distance with a very approximate imperial equivalent, because British construction and engineering use the metric system exclusively, whereas the editors flipped the unit conversion so that the Wiki page showed the converted value first, with the source value displayed alongside it as though it were a conversion. My disagreement with this was that it was misleading to readers about which was the primary value and which was the conversion, and it's not appropriate for editors of a neutral reference work to "interpret" its sources in such a way, by deciding that they know better than the source what the appropriate units are. Their counterargument centred on the wording of the style guide as it stands, rather than on the substance of my argument, which they didn't care to contest, so for that reason I think this is quite an uncontroversial proposal (i.e. source units determine Wikipedia units). If there are no strenuous objections to it, I'll add the wording in bold above as a caveat in the section on units for British articles. Archon 2488 (talk) 11:51, 19 September 2013 (UTC)

I agree that we need something like this. Although miles are still used on road signs, most measurements are in metric as archon as explained. Even our highways have metric measures on them although not on the road signs. Petrol at the petrol pump is only in litres, so why would we give primacy to gallons? I know that Google search results are dicy, but [1] p petrol "miles per liter" gives about 1,430,000 results while we get about half that[2] when we search for "miles" per gallon. Dougweller (talk) 12:37, 19 September 2013 (UTC)
Yes, gallons are long-due for retirement - they've not been used for fuel in the UK since the early '90s (I think only a tiny number of Caribbean islands still sell fuel by the Imperial gallon, and maybe Liberia). Fuel economy/consumption units are already a real mess on Wikipedia because there are so many competing conventions, including miles per US gallon (which is not directly comparable to the Imperial measurement because the US gallon is much smaller). I'd be against introducing "miles per litre" measurements because it's a very nonstandard unit (mixing metric/imperial in a unit is bad practice) and it's not used in car adverts/dealerships in the UK (which is to my knowledge the only country that has this particular measurement confusion of selling fuel in metric and measuring driving distances in imperial), and adding one more measurement convention is just to contribute so much more clutter to an article. The legal measurement in the UK is actually the metric one, which by law must be given in the standard international form of L/100 km or km/L (the former is used almost universally outside the UK and USA; India prefers the latter). The imperial MPG value is actually considered supplementary information. My (British) car manual uses L/100 km exclusively for describing fuel consumption. Given all this, I'm not sure how useful it actually is for Wikipedia to retain the MPG(imp) measurements, when the metric ones are at least as meaningful to British people (it's at least as easy to relate 100 km to your typical driving distances as it is to relate the imperial gallon to the amount of fuel you buy at the pump, arguably more so since most British people under 30 have minimal experience of Imperial volume measures). Anyway, we are a confused society slowly migrating towards the metric system, so it makes sense for articles about us to reflect this fact, even if this means they can't be 100% consistent in their preference of units (because we, as a country, are not). Archon 2488 (talk) 13:13, 19 September 2013 (UTC)
I think there is a serious problem with the wording of the passage:
  • In non-science UK-related articles: the main quantity is generally expressed in metric units (44 kilograms (97 lb)), but imperial units are still used as the main units in some contexts, including
    • 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.
    • hands for horses and most other equines
Perhaps something got accidentally edited out somewhere between "miles" and "fuel consumption"?
As it is, it seems to say that miles, miles per hour, and fuel consumption should be measured in miles per imperial gallon, which is obvious nonsense and clearly not intended. The main reason for the linguistic problem is that the introduction to the list talks of the use of units in some contexts but while the other UK exceptions to metric give the unit and the context, no context is given for "miles" and "miles per hour", making it somewhat useless. "Miles are used in some contexts" is not very helpful. We know that miles are not used in all contexts; so we want to know what context calls for the use of miles.
This is what I mean:
Units Applicable context
miles unspecified
miles per hour unspecified
miles per imperial gallon for fuel consumption
feet/inches for personal height
stones/pounds for personal weight
imperial pints for draught beer and bottled milk
hands for horses and most other equines
So it looks as if
  • for miles per hour we should add something like " for road vehicle speeds", and
  • for miles we should add something like "for road distances (but not in a scientific, civil-engineering or similar context)".
Perhaps the information should actually be presented as a table.--Boson (talk) 13:47, 19 September 2013 (UTC)
Yes, this is a very good suggestion. Looking back over the passage I agree that it is far too ambiguous about which contexts to use Imperial units in, and this has clearly resulted in confusion and unnecessary "unit wars". I'd also preface the table with the general proviso that, in cases of ambiguity or confusion, the primary source should determine the preference that is given to the unit, and that a conversion should not be presented as if it were a primary value, because this is disingenuous and a violation of common sense editorial policy. I don't think a general piece of advice to prefer Imperial in certain British contexts over-rules something as basic as that. My own preference for metric would not lead me to write something like "The maximum speed limit on British motorways is 110 kilometres per hour (70 mph)" because this is obviously silly; it's no less silly to do it the other way around in an article that relates to something in Britain which is metric (such as modern tramways). So if, per my example, I gave my weight in kg (or quoted the weight of another British person from a source which gave kg), a conversion into st/lb might be appropriate, but it should certainly not be given primacy over the initial value. Wikipedia is not the British tabloid press, slavishly converting metric to Imperial, to the ludicrous extent of writing things like "1100 yards" instead of "1 km" - it's not unreasonable for us to hold ourselves to a higher standard than that. MPG is officially deprecated in the UK as I described above, so I don't see why it should ever be given primacy over metric; the relevant official/legal figures are all in metric anyway, and if a conversion is strongly desired then it can be provided as supplementary information. Articles such as List_of_UK_fuel_economy_ratings give L/100 km precedence over MPG, presumably for this reason. Archon 2488 (talk) 14:22, 19 September 2013 (UTC)
The concept of listing the unit from the source first, followed by any necessary conversions, has been repeatedly rejected in discussions on this talk page. An encyclopedia assembles information from diverse sources to produce a coherent, easy-to-read article. Changing style from sentence to sentence, or word to word, is for ransom notes, not encyclopedias. Jc3s5h (talk) 14:39, 19 September 2013 (UTC)
Obviously I am not suggesting anything so silly as changing units repeatedly within an article. I am saying that the context is framed largely by primary sources: in the case of the tramline, the Edinburgh Council website gave priority to metric, with a very rough imperial equivalent - I don't understand why this was acceptable for Edinburgh Council but not a Wikipedia article. If the policy is designed to reflect the units that are used in real-life Britain then that is what it should do, and in this case the unit that was used was metric. What I am saying is that, in cases such as this, where the primary unit is metric, in the context of an area of British society where metric units predominate, that should be reflected in the choice of the primary unit to be used consistently within the article. A 10 km race is a 10 km race, not a "6.2 mile race", even if it is run in Britain. Presenting a conversion as if it were a source value is dishonest, and bad academic practice, because a conversion and a quoted (nominal) value are not the same thing. The existing version of the style guide says as much: Nominal and defined quantities should be given in the original units first, even if this makes the article inconsistent (in the case of the tram, 14 km was the nominal length given by the Council). Archon 2488 (talk) 15:14, 19 September 2013 (UTC)
I agree that - though consistency may occasionally be more important - the primary source is very often the most important consideration (and sometimes outweighs all other considerations). For instance
  • when quoting a person's statement or legislation verbatim, it is essential to use the original units; other units may be inserted in square brackets (indicating that they are not in the original source).
  • when paraphrasing a person's statement or legislation or referring to it directly (e.g. "according to . . .") the same should apply, though parentheses may be used, rather than square brackets.
  • Even within an article, mixed usage may sometimes be necessary in order to correctly document the facts. This may appear inconsistent, but is actually consistent application of a slightly more complex (or less oversimplified) rule. For instance, in an article on transport in the UK, there might be a (direct or indirect) reference to an EU regulation (which has direct effect) that specifies a minimum length of 100 km or or a maximum speed of 50 km/h . The primary unit in this case should be metric. The same article might also refer to a UK act of parliament that uses miles, in which case miles would be the primary unit.
On the other hand, Wikipedia style should not depend on which (non-primary) source happens to be used to support a particular statement, which might lead to stating that one county council built 50 kilometres (31 mi) of new road while another council built (only) 30 miles (48 km).--Boson (talk) 19:25, 19 September 2013 (UTC)
It should be miles per hour for all speeds and miles for all geographical distance. Otherwise we end up in the absurd position where two towns are 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) away, but 8 miles (13 km) away by road, or comparing a 200 km/h (120 mph) train with a 70 mph (110 km/h) car.
We don't need to worry about engineering in that case because it refers to geographical distances.
We should not be just following sources in all circumstances for all the reasons provided on innumerable occasions in the past (as the same editor has proposed it repeatedly).
In all cases, regardless of circumstances, directly or indirectly quoted units, nominal units or defined units, should respect the original versions. That means that a 10km race is a 10km race. If a regulation is in metric units, we give it in metric units, and if it is imperial units, we give it in imperial units. That's standard anyway and is not affected by this rule. But simply using a source for a measurement that is not nominal or defined, does not qualify.
I would dispute Archon's assertions about miles per gallon, which remain overwhelmingly more common in normal usage, despite the fact that fuel is sold in litres.
I'd add that the current wording is based on the style guide for the Times - chosen as the UK's newspaper of record. Unfortunately, it has been moved behind the paywall, but the most recent version before the paywall went up is available through the Wayback Machine here Kahastok talk 19:44, 19 September 2013 (UTC)
"We should not be just following sources in all circumstances" yes, I agree, but if the source is the primary one, containing the original measurement which secondary sources like newspapers then quote (with or without conversion), then it makes sense to follow that source unless there is a very good reason not to. Perhaps I should not have put so much emphasis on slavishly following sources; in particular, the example I gave (Edinburgh trams) relates to something in Britain which is already metric (modern light railways). If roads are to be described in Imperial units, it is not obvious why this rule applies to railways, which are governed by different regulations. The Wikipedia pages on Crossrail correctly give precedence to the 42 km figure for tunnel lengths (for example), because this is the figure that has been given by Crossrail itself (I have read some of the press releases from Crossrail, and they seem to use metric units exclusively, which reinforces my point; this category of thing is metric in real-life Britain, so I don't understand why Wikipedia should be expected to Bowdlerise this by putting Imperial first).
I'm not convinced how appropriate it is to tie Wikipedia's style to the style of one particular newspaper. I have noticed that the British media have lately got much better at quoting metric units without insisting on Imperial conversions everywhere: is an example (supplementary use of Imperial speed in the accompanying text but not in video).
I didn't say MPG wasn't used informally, I said it was legally quite deprecated. The law says: "Fuel consumption shall be expressed either in litres per 100 kilometres (1/100km)[sic!] or kilometres per litre (km/l), and quoted to one decimal place, or, to the extent compatible with the provisions of Council Directive 80/181/EEC(1) in miles per gallon." ( - the effect of the cited piece of EEC legislation is to relegate Imperial measures to supplementary status. Given that the Imperial gallon has not been authorised for use in commerce since 1995, it's something of an anomaly that MPG is still used at all.
The "absurd position" you refer to is exactly the absurd position we're in in modern Britain; if Wikipedia reflects this, its only crime is being true to reality. Archon 2488 (talk) 20:37, 19 September 2013 (UTC)
No, modern usage would not normally put the distance between two settlements in kilometres in any circumstance. And if someone did, they wouldn't switch to miles depending on whether it measured was along a road or a footpath, or depending on whether it measured was along a road or a the crow flies. Whether it is along roads or not makes no difference. Britain uses a mixture of unit systems, but I can't think of a context where the distinctions are that fine.
If the source is primary, and the original measurement is nominal or defined, or quoted (either directly or indirectly), then we should respect the original measurement. I have not seen the Edinburgh trams article and don't intend to look, but it is difficult to imagine that it was designed deliberately to be exactly 12 kilometres long (for the sake of argument). At that stage, we are no longer dealing with a nominal or defined unit but can make our own choice. Your own suggestion seems to be that it is 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) long, all 7.5 miles (12 km) of which is along roads.
Trying to determine BBC usage is not really useful, since they tend to be entirely inconsistent. For every usage of kilometres you can cite, others can cite miles. Unless you can actually cite a BBC style guide, there's not a lot we can reasonably deduce.
In terms of miles per gallon, the standard means of doing this is based on usage, not legislation. This is as applied all over Wikipedia. There are several newspapers out there, some primarily using metric, others primarily using imperial. The Times is most appropriate because it is newspaper of record. It is also a useful source (so we're not basing this on our own opinions and prejudices) that actively tries to document modern usage rather than dogmatically insisting upon one system or the other. Kahastok talk 20:52, 19 September 2013 (UTC)
"We don't need to worry about engineering in that case because it refers to geographical distances"
That's OK if everybody makes the same distinction between civil engineering and geography. It's one thing to talk about the distance between two locations in miles; that's the sort of thing you expect on road signs for the public. Similarly, you might talk about a river being a mile wide. However, once you start building bridges and railways, or even roads, you are talking civil engineering. So you expect the longest span of a bridge, the length of a bridge, the cost per unit of building a railway, distances along a motorway for maintenance purposes, and other civil engineering entities to be measured using metric units, rather than yards or miles. To me, this appears unclear in the current wording of the guideline. --Boson (talk) 22:30, 19 September 2013 (UTC)
Yes, this is exactly what I am suggesting. With British civil engineering projects such as Crossrail, which are entirely metric, it's jarring to start talking about miles and yards, simply because these are the units that, in their wisdom, the DfT has decreed that we shall see on our national road system. I question the rationale behind preferring a certain unit because it "sounds" more British - this is like Americans talking about engine displacement in the "all-American" unit of cu. in., when the reality is that their car industry metricated in the 1980s and uses cm3 like everywhere else. Archon 2488 (talk) 22:46, 19 September 2013 (UTC)
Once again, you pull out the "sounds more British" nonsense. No one here or anywhere else has said any such nationalist tosh. Nevertheless, I don't give a damn if metric takes priority, as long as an Imperial conversion is given. RGloucester โ€” ๐Ÿ“ฌ 23:28, 19 September 2013 (UTC)
Archon and Boson are putting sensible arguments for updating. WP should not be behind the changing usage in the UK, nor in front of it. And what elderly people do is really a weak argumentโ€”many elderly people will never change, and that's too bad. We have a conversion article, don't we? I don't see temperatures mentioned in this thread. Tony (talk) 23:40, 19 September 2013 (UTC)
Archon may have plenty of sense, but he also has plenty of nonsense. I don't disagree with his argument, other than his repeated assertions about "sounds more British" and "ye olde englyshe units" (this was at the Edinburgh Trams article). It hurts his position, and I don't know why he insists on repeating it. Metric can take priority, except for road speeds, road distances, personal heights and personal weights, and I doubt anyone would care. But some people prefer Imperial, so an Imperial conversion should always be given alongside metric units. As long are both are there consistently, I'm sure there will not be a problem. All the MOS needs to do is clarify when to use miles. That's easy: road speeds and road distances. RGloucester โ€” ๐Ÿ“ฌ 00:02, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
I'm sorry, I was trying to give an idea of the impression that Imperial units create when they intrude in contexts where they are simply not appropriate (like modern civil engineering in the UK). If it's in the USA and the original units are actually pound-feet per second and whatnot, then fair enough. My point was that translating primary measurements into a language you think is more "contextually appropriate" is pretentious in the specific sense that it tries to emulate a certain perception of "standard practice" within a culture, without actually reflecting what that practice is, in the real world (e.g. maintaining the pretense that Americans will always describe things in US Customary units, even if the American industry in question is actually metric). I am sorry for paraphrasing like this, but I'm trying to convey a rather abstract point; it's the disparity between real-world use and descriptions on e.g. Wikipedia that I am calling pretentious (for want of a better word, and I understand that my choice of word is open to objection). This is also what I call trying to "sound" British (again, for want of a better way of putting it), because it's the way a hypothetical British person would presumably express it. RGloucester also said (again, on the Edinburgh tram page) that a reason to prefer the converted Imperial was that "it reads better to the ear" - this is a prime example of what I am rightly or wrongly calling "pretentious" and "trying to sound British". I don't understand why a converted value in decimal miles "reads better to the ear" than a round number in kilometres.
Why should Imperial always take priority for personal heights and weights (this is what I understand you to mean)? Like I say, I've always measured my own body using the metric system, and this is what any healthcare professional in modern Britain will do (try to calculate your BMI directly from Imperial height/weight if you want to see why). Do I fail to meet the arbitrary criteria of Britishness set by the Wikipedia manual of style? If I became a naturalised Australian citizen (for the sake of example) would I then be entitled to have my weight and bodily dimensions expressed primarily in the units that are most meaningful to me? I'm trying to illustrate the shortcomings of such a blunt policy.
I'm not sure what Tony1 expects us to discuss about temperature; it's one of the less controversial cases. In my experience, everyone in the UK talks about the weather in Celsius, and any modern British oven will use Celsius temperature markings. Fahrenheit is extremely deprecated in modern British life, and in the world today it's used near-exclusively by Americans. Archon 2488 (talk) 01:05, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
"Sounds better to the ear" merely means that it will automatically register more clearly in the mind. That is because road distances are primary use of long distance measurements for a layman, and for those we use Imperial. So, to a layman, wouldn't it make more sense to use Imperial, wouldn't they be more familiar? Never once would I question your Britishness, whatever that may mean. I don't even consider myself British, but that's another story entirely.
As far as weights are concerned, we need some kind of standard to hold to for sake encyclopedic consistency. I don't think you can doubt that personal weights are usually done in stone/pounds. We can't bend to desires of everyone who happens to be described in article, one which way, and then have a mess all over the place. You'd choose to list your weight in kilos, and I'd choose ๆ–ค (Kin). That's not how it works. We have to have a standard, whether it be metric or imperial. That standard needs to be understandable and familiar to Joe Bloggs, as I said before. Not the elite up in an ivory tower. I don't care, to be honest, which one it is. But you're not making sense, and you are being bombastic. RGloucester โ€” ๐Ÿ“ฌ 01:34, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
I think the basic reasoning for using non-metric units first on topics that have strong ties to certain English-speaking countries is that residents of those countries are presumed to be more likely to read the articles than other people. So the hypothesis is that a story about Catherine Ashton or Samuel Pepys is more likely to be read by British people than others, so if the height or weight of these subjects is mentioned, the first units should be those that British people most often use for personal heights and weights. The preferences of the subject of the article are irrelevant. Jc3s5h (talk) 01:16, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
I'm happy for it to be geographic distances excluding articles related to civil engineering FWIW.
I was otherwise just going to point out that we don't need to deal with the whole "sounds more British" bit because we have the Times style guide, which we can base this on, and that while distance along roads may be "primary use of long distance measurements for a layman", it's not the primary use of long distance measurements in Wikipedia, and we're better dealing with the latter. People don't change systems depending on whether the distance is measured along a road or not - it's miles regardless. Kahastok talk 06:40, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
If we are to refer to the Times Guide we should bear in mind this quotation from it:
"The Times should keep abreast of the trend in the UK to move gradually towards all-metric use, but given the wide age range and geographical distribution of our readers, some continuing use of imperial measurements is necessary."
It is all very well to quote the letter of the Times guide to say we shouldn't put metric measures for this or that while ignoring the spirit of the Times, which is to keep abreast with the gradual change towards metric use in the UK. I believe that it is a mistake to use the Times Guide as a diktat to tell editors what they should and shouldn't do. Other style guides are both more metric and less than the Times, so using the Times guide to forbid other usages that are accepted by these other bodies, is, frankly, a nonsense. No-one is making a fuss because an area of land is described in acres or hectares so why not allow the same freedom with regard to people's heights and weights, especially when the BBC and many sporting organisations give metric heights and weights for their players? This could be achieved by simply changing a few words in the present policy from this:
  • imperial units are still used as the main units in some contexts, including....
to this:
  • imperial units can still be used as the main units in some contexts, including....
I believe that this small change in wording would address the concerns that have been raised by Archon 2488 and Boson here. It would not stop editors from putting consistency first in cases where different sources use different units. Michael Glass (talk) 09:23, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
Yes, this is my point exactly. Given that British people are not consistent in the real world, I question the wisdom of a Wikipedia policy that would lead us to Bowdlerise this fact by imposing a facade of Imperial use to cover up the creeping advance of metrication. As Michael Glass points out, heights and weights are consistently given in metric by the BBC in relation to sport - does this fall foul of our hypothetical "British style"? I fear that imposing a hard Imperial-always-first rule will actually lead to Wikipedia falling behind the trend towards increasing metric use in British society; in such a case, where the real world is not consistent, I don't see how an encyclopedia can easily reconcile the objectives of being true to real life and being internally consistent; my argument is that the former objective should generally trump the latter, within reason (internal consistency is hardly irrelevant and I am not trying to imply that).
As for mph vs. km/h, it's not "miles regardless" because there are cases of inconsistent use in the UK such as this beautiful example: - this is a sign from the Tyne & Wear Metro, where it shares track with mainline trains. The speed limit signs in the circle are mph for mainline trains, whereas the metric speed limit in the hexagonal lozenge is for the metro trains (because, like other modern rail projects in the UK such as Crossrail, it's metric through and through). Insisting on Imperial-first would create a veneer of uniform and consistent Imperial use at the expense of fidelity to the real world; I am unconvinced that this is a price worth paying in any work of reference.
Regarding distances, it's not about "the distance between A and B" expressed variously in miles or km depending on how you travel; the total length of track in a rail system is a fact about a civil engineering project, not a distance between two points in Britain. The total length of London Underground track, as well as Tyne & Wear Metro track, is given in metric first for exactly this reason. Archon 2488 (talk) 12:01, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
The BBC is far more complicated than that. When was the last time you heard a sports commentator give a player's dimensions in metric units? They don't. It's always in imperial.
My point about distances is that a lot of our distances are not measured along roads, they're measured point to point. Nothing to do with engineering at all. The distance from London to Edinburgh is 330 miles - as the crow flies. The distance from Scotland to Northern Ireland is 13 miles - there's no road. The Isle of Wight is about 25 miles from east to west. You would not expect these measurements to be in kilometres in normal usage. You would not drive 405 miles to cover the 535 kilometres from London to Edinburgh. Kahastok talk 17:10, 20 September 2013 (UTC)

โ”Œโ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”˜ The idea of using "source based units" as an idea has been rejected out of hand for as long as I've been a wikipedia editor. There is a very good reason why we don't use it, it leads to an inconsistent article. A rather obvious example for some time was Munro, specifically this earlier draft [3]. If we take the earlier draft as an example, it shows all of the worst excesses that such a policy would result in. First of all it starts by giving the definition of a Munro as a Scottish mountain with a height greater than 3000 ft (914.4 m). It then switched half way through to for example "Ben Lomond, 974 m (3,196 ft)" and then switched back to 449,000 ft (137,000 m). There are also other problems with the earlier version for example the excessive precision in some of the conversions. We have had a policy for sometime on UK specific articles reflecting local usage. The majority of measurements given the metric system preference, with the exception of a few common measures that are still predominantly in imperial first. We ask editors to edit to this style guide so there is a consistent look and feel to wikipedia's articles. However, there are a number of editors who simply don't like this policy and have consistently edited counter to it and have exploited any ambiguity in the policy to justify their edits. Hence, specifically I would oppose this change in wording, because long and bitter experience of clearing up edits like Munro leads me to conclude that those editors would exploit any such flexibility in wording in a disruptive manner. Often it seems that people forget why wikipedia exists, it exists to present information to our readers in a clear and consistent manner (which is why we have a style guide). And hence the community decided sometime ago the units policy would be to follow local usage. We also give a unit conversion so that the data is also relevant to non-natives. I personally believe this to be a more than reasonable compromise and I can fully understand the community's impatience when the subject of a policy suggestion repeatedly rejected is raised yet again. If there is to be an exception for say civil engineering, then I am quite happy for the guidelines to add this to the list of exceptions rather than watering down the guideline as suggested. Simply because where consistency is key requirement for a policy such ambiguity is unhelpful. Wee Curry Monster talk 12:18, 20 September 2013 (UTC)

"The idea of using "source based units" as an idea has been rejected out of hand" - yes, my position has evolved a lot on this, as you can see if you follow the thread above. I now understand that I should not have put so much emphasis on sources when there are other important considerations, especially the subject matter of the article. Your example illustrates this very well: in an article on Munros it is desirable to emphasise feet for elevation measure, because the current definition of a Munro (3000 ft) dates from a time when elevations of terrain in Britain were measured in feet. In this case it's less important that modern British sources will reflect the current practice of measuring elevations in metres. I certainly have no intention of disrupting articles by starting "unit wars" and the like, and I stopped editing as soon as I became aware that this touched on a controversial point. My only proposal is that the wording be clarified in some way (the suggestion of a table is a good one, I feel), so that confusions like this over the interpretation of the style guide are less likely to arise. The volume of comments here is a testament to how controversial and confusing the standing version is.
For the exact same reason as one would talk about Munros in feet, however, it follows that in the context of a modern civil engineering project which is metric (as, I daresay, all modern British engineering projects are), it makes sense to emphasise metric units to be consistent with the subject matter of the article, even if this departs from a more general provision that miles be preferred for measurement of long distances (such as geographical distances) in British contexts. If we're talking about a modern road bridge designed in metric units, I am saying that it makes sense to give its length and main span firstly in metres or km rather than decimal miles, yards or feet (this is the convention correctly used at, for example, Forth_Road_Bridge and Queensferry_Crossing). Likewise track lengths in metres or kilometres, rather than miles or feet - I think that measuring track length is much more analogous with measuring a bridge's length (or the dimensions of any other engineering project - Superconducting_supercollider gives the planned tunnel dimensions in metric first, even though it was an American project, because the metric value was the design specification) than with measuring, say, the distance between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Archon 2488 (talk) 13:16, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
I am glad that We Curry Monster has raised the issue of the Munro article. Yes, his edits have attempted to remedy the issue of having different units in different places. However, his efforts have created their own problems. One sentence contained this before WCM worked on it:
Beinn a' Chlaidheimh was found to be 914 metres (2,998 ft 8.3 in), 40 centimetres (1 ft 4 in) short of the Munro mark.
WCM flipped the display and lessened the precision of the conversion, so we got this:
Beinn a' Chlaidheimh was found to be 2,999 feet (914 m), 1 foot (40 cm) short of the Munro mark.
Then another editor, annoyed at the obvious mismatch between 40cm and 1 foot, amended this so it read:
Beinn a' Chlaidheimh was found to be 2,999 feet (914 m), 1 foot (30 cm) short of the Munro mark.
Perhaps the first version was over-precise, but the other versions became less and less true to the source. In this case the measuring was done in metric terms and it would make more sense to base the text on the actual measures that were made.
WCM says that style should be clear and consistent, yet WCM's edits to Munro make that article less compliant with MOSNUM, for feet for heights are not amongst the exceptions to the metric general rule. My point is that if MOSNUM is to be used as a straitjacket, it applies in both directions. So if all UK heights and weights must be Imperial first because MOSNUM says so, then UK acres and square miles must take second place to hectares and square kilometres, because neither are mentioned in MOSNUM as exceptions. I believe that we would be better to leave it to the good sense of editors to decide when the units should be put first, because UK usage is divided.
Once again, my proposal is to change the wording so that it reads:
  • imperial units can still be used as the main units in some contexts, including....
This is not source based units. It's just a way of getting a policy straitjacket off the backs of editors like - dare I say it - WCM? Michael Glass (talk) 14:10, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
I am simply going to make the generic comment that focusing on individual editors and personalising matters is deepy unhelpful. A matter of a few inches may mean a lot in some circumstances but in the context of a 3000 ft mountain the obsession with such precision is perhaps misplaced.
Returning to the matter at hand, the volume of comment is not indicative of the controversy over the policy but perhaps more indicative of a certain zealotry in the advocacy of the metric system. I remain bemused by the obsession about unit order that leads some editors to return time and again with the same suggestion. Such persistence is not helpful and it has entrenched attitudes, which probably goes further in explaining the volume of comment. Hence, for some time I've avoided WT:MOSNUM as the heat and light simply isn't worth it.
As a professional enginer, my personal preference would be to favour the metric system in engineering articles. I tend to agree with the suggestion that engineering articles should follow the lines suggested; especially in a modern context. However, as with all guidelines the devil will be in the detail. For example Brunel worked in the imperial system, so for examples such as the Clifton Suspension Bridge the guidance suggested may be inappropriate. Wee Curry Monster talk 14:38, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
To add, if Archon could suggest some improvements to policy I think some fresh input would valuable but having said my piece my intention is to step aside and allow others to comment. Wee Curry Monster talk 14:40, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
That's just going for the "can is not must" argument again. That as the rule would say that imperial units can be the main units rather than that they are the main units you can then go around mass-metricating.
As to the point at hand, need we point out that 3000 feet in Munro falls under nominal or defined units (in that a Munro is defined as a mountain taller than 3000 feet in Scotland), and therefore that this rule does not apply at all? Practically else in the article is being compared with that height - 3000 feet. Kahastok talk 16:52, 20 September 2013 (UTC)

Arbitrary break

So, if I'm to understand this is proposed that for modern civil engineering projects which were drawn up in metric, these should always display metric units as primary. However, for historical projects done in Imperial, those should display Imperial as primary. In other words, the style guide should have an addendum to its existing policy with regards to civil engineering in the UK. I would not be opposed to this. RGloucester โ€” ๐Ÿ“ฌ 15:21, 20 September 2013 (UTC)

Yes, we shouldn't single out individual editors and edits, especially since the existing policy has managed to cause a considerable amount of confusion across the board. A high volume of comments is par for the course in any discussion of metrication in Britian (in my own experience), maybe because of "zealotry", but also in no small measure because of frustration at the absolutely glacial pace of our country's metrication, which leads to unnecessary silliness like the railway speed limit signs I posted above, as well as absurd road signs like which exist because the outdated DfT regulations consider that to be more meaningful to the UK public than the equivalent "350 m" sign you would see almost anywhere else on Earth. It is precisely this "measurement muddle" that makes it so hard for us to agree on a coherent units policy for British articles.
This is also the country where, as recently as ten years ago, the Active Resistance to Metrication folks were going around vandalising public signs that they deemed to be "un-British" because they displayed metres instead of yards, so they put up extremely unhelpful signs in their place which gave distances (at least occasionally) in furlongs. Clearly there is no small amount of "zealotry" among those who favour the status quo, to say nothing of journalists who are content to cause further mischief by misinforming the public about the metric system, like "we'll be forced to ask for 0.568 litres of beer", "Shylock didn't ask for 454 grams of flesh" and "the EU is forcing it on us" (all in recent history, but the hysteria seems to have died down a lot now, except perhaps in the minds of certain sectors of the British tabloid press, who remain convinced that centimetres cause cancer). My point is that, in this cultural climate, it's unsurprising that any discussion about metrication can quickly become heated. I wish we could have transitioned quickly and painlessly in the '70s like Australia, SA and NZ, but that sadly never happened.
Regarding older engineering projects, I agree that the primary dimensions can be given in Imperial if the original design was Imperial; this is in keeping with the theme and feel of the article (e.g. talking about pre-1960s British trams primarily in feet, inches, miles, long tons and so on, is acceptable by my proposed criterion). My main concern was with articles that relate to things in contemporary Britain, where metric units predominate for virtually all engineering purposes (including, in this case, modern tramways and light railways). I would also like to emphasise that I have withdrawn my support for "source based units" as such; my concern with the source in the case I cited was secondary, because the source reflected the custom, in this part of British life, of using metric units (this was actually my primary concern, and I realise that I have not always explained it very well). So if we were to clarify the existing list by making a table, it might say something like "miles, mph - for geographical distances, road journeys and road vehicle speeds; other vehicle speeds where contextually appropriate (e.g. an older train system which uses imperial speed limits)". Archon 2488 (talk) 15:35, 20 September 2013 (UTC)

If we are making proposals, I would suggest that the first bullet point be changed to:

  • Miles for geographic distance, miles per hour for speed, and fuel consumption in miles per imperial gallon; articles on civil engineering projects that were conceived in metric should use metric units

Alternatively to replace with table format (with context first):

Context Unit
geographical distances miles
speed miles per hour
fuel consumption miles per imperial gallon
personal height feet/inches
personal weight stones/pounds
draught beer and bottled milk imperial pints
horses and most other equines hands

with a footnote appended to the first two: "except in articles concerning civil engineering projects conceived in metric units". Kahastok talk 17:10, 20 September 2013 (UTC)

I'd add that if the agreement above is that we're doing miles for all appropriate distances (i.e. without the "geographical" qualifier) that aren't in civil engineering articles, that's fine with me. Kahastok talk 17:40, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
I have no problem with the tabular format. The problem lies with wording for UK articles that can be read as a diktat to use this unit or that, regardless of context. Because UK usage is mixed, orders to use this unit or that are simply unworkable. The discussion above concentrated on exceptions to a proposed rule about engineering articles. We need wording that can not be read as an order to use a particular unit. There will always be exceptions. Simply changing the wording from "are still used" to "can still be used" or "can be used" would achieve this aim. With a tabular form it would look like this:
  • In non-science UK-related articles: the main quantity is generally expressed in metric units (44 kilograms (97 lb)), but imperial units can still be used as the main units in some contexts, including:[1]
Context Unit
geographical distances miles
speed miles per hour
fuel consumption miles per imperial gallon
personal height feet/inches
personal weight stones/pounds
draught beer and bottled milk imperial pints
horses and most other equines hands
I believe that this wording would work for all, whatever their views on units of measure. Michael Glass (talk) 22:26, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
Now, as I said, I don't care myself. But that won't work it all, because it gives justification for someone with metric tendencies to go around and make everything metric. I think we should leave the existing wording, merely adding a civil engineering caveat, whereby those projects done in metric are given in metric. This makes the most sense given the complaints here. Of course, we should also make clear that there are exceptions to rules, and that is not a hard and fast rule in every case. RGloucester โ€” ๐Ÿ“ฌ 22:34, 20 September 2013 (UTC)
Metric tendencies? I love it! But never fear: Wikipedia also has those with Imperial tendencies, who go round disp flipping displays so that their beloved measures come first. The present wording plays into the hands of those who want to force Imperial units on articles even when all the sources use metric measures. It is also open to being used to force the use of metric units despite Imperial sources of information. There is, however, a provision in the present wording to stop these silly games. It's a footnote that says:
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")
Perhaps this should be given more prominence instead of being confined to a footnote. However, what we don't need is a diktat to force metric (or Imperial) measures to go first when they are not appropriate. Michael Glass (talk) 04:05, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
Oh, come off it Michael. Let's remember which editor it was here who is responsible for these particular metric POV pushes: [4] [5]. And you're still going through article converting imperial units to metric - this was three days ago (albeit in a context where metric is accepted by MOSNUM).
When it comes down to it, when you say "this wording would work for all", what you mean is that it would work for you, in that it would allow you to insist "can is not must" and continue your campaign of mass-metrication. If there are people wanting to "force" any kind of units, it's generally you forcing metric. There is a reason why we've already got people saying they "do not assume good faith in the case of Michael Glass due to previous editing history", a sentiment I endorse.
There is nothing wrong with flipping units as WP:UNITS requires. We don't have source-based units - as you well know - so the fact that the system chosen in the sources don't always match the units in the articles is entirely irrelevant. I oppose your proposal entirely. Kahastok talk 07:48, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
Kahastok, Even when I put cited information into Wikipedia in a context when metric is accepted by MOSNUM you still attack me for doing so. Other editors here will note what this reveals about you. Michael Glass (talk) 11:49, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
I would suggest that said other editors look at all the diffs as provided, compare the changes made with WP:UNITS (which I note was has not substantively changed in the intervening period) and come to their own conclusions. Kahastok talk 12:12, 21 September 2013 (UTC)

โ”Œโ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”˜In general I have to say I would be willing to see the original proposal broadened significantly. In the UK, modern engineering uses SI units and has for some time. Hence, in a modern context I would suggest a broader definition to cover engineering in general; provided there was a caveat to cover the historical context identified earlier. Noting the science exemption, engineering is in the same context.

That said, any amendment loosening the language where the refrain "can is not must" can be used I would oppose. Sadly I have to observe that experience has demonstrated that any such loosening of the wording would be exploited by editors to edit in a manner inconsistent with the spirit of the policy. Wee Curry Monster talk 08:56, 21 September 2013 (UTC)

IIRC there always used to be a separate rule saying that articles on science and engineering would use the units prevalent in those fields. That would put Spitfire design in imperial and modern British engineering in metric. To be clear I remain happy with my original proposal or similar, without Michael's rewording, and with RGloucester's proposal to simply add the engineering caveat.
We could resolve this by simply adding engineering related topics, and saying to use the units of original design (where known). This is as recommended for example by WikiProject Aviation.
It should be restricted to articles rather than contexts, the same as the rule on scientific topics. This avoids the faff of people turning up on topics not about engineering at all and insisting that anything that was originally engineered must be metric (the geography-is-a-science-so-miles-are-banned argument). Kahastok talk 09:38, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
Since geography is science and in many UK-oriented geographical-type articles use metric units followed by imperial units in brackets, the use of the word "geographical" should be used with extreme caution. Martinvl (talk) 12:25, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
I believe that a "modern engineering in general" caveat is in order, just as it already is for science. As long as Imperial is used for historical projects done in Imperial, this should be the way it is set up. With regards to "geographic distances", I think we should leave the present exceptions alone, except for to add the engineering caveat. That gives us more flexibility. I also suggest moving the footnote about consensus, which should instead be placed right next to these guidelines. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 13:30, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
This is an important point. The original purpose of the word "geographical" was to emphasise "not including lengths of track, etc." because things like the total track length in the London Underground, or the total length of tunnels in Crossrail, are not distances between points in Britain. Miles might be the norm for giving distances between settlements in the UK in most contexts, however in an article of a more formal geographical nature there might well be a legitimate reason to prioritise metric units. In such a case, there could be a danger of further unit wars because of editors who insist on sticking to the letter of the units policy.
Criticising Michael Glass for the hectare edit is odd - he improved the accuracy of the figure used in the article, and hectares are officially used in the UK, widely used in modern British media, and completely permitted in all contexts by this style guide, so I don't see why this is a problem.
Anyway, to criticise his proposal because of his history is leaning towards a genetic fallacy, if not actually committing it. The point he's making is that creating too inflexible a policy can end up causing unreasonable results, like forcing editors to prefer Imperial when most or all real-life sources would prefer metric (I mean in cases where metric is used almost universally in real life, not "source-based units" which, I reiterate, I now see to be a bad idea). My assumption is that newspaper style guides (such as the Times's) would allow enough wiggle room in their interpretation to avoid this sort of problem. I would also assume and hope that editors would have the sense to determine what is a "non-science related" article, and apply these rules only to such articles. Archon 2488 (talk) 14:04, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
Actually, the point I was raising when I said "geographical" was to avoid telling people that the length of a table should be 0.001 miles. Kahastok talk 14:35, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
No one is criticising him for that reason. I've already said that the footnote that already exists which makes it clear that these are not hard and fast rules should be given more prominence. The problem is that his wording would allow editors to make Imperial secondary in every case, even in those when Imperial makes more sense. Instead, the existing guideline outside engineering should remain. Miles are normally used for distances (not "geographical" distances) and so on. Geography special-cases would be covered by the "science exception" already. Perhaps a note about that could be added. Engineering can be added as an addendum to the science exception, whereby for UK engineering projects done in metric, the units are listed in metric. If it was historically done in Imperial, it should be in Imperial. This seems to make the most sense. Can we add this in without controversy? RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 14:12, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
I think I should make it clear that it is not my intention to force metric units in every UK article. The only time I think it can be justified is when metric units are used by local British sources of information. My experience has been that UK articles frequently have information that is not cited and which may be at variance with an authoritative source of information. In that case I think it is perfectly in order to put in a citation and align the information in the text with the source. I can't see how saying that Imperial units can be used in certain contexts means the opposite. Finally, I can't see that source based units are a threat. If we don't base our units on reliable sources, what do we base them on? Michael Glass (talk) 14:53, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
In other words, you are going to continue to push your POV using a principle that has been rejected on innumerable occasions when you have proposed it here? Kahastok talk 15:07, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
Your "other words" are yours, not mine. I repeat: it is not my intention to force metric units in every UK article. If you want to blame me for edits I did two years ago, (and which still stand) so be it, but attacking me for editing in accordance with MOSNUM is not acceptable. Michael Glass (talk) 00:54, 22 September 2013 (UTC)
Given the controversy that this causes, a certain degree of prescription is beneficial as it removes some of the scope for argument over the rules. All Wikipedia rules are subject to consensus if there is a good reason to ignore them.
Cases of scientific articles are already covered, but the problem arises when an editor shows up and announces that it means miles are outright not allowed to be first in any circumstance that is even vaguely geographical. That argument is against both the spirit and letter of the rule ("science-related articles") but that doesn't stop them. We should be careful to avoid leaving too much scope for such spurious arguments.
As I note in the message I've put above, the point behind calling it "geographical" distance is to exclude distances such as the lengths of extension cables or similar cases where miles are clearly inappropriate.
I think we should add a general exception like the science one for all modern engineering-related articles - whatever the country - based on the units actually used by the engineers. What constitutes "modern" can probably be left to common sense. Kahastok talk 14:35, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
I think we're starting to say much the same thing - make the footnote more prominent, and expand the scope of the exemption from prioritising Imperial in British articles to include modern engineering as well as science. In practice this would cover pretty much anything engineered in Britain since the 1960s (such as the Sheffield_Supertram - I note that this article currently uses miles for track length, and it also uses the Imperial convention for gauge width, which would have made sense in talking about Brunel, but is horribly anachronistic for something designed and built in the 1990s). The table design adds clarity and I like it. The word "geographical" is likely to cause confusion and objection so I propose rephrasing to make its meaning more explicit: something like "distances between points/settlements in Britain and distances travelled on road/rail" with the explicit proviso that this would apply only to non-science/engineering articles, of course. Archon 2488 (talk) 14:59, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
I'm not saying we should make the footnote more prominent (I'm not keen on giving too much wiggle-room because I want to avoid dispute over what the rule means) and I am not happy with "distances between points/settlements in Britain and distances travelled on road/rail". We should use miles for all distances where miles are appropriate in terms of magnitude (including, but not limited to, distances between points/settlements in Britain and distances travelled on road/rail) except in science- or engineering-related articles as discussed.
I'm also saying that the "exemption" should not be saying use SI or metric, but that it should be saying to use whatever units the engineers used. If an engineer in Britain in the 1990s was using feet, we should use feet. I'm also saying that that point should be being made worldwide. It should apply equally to American, Australian, Canadian or Indian engineering - if the engineers used non-metric units (because it was before their country switched to metric, or, shoot, because the engineers were in the mood), Wikipedia should use non-metric units. If the engineers used metric units, we should use metric units. Kahastok talk 15:07, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
I agree. Nice to see you're speaking up for source based units, Kahastok. Michael Glass (talk) 15:27, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
I'm not. The fact that you can find a source that gives the wingspan of a Supermarine Spitfire in metres would not change the fact that we would be giving it in feet. Kahastok talk 15:56, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
Googling "supermarine spitfire specs" brings up imperial measurements first. I have no problem with putting imperial measurements first in this instance. This is a straw man argument. Michael Glass (talk) 00:28, 22 September 2013 (UTC)
No, it pretty much sums your conduct in the past, where you would always choose a metric-based source over an imperial source, regardless of circumstance. If you think your own arguments are weak enough to be straw men, perhaps you should stop making them. Kahastok talk 14:52, 22 September 2013 (UTC)
Kahastok, yours was the straw man argument. Inferior sources are soon detected and removed; it's the metric sources that get you going. If you find a better source of information than I do, please provide it. Michael Glass (talk) 15:39, 22 September 2013 (UTC)
I think we are agreed that basing the units on sources should not mean that different (primary) units are used for the same purpose in the same article; so - except in exceptional circumstances - we should not have an article giving the height of one mountain in feet and another in metres. But I don't think this necessarily precludes the use of different units for different purposes - in the same article. For this reason, I think we need to refer to the purpose or "context" where the unit is used rather than the topic of the article (as I understand Kahastok's comments). I understand the desire to have things set in stone, to avoid what is sometimes perceived as gaming the system and I agree that consistency is an important goal, but I think sometimes apparent inconsistency is appropriate and editorial judgement is necessary. For instance an article on a civil engineering project such as the Forth Road Bridge should give the total length as "2,512 metres (8,241 ft)" but the speed limit for driving on the bridge should be given in mph, and there is an argument for allowing statements like "the bridge shortens the road journey from A to B by x miles"; the same applies the other way round. This may partly reflect a (sometimes subtle) difference between the concepts of length and distance. So I think basing the primary unit on the article topic is taking it a bit too far. Personally, I think the word "context" achieves the right balance, but perhaps some other wording can be found to take account of articles that deal with both civil engineering topics (such as bridges or motorways)and non-engineering topics (such as the surrounding country or journeys). The Times style guide also says try [my emphasis] not to mix the two systems in a single article", i.e consistency within an article is one goal, but it may not always be possible. --Boson (talk) 15:18, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
If the footnote is there already, I'm not sure what substantive changes to policy would be introduced simply by moving it without changing its content. If Kahastok's fear is that people will be more likely to see the footnote when it's placed more prominently, then the problem is with its content and not its position. I am content with "use miles where order of magnitude is appropriate".
The "exemption" would effectively mean that the article is governed by more general rules on unit choice, rather than the specifically-British rules. This would, strictly speaking, take the article out of the scope of this conversation - all we are debating here is whether or not articles that relate to modern British engineering are exempt from the provisions of the style guide that relate to unit choice in British articles. Given that modern British science and engineering don't use feet, foot-pounds, slugs etc., Kahastok's point about using the engineers' units first is technically correct but quite academic. In the real world, the units will be SI in (I daresay) every case. We've already agreed (I think...) that it's OK for older engineering to be discussed primarily in the original units, with metric conversions secondary. Archon 2488 (talk) 15:40, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
(ec) I can see your point and I'd agree in principle with the unit choice in the descriptions provided. My concern is people turning around and saying, ah, this single engineering-related context in an otherwise non-engineering-related article means that we have to go with what I want rather than following the general rule. I speak from experience with the science exception - we've had an editor in one of the topic areas I edit repeatedly insisting that geography is scientific and therefore that all measurements of geographical features (including point-to-point distances on non-scientific UK-related articles) must be not just metric-first but metric-only.
That said, it seems to me that we are actually talking about something different that we would not phrase in the same way as the science exception, and that we would still need conversions. We might start with:
General rules
  • In science-related articles: generally use only SI units, non-SI units officially accepted for use with the SI, and specialized units that are used in some sciences. US Customary and imperial units are not required.
  • When discussing modern engineering projects, generally put the units used by the original engineers first, followed by conversions into SI, US customary or imperial units as normal.
In the case of roads, I think it would seem odd - even if the road was originally designed in metric units - to put kilometres first when the the most visible indications of the length of the road and the distances along the road (the road signs) are all in miles. The same could equally apply the other way around in countries like Australia or Canada. We are likely to also have cases where a single road may have been designed in one system originally, but additions were added in another system. So we might say something like,
  • For lengths of roads or distances along roads, put the primary units used on the road signs first, followed by conversions as normal.
Thoughts? Kahastok talk 15:53, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
OK, I see that the criteria for science articles are understandably somewhat stricter than would be desirable for engineering articles. For things like roads and railways that require ongoing engineering work (maintenance, expansion, etc.) it generally makes sense to prioritise the current units rather than the original ones (so the London Underground track length is described in km because it's the unit that modern engineers would use, even though the system obviously predates metrication by a very long time). Similarly, it would not make sense to describe pre-metric roads in Australia using primarily the original units, since nobody in modern Australia (engineer or layperson) would do that. If it's always been metric (e.g. Sheffield Supertram, Tyne & Wear Metro) I see no compelling argument for giving imperial priority. The primary source of technical information aimed at the public gives metric units only ( so I don't think it's appropriate for the relevant Wikipedia article to lean so heavily towards imperial (the Supertram article actually uses converted imperial values as primary for track lengths, and shows the metric as a conversion, even in the source, which I think is very bad practice).
British roads are the hardest case here, and might even merit a special category of their own, because as you say they are described differently by engineers and laypeople, perhaps the only road system in the world with this complication. I don't think it would do harm to make British people more aware of this divide, given that a common counterargument against metrication of the road system is that it would involve extensive and expensive redesigns, which is obviously not the case when the technical descriptions are all metric anyway. I'm saying that I'd like there to be some way of drawing attention to the fact that the metric figures are actually primary, without insisting that they have to go first, if people find this objectionable. I realise this is a tall order, and I'd like to focus on getting a consensus on trams/light railways for now, because I feel it's much less controversial. Archon 2488 (talk) 16:14, 21 September 2013 (UTC)

Arbitrary break

I think it is relatively simple. We merely add the following addendum.
  • In UK engineering-related articles, generally use the system of units that the system was devised in, whether it be metric or Imperial. Provide conversions where appropriate.
  • Road distances and speeds are an exception to this, and should always be given in Imperial units.
  • Bridges and tunnels should be given in the system of units that they were drawn up in, even if they are used by a road.
I am concerned that people are talking about extending this past UK articles. This guideline should only be for the UK. Not for Australia, or whatever else. It would be housed in the British part of the MoS as the present exceptions are. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 16:39, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
Agree OK, this seems like a reasonable consensus position. I am content to draw a line here, as it seems that everything to be said on the subject has already been said.
UK guidelines are for the UK only, correct. Nonetheless it's sensible to compare the general principles at work with those that would be used to write articles that relate to other countries, just to ensure basic commonsense consistency on the fundamental principles. Archon 2488 (talk) 17:39, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
Many thanks for this very stimulating discussion. I have been having trouble sleeping at night, but a quick scroll through this and I am out like a light. You people really need to get out more. (talk) 19:13, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
  • I've put a sample of how I think the revised style guide section should look in my sandbox. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 19:42, 21 September 2013 (UTC)
May I make a few suggestions:
  • The section on science-related articles should give explicit rules for geographical articles - namely metric units followed optionally by imperial units in parenthesis.
  • The section on road signs should make explicit exceptions for situations where metric units that are displayed on road signs are cited - weight limits for example are cited in tonnes, not long tons, while driver location signs explicitly cite distances in kilometres.
I have misgivings about overview articles that extend beyond the limits of science and engineering defaulting to "non-sciences" or "non-engineering" usage of units where the section concerned has a "Main" hat note. Martinvl (talk) 10:37 pm, Today (UTC+1)
That's fine, but what you are proposing is separate. I did not change anything other than to add an engineering exception. Your changes would alter the original wording of the section, which is something different. If you'd like to do this I suggest you make a new section here and start a new proposal. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 21:04, 28 September 2013 (UTC)
Let me explain what I'm doing here. I'm not proposing that we change the existing non-science criteria, which you will note that I left alone. Merely expanding the science caveat to engineering. I'd like to take things one at a time. To start with, this will address the initial concerns of Archon, and is relatively uncontroversial. Your proposed would require a separate debate, and is more controversial. Can we at least agree on the engineering caveat, bar any changes to the original non-science criteria? RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 21:42, 21 September 2013 (UTC)I
Alright, I've added the revised version of the engineering caveat in. Now we can tackle bigger matters, if people would like. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 12:58, 22 September 2013 (UTC)
I've made a slight change. If there is ever any need to quote a driver location sign, that's already covered by the rule that says that we preserve quotes. The fact that a road has driver location signs on it does not mean that the primary distance information provided to the road user is not provided in miles. I suggest the reference to tonnes is also superfluous as the rule refers to "road distances and speeds". Kahastok talk 14:49, 22 September 2013 (UTC)
I agree, and shall remove it. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 16:18, 22 September 2013 (UTC)

Agree Looks fine to me. Wee Curry Monster talk 11:03, 23 September 2013 (UTC)

I have extended the definition to include Ireland. British and Irish engineering histories are closely intertwined and many concepts used in Northern Ireland are, for historic reasons! more in line with those found south of the border, for example the use of try 5'3" (now 1600 mm) rail gauge. The wording has also been amended to take the situation in Gibraltar into account. Martinvl (talk) 03:37, 27 September 2013 (UTC)
I don't agree, and I have reverted your changes. This discussion was about UK articles, and it isn't wise to make unilateral changes to the MoS. In the Republic, since they are totally metricated, I'm not sure how to go about it. They might just want everything in metric. I don't think what we discussed necessarily applies there, and I don't think it should be expanded to cover the Republic on a whim. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 12:33, 27 September 2013 (UTC)

Reference to Driver Location Signs

Driver location signs are a definite exception that should be mentioned in MOSNUM's UK engineering-related articles.

  • They are part of the motorway system.
  • They are clearly about distances on motorways.
  • They are clearly related to the design of motorways
  • The distances given are clearly metric.[2] [3] [4]
  • "The fact that a road has driver location signs on it does not mean that the primary distance information provided to the road user is not provided in miles." I agree, so pointing out this exception does not undermine that fact.
  • "The figure on the bottom of the sign gives the distance in kilometres from the beginning of the motorway." This statement is strictly factual but is not a direct quote. Therefore it is not "covered by any rule about preserving quotes." Stating or implying that you have to use direct quotes when referring to driver location signs is not a logical requirement on editors.

I have therefore been bold and restored the reference to the text. Michael Glass (talk) 07:09, 23 September 2013 (UTC)

There is nothing in the agreed rule saying that we cannot make the statement you suggest, if it is accurate. Your text does not even contain a measurement.
In fact, the statement you give is not accurate in general. For example, on the M69, the driver location signs give numbers well over 100, and on the M18 they are well over 200. Even though the roads themselves are far shorter than this would imply. And what do you think is going to happen if a motorway is realigned at part-distance? Do you really think they're going to spend all that money reorganising all the driver location signs for the rest of the road? They don't need to. It's not exactly common knowledge that those numbers are distances, let alone distances in kilometres, let alone where they are measured from. Kahastok talk 17:18, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
Well I can confirm that isn't common knowledge, that was new to me and I've had a UK driving license for nearly 30 years. Thanks Michael I finally figured what the signs are for, seen 'em and could never figure them out. Just for information, there is also an indicator on each emergency telephone on the motorway which is simply a number with no meaning. They are also used to give Driver Location.
What amendment do you propose? Wee Curry Monster talk 17:41, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
Ah, I hadn't noticed the revert. To add, those signs are a newish feature on the road network, they haven't been around for long and they would be covered by the exemption already agreed in the policy. I'm not sure exactly what the purpose of your addition was? Wee Curry Monster talk 18:02, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
Driver location signs only appear on English motorways. I believe that WCM is a Scot (at least that this the impression that he gave from the signature that he used a few years ago). Martinvl (talk) 19:59, 25 September 2013 (UTC)
  • You guys might want to remember the 1RR prescribed here by the Arbitration fellows. Discuss what you're doing before reverting. As far as my opinion on the matter: I don't see the point including a reference to the signs that would not already be covered, but nevertheless it doesn't really harm the policy to have it listed there. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 18:23, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
Oh, apparently those sanctions finished ages agoโ€ฆregardless, still a good idea to discuss before reverting. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 18:31, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
A revert is a standard part of WP:BRD FWIW, and my comment above was my implementing the "D" (for discuss) of that principle. Kahastok talk 19:06, 23 September 2013 (UTC)
I know, that was meant to be a polite reminder and not an admonishment. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 22:04, 23 September 2013 (UTC)

First of all I would like to thank the three editors who commented. It was an interesting exchange of views. Here are my comments on them.

  • My proposed amendment was to add the bolded words to this sentence:
  • "Road distances and speeds are an exception to this: use imperial units with a metric conversion, except for references to driver location signs."
  • My edit didn't contain a measurement because it added to a sentence which already referred to units of measure. A second reference would have been redundant.
  • A second objection was "It's not exactly common knowledge that those numbers are distances, let alone distances in kilometres, let alone where they are measured from." I agree, but even mentioning the signs served an educative purpose.
  • WCM said, "Thanks Michael I finally figured what the signs are for, seen 'em and could never figure them out." This demonstrates the usefulness of referring to the signs.
  • RGloucester said, that though the reference did not harm, he couldn't see the point of it. I agree that mentioning the signs does no harm, and I think that WCM demonstrated its usefulness.
  • Kahastok has disputed the accuracy of one statement. The UK Government document said The distance in kilometres from the start of the motorway. My statement said, "The figure on the bottom of the sign gives the distance in kilometres from the beginning of the motorway. The bolded words are identical. I think any fair-minded person would agree that my statement accurately reflects my source of information.

I therefore put it to editors that a reference to the driver location signs in MOSNUM:

  • does no harm
  • is interesting
  • is informative
  • draws attention to a significant safety feature on British motorways
  • draws attention to a safety feature that is too little known among the general public
  • draws attention to a legitimate exception to the general rule to put miles first on British motorways

The reference therefore clarifies a point of usage while drawing attention to a significant safety feature on British motorways that is too little known. Therefore I recommend it. Michael Glass (talk) 02:30, 24 September 2013 (UTC)

I think the question that should be asked is whether WP:MOSNUM is a suitable place to bring attention to a safety feature on British motorways? Whether it does no harm, is interesting or is informative, does it really warrant inclusion in a policy (emphasis added)? There is already an exception in the policy that gives primacy to metric units in this case. Wee Curry Monster talk 06:25, 24 September 2013 (UTC)

If the only effect of including this reference was to draw attention to this safety feature you could say that was a fair, but perhaps narrow-minded, call. I don't see the problem of having something interesting and informative in the policy. I certainly don't see the problem of having something harmless in the policy. More to the point, the clause draws attention to a legitimate exception to the general rule to put miles first on British motorways. I am not aware that this specific point is covered elsewhere.

Mentioning the driver location signs does no collateral damage and could do some collateral good: this would be a point in its favour. After all, if its brief inclusion benefited you, perhaps its permanent inclusion could benefit others. However, I do accept that the main point is that the signs are a legitimate exception to a general rule. Michael Glass (talk) 07:14, 24 September 2013 (UTC)

Just a thought: almost all the comments in this thread have been by three editors who are known for their strong opinions on units of measurement. Perhaps it might be better for the three of us to step back and let others comment on this proposal. Michael Glass (talk) 11:47, 24 September 2013 (UTC)

It's been several decades since I drove on a UK motorway, but the discussion suggests UK drivers don'k know what the signs mean, just that they should mention the number on the sign when reporting a motor vehicle incident. Since MOSNUM isn't intended to teach about the underlying facts being expressed by numbers, but rather what style to use when writing numbers, the only significant MOSNUM audience that already understands the substance would be UK emergency responders, dispatchers, and wrecker drivers. It seems to me the number of people coming to this guide seeking style advice about how to express UK road location markers would be miniscule, so there is no need to mention them. I mean, we don't provide advice on how to express pump gauge readings on UK fire appliances, do we? Jc3s5h (talk) 12:54, 24 September 2013 (UTC)

Tidying up

Following the addition of the section on UK engineering articles, the somewhat garbled bullet point pertaining to "miles", "miles per gallon" and "miles per hour" in the subsequent section is redundant. I propose that the bullet point in question be removed. Martinvl (talk) 20:40, 28 September 2013 (UTC)

Why would we remove it? It isn't redundant if one is referring to the distance between, say, Orkney and Penzance. Would we not quote that in miles? And yet, that is not a "road distance". Furthermore, mpg were not mentioned in the engineering pointโ€ฆso we'd have to state that some place as well. Unless you propose removing mpg all together in favor of mpl or kpl. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 21:34, 28 September 2013 (UTC)
Absolutely not. The point is in no sense redundant as it applies equally to non-road distance and non-road speed. Far from being "tidying up", this would represent a major change in policy.
It may be useful to put "for distance" after "miles" and "for speed" after "miles per hour" (or similar, as discussed above) OTOH. Kahastok talk 07:29, 29 September 2013 (UTC)
@RGloucester - The example of the distance between Orkney and Penzance is an artificial example. About a year ago, I check the units used on the following sets of articles:
Apart from the articles Falkland Islands and Isle of Wight, metric units were either used exclusively or were the dominant unit of measure. Yesterday I rechecked them and found that the Isles of Wight article had been changed to reflect metric rather than imperial units as the dominant unit of measure. I then started checking the British counties, leaving the Falkland Islands as the odd man out.
After checking Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire, West Sussex, East Sussex and Kent, I found that the pattern was the same. This tells me that WP:UNITS does not reflect consensus, at any rate as far as geographical articles are concerned. Would somebody please reconcile the current text in WP:UNITS with these articles or give me some other good reason why the sentence mentioned above should stay.
On the point of "mpg", the normal way of measuring fuel consumption using metric units is litres per 100 kilometres. Martinvl (talk) 11:39, 29 September 2013 (UTC)
Just because these articles use metric doesn't mean that that's the consensus. Someone coiuld well have gone along and changed the lot. I don't think we can change the units policy on a whim. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 13:35, 29 September 2013 (UTC)
Furthermore, it doesn't say that Imperial "must" be the the main units, just that they can be used in these cases. See the footnote. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 13:37, 29 September 2013 (UTC)
Don't get fooled into "can is not must". We need a good reason to go against the recommendations here - favouring miles - and Martin doesn't have one other than his own POV.
When you say, "[s]omeone could well have gone along and changed the lot", chances are good that that's exactly what happened. Chances are good you're actually talking to the editor who did it - he certainly enforces it. It wasn't necessarily him. But chances are good.
Oh, and worth pointing out that I think the point Martin makes is highly misleading. Note that Martin did not say that kilometres were generally primarily used. He said metric units. Metric units should be the primary units in all non-scientific UK-related articles, except where dealing with the specific exceptions listed:
  • distance, speed and fuel consumption
  • personal heights and weights
  • draught beer and cider
  • horses
  • engineering originally designed in imperial units
plus any units covered by other parts of WP:UNITS. Isle of Wight for example, is primarily metric-first, but for distance is primarily miles-first - exactly as it should be. Kahastok talk 16:02, 29 September 2013 (UTC)
I was merely stating that the footnote specifies that in some instances there may be exceptions to the guideline favouring Imperial, and these can be determined by consensus on a case-by-case basis. I wasn't saying I was in favour of the current state of things with regard to the articles Martin has mentioned. Now, I'm not in favour either of attacks on editors, and I haven't seen evidence that he's done what you've said. Regardless, I hold by my point that articles should be brought into line with the MoS, and not the other way around. These current guidelines were derived through a consensus bases process. Unless someone can contrive a good reason why an article might be an exception, that's what should happen. Or someone can propose a change to the MoS. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 16:13, 29 September 2013 (UTC)
Example of Martin enforcing metrication against the MOS, FWIW. Note that consensus on this matter has not substantially changed in the intervening period, so the removal of miles was inappropriate. I can refer you to more of the background to my comment - there's plenty of it - but I suggest it's probably better that I leave it at that for all of our sakes.
Other than that, I believe we are in agreement. I would note in passing that there may be some hangover from the major change to this rule that occurred some years ago (2009?). The previous rule was to choose either imperial or metric and stick to it religiously; it was changed as it imposed consistency where it did not exist in practice. Kahastok talk 16:34, 29 September 2013 (UTC)
Kahastok's knows perfectly well that in the example given by him, every single unit of measurement quoted was taken from a source that used metric units and that Wee Curry Monster (who added the "dispute=flip" qualifiers to the convert templates) was indiscriminate in doing so (for example in clippings areas and mountain heights) and in failing to note that the citations concerned used metric units. He also knows perfectly well that in so doing, Wee Curry Monster was using replacing neutral terminology with terminology that might be provocative towards Argentina, thereby violating Wikipedia's policy of neutrality. As I have explained earlier in this thread, the use of metric units in not provocative towards the British point of view, but then Kahastok fail to note that (WP:IDIDNTHEARTHAT). In short, it is Kahastok who is manipulating WP:MOS to promote a non-neutral point of view. Martinvl (talk) 20:12, 29 September 2013 (UTC)
Editors, on reading the above, may wish review the history of the article in question. They will easily be able to judge how well- or ill-founded Martin's flurry of accusations against User:Wee Curry Monster and myself are.
They may also wish to review whether Martin's arguments for metrication of that article are in accordance with WP:UNITS. Does WP:UNITS endorse source-based units as overriding the rule that we follow British usage in UK-related articles? Does it require that the units in the source be cited in a footnote? Is Argentina likely to be provoked by the use of non-metric units, and if so, do we care? Does the principle in WP:UNITS that we follow British usage on UK-related articles inherently violate WP:NPOV? Kahastok talk 20:42, 29 September 2013 (UTC)


I really have no wish to be drawn into a long discussion on a subject that seems to occupy an unwarranted obsession in certain quarters and is decidedly WP:LAME, so I am simply going to state my current position. I see no merit in discussing the short comings of other editors.

Looking at my car on the way into work this morning, like all UK cars fuel consumption is still displayed in mpg (its a 2009 model for information), I drove on roads with the road signs displaying miles, with the speed limit in mph. Were I to wander into my local supermarket I would buy milk in pints and in the local pub, beer. If I were to have any interest in horses they still measure them in hands, which was anachronistic when imperial was a dominant unit system. This is because whilst the metric system has pervaded much of UK life it is not wholly universal. Hence, on wikipedia we have a manual of style to guide editors in the manner in which to write articles to make them easier for the reader to comprehend. This suggests for a limited series of units where the imperial unit is still predominant, we put that first reflecting UK usage, with the metric conversion in parentheses. This is nothing more than a sensible compromise, which puts the needs of our readers first, and follows current practise in the UK.

As a professional engineer, I have a natural preference to work in SI units. The metric system is not universal, so I would always support the use of conversions. I don't always write in SI units because guided by WP:MOSNUM where warranted I give precedence to the imperial unit in the manner prescribed. Editing against WP:MOSNUM, then claiming that there is no consensus for an established policy is a bankrupt argument with no merit. Neither do I see any merit in the proposed amendment to the policy, which does not serve a useful purpose in making wikipedia of use to readers but is actually counter to it. Wee Curry Monster talk 11:55, 30 September 2013 (UTC)

Now, I don't know if there is some kind of long-running dispute between some of you, but I think what WCM has said is essentially how I feel. The current policy, as it stands, is simple. Metric is predominant for UK articles, except certain circumstances, such as miles for distances, miles per hour for speeds, miles per gallon for fuel consumption, pints for beer, and so on. It makes sense, and it holds to the general manner in which units are used in the UK.
As far as your concerns, Martin, I think they are not well warranted. We don't use source units, so it doesn't really matter that the source gave metric. As far as offending the Argentine, I tend to doubt that it would offend anyone. And regardless, the Falkland Islands are most likely a special case that we should not get bogged down in here. I don't know anything about what units they use there, or if they differ from the units used on the "mainland" UK. That is something to discuss in a different forum, probably the Falkland Islands working group. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 16:22, 30 September 2013 (UTC)
Ah, I see. Having looked about, it seems you all have a long history of "discussion" on this matter with regard to the Falklands. Can we not bring that into here, please? It isn't needed. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 16:28, 30 September 2013 (UTC)
FWIW I was trying to avoid bringing up the Falklands here (note that the article I referred to was United Kingdom). A new consensus position on the Falklands was recently found and that should be the end of it. On the matter as a whole I endorse Curry Monster's position. Kahastok talk 17:05, 30 September 2013 (UTC)
Wee Curry Monster's description of part of his daily life is a prime example of cherry-picking to promote his POV.
  • his petrol was sold to him in litres. In my view it is absolutely daft to use mpg when you buy petrol in litres.
  • If he had the misfortune to break down on a motorway, he would relay his position to the emergency services in kilometre (the digits on the location marker posts indicate kilometres).
  • At his local supermarket he would notice that soft drinks, all other dairy products such as yoghurt, cream, goats milk and the like are sold in metric units.
  • If at the pub he preferred a glass of wine or a shot of whiskey, metric units units would be used.
Yes, imperial units are still widely used in the UK, but they are far from exclusive. Wikipedia is an encyclopeadia, not a tabloid newspaper, so maybe he should wander into his local bookshop and look at the study guide used by school children for geography - it is all metric. Now that it a very good reason to use metric units in geographical articles, or would he prefer "Nelson's columns", "Elephants" or "multiples of Wales", so beloved of the press. If he looks at his road atlas, he might notice a 5 kilometre or a 10 kilometre grid - some road atlases have such a grid, while the A-Z series of county level maps have kilometre or 500 metre grids. OS maps have had kilometre grids since before the war. Using WCM's argument therefore, geographic articles should use metric units. Martinvl (talk) 20:59, 30 September 2013 (UTC)
There's a lot of straw men in that comment. Nobody is saying we should not give quantities of petrol in litres. Nobody is saying that we would not quote the contents of a driver location sign in kilometres (only that the motorway should be measured in miles as is standard on all other road signs). Nobody is saying that quantities of soft drinks, wine, whisky and dairy products other than bottled milk should not be given in metric units first. Nobody is suggesting that we should measure areas by comparison with Wales or height by comparison with Nelson's Column. The vast majority of the argument above addresses issues that are simply not in dispute.
The argument for kilometres itself fails on Martin's claim against Curry Monster - one might indeed call it "a prime example of cherry-picking to promote his POV". Fact is, distances, including point-to-point distances, are overwhelmingly in miles in modern British usage. You don't have to like it or agree with it. It is what it is. The fact that the effect of the comment and of the proposal is to suggest that British people use one unit to measure distance along roads and a completely different unit to measure distance along footpaths or point-to-point demonstrates its absurdity.
Now, at this stage, it is clear that there is no consensus in favour of the change Martin proposes, and it seems fair to suggest that there is consensus against it, that the underlying assumptions made are not in line with the spirit of the rule. The same result has been found by consensus when it has come up elsewhere. I suggest we end this discussion at this stage with that result. Kahastok talk 21:36, 30 September 2013 (UTC)
I would agree. There is clearly no consensus, and nothing is coming of this debate other than clear disdain. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 21:59, 30 September 2013 (UTC)
I agree there is nothing to be gained from further discussion. [6] A prime example, why some UK articles do not conform to WP:MOSNUM. It really does irk me to have to point this but its precisely because User:Martinvl will edit counter to policy as noted earlier by User:Kahastok. This is such a (frankly) ludicrous argument I refuse to continue with it. This edit does of course does demonstrate also why this behaviour is counter productive. We have WP:MOSNUM to ensure articles have a consistent look and feel and its really about article quality. Having an article switch unit order part of the way through is not the hallmark of a quality article. I know from past experience that Martin is looking to edit war but I don't intend to indulge him in that. Wee Curry Monster talk 07:39, 1 October 2013 (UTC)
@All - you might do well to look at Template talk:Infobox England county#units & motto in Somerset (dated 2007). If you look at the article Somerset, you will see that is is now metric-first (as are almost all English counties). Clearly Wee Curry Monster was out of order in making the changes that he described above, so maybe the wording in WP:UNITS need to be made crystal clear that the use of miles only applies to some but not all UK articles,otherwise people like Wee Curry Monster will misinterpret the page and make unnecessary changes. Martinvl (talk) 09:11, 1 October 2013 (UTC)

โ”Œโ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”˜Policy states in the lede Where this manual provides options, consistency should be maintained within an article unless there is a good reason to do otherwise. Changes that bring a small number of additions back into line with the rest of the article are clearly within the guidelines of policy, this is why disp=flip is in the conversion template. Changes were made previously for reasons of article quality and were done on the basis of policy which is crystal clear in this respect. The UK is not 100% metric and that is why policy guidelines are written as they are. Wee Curry Monster talk 11:43, 1 October 2013 (UTC)

The case Martin points out, FWIW, was in 2007. I also think at this stage it would be useful to all if Martin could supply diffs to substantiate his accusations of misconduct against Curry Monster and myself on the article United Kingdom. If he cannot (as I would expect) he should stop making such accusations. Kahastok talk 17:34, 1 October 2013 (UTC)
As I see it, WP:MOSNUM on UK articles is not always followed because it is unworkable. Instructions to put metric first clash with information that is available only in imperial measures; imperial exceptions clash with metric information and reliable sources are often inconsistent. Style guides |differ on significant details.. I believe the best we can do is to give general guidelines and trust editors to cope with inconsistencies as best they can. And if the result is inconsistent, well that simply reflects the messy reality of British usage. Edit wars over the order of units, however, should be stopped. The Times Style Guide says that the UK is gradually transitioning to the metric system. Whether or not this is so, it's something for the British to work out. Wikipedia doesn't need rigid instructions that will inevitably be flouted on all sides. Michael Glass (talk) 12:09, 1 October 2013 (UTC)
When we have a topic that is as controversial as this one - or more precisely, that so frequently has the same people trying to read something into the rules to favour their own POV, a degree of instruction is beneficial. The style guide we have is useful partly because it is Britain's newspaper of record and partly because it is one of the few that actively tries to keep up with British usage.
I do not accept the premise of your point. The rules are perfectly workable if they are followed. The reason why there are sometimes discrepancies are partly because of disinterest on the part of many editors (bearing in mind that many high-profile articles were created at a time when the old one-system-or-the-other rule was in place) - but has a lot to do with the fact that we have a few hard-core pro-metric editors who go around mass-converting topics according to their POV and enforcing their POV on articles. Like you, for example.
All that said, I suggest that this is not going anywhere and that we finish this here. Consensus certainly does not favour any change, and I see no prospect of that changing if this discussion continues. Kahastok talk 17:34, 1 October 2013 (UTC)
I think you're exaggerating the influence of your dreaded "hard-core pro-metric editors". I think it could be part of the gradual shift towards metric usage that the Times noted in its style guide. It could also be influenced by the fact that so many sources of information give data in metric dimensions, including Buckingham Palace. Certainly there are articles where there are discrepancies between MOSNUM and some articles, Munro being one of them, only in this case the discrepancies were introduced by, shall we say, hard-core pro-Imperial editors? Personally, I think the problem with articles is not whether they are metric or imperial first, but whether they have information from reliable sources. And that last point is something I hope that we can both agree on. Michael Glass (talk) 12:33, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
Yes, I hope that we're all agreed on the need for reliable sources. You do well, Michael, to point us at, as that site is a good demonstration that in current UK usage the units depend on the context (broadly as explained in WP:UNITS). The Royal Family website refers to tonnes of compost, but "miles of hedges". The royal car lengths are given in metres and their engine capacity in litres, but their speeds in "miles per hour". Even though the Channel Isles are not part of the UK, the Royal Family describe their distance from France in miles. The royal public finances discuss distance travelled (whether by air or by rail) in miles. - David Biddulph (talk) 13:02, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
Good reason to take note of the usage of reliable sources. Michael Glass (talk) 22:10, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
We do not use source-based units for all the reasons that you have been given so many times in the past. Kahastok talk 17:38, 3 October 2013 (UTC)
It may be of interest to note that at Talk:United Kingdom there is broad support for the current consensus on WP:UNITS to continue to reflect common usage in the UK. There has been a consistent consensus for this position and opposition to the changes in policy proposed. I would also suggest some Sassenach's learn how to spell whisky before lecturing a Scotsman in how to measure it. Wee Curry Monster talk 17:56, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

In the UK there are things that still use imperial measurements, things that use both, and some that use metric. It is terribly confusing, and metric is superior and the future, however imperial still exists. Where these apply have been already been listed above so no need to repeat them here, however I do notice that whilst proposing removing the examples from the exceptions include list, Martinvl at the UK talk page tried to claim that WCM "mis-interpreted" this guideline by putting miles before km for distance despite the fact it does and states so in the exceptions include section that they proposed above we remove. They are also now stating that nowhere puts square miles before square km despite Encyclopedia Britannica online doing so. So what should the policy be in regards to area?

Also in regards to "imperial pints for draught beer/cider and bottled milk.", should we not also mention half-pints? Mabuska (talk) 23:01, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

I believe half pints are implied by pints, in the same way that distances of two miles are implied by "miles".
The Times Style Guide (on which this guidance is based) says for area:
Similarly [to the previous sentence that says that Celsius is preferred], for areas prefer hectares and square metres to acres and square yards, but do not use square kilometres in the UK and the US where distances are measured in miles.
This would seem to suggest that square miles are in order for land areas of appropriate magnitude.
We use the Times because it actively tries to reflect modern UK usage rather than dogmatically following one system or the other, and because it is the UK's newspaper of record. (Note that the BBC style guide does not address the point at all.) Kahastok talk 17:38, 3 October 2013 (UTC)
On the point of areas ("This would seem to suggest that square miles are in order for land areas of appropriate magnitude"), we should note that "where distances are measured in miles" is not preceded by a comma, which makes it a restrictive or defining relative clause, not a supplementary clause. In other words, square kilometres should be avoided only where miles are used for distance, which seems logical in order to avoid apparent inconsistency within an article. Of course, we still need to specify explicitly in which contexts miles are used for distance, as discussed elsewhere. --Boson (talk) 19:33, 3 October 2013 (UTC)
Most people seem to understand the rule perfectly well as currently written. Miles have been applied to all distances of an appropriate magnitude at both Talk:Falkland Islands and Talk:United Kingdom when editors have been invited to see the rule and have seen the arguments for both. That also seems to be the general consensus in this discussion. Given that the alternative is to create inconsistency where none exists in the real world, this is understandable.
While clarification of this point may be useful, it would not be a change to policy.
I have no problem with a rule that says that we use square miles in cases where we also use miles, and square kilometres otherwise. Kahastok talk 20:44, 3 October 2013 (UTC)

Distances in miles/kilometres

As I understand it, the discussion is primarily about kilometres and other units as a measure of distance, not about derived units, such as units of area (hectares, square kilometres, etc.). Perhaps an explicit statement about areas (primary unit: hectares or square kilometres) should be added to avoid further disagreements down the road. There is still no statement on the contexts in which miles (as opposed to kilometres) should be used as the primary units. This means that there is still contention concerning

  • the rule on when to use miles as the primary unit (including its interpretation and the permitted latitude).

As I understand the discussion so far, there seems to be broad agreement that

  • kilometres should be used as the primary unit in science-related articles
  • miles should generally be used as the primary units for road distances (with the already discussed exceptions for distances of an engineering nature).

There seems to be disagreement on

  • whether use of miles should be extended to all "geographical" distances.

There may be disagreement on

  • whether kilometres should be used in a scientific context (e.g. the speed of light) in a non-scientific article.

As I understand it, some of the contexts where some editors would prefer kilometres to be the primary units are:

  • encyclopedic contexts of a geographic nature (where geography can be seen as a science), such as
    • the distance between two points (e.g. as the crow flies) in the physical geography section of a country article (as opposed to the distance by road as information for a driver);
    • the length or width of a stretch of land (e.g. in a section on agriculture or economic geographym in a country article).

I understand the arguments for miles as follows:

  • miles are generally used in the UK for distances.

I understand the arguments for kilometres as follows:

  • Wikipedia, as an encyclopaedia, should adopt the same usage as similar types of texts, such as learned articles and educational or academic books on geographic topics, and these generally use kilometres;
  • the UK has largely converted to metric measurement; exceptions are provided only where they are necessary; therefore use of imperial measures by sources where they may be deemed necessary, e.g. for reasons of cost or safety, should not be interpreted as general use based on the wider topic. --Boson (talk) 19:33, 3 October 2013 (UTC)
I don't quite see what the point of this post is.
The present rule has stood for several years in this or similar guises. Using miles for all geographical distances would not be a matter of extending the rule. Far from it: miles for all distances of appropriate magnitude in non-science UK-related articles has been the rule for years now. As I note above, it is consensus here and when the arguments have been raised on articles that's the conclusion that has been reached.
There is only one editor who disputes this. Understandably: the alternative, to suggest that we should invent a split in usage meaning that roads should be measured in one unit but footpaths (or point-to-point distances) should be measured in a completely different unit - in other words, artificially creating inconsistency where none exists in the real world - is patently absurd.
I do not accept the claim that imperial is only used where "necessary". It's not difficult to think of counterexamples - pints of beer and milk are a reasonably obvious one. In any case it doesn't matter - we have always determined these matters and matters like them by usage. We have a source that describes usage and should be using it.
For scientific contexts in non-scientific articles, the point has been obfuscated by the insistence by a single editor that this includes all distances (not just in geography sections in articles), which clearly runs counter to the spirit of the guideline. This is a different question, but for the sake of consistency in general we shouldn't be treating sections that deal with scientific contexts as equivalent to scientific articles.
For the record I would suggest that scientists are no more likely to describe the speed of light in kilometres per hour than they are miles per hour, since the standard scientific unit is metres per second. Kahastok talk 20:44, 3 October 2013 (UTC)
I agree with Boson. Kahastok's rationale about beer and milk is wrong - pints are used for beer and milk because the law explicitly permits pints to be used for bottled milk and requires that pints be used for draught beer. Kahastok is quite right that it is absurd that we use miles for roads and kilometres for geographic distances, but this is not the place to remedy this absurdity, the correct procedure is for Kahastok to lobby his MP. Martinvl (talk) 21:06, 3 October 2013 (UTC)
Given the ambiguity surrounding the issues of physical geography, I think that WP:UNITS should explicitly state that metric units should be used for purposes of UK-oriented physical geography. Martinvl (talk) 22:09, 3 October 2013 (UTC)
If the law says it's permitted, that's not a matter of necessity.
As to the claim "Kahastok is quite right that it is absurd that we use miles for roads and kilometres for geographic distances": as a rule British people don't "use miles for roads and kilometres for geographic distances". Martin might, but if he does he is very much the exception. For the most part British people use miles for both. As evidenced by the style guide that we base this entire guidance from, and multiple editors above who have made the same point. As to the claimed ambiguity, the fact is that editors reading this do not see any ambiguity, as evidenced above and on pages like Talk:Falkland Islands and Talk:United Kingdom. The rule is clear that we use miles in UK-related articles for distance - quite rightly based on British usage.
The claimed distinction in UK usage has been entirely invented by Martin. It does not exist anywhere other than in Martin's own POV push. And if he doesn't like that fact, that's his problem. Kahastok talk 22:08, 3 October 2013 (UTC)
The point of my post was to attempt to identify where the remaining differences lie, since there appear to be different interpretations, and challenges seem to quickly turn into discussions of what might or might not have been agreed at some time in the past, instead of directly addressing and settling what the current consensus is. As I wrote above, the current text specifies a number of imperial measures and states explicitly in which contexts they are to be used. However, it does not do this for miles and kilometres, and I suspect this is a major reason for the acrimony and endless discussions that do not achieve a clearly stated consensus.
As I understand it, the state of the discusson on miles/kilometres is at present as follows:
  • One participant suggested making the context explicit by adding "for geographic distances" for miles. However the text has not been changed to reflect this clarification.
  • Another agreed with "for geographic distances" but with the text changed to
". . . imperial units can still be used as the main units in some contexts [my emphasis]
However the text has not been changed to reflect this interpretation either.
Two participants object to the use or implication of "can not must".
At least one participant has expressed the view that "can not must" is implicit in the current text.
I'm not sure if we are at the stage where a straw poll on individual components would be useful, but it appears to me that there are at least the following (approximate) views:
  1. Geography is a science; geographic distances should be primarily expressed in metric units (there may be exceptions, probably most road distances in the UK).
  2. The use of imperial units (as primary units) is (always?) optional ("can still be used" + footnote).
  3. Imperial distances should always be used (as primary units) for all geographic distances (excluding engineering).
  • There is a footnote about retaining historically stable versions. It can be interpreted as supporting "can not must", but this does not seem to be universally accepted.
As regards the "present rule", I don't think we should expect editors to know the history of the discussion and share the same interpretation. The question is: What is now the consensus view, as expressed by the participants in this discussion? At the moment, I don't think I could name two participants who agree with (a common interpretation of) the current text. --Boson (talk) 22:45, 3 October 2013 (UTC)
I think the problem here is a rule that is too inflexible. There is so much dispute over whether something should read 8 kilometres (5 mi) or 5 miles (8 km). This is as futile as disputing whether eggs should be opened at the big or little end. There are two ways of sorting out this problem:
  • the dreaded "follow the sources" idea. This, we all have been warned, would cause the downfall of Wikipedia while editors futilely search for sources that pander to their prejudices.
  • the dreaded "imperial units can still be used in some contexts." This, we have been assured, will unleash the fanatic hordes of metricationists to sweep down and mass-metricate all our beloved British articles.
If we follow this nonsense there is no solution to this problem. Either we have endless disputes about which units go first or loosen up the rules enough to allow the good sense of ordinary editors to determine these questions on a case-by-case basis, based on common sense guidelines in MOSNUM. Michael Glass (talk) 03:56, 4 October 2013 (UTC)
  • I agree that to follow what sources are used would be a nightmare. Allowing both metric and imperial in the same article, whether "kilometre and miles" or a mix-and-match "kilometre and pound" or "grams and pints", seems like nonsense to me also. The "case-by-case basis" also often leads to pitch battles. I'm not saying I would necessarily support it, but a third possibility (apparently omitted from the above) is that, for our own purposes, we would define WP:TIES to determine that all British articles should adopt imperial measures (just like how we have embraced British spelling per WP:ENGVAR) notwithstanding what might be practised elsewhere in the published world. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 04:41, 4 October 2013 (UTC)

I agree with Kahastok, and the point on consistency raised by Ohconfucius is quite good. Imperial is used for distance etc., and it makes sense to use imperial first to maintain consistency where it is required, for example at present in the UK article's Geography section, we have imperial for distance and metric for area which looks odd. Seeing as Kahastok made the extremely relevant point of The Times as newspaper of record, and that it dictates: Similarly [to the previous sentence that says that Celsius is preferred], for areas prefer hectares and square metres to acres and square yards, but do not use square kilometres in the UK and the US where distances are measured in miles - so for consistency it should also be explicitly stated that for UK articles, area should be preferentially square miles. Mabuska (talk) 10:05, 4 October 2013 (UTC) โ”Œโ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”˜

I see discussions are needlessly descending into childishness yet again, could I issue my usual refrain for editors to focus on content rather than each other.

We've been over this before, the rules are not "inflexible", they are prescriptive for the very reason that editors who disagree choose to interpret the policy creatively to impose their own views having failed to achieve a policy change. The suggestion that geography is "science" and hence articles should be metric only is a perfect example as to why the policy is needed. Hence, any suggestion that the rules should be loosened is unworkable. It simply would lead to further disruption.

To be blunt, the whole business boils down to the fact that some editors don't like to put the imperial unit first in some circumstances and this is utterly WP:LAME. I would suggest those editors learn to compromise as I and others do in the interests of our readers. Wikipedia exists for its readers, not to pander to the egoes and bizarre pecadilloes of its editors.

As to a way forward, Ohconfucius makes an excellent suggestion, we should link this to WP:TIES so that it is clear the consensus is to follow local usage. I also tend to agree with Mabuska's suggestion that square miles should take precdence over square km but really no longer have the energy for the effort it would take to amend the policy. Wee Curry Monster talk 12:10, 4 October 2013 (UTC)

I believe that you would open a can of worms if you tried to enforce a rule of square miles for articles because so many UK articles have been stable for years with square kilometres. Personally, I think it would be better to live with this inconsistency. It can be annoying to see a variation in usage, but the provision of imperial/metric conversions helps to soften this. I'll take Ohconfucius!'s word for pitched battles over individual articles, so I think that part of the solution might be strengthened rules against fighting over which unit comes first. However, the use of WP:TIES to enforce usage would only make matters worse, because British usage really is inconsistent. Try getting information on areas of parks and you will soon encounter an array of acres as well as hectares. Look for the height of hills and mountains and there will still be a fair sprinkling of feet amongst the metres. Heights and weights of sportspeople are similarly divided. Even with miles vs kilometres, where miles should be ahead by a country mile, kilometres are encountered with a fair degree of regularity in some contexts. Of course, there is always the possibility of war over whether a particular usage is scientific or engineering or general in nature and whether a geographical article is essentially scientific or general.
I believe that a bit of flexibility is vital. If we say that metric units should generally be used in UK articles then we should also say that imperial units can be used in certain contexts. Having said that I would be amenable to a rule that said that miles are more common in British usage, because that is clearly the case, but I don't think that proviso should be presented in a way that could be used to start a war to weed out every last kilometre that dares come first in any UK article. I think it is much more important to go through articles and verify the figures that they present. In my experience, the figures in undocumented articles can be inconsistent with reliable sources. Michael Glass (talk) 12:22, 4 October 2013 (UTC)
Its precisely because of the fact that sources can be inconsistent in the way units are used that requires Wikipedia to have a policy on how to present information to ensure consistency in wikipedias articles. Editors have achieved a consensus that this should in general follow the Times style guide. The assertion geography is a science is simply a red herring and WP:WIKILAWYERing. Certain editors need to realise they have to stop this behaviour or editors will simply make the policy even more prescriptive in response. Wee Curry Monster talk 12:52, 4 October 2013 (UTC)
I think that WCM has presented us with a clear picture of what we can choose between: a strict "Do this or else!" approach or a more flexible approach that allows for variation. I believe that the second approach is more appropriate for a situation where people have different ideas. It often doesn't matter that much what order things are presented in, provided that the source information is reliable. The world really isn't going to come to an end if the order of units in Wikipedia does not follow the letter of the Times Guide. The Guardian doesn't follow the Times Guide. Neither does the Daily Mail. Or the BBC. Why then should UK Wikipedia articles be shackled in a straitjacket designed for another publication entirely? English people value variation. The rules make provision for those who prefer Oxford spelling [civilize] as well as the great majority who prefer [civilise]. The same applies to the order of units. It might be a bit messy, but, hell, that's the nature of things in the UK (and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the world). Michael Glass (talk) 14:00, 4 October 2013 (UTC)
My dear fellow, I think, as you said previously, it is best that we live with this slight inconsistency. The present guideline is just that, a guideline. As it says in the footnote, exceptions can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. It is not at all a straitjacket. In most cases, miles should be used for distances. I don't think anyone would say otherwise. In those cases where it makes sense to use metric, outside of science/engineering articles, that can be discussed on that page's talk page. The present standard already allows this. There is no reason to muck it up and muddle it more by altering anything. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 15:30, 4 October 2013 (UTC)
Sure - WP:IAR always applies. If there is a good reason that is not considered by the guidelines to use some other rule, then we should use some other rule. Michael will recall that this is precisely my argument at Talk:Munro, where I suggest that fact that a Munro is defined in feet means that the definition should be given in feet (as per another part of this guideline) and that it is absurd to then put all the other mountain heights in the article in metres. Michael rejects this effectively on the grounds that this rule should be a straitjacket.
But in the general case, where there is no good reason to deviate, we should follow the rules set out. And the fact that some editors do not like imperial units is not a good reason not to use them.
The reason to use the Times style guide is because it is the UK's newspaper of record and because unlike the other publications Michael names the Times style guide actively tries to mirror common UK usage. (The exception is the BBC, which has, to our knowledge, no in-house style for units at all.) Delegating the point to the Times style guide means precisely that we don't have to keep on having this discussion.
In answer to Boson's point, I suggest you should reread the discussion. Most editors here have agreed here that the current wording provides for miles for point-to-point distance. Consensus at recent discussions at Talk:United Kingdom and Talk:Falkland Islands have found exactly the same thing. This is what "geographic distance" means, so far as I am concerned (and I was the one who came up with the wording in the first place). Adding the words "for all distance" or "for distance" or "for geographic distance" to the guideline would not change the meaning of the guideline in any way. Kahastok talk 16:30, 4 October 2013 (UTC)
  • The great thing about having our own style guide is that we can define what rules we want to follow, and under what circumstances. That, as I understand it, is how WP:ENGVAR came about. I hate its divisiveness, but the positive side is that it has contributed enormously to peace and style stability โ€“ just imagine if we were still stuck arguing and battling whether we want to apply "color" or "colour"? Why do we care that the UK is itself an inconsistent mess as to application. Even though the UK is inconsistent, WP doesn't have to be. We can apply metric to all, none, or any part of our articles if we want. Consistency is the most important, and If we please, we can stay in that time warp until such time as the UK has fully embraced metric. We can roll back time here and adopt Imperial throughout as it once was in the UK. Or we can be deliciously inconsistent in a consistent way โ€“ WP:ENGVAR is that, if that's what keeps order and harmony. In the meantime, we can apply and execute some of the alignment work by script or bot. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 16:58, 4 October 2013 (UTC)
Yes. I have seen what happened at Munro: a straitjacket so tight that saying that a particular mountain was 40 centimetres (16 in) short of the Munro mark was too much! It seems that in practice the flexibility is all one way: include imperial measures at will but flip the display of metric measures. No prior checking of sources, just flip, flip, flip. Michael Glass (talk) 23:38, 4 October 2013 (UTC)
That was merely false precision, and you would be one of the very few who would be reading it as an "error". You fixed it, didn't you? and nobody reverted. So I fail to see the problem. In any event, the "Munro" was defined before metrication. It seems the crux is that you prefer metres to feet โ€“ I've noticed your attempts to dredge sources for their metric measures. The appropriate degree of precision is good, but I think it's time to get out of anally-stuck on laboriously following sources to the nth degree as if there were no inherent imprecisions there. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 04:14, 5 October 2013 (UTC)
Yes, but that was after quite a lot of discussion, which fortunately did not descend into objectionable analogies. Mountains are now measured in metres, and it seems quite daft to me to mass convert modern measures to Imperial just because Sir Hugh Munro defined the heights at 3,000 feet in 1891. As 914.4 metres is an exact equivalent, there are other ways to achieve consistency and accuracy (and consistency with MOSNUM), but for that change to come about it would depend on support from other editors. Michael Glass (talk) 12:36, 5 October 2013 (UTC)
Well, there's a run called the "100 metres", but nobody would think of changing the "100 yard dash" to "91.44 metre dash", and it's quite logical for everything to be stated (or re-stated, if needs be) to Imperial in the latter case. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 14:36, 5 October 2013 (UTC)
True, but sometimes things are restated in other units. The earliest railway gauges were stated in feet and inches, but today they are now compared in millimetres. Now I'm not insisting that this should automatically apply to the Munro article. This, I believe, is a matter for editors of that particular article to determine, Michael Glass (talk) 22:49, 5 October 2013 (UTC)
The BBC are sometimes guilty of misusing imperial units. A few years ago, they stated that the law prohibited demonstrations within half a mile of Parliament. Knowing that the law actually states "one kilometer", I contacted them and told them that they would look a right bunch of monkeys if somebody who was protesting 900 metres from parliament was arrested and then showed the BBC statement in their defence. Within a few minutes, the BBC website changed the text to read "one kilometre". This sort of thing is happening all the time. Martinvl (talk) 20:10, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
This is possibly because there is a legal obligation to use SI units for all for "economic, public health, public safety or administrative purposes" (other than "road signs and speed indications" in the case of miles). --Boson (talk) 00:10, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
There is though no legal obligation on the BBC to use one system of units or another in their reports, and presumably their first choice is going the one that they believe will result in the least number of complaints from their audience for using. Credibility gap (talk) 20:06, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

The Times style guide link

The link to the Times Style Guide is no longer accessible which means that one should question whether or not it is an appropriate link in a section of MOS. Various editors have quoted from the style guide, but unless the guide is freely available to all editors, such quotes should be viewed with skepticism as they may be used out of context (maybe inadvertently). We need to verify that The Times themselves have not modified the guide. As a Times reader, I noticed that after the News International phone hacking scandal, Times editors seemed less inclined to convert everything to imperial units. (For the record, Rupert Murdoch was chairman of News International, the company that owned both papers). My own view is that the reference to The Times Style Guide needs to be written out of the MOS. Martinvl (talk) 19:42, 9 October 2013 (UTC)

The Times Style Guide is the basis for the advice we have here. Getting rid of any reference to it would disguise this fact - which I imagine is why you want it removed. I note that I have provided a link to the guide already, and I would suggest that your anecdotal evidence on a point that is not even relevant (unless you're seriously suggesting we shouldn't even convert into imperial?) is not evidence of anything much.
If you have evidence that the Times Style guide has changed, by all means raise it. If there is none, we should assume that they have not. I see no reason to assume that they have. Kahastok talk 20:22, 9 October 2013 (UTC)
User:Kahastok has missed completely missed the point - the main question being "how can I get hold of the text of the Time Style Guide?". Martinvl (talk) 20:32, 9 October 2013 (UTC)
As with other advice in WP:MOS, I think it is appropriate to take various style guides into account in forming an opinion, and it may therefore be appropriate to quote this and other style guides on this talk page. However, I do not think we should defer to someone else's house style in matters of house style. For this reason, I think we should remove references to the the Times Online Style Guide on the project page. In an article on the topic, it might be appropriate to cite the Times Online Style Guide to document one view on the subject, though even in article space I would prefer to use sources that are freely available. Since this is a matter of principle affecting WP:MOS, this should perhaps be discussed WT:MOS, rather than on this sub-page. To be clear: I am not suggesting disguising anything; I am suggesting that we should decide as editors on our own house style and merely take this particular style guide (and possibly others) into account. Having done that we should remove the reference to this publisher's house style. I think the deference to someone else's style guide is another issue that is part of the problem rather part of the solution and we should address the problem directly. This project page should state unambiguously what our rules are (as from now) and what latitude is permitted. Until we do that, I fear conflict and implicit accusations of bad faith will continue. Do we defer to any one style guide on any other matter of Wikipedia house style?--Boson (talk) 21:45, 9 October 2013 (UTC)
I have moved this post so that it does not break mine up.
We do not defer to another style guide here. The entire premise of your point is wrong. There are several matters where we differ from the Times (an obvious one being that the Times calls for miles only - with no conversion - whereas we call for miles first and kilometres second).
But there is nothing wrong with basing our advice on the style guide of a respected external publication that has the same aim as us - to reflect British usage on this matter of style. Far from it - this is eminently sensible as it means that we don't have to have continual debates on what the normal British usage is. We can just look up what the Times says and accept that.
And so far as practically everyone is concerned - including consensus at Talk:Falkland Islands and at Talk:United Kingdom where this has been discussed by a good number of outside editors recently - there is no significant ambiguity in the current wording. We could add "for distance" after "miles" or "for speed" after "miles per hour", but no editor other than you two seems to need them.
FWIW the last version of the Times style guide from before the paywall is available through the Wayback Machine here. There is no reason to assume that it has changed. Kahastok talk 21:59, 9 October 2013 (UTC)
As I understand the discussion here, there are differences as to the interpretation or the proposed consensus view. I have listed many of these above, with quotations from several participants. The question of ambiguity is not solved by adding "for distance", since everybody seems to be agreed that imperial units "can sometimes be used for distances". The differing interpretations seem to be about whether this means
  • must be used
  • for all distances,
  • including scientific and engineering contexts in articles that are not substantially about scientific or engineering topics.
which seems (to me) to be the interpretation implied by your objections above. If you feel that this misrepresents your interpretation, perhaps you could state explicitly how you would rephrase my clarification of the individual elements of your interpretation. --Boson (talk) 00:15, 10 October 2013 (UTC)
The fact remains that everyone but you two seems to find the point pretty unambiguous. Consensus at Talk:Falkland Islands and Talk:United Kingdom have both found the same thing as well.
There's a major straw man being raised here, that this rule is somehow an exception to WP:IAR. Let us be clear that the only people in this discussion who have implied, argued, or otherwise suggested that there is even a possibility that this rule can have no exceptions at all are you, Michael Glass, and Martin. And Michael Glass and Martin both have a long history of using that argument to try to water down these rules so that they can switch articles to their personal preference of metric first in all cases.
It's not difficult:
  • Miles must be used for all distances on non-scientific US-related articles, subject to the exceptions outlined elsewhere in the guideline and subject to common sense exceptions where special circumstances (beyond personal preference) apply.
  • Miles must be used for all distances on non-scientific UK-related articles, subject to the exceptions outlined elsewhere in the guideline and subject to common sense exceptions where special circumstances (beyond personal preference) apply.
  • Kilometres must be used for all distances on non-scientific Australia-related articles, subject to the exceptions outlined elsewhere in the guideline and subject to common sense exceptions where special circumstances (beyond personal preference) apply.
The parallel is exact. Kahastok talk 17:12, 10 October 2013 (UTC)
No, this is not a strawman. We are talking about the UK., not the Falklands or Australia, so they are irrelevant. We are also talking about this guideline, not consensus at one specific article, one of thousands about some aspect of the U.K. If any consensus agreed there is intended to apply to other articles, the discussion belongs here. I would appreciate it if we could confine the discussion about this project page to this talk page (and possibly its parent page). it is difficult enough without introducing extraneous discussions. I am not trying to suggest that you want to use imperial measures as a primary unit in these cases. And, of course, WP:IAR always applies (in very constrained situations; it should not be invoked lightly). However, I don't think there is general agreement with how you have stated it:
  1. You seem to be of the opinion that metric units should not be used in scientific or engineering contexts in generally non-scientific articles. I disagree, and do not recall anyone else supporting this position. Everyone has an opportunity to do so now.
  2. You insist on retaining the reference to the Times Online Style Guide on the project page. I don't recall anyone else in this discussion supporting that. Now is the opportunity for people to come forward after reading the arguments above. I have seen no evidence that this is still Times Online policy. If the publisher has removed the document from the Web site, I would see that as, at least, lack of evidence that it is still their position. Its removal could possibly be taken as evidence that they no longer intend it to be applied.
  3. There is a view that in additional contexts related to the UK, metric units should be primary. There seems to be agreement that miles are appropriate for road distances. I do not see evidence (in this discussion) of consensus that miles should be used for all other distances (except in scientific articles). You write "Let us be clear that the only people in this discussion who have implied, argued, or otherwise suggested that there is even a possibility that this rule can have no exceptions at all are you, Michael Glass, and Martin. " So you have named 3 people who appear to disagree with you. Others have also used the phrase "for road distances" or have referred to "official" Ordnance Survey maps using kilometres; so we seem to be talking about at least 5 people who do not support your position. Some may not have very strong opinions on this relatively trivial subject and are more interested in stopping the constant disruption by arriving at an unambiguous consensus, but it might be helpful if you could name substantially more than 5 editors who support your version in this discussion. In my view, wording the guideline based on the suspected motives of other participants is not the way to go. Limiting the usage to road distances may be overly restrictive, but extending it to all distances (outside of articles where this part of the guideline does not apply) may not be restrictive enough. I would welcome middle-of-the-road suggestions. --Boson (talk) 22:56, 10 October 2013 (UTC)
No, what I'm saying is that in any circumstance where there local context means that there is a good reason - beyond personal preference - to ignore the rule, it can be ignored. Just like every other rule on Wikipedia.
Let us be clear that you are talking about measures in a genuinely scientific context in a non-scientific UK-related article (engineering is already dealt with). This is quite a specific point and it's unlikely to be common. Certainly not common enough to need a specific rule other than WP:IAR. But on the other hand, if we did add a specific rule it would be certain to be abused as all measures would suddenly be declared scientific. By editors involved in this discussion.
It is a complete straw man to suggest that this rule has to cover every imaginable situation. I reject your claim that this is restricted to the UK because I see nothing about the concept of scientific contexts in non-science related articles that is specific to the UK. There is no reason why it has to be made clear in UK-related situations but not in US- or Australian-related situations, and the fact that you insist that this is only UK-related is very telling.
I note that the point we're dealing with is not what the article should say, but what it in fact does say. The way that this is interpreted both here and at articles such as Talk:Falkland Islands and Talk:United Kingdom is of clear relevance to that. It is clear from this discussion and from those discussions that the rule currently calls for miles in all circumstances except where WP:IAR applies.
I reject your suggestion that we're likely to get much in the way of outside comment at this stage in a discussion resulting from long comment in the middle of a massive length of text. I reject your speculation that the Times does not apply the style guide, but even if they did not, it would not remove the guide's usefulness as an outside basis for our advice.
You're listing people citing arguments about what it should say, not on what it does say. Not only that, your five people appear be to yourself, Michael Glass, Martinvl, Martinvl and Martinvl - which is not five people by any normal measure. The first three instances are included because they seem to believe that WP:IAR does not apply to this rule - an argument that I believe would be given close to zero weight by any admin. Kahastok talk 17:21, 11 October 2013 (UTC)
  • To your point about WP:IAR: I think WP:IAR is best reserved for unforeseen or exceptional circumstances, not as a general excuse for sloppy formulation of guidelines that can easily be improved.
  • To your point about scientific articles: I think this should apply to engineering as well. My point is that whether imperial units are appropriate depends on the immediate context rather than the topic of the article. For instance, if a distance is in a section about an engineering or scientific topic, the title of the article is less important.
  • I haven't a clue what you mean by "very telling" and I don't know what you mean by the rest of that paragraph.
  • To your point that I am talking about what the "article" (I presume you mean the guideline/project page) should say (when talking about participants' opinions): Yes, that is true in some cases. If there is a consensus on how the text should read, it is rather pointless to try and reach a consensus on what the text currently says or means. That might be appropriate on the talk page of an article (where it is a case of applying the guideline) but is less useful on the guideline talk page (where the discussion is about how that text should read).
  • To your interpretation of my comment " your five people appear be to yourself, Michael Glass, Martinvl, Martinvl and Martinvl". No that is not correct. I prefer not to mention people by name as I believe it helps to keep the discussion objective and impersonal. Also, they may prefer not to be drawn into these endless discussions of what should be quickly settled minor issues. If you look at my quotations and use the search function in you browser, you should find at least two other users.
  • To your point that you reject my " speculation that the Times does not apply the style guide". There was no argument of mine dependent on any speculation. I was indicating that there is no basis for assuming the present relevance of this style guide. If you wish to refer to this style guide, which implies that it is still relevant, the burden is on you to show that it is relevant.
  • To your point about the unlikelihood of outside comment at this stage "in a discussion resulting from long comment in the middle of a massive length of text": Well, the people who have already commented in this discussion (in particular the 5 people mentioned directly or indirectly) may still be reading this, so they might want to clarify whether they support your opinion, but you may be right. A formal RFC is probably the way to go. I had hoped we could clarify some more issues first, but if that is not possible, so be it. --Boson (talk) 23:11, 11 October 2013 (UTC)
So you want a formal RFC to tells us whether we should have a specific rule to cover - and let's be clear about this:
Distance, speed, fuel consumption, quantity of draught beer or cider, quantity of bottled milk, personal height, personal weight and dimensions of equines, in scientific contexts on non-scientific UK-related topics.
Frankly, I can't think of an instance of a genuinely scientific measure on a non-scientific UK-related article that falls into these categories, nor any reason why one would want to use one. This is a solution in need of a problem - WP:CREEP comes to mind. If we find that there is such a measure, we can ignore the rule under WP:IAR. On the other hand, there is no doubt whatsoever that the rule you propose would be rampantly abused.
And before you start talking about engineering, I suggest you reread the advice: engineering topics are already dealt with. Kahastok talk 08:46, 12 October 2013 (UTC)
No. I want a couple of simple changes to the current text that would probably reduce its length. It would make the guideline better reflect curent (2013) British usage and remove dead links to documents that may no longer exist, instead of introducing imprecise or incorrect distinctions that continually give rise to dissent. If it were a matter of keeping the guideline simple, it would be easier to just decide to use metric primary units throughout; it is the complicated nature of British practice and the apparent decision to adopt everyday usage in the encyclopaedia that are making the text somewhat complex. It shouldn't really require an RfC, just a clear formulation of the amendment, but if one person constantly refuses to countenance any change to the existing text in this respect (as you point out, engineering has been dealt with elsewhere), it might be the most efficient way of putting this to bed and save countless hours of circular discussions. The advantage of a straw poll or RfC, in my opinion, is that it can be formulated to present a clear choice and separate the clear choices from the long discussions that tend to go astray and become repetitive. The advantage of a "global" RfC would be that it brings the discussion on this topic to one time and place, and helps bring in others who are interested in settling the problem without getting bogged down in interminable discussions with little chance of resolving the problem. A topic of this nature should not be creating this amount of work spread over so many venues. My hope is that a couple of RfCs would settle the matter within a few weeks and that the solution would hold for a couple of years. --Boson (talk) 13:20, 12 October 2013 (UTC)
I note with interest that you have failed to cite any circumstance in which your proposed change would have any effect. I think it fair to assume that what the change you propose is a specific get-out for a tiny number of instances: an extra rule that would legitimately apply almost nowhere but would be abused almost everywhere.
FWIW I have no idea what you're talking about when you say you propose "a couple of simple changes to the current text that would probably reduce its length" - I do not recall having seen such a proposal.
I note that you refer to "imprecise or incorrect distinctions that continually give rise to dissent". It does continually give rise to dissent, but the dissent always comes from the same two editors and their push for Wikipedia to allow them to promote their POV over units of measure. It's hardly a measure that the current rules are problematic, only that a couple of people don't like modern British usage.
That two editors have repeated the same bad arguments over and over again for the best part of half a decade does not make those arguments good. And that same half decade's experience demonstrates that no RFC is going to stop those two editors from continuing the POV push. Kahastok talk 14:06, 12 October 2013 (UTC)
Can someone with a subscription confirm that this is still documented as Times Online house style? --Boson (talk) 00:25, 10 October 2013 (UTC)
I have a TimesPlus subscription and prior to posting my statement last night, I could not find any reference to their house style on their website. (Of course I might have missed it). In yesterday's Times I did however notice that the weight of a massive Halloween pumpkin was given as 275 kg with no imperial equivalent - this is the sort of change that I have noticed since Murdoch stepped down. (Posted by User:Martinvl at 04:38, 10 October 2013โ€ŽSignature was omitted in error)
@Martinvl, can you supply a link for that pumpkin story? I looked in The Times for it, but found only this one, from October 1st, which uses imperial only for size, and imperial (metric) for weight thus: "It is 16ft in circumference and estimated to weigh 1,500lbs (680kg). The British record is 1,504lb (682kg), set by identical twin brothers..." FWIW, I have noticed an increased tendency to use imperial only recently. R.stickler (talk) 11:43, 11 October 2013 (UTC)
It was in the paper edition of the newspaper. Unfortunately out local paper collection took place today and I am afraid that my copy of the newspaper is now in a recycling plant somewhere. If you live in the UK, you should be able to check it out at your local library. Martinvl (talk) 11:53, 11 October 2013 (UTC)
The version on the Wayback Machine is dated "July 10, 2009", which is over 4 years ago; so I don't think we can use that version. We have no particular reason to assume that the style recommended there is still relevant. In the interests of efficiency, I would suggest that we wait till 17 October 2013, 12:00 UTC to see if anyone can produce a current version of the Times Online Style Guide before making a formal proposal to remove the reference to that style guide from the project page.I think we need to take the improvement of the guideline one step at a time. --Boson (talk) 11:43, 10 October 2013 (UTC)
That's the date it was updated on the website, not the date it was accessed or the date it was archived. I see no reason to remove all reference to the style guide on which this advice is based from the guideline, and very good reason to keep it. Kahastok talk 17:12, 10 October 2013 (UTC)
@Kahastok - it is inappropriate to rely on the Wayback machine to second-guess current policy. Martinvl (talk) 04:38, 10 October 2013 (UTC)
I'm not. OTOH, it is inappropriate for you to insist that we act on your speculation that something might have changed when you have no evidence that it has. Kahastok talk 17:12, 10 October 2013 (UTC)
I agree with Kahastok. Martinvl's concerns is simply speculation with no evidence, and frankly after recent events I don't trust a single word they type. No doubt removing a link to this guide is a step to arguing against it being used in the future to backup use of Imperial for certain UK measurements - something that appears to be a never-ending campaign by Martinvl. Does this carousel ever stop? Mabuska (talk) 14:33, 11 October 2013 (UTC)
No - though it does pause sometimes. Martinvl's horse died several years ago. Kahastok talk 17:10, 11 October 2013 (UTC)
Let's stop speculating whether or not the Wayback version of the Times Style guide is up-to-date or not. A more relevant question is whether MOSNUM is up-to-date. We don't need to depend on the Times Style Guide to tell us that the British still use miles on their roads, and that some milk and beer is sold by the pint. There are other - official - sources to confirm this. However, we are on less sure ground about personal heights and weights. Certainly the usage is mixed in regards to sporting teams, and the National Health Service uses kilos and metres. In a non sporting context this might not matter too much, but when it comes to sporting teams it may be time to consider following the usage of the Premier League and other national codes. Michael Glass (talk) 02:02, 12 October 2013 (UTC)
So what's the big deal if we state all UK units as imperial or metric or a mixture? It matters not that the MOS is not fully up-to-the-minute or does not conform to the exact usage in the UK at any point in time. This is already causing a lot of circuitous and unnecessary arguments between the 'imperial' and 'metric' camps, but it's of no interest to improving the project that this discussion resurfaces every other month. The transition of usage in the UK seems slow and gradual but staunchly imperial in the US, and it will be impossible to determine the Rubicon of when/if the UK passes to wholly metric for any given measure, so we ought not to waste time on trying to crystallise it. Let's just adopt a style and get on with life. Equally, I feel that there is absolutely no need to review any given rule or facet each time a new style guide appears, or an existing style guide is updated. There won't be any "revolution" to the MOS driven by external style guides. However, we should periodically and not too often, probably every few years, review all the rules and "top and tail" them, adding established 'new' rules and replacing those that are determined to be absolutely archaic. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 02:34, 12 October 2013 (UTC)
I do not want to see this rule dragged up every couple of months. I think it would be much better for all concerned if those who insist on dragging it up every couple of months ceased to do so. But given that they've been doing it for years and years I don't see any sign of that.
I think it is worth noting that several of those who people put in the "imperial" camp have mentioned that they are scientists or engineers who use metric units routinely at work. One of the ironies is that there's a good chance that most of us - including those who you put in the "imperial" camp - use metric units more than the average Brit. Someone pushing as part of an "imperial" camp would be pushing for imperial mountain heights (mixed in RL, we say metric) or weights in general (mixed in RL, we say metric).
In fact, the objection is to being forced to use metric units even in cases where usage is overwhelmingly imperial, or to applying rules to produce ridiculous inconsistency such as saying that the distance from London to Edinburgh is 500 kilometres point-to-point but 400 miles by road - even where no such distinction in usage exists in RL. The issue here is at least partly the use of Wikipedia to campaign for a political position (in favour of metrication).
In terms of the scripts, if you want to apply them, all of the imperial bits are pretty limited in scope except distance, speed and fuel consumption. If you can script it to do personal height and weight but not other weights, then that would work, but you won't use it often. Draught beer and cider, bottled milk and horses are probably rare enough and specific enough to make it worth being aware of them but not worth scripting them. Kahastok talk 08:46, 12 October 2013 (UTC)
Date formats and British spelling keep me busy enough. It's regrettable that the UK had to start on the road to metrification so that the situation today is neither fish nor fowl, and likely to stay that way indefinitely. Yes, I'm interested in achieving format consistency across the 'pedia, but only on an intellectually coherent level. Trying to mirror or apply the current RL chimera is of little interest to me. What's more, I don't want to get sandwiched in between Imperialists and the Metrifiers.

My position is that we should use either all imperial or all metric. While I was working on the English variants script, I created a few regexes that would allow me to flip {{convert}} templates to display Imperial first, as it was in the old days in Britain. But a significant proportion of units of measure are not captured within conversion templates, so a lot of extra work will be needed for instances the script will miss. In terms of scope, it will be far too complicated to do weights and avoid personal weights, and do building heights but not distance, speed and fuel consumption. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 14:22, 12 October 2013 (UTC)

Britain has generally "gone metric". Metric units are used for practically everything, and even the exceptions are mixed and dependent on specific context. Children use metric units in schools and metric units are used in most professional contexts, with a few measurements being converted when dealing colloquially with the "general public. So I don't think general use of imperial measures is viable. If we want to standardize it has to be metric, I think. That would make everything a lot simpler. --Boson (talk) 17:09, 12 October 2013 (UTC)
If we look at the introduction to the Times Style Guide we see:
The Times should keep abreast of the trend in the UK to move gradually towards all-metric use, but given the wide age range and geographical distribution of our readers, some continuing use of imperial measurements is necessary. The main aim is to avoid confusing the reader, so try not to mix the two systems in a single article. In general, we should prefer the metric, with imperial conversions in brackets at first mention.
Note that The Times emphasizes the move towards all-metric use. Note furthermore that The Times is concerned about all it's readers. They median age of Times readers is 44.5 years, that of Wikipedia readers is 34.5 years. If we add on another four years (at least) due to The Times style guide being at least four years old, that that the target audience for The Times style guide is at least 14 years older than the current Wikipedia audience. Given this difference, it is difficult to justify using The Times style guide apart from the rationale in the opening paragraph. Martinvl (talk) 17:58, 12 October 2013 (UTC)
Do you have any evidence - not instances of usage but actual evidence - that usage has actually moved toward metrication from that described by the Times? I doubt it: if you did, you would have brought it up in the last five years. The statistic is ridiculous given the different bases for the comparison, your extrapolation doubly so. We might note, FWIW, that the age group most likely to read the Times are actually those aged 25-34.
As to Boson's point, we already are metric, except in specific circumstances where imperial units are overwhelmingly more common in British usage. Children use metric units in school - but it is folly to assume that children learn nothing outside school, and children will learn those imperial contexts outside school. The principle exception for our purposes - miles - is not mixed or particularly context-dependent. There is no reason whatsoever why we cannot reflect British usage and it is absurd to suggest otherwise. Kahastok talk 19:12, 12 October 2013 (UTC)
I don't believe Britain has "gone metric". Britain, as far as metrification goes, is stuck in the rather unsatisfactory situation like someone in the middle of the road, with people on both sides dragging him towards them. Nothing will crystallise for decades, if ever. Nationalist sentiment is on the rise all over Europe, and there is an increasing backlash over the Eurocratic push for metric system to be adopted in Britain, minority languages like Welsh has been on the resurgence for a number of years. The pound (both weight and currency) and pint have become anthemic. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 00:18, 13 October 2013 (UTC)

The Times Style and Usage Guide, which was clearly still being used by The Times in February 2012 given that it is mentioned in this Times article of that date, is available as a book - ISBN 13: 9780007145058. R.stickler (talk) 19:55, 12 October 2013 (UTC)

That's The Times Style and Usage Guide, published in 2003; it appears to be out of print. Was it the same as the referenced Times Online Style Guide? --Boson (talk) 00:18, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
For what it's worth, I think the idea of having separate conventions for articles about different countries is bizarre and illogical in itself (why do we not treat articles about Sierra Leone differently from articles about Nigeria? What are MOSNUM's recommendations for articles specifically about Liechtenstein?). The much-touted Times Style Guide also seems rather impotent to resolve this question (and I am dubious about the merits of tying the policy of an encyclopedia to the content of a newspaper style guide) especially when it apparently recommends such ludicrous practices as giving smaller areas in square metres and hectares, then arbitrarily switching to square miles at some unspecified cutoff point. Relating square miles to acres and square yards/feet is hard enough (using the imperial system properly is hard, and regardless of what some here might say, few British people today really know the imperial system), but relating sq mi to hectares and square metres is well-nigh impossible without a calculator. Is it one of the objectives of Wikipedia to promote confusion and inconsistency, or is this the pit we've dug for ourselves? Archon 2488 (talk) 22:23, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
This reference provides interesting information about British newspaper readership profiles. The median age of readers of the various quality newspapers as per the data on page 20 are:
  • Daily Telegraph - 57 years
  • Times - 44.5 years
  • Independent - 41 years
  • Guardian - 40.5 years.
The median age of Wikipedia readers is 36 years. This information suggests to me that if we want to take the lead from the quality press, we shoudl be looking towardsThe Guardian rather than The Times.
Martinvl (talk) 14:40, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
I don't agree. Aside the fact that the data concerned does not in fact make your claim (in an article it would be a clear WP:NOR violation), and aside the fact that the difference between the bottom three is small enough to be irrelevant, you neglect all other factors, such as the Times' status as newspaper of record and the clarity of the Times' guidance. I don't know where you hope to find an Independent style guide, I didn't find one when I looked - but would you, for example, follow the advice of the Guardian and use pints for all capacities - including for water, petrol, wine and so on?
Regardless, the Guardian style guide still prefers miles for all distances. Kahastok talk 17:32, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
Had you read the whole style guide, you would have seen what the Guardian style guide has an implied "in certain circumstances" after the words "the mile and the pint". Further down the article it explicitly states that geographic units should be given in metric units followed by imperial in brackets. This source cites the Guardian as a newspaper of record (along with The Times, Telegraph, Independent and Financial Times). When I graduated from the University of Manchester, the graduation list was published in The Guardian rather than one of the other newspapers, making it, in that case, a newspaper of record. Martinvl (talk) 19:28, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
Your post, unsurprisingly, is highly misleading.
Your source is actually a reuse of Wikipedia. The text in question was removed in 2009 as a "almost completely unsourced" and " an inappropriate exercise in WP:OR", see Talk:Newspaper_of_record#Problems_with_article.
Further down the article it explicitly states that geographic units should be given in metric units followed by imperial in brackets is true - in the same sense as it is for our current advice: for "geographical heights and depths". Nowhere does it state or imply that there is any exception to miles first.
Your claim the Guardian style guide has an implied "in certain circumstances" after the words "the mile and the pint" is simply false. The point in fact continues to mandate conversions from metric to imperial, but not from imperial to metric. Kahastok talk 20:10, 14 October 2013 (UTC)

Metric for everything

Would anyone support the idea that all articles (non-scientific and non-engineering) related to the UK should use metric units as the primary units? That would make things much simpler and save work in the future. I thought it might be worth a try. Just wanted a show of hands to see if it is at all worth pursuing. --Boson (talk) 18:33, 12 October 2013 (UTC)

Absolutely not. Biasing Wikipedia by pandering to the POV push of two editors is the very last thing we should be considering. The United Kingdom should not be the only country that is not allowed to use the units of measure in use locally, and Wikipedia should not be taking a political position in favour of metrication. That is the effect of your proposal. British people do not just put miles on the road signs to confuse foreigners. Kahastok talk 19:07, 12 October 2013 (UTC)
Absolutely not. Wikipedia should not be being used as part of the, so far failed, campaign of the UK Metric Association (UKMA) to metricate the UK. Today in the UK, although industry largely voluntarily metricated in the 1960s and 70s because it helped it in the international market place, and certain disciplines of retail trading have metricated because they were forced to by weights and measures regulation, common and everyday usage outside of the workplace, even by the younger generations, is still overwhelmingly imperial. One consequence of shoppers rejecting the metric measures that certain shops have been forced to use is that shops (such as greengrocers) now price most product by unit rather than my weight. This is why UKMA exist, because the majority of the UK people have not yet embraced the metric system other than where they have been forced to at work and at school. R.stickler (talk) 19:31, 12 October 2013 (UTC)
No. Britain uses, for example, miles for distance and pints for beer. Wikipedia should not be giving preference to different units from those in common use. - David Biddulph (talk) 20:47, 12 October 2013 (UTC)
Comment Let's make it clear that we're not talking about removing imperial units of measure. We are just talking about ordering (in other words, which one we put first). I'm ambivalent, but am more concerned with consistency of not seeing a mish-mash of imperial and metric in first place in any article. But the only way to stop the argument and any potential tug of war is definitively to come down on one or other. Right now, even with the MOS mandating displaying both units, it's become a zero-sum game. Articles are a mess and the reader is a loser. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 00:37, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
Comment I support Ohc's initial comment. This discussion is only about which units should be put first. I agree that consistency of presentation is important, and it would be more consistent to have a "metric first" rule. However, as others have stated, this does not coincide with British usage. The answer to this has been to have a general rule for metric first with stated exceptions. This causes problems because the stated exceptions don't exactly coincide with British usage, especially when usage is split. Also these exceptions mandate inconsistencies if taken literally. We could have a rule to follow the sources if this resolves the inconsistencies. Another would be to permit editors to deal with inconsistencies as they choose. We could also trim the exceptions to those that are mandated by law. Other editors may have other ideas for dealing with anomalous results and messy articles. These ideas may help to resolves many of the difficulties caused by the inconsistent use of measures in the UK context. It is not the fault of Wikipedia or its editors that UK inconsistencies are a challenge to deal with. However, by pooling our ideas we may come up with better ways of dealing with this challenge. Michael Glass (talk) 05:13, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
The answer is to have a simple rule, as we currently have. There is no reason to dogmatically declare that the fact that we use miles for distance means we have to use Fahrenheit for temperature. Using miles for distance and Celsius for temperature is not intrinsically inconsistent and there is no reason why we cannot mix them.
Much of the rest of the message seems to be a recipe for arguments. Given how many times source-based units have been rejected there's no point in discussing them further. The use-the-law message has generally been interpreted to require far greater inconsistency than we have presently through the insistence on hair-splitting distinctions that do not exist in usage (i.e. that London to Edinburgh is 500 kilometres point-to-point but 400 miles by road). And "permit editors to deal with inconsistencies as they choose" is at best a recipe for arguments and at worst an excuse for bringing in full-metrication or source-based units by the back door by your old "can is not must" argument. I note that the whole point still assumes the non-existence of WP:IAR.
When it comes down to it, this is not a major Wikipedia-wide or even large-scale dispute. All this is is two editors with a chronic inability to drop the stick. There is no good reason to change the meaning of the current rule, so we should not change it. Kahastok talk 08:22, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
I think this is an important issue and donโ€™t think it should be dropped. Irrespective of metric vs imperial, there are important principles of clarity (units should be familiar and unambiguous) and self-consistency (units should be used consistently throughout an article; donโ€™t switch half way through) that should be up front but I do not see them stated clearly. Have I missed them? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 11:54, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
No: - The word "Everything" means just that "everything". It also means that whoever wrote the rule claims to have foreseen every possible situation - something that I will always dispute. Beer is sold by the pint in British pubs and any Wikipedia text that describes this should use pints as the primary unit of measure. It is of course appropriate to qualify that it is sold by the imperial pint, not the US pint. On the other hand, glasses of wine are specified in metric units - 125 ml, 175 ml and 250 ml. On the other hand, we should recognize that the metric system is the reference point for most, if not all, the world's systems of measure - the official definition of the yard is "0.9144 metres exactly". Similarly, the imperial pound is defined in terms of the kilogram. In line with this, the default should be to use metric units unless there is justifiable reason to the contrary.
@Dondervogel - I agree with your observations.
Martinvl (talk) 12:04, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
Yes, but good luck persuading the others - The idea of "biasing" Wikipedia by preferring standard international measurements is bizarre and incoherent. Metrology is not politics, regardless of what those who like to imagine that the British Empire never ended might believe. The fact that we've gone so far into angels-on-pinheads territory that we consider it OK for dogs, kangaroos and whales to be measured in metres and kilograms, but not humans or horses, is a fitting statement of how silly, arbitrary and untenable this position is. Archon 2488 (talk) 22:23, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
Comment: Having seen the progress of metrification, it seems clear that metric is progressing in the UK. Beer will always be sold in pints (although probably in 600 ml pints) but how many ounces that is will be forgotten... It seems to be a waste of time setting things in stone here when the UK is in the process of migrating to metric. If we give it a few years, metric might seem quite natural. Hawkeye7 (talk) 09:48, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
I don't think anyone would argue that we can't move with the times if it can be demonstrated that the times have changed. Part of the point of the current exceptions are that they are the unusual cases where imperial units still dominate. If and when they change, this rule should change. But this rule should not be trying to push for change.
(FWIW I haven't the foggiest how many fluid ounces there are in a pint. Pints are used in the UK today for draught beer, draught lager, bottled milk from the milkman and - colloquially - blood. In none of those contexts would you ever need anything smaller or more precise than a simple fraction of a pint. I can imagine some cooks using fluid ounces for their ingredients, but nobody else.) Kahastok talk 17:42, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
Actually the Guild of Food Writers recommends using milliliters. You could of course check the recipes in last weekend's newspapers. Martinvl (talk) 18:14, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
It would not surprise me. The Times does as well (though the Guardian prefers pints). But most cooks are not in the Guild of Food Writers and there's no shortage of people who have older cook books or cook books not written by members of the Guild of Food Writers, or who use the fluid ounces included as supplementary units. But who cares? Wikipedia doesn't include recipes - there's no need to make a case either way for a new exception that would never be used. Kahastok talk 18:21, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
Obviously a very minor point, but it's not at all difficult to find bottled milk in the UK sold by the litre. Tesco sells two-litre and four-pint (or 80 fl. oz., if you like) bottles side by side. Archon 2488 (talk) 22:50, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
No - The UK has various exceptions all already mentioned above. Mabuska (talk) 21:50, 14 October 2013 (UTC)

Imperial for everything

I've just come across another interesting, and very recent, article - this time from the BBC. In December 2011 they published an article titled "Will British people ever think in metric?". The most significant paragraph is this one: "Call it a proud expression of national identity or a stubborn refusal to engage with the neighbours. Either way, the persistent British preference for imperial over metric is particularly noteworthy at a time when its links with Europe are under greater scrutiny than ever." Clearly the writer of that article believes that the common usage in the UK is still predominantly imperial units.

Here is another piece providing more evidence that the UK people have not yet embraced metric.

And here (from January 2013) it seems that UK schools are to be asked to put more focus on teaching pupils imperial measures to prepare them for life in the still largely imperial UK. R.stickler (talk) 22:35, 12 October 2013 (UTC)

In the light of those: would anyone support the idea that all articles (non-scientific and non-engineering) related to the UK should use imperial units as the primary units? R.stickler (talk) 21:59, 12 October 2013 (UTC)

The above sections were struck by me out once User:R.stickler was unmasked as a sockpuppet of the banned user User:DeFacto. I have not struck out his other "contributions", but other editors in this section should be aware of who he is. Martinvl (talk) 07:36, 15 October 2013 (UTC)

I have unstruck them because without them the below comments make no sense. Your own comment can serve as a record of the point. Kahastok talk 17:21, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
  • No. All Imperial won't work. Too much information is in metric, and as the Times policy recognises, the trend is for the gradual increase in metric use. Even if the Times opinion is mistaken, a huge amount of information is already in metric measures. This includes such things as the heights of hills and mountains, the area of parks, fields such as science and engineering and even information about heights and weights of footballers (though not of jockeys) is in metric terms. The idea that most or all of this can or will be rolled back is fanciful. The only thing that Wikipedia can do is to have a policy that tries to reflect actual usage. There are two ways of doing this: specify which units are to be put first in which context, or follow the most authoritative local sources as a general rule. Those favouring the continued use of imperial measures like to specify which units can be used and where, because it puts a brake on metric use. The other method, of following the sources as a general rule, has been attacked as a stalking horse for full metrication. In fact, it has the advantage of reflecting actual usage. Most editors of UK articles don't give a toss which unit comes first (except, perhaps, for miles for distances). Michael Glass (talk) 00:46, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
In the vast majority of cases where imperial units come first under the current rules, it is miles for distances.
Source-based units have been repeatedly rejected for any number of reasons - including your habit of choosing the sources because they have metric units, and including the fact that if used in the spirit of the rule they would create rampant inconsistency - as demonstrated by the fact that you're saying that footballers should be described in metric units but jockeys should be described in imperial units. A "stalking horse for full metrication" is not a neutral description, except inasmuch as the rule is far too open to the extreme levels of abuse that we have seen from you over the past few years.
The claim "[t]hose favouring the continued use of imperial measures like to specify which units can be used and where, because it puts a brake on metric use" implies a political agenda that does not exist. If people like me wanted to put a "brake on metric use", I would be arguing for mountains to be feet-first always and to put pounds first always before kilograms. The only places where the current rule puts imperial units first are places where usage is overwhelmingly more commonly imperial. Anything less than overwhelming imperial use is metric-first by the current guidelines. Kahastok talk 08:24, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
Khastok, in 2010, you refused to budge even on Fahrenheit temperatures when there was overwhelming support for this to be changed in Falkland Island articles. It was you who objected to my putting information on parks in hectares, even though this is fully in line with MOSNUM policy. It is you who continues to scream blue murder about my documenting of footballers' heights and weights from the national leagues, even though these edits have remained in place for more than two years. Your agenda of opposing metrication is crystal clear and of long standing. Your tactics appear to come from the British Weights and Measures Association. I have suggested this on more than one occasion. You have never denied it.
I repeat: I do not put metric measures first in any article without documentary evidence. Inconsistency in any article can be a good reason for reconsidering the order of units. That is why I have not contested your flipping the display of the measurements of the mountains in the Munro article. The fact that you flipped the displays rather than seeking other sources shows just how empty your accusation of source shopping is. Michael Glass (talk) 10:51, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
So, you've got no arguments so you start on the ad hominem.
I did - and do - strongly object to your mass-converting thousands of articles from a MOSNUM-favoured style to a MOSNUM-disfavoured style in flagrant and knowing violation of Wikipedia norms.
You say, "[t]he fact that you flipped the displays rather than seeking other sources shows just how empty your accusation of source shopping is" - based on the premise that we already have source-based units. Which we don't. And in the context of source-based units, you're telling me I should be going "source shopping". Which says a lot.
On the Fahrenheit point, given the background (which I won't go into), and your already long-history of gaming this rule on Falklands articles, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I and other editors wanted to go by the book and not allow you shortcuts to undermine the wider consensus.
Ultimately, if I were the person you claim I am, I would be supporting this proposal. If my position did indeed "come from the British Weights and Measures Association" I would be supporting this proposal. If I had an "agenda of opposing metrication" I would be supporting this proposal. I am opposing this proposal. Kahastok talk 11:39, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
  1. You started the ad hominem.
  2. The fact that you accepted the sources I found showed either that they were OK or that you were too lazy to find better sources.
  3. If we don't base our information on reliable sources, what do we base it on? Imagination?
  4. Have a look at the link I provided. You were the holdout on using Celsius on the Falkland Islands.
  5. I note your statement that implies that you are not associated with the British Weights and Measures Association. Michael Glass (talk) 12:42, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
No - there is no reason why we should be required to use imperial first in contexts where metric is far more common, such as temperature. But I will say that the contexts (such as temperature) that are primarily metric-first tend to be more mixed than those that are overwhelmingly imperial-first (like distance), so a rule favouring imperial in case of significant inconsistency may be appropriate. Alternatively, we might simplify the rule by requiring all mile-derived units to come before kilometre-derived units, except as per standard exceptions and per WP:IAR. Kahastok talk 08:24, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
No to the idea of reverting to all imperial. I agree with Kahastok on that point, and I welcome his support for temperatures to be Celsius first. However, I would also say no to Kahastok's suggestion that the present compromise should be rolled back. This is Wikipedia. Policy should not be determined by the dictates of the British Weights and Measures Association. Michael Glass (talk) 10:51, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
As I note above, if I were arguing that policy should be determined by the dictates of the British Weights and Measures Association I would have supported this proposal. Policy should equally not be determined by the UK Metric Association as some would have it. I should be clear that I am happy with the present compromise, but pointing out avenues by which the alleged inconsistency that you continually bemoan might be fairly addressed. Kahastok talk 11:39, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
  • I am glad that you are happy with the present compromise. I hope that you won't push for it to be watered down. Michael Glass (talk) 12:42, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
No: If you go into a supermarket, you will notice that almost every commodity on the shelves have their quantities expressed in metric units - the only product that supermarkets sell where metric units are not required in milk in returnable containers (plastic bottles must be labeled in metric units, even if it is "568 ml"). On the other hand, a sign showing a "50 limit" is a 50 mph limit, not a 50 km/h limit (except on certain tram lines). Given this disparity (maybe the word "mess" might be better), one cannot make cast-iron rules that cover all situations. Martinvl (talk) 11:28, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment Farenheit is being used as ad hominem and nothing else. The unit is only used in the USA, so it's irrelevant for all but US articles anyhow. Current usage in the UK of a mixed bag of units of measurement is relevant to and a preoccupation of British editors. But it seems these editors will continue to argue and battle over which should prevail until the cows come home. I would be prepared to wager that that battle will continue to be waged even if the real life situation on the ground has been resolved. But we must never lose sight of the fact that we are here to serve the reader. From the perspective of the average reader, who isn't British and doesn't care about the ongoing debate in the UK, which units of measurement appear first is of little importance or relevance. Both are mandated to be displayed by MOSNUM, and one or the other can be easily parsed.

    If we use all imperial first, readers might think it quaint or quirky but will accept it. Equally, it will not cause problems to readers if we consistently use all metric first. My plea and hope is not to mix imperial and metric units even though the real life is otherwise in the UK. To continue to argue and bicker over this is to just be self-absorbed and parochial. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 17:01, 13 October 2013 (UTC)

No, Farenheit is not only used in the USA, it is in common usage in the UK too, particularly for high summer temperatures. Most UK weather websites give the reader the option of using C or F and newspapers will give a mix. Outside of a scientific environment, the UK public would use F and C in equal measure - C usually for low temperatures and F more commonly for high ones. R.stickler (talk) 19:41, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
"Common" among the over-60s perhaps. In my experience, everyone talks about the weather in Celsius, all remotely modern devices like ovens and washing machines are Celsius-only, thermometers are Celsius-only or dual-units (Fahrenheit-only thermometers are extremely rare). If only one temperature unit is given, it will invariably be Celsius (e.g. TV weather forecasts, British websites and newspapers). Archon 2488 (talk) 22:23, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
Farenheit has totally died out in Australia, even amongst the old folk, due to the fact that weather broadcasts and thermometers no longer use the old measurements. It's the most disconcerting use of the old measurements in the US. Hawkeye7 (talk) 18:51, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
No unless articles on Scotland also use Scots miles, falls, ells, etc. and articles on China use Chinese customary measurements, etc. This is exactly the sort of confusion that the metric system was invented to get rid of. Archon 2488 (talk) 23:38, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
No as there are instances where metric is preferential. Mabuska (talk)

This is absurd

I don't understand why this is being taken so far, to the point of absurdity. "Imperial for everything", "metric for everything"? This is a nuanced issue. I understand that uniformity would be preferable, but usage is not uniform, and nor can we be without favoring a point of view. It is that simple. All this talk is nothing more than a pointless debate. Neither of these options are worthwhile and neither are even worth discussing. The present system, however messy, does its best to replicate the mess that is the use of units in the UK. That is all we can hope for, and all we can do. Is it possible, then, that we can stop this madness? RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 21:26, 13 October 2013 (UTC)

It's absurd, but so is the idea that a system of measurement is a "point of view". The metric system is no more a point of view than the English language is a point of view; arguably even less so, since it was designed to be shared by people irrespective of their languages or cultures. I'd say the metric system is a point of view in the way that Arabic numerals vs. Roman numerals is a point of view. This entire debate was really settled long before any of us were born, when the primary physical definitions of the imperial units were abolished, and they were redefined in terms of metric units (this was in the 19th century). Traditionalists will moan that a pound is not "0.45359237 kg", although this is precisely what it is defined to be. Given that the units are long-redundant, they're not used by the overwhelming majority of people on Earth, and they don't have any natural relationship to one another (I was recently in an old lift with three weight-restriction signs that said "3 tons", "60 cwt" and "6720 lb" - of course, all the same quantity!), it's just a matter of waiting. Archon 2488 (talk) 22:23, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
I don't think the questions themselves are absurd. It is the way the argument progresses that is frustrating. There is a fairly simple decision tree. We have already limited the discussion to non-scientific, non-engineering, UK-related articles and decided that both imperial and metric units should be displayed. So we are currently talking about the primary units (what goes first). We can also exclude exceptional cases where everybody agrees that WP:IAR applies. There are four logical alternatives:
  • all metric
  • all imperial
  • try to reproduce real-life usage in the UK
  • something else.
The next question where no decision seems to have been documented is: "Which usage (register) should we reflect?
  • colloquial usage,
  • educational usage,
  • journalistic usage
  • scholarly usage
  • something different
  • dependent on the topic (remember that we have excluded only scientific and engineering articles from the start).
--Boson (talk) 23:12, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
However, I would first ask:
Who supports/opposes leaving the current text exactly as it is? --Boson (talk) 23:12, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
Unenthusiastic yes, it's a consensus position, as unsatisfactory as it might be. If others were to support a more progressive position I'd be happy to agree with them, but I see no evidence that they could ever be persuaded by any amount of argumentation. So long as the Peter Hitchens mentality persists in Britain, the dreaded "foreign kilometres" will never be welcome. Archon 2488 (talk) 23:38, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
Who supports/opposes closing the discussion on "all imperial" and "all metric" as both rejected?--Boson (talk) 23:12, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
Suggestion I'd propose discussing separate points separately, so rather than "all metric" etc. we could talk about heights/weights and distances separately, but I don't see those discussions progressing very far, when we seem to have people still pining for Fahrenheit. Archon 2488 (talk) 23:38, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
It's only absurd when people going around stirring up hornets' nests, deliberately putting British footballers' heights and weights into metric first in violation of the guideline, usually justified by the "follow the sources" argument. If people can't respect what's already a ridiculous fudge in the guideline by doing taking this sort of course, there's little hope for peace. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 01:55, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
Agree with Archon2488's suggestion above. I think almost everyone realises that we cannot have an all-metric or all-imperial rule at this stage. That means we are stuck with a compromise, and this means that there will be inconsistencies. i do believe that the present compromise could be tweaked. The general rule in the UK may be that heights and weights are given in imperial, but there are exceptions:
I think it would be in order either to ignore MOSNUM per IAR and follow the codes or change MOSNUM to recognise player profiles as an exception to the general rule to put imperial measures first for UK heights and weights. Michael Glass (talk) 02:01, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
The whole point in having WP:IAR is to allow for common-sense exceptions, not to allow people to subvert consensus to push their POV. Kahastok talk 17:35, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
I too agree with @Archon2488:, and I think @Boson: has posted a useful analysis above. I donโ€™t know about the UK, but have observed the mixed, transitional, or confused situation here in Canada for some time. Register and context are both significant. Most anglophone Canadians talk about personal dimensions in traditional units (we use the โ€œshortโ€ measures for weight, never stones) but official documents like driversโ€™ licences give them in metric. Road signs are exclusively metric (everywhere Iโ€™ve been, anyway), and dashboard instruments are metric-first or metric-only, while colloquial discussion of road distances & speeds is pretty evenly mixed. I havenโ€™t heard anyone for decades using Fahrenheit in the context of weather, unless e.g. describing a visit to the USA, but it still prevails, almost exclusively, for ovens, cookbooks, and related conversations. (Many more examples could be adduced.)
Ultimately itโ€™s the reader we should be considering, and the principle of least astonishment. I must say, though, as long as this whole question is about which comes first, as opposed to which to include, itโ€™s not worth a fraction of the time, electrons, & server-kittens that have been sacrificed to it.โ€”Odysseus1479 03:59, 14 October 2013 (UTC)


I've requested an admin close this frankly ridiculous discussion and hope that whoever does it sees fit to enact my suggestion of a moratorium on this ridiculous argument. Wee Curry Monster talk 11:28, 14 October 2013 (UTC)

The danger of a moratorium is that it would become impossible for anyone to have a discussion about this issue should there be any substantial change in the primary units used for certain things in the future (e.g. the acre was officially deprecated in 2010, so what if miles are officially deprecated by 2020?). It's an important stylistic point in the sense that people care about it (evidently!) and there are cases where hard-and-fast regulations are too much of a straitjacket, and editors will be (and are) upset by being forced to conform to a MOS that is tied to a certain rather conservative perception of common British usage circa 2013. Archon 2488 (talk) 13:44, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
There should be a moratorium, that this should only come up either in the context of a wholescale reorganisation of the MOS or if someone can demonstrate that the facts on the ground have changed. It would impossible to reasonably refuse to rework this rule if Britain converts its road signs or adopts 600-millilitre points, for example, but this does not apply when we have the same editors bringing up the same points month after month and year after year. Kahastok talk 17:35, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
I'm not absolutely sure which discussion you mean (since your contribution is threaded under "Who supports/opposes closing the discussion on "all imperial" and "all metric" as both rejected?") Am I correct in assuming you mean all the discussions about the text regarding use of imperial and metric measures in UK-related articles? --Boson (talk) 15:48, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
  • I believe that the present system does what it needs to do. To go so far into specific uses of units in specific cases provides the very straitjacket that Michael Glass argued against. At least, with the present system, there is flexibility. Every single instance need not be defined. When exceptions arise, discuss. That's all. And as far as a moratorium goes, I'd agree. Let's stop this nonsense and absurdity unless reliable sources demonstrate a change in usage. If road signs become metric, fine. If beer is sold in mL, fine. At present, this deprecation hasn't happened. And, to be frank, most of the conjecture here has been just that: conjecture. Very few, if any, sources have been cited on either side. The only viable option is to retain the present system, which attempts to replicate British usage. There isn't another way that is viable. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 18:58, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
  • The area that does need to be sorted out is geographic usage which is metric first in academia, in education, in public administration, in the military, in agriculture and in certain newspapers (The Guardian and in many respects, The Times). Martinvl (talk) 19:35, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
There remains no benefit at all to the encyclopรฆdia in manufacturing hair-splitting distinctions that have no basis in usage, as you wish to create between distances along roads and distances not along roads. Moreover, there is nothing that needs to be sorted out, nor any issue with the present understanding of the rule. This thread serves no further useful function. Kahastok talk 20:19, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
This POV crusade being waged is incredibly selfish and disruptive. Yes Imperial is not superior to metric and at some stage we will move to metric, however until then there are instances where Imperial is used preferentially as we all already know. I back an end to this disruption. Michael Glass however has raised grey areas that need looked at such as height and weight of people. Mabuska (talk) 22:09, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
This is why I said that things like height/weight could be productively separated from "metric only" vs. "imperial only". My own perception of this particular issue is that an encyclopedia should lean towards the somewhat more formal tone of written content such as BBC sports pages (as linked to by Michael Glass above) or, indeed, modern medical records. Commentators might well prefer imperial, but it hardly befits an encyclopedia for it to sound like a sports commentator! Similarly, some people will still insist on talking in acres, even though they are an officially-deprecated unit no longer used for land registry in the UK. I'd suggest that it would make sense to treat human heights and weights in the same way and remove the sentence about them so that the same logic as land registry as applied to them. It's completely absurd and illogical that the MOS explicitly requires measurements for two kinds of mammal to be given in a different format from every other living thing, so long as it's "in a British context".
I also don't understand why it's such a problem if people choose to discuss this on talk pages, so long as they refrain from editing pages in line with their views without consensus. Shutting down discussion is heavy-handed and unhelpful. If these exchanges offend you so much, you don't need to read them or participate in the discussions. Talk pages are divided into sections for a good reason. Archon 2488 (talk) 22:43, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
If everybody wants to close the discussion on "all imperial" or "all metric", I suggest everybody answers my question above 'Who supports/opposes closing the discussion on "all imperial" and "all metric" as both rejected?' with an unequivocal Support.
If you mean the whole discussion about UK measurements, I suggest a similar unequivocal Support in response to my question "Who supports/opposes leaving the current text exactly as it is?"
That should give an admin a basis for closure.
At this stage, I can't see on what objective basis an admin would close the discussion, but see #Current state of discussion.
Having a text that is supposed to reflect current usage and is known not to reflect that usage accurately is a recipe for strife.
Advocating generous but undefined latitude when applying the guideline but treating violations of a preferred interpretation as disruptive is another recipe for strife.
Is anyone interested in an RfC on a draft of a new wording of the relevant part of the guideline with a !vote on about 4 or 5 individual points (such as body weight of sportspeople, problem of the dead link to a possibly obsolete style guide, etc.)? I think the net increase in the length of the text would be about two lines. โ€”Boson (talk) 22:36, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Please, I beg of your soul: stop dragging this out, and prolonging this inane debate. I do not understand why you are proposing anything, or what it is you are proposing to fix. You've not pointed out a problem to fix, that I can see. There is no need for an RfC. There is no need for "proposals" that are obviously dead before they've even been conceived. The one problem which I recognize exists is "geographic distances". However, I feel like the status quo is the best possible situation. Requiring either metric or imperial to be primary in "geographic" circumstances will not sate either side. The best we can do is to leave it as it is. Individual situations can be discussed where appropriate. But a broad guideline isn't going to work, one, for lack of consensus, and two, because the situation is clearly nuanced, and not zero-sum.
I don't disagree that metric units are "the future". However, it is not the job of this encyclopedia to decide what "the future" is, before it has happened. That would be taking a point-of-view. As it stands, metric is primary in the UK except for a certain few things, like distances/speeds. There is no doubt about that. No one is doubting metric in most circumstances. But in the few where imperial is used, the encyclopedia should use it. While Archon likes to say that metrication isn't political, and while I wish that were true, the reality is that units have become politicized. Imperial is associated with Little Englanders, and metric with the pro-Europe camp. That's the way it has gone. To favor one over the other is to inadvertently imply a PoV. So, we have no alternative but to try and mimic usage, as hard as that might be. That's all. Please, I beg of you once more: no more absurd proposals, no more trivial debate. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 22:55, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
I share your desire not to drag this out, but my feeling is that it is getting dragged out because people don't listen to each other and refuse to just say "support" or "oppose", instead talking about others' motivations and how the present text is the best of all possible texts. I don't know if your comment "I don't disagree that metric units are "the future". . . it is not the job of this encyclopedia to decide what "the future" is, before it has happened. . . . in the few where imperial is used, the encyclopedia should use it." is actually addressed at me. I share this view, but see the problem as being that, as currently formulated, it does not do that. However, when one editor another tries to apply their interpretation of actual, British usage, they get an answer similar to that. My request for a quick "show of hands" on whether it was worth a try at standardizing on metric was in response to someone who made the valid point that we don't have to try and mimic actual usage and could just choose one. I thought it would take about an hour for half-a-dozen 'votes (probably rejecting it). Foolishly, I did not expect more extended discussions. Why on earth can't people just write "Oppose (followed by a couple of words) and click enter?!
To your point "You've not pointed out a problem to fix, that I can see." : I thought I had mentioned most of them, but I see the following problems (first without the solutions):
  1. The reader is referred to the content of the Times Online style guide. This is a dead link. It is also describes journalistic, not formal, encyclopedic usage. The solution is very simple.
  2. The note about retaining existing usage is in a footnote, where it is easily overlooked. The solution is very simple.
  3. The "prescription" of imperial units for speed and fuel consumption is too broad. It does not take account of actual usage for rail, air, and water transport.
  4. The "prescription" of imperial units of length (miles) is too broad. It does not take account of preferred usage of kilometres for some distances. As currently worded it is not even restricted to geographic distances. It is not really clear if it applies to anything ("some contexts" could be everything or nothing.)
  5. The "prescription" of imperial units for body statistics is too broad. For instance, it does not take sportspeople and some healthcare usage into account.
  6. The section does not specify where there is no consensus or where editorial judgement should be used, which means that WP:IAR is applied or invoked inappropriately and people get upset.
In short, if we both agree that "in the few where imperial is used, the encyclopedia should use it", the section needs rewording to reflect that reality.
We can't fix the problems if we don't acknowledge them.
โ€”Boson (talk) 00:29, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
Alright, now we are getting somewhere. As far as the Times style guide, that is merely a link to the style guide of the UK's newspaper of record. It doesn't mean it needs to be followed, and I don't think it is endorsed as the "definitive" style guide. The simple solution is updating the link with the archived version, or getting a print copy, and adding a caveat saying that it is not "gospel". I agree about the footnote. Include it in on the body, along with the current footnote that these guidelines are GUIDELINES and not "gospel", and can IAR'd in exceptional instances. Of course, this addresses your other concern about "prescription", as none of these guidelines are "prescriptions" but GUIDELINES. There is no reason to specify where there is "no consensus" as consensus changes on a case-by-case basis. I think we should just state that the WP:BRD process is preferred, and that discussion should be had at whatever the page it is that is in question, rather than here.
Right now, the style guide does what it needs to do. It states that metric is used in most circumstances. It states that some old units are still used for some things, which they are. This is the reality. Trying to get bogged down in specifics here is impossible, as there are an innumerable amount of possible exceptions. Rather than play that game, we need to make it clear that, as I already said, these are GUIDELINES, not hard and fast rules. They can be applied as needed where they are needed, and discussed where they may not fit. This is most intelligent way to do it. As far as nonsense about sportspeople, that is a discussion to be had at the appropriate WikiProjects where people more connected with the field can discuss and decide what to do. I think we need a dispersed and gradual process, not a centralized dogmatic one. That is what matters most to me. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 00:49, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
  • @RGloucester: You said: "it is not the job of this encyclopedia to decide what 'the future' is, before it has happened". Whilst I would agree with that statement, the underlying assumption is that the MOS should mirror usage in the UK. I've been trying to put forth the idea that we don't need to mirror usage. In deciding what measurements to put first, we're not deciding on "the future". This is an editorial decision pure and simple, and we can apply Imperial or metric first at complete variance to any or all publications in the USA, Australia, the UK or anywhere else โ€“ it'll be our prerogative. So from where I stand, WP:NPOV is a red herring and doesn't even come into it. Having said that, I'll just accept that "current usage" is identified as "neutral ground" or the battle front between the "imperialists" and "metrifiers", and neither camp wants to cede ground, and thus any perceived deviation will be a violation of "neutrality". So let's archive the discussion as circuitous and unproductive. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 01:44, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
I agree, let's archive it. As far as an "editorial decision", the difference is that there is no one editor of Wikipedia to defer to. Everything is based on consensus among many, many editors, rather than the direction of one or few. Given this reality, there is no hope for a policy that accepted metric or imperial solely, as you've stated. If there was an appointed "editor" in the print journalism sense, then he could choose whatever. And perhaps that would be better in a situation like this. There are both advantages and disadvantages to a vaguely non-hierarchical system, as anyone that edits this project knows. But that is neither here nor there. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 02:03, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
  • I agree that a more prominent (and more explicit) note that these are guidelines (that do not need to be observed to the letter) would go some way to solving some of the problems, but even this requires a consensus to edit the current text. I do not agree with the suggestion to link to the Wayback Machine's archive of an old version of a style guide, Since the relevant content is part of the MoS and we don't need a citation for authority or to credit The Times' intellectual effort, I see no reason for the reference at all and suggest it be removed completely. Since we need to make a change, either way, I think we should discuss the alternatives, preferably in a more structured format. --Boson (talk) 13:35, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
Any such note will be exploited to an extreme degree by those intent on pushing metrication of the entire project as effectively overriding all of the rest of the advice. As we have seen on literally thousands of articles. This is "can is not must" packaged differently. Kahastok talk 19:01, 15 October 2013 (UTC)

Current state of discussion

It looks to me as if several problems with the existing text have never been properly resolved.

  • Can someone point me to a previous RfC on the issue (preferably advertised with the {{RfC|style}} template)?
  • Has any other form of dispute resolution been tried?

I hope that the following will also help any closing admin assess the situation.

Based on the above discussion, my understanding of the current position is that

  • many (but not all) participants agree that the proposals "all metric" and "all imperial" are not viable.
  • some participants think the guideline should be based on journalistic usage (in particular the somewhat elusive Times Online style guide); others do not
  • many (but not all) participants agree that the text should attempt to reflect current usage in Britain.
  • most participants agree that the current text does not accurately reflect current usage in all respects (without liberal application of WP:IAR)

The responses to the last problem seem to be

  • some participants think the text could be left largely unchanged and the problems dealt with by a very liberal interpretation of WP:IAR, allowing the literal text of the rules to be interpreted differently.
  • some participants see others' liberal interpretation of the guidelines as a violation
  • some participants would like to introduce some reference to sources related to the specific topic (e.g. to account for sportspeople)
  • some participants would like to tweak the guideline to avoid a literal interpretation of the guideline being applied to inappropriate topics (e.g. sportspeople, rail transport statistics, personal height and weight in some healthcare contexts, some physical and economic geography contexts).

It might be better if the guideline actually stated where there is no consensus, rather than documenting an inaccurate approximation which means that in the unavoidable arguments both sides feel they are in the right. --Boson (talk) 22:36, 14 October 2013 (UTC)

"No consensus" is probably the most we can do; it's all that these discussions have ever produced. Archon 2488 (talk) 23:22, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
Suggesting that WP:IAR is a viable response to a situation that almost never occurs (a genuinely scientific instance of distance, speed, fuel consumption, quantity of draught beer/cider, quantity of bottled milk, personal height or weight, or horse size, that does not come under the rule on nominal or defined units, on a non-scientific UK-related article) is not "a very liberal interpretation of WP:IAR". Kahastok talk 06:41, 15 October 2013 (UTC)

Proposal on wording

First of all I would like to congratulate Boson for his summary of people's varying opinions (above). It is both comprehensive and fair-minded. Archon might be right about agreement, but the present wording is open to the interpretation that we must do this or that. If we changed the wording to make it clear that it was a guideline, we would get something like this: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  • In non-science UK-related articles: the main quantity is generally expressed in metric units (44 kilograms (97 lb)) particularly for engineering articles. However, imperial units can be put first in some contexts, including:
    • 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.
    • hands for horses and most other equines


  • This wording makes it abundantly clear that although imperial units can be used, this can is not a must .
  • It retains the current advice about UK usage.
  • It removes the descriptive wording in the the present advice that is so easily read as being prescriptive.
  • It removes the need for a separate subheading on UK engineering articles.
  • It removes the need for separate advice about sporting teams.
  • It is slightly simpler, shorter and more straightforward than the present wording.
  • It removes a footnote to the text that states that if consensus cannot be reached we defer to the historically stable version. Even if there was an objective way of deciding what a "historically stable version," was, this would still be a recipe for disputation. This footnote gives a veto to those opposed to change and has slipped under the radar because it does not appear in the main text.
  • I believe that this proposal could be an improvement on the present wording. However, if other editors can improve on it, that's even better. Michael Glass (talk) 02:58, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
I still see no hint of the general principles that are needed. I agree that specific advice (along these lines) is useful, but the big weakness of this entire section is the absence of the bigger picture of dos and don'ts. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 06:04, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
Not sure what bigger picture you were thinking of. Accuracy to source? Consistency of display? Conformity to local custom? All three? What did you have in mind? Michael Glass (talk) 11:31, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
I was referring to my previous remark calling for an up-front statement of general principles like clarity (units should be familiar and unambiguous) and self-consistency (units should be used consistently throughout an article; donโ€™t switch units half way through; don't change the meaning of a unit half-way through once a meaning has been introduced). Dondervogel 2 (talk) 12:12, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
Much of what you have raised is at the beginning of WP:MOSNUM or elsewhere in the policy. Michael Glass (talk) 12:36, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
In that case it is well hidden. I do not see it. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 12:40, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
I put some info on your user page. Hope that helps and that we're not at cross purposes. Michael Glass (talk) 13:03, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
Strong oppose once again, Michael's "can is not must" argument. We know from experience that Michael considers "can is not must" to be an good reason, taken alone, to mass-convert articles according to his POV. Kahastok talk 06:41, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
The predictable ad hominem nonsense about things that happened years ago. Michael Glass (talk) 11:31, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
If you don't like being called up on having gamed such rules in this way, you shouldn't have gamed them in the first place. You have no reasonable right too expect people to pretend that your considerable history in this area has not occurred. Kahastok talk 17:15, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
Sure, I documented the footballers' heights where they were not documented before. Some of them were missing. Many of them were wrong. I document them, fixed them when they were wrong, and footnoted them to the information to Premier League and the other codes. Months later, when you screamed blue murder about how terrible it was, I said I would not do it again and I have kept my word. Furthermore, the edits have stayed that way, hundreds and hundreds of them. You said you couldn't be bothered changing them so your two years of inaction speaks even louder than your bellyaching. Michael Glass (talk) 00:27, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
Oppose. Ordinarily this is the sort of wording that is generally acceptable to editors who inhabit MOS discussions because this avoids instruction creep. However, there seems to be considerable mistrust and a certain amount of ill will which means that the current wording should probably be retained, on balance. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 07:00, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
I am glad that you see the wording that is generally acceptable. Avoiding instruction creep was one of my aims and I am pleased that you saw that. It would be regrettable if acceptable wording was rejected because of personal animosity.Michael Glass (talk) 11:31, 15 October 2013 (UTC)

Comment - This issue is dragging on and on and on and on with each of these new sub-sections that will produce no consensus for change. Thus I feel the best thing is for everyone to just drop the issue for a specified period of time, say 6 months. It'll come around quick enough, trust me. Also in regards to "If we changed the wording to make it clear that it was a guideline" - all these manual of styles are guidelines regardless of whether it says it is or not, they are only to help guide people to the established Wikipedia best practice - it is not a law. Mabuska (talk) 10:06, 15 October 2013 (UTC)

Sorry that it's dragging on but the present wording leads to disputation because the wording is ambiguous. Is used is descriptive but some use it as a hard and fast order. My proposal is designed to end this by saying can be used. Then it is obvious that the can cannot be a must.Michael Glass (talk) 11:31, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
I think your statement ". . . all these manual of styles are guidelines regardless of whether it says it is or not, they are only to help guide people . . ." shows where the problem lies (because in pactice it is not true). MoS guidelines are more than a guide; they are usually treated as being very prescriptive except where they are worded to expressly define the degree of latitude . If the MoS says headings are bolded, footnotes do not come immediately before punctuation, there are no commas in the English date format, and so on, that is not just guidance, and there are bots to fix violations. When there is a choice, the MoS says so, and has rules about applying the choices (e.g. WP:ENGVAR, WP:RETAIN,etc. Guidelines sometimes say explicitly "there is no consensus . . ." or use words like "generally". However it is formulated, where there is not one fixed rule, either the choices are described or the latitude is defined. If someone repeatedly edits in contravention of the MoS and reverts bots and other editors when corrected, they will generally experience problems, articles will have problems getting to FA status, etc. --Boson (talk) 13:06, 15 October 2013 (UTC)

โ”Œโ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”˜You missed the point. Oh well, let the carousel continue. Mabuska (talk) 13:27, 15 October 2013 (UTC)

  • Oppose, wholeheartedly. Not only does this modify the engineering exception we already agreed to, but it also follows a "can not must" logic. It is quite clear that this will be used to remove imperial wholesale, and anyone that doesn't see that hasn't been paying attention. Here is what we need to do.
We should say something like the following:


  • In non-science and non-engineering UK-related articles: the main quantity is generally expressed in metric units (44 kilograms (97 lb)). Imperial units, however, are generally made primary in these excepted contexts:
  • However, in some instances, there may be disagreement about what unit to use in a specific circumstance. Some editors hold strong views for or against metrication in the UK. If there is disagreement about the primary units used in a UK-related article, discuss the matter on the article talk-page, and at the appropriate WikiProject talk-pages. If consensus cannot be reached, refer to historically stable versions of the article and retain the units used in these as the main units.


This merely moves a current footnote into the body, and specifies "generally", rather than "specifically". RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 14:00, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
This wording still raises the problem of geographic articles - length of a specified piece of land in miles, area in square kilometres and altitudes in metres? The article will look a right mess. Of course if we differentiate between the words "length" and "distance" - my Concise Oxford Dictionary defines "distance as "extent of space between", and "length" as "measurement from end to end", or in simple language, a "distance" is a measure of the void between two objects and a "length" is a measure of the matter that comprises an object. That is why we need to be more specific. Martinvl (talk) 16:13, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
I think you're manufacturing between distinctions that don't exist in usage again. The river is 50 kilometres long, of which the last 10 miles is navigable. Kahastok talk 17:15, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
No, it isn't. You will notice my mention of WikiProjects. I believe we need to devolve this discussion to places that have more specialist knowledge. Discussion here should be about the style guide specifically. The problem is that discussion here attracts people who often have little knowledge of specialist applications, but are more interested in the units themselves. By devolving power from the MoS to the WikiProjects, one is more likely to find people with interest in the field. So, for example, I propose that discussion on geography be had at the reasonably active WikiProject known as WP:UKGEO. There, it can be decided how to deal with geographic articles on a pragmatic basis, rather than on the "straitjacket" that most people seem to dislike. This seems more appropriate than dogmatically handing down dictates from the MoS. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 16:21, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
It's a good suggestion to include an as wide a participation as possible, but it should not be limited to those specifically interested in UK geography. The question of which units to use is a big deal in the UK - it is also a cultural, political, transport and nationalistic issue. If WP:UKGEO are explicitly invited to the party then so too should be those working under at least WP:UK, WP:UKPOLITICS, WP:UKROAD, WP:UKRAIL and WP:UKW. Credibility gap (talk) 20:31, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
I think that is a very good suggestion as a way forward. I would like to see what others have to say before firmly supporting it, but I think it is at least a much better basis than the current text and has a reasonable chance of gaining consensus. --Boson (talk) 16:19, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
It is good in theory, but in practice the final text should be here because this is where people from any project expect to find the information. What happens if an article is supported by two different project groups who have conflicting styles. If the definitve text is here, editors from either party know where to look otherwise, if I am editing an article, I needs to check all the projects that support the article. That was the underlying reason for the consolidation of such pages into the WP:MOS structure. (For example, I don't really care if the city in Ireland is called Derry or Londonderry, but some editors have strong views about the matter. I know that if I start my search at WP:MOS, follow the link for "Regional topics" which will take me here. In short, we need to involve the WP:UKGEO group and let them point us in the direction that should be taken (possibly a RFC on their page regarding this page). Martinvl (talk) 16:39, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
Prolonging this already-seemingly-interminable discussion does nobody any favours - which is partly why I haven't come up with a suggestion of my own. The best thing we can do for everyone is close this down. The fact that a couple of editors like the metric system is not a good reason for this whole thing to be renegotiated on an annual basis, and at this rate we're doing it much more frequently than that. Kahastok talk 17:15, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
I agree that we need to close this down. However, I'm trying to make it harder for this to happen again. Martin, I agree with you. But I propose that we implement what I've written, and, in the meantime, you consort with UKGEO on what they think is appropriate. After that has been determined we can implement it here if it is approved by consensus. How does that sound? RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 17:54, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
I agree and support implementation of RGloucester's proposal. Then we can wrap up this discussion. It is still not perfect, so I do not support a moratorium. It would be perfectly in order to raise concerns at a later date - for instance after consulting with appropriate projects, and this should be seen as constructive. --Boson (talk) 18:06, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
And I don't. The idea that this is going to "make it harder for this to happen again" is a triumph of hope over nearly half a decade of experience. I know - I thought the same when the status quo came up. The editors did not stop - if anything the frequency with those same editors brought up the same subject actually increased.
The proposal appears to be a repackaging of "can is not must". It's a little bit stronger, but not strong enough when we have editors who are quite happy to mass-convert thousands of articles against the guideline and then claim that it's OK because there wasn't an individual objection on every single article. I do not support it, and remain very far from convinced that the fact that two editors have not been able to drop the stick at any stage in the last five years is a good reason to change this guideline. It ain't broke, and we don't need to fix it. Kahastok talk 19:07, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
I am not happy about the wording "Imperial units, however, are generally made primary in these excepted contexts ... feet/inches and stones/pounds for personal height and weight". These units are important in biographies of sportsmen, but are otherwise not very important. When discussing the height and weight of sportsmen it makes sense to follow the convention of the sport concerned, particularly in the martial arts where weight categories exist. In other sports, such as rugby union, it is makes sense to use kilograms for the weights of players. particularly those in the scrum - adding eight weights in kilograms is a lot easier than adding eight weights in stones and pounds. This is a good reason not to use the word "generally". Ideally this section should be revisited on its own at a later date, preferably in conjunction with the Wiki-projects affected. I therefore suggest leaving the wording as it is - we know that it is defective, but lets concentrate on removing as much as we can from the "Other artciles" before we play with the wording. Martinvl (talk) 20:09, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
I feel like giving up. Maybe Kahastok is right. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 20:46, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
I think we must recognize that compromise is necessary. This is not a zero-sum game, as I said.
As far as your concerns Kahastok, I am really not changing the body of want currently exists. That footnote is already there. It was only modified in a minor way. It merely makes it clearer how to deal with these guidelines. In no way is it a repackaging of "can not must", which I oppose. It just makes it clear that leeway exists, as it does now, with certain circumstances. That doesn't mean that people will be able to metricate an article that would otherwise have units expressed in imperial without good reason and justification.
As far as you, Martin, I think you are not getting the matter of the thing. First of all, heights and weights are commonly expressed in imperial, which I'm sure you are aware. For example, this BBC piece today mentions "three stone" with no qualification. That is true. In specific contexts, there may be an exception. That can be discussed, just like with geography. Go to the relevant WikiProject, discuss what they think is appropriate. If they vote to have those weights expressed in metric or imperial, bring it back here and we can decide whether to include it here. What is more important, Martin, though, is that we don't get bogged down in very petty details. We cannot make a rule for every particular instance. It isn't possible. Some, if not many, articles will have to be dealt with pragmatically.
Let me state my feelings here. I only got dragged into this mess, that I otherwise would not care for at all, because I working on getting Edinburgh Trams to GA status. Luckily, it achieved that. However, on the way, people were concerned about the use fractional imperial units for a system that was drawn-up in metric. I listened, and was willing to compromise, which led to me thinking up the engineering exception. I think that some of us here, as well, must be willing to compromise. Otherwise, this will never end. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 22:50, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
Comment: I find it bizarre that a newspaper style guide is being touted as a consensus position when it, in its own right, is the subject of not a little controversy. I am not persuaded that the style of an encyclopedia can sensibly be modeled on the style of a newspaper. As for "common use", it is hardly the goal of Wikipedia to sound like a "bloke down the pub". We don't insist on filling articles on China with Chinese customary measures just to be more true to the units that Chinese people might use colloquially, nor does it cause much consternation that the Roman Empire article is horribly anachronistic in the units it uses.
Another major irritation of the ubiquitous "miles" is that editors often don't bother to specify whether they mean nautical or statute miles in contexts where such confusion is easy (i.e. air and sea), resulting in horribly confused articles such as Diana Nyad with figures like "103 miles" being bandied around, and variously converted to kilometres depending on whether it's understood to be in nautical or statute miles. Archon 2488 (talk) 23:42, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
I'm sure that the Chinese-language Wikipedia will have its own MOS, and presumably there will be room in it for use of the units commonly used in Chinese-language works. Similarly, there should be room in the English Wikipedia for the use of the units commonly used in English-language works - as used in the US for US subjects, in the UK for UK subjects, in Australia for Australian subjets, and so on. The question is at what level to pitch it, and how to establish what are the commonly used units for any given circumstances. Credibility gap (talk) 20:42, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
You really are trying to beat me down, aren't you? I've shown that I'm reasonable, to the point that I helped institute an engineering exception as a result of our discussion at Edinburgh Trams. Your examples have nothing to do with what we are talking about. And as far as a "bloke down the pub", I think you should take the spirit of WP:UCN into account. While it does not directly apply here, it emphasizes that Wikipedia does not try to be official or formal for the sake of it, but instead tries to be comprehensible to the average reader. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 23:49, 15 October 2013 (UTC)
Sorry, I wasn't having a go at you (or anyone) in particular. My comment was meant to stand on its own: I see the attempt to settle this debate by invoking the Times Style Guide as an exercise in clutching at straws, but then maybe it's the best straw there is. Archon 2488 (talk) 00:01, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
RGloucester, I think your wording is, on balance, a move in the right direction. I urge you not to give up just yet. Some will oppose any change, there is nothing you can do about it. However, I have two positive suggestions that I hope you will consider:
  • It is wrong to impose imperial heights and weights as primary measures on sporting codes that primarily use metrics. This obviously applies to weightlifting but it also applies to the various football codes. I suggest adding a footnote like this: For sporting team profiles, follow the usage of the national bodies of the relevant sport where appropriate. Include conversions other units, whether Imperial or metric. Note the where appropriate. Some wiggle room is necessary.
  • The footnote you put in the text is contentious because it gives the power of veto to those who oppose change. I advise you to leave it where it is. We can always come back and discuss it later.
With those two changes I would support your suggested amendment. Michael Glass (talk) 00:27, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
It is wrong to assume that the unit choice of the provider of the information should be used. We should decide our own units, based on whatever criteria we decide. That the FA may choose kilograms or the Jockey Club stones and pounds for person weights is irrelevant. We must decide, based on our own rules, what we believe our readers will be most comfortable with. Credibility gap (talk) 20:57, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • It doesn't give a veto to those who oppose justified change, only change for change's sake. It is already there, and as a footnote it has no less meaning. Merely that some people may not see it. It belongs in the body, where people can see it. As far as sporting bodies, I am willing to consider such an exception. I'd like, however, to see what sporting bodies say on the matter before implementing it. Would someone care to provide a bit of research? RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 01:18, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
Yes. In the interest of coming to some agreement I'll withdraw my request to keep that paragraph as a footnote. I'd be happy to write to the sporting codes, if that would help (or not, if that would help more! Please advise.) .Michael Glass (talk) 10:56, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
Whilst this ought not to be a zero-sum game, the way this entire debate has been playing out tells me that the "two sides" perceive it to be zero-sum โ€“ if the "metrifiers" win, we the "imperials" lose, and vice versa. I would strongly contend readers' needs ought to be put first. Unfortunately, their needs are being ignored at worst or made subservient to those of editors' whims and desires at best. Both sides are dug deep in their trench warfare. The reader is losing out in this dรฉbรขcle, making the end game a negative (or lose-lose) situation.

Nobody has been able to state the concrete benefits of using "'either metric or imperial' for bridges and tunnels and imperial units for road distances and speeds" other than the rule artificially keeps the peace. Has anyone thought about how utterly ludicrous it is to administer such a dichotomous rule within one subject category that is the roadways, and confusing readers โ€“ I mean, where the fuck does a bridge or tunnel start and a road end? That rule should be removed. Classic case of too many cooks spoil the broth. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 01:52, 16 October 2013 (UTC)

It is pretty ludicrous, from a purely practical standpoint, that imperial has survived at all, or that this patchwork system is maintained. The reality is that that is the way it is. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 01:59, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
Most readers of en.wp aren't British. They will neither know nor care about the debate raging within the UK; the "delicate" current balance there vis ร  vis units of measure is utterly irrelevant to them. What they will be surprised and puzzled by is the patchwork of measures used in UK articles, with apparently little industrial logic, that is not replicated anywhere else. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 02:28, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
No moreso surprised than when they find the spelling "centre" for "center" or the grammatical form "Edinburgh Council have opened an inquiry intoโ€ฆ", or "goods wagon" for "boxcar". That's the way WP:STRONGNAT goes. I agree that in an ideal situation, the English Wikipedia would develop a system similar to the Chinese one, whereby there is a toggle option that gives on either traditional or simplified characters. We could have, a toggle option that did various national English varieties. However, we do not have this. Nor will ever, judging by how people feel on this issue. Dealing with the situation that we have, there is no solution viable other than what we have. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 02:42, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
@RGloucester: You wrote "As far as you, Martin, I think you are not getting the matter of the thing. First of all, heights and weights are commonly expressed in imperial, which I'm sure you are aware." I agree that Hello magazine and the like use imperial units, but if you go to the local gym or to the army, you will find that kilograms are widely used - people are concerned about the weight they are carrying or pulling as a fraction (or multiple) of their own body weight. Likewise, in the medical profession, heights and weights are recorded using metric units. In other words people who actually use their weights for onwards calculations use metric units, those who merely listen to what the advertisers say are happy with imperial units. Like I said, it is a mess and sorting out this mess is outside Wikipedia's remit. All that we can do is to tweak things for editorial consistency, ideally at a category by category basis which is why I object to tightening the rules on a Wikipedia-wide basis. Martinvl (talk) 05:12, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
The reality is that how weight/height are (primarily) expressed depends heavily on context, as Martin points out. Many sports lean heavily towards metric, as does medicine. It's common for such fundamentalist metricationists as the BBC to give e.g. rugby players' heights and weights in metres and kg only, which is far more radically pro-metric than anything that anyone here is suggesting.
The reason for the road/bridge/tunnel rule is that UK civil engineering also uses the much-dreaded SI units, and it made no sense to "censor" this fact by putting imperial first in this context, so it was very anachronistic for these articles to prefer imperial to metric (or can we not metricate the relevant Wikipedia articles even after there has been metrication in the real world? What kind of double standard is that?) Archon 2488 (talk) 09:45, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
When have you ever heard Gary Lineker, Sue Barker or John Inverdale give a player's dimensions in metric units? I don't believe I ever have. Not even in conversions - it's always in imperial only. The BBC are far from "fundamentalist metricationists". The reason we don't look to their standard is that so far as we know they don't have one. Kahastok talk 17:16, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
My view is that an encyclopedia should strive to follow the rules for written content/usage, not the conventions of spoken languange (which is obviously much less formal). In any case, my own favorite sport is skiing, which is, mercifully, quite consistently metric :) Of course I know that the BBC are not "fundamentalist metricationists"; I was being facetious. Nonetheless, they still refrain from caving in to the Daily Mail mentality and banishing the "foreign" metres and kilograms in favor of imperial, at least in written format. Entering the name of a sports personality into the UK version of Google will return their dimensions in metric-only, so my point is that this is hardly something that the average British person will be completely unused to seeing. Archon 2488 (talk) 19:32, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
It is still BBC usage. I note that it's actually not difficult to find BBC using imperial units even for measures defined in metric - and yet it's been argued before that the fact that an article uses metric for a distance somewhere means that the BBC is entirely metric. In general, this evidence is irrelevant. Kahastok talk 19:59, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
I'm also aware that it depends on context, that is true. But, as the revised guideline states, "generally", as it always specified in the footnote. If, as Michael Glass has proposed, we follow sporting bodies in the UK on this matter, that might work. I hope that he provides research of what these bodies do in terms of units (that's the go ahead, MG). "Sporting bodies" being defined as the bodies that regulate a given sport in the UK. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 13:11, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
FWIW, we should be clear that any evidence should be sources actually discussing usage, not instances of usage. Michael often comes up with instances of usage in these discussions, and infers that they are typical without further evidence. I've known Michael cite in the past the fact that a particular page of the website of the Prince's Rainforests Project uses metric units as solid proof that the Royal Family only use metric measures. In an article. This is not sufficient. Kahastok talk 17:16, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
And what is "usage" other than the ensemble of "instances of usage"? The overwhelming majority of British entities and people don't follow any kind of set script or a priori logic in determining what units they'll use, so the entire idea of a centralized Style Guide acting as a set of commandments to dictate usage is extremely artificial. Archon 2488 (talk) 19:32, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
I have frequently seen Michael use the argument that, because a single page that is not on the subject of units of measure happens to use a given unit first, that means that the entire organisation has adopted a formal policy of preferring that unit. Being Michael, it is always a metric unit (because he chooses his sources for the units they use). This is the danger here.
We cannot infer that a style guide exists, and if it exists what its contents are, simply from the fact that someone chose to use a given unit on a single or even multiple pages. We need a source that actually describes usage, not one that merely uses measurements. Kahastok talk 19:59, 16 October 2013 (UTC)
I agree with what you've said. I merely want to see what turns up. I have a discerning eye. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 21:40, 16 October 2013 (UTC)

I have written to Premier League, British Weightlifting, UK Rugby Union, British horse racing and an organisation that runs the web pages for the Rugby League about their policy. I will let people know of any replies I get. (For the record I don't presume that an entire website uses one system of measurement or other just from one or even several web pages. However, when dozens or hundreds of web pages use the same style - as happens with Premier League, Superleague and the Rugby Union - a consistent pattern is obvious.) Michael Glass (talk) 04:03, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

Sure it will interesting to hear their comments, but we should no more allow their opinions to influence us than we should allow the regulations that politicians have created for businesses to use to influence us. We should agree our own criteria - based on common usage, written usage, spoken usage, educational usage, government usage, news provider usage, or whatever we see fit, regardless of laws and conventions of others. Credibility gap (talk) 21:07, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Thanks for taking the initiative. I'm sure we're all looking forward to some definitive positions, assuming they all reply with the goods. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 09:43, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
To clarify somethingโ€”is Kahakstock the editor who has persistently and pretty aggressively been on a "keep imperial measurements as the main ones in UK-related articles" campaign? If so, I'm uncomfortable with the multiple username changes and the one-issue ranting that has lasted years; I have come under machine-gun fire from that user for daring to support the general thrust of Michael Glass's attempt to modernise WP in this matter.

One might accuse Michael Glass of being one-eyed, but I believe his proposed texts are getting nearer the mark. While WP should not be leading the pack, in this case it is a matter of not being a drag on the pack. And let's remember that putting metric units first and then converting them robs no older person in the UK (or the US) the ability to instantly know what the measurement is, in their system. Tony (talk) 12:32, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

But should we defy British usage in certain areas to "modernize" the encyclopedia? And, regardless, that will never be a consensus position. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 14:45, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
Tony frequently shows up in these sorts of discussions to accuse me of all sorts of things (generally, as in this case, untrue), while refusing to make even the vaguest objection to the poor conduct of those he agrees with. Notice, for example, that he has no objection to Martin's biased RFC. This is normal.
As to the substance of the point, Tony says that "WP should not be leading the pack". But he proposes that we do precisely that. Anything significantly more metric than the status quo would be "leading the pack". If we were "being a drag on the pack", we would endorse feet for mountain height, pounds and long tons for all weights, pints and gallons for all capacity - all of which are common but not overwhelmingly so. We do not do any of those things. Kahastok talk 17:26, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Regardless, I thank Michael Glass for his efforts on the matter. If they reply, we will finally have something definitive with regard to sport. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 15:34, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
I do not believe so. I do not see why units used by national federations are relevant, and would not accept e-mails as definitive sourcing for articles. I feel we are in danger of seriously overcomplicating this point - use feet/inches and pounds with no stones for basketball players and American footballers, feet/inches and stones/pounds for jockeys, cricketers and rugby league players, but use metres and kilograms for weightlifters and rugby union players, or something similarly odd. There are ways of dealing with this but creating a list of preferences for different sports is not appropriate. Kahastok talk 17:26, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Let us at least see what they say before deciding what to do. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 20:50, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
I have previously been told that not even British law is relevant to settling the portentous question of British measurement units, because only "usage", defined with a suitable degree of vagueness, is relevant. Now we learn that usage in real-life is not relevant either. What, I wonder, would it take to change Kahastok's mind? A communiquรฉ directly from Mount Sinai? What evidence could possibly meet such arbitrarily strict criteria? Archon 2488 (talk) 21:02, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
My objection is to a rule that gives us a massively divided usage, so that we're saying some sports are in some units and other sports are in other units. We could easily create a very long list of sports and say this sport should use this, and this sport should use that and this sport should use the other. I'm saying, while all in one system isn't a goer, let's try and keep some level of simplicity here and not create division for the sake of division.
I don't actually see much issue with the status quo. Strict consistency with sources is not relevant or necessary because we don't have source-based units. If the issue is consistency across a given sport, there are ways we can deal with it without creating a massive list of sports and the units we should use for each. Kahastok talk 21:09, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
I'm not a "metricator" or "imperialist", as I have already declared. As I have already said, the problem with the status quo is that current rules already give us a massively divided usage, quite contrary to what has been declared above. Not only is it divided, it's inconsistent. The status quo is purely editor-centric and DGAF about how ridiculous its application looks in our articles. It's fine to have some exceptions in extremely limited (i.e. specialist) contexts โ€“ horses are measured in hands, oil is traded in barrels and gold is traded in ounces โ€“ which I don't think are in any way under threat, nor should these be changed. But people's weights and heights, FFS? How logical is it for a stretch of English roadway to be 2.5 miles (4.0 km) long when an English bridge is 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) long in the same article? And would we have a fist fight over the height of a person if that person is Anglo-German? We all acknowledge that metrication exists (already good), but there is heavy resistance from some quarters to the encroachment of metrication โ€“ furrowing to enforce that divide. Our guidance towards metrication within MOSNUM is already a lot more prescriptive in this respect than the prevailing ethos for our MOS.

En.wp articles about British subjects are not read only by British readers who cannot relate to metric measures โ€“ we already mandate a conversion for convenience. The more well-known the subject, the greater likelihood of it having a wider, less parochial, audience, and less of an excuse for the mix-and-match approach adopted here. With the significant exception of the US, all of the native English-speaking world (Ireland, Australia) has gone metric. Hell, even China has gone largely metric!

Now Michael Glass has taken the initiative to ask various sporting bodies about their policies and style guides, and I think he deserves support and encouragement. Instead, one editor launched what seems to be a tirade against it, as if to pre-empt or pre-judge the outcome. However, if these organisations can be persuaded to not just communicate these to us but formally publish these elements of style, I believe that would go a long way to weakening continued opposition. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 02:20, 18 October 2013 (UTC)

I don't necessarily disagree in concept, only in practice. If I was the chief editor of a print encyclopedia called "Wikipedia", I would most likely mandate sole metric usage with conversions in cases where they are needed, for sake of aesthetic and mathematical consistency. This is, however, not possible on Wikipedia, which isn't a print encyclopedia. It is edited by everyone, and is made based on consensus. Given those restraints, how do you propose we do anything like that? It is impossible, and contrary to the project's interest. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 02:32, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Assuming that your comment is in response to mine, I'd say that this is purely an aesthetic matter. MOSNUM already "mandates" dual units for everything, and it's only a case of what gets put first. WP's editors often write in measures they are comfortable with but usually don't object of someone changes the order. Except in this case, where a number of quixotic contributors object to seeing "4 kilometres (2.5 mi)" and insist on "2.5 miles (4.0 km)". It's pure dogma that results in articles being more of a mess than they ought to be. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 02:53, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
Even if it is "dogma", the fact remains that this damn dogma makes consensus for what you propose impossible to reach, even on such a petty aesthetic matter. So, given that circumstance, what do you propose we do to make the compromise system in place as decent as it can be? RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 03:06, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
I come back to my point that the important thing is what is good for the reader and not what a group of editors cobble together as a consensus. On-Wiki, there will be no revolution, and any change will be incremental by definition. I think we should be able to forge a consensus (but not without opposition) for wider use of metric units first if we are able to obtain definitive positions from sporting bodies. "Usage" at the level of the common man will be ever impossible to measure, but widespread adoption by bodies governing the major British sports at the expense of imperial measures, whilst not conclusive, will be strong evidence that "usage" is changing or has changed. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 03:23, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
We shall see, I suppose. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 13:48, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
  • I've come to the conclusion that this debate is pointless. Heavy doses of bad faith of being dished out, and no one is getting anywhere with any arguments. Let's just wind this operation down for the time being, as peacefully as we can? That's the best possible ending here. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 21:06, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

We need direction

Blimey, what a mess! We need some direction, focus and discipline here. Rather than squabbling and shoving personal views of which unit system is better or worse at each other, I think it is time to sit back and review what exactly we are looking to achieve. My view is that we need to consider the audience of our articles and the ethos of Wikipedia. The sort of things I mean, and I thought Boson's piece way up above somewhere asking about which register we should use hit the spot, is to try and figure out rationally and objectively a consistent and supportable rationale for choosing the units to use. Borrowing from Boson's piece: should we be reflecting common or colloquial usage, educational or academic usage, journalistic usage, or what. Similarly should we follow the established Wikipedia practice of accommodating common local usage as for the variety of English. Let's throw some ideas around as to how we can resolve this, and not pander to our own prejudices for a refreshing change, eh? And let's have intelligently reasoned rationales behind all suggestions too please, and not just "because it's the law" or "because it's how the Dailymail does it". Let's try and make a lasting agreement here, that all will subscribe to. Credibility gap (talk) 21:30, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

We have a lasting agreement. The issue here is the inability of just two editors to drop the stick.
The status quo is a fine representation of British usage. It is based on the style guide of the UK's newspaper of record (the Times), a style guide that is trying to exactly the same thing as we are - reflect British usage without moving too far to one way or the other, but at the same time it is our rule and not somebody else's. It calls for imperial measures only in those cases where imperial usage is overwhelmingly more common and metric units where usage is mixed or generally metric. It simple enough to produce a system that allows an appropriate level of consistency without manufacturing meaningless distinctions or producing long and complex lists of units. It's fine as it is.
It isn't perfect - but we're not gaining anything by insisting on continuing to talk about it. This is helping nobody. This particular discussion has been going on for five years, and this particular instance has been going on for months. It doesn't need more talk, it needs to end. As soon as possible. Kahastok talk 22:03, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
We here on WP do not follow a single style guide and we may have our own style. We may refer to or draw inspiration from any (or none) of the other established style guides. So what's the big deal about "The Times being the "British newspaper of record", assuming that were a fact? Britain has gazettes where official notices are published, and the Times has been known to go against the grain too. If we followed Murdoch's rag, we would be using mdy dates although we know most Brits (and The Guardian) predominantly use dmy. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 21:59, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
  • @Credibility gap: - The good arguments have pretty much been exhausted. "Resolve this", but on one level, I have to ask, "Resolve what?". The present system already includes both systems of units side-by-side, so there is no issue of comprehension. Exceptions exist, as does IAR, so nothing that is justified by reliable sources as being in one system or another will be excluded from being in that system. Kahastok is right. Wind it down. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 22:23, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

No. The good arguments have not been exhausted. Credibility Gap is arguing for the same as I am: some clear and uncontroversial principles to guide one's choice of units, irrespective of the units system. I have stated the (proposed) principles twice already, so I will not repeat them again here. Counter-proposals are welcome. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 06:52, 18 October 2013 (UTC)

I've never understood what you've said, so that makes it pretty hard to comment. And, by the way, very little here will be "clear and uncontroversial". RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 13:00, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
In that case I will repeat my suggestion a third time: I think it would be useful to precede the section entitled "Units" with some guiding principles about the choice of units, transcending the disccussion of "which units system?". For example
  • Units are familiar and unambiguous
  • If an article begins in one unit (e.g., yard) it does not switch to another (e.g., metre) half-way through
  • If a unit is defined as one quantity (e.g., decade meaning ten years) it does not switch to another meaning (e.g., decade meaning factor 10 in frequency) half-way through
These principles seem uncontroversial to me. Why would anyone object? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 14:56, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
  • "Familiar and unambiguous" varies from person-to-person. And, to be frank, British usage may well and truly switch from metres to yards depending on the context. I wouldn't oppose your proposal, but it wouldn't solve the issues that people are upset about. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 15:03, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
I'm reasonably happy with Dodervogel's principles, but RGloucester's points are valid. It is fair to say that units that are familiar to some are unfamiliar to others. I also note that the tone of the advice is to favour familiar units (be they imperial, metric, US customary or field-specific) over unfamiliar units, and where unfamiliar units are appropriate there there's normally a good contextual reason for it (such as, we don't know what the conversion should be, quotation, nominal/defined units...).
In the second point I would add the words "in the same context" before "half-way through" in the second point. There is nothing in principle wrong with measuring airline height in feet but runway length in metres, as I believe is the norm in the aviation world. Kahastok talk 16:48, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
As long as that flexibility was allowed for, the proposal would be sound. However, I do wonder what an "unfamiliar unit" would be? Like a chain or furlong? Or are yards unfamiliar? Metres? I don't see many instances where we'd ever even consider using chains or furlongs, excepting the specific instances that they might be used, like railway chaining and horse races. So, what is "unfamiliar"? RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 17:02, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
My own view is that it would be difficult to argue, if we added a general rule "units are familiar and unambiguous", that any units currently explicitly recommended for use are not "familiar and unambiguous". Though that's never been a barrier before.
There always used to be advice that scientific topics should use the units typically used in the science concerned, with different units depending on how specialist the topic is. We used to deliberately refuse to recommend SI specifically, but instead refer to units in most common usage internationally - but this was lost with the general push to promote SI. This is a significant loss to the guideline and made it much clearer that familiar units are preferred.
To take an extreme example, people above are complaining that using WP:IAR for genuinely scientific uses of imperial-first contexts on non-scientific UK-related articles was overly broad. Yet every single time measurement on Wikipedia longer than a day is currently barred by the MOS and only acceptable through IAR. According to the strait-jacket interpretation of WP:UNITS, because the year is not given any standing under SI (with good reason - not every year is the same length), we cannot say that something "took ten years". According to our rules the best we can do is 3652 or 3653 days (adjusted for precision).
Years aren't the only such units: feet for airline height or inches for screen width are both non-SI units and by a strict reading of this rule are not allowed - yet are preferred in most countries and routinely used on Wikipedia. We would do well to move back toward a wording such as "units in most common usage internationally, which in most cases will be SI or Non-SI units mentioned in the SI, but may include other units in specific contexts" for articles without specific national ties. Kahastok talk 17:32, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
I'm not sure that is the case that use of dual units as asserted above are the "norm in the aviation world". Sure that Boeing 777 is measured in feet and the Airbus A380 is stated in metres; the runway at LAX is stated in feet and that of Roissy is in metres, but that's more to do with the propensity of Americans to use feet and Europeans metres, and to extend it as some sort of universal custom and practice seems to be pushing the boat out rather a lot. OTOH, the industry journal Flight International seems to employ the "metric first" principle. Do we need to write to the British airports to get their policy on units of measure too, when we already have this and this? -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 21:39, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
You're focussing on the example and missing the point. The point is that we might perfectly legitimately use the different units for the same dimension in different contexts. I could have pointed at millimetres for rainfall and feet for airline altitude. The point is the same. I would be happy with Dondervogel's second principle, so long as it applies to units in the same context. There is no reason why we need to apply the same system even in different contexts. Kahastok talk 22:03, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
That seems to make sense. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 17:49, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
@Kahastok you seem to be reading WP:UNITS very differently than I am. I don't see anything in there that says or implies that non-SI units are "banned" nor that would justify a "strait-jacket interpretation". I see a lot of "generally" an "in most cases". The only ruels that even purport to be hard and fast are those specifying NON-SI units in particular cases, UK Road distances and speeds, for example, and the special case of "Nominal and defined quantities" which use the original units. Unless the "strait-jacket interpretation" is to read "generally" to mean "in every case without exception". If it is, then that seems a very odd interpretation to me. DES (talk) 18:09, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
I appreciate that you may not have been reading the above. I have also rejected such an interpretation, including in the UK-related case, but others insist upon it. I nonetheless feel that my suggested text, or something similar, would be an improvement. Kahastok talk 18:14, 18 October 2013 (UTC)

Principles for choice of units: a proposal

I propose the following text be added at the top of the section entitled โ€œUnitsโ€, preceding the detailed discussion of what units system to use in which context.

Units are chosen according to the following principles of clarity.
  • Units are familiar: familiar units (e.g., yard or metre) are preferred over unfamiliar ones (e.g., fathom or decametre).
  • Units are unambiguous: unambiguous units (e.g., tonne or joule) are preferred over ambiguous ones (e.g., ton or calorie).
  • Units are used consistently: If an article begins in one unit (e.g., yard) it does not switch to another (e.g., metre) half-way through; if a unit is defined as one quantity (e.g., kilobyte meaning 1000 bytes or calorie meaning 4.184 joules) it does not switch to another meaning (e.g., kilobyte meaning 1024 bytes or calorie meaning 4.184 kilojoules) half-way through.

Discuss. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 08:52, 19 October 2013 (UTC)

I don't think it's necessarily a bad idea to present the general principles first; it would help make editors aware of the possible conflict of different principles. However, I am not happy with the proposed text. I think something like "prevalent in the field concerned" would be a more relevant principle, though - unless we want to remove the UK rules - we would need to add something about the "geographical" usage. This basically means basing our usage on reliable sources, though I agree with Kahastok that we should avoid that wording, because it might be interpreted as supporting a mixture of usage where different sources are used arbitrarily. Though consistency is a goal (one goal), I don't think it should be stressed to the exclusion of other goals (e.g. prevalence in the field, retaining units used by sources that are paraphrased or referred to, e.g. laws). Usage of different units in one article (explained where necessary) could result where other principles are given more weight than consistency in a particular situation. And, of course, we need to continue giving conversions, as now. Some of this may be covered by "How to present quantities" but I suspect that text could also be improved and it could be grouped with other principles in one section. --Boson (talk) 12:02, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
I would say:
  • Consistency should be a goal only within a given context. Speaking generally, clearly we should not arbitrarily measure this mountain in metres and that mountain in feet. But the fact that we measure that mountain in feet does not mean that we cannot measure rainfall in millimetres.
Furthermore, in some circumstances, consistency should always be sacrificed: where are nominal or defined quantities in different systems, in quotations and so on. MOSNUM already makes that clear.
  • I believe the understanding has always been to use the most prevalent units, whatever they may be, in the general case - even if they are not recommended under SI. The current advice is to use SI regardless.
  • For articles with specific national ties, the principle should be that we accept local usage. This is exactly the same principle as is used for dates, and for spelling, and I see no reason why units of measure should be any different. There is no reason why we cannot use the US customary system on US-related articles, or a reasonable approximation to the British mixture of units on UK-related articles. This needs to be defined explicitly by MOSNUM, and it needs to be a simple system that provides appropriate variation without creating meaningless distinctions.
yIn a UK context, for example, it is inappropriate to use any measure other than miles for point-to-point distances while Britain retains miles on its road signs. Doing anything else creates a pointless complication that we simpl don't need, a meaningless distinction that does not exist in reality. I believe that consensus among UK editors is clear on this point, as demonstrated (for example) at the recent RFC at WT:UKGEO. Claiming "geographical usage" started off as an excuse for subverting that consensus and I see nothing in the arguments for it since to persuade me that it is currently being used in any other way.
This issue about simplicity is also the reason why I object to creating a list of sports and the units to be used for personal heights and weights for each.
  • When it comes down to it, there is no strong need to refactor or change the advice on British units. People make all sorts of suppositions about our current advice, but the fact is that it is based on the advice of an eminent publication (the Times, the UK's newspaper of record) that is trying to do exactly the same thing as we are trying to do - approximate British usage with a few easy-to-follow rules. It makes sense to base our advice on that given by others who are trying to do the same thing as we are.
And let us remember that, despite the frequent discussions, this advice is not controversial across Wikipedia as a whole. Very few editors have a problem with it - it's just that those that do have a habit of starting up the same discussions, over and over again. They are the same editors who insist that there can be no middle ground between absolute requirement that we use these units on one hand, and a complete free-for-all in which the advice can be ignored without reason other than personal preference on the other.
  • Source-based units, in the hands of the editor who pushes them, has always meant narrow source-based units. Not, use the most prevalent unit in general, or follow usage in general, but use the specific unit used by the specific source used to justify the measurement, ignoring entirely all considerations of consistency, logic or overall prevalence. In practice, however, said user searches for sources that use metric units and replaces existing sources, insisting that source-based units means that the fact that he's switched the source is sufficient to convert the article. The effect is to push metrication against the spirit of WP:UNITS.
Kahastok talk 13:04, 19 October 2013 (UTC)

Kahastok says,

In a UK context, for example, it is inappropriate to use any measure other than miles for point-to-point distances while Britain retains miles on its road signs.

However, even a UK government department does not always keep to this rule. Take this example:[7] . If a UK government department does not keep to this rule, this rule looks to me like an inappropriate imposition on editors.

There is also the question of instruction creep. The section on which unit to use and how and why seems to be about to grow like Topsy, with provisions and qualifications being piled on top of suggestions and instructions and with headings and subheadings threatening to sprout in lush abandon. Instead of adding rules, perhaps we should be looking at how we could trim and cut. Already we have the curious situation where UK engineering articles have their own subheading while 'all other articles' a far wider array of articles, is merely a dot point. Also, we have duplications, such as two instructions to prefer miles, both slightly different. I think perhaps we need to start with the general and then discuss the exceptions and special cases. Michael Glass (talk) 14:13, 19 October 2013 (UTC)

I don't want any more rules. I'm happy with what we've got. I'll accept the principles Dondervogel cites with qualifications, but I believe that those principles are already understood to be part of the rules.
You argue that we should make the rule simpler, while at the same time arguing that we should make it more complicated. And I find the fact that you cite a page that puts kilometres to the left of miles as definitive proof that we should in general put something other than miles first for point-to-point distance demonstrates my final point very well. Kahastok talk 14:29, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
I think this is one situation where the guidance should be speaking to the editors and saying something like "in general, (miles / km) should be used to express geographic distances in the UK". That is precisely because of the fact sources will differ for any number of reasons (the preference of the author, the target audience, etc) and may not reflect common usage.
Road signage is a good indicator of the most commonly understood unit - if/when UK switches to metric road signs, then miles will rapidly become less used by general public.
The UK government uses metric for most things, but its plain that miles are the most commonly understood unit of distance in Britain. IMO that is the only reason miles are mentioned on that Environment Agency page at all - if the UK was fully metric, there would be no need for reference to miles.
To be honest, changing "miles, miles per hour, and fuel consumption in miles per imperial gallon" to "geographic distances in miles, speeds in miles per hour, and fuel consumption in mile per imperial gallon" would suffice. No one would consider using miles for shorter distances (eg the length of a car).--Nilfanion (talk) 14:52, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
FWIW I actually proposed something very similar to this a month ago. I'd suggest "geographic distances and lengths in miles" in case someone tries to argue that a length should be in one unit and a distance in another (which is precisely the sort of thing you have to expect here), but other than that I'm happy with it. Kahastok talk 15:49, 19 October 2013 (UTC)

Firstly, I wasn't suggesting that we should prefer kilometres to miles as a general rule. That would be inappropriate as the UK uses miles on its roads. However, when the Environment Authority put metric distances first, this was in the context of river traffic. This was therefore a special case, and I do not think the general rule should override the specific in this context. When a government authority usage appears to be out of character, there could be an important reason for it, In this case, the speed limit on boats was 8km/h, so the rules of boating could be different. In this case, it would be more appropriate to follow the usage of the Environment Authority unless there was a compelling reason to do otherwise.

We could not do this if the rules are completely hidebound. However, we could accomplish this easily by saying that while the UK generally uses metrics for many measurements, it generally uses miles for distances and so on. This would leave enough room to account for all those pesky exceptions. It only becomes difficult if you try to specify every exception.

Take the sporting codes that prefer metric measures (or imperial measures). If you try to specify every code it's a nightmare on steroids. However, if you say that in the UK you generally give heights in feet and inches, then you don't have to specify that this and that code and the NHS use metric measures.

I believe the problem isn't metrics, or following the sources, or editors who happen to favour one system of measures or the other, At the end of the day, the priority is accuracy of measurement, not the measures they were done in. It does not really matter if the height of St Paul's Cathedral in London is given in metres or feet first, as long as the information is accurate and verified from a reliable source. In my opinion, accuracy and verifiability should come first. As the next consideration, look at consistency of measurement etc., but accuracy should come first. Michael Glass (talk) 15:34, 19 October 2013 (UTC)

This is what I advocated. The addition of the word "generally" and the increased prominence of the footnote goes a long way to solving most of the problems discussed here, without severe new implications. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 15:44, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
There are severe new implications because "generally" will be read by Michael as endorsing any and all exceptions he wants. "Can is not must". Source-based units. Kahastok talk 15:51, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
You can try as hard as you want to defend the status quo; you're merely rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic of the imperial system. Talk about backing a losing horse (measured, of course, in hands for the time being - none of those horribly decimal metres, than you very much). I've honestly stopped caring; in a hundred years (probably much less than that, I suspect) the pro-imperial position will sound rather like that of the people who belived that escalators would give people travel sickness at the turn of the 20th century. The mere fact that the imperial system is being loudly defended by people whose ignorance of it is so total that they neither know nor care about something as basic as how many fluid ounces there are in a pint, is a fitting statement of how dire the pro-imperial situation actually is. The very fact that you need a "must" to enforce the use of archaic units is absolutely irrefutable evidence that you are on the losing side of history. Archon 2488 (talk) 23:07, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
Your personal attacks are amusing because they spectacularly miss the point. I am not arguing for the maintenance of the imperial system in the United Kingdom. Never have.
I am arguing that Wikipedia should reflect the units currently used in the United Kingdom. If the UK had metric speed limits and metric distances on road signs and used the Irish system of beer by the 568-ml "glass" and so on, my position would be that UK-related articles should reflect that. But that isn't the situation that exists in reality. Wikipedia shouldn't be taking any side for or against metrication, and the status quo ensures that it does not.
The main reason why this topic is so difficult is because this rule in particular has a couple of editors who insist on lawyering it on a massive scale. As a rule it isn't that controversial. I have made it clear that in my view, the rules can be ignored if there is a good reason - but that personal preference and alignment with a specific source are not good reasons, and that words like "can" and "generally" have been abused in the past. Kahastok talk 08:05, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
And the effect of all of this is that you would continue to try and force your own POV on this matter on to UK-related articles. It's the standard stuff. Source-based units so that Michael can choose metric sources. Remove any suggestion that we should follow these rules and Michael will argue for metrication and narrow source-based units because "can is not must". And Michael's speculation always trumps MOSNUM rules. If you didn't want all of this to be read between the lines of your posts Michael, you really shouldn't have spent the last five years pushing your POV in this way. Kahastok talk 15:49, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
  • I think that Mr Glass understands that 'generally' means the majority of the time, and that exceptions are exceptions, not the rule. 'Generally' is not 'can not must'. It means that imperial units are used in a circumstance unless there is a justified reason for changing them. And if there isn't a justified reason, and a squabble breaks out, the footnote that would be moved into the body makes it clear that article should return to its stable form prior to the dispute, protecting the guideline to use imperial units in certain contexts. I understand that you've been in the trenches a while, Kahastok, but we need to at least assume good faith. Otherwise, as said before, this whole discussion is pretty pointless. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 16:01, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
You say, "I think that Mr Glass understands that 'generally' means the majority of the time, and that exceptions are exceptions, not the rule".
I say his previous conduct does not back up such an assertion. Quite the reverse: his previous arguments and actions hold that it is quite possible for a rule to apply "generally", except in every instance in which it might be applied. I have enough experience of Michael's tactics not to need to assume anything at all, and I see no reason why WP:AGF needs to be a suicide pact. Kahastok talk 16:10, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
We are all going to end up dead anyway, the way this discussion has gone. How can we know if we do not try? RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 16:47, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
We've tried it before - more than once IIRC. Kahastok talk 16:56, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
Kahastok obviously has a unique take on assuming good faith - everyone but me. His words might be full of bluster and bullying, but that doesn't make him right about Mosnum or about me.Michael Glass (talk) 07:07, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
I'm not the only one who takes previous experience into account before applying WP:AGF in your case. Kahastok talk 08:05, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
That doesn't make you any less a bully. Michael Glass (talk) 09:39, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

Still no comments on which register (or registers) we should be reflecting. Should it be government usage, common usage, colloquial usage, educational usage, academic usage, journalistic usage, or what? They all potentially give different results. Without first agreeing which we are tuning in to, we haven't a hope of agreeing the units, with, for example, some saying use metric because the FA do, whilst others are saying use imperial as it is common usage. Credibility gap (talk) 18:35, 19 October 2013 (UTC)

I think it is quite clear that Wikipedia favours common usage in almost every respect. The everyday reader. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 18:40, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
Since the majority of native English speakers are from the US, is the "everyday reader" an American expecting US customary units? Or if the article is unlikely to be of interest to people outside the UK, how old should the "everyday reader" be? Old enough to have been at school when Imperial units were taught? Young enough not to be familiar with most Imperial units? The idea of an "everyday reader" makes no sense in the current discussion. Peter coxhead (talk) 21:56, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
It makes perfect sense, because of WP:STRONGNAT and WP:TIES. The way in which the everyday British reader would expect it to be written is the way in which an article about the UK or related to the UK should be formatted. I don't know why you even bring up the argument. Obviously we are speaking in generalities about people, but that is necessity in such a situation as this, and in all publications that have more than a niche audience. And I would counter the idea that "young people" are not familiar with the imperial units covered by the exceptions here, especially considering that beer is by the pint and roads are by the mile. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 22:07, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
I've yet to meet another British person of my generation (I'm 25) who knows what an acre actually is, how many feet there are in a mile, or for that matter knows what a pint is other than the ubiquitous "568 mL". But, whatever floats your boat. Archon 2488 (talk) 23:07, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
You've reached the age of 25 in the UK without ever meeting someone of your age who drinks beer? That's quite an achievement. Let me be the first. A pint is the amount of beer you get if you order a beer at a pub in the UK. Since that, and bottled milk, are the only contexts we tell people to use pints first (and bottled milk probably never gets used), we don't need to worry about any other.
We aren't advising people to use acres, so we don't need to worry about that.
There's a common misconception that being schooled in metric means you only know metric. Children learn at home as well as at school. When all the road signs are in miles, the speedometers and speed limits are in miles per hour, children learn miles pretty quickly. On the other hand, you don't get much of a feel for the length of a kilometre from a school book. I know when I was at school, I never paced out a kilometre, and visualising a thousand metre rules end-to-end isn't easy. OTOH at home I saw the road signs and got a feel for how far a mile was. You don't need to know all the conversions to have an internal feel for how large something is. Kahastok talk 08:16, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
Indeed, the British education system, especially in STEM, tends to engage in the horribly un-MOSNUM practice of "pushing" the metric system. I'd suspect that education would be a better prototype for an encyclopedia to model itself after than some chimerical idea of "common usage", which amounts to an inconsistent mishmash of a compromise position that nobody is entirely happy with.
I don't understand how a "pint" is different from a "standard beer glass"; the original meaning of "the volume of 1 lb 4 oz water" has long since been lost to history, and it's not really being used as a unit any more, just a word that denotes a standardised container size (English-speaking people in continental Europe often refer to the 500 ml beer size as a "pint" even though it's strictly not correct). The idea that the definitions of the units don't matter is little more than a defence of ignorance, and it's an attitude that doesn't belong in an encyclopedia. People in the wider world might well have illogical and inconsistent measurement habits, but there is no need for that to be reflected in something that is supposed to be a source of information, any more than it should reflect their other prejudices and illogicalities.
You learn familiarity with units by using them, and so long as people are constantly and artificially discouraged from using metric units their familiarity will be slow to improve. Archon 2488 (talk) 11:40, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
It is a perfectly legitimate aim of the British education system to encourage use of the metric system. It is not a legitimate aim of Wikipedia to encourage use of the metric system. Wikipedia does not have such aims. Wikipedia reflects the world as it is, not the world as we might like it to be.
Please bear in mind that the only circumstances in which the current advice calls for the pint to be used are for quantities of draft beer and cider, and for quantities of bottled milk. And I would suggest that it is unlikely that Wikipedia frequently discusses bottled milk.
All in all I would suggest that the current advice is actually in fairly close agreement with most of your arguments in this regard. You may perfectly well argue that the rule as it stands refers to a "standardised container size" instead of a unit. The distinction is unimportant. I would suggest that, even if Britain were to adopt the Irish approach of the "standard glass", it would still make sense to refer to the output of a brewery in "standard glasses" rather than litres first. Kahastok talk 12:00, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
I don't believe common usage in the Wikipedia sense can be equated with everyday usage or journalistic usage. Encyclopedic usage is much more formal and more often determined indirectly by laws, government usage, lexicological considerations etc. I doubt if many people would say things like
  • "The percentage of high school students in the U.S. who reported that they have ever had sexual intercourse dropped from 54.1% in 1991 to 47.8% in 2007."
  • "A motor vehicle or road vehicle is a self-propelled wheeled vehicle that does not operate on rails"
  • "The average physical product is the total production divided by the number of units of variable input employed."
It depends on the topic and the context, but "common usage" is more often the prevalent usage of professionals in the field writing for laypeople, as shown by reliable sources.
We also don't write things like
  • "Murder suspect flees after UK teacher found dead in Qatar"
  • Couple found dead after 'chemical suicide' pact
  • Hundreds of lambs found dead as RAF flies in feed
The requirements of an encyclopedia are different from those of a newspaper or the man on the Clapham omnibus.
--Boson (talk) 22:23, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
Indeed; I look forward to reading the article on General Relativity re-written in accordance with the arbitrarily-determined criteria for "common usage". How much do we need to water things down before they are acceptable for "common usage"? Archon 2488 (talk) 23:07, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
We should use common usage for General Relativity. I imagine that that would be largely SI, with a few non-SI units like parsecs, solar masses and electron-Volts thrown in for good measure. And of course while there may be conversions between these units (parsecs and light years), there should be no conversions into systems that are never used for general relativity (such as the US Customary or imperial systems). Kahastok talk 08:05, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
  • I'm well aware that this is not a newspaper. The use of a perfectly good system of units, however less practical than metric, is not equatable with non-standard dialect. If you haven't noticed, Wikipedia is not a print encyclopedia, and doesn't usually follow the formality rules that might be used in say, the Britannica. As one may have noticed, the title policy is most emblematic of this. It specifies that formal names are not to be used as an article title if said formal name conflicts with common usage. This spirit applies throughout the encyclopedia. And, to be frank, Archon, I'm sure there are plenty of Americans who don't know how many feet there are in a mile either. That does not mean that they are not familiar with miles. It is only because of the trend toward decimalization that imperial/customary makes much less sense. If we still used the system as it was intended to be used from before the advent of calculators, with all the fractional units, it would make much more sense. But that is neither here nor there. Using imperial units neither equates with a "bloke on a bus" or journalist usage. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 23:29, 19 October 2013 (UTC)
  • I'm sorry, but I think you may be conflating 'common' and 'informal'. You will note that the examples of formal encyclopedic use I gave above are all from Wikipedia (so yes, we do follow rules of formality not appropriate for a newspaper). Use of "common" names does not mean the names used in colloquial speech, or even the names used in newspapers. Wikipedia tends to prefer the names used in books. We do not necessarily use "official names", but we do use formal names like "Queen Elizabeth II" or "Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother"; we do not write "folksy" things like "Bonham Carter is currently being fรชted for her turn as a quirky Queen Mum " (The Times) or "Sir Tom Stoppard has written more than 30 plays for the stage and umpteen other pieces for film, television and radio" (The Times), or "[it has] clearly had oodles of loot lavished on it" (The Times). I believe you are totally missing my point about the different requirements of encyclopedias and newspapers. Newspapers need a completely different style. It has little to do with non-standard "dialects".It affects register, sentence length, word length, vocabulary, use of active and passive voice, use of figurative language, syntax, precision, etc. Sometimes The Times and Wikipedia will agree on some elements of house style, but that is coincidental. Just as The Times does not adopt our style, we should not adopt The Times style. --Boson (talk) 01:07, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
We have not adopted The Times style. There are various places where we have decided to completely ignore their advice. The current rule on hands for horses has not been questioned here, but is not mentioned by the Times. The Times rejects even conversions into metric on UK-related articles, whereas we require them. But there is nothing wrong with finding a style guide that is attempting to do exactly the same thing as we are doing - to describe British usage in a few consistent, simple and easy-to-follow steps - and basing our advice on it. Kahastok talk 08:05, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
The present policy is descriptive and therefore ambiguous.
  • "Imperial units are used" describes usage. However, this could be taken as anything from a suggestion to an order.
  • If the present wording was satisfactory it wouldn't be so controversial.
  • Other wordings could clarify this ambiguity, but these are opposed by those who take the present wording restrictively.
  • The question is whether to stay with the ambiguous wording or make it clearer but more flexible.
  • If the question is decided, it will be by consensus, but it is unlikely to be unanimous.
  • The question is about policy, not personalities.
Michael Glass (talk) 09:39, 20 October 2013 (UTC)


I don't really wish to get involved but I can't help noticing yet another example by User:Michael Glass of selecting sources to push a WP:UNITS agenda. He states that the Environment Agency specifies river speed limits in kph not mph. This is incorrect. The speed limit is actually 5 mph, which is converted by the Environment Agency to km/h, it is in fact defined by legislation. The reason that the Environment Agency has done so, is because it is compelled by EU legislation to display signs in kph see [8]. The environment agency has also switched to km for waterways per EU direction but as explained in the link, the enforcement is still done in mph and navigation by river users is done in miles, in other words its a complete beggars muddle. More importantly for establishing custom and practise, signs in kph only apply to waterways under Environment Agency control - no other responsible agency has followed suit. Once again the custom and practise on British Waterways is to continue with the use of customary units but the choice of source has been used to switch to a preference for the metric system by User:Michael Glass based on his selection of sources.

My reference was to the Environment Authority whereas WCM got his information from the website of the British Weights and Measures Association. A government instrumentality is more authoritative than an activist organisation.As WCM has taken his information from this group, does this mean that he is associated with the BWMA? Michael Glass (talk) 10:43, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

At this point, I would ask Michael if he would wish to declare a potential Conflict of Interest per WP:COI? I also ask Michael if he has deliberately converted wikipedia articles against WP:MOSNUM in order to promote the metric system? Wee Curry Monster talk 10:02, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

The answer is no. I believe that the wording is descriptive, not prescriptive. However, I concede that WCM and others have interpreted these words differently. When controversy arose about my edits, I said I would not do any more edits on footballers' heights and weights and I've kept to this undertaking. There is something weird about objecting to edits based on the usage of a UK Government department but I can see that people in the BWMA may feel differently. (Nevertheless, I thank you for the link. It made interesting reading.) Michael Glass (talk) 10:43, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
A major issue here is what is the most authoritative source? In many cases, that will be the government, which in turn makes the government the best source for the data. The government generally works in metric (because legislation compels it to?), but that may be at odds with the public's usage in that context. Therefore to determine if imperial is appropriate means looking at non-government info. We have the bizarre situation where the most reliable source for the info, is often the least useful for determining unit!
This guidance clearly needs improvement, but its not policy and never will be. This page does not determine the correct choice of unit, but guides editors to making the best choice. Writing an article in the FFF system is inappropriate but is not against policy. Guidance is inherently descriptive, and cannot cover all eventualities.
One way forward here may be for both "sides" to develop their own drafts, then look to adopt common elements. If a single consensus version cannot be produced, then that opens door to a poll-based RFC - and seeing how entrenched the views here are a poll may be only way to break deadlock. That isn't viable at the moment because there isn't anything to vote on (its clear that using only metric or only imperial are total non-options).--Nilfanion (talk) 10:44, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
Part of the problem has always been the insistence that there can only be two options:
  1. That the rule is prescriptive and that no deviation is permitted in any circumstances (the "strait-jacket" approach)
  2. That the rule is descriptive and is open to any editor to substitute their own system on large numbers of articles, for no reason other than personal preference (the "can is not must" approach)
There seems to be no willingness to accept even the possibility of middle ground between these approaches, which is how I have always read all of these guidelines. That approach holds that editors should follow these rules, unless there is a good reason not to. If there is a good reason not to, then editors should be able to justify that with something stronger than personal preference - either in terms of the system or the means of determining the unit to be used.
Michael continues to push for source-based units. Source-based units would probably belong on WP:PERENNIAL if it were not Michael pushing them every time. They have been rejected on this page on dozens of occasions - all at Michael's proposal - for very good reasons: such as that if carried forward in good faith they create inconsistency (this source is metric, that source is imperial, so we have to keep switching around); that there is a habit of choosing the sources for the measurements, and so on. It's all in the archives.
All in all I believe it is a myth that this rule is particularly controversial. The fact that one or two editors keep on bringing up the same arguments over and over for years on end and refuse to let any discussion on the topic end is not a sign of a great controversy. Kahastok talk 11:06, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
I suggest that you stop this continual tarring and feathering of Michael Glass for allegedly pushing metrication. That "peddling" you accuse him of is not supported by any recent evidence, and just smacks of bad faith on your part. By the same token, I find that your paranoia and determined resistance of any creeping metrication irrespective of any anecdotal or other evidence, real or potential, is getting rather tiresome. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 12:07, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
Thank you, Ohconfucius. As Kahastok is so fixated on what I have done or might do, I'll withdraw from this present discussion, provided he does not drag my name into it again. Michael Glass (talk) 13:34, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
Michael, I am asking you directly as you did not respond. Have you ever deliberately editing against WP:MOSNUM to convert articles to favour the metric system against common usage? Are you a member of a advocacy group? Wee Curry Monster talk 13:44, 20 October 2013 (UTC)


For goodness' sake, can we stop with the personal accusations and irrelevant ad-homs? This is starting to sound like a McCarthyist witch-hunt, "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a metric advocacy group?", "Are you a sleeper agent for the BWMA?", etc. It's going to accomplish exactly nothing, and it has nothing to do with the content of anyone's proposals here. Given that Michael Glass has decided to withdraw from the argument on the condition that there are no further personal accusations against him, it seems like you are just trying to provoke him by rubbing salt in the wounds. Please accept that he has withdrawn, and let sleeping dogs lie. Archon 2488 (talk) 17:50, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

May I also draw participantsโ€™ attention to the notice at the top of this page, advising of discretionary sanctions? Of particular relevance is the remedy admonishing editors to โ€œavoid personalizing disputesโ€. Not being familiar with the full history of this quarrel, I donโ€™t want to point fingersโ€”let alone request enforcementโ€”but the incessant imputation of bad faith to named disputants obscures the substance of the discussion, and will be an impediment to progress as long as it continues.โ€”Odysseus1479 20:54, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
  • This is a response to a comment further above by Boson. Are you suggesting that imperial units are only good for newspapers? I don't give a damn about the Times style guide, and you'll notice I've never spoken about it with any sort of endorsement, other than to state that the Times is the UK's newspaper of record. Imperial units are just as good for an encyclopedia as metric: it has nothing to do with register. This seems to be a purely elitist approach I've seen from both you and Archon. There is nothing inherently about imperial that makes it "out of the encyclopedic register". I well aware about the fact that this is not a newspaper, and frequently remind people of that fact in AfDs, among other places. It is very strange for you to tell me this, when if you asked other people around, they'd say I was a total proponent of separating Wikipedia from the journalistic. Imperial have been in encyclopedias before, and can continue to be in encyclopedias without affecting register. To claim otherwise is bunk. Imperial is merely a system of units. The reason sciences uses metric is because of practicality, not because Imperial is of a lower register. Sure, academic writing prefers using as few contractions as possible. That is because contractions feel colloquial. But metric units take predominance in science not because they are lowly, but because they are easier to use for the purpose of calculation. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 14:13, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
I agree that there's nothing inherently wrong in terms of register with Imperial units in the appropriate context. Changing the description of the area of Sutton Park in Wikipedia from "970 hectares (2,400 acres)" to "2,400 acres (970 hectares)" doesn't constitute a change of register. (Describing it as equivalent in size to so many football pitches would, which is why we don't do that here.) Peter coxhead (talk) 15:01, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
"Imperial units are just as good for an encyclopedia as metric" -- well, it's more a matter of picking a system and sticking with it consistently, which is the most rational thing to do. You can't really use the imperial system 100% consistently because it's not a complete system (lots of things, like anything to do with electricity, have no imperial units, so the imperial system just borrows the SI unit and fudges things to make it work). Real-life Britain obviously does not work this way (even individual webpages on e.g. engineering projects will mix kilometres and miles in a very annoying and stylistically-clumsy way) but there is no reason for Wikipedia to be bound by this example. Archon 2488 (talk) 17:50, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
No, of course I am not suggesting that imperial units are "only good" for newspapers. I am saying that newspapers have completely different requirements from encyclopedias, so we should avoid any suggestion that we are basing our recommendations on a newspaper's style guide. Since you "don't give a damn" about the Times style guide and have not endorsed it, I suggest you support my suggestion that we remove the relevant footnote. It serves no valid purpose. I cannot understand why anyone wants to retain this dead link or do a bodge repair job on it.
It has nothing to do with elitism. Perhaps you are attributing some sort of value judgement to the word "register" that I did not intend. Perhaps I should have avoided the word.
As an educational resource Wikipedia has similar requirements to educational institutions and shares with governments and bureaucracies the need to discuss things in a dispassionate, precise and sober manner, preferring precision and accuracy over human interest, familiarity, and "colour" (for instance). So it tends more towards the style used by governments and educational institutions and has less need to use the language that is used use when talking among friends or trying to attract attention. Newspapers may for instance prefer miles or acres over kilometres or hectares because they sound more familiar, more "friendly" โ€“ not necessarily more common in non-fiction English prose but more likely to be used when talking about the (posh) neighbour's garden or going for a drive.
We might talk of "20,000 square kilometres of forest" being destroyed by fire, while a newspaper might talk of "an area the size of Wales" being destroyed.
The Times might (and did) write
  • ". . . ministers prepare to sell nearly a million acres of publicly owned forest";
Wikipedia might prefer
  • "The government plans to sell four thousand square kilometres of land . . ."
If scientists, the military, the civil service, schools, universities, Ordnance Survey maps, the police, and professional sewage workers used metric units but we decided to use imperial measures because they are used by Prince Charles or posh newspapers, that could perhaps be called elitist.
NB: I am not suggesting that we use metric units exclusively. I am pointing out that recommendations designed for newspapers are irrelevant and claims of elitism are inappropriate.
--Boson (talk) 19:44, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
I agree that a register more formal than journalistic is appropriate, to put it in neutral terms. The trick is finding a happy medium between there and the technical style of textbooks and official standards.โ€”Odysseus1479 01:16, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
I agree with that notion, of course I do. What I disagree with is the suggestion that imperial units effect the tone/register/&c. Especially considering that they are only used in exceptional circumstances, and metric units are specified as being used the majority of the time for UK articles. The exceptions listed here are here because they are commonly used. They are exceptions. Of course science will only use metric, but science uses metric even in the US. That is no excuse for non-science articles deviate from standard usage and use kilometres for point-to-point distance or speed. Or to use mL for beer? This has nothing at all to do with register, or phrases. I know the distinction between a sensationalism and an encyclopedia, and it feels quite patronizing to be "illuminated" in this regard. I don't believe anyone here has called for expansion of the use of imperial, or for no conversions to be given. Merely to more clearly state when they are used and not used. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 13:32, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
There may be a misunderstanding surrounding the introduction of โ€œregisterโ€œ into this discussion: itโ€™s not intended to suggest that the use of customary measures sullies our elevated prose, but as a criterion for identifying sources for, or examples of, their use in the contexts where educated readers encounter them. You refer to โ€œstandard usageโ€œ, but the problem seems to be that there are varying ideas of what that means when it comes down to cases (as the saying goes, the wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from), and AIUI thatโ€™s what the idea of register, among whatever other criteria can be agreed to, is intended to address.โ€”Odysseus1479 02:32, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
I am sorry if you found my comments patronizing. They were not so intended, so I must assume that I expressed myself inadequately. However, I will not continue, lest further comments also come across as patronizing. What I have been trying to do the whole time (apparently unsuccessfully in spite of considerable effort) is exactly what you suggest: to help improve the text so that it does "more clearly state when [imperial units] are used and not used" (in formal non-fiction prose). I fear, however, that the atmosphere has again become so toxic that we will not achieve a consensus on how to change the current text, so I will bow out of the discussion for now. --Boson (talk) 14:24, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
I don't mean to push you out of the debate, nor to be combative. The original example of the "man on the Clapham omnibus", however, set me off. It seems like an unfair notion. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 15:16, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

I see no strong objections to the proposal - just one suggestion to replace "familiar" with "prevalent". Perhaps it helps to make a distinction between familiarity to the average Wikipedia reader and familiarity to a particular field of knowledge or research:

Units are chosen for an article according to the following principles of clarity.
  • Units are familiar to the average reader: familiar units (e.g., yard or metre) are preferred over unfamiliar ones (e.g., fathom or decametre).
  • Units are in widespread use in reliable sources pertinent to the subject matter described in the article: example to be added here
  • Units are unambiguous: unambiguous units (e.g., tonne or joule) are preferred over ambiguous ones (e.g., ton or calorie).
  • Units are used consistently: If an article begins in one unit (e.g., yard) it does not switch to another (e.g., metre) half-way through; if a unit is defined as one quantity (e.g., kilobyte meaning 1000 bytes or calorie meaning 4.184 joules) it does not switch to another meaning (e.g., kilobyte meaning 1024 bytes or calorie meaning 4.184 kilojoules) half-way through.

Is this better? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 23:05, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

I doubt Americans would be happy with the preference for joules or tonnes over calories or short tons. Or are you proposing this only for UK articles? It isn't exactly clear, as these seem like general guidelines. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 00:16, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
Another example of ambiguity for consideration: โ€œgallonโ€ and its subdivisions, where context doesnโ€™t make it obvious whether US or Imperial is intended.
I hesitate to open another can of worms, but nominal measuresโ€”by which I mean those that are defined or characterized in traditional units, e.g. โ€œhundred-mile raceโ€, โ€œtwo-by-four (board)โ€โ€”might deserve mention, in the fsmiliarity point perhaps, to avoid the kind of usage thatโ€™s parodied in โ€œGive him 2.54 centimetres and heโ€˜ll take 9.144 decimetres.โ€œโ€”Odysseus1479 01:16, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
I agree with what I perceive to be the general intention but I have a number of points:
  • You proposed adding the text at the top of the section entitled "'Units", meaning it would apply in all contexts, including scientific articles.
  • The reader might see some significance in the order, so I would put the point about widespread use in reliable sources first.
  • I would prefer to completely avoid the use of the word "familiar", which might suggest the everyday (colloquial) usage of the average reader (which would probably not include most of the units used in scientific articles). In other contexts we do not prefer "familiar" vocabulary; we use the most appropriate terms (and if necessary explain them) - unfamiliar terms like "vulva", "rhotic", "diploid", "procurement", "displaced person", "fixed wing aircraft", "eigenvector". The article on oil reserves uses the word "barrels" (but will explain 33 Gbbl (5.2ร—10^9 m3)) and wine production will probably be measured in hectolitres, etc., regardless of how familiar the terms are.
On balance, I would remove the first point completely; the significant issues are covered by the second point.
  • I would choose different examples, e.g. "gallons".
  • I think the consistency point needs to be revised. Though units should not be mixed indiscriminately, it may be appropriate to use different units in different contexts within the same article.
  • Other considerations (e.g. nominal units, quotations, paraphrases of laws, etc.) which may conflict with these criteria need to be mentioned in the same list.
  • It should be stressed that these are principles in the sense of goals that can be in conflict and require editorial judgement, rather than principles in the other sense (tending toward inviolable principles). Perhaps the word "criteria" would be better than "principles".
โ€”Boson (talk) 10:30, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

The Kahastok Proposal - User:Kahastok/Units

I have created a new proposed structure at User:Kahastok/Units. It may not take all of the above into account, but I believe it represents an improvement on the status quo. It deliberately does not change the wording or bullets for the UK, other than to reduce the indent and to remove the introduction, which is not needed in the new structure. This is because I have no wish to prolong that discussion. Kahastok talk 17:47, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
I see that nobody has replied to this. Could you perhaps simply propose small individual changes here and explain the rationale for each change? I think that would be more efficient than everyone comparing the original and new texts to find out what has changed. I am having trouble working out exactly what has been changed and why. I did notice that "always keep the source units" was deleted at one point (in connection with direct quotations). I also happened to notice that the following point might be ambiguous. We should avoid any misunderstanding that conversion is always required (even when the units are irrelevant to the reason for the quotation) but we should clearly state that source units in quotations should never be changed.
But my point is that this would be easier with simpler changes, where it is easier to decide "OK or "not OK". --Boson (talk) 22:42, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
I have two areas of concern:
  • Removal of the need to quote the source units could be an attack on the principle of WP:V.
  • Nothing has been done to tackle the question of what constitutes "science". My undergraduate degree was in the Faculty of Science. From what I can remember, the faculty offered the following subjects: Botany, Chemistry, Geography, Geology, Maths & Statistics, Physics, Psychology, Zoology.
Martinvl (talk) 13:16, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
I actually thought of removing the science section on science altogether as it serves no purpose other than to emphasise the advice already given: it would be difficult to argue that inches reasonably fall under "all systems of measurement that are prevalent in context in English-speaking countries" when discussing the radius of a proton, for example.
One of the main principles I held to when drafting this was that what unit goes first goes in the first section and conversion rules go in the second. The rule about putting the source unit first in a direct quotation has not been removed - it has been made a whole lot more prominent.
Summary of my changes:
  • A new section has been introduced at the top. Principles to follow have been placed in that section. This includes the general rule as to what units come first.
  • The general rule has been changed to recommend the most prevalent units rather than SI - but notes that the most prevalent units normally are SI.
  • General exceptions on quotes and nominal/defined units have been moved from "how to present the quantities" to a heading ahead of all other exceptions.
  • Specific exceptions for science and specific national ties are now given their own headings.
  • Countries are now listed under their own headings rather than as nested bullet points.
  • UK engineering is moved under the UK heading rather than under its own heading.
  • The "How to present the quantities" section has been removed as redundant to the above.
  • The "SI standard" section, which deals with unit names and symbols, is moved to the "Unit names and symbols" section.
  • The words "always keep the source units" have been removed from WP:MOSCONVERSIONS for direct quotations - because the point is not about conversions and because it is already addressed in the new "General exceptions" section.
Kahastok talk 17:36, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
I like it mostly. I would, however, much prefer that the footnote about "metrication in the UK" be moved into the body, as discussed before. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 17:56, 26 October 2013 (UTC)
I did something to address UK units in an earlier draft, but I ditched it for the version I presented because I feel the UK units discussion has reached its natural conclusion. The wording is intended to be substantively identical to the present version. Kahastok talk 19:12, 26 October 2013 (UTC)
And I find the wording to be good. I just think that the footnote needs more prominence. It should not be buried. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 19:32, 26 October 2013 (UTC)
If I may add a suggestion:
Just a suggestion to remind editors why WP:MOSNUM exists. Otherwise, its an excellent improvement. Please put this to bed soon. Wee Curry Monster talk 19:59, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

Thanks for the clarification. I appreciate the effort.
I have a few points:
  1. Personally, I prefer the word "primary" to "main", since it is the word that is used officially and is less ambiguous (but I can live with "main").
  2. I was not clear as to the intended meaning of the sentence "In general, quantities should be specified in all systems of measurement that are prevalent in context in English-speaking countries: in most cases, that means the SI, US Customary and imperial systems of measurement." since it obviously is not intended to mean what it appears to say. I thought that perhaps "all" should be replaced by "any", but on further reflection I think it might be best to remove it completely.
  3. In the paragraph that starts "In case of dispute, the choice of which quantity should the main quantity should be guided by the following principles", I think that the "principles" are useful in guiding an editor what to write, but I don't think they would be helpful in a dispute (which would probably be about why apparently inconsistent usage is appropriate in a particular instance and might serve to exacerbate the dispute needlessly). So I would remove "In case of dispute" and replace "principles" with "goals" ("principles" is ambiguous, and "goals" better expresses what is intended).
  4. I basically agree that units should be "familiar to the reader", but I'm not sure how this sentence would be interpreted when they differ from the units used that are prevalent in the field. I don't think the choice between metres and rods will come up too often. I would consider removing this sentence.
  5. In the first sentence of "Strong national ties", I think we need to add "in text of similar type" (or something equivalent).
  6. I think the structure should be changed to show that the sub-sections of "strong national ties" do not apply to scientific contexts. This could be done by inserting a section "Non-scientific contexts" at the same level as "Science-related articles" and changing the level of other sub-sections appropriately.
  7. I agree with RGloucester that the footnote should be moved to the main text. Keeping it as a footnote merely means it gets overlooked, which is not helpful. I don't think the wording is ideal, but I can live with most of it for now.
  8. I think the words 'such as Times Online' (under "Metric")' (and the accompanying dead link) should be removed. Not only is the document available only in archived form (and possibly in violation of WP:EL, in my opinion) but it deviates substantially from what we advise. It looks to me as if nearly all the advice in The Times style with which we agree is already contained in the text of our guideline.
  9. One point made in The Times style guide which we should consider incorporating is (in my words) "Prefer metric units for sporting contexts." In The Times style guide, it is formulated: ". . . the overwhelming preference is sporting, foreign, engineering and scientific stories to be metric". "Foreign" does not apply to this guideline because we have already limited this part of the guideline to UK-related articles, and the others contexts have already been mentioned.
  10. "In a quotation, always keep the original quantity as main quantity. " should be extended to include references to documents that are not direct quotations, for instance when referring to an official report that gives recommended maximum speeds for aircraft or impact speeds in aircraft crashes in knots, rather than km/h or mph.
  11. the prescription of miles per hour and miles per imperial gallon should be restricted to road transport (and perhaps be permitted for some other forms of transport); it is not appropriate for air travel, for instance, and other units are common for rail travel.
  12. the prescription of miles should give road distances as an example. I am happy with including many other distances but I do not believe that the ambiguous wording currently used is acceptable.
If these issues are addressed in a meaningful way, I would expect to fully support the proposed changes and believe we could reach a "grand consensus" within days.
โ€”Boson (talk) 00:54, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
I will agree that we should remove the Times Style Guide link. I've not been able to find any evidence of the style guide post disappearance, and it really serves no purpose as it stands. I also prefer "primary quantity" to main quantity. Other than the footnote, I'm fine with the rest. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 02:58, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

Answers to Boson's points:

  1. I'm not that bothered - I think "primary quantity" doesn't sound as good, but ultimately it doesn't matter because this is a terminology issue.
  2. The point of this is to try and put the emphasis on the fact that we don't have metric articles or imperial articles, but that all articles should include all relevant measurements - either as main quantity or as a conversion.
  3. I put "in case of dispute" in because if there is no dispute then there's no reason why anyone's going to need to go beyond the main rule and exceptions.
  4. Hence "in case of dispute". If there is dispute as to what the most prevalent unit is, then go for the more familiar. If there is no dispute, use the most prevalent.
  5. "In context", I'd agree. But the whole point is that we then define what we mean by "the units preferred in that country" in the following subsections.
  6. I think the text as a whole on strong national ties makes it clear that we use the units most prevalent in context in the country concerned (though this may be a better wording than "the units preferred in that country"). I believe that genuinely scientific measures in non-scientific articles, where the most prevalent unit internationally is different from the most prevalent unit nationally, are rare enough not to need their own explicit rule.
  7. The text deliberately does not change the wording for UK-related contexts, because I see no chance of getting anywhere with it and I feel that this discussion ought to finish before Christmas.
  8. The text deliberately does not change the wording for UK-related contexts, because I see no chance of getting anywhere with it and I feel that this discussion ought to finish before Christmas.
  9. The text deliberately does not change the wording for UK-related contexts, because I see no chance of getting anywhere with it and I feel that this discussion ought to finish before Christmas.
  10. I don't agree. We should not be undermining the entire advice by suggesting that the fact that a source uses a different rule from that advised is sufficient to overrule the rest of the advice, creating a system that has been repeatedly rejected on WT:MOSNUM. But note that it refers to "quotations", and not "direct quotations".
  11. The text deliberately does not change the wording for UK-related contexts, because I see no chance of getting anywhere with it and I feel that this discussion ought to finish before Christmas.
  12. The text deliberately does not change the wording for UK-related contexts, because I see no chance of getting anywhere with it and I feel that this discussion ought to finish before Christmas.

If we cannot proceed without radically changing UK-related contexts, then I believe that the last few months demonstrate that there is no reasonable prospect of new consensus and that we should choose not to spend the next few months going round and round this. Kahastok talk 08:57, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

  • I think it isn't very "radical" to move a footnote into the body. It is already there. Moving it is a simple affair, that no one has any reason to disagree with. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 14:34, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
Boson proposed significant changes to the rules as they relate to sporting contexts, speeds, distance and fuel economy, and notes that the current wording on these matters is unacceptable to him/her. Several of the changes s/he proposes are not acceptable to me. But if we are to reach agreement we will need to continue a debate that has already gone on fruitlessly for well over a month, with no obvious prospect of consensus. There is no point. If consensus is not achievable without such a renegotiation - which is doomed to failure - then I believe it is best for the encyclopรฆdia if I withdraw this proposal. Kahastok talk 14:48, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
Even as a stop-gap measure, it makes sense to implement your proposal, leaving the UK bit alone except for the fact that the footnote must be added into the body. We can forget the UK for now, I agree. You offer some base improvements that help. I think we should implement them. But the footnote must be there. That has be recurring. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 14:56, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
That might be your position. But Boson made it clear that it was not acceptable to him/her unless we make substantial changes to the UK section.
And I don't think we should move the footnote out without changing the advice as it stands. It's written as a footnote as a reason - because this is what makes most sense for the advice in the way it is currently written. But there is a wider point. If we change any part of the UK advice for this, then we open ourselves up to any change that people want to the UK advice. We end up in precisely the sort of doomed renegotiation that I really think we should avoid.
So far as I can see, any change to the UK wording will mean we have to go through the process of renegotiating the compromise on UK units in full. And any such renegotiation is doomed from the start. Unless consensus is willing to accept the structure with the standing consensus on UK units in place, it is better to accept that the new structure will not achieve consensus now than to demonstrate that the new structure will not achieve consensus through months and months of wasted editing time. Kahastok talk 15:33, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
General points
Regarding the UK-related discussion: what I want to avoid here is making changes that nobody cares that much about โ€“ as an Ersatzhandlung (why don't we have an article on that?), i.e . avoiding the serious problems but doing something to compensate for the sense of frustration and enable us to move on with a vague, but possibly unjustified, sense that the effort was not largely in vain. I think it might be more productive to use the amount of effort already sunk into this as a motivation to finally tackle some of the more serious problems that have not been adequately addressed. I can see the issues being raised again and getting the answer: we have a broad consensus, this gets raised every few months, don't rock the boat. But if we nail one foot to the floor, we shouldn't complain about having to walk round and round in circles. As I see it, the reason it gets repeatedly raised is that a significant number of editors do not agree with the current text, and there has been no RfC to document a broad consensus. For instance, The Times mention of metric being the preference for sporting stories indicates the need to discuss whether the current text does adequately represent usage in Britain , as does the use of metric units in the authoritative Ordnance Survey maps. These are issues which I examined and researched after reading some of the discussions here. I think everybody needs to reconsider the evidence before re-iterating their long-held positions. In the interests of not prolonging the current debate, I would suggest postponing resolution of some of the issues (e.g. sports and non-road distances) to a formal RfC to be held at a later date.
Individual replies
  1. I think there is probably a consensus for "primary".
  2. I agree with your intended meaning, but I think the sentence needs rewording. Perhaps: "Non-scientific articles are not (necessarily) written using only one system of measurement but should include any relevant units, either as primary units (mentioned first) or secondary units (mentioned second, in parentheses). It is generally not necessary to give all units that might be relevant to the reader (e.g. imperial miles per gallon and miles per US gallon and litres per 100 km/h)."
  3. I believe the advice on "principles" is inappropriate for resolving disputes and might very well be counter-productive, but it is useful guidance for the writer. I also think we should distinguish between "units" and "systems" (it is perfectly in order to mix centimetres and metres in the context of lengths of products, for instance, depending on the magnitude and proximity). Like The Times, I think we need to recognise that it is a goal or attempt. So I would suggest something like: 'The choice of which units should be the primary units should be guided by the following criteria: (a) within a given article and in a given context, try to consistently use the same system of measurement (e.g. SI or imperial) for primary units; (b) units should not change in definition for different quantities in an article; [I think an example might be useful] (c) units used should be unambiguous (e.g "US gallons" and "imperial gallons" as opposed to "gallons"). (d) Units should be familiar to the reader (e.g. yards or metres as opposed to chains or rods) .'
  4. If several units might validly be considered prevalent, I don't think familiarity is appropriate as a tie-breaker in case of dispute. I think the precise context and type of text are more important than familiarity, especially when there is a dispute. Barrels, hectolitres and bushels are not very familiar to most people, but is that a consideration when writing about oil, wine, and maize production? Prevalence and context should be enough. Or can someone provide an example where there is (or at least might be) a valid dispute concerning prevalence that could be settled by appeal to familiarity? "Familiarity to which readers?" would be the next question, I suppose.
  5. Even if we detail what we mean by "the units used in that country", I think we need to answer the question "used by whom?", i.e. we mean "the units used in that country in similar sorts of text". We do not mean the units used in that country by people talking to their mates down the pub or the units used by The Sun.
  6. I think you misinterpreted my point. Although I do think that context is more important than article title, my point is that (for instance) the statement "The main quantity is generally expressed in US customary units" appears to apply equally to scientific articles, because of the way the headings are organized.
  7. I think it is realistic to think we can soon get consensus to move the "retain" footnote to the body - if necessary with some changes to the wording.
  8. I think it is realistic to think we can soon get consensus to remove the reference to The Times style guide. I have seen no convincing argument for its usefulness.
  9. I would be open to the suggestion that the issue of sports-related context be postponed till an RfC/discussion, to be conducted at a later date.
  10. I don't think we are far apart on the question of quotations/references and would be open to suggestions for wording that better indicates that this does not just apply to direct or indirect reported speech. If a government report on an aircraft crash states that the speed at time of impact was exactly 399 knots, I would not expect an article on the incident to state that "according to government sources the speed was 459 mph (739 km/h)" (as I would interpret your proposed text) โ€“ even if the specific source is not mentioned in the body (but, for instance cited in a footnote). I think this sort of thing occurs a lot.
  11. I would be open to the suggestion that the issue of non-road speeds be postponed till an RfC, to be conducted at a later date. Even so, does anyone really want to insist on mph for aviation?
  12. I would be open to the suggestion that the issue of non-road distances be postponed till an RfC/discussion, to be conducted at a later date. It is difficult to get the wording right, because it doesn't just affect road distances, but it should be obvious to anyone that current UK usage includes kilometres for some distances, and the rules should reflect this.
  13. I think we now finally have all the issues on the table. I agree that we should not attempt a radical change at the present moment, but I think immediate small changes similar to those I have proposed above are possible in days rather than months โ€“ if nobody stonewalls. I think we just need a final collaborative effort.

--Boson (talk) 15:39, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

Units on UK-related articles don't get brought up every few months by independent editors. I don't know when the last time before RGloucester and Archon's discussion that uninvolved editors brought it up was, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was several years ago concerning a completely different rule. I also don't think it's a good idea to be saying, we have a consensus, but we're already planning on renegotiating it from scratch at an unspecified date in the future so don't rely on it in the meantime.
What I take from the above is that it is clear that editors are unwilling to consider the new structure without coupling it to sweeping changes to the rules on UK-related articles, and I do not believe that consensus is possible on those changes. I note that there are several points you make where I believe our views are simply incompatible. Insofar as it is possible in the Wiki structure, I thus withdraw the proposal. Kahastok talk 16:27, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

I really don't know where we stand at the moment. Perhaps I will try to make something similar to Kahastok's proposal. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 17:28, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

I think the best thing for all of us is probably to allow this discussion to end and go back to our normal editing topics. Right now we've between us written nearly 60000 words - the length of a short novel - and there's not been any prospect of agreement among editors here for any given change since the engineering exception went in five weeks ago. At some stage, cutting our losses has to be the best plan. Kahastok talk 17:56, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm too invested at this point to allow this discussion to be totally unproductive. I submit my own proposal below. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 18:04, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

The RGloucester Proposal - User:RGloucester/units

Here is my proposal. I find that the wording of the original document was rather poor in some places, and I've touched it up. I've also moved footnotes into the body. Other than that, I have not made any significant changes, except for clarity. Please submit your comments. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 18:04, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

I see no reason to change the UK units in this way. The footnote that has been promoted is poorly worded, effectively saying that editors with strong views can insist upon their version if it was ever historically stable (because nobody noticed them changing it), regardless of whether it conforms to the MOS or not.
The reference to the Times is gone, which makes it look like we made the entire thing up. We didn't - it is in fact based (but not unthinkingly based) on the style guide of a major British publication, so we can say for sure that it has some basis in reality. Unless we say that, people will assume that we did make it up: Wikipedians like verifiability, and removing the verifiability from this point is a bad idea.
Keeping the old wording means that we're not proposing a change. The whole point in not changing the status quo on UK units is not to open cans of worms such as these. It means that, however wonderful or dreadful the old version was, we're not dealing with it now, we're doing the structure. We don't need to spend looking into its problems because that's not the bit we're changing. As soon as we propose a change, we have to look at the benefits of both the change and of the resultant text. In particular, we have to look at how poorly-written this footnote really is. And if we look at that, the entire thing is open for debate. If we're changing the footnote, what else do we change?
And we get another month of discussion, after which nothing is agreed, and we end up with the status quo. Kahastok talk 18:30, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
Would you please state why the footnote is poorly written? It does not imply anything of the sort. I don't think anyone else would think that way. The fact of the matter is, the Times style guide is now a dead link. We don't know how current the archived one is, and it does nothing to assist us. We have mostly made-up our own style guide. It has nothing to do with verifiability. Style guides are inherently not verifiable. The wording doesn't really change. There is no reason to hit a wall for no reason. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 20:41, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
That you don't think people are going to think that way I think is a matter of experience. My experience is that editors who want to push a system think in exactly that way. I can think of multiple examples of editors using very similar arguments to those I describe. Anything for an advantage in a discussion.
As to the Times, that the current link is dead is unfortunate, but does not mean that the Times should not get a mention and it does not mean that we cannot wave the Wayback Machine as required. We have no evidence whatsoever that the Times guide has changed - that was purely argument by speculation. And I think we can be reasonably certain that the argument that we've made it all up will be made. It's been made before - but it was less credible because we cited the Times. Wikipedians will demand a source, and will not accept the accuracy of the system without one. That's how it works on Wikipedia and given that we're dealing with a mixed system, we shouldn't expect to be any different.
And as to whether we should hit a wall over all this? Look at all the stuff Boson wanted. Basically, a full rewrite of units UK-related articles. Dealing with these points is presumably you now propose that we spend the next however long failing to achieve. I'm sure you don't mean to propose that, but that would be the effect. We haven't managed to get consensus in the last six weeks - why are we going to get one in the next six weeks? We aren't. I believe this would be a complete waste of all of our time. The chances of our getting consensus are near-zero and as such there will be no change. Why do we have to spend weeks or months proving that? Kahastok talk 22:45, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
Regardless of anything else, I think this section of the style guide, as written, is poorly devised. Even if I can only fix the quality of the writing, that would be an improvement over the present situation, even if it left the UK issues for another day. With regard to the Times, who gives a damn if we made it all up? It is our style guide after all, and we can do what we please. We can choose to use Oxford spellings, but not Oxford commas. It is up to us, and not the Times or the Daily Mail or whatever else. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 22:51, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
I support this proposal as the best way forward at the current time. โ€”Boson (talk) 23:05, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
I appreciate your support. It is time that we accomplished something, even if it is only a stop-gap measure. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 23:08, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
Mmm, torn, whilst there are elements of what you propose I could support, I feel compelled to point out that Kahastok is correct. Sadly experience would tend to teach that some editors will edit to push an agenda, not to improve wikipedia. I would continue to support the use of the Times guide simply because even accessing via the Wayback machine, it is a readily accessibly guideline. And I don't see the need for stop gap measures, since we already have a style guide that is more than adequare, such comments imply a need for action that simply doesn't exist. At this point on balance, I would sadly oppose this as a proposal since it provides too much in the way of wiggle room. Wee Curry Monster talk 00:19, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
Some editors do edit to push an agenda, and will do regardless of what is written in the style guide. There is no more "wiggle room" than there is at present. I remind you that the footnote is already a part of the MoS. I have merely correct grammatically various things, and made it so the footnote, which provides an important acknowledgement of a potential dispute, is not ignored and has become part of the body. This is not substantively different from Kahastok's proposal. As far as the Times is concerned, I'm fine with including it as a point of reference, but only if it is included alongside other journalistic style guides. As I'm sure this would not be appreciated, I do not think that it is necessary to include the Times style guide. There is no substantive reason to favour the Times style guide over any other, and as it stands, we don't know whether the current Times style guide is in line with one on Wayback Machine. Furthermore, we have developed our own style guide that substantively disagrees with the Times style guide in various contexts. Our style guide should be the guideline. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 00:40, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Support. I like the rewrite. It's clearer and has a more logical structure. General principles are stated first, then the exceptions. Like items are grouped together. I find that the rewrite is faithful to the current text, the wording more elegant and easier to parse. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 05:45, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
  • We often refer to Strunk & White, CMOS and AP Stylebook in talk page discussions but these names never make it into the guideline whether the body or footnote, so I don't think we need to be obsessed with retaining reference to The Times styleguide either. Now, as part of the footnote, the "note" looks rather incongruous and appears to give undue weight to the times although it's never been our practice to stipulate specific examples. Remember, we can always comb through the talk page archives if needs be we need to locate the consensus through which we arrived at what is in the guideline. Also, because it's a policy matter, we are free to decide who to follow and what elements to adopt, so long as we can agree. I personally don't find continued obsession on this front helpful. Au contraire, I think hanging on to this bit of the past is a hindrance, since it's now obsolete and we are left with an archive link anyway โ€“ the consensus here seems to be that we should adhere to practice that we understand to be prevalent in the UK today, and not necessarily what The Times applied four or more years ago (note that they applied, and still apply, mdy dates โ€“ which we ignore). So yes, I'm all in favour of dropping reference to The Times. -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 02:30, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
As an aside, can I ask editors to keep the discussion coherent and not to indulge in side bars in user talk.
I fundamentally disagree and suggest there is a strong need for a style guide suggestion. I also find your comment this is an obsession to be deeply patronising. Fundamentally if you go down the route of airily dismissing a comment with such a patronising comment you are one with the weak argument.
You suggest that we go with what is prevalent in the UK today, simply because the style guide we use is 4 years old is not a problem. There has been no real change in the last 4 years and I see no reason to change; this is a fallacious argument.
If you leave it to editor discretion about what is prevalent today, you'll have certain editors looking for sources in metric and claiming that is evidence of prevalance and editing accordingly. The lack of a prescribed style guide is a recipe for even greater disruption not a hindrance. This is nothing to do with a continued obsession on anyone's part its sadly the result of bitter experience with a group of editors who are of the opinion that Wikipedia should be in the Vanguard of metricating the UK.
Either we let them have their way and make Wikipedia 100% metric or we have a style guide to follow. Any ambiguity will be exploited for agenda based editing, not editing for the benefit of our readers. Those are the choices, so do we go back to square one and discuss whether we go 100% metric? Wee Curry Monster talk 10:34, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
This is a paranoid approach, I'm sad to say. This is not just a problem with regard to units. The same discussion is had with regard to national varieties of English, and dates. Wikipedia is inevitably prone to this, and it really doesn't matter what the style guide says. If we switched to all metric, there would still be people changing everything to imperial. Heck, as it stands now, there is a guy going around changing Hanyu Pinyin romanisations into Wade-Giles and Postal Map romanisations for no apparent reason, contrary to Wikipedia recommendations. See Wikipedia talk:WikiProject China. That's the way Wikipedia is, but that doesn't mean that we can't clarify the style guide. In the event of a word skewer, he will no doubt be confronted, as the fellow screwing around with Chinese romanisations is being. There will always be conflict. Conflict is innate to an encyclopedia edited by anyone with no clear editorial hierarchy. Nevertheless, we cannot shy away from important changes for the sake of those few who screw around. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 13:20, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
Accusations of paranoia are deeply unhelpful and you're making this personal; don't let your frustration get to you. The point is policy should be clear, if you have room for creative interpretation you create potential for conflict. If you don't have a clear guide, you create potential for conflict. Don't rewrite the style guide in a manner that promotes the potential for conflict is all I'm saying and that isn't being paranoid. Wee Curry Monster talk 13:45, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
It is not meant as an attack. I understand the reasons for your position. However, you've not pointed out what exactly about my proposal is substantively different from the present text, and what about it makes it any more susceptible to "creative interpretation". I think we've all acknowledged that the present guide is unclear in certain aspects. That's why we are here to begin with, and I've tried to make it clearer. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 16:29, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
It came over as tetchiness rather than a personal attack to be honest. I don't think your proposal is clearer, it removes the reference to the Times style guide as a reference to establish UK usage, which is why it was originally put there. I did make some grammar suggestions to make policy very clear in my effort below. TBH I now think this is a stale debate and the participants are not in a position to agree anything. There are too many fixed positions to find a middle ground, hence, I've initiated an RFC. Wee Curry Monster talk 16:42, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
The question for those who want to remove the Times, as I see it, is, what are you going to say when an editor comes up, with a load of instances of usage of a unit - say, feet for mountain height (WP:OR, but that's what it will be). They say, look, British people all use feet for mountains really. We should add an exception to include feet for mountains.
You can point to consensus, but consensus can change. You can argue and say that British people use miles. But it's your word against theirs. You can say that this organisation uses metres, they'll say that organisation uses feet. Right now, we can say that the guide we're basing it on prefers metres. Without that guide, we can't say that.
As to the other point, I believe that the principle should be that we should follow the rules provided - unless consensus agrees that there is a good reason not to, beyond personal preference (either for a given system) and beyond source-based units. We shouldn't give those who insist on a POV a get-out, allowing them to declare "dispute" and therefore that some other system - any other system - overrides the normal rules. I have put a suggestion at User:Kahastok/Units2 to illustrate a wording that I would find acceptable. Kahastok talk 18:24, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
I haven't looked closely at the differences yet, but I wanted to give some positive feedback immediately: I think "the following approximation to local usage (broadly based on the style guide of The Times) " is an improvement. I am not too keen on
  • "There have been many disputes on Wikipedia over unit use on UK articles and most have arisen between editors advocating the superiority of one system over another. Because the primary reason for Wikipedia's existence is to provide an online encyclopedia that is readily accessible".
I don't generally think it is a good idea to characterize disputes at MoS, and in this case, I don't โ€“ off-hand โ€“ recall ever seeing a dispute based on the superiority of one system over another.
As regards "what are you going to say when an editor comes up with . . .", what do you say to an editor who say "sports articles should be all metric"?
As regards "is applied", I would generally be in favour of such wording, because I believe in limiting any wriggle room and making it explicit, but I think we might need to tweak the following bullet points first (I am thinking of things like aviation speeds and fuel consumption).
I think it is too early for the RfC, because we haven't clarified what to ask about the important issues (which were deliberately excluded from all these proposals).
--Boson (talk) 19:01, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers/Units

Feel free to criticise but fundamentally I see a strong need for a suggested style guide and the Times has been the recommended style guide for some time. Wee Curry Monster talk 10:58, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

BTW this is intended as a sandpit for anyone to edit. Wee Curry Monster talk 13:09, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
Do I understand you correctly here (and above: "The lack of a prescribed style guide is a recipe for even greater disruption not a hindrance.") to mean that the current MoS prescribes or suggests adherence to The Times style guide and should continue to do so? --Boson (talk) 13:33, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
I'm also not sure of how this section relates to the previous section on RGloucester's proposal. Is this intended as a sort of sub-debate to inform that debate or is it supposed to be separate? --Boson (talk) 13:33, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
I answered above but to be clear the lack of clear guidance is a recipe for conflict and yes MoS does suggest adherence to the Times style guide, that is why it was added. Wee Curry Monster talk 13:50, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
I see a number of issues:
  1. If, as you understand, MoS does suggest adherence to the Times style guide, then the advice is contradictory because the advice given in the MoS differs substantially from that given by The Times. The overlap is not really that large, and editors need to choose between the two.
  2. Even where The Times style guide might be regarded as complementary, there are likely to be problems. For instance, I got the impression from the discussion here that following The Times recommendation "overwhelming preference is sporting [etc.] . . . stories to be metric" did not meet with approval and had led to conflict. At least some creative interpretation is required.
  3. Though there may be some foreign readers, The Times is a UK newspaper targeting a UK readership. Wikipedia is an international encyclopaedia targeting an international readership. Both because of its editors and readership and because of differences between newspapers and encyclopaedias, the requirements are fundamentally different. There may be some overlap on issues of typography, punctuation, etc. but the relevant style guides for encyclopaedias are more likely to be publications like The Chicago Manual of Style and the New Oxford Style Manual .
  4. Though various style guides may be discussed on talk pages when formulating our own recommendations, I would say it is not normal MoS practice to refer directly to a specific style guide and it would be very unusual to suggest or prescribe adherence to such a third-party style guide.
  5. The current link is dead, and linking to an archived, copyright style guide with the expectation that Wikipedians will read and comply with the content is problematic, particularly since (we are told) the copyright owners deliberately moved the original content behind a paywall and it now appears to be available only in print form (with a clear copyright notice). I would, at least, like to see a fair use rationale. Boson (talk) 15:57, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
I find the heading rather confusing. This section seems to be about recommending The Times style guide. Wouldn't a better heading be "Should we recommend adherence to The Times style guide?"? --Boson (talk) 15:58, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
OK. I now see one is supposed to click on the heading. I still think this could be made clearer . I'm not sure how the RfC is supposed to work in conjunction with people editing in the "sandpit. --Boson (talk) 16:08, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
It was originally intended to be a Sandpit but as the comments demonstrated a certain tetchiness, I felt it was about time to get a fresh perspective. People are adopting fixed positions, they've stopped listening so an RFC seemed the next logical step. And if you read the text it suggests it as a guidance for UK usage, there is no need for a FUR. Nor is it unusual to suggest following or adopting a style guide from elsewhere. For example, most UK universities would suggest using Turabian from the University of Chicago rather than an in-house style. I don't see a sustainable or logical objection in your argument, more of a criticism by speculation. Wee Curry Monster talk 16:33, 28 October 2013 (UTC)


People are arguing about which order imperial and metric goes in? You need to get out more? BedsBookworm (talk) 12:35, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

RFC: Proposals to rewrite WP:MOSNUM on UK units of preference


Withdrawn by initiator due to lack of participation. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 15:38, 13 November 2013 (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.

Currently there are three suggestions being put forward for adoption:

A) User:Kahastok/Units
B) User:RGloucester/units
C) Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers/Units
D) no change

External opinion is being canvassed on the option to be pursued. Please comment in the threaded discussion section and indicate your preference in the survey section. Contributors to the discussion so far are politely asked to refrain from commenting to encourage external comment. Wee Curry Monster talk 14:23, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

Note, I am adding another suggestion, User:Kahastok/Units2, before any comments are made. Kahastok talk 18:25, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
Diffs would make it easier to compare proposals to each other. Is there a simple way to do this? Garamond Lethet
22:09, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

โ”Œโ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”˜ I had started finding the differences between the draft by RGloucester and that by Wee Curry Monster.

Apart from some copy-editing and moving some stuff around, the main difference I found seem to be that

Some editors, however, hold strong opinions in favour or against metrication in the United Kingdom. If there is disagreement about which unit should be used as primary in a UK-related article, discuss the matter on the article's talk page, and consult relevant WikiProjects. If consensus cannot be reached, refer to historically stable versions of the article in question, and retain the unit used in these as the primary unit. "

was replaced by

"There have been many [[WP:LAME#Falkland Islands|disputes]] on Wikipedia over unit use on UK articles and most have arisen between editors advocating the superiority of one system over another. The current consensus position favours local usage, since the primary reason for wikipedia's existence is to provide an online encyclopedia that is readily accessible. Some editors hold strong opinions in favour or against [[metrication in the United Kingdom]]. To avoid disputes, do not edit articles to reverse the primary unit from one system to another and if there is disagreement about which unit should be used as primary in a UK-related article, discuss the matter on the article's [[Wikipedia:Talk Page|talk page]], and consult relevant [[Wikipedia:WikiProject|WikiProjects]]. If consensus cannot be reached, refer to historically stable versions of the article in question, and retain the unit used in these as the primary unit. For further guidance consult the [[Metrication in the UK#Newspapers|style guides]] of British publications such as the [ ''Times'']."

--Boson (talk) 23:34, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

Similarly comparing the draft by RGloucester with the second draft by Kahastok, apart from quite a lot of copy-editing etc., the main difference I found seem to be that

"There have been many disputes on Wikipedia over unit use on UK articles and most have arisen between editors advocating the superiority of one system over another. Because the primary reason for Wikipedia's existence is to provide an online encyclopedia that is readily accessible, the following approximation to local usage (broadly based on the style guide of The Times) is applied."

has been added. Perhaps the authors will describe their changes and the rationale for them in more detail. --Boson (talk) 00:08, 29 October 2013 (UTC)

  • Difference between the RGloucester and Kahastock versions here. Gloucester's is on the left. The main differences are in the 'United Kingdom' section.
  • Difference between Kahastock1 and Kahastock2 here. Main difference is re-adoption of "primary" (as used in the current MOS:NUM) instead of "main" used in K1; footnote is now assimilated into the body, and defines the style guide of The Times as "approximation to local usage". -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 01:42, 29 October 2013 (UTC)

โ”Œโ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”€โ”˜ Thanks for the diffs. For those of us who are trying to get caught up, what is the difference between choices C and D? Garamond Lethet
15:47, 29 October 2013 (UTC)

Diffs between any two of the four drafts and between any draft and the current version can be seen using this. NebY (talk) 13:58, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

Response to questions on Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers/Units

My reasoning for changes:

I added this section drawing attention to WP:LAME because it has been a source of controversy and to give editors a perspective of how it is viewed by the community at large.

This elevates the footnote as others have suggested.

I expanded the footnote to give an example of the sort of behaviour that has cause problems and elevated the advise for avoiding disputes from the footnote.

The Times style guide is available through the Wayback machine. I suggest reference to a style guide as a means of establishing common usage. The alternateive is usually to have editors try to argue using sources as evidence of common usage. Given the confusing morass of unit use this only leads to conflict.

I also changed the lead into the UK

This makes it plain whilst the UK is mostly metric, imperial units remain the primary unit in certain circumstances. And it defines what they are. Wee Curry Monster talk 14:27, 29 October 2013 (UTC)

User:Kahastok/Units and User:Kahastok/Units2

The point behind User:Kahastok/Units is to propose an entirely new structure for units. The idea is that UK-related contexts are not changed, in the hope that consensus can be gained for it as an entirely separate issue to UK-related articles. It was the first such proposal and other proposals are built from it, and contain improvements, many of which I would have no objection to. Differences are listed Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style/Dates_and_numbers#The_Kahastok_Proposal_-_User:Kahastok.2FUnits.

User:Kahastok/Units2 adopts some points from other ideas on UK-related articles. It adopts stylistic improvements from others' comments, but does not fundamentally change the structure.

The UK section adopts sections from others' points, and some of my own. So far as I am concerned the important distinctions from other bits are, in the introduction:

Because the primary reason for Wikipedia's existence is to provide an online encyclopedia that is readily accessible, the following approximation to local usage (broadly based on the style guide of The Times) is applied.

I believe it is important to note what we based the advice on, if only to forestall the argument that we made it all up (applying WP:V), that has been made by those who have a POV in favour of one or other system. I am not very bothered, all in all, about keeping the first sentence in that paragraph - though we could truncate it before the "and".

Some editors hold strong views for or against metrication in the UK. If there is disagreement about the units used for main quantities in an article, discuss the matter on the article talk page, and consult relevant WikiProjects, and/or MOSNUM. Exceptions to the above are appropriate if there is a good reason; however, personal preference or alignment with the specific source cited to justify the measure are not considered good reasons.

The footnote. I believe that we should not advise, in case of dispute, that editors follow any system other than that already provided (otherwise it can be used to undermine the advice provided). I also think that it's worth making it clear that we can deviate, if there is a good reason. This, I believe, does not allow editors to pick units willy-nilly, or to impose their own system that does not follow the rules provided, but does point out that reasonable variation is a good idea when there is a good reason for it. Kahastok talk 18:19, 29 October 2013 (UTC)


None of the broader changes to MOSNUM unless this stops being a UK-only imperial-only discussion. Limited changes to the UK-specific section of MOSNUM taking the best from all four versions and omitting much. NebY (talk) 19:34, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

Threaded Discussion

All four proposals seek to resolve a UK dispute by rewriting a large part of WP:MOSNUM, not just the UK-specific section. Discussion has taken place under the heading "Imperial measurements" and only UK Projects have been invited to participate in the RFC. I fear many editors outside the UK and not interested in imperial measurements may quite reasonably disrespect and ultimately overturn a MOSNUM rewritten by a local group to solve a local difficulty. I suggest that no changes be made apart from improving the UK-specific section.

Of the UK-specific sections offered, two have an introductory paragraph "there have been many disputes..." and two have closing paragraphs "Some editors, however, hold strong opinions...." Both introductory paragraphs introduce a somewhat disputatious tone and can be omitted. I prefer RGloucester's closing one. I don't agree that we should refer to newspaper style guides, because (a) they vary greatly, are not all accessible (for example, that of the Times) and editors have previously disagreed furiously and at length about which to respect and (b) because Wikipedia is not a newspaper; it's an encyclopedia and its style guide is MOSNUM.

Three replace "miles, miles per hour, and fuel consumption in miles per imperial gallon" with "miles for distance, miles per hour for speed, and miles per imperial gallon for fuel consumption" which I much prefer. I fear there will still be cases in which distance and speed should be expressed in metric - some sports, for example - and wonder if we need an explicit restriction or derogation.

All add a section on UK engineering-related articles, which is reasonable, but I really dislike the phrase three use, "the system of units the topic was drawn-up in" and prefer the fourth's "in the units that the project was designed in." (We might make that "designed, constructed and/or manufactured" in case we don't have direct access to the design as such, but that's a minor point.) NebY (talk) 19:28, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

The whole point of my original proposal which sparked this, was to propose a new structure quite apart from UK-related articles. The version User:Kahastok/Units deliberately makes no change whatsoever to the current wording UK-related articles, other than those required to make the new structure make sense (including moving the existing engineering point from a separate section to the main UK section). My view is that these are two separate issues and that making agreement on a new structure dependent on significant change to the UK-related section will probably mean that we end up with neither. Kahastok talk 22:48, 28 October 2013 (UTC)
Do you think a new structure that is, as you say, quite apart from UK-related articles will stand unchallenged even though the only discussion has taken place under the heading "Imperial measurements" and invitations to participate in this RFC have been sent to UK projects only, all describing this as "proposals to improve the language at WP:MOSNUM relating to the use of Units in UK related articles"? You're looking for a lasting settlement. Do you really want to risk affronting interested editors outside the UK? NebY (talk) 11:47, 29 October 2013 (UTC)
Neby, the RFC was raised primarily at Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Wikipedia style and naming to get community wide input. At another editor's suggestion I copied it on UK groups because of the particular interest there. It has not been sent to UK projects only and you are more than welcome to suggest a wider circulation. Wee Curry Monster talk 14:13, 29 October 2013 (UTC)
WCM, my apologies - I completely overlooked that primary notification. Shows what I know about raising RFCs. I'm also fairly unfamiliar with project-space, let alone which projects are active. I do know WP:TRAINS is active and even hosts UK-specific discussions (there's one going there right now about whether UK articles should use "up and "down"). Maybe I'll have more suggestions tomorrow - I have to go now. There is one other that I suppose I should mention. I don't know if it's active, I don't know if it's still a pit of unending grief and I do not want to re-open old wounds but ... WP:FALKLAND? NebY (talk) 16:53, 29 October 2013 (UTC)
Ah yes, we're rehashing this only because the guidance in WP:FALKLANDSUNITS was deleted... -- Ohc ยกdigame!ยฟque pasa? 17:01, 29 October 2013 (UTC)
Well, frankly, the Falklands dispute did have a lot to do with this - but more because when the discussion at Talk:Falkland Islands finished with consensus for imperial units in the circumstances outlined here. The editor trying to force metrication, though a Wikilayered interpretation of this rule, then tried to change this rule. He is currently indefinitely blocked for Wikilawyering and even if unblocked is likely to be topic banned from units of measure. Kahastok talk 18:01, 29 October 2013 (UTC)
FWIW, I would be happy for it to go forward, as a new structure, in a separate discussion if that would be preferred generally. Kahastok talk 18:04, 29 October 2013 (UTC)
That might be worth trying if this RFC doesn't draw more people in. It would be less daunting and you could make it more accessible by bringing in at an early stage your quick overview of why you think revision is needed/helpful, what the revision consists of and what it would or wouldn't affect. But the current RFC hasn't been up long, so I'd say wait a bit. NebY (talk) 14:21, 30 October 2013 (UTC)
B) User:RGloucester/units#United_Kingdom mostly, except with:
  1. miles per imperial gallon instead of [[Miles per gallon| miles per imperial gallon]] in general, except defaulting to miles per gallon where Template:Use British English (obligatorily primary if Template:Use British Units).
  2. imperial pints instead of [[Pint| imperial pints]] in general, except defaulting to pint whereTemplate:Use British English (obligatorily primary if Template:Use British Units). โ€“ Ian, DjScrawl (talk) 03:02, 29 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Question To what extent do Britons actually not understand the difference between imperial and metric units? That is to say, will most Britons be able to conceptualize "10 km" about as well as he can conceptualize "10 mi"? If most Britons aren't very good at understanding what a certain unit of measure signifies, then we probably shouldn't use it as the primary one in an article specifically about their society. Please use {{Ping|Koavf}} if you respond to me. โ€”Justin (koavf)โคTโ˜ฎCโ˜บMโ˜ฏ 06:26, 10 November 2013 (UTC)

@Koavf: - That is a point of contention. Some will say metric, some imperial. There is no consensus exactly as to what Britons are better at conceptualizing. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 16:32, 10 November 2013 (UTC)

The argument that the British all use kilometres really falls down when you consider that the road signs are all in miles. If British people genuinely thought of distances in kilometres, given that all of the UK's neighbours use kilometres on all their signage, there would be no sense whatsoever in putting all signage in imperial. And yet all the signage is in imperial - more universally so even than in the US. This is why I characterise such a claim as effectively arguing that the British put just put miles on road signs to confuse foreigners and for no other purpose.
We could, in theory, invent an artificial distinction between distances along roads and distances not along roads, meaning that the distance from London to Edinburgh is cited as 400 miles if measured along roads, but 500 kilometres if measured as the crow flies. But as this distinction has no basis in usage, it would just create confusion among editors and readers alike. I note in any case that the proposals are basically the same on this point - retaining the status quo of miles for distance. Kahastok talk 16:55, 10 November 2013 (UTC)
  • Signage @Kahastok: "all the signage is in imperialโ€”more universally so even than in the US" Impossible. โ€”Justin (koavf)โคTโ˜ฎCโ˜บMโ˜ฏ 19:12, 10 November 2013 (UTC)
Yet true. See Interstate 19. And what about File:Bowling Green Distance Sign cropped.jpg this sign? All such road signs in Britain measure distances in miles. Only. Kahastok talk 21:14, 10 November 2013 (UTC)
Not entirely true. There are some British road signs which express distances in real units, but half-educated vandals insist on removing them. Honestly, this asinine stupidity makes me ashamed of my country. Archon 2488 (talk) 22:17, 12 November 2013 (UTC)
All of them express distances in real units, such as miles and yards. And outside the code numbers on driver location signs (which most wouldn't recognise as a distance, let alone where measured from, let alone what units they're in), no British road signs use metric units for distance. Kahastok talk 23:06, 12 November 2013 (UTC)
If it were true that none of them used metric units, the good folks at ARM would be out of business: is but one example (they vandalised it with an ugly sign saying "80 YDS", and boast about how they have mutilated thousands of road signs). Honestly, these "miles and yards" are real units in the way that smoots or kilofurlongs are "real units"; they have no primary definitions of their own, they do not form part of a coherent system, they are redundant, and they are purely parasitic on the only true, complete system of measurement that exists in the world today. For Wikipedia to reflect this (which is, dare I say it, a fact about metrology) would be no great crime. Or is it a point of view to write "2013" rather than insisting on "MMXIII"? Archon 2488 (talk) 01:25, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
We "put miles on road signs" because our DfT has an absurdly conservative policy on units of measurement, and would quite literally rather give us nonsense 19th-century measurements than update our country's direly outdated road infrastructure at all โ€“ I note that every other major anglophone country outside of the USA has already modernised their road signs to remove these silly and obsolete units. Most British people have little grasp of how obsolete these medieval English measurements are outside of the UK and USA (even not knowing that Ireland has come into the 21st century in this regard in the last decade). So for what it's worth, we don't all insist on pretending that we live in Dickens novels or Merrie Englande, and many things (OS maps, running, cycling, swimming, etc.) already use metric distances, rather than insisting on Ye Olde miles and yards. That some people don't grasp this is not a comment on the continued utility of these units; it is a comment on how limited the imagination of their defenders is.
So if it's not โ€œto confuse foreignersโ€ what objective purpose does it serve? Does it really add anything to a kilometre to multiply it by 1.609344 and call it a โ€œmileโ€? Does this absurd exercise in decimal arithmetic make these horrendously artificial and anachronistic โ€œmilesโ€ (what a dishonest name, it's not even a โ€œthousandโ€ of anything!) more authentic and reasonable a unit than the international standard unit, the kilometre? Does it serve the interests of Wikipedia to pander to the stubborn and illogical measurement habits of the Daily Telegraph, segments of the British public and the DfT? Archon 2488 (talk) 22:17, 12 November 2013 (UTC)
I've moved this to avoid breaking up my post above. Hope you don't mind.
You are arguing the merits of metrication, not whether the UK is currently metric. It is clear that you do not like miles and yards. Fine. That is your opinion and you have a perfect right to it. But Wikipedia is not in the business of campaigning for metrication in the United Kingdom or anywhere else - to do so would violate WP:NPOV fairly badly.
In this regard, the UK is not currently metric. The fact is that most British people don't think in kilometres and the road signs reflect that. The objective reason for using miles is to reflect the units actually used in practice by the vast majority of people actually using the roads. If people really did think in kilometres, after fifty years of metrication we wouldn't still be in a place where all the road signs are still in miles and yards. They would have disappeared decades ago.
If you don't like road signs in miles, the thing to do is write to your MP. You can be sure that Wikipedia will reflect changes in British practice. But you're saying that Wikipedia should use metric-first for ideological reasons, and that's not how we work. Kahastok talk 23:06, 12 November 2013 (UTC)
I think you've got it the wrong way round. The road signs don't change on the basis of public opinion (this was not the approach taken in the countries that refused to faff around, and actually just converted to the metric system), and nor should Wikipedia be a slave to public prejudices. Woe betide us all if the opinions of the unlettered British public have to be paid due respect on the pages of Wikipedia. What you are suggesting would amount to giving the arrogant idiot (I mean the likes of Peter Hitchens) the whip hand over the educated and progressive. Should we edit articles on homosexuality to reflect the opinions of bigots, that it's a condition liable to be be changed by "reparative therapy", or articles on homeopathy to suggest that it might be a viable "alternative" treatment? Maybe the evidence for the age of the earth must be somewhat dubious, given how many people think it's less than ten thousand years old? Objectivity isn't about a popularity contest, let alone the opinions of the learned editors of the Daily Mail, and truth is not about the majority. This is the kind of nonsensical "neutrality" we don't need; in the end it amounts to little more than an appeal to populism and a tacit promotion of ignorance. I hope that when people look back on this in a hundred years they understand that not all of us were so backwards. In any case, I don't believe that it's a capital crime for Wikipedia to be more progressive than the very pre-21st century DfT.
Preferring metric isn't "ideological"; the SI is, in an absolutely objective sense, the primary system of measurement, and obscuring this fact serves only to promote ignorance. The definitions of the inch, foot, yard, chain, furlong, mile, and all the rest of them, are entirely fixed by the definition of the dreaded metre. To pander to this "metrophobia" is to say that the delusion that the imperial system is an entity independent of the metric system, is worth protecting. I don't see why it is. Archon 2488 (talk) 01:25, 13 November 2013 (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.

Above RfC

We seem to have painted ourselves into a corner with this RfC. It was requested that previous editors should not take part, and I have also limited my comments in other sections for this reason, but very few previously uninvolved editors seem to want to get involved, which I can understand. According to the RfC instructions, editors could agree to close the RfC, but since most of the people who have shown interest in trying to resolve the isssue have been requested not to participate, that might be problematic. Because of the request for already involved parties not to take part, I can't see how an uninvolved party could possibly determine consensus. So I would suggest that the best course is for the proposer to formally withdraw the RfC with a separate sub-section under the RfC heading entitled "Proposal to terminate the RfC" and a neutral comment such as "As proposer, I withdraw the RfC." Does anyone object to this RfC being closed with no consensus in 48 hours?" If there are no objections, I think anyone could then close the RfC as "withdrawn by proposer". We could then see if anyone is interested in continuing the remaining discussion (above the RfC), which has been largely suspended because of the RfC. --Boson (talk) 00:01, 13 November 2013 (UTC)

I've already asked for an uninvolved admin to close the RFC, as I have concluded there is little chance of changing the policy at this time as there is no clear consensus to do so. I would also suggest this unproductive discussion is closed but if editors wish to continue to bicker and chest beat I am not intending to join them. Any RFC is going to be derailed by the kind of advocacy based editing we're now seeing above. Personally I am sad to see editors displaying such intolerance and such entrenched views that they can't compromise, which is essential to consensus building. If you have strong views about the metric system and its utility, well I can respect that and as a professional engineer I to some extent agree that the UK is a beggar's muddle. However, as a wikipedia editor I put that aside to edit an encyclopedia for the common man it seems certain editors disparage. I feel compelled to remind everyone that consensus building and compromise is inherent to wikipedia, if you cannot accept that the attitudes displayed about will only lead to an indefinite block eventually when the communities patience runs out. Wee Curry Monster talk 12:37, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
Just in case you meant me rather than a generic "you" in "If you have strong views about the metric system and its utility . . ." I, personally, have no strong views on the metric system whatsoever. I am more interested in lingusitics and have stronger views on non-POV, evidence-based determination of relevant usage, and lexicographical considerations, as well as on inconsistent, contradictory, or unclear guidelines. I am also interested in resolving disputes rather than letting them become a festering sore.
As regards asking an uninvolved admin to close the RfC, I doubt if that will happen (at least not until 30 days have passed). The job of such an admin would be to assess the consensus formed in the RfC discussion. However, for the reasons I gave above, there is no basis for assessing such a consensus; there is not really any basis for assessing lack of consensus since those with views are abstaining by request. That is why I think withdrawing the RfC is the best course. Then the RfC discussion could be hatted, "preventing" further contributions and thus enabling it to be automatically archived.--Boson (talk) 13:31, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
No I didn't mean you at all and I share the desire to end this. However, I see no consensus for any of the suggested changes and the demand for no compromise to be unhelpful. I see no merit in continuing a dialogue of the deaf. Wee Curry Monster talk 13:48, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
I've taken the liberty of closing the RfC. There is no reason to wait for an admin to close it, as the initiator of an RfC is allowed to withdraw it at any time, and since that's what WCM wants, that is what I've done. I hope we can let this issue be. I suppose we made a noble attempt. RGloucester โ€” โ˜Ž 15:41, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
I agree and hope the closure above helps. Wee Curry Monster talk 12:26, 14 November 2013 (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.
  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").
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^