Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Manual of Style
WikiProject icon This page falls within the scope of WikiProject Manual of Style, a drive to identify and address contradictions and redundancies, improve language, and coordinate the pages that form the MoS guidelines.

Military dates, round 2[edit]


Is anybody noticing that today's article on Paul Tibbets is using mdy dates, despite his background in the U.S. military?

I will remind people of this discussion, archived not so very long ago, where I was more or less ridiculed for being of the opinion that people of the U.S. military should have mdy dates, just like other American people. The reason: Wikipedia is larger than military life, and problems arise when people have another notable career, such as in the case of Dwight D. Eisenhower, John McCain, Audie Murphy, James Stewart, Wesley Clark, and many more. This problem does not occur in the U.S. military, as they, unlike Wikipedia, don't write about just about everything.

In Tibbets' case, it's doubtful that his post-military career is notable, as it's connected to his background in the U.S. Air Force. That career alone had, most probably, not qualified him for an article here. Thus, he's mainly known for his military background. Still, his article uses mdy dates.

I put it to you that the constant re-surfacing of this issue, and the numerous articles of American military people that have mdy dates (despite the guideline), is an obvious indicator that the guideline that was "hammered out" at WP:MILHIST may not necessarily be the correct one.

HandsomeFella (talk) 20:42, 23 May 2015 (UTC)

Is there a change to MOS/Dates you're proposing? Otherwise, discuss this with other editors on the Tibbrts talk page? If that discussion convinces you a change is needed in the guidelines then come back here and propose something. So far I'm just hearing that some articles still need to be brought into conformance with best practice. EEng (talk) 21:21, 23 May 2015 (UTC)
There's always border cases. Use whatever format seems best after talk page discussion and don't be anal about dates. --Pete (talk) 22:58, 23 May 2015 (UTC)
If we change the guidelines – remember: consensus can changethen there will not be any border cases. Articles on American people will have mdy dates, period.
In any case, this Tibbets guy clearly isn't a border case; his post-military career is just barely notable, he's mainly notable for his military career (dropping the bomb), and thus, according to the current interpretation of the guideline, the article should have dmy dates. But I have no intention whatsoever to bring that up on the article talkpage, because I believe that the current interpretation is wrong, and thus the article correct. Instead, the guidelines, or the interpretation of them, should change, which is why I brought it up here.
The interpretation of this clause – articles on the modern US military use day before month, in accordance with military usage – is what need to change. To me, it's obvious that this does not apply to people. You don't say about people that "there goes a modern military".
Yes, the military use dmy dates when referring to people too (they do it consistently), but wikipedia is larger than the military, which is why these problems arise.
HandsomeFella (talk) 16:53, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General. EEng (talk) 19:30, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
@HandsomeFella: Without any explicit consensus on that article's talk page and there having been no recent edits about this from the article's edit summaries, I have boldly changed the article to DMY format citing MOS:DATETIES. If anyone disputes this, they can revert and discuss on that article's talk page. The reference to "military" doesn't exclude people in the military and I disagree with your view that this is "obvious" based on your flawed use of an adjective as a noun. sroc 💬 18:49, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
It does not include people either, and what about the problems that constantly arise? They will vanish if we just change the flawed interpretation. There are hundreds of notable American military people in wikipedia with mdy dates. This article made it all the way up to FA status without anybody noticing the deviation from the current interpretation, so everyone involved in the process must have thought it was both natural and consistent with guidelines to use mdy. That's a clear sign that there's a problem. HandsomeFella (talk) 19:04, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
Btw, I just reverted your bold edit per BRD. I wasn't able to "undo" that particular edit, so I'm notifying you here. HandsomeFella (talk) 19:18, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
Are you proposing a change to the guidelines? If so, what change? EEng (talk) 19:30, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
@HandsomeFella: DATETIES says: "articles on the modern US military use day before month". To my mind, this means any topic relating to the US military, including personnel. In practice:
It's also ambiguous what "modern" means, so it would be good to clarify this, too. When did the US mititary adopt DMY date format? sroc 💬 19:57, 24 May 2015 (UTC) [addenda to 20:50, 24 May 2015 (UTC)]
For "modern", see Modern History. It was adopted during World War I. Hawkeye7 (talk) 20:10, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
What about General officers in the United States, which used inconsistent date formats, even within the section referring to the World War II era? I've reconciled these to DMY consistently. sroc 💬 20:13, 24 May 2015 (UTC)
It is true that Paul Tibbets is not notable outside his military service (although he would still be notable had he not flown the Hiroshima mission). Had the article been created today, it would have been created with DMY dates per the WP:STRONGNAT; but it was created in 2004 (the change history doesn't go back that far). That the article used Polish dates (as they are called in the US) did not go unnoticed at FAC and other reviews; but the decision was taken to leave the article as it was per WP:RETAIN. Occasionally a USAF serviceman comes along and makes an edit, using US format, and I switch the date format. The consensus on Wikipedia over a long period of time has been to allow both Polish and US Military date formats, with the expectation that the MDY format will die off over time. Changing the rules as suggested will not eliminate border cases; it will create more of them. We still have plenty of cases of people whose nationality changed or is uncertain, of conflicts between sides using different dates, of battles and wars fought by coalitions. Hawkeye7 (talk) 20:36, 24 May 2015 (UTC)

Tiresome EEng repeats himself[edit]

I'm going to repeat my strict line that this page is for discussion of changes to MOS/Dates. There either should be a proposal on the table for such a change or, at least, diffs should be provided of actual discussions, on actual articles, suggesting that such a change is needed. If someone thinks the Tibbets article should be changed, go open a discussion there. Otherwise we shouldn't be discussing this here, because most people here aren't interested in that article or its subject, and therefore the discussion tends to become abstract and hypothetical. For example, sroc says above that "modern" is ambiguous; well, certainly it is to at least some extent, but it has yet to be shown that it's ambiguous enough that editors waste time fighting over it on real articles.

The purpose of DATERET, DATETIES, DATEWHATTHEFUCK, and all the other guidelines on this subject is not to make sure each article uses the "right" date format for that article; there's no such thing -- if all articles used MDY, or all used DMY, or articles were assigned to use one or the other by coinflip at the moment of creation, the earth would keep turning and no one would have the slightest problem comprehending the article or be incommoded in any way. And if there was some weird software restriction that compelled only MDY to be used, or only DMY, and there was positively no way to change that, everyone would eventually get used to it and we'd all move on.

But the choice is in fact there, and people feel strongly about it. And thus we have the various DATEWHATEVER guidelines, whose purpose is (as I said) not to "get it right" but merely to cut the baby in half and end debate to the extent possible, so everyone can get back to something productive. So as long as editors are working it out for themselves on article talk pages, there's nothing for us to do here. I'd like to see evidence that that's not happening before this discussion continues.

All IMHO, of course. EEng (talk) 00:44, 25 May 2015 (UTC)

I listed four articles above that use both DMY and MDY interchangably. I want to change them to ensure that they are at least consistent within each article (DATEUNIFY), and ideally consistent with related articles, but there is confusion over whether DATETIES applies to military personnel. So yes, some clarity is needed, and it's not purely hypothetical, nor would it be productive to have the same arguments about the scope of DATETIES over and over separately on each article's talk page—I'm just not sure how best to resolve it other than by discussion here. sroc 💬 02:34, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
Yes, but how do you know there will be any argument at all? I suggest you decide what format you think each article should use, and post that on each article's talk page. If there are no interested editors watching, or those who are watching don't object, you're done. Otherwise, if brief discussion doesn't resolve the matter, come back here. At that point our discussion will have the benefit of the (presumably) thinking of the people who participated on the article Talks. That will make any discussion here much more informed. EEng (talk) 04:41, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
What's the point of having disjointed discussions on the same issue on multiple talk pages when we already have an audience here? I might post links to this discussion on the relevant articles' talk pages, but no point making the same points over and over and over—and possibly coming to different conclusions. sroc 💬 08:35, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
Like I said, it's not clear there will be any discussion at all on article talk pages. Maybe you'd just be able to go ahead and change the articles as you see fit. I think you should find out how that goes first. EEng (talk) 12:06, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
@EEng: Except I don't know how I "see fit" because I have no preference (unless we can obliterate illogical MDY dates altogether... anyone?) so I'm trying to ascertain which version is preferred in this context by consensus. sroc 💬 14:40, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
If we're using the MOS, then discussions on article talkpages are the place for BRD consensus-building talk. If we're talking about changing the MOS, then this is the right place for more general discussion. However, given this current section's focus on one article, I'd rather not have disjointed discussions, possibly coming to different conclusions. I've added a link to this page at the Paul Tibbets talk page, and it can be thrashed out here. So, I guess we're, uh, on the same page, sroc! --Pete (talk) 08:50, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
I'm talking about the MOS. I've created the below RfC seeking to clarify the wording and linked from the talk pages on these articles where both formats are used:
sroc 💬 09:09, 25 May 2015 (UTC)

RfC: What does DATETIES mean for articles on US military personnel?[edit]

Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers § Chronological items §§ Dates, months and years §§§ Strong national ties to a topic (MOS:DATETIES) says:

  • Articles on topics with strong ties to a particular English-speaking country should generally use the date format most commonly used in that nation. For the United States, this is month before day; for most others it is day before month. Articles related to Canada may use either format, with (as always) consistency within any one article.
  • In some topic areas the customary format differs from the usual national one: for example, articles on the modern US military use day before month, in accordance with military usage.

This wording is ambiguous whether articles on US military personnel should use month–day–year (MDY) format, as is standard for general articles about the US, or day–month–year (DMY) format, as applies to other US military topics. As noted above, there is mixed usage in articles on current/recent military personnel: the trend seems to be towards MDY format, but it is unclear whether this is due to editors assuming this applies to all US-based topics without being aware of the exception for the military. There are some articles that use a mix of both formats interchangably, which is undesirable, but it is hard to know which format should be preferred in this context. Some clarification of the above wording to explicitly state whether it applies to articles on specific military personnel would be welcome. sroc 💬 08:53, 25 May 2015 (UTC)

Also, if DMY applies to US military personnel, there is the question of how this applies to Americans who are notable for reasons other than their military career (e.g., DMY if they are primarily notable for their military career, MDY if they are primarily notable for other reasons). sroc 💬 09:18, 25 May 2015 (UTC)

Sroc, I've had my bottom spanked by military-related editors (typically those who've served) for changing dates from dmy to mdy in US military articles. It's especially the case where the admiralty is the theme. So I don't dare flip from one form to the other in US military articles. I don't think it's a big deal. If someone doesn't like it in a particular article or set of articles, they should raise it on a talkpage. Tony (talk) 10:06, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
Now we're going to have to get that image out of our heads. Hawkeye7 (talk) 03:14, 26 May 2015 (UTC)
WP:NOTCENSORED EEng (talk) 04:53, 26 May 2015 (UTC)
Yep. The primary editor(s) decide what date format to use, and after that it shouldn't be changed without consensus. If it is inconsistent, so be it. Plenty of stuff on wiki is inconsistent, but still per MOS. Cheers, Peacemaker67 (crack... thump) 10:14, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
That's assuming that the "primary editor" is au fait with the MoS. This is a big ask. The reason we have bots and wikignomes tidying up articles is because most editors don't write their material in compliance with MoS. That's how it's always worked: someone creates an article with useful information and others add to it, tidy it up, and it gradually climbs the quality ladder. --Pete (talk) 10:42, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
Just because something is in the MoS gives the gnomes no licence to change the pages. They still have to seek agreement with article writers. Hawkeye7 (talk) 23:25, 26 May 2015 (UTC)
(edit conflict) MOS:DATEUNIFY requires that each article is at least consistent with its choice of DMY or MDY, so articles that use both aren't "per MOS".
Based on these comments that both forms are used, should DATETIES be revised to say that articles on US military may use either DMY or MDY as long as each article is internally consistent, as with Canada (and thus the established format shouldn't be changed on this basis, per MOS:DATERET)? Or should this be the rule for US military personnel specifically? sroc 💬 10:48, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
  • Common sense says that DMY dates should be used:
    1. For biographical articles on US military personnel where their primary claim to notability is their military career;
    2. For biographical articles on US military personnel that are military biography forks of the main article (ie "Military career of XXXX") Hawkeye7 (talk) 11:12, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
  • Well, sroc, "In for a dime, in for a dollar", I always say. I'm inclined to extend the "US military" rule to military personnel as well. Some interesting cases:
  • George_Marshall - I would think he counts as clearly military, despite his later diplomatic and administrative career
  • Dwight Eisenhower - Tough call! Was he a general, or a president? The lead photo shows him in mufti, so I guess he's a president.
EEng (talk) 12:18, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
I should clarify that 'I'm inclined to extend the "US military" rule to military personnel as well' assuming we keep the "US military" rule in the first place -- I'm open to the possibility (suggested below) of eliminating the "US military" rule. EEng (talk) 00:22, 26 May 2015 (UTC)
Surely Eisenhower was generally military but the presidency takes precedence? NebY (talk) 12:47, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
Civility militates against such majorly bad puns in lieu of something with a kernel of truth, except in private -- though your attempt was admirable. EEng (talk) 12:56, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
  • I found Hawkeye7's comment interesting because to me, common sense says MDY should be used. For me, the question is "what would the reader expect?", and that overrules the pedantic arguments between editors. Most readers of US military bios will be American and naturally predisposed to the MDY format they are used to. We have no real need to use the format the US Military does (and if we decide to do so, do we intend to also use the 24-hour clock for any times noted in such articles, etc?). Resolute 14:10, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
  • Perhaps, but I was speaking in general terms about a biographical article, whether or not it relates to a military mission. Resolute 22:35, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
  • Strike final sentence and let U.S. military articles use MDY dates. I don't see a strong reason why dates related to one U.S. topic should use a different style than others. Military style guides may prefer DMY, but reliable sources don't. As for the question posed here, I would prefer to use MDY per my comment and because the articles on individuals are not strictly about the American military. Calidum T|C 14:43, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
  • Many comments here go well beyond the initial question, which was limited to biographies. Limiting my comments to that subject, I don't see any reason for either except to be consistent. A side note: until about 1943, the US Army used MDY formats, at least in Adjutant General correspondendce. --Lineagegeek (talk) 22:18, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
If there is a growing consensus to do away with the military exception, then I wouldn't object to it; we could start a renewed RfC if necessary. sroc 💬 01:58, 26 May 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree generally with Peacemaker: "The primary editor(s) decide what date format to use, and after that it shouldn't be changed without consensus.".
And agree with Resolute, that clarity of understandng by the reader should be the overriding criterion that overrules all pendantic arguments. Above all, it should be noted that there is no reason to believe that any reader of English (or even anyone who understands Arbabic numberals) should have any difficulty handling either (e.g.) "April 11" or "11 April". Which is to say that in regards of MDY/DMY both formats are acceptable.
The one reason I can see for preferring (but not mandating!) "military" date format in purely military topics is where coverage of the topic involves a lot of dates, perhaps a lot of quoted dates, and the editors prefer to follow the sources. But (following Dirtlayer) shouldn't this also imply military style time format? (Note that military time is not the same as "24-hour time". E.g., 6 AM is not 06:00, but 0600J, or "oh six hundred hours".) The advocates of military style dates don't seem to carry this logic over to time (the three articles cited above being deficient in this regard). In the end, there is no compelling argument that military topics should conform to military usage. If the editors involved desire to do so, fine, and if not, also fine, and they should not be coerced othewise. Agree with Callidium to strike the final sentence about military usage. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 23:17, 25 May 2015 (UTC)
If the general consensus is that DMY dates in articles on military topics and/or personnel is optional, then might it be preferable to reword the final sentence instead? For example:
  • In some topic areas the customary format differs from the usual national one: for example, some articles on US military use day before month, in accordance with modern military usage.
Otherwise, deleting the highlighted wording altogether could prompt wholesale changes to MDY dates (on the basis that the first bullet point of DATETIES expects them for US-centric topics) given that the exception for US military articles would be deleted and there would not be explicit consensus to adopt DMY on most articles' talk pages.
Of course, if the consensus is to abandon the exception and prefer MDY dates in US military articles, then should the second bullet point be deleted altogether? Are there any other cases where this applies? sroc 💬 02:09, 26 May 2015 (UTC)
Why not use DMY dates? These are easier for the reader to understand, as they don't involve commas. That's why the military shifted to them in the first place. There is no rational argument for MDY. They may be customary in some parts of the US, but they are not official. (And yes, there are other cases.) Hawkeye7 (talk) 08:39, 26 May 2015 (UTC)
@Hawkeye7: What other cases are there? (Partly because I'm curious, partly because it might be useful to mention other examples or substitute the military example.) sroc 💬 14:58, 26 May 2015 (UTC)
It is used by some government agencies. Most people's first contact with the US government is filling in the immigration card (I-94 From memory), in which you are required to enter dates in DMY form. (It also asks if you intend to commit acts of terrorism while in the US. That keeps Bin Laden's buddies out.) Hawkeye7 (talk) 20:41, 26 May 2015 (UTC)
@Hawkeye7: But how does that relate to this guideline? Are you suggesting artucles on US government agencies (or, indeed, terrorism in the US) should use DMY dates if those agencies do? (Should it be 11 September attacks?) sroc 💬 12:08, 27 May 2015 (UTC)
No, I was just answering your question. Hawkeye7 (talk) 20:21, 27 May 2015 (UTC)
I say that there should be:
  1. no preference for either DMY or MDY in "military" articles except by the consensus of the editors involved, and
  2. no wholesale changes whatsoever to date formats except by the consensus of the editors involved.
If the editors involved cannot reach consensus then the existing (or original) format is retained. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 05:31, 26 May 2015 (UTC)
@J. Johnson: This is why I suggested revising the wording rather than simply striking the last sentence. Otherwise, DATETIES will be left saying that articles on US topics use MDY date format (without any carve-out for military articles), and this could then be used to justify changing articles on US military topics that currently use DMY to MDY. If the consensus is that either DMY or MDY should be acceptable in US military articles (and therefore that there is no justification for changing one way or the other), then DATETIES should say so as an explicit exception to the general guideline of MDY for US topics. sroc 💬 14:53, 26 May 2015 (UTC)
@Sroc: You keep leaving out the "should generally" that qualifies "use". A lapse which some editors then interpret as an implicit "must".
Where I said "there should be ... no preference ... except by consensus", that is what I mean: no preference, except by consensus. DATETIES is a guideline (not a mandate) that editors should consider in developing consensus, but it does not justify making any changes contrary to consensus.
If a topic (be it military, scientific, or any other) customarily uses a certain format, then it may be acceptable to use that even if it varies from any "strong national ties". Given the proclivity of some editors to over interpret, this probably should be explained. But only as general guidelines that editors should consider, which do not transcend consensus. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 00:09, 27 May 2015 (UTC)
@J. Johnson: I'm not sure whether you misunderstand me or are interpreting this differently. Take the example of USAF General John E. Hyten, whose article exclusively uses DMY dates (since its creation last July) and whose talk page is blank save for maintenance templates (hence there is no explicit documented consensus that the date format for this article should depart from MOS). Now, if DATETIES were amended to remove the exception for US military topics, an editor could justifiably change the dates in the article to MDY format on the basis of the remaining guidance: "Articles on topics with strong ties to a particular English-speaking country should generally use the date format most commonly used in that nation. For the United States, this is month before day ..."; they could also argue that DATERET does not apply for changes "based on strong national ties to the topic". You could revert the change arguing that it's just a guideline, "not a mandate", but you could end up in an edit war having to explain why the revert was necessary and trying to justify it on the basis that the US military tends to use DMY dates (even though it is no longer a documented exception to DATETIES).
It would be much simpler making it clear in the guideline that both formats are acceptable for US military topics, just as we do for topics on Canadian topics. Why would you want the guideline to be less clear? sroc 💬 12:27, 27 May 2015 (UTC)
What is unclear about my second point of "no wholesale changes whatsoever to date formats except by the consensus of the editors involved"? Your confusion seems to arise from various suppositions (e.g., that exceptions and consensus must be explicit and documented), which you then compound into an elaborate hypothetical where you selectively invoke some guidelines but ignore others (such as the requirement for consensus). Your confusion also arises from your view that DATETIES overrules DATERET. Given the demonstrated confusion where a national tie conflicts with a military tie, it would be much simpler to declare that explicit consensus is always superior, followed by established usage (i.e., implicit consensus), and if neither resolves the matter then (just as Hawkeye7 says, below, and per MOS:DATERET) go with the date format chosen by the first major contributor. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 20:56, 27 May 2015 (UTC)
DATETIES is an express exception to DATERET. So is explicit consensus. But not implicit consensus. Hence my pertinent example where there is no explicit consensus where DATETIES could then be applied to change the date format. Why do you want to make more work for yourself in arguing your (flawed) position by making MOS say something other than what you want in preference for a more clearly worded guideline? (That's purely rhetorical; I'm not trying to engage you in another battle.) sroc 💬 23:28, 28 May 2015 (UTC)
It would make less work all around if you would pay attention. Or (non-rhetorically) do you simply not understand the concept of "should be"? ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:21, 29 May 2015 (UTC)
────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────@J. Johnson:

should verb 1. used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone's actions. 2. used to indicate what is probable.

So if the guideline says you should use MDY for US topics and someone changes the dates to MDY format in a US military article, you would need to justify why we should ignore this "obligation" or "what is probable". If you maintain that "there should be ... no preference for either DMY or MDY in [US] 'military' articles" but you don't want to say so in the guideline that says that there is a preference for MDY in US articles, you're just making more work for everyone arguing over it in individual cases. sroc 💬 03:07, 30 May 2015 (UTC)
Such a wonderful explication that quite misses what I said. . ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:13, 30 May 2015 (UTC)

The reason for the original format provision is for articles like Paul Tibbets were the date formats have become mixed over time. Nothing that the readers care about, but where there is no obvious "existing" format then we go for the original format. Hawkeye7 (talk) 08:39, 26 May 2015 (UTC)
Archive 1... well, that was a long time ago. Not much help, though, because that stupid linked-date thing makes the discussion almost meaningless. Thanks, though. EEng (talk) 04:37, 30 May 2015 (UTC)
  • Retain existing wording - It works, it's worked for a long time, and that's really all we need for an encyclopaedia compiled by many different editors. The question here is really whether the subject of the article is more notable for military service or some other aspect. Paul Tibbets is (to quote) is best known as the pilot who flew the Enola Gay (named after his mother) when it dropped Little Boy, the first atomic bomb used in warfare, on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. That's modern US military. Lee Harvey Oswald, USMC, is better known for other activities. Of course there are cases where one might argue either way, and the article talk page is the place to have that discussion. We cannot possibly make some determination here that covers all such ambiguous situations. Leave it as it is, because it works well. --Pete (talk) 22:41, 27 May 2015 (UTC)
  • All US should be consistent — summoned by bot. I would be against a different guideline for military articles as this creates an unnecessary layer of inconsistency - is Colin Powell a "military article" or a non-military article? Is the president, as head of the US military? What about weapons used by the military and police? What about articles about natural disasters where the National Guard is deployed - is this a military article? You see where I'm going. And this is my firm belief per consistency; personally I prefer DMY and gleefully use it in non-USA articles. МандичкаYO 😜 00:24, 28 May 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment. This guideline has been in place since 2008. Check the history. We're not talking about creating anything new. --Pete (talk) 02:57, 28 May 2015 (UTC)
Why should "all US be consistent"? Why not all en.wp? We all accept the need for consistency within each article, but why do we need consistency on any broader scale? ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 19:30, 28 May 2015 (UTC)
Because, as we have found in the past, we get people who are attached to one format or the other battling with those of a different view, and that is not good for harmony. Personally, I think we should all use SI units, drive on the right, and use dmy, because it's more practical, but others have their own reasons and who am I to argue? We gravitate to what works here and now, and this is what has worked for eight years. --Pete (talk) 22:45, 28 May 2015 (UTC)
So let's petition Jimbo/WMF to make DMY date formats mandatory across all of Wikipedia. One size fits all, and no arguing allowed. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:27, 29 May 2015 (UTC)
Did you even read what I wrote? I don't think so. We work out Wikipedia style right here. I'm happy with the way things are. Because it works well to minimise disruption. We've had some major battles in the past over date formats, and it's not good for Wikipedia to start that up again. JJ, if you want to take your own advice and petition Jimbo, then you go right ahead. That would be pointless and foolish, and you know it. Cheers. --Pete (talk) 14:58, 30 May 2015 (UTC)
Yes, Pete, I read what you said, and what's more, I think I can claim a fair understanding of what you mean. But what you said— well, I asked why "all US" should be consistent, AND ALSO why consistency should not be applied to all of en.wp. A fair reading of what you said is that consistency reduces disruption. If that is true (at least for U.S. articles, but I would question that, just as Wikimandia suggests), then why shouldn't it be true for ALL articles? Would it not then be a good thing if (say) WMF mandated universal consistency? If not, then might it be possible that your apparent belief that consistency reduces disruption is not exactly correct? ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:20, 30 May 2015 (UTC)
No, that's neither what I said or meant. In fact you are exactly wrong. What we have now - an inconsistency in US articles - is what works, has worked for seven years, and minimises disruption. It's what was agreed to after much discussion among editors directly involved. If you want to insist that I said or meant something I have denied multiple times, then your behaviour is delusional, and I suggest reassessment to conform to the reality. I know what I said, I know what I meant, and I reject your interpretation completely. Thanks. --Pete (talk) 03:58, 31 May 2015 (UTC)
Lighten up, Pete. And note carefully: what you said is: "Because ... this is what has worked". Which followed Wikimandia's assertion that "All US should be consistent" and my questioning of why that should be. Without any clarification on your part it is indeed a fair reading that you were justifying consistency. That you now declare "an inconsistency ... is what works" does not surprise me, but that's fine. Just don't blame me for your initial lack of clarity. And while we are here, please clarify if by "inconsistency" you refer to the exception made for "military articles" (as Wikimandia suggests). ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:15, 31 May 2015 (UTC)

A digression[edit]

Funny guy. You were wrong initially, you were wrong the second time, and you still can't get it right. I didn't say "all US should be consistent" - that was Wikimandia. The inconsistency that has worked fine since 2008 is that we have this inconsistency in DATETIES for articles on the modern US military. You want to change this for something new, and I'm not convinced you understand that this would just lead to the disruption we had prior to 2008. It seems to me that disruption and attention is your object here and I remind you that this page is subject to discretionary sanctions. --Pete (talk) 04:00, 1 June 2015 (UTC)
For shame, Pete! Please say you don't really mean that. EEng (talk) 04:44, 1 June 2015 (UTC)
You've got me. The word "funny" was meant ironically. Sorry. --Pete (talk) 05:36, 1 June 2015 (UTC)
<Ba - da - ba - BING!> EEng (talk) 05:42, 1 June 2015 (UTC)
Does the bit at WP:TALKNO about not misrepresenting other people also apply to misattribution of other people's intents? Or is that covered by WP:AGF? At any rate, I would like to examine a question of how much scope should be given consistency (or, inversely, inconsistency), but Pete seems too emotional to allow this, for fear "that this [i.e., discussion that might possibly lead to a change] would just lead to the disruption we had prior to 2008." This amounts to a showstopper. As he doesn't seem to be listening to me, perhaps someone else (EEng?) could reassure him that discussing the point is not going to bring the roof down on us. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 23:18, 1 June 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── AGF means there needs to be really good evidence before a charge like "It seems to me that disruption and attention is your object here" is leveled. As I've mentioned before these date format debates leave me cold so I haven't been following who's advocating what and saying what, but if such a charge is justified there ought to be one or two others chiming in to say, "I'm afraid that's the way I see it too." Can I suggest that we take a voluntary 12-week break from this discussion, after which it can be resumed with clear minds and refreshed patience? EEng (talk) 00:59, 2 June 2015 (UTC)

I call 'em as I see 'em, and I've been watching JJ troll his way through the discussion here for some time. He can't seriously imagine that DATETIES does not override DATERET, for example. If it's an honest misunderstanding of the plain English, then we're looking at a lack of competency with the language and he should accept the advice he's been given by sroc, among others. --Pete (talk) 02:20, 2 June 2015 (UTC)
Let's all take that two-week break I was talking about. EEng (talk) 02:26, 2 June 2015 (UTC)
I would, but that Pete is starting to piss me off with his misrepresentations and snarky remarks. (Just who is trolling here?) I tried to raise a simple question about the need for consistency, and Pete gets tangled up in inconsistent statements ("Because ... this is what has worked" [22:45, 28 May] versus "an inconsistency ... is what works" [03:58, 31 May]). Which SHOULD NOT BE AN ISSUE, as either would suffice for the question I would raise, but for Pete being too emotional to own up to any imperfection of expression and simply select which formulation he wants to go with. I doubt that a break would do any good. Might as well just close the RfC on the grounds that the topic of date formatting is too sensitive for some editors to contemplate. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:10, 2 June 2015 (UTC)
  • AM I GOING TO HAVE TO TURN THE HOSE ON YOU TWO??? EEng (talk) 22:07, 2 June 2015 (UTC)

Resuming !voting[edit]

  • Do not argue about it Either is acceptable. Follow the date style used by whatever editor first used a date. Change the date style only with clearcut consensus. Do not canvas or make a big deal about it. Do not get indignant about date styles under any circumstances whatsoever. It is a triviality. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 04:48, 28 May 2015 (UTC)
Yes. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 19:32, 28 May 2015 (UTC)
Retain, follow established MOS. I don't see why the MoS shouldn't mention the difference. While internal DoD memos appear to go with MDY, this is not shared by the rest of the DoD (USAF, USN, USA), or even different parts of the Federal Government (DOJ). In the end, keeping with the primary editor/consensus rule appears to be best. But in general, I am of the opinion, that editors of new U.S. military articles should be made aware of the modern DMY preference used by the U.S. military.--RightCowLeftCoast (talk) 21:39, 30 May 2015 (UTC)

Proposal for DATETIES on US military topics[edit]

There seems to be an emerging consensus that either DMY or MDY date formats may be used on US military topics, as decided by the editors of each page on a case-by-case basis, provided that each article is internally consistent. I thus propose the following revision to Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers § Chronological items §§ Dates, months and years §§§ Strong national ties to a topic (MOS:DATETIES):

  • Articles on topics with strong ties to a particular English-speaking country should generally use the date format most commonly used in that nation. For the United States, this is month before day; for most others it is day before month. Articles related to Canada may use either format, with (as always) consistency within any one article.
  • In some topic areas the customary format differs from the usual national one. For example, as the US military now uses day–month–year dates rather than the civilian month–day–year format, articles on the modern US military (including biographical articles about Americans primarily notable for their military career) may use either format provided that each article is consistent.

This would make it clear that the usual guidance preferring MDY format in the US does not apply to military articles, while DATERET would still apply prevent needless changing between DMY and MDY formats (as DATETIES would not prefer either format over the other). This would also clarify that this applies to biographies without requiring DMY for individual cases so this would remain at editors' discretion and local consensus in each case. sroc 💬 03:06, 7 June 2015 (UTC)

To assist discussion, under the proposal the bit highlighted above would replace this:
for example, articles on the modern U.S. military use day-before-month, in accordance with U.S. military usage.
I'm inclined to support this -- any problem anyone sees here? EEng (talk) 06:23, 7 June 2015 (UTC)
The existing wording has worked well for many years. I see no need to add more complexity. Article talk pages are, as ever, the place to resolve borderline cases. DATERET would not prevent mass changes to date formats, as many articles on the modern US military would have been commenced with MDY formats, and a format warrior would claim that they were following DATERET. USAF and USN, for example. --Pete (talk) 22:43, 8 June 2015 (UTC)
While the new wording is longer, the additional length consists mostly of clarifying language. Other than that what the proposal does is replace
articles on the modern US military use day-before-month
articles on the modern US military (including biographical articles about Americans primarily notable for their military career) may use either format provided that each article is consistent
I don't see that as adding significant complexity. And, by the way, it resolves the Dwight Eisenhower problem: Eisenhower is not primarily notably for his military career, because neither his military nor his political career can be called primary -- they're both essential. Therefore MDY would be used, end of discussion. EEng (talk) 02:28, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
It is certainly more complex. And you do see the problem with trying to deal with individual articles here, rather than on their talk page? --Pete (talk) 02:50, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
I said significant complexity. And who's talking about dealing with individual articles here? We have to discuss examples... EEng (talk) 04:39, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
I'm counting wordage nearly three times as long as the existing, adding new concepts and changing a working system for something that is going to cause disruption over what we already have. You've ignored the examples I gave where date format warriors can use the new wording to completely change the format of existing articles, and you've ignored the well-established precedent of dealing with borderline cases on individual article talk pages. We cannot sort out Eisenhower, Patton, Lee Harvey Oswald, Audie Murphy and so on here in the Manual of Style. You do understand this, don't you? --Pete (talk) 06:59, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
I'm beginning to see why everyone's so pissed off at you. No one is trying to sort out particular articles here -- merely, particular articles have been mentioned as thought experiments on how different wordings might operate. To my mind the new wording, combined with DATERET, makes it clear that for modern US military topics, the first significant contributor picks either of the two formats, and that format sticks. There might in some cases be uncertainty about whether a topic qualifies as "modern US military", but that can happen anyway with the current wording, and in any event that would be worked out on the article's Talk.
I endorse everything sroc says below. EEng (talk) 15:00, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
Lets keep the discussion to the points raised, please. Good start, now keep on going with your line of thought in relation to the two articles I mentioned. Under the proposed new wording, what happens with USAF and USN? As per the reworded WP:DATETIES and the existing WP:DATERET. Just humour me, please, and set out your logic. --Pete (talk) 16:47, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
Under the new wording, both those articles could have used either format when new, but they're not new -- they're established, and use DMY. Under DATERET they stay that way. What's the problem? EEng (talk) 17:09, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
The problem is that your reading of DATERET differs from the norm. The first major contributors used MDY, therefore under the proposed DATETIES wording, any subsequent format change is contrary to the established style and may be reversed. If you have a different understanding could you please quote the relevant wording and your reasoning, if any? --Pete (talk) 19:18, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
The new wording says that, as an exception to the main rule for US-related articles, in modern US military articles DMY could be used. And DATERET says that, as with any other article in which DATETIES doesn't prescribe one or the other format, the first contributor's choice controls. EEng (talk) 19:25, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
That's essentially what I said above. Now keep going with this line of reasoning in relation to USAF and USN, please. --Pete (talk) 22:07, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
Both USAF and USN use DMY, and assuming that was the first major contibutor's choice, they should stay that way per DATERET, unless consensus on Talk is to change. If something else is going on with these articles, please just fucking say what it is. We're all tired of your pseudo-Socratism. EEng (talk) 22:38, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
You assume wrong, which is why I mentioned them. In both cases the initial format was MDY and both were subsequently changed to DMY under DATETIES. If you need to take a break from editing, that's fine. We're in no hurry. Take a stress pill and come back when calm. Agitated editors are sloppy editors. --Pete (talk) 23:19, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
I'm neither stressed nor agitated, nor is there any sloppiness in what I wrote. You're confusing a stated assumption (which is a good way to simplify discussion) with a conscious but unstated assumption (which would be either lazy or disingenuous) or an unconscious assumption (which would be -- yes -- sloppy).
Since you've now deigned to share with us what you knew all along, we can now say that under the proposed wording and the actual facts, these articles should be changed back to MDY. (We might want to add some kind of grandfather clause to the proposal to avoid making too many waves -- this had occurred to me but I thought I'd bring it up later.) So once again the proposed wording gives a straightforward result without debate.
But thanks for playing our game, Einstein. EEng (talk) 03:23, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
Been playing this game for many years, brother. If you're trying to get my goat, you'll have to find a different way. BBB is not that way. So you propose adding some more clauses to complicate the proposed wording which is already three times as long as the original. If you think that's needed, could you draft some wording for consideration? If you don't think it's needed, then following your argument, you support changing two major articles on the modern US military to a different date format while supporting a change to DATETIES that implies the exact opposite. I'm not seeing any value-adding here to move the Manual of Style in the direction of clear, elegant and useful.
Incidentally, I found many more articles on the modern US military that were initially in MDY format. It is a simple, but tedious, exercise. Let us consider what would happen if MoS were changed so as to have DATERET override DATETIES in this one area. Some format warrior would come in his pleated jeans, grab ahold of his datebot and set about changing every article he can find - starting with USAF and USN and working his way through the military down to individuals - and then some other editor with a different view will come along behind and change them back again and we'll be coping with the same sort of disruption that brought about the initial action on DATETIES. Trust me on this. There are people who see changing Wikipedia articles to their preferred format on things like dates as being their life's highest calling. They are immune to common sense and appeals to reason. They are on a Mission from God.
Me, I see the existing wording as having worked perfectly fine to avoid disruption and conflict for many years. I think we should retain what works and not try to fix something that ain't broke. --Pete (talk) 05:07, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
I'm not your brother. Instead of all these tediously coy, spoonfeeding posts, why didn't you just come out and say, "Doesn't this imply that military articles now in DMY, but which were originally in MDY, will need to be switched back to MDY?"? Anyway, please now you go ahead and have the last word, after which the rest of us will discuss how to deal with this obvious concern. EEng (talk) 12:04, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
Pete certainly brings in a lot of emotional freight. ("Some format warrior would come in his pleated jeans, grab ahold of his datebot and set about changing every article he can find". And: "They are immune to common sense and appeals to reason. They are on a Mission from God." Wow.) I will point out that I have previously suggested (05:31, 26 May) that there be no wholesale changes whatsoever to date formats except by the consensus of the editors involved. Pete seems to think that the primality of DATETIES is the only thing preventing flower children in pleated jeans from wrecking Wikipedia as we know it. If that is the fundamental concern perhaps we should have a separate RfC for that. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 20:28, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
@Skyring: The proposal addresses several deficiencies with the current wording:
  • It is presently unclear whether the exception for US military applies to biographies of military personnel (HandsomeFella says "To me, it's obvious that this does not apply to people"; Hawkeye7 says "Common sense says that DMY dates should be used ... [f]or biographical articles on US military personnel ..."; EEng says "I'm inclined to extend the 'US military' rule to military personnel ..."; biographical articles are divided but tend to ignore the exception);
  • It is further unclear whether the exception applies to US military personnel who are also notable for other reasons;
  • As noted in the proposal, there is an emerging consensus that both DMY and MDY should be acceptable, decided by the editors of individual articles, provided that each article is consistent (J. Johnson says "Which is to say that in regards of MDY/DMY both formats are acceptable"; Cullen328 says "Do not argue about it Either is acceptable. Follow the date style used by whatever editor first used a date.")—but that's not what it currently says;
  • The guideline is, in fact, frequently ignored by using MDY dates in many (most?) US military articles despite the current wording says that such articles use DMY dates—the guideline should reflect actual practice by allowing both formats.
Contrary to the claim that "date format warriors can use the new wording to completely change the format of existing articles", this is not the case because the new wording does not endorse either format over the other and DATERET still applies to overrule unjustified changes. On the contrary, the current wording allows editors to change the date format of existing articles to conform (i.e., to change MDY dates to DMY dates in US military articles). The change will actually avoid to-ing and fro-ing because the boundaries of where the exception applies will be clearer and, where it does apply, it does not require any changes in either direction. sroc 💬 14:42, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
I don't see any deficiencies in the current wording. It has worked fine for years, and presumably will continue to do so.
  • It is always going to be unclear where the dividing line is for biographies of military personnel. That is inherent in the topic and we can't straighten it out here. Common sense and talk pages will presumably continue to be employed by editors to work out if a subject is primarily modern US military or not.
  • If the MoS is to be reworded to follow current practice that ignores it, then what is the point of having a MoS at all? Do we lay down our preferred house style to enable consistency, or do we just throw our hands up in the air and say, "F*uck it, anything goes, lets reword the MoS to endorse this new reality"?
  • The proposed wording will push DATERET ahead of DATETIES for this one area, spreading confusion and inconsistency. Yes, the current wording allows people to change articles to use DMY in articles on the modern US military that do not use it. That is its precise purpose. That is what we have a Manual of Style for. To allow anyone to contribute content and for others to tidy it up to conform to our preferred style. The proposed wording would give authority for format warriors to make mass changes on articles, as per the first person to insert a date is equivalent to "the first major contributor". USAF and USN are examples. However, these changes would act against consistency, rather than for it.
If there is truly an emerging consensus here for change, then why change to a more complex wording? Why not simply use the example of Canada quoted above: Articles related to Canada may use either format with (as always) consistency within each article. That wording has consensus and works just fine. --Pete (talk) 16:47, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
Why should someone who restores a consistent, acceptable, and original date format be a "format warrior", but not the editor (or set of editors) that degraded that original, acceptable, and consistent usage? Pete might have in mind some assumptions that would make such a view seem reasonable, but they have not been stated, so we are unable to examine them. Proceeding from what appear to be different assumptions I do not see why the editor(s) restoring a set of consistent changes should be characterized as a "warrior" and not the editor(s) who screwed them up in the first place.
The view that DATERET would "give authority for format warriors to make mass changes" does not seem any different than the authority currently taken from DATETIES. That DATERET would makes us all slaves to "the first person to insert a date" would seem to arise from an assumption that there no other considerations. In fact, that is (or would be) only the extreme fall-back case. If editors involved in a given article can achieve local consensus (whether express or implicit), then that should be controlling. It is only when consensus is lacking that we need these "tie-breaking" rules. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 20:32, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
Sorry, JJ, I'm not following your reasoning in the first part. I think you may be assuming more than was actually said. Could you expand and maybe I can help you out?
Both DATERET and DATETIES have wikihistorical bases to prevent edit-warring and hence disruption. Of course, if there is a local consensus to do something else, then that overrides any external style guidance, but how often do we see this happening in "modern US military" articles. Could you give three examples, please? --Pete (talk) 22:02, 9 June 2015 (UTC)
Sure, I would be happy to facilitate your understanding. Consider an example where some editor (or group of editors) creates an article which consistently uses an acceptable date format. (Whether DMY or MDY does not really not matter.) Now suppose some second editor (or group of editors) "make mass changes" of date format on the authority of DATETIES. Note that for this example it does not matter whether they rely on a U.S. national tie (i.e., non-military) to change to MDY, or a U.S. military tie to change to DMY.
Now suppose some third editor (or group of editors) "make mass changes" of date format on the authority of DATERET (starting to sound familiar?), restoring the original, and also consistent and acceptable, date formating. This is the very case where you apply the emotionally charged term format warriors. Why should editors taking authority from DATERET be "format warriors", but not those taking authority from DATETIES? The only reason I can see is that DATETIES is arbitrarily set as superior to DATERET, wheras the contrary would work equally well, and even better. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 19:44, 10 June 2015 (UTC)
Your hypotheticals are all very well, but what we have seen in the past can only be described as format war, and that's why we have the current wording. To reduce disruption. You want to change what has worked very well for many years. --Pete (talk) 23:34, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
You were pretty hypothetical in your concern about some "format warrior" in pleated jeans running amuck (05:07, 10 June). And I as said before, if that is your fundamental concern perhaps we should have an RFC for that. In the meanwhile, please stop dodging the question and explain: why should someone who restores a consistent, acceptable, and original date format be a "format warrior", but not the editor (or set of editors) that degraded that original, acceptable, and consistent usage? Alternately, just leave-off with this one-sided name-calling so we can get back to objective discussion of the topic. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:54, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
By format warriors, I'm referring to what we saw before we had the current wording. Changing it so that in this instance alone DATERET would override DATETIES would invite more in the same. That's just common sense. --Pete (talk) 19:31, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
I'm sorry, but I don't see how the proposal "[changes] it so that in this instance alone DATERET would override DATETIES". EEng (talk) 22:42, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
Pete: I remind you of WP:TALK#OBJECTIVE. This "format warrior" bogeyman you raise you have you have previously characterized (05:07, 10 June) as "changing every article he can find", as " people who see changing Wikipedia articles to their preferred format on things like dates as being their life's highest calling", "immune to common sense and appeals to reason", and "on a Mission from God." These characterizations do not arise from "common sense"; they arise entirely from your emotional over-reaction. Such comments are disruptive of objective discussion. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 19:13, 21 June 2015 (UTC)
And you are still dodging my question. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:56, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
Pete: it's getting onto two weeks since you stated (22:43, 8 June) that "DATERET would not prevent mass changes to date formats", implying that format warriors would make such mass changes, and you still have not provided any objective basis for believing that this would actually happen. Or why someone who restores an acceptable date format is a "warrior", but not someone who degrades it in the first place. These views are untenable, and rejecting them will hopefully allow this discussion to proceed. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 19:13, 21 June 2015 (UTC)
Have you not read my repeated comments about how things were here before the current wording? We have wording that was agreed after much discussion and has worked for many years. Please cease your trolling. Cheers. --Pete (talk) 23:02, 21 June 2015 (UTC)
Your repeated comments show only a fear that any alteration of the status quo will unleash "format warriors" on a "Mission from God", and amount to little more than an emotional form of WP:JUSTDONTLIKEIT that impairs any objective discussion. Your name-calling only underscores the paucity of your response. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:00, 22 June 2015 (UTC)

What to do with existing articles[edit]

I support the proposed change, but there's a consideration here which I had been meaning to raise, and it is indeed the same, in a way, as the one Pete has been worrying us about, though unlike him I don't think it's a dealbreaker. It is the following: under the proposal, a number (possibly a large number) of articles currently using DYM (because the current guideline says "articles on the modern U.S. military use day-before-month") would, under the new guideline, use MDY (because the proposed guideline says "articles on the modern US military ... may use either format", and the first major contributor -- at least the first to add a date -- chose MDY). An examples would be USN, which (I think) took on its first date around late 2006. (Search October in [1]. I didn't narrow this down to the exact edit so if I'm wrong, forgive me.)

Are we saying such articles should/could be changed back to MDY? Will that piss a lot of people off, especially if someone gets it in his head to do a lot of articles all at once? If so, what do we do about that? EEng (talk) 19:39, 21 June 2015 (UTC) P.s. For some comic relief see the "John Paul Jones" image here [2].

Should be changed back? Not automatically. That there is any "reason" (I use the term loosely), argument, or policy pertaining to what an article's date format should be should not in itself be a free license to charge ahead with any mass change. As I suggested a month ago (05:31, 26 May): no wholesale changes whatsoever to date formats except by the consensus of the editors involved. Even where a single "format warrior" (define it how you will) has used any policy or guideline as leverage contrary to consensus, reversion should not be made except upon consensus.
As a side comment, I think what tends to piss off people most is not so much implementation of any specific format, but doing so in a high-handed or arrogant manner. Simply asking for objections before proceeding would likely avoid a lot of unnecessary aggravation. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:21, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
Should we add a parenthetical or something recognizing that the guideline has changed, and counseling... um... how shall I pout this... restraint in conforming existing articles to the new guideline? I just worry this will blow up in our faces. EEng (talk) 23:34, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
Glad you've come around to my way of thinking in seeing this as a worry. --Pete (talk) 23:46, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
I haven't come around to anything. As I stated in opening this thread, and took pains to make clear earlier [3] I've had this point in mind from the beginning. I just didn't waste everyone's time coyly bringing it up over a dozen posts. EEng (talk) 02:00, 24 June 2015 (UTC)
Well, now we're both on the same page and you see mass format changes as a problem, why would you add even more wordage to the MOS? We currently have sixteen words in MOS:DATETIES which has worked well since its introduction, and you support a 45-word replacement which you now admit is problematic - "blow up in our faces", as you put it - and you want to add even more words to attempt to "fix" it even more.
What's the point? If you change this bit of MOS to have DATERET override DATETIES, then it becomes perfectly legitimate for editors to change articles to conform to the new guideline. Perhaps you could put up a wording proposal for those involved in this discussion to consider? --Pete (talk) 06:40, 24 June 2015 (UTC)
Hardly different from the current situation, where some editors have taken it as "prefectly legitimate" to unilaterally change articles "per WP:DATETIES". But you have gotten carried away again: the proposed text does not make DATERET override DATETIES. It says only that certain articles "may use either format". ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:22, 24 June 2015 (UTC)
If an article may use either format, then MOS:DATERET automatically applies. As it does for Canadian articles, which also may use either format. It is the very next section. I suggest you read it. --Pete (talk) 22:53, 24 June 2015 (UTC)
I suggest you be less snotty. And be less wild in your presumptions and interpretations, which all too often lead you into untenable positions and inflammatory statements. (E.g., "format warriors".) If you think there is a problem with DATERET we could discuss that. But your behavior is rather disinviting. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:48, 25 June 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I've said we should think about whether this might be a problem -- I'm not convinced it is. Anyway, here's some possible text (not saying I like it a whole):

(A previous version of this guideline provided that "articles on the modern U.S. military use day-before-month, in accordance with U.S. military usage." Articles established as using DMY under that guideline should not be changed to MDY without consensus on the article's talk page.)

EEng (talk) 12:54, 24 June 2015 (UTC)

That sounds like a special restriction that applies to DMY  MDY, but not necessarily to the reverse. It would be simpler to just say that mass changes to date format should not be done without consensus, period. All other considerations are points to raise in discussing what date format to use; they are NOT license to make unilateral changes. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:48, 24 June 2015 (UTC)
  • On reflection I've decided I'm not worried about the mass-change scenario. I'm ready to support the text proposed above (#Proposal for DATETIES on US military topics without any further qualification. I suggest we open a !vote in a new section below, and ping everyone who's been participating. Or maybe an RfC would be more appropriate. What do you think? EEng (talk) 03:35, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
sroc, J. Johnson, HandsomeFella, Cullen328, Hawkeye7, Skyring... what shall we do to bring this to a conclusion, one way or another? EEng (talk) 20:52, 26 June 2015 (UTC)
I just happened to be thinking on this. See my proposal, below. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:09, 26 June 2015 (UTC)

An inelegant solution to a non-existent problem[edit]

Currently we have:
In some topic areas the customary format differs from the usual national one: for example, articles on the modern U.S. military use day-before-month, in accordance with U.S. military usage.

This has stood, almost unchanged since September 2008. It has worked well and caused no problems.

However, some articles are on the cusp of "modern US military". Lee Harvey Oswald, ex-USMC, and Audie Murphy, film star, for example. The former uses MDY, the latter DMY, presumably related to the most notable aspect of their life. Murphy was the most decorated U.S. soldier in WW2, Oswald was a ratbag.

J. Johnson and EEng want the wording changed to:
For example, as the US military now uses day–month–year dates rather than the civilian month–day–year format, articles on the modern US military (including biographical articles about Americans primarily notable for their military career) may use either format provided that each article is consistent. A previous version of this guideline provided that "articles on the modern U.S. military use day-before-month, in accordance with U.S. military usage." Articles established as using DMY under that guideline should not be changed to MDY without consensus on the article's talk page.

I cannot see this as being a step forward. In actual fact, biographical articles on U.S. servicemen differ in format depending on the whim of the editor and nobody gives a rat's arse. It is not a problem, and it certainly does not need a complicated bit of quasi-legalese in conflict with other guidelines.

If there is any debate over what format needs to be used for a particular article, it should be resolved on that article's talk page, using common sense and well-sourced facts. --Pete (talk) 22:53, 24 June 2015 (UTC)

You know, you're beginning to piss me off again. I have not proposed this new text, just offered it as an example for discussion. And J. Johnson certainly has not "proposed" anything of the kind -- in fact, as seen in the prior subsection, he doesn't seem like it. EEng (talk) 03:35, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
I didn't say you'd proposed it. Nevertheless, you are pushing for an inelegant solution to a !problem. The MoS should be as clear and concise as possible, not a jumble of contradictory directives. --Pete (talk) 04:40, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
Yes, you did: you said we "want the wording changed to...:. EEng (talk) 04:54, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
I see. You think the two are equivalent. Cheers. --Pete (talk) 05:24, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
For this purpose I do, and this is exactly the kind of quibbling that's got people so pissed off at you. Cheers. EEng (talk) 05:28, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
That's right. I (and EEng) favor some parts of the proposed text (e.g., "may use either format"), but not necessarily all of it. (For reasons including inelegance.) Pete, your failure to grasp this, and your general railing away on all of this, quite obscures the several points on which we might find agreement. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:49, 25 June 2015 (UTC)

Proposed closure[edit]

I propose that the specific proposal made above be closed due to inadequacy of the wording. This is without prejudice to the view that "[t]here seems to be an emerging consensus that either DMY or MDY date formats may be used on US military topics" (subject to consistency and local consensus), and does not preclude a revised proposal. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:12, 26 June 2015 (UTC)

Just to be clear, you're talking about the proposal here #Proposal_for_DATETIES_on_US_military_topics? But if you see an inadequacy, why don't we fix it now? A lot of effort's gone into this to just discard it. EEng (talk) 21:58, 26 June 2015 (UTC)
Yes (and thanks for the link). I don't see this as discarding such clarifications, etc., as have been reached. But we haven't really gotten into the inadequacy of the wording (whether in regard of elegance or scope), and as this page has gotten quite full I think it would be better to shed the cruft and start afresh. Especially as I am working working on a more general proposal which I think will avoid some of the bogs, fogs, and thickets of the current discussion. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:16, 26 June 2015 (UTC)

Symbol for astronomical units (again)[edit]

There is some active debate about what symbol should be permitted in the MoS and/or supported by {{convert}} to represent the astronomical unit in WP. I feel that this debate should be on this talk page, and those watching this page may be interested in weighing in (and bringing the debate here). See Template talk:Convert#au, Template talk:Val/units#What should MoS say on unit "au", Talk:Non-SI units mentioned in the SI#The symbol used in the article for astronomical unit is incorrect, Talk:Astronomical unit#AU vs au vs ua. Since so much debate is sparked by this, it strikes me as a prime candidate for explicit mention in WP:MOSNUM. —Quondum 23:47, 13 June 2015 (UTC)

MOSNUM shouldn't get involved unless and until there's evidence that editor time is being wasted litigating the issue on multiple articles. And {{convert}} shouldn't add a new unit to its repertoire until there's general consensus of how to represent that unit. In other words: FIRST discussion on individual article talk pages, SECOND (if necessary) discussion at MOSNUM to harmonize things, and then LAST convert takes that consensus on. (Until then it's OK for convert not to handle a given unit -- conversions can be handled manually in articles for a while.) As far as I can see from your diffs, we're still at (or even before) step FIRST -- where are the discussions among actual editors of actual articles, disputing this issue? EEng (talk) 04:46, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
I agree with Quondum that there is a problem, but I don't know how to fix it. Internationally accepted symbols for the astronomical unit include au (IAU) and ua (ISO). Until recently, the BIPM recommended symbol was ua (following ISO), but switched to au after a recent decision by the IAU to standardise on that symbol.
In my opinion Wikipedia needs to either make a choice between the two standard symbols (ua and au), or permit both of them, but it doesn't. I have made several attempts to adopt one or other symbol (it doesn't matter which) on various articles but these attempts have failed because (as far as I can tell) the {convert} template accepts only AU, a symbol not accepted by any standards organization that I know of. The result is standardization on a non-standard symbol (AU) by the back door of {convert}. It would be much better if a decision were made centrally and for the conversion template to implement that central decision.
Dondervogel 2 (talk) 08:17, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
"AU" is much more common than "au" and clearer to many people. --JorisvS (talk) 09:23, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
Just because something is common does not make it better (otherwise no doctor would have bothered to invent a vaccine for the common flu), so we can safely ignore that argument. Clarity is certainly desirable so let's focus on that. Do you have any evidence to support the assertion that AU is clearer than au? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 10:06, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
Just to be clear, if we can agree here that AU is the most appropriate symbol to use (whatever the reason), I would be pleased to go along with that choice. What is not acceptable is confusion caused by reluctance to harmonise. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 10:13, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
Your comparison with the flu is wrong. This is writing, a form of language, not some illness. What is appropriate language is determined by commonality. As a case in point, Wikipedia uses a subject's common name for an article's title, even when this deviates from some officially preferred name. I'm all for standardization, if that goes to the most common and clearest option, which is "AU" here, no matter that it deviates from an official acceptance by some organization. --JorisvS (talk) 10:28, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
Well, it's not just "some organization" we're talking about here. The bodies supporting au as the symbol are the International Astronomical Union and the BIPM (responsible for the SI). I do agree that what matters to WP is consensus on this page though. Can we agree to standardise here on AU? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 10:34, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
Only two options exist, blindly follow IAU (BIPM/ISO are irrelevant here) and use the official symbol of au. Or follow sources and do what everyone does, and use AU (which has the added benefit of not being ambiguous with atto-atomic mass unit, although no one would ever use that). Personally, I'd standardize on AU. Headbomb {talk / contribs / physics / books} 11:03, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
I think this comment is confusing a mostly-ignored IAU standard and an almost-completely-ignored BIPM standard with "international acceptance". This is a case where common usage is different from the standards. That's fine. —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 12:50, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
I think Alex's statement is a critical concept to understand. This is not like metric adoption, which is nearly universal. Very few entities actually use the "standards" in practice. Huntster (t @ c) 13:05, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
There has indeed been much discussion of this, but the editor time is spent almost entirely in talk space. That makes this seem to me like a solution in search of a problem. FWIW, my preference is to go with the overwhelmingly-most common symbol, AU, which also has the benefit of being unique (as far as I know) and thus more clear than "au" or certainly "ua". (I had never even been aware that another symbol was in use until this was brought up a while ago on Wikipedia, and I see "AU" all the time.) —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 12:36, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
I pinged Talk:Astronomical unit about this discussion and was brought here by a ping at WT:Astronomy. —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 12:45, 14 June 2015 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── A Guide to Effective Publising in Astronomy coordinated by Claude Bertout, Chris Biemesderfer, Agnès Henri (EDP Sciences, 2012, outcome of a workshop for journal authors and referees, held originally at the XXVIII General Assembly of the IAU in Beijing, in August 2012.) says the core astronomy journals are

  • the journals of the American Astronomical Society, including the Astronomical Journal (AJ) and the Astrophysical Journal (ApJ) and the Astronomy Education Review (AER). Other core journals are Astronomy and Astrophysics, The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, and the publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

The "Manuscript Preparation: AJ & ApJ Author Instructions" says "Use standard abbreviations for SI (e.g., m, km, mm) and natural units (e.g., AU, pc, cm)." But it also says "The AAS style conforms to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) and The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.)." The current edition of Chicago is the 16th, suggesting the instructions may not have been updated recently.

The "Astronomy & Astrophysics - Author’s guide" (April 2015) addresses units on page 27 but does not specifically mention the astronomical unit. A forthcoming paper for which free access is currently available, "Search for satellites near comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko using Rosetta/OSIRIS images" (I. Bertini et al, A & A manuscript no. 25979_ap_final_printer) says "The images were taken when the comet was at 3.69 AU from the Sun." (emphasis added).

The "Instructions to Authors" of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society says "The units of length/distance are Å, nm, µm, mm, cm, m, km, au, light-year, pc" (emphasis added).

"Information for Authors" of the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific does not contain style recommendations at this level of detail.

Perhaps other editors with convenient access to these journals can report what symbol is used in recent issues. Jc3s5h (talk) 13:24, 14 June 2015 (UTC)

The most recent issue of the last I can access through JSTOR is that of May 2014, in which one article uses AU for astronomical units—while another uses au for “arbitrary units“ (to label one axis in a set of plots).—Odysseus1479 07:51, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
  • PASP: AU in doi:10.1086/681765 (May 2015 issue)
  • ApJ and AJ: explicit policy is to use AU, as quoted above.
  • MNRAS: explicit policy is to use au, as quoted above.
  • A&A: AU in doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201525680 (May 2015)
  • And for higher profile academic journals, Science: AU in doi:10.1126/science.1251527 (July 2014, in the title as well as text; defined at first use in the abstract)
  • Nature: small caps AU in doi:10.1038/nature14276 (2015) and doi:10.1038/nature04205 (2005, in the title as well as text). At first use, the 2015 example says "corresponding to 50–70 astronomical units (1 AU is the distance from the Earth to the Sun)"
  • I also searched Sky & Telescope, but couldn't find any relevant usage of the term. I'm much less adept at searching Sky & Telescope articles than I am journals, though. —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 12:42, 17 June 2015 (UTC)

Examples from individual papers (first 7 hits for "astronomical unit" using Google Scholar)[edit]

  1. Krasinsky et al 2004 uses AU.
  2. Millan-Gabet et al 2004 uses AU.
  3. Standish 2004 uses au.
  4. Pitjeva & Standish 2009 uses AU.
  5. Iorio 2008 uses AU.
  6. Cameron & Pine 1973 is behind paywall.
  7. Muhlernan, D. O., Holdridge, D. B., & Block, N. (1962). The astronomical unit determined by radar reflections from Venus. The Astronomical Journal, 67, 191. uses a.u.
But the IAU declaration of the symbol, together with the change from a measured to a defined unit, was in 2012, so older papers don't help us discern whether the astronomical community has decided to follow the IAU or not. Jc3s5h (talk) 13:58, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
Would it make any difference if they did follow the 2012 decision? I have the impression that the majority preference is to follow AU "because it's out there". I'm not saying I consider this a good reason, but it's better to agree to follow AU than to have no agreement. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 14:06, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
Studying papers published only in the last two years doesn't show much change. Most use AU. A few use au. I looked for a split between different branches of astronomy, but couldn't see anything obvious. Possibly there is a tendency for physicists to use au and astrophysicists to use AU. As an (old) astrophysicist I would never dream of using au and have to think twice what it means when I stumble across it. Lithopsian (talk) 14:22, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
I agree with Lithopsian. au can mean thousands of things and it will probably take a while for a reader to understand it means "Astronomical unit", but Astronomical unit immediately pops up into the reader's mind when he sees "AU". Besides, the majority of people are used to "AU", so why change that? We're not trying to get the reader confused here. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa (talk) 17:14, 14 June 2015 (UTC)

Examples from individual papers since 2014 (first 3 hits for "astronomical unit" using Google Scholar)[edit]

  1. GALTIER AND MEYRAND 2014 uses no symbol or abbreviation
  2. Kobulnicky et al 2014 uses no symbol or abbreviation in the abstract
  3. Chiu 2014 uses AU

Pardon me[edit]

Pardon me, but can someone show me where there's been trouble about this in actual articles? Someone above said, "There has indeed been much discussion of this, but the editor time is spent almost entirely in talk space" -- could we have pointers to those discussions (by editors down in the trenches actually working on articles -- not just arguments about how convert should work). Otherwise, why does MOSNUM need to say anything about this? EEng (talk) 14:43, 14 June 2015 (UTC)

Mostly the extensive discussion at Talk:Astronomical unit, which grew out of an earlier discussion (linked there). By "editor time is spent almost entirely in talk space", I meant that the editor time is spent by editors who want to change the MOS, not editors who are actively involved in editing articles that use the symbol AU (there are, appropriately, very few that use au or ua). —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 15:33, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for the clarification. EEng (talk) 18:51, 14 June 2015 (UTC)

Previous discussion[edit]

I note that this discussion rather closely mirrors the one at Talk:Astronomical unit#AU vs au vs ua. Has anything changed since then? Why are we having this discussion again? There was one clear consensus from that discussion: there is not a desire to even decide on this question on a project-wide basis. Instead, the preference of most editors was to decide this on an article-by-article basis (a la WP:ENGVAR), since there haven't actually been many problems doing it that way (and the conclusion has almost always been AU anyway). —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 15:36, 14 June 2015 (UTC)

If this is being brought up again because the convert template enforces AU (instead of the no-project-wide-consensus approach), could "au" be added to convert, so it supports both AU and au? —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 15:48, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
I strongly object to the status quo. It should be clear to an editor which units are acceptable, e.g. that au or AU can be decided on a per-article basis. At the moment, this is not clear, and triggers a fresh, drawn-out and unproductive discussion on many such occasions. As Alex says, if au is acceptable, {{convert}} should support it rather than discriminating against it behind-the-scenes, as EEng seems to think it should.
The MOSNUM guidance is currently (quoted from WP:MOSNUM#Specific units):
  • The SI Brochure should be consulted for guidance on use of other SI units. "Chapter 4" tables 6, 7, 8, and 9 give additional guidance on non-SI units.
The linked brochure clearly lists au as the unit symbol. I consider this as sufficient to motivate a change of style in any given article, unless MOSNUM makes a specific note about this unit. —Quondum 16:03, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
@Ashill The reason we are having this discussion again is that the previous discussion, by deciding against harmonization, has led to the situation to which Quondum refers, whereby what is used on WP is determined by {convert}. Changing {convert} to accept other units unit symbols would not change that unless a decision was first reached regarding which symbols are (and are not) acceptable. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 16:38, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
@Dondervogel 2: Well, I'm virtually certain you've got your history wrong: Wikipedia, like everywhere else in the English-speaking world, used predominantly AU. Then the convert template was written and reflected that (probably without much thought, since "AU" is the normal practice used in most cases -- I see no evidence at all that there was any conscious attempt to use convert to enforce AU over au). And then after that the IAU specified "au". Now some are arguing that au is either acceptable or should be primary. But either way, this objection can (as far as I can tell) be easily addressed by modifying convert to accept either AU or au, so this is not a reason to make a Wikipedia-wide decision about this. (There may be other arguments, but editors didn't find them persuasive before and I don't see what has changed.)
@Quondum: The guideline to follow the SI brochure is useful because in most cases common practice reflects the brochure (or, perhaps more accurately, the brochure reflects common practice). That's not true in this case, so I think we should follow common practice (or at the very least allow editors to decide to follow common practice on an article-by-article basis). —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 17:10, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
My problem is that what you say is not evident from MOSNUM, and it should be: to the editor coming in fresh, the use of AU seems to be going against the MoS. I am perfectly happy with an article-by-article choice, or pretty much any choice, even one to allow any symbol. But in my mind inclusiveness implies two things: (a) qualify the reference in MOSNUM to the SI brochure to say that both au and AU may be used (or something along those lines, such as even just "AU is commonly used"), and (b) support au in {{convert}}. What I'm objecting to in the status quo is the confused message from MOSNUM. —Quondum 17:22, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
And mine is that I speak from personal experience. When I encounter articles with non-standard or inconsistent unit symbols by instinct is to make them consistent, first internally and then with each other. When I find one using {convert}, the only choices available to me are a) use the non-standard symbol and b) remove the conversion. I don't believe decisions should be driven by the shortcomings of the conversion template. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 17:31, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
OK, so easy enough; have the convert template support "au" in addition to "AU". —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 17:43, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
That seems reasonable. Two quick additional points: the MOSNUM guidance does not say that the SI brochure should be consulted for guidance on the use of non-SI units, and a quick site-specific date-limited search of the NASA, ESA and BPS sites suggests that the use of AU is still prevalent in at least the public-facing material of some space exploration organisations. NebY (talk) 18:32, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
For convert to be agnostic seems to me the best outcome, under the circumstances. EEng (talk) 18:52, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
In the absence of consensus, how would the custodians of {convert} decide which unit symbols it would accept? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 19:09, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
I think convert should probably accept pretty much anything editors want it to accept, in general, except where MOS clearly says Usage X is inappropriate. The talk page of a template isn't the place to make decisions on which units are OK or not OK, how to present them, etc. A template is a tool, not a cudgel.
Having said that, there's no necessity that convert handle absolutely everything, or everything right now. If a unit is somehow subject to dispute, or its usage is, then it's OK to leave that unit out in the cold, convert-wise, until clarity is found on how to handle it. In the meantime editors can do manual conversions within articles. I'd rather have that than some rushed decision on the convert talk page. EEng (talk) 19:18, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
(edit conflict)Dondervogel 2, There seems to be a growing consensus in this discussion that MOSNUM should not specify au or AU. (There's a difference of opinion as to whether MOSNUM currently prefers AU; Quondum says it does but I think that's a misreading.) Are you opposed to that consensus? NebY (talk) 19:28, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
With at least 4 editors arguing for standardization (Quondum, JorisV, Headbomb, and Dondervogel 2), I see no such consensus. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 19:52, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
None of the others you mention have said so clearly. Quondum said explicitly that s/he doesn't care if this is specified at the MOS level. —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 22:16, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
This feels more than a little absurd to me. The only controversy I've seen stems from one party demanding that "au" be used on Wikipedia to the exclusion of "AU" because industry standards demand it, despite industry practice overwhelmingly using "AU". The Convert template can of course use both "AU" and "au" as inputs, and there's no reason to not do so. Huntster (t @ c) 21:04, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
So it seems to me that an acceptable solution would be that convert support both AU and au, and that MOSNUM should be worded carefully to avoid implying any guidance on non-SI units from the SI brochure? (BTW, what I read in the MOS was a reference to an article, which has changed since, and I should not have read any weight into that anyway. So, I'm not arguing for any specific unit, only for some clarity.)—Quondum 21:46, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
Agree with the view that we should allow both AU and au. If sometime down the road academic standards and practice agree on one of them, we can then reconsider the issue. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 22:00, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
I particularly agree that the convert tool is not the place to make a decision like this. Irrespective of whether a consensus is reached that au or AU is preferred Wikipedia-wide, the template should let editors do what they want to within reason (and au and AU are both within reason). —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 22:10, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
I totally agree, and I particularly like EEng's above "A template is a tool, not a cudgel."—I have been less eloquently arguing that at Template talk:Convert for a while. Someone has just added au to convert, so editors can now choose for themselves:
  • {{convert|12.3|au|abbr=on}} → 12.3 au (1.84×109 km; 1.14×109 mi)
  • {{convert|12.3|AU|abbr=on}} → 12.3 AU (1.84×109 km; 1.14×109 mi)
Johnuniq (talk) 00:59, 15 June 2015 (UTC)

What about abbreviations?[edit]

There seems to be a consensus for permitting both AU and au as unit symbols for astronomical unit. That is real progress. Also common are the abbreviations A.U. and (perhaps less so) a.u. Can we also agree these abbreviations are not permitted in lieu of a unit symbol? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 07:35, 15 June 2015 (UTC)

When I see 'au', I think Australia. My preference is to use AU for Astronomical Unit; that's usually how I see it used. Praemonitus (talk) 22:11, 16 June 2015 (UTC)

What exactly is the consensus then?[edit]

We should just standardize on "AU" as it is the only one that is frequently and commonly used in the field, by the professionals, and also used by popular science books and amateur astronomy publications. "standards" that are never used are not real standards, since they are not used. BIPM isn't even the relevant or competent authority in this area. If the convening authority is not related, then it's like those schemes to sell plots of land on the Sun and the Moon. Sure you get a nice piece of paper saying you have title, but it's only worth as much as the paper it's printed on.
WP:SOAP Wikipedia itself does not prescribe how the field should operate, it merely follows actual usage in the field. -- (talk) 08:45, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
Hmmm, it seems I spoke too soon. Would someone like to summarise what they think the consensus is? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 09:01, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
The IP seems to be on the right track. Consensus has been and still seems to be that "AU" is the preferred output on Wikipedia. That "au" was added as an alternative input for Convert doesn't change anything, it simply adds flexibility. Progress. Huntster (t @ c) 13:39, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
How about this: if one editor tries to change the style of an article from au to AU or vice versa, and another editor objects, the meta-rules imply that the change should not happen. What seems clear is that the MoS does not say that only AU or only au may will be used across all scientific articles. Does anyone object to that summary? It is all we need, for practical purposes. —Quondum 13:56, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
My impression is also that there is basically a consensus here for standardizing on using "AU". --JorisvS (talk) 13:59, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
In my opinion it is better to choose between AU and au, and do not feel strongly which of the two it should be. I would therefore support uniform adoption of AU across Wikipedia. Any objections to doing so? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 14:06, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
I don't think it's necessary for MOSNUM to rule between AU and au. Yes, AU appears to predominate at present but the IAU - in the IP's words a "relevant or competent authority in this area" - has chosen "au" and we can expect it to appear in RSs. I agree that MOSNUM could usefully say that "A.U." and "a.u." should not be used (we avoid phrases like "not permitted" here"). NebY (talk) 14:42, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
Which brings us back to my post of 07:35 this morning, which I rephrase now as

There seems to no consensus for making a choice between AU and au as unit symbols for astronomical unit, implying that both are permitted. That is real progress. Also common are the abbreviations A.U. and (perhaps less so) a.u. Can we also agree these abbreviations should not be used in lieu of a unit symbol?

Dondervogel 2 (talk) 14:52, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
@Dondervogel 2: I don't think anyone will object if you change "au" to "AU" in articles, even if "AU" is not formally chosen here. I have done it on occasion and no one has ever objected. --JorisvS (talk) 16:01, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
@JorisvS: Given there is no consensus to make the change you describe, I don't understand why anyone would want to replace an international standard symbol with a non-standard one. My preference is to use international standard symbols until there is consensus to depart from them. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 16:28, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
Well, I see basically a consensus that "AU" is much more common (inside and outside Wikipedia) and clearer and hence preferable, but that there is some disagreement whether this should be made explicit in the MoS. My point was that if you prefer to have "AU" everywhere over a mixture of "AU" and "au", then changing the few cases of "au" lying around to "AU" is unlikely to find opposition regardless of the MoS. --JorisvS (talk) 16:42, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
I just don't agree that widespread use makes something better by default. Years ago there was a debate about whether to use Mbps or Mbit/s as a symbol for megabits per second. Those in favour of "Mbps" argued that it was far more common, which it was. Those in favour of "Mbit/s" argued that international standards should be followed. I argued then to follow the appropriate international standard and so again. For this reason I prefer au over AU and see no justification for converting in the direction you suggest. My position would change if there were consensus here to use AU, but I don not see that consensus. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 10:33, 16 June 2015 (UTC)

Pardon me again[edit]

In response to my previous query along these lines (#Pardon me) I was told that the closest thing to dispute on this issue was at Talk:Astronomical unit. That's it? Here's my usual, tiresome refrain:

A. It is an axiom of mine that something belongs in MOS only if (as a necessary, but not sufficient test) either:
  • 1. There is a manifest a priori need for project-wide consistency (e.g. "professional look" issues such as consistent typography, layout, etc. -- things which, if inconsistent, would be noticeably annoying, or confusing, to many readers reader); OR
  • 2. Editor time has, and continues to be, spent litigating the same issue over and over on numerous articles, either
  • (a) with generally the same result (so we might as well just memorialize that result, and save all the future arguing), or
  • (b) with different results in different cases, but with reason to believe the differences are arbitrary, and not worth all the arguing -- a final decision on one arbitrary choice, though an intrusion on the general principle that decisions on each article should be made on the Talk page of that article, is worth making in light of the large amount of editor time saved.
B. There's a further reason that disputes on multiple articles should be a gating requirement for adding anything to MOS: without actual situations to discuss, the debate devolves into the "Well, suppose an article says this..."–type of hypothesizing -- no examples of which, quite possibly, will ever occur in the real life of real editing. An analogy: the US Supreme Court (like the highest courts of many nations) refuses to rule on an issue until multiple lower courts have ruled on that issue and been unable to agree. This not only reduces the highest court's workload, but helps ensure that the issue has been "thoroughly ventilated", from many points of view and in the context of a variety of fact situations, by the time the highest court takes it up. I think the same thinking should apply to any consideration of adding a provision to MOS.

That's only my humble opinion of course. But humor me... where's the evidence that either (1) or (2) is satisfied? If not, why should MOS say anything at all about this? All I see here is a lot of people arguing in the abstract, divorced from actual article work. EEng (talk) 15:02, 15 June 2015 (UTC)

Yup, I agree. Although it did come in 2004 on that same talk page. Though I think it has been discussed to death, it hasn't come up all that frequently. Neither 1 nor 2 is satisfied; in fact, I think there's a pretty clear consensus with only one vocal objector that there is no need to harmonize AU or au project-wide. But if we do decide to harmonize, I think the consensus (clear, though perhaps slightly less so) is for AU over au. —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 15:11, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
I guess we see things slightly differently. My purpose is only to document consensus. At present I see no consensus so there is nothing to document. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 16:43, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
@Dondervogel 2: Where do you see disagreement with using "AU" all over? --JorisvS (talk) 09:22, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
@JorisvS: Well, to start with I disagree with doing this myself unless there is consensus for it that would override the wider principle of following international standards. When I suggested (earlier in this same thread) that such a consensus might exist, it received objections from several editors. Do you think it is worth trying again. Perhaps it just needs to be phrased differently? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 10:39, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
@Dondervogel 2: Who expressed that and where? All I find is either agreement with standardizing on "AU", disagreement over whether the MoS needs to address this even if it is decided to standardize, and a somewhat vague position of Quondum, who appears to object mainly to how the MoS currently handles the situation, but not really to using "AU" if that is decided. --JorisvS (talk) 11:37, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
That isn't my interpretation, but rather than reading between the lines, let's just try it one more time to see what happens. I would support standardizing on AU if there is consensus for that. Are there any objections to adopting AU as the preferred symbol for astronomical unit on Wikipedia? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 12:31, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
Yes, objections. See (earlier thread) Template_talk:Convert#au look four 'Authority', IAU and BIPM. Apart from forumshopping (3 talkpages by now), I am with EEng that this MOS has no case to answer. -DePiep (talk) 13:40, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
As long at some clarity on the position is added, I'd be fine with any statement in the MoS on this. Even something as vague as "No specific symbol is preferred by the MoS for the astronomical unit." This would shortcut a lot of future wrangling. —Quondum 13:56, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
@DePiep: but article titles can differ from an officially sanctioned term if the unofficial term is more common. Why not do the same here? (Separately from whether the MoS should address this at all.) --JorisvS (talk) 15:37, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
Won't do content here, this is being forumshopped in three pages by now. -DePiep (talk) 15:39, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
@DePiep: Then your objection is hollow. This is the only place where I've discussed it because this is where I saw it. --JorisvS (talk) 17:14, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
Whatever, I won't get pulled in. I happened to talk somewhere else, how can you call that a "discussion"? Replying here would be oxygen for WP:FORUMSHOPPING. I'm not blaming you for this, but engaging is not the way to finish this talkmess. This talk is the last one of three AFAIK opened, so I can claim nullification of any outcome. -DePiep (talk) 17:40, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
Did you or did you not state your objections elsewhere? If yes, then I'd call that (part of) a "discussion". I asked you a question and I'd appreciate a response. If you won't do that here, elsewhere is fine to me (e.g. my talk page), but refusing to respond categorically to an editor who has not been involved in any of the discussions you refer to simply because that would be fuel for the "forumshopping" is no way to work cooperatively. --JorisvS (talk) 18:02, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
See? If I wrote something elsewhere, you claim you responded here and call that a discussion? Not. -DePiep (talk) 18:07, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
? I was talking about a discussion between you and others elsewhere, not between you and me. I was not involved in any of the other discussions, so I'm not familiar with your objections. That's why I asked and why I'd like a response, even if it is elsewhere. And if you have actually voiced your objections already to others, you can also simply refer to where you said it. --JorisvS (talk) 19:33, 16 June 2015 (UTC)

Proposal proposing not proposing[edit]

Proposal: There being no evidence at this time that a MOS provision is needed, that this discussion be ended with nothing added or changed to MOS.

  • Support as proposer. EEng (talk) 19:18, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
  • I dispute the premise that there is no evidence a MOS provision is needed. Who invented those rules for determining so called "evidence"? If there were no clear preference between AU, au, A.U. and a.u. then I would agree with EEng's proposal, but there is a clear preference, namely for AU. For me that is reason enough to document that preference. I abstain because I do not feel strongly enough either way to oppose. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 19:35, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
The rules are mine own, but they reflect a principle that I and others have been pushing for some time, to wit If there's no need for MOS to have a rule, there's a need for MOS to not have a rule. The reasons are given above. Absent such a need we shouldn't be achieving consensus here even if we can. EEng (talk) 22:20, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
Like I said, we see things differently. I find it confusing as a reader (not as an editor) to be confronted with multiple different symbols and abbreviations for exactly the same quantity. It would make my life much easier as a reader (not as an editor) if such inconsistencies were removed. This is the reason the SI chooses a unique symbol "m" for the metre, and does nor permit individual authors to use "met", "mtr" or "m." even if they do so consistently throughout an article. The MOSNUM is our SI. It is our tool for helping the reader. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 22:59, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
Yeah, but SI doesn't insist on either meter or metre, demonstrating that other considerations sometimes override the general principle that uniformity is usually better. Your argument is basically "A1" in my formulation above, but absent further evidence I don't buy that, any more than I buy that all date formats, or AD/BC vs. CE/BCE, need to be uniform project-wide. EEng (talk) 23:33, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
@EEng The spelling is completely irrelevant here, and the (uncharacteristic) weakness of your argument (what evidence might possibly be needed to demonstrate that having four different symbols for the same quantity is confusing?) irritates me. I now do feel strongly enough about this to oppose and change my position accordingly. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 08:53, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment I don't see a problem with documenting what we've found and what we've agreed on. MOS is a guide, not a court that only gives rulings on substantial disputes, and it's quite possible - even desirable - that editors will seek guidance here during the ordinary processes of article creation and editing. I would suggest something along the lines that a literature search in 2015 found that "au" was now recommended (stipulated?) by the IAU and the BIPM, but that AU still predominated; either is acceptable and supported by Convert but consistency within an article is preferred. "A.U.", "a.u." and "ua" should not be used. NebY (talk) 23:48, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
The problem is that "we" aren't those actually editing articles using the unit (if they're here are they aren't identifying themselves -- anyway we'd want a much wider group to participate). For all we know such a group might decide that one form or another is best. EEng (talk) 23:54, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose – having just gone through an exercise that has cost me many hours of arguing, based on what I did read in the MoS and on what I sought in the MoS and failed to find, I would be sorely put out if next time this issue arises I will find myself, and many other editors, spending time rehashing this yet again. EEng, I put it to you that there is plenty of evidence that some greater guidance is needed from the MoS on this, and thus that you are misapplying your principles. I am in agreement with the perspectives of both Dondervogel and NebY, except in that I categorically reject the conclusion as proposed. —Quondum 03:17, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
Where were you hashing it out, other than here? EEng (talk) 03:47, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
I brought it here after it had gone some way elsewhere; it is not as though I didn't link to it. Please don't be obtuse. —Quondum 06:07, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
Some people think my reasoning is acute. Sorry -- I forgot you were the OP. Look, I'm seeing one article (the article astronomical unit itself) at which there was such discussion. The rest was at places like convert and val. So as far as I can see actual editors of actual articles (and there must be zillions of them on comets and asteroids and whatnot) aren't asking for guidance on this. EEng (talk) 14:16, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
I apologize for my tone. I don't think we're far apart; I'm going to make a new observation below that focuses exclusively on the MoS wording, in particular a nuance that might need rewording. —Quondum 19:12, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
'Somewhere else' being Template_talk:Convert#au starting at 21:34, 12 June 2015. -DePiep (talk) 11:17, 16 June 2015 (UTC)

*Support. There is no need to specify one way or the other in the MOS, and the MOS suffers from instruction creep (to say the least). Adding an outcome of every discussion the MOS makes it less manageable and harder to read and thus less useful. But if we do add something to the MOS, the formulation by EEng NebY is a good starting point. (I wouldn't proscribe "A.U.", "a.u.", or ua, though. We don't need to list options that aren't recommended.) —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 06:23, 16 June 2015 (UTC)

I'm taking you off my Christmas card list. EEng (talk) 13:09, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
:D I wish editors would apply the "common sense" admonishment at the top of every guideline, which your idea implicitly replies on. Alas, this discussion has convinced me that it ain't so. —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 13:11, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
I wonder if you meant the approach I suggested? I wouldn't have a problem with dropping the mention of "A.U.", "a.u." and "ua" and it might even be possible to take account of Quondum's categorical rejection - if I understand it correctly - with something along these lines: A literature search in 2015 found that "AU" predominated although "au" was now recommended (stipulated?) by the IAU and the BIPM. Both are supported by Template:Convert but consistency within an article is preferred. NebY (talk) 12:28, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
You're correct; I misread the signature line. I would definitely say "recommended" not "stipulated", since "recommend" is the word the IAU uses and they obviously have no authority to stipulate, since almost no one follows their recommendation anyway! —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 12:52, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose Given the disruptive insistence by some editors, mostly DePiep, that their view prevail and be enforced by the convert template if the MOS doesn't make some mention of AU or au, I now am leaning away from the view that we can leave the MOS alone. I now think we probably should say something. My preference is for NebY's formulation; I could also readily get behind just specifying AU per the vast majority of English-language sources. —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 12:58, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
disruptive insistence by some editors, mostly DePiep -- Take a F-riday day off. I did not start this forumshopping. btw, I still claim any outcome is invalid for that reason. -DePiep (talk) 22:54, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Support. I am astonished that I am supposed to redo the older discussion all again here. WP:FORUMSHOPPING? -DePiep (talk) 11:10, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
As was pointed out on Template talk:Convert, that is not the appropriate place to discuss something like this. And if you want older discussions, see Talk:Astronomical unit, where there was one discussion in 2004 and one in January 2015 (and the last few hours of December 2014); nothing had changed since that discussion, but it was restarted at Template talk:Convert anyway.
On the substance, DePiep, is it your view that this proposal would mean Wikipedia-wide adoption of au over AU? —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 14:02, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
That's not the way to kill forumshopping. I don't do content -- this thread cannot decide, I claim fs. -DePiep (talk) 14:09, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
DePiep, today you argued on Template talk:Convert#au concerning "AU" "Please show me where MOS allows this deviation (contradiction) of BIPM/SI".[4] It seems as if your support for this proposal is not so much in order that MOSNUM should not take a stance, as EEng intended, but so that you can interpret it as by its silence definitively favouring one symbol (au) and barring the other (AU). NebY (talk) 19:34, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
Stop trying to pull me in a discussion. I stated that this topic is bein forumshopped, and three-page (or more?) discussion threads are impossible to perform. For this, I will claim any outcome here invalid. This thread might as well be closed & killed. -DePiep (talk) 22:10, 16 June 2015 (UTC)-DePiep (talk) 22:10, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
DePiep, you sought to use Convert to remove AU from articles ("AU to be be removed from the {{Convert}} data set, offending articles will be listed automatically for edit (up for change 'AU' into 'au')".[5] The use of "AU" is an appropriate matter for discussion here - Convert works within the scope of MOSNUM - and you yourself pleaded MOS as your WP authority for such a change. NebY (talk) 09:17, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
Stop confronting and blaming me for what I wrote elsewhere. That is my point: this discussion is multi-page, so invalid. I am not discussing with you here. DePiep (talk) 22:49, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The MoS should clarify that, despite official sanction of "au", "AU" is far more common and clearer and hence preferred on Wikipedia. Not mentioning it may suggest differently. --JorisvS (talk) 10:00, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment: As someone that edits asteroid articles, I think it is useful to remain true to what the source uses to prevent confusion for any readers that check the source. Most sources will use AU. -- Kheider (talk) 13:55, 21 June 2015 (UTC)
    Strongly oppose a mess of inconsistent symbols or abbreviations, each copied from the source that supports a particular statement. Jc3s5h (talk) 19:41, 21 June 2015 (UTC)
    Strongly support Jc3s5h strongly opposing source based units. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 20:20, 21 June 2015 (UTC)
  • This thread seems to have lost its way. There's no proposal for source-based units or any of those other awful things. The proposal is simply to close the discussion without making any change to MOS (which is currently silent on au/AU/a.u./A.U./whatever, as it is on almost all units). EEng (talk) 20:58, 21 June 2015 (UTC)
    If we not to follow sources, the only sensible option - in the absence of clear advice from MOSNUM - is to follow international standards. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 08:33, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Strongly support: (this proposal to close the discussion without making any changes to the MOS). It's been hashed over once recently, not to the satisfaction of some who wish some form of standardization which was not agreed to, so there's no reason to go through it again. The Convert template is not the issue here, and is not required by MOS, and hence does not enforce a de fact standard in the absence of consensus either. Evensteven (talk) 05:28, 22 June 2015 (UTC)

Proposal to add "AU" to the MoS[edit]

Proposal: add "AU" to the table under the header "Specific units" as follows:

Guidelines on specific units
Group Name Symbol Comment
astronomical unit AU "AU" is the most commonly used unit symbol for the astronomical unit, both in popular and professional astronomical articles and is hence also used on Wikipedia, even though "au" is officially sanctioned by the IAU
  • Support as proposer. Feel free to tweak the comment. --JorisvS (talk) 10:29, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Qualified Unqualified support. It is important to choose between au and AU. If au is chosen one only needs to point to the IAU (or BIPM) definition. If AU is chosen as proposed here (and I understand the reasons for doing so) I think it is important to include a comment, similar to the one proposed, to the effect that the international standard symbol is au. I say "similar" because I need to think about the precise wording. I will come back with a specific suggestion if there is support in principle for this proposal Dondervogel 2 (talk) 10:38, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
    Here is my suggested wording for the comment

    Most sources use “AU”, although “au”, “A.U.” and “a.u.” are also seen. Even though international standardisation bodies such as the IAU and BIPM specify “au” as the symbol for astronomical unit, the preferred symbol on Wikipedia is AU because it is familiar, and therefore most recognisable to readers of astronomy articles.

    Dondervogel 2 (talk) 13:53, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
  • support as it is the most widely used form and we should stop the pointless changing of these abbreviations back and forwards, and put a bullet into the argument above that seems to be getting nowhere. Graeme Bartlett (talk) 11:49, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Support. AU is the most widely used, and we need some finality to all this. I approve of the mention that "au" is officially sanctioned. Huntster (t @ c) 13:25, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Support per others and the extensive previous discussion on at least four article and WP talk pages. —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 13:52, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Even when leading bodies in astronomy make a decision, it takes a long time to filter down through the style guides of the leading journals and the practices of working astronomers. It is too soon to tell if the astronomical community will switch from "AU" to "au" after the pronouncements from the IAU. Also, this proposal is incomplete in that it only addresses the abbreviation without addressing the definition, which was also changed by the IAU. I suggest we wait five years. Jc3s5h (talk) 14:02, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Not sure if the suggestion to wait five years was a joke. However, the IAU-recommended symbol from 1976–2012 was A (ref), which no one used. So the astronomical community never followed the recommended symbol, and I see no movement towards accepting "au", three years after the recommendation came into place. —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 23:48, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Support per JorisvS wording. As I have learned at WP:NASTRO, sometimes it is better for Wikipedia guides to get to the point and not spend too much time explaining themselves. -- Kheider (talk) 14:05, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Provisional oppose (assuming there's no answer to the first two bullets below). I am still waiting for diffs showing that actual editors, on actual articles, are having disputes over this, so that guidance in MOS is needed.
  • Graeme Bartlett refers to "the pointless changing of these abbreviations back and forwards" -- a few diffs, please?
  • Ashill says there have been "extensive previous discussion on at least four articles" -- sorry if I missed something, but what four articles?
  • Huntster says "we need some finality to all this" -- well, we do need finality to this discussion of whether to put something in MOS, and that's easily done by putting nothing unless there's an answer to my requests in the first two bullets.
EEng (talk) 17:46, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Diffs (from today alone, and only one per article: see the article history for additional edits): Gliese 876, Lambda Scorpi, Alpha Comae Berenices. But I agree that this has, fortunately, been more discussion in talk space than edit warring on articles.
  • Previous discussion: Talk:Astronomical unit (dating back more than a decade), Talk:Voyager 1 (later moved to Talk:Astronomical unit, here, and Template Talk:convert. I think there are others, but don't know where off the top of my head.
  • The main thing that convinced me that the MOS needs to say something was that an editor has made clear that if the MOS doesn't say something explicitly, the convert template will be used to enforce that editor's preferred format (au). —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 18:19, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
Thanks. I notice, Ashill, that in an earlier discussion at Talk:Astronomical_unit, you said, "This seems like a solution in search of a problem. What problem does this proposal address? I agree that the British vs American spelling is a useful analogy. As long as each article is internally consistent, I see no need to enforce a project-wide standard." What changed your mind? If it's the convert thing, you'll see elsewhere on this page that (thank goodness) it was agreed convert must not be used to coerce stylistic choices, and both au and AU would be supported. EEng (talk) 18:59, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
For the reasons I gave here. I don't see the agreement you refer to from the problematic editors, which is why I have, unfortunately, come to the view that this discussion will come up again and again if the MOS doesn't simply say something. (I'd be fine if what it says is "either AU or au is fine" or "any symbol the editors of a given article damn well please is fine", but my reading of the discussion is that specifying AU has the most support. The one thing I would oppose is specifying a single symbol other than the most-widely-used one, which is AU.) —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 19:29, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
  • The symbol au is not the preferred symbol of just one isolated editor. It is the international standard symbol for the astronomical unit, and I for one agree with the editor referred to by Ashill that you need a damn good reason to use something different. The only authority that can trump the RS to which he refers is MOSNUM itself. The opposition to this simple change has gone for far too long. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 18:27, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
But Dondervogel2, you seem to be supporting the change to MOS (which specifies AU), while at the same time implying au! Huh? And if you were really going around changing this in articles, even as this discussion was going on, then shame on you. EEng (talk) 18:59, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
Dondervogel 2 has, I think, made it quite clear that (s)he would prefer au but most strongly prefers harmonization across Wikipedia, even if the standardization is on AU. I appreciate the flexibility. —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 19:29, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
@EEng: The editing I was doing was to purge "A.U." wherever I found it. I changed this to "au" because, as Ashill correctly asserts, this is my preferred symbol, and then others followed my trails and replaced "au" with "AU". If there is consensus for "AU" I am willing to support that in the interests of harmony. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 20:15, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
Dondervogel 2, "[The symbol 'au'] is the international standard symbol for the astronomical unit" is untrue. A true statement would be "The symbol 'au' is an international symbol for the astronomical unit. The IAU is just an association of astronomers, and people are free to accept or ignore their pronouncements. BIPM only has authority over SI; any other pronouncements are just mild suggestions. The usage in the major astronomy journals is at least as authoritative as the pronouncements of these two organizations. Jc3s5h (talk) 19:16, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
The way I see it BIPM accepted IAU's authority (for want of a better word) on the matter by adopting its recommendations. Scientific articles do not normally go to the trouble of defining units, relying instead on the authority of bodies like BIPM or ISO. In this instance, BIPM has chosen to follow the IAU, resulting in a conflict with ISO. I hope we can resolve this by all agreeing on AU. Otherwise you will have me arguing for "ua" :P Dondervogel 2 (talk) 20:26, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
I can't say I've personally submitted articles to academic journals (although I've worked in the same office as people who did). But I would expect authors of scientific journal articles to follow the style manual of the publisher. I would expect the authors to write the article with the publisher's style manual next to their keyboard, and do their best to use the symbols, citation style, and every other requirement in the manual, so as to get their article published as quickly as possible. I know my former employer had cash awards for publishing; the sooner you publish, the sooner the money shows up in your paycheck. Jc3s5h (talk) 21:55, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
  • OK, I give up. But look... drop the "comment". The table is full of choices (like bit/s instead of bps) that are more or less arbitrary, without explanation. MOS is bloated enough as it is. If you decide AU is what should be used, then just say so. Comments should only be used where something really needs explaining to avoid confusion e.g. calorie/kilocalorie/etc. EEng (talk) 22:03, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The "Used by most RS's commonly"-rule can provide this. Dangerous for a sub-MOS to intrude SI this way. -DePiep (talk) 22:45, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
Oh and before I forget (you sure did): this thread is forumshopping, and thus invalid. BIPM is the authority. -DePiep (talk) 22:57, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Support "AU" is most commonly used amongst Research, Pedagogical texts, Popular science and Amateur astronomy RS's -- (talk) 04:07, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
  • Comment. The proposal says "even though "au" is officially sanctioned by the IAU". First this reads a bit childish, I'd expect a better formulated background (for a MoS page). Anyway, the IAU decision is also approved by BIPM and so in SI. -DePiep (talk) 22:23, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
Oh dear. Does the proposal really say "AU is a speed"? -DePiep (talk) 22:25, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
No. The proposal shows a new line to be added to the existing table, in the "Length / Speed" section. EEng (talk) 22:45, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
I stand corrected on my secondary note. Now will the MOS include BIPM in this? -DePiep (talk) 23:44, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
I agree that the wording could be slightly better (as JorisvS noted in the proposal). "Recommended" would be better than "sanctioned". Proposed alternate wording (which has some similarities to that proposed by Dondervogel 2:

"AU" is the most commonly used unit symbol for the astronomical unit, both in popular and professional astronomical articles, and is hence also used on Wikipedia, The [[BIPM]] and [[IAU]] officially recommend "au".<ref>{{cite web | title=RESOLUTION B2 on the re-definition of the astronomical unit of length | url= | date=2012 | work=International Astronomical Union}}</ref><ref>{{cite web | title=SI Brochure | section=4.1, Table 6 | url= | edition=8 | date=2006, updated in 2014 | accessdate=2015-06-23}}</ref>

(If we're going to appeal to authority, the authority we're appealing to should be explicitly cited, I think.) I also note that the IAU recommendation is used in English and French; "au" may well be commonly-used in French even though it's not in English, which may explain the different choice. My preference is that English Wikipedia follow common English usage, which (as we have well established) is AU. Though I also take EEng's point that we could just drop the comment altogether. Because I'm pretty sure the horse is dead by now, I wouldn't object to any of these four options (the original comment, Dondervogel's comment, my comment, or no comment at all). —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 00:05, 24 June 2015 (UTC)

Where are we on this now?[edit]

Can someone suggest how to get this discussion closed? As mentioned earlier I've dropped my opposition to the proposal (I still question how much good it does, but I don't feel strongly) but I don't think it's appropriate for me to evaluate consensus. I would like to stress, again, that I think there's no need for the comment. EEng (talk) 20:54, 26 June 2015 (UTC)

I support EEng's (implied) proposal for closure by adding the symbol 'AU', without a comment. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 21:17, 26 June 2015 (UTC)
The discussion of the proposal was started on 22 June. I suggest that we wait at least 7 days (ie until 29 June) before posting a request for closure. I think that leaving a discussion open for at least a week is normal and old practice. I'll suggest wording separately. —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 00:06, 27 June 2015 (UTC)
Gosh, I thought it had been much longer. I guess a day away from the AU debate feels like a month in the country. EEng (talk) 00:19, 27 June 2015 (UTC)
Huh, it felt longer for me, too. I don't oppose not adding any comment at all when 'AU' is added, though I do think that if a comment about the reasoning behind it is useful to make editors understand why this particular choice has been made and to prevent people from posting objections simply because 'the IAU and BIPM have decided "au"'. --JorisvS (talk) 20:27, 27 June 2015 (UTC)

I propose posting a request for closure with the following text: "Would an uninvolved editor please assess the consesnsus at WT:MOSNUM#Proposal to add "AU" to the MoS. Please address three related questions: 1) Is there consensus to add a comment about the symbol(s) for astronomical unit to the manual of style? 2) If yes, is there a consensus which symbol(s), if any, should be specified? 3) If yes, is there a consensus for the explanatory text to be added?" —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 18:40, 29 June 2015 (UTC)

Focusing on a problematic sentence[edit]

As OP of the thread above, I don't want to be pushing this away from what should be addressed on MoS talk pages. Since my unchallenged change to MOSNUM, I only want to bring attentions to a specific remaining sentence that makes it difficult to interpret the MoS, specifically as to whether BIPM should be used as guide on non-SI units, which may lead to issues such as above. This is the first sentence in WP:MoS § Units of measurement:

It is unclear to a reader of the MoS how much guidance is being given by "should generally be [... a] non-SI unit officially accepted for use with the SI", and in particular whether what the BIPM says should be followed. As it stands, I read this as asserting that it should (including that 'au' should be used), but I suspect that this is contrary to what EEng and others might feel it should be read. Can we change this sentence to fix this apparent disparity? Some possible ways of dealing with this may be to delete the "or ..." part, or to soften the "should" as it applies to this part, or to revise our interpretation to be that the official position of the BIPM determines the style guide on WP. Which is it to be? The only reason that I am unhappy with EEng's proposal to adopt no change to the wording is that (seems to me, anyway) there are clearly differences of opinion on the interpretation of this sentence. —Quondum 21:12, 16 June 2015 (UTC)

I interpret the sentence to mean that it is just fine to use a non-SI unit which is officially accepted for use with the SI as the main unit of measure for a quantity in a Wikipedia article. Whether the unit is accepted or not is determined by the BIPM, but it does not follow that the BIPM is in charge of the name, symbol, or definition of the unit. So an astronomy article could use the astronomical unit as the main unit of measure for a quantity, but use the symbol AU. Jc3s5h (talk) 21:29, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
Good point. "unit" ≠ "symbol". Perhaps this could be made clearer. —Quondum 21:46, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
A "unit" can be written by "unit name" or by "unit symbol". -DePiep (talk) 22:13, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
  • No, they are three different things and it is helpful to distinguish between them: A unit is a thing or a concept. A unit name is the name we use to describe the thing or concept, and a unit symbol is an unambiguous representation of the concept.
  • That last point is very important so I have highlighted it. The names are subject to the ambiguities and idiosyncrasies of language, but the symbols are entirely under the BIPM's control. It is the reason why the BIPM chooses a single unambiguous symbol for all SI units, and the reason it strives to find unambiguous symbols for all units permitted for use alongside the SI. (I'm not convinced that second goal is always reached). Finally, it is the reason why MOSNUM should make stronger statements than it does about preferred unit symbols.
  • Dondervogel 2 (talk) 05:53, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
This is fundamentally about communicating meaning, which is language. Language isn't defined by standards bodies, and multiple words or symbols with similar or identical meanings happen all the time. The fact is that AU is much more common than au and thus likely clearer to many readers; it is certainly more clear to the majority of the editors who have discussed this (to the limited extent to which that samples readers). And a number of editors have pointed out a number of other common uses of "au", while I haven't seen any other common uses of "AU", so I don't get the ambiguity argument. The fact that both symbols are used is fine by me; if there really is a consensus to make a MOS-wide decision (which is separate from the Template:Convert options, as I think everyone but DePiep agrees), I prefer AU because it is the de facto standard (even though au is the "de jure" standard, to the limited extent that the IAU resolution is law). —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 07:07, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
I agree with
  • "Language isn't defined by standards bodies" [precisely my point]
  • "AU is ... more common than au"
I disagree with
  • "AU is ... likely clearer to many readers"
  • "[AU] is ... more clear to the majority of the editors"
All that one conveys with familiarity is the impression of clarity, not clarity itself. My point about ambiguity is that au is defined (by the IAU and BIPM) and (for as long as MOSNUM remains silent on the issue) AU is not. Hence my continuing preference for au for as long as this matter is unresolved. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 07:29, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
Clarity does not stem from official sanction, but from the user/reader being familiar with the unit and having (mostly) seen one symbol for it, in this case "AU". --JorisvS (talk) 09:33, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
I agree with the sentiment of this post of JorisvS, though I would have phrased it differently. Seeing one unique symbol for a unit is indeed the key, with the caveat that that symbol be clearly defined. The way to achieve both consistent use and clarity of definition is via MOSNUM. That's what MOSNUM is for. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 09:46, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
Agreed, I have finally made up my mind that it is indeed better to describe this situation explicitly in the MoS. --JorisvS (talk) 10:02, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
I largely agree, though I think that it's best to define whatever symbol is used at first use (as Nature and Science both do, though a wikilink probably suffices in many contexts on Wikipedia) since neither au nor AU are nearly as familiar as m, km, or mile. Furthermore, if we define the symbol at first use, the need to be consistent across Wikipedia is much less (though the need to be consistent within an article remains). The definition in the MOS is obviously of little direct help for readers. —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 13:49, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
You've got a point. And, yes, I can think of many articles where spelling it out would be over the top. I think that noting the situation with "AU" vs. "au" in the MoS and stating WP's preference and why is still helpful (obviously not really to readers, but to editors), but it makes sense to also advise to add a wikilink to the article and, for the more visible articles, to spell it out. --JorisvS (talk) 14:15, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
I was going to suggest that this be added to the MOS, but it's already there for all units, not just non-SI ones: "In prose, unit names should be given in full if used only a few times, but symbols may be used when a unit (especially one with a long name) is used repeatedly, after spelling out the first use (e.g. Up to 15 kilograms of filler is used for a batch of 250 kg)." But as evidence of how over-prescriptive the MOS is, it took me a while to find this while looking for it. —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 14:36, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
Okay. I managed to find it pretty quickly, though, thanks to the structure of the page. Given its structure, it would be a straightforward matter of adding a row to the table under "Specific units", including the comment that I described above. This would not really increase clutter on the page, nor make other things harder to find. --JorisvS (talk) 14:53, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
  • While MOS is supposed to control in case of conflict with MOSNUM (just as with conflict between MOS and any of its subsidiary pages), in fact MOSNUM has been drifting away from MOS, in various details, for some time. No one seems to care for the moment, though if push comes to shove the ueber-MOSsers who hang out at Talk:MOS will probably scold we MOSNUM little people for letting that happen. I fear this thread will force a showdown to resolve the stress between the two pages, much as an earthquake relieves pent-up stress in the earth's crust (or whatever it is an earthquake does). EEng (talk) 21:57, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
re Quondum: I don't see the point. Instead of asking clarification for the "should genrerally be", you propose to water it down to your possible misunderstanding/unclearity? Or else, can you re-describe the problem you see? For me there is none, so far. -DePiep (talk) 22:04, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
Oh and I challenge (reverted) your MOSNUM edit. Jee, editing a MOS page to fit your own discussion? -DePiep (talk) 22:06, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
I am asking here for an interpretation of the MOS, as it stands. I pointed out the areas of uncertainty as I see them: the edit you just reverted, plus that mentioned here. DePiep, please interpret for all of us what you think it means? For example, what does it say about use of units mentioned by BIPM for use with SI? I would appreciate interpretations by others, too. And please do not back out of this with claims of forum shopping. You have engaged on this page about an issue relating to wording of the MoS. —Quondum 23:37, 16 June 2015 (UTC)
I have restored Quondum's version. "Chapter 4... give[s] additional guidance on non-SI units" misrepresents the source, which says that non-SI units are not recommended. Therefore, the previous version is just wrong. "Chapter 4... give[s] additional information on non-SI units" is a more accurate representation of the source. I disagree strongly with the characterization of the edit; it was to better reflect the source, not fit any editor's particular view. —Alex (Ashill | talk | contribs) 07:01, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
Reverted before arriving here, see my es [6]. I think "guidance" may be even a little stronger, but alas. -DePiep (talk) 09:13, 17 June 2015 (UTC)

I disagree with Dondervogel 2's statement above "The names are subject to the ambiguities and idiosyncrasies of language, but the symbols are entirely under the BIPM's control." Actually, symbols used for the sale of goods and services in commerce are under the control of government weights and measures officials, who ultimately have the power to use force to enforce their laws. Other unit names and symbols are controlled by the consensus of language speakers. Even in a more metaphorical sense, it is highly questionable whether BIPM has control over symbols that are not part of SI or the metric system, even if the BIPM does list them as acceptable for use with SI. Jc3s5h (talk) 11:02, 17 June 2015 (UTC)

Quite. If the BIPM had control, then their 2006 statement that the symbol is "ua" would have transformed usage by agencies (NASA, ESA, etc), publications (Astronomy & Astrophysics, Astronomy Now, etc) and professional bodies (IAU, AAS, etc), and would not have been reversed by BIPM themselves. NebY (talk) 11:28, 17 June 2015 (UTC)
I stand by my position on this. When the BIPM switched from ua to au, it was their decision to do so. That is what I understand by "control". I did not mean to imply they control the symbols used by others, as they clearly do not control MOSNUM, to give a relevant example. They do not control MOSNUM, but we do, collectively, and if we choose to we can use that control to do some good. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 11:39, 17 June 2015 (UTC)

Use of ndash and nbsp[edit]

It's my understanding that, for some time now, dates of birth and death in the opening sentence of an article take the form "12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882", the ndash being provided under the edit box, rather than "12&nbsp;February 1809&nbsp;&ndash; 19&nbsp;April 1882" There is no need that I can see to have markup for the n-dash, and virtually never any need for a non-breaking space when the dates come immediately the subject's name at the very start of the article. Yet this MOS still states that wiki or html markup should be used. The guideline is being followed, though not always fully: see here and here. Should the MOS not be updated in line with changes over the last ten years? Scolaire (talk) 17:54, 19 June 2015 (UTC)

Some people don't know how to make dashes. When I point out that en-dash is the first of the links under the edit box (which are properly called the charinsert gadget), they've either not understood its significance, or simply never noticed that it's there. --Redrose64 (talk) 19:52, 19 June 2015 (UTC)
I don't understand what the concern is exactly, but depending on font and so on it can be very difficult to distinguish hyphen from endash in the edit window; thus using some symbolic form of endash, rather than literal, makes it easier to be sure that the character present is the right one. {{snd}} ("spaced endash"), which gives an nbsp + endash + regular space, is compact and convenient. It's true that nbsp is probably not needed in the usual opening words of a bio, but bothering to special-case that makes no sense at all. EEng (talk) 22:06, 19 June 2015 (UTC)
"They've...simply never noticed that it's there": that's precisely why it should say in the MOS that it's there, and that it's there to be used. If some people don't understand, too bad; it's not a reason for not saying it. At the moment the MOS seems to prohibit the n-dash character and say we must use markup. Likewise, there's no harm is saying the {snd} is available, but the MOS shouldn't appear to be mandating it when most people are happier just using space-dash-space. I think it's stretching it to say that the dates in a bio is a "special case" when it applies to every single biography, and the example in the MOS that I quoted above specifically refers to a biography: "Charles Robert Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist ..." Again, the MOS seems to be saying, "this is how it will appear but you mustn't type it that way." Scolaire (talk) 22:37, 19 June 2015 (UTC)
{{snd}} is simple and easy, and it's easy to tell that a hyphen hasn't snuck in. I really don't get your complaint. If you want to suggest a change to the guidelines, go ahead. EEng (talk) 00:04, 20 June 2015 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Essentially, what I'm saying is that a manual of style should be something that is followed in reality, rather than what some editors think would be ideal practice. I regularly see copy-edits to articles on my watchlists where text or hyphens are replaced with "–", but this edit, that I linked to previously, is the first time in literally years that I have seen a "&ndash" added, and I was amazed to see the edit summary of "per WP:MOSNUM". Following the initial posts here I looked at eleven current, recent and forthcoming Featured Articles. Eight of those – HMS Nairana (1917), Blue's Clues, Robin Friday, Stanley Savige, L'Arianna, Augustinian theodicy, Drowning Girl and Battle of Labuan – use the simple dash; two, Ian Craig and Carl Nielsen, use {spaced ndash}; and one, AMX-30E, uses &ndash. In addition, Robin Friday, Stanley Savige and Drowning Girl have an &nbsp before the dash but not after, or between day and month or month and year. In other words, the Manual of Style is at odds not only with regular practice but also with Featured Article criteria. I can't see the benefit of that to anybody. Scolaire (talk) 10:43, 21 June 2015 (UTC)

I don't know where this puts me in the debate, but there are bots which remove non-breaking spaces, claiming compliance with WP:MOS. I'm not sure exactly where that appears, but it is problematic for two subpages of WP:MOS to contradict each other. I think we should encourage use of templates such as {{snd}} where appropriate. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 01:29, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
You may be thinking of the mindless scripts and bots which remove e.g. nbsp from references, claiming that they "contaminate the COinS metadata" -- see Template:Citation#COinS. This is nonsense of course, since obviously it would be easy to simply map nbsp to regular space, remove italicization and bolding, etc. before outputting the metadata, but nonetheless we have gnomes running around removing careful formatting from references in the belief they're improving something. I've even run into people changing {{ndash}} to &ndash; because (they say) "templates contaminate COinS", when obviously this makes no difference at all. EEng (talk) 02:55, 22 June 2015 (UTC)

Proposed edit[edit]

  • A pure year–year range is written (as is any range) using an en dash, not a hyphen or slash. The en dash is the first of the "Insert" links under the edit box, or it can be coded as &ndash; or {{ndash}}. The dash is usually unspaced (that is, with no space on either side), and the range's "end" year is usually abbreviated to two digits:
  •   1881–86;  1881–92 (not 1881–6;  1881 – 86)
Markup: 1881{{ndash}}86 or 1881&ndash;86
  • If at least one of the items being linked is in a "mixed" format (containing two or more of day, month, year), carries a modifier such as c., or otherwise contains a space, then there should be a space before and after the en dash. The spaced en dash template ({{snd}}) can be used:
  • between specific dates in different months: They travelled June 3 – August 18, 1952;  They travelled 3 June – 18 August 1952
  • between dates in different years:
Charles Robert Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist ...
Markup: 12 February 1809{{snd}}19 April 1882 or 12 February 1809 &ndash; 19 April 1882
Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was the 16th President of ...
  • between months in different years: The exception was in force August 1892 – January 1903;  The Ghent Incursion (March 1822 – January 1, 1823) was ended by the New Year's Treaty
Markup: March 1822{{snd}}January 1, 1823 or March 1822 &ndash; January 1, 1823

Scolaire (talk) 10:43, 21 June 2015 (UTC)

  • Oppose You're suggesting that the first space in a spaced ndash should be a regular space instead of nbsp. If this is going on in FAs then -- surprise! -- FAs aren't perfect. I looked at some of the articles you linked and I can't tell what you're talking about. You seem to be mixing up the question of literal-versus-symbolic with nbsp-versus-space with I-don't-know-what. This continues to be a solution in search of a problem AFAICS. EEng (talk) 12:39, 21 June 2015 (UTC)
    • Nobody has bothered to explain to me why the first space (specifically) in a spaced ndash should be non-breaking rather than a regular space, or where this rule is written down or where and when it was agreed. It's a very small part of my proposal and can easily be amended if the rationale for doing so is spelled out. You can't tell what I'm talking about? It couldn't be simpler: 70% of those Featured articles (and probably a far greater percentage of articles in general) don't use wiki or html markup for date ranges, so what is the point in mandating its use in the MOS? I'm not mixing up anything with anything with anything. And FAs aren't perfect. Does that mean the MOS is perfect? Are the editors who brought them to FA standard and the people who promoted them wilfully disobeying some God-given law? Or if there was some community consensus on it can you link me to it? AFAICS it is this part of the MOS that is a solution in search of a problem. I am also getting a strong sense of ownership here. Scolaire (talk) 13:10, 21 June 2015 (UTC)
The nbsp prevents the ndash from coming at the start of a new line, which looks bad. As with anything else in MOS, if you want to see the discussion about it you'll have to search the Talk archives. This provision way predates me so ownership has nothing to do with it. (I also don't think God had anything to do with it, but if you find something in the archives along those lines we should notify the media.)
As mentioned before, literal ndashes are hard to distinguish from hyphens in the edit window (in at least some editing environments) so symbolics like & ndash; and {ndash}/{snd} are preferable. This isn't any kind of rule but MOS might as well encourage good practices like that. We certainly shouldn't be saying stuff like "It's the first character in the list when you select Foo from the dropdown of the ...", which can change.
Neither MOS nor FAs are perfect, obviously. I doubt anyone working on FAs is willfully ignoring MOS, but MOS is big and complex so a lot of minor stuff gets overlooked. We can but try. EEng (talk) 13:57, 21 June 2015 (UTC)
I have searched the archives using every combination of search terms I can think of, but I can't find any discussion where it is agreed, or even proposed, to use markup rather than either literal n-dashes or literal spaces. While I understand what you're saying about a non-breaking space before an n-dash – and thank you for explaining it to me – it's not actually written anywhere in the MOS. That, and the absence of any evidence of discussion or consensus, makes me wonder how authoritative your statements on that or on the n-dash are, which in turn makes me wonder just how much of the MOS is built on sand. Having said that, I know that an ordinary Joe suggesting that a MOS might be made more relevant to the actual writing of articles has no chance against a Guardian of the Sacred Text, so I won't bother you further; I'll leave you to your cozy discussions of arcane matters. Goodbye and happy editing. Scolaire (talk) 10:09, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
I made no claim to authoritativeness, but merely explained what I know. Many things in MOS were added boldly long ago, and have never been challenged. If you want to argue that the improvement in appearance from using nbsp isn't worth it, then go ahead. (Your next step should be to search the edit history to find who added this provision, and when, and to see how other editors reacted at the time.) Otherwise, someone has to deal with these arcane matters, and if you're not up to it, please don't impugn those who are. EEng (talk) 12:26, 22 June 2015 (UTC)
I have argued that the improvement in appearance from using nbsp isn't worth it. It doesn't require any search of the archives for me to do so. If nobody can remember any previous discussion then any previous discussion is irrelevant. It's merely a matter of discussing current proposals on their merits. You haven't done this: you have rather pompously dismissed the whole thing on the basis one or two small details. And I did not impugn anybody for discussing arcane matters. My problem is that people will not take time out from discussing them to deal honestly with a silly rule that affects literally millions of articles. But as I say, I know I am a lone voice so I am not going to push it further. Feel free to give me another slap-down; I won't respond next time. Scolaire (talk) 07:10, 23 June 2015 (UTC)


  • I have argued that the improvement in appearance from using nbsp isn't worth it. I can't see how, since until my post a moment ago you apparently didn't even understand what the nbsp was for.
  • It doesn't require any search of the archives for me to do so. Yeah, it really does. To ignore prior discussion is to reinvent the wheel.
  • If nobody can remember any previous discussion then any previous discussion is irrelevant. Nonsense. If living memory were the outer limits of what's valuable then we wouldn't bother with libraries—​or encyclopedias, come to think of it. It's why discussions are archived.
  • You have rather pompously dismissed the whole thing on the basis one or two small details. I don't know about pompous, but I opposed the proposal because the two substantive things I could see it did—​endorse the use of literal ndashes, and remove the specification that ndash be preceded by nbsp—​were bad ideas, IMO for reasons I stated. If there's more to your proposal I didn't see it, undoubtedly because you just posted a long chunk of proposed replacement text without telling us what in it represented a change.
  • I did not impugn anybody for discussing arcane matters. Yeah, you did: "I'll leave you to your cozy discussions of arcane matters."
  • I know I am a lone voice. Perhaps you should think about why that is. EEng (talk) 07:33, 23 June 2015 (UTC)

Use of Val template for formatting MoS[edit]

I was asked to explain the rationale for removing the use of {{val}} for formatting examples in the MoS.

  • Examples often serve to disambiguate the meaning; when in apparent conflict with the wording, someone might even update the wording to match the example. It literally becomes difficult to determine what the intent was when the template changes its formatting, so it is like walking on shifting sands.
  • Template:Val has been undergoing substantial changes in the last few weeks; it has frequently broken in this time, causing display errors in the examples of the MoS. This is how I noticed it in the first place. This template is still in state of flux (i.e. it is unstable, and is always subject to the vagaries of editors of its subtemplates. I consequently regard it as unsuitable for style examples.
  • At the time the {{val}} template is inserted by an editor, certain default behaviour it has at the time might be relied upon in an example, but the defaults can change (e.g. under what circumstances a four-digit number will have a gap inserted). This may have been the case for the example that EEng removed rather than trying to resolve the intent.

EEng, I think that you equally can be called upon to explain why a MoS page should be subject to insertion of text or subtle changes by an editor who is unaware that what they do can affect the MoS, often without being noticed. My argument is that problems arose as a result of its use, and I was preventing a recurrence. —Quondum 17:42, 20 June 2015 (UTC)

I removed the example of 1010th because it seemed to imply that ordinals should be formatted a certain way, which I don't think is true, so I thought leaving this to editor discretion, applying the other rules elsewhere, would be best.
I understand the argument that changes to val could modify the very examples which, circularly, explain how val works, but that applies to a lot of stuff in MOS. Unfortunately we have to rely, to a large extent, on people who tinker with templates knowing what they're doing and being careful; fortunately, that turns out to be what happens most of the time. The examples have been presented the way they are for quite some time, so I'd feel better if others who understand that technical details weigh in before making such a sweeping change. EEng (talk) 18:34, 20 June 2015 (UTC)
And I'd feel better if you were not so trigger-happy with reverting carefully considered changes. I made no change to the display of the MoS, or if I did, it was inadvertent. The one where I was unsure, you've removed (and I agree with that removal). It is still up to you to show that you had a reason to revert, and the only good reason would either be a refutation of my reason, or that I had introduced a change that needed discussion. You have not addressed my issue: template val is currently under maintenance (which rebuts your claim that it has been in use); you have also misaddressed the circularity issue: we are giving examples of acceptable formatting, not explaining how val works. We are only mentioning incidentally that val can be used for such formatting. As a part-time val maintainer, I have been faced with the problem that can no longer be sure of exactly what was intended in the MoS, because val is used for formatting the examples that I look to to see what val should be doing.
Please explain what you mean by a "sweeping change". I would describe a change that makes no visible change as minor, not sweeping. —Quondum 21:42, 20 June 2015 (UTC)
Calm down. In a high-visibility document like MOS, conservatism rules and consensus is more important than elsewhere. If you're really certain your edit makes no change to what the user see here in MOS (but I had no way of knowing you're some kind of expert on that) then that's great. But I'm puzzled: doesn't val have its own test cases? Are you really making changes to val such that you're not sure whether its output has changed? EEng (talk) 23:29, 20 June 2015 (UTC)
Val is a relatively unused template (less than 1300 articles, 300 pages in template space, 100 in WP space). It does not seem to have thorough test methodology, and a few editors are valiantly tackling a major revamp, with a conversion to Lua on the cards. As you have discerned, I'm not cut out for the interaction in this space, so I'm removing the WP: space from my watchlist. I think we'll both be more comfortable that way. —Quondum 01:29, 21 June 2015 (UTC)
Um, I hadn't discerned anything. Your help is welcome. If you say you're sure your edit didn't make any unintended changes, then together with the many eagle eyes usually on the case here, that's certainly good enough for me. EEng (talk) 01:50, 21 June 2015 (UTC)

"1930s and 40s"[edit]

The MOS wording for decades is currently "always use four digits". I've started adding the century to two-digit decades. One of my edits has been reverted, so I'm stopping to ask for advice. Should the MOS wording be relaxed a little? Consider expressions such as "1930s and 40s" [no apostrophe], "1930s and '40s" [apostrophe], or where, as in Black genocide, the "'50s" is further away from the preceding "19" but still clear in context. (Pinging Binksternet) -- John of Reading (talk) 18:28, 23 June 2015 (UTC)

As you're asking for purely personal opinion rather than interpretation of guidelines, I'll give my personal opinion. I think "1930s and 40s" is fine for conversation and informal writing but lacks encyclopedic tone. I would avoid it for the same reason that we avoid contractions. If someone could cite a few examples of such usage in a major printed encyclopedia, I could be swayed. ―Mandruss  18:38, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
Binksternet, I was going to comment, but Mandruss has already perfectly encapsulated my thinking on point. Dirtlawyer1 (talk) 18:49, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
When talking about decades, natural speech trims the century as much as possible in context, with that context often remaining unspoken. Written English requires the context established, but after that is accomplished, I think our writing can follow natural speaking style. I'm in favor of allowing two-digit decades once context is established with four digits, especially if two or more decades are in the same sentence, as in the above-linked example. Otherwise our writing is stilted, dissimilar to speech. Binksternet (talk) 18:54, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
The same argument could be applied to contractions, but we don't do so (do not do so). Encyclopedic tone sometimes sounds stilted, and that's just how it is (that is just how it is). ―Mandruss  19:10, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
  • I'm absolutely with Binksternet. In general two-digit decades sound too informal, but there are times when insisting on repeating 19xx over and over is excessive. Every MOS page carries a boxed qualification, "Use common sense in applying it; it will have occasional exceptions", and the example linked in the OP is an excellent example of a place where such editor discretion is appropriately applied. There's almost nothing on which absolutely rigid prohibition is appropriate (and that includes, BTW, contractions). And no, we should not be writing anything that all recognize as stilted if there's some way to fix that by bending the rules. Good flow is paramount.
"Encyclopedic" vacuously means "Wikipedia should employ style appropriate to Wikipedia", which of course helps not at all. I wouldn't be surprised if no other encyclopedia ever says "beginning in the 1940s, though the 50s, and ending about the mid-1960s", but I wouldn't be surprised if NYT did say such a thing, and I think it's appropriate for WP to mix a little bit of the slightly more accessible style of NYT in with our otherwise Britannica-ish aspirations. EEng (talk) 20:37, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
Yes. Though I would add that "style appropriate to Wikipedia" is usually based on individual editors' personal sense of "appropriate". ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:34, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
That's what I mean: encyclopedic is just a fancy way of saying "in my opinion, for reasons I can't verbalize". EEng (talk) 21:36, 23 June 2015 (UTC)
Fine. Then let's throw out the advice against contractions, using precisely the same reasoning. I can't verbalize why we shouldn't use contractions, nor can anyone else, and contractions make the language flow more naturally, like conversational speech. Can you reasonably support "1930s and 40s" while opposing contractions? I don't see how. They are both elisions that our language has invented for the purpose of brevity, with no material difference. Finally, do I really need to clarify that I'm not suggesting or supporting a 100% prohibition, given that there is no 100% prohibition on virtually anything in Wikipedia content? Of course there are well-reasoned exception cases, but the example in the OP's diff is not one of them. ―Mandruss  00:02, 24 June 2015 (UTC)
No, let's not throw out any of the guidelines; rather, let's remind ourselves that they are guidelines, not barrier walls. What to do about OP's example we should leave to the editors of that article. On a minor point like this the universe will not collapse onto itself if an exception is made locally that centralized discussion, with full consideration of all points and consideration, might decide the other way. EEng (talk) 01:37, 24 June 2015 (UTC)
Let's also remind ourselves of some other things. The question raised in this thread was whether we should relax the current guideline, and I suggested no, nothing more. I gather you agree, awesome. Only at Wikipedia can two people in agreement argue with each other. There is no local consensus that gives Binksternet's preference any more weight than mine, and "editors of that article" is not a useful concept here. Absent local discussion of this specific question, we are all editors of that article, simply having our article talk discussion outside of article talk. I don't need to be familiar with the topic of black genocide to have an equally valid opinion about whether the form "1930s and 40s" should be used there; that question has nothing to do with black genocide. ―Mandruss  02:05, 24 June 2015 (UTC)
The OP did ask whether the guideline should be relaxed, but if you look closely you answered a slightly different question i.e. whether two digits would ever be acceptable (either under a changed guideline or as an exception to an unchanged general guideline).
I disagree with you -- there are plenty of places where people who agree with each other can argue. (Discuss.)
By "editors of that article" I mean people who spend some substantial time on it and who are doing more than dropping in to blindly apply some minor guideline. BTW, the phrase in the OP is quite different from the one you keep quoting -- it's "Because of this racist reaction, sterilization of African Americans increased from 23% of the total in the 1930s and '40s to 59% at the end of the '50s, and rose further to 64% in the mid-1960s." (There are other problems with it, of course, which need not concern us here.) EEng (talk) 02:30, 24 June 2015 (UTC) Still friends?
I think I've stated my case adequately — and it would be even more pointless to go all meta about the meaning of guidelines, Wikipedia, and Life itself — so I'll leave it there. My mind has not been changed on this question; I'll leave that article alone, but, if I happen across other such usage, I'll boldly fix it per existing guideline. (And who knows, someday I might happen across that article; I do roam a lot.) Of course still friends, we go way back!Mandruss  02:54, 24 June 2015 (UTC)
Hey, have you visited the museums lately? EEng (talk) 02:40, 25 June 2015 (UTC)

Binary prefixes again[edit]

@Dondervogel 2: Although consensus can change, you should not tag pages when the existing wording has been established by consensus, even if you do not agree with it. Furthermore, although I don't remember the correct tags, {{fact}} and {{dubious}} are not appropriate tags except on article pages.

If you want to reopen the discussion, this (not the guideline page) is the place. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 00:46, 25 June 2015 (UTC)

@Arthur Rubin:It is one thing for a guideline to say "use this unit symbol or that unit symbol". It is quite another for it to justify said recommendations by including factually incorrect (or at best dubious) statements. The statement in question is

The IEC prefixes kibi-, mebi-, gibi-, etc. (symbols Ki, Mi, Gi, etc.) are rarely used, even in technical articles

I maintain the statement is false and should be removed. More specifically, I proposed replacing it with

The IEC prefixes kibi-, mebi-, gibi-, etc. (symbols Ki, Mi, Gi, etc.) are rarely used outside technical articles

but that change was reverted, leaving the original outlandish, unproven, and (in my opinion) incorrect claim. If you disagree with my assertion that the statement is false, I challenge you to prove it correct. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 06:24, 25 June 2015 (UTC)

Specific proposal[edit]

My feeling is that the main forum in which the IEC prefixes are used is in peer-reviewed journals. I therefore propose the following more neutral wording

The IEC prefixes kibi-, mebi-, gibi-, etc. (symbols Ki, Mi, Gi, etc.) are rarely used, except in peer-reviewed journal publications

Dondervogel 2 (talk) 06:31, 25 June 2015 (UTC)

I cannot confirm that the IEC prefixes are used in peer-reviewed journals, so I believe your phrasing is misleading. I would find

The IEC prefixes kibi-, mebi-, gibi-, etc. (symbols Ki, Mi, Gi, etc.) are rarely used, except in some peer-reviewed journal publications

acceptable, although I don't see the need for change from the existing wording established by consensus. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 07:52, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
The need for change arises from the fact that the MOS statement is (at best) unproven, and therefore misleading. The prefixes are indeed used by "some" peer-reviewed publications, although it would also be accurate to say "many". Perhaps a further improvement is to replace "peer-reviewed journal publications" with "scholarly publications". Dondervogel 2 (talk) 08:32, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
  • No position on the mebi- mega- mubi- or whatever question itself, but in general MOS doesn't give justifying explanations for its choices unless necessary to avoid confusion e.g. the calorie/Calorie/etc. discussion at then end of this table -- and I think that's the way it should be. I don't know, however, whether "to avoid confusion" applies here or not. EEng (talk) 11:13, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
    Would you like to comment about whether, in principle and always assuming that there is agreement to including a justification in the first place, the justification should include a controversial statement that is not backed up by a source? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 12:31, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
Obviously we shouldn't be reciting something without basis, but the usual SYNTH and OR restrictions emphatically do not apply to project material such as this. EEng (talk) 13:07, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
@Arthur Rubin: Do you agree with EEng that the MOS should not state something without basis? If so, what is the basis for "IEC prefixes ... are rarely used, even in technical articles"? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 17:16, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
DV2, I should interject here that, where wording has been achieved by consensus and has been around a while, it's incumbent on you to check the discussions that led to that wording to see if you can find the reasoning behind it, before challenging others to back up the wording for you. Have you done that? EEng (talk) 17:45, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
Short answer is "No". Long answer is "Are you sure it is wise to dig into the history?" Remember that at least two editors left Wikipedia in disgust at the way things mebi- were handled on this page (though one of them eventually returned), and a third referred to it as a "snakepit", so I question the wisdom of re-opening old wounds. I honestly think it is best on this occasion to examine this on its merits from scratch. Today I sense a completely different (more pleasant) atmosphere to the one that led to the present choices and wording, an observation that I attribute in no small part to your arbitration efforts. Are you are willing to oversee the proceedings on this basis? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 18:53, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
How sweet of you to say; I try my best. Just so you know I doubt I'll be participating in this issue beyond trying to get it off on the right foot -- I just don't feel I've got my mind wrapped around it. Look, at the very least you should post links to the prior discussion(s) you think are relevant, and briefly say how they fit into your new thinking. EEng (talk) 21:10, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
I will try. It seems the "rarely used" wording originates from this edit on 30 July 2013 by Quondum. I will see what I can find on the talk page in July 2013 that might help. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 21:39, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
I can see no relevant discussion on the talk page current at the time of the edit. Perhaps Quondum can explain his thinking at the time? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 21:48, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
  • The proposed wording should not be added. No one has even demonstrated that the IEC prefixes are used in computer-related peer-reviewed journals, much less peer-reviewed journals in general. Bear in mind that since computers have permeated every aspect of life, we can expect to see large quantities of bits and bytes described in all kinds of journals, even those which are not about to computers. Jc3s5h (talk) 19:28, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
My first proposal made the assumption that most Google Scholar hits are to peer-reviewed journals, but I accept they might not be, which is why I changed the proposal to "scholarly publications". Dondervogel 2 (talk) 20:10, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
Scholarly publications, whether peer-reviewed journals or some other form of publication, are likely to make mention of large quantities of bits or bytes, no matter what field. But all the fields with the possible exception of electronics engineering and computer science are likely to use the popular, rather than IEC prefixes. Thus the IEC prefixes are probably rare even in scholarly publications. Jc3s5h (talk) 21:43, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
You say "probably" rare because you don't know, and that is precisely my point. Why do we feel the need to make a statement that we cannot defend? That is precisely why it should go. By the way, I have just noticed this much more neutral wording on Unit prefix: "Since the standardisation of the new terms, they have been used mainly in scientific literature and are now part of the International System of Quantities. Their adoption in popular publications remains limited.". Dondervogel 2 (talk) 12:10, 26 June 2015 (UTC)

EEng proposes[edit]

Will you marry me? Just kidding. OK, a coupla things:

The IEC standard prefixes kibi-, mebi-, gibi-, etc. (symbols Ki, Mi, Gi, etc.) are not familiar to most Wikipedia readers, so are generally not to be used except under the following circumstances...
  • Somewhere in the last two or three years it became
The IEC prefixes kibi-, mebi-, gibi-, etc. (symbols Ki, Mi, Gi, etc.) are rarely used, even in technical articles, so are generally not to be used except:
  • when the majority of cited sources on the article topic use IEC prefixes,
  • in a direct quote using the IEC prefixes,
  • when explicitly discussing the IEC prefixes,
  • in articles in which both types of prefix are used with neither clearly primary, or in which converting all quantities to one or the other type would be misleading or lose necessary precision, or declaring the actual meaning of a unit on each use would be impractical.

with a footnote reading

Wikipedia follows common practice regarding bytes and other data traditionally quantified using binary prefixes (e.g. mega- and kilo-, meaning 220 and 210 respectively) and their unit symbols (e.g. MB and KB) for RAM and decimal prefixes for most other uses. Despite the IEC's 1998 International Standard creating several new binary prefixes (e.g. mebi-, kibi-) to distinguish the meaning of the decimal SI prefixes (e.g. mega- and kilo-, meaning 106 and 103 respectively) from the binary ones, and the subsequent incorporation of these IEC prefixes into the International System of Quantities (ISQ), consensus on Wikipedia in computing-related contexts currently favours the retention of the more familiar but ambiguous units "KB", "MB", "GB", "TB", "PB", "EB", etc. over use of unambiguous IEC binary prefixes. For detailed discussion, see Complete rewrite of Units of Measurements (June 2008).

Personally I prefer the "unfamiliar to readers" approach, of the two, but really I don't see why any such explanation at all is needed. I suggest simply:

The IEC prefixes kibi-, mebi-, gibi-, etc. (symbols Ki, Mi, Gi, etc.) are generally not to be used except...

-- which gives the same guidance without the commentary. I suggest retaining the footnote, which simply emphasizes that this wasn't an accidental decision. EEng (talk) 21:37, 26 June 2015 (UTC)

  • I support EEng's proposal. At least part of the footnote is needed because it explains the choice between ambiguity and unfamiliarity, and states that familiarity is preferred even though it results in ambiguous unit symbols. I'm not saying I agree with the reasoning. Just that I consider it important to document that reasoning. The footnote could probably be shortened without losing that essence, but it serves the required function as is. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 22:49, 26 June 2015 (UTC)
  • I don't support any of the changes mentioned above because consensus has not changed to favour the use of IEC prefixes in the real world.Fnagaton 14:30, 27 June 2015 (UTC)
The proposal in this thread doesn't change the recommendation about when to use IEC prefixes in WP articles (i.e. hardly ever) which is all the guideline should concern itself with. It removes the side statement about what's used in outside sources, which seems to be the point of contention, and doesn't serve any purpose that I can see in guiding editing. EEng (talk) 14:39, 27 June 2015 (UTC)
The part that is proposed to be removed or changed does help guide editing because it reinforces the message that IEC prefixes shouldn't be used. Without that part of the guideline then some could argue that "hey look I think the guideline supports my use of IEC prefixes because I think they're more common now". Without the text it gives more wiggle room to someone who might like using IEC prefixes in articles. Fnagaton 06:34, 28 June 2015 (UTC)
Huh? The guideline clearly sets out the restricted cases in which mebi/mibi/mubi are to be used. There's no wiggle room at all based on anyone's perception of use in sources of various kinds. The statement about the rarity of such use is superfluous, and if anything invites someone to think, "Well, this guideline seems to be based on rarity of use in the wild. I think that's changed now, so I guess I'll ignore the guideline." So it's quite the opposite of what you're saying. EEng (talk) 06:49, 28 June 2015 (UTC)
The phrase IEC prefixes are rarely used, even in technical articles, so are generally not to be used gives important context from the lengthy discussions held years ago. Without it someone reading the guideline might not understand the context of those discussions. Hence wiggle room. Fnagaton 12:23, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
You keep saying this, but there's nothing in the guideline (even omitting the talk of rarity in sources) that suggests any wiggle room. MOS rarely gives justifying explanations for its choices, and that's the way it should be—​MOS is bloated enough as it is. Talking about rarity in the outside world doesn't help editors apply the very clear list of exceptions any better. EEng (talk) 14:03, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
But could it be reworded so not apparently circular? Tony (talk) 13:44, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
@Tony1: Good idea. And while we're at it, why not reword it so that it is not easily refutable? Dondervogel 2 (talk) 14:32, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
It would seem DV2 has a point. Perhaps we should go back to the wording (buried in my OP to this subthread)
The IEC standard prefixes kibi-, mebi-, gibi-, etc. (symbols Ki, Mi, Gi, etc.) are not familiar to most Wikipedia readers, so are generally not to be used except under the following circumstances...
Can we agree that's indisputable? EEng (talk) 16:03, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
Not sure about indisputable (that would be a challenge :P), but I would not dispute "not familiar to most Wikipedia readers" myself, and I don't believe any regular visitors to this page would either. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 16:24, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
Just wait. This is MOS, remember. EEng (talk) 22:02, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
It still doesn't convey a succinct summary of the many pages of discussion as well as IEC prefixes are rarely used, even in technical articles, so are generally not to be used. Which is rather the point. If it said IEC prefixes (insert examples here) are not familiar to most Wikipedia readers and are rarely used, even in technical articles, so are generally not to be used then it would be an improvement. Fnagaton 13:01, 30 June 2015 (UTC)
The purpose of the guideline is not to reflect discussion for the sake of reflecting discussion, but to (a) say what should happen in articles and (b) if necessary (and it's usually not necessary) add explanation or motivation to help editors better understand and implement (a). Given that, I'm not sure what role is played for the guideline to talk about what various sources use. What I think does help (or might help, anyway) is to talk about the fact (if we agree it's a fact) that most readers are unfamilier with IEC prefixes. That's an explanation that speaks directly to why the guideline helps articles be as comprehensible to readers as possible. EEng (talk) 14:05, 30 June 2015 (UTC)
The purpose of the guideline is to reflect discussion. It's entirely appropriate to include a summary of those discussions in the guideline for some subjects and especially this subject since it went on for so long before. What benefit is there from removing an accurate summary? None that I can see. Fnagaton 11:10, 1 July 2015 (UTC)
The purpose of the guideline is to reflect the outcome of the discussion, not the content of the discussion -- that's what the discussion archives are for. It's inappropriate to include a summary of the discussion unless it helps editors understand what they are expected to do when editing because MOS is far, far too bloated, to the point that its usability is already seriously impaired. Thus if something does not need to be included, then it needs to be not included. Furthermore, include background reasoning (unless it helps editors understand what's expected, or explains a counterintuitive guideline) invites quibbling, especially if (as here) the stated reason seems to be open to question. The guideline to avoid IEC was based on much more than its prevalence in sources, and to state that as if it were the only basis for the guideline gives, in fact, a distorted view of the discussion, and (as already stated) thereby invites quibbling. EEng (talk) 17:01, 1 July 2015 (UTC)

Proposal to add DATEBOTH to MOS:DATEFORMAT[edit]

Debate over DMY vs. MDY date formats, the precedence and proper application of MOS:DATETIES and MOS:DATERET, and whether certain articles have stronger ties as "U.S.-military" or "U.S.-national" (non-military), has been interminable and of little benefit. As there seems to be an emerging consensus that both formats are acceptable (in that both are readily understandable to all readers), I propose the following addition at the top of MOS:DATEFORMAT:

Both "DMY" (day, month, year) and "MDY" (month, day, year) formats are deemed understandable to all readers of Wikipedia, and therefore either format may be used, subject to consistency within each article, the consensus of the editors involved, and any other applicable considerations (below).

This change implicitly rejects the view of an inherent and pre-determined format for certain topics, leaving the choice of format to the judgment of the editors involved. Where editors are unable to reach consensus the usual guidelines are applicable. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:23, 26 June 2015 (UTC)

Gosh, I hate to do this to you, but I just don't see what you're trying to accomplish with this. While everything in MOS has potential exceptions, via editor consensus for a particular article -- see the box at the head of every MOS page -- this turns it around and makes a discussion among editors primary for each article, using the "usual guidelines" only as a tiebreaker. I see that as a recipe for disaster. I think STRONGNAT and DATERET have served us well up until now. I thought the special US military exception was out of place and came to believe it should be removed, but what you're proposing will upset the entire applecart, I fear. But I'd like to hear what others think. EEng (talk) 22:53, 26 June 2015 (UTC)
Are STRONGNAT and DATERET half full, or half empty? I grant they have been of some good service. But surely it is not necessary (per WP:BLUE) to enumerate all of the bickering about which format is innately better, or whether some topic or person is more "national" or more "military", or the arguments over guideline precedence, or where editors not involved in an article come in and unilaterally make mass changes on the sole basis of (e.g.) "per DATETIES". ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:15, 2 July 2015 (UTC)
As it is these several guidelines are a frequently conflicting patchwork which fosters bickering. My hope and intent is find a clearer, simpler formulation that reduces the points of conflict. And without "upset[ing] the entire applecart", a fear apparently arising from concern that any adjustment of the guidelines would trigger an onslaught of mass changes by "format warriors". (See previous discussion at #Military dates, round 2.) I think this would occur only if such adjustments were interpreted as a mandate for change, which is disputable irregardless of this proposal. At any rate, I reiterate my suggestion of no wholesale changes without consensus.
Which gets back to "discussion among editors primary for each article". This is, after all, our fundamental model for editorial decision-making, so why shouldn't we let those closest to an article determine what is most appropriate? Why should they be shackled to a guideline on what is really a trivial matter? ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:15, 27 June 2015 (UTC)

Hell no. I deem the pushing of this idea which has been repeatedly rejected as a strong indication there are plans afoot to abuse this addition. Jc3s5h (talk) 23:04, 26 June 2015 (UTC)

Jc3s5h, please, please, no accusations. It doesn't help. Can you please strike that bit?
J. Johnson, don't respond. EEng (talk) 23:09, 26 June 2015 (UTC)
Aye aye. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 22:08, 27 June 2015 (UTC)
At ease. EEng (talk) 03:16, 28 June 2015 (UTC)
J Johnson, are you really proposing that US-related articles can be written in BrEng, and vice versa? Tony (talk) 13:46, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
In a narrow sense, no, because we are discussing only date format. However, if we take your meaning as "US-related articles can be written in DMY format", then the implication is yes, they could. But what I actually propose is only that neither format is inherently wrong, and deciding on which is primarily a matter for the editors involved. Note that just because an article can be formatted a certain way does mean it will be. If the local editors chose to do so I would not unilaterally revert without looking into the matter. This is unlikely where there is a truly strong national tie (such as Civil War (US)). More likely is where the ties are weak or conflicting. E.g., Transatlantic telegraph cable uses MDY dates, although no part of it crosses U.S. territory. Should I presume to "fix" that? I don't think so. Likewise for Audie Murphy and James Stewart. So let's not sweat letting ordinary editors make that choice. ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:22, 29 June 2015 (UTC)

So is there anyone who would take issue with the proposition that both DMY and MDY date formats are understandable to all readers of Wikipedia? And (aside from any issue of changing date format) does anyone care to maintain that there is any problem of understandability in the consistent use of either format in any topic? ~ J. Johnson (JJ) (talk) 21:15, 2 July 2015 (UTC)

Help sought[edit]

On the suggestion of User:Michael Glass here, and elsewhere, I have come to this page to ask for help in answering the question of why WP:UNITS should not be applied to the height and weight of British people as described in the clause: "the primary units for personal height and weight are feet​/inches and stones/​pounds". I have come across numerous articles about British rugby and football players that have, against the WP:UNITS advice, metric units as primary for personal weight and/or height. I have tried to get the reason for this on numerous talk pages, but have, each time, been stonewalled with responses like such and such a website use metric first or other similar articles put metric first - none of which seem to me to be reasonable reasons to ignore WP:UNITS - these articles are primarily about UK related people. What is the point of the clause if one or two editors who seem not to have read, or at least understood, the clause, can simply veto it? Speccy4Eyes (talk) 20:08, 29 June 2015 (UTC)

Can you give some examples, please? --Pete (talk) 20:38, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
Joe Allen (footballer, born 1990), Will Maher, Tom Holmes (rugby league), Scott Moore (rugby league), Oliver Holmes, Nathan Massey (rugby league born 1989), Mike McMeeken, Michael Shenton, Luke Gale, Liam Finn (rugby league), James Clare (rugby league), Ian Henderson (rugby league), Ash Robson, Andy Lynch (rugby league), Adam Milner, Joe Allen (footballer, born 1990). Speccy4Eyes (talk) 20:50, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
Answering myself here. A look at user contributions indicates an understandable desire to apply British practice to Irish people. I can't see any problems with this. --Pete (talk) 20:44, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
No, he's from Yorkshire - thus British. Speccy4Eyes (talk) 20:52, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
OK. I was confused by that "Irish footballer" wording. Very confusing, that.
May I suggest that the fact that football is a global sport, especially popular in the European arena, makes it easier for readers of articles about European footballers to compare the vital statistics of the various players if they are in the same primary units? We're writing for the readers of our encyclopaedia, and trying to make it as clear and useful as possible for them. --Pete (talk) 20:57, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
MOSNUM doesn't say base it on profession though, it implies on nationality. And aren't they people first, footballers second? Speccy4Eyes (talk) 21:01, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
There are always consensus-based exceptions. You don't seem to be acting on nationality so much as occupation in your choice of articles. Perhaps the relevant editors who maintain these articles are best placed to comment on how the details should be presented? The talk pages of these BLPs contain links to Wikipedia:WikiProject Rugby league and the folk there might have useful advice for you. --Pete (talk) 21:35, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
Basically, a few years ago, an editor (Michael Glass) took it upon himself to mass-convert every article on every player then in the Premier League to metric-first, despite MOSNUM's preference for imperial-first in this context. The argument was that the specific sources used to justify the measures were metric-first. Where the source was not metric-first, the editor changed the source to one that was. Said editor has many times proposed on this page that units should be based on the specific sources used to justify them, and these proposals have been rejected equally many times (search the archives for "source-based units"): the rationale did not have any validity in the MOS.
What we have here is basically fall out from that. Speccy4Eyes wants to convert these articles to imperial-first, Michael Glass wants to keep them metric-first.
But it's worth also mentioning that for the last few months there have been general sanctions in place. Editors are now not allowed to go from article to article converting them without a "clear consensus". So the practice has been to go from article to article proposing a change and then waiting to see if anyone responds. If no-one does (which is to be expected) then they claim "clear consensus". I must say, I view such behaviour as trying to WP:WIKILAWYER the rule. The only reason people are going to notice these discussions (sometimes started by the dozen) is by trawling speculatively through the editors concerned's edit history. Both Speccy4Eyes and Michael Glass have been using such tactics over recent weeks. Kahastok talk 21:03, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
What then is the correct way to get MOSNUM correctly applied each time a non-compliance is found? Speccy4Eyes (talk) 21:10, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
Also it appears that User:Qed237 supports Michael Glass's stance that we use what the sources use - see [8] and [9]. Speccy4Eyes (talk) 21:25, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
(Ec) Please not this again. We've probably spent years in total arguing over the minutiae of this rule.
Yes, under MOSNUM as it stands, articles related to the UK should use stones/pounds and feet/inches for personal heights and weights. And yes, the fact that a given source uses a given unit is not a good reason to ignore WP:MOSNUM. This comes up so frequently I'd say that this it probably actually be made explicit by MOSNUM - except that it's the same editor making the argument every time.
But we also have the general sanctions which mean that people shouldn't be mass-converting articles from one system to another. If any editor is breaking the general sanctions, the place to report them is WP:AN. Looking at your histories, personally, I'd sanction the pair of you because you're both at it. Neither is doing anything that the other isn't. Kahastok talk 20:41, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
So are the reasons for ignoring WP:MOSNUM valid? If they are will you explicitly support ignoring MOSNUM, otherwise please explicitly support changing the primary units in the articles I have challenged as recommended in MOSNUM for British people. Speccy4Eyes (talk) 20:56, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
I usually stay out of this which unit comes first? discussion because it seems so trivial, but I will break my rule to make one simple, but I think pertinent remark. Following sources is a very poor reason for making a choice of units. It leads to arguments, inconsistencies, and edit wars. Often the price for harmony is compromise. It is a price worth paying. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 21:47, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
The point isn't so much to "support explicitly ignoring MOSNUM" as to recognise that trying to start discussions (and likely heated arguments) on tens of articles simultaneously, all regarding a contentious issue, is unlikely to be constructive. This is why the sanctions exist – different groups of editors have strong and divergent opinions about unit formatting on UK articles, and thus far the sanctions seem to have done an OK job of defusing such potentially problematic situations. You (Speccy) are behaving like an SPA with an agenda, and it looks like you're trying to game the system by starting a crazy number of concurrent discussion threads. Archon 2488 (talk) 23:04, 29 June 2015 (UTC)
The point Archon 2488 is whether MOSNUM should be applied to these articles when there is no apparent good reason (personal preference isn't a good reason) not too. Speccy4Eyes (talk) 06:18, 30 June 2015 (UTC)
First of all I would like to thank User:Speccy4Eyes for following my suggestion that he bring up this matter here. As I understand it we have two rules about UK web pages. One is that imperial heights and weights should come first; the other is that the order of units should not be changed without prior discussion. In practice this means a stalemate, because editors on either side of the divide can object to the proposals of the other side. And I am not aware that proposing a change of units in an article is a hanging offence.
MOSNUM prescribes imperial heights and weights, but Rugby League and many Association Football teams (and the Premier League) use metric measures, often exclusively. Also, the majority of Wikipedia sporting profiles of the major UK teams are metric first. So MOSNUM is at variance with a significant part of British sporting usage (and with Wikipedia.) Therefore I suggest looking at how MOSNUM could be adjusted to take account of this reality - not to prohibit the use of putting imperial heights and weights first, but to accept that metric heights and weights can legitimately come first in some UK sporting codes. Rugby league is a particular example, and another example is UK weightlifting. Michael Glass (talk) 04:34, 30 June 2015 (UTC)
Michael Glass, MOSNUM for this is by nationality, not by profession. Otherwise as a player progresses to TV commentator or game show celebrity their data would have to be changed to match the norms for that profession. And I don't accept that the habits of a game's governing body are relevant here, we need to look rather at the general UK habit. The target audience for this isn't governing bodies, it is the community at large. Better guidance would be to look at how the popular press and media present these things - they know their audience. Speccy4Eyes (talk) 06:26, 30 June 2015 (UTC)
The example given in MOS:DATETIES is useful. Perhaps it could be modified for use here:
In some topic areas the customary format differs from the usual national one: for example, articles on British footballers use SI units for height and weight, in accordance with usage by sports agencies.
Something like that as an example to help overcome the minor disputes we see from time to time. --Pete (talk) 06:17, 30 June 2015 (UTC)
Good idea. Where would we look for the "customary format" though? Would we look at format used in the output in the popular press and media who convey this sort of information to the general community, or at the in-house formats used by the profession of the subject of the article? I would suggest that the former would be more representative. And for the record, the PFA, the body that represents footballers in the UK, primarily use imperial measures in their handbook of player profiles. Speccy4Eyes (talk) 06:32, 30 June 2015 (UTC)
Ah, the customary format referred to is that of Wikipedia, where a community of editors has found a way of styles and formats for a particular group of articles that works well, even if it doesn't follow the same style as a larger set. For example, we show the displacement (tonnage) of naval vessels in a different way than for (say) ocean liners. There's usually some sort of working group or project that handles various topics, and they will be the repositories of what works and what doesn't. They will be glad to help you, answer questions, and set you to work! --Pete (talk) 06:52, 30 June 2015 (UTC)
(ec) Not a good idea. People - ironically including Michael - already tell us this rule is too complicated. No reason to make it more complicated or to make a controversial rule harder to follow.
There is no evidence to support Michael's claim that "Rugby League and many Association Football teams (and the Premier League) use metric measures, often exclusively". Michael tends to cite the websites of clubs and associations in question - effectively the case for "source-based units" that has been rejected so many times, since the websites themselves do not claim that the clubs or sports use any particular system (exclusively or otherwise) to measure their players.
The claim "articles on British footballers use SI units for height and weight", insofar as it is true at all, is not clearly "in accordance with usage by sports agencies". Actually, most articles on British footballers (all leagues) are imperial-first: the exception is those players who played for clubs in the Premier League in 2011 when Michael decided to enact his WP:FAITACCOMPLI - itself a clear attempt to game the system.
In sports like weightlifting where players are measured in comparison to certain limits, it has always been accepted here (I believe) that this is sufficient grounds to overrule UNITS - in all areas. But trying to list such areas is a fool's errand, best avoided. Kahastok talk 06:54, 30 June 2015 (UTC)

The edits that I made in 2011 have largely stood the test of time. Ironically, the thing that made them a fait accompli was the new rule that you have to achieve consensus to change the order of units on any British article. This means that we will have inconsistent displays of units for the foreseeable future. I agree with Pete that perhaps it would be helpful to consider the top teams as essentially international in nature. In that case I cannot see that it does any harm that the international units come first. Michael Glass (talk) 09:02, 30 June 2015 (UTC)

Stood the test of time? Mostly because you enforce them and because nobody has yet managed to find time to correct them.
And the idea that we should have a rule that requires changes to dozens of articles every year (when teams get promoted or relegated) and that any player transfer potentially means flipping the units on the article is daft. Even if it wasn't, it's not sensibly a MOSNUM issue. Kahastok talk 17:08, 2 July 2015 (UTC)

Propose an "appeals committee"[edit]

This is very unsatisfactory isn't it. We have guidelines here that cannot be applied because they can be vetoed by single individual editors who disagree with the spirit of these guidelines. We need a way to dispassionately decide whether a veto is justified. A true consensus to ignore the guidelines, based on the quality of the argument, might be a justification, but the personal dislike of one measurement system or preference for another of one editor should not be.

How about setting up a neutral "appeals committee" to pass judgement on these things? With a presumption that the guidelines will be complied with unless the evidence and quality of argument provide a sound reason to break them. Speccy4Eyes (talk) 06:13, 2 July 2015 (UTC)

Absolutely, positively, without any question NO. There are a small number of topic areas in which, for whatever reason, there are chronic disputes about units -- mostly the unbelievably trivial question of whether metric vs English/Imperial/Customary comes first. And huge amounts of time are invested by a small number of individuals here at MOSNUM on those things, some of us trying to fashion guidelines that will put those disputes to rest, and some apparently just advocating an outcome they prefer. But out there in content-creation land, there are thousands of editors who follow the guidelines as faithfully as they can, and who collegially resolve disagreements and decide about the occasional exception. The last thing we need is another bureaucratic noticeboard. EEng (talk) 13:23, 2 July 2015 (UTC)
  • Emphatic No. Dirtlawyer1 (talk) 15:47, 2 July 2015 (UTC)
  • It is time to request general sanctions enforcement against Speccy4Eyes at AN/I, but I can't be bothered to do it. RGloucester 16:42, 2 July 2015 (UTC)
Worth remembering that in his proposals on various articles, he is doing nothing that others are not also doing. If Speccy4Eyes gets banned, Michael Glass should also be banned, because other than this single proposal they've been doing exactly the same things. Kahastok talk 17:08, 2 July 2015 (UTC)
Briefly, what's going on? EEng (talk) 17:44, 2 July 2015 (UTC)
You're not allowed to go from article to article just flipping units any more. So both editors are now going from article to article proposing a flip (Michael to metric, Speccy to imperial), waiting for there to be no answer, and then flipping. And they're both objecting to each other's proposals. Kahastok talk 17:49, 2 July 2015 (UTC)
Can I please ask you not to treat this thread as yet another opportunity for you to bash Michael Glass? That's not going to end well, and it's tedious. We all know you two don't get on with each other; using this thread to remind us of that fact serves no useful purpose. Archon 2488 (talk) 18:34, 2 July 2015 (UTC)
We have two editors are behaving in exactly the same way. Neither is doing anything that the other is not. Does it not seem inconsistent to you to sanction the one but not the other? Kahastok talk 19:52, 2 July 2015 (UTC)
Be that as it may, this isn't the place for discussing who does and doesn't deserve to be sanctioned. Telling other editors on this page about how much Michael Glass deserves to be sanctioned (which isn't exactly relevant to the MOS, which this talk page is supposed to be about) is likely to lead us all to a bad place. The most you will achieve is the extreme irritation of everyone who doesn't want to hear the Kahastok/MG argument repeated for the 900th time, at a stage where any outcome other than the usual one is inconceivable bar divine intervention, and most of us MOSNUM regulars could recite the arguments from each party in our sleep. Archon 2488 (talk) 22:48, 2 July 2015 (UTC)
  • No. Kahastok talk 17:08, 2 July 2015 (UTC)
  • No – this is a bad-faith proposal, the only possible effect of which would be to create another layer of useless bureaucracy. Archon 2488 (talk) 18:34, 2 July 2015 (UTC)
All I am trying to do is find a workable and equitable solution to avoid these unjust stalemates. Speccy4Eyes (talk) 19:14, 2 July 2015 (UTC)
It's not really "unjust"; nobody's rights are being violated by a Wikipedia article which uses a non-optimal format. It is not, by any normal definition of the term, an emergency. Archon 2488 (talk) 22:36, 2 July 2015 (UTC)

A non-starter then. I am trying to be proactive here and trying to stimulate productive ideas and solutions. Yet all I find is negativity and hostility. Why are you all so lacklustre. Rather than the big "NO"s, can we, perhaps, get some constructive ideas please? You can't surely be happy with the current situation - are you? Speccy4Eyes (talk) 19:19, 2 July 2015 (UTC)

Not desperately, but I don't think you're likely to achieve much with this sort of proposal at MOSNUM. Kahastok talk 19:52, 2 July 2015 (UTC)
Nobody is 100% happy with the UK units situation – it's the unlovable product of years of sustained disagreements. The reality is, there simply isn't the political will here to fix it, and almost all proposals to update it have stalled or been completely rejected, for various reasons. Given this, I'd suggest it's unwise to propose yet another bureaucratic solution to fix a relatively minor problem. Nobody will support it, because given the history of this topic on MOSNUM, such a proposal is just another poke to the hornets' nest; it's not because the editors here are being hostile to you specifically. Archon 2488 (talk) 22:36, 2 July 2015 (UTC)
Exactly. However, I've been saying for some time that Wikipedia could eliminate 20% of its trouble and drama, while losing only 1/100 of 1% of its content, by simply deleting all articles on (a) Japanese animation, (b) video games, and (c) football/soccer. If this kind of nonsense keeps up it will be just another reason for people to join me in that call. Which-units-first-warriors, be warned! EEng (talk) 00:18, 3 July 2015 (UTC)
  • No - I can see why it might be an attractive idea to solve problems, but it's a huge problem in itself. There would be all sorts of hassle in trying to find "neutral" editors, and getting them to work out a discussion, evidence, voting mechanism and be able to enforce their decisions, well, it would be a bog into which much time and energy would disappear. The neutral appeals committee may be found here, or in the various topic working groups, or on an article talk page. By and large, the editors working on a topic area will sort out what works best for them within the overall Wikipedia style, and best to coöperate with the people doing the work, rather than fiddle with their stuff. --Pete (talk) 23:24, 2 July 2015 (UTC)