Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 124

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Delinking dates in footnotes

When I see a linked date in a web citation template, such as "|date=April 25, 2004|title=Incomprehensible Emphasis", I feel a strong urge to delink it. I am aware of the proscription of mass delinking of dates, but cannot begin to imagine how any reader can be helped by following the linked date of an article's publishing on the Web, or, even more absurdly, the linked date that some editor accessed that site. I sure hope I don't get into trouble by delinking these, because I fix a lot of articles for other reasons, so a lot of footnote dates might get delinked while I'm at it. Have I missed something? Does anyone have a good reason to keep these links? Chris the speller (talk) 02:01, 19 June 2009 (UTC)

See this thread regarding what constitutes "mass date delinking" and what is alright. Dabomb87 (talk) 02:11, 19 June 2009 (UTC)
I guess I'll go with the part that says it's OK if I'm "consciously removing each bracket" and I will "not be primarily focused on delinking". There's an awful lot of quicksand in this area nowadays. Thanks for the link. Chris the speller (talk) 03:21, 19 June 2009 (UTC)
Yes, it's clear that as long as you're not on a single-minded binge, it's acceptable. Thus, less quicksand now. Criteria that can balance the restriction against "mass" appear to be one or more of the following, going by dabomb's link above:
  • delinking as a feature in only a proportion (probably the minority) of the user's edits; and/or
  • other article improvement in the edit, aside from the date unlinking; and/or
  • generally no appearance of a single-minded drive to unlink dates; and definitely
  • politeness if challenged and the avoidance of reverting were date-unlinking to be reverted. Tony (talk) 07:55, 19 June 2009 (UTC)

Time of access (date) is useful for the purpose to evaluate if the source may have changed. Esp when the source may have an interest in "editing the past" .. Electron9 (talk) 01:56, 25 June 2009 (UTC)

Date unlinking bot proposal

I have started a community RFC about a proposal for a bot to unlink dates. Please see Wikipedia:Full-date unlinking bot and comment here. --Apoc2400 (talk) 10:18, 22 June 2009 (UTC)

We have only just finished the last date unlinking proposal. PLEASE don't start another. I oppose even without reading its merits. SimonTrew (talk) 17:36, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
Please assume good faith on the behalf of the proposer and the proposal. The last RfC had nothing to do with the unlinking of dates; it only concerned the community's opinion on the issues of date linking and autoformatting. The community strongly indicated they were against the linking of dates, so now we're holding an RfC on the implementation of that consensus. Dabomb87 (talk) 17:39, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
I do assume good faith. But it will end up in essentially an edit war because people seem incapable of separating date formatting from date(un)linking. If we could keep the two separate I would be more charitable, at least neutral, but I think it will descend into a quagmire of the same arguments as before and it is in my opinion TOO SOON after the previous one finished, with a great amount of good faith. I count myself out. SimonTrew (talk) 18:14, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
Simon, I'm sorry to hear that you're upset about the bot-running RFC. Please don't be; it's a natural progression from the previous RFCs (which did not concern bots). A number of people who were previously in favour of DA in concept are voting positively for the bot-run, which will be very conservative in scope and management (BAG will make sure of that). ArbCom anticipated this process in its recent Date Delinking judgement. There are a number of safeguards through which linking and DA are distinct concepts. Please ask more on my talk page if you wish, and I'll answer to the limits of my knowledge. Tony (talk) 18:27, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
I am not upset, and I should have been more explicit in saying I do assume good faith because anyone who tries to make wikipedia better is good by me. Personally I just think it is too soon and you will go round the houses. Parallel arguments go on on the translation pages and elsewhere and, after the roundabouts that have been around this in the last six months on all this (and many misunderstandings that's for sure, not always in good faith) I think I can be more use there than arguing what has been hashed 101 times over the last few years. I keep an eye on MOSNUM and convert template partly because they are very important in some articles I edit and also because I can draw parallels with e.g. how short translations (individual words or phrases within articles) "should" be done, you can imagine the parallel arguments (the French write it like this, the Danes like that, should it be in Indic numerals etc). So yes very much I keep the faith I just think you have an equus de mortuiis that no amount of flagellation will help resuscitate. That being said, if you ever think I can help you on a techincal point or whatever, please don't hesitate to leave a message on my talk page; I don't mind if I am wrong if it helps someone else get it right. SimonTrew (talk) 19:17, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

Error in the Geographical style section

I noticed that this line appears to be wrong: "negative values may be used in lieu of S and E"

It is my understanding that negative values are generally S and W.

If you agree could you please make the change. (talk) 02:10, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

There is no error. In the absence of any direction letters (E or W) longitude is measured eastward from Greenwich. So the nominal center of the United States eastern time zone could be given as 75° W, -75°, or 285°. --Jc3s5h (talk) 02:43, 23 June 2009 (UTC)
While of course we can all run around in circles to our hearts' content, and indeed here often do, this does seem to be at odds if it says this-- in the absence of W or E then W is negative from Greenwich (or other longitude). I don't know the section to which the OP refers cos I can't find it in MOS and no reference was given. I looked for it but couldn;'t find it. I mean in theory you can write greenwich as 720 degrees east which indeed it is, this is not useful of course in an encylopaedia but CAN be useful in the internals of computer geographical systems to save constantly having to go modulus on the coordinates. You can't really do this for latitude cos once you hit the pole you could go in any direction equally legitimately. I think OP has a point but I can't find where.
Josh I think you may have missed the point, i.e. that it implies if not explicitly states that negative values go east, which is not true. But I can't find it in MOS.

SimonTrew (talk) 17:28, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

Fixed. It was intended to mean that −72° means the same thing as 72° W (true), not the same thing as 72° E (false). --A. di M. (formerly Army1987) — Deeds, not words. 20:40, 23 June 2009 (UTC)

Numbers as figures or words

Editors may find this article offers some historical perspective.LeadSongDog come howl 18:10, 26 June 2009 (UTC)


Could WP:DATEOTHER and/or WP:OTHERDATE possibly be redirected to Wikipedia:DATE#Other_date_ranges? Both are unused and would make correcting instances of "XXXX–present" that much less cumbersome. (If this has been discussed before, my apologies, but I could not find the discussion) DKqwerty (talk) 21:46, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

Sounds like a good idea. Plastikspork (talk) 21:49, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
Well, I was bold and established the redirects WP:OTHERDATE and WP:DATEOTHER. If I've done something inappropriate, please feel free to scold me. DKqwerty (talk) 22:29, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
Also, could an admin or someone with higher clearance than I add "{{Shortcut|WP:OTHERDATE|WP:DATEOTHER}}" to the appropriate section? Thanks. DKqwerty (talk) 23:05, 6 July 2009 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done - though the other shortcuts on the page are prefixed MOS rather than WP. Keith D (talk) 21:23, 13 July 2009 (UTC)

"For articles with a largely American readership, use dietary calorie(s) with a one-time link to kilogram calorie."

How does one determine if an article has a "largely American readership"? And why should it matter? Nobody uses the small calorie for that purpose, and practically everybody uses kilocalories (and calls them "calories" in colloquial speech). (Using kilojoules is mandatory in many places including the EU, but producers will usually display them after kilocalories, as they are much less widely understood by the general public at least in Italy—YMMV.) --A. di M. (talk) 18:15, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

No, readership can't so easily be determined and nor should it matter. JIMp talk·cont 19:30, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
Just out of interest I did a survey of all the products in my fridge, and they all put kJ before kcal (this is in the UK). The only product I have that has "Guideline information" for RDA of has the energy given only in kcal, even though its own nutrition information label puts kJ first.
I already requested before on the {{convert}} talk page the ability to switch the output order, since obviously a lot of the time one is given a figure in, say, [kilo]calories and the rest of the article uses joules first, and to have to convert it to joules and then jiggle it back to get the calories one had in the first place rather confounds the point of convert doing the, er, conversion. However I do appreciate this may not be an easy change! SimonTrew (talk) 20:24, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
That's why I'd rather throw the "use units consistently" point away, and just say "source units first, conversion in parens". If one doesn't like "a 10-kilogram (22 lb) bag of potatoes and a 11-pound (5 kg) bag of carrots", they can search for a source giving the weight of the carrot bag in kilograms, too. I've already added a clarification about defined values (as I think no-one really thinks that the articles Road speed limits in the Republic of Ireland and Paper size should be consistent). --A. di M. (talk) 21:25, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
To me, requiring source units first is just the first step down a road where Wikipedia articles are nothing but cut-and-paste quotations from sources. It would also lead to the idea that one can never create a numerical example, but only copy one that already exists. --Jc3s5h (talk) 23:20, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
It depends on what you are doing: if a source says that Foo is a village 5 miles south of Bar, it is probably OK to state "Foo is a village 8 kilometres (5 mi) south of Bar". On the other hand, anything which looks even remotely like a quotation or a defined value (broadly interpreted) should have source unit first. For example, suppose you have, "Stella Liebeck's attorney argued that coffee should never be served hotter than 60 °C (140 °F)." No. She didn't. She said "a hundred and forty degrees Fahrenheit", not "sixty degrees Celsius". Or "After his death in 1821, the French emperor's height was recorded as 5 feet 2 inches in French feet. This corresponds to 5 feet 6.5 inches in modern international feet, or 1.686 metres." Using any other unit of measurement in the first sentence would make a false statement. Such cases will be a very large fractions of all measurements found on Wikipedia, so I'd think a "better-safe-than-sorry" approach is useful. OTOH, it is unlikely to cause problems with measurements in which units could be changed without misrepresenting anything, because sources usually use the "right" units, e.g, a source giving temperatures in Italy will typically use degrees Celsius, and one giving temperatures in the U.S. will typically use degrees Fahrenheit. I still haven't encountered any case in which the unit given in the source is not the most appropriate one to put first. Do you have any such case in mind? --A. di M. (talk) 00:14, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
Let's say one were writing an article on the relative cost of energy from various sources. It would defeat the point of the article to write "The average cost of regular gasoline as of July 13, 2009, was $252.8 cents per gallon.[1] As of April 2009, the average retail price of electricity in the U.S. was 9.69 cents per kilowatt hour.[2]".
It would be much more helpful to write "The average cost of regular gasoline as of July 13, 2009, was 1.9 U.S. cents per megajoule (US $252.8 cents per gallon).[3][4] As of April 2009, the average retail price of electricity in the U.S. was 2.7 cents per megajoule (9.69 cents per kilowatt hour).[5][6]".
The latter version makes it much easier to compare the values, which might very well be the point of the article. --Jc3s5h (talk) 00:57, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
In the second case, no problem. That's an average retail price, which might have already involved averaging values in different units, and what matters is the value, not the units. Also, the conversion factor between kilowatt-hours and megajoules is an exact number (3.6) which can be easily figured out from the definitions of the units. The reader might just wonder how comes the "converted" value appears to have more precision, but that could be fixed by writing "2.69 cents per megajoule", or even 2.692. As for the first example, the number of megajoules you can get from a gallon of petrol depends on the heat of combustion of petrol, the way you burn it (usually electric motors are more efficient than thermal ones), etc.; and it is sold by volume, not by energy content. So, putting megajoules first might be slightly confusing. Also, I don't think it would be hard to do the comparison in: The average cost of regular gasoline as of July 13, 2009, was 252.8 U.S. cents per U.S. gallon (1.928¢/MJ).[7] As of April 2009, the average retail price of electricity in the U.S. was 9.69 cents per kilowatt hour (2.692¢/MJ).[8]". BTW, the "131.10327 MJ/gal" the site spits out smells like false precision to me; besides that, considering the different efficiencies of different kinds of motors, pointing out explicitly that electricity is more expensive would border original synthesis and be potentially misleading. (You just need to have a thermal motor with 25% efficiency and an electric motor with 70% efficiency—not unrealistic figures—and using the latter would be cheaper.) --A. di M. – 2009 Great Wikipedia Dramaout 10:24, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
According to Monty Python, the most interesting thing about Charles I is that he was five feet six inches tall at the start of his reign, but only four feet eight inches tall at the end of it. SimonTrew (talk) 16:08, 19 July 2009 (UTC)

Let's get back on topic. Do you agree that it'd be OK to throw away the sentence "For articles with a largely American readership, use the synonym dietary calorie(s) with a one-time link to kilogram calorie.", considering there's no easy way to find out where the readers of an article come for? --A. di M. – 2009 Great Wikipedia Dramaout 10:35, 17 July 2009 (UTC)

It may have been the wrong formulation, but the idea was certainly OK. I think what we really want is something like the formulation in WP:ENGVAR: "strong national ties to a topic". E.g. an article about a fraudulent diet that was never marketed outside the US would certainly qualify. Hans Adler 13:27, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
I've fixed the page accordingly. But I think it'd be sufficient to say "When used in a nutrition related article, use the kilogram calorie (called "dietary calorie" in American English) as the primary unit." This page is already awfully long as it is ("awfully" in the literal sense, as it does inspire awe); no need to repeat the principles of WP:ENGVAR everywhere. --A. di M. – 2009 Great Wikipedia Dramaout 13:48, 17 July 2009 (UTC)

"not in., the quotation mark ", or the double prime ″"

Why can't we allow ″ for the inch (and ′ for the foot)? It is more common that "in" in actual use, and it is explicitly allowed in Unicode's description of the character ("U+2033 DOUBLE PRIME = seconds, inches"). I guess it was done for the risk of confusion with the arc second, but I don't think that it's a plausible confusion, any more than "ft" can be confused with the femtotonne :-). --A. di M. (talk) 19:21, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

There could be problems with its display on browsers without that in the font, though: I think that's the main motive for using " (").
That being said, a browser that sees ′ can interpret it how it sees fit (as it can for " so I see no great difficulty there in worrying about browsers or fonts that do not interpret the sequence as the glyph you desire. SimonTrew (talk) 20:13, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
Huh? That entities are defined by the HTML, so browsers must interpret ′ the same way as (unless it's broken). The fact that fonts might have no glyph or a "wrong" glyph for that character is more serious. But how many fonts without a "decent" glyph for ″ and ′ are there? BTW, the same argument would also apply to the arc-minute and the arc-second, but we don't discourage using these characters for them. --A. di M. (talk) 21:18, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
Arcseconds are seldom used alone; they are almost always accompanied by arcminutes. So if it is hard to read whether a mark is a single prime or double prime, it is usually obvious from context. On the other hand, feet and inches are often used alone, so if the mark is hard to read, it could cause confusion. --Jc3s5h (talk) 23:26, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
Non-visual browsers such as those for the blind may not have good representations of these at all; neither might browsers tailored for small devices such as mobile phones. Ideally of course they would guess at saying "feet, inches" or "minutes, seconds" but I don't know how sophisticated they are at trying to guess at that. If the browser says "in" or "eff tee" instead of "inch" or "foot/feet" that is probably something the user can cope with; if it says "quote" it may throw them unnecessarily. Ideally a kinda "alt" tag could be used, but that is probably too difficult right now. SimonTrew (talk) 16:16, 19 July 2009 (UTC)


  • Numerical range of values are formatted as lower value-en dash-higher value-non breaking space-unit symbol (e.g., 5.9–6.3 kg, not 5.9 kg – 6.3 kg or 5.9 – 6.3 kg)

But sometimes the second form can be useful, for example when numbers have vastly different magnitudes (e.g. "3000 nm – 1 mm" is generally better than "3–0.001 μm"). So I would rather say that the first style is generally preferable over the second, rather than outright banishing the second style.

  • e.g., from 5.9 to 6.3 kilograms, from 5.9 kilograms to 6.3 kilograms, from 5.9 to 6.3 kg and from 5.9 kg to 6.3 kg are all acceptable, but only one of these format should be in use in a given article

I don't see the point of the last requirement. It goes against all the principles about the choice of units (spell out the first occurrence, after that prefer symbols if the name is long and/or the unit is used very often). Why isn't it OK to write "widgets range from 23 to 57 kilograms, whereas ding-dongs range from 95 to 182 kg"? --A. di M. – 2009 Great Wikipedia Dramaout 14:41, 17 July 2009 (UTC)

And the convert template does just this with its "to" option: {{convert|23|-|57|kg}} produces 23–57 kilograms (51–126 lb) and {{convert|95|-|182|kg|abbr=on}} produces 95–182 kg (209–401 lb). Not saying you're wrong; quite the opposite, that otherwise with conversion you'd end up with four units (two for the original and two for the conversion), which is pushing the reader's patience a bit in my opinion. SimonTrew (talk) 14:46, 19 July 2009 (UTC)
I'm sorry, I missed your point there, which I thought was that the units were repeated AT ALL, not that it couldn't be abbreviated if once used in a different form. {{convert}} doesn't seem to do the spacing correctly according to WP:DATE, but Ill take that to its talk page. Nevertheless, I'll keep this here cos, unless you are better than me, there does seem to be some ambiguity – or at least difficulty meeting the requirements – when dealing with conversions, since {{convert}} only lets you have abbreviations for the destination unit (as far as I know), so that might be worth trying to clear up at the same time. Of course this is not a problem with the template as such, but that and this are so tightly wed, it makes sense for the two to march forward in lockstep. SimonTrew (talk) 15:02, 19 July 2009 (UTC)
To clarify, the abbreviation problem with {{convert}} is not specific to ranges, but is more general in that if the full name of the destination unit is used elsewhere in the article in its full form. This can happen if the article mixes units; something that is generally undesirable, but is desirable in some articles or sections which quote units from secondary sources (and then convert them). I already requested, some time ago, that it would be possible to surround the destination with square brackets for this purpose, to be able to use conversions in quotes; that has not been acted upon, but still stands on the "wish list", I believe. SimonTrew (talk) 15:22, 19 July 2009 (UTC)

"1996–present" vs. "since 1996"

This has been brought up already, but I feel strongly that we should encourage use of "1996–present" instead of "since 1996".

Using "since 1996" is ambiguous because it can be interpreted to mean "since 1996 ended", i.e. starting from 1997, or "since a period within 1996". i.e. starting from 1996. Using "1996–present", however, is unambiguous in that the only interpretation that can be taken from this is "since a period within 1996".

I do not see any valid argument in that "the present" is a moving target. Sure it is, but if someone begins to be active in 1996, and is still active today, we will indicate "1996–present". If they stop being active in 2009, we will adjust to indicate "1996–2009". Please, can we revive this discussion?. — \`CRAZY`(lN)`SANE`/ (talkcontribs) 10:42, 17 July 2009 (UTC)

Maybe it's just that I'm not a native speaker, but I can't recall having ever heard or read "since 1996" meaning "starting from 1997". --A. di M. – 2009 Great Wikipedia Dramaout 10:50, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
I can't remember where the discussion was previously, but as I commented at the time, I am strongly in favour of "1996-present" in infoboxes and other places where precision is important. Outside of direct quotes, "since 1996" should be used when it is both stylistically better and precision isn't that important (e.g. "since the Pliocene"). Thryduulf (talk) 11:01, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
(edit conflict)It's indeed a rarity, but my argument is not so much against "since 1996" as it is for "1996–present". If we're going to go with "since 1996", why not also list "from 1996–2009" when an active period ends? If there's no need for "from", why is there a need for "since"? Infoboxes are for quick, bulleted information, so we need not insert "from" nor "since". (note that I am referring to use in infoboxes and places where quick, bulleted information is listed) — \`CRAZY`(lN)`SANE`/ (talkcontribs) 11:03, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
It's either "from 1996 to 2009" or "1996–2009", not a mix of the two. As for "quick information", "Since 1996" is two characters less than "1996–present". :-) (More seriously, the latter looks less "natural" to me.) Personally, I'd allow both forms. --A. di M. – 2009 Great Wikipedia Dramaout 11:27, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
I prefer since 1996, especially when used in prose. Although, I could see making an exception for some particular cases in infoboxes, but I don't see any reason to encourage the use of 1996–present. 2009 Great Wikipedia Dramaout Plastikspork (talk) 16:55, 17 July 2009 (UTC)
And how exactly does using "1996–" in a list require more checking up on than "Since 1996"? If that particular era comes to an end, say in 2009, both need just one edit. To split hairs, the edit "1996–" into "1996–2009" is considerably easier than "Since 1996" to "1996–2009". Moreover, if the era has more than one date range, e.g. "1988–1989, 1991, 1993–1994, ", using "1996–" is consistent with the rest of the time frames. I see absolutely no reason to use "Since 1996" in lists. Antti29 (talk) 19:42, 21 July 2009 (UTC)

Use of ? in dates

The section "Longer periods" concludes:

Do not use a question mark for this function (1291?), as this may imply to the reader an uncertainty on the part of Wikipedia editors rather than on the part of reliable historians, rather than Wikipedia editors.

I wonder if the expression reliable historians here is overly restrictive. I think more the message here is that the uncertainty is on the part of the (secondary) sources, which I suppose for our purposes here we must assume to be RS, rather than on historians particularly. Can I suggest, therefore reliable historians is replaced either with reliable sources or secondary sources?

Best wishes SimonTrew (talk) 14:41, 19 July 2009 (UTC)

Unit names and symbols - request for minor change to wording (style only)

In the "Unit names and symbols" section it says:

Units names, even ones named after persons, are common nouns.

(My bold). Can we change this to:

Unit names, even those named after people, are common nouns.

This just seems far more natural english to me. Perhaps the "unit" business sent the orignal author scurrying to the singular (and then pluralising it), but the second, to me, seems more natural and loses no meaning. To say "units names" is definitely erroneous (and, I imagine, just a typo): choose "Units' names, "Unit names", or "The names of units".

In article namespace I would tend to change this under WP:BOLD, but I think right to be very cautious here. If you think I should have just changed it, I should be pleased for your advice. SimonTrew (talk) 15:15, 19 July 2009 (UTC)

I favor "Unit names, even those named after people, are common nouns". --Jc3s5h (talk) 17:58, 19 July 2009 (UTC)
Change it. JIMp talk·cont 00:25, 20 July 2009 (UTC)
User:StradivariusTV changed it [9], but did not change "units names" to "unit names", which I have just done (and there was one other instance). So, I think we can consider the matter closed.
Thanks and best wishes SimonTrew (talk) 08:26, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

UK timber units

Not sure how relevant this is, and MOSNUM seems, probably rightly, to be silent on the matter: mixing units in dimensions (and as a specific example I give UK timber units).

It would seem, in general, to be desirable to encourage the units partaking in a multiple-dimension quantity (e.g. volume) to be the same. e.g. 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) × 3 metres (9.8 ft) × 6 metres (20 ft). MOSNUM does say that that is to be preferred, though obviously it is not always appropriate (e.g something that is very long but relatively thin, such as describing the volume of a transatlantic cable with a circular cross section by its length and its diameter). I admire MOSNUM's quetism here and trust to WP:COMMON, but I wonder if there should be a very gentle hint to use the same unit unless WP:COMMON overrules it.

With UK timber we have a somewhat more interesting problem. Lengths are given generally in metric, but widths and depths in imperial (e.g. 2m of four-by-two, i.e. four inches by two inches in cross section). Of course this is mixing units, and also to add to the fun, the four-by-two is nominal (and always was), since planing will make it less than four inches or two inches, and in any case it is nominally 100 mm by 50 mm, not four inches by two, but everyone knows it as four-by-two and it will be labelled as such (as a descriptive label; 100 mm × 50 mm will be on there somewhere). This is probably not very important in itself (as I say the four-by-two is more a nominal and descriptive label than a totally accurate measure) but I can probably imagine analagous cases where it might be.

The units section of MOSNUM is rather quiet on this, and perhaps rightly so, but it comes under the general head of not mixing units, which in this case is quite definitely the right thing to do.

Best wishes SimonTrew (talk) 08:49, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

Number/unit combinations and the non-breaking space rule

I and another editor have a disagreement over the rule "Values and unit symbols are separated by a non-breaking space." We both agree that sometimes in a number/unit combination the number is a modifier of the unit (e.g. we have 12 hammers), while other times the number/unit combination is a compound modifying a third word (e.g. we have a 12 lb hammer).

I understand the MoS to require a non-breaking space in the second situation but not in the first. The other editor understands the MoS to require a non-breaking space in the first situation but not in the second. In the second situation, the other editor believes there should either be a hyphen or no space at all (e.g. 12-lb or 12lb) to convey the compound nature of the number/unit combination. (I have asked the other editor to comment here and hope they will correct me if I have misunderstood.)

The current wording of the MoS doesn't say anything about a distinction between these two situations. I'd like to get opinions here about what is intended. So, other's thoughts on this disagreement? LyrlTalk C 22:36, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

According to NIST Special Publication 811 (page 16) the answer is different depending on whether symbols or spelled-out unit names are used. This is because symbols are intended to be as language-independent as possible, while spelled-out unit names are not language-independent.
With symbols, a space is always used, never a hyphen, even if the value of a quantity is used as an adjective (for example "a 10 kΩ resistor but not: a 10-kΩ resistor").
"When unit names are spelled out, the normal rules of English apply. Thus, for example, 'a roll of 35-millimeter film' is acceptable (see Sec. 7.6, note 3)."
--Jc3s5h (talk) 22:56, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
See WP:HYPHEN. JIMp talk·cont 00:58, 27 July 2009 (UTC)
well use {{convert}} or ((tlx|val}} and all will be well, and all wil be well, and all manner f things shall be well. And if not, the template gets changed. And then al will be well..... SimonTrew (talk) 01:06, 27 July 2009 (UTC)
Thank you to everyone. I have a lot more clarity on this issue now. LyrlTalk C 16:15, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

1/3rd, 1/4th, 1/5th, 1/6th, ...

I'm often seeing 1/3rd, 1/4th, 1/5th, 1/6th, ... I wonder whether this is worth a mention. JIMp talk·cont 18:12, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

I think that use is incorrect. Bubba73 (talk), 23:00, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
There are times when something like that, although not in customary style, might avoid ambiguity or obscurity because a diagonal slash can mean many different things, e.g., the 1/3 Blankshire Fusilliers, 4/4 time, 135/80 systolic over diastolic blood pressure or shillings and pence as in 2/6. However, "one-third", "three-quarters", etc., would probably serve just as well in many of those cases. —— Shakescene (talk) 00:08, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
Then in such cases let it be "one-third", "three-quarters", etc. These are incorrect. JIMp talk·cont 00:23, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

Question: changing prose to measurements

Is converting prose descriptions of approximate distances to numeric measurements in line with this page's guidance? A specific example is this edit. I understand the impulse here, and the new text is certainly not incorrect, but it seems to change the tone of the prose. Powers T 13:31, 30 July 2009 (UTC)

Normally whole numbers from zero through 9 are expressed in words, not numerals. The conversion would be in numerals. --Jc3s5h (talk) 15:34, 30 July 2009 (UTC)
I believe this page indicates that measurements are usually expressed in numerals, and the change I linked does follow that guidance. My question, though, is whether changing "just over a mile" to "just over 1 mile (1.6 km)" is desired practice. Powers T 17:44, 30 July 2009 (UTC)
Upon further examination, I see that the MOSNUM has contradictory guidelines:
  • Do not use spelled-out numbers before symbols for units of measurement: write five minutes, 5 minutes, or 5 min, but not five min.
  • Measurements, stock prices, and other quasi-continuous quantities are normally stated in figures, even when the value is a small positive integer: 9 mm, The option price fell to 5 within three hours after the announcement.
Perhaps whoever wrote those bullet points mistakenly thought that minutes were not continuous, and that only whole minutes could be counted. --Jc3s5h (talk) 18:12, 30 July 2009 (UTC)
I wrote the first of them, and no, I don't believe that only whole minutes could be counted. But I guess that "measurements" in the latter does not actually mean any dimensionful quantity, but just stuff which is actually measured, not ballpark estimates such as "just over a mile" or "I'll be there in five minutes", or metaphorical statements such as "One inch of love is one inch of shadow" or "The snake is long seven miles". (The bullet was added by Pmanderson which is now banned from talk pages of style guidelines, but I'm going to ask him on his talk page.) --A. di M. 20:05, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I think that it's best to indicate when something's an estimate or approximation (as by using words or the indefinite article), so I wouldn't change "a mile" to "1 mile" unless some 1-mile boundary, limit or radius was involved (e.g., the Four-minute mile). On the other hand, in Wikipedia, some consideration has to be given to those in metric countries and we should not require them to do conversions in their heads. Only the original author could really say whether it would be better to say "(about a kilometer and a half)" or "(about 1.6 km)". —— Shakescene (talk) 22:03, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
I wouldn't say that only the original author could really say what the best conversion is. In fact any who has access to the sources is in just as good a position. Generally speaking "a mile" is probably best converted to "a mile (1 12 km)". JIMp talk·cont 04:04, 1 August 2009 (UTC)
PMAnderson told me that the reason why he doesn't consider minutes to be continuous is that you'd normally say "9.30 minutes" but rather "nine minutes and eighteen seconds". But I don't think that this is the only point: I'd not use numerals in "I walked about two kilometres this morning" if that's a rough guesstimate (as opposed to a measurement). As for the article, I'd go with "just over a mile (about 1.6 km)". --A. di M. 17:56, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Minutes are not continuous; time is. JIMp talk·cont 23:29, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for the input, everyone. I've changed some of the {{convert}}s back to prose but added metric conversions as appropriate. Powers T 12:50, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Bot to unlink dates?

Why not have a bot to unlink dates, since that is the policy? Is it because a few should be linked and the bot can't decide which to keep? Bubba73 (talk), 19:46, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Something like that. Powers T 19:53, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
Actually, there is a bot in the works (approved by the community); see WP:DATEBOT. In a nutshell, only dates that are used for autoformatting will be delinked; date fragments (such as March 3 or 1999) will be left linked. There is an exclusion list, to which editors can add articles that they don't want to be delinked if they can explain why both the year and the month-day fragments are useful. Dabomb87 (talk) 19:55, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
What we actually need is another code to format dates (i.e. not link them). Then the bot could make the replacement. Bubba73 (talk), 22:58, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
Can we have a bot which works out which is the currently predominant date format in a particular article, and then converts any other dates in that article to that format? Alarics (talk) 16:07, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
There was discussion about that, but it was rejected as it was outside the scope of the bot task that was approved by the community. Dabomb87 (talk) 18:17, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
So how do we get something done about it? Alarics (talk) 18:41, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
Start another discussion about it, I assume. The bot can do it eventually, but the community has to approve that task first. Dabomb87 (talk) 18:48, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

Numero sign / Number sign

In reference to Archive 106, Question on #1 vs number one, should there be a section in MOSNUM outlining the proper usage of the numero sign versus number sign?

Another undiscussed usage is in a table header (where space is limited): Is it proper for one to write "№ of shows" or should one write "Number of shows"? See the example in the header of this table. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Gmoose1 (talkcontribs) 14:59, 7 August 2009 (UTC)

This is worth developing. The hash sign (#) or as it is often called in North America the pound sign is still somewhat of an annoyance to Europeans (and you can imagine my annoyance with calling it pound, being an english person). In England it is common to write No, and has been since at least my copy of Johnson's Dictionary which is er 1753? Somewhere like that. Considering the differences, for a worldwide, but English-reading, audience would it just be easiest and simplest to write "The number (or numbers)". But take e.g. house numbers should we write oh house 22 or number 22? Both I think would be acceptable in British English. (A children's programme in the late 70s hosted by Sandi Toksvig was called No. 73). I can fill in all the sources details etc later but just gave me pause for thought. SimonTrew (talk) 15:51, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
Number Ten, Downing Street, for example ("No. 10"). Keep in mind that on US keyboards, the # sign is usually present, but № (which I just pulled from the Symbols menu below the edit box) is usually not. Nor are superscript a and o (or for that matter superscript th). But as an Englishman who came to the States at age 11, I still think # is a bit unnnatural in some contexts. (It's also slightly ambiguous because in old-fashioned commercial shorthand in inventories, invoices, etc. @ can stand for "each" and # for "pounds", among other things.) —— Shakescene (talk) 21:40, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
Yeah exactly, I think it is never going to be pleasant to everyone to say #10 or No ten or whatever. Why don't we just reccommend saying e.g. Number 10 (for downing street?), of course if the context makes it clear it means the residence of the UK PM (or metaphorically his office or powers, as in say the White House, by analogy). I just think it would be the most simple and also more worldwide to say that. SimonTrew (talk) 12:00, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
I've never been a fan of the pound/hash symbol, except perhaps in tables and other environments where space is particularly tight (even then, I'd avoid if possible). I don't much like the squishy little "№" symbol from the edit-tools, as Shakescene has presented it above. Tony (talk) 12:59, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

So to form a rule for the manual of style and summarize the above, we could say "Number of shows" if there is enough space, but if space is tight (eg: in a table), then one should write " of shows"? Not sure if we're ready to form a rule for house numbering? As for the symbols that should be used: I think both No and No. should be avoided as is readily available in the Symbols box and a wiki article is available to counter ambiguation. Furthermore, # should be strictly avoided in this context as it causes confusion for British English audiences. American English audiences recognize # and No. have the same meaning. Any disagreements? Lars (talk) 16:31, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

Two concerns with that. First, № appears archaic to most American eyes, like something you'd find on a 1910s-era cash register. Second, in fixed-width fonts such as that used in edit windows, № is so squished as to be nearly unreadable. Powers T 17:50, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
I have never heard of "№". What we usually put is "No.". Alarics (talk) 18:40, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
"№" is indeed difficult to read in monospace, and may be enough to argue that we should go with "No." or "No". It is also not commonly used (like ), which may support the argument that it appears archaic. So, how about "No." versus "No"? Any thoughts? The latter is more specialized, and may improve readability as it does not appear to be the word "no" at first glance. Lars (talk) 19:33, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
The latter looks kludgy (i.e., unprofessional) to me, but maybe it's unsporting to argue when I also criticized the professional glyph. =) My gut feeling, though, is that in the cases in which we'd find an abbreviation necessary, "No." should not usually be ambiguous. Powers T 01:33, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Truncating the year (not in a date range)?

Another user has questioned my copy-editing of an article in which I reformatted some two-digit dates into 4-digit format (for example, in "from 1930 until -54" I changed "-54" to "1954", and in the passage " 1954 XYZ bought the blah-blah-blah, then XYZ merged ZYX into the QRS, which in -55..." I changed "-55" to "1955"). He points out (correctly, as far as I can tell) that nothing in WP:MOSNUM expressly states that, except for the closing date in a date range such as "2005–06", all four digits should be included when expressing a four-digit year. Apparently this user has been expressing years in a two-digit format whenever a four-digit year had previously appeared in the same paragraph.

I have a hunch that this issue isn't addressed in MOSNUM because the question never arose earlier -- contributors have assumed that years should be expressed using all digits, with the notable exception of date ranges (which have been discussed several times). Now that the question has arisen, I think that MOSNUM needs to be revised to clarify that every stand-alone mention of a year should use all of the digits in that year. Accordingly, I would like to append the following to the second bullet in WP:YEAR: "When listing a year outside the context of a year range, use all digits (1954, not '54 or -54)."

Please comment on this proposal. --Orlady (talk) 03:29, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

I can't see really how this comes under WP:YEAR at all, but in my opinion "from 1930 until -54" can then only mean to the year -54, which there never was one of, so balderdash. Or it is supposed to mean a dash, then it is simply essentially repeating the word "until" (tautologically and ridiculously) and so it is a range, and does not conform to WP:YEAR. I think his argument boils to nonsense and you are correct. He is simply using a bizarre form of abbreviation for dates, which I don't think conforms. That's my opinion, and I would take all of those tacks to say his -54 etc is simply not conforming. SimonTrew (talk) 13:18, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree. Legislating against this eccentric notation is about as necessary as legislating against a specific misspelling of a word. The relevant section is already too long, and we shouldn't make this worse because of a single editor. Hans Adler 14:03, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
"from 1930 to -54" is just eccentric, although it's easy to see how it was arrived at. If it were written "from 1930 to '54", it would be an unusual style, but would reflect common speech and common informal written abbreviations. However, it would still slow the reader down enough to justify changing it to 1954. —— Shakescene (talk) 21:16, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
I've never seen hyphens or dashes used for that; as for apostrophes, "from 1930 to '54" would be fine in principle, but given that we already forbid contractions such as "aren't", I wouldn't mind forbidding this, too, if there's consensus to do that. --A.  di M. 23:54, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
I just add my opinion to this as Orlady has left a note on my talk page to let me know about this discussion. Thanks for that note, Orlady! The original idea comes from an author who is convinced that this would reflect a personal style and expression of that very author. I disagree with that opinion and fully agree with Orlady and above other comments here. The topic is not worth discussing as the way to deal with years as outlined by Orlady above, and common use on Wikipedia, is satisfactory, widely accepted,easy to read and does not require change. Everything is fine and changing the satisfactory status quo would only produce more work and keep people busy with corrections. doxTxob \ talk 00:41, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Unknown birth year for living persons

The formats listed under Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style_(dates_and_numbers)#Dates_of_birth_and_death don't seem to include anything that would look good or make sense in the lead for a living person for whom the year of birth is in doubt. "Circa" and "floruit" are for ancient Athenians, and "before" is silly, especially when the day is known. The project page entry should allow the use of question marks in such cases, e.g., "Joanne Whalley (born 25 August 19?? in Salford, Greater Manchester) is an English actress." --Milkbreath (talk) 11:59, 12 August 2009 (UTC)

Indeed. One thing that is very common is that you can find out the age of a person at a given date. But if you don't know the birthday, that only gives the birth year up to a choice of two years. (The year gotten by subtraction and the previous year.) Came here for some guidance. Was trying to figure out Denis Halliday's year of birth; as a December 17, 1998 news story mentions he was 57, he was born between mid-December 1940 and mid-December, 1941 so it almost certainly is 1941. My solution was to say ca. 1941 in the body and put him in Category:1940s births. Looking at other pages there, there doesn't seem to be a precise standard, but ? marks, ca. , and "year1 or year2" are used frequently enough.John Z (talk) 01:33, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

Non-breaking space for unit names?

Unit symbols and preceding numbers are separated by non-breaking spaces. Should the same convention be used for unit names? (e.g. 35 meters for "35 meters") — Nahum Reduta (talk|contribs) 06:55, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

No. Symbols, being usually short, should kept with their numbers. Whole words should wrap like whole words. JIMp talk·cont 11:10, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Birthplace in opening

I have a question about the statement "Locations of birth and death are given subsequently rather than being entangled with the dates" in the "Dates of Birth and Death" section. I have deleted some instances of the birthplace when it is included in the opening parentheses alongside the birthdate, e.g. (born September 4, 1972 in Chicago, Illinois) becomes (born September 4, 1972). To me, this is what the indicated statement means. In some instances (primarily in shorter articles that don't have an "Early Life" section or somesuch), the birthplace information is subsequently only given in an infobox. I never delete the birthplace entirely from the article–only in the opening parentheses and only when the information is included elsewhere (including the infobox as "elsewhere"). I have had a disagreement with a couple people who state that the infobox doesn't count in this regard–that "subsequently" doesn't include the infobox. To me, the infobox is part of the article, and hence does count. Am I wrong on this? If so, I suggest that the statement be amended to include "(not including an infobox)" after "subsequently", because if that's the intended interpretation then right now it's misleading. GreenLocust (talk) 19:32, 12 August 2009 (UTC)

I think the infobox does not count, but I do think your interpretation of the rule is right otherwise. The user of Wikipedia shouldn't have to cast about poking into boxes for the information. Luckily, elegant writing is not mandatory here; you can always just add a sentence to the lead, like, "Doe was born in Farquardt, Indiana, and died in Blisterfoot, Arizona." --Milkbreath (talk) 22:44, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
For the full discussion in which three of us have taken the position (same as the fourth editor, Milkbreath, immediately above), contrary to GreenLocust's viewpoint, that he should not be deleting mention of birthplace from the text of dozens of articles on the basis that "it is already in the infobox", please see [10].--Epeefleche (talk) 22:34, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
For the hundredth time, the basis is what the style is as given in the MOS, not that "it is already in the infobox". I really wish you would stop misrepresenting my stated reason for the deletions. And I don't think you pulling in selected WikiBuddies counts as a "full discussion", which is why I brought it up here. GreenLocust (talk) 23:47, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
Let me put it this way: each of the deletions by GreenLocust of birthplace info from 60-odd bios, which were not accompanied by placement of the birthplace info elsewhere in the text of the article, bore the following explanatory edit summary: "(no birthplace in opening per MOS - already in infobox).--Epeefleche (talk) 00:42, 14 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm about to propose a change to the project page (which is edit-protected and requires the approval of an admin): Pursuant to discussions here and here, I'd like to change Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style_(dates_and_numbers)#Dates_of_birth_and_death, the last bullet point, "Locations of birth and death are given subsequently rather than being entangled with the dates." I would like it to read thus: "Locations of birth and death should appear in the text of the article rather than being entangled with the dates." What do you think? Will that do it? --Milkbreath (talk) 23:07, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
I favor tweaking it to "in the body of the article rather than being entangled with the dates in the opening." Chris the speller (talk) 00:20, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
This discussion should be taking place on WT:MOSBIO. Although this guideline (WP:DATE) asks editors to avoid entangling the locations of birth and death with the dates, its concern is with the dates, not with the eventual fate of the locations. WP:MOSBIO lays out what should be included in the opening; locations are not specified. I think that guideline should be changed to specify where the locations should appear. Chris the speller (talk) 00:17, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
I see a circle forming. Over at Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style_(biographies)#Opening_paragraph it says nothing about where the birth and death locations should go. It says only "Dates of birth and death, if known (see Wikipedia:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)#Dates of birth and death)", sending us right back here, which is right because an editor will look here to find out how to format the dates, and he will never look there for that. The locations should be in the lead if the article is short, and in the body in sensible chronological position otherwise. This should not be prescribed. The problem that I'm trying to solve is that it is possible to interpret "subsequently" in the guideline as it stands to mean "in the infobox or in the body of the article", leaving the information out of the article proper sometimes, which I and some others agree is undesirable. I don't want to use MOS Dates to prescribe a place for the locations to appear, but it seems that it will be an unavoidable by-product of clarifying the point in question. I'm fine with "body" if everyone thinks that the word will help the inquiring editor to not consider the infobox included better than "text" does. --Milkbreath (talk) 00:33, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Hi. I see a couple of issues (and defer to you as to where best to address (if at all).
1) Mr. Green believes that the current MOS language impels him to ensure that the place of birth reflected in the infobox only. With this belief as his guiding light, he has just deleted the textual references to individuals' places of birth from 60-odd articles.
Note: He has not moved the references to a later sentence withing the body of the article; rather, he has deleted the only reference to the person's place of birth in the text of each article.
He believes this is mandated by the MOS language that says: "Locations of birth and death are given subsequently rather than being entangled with the dates." He asserts that "subsequently" does not mean "subsequently within the text of the article," but rather in essence that it means "subsequently within the text of the article or alternatively in the infobox." As he puts it at [11], "The infobox is, in fact, part of the article." (emphasis added)
Everyone but Mr. Green who has commented on this point reads the MOS as meaning in effect: "subsequently within the text of the article -- but that doesn't refer to the summary infobox."
I fear that the change proposed above would not help Mr. Green and his ilk, because they would simply say that "the text of the article" includes the infobox.
I find the explanantion to be somewhat fatuous, because carried out to its logical lengths, one could delete the ballplayer's name, date of birth, and teams played for from the article itself -- as they are all reflected in the infobox as well.
2) The second issue, which is secondary, is whether the rule itself makes sense. While this is supposed to be encyclopaedic, Brittanica and other well-thought-of encyclopedias list the date and the place of birth together at the outset.
And logically, the fact that ballplayer A was born on March 2 may be of significantly less interest than the fact that he was born in the Dominican Republic -- the World Baseball Classic, for example, focuses on place of birth but not birthdate. And it is important for Olympic athletes, Davis Cup players, etc. -- much more so than for example the day and month of birth. I really see no overarching policy reason -- even in a non-prescriptive MOS -- to suggest that it is better to put it in the second sentence (or paragraph, or section) than the first. The sentence structure "X was born on Y in Z" is likely the most common you can find in biographies anywhere. Just my two cents, for what they are worth.--Epeefleche (talk) 03:03, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Again, the purpose of this guideline is "to achieve consistency in the use and formatting of dates and numbers". The location of a person's birth is not a date, and not a number. By keeping the discussion here, you are shutting out editors who watch WP:MOSBIO and who know something about how to write biographical articles. This is completely wrong. Chris the speller (talk) 03:16, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Then why don't we just delete the part of this WP that states: "Locations of birth and death are given subsequently rather than being entangled with the dates." It strikes me that if this issue is not relevant on this talk page, the issue is likewise not relevant to this WP. It is the language that is in this WP that is causing all the ruckus. It is the language in this WP that Mr. Green quoted as impelling him to make the deletions. Likewise (logicially) he started this discussion here.--Epeefleche (talk) 03:30, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Just adding my two cents, but when I am writing a stub or start class article, especially ones where the birthplace is of key importance (usually athletes that have notability due to national representation), I will always include the birthplace in the opening paragraph, such as John Smith (born 26 January , 2000 in Sydney, Australia). Also can I add, that just because something is stated in an infobox, does not mean it can't be stated in the main article as the infobox should be a brief summary of the page. I think the deletion of a birthplace in the opening paragraph is stupid as it proves to be a key part (which is what the opening paragraph includes) in many high level amateur athlete articles. JRA_WestyQld2 Talk 09:11, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

(Indent depth has no meaning, just wanted to follow everything so far.) I've always liked and seen the sense in keeping the dates together and by themselves in parentheses right after the name. I won't go into why because it really doesn't matter as long as we all always do it the same way. Consistency throughout the encyclopedia is the reason for any such guideline, and the present formula is at least tidy and easy to understand and implement. The problems are two: editors often don't see the need to adhere to any formula, and the guideline as it stands is unclear. I don't see why we can't specify that information in an infobox is supplemental to an article and not part of it. I have made that suggestion over at Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style_(infoboxes)#Discussion_at_Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style_.28dates_and_numbers.29.23Birthplace_in_opening and invited them to discuss the point here. MoS Infoboxes is the right place to address the problem at the root, and whatever the guideline becomes there can be incorpoarted here and at MoS Bio (where I see that Sssoul has already invited them to join this discussion). --Milkbreath (talk) 10:29, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

I'm really hoping the issue isn't really associated with infoboxes per se, as with how to present information in general. My participation in the MoS Infoboxes area is mostly due to the way Certain Editors (no one here, as far as I know) feel that infoboxes are a blight on Wikipedia and should be eliminated (almost?) everywhere. I fight these people, as I've not seen many articles which wouldn't be improved with an infobox of some sort; everything could use a summary IMHO.

Anyway, while ideally all information in an infobox is present in the article's prose, and not every article, such as the ones I tend to work on, follow that ideal, I suspect biography articles are different from my regular domain of mostly "bridge" (as in crossing valleys/rivers/whatever) articles. Asking general infobox people to come up with a rule which mainly applies to biographies will likely get you a lot of confusion, rather than useful results. I suspect your best bet is to ask people interested in Biography articles specifically, as y'all know more about which makes more sense for such. For all of me, it might be more important for some bio articles to center around dates, and for others (subset: athletes) to center around places. I dunno. - Denimadept (talk) 20:01, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

The issue arose out of the edits of our friend GreenLocust. If you read his original question above, perhaps you'll agree with my thinking, that the propblem really arises out of the hazily defined role of the infobox in an article. Is it a supplementary summary, a fingertip compendium? Or can it actually be the whole article in and of itself? Or does its role always depend on the context? I think of it as nothing more than a handy way to organize the facts of an article for easy reference by the user, but not as a substitute for the text of the article, which text is the article per se. Me, I like infoboxes. --Milkbreath (talk) 21:20, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
to me the infobox is clearly a supplement to an article - one that can be skipped without losing any information; articles need to stand on their own, not rely on the infoboxes to fill in blanks. if that's been misunderstood, the guidelines need to be made clearer on that point.
but (like others have already asked): what is the rationale for the dictum that a biography shouldn't state something as plain and simple as "The subject was born on date in place" - does it mess up some template or something? Sssoul (talk) 21:47, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
This whole thing started when GreenLocust was going along taking the locations of birth and death out of the parentheses containing the dates of birth and death, in accordance with the MoS. Thing is, he would not restore that information to the text of the article if it was covered in an infobox, following the guideline on this project page that states under Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style_(dates_and_numbers)#Dates_of_birth_and_death, "Locations of birth and death are given subsequently rather than being entangled with the dates." He interpreted "subsequently" to include "in an infobox". I and others think that that is a misinterpretation that needs clearing up on some project page somewhere, I think on at least three: WP:MOSBIO, WP:MOSNUM, and WP:IBX. Locations of birth and death should appear in the running text whether they are in an infobox or not. --Milkbreath (talk) 22:22, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
Well said. I might add that GreenLocust's interpretation has so far been his alone. All others who have opined on that point here or at the discussion at [12] do not read it the same way that GreenLocust reads it.--Epeefleche (talk) 00:39, 14 August 2009 (UTC)
And might I add that the fact that the people who you invited in (everyone but Milkbreath, Denimadept, and Sssoul), using a misrepresentation while doing so, happen to agree with you is not terribly surprising. You are so disingenuous as to be ridiculous. GreenLocust (talk) 01:35, 14 August 2009 (UTC)
I see an infobox for biography is likely a summary, but I don't claim to be definitive. An infobox for a bridge or ferry might contain information otherwise not in the article. My area of interest is in the latter, specifically {{infobox bridge}}. Y'all Bio people need to talk this one out. GreenLocust, you could always get people who agree with you to participate here, y'know. - Denimadept (talk) 04:38, 14 August 2009 (UTC)
Green--I don't believe I'm misrepresenting anything. I've pointed people to our discussion at [13], so that they can see it for themselves rather than rely on my characterization. And I've accurately quoted the edit summary that you used in your 60-odd deletions. To the extent that I've invited people, generally its only because I knew them to be involved in discussion of this issue/formation of the existing policy. Prior to this issue arising, I only had prior contact with one of all these people, and in that case only once, in passing.
I think that to the extent that people have spoken to the issue, they do not support your deleting the only textual reference to the location of birth from the article, without re-inserting it later into the article, with your edit summary explanation of "(no birthplace in opening per MOS - already in infobox)", as amplified by the discussion above and at [14]--Epeefleche (talk) 06:00, 14 August 2009 (UTC)

There is no need for this dispute to become personal. I would agree that while the birthplace and deathplace should not be within the parenthetical that contains the dates, they do need to be in the article body somewhere. The infobox does not count for this purpose. Powers T 18:02, 14 August 2009 (UTC)

slight diversion

¶ This is one of a whole host of areas where I think the Manual could be usefully shortened with little or no loss (perhaps even some gain), and thus able to concentrate on areas where there are genuine sources of possible confusion, error, ambiguity, obscurity or offensiveness (as well as become more likely to be read, remembered and heeded). I know that I'm in a distinct minority here, because most of those who spare the time and thought to contribute to this talk page are more likely to favour uniformity for its own sake.

But I really think that this is the kind of question (like whether one writes "4 April", "4th April", "4th of April", "April 4", "April 4th" or "April the 4th") that's best left to the context of a specific article and to its editors' own style and preferences. That Napoléon Bonaparte was born in Corsica and died on Saint Helena, that Adolf Hitler was born in Austria and died in Berlin, that Barack Obama was born in Hawai'i, or that Paul Gauguin died in the Marquesas Islands are probably just as important as, or more important than, the exact year of their births or deaths. That a random French writer was born and died in Paris, or a random English thinker in London, is probably less important than the years of his or her life, and could just as well be left to the following text.

Since many biographical articles are inevitably destined to be slightly-expanded stubs, let me note for whatever it's worth that, among my one-volume cyclopedias, Le Petit Larousse Illustré (2004) includes places as well as dates of birth & death within the initial parentheses (brackets), but the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Encyclopedia (2000, based on the Britannica) and the Concise Columbia Encyclopedia (1983) do not. The Cambridge Encyclopedia (2nd edition, 1994) gives just the dates within parentheses, but usually immediately followed by a comma and "born in [place]"; however, the place of death is often not mentioned. —— Shakescene (talk) 22:23, 14 August 2009 (UTC)

Any loosening of the current rule would be beneficial. Again, I favor the deletion of the rule in this specific guidance for the reason raised by the editor above who says that this should be about numbers -- if the talk page discussion should not include a discussion about this issue because it is too far afield, certainly the proscription contained in the rule here should be deleted if for no other reason than it is in the wrong location. I, for one, for the reasons well-put in the above examples of Bonaparte and Hitler, etc., think that that we could do well with the rule being scrapped completely from any other guidance as well.--Epeefleche (talk) 05:03, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

So now ...

Given the above ample discussion, and the related discussion at [15] that began eight days ago, unless a consensus is voiced against the following two propositions, I propose that within one week:

a) given that a clear consensus has been voiced of the seven editors who have spoken to the issue other than Green Locust (including me, JRA_WestyQld2, Septentrionalis PMAnderson, SMcCandlish, Milkbreath, Sssoul, and Powers T), Green Locust either: 1) roll back his 60-odd deletions of reference to place of birth, or 2) re-insert that information later in each of those articles; and

b) that we delete from this MOS guidance the following phrase: "Locations of birth and death are given subsequently rather than being entangled with the dates."

This change to this guidance would accord with my view.

It would also accord with the views of JRA_WestyQld2 ("when I am writing a stub or start class article, especially ones where the birthplace is of key importance (usually athletes that have notability due to national representation), I will always include the birthplace in the opening paragraph). It would appear as well to accord with the views of Septentrionalis PMAnderson ("not necessary in the first parenthesis - although giving them there is probably harmless for living persons").

The same with the comments of Milkbreath that "you can always just add a sentence to the lead, like, 'Doe was born in Farquardt, Indiana, and died in Blisterfoot, Arizona".

This would also comport with the observations of Shakescene: "That Napoléon Bonaparte was born in Corsica and died on Saint Helena, that Adolf Hitler was born in Austria and died in Berlin, that Barack Obama was born in Hawai'i, or that Paul Gauguin died in the Marquesas Islands are probably just as important as, or more important than, the exact year of their births or deaths. That a random French writer was born and died in Paris, or a random English thinker in London, is probably less important than the years of his or her life, and could just as well be left to the following text. Since many biographical articles are inevitably destined to be slightly-expanded stubs, let me note for whatever it's worth that, among my one-volume cyclopedias, Le Petit Larousse Illustré (2004) includes places as well as dates of birth & death within the initial parentheses (brackets), but the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Encyclopedia (2000, based on the Britannica) and the Concise Columbia Encyclopedia (1983) do not. The Cambridge Encyclopedia (2nd edition, 1994) gives just the dates within parentheses, but usually immediately followed by a comma and "born in [place]"; however, the place of death is often not mentioned."

And Denimadept observes, "For all of me, it might be more important for some bio articles to center around dates, and for others (subset: athletes) to center around places. I dunno."

And Ssoul asks: "(like others have already asked): what is the rationale for the dictum that a biography shouldn't state something as plain and simple as "The subject was born on date in place" - does it mess up some template or something?."

Also with the views of SMcCandlish that at least there should not be a blanket rule of this sort ("If there is not enough material in the article for such a section, then it should be left as-is, because the article is a stub.").

It also comports with the views of Chris the Speller that this is the wrong place-- even on the talk page of this guidance--for a discussion of any such rule ("This discussion should be taking place on WT:MOSBIO. Although this guideline (WP:DATE) asks editors to avoid entangling the locations of birth and death with the dates, its concern is with the dates, not with the eventual fate of the locations. WP:MOSBIO lays out what should be included in the opening; locations are not specified."). If this guidance's talk page is not a place to discuss the issue, I would suggest that the guidance is not the place for such a proscription. If such a proscription should appear at all (and most of us it would seem don't believe that one should appear; certainly not a blanket one as exists now), then it should appear in WP:MOSBIO (which does not have such a proscription).

--Epeefleche (talk) 22:59, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

I am now free to speak for myself. My understanding is that we had two reasons for generally supporting (birthdate, deathdate) in parentheses.

  • The chief one is that four items (December 1, 1804, in Pressburg - June 15, 1848 in Constantinople) in a parenthesis is a little overstuffed.
  • Secondarily, placenames are more likely to require some form of context than dates (Pressburg is now Bratislava, and no longer in the Austrian Empire; Constantinople is now Istanbul); whereas the difference between Old Style and New Style is smaller, matters less often, and is less controversial when it does.

Both these are minor - and neither should rule out (born 1968 in Toronto, Canada).

Leave this, as often, to the judgment of the writers of the article; and state our reasons in text so we don't have to go through this again. That's what guidelines are for. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 19:37, 17 August 2009 (UTC)

Date template

Why is {{date}} not mentioned at #Dates? Is it deprecated? It would save a lot of the which-order-do-we-put-it-in argument, if the <date formatting style> parameter be omitted. Consider: whether I use {{date|15 August 2009}}, {{date|August 15, 2009}} or {{date|2009-08-15}} these are all displayed the same, ie 15 August 2009, 15 August 2009 or 15 August 2009 - I personally see 15 August 2009, but you might not. If every date be wrapped in that template, editors could use any format they liked and users would see whatever format they liked. --Redrose64 (talk) 21:29, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

Currently the template doesn't work like that (i.e. it doesn't autoformat the date). Furthermore it uses {{#time:}} and so is limited to what the parser function can handle (e.g. it won't go beyond 100 AD). We'd be relying on having every date wrapped in it, which is a big ask. It would be a whole lot of work for the benifit of a few, i.e. those logged in users with prefs set. And, worst of all, we'd be ignoring the inherent problems of autoformatting, e.g. "a 15 August 2009 decision" autoformats to "a August 15, 2009 decision" (if your prefs are set to muddled) which is grammatically incorrect. JIMp talk·cont 22:08, 15 August 2009 (UTC)
Besides, except for one brief mention ("{{convert}} can be used"...) there is no mention of that template either, and it is neither recommended nor deprecated, just says it can be used. I presume it is the intention not to link MoS guidelines to specific templates: if I wrote another set of conversion templates to "compete" with {{convert}}, that also met MOSNUM, they would be equally valid to use; as is doing the conversions longhand. SimonTrew (talk) 14:41, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

Is this consistent?

It says "5 kg (11 lb) bag of carrots", but it also says "(When they form a compound adjective, values and spelled out units should be separated by a hyphen.)" Which is right? Art LaPella (talk) 22:04, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

"kg" and "lb" are not "spelled out" units; "kilogram" and "pound" are. --   A. di M. 22:42, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
See WP:HYPHEN. JIMp talk·cont 22:48, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
Hyphenation is more frequent in British than American English; the advice in question is misguided anglicization. In the sentence quoted, even the British might not hyphenate, since the grouping is made clear by the parentheses. So the sentence is right. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 05:45, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

"Adopting suggestions from standards bodies"

I have put the two paragraphs under this heading in their own subsection. The reasons I did this are as follows:

  • The original placement broke the style of what preceded and followed it.
  • The original placement split two related subsections.

The passage was out of place where I found it. However, someone might be able to find a better place for it than where I have put it. Michael Glass (talk) 08:03, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

I made some changes to the tone and phrasing of that paragraph—it was almost aggressive, and belaboured the idea of 'the real world', without adequately referring to the role of consensus. I also managed to simplify things a little bit. Do the changes look reasonable? TheFeds 20:42, 15 August 2009 (UTC)
The "real world" was use to emphasize that the overnight consensus of 20 people should not force an obscure standard into the Manual Of Style. The consensus has to reflect the writing style of the real world not some ideal dream world. It took 3 years to rid Wikipedia of the Kibibytes and Mebibytes crusade. -- SWTPC6800 (talk) 20:58, 15 August 2009 (UTC)
The rephrased version was reverted by Greg_L (talk · contribs), with the edit summary "No consensus for this change, which was extensively discussed". Since the rephrasing didn't significantly alter the meaning of the paragraphs—though it does adjust the tone—there's no case of violating prior consensus here. (The lengthy prior discussions resulted in consensus leading to the banishment of things like " %" and "MiB" from the MOS—these outcomes were not challenged by the revision.) We've had "B", and now "R"; let's have the "D". TheFeds 07:27, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

Definitions needed?

One of the first pieces of advice in the section on units of measurement says:

  • Aim to write so you cannot be misunderstood.

Unfortunately this section undermines this aim by using two terms that may defy understanding. These are

  • region-specific topics, and
  • internationally accepted units.

To clear up confusion we need to define what we mean by region-specific topics and internationally accepted units.

In plain English, a region-specific topic, for example, may refer to any region and any topic, e.g., the Pavillon_de_Breteuil, the home of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. But of course it is referring in a roundabout way to US and UK based articles that happen to use Imperial or US Customary units. In this case it may be better to find some other term that won't be so ambiguous or confusing or simply write US-specific articles and some UK-based articles.

Internationally accepted units may need explanaion, perhaps like this:

Internationally accepted units are:

  • SI base and derived units
  • Non-SI units accepted for use with the SI
  • Units based on fundamental constants
  • other non-SI units that are used internationally

What do others think?Michael Glass (talk) 08:48, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

That all sounds pretty reasonable to me. I certainly agree about region-specific topic. My only minor comment there is that, I imagine, some US-specific articles may also use metric/SI, e.g. those that are writing about science or engineering projects that are based in the US, but use metric/SI units (e.g. NASA projects, and, in theory, all US government projects). So perhaps "most US-specific articles and some UK-specific articles". And why "specifc" for one but "based" for the other?
Cut "base and derived" - just put "SI units"
"other non-SI units that are used internationally; I think you could cut "non-SI" here as it is implied (it is more appropriate for the ones "accepted for use with (the?) SI"). Perhaps give examples, e.g. the degree (angle), nauticl mile? And for constants e.g. Planck's constant (physics), Pi (mathematics), etc. For other non-SI units perhaps carat (gemology). No need for an exhaustive list, just a couple of examples for each.
Since in a sense US Customary/Imperial units are also accepted internationally, perhaps anyway this term is inappropriate. Suggest "widely used worldwide" but that is not brilliant either. SimonTrew (talk) 21:10, 15 August 2009 (UTC)
It's intended to refer to the unit in most common use worldwide for the type of measurement being mentioned. For example, the diagonals of cathode-ray tube displays are by far most commonly measured in inches around the world; exceptions are South Africa and Australia where centimetres are used. So, the diagonal of a CRT display should be given in inches and followed by a parenthetical conversion to centimetres; but an article specifically about South African CRTs would use centimetres, with a conversion to inches between parentheses. I'd use "for a given measurement, use the unit which is most commonly used worldwide for that type of measurement", or some less wordy equivalent thereof if anybody can find one. The "for that type of measurement" part is essential, both in non-regional and in regional articles: the unit commonly used for the energy of airsoft pellets is not the same used for ultra-high energy cosmic rays, despite being measurements with the same dimension and roughly the same magnitude; likewise, as Trew said, the units commonly used in US engineering are not the same units commonly used in US household items. (As for "Non-SI units accepted for use with the SI", that's the name the SI uses verbatim, so I'd keep the "non-SI" even if it's redundant. And a list of internationally accepted units including "SI units" and "other non-SI internationally accepted units" looks tautological to me.) As for "region-specific topic", that's as in WP:ENGVAR. --   A. di M. 22:05, 15 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree.
We clearly need some units that are not accepted by SI at all for use throughout Wikipedia per the principle you brought up above. Obviously, we aren't going to do away with the month or the year, even though neither is recognised by SI for the very good reason that neither is of consistent length. There is also clear benefit in using units such as inches, feet and nautical miles in contexts where they are common internationally, even if they are not defined by SI (I think the nautical mile is, but not the other two). On region-specific topics where there are region-specific deviations from these units (and this is not just in the US and UK), we should adopt the region-specific deviations. Pfainuk talk 22:51, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

Non-SI units accepted for use with SI lists the minute, hour, day, degree of arc, minute of arc, second of arc, hectare, litre and tonne as non-SI units accepted for use with SI. It doesn't seem to mention multiples of the litre (millilitre, kilolitre, megalitre, etc.). It doesn't mention the week, month, year, decade, century, annum, kiloannum, megaannum, etc. It doesn't mention the kilometre per hour, litre per hundred kilometres, etc. These should be allowed without SI coversions.

The electronvolt (kiloelectronvolt, megaelectronvolt, etc.) is not SI nor is it based on fundamental constants but a hybrid of both but these should be allowed and we generally won't need to convert them to SI.

What about the kilowatt-hour, debye, astronomical unit, lightyear and parsec? I'd be inclined to convert them to SI depending on context.

"other non-SI units that are used internationally" is a little vague. Certainly we'd want the nautical mile and knot in certain contexts but a conversion to kilometres and miles (per hour) would be desirable. As noted above, we could agrue that imperial/US units are used internationally but we'd want these converted. Many units (e.g. the carat, calorie, ton of TNT, oil barrel, millimetre of mercury, atmosphere and Troy ounce) are used internationally but should be converted to SI.

We'd be better of ditching the ångström, bar, millibar, etc. entirely but there probably is little hope of that; however, we don't really need to convert these to SI (since it's just a matter of moving the decimal point). JIMp talk·cont 23:02, 15 August 2009 (UTC)

Surely millimetre, kilolitre, kilometre per hour etc are SI derived units (or, at least for the latter, a non-SI derived unit accepted within SI, by transitivity)? I suggested butting "base and derived units" but surely e.g. millimetre is a dervied unit and thus SI.
As for angstrom, you will never get rid of this; in the field I work for (molecular modeling) it is pretty much a standard unit, and to write as tenths (or tenths?) of nanometres would be just odd. By the way my dictionary lists it as "angstrom" with no ring above, though of course its symbol is Å.
calorie poses a unique problem in that of course it should be kilocalorie, and using calorie in the convert template (for typical values for foods) puts the result in joules, not kilojoules i.e. it takes a calorie to be a calorie, not a kilocalorie. Yet the main text may use calorie and it looks clumsy or unduly pedantic to write kilocalorie. I almost had this problem with Bacon today; I used the convert template (with kcal) but elsewhere in the text it used "calorie" and it would have seemed pedantic to change it. Fortunately I escaped that one first as it was quoted (aw "zero calorie") and second since zero calories = zero kilocalories I could avoid the issue.
bar and millibar I would have more support for ditching, although certainly for weather forecasts in the UK the pascal is unheard of, and lines of the same pressure are isobars not isopascals.
Gravity is probably another one to add to the list e.g. defining things as zero G, 1 G, etc. Obviously gravity does vary slightly with longitude, latitude, various geophysical effects and altitude, but for all practical purposes 9.81 m/s2 is good enough, and to again a conversion is useful but simply to abandon giving it in G at all would be odd. And since, obviously, standard atmospheric pressure has rather a lot to do with gravity then those, by extension, could be argued to come under that wing.
i've rather rambled off the point. But I suppose what I am arguing is that the list of internationally accepted units in various fields is almost limitless, and really the context of the article should drive what is appropriate, not some more-or-less arbitrary rule. SimonTrew (talk) 14:36, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
SimonTrew asked, by way of a question mark, "surely millimetre, kilolitre, kilometre per hour etc are SI derived units (or, at least for the latter, a non-SI derived unit accepted within SI, by transitivity)?" Meter is a base unit; adding an SI prefix does not change the status of a unit among base, derived, or accepted for use with SI. Litre is a special name for cubic decimeter, which is a derived unit. Kilometer per hour is a unit accepted for use with SI. --Jc3s5h (talk) 15:38, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
Regarding which are base units, which derived, and which non-SI, I suggest a study of the official BIPM document on that. See section 2; prefixes (as multipliers) are in section 3; the litre (or liter) is in section 4 being "a non-SI unit accepted for use with the International System of Units".
A derived unit is the product of base units: whilst the metre is a base unit, the square metre is a derived unit. Metre per second is a derived unit; but since the hour is "a non-SI unit accepted for use with the International System of Units", the kilometre per hour is also.
It's not a good idea to encourage the use of "litre". Whilst the literal definitions of virtually all SI units have changed over the years, they have all retained their practical values - except for the litre. The 1901 definition was 'the volume occupied by a mass of 1 kilogram of pure water, at its maximum density and at standard atmospheric pressure'; in 1960 they noted 'the cubic decimetre and the litre are unequal and differ by about 28 parts in 106', whilst in 1964 they declared 'that the word "litre" may be employed as a special name for the cubic decimetre' and recommended that 'the name litre should not be employed to give the results of high-accuracy volume measurements'. See p.141 of the PDF doc linked earlier. According to my physics teacher, they made a mistake when cutting the original prototype kilogramme. --Redrose64 (talk) 17:04, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
"It's not a good idea to encourage the use of 'litre'." That's nonsense. This depends entirely on the purpose. Litres (cubic decimetres) and millilitres (cubic centimetres) are absolutely standard units throughout most of the metrised world. I have never heard anyone use "kilolitres", though. It's clear what is meant, but everybody calls it cubic metres. But a 2-litre bottle is a 2-litre bottle, not a 2-cubic-decimetre bottle. Trying to forbid such standard units as the litre looks to me like an attempt to introduce a problem that otherwise exists only in the minds of proponents of pre-metric systems: that the metric system is "unpractical" because it doesn't have all the necessary "natural" units such as the pint. We already have the litre and as the UK is slowly crawling towards full metrication I predict that use of the "metric pint" of 1/2 litre = 0.88 Imperial pt = 1.06 US pt will become standard in the same way that the metric pound of 1/2 kg = 1.1 lbs avdp has been standard in large parts of Europe for a hundred years. It's probably as easy as the pubs beginning to call a pint of beer 1.136 metric pints once they are allowed to do this.
In science and technology, cubic centimetres and cubic decimetres are also used under these names. But only very rarely in normal life. Hans Adler 18:28, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
jch: yes, my bad about the derived units; of course you are right, a prefix does not make it a derived unit. I was just nodding there. Hans: All you say is good and true as always; but I reckon we will get 500 ml pints and call them pints. There is no way in this country they would even make it 550, let alone 570 or 600, but yes, we will have a metric measure and it will be called a pint, I reckon. But my bet is on 500 ml. And we will bitch about it to our grandchildren. When they changed from 16 gill measures to 25ml the pubs advertised "NEW LARGER MEASURES; the Imperial measure 94 23% the size of the metric one. woop dee doo. (The difference between 14 gill and 35 ml is a little larger, the Imperial measure being 35.5 ml and thus slightly larger, which the pubs did not shout about so much). SimonTrew (talk) 01:22, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
By the way, in Nineteen Eighty-Four the chapter where Winston goes into a prole pub, he finds a man complaining about his beer being in litres not like the pints he had in the old days. This of course was written about 1946-1948 (it took him a while) and, if I recall correctly, the complaint is that half a litre is not enough and a litre too much. This always seemed odd to me since half a litre is not far from a pint but a a litre is much much more. I presume Orwell was taking artistic licence here (or trusting on the ignorance in his audience) since, having lived in Paris, he must have been aware on how big a litre was. I always wondered how this was translated for audiences who only ever had metric. SimonTrew (talk) 01:30, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
I'll buy or borrow the Italian translation of that book sooner or later; BTW, I would have translated it "as is". Even in Italy, most people who have ever drunk in a pub (at least, in a British- or Irish-themed one) know what a pint is, and those who haven't can figure out from the context that it is the traditional unit for beers in pubs and that it is larger than half a litre but smaller than a litre, which is all one needs know to understand Winston's point. --___A. di M. 01:45, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
I can't imagine that we actually ever do use the litre for high-accuracy volume measurements. And for most applications, an inaccuracy of 28 parts per million is so much smaller than the margin for error inherent in the measurement that it's totally irrelevant. To put it into perspective, that's a difference of nearly 16 litres when measuring the amount of water in Sydney Harbour. I see very little reason to avoid the litre normal (non-scientific) circumstances. Pfainuk talk 18:21, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
Besides, it's a problem stemming from an error that was corrected more than 40 years ago. For more than 40 years litre has been an exact synonym for cubic decimetre. We would only ever have to worry about this problem should we encounter pre-1964 sources with high-precision litre-based measurements. They would have to be converted into modern litres. But exactly the same problem exists with inches and whatnot, since very roughly around the same time the inch was defined as precisely 2.54 cm, etc., after it was previously slightly different in various parts of the world. Hans Adler 18:35, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

28 parts in 106 ain't that bad for two centuries ago and greater accuracy than you mostly find here. We surely shouldn't discourage the use of the litre and millilitre in cases where they are used in the world out there. Ask for a pint of beer in the pub & you shouldn't expect a 28-parts-per-million accuracy. JIMp talk·cont 18:32, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

OK, OK, maybe I overstressed one tiny aspect which doesn't really matter. It began with my possible misreading of what had gone earlier. There appeared to be disagreement concerning which are base SI units, and which derived SI units, and somebody mentioned litre (or kilolitre, or something like that).
My intended point was that the BIPM document has already done all the categorisation, and that based on what it has on page 124 "Table 6. Non-SI units accepted for use with the International System of Units", litres are not SI units (base or derived). --Redrose64 (talk) 20:00, 16 August 2009 (UTC)
I would argue that there are some units that are not accepted by the BIPM but that we still have to accept, depending on context. The most obvious are the month and year, which are not defined by the BIPM for the very good reasons that they are not of consistent length. In other contexts, there are units that are generally used internationally - the barrel of oil, the inch for measuring the sizes of television screens (as cited above) - that are specifically not accepted by the BIPM.
We should generally use the most commonly used unit in a given context (and I would suggest that may well include using different units in different regional contexts). Pfainuk talk 20:25, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

I don't know why Michael Glass is continuously starting this kind of discussion. The intent of the rules about use of units is absolutely clear: Use those units that will be expected in this context by the greatest fraction of the expected readership. If some readers will need a conversion to understand a measurement properly, provide it.

The metric system in the sense of SI units + units accepted for use with SI is a useful first approximation for the practical result of this rule. It's not quite correct for a number of reasons

  • SI does not give sufficient guidance to choose, e.g., between millilitre and cubiccentimetre.
  • In specific contexts, certain units that are explicitly not approved are dominant and must normally be used, e.g.:
    • Years for longer periods of time.
    • Light years for distances between stars.
    • Inches for TV and computer screens.
    • Gallons for raw oil.
    • Typographic points in printing.
    • Metric carat for jewels.
    • Kilometres per hour for car speeds.
    • Litres per 100 kilometres for car fuel consumption.
    • Nautical miles for distances at sea, especially for the definition of territorial waters etc.
  • In some regions – especially, but not only, the not yet fully metric countries – the usage patterns for units diverge from the international ones. This must also be taken into account whenever we have reason to believe that most readers will be from a specific region:
    • Inches for TV and computer screens in Australia. (It's hard to see how that might become relevant, though.)
    • Miles for road distances in the US and the UK.
    • Miles per hour for car speeds in the US and the UK.
    • Miles per gallon for car fuel consumption in the US and the UK.
    • Kilocalories instead of kilojoules for food energy in some countries.
    • Dekagrammes instead of grammes for cold cuts in Austria. (Again, this is more theoretical. I am sure one can find better examples.)

I see no need to change the current text. Hans Adler 21:06, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

In some countries, such as Italy (and, I think, most of the EU), food energy is "officially" measured in kilojoules, but about 99% of people would normally use kilocalories for that (calling them "calories" in casual speech, except when they want to make the quantity sound bigger, as in a TV ad claiming that their product can help you burn "up to 1000 kilocalories"). (And cold cuts are measured in hectograms in Italy.) --   A. di M. 21:20, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

My aim is the clarify the wording, not change the policy. If the intent of the wording is clear, then it might be possible to have the wording equally clear. For example, 'some regional topics' might be preferable to 'region-specific topics', and I can't see the problem of defining 'internationally accepted units'. For example:

Internationally accepted units are:

  • SI units
  • Non-SI units accepted for use with SI (e.g., the nautical mile)
  • Units based on fundamental constants (e.g. Planck's constant)
  • other units that are widely used internationally.

The basic problem is that we have the metric system that is used in most countries of the world, the US Customary system that is widely used in the US and the Imperial System, parts of which are still used in the UK and to a lesser extent in other English-speaking countries, and also in aviation and some specialised measurements such as computer screens. To cater for the needs of an English-speaking readership we need to provide both metric and traditional measures in a wide range of contexts. I think if we concentrate on the needs of readers we might make more progress. Michael Glass (talk) 23:39, 16 August 2009 (UTC)

According to the article the nautical mile is not accepted for use with SI. The phrase "other units that are widely used internationally" is pretty vague, in contrast to the narrowness of the three preceding points. Yes, that some of us use the metric system and others use either the US or imperial system is a problem. How does the change you're suggesting solve this? JIMp talk·cont 00:29, 17 August 2009 (UTC)

The knot ant the nautical mile are listed here [16]. Table 8 is appended to Chapter 4 of the BIPM brochure which is entitled, "Non-SI units accepted for use with the SI, and units based on fundamental constants". However, I do agree that "other units that are widely used internationally" is too vague. It could be rephrased as "other units that are widely used internationally for specific purposes" but if we tried to be more specific than that, someone is sure to come up with some measure that isn't covered. That said, I would welcome a better phrase, if anyone could come up with it. Finally, Wikipedia can't solve the issue of English-speaking people using different weights and measures; what we might be able to do is work out how to cater for these differences and how to express the guidelines in a way that is clear and helpful. Perhaps something like this would be the way to go:

Internationally accepted units are:

  • SI units
  • Non-SI units accepted for use with SI (e.g., the nautical mile)
  • Units based on fundamental constants (e.g. Planck's constant)
  • other units that are widely used internationally for specific purposes.

Michael Glass (talk) 01:40, 17 August 2009 (UTC)

If we're talking about the introduction of the section (the three-bullet list immediately under the header "Units of measurement"), you might replace "internationally accepted units for the topic at hand" with "the units in most widespread use worldwide for the type of measurement in question". As for the first bullet of "Which units to use", I don't think it's broken and doesn't need fixing. (As for your list, it'd be close to tautological if all SI units were "internationally accepted", and even that isn't the case: the megasecond isn't internationally accepted—and my browser's spell-checker even underlines it in red.) If something should be fixed, I'd replace "region-specific" with "regional and historical" (you might want to use cubits first in Noah's Ark), and the point about conversion should be added to the general principles (first three bullets), too. --   A. di M. 10:47, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
Cubits at Noah's Ark is a good example for a problem I was always sure must exist. For history/archaeology articles historical units are sometimes the best choice. In history because we may know the precise number in an obsolete unit but have no certainty about the conversion factor. In archaeology because measures may be exact integer multiples of a well known obsolete unit. In such situations the obsolete units are internationally the most accepted ones. Hans Adler 12:42, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes, and indeed for Goliath's height etc (four cubits and a span wasn't it?) I forget how many spans there are in a cubit but it is well-defined, but nobody really knows how big a span was. A similar problem occurs with Roman stadia and for that matter inches/ounces (uncia); obviously we have a rough idea but not an exact one, which doesn't stop maths working but if quoting Latin mathematics that gives an example in these units, it is pretty pointless to convert them (e.g. one might say – I make this up – "if a right triangle has sides by the right angle of three uncia and four uncia, the the third side will be five uncia" and that is good regardless of how big the inch is.) SimonTrew (talk) 14:51, 17 August 2009 (UTC)

I am pleased to see that the wording of the policy has been revised in the light of this discussion. I think that something could be done about "country-specific" and "region-specific" and I'll come back to this discussion with a further proposal later. Michael Glass (talk) 11:41, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

Markup for examples and mentions: italics, quotes, and the xt template

Markup for examples and mentions at WP:MOSNUM remains inconsistent, even more than at WP:MOS. I have done a little housekeeping editing just now, but I did very little with such markup.

Some points are clear: for good reasons we generally use italics for a mention (see WP:MOS for discussion of the use–mention distinction) as opposed to an example, so we should be consistent with that:

The word approximately is preferred to approx.


The word "approximately" is preferred to "approx".

But also, I should say, not this:

The word approximately is preferred to approx.

I don't say that exactly these cases turn up; I merely illustrate. Sometime we will need to discuss more subtle cases, and then go through these pages making all such markup rational and consistent. I propose that the topic be dealt with at WT:MOS, rather than here, for three reasons:

  1. The development of template:xt was managed there more than here.
  2. The implementation of that template is more advanced at WP:MOS than here at WP:MOSNUM.
  3. WP:MOS is the central page for the whole Manual of Style, and the decisions made there can reasonably be applied to all the other affected pages.

Do editors agree to centralising the discussion there?

¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 07:26, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

I'd agree to discuss it there. Anyway, since no thread about this was created there yet (move/copy this when you do):
According to that, we would write that the symbol of the metre is m, but that would be a false statement; italic m is the symbol of mass. The symbol of the metre is a roman small em. (This was the reason why I created {{xt}} in the first place.) So I'd prefer the use of quotation marks for mentions. (I don't think this could cause problems, because I can't see a situation where you'd mention a string containing quotation marks itself other than as an example, in which case {{xt}} is appropriate, or as computer code, in which case <code> is appropriate.) --   A. di M. 08:56, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
Thanks, A di M. I am well aware of the protracted difficulties we had concerning these symbols and italics. That gives yet another reason for centralising the discussion and dealing with all such issues together in orderly fashion. It will not be easy; but with goodwill, flexibility, and rational analysis we can sort it out. I propose that we postpone it for about a week, now that we have signalled the discussion here.
Are there any more broad procedural points from editors?
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 09:13, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

"Large numbers" section

What do you think about this edit? The text before this edit was discussed in /Archive 123#Comparison of texts in "Large numbers"; that version was essentially the one by TheFeds, who had bothered the gargantuan nasty task of wading through all the archived discussions about this. The edit removed, among other things, the permission to use commas in numbers 1000 ≤ x < 10,000 which are not years or page numbers, which is the current behaviour of {{convert}} and some other templates I can't remember right now. --___A. di M. 10:33, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

Unwise. It should at least be tweaked to permit such forms when an author wishes to discuss 1,944 guns and would like to be clear that he does not mean military production in the year of Normandy. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 12:43, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
I (obviously) prefer the version prior to the change. I've left some comments in the "Flurry of edits" section below. TheFeds 17:43, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

Flurry of edits

There seems to have been a flurry of edits over the last day or so from A di M (5) Noetica (9) and GregL (6). While I know these are all good faith edits from good faith editors, it suggests to me that this has not properly achieved the consensus we should expect before changing WP:MOSNUM, where stability is incredibly important. May I suggest we hold off and perhaps use the talk page more rather than the guide itself, since a guide that is constantly changing is no use to anyone. SimonTrew (talk) 12:46, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

SimonTrew, at PMAnderson' talkpage you say that I have "jumped the gun" with my editing. On the contrary: my recent edits are all like these, the most minor uncontroversial tidying. The only ones that go beyond such housekeeping are to revert PMAnderson's premature editing in response to my raising a point for discussion (see above), and a conservative clarifying response to a point raised by A di M.
Please refrain from incautious accusations. I am not disrupting anything at all, and I have explicitly called for discussion rather than hasty editing.
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 14:16, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
I did not accuse you of anything. I stated my own opinion, and said as such. It is not a question of how minor the edits are: any edit to the MOS impacts, in theory, on every article in the encyclopaedia, if only in so much as now the article has to be checked again against the MOS to see if it still conforms. When I have had even a minor "housekeeping" edit (change of wording etc) I have taken it to discussion; and most of the edits are not marked as minor (so, are they minor as you claim, in which case mark them minor, or not, in which case discuss them)? I am not prepared to enter into discussion of personalities here; I am also trying to make the MOS better, because I edit articles and try to make them conforming, or at least more conforming, and continual changes to the MOS, however small, are counterproductive to that aim. Since there have been (using my above figures which are a little dated) 20 edits to MOSNUM in the last day or so, in fact more now, that averages a little under 1 change an hour. How is a poor article editor like me supposed to keep up with that? Better to get consensus for one big change, and this goes against my usual reasoning at WP:OWNFEET, because here we are not talking about an end article but something that affects millions of articles.
To repeat: I stated that I thought you had jumped the gun; I think you did. I stated it on a user's talk page which, while not private, does not oblige me to have NPOV. That is not an accusation of anything, it is my opinion. SimonTrew (talk) 15:45, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
You do not say which edit of mine "jumps the gun". Surely not the ones in which I change the dashes and quotation marks so that they conform to MOS styling! Don't make scattershot assertions. I have responded to your comment at my talkpage. If you raise an issue, expect it to be discussed till all is clarified.
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 22:45, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
  • I had been away from MOSNUM for a while. While gone, there were several edits made that seemed to take MOSNUM away from the long-standing ways things have always been done on Wikipedia with regard to numbers. For the most part, these changes seem to have been the product of a tag-teaming by two like-minded editors over a period of one week. A consensus of two editors does not a consensus make. What I’ve now restored (and better organized) reflects widely observed, common practices on Wikipedia that have long enjoyed a true consensus. These time-tested practices, which were the product of much discussion over the years, are intended to yield the most important thing on Wikipedia: result in the least confusion for the greatest portion of our readership. Sometimes, editors come here to MOSNUM to change things in order to lend legitimacy to their particular way of doing things in articles they’re working. However, this is often done with an insufficient understanding of the ramifications. Greg L (talk) 16:45, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
  • I don't object to the reorganization—I have no issue with moving things to different subsections for clarity. It's the reversions that I don't particularly understand

    (In the interests of disclosure, with regard to the following, it looks like Greg_L worked on the current version, and I worked on the versions that were recently reverted. It's not personal, but I do think that my edits were better.)

    It's pretty clear that the consensus (which extends far beyond MOSNUM) with respect to things like regional usage variations is to allow them in context (and the text I proposed and eventually inserted into MOSNUM on digit grouping upholds that). Furthermore, the recently-reverted section clearly articulates that there are two methods of digit grouping in standard English usage (and that neither is to be mandated exclusively), noting some contexts in which it is common to find one or the other. The previous version of that text is also clearer, because it organizes these things into bullets and uses more precision in explaining the technical details.

    With regard to another recent change—that of the reworded adoption of international standards section—I still object to the aggressiveness and essay-like qualities of the current (reverted) version. My version retains the core message that certain things (i.e. " %", "MiB") are not valid on Wikipedia despite the existence of various international standards, but avoids the repetition of "real-world" and removes the commentary about the objectives of Wikipedia. (Those things are rightly found in the policy documents and user essays, but don't need to be reinterpreted here, especially not in the context of two long-running editing disputes.)

    Besides, the consensus on Wikipedia is not that real-world usage always prevails—though it often does, justifiably—just look at the citation system for evidence of consensus in favour of an invented system not found externally. The point is that Wikipedia can choose to follow whatever the community wants, and isn't necessarily bound to the real-world norm as a matter of policy. If doing something differently makes the encylopedia better, then it's a valid course of action. But if following someone else's lead (be it BIPM or traditional American usage) leads to a better encyclopedia, then that's appropriate as well. If we want to decide what Wikipedia's broad objectives ought to be, we should discuss that at WP:VPP. TheFeds 17:38, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

  • TheFeds, I think my edit regarding the percent sign and MiB, etc., was in haste. I misunderstood the impact of your change when I was looking at the edit-diff. Looking at the actual text, I think your version was an improvement and have no objection at all if you change that section back. I would offer to do it myself, but I will give you the liberty of changing it so it is sure to meet with your satisfaction. Greg L (talk) 17:42, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
  • P.S. That was easy enough. I restored it to the version you made. Sorry for the inconvenience. Greg L (talk) 17:54, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Thanks, Greg. I'm glad that the misunderstanding is behind us. Looks like you beat me to the change, and that section is definitely alright now. TheFeds 17:57, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

I actually end up back where I started. I asked for a stand off of edits and to take it to talk page rather than continually change the policy article itself. I am sorry Greg L that you are offended that a mere article editor like me might have an interest in the guidelines under which he is supposed to edit articles, and impinging on your space by it not going the right way to discuss changes while you were away (and frankly it was going quite nicely, with very few edits and plenty of discussion before changes were made). As for history etc etc, well, who cares? I look at the article and see the problems NOW, not as they were seven years ago. Since 85% of my edits are in article space not WP space or template space or whatever, I just want to come here, note a problem, get consensus, etc. While it is useful (sincerely) that other kinds of WP editors take time to make sure MOS etc are correct, I simply am not going to get bound up in this, but it annoys me that it smacks of WP:OWNERSHIP almost. The veiled thing about "New editors" I assume refers to me. If it does, just say so, I can take it. I didn't realise longevity was a criterion ("take MOSNUM away from the long-standing ways things have always been done" – excuse me while I bring the boy down the chimney and teach him to type a response to that).

MOSNUM actually had a period of stability where I could actually rely on it for a bit. I think now I give up and will just stick to, say, the convert template talk where, if there are problems or additions needed for articles, User:Jimp and many other helpful folk there actually sort it out and, if us poor article editors are mistaken, kindly and politely tell us so. What is the problem here? Have I hit the nail on the head? It seems to me, right now, that there is a kinda warring faction with Greg L, Noetica and PMA some long-standing editors that none of us mere mortals are privy to, and only they have the right of an opinion on MOSNUM? Can you point me to maybe a meta-policy that says so?

Perhaps I am not in the best of moods, so for that I apologise in advance. But MOSNUM is supposed to be here to HELP PEOPLE WRITE ARTICLES, not as some navel-gazing activity. It does not help me write articles if it is constantly changing under my feet, and what in other contexts would be characterised as an edit war has taken place in the last couple of days. C'mon, folks, you are supposed to be the best of the best to edit something as crucial as this. Live up to that responsibility.

Best wishes. SimonTrew (talk) 00:47, 19 August 2009 (UTC)

Anomalies in the template for converting measurements.

I have discovered an anomaly with using the 'convert' template. Look at this:

4,700 square miles (12,000 km2)
4,699 square miles (12,170 km2)

When converted into square kilometres, 4699 sq miles comes out 170 km2 more than 4700 sq miles. Lose one square mile, gain 65.6 square miles!

I think the problem may occur because of rounding when a number ends in two zeros.

Therefore it is risky to rely blindly on the conversion template. It may give anomalous results.

Please let me know if this issue should be raised elsewhere. Michael Glass (talk) 06:45, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

{{convert|4700|mi2|sigfig=4}} gives 4,700 square miles (12,170 km2). You just have to use the significant figures setting. For many articles that rounding is appropriate; if you write 4,700 nobody is going to expect it to be exactly that. If you write 4,699 they will expect it to be exactly that. SimonTrew (talk) 12:07, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
Well, in my humble view, this is another reason not to use a conversion template, but to allow fellow editors, including newbies, maximum control over all aspects of the construction. I'm all for keeping it simple, and if that means using a calculator, so be it. Tony (talk) 12:57, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
I disagree. If a newbie just throws the numbers in, a more experienced editor can use {{convert}} later. The thing about using the template, if e.g. something changes in MOS then EVERY article that uses it will get that change. SimonTrew (talk) 13:45, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
Well I do agree to the extent that it can be fiddly to get right and there are some things it simply can't do. But on the whole, if you can do it with the template, you should. SimonTrew (talk) 13:53, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

I think the trouble is that as the rounding cuts in automatically unless it is overriden. The default position can be a trap for the unwary. An over-precise conversion can be overridden; the opposite may not be noticed by the uninformed.Michael Glass (talk) 14:08, 8 August 2009 (UTC)

The template reads the precision of the input number and matches the precision of the output accordingly. This is in accord with the MoS and normal mathematical practice. There is no anomaly. An over-precise conversion can be overridden, sure, but are the uninformed any more likely to fix an over-precise than an under-precise one? In the majority of cases the template will not give the wrong precision. 4,700 sq mi ≈ 12,000 km2 is correct as is 4,699 sq mi ≈ 12,170 km2. It is the conversion templates without this type of default rounding which are more prone to produce output with incorrect precision. To those unwary I can only say "Get wary." JIMp talk·cont 15:11, 8 August 2009 (UTC)
It's a bit of a circular argument that it conforms with MoS since this is a discussion on a subpage of the MoS.
I do agree however that yeah if you put in 4,700 it is unlikely it is going to be exactly 4,700 (of whatever) and so misleading to a ridiculously over-precise value. If you pur in 4,699 presumably you mean that (and not 4,698 or 4.701) and should be converted more accurately. It comes down to common sense. My little book here gives logs and other things such as trig functions to 8 sig figs. Most floating point maths used in computers is at double-precision and has about 12 sig figs (decimal) in the mantissa. If it is good enough for rocket science and subatomic modelling (and it is cos I have programmed it) then I think it ridiculous to be more precise than that. There are all kinds of more precise representations but in real science and engineering that is plenty: in fact single precision (5 or 6 sig figs decimal) is usually good enough, but with modern processors using a double is as fast, if not faster, than a single. And the same applies to humans as computers. Of course propagation errors may occasionally require higher representations in intermediate results, but on Wikipedia that hardly applies, unless the underlying templates are so off that they preduce an obviously bizarre result such as 1 cm = 1.00001 cm or whatever.
I see no problem here. These templates are a bit fiddly and I am sure if we were starting from scratch we would change a lot of things, but we aren't and we can't. It is one of those things an editor just has to do. The {{cite}} templates are also trick but everyone expects those to be used. SimonTrew (talk) 04:55, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
If we put the template in question up against a statistically representative sample of typical editors with calculators, I'd put my money behind the template to give the most appropriate levels of precision for the typical measurements you find on Wikipedia. JIMp talk·cont 08:06, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

The behaviour contradicts the principle of least surprise, but as a mathematician I think this is one of the situations where that is actually justified. Besides, I don't see how we can avoid it. Consider:

0.47000 square miles (1.2173 km2) 4.7000 square miles (12.173 km2) 47.000 square miles (121.73 km2) 470.00 square miles (1,217.3 km2) 4,700.0 square miles (12,173 km2)
0.4700 square miles (1.217 km2) 4.700 square miles (12.17 km2) 47.00 square miles (121.7 km2) 470.0 square miles (1,217 km2) 4,700 square miles (12,000 km2)
0.470 square miles (1.22 km2) 4.70 square miles (12.2 km2) 47.0 square miles (122 km2) 470 square miles (1,200 km2) 4,700 square miles (12,000 km2)
0.47 square miles (1.2 km2) 4.7 square miles (12 km2) 47 square miles (120 km2) 470 square miles (1,200 km2) 4,700 square miles (12,000 km2)
0.5 square miles (1.3 km2) 5 square miles (13 km2) 50 square miles (130 km2) 500 square miles (1,300 km2) 5,000 square miles (13,000 km2)

Notice that in the last column we always write 4,700, whether we mean 2, 3 or 4 significant digits. Similarly, in the penultimate column it's not clear whether 470 has 2 or 3 significant digits. The template needs to guess. We can't make it guess correctly in all situations, but if it makes sure to under-, rather than overestimate the number of significant digits in doubtful cases, then it's more likely to be wrong right than if it does the opposite. And even if the template gets the intended number of significant digits wrong, then except in situations where a human reader can infer it from the context it is usually correct and encyclopedic to round the numbers.

But there is an unrelated anomaly in the top right cell of the table. I am taking this to Template talk:Convert, because it's clearly a bug that needs fixing. Hans Adler 09:40, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

¶ I don't see the anomaly at first glance, Hans. If you're being so precise as to specify 4,700.0 square miles, then you are giving 5 significant digits, which are converted to 5 significant metric digits. The range is between 4,699.95 sq. miles and 4,700.05 sq. miles; otherwise the figure would be either no more than 4,699.9 square miles or no less than 4,700.1 square miles —— Shakescene (talk) 21:05, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

Do we really need this whole conversion business at all? As stated above, the conversion is not 100% reliable and it's not "official info" anyway. Maybe we should just use English units in American/British articles and metric units everywhere else. Offliner (talk) 10:29, 9 August 2009 (UTC)

But this is the English-LANGUAGE Wikipedia, not tied to any one country.
In the UK and Ireland metric is commonly mixed with Imperial units in everyday life; in the UK some things such as road distances and heights, and pints of beer served on draight, MUST be measured in Imperial; in Canada metric is most commonly used, with occasional use of US Customary simply because of the close ties with the US; in Australia and New Zealand exclusively metric and so on.
Last night I was talking to someone from mexico and said that Cambridge was about 80 km from London, whereas I would never say that to an English person (I would say about 50 miles). Yes, the conversions need to exist. Again, if using {{convert}} and the MoS then says "don't use conversions except in this or that circumstance" we can probably change the templates and 90% of articles will immediately conform (the remainder being for things like historical use of units, or quoted sources, etc). So, even if the conversion is not particularly useful in itself, simply as a marker that "this is a measurement" is. I know {{val}} also stands for that purpose but the same applies, mutatis mutandis. It is also extremely helpful for people translating across different Wikipedia (what am I supposed to do, for example, if I translate a French article about an American car?) SimonTrew (talk) 10:51, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
To Hans: I would not write 4,700 if only the first two digits are significant: instead, I'd write 4.7 thousand; likewise, I'd not write "50" if only the first digit is significant (third cell of bottom row): I'd write "fifty" (or even "about fifty", if appropriate). And I'd like the template to assume that the zero in "50" is significant, for this reason. I once read about an editor converting numbers such as 187, 190, 191, and 194 and being surprised that the second one was converted with less precision. --A. di M. 13:12, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
Just noticed a bug: {{convert|470.00|mi2|km2}} gives 470.00 square miles (1,217.3 km2), with one 0 after the point instead of two. --A. di M. 13:25, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
I might say 4.7 thousand square metres too, though many don't, and the template has the capacity for a number of such constructions. However, if you see "4,700", the safest assumption is that it's precise to the nearest 100. As for the bug mentioned above, it should be fixed as soon as an admin puts in the new code. JIMp talk·cont 17:48, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
Hum... maybe for 4,700 I agree, but in cases such as 5,000 I think that assuming that none of the zeroes is significant is excessive. When giving numbers with two sigfigs, there is a 1-in-10 chance that the second one is 0. So I'd assume that numbers such as 500,000 have two significant digits. What do you others think? --A. di M. 22:15, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
Which should generally boil down to giving an output of at least two significant figures which is just what the template does. So, yeah, I think that's just about right. JIMp talk·cont 00:32, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
No, it should assume at least two significant digits in the input, not in the output. 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) is excess precision. --A.  di M. 23:48, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

I think a template that automatically treats a zero as not a significant figure is a bit of a worry. Take the areas of the states of the United States. it would be bizarre to think that the areas of the states of Washington and North Dakota were less accurately surveyed than the other 48 states simply because the areas in square miles happened to end in two zeros [17]. Michael Glass (talk) 13:02, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

So, your first step is to compare these with the areas of other states and base your rounding on that. Without this comparison how else could you justify assuming the zeros were significant? Zeros may or may not be significant whether you use the template, a calculator or do the conversion in your head, you have to deal with this. With nothing else to go on standard practice is to regard the zeros as not significant (and generally they aren't). JIMp talk·cont 13:42, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
My 2003 Statistical Abstract of the United States (Table No. 359) converts North Dakota's 70,700 sq. mi. (yes MOSNUM fanatics: sq. mi. is their official U.S. Government statistical abbreviation, periods and all, not some archaic idiosyncrasy of mine) to 183,112 sq. km. (their usage again) and Washington's 71,300 as 184,665. (I might be able to dig out the actual acreage, square feet or square meters from somewhere in my desktop's archives.) Just as in the debate over what to introduce between quotation marks, sometimes there's no substitute for checking the source, nor for making your degree of precision clear to the ordinary, non-technical reader. —— Shakescene (talk) 21:05, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

Treating a number ending in a zero as being automatically less accurate than a number ending in any other numeral strikes me as some kind of magical thinking. Obviously there are times when the zero is not significant, but by taking it for granted that it is always non-significant is like some kind of superstition, where inaccuracies come in even tens and hundreds just as bad luck is supposed to come in threes. These things need to be judged on a case by case basis. Michael Glass (talk) 14:00, 12 August 2009 (UTC)

It may seem like magic but it's a pretty standard approach which in the vast majority of cases gives appropriate results. Of course there will be cases where the zero is significant but the template makes allowance for that. If you prefer the calculator, there's nothing wrong with that but you'll still have to know what you're doing. JIMp talk·cont 15:30, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree with Jimp. There is a clear difference in implied precision between using 4000 and 4000.0 when specifying a measurement. The default should be to use standard scientific convention for specification of precision. Any "anomalous behavior" can be corrected on a case-by-case basis. Often this is caused by the choice of units, e.g. 4 km vs. 4000 m. However, there are some cases where uniformity in units is desired and there can be unintended results. (For example, the areadisp in {{infobox settlement}}) Plastikspork (talk) 16:36, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
It's not magical thinking, it's user friendliness. The only reasonable alternative would be for the template not to guess a precision and simply print a red error message when no precision is provided explicitly. That wouldn't exactly encourage editors to use it.
A better example of magical thinking in this context is nonsense such as the claim in the article Vienna that the city had 1,680,266 inhabitants in the 1st quarter of 2009. I hope that's not true, because a completely constant number of inhabitants over 3 months can only be achieved with very rigorous methods that I would probably suffer from when I move there. The same editors who insist on writing out even the last digit in such a case (it happens in all the best encyclopedias, not just Wikipedia) would shy away in horror from the claim that when computed using a certain well-defined algorithm based on well-defined official data, the average population of a certain village in 2008 was "1680.266 inhabitants". Hans Adler 20:40, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
Hans, I cannot express how much I enjoyed your comment. Well put. Studerby (talk) 01:30, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

Automatic currency converter button idea

Wondering if someone's smart enough to write a template to do automatic currency conversions? I'd love to be able to put in something from which Wikipedia readers automatically choose what currencies they want the data in. Suppose NZ GDP is $42,052 (NZ$). And I put this in an article. Is there some way a user could click on a button next to the amount to switch the currency? Like, click, and it's $28K USD. Or, click, it's $42K NZD. Or, click some other currency? It would be really cool to have. Simpler variant: assume no inflation and its easier but less accurate. A simple template that translates NZ$ to US$ or vice versa based on today's exchange rate, and ignores inflation considerations or the passage of time. Complex variant: Suppose a fact about money was added on date X. But today it's date Y. So, information needed would be: money amount in NZ$ on date X; conversion rate NZ$ to US$ on date X; inflation (or deflation) of US currency between date X and date Y; lastly, date Y. Boom -- up-to-date accurate amount information. No way Encyclopedia Brittanica could ever do that. That would be really cool! As far as I can tell, Village Pump doesn't have any converter tools for inflation or currency conversions. Tomwsulcer (talk) 01:03, 17 August 2009 (UTC)tomwsulcer

There are good reasons why not. It depends so much on whether you are quoting an historical price at its historical value or current value: and, if at its current value, how you adjust for inflation (which inflationary index you use, e.g. retail price index, consumer price index, inflation based on the rise in cost of houses or mars bars or bread or any particular item); second, that since most currencies are on floating exchange rates the article will constantly change every time it is accessed, or, in the alternate, will need to state when and where the rate was taken from; third, that it would require use of a currency conversion site, and (assuming permission was granted to do that on a grand scale) which to choose?; fourth, that many currencies are not widely traded and so, for example, to convert danish krone into kenyan shillings is almost entirely meaningless; fifth, that even freely traded currencies such as US dollars have a variety of exchange rates: the spot rate given for today is not what you will get at a bureau de change, so which do you choose?
It is best to have the editor make those decisions, adding references to where the conversion came from if necessary, rather than make WP do it. In general prices are quoted ether in US dollars or in the prevailing currency of the article's subject (e.g. the local currency or historical currency). If a reader really wants a currency conversion not provided, they can look up a conversion site themselves, surely; and if they can't find it, then an automated tool is not likely to either. SimonTrew (talk) 14:45, 17 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree there can be problems with a currency converter template, particularly as time span lengthens from date of entry to date of readership. A time span of twenty to fifty years can seriously begin distorting values as you say, and any calculator would be problematic. But I still think a currency converter toggle switch, next to money figures, is a good idea, particularly for relatively-recent information (ie time between info added and info read), to convert currencies. Then inflation is miniscule. I see it primarily as an aid to readers. Some readers think in terms of US$ or a commonly used currency like the Euro; others will think in terms of their native currency. Why not permit readers the option to choose which figure they'd prefer? (And I don't think anybody would seriously want to convert a rarely-traded currency with another rarely-traded currency -- I doubt readers would expect Wikipedia to even try that). Stick to a pure currency converter (forget inflation). For example, in the article on New Zealand, there are many references to dollar amounts -- sometimes US$, sometimes NZ$ (technically, the policy is to use native currency like you say, but I bet many New Zealanders think in terms of US dollars, and foreigners won't know which is being referred to -- since NZ calls their money "dollars" too). I think there is consensus about particular exchange rates -- there's some variation, but not much. For example, $1 New Zealand dollar is worth about $.67 US dollars, and there are different rates today which vary only slightly from that amount, and I don't think such variation is a good excuse to ditch a good idea. At first, when I read the New Zealand article, I thought the figure $28,000 average GDP of New Zealanders was in New Zealand dollars -- it happened to be in US dollars so it threw me off -- the actual GDP figure is closer to $42,000 NZD, or about $28K US (numbers slightly off here -- I'm working from memory). But I'm saying that a simple toggle button next to money amounts, letting a reader a choice to switch from a native currency to a commonly traded currency (USD, Euros, pounds, yen perhaps) would be a (1) helpful (2) more accurate than letting readers mentally guess the exchange rate (3) easy to program (4) a nice extra which differentiates Wikipedia from book-bound static encyclopedias which has (5) numerous applications.Tomwsulcer (talk) 04:16, 18 August 2009 (UTC)tomwsulcer

¶ I'm too sleepy to go through all these points seriatim, but (with the blithe obliviousness of the technically-ignorant), I don't see insuperable obstacles on either side:

  1. After preliminary discussion here, this proposal should probably move over to one section or other of Wikipedia:Village pump, or perhaps a template project or talk page. Let us know where to follow the discussion once it's moved.
  2. What's needed by most readers is something that would convert a cited amount of money of whatever era into the reader's preferred currency now. When the number of pounds sterling, say, that a Victorian Englishman would exchange in 1850 for a U.S. Double Eagle of 1850 is a significant fact in itself, the conversion will usually already be in the text. The average reader would probably want to know the rough value of that 1850 double-eagle in the pounds (or euros or dollars) that he uses today, rather than having to do a second conversion from 1850 pounds to 2009 pounds.
  3. What's also called for is just a rough indication of a sum's value, not a precise conversion.
  4. When there's little bilateral exchange of two little-traded currencies, just let the template convert each into some relatively-universal currency, be it euros, US dollars or Special Drawing Rights, and then calculate a synthetic result that won't differ too much from what happens on those occasions when Kenyan shillings are traded directly for Danish krone. (That's the function of arbitrage, to exploit and thus flatten any discrepancies.) This kind of conversion happens all the time in the real world (e.g. translating Afrikaans texts into Catalan via some third language).
  5. Similarly for converting that 1850 double-eagle. First let the template convert its value then into today's US dollars and then into pounds sterling (etc.) of 2009.
  6. Because both the Danish krone and the Kenyan shilling have a real value in today's US dollars, even a hypothetical conversion — which may not represent the average of bilateral transactions in an active free market — isn't meaningless for the limited purpose of giving the Danish or Kenyan reader some idea of what a sum of shillings or krone would be worth to her. (What would be meaningless is pricing an 1850 double-eagle in imputed 1850 euros.)
  7. There are many things that Wikipedia changes daily, weekly or monthly. A table of currencies wouldn't be a big challenge so long as someone or some project is prepared to commit to meeting it regularly.
  8. But, on the other hand, one shouldn't be too sanguine or blasé about the slowness of inflation or the stability of exchange rates. Not so very long ago, the pound sterling jumped above US $2, and almost achieved parity with the euro, while the Canadian dollar reached near-parity with the U.S. dollar, before they sank back much closer to their historic relative values. And a few successive years of 5-8% inflation, as opposed to 1-3%, can make a great difference in a currency's value, both at home and abroad. So the conversion tables need to be relatively fresh. —— Shakescene (talk) 08:09, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
Shakescene, thanks for your comments. User Ohconfucius found a template which does currency conversions. But you have to be in edit mode to see it working: As of this week (data updated weekly), the exchange rate between the New Zealand and United States dollars is User:7/Template:fx.
I only gave the NZD amount; I didn't write the US$ value -- the template fished it from somewhere. The template is User:7/Template:fx It converts a number of different currencies into US dollars. And it seems to work; it picks off an exchange rate which seems right. And there's no button for users to click. Plus, there may still be bugs in it (if a space follows the second closing parenthesis, weird stuff seems to happen). Rather, it just converts currencies (doesn't account for inflation etc). And it's on a user talk page as opposed to an official Wikipedia page; so I had problems convincing other editors to use it. User Gadfium thinks the community needs to come to consensus before it can be widely used; Gadfium was skeptical that the conversion rates weren't being updated enough (last update = May; I'm writing this in August). Last, instead of asking a Wikipedia community member to constantly update tables, why can't we fish off currency conversion rates from an established non-Wikipedia site, and quote the site as the source? Tomwsulcer (talk) 19:25, 18 August 2009 (UTC)Tomwsulcer
Shakescene, thank you also for your comments. I am glad that maybe enumerating some of the problems let you, perhaps, come up with answers to them... that is called being productive! Thank you! As a small qualification, I was not suggesting the danish Krone was not widely traded, only that it is not traded much with the Kenyan shilling (and I better make sure I got the right spelling of Krone there since pre-euro all the Scandinavian countries had krona/krone etc but were spelt differently – of course it means crown – but let's correct it here before we move it to wherever you think it should go.
Yes, getting a currency feed each day (or hour, whatever) technically is no problem of course, it is what obligations does that place upon Wikimedia to get that feed? Or is the feed done client-side? Does the reader get a choice of where he gets the feed from (, msn money, etc)? Which rate to choose do you take the spot rate? I guess so, probably, since articles are likely to be talking about reasonably large amounts of money (in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, at the very least) not holiday cash.
My concern with it changing all the time is for those taking printouts etc. The printout will almost inevitably differ from that of some other's printout, i.e. the article is not stable. Now of course, articles are edited all the time and so any printout is no more than a snapshot of what it was at a particular time, but it seems this adds a new level of instability that, as far as I can tell, does not exist elsewhere on WP. So not only are we making a new little app, but I think fundamentally changing the expectatins of wikipedia: although we expect pages to change, we don't expect the same version of the same page to produce different results each time we look at it.
Tomwsulcer well, it seems I am the gainsayer and perhaps it has legs. I still think it is too complicated to do, but it might be worth a try if some developer wants to take it. I am quite willing to try (I am a software developer but have not developed for WP before and would not know where to start.)
Best wishes to you both SimonTrew (talk) 01:49, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for your intelligent thinking. SimonTrew, I was wondering about the issue of changes and printouts and instability too. And I'm thinking that we're still focused on encyclopedias like Brittanica (printed, fixed, static) being what we're trying to emulate, but Wikipedia is computer-based as we know with much richer possibilities. So, I think the way to think about it is not to presume that the "snapshot" static fixed-page Brittanica-type photocopy is accurate -- this presumes a static world. But of course we live in an ever-changing world in which accuracy should mean "approximation to the real state of events" and not something fixed. Currencies change in value. Inflation happens. And what Wikipedia should strive for, in my view, is trying to be as accurate as possible, as up-to-date, reflecting the true state of affairs when the reader reads. In that sense, a currency converter button is much more accurate than a fixed-page or "stable" article if it can get the converted currency values right. If reality is unstable, Wikipedia should reflect that reality. Dynamic is good; static is problematic. We want instability. Tomwsulcer (talk) 14:52, 19 August 2009 (UTC)Tomwsulcer
Wondering what's the next step here. One problem -- this discussion happens in several places. Should we make a project page which becomes the main focus for this stuff? Or should we move it to the Village Pump? Tomwsulcer (talk) 14:52, 19 August 2009 (UTC)Tomwsulcer
Also, I agree with comments that these efforts might be parts of larger initiatives such as translation tools and such. In general, I favor interactivity. So Wikipedia could become more like a science museum exhibit -- click on this, X happens; push that, Y lights up. This would be so much more interesting and informative than flat static articles.Tomwsulcer (talk) 14:52, 19 August 2009 (UTC)Tomwsulcer

For present amount of money, there would be little problem having a converting template, but I'd suggest that: 1) it rounds conversions down to one significant figure (or two, if that lone one would be a "1" or a "2"—this can be implemented via {{#expr: {{{1}}} round -floor(ln(0.4*{{{1}}})/ln10)}}) and precedes them with "approx."; for example, 10,000,000 Swedish kronor (approx. US$1.4M, €1.0M, or £800k as of Aug. 2009), or 42,052 New Zealand dollars (approx. US$30k, €20k, or £17k as of Aug. 2009); 2) that, if possible, whoever updates the conversion rates uses a moving average over a sufficiently long period of time rather than an instantaneous value (if we can find a source giving them). This way, the converted figures don't change whenever the wind blows. --___A. di M. 16:18, 19 August 2009 (UTC)

Yeah, I like the idea of a moving average. Presumably these would be stored essentially in a table on a subpage of the template or something; this would be good because it would give the historical record for those going back through revision histories etc (I can imagine the fun when someone says "It printed completely the wrong rate" and it's not reproducible cos the rate has changed since). A month would seem to be about right, I think, for "a sufficiently long period of time" and by no coincidence also fits with the way you put the date (I know you wouldn't abbreviate the month in a real article as it is forbidden by MoS, but even so it is probably best simply to put month-year rather than day-month-year and update the averages about once a month. Of course if there is a currency crash or something some special measures might be needed to reflect that, but since one can get a dead cat bounce and so on, it is probably no big deal, especially with the deliberately vague "As of month-year").
I must admit I'm warming to the idea, though as A. di M. implies I like that it is just in plain text and not a button. Personally I like that WP is not so cluttered with eye candy etc. seems to have suffered that fate; it was much nicer when you could just go to and get the rates for common currencies right there on the front page.
I still am a bit worried about what licensing etc Wikimedia might need to use a conversion site on a wholesale basis; other sites such as for Bible links etc are used in templates so presumably there is some process to obtain permission, but I don't know of it, it's not my area of expertise at all.
Now, A. di M. gives examples in USD, GBP and EUR, but where will it end, Australian and New Zealand dollars, Canadian dollars, Indian rupees etc? I suppose the template will have options for which to show and which not to, but that opens another can of worms, i.e. what on MOSNUM (or MOSCUR or whatever) do we recommend? USD and EUR would seem to be essential; perhaps GBP considering the extensive UK readership, but NZ and AU dollars are perhaps the grey area that would be argued over. It would be useful to get feedback from our antipodean editors about whether they are used to seeing conversions just to say USD or whether it is essential to give it in Australian dollars, and if so whether in NZ dollars (are NZers used to seeing prices in Aus. dollars and doing a mental conversion anyway?) Of course for some articles it will be obvious that Aus. or NZ. dollars are needed, but I can see this being a big grey area.
I agree all these discussions should be wrapped up and put in one place. I don't know where best to put it but for myself I have no trouble if you move my comments of this page to wherever it goes (let me know please!). SimonTrew (talk) 17:12, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I was thinking of something such as conversion rates updated on the 1st of each month to the average rate over the previous month. As for plain text vs. button, maybe with Javascript it would be possible to show that as 10,000,000 Swedish kronor (approx. US$1.4M as of July 2009V) (or even 10,000,000 Swedish kronor (approx. US$1.4MV as of July 2009) if they are always all updated at the same time), with as many currencies as practically possible in the drop-down menu. As a fall-back for users without Javascript, or if it'd be technically infeasible to do that, and when the page is printed, etc., I'd use US dollars, euros, and pounds sterling, as being three of the four most used currencies in the world (the remaining one being the yen, which isn't very familiar outside Japan, where there are few native English speakers), as well as the ones already suggested in MOS:CURRENCY. --___A. di M. 18:05, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
As for "Aug" (in what I called the fall-back), the MoS says, "Abbreviations such as Feb are used only where space is extremely limited, such as in tables and infoboxes." Now, here space isn't actually limited in the sense that there is an upper bound, but it is in the sense that you want the parenthesis to be as small as possible. --___A. di M. 18:14, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
I did a little fiddling around and came up with something that (I think) accomplishes what you are talking about, at least in the sense of the non-javascript version. Pretty barebones but I believe functional (and pretty easy to modify to suit), but feel free to test it out a little and see if this is a good foundation for what you are looking for and can be built upon. It is currently at {{User:Shereth/Templates/Currency|number|currency}}, where "number" is the amount, obviously, and "currency" is the ISO code for the currency in question. There is also an optional parameter to link to the currency's page. Thus 20,000 Brazilian reals can be converted with {{User:Shereth/Templates/Currency|20000|BRL|link=on}} gives you 20,000 Brazilian reals (approx. US$10,000, €7,000 or £6,000 as of August 2009). Should work for most currencies. Shereth 21:18, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
I would have implemented it a different way, with a subtemplate for each currency (as {{convert}} does, if I can understand at least the outermost level of that beast correctly). That way, you'd avoid giving e.g. conversions from pounds to themselves, and you might link obscure currencies but not famous ones by default. I'll give a try. --___A. di M. 11:23, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
(On further thought, that'd be a maintenance nightmare. --___A. di M. 12:09, 20 August 2009 (UTC))
A couple of conditional statements should weed out GBP -> GBP conversions and the like. I figured consolidating the currency conversion values all in a single subtemplate would make for simpler updating of the values from month to month. Shereth 14:19, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
BTW, you could use a /round subtemplate, instead of writing the code for the rounding thrice and the code for each conversion twice. --___A. di M. 18:23, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm wondering what the status of this project is. Is the toggle button idea (active click by the user to switch currencies) realistic? Or a template-based converter realistic (several currency values appear chosen by the editor and not the user)? Wondering what the status is. Tomwsulcer (talk) 14:47, 21 August 2009 (UTC)Tomwsulcer
Template-based conversion is pretty easy to implement. I've already half-done it, it just needs a little tweaking, formatting, and so-on in order to be put in to use. A toggle button is somewhat beyond me (I'm not proficient in Javascript) but I don't think the idea is too far out of reach. Shereth 14:49, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
Template-based conversions I think work but I'm wondering whether the Wikipedia community must first recognize them as valid. I've had a case in the New Zealand article in which an editor rejected one of the currency-converter templates on the grounds that it had not yet received approval by the Wikipedia community. It was on a "user page", according to editor = Gadfium, and therefore invalid. Is a next step to get currency-converter templates deemed "official" by the Wikipedia community? Tomwsulcer (talk) 17:45, 21 August 2009 (UTC)Tomwsulcer
If we want to move forward with the idea of using the template, I'd suggest a little more discussion to hammer out any issues with it and then simply move it to template space once it is at a state that we like. Shereth 17:53, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't think templates have to be "approved" for use or something; after creating {{radic}} I sought no-one's approval before using it in articles. But I would definitely not use a template in user space in an article; templates used in articles should be maintainable by the community (except protected ones, but that usually only happens to already-established ones), but most editors will refuse editing pages in someone else's user space. --___A. di M. 18:40, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

Querying "nineteenth-century painting"

The guideline for naming centuries (here and at WP:MOS) has been hotly contested, and I do not think we are ready to go back to that topic yet. But I am interested in just one provision:

Centuries are named in figures: (the 5th century CE; 19th-century painting); when the adjective is hyphenated, consider nineteenth-century painting, but not when contrasted with painting in the 20th century.

I would like to change the provision to this, to remove what I regard as an unsourced and probably unprecedented invitation to inconsistency:

Centuries are named in figures: the 5th century CE; 19th-century painting.

Can anyone cite a reputable guide that allows for nineteenth-century painting even in the same text (let alone contrasted with) as painting in the 20th century? If no one does, I will proceed with the change. (Even if someone does, I would invoke more major guides that do not support such an inconsistency.)

¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 06:19, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

I would have thought, even when it is to be read by the Masters of MoS, that "but do not consider nineteenth-century painting when contrasted with painting in the 20th century", which is the plain meaning of the key clause, would have been condescending and verbose. Guess not. I will amend accordingly. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 06:29, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
  • In the process, I settled on "but do not consider it when..."; the referent of it ought to be plain. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 06:36, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
PMAnderson, the matter has been raised for discussion, and a specific question was put forward for editors to respond to. Please do not pre-empt such discussion; and please focus on the question that I have raised. While the matter is under focused discussion, it is not appropriate to shift or dissipate the focus. For that reason I am reverting your edit, and I await your response to the clear point that I raise in this section.
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 07:34, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
I must say that your original question is not at all clear to me. Can you check it for typos (e.g., did you make the shift from "19th" to "nineteenth" because it's your main point or is it accidental???) and clarity? Hans Adler 07:57, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
Well, I must allow that the question may not have been clear. It is free of typos, though, and I cannot see how it can be construed in any way other than what I intended. Hans, I can only think that the confusion arises because the guideline as presently worded is really strange!
Let me put it this way:
The guideline in its present form (correctly cited above) suggests that nineteenth-century painting is acceptable instead of 19th-century painting. It only excludes nineteenth-century painting when this would be "contrasted with painting in the 20th century" (to quote verbatim). What I ask is this: why should we ever want nineteenth-century painting in an article? The central point of our guideline proposes these forms: the 5th century CE and 19th-century painting. Should an article have nineteenth-century painting at all, then? That would be inconsistent with other usages in the same text that do follow our guideline, perhaps like painting in the 20th century at several paragraphs distance from the spelled-out form we are talking about.
I asked, and still ask, is there any reputable style that permits nineteenth-century painting as well as, somewhere far from that phrase, something like painting in the 20th century and 21st-century computer art? In the same text? (Never mind "when contrasted with"!) I suspect there is no such style guide, but I am waiting for an answer.
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 08:26, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
See A. di M.'s comments above; it is unlikely for a style guide to mention such a point at all. But this begs the question; show us one that permits both forms - as we should - and forbids their presence on the same page. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 15:56, 19 August 2009 (UTC)

You are right. You were clear and I simply wasn't sufficiently concentrated. Sorry! And yes, I support making it completely uniform for simplicity. Hans Adler 08:40, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
Noetica is clear, and clearly mistaken. The guideline, as it stands, means:
Centuries are named in figures: (the 5th century CE; 19th-century painting); when the adjective is hyphenated, consider nineteenth-century painting, but do not consider it when contrasted with painting in the 20th century.
I am perfectly willing to add the bolded words, since "but not when..." seems to be confusing; indeed I did, and Noetica reverted me. But, short or long, this advises against using nineteenth-century painting and painting in the 20th century in the same context.
Noetica's question therefore is like "when did you stop beating your wife?": tendentious, inflammmatory, and irrelevant to the issue at hand. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 12:35, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

(outdent) i support changing the provision to just "Centuries are named in figures: the 5th century CE; 19th-century painting." it's simple, clear and consistent. Sssoul (talk) 08:36, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

  • Strongly oppose, also wrong. This is the besetting problem of MoS; the declaration that "I don't happen to write this way, therefore let's make a rule that nobody else can". Septentrionalis PMAnderson 12:35, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
I have now twice clearly asked my question. Because of the confusing way the guideline is worded (with an addition that you are responsible for some time ago, as I recall), the guideline itself is hard to make sense of. For everyone's benefit, and especially for you, I will make the point another way, and pose two distinct questions, with some preliminaries:
The guideline certainly allows that the 5th century CE and 19th-century painting may occur in the same article. Call these standard forms, for our convenience here, OK? Now, the guideline also seems to allow that the spelt-out form nineteenth-century painting may occur in the same article as those standard forms, provided only that nineteenth-century painting is not near those standard forms. That is the best sense I can make of the current wording: "but not when contrasted with painting in the 20th century". If another sense is intended, it is utterly obscure; and your recent suggestion merely confirms that this is the sense of the current guideline. Now, here are two good questions:
  1. Why should nineteenth-century painting be allowed anywhere in the same article as the standards forms? That is plain inconsistency, and therefore against one of our major principles. What style guide recommends such an inconsistent practice? I have not seen one, and I would like someone to produce evidence of such a guide.
  2. Beyond the matter of consistency within an article, why should the form nineteenth-century painting be allowed at all, anywhere in any article? Most of us want consistent, simple guidelines to settle needless disputes, and to guide editors. Look at the many fine articles in Category:Centuries, where editors strive for elegant and efficient uniformity in these matters. Why undo that effort?
If you can't provide precedent from any reputable style guide for your complex old wording (or your complex proposed new wording, which has the same meaning), and if others prefer a plain simple guideline, we should change the wording to this:

Centuries are named in figures: the 5th century CE; 19th-century painting.

¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 14:01, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
I have just responded to both those points, but let me try recasting - especially since there is a third red herring, . I will await a little more evidence before resorting to dispute resolution on this confused and obnoxious thread.
  • The present wording says nothing, for or against, on using painting of the 20th century at one end of an article and nineteenth-century painting at the other. Why does Noetica assume it does? Whether those are a clash depends on the taste of the individual editor. Why do we need to rule on it, except to satisfy a will to power? That's the red herring.
  • Does Noetica deny that nineteenth-century painting is English usage, which a literate editor e may well write, and a literate reader see, without complaint? If xe does not, then we have no reason to prevent it, save the base satisfaction of compelling all Wikipedia to follow the tastes of a handful of meddlers here.
  • Since the present text advises against what everybody agrees is undesirable - a meaningless failure of parallellism - what's the problem with it? I have no objection to striking the whole clause, if it confuses people. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 14:18, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
What or who exactly is "obnoxious" here? No one has rushed to edit, apart from you! Three times I ask my questions, and three times you refuse to answer – or cannot answer. What reputable guide supports anything like the inconsistency you suggested when you tampered non-consensually with this guideline in the first place, some months ago?
To answer your question, even if you ignore mine:

PMA's question: The present wording says nothing, for or against, on using painting of the 20th century at one end of an article and nineteenth-century painting at the other. Why does Noetica assume it does?
Noetica's answer: I don't assume that it does that! I think it should make it clear that the two quite different forms are not to be used in one article; but it suggests that it might be all right, by saying in effect only that the two forms should not be in close proximity. That's what "contrasted with" must involve, if it means anything at all.

¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 14:41, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
You have received three paragraphs of answer (which are themselves not new); you acknowledge this by responding to them; you then complain that you have gotten none. What you have failed to get is agreement - but this is because you are insisting on two (inconsistent) useless and meddlesome conventions, which many competent writers will simply ignore, as most of MOS's half-educated wikicreep should be ignored.
  • That Wikipedia should never use nineteenth-century painting. Why not? It's perfectly good and natural English.
  • That Wikipedia shouldn't use nineteenth-century painting, if painting in the 20th century happens to occur in the same article. Arguable but silly.
Make up your mind which you support, or -better- abandon both, and let editors write any respectable variant of English. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 14:57, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
My two cents: 1) It's not like style guides must explicitly permit some constructions for them to be valid English; you just need that they don't forbid them. I'm quite sure there's no style guide stating that "the pronouns somebody and someone may be used in the same article", or even that "the number of items in a bulleted list may be a multiple of six", but this is no good reason to forbid using "somebody" and "someone" in the same article (or even banning "somebody" altogether), nor to forbid six-, twelve- and eighteen-item bulleted lists. 2) At least to me, all other things being equal, very small numbers look better when spelled out: e.g. "third century" rather than "3rd century". (But I would still be consistent with numbers of the same type, avoiding e.g. "third century" and "17th century", in the same section.) Anyway, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if all beholders around here believe otherwise, I'll follow suit and always use "3rd century", should I ever have to mention that period of time in an article. --___A. di M. 19:50, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
I concur with Hans, Sssoul, and Noetica that the new suggestion is ideal. We should change the text. --Andy Walsh (talk) 15:42, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
I also concur. One of the main point of a manual of style is to select among all the plausible variants a standardized one, to allow for greater consistency across articles. It seems that PMA is arguing that any form of standard English is acceptable here and that we ought not further constrain the variants to be used. I disagree; while I have no particular preference vis-a-vis "19th" versus "nineteenth", I think that the consistency of picking one and sticking to it in well-edited articles enhances the encyclopedia. Editors of course remain free to not follow the MOS in their submissions; and other editors will come along and make the important articles MOS-compliant. Studerby (talk) 19:34, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
Adding my "concur" to Noetica, Hans, Sssoul, Andy Walsh, and Studerby. Goodmorningworld (talk) 20:19, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
Adding my "concur" to Noetica, Hans, Sssoul, Andy Walsh, Studerby, and Goodmorningworld.  HWV258  22:30, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
However, per A. di M.'s edit above (giving "third century" as an example) I can see leaving wiggle room for the occasional exception. Does it need to be made explicit? I think not: overdrafting makes a guideline harder to absorb. Remember the caveat at the top of the MOS page, that should be sufficient. Goodmorningworld (talk) 22:45, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

[outdent] PMAnderson writes above: "You have received three paragraphs of answer ...". Whether those many paragraphs of prevarication qualify as "answers" is a matter for semantic analysis. One thing is clear: they are not answers to my questions.

I thank other editors for their clear responses. My comment on them: simple consistency is usually the best policy, and all the most influential style guides aim for that. But yes: there is always the provision for exceptions in practice, stated at the top of our MOS pages. Editors at an article can negotiate such things on their merits, aided by clear consensual guidelines from their Wikipedia Manual of Style. Outside of Wikipedia I myself prefer to use the fully worded forms like in the nineteenth century and twelfth-century French kings. But at Wikipedia, I adapt. So do we all. Almost all, I mean.

If there is no substantial support for the present unprecedented and obscure guideline, we should amend the text to the simpler form in a couple of days.

¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 23:05, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

Any answer to my question: "what's wrong with nineteenth-century?". Septentrionalis PMAnderson 23:47, 18 August 2009 (UTC)
Sure PMAnderson. If you will look immediately above what you just wrote, you will see that I have no objection to nineteenth-century paintings. In fact, I prefer it! I use that style, outside of Wikipedia. I have just said so. But the firmly established style at Wikipedia is otherwise. I say once more: look at the articles listed in Category:Centuries. Some of us adapt; nearly all of us do. A day might dawn when you understand the virtues of joining in this cooperative endeavour.
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 01:29, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
Thank you. But I am still discussing the adjective, with which we began, as in nineteenth-century painting; those are substantives. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 02:02, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
What on earth are you talking about, PMA? I am discussing all forms, explicitly including the adjectival. Look! Here, again:

Noetica wrote: Outside of Wikipedia I myself prefer to use the fully worded forms like in the nineteenth century and twelfth-century French kings.

And that twelfth-century is adjectival, is it not? On the other hand, your barely articulated rejoinder might refer to "the articles listed in Category:Centuries", which I now draw to your attention for a third time. Well, I did not say "look at the titles of the articles"; I said "look at the articles". The clear preference is for the adjectival form nnth-century xxxxx. It is not adhered to with complete uniformity, and that is a bad look. To improve those articles (and innumerable others), we have a Manual of Style with clear, rational, consensus guidelines – reflecting the evolved style on Wikipedia, where there is one.
Is there anything you feel like retracting at this stage, PMA? It wouldn't be the end of the world, you know. Please pay attention. You're wasting far too much of everyone's time. You expect answers, and you get them. You are asked questions, again and again: but you refuse to answer them.
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 02:58, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
Now your point is clear; I looked at the list of articles in Category:Centuries and saw nouns. A useful Manual of Style, which this will never be, would let you use nineteenth-century, and HWV258 use 19th-century, even if his only reason is that he doesn't like the longer form; but even if the preference were overwhelming, and it is not, it would suffice to say "most Wikipedians use". Septentrionalis PMAnderson 15:03, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
And, having looked at several of the century articles, I see neither nineteenth-century nor 19th-century (nor any other number), so I fail to be persuaded by Noetica's evidence. Section links? Septentrionalis PMAnderson 15:56, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
"wrong" is a pejorative way of looking at the issue. A Manual of Style provides guidelines for how editors prefer to see text in a publication. You should be asking the question: "why is consensus forming that prefers '19th' over 'nineteenth'?". Because one method is preferred doesn't make the other method "wrong". Cheers.  HWV258  00:09, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
No, there isn't. This page is too obscure and too ill-frequented to have any such consensus. But in fact, the real question is "what do we do when someone doesn't like what some small pool of editors like?" (in this case. 19th-century). Some people say "away with it: the six of us don't like it; you must use what we like," but the useful parts of MOS say what GregL says below: "don't use it then." That way we will find out those few cases in which Wikipedia as a whole has consensus; when article-space as whole (unmeddled by bots) overwhelmingly does something one way or the other. (We can then say "almost all Wikipedians do X," which is valuable information for editors, while it remains true.) Septentrionalis PMAnderson 00:31, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
Dictionaries might work the way that PMA wants (descriptionist instead of prescriptivist) but no Manual of Style ever has. Goodmorningworld (talk) 00:55, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
Then Manuals of Style are contrary to policy. GMW might also try consulting Otto Jespersen's A Modern English Grammar on Historical Principles. But first he might try the paragraph I just wrote, which does not say "why be prescriptivist?", it offers two alternatives when - as will happen with advice (like this proposal) not supported by English usage, but by the prejudices of six editors- other editors disagree. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 01:07, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
Please assume good faith. You use the word "prejudice" when you should use "point of view". (For the record, I guess I can assume that your "point of view" is not prejudiced?)  HWV258  01:16, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
No. A prejudice is a judgment reached before reasoning and evidence - I will modify the word to the extent that a preference for 19th-century is supported by either. So far it has not been. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 01:31, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm all for giving this issue time (in order to see which format prevails). Personally, I prefer "19th" to "nineteenth". The reason being that if you prefer "nineteenth", then I guess you also have to prefer "twenty-first-century", and I simply prefer the brevity of "21st-century". If I was writing in the style of a Victorian novel, I would use "nineteenth"; however I feel a briefer style is appropriate when imparting information in an encyclopaedia (hence "manual of style"). Nothing prejudiced about it.  HWV258  04:59, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
The expected response. You persist with your pejorative view of the "world". The real point being (apart from what I raised above is) that the MOS is a styleguide. It allows editors to check what is the established way of constructing something on WP. Of course, if an exception is needed (that is supported by local consensus), then so be it. Regarding, "This page is too obscure and too ill-frequented to have any such consensus"—that is a personal view (and of course anyone is welcome at MOS to add to the debate). Regarding "you must use what we like"—that isn't correct (rather that is what you believe will happen). In actuality, if there is a localised dispute, there are two practical options: start a discussion on the MOS to allow an exception, and/or start a local debate in order to enforce the exception to the guideline. Assume good faith is the key to this issue.  HWV258  01:12, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
Nonsense. I would be happy to see this page guide; what HWV258 wishes is to have it command. In English, at least, these are not synonymous terms. The claim that atarting a discussion on MOS is a practical solution is denied by experience; discussion elsewhere has been generally foiled by disruptive bots. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 01:31, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
"Enjoyable" to get to the stage in the debate where PMa's pronouncements begin with an imperative (Latin can't be far away now). A simple response: I don't wish the MOS to be a "command" (and have never stated that opinion). I think we're done (now that PMa's prejudices have once again risen to the surface). What a pity (especially in the light of calm discussion by everyone else).  HWV258  01:54, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
Noted. To HWV258, "Nonsense" is an imperative. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 01:57, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't understand your point. The use of "Nonsense" as an imperative was precisely the observation I was making.  HWV258  02:42, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes, you don't. You might, if you read imperative mood, find out that it is a form of a verb, and that this "Nonsense" is not one; nor is it a command but a description. . Septentrionalis PMAnderson 14:47, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
More disingenuity by Pmanderson. From imperative mood: "The imperative mood is a grammatical mood that expresses direct commands...". Your use of "Nonsense" was clearly intoned in that mood. I took your opening remark to be a command to all readers of this discussion to treat my comment as nonsense. Please also note from that page: "The use of imperative mood can easily be considered offensive or inappropriate in social situations due to universally recognized politeness rules". Regardless of the grammar, I find your mood to be offensive and uncivil. Please remain civil in these discussions—you will be taken more seriously if you do.  HWV258  22:46, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
Am I misreading this, or did HWV258 just assert that a grammatical mood is an emotional state? It isn't; it's a verb form. "Nonsense" wasn't a verb, let alone an imperative. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 23:26, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
The expected response. You persist with your pejorative view of the "world". The real point being (apart from what I raised above is) that the MOS is a styleguide. It allows editors to check what is the established way of constructing something on WP. Of course, if an exception is needed (that is supported by local consensus), then so be it. Regarding, "This page is too obscure and too ill-frequented to have any such consensus"—that is a personal view (and of course anyone is welcome at MOS to add to the debate). Regarding "you must use what we like"—that isn't correct (rather that is what you believe will happen). In actuality, if there is a localised dispute, there are two practical options: start a discussion on the MOS to allow an exception, and/or start a local debate in order to enforce the exception to the guideline. Assume good faith is the key to this issue.  HWV258  01:12, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
No, you must use what we like is what the present text says: Centuries are.... Experience shows that it will be enforced literally. If you don't mean that, rephrase it. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 15:49, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
A styleguide gives direction to those who are unsure of how to phrase. It also allows other editors to make articles consistent. In this case, and based on the following searches:
  • Google search of "nineteenth-century" results in 13,500,000 matches,
  • Google search of "19th-century" returns 73,400,000 matches,
  • WP search of "nineteenth-century" returns 3,911 matches,
  • WP search of "19th-century" returns 10,204,
you might care to have a rethink of your position (and understand why there is such support for the view opposite to yours). Regarding "rephrase it", it is not practical to phrase every part of a MOS in such terms. The overriding message at the top of the MOS gives the direction you require: "This part of the Manual of Style aims to achieve consistency in the use and formatting of dates and numbers in Wikipedia articles. Consistent standards make articles easier to read, write, and edit. Where this manual provides options, consistency should be maintained within an article, unless there is a good reason to do otherwise" (underlining is mine).  HWV258  23:20, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
Ah, proof by google; how nice. But what this actually shows is that nineteenth-century is a well-established form, even on the web, where brief forms are particularly favored. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 23:26, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
No, not "proof by Google" (and disengenuity has forced you to ignore that Google wasn't the only source mentioned). PMAnderson has done his usual trick of forming a position at the beginning of a discussion and then stubbornly refusing to shift from that position (despite evidence of any form). I responded with some statistics due to statements from you of the form: "not supported by English usage, but by the prejudices of six editors". I read your words and realised (once again) that you just make things up to suit your agenda. Do we really need to devolve into sub-debates when "not supported by English usage" is shown to be incorrect? Geez, say it isn't so.  HWV258  00:16, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
PMAnderson, I suspect you disagree with this concept, but I think most of us believe the Wikipedia editors form a community of practice (or discourse community, in Foucault's language) that will decide what is "right" and "wrong" by consensus. What emerges is the MoS. If we simply leave it wagging in the wind for every individual to decide, we have no community. --Andy Walsh (talk) 01:18, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
A point well worth considering; give me a minute. I doubt that these six "usual suspects" form a community of practice; I believe I agree with the rest of the first sentence. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 01:34, 19 August 2009 (UTC)
  • I do not believe that this decision, or most decisions at MOS, are reached by consensus; indeed, this section, and the claims made in the past few hours, are characteristic WP:Consensus#Process violations. "A handful of editors agreeing on something does not constitute a consensus, except in the thinnest sense. Consensus is a broader process where specific points of article [or guideline, here] content are considered in terms of the article as a whole, and in terms of the article's place in the encyclopedia, in the hope that editors will negotiate a reasonable balance between competing views."
  • If Andy Walsh's last sentence were true, then we would not have a community, no matter what MOS does; that is the process by which we write article text, to which this page - and all of WP space - is auxiliary. I do not think it is true, and it is one of the reasons why Foucault is a dangerous guide to praxis; but politics are off topic. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 01:54, 19 August 2009 (UTC)

Proposal to conclude this discussion

The question raised in this section has been settled, I think. No one wants the version we had except PMAnderson; everyone else who comments here explicitly prefers the simpler, clearer guidance. I would have waited longer (as I say above), but the simpler form is now in place. PMA, will you now accept this with good grace? I call on you to do so, and to remove the tag you imposed on the page, since it is obvious that nothing new will be transacted here.

Please see my talkpage also, where I have responded to your post.

¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 00:54, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

I don't particularly want the version we started with; I offered to change it twice, and changed it once. I would settle, indeed, for something phrased as advice; since the choice between nineteenth-century and 19th-century is a matter of taste, I don't care what approach we offer those who genuinely have no opinion, as long as we don't demand that those who do have an opinion change it.
Since advice is more convincing with a reason, I propose something like
the 5th century CE and 19th-century painting are shorter than spelling out the numbers.
or whatever other reason people would like; but
Many Wikipedians prefer the 5th century CE and 19th-century painting to the fifth century CE and nineteenth-century painting.
is fine for those who don't like to explain themselves. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 01:30, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
PMA, what in the expression good grace continues to elude you? If you don't understand what the community of MOS editors is trying to achieve here, it might be best for you to stay away longer than ArbCom has required of you. Just accept the reasoned consensus. None of your attempts to finesse a muddled solution out of an elegant and reasonable one will succeed, and you are wasting your time and everyone else's. And now see more at my talkpage.
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 03:31, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
Comment I don't want to derail the current proposals, but why can't we simplify this by using the same guidelines for writing normal numbers: numbers under 10 are spelled out; otherwise, use numerals. So, fifth century, but 19th century. Dabomb87 (talk) 03:40, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
Not a bad point, Dabomb. But as I hinted at the top of this section, we are not ready to deal with some things. I would add this matter of numbers under 10 versus over 10, which has caused much wrangling in the past. The practice on Wikipedia (and most other places, let me assure you) does not lean toward applying that principle to the naming of centuries (see the articles I refer to above: those in the centuries category); there are sound reasons for that, and even if there were not objective reasons, it would be far too disruptive to move and alter internally all those articles to comply. As it is, a much smaller number of articles are overdue for moving in any case.
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 03:51, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
Ah, that's fine then. I missed the valid point about the naming of centuries. I have no horse in this race, but to prolong this discussion much longer would be undesirable. Dabomb87 (talk) 03:54, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
If you don't understand what the community of MOS editors is trying to achieve Very well, explain it to me. What sublime goal is at the end of this tunnel, and how will insisting that all articles use 19th-century contribute to it? Septentrionalis PMAnderson 17:20, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
Consistency. (Ignoring the snark of "sublime"). Why is consistency valuable? Several reasons, IMHO. First, people who notice that there is a consistent style to the Wikipedia, from their surface observations of it, will immediately realize that Wikipedia is a structured project, not an Internet free-for-all. Second, editors who tend to pay attention to details in one area will, more likely than not, tend to pay attention to details in other areas. Most importantly to me, a consistent look to the work is valuable to me personally. While I personally have never more than barely touched an FA or GA, I take personal pride in the quality of those articles and the knowledge that I am contributing to a project that can produce work of that quality. I think that the community of MOS editors also values consistency; I think that's implicit in a manual of style, which of course describes the style choices that a project or work has chosen to adopt. Most editors also seem to value consistency; many who don't spend much effort on the MOS itself still refer to it regularly, and produce work that attempts to conform to it to some extent. Studerby (talk) 20:12, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
We will never have a consistent style, even if MOS - as it tends to - grows larger than article space. We are an Internet free-for-all; we are inconsistent; and MOS encourages us to be inconsistent in far more visible matters than the spelling of 19th century. Most of our editors don't read MOS - and the longer it gets, fewer will.
editors who tend to pay attention to details in one area will, more likely than not, tend to pay attention to details in other areas Not in my experience.
The quality of an article which conforms to MOS and has never been reviewed for content or writing is open to doubt. All too often, the noise of the Crusaders for one or another section of MOS drowns out or substitutes for actual evaluation of genuine merit. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 20:27, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
"even if MOS - as it tends to - grows larger than article space". Um... I've been laughing about that statement for several minutes now. Do you seriously mean that, or was that pure rhetoric? Studerby (talk) 01:06, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

[Outdent] PMAnderson, you are not addressing the topic. You hardly ever do, it seems. I started this section for the specific purpose of dealing with one provision in a guideline. There was not even an implicit invitation to discourse on the nature of consensus, or any such broader issue. We have now dealt with the specific topic, even though you steadily refused to answer questions (while others answered yours). What you are now doing is an abuse of the talkpage. Take your generalities elsewhere. At the very least start a new thread – if the topic is localised to WP:MOSNUM and its associated pages.

Since the discussion is now over, and you are on your soapbox concerning other matters, I am now removing the tag {{disputedtag|section=yes}} that you applied. Yes, we could turn our attention to the new section below (#Centuries).

¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 22:10, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

I answered your question: No, this is not acceptable to me. I offered two variants which are; if you have a preference between them, let me know. If you have reasons that either of them is undesirable, do let everybody know.
I then asked a question as to what you meant by ''what the community of MOS editors is trying to achieve, which you have not answered. No, I do not understand why MOS is heading towards a ruling on every word in the dictionary; some conjectures do suggest themselves, but I await an explanation.
What questions have I left unanswered? Septentrionalis PMAnderson 23:12, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
Unanswered, above:
  • "Can anyone cite a reputable guide that allows for nineteenth-century painting even in the same text (let alone contrasted with) as painting in the 20th century?" [The as should be shifted before the parentheses, I admit.]
  • "I asked, and still ask, is there any reputable style that permits nineteenth-century painting as well as, somewhere far from that phrase, something like painting in the 20th century and 21st-century computer art?"
  • "Why should nineteenth-century painting be allowed anywhere in the same article as the standards forms?" [With standards corrected to standard.]
You see PMAnderson, when you say "contrasted with", or "in the same context", we can't tell what you mean. We need to know about the whole article (which MOS is normally concerned with), not the immediate vicinity in which a "contrast" may be visible, or some ill-defined "context". Unless you say "in the same article", there is no indication that you intend it.
This is not to suggest that we take up the discussion again. All the action is over. Can we move on, now?
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 04:46, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Your first two questions have been answered by A. di M. above; they ask for the unlikely, that a style guide will expressly give permission on such a point.
  • Your last question begs the issue, twice:
    • by a unsupported claim that 19th-century is the standard form; if there is one, it is nineteenth-century, which several style guides recommend, but there are more likely to be two.
    • That English forms, commonly used by good writers, need the permission of a dozen editors. Is this so important to you that you have to rely on flimsy arguments like this, and the unsupported claim that 19th is "easier to maintain"? Why?
  • The discussion is not over; it's just moved down. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 20:50, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

Arbitration-related comments

For everyone's information, I have initiated a discussion here about behavior I have witnessed since editing restrictions were lifted for parties to the delinking case. --Andy Walsh (talk) 19:08, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for that, Andy. It seems there is no prospect of reasoning with that editor, who persists in slandering us and hindering our valuable work to maintain standards in Wikipedia's articles. Let's see what remedies there may be.
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 22:19, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
A link to Andy's other notification concerning this issue: Arbitration/Requests/Enforcement#Pmanderson.
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 12:08, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

Ranges of values

From the current revision of WP:MOSNUM#Conventions:

  • Numerical ranges of values are formatted as lower value-en dash-higher value-non breaking space-unit symbol (e.g., 5.9–6.3 kg, not 5.9 kg – 6.3 kg or 5.9 – 6.3 kg), or can be specified in written form using either unit symbol or unit names, and units can be stated either after both numerical values or after the last (e.g., from 5.9 to 6.3 kilograms, from 5.9 kilograms to 6.3 kilograms, from 5.9 to 6.3 kg and from 5.9 kg to 6.3 kg are all acceptable, but only one of these format should be in use in a given article).

As for the point about numerical ranges, sometimes it is useful to use different units for the endpoints, as IR-C in Infrared#CIE division scheme. So I'd rather write:

  • Numeric ranges are formatted with an unspaced en dash if the endpoints have the same unit which is only explicitly written at the end: e.g., 5.9–6.3 kg. They have a spaced en dash if both endpoints are followed by a unit (for example, because the units are different due to very different magnitudes): e.g., 3000 nm – 1 mm.

As for the point about prose (mysteriously called "written form" here), I don't see the point of mandating consistency in the article when it's explicitly not mandated for all other units. Now the MoS suggests that if in an article I write from 2 years to 200 years (to avoid the silly alliteration "... two to two ..." which omitting the first "years" would result in, and to follow the common-sense practice of avoiding using symbols for a unit in everyday usage with a very short name), then I'll have to write from 50 kilowatts per squared metre to 80 kilowatts per squared metre as well, whereas from 50 to 80 kW/m2 would clearly suffice (provided that the kilowatt per squared metre has been spelled out before). So I'd remove the "but only one of these ..." part, so that the general rule in the first bullet of that section can apply. --___A. di M. 13:26, 22 August 2009 (UTC)

The reasonable thing to do would be to rewrite as from 2 to 200 years..., IMO. Headbomb {ταλκκοντριβς – WP Physics} 01:36, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
from 2 to 200 years... doesn't seem to be to silly to me ... nor does the rule seem that sensible since it seems to ban the likes of from 4 to 8 inches (50–100 mm). Generally you don't want to write the unit symbol/abbreviation/name twice though occasionally you might but that shouldn't mean that you must do so throughout. JIMp talk·cont 13:33, 24 August 2009 (UTC)

Delimiting numbers and screen readers

The guidelines for delimiting numbers are fine for screen readers at the moment. However I think it's worth noting that screen readers don't read numbers with spaces in them properly: for example, 33 300 400 will be read as "thirty three three hundred four hundred" which makes no sense. Therefore I made this edit. I just changed many instances of HTML thin spaces into commas in the Paleolithic article without knowing about the {{gaps}} template; perhaps I should have used it. Graham87 17:54, 22 August 2009 (UTC)

Thin spaces also caused problems with some browsers (e.g. one of the five I use; can't remember which one) or regular computer screens when the number is at the end of a line: the unbroken number just extends waaaaaaaay past the right of the screen, instead of jumping to the beginning of the next line. —— Shakescene (talk) 18:56, 22 August 2009 (UTC)


May I add encouragement for the use of the YYYY-MM-DD date format in articles relating to, at least, computer programming / languages? We[clarification needed] like it. --Darxus (talk) 16:04, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

What is the reason for this? Maybe programmers "like" it, but human-readable formats (DMY or MDY) are probably preferred by most of the general readership. There is no reason to make date formatting rules more complicated than they already are. Dabomb87 (talk) 18:58, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
Programmers "like" it because it's a sortable date format. I fail to see what that has to do with writing an article though. --Malleus Fatuorum 19:13, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
But we can use {{dts}} for sortable dates without ISO format; so that's a moot point. Dabomb87 (talk) 19:16, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
I meant programmers when they're writing programs, or designing database tables, nothing to do with wikimarkup. --Malleus Fatuorum 19:19, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
OK. Pardon my ignorance. Dabomb87 (talk) 19:31, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
We also like it because it's unambiguous. DMY and MDY can all too often be unclear. While 01-01-09 doesn't matter, 01-02-09 can be a problem, especially if the century might be significant as well. YYYY-MM-DD is the only format I use everywhere I use a date if I have a choice in the matter. And it's sortable, which is icing on the cake. - Denimadept (talk) 19:45, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
When I referred to DMY and MDY, I meant January 1, 2001 and 1 January 2001, neither of which is ambiguous. Dabomb87 (talk) 19:53, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

We're writing articles not programs. ISO might be liked by programmers but dmy or mdy is understood and felt appropriate by all. Nor are dmy nor mdy ambiguous if the month is spelt out (or abbreviated to three letters). JIMp talk·cont 19:51, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

If you spell out the month, it's not numeric, which is a whole different format. We seem to just be talking about numeric formats at the moment. - Denimadept (talk) 19:54, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes, but Wikipedia doesn't use DD-MM-YYYY and MM-DD-YYYY formats, anyway. Dabomb87 (talk) 19:58, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
At times, I've seen various forms. Remember December 1, 2009 gets reformated, to ... what? I realize that date linking is depreciated, but my point is the same. - Denimadept (talk) 20:02, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
If we're talking about numeric formats (are we?), then ISO is the only one that should ever be seen anywhere on WP. However, if we're talking about using ISO format as opposed to non-numeric dmy or mdy in articles, I'm opposed (though some exceptions might exist). JIMp talk·cont 20:06, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

I like the YYYY-MM-DD format in a controlled environment. However, the creators of ISO 8601 have adopted and/or hijacked this fomat, and overlaid it with many restrictions (e.g. always use Gregorian calendar, get reader's permission unless 1583 <= year <= 9999). I don't know how popular the format was before the ISO came up with their standard, but I don't consider Wikipedia, the encylopedia anyone can edit, to be a sufficiently controlled environment to use this format. --Jc3s5h (talk) 20:26, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

While the computer programming/language articles may at times be heavy going for the non-technical initiate, that's who they should be written for. Material written exclusively for the technorati (of which I'm a middling high priest), should not be in Wikipedia. Thus, a general format for dates should be favored, except perhaps in technical examples. Studerby (talk) 20:42, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
So which format do we use? Should we only use dd M yyyy/M dd, yyyy? Might want to fix the date reformatter in that case. - Denimadept (talk) 20:50, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
I expect that once the bot runs through to get rid of the dates that were linked purely for autoformatting, date autoformatting in articles will be turned off. (You will still be able to see some system-generated dates and times, such as on history pages, in your choice of formats.) --Jc3s5h (talk) 20:56, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

We had this discussion very, very recently. Opinion wasn't uniform or unanimous, but I and several other editors said that this format is still unfamiliar to most potential readers of Wikipedia; it's not apparent at first glance that it's even a date. Once one understands the logic behind it, then, yes, it's unambiguous, but one first has to understand the logic, which is not by itself obvious or intuitive. The second consideration is that one way Wikipedia has avoided ambiguity is to strongly disfavour all-numeric dates (8/20/2009 vs 20/8/2009) and instead insist that months be written out in words, or at least abbreviated alphabetically (Aug., Oct., etc.) A numerical date would certainly be a favour to those whose first language isn't English, and would recognize "9" or "09" faster than "September", but it's outweighed in most people's minds by the unambiguous clarity of an alphanumeric date.

Reading the above discussion more closely, maybe where YYYY-MM-DD might fit in articles about astronomy or computer programming, there be a parenthetic clarifying conversion on its first appearance [e.g. "2008-08-20 (August 20, 2009)"]. —— Shakescene (talk) 21:15, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

I don't see any advantage in allowing ISO in the article space. I'd even rid the ref sections of it. "20 August 2009", "August 20, 2009", "20 Aug 2009" or "Aug 20, 2009" only. JIMp talk·cont 23:42, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
I can imagine it in examples and some technical tables, but to quote Yoda, "the default, not it should be", even for most specialized material. I'm hesitant to say "never, ever", but it should be pretty rare in the prose text. Just my humble opinion. Studerby (talk) 01:18, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
I'll agree here. There may be rare cases (perhaps in tables), but they can be dealt with by judicious silence or an adverb. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 02:14, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

I was inspired to bring up this subject by the addition of a citation to SVG animation. Anyone checking references on SVG animation entities, if they have not already come to know and love the one true geek date format, will, by the time they finish flicking their eyes up the list. I agree that it is not as immediately obvious as using words, but for those who recognize it, it parses far more quickly and easily in the grey goo than anything involving letters. I actually initially used "20 August 2009" in my citation, as I noticed that is what is automatically generated by Cite web, but then immediately afterward noticed my addition was the only one in the list not using YYYY-MM-DD (and corrected my inconsistency in accordance with this document). I also agree that this date format is far more than a pawn of the ISO.

Communicating with humans vs. computers can be a context switch requiring concerted effort. Date formats involving words are on the wrong side of that context switch for the articles for which I recommend this format. --Darxus (talk) 03:26, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

  • I'm not averse to this format, though I personally prefer writing it with slashes (YYYY/MM/DD) when working in the outside world. However, I don't think it makes for great prose. It's a reasonable compromise for the MOS to call for a spelled-out date format within prose, while preferring this form in places like tables, infoboxes and references. If some form of date autoformatting comes to pass, this format is also a good default format for the routine to expect, because it's compact and unambiguous. TheFeds 03:42, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
  • By the way, the ISO 8601 version of this format has some restrictions that make it questionable for general use, and the format is ugly to look at when coding times (YYYY-MM-DDTHH:mm:ss). I'm not specifically advocating ISO 8601, but rather the general idea of a year-month-day-ordered short form. TheFeds 03:45, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
TheFeds, Wikipedia contains many articles about people and events before the Gregorian calendar was adopted in various places, and for the most part, these articles use the Julian calendar. The ISO specified that if one is claiming conformance with their standard, the Gregorian calendar must always be used. But the ISO has failed to make clear in the minds of the public that there are special conditions attached to the format whenever conformance to the ISO standard is claimed (or implied). One constantly sees people who have no idea about the the special requirements refer to "ISO dates". So if the ISO can't educate people to get it right, why do you believe Wikipedia will be able to educate its editors and readers?
Personally, I think Wikipedia has a lot more public impact than the ISO, but isn't organized enough to educate readers and editors about the meaning of the format. --Jc3s5h (talk) 12:26, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
  • That Gregorian-Julian confusion was foremost on my mind when I wrote the follow-up above ("the ISO 8601 version of this format has some restrictions that make it questionable for general use"). Given that ISO 8601's particular stipulations are not well known to the public—even though many will recognize the basic meaning of the format—I'm not convinced that we should insist on ISO 8601 compliance, except in places where it's specifically called out. (Currently, the MOS says to avoid using YYYY-MM-DD where ISO 8601 could be assumed, but doesn't say that these are actually ISO 8601 dates.)

    In short, I don't expect Wikipedia to educate people to get ISO 8601 right, and don't feel that the MOS needs to advocate the use of ISO 8601. On the other hand, I have no problem with a YYYY-MM-DD format in general. TheFeds 17:03, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

In general use, people don't often refer to times for which Julian dates are appropriate. If you want to be that way, you have to use NS/OS on the dates as well. But when you're talking about a meeting last month or a birthday for your kid, Julian dates are beyond irrelevant. Now, if you want, in the British-colonized areas, to talk about dates before 1752, or in some Catholic areas before 1582, or in Russia before 1918, or in other Catholic areas before 1583, or in Germany before 1700, etcetra, etcetra, ad nauseum, that's you business. I personally have no problem using dates like 0300-03-25, as I don't care that much. I'm not attempting to time travel to a precise date, after all. - Denimadept (talk) 17:29, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

There are three acceptable date formats for a given day (excepting of course quotations): "12 December 2004", "December 12, 2004<some piece of punctuation if it is in prose>" and "2004-12-12" but never in prose and only where space is short. This is one or two more than is desirable, but is something we can work with. Certainly if we all changed to "2004-12-12" tomorrow we would get used to it rapidly and wonder how we got on with the clumsy old style, however WP is not a champion of change - one WP:NOT I do agree with. Rich Farmbrough, 21:28, 21 August 2009 (UTC).

Why no punctuation in the mdy? I'm unaware of any practice that allows the day and year numerals to jostle. It's a recipe for mistakes, and editors need to be encouraged to insert the comma boundary where the unfortunate juxtaposition of the numerical elements is used. Tony (talk) 03:49, 22 August 2009 (UTC)

"In general use, people don't often refer to times for which Julian dates are appropriate." sure, in general use people don't often refer to history ... actually it's not that uncommon ... especially on an encyclopædia. I still don't see the use of allowing ISO dates at all. If space is short 12 Dec 2004 or Dec 12, 2004 should be fine. JIMp talk·cont 13:56, 24 August 2009 (UTC)

May I once again point out, as I have done many times before to no avail, that {{cite}} recommends the ISO format for references, whereas MOS states the opposite. It is simply impossible to obey both of those; User:mjroots who I greatly respect said on my talk page that MOS takes precedence, and I can only believe that is true, but can we then fix the advice for reference formats please?. Because I did over 100 reference fixups on [[Electric Car] and put them all in ISO format, not out of wanton pedantry but because I was told to (I fixed up the refs far more than just the dates, but did the dates too) and it is a bit ridiculous that in the article it says e.g. 12 April 1972, my birthday, and in the reference 1972-04-12. I can read and understand that, and it is unambiguous at least to me (largest to smallest) – and, yes, I have lived and worked in the US and Canada and that is why personally I prefer writing 12-Apr-72 as a short form because nobody can then possibly mistake it as being 4 December. However, that is not WP MOS approved style, so I write dates in full or use ISO format when recommended. If {{cite}} recommends it and MOS disdains it, then what is a poor gnome to do? It is idle to say oh MOS takes precedence that does not help when one is actually adding access dates and publication dates etc to citations. The simplest solution is to get rid of that recommendation out of {{cite}}, but I am not qualified to do that, I only use it. SimonTrew (talk) 00:49, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
The {{Citation}} template, for which {{cite}} is a redirect, does not recommend YYYY-MM-DD format for publication dates, only for access dates. While there may have been technical reasons for the recommendation in the past, I am not aware of any continuing technical reasons, so I have removed that recommendation. --Jc3s5h (talk) 01:00, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

Locking down MOSNUM

I propose that MOSNUM be permanently locked down. “Consensus by parties of two” and “consensus by who can make forty edits a day” is not a consensus and just makes MOSNUM unstable. Unfortunately, it seems that if there is no teacher in the room, we kindergardeners can get out of hand. Way too much time is being wasted under the current system, which breeds anarchy and where the only remedies are to start big formal ANIs, WQAs, and ArbComs.

Too often, editors come to MOSNUM to change things in order to lend legitimacy to their particular way of doing things in articles they’re working. However, this is often done with an insufficient understanding of the ramifications. This results in edit wars and instability on MOSNUM.

I propose that there be a gate keeper on MOSNUM. There were some nice (very nice) periods where MOSNUM was locked down due to protracted bickering over IEC prefixes and date linking. And in both cases, the admins (MZMcBride and MASEM) did fabulous jobs watching over WT:MOSNUM discussions. What about those discussions? Well, with MOSNUM locked down, suddenly there was an outbreak of peace and tranquility and awfully civil, good-faith discussion. Check out WT:MOSNUM Archive 120 to see how smoooothly things worked back then. All MZMcBride and MASEM had to do was watch over the discussions to ascertain whether what was being proposed was uncontroversial, minor, or was significant but enjoyed a wide consensus. Then they simply copied the proposed verbiage and pasted it into the spot designated by the proposing editor.

How say others? Greg L (talk) 04:05, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

Ingenious, Greg L. And understandable. Almost tempting! But I think it is a defeatist approach, and something of a perversion of our Wikipedian institutions. When WP:MOS was locked for two months [sic] recently, over a needless impasse in wording, there was less acrimony – but also very little useful development. Sometimes small and incremental adjustments need to be made; and to require an intermediary even for those is laborious. If nothing else worked, I might be in favour. But there are more options to try yet: including systematic and concerted peer pressure on "difficult editors", to exercise restraint. If we have to get the MOS pages locked in order to deal with their disruption, they have effectively won.
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 06:21, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
Much as I enjoy the stability of the locked page (the main MoS was recently locked for weeks due to edit warring over logical quotation), I agree with Noetica that it's counter to the Wikipedia spirit. I'd rather people exercise self-control and abide by consensus by choice than be systematically forced to. There are plenty of areas of the MoS that need plain old editing for clarity and cohesiveness. I'm not sure we want to burn the house down to make toast. --Andy Walsh (talk) 17:47, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
1RR rule — Short of full protection, a 1RR rule on a page has benefits. Such a rule is currently working at Fascism and Massacres of Poles in Volhynia. This limits a single editor to at most one revert per day. Though I haven't checked carefully, I see multiple contributions by single editors at WP:MOSNUM on August 20, and if those edits constitute multiple reverts they would be prevented. Such a rule forces people to negotiate for support, or at least to revert more carefully. Any admin can impose such a rule if he or she gets it reviewed at a noticeboard. Of course, it helps if the local editors are in support. If people don't favor a 1RR, then permanent full protection seems to me like the next best option. EdJohnston (talk) 19:08, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Fine. My proposal gained no traction. I understand the reasoning. However, as regards arguments here predicated upon notions of “how things are normally done throughout Wikipedia”, I would point out that MOSNUM is a unique institution on Wikipedia. The temptations it affords and—human nature being what it is—leads to conflict. It should come as no surprise that a LOT of WQAs and ANIs arose from this place.

    MOSNUM guidelines are often the product of long, protracted, evolutionary-like progress. Having editors who just advanced to Junior High and gained access to the computer in the school library come in and change some guideline, like, “everything will be metric-only” (perhaps doing so will smooth our membership into the United Federation of Planets), may seem perfectly rational to that contributor. I can think of better things to do than go to MOSNUM and start counting reverts-per-24-hour period. Or explaining (again and again) what “consensus” means. And, sometimes, some editors in real life don’t have a social bone in their body and that behavior manifests itself here. So we end up reverting a change on WP:MOSNUM and then going through endless and circuitous arguing here on WT:MOSNUM until someone gets shot for a whole 24 to 48 hours. I have no illusions that this will end. (*sigh*) Greg L (talk) 20:02, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

    • And the JHS students won't know about 1RR, so that may actually increase the instability. They'll continue to revert, and the rest of us will be bound. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 20:27, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
But they don't know about 3rr either. Rich Farmbrough, 21:17, 21 August 2009 (UTC).
  • But it leaves us equal. We will respect it, and it's easy to enforce against them. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 21:55, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
Greg L, while I don't support this drastic proposal of yours, I am heartened that someone at least is surveying such options. You write: "I would point out that MOSNUM is a unique institution on Wikipedia". I can understand your saying that, and I sympathise profoundly with you on all of the above. But I want to correct something. The whole Manual of Style is a unique institution on Wikipedia; the difficulties you experience here at WP:MOSNUM beset WP:MOS also – and it is, after all, the central page of the Manual. I have argued this before: we need to work out more accurate terms for the whole and its parts. Sometimes we use "MOS" to mean the whole; sometimes just that part discussed at WT:MOS. Rectification of names, in which I have some research interest, is a core Confucian doctrine. Curiously enough in the context of this present discussion, our article was initiated as a class project, in 2008. It could be better! But I commend it to MOS editors.
There are unique superordinate matters for our Manual of Style to address. I have made this point repeatedly, in one forum or another. But it is one thing to make a point lucidly, and another to turn a sufficient corps of editors away from their immediate detailed tasks to this broader work, so that that everything we attempt can eventually be on a more secure footing.
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 00:39, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
Also Shang Yang, if I recall correctly. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 04:51, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
In my view, WP:MOS should list the general principles, and then give a summary of its sub-pages, containing the rules which apply most often (as opposed to the ones which you will only ever need to know in very obscure cases). And neither WP:MOS nor any of its sub-pages should be more than 64 KB in length; otherwise it means that either they give the same rules several times due to a bad general organization of the page, or that it mentions stuff which per WP:BEANS and WP:CREEP had better be left out. --___A. di M. 10:47, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
A. di M. I totally agree. I think one could cut it in half, at least, while still preserving its meaning, simply by getting rid of the waffle and over-prescribing, and stating the bleeding obvious. It is no excuse to say "it is just a guide not the law", because too many (e.g some GA or FA reviewers) it is the law; letting that stand aside, a poor editor like me must either obey it or judiciously ignore it taking WP:COMMON. You are right that it is too long. It is perhaps the wrong place to state it because MOSNUM is already a sub-page, though transcluded: you may wish to make that point clearer (e.g. a linked page?) I am all for KISS (keep it simple, stupid) and not have it be overly prescriptive. And certainly not a vehicle for one or two editors' views, including of course mine or yours.
Best wishes 01:07, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

I'd like to point out here a clause from Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Date delinking:

Greg L topic banned
13) Greg L is topic banned indefinitely from style and editing guidelines relating to the linking or unlinking of dates, and any related discussions.

Because I don't read this discussion page on a regular basis (I only learned about this thru reading the current Wikipedia Signpost), enforcing this now would be inappropriate, so I ask my fellow Admins that any time Greg L comments on anything related to MOSNUM he is violating the terms of this ruling & is liable to sanctions. (PS, while he is not the only one who is banned from this topic, he was the one who initiated this thread.) -- -- llywrch (talk) 16:43, 25 August 2009 (UTC)

Best I can tell, Greg hasn't said *anything* about Date Linking beyond that it exists on this page. He's not banned from all MOSNUM topics, just that. Just mentioning that there's date linking on this page is by no means an actionable event. --MASEM (t) 16:53, 25 August 2009 (UTC)
Masem, let me get this clear: "any related discussions" excludes any threads on WT:MOSNUM itself? Not only this one, but as I re-read this page several others here? I am honestly puzzled at this interpretation of those words. -- llywrch (talk)
I think Llywrch needs to say sorry to Greg L. Glider87 (talk) 17:56, 25 August 2009 (UTC)
That's an unusual -- & incomprehensible -- opinion. -- llywrch (talk) 05:39, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't think it's unusual to request that; you made an untrue statements and encouraged admins to potentially block Greg when he would not have been violating his restrictions. Had an admin less familiar with these discussions been lurking around, a good editor might have been blocked for no reason. At the very least, admitting you were wrong would be good. Dabomb87 (talk) 12:45, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
What Masem said. Headbomb {ταλκκοντριβς – WP Physics} 18:12, 25 August 2009 (UTC)

I'm afraid that ArbCom motions and amendments are often framed poorly by arbs who have far too big a workload and too little time, on- and off-wiki. Nevertheless, the intent is clear: Greg and several others may not edit the sections of MOSNUM or MOS or LINKING that are concerned with date linking; nor may they discuss the issue anywhere on the project. However, this probably doesn't prevent their asking others to deal with an issue in articles of which they are a regular editor (Vandenberg's words, to that effect). Aside from that, they may edit and discuss anywhere any aspect of the style guides.

Yes, an apology by Llywrch would be much appreciated; it would cost little and foster a harmonious environment here. Please remember that ArbCom is set to examine editor relations and stability on MoS pages rather soon, and has made it clear that any editor here will be scrutinised if necessary. ArbCom regards the good working of the style guides very seriously. Tony (talk) 07:55, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

  • I just now stumbled across this thread. For the record, my restrictions were amended and are enumerated here on my talk page. They are as follows:
(1) All remedies in the decision providing that a specified user is topic-banned from editing or discussing "style and editing guidelines" (or similar wording) are modified by replacing these words with the words "style and editing guidelines relating to the linking or unlinking of dates";
(2) All remedies in the decision providing that a specified user is "prohibited from reversion of changes which are principally stylistic, except where all style elements are prescribed in the applicable style guideline" are modified by replacing these words with the words "prohibited from reverting the linking or unlinking of dates";
In a nutshell, I am narrowly restricted from screwing around with “date linking/delinking”; ergo, my “no comment” joke, below, which, even though that thread discusses formatting of dates (and not linking), it’s close enough, so I’ll steer clear.
Thanks to my wikifriends for coming to my defense; that is the one and only thing that is important to me. I literally could not care less if llywrch (whoever he or she is) apologizes for writing …so I ask my fellow Admins that any time Greg L comments on anything related to MOSNUM he is violating the terms of this ruling & is liable to sanctions. I assume it started out as an honest mistake (it’s hard enough for the participants to keep track of where all that stuff is), and his or her later digging in the ol’ heels is just simple stubbornness, which isn’t uncommon in humans. Greg L (talk) 21:45, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

Talking drums

Just for the information of anyone here who might be interested, there is a discussion at WT:MOS#Wikipedia:Describing drum sizes of a small project by the same name. The project itself (WP:Describing drum sizes) and discussions about it probably belong on, and will no doubt soon appear on, WP:MOSMUSIC and Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (music), respectively. —— Shakescene (talk) 04:23, 26 August 2009 (UTC)


I'm not sure why but there is a pull towards using numerals in the MoS, maybe because of the preponderance of "computer types". The MoS used to recommend words for centuries, then it was changed, when I noticed I had, by agreement, the option for words put back in:- then it was taken out again...

AS far as it goes Oxford recommends words as does Chicago "In nontechnical contexts, the following are spelled out: whole numbers from one through one hundred, round numbers, and any number beginning a sentence. For other numbers, numerals are used." (also here Strunk and White 1918 has "It was chiefly in the eighteenth century that a very different conception of history grew up."

To me, numerals looks like note-taking in this context, I expect to see a hastily scrawled C around the number.

However if the three main (?) MoS concur - and the other reasons for abbreviation, saving time, keystrokes and paper are absent - surely we should go with spelled out centuries?

Rich Farmbrough, 14:52, 20 August 2009 (UTC).
I can't see why not ... or at least as an option. JIMp talk·cont 19:54, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
I'd agree with that...—MDCollins (talk) 22:03, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
This issue has a long history. It is not a question simply of what people do "out there", though that is one important consideration. Some points in response:
  • Rich, what Oxford source are you referring to? The Oxford guide that is used for serious publishing is New Hart's Rules. Here is how the current edition begins its treatment of centuries:

11.6.2. Centuries
Depending on the editorial style of the work, refer to centuries in words or figures; Oxford style is to use words. (p. 191)

That guide (one of the world's most influential and respected) does not say "use either"; it suggests that there be "an editorial style of the work". Our work is Wikipedia.
  • Please: let's cite the relevant provisions of guides, and give accurate information on the source. Here is what the Chicago Manual of Style has to say:

9.36 Centuries
Particular centuries are spelled out and lowercased.

  • Other sources with other rulings could be cited; but all agree: set a style, and use it consistently.
  • Rich, you say "[MOS] used to recommend words for centuries, then it was changed". How long ago did MOS make such a recommendation? The practice that predominates – especially in systematic treatments in Wikipedia's historical projects and the relevant categories for centuries, decades, and years – is to use figures. Personally, I like the Oxford style well enough, and I use words for centuries elsewhere. But on Wikipedia we need consistency, and we need stable guidelines. So I happily adapt. So do most other editors, who are grateful not to have to weigh up such a relatively trivial matter each time, at each article they tackle.
  • Apart from long practice and the need for stability, it is objectively easier to maintain articles using figures for centuries. They are easier to type in, being free from the spelling errors or typos that beset eighteenth, and the punctuational uncertainties that editors have with in the twenty[-]first century.
  • Yes, there is a modern popular bias toward the simpler, easier way. It is well-founded and inevitable. Working against it would foster instability, needless confusion and contention at articles, and (wait for it) the inevitable harangues from the enemies of MOS, here at WT:MOSNUM and also at WT:MOS.
I move that we leave things alone. It works well. Don't fix it.
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 22:55, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Wikipedia is not a crystal ball; we are not required or encouraged to predict the wave of the future - and especially if this is what is happening naturally, why do we need a sentence on it? If Noetica is correct, silence will also have 19th-century proliferate; why do we need to discourage nineteenth-century further? Septentrionalis PMAnderson 23:16, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
  • It seems unconvincing that 19th should be easier to maintain that nineteenth; a typo in 19th could produce 17th, whereas the worst a single typo in nineteenth can do is sineteenth; even a spell-checker will recognize that as error, and anybody can figure out what has gone wrong. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 23:22, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
In the context of WP, I prefer the numerical form as we are trying to convey information concisely; however if I'm reading (for example) a novel, I prefer the word form. As background to current usage, I got the following results yesterday:
  • Google search of "nineteenth-century" results in 13,500,000 matches,
  • Google search of "19th-century" returns 73,400,000 matches,
  • WP search of "nineteenth-century" returns 3,911 matches,
  • WP search of "19th-century" returns 10,204.
 HWV258  22:59, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
If you prefer it, use it. Let others do likewise. May the best usage win.
But why not have silence in this guideline, and permit evolution to take its course? Septentrionalis PMAnderson 23:16, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
PMAnderson, yet again you are not addressing the topic of the section. The question is not the one you return to without fail every time a specific move is contemplated. The question is not "Why can't we just allow everything?", or its variant "Why can't every minority practice be accepted equally with the majority practice?", or your perennial "Why have guidelines that actually guide, at all?"
Pay attention for once. The topic is "Should we introduce latitude in how centuries are referred to, rather than maintain the existing guideline?" I have addressed the topic with precision; so have others. Join in, or go somewhere else and do something else. Find a forum for your abiding, single-minded concern. This is not your anti-MOS forum; this is MOS.
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 23:33, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes, we should. The "existing guideline" has only existed for a few days; it does not benefit the encyclopedia, it lengthens this page (which makes it less forcible and effective), it is not agreed (even that 19th is preferable, much less than it is the only thing preferable), and it is not in accord with other manuals. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 23:42, 20 August 2009 (UTC)
PMAnderson, as I point out we are perfectly in accord with other manuals, which unanimously call for (or assume as obvious) the use of one chosen style consistently. As for the present guideline being new, I believe it is merely a restoration of the simple guideline we had until you, without discussion let alone consensus, slipped in an unprecedented invitation to inconsistency some time ago. I opened a discussion on that addition (see above), and you refused my repeated requests to provide just one precedent from any style guide to support it. To support, that is, a guideline that would acquiesce in an article having both nineteenth-century painting and photography in the 19th century. Rather than focus on the issue, you made certain that several of us wasted hours of our time countering your destructive agenda and your recalcitrance. You've started on that tack again here, by false representations and soapboxing. Stop it.
¡ɐɔıʇǝoNoetica!T– 23:59, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

Thank you PMAnderson for once again missing the point of the discussion. This section is not to do with how the MOS operates at WP; instead, it is to do with the wording of one particular section on the MOS. If I were to be tempted to get sidetracked into your crusade, I would feel inclined to point out that the Chicago Manual of Style (section 9.36) defines this issue as "Particular centuries are spelled out and lowercased"; and if I wanted to labour the point, I would observe that there is no option (numerical or otherwise) permitted at that MOS. If I really wanted to labour the point, I would hammer the conclusion that on some issues it is fine for a MOS to be "dictatorial" as to style (obviously based on the target audience of the publication). As I'm not inclined to get sidetracked, I'll simply respond that all I have done (above) is inject an opinion and some facts into the discussion. At that point I feel I've done my duty here, and whatever consensus arises will be just fine by me. I will point out that I don't intend to belittle or badger anybody's else's opinion on this issue, and would expect a similar courtesy.  HWV258  00:00, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
And if we were to require one and forbid another, I would prefer that we forbid 19th and recommend nineteenth; that's my second choice. Can we compromise on that? If we can't have what would be useful for the encyclopedia, let's have what Noetica and I both prefer to use. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 00:48, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm still terribly worried that you have a weak grasp as to how things work on WP. It's not up to what I, or you, or Noetica want; instead, it is a consensus based on the input of everyone who comments on the issue. Let's wait for a while longer and see what other input is created in this section. You have now stated your preference, so leave it at that while other people state preferences (hopefully with reasoning). (To be frank, I'm not sure how "compromise" works with someone who peppers their input with pejorative phrases such as "If we can't have what would be useful..." and "..and forbid another".)  HWV258  01:22, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
"compromise"... "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Studerby (talk) 01:37, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
My second choice; his second choice. Sounds like a compromise to me. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 01:47, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
Hell no! It may be OK for centuries from the 20th century BC to the 20th century AD, but "twenty-first-century music" looks real gawky! If we need to have consistency throughout WP at all, let it be the "19th century". --___A. di M. 09:46, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
A valid point. Does the proper twenty-first–century (with an emdashendash) look any better? Septentrionalis PMAnderson 14:58, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
If you ask my own preference in writing, independently of Wikipedia, I would say: for centuries in "isolation", I have a moderate preference in favour of letters for "small" ones (i.e. up to "tenth century", mostly monosyllabic); a very slight preference in favour of figures for "intermediate" ones (i.e. from "11th century" to "20th century", mostly polysyllabic but single-word), and a strong preference for figures in "large" ones (from "21th century" onwards, mostly containing hyphens or spaces). But I would be consistent within any given context; and would prefer figures in places such as notes, tables, etc.
If you ask my own preference about what the MoS should say, independently of other editors, I would say: remove the sentence about centuries altogether; the general rule would apply.
If you ask me what the MoS should say, in light of the opinions of other editors, I would say: "Centuries should be written in figures". That suggests what the consensus here seems to be, but without looking like a descriptive statement about the English language, which would be false. (How long will it take before an editor will add [sic] after "twentieth century" in a quotation?)
___A. di M. 18:54, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
  • I concur with Noetica's reasoning above for recommending figures in centuries. The figures are easier to maintain and far less prone to error. "Twenty-first-century music" and "twenty-first–century music" are unthinkable. Additionally, I'm interested in the language of guides that state "in nontechnical contexts". Really, WP is a technical text. We're not writing persuasive essays and novels here, where Pablo sweeps his wife over the threshold of his eighteenth-century villa. This is a reference work, quite technical in nature. --Andy Walsh (talk) 16:59, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Easier to maintain how?
  • But this is characteristic of one of the problems of this page; different editors focus on different articles: We may well say that someplace is an "eighteenth-century villa" or "building"; indeed, we do. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 20:37, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

There is no need to hyphenate twenty-first to century; except in pathological cases, "Mike Gatting's twenty-first-century scores were not as good as earlier." perhaps. But to argue WP is technical is to have a broad definition of the term. Indeed I would aver that the only narrowly technical use of "19th century" might be calibrating a time machine. The Oxford I refer to is The Oxford Style Manual which incorporates The Oxford Guide to Style. Proof by Google is not helpful either technically ( try for example "nineteenth century" ) or stylistically ("fuck" 158 million, "copulate" 380,000 - and that's my excuse for typing "fuck" into search engines). As far as typos go, it is amusing, if not instructive to see "21th century" typed in this discussion, not demolishing the argument, but certainly denting it. The typical use of a century is in a similar manner to a reign, "Jacobean, Elizabethan, nineteenth century" - I have even seen statements where the term has been redefined to fit the needs "when we say eighteenth century in this context we mean from about 1692 to 1780". It is not a measure in the sense that we can say (or we could but we would be ill advised) "the 21.12th century". The numbers are effectively cleansed of their numerical meaning. Rich Farmbrough, 21:05, 21 August 2009 (UTC).

And normal American, except for the minority who have read too much Fowler, is probably twenty-first century music, even if it is illogical. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 21:12, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

So we now have three editors who prefer nineteenth century, and cite style guides to that effect, to answer the several editors who prefer 19th century, and quote no authority. On balance, doesn't this support the position that both have their uses in different fields? Septentrionalis PMAnderson 23:31, 27 August 2009 (UTC)