Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 2

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The only time anybody should be thinking about copyediting dates is when they're ambiguous and as long as we spell out the month, we won't have ambiguous dates. If it's decided that we have to stick to one date style for reasons of consistency, it can only be a matter of time before it's decided that we have to stick to one spelling style for reasons of consistency. That way lie extremely silly and pointless disputes between people who know what the "correct" style is and people who don't. And consistency is not necessary in the way that NPOV and unambiguity is. It just makes it more difficult for new contributors to add "acceptable" material without a lengthy "training" process and the "training" process is long enough when it just involves NPOV, never mind all the other standards which have grown like weeds round here. We've learned to avoid a lot of pointless arguments over spelling by allowing any widely recognised spelling of a word to be used. Let's learn from that and apply it to dates -- Derek Ross 01:40 Mar 1, 2003 (UTC)

Well said. No unambiguous form should be disallowed. I'm embarrassed that I didn't see relation to the already solved spelling issue. Arthur
I like standards. I think if it were made policy that dates can be used in any way people want, visitors to the Wikipedia would find the inconsistency off-putting. When I first arrived, I was horrified by the American-style dates, and tried to avoid using them. But soon I was swayed by the fact that even if it was an unpleasant convention, it gave the place a nice uniform feel, and so I gave in and started writing dates that way. I accepted that following the convention would make the Wikipedia more coherent, and thus more professional-looking. Of course, my actual contributions may not be very professional-looking, but I do try... :) -- Oliver P. 03:58 Mar 1, 2003 (UTC)

We are all talking a lot about this issue, but what is the decision? When will it be made? Or is this an open-ended vote where nothing will be decided because the vote never will actually end? We can decide to make a decision. Or decide not to make a decision. But can we at least decide if we are actually going to take a decision here!

Or we could even decide what it is we are making a decision about. (As asked no less than four times already without result.) But it doesn't seem likely. Tannin
Because to those who oppose to change in status quo, it is simply irrelevant what date we are talking about. I am one of them. I would rather talk about date markup systems. Certainly we want to show dates in different display and American standard cannot be a universal standard in any sense.

Ok - time for answers: JtdIrL 04:36 Mar 1, 2003 (UTC)

Question 1: Which dates are we deciding should be subject to these dates?

  1. All dates
  2. Dates at the start of Articles

Question 2: When are we taking the decision?'

  1. In the next twenty-four hours?
  2. In one week?
  3. Never?

OK, I'll take a crack at your questions, JTD. #1: dates at the start of articles only. #2: Well, "never" looks likely as there is nothing approaching a consensus at present. Whenever consensus arrives, I guess. Tannin

Wait a minute, people. This is the Wikipedia. Making a group decision isn't important. What is important is trying to convince others to make personal decisions. For instance if I have convinced enough people that my solution is right, I will be able to change the Style manual to recommend my style and know that I have enough support that others' attempts to change it back won't work. If anybody wants to test the support for their idea, let them go ahead and edit the "(dates and numbers)" article. It's been discussed enough that most of the good points have now been made, so people can decide whether they care enough to revert a change that someone else has made. If on the other hand an edit war breaks out, then we need to apply NPOV thinking. Ie that there is no one best solution and that we must all agree to disagree and allow both (or all three or whatever) styles just as we do with spelling. -- Derek Ross 04:59 Mar 1, 2003 (UTC)

My answers: #1 - we're talking about all dates except for those in quotes, just as for the current manual of style. #2 - as Derek says, pretty much. If we get consensus, then we're done. If we get close to consensus, then someone will eventually take matters into hir own hands and do it. Martin

I've added to the entry to reflect those issues that I think we have got consensus on. The most important one is that I think that we should add the redirects from UK style to US style as an interim measure. I've only seen one semi-objection to that idea, and it was from an anonymous contributor. The other stuff is basically just avoiding ambiguity, which I think we're all agreed on. Martin

I don't understand the strong force of opinions on this disagreement. If we assume that every non-ambiguous form is understood by everyone, that leaves only personal preferences left to drive the discussion. ISO is silent about date forms where months are spelled as words (i.e., all the least ambiguous forms), so ISO is irrelevant to the discussion. And consistency, it seems to me, is a weak argument for the use of force in imposing a style on wikipedia authors. And if the date is unambiguous, style is all the argument is about. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said,
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
I vote we let our authors write in their own style and get on to more important matters. Arthur 22:27 Mar 1, 2003 (UTC)

begin content moved from Talk:ISO 8601

Some of us like to put the dates of events in ISO 8601 format. Thus for someone born on January 14, 1921 we would put 1921-01-14. Nevertheless it can be more æsthetically pleasing to see the page heading "January 14". To deal with this I would propose a series of pages with only the numerical month and day in the heading and including any leading zeros. The page would immediately redirect to the one with the existing format. I considered including a leading hyphen as a part of the heading, but rejected the idea because I was uncertain about possible technical effects. I would hope to implement this for particular dates as and when needed. Eclecticology

article names in the database should be in strict ISO 8601 format, if times are required they should be at GMT/0 or clearly marked as to time zone. Is there a specification for "BC" dates as well? Aesthetic presentation issues in the page heading can always be handled by software rather than redirects.24

GMT is Obsolete. Please use UTC ! BC dates are handled in ISO 8601 with a minus symbol. Beware that before AD 1 (0001) there is, BC 1 which is 0000, so BC 2 is -0001 and so on. I found a draft copy of the standrd at

end content moved from Talk:ISO 8601

Running Total as of Sunday AM:

  • Make day-month-year MoS policy 15 votes
  • Encourage day-month-year 6 votes
  • Allow both month-day-year and day-month-year, express no preference 6 votes
  • Keep month-day-year as MoS policy (status quo) 4 votes
  • Make year-month-day UTC MoS policy 3 votes
  • Encourage month-day-year 1 vote

(This includes people who voted for multiple options.)

This means:

  • Support to enforce/encourage dd/mm/yy 21 votes
  • Support for current system mm/dd/yy 5
  • Allow both dd/mm/yy & mm/dd/yy 4
  • Support to enforce/encourage yy/mm/dd 3 votes.


  2. There is little support for current system
  3. yy/mm/dd is a non-starter
  • There are 15 votes for compulsory day /month/year
  • 13 votes for non-compulsory systems
  • Plus 5 votes for the current system and 4 confused people voting for a numeric system (which was not part of the question).
15 to 13 is not even close to an "overwhelming consensus".

So the consensus seems clear. The question is simply, when should we begin to follow this rule? I would suggest asap as we are at the start of a new month, so it is an ideal time. JtdIrL 06:52 Mar 2, 2003 (UTC)

The consensus is not clear. -- Tannin
This is a major change and should be thought through a lot first. We are only now making redirects for the International style. The next phase would be moving the day articles then somebody is going to have to write a bot to change over all day links to the new style (just the links - otherwise the bot will cause trouble where there are numbers next to month names). This last part is very important to me - otherwise Wikipedia will be mostly in the American format for possibly years to come and will have a nasty looking mess of missmatched styles. IMO without the automatic conversion the status quo is best. --mav

I heartily concur with mav, and have only a couple supplementary points:

  1. All international-style redirects have been created.
  2. I am willing write that bot. I will test it very thoroughly on pages in my user-talk space, and then ask the mailing list when they think would be a good time to let it begin its grovelling through the articles. If you're not on the mailing list, you should be.

A different analysis of different people's positions might be:

  • 15 people are willing to accept making day-month-year MoS policy.
  • 13 people are not willing to accept a day-month-year MoS policy. Of these 13 people:
    • 7 wish to have a middle solution of some sort - IE encouragement or no preference.
    • 4 wish to keep the status quo
    • 2 wish to switch to a ISO 8601 system

I always liked stats... ;-) Martin

Me too. But you just failed your term paper! :( Last time I looked, 15 + 6 + 6 + 4 + 3 +1 = 35. Your analysis adds up to 28.) Let's try it again, with the right figures:
A different corrected analysis of different people's positions might be:
  • 15 people are willing to accept making day-month-year MoS policy.
  • 20 people are not willing to accept a day-month-year MoS policy. Of these 20 people:
    • 16 wish to have a middle solution of some sort - i.e. encouragement or no preference.
    • 4 wish to keep the status quo
    • 2 wish to switch to a ISO 8601 system

Heh. I think the confusion here is that there are 28 voters, but 35 votes. This is because some people have voted for more than one position - presumably because they are flexible and willing to accept a number of alternatives as being acceptable outcomes. If this point is causing confusion, then perhaps I'm wrong in thinking that wikipedia votes should proceed using approval rather than the simpler system of first past the post? Oh well, something to think about at wikipedia:vote then... Martin

Anything is better than first past the post! Tannin

Timeout. The "compulsory" aspect of the first choice would be no more compulsory than what we now have with the status quo. After all the day pages are moved then people will naturally start to prefer the [day month] [year] format. The script will just make Wikipedia consistent. What is very clear is that a clear majority of people want to at least move in the direction of the [day month] [year] format. The word "policy" here should be removed - our manual of style is not policy, it is a set of conventions. English does not only belong to American English speakers and we want to move Wikipedia, especially, to being more International in flavor. Thus the date format used by a majority of English speakers is the one we should be using here. The day pages should be moved alone on that count - it follows our common usage naming convention. --mav

The datebot has been thoroughly tested and is almost ready to be set ravening among the articles. At [[Sun Mar 2 19:44:31 PST 2003|this moment]] it has no automatic article-selection mechanism; it only munges the single article it is pointed at. Next, on Wikipedia-L -- "The Datebot: Threat, or Menace?" --the Epopt

Oy. Are we really going to change every date in the Wikipedia? Do you want to confuse every American who ever reads the thing? -- Zoe

Americans who are confused by 2 March 2003 should not be reading an encyclopedia. I don't understand your objection. --the Epopt
How elitist of you. Who are you to say who should and should not read anything? -- Zoe
Zoe, please quit trying to insult me. I'm trying to continue a discussion already well underway. Can you explain to me how 2 March 2003 could be confusing? --the Epopt
I wonder how many Americans would be confused - anybody who's ever dealt with that gigantic military-industrial complex has encountered ddmmyy, because the DoD started using it years ago (probably because of NATO work, but don't know), and as I mentioned early on in the discussion, the Chicago MoS encourages it too, so you see it in American books today. I wouldn't say that people confused by 2 March shouldn't be reading the encyclopedia, but that's going to be the least of their problems with wikipedia - we've got casual use of Chinese and Kanji characters in many articles, 16th-grade-reading-level articles that don't explain or link to many of their big words, and articles that need major rewriting into grammatical English. But then again, maybe I'm just hanging out in the "bad neighborhoods". :-) Stan 06:36 Mar 3, 2003 (UTC)

Ugh, I knew that this Manual of Style would cause problems. There is no need to prefer Imperial or American spelling, nor is there any need to prefer Imperial or American date systems. We need a standard for the page titles -- nothing else. I know that standards are fun to discuss (I do it too, I'm partial to "2003 March 3" myself), especially when there's a computer keyboard in front of you, but writing Wikipedia is an art, not a science, and we're creating literature, not code. -- Toby 07:01 Mar 3, 2003 (UTC)

It is not the difference between Imperial and American date styles, it is the difference between International and American date styles. The analogy with Imperial vs American spelling does not apply because while your average American Wikipedia reader will think "artefact" is a misspelling they will recognize 2 March as a valid date format. --mav
I don't understand why the date style is "International" but the spelling is only "Imperial". Is it important for your point? (Unless it's because the date style could also apply in other languages, but that's not relevant to the English Wikipedia.) Setting that aside:
  • An American might see "artefact", think it wrong, and change it to "artifact";
  • A non-American might see "artifact", think it wrong, and change it to "artefact";
  • An American might see "3 March 2003", think it wrong, and change it to "March 3, 2003";
  • A non-American might see "March 3, 2003", think it wrong, and change it to "3 March 2003".
All of them, however, will understand everything. People may be more familiar with one variation over another (much as they are more familiar with "realise"/"realize" than "artifact"/"artefact"), but it's the same idea. So what is the difference? -- Toby 20:24 Mar 3, 2003 (UTC)
All publishers follow a style guide, an in-house one or something like Chicago. Standards are needed for writing. The wiki way means that people don't need to bother with standards if they don't feel like it. But copyediting wikipedians will be applying them. -- Tarquin 13:35 Mar 3, 2003 (UTC)
Not all publishers require (in the sense that any other one will be changed when they copyedit) a certain date format all the time. For example, the Chicago Manual of Style (according to a quotation on WikiEN-L) allows (in the sense that it won't be changed when they copyedit) several variations. Now, I agree that some standards are needed for writing. But not everything needs a standard -- American vs Imperial spelling is an example. So it's incumbent on the people that want a standard to explain why one is needed in this case. Other than the titles of pages like March 3 (where I agree that a standard is needed, and where I'd even support a change to 3 March), I haven't seen that argument. -- Toby 20:24 Mar 3, 2003 (UTC)

And ultimately, that's why I'm bothering to get involved. Some people see a manual of style and think "Good! we can write some standards," when they should think "Good! if we need any standards, then we can write them down here." Nothing should be in the MoS without demonstrated necessity -- and that includes the old standard for date order. Our manual of style should be tiny; it was once, but now it's not. -- Toby 20:24 Mar 3, 2003 (UTC)

I believe that we have general agreement that months should always be spelled out in full. I've not seen anybody here express any kind of objection to that rule, which has been the way we do things for some time. We could have a seperate discussion of spelling out months, I guess, if people want: Martin
  • spelling out months
    • +: makes dates unambiguous, regardless of format
    • +: easier to read
    • +: easy-links to existing date articles with spelled out months
    • +: consistent with article titles
    • +: status quo
  • using numerical months
    • +: saves a few keystrokes when typing
    • -: unclear
    • -: harder to read
    • -: ambiguity likely
    • -: some confusion of day month pages and month year pages

Here's a question from an ignorant American (me!). When people read out loud a sentence like "My birthday is 2 March, 1918," do they say "two March" or "March second" or what? In American English, we write "My birthday is March 2, 1918" and say "March second". Jimbo Wales 13:46 Mar 3, 2003 (UTC)

I think everyone reads it how they like. I would say "my birthday is the second of march". -- Tarquin 13:57 Mar 3, 2003 (UTC)
In Oz, it's generally spoken as "March the second" or "the second of March". It is rare to hear "March second", and very rare to hear "March two", which is considered poor English. No-one seems to pay much attention to the order (i.e., month first or the number first), at least not that I've ever noticed. Tannin
I would normally say the second of March. A number of people in the UK would say oh-two oh-three nineteen-eighteen, which is obviously ambigusous when used internationally. -- Chris Q 14:05 Mar 3, 2003 (UTC)
I would read "2 March" or "2nd March" as "the second of March" and "March 2" or "March 2nd" as "March, the second" -- Derek Ross

I don't care much what is eventually chosen (although I, as a European, prefer the current form), but please keep the style consistent. Any professional enyclopedia manages to maintain a consistent style throughout -- if the wiki way fails at accomplishing this simple goal of standardization, then it will fail to resolve many much more complex issues as well. I strongly object against any attempt to change the dates wholesale manually -- this is bound to create a huge mess of conflicting date styles, and clog up RC for months to come. --Eloquence 20:28 Mar 3, 2003 (UTC)

Thus a properly registered datebot would be perfect. --mav