Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 26

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BCE/CE--BC/AD Clarification

The MoS currently states the following:

Both the BCE/CE era names and the BC/AD era names are acceptable, but be consistent within an article. Normally you should use plain numbers for years in the Common Era, but when events span the start of the Common Era, use AD or CE for the date at the end of the range (note that AD precedes the date and CE follows it). For example, 1 BCAD 1 or 1 BCE1 CE.

However, two differences of opinion seem to have developed:

  1. That the guidance means that where articles only refer to events that happened within the last 2,000 years, no date notation should be used;
  2. That the guidance should be changed so that it states that where articles only refer to events that happened withint the last 2,000 years, no date notation should be used.

There seems an obvious solution to this: state explicitly "Where an article only refers to events that happened within the last 2,000 years, do not use date notation", and to remove the reference to "Common Era", which isn't well known. I must say, even after having been involved in this debate for a long time, I was still in camp (2) and clearly still do not understand how US academics use the term (which isn't really surprising since I'm not an American academic). Also, clearly I am not alone. Since this is guidance for all, we really need to make it intelligible to all - especially as we seem to be agreed on what the underlying statement should be, jguk 19:41, 19 July 2005 (UTC)

IMO, The current way that the guidelines are worded on this issue is fine. It seems to me that it is far more important that era designations be used in articles which span the 2 eras (to prevent confusion), than it is to designate an arbitrary cut-off point (2,000 years ago) regardless of whether both eras are used in the article. Regardless, the practical effect is virtually the same. Kaldari 21:08, 19 July 2005 (UTC)
I'm only discussing the bit of the guidance that refers to articles that relate only to events in the last 2,000 years (ie those that don't need BC or a mixture of BC and AD in order to disambiguate the years). There seems to be general agreement that where an article only relates to years AD, no date identifier is necessary. What there's general disagreement on is whether the guidance already says that. That's why I think it's best to amend the guidance so that it is crystal clear, jguk 21:48, 19 July 2005 (UTC)
Jguk, your change did more than clarify the bit about the past 2,000 years. Maurreen 02:46, 20 July 2005 (UTC)

True, I added the rationale for the guideline as well, jguk 19:04, 20 July 2005 (UTC)

I agree with Kaldari that it's fine the way it is. Jonathunder 19:13, 2005 July 20 (UTC)

How can it be worded fine when many argue it should be changed to say something that others claim it already says? Surely it should be worded so that everyone interprets it in the same way. jguk 19:16, 20 July 2005 (UTC)
Maybe people haven't read it. Maurreen 03:08, 21 July 2005 (UTC)

Well, many people have read it - including an Arbitrator, who reads it in the same way as I do. Since we all seem agreed on the underlying point (that no date notation is required when an article only deals with events in the last 2,000 years), surely we should amend the wording to state this explicitly and unambiguously? jguk 07:19, 23 July 2005 (UTC)

Surely, any changes should be done in a neutral way, and not to favor one style over the other. Maurreen 07:49, 23 July 2005 (UTC)
The current wording favours BCE/CE style - as those unaccustomed to it apparently can't understand what it says! I'd have thought the statement that "No date notation should be used in articles that relate wholly to events within the last 2,000 years or to future events" was straightforward enough, jguk 12:06, 23 July 2005 (UTC)
Again, that was not your only change. Maurreen 16:24, 23 July 2005 (UTC)

I think it would be useful to state the rationale as well as the guideline. However, for now, let's see if we can agree the guideline sans rationale. Namely, replace:

Normally you should use plain numbers for years in the Common Era, but when events span the start of the Common Era, use AD or CE for the date at the end of the range (note that AD precedes the date and CE follows it). For example, [[1 BC]]–[[1|AD 1]] or [[1 BCE]]–[[1|1 CE]].


No date notation should be used in articles that relate wholly to events within the last 2,000 years or to future events.

jguk 21:07, 23 July 2005 (UTC)

"Neither date notation" would be more clear than "No date notation." Other than that, I have no objection to the sentence. Maurreen 21:19, 23 July 2005 (UTC)
This change is a bad idea because:
  • It removes the guidance about what to do when years span the start of the Common Era.
  • It changes the wording from a guidance- "Normally you should use plain numbers for years in the Common Era", to an absolute- "Neither date notation should be used". This removes some freedom for editors (for example, I think 70 CE looks better than just 70). Also, much like the "consistency" clause, could be misused by some to remove references to CE, which I feel is perhaps the real intent of this change.
  • "last 2,000 years" is ambiguous and unclear. Does this mean that era names should be used for years up to 5 CE?
Sortan 17:08, 3 August 2005 (UTC)

Revert battle

  1. I ask the people involved in the current reverts about eras to please stop it and start a discussion. Multiple reverts are seldom productive.
  2. I probably disagree with Jguk more often than I agree. But in this case, he is more right than the other side. He waited more than a week after the last comment was made above, and the last comment essentially told him "OK". If anyone wants to disagree with the details, the productive way would be to discuss it here, not to revert. Maurreen (talk) 07:26, 3 August 2005 (UTC)
I would like to know what on earth makes Jguk think that there is a consensus to change the section on eras. In the discussion above, he seems to be the only one to favour the change. No proper survey has been taken on this page. For heavens sake, let us not start another revert war about this. The wording is fine as it is. Sunray 14:49, August 3, 2005 (UTC)
Do you really want another vote (or survey)? --ClemMcGann 16:26, 3 August 2005 (UTC)
To make a contested change to an article it is common practice in Wikipedia to follow the guideline on consensus. Yes, of course a survey on this talk page might be useful in determining consensus. However, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that there is no consensus for a change right now. It might be a waste of time. I'm only saying that a change of this nature should only occur after a proper process has been followed. Sunray 16:55, August 3, 2005 (UTC)
There are perhaps two people agreeing to the change, and two people who indicated a preference for the status quo. That really isn't enough justification to make a change. Sortan 17:12, 3 August 2005 (UTC)

I have requested page protection. I would also like to clarify that my point here is against the reversions and to point out that anyone reverting should at least be discussing the issue on this page. Maurreen (talk) 17:03, 3 August 2005 (UTC)

We don't need page protection. We need people to be reasonable. The change Jguk made did not have consensus, and results in the paragraph providing less guidance than it did before. Not useful, IMHO. Chuck 18:20, 3 August 2005 (UTC)
Saying Common Era would be providing pov guidance. last 2,000 years is neutral and therefore appropriate. --ClemMcGann 18:37, 3 August 2005 (UTC)

Cease-fire on eras

I've suggested a cease-fire on eras, at the Village pump. Maurreen (talk) 09:08, 29 July 2005 (UTC)

I've also suggested there that we remove or refine from the style guide the requirement for consistency within articles. Maurreen (talk) 22:27, 30 July 2005 (UTC)


Oneother thing while I'm here — the use of "#" to mean "number"; any chance of deprecating that? It's unusual outside very specialised contests, is far more common is the U.S. than anywhere else 9so far as i can tell), and is over-used by those writing popular-music articles (a typical sentence: "Jane Smith had 3 #1 singles and 5 #3s before the emotional anthem 'Bottle Bank' hit the racks and was hailed as her biggest #1 ever."). Shudder. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 18:52, 20 July 2005 (UTC)

In those contexts, I prefer "No." Maurreen 21:26, 23 July 2005 (UTC)
Often nothing at all is needed, but why use an abbreviation at all? (And why capitalised?) The British English form, by the way, has no full stop. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 13:47, 26 July 2005 (UTC)
I'm not saying it should be added to the style guide; I'm saying it's what I prefer. No biggie. Maurreen 16:34, 26 July 2005 (UTC)

Values in parentheses: digits or words

I did some conversions in Flying Elephant. For example:

  • two Daimler 105 horsepower (78 kW) engines
  • two-inch (51 mm) armour plate

These were changed to:

  • two Daimler 105 horsepower (seventy-eight kilowatt) engines
  • two-inch (fifty-one millimetre) armour plate

I follow the guideline:

Use digits and unit symbols for the converted value. For example, '100 millimetre (4 in) pipe for 10 miles (16 km).

Is that guideline inappropriate? Bobblewik 18:26, 5 August 2005 (UTC)

That seems verbose to me. How about:
  • two Daimler, 105-horsepower (78 kW) engines
  • two-inch (51 mm) armour plate
—Wayward 19:17, August 5, 2005 (UTC)
Looks ok to me. If you can make that change without being reverted, please do so. Bobblewik 19:19, 5 August 2005 (UTC)
Whoever spelled out the numbers is adhering too closely to the rule of thumb that any numbers below 100 should be spelled out. Your version follos the MoS. Chuck 19:21, 5 August 2005 (UTC)

Units Section

Having there be general support for the most recent proposal, and no recent discussion, I have subsituted the proposal for the entire Units section as it was before. I included some of Chuck's wording suggestions for clarification, but did not add anything of significance.

As I said before, there are still some open ends that we put aside in favour of getting the section replaced. They are:

  • Quotes — use brackets instead of parentheses, as is normal for quotations
  • Division — mandate slashes for metric and abbreviations for imperial?

There are some things that, because of the new wording, were entirely deleted from the manual, though I think they merit mention. They are:

  • Superscript numerals ¹, ² and ³. These are preferable to the <sup> tags.
  • The line that said that there is no need to convert metric ton to imperial ton on approximations
  • The line concerning links to the orders of magnitude pages

Also, I removed the line about Wikipedia:Measurements Debate as the last post on it was on 28 July. Neonumbers 12:15, 6 August 2005 (UTC)

And the guideline for conversion that we've moved to now, I've just realised, is very very different from the old one. The wording on that might still need discussion. (I get the impression everyone agrees on principle but not wording.) On that, points brought up but not responded to include: <begin quote>

  • I'd add guidelines about the order, possibly separate from the explicit instructions along the lines of
    • "for geographical or historical articles, the primary units should be those in use at that place at that time (e.g. an article about Great Britain should use British units first, and article about modern France should use metric units first).
    • "articles about technology, products or projects the primary units used should be those used by those responsible for the design, etc. (e.g. if a car was desgined in metric units the metric units should come first, if a project relates to "fish that live between 200 and 600ft below the ocean surface" then the imperial units should come first).
    • "sports articles should use the units used in the rules of the sport (e.g. a soccer pitch is defined in imperial, but a rugby pitch defined in metres. If both are used then use the order that the rules do).
    • "Use the order used by the primary source(s) for the article, where this is clear and consistent. If it isn't, use the order used by the first primary contributor (like the British English/US English differences)
  • I don't like the don't pluralise unit abbreviations point. If and when an abbreviation should be pluralised or not depends largely on the abbreviation in question - e.g. I'd expect to see "600 kg" / "600 yds" / either "600 lb" or "600 lbs" - but the article should be consistent on one or the other.
  • For the different versions, I'd say disambiguate on first usage, be consistent after that.
  • I'd add "If including a conversion would disrupt the flow, consider using a footnote instead".
  • I'd add "for dimensions, include the conversion for all the dimensions at the end, e.g. 6 miles × 14 miles (9.6 km × 22.5 km)" Thryduulf

<end quote> and

  • "Add to 5th bullet (italics = new): ... when using symbols and do not use trailing periods. metre is ..." by Chuck

The wording on that is still worth discussion, in my opinion, though it is better now than it was before.

Each point should probably be discussed in a different sub-section, if we want to discuss it. Neonumbers 12:15, 6 August 2005 (UTC)

I agree with using different sections to discuss different issues. Maurreen (talk) 14:00, 6 August 2005 (UTC)

Use of spaces in measurements

Old paragraph

The reader should see a space between the value and the unit symbol: "25 kg", not "25kg". To ensure that the value and the unit symbol are displayed on the same line, editors should use a non-breaking space character rather than a standard space: type 25&nbsp;kg rather than 25 kg. Avoid entering the character directly, even when possible, for some browsers substitute all instances of it with the normal, breaking space.

was changed to

  • The reader should see a space between the value and the unit symbol, for example "25 kg" not "25kg". Use &nbsp; for the space (25&nbsp;kg) to ensure it does not break lines.

This hasn't been discussed recently. I don't see the rewording as intending to make any substantive changes. I just want to take issue with the point in the second sentence of the revised version.

There is some ambiguity in the way it is written: is this precribed in general, or is it just telling editors how to accomplish this when it is desired to avoid a break? I read both versions as at least some editors do, as prescribing nbsp in this situation.

This is a silly rule. We should not be prescribing nbsp in this situation.

  1. It is unnecessary. I suppose some other style guides may recommend it; I cannot come up with any off the top of my head, however. Someone else probably will find some.
    • It is not a rule stated by the BIPM in their SI brochure.[1]
    • It is not a rule stated by NIST in Special Publication 811, Guide for the Use of the International System of Units (SI).[2]
    • The National Physical Laboratory in its SI Conventions webpage only says "space", not specifying nonbreaking.
      • It is not followed by NIST SP811; this document breaks lines between the number and the unit, in both the printed version and the pdf version.
  2. It makes things difficult for editors, especially in measurement intensive articles. All those   make reading the edit page very difficult.
    • Some would never have a line break in any case, even without nbsp, so nbsp is unnecessary even if it is desirable not to have a break in those particular measurements. This often happens in lists, with the measurements near the left margin, and in tables.
  3. Prescribing nbsp in this context obscures other contexts in which it is more important to avoid a line break:
    • There should be no line breaks within a number
      • If spaces are used as thousands separators (e.g., 299 792.458 m/s), then the space should be nonbreaking. Yes, the MoS currently deprecates that style, but it is still sometimes used. Furthermore, no matter what the MoS says, that is always appropriate when it is the rule itself which is under discussion.
      • A space between a number and a common fraction (6 5/8 inches) should be a non-breaking space (6 5/8 inches).
    • There should be no line breaks within a unit of measure.
      • For example, "299.792458 m s-1 (in this case, &middot; (·) is an acceptable alternative to the space; it is also nonbreaking, at least in the browsers I use).
      • Similarly, to show that it doesn't depend on using that superscript notation, a specific impulse can be expressed as "450 N s/kg" (a middot is also an alternative in this case). Or the units of a U.S. R-value might be expressed as "ft² °F h/Btu".

Therefore, I think this rule should be reworded to say how to use it if it is desirable to avoid a space between a number and the unit, while making clear that this is not always required. Gene Nygaard 13:43, 6 August 2005 (UTC)

The history of this is interesting. It was a very simple guideline use a space character. It was changed without discussion to use a non-breaking space character.
I was not happy with that because it implied that an ordinary space character was unacceptable. There are two separate points:
  • specifying use of a space character
  • specifying a type of space character
So I reworded it] into two sentences.
I think the first point is important, uncontroversial, supported by standards and editor action. The second point is less important to me and you make valid points. If it were removed, I would not be unhappy. I certainly think it should be given lower status. Bobblewik 14:18, 6 August 2005 (UTC)
  • Regardless of the style guide precedents, I think it looks sloppy for a number and its unit symbol to be separated by a line break. However, Gene's wording seems to be the most wiki-like. You don't have to add non-breaking spaces, but editors who want to be extra anal could do so, where it makes sense, to avoid lines breaking at annoying places.
  • Maybe we should also clarify that there is no need to add non-breaking spaces if the units are spelled out. IMHO its not the disconnect between the number and the unit that looks sloppy, its the unit symbol ('kg', 'm', etc.) sitting alone at the beginning of a line that looks silly. If the units are spelled out, it does not have that issue.Chuck 22:43, 8 August 2005 (UTC)
I added the sentence because I thought it was decided but not clarified. I have no opinion on whether a space should be there or not, so if it needs to be removed, go ahead and remove it. Apologies if my judgement fell wrong. Neonumbers 06:43, 9 August 2005 (UTC)

Use of hyphens and dashes in number ranges

In Pallandari there is the following text:

  • Temprature in sommer is almost 20--35 Centigrads and in in Winter -5--25 degree centigrades

I was trying to tidy it up. The author has put two hyphens or dashes between the digits for summer and winter. I could not work out whether the winter temperature range is -5 to -25 °C or -5 to 25 °C. That is a classic example of why I do not like to use a horizontal line to indicate both to and minus. In most cases the reader can decipher what the author intended. But the use of the term 'to' is unambiguous and requires less effort in all cases. Bobblewik 12:15, 8 August 2005 (UTC)

I just did one like that (perhaps incorrectly, of course) at Dnipropetrovsk, a few hours before you posted this. Gene Nygaard 14:09, 8 August 2005 (UTC)

Considering the grammar of that article, this is a niggling matter. However, I think it's safe to assume that it's −5 °C to 25 °C. —Wayward 14:21, August 8, 2005 (UTC)

For starters, I'd suggest that those hyphens are never appropriate when
  • the measurement includes, or reasonably might include, negative numbers
  • as a replacement for the intermediate word in formulations such as "between ... and ..." or "from ... to ...". Gene Nygaard 15:17, 8 August 2005 (UTC)

It's difficult to see why the example is ambiguous (though "-25–5" would be). Still, common sense is all that's needed in such cases, surely? The same goes for the misuse of the en-rules in "between x and y" or "from x to y". I've corrected many of these, and I very much doubt that yet another line in the MoS would have made any difference to the original writers.

Difficult to see? You do interpret it differently than Wayward did, don't you? Obviously, it causes problems for at least one of you. Gene Nygaard 17:10, 8 August 2005 (UTC)
Yes, I misread it. Sorry. --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 17:39, 8 August 2005 (UTC)
I think such a guideline would affect some original writers. But more importantly, it would affect the actions of subsequent editors, if they know they have the support of the Wikipedia community (and of other style guides as well) in making that change. Gene Nygaard 17:16, 8 August 2005 (UTC)

Prefer [[February 17]], [[1958]]

I almost got into a revert war with User:Gdr over the dates, but then he graciously restored my good edits and reverted the ones that... well, changed [[17 February]], [[1958]] to [[February 17]], [[1958]].

Hmph. You know, I was planning to change them *all*, but here we go. The current Manual of Style entry on dates does not favor one date format over another. I would like to propose that we favor the [[February 17]], [[1958]] setup because both wikilinks point to real articles, as opposed to, say [[17 February]], which is a redirect (try it: [3]). Thoughts? — Ambush Commander(Talk) 21:05, August 11, 2005 (UTC)

  • Are you aware that you control the date format in your own user Preferences? If you wikify the dates like that they are adjusted to be displayed to you in your selected format. (SEWilco 21:10, 11 August 2005 (UTC))
Yup. It's just that I'm working on a read-only bot and it keeps reporting that links like [[17 February]] are redirects. Ah... I guess the real solution is just to program this in as an exception. Meh. — Ambush Commander(Talk) 21:30, August 11, 2005 (UTC)