Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 3

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Standard in U.S. (majority of current audience)

If our audience is English speakers, which was my impression, then the US. is not the majority of the current audience. Am I misunderstanding something?

When they say "current audience", they presumably mean "current readership" rather than "intended audience". Understood that way, the argument is less strong. AxelBoldt 21:17 Mar 3, 2003 (UTC)
Ok, do we have stats on what proportion of the current readership is US? Martin

I'm chipping in late here, but here's my opinion: we should keep the current standard of Month Day, Year, and edit anything that is in some other form to match that form. In other words, we should continue as we are. Any change is not worth the hassle it will cause, and I honestly don't see what the benefits are. I'm not convinced that the Month Day, Year format is only standard in the US - I just looked at two very different UK newspapers (The Sun and The Guardian) and both give today's date as "March 3 2003". --Camembert

That's a good point. Guardian articles also use month/day, from a quick sample of a few of their pages, so it's not just their header. Well there you go, we started off this debate being surprised at US style guides supporting "international" usage, and now we find some UK newspapers supporting "American" usage. (I note that the daily telegraph is sticking to day/month, though... ;-) Martin

From the Guardian style guide:

January 1 2000 (no commas)
It is occasionally alleged that putting month before date in this way is an "Americanisation"; in which case it should be pointed out that this has been our style since the first issue of the Manchester Guardian on May 5 1821

...and similarly the Times style guide:

dates Monday, April 18, 1994 (never 18th April)


Newspapers generally use the same standard date format, largely to do with their filing system for past editions, in which previously newspapers were bound together by month, not date. For the ease of staff engaged in filing large piles of newspapers in the days before papers were microfilmed and when the work was done in poor lighting in old buildings, it was long ago decided that most British and Irish newspapers would place the keyword first, which in the case of filing was the month. (A small number of newspapers, notably the Daily Telegraph refused to follow that rule, even if it caused more eyestrain for their unfortunate library staff, on the basis that it did not want to look like it was copying the US.) Newspaper dating of no relevance whatsoever to this debate. We don't use newspaper fonts, newspaper layout, newspaper graphics or anything. Their dating system is irrelevent and does not in any case mean that their readers followed that system, because they didn't.

It is an unambiguous fact that most of the world uses dd/mm/yy, not mm/dd/yy. Even computers change dating systems depending on where in the world the computer is used. On my computer only one country in the world is shown as mm/dd/yy, the US. (More show up as yy/mm/dd (2) than mm/dd/yy (1).) Dates are written as dd/mm/yy and spoken as the second of March, not March 2. JtdIrL 01:39 Mar 4, 2003 (UTC)

So why didn't they file by year first? lysdexia 02:02, 14 Nov 2004 (UTC)
But remember, we are talking about Month, not mm. 01/04/03 is ambiguous, but January 4, 2003 is understandable by all English speakers. There is no significant difference between the understandability of 4 January 2003 and January 4, 2003, and clarity is our main goal. (And I don't think anybody is suggesting we use 4th January 2003 or 4th of January 2003 or January the 4th, 2003, so how it is spoken is not really relevant.) Nanobug 12:57 29 May 2003 (UTC)

I'm looking at the "Encourage [[Day Month]] [[Year]]" option and the "Keep [[Month Day]] standard, allow both [[Month Day]], [[Year]] and [[Day Month]] [[Year]] in entries, preferring format appropriate to majority editor/readership" option. Are these supposed to be parallel? If so, should this be made more clear? If not, where are their parallel opposites? (I'm hoping so.) -- Toby 07:14 Mar 4, 2003 (UTC)

I originally created parallel "Encourage" options, but nobody (except, briefly, Tannin) voted for "Encourage Month Day", so I scrapped that option. The "Keep Month Day standard, allow..." was created by The Cunctator. I guess the options are pretty much parallel, though more by accident than design... Martin

So "Encourage ..." is a vote to change (or not change) only the article titles, but to have no MoS policy for article text? -- Toby 11:17 Mar 8, 2003 (UTC)

That's how I would interpret it. Martin

In my quest for issues on which we actually agree, I'd like to add something along the following lines to the article:

  • Avoid using multiple date formats in the same article - this can confuse readers.

I know that Tannin would disagree with this idea, idea, but would peoplewould support consistency within individual articles, even if consistency across the whole of wikipedia is more controversial? Thanks. Martin

Providing that the month was spelled out, I doubt that it would confuse readers, although it might annoy some of the more pedantic, but I would be quite happy to make dates consistent within individual articles and probably have done so in the past. -- Derek Ross
No, that's OK with me, Martin. In general, it is poor style to mix and match within an individual entry. It's only when you hit complex passages where you need to mention four or five dates in a single para that we need to allow a little extra slack. Tannin
Could you give some examples? Martin

Article Titles

There's a lot of discussion over what the articles should be called: 11 February (with a redirect from February 11), or February 11 (with a redirect from 11 February).

I'd like to suggest a way of making more people happy on this. I think that if we have the articles at 11 February, then if people visit February 11 they should not see the "redirected from" text. After all, nobody should ever be changing these redirects to point anywhere else!

This obviously requires changes to the #REDIRECT code, and possibly these "silent redirects" could only be made by sysops. However, I think that'd make people a lot more willing to compromise. I'd be perfectly happy to have month day as article titles, provided that making a link to day month didn't result in an ugly "redirected from" text at the top of the page.


Martin 13:44 Mar 8, 2003 (UTC)

"(redirect from 11 February)." doesn't look ugry at all. What is wrong with that? -- Taku 02:01 Mar 9, 2003 (UTC)

It implies that the link has been made to the wrong place, like a mispelling, and it unnecessarily draws attention to the inner workings of wikipedia. That's fine for normal redirects (because one wants to draw attention to it so that the reader can change the redirect if sie likes) bu I think it's inferior for date redirecs. Martin
I agree it is very ugly and IMO has led to a tendency for people to go out of their way to make direct links instead of using perfectly valid redirects. I admit to doing to too. The biggest problem is that "From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." is replaced with the ugly "Redirected from.... " so the article doesn't look right. An older version of the software had the "Redirected from ...." statement above where the interlanguage links now go. If that were done with small font then IMO there would be much less resistance for people to use redirects and Wikipedians wouldn't be wasting so much damn time arguing about nomenclature. --mav 11:04 Mar 9, 2003 (UTC)

I've just noticed that (contribs talk page) is making changes to pages so dates fit the Date Month Year format, rather than Month Date, Year. I must admit, I was rather annoyed by this until I came to this page and saw that the policy now reads "February 11 or 11 February" for dates. This is a change in policy - it used to be universally "February 11" - indeed the first of the voting options above says "Keep [[Month Day]], [[Year]] as MoS policy (status quo)". Why was this changed, and why shouldn't I change it back? I liked it better the way it was before, and judging from the above, so do lots of other people. --Camembert

Actually, forget that - it's not worth getting into an argument (or discussion) over. In fact, one of the reasons I supported keeping the status quo (which isn't the status quo any more, if you see what I mean) was that this didn't seem a subject worth arguing over. I'll leave the above comment here in case anybody else is interested by it, but this is me beating a retreat from this discussion. (and apologies if I sound a bit grumpy, I'm just feeling a little... well, grumpy :) --Camembert
Ack, I didn't mean to be changing policy - just trying to clarify which bits are controversial, and which not. IE, nobody has a problem with 10th century BC! I'll fix this - sorry to have given you a shock... Martin
Thanks for clearing that up Martin, and my apologies: I probably over-reacted a bit. I'm happier now (easily satisfied, I guess... ;) --Camembert

So what is the position now? Are we able to use [10 December] rather than automatically [December 10]? I must say I would much prefer to do this. I use dd/mm/yy in absolutely everything I write (newspaper articles, briefing documents, books, notes, etc) , with the sole and solitary exception of on wikipedia so I would enthusiastically abandon mm/dd/yy (with the hope of never having to use the infernal thing ever again!). STÓD/ÉÍRE 21:10 Mar 9, 2003 (UTC)

First of all, manual of style has no authority but simple advisory therefore you can write an article in whatever way you like. -- Taku 23:12 Mar 9, 2003 (UTC)

Taku, Wikipedia is meant to be a professional organised, communal encylopædia. That means everyone should show sufficient respect for the rules agreed by people, not say 'too hell with everyone else. I'm doing it my way. If you do it that way, Wikipedia will soon be reduced to an unreadable amateurish joke. STÓD/ÉÍRE

Second of all, with the date redirects in place, you can write the way you want -- and in my arrogant opinion, you should. All articles I create or edit will be in the standard form -- the one you like -- from now on. --the Epopt 01:22 Mar 10, 2003 (UTC)

I've added (and to a degree implemented) a suggestion for handling early years. Separate articles for very early years serve no useful purpose IMHO. The cutoff years have been chosen based upon the frequency of existing articles. It could be argued that they should be moved significantly upwards (i.e. cutoff for decades at 1 BC, for instance). -- Egil 15:34 Mar 29, 2003 (UTC)

This has been discussed at Wikipedia:Timeline standards, where we currently have: "Note: Years prior to 2000 BC should redirect to the relevant century page. Years prior to 1 AD should redirect to the relevant decade page. This is due to the inaccuracies of dates in this time period, and the comparatively reduced number of important historical events". Been discussed briefly in Wikipedia talk:Timeline standards. Martin
Sounds reasonable, although my review of what is in Wikipedia right now indicated that the switch to centuries could well happen before 2000 BC. I've spent a few hours implementing the redirects and copyedits to handle the limits I mention here, and leave to others to do more. -- Egil 09:23 Mar 31, 2003 (UTC)

And another thing.. wouldn't it be more neutral/less US/euro centric/etc. to use CE and BCE instead of AD and BC? -- Kimiko 15:24 Apr 14, 2003 (UTC)

This conversation comes up every now and again, and never gets anywhere other than raising tempers. :) Generally, we follow typical English-language usage by not using AD at all and using BC for years prior to 1. CE is redundant, and the benefits of BCE over BC are disputed. A massive attempt to change existing uses of BC to BCE would be very much frowned upon, but new usage of BCE ought not to be rejected. As with British vs American spelling, it would be preferable to be consistent within any given article. --Brion 17:38 Apr 14, 2003 (UTC)

I can only second that. I sometimes enjoy being PC and try to be NPOV, so BCE really has its merits. But everyone understands BC, and there are myriads of BCs already. Is it too far fetched to pretend that BC is also an abbreviation for "Before Common era" or something like that? -- Egil 18:03 Apr 14, 2003 (UTC)

BC is universally understood. BCE isn't to many many people internationally who don't use it. And there is no point making up a phoney meaning for BC. We don't write Before Christ in articles and most people already know what it means. STÓD/ÉÍRE 18:42 Apr 14, 2003 (UTC)

Okay. It was just something that occurred to me. I can live with either. If it is something that keeps coming up, better leave it at least on the talk page. -- Kimiko 21:24 Apr 14, 2003 (UTC)

Apostrophe in years

Moved from Wikipedia:Village pump

Does anyone have a Fowler's to hand? When I say "foobar had started by the 1920s", do I write "1920's" or "1920s"? Cgs

1920s. Or (subject to the linking/overlinking discussion abouve, of course, 1920s. Tannin

having two numbers which are not seperated by a word is substantially easier to mentally parse

Oh? What's the source for this? Martin