Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 40

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Re: The new Unit guidelines added by User:Andy85719

The guidelines added are helpful, but may be inaccurate. In reference to the Area heading, for imperial units, I have always been taught that the superscript 2 (2) was only to be used in metric units, and imperials should use sq. in., or sq. mi., but never the 2, as it is only for metrics. Could someone please varify this? --Jared [T]/[+] 01:38, 10 March 2006 (UTC)

Judging from the contributions, he appears to be a new user. I disagree with some of the guidelines he has added (e.g. Always abbreviate units). Some of the guidance does not belong here (e.g. specifying symbols). Some of it is duplication of existing guidance (e.g. Never use an s after an abbreviation to make it plural). Some of the stuff addresses problems that do exist but I am not sure if they are worthy of documenting (e.g. Do not put periods (full stops) after units). It look likes his heart is in the right place. Perhaps a way to deal with it would be to invite him to undo his contribution and discuss it here. It is up to you. bobblewik 01:56, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, that sounds pretty good, I'll invite him to see this discussion. --Jared [T]/[+] 02:05, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
Nevermind, you already have. Thanks. --Jared [T]/[+] 02:06, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
Yes. Sorry about that. I noticed a couple of changes from British english to US english and could not resist raising it with him myself. bobblewik 02:21, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
Superscripts are common and proper for English units as well. All there is is a somewhat greater acceptance of using "sq" and "cu" with English units; it's far from a universal rule, and while one way or another may be mentioned in various house style guides, few if any general purpose guides will prescribe one or the other.
One problem, of course, is that few people bother setting out rules for the use of Fred Flintstone units, whether English or other customary units or obsolete metric units, any more. Gene Nygaard 02:27, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
I know that both can be used, but I think that the sq. is more common and more generally accepted, but it shouldn't be made a big deal. All I was trying to say here is that the people should be left to decide and not have this guideline misleading them. P.S. Gene, what are you talking about: Fred Flintstone units? --Jared [T]/[+] 02:56, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
Many times on Wikipedia the units used on articles vary dramatically. Some people use "Km," some people spell out "kilometers," some spell out miles and others abbreviate it. These kinds of variations are not helpful. Although Wikipedia is used to help spread information across borders, standardized guidelines are neccessary. It also helps improve appearance. For example, according the the Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Stylebook, when abbreviating the United States "U.S." should be used and never "US." The my purpose for establishing a list of correct ways of displaying measurements wasn't to indicate that they are set in stone, but to fill the need for one. The previous guidelines listed under measurements were not sufficient. Now that there is a list, changes can be made as seen fit. I was also the one to include a guideline for currency, something that was completely missing before. Regarding the U.S. units being squared, it is most definitely allowed. Many products in the United States have their surface area listed as in². Since the use of the metric system and its use of "²" to denote that a unit is square, this method of denoting square and cubic units has crept into usage with U.S. units. The reason I repeatedly emphasized things is because they are never followed. Andy85719 03:36, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
If you are interested in getting uniformity, then why in the world would you ever violate one of the basic, fundamental rules of writing units and put a capital K in those "Km" in your example? Gene Nygaard 13:14, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
I was not the one who capitalized the K in the example. I am not responsible for the examples given on that page. Whoever did that must have reversed my correction of their error. That is moot now since someone has taken it upon themselves to reverse everything so that they could redirect people back to a personal style guide that they have listed under their name and which can be accessed by looking at the History and looking for the revision that shows "rv" in the comments section. This is supposed to be the style guide. Other articles are not supposed to serve in such a manner. This situation has greatly perturbed me. Andy85719 16:24, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
It seems to me that people making these style guides want to make things as vague as possible. Not only to they argue if something is added to the guide, but they quibble over minute things. Most style guides have a section which tells the way in which units are displayed. However, this one has about a one paragraph guide telling in general how they should be used. This has resulted in vast differences in measurements and constant changes being made. Is that what is desired? Do people want to continue arguing over if SI Units should be abbreviated and imperial units spelled out. And with all of this quibbling, how is one supposed to form a consensus? People are still arguing over how to display dates and if the period should go inside or outside of the quotation marks. This kind of gridlock has led to aggresive reversers. People who revert any new thing that has been added. Isn't the purpose of this site to add on and refine and not to reverse over and over again and then write nasty comments about "we should get a consensus"? If people honestly feel that the way in which I have displayed units is wrong than they should correct what is written. What they shouldn't do is go and revert over and over again. By the way. I am unsure how Gene Nygaard found a capitalized Km. It could be as a result of one of the aggressive reverters. Andy85719 16:55, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
I guess I was unclear. I wasn't talking about any "Km" on the project page—rather, just to your statement 'Some people use "Km"' in your comment on this talk page to which I was responding. Of course, that statement is true enough; some people do. But so what? That capitalization is an unnecessary distraction, having nothing whatsoever to do with the point you were trying to make. Your point would have been clearer had you written "km" instead. Gene Nygaard 17:31, 10 March 2006 (UTC)

Must we abbreviate imperial units and spell out SI?

SI units have standard abbreviations which are much more widely used in dimensioning than the full name, but some of the abbreviations of imperial units are very rare in the UK: mi is uncommon (and looks rather like ml on my browser). The imperial names are much shorter anyway, so it makes more sense to type "a pipe 100 mm (4 inches) in diameter and 16 km (10 miles) long." If I remember to stick to the rule as it stands, I'll just have to give the imperial units first, regardless of the context. ...dave souza, talk 10:47, 10 March 2006 (UTC)

I think the notion of spelling out the first and using symbols for the second is silly, and should be changed—but I think that "mi" should generally be used as a symbol for statute miles. So I'll addres each of those points separately.
Whether or not symbols should be used for the units depends on a lot of other factors more important than whether or not one of them is a conversion, or whether or not one of them is listed first (the original should generally be first, but not everybody follows that rule either).
  • It depends on the density of measurements in the article.
  • There are many articles with few measurements in which all units spelled out looks good.
  • There are few articles filled with measurements in which spelling out either of the unit names looks good.
  • It depends on common formulations recogizable as a measurement instantly, with commonly understood units
  • When giving a persons height and weight together, it rarely makes sense to use anything other than symbols for all the units (even st for stone is okay, though most North Americans are unfamiliar with that usage).
  • There are many situations in which one or more of the units of measurement, or their symbols, are not likely to be familiar to a significant number of readers. In these cases, I'd think the best practice would be to spell out the unit on first use, then use symbols in subsequent use.
  • It matters how complex the units are
  • The people writing these rules often act like the only unit we ever use are simple short one-word units like "miles". They often fail to take into consideration that we also use units like "pound-force feet" and "newton seconds per kilogram" and "square foot-degree Fahrenheit-hours per British thermal unit" which many people would probably express in words ambiguously as square feet per degree Fahrenheit per British thermal unit per hour, where the order of operations is not properly identified.
  • Even more significant are units such as "joules per mole-kelvin" or "joules per mole per kelvin", which isn't easily disambiguated but can much more easily be correctly written in symbols: J/(mol·K) and J·mol-1·K-1 or even (J/mol)/K or (J/K)/mol are correct, but J/mol/K or J/mol·K are not correct for the units regularly encountered (even if in some situation the latter were the intended unit, it should be reordered as J·K/mol.
On to the other point about miles
  • The use of "mi" isn't really that uncommon in the UK.
  • The use of either mile² or worse yet miles² is ugly. Superscripts should only be used with symbols, not with spelled out words.
  • The use of ft/mile and the like is ugly. Mathematical operators such as "/" should be used with symbols, not spelled out words (use something like "feet per mile" instead when the words are spelled out, spelling out all of the units).
  • The symbol "mi" helps in disambiguating ambiguous miles. While there is no universally accepted symbol for nautical miles, one thing is certain—nobody intentionally uses "mi" standing alone (as opposed to "n mi" or "nmi" and the like) to stand for nautical miles, so if we see "mi" it should be safe to assume that the intended miles are statute miles, and the symbol should be changed if they are not. The spelled-out word "mile", OTOH, is often used standing alone when the miles are nautical miles. In cases such as polar exploration, distances between islands, locations of tropical storm with respect to a city, and the like, using the symbol "mi" is less ambiguous than using an unqualified spelled-out word "miles".
  • If the context allows you to confuse "mi" and "ml", then maybe some rewriting is in order.
Gene Nygaard 14:33, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
One factor I forgot to mention is avoiding arguments about "kilometres per hour" or "kilometers per hour", when a simple "km/h" will be universally understood in almost any context, and a lot of needless irritation avoided. Gene Nygaard 15:15, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
I'd probably use kph as in mph: we agree that the current guidance should be changed, and it's a good idea to spell out what the units mean for the first time in each article, particularly for unusual or derived units: examples in common use being rad, N, Pa and ha: today a newsreader on the BBC was wondering aloud what a hectare was, but they missed the opportunity to explain themselves. ...dave souza, talk 18:23, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
Another point: is there any guidance about changing gms to SI? While editing pancake I left cm dimensions alone, but wondered about it. ...dave souza, talk 18:38, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
Grams are SI; but their only acceptable symbol is "g", not "gms". Similarly, you might write "kph" but someone will likely change it before long. Even in the United States, all our car speedometers use the proper symbol, "km/h". You only get away with using "mph", with that language-specific "p" in the middle, because the International System of Units is the only system still fully supported and updated; nobody bothers updating the rules for English units. Gene Nygaard 19:08, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
Sorry, may be just my erratic memory, but around 1970 the system for building here went SI, skipping the system which lingered in other countries (which I vaguely recall as being grams/metres/seconds) of using cm (still used in primary schools here, I think), cc instead of ml, kg force and the like, so we shifted straight to Newtons etc. Must look at my speedometer, think it's probably the same as yours, and of course we've stuck with miles. Anyway, what I should have asked, is there any policy about standardising on pure SI, or do we leave things like centimetres alone?..dave souza, talk 20:59, 10 March 2006 (UTC), tweaked 21:05, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
Everyone has made some very good points in this discussion. Here's my thoughts...For a while I have been editing articles so that the first measurements were spelled out and the converted measurements were abbreviated in parenthesis. I had a battle on the New Zealand page over this format. Most pages have the metric system first and English/U.S. customary unit converted. So editing would look like this: 45.3 kilograms (100 Lbs). Since metric units have a defined abbreviation for most measurements and English/U.S. measurements can vary, I like the idea of putting the English units first, spelled out and the SI units abbreviated in parenthesis. Most people are use to seeing metric units in their abbreviated state anyway. Either way I am happy as long as both are displayed. MJCdetroit 21:28, 10 March 2006 (UTC)
Grams and centimeters are part of SI. Where did you get the idea that they are not, Dave? That said, things like 3×1018 cm are clear evidence of obsolete cgs (the terminology you were obviously trying to think of was centimeter-gram-second) usage, and should be changed. Of course, centimeters used in conjunction with ergs or dynes fall into the same category, and the choice of prefixes should be considered if the non-SI cgs units are replaced with SI units in an article (for example, when the basis of the article is some old public domain publication). IMHO, about the only thing centimeters are good for are cubic centimeters and your hat size. But if I run across a persons height as 175 cm, I leave it (if I'm adding a conversion myself, it will be as 1.75 m). Centimeters (centimetres) always raise red flags with me in three situations: when they are used with scientific notation, when they are greater than 100, and when they have fractional parts (other than 0.5 in measurements likely to half-centimeter precision). If all of the centimeter measurements have decimal fractions, they are likely best converted to millimeters.
Your are also likely too young to understand the significance of some of the arguments about cubic centimeters vs. milliliters, though if you remember the 1970s you may be almost old enough. If you weren't around in the days when we were taught that they weren't exactly the same thing (and they really weren't, even though the difference probably wouldn't show up in any of the measurements most people make), then just consider yourself fortunate to have missed out on that. That's probably enough said on that topic; if you want to know more, see the litre article and pay attention to the history of its definition. Gene Nygaard 23:00, 10 March 2006 (UTC)

<reduce indent> Hi again. Sadly, I'm not the youth you seem to expect, but an old duffer who was trying to do too many things at once. Oops. cgs was intended, thanks for the clarification. I don't recall the cc vs ml debate, but did follow discussions on what size bricks should be, and whether to use a comma for a decimal point. I was well into my course for professional qualifications when the UK changeover began, with a lecturer memorably undermining his point by waving a bit of wood and exhorting "Think metric! From now on we've to think of this four by two as a hundred by fifty." The AJ Metric Handbook (3rd edition because my first copy disintegrated) indicates where my prejudice against cm came from: "Centimetres or millimetres.. In accepting the metre and millimetre exclusively for linear measurement the Handbook conforms to international agreement and to subsequent ratification of that agreement by the BSI. These agreements have been embodied in BSI documents PD 6031:1968 (2nd edition) The use of the metric system in the construction industry and BS 1192:1969 Recommendations for building drawing practice metric units." So since then I've only used cm for ski lengths. Oh well. Back to my double elephant drawing board. Will try to summarise the useful points of agreement from above for a new discussion on improving the guidance. ...dave souza, talk 17:17, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

While segueing a bit from the original topic, I'd favor a proposal to suggest millimeter units over centimeter units. That keeps unit usage consistent with engineering notation. —Daelin @ 2006–03–21 12:07Z

Time formats

I noticed that the MOS recommends using "12 noon" and "12 midnight" rather than 12 a.m. or 12 p.m. However, writing "12 noon" and "12 midnight" is redundant and unnecessary; instead, it should just be "noon" or "midnight" (or, personally, I'd go with 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.) Furthermore, while a.m. and p.m. may be confused by some people, they are not ambiguous: 12 a.m. is midnight, and 12 p.m. is noon.

I looked through the archives, and the closest thing I found was Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style_(dates_and_numbers)/archive11.

In summary, I feel that the recommendation should be changed from "12 noon" and "12 midnight," respectively, to merely "noon" and "midnight." (Although i do support exclusive use of 24-hour times (despite my dislike for them, since I'm American and rarely use them) for consistency, but apparently that's never going to happen.) //MrD9 05:27, 12 March 2006 (UTC)

There is no real redundancy. You could be talking about solar noon instead, and that's a 50 minute (for about five months) or 1 hour 50 minute (the rest of the year) difference where I live.
Furthermore, there is often the issue of parallel construction; when several times are given, all of them should be stated in numbers.
I'd say there is some ambiguity in either 12 a.m. or 12 p.m., and that 12 m. which used to be used for 12 meridiem has become uncommon (likely because some people started using 12 m. intending the m for midnight). Gene Nygaard 14:28, 12 March 2006 (UTC)
Most intelligent people will know what is meant by noon and midnight. I don't think that it needs to be over analyzed. MJCdetroit 15:17, 12 March 2006 (UTC)
The MoS actually once recommended the 24-hour format only. Then some people whined often and long enough until the 12-hour format was also included, but mostly to standardise its usage (“PM”/“p. m.” etc.), not to recommend the use of it. (If people can read out loud a written “i.e.” or “e.g.” as “that is” and “for example” “a.m.” or “p.m.” as “in the morning” / “before noon” and “in the afternoon/evening” respectively, why aren’t they expected to understand “23:45”? It’s just a simple substraction/addition of twelve anyway.)
There’s hopefully no doubt about “12 a.m.” and “12 p.m.” being counter-intuitive (unlike uncommon “0 a.m.” / “0 p.m.”) if not ambiguous; they are often misunderstood by non-native speakers. Therefore “noon” and “midnight” should be used. (As if this alone was not reason enough to use unambiguous hh:mm.) Whether this be with or without the number twelve is not that important IMO to request one or the other, but doesn’t “noon” sound even more vague than “12 noon”?
PS: I just saw the first watch (or clock) in my lifetime here in Good Old Europe that cannot be switched from 12-hour to 24-hour format. Cheap Hongkong import. It does support kilograms (besides pounds), though, and it displays dates either in ISO-conformant or alphanumeric formats. Christoph Päper 16:19, 12 March 2006 (UTC)

I guess, then, this won't be changed, even though what's recommended as the allowed "American" version goes against what standard American English would prefer. I guess it's not worth fighting, though. By the way, just for my own awareness, when you people who use the 24-hour clock in everyday life talk about times, do you actually say like "I'll meet you for dinner at 20" (as opposed to "I'll meet you for dinner at 8") or "The game is at sixteen-thirty" ("four-thirty") or something? I never quite understood it. Or do you simply say it in 12-hour but do everythign written in 24-hour? //MrD9 05:42, 13 March 2006 (UTC)

The spoken usage is described at 24-hour clock, but not completely. Perhaps it needs more work. Here are some bullet points:
  • The 24 hour clock is certainly not confined to the written form. It is also a spoken format.
  • There are some situations where it is written as 24 hour format but spoken as 12 hour format. A dinner date is a good example but it would be quite normal to say "I am catching the eighteen twenty five so can I meet you at nine instead?"
  • The written format '20' and the spoken format 'twenty' do exist in some languages. I do not know if it exists in english, where the written format '20:00' and the spoken format 'twenty hundred hours' is commonplace.
Hope that helps. bobblewik 23:14, 13 March 2006 (UTC)

What does 64K mean?

I noticed the format '64K' in Apple IIe and changed it to '64 K'. It got reverted as collateral damage in a dispute about some of the other edits on the page. I am sure that there is missing 'B' or 'bit' symbol. What is the correct format for the units on that page? bobblewik 13:09, 13 March 2006 (UTC)

64K means 64 x 1024 eight bit bytes. It refers to the memory size of the microcomputer. To me that is 64 kilobytes or 64 KB but a fabby-dabby expression is 64 kibibytes (which I have never seen or heard in the wild!). The notation 64K was (and is) very common in computer parlance but I think it is not appropriate in Wikipedia. Thincat 13:55, 13 March 2006 (UTC)
Oh, I see now! I've looked at the history [1]. In this article, as in so many of these batches of reversions recently, the reversion has been entirely deleterious and so, in my view, disruptive. Looking at your edit, I am personally not too keen on the abbreviation K, even in a computer-related article. However, that is a very minor point compared to what you are having to put up with. Thincat 14:12, 13 March 2006 (UTC)
Thanks. One small comment of support like that can compensate for a lot of frustration. Please feel free to contribute to the new proposal in the linking of dates section above. bobblewik 17:09, 13 March 2006 (UTC)
User:Gene Nygaard must have seen this discussion because he made some edits to the page in line with what you said. There are still lonely prefixes outstanding. bobblewik 17:20, 13 March 2006 (UTC)
As an unadorned prose quantity term in Wikipedia, 64K means 64,000 of something; nothing more, nothing less. As a reported term, i.e. reporting verbatim a term that has been used elsewhere, it can refer to 64 KiB i.e. 65,536 bytes. It may also be used as a proper noun or as part of a proper noun for something which includes 64 KiB. If it is just referring to a quantity of memory which is intended to be 65,536 bytes, then it may be edited to 64 KiB (64&nbsp;KiB in wiki markup). Duckbill 22:41, 13 March 2006 (UTC)
As others have pointed out, SI prefixes must never be used in isolation from units. "64 K" and "64K" are equally incorrect. Only "64K" has some weight as jargon, and an informal descriptor, despite being ambiguous to laymen, as you've demonstarted. In my humble opinion, such an instance is improper for an encyclopedia, and should be edited as Duckbill suggests as permissible. Thincat, you'll find "KiB" and "MiB" laced throughout any modern Linux shell or GUI experience. All the cool tools are doing it. (heh) —Daelin @ 2006–03–18 08:59Z

Truncation of dates

Can we switch the rule to NOT allow truncation of dates? By having a date truncated such as: 2000-05 or 1987-89 it prevents us from searching for dates for listing in the specific date articles. Its an archaic format designed to save space in a written document. I need to be able to search for "1989" to see what events ended in 1989 and this format prevents it. Anyne else have any thoughts? --Richard Arthur Norton (1958- ) 02:38, 14 March 2006 (UTC)

  • I would support a proposal along those lines. Neier 13:46, 14 March 2006 (UTC)
  • This seems to be m:instruction creep. Truncating the second date is standard in AmE style guides; why can't we just let the editors of each article decide what style they'll follow? —Kirill Lokshin 14:26, 14 March 2006 (UTC)
(implicit objection. appeal to instruction creep and tradition)
  • I support this. I expand truncated dates when I see them. Walter Siegmund (talk) 18:32, 16 March 2006 (UTC)
  • It took me a while to realize that "2000-05" did not refer to May of 2000. That notation conflicts with the ISO date format.—Daelin @ 2006–03–19 00:04Z
(implicit support)
That's not really a convincing argument, since the ISO date format was intended for technical use, not formal writing. All-numeral dates are generally avoided in any case, since the differences between American and Continental ordering make them amgibuous (unless they are linked full dates, in which case the point is moot). Kirill Lokshin 22:33, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
  • Support proposal completely. truncations are ambiguous and confusing. --Quiddity 06:18, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
  • Comment. I'm not sure what you mean by "prevents us from searching for dates for listing in the specific date articles." Could you clarify? Thanks. —Wayward Talk 23:22, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
    I suspect he means that searching for "1849" won't produce the desired result if the article text contains "1848–49". Kirill Lokshin 23:24, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
Do you mean a search performed within the article itself or a search at Special:Search? —Wayward Talk 01:37, 22 March 2006 (UTC)
  • I don't support this for article text; on the other hand I was the one who introduced discouragement of truncation in article titles (wikipedia:naming conventions (numbers and dates)#Articles on events). I don't think that guideline is generally followed though. So making this a rule for article text is quite redundant IMHO. Example: I think May '68 will still be a standard understandable format for many ages to come (so should not be removed from article text) – even if over time wikipedia may influence public opinion by having the article at May 1968. That article only mentions the usual format "May '68" in some book titles in the Further Reading section (and not in the body of the article): that's not something wikipedia should be proud about, so it may be improved by the time you look at that article. Similarly: I don't think UEFA Champions League 2005-06 a good article title (it should be written not truncated in the article name IMHO, except, of course allowing redirects from the truncated format); and in UEFA articles wikipedians can write "UEFA Champions League 2005-06" as often as they want, as far as I'm concerned. --Francis Schonken 23:40, 21 March 2006 (UTC)