Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 68

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Billion / Thousand Million

As per discussion on Talk: United Kingdom, it would be useful if we could get 'thousand million' the preferred wording for articles of a UK focus rather than 'billion', as 'billion' is ambiguous in UK contexts. To some it's 109 and to others it's 1012. 'Thousand million' is unambiguously 109, and thus preferable for UK contexts. Thoughts? Matthew 12:28, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

I don't think it's ambiguous any more. Of course billion used to be 1012, and ought logically to be 1012, and I wish it were still 1012, but it's never used that way now. (Can you prove me wrong by citing any counter-example from a major publisher in the last five years?) Stephen Turner (Talk) 17:24, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
Not sure that counter-example would stack up, as Wikipedia isn't being edited by a major publisher with (in theory) consistent editors, and just because they do it doesn't mean it isn't ambiguous. However, Fowler's Guide to Modern English Usage (3rd edition) says that 'the older sense "a million millions" is still common'. Alternatively, there's what the people at the OED write on the matter. Matthew 17:39, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

I don't think anyone has used billion to mean a million million in about 10 years - not in anything official/formal, anyway. --Tango 17:58, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

I don't dispute this. However, Wikipedia is neither official nor formal, hence the ambiguity of 'billion'. Matthew 18:18, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
Perhaps its first use in an article should be annotated as "billion (109)" just for clarity's sake. Askari Mark (Talk) 18:24, 3 February 2007 (UTC)
Wikipedia is definitely formal... --Tango 12:01, 4 February 2007 (UTC)
Yeah, Wikipedia's certainly a formally written work, and should follow formal writing standards.
I'd still say "billion" is ambiguous though. I mean, personally, I think it's always 109... isn't it a British thing? (Note "British thing" not "Commonwealth thing"...) The first-use-in-an-article suggestion's not a bad idea. Neonumbers 09:59, 5 February 2007 (UTC)
I'm British, and I haven't heard anyone use billion to mean million million in the last 10 years. --Tango 11:08, 5 February 2007 (UTC)
Hmm... interesting... perhaps it's not ambiguous then. Okay. Neonumbers 01:27, 7 February 2007 (UTC)
Yes, perhaps it's not too ambiguous but thousand million is decidedly unambiguous. I'd rather see a recomendation to prefer thousand million for 109 and scienfific notation for 1012 and over (where convienient). Jimp 00:22, 20 February 2007 (UTC)
It seems to me that billion should be edited to indicate that usage on Wikipedia is 109. MOSDATE should recommend that billion be wikilinked when ambiguity might arise. Walter Siegmund (talk) 02:39, 20 February 2007 (UTC)
I'm not sure that Wikipedia is in the business of defining usage of given word across the encyclopædia as a whole. I would argue that it should not be. Nor do I believe that there exists an precident for articles about general topics to discuss issues internal to Wikipedia. If there is a concern about ambiguity here, I don't believe that such a solution will work for it would require readers to refer to some article in order to understand a word as used on Wikipedia. Jimp 05:03, 20 February 2007 (UTC)
I agree. We don't prescribe, we describe. More explicitly, Wikipedia is not a usage guide. If something can be ambiguous, avoid the ambiguity. In this case, that means using 'thousand million'. -- Donald Albury 00:43, 21 February 2007 (UTC)
Those are good points. I would say, though, that the use of billion to indicate 109 is a good description of usage on Wikipedia.[1][2] Billion is a WP:DAB page. While I agree that the MOS should not be linked, in most cases, from article pages, ample precedence exists for links from disambiguation pages, e.g., Link and Heading. If I might quote from WP:MOS, "One way is often as good as another, but if everyone does things the same way, Wikipedia will be easier to read and use..." Walter Siegmund (talk) 18:40, 23 February 2007 (UTC)
With apologies for adding little that is new to this discussion, I'd just add weight to the "it is ambiguous" argument. I'm a native Scottish English speaker, and whenever I see any publication mentioning "a billion", I presume that I do not know what they mean, and would always check the number before accepting the fact. In other words, based purely on my own experiences, I find it ambiguous. The same could apply to any number of Wikipedia's silent majority: the readers. – Kieran T (talk) 23:31, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
"Thousand million" sounds ridiculous to most readers, I would wager. My rede on handling this would be "Blah blah blah 3.1 billion in 2006 yak yak yak, but only 2.7 billion in 2007, ramble ramble ramble." Just disambiguate in situ and move on. There really is no issue here at all; this is not any different than any other disambiguation case on Wikipedia. Cf. "Jimbo's Children's Fund raised US$750,000 in 2006, and a further $235,000 in the first quarter of 2007 as of 19 March." — SMcCandlish [talk] [contrib] 23:44, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
Risking a little ridiculousness for the sake of clarity seems a fair trade to me. "Thousand million" sounds fine to me but, yeah, disambiguate in situ and move on: "Blah blah blah 3.1 billion in 2006 yak yak yak, but only 2.7 billion in 2007, ramble ramble ramble." Jimp 02:57, 27 March 2007 (UTC)
It may be a UK/US thing. I suspect that a lot of Americans wouldn't even parse "thousand million"; it would look like an obvious typo to them and they'd "fix" it. It's just not a phrase we use (nor "thousand billion" or "ten-hundred thousand" or "thousand thousand" or other constructions of this sort (I don't know that all/any of those are "valid" constructions in UK English, either, but "thousand million" sounds equally strange as all them to ears in Yankeeland.) — SMcCandlish [talk] [contrib] 06:01, 27 March 2007 (UTC)
Let's drag out milliard ... that'll make you Yankeelanders stop and think. Jimp 07:21, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

Mark 8 vs Mark VIII

There is a discussion going on at Talk:Daedalus class battlecruiser (from Stargate) regarding how the name of a piece of fictional technology should be written. Is it "Mark VIII tactical nuclear warheads" or "Mark 8 tactical nuclear warheads"? The name is only ever spoken on the show, and we have no written reference supporting either notation. Any comments? --Tango 22:46, 4 February 2007 (UTC)

Have you tried checking the Stargate webpage? If it's mentioned there, use whichever they use. If not, "Mark VIII" is more traditional than "Mark 8" and therefore the more likely, so I'd opt for the former until such time as the show's webpage publishes something different. Askari Mark (Talk) 02:20, 5 February 2007 (UTC)
I haven't checked personally, but I doubt it will be there. It's just a throwaway line, I doubt anyone really considered what to name them, just whoever was writing that script picked a name out of thin air. If someone publishes an official "technical manual", then we're sorted, but I don't believe there is one yet. --Tango 10:54, 5 February 2007 (UTC)
I say flip a coin! Rock, paper scissors? 10:16, 5 February 2007 (UTC)
Definitely "Mark VIII"; that notation is overwhelmingly traditional for such things. — SMcCandlish [talk] [contrib] 18:44, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Slightly off-topic, but can I put out a plea that we try to encourage "Mark x" as opposed to "Mk.x" — note the lack of a space, as well as the abbreviation. It crops up a lot in automotive articles, with no official-usage justification that I've seen anywhere, and to my mind it looks sloppy. – Kieran T (talk) 23:34, 19 March 2007 (UTC)
Often it's given as "MK-VII" or whatever, or "Mk-VII". If there is an "official" reason (it is in fact the published, and reliably sourceable, name of the car), then go with that abbreviation; to "correct" it in that case would in fact be an error. If it can't be sourced, spell it out. This is really no different from any other case of abbreviating in Wikipedia: "Died on Friday, 21 June 2006", not "Fri."; but " her memoir, Fri. and Sat. Nights in Vegas...", if the abbreviated version really is in the title of the book (or in the quotation, or whatever). It's just part of the general maxim that the encyclopedia uses formal, encyclopedic writing, even if it seems longwinded to IM d00ds, LOL, ROFLMAO, but does not mess with quoted material, book titles, product and company names, etc. L8R!— SMcCandlish [talk] [contrib] 23:52, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

$, USD$, €

Which is correct or are both wrong? There appears to be inconsistency is applying currency formatting. Is USD$ the default symbol and currency for currency. When use a numeric example USD$ is a mouthful. Can I use €?

If you bought a machine for €100,000 and it has a life span of 10 years and it can prodcue the same amount of goods each year, you would match €10,000 of the cost of the machine to each year rather than charge €100,000 in the first year and nothing in the next 9 years.
If you bought a machine for $100,000 and it has a life span of 10 years and it can prodcue the same amount of goods each year, you would match $10,000 of the cost of the machine to each year rather than charge $100,000 in the first year and nothing in the next 9 years.

NilssonDenver 08:52, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

The manual of style recommends US$, not USD$. Although it also says that in an article specifically about the United States, you can just use $ with a note at the top of the article to make it clear which dollar you're talking about.
With Euros, you can just use € because there is no ambiguity between different types of Euro, although it should be linked the first time it occurs in case the reader is not familiar with the symbol.
Did that answer the question?
Stephen Turner (Talk) 16:25, 6 February 2007 (UTC)
To wit, there are other nations besides the U.S. that use the "dollar" and the dollar sign ($). Askari Mark (Talk) 18:22, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

It's USD or US$, the D stands for Dollar, so you should never have both the D and the $-symbol. However, in the case of an arbitrary currency used for an example, I'd just pick any symbol you like. It doesn't matter if it's US$ or CAN$ or Z$ or any other dollars, so just say $. (Or €, or £, or ¥, or whatever else you like.) --Tango 20:23, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

In your "If you bought a machine ..." examples above I don't think that it really matters what dollar you're talking about. Like Tango says: just use whichever you like. Jimp 06:31, 7 February 2007 (UTC)
So he should have used ¤, I suppose. (I still think the currency symbol belongs after the value plus a space, just like pretty much every other unit does.) Christoph Päper 12:37, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

Thank you for all the contibutions. The guide seemed to imply that US$ or $ must be used unless it is country specific. Being European, I don't see the dollar as the only currency in the world and the Euro € is now a dominant and recognised currency and symbol. So first in on the article gets dibs on the symbol :-> (it also says that in the manual) NilssonDenver 21:47, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

Numerals vs. numbers as words

Isn't there research showing that even numbers as low as 2 read faster as numerals than as words? 17:11, 25 February 2007 (UTC)robgood

Possibly so, but it's nearly universally considered bad English style, and can also encourage unnatural sentence constructions since sentences shouldn't start with numerals. Since the style guide is mostly to standardize on something vaguely close to existing practice, I don't think we should go out on a limb and come up with our own "scientific style guide" based on cognitive science research, at least not in cases where predominant English usage is clear. --Delirium 03:17, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
And the question remains, is there even such research at all? Even if there were, it is doubtful it was even conducted usefully. For example, "read faster" does not even equate to "understand better"; "freshman university students" that constitute many psychology studies does not equate to "Wikipedia readers". —Centrxtalk • 05:56, 26 February 2007 (UTC)

The guideline currently says that "whole numbers from zero to ten" should be spelled out, then it says numbers that can be expressed with "two or fewer words". In practice, everything from 0-100 falls into that category, so maybe this should be clarified. — CharlotteWebb 07:57, 2 March 2007 (UTC)

Why? Do you have some difficulty understanding the difference between "should" and "may"? Gene Nygaard 23:46, 9 March 2007 (UTC)
Ouch. That seemed a little harsh... — SMcCandlish [talk] [contrib] 17:28, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Note at top of page about currency is bad

The page says "In country-specific articles such as Economy of Australia use only the symbol specific to the country, in this case $, with an italicized note placed at the top of the article to make this clear." I think this is a very bad idea, because it clutters the articles, and distracs the reader from the actual introduction. Wikipedia has too many boilerplates as it is. Experienced users know to skip reading italic text before the article, but new users are distracted by all the apologies about capitalization in the title and whatever. Anyway, why put the above sentence into this guideline and why? Was there any discussion leading to it? --Apoc2400 06:33, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

I very strongly concur. What should be done instead is the first occurrence should be AU$1234, and thereafter simply use $ because the context is now clear. Some might even argue for AU$1234 but I think this looks weird and is not as helpful. Some might also argue for AU$1234 the first time and AU$ unlinked thereafter, but I think that's a bit intelligence insulting and Yankeecentric, like every mention of a dollar that's not ours has to be disambiguated. Pllllbbbb... — SMcCandlish [talk] [contrib] 18:41, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

#1 vs. No. 1

I can't seem to find any standard for this. Which one do we use? Associated Press style is "No. 1." Thanks! — Rebelguys2 talk 19:21, 15 March 2007 (UTC)

#1 is unknown outside North America, I think. But in what circumstances would you want an abbreviation for it? If it's the name of something, the spelling should be dictated by the source material. Stephen Turner (Talk) 19:51, 15 March 2007 (UTC)
Hm, I didn't know that about "#1." I guess "number one" should work; the press uses "No. 1" in the U.S. ... I guess I've somehow forgotten it was actually an abbreviation. Ha. Thanks. — Rebelguys2 talk 19:57, 15 March 2007 (UTC)
Definitely spell it out as "number one" in general prose (and "number-one" when used as a compound adjective): "Its box office take was that month's number one"; "she was the number-one player that season". "No. 1" is just headlinespeak and "#1" is adspeak; lazy and unencyclopedic. But see ordinal numbers topic immediately below. — SMcCandlish [talk] [contrib] 04:02, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

Ordinal numbers (1st vs. first)

I can't seem to find any standard for this here (if it exists, please point me to it), but I'd like to ask if there was a standard set on this (1st or first, 2nd or second, etc), or is it okay to use any as long as it's consistent with the rest of the article? -- Tydus Arandor 01:20, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

I know I'm the type to generally spell them out, myself. Why interrupt a sequence of prose with an nth-'ed number? --Stratadrake 02:04, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
The general consensus trends I've noticed (and which if others see them too should be accounted for in the MoS) are that these are always spelled out, unless used in a context that traditionally does not spell them out, such as sports (which uniformly uses numeral in all statistics). I.e. "He was the second Padishah Emperor", but "She took 2nd place in the New York qualifying tournament, and 1st in the World Championship." I'm sure anyone else from WikiProject Sports can confirm this. PS: In a cramped table or table-like list I would also numeralize them. — SMcCandlish [talk] [contrib] 03:59, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree with the previous answers. Always spell short numbers out in prose, and that applies to ordinals as well as cardinals. "1st" and "2nd" just look lazy to me.
Should we add an example of ordinals to the relevant section of this page? I would support that.
Stephen Turner (Talk) 10:38, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Definitely add it in. However see below about not spelling out numbers (sometimes or always; still open for discussion) in units of measure; the text on this more generally can't be too blanket. — SMcCandlish [talk] [contrib] 18:42, 16 March 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the help, everyone! I usually spell them out myself too, but I wanted to make sure if it was the standard. -- Tydus Arandor 03:45, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

Repetitive use of currency

When wikilinking the currency abbreviation (say, US$), should only the first use in an article (or section) be so linked, or every time it appears? Also, once it has been "introduced" (as "US$"), should it always be so written or is it subsequently permissible to use simply "$" (as long as it causes no confusion)? Askari Mark (Talk) 21:44, 31 March 2007 (UTC)

I would say just wikilink the first, and you can abbreviate after first use (where not ambiguous, of course), just like any other editing case. — SMcCandlish [talk] [contrib] 23:21, 31 March 2007 (UTC)

Template for birth/death display & categorization

I thought I saw somewhere in Wikipedia the use of a template to collect and display both the birth and death dates of a person. I don't remember what it looked like, but I would hope that it would show the day/month/year formatted by user preference (but only if a full date is given), and also include a category tag for birth and death years, cutting that particular maintenance effort in half and eliminating the synchronization problem. (I edit people articles only infrequently, and even I've run into at least three incorrect birth or death dates in the past year, none of them apparently due to the ever-preesent vandalism, so this must be a not-uncommon problem.)

However, I couldn't find an obviously named template for this. None of the following somewhat overlapping templates do what I'd hoped for:

One other, {{birthdate}}, suggests the categorization element, but it doesn't seem to be in use yet, and I'm not familiar with the metadata syntax, so I'm not sure if it actually does what I expect.

I also found no allusion to any such templates in this guideline page's "Dates of birth and death" section, nor did I find anything in the past few archives (looking for "birth"). Is this issue being addressed somewhere I haven't looked yet? If not, might we consider it to reduce maintenance and synchronzation problems? ~ Jeff Q (talk) 03:13, 7 April 2007 (UTC)

Please bear in mind also the important potential of any such template to deliver the bday attribute of hCard (see also project microformats). Andy Mabbett 23:16, 8 April 2007 (UTC)
Please bear in mind that {{birth date}} and {{birth date and age}} now deliver the bday attribute of the hCard microformat (see also project microformats). Andy Mabbett 13:10, 26 April 2007 (UTC)

Proposed exceptions to "space before unit"

I have removed the following exceptions to "space before unit" which were inserted in the last few hours:

  • Exception: when used as an adjectival phrase, such as "155-mm cannon" and "10-ft Pole".

I agree that this is an exception, but I don't think it's an exception we need a guideline about. Anyone who knows to hyphenate an adjectival phrase is not going to be confused and think "but the guideline says I should use a space, help, what shall I do?". So it's instruction creep.

  • Exception: sometimes when the unit is "°" (degrees), as in "45° angle", "latitude of 6°S" and "temperature of 15°F". However, Systeme-Internationale-authorized degrees of temperature leave a space: "5 °C", "5 °K".

This doesn't look correct. Apart from the mis-spelling of Système International, are we seriously proposing that one should write 41°F but 5 °C? In the same sentence? And Kelvin doesn't take a ° symbol at all; it's just 278 K. Also, note that we already have a section on geographical coordinates.

If anyone wants to defend these, or propose better versions, go ahead, but I've taken them out for the moment.

Stephen Turner (Talk) 05:39, 7 April 2007 (UTC)

Agree with your removals and justification. Especially as regards temperature, we should follow SI unit convention (273.15 K, 0 °C). -- mattb @ 2007-04-07T05:46Z
OK, sorry, my keyboard has no e-accent, and I erred with K, but Fahrenheit is not SI. Its article is not following SI-style convention. Also, I write "misspelling", without hyphen. Not to insult, but not all know about using hyphen correctly.--MajorHazard 11:41, 7 April 2007 (UTC)
I disagree with the removal of the adjectival phrase exception. It is an agreed exception, and IMO it is bettter to spell it out. One sentance hardly amouts to a huge degree of instruction creep.
As to degrees, how about the following:
  • Exception: sometimes when the unit is "°" (degrees), as in "45° angle", "latitude of 6°S" and "temperature of 15°F". However, Système-Internationale-authorized degrees of temperature leave a space: "5 °C", "5 K". When both SI and non-SI degree units are being used in the same section of an article, all should follow the SI format.
Any Thoughts? DES (talk) 12:12, 7 April 2007 (UTC)
Small thought with lower-case "t": your last "degree" change to "temperature".--MajorHazard 12:18, 7 April 2007 (UTC)
I personally don't like putting a space between the number and the degree sign for temperatures. It should be that you either put a space or you don't and not place a space for Centigrade temperatures and not a space for Fahrenheit temperatures in the same article. Again this is just a personal opinion and not based on any style guide. That's why we should try to base it on some style guide and not personal opinions (even mine). I fear that if we make an exception for temperatures then other exceptions will be desired for other types of measurements (like 10mm instead of 10 mm). — MJCdetroit 17:07, 7 April 2007 (UTC)