Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 71

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Incorrect use of unit name for quantity (e.g. 'horsepower' to mean 'power').

Moved from my talk page:

Is there a reason you are changing almost all instances of "horsepower" to "power" as in Triumph Speed Triple? While it is not an SI unit, it is generally acceptable and understood when referring to automobiles and simialr vehicles. Mr.Z-mantalk¢ 04:04, 6 May 2007 (UTC)
It is strange that all edits have the same summary, (copyedit), and they are all marked minor even though they aren't really minor edits at all. Changing every instance of "horsepower" to "power" isn't a minor edit. [1] IrishGuy talk 23:16, 6 May 2007 (UTC)
I am not changing almost all instances of horsepower to power. I am changing instances where the meaning is for the quantity not the unit. Editore99 15:17, 6 May 2007 (UTC)

Using a unit name to describe a quantity is wrong but it happens occasionally. Saying an something has 'more horsepower' or 'more watts' really means it has 'more power'. Similarly saying 'more pounds' or 'more kilograms' really means 'more weight'.

An edit in those cases seems unremarkable and uncontroversial to me. But Mr.Z-man and Irishguy say they do not want the word power to be used in those cases. My edits were reverted. See the example given above by Mr.Z-man or search wikipedia for 'more horsepower'. Can others comment please? Editore99 11:46, 9 May 2007 (UTC)

In the automotive sense, I think "horsepower" is correct. For example, the standard engineering terms are shaft horsepower, brake horsepower, and rear-wheel horsepower, not shaft power, brake power or rear-wheel power. This is acknowledged in the introductory paragraph of the Horsepower article: "the idea of horsepower persists as a legacy term in many languages, particularly in the automotive industry for listing the maximum power output of internal-combustion engines." Brianhe 21:54, 9 May 2007 (UTC)
That is not the issue being debated. Please look at the example quoted by Mr.Z-man above. Editore99 05:31, 10 May 2007 (UTC)
Although either makes sense, in normal automotive usage "horsepower" is preferred. -- 23:28, 20 May 2007 (UTC)
Firstly, please sign your comment. Secondly say whether you have read the example quoted by Mr.Z-man above. Editore99 16:58, 21 May 2007 (UTC)
Firstly, I did sign my comment, but mistyped the number of tildes, and yes, I did read the example. My comment stands. -- Arwel (talk) 21:56, 24 May 2007 (UTC)
I side rather with "power" - because although "horsepower" is perfectly acceptable English "power" is less idiomatic. We are writing for a general audience. Rich Farmbrough, 12:30 2 June 2007 (GMT).

Superscript "th"

What is the policy on superscripting the "th" in special numbers such as "4th" and "8th"? Is the superscript required or not? I apologize if this is already mentioned in the article. BlueAg09 (Talk) 06:29, 22 May 2007 (UTC)

Good question. I don't think it is mentioned, but my personal view is that the superscript is unconventional, and so shouldn't be used. I realise this may be due to outdated limitations of typewriters, but that seems to be the convention nonetheless. Stephen Turner (Talk) 10:05, 22 May 2007 (UTC)
I also think that if there's consensus, it would be worth adding a bullet point about this. Stephen Turner (Talk) 10:06, 22 May 2007 (UTC)
One more thing. Small numbers are best spelled out in most contexts: fourth and eighth. This applies to ordinal numbers just as much as cardinal numbers. Stephen Turner (Talk) 10:09, 22 May 2007 (UTC)
I agree that there should be a bullet point about the ordinal superscripting. In fact, I found many university publications on style that mention this: Columbia, Davidson, and MIT to name a few. Search for "superscript" in each of these publications and you will be able to find the rule against superscripting ordinals eventually. BlueAg09 (Talk) 09:43, 23 May 2007 (UTC)
Why would this situation ever come up? Wouldn't you always fully spell out the ordinal in words? nadav (talk) 09:47, 23 May 2007 (UTC)
Only ordinals 10 and below (first, second, third, etc.) should be spelled out in words. Numbers greater than 10 should be written in numerals. BlueAg09 (Talk) 09:52, 23 May 2007 (UTC)
After seeing the links you provided, I fully support disallowing use of superscripts for ordinals. nadav (talk) 11:06, 23 May 2007 (UTC)
FWIW, & IIRC, BlueAg's suggestion is supported by the AP style guide. Actually, what I remember is that the AP style guide mandates spelling numbers 10 & below; the ordinal form follows logically. -- llywrch 20:16, 23 May 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I believe you are right; the AP style guide disallows the superscript use. I found a website that seems to have AP style guide rules. BlueAg09 (Talk) 22:01, 23 May 2007 (UTC)
Where would be a good place to add this information? BlueAg09 (Talk) 01:17, 24 May 2007 (UTC)

Everyone seems to be happy with this, so I've added it. Feel free to copy edit it if necessary. Stephen Turner (Talk) 09:59, 25 May 2007 (UTC)

Page protection

In light of today's reverts, perhaps it is time to apply Full or Semi-protection to this section of the MOS. I know there are pros and cons associated with such an action, but I thought I'd float the idea out there to see how others feel. Do you have any thoughts on this? —MJCdetroit 18:22, 22 May 2007 (UTC)

It's an important page; it's a bit disconcerting if its advice changes every few minutes. It seemed fairly obvious that there were 5 or 6 anons making similar edits so I'd be in favour of semi-protection. There might well be a case for full, with some consensus being required before changes. -- roundhouse 19:25, 22 May 2007 (UTC)

Plural for fraction of a unit?

What happens when you use a decimal or fraction, eg 0.6 kilometers. Should the units be plural or singular? There is some disagreement about this. nadav (talk) 05:58, 23 May 2007 (UTC)

If you're spelling out the word, I think it would be pluralised: "0.6 kilometres". But note that the symbol is never pluralised: "0.6 km". Stephen Turner (Talk) 08:58, 23 May 2007 (UTC)
Yes, the abbreviation info is in the guideline. I would like the guideline to specifically address the situation where the full word is used. And I share your opinion. nadav (talk) 09:22, 23 May 2007 (UTC)

Anomaly in example

This section states "Distinguish between the different interpretations of ton by calling the metric unit either tonne or metric ton. However, the following section gives an example of "… between 2.7 and 4.5 tons". Is there a reason for this anomaly? – Tivedshambo (talk) 09:24, 4 June 2007 (UTC)

Yes, those would be "imperial" or "customary" tons. Rich Farmbrough, 16:28 4 June 2007 (GMT).
So ton by itself should always refer to imperial ton, never 1000kg? Would the average reader know this, or would it be better to state that "ton" should always be preceded by "metric" or "imperial"? Also as an example it's confusing as the previous example gives the same weight in kg, which converts to 2.7 and 4.5 metric tons, not imperial tons. – Tivedshambo (talk) 17:27, 4 June 2007 (UTC)
I'd say that ton by itself should never refer to 1 Mg but this is not to say that it should always refer to the imperial ton. There are (or at least till recently were) two (non-metric) tons in use: 2240 lb & 2000 lb. These can be distinguished by adding long or short. 1 Mg is usually called a tonne but, I'd say, if you wanted to call it a ton, you should add metric. Of course, context may make the distinction unnecessary. I've rewritten the point, hope it's clearer. I've also removed the example mentioned, it wasn't adding anything anyway. Jɪmp 18:15, 4 June 2007 (UTC)
(Edit Conflict...hey that's what I was gonna say...) To make it even more confusing (but more correct), there is a short ton (2,000 lb), which is a common to the U.S. and a long ton (2,240 lb), which is common to the U.K.. I think that the spelling matters too— ton vs tonne. Where ton can be either short or long but that tonne refers to the metric tonne. My suggestion would be to use short ton, long ton, and metric tonne in the article or at the very least link to the respective articles e.g. [[Short ton|ton]]. I also think that we should always use metric with tonne. —MJCdetroit 18:32, 4 June 2007 (UTC)
That's a lot clearer - thanks. – Tivedshambo (talk) 20:33, 4 June 2007 (UTC)

Mixing English/SI units in a single article, a single sentence even

One irritating thing not covered in this is using consistent units throughout an article. Why is it so important to use a consistent English dialect throughout an article, yet there's no issue with writing articles that mix SI and American unit orders in the article, because, after all, one should default to what the source says? so, you use 25 sources on a good science article, you could have a dozen or more changes, even using SI first and American first in the same sentence if you quote two sources. This is absurd. KP Botany 04:30, 8 June 2007 (UTC)

It says only when editors can't agree/there is a historical or pragmatic concern. So if we all get along, it should work out fine. Cquan (after the beep...) 05:04, 8 June 2007 (UTC)
But I don't agree at all to using mixed units within the same sentence in an article, to mixing the units within an article, either. This simply makes it confusing, partilarly, as I pointed out, when talking about a broad topic. Your method makes tables that have 3 numbers in metric, one in American, another table has 4 numbers in American, and one in SI, another has 3 numbers in American, one in SI centimeters, one in meters. When people read a single article, they have the right to expect that throughout the article the first number will be SI or the the one in parantheses will be SI. This is fairly standard writing style. I know Wikipedia does some things different, but to change a sentence to use English weights and measures for the first two instance, with metric in parentheses, then to use SI alone in the third instance is absurd. To have a table list the first measurement in meters, the next three in feet, and the last one in centimeters (probably should be centimetres) is absurd. It makes for a crappy article that strains the reader's ability to follow accurately. When a settlement makes an article less worthy, or downright crappy, it's not a vialbe solution. But, go ahead, change all everythign so it reflects the source. KP Botany 05:11, 8 June 2007 (UTC)
Um...unless I'm losing my sight, I'm pretty sure I said "only when editors can't agree". IMHO, you're blowing this out of're absolutely right, mixing all over is a bad idea and the MOS reflects that in saying to stick to a single convention, but it also provides for exceptions as most rules should. This is a very particular case and can even be circumvented (presumably) by gaining a consensus one way or another since the MOS is just a guideline and not policy. Cquan (after the beep...) 05:16, 8 June 2007 (UTC)
But it can't be circumvented by gaining a consensus when one editor opts to edit war instead of discussing the issue. Also, frankly, the entire article has to be considered when deciding these things, not just one sentence--that's why the policy for being consistent is so important in at least part of the MOS--because that's how you wind up with a cohesive readable article. Try editing at FAC for a while, and you'll see what I mean, how hard it is to read these articles where one editor unilaterally decides that a single sentence must be one way no matter what. These articles get sent packing from FAC. Why not let Tree be readable? KP Botany 05:32, 8 June 2007 (UTC)
I swear, I won't try so hard for a compromise again. Personally, I'm with you on the consistency thing (and I HATE english units anyway, despite being American). Since there was (what I thought to be) clear guidance on the issue, I decided to opt to that before wholesale going one way or another...oh well. Cquan (after the beep...) 05:41, 8 June 2007 (UTC)
No good dead ever goes unpunished. Any American who has ever had to figure out ounces in a gallon or convert quarts and pints hates them. KP Botany 20:22, 8 June 2007 (UTC)
While I agree that the units should be used in a consistent order, I would also support not including the converted numbers themselves in the wikitext, but instead use the {{convert}} template. Measures are often rounded, especially when divisible with 10, and converting them can indeed lead to false precision. It would be best not to include converted numbers as such in the wikitext, but imply by use of this template that they has been converted. "40 feet" for example can be automatically converted to "40 feet (12 m)" with {{convert|40|ft|m|0}}. The template seems to have been discussed at the administrators' noticeboard as unwanted, but they didn't make this particular point. --Para 06:13, 8 June 2007 (UTC)
This, again, is an issue that we would not face if we had kept our preference of SI units. Any other unit including English ones – be they US or UK – should only appear if it is the defining source unit. This applies to articles on the units themselves and where they are used to set a standard, e.g. “American football is played on a rectangular field 120 yards (110 m) long”, but not when they are used to measure, e.g. “Mount Rainier (…) is the highest peak in the Cascade Range at 4,392 metres”, no matter what unit the selected source used. Christoph Päper 11:07, 8 June 2007 (UTC)
Yes, it would have been easier had Wikipedia simply gone metric--it's not as if Americans, of all people, are unusued to converting. I believe the arguments used to include American units neglected the fact that SI units are taught in every accredited K-12 school in the United States and are used in all of our textbooks. Nut with American units in, you're always going to run into these situations where one person rampantly demands their inclusion in some part of an article, or some part of a sentence as in this case. KP Botany 20:22, 8 June 2007 (UTC)
It may have been easier for you, if Wikipedia was metric only, but not for all. The same is true for the many articles about American subjects that have do not have metric units in them. Displaying both systems gives a fuller/richer sense of understanding to readers who do not "think" metric (even if they were taught it in the 6th grade) or "think" in pounds, feet and fahrenheit. A reader should not get to a part in the article on Mount Rainier and ask themselves, "what's 4,392 meters? Damn it now I have to convert. This website sucks". Just as a reader from Europe might ask themselves, "What is 14,409 feet? Jetzt muß ich umwandeln. Diese Web site ist schrecklich" It's unfair to the reader either way.
However, the original gripe was that an editor was not allowing the unit order to be changed for the sake of being consistent through out the article in much the same way as the American English/British English is done. This editor was doing so because the MOSNUM says to place the source unit first; sometimes English, sometimes metric. I believe that as along as there are citations given for the measurements, then the editors of an article should be able to make the order of units consistent to their liking with guidance from the MOSNUM. If the article is a general subject dealing with an American or British subject then the unit order should be English (metric). Many articles are pretty much already done this way anyway.
Also, I agree with Para, we should encourage editors to use one of the conversion templates found at Category:Conversion templatesMJCdetroit 01:28, 9 June 2007 (UTC)
The funny thing about this discussion is that almost never someone shows up and says that he needed or wanted US customary units – there is never ever any reason to include a conversion to imperial measurements –, it’s always about some of his fellow citizens who might need them. The essential difference between metric and English units relevant here is that virtually everyone knows enough about the former to justify their exclusive use in any international project (and they are legal everywhere for almost all purposes) – and those who actually don’t know enough metric are unlikely to use an electronic encyclopædia anyway. (Yes, that last argument is almost as weakly founded as the basic opposing one.) Christoph Päper 11:39, 9 June 2007 (UTC)
Yes, it is weak all around. More universal or less universal— plain and simple. First, not everyone who reads articles in wikipedia, edits those articles. I know I didn't for a very longtime. Secondly, not everyone who edits wikipedia knows that this little section of the MOS even exists. Therefore, they may just express their views on units at a local talk level. Here are some examples at the local talk level that I could think of where someone wanted either the US measurement listed first, metric units not listed, or US units added to a metric only page: 1, 2, 3, 4. An article should be relative and understandable to the reader of the article; no matter where they call home. More universal or less universal— plain and simple. —MJCdetroit 18:18, 9 June 2007 (UTC)
Well, plain and simply is not going to happen with users here suggesting that one can list SI first followed by American throughout most of an article, then change to a single sentence in an article with some 20 other uses of measurements, and list English first, followed by SI for two instances in the sentence and SI only in the third instance in the same sentence. The entire reason that being consistent is firstmost in importance when dealing with various styles is that you confuse and mislead readers and cause them to focus on a minute detail, "Oh, here it's English units first, then metric, maybe I read the rest of the article incorrectly," rather than focusing on the content--"Wow, Darwin found a big one of these, I wonder if his measurement is correct considering how much larger it is." Instead, the article is about one single editor's decission to rewrite a single line of a single article to worthlessness. KP Botany 19:03, 9 June 2007 (UTC)
In the article in question, Tree, it looks like the editor wanted to keep the Darwin statement as the source stated it— 130 feet (39.6 m). As I stated earlier, if there are references for the measurements (as there are in that article), then I would not oppose editors of an article placing the units in a consistent order. In that article it would be metric (English). Maybe we should give better guidance in the MOSNUM to allow this. :) —MJCdetroit 03:01, 10 June 2007 (UTC)
This is not the only place in the article where units are used--it is simply the only sentence where they are given English first, then SI second for the first two instances, then given in the third instance as SI only. There are other sources quoted in this article which variably use SI or English first in the source. So, the question remains, which everyone keeps dancing around, should units be given in consistent order throughout an article rather than change ways throughout the article. If you go by sources, this article would require some dozen changes of order of units. Try to understand, it's not about the ONE sentence, it's about continuity in the article. KP Botany 03:21, 10 June 2007 (UTC)
I went through the whole article and double checked all the references dealing with the measurements. I properly formated the references using Template:Cite web and quoted the original unit of measure in the "quote" parameter of that template. That being done, all units were placed in the metric (English) order throughout the article. With all original units being referenced and "quoted", all metric units were displayed in same unit (meters) even if the source unit was centimeters. I think that we can use this article as a test to give better guidance on continuity in an article where many different types of measurements are used by the sources. —MJCdetroit 06:57, 10 June 2007 (UTC)

Units of measurement

The guidelines currently say to "spell out units [of measurement] in text". That works fine for something like "5 feet (1.5 m)", but is this also how multi-dimensional conversions are supposed be formatted? Consider, for example:

2 feet × 5 feet (0.6 m × 1.5 m)

Somehow it does not look right. Would

2 feet by 5 feet (0.6 m × 1.5 m)

be more correct, as far as the MOS is concerned? I would appreciate an advice regarding this.—Ëzhiki (Igels Hérissonovich Ïzhakoff-Amursky) • (yo?); 02:20, 16 June 2007 (UTC)

The second one looks more correct to me because the X in the first is a symbol to represent by. In my dialect of English it is always spoken that way. MJCdetroit 18:17, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
Thanks. Perhaps this MOS should be updated to mention this?—Ëzhiki (Igels Hérissonovich Ïzhakoff-Amursky) • (yo?); 18:22, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
I don't think the MoS needs guidance about this. It can be sorted out on a case-by-case basis if necessary. Stephen Turner (Talk) 21:34, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Units of measurement abbreviations

Surely it would make sense to spell out the name of a unit only the first time that it is used in the text of a given article, since short forms are well recognised, and the long forms are, for SI units particularly, cumbersome Sammalin 15:06, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Listing order for people's names

Hello all. I don't know if this has been proposed before, but to make entries easier to find I think that the the listings on dab pages of people's names should be in order of age, oldest to youngest, i.e. the oldest birth years on top and the youngest birth years on the bottom. That should not only make the page easier to navigate, but should also reduce the incidence of duplicate listings. Thoughts? —Elipongo (Talk contribs) 22:48, 24 June 2007 (UTC)

The question should be resolved on the talk page for MoS:DP instead of this page, but the guideline already considers that as an option. The overriding consideration, however, is usefulness to the reader, not uniformity, so you will meet resistance from other editors who have arranged the entries with the more frequently linked people at the top. Chris the speller 02:32, 25 June 2007 (UTC)
I had thought I WAS on the Mos:DAB page. I just went looking for the conversation now and couldn't find it and had to dig around in my history. I think I had both pages open on separate tabs and got confused as to which tab I had open. Sorry for bringing in an off topic debate! —Elipongo (Talk contribs) 11:43, 25 June 2007 (UTC)