Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 97

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I just tried to remove some awful kindergarten graphics from this page, but edit conflicted with Gimmetrow, who beat me to it. Please, this isn't a picture book, and we don't need these illustrative gimmicks. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 02:35, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

Binary Prefix discussion moved

To make more room to discuss Wiki linking years on this page, the Binary Prefix discussions have been moved to this page Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (binary prefixes). -- SWTPC6800 (talk) 01:18, 12 April 2008 (UTC)

Links to common units of measurement

There are thousands of links to common units of measurement, some in templates. As with links to plain english words, this is contrary to wp:overlink.

It might be hard to get agreement on a complete list of common units. However, the *most common* are responsible for the most overlinking. The following are the most common units:

  • inch, foot, yard, mile, millimetre, centimetre, metre, kilometre. Plus their squares and cubes.
  • avoirdupois pound, avoirdupois ounce, milligram, gram, kilogram
  • millilitre, litre
  • millisecond, second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year
  • Any combination of the above

Comments? Lightmouse (talk) 17:00, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

Hi Lightmouse. Welcome back :). My view is that there is no need to link to common units of time, nor to the most common SI units (eg m, kg); the entire universe is familiar with these! But I see some units in your list (like pound, inch and foot) that, while common to native speakers of English, are not to those who have learnt it as a second language. I think WP should be accessible to non-native speakers, which means that such units should be linked. Thunderbird2 (talk) 17:33, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for your support. I agree with your first and second sentences. In your third sentence, I agree with the principle but not the concluding word 'linked' i.e. I would say 'should be converted'. Lightmouse (talk) 20:34, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

Glad to help.
Yes, if a conversion is included, that weakens the case for a link. I'm not sure if it eliminates it though. What do others think?
A separate, but related point that is specific to feet and inches is the widespread use of ' and " to represent these. Can these be replaced by ft and in? Thunderbird2 (talk) 21:02, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
  • Hand, chain, furlong, fathom? Fnagaton 21:45, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
  • Scoville, quart, pint, mole? Fnagaton 21:48, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
I think it is time for a proposal. I propose that where wp:overlink says common units should not generally be linked, the following are given as a *examples*:
  • millimetre, centimetre, metre, kilometre. Plus their squares and cubes.
  • milligram, gram, kilogram
  • millilitre, litre
  • millisecond, second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year
  • Any combination of the above
The list can be extended, but I think it is important to get a small list in place than to spend ages in debate. Lightmouse (talk) 09:22, 1 April 2008 (UTC)

I agree with Lightmouse's list. Thunderbird2 (talk) 16:23, 1 April 2008 (UTC)

There's nothing special about unit names. Common unit names are common words. We needn't link them. We certainly want the encyclopædia to be accessable not only to native speakers of English also to those who have learnt it as a second language. However, if we link every word that may be unfamiliar to these people, WP will turn blue. There exists no word in the English language that everyone in the World knows. A balance must be arrived at, it'll be case by case, but the names of units are not special amongst the words of the language. Also, I think we should not underestimate how well known the common imperial/US units are outside of the English speaking world. JЇѦρ 02:24, 2 April 2008 (UTC)

I concur with the gist of all this; don't care what the specifics of the list are, unless they get goofy. — SMcCandlish [talk] [cont] ‹(-¿-)› 02:16, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

I have updated wp:overlink.
Lightmouse (talk) 10:58, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

It has now been reverted. Lightmouse (talk) 21:35, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

I thought that it was a fairly uncontroversial edit. Is anyone else willing to resolve this? Lightmouse (talk) 21:31, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

I have added a section at the talk page of wp:overlink inviting contributions here. Lightmouse (talk) 21:53, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

I was the one who reverted it. I did so not because I disagreed but because it seemed so patently obvious that it was unnecessary to explicitly list these examples. Instruction creep is a real problem for Wikipedia policy and guideline pages. My concern is that when we list out the measurements, someone will misunderstand and one of two things will happen. Either they will attempt to expand the list with all the thousands of other common words that shouldn't be overlinked and we'll end up with a page that's unreadable and ignored or they will try to argue that the lack of inclusion of something from the list now means that it should be linked. A general statement of principle is better for our readers.
WP:OVERLINK already says "Plain English words, including common units of measurement." It's even the very first bullet on the page. If that's not clear enough, I can't see how including a longer list of examples will make it any clearer. Rossami (talk) 22:42, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

If the issue is confusion over the definition of a "common" unit of measurement (as opposed to an uncommon one, I suppose), perhaps the list could be included as a footnote rather than in-line with the text? Or perhaps a footnote linking to a relevant section of this MoS page? I'm still concerned about instruction creep and would only recommend that approach if there is evidence of significant confusion and/or dispute rather than mere ignorance about the policy. If people are overlinking because they don't know any better, we just need to fix those. Rossami (talk)

I understand and even share your worry about instruction creep. However, some people still insist on linking terms such as those listed here and I have found myself trying to persuade them that everybody else thinks they are common even if they do not. An explicit statement would allow such tedious debates to be resolved quickly. We do not have a big problem with common words but we do with common units. The common unit articles rank almost as high as year articles in terms of number of links to them. Square mile and square kilometre are in the top 50 destination articles, just above '1996'. Metre is almost in the top 100, just above '1969' and 'foot' is in the top 250, just above '1954' (it is interesting to me that 'metre' is more linked than 'foot' even though the former is more common). I don't care how this issue is fixed so if you have a suggestion, that is fine by me. I can't see any means of educating users about this but I can see that explicit statements would allow janitorial editors to remove unremarkable links without getting bogged down in metaphysical discussions about what 'common' means to each disputing user. Lightmouse (talk) 23:20, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

I took a crack at it in footnote format. (And added some things that seemed obvious to me even though they may have gone beyond the short discussion here.) Opinions on readability would be appreciated. If it's too cumbersome, we can always back it out. Rossami (talk) 04:57, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

Thank you. It looks fine in general. I do not understand why the human body weight comment is relevant. What do you want editors to do with that information? The phrase 'regardless of measuring system' appears to suggest that readers must always consider the non-metric reference value that is written there even if using kilograms. The unit symbols are 's' and 'lb' rather than 'sec' and 'lbs'. But thanks for reconsidering, I appreciate that. And I agree that some non-metric units should be there. Lightmouse (talk) 08:54, 10 April 2008 (UTC)
The intent of the body-weight comment was to provide an example of an irrelevant distinction - that the standard deviation of the average weight of an adult male is far greater than the difference between Troy pounds and AD pounds. Pretty much regardless of which version of "pound" you pick, the answer is still going to round to 180 lbs. If you don't think it's helpful, we can leave it out.
On you other point, the official symbols might be 's' and 'lb' but the longer versions are far more common and far more readily understood by the average reader. Ease of comprehension is more important than technical compliance. Rossami (talk) 15:44, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

The relevant part of MOSNUM reads:

  • Symbols have no plural form, i.e. an s is never appended (‘kg’, ‘km’, ‘in’, ‘lb’, ‘bit’, not ‘kgs’, ‘kms’, ‘ins’, ‘lbs’, ‘bits’).

Thunderbird2 (talk) 16:00, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

Misconstruing of the manual of style

There is a discussion at Wikipedia:Bot_requests#Misconceived_links_to_date_fragments_such_as_Wednesday_and_April. Please look at the comments by User:Huaiwei. It indicates that there is confusion about what wp:mosnum means in respect of linking dates. Either it is compulsory or it is not, yet two experienced editors have read the text and one concluded that it is compulsory and the other concluded that it is not. Please help clarify this point. Lightmouse (talk) 09:13, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

Proposal to create a new talk page

There is a lot of discussion about a single topic. Discussion is a good thing.

I have various mechanisms of keeping up to date with the wider range of topics discussed this page:

  • The page appears at the top of my watchlist.
  • I sometimes scan the page history to check activity
  • I review the edit summaries to see if there is something I am interested in

Unfortunately, those means are becoming less useful. The page is almost always at the top of my watchlist, the page history is so full that it gets hard to pick out things of interest, and the edit summaries frequently look like other other topics. Consequently, I have to work harder or I reduce the amount of attention I pay to page activity.

I am sure other editors use similar mechanisms. Consequently, I am convinced that the quality of discussion on other topics has got worse.

I propose that we create a separate page for the single topic. I think that would benefit all topics, including the single topic. Lightmouse (talk) 10:04, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

In the absence of any feedback, I have moved discussions on the single topic to Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (binary prefixes). I think that provide the benefits described. If anyone objects, feel free to revert. Lightmouse (talk) 08:41, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

Although I've just added a comment to the new page, doesn't moving this section slightly confuse the archives for binary prefixes that are on this page? Fnagaton 08:54, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

I don't know. It had not crossed my mind until you mentioned it. If there is a better way of making the move, that is fine by me. Lightmouse (talk) 09:17, 11 April 2008 (UTC)
I must confess to not being able to think of a better alternative at this time in the morning before my cup of tea. Fnagaton 10:13, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

Ton vs. Tonne

    • Use long ton or short ton rather than just ton (the metric unit—the tonne—is also known as the metric ton).

The tons are very confusing especially in this international context (the Internet). In the U.S. a "ton" is the aforementioned short ton while in the rest of the Anglosphere, the "ton" is the aforementioned long ton. Someone might unknowingly, incorrectly use "tonne" because it is similar to "ton." I'd rather use Megagram over tonne and put the type of unit when talking about the non-metric tons (e.g. Imperial Ton, U.S. Ton).SirChan (talk) 02:55, 26 March 2008 (UTC)

The problem is that megagram is not all that familiar a term to most. Jɪmp 04:01, 28 March 2008 (UTC)
The comfort of a familiar "word", even when you (whether referring to the editor adding the information, or "you" as readers of Wikipedia in general) don't have the foggiest idea what it means, is an illusionary goal. I'd say we should just outlaw all "tons" of any sort on Wikipedia. Use megagrams, teragrams, and the like for metric units of mass; use meganewtons and the like for the metric units of force; use megawatts and the like for the units of power, joules with appropriate prefix for the units of energy, use pounds for the English units of mass, Btu per hour for the English tons as units of power, cubic feet for the English tons as units of volume, etc. Gene Nygaard (talk) 03:54, 29 March 2008 (UTC)
One of the key concepts of the metric system is, if you know what mega- means, and you know what gram means, then you know what megagram means. I think most people know what mega- means; I'm not so sure about gram. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 04:24, 29 March 2008 (UTC)
SirChan claims "In the U.S. a "ton" is the aforementioed short ton" which isn't quite right. An oversimplification, and thus useless. In some contexts in the United States, even when you limit the discussion to talking about "tons" as units of mass rather than as units of force, of energy, of power, and who knows what all the ton of other tons are used for, an unidentified "ton" is not a short ton. For example:
  • " accounts for roughly 5% of global wheat production, or about 30 million tons (1.1 billion bushels) in 2004" (in Durum)
  • "In 1967, Pakistan imported 42,000 tons, and Turkey 21,000 tons." (in Norman Borlaug)
  • "Displacement: 27,000 tons (27,433 metric tons)" (in USS Guam (CB-2))
  • "At 4,200 metric tons (4,130 tons), with a length" (in Knox class frigate)
SirChan also claims that "while in the rest of the Anglosphere, the "ton" is the aforementioned long ton", apparently unaware that people in Canada don't use long tons except in contexts in which they would be used in the United States (i.e., mostly for ship displacements; in old documents from more than half a century ago, perhaps for some mining such as iron ore or coal production). Gene Nygaard (talk) 14:35, 12 April 2008 (UTC)
Furthermore, it is likely that an unidentified tonne in Canadian French from pre-metrication days is a short tonne (or a long tonne in shipping), not a tonne métrique. Gene Nygaard (talk) 14:44, 12 April 2008 (UTC)

Orders of magnitude

Begin: Discussion moved from User talk:Lightmouse

Why have you been removing all references to the order of magnitude articles? They survived AFD. Has their been any discussion about this? -- SamuelWantman 20:05, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

I am not removing all references to order of magnitude articles. Is there something that makes you think that? Lightmouse (talk) 20:43, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

This edit made me think so, but since it seems it was not your intent, it was probably an unexpected result of your using AWB to clean up so many articles. -- SamuelWantman 22:45, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

Yes. Keep up the good work. Lightmouse (talk) 08:16, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

I wonder if there are other links that you inadvertently removed. Have you checked? -- SamuelWantman 11:00, 7 April 2008 (UTC)

Can you clarify exactly what it is that you would like me to check and I will try. Lightmouse (talk) 20:40, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

This edit (the same one mentioned above) removed a link to an article. -- SamuelWantman 08:08, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

I did not inadvertently remove the link from '1,991' to '1 E3 m'. I removed it deliberately because I think the article is better without it. Perhaps this issue is generic to many articles and it would be good to read what others think. Have you considered raising it wp:mosnum? I would be interested to see what other people say. Lightmouse (talk) 21:43, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

Which article do you think is better? The linked bridge is mentioned in the 1 E3 m article, and might be of help to a reader of the list to get a sense of the scale of the spans. The link was added quite some time ago (not by me), but seemed to be a useful addition. The order of magnitude articles have been around for quite some time. They are very hard to find if you don't stumble across them by clicking on the links like the one you removed. If you don't like those articles, you should discuss them on their own talk pages. The links seem pretty harmless, at most they will distract your attention for a couple of seconds if you are not interested. What is the problem with keeping them? I think the person or people who think they should be removed would consider starting a discussion about removal. I don't see how it is my responsibility to start a discussion about leaving things the way they have been for quite some time... -- SamuelWantman 11:05, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

End: Discussion moved from User talk:Lightmouse

Please can people comment on this general issue. Lightmouse (talk) 11:10, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

I agree with Lightmouse's edit. In fact I do the same. I don't believe that links to these articles from specific measurements make much sense. I have nothing against the articles themselves, though, I would have them renamed and reorganised. If there need be a link to 1 E3 m, let it be from around one kilometer as appears in the article's introduction. JЇѦρ 16:29, 11 April 2008 (UTC)
Strong agree Linking from 1991 to 1E3 (or even 1000) is bound to confuse readers.LeadSongDog (talk) 19:02, 11 April 2008 (UTC)
I don't mind the move of the link to around one kilometer but I object to removing them entirely. The order of magnitude articles are useful and enlightening, especially to younger readers. It makes sense to have them linked from many articles, especially those that are mentioned in the order of magnitude articles. I don't see how this confuses readers, I think it educates them. -- SamuelWantman 05:26, 14 April 2008 (UTC)

Piped links

I received the following comment on my talk page:

  • Hi there. While most of your date fixes using AWB are fine, be careful about removing ones such as " a [[2007 in film|2007]] film..." - there is some disagreement as to this use of the pipe trick, but current consensus seems to be to leave them alone, where editors want them. All the best, Steve TC 12:50, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

Is this consensus documented anywhere? Lightmouse (talk) 12:04, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

Is bit/s/Hz an ambiguous unit?

A discussion has arisen at Eb/N0 about the possible ambiguity in the unit bit/s/Hz. Any comments? Please respond at the article talk page. Thunderbird2 (talk) 06:21, 14 April 2008 (UTC)

sq mi v. mi²

While I had no part in the edit to this page that User:MJCdetroit reverted (save for indirectly making him aware of it that changed the use of sq mi instead of mi² for square miles and other square and cubic U.S. customary units from a shall to a may. I'd argue that may is the better option, especially where the metric measurement is the primary measurement and the customary is a conversion. Caerwine Caer’s whines 05:53, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

Or that the page uses too many bytes. His hatred of the metric system made him call the SI symbols abbreviations on my edit. SirChan (talk) 06:12, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
Every change to this page, no matter how small, should be discussed first. SC's changes were not discussed and they changed content that was thoroughly discussed and agreed upon in the past. That's why I reverted your changes.—MJCdetroit (yak) 13:43, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
Could you kindly point out that prior discussion? Unless this was settled very recently, I'd like to bring this point up now that it's been brought to my attention. The general style guide that I most often refer to, the GPO Style Manual is fairly conservative in its usages, but it calls for mi² and doesn't even discuss the possibility of sq mi. Caerwine Caer’s whines 18:44, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
The two most recent times it came up was here and here. I think that some of those early discussions also explored the usage of non superscripted abbreviations for metric units; which were pretty heated discussions. There is an earlier discussion somewhere regarding this, but I haven't found yet. —MJCdetroit (yak) 20:34, 31 March 2008 (UTC)

The discussion was rather thin in both those links, and given that the style guide I've got access to specifies the use of exponents only, banning the use of exponents for customary units in science articles strikes me as excessive. The arguments given for the current policy stuck me as mostly (with some slight exaggeration) of the variety that since customary units are so quaint and archaic, the people who understand them better than SI can't possibly know what exponents are anyway. Caerwine Caer’s whines 01:05, 1 April 2008 (UTC)

Symbols are only used in SI; all other systems use abbreviations. It is obvious that calling shorthand SI abbreviations instead of symbols is incorrect thus doesn't need to be discussed. Pushing a half-truth to further your agenda is intellectually dishonest. SirChan (talk) 06:12, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
Nonsense. "Symbols" are a terminology preferred by metrologists in any context in which they want to distinguish them from run-of-the-mill abbreviations. We have symbols for non-SI metric units. We have symbols for metric units. A number of factors are involved, including a fair amount of uniformity (but we don't even have total uniformity in the symbols acceptable for use with SI.
Some of the factors which lead to a preference for this terminology is to emphasize the point that as "symbols" they
Gene Nygaard (talk) 00:20, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

Since Caerwine says the discussion was thin in both the cited links, I'm not going to bother with them. Let me weigh in strongly in favor of at least permitting mi² in the MoS. I'd like to see it recommended.

This usage (mi³, in², etc.)is in fact quite common in English; there isn't going to be any problem with anyone understanding it. It is even more common in other cases such as lb/ft³ where the ft³ in the denominator is more common than "cu ft". And then, though many people do use all sorts of weird abbreviations such as "cusecs", we should insist on standard symbols being used in that context. That is, we should require "ft³/s" for this unit. Not "cusecs", not "cu. ft./sec.", not any of the sloppiness we see in general usage. We can set our standards higher than that and achieve sensible results. Gene Nygaard (talk) 00:35, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

While I don't feel strongly about this, I like Gene's suggestion because it would be clear and unambiguous. Thunderbird2 (talk) 06:18, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
I don't have a strong feeling about whether superscripts should be used with American customary units of measure in non-technical articles. I do feel that when they are used, they should be created with <sup> and </sup> rather than the tiny superscript numbers available in the editor. Various people have presented various disadvantages of the tiny superscripts in other threads, but I don't like them becase they are hard to read. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 11:40, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

The discussion here seems to be favor of being permissive in the use of exponents with non-SI unit symbols. However rather than being 100% bold, I've added a dispute tag to the relevant section of the page to see if more comments can be attracted before making a change. Caerwine Caer’s whines 19:16, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

The of contrasting the two most common styles of km² and sq mi has worked very well for the last few years. We should try to be as consistent as possible with our style. We wouldn't want to reintroduce the use of sq km debate again. If anything, maybe we should make a noted exception in the case of denominators, but in general stick with what as worked in the past—exponents for SI and no exponents for imperial. —MJCdetroit (yak) 14:55, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
IIRC the MoS preferred “mi2” (or “mi²”) once, i.e. one simple rule for all systems of measurements still in use. Then enough people pleaded for the amateurish “sq mi” (or perhaps “sq.mi.”) to be allowed. Afterwards others came who wanted to extend this to allow “sq km” and possibly disallow “mi²”, which of course was rubbish, but – anyhow – the compromise was to have incompatible rules for metric and US units. Articles and templates were changed. Sure, this looks silly if you see both close to each other, which happens a lot with our (IMHO unnecessary) conversion requirement (or advice) for (alledgedly illiterate) US readers. Even with enduring and conclusive discussion, readability loses against mannerisms almost every time around here.
Similar things can be said about “mph” vs. “mi/h”, although more people spoke up for the former, illogic but custom style in this case.
I hope my memory does not remember things too wrongly. — Christoph Päper 16:35, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
MJCDetroit, I don't see how allowing exponents with non-SI unit symbols would encourage the use of "sq km". If anything, I would think that the current system encourages it more. More to the point, can you give an example of any other style guide that uses the current arbitrary distinction that MOSNUM has at present? I've already pointed out one guide which specifies the use of exponents for both SI and customary units, and no one who has ever used the GPO style guide would ever accuse it of being a source of innovation. If anything, it is decidedly conservative in its approach to style. Caerwine Caer’s whines 17:11, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
The NIST allows for both by stating: Squares and cubes of customary but not of metric units are sometimes expressed by the use of abbreviations rather than symbols. For example, sq ft means square foot, and cu ft means cubic foot (on page C-3). NASA's style guide has a section for mph, but says nothing more. The style guide of the guardian uses some other variation of sq miles. I don't have copy in front of me but, the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS 15.55-8) makes mention of imperial measures using sq and cu except they add a period with them (sq. mi.); which we don't do.
The argument was to allow for the most commonly used (km² and sq mi) and discourage others. I don't think it was done to irritate the far superior intellect of our German contributors or to make it easier for our "alledgedly illiterate" [sic] amateur U.S. readers (or any other amateur readers in the Commonwealth). Those were just beneficial side effects.
Wikipedia doesn't specific have to follow any said style guide in this area; we can (and do) create our own. Which is what other online encyclopedias like Encyclopedia Britannica and Encarta do by using the amateurish abbreviations for alledgedly illiterate readers. They probably do what they feel is best by adhering to the saying, if it ain't broke don't fix it. I think, in general we should stick to what has worked for us so far. —MJCdetroit (yak) 19:57, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
Problem is, you seem to be the only one who thinks that MOSNUM ain't broke on this subject. Both the Guardian and Encarta use sq for both SI and customary units, probably because they feel that consistency in application is preferable. Can't comment on the EB link as I'm not signed up for that site. The NIST document you cite uses sq only for the survey units (and even then inconsistently as the square rod is is given as both sq rd and rd2). The inconsistency in that 2002 version of the document is fixed in the current version. There sq is used only with synonyms of the rod (pole and perch) that have no symbol. In all usages, including the square rod (rd2), squares of symbols are indicated by an exponent. To the degree that there appears to be a standard used elsewhere, it is to use the same convention on which form to use for both SI and customary units. Caerwine Caer’s whines 21:08, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
I object because I don't want to mess with any consistency that our style guide has built. It's kind of ironic coming from someone who insists on U.S. over US. Check your link to the NIST on the bottom of page C-3 note 3; sq & cu are still there. Why, in my opinion because they are still more common than the superscripts; just like U.S. is still more common than US. However, at this point, if this is the "cheese" that you seem to need— then take it. I just really don't care anymore. —MJCdetroit (yak) 00:38, 15 April 2008 (UTC)
I'll admit to overlooking that explanatory footnote, but on reading it, it seems to me that NIST prefers the use of exponents as the footnote reads as an explanation of what one might encounter, not what they prefer be used. Indeed that footnote pretty accurately sums up my position on what the MOSNUM should say on this topic. "Squares and cubes of customary but not of metric units are sometimes expressed by the use of abbreviations rather than symbols. For example, sq ft means square foot, and cu ft means cubic foot." (Emphasis added.) As for the cheese, I'll give it a bit more time to age first. Caerwine Caer’s whines 02:28, 15 April 2008 (UTC)


I've asked for a conversion template to be made to convert pounds per square inch into kilograms per square centimetre. I'd like the format to be displayed as x lb/in2 (y kg/cm2) but apparantly this may be against the MOS. The discussion is here, along with my reasoning for the use of the display in the proposed format. Comments please. Mjroots (talk) 08:11, 1 April 2008 (UTC)

It seems we have three possible abbreviations:
  1. psi
  2. lb/sq in
  3. lb/in²
Mjroots points out that 2 and 3 are used in the locomotive industry. 1 is a common abbreviation elsewhere. Which do we allow which do we ban? How do we weigh the desire for consistency against the desire to reflect what is used in specific industries? Is 3 against the rules being a US unit (it's also an imperial one) with an exponent 2 instead of "sq" or do we now apply different rules since pounds per square inch could be considered a unit unto itself? JЇѦρ 08:40, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
It is largely a historical unit, although it is still used by various heritage railways in connection with their steam locomotives today. What I'm aiming to achieve is to enable readers in Europe, where kg/cm2 is the normal measurement to easily be able to compare our boiler pressures to their locomotives. It will also help us to understand their boiler pressures in comparison to our locomotives. Do you know what 12 kg/cm2 is in lb/in2? I don't, wouldn't have a clue without a conversion! Mjroots (talk) 10:39, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
This reminds me of using mi/h for miles per hour. While mi/h may be used by some technical publications, the vast majority of people would better recognize mph. As a matter of being consistent throughout the encyclopedia, we should do our best to use one abbreviation—the most common one. In this case psi is the most common so we should use it. However, it also reminds me of the automotive industry (the one I work in) using cid for cubic inches displaced and the medical fields using cc for cubic centimeters. Question being: Do we want to be consistent throughout the entire encyclopedia; even if that means that certain industry articles (locomotive, auto, medical, etc) would use abbreviations different than what is normally encountered in that industry (psi for in/sq in; cu in for cid; cm³ for cc)? Or do we want to make exceptions? —MJCdetroit (yak) 13:59, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
It is not possible to convert from a unit of pressure to kg/cm2, because kg/cm2 is a unit of mass per unit area, not pressure. I advise against making such a template. Thunderbird2 (talk) 16:22, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
I agree with Thunderbird2. The one and only correct unit of pressure in the International System of Units is the pascal. No template should be created to convert to any other metric pressure unit; all the others are obsolete and depricated. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 16:34, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
Just because you don't like the units, it is no reason to make untrue statements. psi or lb/in2 is pounds per square inch, strictly pounds force per square inch (sometimes written as lbf/in2); and it is a pressure measurment. kg/cm2 is strictly kilograms force per square centimetre, which is also a unit of pressure. 1 lb/in2 is 0.07 kg/cm2.Pyrotec (talk) 17:06, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
As Pyrotec has pointed out, both are valid units of pressure. As far as I'm aware, 1 kg/cm2 is equal to 1 technical atmosphere (at). Although the Pascal is the modern unit of measurement that does not invalidate the kg/cm2 as a historical unit of measurement. All I'm asking for is a comparable, easy to understand conversion. Mjroots (talk) 18:01, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
It's just not something that should be converted on a regular basis; if a reference unit is non-SI, we convert to SI; if it's SI but there's a reason to express it in some non-SI unit, we might give that as well SamBC(talk) 18:24, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
I think that some editors that have entered the discussion on this subject need to go back to school. Pressure is the force applied over a unit of area. This is where people forget the difference between force and weight. A kilogram is a unit of mass, which is a fundamentally different quantity to weight, which is actually a force. As an example, 1 kilogram does not weigh the same on the moon as is does on the earth, but the mass (1 kg) is the same. To some extent the kg/cm2 unit is not truly a unit of pressure, as a kilogram is not a unit of force! So it cannot be an SI unit of pressure. Olana North (talk) 18:51, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
Also being pendant, can I suggest that you read what I and Mjroots (and others) said above. For pressure the units have to be strictly pounds force per square inch, written as lbf/in2 and kilogram force per square centimetre, written as kgf/cm2. We are not intending to run steam engines on the moon, so on Earth the units are measures of pressure; and I'm not aware of any claims that they are an SI unit. kg/cm2 is apparently a common unit used in Europe for recording boiler pressures; and lb/in2 has been used in the UK for a very long time as a unit of pressure. Even if we accept unconditionally that lb/in2 and kg/cm2 are not units of force it is still possible to convert from one set of units to the other set; since they have the same dimensions of weight per unit area. Please explain, as you have apparently been to school, why two authors above consider lb/in2 to be a (Non-SI) unit of force whereas they regard kg/cm2 as not. Being pendant, it is lbf and kgf per unit area. It is also possible to convert from lbf/in2 to kgf/cm2 since they have the same dimensions of weight per unit area. They are being used as gauge pressures not absolute pressures; and we are not intending to compare boiler pressures on different planets, or in space.Pyrotec (talk) 19:38, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
The psi is a unit of pressure that is defined unambiguously as one pound-force per square inch. As a unit of pressure it can be converted to another unit of pressure, like the pascal. You will find a list of valid pressure conversions (which does not include kg/cm2) in the psi article. Thunderbird2 (talk) 21:24, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
Actually, it is there, under a different name, the Technical atmosphere. So, all I'm asking for is an alternative way to display an existing conversion. Mjroots (talk) 22:16, 1 April 2008 (UTC)
In that case could you rephrase the question so that we can understand the requirement more clearly? Are you saying you need a conversion from psi to technical atmospheres? Thunderbird2 (talk) 11:36, 2 April 2008 (UTC)

(outdent)Rephrase As 1 kg/cm2 = 1 Technical Atmosphere, what I need is a different way of displaying Technical Atmospheres as kg/cm2, to enable an easy comparison with lb/in2, with the two units displayed in a similar format.

The trouble with that is that the at is a unit of pressure, whereas kg/cm^2 is not, so you can't convert between them the way you'd like to. Do you have an example article in mind where you see the need for such a conversion? Thunderbird2 (talk) 13:50, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
Well, there's the Chemin de Fer du Finistère article for a start. There are plenty of articles on UK steam locomotives that would benefit from conversion in the other direction.Mjroots (talk) 17:37, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
I see. That helps illustrate the problem. If it were me doing the editing the first thing I would do is change all those kg/cm2 to kgf/cm2. Is that what is meant? (For the reasons pointed out by Olana North, kg/cm2 is not correct). Regarding unit conversions I would say the most important one would be to pascals. Do I understand correctly you wish to convert also to psi? Thunderbird2 (talk) 18:51, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
I'm just trying to stick to what is common usage. i.e lb/in2 and kg/cm2. This is the usual way of writing boiler pressures, even if it is not strictly accurate. I have no problem with an additional conversion into HPa being added it that is the correct modern unit to use. We convert imperial to metric and metric to imperial throughout wikipedia. Again, I've no problem with that. I understand feet and inches, miles and chains etc. Others understand metres and kilometres. Personally, I would prefer not to have psi displayed. One never sees boiler pressures quoted as 120 psi, it would be quoted as 120 lb/in2 or 120 lb/sq in. Mjroots (talk) 20:09, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
I'm afraid that takes us back to where we started. The kg/cm2 is not a unit of pressure. Thunderbird2 (talk) 22:41, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
What is written - kg/cm2. What is meant - kgf/cm2! Looks like I'll just have to enter a manual conversion. Mjroots (talk) 06:48, 7 April 2008 (UTC)
Mjroots is correct and Thunderbird is wrong; "kg/cm2" is most often (not always, however) a unit of pressure. But we at Wikipedia, unlike other places, don't use "kg" for kilograms force; we kgf to distinguish them from the mass units. Likewise, we at Wikipedia don't use "lb" for pounds force; we use "lbf" to distinguish them from the normal mass units "lb". We should not change that.
Even other sources use the "kg/cm2" or "lb/in2" notations do so consistently; we've just chosen to go with more sensible standards here on Wikipedia. Furthermore, while there are hundreds of car magazines and the like which use "ft./lbs." and the like for torque, we at Wikipedia don't use dots in our symbols, we don't don't add an s to lbs even when it is used for the units of mass and we don't use lb instead of lbf for the unit of force, and most of all, we do not use a slash when there is no division involved, even if a whole slew of car magazines do use symbols like that. We use "ft·lbf" (which as units of torque convert to newton meters, but as units of energy or work convert to joules) or "lbf·ft" (which are normally used only for torque, not for energy).
There is almost no symbols which you cannot see misused (and not just outside Wikipedia; even lots of Wikipedia articles using kgs for kilograms, Kms for kilometers, gm for grams, mtrs for meters, and the like). But that doesn't mean we shouldn't set our standards higher, and use consistent symbols in accordance with modern standards. The whole notion of standard symbols is a recent idea, origination in the 1948 resolutions of the CGPM. Consequently, they gained their foothold first in the metric system, and the notion was more firmly established when the International System of Units when that was introduced 12 years later. But the best usage today has broadened those concepts far beyond those particular units.
The kilogram-force was an unquestionably legitimate unit until the introduction of the SI in 1960, and it still sees far too much use even today. In 1901, the CGPM made grams-force well-defined units of force, by adopting a "standard acceleration" of gravity of 980.665 cm/s² (note that pounds-force were never well defined units before then either, even though pounds were, and in fact by then were already defined as an exact fraction of a kilogram in the United States). This "standard acceleration" is a concept of metrology, not of physics; it serves no purpose other than defining units such as kilograms-force and the manumetric units of pressure based on the height of a column of mercury or water or whatever (mmHg, cmH2O, inHg, etc.). Since the SI is the only system of units still fully supported and updated, nobody is going to bother to tell us not to use pounds-force without telling us not to use pounds of any sort.
Mjroots should not be adding a manual conversion to those improper symbols. If I find any of them, I'll fix them. Gene Nygaard (talk) 15:04, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
I don't see any mention on the page of pounds-force or kilograms-force nor do I see mention of the slash's being restricted to division. I'm not saying that this is not the way things should be. I'm just pointing out that whilst this page is silent about this it's hard to say that this is the way things are. The other point raised but not conclusively dealt with is whether "lb/in²" is permissible. The page says to abbreviate square inch as "sq in", would this rule out "lb/in²" in favour of "lb/sq in"? JЇѦρ 17:48, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
Pounds force and kilograms force don't need to be mentioned on this page; we have a de facto standard without having to confuse anyone here. We simply do not use "lb" for pounds-force nor "kg" for kilograms-force. It isn't a problem; it has never required a solution. There's no need to fix it if it ain't broke. Gene Nygaard (talk) 21:25, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
Part of the reason, of course, is that it has been discussed ad nauseum in some other places, such as Wikipedia:WikiProject Aircraft (now on some old sub-pages about units, I think) and I think an automotive wikiproject as well. That takes care of most of the places where kilograms-force are used, and many of the places where pounds-force are used. There never was any need for any Manual of Style involvement. Gene Nygaard (talk) 21:29, 13 April 2008 (UTC)
See, for example, the "lbf" in the standard format at Wikipedia:WikiProject Aircraft/page content. Gene Nygaard (talk) 21:39, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

I believe the real situation is this: most of the people at NIST are scientists, who understand the superiority of SI and want American customary units to disappear as soon as possible. They have already abandoned customary units, and will never devote any resources to creating authoritative standards of usage for customary units. So Wikipedia should follow the usage in good style guides, such as the Chicago Manual of Style. Essentially, if you ask anyone in authority what's wrong with expressing torque in ft/lb, they'll tell you the problem is you're not using N·m. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 18:00, 13 April 2008 (UTC)

If it ain't broke, then what are we doing with {{Auto lb·ft}} & {{Auto lb ft}} (currently transcluded on only about a dozen pages & soon to be deleted but they're there)? What do we tell someone who wants to use "lb" for pounds force or "S/T" for short ton? What do we tell someone who might argue that what was discussed on the plane and automobile project pages doesn't apply to train articles? It would be nice to be able to point to something concrete. JЇѦρ 00:35, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
The train pages/wikiproject have also discussed, and use, lbf. Thanks for reminding me of that. But yes, it would be helpful to have somebody besides me to tell you not to use the siemens per tesla symbol to stand for short tons in the pet project of you and a couple of other editors, namely the {{convert}} program. At least I certainly don't see any division involved in short tons, and I can't imagine why anybody ever though that S/T, or M/T, or L/T also with the solidus, would be acceptable symbols for tons as units of mass.
Especially not when it apparently allows you to convert nautical miles to siemens per tesla
  • {{convert|200|nmi|S/T|sigdig=3|sp=us}} → {{convert|200|nmi|S/T|sigdig=3|sp=us}}
Of course, converting nautical miles to short tons doesn't make much sense either.
Obviously we are able to get rid of the improper usage without anything specific about it on this MoS subpage; as you say, it is already being done. In that particular instance, we do have decisions that it should be lbf on some Wikiproject for automobiles, and we do have the example of the more-often used {{Auto ft.lbf}} with proper symbols, which itself I suspect that someone has replaced with "convert" in many of the places where it was used.
Part of the problem with the {{Auto lb ft}} templates results from a failure by the creators of {{Auto ft.lbf}} to accommodate those who believe in following the rules promoted by some experts that unit of torque should be distinguished from units of energy, just as in SI the units of torque are newton-meters, while the units of energy are joules (they are dimensionally and numerically equivalent units, either is equal to 1 kg·m²/s²). There is no {{Auto lbf.ft}} (not even as a redirect to the one in the other order), so it is possible that the primary concern of the creators of those two templates you mentioned was with the order of the units, rather than a refusal to accept lbf for the pound-force symbol. Gene Nygaard (talk) 03:04, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
It's being done (the getting rid of those two auto templates) because this discussion prompted me to look around for instances of this, I found those templates and decided to eliminate them. Whether there is a general trend is another matter. I never did like "S/T", "L/T" and "M/T" for the very same reason. They were a hang-over from {{ConvertWeight}}. Looking on the Internet seemed to indicate that the abbreviations were used. The are even mentioned on the articles Short ton and Long ton. Had there been a clear ruling against this I'd gladly have excluded them from our little pet project. But, no, I guess we don't absolutely need the rule stated here, we can stamp out improper usage without it, I just think having such would make the job a little easier. JЇѦρ 04:33, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
Don't get me wrong, I'm not totally opposed to having such rules here. And I'm not even saying that it wouldn't be good to specify the rules for lbf and kgf here now; just pointing out that they really haven't been necessary in the past. They should be here, when someone insists on going contrary to what has become the Wikipedia standard, when a couple of Wikiprojects or whatever have come up with contradictory rules, or if someone wants to change something that has become common in at least part of Wikipedia. We just shouldn't expect to set down rules for everything here. And when such rules are proposed here, we should be making a concerted effort to see if the particular unit symbols or other abbreviations have been discussed elsewhere on the talk pages or in Wikipedia: namespace, and to put some notice on the pages where this was done that the issue has come up on MOSNUM. In some cases, we might accept two or more alternatives, while still rejecting other possibilities for the same unit (for example, either lbf·ft or ft·lbf for English units of torque, either mL or ml for milliliters.
If we are going to accept anything besides "psi" for pounds-force per square inch, it should include an "lbf", not "lb". And it should specify that it is lbf, not the lbf with an upright lowercase f used in some Wikipedia articles (since F is a common symbol for the quantity force in the sciences, some people outside Wikiepdia also use lbF where the subscript is italic and uppercase). But both of them go against the modern rule against attaching information to the units of measure (something done in the old psig and psia abbreviations for absolute and gauge pressures which we should also discourage on Wikipedia). Using "kgf" or "lbf" (which are the symbols used by measurement standards organizations such as NIST and NPL) can be interpreted in a way not violating that rule; that is just a different symbol for a different unit; by not subscripting it (and not separating it with a space or a dot as should be done if two different symbols are involved), it looks less like we are saying that these are really kilograms being used in a different context rather than using a different unit, one no longer acceptable for use with the International System of Units. Gene Nygaard (talk) 12:42, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
True, we can't cover everything. The more rules you have, the more diluted each one gets. is this a flash in the pan or are we likely to have more people wanting "lb" or "kg" for the force? JЇѦρ 17:37, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
On reflection it occurs to me that lb/sq-in would be more appropriate that lbf/sq-in for steam systems using a centrifugal governor. Local variations in g will change the regulation point...LeadSongDog (talk) 22:03, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
Perhaps LeadSongDog is joking? If not, one is still talking about the pressure exerted by steam, which is a force per unit area. Mass per unit area would be more appropriate for measuring armor plate. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 22:23, 14 April 2008 (UTC)

Cubic feet

According to Cubic foot the following abbreviations are used.

  • CCF for a hundred cubic feet
  • MCF for a thousand cubic feet
  • MMCF for a million cubic feet
  • BCF for a thousand million (109) cubic feet
  • TCF for a billion (1012) cubic feet

No mention of abbreviations for such large units of volume is made on the the page. It could be useful to have some abbreviation for these units for use on WP but would we want abbreviations such as these? On the other hand, it might be best to stick with "cu ft" and use scientific notation. JЇѦρ 02:50, 2 April 2008 (UTC)

The "Cubic foot" article does not cite any reference for these abbreviations. I think they are too obscure to use in Wikipedia. While they might be used in certain industries, the deceptive similarity to metric prefixes make them undesireable. --Gerry Ashton (talk) 03:04, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
More or less my feelings about them. I wonder whether the MOS should expressedly ban these and/or ban the quasi-Roman numeral/"short scale" prefixes that form them. I don't want to see the likes on WP but on the other hand I don't recall ever having done. JЇѦρ 03:16, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
"... don't recall ever having done ..." but I didn't have to look too far. JЇѦρ 03:26, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
Actually put it down to a bad memory. I went looking for "mcf" and found one that I'd been meaning to kill. I found a couple more. JЇѦρ 04:27, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
I've found nine hits for "MMCF" three of which were mentions of the abbreviation itself. The other six are listed below.
It's time to fix this. JЇѦρ 05:10, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
Given that most usages of cubic foot will be either US based or historical, it seems sensible to use the short scale billion and trillion vice the long scale thousand million and billion in explaining the prefixes B and T (if the initialisms are retained.) Certainly I would like to see clear disambiguation to the real-world metric units that define them (per the US NIST).LeadSongDog (talk) 05:33, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
I reserve the right to stick stubbornly to logic, tradition and dialect thus shunning this short scale nonsense ... on talk pages. Yeah, you're right, it is sensible. The question is whether these prefixes should be allowed on WP at all (apart from in articles which describe the abbreviations themselves). JЇѦρ 06:32, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
I wouldn't object to their use, especially if they were the source units. However, they'd definitely have to be wiki-linked back to the cubic foot article (which needs references for these abbreviations) and we'd have to make some note of them in the MOSNUM. I've only seen CCF used (on water and gas bills) in the past. If they were not the source units it would probably be better to use "cu ft" in scientific notation. —MJCdetroit (yak) 14:04, 2 April 2008 (UTC)
I support the general tone of this discussion. I am sure that most, if not all, instances of those obscure and esoteric abbreviations can be replaced with something that is more widely accessible. Lightmouse (talk)
Good point, MJCdetroit, but might you not argue that converting "1.23 TCF" to "1.23 trillion cubic feet" or "1.23×1012 cu ft" involves not a change in units but simply in how those units are expressed? JЇѦρ 16:38, 11 April 2008 (UTC)
But how those units are expressed is a legitimate concern. We can and should allow "trillion cubic feet" while disallowing "TCF" as an abbreviation for them. The Roman-numeral–based (but multiplicative rather than additive, 1000×1000 rather than the conventional 1000 + 1000 in Roman numerals) MMCF or MMCFT or MMcft or even mmcft should especially be deprecated. We can and should encourage use of cubic kilometers/kilometres and "km³" rather than "billion cubic meters/metres" and especially "billion m³". Gene Nygaard (talk) 15:46, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
I'd also say that "hundred cubic feet" should not be used on Wikipedia, not even spelled out let alone in symbols, unless as part of a newspaper headline in the references. Just multiply by 100 and use cubic feet. Sure, in similar fashion, I can show you Canadian hog markets giving prices as $x/ckg, but I doubt that anyone is going to argue here the we should allow "ckg" as an abbreviation for "100 kilograms". We shouldn't accept those $x/ckg even if we accept the very same market's cattle prices, at the very same time, in $x/cwt. We can accept "cwt" an exception for an ubiquitous abbreviation, though one needing disambiguation because between those who think hundred is written in symbols and "100" and those who thin it is "112", but otherwise that Roman numeral "C" or "c" as a prefix for 100 is especially bad and confusing, because the standard meaning as a unit prefix is not 100 but rather 1/100 for "centi-". Gene Nygaard (talk) 16:06, 14 April 2008 (UTC)
Centikilograms ... How those units are expressed is exactly the concern I'd like addressed. I've seen the likes of "MMBTU" and "TCF" on Wikipedia pages. I hope to see them eliminated. I've also seen the argument that cubic kilometres are for geology whilst the natural gas industry uses billion cubic metres instead. To me that goes against my feeling of the spirit of the SI, which would call a cubic kilometre a cubic kilometre whether it be of rock or of luminiferous æther. JЇѦρ 17:26, 14 April 2008 (UTC)