Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Alpha Archive 1

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What do you say about a section advocating the usage of the non-breakable space? Cases I would start with are:

  1. Separating the initials from a name, or other cases distinguishing an abbreviation ending from the end-of-sentence period, as in B.N. Delaunay
  2. Preventing a stand-alone (before a comma or a period) numeral or short acronym/abbreviation carried over to a new line
  3. em-dash tying, as with the "Tom and Jerry" example in the Sections:Introduction in the article

Please add more. BACbKA 22:55, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I'd prefer to keep the amount of HTML in the style guide to a minimum, and for the style guide to focus on language. Maurreen 06:42, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Should, following this logic, - and – and — and , be treated all the same and therefore interchangeable? What about the "Use straight quotation marks and apostrophes" section — do you consider it redundant as well? I fully agree with the "don't get fancy" section that one should not abuse the HTML power in the articles here, but I think that using the non-breakable space where needed is a necessary part of markup, i.e., a part of the necessary minimum. Any of the cases I have enumerated above looks REALLY ugly without a non-breakable space, in case the line is actually gets broken there. Pity the wikireader creators, on the paper it is even uglier...
But, maybe, both things are needed — one document about language/wording and the other dealing more with the fonts selection/selection of the punctuation signs/markup? BACbKA 09:41, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Those are valid cases you make, but I still think HTML entities should be kept to a minimum in source. Most editors do not know what they mean. -- Tarquin 09:55, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Your point makes a lot of sense, but then there has to be some other way to minimize the ugliness induced by the lack of proper markip. Maybe we should ask the software to be configured to recognize additional shorthand in the source (e.g., like in TeX: -- for an en-dash, --- for an em-dash;, and ~ for a non-breakable space)? BACbKA 11:08, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I am sure there will be a very old post by me on the mailing list suggesting that -- and --- be turned into en and em dashed ;) It's very easy and it's clear to editors. I'd certainly support this. For the non-breakable space I'm less sure. The French WP has a big problem with this, because all numbers (eg 100 000) and punctutation (the space before : ? ! etc) need nbsp, and this makes markup pretty ugly. -- Tarquin 16:34, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I agree with having this information in a different section. Maurreen 16:31, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Alternate vs. Alternative

The MOS currently states: If a word or phrase is generally regarded as correct, then prefer it to an alternative that is often regarded as incorrect. Thus "alternative meaning" should be used rather than "alternate meaning" since dictionaries often discourage or do not even recognize the latter. For example, the American Heritage Dictionary "Usage Note" at alternative simply says: "Alternative should not be confused with alternate."

I think this unnecessarily deprecates "alternate" for "alternative". There is an absolute distinction between the two when used as nouns. However, one very common meaning of alternate as and adjective (at least in the U.S.) is Serving or used in place of another; substitute: an alternate plan. "Alternative" (again, at least in the U.S.), also has the additional very common meaning a. Existing outside traditional or established institutions or systems: an alternative lifestyle. b. Espousing or reflecting values that are different from those of the establishment or mainstream: an alternative newspaper; alternative greeting cards. I think alternate is preferable to alternative for adjectival use. I think alternative has unintended connotations which I find distracting when I come across it. olderwiser 13:37, 12 Jul 2004 (UTC)

The problem is that's exactly the reaction I have (and presumably that other author has) to the word alternate, which to me implies a pre-decided option—Plan B if you like, or a substitute in a sporting game—whether there might be more than one such or not. Alternative on the other hand allows rather more freedom: there's not a laid-down list you have to pick from, you can make it up. HTH HAND --Phil | Talk 15:20, Jul 12, 2004 (UTC)
The term 'alternate' means every second one, which is quite different from 'alternative' (allowing/necessitating a choice).
To quote Eric Partridge in Usage and Abusage: A Guide to Good English, Third Edition, 1999:
alternate and alternative. The first means 'every other'. Alternate days are Monday, Wednesday, Friday ... The related adverb is alternately, meaning 'by turns'. 'He walked and ran alternately.' Alternate cannot replace alternative, which means 'available instead of another', as in 'We took an alternative route.' The adv. of alternative is alternatively, 'offering a choice'. 'You could fly, or alternatively go by sea.' Alternative has been overused in official jargon, in such contexts as 'alternative accommodation', 'make alternative arrangements', 'find alternative employment', where it is often better replaced by other or new. But there is no really satisfactory synonym for the more recent sense 'nontraditional, offering a substitute for the conventional thing', as in 'alternative medicine', 'alternative cinema', 'alternative technology'. In this sense, it is a vogue word.
An alternative meaning, you will agree, is certainly not a meaning in rotation; it is, rather, 'available instead of another'.
Granted, of course, there is the American English habit of using alternate in place of alternative. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary gives the second definition of 'alternate' such that could be used in the sense of 'alternative' above – it gives to it no qualification on register or suitability, however. Nonetheless, the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, Cambridge dictionaries and the Concise Oxford Dictionary – which is more or less the authority on English usage – all state this is North American English. A useful note given by the COED: 'The use of alternate to mean alternative (as in we will need to find alternate sources of fuel) is common in North American English, though still regarded as incorrect by many in Britain.'
And this is precisely what the Manual of Style warns against.
Sinuhe 16:32, 12 Jul 2004 (UTC)
So if we have a British vs. U.S. usage difference, why are we recommending one over the other? Shouldn't this follow the more general policy of using whichever form is appropriate for the context of the article? olderwiser 16:51, 12 Jul 2004 (UTC)
No, this is not primarily a US vs Commonwealth difference. The term alternative is correct everywhere; and as such, it should be used in preference to a term which is not. In other words, alternative is – I should believe – always preferable to alternate in the sense of choice, even in subjects entirely related to the USA. The spirit of the passage from the style guide in question is exactly that: if something (='alternate') is considered not correct by many (in this case, virtually all speakers of English bar North Americans – I fear that I live in ignorance as regards Canadian usage), and there is an alternative (='alternative') considered correct by all, use the correct term so as to suit the most. Or can you think of a context in which alternate is the better option of the two? —Sinuhe 18:16, 12 Jul 2004 (UTC)
(continuing the discussion from Talk:American and British English differences: The usage recommendations by traditionalists for alternative is more complex than has been conveyed so far. Many traditionalists indicate that alternative should ONLY be used in cases where there are exactly two alternatives. So in contexts such as "alternative meanings", the usage is contrary to traditional usage. Alternative is also undesirable in this context because in AmEng it also has the strong connotation of "non-traditional" or "out-of-the-mainstream", which is certainly not what is meant in most cases. Because both alternate and alternative are problematic, perhaps the MoS should recommend using "other meanings" instead. olderwiser 18:14, 19 Jul 2004 (UTC)


At Talk:Ampersand, User: wrote:

Has anyone talked about when to use and and when to use & in Wikipedia??

I replied:

I think, in general, "and" should be used unless the ampersand is part of a work's proper name (for example, Dungeons & Dragons or Beyond Good & Evil (video game)). I've brought the question up at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style.

Is there any previous discussion on when or if ampersands should be used instead of "and" in article text or titles? -Sean Curtin 02:09, Dec 5, 2004 (UTC)

I don't recall seeing such a discussion in the archives. And I agree with your usage. Maurreen 02:16, 5 Dec 2004 (UTC)

This subject was also brought up on Radiojon's User talk page. 23:14, 7 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Anyway to remove underlining?

Is there a way to remove underlining from links? The reason I want to do this is because the underlining can be confused as part of a Chinese character if the character appears in a link. See Chinese family name. ☞spencer195 00:02, 29 May 2004 (UTC)

Check your preferences Dysprosia 02:30, 29 May 2004 (UTC)

Article on style guides

I am looking for a input to help resolve a dispute about the article on style guides. The question is this: Was the article better before or after the rewrite? Thanks. Maurreen 15:30, 23 Oct 2004 (UTC)

No, that's not the question in dispute. The question is should it be clearly mentioned that style guides may be descriptive and/or prescriptive or should the article be restricted to a discussion of prescriptive style guides with no reference to descriptive ones. jguk 15:44, 23 Oct 2004 (UTC)
What would be the point of a descriptive style guide? Hyacinth 03:07, 26 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Or, the question is: Are style guides prescriptive by definition? Maurreen 03:34, 26 Oct 2004 (UTC)
I would say not. A "guide" is often something that shows you around an area, so I see no reason why a style guide couldn't be a map rather than a set of rules. I can't see what use this would be of (outside of in the development of future style guides, maybe a synthesis of guides). Hyacinth 04:05, 26 Oct 2004 (UTC)
The latest version of the best known British English style guide, Fowler's Modern English Usage (3rd Edition), is a mostly descriptive style guide. An interesting read, if you're into that kind of thing, though there are other style guides out there that are even more descriptive. [1]. Birchfield's rewrite of Fowler into a far less prescriptive (and thereforE into a descriptive) form was not universally popular. [2] See in particular the first reviewer's comments. As far as the point of them: well, they are not suitable for publishers and newspapers as they don't impose consistency. They are suitable for users interested in how language is used and help the user decide what form of words, spelling, etc to choose for the particular audience the user is addressing. jguk 07:24, 26 Oct 2004 (UTC)
While a style guide could be descriptive, most style guides are not. I know of none that I would call mostly descriptive that also has a title indicating it is a style guide or style manual. A truly descriptive style guide would be one of those linguistic books about New England dialects, a guide to different styles of usage. I am not aware of a book of that kind being called a style guide, though such a book could in theory be called something like A Guide to Styles of English Midland Language. Birchfield's rewrite of Fowler was more descriptive than the two previous versions of Fowler's work. But it was a far cry from being only an informed and dispassionate study on the current state of the English language. The Chicago Manual of Style is also increasingly descriptive in recent editions, providing alternative ways of doing things, though still purportedly mainly for use as the style guide for the University of Chicago Press. That limitation provides freedom. One can prescribe firmly and absolutely without also making any claim that one's preferred way of doing things is the only correct way. One would, I think, be better to refer to Birchfield's work as "more descriptive" rather than simply "descriptive". But almost all guides of that kind for the general public must be so today. Jallan 23:44, 28 Oct 2004 (UTC)
This dispute has been settled. Maurreen 08:49, 6 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Article structuring

I tried to find some good advice on structuring articles in wikipedia namespaces. All I found were some pages in the Style and How-to Directory, some pages in the Wikipedia:Manual of Style, and some links on template:FAPath. They mostly deal with the issue from a general stylistic and aesthetic viewpoint, and only touch on the underlying reasons for giving a logical and fairly standardized structure to encyclopedia articles.

I've therefore written up a draft guideline for writing articles in a "pyramid structure". Being mostly based on common sense, it is in part a description of what we already do, but its goal is also to explain why structuring articles in this way is good. It's at User:Zocky/Pyramid structure. Please feel free to improve and comment.

I'm not sure how to proceed. Proper structure should obviously be a FA requirement, and this should probably also be in the how-to series. But since structure is a fundamental editorial issue which heavily affects both quality and NPOV, it could also be a part of the Manual of Style. Zocky 19:45, 21 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Article title in bold

Wikipedia:Manual_of_Style#Introduction states that "All articles should have the title or subject in bold...", and the examples show triple quote marks as the way to mark text as bold.

It turns out that a free link which is the same as the article name automatically displays as bold, so I've been using that method instead of triple quotes. Is there any preference or policy regarding this?

Given that the self-ref bold display is a deliberately designed feature of Wiki, and adds more information, I think it's a Good Thing. -- Paul Richter 11:44, 9 Jun 2004 (UTC)

That feature is a relatively recent addition to the wiki software. In the interest of consistency, please use the standard triple quote. →Raul654 20:19, Jun 9, 2004 (UTC)
I agree with Raul. I think bold formatting should always be bold formatting, not a link just because that happens to produce bold formatting. Additionally, I think (though I'm not certain) that using the link would cause the page to show up in the "list of pages with self links" queries. You also run into problems if the page is moved and the part you have linked is then a link to a redirect to itself, rather than being bold text. Angela. 01:04, 10 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Making the article title bold is also discussed in the Article names section (the first one on the page):

"Bold article titles using '''three apostrophes''' — do not self-link to bold the title."

Shouldn't that sentence contain some reference to the first line of the article? Mightn't someone get confused and literally try to create an article whose title contains triple-apostrophes? Or, sitting on the edit page, wonder how to "get at the title" to insert them? — Or is this just my overactive imagination? - dcljr 03:20, 17 Jul 2004 (UTC)

British versus American casing

This section includes the pronouncement "Remember also, American English tends to lowercase most titles except in the most formal settings, while British English uses capitals far more widely, with all words of a title being capitalised except for prepositions, articles and conjunctions." To which I say: huh? What types of titles are being referred to here? The rules I know (and consistently see applied here in the US) are exactly as described for British English. See, for example, something filled with titles such as the All Music Guide.

I'll also note that this section of the style guide uses UK vs. US spellings inconsistently, even for multiple uses of a single word within a single sentence. While recognizing that this might be done with some ironic intent, we must also recognise that the implication is that it is acceptable (desirable, even?) to switch back and forth within a single article, which seems sub-optimal to me. Jgm 21:51, 16 Jul 2004 (UTC)

I'd like to point out that the Florida-based All Music Guide actually goes in the opposite direction of the above statement of supposed "American English" capitalization. Its band name and album title entries do indeed follow the so-called "British English" capitalization rules, but most of the songs are listed in all-capitalized form. Not only is this an easier rule to follow (unlike the exception-riddled "standard" rules that seem to be merely a holdover from the Germanic origins of the English language), but it's more in keeping with the way song titles, album titles, and even band names are currently printed on the actual media (e.g., commercial CDs). (See my statement under Talk:List of songs whose title includes personal names#Capitalization for details.) Personally, I think we should abandon the confusing and poorly-practiced "standard" capitalization rules and just adopt the capitalize-all method for proper nouns like titles. (The Wiki article title policy also seems reasonable, too, as it simple gets rid of unnecessary capitalization. Its only serious problem is that mandatory initial capital letter, which can introduce undesirable error and ambiguity.) -- Jeff Q 22:44, 16 Jul 2004 (UTC)

I'm going to change the above sentence and change all spellings to US variants within the next couple of days unless objections are raised here. Jgm 23:59, 17 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Why US spellings? The original author of the section, User:Jtdirl, used Commonwealth spellings. Is there a specific reason to use US spellings rather than English ones? Sinuhe 08:50, 18 Jul 2004 (UTC)
I just read the section from which the above quote is taken, and I realize now that both Jgm and I have misunderstood the context of the word "title" in the original text. It refers specifically to office titles (e.g., "president" and "prime minister"), not artistic work titles (such as one may find in All-Music Guide). Because of this, I must object to any changes based on what Jgm and I have said here. It is good to be consistent, but we need to be consistent within the correct context, and the one described in this section is even more complicated than the messy "rules" of artistic work capitalization. P.S. Jgm, please forgive my reformatting and rearrangement of your most recent posting. I did it in order to preserve the flow of dialog here and eliminate the confusion between the indent- and bullet-based formatting of Talk page dialogs. If you feel the point you raised should maintain your preferred bullet format, feel free to change the format, but please preserve the flow for the sake of other readers who may come upon this issue at a later date. -- Jeff Q 07:20, 18 Jul 2004 (UTC)
No, I do not believe you are right; it refers to headings. The previous section refers to job titles. It would be senseless to talk about the very same thing in two consecutive sections. As for capitalisation in the music industry, see the article on capitalisation. –Sinuhe 08:50, 18 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Heh heh. Now I'm hopelessly confused. Going back to my original statement, I have trouble parsing the sentence I quoted as referrring to honorary or office titles, but I suppose (given the confusion between readers) that various people may have edited the section thinking it was referring to different types of "titles". In any event, now it's even more clear to me that the section needs rewriting, but of course there must fisrt be a consensus as to what kind of "title" we are talking about here.
As to Sinuhe's question of "why American spellings", my main objective would be consistency. I understand that the Wikipedia is going to be inherently (and perhaps appropriately, though I'm not completely sold there) inconsistent in this area, but I think spellings should be consistent within a given article and also that a usage guide is a special case in that it is (should be) simultaneously descriptive and prescriptive. Also I thought the idea was that the "appropriate" type of spelling for a given article isn't so much a function of who wrote it but what it is about -- if, indeed we agree that there should be consistency within an article and know that editors from multiple places will be contributing to an article that approach (which I think is backed up elsewhere in this very style guide) would seem to be the only way. Jgm 13:50, 18 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Taking another look at this, and re-reading the entire Manual of Style, I'm inclined to propose that this entire section is unnecessary. There are entire sections devoted to UK vs. US style guidance; the only thing this paragraph has that isn't covered elsewhere is the claim that US and UK casing traditions may be different, and, again, I disagree with this claim from the outset (and others seem to back me up on this). There does seem to be a gap in the WMoS regarding capitalization for titles (of works rather than people), but this isn't filling it. What would be lost if this paragraph (British versus American casing) were deleted outright? Jgm 16:03, 19 Jul 2004 (UTC)

All that refers to is office and personal titles, ie, offices of state. It was never intended in way cover other titles, certainly not album casing. The reason it was put in was because there was a serious problem arising over how office titles were being used; major work had been done by a group of people in cleaning what had in reality become a farcical mess in pages relating to pages about presidents, prime ministers, peerage references, monarchical references, etc., only for the work to be undone by people who did not realise that (i) there is a difference between AE, BE, CE, HE, IE etc in how they capitalise, (ii) as most of the offices were non-American, applying American english capitalisation rules to titles that even American sources refer to using other forms of english, was causing friction and revert wars. The whole point was to tell people not to apply blanket AE rules in areas such as titles where AE is not used even in the US. And most people thought the addition achieved that, it being important that the page there as well as elsewhere warned people off making blanket capitalisation generalisations. And yes, there is a fundamental difference in CE and AE casing structure and traditions. FearÉIREANN 17:14, 19 Jul 2004 (UTC)

In that case, I think the seperate section header for this paragraph needs to go, since this is just an extension of the previous section on titles in general. Are you OK with that? And, what if anything do you think we should do about the mix of US and UK spellings in this paragraph? Jgm 17:51, 19 Jul 2004 (UTC)