Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive (jguk's changes)

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Because this discussion is so long, it was split from Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style. Maurreen 07:23, 7 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The quotation in the style guide

Material which is taken verbatim from another source generally deserves to noted as such. In the lead section of our style guide, attribution to The Chicago Manual of Style was removed, and I am going to restore it. Maurreen 11:52, 25 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Jguk has replaced this:

In this regard the following quote from The Chicago Manual of Style deserves notice: Rules and regulations such as these, in the nature of the case, cannot be endowed with the fixity of rock-ribbed law. They are meant for the average case, and must be applied with a certain degree of elasticity."

with this:

But rules on style (like not starting sentences with a conjunction) are made to be broken. They are not observed rigidly and they change with time. Any guide has its limitations, and where necessary or appropriate, they are diverged from.

I diagree with this change. For one thing, it is no improvement, there is no need. For another, saying Rules are made to be broken is much stronger than saying that rules aren’t rock-ribbed law. Maurreen 19:00, 25 Nov 2004 (UTC)

The improvement I am seeking is to change the beginning of the article from having an academic and USian feel, to being neutral and inclusive. Since we ask all Wikipedians wherever they are and whatever their background to use this Manual of Style guide, it should adopt an inclusive approach. jguk 19:27, 25 Nov 2004 (UTC)

The sentiment in the quotation is universal to every style guide I am familiar with and is not in the least bit "USian" (hmm, pretty "stylish" word) and the replacement wording was much weaker. There is plenty of "Britainian" sentiment in the style guide, including all the stuff about spelling and use of quotations, for instance. The qauotation has also been in the style guide since its very first iteration. As the paragraph two below says, don't make fundamental changes (such as replacing the epigraph) without discussion. Ortolan88 19:50, 25 Nov 2004 (UTC), original author/compiler of style guide

I've no idea what "Britainian"'s meant to mean. Maybe it's one of these purely American words that needs explaining to others. Anyway, my point is that I think the article should be neutral. Putting British comments in is hardly neutral from an Australian, South African, Indian, New Zealand, Canadian, Nigerian, Kenyan, etc. perspective. I'd happily get rid of all the references to British style guides too. Finally, a quotation from a style guide that is not adopted as the Wikipedia style is not fundamental, and neither are edits to it. After all, as we are constantly reminded: if you do not want your writing to be edited mercilessly and redistributed at will, do not submit it. :) OK, I'm being a bit cheeky and a bit flippant. But everything can be improved, and making policy internationally neutral is an improvement. After all, you may have started the article, but can you as an American honestly say you (at least subconsciously) did not adopt a USian POV? jguk 20:27, 25 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Yes, anything can be changed. And then changed back. And Jguk, because you are the person seeking the change, and the person at least apparently in the minority so far, the burden is on you to persuade others.
I'm not aware of anyone else offended by a quotation from a U.S. book. Are we to neutralize anything that is related to any country? Or set quotas?
I asked some time ago, early during your poll on "U.S." and serial commas, about your preference for what you call language neutrality. Neither you nor anyone else responded.
If you want language neutrality, I ask you to do that discussion. Maurreen 21:01, 25 Nov 2004 (UTC)
While I disagree with any intention to remove the statement because of any US/UK bias, it does seem silly to include a quotation from a style guide when the guide is not used for wikipedia, and it is just a seemingly minor paragraph. It seems to be offering a justification for this statement when none is needed. --NeilTarrant 21:11, 25 Nov 2004 (UTC)
This is a trivial point, and I suspect you may have been partially ironic when you said "I've no idea what "Britainian"'s meant to mean" , but I think it was itself an ironic response to your use of the Wikipedia colloquialism / neologism "USian". [Although perhaps "UKian" would have been a better equivalent.] As for whether the quote should stay or go, here are my thoughts:
  • there is no "bias" inherent in quoting a particular style guide; it doesn't imply the superiority of that guide, or its country of origin.
  • nor is there any reason not to replace the quote with something better, if the quote is felt not to reflect the message intended.
  • however, the replacement used, as pointed out, produces quite a radical change in the tone or degree of the message, which warrants specific discussion. There is an old page called Wikipedia:Ignore all rules - a proposed rule that proved rather controversial; a lot of people feel that bending the rules (as implied by the original quote) is significantly different from breaking them (as implied by the revised line).
  • if we don't want to make this significant change, I don't see any reason not to keep the quote as is; sure, we could put it in the words of one or more Wikipedians, rather than one or more Chicagans, but really, why bother? - IMSoP 23:37, 25 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I would also like to see the quote from / referral to an external US source removed. If necessary, a suitable replacement can be written (I'm not suggesting the replacement offered thus far is acceptable). zoney talk 23:56, 25 Nov 2004 (UTC)

The Chicago Manual of Style is to be used for deciding Wikipedia style, as are the other works referenced in the MoS. That is stated in the MoS in the section When All Else Fails. That the Chicago Manual of Style and other style guides agree on something has often been one reason why consenus has been reached on various issues of style. Where they disagree, then a special rule may be necessary in Wikipedia, or the matter may left up to individual editors to choose which style to follow. And the custom of quoting something which is especially well said from another work is a common one. jguk has continually attempted to change the meaning of passages in the MoS under guise of a trim. He wishes, it seems, to remove most indications of other works that may be consulted.

The MoS is not neutral. No prescriptive style guide is. Wikipedia's rules are not neutral. Had things been somewhat different when Wikipedia was set up, we would have somewhat different rules, perhaps worse, perhaps better, probably a bit of both. I have no problem with quotations from Australian style guides or South African style guides or a newspaper style guide from anywhere in the world, if what is said is is well said and appropriate. But there is no such thing as internationally neutral policy. Spelling, grammar rules, punctuation rules, and vocabulary differ from region to region and according to different kinds of writing and according to individual house style.

The Chicago Manual of Style is one of the most prestigeous style guides in the world for general writing and gains authority because it is so widely referenced. It is so widely referenced because it is very complete and very, very good, not because of any compulsion to reference it. A decision not to recognize The Chicago Manual of Style is no more neutral than one that recognizes it. That the Oxford Guide to Style is not listed, might be seen as non-neutral. So list it. But then what of Canadian style guides, and Australian style guides. So list one from each country. But which guide for each country? Then there are other guides as well. You could list every style guide known in the world, which would be silly, and the listing would still not be neutral, as it would suggest all had the same authority, which would be very non-neutral position to take.

Replacing a quotation from The Chicago Manual of Style with one's own words, is anything but neutral, especially when a change of meaning occurs. Replacing it with the words of any particular Wikipedian would similarly not be neutral.

Since jguk disagrees so greatly with the MoS as it stands, perhaps he might draft a complete new guide without worrying about the old one, remembering that one way is often as good as another, and that therefore the amount of work to change Wikipedia on any single policy to another that is no better itself speaks against any radical changes in style.

Jallan 06:05, 26 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Good points have been made for referring to external sources, and not paraphrasing sections from them. Also it seems fair enough having such references with both the Chicago MoS and Fowlers referred to for US and British practice respectively. zoney talk 17:00, 29 Nov 2004 (UTC)

The quotation is there as an epigraph. It is a quotation about style guides. I suggest that rather than all this fuss, someone go out and find a nice John Bull quotation that says the same thing and add it to the one from the Chicago Manual of Style. The purpose of the quotation was to set the tone for the style guide as open and casual as opposed to closed and rigid.

Is there any objection to the sentiment of that quotation? I'll repeat it here:

Rules and regulations such as these, in the nature of the case, cannot be endowed with the fixity of rock-ribbed law. They are meant for the average case, and must be applied with a certain degree of elasticity.

It is for the purposes of expressing that idea and placing the MOS in context that the quotation is included, not to establish "USian" hegemony (and yes, my "Britainian" was making fun of this silly coinage). Ortolan88 00:36, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Might I point to The Economist's [Style Guide] (I must say I find the phrase 'Manual of Style' sounds rather pompous). The first page of that quote's George Orwell's [rules]. --KayEss 04:14, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Jguk's changes

Is anyone interested in discussing Jguk's recent changes? Please see the history: Maurreen 11:09, 27 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Or see diff between the versions of 18:55 26 Nov 2004 and 11:06 27 Nov 2004.

I totally agree with them. violet/riga (t) 11:14, 27 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I support all the changes visible in a diff between the versions of 18:55 26 Nov 2004 and 11:06 27 Nov 2004. —AlanBarrett 13:45, 27 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I agree with the diff above. zoney talk 20:28, 27 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I fully support all the changes between the versions quoted by AlanBarrett. -- Arwel 00:02, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I reject these totally. Separate changes should be discussed separately, not altogether in a package. One thing at a time, please. I totally disagree with removing references to source material. We should have more referencest, rather than less. Document your sources. There are changes within this I do agree with, but am tiring of Jguk mixing of changes of different kinds together in a package. And is it Jguk's plan that throughout the manual of style, whenever mentioned, both period and full stop must be replaced by perfiod/full stop or full stop/period or similar concatinations? I am happy with either period and full stop. Neither bothers me. And the MoS, of all places, should not display such bad style as to repeat the synonyms again and again. It's rather insulting to the intelligence of the reader. And it looks like pandering to chauvinism. Jallan 23:08, 27 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I concur with Jallan. Further:
  1. Saying "Fowler has guidelines for this" is weaker than "Fowler has good guidelines for this".
  2. Combining "full stop" and "period" as he has done does not follow the spirit of the style guide in that either British or American English is acceptable. It doesn't say both are required. Nor does it follow this: "If an article is predominantly written in one type of English, aim to conform to that type rather than provoking conflict by changing to another."
  3. Changing the section on serial commas from "is used" to "should be used" weakens it.
  4. About using periods to abbreviate "United States": It is weakened by deleting "we want one uniform style on this".
I'd also like to point out that Jguk recently held a poll about the serial commas and "U.S." He failed to gain a majority. This is even though the poll was biased by him giving rationale for his proposals without giving equal prominence to any rebuttals.
If Jguk wants to weaken the style guide, or change it so it doesn't follow its own style, that calls for discussion. Maurreen 04:08, 28 Nov 2004 (UTC)
  1. I consider it wholly unacceptable that an essential piece of Wikipedia's guidelines be written using a minority dialect. Wikipedia is not a US project, and should use international English. Consider the article full stop - it appears "period" does not even technically speaking only refer to the punctuation mark placed at the end of a sentence. zoney talk 11:49, 29 Nov 2004 (UTC)
    1. How do you figure American English is a minority dialect?
    2. If having the style guide in American English is unacceptable, does that mean that you believe the style guide should not follow the style guide?
    3. How do you define "international English", and what is your reference? Maurreen 16:00, 29 Nov 2004 (UTC)

According to Wikipedia's article on American English: "As of 2004, nearly three out of every four English speakers are American." Maurreen 16:34, 29 Nov 2004 (UTC)

That surely refers to people whose first language is English. I'm basing my judgement on the fact that there are more Europeans than people from the US (and generally even outside the British Isles in Europe, US English is not used. Certainly the EU uses standard (British) English), and then when you factor in other English-speaking regions (including those using it as a second language), US English most certainly falls in second place. Of course "minority dialect" is a gross exaggeration, but I used the term to express my frustration.
I am indeed aware that my objection to the Manual of Style being written in US English is contrary to the manual itself, however, as with all Wikipedia instructions, the Manual of Style is itself a "general case" set of guidelines (not to be applied rigidly). I believe that the MoS and other such pages are deserving of special attention to either be written in International English or indeed "neutered/neutral" English.
By International English of course, I mean specifically non-US (and yes such spellings are used in some other locations, but they are generally US in origin).
I am entirely aware as to how contentious my comments are, and am merely expressing them as opposed to idly standing by and pretending that the current situation is acceptable to all. And while generally I think many people are happy not to cause a fuss over language, I think it is fair to say that a sizable number of Wikipedians have the same concerns as I have.
zoney talk 16:53, 29 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I agree with Zoney here (and below). --Ruhrjung 20:18, 2004 Dec 28 (UTC)

Zoney, I have to correct you on something. You say that people in Europe who speak English as a second language tend to use British-English. I dispute that. I taught English as a foreign language (TEFL) when I was in my 20s for a few years all over Europe in private language schools. Without exception, people wanted to learn American-English. They preferred the sound of it and the spelling; and they felt it was the language of the future, and the language of business and commerce. They would sometimes get annoyed if they were offered a British teacher. As for the EU, the only reason their English-language material is in British-English is because it's written by Brits. I'm not saying British-English shouldn't be preserved by Brits (and by Wikipedia), but it shouldn't be presented as though it's the majority dialect, because that simply isn't true. Do a few Google searches if you doubt this. Here's one: the British "encyclopaedia" has 2,420,000 entries. The American "encyclopedia" has 15,800,000. Slim 17:48, Nov 29, 2004 (UTC)

That is probably because the British word is encyclopoedia not encyclopaedia. The oe derives from the greek (as does the remainder of the word) and is the cause of the eeee sound of the vowel in question, which would not be the case with just e. It should be noted however that most people do not write oeconomics, and that most people do write oedipus. CheeseDreams 00:12, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
While you may be right, all you are presenting is your personal experience as regards TEFL in Europe. Besides, I would think many TEFL teachers in Europe are Irish or British. Certainly many students here at my University do the course (to be a qualified TEFL teacher) to make some money.
An Internet search is less than useful in discerning the percentage of US English usage. The US is disproportionately represented on the Net, not just compared to UK/Irl but the rest of the world. Some areas of the world are vastly under-represented online. Certainly English-language websites from countries where English is not the first language are even more sparse! And finally, encyclopedia (without the ae), is of course, a commonly accepted spelling variant even in the UK or Ireland! Colour vs color is a better comparison, but even so, the Internet results are non-indicative of actual English usage around the world (for the reasons detailed).
I do not accept your rebuttal.
zoney talk 18:57, 29 Nov 2004 (UTC)


Because the word "period" is apparently offensive to some people, why don't we compromise on that issue somehow, and restore the differences concerning:

  • "U.S."
  • Fowler's good guidelines
  • serial comma
Maurreen 16:41, 29 Nov 2004 (UTC)
The amendments to the first and third are a compromise, and they aren't enormous changes either. You seem to object to deletion of the phrase "we prefer it that way", which isn't necessary, and does not correspond with the poll results which showed half of those responding don't prefer it that way. Quite what's wrong with removing the opinion that Burchfield's guidelines are "good", I don't know. Readers can decide for themselves on Burchfield (personally I think some of what he writes is good, some bad). Finally, whether it is relevant or not, I do not know, but there appears to be a clear US/non-US divide here. I would ask US contributors to recognise this and not to try the "US has more English speakers than the rest of the world" argument to force a US POV. jguk 20:13, 29 Nov 2004 (UTC)
References to numbers for American English were made in response to Zoney's suggestion that it is a minority dialect. Maurreen 16:38, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I would say that it was a minority dialect. The majority dialect being indian english (which follows the UK pattern more, by the way). CheeseDreams 00:12, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)


Because this page is so long, and because the discussion is continued below, does anyone mind if this section is archived? Maurreen 17:17, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)

This section is effectively the start of a larger section comprising Jguk's changes, Neutrality, RfC, Fowler, Period, Serial comma and "U.S.". I would like to continue the "U.S." discussion a bit unless you feel it has been accepted that the whole "U.S." policy should be removed. This is because I can't understand how having "U.S." makes it easier to search for things, particularly in the light of comments already made there. I have no objection to the remainder of the discussions are archived en masse. However, in the light of your query under "Serial comma" and my response thereto, I would oppose archiving the "Jguk changes" section without archiving those other sections. jguk 19:32, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Much ado about nothing

A few people here have made comments more or less that they don't see what the big deal is. I can empathize with them to a degree. But in my view, an overblown discussion is at least better than edit wars or revert wars, for one example. I hope this comes across the right way; I mean it only as explanation. Maurreen 07:55, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Let's work to an acceptable alternative to the quote at the top

Currently the Manual of Style starts with:

In this regard the following quote from The Chicago Manual of Style deserves notice: Rules and regulations such as these, in the nature of the case, cannot be endowed with the fixity of rock-ribbed law. They are meant for the average case, and must be applied with a certain degree of elasticity.

In line with the discussion above, let's see if we can write our own Wikipedia version of this. Ie a version that retains the sentiment, but without the need to make an outside reference.

I'll start off, perhaps other editors can make tweaks as they see appropriate. jguk 11:21, 27 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I'm not sure exactly where to put this, so I'm dropping this in here. For what it's worth, when I first read the style guide I had to skip the first quotation. It just didn't mean anything. What does "with the fixity of rock-ribbed law" mean? I've never come across the phrase rock-ribbed law before and can only assume a meaning. Is this really the best way to start a style guide? Now I will admit that I didn't learn english as my first language, but it wasn't far off (I was two years old when I moved to the UK), but I don't hide from American english. I have a hard time noticing the spelling stuff and find most of the differences quaint (at least those few I do notice). If we want to leave it in, can we at least link the phrase to something that tells us what we mean? I don't understand how the argument above about the strength of a re-wording being stronger or weaker makes any sense when one of the terms isn't even defined. --KayEss 18:24, 29 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I would guess "rock-ribbed law" is an expression the author created, as a metaphor for "not absolute." Maurreen 07:52, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)
So nobody knows what it means? Seems an odd way to start a style guide - especially to express that the rules aren't to be followed blindly and exceptions should be allowed. --KayEss 09:27, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I didn't say that I don't know what it means. I will clarify: I believe the author of the quote created the expression "rock-ribbed law". It is a metaphor for "absolute." Maurreen 16:43, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)

rock-ribbed is a long established English adjective that is hardly confusing to anyone who stops to think what it might mean. Since that seems to be a large group, here is the definition, from a well known British dictionary, headquartered at a well known British university, citing both British and American uses, from the 18th century on:
rock-ribbed, a. [rock n.1]
1. Having ribs of rock.
1776 Mickle tr. Camoens Lusiad v. 212 And Me the rock-ribb'd mother gave to fame.
1841 Bryant "Thanatopsis" 38 The hills Rock-ribb'd and ancient as the sun.
1900 Scribner's Mag. Sept. 293/2 Nearer and nearer we drew to the rock-ribbed, ice-encompassed shore.
2. fig. Resolute, uncompromising, staunch; esp. of political allegiance. orig. U.S.
1887 Courier-Jrnl. (Louisville, Kentucky) 3 May 414 Mr. Straus is a rock-ribbed Democrat.
1911 H. S. Harrison Queed 292 Various feelings had gradually stiffened an early general approval into a rock-ribbed resolve.
1925 T. Dreiser Amer. Trag. (1926) I. i. xvi. 122 Clyde always struck her as one who was not any too..rock-ribbed morally or mentally.
1950 Manch. Guardian 20 Feb. 6/6 The dyed-in-the-wool Democrat can be fanatical in devotion to his party's creed and traditions. So can the rock-ribbed Republican.
1961 Economist 28 Oct. 341/2 He is a man of such rock-ribbed integrity.
1969 Daily Tel. 11 Oct. 12 A Massachusetts seat that has always been held by rockribbed Republicans.
1976 Publishers Weekly 16 Apr. 88/1 Goldwater, rockribbed in his sincerity, speaks for many Americans currently disenchanted with Washington's government-by-bureaucracy.

OED quotation inserted by me, Ortolan88

Interesting. However it's worth noting that most of those references are either American publications or referring to US politics. I've been reading quite extensively for, oh, going on 40 years now, and not encountered the term in normal UK usage. -- Arwel 23:33, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Yup. I don't think that anyone would suggest that it is a common phrase. I don't mind new metaphors, but it seems that to use one that would need to be looked up by more than a handful of readers is maybe not the best way to start a style guide. My main reason for making the comment though was that somebody critisized a replacement for being 'weaker' than rock-ribbed which seemed bizarre. --KayEss 10:35, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Suggested rephrasing (please suggest other options below)

The rules in this Manual of Style are not set down as permanent, fixed rules. They do not discuss every scenario that you will come across and must therefore be applied with elasticity. As both Wikipedia and English usage continue to develop, these rules will also change with time

I happen to dislike the CMS's quote, personally, since "rock-ribbed law" has also the implications of hoary, old, and hidebound as well. I do not think this quote should be changed lightly, however. As a possible alternative (unlikely to earn jguk's approval however) may I suggest the final introductroy paragraph of Strunk's Elements of style?

It is an old observation that the best writers sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric. When they do so, however, the reader will usually find in the sentence some compensating merit, attained at the cost of the violation. Unless he is certain of doing as well, he will probably do best to follow the rules. After he has learned, by their guidance, to write plain English adequate for everyday uses, let him look, for the secrets of style, to the study of the masters of literature.

(or better yet, rule #13 [now #17]: Omit needless words.) - Amgine 18:33, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)

You're right. I think we should have Wikipedia's own version of the paragraph. There's no real reason why we shouldn't. Perhaps you could either comment on my suggestion, or come up with your own? jguk 22:25, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Amgine's rule #1: Be brief. (tongue in cheek, of course) - Amgine 22:49, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Puzzlement and question

I do not understand or accept jguk's bias against external references, in an encyclopedia of all things. And I do not accept that semi-plagiarism is superior to quoting an original, especially when the point of the quotation is partly that it is well said.

That semi-plagiarism unfortunately does occur very commonly in Wikipedia is not a reason to openly encourage it.

What is not acceptable about the passage as it stands? Is it that is an external reference? There is no policy against that. Indeed, external references are encouraged. Is it that happens to be to a U.S. source? Then say no to the chauvinism that cares about such things. If not these reasons, what is bothersome about the original?

Jallan 23:34, 27 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Further, there is no consensus to remove the quote.
I also second Jallan's suggestion: If Jguk finds the current style guide so disagreeable, it could be useful for him to draft a new version. Maurreen 03:16, 28 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Since we're not talking about changing the policy, but just how it is stated, and there appears to be a majority in favour of a neutral, easy to understand rewriting, we should discuss a sensible replacement. jguk 08:04, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I repeat, the quotation is an epigraph, a literary device in which a quotation at the beginning of the work sets the tone for what follows. Now that we also have a quotation to the same effect from Fowler, the complaint that the epigraph is American is moot. Put the Fowler in along the Chicago Manual of Style, both emphasizing the point that this is a guide and not a set of unbreakable commandments and move on to something more worthwhile. Unless the objection is to the idea of flexibility, I simply do not see where all this fuss is coming from. To me it seems calculated rather than substantive. I don't think the Jguk has demonstrated a grasp of the issues superior to either Fowler or the University of Chicago Press. Ortolan88 00:56, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)
jguk continues to use neutral in a strange fasion. Neither the original quotation or the suggested substitutes are neutral, nor should they be. This is a style guide. It is not supposed to be neutral in intent. And deciding to remove something from the style guide and replace it with a passage that supposedly means the same is certainly not neutral. (Nor is deciding to keep once the question is raised.) The original is surely quite comprehensible. Do you need to know exactly the precise meaning of rock-ribbed to understand what its intent is the sentence and to feel its force. It is a naturally picturesque word and its rarity (at least today) is part of its charm. The quotation is from the first edition of The Chicago Manual of Style (1906) and was restored in the 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th editions of the work. (The 12th edition was the first recent edition to somewhat soften the very prescriptive and inflexible style of most preceding editions.) Part the reason that quotation is striking is the word rock-ribbed. As to appreciating such words, I cite Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (letter 234), apparently in part in answer to some questioning on the rightness of including rare words in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil:

As for plenilune and argent, they are beautiful words before they are understood – I wish I could have the pleasure of meeting them for the first time again! – and how is one to know them till one does meet them? And surely the first meeting should be in a living context, and not in a dictionary, like dried flowers in a hortus siccus!
And the meaning of fine words cannot be made 'obvious', for it is not obvious to any one: least of all to adults, who have stopped listening to the sound because they think they know the meaning. They think argent 'means' silver. But it does not. It and silver have a reference to x or chem. Ag, but in each x is clothed in a totally different phonetic incarnation: x+y or x+z; and these do not have the same meaning, not only because they sound different and so arouse different responses, but also because they are not in fact used when talking about Ag. in the same way. It is better, I think, at any rate to begin with, to hear 'argent' as a sound only (z without x) in a poetic context, than to think 'it only means silver'. There is some chance then that you may like it for itself, and later learn to appreciate the heraldic overtones it has, in addition to its own peculiar sound, which 'silver' has not.

I think that this writing down, flattening, Bible-in-basic-English attitude is responsible for the fact that so many older children and younger people have little respect and no love for words, and very limited vocabularies – and alas! little desire left (even when they had the gift which has been stultified) to refine or enlarge them.

jguk, how is plastic semi-plagiarism better (or more neutral(!)) than quoting the original no matter how many here might support it? Do you dislike recognizing any outside authority? If someone has written a bon mot pleasing to others, that fits into what one wishes to day, quote it.

Your first attempt at a passage to replace the quotation was somewhat different in meaning. Do you agree with the meaning of the quotation? If you do not, surely that should be brought up first and discussed, rather than bringing that up after it has been replaced, (if there really is a consenssus that quotations ought not to be allowed, or that they should be included in Wikipedia on some kind of national quota system.)

Jallan 02:58, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I agree with Ortolan and Jallan. Maurreen 07:35, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)


Jguk, because your preference for what you call "neutral language" appears to be at the heart of much of what you do, why don't you have that discussion?

This is not a rhetorical question. I'd really like to know. Maurreen 11:49, 27 Nov 2004 (UTC)


Because we are so closely divided, I am listing this at WP:RFC.

The disagreements concern:

  1. The quote at the beginning of style guide.
  2. Fowler's "good" guidelines.
  3. The expressions "period" and "full stop."
  4. The serial comma.
  5. "U.S."

Along the lines Jallan has suggested, I am breaking up the discussion. Maurreen 17:28, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)


Concerning quotation marks, the word "good" was removed from the following: "This is the British style. (Fowler has good guidelines for this." Maurreen 17:28, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Comment: previous usage more appropriate as we wish to qualify the guidelines as desirable and to be followed. - Amgine 18:38, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)

We shouldn't express our own POV's in articles. See WP:NPOV for details. jguk 22:22, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Could you explain to me the purpose of a "Manual of Style"? - Amgine 01:05, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)
According to Wikipedia:Neutral point of view: "Wikipedia policy is that all articles should have a neutral point of view." My understanding is that use of the word articles rather than pages is a purposeful and careful one, not intended to be enforced on anything but articles (otherwise there could be no policy about NPOV in articles or about anything else).
But the proposed new version only relates the obvious. Surely any reasonably large British style guide for English has material on use of punctuation with quotation marks. Dictionaries often contain such things as well. The remark is silly. However the current version is little better. Of course Fowler's remarks on British use of quotation marks are at least "good". If you want to avoid singling out any one guide, both versions are equally POV, in that they don't mention other discussions in other books, arguably just as good or better, depending on what you want from them. (I know of no attempt to pour through all available style manuals to rate their treatment of punctuation with quotation marks.) The whole matter is not especially complex for most uses and probably most large style guides and manuals that cover this are "good".) I suggest that this be changed to: "A fuller treatment of the recommendations given here can be found in Fowler and other British style guides, some of which vary in fine details," for there are subtle differences on fine points between guides. The recommendations of Hart's Rules, that of the Oxford Guide to Style, and that of British Standard 5261 differ in their treatment of sentence fragments. But almost no reader except one intent on punctuation notices any of this. Jallan 05:21, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I agree with the sentiments expressed by Amgine and Jallan. Maurreen

The purpose of the Manual of Style, hidden from view by placing it in the first paragraph:
This Manual of Style has the simple purpose of making things look alike — it is a style guide. The following rules don't claim to be the last word. One way is often as good as another, but if everyone does it the same way, Wikipedia will be easier to read and use, not to mention easier to write and edit.
You are welcome. Ortolan88 16:49, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Clarifying where we stand

It appears that jguk is the only person who supports removing the word "good" from the following: "This is the British style. (Fowler has good guidelines for this."

Does anyone else agree with jguk on this issue? Maurreen 17:10, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Well, 4 people agreed with all the changes I made (see above). Only 3 people, including yourself, have so far disagreed with this change. jguk 22:35, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
But do they still agree? If so, why do they agree? This is discussion, not a poll.<br/
Again, jguk's removal of the word "good" doesn't make the statement more netural, only less idiomatic. In its context, a sudden note that Fowler discusses the matter implies that Fowler's discussion is "good" just as strongly as inserting the word, otherwise why mention that at all. What is the understood intention of either version in mentioning Fowler in particular as a reference, and as a "good" reference whether or not the word "good" appears? Surely to indicate a place where the reader can go for more information ... even though that is not explicitly stated as its intention. Fowler's discussion is only arguably better than that of other books discussing logical punctuation with quotations. I don't think it is better on worse than others I have seen or have at hand. The reason why the passage mentions Fowler rather than other books is probably 1) because logical punctuation is usually poorly discussed in style guides recommending the alternate method and so it is worthwhile to indicate a particular source or particular sources, 2) because Fowler is later given special status as one of the sources which one should consult when the MoS regulations fail and the only one of those to cover this decently, 3) and because the Burchfield Fowler discussion is far more complete than that in the MoS, and may help in edge cases. I would recommend replacing good with fuller (which indicates precisely the kind of goodness) were it not that the Robert Allen pocket Fowler, the most easily found edition, has reduced the particular discussion to a point where it is very little longer than the discussion in the MoS. Accordingly, either note that the Burchfield Fowler has substantially fuller information, or that this is covered in Fowler and many other British English style guides. Either gives the reader the idea of where they can look for more information. Jallan 23:41, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I agree with Jallan. Maurreen 07:01, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Jallan's suggestion

As Jallan suggested, I am replacing the material in question with this:

"A fuller treatment of the recommendations given here can be found in Fowler and other British style guides, some of which vary in fine details."
Maurreen 10:31, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)


References to the word "period" were changed to "full stop (period)" or something similar. Maurreen 17:28, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Comment: "full stop" is inappropriate usage in modern English, except among grammarians. (It was until recently an element of British curriculum, and thus may be more accepted there.) To be noted, even grammarians now use the period in contractions such as Dr. and St. (saint). - Amgine 18:46, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC) - Further research suggests full stop may be a developing usage in Brittain, Europe. - Amgine 18:55, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Quite simply, we do not generally use "period" on this (the European) side of the Atlantic, indeed those who are less informed would only be aware of its usage to refer to a woman's menstrual cycle. It seems (according to Wikipedia) that technically speaking, "period" is indeed correct even in UK/Irl to refer to the more general case of punctuation - and that the "full stop" is actually specifically only at the end of a sentence. But few here would be aware of this.
I do not know of practices in Canada, Australia, New Zealand or countries using English as a second language - but I would not make assumptions as to them using "period" or "full stop". zoney talk 20:16, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)
This would indicate that "Romantic period" and "period furniture" would have different connotations in Britain than in North America. I doubt it. The use of "period" for an abbreviation dot is perhaps one of Fowler's idiosyncracies, though it may have been common in his "period". I don't mind either name. I do object to my intelligence being offensively insulted by the assumption that I cannot understand what is being talked about unless the equation between "full stop/stop/full point" and "period" is continually pointed out to me on every occasion. I loathe such usage when it appears. People who are offended by differences between various kinds of English deserve to be offended. Equate the two terms on first mention, and then use one or the other in the following text or mix the usage naturally as you would with other synonyms. The MoS should not contain such pedantic twittery. People offended by not seeing such things deserve to be offended. Jallan 05:53, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)
It does no good to dismiss those who have a problem with just putting up with US English. It is a clear symbol of US cultural (linguistical?) dominance. Wikipedia is supposed to be unbiased - and try as people may to suggest that spelling choices are of little consequence, or irrelevant - the use of US spellings is seen as US POV.
As regards "period", well, admittedly, those I have referred to as less informed probably aren't Wikipedia readers (or indeed readers) - I merely brought it up to emphasise common usage on this side of the Atlantic (yes we can equate period with full stop, but it's unnatural). zoney talk 23:44, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)
It does no good to give in to those who have a problem with U.S. spellings or British spellings. Accordingly, I will continue to dismiss opposition to U.S. spellings just as I will dismiss opposition to British spellings. Why shouldn't I when they are of little consequence to me, and I believe of little consquence to most people involved in Wikipedia. People are here expected to put up with all normal spellings, by policy.

Of course U.S. spellings outside of the U.S. derive from U.S. influence. And British spellings outside of Britain derive from British influence. There was still a vast world-wide British empire only fifty years ago, one established mostly by conquest and annexation, far more bloody and vicious than any simple spreading of spelling. You should know about that in Ireland. The Irish language was almost totally destroyed and mostly remains so. What are a few spelling differences between the U.S. and British English in comparion to that cultural dominance of which the U.S. is also a part? The western spread of the original country of the thirteen colonies was no less bloody. Yes, fight U.S. cultural dominance, if you can. But do so by seeking out international films and international books and becoming multi-lingual, or exploring the local heritage of your upbringing. Seek out material from outside whatever the local media pushes at you, whether it is U.S. or British. Fight Britsh cultural dominance and western cultural dominance as well. Xed's systemic bias program in Wikipedia is a good idea, though Xed's manner unfortunately hurts it more than helps it. But U.S. cultural dominance will not be stopped by denigrating spellings that are largely used and taught in schools, just as the spellings you prefer were taught to you in school. English spelling is a horrible mess in any case.

I don't particularly use the spellings I was taught in school. The spellings I use now are those that I currently prefer. I've changed my spelling usage before and am likely to do so again, sometimes for the novelty of the change. I do not see that being dominated by a supposedly foreign culture is logically any worse than being dominated by the common mores of the culture you were brought up in, unless everything you were taught was in every way superior to that foreign culture.

Jallan 03:03, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Mostly I think we all need to just chill. Spelling and usage issues do not need to be about POV. The question is communication: Are there are large number of literate English-speakers who do not understand period used in this sense? Is it going to be enormously jarring to them to see it used without explanation? If so, we should use another word or insert an explanation. If not, there is no need to do so—we ought to assume that our readers are at least literate, after all. -[[User:Aranel|Aranel ("Sarah")]] 01:37, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Yes, there are large numbers of literate English-speakers who are not familiar with US English terms. jguk 06:45, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Zoney, I have read through all the archives for the main style guide. I saw no comments reflecting any lack of understanding of the word "period."

Further, although Jguk keep talking about "neutrality," he has subordinated "period" to "full stop." Maurreen 07:04, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Ummmm, try as I might, the best I can do is to use one term first and then offer explanation for those who usually use another completely different term. jguk 07:53, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I suggest that period is defined as a full stop, eg "period (full stop)" and full stop is used throughout the rest of the document so that Americans, if they do not already know, can understand what a full stop is. If this seems odd to American readers then perhaps they can understand why period looks odd to many others. In most (all?) English speaking countries apart from the US^h^h North America, if a dot appears anywhere but at the end of a sentence then, unless it is a decimal point, it is usually called a full stop or a dot. If it is at the end of a sentence it is always a full stop. A dot is never called a period. I would not want to be an American exchange teacher called Randy, who tried to tell a class of 13 year olds in the UK or Ireland that a full stop was a period! Philip Baird Shearer 10:12, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)

This is the second time someone has attempted to put this nonsense into the discussion. What of an American exchange teacher or a Britsh teacher who speaks of any of the periods required to be spoken of in British schools?[1]? But I have no objection at all to something like your suggestion being implemented, especially as it is becoming obvious on this page that some who know North American usage really do not realize that period and full stop are part of a division between North America on one side and Britain, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand on the other, that there is a fundamental difference in common usage.

Do some equivalent of a coin flip to choose which term will appear as the primary one (on this page, not throughout Wikipedia), equate it with the other on first use, and perhaps use the other also as a synonym if it flows naturally. But no part of the MoS should be written in a style that would give any support to the idea that one should throughout Wikipedia use forms like "gas/petrol", "petrol/gas", "gas (petrol)", "petrol (gas)" on every occurrence. That different forms of English appear in different articles (and sometimes within the same articles) is accepted here. Let the reader mostly see such forms as actually used, not in stilted and artificial joins.

What we really need is a style guide of international English usage, one which gives advice on such issues, where others have faced the same problems. But I know of no such work. Jallan 03:03, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Jallan three thoughts:
  • My wife, who is Irish, has come to the conclusion that the English had an empire so that they could loose to someone at cricket. And that the whole empire thing would never have happened if only the Celtic nations had played the game.
  • Explaining jokes always leave them flat. But in an attempt at mutual understanding... It is not that the word "period" is not used in context in the UK. For example in the school I went to classes were called "periods". The point I was making was to do with "school boy humour", which to be PC should be "school child humour", where for example children will snigger at the use of the word "it" because in their minds they are substituting "it" with "sex" or more vulgar word. They do not do it all of the time, but once it is triggered in their minds they will do it until an adults patience is well and truly tried. I don't know if American children do this, but using the word "period" out of context would be guaranteed to trigger that sort of response in a British school. (BTW "Randy" has a common meaning in the UK and it is not a name a teacher would ever use. As it was used with this meaning in an episode of Friends, I guess that it must also have that meaning among some in the U.S.) Philip Baird Shearer

Clarifying "period"

If the issue is a matter of potentially not understanding the word "period", I'm sure there must be a smoother way to solve the problem. For example, why not use both "period" and "full stop" the first time, and link further instances of the word "period" to further explanation? Maurreen 07:32, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Why not use both "period" and "full stop" the first time, and link further instances of the phrase "full stop" to further explanation?

It is not a matter of potentially not understanding the word "period", it is as zoney wrote "It is a clear symbol of US cultural (linguistical?) dominance" as the phrase "full stop" does not appear to have the same connotations on the other side of the pond why not use it instead? Philip Baird Shearer 10:10, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Well, it is to some degree an issue of understanding too - the word "period" is never used on this side of the Atlantic to refer to a full stop. So conceiveably anyone who is perfectly literate in English but not familiar with American practice would just have to discern its meaning from the context. Now the meaning is fairly clear from the context, but it's quite offensive to insist on non-US readers being forced to "translate" from US English - particularly in an important document such as this. zoney talk 12:54, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)
On two occasions I have randomly polled the non-U.S. contributors in the IRC as to "period" and "full-stop"; all have understood the period to be equivalent to full-stop, the New Zealanders in particular couldn't decide which was more common in their schooling, but felt the full-stop was probably a bit more widely understood. In comparison, almost none of the Canadian or united staters understood full-stop. Thus the doctrine of least harm would suggest full-stop is likely to cause more confusion than the use of period. - Amgine 02:53, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Other than this discussion, is there any evidence within Wikipedia that any Wikipedian has had any trouble with the word "period" within Wikipedia? Maurreen 13:03, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)
The term used over here in the British Isles is "full stop". We do not use the word "period" in the sense of the "full stop" punctuation mark. Full stop. (or do I mean "Period" :) ) jguk 15:09, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I am new to the Wikipedia and have been exploring how the community works. After reading several of these endless discussions about the most meaningless minutia I am appalled at the frightfully waste of time. All this brain power and writing could have gone into something productive. Instead there seems to be a power struggle playing out. As an U.S. citizen I'm used to the term "period" for the little dot used a punctuation. However, if you want to use "full stop", feel free if it'll get you all to move on. I, and I suspect everyone else who reads Wikipedia, have the wits to know what you mean. If not, I'll look it up(full stop) From now on when I hear the term "full stop" I will titter with the thought of a womans "time-of-the-month". User:anonymous 18:00, 9 Dec 2004 (CST)


  1. It's likely that any choice of using either "period" or "full stop", or even both, has at least the potential to be seen as subordinating one to the other.
  2. Luckily, the style guide itself gives relevant advice. For example: "If an article is predominantly written in one type of English, aim to conform to that type."
  3. How is following at least the spirit of the style guide "a clear symbol of US cultural (linguistical?) dominance"? Maurreen 13:36, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)
The Manual of Style is not predominantly in one form of English, so it offers no guidance here. Unfortunately, I don't think there's a linguistically neutral term here. There is a synonym "full point", but I don't think that's well understood. Since the two common terms "full stop" and "period" are not universally understood, we are left with using one of those terms and then explaining it. Which is what the article does. So where's the problem? jguk 15:06, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I think that most of us involved in this discussion have leant something. I did not realise until Amgine mentioned it that "almost none of the Canadian or united staters understood full-stop". We have a situation which is more anagalous to Gas and Petrol than I realised and I do not want to force Imperial rules on anyone. As a compromise why not use the words in their strictly correct grammatical meaning (something else which I have learnt from this discussion) and use full stop for a period at the end of a sentence and period for other usage. With a short paragraph explaining the difference along the lines of:

In this guide the phrase "full stop" and the word "period" are used with their strict grammatical meanings. A full stop is a period which denotes the end of a sentence. A period is used in all other cases. For example:
  • This is a sentence terminated with a full stop.
  • This guide recommends that the initials U.S. are delineated with periods.

This would be a compromise and also fulfil the educational purposes of an this encyclopaedia. Philip Baird Shearer 15:49, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I appreciate your proposal to explain the terms, but I think the proposal overplays the point. The word "period" only appears four times in the MoS. Three times in quick succession in 5.1 and once in 9. We don't need an explanation of the various usage in this article. How it's dealt with in 5.1 and in 9 seems ok to me. It achieves in 4 words what your suggestion does in 60. :) jguk 16:56, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I'm in favour of this, and I consider it no bad thing if Wikipedia manages uniquely to integrate various versions of English. It should not necessarily result in "neutered English".
zoney talk 21:49, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)
The use of period and full stop with different meanings was found in the original Fowler. It may have been one of Fowler's own idiosyncracies. I don't think it occurs elsewhere and I've encountered puzzlement about it elsewhere. Grammatically period comes from Medieval Latin periodus 'a complete sentence', which came to be used in Medieval Latin to also mean the punctuation mark at the end of the sentence, I suppose it was earlier understood as "sentence marker". Its first known occurrence in English is in 1609.[2]. Using it solely to indicate an abbreviation dot would unfortunately be an oddity, despite Fowler. The Cambridge Guide to English Usage mentions Fowler's usage but then notes that, "current British practice uses full stop for both these functions, or else the short form stop..." And Wikipedia should not be "uniquely" integrating English, that is setting up rules used nowhere else about when and where full stop and when and where period should be used and so with other words. No neutered English and no special Wikipedia dialect. And no encouragement here to do what jguk is doing here with full stop and period, having both appear on every occurrence. And no precidents about removing quotations because a quotation from an American source might offend some non-American and a quotation from a Muslim source might offend a Jew, and a quotation from a black person might offend a white person and so forth. None of this shows neutrality. Accept that an article or page created originally in U.S. English should mostly stay in U.S. English. Accept that a page created originally in some form of British English should mostly stay in British English, though words and usage that might be difficult to those not familiar to many others can be and usually should be glossed in other terms, but not on every occurrence. This overplays the equation of two terms far more than Philip Baird Shearer's suggestion and insults the reader's intelligence. jguk uses the word need again as is his custom, but doesn't explain why anyone needs the same equation between two terms three times in quick succession in 5.1. What style guide argues for that? Jallan 02:09, 7 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Being a person who uses English as a lingua franca quite a lot, I must say that the choice between more and less ambiguous wordings has absolutely nothing with insulting the reader's intelligence to do, but beside that the only thing that ought to matter is correctness and clarity for the reader of the manual. Philip Baird Shearer made a good try. But this time it seems to have been based on false premises. --Ruhrjung 20:39, 2004 Dec 28 (UTC)
This is my opinion: first instance should be "full stop (period in American English)", use "full stop" the rest of the article. ugen64 23:47, 1 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Serial comma


"As stated by Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, the Chicago Manual of Style, Strunk and White, and other authoritative sources, when a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more elements, a comma is used before the conjunction: 'The wires were brown, blue, and green.' The reason for the final serial comma is to prevent the last two elements from being confused as a unit."

Was changed to this:

"When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more elements, a comma should be used before the conjunction to prevent the last two elements from being confused as a unit. For example: 'The wires were brown, blue, and green'."
Maurreen 17:28, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Comment: Previous usage is preferred as it provides further resources for contributors, and more clearly explains the usage as well as providing additional examples of the usage. - Amgine 18:40, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)

The revised version is shorter, to the point, avoids making claims that imply "authoritative" sources are universally inclined to the point, doesn't cite three US guides and, as it is a much shorter sentence, is much easier to read. This is a Manual of Style. If you want a list of style guides so you can look at further resources, read style guide, which is where such information properly belongs. jguk 22:21, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)
Jongarrettuk is at least correct in that style guide should be referred to. I suggest "or other authoritative sources". - Amgine 01:09, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Explanation is helpful when Wikipedia's rules are not exactly the same as those that a particular Wikipedia editor may have encountered elswhere. In such cases, it is a courtesy to the reader to explain the rationale behind a rules, whether it is some special logic pertaining to Wikipedia alone, or that the rule is widely practiced, in which case giving sources establishes this. And the reasoning behind it should also be given in such cases. The MoS mostly does this and the current wording does this. If it bothers that only U.S. sources are listed, then add The Oxford Manual of Style at least, which is very oddly conspicuous in not being cited for what is sometimes called the "Oxford comma". Until such time as subpages for each point in the style guide appear, where supporting material and debate can be included, such material should remain on the page. Explanations prevent new editors from raising again and again the same unnecessary questions on issues, particularly when readers may not have noticed the variation in practice in reality and wonder why Wikipedia has a rule when no-one else does it that way ... they may wrongly believe. (Readers, including myself, are inclined not to particularly notice practice which differs from their own, which is one reason so many of us still have to look up in grammar books the proper rule for some fancy punctuation even though we may have seen examples of it again and again, and why we have too look up spelling or use spell checkers. It is not unusual for a reader who has not been taught to use a mandatory serial comma to be mostly unaware how widely used the alternative practice is, and vice versa, as a reader generally reads for meaning and punctuation is normally only subconsciously perceived. This applies to many other fine points of grammar and spelling. There is a tentency for people who are part of a larger group to sometimes assume that the practices that they use and the vocabulary that they are familiar with and the style of language they best know and the exact rules they were taught in school are more normal than they actually are.) Brevity is not always the most important quality and should always give way to usefulness and completeness. Also, the works mentioned are all as authoritative as such books can be in their fields (which does not mean, of course), that there are not opposing authorities. Jallan 03:49, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I agree with Amgine and Jallan. Maurreen 07:30, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)

If you think the advice needs explanation, write a subarticle on the topic. I also note that the article Oxford comma contains little reference to any source material or quotations. Maybe you could develop that article and add "See also: Oxford comma" to direct readers to a more detailed discussion on the subject. jguk 07:50, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Clarifying where we stand

Does anyone besides jguk agree with the change made about serial commas, as shown in the beginning of this section? Maurreen 17:14, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Well, 4 people agreed with all the changes I made (see above). Only 3 people, including yourself, have so far disagreed with the change about Oxford commas. jguk 19:26, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I would be happy with the changed text, except that it leaves open the possibility that a bold editor will just change the policy, unchecked by supporting citations. On the other hand, adding a selected set of references just seems to foment argument, so perhaps that's a wash. I think User:Jallan's subpages for references (with accompanying Talk pages) and jguk's suggestion of a subarticle on this frequently contested topic are worth considering. (That wasn't very clarifying, was it? ☺) — Jeff Q 20:52, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I find the new, short version much clearer than the original. Citing references may be a good thing, but put them after the explanation, something like:

When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more elements, a comma should be used before the conjunction to prevent the last two elements from being confused as a unit. For example: 'The wires were brown, blue, and green'. (This is recommended by the Chicago Manual of Style and other authorative sources.)

As an aside, the argument about confusion only makes sense since this rule exists. Other languages, such as Dutch and Swedish, do never use a comma in such constructions. Moreover, based on the argument, you would also need to place a comma if there are only two elements. -- Han-Kwang (talk) 21:28, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The two-element case does not apply, as the rule (no matter which version you follow) specifically states "three or more". English style guides typically reinforce this by explicitly pointing out that there are no commas when the word "and" occurs between each parallel term in the series (e.g., "red and blue and green"). But this isn't really the place to debate serial/Oxford comma usage, just its MoS phrasing. — Jeff Q 22:02, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Then ditch the remark about confusion and write: When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more elements, a comma should be used before the conjunction. For example: 'The wires were brown, blue, and green'. (This is recommended by the Chicago Manual of Style and other authorative sources.)

By the way, I don't feel that this whole discussion is such an important issue, but I strolled in through the RfC page -- Han-Kwang (talk) 22:47, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Because jguk's change essentially had two elements (removing the references and weakening the style), I'd like to find out where we stand on each of those. Maurreen 07:20, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Comma references

I prefer to keep references, for reasons stated by Jallan. I also agree with Han-Kwang's suggestion of putting the references at the end of the paragraph, instead of the beginning. Maurreen 07:20, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Here is what The Economist's style guide has to say on the subject of commas [3]

Do not put a comma before and at the end of a sequence of items unless one of the items includes another and. Thus The doctor suggested an aspirin, half a grapefruit and a cup of broth. But he ordered scrambled eggs, whisky and soda, and a selection from the trolley.

Additionally when discussing semi-colons [4] they stipulate

Use them to distinguish phrases listed after a colon if commas will not do the job clearly. Thus, They agreed on only three points: the ceasefire should be immediate; it should be internationally supervised, preferably by the AU; and a peace conference should be held, either in Geneva or in Ouagadougou

I find the comma in the example about wires looks very odd (and slightly illiterate), but that's probably down to growing up in the UK.

Anyway, I can't say that it worries me too much, but thought that a British reference might be interesting. --KayEss 11:03, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Because Jguk is the only person specifically objecting to references, I am replacing his version with Han-Kwang's suggestion:
"When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series of three or more elements, a comma should be used before the conjunction to prevent the last two elements from being confused as a unit. For example: 'The wires were brown, blue, and green'. (This is recommended by the Chicago Manual of Style and other authorative sources.)"
Maurreen 12:19, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Argh, I'm joining this discussion late. That's a terrible example. If you took out the last comma, you'd have "The wires were brown, blue and green" - if you meant "blue and green" to be a unit, you'd have to write "The wires were brown and blue and green", which sounds like a 5 year old. I personally write without a comma between the last two elements; sentences like "He had a black eye, a runny nose, and was black and blue" and "His father was Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh; his mother was Jane Doe, Countess of Marlborough; and his brother was William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham" being exceptions... ugen64 23:52, 1 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Comma weakening

I prefer not to weaken the style, mainly because jguk has provided insufficient justification, in my view. Maurreen 07:20, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Using this final serial comma at all

I participated in a discussion on this earlier - and indeed was not alone in objecting to the blanket nature of this guideline. Generally the practice I am accustomed to, is not to use a comma before the final conjunction - unless it is necessary to avoid confusion. So in summary - I object to both versions presented above. I do not consider it necessary that we insist on the final serial comma except in cases where confusion would otherwise arise. zoney talk 13:00, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I couldn't agree more and am frankly getting tired of all this attempting to enforce trivial rules via the MoS. There are many flavours of English in the world and there is no reason for an international project like this to attempt to legislate in favour of one or two of them over all the others. All literate variations should be accepted. Filiocht 13:04, Dec 3, 2004 (UTC)
I don't see the style guide as an attempt to force anything. It clearly says that writers don't have to follow it. Maurreen 10:21, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)
It says editors should do this and that. Dr Zen 05:00, 24 Dec 2004 (UTC)
A poll was opened on this. There was no consensus to change it. The rule stays as it is. I've used the other rule for most of my life and it was also the one I learned in school. What of that? I learned a lot of things in schools that I follow and a lot that I don't follow. And I've worked on many projects which had their own rules which I have abided by. This particular rule is supported by the Chicago Manual of Style, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Strunk and White, The Oxford Manual of Style, and by Fowler in all editions. I am tired of people attempting to change established rules in the MoS to fit their own idiosyncratic likes and dislikes, for no other reason other than a particular rule is not exactly what they are used to. So get used to it. The MoS contains guideline as to what writers should aim for if they want to care about such things (and they need not care and need not follow them) and what changes in style should be done by others later editing an article for style and consistancy, by those who do care. Those very much against one rule or another can make their point by attempting to edit articles at Wikipedia:Collaboration of the week and see if they have support for going against MoS rules. Be sure to mention that you are purposely breaking the rules so that it is noticed. "I see no reason" indicates someone has not read the introductory portion to the MoS. Reasons appear there. If you do not agree with some or all of them, that is fine also. But there are reasons. Many editors active in Wikipedia do not agree with all the policies and rules. I do not agree with all policies and rules here. I can't imagine that anyone here agrees with all of them and they way they are enforced or not enforced. But I do agree the MoS style rules are as good as I've seen (so far as they go) and I've no problem going with them, even where they do not fit my personal style and are not what I would have set down. There are better things to disagree about in editing an article than exact punctuation or styles of headings and so forth. The MoS says do it a particular way and that solves many potentional minor squabbles about almost nothing, which is why there are rules of style for almost every project. The rules give freedom not to have to worry about such things, which makes it well worth doing things other than the way one has prefers. I consider it necessary to have such rules so that Zoney cannot forever push some practice he might prefer onto me and I cannot continue to push some opposite practice that I might prefer onto Zoney. If a rule supports Zoney's preferences, but not mine, I will accept it. If a rule supports my preferences but not Zoney, then Zoney should accept it. A lot of these rules have been added because editors have wanted them. They wanted firm guidance in order to be synchronized with each other, regardless of what actual rule was decided on. They just want to know what they should do in Wikipedia in particular cases to avoid later work of re-editing to fit the proper style. As Louis Menand says at the end of his amazing and hilarious and wicked tour de force review of The Chicago Manual of Style[5] after noting occasions when it does not give firm and complete prescriptive guidance but suggests more than one way of doing something:

Some people will complain that the new "Chicago Manual" is too long. These people do not understand the nature of style. There is, if not a right way, a best way to do every single thing, down to the proverbial dotting of the "i." Relativism is fine for the big moral questions, where we can never know for sure; but in arbitrary realms like form and usage even small doses of relativism are lethal. The "Manual" is not too long. It is not long enough. It will never be long enough. The perfect manual of style would be like the perfect map of the world: exactly coterminous with its subject, containing a rule for every word of every sentence. We would need an extra universe to accommodate it. It would be worth it.

(No. He is not entirely serious.)

Jallan 03:28, 7 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Why "should" we use an Oxford comma? Because Americans outnumber Brits? It's rarely used in the UK and rarely used here in Australia either. If it read "this, that and the other style guide recommends it is used", there'd be no problem, but this section is POV as it stands. Dr Zen 05:00, 24 Dec 2004 (UTC)



"When referring to the United States, please use "U.S."; that is the more common style in that country, is easier to search for automatically, and we want one uniform style on this."

Was changed to this:

"When referring to the United States, using "U.S." rather than ";US" makes it easier to search for automatically. It is also the more common style in that country."
Maurreen 17:28, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Comment: although neither form is perfect, the former is at least not inaccurate or confusing. - Amgine 18:48, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)

The last clause is certainly inaccurate - half of those expressing an opinion in a recent poll voted to remove the advice in its entirety. jguk 00:01, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
The current phrasing is not justifiable. No one can claim authoritatively that either usage is "more common". One can say that "U.S." is the form preferred by The United States Government Printing Office Style Manual. Other American style guides have mixed opinions, as I recall:
  • The Chicago Manual of Style is flexible, but leans toward USGPO.
  • Strunk & White doesn't address this, but uses "U.S." in its examples for other style issues, implying agreement with USGPO.
  • The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage avoids periods in "acronyms", but doesn't specifically address "U.S." or "US". (They have a tendency to leave out punctuation perceived as unnecessary for meaning.)
  • The MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing explicitly recommends "US".
  • Merriam-Webster's Manual for Writers and Editors and the Prentice Hall Style Manual find both forms acceptable.
I would suggest rephrasing this to cite USGPO as a reasonable authority, rather than an unsupportable "more common" practice. — Jeff Q 21:31, 30 Nov 2004 (UTC)
My version of the The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage (1999) has an entry specifically for "U.S.", with periods.
Also, the Associated Press style guide uses "U.S.", with periods. Maurreen 07:15, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Chicago may be flexible, but quite clearly recognizes that "U.S." is the traditional form—so traditional that even "no-period-in abbreviations hardliners" at CMS must genuflect in that direction: 15.5 "Traditionalists may draw the line at "PhD" or "US" (Chicago bows to tradition on the latter)"; 15.34 "U.S." or "US." Except in scientific style, U.S. traditionally appears with periods. Periods may nonetheless be omitted in most contexts. Writers and editors need to weigh tradition against consistency. In running text, the abbreviation (in either form) is permissible when used as an adjective, but United States as a noun should be spelled out." - Nunh-huh 07:53, 1 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I must be in error on NYT, because I was using the same edition when I scribbled notes from it several months ago. My notes on CMoS simply said "flexible, but follows USGPO"; clearly, Nunh-huh's detailed statement is more useful than my vague assertion. (I wish I could afford to keep a few of these useful tomes on my bookshelf!) Anyway, my original point is still valid — there is no source given (and no likely credible one) for the claim that "U.S." is "more common". I still think a reasonable authoritative source should be given for the policy, and I think USGPO is the most reasonable one to give, as it is not just an American style guide but has extra topical credibility. It's nice to know there is more support than I expected for the USGPO policy. — Jeff Q 01:05, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Would it be appropriate to simply replace the last sentence with "It is also the style recommended by the United States Government Printing Office Style Manual"? -[[User:Aranel|Aranel ("Sarah")]] 01:23, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I went ahead and put a slightly stronger version of this suggestion in:
It is also the style preferred by many U.S. style guides, including the one published by the U.S. Government Printing Office.
I should have done it earlier rather than jabber about it. ☺ — Jeff Q 02:11, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I have removed it. Given the general state of discussion, and the clear divide between US and non-US editors on this talk page at the moment, it doesn't seem like a good time to add even more US-explicit references to the Manual. jguk 06:51, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I don't see the problem with referring to a U.S. style guide when talking about the U.S. -[[User:Aranel|Aranel ("Sarah")]] 14:46, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Ordinarily, I would agree that advancing an American usage is not appropriate general policy, but we are talking about the abbreviation for United States. It's entirely appropriate to recommend "U.S." based on American English usage, just as it is appropriate to recommend "UK" based on British English usage. Also, there is apparently only one non-U.S. editor engaged in this debate thus far (based on my very unscientific review of User pages, focusing on spellings for those who don't identify their origins). One vocal opponent does not a trend make. Are their any other interested Commonwealth citizens who wish to chime in on this issue? — Jeff Q 14:56, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The style guide isn't really purely a style guide, it's more a guide to usage abnd sometimes its recommendations are based on considerations other than good style. The only strong justification for using U.S. throughout (and I think it's a good one) is not stylistic but practical. It's easier to find U.S. using a search engine. It also happens to coincide with one fairly popular English usage in the USA. As a Brit I have absolutely no problem with that usage. The quibbles about the actual wording in the guide, I'll leave to those who care about that kind of thing. --[[User:Tony Sidaway|Tony Sidaway|Talk]] 15:08, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I have to say that this seems like much ado about nothing; does it matter which one is used? As for the search engine, I just googled US, seems that form will do, too. By the way, I'm a native speaker, not from the US, but not a 'Commonwealth citizen' (whatever that is) either. (I'm Irish). Filiocht 15:19, Dec 2, 2004 (UTC)

"Commonwealth citizen" was my concise attempt to embrace the wider non-U.S. English-speaking world. Obviously, I fell short. ☺ And speaking of practical justification, the main one (only one?) given for picking one or the other form seems to be for searching, but I just did a Wikipedia (not Google) search on "U.S.", "US", "u.s.", and "us", and not one of them returned a single result. (I suspect this is affected by the mysterious "stop word" lists, whose definition I did not find within Wikidom, even in relevant articles.) Even if one is trying to find something like "U.S. Constitution", one seems more likely to quickly find what one is looking for by dropping the qualifier and using Wikipedia's excellent link system than by meticulously searching for every acceptable variation on the abbreviation. Unless a standard is imposed and enforced (which ain't gonna happen), one will never be sure one is fetching all relevant materials by doing any of these searches. Maybe this whole argument is completely pointless. — Jeff Q 16:04, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I agree, and, of course, am not really bothered by the Commonwealth thing. I do get bothered by the notion that there are two types of English (US and Other). There are lots, and no rule will satisfy all. Consequently, for matters as trivial as this, I prefer the principle of benign neglect (otherwise known as 'do nothing'). Filiocht 16:28, Dec 2, 2004 (UTC)
It seems like a reasonably pointless argument. It's pretty unlikely we will standardise across Wikipedia, and indeed I would use both US and U.S. depending on the context. For official US topics I would lean towards U.S. - e.g. I support U.S. National Monument not US National Monument (and of course, the latter should probably be a redir - there is some issue here with the random use of either).
There's probably reasonably few English speakers (as a first language) who are non-US and non-Commonwealth apart from us Irish! zoney talk 16:33, 2 Dec 2004 (UTC)
First, as to usage, this has already been brought up in poll created by jguk. While the poll was close, a majority voted for no change. And generally consensus for change in Wikipedia must be higher than simple majority, unless the poll so indicated. My vote was against was mainly because changes are generally bad in such matters. Who is going to change everything from one format to the other? There are lots occurrences of "U.S." in Wikipedia. Many people, including myself, do make changes in articles to bring them into accord with the MoS. Why should that work be undone without reason? Follow the standard unless there is good reason in a particular case to deviate from it, and then record that reason on the talk page. And, since when usage differs, one rule is often as good or bad as another, don't make substantial changes in the MoS lightly, especially for long established rules, since a current rule is probably no worse than any other. Leave it alone. However, as Filiocht points out, the ease of search argument seems to be invalid. That at least should be removed from the statement. The third non-Commonwealth country besides the U.S. and Ireland with a large English-speaking population is South Africa. But no-one really knows the number of people who can write reasonably good English as a second language. There are a lot of them involved in the English language Wikipedia.

As to nationality, there are knee-jerk POV editors in Wikipedia who push their national and religious opinions to the ultimate extent and others who bend over backwards not to do so. I'm Canadian, if that matters. I don't think it does, other than in discussions that happen to relate to particularly Canadian matters (and even in that area someone of another nationality may know things that I don't). Also, like Filiocht's Irish nationality, being a Canadian provides a rather sardonic view of attempts by jguk to divide the English-speaking world into American and British, a very non-neutral way of regarding things. Nationalism is provincialism. Making the Wikipedia less US-centric is a good thing because it makes it less provincial. But jguk appears to me to favor an excluding neutralization, an artificial neutering, that would make Wikipedia as a whole more provincial. I favor inclusion. Neutrality in respect to sources means to me not caring much about the origin of a source, whether U.S., Canadian, Australian, Sri Lankan, Iraqi, provided it is a good source for its purpose. But put in a variety of sources. And don't be unneutral in removing every U.S. reference you find, just because it can be replaced with something else. I don't see the problem with referring to a U.S. style guide when talking about the U.S. or talking about anything if it is a good style guide. British and U.S. and Canadian style guides give much the same advice on many issues, and differences between particular guides are often not based on national differences at all.

Jallan 05:34, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)

For one thing, the poll jguk cites was biased anyway. He set out rationale for his proposal prominently, but rationale against was buried.

Concerning search capability, I think finding a true scientific answer could be more trouble than it's worth.

Does anyone agree with jguk on his apparent distaste for either:

  1. citing references in general in the style guide, or
  2. citing references from the United States in the style guide? Maurreen 08:22, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)
This question is answered above. 4 agreed straightaway with all the changes I made. Your second point is not well-worded - I am not singly out the United States (as you know as you opposed my removing the explicit reference to Fowler a while ago). We should link to further guidance (either in the Wikipedia or article namespace). Those articles should have the examples you cite.
Also, on the US point - has anyone answered why having "U.S." is meant to make it easier to search for the term (I can't think of any circumstance where it is at the mo). If someone knows the answer to this, I'd be grateful if they would post it. jguk 08:40, 3 Dec 2004 (UTC)
  1. The four people Jguk cites said they prefer his version to its predecessor. They did not comment on references, which were not mentioned in either of those versions concerning "U.S."
  2. Jguk did single out the United States, with the comment "Adding more US references isn't going to go down well at the moment" in the edit summary when replacing Jeff Q's version.
  3. Concerning search capabilities, "U.S." is clearer because it cannot be confused with the word "us." Maurreen 12:02, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Jeff Q's version

Because jguk is the only person objecting to references, I have replaced his version with Jeff Q's version, as follows.

"When referring to the United States, using 'U.S.' rather than 'US' makes it easier to search for automatically. It is also the style preferred by many U.S. style guides, including the one published by the U.S. Government Printing Office. When referring to the United States in a long abbreviation (USA, USN, USAF), stops (periods) should not be used."
Maurreen 11:00, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I think you've misread the comments. If anything, more people seem to be commenting that it's pointless having this policy in there, rather than expanding on its explantion. Also, the U.S. Government Printing Office is a strange beast with lots of confusing requirements that are anathema to those outside the US. Therefore, IMO, it is a very poor source to quote. jguk 12:19, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Jeff Q seems to have summed up this debate below, so I'm not trying to re-open it, but feel I have to comment on one point. The U.S. Government Printing Office, strange beast or not, surely has to be regarded as an authoritative source regarding how the name of that country is normally abbreviated. Slim 23:14, Dec 4, 2004 (UTC)

U.S. vs. US: Enough!

I don't like making discussions like this personal, but I'm really getting tired of jguk's efforts to "fix" or delete a policy that is benign and non-mandatory. When he started a poll to remove it, despite listing arguments for removal but none against, the vote was evenly split. Per Wiki policy, and as Jallan reminded us above, this leaves the existing text in place. Then he started these arguments anew on the MoS and other pages, whittling away at details that are not critical, given the non-mandatory policy. During this, he tried to make the debate sound like a America vs. Britain contest. When other British English users chimed in with their general lack of concern for the policy wording, he claimed this was a consensus to remove the policy ("more people seem to be commenting that it's pointless having this policy in there"), which was the position for which he created the poll. Finally, he continues here and in other MoS issues to misinterpret the idea of "lack of clear majority for current policy" as a reason to remove existing policy, when again Jallan (a Canadian) has pointed out correctly that changing the MoS should not be done without a clear majority consensus. (This is based on the sound Wiki idea that these debates have all been done before, and relatively new Wiki editors (jguk is a 3-monther, according to his user page) frequently wade into repairing many perceived wrongs without researching the histories of these debates.)

As for the matter at hand, I for one am sorry I invested the time to do the research to clarify all this "opinionating". Despite the work I've contributed above, I think that any wording for the "U.S. vs. US" policy that is clear, unambiguous, and accurate is acceptable, with or without references, because this is not a mandatory requirement. The only reason I recommended a citation in the first place was to remove the unsourced and manifestly unprovable claim that any policy is "the more common style in that country". (Google searches and opinion polls are not facts, merely reflections of online usage and interested-Wikipedian enthusiasm, respectively. It is incredible foolishness to think that either represents statistically meaningful data about the entire nation's mass of printed material.) Let's settle on a benign but accurate statement and let it go. — Jeff Q 22:19, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)


Jallan made a good point here: "What we really need is a style guide of international English usage, one which gives advice on such issues, where others have faced the same problems. But I know of no such work."

But maybe a similar model could be found in a Canadian English reference. For example, according to the article, "In many respects, the spelling of Canadian English is intermediate between British English and American English." But "there is no universally accepted standard of Canadian spelling."

My comments are semi-serious, semi-tongue in cheek. If there is a suitable reference, it could reduce edit wars. But I'm not sure how practical the change would be. Maurreen 11:41, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Maurreen, there is the Canadian Press (CP) style guide, which unfortunately is not well laid out or comprehensive, but it's used by most Canadian newspapers. Generally speaking, Canada uses U.S. punctuation and grammar, but largely British spelling. The best-written style guide in Canada that I know of is the Globe and Mail one, although it differs from CP slightly. Slim 23:42, Dec 4, 2004 (UTC)
No. What we really need is an acceptance that there are many different varieties of English. We should absolutely not prefer one variety over another: a well-written article in any one of those varieties should be acceptable. We should require consistency within any one article and we should propose that where a term is used that would not be readily understood by users of another variety of English, that that term is explained. That is all. That would reduce edit wars! jguk 14:46, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Which is exactly why we adopted that exact rule way back in 2001. Rmhermen 16:12, Dec 4, 2004 (UTC)
And it's the exceptions to that rule we're arguing about now:) The sooner we get rid of the exceptions, the better (not that those exceptions are widely observed by anyone except copyeditors (such as Maurreen) anyway). jguk 16:42, 4 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Its very odd, but I love my copyeditors; they make me look good. And the fact checkers I've worked with drive me absolutely nuts, but prevent me from being more a fool than I otherwise might be. Copyeditors enforce consistency, exactly what you have been calling for, while fact checkers enforce accuracy. In this series of discussions both have come forth, and you seem to me to be rather dismissive of their research and efforts. In fact, I believe you just used the term copyeditor pejoratively.
Since the MoS is a guideline, not a rule, I would be confident the best interests of the Wikipedia would be served if the guidance of such consistency and factual contributors were considered authoritative, and the authors were allowed to write as they will anyway with recourse to the MoS if they wish for guidance. - Amgine 01:33, 6 Dec 2004 (UTC)
It appears to me that the main problem here has been that jguk seems to not accept that there are different kinds of English, specifically has not accepted that the MoS page we are considering was originally in USAmerican spelling and had USAmerican usage. If a Brit or someone from the Commonwealth outside of Canada had written it, it would have had British spellings and probably have had the word full stop in it with one equation to the word period. If a Canadian had written it, it would have U.S. vocabulary and idiom but mostly contain Oxford English Dictionary spellings along with some of what in Britain would be considered American spellings. If I had written it, it would probably have contained by own idioyncratic spellings which at the moment are more U.S. than British. But Canadians can get away with that. As it is, leave the language aspect of it alone, as one would with any other page or article in Wikipedia. Canadian English would not work as a netural style. There are a number of Canadian style guides, but of course they disagree with each other, just as do British style guides and American style guides. Newspaper style guides in Canada resemble newspaper style guides elsewhere more than they resemble Canadian academic style guides. And you can't expect anyone but Canadians to write in standard North American English with mostly British spellings. (Of course the new Cambridge Guide to English Usage, written by an Australian, is mostly written in British style but with spellings that are far more American on the whole.) There is great disagreement in the world between those who look to new Englishes to arise and who strongly support local dialects and those who want a new standard International English to emerge. And there are those who are quite happy with the current dual standard in which one spells one way for an American publication and one way for a British publication and the differences are easily enough learned as to cause little trouble and there's an editor to fix things where one falls down.) And there are those who push British English as the world standard and those who push American English as the world standard, coincidently somehow always pushing the variety of English which by chance happened to have been forced on them when they were too young to know better and have never learned any different. Jallan 04:26, 7 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Insight and diplomacy

Maurreen, are we addressing your original point? From your comment and the quote from Jallan, I inferred you were suggesting that Canadian style guides might provide some insight into how to peacefully resolve conflicts between writers from significantly different English backgrounds. (Such conflicts must frequently arise in Canada, with its strong ties to both British and American cultures, not to mention its own unique cultures.) But it seems like we're arguing about using Canadian English as a potential substitute for splitting the differences between U.S. and UK English, which doesn't appear to be any less challenging than the current policy.

We also seem to be rehashing arguments from other sections and places again, allowing our impatience with each other to creep into the discussion. jguk's first Canada posting essentially reiterated existing policy, and Rmhermen pointed out that it's been the policy for years. Might I suggest that we defer further discussion until someone looks through some Canadian style guides (like those that Slim mentioned) for new inspiration in English editing diplomacy? Or did I misunderstand your point? — Jeff Q 05:54, 7 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Jeff Q makes some good points, although they were not my points. In my first "Canada?" post, I meant that maybe we could just follow some Canadian reference. I don't think that's very realistic, but I thought it was an interesting idea. :)
But he is smart to point out another way in which Canada could possibly serve as a good example for Wikipedia, concerning the diplomacy and insight. What he says is at least food for thought; I'm not sure whether such information would be available in a style guide or other document.
Unfortunately, I doubt there's anything better that can be done on a community-wide basis. The current philosophy and practice concerning various national varieties of English is a very good one. My guess is that most Wikipedians agree with it, at least in principle.
But disagreements will arise regardless, even among speakers with similar backgrounds.
And whether diplomacy and such will be used in any given disagreement is up to the individuals involved. Maurreen 06:27, 7 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Canadians are perhaps more used to seeing both U.S. spellings and British spellings than are either Brits or Americans, but there's nothing here that helps in making such decisions when they do disagree and they can find any kind of backup. There are people here who care very much about such things, and they fight over over it. However the 1998 the Canadian Press Style Guide dropped their recommendations, used by the majority of Canadian newspapers, favoring the -our spellings. But it is obvious that some people involved still feel that the -or spellings are "right". See [6]. Most newspapers followed along. I have a feeling, but may be wrong, that there is an increased tendency for Canadian publishers and newspapers and schools to standardize on the Canadian Oxford English Dictionary (which was compiled in Canada by Canadians despite what its name suggests) rather than either of the two other domestically created Canadian English dictionaries, but differences are not very great in any case.
It is obvious that there is a conflict between between those who would like one neutral World English with one single correct spelling and those who don't mind differences. Wikipedia has gone the second way. In fact, of course, it is not that simple. If I edit an article mainly written by someone from Britain, even if I manage to spell exactly the same way, I will not use exactly the same idiom. So articles do become mixed in idiom even if spelling is kept consistant. But I don't think Wikipedia had any real choice in the matter. Either you insist on one spelling throughout, and one dialect as much as possible, and let editors attempt to take care of discrepencies (which means only British style editors or only U.S. style editors), or you let people spell and write as they normally do, mostly fixing only what they themselves would see as errors, putting in some standardization of punctuation, and adding glosses for words which may be confusing because they have different meanings in different regions.
Jallan 01:49, 13 Dec 2004 (UTC)

RFC No. 2

I have filed at Wikipedia:Requests for comment about jguk's behavior. Maurreen 10:01, 7 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The RfC has expired. It was not certified by two people. I was the only person who signed to show that I tried and failed to resolve the dispute.
Jguk did not respond. Maurreen 18:24, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I have not been much involved with Wikipedia recently and did not know of this. I would have involved myself. Jallan 01:49, 13 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Three people did endorse the summary. Their comments are copied here. Maurreen 18:21, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

  1. Rhobite 16:16, Dec 7, 2004 (UTC) No consensus to change MoS. Side note, it's a little annoying for jguk to complain about the term "Britainian" while himself using the silly term "USian".
  2. Amgine 19:01, 7 Dec 2004 (UTC) Removed references after consensus to keep same.
  3. Factitious 09:18, Dec 8, 2004 (UTC) As I recall, after the proposals failed, he claimed that the results showed that the current policy lacked consenses, and therefore needed to be changed.

Reopening discussion

Jguk had written to me at my talk page, requesting, among other things, that he and I have a cooling-off period of about two weeks. I agreed to a limited part of his proposal. That two weeks is now over.

I ask Jguk whether he will accept that his changes do not have consensus. Maurreen 06:52, 20 Dec 2004 (UTC)

My guess is that other users would prefer this sleeping dog to lie. Otherwise there would have been further debate on them in our absence. jguk 22:19, 20 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Don't take my occasional silences for complacency or disinterest. I was off the 'Net for a week or so (including the brief Request for comments period on these changes). Now that I'm back, I'm rather weary of seeing people deliberately misconstrue each others' arguments which are already largely based on personal opinions and anecdotal experiences. Since I'm not getting sufficient action on my call for authoritative sources, I'm slowly working on my own research on leading authoritative sources in the various dialects of English. I expect it will take me at least another month, maybe significantly more. (American sources are relatively easy; British, Canadian, et al. are more challenging from my location. But I'd rather do it right than quickly.) If I find that the constant repetition of opinions, unscientific, biased polls, Google searches, and general bickering still haven't produced adequate research on global English publishing practices by then, I'll publish my results. Where and if warranted by the multi-national results, moderated by Wikipedia philosophy, I'm liable to do some jguk-style major editing and page moving, then challenge everyone to prove me wrong for doing so. Editing the Manual of Style and its associated elements should not be done as casually as it's been for the past few months, and I plan to raise the level of this debate even if it kills me. ☺ — Jeff Q 04:12, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)
It is generally unwise to assume. Jguk, are you open to mediation about these changes? Maurreen 16:07, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)
My view is that Wikipedia should allow any form of standard English, as long as it is applied consistently within an article. I would add that it's probably best that if an article is associated with a place/person clearly associated with one part of the English-speaking world, it usually helps avoid edit wars if that article adopts a form of English that is standard to that part of the English-speaking world. It would be useful to know whether you agree with these basic premises (and only disagree with me as to how this basic premise should be documented in the Manual fo Style). If the answer is that you do agree with these basic premises - I think mediation may work. I also think that if this basic premise is agreed, a wider ranging discussion that includes more than just us two would work (and would be preferable).
In response to Jeff Q, the basic problem is that there are no authoritative sources on British English (or indeed most forms of English other than American English). Fowler's Modern English Usage is often quoted, but Burchfield's preferences do not always match the preferences of the majority of Brits. Also, to be honest, most people have never heard of it.
Generally we take a more relaxed, lacksidaisical approach to punctuation, grammar and (less occasionally) spelling this side of the pond. To an Englishman, American English is slightly archaic. Maybe it's something to do with how American schools teach English. I don't know (I've only been taught over here). But we tend not to get too hung up about punctuation and grammar and to resist the imposition of formal rules. Admittedly some people do care about these. Lynne Truss' book Eats, Shoots and Leaves spent many weeks in the bestseller charts. But this indicates more of a desire to improve one's English than anything else. By way of a comparison, search on google yourself under "serial comma", if you have not already done so, and then search on "Oxford comma". There's a lot of venom in some of the American articles on serial comma that strongly support using the Oxford comma. Strong instructions to use it. This contrasts with the British articles on the Oxford comma - which tend to state a preference (which more often than not is to omit it), but also that it's optional. I have no desire to open up a great divide, but I do wish to note that there are differences of approach between Americans and Brits to how prescriptive one should be in determining what usage is acceptable. Over here, we tend not to be prescriptive, but my feeling from the responses I see from Americans is that they prefer a more prescriptive approach. I would find it interesting to see whether you agree with this statement. My feeling is that therein lies the rub.
As a final note, and as Jeff Q has rightly noted, I do take the Wikipedia-approved approach of being bold. When I am bold, sometimes I am right, sometimes I am wrong. But what I do notice is that almost always being bold has a positive effect on an article. It may or may not go in the direction I intended. But I often learn new stuff by it, and my impression is that many other editors similarly learn new stuff by it. I make no apologies for this approach, and thoroughly recommend it to others. For instance, I'm amazed at how easy I have found it to completely refactor three very controversial articles, and winning compliments rather than approbriation from doing so. I haven't come across an article that hasn't been improved by someone being bold yet. Jeff Q's probably right not to be over-bold on the MOS pages, but I would encourage everyone to be bold in the main article space. jguk 23:48, 21 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Most people have never heard of Fowler's? Jguk, you're making this stuff up as you go along. Here from the Wikipedia article Fowler's Modern English Usage: "Fowler's Modern English Usage, often referred to simply as Fowler, is a de facto style guide to British English usage." From Amazon: "Fowler's Modern English Usage is a household name in the English-speaking world . . . " and "Celebrating its 75th year, this classic text has become the standard work on the correct but natural use of English and has ensured that Fowler is a household name."

When you refer to Burchfield, you're referring to the editor of the New Fowler's Modern English Usage (1998), which is different. There has been a new edition of the original Henry Fowler since then (Oxford, 2002).

Also you wrote: "Generally we take a more relaxed, lacksidaisical [sic] approach to punctuation, grammar and (less occasionally) spelling this side of the pond. To an Englishman, American English is slightly archaic." Where do you get these views from? To which Englishman, apart from yourself, is American English archaic?

Jguk, I have seen so many odd claims from you about what British people do and don't do, none of which I ever recognize, that I feel that, from now on, you should start to cite your sources when you engage in these discussions. Slim 00:12, Dec 22, 2004 (UTC)

The most recent versions of New Fowler's Modern English Usage have dropped the "New", so the third edition is now called Fowler's Modern English Usage ISBN 0-19-861021-1. As Burchfield correctly notes in the third edition, the first edition cannot be considered a guide to current English usage, but only as a guide to English usage in the 1920s. The comment on how many people have heard of FMEU is my opinion based on personal experiences (which is ok on a talk page). I doubt anyone has ever done a survey of the British public asking them whether they have heard of the book. Amazon is trying to sell the book, and their puffery is hardly the result of careful research. Reading about grammar and style is not what you'd call a majority pursuit, and I have cited Fowler without recognition to many people in the past who have asked me about what they should get as a good style guide. That's what I based my comment on. I'll address the archaic bit tonight:) jguk 08:21, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Jguk, the short answer is that I am more concerned with how our style is determined or changed. Does your answer indicate that you will not allow the style guide to say anything that you disagree with? Maurreen 06:14, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)
And can anything be said that would lead you to reconsider how you've been handling the style guide and its talk page? Maurreen 08:11, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)


Jguk has not responded to me. I have requested arbitration. Maurreen 07:59, 23 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Maurreen, why don't you just change what you want to change? If he wants to change anything back, he'll have to discuss/justify it here and I don't think he's got the support he needs. Also, to get to Arb, they'll make you try mediation first, which isn't really appropriate for a style guide because it's all about finding the middle ground. Plus it takes ages. Slim 20:34, Dec 23, 2004 (UTC)
Thanks, Slim, I guess I will, but his reversions are not encouraging. I don't desire an edit war or revert war. I'm on the road right now, but I will get back to this. Hope you're doing well.Maurreen 23 December

Archive about quote?

Does anyone object to archiving the discussion about the quote at the beginning of the style guide? Maurreen 13:51, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Fresh start?

I think we could probably all use a fresh start with this.

My main concern has always been that substantive changes should not be made without discussion. I think they should have appropriate deliberation and consensus. This includes whether there is any consensus to change any given element and how such a change should be worded.

As is shown at least in the comments under #RFC No. 2, jguk's changes do not have consensus. So I am going to revert them again. But I would really prefer to avoid any of us reverting each other.

I think it would be best for all of us if we can try to work toward consensus through friendly discussion before making substantive changes. I would probably include under "substantive changes" anything that raises much or any disagreement.

If we, as a group, handle our disagreements on the talk page, in contrast to the style guide itself, I will be happy to remove the request for arbitration.

I recognize that views on the handling of the word "period" are more divided. I invite a friendly discussion on the best way to handle that. I would like us to work toward something that is the least objectionable to the most people. Then, if the group decides on a change, and the specifics of the change, we make the change.

But I would like to suggest postponing further discussion about the treatment of the serial comma and "U.S." I acknowledge that Jeff Q and others have raised valid points. My reluctance is based on the recent history. I think that if any change is warranted, it would be easier to have a more friendly and productive discussion after the issues were given a rest for at least two months. Maurreen 13:51, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The comments and questions from jguk and Jmabel below were copied from Wikipedia Talk:Manual of Style. Maurreen 19:17, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Some questions regarding Maurreen's changes

I don't wish to get back into a revert war, but I do have some queries regarding Maurreen's latest changes. I'd be grateful if she would answer them: jguk 15:37, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Oxford comma

A large number of Wikipedians, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was most, do not use the Oxford comma. This is not surprising. It tends to not be used by those outside North America, and tends to be used in North America. But both using and not using the Oxford comma are permitted by all forms of standard English. Commonsense would be to keep the de facto status quo of not preferring one permitted form of English over another. My queries to Maurreen, who wishes to require Wikipedians to use the Oxford comma, are: 1. Why? 2. Is she proposing that copyediting Wikipedians should actively hunt out instances where the Oxford comma is not used (which, I'd guess, number in the tens of thousands)? jguk 15:37, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Jguk says that I want to require use of the serial comma. I have never said that. So I certainly don't expect or desire anyone to hunt for it.
Concerning the comma itself, my natural inclination is not to use it. Outside of Wikipedia, I don't normally use it unless needed for clarity. Within Wikipedia, I have a very slight preference for using it, and for the style guide favoring such use, in the interest of clarity. I am mindful that Wikipedia draws a great variety of people, both as users and readers. What might be clear to one person might not be clear to another.
I do not understand how this comma can be so offensive. Maurreen 19:17, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)
(My objection is and has been to jguk's methods. For example, the biased poll on his proposals failed to gain a majority, and the consensus afterward was for him to let the issue go.)

Changing the clarification of "full stop (period)" to "period"

Assuming Maurreen recognises that not everyone understands the usage of the word "period" as a punctuation mark, what does Maurreen have against clarifying the word for British and Irish users. Maybe we could try "period (full stop)" if Maurreen does not like the British/Irish English word to go first? jguk 15:37, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I'm with jguk on this: it's harmless to say "period (full stop)", and, to a portion of the world, it's a useful clarification. -- Jmabel | Talk 18:38, Dec 28, 2004 (UTC)
The short answer is that I prefer "period (full stop)" to "full stop (period)". Switching them would be at least a tolerable compromise.
Clarifying the American meaning for "period" is fine with me. Earlier in this discussion, I suggested that the style guide explain the word the first time and then link to more information for the other instances the word is used in the style guide. I see this method as the smoothest way to handle any possible problem with comprehending the word.
I don't think that using both "period" and "full stop" together every time is needed. I think at least that people using the style guide are smart enough not to need so much repetition. (This might be bias on my part, but I expect more skill with language from users of the style guide than I do from Wikipedia users in general .)
If we must use both British and American expressions each time, it can still be made smoother. For one example: "Blah blah the period, or full stop, blah blah." (At least without context, I'm not particular about the commas or the use of "or" or "and".)
And yes, if we are going to use both expressions in such close succession, I do favor putting "period" before "full stop" – only because "period" was originally used. If "full stop" had been originally used, I would not have objected to "full stop" or tried to subordinate it. Maurreen 19:17, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Why wouldn't British and Irish users know what a period is? I must have missed something. What about Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans and Scots? (It would make sense to stop classifying Scottish people as "British" for the purposes of the style guide, as usage there is often very different.) Slim 21:49, Dec 28, 2004 (UTC)

Speaking for the English, we don't call it a "period". Do you have any basis for supposing Scottish usage to be different? They write standard English, so far as I know, and use the same punctuation, with the same names, as we do.
NPOV means "include all views". If there is a section of the English-speaking community that does not call a full stop a period (which can readily be sourced) then it is apart from any other consideration NPOV to use both names. Which way round they should go is something I'd leave the more jingoist of our editors to fight over.Dr Zen 23:44, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I agree w/jguk that both should be mentioned at least introductorily. I agree w/Maurreen that each and every use need not include a complete explanation. On this point I have polled, informally, on a couple of occasions. Although most persons from the British Isles and Ireland prefer full stop, none have been unaware of the term and usage of period, though sometimes confusedly. Persons from Australia expressed a similar preference but were not confused by period; New Zealanders weren't sure which was the prefered term and were not confused by it. Only a small minority of U.S. or Canadian persons were aware of the term full stop; even fewer were not confused by it. From this I conclude the least harm (confusion) would be to use both terms, but owing to the greater ignorance on the part of North American contributors the order should be "blah blah period, or full stop, blah blah." - Amgine 04:54, 29 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I'm all for alleviating North Americans' ignorance but I think we should have "full stop" on each occurrence. It doesn't hurt and it sends out the message that everyone is welcome, not just Americans.Dr Zen 05:05, 29 Dec 2004 (UTC)


I'm still not clear as to why it is meant to be easier to search under "U.S." rather than "US". Google searches, for instances, find references to the US written either way regardless of whether the stops are inserted. If I could understand the rationale, maybe I'd accept the policy Maurreen has (re-)inserted. At present, all I can see that that policy does is make articles that otherwise adopt the convention of not having stops between initials look inconsistent. jguk 15:37, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

This is one of those cases that is right on the cusp between two policies, and we simply ought to adopt one consistently. It seems to me entirely appropriate that we adopt the dominant spelling from the country that the name designates. -- Jmabel | Talk 18:41, Dec 28, 2004 (UTC)
I doubt any of us can say with any certainty whether the periods in "U.S." help with searching or not. But "U.S." cannot be confused with the word "us", or the same word when it is uppercase.
Google searches are not Wikipedia searches.
We could have more knowledge (but possibly still incomplete knowledge) about this by searching (through both Wikipedia and Google) for "U.S. blankety blank" and "US blankety blank" if we know that "U.S. blankety blank" is not a redirect from "US blankety blank".
Anyone who disagrees with "U.S." but wants to follow the style guide otherwise can write "USA" or spell it out. Maurreen 19:17, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)
If the manual necessarily has to take a stance, then "USA" would be better understood internationally and consistent with Wikipedia's punctuation rules. If an exception can be avoided, better avoid it! We don't want similar arguments for, say, F.Y.R.M. or S.S.S.R. or something similar motivated by the argument that the dots are preferred in the country in question. --Ruhrjung 21:15, 2004 Dec 28 (UTC)

We either write abbreviations with full points or we do not, surely? Why is "U.S." an exception? Dr Zen 05:10, 29 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Copied comments

I am copying the next section from the main style guide talk page. Some of the comments are already on this page; some are not. Maurreen 10:14, 29 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Some questions regarding Maurreen's changes

I don't wish to get back into a revert war, but I do have some queries regarding Maurreen's latest changes. I'd be grateful if she would answer them: jguk 15:37, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Oxford comma

A large number of Wikipedians, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was most, do not use the Oxford comma. This is not surprising. It tends to not be used by those outside North America, and tends to be used in North America. But both using and not using the Oxford comma are permitted by all forms of standard English. Commonsense would be to keep the de facto status quo of not preferring one permitted form of English over another. My queries to Maurreen, who wishes to require Wikipedians to use the Oxford comma, are: 1. Why? 2. Is she proposing that copyediting Wikipedians should actively hunt out instances where the Oxford comma is not used (which, I'd guess, number in the tens of thousands)? jguk 15:37, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Changing the clarification of "full stop (period)" to "period"

Assuming Maurreen recognises that not everyone understands the usage of the word "period" as a punctuation mark, what does Maurreen have against clarifying the word for British and Irish users. Maybe we could try "period (full stop)" if Maurreen does not like the British/Irish English word to go first? jguk 15:37, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I'm with jguk on this: it's harmless to say "period (full stop)", and, to a portion of the world, it's a useful clarification. -- Jmabel | Talk 18:38, Dec 28, 2004 (UTC)

"but I do agree with the deletion, as it seems silly to keep on saying period/full stop. Everyone knows what a period is. While we shouldn't assume readers of this page are linguists, we also shouldn't assume they're stupid." Slim 09:40, Dec 29, 2004 (UTC) So if I replace every instance of period with full stop, as everyone knows what a full stop is, and while we shouldn't assume readers of this page are linguists, we also shouldn't assume they're stupid, you will not object? Did you read Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (jguk's changes)#Period? Philip Baird Shearer 11:37, 31 Dec 2004 (UTC)

No! ... whilst WP editors may be aware that a period in typographical terms is usually known as a full stop by many, that would be a very US-centric approach to take for our users. Around the English-speaking world both terms are used (and, probably, both can be mis-understood!) so it would *not* be harmless to drop either in favour of the other. We shouldn't assume people are stupid, but we shouldn't assume that their primary language is US English either. --Vamp:Willow 12:07, 31 Dec 2004 (UTC)


I'm still not clear as to why it is meant to be easier to search under "U.S." rather than "US". Google searches, for instances, find references to the US written either way regardless of whether the stops are inserted. If I could understand the rationale, maybe I'd accept the policy Maurreen has (re-)inserted. At present, all I can see that that policy does is make articles that otherwise adopt the convention of not having stops between initials look inconsistent. jguk 15:37, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

This is one of those cases that is right on the cusp between two policies, and we simply ought to adopt one consistently. It seems to me entirely appropriate that we adopt the dominant spelling from the country that the name designates. -- Jmabel | Talk 18:41, Dec 28, 2004 (UTC)

Maurreen's response

I have copied the comments and questions from jguk and Jmabel to Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (jguk's changes), and I answered jguk there.

Jguk has suggested on my talk page that he and I "not re-address the issue for a while, and let other Wikipedians add their commments." I am willing to do that. Maurreen 19:24, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)