Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers

Page contents not supported in other languages.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
WikiProject Manual of Style  
WikiProject iconThis page falls within the scope of WikiProject Manual of Style, a drive to identify and address contradictions and redundancies, improve language, and coordinate the pages that form the MoS guidelines.
Note icon
The contentious topics procedure applies to this page. This page is related to the English Wikipedia Manual of Style and article titles policy which is a contentious topic. Please consult the awareness criteria and edit carefully.
Note icon
See WP:PROPOSAL for Wikipedia's procedural policy on the creation of new guidelines and policies. See how to contribute to Wikipedia guidance for recommendations regarding the creation and updating of policy and guideline pages.

Line wrapping and units[edit]

Is there a sound reason why we require that "...a normal space is used between a number and a unit name" and not a non-breaking space? To me, it looks wrong (doubly so where the figure is a single digit), and I strongly suspect it hinders readability. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 10:03, 10 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It seems a bit odd, yes. It's also inconsistent with how the MOS treats constructions like "21 million", where MOS:NUMERAL holds that a non-breaking space should be used. XAM2175 (T) 12:38, 10 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I find all linebreaks between a numeral and any following term ugly, jarring, and confusing but the discussionshave always gone against me.--User:Khajidha (talk) (contributions) 04:36, 12 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
For a decade I've been meaning to bring order out of the linebreak chaos, but it's a daunting task. EEng 06:11, 12 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Proposal: Allow use of % for percentages in non-technical articles[edit]

MOS:PERCENT currently has the following to say:

  • In the body of non-scientific/non-technical articles, percent (American English) or per cent (British English) are commonly used: 10 percent; ten percent; 4.5 per cent. Ranges are written ten to twelve per cent or ten to twelve percent, not ten–twelve per cent.
  • In the body of scientific/​technical articles, and in tables and infoboxes of any article, the symbol % (unspaced) is more common: 3%, not 3 % or three %. Ranges: 10–12%, not 10%–12% or 10 to 12%.

This seems a bit dated to me, as the percent symbol is ubiquitous these days and easily understood not just in technical spaces. Reflecting this, the AP Stylebook changed its advice in 2019 to start advising Use the % sign when paired with a number, with no space, in most cases.[1]


  1. ^ "percent, percentage, percentage points". AP Stylebook. Associated Press.

I propose that we modify the section to read:

  • In the body of scientific/​technical articles, and in tables and infoboxes of any article, the symbol % (unspaced) is generally preferred: 3%, not 3 % or three %. Ranges: 10–12%, not 10%–12% or 10 to 12%.
  • In the body of non-scientific/non-technical articles, either the symbol or wording may be used. When using words, use percent (American English) or per cent (British English): 10 percent; ten percent; 4.5 per cent. Ranges are written ten to twelve per cent or ten to twelve percent, not ten–twelve per cent.

Thoughts? {{u|Sdkb}}talk 21:24, 14 May 2023 (UTC)Edited 22:26, 14 May 2023 (UTC) per Hawkeye's suggestion below.Reply[reply]

  • Seems like a sensible relaxation of the MOS to me. pburka (talk) 22:00, 14 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Some thoughts:
    1. "Writing out" seems an odd wording to me. I think what is meant is "using words"
    2. I advocate that we explicitly state that "three %" is no good and that the % sign is only used with numbers.
    3. Is mixing forms okay? In particular, we have the case of avoiding starting a sentence with a number.
    4. The Australian Style Guide has more restrictions on their use [1] which could be considered
    5. Also, what about the per mille (‰)? Does this apply to it too?
  • Hawkeye7 (discuss) 22:06, 14 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Good questions, Hawkeye7. Re (1), yes; I've modified to the proposal to use those words. Re (2), I agree. three % is already in red, so is that covered? Re (3), WP:NUMNOTES elsewhere in the guideline covers not starting sentences with figures, so it would follow to me that any percentages starting a sentence would need to use words, even if the article elsewhere uses figures. Beyond that exception, I'd think we'd want to encourage consistency within an article per MOS:CONSISTENT. Re (4), good to know, but that doesn't change my overall perspective; I wouldn't be surprised to see the Australian Style Guide update their guidance in the near future. Re (5), golly no! That symbol is infinitely less recognizable than %, so very different considerations apply, as we'd need to make sure it's introduced/explained to readers before we'd want to use it. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 22:26, 14 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Re (2): three % is already in red, but only for scientific and technical articles. Hawkeye7 (discuss) 22:48, 14 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    If you can find a way to state that "three %" should never be used anywhere while keeping the section concise, I'll be happy to consider it a friendly amendment. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 22:56, 14 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I have no objection to "3%" being used for non-technical articles, but for technical articles, "3 %" should be preferred. International standards describing the International System of Quantities (ISO 80000) require a space between the numerical value ("3") and the unit symbol ("%") in technical writing. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 22:28, 14 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Whether to have a space or not is something that varies between style guides, it seems, but it's been a longstanding convention on Wikipedia to not have the space. Changing it would require modifying a ton of articles; you could try proposing it separately (this proposal is just about percent/per cent vs. %), but I don't see a compelling case to switch that would justify the disruption. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 22:38, 14 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
ISO80000 can go to hell. Percents are unspaced, always. Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 22:40, 14 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think you meant to say 100% of the time. —Locke Coletc 23:18, 14 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
ISO 8000: The symbol of the unit shall be placed after the numerical value in the expression for a quantity, leaving a space between the numerical value and the unit symbol. It should be noted that this rule also applies to the units per cent, % and per mil, ‰. [2] Hawkeye7 (discuss) 00:13, 15 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
My attempt at humor failed. For what it's worth, I agree with the general proposal. —Locke Coletc 00:31, 15 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Better leave the humor to the professionals. EEng 02:44, 31 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Sdkb: One can permit (without requiring) "3 %" in technical articles without causing an iota of disruption. The compelling case is that the present wording unnecessarily requires editors to depart from ISO 80000. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 23:15, 14 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I propose that we refactor the section to read:

  • In the body of scientific/​technical articles, and in tables and infoboxes of any article, the symbol % (unspaced) is generally preferred.
  • In the body of non-scientific/non-technical articles, either the symbol or wording may be used.
  • When using words, use percent (American English) or per cent (British English): 10 percent; ten percent; 4.5 per cent. Ranges are written 10–12%, ten to twelve per cent or ten to twelve percent, not ten–twelve per cent, 10%–12% or 10 to 12%. Use numbers and not words with the percentage sign three percent or 3% not three %.

Hawkeye7 (discuss) 00:05, 15 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I'm happy to allow the symbol % in any article (technical or not), as long as the symbol goes with digits and percent always goes with written out numbers and that the article is consistent (exception allowed for digits and % always acceptable in tables and infoboxes). Don't care about space vs non-space (I'm Australian but that style guide is for Australians writing to Australians and therefore is not binding to a worldwide audience). Likewise, following ISO is nice (and even preferred) but it will not confuse people. I suspect general readers will probably think the per mille (‰) is a weird per cent symbol and get it wrong - avoid !  Stepho  talk  00:36, 15 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I agree we should allow non-technical articles to use %. I am fine with either Sdkb's or Hawkeye7's wording. (‰, if anyone wants to use it, should be a separate discussion; it's much less used AFAICT.) -sche (talk) 20:53, 17 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Implemented the change, as we seem to have broad agreement here. I made a few further tweaks to the wording, as I think it's nice to put examples right beside the associated rule when possible, but nothing that changes the substance. Feel free to adjust it further if you can improve it. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 21:14, 17 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Question about formatting[edit]

I was wondering if formatting like this is allowed: On September 12th, 2001... I just saw an article use it; I pointed to MOS:DATE and changed the superscript, but I can't actually find a specific rule prohibiting it. Cessaune [talk] 18:38, 17 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Cessaune MOS:DATESNO is where the advice against using ordinals is, which would include ordinals with superscripts. —C.Fred (talk) 20:56, 17 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No th, nd, or st. Tony (talk) 03:01, 23 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yep. Cessaune, see also MOS:SUPERSCRIPT#Dates and numbers.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  10:59, 24 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Editor insisting on dmy for US-designed and -made sailboat[edit]

Seafarer 31 Mark II. I've been twice reverted by AHunt. Can someone talk to this person? "The Seafarer 31 Mark II is an American sailboat ... The design was built by Seafarer Yachts in the United States, starting in 1974, ..." Tony (talk) 03:05, 23 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Please don't irritate article writers by insisting they change the style they used to write an article. MOS is a guideline and according to the most recent edit summary by Ahunt, it is a widely exported consumer product, it does not has "strong ties to a particular English-speaking country". If you really want to waste time, you could start a discussion and then an RfC on article talk. Johnuniq (talk) 04:34, 23 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Are you accusing me of edit warring? You'd better not be. I reverted once, with good reason; AHunt has reverted twice. Be careful whom you accuse. I'm refraining from stating that you irritate people by not knowing what MOSNUM says on this matter—particularly the use of "unless" (see green text below). Tony (talk) 12:31, 23 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If it was made in some non-English speaking country then I would agree.
But being designed, raced (prototype), manufactured and sold from the US, it has close ties to the US. Therefore, in my opinion, WP:DATETIES overrides WP:DATERET. Even though I personally think the US date format sucks eggs.
I do agree that this would have been better solved by discussion on the article's talk page instead of a revert war (as per WP:BRD) and then running here.
Has anybody informed AHunt of this discussion or mentioned this talk on the article's talk page? Or are we doing things behind editor's backs?  Stepho  talk  05:46, 23 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I was sort of notified by the poster on his talk page, but no link provided. It was User:Johnuniq who pinged me to come here, so thank you for that.
Boats are typical mass-produced consumer products that are widely exported. They are the same as any other consumer product, like coat hangars or laptop computers and do not have "strong ties to a particular English-speaking country" like say the government's constitution, elections or armed forces do. There is no need to impose nationalistic promotion goals here. MOS:DATERET is pretty clear on this:
* If an article has evolved using predominantly one date format, this format should be used throughout the article, unless there are reasons for changing it based on strong national ties to the topic or consensus on the article's talk page.
* The date format chosen in the first major contribution in the early stages of an article (i.e., the first non-stub version) should continue to be used, unless there is reason to change it based on strong national ties to the topic or consensus on the article's talk page.
* Where an article has shown no clear sign of which format is used, the first person to insert a date is equivalent to "the first major contributor".
WP:DATETIES essentially says the same thing, there is no contradiction there. I carefully adhered to what both of these says in writing the boat articles that I started. I am not sure anyone would be arguing that "this coat hanger or computer was made in China, therefore we must use Chinese date styles". It would seem like an attempt by an editor to impose some odd sense of nationalism where none is warranted or supported by the MOS. - Ahunt (talk) 12:20, 23 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
OK, so the whole thrust of date-formatting guidelines has changed. If a bio of an American uses dmy, you're not allowed to change it to may. Is that what people are saying? If so, this aspect of MOSNUM has to be rewritten. Tony (talk) 12:29, 23 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think you are convoluting things here. A person is not a consumer product. That said I think articles on biographies would have to be considered on a case-by-case basis. A US citizen who lived in the country their whole life and grew up to be a war hero or president might be argued to have "strong national ties", but an American citizen who moved to the UK at young age and became a famous author in Britain, later lived in Paris and so on, would obviously not. But that is not what we are talking about here. - Ahunt (talk) 12:36, 23 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Looking at the article, I'd agree that strong ties to the United States is a reasonable conclusion, and a more relevant criterion than whether the original creator of the article may feel irritated. Let's follow guidelines. Dicklyon (talk) 16:35, 23 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
And as for discussing on the article talk page, that's seldom a useful way to attract input on style and guidelines, unless there's a place to list the discussion more centrally, as we have for example at WT:MOSCAPS. Dicklyon (talk) 16:41, 23 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I think the important thing here is that this is a small thing and not worth worrying about much. I'm happy to let other people "win" on small issues. It makes me feel like the better person and inflates my ego (so in my mind, I win). If this article is about to become a featured article, then by all means start a discussion on the article's talk page and work out a good solution using Wikipedia's dispute revolution methods, but until then, chillSchreiberBike | ⌨  14:14, 23 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • I don't feel it's a big deal either, but to argue that it should be dmy strikes me as being counter-intuitive. I must say, though that I wouldn't mind if all articles were in dmyFace-wink.svg. Let me explain how the guideline is usually applied: to my mind, MOS:DATERET would arguably apply if the article was a generic or undifferentiated consumer good, such as for example telephone, car or refrigerator, as it's impossible or unreasonable to argue that WP:TIES must apply. In such a case, the "first major contribution rule" applies as it would not be appropriate to change the date format.

    However, "consumer goods" such as the F16 follows the convention adopted by the US military; Bentley Continental GT is formatted in dmy – its manufacturer is British; the iPhone 14 is in mdy – it is manufactured by a US company. By the same token, Andre Geim is naturalised British, so dmy is used in his article. And if they were not, a strong case can be made to them per WP:TIES, and WP:RETAIN can be overruled. According to the information in the article: The design was built by Seafarer Yachts in the United States, starting in 1974. It's not as if the article is about MS Queen Victoria, which ought to be in dmy by my reckoning irrespective of where it was built. To conclude, therefore, I believe that Seafarer 31 Mark II ought to use mdy dates. -- Ohc revolution of our times 18:25, 23 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

    I would object vociferously if all articles were in dmy. If there is ever a universal wiki style for dates, it should be ISO 8601, not one of the parochial conventions used Today. -- Shmuel (Seymour J.) Metz Username:Chatul (talk) 19:54, 23 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    I don't think it was a serious suggestion. XAM2175 (T) 20:00, 23 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    The reason we have an MoS at all is that style matters shouldn't be a big deal but inevitably turn into drawn-out shitshows. MoS exists to nip such disputes in the bud. This dispute should not have arisen in the first place. This is clearly a US-designed, -manufactured, and -marketed product, and the article is written in American English (fiberglass not fibreglass), so it should be using the US date format. MOS:TIES. There is no "I got here first, so my way or the highway" principle. (People sometimes get confused about this because of MOS:RETAIN. But it does not give early arrivers special rights. Rather, we revert to whatever what used in the first non-stub version of an article, if and only if discussion cannot produce a consensus. I don't think there's any risk of discussion not producing a US-English consensus in this case.)  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  21:41, 23 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Agree {{u|Sdkb}}talk 04:12, 31 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Oh, and for the record I don't like US mdy formatting either. But I follow the rules as best I can. Tony (talk) 07:46, 25 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Seems to me that the only dates currently being used on the Seafarer 31 Mark II article are only in citations templates, not directly in the article prose or the infobox. Thus WP:CITESTYLE applies, and the YYYY-MM-DD format could be used instead for all those citations. I will concede that this would only be a temporary compromise until a DMY or MDY date is actually added to the article prose or the infobox. Zzyzx11 (talk) 12:12, 25 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Well that really is the irony here in this rather long and involved debate, that all the actual dates in the article are contained in reference templates and so subject to the page's templated formatting. So for either outcome here it is really a matter of swapping two letters or not: {{Use dmy dates|date=May 2023}} or {{Use mdy dates|date=May 2023}}. That is it. - Ahunt (talk) 17:21, 25 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • However the date thing turns out, be sure to refer to boats as "she". See Wikipedia:Queen Elizabeth slipped majestically into the water. EEng 02:43, 31 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]