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ENGVAR controls big L or little L for litres/liters?[edit]

The one-l lama, He's a priest; The two-l llama, He's a beast. -- Ogden Nash

Right now our units table's got:

Unit name Unit symbol Comment
Volume, flow
  • litre
  • liter (US)
L (not l or ) The symbol l (lowercase "el") in isolation (i.e. outside forms as ml) is easily mistaken for the digit 1 or the capital letter I ("eye") and should not be used.
  • millilitre
  • milliliter (US)
ml or mL Derivative units of the litre may use l (lowercase "el") as guided by WP:ENGVAR.

The "don't use lowercase ell in isolation" and as guided by ENGVAR bits both originate with this edit [1], which came on the heels of WT:Manual of Style/Dates and numbers/Archive 160#Litre abbreviation RFC. However, I don't see where the closer (who hasn't edited in a year) got the ENGVAR part -- nor do I know what it means.

I believe we should just drop the text as guided by ENGVAR. Thoughts? EEng 05:44, 27 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Agreed - drop.  Stepho  talk  05:53, 27 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Long ago in the mists of time the US National Institute of Standards and Technology had officially recommended that people in the US should use L rather than l as the symbol for liter. According to the most recent version of Special Publication 811, page 8, Table 6, footnote b, the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) has adopted L as an alternative symbol for the liter to avoid confusion with the digit 1. So I would say it used to be an ENGVAR issue, because the guidance to use L came from the US, but now that the main international organization, CGPM, endorses L, it is no longer an ENGVAR issue.
    I could go further and suggest that the English Wikipedia adopt L as the preferred symbol. Jc3s5h (talk) 16:04, 27 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    That's already what the first row of the table (above) says -- for the symbol standing alone i.e. without (for example) an m for milli. The question is the second row: what forms should be used for milliliter: ml or mL or it-depends-on-ENGVAR? AFAICS the outcome of the RfC I linked didn't support an ENGVAR angle -- I don't see where the closer got that -- so we should drop the text as guided by ENGVAR. If you want L to be used in all cases -- L and mL -- you'll need a new RfC, but please in the name of Jesus do not do that, at least not now. For now I'd really like to just get this odd bit of text dropped. EEng 17:17, 27 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • I also see no relevance of WP:ENGVAR. The closing 4 words (if engvar counts as a word) add nothing. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 17:50, 27 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Go straight to "L". Drop the ENGVAR bit. — JohnFromPinckney (talk / edits) 18:42, 27 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • The Australian style manual says that either is acceptable but the capital L is preferred to avoid confusion. So I support dropping the ENGVAR bit. Hawkeye7 (discuss) 19:33, 27 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Now that I've had my coffee, I realize that (I think) we have (A) a solution that then leads to (B) a new problem. The solution (A) is to change

Derivative units of the litre may use l (lowercase "el") as guided by WP:ENGVAR.


Derivative units of the litre may use l or L (lowercase or uppercase "el"), with in-article consistency.

Are we all together on this?

But then here's the other problem: (B) Is "milliliters per liter" ml/L? or ml/l? -- or are both acceptable? (And now that I think about it, mL/L is a possibility too. But mL/l makes no sense at all, obviously.) I'm just previewing this (B) thing. Can we all agree on (A) above before we start debating (B)? EEng 02:09, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Let's just go for L everywhere (including derived units). Removes the complications altogether.  Stepho  talk  02:40, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Please, please, please, pretty please, let's just start by agreeing on (A). You can raise the idea of "L everywhere" later. EEng 03:38, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Yep - already agreed to (A) dropping mention of ENGVAR.  Stepho  talk  03:44, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Agreed. Support A. And "in-article consistency" rules out ml/L. Somebody please keep EEng away from the coffee before we get to "Y for Gaw'd sake" Hawkeye7 (discuss) 03:10, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • No, the WP:ENGVAR text should not be removed, because there is a real-world WP:ENGVAR component to this. In Europe, including the UK and Ireland, the lower case l is the standard symbol for the litre. Having a capital L on UK- and Ireland-focussed articles would be almost as jarring as insisting on spelling it "liter". Kahastok talk 07:14, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    'as jarring as insisting on spelling it "liter"' -- no, the opposite. "litre/liter" remains guided by ENGVAR. Undisputed here. The point & proposal is, that l/L has no ENGVAR base. Your "standard" claim is missing a link. DePiep (talk) 09:06, 17 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Support (A) dropping the ENGVAR wording for the millilitre. Support (B), use consistently within article. Support eventual (C), explicitly standardise on only using the upper-case symbol L as the symbol for litres and all derived units (mL, cL, dL, ML, GL, and so on). The fact that the upper-case symbol was explicitly approved by the CGPM for the reason of avoiding ambiguity is sufficiently compelling for me to overlook the ENGVAR issue, especially given that this has already been done in the MOS for the litre itself. XAM2175 (T) 11:03, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • No; I would agree with Kahastok that since there is an Engvar angle to the variations in usage, then the reference should stay. Having in-article consistency sounds fine (and is of course also achieved by Engvar) until we end up with a big argument over an article that has American or British usage but the opposite usage for the measurements within the article. That doesn’t sound particularly sensible, and simply sows seeds for unnecessary in-article misunderstanding and debate in the future. If the reason for supporting a change from ml to mL is simply because editors from the US are more familiar with the latter, then it’s clearly an Engvar issue and the sort of thing that WP:ENGVAR is intended to avoid or resolve. MapReader (talk) 12:02, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    At the moment, however, we don't have consistency – the MOS mandates "L" regardless of ENGVAR, meaning that articles using both litres and millilitres can end up using "L" alongside "ml". As to "[if] the reason for supporting a change from ml to mL is simply because editors from the US are more familiar with the latter"; that rationale appears to be entirely absent from the discussion so far. XAM2175 (T) 12:11, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Not entirely absent, I’d suggest. However, more pertinently, on my visits to the US I haven’t seen any evidence that the litre/liter or measurements derived from it such as centilitres or millilitres are in common usage, or even understood, with food packaging and recipes referring to ounces and cups. As the WP article on the metric system says, “the United States is the only industrialised country where commercial and standards activities do not predominantly use the metric system”. Whereas ordinary people in other English-speaking countries are used to seeing metric measurements written on the things we buy from the supermarket and in recipes and countless other commonplace settings. Why would US editors want to impose onto the wider English-speaking world their own format for abbreviations of measurements that most of them never use? MapReader (talk) 12:35, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    You're swinging a very broad brush with US editors, very broad indeed. Of the editors who have !voted in support and given their location in their user pages, one is in the US, one is in Scotland, and two are in Australia. Hawkeye7 has already noted that the Australian Government Style Manual explicitly prefers upper-case L for millilitres. I further note that the Canadian Government does as well. Even the UK Metric Association do, though I recognise that they're a campaign group rather than an official body. XAM2175 (T) 13:05, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    • ml/L is completely unacceptable; ml/l is acceptable in principle but violates the principle of the close.
    • I support EEng's proposed edit.
    Dondervogel 2 (talk) 18:32, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    The close definitely does not support the claim that "ml/L is completely unacceptable", and I sharply disagree with that claim. --Trovatore (talk) 22:29, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    I was not referring to the close. It is unacceptable because it is against the spirit of the MOS, the aim of which is to "promote clarity, cohesion, and consistency". Use of ml/L achieves the opposite of that. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 06:30, 29 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    "Use of ml/L" is explicitly not part of the topic here. Will not be concluded upon. DePiep (talk) 09:09, 17 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Since the idea of English Wikipedia preferring "L" in all cases, including with prefixes, is getting more attention than I expected, I will quote The International System of Units (V2.01, December 2022, Bureau International des Poids et Mesures, pdf with English text), page 145, Table 8, footnote d

The litre and the symbol, lower-case l, were adopted by the CIPM in 1879 (PV, 1879, 41). The alternative symbol, capital L, was adopted by the 16th CGPM (1979, Resolution 6; CR, 101 and Metrologia, 1980, 16, 56-57) in order to avoid the risk of confusion between the letter l (el) and the numeral 1 (one).

Jc3s5h (talk) 12:54, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • No, it is an ENGVAR issue. For example, UK consumer packaging continues to use "ml" and "cl", in accordance with UK regulations (which remain aligned with European regulations).
    This proposal springs from a request at Template talk:Convert#Liter that {{Convert}} default to "L" rather than "l", which raised concerns that {{Convert}} would be in conflict with MOSNUM. NebY (talk) 13:35, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    NebY@ and Kahastok@, the UK law is that both ml and ML are allowed. Same for the other derivatives of litre. See . Bizarrely, that official document says that "1 or L" are allowed for the litre - they use the number one instead of the letter lowercase letter el. However, I do recognise that all their examples and general usage in Britain use "ml", so this is a bit like Commonwealth English strongly preferring "realise" but allowing "realize".  Stepho  talk  15:33, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Just so. "mL" would be in accord with UK regulations - see also The Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods) Regulations 2006 - but "ml" is too and is the norm. NebY (talk) 16:58, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Exactly. And my point is that seeing these abbreviations in lower case is commonplace in Europe, including the UK, whereas for Americans it is mostly of academic (both literally and figuratively) interest how they are abbreviated, since outside the narrow scientific community no-one there uses them. MapReader (talk) 17:56, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    In America most groceries are labelled in metric by law. You may well find some items labelled only in metric. Hawkeye7 (discuss) 19:54, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Soft drinks/sodas (1 and 2 liter bottles are very common) and alcoholic beverages (using both 'ml' and 'ML'), off the top of my head. Donald Albury 20:12, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    I have a British education, have lived all my life in Europe, and was taught to spell "litre" (never "liter") and "metre" (except for the measuring instrument, a "meter"), and that "L" and "l" (and by implication "mL" and "ml") are equally valid alternative symbols. Engvar is a red herring. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 18:29, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    This is the case in Australia and New Zealand too. "L (lower case l is permitted but is better to avoid)" [2] Hawkeye7 (discuss) 19:54, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Comment IRL masters matters preclude substantive participation on this matter, though I delight in having managed to spark a lively debate. What I suggest y'all do is start by reviewing the RfC I l linked above, to decide (1) whether the close was faithful to the discussion, and (2) whether the edit made to the guideline was faithful to the close. After making any corrections there, THEN start debating new ideas like "let's all go to L". Just my thoughts. EEng 14:41, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    You're studying for a(nother) master's? But seriously, this is not a good way to challenge or overturn the close of an RFC. A recent close can be challenged by discussion with the closer or at WP:AN per Wikipedia:Closing discussions. Two years later? Launch a new RFC. NebY (talk) 16:55, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Before getting all formal, let's see if we can agree on what happened. To some extent the question is whether the close was flawed, but as much or more is the question of whether the edit reflected the close. I don't see at all where the ENGVAR text comes from. (But I've been run ragged recently so maybe I'm just not seeing it.) Fixing that wouldn't be challenging the close, just implementing it properly. EEng 17:12, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    It's a good implementation that follows the reasoning of the close (which was good too) by applying the second of the three arguments against B analysed and assessed by the closer, the first having been rejected outright and the third being inapplicable given that there's no consensus re "ml". NebY (talk) 18:05, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Here's the actual text that you seem to be talking about in the close:
    As Option A is the status quo, this leaves Option B as the potential change to assess. The numerical vote is roughly 12-8 in favor of B (with two votes for option D and one vote for option C). The argument for B is primarily that it will avoid confusion with uppercase "I" and number "1". The arguments against B are threefold. The first is an argument against MoS guidances at all. The second is an ENGVAR argument. The third is that while "l" for litre should be discouraged, other abbreviations such as ml should be used. Regarding ENGVAR, capital L is not just an "Americanism", but is permissible everywhere and widely used outside of Europe; furthermore editors can still spell out litre in running text. As the third argument notes that lowercase "l" is confusing (as well as the voters for C and D), I find there is consensus to stop using a standalone "l" for litres.
    As I read this, the first two rationales are rejected, and only the third is partially affirmed. I don't see any support in the close for mentioning ENGVAR in the guidance. --Trovatore (talk) 23:28, 28 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Right. That's my reading as well. Somewhere between making the close and doing the edit, the closer seems to have swept ENGVAR into the mix accidentally. I'm hoping we can all recognize that and get rid of the EMGVAR big, after which the floor is open for further refinement, and hopefully a final settlement of this accursed matter. (That further refinement might even include someone proposing that there should be an ENGVAR angle after all, but to repeat, that doesn't seem to have been any part of the outcome of the original RfC, so it's only fair to return to that base before opening the floor to new change proposals.) EEng 05:49, 29 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Followup: My conjecture is that the closer was working on that row of the table, his eye fell on the left cell reading millitre / milliliter (US), and the idea popped into head that there's an ENGVAR issue (which there's not, because that row is about unit symbols, not unit names). EEng 16:58, 29 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Yes, if all we are doing here is debating A, then I still support it. I am not convinced by the ENGVAR arguments of Kahastok and MapReader. In an extremely non-rigorous (or non-rigourous), non-scientific study, I painstakingly entered "irish liquid containers" und scanned through the images listed as a result. Of those large containers on which I could actually read the label, the very first was this one, which uses "2.5Ltr". I must confess I was confused momentarily by the "tr"; I was looking for "L", found it, and guessed "tr" meant something Irish. Guess I need coffee, too. I found no other large containers with this search. Small containers invariably use small "el", as in "70cl" or "450ml". But on I forged, with "british liquid containers": This sales image also uses 25L, although that's not exactly an RS. This wasn't scientific or extensive, but I'm not cherry-picking; I actually found few readable large-container labels. My findings are nevertheless that British and Irish usage probably tends toward writing out litres, or using "Ltr", but I'm not convinced the use of "L" would be "jarring", so I support A without mention of ENGVAR. The B part might be trickier. — JohnFromPinckney (talk / edits) 09:13, 29 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    As an aside, your gesture (or non-rigourous) is appreciated, but not actually necessary – Commonwealth and US spellings have come to align where the "-ous" suffix is concerned; thus it's acceptable that rigour becomes rigorous, valour becomes valorous, etc etc. Separated by a common language indeed! XAM2175 (T) 10:39, 29 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    As I mentioned above, there is no consistency in the US. Looking at an assortment of wine, liquor, and liqueur bottles, those of less than a liter use either "ml" or "ML", while those of one liter or more use "LITER(S)", either on the label or molded on the bottle. Both domestic and imported brands use either "ml" or "ML", but the labels, and often the bottles, of imported brands are produced in the US. Of the two bottles I have that were purchased in Europe (both with labels printed in English), the one from Greece uses "ml", while the one from Denmark uses "ML". There certainly is no consistent form in commercial use in the US. Donald Albury 15:56, 29 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    For the avoidance of doubt here Donald, ML, as opposed to mL, is the symbol for the megalitre; 1 ML = 1,000,000 L (264,172 US gal). A rather significant difference!
    (The discussion here would suggest that a British megalitre would have the symbol Ml, which I confess to my eyes looks exceptionally odd.) XAM2175 (T) 16:21, 29 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Wow, one slip of the shift key and suddenly ... [3]. EEng 16:55, 29 March 2023 (UTC)<>/del>Reply[reply]
    Yes, it is a shame that merchants and customers don't pay attention to official definitions. Should I sue the distributor because the bottle of wine says 750 ML on the label, but only holds 750 ml? I wonder if I could find a court that would allow me to pursue that case. Donald Albury 18:11, 29 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    I once saw a pharmacist in the US label a prescription in "Mg" rather than "mg"... XAM2175 (T) 18:16, 29 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    @Donald Albury: Be sure to check the settlement is paid in MUSD, not mUSD. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 19:26, 3 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Note that the text in discussion is specifically about derivative units of the litre, particularly the millilitre. As such, the only piece of evidence you cite that is actually relevant to this discussion is Small containers invariably use small "el", as in "70cl" or "450ml". i.e. confirming the preference for lower-case ml and cl in Britain and Ireland, a preference that is not shared elsewhere. Hence, an WP:ENGVAR issue. Kahastok talk 18:21, 29 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    From my (American) perspective, mL comes off as a bit pedantic, though it does seem to be used in a majority of the bottles I checked around the house. I also found ml and ML. On the other hand L is pretty much obligatory, not for any nationalistic reasons, but because of the original sin of Wikipedia, namely choosing a sans-serif typeface as the default. --Trovatore (talk) 20:42, 29 March 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Update on the last point: I tried editing my CSS to default to a serif font, and it turns out that lowercase ell still strikes me as looking too much like a numeral one to be usable for "liters". --Trovatore (talk) 20:48, 30 March 2023 (UTC) Reply[reply]
    "l" and "L" for litre are not language or cultural at all (i.e., what ENGVAR is about). They are symbols, not words not even 'abbreviations', both defined per SI (without SI stating a preference). As editors we (wiki) are free to choose one. "Habits" do not tie us. Especially not when (1) oficially none is prescribed (UK, eg) and (2) when the issue is legibility not cultural.
    Sidetest: given the UK gov link here, "the" ENGVAR-UK form is not even defined. DePiep (talk) 09:26, 17 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Coming a bit late to this, but FWIW my !vote is to support the proposal to drop the ENGVAR reference (I am not sure whether mathematical symbols can even be considered part of English, or any natural human language) as it seems pedantic and unnecessary. There's no reason we can't be consistent in recommending the use of "L", which (as pointed out above) is what most standards orgs do in any case. I don't recall seeing any authoritative body prescribing the use of "l" over "L", come to think of it. Moreover, it is not unreasonable to expect an editor coming to MOSNUM for advice on such usage to find it a bit confusing that they are instead referred to ENGVAR, which does not discuss anything related to units of measurement (nor should it). Archon 2488 (talk) 14:31, 3 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    For the record, I also support deprecation of the lower case "l". That would promote increased coherence within and between articles. I am not advocating a mass change from "ml" to "mL" in existing articles, but suggesting that a change in the other direction would be discouraged. Evolution, not revolution. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 21:57, 3 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Given that IEC allows both, I would go with upper case, since it is easier to distinguish "L" from "1". --Shmuel (Seymour J.) Metz Username:Chatul (talk) 15:49, 3 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    We're not talking about L vs l now. EEng 01:30, 4 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

OK, just to count heads: Unless I'm missing something, only NebY objects to the proposal on the table -- which (to repeat) is to replace

Derivative units of the litre may use l (lowercase "el") as guided by WP:ENGVAR.


Derivative units of the litre may use l or L (lowercase or uppercase "el"), with in-article consistency.

NebY: before I unleash the mob to pummel you into submission, is there any possibility that Trovatore's response to you above (see #anchor) has convinced you to go along? And anyone who does object, but I missed, please speak up now (after considering, as mentioned, the above). EEng 01:30, 4 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Needless violent language here, EEng. DePiep (talk) 08:27, 21 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Needless comment born of your misreading of social cues three weeks after the fact, DePiep. EEng 12:37, 21 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You wrote it. It's agressive. If you mean something else, write something else. -DePiep (talk) 15:20, 21 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
DePiep, you've been asked over and over to stop trying to referee the interactions of other editors, because you lack sufficient awareness of social cues to understand what's going on. I meant what I wrote, and I'm not going to use kindergarten baby-talk just because that's what you need in order to understand what everyone else readily gets. Really, just butt the fuck out of others' conversations -- see (among many examples) WP:Administrators'_noticeboard/IncidentArchive1018#EEng_agression. EEng 22:38, 25 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@EEng: agressive and condescent language here, again. Usage not motivated, no opening for discussion. Civility is a pillar. "Request" denied. My question stands: EEng, please avoid agressive language. DePiep (talk) 04:50, 26 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Too bad cluelessness and unintelligibility aren't pillars -- you'd be the undisputed God King Emperor of Wikipedia. EEng 10:49, 26 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
DePiep, if I may interject: EEng's post was colloquial in nature. It employs a form of jocular hyperbole frequent – and almost universally accepted – in casual English. It was not meant as a threat, and I cannot imagine anybody seriously interpreting it as a credible threat, or thinking that it is egregiously uncivil. If you, or any other person, do genuinely feel that this is offensive, you are welcome to report it at AN/I. Further discussion here will be completely unproductive. XAM2175 (T) 09:20, 26 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Hang around DePiep a while and you'll find your powers of imagination greatly enhanced. My link above is just one of a dozen times he's been told -- at ANI! -- that he doesn't know what he's talking about. But like a bad penny he just keeps coming back. EEng 10:49, 26 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I see Kahastok and MapReader both arguing that it's an ENGVAR matter, and arguments that Ireland or Australia use "L" don't detract from that; ENGVAR has never been about a binary choice between AmEng and all the rest, and it should surprise no-one that sometimes BrEng differs from AusEng or IrEng. EEng, when you opened this discussion it was in terms that you weren't trying to overthrow the close of an RFC that's only two years old, merely its implementation, as if the two were separate and the implementation was by someone who misunderstood the close. I at least failed at first to appreciate that the closing statement and the implementation were by the same respected and experienced editor at the same time. Far from one editor misunderstanding another, what we have is User:力 being thorough and performing a close in two parts, a statement and an implementation. Together they make the totality of the close. You don't like the close of an RFC and it's too late to question the closer or take it to WP:AN for review? Ask a question directly in another RFC. NebY (talk) 17:59, 4 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I agree with this, both on the substantive point and the procedural point. Kahastok talk 19:04, 4 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The Australian manual of style given above says that L is preferable but that both L and l are acceptable, so that takes Australian out of the ENGVAR argument.
I didn't see an explicit Ireland reference above but I gave a UK (including Northern Ireland) reference that uses lots of lowercase examples but says both L and l are acceptable (technically it used the number 1 instead of lowercase el but that was probably a typo and not repeated in ml, etc). So the UK is also out of the ENGVAR argument.  Stepho  talk  22:22, 4 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I reiterate my strong opposition to classifying unit symbols, or any other mathematical symbols, in any context, for any reason whatever, as part of any variety of English or any other natural language. To anyone who objects, please explain to me what variety of English, or any other natural language, the statement "eπi + 1 = 0" is written in.
And for emphasis: I oppose any attempt to push any MOS-level advice on the appropriate use of unit symbols to any part of the MOS other than MOSNUM. I would also note that no RS deprecating the usage of the symbol "L" in UK/IE (or any other, AFAICS) contexts have been cited, and at present we have nothing but the POV of a couple of editors against its usage. Archon 2488 (talk) 21:55, 4 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • I apologize for overlooking Kahastok and MapReader. I'm really distracted IRL and not hitting on all cylinders:
  • As already stated, it's not that I "don't like the close", just I think the closer may have had a brain fart between the close per se and the edit meant to implement it. Tell me again where in the close per se there's anything about recognizing an ENGVAR issue?
EEng 04:05, 5 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I boldly implemented EEng's suggestion. My reason? The argument that ENGVAR is remotely connected with the choice of symbol is patently absurd, per Archon 2488. The whole point of international standard unit symbols is that they are international standard symbols. It does not matter whether one is writing in Spanish, French, Italian or any other language using a Latin alphabet. Beyond the alphabet, language is irrelevant. Dondervogel 2 (talk) 13:40, 5 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Not even confined to the Latin alphabet, actually! Archon 2488 (talk) 13:58, 5 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Support. That's drop the text "as guided by ENGVAR" per OP. Also per proposal, this change should not decide on some preferred usage of "l" vs. "L". Just remove the text. ("consistent l or L in article" is trivial here, and should not be metioned). -DePiep (talk) 08:37, 17 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Comment The wording of the close may have been a bit awkward. The intent appears to have come through clear: there was consensus to disallow "l", but no consensus to disallow "ml". (I personally agree that "ml/L" together is bad, but there wasn't consensus to establish even that as policy from the discussion. If you don't like that, you should start a new RFC.) Why would one choose "ml" or "mL"? A lot of the arguments were "we should do it the way it is done in the US/UK", so the existing policy guiding usage was WP:ENGVAR. Re-wording the MOS page to be clearer would not need a new RFC. 力 (π, ν) (talk) 19:03, 30 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

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]

My changes to MOS:£[edit]

I have made several changes to clean up the section; please also see my edit summaries for the individual edits. Thank you. NotReallySoroka (talk) 03:44, 30 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I approve. This is clearer than my version (which preceded it) and much clearer that what went before. --𝕁𝕄𝔽 (talk) 19:23, 30 April 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 [4] 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, ‰. [5] 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]
@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]
  • 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]