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Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 141

Dashes followed by commas

– ,

Personally I'm a fan of "compound punctuation", but I don't believe that stance is supported by very many style guides. However, try as I might, I can't find anything in the MoS either forbidding it or permitting it. There's a line prohibiting colons followed by dashes, but there doesn't appear to be anything similar in either the comma section or the dashes section. I have no problem with the MoS disagreeing with my own idiosyncratic views of style; in fact, I actually came here because I saw another editor using the syntax, and was looking for the appropriate section to cite in reverting him. So, anyways, is this allowed or not? — PinkAmpers&(Je vous invite à me parler) 14:59, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

Well, I think it is grammatically correct to place the comma even after dashes. By the way, WP:DASHES does it, too ("Where is the—", she began, but then realized she held it in her hand.), although not commented whether it is recommended or not. --bender235 (talk) 15:36, 30 May 2013 (UTC)
Well, dash/end-quote/comma is different than dash/comma, since the former formulation is used specifically to indicate interruption. As I said, I agree that it makes sense to use a comma after dashes if both are appropriate, but I think most style guides say it's best to just use the dash and leave the comma out. (It comes down to how much you think punctuation is about the pauses the reader makes, I suppose.) — PinkAmpers&(Je vous invite à me parler) 15:55, 30 May 2013 (UTC)
How would you use a dash-comma? (I'd be all for it if only I could make sense of what it's meant to do.) JIMp talk·cont 01:04, 31 May 2013 (UTC)
I've always loved weird forms of punctuation and style, like using colons as terminal punctuation, using a diaeresis instead of a hyphen on words like "co-operate"—a style most notably used by The New Yorker—, and taking advantage of obscure usages of commas, such as to indicate that one clause should be read as if it used the same predicate as the last. That work?  — PinkAmpers&(Je vous invite à me parler) 15:03, 31 May 2013 (UTC)

Since everybody — — absolutely everybody is holding her, his, or their breath to hear, or vision to read, what I think about it — , I don't... (what was that again? O.o.o.o.h yes!!!) Punctuation is an element of our communication, like spelling, semantics and syntax. There is more than one way of writing most things and no reason within reason to make toooo much fuss if someone else's tastes differ. FWIW, I recommend that when in doubt one applies the following test — ask yourself: Is this as well expressed as I can manage? (If not change it and the problem goes away, possibly bringing in its wake more challengingly enjoyable problems); Is it so counter-conventional that it is undesirably jarring or misleading? (Then how can it possibly be well-expressed? That sort of thing interferes with expression); Does its form leave the reader in such doubt that he is likely to have to go back and re-read to make sense of it? (Garden path sentences and all that. If so, re-punctuate sensibly or re-write radically.) Above all, does the punctuation or its omission change the meaning or effect of the sentence? (If so, then choose the meaning you intend.)

Now, the next most important thing is that most of those items come fairly naturally to most of us, and for the rest of us (well, for me anyway) we can fake it by dint of hard work and close attention. Howesomever!!! To legislate every last silly little subtle detail in the MOS, even vaguely and with swarms of loopholes, and the product would be a huge job, and would be so voluminous that no one with sufficient sense to be an editor would read any of it except to mine it for wikilawyering lodes. Don't feed the wikilawyers, say I, and don't hobble the nut cases that trouble to write naturally, comprehensibly, and readably. In short, shut up and write. And read. Especially read. The problem then will go away. This MOS is important, but agonising over the jots and tittles is a childhood disease. It will go away as we grow up. JonRichfield (talk) 06:54, 1 June 2013 (UTC)

When indicating a parenthetical remark via the use of dash(es), the second dash is only needed if there is no other punctuation to indicate that the parenthetical remark has ended. You wouldn't write ... using a diaeresis instead of a hyphen on words like "co-operate"—a style most notably used by The New Yorker—. if you ended the sentence there, so you don't need a closing dash if you continue after a comma (or a semicolon) ... using a diaeresis instead of a hyphen on words like "co-operate"—a style most notably used by The New Yorker, and taking ... Peter coxhead (talk) 07:46, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
I see it the other way around: The comma is the potentially unnecessary one. Dropping the dash leads to potential ambiguity. Compare:
Her favorite politicians were Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt—and all three of his vice presidents, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton.
Her favorite politicians were Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt—and all three of his vice presidents—Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton.
Her favorite politicians were Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt—and all three of his vice presidents—, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton.
Personally, I think the third is more clear than the second, but that's open to debate. I think it's fairly evident, though, that the first should not be used. — PinkAmpers&(Je vous invite à me parler) 20:53, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
Forgive me, but is the above example/conclusion, even the whole thread, some kind of weird trollery? In what publication would you ever see the third of the above? I know it is possible to be over-prescriptive and overly obsessive about punctuation, but there's punctuation which is plain wrong by any standard. N-HH talk/edits 22:11, 1 June 2013 (UTC)
Comma following a dash? Ungainly. Why not use parentheses? Tony (talk) 00:54, 2 June 2013 (UTC)
Oh, how very quaint. One might even say it's eccentric. It's not British, it's not American. What kind of fish or fowl is it? -- Ohc ¡digame!¿que pasa? 01:32, 2 June 2013 (UTC)
I must agree with Tony1 in this instance: "ungainly" is an accurate description. The purpose of punctuation is to clarify meaning, to make more certain the writer's intended meaning when a sequence of words alone would be ambiguous. The only one of the three examples above that makes any degree of sense to me is the first. The use of the second dash in the second and third examples appears not to clarify, but to confuse the writer's intended meaning. The dash-comma punctuation in the third example is just odd. In all events, I prefer Tony's recommendation to use parentheses: "Her favorite politicians were Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt (and all three of his vice presidents), Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton." That assumes that FDR's three vice presidents were among the subject's favorite politicians, and the writer did not intend some other meaning that I cannot divine. It would also be crystal clear if the writer simply identified FDR's three vice presidents by name, rather than merely by office: Cactus Jack Garner, Henry Wallace and Harry Truman. If the writer's intended meaning is not perfectly clear with commonly available punctuation, it might behoove the writer to rephrase. Good writing may challenge the average reader, but it should not intentionally confuse him. Dirtlawyer1 (talk) 03:31, 2 June 2013 (UTC)
Oh, yes, I agree that the example I gave is not actually the best phrasing. The edit that prompted me to post here was this one by Bender235 (talk · contribs) (who's coincidentally already commented here), if that helps at all. As I said, I'm not necessarily advocating that this be allowed—just because it's my personal preference doesn't mean that our style guidelines should allow it. However, I'm not sure how you can say that the first example is more clear than the second: Due to the lack of a "closing" dash, the reader might be led to believe that Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton were FDR's vice presidents.
The current example in the MoS is ambiguous: We read them in chronological order: Descartes, Locke, Hume—but not his Treatise (it is too complex)—and Kant. Since the Oxford comma is optional, there might not have been a comma after Hume whether or not the dashed parenthetical occurred. But what if there were a fifth philosopher? Would you say We read them in chronological order: Descartes, Locke, Hume—but not his Treatise (it is too complex)—Kant, and Sartre? I think this is preferable to We read them in chronological order: Descartes, Locke, Hume—but not his Treatise (it is too complex), Kant, and Sartre, which to me is the sort of "garden path" sentence Jon mentioned above, as one expects whatever occurs after the third comma to be a continuation of the material after the dash.
As long as we're recommending the usage of dashes to "clarify the sentence structure when there are already commas or parentheses, or both", I think we need to be clear on the proper format. — PinkAmpers&(Je vous invite à me parler) 04:30, 2 June 2013 (UTC)
Well, going on the actually cited example under discussion (ie this one), that is surely, clearly, just an outright error rather than any question of preference or alternative styles. No orthodox writer or publisher would punctuate like that and hence I'm not sure the MOS would need to deal with it at all. The answer to an editor saying "I think it is grammatically correct" is to tell them that it is not and the answer to their citing the MOS quote example is, as you have already pointed out, that the dash is inside a quote and is also being used in a different way. Apologies for being a bit flippant about this earlier, but I was genuinely puzzled that anyone would advocate the use of a comma in such a place. N-HH talk/edits 09:05, 2 June 2013 (UTC)
@User:N-HH: I'm not sure if you're joking when you write "In what publication would you ever see the third [ie, comma after em dash] of the above?", because that kind of punctutation is ubiquitous. If anything, you'd have to find me a serious publication that prints it w/out that comma. --bender235 (talk) 23:02, 2 June 2013 (UTC)
Now that you've explained it I see the logic of it, it does make sense in the light of this explanation but the problem is that punctuation should be there to help get the meaning across, it should be part of the explaining of ideas not be in need of its own explanation. I'd rather the sentence be rephrased than use potentially jarring punctuation which will obviously draw attention to itself and probably cause confusion. I don't know whether the MOS need mention this specifically, though, general advice to write clearly aught to cover such problems. JIMp talk·cont 03:22, 3 June 2013 (UTC)
@bender235, I know we're slightly at the panto-call stage now, but it really, really is not ubiquitous. In fact I would repeat my assertion that you will never see it in any orthodox English-language publication. Can you point me to or link some examples of where it is used? Obviously, I'm trying to prove a negative here, so I can't really call any evidence in the same way. Other people's observations would help, although we do of course already have three others besides me saying that, at the least, it looks odd. N-HH talk/edits 09:21, 3 June 2013 (UTC)
ps: I see you've reverted my restoration of standard punctuation on the page in question. Starting an edit war seems a little premature and pointless, especially over something so minor, until we have some clearer resolution here. And your edit summary misses the point: this is not a serial comma issue – a concept I and most interested people well understand – but about the conjunction of any comma and a dash. N-HH talk/edits 09:31, 3 June 2013 (UTC)
I don't believe I've ever seen this particular combination of punctuation in my life, and I do kind of a lot of reading and writing. After reading the thread above, I can't see how it's ever necessary. In some of the examples it was a little confusing if you didn't have two paired dashes, but I don't see how the extra comma after a second paired dash does anything except look strange and draw attention to itself. It doesnt increase comprehensibility in any discernable way and I think it violates the rules for dashes, or is wrong somehow. I don't think that the use of such commas should be allowed on WP (and certainly not encouraged), but I also doubt it comes up like everyone said. But I completely agree this is not ordinarily in English. AgnosticAphid talk 15:26, 5 June 2013 (UTC)
I agree with AgnosticAphid's comment above. Except in discussions of symbols such as , . and * (see what I did there?), I've never seen a dash followed by a comma in a modern English publication. Of the three "favorite politician" sentences, the second one seems clearest to me. The third sentence seems as confusing as the first one. -sche (talk) 04:29, 14 June 2013 (UTC)


We know about WP:MOS's rule for trans women; we must treat them like they are women throughout their lives when we refer to them. Any thoughts on whether the phrase "male-to-female" (or anything derived from it) is inconsistent with WP:MOS?? Georgia guy (talk) 21:06, 6 June 2013 (UTC)

There are times when it is appropriate. At some point, the article on Chaz Bono has to say that he was raised as a girl and later underwent gender transition to live as a man. I don't believe that "female-to-male transition" is always inconsistent with the current policy. Darkfrog24 (talk) 23:19, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
As a girl is a simile. It doesn't mean that Chaz was an actual girl (this must be distinguished not only from a boy in general, but from a boy in the wrong body) before his body was changed with surgery. Georgia guy (talk) 23:40, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
I think the MOS needs to be agnostic about this "wrong body" theory. I am not sure what the implementation of agnosticism actually entails, but I don't think it's acceptable to encode a particular answer to a controversial question like that into MOS prescriptions. --Trovatore (talk) 23:50, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
"Agnostic" is a good word for it. We should avoid writing articles in ways that implies that the causes of gender dysmorphia are already fully understood. To do that, we must refer to people using only one set of gender pronouns throughout the article, even when describing events before their gender transition, because to do otherwise would suggest that the person's gender actually changed. Since we must choose just one pronoun, it should be the most recent preferred pronoun, not because we understand all the neurological and psychological causes of gender dysmorphia, but because it is polite.
When writing about gender transition, we should say things like, "Chaz Bono was raised as a girl and he was named 'Chastity' at birth," because it is indisputably true. We should say "Chaz Bono underwent gender transition and now identifies as a man," because that is also indisputably true. We should not say anything ourselves about whether Chaz Bono is correct or incorrect in believing himself to be a man, but because we must use gendered pronouns, we should refer to him as "he" and "him" for courtesy's safe. Darkfrog24 (talk) 02:47, 9 June 2013 (UTC)
If we're going to be agnostic (which seems like a good idea), then we need to give up the Western idea that the gender never actually changes, too. What if it does? What if it can change more than once in a person's life? How do you fit bacha posh kids into this idea that gender never changes, even though (1) the transition isn't the girl's idea, and (2) it has a remarkably high rate of being a lifelong transition for something that most Western trans people say is involuntary, neurological, and extremely rare rather than something that is, or even could be, socially constructed?
As a minor detail, the example of "Chaz Bono was raised as a girl and he was named 'Chastity' at birth," should actually read, "Chaz Bono was raised as a girl and he was named 'Chastity' at birth", because we want to omit as many potentially confusing pronouns as possible, including a mismatch between the child's gender and the child's name. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:18, 9 June 2013 (UTC)
You mean, you think we should use the rule that trans women are a "third gender" before the time of their body's surgery operation (that is, no pronouns should be used) and then women after the operation?? Georgia guy (talk) 19:02, 9 June 2013 (UTC)
I do not believe that surgical status defines gender, or that we need to deal with any third-gender constructs.
Our readers are likely to be best served when we avoid phrases that present needless opportunities to confuse them. So rather than saying "He is a boy with a girl's name", find a way to communicate the necessary, encyclopedic information in a non-confusing and non-surprising way. "Bono's name at birth was Chastity Sun Bono" is clear and straightforward, with no opportunity for confusion. "The boy's name at birth was <any girl's name>" is not as likely to avoid confusion.
When the content of the sentence is gender neutral (e.g., "did well in school", "was born on 01 January", "started an insurance company"), then feel free to use the person's preferred gender. When the content of the sentence is not gender neutral (e.g., "gave birth", "donated sperm"), then avoid needless gendered pronouns in that sentence. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:37, 9 June 2013 (UTC)
MOS already says to avoid phrases like "He gave birth to..." and instead use more neutral content such as "He became a parent," which differ from the phrases to avoid in that they have gendered pronouns but gender-neutral content, not vice versa. Georgia guy (talk) 20:42, 9 June 2013 (UTC)
The MOS is not supplying you with an exhaustive list of every possible solution. You may equally say "Beatie gave birth" if the physical fact of childbearing is important to the article. What you want to avoid is "He gave birth", as in, "He did something that everyone knows men can't do". WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:51, 9 June 2013 (UTC)
WhatamIdoing, being agnostic about this means neither endorsing nor giving up any theory of whether gender changes or not. Endorsing the idea that gender can change during a person's life would be worse than endorsing the idea that it does not. At least the idea that it does not has some scientific backing, even if the picture is incomplete.
The line about "Chaz Bono was raised as a girl and he was named Chastity at birth" is just an example. Whenever gender pronouns are required, we should use male pronouns.
Let's draw a distinction here, when the MoS refers to "gender," it means gender in the sense of "state of being male or female," not in the sense of "gender role." Gender roles are dictated by society and include things like "men must have short hair but women may have long" and "men dress this way while women dress that way." Gender itself is not dictated by society but rather a physical trait shared by humans, other mammals, insects, reptiles, birds and fish. A bacha posh individual's gender is female, but the gender role is male. However, in the interest of courtesy, I could get behind using male gender pronouns for a bacha posh if that is his stated preference. Considering that their gender role assignment isn't voluntary, I would say that should be a case-by-case issue. Ask the individual if he or she is male or female, and take his or her word for it. No checking under the hood. No brain scans. Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:18, 10 June 2013 (UTC)
I like the way the Chaz Bono article appears to be written at the moment - avoiding all gendered pronouns (instead, just repeating "Bono", even when this sounds somewhat unnatural) while referring to the subject's pre-op period. For post-ops, I believe it's normally accepted that the gender is the surgically determined one, but in other ambiguous situations, it's probably best to do all we can to avoid the pronouns. Victor Yus (talk) 07:11, 10 June 2013 (UTC)
Darkfrog, being "agnostic" means that we can't actually say whether "Endorsing the idea that gender can change during a person's life would be worse than endorsing the idea that it does not." That's 'taking sides', which is the opposite of being agnostic.
You also seem to be confusing "sex" with "gender". Sex is physical. Gender is social. The MOS uses the sex and gender distinction. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:13, 10 June 2013 (UTC)
No I am not confusing "sex" with "gender." Here is a link to [1] and another to the American Heritage dictionary [2]. You will notice that the first listed definition of "gender" refers to grammar and the second to "state of being male or female, sex." The social sciences use a specialized definition that sometimes means "gender role" and sometimes means "gender identity." Wikipedia is a general English publication and should use the general English definition. The definition of "gender" as referring to male and female in general is actually much older than its gender role definition, which dates only from the mid-twentieth century. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:54, 11 June 2013 (UTC)
Which is not to say, of course, that the "gender" (grammatical term) of pronouns necessarily aligns with the "gender" (sociological term) of the people they refer to. My impression is that, in normal usage, the gender of a pronoun in fact correlates more closely with the "sex" of a person, understood chiefly in terms of genitalia (whether naturally or surgically produced). Any departure from that principle is likely to mislead, so I would go to some lengths to avoid the pronouns in ambiguous cases. Victor Yus (talk) 08:54, 11 June 2013 (UTC)
Kind of like trans women are actually a "third gender" (as opposed to a kind of woman) before the operation, then women after the operation?? Georgia guy (talk) 16:01, 11 June 2013 (UTC)
No, kind of like we decline to specify. --Trovatore (talk) 16:20, 11 June 2013 (UTC)
There's no such thing as a third gender. There are people who don't fit clearly into male or female, and there are some societies with more than two social roles, but there is no third set of affirmative characteristics. Trans women are women. That's female, not some third thing. But that's what I have to say. The MoS should wait for proof and keep the current rule in the meantime. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:59, 11 June 2013 (UTC)
And the use of the phrase "male-to-female", which uses the point of view in which trans women were actual men (not women trapped in men's bodies) is inconsistent with the rule. That's what this particular section of the manual of style talk was initially intended to be about; namely whether the use of this phrase matches WP:MOS. Georgia guy (talk) 20:04, 11 June 2013 (UTC)
Darkfrog, If you weren't conflating "sex" with "gender", then you would not quote a dictionary definition that says they are exact synonyms. As I said, the MOS uses that social sciences distinction, not the imprecise modern one. 19th century texts like this use gender solely in the context of grammar, never people. And there is too a third gender, as every student of Latina and German learns. WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:10, 11 June 2013 (UTC)
WAID, you didn't say "conflating." You said "confusing." A person who is confused about the meanings of words is ignorant and uninformed. As I've shown, no I am not uninformed. These words are indeed synonyms in ordinary speech. Technically, I'm not conflating them either because I am not fusing two separate things into one. The words and their meanings were already like that when I found them.
As for your assertion that the MoS is using the social science definition and not the standard English definition, kindly show me where it says that.
Third gender in languages? Sure, no contest. They exist by definition. Third gender in people? Heck no, but I'll admit that it's open enough to debate that a person doesn't have to be an idiot to think that a third gender exists. Darkfrog24 (talk) 21:54, 11 June 2013 (UTC)
The MOS doesn't directly state that it follows this distinction, because nobody has ever considered it necessary. If you will look through the archives, you will see ample evidence that it does.
I wonder what you would say to the editors who self-identify as third gendered? Are they simply wrong about what their own self-identification? Are our hijra editors maybe pretending that they are biologically male and socially third-gendered, but they're really biologically and socially male, to fit into the gender binary that you support? WhatamIdoing (talk) 00:38, 12 June 2013 (UTC)
If the MoS doesn't state it, then the reader should be expected to assume that the standard definition is intended: The state of being male or female in general.
If such a person asked for my opinion or it was relevant to the conversation at hand? I'd say that he or she was using a misnomer, a misleading term.
People who identify using the term "third gender" are usually trying to say that either 1. they don't want to be considered what they see as a "typical" man or woman (back in the sixties, many homosexuals thought of themselves as third gender because they didn't understand that sexual desire for women was not an essential part of being male) or 2. they don't believe themselves to fit cleanly into "man" or "woman." That's not really a third gender. What they are not doing is indicating that they are part of some third, affirmative category that is defined not only by not being male or female but by itself. For example, a person who is male isn't just someone who lacks breasts and ovaries and social permission to wear dresses. A person who is male is someone who does have terminal hair follicles on his face and male organs and social permission to go shirtless at the beach. Not being female is not enough to make someone male. Not being male is not enough to make someone female. I will believe that there is a third gender (or fourth ... nth) if someone can show me the things that that gender does have or do, not just what it doesn't.
Everyone fits onto the spectrum between male and female, even the hijra in India. They describe themselves in terms of male and female, not in terms of some third thing. Imagine a graph: The Y axis is number of people. The X axis has male on one side and female on the other. The line on the graph is a function with two peaks. A true third gender would be a Z axis. Darkfrog24 (talk) 06:00, 12 June 2013 (UTC)

Now, let's summarize the rule:

Any person whose gender might be questioned should be referred to by the gendered nouns (for example "man/woman", "waiter/waitress", "chairman/chairwoman"), pronouns, and possessive adjectives that reflect that person's latest expressed gender self-identification. This applies in references to any phase of that person's life. Direct quotations may need to be handled as exceptions. Nevertheless, avoid confusing or seemingly logically impossible text that could result from pronoun usage (for example: instead of He gave birth to his first child, write He became a parent for the first time).

Victor Yus appears to be an advocate of changing the rule to (please correct me if I'm wrong):

Any person whose gender might be questioned should generally be referred to by the gendered nouns (for example "man/woman", "waiter/waitress", "chairman/chairwoman"), pronouns, and possessive adjectives that reflect that person's latest expressed gender self-identification. When dealing with events specific to a time predating a surgery date, try to avoid pronouns altogether. Direct quotations may need to be handled as exceptions.

Any correction to what Victor Yus supports?? Georgia guy (talk) 16:19, 11 June 2013 (UTC)

I'm not sure I'd want to commit myself to supporting anything quite so specific as that (although the change seems positive). I don't really agree with the first sentence in either version. If referring to someone who is now a woman (following surgery), I wouldn't refer to them as a woman, girl, waitress, chairwoman, "she", etc. when discussing the part of their life before the surgery (except perhaps to say what that person "identified as", was "raised as", or similar). I certainly don't agree with the example at the end of the first version - giving birth is not synonymous with becoming a parent, so if we don't like "he gave birth", then we must change the "he", not the "gave birth". Victor Yus (talk) 19:44, 11 June 2013 (UTC)
I'm not sure that I see a contradiction between the two: "This applies in references to any phase of that person's life," but "When dealing with events specific to a time predating a surgery date [or, more properly, a public self-identification], try to avoid pronouns altogether" seems to be pretty much proper practice.
Victor, the physical fact of giving birth might or might not matter. Beatie is famous for the actual act of giving birth while living as a man, so it matters there, but for other people, it's not especially relevant, e.g., "Smith and Jones married three days before the birth of their first child". WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:08, 11 June 2013 (UTC)
Sure, there are going to be many different circumstances; it's probably not possible to state any exact rules that aren't going to have numerous exceptions. In fact, it may be best just to leave out this whole paragraph from the guideline and allow people to use common sense. But I don't think the first sentence here can possibly be right. When referring to a past phase of someone's life, we use the nouns, pronouns, etc. appropriate to their situation at that phase of their life, not at some later phase (except that we would make quite a serious effort to avoid gender references completely, as long as information isn't lost for the reader). PS Or maybe "latest" is intended to mean latest relative to the period being talked about, rather than latest relative to now?? Victor Yus (talk) 12:40, 12 June 2013 (UTC)
First off, the preferred pronoun rule is in place so that the editors have something to follow in situations in which gendered pronouns either cannot or should not be avoided. Yes, there are lots of places where we can talk around the issue, sub in surnames, etc., but telling people that they have to do that all the time would sacrifice good writing. We should have a preferred pronoun rule. The only question is what it should be.
To answer Victor Yus' inquiry, "latest preferred pronoun" means "Refer to Chaz Bono as 'he,' even when discussing periods of his life before he decided to undergo gender transition and live as a man." If you want to change the rule, that's one thing, but that is what the rule is now.
The problem with what you've suggested, VY, is that it assumes that it is appropriate to call Chaz Bono "she" during those phases of his life. The jury is still out, both scientifically speaking and definition-of-gender speaking, regarding whether CB and people like him really were male the whole time or changed from female to male. That being the case, at least referring to him as "him" throughout his life is polite. Darkfrog24 (talk) 15:34, 12 June 2013 (UTC)
I'm less concerned with being polite, and more concerned with not lying to readers. I don't think there can be any serious doubt that people like CB undergo a change - perhaps not in their own minds, but certainly in the way the world perceives them (and third-person pronouns essentially reflect perception by others). To try to rewrite history by implying that someone was a man/woman/boy/girl/chairwoman/postman, at a time when in fact they would have been regarded by everyone around as a woman/man/girl/boy/chairman/postwoman, is just wrong. I'm not sure exactly when the change should be considered to take place (at the time of surgery, at the time of public adoption of a particular gender role, ...??), but whenever it is, I'm pretty sure it shouldn't be regarded as retrospective. (When was this alleged "rule" introduced? Does anyone actually follow it? I hope not.) Victor Yus (talk) 17:46, 12 June 2013 (UTC)
This rule was put in place before my time.
I am also concerned with lying to readers, but to the best of my knowledge, the idea that human beings are capable of actually changing from male to female or female to male like frogs is what is not true. Surely Chaz Bono must have really been male the whole time and just took longer than usual to figure it out and tell the rest of us.
Here's how I see it: Country singer Leslie Smith refers to herself as having been born in Memphis. All the articles about her say she was born in Memphis. Then she digs up her birth certificate and—oops!—she was really born in Nashville and just moved to Memphis when she was a baby. She wasn't lying before; she was mistaken. We shouldn't refer to her as having been born in Memphis, not even when describing parts of her life during which she believed that to be true, not even when quoting otherwise accurate secondary sources that refer to her as born in Memphis.
As for which of us actually has it right, the jury is still out. Right now, science can't provide either of us with enough proof to say which way of viewing transgendered individuals is right and which is wrong. We might both be wrong. If this changes, the MoS should be brought into compliance (or kept in compliance) with the correct view. At the moment, though, the two perspectives are about equally plausible. So we might as well use the one that is more polite and refer to Chaz Bono and others like him as "he" throughout their lives.
As for accuracy, articles on out trans men should say flat-out "So-and-so was raised as a girl and named Femalename Lastname at birth. He underwent gender transition at [roughly when]" in either the lead or the first paragraph after that. That should make it clear to the readers that they aren't reading about a standard-issue male human. Darkfrog24 (talk) 04:03, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
Your remarks about frogs make most sense when referred to biological sex, and Chaz Bono's biological sex is and always has been female. --Trovatore (talk) 04:15, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
I'm using "gender" in its general sense here, in which it is synonymous with what you call biological sex. As for Bono's, see my comments below. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:10, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
People are not categorized or described by their biological sex, but by their gender. The two are usually the same thing in most people, but in some people they are not — "biological sex" is what's between your legs, while "gender" is what's in your head — and in those people for whom the two do not match, the simple principle of basic respect for our article subjects mandates that we respect their self-definition whether any individual editor understands the distinction or not. Bearcat (talk) 04:37, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
So the remarks about frogs are about what's in their heads? --Trovatore (talk) 04:40, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
Er, no. Bearcat (talk) 04:41, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
The point goes to me, then. --Trovatore (talk) 04:45, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
Er, no. Bearcat (talk) 04:48, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
Er, yes it does. --Trovatore (talk) 04:55, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
No, it doesn't, because your point has nothing whatsoever to do with what I said and only very little to do with what Darkfrog did, and was verging on complete and utter nonsense. Bearcat (talk) 05:05, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
What you said is irrelevant; you're just an interloper. It directly addresses Darkfrog, and I did in fact win the point. It's not a huge point, but I did win it. --Trovatore (talk) 05:14, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
Anybody is allowed to contribute to any discussion on any talk page at any time; under absolutely no circumstances are you ever allowed to dismiss anybody as "an interloper". Bearcat (talk) 05:20, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
Who said you weren't allowed to contribute? Of course you're allowed to contribute. But my response was not to you, so whether I addressed your point or not is completely irrelevant. In that sense you're just an interloper. --Trovatore (talk) 05:29, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
Alright, look, we got off on the wrong foot here. I was annoyed at Darkfrog for trying to support the notion that there's some immutable "real" gender distinct from biological sex, using an example that was unrelated to that, and then annoyed with you for the attitude you took in responding to it. But I didn't really help matters either, and apologize for getting hotheaded with you. --Trovatore (talk) 06:25, 13 June 2013 (UTC)
Bearcat, if you check a dictionary, you'll see that "gender" has about five definitions, and one of them is "state of being male or female, sex." One of the problems with this debate is that people forget which definition other people are using and switch back and forth without tipping others off. "Gender identity" is also a definition of gender. So is "gender role." But no, people who mean "state of being male or female, in general" are not using the word "gender" wrong.
Trovatore, I was using "gender" in the general sense in my comments above. When I mean "gender identity," I'll use both words. When I mean "gender role," I'll use both words. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:03, 13 June 2013 (UTC)

I would question both the implicit claim that all people have a psychological gender throughout their lives (I've heard about cases where people have gone back and forth more than once, so even if there is something immutable in there, their "latest self-identification" doesn't necessarily correspond to it); AND the implicit claim that the use of pronouns and nouns corresponds to this, or any, inner psychological characteristic. We categorize people on the basis of what we see, not what they tell us (or what they are going to tell us later in their lives) they feel inside. To say that someone was the chairwoman of a company, at a time when they were physically a man and played (at least on the outside) the social role of a man, seems to me to be an untruth totally unworthy of an encyclopedia. I have no problem with a gender-neutral term ("chair" in this case), and in 99% of cases that solution is going to be available, but if there isn't, then I think we must default to a contemporary rather than retrospective description. As when discussing people who have changed their names or nationalities, we don't refer to them as Yusuf Islam or as a Briton when describing a time before they became so named or so naturalized. Victor Yus (talk) 12:18, 13 June 2013 (UTC)

I do believe that the physical part of gender, what Trovatore calls biological sex, stays the same throughout our lives, but we don't know that Chaz Bono's physical gender has always been female. We can assume that he was born with a vagina instead of a penis, but that's it. He probably had his hormone levels measured at some point and is probably taking medicine to change them. His chromosomes are probably XX and not XY (but they might be XY). What about his brain? In all likelihood, Chaz Bono's brain structure has always been male. The most important organ for determining gender is also the most important organ for determining almost anything else. It's the brain. However, we can't prove who's right and who's wrong, not even if Bono volunteered for an fMRI and let us check under the hood.
As for where we get our information, "what we see" is WP:OR. We use what people tell us about themselves as source material all the time.
However, what all this boils down to is "what should the MoS tell editors to do?" I'm enjoying our academic discussion of the nature of human gender, but that's what it is, academic. I can't prove I'm right. You can't prove you're right. We should only change the current rule if we'd be improving it. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:03, 13 June 2013 (UTC)

Three quick thoughts:

  • We categorize people all the time on the basis of "what they tell us". WP:EGRS wouldn't exist otherwise.
  • We most certainly do talk about people by their ultimate names rather than their original names. See John Wayne#Early life as only one of thousands of examples.
  • It appears that we need to link to Sex and gender distinction so that we can quit having this discussion about whether identity is about the five physical characteristics of biological sex or about the psychosocial gender. We do not pretend that transwomen are biologically female, but we do not write about them as if they were men, either. WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:15, 14 June 2013 (UTC)
So we should be using gender-neutral terms as much as possible, I would conclude. The rule in the MOS ought to be changed to say at least that much. And remove the absurd "give birth -> become a parent" example. Victor Yus (talk) 09:37, 14 June 2013 (UTC)
Agree with WAID's points one and two, but point three is off. "Sex" and "gender" are synonyms in general English. Just look at these dictionary entries: [3] [4] [5]. The distinction between the two only shows up in the social sciences. In ordinary speech, people use "gender" to mean "state of being male or female" without any connotations of either biology or sociology. That's how we should use it too.
As for the article sex and gender distinction, I wouldn't link to it. It's biased and poorly written. I've done some editing but it needs more work. For example, it quoted the American Heritage Dictionary, giving the definition of gender in its sense as a social category, but it didn't mention that that same source also lists it as a synonym for "sex"! It only quoted the part of the usage note that supported the idea that sex and gender mean different things and not the part that discussed how they mean the same thing! A while back, someone also deleted the whole "criticism" section. The article has been cherry-picked to persuade people that these words have different meanings all the time rather than to inform them of when they are used differently and how those distinctions emerged. It can be fixed, but it's not in citeable form now. Frankly, I'd delete the whole thing. The article on gender has a very good etymology and usage section that deals with the history of the word. If we must cite anything, it should be that. Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:53, 14 June 2013 (UTC)
Darkfrog, the fact is that sex and gender are sometimes synonyms and sometimes not. See, e.g., Definition 2b, in which they are definitely not synonymous. You might also actually read the sources you linked to, especially this note:

Usage Note: Some people maintain that the word sex should be reserved for reference to the biological aspects of being male or female or to sexual activity, and that the word gender should be used only to refer to sociocultural roles. Accordingly, one would say The effectiveness of the treatment appears to depend on the sex of the patient and In society, gender roles are clearly defined. In some situations this distinction avoids ambiguity, as in gender research, which is clear in a way that sex research is not.

We are not required to treat them as synonyms merely because it's possible to use the terms loosely. We are making the distinction here, and since you are unwilling to believe the substantial evidence in the archives as to that fact, it appears that we need to formally document this fact in the guideline. WhatamIdoing (talk) 15:00, 14 June 2013 (UTC)
Assuming there can be shown to be consensus for the guideline as written, with the word "gender" in its non-grammatical uses interpreted in the way you propose. I suspect that, if the matter were put to wider discussion, I wouldn't be the only one finding the whole paragraph wrong-headed from beginning to end. Victor Yus (talk) 15:15, 14 June 2013 (UTC)
WAID, the general English definition gives them as synonyms and the distinction between the two is reserved for the social sciences and gender studies. Wikipedia is a general English publication and should follow general English rules. Please note the phrases "some people maintain," "would" and "some situations" in the usage note. The AHD is not endorsing the view that gender and sex mean different things but merely reporting that it exists and how people use it (kind of like how Wikipedia is supposed to treat such topics). Also, please note the remainder of the usage note:

Usage Note: The distinction can be problematic, however. Linguistically, there isn't any real difference between gender bias and sex bias, and it may seem contrived to insist that sex is incorrect in this instance.

AHD uses its own words in "problematic," "no real difference" and "contrived." We can debate how standard is standard,, what the AHD guys were thinking and what readers are probably going to think we mean, but if your implication is that people who use "gender" to mean "state of being male or female" are using the word wrong or too loosely, the answer is very clearly NO. They are not.
Look at it this way. People refer to British punctuation as "logical punctuation." I don't like this. Calling it by that name frames American style is illogical, which it isn't. However, that is one of its names, as in that's what reliable sources call it. So I might not like that people call British style "logical," but do I get to say that they're using the word wrong or insist that they use any of the practice's other names at all times? No. "Gender" and "sex" are synonyms, and it is reasonable for people to use them as such. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:02, 14 June 2013 (UTC)

Request for clarification: external links in articles

Wikipedia:Manual of Style#External links is clear:

Do not use external links in the body of an article.

while Wikipedia:External links#Important points to remember is only slightly less definite:

2. External links should not normally be used in the body of an article.

However, I routinely see RFC ### external links (e.g., RFC 1—indeed "RFC #" causes the external link to be autogenerated in the same manner as ISBN links) used in Internet-related articles, and Template:Bibleverse etc. in biblically-related articles. While I believe both are very useful, their usage contradicts the text of the MoS as currently written. A brief search of this Talk page's archive did not turn up a relevant discussion; if you would be so kind, please clarify.—DocWatson42 (talk) 05:46, 12 June 2013 (UTC)

I think there are a very few carefully defined exceptions to the "no external links in body" policy which are allowed per practice, though as you note, the practice is not denoted anywhere. The existence of these exceptions does not invalidate the long-standing practice of not normally using external links in the body. Perhaps we should have a sort, narrowly defined list of exceptions. --Jayron32 05:58, 12 June 2013 (UTC)
To clarify my position a bit further, I also support the rule and long-standing practice of not including external links in the body of articles. I am not looking to challenge the general status quo, merely to discuss the "edge" practices and hopefully come to a reasonable consensus about them. Additionally, it just occurred to me that in practice some tables and infoboxes contain links other than official links (e.g. (off the top of my head), the "Recap" links in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs article—though those may qualify as "official links", since they link to NHL pages. I'm sure someone else can think of a better example.), so clarification of that would also be welcome. And to augment the biblical templates portion of this discussion, there is also the Cite quran template, as used for example in Sharia#Etymology.—DocWatson42 (talk) 09:26, 12 June 2013 (UTC)

Two thoughts:

  • Did you read the explanatory footnote in ELPOINTS? It doesn't directly mention WP:Magic words, but the examples that it does mention should reassure you that they are acceptable.
  • This ought to be discussed at WT:EL. WhatamIdoing (talk) 15:04, 14 June 2013 (UTC)

Print publications which have gone online (italicisation issue)

I don't quite know where else to post this, and this is likely to be read by more people anyway.

When referring to online versions of print publications which have subsequently gone online, such as The New York Times or Rolling Stone, shouldn't we be printing them un-italicised, since we are essentially referring to a website (and we do not italicise websites)?

For example, in an article about an album, in the 'Critical reception' section, if I include and cite a recent review by NME from their website, would writing "So-and-so of NME praised the album" (with "NME" un-italicised) be acceptable, since I am not referring to a print version of the publication? Lachlan Foley 03:27, 15 June 2013 (UTC)

See WP:ITALIC.—Wavelength (talk) 04:02, 15 June 2013 (UTC)

MOS compliance

Is there anywhere where I can get a template vetted for MOS compliance? -- Nbound (talk) 00:39, 11 June 2013 (UTC)

Come here for practical advice and help rather than to engage in exhaustive and pointless discussion about minor points of style? You must be insane. Anyway, to answer the question, I'm not sure there's any such formal process. Post a link to it and I'm sure someone will get round to having a look at it and offering their opinion. N-HH talk/edits 10:35, 15 June 2013 (UTC)

{{infobox Australian road}} - its just passed its first transclusion in an A-class article, and im sure there will be an FA attempt soon, so hoping to get rid of any remaining niggles that may still exist, and example of it in use can be found at Kwinana Freeway, which is the second article up for A-Class review using this template - Nbound (talk) 10:38, 15 June 2013 (UTC)

"Steep Learning Curve"

There is a discussion about the phrase "Steep Learning Curve" at Talk:Dwarf Fortress‎ that could use another set of eyes. --Guy Macon (talk) 09:26, 15 June 2013 (UTC)

Punctuation around quotation marks

When did Wikipedia, or more likely a select group of Wikipedia users, decide to make the British custom of quotation marks around punctuation mandatory? Who had the authority to decide that the British system was objectively superior to the American system? Why would Wikipedia be so obtuse? Just as Wikipedia is available in multiple languages, can it not be available in multiple different styles of language?

Most native speakers of English speak American English, not British English. It seems perfectly reasonable to at least be able to use the American style, as it will be interpreted as correct by the vast majority of English speakers reading the article.

How and when was this misguided decision made?

— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 19:37, 15 June 2013 (UTC)

Wikipedia editing is not a tug-of-war between "American" and "British" styles of writing. The policy of logical quotation marks is the result of extensive discussions in the past, and was resolved by a consensus of active English language editors from around the world. Neither "American" nor "British" (nor "Australian" nor "Jamaican", etc.) styles are automatically preferred. The overall goal is clarity and readability; the policy on quotation marks was based in part on the the principle of minimal change to the quoted material. Note that the "British" style is not automatically preferred; the policy on double quote and single quote marks is much closer to the "American" style, for practical reasons described in the Manual of Style (MOS).
The "select group of Wikipedia users" who decide recommendations in the MOS are simply the active Wikipedia editors who are interested in the topic, and their "authority" derives from their past contributions to the overall project. They have decided to have a single primary English Wikipedia, alongside a "Simple English" Wikipedia. Other language speakers (for example, French, German, Portuguese, etc.) are free to make their own decisions, and they do. I would guess that L’Académie française has considerable influence on the French Wikipedia, but the English language has no single central authority, and has developed many semi-independent authorities. The English Wikipedia MOS is just another independent authority, whose jurisdiction is the English Wikipedia. If you want to influence its decisions, read what already has been decided and written, and then make constructive suggestions. Reify-tech (talk) 21:44, 15 June 2013 (UTC)
And if anyone does decide to go through some/all of the archived threads at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Spelling and the 140 (searchable!) archives listed at the top of this page...
Then please add your findings to Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Register#National varieties of English ! ;) –Quiddity (talk) 21:51, 15 June 2013 (UTC)
The statement They have decided to have a single primary English Wikipedia, alongside a "Simple English" Wikipedia needs some qualification. Yes, there isn't a separate "American English" Wikipedia, a "British English" Wikipedia, an "Australian English" Wikipedia, etc. However, neither is there a "consistently styled English Wikipedia". It was decided, as is documented at WP:ENGVAR, to allow individual articles to be styled differently. So the English Wikipedia is an amalgam of articles each largely styled as they would be if there were separate English Wikipedias.
So the question to be answered is this: what makes this particular aspect of punctuation so special that a single style must be imposed regardless of the variant of English used in the article? In this specific case, why must native speakers of American English be required to use an ordering of closing quotes and commas/full stops which is contrary to what they are taught in school and contrary to all the main manuals of style for American English?
I should point out that I'm British, and use and prefer the "approved" WP style. But my nationality and preferences are irrelevant; over-riding a style consistent with the ENGVAR of the article may very occasionally be justified, but in this case, isn't. No-one to my knowledge has ever produced a real example of text in a Wikipedia article in which it makes any significant difference to a reader's interpretation whether the text has ," or ", . Peter coxhead (talk) 10:19, 16 June 2013 (UTC)
I am an American editor, but have always thought that the traditional American style of injecting additional punctuation into otherwise verbatim quotations was illogical, and a rigid rule for "dumbing down", to avoid actually having to teach writers to think about the logical structuring of quotations. As is pointed out in Logical quotation, some American style guides also recommend logical quotations, especially in a legal or linguistic context, where precision is essential. Professional computer organizations also prefer logical quotations, for similar reasons. In this case, the so-called British rule is much more logical, since it better preserves the integrity of the quoted text. I have edited articles in American, British, Canadian, and Australian English (as well as in French), and strive to conform to the appropriate local style in each case. Regarding quotations, I think that the Wikipedia consensus which was hammered out in the MOS is indeed the best policy to support clarity and accuracy in quotations.
As noted above, the English Wikipedia is in fact an amalgam of articles written in an assortment of national styles. The historical development of the English language has been characterized by decentralization and adaptation to local conditions. The chaotic evolution of orthography (spelling) is an unfortunate side effect, but the richness, expressiveness, and flexibility of the English language variants have contributed to its overall strength. I think that the MOS emphasis on clarity, accuracy, and readability are very appropriate for Wikipedia, which should adopt standards that best advance these goals, regardless of which historic national styles may have originated them. Reify-tech (talk) 11:49, 16 June 2013 (UTC)

The rule requiring British punctuation in all articles, even articles otherwise written in American English, was put in place because a small group of Wikipedians who edit the MoS just prefer British style and just don't like American style. This is possibly because many early Wikipedians were computer programmers, and British style is relevant when dealing with strings literal. There may have been some kind of tradeoff based on the mistaken idea that British English requires single quotation marks in all cases (it doesn't). As for "we're a single English Wikipedia," well we are, but we're one that has embraced the diversity of the English language through ENGVAR. We allow any variety of English so long as each article is internally consistent. We shouldn't allow British Classic but only Diet American. WP:LQ in its current form requires writers to use incorrect English, which makes the whole encyclopedia look stupid. It should be replaced with a rule following ENGVAR. On top of requiring incorrect English, this rule also has very low compliance and gets challenged a lot. This is the [second challenge from an outsider] in a thirty-one-day period. As for "but American style is illogical," can you point out any real-life or Wikipedia case of American English punctuation causing even one case of confusion or error introduced in subsequent editing? This is non-rhetorical. If you've seen American punctuation cause real problems, that would be very relevant. I've never seen or been shown any non-hypothetical problems in all the many, many times that this rule has been challenged. In the absence of any evidence that either of the two styles performs better than the other, "This is more logical" boils down to "I just like it more." For all we know, the human brain processes American style more easily than British, just like it processes sans-serif fonts more easily if the light is coming from behind the words and serif fonts more easily if it's coming from behind the reader. British spelling is illogical but we require it in British articles because it's part of what British English is, and it doesn't do the readers a bit of harm. We should do the same for American punctuation. Darkfrog24 (talk) 18:39, 16 June 2013 (UTC)

Reify, Wikipedia is not a legal publication or a computer science publication or a literary criticism publication. It is a general English publication. We should follow general English rules, and general English rules require American punctuation in American contexts. That's why we don't use capital letters for the names of bird species even though the ornithology journals all do. Our readers have different needs.
A few weeks ago, we did this "vote with sources" thing where we dug around looking for different style guides and what they said about this punctuation issue. [6] I'd have loved your input there. Darkfrog24 (talk) 18:46, 16 June 2013 (UTC)
Now, now, don't drag capitalization of bird names into this discussion; I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities to go over this yet again elsewhere. :-) (For the record, Wikipedia does currently use capital letters for the English names of birds, although this is disputed, as per MOS:CAPS#Common names.) Peter coxhead (talk) 21:21, 16 June 2013 (UTC)

When we discussed logical punctuation in some depth just a few weeks ago, I saw no consensus in favor of adopting either UK or US punctuation across the board. The closest we came to a consensus was some support for the idea of adopting a system similar to WP:ENGVAR (using UK punctuation in articles on UK topics, and US punctuation in articles on US topics)... Perhaps it is time to have a wider RFC on that idea? Blueboar (talk) 19:07, 16 June 2013 (UTC)

I can get behind that, both the RfC and an ENGVAR-based rule. Any hey, if allowing American punctuation on an ENGVAR basis turns out to cause problems (despite not causing any now), we can just change the rule back later. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:19, 16 June 2013 (UTC)
I think it is time to have an RfC on an ENGVAR-based rule. Perhaps the best approach would be to use something like the language at MOS:NOTUSA: "Punctuation should be consistent within any given article, and congruent with the variety of English used by that article." "Congruent with" seems to me better than insisting on a particular style of punctuation for each ENGVAR as it's possible that, say, LQ might be more appropriate in a computing article even if it is in American English.
(To make my personal position crystal clear and not be accused of bad faith later, I support this as one of several changes needed to ensure that the MOS supports styles naturally used by good content editors, rather than styles specific to Wikipedia.) Peter coxhead (talk) 21:21, 16 June 2013 (UTC)
Seems inappropriate to me. It's related to ENGVAR, but it's not correct to say that most American texts use a system other than LQ. Our article Logical quotation notes that some British sources prefer "American style" in fiction, and some American style guides suggest "British style" should be used. The only sensible choices would be for Wikipedia to specify the system (as is done now), or to leave it up to the first editor. As an additional justification for the current use, Wikipedia is a technical publication, and one could claim that ENGVAR should apply the style guides appropriate for American technical publications, that is LQ. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 22:44, 16 June 2013 (UTC)
Actually, Arthur, it is not a matter of some American style guides supporting American style quotation punctuation, and some American style guides supporting logical quotation/British style quotation punctuation. Since the most recent MOS talk page discussion on this point (now found in Archive 140), I have been steadily researching the issue in my free time and accumulating American references that support one form of the quotation punctuation or the other. To date, I have have found precisely one American style guide that supports using "logical" quotation, and over twenty major American style guides that do not. It was previously misrepresented that the American Bar Association required LQ in the ABA Journal and its other publications; that has now been shown to be false. Based on that research, the style guide of the Linguistic Society of America is the only one that currently requires the use of LQ. Unless someone can cite another American style guide that requires LQ, we can stop saying "some American style guides require LQ," and more accurately say "one American style guide requires LQ." That's a big difference. I will post an updated list of American style guides and their positions on quotation punctuation in the next 24 hours. Dirtlawyer1 (talk) 23:07, 16 June 2013 (UTC)
A. Rubin, it absolutely is correct to say that most American texts use a style other than British, though it would be even more accurate to say "almost all." They do. American texts that don't use American punctuation exist, but they are pretty rare. American style is flat-out required by almost all of them. (Addendum to Dirtlawyer: The style guide of the American Chemical Society also requires British style. I've seen it myself. So we can knock that up to "two.")
As someone who once worked as a technical writer, I must inform you that no Wikipedia is not a technical publication. It's not an instruction manual or an MSDS or a professional journal article. Most U.S. style guides that apply to the sciences, such as AMA and APA, require American punctuation. Even NASA requires American punctuation in its documents. Darkfrog24 (talk) 01:37, 17 June 2013 (UTC)
Even granting those assertions, it only shows that if ENGVAR were applied to the guideline, then "American style" would be used in articles otherwise using "American English". That is not, in itself, a reason why the present "LQ" guideline should not be used. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 01:53, 17 June 2013 (UTC)
As for the specific proposal, that doesn't make sense in either American or British (aka "international") English. "...congruent with"? — Arthur Rubin (talk) 01:57, 17 June 2013 (UTC)
Arthur, British style quotation punctuation is no more "international" than American style quotation punctuation. In fact, as pointed out above, so-called American style punctuation is predominant in Canada, too, but Canadian style books don't call it "American sytle"; they just call it proper punctuation. It really is time to pop this bubble that quotation punctuation is somehow "mixed" in North America; it is not. The overwhelming majority of American and Canadian writers, publications and style guides use and endorse traditional quotation punctuation (a.k.a. "American style"). Logical quotation/British style quotation punctuation is an eccentric, odd and distinctly minority practice among English-speaking North Americans. Furthermore, given the approximately 350 million Americans and Canadians who use traditional quotation punctuation, it is also clearly the majority practice in the English-speaking world among the 450 million or so native English speakers. Let's be honest enough to acknowledge the real situation. Dirtlawyer1 (talk) 02:42, 17 June 2013 (UTC)
I'm having trouble tracking you there, A. Rubin. Yes, if WP:LQ were replaced with an ENGVAR rule, American style would be required in articles written in American or Canadian English and British style would be required in articles written in British English. No one is advocating that the "use British in every article" rule be replaced with a "use American in every article" rule, if that's what you were getting at. But yes, we would have to throw out the current WP:LQ to do this, because it does say "use British in every article." Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:36, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

Empty references and similar sections

Similarly to the question above, the same editor(s) have spent a good deal of time eliminating empty sections (by standalone edits), usually empty References sections. Does the manual of style have anything to say about that? Were there any discussions? (talk) 20:37, 16 June 2013 (UTC)

Contiguous vs. continental United States

Has there been any discussion on what term to use to refer to the contiguous United States?? "Continental" literally includes Alaska, so I suggest we use "contiguous". Any disagreements?? Georgia guy (talk) 18:27, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

It is more of a vocabulary question than a style question. But yes... "Contiguous" is the correct term when referring to the "Lower 48 States" that directly boarder on other States... while "Continental" is used when including Alaska, but not Hawaii. Blueboar (talk) 18:55, 17 June 2013 (UTC)
While it is in some sense technically correct, prepare to be misunderstood if you use the term "continental United States" to include Alaska. My understanding is that that particular usage is mostly found in Alaska. That's not to say you can't use it, but make sure you explain it. --Trovatore (talk) 21:40, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
As noted in Contiguous United States, both terms have changed definition over time and both are used ambiguously. --  Gadget850 talk 14:22, 27 June 2013 (UTC)

Lead of seven paragraphs

I need a quick third opinion as to whether the current lead of Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (seen here) is MOS-compliant. It consists of seven paragraphs of one or two sentences apiece. Is this acceptable under WP:LEADLENGTH and WP:PARAGRAPH? It seems odd to me, but perhaps I'm being too rigid in my reading of these guidelines. Thanks, -- Khazar2 (talk) 03:15, 23 June 2013 (UTC)

I would absolutely condense those graphs to no more than four. GabeMc (talk|contribs) 03:21, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
Is that only your opinion or do you believe that article's Introduction is not MOS-compliant? Would bulletpointing help? SMP0328. (talk) 03:24, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
It is my opinion that the lead is not currently MoS compliant and I would not advise the use of bulletpointing for the same reason. GabeMc (talk|contribs) 03:29, 23 June 2013 (UTC)

Vertical space, specifically in the "footer"

There are one or two editors who have devoted at least a few hundred separate edits to the reduction of vertical space in articles, often at the end of the article, between the text of the last section (external links, references) and usually the first navbox template (but sometime just above other "footer" elements like the bottom of the page itself, category or other tags like persondata). The type of vertical spacing removed is most often a simple double blank line, but other kinds like {{-}}, <br> and variations, or a double blank like containing one HTML comment are also among the constructs eliminated. Does the MOS make any recommendations in this regard? I've searched the archives, but couldn't find anything conclusive... (talk) 20:37, 16 June 2013 (UTC)

Vertical space: Discussion about previous discussions

Formerly Discussion about previous discussions

This RfC gained consensus that the blank space you are talking about (below the last link of ==External links==, for example) is not to be added. Note that bots do remove the blank space you are talking about so adding spacing would be oppositional and disruptive.Curb Chain (talk) 08:09, 17 June 2013 (UTC)
I don't quite see the consensus there, well, for anything. You certainly supported your own proposal. User:SMcCandlish opposed adding it to the MOS ans so did User:Apteva although the latter seemed to like the whitespace, but wanted it added via the nav templates themselves. (Is this even feasible?) User:Victor Yus also preferred the visuals with whitespace; he also opposed your article edits removing the spaces. User:Izno opposed your proposed addition to MOS but he also opposed the "mass addition of spacing". User:Beyond My Ken supported adding them manually at least to some articles. User:Rich Farmbrough and User:Agnosticaphid did not have a clear opinion on the visuals, but agreed with you that site-wide solution is desirable. Rich even said a site-wide solution was already introduced by CSS, but even you, Curb Chain, seem to think no such thing is currently in place. That doesn't read like much of a consensus to me. Some issues were confounded, so it's probably best to separate them. (talk) 11:30, 17 June 2013 (UTC)
I am revising the heading of this subsection from Discussion about previous discussions to Vertical space: Discussion about previous discussions, in harmony with WP:TPOC, point 13 (Section headings). Please see Microcontent: How to Write Headlines, Page Titles, and Subject Lines.
Wavelength (talk) 00:40, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

Vertical space: Current MOS rules

Formerly Current MOS rules

WP:ORDER (version of 14:07, 2 June 2013) treats navigation templates and persondata sections and category sets and stub templates as sections. MOS:HEAD (version of 20:37, 16 June 2013) says "Include one blank line above the heading, and optionally one blank line below it, for readability in the edit window." These entities lack headings in the usual sense, so a blank line would be placed immediately above the border or content of any one of them.
Wavelength (talk) 14:56, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

Well, since they have no heading, it's also wikilegal to have, for example:

 Last sentence of the article.
 <!-- mandatory blank line before the nonexistent heading -->
 <!-- no real heading (zero-length) --><!-- optional blank line after the nonexistent heading -->
 {{some nav template}}

That gives two separating blank lines, the 2nd one being optional, but MOS-valid. (talk) 20:29, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

Also I'm not sure if those rules imply anything about

 Last sentence of the article.
 <!-- mandatory blank line before the nonexistent heading -->
 <!-- no real heading (zero-length) -->{{some nav template}}

because {{-}} is not a blank line in code-editing mode. (talk) 20:49, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

I'm suprised that you would make the claim that "one or two editors" make these edits. They are completely covered by MOS, so I'm not surprised that I'm only aware of one of two editors that do add these whitespaces: One admits that he has bad eyesight, the other only ever mention "better looks" for a reason.
  • First and formost: "Modifications in font size, blank space, and color [...] are an issue for the Wikipedia site-wide style sheet, and should be reserved for special cases only." - That alone makes it clear that any ad-hoc style changes should be avoided.
  • Later on, the MOS explicitly forbids exactly these comments: "Check that your invisible comment does not inadvertently change the formatting, for example by introducing white space in read mode."
  • There is also Help:Whitespace: "Comments in the wikicode added by can contribute to whitespace. Format the comment to avoid this, [...]"
  • Last, Help:Hidden text makes exactly the same point: "Inappropriate uses for hidden text [...] Creating whitespace."
The first point is the most important. While the other three might go either way, the first point can't really be any different: The alternative would be that every article would constantly be battled for formatting, with devastating effects (among others) to WP:ACCESS and mobile devices.
There is no other way, if you want to change the space, go change the style sheet. -- (talk) 19:16, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
I'm not convinced that the intent of the first sentence is two prohibit two blank lines in wiki code anywhere. The context with fonts and colors seems to be about changing the letterspacing of fonts using <span> etc. If the intended reading of that rule is to prohibit two blank lines of wiki code, then the prohibition needs to be stated explicitly, because it's far too tenuous of an inference. As for the rules about the comments, they don't prohibit adding a comment to a double-blank line if the double blank line is intentional. (talk) 21:19, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
You are far too literal in your understanding of style sheets. Every visual aspect of a web page should be handled by style sheets. In many ways, if it could be done with a style sheet, it should be done with a style sheet. This is not only true for Wikipedia, it's true for every web page.
If you miss an explicit prohibition of "two blank lines of wiki code", would you not also miss an explicit prohibition of "three blank lines of wiki code"? What about four?
I already mentioned the alternative: If visual aspects of the article would be subject to ad-hoc changes in HTML, many articles would suffer from constant back-and-forth between various ways to manage white space. WP:ACCESS would suffer, as would mobile devices.
Please state a few advantages of dealing with this issue in other ways than in the style sheet. -- (talk) 21:44, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
I wondered about your use of intentional. It turns out that BMK POV-pushed his view of thing into the MOS. Not for the first time, and he was told after the first time that he shouldn't do it. -- (talk) 21:51, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Cough... (talk) 23:10, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
I am revising the heading of this subsection from Current MOS rules to Vertical space: Current MOS rules, in harmony with WP:TPOC, point 13 (Section headings). Please see Microcontent: How to Write Headlines, Page Titles, and Subject Lines.
Wavelength (talk) 00:40, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

Vertical space: Technical question

Formerly Technical question

Is there a feasible, site-wide solution by which the amount of spacing above the first nav-box can be set? (Keep in mind that navboxes can be part of a stack.) (talk) 11:30, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

We already have a site-wide CSS rule that goes
ol + table.navbox, ul + table.navbox { margin-top: 0.5em; }
- what this says is "when a navbox follows either a numbered list or a bulleted list, make sure there is at least 0.5em of space between the list and the navbox". That 0.5em could be increased to a larger value. If the problem only shows when a navbox follows some other structure, we could broaden the selectors to cover other elements besides ol and ul which might precede the navbox. --Redrose64 (talk) 13:16, 17 June 2013 (UTC)
Does that actually do anything? I don't see any vertical spacing difference between [7] and [8]. (talk) 13:43, 17 June 2013 (UTC)
Actually, looking very carefully, I observed the opposite effect: the actual list seems to have one or two pixels less space in Firefox. (talk) 13:47, 17 June 2013 (UTC)
Your first example doesn't use a list, this is true; but HTMLTidy has wrapped the word "something" in a <p>...</p> element, which has a bottom margin of 6px. If you have Firefox version 21 (not FF v 19, I'm not sure about FF v 20) you can verify these figures by using the "Inspect element" feature: right-click on the word "something", select "Inspect Element (Q)", and at bottom right, click the "Box Model tab. That produces a series of nested rectangles, with their dimensions. In the centre there will be the space allocated to the word "something" - for me it's 1083x19, although the first figure will differ with various monitor sizes and resolutions. Below that is a zero, this is the padding-bottom:; directly below that is a 6, this is the margin-bottom:. Next, in the box at lower left, click on the row directly below the </p> - this should be <table class="navbox" style="border-spacing:0;" cellspacing="0"> - and observe that the box model now shows "auto" as the value for margin-top:.
Now switch to your second example, and repeat the exercise: you should find that the </li> has a bottom margin of 1 and the <table> has a top margin of 5. --Redrose64 (talk) 18:12, 17 June 2013 (UTC)
I'm not entirely sure I understand you, but I've tried in IE 10 as well, with the same result. So the extra CSS spacing, even if it is working as intended code-wise, does not add any extra spacing from the user's perspective; the spacing looks the same as after a normal paragraph (because a <p>...</p> paragraph has some vertical spacing after it, but a list element does not have any, so the "+" space between a list element and a navbox just compensates for that lack of trailing space, minus a pixel or so). (talk) 20:06, 17 June 2013 (UTC)
OK, it can be demonstrated, but you'll need to register an account. When you are logged in, go to Special:MyPage/common.css and add the following line:
ol + table.navbox, ul + table.navbox { margin-top: 5em; }
- it's just like the earlier example except that is specifies a much deeper gap, so that you can see the effect. Having saved that, view your two examples from before - the one without the bullet should be unchanged, the one with the bullet should show a gap ten times as deep as previous. Of course, ten times the size is somewhat in excess of what people will really want, but it demonstrates that it can be done. The gap may be set to any value that is legal for a length in CSS. --Redrose64 (talk) 20:39, 17 June 2013 (UTC)
I am revising the heading of this subsection from Technical question to Vertical space: Technical question, in harmony with WP:TPOC, point 13 (Section headings). Please see Microcontent: How to Write Headlines, Page Titles, and Subject Lines.
Wavelength (talk) 00:40, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

Vertical space: Esthetic question

Formerly Esthetic question

How much extra space should there be above the first navbox? It seems the main choices here are "none" and "one extra blank line", although if a more fine-grained approach is technically feasible, by all means specify in your favorite typographic units. (By the general MOS rule, if there is no site-wide consensus on how much, it will "defer to the style used by the first major contributor" in any given article.) (talk) 11:40, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

Here's my opinion on this. If you look at Edgewood Arsenal experiments#External links you see that most vertical space is between the last actual paragraph and the "See also" section. There is a bit less vertical space between the "See also" and "References", probably because the list elements don't have space after, whereas the paragraph element does (as discussed with Redrose64 above). There is slightly more space after the multi-column References list. The least vertical space of all is between the "External links" list elements and navboxes! This makes the navboxes look as is they are part of the last section (whichever that may happen to be), rather than be a section of their own. So, I think the CSS spacing above navboxes should be increased to make it look like the spacing between the paragraph element and the heading element. (talk) 23:43, 18 June 2013 (UTC)
As another comparison, if you look at The Japan Times#External links, an article with no navboxes, there is considerably more space after the last EL element when it's followed by just the categories box. (talk) 02:05, 20 June 2013 (UTC)
That space is not due to the bulleted list of external links, nor to any part of the article text. The category box (which should be present in every article - if it isn't, give the article an {{uncategorised}}) has class=catlinks which includes the styling margin-top: 1em;. You'll find a gap of similar size above the category box in articles with navboxes, such as Didcot Parkway railway station. --Redrose64 (talk) 11:52, 20 June 2013 (UTC)
I wasn't saying that the list was causing the extra space. But I did find the more generous space above the category box more pleasing. Since that one is 1em, I suggest that the CSS "plus space" between list elements and navboxes also be increased to 1em (from the current value of 0.5em). (talk) 16:06, 20 June 2013 (UTC)

─────────────────────────As one of the primary editors who have argued for the need for visual space separating navboxes from the text of the final hierarchical section (usually "External links"), I do not think that it's necessary to have a full blank line there -- I'd be happy with, say, the equivalent of half a line. The only reason I use a full line is that it's the only way I know of to provide the visual separation that the system provides (for instance) to every hierarchical section to set them off from the text above. Not being familiar with the coding of these things, I don't know how much space is provided for each new section, but whatever it is should be sufficient to set off the navboxes from the text above and dissipate the visual crowding that results if there is no space. The navboxes are, in effect, a new section without a header (and attempts by other editors to add a header to them have been consistently rejected), and they need the same kind of spacing that any other new section is given. Because navboxes are a relatively new addition, and dealing with them has been something of an afterthought, that spacing has never been integrated into the system, but I'm pleased to hear that it is technically possible to do so, and urge that it be adopted. Beyond My Ken (talk) 00:54, 25 June 2013 (UTC)

At least two people told you at more than on occasion that there are better ways to add white space - you ignored it.
At any rate, I'm glad that you now acknowledge the existence of style sheets. Redrose64 explains in #Technical question how you use a personal style sheet. If you experiment with the values given (and remove the additional white lines), you should be able to provide valuable feedback to whomever is responsible for the style sheet.
Any change is apparently made to one of these, so that's where the discussion about details should happen. -- (talk) 18:47, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
I'm ignoring your personalization of issues with Beyond, I will reply to your last point however, as I'm hatting this: that's a help page with practically zero discussion on its talk page. If discussion about global CSS changes needs to be held/solicited someplace else, that help page doesn't look like it's the right place. I did leave a note on WP:VPT pointing to this page when this thread got started. Anyway, if you think another venue is the right place, you should drop a pointer to this discussion over there. I take it you have no opinion on the amount of CSS spacing, (talk) 21:39, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for the pointer, I wasn't sure about the best location to address this.
I have an opinion about the amount of spacing, but it would be distracting right now. -- (talk) 22:25, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
You should maybe also kick the habit. -- (talk) 18:55, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
And perhaps you should edit under your account name, and not edit stealthily as an IP to avoid scrutiny of your behavior, which is a violarion of WP:SOCK – a policy – whereas nothing that I've done is a violation of any policy. Beyond My Ken (talk) 05:06, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
So instead of saying anything in your favour, you immediately switch to personal attacks. This is not a war, A "good offense" is not the "best defense". -- (talk) 17:52, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
  • I'm going to make this brief, since I do not want to get in the middle of a personal battle between BMK, whomever he thinks this (these) IP editors are and the actual IP editors regardless of if they are indeed whom they are thought to be. I think there should be some whitespace above the first navbox at the bottom, and I think the best way to accomplish this is to create an id section in the navbox template itself like id="navbox-top-space" and create a new line for common.css that reads #navbox-top-space{ margin-top: 2em; } and then finally offer some instructions on the navbox template page or a help page that is relevant that people can set #navbox-top-space{ diplay: none; } in their Special:MyPage/common.css or Special:MyPage/skin.css if they don't want the space. Hopefully this offers a solution for everyone and perhaps Redrose64 would be willing to implement this idea or something similar? Technical 13 (talk) 14:51, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
Each id= must be unique within a given document. A Wikipedia page may contain more than one navbox, therefore, to place id="navbox-top-space" into {{navbox}} will yield invalid HTML. --Redrose64 (talk) 15:32, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
Redrose64, that is exactly why I specified an id=... It would make it so only the first instance (top navbox) would display the extra space just like {{Tracked}} only updates the first listing for each bug number on a page using MediaWiki:Gadget-BugStatusUpdate.js. Technical 13 (talk) 16:19, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
Not necessarily. A browser confronted witb invalid HTML, such as more than one instance of id="navbox-top-space" has several choices: (i) ignore all and don't apply any styling; (ii) apply the styling only to the first instance, ignore the others (this is what you are hoping will happen); (iii) apply the styling to all of them (this is what most popular browsers including Firefox 21, Google Chrome 27, IE 7, Opera 12 and Safari 5 do); (iv) throw an error. It's very easy to test; first you need a short HTML doc:
<!DOCTYPE html>
    <title>HTML Test</title>
      div { margin: 0; }
      div#MyID { margin-top: 5em; }
    <h1>HTML Test</h1>
    <div>This is a DIV with zero margin all round</div>
    <div id=MyID>This is a DIV with <code>id=MyID</code> which sets the top margin to 5 em</div>
    <div>This is a DIV with zero margin all round</div>
    <div id=MyID>This is another DIV with <code>id=MyID</code></div>
    <div>This is a DIV with zero margin all round</div>
Open a text editor (like WordPad), copy that in, save it as plain text, and then open it in your browser. Then look to see if there'a a big gap above "This is another DIV with id=MyID" or not. The thing is, the specs don't say what a browser should do with invalid HTML like this. --Redrose64 (talk) 16:49, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
I am revising the heading of this subsection from Esthetic question to Vertical space: Esthetic question, in harmony with WP:TPOC, point 13 (Section headings). Please see Microcontent: How to Write Headlines, Page Titles, and Subject Lines.
Wavelength (talk) 00:40, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

Blatant POV-Pushing by Users Beyond my Ken, MarnetteD and Binksternet

Please see the closing admins note on this ANI thread which notes that this thread is entirely inappropriate Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/IncidentArchive820#User:Beyond My Ken changes other.27s talk page comments

Regarding MOS:LQ

I am seeking clarification regarding the proper method for including/excluding punctuation in quoted material. For examples:

  • "Lindsay Planer of Allmusic describes the song as a 'scathing rocker' in which lyrically Harrison 'forgoes his trademark arid wit for a decidedly more acerbic and direct approach'."
  • "Leng praises the performance of all the musicians on the recording, particularly Keltner, and describes it as 'one of Harrison's most accomplished pieces'."

While both of the terminal punctuation points are included in the quoted material, User:Stfg has recently informed me that these periods should be placed outside the quote marks. What is the best practice? In the 16th edition of CMOS, section 6.9: Punctuation in relation to closing quotations marks, it states, "Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single ... This is a traditional style, in use well before the first edition of this manual (1906)."(p.309) Also, CMOS gives this example: "Growing up, we always preferred to 'bear those ills we have.' 'Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,' she replied."(p.309) In the example they include both the comma and the terminal punctuation point inside the quote marks. Any thoughts? GabeMc (talk|contribs) 23:25, 22 June 2013 (UTC)

The discussion we had about it on my talk page is here, where difficulties in the wording of MOS:LQ are described. I'd welcome clarification too. --Stfg (talk) 23:36, 22 June 2013 (UTC)
Don't you mean to say: "I'd also welcome clarification"? GabeMc (talk|contribs) 05:03, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
  • From New Hart's Rules (Oxford University Press, 2005): "In US practice, commas and full points are set inside the closing quotation mark regardless of whether they are part of the quoted material ... This style is also followed in much of British fiction and journalism."(p.155) GabeMc (talk|contribs) 00:13, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
  • From Fowler's Modern English Usage (Oxford University Press, 2004): "All signs of punctuation used with words in quotation marks must be placed according to sense. If an extract ends with a point ... let that point be included before the closing quotation mark; but not otherwise."(p.646) GabeMc (talk|contribs) 00:24, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
  • From The Cambridge Guide to English Usage (Cambridge University Press, 2004): "In American style ... [the full stop] always goes inside the quotes, as also for most Canadian editors ... The North American practice (put it inside) is still the easiest to apply".(p.455) GabeMc (talk|contribs) 00:32, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
  • From The Economist Style Guide (online): "For the relative placing of quotation marks and punctuation, follow Hart's rules. Thus, if an extract ends with a full stop or question-mark, put the punctuation before the closing inverted commas." GabeMc (talk|contribs) 00:36, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
  • From The Times Style and Usage Guide (Time Books, 2003): "Punctuation marks go inside the inverted commas if they relate to the words quoted".(p.139) GabeMc (talk|contribs) 00:43, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
  • From The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage (Three Rivers Press, 1999): "Periods and commas, in American usage, always go inside the closing quotation marks, regardless of grammatical logic."(p.280) GabeMc (talk|contribs) 00:48, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
  • From The Associated Press Stylebook (Basic Books, 2011): "Placement with other punctuation: Follow these long-established printers' rules: —The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks."(p.381) GabeMc (talk|contribs) 00:55, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
  • From the MLA Handbook (7th edition, 2009): "By convention, commas and periods that directly follow quotations go inside the closing quotation marks."(p.103) GabeMc (talk|contribs) 01:27, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
  • From The UPI Style Book & Guide to Newswriting (Martin, Cook, 2004): "The period and the comma always go within the quotation marks."(p.208) GabeMc (talk|contribs) 01:51, 23 June 2013 (UTC)

"The North American practice (put it inside) is still the easiest to apply"—I don't understand why it's "the easiest". This list demonstrates that it's not really a trans-Atlantic issue. And some US academic journals, I believe, insist the other way round. Are the double quotes from your initial examples, or did you insert them for the purpose of this thread? Tony (talk) 00:53, 23 June 2013 (UTC)

Tony, I'm not sure what you mean. I quoted several style guides and so I put the quoted material inside double quotes. This thread isn't about whether or not we should use single or double inverted commas, its about whether or not commas and periods should be placed inside quoted material when they appear there in the original source. GabeMc (talk|contribs) 00:59, 23 June 2013 (UTC)

You have confused your point by requoting the material. Here are you two pieces and my reactions:

  • Lindsay Planer of Allmusic describes the song as a "scathing rocker" in which lyrically Harrison "forgoes his trademark arid wit for a decidedly more acerbic and direct approach".
I'd put the period back inside, since the quote seems to be clearly a sentence ending there.
  • Leng praises the performance of all the musicians on the recording, particularly Keltner, and describes it as "one of Harrison's most accomplished pieces".
I'd leave that one outside, since the material quoted is just a noun phrase, even if it was originally at the end of a sentence. Dicklyon (talk) 00:56, 23 June 2013 (UTC)

Tony, re your above comment: "I don't understand why it's 'the easiest'." See Dicklyon's above comments. If placement is situational, then the rules are inherently more complex. This thread is some proof of that, since Dicklyon and Stfg obviously do not agree and since Stfg reverted me under the assumption that he was correct and that I wasn't. So how could we expect newer editors to understand the distinction if two of our finest veterans cannot agree? Hence, it would be simpler/easier to just follow the advice from the UK and US style guides, IMO. GabeMc (talk|contribs) 01:11, 23 June 2013 (UTC)

Yes, principals that require thought are in some sense less "easy". But applying thought come naturally to some; it's not hard. Where people disagree on which is most logical, it probably doesn't matter much. Dicklyon (talk) 02:39, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
I'm concerned about inserting punctuation that isn't there in the original that is being quoted; and the disjuncture between everyone's treatment (of parenthetical wording), and "of quoted material." I have also seen sentence-level commas inserted into ''an italicised portion,'' which is a bit weird, isn't it? Tony (talk) 02:56, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
As I understand the principle ;p of LQ, it’s to prevent a false inference that a stop comes from the source text. I don’t think it demands that they always be reproduced: whether or not to include them, at least where the quotation comprises less than a full sentence, should be a matter for the writer’s discretion. I read Fowler’s “according to sense” above as referring not only to preservation of the original meaning, but also to the manner in which the quotation is integrated with the framing sentence.—Odysseus1479 02:58, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
Please see my reference—Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 140#Glaring grammar error in a policy here (WP:LQ) (May 2013)—to comments by Noetica in February 2010 (Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Archive 113#Noetica's advice).
Wavelength (talk) 03:05, 23 June 2013 (UTC)

I think the usage of the so-called "American Style" and "British style" for quoted items depends on whether or not the quoted material is a full sentence. If the quoted material is a full sentence, then the punctuation goes before the last quotation mark. If the quoted material is not a full sentence, punctuation goes after the last quotation mark. That way, "American Style" can be for full-sentence quotes, and "British Style" for non-full-sentence quotes.

Why was it even established that, in the "American style", punctuation has to go before the last quotation mark every time, regardless of whether the quote is a full sentence or just a fragment? Jim856796 (talk) 20:50, 23 June 2013 (UTC)

The usual story is that it has something to do with not breaking small pieces of movable type. I have never really understood why it was supposed to help, and the story may be nonsense for all I know, but it is at least the story one hears. --Trovatore (talk) 20:57, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
Agreed, as for example in the alt.usage.english FAQ (although sometimes it’s not breakage but movement that’s said to be the problem). The only reason given by Fowler for what he calls the “conventional” style (which he didn’t favour) is “on the ground that this has a more pleasing appearance” (second ed. Gowers). Some stronger language of his, probably from the first edition, is quoted on that FAQ page.—Odysseus1479 23:33, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
The history of American-style quotation and punctuation rules is as described but not really relevant anymore. I prefer a more logicial approach, in which sentences that are entirely in quotes have their punctuation similarly enclosed. Similarly, if punctuation "belongs" to the quoted text then it should be quoted. That being said, I disagree with Dicklyon's analysis of the first example; since the quoted text is a sentence fragment then the period logically belongs outside the quotes to end the entire sentence (and not just the quoted material). In practice, I almost always leave the period outside when quoting a sentence fragment but that's a personal preference. As to why the American rules are "easier", well I guess that's because it makes arguments such as mine with Dicklyon moot. :-) Peace, Dusty|💬|You can help! 15:41, 24 June 2013 (UTC)

───────────────────────── Perhaps the solution is to place the disputed marks above one another, thus: This style is "easier." Or perhaps not – what would editors do without such disputes to occupy their time? :-) (Anyway it probably doesn't work in all browsers.) Peter coxhead (talk) 16:13, 24 June 2013 (UTC)

I wish there were an easy & reliable way to do that for decimal points and DMS/HMS symbols, which are usually typeset that way.—Odysseus1479 08:30, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
The current rule on Wikipedia is use the British rules in all articles, even ones otherwise written in American English. This rule shouldn't be in place because it flat-out requires incorrect punctuation, but it is in place. Here's how to use it:
Wikipedia's required practice: Because you are quoting complete sentences, place the periods according to sense. That would be outside the single quotes but inside the double quotes, as Dicklyon describes.
But your actual question was best practice. Best practice would be replacing WP:LQ and using an ENGVAR-based rule in which, if the article were written in a national variety of English that follows American practice, to put the periods inside both the single and double quotation marks.
As for preventing false inferences, think about this: Can you name one time, on Wikipedia or off, when you've ever witnessed or heard of anyone getting confused or making a mistake because of American English punctuation? It's even less often than someone thinking that "centre" is pronounced "sen-treh." In the absence of any difference in performance, "this is more logical" boils down to "I happen to like this more." It's perfectly valid to have personal preferences, as Dusty puts it, but we shouldn't base rules on them. Darkfrog24 (talk) 17:29, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
It doesn't need to be complicated at all. The question should be simply: is the punctuation part of the quoted material, or not? If it is, it belongs inside the quotes; if not, it goes outside. --Redrose64 (talk) 18:56, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
Another way of thinking about it is that . (for example) goes exactly where ? or ! would go. Did he say "No"?He said "No". She said "Why should I do it?"She said "I should do it."
(However, I still believe that articles written in American English should be consistent and use what is clearly standard American punctuation.) Peter coxhead (talk) 19:13, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
I don't know about that example, PC. "No" can be a complete sentence, and that would place the period inside the quotation marks under British rules. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:15, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
Sure. The point is that when the placement of . is determined by the same considerations as the placement of ? or ! there are the same choices: He said "No"! (surprise at what he said) or He said "No!" (he spoke forcefully). Type setters' quotation makes it simpler for . and , but doesn't affect the other punctuation marks. Peter coxhead (talk) 21:50, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
  • Re: "The current rule on Wikipedia is use the British rules in all articles, even ones otherwise written in American English." Is this statement accurate? If so, why? GabeMc (talk|contribs) 20:20, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
It's accurate but, in my view, misstated. The correct statement is, "use logical punctuation in all articles, including those written (not 'otherwise written') in American English". Using logical punctuation does not prevent the text from being in American English. --Trovatore (talk) 21:48, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
The statement is entirely accurate. "British punctuation" is also called "logical punctuation," and many of the regulars on this board prefer the second name. I find it a bit of a misnomer. The most logical way to write is the way that will be understood by one's readers and present the material well, and the two practices have little in the way of measurable differences in those two respects.
Using British punctuation prevents the text from being in correct American English, just as spelling "harbor" with a U prevents it from being in correct American spelling.
As for why the rule is in place, it's because many regulars on this board like British style a lot more than they like American style. I also dug through the archives and found one reference to a compromise between American and British English, the idea that Wikipedia would use double quotes all the time (under the mistaken belief that British punctuation requires single quotes) in exchange for using British punctuation around quotation marks. My personal take on the matter is that a disproportionate number of early Wikipedians were computer programmers, and using British style can be advantageous when dealing with raw strings of characters. However, that advantage disappears when the reader is a human being instead of a computer. Darkfrog24 (talk) 23:43, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
It is in fact misstated. So-called "American" punctuation is not American at all; it was used in Britain until not so long ago. Typography is not the same thing as spelling — typesetting is arguably not part of the language at all. We should use logical punctuation because it is, in fact, more logical, at least in the sense that it more closely reflects the underlying logic of the sentence. That is not in and of itself the same as being more "logical" in the sense of being the more rational choice; that's a separate issue, but my position on that one is clear. --Trovatore (talk) 23:50, 24 June 2013 (UTC)
Considering that I'm the one who made the statement, I'm the authority on whether or not it is a misstatement. It isn't. I said exactly what I meant to say. Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:48, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Actually, Trovatore, to the extent that the various British and American style guides describe the differences between predominant style of quotation punctuation used in the United States and Canada and the system used by a majority in Britain, they invariably refer to them as "American style" and "British style." The phrase "logical quotation" is virtually never used in the reliable sources. You can call it whatever you want, but let's at least acknowledge what the actual sources call the two different systems. As for whether there is a distinct American style, at last count there were only two significant American style guides among literally dozens that advocate the use of British style/logical quotation. So, please let's acknowledge that reality and stop pretending that the American style is not the predominant system in both Canada and the United States. Dirtlawyer1 (talk) 00:13, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Yes, it is the predominant system in the US. Nevertheless it is not "American". As an American I object to having my country's name associated with an inferior punctuation scheme, even if (unfortunately) it is the one most used here. --Trovatore (talk) 00:21, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
As I said above, Trovatore, you may call the American style whatever you want as a matter of personal preference, but let's also acknowledge that The Chicago Manual of Style, The New York Times, The Cambridge Guide to English Usage and numerous other American and British style books call them "American style" and the "British style" . . . Mind you, these "sources" are not five guys having an argument about inferior and most used punctuation schemes, but this is what actual reliable sources call the two different systems of quotation punctuation. I might add that virtually none of the reliable sources call the majority British practice "logical quotation"; that seems to be a relatively obscure phrase someone on Wikipedia latched onto for obvious reasons. I'm happy to consider any sources others may produce on point, and trade PDF copies of relevant excerpts from the 25+ American and Canadian style books I have accumulated over the past three weekends. Dirtlawyer1 (talk) 00:34, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
I stand by all my statements. It may well be that those manuals call it American. --Trovatore (talk) 00:44, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Trovatore, you have repeatedly been presented with proof that American punctuation is American. You don't like that it is American. You don't like that punctuation is part of the language. That is not the same as it not being true. I don't like that "logical punctuation" is one of British punctuation's names, but if I were to claim that it weren't actually one of the practice's names and therefore no one should use it, I'd be wrong.
As for the system being inferior, kindly provide proof: Show me a case of American punctuation causing even one non-hypothetical, non-imaginary problem on Wikipedia or in the real world. Don't just claim that your preferred system is superior; show us why it is worth it to deliberately use incorrect punctuation and to impose this requirement on others. Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:46, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Bullshit. It's not American. That style guides call it American doesn't make it so. It was the style held over from the days of mechanical type, and was used just as much in Britain.
Logical punctuation is superior because it better reflects the underlying logic of the utterance. --Trovatore (talk) 03:49, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Prove it. We've shown you verifiable sources stating that American is American and British is British, verifiable to the point at which if I wanted to state in a Wikipedia article, "This is American style," I could cite at least one (in this case dozens) of sources and do it. Now you do the same. Find some sources that back you up or stop miseducating the newbies. No one here has expected you to take their word or their opinions as hard fact. Now you do the same.
Same answer: Prove it. Show how the fact that the logic of British style appeals to you improves the reader experience. Show that American punctuation causes problems or that British punctuation improves reading comprehension. Show that either style facilitates the retention of the material better than the other. Because otherwise "this is more logical" boils down to "this appeals to me personally." That's not bad but it's not something upon which the MoS should be based. Darkfrog24 (talk) 03:55, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
First one: No, you haven't. You've given sources that call it American or British. Well, maybe they do say that; I don't know. But still, it's the wrong thing to call it. This is not an article, so it's not about sourcing it.
Logical punctuation appeals to me personally because it better reflects the logical structure of the utterance. That goes beyond a personal preference; that's what makes it logical. Typesetters' punctuation, on the other hand, is just a mistake. --Trovatore (talk) 03:59, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Trovatore, I don't claim that my sources could prove it in a court of law (although...), but they're definitely proof enough to meet WP:V. If I wanted to add the words "this punctuation style is American" to an article, I could cite these sources and do it. That is what I'm asking you to do, show us at least one Wikipedia-level source that agrees with you. You say that the idea that American English is American and British is British is "bullshit" and that American punctuation is "a mistake." Back up your claims or put them away. Darkfrog24 (talk) 18:03, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
I have backed them up. You can see my arguments above. I never said American English is not American, or that British English is not British. I said American and British are the wrong names to use for typesetters' and logical punctuation, respectively. I stand by that. Those are the wrong names, no matter how many style guides may call them that. And logical is superior to typesetters', and I've explained why. --Trovatore (talk) 22:35, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
You seem to be confused about my request. Stating and restating your opinion isn't proof, Trovatore. No, saying "this is more logical; this is more logical" does not explain what that does or doesn't make anything superior. What I'd consider proof is what I've shown you: A secondary source that backs you up. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:42, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
I'm not "stating my opinion". I have explained exactly why it's superior. This isn't an article so there are no rules about secondary sources. --Trovatore (talk) 22:44, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
I was using WP:V as a yardstick, a threshold for what quality of proof I had provided. The point of this part of the conversation is that I didn't just expect you to take my word for it; I showed you sources. You have no grounds to refer to what I said as "bullshit" unless you can back up your own even more outlandish claims even better than I backed up mine. I'll settle for as well.
How's this: "American punctuation is superior to British because it is easier to learn, teach, use and copy-edit." Are you going to buy it just because I said so? Do I get to say that your unsubstantiated claims of BP being more logical are "bullshit"? Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:51, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
V is a standard for articles. The reasons it's a standard for articles have almost nothing to do with its reliability as a form of persuasive argument. They have to do instead with the nature of an encyclopedia.
Logical punctuation more closely reflects the underlying logic of the sentence, hence the name. I can detail in what ways it does so, if you like, but I think you know them`. --Trovatore (talk) 22:56, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Trovatore, I'll speak even more plainly. You don't agree with my position, but I've shown you sources that do. You, however, have done nothing but restate your own opinion. You act as if I should just take your word for it, and I have not expected you to just take mine. If you can't find sources of similar or better quality for your own position, then you should rethink that position. At the absolute least, you must stop referring to my position as "bullshit." If an evidence-supported position is bullshit, then an unsupported position must be something much worse. Darkfrog24 (talk) 07:17, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
I have explained why your position is wrong. --Trovatore (talk) 07:38, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
No, Trovatore, you haven't. You claim that British punctuation "reflects the logic of the sentence," but you don't prove how or why, and you have offered no evidence that either system performs better than the other. I'm going to have to conclude that if you had sources or anything else that supported your position, you'd have provided them by now. You don't have to agree with me but you do have to stop claiming that my position is less grounded than yours. Darkfrog24 (talk) 15:48, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
I have in fact explained it. And I don't "have" to do anything. --Trovatore (talk) 22:20, 27 June 2013 (UTC)

───────────────────────── Typesetter's punctuation wasn't a "mistake" for typesetters: it was a perfectly rational choice.
Instead of people taking sides based on nationalist preferences or on the supposedly "logical" nature of one convention over another, it would be more useful to recognize the underlying reality. Typography, whether spelling, capitalization, punctuation, spacing, or whatever, is a matter of convention. Even in so-called LQ, there are "illogical" conventions, e.g. forbidding repeated full stops. The following is the "logical" way to punctuate: She said "I don't know.". There are two sentences here; "logically" each should have its own full stop. However, I guess for reasons of appearance, no-one recommends punctuating like this.
Given that we have articles written in different styles of English, it's easier for readers – less jarring – if a consistent set of conventions is used throughout. Since the overwhelming majority of material written in American English outside Wikipedia uses TQ rather than LQ, this is what should be used inside Wikipedia unless it can be shown that there are real examples of significant advantages in not following the standard convention. I note that in spite of repeated challenges to produce these, no-one supporting LQ in American English articles has ever done so.
One reason I personally won't label these punctuation styles by nationality is that I'm British but sufficiently old to have used TQ in my early writing before LQ became such a common style in the UK; I still prefer the visual appearance of most examples of TQ, but accept that the convention has changed.
It's not Wikipedia's role to try to lead changes of conventions, but to reflect accurately the conventions that exist. The right answer to GabeMc's original question is, in my view, that many of the editors who built up the MOS came to believe via a local consensus that they should create conventions rather than reflect them. This was wrong, and needs to be corrected, not just in this matter but in a number of others. Peter coxhead (talk) 07:55, 25 June 2013 (UTC)

I actually agree with you that the sentence you put in green is the ideal way to punctuate that sentence. However, we can quote only part of what she said, if we like, and therefore we can leave off the period that she would have written had she written the sentence rather than spoken it. So She said "I don't know". doesn't have anything actually wrong with it. --Trovatore (talk) 09:38, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Just as a passing comment, I would push back against the idea that LQ is "British" style. In fact, and as Peter suggests above, British practice varies widely as far as I can tell from both writing and reading in this country. And although many of the sources cited and quoted above suggest that there is something that is probably correctly identified as the predominant "American" style or practice, they are in no way as specific when it comes to defining a universal "British" style or practice. Hence it's slightly misconceived to present this issue as being an ENGVAR contradiction or about the imposition – sensible or otherwise – of one national style over another. When it comes to minor punctuation points, we simply do not always have the level of rigid certainty and clear distinction – or the visual impact for most readers, for that matter – that applies, for example, to spelling (for the most part at least, excluding the Oxford -ize of course). N-HH talk/edits 09:46, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Exactly. This is very like the situation regarding serial commas. And I think we should treat LQ and TQ (under whatever names) as options, prescribing nothing more than internal consistency within an article, as has been suggested by others here. When I copy edit, it makes me very uncomfortable to alter punctuation that already conforms perfectly well to many of the best style guides out there, just becuase the MOS tells me to. It feels pedantic, and I suspect that some good writers don't like it when their perfectly sound punctuation is altered like that. GabeMc queried it recently, and User:Toccata quarta did so a few months ago when I did a copy edit for him (the thread is here, starting at the 3rd paragrah). I think they are justified. That said, we can't ditch LQ from the set of available options, so that phrase, "communicates a complete sentence" still needs disambiguating. I've always treated it as meaning "is a complete sentence". But if that's the case, why not have it say so, and if it isn't, then what does it mean? --Stfg (talk) 11:09, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
I disagree. Even if you could prove that British English allows either American or British style, American English doesn't. This isn't the case with the serial comma. It's kind of like how an article can use either -ize or -ise and still be written in a correct form of British English, but it must use -yse and not -yze. Darkfrog24 (talk) 17:46, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Other punctuation issues are a good comparison. It's probably fair to say that the serial comma is more common in US writing and less so in British, while the em-dash is preferred in US writing for parentheticals over the en-dash seen more commonly in British texts. However, no one would surely say that one use is strictly "US English" and the other "British English"; nor does the WP MOS associate or classify them as such for ENGVAR purposes, and insist that US English articles use serial commas and em-dashes. All it asks when it comes to such punctuation issues is that text has clarity and that articles are consistent within themselves. N-HH talk/edits 11:19, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
There's a big difference between the serial comma and quotation punctuation in American English. There is nothing like a near-universal consensus regarding the mandatory use of the serial comma in the United States; in reality, the de facto rule is to use the serial comma when it makes sense to do so, or omit the final comma when it adds nothing. Pedants will argue for absolute consistency and are generally ignored. The serial comma debate, to the extent one can say there is a "debate," is on about the same level as that regarding split infinitives (which are now generally accepted). American style quotation punctuation (or "typesetter's quotation" if you prefer) is the nearly universal convention in American and Canadian English. So, yes, in American and Canadian English it is the predominant national convention per WP:ENGVAR. The fact that only a growing majority use British style quotation punctuation (or "logical quotation") in the UK, and not the overwhelming majority as use American style punctuation in the United States and Canada, does not mean that the obvious trans-Atlantic split in punctuation conventions does not exist. Supporters of British style quotation punctuation/logical quotation in Wikipedia feel the need to obscure this reality in order to sidestep the obvious ENGVAR issue. In the United States and Canada, "logical quotation" is a distinctly minority practice, generally limited to computer programming manuals and a handful of technical journals. The overwhelming mainstream practice in the United States and Canada, as demonstrated by the overwhelming majority of American and Canadian style guides, is to use "American style" quotation punctuation. Imposing British style quotation punctuation/logical quotation on Wikipedia articles written in American and Canadian English is odd, eccentric and contrary to standard American and Canadian English punctuation practices. Let's call it exactly what it is: the imposition of a personal preference that is contrary to the predominant practice in American and Canadian English. Dirtlawyer1 (talk) 12:28, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
@Both Dirtlawyer and Darkfrog. Well, my main point was that there is no such thing as a consistent "British style" on this point while at the same time acknowledging that US practice does seem more fixed one way. So I don't quite see how replies that use the term "British style", predicated on the unevidenced assumption that there is such a thing, and that tell me that American practice is near universal are a response to anything I said, assuming they were meant to be. The first assertion is not accurate and the second I had already acknowledged (I would also dispute the claim – not that I made it originally anyway – that the use of the serial comma is not similarly near universal in US texts, but let's let that pass). Anyway, I only had a passing comment to make and I've made it. Look at how much space this crap has taken up – in my view while proceeding from several false assumptions – compared to the response someone coming to this page asking for practical help gets. N-HH talk/edits 21:24, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
ps: and, for the sake of clarity, I don't particularly favour the current MOS guidance; I'm just not convinced the solution lies in making it into a rigid ENGVAR or ENGVAR-equivalent issue, not least because there is no sound real-world reasoning or evidence in favour of doing that. N-HH talk/edits 21:33, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
"Unevidenced"? Why didn't you just ask? Here's some evidence. [9] [10]
"British style" and "British punctuation" are the terms most commonly used by reliable sources. No one here made them up or pulled them out of a hat. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:39, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Maybe not, but regardless of the descriptive terms that some formal – and mostly American, it would seem – style manuals might choose to distinguish styles of punctuation, there is, as I and several other British editors have now said, no consistent or prescriptive "British style" or practice of punctuation in respect of quotations that would be taken as correct – with any deviation as incorrect – in the UK. There isn't, and hence the phrase is misleading in the context of this discussion and it is misleading to propose an ENGVAR-style rule here that can work in the same way as for spelling, where there are clear correct and incorrect forms for certain words in US and UK versions of English respectively. N-HH talk/edits 23:15, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Do you perhaps mean that there is more than one British style? That's not the same as being no British style.
The term "logical punctuation" is even more misleading because it indicates that one of these two systems is more logical than the other. Rule out "British" and we have nothing left to call it.
There are clear and correct forms for punctuation, just as there are clear and correct forms for spelling. American English requires American punctuation and forbids British. You seem to be saying that BrE has more than one correct punctuation system, just as it has more than one correct spelling system, but we still refer to both Oxford and non-Oxford systems as British. Darkfrog24 (talk) 00:15, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Well, now we're just into semantics. I mean what I said, which is that there is no one British style or practice. People can call individual systems whatever they like for all I care. And yes, there are very definitely clear rights and wrongs in some aspects of punctuation, but there are also much looser areas without right or wrong and where practice varies in myriad ways within national styles of English, eg from publisher to publisher, as well as between them. Regardless of the Oxford -ize – which is a limited and specific sub-variety that is clearly defined, understood and delineated – spelling is fixed, and fixed by national variety, in ways that punctuation is not always, including here. I'm surprised someone would continue to contest that rather obvious truism. N-HH talk/edits 09:01, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
The best way to avoid terminolgy with undesirable implications might be to name the systems by their internal characteristics rather than their historical or (claimed) external ones. Just for an Aunt Sally, how about "fixed-position punctuation" and "contextual punctuation", or something along those lines? --Stfg (talk) 10:19, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Semantics are underrated. We're using words to communicate, so their meanings are important. There are places where punctuation is not fixed—the serial comma jumps to mind—but the placement of periods and commas with quotation marks isn't one of them. In American English, British-style punctuation is wrong, so we shouldn't require editors to use it in American English articles. If you don't want me to believe that, then show me proof. Show me style guides that say that American English goes either way or show me articles about the history of the language written by experts. I would change my position on WP:LQ if someone could show me a series of conclusive studies stating that British style is significantly better for reading comprehension than American style is. (I don't think that any have yet been performed, though, and I wouldn't be surprised if American punctuation came out on top in a side-by-side study, but that's just me hypothesizing.)
That's a nice enough idea, Stfg, but it amounts to making up our own names for things. The whole point is that the MoS shouldn't attempt to improve English but instead reflect the language as it actually exists. Then there's the problem that, "contextual punctuation" presents British style in an unfairly favorable light. If we make up new names, everyone will try to arm their own preferred system with the most biased name that they can get away with. If we're going to frame one side as better than the other, then we should use the names that already exist. Darkfrog24 (talk) 15:48, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
I've never argued that either system is better than the other. The problem is that the national terms are divisive and tend to set in stone a crosspondian separation when it isn't even real. To call the one "American punctuation" ignores the fact that many (most, I suspect) Brits still use it. To call the other "British punctuation" implies that it's the default for BrE articles. Both are wrong. I understand the desire to use well attested terms and that style guides use those terms, but in my opinion style guides that use national terms are being tendentious. The printed style guides only need to be applied to one or other side of the Atlantic; we have a tougher problem that needs greater care. Can you think of a solution to this problem of divisiveness? --Stfg (talk) 16:28, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
1. Because ENGVAR is an established policy on Wikipedia, the idea of whether these systems are indeed American and British is relevant. 2. Reliable sources refer to them as American and British. So these names might be divisive, but they're also relevant and accurate.
The national divide on this issue is indeed real. "American" isn't just a name, this punctuation system is American. I don't expect you to take my word for it: Here are some sources that support this. [11] As for the British system, it was invented by British guys named Fowler and Fowler and popularized in England in their book The King's English. It's used by most professional writers of British non-fiction, the same ones who produce the sources that we use on Wikipedia. If that's not enough to make it British, then I don't know what is. ...but you could tell me, of course. If you have sources or proof showing that American style isn't really American or that British isn't really British, then I'd be more than willing to look at it, just as I've asked you to look at mine. But no, I'm not going to stop using the correct names (though in the BrE case not the only correct name) of these systems just because some people wish there weren't a national divide on this issue.
My solution to the problem is that everyone must accept that there are things they don't like about this. I don't like that British style is also called "logical punctuation" because it implies that American style is illogical, but I put up with it because people showed me sources proving that that is one of its names. Darkfrog24 (talk) 17:45, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

I think we all need to remember this is "English Wikipedia" and not "North American Wikipedia". We can pick the best bits from each version of English, and use them to create a very readable encyclopedia, we dont have to stick with a majority of english speakers convention at all. Also remember ENGVAR covers spelling/vocabulary, but the MOS covers punctuation. -- Nbound (talk) 13:01, 25 June 2013 (UTC)

Nbound, this may be the English Wikipedia, but we've actively embraced the idea that there is more than one national variety of English. For us to pick and choose little bits of each variety based solely on what contributors to this page happen to like would produce a system that is not correct by anyone's standards.
Its called compromise, just like we already have to do with dates :). Allowing articles with differing rules lowers the polish of the encyclopedia, can we do it, sure! Should we, probably not... - Nbound (talk) 22:36, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
What you're describing is dispensing with ENGVAR and picking just one national variety of English. I actually wouldn't mind if we picked British English for the whole encyclopedia, but that is a separate issue. It's been long established that the unit of consistency is the article, not the whole encyclopedia or even the Wikiproject. That may change, but it is how things are now.
I share your concern about lowering the tone of the encyclopedia, but the best way to project confidence and polish is to use correct English, and leaving periods and commas outside the quotation marks is flat-out wrong in American English. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:45, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
As stated earlier, ENGVAR applies to spelling and vocab only. MOS is the document used for punctuation. ENGVAR doesnt apply here, at all. Its not like North Americans can't read LQ (or vice versa), its a preference. LQ was chosen as it's more accurate. In another circumstance some North American quirk might provide a better outcome and it will be chosen over the Commonwealth version. The date example I listed is a good one, if we begin to go down the "use your national standard route", imagine we if started using MM/DD/YYYY on Nth American articles, and DD/MM/YYYY elsewhere... was that the 12th of February, or the 2nd of December!? -- Nbound (talk) 22:56, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
WP:ENGVAR does fail to mention national differences in punctuation. That is one thing that I'd like to see changed. Regardless, the national varieties themselves do differ with respect to punctuation, and we should respect that the way we respect other differences.
You say that LQ is more accurate, but do you know or are you assuming? Can you show even one case of American punctuation causing an error, inaccuracy or confusion? I'm not being rhetorical. If you've seen American punctuation cause any non-hypothetical problems, that would be very relevant to this conversation. I've never seen or even read about one. Darkfrog24 (talk) 00:10, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Sure, quotatations involving questions can sometimes be a little odd. If the quote contains the question mark it is clear a question was part of the quote. When if it is outside it may not be obvious (as it could be part of the quote, or it could be questioning the quote.
  • He said, "Ten bags?". - means that the quote was actually the question. (Someone asked if there were ten bags)
  • He said, "Ten bags"? - means either that the quote was actually the question (Someone asked if there were ten bags) OR that someone is wondering if that was what was said. (Someone else is confirming someone said there was ten bags)
Similar things can occur with other punctuation marks such exclamation marks. Discerning the originator of the proposed meaning can be a little harder under the North American standard. Of course, context can most of the time. Context will help someone trained in the Nth American way, to eventually figure out what is being described by the Commonwealth version, which does not leave the exact outcome upto the reader to decipher, but is rather part of the text. -- Nbound (talk) 10:23, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Uh, Nbound, you are apparently unfamiliar with the more arcane points of American style quotation punctuation. In the examples you cited, the results would probably be the same under either American style quotation punctuation or British style quotation punctuation/logical quotation. Generally, only commas and periods/full stops are invariably placed within the quote marks; other forms of punctuation -- colons, semicolons, question marks and exclamation points -- are only placed within the quote marks if the punctuation was part of the quoted passage. (See, e.g., The Chicago Manual of Style.) So, no, your examples would not be evidence of the superiority of BS/LQ over AS/TQ. Dirtlawyer1 (talk) 11:39, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
What DL said, Nbound. American and British styles treat question marks and exclamation points the same way. They differ only in the treatment of periods and commas. Also, I'm not 100% that British style requires or even allows a period in He said, "Ten bags?". Darkfrog24 (talk) 15:51, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Fair enough, I had been previously mislead in the differences and retract my previous statement. I will also remove my vote. -- Nbound (talk) 23:16, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Dirtlawyer has it right. We went [for style guides] that dealt with this issue, and there were only two American guides that even allowed British style punctuation. Just two out of dozens, and they were both for specialized types of writing that we don't do on Wikipedia. The national divide is real. The only question is whether we treat every variety of English equally or allow full British next to American lite. Darkfrog24 (talk) 17:46, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
@Dirtlawyer1, shall we try to avoid imputing motives to people? It seems from this discussion that there isn't agreement on whether it's an ENGVAR issue. However, that's a theoretical question. If we were to impose TQ on all articles written in AmE, we would suddenly render many FAs non-compliant with MOS, when they had previously been compliant. Same applies to GAs (MOS is not part of the GA criteria, but many GAs have been edited for MOS compliance anyway). Treating stop positions as separate from ENGVAR, as we already do with listing-comma habits and dash styles, would allow us to abandon the strict constraint to use LQ everywhere, without creating a lot of unproductive work. --Stfg (talk) 14:31, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
So, to be clear, is your preference to allow TQ or LQ so long as there is consistency within the article, in the way that we allow either unspaced em-dashes or spaced en-dashes, regardless of the ENGVAR? I can see that this might be the best compromise given where we are now, although not everyone's ideal solution. Peter coxhead (talk) 16:22, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Yes. Thanks for putting it so clearly. --Stfg (talk) 17:27, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Stfg, there is no need to "imput[e] motives" when various editors are openly stating them in this discussion and others. In the face of the factual evidence from numerous reliable sources from Britain, Canada and the United States, past and present discussion participants have openly denied (a) that what you call "typesetter's quotation" (TQ) is most commonly called "American style" in the majority of reliable sources in both Britain and the United States, (b) American style quotation punctuation is the overwhelming majority practice in the United States and Canada, and (c) the British style majority practice is different from the American and Canadian style majority practice. The discussion even evokes an emotional response among the vocal minority of Americans who are personally committed to British style quotation punctuation/logical quotation because, well, they just believe it is "more logical." There is an Alice-in-Wonderland element to all of this when no amount of real world evidence seems to convince BS/LQ proponents that they are imposing an eccentric and distinctly minority practice on articles written in American and Canadian English, an imposition which leads to frequent discussions on the MOS talk page when North American editors repeatedly question why Wikipedia imposes a mandatory usage that is contrary to the standard punctuation practices of Americans and Canadians. To my knowledge, there is no other widely used and widely recognized punctuation practice that is defined along geographic/national lines in the same manner.
As for how a transition to American style quotation punctuation would work, I believe your concerns have merit. Personally, I would not impose an mandatory, across-the-board use of American style in articles written in American and Canadian English, and would allow for the continued use of BS/LQ in topic areas where BS/LQ is actually used in the subject area literature (e.g., chemistry, computer programming, and a small handful of others). Nor would I advocate an immediate conversion of Feature Articles and Good Articles written in American and Canadian English articles from BS/LQ to AS/TQ because of the attendant work, but such a transition would, I believe, be inevitable over time as editors would convert articles from one punctuation practice to the other. I don't see a problem with a gradual transition based on manual editing by knowledgeable editors; that should be applauded. What I do see as a potential problem is the attempted use of auto editor programs to effect the rushed transition without careful and considered editing. That having been said, I would accept any compromise that permitted new articles written in American and Canadian English to use AS/TQ, and that provided for an orderly transition, over time, from one practice to the other for the majority of articles that did not specifically adopt BS/LQ by consensus. In the absence of sloppy auto edits, I doubt that the transition would hardly be noticed. For instance, the George Washington GA has fewer than a dozen instances where the punctuation would change.
As I have repeatedly said, the Manual of Style works best for everyone when it tracks the conventional practices used by the majority in the real world because that leads to greater voluntary compliance. Imposing a minority practice simply leads to more non-compliance, aggravation, and endless talk page discussion, here and elsewhere. In this case, "logic" suggests that MOS should recognize that there is a significant geographic/national split in quotation punctuation practices, and not try to impose a minority practice on most articles written in Canadian and American English. Dirtlawyer1 (talk) 16:32, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
With one small change, this point of Dirtlawyer1's should be in a box at the top of every MOS page: The Manual of Style works best for everyone when it tracks the conventional practices used by the majority in the real world because that leads to greater voluntary compliance. Attempting to impose a minority practice simply leads to more non-compliance, aggravation, and endless talk page discussion, here and elsewhere. Yes! Peter coxhead (talk) 16:54, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Dirtlawyer1: you said "Supporters of British style quotation punctuation/logical quotation in Wikipedia feel the need to obscure this reality in order to sidestep the obvious ENGVAR issue." I don't think anyone admits to wanting to "obscure the reality" or to intending to "sidetep" an "obvious" issue. That's what I was referring to. --Stfg (talk) 17:25, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Stfg, a lot of articles already use American punctuation, even featured articles that appear on the front page. I checked every article-of-the-day for a year and change, and some used American. Even more of them were an inconsistent mix. This rule has pretty low compliance already. Reforming WP:LQ it wouldn't make quite as much more work for people as you seem to think; the work is already there. Also, MoS or no MoS, articles that purport to be written in AmE but use BrE punctuation are incorrect and would be improved by being fixed, regardless of what we decide here. Darkfrog24 (talk) 17:46, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Excellent. You understand, I'm sure, that I'm on the side of not forcing AmE articles to use LQ. I have a problem with the terminology you're using, and would have a problem if you want to enforce a link between ENGVAR and puctuation style. These problems are elaborated below. --Stfg (talk) 18:32, 25 June 2013 (UTC)

On terminology: TQ was the standard for the English-speaking world 50 years ago -- Peter Coxhead mentioned having used it, and I was taught it (as the only "correct" form) between 50 and 60 years ago (I'm British). So "American punctuation" is certainly a misnomer. What has happened more recently is that some people have started to adopt LQ. Since you say so, I'll accept that has happened faster in the UK than in North America, but many Brits still use TQ, so "British punctuation" is also a misnomer. Will that evolution speed up, slow down or even go into reverse, and in which countries? Nobody knows. Should we try to accelerate it or to slow it down? No, in my opinion. Why impose a rule on either AmE or BrE writers? If most AmE writers prefer TQ, they will naturally use it. If some BrE writers still prefer TQ (which I believe to be the case), let them use it. And mutatis mutandi for writers on either side of the pond who prefer LQ. Speaking as someone who has copy edited for writers on both sides of the Atlantic, all I want is not to be forced to de-voice them by imposing a choice of method that differs from their preference. Tying their punctuation to their spelling of harbo(u)r is just one way to constrain people's choice of how they write. Why do it? --Stfg (talk) 18:32, 25 June 2013 (UTC)

As I've said before, I much prefer LQ to TQ but I find some of the arguments here compelling; specifically, if we allow editors to write in any of the recognized standard dialects of English then I think we should be similarly tolerant with respect to punctuation. More precisely, I think that the author of an article should be able to use either punctuation style and MOS should not prefer one over the other, except that the style should be consistent within the article and we shouldn't permit needless conversions from LQ to TQ or vice versa. The reason for this is that for some editors, forcing LQ over TQ may be unnatural and might discourage would-be contributors. Besides, I don't think it's important enough to risk alienating any of our fellow editors over the issue. Dusty|💬|You can help! 19:36, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Stfg, as for "American punctuation" being a misnomer, the bottom line is that no it's not. The overwhelming majority of style guides refer to the two practices by these names. As for usage, if 100% compliance were required, then we wouldn't be able to say "American spelling" or "British spelling" either. I live in the U.S. and watch movies at an establishment with the word "Theatre" written on it and I drive past a "Town Centre."
I prefer the term "British punctuation" to "logical punctuation" because I feel that LP implies that American punctuation is illogical, but that is one of the practice's names and I have no ground to tell other people that they're wrong for calling it that.
Also, I came to accept that LP is a valid name because I saw it used to refer to British punctuation in reliable sources. I've never seen "TQ" in one, however. Do you happen to have one on link?
The MoS should curtail people's choices by instructing them on correct vs. incorrect English. The case can be made that British English allows either American or British punctuation, but American English requires American, so no, the MoS shouldn't allow British style in American English articles. The national divide on this issue is very real, so we really should have some form of ENGVAR-based rule.
That beings said, even just allowing editors to use context-correct punctuation would be a huge improvement over requiring context-incorrect punctuation. Darkfrog24 (talk) 22:34, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
  • I've a feeling everyone in this discussion probably pretty much understands everyone else's point of view by now. Has anyone got an idea on how to progress? :) --Stfg (talk) 23:35, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
I agree. Are there any compelling arguments why we would choose to not follow the multitude of US and UK style guides? I.e., if the punctuation mark is part of the original quoted material then we retain its original placement in said material. What could be easier than that? GabeMc (talk|contribs) 23:44, 25 June 2013 (UTC)
Uh, that's not what the style guides say, GabeMc. The American style guides all say not to do that. They say that periods and commas go inside the closing quotation marks regardless. For the most part, the British style guides do not.
That being said, I believe an ENGVAR-based rule would be best, but I could get behind almost anything that even allowed American punctuation in American English articles; I could get behind lifting the ban. Darkfrog24 (talk) 00:18, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Perhaps I've misrepresented my position. The 16th edition of CMOS (2010) states: "In an alternative system, sometimes called British style ... only those punctuation points that appeared in the original material should be included within the quotation marks." That's really all I meant to convey. What am I missing Darkfrog24, I'm the one who quoted 9 styled guides above that agree with you? GabeMc (talk|contribs) 01:30, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
I was confused because you said "Let's do what the style guides say," but the style guides say to use American punctuation when writing in American English. Yes, those that describe the British system describe it the way you just did. Darkfrog24 (talk) 04:19, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

Four options regarding MOS:LQ

Formerly Four options

It seems we have four options:

  1. Keep WP:LQ as it is, requiring British/logical punctuation in all articles regardless of the national variety of English in which the article purports to be written.
  2. Require American punctuation in American English articles and British/logical punctuation in British articles, etc.
  3. Require American punctuation in American English articles but allow either style in British articles so long as each article is internally consistent.
  4. Allow either style of punctuation in any article so long as each article is internally consistent.

The second of these two options seems to be the one that reflects the source material most accurately, but others have argued that British English really allows either style. I don't like the fourth option, but it's definitely better than the first one. Darkfrog24 (talk) 00:43, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

I can accept the fourth option provided the styles are not described with national labels. --Trovatore (talk) 00:46, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Options 2 and 3 are absurd; there is some evidence that the styles are changing; if they do, are we going to rewrite all the articles in question? I prefer #1 as being unambiguous (particularly in regard quotes within quotes), but could accept #4. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 01:20, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
I don't know what you mean by styles changing. American English has always required American punctuation and has always forbidden British, going back to at least 1906. We're not talking about changing WP:LQ to reflect some recent change in the English language. The rule contradicted the requirements of American English even when it was first put in place. Darkfrog24 (talk) 01:25, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
I have seen a number of specific journal style guides which provide for LQ, whether or not published in the US. Furthermore, at my last full-time employer (based in the US, but multinational) the style guide specified LQ. I'm saying that the preferred style is subject to change, and is changing. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 02:30, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
A few weeks ago, a bunch of us dug around looking for style guides that dealt with this issue [12]. If you'd seen one that specifically said to use B/LQ in American English, I'd be very interested in seeing it as well. It would be highly relevant. Did it have an official name? Also, in what industry were you working? Law? Programming? Literary criticism?
As for the language changing, of course it is. No contest there. But at any given point in time, there are things that are correct and things that are incorrect. Right now, American English requires American punctuation. If B/LQ becomes standard AmE in five or twenty years down the line, we can always change the MoS when it happens. Darkfrog24 (talk) 04:23, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
  • I find 1 through 3 unappealing (if #1 worked in practice, this thread would not be two miles long), but I support the fourth option. GabeMc (talk|contribs) 01:32, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
  • DF, it's not a simple them-and-us pattern, is it? See what Arthur has pointed out above. Tony (talk) 02:39, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
  • Generally, the period inside non-full-sentence quotes looks awkward and messed-up, so I'll have to go with "option 1". I will never use "American style" punctuation all the time, nor will I be required to. I'd rather just stick with the "logical punctuation" style rather than us having to restart this debate over and over again and be forced go with the "punctuation-inside-the-quotes-all-the-time" crowd. Jim856796 (talk) 04:05, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Tony, regardless of whether British English permits both, it is pretty clear that American English doesn't. That part is simple.
Jim856796, British style looks awkward and wrong to me, but I've used it when writing in British English. In the years that I've seen this matter discussed, appearance has shown itself to be an eye of the beholder thing. As for "punctuation-inside-the-quote-all-the-time," I don't think I've encountered anyone who's seriously advocated that. It would be wrong to require a system that is incorrect in one major national variety throughout all of Wikipedia. That's why "Require American punctuation in all articles" isn't among the options listed above. Darkfrog24 (talk) 04:19, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
No, American English, the language, does not in fact require TQ. It's not properly a language issue per se, at least not in the usual sense — it's more of a typography issue. You can say that American style manuals (or at least most of them) require TQ. --Trovatore (talk) 05:47, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
I can say that the style manuals require it. I can also say that teachers require it in school. I can also say that the professional-level and educated writers use it. I can also say that this is how nearly the entirety of American literature is written. All of this together adds up to "the language requires it"/"it is correct American English." If you want me to stop saying it, show me comparable or better reasons why I should. Darkfrog24 (talk) 06:18, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
It's still a typography issue, not the language in the usual sense. To the extent that it's an issue of the formal language, TQ is just an error; no one would intentionally design that into a formal system. For the language in the informal sense, it's just not part of it. --Trovatore (talk) 06:22, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Trovatore, the word "error" means "The act or an instance of deviating from an accepted code of behavior, especially unintentionally." The style guides all say to do it; teachers all say to do it; professional writers all do it. It's safe to say that American punctuation is not an error. It is 1. in compliance with said code of behavior and 2. deliberate. You should really stop throwing around words like "error."
But if you were writing an encyclopedia, you wouldn't be designing a system for computers, Trovatore, you'd be designing it for human beings whose brains process images and visual meaning in some very counterintuitive ways. It doesn't make sense that serif and sans serif fonts are easier or harder to read depending on the light source, but they are. I wouldn't be surprised if American punctuation is one day proven to be literally easier on the eyes in a similar way. From what a century and change of trial and error have told us, though, there are no obvious differences in performance between U.S. and British punctuation systems. Darkfrog24 (talk) 07:10, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
DF, obviously that's not the sense of the word "error" that I meant. It's an error more in the sense of getting the wrong answer to a problem, not in the sense of conforming to a code of behavior. Punctuation is there to mark the logical structure of an utterance. TQ fails to accomplish that, at least in as direct a way as possible. --Trovatore (talk) 07:21, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Only if you treat every symbol that is between the quote marks as a literal character string, as in computer programming. That's not the way reading actual words works, though. It is understood that by readers familiar with TQ (which is the vast majority of English readers, by the way) that the included comma/stop is part of the quoting process, part of the quote mark really. oknazevad (talk) 08:53, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
I have to agree with Oknazevad, Trovatore. It's not clear how using American punctuation would be like the wrong answer to a problem. The problem is communication, and American punctuation solves it perfectly well. Darkfrog24 (talk) 15:48, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
It's not about strings. It's about what parts of the sentence are to be parsed as belonging to what. If I say something like
I love the word "Tucumcari", and so does John.
then the comma distinguishes the two clauses, whereas the quote marks serve to mark the use–mention distinction (I am mentioning the word "Tucumcari" but not using it). But the entire word in quotes belongs to the first clause. It makes no sense to break the clauses inside the use–mention marker. --Trovatore (talk) 22:27, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
But there's also no reason not to. Nothing impedes the flow of the sentence. Nothing hinders the reader's comprehension. If anything, the fact that the comma, which tells the reader to stop talking momentarily, does not come immediately after the word could be mistakenly interpreted as an indicator that there were more words to come before any pause, causing the reader to skip or stumble. I haven't seen any evidence proving that this happens, but I haven't seen any proving that placing commas the way the Brits do helps anything either. Remember, we're dealing with a human reader who has a human brain and not with a computer. Darkfrog24 (talk) 23:06, 27 June 2013 (UTC)

No consensus? The problem seems to be that there would now appear to be no consensus to introduce the current rule requiring LQ everywhere. But neither is there a clear consensus to remove it. Sigh... Peter coxhead (talk) 08:31, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

There's certainly no unanimity, and I don't see how we're ever going to reach it. But has anyone actually said they wouldn't accept option 4 as a compromise? --Stfg (talk) 08:40, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
It's not perfect, but option four does allow for most anyone to do what they feel is best. Actually, that no one is fully happy with it and only support it grudgingly is actually a sign of a good compromise. oknazevad (talk) 08:53, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Ok, so we need to stop discussing – which is going nowhere – and see if there is indeed a consensus on option 4. Peter coxhead (talk) 10:16, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

Support option four. I would prefer option two or three, but anything that allows editors to go in and correct the punctuation in American English articles would be an improvement over the current rule. Darkfrog24 (talk) 15:53, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

I need to understand something: Are you saying that an editor who creates an article in AmE would not be allowed the choice of punctuation method; and if they tried to use LQ, they could be overruled by another editor who considers that period/comma-inside-quotes is the only permissible method for AmE articles? --Stfg (talk) 16:58, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
My take on the matter? I'd go to the talk page of an American article that used British punctuation and say, "Hey, anyone mind if I change the British punctuation to American? We're allowed to do that now." Then I'd wait a day or two and when no one responded—because almost no one but us cares about this—I'd go in and make the changes. I guess it could work in the other direction as well. As far as the wording, it would treat American and British styles equally. I don't think that's good, but it's better than British-no-matter-what. Darkfrog24 (talk) 17:48, 26 June 2013 (UTC)
Perfect, thanks. I was actually about to strike my question, having realised that it seemed to imply option 3. That was unintentional and I apologise for it. --Stfg (talk) 17:59, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

Support option four. I support the option that is least restrictive in that it also allows for the unlikely possibility that an editor might be neither British nor American and thus unfamiliar with the nuances of whether to put a full stop inside the quote marks or a period on the outside. It also allows WP to accommodate emerging changes in punctuation styles without having to revisit the policy, which will free us to handle more pressing issues such as whether to assign ethnonymic labels or descriptive labels to the various punctuation styles while discussing them on talk pages. Dusty|💬|You can help! 17:37, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

Support option four provided that: (a) the words "American" and "British" are not used in the definition and that nothing is said to tie to two systems to nationalities, even implicitly; (b) change to existing articles requires consensus on the article's talk page. --Stfg (talk) 16:27, 27 June 2013 (UTC)

Support option four provided the styles are not described by national labels. --Trovatore (talk) 20:04, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

Support option four. - Just in case my above support is not clear or has been lost in the thread. GabeMc (talk|contribs) 20:29, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

Reject the premise – I still don't think it's fair to call LQ "British" style and to lobby to use it selectively or only on British articles, just because it originated there and is more common there. It was adopted as WP style because it is more logical, conveying intended meaning better, and that's good enough reason to continue to recommend it as the preferred style and to work toward using it more consistently. Dicklyon (talk) 21:54, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

Support option four – I've been keeping tabs on this discussion, and I also agree it is the best available compromise. —Torchiest talkedits 22:01, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

Reject the premise. If called LQ (logical quotation) and TP (typographical punctuation), no mention is made of "American" or "British" punctuation in the guideline, and no implication that the selection should be made on the basis of WP:ENGVAR, I might reluctantly accept the modified option 4. I don't think that's going to be proposed. (BTW, TP placed commas and periods inside, question marks and exclamation points where appropriate, and colons and semicolons outside. Some people have claimed that colons and semicolons were placed "logically" in TP.) — Arthur Rubin (talk) 22:31, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

  • Reject option 4. The claim that LQ is predominate on the web suggested we do not need to change. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 01:48, 28 June 2013 (UTC)

Reject the premise. Darkfrog, is this a continuation of a campaign to cut deep boundaries through English on some nationalistic basis? As usual, it's an exaggeration or inaccurate representation of the reality. seeking to make this a nationalistic issue. I strongly attempt any attempt to tag this issue as "North American" (that's your empire, is it?) and British. And it's bemusing to see people here dividing the world up into American and British linguistic empires. This will go nowhere useful. And per Dicklyon, I reject the premise. Tony (talk) 01:41, 27 June 2013 (UTC)

Tony, it's not inaccurate. It is what the sources all say. I'm not cutting or inventing boundaries. The English language was like that when I got here! You've always struck me as a reasonably sensible person. Why don't you believe that American English requires American punctuation when you are repeatedly shown proof that it does? If there is some other, more powerful evidence showing that all the style guides are wrong, then why haven't you or anyone else shared it here?
Honestly. It's as if you think I'm crazy or disconnected from reality. That would make sense if I believed the opposite of what the sources say, but I don't. Why do you think I'm messing with you? I keep showing people links to style guides and they answer "Well these sources are not perfect for reasons A and B," but sources showing that I'm wrong? None whatsoever! Of course I haven't changed my position.
As for this whole "reject the premise" thing, what premise are you talking about? The four options listed above? They're 1. Keep LQ, 2. Replace LQ with this 3. Replace LQ with that 4. Replace LQ with the other thing. That's not a premise. I don't understand why you don't just say "Support option one." Is it the terminology? I deliberately used both of the British system's names. (The American system has only one name that I've seen in reliable sources, so I only used that one.) Darkfrog24 (talk) 02:38, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
Your premise, starting in Option 1, is that LQ is British. Your first option, "Keep WP:LQ as it is, requiring British/logical punctuation in all articles regardless of the national variety of English...", seems to designed to dissuade people from the default, based on purported national differences; it would be more simply and neutrally stated as a simple "Keep WP:LQ as it is, recommending logical punctuation in all articles...", which is what we'll do, lacking a proper RFC establishing a consensus to do otherwise. Dicklyon (talk) 06:15, 27 June 2013 (UTC
Dicklyon, 1. regardless of whether or not it is British, "British style" is indisputably its correct name and the name by which this practice is best known. You don't like that, but you have to deal with it. I don't approve of the name "logical punctuation" because it endorses the premise that British style is logical, but that is its name, so I used both. 2. It's British. It's endorsed by British style guides, taught in British schools and used in British nonfiction materials, but not by/in American counterparts. That makes it British. Darkfrog24 (talk) 14:59, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
Errr ... no ... these nationalistic tags are inaccurate. And as I've said before, the division of the whole world into two empires is troubling. The British don't own LQ, and often they don't use it (see their newspapers). And some US academic journals require LQ, don't they? Tony (talk) 14:56, 28 June 2013 (UTC)
Have you read The Guardian, Tony?[13] Hey, here's I, Claudius off my shelf. Yes, the British use British style. As to whether they own it, well it can be credited to Fowler and Fowler's The King's English and the majority of Brits use it. That makes it British. If you want to make the case that the British don't only use British style, then that's another matter. Remember that I'm the one who put option three in that list; some contributors here were starting to make a reasonably convincing case. However, you can't make the case that standard American English allows both. In U.S. English, tucked-in commas are required. Option three reflects this.
The reliable sources refer to these practices as "British" and "American," and usually by no other names. That means that those are their names. You don't like that they're called this, just as I don't like that British style is also called "logical," but I looked at the sources, connected with reality, and accepted that this practice has a name that I don't like and that can be used to frame this argument in a way that is damaging to my side. If I can deal with that, then you can too.
U.S. publications that use British style are 1. extremely rare and 2. overwhelmingly specialist publications. Remember that bit about the ornithology journals and the capitalization of bird names? They adopted that practice for reasons that are not relevant to an encyclopedia. Wikipedia is a general-English publication and uses general-English rules.
Tony, I'll say it flat-out: I find it extremely hard to believe that you don't know perfectly well that "American" and "British" are valid names for these punctuation practices. You're not stupid. You know what it means when there's this level of consensus among professional sources. It means that what they're doing is correct, even if it's not the only correct thing. You want people to stop using these names because they frame the issue in a way that doesn't support your own opinions, and that is childish. Stop it. Darkfrog24 (talk) 17:27, 28 June 2013 (UTC)

Support Option 4 to provide a measure of flexibility to use the predominant style of American quotation punctuation in articles written in American or Canadian English, or where otherwise appropriate, such as articles regarding regarding British fiction, where the older "typographical punctuation" remains in common use even in Britain. In its final form, the provision should permit consensus to be determined at the article level, so that BS/LQ may be used as appropriate even in American English for such topics as computer programming, etc. Dirtlawyer1 (talk) 03:04, 27 June 2013 (UTC)

  • First, this is not a properly constructed RFC—especially when the changes proposed affect a long-standing guideline that involves almost every article on the site. This has every appearance, to me, of a small-sample straw poll. As such, it can be no basis for actually tampering with the MOS text.

    We could discuss technical improvements, but not in such a chaotic framework. Tony (talk) 05:59, 27 June 2013 (UTC)

It's not an RFC. We could try to construct one, but this straw poll very much suggests that we wouldn't even be able to agree what words to use for the question, much less how to cover all the necessary detail. IMO Dirtlawyer1's formulation just above is a pretty good headline for option 4, but the question of the national labels looks like a showstopper, and it's not the first time that it's come up; recent archives are rather full of words about it, but rather empty of progress. Tony, do you have an idea for a less "chaotic" discussion framework that might get us some progress? --Stfg (talk) 09:06, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
Names don't have to be a showstopper. I could get behind using no names at all. "There are two practices. In one, periods and commas are placed inside closing quotation marks every time. In the other, they are placed inside the quotation marks if they apply to the quoted material and outside if they are not, as with question marks." Boom. The practices are explained without anyone throwing an "American" or "logical" onto the pile for us to fight about. Darkfrog24 (talk) 15:05, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
Ah, very good. I can get behind that, too, and have changed my comment accordingly. --Stfg (talk) 16:27, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
Because frankly, if we're not going to use the most common names for these systems, then I'd have to insist that we not use their secondary names either. You don't like that the name "British style" frames British style as British and I don't like that "logical punctuation" frames it as logical. Saying nothing about either style's name or names would work.
I could also get behind calling them "American style" and "logical style," though "American style and British/logical style" would be my first pick. The issue of what these styles are called and why is already addressed in the article space. Darkfrog24 (talk) 17:00, 27 June 2013 (UTC)

Support option 1. i reject the premise of options 2 & 3 that the question has to do with linguistic varieties, whatever labels are attached to the conventions. Typographic style, unlike diction and grammar, is not germane to any discussion of dialect. I’m also concerned about ‘instruction creep‘: will we end up with two (or more) parallel guides, where BrE articles use single quotes primarily, AmE double; BrE spaced en-dashes, AmE unspaced em-dashes; BrE acronyms in SMALL CAPS, AmE acronyms in CAPS …? That way lies madness. Having said that, I would be prepared to accept option 4 as a compromise.—Odysseus1479 10:08, 27 June 2013 (UTC)

Hey, Odysseus. Upon what have you based your position? Do you have any sources or evidence showing that these punctuation styles are not divided along national lines? Because you would be the first to show any. As for evidence that they are, we collected some a few weeks ago. Here's a summary. It shouldn't take you more than ten seconds to get the gist: [14] Darkfrog24 (talk) 15:05, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
Why is the world divided into two empires? Tony (talk) 02:09, 28 June 2013 (UTC)
Straw arguments are beneath you, Tony. This isn't about whether the world or the English language is divided into two empires. This is about whether leaving commas untucked is incorrect American English. According to the sources, it is. Most British sources appear to require this practice in British English writing. If you want me to stop believing that, then show me proof that all the style guides are wrong. Or, even better, show me proof that British English provides non-hypothetical advantages over American English under Wikipedia conditions. Until then, we have no business requiring editors to punctuate articles incorrectly. Darkfrog24 (talk) 02:32, 28 June 2013 (UTC)
The fact that there exists a significant minority practice (not just a few eccentrics) in all the countries mentioned, opposing the prevalent convention in each, demonstrates that punctuation style is not an essential part of their dialects. Even in comparison with orthography—itself a relatively shallow aspect of language—the national habits run much deeper: the number of Americans who write “colour“ and Brits who prefer “color” is negligible. I think the burden of proof is on those claiming that the conventional punctuation style is a characteristic of the American variety of the English language (and likewise for LQ and the British). Among the referenced guides that I could access (most of them), only one could be construed as offering any support: Garner, who uses the terms “AmE” and “BrE“. (I don’t have that book; I’d be interested to see if he defines or expands upon those abbreviations somewhere.) Several of the others characterize their recommendation as “American style”, but most simply proffer advice (although some may explain the basis therefor in introductory material, which I didn’t look for); some are just citations to support the advice given. From one or two of the first group one might infer their usage of “American” is intended to be little more than a convenient label. (Fowler/Gowers implies much the same about “logical”, if that’s any consolation.) Vorfeld finds it necessary to qualify: “if you’re in the U.S., you’ll probably place your periods and commas inside the closing quotation mark.” Wilbers quotes CMOS saying, “The British style is strongly advocated by some American language experts.” Could one say that, with a straight face, of any feature of the language proper? The crux of this is that punctuation style is not a characteristic of languages or dialects, rather an ephemeral detail.—Odysseus1479 05:34, 28 June 2013 (UTC)
The number of professional-quality American publications that use British punctuation is also extremely small. Even if it weren't, why would we go so far as to require a punctuation system that even most American style guides actively prohibit?
The style guides all refer to these practices as British and American. Can you show any sources that prove that they are wrong?
Burden of proof? Here you go: [15] Your turn.
If punctuation really were an unimportant detail, then you wouldn't care about banning it. Half the MoS deals with what most people would consider minor details. Those details add up and create an impression of quality and professionalism in the reader's mind. Darkfrog24 (talk) 05:50, 28 June 2013 (UTC)

Support option one The reasons for our choosing LQ are just as valid now as they ever have been: we don't want the quote tampered with. With TQ we don't know whether a comma or full stop belongs to the quote or not. Can we find an example where this caused a war or the failure of a mission to Mars? Can we even find any documented problem caused by this uncertainty? Maybe not but this doesn't prove that the problem isn't there. Moreover, I'd call the said uncertainty problem enough in itself. We're not robots; we can work it out; anyone can disentangle TQ. Can we? No, not always. Sometimes it's clear enough that the punctuation mark doesn't belong, sometimes you're just left guessing. I'm afraid I don't have any documented proof of others having this problem but I've found it myself. So, what's TQ got going for it? It's more æsthetic; not really, that's a matter of taste and what you're used to (it looks ugly to me); either way, though, "I (don't) like it." arguments don't count on WP (of course). Tradition? TQ was invented so that full stops and commas wouldn't get broken. What did writers do before the printing press? I assume they put punctuation marks where logic would have suggested. TQ is easier ... I don't see how. The easiest way of punctuating is to put punctuation marks where logic and common sense dictate. The further we deviate from this the more difficult and, yes, more illogical our practice gets. LQ does deviate slightly for this ideal; TQ is way off. The more exceptions to common sense you have to deal with the harder things get, surely. To be fair LQ has a few such exceptions (as mentioned above) but TQ outdoes LQ here with what appear to be exceptions to the exceptions (full stops and commas being treated differently to questions marks, exclamation marks, colons and semicolons). No, TQ is not easy. American style guides may advocate TQ (Canadians, alas, may also blindly follow suit) but WP is not bound by outside style guides nor should it be. As I see it fidelity to the quoted material still trumps adherence to a practice which ceased to make sense centuries ago. Jimp 05:11, 28 June 2013 (UTC)

What American punctuation has going for it, aside from being easier to teach, learn, copy edit and use, is that it is correct American English and British punctuation is not. Common sense does not support requiring what is for a huge proportion of our editors an extremely obscure rule and ramming it down their throats because a few of us happen to prefer it. Yes, Wikipedia is supposed to be about sources and verifiability, so yes we are bound to follow the style guides. If you can't show even one case when American punctuation failed to keep fidelity with the quoted material, even one, then this boils down to a personal preference, and it's wrong to impose that on others.
As for logic, since when is English logical? If we start inventing our own version of the language, then why keep British spelling? It's illogical to have an extra u that doesn't do anything or to spell "centre" as if it were pronounced "sen-treh." But we keep doing it because it's not really British English if we don't. Darkfrog24 (talk) 05:29, 28 June 2013 (UTC)
I do not agree that it is easier to teach, learn, copy edit or use. The easiest system would be to put inverted commas about quoted stuff and punctuate whatever is inside and outside according to sense. That is simply teach what the punctuation marks are and let the kid figure it out ... logically. There'd be hardly any teaching even required (if any at all). Sadly neither system is perfectly like this so exceptions also have to be taught. The more exceptions you have, the more you have to teach and/or learn. LQ, having far fewer exceptions, therefore needs less teaching, is easier to learn & use than TQ. This is exactly the problem Mr Yagoda (mentioned below) is facing: his students are naturally tending toward the more logical solution and he's thus left fighting an uphill battle to impose TQ on the class.
Yes, we should follow the style guide: this is our style guide (WP:MOS). Any publication is free to put together their own style guide (or not to) and we're doing that. Outside inspiration is all well and good but it's not the be all and end all. LQ was chosen over TQ for fidelity to the source. You, Darkfrog, insist that TQ doesn't fail. Well, I haven't found a book, a website, newspaper article, etc. with a story about a punctuation tragedy, no, but I have seem umpteen instances where I wouldn't know whether the full stop or comma belonged to the quote or not. That in itself is a failure in my view.
As for keeping the illogical British spelling, yeah, but why keep the only-slightly-more-logical-and-not-always-at-that American spelling? Jimp 06:51, 28 June 2013 (UTC)
In my work instructing people, it's easier to explain the rule about periods and commas (inside all the time) than the rule about question marks. It does indeed require teaching.
To know whether a word was followed by a period or comma in the original text, I must look at the original text. This is true of both the British and American systems.
So I show you some evidence that American punctuation is required in American English, in the form of style guides, but you do no find it sufficiently convincing. Okay, fine, it's going to take more than that. But you show me absolutely no evidence contradicting my position and you're surprised that I'm not convinced either? If people around here like logic so much, then this shouldn't be giving anyone any trouble. The people in this conversation keep going back to, "What are you going to believe, what the sources say or what I tell you?" Well... the sources, actually.
Yes, and we'd be free to require everyone to capitalize the fifth letter of every word if we want to or to use Asian-style name order (hey, public figures are usually better known by their last names anyway), but that would be silly. It wouldn't really be English. It would be a made-up, amateur-hour imitation of English.
Why keep it? 1. Because not keeping it is imposing the personal preferences of a few contributors to this page on the entire encyclopedia. Like I said, lots of things about English are illogical, but spelling "psychology" with a P is right and leaving the P out is wrong. 2. Because using correct punctuation creates a sense of confidence and respectability in the reader's mind, even if they can't identify every little rule and twist. Using incorrect punctuation on purpose makes us look stupid and amateurish, and because it is so easy to fix, it also makes us look lazy. Darkfrog24 (talk) 07:08, 28 June 2013 (UTC)
If you have to explain different rules for full stops and commas than those for question marks, your system harder.
The truly logical approach would be to include all punctuation marks that belong to the quote within the inverted commas. Yes, the "British" style may fail here (omitting full stops in mid-sentence quotes) but at least it doesn't insert them when they weren't there. With LQ if a quote contains a full stop or comma, it's part of the quote; with TQ you just don't know.
The language is illogical, sure, and we're not here to fix it but the choice of LQ isn't about fixing stuff but about conveying information clearly. Jimp 07:54, 28 June 2013 (UTC)
You seem to have misunderstood me. When I explain how to use periods and commas with quotation marks, the students go, "Okay, I get it now." When I explain the use with question marks, they go "Huuuuuuh?" In this way, the "tuck-them-in-all-the-time" appears to be easier to teach and understand.
Yes, but it doesn't contain the comma or period. In the sentence "She said there were 'things to be discussed'." I don't know if there was a period after "discussed" or not because British rules require that it be omitted even if it was there. In the sentence "She said there were 'things to be discussed.'" I don't know if there was a period after "discussed" because American rules require that it be included. I have to look at the original no matter what. Darkfrog24 (talk) 14:36, 28 June 2013 (UTC)
Maybe I misunderstood you; maybe you misunderstood me; maybe both; maybe not. I'm saying you've got two rules: one for full stops & commas and another for question marks, semicolons, etc. Two rules are harder than one. The system as a whole is therefore harder. Moreover I'm saying that the more you base your system on bizarre made-up rules as opposed to common sense the harder it gets. TQ is more a rule-based system, LQ is a more a logic-based system. Your students know they've got a whole bunch of rules to learn and I suppose the full stop and comma one seems easier to remember. LQ not really being a rule-based system doesn't strike students are something they have to learn: they just punctuate naturally (with a few odd exceptions).
LQ would allow "She said there were 'things to be discussed.'" if there was a full stop after "discussed". Jimp 03:59, 30 June 2013 (UTC)

Support option 1 Wikipedia is an international web-based encyclopedia. Compromise is part of cooperation. Wikipedia is taken most seriously when it is consistent. If multiple styles of quotations are allowed, Wikipedia looks sloppy. I don't know of any style guides which recommend using multiple styles of quotations in the same publication.

I was educated using American style typesetters' quotations, punctuation inside the quotes, except when it isn't, like with question marks and exclamation points. I always found it illogical. In LQ the punctuation from the original source is kept inside the quote marks so you can tell what the original source said. Calling that logical quotation makes perfect sense for me.

We are not asking anyone to write incorrectly. We are asking people to write following a manual of style. Just like if I wrote for a newspaper in AP style and term papers using Chicago. Neither is wrong, they are each appropriate in their place. Our MoS has specified LQ for many years and no proposals to change it have been successful. The current consensus works for me. SchreiberBike talk 05:46, 28 June 2013 (UTC)

Actually, we're only "not asking anyone to write incorrectly" in that we are requiring them to write incorrectly. I got brought up on AN/I a couple years ago for using American punctuation in the article space. Yes, these systems are both appropriate in their place, but in a piece of writing that purports to be in American English, British punctuation is as wrong as spelling "harbor" with a U.
Consistency is one thing, but Wikipedia has not pretended to be consistent with respect to national varieties of English. Rather, it has embraced this diversity through ENGVAR. So long as Wikipedia claims to treat all national varieties equally, it should actually do it and not require incorrect punctuation in American English articles. Darkfrog24 (talk) 05:57, 28 June 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment I haven't read through this whole thread so I feel unqualified to vote. I think this should be decided at the village pump rather than here; this isn't even an RFC. But if Option 4 is chosen, it must be made absolutely clear that editing an article solely to change one type of optional punctuation to another is inappropriate. AgnosticAphid talk 18:35, 28 June 2013 (UTC)
I am revising the heading of this subsection from Four options to Four options regarding MOS:LQ, in harmony with WP:TPOC, point 13 (Section headings). Please see Microcontent: How to Write Headlines, Page Titles, and Subject Lines.
Wavelength (talk) 01:10, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

Article by Ben Yagoda: The rise of logical punctuation

Even those who promote it agree that it's illogical and hard for writers to grasp, and that it's fading from practice in web-based content, especially user-generated content. See this article by an American, who discusses the "British" alternative, noting Indeed, since at least the 1960s a common designation for that style has been "logical punctuation." He observes that If it seems hard or even impossible to defend the American way on the merits, that's probably because it emerged from aesthetic, not logical, considerations. He claims that we are "simply accustomed to the style" while admitting that it is fading out and hard to get his students to use. It will be a lot easier to WP to achieve a consistent and professional look with the more "logical" approach that suits how American writers not subject to this odd prescription naturally write. Dicklyon (talk) 17:19, 27 June 2013 (UTC)

He writes

I spotlight the Web not because it brings out any special proclivities but because it displays in a clear light the way we write now. The punctuation-outside trend jibes with my experience in the classroom, where, for the past several years, my students have found it irresistible, even after innumerable sardonic remarks from me that we are in Delaware, not Liverpool.

Dicklyon (talk) 17:21, 27 June 2013 (UTC)

1. Thanks for being the first person on your side of this issue to offer a source.
2. This source doesn't say that the practice isn't divided along national lines. Actually, he does. He calls American style predominant in the U.S. and refers to the British system by name as "the British style."
3. The first paragraph says flat-out that American punctuation is used by almost all reputable style guides and professional publications, and that British/logical comes into play in "copy-editor-free zones." Wikipedia might not be combed by professional copy editors, but the whole point of the MoS is that we want it to be just as high-quality as documents that are.
4. Mr. Yagoda isn't endorsing the British system. He says that he docks his students' grades when they use it.
5. What this guy is saying is that he thinks that American punctuation will die out. He isn't saying that it has already died out. As per WP:NOT, Wikipedia is not a crystal ball. We're not here to instruct users on how to work with a version of English that doesn't exist yet; we're here to instruct them on how to use the English that exists right now. If American punctuation does die out in five or twenty or a hundred years, we can always change the MoS then.
6. Here are a dozen-plus American style guides that show that American punctuation is required in American English. They are in an easy-to-read list: [16]
Conclusion: According to Mr. Yagoda, yes, this issue is divided along national lines. Yes, American punctuation is used in high-quality American English writing, which is what we're trying to produce in our AmE Wikiarticles. So yes, we should lift the ban on American punctuation. Darkfrog24 (talk) 17:32, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
  • In answer to Dicklyon's linking to a opinion piece, I highlight that the author of the article, Ben Yagoda, does not cite a single mainstream American style guide (or any other publication) as authority for his position on the growing usage of so-called "logical quotation." And with delicious irony, I also note that the author refers to LQ as the "British style." Once again, we have a very selective reading of a source, in this case an opinion piece no less, to support the proposition that "logical quotation" is in general use in the United States (it's not), and that no one calls it "British style" (when the article itself does so). As for the weight to be attributed to Yagoda's article, he is simply expressing his opinion as to the purported logical superiority of his preferred style of punctuation, in much the same manner as Dicklyon and other LQ proponents have done in this and other discussions. If any form of "prescriptivism" has failed, it's the "failed prescriptivism" of WP:LQ which requires that we use LQ in American and Canadian English articles, which results in numerous, repeated and ongoing discussions on this very talk page initiated by North American editors who ask "WTF?" Not surprisingly, it's one of the most routinely ignored MOS provisions because it's not the natural or common usage among American and Canadian editors. The fact that some Wikipedia editors like the British majority practice better than the predominant American and Canadian practice -- "it's more logical" -- does not mean that it is a mainstream punctuation practice in the United States or Canada. That's the fundamental problem: LQ proponents argue their opinions; proponents of using the predominant American style argue that virtually all mainstream style guides continue to support it, and most mainstream publications, editors and writers continue to use it. But, hey, let's not allow reality to get in the way of a strongly expressed opinion. Dirtlawyer1 (talk) 18:12, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
My point was that even though he prescribes the American system, and calls the other British, he admits that the other is more logical, is called "logical punctuation", and represents how even Americans actually write, because it is more logical. Yes, he's trying to maintain or establish a national divide where none need be and none tends to be if you let people write logically. He is doing what you and frog are doing, but admitting that he's losing because it's not how logical people write. Dicklyon (talk) 18:22, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
That point has come across very well, Dicklyon. You've shown us one source written by one guy acting alone who explains why he thinks that British style is better, and does so well. But he does not claim that using British style is correct in American English or that professional-quality publications should switch to British at this time. By reading that he docks his students papers, we can infer that he believes the opposite. So there isn't anything in this article that could outweigh the requirements outlined in style guides that we've provided. In fact, most of it is consistent with them.
I also notice that Yagoda doens't list even one case of British style performing better (or worse) than American style under real-world conditions. He doesn't claim that it improves reading comprehension or inspires more confidence in the reader.
Got any more? I much prefer analyzing sources to the other kind of discussion. Darkfrog24 (talk) 18:34, 27 June 2013 (UTC)
My point is that even though he prefers it and prescribes it as American, he laments that Americans don't write this way, because it's illogical. We got beyond that problem in WP, so let's not go back there. Dicklyon (talk) 00:13, 28 June 2013 (UTC)
Yes, I got that part: he likes British style more and he explains why. But the bottom line is that that is one man's opinion. Why is his opinion more important than mine? More relevantly, what makes his opinion more important than the dictates of every American style guide and the practice of almost every quality American publication?
As for "problem," this article doesn't establish that there is one. Mr. Yagoda doesn't list even one case of confusion, ambiguity or frustration attributable to American English. He just explains why he likes the British way more.
WP:LQ, however, is causing problems for Wikipedia now. The use of incorrect punctuation makes us look stupid, and the MoS regulars are continually bogged down with challenges.
Let's look at this in more immediate terms: If you wanted to say "This punctuation practice is not really American" or "British English is superior to American English" or "American English causes problems that British English does not" in a Wikipedia article, you would not be able to use Mr. Yagoda's piece as a source because it does not say any of those things. You could say, "According to Slate contributor Ben Yagoda, British style is more logical than American style." However, if you wanted to say "This punctuation practice is American and that one is British" you would have your pick of reputable sources, including this one. Darkfrog24 (talk) 01:37, 28 June 2013 (UTC)
(partial edit conflict). No. He says that LP (LQ) is predominately used on the web. Wikipedia is on the web. The conclusion is obvious. Given that, I can't really support option 4. That provides a clear justification for option 1.
And I disagree that LQ is causing problems. I would need a citation to believe that. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 01:44, 28 June 2013 (UTC)
The examples that he gives of "on the web" are bulletin boards and email, the places where people say rofl and don't bother to capitalize things. That's not what Wikipedia is trying to be. Professional writing in American English, online or off, still uses American punctuation. In fine, the things that Yagoda describes as "on the web" are best described as casual conversation, which Wikipedia is not.
As for problems, the incorrect punctuation in American English articles is itself a problem, but I'd understand that you guys don't agree with me about that. I cite this conversation as an example of another problem. WP:LQ has been challenged three times in the past forty days, by three separate people.
Another problem? Users getting brought up on AN/I for using American punctuation in the article space. That happened to me a few years ago. Darkfrog24 (talk) 02:27, 28 June 2013 (UTC)

You know what? Sources speak louder than words: Places on the web that use American punctuation:

  1. The New York Times [17]
  2. The Washington Post [18]
  3. And for something that's not also paper-based, Yahoo News [19]
  4. Here's a BNF livejournal account as an example of informal web writing in which American punctuation is used consistently. [20]

And that took me about five minutes to find. Yes, Wikipedia is on the web, but is the mission of the MoS to make it look like emails and bulletin boards or to make it look like a professional, reliable source of information? We're better off copying these guys. 02:40, 28 June 2013 (UTC)

RfC on MOS:LQ?

Is adding a {{rfc}} template to the top of the major section really the right way to raise the RFC we need here? It seems simply to be asking the community to come along and read through three miles of discussion and informal straw poll that we've already had -- and then what? Are we seriously asking people to do that?

The question asked at the very top of this section was simply for clarification of the current MOS:LQ (which we haven't yet clarified, by the way). This is the question currently copied to the places where the RFC is listed. But the discussion quickly expanded into the whole question of whether MOS:LQ was right for all articles, leading to the four options. Of these, only two get much support in the straw poll: option 4 (two systems allowed) and option 1 (only the current system allowed -- no change to the status quo). I'd have thought we need two things:

  • For someone who knows what MOS:LQ is really supposed to mean to explain it and perhaps provide some better wording. This requires someone with the right knowledge, not community input, surely.
  • For an RFC (if we want one) to present option 4 and to ask the community whether it is approved or not. The structure of option 4 is pretty well outlined in this post by User:Dirtlawyer1, and the terminology used can be that of this post by User:Darkfrog24.

Or am I missing something? --Stfg (talk) 09:37, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

To be blunt, now is the time to either put up (an RfC) or shut up. We've spent ages discussing this; now we need a decision. However, regretfully, I think that an RfC, as a formal procedure, can't be post-dated. It has to start from the beginning, although it can refer back to this discussion. Peter coxhead (talk) 10:01, 29 June 2013 (UTC)
I agree. I'm not sure if that's the law, but it's certainly the most sensible. I've requested GabeMc to withdraw the present RFC. If someone wants to raise one presenting option 4, let's have at it. --Stfg (talk) 11:03, 29 June 2013 (UTC)
You guys are right that we shouldn't expect newcomers to read that huge thread. I could get behind an RfC, but we should present all four options. Many of us have expressed a willingness to compromise on option four, but options two and three are better supported by the sources and people not already familiar with this debate may prefer them. Darkfrog24 (talk) 12:14, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

Before we put the RfC up, let's hammer out the wording:

Should the MoS replace WP:LQ? This rule has been in place for many years, but it has low compliance in the article space. It is challenged often (unsuccessfully). The main reason for the challenges is that it requires a punctuation practice that is considered incorrect by almost all sources on American English (most British sources endorse the practice, but there is some variation). Supporters of WP:LQ cite the practice's appealing logic. Opponents argue that a different punctuation practice, referred to as "American punctuation" by reliable sources, should at least be allowed in American English articles.
WP:LQ deals with the placement of periods and commas with quotation marks.
The currently required practice: Eric Clapton, nicknamed "God", performed "Cocaine". (Periods and commas are placed according to sense.)
Practice given in American sources: Eric Clapton, nicknamed "God," performed "Cocaine." (Periods and commas are placed inside closing quotation marks.)
  1. Should WP:LQ be retained in its current form?
  2. Should the MoS adopt an ENGVAR-based rule, preferring or requiring "American" punctuation in American English articles and "British/logical" in British articles?
  3. Should the MoS prefer or require "American" in American English articles and either style in British articles?
  4. Should the MoS allow both punctuation practices so long as each article is internally consistent?
IMPORTANT: Although most style guides and other sources appear to be divided along national lines the idea that these punctuation styles are really British and American, has been challenged emphatically.
No evidence that either style performs better or worse than the other under Wikipedia conditions has been offered.

So what do you guys think? Use just the first paragraph or the whole thing? And yes, we must mention the national divide, preferably in neutral terms. Many of you guys find the evidence that these styles are British and American unconvincing, but new participants deserve to know that it is there and evaluate it for themselves. Darkfrog24 (talk) 12:14, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

I think ... that your campaign to brand punctuation with ENGAR is destructive and unnecessary, and that any mention of nationalism in the RFC will render it invalid. Tony (talk) 12:24, 29 June 2013 (UTC)
Tony, you're being unreasonable. We have seen plenty of sources that say that these practices are American and British respectively and no sources saying that they are not. Leaving out the idea of the national divide could damage the validity of the RfC. Sure, we should say that not everyone agrees, and I can get behind using quotation marks, but ignoring the sources would be wrong.
I understand that you don't believe that the style guides are right, and that's fair, but for what reason would we not even mention what they say?
Look at it this way, everything that the RfC says is true: 1. The sources are mostly divided along national lines. 2. The sources mostly call these practices "British" and "American." 3. Some people think those names are inaccurate. It's pretty generous to leave out 4. There's no evidence that they're inaccurate. Darkfrog24 (talk) 12:52, 29 June 2013 (UTC)
It's not a matter of right or wrong, of course. It's what is most appropriate for an encyclopedia that values precise, attribution, of, sources. without, inserting. confabulated, punctuation (that the source never used.) and that conflicts with everyone's practice (in using parentheses.) Tony (talk) 13:12, 29 June 2013 (UTC)
Tony, the purpose of the RfC is to ask people to give their input on whether we should retain or replace WP:LQ. To do that, yes, we have to tell them what the main objection to WP:LQ is. That objection is that it requires a punctuation practice that is considered incorrect in American English. Yes, we have to use the word "American" to get that idea across. What you're saying seems to be, "We can only have an RfC if you don't mention any reason why people shouldn't agree with me!" We can phrase the RfC in a way that does not endorse one side or the other, but we do have to say what those sides are.
Saying that tucking commas in will confuse people is like saying that putting an unpronounced g in the word "freight" will confuse people. English is crazy, but "frate" is incorrect. If the readers are confused, then they haven't finished learning to read yet. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:48, 29 June 2013 (UTC)
  • Darkfrog24, before I say why I disagree with this proposal, please understand that I do recognise that you've take pains to express it in acceptable terms (e.g. quoting "American" and "British/logical", which I like). Thank you for that. But unfortunately I do disagree with it, for several reasons:
    • I disagree with presenting options 2 and 3, which tie the issue to ENGVAR, because we've already established that, on both sides of the Atlantic, the choice is that of the majority, but is not universal. Tying either option to the ENGVAR most associated with it would force the majority practice of an ENGVAR on all writers of that ENGVAR.
    • You may be unwise to present so many options, since the more options there are the less likely there is to be consensus. No-consensus means no change to the status quo, which is your least acceptable outcome, isn't it?
    • A minor detail: it isn't generally right to present the style guides as "reliable sources". Most of those you listed in the now-archived sources subsection are prescriptions of one house style, not general studies of the state of affairs in a country. The majority of style guides, sure, but they are only sources for the things they are primary sources for.
    • Another minor detail: the existence of some variation is hidden inside a parenthesis that addresses British practice. There is some variation on both sides of the pond, and this should be made clear.
    • In reply to "just the first paragraph or the whole thing?": I think the whole thing. The Eric Clapton example will make the issue clearer for many people, I think.
    • Don't we need to make clear that changes to an article in this regard are subject to article talk page agreement, as in Dirtlawyer1's formulation?
--Stfg (talk) 14:38, 29 June 2013 (UTC)
Thank you Stfg, I try very hard to be fair and it's good to see that appreciated.
      • We should not present only options one and four because those are not in fact our only options. You looked at the sources that were presented to you and you determined for yourself that there was no significant national divide. Give the new commenters the chance to do the same. As I said to Tony, the point of the RfC is that WP:LQ has been challenged (again). The basis of the challenge is that it violates correct American English, that there is a national divide on this issue. On Wikipedia, national divides are dealt with via ENGVAR.
      • Why wouldn't a style guide be a reliable source for an article like WP:MoS? If the question is "Is this punctuation/grammar/formatting practice correct or incorrect?" then a style guide is the document to consult, just as one would consult a dictionary for spelling and meaning. This is not a rhetorical question. I actually do not understand and would like an answer.
      • I could get behind saying "Almost all American style guides require [American style]. Most British style guides require [British style], but the majority is not so overwhelming as among American style guides" or "Most British sources endorse the practice, but there is more variation than among American sources" or something to that effect. It's the truth, after all.
      • You mean make an addendum to option four? I'd prefer to keep it simple. Otherwise, we'd have multiple option fours with multiple rule options. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:57, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

() As briefly as I can, because this really is dragging on for far too long: "On Wikipedia, national divides are dealt with via ENGVAR." No, that's an over-simplification that has already been dealt with. Example: dashes. I am strongly opposed to offering options 2 and/or 3 because they do not respect the choice of individual editors (e.g. those following the guide of the American Chemical Society). It's important to me that editors creating articles in either ENGVAR can make their own choice of correct punctuation style without being subjected to pressure to align to the national majority position. Most people won't want to trawl through all those sources, and we shouldn't be asking people to spend significant amounts of their time their time researching punctuation (as if they would :))

I am striking my point about reliable sources. What I meant was things like the National Geographic Style Manual apply only to the National Geographic, not to American practice as a whole. But of course several of the sources you list (e.g. Garners) are reliable about the language as a whole. Point struck. I'm OK with either of the wordings you suggest in your bullet 3. I don't want variants of option 4 but I do want it clear that people must seek agreement to changing articles in the same way that they must seek agreement for, say, changes to an article's choice of CITEVAR; and I do want it clear that it would be unacceptable for people to go around changing the punctuation in stable articles for the sake of imposing a preference. I don't mind what people do when improving stubs about trivia that need copy editing anyway, but if people were to start trampling around the quality end of the encyclopedia imposing their preferences, or even making editors take time out to consider their preferences, then I would think it very disruptive and pointy. I think Dirtlawyer1's formulation is sufficient to cover this, and I think it needs to be part of option 4, not an addendum or variant of it. --Stfg (talk) 21:56, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

Brief aside to Stfg: I am glad to see that you struck your comment regarding "house style guides." Clearly, while several of the listed American style guides might be fairly characterized as "house style guides" (including both American examples that require BS/LQ), the various MLA handbooks, The Chicago Manual of Style, The Elements of Style and Garner's clearly are not. The AP Style Book and the CP Style Book can only be characterized as "house style guides" if by "house" you mean the entire North American newspaper industry; like CMOS, the influence of the AP and CP guides permeates the entire publishing industry. Dirtlawyer1 (talk) 23:31, 29 June 2013 (UTC)
Well said, Stfg, well said, but if allowing editors to choose either British or American punctuation is important to you, then that is a good reason why you should support option four, but it is not a good reason to refrain from informing new contributors that options two and three exist. Remember, the purpose of the text of the RfC is not to persuade the reader to take one position or the other but to inform the reader about the nature of the debate. The main argument that has been made against WP:LQ is not that it bans one of two equally acceptable styles but rather that, in American English articles, these two styles are not equally acceptable.
As for option four, I don't want people accepting or rejecting it because they do or don't like the requirements that have been laid down for what actions people should perform before implementing article changes. If this issue does end up deviating from Wikipedia's standard procedure, then that should be dealt with as a separate issue—but the issue of whether it's a separate issue is also a separate issue. Darkfrog24 (talk) 01:09, 30 June 2013 (UTC)
Options 2 and 3 were included by you in your list of options, but they gained no traction here. LQ in America and traditional quoting in Britain are minority choices, but choices are not less "acceptable" (your word) because they are less often chosen. Frankly, options 2 and 3 are little more than an excuse to fight prescriptivist rearguard actions against minority practices.
Higher up this subsection, Tony said "I think ... that your campaign to brand punctuation with ENGAR is destructive and unnecessary". I've come to agree. You said you'd get behind option 4, but now you're rowing back on that. This after you told me that in a compromise I had to accept things I don't like. You've posted more times in this debate than the next three posters added together. Wikipedia isn't a game of last man standing. I can't stop you raising whatever RFC you want, but imho this is not the right way to go about getting and implementing consensus. I'm done. --Stfg (talk) 08:25, 30 June 2013 (UTC)
Stfg, I am not "branding" American punctuation as American and British as British. It is that way. Do you think I went to the MLA, AMA, APA, Chicago Manual of Style, Oxford organizations and forced them all to describe this issue along national lines?
The objection to LQ is that it forces editors to use punctuation that is wrong in American English. Any RfC must at least include this idea. Darkfrog24 (talk) 15:12, 30 June 2013 (UTC)
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