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Policy on terminology consistency?

One thing that I've noticed in a number of articles is the inconsistent use of terms even when there are no overriding contextual reasons to do so. For example, take the abbreviation for World War II - a number of articles use the abbreviation WWII [1], and others use the abbreviation WW2 [2]. For the Nanking Massacre, some articles use that term [3], and others use "Rape of Nanking" [4]. It seems to me that there should be a MoS policy stating that barring any contextual, technical, or dialect issues, articles should use the same terminology as the primary article article. This has the added benefit of centralizing debates regarding terminology in the relevant articles; people that lose an argument on how to name article XYZ would not be able to fight their fight on the articles that link to XYZ. Comments? --Bletch 23:58, 18 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Yes. Are you crazy? The last thing a big free-flowing project like this needs is a rule to stifle creativity. While it may be possible to come up with one way of saying World War II that is the best way for so doing, to remove the ability for anyone to write it as WW II because they "lost" some argument somewhere misses a whole bunch of the philosophy behind Wikipedia. Highlighted links are not meant to be "titles" which may have all sorts of constraints (including disambiguations and the fact that articles frequently encompass multiple related terms) and words in text should not be straight-jacketed into article titles either. A link is just a link, a way for the reader to explore a subject further. By holding the pointer on the link you can see the article to which that link will lead. The person writing the article (and others who modify it) may have all sorts of reasons to express things the way they do without stilting things by making links exactly match titles and vice versa. In fact, Wikipedia options for setting up links are the way they are just for the reason that good writing, scholarship, and multiple backgrounds of contributors make plasticity in this aspect of writing/editing absolutely necessary. I think your idea could have merit in only a limited number of cases at best - Marshman 01:41, 21 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Well much of those disambiguation justifications fall under what I previously said about contextual reasons. For obvious reasons, an article on Brazil would link to its national sport by using [[Football (soccer)|football]], whereas an article on the New England Revolution may use [[Football (soccer)|soccer]], because of the differing context. But there are many cases where inconsistency exists without any reason. --Bletch 21:53, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)
Simply because consistency within an article is a virtue (it aids the reader, the only recommendation a virtue requires), that doesn't mean that lack of consistency among articles is a sin. --Wetman 22:39, 22 Jun 2005 (UTC)


Don't revert my edits, Philip, you don't own this page. Why would I need to seek consensus for adding that the NOR policy, along with NPOV, takes precedence? They both take precedence, because they're policies. SlimVirgin (talk) 20:04, Jun 20, 2005 (UTC)


illustrates standards or behaviors which some or many editors agree with in principle. However, it is not policy.

Added Guideline notice to the top of page due to the fact that it could be considered a wikipedia guideline even though it is not an official wikipedia policy. Jtkiefer 06:32, Jun 26, 2005 (UTC)


Some footnote calls come before the punctuation[1]; others, after.[2] Some even get preceding spaces. [3] What's the rule? Is there one? Personal preference? All depends? (And, on a related note, why do we let the footnote template mess up line spacing to such an extent?) Hajor 30 June 2005 23:49 (UTC)

No? Nobody? Hajor 7 July 2005 05:07 (UTC)

I don't use footnotes, but I wonder the same thing about inline links.


(a) We're discussing how to punctuate. [5]


(b) We're discussing how to punctuate [6].

I do the former. If it were a question: "Are we discussing how to punctuate?" we wouldn't write:

(c) Are we discussing how to punctuate [7]? SlimVirgin (talk) July 7, 2005 05:22 (UTC)

The former. The punctuation is part of the statement that is being referenced. Mark1 7 July 2005 05:28 (UTC)

I think it's a question of taste. Generally, in my experience as an editor, footnotes follow punctuation without an intervening space. I don't have the energy or inclination to go look it up but I'd say this is general practice and would be surprised if there was much dissent in the style guides. It is definitely so in Hart's Rules and I think so too in CMS. This makes sense particularly with a period because the alternative is rather ugly and the period does "belong" to the sentence that is being footnoted. After a comma is more tricky because the comma can be said to "belong" to both clauses that it separates. If you put it before though, it looks as though the note is only on the word that it follows.

Unless anyone has a source they feel can rival Hart's Rules or CMS, I'd go with them if we must choose. -- Grace Note

OK, thanks. And my apologies for confusing footnote calls with inline links. What CMS (14th) says is: "the superior numerals used for note reference should follow any punctuation marks except the dash (...) Whenever possible, a note number should come at the end of a sentence, or at least at end of a clause." And it prints them without an intervening space. But from a strictly aesthetic point of view, our (non-superscripted) inline links look better with a separating space, per SlimVirgin, above. Which is what I think I'll continue to do (while not tyranically imposing my preferences on other editors in the absence of a MoS guideline, of course). Hajor 21:27, 13 July 2005 (UTC)

Don't use contractions, really?

Like to discuss this:

In general, we prefer formal writing. Therefore, avoid contractions — such as don't, can't and won't, except when you are quoting directly.

Avoiding contractions makes writing formal all right. It also makes it bloated and liturgical. Avoiding contractions makes everything sound like a user manual for a boring appliance. An ancient, boring appliance.

Don't we want Wikipedia articles to read like articles in great newspapers or magazines? Aren't those writers using contractions to impart rhythm to their writing?

I do not advocate slang or dialect, or even Latin abbreviations. (I say, write and so on, not etc. That's a good rule.)

Yes, some contractions are confusing. However, don't and can't and won't are proper English and hardly ambiguous.

I'm sure people disagree on this. But as writer who has (not who's, because it can mean who has or who is) followed many style guides, I object to rules that discourage an everyday, lively tone, even for an encyclopedia. Make that especially for an encyclopedia.

DavidH 1 July 2005 03:16 (UTC)

Couldn't agree more with you. If it brings rythm and eases the reading, I'm absolutely for it. --Jotomicron | talk 1 July 2005 09:41 (UTC)
Please try to remember, though, that Wikipedia's audience is international, and many of the readers here may not have as good a command of English as you. Contractions are a complication for many of those readers and I think you may find that if you really try, you can write fine prose without them.
Atlant 1 July 2005 12:02 (UTC)
I agree with DavidH - contractions are a normal part of language and it's okay to use them (but not to over-use them!). I really don't understand Atlant's point - anyone learning English learns about the contractions can't, don't, won't, shan't, daren't, shouldn't fairly quickly. The only contractions I think I wouldn't like to see are could've, would've, should've, which I don't think have ever really been accepted generally in written form, jguk 2 July 2005 08:00 (UTC)
I agree also, all the more because Wikipedia seems overall to be somewhat more accessible and informal than your average encyclopedia. I also favour the singular they of common speech as an alternative to stilted dual-gendered sentences, but that remains controversial. Deco 2 July 2005 09:04 (UTC)

I think it is better to avoid contractions. I am not sure whether sentences with contractions sound more natural. And I doubt there can be any agreement, since it is rather a personal matter in my opinion. I, however, was taught not use them in "formal writing", and I believe many were as well. I also think this is also in many manual of styles. So I simply prefer to follow the guidline mostly accepted. It's like while English is probably not the best language there is, we are not here to try to improve it. -- Taku July 2, 2005 14:04 (UTC)

...It's like while English is probably not the best language there is, we are not here to try to improve it.
Taku implies grander motives than I have. Suggesting a common, everyday tone for aticles has nothing to do with "trying to improve English." Aren't contractions pretty well established in good-enough-as-it-is English?
Can't comment on contractions as obstacles to understanding for non-native readers. I would guess that "can't" is probably less difficult to comprehend than words like "disambiguation." Don't even get me started on "i.e." and "e.g."
Maybe I should have gone more to the heart of the matter: so-called "formal writing." To me, "formal writing" is what appears on bronze plaques and in official declarations. It doesn't mean anything that's written for publication. Being a professional writer for more than 20 years, 99 percent of what I have written has not been meant to be "formal"; it was published for general audiences, not ceremonial occasions where a formal tone is expected.
Don't misinterpret this to mean "you should use contractions." If you are uncomfortable with them, by all means avoid them. I want to encourage everyone to contibute to the best of their abilities and comfort levels. -- DavidH 2 July 2005 15:17 (UTC)
I don't believe Wikipedia is in a position to be setting trends on this issue. At present, the overwhelming convention is that published or formal writing avoid contractions. As such, introducing their use to Wikipedia would, I believe, represent a compromise in quality. If it is an issue near and dear to you or others, you may wish to instead edit the Simple English Wikipedia, where contractions are perhaps acceptable.--  Cyberjunkie TALK 6 July 2005 04:10 (UTC)
Oh, come on now. Have you read a book, newspaper or magazine lately? What is your basis for this statement?
At present, the overwhelming convention is that published or formal writing avoid contractions.
Sorry if you've been misled by some pedantic purist, but I've been a paid writer and editor for more than 20 years, for books, newspapers, and magazines in general circulation, and your contention is just not supported by fact (unless we're talking about a different century or something). Cheers -- DavidH July 6, 2005 04:34 (UTC)
I suspect he meant "published" in the academic sense (perhaps a refereed journal), not in the generic, "it made it to print" sense. I think contractions are discouraged in scholarly articles, and I think this is more the tone that Wikipedia strives for. Could be wrong, though... ;)HorsePunchKid July 6, 2005 05:18 (UTC)
I should have clarified that. Yes, I meant "published" in the academic sense.--  Cyberjunkie TALK 6 July 2005 05:25 (UTC)
Indeed I have read many a book, newspaper [and] magazine lately. However, it is disingenuous to suggest that these mediums use contractions as a rule. I can honestly say that aside from quotations or editorials, newspapers do not use contractions – or at least not those that I read. As for books and magazines, whether contractions are used or not is wholly dependant on style in which they are written, or indeed, for what purpose. Research journals and non-fiction/informational books do not use contractions. Wikipedia is akin to these. Novels and general/opinion magazines, I concede, will generally use contractions. However, my contention stands that contractions are a trait of speech and casual writing, and that Wikipedia, as a conveyor of information, should not use them.--  Cyberjunkie TALK 6 July 2005 05:07 (UTC)
(Though I am not suggesting that novels and magazines are not conveyors of information, either. The encyclopædias I have encountered, or textbooks for that matter, do not use contractions - why should we?)--  Cyberjunkie TALK 6 July 2005 05:07 (UTC)
I think what we're seeing here is yet another WP collision between Commonwealth English and American English. In my experience, Commonwealth English has style and structure that are both much more fluid than in American English. The overwhelming majority of American English publications refrain from using contractions — that is, the ones that purport to speak with a neutral voice, like newspapers and newsmagazines. Of course, many American writers do use contractions, but that's when they're writing fiction or writing opinion pieces, where a loose conversational style is appropriate. --Coolcaesar 6 July 2005 05:51 (UTC)

And to think that British English speakers are accused of snobbery, despite egalitarian views such as, "In my experience, Commonwealth English has style and structure that are both much more fluid than in American English."

I'm sorry; I couldn't resist. Let's be honest, ladies and gents, whatever you grow up with or hear every day is what sounds "fluid" to you. However, what we're talking about is writing style for an encyclopedia intended, I hope, for a general audience. Do you want it to read like an academic paper or scholarly journal, or do you want it to read like an interesting piece of magazine journalism? I quote from Woe is I, the Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia C. O'Connor. Who's she? A former editor of the New York Times Book Review who has also written guest columns in the "On Language" section in the New York Times Magazine:

The contraction—two words combined into one, as in don't or I'm—seldom gets a fair shake from English teachers. It may be tolerated, but it's looked down upon as a colloquial, or, according to one expert, 'dialect' (what a slur!). Yet despite its esteem problem, the humble contraction is used every day by virtually everyone, and has been for centuries. Quaint antiquities like shan't (shall not) 'tis (it is), 'twas (it was), 'twill (it will), 'twould (it would), and even 'twon't (it will not) are evidence of the contraction's long history.
Today's contractions always include a verb; the other word is usually a subject or the word 'not.'
Isn't it time we admitted that the contraction has earned its place in the sun? It has all the qualities we admire in language: it's handy, succinct, and economical, and everybody knows what it means. Contractions are obviously here to stay, so why not give them a little respect?

Couldn't have said it better myself. Maybe the distinguishing characteristic of American writers is that we are less concerned with sounding scholarly than we are with our scholarship not putting average readers to sleep. If I blaspheme, I do it with good intention. I am convinced that the writing in Wikipedia will be more lively, and more appealing to the average reader, if contractions are not banned. A lot of people feel exactly the opposite, that Wikipedia should sound scholarly, that we must avoid contractions to maintain a tone of authority, of academia. I s'pose. Anyway, we won't agree, and I don't want any more whacks from "my English teach said so!" rulers. As always, no offense meant to those who disagree, and my appreciation to all who contribute. DavidH 04:33, July 20, 2005 (UTC)

"Why not give them a little respect?" — Because that's simply not the issue. For better or worse, non-contracted forms give a piece of writing a tone of credibility and authority. I treat text differently depending on whether or not it uses contractions because that's how I've been (implicitly) trained. Lack of contractions is preferable purely because of that tone, and, weak though the justification may be, I don't feel like Wikipedia is the place to start changing this perception. I can only confidently speak for myself, but I'm pretty sure (or at least I hope!) that many others out there feel the same way. (Disclaimer: All said seriously, but in the spirit of fun ;).) —HorsePunchKid 05:59, July 20, 2005 (UTC)
I do, and have previously stated so. — Cyberjunkie | Talk 06:15, 20 July 2005 (UTC)

It's been a long time since even academic English (at least in the disciplines with which I'm familiar) refused to use contractions; written English without them doesn't read to me as though it's more credible and authoritative, but as though it's constipated (which doesn't inspire confidence). --Mel Etitis (Μελ Ετητης) 10:52, 20 July 2005 (UTC)

Perhaps disciplines differ significantly in the tone of their writing, then. I very, very rarely see contractions in scholarly publications in my discipline (mathematics and computer science) or in the fields that I read much in (physics, biology, linguistics). I'm pretty sure contractions would stand out to my eye; granted, I don't read as much as I used to. Anyway, opinions are unlikely to resolve this "debate". (They never do, do they?) Looks like we'll have to appeal to authority after all... ;)HorsePunchKid 19:13, July 20, 2005 (UTC)
Just to clarify: I am an American. I prefer the stricter syntax of American English, because it reduces the amount of exception handling I have to do when I'm reading a new document. Then I can concentrate on the substantive content, rather than playing Chomsky transformative grammar games in my head to determine which words and clauses agree with each other.
As for the situation in other disciplines, I can personally verify that both law and history traditionally refrain from the use of contractions. There is one famous judge, Alex Kozinski, who often uses contractions in his writing, but he is the exception. Everyone puts up with Kozinski's funny idiosyncrasies because he writes so well (even if he talks in a rather strange way). --Coolcaesar 01:38, 21 July 2005 (UTC)

Court Cases

It is my understanding that court cases are to be rendered in italics and with versus abbreviated as v., e.g., Roe v. Wade. Assuming I am correct, and assuming that it isn't already buried in this style guide somewhere, perhaps we should this as a rule. (I would do it myself, except that I'm not sure if perhaps there is a more specific legal manual where such an addition would be more appropriate [than in the main style manual])


OK with me. Maurreen 2 July 2005 14:21 (UTC)
My two cents: Italics don't seem necessary. In the case Roe v. Wade, blah blah blah. In Sullivan v. New York Times, the court held that...
The less italic text, the better. -- DavidH 2 July 2005 14:34 (UTC)
My fourpenn'orth: I think italics are appropriate here, though I wouldn't worry about adding the dot after the v. Certainly wherever I refer to a case in my professional life, I will always use italics, jguk 2 July 2005 16:08 (UTC)
OK, just one more pence from me: Those aren't really titles at all. They're shorthand for the actual captions on the cases, as I understand it. I'm fundamentally wary about font changes. The context in most articles would make references to cases clear.
Not a huge deal for sure. Anybody writing about court cases is competent to format as they see fit, without a specific guideline. -- DavidH

Italics are the standard style. See Court citation for more details, and Template:Citation HCA and Template:Citation CLR for providing the proper form, and linking to online text, for Austrialian cases. If there aren't similar tempaltes for US cases, there probably should be. See also Wikipedia:WikiProject U.S. Supreme Court cases. DES 5 July 2005 17:36 (UTC)

Actually the official GPO Style Manual calls for the v. to not be italicized. Thus the "correct" version is Roe v. Wade, not Roe v. Wade
11.8. The names of legal cases are italicized, except for the v. When requested, the names of such cases may be set in roman with an italic v. In matter set in italic, legal cases are set in roman with the v. being set roman. (See the GPO Style Manual for specific examples.)
Obviously this need only apply for U.S. court cases and I certainly wouldn't lose sleep over it, but if templates are developed for U.S. cases they should follow it. -- Caerwine 00:28, 31 July 2005 (UTC)
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