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CapitalizationStandardFrench > French capitalization standard Discussion


This page should hold all discussion about current issues with guidelines concerning French capitalization standard.

Please try to be constructive and only keep objective arguments here ;-).

Related documents

Related document that should be read:

Current issues

Current guidelines are not widely accepted, and in particular the exception A. In result CapitalizationStandardFrench is not fully applied and French data are not uniform: the capitalization may change from an artist (or a release) to another one.

Moreover the GuessCase tool behaviour does not match guidelines.

Also, the sheer fact some editors don't follow the current capitalization guide somewhat question their ability to follow any (updated) capitalization guide (but their own idea about things of course)...

  • Shame indeed. Name 'em ! And name those who settled an agreement with them to use sentence case until the the present discussion comes to an end. MLL
    • No, I won't name 'em, and yes, I think it's a shame :-). I don't want this to turn into personal flame. Just wanted to outline this is a major problem, which IMHO question the use of spending time working on this if people are not to follow it anyway. -- dmppanda 17:13, 30 March 2007 (UTC)
      • Alternately, it could mean only that the rules are too complex and that people don't want to have to use an abacus each time they enter a title. Note that I didn not write "too complex to understand", I only meant "too complex to apply". I understand and accept that I must think hard about what I am doing when I edit in a foreign language (english for example), but not in my own language. If something is so complex to understand that each line I enter I must fetch my Grevisse or even check on a wiki the exact rules, I feel something is wrong. Of course, I could learn these rules, but I would hate learning something so irrational. Oh, and I avoid going against the rules; how? I stopped editing in French. Wow, wording your anger sure makes you feel better ;-) -- davitof 2009-03-30
        • And that's exactly what I'd hate to see: even french people not editing caps on MB for this reason (FWIW I think I'd just let go caps as they are, even if in ugly Caps Everywhere Mode, if we choose too complex an option to remember for my weak brains, too). -- mll 20:33, 30 March 2007 (UTC)
    Don't be too so pessimistic, we may find a solution on which a majority of us agree... :) BTW the issue of guidelines that are not followed is more general than this one and we can't do anything about it here. -- murdos 20:43, 29 March 2007 (UTC)


The possible solutions are described below.

Option 0: Keep things as they are

This corresponds to system I Standard capitalization, without rule C of this document.

Rationale (= pros)

  • These are the rules which are the most widely used.
  • This is our current official styleguide

Refusal (= cons)

  • I see the Wikipedia as the only popular example and the Imprimerie nationale document the only (imho, archaic) reference. Aren't we just fooling ourselves? Even the Université Laval document that the Wikipedia is citing doesn't recommend the Imprimerie nationale rules. -- deuxpi 00:30, 06 December 2008 (UTC)
  • Exception A need understanding French to be applied correctly.
  • Some other languages are in the same case and French is not easy to learn. -- murdos 16:25, 29 March 2007 (UTC)
    • English capitalization as well, IMHO, can't be done without understanding of the language. See the (still unsolved officially) discussions about 'Round Midnight and other cases. -- dmppanda 17:13, 30 March 2007 (UTC)
  • Exception A leads to irregular capitalization.
  • This is why option 2 may be better than current guidelines. -- murdos 16:21, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

Option 1: Simplify current guidelines, use sentence capitalization everywhere

Always use the sentence case and throw the exception. Yet, proper nouns are capitalized. Note: this solution is already used in practice by some editors.

This corresponds to system III Sentence capitalization of this document.

Rationale (= pros)

  • The current guidelines are too complex and are difficult to understand, and code in the case guessing application.
  • During this summer discussion, the detractors of the current guideline admitted (IIRC) the rules weren't complex or difficult to understand. (TODO: dig the links) -- dmppanda 17:13, 30 March 2007 (UTC)
  • They may even be ambiguous (see difficulty to set clear examples below).
  • This is FUD (sorry to say). The "difficulties" applied to "sentence case" option 1, and to the proposed option 2. -- dmppanda 17:13, 30 March 2007 (UTC)
  • By its simplicity, this option may allow more people not fluent in french to apply the guidelines.
  • People not familiar enough with french can't fix spelling, and they may not even be able to recognize proper nouns (eg: Le chemin de Pierre, versus Le chemin de pierre). People not familiar with a language shouldn't edit things in that language without assistance. If they do, they are expected to play safe and do only what they can and have their work reviewed by natives. -- dmppanda 17:13, 30 March 2007 (UTC)
  • Vive le Québec ! Notice that they also advocate accentuated uppercase, which is also a great idea IMO, as in École, À la pêche aux moules, etc. -- jesus2099 09:43, 27 October 2008 (UTC)

Refusal (= cons)

  • Rules are not so complex, this is the CapitalizationStandardFrench page that is really confusing and need some clean-up.
  • This would make use deviate entirely from Wikipedia and common usage in cataloging and in libraries. -- dmppanda 17:13, 30 March 2007 (UTC)

Option 2: Keep & extend current guidelines

Keep the current guidelines and add additional rules such as one for symmetry (in order to fix non aesthetic situation like Le Rouge et le noir or Le Cerf, le druide et le loup).

This corresponds to system I Standard capitalization, with rule C of this document.

Rationale (= pros)

  • The current guidelines match common practice with books, libraries and Wikipedia.
  • Additional rules are needed to fix non aesthetic case.

Refusal (= cons)

  • It's precisely the Capital letter applied to common nouns which is humbly considered not aesthetic by detractors of the rules. Adding more Capitals would push the ugliness even further. Option 2 would be worse than current guideline from that angle. (j2)
  • This guideline is not that much common practice with books.
  • This option seems ambiguous (see difficulty to set clear examples below).
  • As this is not formalized yet, and a clear choice of new rules being not made yet, I don't expect it to be "clear" right away. -- dmppanda 17:13, 30 March 2007 (UTC)

Option 3: Use Important noun capitalization

This is a sort of mix between Option 1 & Option 2: the first word of any "important" nouns are capitalized.

This corresponds to system II Important noun capitalization of this document.

Rationale (= pros)

  • A sort of compromise

Refusal (= cons)

  • Estimate if a noun is "important" is highly subjective and debatable, and depends of the context in which it is used.

Related discussions

Do we need rules that people not fluent in french can apply and why? Should we lower the "quality" (no specific option intended) to obtain that? Who is really aimed with French data?

  • I think it's important. My basic knowledge of german, for instance, allowed me to edit some tracks, for a better MB. Lots of non-french took part to the aforementioned ML discussion, and expressed this IIRC. And I said "not fluent", not ignorant, so yes, one needs a basic knowledge of french to identify proper nouns, but it's IMHO not that hard (yes, Delerm is a gold mine for proper nouns :) ) -- MLL
    • I do think the real audience is French (-speaking) people. I don't see the point to have a good MB for French data if there's not enough French editors (and users) who cares. However I think we should have a tidier and more simple page describing the guidelines (and yes this is certainly possible with option #0 or #2 :p), so that you don't need to be a typographic and grammar expert to understand the rules ;-) Incidentally, this would allow non fluent people to do some edits, even if these edits are not always 100% right (it's still better than using CapitalizationStandardEnglish). -- murdos 20:43, 29 March 2007 (UTC) Let people who like french music input some things. They'll be happy doing it as we may be when inputing foreign music we like and for which we don't always master the language. Foreigners who like french music will love Option 1 -- jesus2099 21:46, 29 March 2007 (UTC)
      • Who really knows if foreigners will love Option 1? There are at least some non native editors who prefer current guidelines... -- murdos 22:16, 29 March 2007 (UTC)
        • Murdos: you are cheating :-o Nyght didn't say she liked our rules, only that we shouldn't simplify if there are standard rules. I didn't find any clear-cut proof of such a standard in French. -- davitof 2007-03-29
          • Sorry, I couldn't resist... ;-) But I'am bit tired of unargumented subjective and unverifiable opinion. I didn't find any clear-cut proof of such a general thought from "foreigners" either. Anyway I've removed the link to Nyght mail. @jesus2099: as I already told you on you personal page, you should only speak for yourself, not for others... And I've moved this specific discussion (Is guidelines aimed to non native speakers?) from the pro/cons of an option to a new different section in order to have a general discussion: please don't advocate any option here... Thx -- murdos 09:25, 30 March 2007 (UTC)
        What Jesus said: exactly my opinion. -- mll 03:28, 30 March 2007 (UTC)

    People with no french knowledge at all are stuck with copying sleeves. The caring editors in such cases usually contact one of us to have it fixed. Such people are not concerned by this. People with some french knowledge are probably in the same case as above, if they can't identify grammatical functions: they can't fix spelling, identify proper nouns, and IMHO are not expected to fix cap - the current practice is that they use sentence case, and contact one of us. They are not concerned either. People with enough french knowledge (enough to understand and identify grammatical functions of the words) are concerned by this, just as we natives are... I don't see how any of the future options described here would prevent such a person from editing. Indeed, I don't see how all this relate to our problem. People who want to edit, please do. If they have enough french, they have enough, if they don't, they contact a native editor (Lapalissade?) - in this last case, having sentence case won't magically make them understand what they do... Am I missing something? -- dmppanda 17:13, 30 March 2007 (UTC)


So are there any votes to decide on this ? I vote for Option 1. -- jesus2099 12:08, 11 September 2008 (UTC)

  • Style decisions are not to be conducted as random polls for a couple of (un)happy few on shady wiki pages. They are to be taken on the style ML (as this is the process in place for now). Putting this here is just a bad idea forcing people to "take a side", which is IMHO plain bad and totally opposed to the idea of a productive consensus - rather than hardly commented blanket votes and "not following *current guidelines*" as an editing style, or as an argument to revoke them. Apparently as we are forced into that, then it's a definitive veto against option #1. -- dmppanda 22:38, 16 September 2008 (UTC)
    • i delurked to vote (this is imo not a furtive vote intention from jesus2099, people interested are all subscribed to this page, aren't we ?), i delurk again to says that no, the ML has never led us to a productive consensus on this topic, and that playing the veto game is easy to block things (what if I veto options 0 (and 2, and 3, and...) ?). So, this discussion found no conclusion for years now, maybe voting could be the solution (be it here or on the ML). -- MLL
      • But precisely, this is not a discussion, this is a vote! I agree with MLL here: I like to stick to the rules, but when the rules don't work, I suggest we should be pragmatic. I suppose the fact this failure has happened on a French subject is unavoidable, we are much much better at discussing that at doing things. The poll has this advantage that it avoids discussion :-D Now I agree we did a mistake here: we should have posted a message on the ML inviting users to vote. But it is not too late. Anyhow, this is only a vote, nobody has said how the results of his vote would be applied - or even that they should be applied. But please dmppanda, for once we were managing to do something without going into endless discussions, don't bring us back there -- davitof

sl956, tu dois prouver ton existence ! :)

Bon, voilà ce que je propose : Laissons ce vote ouvert jusqu'à ce que l'option 2 remporte l'absolue majorité. Sinon, je trouve moi aussi que la nouvelle colonne veto fait assez petit joueur. Ça ne compte pas. -- jesus2099 14:51, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

Option Votes Editors (put your name here) Veto
Option 0 1 dmppanda
Option 1 3 jesus2099, davitof, MLL dmppanda
Option 2 6 murdos, AnAlach, dmppanda, sl956, Fabe56, 5moufl
Option 3

If we now remove the (lame) multivotes :

Option Votes Editors (put your name here)
Option 0 1 dmppanda
Option 1 3 jesus2099, davitof, MLL
Option 2 5 murdos, AnAlach, sl956, Fabe56, 5moufl
Option 3


This section should provide interesting examples and the result with all options.

# Using current guidelines Using option 1 Using option 2 Using option 3 Description/comment
0 Le Petit Cheval Le petit cheval Le Petit Cheval (?)
1 Le Rouge et le noir Le rouge et le noir Le Rouge et le Noir Le Rouge et le Noir (?)
2 Le Cerf, le druide et le loup Le cerf, le druide et le loup Le Cerf, le Druide et le Loup
3 Le Petit Chaperon rouge Le petit chaperon rouge Le Petit Chaperon rouge Le petit Chaperon rouge (?)
4 Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry Les très riches heures du duc de Berry Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry
  • @ murdos: I'm a bit confused by some of the examples. * Example #2, option 2: this is an "extended" version of the symetrical rule, right? ;)
    • Yes, I think we should consider enumerations the same way as schema with et or ou. But I need to describe more this rule, unless you want to do it ;-) -- murdos 16:21, 29 March 2007 (UTC)
    * Example #3: why would people who want sentence case (Option 1) use "Chaperon" (capped C)? It's not a first name... Also, why would option 2 imply a capped "Rouge"? 
    • I agree it is debatable, I feel Chaperon Rouge is a kind of proper noun. Maybe I should put "Petit chaperon rouge" or "Petit chaperon rouge"... I'm starting we should use ALLCAPS :-D Maybe we should remove this tricky example. -- davitof 2007-03-29
      • In fact what you call "a kind of proper noun" is also called "important noun". I've added option 3 which corresponds to that, all other options don't use this concept. -- murdos 16:21, 29 March 2007 (UTC)
    * Example #4: same question for option 2? 
    • Different answer here: my mistake. --davitof 2007-03-29
    -- dmppanda 14:00, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

    I offer you a first basic example (#0) so that we agree first on a simple example. --MLL

    • Thanks! You're right we need to start with simple things. -- murdos 20:43, 29 March 2007 (UTC)

In parallel: Improve the current CapitalizationStandardFrench page

  • Simplify rules: there's no need for a summary + detailed rules
    • rules need no be simple and straightforward: no rationale, no long comment (maybe in a different section or in references), no typographic jargon (that is the distinction between Majuscule and Capitale should be ignored)
    • compare with simplicity of other languages: CapitalizationStandard
    • and compare with (supposed complexity of) CapitalizationStandardEnglish - I agree on presenting things in a meaningful way: simple and straightforward rules in a few lines, but down on the page, please keep a detailed explanation, with rationale, long comments, and typographic jargon. The distinction between Majuscule and Capitale is an important one IMO - also a word about quadratin use would be welcome. -- dmppanda 17:13, 30 March 2007 (UTC)
      • "It even makes it difficult for non-french to distinguish common nouns from proper nouns (noms propres)" is a personal interpretation of other people thoughts, without any kind of proof or argument.
      • "Proper nouns are the only words —besides first title word— that deserve a capital letter." is a damn personal opinion :-) without any reasoning or argument...

We are editing too fast. What about going to the forum or the ML. Jesus2099, still with us? -- davitof 2007-03-30

  • Agreed. Here. -- dmppanda 18:01, 30 March 2007 (UTC)
    • I'll add a forum thread too, hoping jesus2099 will manage to use it. Done here -- davitof 2007-03-30

Quebec French

Regarding the Punctuation section, and French punctuation, the guideline seems to assume that French is French universally. However, what about the two (I think) exceptions - Old French, and Quebec French? Quebec French has an official punctuation which is quite different from the official "French" French. ( ), and I have no idea how Old French would be handled, if we had such a release. BrianFreud 06:04, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

Il me semble que les règles d'espacement avant et après les ponctuations sont les mêmes (entre le Québec et la France). Comme tu sembles noter des différences, merci de les préciser, ça sera plus rapide que de nous laisser tous chercher. :) Sinon, pour le vieux français, je pense que les règles étaient tout simplement plus disparates, donc autant s'en tenir, encore une fois, aux mêmes. Jesus2099 09:17, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
Jesus2099: I doubt that BrianFreud fully understand French ;) But I agree with you, I don't see any big differences in the provided link between French and Quebec French. Murdos 17:35, 12 October 2010 (UTC)
La différence réside dans le traitement du point d'interrogation, le point d'exclamation, et le point-virgule. Seul le guillemet fermant et le côlon avoir l'espace précédent au Québec French. BrianFreud 06:13, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
So for the question mark and point-virgule "?;" they say either no space or fine space before punct., in french it's fine unbreakable space before punct. so we can take this common solution. — For the closing quote I don't really understand your automatic translator, take care with colon word in french :p. They speak about english quotes without space which shouldn't be used anyway. The standard opening and closnig quotes (french) have the same rules in both countries. Jesus2099 14:50, 14 October 2010 (UTC)
You're assuming the automatic translator... incorrectly. :P Human error, not automatic translator. Regarding the quotes, recall that various other guidelines indicate that the " and not the guillemet should be used, regardless of the language... I don't know what the Académie française standardizes as spacing rules, but this specifies that the thin non-breaking space, not just a non-breaking space, may optionally be used for Quebec French. The French caps guideline doesn't say that; it says only that the non-breaking space should be used (and allows for the standard space to be used as well, presumably for ease of typing). The non-breaking space is approximately three times wider than the thin non-breaking space. "this: that" and "this : that" would seem more similar (in typographical "separation space") to eachother, compared to the separation spacing of "this : that" and "this : that". BrianFreud 20:38, 14 October 2010 (UTC)
If we were to use the english "" we shouldn't add spaces either, it would look weird and unusual.
Yes, the thin unbreakable space looks more natural than the std. width and it is also what should be used in France (and it is used in books). But it's hard to type outside of the publishing industry on a website like MB for instance, so as are any unbreakable spaces (I actually have it on my modified kbd) so this is why we accept regular spaces. It's the same kind of reason why you say we should use "" instead of «».
If the question is still Should we create specific rule for Quebec and France ? I still think the answer is Not at the moment. :)
Jesus2099 08:49, 15 October 2010 (UTC)

References section

Perhaps it is simply badly worded, but the entire Wiki is under a cc-by-a-nc license; why then would this specific page be "available under the GNU Free Documentation License."? BrianFreud 06:29, 13 October 2010 (UTC)

Because when this page was created on the MB wiki, Wikipedia was still using the GNU FDL license (whereas it now uses a CC license). Since the page was deeply derived from the Wikipedia page, I guess the writer quite rightly add this license notice. Murdos 11:30, 13 October 2010 (UTC)
So it does apply to the page/guideline, and not just to the linked Wikipedia bit... It seems rather strange that one page out of the wiki be under a different license, esp as MusicBrainz Wiki License doesn't provide for any exceptions ("All data available from..."). BrianFreud 21:46, 13 October 2010 (UTC)

Number Abbreviations

Numéro must be abbreviate in "Nº" or "nº", where "º" is upper (exponent) "o". It's the masculine ordinal indicator U+00BA also use in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Please do not mistake the character "º" (masculine ordinal) with "°" (degree). The former is used in abbreviations of words ending with "-o", the latter is a replacement for the word "degree" (Celsius, Fahrenheit, etc.). Some sans-serif fonts have very similar glyphs for these two distinct characters: º°. There isn't character to abbreviate Numéros in "Nos" where "os" is in exponent. Linux : Alt + Shift + m Windows : Alt + 0186.