Wikipedia is a collaborative project and its founders and contributors have a common goal:
- Our goal with Wikipedia is to create a reliable and free encyclopedia—indeed, the largest encyclopedia in history, in both breadth and depth.
Wikipedia has some policies and guidelines that help us to work toward that common goal. Some of these policies are still evolving, while others are long settled and largely uncontroversial.
You don't need to read every Wikipedia policy before you contribute! However, the following policies are key to a productive Wikipedia experience, and the sooner you get to grips with them, the better.
- Avoid bias. Articles should be written from a neutral point of view, representing differing views on a subject fairly and sympathetically.
- Don't infringe copyrights. Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. Submitting work which infringes copyrights threatens our objective to build a truly free encyclopedia that anyone can redistribute, and could lead to legal problems. See Wikipedia copyrights for more information.
- Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Its goals go no further. See What Wikipedia is not for more info.
- Respect other contributors. Wikipedia contributors come from many different countries and cultures, and have widely different views. Treating others with respect is key to collaborating effectively in building an encyclopedia. For some guidelines, see Wikipedia etiquette, Wikipedia:Writers rules of engagement, Wikipedia:Civility, Dispute resolution.
How are policies decided?
Wikipedia policy is formulated for the most part by consensus. This consensus may be reached through open debate over difficult questions, or it may simply develop as a result of established practice. In many cases, policies are not always formally written down right away. Hence, the statements on this and other pages about Wikipedia policy are intended to describe existing community norms that have developed over time.
Policy issues may be formulated and debated in the Wikipedia namespace, on talk pages, and at Meta-Wikipedia (http://meta.wikipedia.com/). Discussions sometimes also happen in IRC and on our mailing lists, but keep in mind that official policy must be agreed to on Wikipedia itself. If a policy may be controversial, it should always be discussed before being adopted. Consider the guidelines in Wikipedia:How to create policy.
Policies that result from established practice are sometimes harder to identify. If there is no objection to the practice, it may be difficult to sustain community attention long enough for a formal process of adopting it as policy. In this situation, the best solution may be to document existing practice on an appropriate page. This then provides a location to discuss the practice and possible changes to the policy, and it also allows people to cite a source for the policy if necessary.
Voting on article content is discouraged. Some editors also discourage voting for policies, although this is becoming more common. See Wikipedia:Voting.
See also: Wikipedia talk:Policies and guidelines, Wikipedia:Consensus
How are policies enforced?
You are a Wikipedia editor. Wikipedia lacks an editor-in-chief or a central, top-down mechanism whereby the day-to-day progress on the encyclopedia is monitored and approved. Instead, active participants make copyedits and corrections to the content and format problems they see. So the participants are both writers and editors.
Most policies and guidelines are thus enforced by individual users editing pages, and discussing matters with each other. Some policies are also enforced by temporary blocks (notably as a mechanism for dealing with vandalism) by admins. In extreme cases the Arbitration Committee may make a ruling to deal with highly disruptive situations, as part of the general dispute resolution procedure.
Types of policies
Links to various policies can be found in the following categories:
- Category:Wikipedia official policy - policies that are widely accepted and that everyone generally follows
- Category:Wikipedia semi-policy - policy ideas that have not necessarily been accepted by consensus, but may still have some degree of support in the community
- Category:Wikipedia policy thinktank - ideas being proposed as possible new policies
- Category:Wikipedia rejected policies - policy ideas that have been rejected or abandoned
By following these we are able to produce a more consistent and more usable encyclopedia:
- Editing policy (How to edit articles)
- Naming conventions (How to title articles)
- Disambiguation (How to resolve title conflicts)
- Image use policy (Handling uploads)
- Deletion policy (how to nominate pages for deletion and, (restricted) how to perform the deletion)
Some features of the software which could potentially be misused, such as deleting pages and locking pages from editing, are restricted to Administrators, who are experienced and trusted members of the community. Policies particularly relevant to administrators include:
- Protection policy (When and why to protect a page)
- Blocking policy (Blocking users to deal with vandalism)
Specific guidelines to consider
These are some additional specific guidelines that have been suggested by various participants. For other useful tips, see avoiding common mistakes.
- Contribute what you know or are willing to learn about
- Be bold in updating pages
- Make omissions explicit
- Build the web
- Avoid using bots
- Provide an edit summary
- Sign your posts on talk pages
- Avoid profanity
- No personal attacks (and move personal debates to email)
- No legal threats (a proposal)
- Log in before making drastic changes to existing articles
- No offensive usernames
- Please do not bite the newcomers
- Don't create articles about yourself
- Three revert rule (Revert wars considered harmful)
- Dealing with administration issues
- Use your user pages appropriately
- Wikipedia:Guide to writing better articles
- Explain jargon
- Deal appropriately with patent nonsense
- State the obvious
- Cite sources: point the reader to authoritative references (and list them properly)
- Verifiability: ensure information cited is verifiable if needed (this does not mean it is "official", rather it refers to others' ability to confirm it exists and is as stated)
- Avoid statements that will date quickly
- Stay on topic
- Warn readers about spoilers
- Make articles useful for readers (and consider the audience in writing)
- Check your facts
- Summarize discussion (after a while)
- Avoid peacock terms
- Avoid weasel terms
- Avoid self-references
- Avoid POV phrases
- Algorithms on Wikipedia
- Avoid "Spoon Feeding"
- Manual of style
- Don't include copies of primary sources
- Always fill summary field
- Follow highlighting conventions
- Consider the context when making links
- Use subheads sparingly
- Use short sentences and lists
- Don't use line breaks
- Avoid one-sentence paragraphs
- Do not use subpages
Guidelines regarding grouping techniques for articles
- Choosing appropriate grouping technique(s): Wikipedia:Categories, lists, and series boxes
- By grouping technique:
- categories, and other articles in Category:Wikipedia categorization
- series boxes (or: navigational templates)
Other essays and discussions about Wikipedia
- The Meta-Wikipedia (http://meta.wikimedia.org/) site contains many articles about Wikipedia and related topics in a more editorial style.
- Creating how-to articles in Wikipedia.