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There can be no WP editing without people. And when people gather there follows some sort or form of association for the purpose of maintaining order amongst those people. It is a given that WP is vulnerable to uncivil behavior. Incivility displays a lack of consideration for others. The question becomes what to do once the behavior and the perpetrator of that behavior have been identified. WP should be bound by an ironclad commitment to a safe and comfortable working environment for ALL employees. (I say employees knowing we are all unpaid. But, except for that minor detail we are "at work".) We should be assured of a professional workspace. But, Wikipedia, like all "user generated content" projects, is bottom up, not top down. It consists of an invitation to the entire world to edit and then hopes that users will maintain an environment where it is possible for that world to edit. All user-generated projects are radical democracies, despite the inconvenience of that in practice. Except for our made-up names, we are all either unidentified opponents or unidentified collaborators. Civility is a cornerstone of civic foundation. Lack of it can make things unstable. It is a buffer against aggression and chaos. It shows respect for each other and maintains the positive and fluid state of interpersonal relations.

Terms of use and Purpose of Wikipedia[edit]

You are free to contribute to and edit Wikipedia's various sites or projects under the condition that you support a civil environment and do not harass other users. Wikipedia:Terms of use. The purpose of Wikipedia is to create a high-quality, free-content encyclopedia in an atmosphere of cameraderie and mutual respect among the contributors.

Main Points of Essay[edit]

  • We all need to take that little bit longer to consider what we are saying and ensure that we hold to the spirit as well as the wording of WP:CIVIL.
  • Contrary editors need to be convinced that there is a better way.
  • Editors should voice their stand against incivility when confronted by it; active resistance rather than acquiescence.

Civil Law[edit]

Civil Law is the rule of law which governs man in his relations with his fellow man in civil life. The term comes from the Latin "civis" which means citizen. Citizenship is the notion that, as man becomes more civilized, conduct improves. When we expect and accept civic responsibility, we harmoniously live and work together. Incivility is a turning away from good citizenship, from what benefits the mutually beneficial social order of things, and focussing more upon what is good for a single editor: winning an argument, for example.

Protect the Assets[edit]

Editors of value are worth protecting. They do the work of encyclopedia building. They should not have to suffer Incivility. Turmoil, and the stress that accompanies it, should not be the "pay" an editor gets for his efforts. We need to do more to safeguard where we work... User:Gone_but_not_forgotten

Our editors participate in the project expecting to be treated with courtesy. We must maintain high standards of decorum appropriate to an intellectual project. Attacks, smears, and threats directed against our colleagues must not be tolerated. Participating in Wikipedia can be fun and exciting, but editors who lack the maturity and self-control needed to take part in a fundamentally serious undertaking must be firmly asked to leave...User:Kirill Lokshin/Professionalism

Troublesome editors waste far more of the community's time than vandals. One who sometimes has good edits, but endlessly bickers, threatens, insults, whines, and is eventually banned, will have taken hundreds of hours from other users who would have better spent that time building the encyclopedia. This is in part due to people's fascination with conflict. Efficiently managing troublesome editors is one of the best ways to improve the project, but also one of the most difficult...User:Antandrus/observations on Wikipedia behavior

The social aspect of Wikipedia is important—I don't see how it would work without it—but the tendency towards endless time-wasting drama is very unfortunate. That being said, it was probably inevitable that it would happen, as we build a social structure "backstage" at Wikipedia, and as that structure becomes increasingly important to editors...User:Wehwalt from a Signpost 12/12/2011 interview.

Random editor comments about incivility[edit]

A New Look at the New Age[edit]

The current technological shifts in communication are unprecedented. We live in a new time where some of the old rules do not fit anymore. A generational divide seems to exist with two opposing sets of communications. The Internet, cell phones, social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) have become a very important part of daily free time for many people. Wikipedia exists on the Internet where the roots of incivility are traceable to several societal changes.

First, no one is satisfied with being average. Almost everyone wants to be associated with some kind of extreme activity or accomplishment. We want to be noticed in this new environment. For some, if that notice comes for the "wrong" reason, for being a "jerk', be it!...thats OK! Our interactions with other people that were once governed by internal mores and subject to the social rules of caution and embarrassment are now easily externalized; of no importance, no meaning, of little effect or value.

Secondly, controls of the past that prevented incivil social behavior do not exist on the Internet which decrease our capacity for reflective thought, our capacity to consider the consequences of our actions. It's pretty much..."Anything goes....who's gonna stop me". It is easy to say mean things, vile things about another editor with a feeling of glee and pleasure rather than with a sober sense that what you're saying should be tempered by at least a little truth and reflection. Trash talking has always existed. The easy display of malice on the Internet is twisted. It lacks the more socially demanding face-to-face relationship. In the past we were socially restrained if only thanks to the grimace on the listener's face. The person we attacked was right in front of us. Now, with no social punishment, the monstrous voice that previously just spoke in our minds now speaks out loud, in the open, and, strangely, with a sense of accomplishment. On talk radio, for instance, whoever talks the loudest wins the argument. Or at least drowns out his opponent.

"Some are just doing what they see being done around the ubiquitous, often weird entertainment industry; in the frequently immature and sometimes violent world of sports; in the tempting anonymity of the Internet, where each aberration-gone-viral seems to be the new norm."


Also, the Internet provides a worldwide audience. A site like Wikipedia is viewed by hundreds of thousands of people. True, for this discussion about incivility, its a notorious worldwide platform is still a platform. And the contrary editor is being noticed. Everyone wants to show off their abilities and skills and contributions. Its human nature to enjoy the Stage. When the 'grenade' is the topic of conversation, its all about him! He enjoys being provocative: attention is his reward. The spotlight shines on him and he revels in it!

Which brings to mind another factor: the troublesome editor is anonymous. When you take away someones name and face you take away personal responsibility and the dark side of human nature appears. Rage, hatred, jealousy, bitterness, a willingness to attack and other qualities that most people would never reveal bubble to the surface. And the confrontational editor gives voice to the incendiary language because he is invisible.. The Web gives the impression that incivility (in political discourse for instance) is the norm, disseminating and amplifying the kind of comment once reserved for the bathroom stall. "The anonymous nature of the Internet is feeding the sense that we are less civil', says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication. [2] The Internet lacks the clarity and nuance of live comments and leads to misconstruing the intent behind comments. User:Antandrus feels that the Wikipedia community, though fractious, is no more dysfunctional than any other community of anonymous strangers (He is not entirely certain that millions of years of evolution have provided us with the psychological tools to handle anonymous interaction on a large scale -- something he thinks is worth studying -- large-scale, real-time anonymous interaction is a feature of the modern age). Wikipedia is an experiment, and an idealistic one, with a dash of anarchy, and the disillusionment people feel with such projects, when they fail to be completely fulfilling, may be greater than the disillusionment felt with projects that are more scarred with the experience of hundreds of years of prior attempts.

Another societal change that derails age-old civil constraints on how we behave in public is Reality TV where the really good parts, the ones that get the most camera time and audience attention are the obnoxious, inflammatory anti-social contestants that are quick to anger and to blow up. Their presence puts everyone on edge and, as far as the reality shows producers are concerned, are great for ratings. Controls of the past that inhibited bad behavior are so far eroded and ignored that almost anything goes.

A State of Peace[edit]

Peace is a state of balance and understanding in yourself and between others, where respect is gained by the acceptance of differences, tolerance persists, conflicts are resolved through dialog, peoples rights are respected and their voices are heard, and everyone is at their highest point of serenity without social tension.

Let me cut that up into bite size pieces.

A state of balance and understanding

in yourself and between others,
where respect is gained by
  • the acceptance of differences,
  • tolerance persists,
  • conflicts are resolved through dialogue,
  • peoples rights are respected
  • their voices are heard,
  • everyone is at their highest point
without social tension.

Good manners are keepers of the peace. They lubricate the interaction between faceless editors softening the interplay and promoting collaboration.

The Workplace[edit]

  • Incivility and negative behavior make uneasy bedfellows with normal, forwarding WP editing.
  • Thru thoughtful debate and the building of enthusiasm and support among fellow editors...the work of the encyclopedia gets done.
  • Why tolerate here what would not be tolerated in RealLife.
  • Collaborative potential is everywhere until you piss on my/our leg!
  • The key is.....Be friendly. Smile. Put on deodorant. Brush your teeth.

Civility is the lubricant between faceless editors[edit]

The object of the discussion is:

  • to insure a comfortable, non-contentious, professional workplace for all concerned,
  • to reward (via freedom of movement) editors that respect their fellow editors,
  • to preserve feelings of compatibility & congeniality through mutually respectful interaction,
  • to investigate possible solutions for growing concerns regarding incivil behavior.

The question should never be "How can I counter-attack a fellow editor?" But, rather, "How does this useless diatribe forward the Living Encyclopedia?"

We need awareness of and appreciation for the connectedness between mutually responsible editors. It is a critical component of a solution. We have established norms and values. They should be respected for the goodwill they create. They should be followed for the professional workplace they create.

When people think about security, they think about it as a binary model of locked and unlocked. That model doesn’t work very well, and isn’t necessary anymore. The best way to deal with problems is by increasing the cost of doing something bad and decreasing the cost of doing something good. It’s an interesting balancing act. What you would like to have is some sort of magical tool to have some sort of a priori knowledge of who has good intentions and who doesn’t. And there isn’t a magic tool for that. What we want to have is ways for the community to say, ”Dude, you’re annoying, knock it off.” Jimbo


Editors that choose incivility are a small but defiant group. I choose to call them "grenades". The vast majority of us are GFEs (Good Faith Editors). We are intitled to work without bad manners surrounding us...intruding into what should be a rather clean environment. We are not bloggers! GFEs should be allowed to protest and ask for censure of an obvious transgressor. Right now the recourse is illusive and random based on the administrator handling the case.

'Grenades' are not harmless. They create consequences that degrade the standards and policies of discourse and behavior at Wikipedia. The presence of 'grenades' is uncomfortable for most editors. (Its OK as long as no-one pulls the pin!) What should the consequences for continued 'boorishness' be? Some say, "Ban". Some say, " Ignore". Still others support the freedom of expression that is swearing, name calling, etc. Those with the intensity of passion to constantly use uncivil behavior would claim that controlling their negative behavior would amount to a straight-jacket of restrictive prohibitors that will hamper their freedom of expression. When you come onto a talk page in order to defend your position to swear, etc., then that is what is talked about. Not improving the article, not concern for our customer, not creating an Encyclopedia.

We should search for a handling of language and behavior that is characteristic of the norm of Wikipedia and that is uniform in its implementation. The goal should be maintaining a proper balance....and establishing a predictable, uniform standard.

Why are some editors rude[edit]

The steady staccato of an uncivil editors actions shows individuals that like to sow controversy. Minor skirmishes develope into major timewasters for all involved. Un-civil editors seem to enjoy the debate rather than the editing process. They are preoccupied with creating dis-Order and anomosity...dis-Unity and dis-Cord. It is the reason they come to Wikipedia. This is their Battleground!

  • They enjoy the competition--which one of us (combatants) is better at name calling, single digit waving, etc.
  • They seek pride--Wow! Am I a great wordsmith or what? Did you all read that?
  • They seek participation--negative participation, but participation none the less. They are still in the "game". .
  • They infer that it is a natural or cultural instinct-- bottom line, it's an excuse not to change!
  • It's easier than co-operating or finding a common ground. Or so it seems. Ethnic slurs, insulting profanity, and unnecessary commenting on the contributor rather than the content is easier than research.
  • They lack simple training in social skills. They should know better but they don't. They lack the language of civility. Incivility conveys a meaning, an underlying purpose. Be it disdain, power, anger, threats, control, ignorance or rudeness.

But.....Wikipedia provides a delay mechanism; the Show preview button. The editor has a moment to reconsider. A civil editor will rephrase, reconstruct, recast the sentence; removing any hint of hostility. An un-civil editor does not. Instead, he intentionally agitates, further and further, to the point of combustion. A civil editor channels his anger in a constructive manner and searches for a way to build the encyclopedia. An un-civil editor does not. An un-civil editor attacks.

When You Are a Hammer, Everything in the World Looks Like a Nail[edit]

Why do some editors choose incivility as a consistent building block for their WP career? They seem to act without thinking. They are completely reactionary and are resistant to advice. Some editors are constantly looking for opportunities to strike (Hammer and Nail). Sorry to say, but some editors (and their behavior) are completely expendable. They have a stubborn resistence to correcting their ways. When they just won't listen.....or.....they outright refuse to understand civility.....or.....are unwilling to change any of their rude behavior; They need to go. Or at least sit on the sidelines until they cool down.

The question should never be "How can I counter-attack a fellow editor?" But, rather, "How does this useless diatribe forward the Living Encyclopedia?" We need awareness of and appreciation for the connectedness between mutually responsible editors. It is a critical component of a solution. We have established norms and values. They should be respected for the goodwill they create. They should be followed for the professional workplace they create. Co-operation is more important than conflict. Co-operation leads to success rather than continuing failure.


  • Dependence: If a group (in this case the Wikipedia Community as a whole) means alot to a person, they will do what it is that the group wants them to do. In this case they will stop doing what the group wants them to stop doing.
  • Extensiveness: The more important the norms are to a society, the better these norms tie and hold the group together as a whole. How we engage with each other at the talk pages is critical to the health of Wikipedia.

The Decline Effect[edit]

The door is always open for a consensus conversation or an edit discussion to go downhill, to decline, to become a brawl. Especially when both sides KNOW that they are right, that the truth is on their side. Editors are easily biased toward their own beliefs and away from those that deviate too far them (their opponents beliefs). Of course, they never acknowledge that as fact.

Since we tend to see ourselves primarily in the light of our intentions, which are invisible to others, while we see others mainly in the light of their actions, which are visible to us, we have a situation in which misunderstanding and injustice are the order of the day - J.G. Bennett The Crisis in Human Affairs

Nativism (politics)[edit]

An intense opposition to another internal group purely on the grounds of its foreign connections in the real world. Ethno-centricity becomes the commanding influence by which groups exert their culture here at WP. In ominous tones the hatred that has been taught from an early age retains it's hold, especially on the uneducated and the un-traveled. Deeply entrenched attitudes remain in the untaught populace whose only education is to "Hate the Other." The clash of divergent ethnic impulses has deeply affected our past and present and will undoubtedly continue to affect Wikipedia's future. Historically ethnic hostilities are a narrative of hatred that rarely speak toward harmony. As far as the combatants are concerned, agreemnent of any kind, on even the slightest of issues ,"weakens" the hold of that hatred. The animosities that ethnic peoples have felt over the generations create a habit of thinking about other ethnic groups that is near impossible to sway. Bitterness and strife catches the people it deals with at one extreme of their tempermental range: Hate. It is hard to work toward consensus if you hate the other editor. Anti-foreign spirit has become the "popular Mind". Unfavorable antipathy toward "aliens". An ethno-centric habit of thinking.

...with conscious control of their effect on the people we address.[edit]

Every word we utter, every work we type, is a subjective CHOICE.

In writing, we don't just "blurt" things out like we might when we speak. Writing is a decisive act. Conscious decisions are made on the words we choose based on their meanings and their effect on our audience. The effect we wish to accomplish is a vital part of that decision. Here, at WP, we have access to the Show preview button and we need commit to our choice and hit the Save Button. This brings into play the issue of the editor who chooses swearing, racial/ethnic slurs, etc, (the tools of the uncivil editor). All to make a point or give emphasis but knowing that with it come all the negative connectors and responses and that the tone of the discussion/conversation will start downward. It is a conscious decision. The agitating editor has been down this road before. And he/she chooses to go down it again and again and again. Why? Because we have given him permission.

' "I do not attempt to convert my opponents--I aim at converting their audience." '

Maslow/Hierarchy of Needs/Esteem[edit]

All humans have a need to be respected and to have self-esteem and self-respect. Also known as the belonging need, esteem presents the normal human desire to be accepted and valued by others. People need to engage themselves to gain recognition and have an activity or activities that give the person a sense of contribution, to feel accepted and self-valued, be it in a profession or hobby. Imbalances at this level can result in low self-esteem or an inferiority complex. People with low self-esteem need respect from others. They may seek fame or glory, which again depends on others. Note, however, that many people with low self-esteem will not be able to improve their view of themselves simply by receiving fame, respect, and glory externally, but must first accept themselves internally. Psychological imbalances such as depression can also prevent one from obtaining self-esteem on both levels.

Most people have a need for a stable self-respect and self-esteem. Maslow noted two versions of esteem needs, a lower one and a higher one. The lower one is the need for the respect of others, the need for status, recognition, fame, prestige, and attention. The higher one is the need for self-respect, the need for strength, competence, mastery, self-confidence, independence and freedom. The latter one ranks higher because it rests more on inner competence won through experience. Deprivation of these needs can lead to an inferiority complex, weakness and helplessness.

Maslow also states that even though these are examples of how the quest for knowledge is separate from basic needs he warns that these “two hierarchies are interrelated rather than sharply separated” (Maslow 97). This means that this level of need, as well as the next and highest level, are not strict, separate levels but closely related to others, and this is possibly the reason that these two levels of need are left out of most textbooks.

Transferred from Swearing[edit]

Comments on civility/incivility at Wikipedia by various editors collected over time
  • Its time to stop the childishness without criminalizing the idiosyncratic styles of this new generation of WikiEditors.
  • Reflects on the common everyday editors of wikiworld...
  • We kowtow to controversial behavior while a treasure trove of creative works awaits.
  • ....while we waste our time with drivel.
  • To throw up our hands in defeat to on-line swearing is to show a lack of faith in the intelligence and reason of Wikipedia Editors.
  • ...a Diverse culture of creative help relieve.....indicated for the treatment of the dis-ease.
  • ...feeling no pressure to dumb down my conversation...
  • spend extensive (and exhaustive) time as a referee.
  • ...without the interference
  • ...garners better results...
  • developing a deeper understanding of co-operation.
  • ...weakens wikipedia rather than strengthens it.
  • ...Mutual respect, give and take, civility and candor
  • ...A one-on-one relationship
  • ...When we write one thing, we exclude everything else.
  • ...after various despoilers of this encyclopedia

more comments[edit]

  • One of the most neglected aspects of the debate is the atmosphere that incivility breeds, even on talk pages or project pages. It scares away contributors from participating in what is (rightly) seen as a gutter brawl. — Coren (talk) 19:04, 4 July 2009 (UTC)
  • This all seems sadly unbecoming to me, and a direct consequence of our having been too tolerant, for too long, of _____ personalities.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 02:20, 22 May 2009 (UTC)
  • We have traditions of forgiveness and working with people to improve their behavior and ours whenever we can - User:Jimbo Wales from Wikipedia:Requests for Comment/Paid Editors.
  • ...incivility distracts people from the matter at hand. We will spend ever more time on arguing whether Editor:X was justified than say, establishing a community norm about trying to represent Wikipedia to the media, and the consequences of flouting it. Sadly, this dysfunction is not unique to Wikipedia, but is amplified by its nature....--Tznkai (talk) 15:25, 11 April 2009 (UTC)
  • Decorum:
5) Wikipedia users are expected to behave reasonably, calmly, and courteously in their interactions with other users; to approach even difficult situations in a dignified fashion and with a constructive and collaborative outlook; and to avoid acting in a manner that brings the project into disrepute. Unseemly conduct, such as personal attacks, incivility, assumptions of bad faith, trolling, harassment, disruptive point-making, and gaming the system, is prohibited.
Passed 10 to 0, 03:36, 22 August 2008 (UTC).
  • Treating our civility policy as a "rule" is a huge part of the problem. It shouldn't even be an imperative of any kind. Much smarter than "Rule: Be civil!" is "Fact: Incivility doesn't work." If we can make the policy communicate that, I'll be delighted. -GTBacchus(talk) 02:18, 7 July 2009 (UTC)
  • When facts and logic are on your side you don't need to take swipes at the other fellow -- doing so only works against you. Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 02:27, 26 June 2010 (UTC)

Types of incivility[edit]

from Wikipedia:Civility archives
  • Rudeness
  • Insults and name-calling
  • Judgmental tone in edit summaries (e.g. "snipped rambling crap") or talk-page posts ("that is the stupidest thing I have ever seen")
  • Gross profanity or indecent suggestions directed at a fellow editor
  • Belittling contributors/fellow editors because of language skills or word choice
  • Taunting or baiting; deliberately pushing others to the point of breaching civility while not committing such a breach themselves
  • Ridiculing comments from other editors, rather than making constructive criticism of them
  • Ill-considered accusations of impropriety; for instance, calling a fellow editor a liar, or accusing him/her of slander or libel
  • Lies, including deliberately asserting false information on a discussion page to mislead one or more editors
  • Quoting another editor out-of-context to give the impression that he or she holds views they do not hold, or to malign another editor
  • Making personal attacks, including but not limited to racial, ethnic, sexual, and religious slurs
  • Using derogatory language towards other contributors or, in general, referring to groups (such as social classes, nationalities, ethnic groups, religious groups, or others) in a derogatory manner
  • Harassment
  • Stalking
  • Feigned incomprehension, "playing dumb"
  • Attempts to publicly volunteer other people's time and effort for work they have not agreed to perform.
  • Use of condescending language towards other Users.
  • Implying Wikipedia has a rank structure and some Users are more equal than others.
  • Questionable references to a fellow editors gumption...."I'm not sure you have the gumption necessary to build a Wikipedia community in the first place".

Grenades are Redeemable[edit]

From Editor Cailil with slight modifications.
Editor redemption is really a very simple matter.
  • Read the policies as regards to appropriate behaviour on wikipedia and apply them. They are assume good faith, no pesonal attacks, the talk page guidelines and, more broadly, the civility policy.
  • Do not talk about your opinions or speculations about other people AT ALL.
  • Make edits to articles and talk pages based on reliable sources and in line with the core policies of a neutral point of view, no original research and verifiablity. Restrict your points everywhere on Wikipedia to those that will improve articles in line with these policies.
  • Withdraw even unintentional accusations about others. When requested, strike!
  • If you have a problem with an edit - show a diff, relate the diff to the policy and leave it at that.
  • Diversify the subjects to which you edit a) to learn how Wikipedia works and b) to get a broader perspective on the project's content and hopefully see how your current area of focus is seen by others.
  • Avoid any remarks that could be interpreted as personal. "Talk about edits not editors". Remove those that others tell you are in fact offensive/rude/unnecessary/inaccurate. When requested, strike! Sooth ruffled feathers.
  • Assume other people - even those you don't like - are trying to improve the project. Assume, even when you disagree with someone else's decision, that they are working to improve the project rather than working against you. Assume Active Peace
  • When you have a disagreement with other users, or a process/project/proposal, state your point once and state it civilly. Don't play games to get a point across to others. Don't make comments that are unhelpful or disruptive. And listen to what others are saying to you. Discuss accordance rather than discordance.

Possible interventions[edit]

  • be specific - we need more concrete examples of what behaviors, within the scope of civility, are definitely not acceptable at Wikipedia. If it would offend most people, it is uncivil.
  • be a model - show the way. Don't get pulled in. Avoid the Combat. Remain calm and in control and focussed on solving the problem. Lead by example.
  • ask why - to better understand the behavior and the editors that choose it. We may be surprised at the answers and the results of this type of outreach.
  • follow through - stay in touch in a civil good faith way. It works in RL...why not here!
  • ask for assistance - not to gang up, but to show how a normal WP conversation works. A covey of GFE's is very impressive and displays the norms and customs that are requested. Sensitivity Training.
  • stay within the system - 'cause the system works.

Personal Responsibility and Accountability[edit]

It may be that we need to adjust our perspective of and our standards for WP Civility. Perhaps for our own social well-being and sanity we should work to communicate to our "troubled neighbors" that we accept that they have different standards of civility, but that we expect and hope they will take some personal responsibility and accountability for demonstating more empathy and caring for their fellow editors. They can be more self-policing, showing a capacity toward tolerance, and we can support their efforts to co-exist. They need to willingly follow the norms and customs of Wikipedia. But, if they continue to distract more than they contribute, they need to go. If they cannot follow a simple direction like respecting another editor, they need to go...Buster Seven Talk


Language is the instrument we use to communicate. Language is a channel through which messages flow with the least friction and the most significance. Language is the prime vehicle of our conduct as members of a human society (Wikipedia).

We have to ask ourselves why the internet is so good for wankers, gamblers and shoppers, and not so good for citizens and communities....Matthew Taylor, Royal Society of the Arts

Words into (S)words[edit]

Compared to face-to-face, Internet communication is two-dimensional. Language is the clear, clean, adequate conveyance of meaning which is difficult when we are limited to the writen word rather than the spoken word.

  • Civility at Wikipedia is no more a mystery than proper civil behavior in any social setting is a mystery. At the Wikipedia Talk pages, we deal with the written word, not the spoken word. Misunderstanding between editors is a constant problem. Discussions that begin to 'lean toward' incivity only increase the level of discomfort. But, the contributing Editors have time to think, to use their social radar to make decisions. Writing is only a very loose parallel to verbal speech: lacking any "qualifiers", writing is a less effective transmission of what we mean. Luckily, we have time to think, to decide, to weight the result. We make use of words to convey what we mean in spite of the limitations. Rudeness, vulgarity, disrespect, etc. toward another editor should be rare in this environment. We don't 'blurt out' writing like we would if we were in a pool hall. We don't expect or except graffiti on the garage door in RealLife. Is incivility really any different? Editors should be persuaded that defamatory actions don't work. They may achieve momentary power and limited gratification.


  • smiling (friendly) eyes, hidden (lying) eyes, bright (interested) eyes, hooded (doubtful) eyes
  • tense voice, high-pitched voice, low ominous voice, questioning inflections without direct questioning
  • hand gestures, body movement, distance/space between talkers, physical touching, blushing, blinking,


Writing (via the use of a common, understandable language) is a basic means by which men and women in human societies communicate with each other when not in the presence of each other. Writing lacks the face-to-face immediacy (and intimacy) of conversation; it lacks the support of our actual presence, the reinforcement of our vocal qualifiers and our gestures and our ability to hear and be heard with the help of our "hear-ers" (and "here-ers"). On the internet we don't have the joy of the personal interplay between the participants in a discussion. All we have is the words. Actually, all we have is our interpretation of the words.

  • Writing (and its counterpart, reading) are not mysterious, anymore than proper civil behavior is mysterious.
  • Writing is only a loose parallel to verbal speech.
  • Writing lacks "vocalizations'.
  • NO inflections--NO shouting or whispering---NO pitch or tempo...NO rasping voice or increase/decrease in volume.
  • NO gestures...NO body emphasizers (hand, head, body movement)...NO visible hints as to the emotion of the writer.
  • NO musical score to tell the reader "How to read, aloud" the prose.
  • Writing is a less effective transmission of what we mean. Mis-interpretation is almost inevitable.
  • The person whom we address (when we write) is not in our presence. The "Who we are talking to" is unknown.

Here at Wikipedia our readers

  • do NOT meet our eyes with theirs;
  • do NOT lean into the communication and "help" coax it into being;
  • do NOT talk over, along with, along side, at the same time, etc.
  • do NOT have non-manual markers with lexical, syntactic, discourse and affective functions. These include brow raising and furrowing, disinterested frowning, head shaking against or nodding in agreement, leaning and shifting the torso, affirmative smile/negative glare, etc.

Evidence presented by User:Slp1[edit]

I have an interest and background in this area, so will present some research I've found.

  • Offensiveness- Scholarly sources, including research studies from several English-speaking countries, describe "cunt" as causing offense to many.[3][4][5][6][7][8]. A 2000 UK study of offensive language with representative demographic sampling for the population found that 83% felt that "cunt" was "very severe".[9] In contrast, and since "dick" has been mentioned as comparable, only 16% found that "dickhead" was "very severe"; 2005 UK and 2008 US studies including "dick" and "cunt" found similar results.[10][11] Though logic might suggest that "dick" and "cunt" are equivalent words and should be equally offensive, this is not the case in the real world.
Unsurprisingly, there are variations: per Fifelfoo, Australia is more accepting of such vocabulary[12]. Research consistently shows that women find words such as "cunt, motherfucker, fuck" more offensive than men,[13][14][15] and words referring to women's genitalia, such as "cunt" particularly offensive.[16][17]. Older men/women are more likely to be offended than younger ones.[18][19]
  • Context- (In)appropriateness or (in)offensiveness is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon. Besides age/gender/geographic/sociocultural differences in communication, there are variations in the linguistic register used; who is speaking, who is being spoken to, and who is listening all influence the vocabulary/grammar/interaction patterns/phonology/intonation used by the speaker. Humans learn these registers naturally and mostly incidentally, realizing that successful communication requires consideration of the needs of both the message's sender and receiver. Registers vary depending on whether the listener is a baby, boss, chum, stranger, lover, judge, Great Aunt Harriet or the priest/rabbi at a funeral. For some individuals/cultures, swearwords may be appropriate in some of these contexts, but almost certainly not in all.[20] Research shows that people swear more in same gender company.[21] Using swearwords with peers may be appropriate and not impolite, but not in more formal settings or between people in unequal relationships.[22]
  • Wikipedia: WP is in the form of written language - a more formal register, permanent as compared to spoken language, and without non-verbal communication to help smooth interactions. WP is a highly public setting, with many "overhearers". Most contribute anonymously, possibly freeing them to use a different style than if they were engaging in public discourse elsewhere.

I have, somewhat typically, focussed on minutiae. There is a larger picture: incivility is not just "rude" words, and "civility enforcement" (and WP:NPA) is unevenly applied, often in a counterproductive fashion. Well-known editors both benefit and suffer in this regard. There is a larger problem: balancing individual communication styles with the community's goal to develop an encyclopedia "in an atmosphere of camaraderie and mutual respect". The evidence suggests that a linguistic free-for-all risks offending actual or potentially valuable contributors, particularly in some demographics. A global project such as this requires sensitivity and cooperation from both message senders and receivers: senders should use communication that is maximally effective in furthering the encyclopedic project - and that includes not intentionally offending people; receivers should consider culture and context and not leap to offense and unhelpful action.

Safe Harbor[edit]

  • Use common courtesy (manners) to handle shortcomings. Manners are the lubricant between editors.
  • A common, less specious, vocabulary prevents a feeling of outsiderness (no legalese, jargon, etc.).
  • Good natured banter is a positive. But... with minimal use of Sarcasm since it is so often misunderstood and leads to acrimony. Consensus building via easy interactions. No arguing; discussing, collaborating, debating but not arguing.
  • An acceptable social behavior: a mellow tone, no animosity, no negative responses.
  • Staying on topic within a thread.
  • A minimum requirement of good editing is civil behavior toward others. Show respect.
  • We are all editors doing work in a mutual condition and arena. At the heart of WP:AGF is a commonality with your fellow editor. Inappropriate reactions to small provocations remove that commonality.
  • Use good judgement/decision making on what to say and how to say it, with what level of confidence or strength, the right comment at the right time for the right reason, all the while maintaining a professional working environment.
  • Collaboration creates a useful and forwarding dialogue, and builds positive on-going working relationships.

A veteran at "allowing socializing"[edit]

"....but I doubt we established, long-term editors will ever receive any. Not when one of the FEW non-content pages where Wikipedians have the possibility of socializing or standing out is Wikipedia:Administrators' Noticeboard/Incidents; the fact Wikipedians socialize there leads newcomers to believe that the only way to make an impression on Wikipedia is to be an enfant terrible or otherwise stand out with incivil behavior. People who quietly write articles, try to play nice with other editors, or otherwise make a minimum of fuss are met with silence -- which unfortunately sends the message that they don't matter as much as a semi-literate editor with poor social skills who is dragged to WP:AN/I on a regular basis for being a jerk, yet finds an adoring crowd of supporters to defend him there. The troublemaker is rewarded; the good Wikipedian is ignored, discouraged, & leaves. User:Llywrch

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Christian Science Monitor, volume 104, issue 15, March 5, 2012
  2. ^ CSM, vol 104/iss 15