Wikipedia:Editing policy

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"Wikipedia:Editing guidelines" redirects here. For Wikipedia's editing guidelines, see Category:Wikipedia editing guidelines.

Wikipedia is the product of thousands of editors' contributions, each one bringing something different to the table, whether it be: researching skills, technical expertise, writing prowess or tidbits of information, but most importantly a willingness to help. Even the best articles should not be considered complete, as each new editor can offer new insights on how to enhance the content in it anytime.

Adding information to Wikipedia

Wikipedia is here to provide information to people; generally speaking, the more information it can provide (subject to certain defined limitations on its scope), the better it is. Please boldly add information to Wikipedia, either by creating new articles or adding to existing articles, and exercise particular caution when considering removing information. However, it is Wikipedia policy that information in Wikipedia should be verifiable and must not be original research. You are invited to show that information is verifiable by referencing reliable sources. Unsourced information may be challenged and removed, because on Wikipedia a lack of information is better than misleading or false information—Wikipedia's reputation as an encyclopedia depends on the information in articles being verifiable and reliable. To avoid such challenges, the best practice is to provide an "inline citation" at the time the information is added (see: WP:Citing sources for instructions on how to do this, or ask for assistance on the article talk page).

Although reliable sources are required, when developing articles on the basis of sources, avoid copying or closely paraphrasing a copyrighted source. Wikipedia respects others' copyright. You should read the source, understand it, and then express what it says in your own words.

Another way editors can improve an article is by finding a source for existing unsourced material. This is especially true if you come across statements that are potentially controversial. You do not need to be the person who added the information to add a source and citation for it.

Wikipedia is a work in progress: perfection is not required

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Perfection is not required: Wikipedia is a work in progress. Collaborative editing means that incomplete or poorly written first drafts can evolve over time into excellent articles. Even poor articles, if they can be improved, are welcome. For instance, one person may start an article with an overview of a subject or a few random facts. Another may help standardize the article's formatting, or have additional facts and figures or a graphic to add. Yet another may bring better balance to the views represented in the article, and perform fact-checking and sourcing to existing content. At any point during this process, the article may become disorganized or contain substandard writing.

Although perfection is not required in an article, any contentious material about living persons (or recently deceased) in any article, that is unsourced or poorly sourced—whether the material is negative, positive, neutral, or just questionable—should be removed immediately and without waiting for discussion (see the Wikipedia policy biographies of living persons for more on this issue). If contentious material about a living person (or a recently deceased person) is verified with one or more reliable sources, the material must be presented in a neutral manner without undue weight.

Try to fix problems

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Fix problems if you can, flag or remove them if you can't. Preserve appropriate content. As long as any of the facts or ideas added to the article would belong in a "finished" article, they should be retained if they meet the requirements of the three core content policies: Neutral point of view (which doesn't mean No point of view), Verifiability and No original research. Either clean up the writing, formatting or sourcing on the spot, or tag it as necessary. If you think a page needs to be rewritten or changed substantially, go ahead and do so, but preserve any reasonable content on the article's talk page, along with a comment about why you made the change. Do not remove information solely because it is poorly presented; instead, improve the presentation by rewriting the passage. The editing process tends to guide articles through ever-higher levels of quality over time. Great Wikipedia articles can come from a succession of editors' efforts.

Instead of removing text, consider:

  • rephrasing or copyediting to improve grammar, more accurately represent the sources, or balance the article's contents
  • correcting inaccuracy, while keeping the rest of the content intact
  • moving the information to another existing article or splitting the information to a new article
  • adding more of what you think is important to make an article more point-of-view balanced
  • requesting a citation by adding the {{citation needed}} tag, or adding any other Template:Inline tags as appropriate
  • doing a quick search for sources and adding a citation yourself
  • adding appropriate cleanup tags to sections you cannot fix yourself
  • repair a dead link if a new URL for the page or an archive of the old one can be located
  • merging the entire article into another article with the original article turned into a redirect as described at performing a merge
  • fixing errors in wikitext code or formatting

Problems that may justify removal

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Several of our core policies discuss situations when it might be more appropriate to remove information from an article rather than preserve it. WP:Verifiability discusses handling unsourced and contentious material; WP:No original research discusses the need to remove original research; What Wikipedia is not describes material that is fundamentally inappropriate for Wikipedia; and WP:UNDUE discusses how to balance material that gives undue weight to a particular viewpoint, which might include removal of trivia, tiny minority viewpoints, or material that cannot be supported with high-quality sources. Also, redundancy within an article should be kept to a minimum (excepting the lead, which is meant to be a summary of the entire article, and so is intentionally duplicative).

Libel, nonsense, hoaxes, and vandalism should be completely removed, as should material that violates copyright and material for which no reliable source that supports it has ever been published.

Special care needs to be taken with biographies of living people, especially when it comes to handling unsourced or poorly sourced claims about the subject. Editors working on such articles need to know and understand the extra restrictions that are laid out at WP:Biographies of living people.

Talking and editing

Be bold in updating articles, especially for minor changes and fixing problems. Previous authors do not need to be consulted before making changes. Nobody owns articles. If you see a problem that you can fix, do so. Discussion is, however, called for if you think the edit might be controversial or if someone indicates disagreement with your edit (either by reverting your edit and/or raising an issue on the talk page). A BOLD, revert, discuss cycle is used on many pages where changes might often be contentious.

Boldness should not mean trying to impose edits against existing consensus or in violation of core policies, such as Neutral point of view and Verifiability. Fait accompli actions, where actions are justified by their having already been carried out, are inappropriate.

Be helpful: explain

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Be helpful: explain your changes. When you edit an article, the more radical or controversial the change, the greater the need to explain it. Be sure to leave a comment about why you made the change. Try to use an appropriate edit summary. For larger or more significant changes, the edit summary may not give you enough space to fully explain the edit; in this case, you may leave a note on the article's talk page as well. Remember too that notes on the talk page are more visible, make misunderstandings less likely and encourage discussion rather than edit warring.

Be cautious with major changes: discuss

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Be cautious with major changes: consider discussing them first. With large proposed deletions or replacements, it may be best to suggest changes in a discussion, to prevent edit warring and disillusioning either other editors or yourself (if your hard work is rejected by others). One person's improvement is another's desecration, and nobody likes to see their work "destroyed" without prior notice. If you choose to be very bold, take extra care to justify your changes in detail on the article talk page. This will make it less likely that editors will end up reverting the article back and forth between their preferred versions. To facilitate discussion of a substantial change without filling up the talk page, you can create the new draft in your own userspace (e.g. User:Example/Lipsum) and link to it on the article discussion page.

But – Wikipedia is not a discussion forum

Main page: WP:NOTFORUM

Whether you decide to edit very boldly or discuss carefully on the talk page first, please bear in mind that Wikipedia is not a discussion forum. Wikipedia can be a very energetic place, and it is best for the project as a whole if we concentrate our energies on improving articles rather than debating our personal ideas and beliefs. This is discussed further at Wikipedia:Etiquette.

Editing policies and guidelines

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Policies and guidelines are supposed to state what most Wikipedians agree upon, and should be phrased to reflect the present consensus on a subject. In general, more caution should be exercised in editing policies and guidelines than in editing articles. Minor edits to existing pages, such as formatting changes, grammatical improvement and uncontentious clarification, may be made by any editor at any time. However, changes that would alter the substance of policy or guidelines should normally be announced on the appropriate talk page first. The change may be implemented if no objection is made to it or if discussion shows that there is consensus for the change. Major changes should also be publicized to the community in general, as should proposals for new policy pages (see also Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines#Proposals).

Editing and refactoring talk pages

For guidance on how to edit talk pages see:

See also