Wikipedia:Resolving NPOV disputes

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One of the most common types of edit wars on Wikipedia is the Neutral point of view dispute, in which two or more people begin reverting an article because of a disagreement on how best to present the article in a neutral point of view. These disputes tend to at once be extremely polarizing and vicious, and to be fairly simple to resolve with the addition of an outside mediator.

Some advice in resolving these disputes:

The nature of NPOV disputes[edit]

First of all, almost every NPOV dispute has some grain of truth, simply because NPOV writing is hard, and very few if any articles manage it without imperfection. Second of all, it tends to be the case that, in a heated NPOV dispute, all parties involved edit from a POV standpoint that they feel so strongly about that they believe it to be neutral.

The first step in resolving any NPOV dispute, therefore, is to actually read WIkipedia:Neutral point of view. After reading it, go back to the dispute remembering this: It is not the job of Wikipedia to resolve disputes for once and for all. It's the job of Wikipedia to accurately and fairly describe the dispute.

Try something different[edit]

The second step is to try something different. If the edit you have made has been reverted three times already, odds are the person will revert it a fourth time. Also a fifth. If you try making a new edit, however, it may not be reverted. This will work even better if you read what the person you are arguing with is saying when they object to you, and try to change it to address their objections.

One way to rephrase objectionable language is to change assertions to a viewpoint that is ascribed to a documented source. This is almost never a violation of NPOV. Avoid the weasel words "Some people claim," which do not make a passage NPOV. What people claim it, and where do they do it? If you document that, it's very, very hard to raise an objection.

A second thing to consider is that few articles are ever made more NPOV through deletion. NPOV is not obtained by removing POV, but rather by adding balancing POVs, and phrasing statements so as to show that a debate exists on a matter. In many cases, the way towards a NPOV article is not to remove a claim, but to add counter-claims. This is true even if the claim is, in your view, patently absurd. If it's so absurd, after all, it should not be hard to muster a counter-claim that will persuade an average reader. And if you do that, you've taught the reader to look out for that claim and be skeptical of it – something you can't achieve by removing the claim entirely.

If that doesn't work[edit]

In many cases, rephrasing alone will go a long way towards resolving a NPOV dispute. Sometimes, though, in particularly vicious cases, the dispute will then settle on how to introduce and describe the person that a claim is being attributed to.

In most cases, it is best to do this in terms of the claim rather than the person. For instance, "Joe Schmo claims X, although this claim has proven controversial" is superior to "The controversial Joe Schmo claims X." If you must describe Joe Schmo to introduce him, you should take care to make that description NPOV, and to focus on his most relevant and important qualifications. Typically, it is best to err on the side of sympathy in introducing a source for a claim. Objections to the claim can always be added in sentences after the claim.

Two totally different articles[edit]

One particularly trenchant form of NPOV dispute occurs when communication has so broken down that reverts are going on between two entirely different versions of an article. In this case, the first and most important thing to do is to stop reverting. Before any meaningful progress can be made, the two versions need to be merged together somehow. This may be as simple as appending one version to the other, or it may involve wholly abandoning one version in favor of adding the information back into the other. Either way, however, someone has to give in.

Protection[edit]

It may be tempting, in an NPOV dispute, to request page protection. This is generally unhelpful. For one thing, protected pages are considered harmful. For another, NPOV disputes are often best hammered out through a collaborative process in which each party tinkers a bit with the language to take the POV edge off of it. This is difficult when the page is protected. If you are inclined to request protection of a page, consider instead that it is very easy to stop a revert war if you are involved in it: Just stop reverting.

Instead, try to compromise and reach for common ground. That way protection is unnecessary. Remember that it is never entirely one person's fault when a page gets protected due to an edit war – it is a failure on the part of every editor involved in the page.