Wikipedia:Tagging pages for problems

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This page is about tags that users can put in articles. For information on tags that robots can put on edit histories, see Wikipedia:Tags.

Identification of problems in articles is an important task in the creation of a reliable encyclopedia. "Tags" are often used to indicate problems. Some people object to tagging instead of fixing, but tags do have their place.

The encyclopedia is way too large for anyone to read the whole thing, and there is a lot of value in tagging particular articles for particular problems. Tagging makes it easier for people who have expertise or interest in a particular area to hone in on things they can work on, it warns readers about rough patches (so they don't think a disputed passage is authoritative), and it encourages more passers-by to pitch in. Sure, it's better if people fix the problems they find, but complex problems can take a long time to untangle, and not everyone has either the time or the information immediately at hand to do the job right. An editor who places a tag has no obligation other than to justify the inclusion of the tag on the talk page if the tag is challenged.

Criticisms (as expressed through article tags) and incremental editing are an important part of writing a collaborative encyclopedia, and should be welcomed rather than discouraged. Wikipedia values contributions from everyone, whether or not they have contributed before, and even whether or not they are experts. Even novices and non-experts can help improve presentation without changing the underlying information. It is important to listen to even casual readers who find an article to be biased or confusing or unconvincing. They might not have the expertise to fix those problems, but the fact that they report these symptoms means that the encyclopedia could probably be doing a better job.


Constructive tagging[edit]

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If you identify a issue with a page, and yet the issue is trivial or has a straightforward solution, it's usually best to fix it yourself! This is more productive than plastering a tag complaining about a trivial or easily fixed issue and leaving it for someone else to tidy up. You might need to spend a little time on this, but concentrate on quality not quantity. It's not a game to see how many issues you can identify and tag.

For more complex issues, when adding a tag, keep in mind that other people who might be interested in fixing the problem (or who might dispute the tag) might not immediately see the same problems you do. Even if the problem seems obvious, it's useful to leave a short note on the talk page describing the issue, and suggesting an approach to fixing it if you know how. Some editors feel this should be mandatory and "drive-by" tagging should be prohibited. Other editors feel that some tags are self-explanatory.

Especially in the case of neutrality tags such as {{npov}}, complaints left at a talkpage need to be actionable, so that editors can attempt to address them. It is not helpful to say simply "The article is biased." Instead, some details should be given to help other editors understand what needs to be fixed or discussed. It may help to refer to applicable content policies, such as Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, Wikipedia:Verifiability, Wikipedia:No original research, or Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons, though WikiLawyering is discouraged.

Removing tags[edit]

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Anyone who sees a tag, but does not see the purported problem with the article and does not see any detailed complaint on the talk page, may remove the tag. Except in very obvious cases (such as removing {{Uncategorized}} from an article that has been categorized), it may be wise to place a note on the talk page explaining the removal and to identify your action in an appropriately detailed edit summary. It is often the case that even after the initial problem causing the tag is fixed, the tag is accidentally left in place. Sometimes problems are solved by inexperienced editors, who incorrectly believe that they must wait for an authority figure to remove the official-looking template. Perhaps the person leaving the tag simply made a bad judgment call, or accidentally linked to the wrong template.

If the person placing the tag has explained his or her concerns on the talk page, then anyone who disagrees should join the discussion and explain why the tag seems inappropriate. If there is no reply within a reasonable amount of time (a few days), the tag can be removed. If there is disagreement, then normal talk page discussion should proceed, per consensus-building.

Adding and removing tags for non-obvious problems without discussion is not helpful. It can be disruptive and is derided as "drive-by tagging" when done by editors who are not involved in the article's development. Where there is disagreement, both sides should attempt to discuss the situation.

Disputes over tags[edit]

Whether a tag should be placed on an article is sometimes the subject of disputes. Occasionally, editors place tags to make a point, to disrupt editing, or to be tendentious. Similarly, editors occasionally remove tags without solving real problems because they are embarrassed by the tag, do not want additional attention from other editors, or do not like tags.

Rather than reverting or edit warring over the placement of a tag, use dispute resolution procedures. Start by engaging in a calm discussion on the article's talk page.

Some tags, such as {{POV}}, often merely indicate the existence of one editor's concern, without taking a stand whether the article complies with Wikipedia policies. It is important to remember that the POV dispute tag does not mean that an article actually violates NPOV. It simply means that there is a current discussion about whether the article complies with the neutral point of view policy. In any NPOV dispute, there will usually be some people who think the article complies with NPOV, and some who disagree. In general, you should not remove the POV dispute tag merely because you personally feel the article complies with NPOV. Rather, the tag should be removed only when there is a consensus among the editors that the NPOV disputes have indeed been resolved or—according to the rules for this specific template—when the discussion has stopped for a significant length of time.

Over-tagging[edit]

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It is best to provide the fewest number of the most specific possible tags. Placing too many tags on an article is "tag-bombing", disruptive, or may be a violation of Do not disrupt Wikipedia to make a point. Placing vague tags on articles results in confusion and discouragement more often than it results in improving the encyclopedia. Just look at this revision of an article on Irish rock band Thin Lizzy and see for yourself.

Placing tags is, in itself, not a means of improving the encyclopedia: It is only a means of asking other people to improve an article that you cannot or will not improve yourself.

The essay Wikipedia:Responsible tagging includes a list of many commonly used tags as well as advice on when they may be appropriate and what sorts of things one can say on the talk page to help others see that every tag makes sense for the article. Here are four specific warning signs of overtagging:

Too many tags 
It is very rare that more than two or three tags are needed, even on the worst articles. Adding more tags usually results in all of them being ignored. Focus your attention on the most important one or two issues.
For example: You encounter an article that looks like it was copied straight off another website. It may be a copyright violation, cites no references, has formatting problems, contains no links to other articles, and is uncategorized. Tag the article for the biggest problems (i.e., the possible copyright violation). Leave the minor problems, like the lack of links to other articles, for another time.
Vague tags 
Non-specific tags tend to linger because editors, especially new editors, can't figure out what to fix. If there are concrete, specific problems, try to use a tag that clearly indicates your concern. If no such tag exists, make sure that you leave a comment on the article's talk page or in a <!-- hidden comment --> so that other editors know what your concern is.
For example: Many different tags might apply to a messy, poorly written article. Whenever possible, try to find one that most clearly explains what you think is wrong with the article. For example, {{cleanup}} can describe a laundry list of problems, but you might be able to find a more specific tag by perusing Category:Cleanup templates. Does the article need {{Sections}}? Does it {{Contradict}} itself? Does it have an inappropriate {{Criticism section}}? Does it contain too much {{Repetition}}? Try to be specific whenever possible.
Wrong tags 
If the tag doesn't say exactly what you want it to say, then don't use it! If no tag exists for the specific problem, then either fix it yourself or leave a note on the article's talk page.
For example: you are concerned about an article with 27 inline citations, but they're all from the same source. The {{unreferenced}} tag says the article has 0 references. Don't use the unreferenced tag on that article! {{Refimprove}} might be okay, but the best tag for this situation is {{One source}}. When you have a choice of two tags, one that says kind of what you want to say and one that says exactly what you want to say, use the one that says exactly what you want to say. Don't use them both.
Unhelpful tags 
Don't place a tag merely because it's technically permitted. Not every article needs a tag, even if the article could be expanded or improved. Use your best judgment and consider all of the facts and circumstances. Will the tag prompt a positive improvement? If not, then skip it.
For example: you notice that an article about a business that barely meets the notability guideline is not linked to by any other articles, or by only one. You could place {{Orphan}} at the top, but would that help? Do you have any rational expectation that it is possible to de-orphan this article? If not, then don't bother tagging it, because such a tag is unhelpful. You would be recommending that the editor do something that you believe cannot be done.

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