Wikipedia talk:No personal attacks

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Proposal 2 re "Avoiding personal attacks"[edit]

NAC: A significant majority of the !votes Oppose the change. It doesn't matter whether this is closed as a consensus to oppose or no consensus. The policy does not need refactoring. Wording left as is. Robert McClenon (talk) 22:41, 25 October 2014 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.


This is not a proposal to add anything new, but to copyedit and reformat the existing Avoiding personal attacks section to make it easier to read.


CURRENT PROPOSED
As a matter of polite and effective discourse, comments should not be personalized. That is, they should be directed at content and actions rather than people.

In disputes, the word "you" should be avoided when possible. However, when there are disagreements about content, referring to other editors is not always a personal attack. A posting that says "Your statement about X is wrong because of information at Y", or "The paragraph you inserted into the article looks like original research", is not a personal attack, but "The statement..." and "The paragraph inserted..." is preferred, or instead—"The paragraph inserted here [DIFF] into the article looks like original research", which also is not a personal attack, and avoids referring to the other editor in the second person; providing the DIFF also cuts down confusion. Similarly, discussion of a user's conduct or history is not in itself a personal attack when done in the appropriate forum for such discussion (for example, the other editor's talk page, WP:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents or WP:Requests for comment/User conduct).

Editors should be civil and adhere to good wiki etiquette when describing disagreements. The appropriate response to an inflammatory statement is to address the issues of content rather than to accuse the other person of violating this policy. Accusing someone of making personal attacks without providing a justification for your accusation is also considered a form of personal attack. (See also: Incivility.) |

As a matter of polite and effective discourse, comments should not be personalized. That is, they should be directed at content and actions rather than people.

In disputes, the second person words "you" and "your" may be taken as a personal attack by some, regardless of your intention. For example, the statements:

yellow tickY The paragraph you inserted into the article looks like original research.
yellow tickY Your statement about X is wrong because of information at Y.

Although the previous statements are not personal attacks, the following statements are preferable:

green tickY The paragraph inserted into the article looks like original research.
green tickY The statement about X is wrong because of information at Y.

Discussion of a user's conduct or history is not a personal attack when done in the appropriate forum for such discussion (for example, the other editor's talk page, WP:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents or WP:Requests for comment/User conduct).

Editors should adhere to Wikipedia's civility policy and wiki etiquette guidelines when describing disagreements. The appropriate response to an inflammatory statement is to address the issues of content rather than to accuse the other person of violating this policy. Accusing someone of making personal attacks without providing convincing evidence is also considered a form of personal attack. (See also: Incivility.)

Lightbreather (talk) 01:07, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

Vote 2[edit]

  • support with modifications In general, I can support the concept of this change, but I do have some issues.The text in the middle between the two sets of examples sounds awkward. Perhaps it would flow better to do something like "Although these are not personal attacks (1) (2) it is preferable to use (3) (4)" I also think one of the sentences dropped is important "However, when there are disagreements about content, referring to other editors is not always a personal attack. " The previous examples also had the nice benefit of being acceptable->better->best with the final version including the diff and policy links, which is lost in the proposed version. Gaijin42 (talk) 01:17, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
Note to other readers: This is being discussed in Discussion 2, below, and there seems to be agreement for a minor tweak. Lightbreather (talk) 00:38, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Very minor and done. Yes check.svg Done Lightbreather (talk) 17:22, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose, per arguments that I and others made in the #Proposed addition to "Avoiding personal attacks" section above. It is perfectly fine to focus on an editor in an edit summary, clearly criticizing that person's edit, as long as the comment is WP:Civil/is not a WP:Personal attack. If an editor inserted WP:Original research into an article, I should be able to point out that it was that editor who did so, not be vague about it. Doing so also alerts others to who added the WP:Original research without others having to check through the edit history. Flyer22 (talk) 01:29, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
  • WP:AVOIDYOU already covers this topic anyway; I also disagree with its wording that avoiding the word you is preferable. Flyer22 (talk) 02:50, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
Just to clarify, Flyer22, this proposal isn't a variation on the last one, which was about adding material to "Avoiding personal attacks" (shortcut WP:AVOIDYOU). This proposal is just about copyediting/re-presenting the existing AVOIDYOU/Avoiding-personal-attacks section so that it's clearer and easier to read. The current section (in its entirety on the left) says nothing about edit summaries, and neither does the proposed, copyedited section (in its entirety on the right). Also, the current section already says "is preferred." Lightbreather (talk) 03:38, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
The ping via WP:Echo did not work, but it's not needed since I already have this page on my WP:Watchlist. I already stated above, "WP:AVOIDYOU already covers this topic anyway; I also disagree with its wording that avoiding the word you is preferable." I don't want that bit highlighted. And it's pretty clear that some people will, or already do, extend it to edit summaries; I'm not one of those people. I will continue to state "you" in debates, and in edit summaries. Flyer22 (talk) 04:01, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. In my considered opinion, focussing on the use of you/your etc. misses the point completely and doesn't really belong here at all, so a lot more more than copyediting is required. I might support a (different) provisional change in the form of a copyedit (a pig with lipstick), but I don't think the change from
  • "without providing a justification for your accusation" to
  • "without providing convincing [my emphasis] evidence"
is helpful. As the example shows, someone might erroneously, but in good faith, believe that they have been attacked and raise the issue, but any evidence they provided would not be convincing. Though their claim should be rejected, it would not necessarily be appropriate to regard their good-faith claim as an attack (and possibly block them, rather than replying "I think you may be misinterpreting policy"). Perhaps something like "frivolous accusations . . ." would be better. --Boson (talk) 02:23, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
Boson, how about simply striking "convincing" and just leaving "evidence", unqualified. Lightbreather (talk) 03:46, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
Though that helps a bit, I think it's a matter of good faith rather than providing evidence. Think of the following situation:
  • Editor A: "Clueless! Somebody needs to get their head out of their arse or piss off!"
  • Editor B (B has read advice to come to the aid of others when they are attacked, and this is the 5th such remark by A): "You are attacking D again. Do you really want me to take this to ANI?"
  • Admin C: "Making accusations without providing evidence is a personal attack, and you have used "you" again. You have been blocked.".
--Boson (talk) 20:01, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
OK, how about, "without providing justification (preferably with evidence in the form of diffs)" That would:
  1. Restore the original word - "justification" - from that sentence
  2. Introduce the idea of using diffs (which is mentioned in the original, in the long, complicated your-stament-versus-the-statement sentence, but without a Wikilink)
  3. Make it clear that a diff is preferable but not required.
--Lightbreather (talk) 21:18, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
Always bearing in mind that I think we are talking about the colour of the lipstick to put on the pig, I don't think that any of these are improvements on the original. All this about providing diffs,etc. has to do with rules of process at places like ANI, not with whether something constitutes an attack. I think the whole section probably needs removing, so any more detail and added "procedural" recommendations make it worse, not better. It just distracts from and weakens the main message: "Do not make personal attacks anywhere in Wikipedia. Comment on content, not on the contributor." Anyway, let's see what others think. --Boson (talk) 23:22, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
When copy-editing the project page, we should consider removing, rather than expanding, redundancies and note that the section "What is considered to be a personal attack?" already contains the following:
"... some types of comments are never acceptable: ...
  • Accusations about personal behavior that lack evidence. Serious accusations require serious evidence. Evidence often takes the form of diffs and links presented on wiki."
That could also probably be improved on, but since "making personal attacks" falls under personal behaviour, it doesn't need repeating in a less appropriate section, I don't really see anything in the section "Avoiding personal attacks" that is not either inappropriate or redundant. --Boson (talk) 23:20, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I don't think that the use of the large green "ticks" and red "crosses" are helpful here; certainly in the UK, ticks and crosses equate to communicating "right" and "wrong", rather than identifying a "preferable" way of communicating the same information. Hchc2009 (talk) 05:06, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
Note to other readers: Alternative bullet icons are being discussed in Discussion 2, below, and there is some agreement for tweaking the red "X" (replacing with a yellow check mark). Lightbreather (talk) 00:41, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Minor and done. Yes check.svg Done
  • Oppose Again, I'm with Flyer22 on this. The existing line "In disputes, the word "you" should be avoided when possible. " thing seems silly to me and should probably be scrapped wholesale because it is misleading the reader into thinking that this is enough to avoid making personal attacks. If I say "the person that made this edit is a jerk" then I've still avoided "you" while making a personal attack. Most personal attacks aren't "accidental" and preaching about saying "you" seems like a grammar school lesson; ie: talking down to the reader. Dennis 19:05, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
I would actually probably agree with you if all Wikipedia editors had the same education and life experiences that made them see "you" language as absolutely non-confrontational. But many people are taught at an early age to avoid unnecessary "you" language. As for the direct stuff like "You are a jerk," or "The person who did this was a jerk," we can address that in other discussions, if necessary. My only objective right now is to take what is already in the policy and make it easier to read, to use that as a platform from which to discuss other additions or deletions. Lightbreather (talk) 19:19, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I don't think the statements are accurate. Some ways of using the second person when addressing others in a dispute are offensive to some participants but we shouldn't make a general claim about the English language that's simply not correct here. Putting everything in passive third person tense makes talk more formal, ritualized, and some would say, passive-aggressive. Incivility, generally, is not subject to rigid definitions of grammar and syntax. It really depends on what is being said, and how. Further, this is a policy page, but advice on how to get along with other editors more of a guideline / essay kind of thing. Elevating advice to the status of policy will encourage a lot of flopping and wikilawyering, which often happens in civility disputes, or one might say that incivility accusations are often used as a bludgeon in disputes. Best not give people another tool to bludgeon each other with. - Wikidemon (talk) 22:35, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
Just to clarify, this isn't adding anything to the existing policy. What's on the left above is already in the (policy) article. What's on the right is just to make it easier to read. Lightbreather (talk) 23:26, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Support—the proposed change is much clearer and easier to read, and is thus an improvement over the existing text. I agree with Hchc2009 above that the graphical ticks and crosses aren't necessary but that's a minor point really. Regards, Baffle gab1978 (talk) 03:47, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Thanks. As explained in the discussion below, I am happy to use yellow check marks rather than red Xs. That will look more like a warning than a forbidden. Lightbreather (talk) 04:01, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose; instead, nuke the whole paragraph - are "thank you" and "'you did a great job" personal attacks? Obviously not. You and your are just ways to express that you're one is addressing another human. (@Boson: I love your lipstick-on-a-pig analogy :) --Stfg (talk) 10:54, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Have you carefully read the current and proposed texts? Perhaps you rushed? It says - in both versions - that "you" and "your" should be avoided in disputes. It is a misrepresention of the policy to say that it prohibits one from saying "Thank you." Further, it doesn't even forbid the second person; it simply advises us to consider the ramifications of using it thoughtlessly. Lightbreather (talk) 15:44, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
@Lightbreather: Since you address me in the second person, may we assume you aren't disputing what I'm saying? Is it civil to call into question the carefulness of my reading and to call what I said misrepresentation? You may have overlooked the humour in what I wrote, but seriously and without banter, I consider the paragraph in question, whether copy edited or not, to be excessively parental and bossy, and we'd be better without it. By the way, do you think it appropriate to reply to everyone who posts here (except the most recent, as of this writing)? --Stfg (talk) 16:17, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
1. If you're implying that the policy says thank-yous are personal attacks, then I dispute that. 2. Is it civil to call into question the carefulness of your reading? It's borderline, and that's why the policy says that although it's not a PA, someone might think it is, so be prepared to defend yourself if they make an issue of it. (In other words, if you don't want the possibility of being bothered with that, take a moment to re-word your response.) That's all this policy says, in a nutshell. 3. As for the appropriateness of my responses, I see it done all the time, but if there is a policy against it, please share. Lightbreather (talk) 16:35, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
@Lightbreather: I'm sorry my attempt to put it humorously has failed to communicate. Here's my exact, literal opinion: what people say matters; telling people how to say it is bossy. Following your numbering: (1) Obviously I'm not implying that. My point is simply that to reply to an editor with "What a brilliant idea!" or with "I love your idea -- brilliant!" are the same, and to reply with "Only an idiot could suggest that!" or with "If you're suggesting that, you must be an idiot!" are the same. The only difference is that in both cases the 2nd person pronouns engage the other editor as a person rather than as an abstraction at the distal end of a keyboard. (2) OK. (3) As far as I know there's no policy against doing that, which is why I asked about appropriateness rather than Wikilegality. I agree that it's often done. What is also often done is people objecting that it looks like an attempt to dominate the discussion and a failure to listen. This effect is highlighted, of course, when points are answered not simply by making the counter-argument, but also by accusing the other editor of carelessness and misrepresentation. Ironic, really, considering what talk page we're on. That's all I want to say, really. I stand by my "nuke" suggestion. --Stfg (talk) 18:10, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. This proposal is a belabored form of newspeak. I would agree with Stfg that excising the part that says but "The statement..." and "The paragraph inserted..." is preferred, or instead—"The paragraph inserted here [DIFF] into the article looks like original research", which also is not a personal attack, and avoids referring to the other editor in the second person; is preferable. There is no point in telling editors to avoid pronouns, except as a means to promote newspeak. Giving that silly advice (that somehow made it into the policy) even greater emphasis is the opposite of what we should be doing. JMP EAX (talk) 12:55, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
It is an existing policy, not "newspeak." The current version is muddled, the proposed version is easy to read. Lightbreather (talk) 15:51, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The current wording is ignored because it can't have practical effect. The proposal takes it into an Orwellian nightmare. Bad idea. DeCausa (talk) 14:26, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
"Orwellian" implies that editors will have virtually no authority and some centralized power will wield absolute control over every aspect of the second person. Bullshit. It simply makes editors more responsible for their own behavior. Wikipedia is not anarchy. The current wording is ignored because it's gobbledygook. The proposal is simply WP:BETTER, in part by making appropriate use of lists. Lightbreather (talk) 16:19, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
"Bullshit". Is that civil? Orwellian also recalls the use of language to control the proles.DeCausa (talk) 18:21, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Is it? Here's the link: Bullshit. (Compare to Cunt or Nigger, looking for words like "offense" and "offensive.") A good rule of thumb about coarse language in mixed company? If everyone is cool with it, OK. If someone says it's offensive, and it's generally considered offensive, then you say, "Oh, sorry," and move on. For instance, seeing how most are talking in this conversation, I took the chance that "bullshit" would not be taken as out of line. However, IF I'd said, "Listen, you ******cker, you're full of sh*t," that would obviously be meant to offend. If "bullshit" offended you, tell me, and I'll happily apologize and move on. Lightbreather (talk) 19:08, 20 September 2014 (UTC)

Oppose I hope the entire section will be scrapped as per the proposal below, though I expect our insane consensus system will ensure it gets kept. In that event, I think, partly on general conservative grounds ('at least it's the Devil we know'), that it may be best to stick with a less clear and thus hopefully less enforceable bad policy. I also asked various specific questions and wrote various comments about it which I originally placed here. Doubtless for very good reasons, these have now been moved here, where they presumably will get read by even fewer readers, thus making the proposed new policy even riskier and further strengthening the case against it on conservative grounds.Tlhslobus (talk) 19:54, 20 September 2014 (UTC)

Oppose, I cannot support this, "...the second person words "you" and "your" may be taken as a personal attack..." Foreign language editors are going to read this and assume that calling them by the word you or your is a proper insult. Even a Royal Highness is refered to politely in such a sense, albeit with an added mark of respect. There is no emphasis on the word you as it appears on its own. If I have a duty not to be attacking with you, then you have a duty not to assume bad faith with me. I am surprised at myself, but writing this comment may lead me down to the other vote to say yes... ~ R.T.G 00:07, 21 September 2014 (UTC)

Support - This is a clear improvement over the current text. JoeSperrazza (talk) 16:23, 22 September 2014 (UTC)

Oppose I agree that overall this is an improvement in formatting. However, by leaving out the word "you" should be avoided when possible it is less clear. Also convincing is too strong in the rewrite of "justification", "substantive" would be better than "convincing". --Bejnar (talk) 17:51, 23 September 2014 (UTC)

Oppose - I believe the original phrasing on the left more clearly conveys the intended message and meaning of the policy, even though is a bad policy to begin with and I wish this were a vote to strike down that existing policy. The graphical formatting may be more aesthetic, but muddies the content with the restructuring and rewording. --Yamakiri TC 09-25-2014 • 21:59:49 21:59, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

Seen as you mention that you "wish this were a vote to strike down that existing policy", Yamakiri, there is a #Proposal to remove some of the advice against the second person pronoun also being voted on below, though I'm not sure that it necessarily does what you would like.Tlhslobus (talk) 23:31, 25 September 2014 (UTC)
Thank you for informing me of this; I've taken the liberty of participating in the poll and appreciate your informing me of it. It was very courteous of you, Tlhslobus! --Yamakiri TC 09-26-2014 • 01:34:52 01:34, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
Thanks, Yamakiri. It was very kind of you to say so.Tlhslobus (talk) 16:40, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. This would include even casual criticism as personal attack. Noteswork (talk) 17:59, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Both versions provide support for thin-skinned nonsensical claims of Personal Attacks based on nambypambiness instead of on logical textual analysis for content. Good writers often prefer writing text where humans engage in actions, even when writing about the writing process itself. But it looks like this decision has already been made, and it all is boiling down to phrasing now. If that's the case then this policy to discourage direct and effective communication with others should be buried in paragraphs of text instead of highlighted with checkmarked examples that only portray the ridiculousness of policy-makers in this place. Flying Jazz (talk) 19:10, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Support. Issue is not the content, as several opposers seem to have missed, it's the the improvement of the style, which is clearly better. Chris Rodgers (talk) 06:54, 30 September 2014 (UTC)

Discussion 2[edit]

Questions? Comments?

As an aside, I perhaps would not have gone straight to the straw poll/RFC with this. RFCs are much more difficult to analyze/close when they are something other than a straight up/down, or when changes come in the middle (since prior !votes didn't know about the changes). Asking for feedback first to get the early suggestions (such as mine above) and avoid having to write things like your FAQ above - which can turn the closing into a simple vote count rather than trying to have the closer trying to decide what the common ground is between more complex opinions. This is especially true for a policy, where the specific wording can be controversial, and we can't easily just clean it up with a BRD afterwards. Gaijin42 (talk) 01:28, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

  • I think the draft by lightbreather looks like it could be a an improvement. However tactically, I wish the proposal had been offered with a request for wordsmithing rather than a straight up-and-down vote.

For example while this statement is an improvement

YesY The statement about X is wrong because of information at Y.

I think it could be even better with the following:

YesY The statement about X appears to be in conflict with information at Y.

While I agree that it is an improvement to move away from "you are wrong", the newer statement is a categorical claim of error. That invites a response of "no that's wrong" or worse "no you are wrong" while my wording, hopefully leads to "information Y isn't exactly applicable because of Z" or better yet "good point, but if X is changed to X' it is now consistent and an improvement".--S Philbrick(Talk) 18:04, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

I think I understand what you're saying, but I also think there are some here would complain about the "appears to be" change you're suggesting. Actually, if you compare the side-by-side sections above (the left what is currently in the article, the right what I propose to replace it with) you'll see that it already says "Your statement about X is wrong because of information at Y" and "The paragraph you inserted into the article looks like original research." So I really didn't change (for better or worse) that.
My changes are mostly to simplify, clarify - make what the section already says easier to read, via copyediting and layout. As it is, in the current (left-hand) version, this is ONE sentence:
A posting that says "Your statement about X is wrong because of information at Y", or "The paragraph you inserted into the article looks like original research", is not a personal attack, but "The statement..." and "The paragraph inserted..." is preferred, or instead—"The paragraph inserted here [DIFF] into the article looks like original research", which also is not a personal attack, and avoids referring to the other editor in the second person; providing the DIFF also cuts down confusion.
That's an 80-word sentence! Even an experienced reader/writer has to go over that a few times to figure out what it means - you practically need to get a paper and pencil to work it out. It must be especially confusing to ESL and non-wordsmiths.
My plan is to first make the existing text more readable, and then, if anyone wants to propose additions or changes, it should be easier to work out a piece at a time. Lightbreather (talk) 18:35, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
I get that you were trying to improve layout. I like your structure. I'm now working on improving the wording.--S Philbrick(Talk) 18:58, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
Great! I'm glad you understand. All I'm asking is, can we get over this hurdle first - taking the existing and making it easier to read - and after that, make suggestions for additions and changes. (Because at that point, we'll encounter concerns about whether or not we're changing the meaning of the policy. Much as what happened when I proposed 12 days ago to add a two-sentence paragraph to the end of the section.) Will you agree to first focus on this first step? I am truly trying to work with those - like yourself - who are trying to improve this. Lightbreather (talk) 19:06, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

I was struggling with one observation—namely, that the essay is about no personal attacks, and then gives an example of something that is specifically identified as not a personal attack, yet is marked by a red cross as if it is wrong.

I started to think about a continuum, which I would like to represent as a line or as Venn diagrams, but I'll settle for doing it as a list.

While admittedly oversimplified, we can think of comments as falling on a continuum something like the following:


  1. green tickY Really good positive, supportive comment
  2. green tickY Good, positive, supportive comment
  3. gray tickY Neutral
  4. gray tickY Neutral
  5. gray tickY Neutral
  6. gray tickY Neutral
  7. yellow tickY Uncivil comment
  8. yellow tickY Very uncivil comment
  9. red tickY Personal attack
  10. red tickY Egregious personal attack


When we say that we do not permit personal attacks, we mean that entries reaching a 9 or 10 on a scale can result in formal sanctions.

However, we should not send the message that a comment reaching 7.9 on this scale is fine. We should strive to be at the low end of the scale (perhaps I should reverse it?), ideally with 1s or 2s, but understandably often in the neutral zone. When someone is thinking of writing a comment that may be in the yellow, they should rethink, partly because what is yellow for one is red for another, and partly because, even if not rising to the level of a formal sanction, it is uncivil, and should be avoided.

The sense of this essay could be: we do not permit personal attacks, and one way to make sure not to do them is to stay well away. This might also help address the concern of {{ping|Hchc2009]] who is concerned about identifying a comment with a red cross, which is undesirable but not so wrong as to be sanctionable. We could rewrite, giving an example of a statement that is a personal attack, an improvement that is "merely" uncivil, a further improvement that makes it neutral, and ideally an example of a genuinely positive comment. The color coding of green, gray, yellow and red can be debated, but it strikes me as a good first step.--S Philbrick(Talk) 18:41, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

I agree with the idea of a scale, but I think its important to note that its possible to be at #1 while still being extremely critical. The way you have it written now, it reads like only "rah rah" is "good". If edit A violates policy, then edit B that reverts it and critically points out that it violates policy is "good" despite not being "positive and supportive". In reality, civility and criticality are on two different axes. while only coordinate 0,0 may make an editor feel good about themselves, feeling bad because someone pointed out an error or violation is not incivil, and conflating feelings with civility is a very scary road to go down. Gaijin42 (talk) 18:39, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
To expand on the words of @Gaijin42:, rather than just the bifurcation into "not acceptable" and "acceptable", we should illustrate the range sanctionable->to eb avoided->neutral->better->best--S Philbrick(Talk) 18:41, 19 September 2014 (UTC)


It wasn't my intention that only "rah rah" would qualify.
For example, "The recently added claim X appears to be in conflict with reliable source Y, however, I looked further and I found reliable source Z, and I think a rewording of claim X to Claim W, which captures the same spirit, but is consistent with two reliable sources, might be even better, what do you think" might qualify as a non "rah rah" point, but one that leaves the other party feeling like they have contributed. Although their specific edit isn't acceptable, it lead to an investigation, and a third option, which is an improvement to the article came out of the discussion. I admit, this is a bit Pollyannish, but it is sometimes possible.--S Philbrick(Talk) 18:48, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

@Gaijin42, Hchc2009, Sphilbrick: how about this:

In disputes, the second person words "you" and "your" may be taken as a personal attack by some, regardless of your intention. For example, consider the following comments:
yellow tickY The paragraph you inserted into the article looks like original research;
yellow tickY Your statement about X is wrong because of information at Y.
Although they are not personal attacks, these statements would be preferable:Although the previous statements are not personal attacks, the following statements are preferable:
green tickY The paragraph inserted into the article looks like original research;
green tickY The statement about X is wrong because of information at Y.


It rewords it somewhat (for you Gaijin42), and replaces the red "X" with a yellow "check" (for you Hchc2009 and Sphilbrick) that is less like "Forbidden" and more like, "Warning: some might take this personally." --Lightbreather (talk) 18:49, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

I think the yellow checks are certainly better than the red X. There is a large ambiguity between "they " and "these" tho. If the sentence is going to be kept just in the middle it needs to be something like "Although the previous statements are not personal attacks, the following statements are preferable". I'm somewhat confused by the emphasis on the second person though (I realize its in the current policy). If we used the 3rd person and said "X's statement" doesn't that suffer the same problem? Gaijin42 (talk) 19:09, 19 September 2014 (UTC)
I have no problem with your proposed, "Although the previous statements are not personal attacks, the following statements are preferable." As for the third person stuff, since it's not already in that section, I'd prefer to just clean-up the section as-is, not significantly adding or deleting anything... And then start another discussion about things that we might want to add or delete. (Such as third-person language.) Lightbreather (talk) 19:23, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

Comments/Questions by Tlhslobus[edit]

  • Comment: about my reply to Lightbreather's old query 4
    • 1 - Thanks, Lightbreather, I haven't yet looked at the secondary issues, so it's too soon for me to vote, but you've met my main concern by restoring what I described as a vital safeguard by adding back "Although not personal attacks,".
    • 2 - However in the original the 'not' is emphasized by putting it in italics (not), and I did mention I'd like some pretty cosmetics for the safeguard. So at the very least I'd like the 'not' back in italics (not), and not, NOT, or NOT are some possible improvements that might be considered (though if anybody thinks them over the top, I'm happy enough with not). Tlhslobus (talk) 04:49, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
I believe it is unnecessary, per MOS:EMPHASIS:
Italics may be used to draw attention to an important word or phrase within a sentence when the point or thrust of the sentence may otherwise not be apparent to readers, or to stress a contrast....
... but if enough people thinks it's absolutely critical, I would probably not fight it. Lightbreather (talk) 21:48, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Well then please leave the italics in - that was and is the consensus position, presumably reached after much debate, and some line in the MOS, even if correctly interpreted, does not override such a consensus (there are long established precedents and presumably also rules on that, as well as WP:IAR as a back-up). It is in any case not clear to me that it is being correctly interpreted, especially the bits about 'thrust', 'stress' and 'contrast', though I've no desire for a lengthy debate on such semantics when it seems pointless as the entire proposal seems to be going nowhere as it clearly lacks consensus. Tlhslobus (talk) 00:54, 21 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Questions + Comments: about my reply to Lightbreather's old query 3
    • 1 - Lightbreather, are you trying to say that Diffs are an example of acceptable evidence or the only acceptable evidence?
    • 2 - Either way, I think the text would have to be modified to remove the ambiguity.
    • 3 - And either way, a wikilink to Linking to a diff might help with my previously expressed concerns about making it harder for the inexperienced and/or not-so-smart to defend themselves against bullying by the smart and/or experienced.
    • 4 - Also do you feel these concerns are not worth addressing?
    • 5 - I'm not quite sure how valid they are myself (I originally only raised them in answer to a question of yours).
    • 6 - (I note that the creation of this RFC addresses some of the other concerns I expressed in this area).Tlhslobus (talk) 06:19, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
I think my answers to Boson above [1][2] probably cover your questions, too. Lightbreather (talk) 21:54, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Questions + Comments: about my reply to Lightbreather's old query 2
    • 1 - Lightbreather, is there any reason why the explicit instruction to be civil is being removed in favor of merely instructing them to follow our Civility policy (not necessarily all that civil even now, let alone in the future)?
    • 2 - Also do you know what the previously mentioned 'Dick/Asshole/Fuckhead' issue with that so-called Civility policy is? (My apologies for the bad (but allegedly not uncivil) language, but it comes directly or indirectly from our Civility policy)
    • 2b - And if you know, does it bother you? (It bothers me, but it has its supporters)
    • 2c - And if you don't know what it is, do you want to know?
    • 3 - Also do you feel these concerns are not worth addressing?
    • 4 - Once again, I'm not quite sure how valid they are myself (I originally only raised them in answer to a question of yours). Tlhslobus (talk) 06:19, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Only the first question interests me here. If you want to share something about the other items, I would suggest my talk page and if it interests me, I'll let you know.
As for the change from this:
Editors should be civil and adhere to good wiki etiquette when describing disagreements.
To this:
Editors should adhere to Wikipedia's civility policy and wiki etiquette guidelines when describing disagreements.
First, one of the arguments we hear over and over again in these conversations is: "What is civility? There is no agreement on what it means, so it can't be enforced." My answer to that has been it may be impossible to agree on an all-encompassing definition for civility, but we can certainly agree on some basic rules and put those in policy. That at least cuts down on some of the problem. Not to attempt to enforce civility because we can't agree on every aspect of what it means is a poor argument.
Second, the current language does not clarify that WP:CIVIL is a policy and WP:EQ is a guideline. The proposed language does. So, rather than "be civil" (which people argue about the meaning of) and adhere to etiqutte (which is not identified as a guideline in the currrent form), say simply: adhere to both WP:CIVIL and WP:EQ, both of which are defined, and here, their relative importance (one as a policy, the other as a set of guidelines) is made clear. Lightbreather (talk) 22:08, 20 September 2014 (UTC)

Anchor-Linking 'Justification' to our existing policy[edit]

The part of this proposal to replace 'justification' is somewhat unsatisfactory, because the debate has been conducted with most of us (including me until this morning) ignorant of the fact that we already have an explicit policy on what that means in the next section. Now that I've found out about anchors (thanks again for that, Lightbreather) it is a simple matter to wikilink from 'justificaion' to the existing policy, so I'm going to do that now.Tlhslobus (talk) 16:48, 21 September 2014 (UTC)

Honestly, T., I'm not sure that's a standard use for an anchor. Not to be critical - I just don't know. If anyone is reading this who understands WP:ANCHOR well, could you start a separate discussion here or on T's talk page? Thanks. Lightbreather (talk) 17:05, 22 September 2014 (UTC)

Done. I see somebody had already put an anchor in place, so I'm a bit surprised it wasn't already linked long ago.Tlhslobus (talk) 17:03, 21 September 2014 (UTC)


The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.


Proposal to remove some of the advice against the second person pronoun[edit]

In the above discussion, there seem to be at least two other users besides myself (namely User:Stfg and User:Flyer22) who find some of the AVOIDYOU section problematic. I don't see how saying "User:X's proposal in unacceptable" is any more or less problematic than replying to someone with "your proposal is unacceptable". Telling editors to look for diffs and always write "this proposal [DIFF] is unacceptable" is IMHO an unacceptable level of WP:CREEPy advice in a policy. In my experience few editors actually bother to write in a such a way, except maybe in highly adversarial proceedings like ArbCom's (where additionally editors cannot directly reply to each other). Surely in a confusing situation diffs help even on run-of-the-mill talk pages, but we should not strive to transform every talk page in a moot court. You can obviously attack someone (or their idea/proposal/etc.) by speaking of them in the 3rd person and/or by using a diff, e.g. "this proposal [DIFF] can only come from a completely clueless editor" is a borderline personal attack that is entirely AVOIDYOU-compliant. Concretely, I propose dropping but "The statement..." and "The paragraph inserted..." is preferred, or instead—"The paragraph inserted here [DIFF] into the article looks like original research", which also is not a personal attack, and avoids referring to the other editor in the second person; is preferable. and deleting the WP:AVOIDYOU shortcut too. Focusing on the avoidance of the you/your pronouns is only going to lead fake civility. I can give you an example from ANI where one editor called another idiot by writing "[Your proposal] is wrong [yada, yada]. Idiot." with the obvious implication who the idiot was. The way this policy focuses/delves on form rather than substance only encourages such creativity. JMP EAX (talk) 13:44, 20 September 2014 (UTC)

  • Support my own proposal, obviously. JMP EAX (talk) 13:47, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Thanks, and the best of luck, JMP EAX.Tlhslobus (talk) 20:48, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Support It's pretty much ignored by all anyway. DeCausa (talk) 14:27, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Support reversing the instruction creep. --Stfg (talk) 14:52, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose it's an EXISTING (not new), though often ignored and unenforced, WP:CIVIL policy re the appropriate use of second person. It's no more of a "crusade" than policies re NPOV. WP:RS and WP:DUE are discussed everyday. Just because some try to pass off unreliable sources and undue material doesn't mean we should abandon those. No. Those guidelines stand, and so should this. Further, since it's already policy, it is WP:NOTCREEP. Lightbreather (talk) 15:28, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
    • Repeatedly using unreliable sources can and does get someone blocked. Was anyone ever blocked for using "you" in the absence of other/real policy violations? JMP EAX (talk)
(ec) That's a good question. As far as I can tell, no, despite the fact that there exists the very policy that we're discussing, which is part of the larger WP:NPA policy that says "Comment on content, not on the contributor." And that's why, on any given day, you can find comments like this - [3] - on Wikipedia. They do not better the encyclopedia; they are rude and disruptive. Lightbreather (talk) 17:09, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
The example you give (which just says "Surely that would be the conclusion of any rational editor, male or female, would it not?") does not involve the use of 'you', and seems almost classic 'clever bullying', in which if you're not the target you may not immediately notice that it's a personal attack that implies the other editor must be irrational. (I'm assuming the offense was intentional, an assumption which might get the victim in trouble for violating WP:AGF, which is part of what makes it clever). The focus of this section on 'you' makes it a lot easier to get away with such attacks, and makes it a lot harder to get any agreement to move against such real personal attacks for fear of getting punished for a wrong use of 'you'. (Incidentally Jimbo's page also seems to be something of an anomalous law unto itself, though there's plenty of such clever bullying elsewhere too).Tlhslobus (talk) 21:08, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Please look at the edit summary that accompanied the example, T. Lightbreather (talk) 17:17, 22 September 2014 (UTC)
    • A policy routinely ignored by all editors and admins is a real indicator of the consensus view of it. Getting rid of it will just be catching up with that. DeCausa (talk) 17:05, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Like speeding is a consensus view that speed limits are "bad policy"? Or can rampant speeding be a sign that those tasked with enforcing the policy simply do not do so, whatever the reason? (Of course, no one wants to get a speeding ticket, but the moment you get T-boned by a speeder - perhaps even injured - you suddenly wish the cops were doing their job.) Lightbreather (talk) 17:15, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
You are again making highly dubious analogies here. People do get speeding tickets so laws against speeding to get regularly enforced. On the other hand, you seem unable to provide a single example of when this "you/your" prohibition was enforced by an admin. So this situation not at all like speeding violations but is perhaps like the plethora of silly and ancient statutes that are still on the books (mostly at local level) in various US states but haven't been enforced in decades; I don't know if Wikipedia has an article on those, but this is a funny primer. JMP EAX (talk) 17:29, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
"[Again] making dubious analogies]? I see a number of people making analogies here, but not me. At any rate, my comparing this policy to speeding is more relevant than your comparing it to "newspeak." Nothing about this policy is made up like 1984's "bellyfeel" or "blackwhite," though I can certainly imagine detractors trying to think one up to derail legitimate discussions about a real Wikipedia problem. Lightbreather (talk) 17:40, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Your comparison with speeding is not an analogy?? Oh, I found this article:Dumb laws. This seems to be a good analogy. DeCausa (talk) 17:48, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
I also did read your reply as an analogy, Lightbreather. If you intended it to be something else, it did not come across that way. For more funny articles on "dumb laws" see [4] or [5], the latter for the UK. JMP EAX (talk) 17:53, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Yes, it was ONE analogy. JMP EAX's comment, "again making dubious analogies," using "again" sounds like I'd made others here. Lightbreather (talk) 18:52, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Your other analogy was (IMHO) in your initial oppose !vote comparing this "you/your" prohibition with the prohibition against using unreliable sources [6]. JMP EAX (talk) 19:02, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
OK. I think that was more like a comparison of two Wikipedia policies, but if that seems like an analogy to you, OK. Lightbreather (talk) 19:17, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
(edit conflict)I would also say you made an analogy here: "It's no more of a "crusade" than policies re NPOV. WP:RS and WP:DUE are discussed everyday. Just because some try to pass off unreliable sources and undue material doesn't mean we should abandon those. No. Those guidelines stand, and so should this." That seems dubious to me. Also, I'm curious. Why is saying "you..." per se closer to a personal attack than saying an editor's comment is "bullshit"? Yes, on a technicality one addresses the user and the other addresses "content". But it is a technicality. Which contributes more to a hostile uncivil environment? DeCausa (talk) 19:07, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Comparing a policy to a crusade was introduced here by JMP EAX. The "bullshit" question, I answered on my last edit.[7] Lightbreather (talk) 19:17, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
Your answer on your use of the word "bullshit" doesn't address my point. Firstly, what you said was clearly shorthand for "you have typed bullshit". Why does omitting the "you" make it any better? Secondly, it's not the use of a specific word which is offensive: it's the underlying meaning you conveyed I.e (a) aggression (b) signalling that you have no respect for me or my opinion. It's this sort of behaviour that needs to be addressed if the environment in WP is to improve, not whether a pronoun is used. DeCausa (talk) 19:29, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
The answer that I gave to your related question[8] of two days ago applies here.[9] This discussion is about the use of the second person in disputes. If you want to discuss other behaviors that can suggest offensive underlying meanings, could you please start a separate discussion? Lightbreather (talk) 17:32, 22 September 2014 (UTC)
I was making a point about the second person pronoun. I asked you why your leaving out the "you" in your comment to me (I.e. "Bullshit" being shorthand for "you wrote bullshit") makes it any less uncivil, hostile or offensive than including the "you". DeCausa (talk) 21:37, 22 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose  Avoiding "you" is not fake civility, it really changes the tone, both for the writer and the reader.  Unscintillating (talk) 17:01, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Support Referring to a person in any manner to talk about their contributions or proposal does not a personal attack make. Policy should reflect practice and in practice it is not considered a personal attack. Chillum Need help? Type {{ping|Chillum}} 17:37, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment: (This previously read 'Strongly Support' until I realized the proposal does not currently do what the earlier headlines said, details here). Although usually ignored in practice, leaving it there is certainly potentially dangerous, and quite likely has been actually harmful in many minor or not-so-minor ways, especially by giving ammunition to clever bullies, and by driving editors away from Wikipedia because they feel something such as "why would anybody freely choose to want to work in a place where you at least appear to be running the risk of being hauled before a Civility Tribunal for saying 'you' or 'your' (while its so-called Civility rules directly or indirectly encourage people to think of selected kinds of other people as Dicks, Assholes, and Fuckheads)?". I have no clear evidence that such harm has actually occurred (although common sense tells me it almost certainly has, and it certainly has made me think about quitting Wikipedia at least once). But it definitely has done some not-so-minor harm, such as involving editors in exhausting, distressing, and unproductive disputes both here and to prevent its dangerous extension elsewhere (explicitly justified by the claim that other policies have to be made consistent with the policy here).Tlhslobus (talk) 19:33, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment: It has been described here as Newspeak, a reference to the reduced vocabulary set that Big Brother was imposing in George Orwell's 1984 as a means of silencing dissident thought. This description has been criticized on the grounds that it's not Newspeak but existing policy, which suggests that either the critic doesn't understand that in Orwell's 1984 Newspeak was existing policy, or that somehow Newspeak is only dangerous when it's not policy.
However in many ways it's worse than Newspeak, as that was just fiction (and did not ban or restrict 'you' and 'your', perhaps because Orwell would have thought that his readers might find that too absurd to be believable).
In fact the restriction of the use of 'you' or 'your' is not new, and is a tool that has seemingly been used for centuries in France, Spain, Germany, etc, by the powerful to make it harder and scarier for ordinary people to speak out, especially if they are in some sense newcomers (roughly the equivalent of new Wikipedians) unfamiliar with the cultural and subcultural norms (I expect it is found rather useful for closet sexists and racists when enforcing a glass ceiling against women and minorities, by giving them yet another hurdle to have to overcome). I have some personal experience of this as a French speaker who is unfamiliar with the subtle etiquette of when it is and is not socially acceptable to use 'tu' rather than 'vous', and vice versa.Tlhslobus (talk) 19:33, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment:I'm pretty sure that this policy would quickly be scrapped if we had a sane majority rule system (like every sane democracy has, but of course unfortunately Wikipedia is not a democracy), but I fear our insane consensus system will ensure its retention (just as it has ensured the retention of Dick/Asshole/Fuckhead in our civility rules as the alleged 'existing consensus' after it somehow initially got sneaked in unnoticed and with zero debate).Tlhslobus (talk) 19:33, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Support removal of the paragraph advising against use of "you" and of the corresponding shortcut. One can formulate attacks with or without "you". If one wants to explain what one really means by this paragraph, one ends up with something like "do not make personal attacks", which is a much better way of putting it. --Boson (talk) 19:44, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment: It might be appropriate to replace the term "crusade" with the term "advice" in the section header. --Boson (talk) 19:53, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
    • Fair point, I've done that. It's the insistence in the sections (above my proposal) to elevate the importance of that advice that made me use the stronger term. The whole affair is probably a good example why advice should be sparingly added to policies, for there is a temptation to elevate its status/importance over time... JMP EAX (talk) 21:26, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment: It's claimed that it leads to more 'polite and effective discourse'. My experience is that it leads to less clear and thus less effective discourse. And my experience is that any gains in politeness are illusory. It sometimes reduces friction in the short term, usually because people don't understand that they are being criticized, but at the cost of making us all see possible criticisms of ourselves where none was intended, and at the cost of leaving well-meaning people unable to amend their ways in the light of legitimate criticism because they have not understood that they are being criticized, and so on ad infinitum. It also leads to the mountains of ineffective discourse wasted on endless discussions such as the ones here (and similar ones elsewhere). If the alleged harmful uses of the 2nd person really were such a bad idea, then why haven't thousands of years of cultural evolution eliminated them from normal speech and writing long ago? Tlhslobus (talk) 20:25, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Support, per my aforementioned commentary in the #Vote 2 section above. Flyer22 (talk) 20:29, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Support, per my previous comments on this page. It is a bit condescending and only muddies the waters as to what is and isn't a "personal attack". Dennis 20:41, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • I support toning down the language on AVOIDYOU a bit. I'm not sure I'm in favor of excising it completely and the shortcut should probably be retained, but I think the reasoning in the nom is largely persuasive. Protonk (talk) 20:51, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • confused/neutral/move to guideline While encouraging civility is always good, and informing people that "you" can cause issues is also good, I am concerned that a policy such as this can be used as a bludgeon for wikilawyering and getting off track - instead of listening to legitimate critique, people can derail due to the language used. I would definitely support moving to a guideline and in that context would also support LBs above changes in the guideline version for readability
  • Comment: It still seems an improvement (though this is debatable, see here and here), but I (and many others) may have been too quick to support this, thinking it does more than it actually does. For a start, as proposed, the 'safeguard' sentence I earlier fought to defend now disappears, while "In disputes, the word "you" should be avoided when possible" remains. In effect lots of people may have voted support like me based on the headline "Proposal to remove the crusade/advice against the second person pronoun" (an idea which I still probably strongly support, if perhaps not entirely wisely) without noticing that the core of the 'crusade' against 'you' is still in place. and arguably even stronger.
As I understand the detailed wording, the section's middle paragraph would now read:
In disputes, the word "you" should be avoided when possible. However, when there are disagreements about content, referring to other editors is not always a personal attack. A posting that says "Your statement about X is wrong because of information at Y", or "The paragraph you inserted into the article looks like original research", is not a personal attack. Similarly, discussion of a user's conduct or history is not in itself a personal attack when done in the appropriate forum for such discussion (for example, the other editor's talk page, WP:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents or WP:Requests for comment/User conduct).
It may not matter too much in practice, but I also note that under this text (and also under the existing text), some users here may well be in danger of being deemed 'guilty' of Personal Attacks for discussion of a user's conduct or history in the wrong forum (maybe writing that in this forum also makes me 'guilty' of a Personal Attack on all those editors). Tlhslobus (talk) 22:23, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment: The headline should be changed to read "Proposal to remove some of the advice against the second person pronoun", which is less misleading. The precise old and new wordings should be added to the proposal to avoid confusing simple-minded folks like me. Tlhslobus (talk) 23:27, 20 September 2014 (UTC)
I'm now going to add the some of myself. Please feel free to revert me if that's in violation of some specified rule. But I'll leave the official presentation of the old and new section wordings to be done by somebody else. Tlhslobus (talk) 00:05, 21 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment:
    • While I still think this seems in some ways an improvement, among the downsides of accepting it is that it may copperfasten a false consensus. Judging by what people have written (including me, but not just me), much of the support, and almost all of the very small opposition, seems to be based on a misunderstanding of the actual proposal (as a result of misleading early section headings).
    • I'm going to mull it over and may even end up opposing it on conservative grounds - that making the 'you' stuff simpler just conceivably risks making that 'you' stuff more enforceable (or more of a deterrent to people to remain Wikipedians, or more of a help to clever bullies, etc), especially when strengthened by the 'moral authority' of a recent consensus (and thus no longer so easily ignored as the out-of-date-nonsense that it currently is), so we might be better off sticking with the devil we know.
    • In principle somebody (not me) might also want to test whether there is actually a consensus for doing what the earlier headings said and getting rid of all statements in the section that discourage the use of "you", though I wouldn't be very confident of a consensus on that.
    • I might even have tried to propose that myself if I weren't still so psychologically scarred from my last attempt at changing a Civility text (unsuccessfully trying to get 'Don't be a Dick' (also known as WP:DICK), and thus indirectly the much worse persecution-and-bully-celebrating/inciting 'What makes a Fuckhead?' from which WP:DICK derives and to which it links, out of our Civility policy, which links to Meta's version of Don't be a DICK).Tlhslobus (talk) 00:00, 21 September 2014 (UTC)
  • At least Temporary Oppose: Partly on the conservative grounds stated in my previous comment ("better the Devil we know"; also 'may copperfasten a false consensus'), and partly to try to ensure that a premature conclusion that there is a consensus is not reached before people have had time to review their positions based on the knowledge that the earlier headings were misleading. It may also give time for somebody (not me) to decide to change this into an attempt to get rid of all statements in the section that discourage the use of "you".Tlhslobus (talk) 00:30, 21 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment: To try to reduce confusion, I've transferred this suggestion out of the voting area to here. Tlhslobus (talk) 12:28, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
  • NΩke this section from orbit. "Avoiding personal attacks" might make a nice essay someplace, but it doesn't belong in policy. Policy should be limited to what is useful in actually deciding if policy was violated. Wnt (talk) 18:05, 22 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment: would it be useful to point out that this document is more than 12 years old and has been an official policy since no later than the start of 2005? We aren't talking about creating a new policy from scratch here, but about tweaking a mature one. It may even be fair to say that if anyone doesn't understand the meaning of "As a matter of polite and effective discourse, comments should not be personalized. That is, they should be directed at content and actions rather than people," then they shouldn't be editing Wikipedia at all. A policy expresses a community-wide consensus. Too much reinvention will undermine the consensus, not enhance it. Too much thinking aloud, too many ifs and buts, merely provide fodder for wikilawyers. Please, can we stay focussed on the proposal that opens this section? --Stfg (talk) 18:43, 22 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Support if done carefully so as to strengthen and clarify the policy against personal attacks. Too often I see some of our habitually disagreeable editors trying to wikilawyer the claim that they are in fact commenting on the edit, not the editor, or not addressing them directly. However you put it, "only an asinine and immature person could make this edit", "this edit was asinine and immature", "your edit is asinine and immature", "you are being asinine and immature", and "you are asinine and immature" boil down to the same thing, and obfuscating the point by saying "it would be asinine and immature for somebody to believe point X" doesn't really make it more civil, it makes it passive-aggressive. - Wikidemon (talk) 20:47, 22 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment: As pointed out in slightly more detail here, both our current policy, and the proposed relatively minor amendment being discussed here, by virtue of their ambiguity on whether the mere use of these words ('you' and 'your') can constitute a personal attack or incivility, come pretty close to being an unjustified implicit personal attack on the huge number of people who inevitably use those words in disputes because that is, and always has been, all normal people's normal way of speaking and thinking. Somewhat disturbingly, this is not the only time this kind of apparent projection has appeared in our Civility articles. However, in the present context, this is probably an argument against the proposed amendment, on the basis, as mentioned in earlier comments, that between 2 bad policies (and now 2 even worse policies than I had realized) we should keep the one that is both the devil we know and unenforceable because it's gobbledegook, and not backed by the moral authority of a recent consensus. Tlhslobus (talk) 14:38, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Support - I too am opposed to instruction creep that invites wikilawyering and support this revision because it is already easily subverted and not inherently helpful. --Yamakiri TC 09-26-2014 • 01:30:06 01:30, 26 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Remove AVOIDYOU policy entirely. Grammatical choices tend to neither add nor detract from nicety. Flying Jazz (talk) 19:35, 28 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Support removing. Pretty much per Wikidemon. This just adds an easily wikilaywered nuance for the creative editor. Gigs (talk) 15:46, 8 October 2014 (UTC)
  • Oppose, primarily per Unscintillating, but also per Wikipedia:Avoid instruction creep concerns raised by Lightbreather, above. Cheers, — Cirt (talk) 12:46, 10 October 2014 (UTC)
  • Support. I would very much like to see common sense win over the bureaucracy that I am tacitly helping by even reading and editing pages like this. Connor Behan (talk) 01:39, 7 January 2015 (UTC)

Suggested new wording to help others who might want to amend 'Avoiding Personal Attacks'[edit]

Note: this section started life as a comment here, and I removed it from that voting area to try to reduce confusion there, but some of my preceding comments there may provide some useful context or background information.Tlhslobus (talk) 12:40, 23 September 2014 (UTC)

  • Comment: If somebody does want to try taking the matter further (I won't be doing it), here are some thoughts on how it might be done. I don't want to entirely get rid of any mention of 'you' - instead I'm reducing it to a guideline, making it clear there are problems with having it as a policy, and saying explicitly what the relationship is between 'you' and PAs.
PAs are already reasonably well explained in the article's next section Wikipedia:No_personal_attacks#What_is_considered_to_be_a_personal_attack.3F. :As such giving them a second set of implicit definitions here makes no sense. And in theory it's in the wrong place. Ideally it should be moved so as it appears after the section defining PAs, but that's arguably not all that important. However, by splitting the section into policies and guidelines, it is hoped that future arguments may be avoided. I've also watered down much of the wording with qualifiers like 'where reasonably possible', etc. I prefer that - but others may not.
This suggested new text below is just that, a suggestion, and a very imperfect one, so others should feel free to modify copies of it as they think fit.
Avoiding Personal Attacks
  • (Shortcut: AvoidPA)
  • This section consists of policies and guidelines intended to help users avoid making Personal Attacks. It is not about defining what a Personal Attack is. Although such behavior risks resulting in Personal Attacks, ignoring a policy or guideline here does not in itself constitute a Personal Attack except where the behavior is already defined as a Personal Attack in the section 'What constitutes a Personal Attack'. For what constitutes a Personal Attack, see that section.
  • Policy: It is Wikipedia policy that Personal attacks should be avoided.
  • Guideline: Editors should carefully read this section and the section 'What is considered to be a personal attack'.
  • Policy: As a matter of polite and effective discourse, editors should try to ensure that comments are not unnecessarily personalized where this can reasonably be avoided without loss of clarity, risk of confusion, etc. That is, they should as far as reasonably possible be directed at content and actions rather than at people.
  • Guideline: In disputes and near-disputes, the words "you" and "your" should ideally be avoided when this can reasonably be done without loss of clarity, risk of confusion, etc. However this is a guideline, not a policy. The mere use of these words never constitutes a personal attack in itself, nor does it constitute incivility (while claiming or implying that it does can be seen as an unjustified personal attack on the huge number of people who inevitably use it in disputes because that is, and always has been, all normal people's normal way of speaking and thinking). Furthermore many personal attacks are carried out without using either word. Also, mistakenly treating this as a policy rather than a guideline can have many negative consequences (risk of confusion and loss of clarity, making life unnecessarily difficult for new editors, bringing Wikipedia into disrepute, bringing Wikipedia Policy into disrepute, diverting scarce resources away from combatting true incivility, etc)
  • Guideline: Discussion of a user's conduct or history is not in itself a personal attack, especially when done in the appropriate forum for such discussion (for example, the other editor's talk page, WP:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents or WP:Requests for comment/User conduct). Where reasonably possible, discussion of a user's conduct or history on inappropriate forums should be avoided.
  • Policy: When describing disagreements, editors should adhere to wikipedia's Civility Policy, and to its guidelines for good wiki etiquette, and try to be civil even in cases not adequately covered by that policy and those guidelines. The appropriate response to an inflammatory statement is to address the issues of content rather than to accuse the other person of violating the No Personal Attacks policy. Accusing someone of making personal attacks without providing a justification for your accusation is also considered a form of personal attack. (See also: Incivility.)
(Note that in the above 'justification' is now Wikilinked to our existing policy on the matter, which is spelled out in 'What is considered to be a personal attack'. In practice many other Wikilinks would also be wanted if this section were real.Tlhslobus (talk) 17:41, 21 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Comment: I've now modified the above suggestion to include the following:
The mere use of these words ('you' and 'your') never constitutes a personal attack in itself, nor does it constitute incivility (while claiming or implying that it does can be seen as an unjustified personal attack on the huge number of people who inevitably use those words in disputes because that is, and always has been, all normal people's normal way of speaking and thinking).
I should like to point that this means that our current policy, and the proposed relatively minor amendment being discussed in the section from which my suggestion was removed, by virtue of their ambiguity on the matter, would thus appear to come pretty close to being such an implicit personal attack on such huge numbers of people. If so, this would be at least the third time that I have found some of our main Civility articles to be instances of the thing they are ostensibly preaching against. In that sense the accusation by our articles can be seen as a form of confession, a phenomenon that psychologists and psychiatrists call projection. I find that noteworthy and somewhat disturbing. Tlhslobus (talk) 13:13, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
I think that an extensive rewrite is appropriate, but when I actually tried such a thing with Wikipedia talk:Civility/sandbox, reducing 24k of blather into 8k of something approximating policy, nobody had anything to say about the idea when I described it at WT:Civility. Wnt (talk) 21:04, 23 September 2014 (UTC)
However this is only a re-write of one small section. Even so, as I already said, I've no intention of trying it myself - I still haven't got over the effects of trying to remove a single link there. Tlhslobus (talk) 01:40, 24 September 2014 (UTC)
On the other hand, I'd be interested to see how you would get on if you just tried either a serious proposal to nuke the entire section, or a serious proposal to just get rid of all mention of not using 'you' and 'your'. Although I think I probably prefer my own paragraph above, but am not prepared to fight for it, a serious proposal from you (or anybody else) to just get rid of all mention of not using 'you' and 'your' would very probably have my support, and would certainly have my support if it explicitly said that merely saying 'you' or 'your' in a dispute (or anywhere else) was neither a personal attack nor uncivil, though I doubt if it would have consensus (but you never know...) Tlhslobus (talk) 01:49, 24 September 2014 (UTC)
Tlhslobus, I see what you are trying to do there, but a "personal" attack is personal. To suggest otherwise means that if I say something like "I think all editors who advocate loose notability standards are ..." whatever, that could be considered a "personal" attack, when it usually wouldn't be, unless I was saying that with one particular editor in mind and I knew that editor would take it personally. Gigs (talk) 15:50, 8 October 2014 (UTC)
And that's just it. How personal an attack is has to do with the idea you convey, whether the word "you" is written or not. Past teachers of mine told people not to ask "what if" questions. So they all asked "how should I proceed in the event that" questions. Just let people choose the words that are most effective. Connor Behan (talk) 19:24, 7 January 2015 (UTC)

WP:NPANUTSHELL, WP:NPANS, WP:NPANUT[edit]

The focus and point of WP:NPA is attacking behaviour. There are various intricacies of explaining it, but throughout. Nutshell: You cannot just assume an attacking position without relevant reference to content. To spit fire, the room must be lit before you got there, and even then it is your supposed WP duty to put the fire out. If you are searching above for what this page should focus on, it should focus first on that. And so, this post is to say that the nutshell can definitely be written on that basis. If it is not... let's hear it... ~ R.T.G 23:50, 20 September 2014 (UTC)

Thanks, but I think that's not really the nutshell. "This edit is being utterly idiotic when it says X" is assuming an attacking position with relevant reference to content, yet it is (usually? always?) a personal attack, because it implies that the edit must have been done by an utter idiot. And most clever PAs are probably a bit like that.
Meanwhile we already have 2 proposed changes under discussion. So it might be best either to put this one on hold until the other two are sorted out, or alternatively you might want to copy it as a comment into one or both the other proposal discussions, but particularly the one that currently has lots of supports (though that may be misleading as it may have been based on misleading early headings), as the other looks doomed.Tlhslobus (talk) 10:45, 21 September 2014 (UTC)
Incidentally, PAs are already reasonably well explained in the article's next section Wikipedia:No_personal_attacks#What_is_considered_to_be_a_personal_attack.3F, so it's a bad idea to be trying to define it again in the section under discussion.Tlhslobus (talk) 17:10, 21 September 2014 (UTC)
Yes it is. The reduction of attacking behaviour is the concern of this article. Everything else is secondary, even the personal bit. If you were getting personal but there was no attacking, there'd also be no form of WP:NPA. It is why this page exists. Attacks intended for insult or injury in any form. So it might not be the way I wrote it, but it is that. ~ R.T.G 11:45, 28 September 2014 (UTC)

WIAPA subpoint 4[edit]

Threats or actions which deliberately expose other Wikipedia editors to political, religious or other persecution by government, their employer or any others. Violations of this sort may result in a block for an extended period of time, which may be applied immediately by any administrator upon discovery. Admins applying such sanctions should confidentially notify the members of the Arbitration Committee of what they have done and why.

Five years ago, I discovered death threats in an article (link, although they've been revdelled, so nonadmins can't see the contents), so with the assistance of another editor, I contacted local police, and a day or two later I got a note from the police telling me of the legal consequences for the perpetrator. Should the other editor and I have been given a block of an extended period of time? And worse yet, since the other editor was an administrator, should s/he be sanctioned for ignoring this section of policy?

I assume that the answer is no. However, if we say "no", it's impossible to apply it fairly. Contacting authorities about something illegal in all jurisdictions...contacting authorities about something illegal in most jurisdictions...contacting authorities about something illegal in some jurisdictions...contacting authorities about something illegal only in the editor-in-question's jurisdiction. Where do we draw the line? Nyttend (talk) 13:47, 7 October 2014 (UTC)

It's a line that shouldn't be drawn. The key word in that bullet of the policy is "persecution" (not prosecution). How many jurisdictions something is illegal in doesn't define what constitutes persecution. To try to define it that way would pre-empt what is really a judgement call. --Stfg (talk) 14:33, 7 October 2014 (UTC)

updating on negative personal comments allowed[edit]

For transparency and access to the less "in" crowd, the lede and probably other parts of this policy statement need updating to acknowledge more clearly that discussing others' behavior in negative terms is in fact allowed in Wikipedia (though proscribed in some ways).

  • "Comment on content, not on the contributor" is a good jingo, but it is overstated by some editors IMHO, and is overstated here. Obviously experienced editors engage in negative personally-directed discussion all the time at wp:ANI and elsewhere; are they allowed but regular joe is not? Is it who, or where, or when, or how it is phrased, that makes negative comments acceptable. Aren't arbitrators given exemption, in practice, in their discussion in arbitration proceedings? And any editor in "good standing" at wp:ANI?
  • It's no doubt simpler to decry any negative discussion of behavior, as a matter of writing in a general policy statement. Policy creep is an issue. But there has to be major exceptions indicated, e.g. for administrative noticeboards, else this is false, hypocritical, breeding disrespect.
  • Contributors experiencing negative interactions need some decent guidance about how and where to describe and deal with others' behaviors. Editors cannot be entirely prohibited from discussing what we experience and see going on.
  • Oversimplification facilitates use of this policy as a bludgeon to derail discussion of legitimate grievances. This policy is over-used as a bludgeon, IMHO; such use should be weakened by revising what it says.
  • To what extent is it okay/good at your own Talk page, at other User talk pages, at Talk pages of articles, of wikiprojects? In edit summaries? In response to personal attacks against yourself, if your replies are milder? If real guidance is diverging too far, is too much for this page, there needs to be some brief explicit mention and then links to coverage in guidelines elsewhere.
  • Some acknowledgement within the lede is absolutely needed, IMHO.

I may try making some direct edits. I won't mind being reverted, but please discuss here. --doncram 00:08, 21 January 2015 (UTC)