The fundamental principles of Wikipedia may be summarized in five "pillars":
Wikipedia is free content that anyone can use, edit, and distribute: Since all editors freely license their work to the public, no editor owns an article and any contributions can and will be mercilessly edited and redistributed. Respect copyright laws, and never plagiarize from sources. Borrowing non-free media is sometimes allowed as fair use, but strive to find free alternatives first.
Editors should treat each other with respect and civility: Respect your fellow Wikipedians, even when you disagree. Apply Wikipedia etiquette, and don't engage in personal attacks. Seek consensus, avoid edit wars, and never disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point. Act in good faith, and assume good faith on the part of others. Be open and welcoming to newcomers. If a conflict arises, discuss it calmly on the nearest talk pages, follow dispute resolution, and remember that there are 4,858,420 articles on the English Wikipedia to work on and discuss.
Wikipedia has no firm rules: Wikipedia has policies and guidelines, but they are not carved in stone; their content and interpretation can evolve over time. Their principles and spirit matter more than their literal wording, and sometimes improving Wikipedia requires making an exception. Be bold but not reckless in updating articles, and do not agonize about making mistakes. Every past version of a page is saved, so any mistakes can be easily corrected.
Wikipedia Rules, Regulations, guidelines, etc.
A Policy is different than a guideline. A policy is a requirement for you to follow, after violation a few times, you are usually blocked. A guideline is a request by the community for you to follow. A good example is the Manual of Sytle. No one can know it inside and out, but you are supposed to know or look up something. (Usually your knowledge of that expands as you get more experienced).
The five pillars
- Fundamental principles: There are certain principles which are considered fundamental by the Wikipedia community; these are summarized in the five pillars, and at interwiki level on the Founding principles page. Wikipedia is also subject to the policies of the Wikimedia Foundation, which provides its servers. While anything can theoretically be changed on a wiki, the community up to this point has been built on these principles, and it is unlikely to move away from them in the future. A lot of thought has been put into them and they've worked for us so far; give them a fair shake before attempting radical changes or leaving the project.
- Don't infringe copyright: Wikipedia uses the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License and the GNU Free Documentation License. Everything you contribute must be compatible with Wikipedia's licenses. So, if you don't want your work to be spread out on different sites and used by different people without your permission, don't publish it!
- Ignore all rules: Rules on Wikipedia are not fixed in stone. The spirit of the rule trumps the letter of the rule. The common purpose of building an encyclopedia trumps both. So, whenever a rule stops you from doing somthing, when that somthing is obviously somthing that will help Wikipedia, ignore the rule.
Writing high-quality articles
- Neutral point of view: Write from a neutral point of view. This is a fundamental principle which allows editors to make a fair representation of the world around them. All articles should be balanced to show both sides of the story. Sometimes, you will find much mroe instgances of View 1 than View 2, which is because View 1 is covered more in reliable sources. Wikipedia has no "opinion" of its own; it just accurately summarizes reliable sources.
- Verifiability: Articles should contain only material that has been published by reliable sources. You should use <ref></ref> to cite anything that some people might not agree with, like what caused someone to do somthing, for example.
- No original research: If you yourself have reasearched somthing, and it has not gained coverage by other sources, don't put it as a reference into an article. It won't be considerd a reliable source, and will be removed.
- Be bold in updating pages! Go ahead, it's a wiki! No mistake can break Wikipedia, because any edit can be undone. Encourage others, including those who disagree with you, to likewise be bold!
Getting along with other editors
- Be civil to other users at all times.
- Assume good faith: Try to consider the person on the other end of the discussion as a thinking, rational being who is trying to positively contribute to Wikipedia. Even if you're convinced that they're an [insert insult of your choice], still pretend that they're acting in good faith. Ninety percent of the time you'll find that they actually are acting in good faith (and the other ten percent of the time a negative attitude won't help anyway).
- Don't revert good faith edits: Reverting is a powerful tool, hence the three-revert rule. Don't succumb to the temptation, unless you're reverting very obvious vandalism. If you really can't stand something, revert once, with an edit summary along the lines of "(rv) I disagree strongly, I'll explain why in talk", and immediately take it to the accompanying talk page.
- Be gracious: Be liberal in what you accept, be conservative in what you do. Try to accommodate other people's quirks as best you can, and try to be as polite, solid, and straightforward as possible.
- When in doubt, take it to the talk page: We have all the time in the world. Mutual respect is the guiding behavioral principle of Wikipedia. Although everyone knows that their contributions may be edited mercilessly by others, it is easier to accept changes when you understand the reasons for them. Discussing changes on the article's talk page before you make changes can help you reach consensus even faster, especially on controversial articles.
- Use clear edit summaries: straightforward, transparent explanations are universally appreciated. Other editors need to understand your process, and it also helps you to understand what you did after a long leave of absence from an article. Please state what you changed and why. If the explanation is too long, elucidate on the discussion page. It is a fundamental principle of Wikipedia that anyone may edit articles without registering, so there are a lot of changes to watch; edit summaries simplify this.
- Sign your posts: Sign on talk pages (using
~~~~, which gets replaced by your username and timestamp when you hit "save page"), but don't sign in mainspace articles.
- Use the "Show preview" button: Repeatedly saving the same page clutters the history-page view, making it hard to find other user's edits.
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Most of the time, rules or guidelines are abriviated, like 5P is the Five Pillars of Wikipedia. Usually you can find them by typing in the search box "WP:(ABBREVIATION)" or "Wikipedia:(ABBREVIATION)" replacing "(ABBREVIATION)". WP and Wikipedia are the same thing, they are things called namespaces.
Namespaces are different areas that pages are located in so that they are organized.
Wikipedia's basic namespaces and their functions are listed below:
- Main namespace (no prefix): Articles, lists, disambiguation pages, and redirects. Sometimes referred to as "mainspace" or "article space".
- Project namespace or Wikipedia namespace (prefix Wikipedia:): contains many types of pages connected with the Wikipedia project itself: information, policy, essays, processes, discussion, etc. The prefix can be shortened to WP: (see Aliases below), and there are many short redirects in the namespace written with capital letters that make pages easier to access, so for instance, Wikipedia:Wikipedia is not a dictionary can be abbreviated WP:Wikipedia is not a dictionary or even just WP:WINAD (due to Wikipedia:WINAD being a redirect). A list of abbreviated pages can be found at WP:WP
- Portal namespace (prefix Portal:): for reader-oriented portals that help readers find articles related to a specific subject, and may contain links to encourage contributions to relevant WikiProjects. See, for example, Portal:Cricket and Portal:Spaceflight.
- User namespace (prefix User:): contains user pages and other pages created by individual users for their own personal use. Pages under this namespace can still be viewed and modified by others, so do not keep any of your sensitive data here.
- File namespace or Image namespace (prefix File:): contains file description pages for image, videos or audio files, with links to the files themselves. See Special:Filelist. Since many files used in Wikipedia are housed at Wikimedia Commons, those files will not have local pages but instead mirror file pages from Commons. There are three versions of links to files:
- [[File:Foobar.jpg]] will insert the image, video or audio directly into the page, except for audio MIDI files where a text link to the description page will be inserted;
- [[:File:Foobar.jpg]] will make a text link to the image, video or audio description page;
- [[Media:Foobar.jpg]] will make a text link directly to the image or audio or video clip.
- The prefix Image: can be used instead of File: (see Aliases below).
- MediaWiki namespace (prefix MediaWiki:): a namespace containing interface texts, such as the links and messages that appear on automatically generated pages. Pages in this namespace are permanently protected. For a list of these messages, see Special:AllMessages.
- Template namespace (prefix Template:): contains templates – pages that are intended primarily to be transcluded or substituted onto other pages to insert standard text or boxes such as infoboxes and navigation boxes.
- Category namespace (prefix Category:): contains category pages, which display a list of pages and subcategories that have been added to a particular category, and optional additional text.
- Book namespace (prefix Book:): contains entries for Wikipedia books, collections of articles about one theme, that can be used to generate downloadable files or printable documents
- Help namespace (prefix Help:): contains pages which provide help in using Wikipedia and its software, both for users of the encyclopedia and for editors.
The basic namespaces are sometimes referred to as "subject spaces", especially in contrast to "talk spaces". For instance: "File space is the subject space of the File talk space."
As mentioned above Namespaces have Abreviations. To the side, there are two charts, one labeling the namespaces, the other giving the abbreviation.
Replace "USER" with your username.