Wikipedia:Content removal

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A Wikipedian prepares to do some cutting

Content removal is the removal of material that provides information from an article, without deleting the article itself. While an entire page can be deleted only via the deletion process (ultimately completed by an administrator), even a single unregistered editor can boldly remove part of a page. It is an editorial decision that is easy to reverse, and does not damage the edit history.

Removing a section of an article needs to be at least explained and in some cases discussed. Unexplained content removal (UCR) occurs when the reason is not obvious; the edit is then open to being promptly reverted.

Changes which remove one or more words without affecting the content need not be explained, though for all but the most minor ones it is a good idea to at least describe them in the edit summary.

Minor edits[edit]

A minor edit that removes one or more words or reduces the amount of text is not considered to be content removal at all, since it does not remove information. It is unlikely to be opposed, and need not be discussed in advance.

For example, suppose the original text says:

There is an the fish in the bowl.

This is ungrammatical, and should be changed to:

There is a fish in the bowl.

The edit removes one word and shortens another. But since everyone wants to see proper grammar, there is no need for a discussion.

Types of content removal[edit]

There are various forms of content removal. When removing content from an article, whether it be a whole section or even just a single word, if the removal is likely to be opposed by one or more other editors, it is important to make sure there is clearly a consensus to remove the content. When in doubt, discuss prior to removal.

If you boldly make the removal, and it is then reverted by another editor, it is especially important that you discuss it prior to making a second removal.

Some examples of content removal are:

Single word

Old version: The mixture is made from water, clay, sand, and gravel.
New version: The mixture is made from water, clay, and gravel.


Old version: The elephant lives on the prairie. It walks over three miles to get some water. It spends hours drinking. Then it goes home and goes to sleep.
New version: The elephant lives on the prairie. It walks over three miles to get some water. Then it goes home and goes to sleep.

The above examples show how removing just a small amount of text under these circumstances can change the meaning of what is stated. This does not mean it should never be done. It just means that when it is done, it should be done with a good reason, should be explained, and if need be, should be discussed with others.

It is not practical in this essay to show comparisons for larger amounts of text involving multiple paragraphs. But given how easily meaning can be changed in the above examples, how much more necessary is it to seek consensus when removing a full paragraph or section from an article?

Reasons for content removal[edit]

There are various reasons for removing content from an article. Regardless of the reason, it should be described in the edit summary. If there is any doubt the removal may be controversial, or if it has been restored following a previous removal, it should be discussed on the page's talk page prior to removal.

Unsourced information[edit]

Wikipedia's verifiability guidelines require all information to be citable to sources. When information is unsourced, and it is doubtful any sources are available for the information, it can be boldly removed.

If you think a source can be found, but you do not wish to supply one yourself, you can add the template {{fact}} ({{cn}} will also work) after the statement, which will add [citation needed]. This will encourage someone, often the editor who initially added the statement, to add a citation for the information.

Contentious unsourced or poorly sourced information about living people shall be removed immediately, as per Wikipedia's biographies of living people policy, without the use of such a template.

Inaccurate information[edit]

Information that is inaccurate beyond reasonable doubt and not attributed to a reliable source should be removed immediately. Unless it is clearly a blatant hoax, good faith shall be assumed and no action taken against the editor who added it: they themself may have been misinformed, or have misunderstood something.

If a statement might possibly be accurate, but uncertainty exists, insert the template {{dubious}} after it. This adds [dubious - discuss] to the displayed page, encouraging readers and editors to discuss the matter.

Inaccurate information about living people that is not attributed to a reliable source shall be removed immediately without the use of such a template.

Information moved to another article[edit]

Sometimes whole blocks of text need moving from one article to another: for example, when merging or splitting articles. This can be performed as a bold decision.

When transferring text, you are strongly recommended to save edits for the page you are moving it to before those for the page you are removing it from. This applies to all pages, but is especially important for ones with a high volume of readership. (See pageview stats for information on how to check this).

Saving this way round is necessary because someone may visit the target page during the unavoidable interval between the two edits. If they are looking for the moved information and the source page was saved first, they won't find it in either article.

You should follow this even if you intend making one edit immediately after the other and expect the interval to be very minimal. Some of the most popular articles are read thousands of times in a day. An article that is read 4320 times in one day is read on average every 20 seconds! And it may take longer between the two edits.

Even if the article is unpopular and the likelihood it'll be read during that time is very low, it is still necessary to save the target page first. Though it is possible no one will want to read that information during that brief period, you may personally get interrupted. For example, you may get a message from another editor and be distracted by that. You may get an email and be notified by your browser. You may get interrupted by a phone call or unexpectedly lose your internet connection. Any of these complications may render you unable to finish the dual-page editing operation for several hours or days, or may cause you to forget about it altogether.

Irrelevant information[edit]

Information that clearly has no relevance to the subject named in the article should be removed. For example, if in the article tiger you find one or more paragraphs about light bulbs, and there is no explanation from the text as to why this is there, it should be removed. If the text does appear to belong in another article, it can and probably should be moved there. If the information has some connection to the article, but it is not significantly relevant (e.g., a recently added paragraph on England in the article on English literature), you may wish to move the content to the Talk page with a note explaining why you have relocated it.

Inappropriate content for Wikipedia[edit]

Information that falls under any guideline listed under What Wikipedia is not or several other Wikipedia guidelines and has been added to an article can be boldly removed. This includes, but is not limited to:

Author's own additions[edit]

Editors can remove information that they personally added, provided that it has not since been significantly changed or used to support other information in the article. Once it has been modified, or the text is valuable in supporting other information, it should not be removed without good reason.

Consensus on removal[edit]

If an edit war occurs between just two users over content, it shall be discussed in hopes of a settlement from among the community.

It is preferable that good-faith additions remain in the article pending consensus, unless:

Material clearly not added in good faith should be removed pending consensus.

How consensus will prevail[edit]

If there are two editors who have a dispute over the presence of content, either can be guilty of a three-revert rule violation if they engage in an edit war. If a second editor steps in on one side, and two editors outnumber one, the editor in the minority would not be able to force their version without violating the three-revert rule.

Still, consensus is not based on votes. This is just an example, and does not constitute permanent resolution. If, in a discussion, ten editors support one side, and seven support another, this does not mean the side with ten automatically wins. A participant in such a discussion needs not just to cast a vote, but also to give a good reason for their point of view. It may be necessary to turn to dispute resolution to resolve the issue.

It is also important to remember that nothing is in stone and consensus can change. If consensus was decided one way a while back, it could be very different months, weeks, or even days later.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]