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Wikipedia:Editing policy

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Wikipedia is the product of millions of editors' contributions, each one bringing something different to the table, whether it be: researching skills, technical expertise, writing prowess or tidbits of information, but most importantly, a willingness to help. Even the best articles should not be considered complete, as each new editor can offer new insights on how to enhance and improve the content in it at any time.

Adding information to Wikipedia

Wikipedia summarizes accepted knowledge. As a rule, the more accepted knowledge it contains, the better. Please be bold and add content summarizing accepted knowledge, but be particularly cautious about removing sourced content. Information in Wikipedia must be verifiable and cannot be original research. Show that content is verifiable by citing reliable sources. Because a lack of content is better than misleading or false content, unsourced content may be challenged and removed. To avoid such challenges, the best practice is to provide an inline citation when adding content (see: WP:Citing sources for instructions on how to do this, or ask for help at the Help desk).

Wikipedia respects others' copyright. Although content must be backed by reliable sources, avoid copying or closely paraphrasing a copyrighted source. You should read the source, understand it, and then express what it says in your own words. An exception exists for the often necessary use of short quotations; they must be enclosed in quotations marks, accompanied by an inline reference to the source, and usually attributed to the author. (See the fair use doctrine which allows limited quoting without permission.)

Another way you can improve an article is by finding a source for existing unsourced content. This is especially true if you come across statements that are potentially controversial. You do not need to be the person who added the content to add a source and citation for it.

Wikipedia is a work in progress: perfection is not required

Perfection is not required: Wikipedia is a work in progress. Collaborative editing means that incomplete or poorly written first drafts can evolve over time into excellent articles. Even poor articles, if they can be improved, are welcome. For instance, one person may start an article with an overview of a subject or a few random facts. Another may help standardize the article's formatting or have additional facts and figures or a graphic to add. Yet another may bring better balance to the views represented in the article and perform fact-checking and sourcing to existing content. At any point during this process, the article may become disorganized or contain substandard writing.

Neutrality in articles of living or recently deceased persons

Although perfection is not required, extra care should be taken on articles that mention living persons. Contentious material about living or recently deceased persons that is unsourced or poorly sourced—whether the material is negative, positive, neutral, or just questionable—should either be verified immediately, with one or more reliable sources and presented in a neutral manner without undue weight, or be removed immediately, without waiting for discussion.

Try to fix problems

Great Wikipedia articles come from a succession of editors' efforts. Rather than remove imperfect content outright, fix problems if you can, tag or excise them if you can't.

As explained above, Wikipedia is a work in progress and perfection is not required. Any facts or ideas that would belong in the "finished" article should be retained if they meet the three core content policies: Neutral point of view (which does not mean no point of view), Verifiability, and No original research.

If you think an article needs to be rewritten or changed substantially, go ahead and do so, but it is best to leave a comment about why you made the changes on the article's talk page.

Instead of removing content from an article or reverting a new contribution, consider:

Otherwise, if you think the content could provide the seed of a new sub-article, or if you are just unsure about removing it from the English Wikipedia entirely, consider copying the information to the article's talk page for further discussion. If you think the content might find a better home elsewhere, consider moving the content to a talk page of any article you think might be more relevant, so that editors there can decide how it might be properly included in our encyclopedia.

Problems that may justify removal

Several of our core policies discuss situations when it might be more appropriate to remove information from an article rather than preserve it.

  • Verifiability discusses handling unsourced and contentious material
  • No original research discusses the need to remove original research
  • What Wikipedia is not describes material that is fundamentally inappropriate for Wikipedia
  • Undue weight discusses how to balance material that gives undue weight to a particular viewpoint, which might include removal of trivia, tiny minority viewpoints, or material that cannot be supported with high-quality sources

Also, redundancy within an article should be kept to a minimum (except in the lead, which is meant to be a summary of the entire article, and so is intentionally duplicative).

Libel, nonsense, and vandalism should be completely removed, as should material that violates copyright and material for which no reliable source that supports it has ever been published.

Special care needs to be taken with biographies of living people, especially when it comes to handling unsourced or poorly sourced claims about the subject. Such claims should generally be removed immediately.

Talking and editing

Be bold in updating articles, especially for minor changes, fixing problems, and changes that you believe are unlikely to be controversial. Previous authors do not need to be consulted before making changes. Nobody owns articles, so if you see an improvement you can make, make it.

If you think the edit might be controversial, then a better course of action may be to first make a proposal on the talk page. Bold editing does not excuse edits against existing consensus, edits in violation of core policies, such as Neutral point of view and Verifiability, or edits designed to create a fait accompli, where actions are justified by the fact they have already been carried out.

If someone indicates disagreement with your bold edit by reverting it or contesting it in a talk page discussion, consider your options and respond appropriately.

Be helpful: explain

Be helpful: explain your changes. When you edit an article, the more radical or controversial the change, the greater the need to explain it. Be sure to leave a comment about why you made the change. Try to use an appropriate edit summary. For larger or more significant changes, the edit summary may not give you enough space to fully explain the edit; in this case, you may leave a note on the article's talk page as well. Remember too that notes on the talk page are more visible, make misunderstandings less likely, and encourage discussion rather than edit warring.

Be cautious with major changes: discuss

Be cautious about making a major change to an article. Prevent edit warring by discussing such edits first on the article's talk page. An edit that one editor thinks is minor or clearly warranted might be seen as major or unwarranted by others. If you choose to be bold, provide the rationale for any change in the edit summary or on the article talk page. If your change is lengthy or complex, consider first creating a new draft on a subpage of your own user page and start a discussion that includes a link to it on the article's talk page.

But – Wikipedia is not a discussion forum

Whether you decide to edit very boldly or discuss carefully on the talk page first, please bear in mind that Wikipedia is not a discussion forum. It is best to concentrate our energies on improving articles rather than debating our personal ideas and beliefs. This is discussed further at Wikipedia:Etiquette.

If you need help

The Wikipedia:Dispute resolution processes are available if you need help reaching an agreement with other editors.

Editing and refactoring talk pages

For guidance on how to edit talk pages see:

See also