Wikipedia:Tagging pages for problems

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"Tags" are often used to indicate problems. Some Wikipedia editors object to the practice of tagging instead of fixing, but there is value in pointing out an article's problems. Tagging allows editors to specialize, teaches editors and warns readers about subpar or problematic content. It is better if people solve the problems they encounter themselves, but not everyone may be able to. Editors are sometimes obliged to justify inclusion of tags, such as in the case of Template:POV.

Constructive criticism given in a civil, respectful manner is a vital part in a collaborative project like Wikipedia, and it should be welcomed rather than discouraged. Wikipedia values contributions from everyone—novices and experts alike. It is important to listen to readers who find an article biased, confusing or unconvincing. They might not have the expertise to fix those problems, but the fact that they report them probably means that an article needs improvement.

Constructive tagging[edit]

Adding vague tags for perceived problems—without identifying the problem well enough for it to be easily fixed—is frequently referred to as "drive-by tagging" particularly it is when done by editors who are not involved in the article's development. When it comes to confusing or ambiguous tags, such as {{npov}}, it is important to explain yourself on the talk page or in an edit summary. It can helpful to refer to applicable content policies, such as Wikipedia:Conflict of interest, Wikipedia:Neutral point of view, Wikipedia:Verifiability, Wikipedia:No original research, or Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons, though WikiLawyering is discouraged.

By contrast, adding tags for obvious, major flaws is also often unhelpful. If an article has insufficient references, then pointing this out rarely results in the problem being fixed, for anyone glancing at the references section that would be obvious anyway. However, pointing out that a particular section is badly referenced may be less obvious and more easily dealt with.

There is no requirement in Wikipedia policies that an editor must "pay their dues" by working on an article before they can add a tag, so long as they explain the rationale for the tag on the talk page.

Removing tags[edit]

Any editor without a conflict of interest who sees a tag, but does not see the purported problem with the article and does not see any detailed complaint on the talk page, may remove the tag. Except in very obvious cases (such as removing {{Uncategorized}} from an article that has been categorized), it is wise to place a note on the talk page explaining the removal and to identify your action in an appropriately detailed edit summary. It is often the case that even after the initial problem causing the tag is fixed, the tag is accidentally left in place. Sometimes problems are solved by inexperienced editors, who incorrectly believe that they must wait for an authority figure to remove the official-looking template. Perhaps the person leaving the tag simply made a bad judgment call, or accidentally linked to the wrong template.

Be wary of removing tags related to sourcing issues, particularly specific ones like {{Citation needed}}. Under the Verifiability policy (see WP:CHALLENGE), any challenged statement should not be restored (in this case, detagged) without a citation to a reliable source. Redundant tagging or overtagging can, however, be a problem. See #Over-tagging below.

If the person placing the tag has explained their concerns on the talk page, then anyone who disagrees should join the discussion and explain why the tag seems inappropriate. If there is no reply within a reasonable amount of time (a few days), the tag can be removed by any editor without a conflict of interest. If there is disagreement, then normal talk page discussion should proceed, per consensus-building.

Adding tags for non-obvious problems without discussion on the talk page which explains where the problems are is arguably not helpful. It can be viewed as disruptive and is derided as "drive-by tagging" when done by editors who are not involved in the article's development. The allegation that "drive-by tagging" is not acceptable is not based on Wikipedia policies; there is no requirement in Wikipedia policies that an editor must "pay their dues" by working on an article before they can add a tag, so long as they explain the rationale for the tag on the talk page. Where there is disagreement, both sides should attempt to discuss the situation.

Disputes over tags[edit]

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Alternatives to tagging[edit]

Wikipedia's article classification system sorts articles by overall quality, and thus is a less obtrusive system for measuring quality, and is used instead of most tags. For example, most C-class articles lack enough references to be B-class, so tagging a C-class article with an article-wide tag for lack of references is nearly always redundant.

Article-wide tags should be mostly used for start and stub articles. However, article wide tags for subtle, but specified, problems is nearly always appropriate.

See also[edit]