Wikipedia:Policies and guidelinesThis page documents an official English Wikipedia policy, a widely accepted standard that all users should follow. When editing this page, please ensure that your revision reflects consensus. If in doubt, consider discussing changes on the talk page. Shortcuts:
Wikipedia has developed a body of policies and guidelines to further our goal of creating a free encyclopedia.
Policies and guidelines express standards that have community consensus, though to differing degrees: policies are considered a standard that all users should follow, whereas guidelines are more advisory in nature. Both need to be approached with common sense. A user who acts against the spirit of them may be reprimanded, even if technically no rule has been violated. Those who edit in good faith, are civil, seek consensus, and work towards the goal of creating a great encyclopedia should find a welcoming environment.
A list of key policies and guidelines can be found at Wikipedia:Key policies and guidelines.
- 1 Sources of Wikipedia policy
- 2 Policy-related pages
- 3 Other pages in Wikipedia namespace
- 4 How are policies enforced?
- 5 Other essays and discussions about Wikipedia
- 6 See also
Sources of Wikipedia policyWikipedia policyArticle standards Neutral point of view
No original research
Biographies of living personsWorking with others Civility
No personal attacks
No legal threatsGlobal principles What Wikipedia is not
Ignore all rules
Policy change comes from three sources:
- Documenting actual good practices and seeking consensus that the documentation truly reflects them.
- Proposing a change in practice and seeking consensus for implementation of that change.
- Declarations from Jimmy Wales, the Board, or the Developers, particularly for copyright, legal issues, or server load.
In practice the first option is the most effective. Proposals for new processes rarely succeed. Jimbo and the board have indicated that they prefer that the community deal with its policies, and rarely do they declare policy. Currently proposed and previously rejected policies can be found in Category:Wikipedia proposals and Category:Wikipedia rejected proposals.
See Template messages/Project namespace for the templates associated with each type of policy page.
Policies have wide acceptance among editors and are considered a standard that all users should follow. The remarks below concerning amendment of guidelines are also applicable to policies, except that more care must be taken to ensure that the policy reflects consensus.
GuidelinesWikipedia guidelinesContent NotabilityClassification Manual of StyleSee also policies
Guidelines are more advisory than policies. Updates to a guideline are typically discussed on its talk page, but it is acceptable to directly edit a guideline. Disputes over wording are often resolved by discussion and compromise toward developing a consensus.
A naming convention or Manual of Style entry is a specific kind of guideline, related to proper naming, or the way articles should be written. Note that guidelines are subcategorized merely for convenience, and that there is no practical difference between several "kinds" of guidelines.
A proposal is any suggested guideline, policy or process for which the status of consensus is not yet clear, as long as discussion is ongoing. Amendments to a proposal should be discussed on its talk page (not on a new page) but it is generally acceptable to edit a proposal to improve it. Proposals should be advertised to solicit feedback and to reach a consensus. Partially-formed proposals may begin in a brainstorming stage.
- A proposal's status is not determined by counting votes. Polling is not a substitute for discussion, nor is a poll's numerical outcome tantamount to consensus.
- A historical process is one which is no longer in use, or any non-recent log of any process. Historical pages can be revived by advertising them.
- A failed proposal (AKA:rejected) is one for which consensus for acceptance has not developed after a reasonable time period. Consensus need not be fully opposed; if consensus is neutral or unclear on the issue and unlikely to improve, the proposal has likewise failed. It is considered bad form to hide this fact, e.g. by removing the tag. Making small changes will not change this fact, nor will repetitive arguments. Generally it is wiser to rewrite a failed proposal from scratch and start in a different direction.
Other pages in Wikipedia namespace
A process is a central and organized way of doing things, generally following certain policies or guidelines (e.g. the "deletion policy" tells us how the "deletion process" works). See WP:PPP for details.
A WikiProject is a group of people that edit articles related to a particular subject. WikiProjects often have pages that explain how that project works, and give best practices or recommendations for the articles within that project's scope. These documents may only represent a consensus of a small number of editors, and it should be clear from their names that they are parts of projects. They do not overrule policies or guidelines, though some are eventually considered guidelines after sufficient consensus has been reached.
Certain pages exist to give members of the Wikipedia community an opportunity to raise and discuss issues, make suggestions and proposals, and draw other users' attention to discussions taking place elsewhere. Such pages include the village pump, the centralized discussions page, various requests for comments pages, and others.
Notice that specific feature requests and bug reports involving changes to the Wikipedia software (and thus requiring the attention of the developers) are filed not within Wikipedia itself, but at Bugzilla. Such requests may of course be the subject of discussion within the Wikipedia community, but it should never be assumed that a proposal will necessarily be implemented by the developers.
"How to" or help pages
A how-to or help page is any instructive page that tells people how to do things. These will of course be edited by people who have suggestions on how to do things differently. A how-to differs from a guideline in that the former explains how to perform a certain action, and the latter explains when or why certain actions are recommended.
Essays are pages reflecting the views of an editor or a group of editors. The term is used for many opinion pages that do not fall into other categories. Essays may become guidelines if they have sufficient support, although in practice this happens rarely.
Essays need not be proposed or advertised; you can simply write them, as long as you understand that you do not necessarily speak for the entire community. If you do not want other people to edit your essay, put it in your userspace.
How are policies enforced?
You are a Wikipedia editor. Since Wikipedia has no editor-in-chief or top-down article approval mechanism, active participants make copyedits and corrections to the format and content problems they see. So the participants are both writers and editors.
Individual users thus enforce most of the policies and guidelines by editing pages, and discussing matters with each other. Some policies, such as vandalism, are enforced by administrators by blocking users. In extreme cases the Arbitration Committee has the power to deal with highly disruptive situations, as part of the general dispute resolution procedure.
Some features of the software which could potentially be misused, such as deleting pages and locking pages from editing, are restricted to administrators, who are experienced and trusted members of the community. See the administrators' reading list for further information.
Other essays and discussions about Wikipedia
- The Meta-Wiki site contains many articles about Wikipedia and related topics in a more editorial style.
- Creating how-to articles in Wikipedia.
- Wikipedia:Centralized discussion is a centralized list of ongoing policy discussions, as is Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Policies.
- Wikipedia:List of policies
- Wikipedia:List of guidelines
- Wikimedia Foundation policies
- Wikipedia:Village pump (policy), discussion of existing and proposed policies
- Wikipedia:Village pump (proposals), discussion of new ideas and proposals not policy related
- Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Policies, listing of proposed policies and proposed changes to policies through Wikipedia:Requests for comment
- Wikipedia:Perennial proposals, that come up very often on the proposals
- Wikipedia:Ignore all rules
- Category:Wikipedia policies and guidelines lists approved, rejected, and proposed policies.