Wikipedia:Editing policy

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This page is an official policy on Wikipedia. It has wide acceptance among editors and is considered a standard that all users should follow. Feel free to update the page as needed, but make sure that changes you make to this policy really do reflect consensus, before you make them.


Perfection not required, or, the joy of editing

It is wonderful when someone adds a complete, well-written, final draft to Wikipedia. This should always be encouraged.

However, one of the great advantages of the Wiki system is that incomplete or poorly written first drafts of articles can evolve into polished, presentable masterpieces through the process of collaborative editing. This gives our approach an advantage over other ways of producing similar end-products. Hence, the submission of rough drafts should also be encouraged as much as possible.

One person can start an article with, perhaps, an overview or a few random facts. Another person can add a minority opinion. Someone else can round off the article with additional perspectives. Yet another can play up an angle that has been neglected, or reword the earlier opinions to a more neutral point of view. Another person might have facts and figures or a graphic to include, and yet another might fix the spelling & grammatical errors that have crept in throughout these multiple edits.

As all this material is added, anyone may contribute and refactor to turn it into a more cohesive whole. Then, more text will be added; then, more refactoring, and the article will gradually evolve ever closer to the ultimate final draft.

During this process, the article might look like a first draft—or worse, a random collection of notes and factoids. Rather than being horrified by this ugliness, we should rejoice in its potential, and have faith that the editing process will turn it into brilliant prose. Of course, we don't have to like it; we may occasionally criticize really substandard work, in addition to simply correcting it. It is most important that it is corrected, if it can be corrected. For text that is beyond hope we will remove the offending article to the corresponding talk page, or, in cases in which the article obviously has no redeeming merit whatsoever, delete it outright. The latter action should not be taken lightly, however.

On editing styles

Generally, different people here have different editing "styles". Some people edit lightly and focus on contributing new content. Others prefer to improve and greatly expand existing "stubs" and articles. Some like to make relatively small copyediting (such as grammar, spelling, clarification, and syntax) changes, as well as adding new links and moving pages (so as to rename them without losing history and talk).

There's room for all of this on Wikipedia.

There are also different editing styles in the sense of how bold people are willing to be:

  • Generally, most of us think we should be bold in updating pages.
  • Virtually no one behaves as though previous authors need to be consulted before making changes; if we thought that, we'd make little progress.
  • Quite the contrary: some Wikipedians think you should not beat around the bush at all—simply change a page immediately if you see a problem, rather than waiting to discuss changes that you believe need to be made. Discussion becomes the last resort.
  • An intermediate viewpoint accords that dialogue should be respected, but at the same time a minor tweak should be accepted. In this view, to edit radically or not will often depend on the context—which seems reasonable enough.

There is a place for all of these attitudes on Wikipedia.

With large proposed deletions or replacements, it may be best to suggest changes in a discussion, lest the original author be discouraged from posting again. One person's improvement is another's desecration, and nobody likes to see their work destroyed without warning.

So, whatever you do, try to preserve information. Reasons for removing bits of an article include:

Alternatives include:

  • rephrasing or providing an accurate precis while keeping the content
  • moving text within an article or to another article (existing or new)
  • adding more of what you think is important to make an article more balanced

If, in your considered judgment, a page simply needs to be rewritten or changed substantially, go ahead and do that. But preserve any old contents you think might have some discussion value on the talk page, along with a comment about why you made the change. Even if you delete something that's just plain wrong, odds are that it got there because someone believed it was true, so preserve a comment that it is in fact wrong to inform later editors.

In any event, whether you decide to edit very boldly or to make inquiries on the talk page first, please bear in mind that Wikipedia is not a discussion forum. Wikipedia can be a very energetic place, and it's best for the project as a whole if we concentrate our energies on improving articles rather than defending our pet theories, ideologies, religions, etc. Some consideration of Etiquette wouldn't hurt.

Editing and refactoring talk pages

For additional guidelines on editing and refactoring talk pages, see the following:

See also

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