Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines

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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.

Wikipedia is a collaborative project and its founders and contributors have a common goal:

Our goal with Wikipedia is to create a reliable and free encyclopedia—indeed, the largest encyclopedia in history, in both breadth and depth.

Wikipedia has some policies and guidelines that help us to work toward that common goal. Some of these policies are still evolving, while others are long settled and largely uncontroversial.

While our policies continue to evolve, many Wikipedians feel that written rules are inherently inadequate to cover every possible variation of disruptive or malevolent behavior. For example, a user who acts against the spirit of our written policies might be reprimanded even if the letter of the rules has not been violated. Those who edit in good faith, show civility, seek consensus, and work towards the goal of creating an impartial encyclopedia, should find a welcoming environment.



Key policies

You don't need to read every Wikipedia policy before you contribute! However, the following policies are key to a productive Wikipedia experience, and the sooner you get to grips with them, the better.

  1. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. Its goals go no further. See What Wikipedia is not for more info.
  2. Avoid bias. Articles should be written from a neutral point of view, representing differing views on a subject factually and objectively.
  3. Don't infringe copyrights. Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. Submitting work which infringes copyrights threatens our objective to build a truly free encyclopedia that anyone can redistribute, and could lead to legal problems. See Wikipedia copyrights for more information.
  4. Respect other contributors. Wikipedia contributors come from many different countries and cultures, and have widely different views. Treating others with respect is key to collaborating effectively in building an encyclopedia. For some guidelines, see Wikipedia etiquette, Wikipedia:Writers' rules of engagement, Wikipedia:Civility, Dispute resolution.

Other policies and guidelines

Links to various policies can be found in the following categories:


By following these we are able to produce a more consistent and more usable encyclopedia:

Procedural questions

How are policies decided?

Most Wikipedia policy was formulated in the early days of the project, generally prior to the end of 2002. Changes and additions are made by consensus, though in practice consensus on policy changes is extremely difficult to achieve. In many cases policy has developed informally; written policies usually codify longstanding tradition.

Proposed and rejected policies are in these categories:

See also Wikipedia:How to create policy.

How are policies enforced?

You are a Wikipedia editor. Wikipedia lacks an editor-in-chief or a central, top-down mechanism whereby the day-to-day progress on the encyclopedia is monitored and approved. Instead, active participants make copyedits and corrections to the content and format problems they see. So the participants are both writers and editors.

Most policies and guidelines are thus enforced by individual users editing pages, and discussing matters with each other. Some policies are also enforced by temporary blocks (notably as a mechanism for dealing with vandalism) by Administrators. In extreme cases the Arbitration Committee may make a ruling to deal with highly disruptive situations, as part of the general dispute resolution procedure.

Restricted features

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. Policies particularly relevant to Administrators include:

  • Protection policy (When and why to protect a page)
  • Blocking policy (Blocking users to deal with vandalism or to enforce decisions of the arbitration committee)

Types of guidelines

In addition to the generally accepted policies listed above, the following guidelines have been suggested by various participants:

General guidelines

For other useful tips, see avoiding common mistakes.

Behavior guidelines

Content guidelines

Style guidelines

Guidelines regarding grouping techniques for articles

Other essays and discussions about Wikipedia

  • The Meta-Wikipedia site contains many articles about Wikipedia and related topics in a more editorial style.
  • Creating how-to articles in Wikipedia.
  • Wikipedia:Topical index lists many policy, editing, behavior, and other resources.
  • Wikipedia:Centralized discussion has a number of discussions to establish consensus on whether some groups of articles should or should not be included in Wikipedia.

See also

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