This is an essay.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
Wikipedia is a collaborative encyclopedia - editors must regularly interact with other editors, directly or indirectly, as their respective efforts to improve article content combine and cross. In most cases editing is intuitive and unproblematic, but there are cases where interactions leads to confusion, contention, or even outright hostility. This is particularly true where editors put significant effort into an article, only to find their work undone, rewritten, moved, or flagged with cleanup or dispute templates. This page outlines some common guidelines to help to prevent or reduce this kind of conflict, and to promote a smooth, collaborative working environment.
The normal editing process
In the normal case, editing is completely transparent. Editors interact with each other entirely within and through the article and edit summaries. This can be fostered by using the following editing practices:
- Make incremental changes
- Large changes in a single edit are difficult to read, and may be reverted by other editors on mere suspicion. Adding an entire section at once is usually acceptable, since it is self-contained. Making multiple changes in a single edit, particularly when edits stretch across different sections, should be avoided. Edits that might get reverted should be made as the last edit for the day. That way other editors have a chance to look it over, and can revert that single edit without undoing anything else.
- Use clear and informative edit summaries
- Edit summaries should briefly describe what was done, and suggest a justification if needed. This allows other editors to glance at the summary and skim the diffs to get a quick and accurate idea of what the change was.
- Have patience
- When other editors revise or revert edits, let some time pass before trying to address the issue. Hasty responses are usually ill-considered and may appear to other editors to be pushy or tendentious.
- Keep and incorporate material
- It is generally better to revise rather than revert, to improve rather than exclude, and to expand rather than reduce. Only remove material where it is clearly incorrect, out of context, over-represented, or in other ways detracts more than it adds to the encyclopedia.
Using talk pages
Some article changes are too large, significant, or complex to be described or discussed adequately through edit summaries. When that is the case, use the talk page. Create a new section, describe the change you want to make with an explanation, and leave it for a few days so that the matter can be discussed. If no one comments on it in a timely manner - a few days is usually a sufficient period to wait - feel free to edit in the revision, with an edit summary saying "Changes as proposed in talk" and a link to the talk page section where you laid out the details.
Talk pages are designed to be conversational, so they have a different set of practices which should be followed:
- Focus on article content
- There is rarely any need to discuss editors' personalities, beliefs, opinions, or behaviors on an article talk page: stick to discussing content. If an editor's behavior needs to be called into question for some content-specific reason, take great care to focus on specific events and actions, and not to make assumptions about general traits. For instance, it might be acceptable to say "Editor Zelda removed that citation 6 times in the last week," but it would not be appropriate to say "Editor Zelda always removes the citations I add."
- Ignore other editor's errors
- Don't personalize things other editors may say in the heat of the moment - just let it be. Repeated abuse should go to Wikiquette or to an administrator, but avoid rewarding unpleasant behavior by being unpleasant in turn.
- Maintain structure
- use section breaks and indents to structure discussions so that they are easy for other people to review.
- Use clear and informative edit summaries
- Edit summaries for talk pages should note who the comment is intended for and give a brief summary of the point made. Do not use edit summaries to pursue a separate thread of conversation, and in particularly do not use edit summaries to carry on an argument over and above the talk page discussion.
Using dispute and cleanup templates
There are a variety of templates available at wp:Templates that can be used for marking articles, sections, or individual lines of text for attention. These include templates calling for text cleanup, article deletions and mergers, review of content to ensure that it meets Wikipedia's standards under policy, and other administrative/housekeeping issues. Normally it is best to make revisions immediately rather than using a template, but templates are useful in the following types of cases:
- When an editor lacks the time or knowledge needed to address a problem properly.
- When an editor is patrolling for a particular type of problem.
- When material is sufficiently questionable that readers need to be alerted to the fact.
- When there is reason to believe an edit to article content might provoke an edit war.
Tags, once placed, should not be removed by any editor for any reason until the issue that raised the tag is resolved. If tags are accidentally removed - as during large scale reversions - the editor who removed the tags is fully responsible for reinserting them. Tags added as vandalism may be removed, but no tag should be considered vandalism as long as an editor is interested in discussing it in talk.
Maintenance, citation, and cleanup tags may be placed on an article without further action. They are removed when the work is done. Content dispute tags may be added, but the editor adding them should create a talk page section for the dispute and post an explanation of the reason the tag was added. If no talk page section has been created in a reasonable amount of time, the tag should be removed. On the other hand, the tag may remain indefinitely on the article until the issue is resolved in talk.
Working on contentious articles
Not all articles on Wikipedia are created equal. Some articles suffer from much higher levels of stress and strife, usually as a reflection of political or social conflicts in the greater world. Best practice on such articles is to begin in talk: try to open a discussion first, before making any changes to the article, paying close attention to the talk page practices given above.
If editors prove unwilling to participate in talk, use the Bold - Revert - Discuss cycle to try to stimulate discussion. Make your preferred edit to the article (per wp:BOLD) and wait for it to be reverted. Once it has been reverted, open a section in talk to discuss the revert. If the reverting editor does not respond to the discussion, leave him a note on his talk page. If necessary, tag the reverted text with an appropriate dispute tag and add a note to explain the tag in talk. The BRD cycle may be repeated after a day or two if there is still no response, but it should not be allowed to devolve into an edit war - the only purpose of this process is to stimulate discussion.