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Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines

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

Our goal with Wikipedia is to create a free encyclopedia--indeed, the largest encyclopedia in history, in both breadth and depth. We also want Wikipedia to become a reliable resource.

The Wikipedia has some policies and guidelines that are generally accepted and considered important, or even essential, by the project's founders and participants. These help us to work towards our goal. It is important to note that at least some of these policies are still evolving, as Wikipedia grows and develops. Some others, however, have now long been settled and are not regarded as controversial by the vast majority of Wikipedia's "old hands."

Table of contents

Generally accepted policies

  • Avoid bias. Articles should be written from a neutral point of view, which means that articles should represent differing views on a subject fairly and sympathetically.
  • Don't infringe copyrights. Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. Submitting work without the copyright holder's permission threatens our objective to build a truly free encyclopedia that anyone can redistribute, and could lead to legal liability for the project. See Wikipedia copyrights for more information.
  • Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. The site should primarily be used for developing the encyclopedia. In particular, discussions on talk pages should be directed at improving articles. See what Wikipedia is not.
  • Respect other contributors. Wikipedia contributors come from many different countries and cultures, and have widely different views. By treating others with respect we are able to cooperate effectively in building an encyclopedia. For some guidelines, see Etiquette.
  • Follow conventions. By following these conventions we are able to produce a more consistent and usable encyclopedia:

For policies on using some restricted features, see Administrators.

See also most common Wikipedia faux pas for some useful information for newcomers.

How are these 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 monitor recent changes and make copyedits and corrections to the content and format problems they see. So the participants are both writers and editors.

In extreme and unusual cases, Jimbo Wales has stepped in to ban a user who has proven to be unusually disruptive. Jimbo has also declared certain policies to be, essentially, official Wikipedia policies; see this Wikien-l post (/pipermail/wikien-l/2002-November/000083) and User:Jimbo Wales/Statement of principles.

How policy has been formulated

Wikipedia policy is formulated for the most part by habit and consensus. Hence, the statements on this page and pages adjoining it are intended for the most part to be descriptive of existing community norms that have developed over time. Issues are still formulated and debated on talk pages, the Meta-Wikipedia (http://meta.wikipedia.com/), and the Wikipedia-L mailing list. Everyone who is interested in Wikipedia policy, news, and social life should be subscribed to that mailing list.

Some users are currently working on a Wikipedia:Decision Making Process, hoping that it will be used to agree on a set of consistently enforced policies for the project, as well as on the process used for their interpretation.

Specific guidelines to consider

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

General guidelines

Behavior guidelines

Content guidelines

Style guidelines

Other essays and discussions about Wikipedia

  • The Meta-Wikipedia (http://meta.wikipedia.com/) site contains many articles about Wikipedia and related topics in a more editorial style.
  • Creating how-to articles in Wikipedia.

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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