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Civility is part of Wikipedia's code of conduct and one of its five pillars. The civility policy describes the standards expected of users and provides appropriate ways of dealing with problems when they arise. Stated simply, editors should always treat each other with consideration and respect. They should focus on improving the encyclopedia while maintaining a pleasant editing environment by behaving politely, calmly and reasonably, even during heated debates.
Wikipedia's civility expectations apply to all editors during all interactions on Wikipedia, including discussions at user and article talk pages, in edit summaries, and in any other discussion with or about fellow Wikipedians.
Cooperation and civility
Differences of opinion are inevitable in a collaborative project. When discussing these differences, some editors can seem unnecessarily harsh, while simply trying to be forthright. Other editors may seem oversensitive when their views are challenged. Faceless written words on talk pages and in edit summaries do not fully transmit the nuances of verbal conversation, sometimes leading to misinterpretation of an editor's comments. An uncivil remark can escalate spirited discussion into a personal argument that no longer focuses objectively on the problem at hand. Such exchanges waste our efforts and undermine a positive, productive working environment. Resolve differences of opinion through civil discussion; disagree without being disagreeable. Discussion of other editors should be limited to polite discourse about their actions.
Editors are expected to be reasonably cooperative, to refrain from making personal attacks, to work within the scope of policies, and to be responsive to good-faith questions. Try to treat your fellow editors as respected colleagues with whom you are working on an important project. Be especially welcoming and patient towards new users who contribute constructively, but politely discourage non-constructive newcomers.
Incivility – or the appearance of incivility – typically arises from heated content disputes.
- Explain yourself. Insufficient explanations for edits can be perceived as uncivil. Use good edit summaries, and use the talk page if the edit summary does not provide enough space or if a more substantive debate is likely to be needed.
- Be careful with user warning templates. Be careful about issuing templated messages to editors you're currently involved in a dispute with, and exercise caution when using templated messages for newcomers (see Wikipedia:Please do not bite the newcomers). Consider using a personal message instead of, or in addition to, the templated message.
- Try not to get too intense. Passion can be misread as aggression, so take great care to avoid the appearance of being heavy-handed or bossy. Nobody likes to be bossed about by an editor who appears to believe that they are "superior"; nobody likes a bully.
- Avoid editing while you're in a bad mood. It does spill over. (See Editing under the influence and No angry mastodons)
- Take a real-life check. Disengage by two steps to assess what you're about to say (or have just said). Asking yourself "How would I feel if someone said that to me?" is often not enough; many people can just brush things off. To get a better perspective, ask yourself: "How would I feel if someone said that to someone I love who cannot just 'brush it off'?" If you would find that unacceptable, then do not say it. And, if you have already said it, strike it and apologise.
- Be professional. Just because we are online and unpaid does not mean we can behave badly to each other. People working together in a newspaper office are not supposed to get into punch-ups in the newsroom because they disagree about how something is worded or whose turn it is to make the coffee. Nor are volunteers working at the animal rescue centre allowed to start screaming at each other over who left ferrets in the filing cabinet or the corn snake in the cutlery drawer. In fact, there's pretty much nowhere in this world where people working together to do something good are allowed to get into fist-fights, shouting matches, hair-pulling or name-calling; the same principle applies here.
- Avoid name-calling. Someone may very well be an idiot, but telling them so is neither going to increase their intelligence nor improve your ability to communicate with them.
- Avoid condescension. No matter how frustrated you are, do not tell people to "grow up" or include any language along the lines of "if this were kindergarten" in your messages.
- Avoid appearing to ridicule another editor's comment. Even if you see the comment as ridiculous, they very probably don't, and expressing ridicule is likely only to offend and antagonise, rather than helping.
- Be careful with edit summaries. They are relatively short comments and thus potentially subject to misinterpretation or oversimplification. They cannot be changed after pressing "Save", and are often written in haste, particularly in stressful situations. Remember to explain your edit, especially when things are getting heated; to avoid personal comments about any editors you have disputes with; and to use the talk page to further explain your view of the situation.
Edit summary dos and don'ts
Review your edit summaries before saving your edits. Remember you cannot go back and change them.
Here is a list of tips about edit summaries:
- Be clear about what you did, so that other editors can assess your changes accurately.
- Use neutral language.
- Remain calm.
- Don't make snide comments.
- Don't make personal remarks about editors.
- Don't be aggressive.
Incivility consists of personal attacks, rudeness and disrespectful comments. Especially when done in an aggressive manner, these often alienate editors and disrupt the project through unproductive stressors and conflict. While a few minor incidents of incivility that no one complains about are not necessarily a concern, a continuing pattern of incivility is unacceptable. In cases of repeated harassment or egregious personal attacks, then the offender may be blocked. Even a single act of severe incivility could result in a block, such as a single episode of extreme verbal abuse or profanity directed at another contributor, or a threat against another person.
In general, be understanding and non-retaliatory in dealing with incivility. If others are uncivil, do not respond the same way. Consider ignoring isolated examples of incivility, and simply moving forward with the content issue. If necessary, point out gently that you think the comment might be considered uncivil and make it clear that you want to move on and focus on the content issue. Bear in mind that the editor may not have thought they were being uncivil; Wikipedia is edited by people from many different backgrounds, and standards vary. Take things to dispute resolution (see below) only if there is an ongoing problem that you cannot resolve.
This policy is not a weapon to use against other contributors. To insist that an editor be sanctioned for an isolated, minor incident, to repeatedly bring up past incivility after an individual has changed their approach, or to treat constructive criticism as an attack, is in itself potentially disruptive, and may result in warnings or even blocks if repeated.
No personal attacks or harassment
Editors are expected to not personally attack nor harass other Wikipedians. This applies equally to all: it is as unacceptable to attack a user who has a history of foolish or boorish behaviour, or even one who has been subject to disciplinary action by the Arbitration Committee, as it is to attack any other. Wikipedia encourages a positive online community: people make mistakes, but they are encouraged to learn from them and change their ways. Personal attacks and harassment are contrary to this spirit, damaging to the work of building an encyclopedia, and may result in blocks.
It is sometimes difficult to make a hard-and-fast judgement of what is uncivil and what is not. Editors should take into account factors such as (i) the intensity and context of the language/behaviour; (ii) whether the behaviour has occurred on a single occasion, or is occasional or regular; (iii) whether a request has already been made to stop the behaviour, and whether that request is recent; (iv) whether the behaviour has been provoked; and (v) the extent to which the behaviour of others need to be treated at the same time.
The following behaviours can contribute to an uncivil environment:
- Direct rudeness
- rudeness, insults, name-calling, gross profanity or indecent suggestions
- personal attacks, including racial, ethnic, sexual, disability-related, gender-related and religious slurs, and derogatory references to groups such as social classes or nationalities
- ill-considered accusations of impropriety
- belittling a fellow editor, including the use of judgemental edit summaries or talk-page posts (e.g. "that is the stupidest thing I have ever seen", "snipped crap")
- Other uncivil behaviours
- taunting or baiting: deliberately pushing others to the point of breaching civility even if not seeming to commit such a breach themselves. All editors are responsible for their own actions in cases of baiting; a user who is baited is not excused by that if they attack in response, and a user who baits is not excused from their actions by the fact that the bait may be taken.
- harassment, including Wikihounding, bullying, personal or legal threats, posting of personal information, repeated email or user space postings
- sexual harassment
- quoting another editor out of context to give the impression they said something they didn't say
In addition, lack of care when applying other policies can lead to conflict and stress. For instance, referring to a user's good-faith edits as vandalism may lead to them feeling unfairly attacked. Use your best judgement, and be ready to apologize if you turn out to be wrong.
Assume good faith
The assume good faith guideline states that unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, editors should assume that others are trying to help, not hurt the project.
The guideline does not require that editors continue to assume good faith in the presence of obvious evidence of intentional wrongdoing. However, do not assume there is more misconduct than evidence supports. Given equally plausible interpretations of the evidence, choose the most positive one.
Dealing with incivility
- First of all, consider whether you and the other editor may simply have misunderstood each other. Clarify, and ask for clarification.
- Consider the possibility that something you said or did wrongly provoked a defensive, irritated or fed-up response. Be prepared to apologise for anything which you could/should have done better. (If an awful lot of people seem to be getting frustrated with you, the problem may be with you.)
- Even if you're offended, be as calm and reasonable as possible in your response. Until there is clear evidence to the contrary, assume that the offense was unintended.
- Explain, clearly but kindly, exactly what you felt was uncivil. Sometimes it helps to let the other editor know how their edit made you feel. Editors are not mind-readers. ("That made me feel..." is much less likely to incite more anger or resentment than "Your post was...")
- Ask them to strike through an uncivil comment, or re-word it calmly and neutrally.
- No matter how much you're being provoked, resist the temptation to snap back. It never works; it just makes things worse. Strive to become the editor who can't be baited.
- If none of this is working, and the other person is not damaging the project or being uncivil or unkind to other editors, either walk away or request dispute resolution from uninvolved editors.
- In "emergency" situations, where the other editor needs to be stopped in their tracks to avoid causing serious disruption or needs a fast and strong wake-up call, file a report at the administrators' "Incidents" noticeboard. Bear in mind the risk of being hoist by your own petard if you yourself are guilty of policy violations. Please also read the ANI advice first.
Threats. Threats of violence or suicide should be reported immediately—see WP:EMERGENCY. Hateful speech, legal threats, and other urgent incidents should be reported at the Administrator's Noticeboard Incidents page.
In a case of ongoing incivility, first decide if anything needs to be done. Confronting someone over a minor incident – particularly if it turns out that you misinterpreted what they meant – may produce more stress and drama than the incident itself. Consider your own behaviour, and, if you find you have been uncivil, apologize to them instead.
In escalating order of seriousness, here are the venues you may use for dispute resolution if the relevant page's talk page is insufficient:
- User talk page. If some action is necessary, first consider discussing it on that user's talk page. Be careful not to escalate the situation, and politely explain your objection. You may also wish to include a diff of the specific uncivil statement. If you are in active dispute with the user, consider offering an olive branch to them instead.
- WP:Third opinion talk page . The forum itself is in general rather used to request input from an uninvolved editor regarding content disputes. For conduct disputes, you may try advertising the issue with the relevant link in its talk page but without discussing it there.
- Dispute resolution noticeboard talk page (DRN). Similar to Third Opinion, it deals only with content disputes but in a highly moderated format. For conduct disputes, you may try advertising the issue with the relevant link in its talk page but without discussing it there.
- Administrator. If discussions with the editor fail to resolve the issue, you may ask an administrator to evaluate the conduct of the user, specially if the conduct damages Wikipedia unduly, is against policy and affects you or others very much. But be aware that your conduct will also be scrutinized.
- Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents. The Administrators' noticeboard is intended to report and discuss severe incidents of misconduct that require intervention by administrators and experienced editors.
- The last step—only when other avenues have been tried and failed—is the Arbitration Committee. It is the final binding decision-maker primarily for serious conduct disputes the community has been unable to resolve. It scrutinises all sides involved in the dispute and creates binding resolutions. But it may accept or decline any matter at its sole discretion.
Removing uncivil comments
Where the uncivil comment is yours, any of these options will help reduce the impact:
- Where someone is unintentionally offended at your comment, calmly explain what you meant.
- Strike it out (using <s>
HTML strikeout tags</s>), to show, publicly, that you withdraw the comment.
- Quietly remove it, or rewrite the comment to be more civil – Usually only a good idea if you think better of it before anyone objected to it. If someone has already reacted, you should acknowledge the change in a quick comment after the changed text, for instance, Comment removed by author.
- Simply apologize. This option never hurts, and can be combined well with any of the others. Even if you feel the thrust of your words is true, or that they are misunderstanding what you meant, you can still apologize.
In the event of rudeness or incivility on the part of another editor, it may be appropriate to discuss the offending words with that editor, and to request that editor to change that specific wording. Some care is necessary, however, so as not to further inflame the situation. It is not normally appropriate to edit or remove another editor's comment. Exceptions include to remove obvious trolling or vandalism, or if the comment is on your own user talk page. Derogatory comments about another contributor may be removed by any editor.
A special case is outing, that is, revealing personally identifiable information about another editor that they have not revealed themselves and probably do not want known, such as their name, phone number or address. These should be immediately reverted, then an oversighter should be contacted to remove the information from the edit history, so that it cannot be found by anyone else later. This applies whether or not the information is correct, as to confirm the information is incorrect by treating it any differently gives the outer useful information. Wikipedia:Outing has full information.
Different places, different atmospheres
Article talk pages should be, on the whole, considered to be professional workspaces. They're places to talk about how to improve the article, and to discuss the article (though it's OK for conversations to wander into related areas, or go more into depth than the article does, as that helps with research and gives ideas on improvement). But an editor's talk page is more like their kitchen; it's more informal, and (within reason) it's up to them what happens in there. Clearly, just like in a real kitchen, it's no more acceptable to stick a knife in someone than it is in the office. Personal attacks are not acceptable anywhere, but expect users' own talk pages to have a much more informal atmosphere than article talk pages.
Apologising: It's OK to say sorry
Disputes, and even misunderstandings, can lead to situations in which one party feels injured by the other. There's no loss of face in apologising. We all make mistakes, we all say the odd hurtful thing, we all have bad days and bad moments. If you have a sneaky feeling you owe someone an apology, offer the apology. Apologising does not hurt you.
Remember, though, that you cannot demand an apology from anyone else. It will only get their back up and make it either less likely to happen, or to be totally insincere if you do get an apology. Never be too proud to make the first move when it comes to saying sorry. That kind of "pride" is destructive. An apology provides the opportunity for a fresh start, and can clear the air when one person's perceived incivility has offended another.
Blocking for incivility
Blocking for incivility is possible when incivility causes serious disruption. However, the civility policy is not intended to be used as a weapon and blocking should not be the first option in most cases.
- Be sure to take into account all the relevant history. Avoid snap judgments without acquainting yourself with the background to any situation.
- Think very hard of the possible merits of all other avenues of approach before you take action. Sanctions for civility violations should only happen when nothing else would do. Poorly considered civility blocks have at times worsened disputes and increased disruption. Remember that sanctions may be more applicable under another heading (disruption, personal attack, tendentious editing, or harassment)
- Civility blocks should be for obvious and uncontentious reasons, because an editor has stepped over the line in a manner nearly all editors can see. In cases where you believe that taking admin action against someone who was uncivil might be contentious, it is expected that discussion will be opened on the matter, via WP:ANI, before any admin action is taken. Benefits derived from long or controversial civility blocks should be weighed against the potential for disruption caused by block reviews, and unblock requests.
- Users should be clearly warned, in most circumstances, before being blocked for incivility, and should be allowed sufficient time to retract, reword or explain uncivil comments. Even experienced contributors should not be blocked without warning. Exceptions to this may include users who make egregious violations or threats, or who have received multiple warnings or blocks.
Immediate blocking is generally reserved for cases of major incivility, where incivility rises to the level of clear disruption, personal attacks, harassment or outing. As with other blocks, civility blocks should be preventive and not punitive.
- Meta:Don't be a jerk
- Wikimedia:Friendly space policy
- Wikimedia:Non discrimination policy
- Grayling, A.C. (2001). The Meaning of Things. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 13.
- Administrators should try to follow The Principle of Least Drama: when given a choice between several ways of dealing with a problem, pick the one that generates the least drama.
- "[The] law and its fulfilment, namely punishment, are essentially directed to the future, not to the past. This distinguishes punishment from revenge; for the motives which instigate the latter are solely concerned with what has happened, and thus with the past as such. All requital of wrong by the infliction of pain, without any aim for the future, is revenge, and can have no other end than consolation for the suffering one has borne by the sight of the suffering one has inflicted upon another. This is wickedness and cruelty, and cannot be morally justified." —Arthur Schopenhauer (1883). The World as Will and Representation, Vol. I, § 62.
- Reagle, Joseph (2010). Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262014-47-2.
- Sutton, Robert (February 2007). The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't. Business Plus. ISBN 978-0-446-52656-2.
- Doctorow, Cory (May 14, 2007). "How to Keep Hostile Jerks from Taking Over Your Online Community". InformationWeek. TechWeb Business Technology Network. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
- Carnegie, Dale (1936). How to Win Friends and Influence People. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 1-4391-6734-6.
- "Characterizing Incivility on Wikipedia" in the mw:Wikimedia Research/Showcase#July 2019 on YouTube