Wikipedia:Mutual withdrawal

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What mutual assured destruction looks like. Per WarGames, the only winning move is not to play.

Mutual withdrawal is a trick for interrupting non-productive lines of discussion by simultaneously removing your own and another editors' comments (with permission) in order to reduce conflict and make discussions more concise and productive.

How it works[edit]

The premise of mutual withdrawal is simply this:

Two editors agree that one of them may remove their own and the other's comments at the same time.

The proposer must be clear about the first comment to be removed:

Form 1: Starting with your last comment:

Editor A, the proposer, gives editor B permission to remove B's most recent comment and A's reply to it invoking WP:MUTUAL. For example:
"I don't think your comment gets us closer to resolving this issue, and I want to give you a chance to remove it, and this reply, per WP:MUTUAL, so we can get back on track. You're free to ignore this."

Form 2: Starting with my last comment:

Editor A, the proposer, gives editor B permission to remove A's previous comment, B's reply to it, and A's reply invoking WP:MUTUAL. For example:
"I want to remove my last comment, but I can't because you replied to it. If you approve, per WP:MUTUAL, you may remove my last comment, your reply to it, and this request, so we can get back on track. You're free to ignore this."

Editor B can then, if they choose, remove all the comments covered by the proposal (two in the first case, three in the second), and only those comments, preferably citing WP:MUTUAL in their edit summary.[Note 1][Note 2] If the proposal is accepted and the comments are removed, that's the end of it. Both editors are agreeing not to bring conduct complaints against the other over anything in the removed comments.[Note 3]


Normally, with certain exceptions, it is not acceptable to change or remove comments left by another user, or to significantly change or remove your own comments after others have replied to them. So what often happens is this:

  1. Editor A leaves a comment that doesn't foster productive discussion: maybe it's incivil, maybe it's in error, or maybe it's counterproductive in some other way.
  2. Editor B leaves a reply criticizing Editor A's comment, while possibly being incivil or counterproductive as well.
  3. Editor A, after some time to reflect (or with insight gained from Editor B's comment), regrets leaving their comment. However, there is already a reply, possibly a nasty one, so Editor A can't remove their comment. All they can do is reply to the reply, which garners another reply, and so on, with both editors trying to save face in a pointless volley that only irritates them and everyone else, and maybe even leads to a formal dispute – i.e., mutual assured destruction.

By agreeing to a simultaneous removal of the comments, neither editor has to "make the first move" of removing only their own comment, relying on faith that the other editor will then do the same. This lowers the bar of trust necessary to remove a counterproductive exchange. Everyone then gets to pretend it never happened, and in the end, the discussion is shorter, more polite, and more useful to all.


When MUTUAL can be used[edit]

1. Mutual withdrawal involves exactly two editors. If there are any other replies to any of the covered comments from other editors, mutual withdrawal cannot be used and WP:REDACT applies.

2. If anyone else involved in the discussion objects to the removal, then the original comments should remain, unless they are removable on other grounds.

3. Mutual withdrawal should not be invoked when any of the covered comments have been in place for an extended period, usually a day or more.

4. Mutual withdrawal should be invoked explicitly, and only in appropriate circumstances.

Once MUTUAL has been invoked[edit]

5. No one is obligated to accept or respond to a proposal of mutual withdrawal. If an editor chooses not to remove the comments, they are discouraged from leaving a comment to that effect.

6. Once the comments are removed, agreement to mutual withdrawal cannot be revoked by either participant.

7. Following mutual withdrawal, either editor can leave a new comment if they wish, but good faith requires that the new comment not address the point of contention discussed in the removed comments, or the removal itself.


  1. ^ If editor B accepts the proposal, their response should be to simply remove the covered comments, with an edit summary, not to add another comment granting editor A permission to do so, which draws things out unnecessarily.
  2. ^ In rare circumstances, mutual withdrawal can be used to remove more than two or three comments, but the involved editors must agree on the earliest comment to be removed, all subsequent comments must be removed, and all caveats in this essay must be observed.
  3. ^ And any such complaints should be summarily dismissed.

See also[edit]