Wikipedia:Profanity, civility, and discussions

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Some Wikipedians may react differently than others to expressions of profanity.

The policy Wikipedia:Wikipedia is not censored is a community standard, and this essay does not dispute it. In an apparent logical conflict, the policy Wikipedia:Civility helps to identify incivility as "rudeness, insults, name-calling, gross profanity or indecent suggestions." How does this shake out?

The essay Wikipedia:Offensive material states, "Material that could be considered vulgar, obscene or offensive should not be included unless it is treated in an encyclopedic manner." That's the measure used in this essay.

"Encyclopedic" profanity[edit]

Can profanity be "encyclopedic" in nature? The article on Profanity seems to be a good example. There are other examples of articles that contain words widely considered "profanity" such as Seven dirty words, Profanity in science fiction, and Profanity in American Sign Language. Articles about profanity seem to be acceptable in Wikipedia, and this essay does not dispute that position.

"Unencyclopedic" profanity[edit]

Discussion forums such as (but not limited to) article talk pages, user pages, and deletion discussion forums are not "encyclopedic" in nature and are generally regarded as support for the encyclopedia but not a part of the encyclopedia. In these types of pages, the policy on Civility comes to the front. Not only is "gross profanity" considered uncivil in this forum, it can easily be argued that it is not encyclopedic.

Naturally, discussion about the inclusion of a profane word or phrase in the article itself (such as, "Should the article Seven dirty words actually contain the seven dirty words?") can be written in the discussion because that is germane to the discussion and part of building a better encyclopedia. No problem.

However, profanity directed at a user is a personal attack (after all, name calling using non-profane words is also a personal attack). That's a clear violation of WP:CIVILITY.

The catch comes in the range in between--where one editor may consider use to be civil and another may not. In that case, the measure should be "is the use of profanity 'encyclopedic' in this case?" An alternate question to ask is "could I write this contribution to the talk page in a way that does not use profanity and still have the same impact?" Generally editors will find that avoiding profanity in talk pages can help prevent misunderstandings and other potential interpretations of uncivil behavior.

Profanity can be considered offensive by individuals in discussions. Find a way to avoid its use for the sake of civility.