Wikipedia:Policies and guidelines

Wikipedia's policies and guidelines are developed by the community to describe best practices, clarify principles, resolve conflicts, and otherwise further our goal of creating a free, reliable encyclopedia. There is no need to read any policy or guideline pages to start ing. The five pillars are a popular summary of the most pertinent principles.

Although Wikipedia generally does not employ hard-and-fast rules, Wikipedia's policy and guideline pages describe its principles and agreed-upon best practices. Policies are standards all users should normally follow, and guidelines are generally meant to be best practices for following those standards in specific contexts. Policies and guidelines should always be applied using reason and common sense.

This policy page specifies the community standards related to the organization, life cycle, maintenance of, and adherence to policies, guidelines, and related pages of the English Wikipedia. It does not cover other ions of Wikipedia. (See Wikipedia:List of policies and Wikipedia:List of guidelines for a comprehensive listing of individual English Wikipedia policies and guidelines.)


Wikipedia is operated by the not-for-profit Wikimedia Foundation, which reserves certain legal rights—see the Wikimedia Foundation's Policies page for a list of its policies. See also Role of Jimmy Wales. Nevertheless, normally Wikipedia is a self-governing project run by its community. Its policies and guidelines are intended to reflect the consensus of the community.


Policies have wide acceptance among ors and describe standards all users should normally follow. All policy pages are in Wikipedia:List of policies and guidelines and Category:Wikipedia policies. For summaries of key policies, see also List of policies.

Guidelines are sets of best practices supported by consensus. Editors should attempt to follow guidelines, though they are best treated with common sense, and occasional exceptions may apply. Guideline pages can be found in Wikipedia:List of policies and guidelines and Category:Wikipedia guidelines. For summaries of key guidelines, see also List of guidelines.

Essays are the opinion or advice of an or or group of ors for which widespread consensus has not been established. They do not speak for the entire community and may be created and written without approval. Essays the author does not want others to , or that contradict widespread consensus, belong in the user namespace. (For more information, see Wikipedia:Essays.)

Other administration pages in the project namespace include:

These other pages are not policies or guidelines, although they may contain valuable advice or information.


Use common sense in interpreting and applying policies and guidelines; rules have occasional exceptions. However, those who violate the spirit of a rule may be reprimanded or sanctioned even if they do not technically break the rule.

Whether a policy or guideline is an accurate description of best practice is determined through consensus.

On discussion pages and in summaries, shortcuts are often used to refer to policies and guidelines. (For example, WP:NOR (no original research), WP:NPOV (neutral point of view) and WP:BLP (biographies of living persons)). Similar shortcuts are also used for other types of project pages like essays and how-to guides. Thus a shortcut does not necessarily imply the linked page has policy or guideline status or has been widely accepted by the community. Additionally, the shortcut is not the policy; the plain-English definition of the page's title or shortcut may be importantly different from the linked page.


Enforcement on Wikipedia is similar to other social interactions. If an or violates the community standards described in policies and guidelines, other ors can persuade the person to adhere to acceptable norms of conduct, over time resorting to more forceful means, such as administrator and steward actions. In the case of gross violations of community norms, they are likely to resort to more forceful means fairly rapidly. Going against the principles set out on these pages, particularly policy pages, is unlikely to prove acceptable, although it may be possible to convince fellow ors an exception ought to be made. This means individual ors (including you) enforce and apply policies and guidelines.

In cases where it is clear a user is acting against policy (or against a guideline in a way that conflicts with policy), especially if they are doing so intentionally and persistently, that user may be temporarily or indefinitely blocked from ing by an administrator. In cases where the general dispute resolution procedure has been ineffective, the Arbitration Committee has the power to deal with highly disruptive or sensitive situations.


Policy and guideline pages should:

Not part of the encyclopedia[]

Wikipedia has many policies and guidelines about encyclopedic content. These standards require verifiability, neutrality, respect for living people, and more.

The policies, guidelines, and process pages themselves are not part of the encyclopedia proper. Consequently, they do not generally need to conform to the same content standards or style conventions as articles. It is therefore not necessary to provide reliable sources to verify Wikipedia's administrative pages, or to phrase Wikipedia procedures or principles in a neutral manner, or to cite an outside authority in determining Wikipedia's orial practices. Instead, the content of these pages is controlled by community-wide consensus, and the style should emphasize clarity, directness, and usefulness to other ors.[2]

These pages do, however, need to comply with Wikipedia's legal and behavioral policies, as well as policies applicable to non-content pages. For example, ors may not violate copyrights anywhere on Wikipedia, and warring is prohibited everywhere, not merely in encyclopedia articles.

Life cycle[]

Many of the most well-established policies and guidelines have developed from principles that have been accepted as fundamental since Wikipedia's inception. Others developed as solutions to common problems and disruptive ing. Policy and guideline pages are seldom established without precedent[3] and always require strong community support. Policies and guidelines may be established through new proposals, promotion of existing essays or guidelines, and reorganization of existing policies and guidelines through splitting and merging.

Essays and information pages may be established by writing them and adding {{essay}}, {{Information page}}, {{Wikipedia how-to}}, or a similar template to the page.

Current policy and guideline proposals can be found in Category:Wikipedia proposals, and failed proposals can be found in Category:Wikipedia failed proposals. All ors are welcome to comment on these proposals.


Proposals for new guidelines and policies require discussion and a high level of consensus from the entire community for promotion to guideline or policy status. Adding the {{policy}} template to a page without the required consensus does not mean the page is policy, even if the page summarizes or copies policy. Most commonly, a new policy or guideline documents existing practices, rather than proposing a change to what experienced ors already choose to do.

Good practice for proposals[]

One path for proposals is developing them through steps of

  1. {{brainstorming}}
  2. {{draft proposal}}
  3. {{proposal}}
  4. {{policy}} or {{guideline}}

The first step is to write the best initial proposal you can. Authors can request early-stage feedback at Wikipedia's village pump for idea incubation and from any relevant WikiProjects. Amendments to a proposal can be discussed on its talk page. It is crucial to improve a proposal in response to feedback received from outside ors. Consensus is built through a process of listening to and discussing the proposal with many other ors.

Once you think the initial proposal is well written, and the issues involved have been sufficiently discussed among early participants to create a proposal that has a solid chance of success with the broader community, start a request for comment (RfC) about your policy or guideline proposal in a new section at WP:Village Pump/Policy (VPPOL), or on the proposal's talk page and advertised with a notice at VPPOL. Include the {{rfc|policy}} tag, along with a brief, time-stamped explanation of the proposal. Then, if you want, you can provide a detailed explanation of what the page does and why you think it should be a policy or guideline. The {{Proposal}} template should be placed at the top of the proposed page; this tag will get the proposal properly categorized.

The RfC should typically be announced at the policy and/or proposals village pumps, and you should notify other potentially interested groups. If your proposal affects a specific content area, then related WikiProjects can be found at the WikiProject directory. If your proposal relates to an existing policy or guideline, then leave a note on the talk page of the related policy or guideline. For example, proposed style guidelines should be announced at Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style, which is the main guideline for style issues. Try to identify the subcategory of guideline or policy (see {{Subcat guideline}} template). Proposals involving contentious subjects or wide-ranging effects should normally be listed on Wikipedia:Centralized discussion for the duration of the RfC. Rarely, a particularly important proposal may be advertised via a watchlist notice; sitenotices (which are displayed to all readers, not just to active ors) are not used for proposals. RfCs for policy and guideline proposals are normally left open for at least a week or sometimes a couple of months.

To avoid later complaints about insufficient notice, it may be helpful to provide a complete list of the groups or pages you used to advertise the proposal on the talk page. Be careful not to canvass, and avoid non-neutral wording.

Editors should respond to proposals in a way that helps identify and build consensus. Explain your thoughts, ask questions, and raise concerns. Many ors begin their responses with bold-font 'vote' of support or opposition to make evaluation easier.

Closing a discussion requires careful evaluation of the responses to determine the consensus. This does not require the intervention of an administrator; it may be done by any sufficiently experienced impartial or, not involved in the discussion, who is familiar with all policies and guidelines related to the proposal. The following points are important in evaluating consensus:

Discussion may be closed as one of: Promote, No consensus, or Failed. Please leave a short note about the conclusion you came to. Update the proposal to reflect the consensus. Remove the {{Proposal}} template and replace it with another appropriate template, such as {{Subcat guideline}}, {{Policy}}, {{Supplement}}, {{essay}}, or {{Failed proposal}}. See Wikipedia namespace templates for a listing of banners.

If a proposal fails, the failed tag should not usually be removed. It is typically more productive to rewrite a failed proposal from scratch to address problems or seek consensus to integrate uncontroversial aspects of it into existing pages, rather than to re-nominate a proposal.


An accepted policy or guideline may become obsolete because of changes in orial practice or community standards, may become redundant because of improvements to other pages, or may represent unwarranted instruction creep. In such situations ors may propose that a policy be demoted to a guideline, or that a policy or guideline be demoted to a supplement, informational page, essay or historical page. In certain cases, a policy or guideline may be superseded, in which case the old page is marked and retained for historical interest.

The process for demotion is similar to promotion. A talk page discussion is typically started, the {{Under discussion|status|Discussion Title}} template is added to the top of the project page, and community input is solicited. After a reasonable amount of time for comments, an independent or should close the discussion and evaluate the discussion and determine whether a consensus has formed to change the status.

The {{Disputed tag}} template is typically used instead of {{Under discussion}} for claims that a page was recently assigned guideline or policy status without proper or sufficient consensus being established.

Essays, information pages, and other informal pages that are supported by only a small minority of the community are typically moved to the primary author's userspace. These discussions typically happen on the page's talk page, sometimes with an RfC, but they have at times also been conducted at Miscellany for deletion (despite the MFD guidelines explicitly discouraging this practice). Other pages are retained for historical reference and are marked as such.

Content changes[]

Policies and guidelines can be ed like any other Wikipedia page. It is not strictly necessary to discuss changes or to obtain written documentation of a consensus in advance. However, because policies and guidelines are sensitive and complex, users should take care over any s, to be sure they are faithfully reflecting the community's view and to be sure they are not accidentally introducing new sources of error or confusion.

Keep in mind that the purpose of policies and guidelines is to state what most Wikipedians agree upon, and should be phrased to reflect the present consensus on a subject. Editing a policy/guideline/essay page does not in itself imply an immediate change to accepted practice. It is, naturally, bad practice to recommend a rejected practice on a policy or guideline page.

As explained below, you may update best practices by ing boldly or by working toward widespread consensus for your change through discussion.

Substantive changes[]

Implement. Before making substantive changes to policy and guideline pages, it is sometimes useful to try to establish a reasonable exception to the existing practice. To try to update the existing best practices this way, you may directly deviate from the established practice following the WP:IGNORE and WP:BOLD principles and make the change to mainspace pages. After some time, if there are no objections to the change and/or if a widespread consensus for your change or implementation is reached through discussion, you can then policy and guideline pages describing the practice to reflect the new situation.

Talk first. Talk page discussion typically precedes substantive changes to a policy. Changes may be made if there are no objections or if the discussion shows there is consensus for the change. Minor s to improve formatting, grammar, and clarity may be made at any time.

If the result of discussions is unclear, then it should be evaluated by an administrator or other independent or, as in the proposal process. Major changes should also be publicized to the community in general; announcements similar to the proposal process may be appropriate.

If wider input on a proposed change is desired, it may be useful to mark the section with the tag {{Under discussion|section|talk=Discussion Title}}. (If the proposal relates to a single statement, use {{Under discussion inline|Discussion Title}} immediately after it.)

Or be bold. Although most ors find prior discussion, especially at well-developed pages, very helpful, directly ing these pages is permitted by Wikipedia's policies. Consequently, you should not remove any change solely on the grounds that there was no formal discussion indicating consensus for the change before it was made. Instead, you should give a substantive reason for challenging it either in your summary or on the talk page.

Bold ors of policy and guideline pages are strongly encouraged to follow WP:1RR or WP:0RR standards. Editing a policy to support your own argument in an active discussion may be seen as gaming the system, especially if you do not disclose your involvement in the argument when making the s.

Conflicts between advice pages[]

If policy and/or guideline pages directly conflict, one or more pages need to be revised to resolve the conflict so all the conflicting pages accurately reflect the community's actual practices and best advice. As a temporary measure during that resolution process, if a guideline appears to conflict with a policy, ors may assume the policy takes precedence.

More commonly, advice pages do not directly conflict, but provide multiple options. For example, Wikipedia:Reliable sources says newspaper articles are generally considered to be reliable sources, and Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources (medicine) recommends against newspaper articles for certain technical purposes. Editors must use their best judgement to decide which advice is most appropriate and relevant to the specific situation at hand.


The page names of policies and guidelines usually do not include the words "policy" or "guideline", unless required to distinguish the page from another.

See also[]


  1. ^ Many historical essays can still be found within Meta's essay category. The Wikimedia Foundation's Meta-Wiki was envisioned as the original place for ors to comment on and discuss Wikipedia, although the "Wikipedia" project space has since taken over most of that role.
  2. ^ There is no prohibition against including appropriate external references to support and explain our policies or guidelines, but such sources are not authoritative with respect to Wikipedia and should be used only to reinforce consensus.
  3. ^ Office declarations may establish unprecedented policies to avoid copyright, legal, or technical problems, though such declarations are rare.

Further reading[]