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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

Civil, respectful interactions are important.
Civil, respectful interactions are important.

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.

Avoiding incivility

Incivility – or the appearance of incivility – typically arises from heated content disputes.

Edit summary dos and don'ts

See also: Help:Edit summary § Always provide an edit summary, and Help:Edit summary § How to write an edit summary

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:

Incivility

"Civility is to human nature what warmth is to wax."
Arthur Schopenhauer[1]

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

Main page: Wikipedia:No personal attacks

See also: Wikipedia:No legal threats

Editors are expected to avoid personal attacks and harassment of other Wikipedians. This applies equally to all Wikipedians: 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 user. 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.

Identifying incivility

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:

1. Direct rudeness

2. Other uncivil behaviours

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 their 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 (AGF) 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

  1. First of all, consider whether you and the other editor may simply have misunderstood each other. Clarify, and ask for clarification.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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...")
  5. Ask them to strike through an uncivil comment, or re-word it calmly and neutrally.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 administrator "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.

Dispute resolution

See also: WP:CONDUCTDISPUTE

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:

Threats of violence (including suicide threats) should be reported immediately – see WP:EMERGENCY. Legal threats, hateful speech, and other urgent incidents should be reported at the Administrator's Noticeboard Incidents page.

Removing uncivil comments

See also: Wikipedia:Talk page guidelines, Wikipedia:Outing, Wikipedia:Oversight, and Wikipedia:No personal attacks § Removal of personal attacks

Where the uncivil comment is yours, any of these options will help to reduce the impact:

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

See also: Wikipedia:Apology

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

See also: Blocking policy: Cool-down blocks

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.

  1. Be sure to take into account all the relevant history. Avoid snap judgments without acquainting yourself with the background to any situation.
  2. 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)
  3. 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.[2]
  4. 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.[3]

See also

Civility barnstar

Notes

  1. ^ Grayling, A.C.. The Meaning of Things. Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 2001. p. 13.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "the law and its fulfillment, namely punishment, are directed essentially to the future, not to the past. This distinguishes punishment from revenge, for revenge is motivated by what has happened, and hence by the past as such. All retaliation for wrong by inflicting a pain without any object for the future is revenge, and can have no other purpose than consolation for the suffering one has endured by the sight of the suffering one has caused in another. Such a thing is wickedness and cruelty, and cannot be ethically justified." —Arthur Schopenhauer The World as Will and Representation, Vol. I, § 62.

Further reading