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Wikipedia articles are improved through the hard work of both regular editors and newcomers. Remember: all of us were new editors at Wikipedia once, and in some ways (such as when editing an article on a topic outside our usual scope) even the most experienced among us are still newcomers.

New members are prospective contributors and are therefore Wikipedia's most valuable resource. We must treat newcomers with kindness and patience—nothing scares potentially valuable contributors away faster than hostility. It is very unlikely for a newcomer to be completely familiar with Wikipedia's markup language and its myriad of policies, guidelines, and community standards when they start editing. Even the most experienced editors may need a gentle reminder from time to time.

The first edits of many users who are now experienced editors were test edits, or unsourced and unencyclopedic additions to articles. Communicating with newcomers patiently and thoroughly is integral to ensure they stay on Wikipedia and ultimately contribute in a constructive manner.

Please do not bite the newcomers

How to avoid being a "biter"

Newcomers' ideas of how things should be handled within Wikipedia will largely be out of context. It's a jungle in Wikipedia, and it may take some time before a newcomer becomes accustomed to how things work here. Keeping that in mind may help you avoid becoming a "biter". To avoid being accused of biting, try to:

  1. Improve, Don't Remove. If something doesn't meet Wikipedia's standards, try to fix the problem rather than just remove what's broken. (Nothing stops new contributors from coming back like having all their hard work end up in the bit bucket.)
  2. Avoid intensifiers in commentary (e.g., exclamation points and words like terrible, dumb, stupid, bad, etc.).
  3. Moderate your approach and wording.
  4. Always explain reverts in the edit summary, and use plain English rather than cryptic abbreviations.
  5. Avoid sarcasm in edit summaries and on talk pages, especially when reverting.
  6. Strive to respond in a measured manner.
  7. Wait, i.e. calm down first.
  8. Be gracious.
  9. Acknowledge differing principles and be willing to reach a consensus.
  10. Take responsibility for resolving conflicts.
  11. Reciprocate where necessary.
  12. Listen actively.
  13. Avoid excessive Wikipedia jargon. When linking to policies or guidelines, do so in whole phrases, not wiki shorthand.
  14. Avoid deleting newly created articles, as inexperienced authors might still be working on them or trying to figure something out.
  15. Even the most well written and helpful deletion template message may seem frightening or unwelcoming to new users. Consider writing a personalised message.
  16. Don't fill the page with maintenance templates or join a pile of people pointing out problems. Having multiple people tell you that you did something wrong is unfriendly and off-putting, even when each individual comment is gently phrased and kindly intended.
  17. Avoid nominating user talk pages for deletion.
  18. Remember that it's okay to make mistakes—we're all only human.

Standard welcome or warning messages are both cordial and correcting. Consider using these templates for welcoming, or the first two here for warning.

Strive to be a responsible Wikipedian. By fostering goodwill, you will neither provoke nor be provoked, and will allow new Wikipedians to devote their time and resources towards building a truly collaborative encyclopedia.

Ignorantia juris may excuse

The principle ignorantia juris non excusat (Latin for: "ignorance of the law does not excuse") is incompatible with the guidelines of "do not bite" and "assume good faith". In this case, ignorance of Wikipedia's guidelines can or may excuse the mistakes of a newcomer. Furthermore, you yourself violate Wikipedia's guidelines and policies when you attack a new user for ignorance of them.

Try instead to follow the points set forth in this article to relieve new editors of their ignorance. Keep in mind that this is not the way many other things work, and even seasoned editors fail to follow—or are simply unaware of—our guidelines from time to time.

To a newcomer, the large number of Wikipedia policies and guidelines can be overwhelming. Ignorance of the rules can often be expected, but willfully disregarding them and disrupting the editorial process of constructing our online encyclopedia is quite another. If you exclude editors without barnstars and the like from your circle you probably diminish the final product.

In all cases though, we ought to interact with our fellow editors with gentleness and respect. This is the most important thing to stress.

What to do if you feel you have "bitten" or have been bitten

If you have bitten someone, or feel that you have been bitten, considering the following points could help ensure that it doesn't happen again.

  1. Choose to learn from the incident.
  2. Apologize if you realize you have bitten another user.
  3. Consider alternatives to biting that could have achieved a better response. If you encounter a similar situation in the future, choose one of those alternatives instead of repeating history.
  4. Find something of value in the experience. Extract the wisdom that may have been unintentionally veiled.
  5. Be reasonable. Explain why you were offended, but learn to recognize when the message cannot be received. The recipient may be unable or unwilling to accept fault, and it may be better to move on to other things than to dwell on the bite.
  6. Move on from it!

Common newcomer errors

One common error among newcomers is to create an article in mainspace about themselves, their garage band, or about their original hypotheses on a certain topic. One way to deal gently with this is to userfy the article, and leave a note saying why. ((nn-userfy)) is designed for userfying autobiographical articles. The remaining redirect can be flagged for deletion using ((Db-rediruser)). Userfied articles on bands could be tagged with ((PROD)), since they tend to hang around. New articles about a person's original research and hypotheses could have a note appended explaining WP:OR. It is sometimes helpful to direct new users to alternative outlets.

Another common newbie error is to violate the three revert rule. There is no reason to expect that a newcomer would know about this rule, so it is a good idea to inform them of the rule on their talkpage after their second revert.


See also


  1. ^ Swartz, Aaron (2006-09-04). "Who writes Wikipedia? (Aaron Swartz's Raw Thought)" (HTML). Retrieved 2009-04-21.