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aSK:Editing etiquette

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NB: This was adapted from my own work on Conservapedia. Philip J. Rayment

Wiki editors have found that good editing etiquette can reduce the arguments that frequently occur between editors with opposing viewpoints.

Note this is a guide to good editing etiquette. It is not part of the rules and regulations.

Edit or discuss first?

An editor will often chastise another editor for not discussing an alteration to an article before altering the article, yet will often edit an article themselves without discussing it first. Does this make them hypocrites? Sometimes, yes, but often it's because the circumstances are different.

Etiquette rule:

Edit an article without discussing your changes first, if you have a reasonable expectation that other editors will accept your change.

But how would you know what other editors will accept? Here's some ideas:

  • You are removing vandalism.
  • You are correcting spelling or grammar (but don't change American spelling to British spelling, etc. except where appropriate).
  • You are inserting an undisputed fact. For example, Australia is in the southern hemisphere.
  • You properly reference your "facts". Another editor is less likely to remove your edit if you have references to show that your facts are correct.
  • You put your "facts" in neutral terms. For example, Secular geologists believe that the world is 4.5 billion years old is better than The world is 4.5 billion years old.
  • You explain your edits. This can be done in an edit comment (Summary edit field) or on the article's talk page. In the latter case, putting "See talk" in the edit comment will alert other editors to the fact that you have discussed your edit on the talk page.

Notwithstanding the above, a case can also be made sometimes that it is better to see a proposed edit in the context of the article rather than in isolation on the talk page.

Etiquette rule:

Favour improving another person's edits rather than deleting them.

This follows naturally from the previous rule. If another editor thinks that his change should be in there, then clearly you cannot have a reasonable expectation that the first editor, at least, will accept you deleting his edit. So improving his edit (perhaps from The world is 4.5 billion years old to Secular geologists believe that the world is 4.5 billion years old) is better than simply deleting.

If you think that the edit really should come out, explain why in the edit comment or on the talk page. If your reasons are good enough, chances are the first editor will see your point and accept his change being removed.

If you question other editor's facts, then instead of just deleting them, put a {{fact}} tag after the claimed fact, to give him an opportunity to support his edit. If the original editor fails to support his fact in a reasonable time (e.g. a week), then you have better justification for removing his "fact".

Etiquette rule:

Avoid edit wars.

An edit war is when two editors keep undoing the other editor's changes. Such a situation is totally unproductive and serves only to raise tempers.

If you cannot agree on a change even after discussing it, ask other editors for their opinions.

Use the appropriate page for discussions

Etiquette rule:

Discuss an article on that article's talk page.

When discussing changes to an article with another editor, have the discussion on the article's talk page, where other editors can see it and contribute if they wish, rather than on one of the editors' talk pages, where the discussion is unlikely to be seen by other editors.

This is also useful for later editors looking to see why something in the article is the way it is. They can expect to look on the article's talk page, not somewhere else entirely.

Etiquette rule:

Discuss off-topic discussions elsewhere.

Sometimes discussions about an article lead off to other matters. If the discussion is no longer about the article, move the discussion elsewhere. aSK has more options for this than Wikipedia. Here are some of the options:

  • Discuss it on one of your user talk pages.
  • Create a debate page for discussing that issue.
  • Create an ask:essays for putting down your own thoughts on an issue.

Etiquette rule:

Don't delete other people's posts.

You may disagree with a person or have questions of them, but it is rude to delete other people's posts, assuming they are not offensive, gibberish, or otherwise problematic. However, you have more freedom on your own talk pages to choose what you accept, subject to any instructions, etc. from Umpires.

Edit histories

Edit histories allow other editors to see how an article was changed, and who changed it. Editors can also "step through" the edit histories to follow a series of changes.

Following are some guidelines for making this easier on other users.

Etiquette rule:

Use the "Show preview" button.

Using the Show preview button to check how your edit will look will reduce the number of changes to the article, keeping the edit history shorter. It can be irritating to other editors to have to step through a lot of very minor changes that could have been avoided if the Show preview button was used.

Etiquette rule:

Don't make massive changes in one go.

When you make massive changes in one edit, it makes it hard for other editors to see what was actually changed. Consider breaking your edits into smaller steps, particularly when moving paragraphs around. Changing and moving a paragraph in the one edit can make it difficult for the software to highlight the differences properly.

Etiquette rule:

Use edit summaries.

When you make a change, please put a brief (or not so brief) comment in the Summary box to explain your edit.

Common comments include:

  • Revert (or Rv)
  • Spelling (or Sp)
  • Grammar
  • copyedit (indicating that there were changes like a newspaper editor might make, to improve the spelling, grammar, or wording, but not changing the meaning nor deleting nor adding information).
  • If your change cannot be explained briefly, an edit comment of see talk will alert other editors that you have explained (or will explain) your edit on the talk page.

In your user preferences, you can select to have the software remind you if you don't include an edit comment.

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