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.
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.
Incivility – or the appearance of incivility – typically arises from heated content disputes.
Review your edit summaries before saving your edits. Remember you cannot go back and change them.
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 in kind. 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 he or she was 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, are in themselves potentially disruptive, and may result in warnings or even blocks if repeated.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 him or her 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
This is not to say that blocking for incivility should not or cannot happen, but 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 preventative and not punitive.