Most common Wikipedia faux pas

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Newcomers are very welcome here--they're the lifeblood of this project. We want you to feel welcome to add to and to edit articles here. We want you to be bold in updating pages. We generally like to think of this as a community of equals working together, whether you're new or you've been here from the beginning. Moreover, if you dislike rules or anything that sounds like rules, stop reading. We want you to feel free to proceed as you wish. We offer the following only by way of giving helpful suggestions, which will make your time here more enjoyable.

There are a number of faux pas that new Wikipedians often make, and we've compiled this list for your convenience. So--if you care--here are the most important things to try to avoid when working on Wikipedia:

  • Worrying too much that you're going to mess things up. You probably will a little--everybody does, to some extent. But then we constantly clean up after each other. And all is well with the world. So be bold! Be bold in updating pages!
  • Capitalizing titles of articles. It's unnecessary to capitalize the "g" in "English grammar"--this makes it easier to link to the article. The link should look like this: English grammar. Otherwise, we start Capitalizing Everything for which we have a link, which looks Very Strange.
  • Treating Wikipedia as a dictionary. While article "stubs" are perfectly fine, and a good stub might have only a little more information than a dictionary definition, we aren't engaged in defining common words, or compiling a dictionary. And note that defining professional and academic jargon is not only appropriate, it's encouraged. For more in this vein, see Wikipedia is not a dictionary and what Wikipedia is not.
  • Deleting useful content. It's impolite simply to delete content that is useful just because it is somewhat biased (why not just remove the bias?) or because it's poorly copyedited (why not do the necessary copyediting?). Except in the very most obvious of cases, deleting anything over, say, a few sentences demands some words of justification on a talk page. A relevant principle is never to reduce the overall amount of useful content in an article.
  • Treating Wikipedia as a chat forum. On talk pages, it is all too easy to get involved in emotional, partisan debates about various topics. Unless this results in an improved article--which it often doesn't, for drawn-out, emotional squabbles--please just sit on your hands. There are many other places online where you can engage in debate and to try to persuade other people of your controversial views. That's really not appropriate on Wikipedia, because we're trying to focus on the task of creating an encyclopedia. Please see what Wikipedia is not.
  • Making subpages out of topics that really don't need subpages. When in doubt, don't make a subpage. See naming conventions for more information.
  • Thinking that there is an "author" of any given article you read. A common misconception of new arrivals to Wikipedia is that there are single authors of articles. This leads people to feel constrained to change articles themselves; they issue critiques on /Talk pages when they could just as easily make changes to articles themselves. The fact of the matter though is that no article here has just one official author, even if only one person has worked on it. In theory, anyone can work on any article--and if you see a problem with an article, and you can fix it, then please do fix it then and there. Don't bother with the /Talk page unless politeness demands you explain what you've changed (it often doesn't), or that you ask a question first. For more information, see be bold in updating pages and talk page.
  • Adopting a combative stance. Some new people immediately see that there is a special community of people here committed to working together toward friendly consensus. Others make the mistake of treating disputes on Wikipedia as on a par with Usenet flame wars. In fact, most old hands want to spend as little as possible time in nasty, competitive disputes. That isn't what Wikipedia is about. This isn't to say that there aren't acrimonious disputes, even among the old hands--there certainly are. We ain't perfect. But it does seem safe to say that most of us aren't here for that, and we are embarrassed when it comes to that. We're here to write an encyclopedia. For that, some amount of Wikipetiquette (if you will) is required.
  • Judging and trying to change Wikipedia before you understand it. Realize that Wikipedia is a work in progress, and a lot of well-educated, intelligent people are working on it and care about it. And they've thought a lot about it. Some people arrive on the scene and, failing to understand how and why Wikipedia works, start lobbying for greater controls, or they judge the project based on new, incomplete, and otherwise inadequate articles. Generally speaking, if you want to be comfortable here, please tolerate a little (temporary) imperfection. Bear in mind that we're all working on this thing together, and it's just getting better and better. See Wikipedia and Wikipedia FAQ for more information on the project in general. See Wikipedia/Our Replies to Our Critics for replies to common criticisms.

This list is limited to the most common and important Wikipedia faux pas. For other "rules" or suggestions, see Wikipedia policy.