Wikipedia:Essays

Essays, as used by Wikipedia editors, typically contain advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. The purpose of an essay is to aid or comment on the encyclopedia but not on any unrelated causes. Essays have no official status, and do not speak for the Wikipedia community as they may be created and edited without overall community oversight. Following the instructions or advice given in an essay is optional. There are currently about 2,000 essays on a wide range of Wikipedia-related topics.

About essays

Although essays are not policies or guidelines, many are worthy of consideration. Policies and guidelines cannot cover all circumstances, consequently many essays serve as interpretations or commentary of perceived community norms for specific topics and situations. The value of an essay should be understood in context, using common sense and discretion. Essays can be written by anyone and can be long monologues or short theses, serious or funny. Essays may represent widespread norms or minority viewpoints. An essay, as well as being useful, can potentially be a divisive means of espousing a point of view. Although an essay should not be used to create an alternative rule set, the Wikipedia community has historically tolerated a wide range of Wikipedia related subjects and viewpoints on user pages.

The difference between policies, guidelines, and some essays on Wikipedia may be obscure. Essays vary in popularity and how much they are followed and referred to. Editors should defer to official policies or guidelines when essays, information pages or template documentation pages are inconsistent with established community standards and principles.

Avoid "quoting" essays as though they are policy—including this "explanatory supplement page". Essays, information pages and template documentation pages can be written without much—if any—debate, as opposed to Wikipedia policies that have been thoroughly vetted by the community (see WP:Local consensus for details). In Wikipedia discussions, editors may refer to essays provided that they do not hold them out as general consensus or policy. Proposals for new guidelines and policies require discussion and a high level of consensus from the entire community for promotion. See Wikipedia:How to contribute to Wikipedia guidance and Wikipedia:Policy writing is hard for more information.

Essays are located in the Wikipedia namespace (e.g., Wikipedia:Reasonability rule) and in User namespaces (e.g., User:Tony1/Beginners' guide to the Manual of Style). The Help namespace contains pages which provide factual (usually technical) information on using Wikipedia and its software (see below). The {{Essay}}-family templates (with several variants like {{Notability essay}} and {{WikiProject advice}}), versus the {{Guideline}} (and variants, like {{MoS guideline}}) and {{Policy}} templates give an indication of a page's status within the community. Some essays at one time were proposed policies or guidelines, but they could not gain consensus overall; as indicated by the template {{Failed proposal}}. Other essays that at one time had consensus, but are no longer relevant, are tagged with the template {{Historical}}. Current essay policy nominations are indicated by the banner {{Proposed}}. See Wikipedia:Template messages/Wikipedia namespace for a listing of namespace banners.

Types of essays

Wikipedia essays

Essays in the Wikipedia namespace – which are never to be put in the main (encyclopedia article) namespace – typically address some aspect of working in Wikipedia. They have not been formally adopted as guidelines or policies by the community at large, but typically edited by the community. Some are widely accepted as part of the Wikipedia gestalt, and have a significant degree of influence during discussions (like "guideline supplements" WP:Tendentious editing, WP:Bold, revert, discuss cycle, and WP:Competence is required).

Many essays, however, are obscure, single-author pieces. Essays may be moved into userspace as user essays (see below), or even deleted, if they are found to be problematic.[1] Occasionally, even longstanding, community-edited essays may be removed or radically revised if community norms shift.[2]

User essays

According to Wikipedia policy, "Essays that the author does not want others to edit, or that are found to contradict widespread consensus, belong in the user namespace." These are similar to essays placed in the Wikipedia namespace; however, they are often authored/edited by only one person, and may represent a strictly personal viewpoint about Wikipedia or its processes (e.g., User:Jehochman/Responding to rudeness). Some of them are widely respected by other editors, and even occasionally have an effect on policy (e.g., the WP:General notability guideline originated in a user essay). Writings that contradict policy are somewhat tolerated within the User namespace. The author of a personal essay located in his or her user space has the prerogative to revert any changes made to it by any other user, within reason. Polemics against particular people, or against Wikipedia itself, are generally just deleted, as unconstructive or disruptive.

WikiProject advice pages

WikiProjects are groups of editors who like working together. Advice pages written by these groups are formally considered the same as pages written by anyone else, that is, they are essays unless and until they have been formally adopted as community-wide guidelines or policies. WikiProjects are encouraged to write essays explaining how the community's policies and guidelines should be applied to their areas of interest and expertise (e.g., Wikipedia:WikiProject Bibliographies#Recommended structure).

Historical essays

The Wikimedia Foundation's Meta-wiki was envisioned as the original place for editors to comment on and discuss Wikipedia, although the "Wikipedia" project space has since taken over most of that role. Many historical essays can still be found at Meta.Wikimedia.org.

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