As a general rule, do not remove sourced information from the encyclopedia
solely on the grounds that it seems biased. Instead, try to rewrite the passage or section to achieve a more neutral tone. Biased information can usually be balanced with material cited to other sources to produce a more neutral perspective, so such problems should be fixed when possible through the normal editing process
. Remove material only where you have a good reason to believe it misinforms or misleads readers in ways that cannot be addressed by rewriting the passage. The sections below offer specific guidance on common problems.
In some cases, the choice of name used for a topic can give an appearance of bias. While neutral terms are generally preferable, this must be balanced against clarity. If a name is widely used in reliable sources (particularly those written in English), and is therefore likely to be well recognized by readers, it may be used even though some may regard it as biased. For example, the widely used names "Boston Massacre
", "Teapot Dome scandal
", and "Jack the Ripper
" are legitimate ways of referring to the subjects in question, even though they may appear to pass judgment. The best name to use for a topic may depend on the context in which it is mentioned; it may be appropriate to mention alternative names and the controversies over their use, particularly when the topic in question is the main topic being discussed.
This advice especially applies to article titles. Although multiple terms may be in common usage, a single name should be chosen as the article title, in line with the article titling policy
(and relevant guidelines such as on geographical names). Article titles that combine alternative names are discouraged. For example, "Derry/Londonderry", "Aluminium/Aluminum" or "Flat Earth (Round Earth)" should not be used. Instead, alternative names should be given due prominence within the article itself, and redirects
created as appropriate.
Some article titles are descriptive, rather than being a name. Descriptive titles should be worded neutrally, so as not to suggest a viewpoint for or against a topic, or to confine the content of the article to views on a particular side of an issue (for example, an article titled "Criticisms of X" might be better renamed "Societal views on X"). Neutral titles encourage multiple viewpoints and responsible article writing.
The internal structure of an article may require additional attention, to protect neutrality, and to avoid problems like POV forking
and undue weight
. Although specific article structures are not, as a rule, prohibited, care must be taken to ensure the overall presentation is broadly neutral.
Segregation of text or other content into different regions or subsections, based solely on the apparent POV of the content itself, may result in an unencyclopedic structure, such as a back-and-forth dialogue between proponents and opponents.
It may also create an apparent hierarchy of fact where details in the main passage appear "true" and "undisputed", whereas other, segregated material is deemed "controversial", and therefore more likely to be false. Try to achieve a more neutral text by folding debates
into the narrative, rather than isolating them into sections that ignore or fight against each other.
Pay attention to headers, footnotes, or other formatting elements that might unduly favor one point of view or one aspect of the subject, and watch out for structural or stylistic aspects that make it difficult for a reader to fairly and equally assess the credibility of all relevant and related viewpoints.
Neutrality requires that each article or other page in the mainspace fairly represent all significant viewpoints that have been published by reliable sources
, in proportion to the prominence of each viewpoint in the published, reliable sources.
Giving due weight and avoiding giving undue weight means articles should not give minority views or aspects as much of or as detailed a description as more widely held views or widely supported aspects. Generally, the views of tiny minorities should not be included at all, except perhaps in a "see also" to an article about those specific views. For example, the article on the Earth
does not directly mention modern support for the flat Earth
concept, the view of a distinct (and minuscule) minority; to do so would give undue weight
Undue weight can be given in several ways, including but not limited to depth of detail, quantity of text, prominence of placement, juxtaposition of statements and use of imagery. In articles specifically relating to a minority viewpoint, such views may receive more attention and space. However, these pages should still make appropriate reference to the majority viewpoint wherever relevant and must not represent content strictly from the perspective of the minority view. Specifically, it should always be clear which parts of the text describe the minority view. In addition, the majority view should be explained in sufficient detail that the reader can understand how the minority view differs from it, and controversies regarding aspects of the minority view should be clearly identified and explained. How much detail is required depends on the subject. For instance, articles on historical views such as flat Earth, with few or no modern proponents, may briefly state the modern position, and then go on to discuss the history of the idea in great detail, neutrally presenting the history of a now-discredited belief. Other minority views may require much more extensive description of the majority view to avoid misleading the reader. See fringe theories guideline
and the NPOV FAQ
Wikipedia should not present a dispute as if a view held by a small minority is as significant as the majority view. Views that are held by a tiny minority should not be represented except in articles devoted to those views (such as flat Earth). To give undue weight to the view of a significant minority, or to include that of a tiny minority, might be misleading as to the shape of the dispute. Wikipedia aims to present competing views in proportion to their representation in reliable sources on the subject. This applies not only to article text but to images, wikilinks, external links, categories, and all other material as well.
- If a viewpoint is in the majority, then it should be easy to substantiate it with reference to commonly accepted reference texts;
- If a viewpoint is held by a significant minority, then it should be easy to name prominent adherents;
- If a viewpoint is held by an extremely small minority, it does not belong on Wikipedia, regardless of whether it is true or you can prove it, except perhaps in some ancillary article.
Keep in mind that, in determining proper weight, we consider a viewpoint's prevalence in reliable sources, not its prevalence among Wikipedia editors or the general public.
If you can prove a theory that few or none currently believe, Wikipedia is not the place to present such a proof. Once it has been presented and discussed in reliable sources
, it may be appropriately included. See "No original research
" and "Verifiability
An article should not give undue weight to minor aspects of its subject, but should strive to treat each aspect with a weight proportional to its treatment in the body of reliable, published material on the subject. For example, discussion of isolated events, criticisms, or news reports about a subject may be verifiable
and impartial, but still disproportionate to their overall significance to the article topic. This is a concern especially in relation to recent events
that may be in the news
Giving "equal validity" can create a false balance
"When considering 'due impartiality' ... [we are] careful when reporting on science to make a distinction between an opinion and a fact. When there is a consensus of opinion on scientific matters, providing an opposite view without consideration of 'due weight' can lead to 'false balance', meaning that viewers might perceive an issue to be more controversial than it actually is. This does not mean that scientists cannot be questioned or challenged, but that their contributions must be properly scrutinized. Including an opposite view may well be appropriate, but [we] must clearly communicate the degree of credibility that the view carries."
's policy on science reporting 2011
See updated report from 2014.
While it is important to account for all significant viewpoints
on any topic, Wikipedia policy does not state or imply that every minority view
or extraordinary claim
needs to be presented along with commonly accepted mainstream
scholarship as if they were of equal validity. There are many such beliefs in the world, some popular and some little-known: claims that the Earth is flat
, that the Knights Templar
possessed the Holy Grail
, that the Apollo moon landings were a hoax
, and similar ones. Unfounded conspiracy theories
, speculative history
, or plausible but currently unaccepted theories should not be legitimized through comparison to accepted academic scholarship. We do not take a stand on these issues as encyclopedia writers, for or against; we merely omit this information where including it would unduly legitimize it, and otherwise include and describe these ideas in their proper context with respect to established scholarship and the beliefs of the wider world.
Good and unbiased research, based upon the best and most reputable authoritative sources
available, helps prevent NPOV disagreements. Try the library for reputable books and journal articles, and look online for the most reliable resources. If you need help finding high-quality sources, ask other editors on the talk page
of the article you are working on, or ask at the reference desk
Neutrality assigns weight
to viewpoints in proportion to their prominence. However, when reputable sources contradict one another and are
relatively equal in prominence, describe both points of view and work for balance. This involves describing the opposing views clearly, drawing on secondary or tertiary sources that describe the disagreement from a disinterested viewpoint.
Wikipedia describes disputes. Wikipedia does not engage in disputes. A neutral characterization of disputes requires presenting viewpoints with a consistently impartial tone; otherwise articles end up as partisan commentaries even while presenting all relevant points of view. Even where a topic is presented in terms of facts rather than opinions, inappropriate tone can be introduced through the way in which facts are selected, presented, or organized. Neutral articles are written with a tone that provides an unbiased, accurate, and proportionate representation of all positions included in the article.
The tone of Wikipedia articles should be impartial, neither endorsing nor rejecting a particular point of view. Try not to quote directly from participants engaged in a heated dispute; instead, summarize and present the arguments in an impartial tone.
Describing aesthetic opinions and reputations
The Starry Night
— good painting or bad painting? That's not for us to decide, but we note what others say.
Wikipedia articles about art and other creative topics (e.g., musicians, actors, books, etc.) have a tendency to become effusive
. This is out of place in an encyclopedia. Aesthetic opinions are diverse and subjective—we might not all agree about who the world's greatest soprano is. However, it is appropriate to note how an artist or a work has been received by prominent experts and the general public. For instance, the article on Shakespeare should note that he is widely considered to be one of the greatest authors in the English language. More generally, it is sometimes permissible to note an article subject's reputation when that reputation is widespread and informative to readers. Articles on creative works should provide an overview of their common interpretations, preferably with citations to experts holding those interpretations. Verifiable public and scholarly critiques provide useful context for works of art.
Words to watch
There are no forbidden words or expressions on Wikipedia, but certain expressions should be used with care, because they may introduce bias. For example, the word claim
, as in "Jim claimed
he paid for the sandwich", could imply a lack of credibility
. Using this or other expressions of doubt
may make an article appear to promote one position over another. Try to state the facts more simply without using such loaded words
; for example, "Jim said
he paid for the sandwich". Strive to eliminate expressions that are flattering
, disparaging, vague, or clichéd, or that endorse a particular point of view (unless those expressions are part of a quote from a noteworthy source).
Bias in sources
A common argument in a dispute about reliable sources is that one source is biased and so another source should be given preference. Some editors argue that biased sources should not be used because they introduce improper POV to an article. However, biased sources are not inherently disallowed based on bias alone, although other aspects of the source may make it invalid. Neutral point of view should be achieved by balancing the bias in sources based on the weight of the opinion in reliable sources and not by excluding sources that do not conform to the editor's point of view. This does not mean any biased source must
be used; it may well serve an article better to exclude the material altogether