|This page documents an English Wikipedia editing guideline.|
|This page in a nutshell: Please feel free to make improvements to Wikipedia in a fair and accurate manner.|
Be bold can be explained in three words: "Go for it."
The Wikipedia community encourages users to be bold when updating the encyclopedia. Wikis like ours develop faster when everybody helps to fix problems, correct grammar, add facts, make sure wording is accurate, etc. We would like everyone to be bold and help make Wikipedia a better encyclopedia. How many times have you read something and thought—Why doesn't this page have correct spelling, proper grammar, or a better layout? Wikipedia not only lets you add and edit articles: it wants you to do it. This does require politeness, but it works. You'll see. Of course, others here will edit what you write. Do not take it personally! They, like all of us, just wish to make Wikipedia as good an encyclopedia as it can possibly be. Also, when you see a conflict in a talk page, do not be just a "mute spectator"; be bold and drop your opinion there!
Fix it yourself instead of just talking about it. If you notice an unambiguous error or problem that any reasonable person would recommend fixing, the best course of action may be to be bold and fix it yourself rather than bringing it to someone's attention in the form of a comment or complaint. In the time it takes to write about the problem, you could instead improve the encyclopedia.
Do not be upset if your bold edits get reverted. Francis Bacon, an early advocate of trial and error followed by observation to gain knowledge, once said: "Great boldness is seldom without some absurdity." Instead of getting upset, read Wikipedia:Assume good faith and Wikipedia:Civility. After the reversion of your bold edit, you might want to be bold in an edit on the talk pages so as to not start an edit war; see Wikipedia:BOLD, revert, discuss cycle for more. On some of the less-prominent articles on Wikipedia that have a lower editing rate, your bold edit might not be responded to immediately. Think about it this way: if you don't find one of your edits being reverted now and then, perhaps you're not being bold enough.
Though the boldness of contributors like you is one of Wikipedia's greatest assets, it is important that you take care of the common good and not edit disruptively or recklessly. Of course, any changes you make that turn out badly can be reverted easily, usually painlessly, and it is important not to feel insulted if your changes are reverted or edited further. But some significant changes can be long-lasting and harder to fix. If you're unsure of anything, just ask for advice.
Also, changes to articles on complex, controversial subjects with long histories or active sanctions, or to Featured Articles and Good Articles, should be done with extra care. In many cases, the text as you find it has come into being after long and arduous negotiations between Wikipedians of diverse backgrounds and points of view. A careless edit to such an article might stir up a latent conflict, and other users who are involved in the page may become defensive. If you would like to make a significant edit—not just a simple copyedit—to an article on a controversial subject, it is a useful idea to first read the article in its entirety and skim the comments on the talk page. On controversial articles, the safest course is to be cautious and find consensus before making changes, but there are situations when bold edits can safely be made to contentious articles. Always use your very best editorial judgment in these cases and be sure to read the talk page.
Being bold is not an excuse to, even temporarily, violate the policy on material about living persons.
Often it is easier to see that something is not right rather than to know exactly what would be right. We do not require anyone to be bold; after all, commenting that something is incorrect can be the first step to getting it fixed. It is true, though, that problems are more certain to be fixed, and will probably be fixed faster, if you are bold and do it yourself.
Although editors are encouraged to be bold in updating articles, more caution is sometimes required when editing pages in non-article namespaces. Such pages are identified by a namespace prefix. For example, this page, Wikipedia:Be bold, has the "Wikipedia:" prefix; if it were called simply Be bold (with no prefix) it would be an article.
Problems may arise for a variety of reasons in different contexts in non-article namespaces. These problems should be taken into account in deciding whether to be bold, and how bold to be.
Wikipedia does not "enshrine" old practices: bold changes to its policies and guidelines are sometimes the best way to adapt and improve the encyclopedia. In this case, "bold" refers to boldness of idea; such ideas are most commonly raised and discussed first to best formulate their implementation.
The admonition "be careful" is especially important in relation to policies and guidelines, where key parts may be phrased in a particular way to reflect a very hard-won, knife-edge consensus—which may not be obvious to those unfamiliar with the background. In these cases, it is also often better to discuss potential changes first. However, spelling and grammatical errors can and should be fixed as soon as they are noticed.
Discussing changes to other Wikipedia-space pages on the talk page is also a good idea. If nothing else, it will provide an explanation of the changes for later editors. Most such pages are collections of arguments placed in Wikipedia space for later reference, so the same arguments don't need to be made over and over again.
One must be especially careful when being bold with templates: updating them can have far reaching consequences because one change can affect lots of pages at once. Moreover, some templates are part of a wide-ranging, uniform system of templates across Wikipedia, e.g. infoboxes and stubs. Remember, all source code is easily broken by untested changes (but always quite fixable).
Because of these concerns, many heavily used templates are indefinitely protected from editing. Before editing templates, consider proposing any changes on the associated talk pages and announcing the proposed change on pages of appropriate WikiProjects. Templates often have associated sandbox and testcases pages; respectively these are a place for the proposed modified template, and a place where the proposal may be trialed in comparison with the existing version.
Creating new categories or reorganizing the category structure may come to affect many pages. Consider the guidelines on categorization and overcategorization, and if what you're doing might be considered controversial (especially if it concerns categories for living people), propose changes at Categories for discussion, also mentioning them on pages of appropriate WikiProjects.
Be bold in adding information to the description of an existing image. However, new images should be uploaded with new names rather than overwriting old ones. Doing otherwise risks having the old image confused with the new one. Therefore, you must always be careful.
It is generally recommended that you do not edit another Wikipedian's user page or comments left on talk pages (other than your own, and even then do not be reckless). Fixing vandalism is nearly always welcome, even on user pages. Specific users will let you know if they find your changes inappropriate or if you have given incorrect information.
Regarding changes to graphical layout? See the next section. Note that the color scheme used for portals is not necessarily arbitrary. For example, most portals related to countries use the colors of the nation's flag. It is a good idea to propose design changes on the talk page first.
Graphical layout changes
Making major changes to the graphical layout of certain pages that are not articles requires caution (examples below). It is often best to test changes first (in a sandbox page in your userspace, or a subpage of the page in question), and to discuss the proposed change with other editors before making it live. When many users edit pages for layout, different plans can conflict, and the page may get worse rather than better.
This is particularly true of highly visible pages, such as those linked to from the navigation boxes on the left of the screen. These often use intricate formatting to convey their information, and a lot of work has gone into making them as user-friendly as possible. Moreover, some pages form groups whose formatting is intended to be uniform. You should not make unapproved design edits to these types of pages. Examples include the Main Page (which in any case is permanently protected), the Community Portal, the Featured content group of pages, and the group consisting of Portal:Contents and its subpages, as well as Portal:Current events. This does not apply to articles or normal portals.
- Bacon, Francis (1625). Essays – Of Boldness.