Neutral point of view
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|This page describes the "Neutral point of view" policy of many Wikimedia projects, its history, and its implications.|
Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikibooks, Wikiquote, Wikisource and Wikinews – but not Wikiversity, Wikivoyage, Wikispecies, Wikimedia Commons, the many "backstage" projects, or Meta – have a strict neutral point of view (NPOV) policy. This policy states that their missions are best served not by advancing or detracting from particular points of view on any given subject, but by trying to present a fair, neutral description of the facts – including that various interpretations and points of view exist. (There are limits to which points of view are worth mentioning, which can itself be an area of conflict.) This policy exists on all languages of projects that have adopted it, but the details of the policy vary significantly between projects and between different languages in those projects.
Writing in NPOV style requires recognising that even widely held or widely respected points of view are not necessarily all-encompassing.
While NPOV is an ultimate goal in writing an article, it is difficult to achieve immediately as a single writer. It is thus sometimes regarded as an iterative process (as is wiki writing in general), by which opposing viewpoints compromise on language and presentation to produce a neutral description acceptable to all.
This might be viewed as an adversarial system, but hopefully a polite one. Editors are expected to approximate NPOV to the best of their ability and to welcome improvements that have been brought by others in good faith; a failure of the system can lead to an edit war, in which two or more parties dig in and refuse to compromise, instead reverting each other's changes outright.
The original formulation of NPOV
A general-purpose encyclopedia is a collection of synthesized knowledge presented from a neutral point of view. To whatever extent possible, encyclopedic writing should avoid taking any particular stance other than the stance of the neutral point of view.
A neutral point of view attempts to present ideas and facts in such a fashion that both supporters and opponents can agree. Of course, 100% agreement is rarely possible; there are ideologues in the world who will not concede to any presentation other than a forceful statement of their own point of view. We can only seek a type of writing that is agreeable to essentially rational people who may differ on particular points.
Some examples may help to drive home this point:
1. An encyclopedic article should not argue that a corporation is criminal, even if the author believes it to be so. It should instead present the fact that some people believe it, and what their reasons are; and then it should also present what the other side says.
2. An encyclopedia article should not argue that laissez-faire capitalism is the best social system. It should instead present the arguments of the advocates of that point of view, and the arguments of the people who disagree with that point of view.
Perhaps the easiest way to make your writing more encyclopedic is to write about what people believe, rather than what is so. If this strikes you as somehow subjectivist or collectivist or imperialist, then ask me about it, because I think that you are just mistaken. What people believe is a matter of objective fact, and we can present that quite easily from the neutral point of view.