Wikipedia:Deletion and deletionism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Deletion refers to the processes used on Wikipedia for removing articles, images, miscellaneous pages, user pages, and categories. While any user (with a fully activated account) can create new pages on Wikipedia at any time, this is not the case with removing pages. Wikipedia has very strict policies and procedures for the removal of pages in various circumstances, generally requiring group discussion and finally an admin to do the actual removal. This is necessary to prevent the most destructive forms of vandalism and censorship which, if direct deletion were allowed, could cripple Wikipedia, making large sections of it unavailable at any given time.

Why do articles get deleted?[edit]

Articles usually get nominated for deletion for one of three reasons:

  1. They cannot be verified. In order to conform to policy, each article must present reliable source references which support its facts. By extension, Original research is disallowed and is subject to deletion, as it can't be verified with reliable sources. Original research is anything that hasn't been reported in reputable public media, and includes things like your personal discoveries and observations, personal opinions, and speculative writing. [Your essay "My trip to the zoo last Friday", or your unpublished or non-notable treatise on "The fine art of nosepicking" are not appropriate because they are directly from the source (you), though Wikipedia does have an article on nosepicking. -TT ]
  2. They have to be notable. While Wikipedia theoretically has infinite space for any topic, we cannot currently prevent vandalism, false information, or copyright infringements on many articles. As a result, Wikipedia has a strict list of things we don't allow. Many articles about lesser known events – local musicians, websites, companies, small groups, minor business or educational professionals, and the like – simply aren't noted enough by the public to be worth the opportunity cost of maintaining an article on such. Articles can show notability by having a source that shows significant external coverage of the topic.
  3. They have to meet legal requirements. Biographies cannot contain libel, for example. We are limited in what we can use that isn't freely licensed, and we cannot accept any copyrighted material without specific permissions by the copyright owners.

Why do other pages get deleted?[edit]

Images are usually deleted because of copyright problems – if the proper release of the image isn't included then the image must go. User pages and categories and the like are internal matters that are deleted either because they are disrupting Wikipedia, or to make way for a more efficient method.

A five-step approach to deletion[edit]

Before we cover the specific procedures on how to delete articles, lets examine how the deletion processes and policies are best applied, including a rational approach to deciding whether or not an article should be put through the deletion process in the first place. The deletion process can use up a lot of time and effort on the part of many users, and if this can be prevented through forethought and article revision, then so much the better. The following five step approach helps keep things in perspective, and ensures that the deletion processes are not misapplied:

  1. Verify
  2. Determine
  3. Examine
  4. Submit
  5. Review

Step One: Verify if the article in question can be improved rather than be deleted[edit]

This simple step is often ignored, especially by Wikipedians scanning over new pages contributed by anonymous authors, but you should always do it. Many people create stubs, or very short articles, with the intention of trying to expand them later. Many of these article may, at first glance, fail Wikipedia policy. See if you can find any sources easily with a 2-minute Google search. See how many Google hits the article has. If you can't easily find any sources and there are very few Google hits relating to the article, go on to step two. If you CAN find sources, though, go ahead and add references to the article. Make sure it is categorized correctly, add the appropriate stub template if applicable, and if it's not a stub tag it as in need of expansion. (Tagging means placing a standard template message on the page, usually at the top). This simple process will ensure that others can expand the article, and that if someone comes across it looking for information, they will have sources to explore further.

Step Two: Determine if the article violates any speedy deletion criteria.[edit]

Some people would make this the first step, but that would be incorrect, since some articles that are notable might be written in a way that doesn't assert notability, or might include original research you can remove. However, if you've gone through step one and can't find good sources, check the article against the list of speedy deletion criteria. Here's my rule of thumb:

A speedy deletion tag is not supposed to be removed, but it happens, and if you aren't watching or do a large number of speedy deletions, you may never notice. While there are people who watch all changes to Wikipedia in real time, they may not catch it either.

In any event, if you find an article that fails the criteria, tag it appropriately. If the tag stays, then it will get deleted in short order by an administrator. If it gets removed, you should leave a warning on the talk page of the user who did so asking them for an explanation. If you don't get one, proceed to step three.

What to do if it doesn't fail any speedy criteria but you can't source it? Proceed to step three.

Step Three: Examine the article for formal deletion criteria[edit]

Assuming that the article isn't a speedy candidate or you don't feel like mucking with speedy deletion with a stubborn author who keeps removing the tag or who disagrees it meets a CSD criterion, you can take the article to Articles for Deletion. But prior to doing that, make very sure you can find a reason why the article should be deleted. The reason must be based on policy!

Cruft is not a policy, nor is "I don't like it". Policy is a requirement to put an article up for deletion. If the article is unsourced, but verifiable and doesn't violate any other policies, you cannot delete it. However, if an article contains original research, or cannot be verified, or lacks notability under a guideline, or is a point-of-view article, or any of the other deletion criteria, then you can list it at articles for deletion.

Again, always review what you submit before submitting it. A person who nominates a lot of articles for deletion that don't actually fail policy may be considered disruptive or even a troll. If you can find reasons to delete, list it for deletion and proceed to step four.

Some examples of formal deletion criteria can be found in the following sections of WP:DELETE:

Problem articles where deletion may be needed
Problem articles where deletion may not be needed

Step Four: Submitting to Articles for Deletion[edit]

Once you've listed the article on "Articles for Deletion", other Wikipedians will discuss and present their viewpoints. After several days, an administrator will review the arguments made and determine if the article should be kept or deleted. It is considered bad form to nominate an article for deletion multiple times within a short span of time, particularly if there was not a close decision.

Whether an article is kept or deleted, you should examine the logic and the reasoning given by the closing administrator. Most of the time, the admin makes the correct decision. However, occasionally, the admins get things wrong. An admin who simply doesn't like an article might delete it against consensus. Alternatively, an admin with a personal interest in an article might keep it, even if valid policy reasons have been given for its deletion.

IF and ONLY IF you can find SPECIFIC REASONS why you are SURE an admin closed a deletion discussion the wrong way, should you take it to Deletion Review. Do NOT take things to deletion review just because you don't like the outcome, particularly if you feel the article should have been deleted.

Step Five: Review the article at Deletion Review if needed[edit]

Listing an article at deletion review is the last court of appeals for an article. It is NOT a second vote for deletion but is only to specifically review the circumstances that led to the closure of a deletion discussion. You should only make arguments towards that end. For example: An admin closes a discussion with 10 delete votes based on policy, and two keep votes with no policy or rationale for keep given, as a keep. Obviously, the admin's closing was flawed, so you can take it to Deletion Review. However, if the article was kept by every other participant than you, and you feel upset, you cannot take it to Deletion Review.

Now it's on to the deletion procedures themselves...

The four deletion processes[edit]

Before we cover what you can and should do, let's cover what you should not even attempt to do. You do not delete an article directly. Do not blank a page to delete an article (that's considered vandalism and can get you in trouble). The physical removal of articles from Wikipedia is handled by its system administrators, usually after they are nominated for deletion, and then based specifically on the outcome of the corresponding deletion discussions called Articles for deletion. Sysadmins are entrusted to enforce and abide by Wikipedia policy, and therefore even they cannot go around deleting anything they want. Those who do don't remain administrators for long.

In addition to the above safeguard, there are very strict deletion criteria, which users engaged in deletion discussions are required to consider. Wikipedians do not allow most pages to be deleted unless those pages violate a policy or fail to meet notability standards. In many cases, an article can be improved by rewriting part of it, by adding source references, or by other corrective measures, thereby making deletion unnecessary.

That being said, there are four deletion processes:

  1. Speedy deletion is for things that blatantly fail Wikipedia's policies of what should be included in the encyclopedia. Pages that attack people or are nothing more than vandalism, spam, or blatant copyright violations are subject to speedy deletion. For example, a page which was created for the sole purpose of displaying the message "Charlie Hackmaster is a %#&*head" can be speedied.
  2. Proposed deletion is for when an article fails a criterion, but not one that allows for speedy deletion. Experienced Wikipedia users call this prodding an article, because the template used in this procedure is called prod. A deletion proposal should present an uncontroversial reason, that no one would oppose. Anyone can contest such a deletion proposal if they think the article should be kept and can cancel the proposal (by removing it). If the proposal is cancelled without the problem being fixed, the issue may proceed to a deletion nomination (see below).
  3. Deletion debates, take place when articles are nominated for deletion, and are where users examine such articles and try to come to an agreement on whether or not they should be deleted. While this agreement consensus is indicated by votes of keep or delete, the administrator who closes a discussion will interpret the votes based on the comments each user made in the debate, and according to Wikipedia policy (closing admins can override consensus when such consensus violates policy). Deletion debates can delete anything, but you will be discussing it with other people, so be polite. Each page type has its own deletion debate section on Wikipedia, for example Wikipedia:Articles for deletion and Wikipedia:Stub types for deletion. These debates are collectively called XfD by experienced Wikipedians, because the shortcuts are WP:AfD, WP:CfD, WP:IfD, WP:MfD, WP:RfD, WP:SfD, and WP:TfD (for articles, categories, images, miscellany, redirects, stub types, and templates, respectively), and each page includes instructions on how to nominate a page of that type for deletion.
  4. Admin discretion – Finally, admins can delete things unilaterally, if they are harmful to the Wikimedia Foundation. Admins are under a lot of scrutiny, so the reasons for such a deletion must be blatantly obvious and uncontroversial.

Each of these processes is dealt with in more detail below:

Speedy Deletion[edit]

As mentioned above, the "Speedy deletion" policy is a way to delete some very limited types of articles or other pages "on sight" without further debate, as in the cases of patent nonsense or pure vandalism. Speedy deletion is usually the first step in the process of deletion analysis.

What are the Speedy Deletion Criteria[edit]

These are the most common criteria you will use. See the pages on criteria for speedy deletion for the full list.

Code Description Explanation
G1 Patent Nonsense Gibberish. Ex: "23983292dkkjkd lollll!!!" Nonsense is NOT bad spelling or punctuation.
G2 Test Pages Pages conducted as experiment. Ex: "Can I make a page?" Note that a page that is an outline is NOT a test.
G3 Pure Vandalism Pages that are nothing but vandalism. Ex: a copy of penis, with stupid jokes. But check the history FIRST to make sure the page wasn't vandalized and actually has good content. If it does, simply revert the vandalism.
G4 Already Deleted Material The recreation of stuff that was deleted using an AfD process.
G5 Banned User Any page created by a banned user should be deleted. Make sure you check the block log to ensure the person really is indefinitely banned, and the user was banned when creating the page.
G10 Attack Pages Page created for no other reason than to attack someone. Ex: "Bob is a cow!" Be very careful with this code, as it is sometimes misused.
G11 Blatant Advertising Spam. Ex: "Buy WhiteRite today, for cleany shiny teeth!" The advertising must be BLATANT – a link to a website is not advertising ... unless it's the entire article (in which case you can just use A3).
G12 Copyright Infringement For clearcut cases of copyright infringement. Ex: exact copy of a copyrighted website, down to spelling errors.
A1 No context Ridiculously short articles with no context. Ex: "Bob is a famous doctor." Try to get an idea of notability before applying this tag.
A3 No content Articles which don't contain any content at all, but just the title, maintenance tags, external links, etc.
A7 Non-notability Unremarkable people, companies, groups, companies, and websites. Ex: "Weebritz is a web forum with 10 members" Like above, try to see if you can find notability before applying the deletion tag.

Ensure you use the right reason. Ensure, doubly so, that your reasoning is both logical and factual. Do not simply throw a tag on an article. Take some time, at least five minutes, to research it properly.

How exactly do I list an article for Speedy Deletion?[edit]

Once you are assured that the article is indeed a Speedy Deletion candidate, you follow a two-step process.

  • Step One: Place the appropriate template on the page of the article, at the very top of the page. A list of the templates can be useful in identifying the proper one to use.
  • Step Two: Place a notification on the author's talk page. There will often be an example of what code to use at the bottom of the template you apply; for instance, you can type {{nn-warn|name of article}} ~~~~ when warning a user about an article that you've nominated for an A7 speedy deletion. This allows the person to fix the article if needed, by using a {{hangon}} tag.
Tips on Speedy Deletion[edit]
  1. If the article is clearly garbage, make very sure you review the entire history. Some things may look like crap but have been vandalized. You should do this with all deletions, but it's particularly important in speedy deletion.
  2. Speedy deletion can work quickly, but remember that the speedy tag can be removed by the author. It's generally not worth it to make a huge edit war over this, just take it to AfD instead if it happens.
  3. If someone uses a hangon tag, it's generally a good idea to be helpful in trying to fix the article. Some articles are created as frameworks and don't immediately show notability.
  4. ALWAYS make sure you leave the user notice when you speedy delete. Since speedy deletion can happen quickly, not doing so leaves you open to charges that you are not following process correctly.

Proposed Deletion (Prod)[edit]

Proposed Deletion is pretty simple, and straightforward. If an article meets the standard (not speedy) criteria for deletion, such as violations of unreliable sources, verifiability, original research, and the like. It should only be used when things are uncontroversial. In practice, that's pretty rare.

To prod an article (in informal terms), place a prod tag on the article page like this: {{subst:prod|reason goes here}}. If the prod is removed, take the page to AfD if you think it still violates policy.

Tips for Proposed Deletion[edit]
  1. Prods are best used on articles that haven't been edited in several months, have a single editor, and appear inactive. An active article that is inappropriate for Wikipedia should be taken to AfD instead, since a prod can be undone legally by removing the tag.
  2. Prods are usually deleted with some rapidity, but there can be a backlog. Sometimes, the deleting admin will remove your prod if they feel it doesn't apply.

Deletion debates[edit]

The main way to delete an article is to use the Articles for Deletion page. The AfD page has a very good explanation of how to list an article for deletion so I won't repeat it here. Instead, I'll make a few observations:

  1. This is not a vote: When articles go up for deletion, users examine the article and the deletion argument and make suggestions that resemble a vote, such as "keep" or "delete". However, the purpose of XfD is to decide whether an article fails a policy. Even if 40 people vote to delete, if they don't have a reason to do so, the article will be kept. -
  2. A good vote has a policy attached: The best votes, for keep or delete, include the proper policy to back that vote up. Don't just say "per nom", come up with your own reason.
  3. Don't vote keep because you like it.: The idea of voting is bad, but voting based on your personal stake or impression of the article is worse....
  4. Don't vote delete because you hate it.: This is even worse than voting keep without a good reason. If you want something deleted, find a policy that supports your view. Don't just spam (delete, stupid author) or whatever.
  5. Civility is paramount: Being rude only undercuts your argument, and makes it less likely people will view your AfD in the impartial atmosphere you need.

Administrative Deletion[edit]

In very rare cases the administration of the Wikimedia Foundation will step in to resolve a dispute, such as when the bureaucracy of Wikipedia is being abused, or a conflict spirals out of control and is wasting an inordinate amount of human resources. Such was the case with the deletion debates concerning Brian Peppers, in which Jimbo Wales finally stepped-in and personally deleted and temporarily "salted" the article until February 21, 2007.

How do I get an article back?[edit]

In the unhappy event you are the author or significant contributor to an article that has been deleted at AfD, you may have two options open. If the article was speedily deleted as nonsense, an attack page, a copyright violation, or if it was deleted by administrative oversight, then you are better off leaving it deleted. Recreations of such content can be construed as trolling.

However, if you feel you can work on the article enough to fix it, or that the deletion process was unfair to the article, you have two choices.

Deletion Review[edit]

Deletion Review is the high court of appeals for deletion cases. If you believe that an article was improperly deleted because proper procedure wasn't followed or some policy was broken or ignored, then you may submit the article for Deletion Review. Deletion Review is not another deletion debate. Its purpose is to determine if an AfD discussion adhered to policy, including the way it was interpreted and closed. If your article was listed at AfD and the discussion was closed as delete after 54 minutes, then you have a case. If your article was put up at AfD, ran for 7 days, and everyone but you voted to delete it, then you most likely do not have a case. Some people frown very strongly on spurious submissions to Deletion Review, so be sure you have a valid argument.

Userfication (aka: "Content review")[edit]

If a deleted article is not inflammatory or otherwise disruptive, and you want to work on it in your user space, you can ask an admin to give you a copy to put in your user space. Or you could post your request at WP:DRV#Content review. Instructions for userfication are also included there.

In your userspace, such articles are usually immune to XfD attempts as long as you are working on it to make it fit wikipolicy. Do NOT link to it outside of your user space, or attempt to get things to link to it. Don't game the system.

Once the article has been brought up to standard, move it to article space, and then request that the history of the original page be restored, at WP:DRV#History only undeletion. This is so that all authors of the article are credited (as per Wikipedia's content license requirements), and for reference and communication purposes (so the previous editors can be looked up and contacted if the need ever arises, etc.).

Article re-creation[edit]

There is no policy against article re-creation, provided you act in good faith and did your best to adhere to Wikipedia policy. But in the case of a topic which has been repeatedly voted down, it may be "salted" (replaced by a protected notice page) to prevent re-creation. If the topic becomes eligible (like a previously obscure web site which has suddenly garnered a lot of popularity and press), then you may make a request for page unprotection so that you can re-create the page. (Requests for unprotection are handled on the same page as requests for page protection).

If the topic of an article is deemed inappropriate (due to lack of notability, for instance), then the article should not be re-created (until the notability of the topic itself changes).

For example, an article is written about a virtually unknown author who wrote a single book which sold no more than 500 copies which received no coverage in the mainstream or even field-specific press. According to Wikipedia policy, the author is non notable and should not be afforded an article. Therefore the article gets nominated for deletion and during the debate the "delete" votes prevail. But a few weeks later, the author appears on Oprah and the book sells a million copies. The topic now qualifies for inclusion in Wikipedia and the article can be re-created.

If an article is nominated for deletion because the quality of its contents are not up to par (such as lacks references and depth), you can save a copy to your user space before the article is deleted. Once you have fixed the article and it no longer violates Wikipedia policy, it can be moved back to article space. Be sure to explain on its talk page how the article no longer violates policy, and how it has been improved.

Tip: If you believe an article (which you find useful) is in danger of getting deleted, you can save a copy of the article in your user space or off-line on your hard disk.

Tip: To keep your user space from getting cluttered, you can save articles vertically in a "stack" by using a single page in your user space to store them. Each time you wish to add an article to the stack, blank the page, cut and paste the new article to the page, and save. The previous article is preserved in the page's history. Be sure to indicate the name of each article in its edit summary, to enable you to find it later.

What are the guidelines in deleting things?[edit]

Here are some relevant guideline shortcut pages.


Here are some quick guidelines:


  • If it violates copyright in any way, it has to go.
  • If ALL the pages in the history are copyvios, place a copyvio deletion tag on it ({{db-copyvio}}).
  • Otherwise, revert to the first page that doesn't contain the copyvio.


  • Check the verifiability of the article yourself.
  • Make sure you do at least a quick search for sources.
  • Articles without any sources that make large claims are almost always deletion worthy.


  • Be aware of sub-types of notability, such as WP:MUSIC, WP:CORP, and WP:LOCAL.
  • Notability is under a lot of changes recently, so review WP:N when you can.
  • Subjects that aren't notable generally get deleted, but most things that fail notability tend to fail verifiability as well.


  • Review WP:NOT for a good idea of what not to make into the subject of an article.
  • Instead of deletion, encourage transwiking topics to other wikis like Wikitionary or Wikibooks.
  • Remember that Wikipedia is not censored. Offensive content can still be encyclopedic.


  • Attack pages must go, post haste.
  • Inaccurate and unsourced biographies of living people MUST go.
  • Any article that doesn't SEEM to openly violate polcies but reads like an ad should be closely reviewed.

Deletionism & Inclusionism[edit]

Deletionism and Inclusionism, while most often represented as black and white opposites which completely oppose each other, are really two ends of a continuum. Wikipedians' inclusion standards all lie somewhere along the line between "include everything" and "delete everything"; inclusionism and deletionism are shorthand terms which describe the Wikipedians whose views sit at the lower and higher ends of this continuum.

Inclusionism holds that articles that do not violate instant deletion issues (such as blatant copyright violations or attack pages) should not be deleted if there is a way for them to be expanded. They tend to point more towards expansion of stubs, finding sources for articles without sources, and editing to make most articles suitable for Wikipedia. Or to simply leave the article in place so that others can come along and improve it. However, a common criticism of Inclusionists is that they advocate cleanup and sourcing but rarely perform such acts themselves, which only leads to ever-increasing backlogs of unsourced articles.[1] Inclusionists may point out that Wikipedia is by default unsourced, and that WP:Verifiability isn't applied consistently – if it were, then most of Wikipedia would be up for deletion. Inclusionists bitterly dislike the idea of notability, stating that it is being used as a club to prevent anything non-mainstream from being included in Wikipedia. They may argue that if a subject or field is mainstream enough to have an article on Wikipedia, then its subtopics are eligible for inclusion as well.

Deletionism holds that articles that do not meet the basic policies of Wikipedia and cannot be immediately fixed with a minimum of effort should be deleted. Deletionists tend to rely on the direct and literal reading of particular policy and dislike the idea of putting things such as sourcing articles or removing original research off, since it usually never gets done. However, deletionism is under increasing criticism due to the fact that many deletionists spend more time deleting things than creating articles, and that many deletions are either railroads of articles that could be expanded or rely on increasingly specific deletion criteria that continue to tighten. Deletionists bitterly dislike the principle of rules like WP:Ignore all rules and statements that Wikipedia is not paper due to the fact that they feel such are allowing cruft (content of importance only to a small group of enthusiastic fans) into an otherwise factual Wikipedia.

It is worth noting that there are roughly 400 to 500 inclusionist editors, and perhaps a total of 200 deletionists. This is out of over 3,000,000 users.[citation needed] Even assuming that 75% of the userbase is nothing more than sockpuppets or onetime users, the combined inclusionists and deletionists make up less than 0.002% of total users. Yet they account for at least 55% of all WP:Deletion discussions. This means that, while factionalism is seen as bad on Wikipedia, both Inclusionists and Deletionists are seen as disruptive at times. It is always best to judge each article up for deletion on its own merits and not to align yourself with any faction.

Other considerations[edit]

  • Always remember that someone might have put a lot of hard work into an article, even if it doesn't fit Wikipedia's policies. Being uncivil and derogatory usually generates more ill will than such comments are worth, so try to avoid it.
  • Never, ever vote "per nom". Examine the article when voting for deletion, and make your OWN choices.
  • If an article violates a policy and you're voting in AfD, don't just say "fails WP:POLICY", but explain how it fails it. If it fails WP:RS, then say "All the sources are from fansites and there is no independent media coverage, and some sources are just blogs."
  • Don't try to solicit votes to keep or delete an article. It's tacky, and it's a violation of policy.

Bad jokes and other deleted nonsense[edit]

Sometimes a bad page is so bad that it is actually good, er, funny. And even though you know and agree that it should be deleted, it feels like a shame to get rid of it. Well, Wikipedia has a place for such pages, called Wikipedia:Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense. You'll be surprised what some people have posted as articles on Wikipedia. So the next time you want to relax and need a good laugh, check it out.

The profanity/sexual jargon deletion war[edit]

There seems to be a constant battle on Wikipedia between those who wish to create lists and glossaries of profanity and sexual slang words (and neologisms) and those who enforce policy. Such lists violate WP:NOT#Wikipedia is not a dictionary. Even though there is an exception for glossaries in the policy, that exception pertains to glossaries of technical or specialized terms needed to support Wikipedia subjects and articles. The argument that glossaries of sexual slang are needed for article support generally falls on deaf ears (blind eyes?), and such pages are axed again and again. Sometimes the battles are lengthy and arduous – the participants may fight over every single edit (between AfDs) – and though it may take the enforcers 2 or 3 AfDs to finally get rid of a list, in the long-term they generally prevail.

At least two pages containing sexual jargon have been eliminated:

Another has survived at least one AfD:

And just when you thought we had covered everything on deletion. Well, we haven't. There are more deletion-related links provided below.

Where can I learn more?[edit]