Wikiquote:Neutral point of view/Draft

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Wikiquote has a strict neutral point of view (NPOV) policy, which basically states that its mission is best served not by advancing or detracting particular points of view on any given subject, but by trying to present a fair, neutral description of the facts, among which are the facts that various interpretations and points of view exist. (Of course, there are limits to which points of view are worth mentioning, and this can be an area of conflict.) This policy exists on all Wikimedia projects.

"Neutral point of view" should not be confused with "point of view espoused by an international body such as the United Nations"; 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 a Wikiquote article, it's difficult to achieve immediately as a single writer, and 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. One is expected to approximate NPOV to the best of one's ability and welcome improvements brought by others in good faith; a failure of the system can become 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[edit]

A general purpose encyclopedia is a collection of synthesized knowledge presented from a neutral point of view. To whatever extent possible, encyclopedic writing should steer clear of taking any particular stance other than the stance of the neutral point of view.

The 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 not 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 the point I am trying to make:

  1. An encyclopedic article should not argue that corporations are criminals, 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 as well it should 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.

Jimbo Wales, Wikimedia founder

NPOV on Wikiquote[edit]

Since Wikiquote is a collection of quotations, NPOV writing is less frequently required. This does not mean that NPOV is any less an official policy, or that it does not apply on Wikiquote. Quotations included in Wikiquote do not need to conform to NPOV, as they are reflections of the point-of-view of the quoted individual; however, the selection and presentation of quotes, as well as all non-quote text on Wikiquote (excluding userpages and with limitations in the Wikiquote namespace) should conform to NPOV. This includes intro text on quote pages, templates intended for the main namespace (they should not express preference for or against any view, etc.), and where relevant, the contents of the Wikiquote namespace.

Selection of quotes[edit]

We must be careful, and remember that Wikiquote is not a personal collection of quotations, but a public collection. For subjects where multiple viewpoints or schools of thought exist, the selection of quotes should adequately represent all of the major views, regardless of whether you personally agree with them or not. Quotes should be selected because they are relevant to the subject; they should not be chosen to embarass or misrepresent a person or a point of view.

This means that editors should not remove quotes from an article simply because it expresses a viewpoint they do not agree with. Each user should not add quotes to a page simply because he agrees with the sentiment, but beacuse he believes that it is significant to everyone. If you find a passage or a phrase that expresses an opinion or idea that you share fully, this does not necessarily mean that it is a very important phrase; a phrase that you think is particularly well written or brilliant may not be so for everyone (you must be careful to funny quotes: Wikiquote is not a collection of jokes and ridicule is very subjective). If you are unsure whether a quote is significant for all, i.e. not only a "personal quote", it's better to just put it in your own personal collection of quotations (a little book, a text document saved on your computer, your user page). Conversely, even a thought that you don't share at all, or even firmly refuse, may be significant, representative of the author or his work, and useful or even necessary to understand it. Indeed, a phrase of particular disapproval may be particularly strong and significant. If you do not mind this, you may not quote anything from a work such as Mein Kampf, or selectively cite any work, giving a distorted picture.

Obviously, the text should be perfectly faithful to the original, to be neutral. The translations, however, may be partial, even unknowingly, so it is better to quote an official, published translation; translations by users are accepted, but efforts should be made - as always - to be precise, and above all allow verification of translations by entering the correct source of the original text, and possibly the original text itself, in any case if it is not too long or not easily and permanently accessible (at a click distance), for example in another Wikimedia project, typically Wikiquote or Wikisource in another language.

Another problem may be the position of the quotes in the articles: giving raise to a citation within a particular article is implicitly support a particular point of view. The problem can be solved by ordering alphabetically or by date all the lists of quotations, and prohibiting any graphic expedient to give greater emphasis to a quotation (eg appropriate boxes, bold).

The real difficulty, however, is the choice of quotations that should be included in our articles. How to choose, in a book, a film or work of any kind, or in the whole mass of words pronounced by a person in his life, what is truly relevant and meaningful, as required by the fundamental guideline Wikiquote:Wikiquote?

Moreover, we must consider that a neutral point of view is also a stable point of view: we must therefore avoid the so-called recentism, leading to exaggerate the importance of recent facts (and words), and ask ourselves whether a citation will also be interesting in ten years, or rather not fall into oblivion.

All these errors can usually be corrected by interacting with other people: in search of consensus; and above all especially on the basis of authoritative sources to avoid original research.

Presentation of quotes[edit]

Often, the manner in which a quote is presented has a large bearing on how it is understood. On, Wikiquote in precisely the opposite that in Wikipedia, quotes must be widely prevalent on the text of contour, and this applies not only to each article as a whole, but also for every single quotation. The best way to avoid the text of the contour from being not neutral, is not to include it.

The comments to quotations are an exception, so they are well separated from the quotes, in bold italic [in this manner] or in the footnotes. That should not be necessary, however: quotes should be included with enough context, either from the section in which they are placed, or from more extensive quoting from the same source, to make clear their original meaning and application to the subject. If a quotation is so fragmented, short or extrapolated from the context that it needs a long comment or explanation to be understood, then you probably should not include it at all, even if the interpretation is considered unique and not subject to the diversity of personal opinions.

On the other hand, the comments and insights that are not strictly necessary for the understanding of the meaning of the pure and simple quote, to give it a sense, should not be included in Wikiquote, but in other projects, typically a page of Wikipedia, where, for example, you may bring a citation of a novelist as an example of his style, treating the subject broadly, or enter into a discussion of historical context (plot of the story, a work of imagination; or, real story), which will not be summarized in Wikiquote.

Omissions and supplements may be particularly controversial. It is all to easy to take a single sentence or phrase out of context, where it will then seem to apply to a point of view completely unintended, perhaps even the opposite of what was intended, by its speaker. A «[...]» can hide anything, a single important word or entire chapters. By an appropriate size and sewing (quote mining), removing parts of sentences and adding subjects or verbs, you can potentially make to say anything to anyone. Consequently, it is good to use them wisely. Omissions of sentences, phrases or short texts of length should be avoided at all: better to quote the passage in its entirety, if that doesn't require too much space. If the sentence is somewhat redundant or repetitive, that's not so bad: it can be cut, and used only in its most significant parts, on Wikipedia or elsewhere (including the thematic articles).

If you make long omissions, perhaps of entire paragraphs or pages, you must first of all clearly signal them, indicating with high precision the pages, the range of pages or paragraphs of the work from which the quotations are taken; then you should evaluate whether the combination of two or more pieces, more or less distant is not arbitrary, and whether they indeed constitute such a compact thought to be considered sort of a sole quotation. Otherwise, it will be better to separate the different pieces, with a bulleted list and separate quotation, specifying the precise position (chapter, page etc.).