Publish at March 22 2023 Updated March 22 2023

Universal rules of writing according to Wikipedia

Principles of a sharing culture

The founding of an encyclopedia with universal ambition like Wikipedia necessarily relies on general and flexible principles since just about every conceivable topic will be covered, from the simplest to the most complex, from the most consensual to the most controversial, and even those that do not yet exist.

Wikipedia has been online since January 15, 2001, and it remains the most popular educational reference. For having withstood just about every possible critical assault, one can assume that its founding principles are sufficiently robust.

Founding Principles

It has only five founding principles :

  • Wikipedia is an encyclopedia
  • Neutrality of point of view
  • Copyright
  • Creative interpretation of rules

So, after specifying its purpose and mission, three more principles determine its non-negotiable practices and the last one specifies the interpretive framework, the spirit of the enterprise for interpreting the rules.

Rules and Recommendations

Then a number of rules are specified. These include the standards to comply with and vary by language (19 in French, 64 in English...). How to cite, what contributor status, how to dispute, principles of accepting an article, etc.

All complemented by more 100 recommendations distributed in four categories

  • Uses and etiquette
  • Encyclopedic content
  • Notoriety
  • Editorial style

Contrary to the rules, recommendations can be less strictly adhered to and creatively interpreted, as long as the principles and spirit of Wikipedia are respected.


An interesting aspect of Wikipedia is the evolution of rules and recommendations. While the founding principles are pretty much unchanging, the rules and recommendations are open to discussion and can evolve based on the maturity of the community and a kind of "case law" based on experience and adherence to the founding principles. The decision making is consensual following a process of consultation and discussion. A survey system may also be used.

If these principles are transposed into textbook writing, it would essentially affirm

  • the purpose of the textbook, its founding principle;
  • neutrality of viewpoint, objectivity for the purpose of capacity building;
  • respect for each other, tolerance.

All of this accompanied by a process of review and approval by contributors and users. In this way, pressure and influence groups can be channeled to their proper representativeness.

Wikipedia - Founding principles, rules and recommendations

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