Scratchpad has many rules. Instead of following every rule, it is acceptable to use common sense as you go about editing. Being too wrapped up in rules can cause loss of perspective, so there are times when it is better to ignore a rule. Even if a contribution “violates” the precise wording of a rule, it might still be a good contribution. Similarly, just because something is not forbidden in a written document, or is even explicitly permitted, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea in the given situation. Our goal is to improve Scratchpad so that it better informs readers. Being able to articulate “common sense” reasons why a change helps the wiki is good, and editors should not ignore those reasons because they don’t include a bunch of policy shortcuts. The principle of the rules — to make Scratchpad and its mini wikis thrive — is more important than the letter. Editors must use their best judgment.

Why isn’t use common sense an official policy?

It doesn’t need to be. As a fundamental principle, using common sense is above any policy.

There is no common sense

Good sense is of all things in the world the most equally distributed, for everybody thinks he is so well supplied with it that even those most difficult to please in all other matters never desire more of it than they already possess.

When advancing a position or justifying an action, base your argument on existing agreements and the interests of Scratchpad, not your own common sense. Exhorting another editor to “just use common sense” is likely to be taken as insulting, for good reasons. If in a particular case you feel that literally following a rule harms the encyclopedia, or that doing something which the rules technically allow degrades it, then instead of telling someone who disagrees to use common sense, just focus on explaining why ignoring the rules will improve Scratchpad in that instance.

Be careful about citing this principle too aggressively. While it’s quite acceptable to explain your own actions by saying, “it seemed like common sense to me,” you should be careful not to imply that other editors are lacking in common sense, which may be seen as uncivil. Members of the Scratchpad community come from diverse ethnic, religious, political, cultural, and ideological backgrounds, and have vastly different perceptions. Other editors are likely to ascribe very different meanings and values to words and concepts than you, so try to state your arguments as fully as possible. Citing concrete policies and guidelines is likely to be more effective than simply citing “common sense” and leaving it at that.

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See also


  1. René Descartes. Le Discours de la Méthode. 1637. Part I, incipit.

    Le bon sens est la chose du monde la mieux partagée; car chacun pense en être si bien pourvu, que ceux même qui sont les plus difficiles à contenter en toute autre chose n'ont point coutume d'en désirer plus qu’ils en ont.

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