Wikipedia:What does "per" mean?

Frequently, on Wikipedia process pages, people make comments containing the word per, such as:

"Merge per WP:CUTS"
"Delete per nom"
"Oppose per User:Example"

New users are occasionally confused about what the word per means or implies. Per is a Latin preposition that means "through" or "by means of". Per (pronounced like "purr") is also an English preposition that can mean "for each", "to each", "by means of", or [lastly, annoyingly] "in accordance with"; somewhat interchangeably with the [even more annoying] "as per". In the example expressions here, it conveys "because of the rationale presented at/by".

Comments that are only "per" something may be considered arguments to avoid. (See WP:PERNOM and WP:JUSTAPOLICY.) However, such comments are not banned and, in some cases, it would be pointless to explain in great detail.

"Per" some acronym or linkEdit

Wikipedia editors often abbreviate the name of frequently referenced policies, guidelines, and essays. These abbreviations often take the form of a series of capital letters (e.g. "NPOV"), which may be prefixed by "WP:". (When using the prefix "WP:", the page can be linked, like so: WP:NPOV.)

Editors sometimes refer to these pages by writing "per" and then the page. This is meant to be an efficient way of summarizing their views, although it is sometimes misunderstood.

For example, "Merge per WP:CUTS" could mean either:

"In my opinion we should merge this, for the reasons explained in WP:CUTS."


"I interpret WP:CUTS as recommending this course of action be taken, and furthermore I think that the current version of WP:CUTS provides a good principle on which to base choices in matters like this one."

It is sometimes misunderstood as, but specifically does not mean, the following:

"WP:CUTS is official policy and therefore it is mandatory to merge this."

Now, "WP:CUTS isn't policy!" is not the proper way to go about such a challenge. It would be only a straw man argument. WP:CUTS might not be a policy, but it is still a reason. You are free to disagree, to debate, to provide your own reason – with or without reference to any other page – or to challenge the referenced WP:CUTS contents. Moreover, Wikipedia has a rule about ignoring all the rules, so you can do the same even if WP:CUTS in fact is a policy.

This kind of straw-manning is particularly common when someone says "per" a page that is a Wikipedia essay rather than a policy or guideline: "But that's just an essay!" This is a wrong-headed "noob" argument. When an experienced editor mentions an essay, it means "The reasoning I'm relying on has been written down already on this page, and I'm saving everyone the tedium of me typing it all out again here." This is explicitly what Wikipedia community essays exist for. "That's just an essay" is a non-argument, a hand wave, that doesn't address the substance of the reasoning provided at the essay and how it may (or possibly may not) apply to the case at hand. That said, if there is a valid policy or guideline reason to do something and an essay argument against it, the former position is almost always stronger.

"Per" another editorEdit

During discussions, editors sometimes endorse other opinions. Editors do this by writing "per Someone" (in which "Someone" is the username of another editor), or (ugh) "per nom", in which "nom" is apparently short for "nominator" (the user who started the deletion discussion) or "nomination" (the first post of the discussion) (we might never know which).

"Oppose per User:Example"

could mean:

"User:Example makes a good argument, and I recommend the course of action because I substantially agree with [the bulk of] what they said."

Especially when User:Example has given a long explanation, it may be preferable to say "per User:Example" than to fill the page with another very long comment that says the same thing.

When to use thisEdit

No one is required to use this style, but it's okay when there is very little risk of misunderstanding.

There is no material difference between these two statements except in length:

  • Delete per WP:COPYVIO
  • Delete because this is a copyright violation, copyright violations are bad and illegal, and Wikipedia editors shouldn't do things that are bad and illegal.

See alsoEdit