UPDATE: We've incorporated lots of the feedback below into what we think is a much better version than the one we proposed originally. Thanks a ton for all the input, and let us know if you like the new version:
We don't spend too much time talking about our code of conduct; the rules are few and fairly straightforward, and most people abide by them, most of the time. But some of these guidelines, while obvious to our core community, are often unknown to or misinterpreted by newcomers.
One of the oldest, most important, and perhaps most misunderstood policy is Be Nice, which reads:
Civility is required at all times; rudeness will not be tolerated. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you because we’re all here to learn, together. Be tolerant of others who may not know everything you know, and bring your sense of humor.
Please note that expletives are not allowed. If you use expletives on this site, you may be issued a warning or a suspension.
That's a good policy, full of broad philosophical wisdom... But with the strange exception of "expletives", it doesn't do much to help folks understand how to apply that wisdom. It focused on what will happen if you violate the rules, but without being exceptionally clear on what "be nice" actually means. It's quite possible to read it as, "So... be myself but don't cuss or I'll get suspended?" - and many have done just that.
To help reduce this confusion, we've rewritten it to better reflect what makes Stack Exchange a far more pleasant community than many others on the Internet. Additionally, we provided some instructions on how to report rare cases of bad behavior; new users aren't always sure how to go about doing that, so we wanted that information to be more readily accessible.
The expanded guidance lives on its own help page, available on every site for easy linking (at
The finalized guidance lives on its own help page, available on every site for easy linking (at
Here's the updated guidance in its entirety:
What is Stack Exchange's code of conduct?
This community has earned a reputation for avoiding ugliness, harassment, and bigotry because people like you have refused to allow it. Please treat others with respect, assume good intentions, and let us know if you see something wrong. This isn't always easy, so we created a non-exhaustive set of principles intended to help all of us communicate well. Here are some specific guidelines to keep in mind:
The real-life test: You shouldn't talk to anyone here in a way that you wouldn't talk to someone in person, including a boss or new colleague. Always conduct yourself in a respectful manner.
We're all in this together, so be welcoming and patient. Remember that everyone here is either generously donating their time to help others, or is trying to learn something or work through a problem. Assume that every question and answer is posted with good intentions. Treat others with the same respect you’d want them to treat you because we’re all here to learn, together. Be patient with others who may not know everything you know, and bring your sense of humor.
Focus on the post, not the person. Keep it professional, and avoid criticism of the author, (as opposed to the post). Don't make assumptions about a user's identity, and avoid references to demographics unless they are an essential part of the question or answer. Refrain from name-calling and other ad-hominem attacks.
Choose your words carefully. Expletives are generally not allowed; don't be vulgar. Think before posting an inflammatory remark, even as a joke: if it isn't appropriate at work or home, it is not appropriate here.
Be civil. Attacking or harassing individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, age, race, or religion – and any and all other type of personal attack – is unacceptable. Sexually suggestive language, imagery, and attention are not appropriate for any part of $SiteName, including meta and chat. If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please alert the site moderators immediately by flagging the offending post(s). Moderators and/or Stack Exchange staff will investigate the issue and take appropriate action. For the rare case where you think only Stack Exchange staff can handle the situation, contact us directly.
In summary, have fun, and be good to each other.
Is there anything we missed that is essential for creating the expectation that Stack Exchange communities are civil and respectful?