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Variation in citation methods
Editors should not attempt to change an article's established citation style merely on the grounds of personal preference, to make it match other articles, or without first seeking consensus for the change. As with spelling differences, it is normal practice to defer to the style used by the first major contributor or adopted by the consensus of editors already working on the page, unless a change in consensus has been achieved. If the article you are editing is already using a particular citation style, you should follow it; if you believe it is inappropriate for the needs of the article, seek consensus for a change on the talk page. If you are the first contributor to add citations to an article, you may choose whichever style you think best for the article.
To be avoided
- Switching between major citation styles, e.g., switching between parenthetical and <ref> tags, or between the style preferred by one academic discipline vs. another
- Adding citation templates to an article that already uses a consistent system without templates, or removing citation templates from an article that uses them consistently
Generally considered helpful
- Improving existing citations by adding missing information, such as by replacing bare URLs with full bibliographic citations: an improvement because it aids verifiability, and fights linkrot
- Replacing some or all general references with inline citations: an improvement because it provides more verifiable information to the reader, and helps maintain text–source integrity
- Imposing one style on an article with inconsistent citation styles (e.g., some of the citations in footnotes and others as parenthetical references): an improvement because it makes the citations easier to understand and edit
- Fixing errors in citation coding, including incorrectly used template parameters, and
<ref>markup problems: an improvement because it helps the citations to be parsed correctly