Wikipedia:Snowball clause

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Hell. Note the complete absence of snowballs.

The snowball clause is one way that editors are encouraged to exercise common sense and avoid pointy, bureaucratic behavior. The snowball clause states:

If an issue has a snowball's chance in hell of being accepted by a certain process, there's no need to run it through the entire process.

The snowball clause is designed to prevent editors from getting tangled up in long, mind-numbing, bureaucratic discussions over things that are foregone conclusions. For example, if an article is speedily deleted for the wrong reason (the reason was not within the criteria for speedy deletion), but the article has no chance of surviving the normal deletion process, it would be pointless to resurrect the article and force everyone to go through the motions of deleting it again.

The snowball clause is not policy, and there are sometimes good reasons for pushing ahead against the flames anyway; well-aimed snowballs have, on rare occasions, made it through the inferno to reach their marks.[1] The clause should be seen as a polite request not to waste everyone's time.

What the snowball clause is not[edit]

An uphill battle is extremely difficult but potentially winnable. In cases of genuine contention in the Wikipedia community, it is best to settle the dispute through discussion and debate. This should not be done merely to assuage complaints that process wasn't followed, but to produce a correct outcome, which often requires that the full process be followed. Allowing a process to continue to its conclusion may allow for a more reasoned discourse, ensure that all arguments are fully examined, and maintain a sense of fairness. However, process for its own sake is not part of Wikipedia policy.


Sometimes the support for a proposal is so overwhelming or so obvious that it has a snowball's chance in hell of failing. Such proposals may also be suitable for early closure, with the same care and considerations that apply to a SNOW closure of failing proposals.

The snowball test[edit]

This test can be applied to an action only after it is performed, as the lack of snowballs in hell is not an absolute,[2][3][4] and is thus useful for learning from experience.

  • If an issue is run through some process and the resulting decision is unanimous, then it might have been a candidate for the snowball clause.
  • If an issue is "snowballed", and somebody later raises a reasonable objection, then it probably was not a good candidate for the snowball clause. Nevertheless, if the objection raised is unreasonable or contrary to policy, then the debate needs to be refocused, and editors may be advised to avoid disrupting Wikipedia to make a point.

A cautionary note[edit]

Sometimes, the fate of the snowball may not be immediately obvious and predictable until it has actually been placed in the infernal conditions. This calls for an experiment to be conducted in full.

The snowball clause may not always be appropriate if a particular outcome is merely "likely" or "quite likely", and there is a genuine and reasoned basis for disagreement. This is because discussions are not votes; it is important to be reasonably sure that there is little or no chance of accidentally excluding significant input or perspectives, or changing the weight of different views, if closed early. Especially, closers should beware of interpreting "early pile on" as necessarily showing how a discussion will end up. This can sometimes happen when a topic attracts high levels of attention from those engaged (or having a specific view) but slower attention from other less involved editors, perhaps with other points of view. It can sometimes be better to allow a few extra days even if current discussion seems very clearly to hold one opinion, to be sure that it really will be a snowball and as a courtesy to be sure that no significant input will be excluded if closed very soon. Cases like this are more about judgment than rules, however.

The idea behind the snowball clause is to not waste editor time, but this also must be balanced with giving editors in the minority due process. Be cautious of snow closing discussions that normally run for a certain amount of time, that have had recent activity, or that are not nearly unanimous.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A Lucky Snowman (Dilbert comic strip 2003-07-05)
  2. ^ "Snowballs in Hell". Physics News Graphics. American Institute of Physics. Archived from the original on 27 September 2012. reported by Schwegler et al., in Physical Review Letters, 13 March 2000
  3. ^ David A. Paige, "Chance for snowballs in hell", Nature 369, 182 (19 May 1994); doi:10.1038/369182a0
  4. ^ Toynbee, Paget Jackson (1898). A dictionary of proper names and ... The Clarendon Press.