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Redaction is a form of editing in which multiple source texts are combined (redacted) and altered slightly to make a single document. Often this is a method of collecting a series of writings on a similar theme and creating a definitive and coherent work. "To redact" later came to be used in the sense of selecting from or adapting (as by obscuring or removing sensitive information) a document prior to publication or release. In the early twenty-first century it has become a euphemism meaning "conceal from unauthorized view; censor but do not destroy". The word may be used in relation to obscuring or deleting specific information, rather than editing an entire document; e.g. a court may order that the names of people be redacted (from a document).
Forms of redaction
On occasion, the persons performing the redaction (the redactors) add brief elements of their own. The reasons for doing so are varied and can include the addition of elements to adjust the underlying conclusions of the text to suit the redactor's opinion, adding bridging elements to integrate disparate stories, or the redactor may add a frame story, such as the tale of Scheherazade which frames the collection of folk tales in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.
Sometimes the source texts are interlaced, particularly when discussing closely related details, things, or people. This is common when source texts contain alternative versions of the same story, and slight alterations are often made in this circumstance, simply to make the texts appear to agree, and thus the resulting redacted text appear to be coherent. Such a situation is proposed by the documentary hypothesis, which proposes that multiple redactions occurred during the creation of the Torah, often combining texts, which have rival political attitudes and aims, together; another example is the Talmud.
Redactional processes are documented in numerous disciplines, including ancient literary works and biblical studies. Much has been written on the role of redaction in creating meaning for texts in various formats.
In business and law, a document can have certain parts "redacted", meaning sensitive names and details were removed for various reasons. For example, a court may order that the names of signatories of a petition be redacted to protect them from attack by opponents.
Redactional fatigue is an important related concept: when making changes to a large text, a redactor may occasionally overlook a piece of text that conflicts with the redactional goals. Since many important ancient texts are likely to have been redacted at least once, such snippets open a window into an earlier form of the text. The nature of the conflict between the bulk of a redacted text and the contradictory windows can suggest what the goals of the redactor might have been.
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- Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Redact. Retrieved 3 Oct 2011
- New york Times: Redact This, 9 September 2007
- For example, in the field of biblical studies, see John Barton, Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 5: 644–647; or Odil Hannes Steck, Old Testament Exegesis, 2nd edition (Atlanta: Scholars Press), 74–93.