Wikipedia:Basic copyediting

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For the copyediting project, see Guild of Copy Editors (WP:COPYEDITORS).

Discovering that pages need basic copyediting may surprise new visitors to Wikipedia, but this is the "encyclopedia that anyone can edit". Thousands of articles need simple improvements that you can make without being an expert in the subject. Copyediting involves the "five Cs": making the article clear, correct, concise, comprehensible, and consistent.[1] The following is a guide for new copyeditors.

How to do basic copyediting

For general help with editing, see Wikipedia:How to edit a page.
Step one
Scan the article for errors or ways it can be improved. The entire article, or particular sections, may be tagged as needing a copyedit. There is a list of common mistakes below.
Step two
Edit the page by clicking the "Edit" tab at the top or one of the section [edit] links.
Step three
Make your changes and fill out an edit summary. It is fine to describe your changes as "copyediting", or abbreviate the word however you like.
Step four
Preview your change, and save.
Step five (optional)
If you think the article needs no more basic copyediting, feel free to edit again and remove the template at the top of the article, which flags it as needing improvement. It typically is markup that looks like: {{copy edit}} with a date inside the brackets.

Common mistakes to fix

This is a short but not exhaustive list of some of the more common errors you may find in articles.

Commonly confused words
its and it's; there, their and they're; your and you're; lose and loose.
Capitalization and formatting
  • Words defined, described, or referenced as words should be italicized. E.g.: "The term style also refers to the layout of an article".
  • Wikipedia article headings should generally be noun phrases (History of...) and not prepositional phrases (About the history of ...).
  • Headings begin with a single capital letter, i.e., they use sentence case. The only other capital letters in headings are in proper names and acronyms.
  • Titles of works of art (paintings, sculpture), plays and operas, television series, films, novels and nonfiction books, song cycles, and long poems should be italicized rather than put in quotation marks, e.g., Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
  • Titles of songs, short stories, individual episodes of television series, and brief poems, e.g., "Strawberry Fields Forever" or "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" should be in quotation marks. Italics are required, though, for a song cycle such as Winterreise or the title of a longer poem such as Four Quartets. Individual episode titles of television series need quotation marks, while the series name itself is italicized: "Welcome to the Hellmouth" is the premiere episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Punctuation

  • Location constructions such as Vilnius, Lithuania require a comma after the second element, e.g., He was born in Vilnius, Lithuania, after the country had gained independence.
  • The month day, year, style of writing dates requires a comma after the year, e.g., On September 15, 1947, she began her first year at Harvard.
  • Decade names should not include an apostrophe before the s, e.g.: She was born in the 1980s. Generally don't refer to a decade without its century. See WP:DECADE.
Style
  • Avoid excessively formal phrases and words, e.g., due to the fact that for "because" and utilize for "use".
  • Check articles for unnecessary words and redundant phrases. Vigorous, effective writing is clear and concise. See Plain English.
  • Quotations should not be changed, except for trivial spelling and typographic errors. Otherwise obvious errors in the original can be marked with {{sic}} which displays as: [sic]. Legitimate insertions and omissions are acceptable if marked by square brackets and ellipses, respectively. See WP:MOSQUOTE for details.
Article elements
  • External links belong at the end of an article under the heading External links or Further reading. Articles, books and websites used as sources are listed separately in a References or Notes section.
Contractions
  • Outside of quotes and names, contractions should be spelled out.

Things which do not need to be fixed

Some style guides advise against grammatical constructions such as passive voice, split infinitives, restrictive which, beginning a sentence with a conjunction, and ending clauses in a preposition. However, these are all common in high-quality publications, and should not be "fixed" without considering the consequences. Changing a passive to active may inappropriately change the topic of the paragraph, for example. Attempts to improve the language of a passage should be based on tone, clarity, and consistency, rather than blind adherence to a regional or contested rule.

Spelling

Please correct spelling mistakes and typos; correcting them contributes greatly to the quality of Wikipedia. You are free to use spell-checking software, but please remember that no spell-checker is completely accurate. Be extremely careful when editing pages written in languages in which you are not fluent.

When there is no strong national or regional relationship to a topic, Wikipedia has no preference for American, British, or any other variety of English. Generally, an article about a certain English-speaking region or place should be written in the form of English used there. Spelling should be consistent within each article. See Wikipedia:Manual of Style#National varieties of English for guidelines. Review the entire article before deciding that an author has mistakenly written flavour, colour, centre or defence (or flavor, color, center, or defense). Again, check for internal consistency.

Please check the talk page before editing spelling, if you're changing the dialect. Some talk pages have banners near the top that indicate which spelling is used throughout the article.

Etiquette

Please remember that Wikipedia is a collaborative, consensus-based environment. Feel free to be bold in making changes, but if you find that your work has been undone by another editor, visit the talk page of the article and start a discussion first before reinstating it.

According to Butcher's Copy-editing, "The good copyeditor is a rare creature: an intelligent reader and a tactful and sensitive critic; someone who cares enough about perfection of detail to spend time checking small points of consistency in someone else's work but has the good judgement not to waste time or antagonize the author by making unnecessary changes."[2]

Get help and meet other copyeditors

Find articles that need copyediting

Articles in need of basic copyediting may be tagged with templates such as {{copyedit}} or {{copyedit-section}}. A list of such articles can be found in a few places. The easiest places to get started are:

  • GettingStarted, suggests copyediting articles appropriate for new users after they sign up, or
  • the Community Portal to-do list, which has many kinds of tasks, updated hourly.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Julia Armstrong, "Copyediting and proofreading", University of Toronto, p. 2.
  2. ^ Judith Butcher, Caroline Drake and Maureen Leach, Butcher's Copy-editing, Cambridge University Press, fourth edition, 2006, p. 4.

External links