User:OrenBochman/Introduction to copy editing

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Introduction to copy editingEdit

This is the longest tutorial has one mission and three goals.

To complete this tutorial you will:

  • complete the compulsory units.
  • participate in a GOCE backlog elimination drive; peer review process.
  • tag articles with stylistic issues.
  • rank a number of articles at level B.
  • help promote three articles/lists to good standing.
  • help promote one article to featured level.
  • copy-edit 100,000 words.
  • pass the final test.

The mission — To instruct student how to write their article in compliance of Wikipedia's Manual of style.

The goal of this tutorial is tree fold:

  1. Write higher quality copy in your articles.
  2. Improve other editors writing according to the Wikipedia's Manual of style.
  3. Participate in MOS related activities
  4. Promotion of articles to good and featured standing.

What is in it for you:

  1. Once you complete the full tutorial and assignment you will obtain an editing skill mastered by the top draftsman in Wikipedia. This ability to communicate efficiently and be understood by other is one of the few skill gained in Wikipedia which has a marketable value in the outside world.
  2. The ability to write and edit at this level is even more scarce than most domain expertise. Most featured article candidates 'fail to qualify due to short comings in style. Contribute to the promotion of good and featured articles is a necessary requirements for qualifying for the mop.
  3. Learning to copy-edit has benefits far beyond the scope of Wikipedia. While it does not require a diploma it is one of the most scarce skill in Wikipedia and will require commitment to a term of study and self-training. Luckily Wikipedia is ideally suited for this work and with the right attitude you may gain this skill as you editing Wikipedia.

The guild of copy editors (GOCE)Edit

The guild of copy editors is the project which coordinates the work on copyediting. Its members include professional journalist and editors. They will assist you by evaluating your work as you progress through thus tutorial.

Once you have completed a major copy-edit on an article marked with the {{copy edit}} tag, you are welcome to remove the tag under one of the following conditions:

  • You are confident in your skills and abilities to make this decision on your own.
  • You have asked other GOCE members on the project's talk page to double-check your work and they are satisfied with the results.

What is copy editing?Edit

Copy editing is the work of professional editors. In the context of this tutorial we are interested in the following activities drawn from the beginner's guide of the Guild of Copy Editors:

  1. Formatting and Wiki markup
    1. Dividing article into sections if these are missing.
    2. Adding required links and disambiguations.
    3. Creating an info-box template
    4. Moving of images to improve overall layout.
  2. Language:
    1. Simplify language and make it direct.
    2. Remove sentiment from the article − unless it is supported by sources.
    3. Remove superfluous words.
    4. Correct grammar and spelling
    5. Large section of un wikified text
  3. Punctuation
    1. Names of record albums, books, etc In italics
    2. Name of songs In quotations marks.
    3. Correction of punctuations.
  4. Manual of style compliance
    1. Headings In sentence cap
    2. Numbers from zero to nine spelled as words.
    3. Photo captions do not end with a period unless the caption is a complete sentence.
    4. Sorting the sources alphabetically by the last name of author.
    5. Books used as sources must be capitalised.
  5. Good and Featured article level
    1. Comma positions.
    2. Consistency of British/American spelling.
    3. Access dates must comply with usage In the article.
    4. Improvement of citation style (capitalization, ISBNs, publisher'S location).

Note that the tasks are in increasing order of difficulty.

Making the best use of your existing skillsEdit

Attaining "strategic distance"Edit

It may seem counterintuitive, but the very closeness to a text that comes with working on it intensively can inhibit your ability to appraise it. This is why other people may immediately see problems and errors in your text that eluded you, even though you may be a superior writer. Editing a text as a stranger to it has distinct advantages—chiefly the ability to approach it with fresh eyes, unaffected by the intricacies of creating it in the first place.

You can attain what I call strategic distance from your own text by using techniques that allow you to see it afresh, more like the way that readers will see it. These techniques involve visual appearance, the editing process and the passing of time. Wikipedia provides one method for doing this: the Show preview function lets you see your text as a finished product on the monitor before you save it. The difference between this and what you see in the edit box distances you from the process of writing or editing the text, and highlights the need for further improvements. Beyond this, here are suggestions that work well for some people; try them and see for yourself.

  • Change the visual appearance. Print out your text and mark up the hard copy (highlight the places that need improvement, by circling, underlining, and handwriting improved wording in the margins). Reading hard copy is very different from reading off a monitor: the resolution is better, and you can see more text at once (synoptically), grasp the product in your hands, and readily work on it in a different environment. Some writers use a four-stage cycle of printing out a draft, marking it up, keying in the changes and editing the new version on-screen—a cycle they repeat until no further changes are needed. Doing this repeatedly may not suit you, but consider going through the process at least once for each article.
  • Take time out. Leave your text for a few days or more and return to it fresh; the longer the break, the more strategic distance you'll achieve.
  • Change your normal sequence. Edit the paragraphs or even the sentences in reverse order. Scrutineers of parliamentary/congressional legislation have been known to read even the words backwards to force their minds to work differently.
  • Read the text aloud. This can help you to identify where commas should be inserted or removed, and to check that the clauses run smoothly and grammatically.
  • Alternate your work-flow. Conscientious people are used to working solidly on one task. However, when it comes to writing and editing, particularly of large articles, it pays to go against this and arrange to be working on more than one section, or more than one article at a time. That way, you can alternate between the locations when you feel your mind needs to freshen up. Choose sections or articles that present you with different material or tasks; for example, one text that is relatively easy, requiring more low-level, clerical activities, and another that requires higher-level conceptualisation, design, or copy-editing.

Some of these methods help us to edit because, ironically, they break the normal mechanisms that our brains use to make us more efficient readers and writers. Two of these mechanisms[1] are:

  • chunking—the way our brains save effort by processing small pieces of information (such as letters) as larger chunks (such as whole words);[2] and
  • automaticity—knowing how to do something so well that you don't have to think about it as you do it; this is usually the result of learning, repetition and practice.[3] Remember how hard you had to concentrate on micro-managing the simultaneous subtasks of driving a car when you were a learner driver? Fortunately, automaticity soon sets in, and we can drive well even as we conduct a conversation.

These mechanisms enable you to raed tihs txet wtihuot mcuh torulbe at all, by cmboinng waht you see on the pgae wtih the fmailair, prcdeitalbe prtteans taht you sotre in your lnog-term meromy. (The preceding typos are an example.) It's little wonder that we let typos slip by, and the same applies to our tendency to gloss over higher-level problems in text. Ironically, suppressing the very mechanisms we use to increase our capacity for processing language can help us to scrutinise text for problems and to optimise our writing and editing skills. This is the essence of strategic distance.

Typewriters, in general use during the 20th century, made incremental editing laborious.

Longer-term self-trainingEdit

Like any proficiency, skilled writing and editing comes from years of effort. Most people significantly improve their writing skills until early adulthood. At that point, the "near enough is good enough" frame often takes over; this can seduce us into relaxing the effort that has already brought us to a plateau of basic, everyday literacy. This is a pity, because writing excellent prose is within the grasp of most educated people, and can bestow considerable advantages in life.

There is strong evidence that sustained effort is more important to the acquisition of expertise than underlying talent, that expertise arises from fine-tuning structures in the long-term memory drawn on in performing a demanding task.[4] It's a matter of programming an avoidance of common faults in prose so that the patterns of fine and poor prose become near-instinctive. After first becoming aware of the good and bad ways of connecting ideas in a sentence, with practice you'll come to see poorly constructed sentences in Wikipedia's articles almost automatically; by learning to consciously identify and weed out common redundancies, you'll start to become adept at turning the soggy into the crisp.

Being a Wikipedian involves close engagement with prose, whether through writing, editing or critiqueing. The "10-year rule" suggests that acquiring full expertise in these tasks is not a quick process;[5] but don't be discouraged: your efforts will reap palpable rewards in a short time, as well.

Wikipedia as a training resourceEdit

Wikipedia is a rich and little-used resource for self-training, because it provides a huge reservoir of text at all stages of transformation (sometimes circuitous) from the raw and verbose into the stylish and easy to read. A good way of focusing your efforts on improving your prose is to compare two versions of a featured article. Here's how to do this:

  • Look in the FA log for the featured-article candidacy discussion of an article that might interest you that was substantively criticised for failing Criterion 1a.
  • Note the date and time of the nomination (the first message in the discussion).
  • Click the title link to go to the article itself; do not read it.
  • Click the "Page history" link.
  • Locate the version that immediately preceded nomination. Click that link.
  • Read this old version of the article, carefully. Think of all the changes it needs. Better, click "Printable version" and go through a printout with a red pen.
  • Return to the "Page history" and use the "compare" function to compare that version with the version that was promoted to FA status. Compare your edits with those that were actually made during the FAC process.
  • Remember that you may be able to make the current version of that article even better; please do so if that is the case.
Many Wikipedians have skills that would have placed them in the literary elite in medieval times.

See alsoEdit

  • Step-by-step Guide
  • How to Guide
  • The Guardian style guide. A good read, set out as short entries in alphabetical order!
  • World Wide Words. Writer and lexicographer Michael Quinion writes about international English from a British viewpoint—indexed articles, Q&A, reviews, topical words, turns of phrase, weird words, funnies.
  • After Deadline Notes from the New York Times newsroom on grammar, usage and style—a weekly column


  1. Souter T (2001) Eye movement and memory in the sight reading of keyboard music (doctoral dissertation, University of Sydney)—contains a review of the literature on the mechanisms of reading linguistic text and music notation
  2. Miller GA (1956) The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review 63:81–97
  3. LaBerge D and Samuels SJ (1974) Toward a theory of automatic information processing in reading. Cognitive Psychology 6:293–323
  4. Ross PE (2006) The expert mind, Scientific American 295(2):46–53
  5. Chase WG and Simon HA (1973) Perception in chess, Cognitive Psychology 4:5–18


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