Wikipedia:How to copy-edit

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This page refers to copy-editing (or "proofreading") a Wikipedia page; in other words, correcting for spelling, grammar, punctuation, tone, style and so on.

When you copy-edit a page, you are helping the editors who contributed to it and Wikipedia to express ideas in the best, most accurate and clearest way possible. Obvious mistakes look bad, and they should be corrected as soon as possible.

Discussion and talk pages are not as formal, and do not have to be copy-edited.

For general page editing help, see Help:How to change pages.

"Why aren't these pages copy-edited?"


Sometimes, readers complain saying: "Why aren't these pages copy-edited?" Or, if they have been here a bit longer: "Why aren't these pages wikified?" ("Wikifying" is the process of adding links and basic formatting). The answer, of course, is very simple: it's because you, and others like you, have not fixed mistakes when you saw them. Instead of complaining, you could have corrected them yourself (simply click on the change this page tab at the top of the page, fix, and save), which would have stopped others from wondering the same thing. This is usually easier, faster, and less emotional than taking the time to type a complaint. So be bold! - go out there and do some copy-editing now!

If you find an article that is in such bad shape that you cannot fix it yourself in one sitting, you can tag it for cleanup assistance by other users. See Wikipedia:Cleanup resources for help.

Some articles that need copy-editing


Correcting spelling


If you see any mistakes, please correct them (even if they are very small typos). This greatly helps with making Wikipedia look as professional as possible.

Note that the English form of Wikipedia has no preference for American, British or other forms of English so long as usage is consistent for the whole page. Check the rest of the page before assuming that flavour, colour, metre, or defence (or, on the other hand, flavor, color, meter, or defense) is a mistake. Note that the endings "-ize" and "-ization" are acceptable in both British and American English.

Correcting grammar


Correct grammar is just as valuable as correct spelling. Feel free to correct grammar mistakes and clear up confusing wording. If you can phrase a sentence better, rephrase it! Just make sure it keeps its original meaning (unless that is wrong too).

Updating for style


All main Wikipedia pages should have a formal, encyclopedic style. Correcting for style can be a harder job, involving rearrangement of sentences, paragraphs, or perhaps even the whole article. However, this does not have to be done all at the same time, and it is still helpful to update just one paragraph or sentence.

Generally, it helps to get the rough form of a page correct (possibly with headings), before updating individual paragraphs and then sentences, but doing things in this order is by no means required.

Pages sometimes have information that doesn't belong on that page, or would go better on another page. For example, a general article about fruit should not give detailed information about bananas. Instead, this information should be moved to a more detailed article. If you do this, please add the information to the new page before deleting it from the old — and it is polite to mention the move in your change summary note. For example: moved detailed quantum mechanics formula out of this physics page and into the quantum mechanics page.

Commonly required copy-edits


See also sections: These should be in their own section if relevant to the majority of the article, and of the short form if relevant only to a specific section.

Words that are mentioned as words should be italicized. For example: "The term style can refer to the layout and context of an article."

Headings should usually be nouns (for example: History) and not prepositional phrases (About the history of...), and they should have only the first letter capitalized (apart from proper nouns, etc.).

Shortened word forms (don't, can't, etc.) should be written out (do not, cannot), unless in quotations.

Links to other websites at the end of an article belong under a heading titled Other websites (not External links).

Change summary note


Change summary notes for copy-edits should be short, and mention that the change in question is a correction or improvement. Spelling and grammar corrections can generally be marked as small changes; major style corrections and rearrangements generally should not be marked 'small'.

Example summary notes:
copy-edit: Corrected minor typo
copy-edit: Reworded introductory paragraph for clarity
copy-edit: Reworked history section for more encyclopedic style

but never:
Reworked awful English, corrected author's bad language skills (see Etiquette section below)

Your summary note will only appear in places where other users will see them: in the history of the article, and on recent changes, watchlists, etc.



If you are taking the trouble to copy-edit a page, please remember that the original author took the trouble to write a new page for Wikipedia, and that however good or bad it is, the article is probably a valuable contribution. Your summary note should be short and polite, and not written to make the original writer feel stupid or foolish.

If a page you wrote has been copy-edited by another editor, try not to take the corrections personally. This can be especially hard sometimes with style differences. Copy-editors are usually just trying to make the article better, which will reflect well on all the authors, including the first one.