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Editing is considered here mainly as the practice of amending and revising texts. This can be done either to "improve" a text, usually one not yet published, or to try to establish what an author originally wrote, in which case it may be known as textual criticism, though the person establishing a text is still known as an editor. The term is also used of the bringing together of several texts in a periodical, anthology, or other collection

In text-oriented cultures, some of the disciplines that consitute editing may exercise considerable power and shapes meaning. Editing is pivotal to both the business of publishing and the joys of literature.

History and scope of editing

In daily parlance, editing is typically understood to apply to written texts. However, in the ancient world, religious texts, folklore, and music underwent a form of sound editing. For instance, the Talmud records many discrete instances of editing orally-transmitted laws during readings of the Mishnah. According to historical-critical scholars, moreover, the Hebrew Bible was heavily edited and redacted from multiple oral sources.

Furthermore, today editing is practiced for non-written audio and visual media, including film and sound recordings. Finally, linguistic anthropology suggests that editing applies to all discourse, as when people are said to "repair" their conversations.[1]

Sociology and professionalization of editing

In the ancient world, editing was a highly reputable activity for religious functionaries and scribes. In rabbinic Judaism, the rabbis who edited oral or written texts were respected more than those who memorized or transcribed texts. Interestingly, both the editing and memorizing rabbis shared the same nomenclature (tanna'im).

Due to the division of labor in modern industrialization, editing practices have become increasingly professionalized and specialized.

In Western countries, editors may rank low in occupational hierarchies or, as editors-in-chief and news editors, stand near the peak of corporate hierarchies, primarily in newspaper publishing and related media.

Editing methods and systems

  • Proofreading
  • Copy editing.
  • Redaction and canonization as editorial practices.
  • Document handling stages in modern publishing
  • Automated editing
  • Wikis and the new trends in editing

Editors as managers and publishers

  • Supervisory roles of editors
  • Editors in book and Internet publishing
  • Editors in news and related media

Notable editors

  • Gabriella Cristiani, editor of The Last Emperor, 1987 Oscar winner
  • Abel Mutsakani, South African editor for ZimOnline, shot in chest [1]
  • Yehudah Ha-Nasi (Rabbi Judah the Prince), editor of the Mishnah, ca. 200 C.E.
  • Hal Ritter, a managing editor fired by USA TODAY [2]
  • A.M. Rosenthal, editor of The New York Times, 1977-1986
  • Larry Sanger, editor-in-chief of Citizendium
  • The Editor, a rogue in Dr. Who
  • Perry White, editor of The Daily Planet

Kudos, controversies and critique

Editing does not merely strike fear in the hearts of novice writers, it also may fuel social controversies, religious tensions, and political crises. At the same time, editing may lead to glory, as it has for those editing such historical documents as the Declaration of Independence or U.S. Constitution.

Since editing changes an existing text, authors and readers may be disappointed or indignant about the changes, especially those not disclosed or transparent.

Editing may be problematic even when accomplished by the author on his or her own text. In some cases, a revised and republished text may be disfavored in comparison to the "original" document. Furthermore, as editing may disguise

In postmodern literary theory, textual processes such as translation and editing are more closely read, scrutinized for critical analysis, and even valorized. For example, Jacques Derrida advances a theory concerned with erasure and the longevity of the 'trace' in textual productions. Derrida might say that every edit need not be done on a wiki for its history to be preserved and subject to reconstruction.


  1. Levinson, Stephen C. Pragmatics Cambridge University Press, 1983 pp.339-342. "The range of phenomena collected here under the concept of repair is wide, including word recovery problems, self-editings where no discernible 'error' occurred, corrections proper (i.e., error replacements) and much else besides.")