past & future
Editing and abstracting
This page highlights writing about editing of electronic
It covers -
The web hasn't taken the 'e' out of editing, although
reading much online text (including, alas, some of our
own) it sometimes appears that way.
Gary Kamiya for example commented in 2007 that
learning how to be edited is a form of growing up, much
of the blogosphere still
seems to be in adolescence, loudly affirming its identity
and raging against authority. But teenagers eventually
realize that authority is not as tyrannical and unhip
as they once thought. It's edited prose, with its points
sharpened by another, that will ultimately stand the
test of time. There is a place for mayfly commentary,
which buzzes about and dies in a day. But we don't want
to get to the point where the mayflies and mosquitoes
are so thick that we can't breathe or think.
Peter Shillingsburg's lucid Scholarly Editing In The
Computer Age: Theory & Practice (Ann Arbor: Uni
of Michigan Press 1996) is essential reading. His General
Principles for Electronic Scholarly Editions (GPESE)
are complemented by the MLA's Guidelines for Electronic
Scholarly Editions (GESE).
The US Model Editions Partnership (MEP),
a consortium exploring techniques for exemplary online
publication of historical documents, includes markup guidelines
on its site. The E-Docs site
offers an interesting discussion list concerned with such
The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI),
described earlier in this guide, is an international project
developing guidelines for encoding text in electronic
form for scholarly purposes, ideally in a way that won't
be superseded within a generation. Its guidelines and
standards are online.
We'll be featuring more information about the TEI and
the associated Encoded Archival Description (EAD),
an SGML-based standard to describe corporate records and
personal papers in archives and manuscripts libraries.
For the moment you might consult Michael Sperberg-McQueen's
feisty 1994 paper
Textual Criticism & the Text Encoding Initiative,
David Seaman's article
Campus Publishing In Standardized Electronic Formats:
HTML & TEI and Daniel Pitti's 1999 article
Encoded Archival Description - An Introduction &
Scholarly Editing: A Guide To Research (New York:
Modern Language Association 1995) and Textual Scholarship:
An Introduction (New York: Garland 1994) by David
Greetham provide an authoritative introduction to editorial
theory and past practice. The otherwise excellent
Journal Publishing, edited by Gillian Page, Robert
Campbell & Jack Meadows (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni
Press 1997) only scratches the surface of publication
in the digital environment and we recommend that readers
turn instead to the Columbia Guide to Digital Publishing
(New York: Columbia Uni Press 2003) edited by William
The US Association for Documentary Editing (ADE)
is primarily concerned with scholarly editing. We'll be
featuring information about similar bodies and conferences
in future. A major event was the 1997 conference
on Computing the Edition: Problems in Editing for the
Among the more provocative writing about the shape of
editing and its implications are Mats Dahlstrom's 2000
Digital Incunables: Versionality and Versatility in Digital
Scholarly Editions and Steven Johnson's 1995 Lingua
Repossession, An Academic Romance: The Rossetti Archive
& the Quest to Revive Scholarly Editing about
The Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition
site features information for journal editors and authors
about standards and e-publishing guidelines.
The University of Nevada offers a crisp page
on tools for online journal editing and publishing.
Amy Einsohn's The Copyeditor's Handbook: A Guide for
Book Publishing & Corporate Communications (Berkeley:
Uni of California Press 2000) is modest and intelligent.
It is a recommended source before immersion in tomes such
as the Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago: Uni of
Chicago Press 1993) and The Cambridge Handbook of Copy-Editing
for Editors, Authors, Publishers (Cambridge: Cambridge
Uni Press 1996) by Judith Butcher.
Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital
Age (San Francisco: HotWired 96) edited by Constance
Hale has been influential. There's an online version
of the second edition - co-edited with Jessie Scanlon
- that exercises typographic restraint and is thus more
user-friendly than the way-cool (ie illegible type on
neon green paper) first edition.
A profile on online
documentary editions will be available shortly.
Our Design guide identifies
major books and studies about what works online for different
audiences. Other pointers are given in the Accessibility
Given the diversity of markets and expectations about
the needs of different users there are no universal standards
for editing web publications. Empirical studies suggest
that some demographics are quite happy to scroll. Others
regard scrolling as anathema. Some skim the text online
to determine whether it's worth printing out for paragraph
by paragraph reading.
If you're assembling a 'starter kit' we recommend Jakob
Nielsen's Designing Web Usability: The Practice of
Simplicity (Indianapolis: New Riders 1999) and the
papers on his Useit
They include the detailed paper
on Concise, Scannable & Objective: How to Write
for the Web and the case
study on Applying Writing Guidelines to Web Pages.
The Sun Writing for the Web guidelines,
reflecting studies by Nielsen and others, are online.
contributor Thom Lieb's Editing For the Web (EFTW)
offers a more relaxed introduction to editing online texts.
The Resilience Alliance (RA)
is one of several consortia attempting to develop manuscript
processing software for e-journals.
more than for print, there's disagreement within the scholarly
and wider community about citation of online resources.
For the sake of readability on this site we haven't included
a citation after each hyperlink to another site.
Among academic citation models are Nancy Crane's Electronic
Sources: MLA Style of Citation (Crane)
and the Modern Language Association's MLA
Style Guide. Many professional bodies are updating
their print citation guides to reflect online publication.
The Library of Congress has produced a short guide
to Citing Electronic Sources, complementing the
pointers on the IFLA site.
John Lamp's citation page
at Deakin University collects other models. The guidelines
noted above also deal with citations.
The International Standards Organization (ISO) standard
for bibliographic citation of online works is online (unlike
many ISO documents).
Willard McCarty offers a detailed online bibliography
about hypertext research.
Historical Event Markup & Linking (HEML)
project uses XML to create timelines, and includes software
for manipulating and viewing these timelines on the web.
Automated abstracting schemes
We have suggested in our
Digital Guide that there's reason to question much of
the hype about artificial intelligence (AI).
Two of the more interesting AI Projects are the Columbia
an AI-based news portal created by Columbia University's
Natural Language Processing (NLP) Group, and Cornell University's
Newsblaster harvests news in real time from major free
online sources, assembles that data in basic categories
for a predominantly US audience and generates a summary
of each item, with a link to the full stories for those
who want to read more.
Big Ear scans law-related mailing lists, tracking when
a posting announces a new site, document or product. It
extracts the announcement for publication on its own list
of announcements of interest to wired lawyers.
For background a starting point is Stephen Wan's site
on Automatic Text Summarization, including a history,
overview of projects, bibliography and glossary.
Marieke Napier's 2000 Cultivate article
The Soldiers are in the Coffee - An Introduction to
Machine Translation points to resources about automated
translation of web sites. There's a more detailed analysis
in the Compendium
by John Hutchins.
Overall, most solutions currently reside within the browser
or the translation facility in the Google
search engine) rather than as cheap facilities that can
be incorporated within sites. Worldlingo
is one of several site-specific commercial services.
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